Building a WiFi NTP Clock

I had been wanting a nice digital UTC clock for my hamshack. In particular one that could set itself to an NTP server over the internet to maintain precise time. But I was having trouble finding a WiFi NTP clock at a price I was willing to pay. Most of the ones I was finding online were $200 or more. So what’s a ham to do? Build your own!

After a lot of searching for what I wanted, I ran across this project over at Adafruit, and seemed like it just might fit the bill. And it did.

I used a Raspberry Pi Zero W as the brains, and the Adafruit 1.2″ 4-Digit 7-Segment Display w/I2C Backpack for the display. I followed the rest of the tutorial and it worked great.

After trying it for some time I was happy with it, and found a Polycase enclosure that was almost the right size. At least for the 7-segment display itself. With it soldered to the backpack it was way too tall. So why not run it remotely from the backpack board? Using some jumper wires I did just that, and with only some minor Dremeling to the enclosure to make it fit perfectly.

Wifi NTP clock internal image

I used some red plexiglass on the front and it looks great in the shack. And it’s a bonus that the time is always correct. Just be sure that when you configure the Pi you set it to use UTC time.

Finished WiFi NTP Clock
The finished LED Wifi NTP Clock

All together I spent around $60 to build this clock.

French Toast Alerts

For several years I’ve been posting my “French Toast Alerts” on my Facebook timeline. But where did the idea come from?

Well, for starters, working at a grocery store in high school I noticed that any time snow was predicted, certain items seemed to become very fast sellers. Namely, bread, milk, and eggs. What the heck is going on? Are people planning to make French Toast if they get stuck at home??

Fast forward a couple decades and I ran across a Twitter account that was posting “French Toast Alerts”, so I asked if I could steal the idea, he referred me to the original source of these, Universal Hub in Boston. so I reached out to them to see if they minded. They said by all means, have fun with the idea. And so I have had fun with it.

And now when winter weather threatens Eastern Iowa I will often post this nonsense on my Facebook. Sometime I forget, or don’t even realize snow is coming, and stupidly enough someone will reach out to me to see if a French Toast Alert is warranted. So I guess I’ll keep posting them.

10m Calling Frequencies

I found this list on the Heartland 10mtr and 6mtr and 12mtr group AM/FM/SSB/digital modes Facebook group. It looked like something I could use again so I’m posting it here.

28.025 CW Rare DX & DXpeditions Frequently Operate Here — Split
28070.15 PSK-31 (offset -115 for USB)
28.080 RTTY Rare DX & DXpeditions Frequently Operate Here — Split
28.1010 10/10 Intl CW Calling Frequency
28120.150 — PSK31
28.120-28.300 Beacons
28.380 10/10 SSB Intl Calling Frequency
28.425 10/10 SSB Intl Calling Frequency
28.495 SSB Rare DX & DXpeditions Frequently Operate Here — Split
28.600 Old General Callin Frequency – Still used by Old Timers
28.675~28.685 SSTV Operating Frequency — IARU Region 1
28.680 SSTV Operations USA/Canada
28.825 10-10 Backskatter Net – Paper Chasers Net
28.885 6M DX Liaison Frequency — Listen here for 6 Meter DX opening announcements and discussions.
28.945 FAX Operating Frequency
29.000-29.200 AM Operations
29.300-29.510 Satellite Downlinks
29.520-29.580 Repeater Inputs
29.600 FM Simplex – Calling Frequency
29.620-29.680 Repeater Outputs

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Categorized as HF

Pork Belly Burnt Ends

Our local Fareway grocery store had ordered some pork belly for a customer, and had some left over, so I decided to try smoking some. My original plan was to make bacon, but I got up one day and the weather was perfect to sit outside smoking meat, and I hadn’t cured my pork belly (which takes 7-10 days) so I decided on Pork Belly Burnt Ends.

I started with 1/2 of a pork belly (about 7lbs) with the skin removed. There’s a lot of fat on pork belly, and you want to leave a fair amount, but trim away some excess. I probably had over a pound of fat that I removed.

