or dumpster diving for computers.
I’ve noticed a trend. At the end of university terms the skip bins around student accommodation fill up with fridges, lounges and computers.
I’m putting this down to the the high cost for freight and low cost of technology.
Its not like I don’t have enough computers. In the shed there is an Apple IIe Clone, varies 8080 -> Pentium based devices (IBM XT & AT339) and collection of RISC (ultra 2, SS2,10 & 20, HP and a dual CPU DEC Alpha) devices.
They all worked before being put away. Doubt they would boot up without addressing NVRAM issues and the odd wasp nest but they are going nowhere. Well that’s debatable as whilst the cases and boards may stay in my shed their souls will be reward in Silicon Heaven.
I use a Apple Mac for my desktop (the 27’ 5K iMac screen soothes old eyes) and for my personal notebook. There is a Dell notebook with Windows XP and a serial port for programming radios and everything else runs Linux.
I rarely purchase new. The Macs come from Apple refurbished site and if I need components, eBay is the first port of call. Anyway I have recently acquired two computers by not being too ashamed to jump into a skip bin.
MSI 7688v1.0(G52-76881X1)(P55A Fuzion). i5 CPU 760 @ 2.80GHz with 8GB memory.
Walking home down Collins St noticed a skip bin with the results of an office refurb. Hidden between the discarded partitions and lighting there were several computers cases, LCD screens and a printer. Seriously ? computers are considered office waste now ? Ok going in….
I was not alone and had to act fast. These computers had attracted the attention of another ‘recycler’ and we worked together. He took two boxes and a screen whilst I only grabbed a single box, did retrieved memory from one of the other boxes and just made it to the train heading home.
Knew it was a intel based device due to the sticker on the fan and assuming later then a Pentium based device as no ‘Intel inside stickers’. It was a long ride home wondering if I was bringing someone else’s rubbish home or had hit silicon jackpot. Michele is very tolerant but we don’t need another ancient device in the shed. Got home and ran it up to setup as no HDD. The case was low end and missing feet but did have a power supply. Also has a NVIDIA GT216 PCI-E video. The mother board supports Multi-GPU Computing. Ok that sounds cool so lets get another card tomorrow. Went back to the skip bin on the way to work on the next day armed with screwdrivers and pliers to retrieve more memory and a second video card but there was only had plaster and cables left. Too late.
Sourced a tower case and HDD. Installed Linux Fedora 29 and configured as a LAMP box so now it is hosting test instance of the ParksnPeaks website. This use to be hosted on the HP8100 but ran out of space and unable to add another drive.
The HP 8100 was sourced second hand from eBay. It has a 2TB drive and runs Ubuntu 16.04.5 LTS hosting AppleTalk as it is the backup target for our Macs. The idea here is to pick it up one computer when leaving for fires so whilst you may loose hardware, will have data.
Dual Xeon Server
Intel® S5500BC Server. Dual Xeon(R) CPU E5506 @ 2.13GHz with 16GB memory.
Walking back from lunch recently I noticed a tower sitting next to a skip bin. It had empty slots where HDD carriers had been removed. You could see two heatsinks. This device caught my interest but I had to leave it as the case was too big to take back to work. I was receiving enough ribbing from by lunch buddies all-ready so stashed the case behind the bin to and took the ribbing whilst walking back to office.
So once back at the office and out of sight of my ‘friends’ I grabbed a Phillips head and went back to see what was under the heat sinks. Took off the heatsink and rubbed back the compound to find an Intel Xeon processor. Half the memory banks were filled. There where no hard disks nor a power supply so decided to take the board leaving the case in the bin.
Got a case out of the shed and ran her up. She booted to setup no issues. I took a photo and sent to those who doubted it just to prove I’m not just a nutter, but a nutter with a dual Xeon server. Added a HDD and installed CentOS Linux. Setup up a search for ECC memory and picked up additional 16G from the US for $77 delivered. Now all the memory slots are filled, just need a decent case. The device is a SSI CEB form factor – 305 X 276mm slightly larger than a ATX 305 X 244 mm so a slight challenge as don’t want to buy (or pay for) a server case. Here she is running. Notice doing nothing.
So what am I going to do with them ?
None of the devices are doing any real work. Need a box for testing and backup.
The inner accountant says should do nothing and keep using the HP8100 as backup and dev box. It requires no new hardware and uses the least energy.
The inner geek says not to listen to that idiot. If he had his way you would have been eating lunch at your desk not enjoying luksa and there would be a dual xeon server in land fill now.
