Personal Coolness

October 8, 2017

It had been a number of years since I had been on any kind of “vacation” lasting as much as a week. But my girlfriend and I had a wonderful time in Indian Beach, North Carolina on the Outer Banks for a week in August. All three of her daughters were in attendance, as well as her 3-year-old granddaughter. I didn’t have to drive, cook, or do laundry. It doesn’t get much better than that.

My 1998 Chevrolet has basically been running OK but needs some work. So, I had been considering a replacement. I got really interested in this new company, Carvana. I have always wanted to own a Camry, and I bought one from them. They delivered it on the last day of August. If you are in the market for a late-model used car, I highly recommend that you consider Carvana. You buy the car online, and they bring it to you. You have seven days to try it out, and can get your money back if not satisfied. Sure beat the heck out of car lots and sales people.


Hockey Underway

October 8, 2017

There has been lots of goal scoring in the young NHL season. I’ve already seen a 10-1 game and an 8-5 game.

The Blue Jackets opened at home Friday night with a 5-0 win over the Islanders. Sergei Bobrovsky got his 20th shutout in a Columbus uniform, which sets a new team record. Two kids got their first NHL goal, one of whom was playing in his first NHL game with his parents in attendance.

Columbus had a tough time of it in Chicago last night. Losing 5-1. Jonas Korpisalo was in goal, and will need to get better to be an effective backup to Bob.

Next up for the Jackets is a trip to Raleigh on Tuesday.


October 8, 2017

It’s hard to believe that the college football regular season is already half over. Ohio State and Kentucky are both 5-1.

All UK’s games have been close. After getting by Southern Miss and Eastern Kentucky, the Cats went to South Carolina and won 23-13. I believe that is four wins in a row over the Gamecocks. The following Saturday back in Lexington, the Cats lost a heartbreaker to Florida 28-27, after leading 27-14. That makes 31 wins in a row for Florida over Kentucky. 1986 was the last UK win, and the teams play every year. The Cats then hung on for a 4-point win over Eastern Michigan, and a 6-point win over Missouri last night.

Georgia has looked impressive in running up a 6-0 record, and is easily the class of the SEC East right now.

Ohio State’s five wins have all been blowouts, but the second game of the season was a 31-16 loss to Oklahoma in Ohio Stadium. The Bucks have issues in several phases of the game. Right now, I don’t think we are a good match for either Penn State or Michigan (although the Wolves lost to Michigan State last night).

Alabama and Clemson have played for the national championship the last two years, and there is an excellent chance they’ll do it again this season.

WordPress Problems

October 4, 2017

For a couple months now I have been unable to make a post here from my computer. But I am able to post from my phone. So, in the very near future I will make a “catch up” post to cover the last couple months.

July Wrapup

August 1, 2017

We haven’t had excessive heat so far this summer but it’s been plenty warm. Things should start cooling off a bit as we head into August. Hard to believe that Ohio State’s first football game is less than one month away.

One of my projects recently has been to gather up old railroad videos I made starting in the early 1990s and putting them on YouTube. You can see these at the link below, and more will be added. These were shot with a VHS camcorder and sure look bad compared to today’s high definition video :-).

June Wrapup

July 2, 2017

June is the best month of the year for Sporadic-E propagation, which is the primary skip mode for the six-meter band (50 MHz). I’ve managed to catch a number of openings this month, and have worked new Maidenhead grid squares and even some new countries. Sporadic-E occurs when the E-layer of the ionosphere becomes highly ionized, and begins refracting signals at much higher frequencies than normal.

The biggest weekend of the year in amateur radio is the fourth weekend in June which is Field Day, which is both a national contest and emergency preparedness exercise. Again this year I operated from home, but restricted myself to battery operation (as might be the case in an emergency) and low power (5 watts). I made about 180 contacts before my antenna developed a problem.

There was an excellent article in the May issue of QST magazine about installing Ubuntu-MATE on old computers. I had a bunch of old laptops running Windows XP, and have converted them to Ubuntu-MATE. Although I used Linux extensively while working at IBM I have not done much with it at home. I plan to explore ham radio and other applications on Linux in the near future.

