From my Twitter feed: Sports Illustrated, free shipping, daughter helping with QSLs

w0sun
Ham Radio in 1958 Sports Illustrated #Hamr#Hamradio - The Article -http://t.co/h7hCkdzeJx

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Need parts? Jameco is offering free ground shipping in continental US with Code OLP05951Y until April 12.

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My daughter helping me with QSL cards.#hamr http://t.co/Gm1S6XjUVU

EE Times Top 15 Hot Technologies

Mojo 3D printer

According to EE Times, 3D printing will be one of the hot technologies in 2013.

Lots of magazines publish articles such as EE Times’ “Top 15 Hot Technologies for 2013″ at the beginning of the year. Below, are a selection of what I found interesting or applicable to amateur radio.

  • Soluble ICs. Eventually, you may be able to wear these ICs like temporary tattoos, and after doing whatever they do, they will dissolve into the skin. Researchers think that they may be able to use the devices as miniature heaters to keep bacteria off a wound or as bio-monitors for use in  both sports and medicine.
  • 3D printing. EE Times says, “The transition to digital manufacturing crossed a line in the sand in 2012, proponents said. Desktop manufacturing with 3-D printers is now becoming practical for a range of products.”
  • Solid-state lighting. 2013 might be the year, LED lighting becomes practical for homes.
  • Improved solar cells using black silicon. Researchers in Germany have improved the efficiency of solar cells using black silicon by irradiating them with a laser using a specific pulse shape. This technology still needs to be commercialized, however.

You can read the complete article here.

DMM tips, anyone?

Now that I’ve published the No-Nonsense Extra Class License Study Guide, I’ve been thinking about what my next book should be. At this point I’m leaning towards The No-Nonsense Guide to Digital Multimeters. I have even started outlining the book:

  • What is a digital multimeter?
    • Compare to analog multimeter
  • Digital multimeter basics
    • Measurement types
    • Inputs
    • Range
    • Zero
    • Safety
  • Making measurements with a DMM
    • Simple DC circuit
      • voltage
      • current
    • AC measurements
      • true RMS
    • Resistance
  • Tips for Choosing a DMM
  • Hints and Kinks

I’d love to get your feedback on this.

What else should I add to this outline?

What would you like to know about DMMs?

Do you have any tips for using DMMs that you’d like to share with others? (If I use your tip in the book, I’ll send you a free copy when it’s finished.)

Ads of Note from the December 2012 QST

When I was a kid, I used to religiously pore over the ads in the Electronics Illustrated, Popular Electronics, and later on, QST issues that I received. I don’t do that every month nowadays, but I think it is a worthwhile exercise to do every two-three months. New products are always being introduced, and some of them can be quite useful and fun.

This month, I went through the ads in QST. Here are some that I highlighted.

  • Using Your Meter. This is a new book from The W5YI Group. It’s notable to me because I’ve been thinking that a simliar book might be my next publication. The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Your DMM—my working title—would be a lot cheaper than the $24.95 that W5YI is asking for this book, though.

    Got any tips for using a DMM? If so, e-mail me and I’ll include it in the book.

  • Bonito RadioJet 1102S. This is a software-defined receiver made in Germany and imported by a small company, Computer International, in Michigan. Unfortunately, the company’s website is a real disaster. I spent about ten minutes looking for a price for this radio without any luck.  So many small companies’ websites are so poor that I think it actually hurts, rather than helps their business.
  • MastrAnt. This company sells synthetic guy ropes. We’re going to need some of this down at the museum. I think the metal guy wires are detuning our 40m inverted Vee.

Do you peruse the ads in QST and other ham radio magazines? Which ones have you found interesting lately?

Interesting stuff on the Internet – 8/21/12

Here are three more interesting links that I’ve gleaned from the mailing lists and ham radio groups that I belong to:

  • G8MNY Technical Bulletins. G8MNY has been providing these technical bulletins over the packet network in Europe for many years. They were written by many different authors and cover many different topics including aerials, baluns, filters, microphones, and more.

These last two are from the LinkedIn amateur radio groups. If you’re on LinkedIn, send me a connect request and I’ll add you.

  •  Tubebooks.org. This site has PDFs of many older electronics books. Among them:Audels Radiomans Guide, Edwin P. Anderson, 1945, 880 pages
    An odd book, about 4-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ and a whopping 880 pages, “covering theory, construction, and servicing including television electronics”.  It covers everything from sounds waves through basic electronics, PA systems (including a little info on a WE theatre amp), transmitters, car and aircraft radio, troubleshooting – you name it, it’s in here.  Not a college text, this looks like it could be a handbook for the radio technician or advanced hobbyist of the 1940′s.  Lots of good vintage info!
  • Slim Jim antenna calculator & Slim  Jim information. I always thought that “Slim Jim” was just another term for J-pole. I was wrong. This site not only explains the difference, but has a calculator that lets you design your own. Now, I’m going to have to build one of these!

