Friday, March 29, 2019

Cobar to Broken Hill

I had to wait a few days in Cobar for a new brake drum to come in and be fitted. There's not a lot to see and I saw it all. Picked up the van and the brakes are still not right so I decided to push on to Wilcannia.


An end fed for 40m was set up but storm activity made it not worth while. The van's solar system and the fridge create a lot of HF noise so in Cobar I purchased an SLA battery so that the radio can be run completely isolated from the van and this seems to work.

The road is pretty good but coming out of Cobar it was mostly goats which was better than kangaroos which have a nasty habit of jumping in front of cars. Plenty of them lie dead on the road being eaten by crows.


The van is very comfortable. At Wilcannia the night was hot at first - I ran the fan for a while - but there was a cool change and it was even cold by morning.


It's Saturday now and I've arrived in Broken Hill. A major attraction for me was to visit the Mad Max 2 museum at Silverton.


They've got lots of artefacts from the production including some of the vehicles. Clearly the production left a bit of trash in the desert that people have been finding and bringing in for the display.

Tonight I'm going star gazing again, it's one of the most amazing things about the outback.

The brakes in the van are very soft and I'm going to stick around in Broken Hill to get this issue fixed before heading further west.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Heading west in the van

Now that the weather has cooled a little, I've hit the road from Sydney in the van and am heading west. (I emailed old friends George and Harry and told them to put the kettle on).


I'm taking it considerably slower than Google's navigation suggests.

First stop was a visit to the wonderful QTH of Brian VK2AAF and Susi in Linden. We've spoken via Twitter, email and 80m but never met face to face and it was a real pleasure.

Next a quick stop at the stunning Govetts Leap.


First night was spent at Lithgow in a very nice camp ground over looking a farm with ducks.


An attraction here is the small arms factory.


I'm not really interested in guns but the history of the manufacturing was interesting and particularly how they struggled with the second world war ended. They made everything and anything including prototypes and sewing machines.

Next day on to Dubbo where I camped in a vineyard right next to the observatory.


The observatory show begins at 8pm led by the appropriately named Peter Starr who has an amazing knowledge of the night sky.


There were three telescopes set up and Peter used a powerful green laser to point things out in the sky. After a few cloudy nights we were in luck and my little Sony camera captured this with about a 10 second exposure. (Click to enlarge).


As I drove to Cobar, a squeaking in the rear left wheel started getting worse so I dropped in to a local mechanic who took a look and diagnosed that the brake pad is sticking to the drum and a new drum is needed. This part won't be here for two days so I'm enjoying a bit more of Cobar than originally planned.

The town is the site of a rich copper deposit and has some wonderful buildings. The local historical display is fantastic.


Cobar has three pubs and two IGA supermarkets. I'm doing a load of washing at the laundromat and when it gets too hot for walking this afternoon I'll head for the library.

Next stop is planned to be Broken Hill either Friday or Saturday depending on the van repair. Keep that kettle on gentlemen, I'm on my way.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

New features in WSPR Watch iOS app

A few years ago I wrote a simple iOS app called WSPR Watch that lets me quickly check the WSPRnet site for reports of my WSPR spots. It's on the App Store as a free app - I get the data free from WSPRnet so I don't think it's fair to then ask for money to view that data.

While I don't make any money from the app, I do get nice emails from time to time from users. Some users report that this is their most used app!

Recently I've had a string of great feature suggestions from John, AA7US. The app has some new features which you may not find, so I'll show them here.

Tapping a spot in the spot list now more quickly shows information about that spot and also requests more detail from the QRZ.com XML API.

There's a button to show the call on the QRZ website (which unfortunately doesn't look too good on a phone).

Finally there's a button, with a search icon and the call sign, which searches the loaded spots for just that callsign.


This also works if you tap a spot on the map. The first tap shows the basic info. If you tap the Info icon you get the same detailed info.



In settings there's a button to let you use your QRZ login and if you have a paid account you'll get some extra information in the info display.

In the callsign search fields the little book icon is a button that takes you to a list of recently used callsigns.


The callsigns list is built automatically based on what you've searched. You can simply tap a callsign to put that call into the search field. The list itself is editable, swipe left to delete an entry, tap the edit button to allow you to re-order the list. This feature is nice if you like to watch a few different calls.


Finally, in Settings, if you have the Apple email client set up on your device there's a little email button that creates an email to me for feedback about the app.

The bad news is that the WSPRnet seems very slow recently and often I see requests timeout even though I have set a 30 second timeout. There's not much I can do about this, I don't want to hammer the site with more requests.



I wish there was an answer to this issue. The database of WSPR reports is a very valuable research tool.

Friday, March 15, 2019

CubicSDR working well on MacOS

Some previous versions of CubicSDR have given me some grief on macOS. Today I found that the current release, version 0.2.5, seems to work really well.


Here you see it working with an Airspy HF+ but RTL-SDR also works very nicely.

I like CubicSDR because it has some keyboard and mouse actions that are really handy.

  • Arrow up and down zooms
  • Arrow left and right moves the visible spectrum
  • Dragging with the mouse moves the visible spectrum
  • Like others, clicking on the spectrum tunes to that frequency
  • Spacebar brings up a box where you can type the frequency
  • Shortcuts are shown in the window footer
Great work, I wonder when they'll get to version 1.0?

One bug I see is that if you click in the audio waveform panel it crashes.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

The right hat for soldering

Inspired by the latest podcast (210) from Soldersmoke, in which Bill and Pete talk about wearing a Beret while home brewing, Stephen VK2BLQ and I went Beret shopping today.

It turns out that berets are widely available and there were several options. Naturally we went for the most economical one, shown here, from Targ├ęt at AU$10.

Bill, in the podcast, generously offered a prize for pictures of home brewers working in the shack wearing the approved head gear and I submit the entries you see here.

We enjoy the podcast very much and when a new episode is available messages fly around here to let everyone know. I'm hoping to win the free subscription!


Ross, EX0AA, is getting in to the spirit too:


He hasn't got the soldering iron grip quite right yet.

73s Bill & Pete from Pete and Stephen down under.

Update: Winners!

Bill wrote (on his blog) "Your dediscation to the cause and your adherence to our dress code is truly, uh, REMARKABLE! I hearby award all of you FREE SUBSCRIPTIONS to the on-line version of the SolderSmoke podcast.
But seriously, thanks a lot fellows. I have sent Pete the blog link and I'm sure he will be as pleased as I was. 73 Bill"

We're very excited of course, although the berets might be a bit warm as today it's predicted to be 34C (about 200F in your units I think).

It's not a flash update, it's malware

No, you don't need to update flash. Two of my friends with Macs have ended up with malware on their computers recently and I think the vector is agreeing to install what pretends to be a Flash update. I've seen a few of these recently and I think they're coming in via targeted ads that re-direct multiple times before showing things like this.



Just close the window. Here's a few more examples.