Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The builder bug

It looks like I'm coming down with another case of the "builder bug". That's what I call it when I get the urge to make stuff. For the last couple of years, I've been content playing with digital repeaters I've cobbled together, or wiring up a TNC for a Raspberry pi in recent months. But now, I'm looking at Arduinos. These boards are a little lower level than the full-blown Linux system I've come to love with the pi. The Arduinos have incredible potential because of their simplicity. With very lower power consumption, and nearly instant power up, I can see many uses for these wonders of the 21st century. My youngest daughter is working on a project to provide weather data from the high school's crop test plot 4 miles away. That led us to looking at building a weather station from scratch, which led to Arduinos, which then led to...well you get the point. I've now found at least four other projects that I could accomplish with these little microcontrollers. I placed an order for an $4 UNO last night. Let the fun begin!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Project updates

The last few weeks have been very productive on the ham radio front! I cleaned up the coax routing for my Icom 2820 I had installed in the new pickup. While it was only slightly messy, the extra tie wraps and cable management make me feel better. I also installed a GPS puck antenna so the 2820 now shows my position on every D-STAR transmission I make. I had this setup with the 880 in the previous truck, but never had this setup on the 2820. It was very simple - plug in the antenna, change a few settings, and you're good to go. I used a $10 antenna from Amazon.

I moved the antenna for my FlightRadar24.com ADS-B feed radio to a higher location at the end of the pole barn. This required also moving the ubiquiti 2GHz data radio I use to provide internet access to the radio. Luckily I had enough spare mast clamps and hardware to turn this into a nice afternoon project.

At the WX9WX D-STAR homebrew repeater site, the building owner called and wanted our AREDN mesh antenna moved a bit higher. The initial request was for the antenna to be low enough that it couldn't be seen from the road. Now we needed to move it higher so that workers on the roof wouldn't be at eye level with the transmitter. Having worked in the corporate world for quite some time, changing requirements or expectations is something I'm used to. So up to the roof we went, and up another 6 feet went the antenna!

This week Tom KJ9P and I moved the repeater to its newly coordinated frequency. Changing the frequencies on the Motorola radios was a piece of cake thanks to software and a laptop. Re-tuning the duplexer at the site was more of a challenge. I've tuned quite a few duplexers in the last three years, but never one at a site. I found that without a portable signal generator that could go down in the microvolts, it was difficult to do the precise tuning I normally do on the bench. Luckily a quick phone call to Fred KC9REG, who was 27 miles away, resulted in an EXCELLENT weak signal for final testing!

The next projects involve cleaning up the shack. Does anyone ever finish cleaning up the shack? Maybe I should lower my expectations. Finally, I must get an antenna up for 160m before the winter. Plans for a skywire loop are underway. Now to find 600' of 12 gauge wire and some ladder line...