Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How I got my antenna lines into my ham shack...

So over the holidays, I moved my computer den and ham shack from an 8'x10' room on the main floor to a 16'x11' room in the basement. The trick (as always) is to get the feed lines from the antennas on the roof to where the radios now are. I asked around with a few of my friends in the L'anse Creuse club, and the general response was "just drill through the mortar, that's what I did!" Well, I'm pretty hesitant to make any permanent holes in my house, particularly ones at ground level. So I kept pondering and looking at my options, and it finally occurred to me that there's an openable window in the room that would be easy to pass coax through. Being that it's now winter, and there's been snow for the last few days, I don't want to just open the window and pass the lines through. That will make this room even colder than normal, plus possible let it snow in here. Instead, I took a fairly easy solution and replaced the window pane with acrylic, and put barrel connectors through it.

First off, I measured the existing window. Then I went in search of some acrylic. Lowe's had some that was .22" thick, and I really needed 7/16". I decided two layers of the .22" would be fine. Next I drew the window pane in Visio, and included the holes I wanted for the PL-259 barrel connectors. I exported the file from Visio to a .svg file, and then took the acrylic and my data to i3Detroit. I am a member there, and they have a laser cutter that I knew would do way better than any manual 'score & snap' process I tried.

So, an hour later and with help (Thank you, Nate!) I had two identical layers of acrylic ready to go!

Here's the window that I'm replacing:
I took the window off the frame, brought in into the house (it's still cold outside), unscrewed the panels on the window, and removed the existing window (which is 2 layers of thin glasss and a plastic spacer between them:

Then I placed the new acrylic where the glass was...
and damned if it isn't too long! (I knew this project was going too smoothly.) So down to the basement I went, and used a Dremel cutting disc to trim the excess. That edge isn't as nice as the laser cut edges, but once the window is back together noone will see it anyway.
After trimming the edge, I put the acrylic back together, and placed it back in the frame.
Hooray! Now it fits properly. I screwed the frame back together, put the UHF connectors in their cutouts, and re-attached the window to the sill.
This is looking pretty good! What's that? The barrel connectors are on the wrong edge of the window? Firk... ding... blast! On the plus side, I'm getting really good at taking apart and re-assembling this window.
That looks better. I closed the window, attached my antennas, and all seems to be working pretty well at this point. I'm able to actually use my radios now. Hooray!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Back again, or so it seems.

So I'm a suck blogger.  This I know. Ah well.

I've been back into SL quite a bit lately. Escapades Island and the Goonies have definitely caught my imagination, and made my time in-world quite enjoyable.  I'm even working on coding up a faction database affectionately called the "Gang DB" so that we can implement a Gangs system for residents.  Its coming along quite well in my opinion.  It's nearly ready for prime time; most every test I can think of works fine. I just need a few others to start building GDB-enabled objects and really start using it to know where it's failing.

Also, wow.  March is a busy hunt month. both Twisted and Steam hunts are during this time. So naturally, I did both. And now I have to get through unboxing and sorting. Giant pain, and time sink.  But I'm down to about 50 Twisted stores to go through. Then I can unpack the ~180 Steam objects, and then I can unpack last year's Twisted loot, and then I can do the VGX hunt, Last Snow, Make Him Over 5 and 4, plus three or four TQ hunts. So yeah.  I'm in inventory hell.  My problem is the hunts appeal to my 'gotta collect it' nature which pains me in Real Life as well (Mongo can attest to that!).  I'm starting to be better in RL about not obtaining things just to complete a set, or that just sit around. But I digress.

I'm trying to get through a little each day, and I have a self-imposed rule that I'm not allowed to hunt until I unpack all the current loots. Which I should get back to. Right away. After I look at some funny cat pictures on teh intarwebs.

Friday, October 29, 2010

And.... we're back.