  • Trim excess fat
  • cut the meat into 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes.
  •  apply Extra Virgin Olive Oil (enough to coat the meat) and your favorite dry rub (if you don’t have a favorite I recommend making up some Raichlen’s Rub #2) – Be generous (use about 1 cup of dry rub for 5 lbs of meat).
  • Smoke for three hours at 225-250 degrees or until you like the color of the meat. A nice bark will form starting around the three hour mark.
  • Next, add the cubes to a pan (we like a heat-proof disposable pan). Into the pan add the braising liquid. We use BBQ sauce to really add that extra flavor (about 1 cup), 3-4 tablespoons of butter, which adds richness and acts as a fatty binding agent for bringing the sauce and honey together, and then 2 tablespoons of honey (or agave) to bring a stickiness and sweet characteristic. Then mix them all together
  • Then cover and braise in smoker for another 60 – 90 minutes. You will find that the liquid braises at or near a boil and that the fat renders down in the burnt ends keeping the pan moist.  Again, you have added additional fat in the butter, the honey as a binder and the sauce for flavor to really render out the fat that is in the pork belly.
  • Finally, remove the foil pan cover and cook for another 15 minutes to let the heat tack up that sauce,
Sauce:
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon honey

Notes:

I smoked these for 3.5 hours at 325° using Apple wood in my Masterbuilt electric smoker. I then followed that up on the Weber Kettle charcoal grill using Kingsford charcoal with some apple wood chips thrown on top over indirect heat for 30-40 minutes to get a better bark on them. I then sauced them up and braised them on the Weber gas grill (mainly because I could control the temperature better than on the charcoal grill) for 45 minutes at 250° before removing the cover to tack them up.

This recipe is based on one I found here: http://www.vindulge.com/2017/05/smoked-pork-belly-burnt-ends-recipe-and-video/

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Categorized as BBQ

On the workbench – Vintage RCA portable TV

RCA 8-PT-7030 Portable Television

Years ago I picked up this old RCA portable television, model 8-PT-7030 manufactured in 1956. Someone on the rec.antiques.radio+phono Usenet group was giving it away for the cost of shipping, which was around $30. At the time it had a broken high voltage rectifier tube. Other than that, I was unsure of it operating condition. It sat around for close to 10 years.

The first thing I needed was a schematic, and at the time I was unable to locate one online. It occurred to me that my friend Mel W0MDM might have one at his TV repair shop in Estherville. The next time I was passing though I stopped to sell hello and see if he had schematics, and sure enough, he did.

The first problem I ran into in the repair process was a lot of melted wax on the back of the rectifier tube socket, which had migrated into the socket itself. I’m not sure if this wax melts out of the high voltage transformer, or if it’s there to prevent arcing. Either way, it had made a bit of a mess. I tried picking the wax out with some dental picks, but wasn’t entirely successful. I got busy with work so the set got put on the shelf in the backroom for the next 10 years or so.

Last month I dug it out and decided to see if I could make it work. I used my hot air soldering station to blow the wax out of the tube socket and replaced the bad tube. The set still didn’t turn on.

I was able to find a full service manual for the set, a copy of which I have uploaded here. This was very helpful, as it allowed me to discover that the chassis comes apart into two halves for easier service.

I don’t have a tube tester, so I’m not able to check any of the tubes. I also didn’t have a cord that would allow me to power it up on the bench with the cabinet removed. I could have rigged up a “suicide cord” to power it, but I decided against it. At a minimum the set needs the selenium rectifiers and the electrolytic filter caps replaced. And then there’s an almost 100% chance that some or all of the 31 wax/paper capacitors are bad. Five of those are not available in the correct values and voltages. The available parts would cost around $55, but still no guarantee that all 16 tubes are good. Or that the CRT is good.

While this would be a fun project, I decided to just clean it up as a display piece for now. Even if it worked, there’s no analog signals left to display so I would have to feed this with an RF modulator to get a picture. It would look pretty neat in my basement bar, but even not working it will make a nice display piece.

The chassis removed from the cabinet

 

Hamfest Find – Vintage Bearcat III Scanner

When I was kid my grandma always had a police scanner going. My brother and I thought it was pretty neat to hear the police, firemen, and ambulance talking. I can’t remember exactly which radio she had, but I do remember that it was a Bearcat, and that it had the red LEDs and there were lockout switches for each channel.

