A quick post about IFcomp 2018, which launches today. Last year, I reviewed all the submissions on this blog, but will not be doing so this year as I have two games in the comp. It’s been a few years since the rules change that removed the gag on authors, but I’m still not comfortable commenting in public on other games, when I’m a participant.
I’ll certainly play through as many of the other games as I can and will be posting some comments privately on the closed forum for authors.
I’m looking forward to reading reviews of all the games in the comp — I’m sure all the authors are in the same boat, sitting on the edge of their seats this morning waiting for the first feedback to drift in.
A brief update to bring the blog current: first, I moved back to the US at the start of August. Between packing, shipping, and visiting family, I’ve had my hands full and not a lot of time to update the blog. So, some quick updates by category: work, radio, IF, electronics, computer stuff, and Greek.
I’ll add more comments as time permits [these were written in August 2018, about four months before the game came out — but I didn’t know that at the time], and Ben will probably do the same on his blog at some point. Whatever other comments we add on about our work on the Cragne Manor project, I’ll link it back to this page.
We wrote up a design document to serve as a reference in writing the characters and their situation. It was particularly helpful in putting together a consistent time line. Initially we stuck closely to the design document, but as writing progressed, the story and characters took their own directions, and we ditched some of the design elements — there is no iron golem, for example in the final story. In some instances, we redacted portions that would either not have worked as IF or that were unnecessarily cumbersome in terms of mechanics relative to their narrative contribution.
While Ben started thinking about coding and integrating standard parts of the Cragne Manor project, I began writing the transcript. Perhaps not the best way to approach a project based on dialogues because it tends towards the linear, but given the time constraint versus volume of text needed to tell the story, we though it would be efficient because Ben could review and implement behind me as I wrote. That mostly worked for this project, particular because we kept the dialogue and NPCs relatively simple — not much in terms of forking dialogue or variability based on earlier knowledge, emotional state, etc. I worked within GoogleDocs and for the sake of loading quickly split the model transcript into part 1 and part 2. The final game resembled these transcripts pretty closely.
As usual, we wrote the code collaboratively, using version control to fold our efforts together, in this case the whole project lives on github.
Well, that went pretty well — about two weeks of after-work operation on 17m FT8 with a low-hanging end-fed dipole and 25W, and I pushed my DXCC count on 17m over 100. Thanks to 9G5AR from Ghana for putting it over the top.
This weekend, Russian-ARISS transmitted SSTV images of satellites hand-launched from the ISS. They used a high-resolution mode, PD-120 transmitted FM on 145.800.
I was set up for FT8, but switched over for one pass and captured this image. My process for decoding was suboptimal — I recorded using audacity on my Mac and then later played the audio back to a PC set up with MMSSTV. I didn’t have an attenuator on hand, so of course the sound level was high for the PC input, but was able to drop the gain a bit in audacity. Maybe I traded off a little image quality, but it worked.
This was a low pass (max elevation of about 12.5 degrees) on a side where I have some obstructions — those horizontal lines are probably tall trees — so probably not the best image I could have captured, but I was just curious if it would work at all.
I’ll be squeezing out what QSOs I can on 17m FT8 through the end of July 4th and will then swap in a 30m element on the antenna for the next couple weeks.
The move back to the US will happen at the end of July, but I will need to pack up most of the equipment in the next few weeks. So, with time remaining, I’ve been thinking about I can get done with less and less equipment — I think the answer is 17 meters.
After I took the hexbeam down, sanded it, painted it and packed it away, I still had a G450 rotor on my hands, so I thought I would try my hand at satellite operation. Over last weekend, I literally lashed together a satellite station — the rotor platform is held to the roof with taut line hitches.
Our house isn’t ideally situated for satellite operation — particularly to the south where some tall pine trees blot out the sky, but in the other directions, the antenna can see down to about ten or fifteen degrees above the horizon.
I arrived back in Madagascar late in the evening last week after a brief vacation in Réunion. The next morning, I fired up the rig to see what was going on in the CQ WW WPX SSB contest and rotated the hexbeam towards Japan. The rotor control showed movement through about the first ten degrees, and then it froze. I backed off, tried jiggering it back and forth a bit, thinking that perhaps it was just sticking, but gave up after a few seconds because I didn’t want to strain the motor. I walked out back…
… And it was clear why the antenna wasn’t rotating, about a meter and half below the base of the hex beam, the mast had a kink of about 20 degrees, and the hexbeam was lopsided, brushing against a nearby tree. After surviving four cyclone seasons, it appears that the last one of this season, Eliakim, took its toll.
This year, I experienced the French IF comp not as a reviewer, but as an entrant. I’m ecstatic to report that not only did I survive the comp, but I came in second in a field of five thanks to a lot of help from proofreaders, editors, and bêta-testeurs/bêta-testeuses that helped me polish my not-so-fluent writing into something presentable. I’d like to share some thoughts about the comp, the community around it, my motivation for entering, some design decisions, and how it all worked out.
My LNR precision trail-friendly end-fed halfwave antenna has been my go to antenna for SOTA and other field operations for several years. It is compact, easy to deploy in a tree or on a telescoping mast, and it gets good signal reports. Unfortunately, after many years of use and substantial abuse, the antenna broke on my last trip. When I got back, I put it back together, almost good as new.