Archive for August 2009

AARP

August 28, 2009

Controversy regarding AARP support for current health care reform legislation appears to raise additional controversy among seniors regarding the true intentions and objectives of that organization.

We have always thought that AARP was an advocacy group seeking to provide seniors with benefits unique to being a senior citizen. Any doubts regarding who is the benificiary of AARP activities raise serious questions regarding AARP purpose and activity.

We used to belong to the AARP before this contorversy. We allowed out membership to lapse because we became convinced that it was only the AARP which was benefiting from our memebership dues.

Now it could be that unsuspecting seniors may be providing an advesary group with support.

Like I said, it is a controversy, but even the fact that it is in controversy is enough reason to ditch the AARP.

Seniors are at a stage in life where they cannot afford to make mistakes because they may not have time left to correct them. Uncertainty is not our friend. AARP may not be our friend either.

Moxon

August 24, 2009

The Moxon antenna is a compact two element beam antenna with amazing specifications. Free space performance claims about 6db forward gain with around 35db front to back rejection. The antenna can be built from aluminum tubing like conventional yagis but it also easily made from wire and bamboo spreaders similar to quad construction. In fact, when compared to the quad, the Moxon can deliver the same results as a quad yet the Moxon only requires half the parts. The Moxon puts the driven element AND the reflector on one set of four spreaders. Half the parts equal half the weight allowing a smaller, less expensive rotator. Don’t need no prop pitch motors here!

The ‘normal’ Moxon orientation is horizontal. That is the elements are parallel to the ground. Even so, a vertical orientation is also possible, more easily implemented, and just as effective as the horizontal. A rope or wire is strung between the tops of two tall trees. The two shorter sides of the Moxon are implemented using fiberglass insulators and aluminum tubing forming two rigid sturctures. The sides are made from wire which is held in tension by the weight of the lower structure. The upper structure is tied to the high horizontal rope from its midpoint. The lower structure is then rotatable toward any direction and kept in place with two thin ropes attached to the ends on the lower section. Now instead of bothering to feed this antenna at the midpoint of the driven element, it can be fed at the lower corner, in an off-center fed manner similar to a windom. The higher impedance at this corner can be matched to 50 ohms using a 6:1 balun. Or just connect two 4:1 baluns in series. Take off angle on such a vertical is around 18 degrees and IT NEEDS NO RADIALS AT ALL BECAUSE IT IS A COMPLETE TWO ELEMENT BEAM. ITS VERTICAL PROPERTIES ARE DUE TO ORIENTATION ALONE.. In the example given, the antenna can be turned by hand to favor any compass direction. Since the Moxon’s radiation pattern is very broad, accurate positioning to a specific direction is unnecessary.

The Moxon is perhaps the first answer I have ever seen to the question, ‘is there a cheap and easy solution to providing a rotatable beam antenna with decent gain and front to back’?

Moxons for multiple bands can be mounted to the same four spreaders required for this antenna making it a multiband device. There is also no reason a Moxon cell could not be used with conventional directors although Moxon directors would make more sense since they are only 70percent the size of the conventional directors. Smaller size, less material, less weight.

It is also possible to use open wire line, OR 300ohm twin lead, OR 450 ohm ladder line to feed the driven element and provide multiple band operation by using an antenna tuner. In this case the antenna would work as a true Moxon at only the lower design frequency but it would provide useful coverage of frequencies above that lower band as long as the tuner could provide a match.

At this location we have been using a KLM KT-34 beam for nealy 20 years. Recently the HD-78 rotator broke allowing the beam to freewheel in the wind. The freewheeling beam broke its feedline. While attempting repairs it was noted that the capacitor caps used on the linear loading sections were deteriorated beyond repair and needed replacing. After investigating the Moxon, we are now considering modifying the KT-34 to a single band (20meter) two element Moxon allowing east and west coverage either by providing seperate feedlines and flipping reflector and driven element functions or adding a variable capacitor to a center stub on the reflector and tuning it to be a reflector or director.

A two element 20 meter Moxon requires a 9 foot boom. The KT-34 has a 16 foot boom. The seven foot left over is not enough distance to install a director for 20 meters but it is enough to install a second Moxon for 15 meters (maybe). Interaction between the 20 and 15 meter beams may be a problem. In which case we can always add a 15 meter and even a 10 meter Moxon inside the 20 meter beam. Will have to look at that and see if perhaps a third element can be added to the 15 meter cell. Adding a 10 meter cell would undoubtedly allow two 10 meter directors.

The problem with the multiple cell Moxon is that we could not easily make it directionally reversible unless we rotate the antenna. Currently we have no plans to replace the HD-78 rotator. Can’t afford it. Even if we could afford it, we are adding a small rotator to support a couple of vhf antennas above the HF beam. We figure that removing the HD-78 and reducing some weight on the KT-34 will allow us to make do with the present mast without having to add more pipe to reinforce it.

