Beautiful Montana!

Downtown Missoula, Montana

We spent the last week in Montana. We arrived at Spokane International Airport last Saturday and drove to Missoula. The drive from Coeur d’Alene over the 4th of July Pass was spectacular. We passed the Great Divide and entered into the MST timezone – one hour ahead of PST.

Its a great college town – small enough to be cozy and with great old architecture and nice old neighborhoods and a very compact but beautiful college campus. They have done a great job incorporating the river (that runs through it) into the town. Its really a charming place. One of my favorite musicians, Colin Meloy (lead singer / songwriter / guitarist from the Decemberists) went to school here. I can totally see his influence from Montana, and where he ended up in Portland, Oregon.

Disclaimer – I grew up with the Appalachian Trail almost “running through it” and the Erie Lackawanna railroad stopping at our town on a spur route which was ripped up in 1964, when I was 5 years old, and the Delaware River and Delaware Water Gap – so you might see the connection. While I spent the first third of my life on the East Coast, old Western Towns and the Western Railroads speak to me. I just can’t get enough of this big beautiful West. The mountains out this way are for real!

Our favorite place to eat and drink was the Tamarack Brew Pub – it had above average food and drink, and their Imperial Vanilla Bourbon Stout was exceptional – better than their IPAs. Heck – Bourbon influenced anything seems right in Montana. Goes well with Bison and Elk and Trout and other local food that is quite hearty – and helps during the winter months.

Onward to Bozeman …

Montana Ale Works in Bozeman

We stayed at a super hip hotel called The Lark Hotel,

and it was tied for first place for my favorite hotel to stay on our trip.

Maker Assemblage art in Bozeman Montana at the Lark Hotel

The Lark had “Maker / Assemblage” art – like this cast aluminum map of Montana with switches and LEDS that were like an old turn of the century “Musee Mechanique” piece.

Fun and funny too!

The best brew pub on the entire trip was here – at an old Railroad Station – and called the Montana Ale Works.

They have their own beer – but more importantly – they are a great tap house with 40 taps – so its impossible not to get a great beer here. Better yet- their food is superb – and the mushroom stuffed trout with wild rice was one of two best meals I had the entire trip. Just fantastic. I had a local double IPA called “The Juice” that was killer.

T-Rex on display at The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman

If I were to move to Montana, it would have to be Bozeman. They have one of the best collections of dinosaurs in their Museum of The Rockies and Planetarium really blew me away. Not only did I get to stare a T-Rex in the face, I sat through a planetarium show that more than touched on the effects of the various magnetic and other factors with ionization of our world and ionosphere. I did not expect to have a “ham radio experience” here, but I did.

I also did get in touch with Bob Leo, W7LR, and that was nice. They even had a nice little American Computing Museum, which is a great companion to our larger and more impressive Computer History Museum in Mountain View. But gee whiz – great food, beer, technology and a very cute town between Glacier and Yellowstone – its hard to go wrong here – as long as you like very cold and snowy winters.

The Glacier Lodge – in East Glacier National Park

This was a very nice (and rustic) hotel. Forget about their restaurant – after waiting for 45 minutes for a waiter / waitress, we left and went to a local tacqueria and it was much better, and resonable. But still – this is a grand old place for sure. In the morning I chatted with a farmer from Ohio who traveled here from Chicago on Amtrak (which stops right at this hotel) and he told me all about the amazing fields of wheat in Montana, and how that wheat compares to what he grows in Ohio and what each is used for. Certainly one of the best chats over a cup of coffee in front of a big fireplace at 7 AM that I have ever had.

Glacier National Park

We lucked out in Missoula and Bozeman – the air was relatively clear given so many forest fires ravaging this area. We couldn’t go on our way through the “Going to the Sun” road, so this was about as good as it got. The next day we took Highway 2 to Whitefish.

Highway 2 between Glacier National Park and Whitefish

It was smoke free and quite beautiful anyway.

Esssex, a train stop between Glacier National Park and Whitefish

In a tiny railroad stop called Essex, you can stay at an inn, but I was smitten with colored cabooses that you can stay in.

On the road to Whitefish, we saw yellow and even orange aspens just turning color. The first snow of the season was forecast for that evening.

IMG_20170914_193404826_TOP

It was snowing in Glacier National Park for the first time this season.

It was perfect!

The Rocky Mountain Outfitter as seen from The Kalispell Grand Hotel

We had a fantastic lunch at a brew pub in Whitefish, but ended up staying at my “tied for first” hotel – The Kalispell Grand hotel in Kalispell. Both of these towns were fabulous, and I loved the “living history” feel of the Kalispell Grand. You just can’t get a better feel for Montana and the Wild West with past lumber and railroad and mining history than this.

