Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Alternate method of erasing CDs

Sure, anyone can grab a screwdriver and scratch the top off a burnable CD, making it unreadable for all but the most determined hackers ... but to REALLY do the job properly requires a bit more equipment.

Watch how this high voltage hell raiser from across the pond gets the job done:

Monday, April 18, 2011

New hardware installation ...

This is another kind of support structure & despite its importance to me I can honestly say I slept through the whole installation. The material is titanium I believe and it'll probably cost about as much as a Rohn Tower.

The celebratory beer might have to wait until I've backed off on the pain killers but it'll be a happy day once this whole thing is complete, believe me!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Limited space creates a demand for electronic books

Collecting vintage & antique books is a relatively inexpensive hobby, as long as you have space to store and display the books! It occurred to me a while ago that I should scan my books, both for preservation reasons and also, where copyright allows, so they can be shared and enjoyed by others.
In a country where space is at a premium Japan has gone where I couldn't bring myself to go and several conversion services are springing up that cut the spines from books and then scan the stack of pages to electronic formats. The books are then thrown away so they cannot be sold as second hand, this is literally a conversion service!
The book scanners that interest me are non-destructive and use a angled tray to hold the book while two cameras take pictures of the opposing pages. It is much slower than the above mentioned process but the only method I would consider with rare books.

Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Japan’s cramped living conditions and the arrival of Apple Inc.'s iPad in May have spawned as many as 60 companies offering to turn paper books into e-books as Japanese publishers have been slow to provide content for new electronic readers.
The country's $24 billion market for paper books and magazines, the world’s largest, may see an explosion in e-books as Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy Tab tablet computer and readers by Sharp Corp. and Sony Corp. take on Apple Inc.'s iPad. Mike Firn reports from Tokyo for Bloomberg Television.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Listening to history ....

With careful tuning I can listen to single sideband signals on my old Hallicrafters SX-25 receiver. The longer it is left on the more stable its internal oscillators become and it will "drift" less. When it drifts the frequency the radio is tuned to changes slowly requiring constant retuning ... just part of the charm of these old boat-anchors.

Listening to a single sideband signal on a vintage Hallicrafters radio receiver. The SX-25 was manufactured from 1940 to 1946 and uses all vacuum tubes with no solid state components.

Flying practice.

A few days ago I decided to restart my morning bike rides. This means getting up at 5AM (I'm not a morning person so this is a struggle) and going for a 1 hour ride around the neighborhood.
The particular ride was cut short as I encountered an unexpected change in ground level and was sent sailing over the handle bars only to break my fall a few seconds later with my elbow.
A bone in my elbow, not usually subjected to this type of punishment, broke off and took up temporary residence quite a way from its original home. Since tendons that help my arm to move were attached to this bone I found myself riding one handed back to the house.
A few xrays later it seems as though I'll be having some surgery soon to reattach pieces of bone back together with whatever titanium bits the doctor deems necessary. In the meantime I'm consuming the minimum pain relievers required to take the edge of the pain without turning into a zombie.

This is what a normal elbow joint should look like.
This is what my elbow joint looks like at the moment, the yellow highlighted piece is broken away from the main joint.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Coming soon to a computer near you!

The next version of Ubuntu is coming soon
While I'm on the topic of things that are coming out soon: The new Ubuntu Linux release 11.04 is nearly ready to download.
I've been running it for a while now and I'm still getting used to the new interface but it is growing on me slowly. Several updates are being released to fix glitches and complaints from users so the product is rapidly being refined as I write this.
The last few updates have made a big difference in usability and I am beginning to enjoy the experience of using Ubuntu Linux 11.04. I wouldn't suggest installing it just at the moment but go ahead and take a look after the release date. You can try before you buy by downloading the CD and booting your computer into a live system, if all your hardware is detected then you'll be good to install on your harddrive.

Dr Who again!

The new season of Dr Who is starting, as I already mentioned, on April 23rd. Here is a video clip to wet your appetite.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Good value in JT-65

As I had mentioned before JT-65 is a good digital mode for noisy locations or antenna restricted areas. The low power requirements combined with a high level of redundancy in the data stream mean that contacts are possible under what would normally be impossible conditions.
Here is a map showing stations my old TS-140S has picked up in a 24 hour period using a 40M magnetic loop stuck in my garage. Atmospheric conditions are not particularly good at this time so these results are typical and should be achievable by just about anyone with a HF rig and some wire in the air.
If I get a moment to re-tune the antenna I might even make a contact or two!

JT-65 Stations heard in a 24 hour period using a small magnetic loop antenna.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dr Who is coming ...

Yes, I admit it ... I'm a Dr Who fan.

If you haven't seen Dr Who then you should start. It is a unique science fiction / fantasy program for people who, "aren't really into that whole science fiction thing ..."

Monday, April 4, 2011


There is a relatively new digital mode available for amateur radio use known as JT65. Like WSPR and other low bitrate modes JT65 can operate well into the noise and makes use of relatively low power levels. This is good news for apartment dwellers or hams in antenna restricted environments. DX contacts using less than one watt are not unheard of due to its highly optimized message format and method of accurately timing the transmit/receive cycle.
JT65 is not going to appeal to rag-chewers as the messages you pass back & forth are terse in the extreme, consisting of call signs, grid and signal report. However, these exchanges do make up a valid QSO and count toward awards if logged.
A version of the JT65 software specifically coded for HF work is found below and I suggest , if interested, you download both the application and the very good manual which will walk you though your first JT65 contacts.

The JT65-HF application in operation.

Friday, April 1, 2011

3D Printing at home.

There are several types of technology available that enable you to print 3D objects using a variety of materials. However these industrial or professional machines are very expensive, in the $10,000 or $100,000 range for something with usable accuracy.

Thanks to hackers & back yard engineers there is now a rapidly developing collection of amazing home brewed 3D printers using re-purposed electronics and materials.

Have a look at the this video which displays a 3D printer that uses projected light from a video projector to cure intricate shaped in light hardened resin. The build platform is raised under computer control as each layer is built until the complete "print" is formed. The level of detail far exceeds what has been demonstrated by home-brewed printers so far.

More details are available at: