My subscription to Life expired, but I still have a subscription to Mad.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Surfin': A Hundred Pounds Worth of DX

After you read this week's installement of Surfin' entitled A Hundred Pounds Worth of DX, you can leave your comments here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

iPodding in the rain

It is pouring rain here this morning. The rain is falling so hard that after I parked the land barge, I readied my umbrella to walk the 100 feet from my vehicle to the entrance of the salt mine.

Just as I am about to turn off my iPod that is playing through the car radio, guess what song randomly starts up next? Now, mind you, my iPod has 6,762 songs stored in it and is programmed to randomly play songs in no particular order. Anyway, the song my iPod started playing was Singing in the Rain by Gene Kelly.

As Mel Allen used to say, "How about that!"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

States I've Visited

Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Texas were just plane changes at airports in Chicago, Omaha, St. Louis, and Dallas-Fort Worth, but I guess they count as "visits."

create your own personalized map of the USA

Prada Previewed

Maybe I need to get out more.

Since we got a satellite dish, I seldom go to the movies (maybe once per year). To take a break from last weekend's deluge, daughter Hayley wanted to go the movies and asked us to join her. I agreed to take her up on the offer if she agreed to drive (I was exhausted from a hot and humid morning of installing window air conditioners for my mother and sister). She agreed and drove to the nearby Loews movie complex in Plainville, which coincidentally sits right next to a Lowe's home improvement store.

We needed a few laughs, so we decided to see The Break-Up with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston. We bought our tickets and were directed to theatre number 8.

Soon after seating ourselves in the middle of the top row of the stadium seating in number 8, the advertisements and previews began to roll. After 10 minutes or so, something strange occurred that made us believe that number 8 was the wrong theatre.

After a preview for Clerks II, they began showing what seemed to be the opening scene of the feature movie. The problem was that the feature movie was The Devil Wears Prada, not The Break-Up. After about two minutes, Hayley and I both came to the realization that we were in the wrong theatre.

I asked what did she want to do: watch Prada or go find the theatre where Break-Up was actually playing? I just as soon stay and watch Prada. It looked like a funny movie and I hate to walk in on a movie that had already started, which might be the case if we had to leave and find Break-Up.

Just as we were deciding what to do, the scene ended and revealed itself to be another preview, not the feature film. Fooled us!

That was different! Instead of showing a bunch of short clips from the movie, the Prada preview showed one, long continuous scene plunked from the beginning of the movie. (It might be the opening scene from the movie for all I know because I have not seen the movie yet.) Like I said, I need to get out more. I never saw a preview like that one before! (You can view it for yourself here.)

By the way, we both enjoyed The Break-Up.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Surfin': What on Google Earth!

Read this week’s installment of Surfin': What on Google Earth!, then leave your comments here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

just when you thought it was safe to archive your data...

I found this bit of bad news on digg today:

IBM: CD-ROMs Last Two Years, Maybe Five

Mr Gerecke, IBM expert on data storage. told PC World that two years is about the average life expectancy of a burned disc, and if you keep it in a dark, cool place it might last for five.

Here is the rest of the story.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

garden update

The veggies have been in the Earthboxes for about 3-1/2 weeks now. We have already picked and eaten romaine lettuce. Meanwhile, the tomoatoes, broccoli, and peppers are doing great, but we lost some seedlings early on due to the poor placement of the boxes under our gutterless eaves. (The seedlings drowned.)

Meanwhile, the roses have gone nuts. The last couple of years, they did poorly with only a handful of flowers blossoming each summer. I had just about given up on them and was planning to pull them up and plant something else. But, lo and behold, this spring, the roses have more flowers then ever before. I did nothing different this year, so I attribute their improvement to all the rain we had this spring.

St. Louis monolith revisited

Steve Katz, N8WL, e-mailed me about the monolith that replaced the Gateway Arch when I viewed St. Louis using Google Earth. Seems that if you turn off the "3D Buildings" option in Google Earth, the monolith goes away and the arch returns.

Actually, it is hard to see the arch, but it's there... honest!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

new radio at the WA1LOU APRS digi

I am testing a new radio on the air at the WA1LOU APRS digipeater. It is a Yaesu FT-1802M and it replaces a Kenwood TM-621A.

After many years of service, the TM-621A is on its last leg. Its transmitter output is low; I believe that the final amplifier is blown. Also, the front panel no longer lights, so I cannot see any of the radio's settings including the operating frequency! The radio is almost useless with an invisible front panel, but I managed to keep the radio running on 144.39 MHz for over a year in that condition.

