Monthly Archives: June 2011

When Secret Sats Spy on Us, Just Spy Right Back

The technology that is available to an interested soul is boggling. Here is an account of how two Frenchmen have developed a science of “watching the watchers!”

From mysterious robotic space planes to giant spy satellites the size of school buses, space is teeming with secret American hardware meant to gaze down on insurgents, terrorists and, well, everybody on the third rock from the sun.

For mere proles like you and me, it can be hard to get a straight answer from the Air Force, NASA and other space-faring agencies about precisely what is up there, what it’s doing and where exactly it all is at a given moment.

Now a pair of enterprising Frenchmen have decided to answer at least one of those questions for themselves, using a modified consumer-grade telescope, a small motor, a hand-held controller and a video camera. The result is a do-it-yourself satellite tracker capable of recording the movements of America’s most secretive spacecraft.

via When Secret Sats Spy on Us, Monsieur Legault Spies Back | Danger Room |



Tagged , ,

Why the Clock Runs Off – Time Error Correction Elimination Field Trial

One of the options for electrical device timekeeping has been to count the frequency of the wall electrical power supply. In some cases this count provides a basis for a build-up to other frequency uses.

I know my Nixie Clock projects were mains power frequency counters as originally built and coded.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. which is the group runs the the electrical grid if proposing a 1 year trial relaxation of the frequency discipline.

The technical reasons seem to be a mix of Cost-Benefit Analysis, troubles keeping Wind Farms on frequency and an assumption that exact frequency just doesn’t matter.

Overseas the use of time by electrical mains frequency counting varies, as many grids have never had the frequency discipline to be reference grade.

Even here much of what does mains frequency count is non-critical – that clock in your kitchen stove, the one in the charger base of your shaver, and basically tend to be the clocks that flash 12:00 after a power outage.

Here is the start of the NERC’s briefing:

Time Error Correction Elimination Field Trial

NERC is investigating the possibility of eliminating Time Error Corrections. NERC, which is currently performing a field trial of the proposed Balancing Authority ACE Limits metric as a part of NERC Project 2007-18, has also been collecting data regarding Interconnection frequency performance, including the number of clock- minutes during which actual frequency dropped below the low Frequency Trigger Limit (FTL) of 59.95 Hertz. During the period of July 2005 through March 2010, approximately 44% of the minutes during which clock-minute actual frequency dropped below the low Frequency Trigger Limit occurred during Time Error Corrections when scheduled frequency was 59.98 Hertz (1,875 of the 4,234 total minutes observed below 59.95 Hertz). Upon further investigation, it was found that almost all of those minutes (1,819 of the 1,875 total) represented frequency deviations that would likely not have dropped frequency below 59.95 Hertz if the scheduled frequency had been 60 Hertz. In other words, it was estimated that approximately 97% were of such a magnitude that if the Time Error Correction had not been in effect, the exceedance of the low FTL would not have occurred.

via TEC Elimination.

I’m not certain how many, if any other than homebrew, amateur radio products are mains frequency counters, and what else may have frequency counter issues.

I know professional equipment we use should be ok, though we’ll check into it.

Also somewhat concerned that the annual less than 20 minutes time error Eastern Grid and less than 8 minutes time error Western Grid (Texas’ separate Grid is expected to stay within 2 minutes a year) may be an annual cumulative calculation and we may experience slow-down/speed-up periods greater than this on the hour-by-hour basis.

Watch the media for more on this, and perhaps it is a good “time” for you too to add a frequency reference source to your shack?



When the Dog Bites – Losing the SDR Computer

Seems that I have a had a brief run of things to fit at the K9ZW shack.

The rotor issue turned out to be a broken wire. Repaired and waterproofed without bringing everything down.

The the computer glitches set in.

First it has been missing extension DLLs for the import accessory program for DXBase, the logging program I bought at Dayton. My guess is that the program was complied on a system with some extensions, and the compiler didn’t incorporate that optional 3rd-party code into the program. Waiting for Neal to fill me in on how to fix that.

Next it was a struggle to install the new FlexControl as I had obsolete virtual-com software running, and I have a USB based 8 serial port accessory. Thought I finally had that all sorted after a pair of long sessions. I’ve reason to think that I may have not got it right in the end.

Now it is the main SDR computer having “the flu” and refusing to boot. Checks run good, checks when booted from a Linux Live-CD look fine. Have the drives out and running in-depth full disk checks while in a mule test machine as I write, but the system simply won’t boot.

The class of error suggests some sort of I/O vs driver issues. Hmmm – did I get all those obsolete pesky v-com/v-usb things off the machine?

No matter what, the station as I usually run it is down.

Leaves me choices of “off the air” (which I picked for now) or tearing my station apart to put in a transceiver that isn’t computer dependent.

The Pegasus I had run for several years still needs a computer. I’ve sold most of the other conventional rigs, so I don’t have something “plug and play” ready to swap in. My error.

Guess I need to put that on the list of tasks, and I have to think through how I am backing up the main SDR machine – either a standby unit or a quickly repurposed unit with all the Firewire, USB and Serial ports ready to work.

Have to give this all some thought.

