Summer of React, Flask and Airflow

This Summer won’t be about Ham Radio so much – but I will be building little fun “experimental” circuits with the Maker-Ham components that I have – along the lines of that WiFi Field Strength Meter idea. No antenna building, and no DXCC chasing.

I am now becoming a serious React and Flask (“full stack”) developer. It happened by accident – I was supposed to be teamed with a React web app developer who would build the front end web app and I would build the back end database REST API – in Python / Flask.

I completed my part of the deal – and waited. And waited. And waited. When we hit the half way mark of this quarter, I realized it was time to jump in and BE that front end web app developer. I did make one attempt last year when I built a web app using React, but that fell by the wayside, and I thought that was it for me as far as React goes. This time, I dove in head first and full force and wanted to really understand how React worked. Last Summer I hacked an online class React app and made it work, but I really didn’t understand how React worked. And React has a steep learning curve. In fact, I almost caved and went with Vue.js or PHP.

The reason I couldn’t find anyone to help me is that React developers (actually “full stack” developers) are all the rage these days. Anyone who has this skill set is being snapped up perhaps faster than anyone else in the IT industry. Forget about “Data Scientists” – that was yesterdays big deal. Even “Big Data” is not the big deal it was a few years ago.

React was designed by Facebook, and its very interesting technology. At first it seems really bizarre and convoluted – but that is because they have managed to work around the fact that HTML and the web were meant to be stateless web page apps – and not a full on event driven, state full app platform. In the back end – I use Airflow – a Python scheduler and ETL / Data Pipeline technology designed by Air BNB.

I’m not giving anything away here – my LinkedIn profile has all of this listed:

Anyway, what is interesting is that I feel like what I am building is as interesting as what I do in the ham shack. Every now and then work feels a lot like designing and building antennas or building my station / shack. Right now – that’s how it feels – and its a great feeling. I go to work at what is the best place I’ve ever worked (Credit Karma) every day with a spring in my step – and it just doesn’t get any better than this.

One of the things I might try is to build a web app that interfaces with the Raspberry Pi or Arduino experiments – a sort of web meets maker meets ham mash up. That could be a lot of fun.

Rotator Cage for ALM-31

SteppIR UrbanBeam on a US Towers ALM-31 crank up tower

I love the US Towers ALM-31, but I want to put a 10′ mast up above the rotator. This would get the UrbanBeam up to 41′. Since adding that extra length would cause too much side torque on the rotator – and also stress the weld at the rotator plate. When you look at pictures of hams in EU that have crank up masts – you always see a rotator cage. These are rare in the US, and I’m kind of surprised. In fact, I can’t find anyone who makes them in the US. I did think about using a Rohn top section of a tower – upside down and with a thrust bearing, but that ends up being almost $400 – with shipping.

The tower is on the outside of my trellis, and I used to have a Spiderbeam telescoping aluminum mast that held a 2 element home brewed yagi. Because the tower and the trellis upright beam are only 10 or 12″ apart, it would be very easy to build a telescoping “rocket launcher” support. I found a special thrust bearing for such an application called a Pillow Block Bearing:

The bearing could be put at the end of an arm that comes off the Spiderbeam telescoping mast. This would ensure that the extended mast never leans sideways – which could damage the rotator. Adding a 10′ mast puts the weight right at the ALM-31 limit, so all of this is just musing – I probably won’t do it. I never knew about a Pillow Block Bearing – so this is cool.

I also thought about using this Rohn top thrust bearing section upside down as a rotator cage. That would work very well, and wouldn’t require all that crazy “scaffolding”.

This was a “what if” post. I won’t be doing any of it – but its fun to think about mechanical or electrical solutions to problems. Sometimes viable product ideas emerge . . .




KY6R WiFi Field Strength Meter!

A while back I posted about a 1973 era field strength meter ( Ham Radio 1.0) that I built and used a very cool NOS Simpson 7458 meter, but put it in a new clear case.

Enter Ham Radio 2.0 – I take the signal from that analog field strength meter and feed it into the ESP8266:

And it transmits the micro voltage readings from the field strength meter over the internet. So – this is about the simplest Analog to Digital “SDR” – hi hi. It is that germanium diode “crystal radio” that you built with a diode and a coil – when you were a kid (more or less). In my case its so broadband (there is no tuned circuit or filter – or even a coil) so it picks up everything!

Icom IC-7610: My Favorite Rig

Photo Courtesy of Jeff, KE9V. Icom is hitting home runs these days with the IC-7300 and the IC-7610

The 7610 is by far my favorite rig – (and you know for 10 years I was a dyed in the wool Elecraft K3 fanboy).

Icom IC-7610 and Acom 1010 in the KY6R Shack

The features, layout and ergonomics – but above all – the ability to receive weak signals and keep them alongside – but not buried in the noise is where its biggest power lies.

The visuals on the 7610 are stunning

The ability to do screen captures or audio recordings to a built in SD card in the rig is just fantastic

In my post DXCC pursuit, I feel have a rig that lets me tinker, play and learn about things that I like to blog about. Connected to Ham Radio Deluxe, and it even gets better.

Rob Sherwood, NC0B has been ranting and raving about this rig on several online review boards (like eHam), and so that’s a great endorsement coming from the man who has been evaluating rigs for years.


