All posts by KK6GXG

The coming New Year

This year has been one heck of a wild ride and it’s not qite over yet. This post is mostly a “yes, I am still alive” post. I want to do a year in review post a little later in the month. It is certainly due. If you are actually reading my blog, thank you, and I should have something more substantive to post before the New Year.

update 22-28 December 2023

A big part of this year was shedding volunteer responsibilities to focus on finishing school. I am a dedicated life-long learner but I needed some sheepskin to progress in the academy and career. This month I completed my first M.A. in History (American History) and next month I start my second M.A. in Public History (museums, monumments, buildings, sites, etc.). Due to stratieginc course selections I will be able to complete the second degree in December of 2024.

With all of the academics, radio has had to take a back seat. I haven’t done anything radio related since August 2023 and I am not likely to get back to it until January 2025. I will try and post a bit befor then, incase I don’t get back here for a while, this is the reason. I do plan on getting back to the hobby after school.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

Hiatus

You may have noticed that most of the update dates at the bottom of pages is August 10th, 2023. This is because I am cleaning house befor taking a radio hiatus.

There are many reasons, but they are personal and some have taken an urgency that requires my full attention. The time I am taking to write this post is a rarity right now. I have been shedding volunteer commitments for a while now to try and recapture some of the time I need for school.

Those efforts have been mostly successful, however I now have other constraints on my time that require a full shedding of volunteer work. This is a short post but I thought it nessesary. More to come next year.

Another year…

It’s been another crazy year. I have been mostly focused on my master’s degree so I haven’t been able to participate outside of the basics and taskings. With the club, I have been keeping up but just barely. The same goes for ARES. My responsibilities in the field organization continue to expand, which is good, I’m not complaining about the responsibilities I have taken on, I just haven’t had much time to enjoy them. By in large, they have been administrative taskings so I haven’t been doing much building which has taken a toll.

At the weekly breakfast, I mentioned that the hobby has been more work than fun for a while. I think that may have put a few on edge, but it is true. School is a constant and I don’t see that going away for at least another year, I will complete my second master’s in May next year. I want to pursue a Ph.D., but I will need a break after grad school. I have some public history work lined up and I am hoping I will be more participatory in radio soon.

To that end, I am poking at PicoBallooning with some of the hams in the club. I ordered up a bunch of parts and pieces to get started in this segment of the hobby. I already have a lot of skills in APRS, packet, and sensors, microcontrollers, and singboard computers so I’m not blinded by a huge learning curve, and my aviation experience doesn’t hurt either. I would like to see us develop an actual aeronautical telemetry program but we will have to see where things go.

I also want to pick up on some of the projects that got left in the dust before moving like the Beach 40 which has been on hold since November 2015! Some of my original goals for that project have shifted, and I’m not so intent on using only discreet components as I was when the project started. There will be a reevaluation and planning period before melting solder on that project but it is on my list to get back to.

Also on the list and of greater urgency is the BPQ Node documentation project. I have three nodes to build as part of the club infrastructure upgrades in the late spring/early summer, depending on how soon we will have access to the mountaintops, enclosure roofs, and towers. This one comes first, well, parallel with some of the balloon experiments.

Added to the shack tools this year is a 3D printer, an ELEGOO Neptune 2S. It has already put in considerable benefit to the radio hobby by helping me provide cases for the BPQ upgrade project and other similar projects. I am just getting my feet wet in the 3D printing hobby but so far it is a lot of fun. I have avoided CAD for circuits and 3D modeling for a long time, it’s time to go down that road.

ARES has been tasked to provide asset tracking for a couple of parades and a foot race this year. A handful of us in ARES are working on building low-cost, low, power APRS units with an eye towards expansion into WX and sensor telemetry, multitasking the equipment. This tied into the balloon hobby as well so we have a lot of crossover in participants. I also submitted a grant for CDCA for an off-the-shelf tracker solution for the parades that we can expand on based on our other experiments in telemetry.

Lots to do, but for now, it’s back to the books.

The last year and a half was a thing

Starting with the whole COVID-19 thing, then the west coast on fire, and being swamped with school, it seems like I haven’t posted much, seriously, it’s like 2021 didn’t happen. I’m okay with that for the most part.

So, The family escaped at least through April 2022 with non of us getting COVID. This is good. Family back east did catch it, but all is well, or at least that is what they tell us.

I finished my Bachelor of Religion in the fall and started my Masters in the spring. I am now in the last few weeks of the fall term. I have three more terms to complete my Master of History, so next spring I should be wrapping the M.A. up. I am considering going to commencement, but I doubt I will.

Will I move on to a terminal degree? Dunno. I am planning on a second M.A. in Public History, museum and archive studies. I am also considering additional degrees; M.A. Military History, M.S. Political Science, and M.S. National Security. After I make those decisions I will revisit the Ph.D. History.

