Tag Archives: stuff

One year of amateur radio: what works

So I’ve just got my digital mode setup working again. It seems that somewhere, somehow, a driver for the SignaLink USB decided to stop working, and at best I got no signal on transmit and a very very quiet one on receive. Now my mind’s back in radio mode, I realise there’s a ton of stuff I’ve bought and found to be of variable utility. This is the good stuff:

  • Rigblaster Pro: this audio interface is far larger and far more expensive than it needs to be, but I got it used for a good price. Coupled with a $3 (!) USB sound card, it makes a sensitive and controllable sound device. I think I now prefer serial PTT-controlled audio interfaces to the SignaLink’s vox-style “Make a noise and I’ll transmit it” mode. It means you won’t accidentally tx system noises. That’s worth having another USB cable lurking about.
  • LDG autotuner: because of the wild and pointless diversity in radio interfacing, LDG makes a bunch of autotuners for specific radio models. Mine just works, and will tune my mini-G5RV from 10 to 80(ish) metres.
  • Big external meter: a cheap LDG meter is way better than the fiddly bar graph on the front of my FT-857D. I have it set up for signal on receive, and perhaps slightly unusually, AGC on transmit. Since I have a tuner and run almost entirely digital modes, it’s important that my signal doesn’t distort, so seeing AGC and being able to tweak it is important.
  • Heil Pro-Micro headset: this is comfy, and keeps the family sane. I have the footswitch too, which really helps to run nets.
  • Quarter-wave dual-bander HT antenna: The rubber ducks that all my HTs have are a bit rubbish. A simple replacement antenna allows me to talk through fairly distant repeaters from my sheltered back garden.
  • WinKeyer USB: I’m just starting morse. The WinKeyer kit was so well put together it was a delight to build, and seems to be an utterly sound keyer.
  • Fldigi: the digital mode program. Reliable, full-featured and free. It basically runs all the time on my shack computer.
  • Chirp: I can program all my HTs and my HF rig with this. It’s truly great, and miles better than proprietary programming software.
  • PSKReporter: a few minutes after calling CQ, I can see where in the world I’ve been heard. This automatic reverse-beaconing site is magic, and I’m amazed that a lot of digital users don’t even know it’s there.

My one annoyance about having a Linux-based shack is that ham radio is still very stuck in using serial ports. None of my computers have hard-wired RS232 ports, so I rely on USB serial adapters. These mostly work well, but Linux has a habit of shuffling the allocations around, so what was /dev/ttyUSB0 controlling your rig today might be ttyUSB1 tomorrow. You can get around this (if the software supports it) buy using long serial device names from /dev/serial/by-id/, which don’t change. They don’t change, that is, unless you have two Prolific serial interfaces that don’t have serial numbers set, so I can only have one attached at a time. Annoying.

18 things I’d rather have than an iPhone

In response to Jill’s post to fegmaniax:

  1. Batavus Personal Bike
  2. Lagouille pocket knife
  3. The Muppets Series 2 on DVD
  4. a better film scanner
  5. a Bill Rickard banjo
  6. Danelectro guitar (like Syd’s)
  7. “Unicorn Power” t-shirt
  8. duplexer for my inkjet printer
  9. titanium spork
  10. a ream of Blue Angel printer paper
  11. A4 feed tray(s) for my printer(s)
  12. Sumo Lounge beanbag
  13. silent Mini-ITX motherboard
  14. bluetooth GPS
  15. Fixpencil
  16. Vivitar 285HV flash gun
  17. Pelican case for the RB67
  18. nylon-strung old Harmony banjo.

I was trying to get to 100, but I guess I’m not that acquisitive.

this is not graph paper

The PhotoSmart has an ability to print various ruled paper forms: lined, todo lists, and graph paper. But what they print for graph paper is merely squared paper:
HP’s non-graph paper
Graph paper’s the stuff with 1mm squares. Personally, I was disappointed that it wouldn’t print log ruled and Smith charts, but that’s just me …

east coast, but further west

Strange to think that I’m on the east coast, but actually further west than home in Toronto. That whole curving away to the Gulf of Mexico thing will get you if you’re not careful.

The strange thing is, if you take my current longitude, and the latitude of our house, you get a point near Rte 16 near Brussels, ON that I’ve been through on the way back from the wind farm. That’s like, y’know, stuff, and some like other stuff too, whoah!

new connection

Switched ISPs from Sympatico to Teksavvy today. Couldn’t keep paying Bell $46 a month for something I could get for less elsewhere. I’m not (yet?) getting faster service, but the Speedtouch modem has all the admin stuff I’d need.
Must remember to copy over my old Sympatico web pages

now that’s what I call shoulder pads

Rather too busy gardening and stuff this weekend to blog. I did see this rather unusual flying thing in the garden; a T-shaped bug.

T-Shaped Bug

It’s a plume moth, say the good folks at What’s That Bug?

Stuffin’ it since the days of the Neanderthals

dumb progress bar
If Stuffit Expander were to be believed, this package would be ready to install in a little over 230,824 years. I must have a really fast computer, ‘cos it’s already installed.

my last adbusters

I used to be an avid reader of Adbusters, but now I’m letting my subscription slip. It used to be quite amusing, but it’s taken itself far too seriously for the last couple of years. When the stuff about subvertising went, so did my interest.

this moment, slightly used

Incongruous sign on the Zen Buddhist temple near Spadina on College: Rummage Sale. I suppose you could bring stuff, and not buy anything. What would the folks from the temple be selling? I wonder how much this moment, slightly used goes for?

practising detachment (badly)

As if I don’t have too much stuff already, these are things I
know I don’t need, but want:

  • Mini iPod — I can’t
    afford one of the big ones. If this can’t be used with Linux when
    it’s announced in early January 2004, the game’s a bogey.
  • Lomo LC-A
    camera
     — yes, I know it’s an overpriced, unreliable
    ripoff of the
    Cosina CX-1
    , and that digital is much cheaper to run, and that
    my Yashica
    Electro-35 GTN
    gives better performance for less money,
    but…
  • Green coffee
    roaster
     — freshly-roasted coffee tastes better than
    you could imagine.
  • Wacom Graphire
    graphics pad — because my existing cheapo pad doesn’t
    actually do much.
  • Fluke
    ukulele
     — I missed out on getting a uke when I was a
    nipper, and I’ve wanted one ever since.
  • Blondel
    Cittern Guitar
     — because if I’m going to learn to
    play the guitar, I might as well get a portable one.

I think this all goes to show what you already know:
blogging makes you shallow.