Listen to Latest SolderSmoke Podcast

Friday, June 25, 2010

Homebrew Fusion Reactor in New York City

Not really a QRP project (the goal of course is definitely QRO) but Knack victims will find this article and the associated video interesting. We've covered homebrew fusion before. This fellow is the 38th successful "amateur fusor" in the world. Go Brooklyn!

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Sci-Fi Show: Pioneer One

Not bad, especially for a $6000 budget! You can watch it free on You Tube. Here is part one.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SolderSmoke is Moving the Markets!

Hi Bill,

I was at the East Suffolk Wireless Revival yesterday (Sunday) morning – hardly FDIM, but still a nice little flea market / boot sale, maybe 20 / 25 people selling odds and ends from SMD components to rigs and other bits of kit. Finished up in a bit of a good natured scrum fighting over variable capacitors made all the more desirable for having proper shafts and being made of something other than plastic.

Your name came up as being the inspiration for a resurgence in home building and the subsequent rise in prices of desirable bits as they became scarce as more people wised up to the fun of building and the ease of just melting solder straight on to the PCB rather than trying to etch something. Rather suspect that your podcasts and that book are actually being more influential than you realise. Read my copy lying on the beach in Antigua, but still keep going back to it, and as you have said in the past, the rest of the library – it’s making a very pleasant change from the Masters that I’m buried in at the moment.

Bought the UK equivalent of a Harbor Freight punch over a few days back, so can now make my own little round pads out of old PCB – magical !!

Good luck with the move – I was brought up on a prison farm in Tanzania amongst other places, so recall all too well that strange sense of loss when you leave a country for pastures anew. Lovely to hear Maria sounding so Italian – picking up another language at that age is a wonderful thing to have done and will no doubt stand both her and Billy in good stead over the years. I still manage a little Swahili after 50 years, including teaching my last 2 dogs a few commands which is always funny.

Looking forward to the next podcast – they have become an important little interlude in my life and keep my interest in amateur radio invigorated

All the best


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thomas Edison, On the Air

There is an interesting technical story about how this was recorded, and how the recording was recently recovered:

Friday, June 18, 2010

"100 Feet Up In A Pine Tree, Soldering Iron Clinched In His Teeth"

Radio Guys at University of Virginia, 1966

Hi Bill.

I emailed you once to the Yahoo! address, but thought I'd send an updated email to your soldersmoke address, in a desperate attempt to be mentioned in the gonging "SolderSmoke Mailbag"!

I learned of the podcast at May's Hamvention. I wish I had known of the Four Days in May event, but this was the first Dayton I've ever been to.

I thought I'd mention that the ham club I'm involved with here in central Virginia, the University of Virginia club, is putting together a rhombic antenna out in the woods. Although more sweat (and hornet stings) than solder smoke is expected to come from this effort, I still thought it would be worthy of note within the realm of homebrew activity. I hope to have some photographs from our slingshot-and-fishing-line event. With a large crop of able-bodied 20-somethings at our disposal, we should be able to get this thing put together in short order (one of our new members even has extensive tree-climbing skills and a battery-powered soldering iron! If I can get a shot of him 100ft up a pine with the iron in his teeth, I will be sure to pass along). It is hoped that our new monster antenna will help us compete with our cross-state rivals, the Hokies of Virginia Tech. I will be sure to sacrifice a few chickens to Papa Legba prior to our outing.

There are definitely still young people interested in homebrew radio and I work everyday alongside many victims of "The Knack". I'm working on spreading the SolderSmoke gospel to as many of them as possible, and letting them know of our library of "Sacred Texts": EMRFD, Solid State Design, and Electronics of Radio, among others. And of course, some of our "Prophets" of the faith: Ashhar Farhan, the Haywards, and the late Doug DeMaw.

I also wanted to say that since I have a lengthy commute to and from the university, I've been listening to ALL of the soldersmoke podcasts, starting from the first one. I'm up to the summer of 2007 now. I found it very sad to hear of Mike KL7R's death in Jan 2007 and I find that I do miss the back and forth banter the two of your shared on the podcasts. However, it is still a lot of fun to listen to and I've kept a small logbook of ideas from the episodes, building up a list of projects I hope to soon embark upon.

Best 73 and thank you for your podcasts.

Bert WF7I

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Last Roman Rig: New WSPR DSB Transceiver

They are coming to pack up my soldering iron next week, so I'm afraid this will be my last Roman creation. You can see the W3PM Colpitts oscillator in the center. The KA7EXM AF amp is in the lower left. The Softrock-based Manhattanized PA is in the upper right. To the right of the oscillator is a classic W1FB two diode balanced modulator. You see three big green relays. The top one switches the antenna and 12 volts during T/R switching. The middle one switches the audio amp input, the bottom one switches the audio amp output. (I use the same AF amp for receive and transmit, just switching around the input and output.)

It works fine and has sent and received WSPR sigs. I think it will also do PSK-31 with the FLDIGI program. I could use a one more stage of RF amplification between the balanced modulator and the PA driver amp. Also, the AF impedance match between the KA7EXM amp and the balanced modulator nees work: Roger's circuit was deisgned to drive high impedance phones. That balanced modulator circuit has about 50 ohms at each port. Ideas?

I was thinking of calling it the Achilles. But I think I will go with "L'Aquilone" (The Kite").

Monday, June 14, 2010

Above Board: Manhattan-izing an SMT kit

A while back, Tony Parks very kindly sent me one of his wonderful Softrock RXTX V6.3 Software Defined Radio kits. I took a shot at it, but it turns out that I'm not very good with surface mount construction using small parts. I've gotten very used to the Manhattan style. Still, I did manage to build one of the Power Amplifier modules, and I put it to good use in a DSB WSPR transceiver I've been building (see above) . It worked great. For a while... Then it released some smoke.

