Category Archives: rave

My Linux Ubuntu Score Card

What worked great?

1. Printing. Ubuntu found my HP 920c and made it my default printer right out of the box. It was a mere checkbox to get it shared on the network. My Windows XP machine had no issues with it. “Holy Shit!” was all I said when it took 10 seconds to get printing set. The .pdf maker support that comes with Ubuntu was especially helpful when publishing documents for our rally.

2. Firefox.
Still loving that decision after 8 years.

3. VirtualBox.
I knew I would miss XP a little. *tear. It is a good stable OS that MS will force all of us to move away from because they need money for the next “new” thing. I setup VirtualBox and it works great. I am running XP SP2 (inside VBox) with only a handful of small issues. When I updated, I had to rebuild VBox following this fix. I take snapshots before installing any major software or changes and that has saved my ass twice. The apps I can’t live without right now are running great: Photoshop, Macromedia Flash. I also run MS Office. (Still trying to get used to OpenOffice.)

4. Wine + USB to Serial. This was the unbelievable success I spoke of, let me set the scene. I have a year old USB to Serial converter that I bought for $20. No manual, no drivers, it’s made in China and I have NO idea what the chipset is. Will it run in Linux? Doubt it. I didn’t want to bog down the Mini with VirtualBox, so I loaded Wine. Wine is a windows emulator for individual programs. The application I want to run is an APRS tracker programmer with no linux version. To recap: Emulated windows application running inside Ubuntu Linux with Wine – connected to a USB to serial converter made in China – hooked to a serial device powered by a robot battery. :eek: I created a sym link called COM1 that pointed to /dev/ttyUSB0 in the Wine directory. Started it up – reset the Tracker and “WoAH!” I actually jumped out of my chair because it just works.

What kinda worked?

1. MP3 players. Finally settled on XMMS. I tried ‘Listen’ (on my Xubuntu Desktop) and ‘Rhythmbox’ (on my Dell Mini 9). Listen is pretty good, the controls and layout are good, the internet radio station setup was a little too complex. Its biggest problem really is that it’s called ‘Listen’. It’s practically impossible to search for help on a music player using the search string ‘Listen’. Rhythmbox seems to do all right, it does seem to do a little too much disk IO and was a total CPU hog on the Mini. I tried Amarok, which I heard was good, but it had issues with my desktop sound card. I could do without all the fancy indexing and lyric and album cover features. I am NOT an iTunes person. I’m used to a plain-jane ‘winamp’. Installing XMMS was fairly easy for me. Editing your sources.list and updating apt-get seems to be standard Linux stuff to me now, so Your Mileage May Vary.

2. Bluetooth. I got the option with the Mini and ran out and picked up an expensive Bluetooth Mouse which worked great – until I restarted. The mouse seems to work about 70% of the time. The other % I spend 2 minutes muttering while I re-acquire the device by deleting it and re-adding it. The script to get it to auto connect is in progress at: Ubuntu Forum Bluetooth Mouse Thread

3. Dual monitor support. I originally chose Xubuntu (with Xfce) for the desktop, but got Ubuntu working with dual monitors. The Mini saw an external monitor only after a log-off log-on and the ‘monitor key’ on the Dell does zero. Well it does make the external display flicker like it totally was going to do something…

What was a pain?

1. Networking. First, the absolute bullshit update for the Mini: Ubuntu 8.10 Kernel Update Has Broken Wired Connection. Seriously? You just broke my ethernet connection with a kernel update? This is no good Ubuntu… This is not making open source OS’s shine. “Oops – at least you still have wireless.” On the desktop I had a little issue with a NAT connection on my VirtualBox. Make sure VBox gets its own IP from the router. You’ll avoid weird Windows Networking issues when both your Linux machine and the VBox machine are connected to the same share. Figuring that out was certainly a pain.

2. Updates. Did you see that coming? I did… One of the biggest pet peeves I have with MicroSquash is: “Important Security Update – This update fixes a problem where an attacker can take over your machine.” I’d certainly believe that if not every single update from MS said this. Seriously? Your OS is so vulnerable to attack you need 20+ security patches every month? Nope, I don’t believe it. So my standard practice now is to stop the Automatic Update and Security Center services after loading SP2. Go to services.msc and disable them – forever… XP is “end of life” anyway. Plus they like to slip in “Genuine Software Checks” in those automatic updates. I have seen 2 of my customers PC’s rendered useless, even though they were running an valid XP key.