Ham Radio 2.0 at Hamvention

Leeds and Northrup 5300 Wheatstone Bridge

I’m quite excited about following along with the Dayton Hamvention podcasts and news this year, and expect to re-live my trip last year by following along online.

SteppIR UrbanBeam and US Towers ALM-31 that intrigued me at Hamvention last year, now in the back yard …

I’m watching several online recorded and live shows so far, and am very pleased to see how there is promotion for “Ham Radio V2.0”. Ward Silver, N0AX, whom I recently had a great chat with is again instigating the promotion of new technology and bridging the gap between Maker and Ham Radio.

Its a truly wonderful hobby, and you can tell how excited people are for Dayton, and rightfully so. If you have never been – you need to go at least once.

The Armchair DXer – a Year Later

Its been 2 years since VK0EK, and I was bit worried that I might come to regret not going on that trip – I certainly could have if I wanted. Now that I have restarted The DXCC Sleuth, I realize more than ever how much I like being a DX chaser, and that I never have nor ever will be a world traveler – its just not my thing.

I have journey’s and travels right in my own back yard and in my shack. My travels are always on a bike – I just don’t go that far from home. I travel every day on BART to San Francisco – and ride my bike to and from BART. Every day is just a little bit different, and every day is its own little journey.

Its just the way I like it.

One little in shack journey was Top Band – I really thought I wanted to be a big 160M aficionado. It was so hard to get to 100, I have completely changed my mind. I’ve toiled enough and paid my dues. I’ve proven myself – to myself, and feel sated. I had enough. I have checked 160M lately – and its the same old same old- which is mostly nothing here on the West Coast. I don’t miss that OCD – hi hi. In contrast, last night 40M came back to life after a few weeks of very anemic behavior. I can’t even correlate why with “the numbers”. Up until last night, and for a couple of weeks, the band was noisy and even West Coast signals were terrible.

Many times I set out on a new goal or journey and have some notion in my mind – its fun to look back and laugh at yourself when the path turns out to be different than some lofty goal or idea that you had. Of course being a hobby – its all optional.

This week I’m really curious about who will win the SWODXA DXpedition of the Year award. Not because I have a horse in the race – more because I don’t. It will also be very interesting to see what gear announcements or DXpedition announcements are made.

Last year I went to Dayton – this year I’ll tune into the several bloggers and pod-caster’s channels and see what transpires.

Summer 2018: No DX Doldrums Here!

Adafruit Ultimate GPS Logger

Yesterday, while the bands were acting like its the bottom of Cycle 24, I started playing with a couple new WiFi development boards, and wrote some C code on the Arduino platform. The goal is to see if I can create a remote wireless Field Strength Meter. The answer is Yes, so now the follow up question is “Exactly How?”.

What is the most fun part about these Maker – Ham projects (Ham Radio 2.0) is that there is a journey involved – its never a perfect straight line because quite a few options and parameters pop up along the way to challenge and excite you while you are tinkering, playing and learning. Its like Lego Blocks for Adults. . .

At first I thought about building several of these and putting them around an antenna, but then figured if this could be made lightweight enough – it could end up being the “payload” of a drone. (Don’t worry Kat – I’m not buying a drone!). The area around my antennas is covered with high grass and ticks – and so you won’t find me going after downed drones anytime soon. I also have way too many trees and a couple weird neighbors who would not be very “helpful” if I had to go after a downed drone.

But maybe just building a couple would be a good job – one for a forward direction and one off the back of the UrbanBeam or DX Engineering 2 element DV-40-P vertical array. With just two – I can check F/B and F/S.  I could even check “altitude” – like what happens with the UrbanBeam when its all over ground, half over the deck, and 1/3 over the roof. Maybe I can finally measure what Tom, N6BT has documented in his book “Array of Light” – where he discusses the effect of a house on your antenna(s).

Since I have both Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards, and the Raspberry Pi’s have WiFi built in – I might just get a GPS shield for it and also then program using Python (or Adafruit’s version of MicroPython) and be more productive than with C.

I’ll have to look at all of my options – I have all of the development boards, I will be ordering a GPS board when I figure it out. Because I will be wanting to poll the data off of an antenna when there is RF – I’ll have to create a logging routine that starts when there is micro voltage coming off a germanium diode and have a date timestamp and a voltage reading. Since the Pi can communicate with my laptop, it would be cool to name each one of these files something and completely control the field strength meter from my laptop as the field strength meter is in the near field of each antenna.

One thing that really helps a lot is Adafruit’s support. I find it worth paying a few extra bucks when they support every product every step of the way – especially on the software side. I’ve purchased less expensive Chinese products – but you are on your own support wise. I spent hours finally just going to Git yesterday and finding code that would work with the Chinese unit that I was playing with. Its a far cry from what you get from Adafruit – where I will know exactly what I am getting into even before I order the board(s). Their GPS doc on their site walks you through everything – and this means I can make a much better informed decision about Pi vs. Arduino and C vs. Python. Since the Pi is built on Linux – its more of a real OS than Arduino is – so I will almost always gravitate to it – but I need to keep an open mind too. This project is a dedicated loop that is triggered by voltage, and the data will need to be written to a MicroSD card – that much I am sure.

I’d rather use Python than C if I can get away with it – just because I want to move faster than my rusty C abilities. But Python is built from C – and you can see the lineage very clearly – its not a stretch at all to go back and forth between the two.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Summer DX Doldrums? What Summer DX Doldrums?