Category Archives: General Stuff

In terms of success, this ranks up pretty high.  I wheeled-and-dealed on everything, and I feel like I made out like a bandit!  I didn't stay very long at Hamvention - I arrived around 8:30 AM and I was gone by around 1:30 PM.

Astron VS-20 Power Supply

It works. I needed a power supply for my bench, and everything new was either adjustable (but not powerful and expensive) or powerful and expensive.  This is better than I thought I'd end up with.

VS-20M Power Supply

VS-20M Power Supply

RF Millivolt Meter

This is one of those pieces of equipment that I never thought I'd have because they're fairly specialized.  I saw a few, and after finding the power supply, I looked for one I had already found.  I found this one (with the probe, not pictured) instead.

Millivolt Meter

Millivolt Meter

Percent Explosive Meter

I'm surprised someone else didn't get this first!  I couldn't resist it.  This is going to find a place in my basement near a blinking red light.  I'm not sure what it will otherwise be connected to (if anything other than a random/semirandom/not-random time controller), though.

Percent Explosive!!!

Percent Explosive!!!

Anderson Powerpoles

I'm standardizing on these expensive AF things.  I needed some.



Hands On Radio Experiments books

After reading N0AX's articles in the last few QSTs, the method of teaching has really grown on me.  When I saw experiment #161 in the June 2016 QST, which referred back to a common emitter amplifier, I not only read with interest but also decided to attempt the experiment.  I started looking for all of the experiments and saw that the ARRL prints them in a book.  I found the books at W0TOK books and wheeled-and-dealed to both for $30.  DEAL!

2016-05-21 11.48.56

Not from Hamvention: Etherkit Si5351 Breakout

I ordered an Si5351 Breakout Board from Jason/Etherkit a few days before Hamvention and got it on Friday after I returned from Hamvention.  I got one on the kickstarter campaign, but SEE THE UPDATE BELOW! but for some reason it refuses to work despite some troubleshooting.  My guess is that I damaged the chip somehow since I THINK (operative word!) that the two MOSFETs work correctly but my Bus Pirate won't show an available address .  For whatever idiotic reason, each time I get something from Etherkit, I try to hot-air solder it, and it's all been without the right stuff (either without a proper hot air rework station or solder paste).  I've been set straight thanks to the Twitterverse, and someday will replace damn near every component on my CRX1 and get it to work properly.  And I will always remember the sign in my dad's auto shop: "Don't be a fool, use the right tool!"... I'll also remember Dr. Miller (photography teacher at my high school): "Do not use any equipment for which you have not been trained" (in other words, make sure I know how to set the jumpers before setting power!).

EDIT: I typed all this before testing the new breakout board.  The new breakout board was throwing errors, and I found that the new oscillator pulls more current than the Bus Pirate seems to want to provide.  After finding this, nothing could be found with the I2C search.  I looked back on this blog and found "the CLK pin on the Bus Pirate gets connected to the SCL pin on the demo board and the MOSI pin on the Bus Pirate gets connected to the SDA pin on the demo board."  I now have two functioning breakout boards! 🙂

Etherkit Si5351 Breakout

Etherkit Si5351 Breakout

That's it! 73!

Category: General Stuff
Maybe it'll be a good day!

Maybe it'll be a good day! From WHIO TV 5/16/16

I'm going to Hamvention on Friday.  My shopping list consists of a handful of needs:

  • A power supply (preferably a linear supply capable of >=20 amps continuous, but I'd go down to 10 amps switching if needbe)
  • Powerpoles
  • An NMO mount or two
  • Variable resistors: 500 ohm, 50k, probably a few in between
  • Something to make a 100Mhz or 125Mhz oscillator
  • Probably a few other parts
  • Some MOSFETS... particularly an MPF-102 for this

I'll probably come home with other stuff too...


Category: General Stuff

Hamvention is at a busy time for me, and I didn't know if I was going to attempt to go or not.  I think I'm going to go, though, because I need stuff.

  1. New NMO mobile antenna setup
    My current mobile antenna is a few years old and not only is it showing it's age - the coax is pulling out from the magnet and I can see braid - it probably took damage when I wrecked my truck last October.  The truck is repaired, but the antenna currently has a VSWR of 3:1.  Not good.  I'm going to completely replace the antenna setup with a better one.
  2. Parts
    I'm not looking for any real radio equipment other than parts.  I have some specific needs (linear-taper variable resistors, etc), but nothing out of the ordinary.
  3. Arduino/Raspberry Pi/Beaglebone Black stuff
    Because you can't have too much!
  4. Test Equipment
    Generally, another scope or a spectrum analyzer is out of my price range, but if I happen to find one...

So I'll probably be at any Reddit or WATwitter meetups, and I'd assume the same location as last year.

Category: General Stuff

WifE8P was complaining that her Shark Steam mop was not producing a lot of steam.  That's really the only way we clean the dining room, kitchen, and entry floors, so it's pretty important for it to work.

The steam would act like it was operating, but would put out little steam.


Category: General Stuff

This is two out of four for me.  I'm too busy.

So last year I had a number of things I wanted to do.  Then my radio went kaput and I still haven't fixed it.  Other things happened, too.

This year I am definitely going to fix... or pay someone to fix my IC-706.  I will probably get into FreeDV and maybe another digital voice mode.  I want to build a receiver, too, and not from a kit.

