New weather station online

After ten years of reliable service, I have replaced the Peet Brothers Ultimeter 2000 with a Davis Vantage Pro2 wireless unit. This allows me to have the sensor unit a greater distance from the shack as it will transmit to consoles up to 1000 feet away at a location better suited for accurate measurements.  Data is being posted to the Weather Underground site and to the Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP)Quality analysis will also be performed within a few days and the data should be picked up by MADIS by 20 May.

The hardware setup is the Davis data logger with a USB connection.  The software used is WeeWX, which handles archiving the data to a database and sending current conditions to Weather Underground once per minute and CWOP every ten minutes.  Future plans include transmitting the data to the local APRS amateur radio packet network, although a few things need to be worked out for that and an increase in local activity would be nice.

Regardless, the weather data is looking good over the past several days.


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Defining your own happiness

Once again I had to relearn a tough lesson about letting one’s happiness be defined by others.  To wit, the heartbreaking end of the 2014 World Series for those of us who are Kansas City Royals fans.  I’ve been there before–1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, and now 2014–where the Royals just could not complete the deal in the last game of their season.

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Marshall County ARC Field Day featured in ARRL Midwest Division newsletter

It’s actually a rare occasion that I check out things like the ARRL Midwest Division newsletter.  A week and a half ago I did so for the first time in a long while (shameful, I know), and found, to my surprise, a picture of our club’s antenna 2014 Field Day setup!  Thanks to MCARC secretary/treasurer Mike, AC0I, for submitting the photo that appeared in the August 2014 newsletter at the bottom of page 3.

MCARC antenna setup Field Day 2014

MCARC antenna setup Field Day 2014

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Debian 7.3.0 (Wheezy) in VirtualBox

To test a software build I installed Debian 7.3.0, a.k.a. Wheezy, into a VirtualBox drive.  All seemed well except the VirtualBox Guest additions did not seem to be active as a shared directory to the host computer could not be mounted.  In Aptitude the necessary guest packages were installed and attempting to rebuild the virtualbox-guest-dkms failed by stating that no kernel source was installed.  A bit of investigation revealed that a 486 version of the linux-image package was installed but the 686 kernel headers were installed.  D’oh!  Seems the Debian installer chose the safe kernel but the dkms package recommends the 686 kernel headers.

I chose to install the 686-pae image and set VirtualBox to enable PAE and I was on my way.  It was a bit of a head scratcher for a few minutes.


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In this post “netiquette” will refer to the way we conduct ourselves on amateur radio ARRL National Traffic System affiliated traffic nets, not the Internet version.

Amateur radio traffic nets, particularly ones conducted in a phone mode, attract a number of passersby that have not been trained in various net procedures.  While I’ve never been a member of MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System), there is a certain discipline that should be maintained for orderly net operations.  The ARRL Operating Manual, particularly the chapter on traffic handling. should be required reading for all new amateur radio operators who wish to get the most out of their new found hobby.  While waiting for the copy of the Operating Manual to arrive, this post offers a few tips to help you not sound like a LID (an amateur radio colloquial term for a poor operator).

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Hams we are!

An oft asked question, particularly from newcomers to amateur radio, is the origin of the name ham as applied to our hobby. Many explanations have been offered over the years but none have been as credible to me as this editorial in the December 1931 issue of QST:EDITORIAL

APPROXIMATELY every so often an anguished member writes in to ask us how we can dare to apply the term ham to radio amateurs. Not because it is undignified, for we’re not much on false dignity in amateur radio, particularly within our own family, but because, says our correspondent, everybody knows that a ham means a punk, a lid, a poor performer, a person not fully familiar with his vegetables. Why throw asparagus upon ourselves, our inquirers ask.

Now we arise to remark that if we felt for one moment that that was a correct interpretation of the meaning of ham, it would be a thoroughly hated word at the very  top of our Index Expurgatorious. We’d have a town ordinance in West Hartford prohibiting its utterance and we’d pay a bounty to QST‘s proof-readers to run down the despised term. But as a matter of fact we’re quite convinced that the appellation is an honorable one, one over which we need have no qualms whatever.

Somebody’s dictionary suggests that ham is derived from hamfatter, which was a word used in a popular refrain of many years ago. Just what the significance was is not now clear. Then there are many people who believe that the word comes from the theatrical field, being derived from “Hamlet”–because the ham actor was forever strutting the boards and reciting from “Hamlet.” For ourselves, we find a much more convincing account in an article on the etymology of the language of sports, by William Henry Nugent, appearing in The American Mercury several years ago. Mr. Nugent establishes that the United States learned its first lessons in sports journalism and sports slang from the British Isles, where early writers invented a special style and vocabulary that are still in use. Ham, says he, “began as an abbreviation of amateur to am, which the cockney foot-racers and pugilists of the 70’s pronounced h’am.”