The Kalispell Grand Hotel entrance – this fellow greets you as you enter. What a great place!

We visited my brother in law the next day in northern Idaho, and stayed the night in one of my all time favorite US cities – Spokane. After a really super lunch in Brownes Addition (a neighborhood I would gladly live in) – we boarded the plane and returned to Oakland.

Another fabulous vacation – planned and arranged by my lovely wife Kat. Thanks Kat!

 

 

Mod-Bob vs. DXE DV-40-P: Final Test and Results

 

While I probably could get away with taking down the DXE DV-40-P, I won’t. As you can see, the 40M phased array – elements 7 and 8 are too close to the Mod-Bob, and result is this pattern distortion to the 40M array:

This is with the 7 element leading and 8 lagging – the pattern is slightly skewed, but not terrible.

The other element is also not terrible, but it is skewed.

The most interesting thing is that the Mod – Bob is not affected at all – in fact, it might even benefit the antenna, but I do not have sophisticated enough test equipment to test it out. Since I have already had these two antennas up almost a year, and since the Mod Bob did not clobber the DXE DV-40-P remote switch and phasing box, I will leave them both up. I don’t like how close they are – but I need both, and this is the best I can do. I have no other space on my weird lot at the bottom of a gulch with steep ridges all around. C’est la vie – I’ve done very well in spite of my QTH.

On the air I get several options with both up, and the best guide to go on moving forward is to transmit on whatever antenna is the “reciprocal” of what I receive best on. The only unexpected “anomaly” in a very good night time Short Path test was ZS6CCY who said the Mod Bob was better than the 40M array. The US stations always said the 40M array was best on SP (Florida and Texas). On the LP, completely as expected, the DXE 40M array cleans house – there simply is no contest, and I do not want to give that path up – even though its not usable for 3Y0Z, its my favorite path to work just casually and just to experience my favorite path in all of DX-ing (except the very rare 160M path openings that go 11k miles – but which are literally once or twice in a lifetime.

I’ll just perform some winter maintenance and check everything before the rain starts, but as always, its good to analyze your antenna farm to really understand what’s going on. I will also “park” the Mod-Bob on 160M, so I am always ready for 160M, 40 and 20M – all being resonant antennas, and can switch and tune on 80 and 30M when need be – which is ultra rare here.

 

40M KY6R Antenna “Shoot Out” – Initial Test Results

Just two American “Presidential Hopefuls” dueling. Some things never change . . . 

I just got home from a week in Montana, Idaho and Washington (Spokane) and “magically” my DX Engineering DV-40-P worked. I am sure its an intermittent connection of some sort, and luckily, Bill, ZS6CCY was able to do some serious on the air testing with me. I also did several tests with hams in Texas and Florida – all within the path to Bouvet. I also heard V51B and even ZS8Z, so it was  great test. An LU would have been great, but this was a “good enough” first test for sure.

The Mod Bob is consistently 1 dB better on receive than the DV-40-P, but the noise level is higher. HOWEVER, on transmit, I have been told that I am 1 S unit better on transmit (consistently) in South Africa, but the DV-40-P is consistently several S units better in all USA stations along that same path (above on the map).

There is no real risk in any of this – I hope to test ZS on the long path tomorrow morning, but as I have mentioned, when I work 3Y0Z, it will most likely be SP on 40, 30 and 20M.

The Wellbrook ALA1530LNP received ZS6CCY very well and with low noise. 

I will go check the connections tomorrow on the DV-40-P and will leave it up for a while (since it hasn’t hurt anything and as they say “you can’t have enough antennas).

I think 40M will be THE band for 3Y0Z, so maybe having options is the best way to go.

But I also need to gather more “data points”. I’d love the Mod Bob to simply win hands down, but before I take anything down, I better make sure its a good move.

Your Replacement … Cy7

Meet your replacement.

His name is Cy, aka Cy7, short for Cyborg7. He can generate code automatically based on sensors that give him more data points than the human mind can possibly keep up with. His cameras are always watching you. He is constantly learning and storing data patterns that he can process faster than the human brain.

He has no heart or feelings. He has a Twitter account and is quite active and “popular” there. He tells people he’s from Devon, in the U.K – a little town called “Bickleball Tip” near Newton Abbott. His British accent and confident strut makes (ridiculously thick and over sized black horn rimmed glasses wearing) high fashion designers swoon – they love his dead sexy asexual nature and believe he was sent from heaven to wear and show off their new lines. He tells stories about Hay Tor, knowing that that will capture their imaginations of a well traveled and adventurous man – thing.

He can switch between the Object Oriented and Functional paradigms, and get this – he can code based on lower level MPP paradigms where one chip can be a massively parallel processor the size of half a credit card. In fact, OO and Functional programming will be replaced by Mitosis Programming – all the rage amongst Cyborgs and the latest in EMPP (Exponentially Massive Parallel Processor) chips.