From the trade magazines – 8/18/12

Protect your fortress from ESD. Let’s get a better understanding of what actually happens in an ESD strike, and from there, figure out how to architect a system to deal with it.

How to Create and Program USB Devices. What does USB have to do with ham radio? How do you think the audio gets from your rig to your computer when operating digital modes? Even if you’re never going to design a USB interface, you should know how it works.

Surge protection—Stop fried electronics. Surges and spikes on data lines can fry your communications boards and garble data. This article describes the operation, installation and selection of what is probably the most common method of data line protection. Surge suppressors divert excess energy away from the port being protected into a ground connection. The operation of these devices relies on a high quality ground connection in order to safely shunt away unwanted energy.

Books, Books, Books

Putt Putt at Elkin, 2012

One of our traditions when we go to Elk Lake is to play Putt-Putt at a course in nearby Traverse City.

I spent the better part of this last week up at Elk Lake with my extended family, including my parents, my three sisters (for some reason my two brothers never come), Their husbands, their kids, their kids’ kids and friends. We were missing some this year. One of my nephews is in Peru, serving in the Peace Corps, and one of my nieces is in the middle of planning her wedding (and the rest of her life, for that matter). Even so, it was a great vacation. There’s plenty of time to eat, to play in the water, and read books.

This year, I only took one print book, The ABCs of Software-Defined Radio by Martin Ewing, AA6E. This is the book I purchased with my $10 birthday coupon from the ARRL. To be honest, I didn’t even take it out of my briefcase. I’ll do a full review later, but my initial impression of it isn’t that good. It’s only 50 pages—not counting the glossary—and looks to be very basic. I was even tempted to send it back.

What I did take was my Nook Tablet. I loaded it up with 31 different books, including books on radio, website developement (I’m a freelance website developer by trade), and business development.

Reading a book on my Nook next to the lake.

I really like the Nook Tablet. It’s not an iPad, but it does have a lot of functionality of the iPad at a fraction of the price. In addition to the books, it has Evernote, a note-taking app; and Get it Done Tasks, a to-do app; and QuickOffice, which can open and edit Word files and Excel spreadsheets. It’s really pretty cool.

One of the books in my Nook was Radio for All by Hugo Gernsback. This book is available for free on the Barnes&Noble website for the Nook.

Gernsback was one of the movers and shakers in the early days of radio. He published several magazines, including Modern Electrics, the world’s first electronics magazine, and founded the Wireless Association of America, one of the ARRL’s early competitors. He was also one of the first publishers of science fiction. The Hugo Award for science fiction achievement are named in his honor.

In Radio for All, published in 1922, Gernsback describes the marvels of radio. It’s about this time that radio technology was switching over from spark-gap transmitters to transmitters and receivers using vacuum tubes. He writes:

Today, by means of our super-sensitive vacuum tubes, it is possible to hear a one-inch spark coil perhaps a hundred miles and over. As a matter of fact, it can be proved theoretically that a one-inch spark coil connected to six dry cells, and providing we have a sufficiently large aerial, may be heard as far as it is possible to go on this globe, which is 12,000 miles.

You might say he was the first QRPer!

Free Science Fiction
Another free book that I had loaded on my Nook was Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. You can download this book for free by going to Doctorow’s science fiction website. Doctorow gives away all of his books, so check those out, too. In addition to penning some very entertaining science fiction, Doctorow is one of the authors of BoingBoing.

The story is about a high-school kid, Marcus, who finds himself being held by the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist attack on San Francisco, his hometown. After some pretty rough treatment, he uses his hacking skills to take on DHS, which has turned San Francisco into a police state. It’s a real thriller and quite a good read.

It even has some ham radio in it. Zeb, one of the other DHS prisoners, describes how he would communicate with Darryl, one of Marcus’s best friends, “At night, when we were in our cots, we would softly tap out messages to each other in Morse code (I knew my ham radio days would come in useful sometime).”

Back Home
We left Elk Lake Saturday morning, getting home about 12:30 pm. That afternoon, we decided to visit the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library Book Shop. Normally, books are $2 each, but today, everything was free!

I picked up about a dozen books, including books on cats, glass, retirement, and diet and health. My big—and I do mean big—acquisition, though, is the sixth edition (1958) of Marks’ Mechanical Engineers Handbook. This book is nearly three inches thick and has thousands of pages on various ME topics. Here’s a random sampling: atomic power, bearings, friction, lubricants and lubrication, machine-shop practice, mechanics of fluids, refrigeration, strength of materials, and welding. That should keep me busy for a while.

Like I said, I had a bunch of other books on web-development and business topics, but I won’t bore you by talking about those books. Let’s just say that some were good, while others have now been deleted from the Nook. Overall, though, it was a great reading vacation.

