Category Archives: Computers

I've been playing around with my BeagleBone Black quite a bit recently.  It all started with one of my coworkers bringing in a rain gauge that we had collecting dust somewhere in an office storage room.  I had been installing software to the BBB and ran out of space on the eMMC (internal memory) chip.  So I tried to boot from an SD Card - the one I updated the BBB to the latest software with and still loaded with the image.  It appeared to me that it maybe had been reloading the eMMC, but I couldn't tell for sure.  After around a half hour, I power-cycled the BBB.  Bad news, it wouldn't boot.  I don't have the correct HDMI cable, and I'm at work, so my resources are pretty limited.

Enter the FTDI port on the BBB.  Enter the fact that I don't have an FTDI cable at the office.  D'oh!

But I have a few Arduino Unos.

I wondered, and then quickly looked on the Internet to find a page on Instructables that describes how to use an Arduino as an FTDI programmer.  I then looked at a reference for the pinouts.  A page at Circuitco has the pinouts that seemed like they'd work - ground, RX, and TX.    I hooked them up and...


It gets a little bit more MacGyver-ish.  I have only a small box of jumper wires at the office, a few shield headers, and a breadboard...

Overview of setup showing Ardunio, BBB, and the breadboard.

This is an overview of the setup. The Arduino RX, TX, and Ground are connected to a breadboard that has a shield header that connects to the BBB's FTDI port.

BBB connected to header connected to breadboard

This is the connection between the breadboard and the BBB.



Category: Computers

I was one of the first among the ham community to get a Raspberry Pi.  Since getting it, I've felt somewhat lame because it took me a few days before plugging it into my TV and making sure it works.  When I did that, I only ssh-ed into it for a few minutes.

I spent the next few weeks trying to figure out what to do.  After all, the possibilities are endless.  After much thought, I decided the best thing would be some sort of box that would connect to a TV and show something radio related.   I thought about it and decided that the screen format of Sports Center (on ESPN) would likely be the way to go.  Since it is sports and they try to cover a lot, they have a vertical scrolling bar on the left side that shows what they are talking about next (so you know if you want to stay watching or go to the loo or get another beer).  I think that the vertical scroller is something to adapt to this, although it may not be as live as SC, it will give an indication of what's coming up next.

So for things on that bar, I can think of a few things:

  • DX Spots
  • Solar Weather
  • Contest Calendar or contest stats (when in a contest)
  • Log stats (recent QSO locations)
  • Nearby satellites

Recent Headlines (perhaps from ARRL) (perhaps as a crawler at the bottom of the screen? Perhaps also including other news sources like SARC?)

So I'm looking for both ideas and volunteers. This project will be open-source and emphasis will be on making it skinnable, extendable, and something useful to the ham community.  If you have an idea or can volunteer, feel free to leave it in the comments below or email me at callsign at


Today is going to be my first RTTY contest. I've never done RTTY before last night. Fortunately, one of our Milford Amateur Radio Club members, Bill WS6K helped me (and others) out by creating macros and doing some how-tos. We talked through the setup on the club 2m repeater, and he even kept with me after my HT died, and my second HT had a dead battery, so I hooked my second HT to my little Astron power supply which caused a lot of hum on my signal.

So we got things working and tested. Hope to put a lot of people in the log today.


Category: Computers, Operating

It seems like I had time at one point in my life.  Unfortunately, that was then, this is now.

I just pulled up NetNewsWire.  It has been a while, probably 3 years.  Over 300 news items.  NetNewsWire is a great program for RSS feeds on OS X.  Maybe other platforms, I don't know.

I used to follow a lot of photography, blogging, NASCAR, and other news feeds.  While I'm still interested in those things, I don't do a whole lot of photography (it's a hobby that I've not had a lot of time for), and I haven't been following NASCAR nearly as much.  The blogging stuff started seeming more about blogs to make money.  I'm not making money on this blog, nor my other (  This one is all hobby, and siliconcreek is part work (it has probably served me well as a marketing tool).