Later on when I was in high school I bought my own police scanner, a Bearcat BC70xlt. Two of the channels I had programmed were local 2m ham radio repeaters. Not having a ham radio license, my brother and I both put CB radios in our cars, as did many of my friends. We had a lot of fun with those CBs, but they sure left a lot to be desired.

We noticed that one of the kids at our high school had a lot of antennas on his car, so one day I asked about them. It turns out that he was a ham, and he told me I needed to throw away that CB and get a ham radio license, which I eventually did. That kid turned out to be a lifelong friend, we still chat on Facebook several times a week.

Fast forward 25 or so years later and I ran across this old Electra Bearcat III police scanner at the Cedar Rapids hamfest. It immediately reminded me of my grandma, and how her police scanner changed my life by sparking an interest in radio communications. The guy was asking $10 for it, with the original box, manual, power cord, and mobile mounting bracket. How could I pass that up?

The radio was in mint condition inside and out. No dust bunnies and very clean. The only real cleaning it needed were the knobs, which I scrubbed with a toothbrush and some Simple Green. A quick wipe down of the rest of the radio and looked great.

Of course, this being a crystal set, I knew it wasn’t going to hear any of the channels our local public safety agencies were using. Even worse, once I got it home I realized that the BC3 used optional IF boards to listen to two different bands. This radio only had one installed, and it was UHF, and I needed VHF. But I found another BC3 on eBay for a bit over $15 shipped, so I went ahead and ordered it so I could rob the IF board from it. It even had a couple of crystals that would work for me locally.

Next I needed crystals. Certainly ICM or Jan would have them. Nope. Both are out of business. Looks like it was back to eBay. Several sellers had scanner crystals, and I finally found a seller that had what I needed. I ordered five crystals for $50 shipped, a lot more than I really wanted to pay, but what good was this thing without the crystals? Once they arrived I installed them and sure enough, I heard the fire department being paged out and the police dispatcher as well.

I put the scanner on the bench and tested with an IFR-1100 service monitor and the receiver is actually quite hot, at about 0.2uV of sensitivity. Not bad for a scanner that’s nearly 40 years old! I considered re-capping it, but since it was working just fine I decided not to bother.

This unit is now living in my basement bar, right next to some 70s vintage pinball machines. It looks right at home there, and every time I see it I can picture grandmas scanner on top of her refrigerator, and I’m reminded of childhood visits to grandma and grandpas house.

Ham Radio Insurance

When I was getting quotes for homeowners insurance I specifically asked my agent about coverage for my tower. It turned out that for just a few dollars a year I could purchase a rider to cover my tower, however the standard $1,000 deductible applies, and it’s not clear if the antennas and rotor are covered. I decided that I was okay with that for the time being.

But I recently upgraded three smartphones, two being Apple iPhone 6s devices, and a Samsung Galaxy S7. The cellular provider is happy to provide coverage for accidental damage for only $9/mo per device, with a $50 deductible, and I have to send the phone off to some 3rd party to attempt to repair it, and if they can’t, they replace it with a “comparable” refurbished device. That doesn’t sound like a good deal at all.

Instead, I purchased a policy from Ham Radio Insurance Associates to cover not only my ham radio equipment, but my smart phones as well. The coverage was less than $100 a year. Next year I’ll probably add my tower, antenna, and rotor to the policy as well, instead of purchasing the rider to my homeowners policy.

If you are wanting to insure your ham radio equipment, be sure to check out HRIA. They have great rates, and the agent is a ham operator.

 

Published
Categorized as Tower

No, I will not fix your computer

If you suspect you are infected with Crypto malware (Cryptowall, Cryptolocker, TeslaCrypt, etc) DO NOT follow this guide!

This guide is heavily based on a Reddit post by: /u/cuddlychops06. I have reviewed it and given it two thumbs up!

Purpose & Scope of this Guide:

This guide is designed to assist you in removing malware from an infected system that successfully boots. If you perform the following steps exactly as described, this will solve your problem in over 90% of scenarios. That said, not all malware is created equal, and there will be times that this guide fails in removing malware. It is recommended to only accept advice from a “Trusted” technician. (W0HC is a CompTIA A+ Certified Technician). This guide is written in layman’s terms so that most people will be able to understand it with ease.

