Monthly Archives: March 2009

Flex-Radio Flex-5000A Impressions after Six Months or so

My impressions of the Flex-5000A SDR radio keep going up.

I’ll have to admit to having done less than a 1000 QSOs using the Flex-5000A.  Based on my still modest sample the impression of quality and utility are 100%+

The listening ability is exceptional.  Using the Filter-Matrix, RX-Equalizer and the Noise-Reduction/Reception-Processing Matrix the number of stations I can hear and isolate is extraordinary.  Operating at times where other stations complain about the lack of stations heard, I often have a large number of stations that can be heard on the Flex-5000A.

The number one feature I am enjoying is the Display.  The various Panadapter displays have something for every operator.  Setting the viewed with to take in the most bandwidth makes getting a band snapshot easy.  Increasing the focus to allow more precision in selecting an observed signal to listen to certainly helps for DX Hunting.

Transmit Audio reports have been excellent.  A Yaseu MD-200 Desk Microphone is the current setup, though I plan to experiment with a boom mounted mic & foot-switch to see if I can gain some desk space back, and to use a more directional pickup patten.

The Dell computer is doing great.  Typically I will have PowerSDR, MixW and Safari (3) running.  I’ve avoided updating to the Safari 4 Public Beta having observed its huge appetite for  system memory and how it never gives up memory it no longer needs.

The software combination seems content with each other, tracks well and is stable.

I’ve written before about two observed software anomalies, an occasional reduction in audio out after periods of idle and frequency excursions (which may be my fault).  I haven’t been able to duplicate either, so they may be operator error.

Short term there are a number of tasks to accomplish in my installation:

  • Two longer shielded DVI cables are here and ready to install.  The Dell supplied cables are too short for my physical configuration.
  • The boom mike experiment to gain desk space.
  • The Contour ShuttlePro Multifunction Controller needs to be installed & configured.
  • Room has to be found to put the 6m Amp on-line.

Additionally the K9ZW shack setup wit the Flex-5000A needs a general tidy-up with cable-ties put on cables, power supplies moved so the switches are not hidden, the PowerMaster SWR Meter & Green Heron Rotor control hooked up to the computer and possibly replacing the RatPak antenna switch with one that can be computer controlled.

Lots of excuses to get lost in the shack for a few hours here & there!



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Piddle-Paddle CQ WPX

Worked the CQ SSB WPX Contest a couple hours. Mostly trolling for new or interesting DX.

The N3FJP and PowerSDR software combination works fine.

I did have two anomalies I will be working to see if I can reproduce:

  1. After an hour of so of idle PowerSDR seemed to attenuate its Audio Out. Stopping PowerSDR and restarting it cured this issue.
  2. Twice in QSO PowerSDR seemed to jump to another Frequency. Not certain if it wasn’t just me, possibly pushing one of the extra mouse buttons in error.

Both bear watching and will get reported if I can reproduce them.

Only made 100 some contacts, so hardly an contestor’s effort, as I had other things on.



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Toot or Tweet – Social Networking or Just Noise?

Jeff KE9V recently had written how he dropped his Twitter and other Social Networking accounts: Streams of Nugatory Thought

From my comment to his post:

Very much agree that these mini-message services are little more than a “friendly wave” now and then, though unfortunately well lost in a sea of unknown arms waving for “their bit” of attention.

Stilted format, incomplete thoughts, and mostly about as much fun as having people stop by your desk every 90 seconds just to say “hi” while you are deeply committed to real tasks.

I’ve heard a “Tweet” likened to a “Bar Grunt” – well actually it was likened to something more graphic.

My Twitter account goes dorment for months, then I do ocassionally post. I follow almost no one on Twitter, as though I might be interested in a shared hobby passion, there is no way I want to be bothered with their goings on about a ball game or some interest we don’t share.

For what it is worth tweeting “New Blog Post, come and See it Now!” doesn’t change one’s webstats.

Guess the same number of hits are going to happen each day, with a really clever blog post hitting a multiplier that usually doesn’t stick.

As with Texting, Tweeting is not conversational nor compositional – it has a very limited information carrying ability and it is difficult to avoid the noise.

Not worth the time.

Further complicating these mini-messages is governmental interest in using them:

Not happy with wanting to know all about your travels, the UK’s Home Office now wants to monitor your web 2.0 life by requiring social networks such Facebook, Twitter, Skype, MySpace and others, to save data about all conversations. [ ]

“We have no way of knowing whether Osama bin Laden is chatting to Abu Hamza on Facebook. Or terrorists could be having a four-way chat on Skype,” he [a spokesman for the Home Office] said.

