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Sunday, June 30, 2024

Progress Report Video on the SolderSmoke Shack South

The new shack is coming together in HI7 land.   I will need a shelf for the test gear -- I am looking for something thatcan sit on the main workbench -- the wall behind the bench is drywall and won't support any weight.   I will have to get some plywood to protect the nice woodwork. I have melted some solder already -- I had to fix the little magnifying lamp -- it felt good to get back in the game.  

The AM radio station that was providing background music was from just across the Mona passage -- they were in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico.   My S38-E shows the frequency as being a bit above 700 kHz, but as with most things S38-E, this readout is suspect.  Can anyone tell me the call sign of this station?  

I have been using the homebrew 15-10 rig, but only in receive mode so far.  

I am also doing some VHF scanning, using a Realistic Pro-36 scanner that Bob KD4EBM gave me.  So far I am picking up aircraft approaching Santo Domingo from the East.  I have the maritime calling freq also programmed in and hope to hear some ships at sea.  Thanks Bob. 

Dino asked about astronomy.   As you can see in the video, the Orion telescope is ready to go, but we are in rainy season here, so the skies aren't too great right now.  They will be better in the winter. 

Hurricane Beryl is approaching, but current projections are for it to pass to our south on Tuesday. The eye of the storm is not expected to hit this island.   

Thursday, June 27, 2024

How Starlink Survived May's G5 Solar Storm

 I know there are some readers who dislike Starlink, but I think the technology is interesting.    This morning I saw an article  about how the Starlink constellation survived the May 2024 G5 solar storm.  Note the references to "collision avoidance" and "ion thrusters."   Give the devil is due!  This is all pretty cool. 

https://www.pcmag.com/news/spacex-heres-how-starlink-satellites-weathered-mays-major-solar-storm


Wednesday, June 26, 2024

ANOTHER Great Workshop


As I get ready to build the SolderSmoke Shack South, the Radio Gods (well at least YouTube) keep sending me these workshop videos.  Today's is also for a shop specializing in the repair of vintage audio gear, but the lessons-learned and observations are also applicable to a ham radio workshop.  This fellow's shop is in New York City, where space is very limited.  Check it out.  Lots of great ideas here.   

And check out the Novalux Stereophhonic channel:

 

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Field Day with Farhan, his Family and an sBITX Near Hyderabad, India

Farhan and his son Rayyan with an sBITX

The SolderSmoke crew thought it had a tough time this Field Day:  Pete N6QW had hoped to do something, but was stymied by hot California weather.  Dean KK4DAS had even worse weather.  Bill HI7/N2CQR was at a remote QTH with an HW-8 and a wire antenna -- he managed just ONE contact (W7RN in Nevada on 15 CW).  But none of us had as much trouble as our friend Farhan had.   In  his account of Field Day in Hyderabad, we see an intrepid ham standing up against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that Field Day often throws at true radio amateurs.  Here is Farhan's Field Day story: 

-----------------------------

You asked for it, so here it goes...

I got the chance last evening to head out to our farmland. My daughter Ramsha had her friend were over. By the time we all got into the SUV, it was already 5:30 pm. I had loaded in the Spiderbeam fiberglass pole, the sbitx with LiPo battery and an EFHW ATU strapped on, into the back into my backpack,  the toolbox with a few hand tools.

On the way to the farm, rain begin to come down. Rayyan (son, VU3ECQ) started said as much, I turned up the volume on Bruno Mars...

By the time we got to the farm, the rain was over(Ha!). We immediately begin to set up the antenna. I chose an inverted V config for the antenna and to use a tree as the support. The spiderbeam, as any who has been taken in by it knows, is a telescoping 33 feet high mast made of fiberglass. A curious villager decided to help us too. The girls had already taken off to pick the Mulberries.

So, Rayyan, the curious fellow, and I tried to telescope out the mast. The curious fellow, having never read the manual, picked up the mast from the wrong end and all the pieces fall out the other end. (Censored @#$%...). Within 15 minutes, we had all the pieces put back in the order of their thicknesses. I scotchtaped the center of the 66 feet wire to tip of the mast and we all hauled it up vertical. For those who don't forget maths, you can figure that two section of 66 feet wire will be exactly 33 feet high and when you tie this to the high end of a 33 feet high pole -- they just hang down vertically in a straight line. I was trying hard to remember the math teacher's name when the telescoping mast decided to untelescope into a 5 feet, collapsed height. My son commented that it has worked as advertised. Now, I wanted to remember my son's Moral Lessons teacher's name...

Next, we scotch taped the center of the 66 feet wire to approximately 2/3rd height. The curious guy and I walked it up back and took it to the tree. Rather we tried to. The branches kept getting in the way. Finally, managed to get within 4 feet of the trunk and I declared that we could just tie it up with the packing nylon rope bundle we were carrying. We did and it held up. 

By now, the two ends of wire had gotten all twisted around each other. We all had an excellent arm workout trying unwind them. The techniques -- never mentioned in any antenna handbook -- is to hold both ends of the twisted pair in one hand each, spread out your arms and make overhead sweeping motion to flick one wire over the other. This method only adds more twists into the wire. I discovered that wires could be twisted around each other both ways. There is no untwisting them. I discovered this amazing feature!

After watching us for 10 minutes, Humera, my XYL, asked us to forgive the world and bring down the mast and untangle the wires on the ground. By now, a stray cow had also sauntered in on her way back home. I think our language attracted her. She was bellowing for her calf to come and watch.

Next, we, efficiently undid the wire twists. Rayyan and the curious fellow held the two ends away from each other and I raised the mast. Or rather I tried to. At 45 degree tilt, the mast sections add up huge amount of weight. I was tottering around with it when it thankfully  leaned onto the tree branches. At this time, I declared it done. We tied the mast at 6 feet height by the rope to the tree trunk. One end went to the a branch of a bush and the other we walked to the point where it was taunt and touched the ground. 

I brought out the radio, much to the curious fellow's surprised, who was looking forward to me doing more entertaining things with the mast rather than a radio. We switched it on, I quickly peaked the ATU to maximum noise and keyed up. The sbitx shut off. Our battery was discharged.

An intrepid ham is never dissuaded by the flings and arrows of time which, when taken at a tide, leads to Field Day. I decided to move the operations to the farm cottage where we had power. But there was no supporting tree nearby. I decided to use the SUV as support.

We packed the SUV at an approximately correct distance from the vernadah of the cottage. We carried the mast over to the SUV and strapped it at two points: on the foot rest and on the overhead luggage rock. At this point the Spiderbeam fiberglass collaspible mast took a commercial break and demonstrated rapid collapse, into the much vaunted 5 feet size. Rayyan was rolling in the grass with mirth. This divided my anger between two opposing directions: toward  my progeny and toward my antenna mast. I didn't move.

I thought like an engineer.  The curious fellow and I carried the mast to an illuminated part of the farm, laid it down, and scotch taped each section to the next as the spiderbeam folks had warned us to do. It is strange how memory works better when your blood pressure is up. 

The mast went up again, this time strapped to the SUV's rack, door column, and the footrest. I setup the radio on a table outside the cottage, running the extension cord from inside. The SUV and the antenna were too far for the EFHW  to reach the radio. 

We asked Humera (XYL) and the girls who were watching us while having their mulberries to DO SOMETHING and not just SIT THERE. So, Humera got inside the SUV and started to roll it towards the cottage. A loud crunching sound announced the sad departure of the sunflower plants we had tied the other end of EFHW from  mother Earth. The EFHW had unrooted its support as the SUV pulled it away. These minor inconviences never deter a determine man, remember Gandhiji! 

Finally everything was in place, and we fixed up the rig but the microphone wouldn't key up. So what? I can just operate from the in-built mic and the thoughfully provided on-screen keyboard for CW, right? Well I could but I needed to key CW contiuously to set the SWR. So I opened up the mic. The curious fellow who had carried the radio to the new operating position was new to radio etiquette. He had just picked up the radio and walked, dragging the mic through the slush and weeds. The mic connector had come out.

