The Quarterly Essay

How To Be An Elmer

Usually by now I have posted something of a state of the union address outlining what I did last year and what I plan to do this year. Most of it follow much the same outline, i set out a grand addenda and then 30 seconds later get sidetracked into other thoughts and get sucked into many other rabbit holes and I never get much done that I planned. So rather than do that this year, I thought i would take a very different approach to my first blog post of the year. I am going to take a topic, an action or something I have found interesting and write a whole lot of shit about it.

Even the title hints at this. The quarterly essay is an Australian long form journalism journal that comes out 4 times a year. There are no sound bites, no click bait titles, just a really good look at a specific topic in depth. And in podcast form Radio Lab from WNYC Studios kind of does the same thing. The whole idea of long form journalism has kind of lost its way in favor of click bait on social media to sell adverts because no one wants to pay to read real quality reporting, they want some fuckwit pundit to tell them how to think so they can go perform how woke they are on any given subject.

Take the youtube stars as an example, so much of what gets posted is essentially click bait. When I see a video posted with the guy pulling a face pointing at something in his card, I think, fuck that. Do not treat me as an imbecile, or as a means to and ends, I am not here for you to earn ad dollars, so stop with the stupid shill videos, just get to the point and show me either nothing, or something relevant, you pointing at something like a fucking idiot is not going to get me to click on your video, the content will.

So anyway, I have been struggling to a cohesive narrative for this post. Its been more rambling on than anything thus far, but all along I have wanted to talk about elmering. I have been sitting on this post for over 2 weeks not sure of where I wanted to take it, but now I know, and the reason why i know will soon become clear.

For a while now I have been helping a couple of people who have been struggling with focus and understanding concepts and via email i have been answering their questions by mostly asking them questions. I think this is the best way to gain understanding, though, my wife hates it when I do it to her and I have been helping her with essay writing for the university course she is doing for a promotion at work.

As far as elmers go, I have been lucky, I have a EE lecturer at a uni who confuses me more than most, but there is a lot of great technical knowledge coming from him and there are a couple of community leaders who i look up to and respect and while I do not ask them lots of questions, I like to share with them my progress, just so they know that their efforts in writing articles, blog posts and the like are not wasted and that there are some who really appreciate the effort they go to to share their time, skills and knowledge to a wide audience.

And it saddened me, while speaking with one of these wizened leaders of the home brew community that he said he was retiring from home brewing. And lets face it, he has certainly earned the right to retire and enjoy the fruits of his dedication to home brew and construction. But that is not why he is taking a break, he is taking a break because of emails saying things like I don’t like your designs and I disagree how you treat the radio art.

Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with people. If someone emailed me something like that, they would get told to go fuck themselves with a hammer, their email would be black listed and their IP added to IPTABLES to DROP all connections from them. See, I just do not have time for these kinds of gutless fucks. Which is why i just focus in doing what I do. People can come along on the journey with me and offer support or they can go to hell.

Its a rather sad indictment on our hobby that people who mostly do nothing, contribute nothing and build nothing are experts on everything that others are doing and building. As some of you are aware of, I moderate a couple of home brew related groups on fakebook and I see this all the time there also, people who really never build anything join these kinds of groups just to tell others how expert they are and to post stupid things that have nothing to do with home brewing. They do not last of course because I take a zero tolerance view to moderating and just delete their posts and or remove them from the group.

I have had a few people over the years tell me that my blog or my videos are not up to their standard. People who have never posted a single thing in their own lives, not even to their QRZ pages. Its tough tits to them hey? And I have others asking for X Y and Z, to which I reply, I am not doing any of this as a service to anyone, I am doing this because I want to keep some sort of documentation of what I have done. This blog for me is not a teaching tool for anyone, its my diary that documents my journey. I can look back in time and see where I was and how far I have come. I am also not really a teacher, I am more an encourager and hopefully and inspirer. If one person reads stuff on here and goes, well if this idiot can do all this, I am sure I can. Or if someone goes OHHH thats a good idea let me improve on it, then for me I have one and fulfilled my duty as a ham to pass it on. For me its not knowledge, but passion that I wish to pass on.

So, how to be a good elmer? Just get out there and do what you love and do it to the best of your ability and show the world just how passionate you are about your thing. It really does not matter what your thing is, be it home brew, portable operation, contests or heavens forbid bloody rag chewing. Do it with love and passion and inspire others with your addiction. You see, the people who I look upto and respect in the hobby and the guys who actually get off their asses and do something. Their actions inspire me to work harder, understand more and to be better.

