APRS? Whazzat?

For those that might be interested in APRS, here’s a bit of information. If you just want to look at pretty pictures, you can see a couple screen grabs in my gallery, or a snapshot which is updated every ~5 minutes of the live Xastir station running at home. The image on that snapshot will change not only based on what stations are nearby and heard, but also on what maps I have loaded at the time and what area I was looking at.

APRS, or Automatic Position Reporting System, is a neat thing in Amateur Radio where you connect your radio to a TNC (Terminal Node Controller, a modem for on-air use) and optionally a GPS receiver. The GPS spits out messages to the TNC to tell it where you are, and the TNC will format those messages and send them out over the air. What’s neat about this is other setups, called digipeaters (for “digital repeater”) will hear your message and echo it; since digis usually have a wide coverage area, this means your small signal can be heard for quite a ways. I’m now running this at home, using the TNC-X kit that I built a little while ago and a new Yaesu FT-2800M, which is currently hooked to my old magmount antenna sitting on the grill. Have a new 5/8 groundplane antenna which I’m going to mount on the peak of the garage, possibly this weekend – the NEMA box I’m using for passing coax in/out of the house should arrive Friday, and I hope to spend a good chunk of Saturday getting that mounted and holes drilled so the window in the shack can finally be closed all the way.

Another One Down

Finished another step this evening, that being getting the electric run to the workbench.  Got plenty of outlets on there now, but at some point I’ll add more on the back wall – this way, power tools can be plugged into the front outlets, while the back ones can be used for more “permanent” things like battery chargers and other tools that aren’t hand-held.  Also took down the old light and installed two new ones; now I just have to replace the one set of tubes, since they’re a different color temperature and the wattage is a little different from the others.  As usual, there’s photographs as well.

That Went Well

So, as I mentioned, I received quite a few power tools for Christmas.  And my first order of business was to put them to use in building something where I could work on stuff – a workbench.  For one, there wasn’t nearly enough tool storage and work areas in the basement, and two.. well, I needed a project.  And a place to complete future projects.  So I built one.  Not as difficult as I’d thought – but then again, the last time I built anything with wood, was a spice rack; and I couldn’t tell you when the last time was I built anything significant (I’m not sure I ever really did).  So I was quite pleased with the end result.  Details below, if you care to read them.

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Phase I Completed

Well, it’s late, but about an hour ago I finished Phase I of the phone project.  All the old jacks are working just the same, though none of them need DSL filters now, and everything goes through the new termination blocks.  It’s complete overkill for the number of phone lines in the house (one) and the number of phones currently in the house (three), but this will allow for future expansion as well as keep everything neat, tidy and easy to manage.  Read on if you care, or just look at the pretty pictures.

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The Battle Begins

Thought I’d written something here about this already, but I guess not.  I ordered (and have received) all the stuff I need to start redoing the phone lines in the house.  There’s a lot of complete crap in places – lines that are run to jacks with telephone *cord* (like what you use to plug your phone into the wall) instead of proper cable, places where there’s three splices in a row on the same line for no reason.. it’s no wonder our phones are noisy, though some of that really is the fault of the lines coming in.  So I picked up a butt set for testing, a 66 block and two 110 blocks (one 110 will have the phone drops and incoming lines, the other will be a bridge, and the 66 will link the permanent house wiring with the telco lines and whole house DSL filter – overkill, but it’ll be clean when it’s done), whole house DSL filter, punchdown tool, and a probe amplifier for the later inevitable “oh crap which wire is this one” moments.  Plus a couple adapters for hooking up to test things.  All in all, quite a lot of equipment, and good quality.  Photos of the stuff, plus the beginning of the project (namely, the “before” shots) available in the gallery.

I’m hoping I can pick up the plywood this weekend and mount it to the wall, and I can start Phase I – installing the new equipment, having the NID and protector moved over, and reterminating all the existing wires to the new blocks.  Then Phase II will happen right after the data network lines are run throughout the house, since I’ll be using the same CAT5e cable for phones and data.  Extra benefit is that the telecom network as-is won’t go down, just the jacks will be phased out as new ones come into use.

Answer: 20

Question: How many bags of chopped grass and leaves from the lawnmower can I fit into the bed of the truck before they won’t compress anymore and it’s full, requiring a trip to the town mulch pile?

Next question: How many bags total will get filled up by mowing the back yard?  Answer: 26.

Third question: Will you be able to tell the following morning that I did a damned thing in the back yard?  Answer: No.

Let There Be Light

And computers, and A/C, and fridge, and freezers, and a whole lot more.  PECO finally got the problem fixed after only 22 hours!  Apparently, around the time we left for my in-laws (they were supposed to come up here for dinner, but since we had no power we took the food down there and cooked), they were driving around and poking in peoples back yards for the problem.  They said to a couple neighbors, “We’re here, it’ll be fixed soon!”  Then they left, and the voicemail thing you call to report a problem was updated to say it would be fixed by 9am instead of 8pm Saturday… and that they still didn’t know what the problem was.  Of course, I couldn’t sleep since it was somewhat early for me, and happened to still be staring at the ceiling when I heard the house wake up from its slumber and saw the clock was telling me the time now.  So now, almost 24 hours from the outage, things are all back to normal – computers up and running, freezers keeping things cold (we had dry ice in them, and there’s still a bit there – and they were doing a good job, I grabbed a soda from the fridge and it was damned cold), and even most of the clocks reset again.

