I saw a poster once. One of those De-motivational posters, I think, that said something like the road of technology is like a marathon with no finish line. Well, I think it is more like a death march: Some people can endure to the end, others fall out along the way.
Three things cause me to say this, so let me explain:
Why are there less farmers? Because of technology. Pure and simple. We don’t need a farm or farmer every section when we have technology to make up for boots on the ground: Tractors replaced horses. Hybrid seed replaced open polinated. Herbicides replaced cultivation. GPS replaced markers. I could go on, but you get the idea.
The work that one man can do and the quanity of crops he can produce on the same land that once occupied several farmers, is amazing. And his production capacity is growing by the year. Grow with technology or die.
Adapt to new technology or die! Not a nice thought, but accurate. I was at a meeting the other night and a man at the meeting said that he didn’t want or need to be a farmer after he saw the 37 acres farmed across the road from his house last week. I thought he was talking about maybe organic, or not liking chemicals, or something but he wasn’t. “You know, there were 5 different big four wheel drive tractors in that field before they planted it. They killed that ground. And the cost…how could they make money? I don’t know what they were thinking.”
What he was saying is that they might have had big iron, but they were not using the latest technology or techniques to farm the field. Technology is going to be used by your neighbors so you had better be using it too. If not, then be ready to be passed up and passed over. All of us have access to the same technology. GMO traits, GPS, consulting, tillage techniques, soil management techniques, etc..
Same in the consulting world. GPS should be standard with your practices. Email, text messages, electronic downloads and file transfer. Just because you think using it makes you look like your competition instead of unique is stupid. Yes, your unique. Your uniquely useless.
Keeping up takes time! Time is money. Time is valuable. Time is something we can’t make. And time will pass you by if your not making time to keep up with changes in technology. The most successful people in the world, not necessarily the richest, but most successful, spend an average of two hours a day reading materials not directly related to their occupation. They are keeping up with the rest of the world and are able to anticipate changes in their field before they happen, because they have their fingers on the pulse of new technology. Work smarter, not harder.
I try to spend two hours a day reading, surfing, blogging and listening to things not related to Ag. The results have been enlightening. I have tried to get my friends and colleagues to do the same, but they often spout the same old refusal recital: I don’t have time, I am too busy. MAKE TIME. Make time to get away from what you do so that you can see the forest for the trees. You can see the big picture andyou are not judging the world from your back door or front window.
I have had cause to think about technology the last few days. How I am not using it, how I am using it and how I should be using it. My crooked rows on my first field of corn show me that I should have been thinking all along about my auto-steer in the sprayer being in the planting tractor as well. My accounting software shows me where the money goes and for what. It keeps track of profit and loss. It tells me if I am a healthy operation or not. And my management practices show me that if I implement the latest technology that I am not seen as an outdated farmer or someone who is not “with the times” but rather as a forward thinker who is ahead of the herd.
Technology is a death march: how are you enduring?
For all the useful and great information that is available so that you “don’t have to make those mistakes” by searching the Interne,t it is equally as useless as it can be when those helpful sites disappear. Let me explain.
I am a visual learner in- that I want to see something done so I know how it is supposed to be. I read the directions, but I want a demo of how it works. I also want to find out what worked and what didn’t for a particular subject so I don’t have to go through the “school of hard knocks”. Time is valuable and if someone has already figured out that the book, the instructions and the lesson can be done one better or faster, then I am all for not wasting my time reinventing the wheel.
Last year I got my first TinyTrak4 APRS TNC from Byonics. I comes with some really well written instructions if your an electrical engineer and spend all your free time studying APRS, TNC’s and packet radio. I don’t. I want to do it, use it and make it work. I don’t want to spend the better part of my summer reading, experimenting and learning it the hard way. Yea I know, go ahead and take your shots. I just want a plug and play interface without busting the budget. Byonics has a pretty good Yahoo Group that has people from all over the world commenting on what works and what doesn’t. They also have lots of users who, like me, have websites who post what works and what doesn’t and how they did it.
