Corona Virus Update

Corona virus, whats it mean to me and my home brewing? That is an interesting question and one i am asking myself daily. Sure it looks like I might have more time on my hands with the chance of being locked down growing daily. So that is the positive. The negative is I am also watching the economy tanking and along with it my income. I am a contractor, our clients are all pulling work so that means I will not be earning much at all. This is ok, I have some savings and will survive, but it means that I will lock down my budget to essentials and so I cannot see me starting any new projects for quite sometime.

However, I do have 4 or 5 projects already going on at various levels of progress, so i have plenty to do for now and I have a lot of parts so that is not going to be an issue. I think what will happen is that once i have worked through the projects in the cue, I will end up going back to doing manhattan builds with through hole parts. I have a lot of board and parts, so I am good for a couple years at least. About all it will really mean is that I wont be buying any fancy PCBs at all.

Oh and I have a lot of kits here also, so I can bring them out when things get desperate and have something to build. All in all, i will be ok, but if things get really tight, I might have to shut down my blog, or move back to cheaper VPS hosting rather than having dedicated server hosting. One stupid flu and the world is turning to shit.

Stay classy everyone.

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PCB Delays

I was looking on JLCpcb today to see the progress of the next set of boards. The boards are done, but the coronavirus is going to delay them for who knows how long at this stage. JLC is saying 3 to 14 days because no one is allowed to move and DHL is closed down, but the Australian government is also stopping all planes arriving from China, and I have no idea how long this might be in place for. So its wait and see, but they will arrive eventually. HAHA.

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Magnifying LED Desk Lamp

 

Just about everything I am building these days is SMD. Parts a cheap, you can get parts that would other wise be hard to find in through hole versions and there are still some large size packages around of nice parts to use that you just cannot find in through hole. And because I am building a hand held, SMD is compact is the order of the day. In fact, going forward I do not think I will be building anything through hole at all. I have really gotten the hang of this SMD stuff.

That said, as you get older, the eyes are not what they used to be. I wear glasses and often when working with smaller stuff its not the size that is the issue, its not enough lighting. I have been using this LED ring lamp for sometime, mostly as an over head light. But of late, I have been using its magnifying lens as well, its 8 or 10 times magnification and for hand soldering SMD parts its really come into its own and I do not think i could live with out it.

The lens is 5 inches in diameter, so you get a really nice field of view, i mean, i can stick my face right up to it and look through with both eyes and see everything I am doing, plus, the LED light is bright and white, with very little shadow, so its just about perfect. So if you are like me and need to get your eyes checked and reading prescription adjusted every couple of years, add in a magnifying LED lamp and make your life that little bit easier. From here the next step if a microscope and I think that is overkill unless you are doing much finer pitched work than this. If i ever want to use some of those really cool leadless package IC’s i might need one, but for now, this will do.

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2019 State Of My Hobby Address

You know, this time last year I sat at this very keyboard and typed out quite a lengthy post about what I would like to achieve throughout the year, the kits I would like to get built, the advances I would like to make in my other homebrew projects, make more youtube videos and the like. I do not even have to go back to that list of things to know that I actually ticked off very few of these things.

All in all I am really ok with what I did manage to get done in among family commitments and extra pressure and stress at work that really took up the bulk of my time. But I still did manage to learn many things and advance both my knowledge, skills and even some of my projects as well as posting here on my blog most weeks at least once.

There has also been some rationalization happening here within my view of the hobby. I have cut somethings out, I have not been portable in a park for over 6 months, I just have not had the time, or when I have had the time I have not had the energy to really do anything at all. But the biggest change here and the one that has had the most impact on my personal outlook has been dropping out of all ham radio related social media. Facebook, qrz, eham are all now gone from my life and you know what, its the best thing i have ever done.

The things that really killed it for me are normative questions being answered with strawmen and ad hominem attacks, dick waving my self proclaimed internet experts on everything and dealing with the same old butthurt because someone got touched on the frequency one time and so they are mad at the world. I just cannot in all good conscience entertain such fuckwits in my life on a daily basis. I would like to think that I am better than all that and I certainly do try to be and aspire to be better tomorrow than I am today, so, there comes a time when one has to say enough is enough to the same whine topics that get posted over and over because people just want to bitch. Well, I want to just be happy and enjoy the time I have doing radio, so goodbye social media.

So that was this year, so what about the new decade that starts for me in just over 7 hours at the time of writing this post. Well, next year and next decade is an interesting proposition here. I am not going to write a big list of things that I am going to do because you know as well as i do, that none of it will happen. But instead, I want to get 1 project completed and that project is the hand held 40m rig. Other than that, I have a couple of other boards being made currently in China and one is a test jig with circuits on it for BJT, FET and Op Amp amplifiers stages on it and one MMIC circuit. I have a ton of parts here I have been collecting and I wish to test them all out and see what I want to use in other projects.

So, to all the home brewers out there, who for the most part sit in their labs and do their own thing I wish you all a very happy new year and I wish you luck with whatever it is you are building.

Rob.

