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

Friday, July 28, 2006

Surfin': Covering Amateur Radio

Check out this week's installment of my weekly online column, Surfin', then leave your comments here. (This week's column is titled Covering Amateur Radio.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

me first and the gimme gimmes

This week, I have been downloading and listening to songs by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. I like all of what I have heard so far. I especially like their take on Wild World and Mrs. Robinson. Yes, those are the old Cat Steven's and Simon & Garfunkel tunes. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes redo old tunes in punk-rock fashion.

I discovered this group like I have discovered some other groups and songs: as the background music played while the credits roll at the end of movies. In this case, the movies was Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and the song was Linda Rondstadt's Different Drum.

The only problem discovering groups and songs this way is trying to read the names of the groups and songs as they scroll by at the end of the movie because often, the song credits scroll by too quickly and/or the type size used in teh credits is small and hard to read.

Monday, July 24, 2006

MacLoggerDX 4.2.6 released

Dog Park Software announced that version 4.2.6 of MacLoggerDX has been released and can be downloaded here.

What's New in version 4.2.6:

* Added support for Google Earth
* Added read power setting to Icom IC-7000 Driver.
* Added volume and squelch to Icom IC-7000 Driver.
* Added 'Printer Margins' checkbox to QSL Panel.
* Added "agent=" to QRZ Online session.
* Added Cabrillo import for ARRL Sweepstakes CW.
* Added Montenegro DXCC.
* Added Swains Island DXCC.
* Fix for Icom IC-735 driver.

MacLoggerDX logs into your favorite Telnet or TNC DXCluster and as DX Spots are received, tunes your radio to the spot, looks up the call and displays the DX station on the real time grey line Map with distance and bearing from your station.

If you decide to work the station, MacLoggerDX is ready to instantly add the QSO and your Radio's VFO information to your log and can swing your beam around to work the station Direct or Long Path. MacLoggerDX supports ADIF Import/Export which is fully compatible with and the ARRL LoTW.

MacLoggerDX looks up calls on the Internet, the new QRZ or HamCall Online premium services, in QRZ CD Roms, on MapQuest, it's internal zipcode database, Dxpedition database, the ARRL country and DX lists, your Log Book and your User Call Book. MacLoggerDX's internal databases are regularly updated instantly over the Internet.

With a single key stroke you can see where this QSO is operating from - right down to the street level using MapQuest, Google Maps or Google Earth.

Not sure of the call you just heard ? K5ZD Super Check Partial Database Files are there to help you out as you enter a partial call.

In the background MacLoggerDX can tune your rig to a pre-arranged schedule or scan list - interrupting the program if something of interest pops up on the DXCluster.

MacLoggerDX automatically tracks DXCC, IOTA, WAS, VUCC and CQ WAZ (Worked All Zones) Awards and will even use or Eudora to Email you if that rare DX location pops up on the DX Clusters. It has a Bands Display panel which tracks activity by HF Ham Band and lets you quickly tune to the action using a separate VFO slider for each band - as well as VFO Stacking registers for quick recall of interesting frequencies.

MacLoggerDX can monitor, decode, lookup and plot APRS packets from APRSServe on the Internet or a connected TNC. You can use the TNC panel to communicate with any serial TNC to monitor and decode APRS traffic, DXCluster Spots or to work any of the digital modes supported by the TNC. See stations pop up on the map in real time as they digipeat APRS packets over the International Space Station.

MacLoggerDX features popup selection of multiple logs, searching and sorting based on any log field, automatic one-click generation of eQSL Cards, fast and easy printing of logs, envelopes, QSL Cards and bulk address labels, unlimited user-customizeable memories, Drag and Drop Scan List with adjustable delay, UTC scheduled events that automatically switch between summer, winter, weekend and weekday schedules, an integrated CW keyer (OS X) and drivers for over 70 popular Amateur Radio Transceivers and SWL Receivers as well as multi-radio quick-select preferences for switching quickly and easily between multiple rigs.

MacLoggerDX can also sync your rig with the NCDXF/IARU Propagation Beacon Network for empirical propagation status displayed in real-time on the world map.

MacLoggerDX is fully integrated with MacDopplerPRO X for logging of satellite QSO's and with Apple's OS X Address Book for quick adds of lookup data.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Surfin': Finding Ham Radio in Popular Culture

After you read this week’s installment of Surfin’ entitled Finding Ham Radio in Popular Culture, you can leave comments here.

it's always something - still yet another update

Last night, it took about one minute to get the wifi up and running with the DSL.

The End

Thursday, July 20, 2006

it's always something - yet another update

AT&T phoned yesterday to say that a service representative was coming to the house this morning to check the DSL problem.

I monkeyed with the DSL setup again last night, but did not make much progress and decided to wait and see what happened today before I spent more time on the problem.

The service rep showed up early and found a wiring problem in the box on the side of the house where the outside wiring connects to the inside wiring. He said that with the humid weather we have been having, the wiring problem probably added just enough resistance to foul up the DSL.

