Wednesday, March 31, 2021

RAAF 100 year flypast in Canberra

I'm not a plane geek but Kevin, VK2KB, talked me in to a trip to Canberra to watch a spectacular flypast by the RAAF to celebrate 100 years. Here's what I saw:

Apologies for some wobbly framing. I think I got better as it went along.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Officially an "old timer"

Old friend Nigel, VK3DZ, kindly invited me along to a meeting of the Radio Amateurs Old Timers Club. To be eligible for membership one must have held a license for 25 years. As I got my license in 1978 I'm well within the range so I applied to join and, after careful reference checks, was accepted.

Bill Roper, VK3BR, efficiently processed my membership and sent a nice welcome letter, an impressive certificate and a recent copy of "Old Timers' News" which is a very professionally produced magazine.

Today's meeting was a catered lunch at the Bentleigh Club followed by an excellent talk about Summits on the Air (SOTA) presented by Peter, VK3PF. 

I was surprised by the number of attendees that I already knew from the past and we had a wonderful chat over a hearty lunch. Chatting with Dave, VK3ASE, about being "old timers" he commented that inside he feels about 17 years old.

Also in attendance was prolific home brew author Drew, VK3XU, who I had the pleasure of visiting recently. He called me out on the picture of his home repaired glasses - I explained that it's one of my favourite photos from that day.

Great to catch up with Peter, VK3YPG and John, VK3EGG. Thanks to the organisers and all involved.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Hermes Lite 2 direct connect to macOS

A Hermes-Lite 2 SDR transceiver arrived a few days ago. For about $300 it's an amazing piece of equipment. A 0-38MHz direct sampling SDR that can transmit up to 5W.

Sliding the boards in to the box is quite simple except that I ran in to trouble fitting the supplied heatsink below the output transistors on the board. It took a bit of filing and grinding to get it to fit in the space below the board.

The radio connects via ethernet and that's how I initially used it with Windows. The SDR software I like the best is SDR Console. By magic it finds the radio on the network - very clever and handy if you need to operate with the radio somewhere else in the house. Direct connection ethernet to ethernet also works with SDR Console under Windows too.

My main computer is a Mac and I don't have ethernet to my office so I was pleased to find that if I simply plugged an ethernet cable from the radio to the Mac it was given an IP address of There's not much decent SDR software for macOS but I found that SparkSDR worked quite well and found the radio without any configuration.

I should add that this is running just fine under Intel emulation on an M1 processor.

Hermes-Lite looks good so far and I'm happy that it was easy to get going on Windows, Linux and even macOS.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Arduino pro micro password typer dongle

This has to be the simplest Arduino project. I have been improving my password security by letting some software choose random strings that meet the criteria. The problem is that I can't remember them and often they are even hard to type accurately with the text in front of me.

The project is a little USB device that you plug in and on boot it types the password. I ordered an Arduino Pro Micro.

This device, like the Leonardo, can emulate a USB HID device, including a keyboard. My program is extremely simple:

When you need the password, just plug it in. This works smoothly on Linux and Chromebooks, macOS tried to identify the keyboard type the first few times and Windows worked but carried on about setting up the device for a while.

Ideally, this board would be mounted in a USB key drive case.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Comparing noise level with WSPR

The noise floor at home is S9. Happily it's a broadband noise rather than the terrible switch mode power supply hash I had at one point. Inspired by Dallas, VK3EB, today I headed for the local park and threw a wire into one of the three largest trees there.

Like Dallas, I used a hand caster for the roll of wire and added a few sinkers to the end.

It was quite windy and after a few attempts I got the wire about 3m up into the tree - not great, but a start. Here's the portable setup:

The laptop is running Linux and is tethered to my phone for time synchronisation and spot upload. I have WSJT-X running at home and also ran in the park as VK3TPM/1 so I could compare Signal to Noise ratio. Here's home:

Here's the same period received at the park.

SNR is between 4dB and 11dB better in the park compared to home. Also one station, VK1DPB, was received at the park at -23 and not heard at home.

This is an encouraging start and I'm sure reception can be further improved in the park.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

A final trip in the van (#vanlife)

Just back from a few weeks touring north in the van. When the latest quick pandemic lockdown in Victoria ended I took the opportunity to drive north from Melbourne, up through country Victoria, through NSW and ending at an old friend's place at Dorrigo.

Along the way, it was great to see VK3EB, VK2BLQ, VK2ASU, VK2KB, VK2NWB, VK2KYP plus Debbie, John (2), Peter, Sue, Hansen, Merv, Charlie, Bronwyn, Rosie, Tony, and Paul, (the latter who oddly don't have amateur radio callsigns).

This time I turned off and saw the dog on the tucker box at Gundagai for the first time.

I enjoyed sleeping in the van and in particular it's nice when it rains.

On this trip I did avail myself of quality local accommodation along the way. It used to be that the feature on the sign was "Colour TV" now it's "free WIFI".

One motel had these wonderful chairs outside some rooms. I had just listened to an ABC RN program about Jimmy Possum chairs but I don't think this is one of them.

Mobile operation, mostly just digital, was good with the new IC-705. (I did find that there was RF feedback over the USB cable). Here's my travel case.

The van has now done 411,000km and it is showing its age. (The moon is closer than this! - 384,000km). Rust is spreading and apart from using oil and coolant the gearbox is wearing out. I plan to get the coolant leak fixed and sell the van cheaply or even for scrap soon. I've enjoyed the van over the past few years - it's taken me right across the country. I feel a little sad and nostalgic, but it's time to move on.