I need a vacation… from me.

So here I sit, 10:30 in the morning, still in a bathrobe and slippers.  I would be dressed, but in addition to work I’ve been getting two keyers ready to ship.  I have half a dozen orders that need to get packed and mailed, email to be answered, and still need ot make a complete run through of the new keyer firmware to make sure all the debugging and diagnostic stuff is pulled and all the features work. On top of that I have 50 boards that need to be prepped for assembly…  in less than 2 weeks the magazine ad will hit peoples’ mailboxes, which means I need to do some serious assembly work by then.  I’m still trying to get the basement de-junked so Lisa can use what should be her sewing area.  The new antenna still isn’t up, need to order the support line and insulators.  I’ve got a piece of desk that needs finishing.  Haven’t been to the gym in two weeks, again, and that’s not good.  The list goes on, and on, and on.

This has been a pattern for – well, as long as I can remember.  I must have a damn short attention span or something, seems like everything gets about half done.  On the bright side, I think I have every Friday off from now to the end of the year, courtesy of my new employer’s crappy PTO carryover policy.  Maybe I can get enough stuff finished to get to a more or less normal life again.

The new phone book – I mean, Handbook’s here!

Navin R. Johnson said it best…

2010 ARRL Handbook
2010 ARRL Handbook

If you’re wondering why I care so much,I wrote a lot of Chapter 4, the new Digital Basics chapter.   Some came from the old Basic Electronics chapter, but I hope to have it completely rewritten for the 2011 edition.   I also have 3 projects in Chapter 24.   So, it’s pretty cool.   Besides,when you contribute to the Handbook you get your copy for free…   and every ham NEEDS at least one ARRL Handbook around.

Hacking at code again.

MK-1, now running V1.20 Alpha.

After a few weeks off, I’ve returned to hacking at the new release of MasterKeyer firmware.  In the past couple of days I’ve managed to add a couple of halfway nice features and improvements, and am now working on adding the last couple of emulation mode commands.  I think I’m going to discover just how many times you can plug and unplug a USB drive before the connector wears out.

Shack update

The new “shack” setup is in progress.  The main radios are up in the office/shack room, and I’ve got a new PC built for ham use.  I used mostly leftover parts from either older computers or projects that just didn’t work out, like the media center PC.  In the progress I’ve gotten much further with MythTV and some other stuff than ever before, but that’s a different story.

I have the wire cut for the Loop Skywire antenna, but it’s not up yet.  I may need to beg or borrow a HyperHanger from a buddy to get the thing up in the trees.  Right now I have a random length of wire out the window, which hears a little and causes massive RFI in the house when I try to transmit even with low power, so I haven’t made any contacts yet.  I really need to get that loop up before winter!

I’ve been playing with some ham radio apps for Linux.  The biggest problem so far has been the plethora of sound card mixers and management apps on the PC.  OSS, ALSA, and half a dozen others sometimes appear to compete for control.  I am going to try to remove some, but I suspect that dependencies will keep me from doing so.  I think one of the biggest challenges Linux faces is a complete lack of agreement, discipline or even half-hearted effort by app developers to standardize on ANYTHING.  If you want to run six different apps, chances are you’re going to have six completely different sets of dependencies that will cause problems with everything you try to do.

But that’s a rant.  The station is coming along, slowly but surely.  I figure by Thanksgiving I should be back on the air.

Busy day!

Got up early this morning to make it out to the Ak-Sar-Ben Amateur Radio Club’s hamfest.  It was pretty much a bust as far as sales, and to be perfectly honest it was about as small and sparsely attended as any I have seen.  Still, it was nice to see some of the guys, and I did pick up a couple of cheap LED flashlights.

Got home and put a coat of clear polyurethane on the new desk.  I hope it’s the last coat, but I’m not too confident about that.  It’s looking pretty well, the 400 grit sanding between coats of clear satin are doing wonders for the finish.  I’m hoping to get it brought up and put together tonight.

Then I mowed the lawn, front & back, and trimmed some tree branches that were hanging too low to suit me.  Our grand-niece Natalie was over for a while, so I pulled the Vespa out & we went for a little putt around the neighborhood…  her first time on a scooter, I’m sure!  The Vespa ran surprisingly well, and started right up the second time after I fixed a bad fuel line.  I think I’m going to put historical plates on it so it stays registered.

I’m making station plans…

Since I’ll have a nice new desk/operating table in a few days (mine is customized and even bigger than the picture) I’m making plans for the new, reborn ham station.  So far what I have planned is:

I have not decided yet whether to put the HW-16/HG-10B combo up here or not.  It depends on how much room I have to work with after everything else is in place.  I am also debating the VHF antenna issue.  I have a J-pole I can use, and a quarter wave vertical would be trivial to build for use inside the room.  There’s also a QST article about a quadrifilar helix that looks very interesting; I could put it in a corner and disguise it as a room decoration.

A new office

It’s nice to get out of the basement!

For the last couple of weeks I have been working on a new home office.  We took the carpet out of one of the empty bedrooms, painted the ceiling (thanks, Rob!) and walls, and I put in a bamboo wood floor.  After putting the trim is back in place, I ran phone, Ethernet and coax cable to a wall jack and moved my work laptop up here.  Now all I need to do is find some suitable furniture, as the computer table I am borrowing is really not the right height.

It’s looking like I may finally get a working ham station too.  There is a good sized window over the back yard, with a good run to two maple trees.  I had plans to run a number of end-fed half wave wires to the trees, but have decided to just run one end-fed wire instead and use a tuner.  I managed to toss a temporary run of around 70′ or so into one of the trees, and the rig’s internal tuner managed to match it OK on several bands.  Haven’t tried any contacts yet, maybe if I get a chance today.

Of course now I have to clean up the basement area where I had been working.  Ugh.

Dayton Hamvention 2009

Going to Dayton this year — first time ever. Lisa and I will be loading up the truck with as many kits & new keyers as we can carry.

Oops — did I say new keyers? Guess I must have slipped.

Addicted & obsessed

I’ve been completely absorbed in trying to get a new product finished. I’ve already pretty much committed to making it to Dayton this year with inventory to sell. I have all fo the basic stuff working, and quite a few of the “whiz-bang” new features that no one else has. I keep hammering at getting the code finished, or at least to the point where I feel comfortable to taking it to Dayton.

I have been hacking away at this code (which is now somewhere upwards of 7,000 lines of C) for months.  The last couple of weeks I’ve been doing that and virtually nothing else.  I can now copy a limited set of Morse characters at over 20 WPM, sometimes 30…  and I still have not been on the air in a couple of years.

So, if you know me, I apologize for being completely out of the loop.