Monday, December 24, 2007

Civ IV with Amy

Last night and today Amy and I have spent several hours playing a Civilization IV Warlords. We started around 8:30 last night and went until 2:30am. Then today we played for a while, but it was a little on and off while chasing kids, doing laundry, etc.

Random Screenshot:

Friday, November 09, 2007


They just put a Subway sandwich shop near where I work. When it comes to Subway, the best part about their sandwiches is the fresh baked bread. I've been going there a bit and they keep asking me if I want my sub toasted. Why? I chose Subway, I didn't go to Quiznos for a reason, because I wanted a Subway sub, on tasty fresh baked bread that hasn't been ruined in a glorified microwave. So, here is the deal, when I want a toasted sub, I'll go to Quiznos and when I want a sub on fresh untoasted bread, I'll go to Subway, and there is no need to ask me if I want the sub toasted.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Amy's Blogging

Amy has been blogging regularly and should be for the rest of the month. There is something called National Blog Posting Month where you write at least one blog post per day for the month of November.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Zoe Walks

While they aren't hear first steps, they are close. She seems to really want to walk now. Of course, when she really wants to get somewhere fast, she still crawls, but I guess that is to be expected for now.

Zoe Walks

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Monday, October 29, 2007

Started RF Board

I've started the RF board! It is the biggest part of the project and I'm looking forward to its completion. It looks like it is going to take a good 5 hours of work at my slow speed. Just sorting the parts took almost 30 minutes. It looks like there is nothing on it yet, but there are components soldered, trust me. On the top, you can see 15 or so resistors, 3 eight pin connectors, & 1 relay soldered to the board. On the bottom, there is not much to it yet, you can see the mounts on the edge, and the 20 pin connector that will connect to the front panel

RF Board Top

RF Board Bottom

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Finished Front Panel

I don't know how I managed to do it, but I missed the potographing and blogging portions at the end of some work I did on the front panel board. The good news is, I actually did work on it once between 9/12 & 10/28. The better news is, it is starting to look like a radio.

A view from the front!

And the back!

Next up is the RF Board, which looks like it has about 3 times the number of components as everything I've built so far, maybe more.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

APRS Balloon - W3EAX-11

I just happened to notice a station I didn't recognize on my APRS display this morning. Upon further investigation, I realized that it was a high altitude balloon that hadn't been launched yet. I took some time to sit down and watch it for a while a few times throughout the morning. I took some screen captures and filtered a log that I sent along to the e-mail address associated with that call. Here are two of the screen captures. The balloon and its track are on the left.

Soon after launch - click to enlarge:

Shortly after it stopped - click to enlarge:

Thursday, September 20, 2007


If only this post had a picture, but we didn't bring the camera to the fair tonight. Of all the things that we did, the best part was Aidan eating his corndog. Just in case there is someone out there who doesn't know what a corndog is, check out Wikipedia's corndog entry. Now imagine a boy that is not quite two years old yet eating one, almost all of it. He may have eaten it all, but when he got down to the stick, I took it from him and ate it so he wouldn't poke is eye out. Oh yeah, Aidan also rode some rides, and so did Zoe, well, at least the carousel chariot. Alex really got my $15 worth out of the all you can ride pass. I think I about broke even. Amy didn't ride any rides tonight, she had Zoe on her back, but she rode many rides on Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fantasy Football - Won Week Two

I managed to win this week. No, I didn't cut Peyton for Eli, but I did play Randy Moss. There are a couple of more weeks, then some of my key players have bye weeks, hopefully Eli will be healty when Peyton is on the bye. I should probably pick up a defense and a kicker to play during their bye weeks too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You'll never guess what I worked on tonight!

I pulled out the Elecraft K1 kit and started work on the second component, the Front Panel Board. I was surprised at how fast I progressed on this component. I'm about 1/2 way done in one sitting of about an hour and a half.

Front Panel Board - Top

Front Panel Board - Bottom

The filter board's components were all mounted on one side and soldered on the other, well, except for the multi pin connectors. The Front Panel Board is a little different, it has components mounted on each side, with some solder points ending up below components on the other side, I sure hope I don't have to re solder anything. I hope I can finish this component without letting too much time pass.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lost my first match

Why did I pick some of these players again? Basically, after the first couple of rounds I started choosing by the overall player ranking, which didn't seem like such a bad idea at the time. The worst part is, why didn't I play them? Eli Manning did much better than Peyton, and Randy Moss had a great game. I was ahead after the Ravens game, but my opponent scored several points with his Cardinals wide receiver. Watching the Ravens game, I say that the offensive pass interference call was BS. If Todd Heap would have been given credit for that touchdown, I would have won. I guess that is just the luck of the draw.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Eli out does Peyton!

