Smoking Meat

Over the past several years I’ve taken up a new hobby, totally unrelated to amateur radio, but closely related to ham. Smoking meat!

This topic is a bit RF related. Back in 2008 we had a new transmitter installed at work, and we had problems with it from day 1, so the manufacturer sent us a contract engineer to look into the problem. This guy went on and on about smoking ribs. I love ribs, and never really mastered grilling them on a charcoal grill. Anyway, he convinced me that I needed an actual smoker.

I started off with a cheap $50 electric smoker that was on clearance at Home Depot, and it worked well enough that I used it until a few months ago when Amazon had a special on a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. I pulled out my credit card and two days later that bad boy was on my front step.

I mostly smoke Baby Back Ribs, which I generally buy at Sams Club, which is a couple dollars a pound cheaper, unless the local butcher has them on special. I use the 2-2-1 method. Two hours in the smoke, two hours wrapped in foil with a bit of apple juice and back on the heat, and then one hour unwrapped to firm them up a bit. I try to keep the temperature around 225F. Low and slow.

Always remove that shiny, tough membrane from the back of the ribs. Then rub them with your favorite BBQ rub. The recipe I use is a tightly held secret. They come out so good you don’t need BBQ sauce.

I’ve also smoked turkeys, and tried a few briskets. The briskets take a lot of patience, as you need to smoke them very slowly at low temperatures. I haven’t really mastered them yet.

My wood of choice when I’m smoking has been Apple. I’ve been told that Hickory and Mesquite and be a little too strong, but I will be experimenting with them and Pecan this summer. I’m also going to branch out and smoke some other meats, especially chicken. I have ten pounds of chicken hindquarters in my deep freeze that I bought on special over the winter, and I’m really looking forward to smoking them if this Iowa weather ever warms up enough that can sit outside and enjoy the process of smoking them. A nice warm day, lots of smoke, a book, and beer in the hand is what I’m looking forward to! And then plenty of friends to enjoy the results with!

Today I ran across a handy chart Wood Smoking Flavor Chart, so if you’re interested in smoking meat that will help you choose which wood to use.

Have fun, and enjoy a tasty meal!

Mostly Inactive

Not many updates here on the blog, mostly because nothing has been going on. I did consider getting on the air a couple of times, but have found that my rotor is frozen due to the extreme cold we’ve been having here in Iowa this winter. It did move when I tried it last Friday, but on Monday it was stuck again.

My shack doubles as my office where I run a small home based business part time, and it has become quite messy in there. I need to get it cleaned up this weekend so I can gather up all my paperwork for taxes. Once its cleaned up I’m going to try to get back on the air and makes some contacts. After all these years I still haven’t worked all the states, and I really want to get that done.

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Getting back on the air

Now that summer is winding down I'm finding a few minutes here and there to get on the air again. This has also been prompted by my ten-year-old daughter who wants to learn about ham radio.

We made a contact to the Radio Society of Great Britain on SSB which then prompted the ARRL club station to call us. That was a pretty nice couple of contacts!

Last week I decided to dig out the Signalink USB and get on PSK31. Our first contact there was to Croatia. I plan to do a little SSTV in the near future as well. 

I have an RF issue in the house, that being that transmitting on 20m often causes the smoke alarms to sound. I've ordered some ferrites and hope to track that problem down soon. My thinking is that RF is coming in on the interconnect wiring between the units. And possibly it's radiating down the coax which crosses directly over the that runs to the smoke alarms. I need a real balun on my tri-band beam, so I'll probably order one and get it installed before the cold weather gets here.

Other than that, nothings been happening in Holy Cow's world as far as radio goes. 

I’m still here

Things have been awfully quiet here at W0HC. I traded my Chevy Blazer last March, and that started a quest to find a way to fit radios into my new vehicle. I've not been in a big rush to do that, and winter time has slowed me down even more. But I've gotten as far as finishing the DC wiring, mounted a screwdriver antenna and a 2m/70cm roof mounted antenna, and have the control panels for both radios mounted. It's down now to mounting the radios themselves and finishing the grounding for the screwdriver. All things I'd prefer to do in warm weather when I can work in the driveway where there's better light and a lot more room to climb in and out of the vehicle.  I look forward to writing a post on the results of the mobile install this spring.