As my choices in degrees may indicate, I am interested in Conflict History and Statecraft. The time period is a bit more nebulous, 19th -21st century. When it comes to Conflict History studies often span centuries.

I just wanted to touch base, hopefully I will resume here before I finish a Ph.D.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

Bad Scientist, No Biscuit!

So here’s what happened…

I have been building up a parts stock to build several BPQ nodes. While building the stock, I have been slowly moving forward in learning the BPQ software and refreshing my way-out-of-date Linux skills. Seriously, I had to go back and look up how to check my root volume size (df -Bm) while setting up an imaging tool. Sad to think all the skills I have lost over time from lack of use.

Anyway, while installing the image-backup tools I realized I have not been documenting the build process! My main plan was to build an image that I can install, modify, and deploy in a day, assuming the hardware is the same. But I was forgetting the other part of my plan, to train others to build nodes AND maintain them.

Building the Nodes for folks is all well and good, but it is short sighted and really doesn’t further the main goal; building a resilient, wide-area, communications network that operates over multiple channels AND building a core cadre of builder/maintainers who can and will mentor others, expanding the physical network, and the network of builder/maintainers.

Fortunately, the project is still early enough in the build phase that I can go back to the beginning as Vizzini from Princess Bride would suggest. I have a few Raspberry Pis’ so I can keep the active Node online as I move forward. The available parts I have in stock will allow me to keep moving forward as I backtrack on the documentation.

End of an Era

More than a decade and a half have passed since I picked up the FlyBoyJon moniker and domain name. As an aviation focused blog I posted a lot on my aviation training as a pilot, instructor, and mechanic. At one point I began an experimental aircraft build which, after cooler heads and some education on the subject, stalled, and not in the aerodynamic sense.

As my focus has shifted over the years, I have combined blogs and sites. My personal and aviation sites have long since been absorbed into this site. I have kept some of the domain names strictly for email purposes.

Another year goes by, and the renewal is up for the domain. This time I am going to let it go. I still love aviation and I still want to build an experimental aircraft. I most definitely want to get back behind the stick and spend some time in the air. And I can post all of that here. How could I build an aircraft and not include amateur radio into the project?

FlyBoyJon is not going away, just the domain name.

Blue skies and tailwinds,
~FlyBoyJon

Hamvangelits

Something that gets bounced around frequently in amateur radio circles is the apparent decline in numbers and “graying” of the ham community.

There are a couple of things going on here. There seems to be a broad belief that the average ham age is going up. Is the ham population itself getting older? I don’t think so. As an instructor and examiner I see a wide range of ages coming to classes and test sessions. We also see age diversity in the ham magazines, young people are getting licensed and participating in amateur radio. And they are doing some amazing things.

So where does this belief come from? I think it may be because new, younger hams are less inclined to join the traditional clubs, local or national, and these organizations are where much of this data is coming from. Why do these new younger hams shy away from the clubs? Because it appears to be a bunch of cranky old farts whining about the hobby getting grayer, the lack of new blood, and by action, an apparent desire to keep it that way.

If Field Day activities are indicative of other activities with groups of all sizes, it may shed some light on a part of the problem. I have heard from more than a few people in clubs all over the county that it is common to hear members want to engage, grow membership, bring in young people. The problem is that they often don’t do anything that supports those goals. The groups that do have a broader membership are those who do a significant amount of outreach to all ages and interests and plan activities to engage the membership. Inaction and stagnation are the enemies of growth.

Since many groups are unable or unwilling to follow through on these goals, folks with a love of all things Amateur Radio, an interest in learning new things, and a willingness to reach out should take the first step. It’s a matter of gathering a handful of people that are dedicated to amateur radio itself, not just groups or activities within amateur radio, people who are interested in what ham radio is as a whole, who want to engage with all ages and interests, and will post about what they are doing in social media.

This is pitching amateur radio in its entirety, not just clubs, groups, activities, or agendas. The goal is to show amateur radio in the big picture view, how much is available out there, that there is something for everyone, opportunities that are waiting to be explored, and completely tangentially, what expressions of amateur radio are currently established locally and nationally.

There is a job title for people who have a broad and deep knowledge of a specific product or idea and passionately pitch it, usually in group settings, they are called Evangelists.

We need Hamvangelists!

Interested in Amateur Radio or being a Hamvangelist? Let me know.

At present I know the blog doesn’t get much traffic. Probably because I have been posting only a couple of times a year, at best. I am working on this. I posted this on FB first because I thought the propagation would be better there than here. More to come.

Crazy Train

Welcome to the off-the-rails ride that has been the first half of 2020!

Of course the main topics are the global COVID-19 pandemic that has occupied more than a few cycles since February and now the nation-wide social unrest that has come about from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. There are of course the annual weather events, and now we are entering hurricane season, tropical storm season, and fire season. It feels like I have been on-call since March first and will likely be so until fire season ends.