From Trade Magazines – 7/11/2012

Here are three of the latest items from the electronics engineering trade magazines that amateur radio operators will find interesting and useful.

Introduction to Electronics. Design News magazine and DigiKey are presenting this five-session class starting on July 23. Don’t worry if you can’t make the live webcast. The sessions will be recorded and available on the Web later.

EETimesHow to select power line protection diodes. While written for automotive engineers, this article has lots of good info for amateur radio operators.

Top Ten RF & Microwave Stories. Listed here are the ten most popular RF & microwave stories that EE Times published for the first half of 2012. Included are Eight ways to improve RF spurious performance  and A short history of spread spectrum.

Got a book inside you?

I just received an e-mail from one of my readers commending me on the idea for 21 Things to Do After You Get Your Amateur Radio License. When that’s ready to go, I’ll have published four books—the Tech and General study guides, the compilation Having Fun with Ham Radio: Letting my inner geek out, and 21 Things. Last month, I netted almost $400 from the sales.

Being the tech geek that I am, I do all the production myself. I compose the text in the Mac word-processing program Pages, turn it into an ePub using Calibre,  and then touch up the formatting using Sigil. It’s not hard to do, but it does take a while to get everything just right.

As I was composing the e-mail to my reader—whom I now consider a friend—it occurred to me that I could do the same thing for him, if he was interested in writing a book. And not only him, but for any of you who might be interested in writing a book. Here’s what I propose:

  1. I would do all the editing and production of the e-book.
  2. I would assign an ISBN number to the book from my stock of numbers.
  3. I would handle all the interface with Amazon and B&N, and send you reports and checks monthly or quarterly.
  4. I’d pay you 50% of the sales price and get 20% of the sales price on Amazon sales. On B&N sales, I’d get only 15% as they pay only 65%. This assumes that the book is priced at $2.99 or above. It’s probably not a great deal for either of us if your book can’t sell for at least $2.99.

So, f you think you have a book rattling around there, and are interested in this kind of proposition, let’s talk. I think that I’m actually a pretty good editor, and could even help you focus/outline a book. It doesn’t even have to be on ham radio. In fact, it might be a good thing if it’s not a ham radio book since hams are so notoriously cheap. :)

21 Things to Do: Subscribe to mailing lists, blogs, and podcasts

21 Things to Do After Getting Your Amateur Radio LicenseWhen you’re just starting out in amateur radio, you want to learn as much as you can about the hobby. One way to do this is to find an Elmer (see chapter 1). In this age of the Internet, another great way to do this is to join ham radio mailing lists and subscribe to ham radio podcasts. These resources give you access to hundreds, if not thousands, of Elmers.

One mailing list that I always suggest to new hams is the HamRadioHelpGroup. The purpose of this group is to help “those who are interested in getting started in Amateur Radio or upgrading their license.” This mailing list has a good mix of beginners and experts, and most questions are answered quickly and correctly. One thing that I really like about this group is that the moderators do a good job of keeping the discussions on track, and will squelch them when they stray off topic or threaten to turn into flame wars.

In addition to the HamRadioHelpGroup, you might also want to join a more targeted mailing list. For example, if you’re interested in learning Morse Code (hint, hint), you might join the SolidCpyCW list. If you just bought a Yaesu FT-60 hand-held transceiver, you might want to join the FT-60 list. Chances are that no matter what your interest, there’s probably a mailing list to discuss that interest.

I’m subscribed to a lot of amateur radio mailing lists and could probably spend most of my day just reading and replying to them. In order to get the most out of them, without them taking away from my on-air time, I only read those threads that I am really interested in, and even then, I quit reading them once they have started to drift off-topic. I also un-subscribe myself from lists that cover topics that I’m no longer interested in.

Blogs, podcasts and videos
In addition to getting on a few mailing lists, you might want to read a few blogs and subscribe to podcasts. These are also great sources of information about amateur radio. I blog about amateur radio at www.kb6nu.com, and lots of hams find it a good source of information. You can find a list of other ham radio blogs that I’d recommend on my home page.

Podcasts are also a good source of information. One podcast that you might want to check out is the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast (www.myamateurradio.com). Since 2008, Jerry, KD0BIK, has been producing PARP, and currently has more than 50 different episodes online. For other podcasts, consult the list on Jerry’s home page.

Finally, there are literally thousands of amateur radio videos on the net. On YouTube alone, there are approximately 32,000 of them. The American Radio Relay League has its own channel, but perhaps the most popular amateur radio video channel is the K7AGE channel. K7AGE has more than 6,200 subscribers and his videos have garnered more than 2.1 million views!

Whatever source or sources of information you select, remember to not let them take up too much of your time. Ham radio is about more than just reading, listening, or watching. It’s about doing!