OE1ZJW Field Operation

Operating position at the top of the hill. The hills are alive with the sound of CW.
Operating position at the top of the hill. The hills are alive with the sound of CW.

I was in Vienna on a business trip, but I had some time on Sunday to put the portable station on the air using my Austrian guest license, OE1ZJW.

At the Vienna radio club meeting, OE1VFW gave me two invaluable pieces of advice. The first was where to shop for electronics: Conrads. Their megastores in Vienna carry consumer electronics, hardware and tools, and hobby electronics like arduinos, raspberry pis, various kits, parts, project boxes, etc. I was able to restock a few items that I needed back in Madagascar. The other bit of wisdom: where to operate.

If I had lived in Vienna for a few years, I probably would have eventually come to the same conclusion: Cobenzl. It is elevated and far from any noise sources. I have rarely heard background so low. I could hear signals that would not even budget the S meter.

Just outside the city on the North side there is a wine-producing area known as Grinzing. From the Heiligenstadt Bahnhof, the 38A bus runs through this region and up to a park. Near the bus stop, there are restaurants and public bathrooms, so this is civilized sort of “field” trip. Behind these facilities, however, is a large public field.

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A club meeting in Vienna

The QSL sorting area at club HQ.
The QSL sorting area at club HQ.

For once I went to a radio club meeting in Vienna, but not in Virginia. Earlier this week, I landed in Austria, had some meetings at the Vienna International Center and then headed directly to the Landesverband Wien in Österreichischen Versuchssenderverband, i.e., the Vienna section of the Austrian IARU member organization. According to their website, meetings are held every Thursday at 17:00h. It turns out that this is true, but 17:00 is just the starting time — most come between about 17:00 and 19:00 (presumably the time is more exact on an evening with a scheduled activity).

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The Ginger Polygraph

The frequently lit red light indicates that our dog is lying.

My dog Ginger has a problem: she really likes food. That, coupled with her uncanny ability to convince family members that she has not been fed adds up to an overweight dog. She is not particularly sensitive about the subject and besides, she doesn’t read this blog (does anyone?) so I don’t think she’ll mind if I write about our attempt to find a technologically sound solution to her overeating, which is really a matter of our overfeeding her.

Ginger is supposed to get two scoops of dog food, one in the morning, one in the evening. Mornings, however, are chaotic. I get up and shower, and my wife adds food to the bowl. Then, while my wife is in the shower, Ginger whines and I figure she hasn’t eaten, so bowl number two. Often we’re out the door before the kids have emerged from their rooms, and at least one of them will take pity on Ginger, who clearly has not been fed at that point, and she gets her third bowl. Pretty much any time someone walks past her bowl, it seems that she hasn’t been fed. You would think we’d be on to her now, but there are times where in our rush to get out, we have made the mistake of each assuming the other one fed the dog. Ginger reminds us constantly of these rare occasions.

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Weller WESD51 Evil Football Taunt

Fooled again.
Fooled again.

You know how you never see negative results published? Well, here are some. Recently, I thought that I had used experimentation and logic to find a clever fix for my transiently functional solder station. For the entire day after I soldered in two capacitors, it worked beautifully. On, off. On, off. On, off. And every time I turned it on, the LED display lit up, the soldering iron got hot, and everything was peachy. Until this evening. I turned it on, finally hopeful that I had found an enduring fix and… no. Nothing. No LEDs. No heat. It mocks me.

Once again, with experience borne of many unproductive disassemblies, I tore the solder station apart and poked around. This time, poking the CLKOUT pin didn’t help. I clipped off the cap on the CLKIN. No help. I clipped off the other one, no help. I’m still getting power to the MPU, the oscillator is still oscillating. What gives? I didn’t keep at it long enough to see if it would randomly turn on again at some point.

You’ve won this round, Weller, but I’ll be in Europe next week — where they sell 230V Hakkos, and I’m just about ready to buy one.

Weller WESD51 Repair

wesd51My solder station, a WESD51 had become increasingly flaky over the last year – at times, it would fail to turn on. Flip the switch up and down a few times, and the digits would light up and the iron would heat; flip a few more and it would remain inert. Sometimes it would work immediately, sometimes it would just not turn on at all. Every time I took it apart, it would trick me by eventually working again, only to fail when reassembled. To compress months of annoyance into one sentence: I seem to have fixed it by soldering some capacitors onto the oscillator crystal. Note added after the fact: Nope this didn’t fix it. See next post for grousing.

Generally, I like Weller irons. I had used the analog version of this model (i.e., no LED digits, just a knob to set temperature) for a couple years. During that time, I had sunk some funds into buying a variety of tips from teeny screwdriver up to the broad chisel that I use for soldering coax plugs. So, when it came time to move overseas, I found a 230V version online and ordered it. I had considered just putting the US model on a transformer, but thought it better to have a model directly grounded through its plug. Continue reading “Weller WESD51 Repair”

Wifi for the Garage

A look inside the Linksys WRT54GS router used in this project.
A look inside the Linksys WRT54GS router used in this project.

Propagation has been abysmal, so it’s time to hang out in garage and work on projects. One catch: the garage PC gave up the ghost about a month ago. The Windows 7 computer had been functioning for a few months as a wifi repeater that let me use other wireless devices in the garage. Unfortunately, it looks like a power spike may have taken out the motherboard. I have retired that PC, and came up with a replacement: a linksys wrt54gs router reflashed with DD-WRT firmware and hardware modifications to add a cantenna.

Last week I made a video about putting up the hex beam, and now that I have the video editing software, I made one about the wifi repeater bridge project. Making video is somewhat addictive, so I think there are more on the way. I have a ways to go in terms of production quality – maybe Christmas will bring a better video-capable camera.

On the subject of videos, my home club, the Vienna Wireless Society, is now posting videos of presentations made at the club.