Jan 6, 2021

GBM Brain Cancer Hits Home


On November 25, 2020 my beautiful wife Nancy was diagnosed with a large, cancerous glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumor. She had brain surgery on November 30 which was successful at removing a majority of the tumor. Now in the process of rehab, radiation and chemotherapy, I am spending most of my time caring for her.

If you are interested in riding along on our bittersweet journey, we are blogging our thoughts and experiences at savorthebittersweet.blogspot.com. Follow us, and if you're feeling generous, you may donate "a cup of coffee" to our Nancy Severn GBM Cancer fund running until January 17, 2021. You may also donate to our ongoing PayPal fund.

Blessings!

Ken K9KMS

Nov 17, 2020

Raspberry Pi 64 bit OS Boot from USB

The X857 mSATA shield makes a nice, clean package for a USB boot Raspberry Pi 4 with SSD

For some time now, I have been trying to get the Raspberry Pi 4 to boot from USB. A couple reason to make this change are, the integrity of SSD over the SD card is substantial, and of course the benefit of greater data transfer speeds. 

As more Pi fans jump on this wagon, hardware is becoming available for this specific upgrade. One example of this is the Gookworm X857 mSATA shield for the Raspberry Pi 4. This fits directly under the Pi 4 and connects with one of the USB-3 ports. Under the shield, I mounted a 120 GB mSATA SSD. 

To boot from USB on a Raspberry Pi 4 (4GB or 8GB), install the new Raspberry Pi 64 bit OS and the USB boot configuration will be exceptionally easy. Here are the simple steps to follow.

  1. Download, install, and update the Raspberry Pi 64 bit OS to a SD card
  2. Copy the SD card to a SSD and connect the SSD to the Raspberry Pi 4 USB-3
  3. Open Raspberry Pi Imager, write Raspberry Pi 4 EEPROM boot recovery to a clean SD card
  4. Shut down, remove the OS SD card, insert the EEPROM boot recovery SD card
  5. With the SSD connected to a USB 3, and the EEPROM SD card in, power up the Raspberry Pi
  6. A constant, fast flashing green LED and green screens means it worked
  7. Shut down, remove the SD card, and restart
  8. Grin at your new USB boot Raspberry Pi 64 bit system
The mSATA drive installed with the armor case bottom (upside down)

Nov 11, 2020

I'm Dreaming of a DX Station

To the tune of White Christmas, by Bing Crosby

Lyrics by Ken K9KMS

I'm dreaming of a DX station
Just like the one at HRO
Where the waterfall glistens
As my station listens
To hear grid squares from afar, afar

I'm dreaming of a DX station
With every contact card I write
May my mic be ready and tight
And my amplifier not throw smoke tonight

I'm dreaming of a DX station
Just like the one at HRO
Where the waterfall glistens
As my station listens
To hear grid squares from afar, afar

I'm dreaming of a DX station
With every contact card I write
May my mic be ready and tight
And my amplifier not throw smoke tonight

Nov 6, 2020

Yaesu FP-1030A Power Supply Meter Lights

I'm not sure why it's made this way, but the Yaesu FP-1030A linear power supply has no light for either the volt or amp meter. If you're like me, you wish the meters had lights too. After all, what good is a meter if you can't read it? Well, adding LED lights to the meters is very easy to do, and here's how.

A short virtual drive over to amazon.com and I landed on a 56 count box of 12 volt LED lights, in seven colors, for $7.09 with free Prime shipping. Not too shabby. I couple days later, the LEDs were here and ready to be installed.

Fourteen number 1 Phillips screws later, I had the cover off and the front pulled slightly away to allow access to the three screws holding the dual meter in place. Loosen the two bottom screws with one turn, remove the top screw, and the meter pulls out easily. Between the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, warm white, and white color LEDs, I chose white so it matches the light in my new Diamond GZV4000 switching power supply.

With a 2-inch piece of electrical tape, I secured one LED to the bottom of each of the two meter housings, with the LED light placed directly under the clear, fluted portion of the meter cover. Then I took some clear silicone caulk and applied a small amount of silicone to the LED and the bottom of the meter cover, enough to provide a good "weld" to secure the LED and help distribute light from the LED to the cover flutes. This works very well, by the way.