Two of the players I had on the bench this week in my Fantasy football team did very well. Too bad they don't help my score if they are on the bench! Although the Giants lost, Eli passed for a ton of yards and touchdowns. The other player was Randy Moss, he was supposed to be injured and not play much if at all, but ended up having a hell of a game, getting 24.3 fantasy points while the guy I put in for him, DJ Hackett scored 0.7 points. I'm loosing my first matchup 57.6 to 63.7. I have Todd Heap TE and Willis McGahee RB in for tonight. I still have some time to swap out Heap for Mark Clayton, but that is a toss up move, you never know which will do better, it depends on the defense.

Nothing better than working from home!

At least when you wife is home too and the babies are sleeping!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fantasy Football

I've joined my first fantasy football league with some guys at work. They all say my draft picks were not very good, but how can you go wrong picking Peyton Manning first?

Here is my team
My Fantasy Football Team

QB Peyton Manning (Ind - QB)
WR Muhsin Muhammad (Chi - WR)
WR D.J. Hackett (Sea - WR)
RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Jac - RB)
RB Willis McGahee (Bal - RB)
W/T Todd Heap (Bal - TE)
K Adam Vinatieri (Ind - K)
DEF New England (NE - DEF)
BN Mark Clayton (Bal - WR)
BN Eli Manning (NYG - QB)
BN Brandon Jackson (GB - RB)
BN Alge Crumpler (Atl - TE)
BN Randy Moss (NE - WR)
BN Bernard Berrian (Chi - WR)
(BN = Benched Player)

Manning and Vinatieri did good for me on Thursday night. I'm looking forward to Sunday and Monday, I sure hope I win my first Fantasy game.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fred Thompson 2008

It is time to get political. In 2000, I voted for John McCain in the primary that George W. Bush ultimately won. McCain was the better of two then, and he is looking pretty good to me this year too. But then there is this Fred Thompson guy. I'm not real sure about his politics yet, he is on the conservative side, which is good, but the guy just seems electable too. A simple quote like this one "Communications being what they are nowadays, if you can't get your message out in a few months, you're probably not ever going to get it out." really makes sense. I'm sure some staff fed him that line just in case he was asked, but the delivery was perfect. There is some grumbling about him being an actor, but that doesn't bother me, our last great president was an actor too! A McCain/Thompson vs Clinton/Obama would be one hell of a race in November!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Canada - Pictures

More pictures from our Canada trip!

APRS Band Opening

It is too bad I didn't have time to pack up the radio gear and head up on the mountain yesterday morning. First I noticed that I was hearing a station out of New York come in on the local Frederick repeater. There is 440 MHz transmitter up there on the same frequency that links the Frederick repeater with the rest of Western Maryland. After hearing that, I thought to check my APRS program. I was delighted to see stations all the way up to Maine. Now this isn't exactly good for the ARPS network, but it is an interesting phenomenon. It is all the more reason to use appropriate APRS paths like WIDE2-2, because you never know when your packets could be retransmitted 100s of miles away and cause network congestion in some other region.

If you notice the yellow circle on the picture, that is known as the ALOHA circle, which is basically the edge of the network for me. Packets I send that are heard outside of that network do more harm than good to the network. My ALOHA circle typically includes the Baltimore and Washington DC metro areas, but it all depends on the number of stations that are active at the time, during commuting hours, the circle gets a little smaller. It all has to do with the number of stations using the same frequency and the limitations of 1200 baud packet radio data signals.

More on APRS:


Amy and I went to Niagara Falls last week. And I must say, it was probably our best anniversary yet. That is easy to qualify as the previous two, Amy was in her third trimester with Aidan & Zoe respectively. It was also our most expensive anniversary trip too. It was nice though to get away from the kids for the first time. It was funny though that we talked about the kids a lot and of course we missed them even more.

The first night we ate dinner in the Skylon tower rotating dining room. It wasn't a cheap meal, but the view was pretty good, as was the experience. We didn't do much else the first day as we arrived late in the afternoon.