On Memorial Day, a couple of us went out and visited a bunch of other Little Free Libraries in Lexington. I finally got the video assembled, and it can be found here:


May Wrapup

June 5, 2017

May ended up being a big month for me and my Little Free Library. I assembled some “message boards” for the side walls which I can use for information or decorations. I also got the idea to put a micro-power FM transmitter on the air with a continuous loop of information about the library. It is on 90.5 if you happen to be close by. I have a Facebook page for the library at:

For a long time I had been wanting to look at the other Little Free Libraries in town. A friend of mine and I did that on Memorial Day. I created a Flickr collection and will be adding to it as I visit other libraries. I am also working on a YouTube video. Here is a link to the Flickr collection:

I recently visited Rick Howard who operates the Antique Radio Warehouse in Berea. It is really a must-see if you are in the neighborhood.

Wrapping Up April

May 1, 2017

The Blue Jackets made a quick exit in the NHL playoffs, losing to defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh 4 games to 1. Columbus did manage to revive its offense, but goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t as good as he was during the regular season, and gave up a lot of goals. It was a good season, and I’m hoping the boys hit the ground running in October when the 2017-2018 season starts.

I’ve always been intrigued by robotic vacuums, but decided to wait until prices came down a bit. I recently acquired a Eufy RoboVac 11 and have found it to work quite well. It’s an amazing piece of engineering. You can find more details here:

RoboVac 11

I added a new ultralight to my radio collection, the Tecsun PL-360. Google it for more information. The main point of interest about this radio is that it has a jack to allow connection of an external antenna for the AM broadcast band. This is unusual among modern portable radios. It’s a great unit to have for anyone who wants to experiment with Ferrite Sleeve Loop or other antennas.

So far this year, I have probably done less ham radio operating than I have in the recent past. A lot of this is due to the generally poor propagation we’ve had as the current sunspot cycle winds down, probably hitting a minimum in the year 2020.

I don’t follow baseball very closely but I understand Kentucky has a good team this year. Very highly rated by the RPI, and they currently lead the SEC East.

A Couple of Interesting Software Defined Radios

April 3, 2017

For several years I have had a Perseus Software Defined Radio (SDR) manufactured by Microtelecom in Italy. The Perseus is an excellent radio and I have used it extensively for medium wave and long wave DXing. But it is not inexpensive.

There are other SDRs on the market at lower price points. I had not owned any of them until just recently.

The SDRplay has been popular since its introduction. A new version has recently been made available called the RSP2. The unit (including the SDRuno software) can be purchased for less than $200. A USB cable is required (not included) and you may need adapters for the antenna connectors. Details about the RSP2 are here:

The RTL-SDR dongle has been around for quite awhile. It was originally manufactured as a TV tuner. It was found that the I/Q data can be accessed directly, so the dongle can be used as an SDR. An overview is here:

Earlier versions were only capable of reception on frequencies above 24 MHz. There is a new version called the “RTL-SDR blog V3” that allows reception of much lower frequencies. This web page describes how this is done with a V3 dongle, using the SDRsharp software:

The RTL-SDR dongle is available for about $20. It is very small, with a USB connector on one end, and an antenna connector on the other.

Installing software and getting either of these SDRs running is not trivial but it is not difficult either. Readers should take a look at the respective web sites to understand the process. Among the various SDRs on the market today, there are a lot of variations in features available, and hence some SDRs may not work for a particular application. One thing for sure, there are SDRs available that provide a lot of capability for much less money than traditional hardware-only solutions.

Differential GPS (DGPS)

April 3, 2017

Long-time readers might remember me discussing listening to Non-Directional Beacons (NDBs) on the longwave band (frequencies below the AM broadcast band). A fairly recent addition to the inhabitants of longwave are the Differential GPS stations, which can be found between about 283.5 and 325 KHz. The Wikipedia page with background information is here:

As a digital signal, decoding software is required to be able to DX and log these stations. As luck would have it, Chris Smolinski of Black Cat Systems has written an excellent program called “Amalgamated DGPS” for Windows and Mac. It can be downloaded here:

The software can be run using real-time audio from a suitable longwave receiver (or an audio recording). It also functions taking an I/Q recording from a Software Defined Receiver (SDR). This is the way I use the program. I set up my Perseus SDR to record the entire DGPS range (283.5-325) for some period of time. This is an “I/Q” file. The software is then run using the I/Q file as input. It then lists the various DGPS stations it was able to decode.

For each station listed, make note of the “count”. Chris warns that the DGPS error detection protocol is not very robust, and false decodes are common. If the count is just 1, I would say it is fairly likely that a false decode has occurred.