He said the government was not interested in the contents of the communication: “What we want to monitor is that so-and-so is logged on to that site and spoke to so-and-so. It’s the who, when and where, not the content.”

Looks like time to review your Twitter involvement, as withe governmental interest & archiving of what is supposed to be fleeting mini-messages you might be surprised to find the cost/benefit ratio somewhat negative.



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Winter Reads – 2008-2009 – Batch IV

A further quick update on my fourth batch of books read so far during this nasty early winter. I have added the previous lists a cumulative list to help me keep track of my reading goals:

The Third Revolution, by Anthony F. Lewis
Dreaming of Jupiter , by Ted Simons
Middle America, by Anthony F. Lewis
The Last of the Mountain Men – Sylvan Hart, by Harold Peterson
Tappan on Survival, by Mel Tappan
Radicals for Capitalism, by Brian Doherty
Carbon in the Solution Not the Problem , by Donald VanDusen
American Farmstead Cheese , by Paul Kindstedt
The Cheese Primer, by Steven Jenkins

Previously Read This Winter:

  1. Seed to Seed – Seed Saving & Growing Techniques, by Suzanne Ashworth
  2. Molon Labe – Come and Take Them (A Novel), by Kenneth W. Royce
  3. Everything You Know is Wrong, by Russ Kick (ed.)
  4. YASME – The Danny Weil & Colvin Radio Expeditions, by James D. Cain
  5. Earth Sheltered Houses, by Rob Roy
  6. Small Strawbale – Natural Homes, Projects & Designs, by Bill Steen & Others
  7. Building Green, by Clarke Snell & Tim Callahan
  8. The Age of Bede, by Betty Radice (ed.)
  9. Ten Years Behind the Mast – The Voyage of Theodora R, by Fritz Damler
  10. The Polically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, by Kevin Gutzman
  11. When All Hell Breaks Loose, by Cody Lundi
  12. Transfer (A Novel), by Jerry Furland
  13. The Electric Car, by Michael Westbrook
  14. The Adventure Motorbiking Handbook, by Chris Scott
  15. Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen
  16. Patriots – Surviving the Coming Collapse, by James Wesley Rawles
  17. The Unthinkable – Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – And Why, by Amanda Ripley
  18. Celsius 7/7, by Michael Gove
  19. The Blacksmith’s Craft – A Primer of Tools and Methods, by Charles McRaven
  20. Leaving the Left, by Keith Thompson
  21. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science
  22. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades
  23. Rocket Mass Heaters – Superefficient Woodstoves You Can Build, by Ianto Evans & Leslie Jackson
  24. Flirting with Disaster: Why Accidents Are Rarely Accidental, by Marc Gerstein & Michael Ellsberg
  25. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, by Ori Brafman & Rom Brafman

I am still continuing to better my goal of reading a book-a-week, and it looks like the continued hard winter & wet spring will let maintain the pace.

Let me know if you want information on a specific title, as unless it is Amateur Radio focused they won’t be reviewed here.

73 & Happy Reading


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Dayton or Not to Dayton? That is the Question.

Yes I have hotel reservations thanks to a friend who persevered until a booking at the Crown was obtained, and yes I have a CU slot.

For various reasons it looks like I may be traveling alone and kind of on my own at for the Hamvention, as my friend George W9EVT is taking a pass for 2009 and some of the other regulars seem to be doing the same – taking a pass for 2009.

Cannot blame them, the economy and all.

On one hand I am really looking forward to looking over all the latest gear, and I find I get a lot from the seminars.

But then it does happen to be exactly the same time as the big NRA show in Phoenix.

A trip to Phoenix has some advantages – sunshine, generally a nicer situation and I’ve lots of friends & acquaintances in Arizona. The show would be first class and I qualify for tickets to the speakers (Glen Beck, Sarah Palin & a number of others).

But no radios and I would miss out on the ramshackle Hara Arena in Dayton and a first hand visit to urban blight.

Have some hard thinking to do – and tickets to book if I decide to do the NRA show instead.

Dayton or Not to Dayton?  That is the Question.

Of course I could just take a couple days off and spend it up north fishing, doing radio and maybe plinking on a range…..