Now maybe I can sleep 😛

One-Click Easyness

So Stephanie wanted to setup some new stuff on her site for her school.  Hey, now that I’m not hosting stuff on my desktop PC anymore, this should be simple.  And boy was it.  Create a new domain, install WordPress on it, and just now created another domain and will setup a calendar there.  As Cartman might say, “that was hella easy.”

Yesterday in general, however, was not.  Stephanie ran out to a couple teacher stores, and I decided to try to tackle some of the yard work.  Succeeded in taking down a few of the small trees that had taken root in various places where they shouldn’t be, including the one semi-large one in front of the gas meter.  I’ll have to call the gas company to figure out how we’re going to get that one out – its roots could be close to the pipe, and I don’t want to chance it since it’s on the “hot side” of the shutoff valve.  Not worth the whoops.  Got most of the ivy from the front of the house out, but not all of it yet.  That shit is massively entangled in there, and not coming out easily.  Started digging cylindrical holes in the ground around it, and then pulling up bits and shaking off the dirt from the roots.  If I’d started that way, I might have got all of it done instead of how I was pulling it out.  Oh well.  When Stephanie got home, we got all the stuff into trash bags and cans, and ready for Tuesday’s pickup.  And some time this week, she might try to finish getting the ivy out.  We seem to have killed the most of the spiders, and I even dug out the tree stump that was in the ground there.

As for now, I think I’m going to plug this in to charge, and go setup the Buddipole in the back yard.  Time to get on the air methinks – especially since I haven’t done that since we moved here yet :>


Since it’s been a few days since the last post, a quick re-cap of what’s gone on since then.  We fired up the new gas grill, and cooked a rotisserie chicken on it the other night.  As Stephanie said, “I’ll never again pick up one at the store if I can cook it at home just as easily (and it’s even better tasting).”  We love it.  Well, Stephanie loves it.  I still like my charcoal and hardwoods :>

We got office furniture, and got it assembled.  I like my new desk – now I need a nice comfy chair to put there.  But I need a nice comfy chair for the shack too, so I’ll be in need of a couple chairs.  Got blinds hung in the master bedroom, and Stephanie got the room painted (just a few touch ups here and there to do).  Soon we can move in the dressers and have a fully functional bedroom again.  I’m most concerned about moving the bed back against the wall; twice now I’ve lost pillows overboard since there’s no headboard either.

Haven’t done anything with the antenna at home yet, still waiting on Leon to have free time enough to swing by and drop it off.  But he’s been pretty busy lately, and I also haven’t bugged him about it – when he’s got the time, I’ll worry about it.  Not going to be a pest.

As for why it’s been a little while since posting, my web provider (Dreamhost) has had one problem after another for just about the whole weekend.  File servers crashing, network switches melting.. they’ve had a rough few days.  So I’ve had some trouble getting on here to post things (and anyone who might be reading this has had trouble getting on to read it too).  I’m also having some issues with DNS – apparently, since my home computer was formerly the authoritative name server for two domains, its A record has been (or is being) cached by some of the root nameservers.  So although I changed its IP with Dreamhost’s DNS editor, and it propagated out just fine for a couple days, it’s now being overridden by other root servers.  Hopefully that’ll either sort itself out after the second domain is transferred, or Dreamhost can help me sort it out with the roots.  In the mean time, I’m starting to learn my home IP address, ’cause anything I want to do to connect there I need to use it.

Last, but not least, I’ve been away from Second Life for quite a while now.  I hop on now and then and try to spend a few minutes catching up with things that have happened, but I’ve found it difficult to get on after work like I used to (and while at work, I’ve actually had work to do).  A lot of things have changed with the university where I work there, and a couple friends of mine have left the university due to some of those changes.  I hope to see them around somewhere, even if they come and hang out in the lounge (formerly the lobby) like how I met them.  But I guess time will tell – as well will it tell if I can even get back in there and back to what I was doing, or if I too will have to depart the university and just visit on occasion.

Now We’re Cooking With Gas

Got our delivery yesterday, which was an upright freezer that was to go in the basement (didn’t fit there, now it’s in the office since we’re tired of measuring things that will fit and having delivery drivers say it won’t), and our gas grill.  Yes, I already have a charcoal grill.  I like charcoal.  Stephanie likes gas.  She appreciates the flavor of charcoal, but prefers the ease of use of a gas grill.  So we got both.  Tonight’s project will include assembling the grill, and figuring out what size mini-patio we want to create to put them both on – right now, the charcoal grill sits on the grass in the back yard.  With a little luck, and a little patience, we might even be cooking on the gas grill tonight – already have the natural gas hookup out the back of the house, and just need to assemble things and perform the “burn in” (run each thing for like 20 minutes at high).  Since it’s a stainless exterior, there’s no need to set the paint like with the charcoal grill before.