I can't even remember the last time I was on the air at my QTH. Between three jobs, two kids, dogs, cats, and aquariums, ham radio has been pushed to the back burner. 

I've noticed a lot of banging around on the tower this winter. I'm not sure what's going on up there, but I need to either get myself up there or get a local ham to climb and give it a good inspection. I have a 70cm horizontal loop antenna that I'd like to install up there as well, but I need to find some good low loss coax for it. I'd really like to try some ATV.

Which brings me to this. I think, after being licensed for 22 years, I'm finally going to make it to Dayton this year. My wife, KC0AMY, wants to come along, and has lined up someone to stay with the kids while we're gone. Our hotel room is booked, and time off work approved. Now it's just a matter of having the funds to go, which means I better start busting my butt with job #3 to bring in some paying businesses. You might see more about that here if I get the amateur radio side of things going, but right now I'm focused on two large clients that need to be taken care of before I can let myself get distracted with other projects.

I'll probably watch from some lower loss coax and a UHF linear amplifier at the flea market. I've toyed with getting an HF amplifier as well, but that's pretty far down on my list of things I should spend money on.

That's pretty much my world in a nutshell. 

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CHIRP Radio Programming Software

I just ran across CHIRP, a multi-radio programming software. I gave it a quick try on my Baofeng UV-5R and it seem to work great. It supports a number of radios from Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu, Alinco, and various Chinese models.

Baofeng UV-5R

Last summer I sold my Yaesu VX-7R handheld transceiver due to lack of use. At the time, I decided I’d rather have the money than the radio, so off to eBay it went. I haven’t really missed having a handheld much, but when I caught wind of the Baofeng UV-5R selling for under $75 I was interested.

Reviews from users were generally good, with almost all of the negatives reviews from people that have never touched one, or who want to whine that it “can’t do DStar” or some other malarkey. I don’t care about DStar. I don’t even care much about having an HT since 99.9% of the time my Yaesu HT was sitting in the charger waiting to be used. I figured for $65 it would be worth having a handheld, plus the curiosity in me wanted to see for myself what a $65 dual band HT could possibly be like.

I bit the bullet and ordered the UV-5R from Wouxun.us, and also spent the $18.95 to get the USB programming cable. Shipping was $7.00.  I placed my order on March 27, 2012, my order shipped on the 28th from North Carolina, and was received on the 31st, four days after placing the order. Shipping was via USPS Priority Mail.

First Impressions: 

  • The build quality is poor compared to the Japanese radios. This was not unexpected. My unit had a bit of adhesive residue on the keypad that was easily removed by simply picking it off with my fingers, nothing sticky left behind. It was also missing the “Baofeng” name badge above the keypad.
  • The “flashlight” LED could be mounted better. It seems to be a regular leaded type LED sticking out of the top of the rig.
  • The antenna is somewhat flexible, but is still very, very stiff. There’s really not enough flex to it for me to consider it a “flexible antenna”.
  • The back of the radio seems to be metallic looking plastic. If it’s actually metal, it sure doesn’t feel that way.
  • For $65, I would say the build quality is acceptable. It’s not earth shatteringly good or bad.
  • There is no user manual included, but it is available for download at the Wouxun.us website, as is the programming software and drivers.
  • Programming cable is shipped loose, no drivers or software included. See point above.
  • The programming software isn’t great, but it gets the job done. Reads/Writes seem reliable, had no problems (unlike RT Systems software for Yaesu radios) – EDIT I’ve found that CHIRP is a more elegant piece of software for programming
  • The included drop-in charger can accept the radio with the battery, or just a battery by itself if you have a spare to keep charged.
  • The Chinese to English translations can leave a lot to be desired. Especially the label on the bottom of the charger.
  • The power switch is part of the volume knob. I like this. It makes it easy to turn the radio on or off without having to look at it, which can be pretty nice in certain situations.
  • The included belt clip does not appear to be at all sturdy.

 


Drop in charger


Label on charger doesn’t make much sense after the translation from Chinese to English.


