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I’ve moved June 9, 2008

Posted by n9ik in blogging, internet.
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This blog has moved to a new location.

After much vacillation and angst, I’ve finally registered a couple of domains and moved my blogs away from WordPress.com to a hosted server where I have complete control over, and responsibility for, my blog.

As a blogging platform, I think that WordPress is one of the best (actually, it’s my opinion that WordPress is the best blogging platform, but hey, what do I know?), and the free blog hosting at WordPress.com is the best of the best: consistently being kept up to date; a knowledgeable bunch of users in the forums to provide assistance when needed; and for those that wish more flexibility or features, a number of options that are priced very competitively.  And, best of all, the platform is – what else? – WordPress.  The WordPress software, whether the free service at WordPress.com, or used independently, has a loyal user base that is near-fanatical.  The forums at WordPress.com and at WordPress.org (WordPress.org is where you get the full software package to use on your own servers) are full of knowledgeable, honest and out-spoken users and developers, where everything about the software is discussed – both the good and not-so-good, ideas for development are shared, problems solved, challenges overcome.

I’ve moved my blog, not because I am dissatisfied with WordPress.com – quite the contrary, but because I want more flexibility, and because I want to learn and stretch my knowledge of PHP and web development.  With the free, group hosted service at WordPress.com, one does not have that flexibility, and rightly so.  Who wants to have their blog hosted at a site where the system can be brought down because someone else made a change that didn’t work?

My personal blog “mind? what mind?” has moved:

My amateur radio blog has moved:

My several web sites are, or will soon be, hosted at the excellent 1&1 Internet Inc.


The (near) future of Personal Computing is here, pt. 2. May 22, 2008

Posted by n9ik in technology.
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I have read several times during this past year that the volume of sales of personal computers in Japan has declined, and that this trend is expected to continue and spread to other markets, the US and Europe included.  One of the (many) reasons for this is the continuing increase in functionality, processing power and speed of cellular phones – especially “smart” phones.

More and more, cellular phones have sufficient processing power and memory to run not just email and web browsing app’s, but also full-fledged word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications, not to mention games, mp3 and video players, and still- and video-cameras, and oh yes, the GPS.  There is still a long way to go before the hand-held device will completely replace the desktop or laptop PC for those home and business users that need more “oomph”, to do photo and video editing, for example.

Having said all of this, it is still obvious that sometimes the small screen real estate and tiny keyboards are just not sufficient.  With this in mind, Celio Technology Company recently developed and released what they are calling the “REDFLY Mobile Companion” that “extends the the Smartphone with the most valuable features of a laptop.  This is a 1″x6″x9”, two-pound device that looks like a small laptop, but does not have a processor, storage, or RAM.  Instead, it is essentially a clam-shell combination of keyboard and video monitor, with a touchpad mouse, a VGA port to plug in an external monitor or projector, Bluetooth, and two USB ports.


At roughly $500 per, these are a bit pricey considering that you can buy a full-fledged laptop for less that that.  As far as I can tell, the REDFLY is being marketed directly only to businesses – specifically sales forces, but it’s only a matter of time before something like this is marketed as an inexpensive companion device for consumers.


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The (near) future of Personal Computing is here, pt. 1 May 22, 2008

Posted by n9ik in technology.
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I bought a Nokia 6620 when it was newly on the market here in the US from Cingular (now AT&T Wireless) and, for the most part, I liked it.  It had a camera, which was relatively new – at least at an affordable price – at the time; had Bluetooth connectivity which was important to me; had good send & receive audio; it’s receiver circuit was sensitive enough, and transmitter strong enough to maintain a good connection to the cellular network when some other phones could not; and it was the first “smart” phone available in the US that supported the new high speed EDGE network.  And also, I’ve been using a Palm PDA for years now, and I didn’t want to combine a PDA and phone into one unit, one point of failure.  Besides, Palm-based cellular “smart” phones just didn’t have an adequate screen size or resolution for my jaded “requirements”, and I’d used a Compaq WindowsCE PDA for a while before I got my first PalmPilot, and felt the Palm OS was superior.  Following the Pilot, I used the Palm III, V, and finally the Palm Tungsten T3, which I’ve had  the past few years and which spoiled me – all that screen real estate!