The Last 15 Months

It’s all been mostly a blur. I am a full-time student online, I get the occasional side job, I go to a number of communications related county agency board meetings, I stay in touch with Emergency Management and CERT, I do monthly reports relating to EmComm, I work on various amateur radio infrastructure projects, and I try to move our ARES program forward. Generally the stuff I have been doing for almost three years now.

School has taken up massive amounts of my time as you might expect. Last spring I started using the shop space as an office. I need both a shop and an office so the space became the shoffice and likely will remain so as long as we are in the space we are in.

To make school and shop time more effective I have been working on a better layout of the space for several months. I finally hit on what I think will provide the greatest amount of usable space and keep it functional for both shop and office work. Of course this means moving just about everything in the shoffice from one place to another, which is currently occupied by something else that needs to move, and not to where the first thing came from. It is a cascade of I need to move this, this, and that, so I can move the other, and choreograph this ballet in less that 150 square feet of usable space.

The Shoffice Shuffle is planned in several stages. The second was the filing cabinets; clear a space, build a platform, place the filing cabinets and fill them again. Why the platform? I’m glad you asked. The best place for them has steps in the way. They only intrude 1″ but that’s enough for me to have to build an 8.5″ tall platform to allow both filing cabinets to go where they belong. The first thing to get done was clear out the closet, build new shelving, then put everything plus more back.

The whole project is like that, something need to be prepped before anything can be shifted, but stuff needs to be shifted before prepping. And it all needs to be shifted multiple times to make room for the next shift. Part of the plan was to get all of the large stuff, tool boxes, chests, shelving, that wasn’t already rolling on wheels. Mission accomplished. Now I can start shifting the big pieces of the puzzle.

Isn’t this a radio blog? What about radio stuff? First off, no. This is a radio person’s blog, not everything is radio. That aside, a big part of the shop stuff I do has to do with radio, so a working shop will mean more radio gets done. Another part is like I said above, everything needs to get moved. This includes the radio station. I have to disassemble the entire station, replace feedlines, rebuild the power system, relocate the radios, it’s a whole extra mess and I need to add in to the mix the 2.4 GHz EmComm IP networking stuff including exterior devices and at least two antennas.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, I am just very busy and a bit mentally taxed. I ended up taking the summer off from school to get all of this done. The vast majority of it needs to be finished before school starts up in August.

Another area I have been devoting a lot of time is Red Cross. I’ll go into more detail later. Enough to say, it has been time consuming.

Okay, I have rambled enough and not included any pictures so if you get this far, thank you.

Until net time, with pictures,
~Jon KK6GXG

The March Review?

Okay, I admit, this is sad. My last post was over a year ago. Since this is a radio blog you may be inclined to think I haven’t been doing radio, or building projects, or anyhing else radio, that would be incorrect. I have been doing a lot of radio,

Our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) has been a big part of things over the last year. As the amateur radio Emergency Coordinator for ARES/AUXCOMM here in Klamath County I am parallel to the CERT Coordinator though most of our active volunteers are involved in both so we have been working on division-of-labor concerns and coordinating activation, reporting, and assignments.

We also had some administrative changes with Emergency Management being reassigned under the Sheriff. So far it seems to be a good move. One thing I just found out about is an asset being transfered to CERT/AUXCOMM. We are getting an old ambulance to build into a mobile radio and CERT response vehicle. We have a trailer, but there are advantages to having a ready to roll vehicle with a giant generator at the front end. The story of this asset will develope over time. We still don’t have a timeframe for the transfer.

Rebuilding the KBARA packet infrastructure took up a lot of time last year. It has been running stable and continuously since my last post with minimal maintenance required. Our mountaintop sites weathered the winter season well and we are working on several new projects that rely in part on this packet infrastructure.

One such project is getting a full-featured Winlink amateur radio gateway up and running. The Civil Defense Communications Auxiliary, more on this in a minute, just installed a packet gateway accessible to much of the county. The gateway is hosted by the Sky Lakes Amateur Radio Association who’s assets are provided by the Sky Lakes Medical Center, relies on the KBARA packet infrastructure, and provides Winlink email access to the entire emergency communications community and the ham community in parts of northern California and southern Oregon. A great cooperative effort that benefits a lot of people.

The project is not completed this is just the first stage. Next up is adding HF access, and ultimatly forwarding email by radio-internet combinations or by radio only in emergencies. This project is a huge asset that covers a large area and fills a big need.

CDCA is one of my big projects. It was set up as a 501(c)(3) non-profit the Civil Defense Communications Auxiliary. Its purpose is to provide material and training support. The Sky Lakes Gateway Project is a good start. Many more projects too come.

Volunteer Examiner sessions have been sparse with only one session per quarter. I miss doing them more frequently.