The DSL is now working. It should not take long to set up the wifi after work tonight and be back on the air!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

it's always something - another update

I checked all the phone jacks at home and found three or four that had oxidation. So, I cleaned them with alcohol on a Q-tip, then spent hours trying to get the DSL up and running.

The lights on the DSL modem were green indicating that all was well, but I still was unable to access DSL from my computer. I reset the DSL modem, but that did not make any difference. Next, I used the CD that was bundled with the modem to install the DSL.

I ran the program five or six times and it would quit at the same step in the installation procedure each time (at the point that it was ready to ask me for my account information). This was well after the steps in which the program had successfully set up the modem and accessed the DSL.

It was very frustrating!

I had it! It was late and I needed a break, so I watched the rest of the Red Sox game, then went to bed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

mushroom field

About the time of year that I have to clean the blue crud from the phone jacks in the house, the mushroom field in the front yard fills up with full a variety mushrooms.

Until three or four years ago, that part of the yard was just "lawn." Then, about three years ago, mushrooms started growing there.

The mushrooms seem to show up overnight, last a week or so, then disappear as quickly as they appeared. I avoid cutting that part of the lawn until they are gone.

This year, there seems to be fewer mushrooms than in past years, but there still is a wide variety  in interesting colors and shapes.

it's always something - update

AT&T's service representative says that the problem is with the telephone wiring inside our house. So, tonight I use Q-tips dipped in alcohol to clean every phone jack in the house.

Almost every summer, we have telephone service problems and the solution is to clean the phone jacks. Cleaning the jacks means that I have to remove a blue-colored crud that builds up on the pins inside the jack. The crud is the result of oxidation between the pins of the phone plug and jack, so I am told.

garden update

Time for another garden update!

It is almost eight weeks since I planted seeds and seedlings in the Earthboxes and so far, we have eaten some home grown romaine lettuce and broccolli.

The broccolli production was poor. The plants grew and looked healthy, but the heads were slow in appearing. When they finally showed up, the weather turned hot and their growth slowed down and were on the verge of flowering. I assume the unusual wet June weather was the culprit and was also the reason why peppers were slow showing up on the pepper plants (I noticed the first signs of peppers only a day or two ago.)

I cut down the broccolli plants after I took this photo and planted broccolli seeds for a fall harvest.

Meanwhile, the tomatoes, beans, and squash are doing well. I think the June weather had a negative effect on their growth, too, but at least the tomatoes started showing up on the tomato plants weeks ago.

it's always something

When I tried to get on line last night, I discovered that I had no access to the Internet. Everything seemed normal: my computer heard my wifi loud and clear and all the lights on the DSL modem were green, but when I tried to send/receive e-mail or access a web page, I got nothing.

I called AT&T and Anita at customer service in Little Rock tested the line. She said the tests indicated that there was something wrong with the line and that she would send a service representative out to check the line today.

Dial-up still worked, so I still had Internet access, but just a lot slower than usual. Makes me wonder if this problem is related to last week's DSL modem problem.

Meanwhile, I got my APRS digipeater back on the air. Turns out that I had everything set correctly, but when I used the lock option to lock all the settings and front panel controls, the transmitter became disabled! So, I just left the radio unlocked and WA1LOU was back on the air.

Something is definitely wrong with the digipeater radio. I think it's brains are scrambled or fried. So, I sat down with the radio's manual and found out how to reset the radio. By then, it was too late to fool around with radio settings and since the digipeater was back on the air, I decided to leave well enough alone and address the problem tonight.

Monday, July 17, 2006

digipeater down

I have been distracted the last few days recovering from my recent adventures in colonoscopy, and I just discovered that my APRS digipeater, WA1LOU, is down. In fact, it has been off the air since Saturday morning.

On Wednesday, I assume that an electrical surge on the phone line took out the DSL modem and perhaps, the wifi base station at home. Thunderstorms were in the forecast, but Laurie does not recall any storms passing through. She might have been away grocery shopping when a storm passed through.

I replaced the modem and wifi on Thursday and everything was back to normal. For some reason, the voice telephone equipment was not affected.

I am not sure whether the wifi base station is bad or not. I had a spare and it was easier to diagnose the system problem with a known working component (the spare wifi) then try to diagnose the problem with multiple potential bad components. I will check out the questionable wifi base station later.

I also found that my Peet Ultimeter 2100 weather station was out of commission, too. Its front panel was blank. Pushing its power button did not bring it back to life. I assumed that it also had been affected by whatever damaged the DSL modem.

For the heck of it, I replaced the 9-volt battery in the 2100 that provides backup power in case of a power outage. Surprisingly, the 2100 came back to life and has been working correctly after I ran it through its set-up procedures. Go figure!

While I was working in the shack Saturday morning, I heard a clicking sound that was not normal. After a brief investigation, I found the source to be the power meter connected to the WA1LOU digipeater transceiver. Each time the transceiver transmitted, the power meter pinged the high end of the scale and caused the click.

