Friday, June 9, 2017

In search of good sound

I just got a new wireless speaker for my desk at home. I wasn't necessarily in the market for one... but this popped up in my twitter feed as a "deal". I recognize Harman/Kardon as a quality audio brand. And it was discounted about $350 off regular price. I think one could safely say it was originally overpriced. But after the discount it's probably just about right. One selling point for me... it has Airplay built in. So I can play to it from my computer or my phone, seamlessly and lossless.



Monday, May 8, 2017

Apple all the way...

I'm not sure why I did it. Perhaps it had something to do with an app on my iPhone that would allow import of a photo... but only from my Apple photo app... not my Google Drive. But I figured I'd be better off being completely in the Apple ecosystem.

I just spent the last 24 hours or so migrating all my data from Google Drive back over to the Apple iCloud. And at the very last, I even moved all my Gmail mail and contacts over to Apple's email service. This is something I was pretty sure I would never do.

So now I am 100% back on the Apple ecosystem. I never really thought I would go back to the Apple iCloud email. The main drawback it has... I can't send email as if I'm at my own domain. Gmail allows that. At one time this was pretty important to me. I own three domains and I want to be able to send email as-if from those domains. But I figured what the heck. I suppose I can live with elden.f@icloud.com. So that's the address my email will be from from now on.

I suppose I should have less hassle now. Everything is Apple. I'm no longer connected to anything Google on my devices and/or computers. I still have some Google docs. And I really like Google docs. But what I have left there are pretty much just backups of stuff I've migrated back over to the iCloud.

In theory things should be pretty nice doing the 100% Apple thing. We'll see. I know that it's not the absolute best cloud service out there, but I think it should be alright. Sometimes the path of less hassle is the best.

Friday, April 14, 2017

VMware

I've been a little bored lately. And my allowance fund has been building for awhile. So I decided to spring for VMware for my iMac along with a memory upgrade to make it a workable thing.

My iMac (which is the latest higher-end model) only came with 8GB of RAM. Some of the iMac models are not even upgradable. Mine is. I had four slots with only two used. At any rate, I replaced my two 4GB sticks with four 8GB sticks for a total of 32GB. That should be enough for some virtual machine fun.

I now have 12 different operating systems installed in VMware. I bought a license for Windows 10... the rest are all Linux. Oh, and FreeBSD just for kicks.

Not sure what I'm going to do with these except just play around. One thing I learned from my previous experience with ChromeOS. And that is, if you have all your data in the cloud, pretty much any computer is a ChromeBook/ChromeBox. That's because if you have a browser, you have everything right there, regardless of the operating system you happen to be running. So any of these operating systems will serve me equally well, as long as I use a browser that supports my LastPass password manager.

Actually, I find macOS to be pretty sweet. And I really have no need to use anything else. It's all just for grins I suppose.



Saturday, April 1, 2017

Node radio revisited

I will say, messing with the Baofeng 888 radios was a major pain. The main problem was actually getting the second radio from the seller (KD8MST). And when I finally did get it, it didn't work correctly. So I disassembled both my new (non-working) radio and my old (working) radio to see what the difference was in the wiring.

Both these radios were modified and a cable was wired into the circuit boards to facilitate use as a node radio. I opened them up and sent pictures of the wiring to the seller in hopes that he could identify the problem. He didn't see any problem, but confessed he may have used the wrong pin-out on the other end of the cable.

The problem I had... once I disassembled these two radios... I could not get them back together. So I simply tossed them both in the trash and wrote the whole thing off as a failed experiment.

I went back to my trusty Alinco node radio with my DB9 A/B switch. Everything is working great. There are only two minor inconveniences.

1) I need to switch back and forth between nodes (having only one node radio to share between nodes instead of each node having it's own radio).

2) I need to remember to switch on my muffin fan when I'm connected up to something in order to keep the Alinco cool in case the system I'm connected to gets busy. However I did replace my previous fan with one that is now less noisy.

