Monday, July 29, 2019

Van "house" battery has died

My first trip in the van since returning from crossing Australia. The battery that powers the fridge and  lights was no longer holding charge. While driving the fridge would run but as soon as I stopped the voltage dived to 8V and the fridge would turn itself off.

When I took a closer look there was melted plastic on both sides of the battery. It looks like some cells have short circuited. The battery has been in use either in my shed or in the van for ten years so it's no surprise that it has given up the ghost.

I haven't seen a battery fail this way and it's pretty alarming.

I've replaced it with a 120AH deep cycle battery which will hopefully last me at least four years.

Slow scan activity on 20m

PSK31 activity used to be common on 20m but it has been killed off by FT8 in recent years. Stephen, VK2BLQ, tipped me off that there's quite a lot of SSTV activity on 14.230.

I'm using the Windows MMSSTV which seems capable but a little cryptic to operate. Here's how VK2BLQ looks at my place.

Here's how I reply back to him:

For some reason I can't get MMSSTV to automatically log received pictures (Update: I found the history images in C:\Ham\MMSSTV\History) but here's a few I've grabbed just this morning. ZL2CC:


VK6AAL (who, I might add, is a very entertaining SSTVer)


Catch you on 14.230 SSTV! Here's a few more.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Upgraded home Wifi to Google Wifi

Stories of home router vulnerabilities prompted me to check for updates to my home TP-Link router. In my case the router works well but there have been no updates for more than three years. Although the house is well covered, I sometimes notice pauses in streaming and I thought it was time to try something new.

Friend, and neighbour, John recently switched to the Google Wifi mesh network system and spoke very highly of them.

Researching online I found that the price for the three pack varies from AU$499 down to AU$347 at David Jones. Of course they don't have any stock locally but I was able to get another store to price match.

The hardware is nicely presented and designed. I would say it's Apple level industrial design. The pucks have two gigabit ethernet ports and USB-C power. The status light can be dimmed via the app for bedroom use.

Setup was smooth using the iOS app which discovers the devices as you plug them in via Bluetooth and configures the mesh. I had trouble with one device which didn't complete setup but I walked away and perhaps got out of Bluetooth range.

The iOS app is good and includes useful tools for measuring and testing both your internet connection right on the router and the mesh strength.

Wifi signal strength is uniformly strong throughout the house now, previously there were some small drops in signal. Measured internet speed over Wifi to a laptop running chrome is slightly lower than with the previous setup but it might be an anomaly.

I'm pretty happy with this performance. We are on NBN over HFC here.

The network is and so I had to restart a bunch of devices to get them to update their addresses.

The device serves a web page on, with a mDNS hostname of which simply shows that it's online and offers links to the Android and iOS apps. It would be nice if there was a bit more that could be done through the web interface but I guess the phone app is the right focus.

There is also a web server at which lets users control Philips Hue devices apparently.

The following ports are listening:

nmap -p-
Starting Nmap 7.70 ( ) at 2019-07-25 10:02 AEST
Nmap scan report for (
Host is up (0.0096s latency).
Not shown: 65530 closed ports
53/tcp   open  domain
80/tcp   open  http
5000/tcp open  upnp
8080/tcp open  http-proxy
8081/tcp open  blackice-icecap

Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 5.36 seconds

Port 8080 shows this:

 Port 8081 shows this:

The hardware is impressive, a quad-core ARM CPU running at up to 710MHz, 512MB RAM and 4GB eMMC storage. AC1200 2x2 Wave 2 Wi-Fi, Simultaneous dual-band Wifi (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) supporting IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, and transmit beam forming.

The devices implement the IEEE 802.11s mesh networking standard (along with some Google innovations, they say).

Note that the Google router sets the DNS to Google's it would be nice if I was told this rather than having to find out by drilling into the settings.

Note that ethernet is still faster than wireless. Here's a speed test over ethernet.

Here's a speed test over Wifi.

After being in use for a week it has gathered a log of internet speeds:

It's a pity that Apple has left the home networking market but I feel that quality alternatives now exist such as Google Wifi.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Classic macOS nostalgia

There's a way to run macOS 9 in a PowerPC emulator based on SheepShaver. Download Mac OS 9 for OS X to try it out. The disk image comes with lots of software and has nifty ways to exchange files with the host machine.

Last century I used to write apps for classic macOS and it's amazing to find that there are big archives of software from the day and one of them had my shareware app "Transform Reports".

SheepShaver is a pun on the 68k Mac emulator for AmegaOS called ShapeShifter.

I also wrote a utility called TurboFind and while I've found the German version, so far I haven't found the English one.

Such nostalgia, I loved HyperCard. Gosh, it looks so small these days.

I guess this won't work:

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Excellent free grammar checking: LibreOffice and LanguageTool

My wife is finishing her PhD and proofreading is hard. It's particularly hard to pick up errors in text you've read many times and are familiar with. She paid for Grammarly, which despite their advertised claims that it's free... is definitely not. Grammarly also doesn't work well on macOS.

Google is said to be adding machine learning powered grammar checking to Google Docs but as far as I can tell it's not there yet.

There are various other solutions around, many we cloud back ends, but happily I can recommend the open source LanguageTool when used as an extension to LibreOffice. Note that you need to install the official Oracle version of Java for this to work. (I think I also needed the JDK but I'm not totally sure).

The grammar suggestions are very useful and while there are a few false positives, it's very valuable. As well as basic grammar and spelling errors, it has high level recommendations including things like collections of sentences that begin with the same word and ideas for simplifying text.

Microsoft Word, particularly when working with a large document (this one is over 100,000 words) and with the EndNote app feels quite flakey. Several times we've seen weird errors such as being unable to save a document due to file permissions - restarting word fixed this. EndNote hangs sometimes and it, in turn, locks up Word.

LibreOffice on macOS feels solid although the user interface is not native and no where near as nice to use as Apple's Pages. I also tried it in Visual Studio Code which worked but tried to do the whole document in one go and wasn't practical.

Academic documents have their quirks and LanguageTool doesn't seem to handle references very well but over all it's been a great experience, and we've found many embarrassing typos and grammar errors that would have been submitted and printed without it. My thanks to the great people who've given us LanguageTool.

Update: Google Docs now has grammar checking

Logged in this morning and Google Docs is now offering me grammar checking and it seems very good.

I wouldn't like to be in the commercial grammar checking business.