That is one thing about a lot of the Ham community. They like to share and brag when they figure something out. So it’s pretty easy to find something on a website somewhere on what someone has done and how they did it.
Well even with the Yahoo Group, I still had problems. So a Google search found me a guy who had the same radios I did and the same problems I did and he had the settings, adjustments and steps all lined out and on his site. I copied them, used them and things worked great. I even bookmarked his site so I could go back. I then did what every Ham does… I made adjustments and experimented to get it even better.
Fast forward to this last week. I drug the TinyTrak4 out of the closet and hooked it up and it didn’t work. Nothing. OK, didn’t use it on that radio last so I need to start with the settings from that website and adjust. Easy, right? Wrong. You see that website is gone. Not there. 404. And another Google search turned up NOTHING! Its like he didn’t even exist. So I have been experimenting off and on fot the last week or better trying to get it to work. So far 50% success…………..not what I wanted or needed.
So lesson learned. Copy the web pages to PDF and file them on the hard drive. And here I set trying to get the blasted thing to work again, and having no luck whatsoever…………….OK, 50% luck. Maybe the next night or two I will get it up and running.
I think I have said it before on this website but I will say it again: I LOVE ANDERSON POWERPOLES!
They make life so easy and make my electronics so happy! After fighting the cigarette plug on my ATV for running my sprayer controller and guidance, I spent an hour making up a three way plug direct to the battery. Got to fuse it tomorrow so I can start spraying!
Drawback is that I now need to wire up my GPS and IPAQ for powerpoles. Not a drawback, just a time consumer!
Well, to pick up were I left off on the RFI situation and my truck………
(The following is my understanding of some science, based on what I have read and understand after talking to fellow hams. It is in no way “scientific”, so expect a few mistakes in the explanation.) One of the most misunderstood concepts, at least for me before this exercise, is the difference between DC and RF ground. I always thought a ground was a ground, you know (-) and that was that. But DC or electricity travels better to ground on a round wire. RF or radio frequency travels better on a flat surface. The flat surface has more capacity and less resistance to carry the RF signal than does a round wire.
So when we ground a vehicle or anything else for that matter, for RF, we want to use something “flat”. The best of these is to use a braided wire. Most hams talk about using the shield from RG-8. And that is great; the problem is that I don’t have a lot of junk RG-8 lying around to strip out for use as grounding. That being said, I buy the one half inch wide braided wire you can buy at Hamfest.
(Side Bar: For your Farmers who had yellow topped John Deere combines, this explains why back “in the day” when GPS first came to the farm for use on yield monitors, that “we” used big flat piece of screen wire in the roof of the cab, above the air conditioner motor to kill the RFI interference when you turned your AC on high. I made many a farm visit to help fix “bad” GPS units that worked in the drive way but quit working when they went to the field. In the driveway, the AC was not on or on low, but in the field when it got hot, you kicked it up to high and lost your GPS signal. That big piece of flat screen wire was a RF Ground! Never understood that until now. All I knew was that it worked and made me look like a genius! ANOTHER NOTE: Never had this problem with RED combines or tractors………AC motor in a different place? Better grounding? Don’t know, but if it had a yellow cab, you had problems. )
Note here the difference in price! One was purchased a year ago at a Hamfest, 20 ft vs. the other, 10 ft, this year………..
Most concur that your ground straps should be no more than 2 ft in length. I have no problem with that. They should be as short as possible. That being said, every time you ground, you also create another “antenna” that is resonant at some frequency. Like my window frame on the camper top (more later on this). So it would appear to me that the game is to keep things going in circles!!!! Ok, I don’t have a clue if that is true, but it sure seems like what we are doing!
Good connections at both ends of the ground are also important to provide both a DC and RF ground paths. That being said, I have read Hams who say crimping and soldering are mandatory and other who say that just tinning is sufficient.
