The 2018 Top Band “Two-Fer”

Baker and Ducie are on this year, and they will be chip shots from the West Coast on the Low Bands – which is a rare occurrence.

I think I will launch a line back up in my neighbors tree – and use it long enough for these DX-peditions. Turns out – I have both of these entities on 80 – 10M, so only 160 and 6M are left. The UrbanBeam covers 6M, so I’ll put that line up for 160M and do something really lazy – since that’s all I will need. I’ve modeled just unhooking the 80M 60′ vertical I have from its matching box and using it along with another 60′ line up in a tree another 60′ and separated by 5′. Kind of a weird dipole.

The other thing I could do is shoot a line up 60′ and use two top sloping hats – again – easy and lazy.

Bike Travel Weekend

The Ferry from San Francisco to Larkspur Landing

Adventure Cycling Association, from Missoula, Montana, sponsors a great program – to get out on your bike and travel.

I need to keep lifting weights. I can actually see how losing the first 10 pounds has made a difference. Now I’m really motivated. 25 more to go!

Kat and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, close to the world famous Napa and Sonoma Wine Country. We decided to also try the new SMART train from San Rafael to Santa Rosa.

Bikes on the Ferry

Leaving the Ferry Plaza Building in SF

Since I commute to San Francisco every day, I’ve left that out of the adventure as far as this blog goes. Taking the Ferry was fun and exciting, even for locals like us.

The boat is a powerful catamaran that gets you across the bay in 30 minutes

The ferries carry many commuters every day and they plan to expand the system, which is needed

Since it was the first of the month, we got to experience their “man overboard” drill where they throw a life ring overboard and scoop it up with a hook

The San Rafael – Richmond Bridge, which we have kayaked near for many years

The tunnel between Larkspur and San Rafael. SMART is laying the last mile of tracks, so soon, you can get off the ferry and get on a SMART train

The train tracks are on one side and the walking / cycling path on the other side

The SMART train is one of the biggest highlights of this trip. It’s a beautiful train that travels through a beautiful part of our country and the SF Bay Area

Northbound out of San Rafael

Brand New, great color scheme, comfy

When we got to Santa Rosa, we were welcomed by local Flying Goat Coffee in historic Railroad Square

Santa Rosa is Charles Shultz’s home town, and there are statuettes of the Peanuts characters around town

We arrived at our motel, the Astro, which is a mid century motel that has been renovated and is quite hip and fun

We stayed at a similar kind of place in Bozeman last fall – I love these rennovated motels, because growing up in NJ, we had a yearly family vacation to Wildwood at the “Jersey Shore”, and stayed at “The Time and Tide”

Beautifully landscaped and they have a great lounge with cool old stereo equipment that still works and sounds great

On Saturday, we rode our bikes to the Hop Monk Tavern in nearby Sebastopol, about 7 miles away

There was a fun Blue Grass jam going during lunch. It was 92 degrees, so we found a nice place in the shade. Russian River Pliny The Elder and superb Salmon Tacos….

The Santa Rosa Creek Trail was much nicer than the Joe Rodota trail.

We had dinner with our great friends, Rick and Katie… At a superb restaurant, Lecoco’s

Kat on the way home

The hills along the train ride home

Back at Larkspur Landing, waiting for the Ferry …

It was calm in Larkspur and in SF, but holy moly, the wind and chop coming through the gate tells me the fog will be back soon.

It was a warm but excellent long weekend being tourists in our own backyard.

A Full Stack Summer!

The big news this summer will no doubt be my learning React.js at work – and calling REST API’s that I design and build using Python on the back end database layer. The two work like a charm – and I’m not using Redux.js or anything else – in fact I’m going pretty “bare bones” – and with MySQL on the backend, and Airflow to handle ETL between my app and the Data Warehouse – its a really cool ecosystem.

One thing I can do for sure is build a great Web Based Ham Radio Suite – if I wanted to – and I will if the React work at work slows down. I’ve been told that I will become crazy popular – because there are just not enough React.js developers out there – while there are plenty of Python developers.