For the past couple of years now, we’ve all seen the power and functionality of cell phones, especially “smart” phones, evolve.  In the business world, the “Crackberry” was king (sorry Ring, of course I mean Blackberry!).  We’ve also seen some real improvements in Microsoft’s portable operating system, now known as Windows Mobile – enough so that I’ve been considering giving Microsoft another shot. 

And then, a few months ago, I fell in lust!  One day, while browsing the available offerings from AT&T Wireless to upgrade that I might upgrade to, there was this new “cool tool” that seemed to have every feature a tech junky like me could want: a phone; a high resolution camera (3 Megapixels!); a slide-out, full QWERTY keyboard for texting & email; .mp3 player with stereo audio; stereo Bluetooth; 3G high-speed data network support; WiFi; a GPS; full PDA functionality; and a touch screen with full 240×320-pixel display.  This new object of my techno-lust?  The AT&T Tilt, a branded version of the TyTN II manufactured by HTC.


42,000+ Dead in Myanmar and China May 12, 2008

Posted by n9ik in disaster.
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Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.

– Buddha

Two terrible tragedies in Asia – Cyclone Nargis last week claims approximately 32,000 lives, and today’s earthquake in China nearly 10,000.

cyclone damage



Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.

– Buddha

Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds.

– Buddha

Everything is changeable, everything appears and disappears; there is no blissful peace until one passes beyond the agony of life and death.

– Buddha

On the air with my Kenwood TS-130S May 10, 2008

Posted by n9ik in operating, station.
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Originally uploaded by tfarrow

I finally dug out my “QRO” rig, an old Kenwood TS-130S HF transceiver, and got it set up on my deck for some late afternoon operating. On the table with the radio are: to the left is a Shure Brothers Model 440 microphone on a Electro-Voice 423A stand; on top of the TS-130S is a Kenwood remote VFO; to the right (white panel) is an MFJ-948 Versa Tuner II; on top of the MFJ tuner are my RockMite 40-meter QRP transceiver, BLT (Balanced Line Tuner), and dummy load; to the right of the MFJ unit are my Fluke multi-meter (for checking battery voltage), and the West Mountain Radio “RigRunner” 40 amp, 12 outlet DC power strip. Not seen below the table is my salvaged car battery, which currently is my only power supply, and on the railing to the right is a battery charger to keep the battery topped up.

This is the first time in several years that the Kenwood rig has been powered up. So far it seems to be working well.

CJB 26003A Flame Proof Key, from Australia May 4, 2008

Posted by n9ik in keys.
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Recently, I bid on a key to add to my fledgling collection of Morse keys, and hopefully would be a good key to use on the air.  This key was a CJB 26003A “Flame Proof” key, and is a key that seems to be one of the most highly praised keys by members of the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC).  The description for this key on eBay included “Used on Neptune maritime aircraft and other RAAF aircraft of the time such as Lincolns etc.  Label dated on box 1984 where they may have been reidentified when the aircraft was decomissioned.” 

I won the bidding for the key!  I’d resigned myself to not being able to afford a good key, and in fact I’ve bid on, and lost, quite a few straight keys and bugs recently on eBay.  I didn’t really expect to win the bidding, but I think that I got lucky.

I received the key a couple of days ago, and I am very, very pleased.  This key is in mint condition, still has the little plastic cover over the binding posts, and in fact it came in the original box.  It’s apparent that this key is “NOS”, or New Old Stock, and had never been issued.  Taking off the paper wrapper with customs stickers and Australian postage, seeing this original press-board box with manufacturers markings and military stock label was quite a treat.