Also, there seems to be little agreement on the use of “good quality” lugs and connectors as well as the use of washers, as in flat or stared, and even heat shrinking. Some of what is said on the topic is just about as mind blowing as how far some Hams take things one way or the other…………I feel a lot of it is for appearance sake.
OK, I am a farmer, if it works, appearance is optional! So some got tinned, most got no washers and all got shot into place by the use of self tapping screws and the battery powered torque driver. Would there be a big difference if I had went to the opposite extreme as outlined by some Hams and did the whole 9 yards? Don’t know but I suspect I will get emails telling me one way or the other…………
Now with all of that said, and showing my stupidity on the topic, let me go even deeper into the hole I am digging myself! The rear window of the camper top had me wondering just how a little piece of aluminum frame holding a glass in can be such a cause of RFI. Well the frame around the back window is a close to 82 inches. The window glass is held in place by an additional 134 inches of aluminum. Upon calculating this time and time again, I find that the window is a length that is a harmonic of the upper part of the 75 meter band.
So it would appear that the window is picking up the RFI from the fuel tank and retransmitting it as an antenna. Or that is my guess as an uneducated RFI sniffer and what little reading I have done on the net. Bonding or grounding such a small piece of aluminum can drop one S unit out of the signal interference. Add up all of those free floating “antennas” on you vehicle and you have a bunch of S units and a much larger mobile antenna farm than you thought!
So to fix the problem I bonded the window frame, on both sides, to the truck bed, and the truck bed to the body frame. You will note in the picture above that I used the down and dirty method of grounding/bonding. Appearance optional! BTW the copper pipe you see is my 2mtr J Pole that I carry as part of my Go Kit. I might also be placing it into something that will bond it to the frame as well in the near future.
Next is to go about re-bonding the truck. As noted in Part I, I had done some of that already but let it go when it didn’t seem to make a difference. Two places that need it “redone” is the exhaust pipe and the doors. The tail pipe is one long antenna for any RFI that is generated out of the engine compartment. Again, after hours of on-net research there are as many “right” ways to ground the exhaust pipe is there are makes of cars. And one is apparently not enough. Most say multiple straps are needed the length of the exhaust. That will be a project for a rainy day!
Well there you have it, Part II completed, and I have yet to talk about Torroids or Ferrite yet. So I will say 73 and to be continued in Part III.
About two years ago I spent the better part of a day installing two antenna mounts for Ham Stick HF antennas for mobile HF (high frequency, 10, 15, 17, 20, 40 and 75 meter bands) operation. I spent a good deal of time trying to do it right, knowing that the better the job, the better my signals and better my reception.
Well to my amazement, I had good reception and good signals. That is so long as I wasn’t mobile, the vehicle was running or the key was turned on. If the motor was running I had all kinds of RFI (radio frequency interference) in the radio at S20+. So I went through the obligatory grounding and trapping that is often recommended for HF installations. And after another day of crawling around under the truck, I found that nothing I had done make anything better.
So for about a year I just let it go. When I did operator HF from the truck, I did it stationary and again I would get good signal reports and reception. It was during this time that several Ham buddies pointed out that there were “issues” with my Ford truck, particularly the fuel pump in producing RFI.
To further investigate this I made a “sniffer” out of a handled shortwave radio and with the truck running made my way around the vehicle to find where the bulk of the interference was coming from. Three places stood out: the gas tank, the door on my camper top and the engine compartment on the passenger’s side. Of the three, the door on the camper top didn’t make any sense. More on that later.
Fast forward to yesterday. Over the last year I had been determined to find an fix the RFI in my truck. So I have been collecting the “tools” I would need to make the fix. I have also been reading up on the net on how to make the “fix” on my truck. I have also been reading up on what other Hans have experienced in trying to fix this issue.
So today was “the day” and I went about removing the fuel tank from my truck to get to the fuel pump, cause #1 of my RFI. This was no easy task to say the least. It was tough. but I got the tank out and then pulled out the fuel pump.
