Hamvention 2012

So I went to Hamvention for the first time. I knew it was a big deal when I tried to book a hotel a couple of weeks before, and everything within 25km was full. Even my dodgy distant motel was full of hams, and the Perkins next door couldn’t handle the breakfast rush.

Hamvention is huge. Radio amateurs from all over the world come to Dayton to meet, look at the shiny new stuff, buy things they can actually afford, and paw over the junk valuable items in the fleamarket. The fleamarket’s the size of a small European country.

One obnoxious item I must get out the way is the amount of anti-government sloganeering on trucks, shirts and hats. I could do without that. For a hobby that wouldn’t exist without strong government regulation (and users sometimes go crying to government when someone doesn’t play by the rules), anti-government sentiment seems inane. Okay, that’s my rant over.

The fleamarket is basically where a lot of things that really should be snoozing away the millenia in a landfill come out every year to get aired. Sure, there’s some neat stuff in all those stalls, but you’d have to rummage and bargain. I was only there for a day and a half, and I’m trying to cut down on junk, so I was mostly in the fleamarket for the lulz. Here are some of the things I saw:


A real teletype

tesla coils

Tesla coils

geiger counters

Geiger counters, lots of ’em (all non-functioning)

line launchers

n8prk‘s line launchers. Every few minutes he’d launch a marshmallow, which disappeared into the sky with a satisfying “Foomp!”

cavities and repeaters

Duplex cavities and repeaters. The big tanks at the back are for the 10m band.

too many antennas

Too many antennas, sorry.

enigma machines

Real wartime enigma machines. I think the price sticker said $90,000.

old apple tech

Old apple tech.

compact UHF cavities

Tiny UHF repeater cavities from Paladin RF (aka Honest Bob Morton of Maple Leaf Communications)



good stuff, or junk?

Good stuff, or junk?

WB4APR's old school mono solar

WB4APR’s old school monocrystalline solar modules

WB4APR's solar spinny thing

WB4APR’s solar spinny thing

WB4APR's charge socket

WB4APR’s charge socket on his Prius.

WB4APR's prius

Bob WB4APR’s prius. Bob’s quite well known for creating APRS: Automatic Packet Reporting System.

WB4APR's prius

WB4APR’s prius, from the rear.

wire recorder

A wire recorder. Julian Koster would be proud!

old ataris

Old Ataris.

KX-3 is the new hotness

The Elecraft KX3 is the new hotness (if you wear a cap). I had to fight to even get a glance at this thing.

various bugs

Various morse bugs. I ended up buying a Code Warrior Junior.

a very purple Hilberling radio

A very purple (and very expensive) Hilberling radio.

Begali testbed

Begali testbed.

London, Gerry from the Unseen Bean's helper

London, Gerry from the Unseen Bean’s helper. It is good coffee.


Tubes, or valves.

more tubes

More valves, or tubes.

petrol engine from a Maytag washing machine

Petrol engine from a Maytag washing machine from pre-REA days.

hams dream in heathkit green

Hams dream in Heathkit green.

you couldn't afford a hallicrafters

You couldn’t afford a Hallicrafters then, and you probably still can’t.

too big, and too many solar panels

Too big, and too many solar panels.

civil defence radio

Civil defence radio, basically a 2m AM(?) HT. If anyone says that tubes are better than solid state, show them this.

edison cylinder

An edison cylinder, playing “Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia”. It sounded good.

yaseu green

Yaesu green

more enigma

More Enigma.

russian data burst encoders

Russian data burst encoders. I remember a news piece on these around 1974; was there a spy bust in the UK then?

two nagras

Two Nagras for Nesey. You might not be able to see the tiny one inside the big one’s case.

too too many antennas

Too too many antennas — don’t be that guy.

QRPme kit

A QRPme kit. I sat in on the QRP session. Interesting, but clutter-inducing. MUST SHUN!!!

QRPme kit 2

QRPme kit 2

QRPme PIC kit

QRPme PIC kit

too many APRS users

Too many APRS users. Seriously, 144.39 sounded like the frog chorus being sick all the time.

I only met one ham I’d worked; Joe (KJ8O) of the Feld Hell Club. I’ve only had my licence for a year, so not really a big surprise. Mad props to Russ of Linux in the Ham Shack for correctly guessing my accent, possibly a first.

I have to say that the event was extremely well organized. They’d teamed up with Dayton Transit to have buses from the free parking to the event. I didn’t have to wait once, though it was clear that most hams aren’t habitual bus riders. I enjoyed my time in the sorrowful midwest; I might go back every other year.

the little computer that should

My home server went phut last week. There was a brief power outage, and everything else came back on — except the server. It was a three year old Mini-ITX box, and I’m casting about for ways to replace it.

To serve my immediate music serving and podcasting needs, I have pressed The Only Computer That Runs Windows into service, running Ubuntu using Wubi. Unfortunately, I do still occasionally need to run Garmin Mapsource, which only runs on Windows, and also The Only Computer That Runs Windows is also rather too nice a laptop to be sat doing server duty.

I have some options:

  • Get a new motherboard for the mini-itx box. Via still has some crazy ideas about pricing (over $200 for a fanless C7?) but maybe I’ll go for Intel’s snappily-named D945GCLF, which looks okay for what I need and is only $80.
  • I could resurrect the old Athlon box I got in 2002, but it’s big, loud, and its components are probably near end of life. Also, why disturb a mature spider habitat?

What I was really looking for was one of those tiny fanless internet appliance boxes that were so 2007 (like the Koolu and the Zonbu, both of which have moved on to other things), but such units, without the tied storage service contract, are upwards of $500.

My needs are simple:

  • run Firefly to feed the Soundbridges;
  • generate the automatic podcast every day, which realistically means a linux box with Perl, sqlite and the like;
  • have something to ssh into when boredom strikes the need arises. Perhaps unwise having an open machine sitting directly on the internet, but only the ssh port will be open.

I really also need to get rid of all the computer junk in the basement. It now includes two fritzed mini-ITX systems and the world’s slowest PostScript laser printer. Such fun.

“The clean air choice of Earth Day Canada.”

So, what would you think would be “The clean air choice of Earth Day Canada“? A bicycle, perhaps? Some kind of renewable energy? Some really brilliant Canadian enviro-social development, like a biodegradeable donut?

Nope, a car; the Toyota Prius. Last time I checked, it still used petroleum (with its high environmental and geopolitical toxicity). It still causes gridlock; I see Priuses (Prii? Your moon-pie eye!) inching along the Gardiner from the GO train with all the other wretched junkers. The way I see it, it’s not looking like part of the solution. It’s a bit like having an official assault rifle for the the International Day of Peace.

Toyota also give out $5000 Toyota Earth Day Scholarships. I mean, that’s nice and all, but it’s hardly giving back. If you look at all the scholarship materials, it’s carefully arranged so it looks like the event is called Toyota Earth Day, with the ‘scholarship’ on the next line. Nice cooption. Good greenwash.