Ultimately and elmer is someone who leads by example. And leaders are something sorely lacking in the world right now, lets not make ham radio less than what it already is, get out there and lead and show people there is more to the hobby than pissing and moaning on fakebook about who touched you on the frequency, who does not radio like you do, what the idiots at “Insert You National Organization” are doing. Be number 13 on the DX code of conduct: I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself so as to earn their respect. And be the best you that you can be and avoid the arseholes.

To my friends and the people who have inspired me, thank you.

Baxter Out.


The Last Post Of 2020



We have ticked off all the holidays and have survived the dumpster fire of 2020. Stay safe and stay well everyone. I will see you on the other side in 2021. May it be a whole lot better than this last year has been.




The End Of An Era

Welcome to the 7.130 dx net. We meet here Monday, Wednesday and Friday on 7.130mhz. I am Roy, VK7ROY your net control. Check us out on facebook and on twitter. Looking for check ins, looking for dx, this is VK7ROY, please send your call sign now.

The above quote is something very familiar to many Australians. The 7.30 dx net as we call it, because it starts at 7.30pm local time had been for as long as i remember an institution. In fact it ran for over 12 years, but sadly is no more.

On Friday just gone, i had some time and felt like playing some radio and thought to myself, look at the time, its almost time for the 7.30 dx net and off i went and turned on the radio, tuned up the antenna and spun the dial to 7.130mhz. Nothing, some “expert” (and you all know what i think about experts) telling an fcall what is what. So i sat and waiting for Roy or Mal to come on and start. But 10mins later and the “expert” is still pissing in the pocket of some fcall and no dx net, something has to be up. I need to find out.

Before i get to that, the dx net was a very friendly place for newbies to get their feet wet in ham radio. The net controls both had good stations that could hear the weak signals of the fcalls and took the time and effort to make them feel welcome. It was one of the places where I cut my teeth as an newbie fcall.  While i did not always check in, for many years when i was building or designing some electronics, I would have it running in the background as something to listen to. Then the bottom of the cycle came and i was more often than not, not hearing them, or mostly hearing asia, so i stopped tuning in.

Thats not to day i did not often try, or when I had some new toy I would use it as my testing ground as i did with a uBITx in the following post I made back in 2018.

Checking into the dx net

But alas, all good things come to an end. And after sitting waiting for the net to start and it not happening, I did what Roy would always ask us to do, i went and checked them out on facebook. Turns out, that the net has not run since May 2020. I am 7 months behind the times and did not even know that it ended. Hey I know it must be hard to pretty much run 3 nets a week by yourself for 12 years, Roy really deserves a medal for doing this for so long.

So to Roy and Mal and there also was a VK4 whose name and call alludes me, thanks for being there, thanks for being supportive of fcalls and newbies in general and thanks for being examples worthy of following and emulating. And while my interests went from operating to more construction and home brew, you should know that you certainly had an influence on many and that we appreciate all you have done. 73’s and thanks for all the fish.


Taking 5 Minutes

Work has been quiet this week, so I have been really getting into some home brew, its amazing what you can get done when you have some time on your hands. Anyway, I have cleaned up my work bench, and I am currently sitting back and enjoying a nice double espresso and a home made doughnut. And thinking about what I am going to do next.


Happy Birthday Corona Virus


Its officially been 12 months since the world awoke to the novel corona virus. While initially it was novel, the novelty has worn off. So far i have not caught it and I have no intention to put myself in harms way either. Stay safe, stay well is the motto here and hope you are doing the same. So happy birthday corona virus, lets hope you do not have a 2nd birthday.


The Golden Rule

I have been mincing on how to approach this post for a few days now. I think that this is the eleventeenth revision. So lets see if i can manage this with some level of decorum and professionalism. So, the golden rule of ham radio, NO RELIGION, NO POLITICS.

Over time i have been slowly dropping out of the online space, specifically social media because I am just done with the yelling at each other over politics. From ham radio groups on facebook to general news, the US election is like a pox that is infesting every aspect of life and everything it touches it destroys. Once good communities where people from all sides of politics worked together on a common and shared interest start ripping each others faces off like vampires taking over the world, all because one person took a partisan political stand.

Our TV and newspapers in Australia are filled daily with partisan politics from the USA, so much so that even though we had a state election here on the weekend, stupid shit that trump says makes the headlines. Trying to find an escape from the fucktardery that is US politics is becoming harder and harder. There were still some bastions of hope within the ham radio community that were holding out against politics in ham radio, but the last beacon of light has also been snuffed out.