Flame Proof 1 2087x1388

Flame Proof 2 2560x1920

Flame Proof 3 2167x1379 

Opening the box, you find a solid looking, black crinkly-finished key, with a tall “Navy” type knob.  The mechanism and contacts are sealed inside the metal housing, preventing any potential sparks from igniting any flammable fumes – hence the “Flame Proof” moniker.

Flame Proof 4 2560x1920

Flame Proof 5 2445x1556

Flame Proof 6 2052x1306

Flame Proof 7 2463x1567

Flame Proof 8 2459x1565

This key has been manufactured by several different companies for the US and Allied military, primarily the Navy, going back (I think) to WWII.  You can tell who the manufacturer was by the three-letter prefix of this key’s model number.  This one, for example, is CJB 26003A, with CJB being the “code” for J. H. Bunnell & Company.  Bunnell produced telegraph keys beginning in 1878, and produced keys and other electronic equipment to the military from the time of the Spanish American War through 1988 at least.  During the last 30 years of that the Flame Proof was manufactured, ending in 1988, Bunnell was the sole manufacturer.

Manufacturer codes:

  • CJB- J. H. Bunnell
  • CTE- Telephonics
  • CMK- McElroy
  • CMI- Moulded Insulator Co.

After making some adjustments and playing around with the key for a few minutes, I have to say that the action on this key is the best that I’ve been able to use so far.

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New domain for N9IK May 1, 2008

Posted by n9ik in blogging.
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Well, I did it.  I’ve been wanting to register a domain name for my “Ham Radio Identity” for quite some time, and when I saw that I could do so, for free (for the first year), using the Microsoft Office Live Small Business service to host it, I jumped at the opportunity to give the service a try.  If I don’t like it, I’ll transfer the domain to another provider later. 

My new domain is n9ik.net, and the blog I’m trying out is at n9ik.net/blog.


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Ultimate Homebrew April 28, 2008

Posted by n9ik in projects, station, technology.
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While getting caught up with Bill – M0HBR’s podcast “Soldersmoke“, I took a look around his web site, Gadgeteer.us.  There he has a video made by a French ham, Claude Paillard, call sign F2FO, showing Claude homebrewing some triode tubes.  Plenty of people homebrew tube receivers and transmitters, but how many hams do you know that take homebrewing quite so far?  Claude puts quite a few skills in play, and it helps that he seems to have all the right tools for the job.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from vodpod.com posted with vodpod

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Telegraph Clacks out RSS Feeds at The Steampunk Workshop April 19, 2008

Posted by n9ik in technology.
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Mr. “Hieronymus Isambard” (Jake) von Slatt, the Proprietor over at The Steampunk Workshop, has created a couple of very nice telegraph sounders.  Taking it even further, he interfaced one with his PC to “copy” RSS feeds in Morse code!  I attempted to post his video of one of the sounders “sounding off” an RSS feed in code, but I couldn’t get WordPress to accept it.  Take a look at his description of the project.


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Getting on the air. April 17, 2008

Posted by n9ik in operating, portable, station.
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I finally got an antenna in the air temporarily this afternoon, and got out my RockMite 40, BLT and Nye Master Key.  The 40 meter band seemed very active; at least there was lots of activity around 7.030 MHz, which is the frequency of the crystals currently installed in the RockMite.  Everyone that I heard was a bit fast for me; I was able to copy only about 15% or 20% of what I was hearing.Most of the calls that I was able to copy were in 4-land.  One person was having a ball with his “bug” slowed down to about 15 wpm – I forgot to write down their call, but they had a very distinctive “fist”, with comparatively long dashes.


The photo above shows my portable station:  Battery pack with 8 “AA” cells, RockMite transceiver on 7.030 MHz, Nye-Viking Master Key (model 330-001), NorCal BLT (Balanced Line Tuner) modified to also tune unbalanced feed lines, and my cheap, worn-out Koss UR/29 headphones.  The BLT is feeding a speaker-wire doublet as an “inverted-V” with the apex up only about 25 feet or so.  The tuner handled it easily.


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