So have got my eye on a case for the Xeon. Will add a couple of drives for backup target and use it as the dev / test box going forward.
Want to add some devices outside for sensors and to automate garden activities. Glenn VK3YY raised the opportunities LoRaWAN present so intend to work out how to build a mesh of small devices reporting to the server using 70cm band. Will need a device to host a database and process all the data that will be generated and this would be a honourable task for such a device.
VK3/VW-002 (Red Man Bluff) in VKFF-0213 – Grampians National Park
VK3/VS-001 (Mt William) in VKFF-0213 – Grampians National Park
VK3/VW-002 (Red Man Bluff)
Looking back towards Halls Gap over Lake Bellfield from operating position on Red man Bluff.
Access is from Mt William Road. The walk in is a short challenging 2Km. Challenging as the scrub is fierce and thick. The goal is to get onto a ridge line so as to avoid the thick gullies and to get up to the cliff line and follow the line across. Put your gloves on and pack the pack tight to get through the thick growth.
Took 80m antenna and ran 40 odd meters of wire down the rock outcrops with the squid pole in the middle. Worked a treat with 40 and 80m contacts and a single 2M FM
VK3/VS-001 (Mt William)
The walk up Mt William is a 1.5Km on sealed road but steep. Left to end of day as easy and clear.
Mt William has a large flat activation zone with several comms towers. Given the easy access you could bring up elaborate antenna and supports. I go to the left between the towers so as to avoid the traffic. Once on site I pulled out the antenna to discover it had come off the winder and had transferred itself into a rats nest. Spent good 10 minutes unravelling to finally decide to cut the end off and use what I had. The KX3 tuned the 30 odd meters that was left and I secured the summit on 40 and 80m.
Looking towards Ararat from Mt William.
Patches of snow on Mt William. The snow was from the weather earlier in the week but shows how cold the summit was. Also highlights micro climates as these pockets were cold.
Overall a straight forward operation. Home on dark with 12 points for my efforts.
K3NG CW Keyer using the K5BCQ Board
Open source Arduino CW keyer
The board supports most but not all options available in the software. You can populate for the features you want or build in stages testing as you go.
High quality board visit K5BCQ to order a PCB – https://www.qsl.net/k5bcq/Kits/Kits.html
I intend to install all options and headers where possible.
Already had a Mega 2560. The wrong type for this board.
You can see the differences here. The unit above will not match the board as it has additional pins to the top left (fro ground) and missing connections for references and reset bottom left.
You could jumper around these but I jut ordered an new unit. Info – https://robotdyn.com/mega-2560-pro-embed-ch340g-atmega2560-16au.html
I sourced a 3X4 keypad. This keypad has 12 buttons, arranged in a 3X4 grid. It’s made of a thin, flexible membrane material with an adhesive backing
This only needs 7 pins (3-columns and 4-rows) whilst the board has 8 pins to support 3X4 or 4X4.
The difference between a 3X4 or 4X4 is the number of columns. The PCB has 8 connectors so as to support both types. I will be using 7 but will install a 8 pin header so as to keep options open later. Info – http://www.circuitbasics.com/how-to-set-up-a-keypad-on-an-arduino/
Obtained a PS2 keyboard as a result of a site clean up at work. Put the word out to keep eyes open for one. After sending photos of a PS2 connector as considered ancient these days.
These points are in the excellent instructions but to be sure,
Uncomment #define HARDWARE_K5BCQ in keyer_hardware.h
Note serial speed = 115200 defined in keyer_settings.h
Compiled the software and loaded;
- Sketch uses 57844 bytes (22%) of program storage space. Maximum is 253952 bytes.
- Global variables use 2324 bytes (28%) of dynamic memory, leaving 5868 bytes for local variables. Maximum is 8192 bytes.
Heaps of memory spare so believe they are using a MEGA 2560 due to the 54 digital I/O pins.
Had failures with uploading the software as the Micro-USB connector cable I used only supported power. A quick look in the hardware bin at work secured a suitable cable off phone headset and away it went.
So as it stands the board is up and running. Time to start playing with the device whilst considering options as to packaging.
K3NG Arduino CW Keyer Software – https://github.com/k3ng/k3ng_cw_keyer)
The K5BCQ PCB – https://www.qsl.net/k5bcq/Kits/Kits.html
The W0ODJ documentation – https://github.com/muurtikaar/k3ngKeyer-K5bcqPCB-w0odjDoc/blob/master/doc/k5bcq_k3ng-V03.pdf
The softwares wiki – https://github.com/k3ng/k3ng_cw_keyer/wiki
VK3/VC-003 – Mt Ritchie – WWFF ID – VKFF-0556
Took the ATS out to Mt Ritchie.