One of the things I spent a lot of time on this year was getting authorized as an ARRL emergency communications Field Instructor and Field Examiner. This is primarily for ARES which has been going through a lot of changes this year. I recently qualified as a mentor/instructor for the ARRL’s online training for the EC-001 Introduction to Emergency Communications course. I have signed up to mentor for the first four two-month class cycles of the new program and am looking forward to the experience.

ARES/AUXCOMM is a big topic. The state of Oregon recognizes the ARRL’s Amateur Radio Emergency Service program statewide. Some counties have opted for other organizations like ACES or autonomous organizational structures like AUXCOMM. Within the county, Klamath has an AUXCOMM team but it is at the same time an ARES team. As I mentioned earlier CERT is also a big part of the mix because of the extensive crossover in personnel and assets. This wierd mix has also affected the writing of Operations and Training manuals.

After time and energy in both, I have turned focus to the Training Manual by creating a training matrix, then developing a program to meet the modular elements on the grid. Eventually, all of this will be written into a manual. From the Training Manual, the Operations Manual containing only procedural elements. When device specific or asset specific operations that require a check-out will point to the TM in an appendix. Once I get the base manuals written I will post them. This is a long-term project.

I still participate in the Nation Traffic System as a local net manager, Net Control Station, and participate in state and regional nets. 80 meters has been crappy over the winter so I have not been able to participate as much as I’d like. This has also curtailed a lot of my general HF operations, and limited Winlink radio access.

The poor propagation and a harsh reality exposed by the Fall SET (Simulated Emergency Test) was a major prompt to get a local packet and HF gateway, as well as up our game on the tech for the gateway.

One of the things I have been doing more of, particularly recently, is equipment R&R. I have a growing pile of radio gear to go through and reset, repair, document, determine what it is, or combine with other bits for operation. I love doing this but I have little bench space or time to dig into some of these projects, but I will find the time.

I ended my last post with “try not to wait four months”… okay it was 12 months. I promis to try and do better.

~Jon KK6GXG

A Year and A Half

Well it’s been over a year and a half since the last post, and a lot has indeed transpired. We did move to Klamath Falls on July 1st, 2017, and while we have been doing a lot, much of what we had hoped to do hasn’t happened yet. Radio stuff, of course, Tammy and I both started businesses, Zack is back in school, and so am I.

Emergency Coordinator appointment certificate
Emergency Coordinator appointment certificate

When we first got here, I started meeting folks in the local radio club. I ended up getting involved with the emergency communications system here in the county. By the end of 2017 I was appointed the Emergency Coordinator for amateur radio auxiliary communications. I also did a lot of work with the club on our repeater sites and helping establish the local packet radio network.

Back when I carried a firearm as a security officer in the 80s and 90s, I had two handguns and several rifles. Over the years I also found myself very interested in gunsmithing. About the time Tammy and I met I had divested myself of all of my firearms. Having left California, I wanted to start rebuilding my firearms collection. 

Taurus Millennium G2 9mm
Taurus Millennium G2 9mm

When I bought a new handgun I felt it prudent to apply for a Concealed Handgun License. While open carry is legal, and people do open carry around here, when it’s cold and raining or snowing, the possibility of accidentally covering your sidearm is a real possibility so it only makes sense to avoid the potential problem altogether and legally be able to carry concealed.

Notary stamp and journal ready to get to work
Notary stamp and journal
ready to get to work

While working on radio stuff, I also started a mobile notary business. Along with basic notary services I got certified as a Notary Signing Agent to sign real estate loan documents. I have done quite a few loan signings and notarizations over the last year. I enjoy notary work. The business needs some expansion if I am going to make a real go of it.

One of the summer craft fairs
One of the summer craft fairs

In other business news; Tammy started doing craft shows last year with her upcycled stuff and jewelry she has made. Up until now, all I have contributed has been minor cut this or tweak that and some display fixtures. I have plans to contribute more soon, but she has been doing well. She posts stuff for sale on her facebook sellers page and at the craft shows and the farmers market. We have the Christmas show season coming up but plan on making some changes next year.

Zack has been back in school, mostly because he enjoys it. We hope to get him focused on another degree at some point. We shall see.

Liberty seal

To wrap things up I will touch on my also being back in school. Last spring I started looking for a reputable brick and mortar university with 100% online degree programs again. I was looking for a seminary program in particular. My goal is to earn a Master of Divinity. I have an A.S. in Aviation Maintenance Technology. Of course, I need to earn a Bachelors degree before I can enter a masters program.

I have been looked for an online seminary several times over the last decade and nothing ever seemed to work out. This time I found a program just before the summer term began. Liberty wasn’t what I was planning on but it worked out nicely. I am in my second term now. After this term, I have two more terms to complete my B.S. Religion.

Well, that’s the big catch-up for now. 

~Jon