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A Reason Why I Don’t Do Clubs

Its funny you know, I have never been a club guy and there are many reasons why I am not a club guy, but one of the bigger reasons why i more generally do not like people all that much is that they tend to disappoint. Personally, i think its better to be agnostic on what people are like and thus not think bad of them. So i tend not to give them much of an opportunity to disappoint.

Take trying to upgrade a license here in Australia, you are stuck more or less in having to deal with the old boys club who think they are the gate keepers of all that is holy in ham radio, rather than just being mere cogs in the process. So it was kind of funny to get a reply to a post i made to a local club some 18 months ago about sitting an exam at their ham fest.

I guess they have had a change of leadership and club vision as the new guy in charge is actually replying to all the dead posts. But, for me, its been this type of experience over and over in many areas of ham radio that clubs and people are pretty much dead to me. I just do not have time for the small minded politics and empire building.

LOL it is what it is.

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Hackers

Not the computer code kind, not even the hardware kind, but the stupid kind that keep trying to hack into by server and blog. Its a never ending game of wack a mole. So after been hit with a couple of big hack attacked in the last few weeks, I upgraded the security for the blog and then after the same douche bag hit me again, I managed to lock myself out of the blog. LOL not to worry, restore everything from backup takes a while 10 mins to do, but I lost a couple of posts. I only do weekly backups. Its not like this blog is anything other than a bunch of dribble from me and if i lose a post or two, its no big deal. So anyway, everything is back to normal and should mean I cannot lock myself out every again LOL.

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73 And Thanks For All The Fish

Well its been coming for a while and today is the day that its been achieved. I am no longer a radio amateur. I am an electronics enthusiast. Yep, I am done with the people. When you have groups that lie, cheat and exploit for their own end, get exposed time and time again and other groups to gutless or hamstrung to be able to deal with it in a manner that will fix the issue once and for all, I figure, why bother. I am better than all this and so I am out.

I have some really good radio projects in the pipeline that will be released over the next 2 to 12 months. I am currently working on a 5 watt DSB hand held. Tonight I have laid out the Transmitter board, I have some fixes to make to the receiver board and I can sent those off to china to get made. I hope to have the whole project competed by the end of the year. And having quit just about all social media, I should be able to, with some luck, achieve that goal.

Ham radio been dumbed down
To just another form of CB
Marketed to shoppers
Spoonfed carton ham radio like sheep —Paraphrased, Jello Biafra.
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The Reason Why You Should Home Brew

Inspired by a post on Pete’s blog found here: http://n6qw.blogspot.com/2019/10/when-you-know-stuff-you-can-do-stuff.html I got to thinking that there are many reasons why we all should home brew. When you look at the discussion about home brew on various forums, you often hear the same excuses as why people do not home brew.

1. I am not smart enough.

Well, I am not an EE either, I am a construction worker who is as dumb as a bag of hammers and i can manage to not hurt myself or make the world explode, so I think you can do it also. I think what people really mean when they say they are not smart enough, is that they are just to lazy to put the time and effort required into learning. You passed an exam, so your obviously not dumb, just lazy. Its taken me 5 years to build a radio worth using more than once. Yes 5 years. And it will probably take me another 5 years to build something I am really happy with. These are not short term projects, there is no instant gratification here. It takes time, energy and effort to gain the skills and understanding required to be able to build a pretty decent radio.

2. You cannot make a rig as good as anything you can buy.

I agree you cannot. But you can make a rig that has utility and is good enough. Not that my home brew stuff is ever going to replace the Icoms i own. So why bother? well simply because home brewing gives you more than the radio at the end of it. Ham radio used to be about self education in radio electronics. Its now about consumerism. Where people once used skills and knowledge to solve a problem, people now throw money at it and act like this makes them the reincarnation of Marconi, Edison and Tesla. Throwing money at a problem is not a virtue, it is a cop out. If we as a hobby are going to stand for something and honour the past, then home brewing for the sake of learning is non optional.

And here is the thing. Home brewing is about learning. You learn at a fundamental level how a radio works. You learn other skills that are useful with your black box icoms like fault finding and trouble shooting. And it gives you something to talk about with others on the radio that is not the lowest common denominator dribble that many seem to think is the pinnacle of what the hobby has to offer.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get on 40m in the afternoon and have 10 other people to discuss home brew with? Actually talking nuts and bolts radio rather than politics or running thought some brag list of purchases like they are achievements worthy to be proud of? Or rather than listening to some I am not dead yet net where everyone checks in to thank the person running the net and announce they are still alive, that they come on and say, i got that thing i have been working on all week working right now. Or they ask a question and have a few really good responses. That is traffic I could listen to.

Or for that matter, the talk on DMR is not about how well the internet is propagating today and wanking on about what talkie walkie you code plug is using on your hot spot, but rather people talking about building a pixie and making it work or trying to understand why a voltage divider does what it does.

Yeah there is so much more we all could be doing and so many much more intelligent things we as hams could be talking about and dont. So many hams complain about things being dumbed down. Well, here is some space for hams everywhere to lift things on an intellectual level. I wont hold my breath though. Dumbing down is not the problem, laziness and apathy is.