Ubuntu UpdateSorry about the MS rant, let’s get back to Ubuntu. The update manager is also pretty pervasive in Ubuntu. I found the following settings to be a good safe bet. There is more information on updates and kernel updates, but you still need to watch this like a hawk and presume that after an update your machine may have issues. I also discovered that a full shutdown and restart solved problems on my Dell Mini after an update.

What is still brox0red? What have I yet to try?

1. CD / DVD Burning. I am embarrassed to say that as of right now, I can’t burn a CD in my home. I guess I can buy Nero for Linux… At least I will get pay-for support. I get an IO error in the logs and a Power something Check FAILED. I’ve tried Brasero and K3B – no dice. I can’t play DVD’s on my system, so I think it may be time to retire my old Sony drive for more Linux friendly hardware.

2. Video Editing. I have downloaded about 3 non-linear video editing apps, and I’m in the process of getting them to work. If Ubuntu can do this for me – there will be no going back to Microsoft.

The wrap: Ubuntu is running steady on my desktop and my Dell Mini. The occasional bumps in the road are probably no worse then if I went over to Vista. I have since upgraded the Mini to Jaunty 9.04 and have had better success with bluetooth, the system seems to boot faster, and my wired ethernet works again! I have been getting back into the swing of linux and Ubuntu has made it great!

dual-head xubuntu xfce plus virtualbox xp = my new os

Dual headxubuntuXFCE+VirtualBoxXP

The number one reason for me not to upgrade to a linux os was simple: dual monitor support. I have a wacky setup as well. I have a 15″ warm flat screen CRT Samsung, and a 22″ glorious Acer LCD. 1024X768+1680X1050. I’ll detail my setup at some point, but here’s what went down…

Ubuntu live CD failed to even show up on one monitor. I searched on the internets and was told that KDE had a rough time with dual monitor support. I found out that Xfce handles dual monitors with ease. Discovered that Xubuntu is bundled with Xfce and Firefox and not some wacky Opera or Konquerer deal. After loading the Nvidia drivers automatically after install I configured twinview and was well on my way in one evening. I had heard about Virtual Box – but the pot was made sweeter when I found this post about seamless XP integration with Virtual Box.

Here is the magnificent geek screenshot.
For extra points the folder that’s open under XP is a shared drive, the wallpaper is mandolux, and I’m listening to somafm.com

Oh – Vista AND Windows 7 can suck it. :p

A cheaper NiMH battery for your gear that lasts longer?

Eneloop AA battery for Yaesu FT-60What’s next Kris? – A car that runs on NO GAS? :p *chortle

In the picture we have a standard 1400mAh Yaesu FT-60 battery (FNB-83 on right) that lists for $65, next to an FT-60 AA pack (FBA-25 on left) with 6 Sanyo Eneloop AA’s which total out to $50 and that price is for the 8-pack, so you have 2 more rechargeable AA’s for your walkman. ;) I’m sure you could find the stock battery for cheaper, but even if they were the same price this new Eneloop pack lasts a third longer with 2000mAh of power.

Tech stuff: I numbered the batteries thinking that I may have to take them out and put them back in. This keeps them in the same order in the pack and I won’t mix in other batteries of various age and charge states. You also may notice the small piece of foil wrapped around the negative terminal of battery #6. This is done in order to mimic the factory battery pack. It may be part of its charging circuit, or simply may connect to the external charging pads found on the FNB-83. Either way – I want the FT-60 to recognize this as a rechargeable NiNH battery pack… because… that’s what it is. :| If you look closely, you’ll notice that the stock battery is just 6 AA sized cells sealed in the case. Now – This is actually a somewhat controversial modification that Yaesu won’t warrant, but it means that you can charge your new batteries in the unit. Controversial because if you are a moron – you can try to charge non-NiMH batteries and you will start a fire. A chemical / metal fire. Don’t bother reaching for the ABC class extinguisher. :eek: They also say something about about missing a temperature charging circuit in the AA case (thermistor maybe), but I can’t find one in the FNB-83, so I think this is part of the ‘cover your ass’ portion of their battery charging guide.

