Thursday, May 22, 2014

Just got back from Dayton Hamvention

So in my newest hobby of Amateur Radio I decided that I was going to go to "The" convention for Amateur Radio and that was Dayton. It was my first experience with it and the forums were pretty good and had a lot of different topics. I had a whole list of ones that I wanted to do initially but ended up just only going to two of them.

My wife and I left on Thursday and ended up tent camping. Although this year it was raining almost every day and got down to 35 degrees at night in the tent. So needless to say we were both freezing. Ended up having to buy another sleeping bag, doubling up on socks stuffed with "hot hands" to keep us warm.

Most of is it is vendors showing off their technology and selling it. However outside is the flea market. I ended up enjoying those quite a bit because you never know what you're going to see. A lot of what you see, even at some of the smaller ones, is government surplus equipment. I have to say I enjoy the flea market part a bit more because you can get some stuff you wouldn't otherwise be able to. Most everything else I can just order online and have shipped to my house.

I managed to pick up some pretty interesting gear whilst I was there. I saw a mount for my CF-19 Toughbook, except they wanted $50 for it. I should have just offered $30 for it right there because after thinking about it and going back it was gone. However, it did lead me to 3 Kontron mobile computers that were most likely in police cruisers. I got them for $10 each so if nothing else the thing will be a good project box.

The units I got were a Kontron CVX-Server Model 300-166, and so far I can't seem to find anything on them. So I'm guessing they have been discontinued. It looks like they have about a 1.8 ghz cpu processor in them and I think if I can load linux onto them then they'll work pretty well. The question is what do I want to use them for? I'm thinking ham radio something. Perhaps a deploy-able unit with a mesh node. As you can see from the picture it looks like it has some pretty good cooling methods on it. So all I need to do is sort out power to this thing and it will be up and going. At any rate, I did some more digging on these and found the data sheet on them. Which will help me immensely in figuring out what I want to do with them.

That's my adventure in Dayton and not sure if I will go next year but I can at least say I've been once. Once I figure out the state of these computers I'll make an update on what I'm using them for.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Feild Day Mesh Network - Antenna, Distance, and Checking signal strength

I recently went out to our site, where Field Day will take place, with a few of our club members to see about how we are going to setup logging. A few of them are bringing RV's and things like that and so we need a way to network our systems together.

The preferred logging software is N1MM Logger which works rather well on PC, and seems to do "ok" under wine on Linux. The challenge is getting the data feeds from the internet and sharing them out amongst our dispersed stations. So I thought this is a great place to show case mesh net, and play around and see how it works in a real test environment.

To run my test I brought with me my laptop running a linux program called iwScanner that works in python. It works amazingly well, if you're looking for something on windows then I recommend ViStumbler. Unfortunately it doesn't work on Linux.

I also brought with me two routers to test out and the first one looked like the signal was going up and down. I ended up switching to the other one. We got out to probably about 300 or 400 yards with a -80 or so db in signal. Which I think would still put stuff through just not very fast. This was however just a router with it's stock antenna, chucked into the rafters and through light trees.

I think that's pretty promising that we will be able to connect these together. So when I got home I decided I was going to build a Omni directional Collinear antenna. Following the directions from Marty Bug's website (Which is a great resource for all wifi antenna design) I set out to build one. I wanted to get the most db gain possible so I just cut a super long piece of wire and started with that. It's about 5' long and I had a bit of trouble placing it into a electrical conduit (pvc). As a result the loops on the antenna probably got shrunk and I wouldn't be surprised if it is a bit twisted up inside.

With the stock antenna on my mesh node I got about -17 to -22 db. With the one I created I get a steady -33. Now this is only preliminary tests and I have some modifications to the end of the antenna to try out. Also because it is a lot bigger the vertical beamwidth is smaller.  So I probably have to try it upright and a bit farther away. Otherwise I'm back to the drawing board on the omni wifi antenna.

The next antenna that I'm going to build is either a bi-quad antenna or a quad-quad antenna, which can also be found on Marty's website. Also with this design at some point I plan to install it onto a dish to give it a bit more gain and direction.

Field Day isn't until the end of June so I definitely have quite a bit of time to get these solutions up and going. Of course it doesn't help when I plug in 48 volts power supply into one of my only 2 12volt rated nodes and just about catch it on fire.

At some point I'll post some pictures.

Monday, April 21, 2014

So many projects time to give a status update.