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Nothing New Under The Sun

In response to my state of the hobby address here: https://robs-blog.net/2019/10/18/we-promote-the-things-we-value-most/ I had someone send me this. Not sure how readable this will be for most people, but its from 1938 in a magazine called T&R Bulletin, which later became the RSGB magazine. It would seem that even way back when in the dark ages, there were those who were becoming disillusioned with the hobby due to the attitudes of predominantly the old guard.

There is no fool like an old fool, and there is nothing so pathetic on the air as a veteran amateur, who presumably is old enough to know better, making a complete idiot of himself. 

It would seem that even back in the old days, black box operators and shit dribblers on 40m were becoming the norm and it was the newbies for the better part that were setting the example. Not a lot different today is there. Fcalls get all the abuse, but its their betters who are setting the shit example.

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We Promote The Things We Value Most

Let me preface this post by saying that for sometime I have been rather disillusioned with amateur radio as a hobby. The reasons are varied but can all be distilled down to a couple of core issues and the main one is that what attracted me to the hobby, namely home brew and electronics, which at one point was the core point of doing ham radio, is now, rather non existent.

And now what masquerades as a technical hobby is nothing more than Adult CB for those who passed a test one time that made them instant experts of everything or Amateur politics for small men with no life who want power, IE WIA and RASA. How many of these people do you ever hear doing radio? Other than Chapman and Smith, who i think are both shit stains on the hobby, I have never heard any of the others on air ever. So essentially you have people who for the most part do not partake in the hobby, deciding what should be done for those that do.

Take the LCD update as a classic example of how short sighted this hobby is. The WIA consulted with clubs on what to do with Fcall privileges. Have you looked around clubs? They are mostly old, grey and bald and male who has been an amateur for 30+ years with an advanced call. People who for the most part have no clue about the newbie experience in practical terms of what it is like to be a newbie, now, today. In other words, the opposite of who could give some insight into what its like to be an fcall or to be thinking about being an fcall.

If you want to know what the fcall gets right and what could be done better, why not ask some bloody fcalls or people who have been fcalls in the last 5 years? Of course we don’t ask fcalls because in reality, they do not matter, what matters are the opinions of advanced calls. Remember the title of this thread, we talk to those we value most and fcalls do not matter to the WIA because they make up such a small part of the membership as to be irrelevant. So what remains is Advanced call confirmation bias.

Oh sure, I can see some now who are reading this going, well that is not me. I do stuff and am part of a silent majority . And yeah you might do stuff, but is your voice one that is ever heard? A none heard voice is irrelevant. Take a tune though 40 and 20 meters any day of the week and have an actual listen to what transpires. I am running a transceiver i bought into an amplifier i bought, with a signal running through a feedline i bought into an antenna i bought, which is mounted on a tower i bought, so I am the king of ham radio.

You know this SKILL bullshit that people always go on about, my skill as a DX’r means I work more DX. Well, the actual skill is not in electronics or radio for that matter, its in comparative shopping methods and who has a bigger wallet, bigger yard and ultimately bigger amp, because the main skill in VK is who can run the most power without getting caught by an ACMA that is not looking.

One you get passed the dick waving about whose IcYaWood is bigger than someone elses, you get all the other stupidities. Sexism, racism, homophobia, misogyny, fcall bashing and other assorted hate passing as rag chewing. Yeah this is the pinnacle of amateur radio, there are less hateful people on the Brisbane UHF CB repeater and it takes a lot of class to out class the classy characters making animal noises on there.

So ultimately for me, I look at the dominant voices in this hobby and think to myself, I do not identify with these people, i do not relate to these people, I do not like these people and I certainly do not respect these people, so why the hell would i want to associate with these people. And as for people like myself who are trying to self educate in electronics and construction, who are trying to build a station from scratch that is worth using and is not just a novelty, well, they just don’t seem to exist or have been marginalised to the point where they just do not bother operating anymore.

You see, we promote the things we most value, and it would seem that the things we value the most are talkie talkes, wackers, contestors and those who want to be amateur politicians. The real ham radio, the stuff from the pre 1970’s where the first part of building a station was to own a soldering iron and know how to not make cooked chicken smells, well that no longer exists. It has been replaced with the Baofeng.

As for me, well I still have some goals left to achieve amateur radio. Yeah goals. A foreign concept to the talkie talkie crowd. But once they are achieved, I certainly do not see any compelling reason to remain in the hobby. I can easily switch to other forms of electronics where I can continue to learn and to grow. I have come a long way in 5 years, from not knowing what a resistor does, to now being able to design and build a transceiver that has practical use, covering everything from schematic capture and pcb layout to mechanical design.

But when i look at the hobby and those who are partaking in it, i don’t see myself represented anywhere. I see a lot of back in my day, old, white, bald, grey and male, i see a lot of conservative politics, anti science and fake news. But i don’t see a lot of ideals, morals and ethics worth emulating. And without people to look up to, people who are prominent and stand for something more than self interest and self indulgence, then there seems little reason to keep bothering.  The very thought of turning a radio on, including the one i have just finished building, and making a qso or 2, just seems cringe worthy to me.

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