Sunday, 22 May 2016

Hamvention 2016

Did a long day at Dayton Hamvention yesterday...

where we had a mix of rain and overcast, exactly as on the Saturday of last year.

Once again, we Brits were represented by the RSGB stand in its familiar location...

Walking around the flea market I was delighted to bump into Kristen, kb3oqv

Kristen is known as Antenna Hair Girl (she's not just standing in front of a tower - it is worked into her hair) and, what's more, it was working as an antenna for the HT she's holding up in the photo!

Best of all, Kristen is a fellow member of Portage County Amateur Radio Service - she came to my talk a few weeks back. Her folks farm Buffalo and (as I can confirm personally) those animals sure taste fine!

Make sure you visit the Dayton Hamvention at least once in your Amateur radio career.

...-.- de m0xpd

Friday, 20 May 2016

FDIM and the WBB

FDIM 2016 is well under way ...

I gave my presentation, "Occam's Scrip", as part of the seminar series yesterday and I seem to have got away with it! (I'll post copies of both the written paper and the slides online when I get back to the UK). I also sold some copies of my new book during the vendors' event last evening.

Yesterday afternoon, delegates had opportunity to participate in what was billed as "The World's Biggest Buildathon" (WBB), organised by FDIM stalwart Rex Harper, w1rex, (of Tuna and QRPme fame).

The WBB was an opportunity for all to make a simple 20m transmitter, distinguished by the fact that no soldering was required.

Rex and his helpers had done a heroic job to put together 300 kits...

which were passed out to the assembled multitudes

and Rex (and some helpers) gave personal assistance to get everybody going with the 'plug in' build.

Here's Rex in action...

Very soon, some working transmitters were assembled - one of the first I spotted was completed by Harold, ke6ti...

As if all the efforts of yesterday weren't heroic enough, Rex is running another 'regular' Buildathon even as I type - I'll go down and take a look at how things are progressing.

Respect and kudos to w1rex - his contributions to FDIM over the years continue to amaze!

...-.- de m0xpd

Author Event

Earlier this week we went back to Saint Marys, OH, to visit with Larry Kramer - owner of Saint Marys Hobby Center. We had first met a year back, when we parked our rental car - by chance - outside the same store on Wednesday, 13th May, 2015 and heard Larry tell the story of the Miami and Erie Canal, which runs through Saint Marys and explains the nearby Great Lake.

It was Larry's infectious enthusiasm for history and his natural gifts as a storyteller which turned my intentions to keep a private journal into the idea to write something more public - so, naturally I wanted to thank Larry and give him a copy of my book...

Larry had already read the library's copy of my book (!) but I wanted him to have his own, personal copy. Larry was even promoting my book on his store front...

The next day, we visited some more of the remains of the canal, particularly in the nearby town of New Bremen, which boasts restored lock in the centre of town and a lock-keeper's cottage, now used as a museum and the offices for the Chamber of Commerce...

Then I was pleased to give a talk about my book at an 'Author Event' at Saint Marys Community Public Library, in which I picked up the theme of the local canal and the importance of waterways to the opening up of the entire US economy - the same story taught me by Larry, repeated in chapter 11 of my book and picked up again as the story was repeated on our journey west last year.

I was fortunate that my talk was attended by a talented reporter from The Daily Standard, Claire Giesige, who gave my talk a really nice write up in the next day's edition...

Thanks to Beth and all the staff at the Library who made the event possible - I had a great time.

...-.- de m0xpd

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Listen Up!

Yesterday we were back on our favourite highway (the one that goes straight to Laramie)...

This time, we were headed out of PA into Ohio...

Then we took the Ohio Turnpike to Portage County and the City of Kent, OH, to meet up with Tom, wb8lcd. Tom and I had met last year at FDIM and we had arranged that - if ever I were in Portage County - I should look in at the Portage County Amateur Radio Service. Yesterday was my chance...

I gave a presentation about audio in amateur radio, which I'd entitled 'Listen Up!'...

On the evidence of last evening's meeting (and on seeing the excellent newsletter, the 'Radiogram') PCARS is a lively, active club, covering the whole breadth of our hobby and reflecting the service which PCARS members pours back into the local community.

It was a pleasure to meet with members and to be able to make my little presentation, which they appeared to enjoy (they neither lynched me or threw anything!)...

In fact, the welcome was so warm that I was elected an Honorary Life Member of PCARS during the meeting - I am proud and delighted to be associated with this fine club. Trouble is, it is going to be rather expensive to get to many meetings (but it is another good motive to attend the Dayton events!).

In addition to the warmth and kindness of all PCARS members and the extraordinary hospitality which Mary, Jennifer and Tom are extending to Deborah and me, I want to say a special thanks to Chuck, w8pt for the personal gift he gave me.

73 from Portage County.
...-.- de m0xpd

Friday, 6 May 2016

Tour of Duty

Today the XYL and I set off on another spring trip across the pond...