The best part was sleeping in until ten or later, which sort of ruled out breakfast. Lunch the next day was in a very Amy like restaurant called the Secret Garden Restaurant. I say it was Amy like because it was very girly decorated with pink and purple everywhere, and flowers, etc. This day was also the big picture day, we took the camera and took a lot of pictures of the falls and other things. We also took the journey behind the falls tour, which was pretty neat, actaully being behind the falls and seeing them quite up close from the observation deck. Dinner was at a very authentic Japanese restaurant, not one of those hibachi grill places, a real Japanese restaurant more like you would find in Japan. Amy had sushi of course, and I had a ginger pork dish over rice. For dessert we had red bean and green tea ice cream. That night we were treated to some live music and fireworks.

After another skipped breakfast, we had lunch at the hotel restaurant. I was thinking about going to Wolfgang Puck's restaurant since it was our anniversary day, but after seeing the table rock restaurant's view the other night I thought that that place might be better and more unique to Niagara falls. It was a rainy day, which turned out to be good for our ride on the Maid of the Mist. That was a pretty cool ride, and it was the first time Amy and I were ever on a boat together, which is strange since we have been a couple for over 5 years and married for 3. The plastic ponchos we got from the Maid of the Mist kept the rain off of us for the rest of the day. After dinner at the Table Rock restaurant, I had to buy something warmer to wear, it was a lot colder than I expected. Then we went to the Casino. I didn't know they had Casino's in Niagara falls, but it was a pleasant surprise. I played craps for about 3 hours with $200 Canadian. At one point I was up about $175, my cutoff was being up $200, but then I started losing a bit, so Amy decided it was time for me to call it quits, ending up $100. After getting back to the hotel, we ordered a bottle of champaign and celebrated our anniversary.


Add to My Profile | More Videos

The trip home wasn't the best as I wasn't feeling well, and it was the first day that we had to get up early so we could get the rental car back in time. I spent the rest of my Canadian currency on the hotel bill, and only a little went the credit card, which worked out a lot better than having to exchange it later. After we were on the road for a little bit, we stopped at a service area on the New York Thruway and had a sit down breakfast at Denny's, which was pretty good. The drive home seemed to take a while. I think I wanted to get home and see the kids on the trip home more than I wanted to get to Canada on the trip there.

In all, our trip to Canada was great, time to ourselves and having no work to do was great. It might be a while before we can do it again!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Alexander's School Supply List

8 large glue sticks
Child sized scissors (Fiskar brand preferred)
1 pack dry erase markers (Expo brand preferred)
1 pack stickers (character or seasonal preferred)
1 composition book (Ms. Doyle, Ms. O’Brien, Ms. Parsons, & Ms. Preston’s class)
1 spiral notebook (Ms. Baisey’s class)
1 backpack
1 bottle liquid glue
2 boxes 24 crayons
1 pack markers
1 pack pencils
1 pocket folder
1 pack small or large non-wax coated paper plates

OK, 8 glue sticks, seriously, do they want you to come to school the first week with all 8 glue sticks? This is a pretty strange list for kindergarten. So maybe he will need most of this stuff, even the glue sticks. But why on earth would a kindergartner need dry erase markers, or markers in general. Think 5 year old for a minute, what can a marker do that a crayon can't besides write on skin and clothes? As for the dry erase markers, I don't think we will be getting them, it just doesn't make sense.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Blog Updates

I finally posted some of those old entries I've wanted to add, but now, they don't seem to be showing up.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What is going on?

Well, I haven't been blogging much lately, nor have I been working on my radio project. We'll have Andrew with us for the next month, a crab feast this Saturday, and so on, so, it doesn't look like we will be any less busy. Things have been so hectic that last week I ended up forgetting to take Alex to swimming lessons.

I do hope to add some back dated blog entries about the hamfest, family reunion, and field day, so keep an eye out for them.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Road Trip Home from WV

The trip home from the family reunion was pretty fun. We decided take the long long way home through the mountains and on some back roads with a stop at Spruce Knob, the highest mountain in the state at 4863 feet. Zoe was great, Aidan was good, but Alex wasn't so at the top of the mountain. Getting to Spruce Knob required a 20 mile drive on a dirt road. I later realized that there was a better way, but we would have missed the lake, so I guess it was worth it.