UPDATE – Turns out an easy fix for the tech – less than a 1/2 hour of time.  Hard to 100% diagnose what failed, though indications is that the Antivirus Program somehow did an update that failed leaving it in limbo between build/update versions.  After using the special “My Antivirus Software is broken Deinstaller Program” and doing a reinstall, all is well.  Did have to reinstall a few select drivers, which is OK and took only a few moments.  Does bring up a question – do all-in-one Transceivers which directly connect to the net have any Antivirus needs and are they vulnerable to remote manipulation or corruption?  Will have to explore that question….  73  Steve K9ZW



Tagged ,

Manitowoc Mayor’s Amateur Radio Week Proclamation

Mayoral Proclamation - Manitowoc Amateur Radio Week 2011

Mayoral Proclamation - Manitowoc Amateur Radio Week 2011

Mayor Justin Nickels visited the W9DK Mancorad Club Room to present a proclamation recognizing all Manitowoc Radio Amateurs.

During his visit the Mayor did make a QSO with our friends at the Red Cross ARES/RACES W9RES Group, and shared his appreciation with them over the air!

The URL for additional event pictures is

And Many Thanks to Mayor Nickels for taking the time to recognize Amateur Radio!



Tagged , , ,

Mancorad Dashes & Dots – Mid-June 2011

These club news briefs are posted to the Mancorad_WI Yahoo Group.

For the next several issues I will blog them as a courtesy to those not yet on that reflector.




Hello Everyone!

A quick update on Mancorad, and welcome to our first issue of “Mancorad Dashes & Dots” club email briefing.


The background processes to reestablish all of our permissions/coordinations/arrangements is going well.


We’re looking very good for the restart of membership meetings in September! We’re looking for program presentation volunteers, if any of you have an interesting in being on the program schedule.

As a reminder there are no member meetings scheduled for July or August.


Several people have asked about recent meeting minutes. What we have is online at the club website. The archives from the past are being reconfigured and eventually will return to the online site. I’m still waiting for the Secretary and Treasurer documents to be past over to me, and will get anything additional from those materials out when I get it.


As previously emailed the club’s formal Field Day was canceled.
If you are interested in operating (in class 1D) you can coordinate with Scott W9JSB, though other than operator with prearranged skeds set up with Scott, Mancorad will not be doing any Field Day operations. We are not having a cook out, overnight or any planned Sunday presence for Field Day this year.

Again point of contact is Scott W9JSB if you are interested in scheduling time for Field Day.


With all the cooperation and patience as the club is reborn – not to jump the gun on the planned series of announcements – it is intended that memberships will reflect the months where Mancorad has been a repeater support organization only with some form of extension. More on this later this summer!


A bi-weekly blip to this email reflector is planned to fill everyone in on the progress with Mancorad, on the forward events and club News Please get any items you have for the “Mancorad Dash & Dot” to Steve K9ZW. Target dates for the briefs are the the begining and middle of each month. There will be no printed and mail copies unfortunately, so if you know someone who isn’t able to get on the reflect, please “adopt them” and print them a copy of your “Mancorad Dash & Dot” briefs.


The website is a work in progress, under construction. Expect changes as it is made more maintainable and user friendly. The Mobile version will follow later.


Except for special events, Mancorad will be very light in using Twitter or Facebook. This may change as the youth membership become more active in Autumn.


Re-coordination is in process and expect some repeater updates this summer. The present repeater locations have been reconfirmed, with 146.610 potentially facing a move in about 18-24 months if that tower ends up coming down rather than transferring ownership.


The previous Club Build project was coordinated by Carl KA99WYK and as I write I have no information if the build was complete or not.

Please let Scott W9JSB know if you are interested in a Winter 2011-12 Build Project.


The email remains active. All other email addresses may be intermittent or not working.

Club Leadership is President Tim N7TAL, Vice-President Scott W9JSB and Secretary/Treasurer Steve K9ZW


Mancorad Secretary/Treasurer

Tagged , ,

Worlds Best Hobby – Online Book by Dave W6AQ

An online book about out hobby – well done Dave W6AQ (as recommended by our friend Jeff KE9V):

This book is for anyone who ever thought that Amateur Radio might be a fun hobby.

– Its for anyone who enjoys helping out in emergencies.
– Its for people who like to build things and have them work.
– Its for experimenters
– Its for adventurers.
– Its for communicators. 

Its for all ages, men, women and children, and is a perfect hobby to take into retirement. 

Ham Radio is a very tight fraternity with instant friendships and a large common ground. The hobby is so diverse, with so many specialties, that Ive never met a ham who wasnt eager to be able to spend more time in the shack. 

There are clubs of all sorts in cities and towns large and small. Many clubs are organized by specialty: Contest, Public Service, Repeater, Digital, Microwave, CW Morse code, QRP transmitting using less than 5 watts, and DX talking to hams in foreign lands and on and on. 

There are conventions where hams learn more about the latest developments, see the newest equipment, search for bargains at the flea market, and meet old and new friends. 

In my life I’ve made friends in high school, college, the military, and in my long career producing television and movies.

Virtually all of my good friends, after all of those experiences, are hams. Ham Radio is an enjoyable, lifelong learning experience. 

Ham Radio is the Worlds Best Hobby.

Dave Bell, W6AQ

via Worlds Best Hobby | A book by Dave Bell, W6AQ.



Tagged , , , ,