This time I'm set to meet with the good folks at Portage County Amateur Radio Service

who I'm going to bore with one of my presentations, before going on to an Author Event (it's art, darling!) promoting the new book at the Community Library in St Marys, OH.

Then it's down Interstate 75 to FDIM for another magic lantern show

and a trip to the Dayton Hamvention, where we might even sell a few copies of the book.

Our journey home includes a few days in Iceland and another talk at the Íslenskra radíóamatöra club in Reykjavik

There's going to be lots of time for tourism between these 'gigs', taking in Toronto, Niagara Falls, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, visiting our friends up in Michigan, etc... that's what I'm telling the XYL!

Greatly looking forward to meeting folks along the way, so please make yourselves known - let's have an 'eyeball QSO', preferably over a beer!

I rather pre-empted this 'spring trip across the pond' by an unexpected business trip to Texas a few days ago - so I'll be back in North America for the second time within a week. Unfortunately, that trip forced me to cancel a booking for a talk at the Chester and District Radio Society. I apologize to members there who I was forced to let down (and to Steve, g6fdk). I shall be pleased to reschedule a talk at Chester for a later date.

I'll try to post news from Dayton (and other points along the way)

...-.- de m0xpd


Monday, 25 April 2016

RSGB Awards

Spending a few days up in M-land, during which time I have been proud to receive a brace of awards at the RSGB Annual General Meeting.

The first was the Wortley-Talbot Trophy...

which, I'm told, was given for 'outstanding experimental work in amateur radio', specifically for my 'Parallel IF' article in RadCom back in January 2015. There was an FA Cup semi-final fixture played on Saturday and the trophy rather put me in mind of the Soccer prize!

The second award was the Don Cameron G4SST Memorial Trophy...

awarded (according to the RSGB's nice letter) for "outstanding contribution to low power amateur radio communication" and specifically for "actively passing on (my) knowledge to others in the field, including Digital QRP".

The Don Cameron award shuns the traditional trophy format and takes instead the more sensible shape of a CW rig with integrated paddle, all mounted on a plinth. It was nice to see my name on a new engraved plate on the plinth, along with the great and the good of British QRP - many of whom I am honoured to count as friends. The big 'cup' had been engraved too.

I couldn't help but massage my vanity by taking a picture of my two awards...

Whilst here in Glasgow, the XYL and I have taken the opportunity to steal a pleasant 'city break' weekend away from the pressures of work, visiting the many museums and architectural delights of this great city.

One of the real highlights is the Necropolis, where the great and the good were buried in earlier years...

From this 'City of the Dead', high on a hill over St Mungo's Cathedral, you get good views over today's living, vibrant city.

Come to Glasgow - to get an award or just to enjoy an interesting visit to a fantastic, welcoming city.

...-.- de m(m)0xpd

Sunday, 10 April 2016

A Beacon on the Internet of Things

Well - I just got my new beacon closer to where I want it: responding to remote "on / off" commands delivered from anywhere in the world via the internet.

I used the tutorial on as the basis for my solution, which now allows me to send an enabling command to the beacon of the form:

As you see, this is just a http command issued from a browser address line - but it can easily be issued by any web application. The red x's conceal my beacon's 'i-d' - I don't want you to hack into it and turn it off! The beacon 'wakes up' from power on or reset in disabled mode and will not start transmitting until I have issued an enabling command of the form above.

Although Open Home Automation's tutorial is about remote switching a physical, hardware relay, my beacon enablement is all achieved in software. I have made no hardware modification to add the remote enable / disable feature. 

When the beacon receives the enable command, it responds with a simple message in JSON format:

The name is a nice, human-readable confirmation that it really is my beacon responding.

If I want to shut down operations, I just send a similar command to disable transmission:

which stops the action and prompts an acknowledging message:

Obviously, this is only the first step to what will one day be a nice, custom interface but it works, so heck - it's time to test it... 

I checked that I really can 'Man' the 'Manned Experimental Propagation Transmitter' even when I'm not actually 'in the building' this weekend. In the inset on the map below, you can see your humble servant enabling and disabling the beacon remotely from Flamborough Head Lighthouse, some 120 miles from the shack and the beacon...

All worked f/b.

The beacon is still getting all its timing information from an NTP server on the 'net as well as responding to my remote 'commands'. It feels like it is now at the qualifying level where it really is out there on the Internet of Things (as opposed to just some little micro with a WiFi connection).

In the meantime, the beacon has been putting in a good performance, reaching out to the antipodes and South Africa...

and to Greenland...

and doing its ordinary QRSS stuff in between WSPR transmissions.

As I have said before - big thanks to all those who receive and report WSPR and other beacon modes: all these Tx experiments would be worth nothing without the continuing efforts of receiving stations.

...-.- de m0xpd