Ok so I have a bunch of radio projects that I am working on all at the same time. I have a tendency to bounce from one project to another without actually completing them.  This will most likely just be a rambling list of projects and status updates on them.

Antenna - My first project I started was to build myself a dipole antenna. All I have to do is solder the right length of cable for the frequency I want and I've got it going. I've already created a feed point connection. I'm not sure why I haven't just  got this out of the way.

Mesh Net - My second project is a Meshnet for field day. I'm specifically working on it being a portable type of setup. Tripod I have is an old art easel that I think will work perfectly. I just got some LMR400 for it,  db loss on it is going to be about 1 or 2db. However I want to make a bi-quad dish antenna, along with an omni directional.

Car Setup - I need to setup my car and wire all the cables in. I think I've got enough cable and sufficient access to some of the areas like under the seat to wire everything. I want to get some black flexible tube to hide the wires though as I most likely won't be able to run them behind the trim etc.

Backpack - I want to setup a backpack radio for my FT-897D. I just got an alice pack frame and the right kind of straps so everything works well in that regard. The metal part of the back still touches my back a bit however I suspect when I have weight on it I will not have a problem. I'm also looking at batteries to put on the pack, along with a place for a mesh node, an area to hold some logging tools (paper, pen, possibly raspberry pi/toughbook?) and also some pouches to hold on to some of my HTs.  The idea being for emergency use of course.

APRS - I use a program called Yet Another APRS Client as my primary aprs client on linux. It works really well and works well with my GPS unit. If anyone is interested please send me a message to say hello on APRS I'm on as KK4URZ-15.

Most of these I'm hoping to have finished by end of June for field day but we will see how that goes. The other thing on my plate is I'm also taking part in some of our club's events. We're currently teaching a Tech class to the local Civil Air Patrol and I'm going there for some practical experience. Tonight is our monthly club meeting and they will be doing a test session before hand so I will be going to that as I'm looking at becoming a volunteer examiner.





Friday, April 11, 2014

Picked up another set of Baofeng Radio's - Great for a new technician - Baofeng Warranty

I picked up another set of radios for my gear. I purchased my first radio back in June of last year and it is what got me started on my Amateur Radio adventure.

I purchased the UV-5R+ for about $40 on amazon. For the price and what you get it is outstanding little radio. The two new ones I got have the internally upgraded components but the same UV-5R Case. So I'm able to use the same batteries. However, they are the BF-F8

An Important note if you're going to buy these buy them directly from http://www.baofengradio.us or their Amazon store 

 There are a few reasons for this that I found out. They can not/will not honour the warranty service if there is an issue with one. I had a bad battery ship with mine when I bought it from amazon but it was not from their specific store.

Here's a basic run down on the updated version:

This Radio Has Been The First Uv-5R Radio To Get A Full Internal Upgrade. Like The Uv-82 It Has An Expanded Frequency Range And A Stronger Antenna. It Has A Vfo/Mr Button Found On The Uv-5R Series Not Found On The Uv-82 Series. The Bf-8+ Is The Successor To The Uv-5R Series. 2013 Latest Version. This radio can be programmed with or without a PC to also work on private repeater systems. It is a compact, economical HT that includes a special VHF receive band from 65 - 108 MHz which includes the regular FM broadcast band. Dual watch and dual reception is supported. You get up to 128 memories. Other features include: 25KHz/12.5KHz Switchable FM Radio (65.0MHz-108.0MHz) Large LCD Display Li-Ion Frequency Range: 65-108Mhz (FM Receive Only) 136-174Mhz And 400-520Mhz (TX/Rx)Channel Number: 128Channel Spacing: 2.5/6.25/10/12.5/20/25Khzfrequency Stability: +/-2.5Ppmantenna: High Gain Dual Band Antenna Antenna Impedance: 50 Operating Voltage: Dc 7.4Vmode Of Operation: Simple Or Semi-Duplex - See more at: http://baofengradio.us/baofeng-bff8-black.html#sthash.UyKdqcp7.dpuf - See more at: http://baofengradio.us/baofeng-bff8-black-183.html#sthash.awTdOfra.dpuf
And here's the note about the warranty:

We guarantee that your product will be 100% functional or we will issue you an immediate replacement. In addition, the product is covered by a 1 year manufacturer's warranty which will be honored by us through our office in Houston, TX. Our return policy is 30 days. All returns are subject to a 10% restocking fee and buyer pays return shipping. 
The BaofengRadio US warranty is only available to users who purchase directly from BaofengRadio US using our online checkout system. Protect yourself by purchasing only through the links on this page. - See more at: http://baofengradio.us/baofeng-bff8-black-183.html#sthash.awTdOfra.dpuf


So if you order directly from them you're getting warranty replacement, plus free shipping and no tax on items sold through their store.

