GEEK ALERT: If you’re not interested in the old old technology of computer networking at a whopping 1200 baud over amateur radio in case the Internet goes down for some reason (insert your own scenario here) you can safely ignore this post.
Welcome to 2011. This is my first installment of smashing my head on my keyboard as I attempt to LEARN how this old stuff works with a mix of old hardware and new software.
On the hardware side, I dusted off the old (and I stress OLD) 833 MHz computer and decided to make yet another go at trying to make this work. I’ve unloaded about six PCs… I only have two “spares” left here that I can do this with… I installed a serial card and a network card so both expansion slots in the PC are now full. This “box” will be the base station, connected from the serial port to a VHF amateur radio via an OLD Terminal Node Controller (TNC) and my local network by the network card.
Now that I’ve got the hardware situated… it’s time to move on to the software. The first step is obviously to install Linux… Linux can be compared to an erector set… I call it the erector set of computer operating systems because you can do so much with it… My choice for this go-round is Ubuntu Server 10/04LTS, which just means it’s the April 2010 version that will be supported for 3 years. Since the PC is an older one, the installation of Ubuntu takes longer than it does on some of the other stuff I’ve installed.
I’ll be adding to this as the project progresses.
Operated mobile on the way to Mom’s today. Had problems checking in to South Coast Amateur Radio Service net on 7.251. Net control said the could hear me key up but no modulation. This is actually a repeat problem… The last time I had it was when I was on the trip to Alaska. The radio was new at the time. I fixed the problem THIS TIME by connecting the braided ground wire that I installed LAST TIME but forgot to re-connect after putting the radio back in the car…
With a proper ground on the transceiver, Net Control picked me right up… It’s amazing how well stuff works when you do things the right way. Afterwards I changed antennas, I put the 17 meter antenna on the car…
Seventeen was long today. The best signal was out of Kennebunk Maine, AI2Q with a solid 5/9. I can’t remember all of the calls, but I called CQ for about 45 miles. Most of the contacts were out of New England, but I got several from 6-land and 7-land including a VE7 from Vancouver Island, so I was hitting the east and west coast and the Caribbean. The most interesting was M0YCM/6Y5 on the extreme western end of Jamaica. Lee was on the beach with a buddy pole and an 857D. Awesome signal from a portable setup to a mobile on the state line between Alabama and Tennessee. I had a solid 5/7 copy on him with occasional peaks at S-8.
Because the 17 was long I wasn’t able to make contact with Mac an John, Will try again on the way home.
The short story:
I was about to crash for the night last night and decided to get on the radio and got a 5/9 signal report… From Gambia, my first contact from Africa!
I was listening to the 3905 net on 7.178 MHz for a while when I got home from work yesterday and then turned the volume down instead of shutting it off. Went out for a bite to eat and watched a movie… When I came in here to shut the radio down I decided to tune across the band and picked up a good signal at 7.18425 MHz. His call sign was C50C and he was starting to get a pretty good pile-up. I almost shut the radio off but decided to try to call him; after the third try I heard him say:
“N2XU five nine.”
Called him back told him he was five nine in Florida… This was a 4572 mile contact, pretty awesome considering my antenna is just some 16 gauge speaker wire cut close the the correct length. Looked him up on QRZ.com and here’s the info:
DX Expedition Gambia 2007 and 2010 of OM0C
17. – 30.11. 2010 Banjul,
This is getting fun and addicting.
Been to a car show, three weddings, got a netbook, and I’m learning Morse Code all since the last post. I guess since I post once every 4 months I need to work on it a little more frequently. Lets take it from the beginning…
1. In July I bought a netbook computer. The wireless card seems like it disappeared from the laptop we bought for the Alaska Trip. I do like the battery life on this thing. I close it and it goes to sleep… I open it and unsuspend and it’s good to go again… I get about 5 or 6 days out of a charge on the battery. It’s a Toshiba NB255-250 and it’s pretty sweet. Does everything I need it to do, the only drawback is it’s got a copy of Windows 7 Basic on it and I’m considering putting a different OS on it.
2. Wedding 1: Daniel and Holli got married on September 5th… I put some of the pics on facebook. Since I’m not near the main PC, I don’t have access to all the pictures I took that day. But Nan and Sueann did an awesome job putting the wedding together… It was the nicest wedding I’ve ever had the opportunity to attend and they put it together in a mere 3 weeks… it was a crash plan wedding as I call it.
3. Wedding 2: My Mom and Stepdad renewed their vows for their 25th anniversary. We were there and got to be the only people (other than the two of them) who were at both of their weddings.
4. Wedding 3: Friends of ours in the local Scikotics chapter were married on the 29th of October. Work kept us away but we did attend the reception. It was a nice reception.
5. One Love car show: On Saturday Oct 30 our local scicotics chapter hosted One Love 4.0. The show was shorter than last year and I got to participate as one of five judges. My first time ever as a judge in a car show.
