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A Simple Pencil Cup

I just bought myself a new camera lens for my rebel.  The venerable nifty fifty.  I also just built this, so … photo time.

Smart self would have also taken photos with the kit lens to compare against, but I was not operating as smart me at the time.

 

Bonus feature:  my janky photo booth!  That’s three sheets of Dollar Store foam board (in eggshell or white or ivory or puce if you like) on a tv tray and a <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016YPA9Q4″>Aputure Camera Light</a> duct taped to a microphone stand.  Janky for sure, but it works.  Remember, if it works, it works and 90% of the time – that’s what matters.


AAR: Pumpkin Fest

On October, I helped out my local ham club doing background logistics for the floats in the Pumpkin Fest Parade.  Our job was to get the floats out in the order they should be, monitor the progress of the floats through the parade, and radio if something went south.  Pretty interesting work, if a bit boring.  If you get the chance you should definitely help out your local club with a parade.

Here is my “kombat rig” that I wore while helping out.

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The list of things I’d do differently is pretty short. I’d dress a bit warmer. I’ll also wear my electronic muffs. I wasn’t thrilled about cutting off my hearing entirely – if something happens I want to hear. But if the noise gets to loud it will cut off. And I should have packed some snackage to munch on once the parade got started.

Previously I had used a back pack. It worked, but it was really over kill for the situations I have worked. My car is always within walking distance, so now I prefer this super simple, light weight rig. I will be adding this radio carrier to the mix.

Parts from left to right:

  • Dump pouch
  • Organizing pouch, good for holding maps and a spare battery for your radio.
  • Baofeng Radio setup:
    • Signal Stuff Antenna. My antenna and radio are setup for BNC.
    • Baofeng BF-F8HP radio
    • Extended battery. The 8 watts really drains the stock battery. Keep it for a spare.
    • A Handset. I’ve goofed around with the throat mics, and honestly these are the best no muss solution. Quality control it yourself and make sure everything works before you hit the field, or you’ll do my screw all over again.
    • Acoustic Tube. You definitely should be using an acoustic tube so you can actually hear the communications over the din of the crowd.
  • A few nondescript carabiners for attaching things to. I had my drinking bottle clasped to my belt as well as my volunteer flag.
  • An earplug for the other ear. The noise of the crowd started to mess with me and put me into sensory overload. Not fun, and not acceptable when working an event. Additionally, when a 100 year old steam engine whistle goes off 5 feet in front of you, you’ll appreciate the lowly ear plug..

Little Stinger Slingshot

Just a fun little project.

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Building a Ham Radio Power Supply

Ham Radio Isn’t Cheap

Much like shooting, ham radio is expensive. I think all fun hobbies are. But after spending $820 for the radio, I wasn’t in the mood (or the financial state) to drop another $100 to $150 on an Alinco Power Supply. Slick as spit, but not worth it.

So, here is what I came up with:

My power supply has the following features:

  • Hacker cred. I put it together, and it looks nice and works great, on 2M at least.
  • Dual USB ports, for keeping a phone topped off.
  • A cigarette lighter, for powering/charging a baofeng or anything 12V compatible.
  • Dual Anderson Powerpoles on the rear, for the ham’s favorite 12V connector
  • Uses a standard computer power supply cable.

So, here is my Bill of Materials:

A few build notes:

  • I crimped the powerpoles using my standard channelock wire strippers and then soldered them with my hakko. This gives about as good as a connected as you can get.
  • I used standard spade connectors (though mine are from Menards), again crimped and soldered, to connect everything to the power supply unit.
  • Most ham radios expect 13.8VDC, instead of the 12V this one was outputting. That’s okay, there’s a dandy reostat you can use to adjust the output power. I had mine set for 13.81V and its drifted to 13.84/5. I suspect it has to do with the construction and actually powering the unit up. However, my 857 will tolerate a +/- 10% range, so eh. I’ll adjust it again the next time I fire it up.
  • Take care when making the AC Mains connections. I am using a cut\trimmed piece of a PC power cord, with crimped and soldered spade terminals connected to the socket and to the power supply unit. I used some push on connecters to make a removable/solid connection to my socket, then put heat shrink over the arrangement to make sure I had removed and electrocution hazard, as best as possible. 14VDC will tickle, 120VAC will kill, and hurt the entire time.
  • Cut outs for the Chassis mount and PC powersupply socket were done with an x-acto knife, a ruler, and a little bit of caliper work. Everything fits perfectly. Lay out the holes you need, then visually check the marks are in the right place. Make light passes with the x-acto to cut through the plastic of the dry box.
  • This is such a gadgety thing, but it makes doing zip ties so much easier, tighter, and with practice the cut offs cleaner.