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Why Rules Matter to a Club

I was asked in conversation why I thought Rules (like the Constitution and By-Laws) matter in a club, specially as contended by one Honorary Life Member that a Radio Club is only a social club, and further that majority votes are mandates.  This was written for fellow board members and adapted for this post.

Why Rules Matter to a Club

First addressing the Social Club Only contention:

It is true that fraternity and social interaction is one of the prime reasons for any club, but it is seldom a unique & singular reason – the Social side of a club is one of many reasons to have an Amateur Radio Club.

Our Club has a history of a strong social function, one which by the way the most vocal complainers have largely withdrawn from.

But as important as Christmas Parties, Picnics, and Club Meetings are, they were wrapped around a number of other reasons to exist:

  • Ownership of Resources general more expensive than a single member might be expected to provide (repeaters & club stations).
  • Ensuring community wide availability of those shared resources (keeping the repeater “open” and having the club station available to members).
  • Attracting & Educating community members interested in becoming involved in the hobby.
  • Supporting the Community with Amateur Radio activities ranging from courtesy (demonstrations, assistance) to Emcomm (ride-alongs with Police, weather spotting to Formal Emcomm)
  • Supporting Club Members interested in Specialized Activities part of Amateur Radio (DX, Contesting, Experimenting, Digital, Nets, Message Handling, Lighthouse/Island/Ship Activations…..)
  • Providing a hobbyist existence greater than just the sum of the members and with continuity beyond the lives of the members.
  • and many more.

The argument that the club is only a Social Club is inaccurate. Having a Social aspect is definitely part of a Radio Club, but is not in our case the only, or even the most important, reason Mancorad exists.

Why Rules Matter to a Club:

Our club uses the typical club structure that politically is called a “Representational” structure (or in the classic sense a “Republic”) where those elected from the Membership as a whole guide the club’s desired course of action taking account the expressed wishes of the group (whether by voting or other methods) within the framework of external laws and an internal previously agreed framework (Constitution, By-Laws and Past Votes.)

In other words the club functions by having representatives make sure that something the club wants to do is moral, legal and in keeping with the club’s own written documentation.

Some have been contending that the club is not “Representational” but rather is always controlled by the last majority vote. They claim this is “Democracy” not realizing that this is actually a form of “Mob Rule” unless tempered by inspection of the requested course of action for morality, legality and correctness in reference the club’s agreed written documents.

Deep down we all know this – if at a meeting if those present moved & supported a motion to sell all club assets and give them all the money in unmarked $ 20’s so they could go on a cruise, we know this would be morally wrong, legally (specially taxation) and would not “fly” when the club’s mission was examined, no matter if they had a majority vote.

It actually is exactly this feeling – this knowledge of “right & wrong” – that came into play when the attempt to sell off the vintage station for a fraction of its value to an “insider” of the former club leadership (who’s leadership often strayed from the fiduciary responsibilities of a “Representational” leadership, to a third form of leadership by a controlling clique called an “Oligarchy” (hit Wiki for an explanation) or virtual “Monarchy”). Fortunately that affront was not very subtle and the membership present refused the attempt to shortchange the club for personal gains by members of the oligarchy.

Holding the responsibility to guide the club to what is moral, legal and self-allowed by constitution should be a relatively easy task. We all have strong personal moral compasses, the words of outside law are clear & easily discoverable, and as flawed as it may be the existing Club Constitution is understandable & obviously has been useful to get us through our first 60 years.

It is when we hit the wall of dealing with members who expect a “super member status,” who would willingly return to running the club from behind the scenes from their small clique, and who basically tell us that they don’t care what the constitution says as they want the club to “do it their way or else.”

The bullying, threats of taking the club hostage (do it our way or we will tear down the club) and threats of quitting (one has to hope if they are that unhappy and so unwilling to be a team player, how do you tell them to “not let the door hit you on the way out?”) are not signs of proper struggle, but the vestiges of a club cleansing itself of people looking to the club for personal advantage & fulfillment of control needs, not  in keeping as a  Club with “Representational” leadership. They are a mob proposing to return to an “insider’s mob rule” that is neither moral nor legal, and certainly not in keeping with our self-control as expressed in club documents.

We have been elected to shoulder a simple responsibility – to do the best job we can guiding the club in keeping with the club’s representational structure, morality, legality and constitutional vitality.

It is not an election to an amateur-community-wide spot, but very specifically an election to be responsible to the Club first.



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