From WV Road Trip

From WV Road Trip

Winding our way home through the mountains was fun, but finding a place to eat when you are hungry wasn't the easiest. We had a small lunch at Spruce Knob Lake, but that was long gone. We finally found a place in Petersburg that looked like it would be a nice place to relax for a while and enjoy dinner.

From WV Road Trip

That turned out to be great, not only was it a nice break from the road, but the food was pretty good too, with the exception of Alex's pecan pie desert.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Family Reunion in WV

This year we finally got a room at the Philippi Lodging hotel that is just a few minutes from my Grandparents' house. That alone made this year better than last.
From 2007 Family R...

I managed to almost kill myself on a 4 wheeler. I started it up but didn't realize it was in gear when I let off the clutch and it took off. The trouble was, it took me a few seconds to realize what just happened and how to fix it! Grandma Jackie rode on the back of the 4 wheeler too, but my cousin Tommy was driving.

We made a stop at the covered bridge, site of the first land battle of the civil war. I find that kid of stuff interesting, but, I'm not quite sure the rest of the family did. The pictures turned out good though.
From 2007 Family R...

On the list of ad hoc activities was some skeet shooting. I had a blast with the single shot 410. I must have went through an entire box of shells, hitting just about everything after missing my first 3. I hadn't shot a gun in probably 10 years, maybe closer to 15 for a shotgun. After the shooting, the kids went to collect the ones that were missed, accumulating quite a stack!
From 2007 Family R...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Field Day 2007

Field Day 2007 was a lot more fun for me than last year. First, the entire family was there, Amy, Zoe, Aidan, & Alex, even Al, my father in law. Second, I chose to be the band captain for 80 meters. Our station made 300 contacts in 24 hours, 200 using Morse Code and 100 using voice.

I was originally going to build a station for 10 meters, but as planning for the event went on, nobody had signed up for 80 which was surprising because it is a very active band on field day. I figured why not switch, since I could never setup a good station for 80 meters at home, the antennas are just too big.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Frederick Amateur Radio Club Hamfest

Each year the Frederick Amateur Radio Club puts on a hamfest, which is basically a big flea market with a folks selling a lot of ham radio gear and electronics. There are a few commercial vendors as well. This year's hamfest worked out quite well, we were able to save some money on expenses and sold a lot more tickets than last year. Our total income looks like it will be more than triple what we made in 2006, just about enough to cover a year's worth of club expenses.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Quote from Fox News article about TV dads

Father Knows Best: 10 Life Lessons From TV Dads
By C. Spencer Beggs
"Archie Bunker may have been the most racist, homophobic blasphemer to grace the small screen until Eric Cartman was doodled into "South Park."

I wonder how many people have actually watched both shows. I'll go on record as saying, they are both good!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Anvil Restaurant Responds

We are sorry that your experience was less than great at our restaurant. We have been in business almost 22 years and always try our best to please!

It is our understanding that some member of your group caused quite a sitr during the evening and delayed the group as aw hole. We have attached a letter from another member from your group with an apology for the behaviors!

We hope you will accept our apology and hope you will join us again. A gift certificate is enclosed for $20.00


Danny E. Smith


17 May 2007

M/M Danny & Ann Smith,
The Anvil Restaurant
Post Office Box 707
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Subject: Letter of Appreciation

On behalf of our Association, please accept my thanks for making us welcome in your restaurant yesterday evening and for the courtesy and assistance of your staff members during and after the dinner. Ms Renee Smith, as our hostess, did an outstanding job of handling the unnecessarily obstreperous wife of one of our members and was a great help to me.

I was involved in assisting my wife to exit the restaurant. I was so concerned for my wife’s safety that I was not available to take the appropriate action and intervene as Ms Smith was enduring the unwarranted criticism that I noted while we were leaving. Obviously there is one medication for migraine that does not go well with two excellent cocktails.

There was one entrée delivered a bit late, but I did not get any criticisms from any of our members or their guests concerning food service. The lady who was served late was not angry or displeased. The woman who took it upon herself to complain was not an officer or member of the club and has caused this kind of trouble for the last time. We expect that she will be moving away next month and that will simplify our situation. We have been asked by other restaurants to ensure that she no longer be a guest at our monthly dinners.

