Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Empty Store

My first spring-terminal kit from Radio Shack (1976 catalog)
I'm not sure what age I was when I started being fascinated by electronics.  Record players really were the first thing I was obsessed with, but it was soon followed by radios, and most things that were built out of transistors, resistors, capacitors, and other components.  My late brother Paul received one of these spring-terminal project kits when I was very young, and I just had to have one when I was old enough.  His kit, the one I received later on, and most of the electronic kits I built in the early days came from Radio Shack.

Today I am mourning the loss of the retail store known as Radio Shack.  Some of you may be asking: Why today?  Radio Shack already

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

BITX Kits (Limarc Pre-Meeting Discussion) Jan 10, 2018

Interesting article on Ashhar Farhan with links:

Original design and writeup from Farhan:

QRPKITS (Hendricks / Pacific Antenna Version) 20 and 17 meter

Radio-Kits UK 80 Meter Version:

Amateurradiokits India  Version 3, cases, and accessories:

HFSIGNALS (Farhan's new inexpensive versions)

BITX Hacks Blog: BITX20 Forum:

Presentation  here:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Chirp and Chinese Handheld Radios

This is to support the discussions on CHIRP and Chinese Handhelds (mainly Baofeng/Pofung and
BTech radios) given at LIMARC on 10/11/2017 and LARK on 10/12/2017

Always make sure you are running the latest version of CHIRP

     there are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
     you will notice two Windows versions.  One is an installer. This is the easiest way to get going.

CHIRP uses databases from several sources:
     DMR MARC (I am investigating this further)
     Radio Reference (Subscription) Good for municipal and public service frequencies
     Repeaterbook (FREE repeater lookups)
     R-FINDER (From LI resident Bob, W2CYK). If you have paid for the iOS or Android APP  for European repeaters

Programming cables are available from many sources.  Look for FTDI chipsets.  They are more reliable.  I have a universal programming cable kit from Retevis.  Here are a few similar ones for sale on Amazon:

The best source for info on Chinese HTs is  Here you'll find reviews and information.  Some of the most useful information here is the comparison of various Baofeng/Pofung radios so you can figure out the differences, and the USB driver troubleshooting guide.

The Tri-Band HT I had that looked like a UV-5R but is actually a B-Tech UV-5X3 is a great little radio.  Available here:  Currently under $60 as of this writing, and available through PRIME next day shipping!

While you're looking at the '5X3, take a look at B-TECH's other offerings.  They have some interesting radios including the 8-Watt HTs, and some very interesting mobile radios too.

I am testing this tri-band antenna with it (It comes with two antennas stock. One for 2M/440 and one for 220):  Keep in mind that most of these radios use reverse SMA (or MALE SMA) connectors so they require an antenna with a FEMALE SMA.  I'll report back on my findings.

Other things that were discussed at the LARK meeting were SDR related:

     OPENWEBRX Project:
     Enhanced RTL-SDR Dongles:

Also, for the brave hearted.  Here is the Zastone radio (The Yaesu copy):

Monday, October 02, 2017

Fraud Fumble

I was late getting home tonight.  When I'm this late I'll grab food in the city, usually eating on the train.  As I was walking through the station with my food, water, napkins, and backpack, I felt almost off-balance already, and my phone started ringing.  Looking at the display, I saw a 631 area code number.  This usually means it's somewhat important.  I was thrown further off balance trying to get the phone answered, and get at least one of my earbuds in my ear.  I almost dropped the food, and myself for that matter, and answered the phone.

"Hello, we have been trying to reach you. This call is officially a final notice from the IRS, Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing a lawsuit against you.”

Have you gotten one of these?  It's been a year or more, but this is about the tenth final notice I've gotten from these scammers.  My reaction tonight is one of anger.  I almost performed the epileptic slide just trying to answer the phone, only to get this call again.  I also have to wonder who falls for these.  Literally.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Scot Robinson - FLICKR
For someone who never remembers their dreams, waking from a scary one, and remembering the whole thing can be a bit disorienting.  Even though I may be at one of the lower stress-levels in my life, something is triggering these weird nightmares.  They're usually early in my sleep cycle, and occur when I was trying to stay up late in bed to finish something, or attempt a nap before actually going to bed.

I woke last night calling Jill in my sleep.  Yelling, I guess, according to her.  The dream was

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bye Bye Cable...... sort of

I just made a major change to my media services and I'm VERY happy about it.

I got really tired of a few things:

  • Rates and charges always going up for cable/internet/phone
  • The "packages" being structured so that none of the basic ones ever have what you want
  • Hidden costs.  Verizon is famous for this.  You have to buy a Docsis Modem, and pricey settop boxes
I eliminated regular cable TV from Optimum.  All I have now is 100M Internet, and basic-local TV.  I pay $67 plus fees and taxes, and I turned in my cable boxes.

For cable TV, I subscribe to DIRECTV NOW, which is a new streaming service.  I get 60 channels, and they happen to be ones that I actually want.  We can have 2 concurrent users, and it's $35/month.  For an extra $5 I have HBO NOW which includes On-Demand access, plus it gives you On-Demand access to MOST of the cable channels in the subscription. ABC, FOX, and NBC are included. CBS is working out a deal with them, but you can still watch these on your local TV service, sans cable box.