The total cost of the arrangement? Not counting the sundries I had on hand, $54.04. Not bad, a third of the cost and quite a bit more fun. You could do this even cheaper if you skipped the power powerpoles and the other features, but charging phones is good. When I first made it, I had the radio and a cut off power cord running directly to the power supply unit. It worked, and worked well, but I wanted to make things cleaner for sure.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below. 73, and good night all.

Edit: I posted this to /r/amatuerradio and generated a fair response. I would like to highlight Megas3300’s RF Choke. This is probably needed for mine as well, but so far I’ve only used this on VHF. A proper HF antenna system awaits.


Another Skip Month

This time, 4 months have come and gone. What have I been doing this time?

As luck would have it, not much. I have honestly been quite stagnant over the last few months. But I’ll try to mention a few things.

Diplexers

To follow up on last month’s comments building a diplexer, I ended up deciding that the completed ones I have are functional. My meter shows the same amount of reflected power regardless of if an antenna is connected directly or if I have the diplexers connected into the circuit.

I did learn something. Crossing coax causes the signal to “jump” from one line to the other. How I learned was this that the line going into my SWR meter and then out to the antenna was crossed. Also, it looks like the BF-F8HP has built in SWR protection.

I do have another board with coax connected. Anyone want to buy one? I’m selling for about 1/2 the price of the Arrow diplexers – basically cover the parts and a pittance of time.

National Parks On The Air

My amatuer radio club recently did an activation for the ARRL’s National Parks On The Air. I did the 2M station, managing about 7 quick QSO’s. I did learn about band plans, in a capability I didn’t have before. I purchased a Yaesu FT-857. The event went well, and we qualified (10 LotW certified contacts).

Speaking of ham radio, I also tested and passed for the General Class license. This means I have useful HF privileges. Only an autotuner and HF antenna away from getting on the HF bands.

Oh the HandiFinder

Well, I won’t be uploading of a soldering the Handi-Finder. It works fairly well. I will try to get a video of it in use …. sometime. It’s not the best kit or instructions but it is doable.

Anything Else New?

Well, no, not really. Over the course of the summer I decided to forgo my vacations this year instead to purchase firearm parts and gear. So I did.


Nerf Maverick. None are like it, and it is Mine.

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Skip Month

Another month has come and gone, so what things have I been up to?

On Building Diplexers

So, I started working on an amateur satellite duplexer. Due to the nature of the Icom W32a, it makes sense to do this. Suffice it to say, its been troublesome. My problems started like this:

  1. No SWR meter. Okay, order one.
  2. Testing with an antenna shows no appreciable change. Call success.
  3. Be paranoid! Check again! And … wait, what’s going on?
  4. The cable that I was using to get from PL259 to BNC was bad. Took a bit to figure it out.
  5. Decide that I need to check with a dummy load.
  6. Need a dummy load
    1. After going to 4 different stores find out that only one had a gallon paint can.
    2. Find out that I would need about $32 of mineral oil to fill
    3. Find a quart can at Menards
    4. Purchase $4 of oil to fill
  7. Get weird readings\behavior on SWR meter? Why does my power go up then drop?
  8. Why the feedback on 70cm?
  9. Wait, why the behaviour on a dummy load?

So, this must be a cable problem. I decided I needed to order new cables. They’ll be here Wednesday, but it will be Monday before I can test everything

I ordered all my cables from Air802. They’re quick and I’ve heard that they’re priced competitively. I can’t recommend them enough. They’re very willing to help you with finding exactly what you need. Another plus is that I get my order a day or two later, even with the cheapest shipping. After my trouble with the cheap crap I ordered from fleabay, the extra price is worth it.

