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Thursday, February 2, 2012

(Long) Cable storage

This might be obvious to some of you, but it's only just occurred to me, so I thought I'd share for those of you who've been suffering along with me.

I have various boxes that I use to store cables in. Often they're coaxial cables of various types, or audio cables and maybe they're power cables or the like. They tend to be inflexible.

Putting cables into boxes is a sure way to get them tangled with each other, so it makes sense to roll the cables up.

In order to stop the cables becoming unrolled (and tangled) in the box I've used all sorts of things such as tying knots in the cables themselves, using various types of tape and sometimes I've used twist-ties or even cable ties. Each of these methods has problems: knots come undone, tape deteriorates and becomes a sticky mess, twist ties risk damaging the cable and cable ties are one-use.

I now use the same sort of cable tidy that I'd use to bind a bunch of cables together and run them in a neat and tidy way at the back of my desk or TV unit. My two favourites are the spiral wrap and the velcro tie. Cut a few short lengths of these, roll your cable into a convenient circumference and secure it with two or three of the spiral wrap or velcro tape. They both work well with a minimum of stress to the cable itself, they're clean and easy to remove and they're re-usable.

I don't know why I haven't thought of this before.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Testing the Elecraft T1 Automatic ATU

Basic testing worked just fine. The unit powered up, the morse information display appeared to be working and satisfying relay clunks were heard when putting the unit into and out of bypass mode.

After sorting out some appropriate cables I tested the unit with my FT-817ND in the backyard with a 7 metre squid pole and a couple of counterpoise wires. I tested 80-10 metres successfully!

Tuning took a few seconds of relay clattering to accomplish but SWR was fine at both band ends and band-middle for each band.

I purchased the optional FT-817 control cable. This appeared not to work, but I suspect that is because it has made some assumption about the CAT data rate and I've modified it. I'll sort that out next.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Electraft T1 Automatic ATU Kit

I recently finished construction of the Elecraft T1 Automatic Antenna Tuner Kit. It's a very high quality kit and pretty easy to construct if you already have some kit experience.

More Information:

Elecraft T1 Automatic ATU Kit

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Up! Printer in Windows XP VirtualBox VM in Linux

I've successfully installed and configured the Up! 3D Printer driver software in a Windows XP VirtualBox VM under Linux. It's quite straight-forward with only one real issue to tackle.

My environment:

  • Linux Ubuntu 11.10
  • VirtualBox 4.1.8
  • Windows XP Service Pack 3
  • Up! Software version 1.15

  1. Build the VM. I used 1Gb RAM and 128MB of Video RAM. I don't think either of these are particularly critical for this application. I enabled 2D and 3D video acceleration. Everything else is up to you.
  2. Power-On the Up! printer and start the VM.
  3. Start the VM and from the VirtualBox Device menu enable the USB device for the Up!. On my system it was called: "China Free MC. 3DPrinter"
  4. On the Windows XP desktop, right-click the desktop and select the "Properties" option.
  5. Select the 'Settings' Tab.
  6. Select the 'Advanced' dialog.
  7. Set the Hardware Acceleration slider to the second from 'None' position, or fully to 'None' if you wish. This step is necessary because the Up! software uses GL instructions that the VirtualBox display driver does not support. This setting provides sofware emulation (I think) that allows the software to work.
  8. Install the Up! software in accordance with the standard installation instructions.
  9. Start the Up! software
  10. Test. All should work ok.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

H.F frequency agile - finally

It's taken me 18 months, but I've finally gotten around to installing my Icom AH-3 automatic antenna tuning unit. I've had a useful 20 metre dipole in place for some time but I want to use 30, 40 and 80 metres too.

The AH3 I acquired second hand some time ago and fortunately it works. I've bolted it into position on the roof, supplied it with a good ground and am currently feeding about 10m of copper with it. I'll re-route the driven element later, it's currently a bit low.

The one-touch tuning on the IC-706 makes it pretty simple to use and my current bit of wire seems to tune just fine from 180-10m.

I'm not expecting great performance from it, but given my limited yard-space it's a compromise that I'm happy to make if it means getting me back on air on HF again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Current Podcast Listening List

My Android phone travels with me constantly. One of my favourite applications for it is a podcast manager/client called 'listen'. When 'listen' is working (a story in itself) it transparently manages downloading my favourite podcasts onto my SD card so that I can listen to them whereever I am with or without network access.

I've accumulated a list of podcasts that are pretty much my staples now and I thought I'd share them with a comment as to why I like them. They are unashamedly dominated by science casts as I find this medium about the only way that I get to regularly consume science now.


All in the Mind

I'm fascinated by brains and nervous systems and intelligence and thought and the things that can go wrong with them. Natasha Mitchell has an engineering background and does a fantastic job of hosting this program each week. Ironically thought provoking.

60 Second Psych

This program is prepared by Scientific American magazine and pithily describes an interesting and topical story of psychology in 60 seconds.

60-Second Science

This program is prepared by Scientific American magazine and pithily describes an interesting and topical story of science in 60 seconds.


The presenter of this program sounds far too chirpy and up-beat to sound credibly like a scientist himself, but balanced against the scientists he interviews it kinds works. If you're interested in keeping up to date with some of what the C.S.I.R.O. are doing this podcast is great.

Discovery Now

I presume this podcast is a spin-off of the Discovery channel. It presents succint coverage of a topical U.S-based science story.

Groks Science Radio Show

These guys are the real deal. Dr. Charles Lee and Dr. Frank Ling have been hosting this quirky show for a number of years now and I love it. Originally based in University of California Berkeley the show is primarily now centred around a well conducted interview with a featured guest each week. It's got a nice balance of science and quirky humour that I enjoy.

