Archive for July 2008

Horizontal Loop

July 25, 2008

I was not interested in installing a horizontal loop but I did not have the tower height needed for a vertical full wave loop. Not easy to support 257 feet of wire as a right triangle when your highest support is only 55 feet. So I ended up with a somewhat square configuration. Three supports at 30 feet two supports at 15 feet. The feedline is 300 ohm twinlead, the good stuff, not the cheap flimsey ribbon line.

My old Johnson KW matchbox would not tune it on 75 meters but an old homebrew Z-match got the match down to 1:1 SWR.

Prior to using the loop I was running an inverted vee dipole, apex at 50 feet, ends at 20 feet. Running about 500 watts to the antenna I was getting consistent reports of 9 plus 10db from a regularly scheduled sched with another ham about 150 miles to the north of my QTH. We had been running a Sunday morning sched for the better part of 20 years from the same locations. He had always been 10db over 9 too.

The horizontal loop has us trading signals at 20db over 9.

Last Sunday was the first time the loop was used. We will see if it works as well this Sunday.
Initial indications appear to be telling us that the loop has a 10db advantage over the old inverted vee. That is probably too good to be true but we do know that the loop works better than the inverted vee.

New Marketing Strategy

July 19, 2008

Judging from the amount of spam, unwanted regular mail, popup trash on the internet, annoying interruptions of so-so programming on tv and radio, worthless infomercials about worthless products on cable, current marketing strategy seems to be ‘Piss them off and they will buy your shit’.

Am I the only one immune to this shockingly unconventional marketing ploy?

Trees and Antennas

July 18, 2008

I recently had a couple of trees trimmed. These are mature sycamores located in my back yard. They top out at around 70 feet. I had the lower branches removed leaving the lowest branch remaining at around 30 feet. A good height for supporting a 75 meter horizontal loop. The problem now became one of getting the wire up to the 30 foot level.

Not too long ago I would climb up there. Can’t do that anymore. Too old and the longest ladder I have will not reach the lower limbs of either tree. So I decided to ‘launch’ some twine into the air and over the lower limbs of the tree.

Twine attached to a large nut to be propelled by a slingshot. The slingshot certainly was capable of propelling the nut and the twine. Trouble was that the twine got tangled in the slingshot elastic. Oh well, it only cost five bucks at Wallmart and I had always wanted a good slingshot.

Next we tried a fishing rod and reel. Discovered that we are lousy at casting and even worse at finding the little weight and invisible ten pound fishing line.

Found some golf balls. Drilled a small hole in the golf ball. Installed a small padeye. Attached the black nylon twine to the padeye and threw the golf ball up into the tree. On the sixth try it got tangled up in some branches and refused to come down. Went to modify another golfball. This one had a liquid center. Spewed some sort of liquid all over my shirt.

Gave up for a while. Took a break to continue cleaning up the garage. Found a softball. Installed a padeye into the softball. Attached the twine. My arm is still sore from throwing that thing up to the tree. The first tree took six tries and the second tree took twelve tries before both supports were installed. A length of scrap coax was hoisted up by the twine. Up and over the limb at thirty feet. A pulley was installed at one end of the coax. The other end was attached to a larger padeye installed at the base of the tree. The loop wire was allowed to run free through the pulley and the wire was hoisted to the 30 foot level by pulling up on the length of coax attached to the pulley. Nothing was tied around the tree trunk of any of its limbs.

The softball launcher works well. It is easy to find and has enough weight to pull down the twine after the ball is thrown over the desired limb. I imagine a baseball would work too.

I have also heard that sand filled tennis balls work well. I did not try that because I did not have any tennis balls and had already blown my budget on fishing reels, slingshots, twine, and padeyes. Besides, the only way I have of filling a tennis ball with sand would also have the sand falling out as the ball is used. Don’t have to worry about the sand when you use a softball.

Rewards Programs

July 9, 2008

It used to be that when you needed financial services, you selected the best deal from a bank and rewarded them by paying a fee for the service. Now they pretend to pay you for being a customer.

Many decades ago you might get a cheap toaster or other trivial appliance for opening up an account at a financial institution but none were silly enough to offer to pay you for doing business with them.

When you consider that these folks only income derives from fees collected from customers, where do you suppose they get the funds to support those ‘Rewards Programs’?

To make those ‘Rewards Programs’ work they have to overcharge you for services and then dribble back some of the overcharges to you through the ‘Rewards Program’. You are not being rewarded, you are being screwed.

It is best to deal with institutions that have fairly priced services and no rewards programs.

My mother-in-law has an inactive credit card account with Bank America. Recently she received a letter from them detailing changes in their rewards program. Seems they have become less than generous with the rewards. That is okay. She does not use the account and has no intention to do so in the future.

In fact, after reading the official Bank America privacy policy none of us are ever going to be doing business with Bank America. Their privacy policy states that customers can request that their private information be kept private but Bank America reserves the right to share that information with third parties anyway. WHAT!!!!? What right?

As usual, anytime a company rolls out a privacy policy it usually is designed to screw the customer. No thanks. Our privacy policy is not to share private information with folk who can’t be trusted.

Is it Hardware or is it Microsoft?

July 8, 2008

When you are dealing with the lowest bidder in both software as well as hardware (Microsoft and China) you don’t deserve superb results all the time.

For the last few months I have been living with lousy results and blaming the software.

Last week the computer finally refused to boot. Maybe because it was boycotting the lousy software. Or so I thought.

Turns out the power supply had finally given up the ghost (or whatever it is that makes it work).

Went to Microcenter and bought another made in China bit of computer junk but this one works and the limited three year warranty gives us a false sense of security. But we will enjoy proper operation while it lasts.

With the new power supply performance is back to original levels. I have no idea how this computer even worked with the old power supply. Then again, maybe it did not work and I was not smart enough to realize it had a problem. Now all those annoying, quirky malfunctions are gone and the computer appears to be running at a speed indicative of a higher speed machine.