I took the matters into my hands, by now, Rayyan was trying to show empathy for the old man by making loud noise like Aww! Shucks! and other unmentionables. I cut the cable with teeth, unbraided a small section and wired it up on the connector so I could short it to key the rig. Why can't the imbecile radio designers think of providing a tune button on the screen??

Finally, everything was in place. I tuned up and AIR net was on. This is the national evening SSB net on 7150. I tried breaking in with SSB a few times but didn't get through. Finally, I changed to CW and called. The net control asked "the CW station to QSY, this is the AIR net....". Finally some other SSB station who could copy my CW translated my CW to the net control and we had a three way contact.

At this point the girls declared we had to head home now that I had had my contact.

I was about to let out my public school vocabulary when I heard them say that they were hungry and there was lamb curry at home. The idea of getting back home and drying out, and eating the hot lamb curry and mangoes was too much for me. We folded up. But the mast refused to collapse. The curious fellow who had taken charge of the mast engineering had finally gotten hang of it. With superhuman strength, he had pulled the section of the mast out so tightly that no power on earth could potentially loosen them. I decided to trick the mast into thinking that we wanted it to stay up, so we put it back up vertically and slammed it into the ground. It dutifully woke up and demonstrated the much vaunted ability to fit back into a 5 feet tube.

I looked into the darkness to find the EFHW winder but I couldn't locate it. The curious fellow had left, scared by the racket the radio was making. The cow and the calf had gone home. We too headed back home. 

In the picture, you can see Rayyan standing while I am checking into AIR net. In the background is the SUV with spiderbeam fiber mast that is easy to carry in a 5 feet size.

73, de Farhan VU2ESE with a little help from my friends and family.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Some Really Amazing Test Gear


Wow. Really great test gear, and an amazing parts collection.   This guy even gets a "nice workshop" comment from Mr. Carlson.   Pac1085 seems to be in Rochester N.Y. and he says he specializes in the repair of vintage audio gear.  He should have more subscribers.  Does anyone have more info on him?  

Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Starlink Constellation


Pretty amazing, I think.  They have 6,000 of them up there now, and more to come.  They burn in every five years so there is a constant opportunity to improve and upgrade.   I think they went with Low Earth Orbit to minimize latency and optimize for gaming.  

You can get a live display and more info here:  https://www.heavens-above.com/StarLink.aspx

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Amazing Homebrew from Japan -- 7L4WVU's All Homebrew Station


Thanks to Roy WN3F for alerting me to this.  Tadashi-san has really built some beautiful stuff.  Especially impressive to me is his use of the spectrum analyser and two-tone audio tests to look at IMD of the entire transceiver.  See video above. FB OM.  

Be sure to check out 7L4WVU's YouTube channel: 

And his QRZ page heralding his all-homebrew station covering 1.8 to 430 MHz: https://www.qrz.com/db/7L4WVU



Monday, June 17, 2024

1,280 Antennas at 12 GHz -- How Starlink Works


One commenter questioned why we went with the more expensive Starlink system.  The simple answer is that it is just better, faster, and more reliable than the alternatives.  Many people here are clamoring for this sytem, and they are doing this for a reason.  On speed tests I am showing downloads of about 150 Mbps.  That is fast.  The truth is that my wife is more of an innovator than I am -- she was the one who decided on Starlink.  

When we were installing this system, I didn't even know what they meant by "Dishy."  I didn't know there were motors in the antenna.  And I certainly didn't know about the complicated software and hardware that allow the Dishy antenna to track the Starlink low earth orbit satellites without the use of the motors.   The above video explains it all very well.  

This is all a great demonstration of what can be done with digital technology, microchips, software and UHF. 

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Sticker Madness, HI7, April 1

Our friend Lex astutely focused on the date of the release of our report about legal prosecution by the City of San Francisco.  The truth is that we made almost all of this up.  We did put a sticker on a lamp post at Haight and Ashbury.   Dave AA7EE did visit the site and report that the sticker had been removed.  But all the rest was made up.  We did catch several people in this annual April 1 joke.  Unfortunately, not everyone who was taken in was outraged by the city's supposed action. In fact, we got one e-mail SUPPORTING the prosecution.  This fellow said, essentially, that we were getting what we deserved, that we should take this as a life lesson, and stop with the sticker-vandalism.  He was serious.  Jeez.  APRIL FOOL!   We will talk more about this in the next podcast. 

