Month: October 2012

Some marvels we take for granted in the 21st Century

I went on and ordered a book on the Raspberry Pi – I did it because I got the ship notice and am expecting the unit this week.

But it struck me, in less than 1 minute it was delivered to my phone.

The lead to me marveling at the speed of 4G LTE, and the fact where before I had to go to a bookstore, and maybe they had the book there, or they had to order and I’d have to wait. Now it’s instantaneous.

And the other marvels on my phone – web, email, music, video, the list goes on and on. I can even talk to amateur radio repeaters around the world from my phone. Well not just repeaters but people.

And then I start to think what went into this phone. It was decades of research – by the likes of Bell Labs, and then other companies labs that improved the state of the art. But key inventions like the MASER, transistor, LED, and whole bunches of technology in the phone are easily traced to Bell Labs. I wonder what the future will bring though.

Well – battery technology is improving. Thin and lightweight batteries with high charge densities will mean flexible electronics. That will be interesting.

But smaller, lighter, faster seems to be the trending that’s going on now.

Coolness – my Raspberry Pi shipped

I just got the email that it shipped yesterday via USPS Priority mail. It’s probably coming out of Fort Worth, TX – and USPS from there to Providence is usually two days. So I should get it between Monday and Wednesday.

It’s about time – and they did tell me back in August that I could expect it mid-October.

Coolness! And about damned time!

Issues sync’ing Yaesu VX-7r with VX-7 Commander

So I was having hit or miss results synchronizing my repeater and frequency list with my Yaesu VX-7RB. (The B means black annodized case.)

So I mucked around and I recalled that I had some issues setting up a com port below 8. It was because Windows had allocated the first 8 com ports. Grrrr!

Thinking this may have something to do with it I also went into VX-7 Commander and changed the port setting for delay from 15 to 25. Now it synchronizes just fine.

This brings up another point – why do amateur radio handhelds still hold to the old fashioned keypad and fudged data connection? Surely the SDR inherent in these radios has USB capability or even FTDI. And the buttons – touch screens have become very reliable.

But then it hit me – no need. My phone has the features I mention above and it has the Echolink app installed on it. I do need to find an IRLP application though.

But as I said in another post – Echolink depends on the network connection being available. In any type of widespread emergencies wired and wireless networks go belly up. They weren’t designed for emergency communications for all. In fact on all telecom switches there is a think called Class of Service and Class of Access. (COS/COA). Higher COS means you get priority through the phone system. But almost all of us have a lower COS. High COS is usually reserved for government.

So I’ll keep the radio – just in case.

What newspapers and magazines do I read

Newspapers first. I never read a single newspaper cover to cover, only articles that interest me. Those can be anything from hard news, political news, etc.

On the local front there is the not quite adequate to line the litter box with Providence Journal. Traditional newspapers are dying. For other local sources there’s the gay oriented Edge Providence, RI Future, Go Local Providence, Greater Cities Providence.

Then I use up my ten article limit on the NY Times quite often. I also read a number of article from the SF Gate, WSJ, the whole nine.

Magazines are a different story – there are only two I read regularly. Make Magazine and QST. The former is an O’Reilly publication that is for makers. I call myself one as I do occasionally build things. In fact I’m happiest when I am building something, be it a recipe or a new lighting system. QST is a magazine for the Amateur Radio community.

And books – oh boy. That’s a biggie for me. I’ve got VoIP: Internet Linking for Radio Amateurs by Jonathan Taylor K1RFD on order, should have it soon. I’m also re-reading a gay classic “The Dreyfus Affair” as well as having just finished reading a couple of other books. What can I say, I love to read.

It’s funny – I was looking for a book on my bookshelf the other day and realized I had loaned it to someone years ago. Ah well, found the digital version online for free so no big deal.

A Project I’m thinkng about

Not to mention other projects plus a job that are going to get going very soon. But I’m always thinking about how to make things better or extending things to other platforms.

This time what I want to build is a high-intensity LED array based bicycle tail-light with an accelerometer and a micro-controller.

Here is theory of operation:

– When the accelerometer detects a negative change in velocity the a full brightness LED array will flash at a 500ms on/500ms off ratio. When the accelerometer detects no forward motion the LED array will go full brightness on.

-Under acceleration the LED array will dim to 50% illumination.

Doing this with the accelerometer and micro-controller allows that no linkage to the actual braking system on a bicycle is necessary. It’s all senses based on motion.

I look at it this way: obviously power is an issue so it will probably be a rechargeable unit you pop off and charge via a USB connector. Probably use with Li-Ion or Li-Po. And when the Air-Ion batteries become commercially available switch over to one of those.

Now dissipation of heat may be touchy – but I can heat sink the sucker to the bicycle frame.

I have everything I need to prototype this – Arduino and MSP430 and PIC chips, high intensity LED’s, just need to pickup an accelerometer and they’re dirt cheap. But to prototype I’ll need to use a breakout board. It’s $11.95 – not bad. And looking at the datasheet for the chip itself – it’s an LGA package which means I’ll eventually have to design a circuit board, have a few produced and test. I’ll want to incorporate everything on the board, controller, power and output connectors, etc.