With the wire leads coming straight backwards from the bottom of the meters, I fed the wires over and soldered them to the feed wires at the back of the 10 amp cigar socket. These terminals were the most accessible to solder without further dismantling. A brief test found everything working, so I replaced the cover and put the power supply back in service. Now the Yaesu FP-1030A looks as nice as it works!


Oct 21, 2020

Last Salute to the Samlex SEC 1223

Back in 2008, shortly before I got my Technician license, I bought some of the basic ham equipment in anticipation of getting on the air. One of the first things I got was a Samlex SEC 1223, a 23 amp power supply. Not too big, and not too small, with enough juice to power my Yaesu FT-857D without complaint. 

Twelve years later, the Samlex continues to work well, in conjunction with a RIGrunner 4004U attached to the topside. In fact, this is what keeps the lights on for the homebrew 20 watt repeater and the 25 watt APRS digipeater iGate. For the sake of modernizing and staying better informed, a digital volt and amp meter is ready for installation into the center of the face. Or should I say, "was ready".

So the other day, right after I got the duplexer installed on the homebrew repeater, I turned everything on in preparation for testing. My buddy Stu KD9MNK, was standing by at his place ready to help with the testing and signal reports. We talked back and forth for maybe a minute and suddenly, POP! And just as suddenly, the repeater and APRS went dark as the smell of ozone crept into the air. A quick text to Stu, "I think I blew a fuse!" just to let him know I'm still alive.

With fast thinking, some fine-motor dexterity, and a couple of powerpole positions switched to another RIGrunner, I was back on the air, this time on the Yaesu FP-1030 linear power supply. "Cool!", I told Stu, "That was really loud for an internal fuse!" as we continued on with testing, thinking nothing more of it, except for the ozone in my nose.

A blackened PCB at the fuse clip

Later in the day, I removed the Samlex cover with the RIGrunner attached to it and noticed the 6.3 amp glass tube fuse next to the input power had popped, I mean really popped. A virtual trip to Amazon Prime and two days later, I had a small pack of fuses in my fist. Minutes later, the Samlex was ready to rock, so with the cover back on, I plugged in the power and flipped the switch. 

Reminiscent of a California brown-out, the lights in the living room dimmed for a second. Then the switch light on the Samlex turned off without a sound and the living room lights returned. "Hmm", I thought, "That's weird." I pulled the power cord and re-removed the cover. Being a little annoyed over the whole thing, I just kind of tossed the cover upside down on my desk, having no regard for the RIGrunner on top. As I was about to go after the second burned fuse, for some reason I glanced over at the inside of the cover. "What is that?", I thought, as I noticed a small amount of white residue that, based on the printed pattern, was applied at pretty high-velocity. That's odd, a mark I never noticed before. 

Looking at the location and pattern, I quickly examined the matching area components on the PCB, and there it was, the problem. And what a problem it was! Three capacitors in a row, all with their tops popped open and looking rather burnt, way across the PCB from the blown fuse. Wow! I guess that explains the loud POP! No wonder the fuses blew. While wondering what other parts have been compromised, I thought, "This is a good time for an upgrade". 

After a semi-virtual, COVID-modified, trip to HRO, a new Diamond GZV4000, 40 amp, 100% continuous duty cycle power supply is powering the repeater and the APRS digipeater without even thinking of breathing hard. And the RIGrunner 4004U has no complaints either.

If we could have a moment of silence, please, as I offer one last salute to the Samlex SEC 1223 before it goes to the great recycle bin in the sky... or the recycle bin at the township. Thank you.

Ah, no.  That part is not OK, and neither are the other two.

Oct 12, 2020

HughesNet Satellite Internet Tests

I've never been a big fan of satellite ISPs, and the latency tests (last pics) show one of the reasons why. And the rest of this rant are some of the other reasons. 

According to their website FAQ's page, the HughesNet geostationary satellite is 22,000 miles away. The stated max speed is 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. Right.

