Category Archives: Crosstown Traffic

Crosstown Traffic: Ham Radio 2.0 Webcasts with KC5HWB

Jason Johnston KC5HWB, owner of the Grapevine Amateur Radio dealership, host of the Grapevine Ham Radio blog, and now also hosting the Ham Radio 2.0 webcast. Photo credit KC5HWB

I’ve been busy.  Ever since I got back from Europe (and yes, I’m still putting together a post I am writing about HAM RADIO in Friedrichshafen, it’s coming, I promise), I have had so little time to maintain this blog, much less watch the ham radio webcasts that I used to not miss an episode of.  I am literally about two months behind for both Ham Nation and Amateur Logic.

And now here’s another show that I don’t have time to watch, although I skimmed through the last one and thought it was pretty good.  My friend Jason Johnston KC5HWB, sole proprietor of Grapevine Amateur Radio and owner/operator of the Grapevine Ham Radio blog has been getting into the video game with Ham Radio 2.0 (YouTube archive here). Actually, it looks like he’s been dabbling in it for about a year but he’s really taken off over the past month.  It’s on my list of things to catch up on.  Nice job Jason!

Current episode featured below.

Crosstown Traffic: How much does RadioShack owe maker companies?

Adios, Radio Shack — shamelessly stolen from somewhere, I’m sure nobody remembers who to give credit to for this.  I borrowed it from Adafruit.

Since the Dayton Hamvention, I have been kind of lax in visiting the blogs I like to visit so I have been catching up lately.  This story is from the Adafruit blog on May 16.  Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy in February and, as in all bankruptcies, they are leaving many creditors hanging–not only banks and such, but vendors as well… and not just the big vendors.  Smaller hobbyist vendors like Seeed Studio and Parallax will probably take a loss as well:

Seeed Studio is owed the most: $806,051.63
Maker Media (MAKE Magazine) is owed two amounts: $28,017.00 and $78,713.66, total of: $106,730.66
Magyc (Arduino) is owed: $105,235.15
Parallax is owed: $77,953.94
Velleman is owed: $31,002.00
littleBits is owed: $19,100.00
Afinia (3D printer company) is owed: $1,727.52

To put this into perspective, Radio Shack only owes Apple $38,584.19.

Something to remember if you start a small company catering to the maker movement and decide to distribute through a large chain.  Adafruit themselves managed to avoid losing any money in the process by declining requests from Radio Shack to sell their products:

A few years ago RadioShack contacted Adafruit in an effort to stock our products in their thousands of stores around the USA. This sounds like a dream come true but we decided to decline and focus on our online store and partners who could supply a retailer with Adafruit products.


Published from DFW, Texas

Interesting Ideas: A counterpoise for your HT

“Tiger Tail” counterpoise wire on a Yeasu VX-5 HT ( photo)

Saw this idea earlier today on the Ham Radio Go Kits group on Facebook.  It’s called a “Tiger Tail” – something I’ve never heard of in my 26 years in ham radio.  Turns out it’s actually a thing, and not a bad idea, in theory – you attach a quarter-wavelength piece of wire to the ground side of your antenna connector on your handy-talky and just let it hang down — making your vertical HT antenna a full dipole. I’m not certain exactly how much this would improve things if you were actually holding the radio–the fact that you are holding the radio, especially if it’s made of metal, actually makes your body part of the antenna system and probably throws it off anyway.  God knows what happens to your antenna system if this thing is clipped to your belt.  But if you had the radio sitting on a wooden table, it might really help.

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Blogroll: Other posts about the 2015 Dayton Hamvention

Hamvention season has wrapped up but I thought I would document some Hamvention related blog posts I found around the Interwebz.

From my friend Dan, KB6NU in Michigan:

Dayton 2015: What a blast!, May 17, 2015

Probably the most fun thing was meeting people. I met lots of people who used my study guides or purchased my other books, and I really enjoyed giving them buttons or stickers. I met a lot of people at the QRP-ARCI’s FDIM Vendor Night. Many had already either used my study guides to get their licenses or to teach a class, and some had already purchased The CW Geek’s Guide to Having Fun with Morse Code.

What I learned at the Dayton forums this year, May 21, 2015

As I was perusing the Hamvention program, it hit me that there was no CW forum. This despite there being numerous vendors selling keys and paddles, and booths for FISTS, NAQCC, SKCC, and CWOps.

So, I’m going to suggest to the Dayton Hamvention folks that next year we have a CW forum. I’m not sure exactly sure what we’ll talk about, but I bet that I could easily fill a panel whether we talk about how to choose the best key or what CW club to join.

