Category Archives: Electronics

Touching Base

Still on leave from radio. Still planning on returning to radio. Still in school. One master’s degree down, a second almost finished, and a doctoral program on deck. I did a number of updates on the site to try and stay current. I plan on revising some of the project pages when I am on break between semesters. I don’t plan on taking up any new projects or working on in-progress projects any time soon. When I have some time I plan on doing a lot of shack cleaning, and finishing projects that have been sitting on shelves for far too long. For now, services that I have up and running will remain up and running but I won’t be doing anything other than maintenance to keep them up and running. I do have a lot of plans for the future and am excited about diving back in.

Until then, 73,

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.

I frackin hate puters! (pt.2)

(Part of this is cross posted)


I figured out why the network drive wasn’t responding. It appears that the hard drive failed. Why how did you come to this conclusion? I made several attempts to connect the entire device through the network and by direct connection. After no response, I decided to pull the physical drive and test it in another computer. As all of the available and suitable computers are old, the results where unreliable. Although I had a suspicion that it was the drive, I needed to confirm it.

A Fry’s run. Normally I enjoy a jaunt to geek mecca, today I wasn’t feeling up to par and I already put time in doing diagnostics and cracking the case (the warranty is expired anyway) so I wasn’t thrilled. I thought of a couple of potential solutions and fortunately could afford, sort of, to get them both. I picked up a special USB cable for creating and peer-to-peer network and an SATA hard drive dock. The dock allows you to plug a hard drive directly into the dock.

Using the dock I found that the hard drive was fried. The mechanicals are good, but the on board control is screwed up from over heating. So what options do I have? Two, really. One, I could dink with the drive, having no experience opening a drive case or replacing the board; or two, send it off to a data recovery company. Lets look at the options. Option one, I stand a 90%+ chance of loosing all the data, but not spending any money. Option two, I have a 97%+ chance of getting all of my data back, but I spend $500 to do it. Oh, and I still need to get a back-up drive.

(not cross posted)

I have put the desk back together. Since it may be a few weeks before I get the data back, I have to put a few things on hold. I am trying to rebuild some of the data from other sources but the extraction is very slow going. I am building a file server on paper and will see how much that will cost.

In this day of home offices and everyone in the house on their own computers the back-up situation has gotten, interesting. When on the phone with one of the data recovery companies, I told him I was using a network drive and that it had been running for about a year. I was a bit thrown by his response, “Ya, thats about right. Actually you got your monies worth.”. I don’t agree with that last part. I can buy an inexpensive complete computer for $200-$400. A regular computer running on the network will last for several years, mainly because of the power saving features. Auto sleep, NIC access wake-up, HD spin down, and the like. Apparently the companies that build the pro-sumer / consumer network appliances didn’t account for this.

If you are looking to buy a network drive in this environment (home office / home) look closely at whether or not you need to shut the device down every night. A real computer can solve most of these issues and might just end up costing less, particularly if you want to run back-ups or add drive space on a whim. Don’t forget, just because they say it will work for a small office / medium, doesn’t mean it’s any better the standard home user equipment. It just means its more expensive, usually. If I thought I could compete with the lowball online discount retailers, and people would actually pay for quality, I just might sell custom built network storage / backup servers. I don’t think so.