This is a great summit and one I do each year.
Mt Ritchie is a good winter summit as 8 points with seasonal bonus and can be completed in harsh weather. You can access the summit from the north in summer with a 4WD but I prefer to park off Acheron Way at the gate on Road 15 and follow Road 10 to the summit. Easy clear access but the roads were not open due to several trees down. Not a issue as walking. Ive been off track in this area and its slow and wet. No need and no intent. Didn’t take the GPS. This is not a reckless choice as used hiker app on watch;
Its a 7k walk and all uphill to the summit. The summit is clear and open with enough room for long wire antenna. Several trees to support as well as sign posts to secure squid poles to.
This year it was time to take the ATS out. Keen on the ATS as it supports 80m. Setting up an antenna for 80M has challenges due to the space the wire requires. A shorter length (26.8m 88f) wire and L Match Tuner has been raised to address. Whilst this setup matched 80 to 15m, it was too touchy on 80m so took a trapped 20/30/40m end fed to be sure. Really didn’t want to blow out the transistors on the first activation.
There was light rain and cold, no snow but it was still cold. I addressed this with the proved method of layers on and still had two layers backup in the pack.These small radios do not do rain but to be fair neither does the KX3. The FT817 in its bag is best for such conditions. Ok but 817 requires external tuners and is heavy both itself and on the battery. The KX3 is brilliant with internal batteries and tuner and lighter than 817 but not as rugged. The KD1JV devices (MTR & ATS) are small, light and efficient but requires external tuners and batteries.
Secured the summit on 40M and CW with a P2P with VK5FLEA in Nurragi Conservation Reserve (VKFF-2247) and the usual loyal chasers.
Happy with the performance of the radio and antenna. Called on 30 and 20 with no takers regretted not taking 80. After an hour on the summit packed up and walked back down in the light rain.
The quest for the ideal SOTA radio is ongoing ….
Recently acquired a unbuilt ATS4b kit.
This is a miniature 5 band CW radio. A KD1JV kit. It is small, lightweight, and fairly rugged HF QRP Radio. It uses very little current on receive and is efficient on transmit.
- 80, 40, 30, 20 and 15/17 meter operation
- LCD display with back lighting
- DDS VFO for wide tuning range with crystal stability, 50 Hz tuning steps.
- Single step or auto increment tuning
- Sensitive, 0.2 uV receiver with very low internal noise for exceptional S/N ratio.
- Selective CW filter with 4 crystal IF filter and audio band pass filter
- 7 to 12 volt supply supporting;
- 4.5 to 5 Watt transmitter output on all bands (with 12 volt supply)
- 2.5 watts output typical with 9 volt supply
- 50 ma no signal receive current
- 680 ma maximum transmit current at 12 volts
- Small size, 12.5cm wide, 6.8cm deep, 2.5cm tall
- Light weight, 178G.
This is a SOTA radio.
This kit was released 2011 so lucky to get my hands on one (Thanks Tyler and Bill). You can purchase an assembled similar radio being a LNR MTR4B (80,40,30 & 20) at 400US$ + freight. Given the declining AUD (thanks mining why does the need for foreign owned enities to profit override my desire to play radio ?) it really has not been high on my list to purchase one. I jumped at the kit. This device supports 80m.
Have a mate in the US (Thanks Jason) and he was happy to receive and send on to me so ended up landing here at around $400AUD inc freight.
This is a part of the quest to reduct weight so as to pickup some of the more challenging summits. Whilst are not a long walk they will be a big effort given the terrain and conditions. This device will keep the radio and antenna equipment well under 1Kg and support 5 bands be it CW only.
Reluctant to go out without 80m. For the chasers as much as to ensure enough contacts to qualify. Not having issues getting CW contacts these days.
Had spent the morning soldering copper tubing for fire sprinkler system. This is using the gas torch, liquid flux and 3mm solder. The afternoon was to be different. Once it started to rain (the geese were happy) I decided to come in and get out of the mud and cook up a radio.
This kit contains SMD components. Previous build of SMD based device was a KD1JV MTR v2. This went well with the only real issue being as a result of losing a component and replacing with the wrong type.During the build, you have to choose between 17m or 15m. I will go for 15m.
Having read the manual and check the parts it was time to start assembly. This is not a task to rush into but rather progress in an orderly manner.