Soldersmoke decided to take a partisan stand in the US election. I understand what they did and why they did it. But the end result was always going to be the same. They turned a once mighty community focused on home brew, electronics and learning and turned it into just another platform for people to divide into their tribes. Fuckwits for trump, dickheads for biden and the third group which I am more a part of, cant we just have one fucking thing that is not perverted by US politics. The answer is no. We cannot.

Ham radio just died for me today. There is nothing left to hope for. It is just me and my soldering iron now. The last voice of reason has walked out the door.


A Typical Day In Australia

Just a typical day in Australia where there is something trying to kill you. I am pretty sure this big bastard was an eastern brown snake, probably the most deadly snake in Australia, which is a land of deadly snakes. Brown snakes are aggressive and will stand up and attack anything that pisses them off including cars. I was far enough away from this guy to not be a threat, I took my photo, the snake crossed the road and I rode away. Lucky i was riding on the footpath, if i did not see him and rode to close, it might have struck me.


Linux And Me

Linux, hmmm, you watch the fan bois come out in force to defend their god over this post. But linux is like a case of the drizzling shits, and endless stream of watery faeces that stick to everything, stink to high heaven and will eventually kill you.

I am not a neanderthal, or and Luddite, I have been using unix and linux on and off for just about forever. But i am at a point in life where I do not want to screw around with things. I want my tools to not require me to fight them to get any work done. When i grab a hammer i do not get out a saw and an plane and some sandpaper to make a fucking hammer, It needs to be ready just to hit shit.

So if its not working out of the box, if i have to fight it, diagnose 100 problems just to get a system that does everything i need, then I do not want to use it. This is the story so far. Oh I should mention, I am writing this post in linux, I have everything just about sorted out other than 1 piece of software that I do not really want to change because I like how it works and it does everything that i need. More on that later.

So i started out with Mint, I used to use mint as my daily driver when I was coding for online games. Back when I had simpler needs and all i really needed was a programming IDE, browser and email to be happy. It was what I went to initially, i know my way around it, it looks good and its what I have installed on the wifes computer. But for whatever reason, it would lock up every couple of days on my computer. No idea why, just random lockups. So it was out.

Next was Manjaro, Oh i liked this distro, its look and feel was good, it was responsive and fast, but it had a bug with fonts-config and I had no idea how to fix it and could not find any explanation on how to either. Its a shame really, but if I cannot run certain software on a distro, then its out nano vna saver is important here, i am a home brewer after all.

Then i gave MX a try, this might have actually been an ok distro, but out of the box the package manager was using an out of date repository and by the time i worked out what was happening, the install was fucked up. Wine would not install wine32, kind of needed for the older 32bit windows software that there are no linux version of, and something as simple as installing Kdenlive in a KDE desktop borked because of broken dependencies. Its shit like that, which really turn people off. I did not bother reinstalling and trying again after than. It was dead to me.

So i thought i would go old school with Opensuse, it had the KDE missing icons bug, not hard to fix, but in a modern bleeding edge distro you would think that they would fix it so that it uses the non broken theme and icons. But the thing that killed this for me, I could not get it to work with my wifi printer. Most others discover the printer add the cups driver and bang its working. Nope, it could not even discover it.

And now we have gone back full circle. I am running Kubuntu, yeah canonicle are something I like to avoid, but here we are, everything is running and all i have left now that I do not have a suitable replacement for is Ham Radio Deluxe. Not that I am doing a whole lot of operating at the moment, one antenna is down, the other one is putting RF in the shack and I have not been bothered to fix either of them as Im probably moving within the next few months and need to take it all down. So for that, i will dual boot with windows just for logging and for using DM870 for digital modes.

Yeah i know about fldigi and the suit of software that goes along with it, but its like looking at the 1850’s, if they made the thing look sleek and modern it might be a suitable alternative, but as it looks now, yeah i just cannot bring myself to use it. That, and when i tried it in windows it never worked for me, even with the sound settings flat out it never had enough gain and the rig control was meh as well. Never did work out what its problem was, HRD worked and never gave me a problem, so i just ponied up and bought it.

Anyway, that is my story, Linux is pain in the arse and a piece of shit that is still not ready for the main game, but, i think i will be able to make things work for now. All this because windows broke the bloody MTP driver for my phone and tablet. And if you are a linux fan boi and I have touched you on the frequency because I spoke ill of your god, don’t bother commenting, you are not going to change my mind that linux is turds on fire. If its perfect for you, that is great. Not everyone is you.