From Joel McLaughlin at the blog:

Dayton Hamvention 2015: Still the Greatest Spectacle of Ham Radio, May 23, 2015

The Dayton Hamvention is a special event for many ham operators like myself. It’s part convention, part learning, and a whole lot of fun. Hamvention is more than the sum of it’s parts. The best part of Hamvention isn’t being able to buy new gear, to see new gear, and to buy the old gear, but to see the hams that you may have only talked to on the radio, on social networks thinks or via podcasts like Ham Nation, Amateur Logic and more. Hamvention is the biggest hamfest in the world. A hamfest is much like a Linux fest, but usually includes a place where you can buy gear, new and old. Many hamfests are humble affairs that last only a day. Dayton Hamvention is the largest of these and it goes for three days itself, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

From the ARRL News Blog:

Dayton Hamvention 2015: Day 1 — Big Crowd, Some Rain, Satellite News, May 15, 2015
The word on the first day of Dayton Hamvention is that the venue is “extremely crowded for a Friday,” according to ARRL Publications Manager and QST Editor Steve Ford, WB8IMY. Ford said there have been scattered showers and it’s on the humid side, “but not terrible.”

Dayton Hamvention 2015: Day 2 — Aisle-Jamming Attendance, ARRL Member Forum, May 16, 2015

Large crowds are jamming the aisles in the Hara Arena complex for Day 2 of Dayton Hamvention® 2015. ARRL Publications Manager and QST Editor Steve Ford, WB8IMY, described the indoor atmosphere as “tropical” — very warm and humid.

Dayton Hamvention 2015: Day 3 — Deep Discounts, a Few Showers, Winding Down, May 17, 2015

Another Hamvention® is in the history books. As things wind down at Hara Arena, the crowds are thinning, but that could work to the advantage of those sticking around until the bitter end.
At the peak of things, Ford said, large crowds jammed the aisles in the Hara Arena complex, despite the very warm and humid atmosphere indoors.

Dayton Hamvention 2015: Great Weekend, Friendly Crowd, May 21, 2015
Another Dayton Hamvention® is in the log, and the sponsoring Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) already has begun counting down to the 2016 event (May 20-22, 2016). While Hamvention traditionally provides an ideal occasion for Amateur Radio manufacturers to introduce their latest offerings, new gear was in somewhat shorter-than-usual supply at the 2015 event. On the other hand, this may have shifted attention toward Hamvention’s other activities, such as the always-popular forums and, of course, the flea market.


Posted from DFW, Texas

Crosstown Traffic: Collin Cunningham at Adafruit demonstrates PC Board milling

Collin Cunningham at Adafruit put up another Collin’s Lab video yesterday on the Adafruit Blog, this time demonstrating an alternate method of making printed circuit boards using a small CNC mill instead of etching.  If you don’t want to go to that site I embedded the video below.

No, the mill ain’t cheap.  Adafruit sells it for just under $2200.  But it would look great next to a 3D Printer… and as much as I want a PolyPrinter ($2400), I can’t justify that either.

Collin used to publish these videos and other posts over on the Make: magazine website but defected to Adafruit a few years ago.


Published from DFW, Texas


Crosstown Traffic: How your GPS works

I saw this over on the Adafruit blog today.  I don’t know why they called it “How Does Your Smartphone Know Your Location?“, to me it explains how any GPS receiver works.  But maybe I’m the only person left that uses a GPS navigator that is separate from my cellphone.  I don’t know.  But it’s interesting.  Especially in how it describes the workings of an atomic clock.


Published from DFW, Texas


Crosstown Traffic: 3D Printing-Want a circuit with that?

As most technical-oriented people are, I am fascinated with 3D Printing.  They have a PolyPrinter 3D printer over at Tanner Electronics (video here) — they sell them, and they will also print out your file on their printer for a few bucks.  I could watch that thing print for hours.  Even though the costs are coming down, I can’t justify purchasing one yet.  But they have one hell of a cool factor.

Yesterday, Hackaday featured two special printers that were demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show.  The Voltera is cool enough — it prints a circuit onto a substrate using silver conductive ink.  It can even make a second layer on top of the first by printing an insulating layer and then a second conductive layer.  This sounds great for making circuit boards in a hurry.  What could be better than that?

Oh, wait.  How about the Voxel8?  It also prints circuits.  And, it’s also a 3D printer.  And it does both at the same time.  In 3D.