For phone, we mostly use our cell phones, but I bought an ObiHai box and attached it to Jill's Google Voice number.  As far as a real landline, we haven't had REAL copper landlines in this neighborhood in a long time.  

My monthly bill is about half of what it was, and I can now watch TV on my phone, or laptops, ANYWHERE.  Not just on my own WiFi like the Optimum app restricted.

DIrecTV NOW works on the Amazon Fire Stick, and they'll give you a free one if you pay for your first month in advance.  It will be available on ROKU in a matter of weeks, and also works on Apple TV, Chromecast and is coming to XBOX  One.

You NEED to have decent Internet to make it work (100 M or better in my case with three kids in the house all watching NETFLIX, and YouTube)

Enjoy!  (I think there may be some kind of referral bonus but I really don't care. I just hate seeing people spend so much money on cable)

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Clean Out - Radios I Have Known #1

Today starts an interesting adventure. I have been acquiring radios again at a steady rate for the last 10 or so years, plus I still have a few of my old ones. I need to get a handle on this collection, as I have decided that I just have too much "stuff" (will all due respect to George Carlin).
Most of it is here, in my garage, in boxes and crates. I'm going to sell quite a bit of it, but wanted to get back into writing at the same time. I will be posting stories about some of what I come across on my blog FOFIO! if anyone is interested in checking it out, and will post links to the articles here. I am calling the series "Radios I Have Known".
I will start out by reposting an article I wrote about a radio of my dad's.
Enjoy, and if anyone has a good story about a radio, let's hear it!

My father grew up in the 'Radio Era' which made him more radio-aware than my children are now. He was by no means a hobbyist, but knew enough to tell good from bad. He knew that AM radios had to be turned for best reception, and a good swiveling whip antenna was necessary for FM reception. For him, the radio needed to be able to pick up his NPR stations, WCBS-AM, and get the Mets games when he was on the road.

I ran a sales territory for our family business. As Dad got older, he eventually came off the road, and ran the company from inside. Every now and then though, he would schedule to ride with one of his salespeople to keep an eye on things. He rode with me for few days once on my Northern New Jersey run. Thursdays on that run, I would sometimes stop at the offices of Gilfer Shortwave, and chat with Jeanne Ferrell and Paul Lannuier. I had purchased several radios there over the years, and would buy the various shortwave books and guides from them as they were released.

That one Thursday that Dad came along, he got a kick out of Gilfer, and all of the radios. He and Paul talked for a bit, and he purchased a Sony ICF-SW20. Partly because he really liked the quality of the little radio, and partly because I think he liked the folks at Gilfer as much as I did.

Dad had this radio from then, till he passed away in December 2009. It was his main radio. I saw it on his nightstand, in the bathroom, and on trips back east to visit us. Even with all of the selling and swapping I've done lately with my radio collection, I will never get rid of this radio. To me it was an acknowledgment from dad that my interests in radio were appreciated, and is a memory of the man I miss. It currently lives on my desk at work, sometimes called to duty for news, and music. Thanks for the radio Dad! I'll pass it down the line someday to Alec.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Stormville Finds

My wife Jill, KD2CHE, and I are regular vendors at the Stormville Airport Flea Market at least four weekends out of the year.  For those of you that are not aware of the market, it is held out in a rural area of Dutchess County, NY in the right angle formed by I-84 and the Taconic Parkway.  We set up a few tables and canopies, and sell our collection of cat toys, and quilted crafts as Threads by Jill (home of Awesomemouse cat toys).  They're pretty amazing products.  Check them out!  But, now back to the subject at hand,

Stormville has always been a shopping destination for me.  With over 600 vendors, it's the last of the great fleas.  They split into two sections:  Antiques, and General Merchandise.  The antique side is one of the best markets around, and has gotten even busier recently after becoming a popular destination on the show Flea Market Flip.  The general market is home to your usual assortment of flea vendors, but has a larger assortment of unique products than

Monday, May 02, 2016

Post 3 of 3 for University of Phoenix COMM/218

Using Social Media During a Speech or Presentation

     I've mentioned in more than one post during this course that I like to ad-lib.  Asking questions during some of my talks, and then tailoring the speech to the answers is one way that you can create a targeted speech, but you have to be prepared to ad-lib.  One thing that I want to try, but have not yet, is to use social media in a speech to drive that ad-lib content.  Here are some thoughts on what that might look like.

    Some of the larger IT conventions like South by Southwest, CIS, and others are starting to feature live media slideshows embedded in their talks.  The way you actually do this is to set up the photo feeds in a webpage, and then embed the webpage into your presentation.  You can set this up in a slide on your main presentation, or as a second screen depending on whether you want to visit this stream during the course of your talk, or have it live the whole time.  You can then stop and comment on interesting photos as they come up.  Depending on the situation you may need someone to filter the contents first.  Overdrive Interactive has a nice write up on this here.

     Another way to use social media in a presentation is to have a live Twitter or Facebook feed running either while you are talking or at a pre-determined point in the presentation (like during the Q&A session).  This way you can draw attention to relevant posts, and even answer question live that arrive via social media.  I've also seen this done as a ticker running along the top or bottom of the screen,

     This is nothing new really, but I think we'll see it more and more as time goes on.  I predict that the tools to do this will be built right in to presentation software.  In the meantime, here are some instructions on how to do it.