Disclaimer:

The following instructions are recommendations only. You take full responsibility for any steps you choose to perform on your computer. While the following recommendations are performed without issue on countless machines, there is always a risk of damaging your Operating System or experiencing data loss on any machine. It is solely YOUR responsibility to save all work and back up any and all important data on your system before proceeding. Also note that once a computer has been compromised with malware, it should not be considered clean until a complete reformat has taken place.

Malware Remediation Steps:

Before proceeding, go into your browser’s extensions and remove all suspicious items. Also go into your browser’s settings and remove any default search providers and unusual homepages. If you are unsure how to do this, proceed to Step 1.

Download and run the following tools in this order. Run all tools unless otherwise instructed. All tools should be run in Normal Mode (not Safe Mode) unless you are unable to boot Normal Mode, or the scans fail in Normal Mode. All tools must be run under an Administrator account. Do not remove any tool-generated logs in the event a helper needs you to post them to further assist you.

1) Run rkill.com. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to finish. Do not reboot when done.

  • Kills running malicious processes
  • Removes policies in the registry that prevent normal OS operation
  • Repairs file extension hijacks

2) Download an updated copy Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. Turn on the “Scan for Rootkits” option.

Then, run a “Threat Scan”

 

  • Successfully removes the vast majority of infections
  • Has an industry-leading built-in rootkit/bootkit scanning engine
  • Has built-in repair tools to fix damage done by malware

3) Run ADWCleaner using the “Scan” option. Then press “Cleaning” when finished and allow it to reboot your system.

  • Removes majority of adware, PuPs, Toolbars, and Browser hijacks
  • Fixes proxy settings changed by malware
  • Removes certain non-default browser settings

4) Run Junkware Removal Tool and allow it to finish. Reboot your computer upon completion.

  • Removes adware, PuPs, Toolbars, and Browser hijacks other tools miss
  • Good at removing unneeded AppData directories left behind by infections

 

Optional, Advanced Step (only run if previous tools fail to solve problem):

5) Run RogueKiller

  • Hereis what RogueKiller can do:

Please note: If malware has prohibited you from browsing the web or downloading files, you can try running the NetAdapter Repair Tool with all options checked which will attempt to restore your internet connection & default browser settings. You may have to download these tools on another computer and move them to a flash drive that you can plug into the infected machine.

If you have run all of the above tools successfully, you should be malware-free.

Follow-up Steps (highly recommended):

  • Using a computer that has not been infected, change passwords to all your online accounts.
  • Consider enabling two-factor authentication on supported apps & sites.
  • Revoke app-specific passwords to things like gchat, Facebook, etc
  • Consider resetting your Windows user account password
  • Install a better anti-virus.

 

 

 

Yaesu G-800SA Rotor not turning when cold

Yaesu G-800SA Rotor ControllerI’ve had a Yaesu G-800SA Rotor on my tower since I built it in 2009. I mostly like it, especially the nice big dial on the controller. The fact that it only needs 4 wires to operate is also a plus.

One thing I don’t like about this Yaesu Rotor is that it’s very cold blooded. I tend to take a bit of time off work over the holidays, so I like to mess around on the ham bands. Unfortunately, here in Iowa it’s often quite cold outside at this time of year. Today, for example, overnight we had a low of -4°F, and as of lunchtime it’s only reached 10°F.

It seems that when the temperature is cold, below about 10°F, the rotor stops turning. I haven’t yet been able to determine if this is a rotor issue, or some other problem related to my installation. I’m not very inclined to climb the tower when it’s cold out to see where the issue lies!

I’ve been pondering if there’s a way I could warm the rotor up a little bit, assuming I determine the issue is in the rotor. Or maybe it needs a different type of grease more suited to the cold Iowa winters.

In any case, while typing this post the rotor warmed sufficiently that I now turns. Time to check out the bands!

73

Published
Categorized as Shack, Tower

Next Time Someone Claims To Be An ‘Engineer,’ Give Them This Test

(I found this on Facebook and have re-published it here. I do not know who the original author is.)

Engineering is so trendy these days that everybody wants to be one. The word “engineer” is greatly overused. If there’s somebody in your life who you think is trying to pass as an engineer, give him this test to discern the truth.