Other then my issues with testing them, I have to say that Digikey did as well as they always do. I’ll have to do a full write up on the diplexer, but Lee (K0LEE) was very helpful in getting replacements for the inductors. I tried to find exact replacements and ended up giving up and contacting him for help. A prompt response later and I had the information I needed. If you build them your self (and build 2), expect to spend about $32 for each. If you’re inclined, this is quite a bit cheaper then Arrow’s list price. The paranoia in testing comes from having the Icom that I would hate to destroy.

Fox Hunting!

Went on another fox hunt with the club. We changed up the technique quite a bit. I’ll be lazy and pretty much copy\paste my after action report on the event:

One thing I did think was effective was when Kris and I were using the arrow antenna/yagi to track it (the fox) in the truck with the antenna through the moon roof. I think if we had the time, and had I brought it, my handifinder would have been a good thing to deploy paired with a baofeng in the cemetery. Since we were about two blocks away, proceeding on foot would have made it easier to note the subtle changes. This make me excited to test this arrangement a member of the club purchased. I think it be an excellent replacement for the yagi-through-the-roof arrangement. I wish I had been able to get on the parking garage in town to get an initial bearing.

Orlando

Normally I don’t talk about guns here on the blog. I love guns. I even have some of the scary black ones. Now, I could like to various jokes about them, liberals, or whatever. I’ve wanted to, and that’s why there are not ads on this blog. I feel that talking about firearms could easily be misconstrued as encouraging violence. Not a thing I want to have to explain. This blog will always be ad free as a result. (If you think I deserve a reward for wrting, the homepage has my amazon wish list.)

Being a gun lover though, I feel the need to talk about Orlando. The media (and the Democratic Side of Congress) is in outrage about the events, and demanding that law-abiding citizens submit to their demands despite the ineffectiveness of those demands where implemented (stateside with California, cityside with Chicago and more). While I’d love to be brief, Orlando doesn’t lend to brevity. Not out of laziness, but due to the succinctness of what I wrote, I will quote Core Concept Podcast.

At Core Concept Podcast, its no secret we strongly support the 2nd Amendment and the right to Concealed Carry. We do not agree with the opinion of the 9th Circuit Court of California(Commy-fornia if you must). The Constitution was written as a whole to guarantee the safety and freedom of every citizen of the United States. It was not written to guarantee the prosperity of its citizens, though as a whole it has created one of the most prosperous nations in the world.

The attacks in Orlando are terrifying. Its not about being a gay, lesbian, or straight person. Its about an individual mass murdering defenseless people. Regardless of your position (a split decision here on the podcast), these attacks were, and any imitation there of, are immoral and wrong. We both believe that all people can find reason and ways to live in peace with each other.

But we also believe that a person should be ready to defend themselves. That it is better to be a warrior in a garden then a gardener in a war. That personal security is the duty of each and every individual for them to secure for themselves. Even when relaxing, you must not let your situational awareness fail. To stay “left of bang.” When your awareness fails, you’re right of bang, and being right of bang means that people will die.

Our world is a dangerous place, full of evil people doing evil things. Regardless of your religion, orientation or race, life is always precious. As the days continue (and they will), let us all remember that. Let us guard ourselves and each other. Because those who walk the path of darkness will always look to spread it.

Expect gun posts in the coming months.


And A General Update

Icom W32A/Working the Birds

The Icom is working pretty well. Ordered a replacement battery and charger from Batteries America and it seems to be in order. I was able to check into my local ham club net with the radio. However, I found out that with the stock antenna it seems to desense when carried against my body. With a NA-771 it doesn’t. I’ve started ordering parts to create a duplexer for working AO-85 and SO-50. I will also have to create an audio splitter for the handset. And I have a programming cable on the way from Amazon. With the weather warming up, I’ll be on the birds again soon.

Other Projects

I should be uploading a video of soldering a HandiFinder with my remarks on the kit.

I also have an upcoming NPOTA activation coming soon. I’ll be running my Arrow on 2M, and if I’m confident enough will try to work some satellites as well.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll start to some firearm related videos.