The Voxel8 marries the idea of a 3D printer with a silver conductive ink dispenser. You start by modeling your entire design, hardware and electronics, all in one. The printer will then begin the 3D print, pausing when necessary for you to add electronics and mechanicals. With the parts — and their pins — in place it lays out the conductive ink to connect the components and then continues with the 3D printing to finish the object.

Now that’s cool!


(Published from DFW, Texas)

Crosstown Traffic: Home Computers Behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War from Hackaday

Tesla Ondra computer (picture:Martin Malý)

I saw this article on Hackaday about the experiences of a man growing up in Czechoslovakia during the cold war.  It was quite interesting and anybody like me in the Western world who grew up with computers in the 1980s like the Commodore 64 or the Timex Sinclair (or ZX81) will enjoy the contrasting memoirs of Martin Malý:

In Czechoslovakia, there was the major electronics factory named Tesla. Its name should be an abbreviation of “Technika Slaboprouda” (“Low Voltage Technology” in English), but I guess it obviously referred to [Nicola Tesla]. It was formed as a holding of diverse electronics-related plants. One Tesla made semiconductors, another one made TVs, yet another produced record player chassis. It was a little bit of competition in the world of “total cooperative” (I remember they taught us that “competition is bad” in basic school, because “workers should cooperate in developing of socialism, neither compete nor rival”).

One of Czechoslovak computer prodigies, [Eduard Smutný], together with his twin brother [Tomáš] designed the industrial computer JPR-12, based on Israeli ELBIT, and pushed it into production in Tesla. Some years later they made JPR-1, the simple 8bit computer, based on 8080. One important moment about this computer was that these designers published complete schematics and PCBs in Czechoslovak hobby magazine “Amatérské Rádio”. It was curious – you could not buy parts like LEDs in a store, but there was a very strong hobbyist’s scene. These people made radio transmitters or home automation or HiFi amplifiers. The communist regime surprisingly supported them (or better say: don’t repressed them) in their activities, because it felt the economy needed technically skilled people.

Read more of Martin’s experience on Hackaday.


(Published from Elkhart, Indiana)

Crosstown Traffic: Hackaday “Retrotachtacular” – 1978 Bell Systems video about Mobile Telephone Service

This week’s “Retrotachtacular” on Hackaday features a 1978 Bell System video about the Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS):

This gem from the AT&T Archive does a good job of explaining the first-generation cellular technology that AT&T called Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS). The hexagon-cellular network design was first conceived at Bell Labs in 1947. After a couple of decades spent pestering the FCC, AT&T was awarded the 850MHz band in the late 1970s. It was this decision coupled with the decades worth of Bell System technical improvements that gave cellular technology the bandwidth and power to really come into its own.

AT&T’s primary goals for the AMPS network were threefold: to provide more service to more people, to improve service quality, and to lower the cost to subscribers. Early mobile network design gave us the Mobile Service Area, or MSA. Each high-elevation transmitter could serve a 20-mile radius of subscribers, a range which constituted one MSA. In the mid-1940s, only 21 channels could be used in the 35MHz and 150MHz band allocations. The 450MHz band was introduced in 1952, provided another 12 channels.

The FCC’s allocation opened a whopping 666 channels in the neighborhood of 850MHz. Bell Labs’ hexagonal innovation sub-divided the MSAs into cells, each with a radius of up to ten miles.

This is a cool video.  Click through to Hackaday to watch it and read more.


(Published from DFW, Texas)

Crosstown Traffic: KB6NU explaines why the first hacker in history was an amateur radio operator

My friend Dan KB6NU posted this supporting evidence that he found on the Royal Institution website that a radio amateur was one of the first hackers to successfully hack a “secure” radio system:

I’ve often maintained that amateur radio operators were the first hackers. Now, I have some supporting evidence.

As reported in this post on the Royal Institution website, a public demonstration of Marconi’s wireless communication system, aka radio, was hacked by a British magician. Apparently, Marconi was touting his system as not only being able to send messages over long distances, but as also being secure. Well, now we know that radio transmissions are anything but secure, but they didn’t know that back in 1903.

So, when a public demonstration was set up at Great Britain’s Royal Institution, a British magician and inventor, Nevil Maskelyne, was hired to “hack” into the demo. Before Marconi could send his message from his Cornwall station to the receiving station set up at the Royal Institution, Maskelyne sent the message, “RATS RATS RATS from his transmitting station, presumably somewhere near the Royal Institution. This was picked up by the receiving station, thereby demonstrating that Marconi’s wireless system was anything but secure.

Thanks for that interesting post Dan!


(Published from 30,000 feet over the southeast corner of Oklahoma)

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