I got a good deal on the Yaesu and I hope it serves me as well as the Kenwood.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

new version of Google Earth and the St. Louis monolith

There is a new version of Google Earth and it features 3D textured buildings... just what I've been waiting for.

I started Google Earth, upgraded to the new version, and began exploring. The Manhattan and Boston skylines looked great. What should I check out next?

I remembered how impressed Hayley was when she drove by the Gateway Arch in St. Louis on Sunday afternoon, so I headed west. I was in for a surprise. Instead of the arch, I found a monolith with the shadow of an arch. I guess the software could not interpret a curve and thought it was a rectangle. Despite this, the new version of Google Earth is still great!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Hayley's excellent exhausting roadtrip

On Friday, my daughter, Hayley, decided to drive home from school. No big deal except for the fact that Hayley's school is in Arizona, her home is in Connecticut, her vehicle has over 130,000 of hard miles on its odometer, and her sense of direction is challenged.

After trying unsuccessfully to convince her to reconsider, I Google mapped her roadtrip and spent the next 2.5 days guiding her across the country via her cell phone.

Here are the "highlights" of her 2759-mile roadtrip (from my perspective).

Hayley left Tucson Friday evening. I "accompanied" her through Arizona and southern New Mexico and guided her through the tricky switch from I-10 to I-25 in Las Cruces, NM.

Hayley discovered that she did not have her driver's license. She assumes she threw it away with the ticket and boarding pass from her last air flight.

After she was safely on her way north up I-25, I went to bed at approximately 2:30 AM EDST (all the times mentioned in this blog entry are EDST).

Hayley phoned home early Saturday morning to inform us that she had slept 3 hours in the Albuquerque airport parking garage and that she was back on the road.

She phoned again to report that her car was acting funny; the battery light was lit and the car was running sluggishly. It sounded like an alternator problem to me. (I'm no car mechanic, but the original Land Barge suffered the exact same fate on a roadtrip a few years ago, so I guessed the problem was the same.)

As luck would have it, she was in the middle of nowhere in northeastern New Mexico. The closest populous place was over the state line in Trinidad, Colorado, so I hoped she could make it there.

Hayley managed to get her car to Trinidad, found a garage that fixed the problem (the alternator), and was back on the road in about an hour. (Thank you, Les's Services in Trinidad!)

Saturday afternoon, I guided Hayley from I-25 in the south end of Colorado Springs to State Route 24 and, 66 miles later, on to I-70.

Hayley says she loved the scenery in Colorado.

As the Kansas state line approached, Hayley was tiring fast (at about 6 PM) and she checked into a Comfort Inn in Downtown Burlington, Colorado, for about ten hours of sleep.

She phoned home early Sunday morning to ask me how to add air to her tires. She had never done this before and I had no idea how the air pump at the gas station worked, so it took awhile, but we did manage to check the pressure and add air.

Back on the road, she crossed the Kansas state line and while she was talking to me, she mentioned that she was being pulled over by the state police! I started worrying. She did not have her driver's license. Her car was packed with so many personal belongings that visibility was limited. I started concocting the worst-case scenarios. As it turned out, she was "only" speeding (80 MPH in a 75-MPH zone) and received a $140 ticket. (When she pays the fine, she has to send back a photocopy of her driver's license.)

Hayley found the scenery in Kansas, "boring, but pretty" (not pretty boring).

Since the next 686 miles of her trip was straightforward (I-70 straight through Kansas and Missouri), I took a break from navigation and did some yard work.

Hayley made excellent progress and passed the I-270 bypass around St. Louis before I caught up with her late Sunday afternoon, so I guided her through the city and over the Mississippi River. At least she got a great view of the Gateway Arch, which she would have missed if she took the I-270 bypass.

It was more I-70 straight through Illinois, Indiana, and half of Ohio, so I took another break.

Hayley reported that in Illinois, she discovered the "grossest" restroom of her trip.

I was exhausted and was ready for bed at 10 PM, so I phoned Hayley to give her explicit directions on how to get through Ohio's Columbus, Akron, and Youngstown, to I-80. In my opinion, the I-76 leg between I-71 and I-80 in Ohio is the most poorly marked roadway I have had the displeasure of driving, especially westbound. Driving to the Dayton Hamvention in the past, I estimate that 2 out of 3 trips, I manage to take the wrong exit or miss an exit in the Akron area due to the poorly marked highway, so I was a little worried about Hayley traversing that area.

Fatherly instincts at work, I awoke at 1:30 AM and found Hayley approaching this "dangerous" leg of the trip. I talked to her on the phone until she was safely on I-80 heading toward the Pennsylvania state line two hours later.

Hayley called early Monday morning to say that she was very tired and was looking for a place to rest. She finally found a rest area in Snow Shoe, PA, and slept in her car.

