Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So long, old pal!

By far my most awesome present this holiday season was my birthday present from my most awesome girlfriend. iPhone 4s! But it comes with a teeny tiiiny, most miniscule, barely detectable bit of sadness. After 3 and 3/4 years, I will no longer lug around the old brick of my original, 1st generation, 2G iPhone.

Its taken a bit of a beating, but it still works well, albeit SLOWLY. And the buttons are dying. Even without service, it'll still read email over WiFi. (and presumably the Echolink app will still work.) I've not traded it in, as the $25 or $30 I'd get for it isn't worth the kick-butt iPod that it still is, so long as the battery holds out.

The screen is still perfect, I stopped using a case in '09:

I took these last pix with the new iPhone, which BTW has an EIGHT megapixel camera, in addition to a lesser secondary camera.

The new phone is AWESOME. It runs super-fast compared to the old one. I can run whatever app I want, don't have to worry about the lack of "legacy" apps. (I had inadvertently deleted my ebay app about 6 months ago, and couldn't replace it!)

For an extra $5/mo I got sold on the unlimited data plan, as I was kinda used to it on the old phone's plan. Worth it. What stinks is that At&T tiers the rest of their revenue on SMS messages. You can either pay an extra $15 a month for unlimited texts, or pay $0.20 per. Since I ABSOLUTELY HATE SMS (its for kids, IMHO) I opted for the pay-per-use, being as how I expect to perhaps tx/rx 5 or so messages per month. SO DON'T TEXT ME!!! ;) Email me, or heaven forbid, dial the phone!

It IS, after all, a telephone!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Little else so firmly burnishes one's NERD credentials like finding a SMD Hot-Air Rework Station under the tree!

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Very nice being able to easily harvest little SMD goodies, and with just a bit more practice I'll feel pretty confidant I can perform such operations with zero collateral damage.

I was also fortunate enough to receive a gift card redeemable for a brand new iPhone 4S, but haven't yet waded into mall-madness to pick it up. Soon there won't be any more grainy pics being posted here!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rescued the EXV 6' dish.

Jacob (I didn't write down his call sign because, why?) no longer had a home for this dish, and seeing as no one else was going to do a rescue mission, I volunteered.

WHY do these things always turn out to be bigger in real life?? ;)

I knew my hitch-carrier was going to come in handy getting this thing home.


I thought, "Sure, they can see my tail lights!" Wrong. Here's what I looked like from behind, puttering along at a nervous 55 MPH, when traffic permitted:


Yeah, that was legal, sure. When I let off of the gas, it acted like a drag chute, I could feel the truck slowing down faster than usual!

With a human, for scale:

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(Ok, which of these pictures was taken with an iPhone4, and which was taken with an "original" iphone?? Is it that obvious? Tell the fat guy with the reindeer to bring me a new phone!!!)

The dish came with a feed support! Something lacking in my other dishes.

I'm DEFINITELY leaving the WA6EXV on there. I'll likely peel the K6JEY off. ;) Its peeling off on its own!

Thanks again Jacob.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Alcatel 18 Ghz radio

My plans for my day off were derailed. Instead:
1.) drive 60 miles.
2.) Drive through an open gate onto a dirt road.
3.) Proceed on dirt road across large vacant field.
4.) drive over to cell tower, microwave surplus junk waiting for me to pick up.


What I know:
Alcatel, ~18 Ghz, ca 1994, 6 Gbps, 4x T1 capable.

Thanks Chris!












Sunday, December 4, 2011

The biggest heat sink you ever did see!

Often times there is a "free pile" of interesting junk goodies at the SBMS meetings. This thing WAS the free pile!! Its a heavy sucker. Thats an 18" ruler BTW.

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Its some sort of Spectrian RF amplifier. It says "Bad" and "Scrap" all over it. I'll harvest parts off the boards, and I've been thinking of building a power supply testing load with some monster FETS. Or, a dry, convection-cooled dummy load perhaps? Or maybe an all new RF amp, I've got lots of prospective devices.

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Lots of antenna work this weekend.

Or at least the "ground" work laid.  I had always wanted to run coax from the office inside the house to the roof, to be able to use a couple of radios inside, as an alternative to the shack. This weekend I started on it, did the hard part by installing a little conduit in the office closet ceiling into the attic space. From there, its easy, we have lots of roof vents.

Here's part of the finished product:

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What it looks like from the attic side, assuming it wasn't now buried with insulation, and a little silicone:

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Self-portrait with fiberglass... there was only room to crawl in on my belly, the roof slopes sharply here.

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All in all I ran three strings of RG-59... yeah, yeah, 1.5:1 minimum SWR, big deal! I had a free spool of it!

Anyway, One run for 2m/440, another for 900Mhz, and the third will eventually be for a very modest HF antenna of some simple design. At the moment, I have a 2m/440 mag mount temporarily stuck on top of the roof AC unit. Hope to put a dual-band ground plane on the 5' pole I mounted today. Also on that pole, I have a WA6VJB 900Mhz PCB yagi, enclosed in a "custom" freezer-bag radome. ;) I'm serious! But yes, its temporary until another good 900 Mhz yagi shows up. More information on this antenna can be found here. Its the 900 to 930 Mhz version.

Here's a crummy picture as the sun decided to split on me as I was finishing up :

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It works, chatted with KD6WLY on his repeater on Santiago! He was able to inform me that I was putting -99dB into the repeater, some 56 miles away with my ~15 moto GTX. (I am NOT impressed with this radio, BTW. Crummy audio out of that little speaker, etc.)

In other antenna stuff, I started the 900 Mhz install into the old Explorer. HRO surprised me and had a very reasonable price on a Larsen High-frequency NMO mount kit. (Using their funny little FME fitting, I bought one N adapter, and one mini-uhf adapter.)

Always nice to have an excuse to buy a new hole saw!

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I don't know, I don't think I can go into parking garages now. ;)

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I still have to mount a Spectra on the transmission hump. Have to fabricate some brackets, and change the power wiring a little. I want to have a toggle switch between the radios (The Spectra, and a trash-picked 2m/440 Alinco) and the battery, so when the truck sits during the week, they aren't discharging the battery. Never investigated the Alinco, but I do know the Spectra draws a little bit of current when powered off.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Another Spectra mystery

I've been binging on ebay buying up cheap Moto Spectras. As cheaply as $6/ea.!  A lot have come from a 2-way dealer in Wisconsin. If you've gone Spectra shopping on ebay, you undoubtedly know who I'm referring to. Great dealer, wish their shipping was a little cheaper! (I blame ebay for gouging us.)

I digress, I was testing the radios this evening, (among other major projects I hope to post about soon) none were supposed to pass self check, but most did. One had some interesting mode names: Santiago, Lukens, and Oat. What the heck kind of coincidence is this???

For those who aren't from around So Cal, Mt. Lukens is what I call a "sub-peak" of Mount Wilson, very nearby to my north east, Oat Mountain is at the northern end of the San Fernando Valley, I drive past it on my way to work, and Santiago Peak is behind the city of Irvine in Orange County. I happen to have a 57-mile line of site shot from my QTH to this peak, and they all are major ham repeater sites, in addition to being heavily populated commercial sites. Santiago also happens to have a 900 Mhz repeater, and a 10 Ghz beacon, the latter is how I discovered the LOS shot.

So, I get a radio from Wisconsin, that clearly came from my own back yard. That's just weird!