Monday, February 28, 2011
I had a great time at the Vienna Wireless Winterfest. The weather was very nice, so I moved my sales operation out to the tailgate area. I managed to sell the Heathkit Twoer that I was trying to get rid of (the receiver is a REGEN). Also sold a bunch of old books, an old o'scope, and some other odds and ends. I picked up a few things I needed, including some solder wick, a replacement rubber band for my wrist rocket antenna launching sling shot and a backup mic for the podcast (just like the one you guys are so find of).
I met many podcast listeners. Bert, WF7I, and Mark, KJ7IEA, from the University of Virginia (the guys with the rhombic) were there and it was great to meet them. N3UMW, the designer of the SolderSmoke logo, was there at my sales table, but I didn't realize until after the hamfest that he'd been there - -I would have liked to have talked to him! Oh well, more 'fests in the DC area are coming up, and I still have some junk to sell.
SolderSmoke 131 should be out tomorrow.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
This was a very nice pass to watch. We were in twilight. We first saw the spacecraft as it flew past Jupiter's position in the sky. It was red at first, then turned bright white.
This time we felt a special connection to the ISS because the twin brother of Astronaut Mark Kelly is currently on board. We all met Mark (and his wife Gabrielle) when they came to London. Mark will be heading up to ISS himself in April. Godspeed to Mark and to his brother. And we're all hoping for the best for Gabrielle. They are very nice people.
Anyway, check out the video. You will like it.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Here is an amazing image taken by an amateur astronomer in Florida:
Sunday, February 20, 2011
~ Mark Twain
OK, so he hung out with Tesla and Edison. Now this... Could Mark Twain have had a pre-radio case of The Knack?
Saturday, February 19, 2011
It's beautiful. And BIG: Shipping weight: Over 100 pounds. This, gentlemen, is the rig that they were talking about when they first started to refer to certain transmitters as "boatanchors."
After some time on a Variac, I plan on pairing this magnificent transmitter up with a suitable thermionic-based receiver. Maybe the HQ-100. Then I will put it on 75 meter AM and will attempt to establish myself as one of the plate-modulated, big signal anointed, perhaps even attaining "tall ship" status. We can dream...
Getting the DX-100 was great, but even nicer was meeting John and Erica. What nice people they are!
John and I recorded (in both video and audio) a short segment about the DX-100. I will plug the audio into SolderSmoke #131, and will upload the video to the SolderSmoke YouTube page.
Here's John with the Drake 2-B, the HT-37, and the INFAMOUS Astatic D-104:
Friday, February 18, 2011
Speaking of sales... We will soon be in T-shirt weather in the Northern Hemisphere. And hamfest season is approaching. Now is a good time to stock up on SolderSmoke T-shirts. CafePress is offering 35% off on all T-shirts now through Sunday. It's 15% off site-wide and you get another 20% off with the coupon code PREZ
I immensely enjoyed Solder Smoke -- The Book, and have given it as gifts to several friends. It has rekindled the homebrewing spark, and I have been operating only homebrew gear this year as a result. My transmitter is a rockbound 40 meter rig, and I am using a HF regen receiver.
Tiring of QRM on 7.030 MHz, I decided to cobble up a VFO. Well, you know how that can take on a life of its' own. I decided to build a Hartley oscillator at 3.5 MHz, and then double it to 7.030. The initial stages of the oscillator and buffer went well, but then I ran into a brick wall with the doubler, which performed admirably as an attenuator, but nothing else. The circuit was simple enough, but it just wouldn't work. For a week I tweaked and tuned, to no avail. (as a result of all this effort, my wife said VFO must mean Very Frustrating Object). Then this morning I was going over the circuit again, and discovered that one side of the doubler tank circuit capacitor was grounded, and not supposed to be. It seems the knob shaft of the variable cap was in contact with the metal front panel, and being grounded out. I corrected the problem, and almost shouted EUREKA! when the doubler sprang to life and generated a big and perfect sine wave exactly at 7030!
I just wanted you to know that the story of your doggedness in tracking down the cause of harmonics on one of your homebrew rigs provided moral support to help keep me coming back again and again.
So, thanks again for the inspiration Bill.
Hey, I hope you are going to FDIM this year. If so, you should bring a good supply of SSTB. I bet you would go home with new junk, but no books.
73 de KD7KAR
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Geeks Without Borders +) GWOBorg is an international coalition of passionate problem solvers working together to assist people whose survival is threatened by lack of access to technology or communications due to violence, neglect, or catastrophe.
One of the things that GWOB does is called The Digital Mountaintop: This is a free, open communications hub, accessible via voice, text (SMS), plain old telephone (POTS), Skype, SIP, Google Voice, Twitter, Facebook, Email, Instant Messaging (IM)…and as many other networks we can connect to. In crisis situations, neighbors can ask for help simply by sending sending a message to the DMT, as long as they (or someone they know) can connect via any of the messaging or real-time communication methods it supports.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Peter Parker, VK3YE, is one of the real DSB Gurus. When I got started in the world of double-wide RF, I would frequently turn to his web site for ideas and inspiration. So you can imagine my delight in getting this e-mail from him (his DSB WSPR video is embedded above):
Discovered SolderSmoke a few weeks back and love the show.
You might be interested that another DSB WSPR station is on air.
A video demo appears at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aUHNRgV7kw It's still very crude (eg manual T/R switching) and the receiver is getting false spots. However the transmitter is working very well, with some long distance spots.
73, Peter VK3YE
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
A big X-Class flare took place at 0200Z, which was probably just a few hours before Pablo was looking at the FAQ grabber. This pond crossing probably also coincided with gray line time at his location.
Paul, NA5N, puts it all in context (in a message to QRP-L):
There was an X2 flare about 0200Z 15 FEB (about 2100 EST). This has caused HF radio blackouts on the sunlit side of the sun (not us!). As this
subsides, the E/F layers will be highly ionized for good reflection. This
event has already elevated the solar flux to about 113 (average lately about
80-85). While this doesn't do much for us right now in North America, it
could create some very interesting morning gray line propagation if you're
one of those morning people.
The X2 event didn't have much density to it, only creating a shock wave of
about 550 km/sec. However, the M6 two days ago had a shock wave of about 1200 km/sec. - enough to cause a when it is expected to arrive Tuesday morning.
What is important is to keep an eye on the sun for further activity at:
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/today.html or other sites.
These active regions are near the center of the sun, meaning any further
flares will send shock waves directly at us. The active regions are highly
magnetized, meaning they are capable of generating further M or X class
flares. If another flare or two happens tomorrow (Tuesday) during daylight hours, it will raise the solar flux and the higher bands will be open for the duration of daylight.
Therefore, the upper bands may be open, but may be interfered with for a few hours if a geomagnetic storm is triggered. It's a matter of dodging the bad stuff (geomagnetic storms) to get to the good stuff (enhanced E/F
The only question left ... is this a hiccup on the sun, or is it finally
waking up from hibernation?
72, Paul NA5N
For anyone who wants to find this on Google Earth, it is at the corner of Jersey Pike and Shallowford Road in Chattanooga Tennessee, near the intersection with the TN 153 freeway.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
ARISSat-1 is a microsat developed as a follow-on to the SuitSat-1 project. The satellite was launched to the ISS on January 28th, 2011, with deployment during an EVA (spacewalk) on February 16, 2011.
The satellite will downlink live SSTV images from four onboard cameras, live telemetry and messages on the CW, FM voice, and BPSK downlinks, as well as provide a 16kHz wide transponder for two-way contacts. All the uplinks and downlinks are based on software defined radio systems.
Telemetry will include spacecraft subsystem information, as well as data from the Kursk State University experiment. This experiment will sample the change in vacuum as the satellite slowly re-enters the atmosphere.
And for those of you looking for a bit of competition, there is a tech challenge:
AMSAT-UK has announced a ARISSat-1 reception challenge with a FUN reward. The different categories cover those with or without a FUNcube SDR dongle.
ARISSat-1 is scheduled for deployment from the ISS next Wednesday Feb 16 – it has a composite VHF downlink that will easily fit into the FUNcube Dongle receive spectrum.
The telemetry is 1 kbit BPSK and can, of course, also be received with a normal SSB 2-metre receiver.
The expected signal levels from ARISSat should be similar to those we expect from FUNcube itself (and also eventually from UKube) and the team are keen to discover what will be the minimum and best type of antennas for schools to use with a FCD. Therefore user experience with the ARISSat signals will be very valuable in making this determination.
To encourage everyone to receive ARISSat signals we are offering a FUN reward for listeners!
There are a number of categories for this challenge – they include:
1+ The first FCD user, from each continent, who can post a spectrum recording of the received signal together with evidence of decoding the data using the ARISSat software and of sending it to the ARISSat data warehouse .
2+ The first non-FCD user, from each continent, who can provide evidence of having decoded the signals and of sending it to the ARISSat data warehouse.
3+ The listener, using a FCD or not, who can demonstrate satisfactory reception of the telemetry in the same ways as described above, using the "smallest" possible receive antenna. The actual closing date for this part of the challenge will be announced later.
4+ All other entrants who can demonstrate that they have been having FUN!
Please submit your "entries", including your location, station details (including FCD serial number where applicable), postal address and reports to firstname.lastname@example.org
You can join the FUNcube Yahoo Group at
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ just lookup FUNcube
FUNcube SDR Dongle
Thursday, February 10, 2011
We appreciate the shoutout in #130 about the NanoSail-D excitement .!. Stan - N4PMF and I have been working over the last year or so to re-activate the Amateur Radio Club at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. We both have day jobs in the Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC), and routinely interface with the scientists and developers involved with projects such as the International Space Station, Space Shuttle propulsion, and more recently the FastSat program.