I know the podcast has been delayed by a lot, but I am still getting things set up here in HI7 land.  I hope we will soon be podcasting with particpation from California (N6QW), Northern Virginia (KK4DAS), and the Dominican Republic (HI7/N2CQR).  

Happily, my Dominican ham radio license came through  -- I will be HI7/N2CQR for the next year.  At some point I hope to take the Dominican exam and get a real Dominican call. 

Lex has been our main point of contact in Europe on sticker distribution (aka VANDALISM!). Lex writes:   

Hello all,


Shocked to hear about the "Legal action against Soldersmoke" in podcast : 

https://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/2024/04/soldersmoke-podcast-251-aurora-cbla.html

Which could mean a few things : 
  1. some official is trying to make a career and he will be very busy because there are a lot of stickers in San Fransisco to remove.
  2. somebody did remove the sticker because they are highly collectable and somebody at soldersmoke HQ saw a opportunity to made one of the best april fools jokes in soldersmoke history pulling the listeners (and readers) leg. 
  3. somebody use photoshop and made one of the best april fools jokes in soldersmoke history pulling the listeners (and readers) leg. 

Looking at the release date of the soldersmoke podcast 251, IMHO #3 is the most possible with #2 as a good second. When #1 is the real reason, that sucks big time :-(  (so I'm hoping for the april fools joke outcome)


Let's continue and get on topic to this e-mails subject.

My XYL and I are just back from a holiday to Berlin and aside of the architecture, visiting a large number of museums and historical exhibitions, there was one place on my personal list I wanted to visit : the "Teufelsberg". 

*  The "Teufelsberg" (Devil's Mountain) is a artificial mountain build with rumble of the ruins of Berlin on top of the “Wehrtechnische Fakult├Ąt”, covert soil and plated full with trees. In the early 70's the location became one of the most important locations for the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) outside the United States. The facility monitors Soviet and Eastern Bloc communications and gathers important information on the activities of Warsaw Pact countries. 1992 the side got intrest of creative minds and started to get covert by street art.
More info about the history can be found on there website:  https://www.teufelsberg-berlin.de/en/history/

Not only the historical part of the site, but also because the XYL and I love street art, we took a day visit it. Aside from the nice walk to it, the excellent view and the great pieces of street art, when you are at a site where street art is present all over the place and even is encouraged (and legal) and you "accidently" just happen to have a few soldersmoke stickers in you bag, you just have to use them. So as of this moment, Soldersmoke is present a the formal National Security Agency (NSA) spy station in Berlin. 

I added a few images as a attachment to this e-mail including one to show the great view over Berlin when you on the top deck (only showing one placement, the other 2 are hidden in plane site). 

In short : when you can apricate street art and visit Berlin, a visit to the "Teufelsberg" is almost a must. IBEW bonus : there are a few soldersmoke stickers hidden on the top dek for you to find ;-)

73 from PA 

Lex PH2LB 

mail : lex@ph2lb.nl
home : http://www.ph2lb.nl/   
twitter : https://twitter.com/lex_ph2lb  
call : PH2LB 

"Life's like a role playing adventure. You
need to solve the puzzles first before
they let you go to the next level."



Friday, June 14, 2024

Greetings from Low Earth Orbit



We are in the Dominican Republic for a little while. Yesterday we got Starlink working.   The picture show me holding the cell phone heralding the good news.  I am setting up SolderSmoke Shack South.  More to follow.  

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Farhan Talks Radio Tech at SolderSmoke HQ (EAST) (TWO VIDEOS!)


Great stuff!  We were really fortunate to have Farhan and Humera visit the SolderSmoke East shack after Dayton and FDIM.  Dean and I had a chance to talk BITX with the creator. Here is the two part video.  Most of the tech talk is in Part II (below).  

 

Farhan and his zBITX

Dean and Farhan with three sBITXs

Dean's homebrew sBITX

Farhan Phone


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