First step is to add the IC’s. Decided to hand solder these as a single task as the idea of placing all the semiconductors, capacitors and resistors then melting the solder in one sitting did not sound like a good idea.
At end of day one I had the IC’s on ready to inspect. Completed page 15 of the manual.
Day Two. Testing the rework device.
Was not filled with desire to start heating up the board yesterday. Decided to verify the hot air soldering process before going forward. Using Solder Paste from Jaycar which has the Chemtools ID on it. Found the spec sheet on Chemtools website.
Yes using leaded solder. Have had trouble with using unleaded solder and think by now I have enough lead in my system given the paint used when a kid and the years of soldering not to get too worried about it.
Didn’t trust the 852d+ soldering rework station so checked the temp and tested with an old board from the shed. Yes the display was out so experimented until in the range and able to take caps off the S3 board and solder them back on in a timely manner. All good.
So think I’ve procrastinated enough so time to commit to melting solder, tomorrow caps ….
Day Three. Check and Check again.
Zoomed in on some components with a 2MP USB microscope from eBay checking.
Upgraded the lights above the table but basically my eyes are not what they use to be so need such a tool. Not the absolute answer but these microscopes are worth the $A30.
Mixed results. The microscope stand had to be extended to get a good view. It did expose issues (surprising number of joints that were missed) and they were addressed. Once checked and addressed went back with magnifying glass and checked again. If this was left it would manifest as failure in the field so keen to fix now.
Day Four. Capacitors Bottom Side.
Capacitors went on well. So will check the board again to be sure.
Day Five. Through Hole Components.
Not consecutive process as well work and we went Wuthering Saturday. Checkout the video, thats us in the red to the left !
The SMD parts went well. Very happy with the result. Working through the through hole components now.
Wet and windy weekend to was able to continue work on assembly Sunday. I have been following the instructions carefully as aware may not get such a kit again and that components may not be available should I loose or break some.
Adding the Low Pass filters (Page 20 in the assembly manual), which states that “These all go onto the Bottom Side of the board” whilst the picture on same page shows C73,C74 and C75 mounted from the top. I soldered C74 was per the instructions and whilst checking noted the discrepancy created by the picture. Removed C74 and placed in on the top of the board as per the picture. This caused conflict in my head and went checking out pictures on the web and which show them mounted on the the bottom.
See no reason to tempt fate de-soldering and moving C74 again so leaving as is on the top. Also have enlarged the hole to support a BNC connector for the antenna. Files the hole so it was slightly higher so as avoid the board. As you can from a dry run it will fit without causing grief.
Working through the toroids now, again carefully and without time constrains.
Day Six. Final Assembly.
Well actually 10 days in total but have to go to work and other things….
After winding and installing the toroids its a case of assembling the hardware and connectors.
She did not come up on the first test and this was quickly traced back to a faulty 9V battery connection. Found another in my sons junk box and away it went.
From here it worked as described. The DDS came up on 10Mhz exactly.
Outputting 2w on the 40 – 15M 9V with 80M around half that. I took note of the torrid winding (loose for even and tight for odd) but there is not a lot of room to move for L12 & L14.
Connected to the home antenna and turned the receive to peak noise.
The unit is operating so ready to take out onto a summit.
I see no value in disassembling and trying to refine the windings on 80M. Ok yes did chase this device for 80M but its a fall back frequency. Let’s get out on a summit and see how it works before playing with the number of turns.
10062019 – VK3/VC-030 – VKFF-0982 In – You Yangs Regional Park
Another close walk up the summit activation.1.7K each way for 190M elevation gain. This is the busiest summit I have found. Worse than Mt Hotham in summer.
Here is the summit marker, worn out from the traffic,
Having been here before I was expecting the crowds so took HT to activate on FM. Did post 40M CW alerts but once there, the people and grey sky made the decision to proceed with HT only easy.
An advantage to such tight summits is the car in the carpark caught and resent the APRS from the HT with no issues. Serured the summit with 5 contacts on FM. Did not secure DMR contact as it appears still have not got the correct config for simplex.
‘Device: Yaesu: VX-8G (ht) Last path: VK3ARH-7>SW41R5 via VK3ARH-1,VK3CV-1*,WIDE2-1,qAR,VK3RSA-1 (good)’
VK7 September 2019
Off to VK7 in Septermber.
Its not a SOTA trip but will be able to get some activations including;
* VK7/CH-039 in VKFF-0117
* VK7/WC-013 in VKFF-0347