The Sanyo Eneloop is finally a good rechargeable battery worthy of your attention and their super flash marketing. I’m done buying ‘rechargeable’ batteries from companies that make the bulk of their money on disposables. I’ve had particularly horrible luck with bunny batteries. We got a charger and 4 of their batteries for Christine’s digital camera. After maybe 5 recharge cycles the battery life was down to 1/5th alkaline AA’s, and I’ll explain how charging them wrong was most of the problem.

Your super speedy rapid fast $9 plug in battery charger is crap. I discovered that keeping your batteries topped up and on the charger until use, is what’s killing them. I learned this too late to save a pile of NiMH Motorola TalkAbout batteries… sorry Earth. It’s A charging BASE. It’s where you keep your TalkAbout when not in use. It’s also plugged in and overcharging your batteries constantly. :mad:

The secret to making rechargeable batteries last? Effort. I know you don’t want an Excel sheet of your battery packs, voltage, and temp – so I’ll make this easy. Charge them up for no longer then 12 hours (overnight) and take them off the charger. I know the little green light comes on. I know the red light stops blinking. Take them off the charger! They’re ready to go! When they die, charge them! Don’t throw them in a drawer. Get them on the charger as soon as you can. After they have been charged up and sat in a drawer for 6 months – you’ll need to charge them again. Although with these new batteries that’s becoming less of an issue.

10 ECHO “Charge for 12 hours and stop.”
20 ECHO “Use Whenever.”
30 IF BATTERY = DEAD THEN 10
40 ELSE GOTO 20
50 END

Summary:
You can buy these off the shelf and they are ready to run.
You can get a better then stock NiMH battery for your gear.
They stay charged and ready for an emergency.
Check out the data.
Check out what the digital camera guys had to say.

My first satellite worked. SO-50

I started with AO-51 at 9:23, but I didn’t hear it at all. I am following the ‘if you can’t hear it, don’t transmit’ rule, but I think no one was on it. (over the ocean / day after field day) Next time I will try at least once to transmit. At 9:30 I gave up on the low AO-51 pass and moved on to the prime 53 degree SO-50 pass.

SO-50Now there is a bit of a trick to the SO-50 and that is its 10 minute timer. You need to turn the transmitter on by sending a tone for 2 seconds to the satellite. I expected that to have been done by many other hams working the bird as it passed. I didn’t hear much on the downlink until another station keyed up on the uplink frequency with the PL of 74.4. This turns the timer on. You can clearly hear it in my recording as it goes just about full quiet and XE2BHL calls out.

Needless to say, I’m stoked! There is a lot of things that go into tracking and contacting a satellite and any one of a number of issues can prevent you from hearing anything. I had an un-tuned antenna, a time problem (UTC -8 instead of -7), and a polarity issue (holding the antenna flat instead of upright). Finally hearing both SO-50 and AO-51 at Field Day made me a lot more confident in what I was doing.

Things I learned:
Don’t assume a ton of people will be on the satellite you’re working.
Listen first THEN transmit
AND when nothing is heard at all transmit at least once :p
Callsign in phonetics! Kilo India Six India Uniform Charlie
Delta Mike One Three (see grid squares)
Keep at it!

lego mp3 holder thingyI had to get clever and figure out a way to use my mp3 player / voice recorder (with no mic input) to record sounds off my hand held FT-60 transceiver. As you can see on the right, I still play with legos. :D It’s my lego mp3 holder thingy. That’s an earbud strapped to the small mic hole on my Creative mp3 player. It’s surprisingly not that bad! I was able to place it on the front seat of the car while I was outside yeilding my antenna around. This kept a lot of the ambient noise down and I was able to record my very first satellite QSO!

SO-50 6/25/2007 9:37PM PST – XE2BHL – DM12 – Jose in Tijuana, Mexico
KI6IUC first satellite contact – MP3

CQ Field Day

SOARA Field Day 2007This weekend was the annual ARRL Field Day. Celebrated by hams across the country, the (24 hour) event is part contest, part emergency exercise. Groups obtain a higher score the more “off the grid” they are. Point bonuses are awarded for alternate energy sources, such as portable generators, solar, and battery powered transmitters. The idea is to demonstrate to the public – A. We’re geeks and we’re having a good time. AND B. We are the people that will be relaying a message to your loved ones when the power goes down due to a natural disaster, etc.