By the time I arrived at work at 7:30 AM, she called to say that she was back on the road. The rest of the trip was relatively easy (I-80 to I-81 to I-84 to home), well marked, and the only "gotcha" being left-hand exits. I briefed her on the directions and did not hear from her again until she was on I-84 with Port Jervis, NY, in sight.

Since using the cell phone in hand is illegal in Connecticut (and maybe New York), she did not call during the rest of her trip except for a brief call telling me that she was almost in Waterbury.

She is home now and we are both exhausted!

    Saturday, June 10, 2006

    Ham Radio for Dummies

    Visited the Wolcott library today and saw Ham Radio for Dummies on the shelf. I knew about the book, but never had it in my bare hands, so I picked it off the shelf and perused it.

    I looked over the APRS section (pages 200-202) and, lo and behold, the book used WA1LOU-8 as its example of an APRS station with a map and all!

    Friday, June 9, 2006

    Wednesday, June 7, 2006

    my $12.99 webcam

    While perusing the electronics section of the local Ocean State Job Lot, I noticed webcams for sale at $12.99 each.

    The webcam had a USB cable, so I figured that although the bundled software was Windows oriented, I might be able to get this webcam to work with my Mac via its USB port. If not, I could return it for a refund.

    I took my purchase home and trimmed away its plastic packaging (very neatly in case I had to return it). A CD-ROM and small installation booklet was buried inside the packaging. Neither made any mention of a Mac.

    For the heck of it, I plugged the webcam cable into one of my Mac's USB ports and tried running the usual suspect applications, but as I expected, nothing recognized the webcam.

    Next, I went online, Googled, and came up with six Mac webcam applications. I downloaded them all, installed them on my Mac, and all but one did not recognize the webcam.

    macam did recognize the webcam (it displayed the message "connected to webcam"), but I could not get video from the webcam to display in the macam window. I played with all the settings in the software, but got nowhere fast.

    To make sure that the webcam actually worked, I took everything to work and installed it on my Windows XP computer at the salt mine. It worked fine. I don't have any experience using webcams, so I can't really compare, but I thought that the picture was pretty good, too.

    I took the webcam home and tried it again on my Mac, but still no luck. I gave up and carefully repackaged everything in the plastic container with plans to return it to Job Lot for a refund real soon now.

    Before real soon now, I returned to the macam web site and noticed that a newer version of the software was available. I downloaded it and installed it on my Mac.

    Once again, I carefully removed the webcam from its package and plugged it into a free USB port. I ran the software and it recognized the webcam just like it had previously, however, this time it did display video from the webcam. (applause)

    Tuesday, June 6, 2006

    bear in mind

    The lead front page story in today's local newspaper was that yesterday morning, a black bear was wandering around a neighborhood about 1.5 miles from my home in Wolcott. The locals were relieved when it was reported that "Wolcott's animal control officer had chased it over the town line and into Bristol."

    Good work! I bet that bear will never show his face in Wolcott again.

    Last fall, all signs pointed to a bear visit at our bird feeder one morning and last summer, I spotted bear droppings less than a mile from my house along a hiking trail. I used to worry that my wife might encounter a bear one day while she is walking the dogs, but now that the animal control officer is on the case, my worries are over.

    Monday, June 5, 2006

    roadtrip redux

    In my blog entry for May 31, I wrote about my roadtrip to New Hampshire with APRS running in Land Barge II, "The TH-D7(G) indicated that its APRS packets were being digipeated throughout the roundtrip, but when I arrived home and checked the APRS track on the Internet, it showed a gap between Greenfield, MA, and Brattleboro, VT, and a complete lack of Internet coverage north of Claremont, NH."

    I revisited the data and discovered that one APRS packet north of Claremont, NH, did make it back to the Internet afterall. That successful packet originated from our destination in Sugar Hill, NH, which is no big surprise since that location offered a great view of the whole Presidential Range (see the photo that I shot across the street from Polly's Pancake Parlor).

    Friday, June 2, 2006

    Numbers Stations Move From Shortwave To VoIP*

    *That's the headline of a story that appeared on Slashdot.

    Back when shortwave listening was my only radio hobby, I read all about the mysterious number stations in the radio hobby press and I even managed to find a few while tuning the low bands with my Hallicrafters S100 receiver. What fun I had in those good old days!

    Surfin': Field Day --- Three Weeks Away

    Read this week’s installment of Surfin': Field Day --- Three Weeks Away, then leave your comments here.

    where's LOU now?

    Now that I have APRS up and running in Land Barge II, I added Where's LOU now? links on this web page for quick access to the findu APRS database.