Originally, I had set the transmitter for about 25 watts out and had set the power meter accordingly, but now the transmitter was transmitting full power (about 50 watts out) and pinging the incorrectly set power meter.

I assume that whatever damaged the DSL modem must have affected the transceiver, too, resetting the transmitter output to its default value (50 watts out). None of the other options in the transceiver seemed affected, but I did have a difficult time resetting the transmitter output option. I have only had this radio (a Yaesu TM-621A) for a month and had set up its options once, so I don't remember if I had the same difficulty then.

While dealing with the radio problem, I must have messed up some setting or did not connect a cable correctly because indicates that my digi is among the missing. My guess is that I did not seat the module plug in the radio's connector properly (that connection mates the radio to the TNC). I now recall that it is a very tight connection and I had to be sure that the plug was inserted all the way into the socket, not just seated on the lip of the socket, and thus, not making an electrical connection. Hopefully, that is all that is wrong and that I will be able to correct the problem later today.

adventures in colonoscopy

I had my first colonoscopy four years ago and the doctor discovered and removed a couple of small polyps during the procedure. Ever since, I have often thought about my second colonoscopy worrying what the doctor might find this time in my older body. (My father and grandmother had colon cancer.)

Last month, my mother had an edoscopy from the same doctor who had performed my first colonoscopy and I accompanied her to get the results. So, while I was there, I made an appointment for my second colonoscopy, which was scheduled for Friday, the 14th.

The procedure is a piece of cake, but the preparation the day before is awful. I won't go into details, but I assure you, it is the most painful experience I have ever had without being sick or hurt. (Here is the poop on the prep, if you are interested).

My test was at 8:30 AM and they wheeled me into the testing area right on schedule, I was out cold a minute or two later. The last thing I remember was telling the anesthesiologist about EME communications (in response to his question, "How far can you talk with ham radio?") Next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room looking at the clock, which read 9:05 AM.

I had no recollection of anything while I was under. I did not recall any dreams, nor did I recall that I had any dreams that I could not remember. As far as I can tell, I did not exist consciously or subconsciously. There was just nothing going on. I guess that is how it feels to be dead.

By the way, the results of the test were good; everything was normal and no polyps were found.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Surfin': LED Communications over a 104-Mile Path

After you read this week's installment of Surfin' entitled LED Communications over a 104-Mile Path, you can leave comments here.

satellite tracking software for Mac

Dog Park Software is has announced that version 2.0.3 MacDoppler for Cocoa has been released and a free demo can be downloaded here.
What's New in this release ?

  • Added Icom IC-7000 Driver.

  • Improved Icom IC-706 Driver.

  • Fixed Beacon mode problem.

MacDoppler features:

  • Runs under OS X 10.4 (Tiger) as a Universal Binary on Intel or PPC hardware.

  • Full 2D and 3D OpenGL projection model of earth.

  • Track List sorted in real-time order of next pass.

  • Full predictive dead spot crossing so that a pass is never interrupted by the beam heading passing a dead spot.Speech advisory of next satellite AOS and Maximum Elevation.

  • Horizon Window shows elevation of upcoming passes on a time line.

  • Tuning Dial Tracking allows you to tune the downlink from your radio's front panel while MacDopplerPRO X automatically adjusts the uplink.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

July 11 roadtrip

Yesterday, my daughter, Hayley, and I took a roadtrip from downtown Wolcott, CT, to Johnson State College ("JSC") in Johnson, VT. As usual, I had the WA1LOU-8 APRS mobile station up and running in Land Barge II for the 504-mile roundtrip up (and back down) I-84, I-91, I-89, and VT state routes 100 and 15.

Like our May 30 roadtrip to Sugar Hill, NH, APRS coverage was solid until we approached the Massachusetts-Vermont border, where coverage dropped out until we approached Brattleboro, VT. APRS coverage picked up again, but dropped out north of Claremont, NH, just like it did on May 30.

Unlike May 30, we turned left onto I-89 instead of continuing up I-91, but there was still no APRS coverage until we were about 5 miles south of Montpelier. APRS coverage was very good during the rest of our journey up I-89 and VT state routes 100 and 15. (There was excellent APRS coverage at the Ben & Jerry's factory; a cone full of Sublime Key Line Pie ice cream was excellent, too.)

There was no APRS coverage at our destination, Johnson State College, but for what it's worth, my daughter's Verizon cell phone was useless at JSC, too!

Comparing APRS maps of our May 30 and July 11 roadtrips, it looks like switching my digipeater path from WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1 to WIDE1-1,WIDE2-2 might have improved coverage slightly, but not much.

By the way, just to keep me honest, the July 11 map also shows this morning's commute to the salt mine in Wallingford, CT.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Surfin': Back to Earth

After you read this week's installment of Surfin' entitled Back to Earth, leave your comments here.

104 miles via modulated light

Read all about this amazing DX feat at the Modulated Light DX web site.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

EFF Defends Liberties In High-Tech World

The Electronic Frontier Foundation was born 16 years ago this Monday, taking on the Secret Service as its first case.

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