Hope you found this post helpful.

Mesh Net for Emergency Communications (EmComm)

WB2IFS' Meshnode setup
So I've been looking into meshnet pretty heavily since I discovered it and got my Amateur Radio Operator license. My goal is to be able to set up a mesh network in my county and surrounding area so I've been looking at different software that would work well for file sharing, chat, and various other forms of communication.

There are various types of mesh networks out there but I'm specifically interested in Broadband-Hamnet to be able to set it up locally. With the right equipment I don't think that we would have any major issues in the area I live and getting 54gbps up to 10 miles away in the right conditions. The benefit of the mesh network is that each node can talk to each other node and it can self repair so to speak. The drawback is that it can be rather bandwidth intensive as each node on the network has to know about each other.

My goals are to be able to transfer, voice, video, files, over a mesh network using a raspberry pi(s) as the server on a self sustaining node. Ideally all of this would be decentralized and self replicating but I will have to worry about that at a later date.

Here's a brief run down of the hardware that I'm investigating.


  • Linksys WRT54G routers
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Older Scrapheap cheap PC
  • Cantenna
  • Omni Directional/Colliner Antennas
Software that I'm investigating.

  • GetSimpleCMS - For website to contain basic information on the other services, ability to give out generalized information on events or issues
  • Openfire - Openfire is a XMPP/Jabber server software that can allow for voice, video, file transfer and text chat
  • OwnCloud - For setting up drag and drop file sharing functionality.
My core goal with these is to make the setup a simplified as possible and hand out the information for my club members to be able to set up their own nodes or software. Making it as simple as possible and step by step which I will be posting here also.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dirt Simple PSK

So I'm looking at PSK31 as a mode that I might want to start playing around with.

I found a link to this post about a Dirt Simple PSK31 sound card interface cable. However, the link was dead. I'm reposting the article I found on the wayback machine so that it can still be found online easier by other Ham Operators.

Also found a pretty cool website for the various sounds the different modes make. http://www.w1hkj.com/FldigiHelp-3.21/Modes/

Setting up an FT-897D for PSK31




Dirt Simple, Dirt Cheap

Digital Mode Interface

For the FT-817



Can it really be THIS simple?!?  Yes, I built a Digital

Interface for the FT-817 for almost no cost and

almost no effort!  As you can see from the photo,

the entire interface is built on the Xmit/Rcv switch.

I am using this with DigiPan II, but it should work

with virtually any soundcard software for PSK,

and for other digital modes also!



The Windows volume and recording levels are

used to set transmit and waterfall (receive) drive

levels, but a trimmer is also included to adjust the

transmit drive.  A standard Windows Mouse plug

fits the FT-817 data port, I used a cable cut from

an old mouse!   This interface does require you to

manually switch between transmit and receive,

but does not require ANY connection to the PC’s

USB or Serial Port!



Direct any questions to John,  N6HI.qrp@gmail.com

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lots of change

It's been a while since I've posted anything relating to much of anything so I thought I'd try to start a new series of posts.

First things first,


  • Bitcoin has had a great run the past year or so. However the largest exchange Mt Gox has gone bankrupt. I knew this was going to happen and if I hadn't been so lazy you would have seen the video "Stop Using MtGox" some months prior to this event. 
  • I'm now a licensed Amateur Radio Operator (or Ham Radio Operator). I have had my license since October 2013. I took the Technician test and went for the General after passing the Tech test and got both. So I started out on a good footing with it. I'm learning a whole lot about radio and how things work and giving me a better grasp on wifi and antenna design. I expect a lot of my posts will be about what I'm doing in Amateur Radio
  • Servers, I've been working to shut down my hosting account and I have a grandfathered google apps for business so I'm moving everything over to that as I'm tired of the spam. I bought myself a nice IBM server that is now a VM server I run from my house. I bought it with Bitcion actually through a friend. 
  • Just bought my first 4x4 truck and hoping to do a lot of back woods camping with it. At some point I'll be attempting to build myself my own truck camper, but for now we're just going to settle for a tent that fits into the truck bed.
So there is a quick update as to what I've been up to over the last few months (year?).