The Baofeng node radio idea really was an experiment. The first one I had worked great. But as I pointed out to KD8MST, my tolerance level for frustration on these things is quite low. I just don't need the grief. And while the Baofeng solution was much cheaper than what I was using before... I already had a working solution that was perfectly acceptable.

I am truly an "appliance operator" type ham. I want things to just work. I'm not in it that much for the tinkering, but more for the communication aspect. I enjoy having a good conversation. And having a chat with someone you don't know can be interesting, fun, and also good practice.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Baofeng 888 node radio

This is incredible. I found a guy online who provides a "modification service" for Baofeng 888 handheld radios. This modification allows the use of these cheap radios as a node radio for ham operators such as myself who want to run a local VoIP node. I have two VoIP nodes (one Allstar and one IRLP). And I had them setup using an Alinco node radio.

That Alinco radio is about $165 and it needs a $100 power supply to run it. It also can't be run very long without using some kind of fan against the heat sink. The fan is noisy and it's annoying to have to turn it on every time I want to operate.

The modified Baofeng I bought replaces that $265 worth of gear for $37. And it will operate all day long without any kind of a fan. No noise!

I am a happy camper.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Another chance

Ok, I'm going to back pedal a bit from my recent post "The Apple Experiment". One thing that prompted me to originally move to Google Drive from Apple's iCloud was because I was having trouble with my only Mac and started using my Chromebox instead. That's when it became evident that Apple's iCloud was never really suitable to be a truly platform-independent cloud service.

However, I have since ditched my Chromebox and am now back using Apple hardware again (I actually forked out for another iMac). So... yes that's right, I moved my stuff back to Apple's iCloud. It really does mostly work ok. And there is one advantage. Because all my iCloud data also sits on my local machine, I can easily back it up to external hard drives (something you can't really do with Google Drive).

I am still relatively unhappy with the stability of MacOS. Since my last post there has been at least one instance where I had to hold down my power button to reset again. This sort of thing normally happens when I'm doing something fairly intense.

Originally my big problem with it was happening when I was encrypting 5-6 large external hard drives. More recently it happened when I was syncing a very large amount of data via iCloud. Under normal usage I don't have a problem. However that is no excuse. An OS that buckles under pressure is still highly annoying.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Ham radio VoIP stuff

I have sort of ditched local ham radio in favor of a couple different VoIP setups. I have two VoIP nodes... one is IRLP and one is AllStar. They both run on the raspberry Pi 2.

I only have one node radio. It's connected up to a dummy load instead of a regular antenna. Since it's only intended for my use at home, that works just fine. I have a DB9 A/B switch where I can switch my node radio from one VoIP system to the other.

I was originally running just an AllStar node. But I decided after awhile to add the IRLP node to my setup. While IRLP is not as nice as AllStar for a number of reasons, IRLP has far more of a history and established user base. At least that is my perception.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, let me explain.

I have a local ham radio that I talk on with an antenna in the attic. Then I have another radio (we'll call this a node radio) that I have connected to an A/B switch which in turn connects the radio to one of two raspberry Pi systems that are connected to the internet. So I talk on my local radio which is received by my node radio. That audio then goes out over the net via my VoIP nodes. And of course I listen the same way. I control the nodes by using DTMF (touch tones) to "dial up" other nodes all over the world that are also connected to radios (usually high-powered repeaters that are located on hill tops).

So on all these nodes, there is a radio component that facilitates local communication. The VoIP aspect simply allows those radios to connect to each other over long distances via the net.

This is all sort of fun. But it reminds me of the last days in the life of the whole BBS scene. This was where BBS's were fighting to stay alive by offering internet connectivity and such. That only delayed their death for a short time. In reality the vast majority of ham radio repeaters sit idle and are rarely used. In the Eugene area alone there are well over a dozen repeaters. But only one or two that actually have any activity to speak of.