Monthly Archives: June 2015

Hamfests: Checking in from Friedrichshafen

DSC00316Three days have gone by quickly here at the HAM RADIO/Maker World show at the Messe Friedrichshafen in Germany.  I had every intention of doing blog posts at least a couple of times from here but this has been three days of pure exhaustion.  Good exhaustion though.  Dayton-esque exhaustion.  I took over 400 pictures and it was murder getting them to Picasa over this hotel internet connection.  But I will tell you all about it, I promise!  I might even do a KØNEB-type slideshow if I can think of a suitable song to go behind it.  Joe already used “Der Kommissar” last year so I need to think of something else–maybe “99 Luftballons” or something like that.  Probably not the theme song to Hogan’s Heroes–that might be too over the top.

In a nutshell, it was a fantastic show.  Really, be prepared, I’m going to try to talk you into coming here sometime.  I may not come every year, but I’d be willing to bet I’ll return to this show sometime in the next five years or so.  It’s that good.

Tomorrow I go to London for a few more days of vacation (er-holiday) before I return to the ‘States on Friday in time for Independence Day (which they may still not be too fond of in England so it all works out).

Auf Wiedersehen!

Published from Friedrichshafen, Germany.



Hamfests: (Unconfirmed) Hamvention Attendance Tops 25,000!

Screencap from Facebook, June 16 2015

Screengrab from Facebook, June 16 2015

Last night on Facebook, Jeffrey DeVoe posted that 2015 Hamvention General Chairman Jim Tiderman has announced that the Hamvention 2015 attendance was 25,621.  Now I don’t know Jeffrey but he lives not far from Dayton so he’s probably a member of DARA (or knows one) so I’ll trust him enough to pass on this announcement.

This is really good news!  This year beat out last year (24,873) as the best year since 2001, when the attendance was 26,151.  While we have a long way to go until we have record attendance (the record attendance was estimated to be 35,000 people in 1994).

In my May 29 post, I was iffy on making a prediction… but I did make one, and I was right:

So, you ask my opinion about this year’s attendance: I believe we hit the elusive 25,000 barrier. Some say no, and some say yes, but I was pretty satisfied with the crowds this year. It was a little difficult to judge based on the weather (when it rains everybody goes inside) but in my opinion Friday was more crowded this year than last year.

To put things into perspective I put my Excel skills to use below to demonstrate the trends since 2000.

ScreenHunter_66 Jun. 16 21.16

Published from DFW, Texas

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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Edibles: Gummy candy for the Maker

Edible and Functional Lego Gummy Candy (screengrab from Grant Thompson “The King of Random”)

Ran across this at the Adafruit blog last week.  Who doesn’t like gummy candy?  Or Legos?  How about gummy Legos?  We can do that!  Grant Thompson describes the process at his King of Random video blog.  It’s a really good video-see below.

Gummy LEDs (Adafruit photo)

This reminded me of something else I saw on the Adafruit blog back in 2013 – Becky Stern wrote a tutorial on how to make edible gummy LEDs that are almost perfect recreations of the real thing.


Published from DFW, Texas

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

Electronics History: The 555 Timer

The 555 Timer IC (Wikipedia photo)

While researching for my last post about the plasma arc audio speaker, it got me waxing nostalgic about the 555 Timer Integrated Circuit, one of the most versatile ICs ever designed. The Plasma Arc Audio Speaker I wrote about was one of the coolest things I have ever seen built around a 555, which is a favorite and classic chip that first hit the silicon scene in the 1970s. Read more