I went into my first field day weekend with a little trepidation. I tried to figure out what the activities were going to be (of the various clubs in the area) before spending a full weekend with one particular group. My objectives were: Have a good time, learn more about ham radio, tune my homebuilt antenna, learn more about satellites, meet some folks, play with APRS, have a good time. ;)

Later Friday night after visiting some other field day sites, I stopped by The Southern Orange Amateur Radio Association’s location. A relaxed group of folks, SOARA held their field day activities in Mission Viejo’s Gilleran Park. Friday was merely a get together BBQ to plan the various stations and activities for Saturday. As I pulled into the parking lot I saw a familiar face. Tom AE6SH, who volunteers as an EMT/ham for many rallies in the Southwest, greeted me with an: “I know you!” I was quickly introduced around to club members and started to get an idea about what field day was going to be like with SOARA. Three towers. All modes, all bands, APRS, D-Star, satellites, etc. When I asked what OSCAR satellites would be worked, Vlad KI6BLP said only: “All of them.” To which I could only respond: “Awesome!” :D

Saturday morning, up at 6:30 and off to Gilleran Park. I helped string lines and lift towers. At 11:00AM K6SOA was on the air! Everything was well planned and well placed. They use a contest tracking program on wireless laptops to log every contact and check for duplicates instantly (reminder: this is in tents – in a park – on generator power :p ). I grabbed my headphones and jumped in with Greg N6REG on the BIG 20 Meter antenna. He logged a ton of voice contacts while I typed them into the laptop. Stations were calling “CQ Field Day” from all over the US. I got excited when we heard from Western Florida, even more excited when we talked to Western Massachusetts!

handi-tenna based on K5OELater in the day, I cracked out my home built ‘handi-tenna‘. This antenna is based on K5OE’s design for a small, portable, cheap – satellite antenna. The only tiny problem is you need an expensive analyzer to tune it. :| Up until now I was unable to find someone with the right equipment. In a matter of minutes I had a device in my hand that told me my antenna was tuned to 420Mhz. As the birds are on 436Mhz, I would have to trim it a little. (Birds = slang for satellites) An hour or so of fiddling and I had it set in the 435-440 range. Thanks Richard K6RBS for the analyzer!

I took a break and went and grabbed Christine. I convinced her to come back with me to field day and she brought some ‘busy work’ just in case she got bored. The good news is, after listening to some contacts and hearing CW (morse code) on 20 meters, she enjoyed hanging out and logging with some of the SOARA operators. I know she was most excited working with me operating on 40 meters when we made a contact with a station in Nevada, as it was the first one from that state.

The work on the handi-tenna payed off later that night, when I was able to track and listen to SO-50. I won’t go into all the details of how an FM voice satellite contact works, but I was able to hear Vlad KI6BLP call the clubs K6SOA callsign FROM the satellite. This is with my $11 antenna, handheld radio, and headphones. Thirty minutes later an even better pass of AO-51 came over the ocean. I was able to copy dozens of callsigns from Southern California to Washington State a lot clearer then I ever expected. Previous to this I had tried working satellites on three separate occasions with no luck. To learn more about amateur radio satellite communications, click here.

We left the site around 10:00PM and headed home for some sleep. I returned on Sunday morning to help for the remaining four hours of the contest. I helped Heiko AD6OI and Patti AD6OH on the 6 meter antenna. It was pretty quiet on the band and only after calling “CQ Field Day CQ Field Day this is Kilo Six Sierra Oscar Alpha” about 30 times did we make a few contacts. I got to check out D-STAR with Biran NJ6N’s setup. We watched a webcam broadcast from a field day site in Washington – over the ICOM ID1’s internet connection.

Tear down was quick and everyone pitched in to carefully pack the towers, rope, cable, and radios back into storage and the various vehicles that had brought the equipment. I had an awesome time and I want to thank and shout out to: AD6OI, AD6OH, AE6SH, AE6H, KI6BLP, NJ6N, K6RBS, and N6REG! I look forward to participating more in SOARA’s activites in the future!