Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wyong field day 2010 - much bigger this year

Just returned from the Wyong field day and I'm pleased to report that it felt about twice as big as the past two years. Probably this is due to the weather being not wet and not too hot.

The "car boot sale" area was huge:


The undercover area packed:


Lot's of money and boxes changing hands in the flea market.


I bought a dual tone SSB test oscillator, something I need, for $8.

The home brew table was full of excellent projects


including this marvellous receiver from Steven 2BLQ:


Stephen told me that the modules all work - but not together.

My little SSB transmitter in a children's tin lunch box looked pretty funny up against these professional jobs, it was great to participate as always.

Lots of fancy black boxes on display too:


A highlight for me was attending a talk by Jeff Johnson who took it upon himself to walk across Australia from south to north wearing a solar panel, carrying an FT-817, and living mostly on "two minute" noodles.


It was great to look through all the gear, meet up with friends and munch on some cheese cubes once again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Steve Jobs is right to avoid Adobe flash

html5 logo.pngThe combination of new features in HTML5 and fast execution speed of Javascript in modern browsers means that it's time to finally cast off dependance on Flash for sites that want to do animation or play video.

Jobs is right, when using laptops I notice the operation of the fan and very often a web page with Flash in it single handedly uses enough CPU to heat up the device so that the fan kicks in. Undoubtably this sucks battery and there's nothing I hate more than a portable device that goes flat too soon.

The effect on memory and CPU of using Flash can be simply seen by comparing memory use on the Flash or HTML5 version of YouTube.

Here's Flash:

flash memory.png

And here's the HTML5 version:

html5 memory.png

So 76.9MB to play flash compared to 53.9MB using HTML5. A total of 37.7% CPU for Flash, compared to 10.3% for HTML5. Hardware acceleration of H.264 video promises to further reduce CPU and power consumption in the future.

The thing that Flash has is mature development tools. Recently I've been using the animation effects in jQuery and they look very smooth. What's needed is a tool to construct animations that play in the modern browser.

Step one is for manufacturers of potentially very popular devices, like Apple with the iPad, to have the guts to not allow Flash on there. Once major site builders see their site littered with little lego bricks they'll have to start getting by without flash.

I choose battery life, stability and standards over Flash any day. Only Apple and Google (YouTube) have the power to pull this off, I support them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Where I get my news

sort by magic.pngAs we count the days until the iPad arrives, many of us have been thinking about how it will fit in with daily life, and in particular, how it might change the way we get my news fix each day.

Over night, if I can't quite sleep, I have an earphone plugged in to ABC News Radio which broadcasts BBC and other news services. So often, I've heard a news story develop through the night that it's shocking to see the newspaper arrive declaring some out of date story as the biggest thing on this morning.

Breakfast is consumed in front of a computer monitor, which isn't totally satisfying but it gives me an efficient rundown of all the news that matters to me compliments of Google Reader and Google News. Recently I've been using Google Chrome as my default browser and that now has extensions including Feedly which makes a nice looking "newspaper" out of my subscriptions.


I can easily imagine reading the news on a tablet in this form.

If there is a big story that happened sufficiently long ago that TV might have video, I'll watch the evening news to see it for myself. TV news is a slave to video content, for good reason, but as a balanced run down of current news it's with newspapers as "aged news" (is that an oxymoron?).

The other side of breaking news is analysis and for that you can't go past the ABC news and current affairs radio and TV. You probably know by now that I'm a devoted addict of all things Radio National but podcasts now illuminate any commuting time. Recently I've been listening to WNYC's Radio Lab which has some great content.

It's going to be a big year for news consumption. The challenge is not getting news, it's sorting and filtering it. As you see at the top, Google reader can sort your news by magic.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The epub book format supported by the iPad

A short chat on ABC Radio about the epub book format which seems to have emerged as the standard format for electronic books.

Listen out for the first use of the term "nerd herd" on ABC radio.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Restored Reinartz two valve radio

After this morning's WIA news broadcast I got a call from Rob, VK2ZNZ, inviting me to drop in to see a new acquisition. It's a beautiful Reinartz radio. WW1 vintage he thinks.

reinartz 2 radio.jpg

Apparently these were available in kit form and this one has been well restored and was in working condition. I played with the "reaction" control but couldn't get it to take off so I'm a little suspicious about the circuit. AM stations were audible though.

Australian repeater finder - iPhone version

It's basically working here. It won't do anything unless you view it on an iPhone with the javascript GPS code supported. When opened, the page will request your position from the device, (you need to agree to this). Then a list of the nearest 40 repeaters are shown like this:

repeaters front.jpg

Tapping on an entry in the list takes you to some more detail:


The iPhone version was built by developing a webservice that returns a JSON format list of near repeaters given a query with lat and lng. I used Dashcode to handle that json service as a "datasource" and then it was almost trivial to wire up the user interface.

Dashcode is an amazing, free, tool from Apple that can be used to make data driven web sites for Safari, Mobile Safari (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad etc).

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Australian amateur radio repeater finder

I love working with the Google Maps API. There are so many useful applications of a technology for presenting information on a map. Here's my latest: repeaterfinder.


Like all good software projects, I wanted this myself when recently travelling to Coffs Harbour. The only way I could find where repeaters are was via the WIA's PDF listing.

Screen shot 2010-02-06 at 1.56.04 PM.pngWhat I dreamed of was to be able to go to a site on my iPhone and have it use the GPS location and then show me all the nearest repeaters in order of distance along with their frequency, CTCSS and other info. I'm not quite there yet, but I am on the way to that objective.

The current web app uses browser geolocation to open up where it thinks you are - this isn't terribly accurate but it's a good start.

Data at the moment is derived from the text list the WIA kindly sent me, it's pretty rough and I haven't fixed up all the modes such as DV which I'm interested in.

I have loads of ideas about where this could go, and would be interested to hear from potential users about what they'd like to see - please comment below.