Friday, November 30, 2012

ADAPT AND OVERCOME


I needed a little antenna for my analyzer to allow me to receive RF signals from my HF rig. I could have just stuck a wire in the center of the BNC connector on top of the analyzer. In fact, I did just that and it worked. But it was a compete pain in the ass to deal with. So I thought I'd build something a bit more substantial and permanent.

I went to Radio Shack (a bit of whining on this topic to follow) and bought a male BNC. I had some RG-8x in the basement so I cut off a piece and added the BNC to it. Stripped the end of the coax to allow the signal to reach the center conductor and viola', a baby antenna is born!


It connects right up to the analyzer, all nice and solid like. Now I can move forward on my zerobeating dilemma. But first, I have to get some painting finished on the outside of the house. My poor, ever suffering wife would like to see it done. It's been nearly a year now.

I guess I can understand why she's just a bit annoyed at me from time to time.

Radio Shack. Remember when it was a place you could go to buy electronics parts? I do. I worked there through most of high school. Mr. Moore was my boss. He owned the store. That was back in the days when Radio Shack had both franchise stores and company stores.

Mr. Moore was an electrical engineer by trade. He was also a B-29 pilot during WWII. After the war he went to work for Westinghouse in the program that developed a lot of the microwave technology we all take for granted today. Eventually he bought the store and developed a nice little business.

Anyway, the store was wall to wall electronics parts. Sure, we sold stereos and CB's (boy did we ever sell CB's. It was the '70's after all) but it was the parts that flowed out the door faster than anything else. People used to do their own repairs, fixing the TV's and radios, the appliances and do-dads that were part of everyday life.

Not so much anymore. And Radio Shack reflects that new, pathetic reality. Hardly any parts to be found now-a-days. It's all phones and other toys that require absolutely no user skills. Just plug and play.

And doesn't that just say about all that needs to be said about our country today. Nobody does anything for themselves any more. How many times have you passed some twenty something guy standing on the side of the road with a flat tire and a phone to his ear, calling for HELPPP!!! The useless nimrod never thinks of getting out the jack and doing it himself.

Well, the times they are a changin'. People better start learning these basic life skills again or they're going to be in a world of hurt as this plug and play world stops playing.

And that's enough whining for one day. I hear a paint brush calling me. And the faint whisper from a cold beer for the end of the day in the background.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

SHOALS, CIGARETTES AND CELL PHONES

video


This video is from a couple years ago. It was taken from the front of my boat by my buddy Rick on his cell phone. That in itself is amazing enough to me. I understand the technology, the nuts and bolts. But it still amazes me. I remember as a kid reading Dick Tracy in the funny pages on Sunday mornings and thinking about how cool that wristwatch phone would be. Turns out that phone way understated the eventual reality.

I'm not a phone guy. I generally don't carry one with me and I never answer it when it rings. Drives my poor wife crazy. The thing is, and I know this is just a strange peccadillo of mine, the phone feels like a shackle to me. It reminds me of back when I used to smoke. The reason I quit smoking wasn't for health. It wasn't because they were expensive or because they smell bad. It was because I didn't like the dependency. I didn't like that I HAD to have them with me. I didn't like the control they had over me.

Phones seem to have taken the place of cigarettes for a bunch of people today. They can't go anywhere without them. They're a constant to them.

They're an addiction.

I know myself too well. I know that if I had one of those new phones I'd be just like the other guys with my face buried in a screen all day, nervously fidgeting with the virtual buttons.

I've got enough problems. I don't need to add any more.

But back to the river. It's funny, and awe inspiring, how nature can change things. Everything you see in this video has changed. In fact, if I took you up there you wouldn't recognize it. The river isn't even in the same place anymore. One bout of high water and a new channel formed, carved away all kinds of farmland, silted up everything for a couple miles downstream and changed it all. The first turn to the left is still there but the approach has changed. After that, it's all new. And it's all fairly deep.

A good deal of the water we're running through in this video is only about 3 inches deep. You can see the rocks and trees as we pass over them. My boat has an outboard jet powering it. It's not a jet like you'd see on a plane but it's sort of the same principle. It's a pump that replaces the lower unit. It takes water in through an intake in the bottom, increases the velocity and shoots it out the back. And that propels the boat forward. It's not real efficient. These pumps eat up about 25-30% of the engine's power. My engine has a 40 horse power head but it only produces 30 horse at the pump.