ENGINEER IDENTIFICATION TEST

You walk into a room and notice that a picture is hanging crooked. You…

  1. Straighten it.
  2. Ignore it.
  3. Buy a CAD system and spend the next six months designing a solar-powered, self-adjusting picture frame while often stating aloud your belief that the inventor of the nail was a total moron.

The correct answer is “C” but partial credit can be given to anybody who writes “It depends” in the margin of the test or simply blames the whole stupid thing on “Marketing.”

SOCIAL SKILLS

Engineers have different objectives when it comes to social interaction.

“Normal” people expect to accomplish several unrealistic things from social interaction:

  • Stimulating and thought-provoking conversation
  • Important social contacts
  • A feeling of connectedness with other humans

In contrast to “normal” people, engineers have rational objectives for social interactions:

  • Get it over with as soon as possible.
  • Avoid getting invited to something unpleasant.
  • Demonstrate mental superiority and mastery of all subjects.

FASHION AND APPEARANCE

Clothes are the lowest priority for an engineer, assuming the basic thresholds for temperature and decency have been satisfied. If no appendages are freezing or sticking together, and if no genitalia or mammary glands are swinging around in plain view, then the objective of clothing has been met.  Anything else is a waste.

DATING AND SOCIAL LIFE

Dating is never easy for engineers. A normal person will employ various indirect and duplicitous methods to create a false impression of attractiveness. Engineers are incapable of placing appearance above function.

Fortunately, engineers have an ace in the hole. They are widely recognized as superior marriage material: intelligent, dependable, employed, honest, and handy around the house. While it’s true that many normal people would prefer not to date an engineer, most normal people harbor an intense desire to mate with them, thus producing engineer-like children who will have high-paying jobs long before losing their virginity.

Male engineers reach their peak of sexual attractiveness later than normal men, becoming irresistible erotic dynamos in their mid-thirties to late forties. Just look at these examples of sexually irresistible men in technical professions:

  • Bill Gates.
  • MacGyver.
  • Etcetera.

Female engineers become irresistible at the age of consent and remain that way until about thirty minutes after their clinical death. Longer if it’s a warm day.

HONESTY

Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human relationships. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep engineers away from customers, romantic interests, and other people who can’t handle the truth.

Engineers sometimes bend the truth to avoid work. They say things that sound like lies but technically are not because nobody could be expected to believe them. The complete list of engineer lies is listed below.

  • “I won’t change anything without asking you first.”
  • “I’ll return your hard-to-find cable tomorrow.”
  • “I have to have new equipment to do my job.”
  • “I’m not jealous of your new computer.”

FRUGALITY

Engineers are notoriously frugal. This is not because of cheapness or mean spirit; it is simply because every spending situation is simply a problem in optimization, that is, “How can I escape this situation while retaining the greatest amount of cash?”

RISK

Engineers hate risk. They try to eliminate it whenever they can. This is understandable, given that when an engineer makes one little mistake the media will treat it like it’s a big deal or something.

EXAMPLES OF BAD PRESS FOR ENGINEERS

  • Hindenberg.
  • Space Shuttle Challenger.
  • Hubble space telescope.
  • Apollo 13.
  • Titanic.
  • Ford Pinto.
  • Corvair.

The risk/reward calculation for engineers looks something like this:

RISK: Public humiliation and the death of thousands of innocent people.

REWARD: A certificate of appreciation in a handsome plastic frame.

Being practical people, engineers evaluate this balance of risks and rewards and decide that risk is not a good thing. The best way to avoid risk is by advising that any activity is technically impossible for reasons that are far too complicated to explain.

If that approach is not sufficient to halt project, then the engineer will fall back to a second line of defense: “It’s technically possible but it will cost too much.”

EGO

Ego-wise, two things are important to engineers:

  • How smart they are.
  • How many cool devices they own.

The fastest way to get an engineer to solve a problem is to declare that the problem is unsolvable. No engineer can walk away from an unsolvable problem until it’s solved. No illness or distraction is sufficient to get the engineer off the case. These types of challenges quickly become personal – a battle between the engineer and the laws of nature.

Engineers will go without food and hygiene for days to solve a problem (other times just because they forgot). And when they succeed in solving the problem they will experience an ego rush that is better than sex – and I’m including the kind of sex where other people are involved.