The moment one glimpses that ham is derived directly from amateur, much is apparent that before escaped recognition. One has only to consider, for instance, the way the word amateur is abused. Webster says that an amateur is “one who is attached to or cultivates a particular pursuit, study, or science from taste, without pursuing it professionally”; there is no implication of lack of skill. Yet how often have we heard people say, speaking of many things beside radio, “Pooh, he’s only an amateur!” They are wrong, dear friends, as sure as you’re born, and they’ve merely displayed the depths of their ignorance. We accept no such connotation with respect to amateur; neither do we with respect to ham, and for the identic reason.

The word came to us in amateur radio from the wire telegraphing fraternity, where a
beginning operator was known as a ham operator. That our wire brethren, in professional scorn, employed it to mean a poor operator does not make that application correct; the misuse is, in fact, blood brother to the even more common distortion of amateur. If we borrowed the term from them we took its proper sense, and emphatically left behind any stigma of the opprobrious. There is, we repeat, nothing in the derivation of either amateur or ham to imply a lack of skill, but rather the contrary.

Hams we are, then, and proud of it!


K.B.W. was Kenneth B. Warner (Secretary, A.R.R.L.), Editor-in-Chief and Business Manager and the QST editorial offices were located in West Hartford, CT at that time.

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Kansas Weather Net: 55+ years and going strong!

I was looking through the July 1957 issue of QST (my local archive from QST View) and found the following in the Kansas Section News (I rarely look in this area of the old issues) on page 116:

“[W0]LXA, of Salina, has formed the Kansas Weather Net operating on 3920 Tue., Thurs. and Sat. at 1930 regularly or anytime the WX Bureau advises of adverse conditions.  Red states that 37 stations are reporting in to date and the list is growing.”

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A word on amateur radio kits

Over the next few weeks I plan a series of posts on the amateur radio kits that I am building this winter.  The other night I was describing the first one I am building, the AC-1 Junior by Dwight, KG4HSY, a single tube 40m CW transmitter with a roundtable group on 160m.  I was asked by Mike, K0XYZ, if I thought it would be a good first kit for someone getting started.  After considering it for a bit I offered that I thought it would be a good first kit for someone wanting to explore vacuum tubes but probably not for a very first kit due to the high voltage present.  That conversation gave me the idea for this post

Like most any recommendation for the newcomer, something relatively simple is often a good choice for a fist time project.  As noted in my previous post about the code oscillator, it was my first electronics kit and its construction involved a few different techniques from printed circuit board soldering of through-hole components, to soldering wires to various jacks and a volume control.  The component count and the simplicity of the circuits meant that a newcomer to electronics could probably troubleshoot it with a multi-meter.  Battery power from a 9 Volt battery meant that poking around in the unit posed little hazard.  Taken together, these are probably good qualities of a kit intended for a first-time builder.

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Kit building, a journey into amateur radio

Amateur radio has a long history of building.  Whether from the earliest days of the hobby where nearly every component had to be constructed or modified slightly to convert a landline Morse component into wireless service all the way to the present with the plethora of kits from various manufacturers, radio amateurs have been building their own equipment.  Sometimes building is a means to save a bit of money up front; other times building is required because the new idea doesn’t exist in hardware (or even software) yet.  Many times building is done for the pure pleasure of the activity.  I probably fall into the last category.

My journey into the home construction phase of amateur radio began with the Heathkit HD-1416 code oscillator in early 1982.  This led to the Heathkit SW-717 shortwave receiver not long after.  Later I added a digital clock to the lineup capable of 24 hour display, the HW-8 QRP transceiver, and HW-5400 HF transceiver with associated power supply by early 1984.  Later years saw construction of various homebrew items and partial kits such as the Idiom Press Super COMS 3 Morse keyer, several repeater controllers, a 30m QRP transceiver and most recently the partial kits of an Elecraft K3 HF/6m transceiver and its companion P3 panadapter.  Building of some form has been a part of my amateur radio experience from well before I was first licensed.

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“Ghost” a partition contents with rsync

The rsync utility may be one of the best kept secrets on any platform.  Certainly, its use as a backup tool is well known, but perhaps a bit less well known is it’s ability to replicate a complete partition’s contents with permissions and file dates intact (also important for backups).  I have used rsync to copy one or more partitions from one machine to another using a portable USB hard drive or over a network in order to install the OS on a new machine or to get the contents of a dying drive backed up and then copied over to a new drive.  This article will describe these procedures from a Linux/Unix user’s perspective.

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