In addition to the KT-34 modifications we are adding a bi-directional 40 meter Moxon, a 20 meter Moxon vertical, and a 30 meter bobtail in place of the 40 meter reduced bobtail installed now.

The 20 meter vertical Moxon will be hung from the center of a wire support strung from between the main mast and the smaller tilt over at the east side of the house. The 40 meter Moxon can be supported on the same supports holding the 80 meter loop without interferring with the 80 meter loop.

Now, on top of all this we can set up the 20 meter Moxons to also cover 17 meters.

To sum up we will have Moxons for 40, 20, 17, 15, and 10 meters. Roatable beams for VHF and a bobtail for 30 meters. Last but not least we will also still have the 80 meter loop.

Looks like a full summer of antenna work.

PC-BSD

August 11, 2009

Just installed version 7.1.1 of PC-BSD. No problems at all. Nothing like last time. Last time I had no end of problems and finally gave up. Those problems might have been due to hardware. Very old and slow hardware with little memory.

This time I am using an Athlon processor running at 1.5gig with 2 gig of ram memory. Everything seems to work fine with that setup.

Really uncanny how simple computing is with PC-BSD. The only other computer that is this forgiving is my old iBook.

Not sure how good PC-BSD is at video capture or if it is well suited to support those features but I am going to have to find out.

Really nice not to have to worry anymore about defraging the hard drive or all those other things that the old windows make you do. PC-BSD is even better than Linux. I had been using Debian but no more. PC-BSD takes care of getting and installing software without need for all those typical Linux tasks.

Finally a computer system that works for me instead of the other way around.

Insurance

August 8, 2009

If you own a house and a car you are going to need homeowners insurance and automobile insurance. If the house is paid off you might squeak by not having homeowners insurance, but it is not a recommended way to go.

Anyone who has listened to the radio or TV will be aware that there is no shortage of folk selling insurance. Automobile insurance seems to be a popular offering.

Ever wonder about those commercials implying you can save hundreds of dollars by buying insurance from a particular company?
How can they promise you savings when they don’t even know what sort of risk you are?

Well you need to listen carefully to what they are telling you. Would, should and might always qualify their promise of savings. It is the bait they offer hoping to hook you into calling them for a quote. You are better off not doing that. Don’t ever call an insurance company unless you have a claim or are pretty certain you want to do business with them. Stay away from those outfits that offer to compare prices for you. There is a much better way to do comparison shopping for insurance of all sorts.

http://www.tdi.state.tx.us is the website of the Texas Department of Insurance. I am sure other states have similar services. On this website you can get a comparison of all the insurance companies doing business in Texas. They compare rates, complaint level, and rating. Bet you did not know that some insurance companies are less friendly to customers who file claims.

The state of Texas will give you comparisons without asking you a lot of personal information not required to quote a rate. Asking an insurance company for such information nearly always ends up with them getting as personal as you allow. Yes, I know they all have privacy policies and if you bother to read them you will discover that their policy is to do whatever they want with any information you give them.

I recently did a comparison of insurance rates both automobile and homeowner. The best rate for the homeowner insurance was offered by the company that is already providing that insurance.

The automobile insurance rates verified my suspicions. The rates varied from $250 to $1200 a year. Those companies that advertise most heavily on radio and TV were solidly positioned in the middle at around $600 to $800. The current rate of my present insurer was $265 a year. Looks like I am already saving all the money I can on automobile insurance. I am pretty sure it is not worth the hassle of changing to get the $15 savings from the lowest bid. Besides the lowest bidder did not have a very good track record.

So, you see. those racy cartoons, big bottomed spokeswomen, talking lizards, and good hands people don’t spend millions on ads because people are flocking to them to buy insurance. Oh, sure can save plenty with them when comparing their rates to the high priced spread at $1200, but that is not the kind of comparison most consumers are going to do and it does the insurance companies no good to point out that you can save even more if you go with a reliable company that has the lowest rate.

4 Channel DVR

August 2, 2009

AT&T’s latest commecial sports their 4 channel DVR. Using it you can record four programs on four different channels at the same time.

They seem to be oblivious to the fact that their progamming content seldom even has one channel showing content that most would find recordable. That is true if you have the basic package or the full blown 300 some odd plus channel package.

You can’t fault AT&T for the lousy programming. You get the same from any of the other cable providers.

You can fault AT&T for trying to sell something no one wants or needs.

We were just treated to a full month of free viewing of Starz and Showtime premium channels. Finally, for once, no commercials. Trouble is there was nothing worth watching.

Those with time to waste would probably find something to watch. After all, moving pictures still fascinate the dullest of minds. Trouble is these services require money as well as time and there was nothing there worth paying money to see.

Now keeping that in mind, why would anyone consider paying even more money to rent the equipment that can record four different unwatchable, trashy, programs at the same time?

You can do much better with a Netflix subscription. At least there you have the convenience of VOD on the cheap.

Not that Netflix offers super high quality programming, but they do offer good reviews and endless choices. It is nice to be able to select the material when you are intent on rotting your mind.