Learning React.js has had a really steep learning curve, but luckily, a good friend and ex-Ham at work has taken pity on me and is mentoring me. We’ve been having big fun – and he said he has never seen anyone pick up the front end development like I have. Plus – I now can honestly say I’m a full stack developer, and can pretty much do it all – SQL RDBMS, Data Warehouse, ETL, front end, middle REST API layer, etc, etc.

I can already tell that the “trajectory” of this summer is FAST. It will fly by as it always does when I am crazy busy at work – and also that combined with learning something as intense as React.js

I’m looking forward to it – no boredom here.

DXCC and Me: “Multi-Path Fading”

Signal Multi-path Fading . . .

3Y0Z and its demise has had a bigger impact on me than I would have thought. It really felt like the end of an era to me – in several ways – for the DX Community as well as me personally. Around the same time that 3Y0Z announced that it was cancelling the project for good, Seb, F5UFX, from the French Team announced that while they will keep trying to activate Glorioso, that it basically has become the French version of the US F&W “Navassa”. In other words, maybe some day in the future . . .

This means both of these last entities that I need might not be activated for some time – if at all. It was 19 years in between Heard Island activations – and unless some scientific mission goes to Heard Island again – you better not count on it – just like I have decided to no longer count on Bouvet or Glorioso. I really do fear that some entities might not be activated again in my lifetime. Every month and year – the probability of that grows higher. Baker, KH1, at $400K is as expensive as going to Heard Island, which makes no sense to me. And oil prices are something like 30% higher than last summer, so add that in. I think it’s just the ship operators and “supply and demand”.

Make no doubt about it – now that I am reminiscing about my trip to DXCC Honor Roll (chronicled in the DXCC Sleuth Blog), I feel more like I had the right idea to do it as fast as I could back in 2001 – just months before 9/11. Some had criticized me for being in a hurry and not “savoring it” – I say “Bollocks!”. Or is it “Ballocks!” . . .

3Y0I still has an active web site, and while their recent announcements to activate South Pacific entities seems to be on hold for now – the Polish Team did have good news about their budget and the fact that they have a ship for about 1/3rd the cost of 3Y0Z. I’m very cautiously optimistic – I can only imagine that they have hung their shingle out and I hope to hear that new team members are being added to their project.

But my DXCC Sleuth blog is my way of pulling up DXCC stakes – and as each month goes by, I am caring less and less if I ever work these last two. As I said, once 3Y0Z cancelled for good – I went out and completely changed my shack and my antenna farm per my “Post DXCC” plan – it just felt like that was “all she wrote” DXCC wise.

9BDXCC and DXCC on 160M sure feels like the last nail in the DXCC coffin for me – and that these two DXpeditions could be “The one’s that got away”:

One thing for sure – FT8 has ushered in a new era – where most of the band activity in between DXpeditions seem to be on that new mode. There are a few “stalwarts” out there CQ-ing on CW, but the day there is no more CW will be the day I cash in my chips. I don’t expect this at all – anyone alive who learned CW when they were a teenager will still fire up the key from time to time – but in 20 years there might be very little CW left.

Unofficial Summer, on Cue

Today we walked the Lafayette Reservoir, and it’s a pretty hilly walk just under 3 miles, all paved.

The mustard and Queen Annes Lace is between 6 – 8′ tall, which is higher than I remember.

Anyway, this Memorial Day weekend we hit 85 degrees Fahrenheit as if unofficial Summer started right on cue. It had been quite cool and even chilly during the day in the last several weeks barely reaching 60 degrees.

We did quite a bit of gardening and I put together some nice new outdoor furniture. It’s on the deck that overhangs the creek.

The bands have been great too – I’ve been too busy studying up on React.js in my spare time, but heard EU and VK / ZL just like the “good old days” when there were sunspots.

Maker-Ham React.js IOT Platform (and a better Ham Radio Logging Suite?)

One of things that has had me wondering for the past year is how to display data from a Raspberry Pi or Arduino project on my Web Browser. Printing character data to the Console sucks. PHP and page rendering technologies can’t render real time data flows very efficiently or effectively.