I know there will be a lot more Arduino stuff going here, and there will be some FPGA stuff, too.  I also have some electronics-but-not-ham stuff coming (some of which has no other blog of mine to go to, and some will be cross-posted from another one of my blogs).

I've been somewhat silent out here, but that shall change soon.


Category: General Stuff

This is one of those "I keep needing this, so I bet it will help someone else" things.

A few months ago I purchased a "Basic Electronics Parts Kit" from Radio Shack (I'd have linked to it right there if I could find it, but sadly I cannot... it's part number 09A12, which no longer shows up on Radio Shack's website).  In said part assortment is a handful of ICs, but it appears that they are only for those that have the important parts of the 4000 and 74LS series of ICs memorized.  Since I am not one of those people, I looked up each one.  Here's the list and what they are:

LM386: Op Amp
NE555N: single timer
UA741CN: Op Amp
CD4013BD: Dual D-Type Flip-Flop (similar to 74LS74)
CD4017BD: Decade counter
UTC7805: 5V Linear Regulator
LM7812: 12V Linear Regulator
HD74LS00P: Quad 2-input NAND Gates
HD74LS02P: Quad 2-input NOR Gates
HD74LS08P: Quad 2-input AND Gates
HD74LS10P: Triple 3-input NAND Gates
HD74LS74AP: Dual Flip-Flop, D Type w/Set Reset
HD74LS86P: Quad 2-input XOR Gates



Category: General Stuff

Yesterday I tore into a Keurig machine that I saved from a landfill.  The machine no longer worked and I don't really even recall what, but I have another Keurig that collects dust (I use a drip coffee maker), so why not.


  • This could be the beginning of something, I'm not sure what though
  • I now have two check valves and three pumps.  One of those pumps works (the other two, I'm not so sure).  These are not self-priming pumps.  Two of the pumps and the aerator are marked at 100 mA, which is nice and low but still too much to be driven directly from an Arduino pin.
  • The tank can be pretty useful.  It has a thermocouple and overheat switch on the side, a heating element at the bottom, and several probes on the top.
  • This is dangerous work.  Lots of sharp plastic.  I'm fairly certain these were made to be assembled only.

Category: General Stuff

If you currently use a newsreader (e.g. to get my blog OR you have it as a feed on your website, please check your URL and ensure it is going to  The domain will be disappearing in about 2 months and I don't intend to renew it.


In 45 days (around September 19), I will be changing the domain over to a different page and breaking anything that starts with

Category: General Stuff, QSTs

Today, I got to drive home without windshield wipers in a rainstorm.  Fortunately, no crashes and no tickets.

The problem has been a lingering problem and even slowed my drive to work last week because I had to stop and shake the connector to the wiper's pulse board.  After the drive home today, I decided it was time to fix it.  I knew there was content out on the internet and I found this video from Road Rage Customs that basically said to replace the board.  I also knew that there was a resoldering fix.

Lemme think here... drop $21 on a new board or touch it with a soldering iron?

2014-07-18 21.16.31

This is the top of the board. Not much here, just some resistors and capacitors.

2014-07-18 21.21.39

This is the problem.

2014-07-18 21.22.05

BEFORE. This is before I soldered the pin, with the camera lens looking through a loupe. Notice that the solder has pulled away from the pin a little.

2014-07-18 21.30.37

This is the cleaned, resoldered and cleaned (again) pin. Looks way better.

2014-07-18 21.32.24

I also cleaned the grease off these. I'm not sure what they are for.

After re-installing the board, I tested the wipers and they worked except the driver's side wiper was a little loose.  I removed the cover and tightened the bolt holding the wiper arm down and tested again.  Works!


Category: General Stuff

I've written before how I don't understand how I can buy a chip on a board from China for $5, or I can buy the chip alone, in quantity, for $15.

Yesterday, I ordered parts.  I looked at eBay, and ordered over 7,000 parts - resistors, capacitors, LEDs, and transistors (plus two more breadboards).  The purchase was less than $60 and the shipping cost for all of it - from 8 different sellers in China - was $7.59.

I balked at the idea of ordering microcontrollers and chemicals from China (thanks to reading some counterfeit chip blog posts back in 2012), so I ordered 5 PIC16s, some thermal grease, and a few other small items from Newark.  $8.72 to ship these things from South Carolina.

This time, my decision to purchase a ton of SMD parts from eBay wasn't just motiviated by price.  It was also motivated by the fact that out of the three major webstores I look at - Mouser, Newark, and Digi-key, only Digi-key comes close to having an assortment in the price reach of a hobbyist (they have assortments in the $9 and up range, Mouser starts over $100, and Newark starts over $200).  Maybe it has something to do with Digi-key's founder - he is an amateur radio operator.

The difference is that the stuff I ordered from South Carolina, while shipped in two packages (a true WTF? moment there, as 5 chips, 9 battery holders, and a 6.5g tube of thermal grease should fit in a small box, not two) will be here two days after I order it.  The stuff from China is expected to be delivered 6/19 or after, for orders placed in the late morning of 6/3.

Honestly, every month has been busy since January.  I don't expect much time to work on stuff this weekend, and then two weekends will be busy with other things going on, so the timing of the deliveries from China will likely be fine.

One thing of note, I will likely be testing every. single. part.  I wouldn't be doing that if I ordered from Digi-Newark-Mouser, but since the true origin of the parts that I ordered is unknown (except for the 5 PICs, thermal grease, and battery holders), it seems that I'd be better off with an ounce of prevention (of problems).


Category: General Stuff

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