Ok, so I suck at blogging.  Part of that is that I don't think I'm that interesting of a person.  Also I don't think I say anything important that you can't figure out for yourself with a little Google-Fu.  But I've recently gotten back into Second Life, and found a pretty cool group to hang with: The Goonies.  Hanging out at Escapades Island and meeting some other goonies, plus doing the quests, and I'm having more fun in SL than I've had in years.  I've changed my Avvie because of this, shifting down to a 16-17 yr old.  I'm not sure I'm ready or able to make the jump fully into an SLKid Avvie, but I'm pretty close.

Last week's adventure was a trip to the Pyri Funfair, which was a hoot.  We started with a dozen or so Goonies, and kept getting separated through exploration, and deaths.  Eventually, it was Kit and I exploring together; running across other Goonies off and on.  But we finally made it down through the tunnels, and found the Prim of Life.  That's me on the left, in the awesome explorer's hat I found, and Kit, my companion for this adventure.

I think I'll definitely have to do more adventures like this.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Programming an ICOM HT using OPC-478U cloning cable on 64-bit Windows 7

As a new ham, I purchased my first HT at a recent swap: a used Icom IC-T8A.  And it's worked fine for me so far.  But while reading the manual, I noticed that the memories could be programmed with alphanumeric labels.  However, in order to do this you need an OPC-478 cloning cable and the CS-T8 cloning software.
Fortunately, my father had the USB version of the cable (OPC-478U) in his collection, and loaned it to me.  The CS-T8 software was (thoughtfully) included on a USB flash drive I got with the radio (along with the manual in .pdf format, and several other bits of documentation.)

So I plugged the USB cable into my PC, and Windows 7 installed drivers without prompting me.  Then I connected the other end of the cable into the radio, set the radio to CLONE mode, and double-clicked on CST8SU.BAT to start the software.

D'oh!  The software is old 16-bit DOS, and my 64-bit Windows 7 won't run it.  As it happens, I play a bunch of old DOS games on my PC, and know just how to get around this: DOSBox.  DOSBox is a DOS-emulator that runs fine on most any modern version of Windows.  So I downloaded and installed the latest version from the web (I was a couple minor revisions out of date), now I needed to know what serial port was being emulated by the USB cable.

To do this, I clicked the downward triangle that's the new Win7 system Tray, then right-clicked on the USB icon and chose "Open Devices and Printers".  Double-clicked the "USB <-> Serial" Icon, then selected the "Hardware" tab.  Here is where the COM port being emulated is listed (in my case, it's COM3):

Armed with this info, I needed to update the dosbox.conf to use this virtual serial port.  I added the following line to my config:
serial1=directserial realport:com3

This line basically says that the DOSBox serial port 1 (COM1) should be mapped to the Windows 7 COM3.  Then I copied the TC8A software into the DOSBox directory (I put it in a ./TC8A folder), and started DOSBox. I then connected the cable to the radio, and started the radio in CLONE mode.
At the "C:" prompt, I typed 'TC8ASU' to start the software:

I selected "Read from Port #1" since I'd emulated Serial 1 in the dosbox.conf file.  Then I had to put my callsign in. The software starts up, and I'm able to reprogram my HT from the software, even though it's too old for Win7 to care.
This method should work for most any older DOS-based software.  Check out the DOSBox website for more info, but it's my preferred tool for situations like this, particularly since i can map directly to existing hardware for serial connections.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


So, I found an RPG sim in Second Life that I'm getting into pretty well.  It's called INSILICO, and it's a cyberpunk-style environment.  I used to play CyberPunk 2020 back in high school, and still have a bunch of the books, so this is fun for me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

RepRap ftw!

I've been reading up on the RepRap, which is basically a 3D printer, i.e. a printer that can create physical objects, not just ink-on-paper.  I really want to build one of my own, but jumping in cold will be a challenge.  For now, I'm signed up on the reprap-michigan google group to follow the progress of local reprap users, and hopefully be able to attend a gathering of these fine folk to learn more.