NASACast Audio

What's not to love about NASA? This is a weekly news show with good depth.

Ockham's Razor

While not strictly confined to science this show features special guests talking on a range of relevant and topical subjects of their choosing, thematically centred around William of Ockham's famous principle: "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem". Great speakers, interesting topics.

Quirks and Quarks

Science news from Canada. We don't hear much about what the Canadians are doing (outside of their television productions anyway). This show is Canada's Science Show and Bob McDonald is a great speaker and interviewer.

Science @ NASA

Another NASA podcast, but this one comes with a quirkiness and an earthiness that I think makes it more compelling and credible than some of its more heavily produced peers. One interesting and short story per episode.


There is only one way to say "Star Stuff" and that is Stuart Gary's way. It's quirky and Stuart has an annoying habit of interrupting and talking over his interview guests sometimes but if you're into Astronomy and Cosmology there is nothing better than comes from this country.

The Science Show

This show has been around forever, a testament to its quality. The show is sometimes irritatingly biased toward U.K-based research and sometimes feels a little slow and heavy-going but in every other respect is a must-listen.

This Week in Science

Kirsten ("Dr Kiki") and Justin host this refreshing science program each week. It's another organic program primarily driven by the personalities of the hosts, but I enjoy it. Sometimes they ramble, sometimes they forget what they're talking about but most of the time it's fun. I love the theme song and the over-all theme of enthusiasm for science is infectious.


Health Report

I love this program and admire its host, Dr Norman Swan. It's interesting, factual and compellingly no-bullshit coverage of medicine with a focus on relevance to Australia.


This is a new podcast to me, but it's already one of my favourites. Produced by the U.S. National Institute of Health it is remarkably palatable and covers stories of topical interest in medical research and practice.


Philosopher's Zone

I love Allan Saunders' voice. It's deep and rich and resonant and I listen to every word he says. I'm not going to pretend for a minute that I understand anything much about philosophy but I find this program fascinating and Saunders almost has me convinced I should learn more, either way I'm continuing to listen.

Old Time Radio

Horror Stories

I'm a big fan of short fiction and short fiction dramatised for radio works even better for me. This feed is of "old-time" radio horror stories. Some of my favourite authors are represented.

Old Time Radio Scifi

Old Time Science Fiction Radio? Do I really need to say any more?


Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4

The BBC publish an enormous amount of online material. This feed currently provides the "Now Show" which is a funny take on the past week of UK politics. Hilarious during the past election, not the least for the parallels to our own comedic troupe.

Scotland's Funny Bits

This is a bit of an unusual choice. It's essentially a mash-up of out-takes from Scottish BBC radio. I like it for the funny accents and the strange things they say, it all seems pretty relaxed and human.

Shut Up Weirdo

This is one of my favourites. You take a witty, good-natured male Baby-boomer and pair him up with a sassy, rapier-witted female Gen-Y and then sit them in New Jersey amongst a collection of bizarre and quirky Jerseyites and New-Yorkers dialling in to tell their stories relating to whatever the topic of the week is. Andy and Frangry run this show like it's Lord of the Flies on Sesame Street. I love Frangry's voice, it's like the mewing of kittens, the cooing of Doves and the shick of a tempered blade being whetted on a stone.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

I have something from CNN on my list, go figure. This show is a collection of weird news stories from around the world. I sometimes find the stories from Australia the funniest, as much more how they're told as what they are. It's fast-paced and makes me laugh.

Other podcasts have moved in and moved out, but these I listen to every episode of. What am I missing?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An impromptu field test of my FT817 and Squid pole.

I recently acquired a second-hand FT817. It's got warts but it is never-the-less a capable little rig that I purchased specifically for HFpack purposes.

Only yesterday I'd purchased three heavy duty 7m squid poles and spikes from Haverford Pty Ltd, a local supplier in Sydney. I don't mind plugging these guys as their product seems very good quality and was a great price. As soon as I walked in the door and asked for squid poles the response was: "For radio use?". I guess I don't look like the fishing type :^)

Today, while on leave from work with the kids who are on school holidays we took them bike riding at a large nearby park. It occurred to me that this would be a good opportunity to give the radio a try.

Anyway .. I quickly grabbed a back-pack, the FT817, a squid pole, a spike, a pair of diagonal-cutters, a length of wire, my old antenna tuning unit and a patch cable and stuffed, or strapped stuff onto the bike before I went. It literally took me about 20 minutes to collect and pack the relevant bits and pieces.

After arriving at the park I found a shaded spot and stuck the spike into the ground helped by a handy bit of wood as the soil was firm. I threaded a length of wire inside the pole and used the rubber cap at the top to hold it in place. A strap around the spike secured the pole into the spike. Another length of wire run along the ground served as a counter-poise. Connected both to the tuner and the tuner to the radio.

After working out that I had the radio misconfigured to use a filter that wasn't installed, everything was up and running. Again, it took about 20 minutes to assemble.

I didn't bother trying to make contact with anyone this time, I didn't have time to charge the batteries. So instead I tuned the antenna for all HF bands in turn and listened about to what was to be heard. I've been out of touch with HF for quite a few years. I was surprised. This setup seemed to work really well for something thrown together with little thought or planning. I spent a short time listening to some Shortwave thinking about what I'd do differently next time and then packed up again to join the kids.

I'm pretty enthused. I've got my eye on the Elecraft T1 tuner; it looks perfect for my intended use. Now to plan the hiking trip :^)