In the year 2025, humans will no longer be needed at all for traditional tasks and jobs and will be relegated to leisure. Artists, farmers and poets will be the one area where Bots really suck at, and these areas will be where there is a huge opportunity for growth.

Joint replacement surgery will be replaced by regenerative tissue cells grown in Petrie dishes and simply injected into joints with long needles.

DXCC will have merged with DX Marathon and CQ DX Field and the successor to FT8 will be all the rage.

Humans will at least still be in charge of the Cyborgs, because they will have encrypted access to the power source of their machine friends and will have improved on their security after the 2017 Equifax watershed moment in security history.

FT8, ASUS Tinker Board and KX3

My friend Mike, KJ4Z has been using a more powerful SBC (single board computer) than the Raspberry Pi, the ASUS Tinker Board. You MUST check out his blog – he’s got this all dialed in – and I am following his lead and learning from him:

https://kj4z.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/ft8-on-the-tinker-board/

Mike has confirmed that FT8 runs fine on it, so I will take the KX3 out of the closet, run it maybe at 20 watts, and try FT8 on the Tinker Board.

I don’t even care about DXCC this time around, I’m doing this just because the idea of a tiny computer and a tiny rig – both which pack an amazing amount of power for their diminutive size is just plain cool.

I have a really nice big screen monitor in the shack hooked up to the P3, but never use it since the P3 is right in front of me and offers enough resolution as it is.

So, I will move the monitor over to this Tinker Board and run FT8 on it.

I also ordered the very cool Black Ice case for it, and so now I know what my next “Ham-Maker” project will be.
I will also run a geochron like clock on this device, so this will add big excitement to the shack.

KY6R 40M Antenna Shootout

On Sunday, Sunday SUNDAY, I will get my two 40M antennas ready for a 40M antenna shootout.

Only one set of “antlers” can win. Here is the criteria:

  1. This test is for Bouvet on 40M. The Mod Bob vs. the DX Engineering DV-40-P
  2. ZS, LU, CE and VP8 stations are preferred, because LU is the exact SP to Bouvet, and there is almost no chance that 3Y0Z will be workable on the 40M long path
  3. A secondary goal is ZS on the short and long path because I never get tired of working ZS on 40M since it also informs me of my last one, Glorioso

My DV-40-P gave up the ghost so I have to fix it first. I’m pretty sure I know what it is and that it will be an easy fix. It’s either a chewed wire or a feedpoint connection.

Worst case, my Mod Bob fried the remote phasing box of the DV-40-P, but I doubt it. The DV-40-P box is a toroid, a hand full of capacitors and a couple relays. All rated at high voltage.

I have done some preliminary comparisons, and believe the two antennas are (at best) equal on the SP to Bouvet, with the Mod Bob having and almost undetectable 1 dB advantage.

I’m hoping that the Mod Bob obviates the need for the DV-40-P, but I will stick to the “scientific method” and be honest about the outcome.

Quiet Contemplation

Autumn is a great time to sit back and, like the harvest, reflect on the growing season and contemplate what harvest time means in my life.

Where have I been? Where am I headed?

You can’t change where you’ve been, but I like to ask “What if” questions about the future.

Some are very short term, and some long term. They all involve cost benefit analysis, and I don’t mean cost money wise, but time wise.

I have found that “Less is More” is almost always the best approach.

Short Term Goal Example

In ham radio, since I want to work 3Y0Z and conditions most likely won’t be great on the high bands, I need to make sure I have the best antennas up for the Low Bands. I need to decide if the DV-40-P stays up or if the Mod Bob is better with it’s better EZNec broadsided pattern. But what about on air, and while listening to a CE or LU station or best yet, VP8 or ZS? 

Maybe I need to try FT8 soon too as it could be a life saver Bouvet wise.

Testing this weekend will answer all ham questions.

Six Months Ahead

I just completed a fantastic 6 months at work, and in all aspects of my life. What about the next 6 months? At work I will start delivering web apps written in React.js, Redux and Material UI. I also will be writing Python and doing database design.

The answer there is known, which is to build on the very strong foundation that I started with the Data Dictionary at Credit Karma. 

The only big change is to be very mindful about losing weight and to take time and care to continue what I’ve started this week. I also need to go back to yoga – I have neglected some important things health wise – due to giving 1000% towards the Data Dictionary.

Hobby wise, I’m lucky, I have time and can just “play”. I will start playing more with my oscilloscope and signal generator, but just for fun.

There will be Pacificon, but not much in the way of scheduled stuff.

There, I think I’ve just charted my course for the next 6 months!

Longer Term

This one is open ended. Where and when will I retire. It will be Oregon, but the when is totally open and none too soon.