Using a combination of several on line reference to the problem I made up two separate toroid core and ferrite bean assemblies to suppress the RFI. I first made twelve turns on the toroid core followed by six more turns in the ferrite beads. These assemblies had to be placed as close to the pump as possible, so they had to go in the tank and be placed “in line” with the existing pump wiring, one on each lead. As a final precaution I installed another ferrite bean over both leads just outside the tank. Was this right? How did I come up with this? Well, again I used what others had tried and then did what hams are famous for, experimented to see what would happen!
How did I come up with this idea, well I borrowed from others experience and then made it up as I went along. And to my surprise, it worked, somewhat! The major noise went away on all bands except for the lower part of 75 meters. There it is now about S5-6. On the other bands it went way down to S2 or lower.
However I am now picking up the noise from the engine compartment, mostly spark plug or alternator noise. I did ground the frame of the door on the camper top to the bed and that took out another S unit on all bands but 75. The camper top door is a strange one in that the top is fiberglass but the frame around the rear door/window is aluminum. With the sniffer it picks up a tremendous amount of noise all around the window. This area is also right next to where the antennas run off the bumper. See the top photo for a closer look.
To be continued………..
I have had time to update my Cutting Board Portable radio setup. If you followed this over at the other blog, you will know what I am talking about, if not then go here to catch up on what I was doing.
In order to make the CBP more easily transported and to protect it, I purchased one of those aluminum briefcase type tool boxes from Menard’s to put it in.
The first problem was that the board was a bit long, so I had to trim an inch and a quarter off one end.
This made everything fit in the box very nicely. It is a good fit, it doesn’t move around at all. I used the supplied foam to hold everything in place when you close up the tool box and carry it by the handle. Next step is to secure the additional cables and accessories in the top part of the box.
To be continued……..
The Robertson Family attended Sky-Warn (tornado) Spotter Training on Saturday at the Christopher Civic Center. The spotter training was put on by the NWS out of Paducah, Kentucky. The training lasted about three hours and was very informative.
To be an active spotter you need to attend a refresher training every two years and Lori and I were due. Matthew, Lori and I like to chase storms when the opportunity presents itself. Morgan is a bit apprehensive about storms so I thought it would be good to take everyone over and just learn about what makes a thunderstorm severe and what makes tornadoes.
With that in mind, my email update tells me that we have a chance of severe weather tonight in the form of a severe thunderstorm with hail. OK, no big deal. But one thing that was shown at the training is that for the biggest part of the time, most of our severe weather occurs at night. And that is where I think we need to be ready.
If you don’t have a NOAA All Hazards Radio, GET ONE. The nice thing about these radios is that they have the SAME Coding so you can program it to only go off if you have a warning for your county or area. As the training showed us, most of the fatalities that occur during severe weather happen at night when people are asleep and they don’t hear the warning sirens or alerts on TV.
A Weather Radio programed to alert you while your sleeping COULD save your life. At the very least it will wake you up and make you be aware that there is a potential for severe weather, make you look at the TV or Internet radar and know what is going on.
Sure we all have radar, weather and updates from email, internet, cell phones and radio. But unless you have a built in radar, your not aware of anything when your sleeping.
YOU GO TOM!!!
QST DE KA9QPN–Full NEWS with links at http://www.arrl.org/sections/?sect=IL
From the top…
**I subscribe to quite a few forums in order to keep track of the collective pulse. In one of these forums, an item was posted regarding another characterization of Public Service-minded Amateurs as ‘whackers’ on QRZ.com. There was a brief rebuttal posted by Bill Pasternak WA6ITF (of Newsline fame) in that same QRZ thread. Much to his credit, Pasternak refused to feed the troll despite heavy baiting.