Thanks Again,


Now, for my comments:

I was at the dinner, I think I chatted with everyone, and I have no idea who Roy was talking about in his letter, I guess that goes to show how well I knew everyone there. My suspicions is that the staff there felt that they were treated badly, and decided to take it out on the rest of the group, still, not acceptable if you ask me.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

Yippee-ki-yay, mother****er. John McClane will be back for a fourth Die Hard movie, I knew there was a reason I didn't buy the trilogy box set on DVD. I remember staying up late watching the first Die Hard on cable back in the day at my friend Aaron Jackson's house. I don't know how we managed to watch it, we were still in elementary school at the time, I don't think our parents would have approved!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Filter Board - Complete

This is good news, and bad news, in several ways. The good news is, that the filter board is done. If you've been keeping up with my progress, you know it has been a while since I finished soldering everything to the board, but it wasn't testing within the specs given by the manual. It turns out, that there was nothing wrong with it, I was just testing the wrong pins on the IC, I just didn't know how to count them. I was counting the pins as if they alternated, even & odd on each side of the IC, so when I thought I was touching pins 6 & 7, I was really touching pins 4 & 16. It is a good thing that I have experienced hams in the area who can help me out. I was finally frustrated enough to take the board to Neil's place (KC9BH) and have him help me take a look at it. After about 4 seconds, I realized my mistake. The good news is i got a lesson in soldering and desoldering while I was there, and he also let me borrow a better set of wire cutters so I could trim the component leads a little better.

The next step in the project, the front panel board. There is more bad news on this front though, for the next 5 weekends, I'm pretty busy. Company Picnic on June 3, Alex's Gymnastics Show on June 9, Frederick Amateur Radio Club Hamfest on June 17, Field Day on June 20, 20 & 22, and we'll be in WV from June 29 to Jul 4.

The final piece of good news, I'll never forget how to count the pins on an IC. That is what this project is about, learning something, and I certainly learned something yesterday.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Letter to The Anvil Restaurant

May 17, 2007

The Anvil Restaurant
1290 West Washington Street
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia 25425

Dear Anvil Restaurant Management,

I recently attended dinner with a large group at the Anvil Restaurant in Harpers Ferry and found the service to be less than satisfactory. My meal, a bowl of crab soup and the WV Trout was excellent, especially the trout, the sauce really made an ordinary fish fillet into an extraordinary dish. It did seem to take a while between my order and being served, but that didn't bother me much as I enjoyed the company of my group. The real trouble came when it was time to get my check. I had noticed that others in our group were getting their checks at 8:50, a short time after I finished my meal and realized that it was getting late. I did not get my check until 9:30, and wasn't able to leave until 9:35 when the waitress returned to take payment. I do not understand how it could take more than a minute to total up a sprite, bowl of soup, and an entree. Also disappointing was the waitresses failure to acknowledge and apologize for the long wait for the check as if it was the normal way business was done at the Anvil Restaurant.

I haven't decided if I will attend the Anvil Restaurant in the future, it seemed like a place where I would like to take my wife to dinner for just the two of us, and since the food was very good, I haven't put the Anvil on my list of Restaurants to avoid in the future. I don't think the experience would be the same for just my wife and I, but if it was, I would not return, and would advise those I know to avoid going as well. I understand that large groups can be difficult, but they are also often a chance to win new customers, because it may be the first visit for many in the group, as it was for me.



Monday, May 14, 2007

Caffeine Free

I've taken another break from caffeine, and well, I'm tired. It is 9:30 in the morning and I'm tired already. Since my drink of choice is Mountain Dew, every once in a while I like to prove to myself that I'm not addicted to caffeine, the last time was over 2 years ago. I don't drink Mountain Dew for its caffeine, I drink it because I like it. The side effect is that the caffeine creates a bit of a physical dependence that I could do without. I've had a few headaches and I've been more tired than normal, which will probably last about a week. I figure I'll stay caffeine free for about a month, for now, I'll drink a lot more water and other beverages that don't contain caffeine.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Filter Board - everything is soldered

Notice I didn't say it was done. When I was testing it, the results didn't match the manual. I'm not quite sure what it is, I'm hoping to get some hints from the mailing list. The good news is, I got a good picture of what the board is supposed to look like!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Slight Progress

I planned on doing more tonight, really, I did. But I did get something done, I wound the toroidal inductors "toroids". A lot of folks seemed to think this was hard, but it didn't seem so hard to me. I was a little worried, so I took a good closeup picture and sent it off to the Elecraft mailing list, I got a bunch of replies saying that they were just fine.

