Hacking Electronics, 2nd Edition

This is another superb book by Simon Monk, who has the best approach to teaching electronics that I have ever seen. I’m going to walk through each of his projects and use my oscilloscope to measure voltages at various points in each circuit to see what is going on.

He covers both Arduino and Raspberry Pi, but also covers how discreet components work and what they do in a circuit.

Highly recommended.


Polar Flutter

The only bands I regularly check are 160 and 40M, but this morning, even with my home brewed two element yagi pointing towards Bouvet (SE), I heard several Middle East and EU stations boom in.

For many years, 20M was a prime band for my DXCC chase, but that changed once I made Honor Roll and also when we hit the bottom of the last cycle.

Anyway, it was fun, and I did work John, ON4UN, who is the author of the ARRL’s fantastic ON4UN Lowband DXing book.

On Second Thought . . .

I spoke a little too soon yesterday. I “mused” that maybe Makers are a bit more “Open” to approach hams than Hams are to Makers. This is true – but after thinking about it – its necessary.

After posting on the MAKE: share web site – I realized that the Maker community is expansive – and that Electronics is just one sub genre in the Maker World. This means that Ham Radio would be an even more niche part of the Maker Community – so to expect the two to communicate on the same level is silly. Ham Radio is about two levels deeper and more “specialized” than the Maker Community at large.

I just opened the November QST magazine (electronically of course!), and there was my “Letter to the Editor” about hams and Makers getting together and maybe having the ARRL collaborate with Adafruit, run by “Lady Ada”, AC2SN. The ARRL likes this idea, and they also had several Maker – Ham projects – all look really great, and all would have a much larger appeal than say the u.RAT. So I learned a lot in just the last 24 hours, and while I spoke too soon – the learning was very good.

I have a better perspective on it now.

Happy Friday!

My First “MAKE:” Posting . . .

MAKE: is a magazine and web site sponsored by MAKE: and Intel. It was started in 2005 by Dale Dougherty and his team, and they are right around the corner from where I work in San Francisco. They sponsor many of the Maker Faires, and also have several publications.


I will be posting a few of my projects on their site to test and see if I attract any interest in Ham Radio.

Makers Seem More Receptive to Hams Than Hams to Makers

The Maker community is a “devil may care” assortment of all ages, cultures and “persuasions”. In a way, you can say they are the “Punk Rockers” of Electronics, or maybe better yet, the “Hackers”.  They are rabid for anything that does something cool, and what I have experienced is that they think the URAT project (stepper motors that tune a remote antenna tuner) is cool.

Makers and Hackers love the “McGuyver Effect” – meaning you can “mash up” different technologies and components to make something new.

I recently submitted an article for consideration for QST, and a companion Pacificon presentation concerning the URAT. It was rejected by both parties. HOWEVER, both parties enthusiastically accepted my Low Band Antennas for a Small Lot presentation, and that makes perfect sense – its very “safe” and very well “known” in ham circles.

The URAT project is 100% a “McGuyver” hack. Yes, it is eccentric for sure, and definitely a bit “weird” for a Ham Radio project. I also received zero interest from any of my blog readers – not even one peep like “that’s a cool idea”. It probably is not relevant to most – but it is cool just because its cool. I guess I am really understanding what makes Makers tick – and seeing the difference between Makers and Hams. I don’t mean to lump everyone in one pile – but this whole “experiment” now has a “social” element to it that I’m finding quite interesting.

The Makers embraced the URAT instantly – and I am sure they did not even understand much (but I’ll bet at least some) about the actual task it performs – they just dig the technology:


I instantly and with great excitement – was featured in the Adafruit blog. One reason is because I used their very cool little OLED device. Yes, the founder and CEO of Adafruit is “Lady Ada” – AC2SN, and who sports a very cool modern look. Adafruit is revered with young Makers, Hackers and IT people.


From there, it was also featured in the “Geeky Gadgets” blog – I believe its because they read the Adafruit blog.