I started trouble shooting and it was at this point that I REALLY began to miss good ole' Manhattan (you see, I was born there, and I went to Manhattan College, so I guess this helps explain the affinity). It was difficult to get to components mounted under the board. The whole thing was the size of my thumb... I know, whine, whine, whine... Luddite Geezer-ism strikes again. SPARK FOREVER!

It turns out that the problem was caused by the fact that my shack is just not well suited for this kind of construction. There is a lot of stuff floating around. Conductive stuff. Look closely at the picture below and you will see what I mean. You will see what caused the release of the smoke. Look at the leads on the PA transistor on the left. That's a little bit of stray wire that found its way to the WRONG place. Note the toasted source resistor just below!

Anyway, after a trying to fix this thing, I finally gave up and decided to use the circuit, but in Manhattan form. Everything up top. No SMT. Bigger coil cores. The temperature sensing circuitry went off to the right. The output transformer went off to the left, and the driver stage went down below the kit's board. Here is what it looks like now. Again, it works great.

I want to thank Tony and the Softrock guys for giving me this experience. Their kits are wonderful and are really making a tremendous contribution to the hobby. I strongly recommend them. The instructions are great, much like those of the old Heathkits. But for me, I'll take Manhattan.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

SolderSmoke Podcast #125 -- SPECIAL FDIM EDITION

Special Four Days In May Edition!
Opening music: FDIM Bluegrass
Our last (sniff) Italy Travel Report
Snakes and Fireflies in Lazio
G3ROO's Antenna Book
Davinci beacon crosses the pond
WSPR rig repaired
New transceiver built for 30 meter digi
Manhattan-izing an SMT board
Paul Harden's wonderful book
"Muntzing" with Michael, G3RJV's "Socketry"
Meeting Andrea IW0HK in Piazza San Cosimato!
MAILBAG: Including mail from Farhan, Roger Hayward and Ade Weiss

Monday, June 7, 2010

OH NO! UVB-76 Goes Off the Air! Duck and Cover!

From Wikipedia:

UVB-76 is the callsign of a shortwave radio station that usually broadcasts on the frequency 4625 kHz (AM full carrier). It's known among radio listeners by the nickname The Buzzer. It features a short, monotonous About this sound buzz tone , repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, for 24 hours per day. The station has been observed since around 1982.[1] On rare occasions, the buzzer signal is interrupted and a voice transmission in Russian takes place. Only three to four such events have been noted. Despite much speculation, the actual purpose of this station remains unknown. On June 5, 2010, UVB-76 stopped transmission suddenly, the first time there is no signal received from UVB-76 since 1982. [2]

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Amateur Scientist, Trivial Motors, Influential Books...

I got a nice e-mail from Keith, VE3TZF, that got me thinking about "The Amateur Scientist" by C.L. Strong. The Wiki article on this book is very interesting:
Check out the part about Forrest Mims.

Here's Keith's e-mail:

Hello again Bill,

In your podcast you frequently make reference to the book, The Amateur Scientist.

This got me thinking back to what REALLY got me started along the path of building stuff for fun.

There were three books I remember reading over and over, even though at the time I had a very hard time really understanding what was on all of those pages. Those books were:

1. 'Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing', by Martin Gardner (unfortunately, he recently passed away).
2. Some type of 'build yourself a science laboratory' book.
3. Some type of 'build electric motors' book.

I explicitly remember that one of the tasks in the 'science laboratory' book was to take a burnt out light bulb, etch around the neck, break it off, and turn it into a flask. The flask was supposed to sit on a stand that you already made out of wire (a coat hanger?). I've been trying all sorts keyword searches in Google to fine the name of the book. I'm sure I would recognize it if I saw it. Is this 'The Amateur Scientist'? The closest I have gotten is "Build-it-yourself science laboratory: work like a scientist: build your own equipment, make real findings" by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I'm still looking...

On the other hand, when you described the trivial electric motor, something twigged in my memory. I've built one of those! Many of those in fact! Decades ago! The 'electric motor' book made reference to 3 basic designs. They were called the 'mini', the 'midi', and the 'maxi'. The 'mini' motor was in fact the trivial electric motor. The 'midi' motor used fixed magnets on the armature, and the 'maxi' motor used electromagnets only. I remember salvaging an old wooden pencil box, and stealing some of my mom's knitting needles, to build the 'maxi' motor. I used a 6 volt lantern battery to power it. It worked extremely well, but got incredibly hot! And the sparks! I had not yet learned about volts, amps, and watts. Also at the time I was too young to get the mini/midi/maxi references to womens' skirts.

After a little searching with Google, I hit the jackpot:

* "How to make and use electric motors", Al G. Renner - 1974
* Text and diagrams give instructions for building the mini, midi, and maxi motors and for performing various experiments.

Now I just have to find a copy.

I'm currently spending a lot of time with my nephew, building blinking LED circuits, buzzers, motors, and listening to Morse code. He's really getting into it, and I KNOW that this is important.

I just wanted you to know that your podcast (and excellent book) have far reaching impacts that you may have never intended.

-Keith Robert Murray VE3 TZF

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

YouTube meets QRSS

They seem like two very different technologies, right? They are certainly at opposite ends of the speed spectrum. But David, EA1FAQ, has made innovative use of YouTube video to present -- in a very useful form -- the signals received by his QRSS grabber over a three day period. This kind of system brings to to visual QRSS a bit of the retrivabililty that makes WSPR so useful and interesting.

David's test period happened to include the time that I was out at our country place with my 3 mW QRSS beacon. Back in Rome I could indeed see my sigs in David's video. He was kind enough to follow up with the actual shanpshot of my signal crossing the Med:

Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column