What follows are my own expanded comments from an original post on the chicagolandskywarn Yahoo group in response to the matter. ‘I have dealt with this ‘we have met the enemy and he is us’ characterization many times in the Section News and elsewhere. On one hand, there is a great concentration of vocal individuals who also believe that our Service is just another pastime. They feel that we should have no part in any public service at all. These ‘enlightened’ folks are part of a small but loud group of (quite frankly) chronic critics who frequently post on QRZ.com and Hamsexy. The larger group complains about everyone and everything, and would be quite happy if we all stayed off their lawns.
My personal opinion on Internet forums is that most of the posts are about as subtle as a brick through a window, and just as anonymous and informative. I have also repeatedly said that if a public official looks at either of those two forums as representative of our Service, we are screwed. On the other hand, we give these detractors ammunition. The ham who seeks out retired squad cars as a primary form of transportation, festoons it with amber lights and strobes, and walks about in either BDUs or coveralls decorated with patches and HTs/scanners does us no service. This guy gives us a bad name, and sadly this guy and his friends are many (and of both sexes); nearly as many as the opposite element of complainers. I am given to personally estimate that the component of these ‘wannabees’ might be as high as twenty percent of organized ARES/RACES and SKYWARN.
On top of all of this is the current discussion about ‘pecuniary interest’ which has polarized the community deeply. There are some (myself included) who feel that the current suppression of organizational hams (belonging to an EMA/ESDA or RACES of their own choosing after obtaining a license independently) will be the death of organized Amateur Radio public service. (These organizational hams–people who have joined EMA/ESDAs as a way to give back to the community–should not be confused with ‘cram-to-order hams’ which are another growing problem of ours. See last month’s News.)
There are others who feel that any organized assistance to Public Safety must be stopped at all costs, and the Service ‘returned’ to an oblivious band of hobbyists. To those folks I say again: please reread Part 97.1(a).The people whom I describe above–the ones in the old police cars and dressed in coveralls–need to be found and either redirected into mainstream behavior or unceremoniously run out of organized public service for good. They do not help the cause of furthering Amateur Radio Public Service. Cast them out, for they are not of you, and they will screw it up for all of us.
This is something to consider while we go about our off-season training and organizational tasks. Find the guys who give us a bad name. It won’t be that hard. If they cannot be discouraged from looking like mall cops, then get rid of them from your organization. Only then can we be ‘pure as Caesar’s wife’ and able to tell the fringe which calls us all ‘whackers’ that we are not.’
**Why do I keep bringing this up? Because the Amateur Radio Service cannot justify its existence into the future by ‘fostering international goodwill’. Hams are not alone anymore in the vanguard of communications technology and haven’t been for a decade or so. You’d be hard pressed to find someone in your circle who could build a radio utilizing current or emerging technologies. I know maybe one or two guys who are capable of such a thing. So, we’re not really ‘advancing the art’ nearly as much as we used to. (And no: it is NOT due to the relaxation of technical and code requirements. It’s due to the rapidly increasing complexity of the technologies available.)
The only sure way for us to justify our existence for the future is by being the ‘go-to’ communicators When All Else Fails. I am certain that when New Madrid finally slips, or a tornado outbreak occurs, or just because of the next ice storm, the first casualties will involve the partial breakdown of a large statewide P25 system which I will not name further.
We need to justify the public’s generous loan of spectrum to us every day. I am positive that you’re Sweepstakes score won’t help.
Been in and out of the shack all day today. Winter cleaning, parts finding, reorganizing and moving of the summer stuff back and the winter stuff out. In other words trying to find out what I have and where it is at.
Anyway as a good radio operator I have been monitoring the bands, esp the “emergency” frequencies during the blizzard. Not that we have a blizzard here, we don’t. No snow but lots of wind and cold.
The bands have been quiet minus the regulars who camp out on the “emergency” frequencies. I have got to hear all about Christmas plans, amplifiers, mic cords, and a host of other topics but most notably nothing about the weather other than the usual “its cold” or “its windy”.