Gibberish Be Here

I’ve been running syncthing as backup/sync solution, then rsyncing to a drive I keep in a firebox every month or so. I seem to have managed to screw everything up and it took awhile to straighten everything out. And syncthing keeps misbehaving the whole time.

In Closing

See you later, it will likely be a few months.


Icom IC-W32A: A Work in Progress

This is contingent to my “Workin’ the Birds” Series. However, it is a more technical discussion of amateur radio equipment. The primary purpose of this blog is preserve information I want for later. However, I feel that the information contained in these posts may be found edifying for others. If you can’t look up edifying, you are not the target audience of that secondary purpose. A third purpose is a demonstration of my technical skills and abilities as well as communication. It is not working as well as I would like.

I wanted an upgrade from my Baofengs for multiple reasons and the Icom IC-W32A is the radio that I ended up choosing. The W32A is well regarding within the Amateur Satellite Radio community as one of the best. After my post on the high price and poor selection of equipment available at this time, I ended up back tracking into the early 2000’s for my “new” gear. This HT is well loved. Wear spots, but no nicks or gauges. Used, but not abused. The only thing that was missing from what I wanted (better receive, reasonable price, better channel management, S-Scale) was better channel management, though there is the option of skip programming which may prove useful.

The bad is being an ebay radio (and 10 years old), I knew I would be needing a new battery. With this particular auction I didn’t get a charger either. At this moment in time, the charger missing is a bad thing. I don’t know if the radio will even turn on. While I was willing to risk what I did on the auction, I wasn’t ready to double the bill to fail. I need to know if this thing will power on and transmit. I was able to get around this though, with an adapter from RadioShack. Two options:

Since I have all of components for option 2, I went with that. The primary reason was the low cost – $3.50 and a bit of wire and solder. You could buy an official Icom Charger, but if this thing functions well, I’ll be switching to this lithium-ion battery pack. What a waste to get the official Icom option when I’ll use it … once.

After looking around the manual and talking with people on reddit and the AmSat mailing list, I was able to determine the polarity and power output of the plug. 12V, center positive.

After charging, the radio powered up! Oh joy. I at least have a reasonably priced scanner now. Except tuning to a NOAA Weather station, I do not have audio output. Plug in some headphones, and I have sound. Great. This could be either a broken speaker, or a broken headphone jack. Without the headphones, I have a working mic. With the headphones, I do not. For now, the solution is to find a reasonably priced handset to plug in. This will work until I have checked everything else out, and insure that the radio is worth my time to repair further. It will also provide inexpensive replacement parts. The replacement will be here Monday (4/18) and I will attempt to check into my ham club net with the radio that night.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll leave this post linking various resources and information that I found while waiting and getting the radio to function to this point.

Resources

Parts

Disclaimer:

Borrowing from my podcasts, this post is not sponsored by our employers, employees, who or what have you. All opinions expressed have been, are, and always will be our own. Said opinions expressed on the show are believed to be well reasoned and insightful. If you find a topic mentioned on the show interesting and decide on further action, then it is your responsibility to research, consult your doctor, lawyer, significant other, etc and understand the full risks of such an action. Providing a link to a resource online does not certify the usefullness, safety, or reliability of the content or providers on the other side.

The information in this post is semi-technical and capable of damaging\ruining\destroying your prized transceiver. It’s not my fault if you turn it into and efficient boat anchor.

Minor Update

I’ve found that filling a bit off the bottom of the plug from radio shack makes it connect more reliably.


SSL

The soliloquy blog is now running ssl!  All requests will be handled through the secured side, https://soliloquyforthefallen.net as a result of my .htaccess.

Why? Because at this point SSL is super simple to set up in CPanel, cheap to purchase, and actually makes sense.

A few years ago when the firesheep plugin was released, it was required that each server have is own IP address to implement SSL. Your traffic might be secure, but it doesn’t take much to guess where it’s going. In my mind, this defeats the purpose of using SSL on a website.

We’ve come a long way since then and now every major OS and browser (yes, this was a client side failure) supports SSL for websites sharing a server IP with other websites.

So why SSL now? Well, google damages your ranking for not having SSL. Oh, and the whole argument about whether Americans have a right to encryption and privacy. We do. Backoff. We’re citizens, not subjects.