So, if it takes 10 seconds to get 25 Mb of data (2.5 Mbps), but then 60 minutes to get a second 25 Mb of data (69.4 Kbps), the average speed should not be 1.375 Mbps (data/time)+(data/time) / 2 data sets. The average speed should be 0.135 Mbps, or 135 Kbps (total data / total time fetching that data).

Remember this one from a couple weeks ago? Here's a screen shot while updating a Raspberry Pi. Note the speed. This was a 55 minute download of 84.8 MB, with about 40 minutes of this. Notice it's on the 4th attempt to get the data? Yes, 4th attempt.

Below is a HughesNet speed test. The actual time to complete the 2 MB download was 24 seconds, from the time the progress bar started, to finished. HughesNet states the speed is 1.41 Mbps. Hmm. My math says 2 Mb / 24s = 0.083 Mbps, or 83 Kbps. What kind of math do they use? Do they subtract all latency time, buffering time, break time, lunch time, etc?

Funny. Even so, by their standards, the speed on this run is way into the "crappy speed" zone, even for their crappy 12 Mbps, top-o-the-dial bliss zone. Oh, notice the Ping Time. It didn't even register. Welcome to every evening at my house on satellite.

These are some screen shots of the last 30 days using the Google Wifi app. Here again, calculations must be made only when the status is "active", as opposed to "waiting" or "buffering", or having a file restart 8 times because it thought the connection was completely lost (this happens frequently). These numbers? These are way off from reality. Again, even so, this is pathetic.

  

More good news. We live 2.0 miles east of a brand new fiber optic cable, and 1/2 mile north of a high-speed cable, but the ISP won't bring service this way because they don't want to, unless all the neighbors pay $3,500 each to get it installed (even though they equip subdivisions for free, knowing they will soon have customers).

AT&T has really old telephone lines in our area, and not enough nodes for us all to get a telephone line. They also offer DSL service, but unless one of the neighbors gives up their connection, no hard-line phone or DSL is possible. Who even thinks about being happy with DSL any more? Right?

Okay, back to latency. Is almost 4,000 milliseconds too slow? Who'd of thought? It's slow enough. That, combined with the constant buffering means, "no VPN for you". No VPN, no WIRES-X, nothing that needs any sort of constant, or low latency connection. Nope.

Even something as simple as Netflix must be set to the lowest quality video available, and still there's plenty of time to make the popcorn, while you "watch" the movie. Oh, and if it's Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night... Honey, where did you put the deck of cards? Wanna play 500 Rummy? We got time.

ELON MUSK!!!! Where are you?!?! I hope you're reading this! Where's my STARLINK?!?!

Okay, I'm done. Thanks for listening to my stupid rant. So, let's get on the radio! No LATENCY there!

Ha! ...just havin' fun!



Oct 7, 2020

APRS Digipeater iGate

Alinco DR-135T, Argent Data Systems T3-135 TNC

The APRS-SDR receive-only iGate project was fun to build, and great for seeing what's happening, real time, in the state. But one thing it doesn't do well is help non-iGate APRS users. This is where a simplex APRS iGate repeater can really help, by sending data as well as receive data. 

The APRS iGate repeater requires two things. First, a transceiver to receive and repeat data to and from local stations via RF. The second is an APRS-IS internet gateway connection. With the iGate, local stations can also receive wide-area data originating from the APRS-IS gateway, data outside the reach of their RF radios.

For example, take this poor guy who's arm fell off. They are out in the middle of nowhere, beyond the reach of getting help. But because his friend has an HT with APRS, and there is a nearby APRS iGate repeater, the ambulance guys can see right where they are, even though the stations are too far apart to receive each other's RF signals directly. Thanks to the simplex APRS iGate repeater, help is on the way. What a lucky break for this guy!

Components

  • Alinco DR-135T 144 MHz transceiver
  • Argent Data Systems T3-135 internal TNC for the DR-135, 1200 bps AFSK
  • Raspberry Pi 3B+
  • Armor case heat sink for the Pi
  • 32 GB SD card
  • LMR-400 flex coax
  • Diamond X-50 antenna

Software

  • Raspberry Pi OS
  • Direwolf
  • Xastir mapping


Busy downloading, configuring, doing other stuff... I'll get back soon.