Which brings me to my thought for the day: Do those who camp out on said frequencies cause those with legitimate reason to frequent them to move to another place? Or do they bring a sense a peace to them to know that someone is actually on the air on said frequency? Yes I realize that there are no set frequencies and that the only restriction is license class other wise it is free range.
I hope everyone who monitored the bands have had as an uneventful day of monitoring as I have had. No emergency business is good business. 73
Last night at the SILWA meeting there was a long discussion on vertical antennas and then we got off on push up poles, mast kits and portable towers for GO KITS for a short while.
KC9OLI and W9GAR were talking about using the trailer hitch or recessed hitch to hold up their mast when operating from the field. This is a great idea but I always thought that the down side of this was that if you needed to move the vehicle and wanted to leave your field portable station where it was you had to tear down the mast. Don’t get me wrong, I think the hitch idea is far superior to the RORO (roll on roll off) mount that a lot of hams use.
Anyway it got me to thinking last night about my setup for portable mast kits and I got back in the archives to find these pictures from 2007 when I manufactured some tripod mounts from some EMT Conduit that I got at HomeDepot. I copied a mount that I purchased that was made of aluminum. The tripod I purchased cost me about $35. I then made four off the pattern from the EMT for $10.
I use fiberglass sections from a military cammo net setup kit for my tripod legs and mast sections. They often sell these as “military mast kits” on EBay for $100. You can find the exact same thing; bag, sections and connectors at surplus stores and on line for $25 as set. So for what the E Stores are selling them for, and what guys sell them for at hamfest, you can make four mast kits!!!
The pictures show the purchased tripod vs the first two I made, using a little different pattern on one than the other, The tripod setup and then about 20ft of mast set up free standing. I can set up my mast by my self up to about 40 ft, then I need help….!!!
You can even guy this out by going to Rural King or Farm Supply and buying bearing holders for a dollar or two a set that will go between the sections and has three or four holes already drilled for ropes. For two bucks you can do the same thing the guy rings they sell for $20 each!! OD paint is optional…………
The last photo shows my adapter for the top of the mast that holds my 2mtr J Pole, Ham Sticks for HF and my center hold for my dipole.
I have used this setup several times when out camping and it works for me! Your results may vary!
Here are a couple of pictures.
First I cut off the cigarette plug from the EZ Guide 500 power cord. Then I put an in line automotive spade fuse holder on the positive side and then installed the Powerpoles using an ARES configuration with the positive or red connector on the right side.
Next I took power from the power port on the right side of the tractor and used the solid red wire for continuous power and the ground. I sealed and taped down the red wire with the orange stripe (ACC) wire as it was not used.
Hooking up is simple, just slide red into red, black into black and you are powered up.
There you go………..
Friday was spent going to get the transmission for the Cat at the shop in Red Bud plus coming home and planting wheat. It was a long day but I did have lunch with Rick Oeth in Sparta and we had a good visit.
Saturday was spent replanting canola and working the SET exercise for ARES. SET is “Simulated Emergency Test”. This year W9FX, our SEC, came up with a earthquake scenario. There was a lot of traffic passed and a few lessons learned on my end, which I will share later.
Mine was an Yeasu FT-26 handheld, but I didn’t use it for Ham Radio. I used it for CAP Communications. Shortly there after in about 1988 or so I got a Yaesu FT 2200 mobile that I had in my truck. I had it there again for CAP use until I traded trucks and then took it out and put it in a box to collect dust etc for many years until I got my Technician license in 2004.
At that point I dusted both off and got them back into service as Ham Radios and not CAP radios.
Of note on the FT 26 is that I have had three battery packs for it. the one it came with and two additional after market ones. The battery pack doesn’t last long on a mission or such were there is a lot of talking.
Funny thing is that the original pack has outlasted the two after market packs as far as recharge life. And I am now down to just the “old” battery pack for the 26.
In a lot of ways, I sure like the 26 a lot better than my VX-7. It doesn’t do as much but it sure is simple.