Part of what made NNW so hard to keep up with is many of the people/organizations I was following post for money, and others were news.  They post daily (or so).  It can get annoying when someone stretches for content.  Maybe daily postings work well to make money on AdWords or get you great ranks in search engines, but I can tell when an author stretches for words.  The interest fell.  I stopped using NNW and removed it from the dock on my MacBook Pro.

I can also find some really interesting stuff that seems refined.  In fact, this morning I started my computer day reading about a flood in 1941.  It was a long post, but it was so interesting  I couldn't pull my eyes from it!  The author of that blog doesn't appear to post on a schedule - he did 7 posts in November, 37 in December, and 17 so far in January.  I looked at another blog, two posts, it just started, but it looks interesting. I looked at another one, the last 5 posts go back to August - many contest and EME results. The posts aren't long, but it is good to see others on the air, even if it is modes I don't operate (I currently operate SSB and FM only, but that's going to change... someday!).  I saw another that included several steps of building a kit radio - very interesting, but like the rest, posts aren't to a schedule.

And there is NO PART OF ME that wants to try to get these guys to get on a schedule.  Forget that!  I don't post on a schedule, why should they?  And they, like me, don't always get their posts to twitter.  And twitter, well, I have hundreds of tweets in my timeline.  I can't keep up.  I've adopted a "dip in and out of the stream" attitude (thanks Connie for the idea!).  I will on occasion look back, but generally what happens when I'm not watching gets ignored.

So I decided last week to clear NNW and start finding these guys' blogs and put their blog RSS feed into NNW.

The clearing part feels good, man!

So I'm going to start reading the infrequent posts of some of the friends I've made on twitter and Google+.  I will eventually add that as a blogroll here.  Baby steps.

Now if you don't mind, I'm going to start adding things to NNW.

EDIT: it appears I've selected a theme that doesn't make it easy to find the RSS feed.  It is .  I will be fixing that sometime soon! 🙂


Jeff Davis, KE9V did a great post about mailing list etiquette.  That was a subject one day this past week on my 2m repeater this past week after a pissing match developed on the HTX-HF_TECH group.  I highly recommend reading it.  You can find it right here.


Category: Computers

A few days ago, I tweeted and posted to Google+ "I'm going to do a blog post on Hamr + Linux. I need to help dispel the myth of "there's not a lot of hamr software for Linux"".  This was started because of a conversation on the local 2m repeater and others making that claim.  I typed this knowing full well that there were already resources out there.

There is A LOT of software for amateur radio.  It is listed on  There's another list at  The problems are that some of it isn't very good, and some aren't being updated anymore.

So for starters, what distro should you be using?  This is really a personal question, and I'm not going to answer it.  LeRoy, KD8BXP has done an excellent write up about 19 different Linux distros at  He doesn't answer that personal question, either, but his blog post will help you answer that question.  I use Mint Linux for now.  I've used and enjoyed Fedora and Ubuntu, but I understand the latest version of Ubuntu has a few issues.

Other resources include Linux in the Ham Shack Podcast (at the time of writing, this hasn't been updated for a few months) (which just got updated with 3 new shows and they're doing another as I type!) and Resonant Frequency Podcast.

I will be looking at the following subjects, and probably in this order (or close to it):

  1. Logging for General Operating
  2. Digital Modes
  3. Soundmodem (used for Packet and APRS)
  4. APRS
  5. Contest Logging
  6. Satellite Pass Prediction
  7. Antenna Analysis
  8. Propagation Prediction
  9. Packet
  10. Software Defined Radio*
  11. USB Rig Control*

For each of these, I will look into and give a quick evaluation of all up-to-date packages I can find, and then give a recommendation and detailed "how to use".  Starred items are items that require me to get or buy something.  Because of that, these may be pushed until I have the items I need or advanced when I get the items (I will update this list as needed).

For now, I bid thee 73s.  If you want to influence my order of things above or make sure I mention something (software, etc) or even a concept (like if you really want me to talk about SSTV), feel free to leave it in the comments section below.


Category: Computers

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