But the inefficiency is balanced by the lack of draft. On plane I can get through 3-4 inches of water with no problem. I've gone through shoals thinner than that but it gets kind'a dicey. You ain't doing that with a prop.

On our Ozark rivers shallow is the norm. So are pumps, as these types of drive systems are called. Apparently, they aren't found too many other places. Oregon and Colorado seem to be the others. But those are bigger boats on bigger and more dangerous rivers.



With winter coming on I like to look at these videos and pictures from the river in summer. Fishing's pretty well done with now, though we're going to go up and try to catch some walleyes next month. And the bowfishing/gigging time is right around the corner. But those are cold sports. Fun but really, really cold. And I like the summer.

So here I sit, swaddled in long underwear and sipping a cup of coffee, remembering summer. Thought I'd pass some along.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

ZEROBEATING - NOT JUST A GOAL FOR REPENTANT BULLIES


I have a problem with my HF radio. It's an oldie, a radio of the type that's often referred to as a boat anchor. She's old, she's heavy, she has vacuum tube finals. But that's all OK with me. The thing that I'm not so happy about is she's off frequency.

She needs a good zerobeating to straighten her up.

The thing is, like nearly everything else I've done in ham radio, I don't have any idea what the hell I'm doing. Well, I take that back. I have an idea but that's about all.

I need to get the transmit frequency and the receive frequency synched. I've been doing some reading about this radio and it looks like all I need to do is make a simple adjustment to a small trimmer screw in the radio. It's clearly labeled so even a carpenter can figure it out. So that part's simple.

The hard part is measuring both frequencies. The radio is analog so the dial is, at best, a reasonably accurate reflection of reality. Newer radios have digital readouts that count the frequency out to seven places. I have no way, at least that I know of, to determine the precise receive frequency.

Unless I have a frequency counter.





My radio is a Yaesu FT-101EE. It was built back in the mid-seventies. There was a frequency counter that was made for it. And they can still be found. But they ain't cheap. For the same price I could get a new counter with a bunch more in the way of features. But we're still talking a couple three hundred dollars.



I already own an antenna analyzer, a MFJ-259B. It has a frequency counter built in. But it only measures output frequencies. And I can't seem to get it to read the RF from my HF radio. It picks it up on my 2 meter radio easy as pie. But I'm thinking that all the grounding I did when I installed the HF rig is doing it's job and controlling the stray RF around the rig. Maybe just a little too well for my analyzer to pick it up.

I'm thinking that maybe I'll have to disconnect the grounds and see if it can read the RF then.

The analyzer is also a signal generator. I just don't know how the radio will receive it. If it generates a tone or creates some sort of identifiable noise then I can tune the radio to it. But so far I haven't heard it. If I could tune to a known frequency then I could transmit back to the analyzer in counter mode and tune the radio back to that frequency. At least, that's the theory.


Anyway, that's my newest ham radio challenge. I'll post updates as I figure out more about this little problem.

IT'S MY FIRST POST HERE - BE GENTLE WITH ME



My happy shack!


Some have called it my man cave but I'm not so sure. My granddaughter spends as much time down there as I do, shooting pool and "exercising" on the tread mill (mostly I think she just likes turning it on and off to see if she can keep from being thrown into the wall). And there's a washer and dryer in the corner which I seem to operate more often than the radios. The clothes line's out back. I put it up and I use it.

The revocation of my man card is to be expected at any moment.



I used to do quite a bit of blogging. All about politics and religion...and all kinds of other things that seemed to piss people off. It was interesting but way too time consuming what with the arguments and all the interlacing bloggeriness that goes along with that type of blog.

So I stopped.

I do miss the writing, though. It gives my feeble mind some little bit of needed exercise.

So I started again.

The thing is, I'm not sure if there's going to be an overarching theme this time. I used my call sign as a title so there's going to be some ham radio stuff. And the picture on the header is my boat (the green jon boat to the left side) on a beach just down river from Sand Ford Access on the Meramec River here in Missouri, so there'll be some river stuff, too. And I don't know what all else.

I'm writing this mainly for fun so I'm not really concerned if anyone reads it.

Well, there you have it. I've got other stuff to do and I'm not planning on spending that much time on this thing anyway so...gotta go.

By the way, my wife Kathy, a far better writer, and MUCH more interesting, blogs over at Moving Onto the Past. Give her a read.

Later gator.