I meant to actually get these soldered to the filter board tonight, but I was distracted by a 10 meter opening. I didn't make a to many contacts, made a few of those almost contacts but the fading seemed to always happen when the other station gave his call sign.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

HD DVD AACS Encryption Key

No, the number isn't here. What I have to say is, why 16 bytes? I'm surprised it took this long to be broken, or, at least be broken and made public. It looks like the Advanced Access Content System License Authority has revoked the published key, so new HD DVDs won't be able to be used with it. Eventually, one of two things will happen, someone will figure out how to generage useable keys, or the AACS LA will run out of keys to revoke, it isn't like you can just download some new keys into your HD DVD player. Will older HD DVD players not be able to play new titles once they run out of keys?

For me, I like netflix, it is a cheap way to watch movies just about whenever you want, and a hell of a lot easier than downloading them.

Exchange Database Maintenance

Microsoft has come a long way with the Exchange databases, so long in fact, that under normal circumstances, all you really have to do is leave them alone, and they will work fine. My situation isn’t exactly normal. The organization is migrating from a system that was basically unlimited (until they decided to purge old mail because they ran out of space) to a controlled system. Of course, they don’t have to clean up before they are migrated, so, here comes the 6 gig mailboxes. Then they clean up. This along with a delay in deploying the last two servers (which caused many more users than expected added to the first two, then moved once the last two were up) caused us to end up with several databases with more white space than actual data. This is hard on the backups, since, it backs up the white space too, 466 gigabytes worth, and it is getting a little too close for comfort on available disk space on the drives in which the databases reside. So, I get to spend a weekend running defrag scripts. Fortunately, I have it automated enough that all I have to do is keep an eye on it to make sure nothing goes wrong, but, I still have to keep an eye on it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New Aidan Pic

I put a new picture of Aidan in the title of the blog. I think I might have to work on it a little, zoom in a little more so you can actually see him. The file is only 100x100 pixels, which isn't much to work with, but I think I can make it a little better.

Filter Board Progress - 40 Meters

Tonight I finished up installing the relays that I started yesterday and moved on to the bag of parts that will make this radio work on the 40 meter band, 7 MHz. There were 13 capacitors to install, plus a 3 that I installed just after the relays. My soldering still looks good, but I think I need another tool to be more precise when clipping the leads.

I used the flash this time - I don't know what makes a better picture.

Top Row Pictures, I need a new Aidan Pic

I think I need a new picture of Aidan. I like that pic, but it is from over a year ago, and for kids that age, a year can make a huge difference.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Started Building My New Radio

I've started building my new Amateur Radio transceiver, the Elecraft K1 CW transceiver kit. I've inventoried the parts, and I've installed the first few components. I was worried about my soldering ability, but my first 22 solder connections look pretty good.

I'm going to try to take photographs of my progress and post them to This job will be done in many short sessions over a period of time, although, tomorrow night and the next day I should have more time than normal to work on it, so, maybe, I'll finish the filter board, we'll see. I'm not in a hurry.



I admit, it looks like an empty circuit board, but after a few sessions, it will have stuff on it, I promise.

Amy's Spaghetti Sauce

I'm so looking forward to my lunch today, it is leftover spaghetti from last night's dinner. What is so good about last night's leftovers? Well, Amy's spaghetti sauce of course, it is the best I've ever had. This sauce is no marinara, it is all about the meat, and anyone that knows me, knows that I like meat. I don't know the exact recipe, but it includes ground beef, sausage, and pepperoni. There are some other things, like spices, onion, green pepper, and occasionally mushrooms, oh yea, and tomato paste. I just can't get over how much I like it. The good news is, she can make a big batch, and freeze some so we can have it again and again!

Friday, March 30, 2007

New Amateur Radio Call Sign – NE3R

Ok, so it has been a little over a week, but on March 20, I was issued a new call sign, NE3R. I wasn’t sure I wanted to change my call sign, but I figured, since they have removed the Morse code proficiency requirement for obtaining an amateur radio license, that there would be a lot more folks obtaining Amateur Extra class licenses, which is a requirement for the short 2x1 or 1x2 call signs. I decided that I would go ahead and do it, since I may not have the option later on.