The NanoSail project is actually a smaller satellite that was carried into orbit by the FastSat. This NanoSail vehicle is only about 18 inches long, and a few inches square. No room there for high powered S-Band telemetry transmitters, so it carried a ham licensed 1/2 watt FM transmitter in the 70cm band. Maybe later we can get into more detail about all that if you are interested.
The NanoSail is the first successful deployment of a Solar Sail into earth orbit. The quicker story is that our club (WA4NZD) was started in the early-1970s, and operated Special Events commemmorating Apollo flights to the moon, Skylab missions, and early shuttle launches. Activity kinda dropped off in the mid-1990s, and the club is only now coming back to life. We still have VHF and UHF transcievers and beam antennas on a tower, that are ready to operate - and sometimes we listen in on ISS school contacts, or bounce APRS beacons thru the ARISS digipeater.
We of course got excited back in December when FastSat launched, and the NASA scientists asked if we could help them by listening for the NanoSail when it ejected. Unfortunately, Murphy had snuck on-board, and somehow prevented the smaller satellite from completely ejecting, and it looked like a loss....
Then in January the FastSat telemetry indicated that NanoSail-D may have 'popped itself out', and the Principal Investigator Dean Alhorn found Stan and asked if we could take him to the station "NOW" to listen for it. Sure enough, we had the right equipment, ready to go, and he got to hear it for the first time. We even had the AX25 TNC hooked up and it decoded a telemetry burst which allowed them to better estimate when the SolarSail should deploy. Dean was very very excited, and we all enjoyed a bit of the spotlight as Dean made obvious reference in numerous press releases to the role of the MSFC Amateur Radio Club in helping get the word out. The power of 'crowd-sourced' science became obvious as they received reports from all around the world. We are lucky to have been ready, willing and able to decode that early telemetry - it sure will help to validate and justify the existence of our little club station at NASA. You can easily find more on the internet, searching for NANOSAIL and WA4NZD.
Again we appreciate the publicity from your Podcast, and look forward to tuning in more often, and possibly sending you more info for your show. Thanks /;^) Alan Sieg - WB5RMG (http://wb5rmg.wordpress.com) Stan Sims - N4PMF MSFC ARC - WA4NZD (http://wa4nzd.wordpress.com)
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
I mean the smoke itself, not the podcast!
Frank, VK2AKG sent me this link to a good article about, solder, smoke and a simple homebrew way of keeping the fumes out of our lungs. (Steve "Snort Rosin" Smith take note!)
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I continue to get good advice from listeners on the mic issue. I hope to put this to rest soon -- then we'll shift away from AF back to RF. Several listeners advised me to stick to SolderSmoke's "homebrew or roadkill" ethos, and to avoid the temptation to solve problems with credit cards. Good advice! People REALLY like the audio with the old decrepit computer mic and the Linux Ubuntu Laptop. So here is what I'm going to do: I'll go back to that combo, but I will attempt to fix up some of the mechanical problems (the old mic is falling apart and it has all kinds of weird things taped on to it) and the electrical problems (it seems to pick up more AC hum than then D-104). It won't be pretty, but it will be a nice homebrew/roadkill device.
A question for those who expressed support for this mic and for the audio in #129: Didn't you hear the AC hum?
Monday, February 7, 2011
Thanks for all the comments. Even for the bruising ones. They gave me some additional insights. Most of the problem is clearly at my end of the fiber optic cable. But I think part of this problem has to do with the fact that people are listening to the show with a wide variety of equipment: some are using car sound systems, some are at home using computer speakers (fed by all kinds of different sound cards). A very wide variety of headphones and earbuds are in use. Also, there are big differences in our ears! I, like many listeners, have some serious high frequency hearing loss.
But never fear, SolderFans! The quest for the perfect podcast audio continues. I have turned one corner of the radio shack into a roadkill sound studio. I have worked on several new (and several old) microphones. I have visited (and have actually read) several websites about podcast audio quality.
There may be a "name that mic" contest in our future...
Friday, February 4, 2011
Some important trivia questions (answers will be given in the podcast):
-- What is the connection between radio amateur (and pioneer radio astronomer) Grote Reber and world famous astronomer Edwin Hubble?
-- In the world of radio-controlled helicopters, what is "TBE"?
-- In Britain they have radio "rallies," but at one time they had hamfests." When did this happen?
-- Only one terrain feature on Venus is named for a man. He is man of radio. Who is he?
-- What music did Neil Armstrong listen to on his way to the moon?
-- The Air and Space Museums
-- Our music
-- The SolderSmoke D-104
-- NASA asks for our help
-- Telescope repairs
-- A BFO for the Trans-O
-- Back on Echolink
Please send reports on the D-104 audio!
And I was even more pleased to find that my old
Hallicrafters transmitter can do AM.
The panel switch says DSB, but it is really putting out AM in that position.
If Verizon restores our internet connection I will send out podcast