6. Morse code: The FCC stopped requiring Morse Code exams for the higher amateur radio classes in December 2006. I’ve since upgraded my license to General and then Amateur Extra without knowing Morse Code. In September I started going to Monday night code classes to learn to send and receive morse and have since been able to pass what would have been the FCC Morse Code exam so people can’t call me a no-code extra any more .
That’s about it for now.
Went to the Mobile (Alabama) Swapfest today… first time to another club’s Hamfest. Nan went with me and got to meet a lot of people she doesn’t know, and she wasn’t impressed with how small the swapfest was. I told her the big ones like Dayton, Orlando, and Huntsville are a lot bigger. The purpose of my wanting to go was to improve my mobile antenna situation so the title is a play on the word “mobile”… Meaning Mobile, Alabama and my mobile antenna situation. Those who know me know that I’ve pretty much used mag-mount antenna’s since I got my amateur license. So far I’ve gotten pretty good results with Mag-mounted antennas… even though I’ve gotten good results, they aren’t the best choice in the antenna arsenal. First, they aren’t very good on paint and finish on cars. Second, they don’t give the BEST signal. The most important thing I want to say is they are NOT safe… this is why I want to get away from them.
There has been many a time that my mag-mounted hamsticks have fallen over. The first time was when I first got my first few antennas from my friend Mac. After I put a 40 meter hamstick on the roof, I got the SUV up to the 50mph range and the airflow over the car knocked the antenna over and the tip dragged on the road until I got the car stopped… ever since then I’ve guyed my hamsticks when using a mag-mount. We drove all 10,300 miles on the great trip to Alaska last year with a guyed hamstick on the back. Since I’ve been back though, with a guyed hamstick up there , I’ve had it tip sideways and forward when the SUV pulls into the driveway at home too fast, or if it hits a tree branch just right… Those two reasons alone weren’t enough to make me want to stop using mag-mounts… the biggest concern I have that IF you get in a car accident, they EASILY dislodge and and could injure someone. Safety is the primary reason I wanted to switch… So what did I do? Read on.
I bought a 5/8 – 5/8 wave, gain antenna for the 2 meter/70 cm side of the radio and a lip mounted NMO mount to attach it to the SUV. I also bought a 56 inch tapered stainless antenna whip… For now I’ve turned the old mag mount I used for my old 2 meter quarter wave into a 6 meter quarter wave antenna. This magnet is smaller and lighter and doesn’t tip. When I can get a good mount for it I’ll have the 6 meter antenna mounted on the other side of the rear hatch lip. In the meantime, the 6 meter antenna gives me low SWR across the entire band from 50MHz up to 54MHz.
I’m still tinkering with the hamstick situation… I got a better look at one of my friends antenna mount on his minivan. He has a mount in the roof rack, I need to see how he’s grounded… I mounted an antenna mount on my roof rack yesterday and I put the 40 meter hamstick up there today. I talked to a station in Chicago, IL and got a 5/5 but he said my signal was bad; so it’s time to bond the antenna mount to the SUV. I took the antenna down because I didn’t like the way it arced in the wind… I don’t want to damage the roof rack, my plan is to guy it tomorrow and see how things work out. I don’t necessarily like how tall it is on the road… it’s close to 13 feet 6 inches tall mounted with an antenna on it, I will run with it until I find something better to mount, or a better way to mount the hamsticks a little lower.
Well, since things are slow around here… I’ll talk a bit about one of my ham radio projects.
I built a balun last week… For those of you who are ham operators you know what a balun is… for those who are not: a balun is a device used to match a balanced antenna to an unbalance antenna feed line. I use coaxial cable as a feed lint to my antenna. Coax cable is unbalanced and you get nasty radio interference on nearby devices if you don’t use a balun. My son used to complain when I talked on ANY HF band. Now he hears no interference any more.
I went to http://www.hamuniverse.com/balun.html and followed the directions fairly close to make a 1:1 balun. I had an old cable lying around, a couple of feet of PVC pipe and some zip ties so I wa sready to go. The main difference between my balun and the one on the referenced web page: Mine is on a 2 1/2 inch piece of PVC pipe about a foot long and I drilled holes and mounted screws to the PVC. The added hardware makes it easy to change out wire elements for various radio bands. So far I’ve used it around 7.2 MHz (way down the left side of the FM Band which starts at 88.1 MHz). The folks I’ve talked to on so far it say I have a good signal so I’m fairly sure I did a good job, because as most of these guys have been doing this for years and can differentiate a good signal from a bad one.
The screws I mounted in the PVC are stainless steel, so barring any issues, the balun should last a long time. For now it’s mounted at the top of the pole I’m using as an antenna support, a 12 ft (3 four ft sections) inverted military camouflague pole inserted into the top of one of the vent pipes on my house.