On a parallel thought – most Ham software has an interface that looks like its stuck in 1991 using Visual Basic. Its ugly, slow and deploys a crapload of local files and works only on Windows.

I started thinking about using a modern UI library or framework where the Web App looks and behaves as nice as what I think is (by far) the best looking Ham software web app going – and that’s DX Heat:

DX Heat – probably the nicest UI in all of Ham Radio software

I looked at the Console and he uses the Bootstrap UI and Javascript with JQuery. I don’t think he uses React.js – but maybe Django. In any case, I can’t think of anyone else who has created such a nice UI in Ham circles.

Its possible to either run a Web Server on my laptop or even on a Raspberry Pi. With React.js – you have a fairly fat client that does all of the UI work – and the back end server side stuff (REST API and database) is done on the Pi.

One database that would work well with a small footprint platform like the Pi would be SQLLite. Its the SQL RDBMS that backs K1MM+, so its more than powerful for this kind of environment. Keeping the UI stuff at my laptop, and the much “thinner” REST API and SQLLite db on the Pi – with whatever sensor drivers that you have (Wiring Pi, OLED and say, code that accesses Stepper Motor drivers (which are in firmware on a board outside of the Pi and closer to the actual IOT devices) means you can separate all of the concerns and do it so that no one thing in the architecture gets necessarily over burdened and over worked.

I use Ham Radio Deluxe and I like it better than most Ham Radio software – but it looks like it was written in C# and uses the Windows UI API’s. Back in the day it used to be C++ and the Windows SDK – but today my guess things have moved more towards C#. Its way better than VB, but its still Windows bound. I tried some of the free ham software – and all of it was God awful ugly.

The HRD Satellite Tracking Window – very nice Ham software that actually has me thinking about trying satellites again

Its possible to build a killer Ham Radio Suite of apps that maybe use a Raspberry Pi to read in all gear data – and then present that data to the Web App in your browser – so that it looks modern and performs well. It could be Open Sourced and given away for free. It could be used for Contest Logging, DXer Logging, FT8 Logging – and all over the web – with near ZERO installation issues – and just a small config Form to set ports and whatnot. In fact – everything Remote can be handled with this as well. All QSL functions can be handled, and awards tracking can be supported. It could also integrate seamlessly with services like QRZ or Clublog.

Just musing – my work in recent weeks is converging with my little weekend Maker-Ham experiments. Maybe when I get better at React.js I will do something like this. My current React.js and Python REST API project at work is looking so awesome – and if I don’t get a steady “diet” of React.js projects at work – I will continue my React.js study and progression by maybe working on my own Logging and Command and Control software suite.

Summer Fog

Bart Orinda after work . . . looking towards the Caldecott Tunnel

In Orinda, we get fog that comes directly from the Golden Gate straight to the Caldecott Tunnel “gap” – and into our town. Many times it will be foggy here and 7 miles East – in Lafayette (where I used to live) it will still be sunny.

Oliver, W6NV lives on that hill in the upper left hand corner of this photo

It looks like clouds when it comes in, and is always windy as it comes in at night, and when it burns and retreats back to the coast in the morning.

Today’s West Coast fog layer

As soon as we drive through the Caldecott Tunnel from Orinda – as we head down the grade – we see Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, and the Golden Gate bridge. It can be up to 30 degrees warmer in Orinda when the fog comes into the Bay but doesn’t get over our Easy Bay hills – which are the hills above Oakland and Berkeley.

I love this weather – some call it “June Gloom” – but for me, it means that its always in the 60’s – maybe 70, and we get sun with cool air during the day and fog at night – early morning and late afternoon. There is no humidity like the East Coast, the mosquitoes are minimum – its pretty excellent.

This weather is superb for cycling and even sleeping at night. It can occur in May, June and July – Sometimes in August – but then we do get a hot September and part of October. We do get heat spells when this fog pattern subsides, but usually after 3 or so days – the heat gets beat back with this fog pattern.

The other climate I like is the high desert – in Nevada, parts of California, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and even Colorado. I like it cool and dry. Its funny, when I went to Dayton last year the humidity hit me – I hadn’t been “back east” since 1991 – so I have become a true Californian and Westerner.