The reason I don’t like LGA – the pins are all underneath the package. Yes, I could reflow it in my toaster oven. But I’d have to time it and probably modify my toaster oven to get the temperature ramps right.

Check your Samsung/Android phone

Apparently there’s a scam going on where you’ll visit a web site that has a tel: link and it downloads a Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code that can wipe the data on the phone. You can try it out yourself by dialing *#06# – if your phone’s IMEI code comes up – you’re susceptible.

You can download an app called Lookout in the Google Play store. That way if you get a text to visit a link it’ll ask if you want to scan it and you’re protected.

RI Division of Taxation responds, sort of

So in my mail today and dated October 6th (It is now the 12th, six days later) is a notice saying they snatched my $717 refund to apply against what I owe them.  They also say I have ten days to pay the remainder. Interestingly they also mention you can discharge tax liability in bankruptcy. I have no intention of doing so but it does leave open the actual possibility of legal action on MY part against the STATE. Isn’t this wonderful.

Now here’s something to note. First of all it’s OCTOBER. So I have to ask, what triggered the generation of this form letter?
Seems I had posted this about their offer to give me a break. Note the date on that post – the 1st of October. Now I know from my stats that an ip address belonging to the State of Rhode Island hit that post on the 2nd.

The fact that you have to publicly shame the state before they’ll act is astounding. Of course I’ve learned over time that publicly shaming corporations, governments, etc. on this blog and on Facebook tends to get done what I want done.

But give me a few years to build my empire and I’ll kiss this crooked little state goodbye. I plan to deliver a bon mot to the boys and girls over at the Division of Taxation – perhaps an aircraft circling the State House and Admin building with my ‘fuck you’ message.

But here’s thing – when my empire gets to that size I will have enough money to buy a few politicians. You can see where I’m going here.  Keyron says I’m turning into Romney – but I told him the difference is when I buy politicians it will be  so everyone benefits, not just the 1%!

TMI Thursday: Complete this sentence


First attributions: Via Patently Queer who got it from Just a Jeep Guy

Dogs are…
Awesome mimics of human behaviors. I love dogs for that but two things prevent me from ever having one, the first of which is that dogs are a very big commitment. The second and not least important is that I am horribly allergic to dogs.

My husband is…
The absolute love of my life, smart, funny, talented.

I love…
Goading the bigots. I guess the problem is I know their texts as well or better than they do. So I absolutely LOVE getting under their skin and driving them nuts.

I hate…
The fact that we’re now 12 years into the 21st century and still dealing with religious bigotry from Catholics, Baptists and fundamentalists of all stripes.

I need…
To know things are secure even though I know that isn’t ever possible in this world.

I am…
A warrior, seriously. I don’t give a rats posterior who it is, poet, priest or politician. I’m going to call them out when they make ludicrous statements.

Bonus Question

Sex is…
Not such a mystery per se. And can be lots of fun!


And since I might be doing this regularly again, I’ve created a template for it.

The Echolink Bug Has Bitten

So I got my confirmation email from Echolink. All verified and setup.

But they had a book offer – VoIP: Internet Linking for Radio Amateurs by Jonathan Taylor, K1RFD.

Now the book – it covers how to get your repeater or station on the Echolink system and devles into Echolink theory. But it also covers H.323 and Asterisk too. Sure I’m an I.T. guy who knows databases and network communications really well, but I also know telecom systems really well too. So I think I’ll enjoy reading this book.

And I did throw my resume into a local university for a Telecom Manager job. The specs or the job said radio experience was necessary. Yep, got that in spades. I know what R.F. Burns feel like too!

And I know what’s going to happen I have a shot at two different jobs, but I really prefer academia for some reason.

A New Android App I love

It’s called Echolink. If you didn’t know I hold not only my Amateur Extra class license, but also my Commercial Radiotelephone license.

There are two ways to link amateur radio repeaters together on the net, one is IRLP (Internet Repeater Linking Protocol) and Echolink.

Echolink connect screen
Echolink connect screen

Echolink search
Echolink search

If you have your FCC issued license – go ahead and download it and check it out:

Just scan to get Echolink

It is available for IOS and Android devices. Requires Wifi, and a minimum of 3G cell service.

In RI there are a few repeater networks that are on Echolink. But not just that – it’s repeaters on EVERY band and all over the world. So for instance I can talk to a friend out in the Seattle area just by tapping the 7 zone in the search and then selecting a repeater near him. It’s pretty damned cool.

But not all repeaters in the area are on Echolink yet. So I still need to have my Yaesu VX-7RB. It’s a rugged MIL-STD and submersible quad band radio. It coves the 6m, 2m, 1.75m, and 70cm bands plus has a general coverage receiver.

VX-7R underwater
VX-7R underwater

I chose the one in black:

VX-7RB Black
VX-7RB Black

And I suppose I’ll keep it around since while it’s nice to be able to hit my favorite repeaters on my phone, that requires either WiFi or digital phone service. And in the SHTF scenarios, digital phone services go belly up mighty fast.