Front of radio showing a bit of glue residue and missing name badge,


Antenna connections. Male SMA on radio, female on antenna. Many hams are making a big deal about this, but it seems pretty standard outside of amateur radio, so I don’t see an issue with it.

 

RF Performance:

I wasn’t able to run it through the paces quite as much as I had hoped as I discovered that my service monitor is badly in need of calibration. But here is what I was able to get:

VHF:

  • RF Output power on 146MHz is slightly over 5 watts
  • Receive sensitivity is around -122dBm, which is right where I would expect it to be, as compared to other amateur and commercial gear I’ve worked on over the years.
  • Maximum deviation was right at 5khz, a little hot, but within specs. This included a CTCSS tone.

UHF:

  • RF power on 444.500 was 3.7 watts
  • Receive sensitivity was around -119dBm
  • Deviation was closer to 6kHz, assuming my service monitor is reading correctly.

The only spurious emission I was able to detect on my spectrum analyzer were more than 55dB below the carrier.

I’m not going to go into much more depth on operating the radio. There’s plenty that’s already been said on forums like QRZ.com about this radio. My understanding is that it’s very difficult to program without the software. So was the Yaesu VX-7R.

Overall I’d say that’s it not a bad investment for $65. If you lose it, drop it off the tower, or otherwise damage it, you aren’t out much. I consider it to be a “disposable” radio.

I’m looking forward to seeing some of the Chinese made dual band mobile radios that are in the pipeline.

Completed Tower

I just noticed that I’ve never posted a picture of the completed tower. Here it is.

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Categorized as Tower

What’s new

Life has been busy, not much going on as far as ham radio.  Lots of projects on the backburner.

My rotor is no longer rotating.  I believe the motor may have opened up, I'm not getting any resistance reading across the two motor wires, after replacing the wire and connector at the rotor end.  It's too damn hot outside for tower work during the daytime, so maybe tonight I'll climb up there again and ohm across the pins on the rotor itself.  If that still reads open then down it comes.  Not fun.

I've been wanting to get started on ATV for a long while.  I have an exciter, working on finding some sort of power amp, and have an antenna on the way.  I don't have any extra coax though.

I have a new dual band vertical that needs to get installed on the tower to replace a 2m antenna that's bad. 

I've been busy the past few weeks helping the kids with 4H projects and building some storage cabinets in my basement.  Maybe things will slow down a bit now and I can get some of my ham radio projects going again.

I’m still here

And I’m still busy.

I have a couple of projects underway, one is a computer interface for my Yaesu G-800SA rotor. Another is the Amateur TV setup. I’m still hoping to run across an amplifier for it, but I hope to at least start assembling a low powered station next week.

Hopefully there will be more activity here soon.

Where the heck is W0HC?

Sometimes life gets in the way of Ham Radio.  Such has been the case at the W0HC QTH.

In the past month I've mostly finished the tower.  Just some minor odds and ends to tie up before the snow flies. The grounding panel is built, the Polyphasers are installed. Coax is run. The tree is trimmed. And the beam works! I was able to work a station in Croatia over the past weekend, and made a few stateside contacts on 10m. The beam is awesome! I'll try to get some pictures of the finished tower, and the grounding panel soon.

As for life, it's just been busy. A weekend on the road, continuing DTV conversion stuff at work, getting all the power equipment ready for winter, etc.  And we are now involved in a FIRST Lego League team, which I'm excited about.  It's pretty neat to see a group of 9-14 year olds getting excited about engineering, even if they don't yet realize that it's engineering.  Right now they are researching lots things about vehicles, like how tracks are used on tanks and other heavy equipment, alternative energy sources, and other things of that nature.  And they are having fun building with Legos!  We have a group of about 15 kids, several of which are girls.

I'm still messing around on the side with some ATV stuff.  I have my modulator working, and have a couple of small amplifier modules sitting on the bench waiting for me to hook them up and try them out.  The main thing that's slowing me down is still the lack of a high power amplifier.  But, I may have some leads on a few, ranging from 100w to 400w. That should do nicely!

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Categorized as ATV