This could be bad. Apparently there are lots of counterfeit FTDI232 chips out there–these are the chips that convert your USB to RS-232 serial or TTL serial.
The folks over at Hackaday and Adafruit are reporting that the latest Windows update includes a driver that nukes fake FTDI chips. It doesn’t just keep Windows from using them. It bricks them, rendering them unusable. Ever.
I have a few USB to serial devices, both board level and consumer devices. Most of them came from reputable sources (Modern Device, Arduino, Picaxe, Tripp-Lite, etc) but I have a few Chinese imports from eBay that I expect to fail the next time I plug them in. Adafruit reports that it
… requires it suppliers to only use genuine FTDI chips. However, no matter what it’s always possible counterfeit chips could be used when you purchase products from anyone, anywhere. We’re double and triple checking all our products and suppliers as an added precaution.
I’m assuming SparkFun will also issue a note addressing their products as well.
(as an aside, the Tripp-Lite Keyspan USB Adapter is the best USB-Serial adapter I have ever encountered. It has worked on industrial Allen-Bradley equipment, my mobile Kenwood radio, and everything else I have plugged it into. If you’re sick of the USB-Serial adapters that only sometimes work, shell out a few more dollars and buy one of these.)
(published from DFW, Texas)
After the death of James Linstedt W9ZUC [eHam.com] of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, tower safety is once again a hot topic in ham radio circles. James was 59 years old and an experienced tower climber, yet committed a deadly safety breach by not securing his harness to the tower when he needed to climb ten feet. During that brief climb, he slipped and fell 95 feet to his death. Numerous news reports were in the mainstream media about his death… This is the one from his local paper, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.
Valerie Hotzfeld NV9L did a pretty interesting piece on tower safety on last week’s HamNation on twit.tv. Her piece begins at 15:40. You can also see this on YouTube — this link should take you right to 15:40.
Those of us in radio and electronics have chosen inherently dangerous hobbies. We can get burned while soldering that PL-259 onto the RG-8. We can get shocked. We can slip with that pair of wire cutters and end up with stitches. I’ve done all three of these. But the tower work can be the most deadly. Be careful everybody.
(published from DFW, Texas)
The folks over at Hackaday featured Ham Radio in their latest edition of the Hacklet, their weekly newsletter covering projects posted on their hackaday.io site. The first project, titled “RTL-SDR With Upconverter and Case” features the use of an upconverter to enable the SDR dongle to pick up HF. Pretty handy, considering the stock RTL-SDR has a low limit of about 24 MHz. I just picked up one of these SDR dongles, so I’ll have to look into getting the upconverter.
Like fox hunting? Attach the “Ham Radio Fox Hunt Attenuator” to your HT to reduce the sensitivity of your portable as you close in on that tiny low-powered transmitter. This one uses a couple of 1K potentiometers abd boasts a “…first of its kind variable attenautor vs multiple switches. 1-20 and 21-60 db. with a 3rd option of bypass/straight through.” The ones I’ve used in the past have a bank of switches that switch resistors in an out, so their might be some advantage to the variable unit. Read more