There was just an ARRL Letter sent out that discusses how the IARU President believes that we cannot sustain Ham Radio by trying to just invite people into the fold with our traditional use of technologies. I have read something similar from Tom Gallagher at the ARRL – and I have been very pleased to see that they recognize this. I think Tom even says we have to go out and “socialize” this link.

I honestly think that Ham’s would love to bring Makers into the fold, but that Ham Radio is so “entrenched” in our ways (especially our communication) that maybe we hams don’t really know How to go about this? The modern term is “socialize” a new thought, idea or technology.

I have been doing the same thing at work – making people aware how important a Data Dictionary can be – and believe me its like trying to sell something abstract and also along the lines of the URAT. Its the age old question – if I never knew what it was before, then why would I need it now.

I think I will start pursuing some new avenues. Simon Monk – who basically has the best electronics book I have ever read (yes I’d say even better than the ARRL Handbook), also writes for O’Reilly and I believe gives talks, and I think is big with the MAKE: people.


Holy Smokes! MAKE: is a couple blocks away from where I work! Hmmmmmmm.

Time to do some networking and “socializing”. I think maybe posting the URAT project on the MAKE: web site is a better route. I still think the URAT is cool – just because its cool. And that is the approach that Makers seem to have that Hams don’t have so much these days.

Makers seem to have eyes wide open and aren’t as “entrenhced”. So maybe I should approach this a different way? I’ll try and see what happens and report back.


Welcome October!

Market Street, San Francisco

There’s been a nice “snappiness” in the air, and the Jet Stream has been right over the SF Bay Area.

The fall colors have begun, but way behind last years schedule. I am sure its because of the rain we had this year – and that before – with the really bad drought that we had, the trees were stressed and probably gave up early. I think this year is our “usual normal”, but we had so many years of a bad drought that I almost forgot what normal is/ was.

I’ll keep looking for the beauty in this world – heaven knows 2017 has been full of more daily bad news than I can remember. In heaven there is no beer – but there are also no politicians!


Pacificon 2017

I will be presenting during the Pacificon 2017 Antenna Forum on Friday, October 20, from 3:30 – 4:30, and my topic is “Low Band DXing Antennas”. I will start with a survey of all of the low band antennas that you should consider for DX-ing on the bands 160 – 30M, and I will include transmit as well as special receive antennas.

The presentation will feature the Mod-Bob – including the URAT . . .

And will also cover the DX Engineering DV-40-P 40M array:

I will also go over the results of my year long receiving antenna study . .

I initially was signed up to give a second presentation – on the URAT, but I was bumped off the Saturday schedule. SO, instead of doing a maker-ham presentation, I will simply combine the URAT in my antenna presentation. That works out fine because after trying to submit an article to the ARRL for the URAT for QST – it was rejected because I had emphasized Elecraft’s KPOD and Palstar’s BT-1500A antenna tuner in a way that I guess they felt pushed products too much. They said if I were to re-cast that article using all home brewed parts – then they would be interested. They did say that they were very interested in the Mod-Bob antenna though – and they are considering my article on that topic as we speak. I’ll let you know if they accept that article.

Anyway, what I learned is that even though the URAT project is a really great “maker ham” story, I can see why it didn’t get the traction I had hoped for. Its a bit too “esoteric”, maybe even a “weird” idea. I don’t think many people think out of the box that way, and I can see both the ARRL and MDARC’s passing on that presentation and article. I also had no one contact me for the URAT code – so in the end – it was just a really superb personal learning experience that I am still very fond of.

But hey – the Mod Bob antenna project has lots of interest, and its a very “approachable” and straight forward low-band DX-ing antenna – and I can see for sure why it would easily get traction and the URAT not so much. Here is my presentation:

Low Band DX Antennas

Anyway – hope to meet you at Pacificon. This year, for the first time ever – I’m presenting at the end of the day and will be at the QA session – which I have never done before since for about 10 Pacificon’s I was usually the first or second speaker and never hung around all day.

Let me know if you plan on attending – maybe we can go out for a few beers afterward.