So, why NE3R, well, for one, it was available, well, sort of. It belonged to a ham radio operator who passed away in 2004. NE3R is fairly easy to say, and its phonetics come out pretty easily too, November Echo 3 Romeo. The best part is it is short when sent in Morse code ( -. . ...-- .-. ).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Antenna is Up!

It has been up for about two weeks now. It took me a little while to get the pictures up! This isn't the best of ham radio antennas, but it fits in the back yard, and isn't so big the whole neighborhood can see it, which is good, because antennas aren't allowed by the home owners association.

Yes, that is the coax tangled with one of the radials, I still need to fix that. I followed the directions and used 1.25" plumbers pipe as the base, but the supplied U bolts didn't fit around it and I ended up using several hose clamps.

View from inside the back yard. The neighbors in my row will certainly notice, but I don't think it will be too much of a problem.

From outside the back yard the antenna is definitely viable, but it doesn't really stand out. I could probably add some paint and make it stand out a little less. Now that I look at it, I may have been able to go with something taller.

I know that radials work best when they aren't buried, but I don't exactly have that option, especially when the radials extend well beyond my fence into the common area of the development.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ham Radio License Finally Updated

It seems weird, when I passed the technician exam back in 1993 it took about six weeks for my license to show up in the mail. That was ok, because I didn't really know any better, and I didn't have a radio to use anyway. Back in the days without online databases, you could only check the mail once a day anyway. These days, folks can get their licenses in just a day or two, they don't have to wait for the actual license to show up in the mail, and just being in the database is enough authority to use the radio. A little over a year ago, when I passed my general class exam, the upgrade was in the database in only three days. So, imagine my surprise when at the end of the week last week, after passing my extra class test the previous Saturday, the FCC still hadn't updated my license.

It turns out that there were a few problems; the first was due to an error in my paperwork that had to be corrected by the volunteer examiners before it was submitted. Then, another volunteer who did the data entry for adding the information to the FCC database was out of town for a while. Add to that a flood of new upgrades because of the recent rule FCC rule changes that removed the Morse code proficiency exam, and it took nearly two weeks for my license to be upgraded in the FCC database. Oh yeah, and one federal holiday.

I was hoping to have the upgrade posted before February 23, 2007, before the Morse code exam was eliminated, but that didn't happen. I'm glad it was upgraded before this weekend though, I'll be participating in the ARRL DX Contest, and I didn't want to have to say N3PAQ/AE whenever I used a frequency that is outside of the general class portion of the band. N3PAQ is long enough :) -- I will be changing my call sign to something shorter soon.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Great pic of Zoe

I just had to share it!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

More Anteena Work - Ground Rod

I was hoping to get a couple of things done on the antenna Saturday. I really only managed to do one thing, which was to put in the ground rod. As usual, I'm always doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. It has been a cold February for this area, and the ground is pretty frozen. So pounding an 8 foot ground rod into the ground was a little bit of work. Still, since I want the antenna installed before March 1, I'm forging ahead. I got pictures this time, well Amy got the picture of me.

I also managed to cut several lengths of wire to use as radials. Unfortuantley I have to bury them, especially the ones in the common area. I went out last night to do that, but the ground was just to frozen to cut the little trenches required for burial. I'm not sure what I'm going to do there, there might not be enough time to do that before the DX contest, which will leave me with a rather poor performing antenna.

And finally, I started the assembly of the antenna itself, just the mounting bracket, even that I managed to solder the wrong part, good thing desoldering is pretty easy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Passed Extra Exam

Two more weeks of study was all I needed. I'm now an Extra class amateur radio operator. Not to long ago, you would have had to pass a 20 word per minute Morse code proficiency exam to get to this level. Right now, it is only 5, which I passed a while back. After Friday February 23, 2007, there will be no Morse code exams at all, for any amateur radio exam. I'm proud to say I passed the exam before that happened. I think I'll be changing my call sign as well, but before I can start that process the FCC has to update my information. Hopefully today.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Twenty-Four, am I the only one?

Am I the only one that didn't recognize Jack's brother as one of the bad guys pulling the strings last season?

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Antenna Project Has Started

I've been talking about a project to buy or build and install an antenna for amateur radio HF (shortwave) frequencies for a good year now. Finally, I have officially started work on it. I've bought a vertical antenna that should be acceptable to the HOA, although I haven't discussed it with them. It arrived last week. Saturday I picked up some parts and tools from Lowes that I need to get the antenna installed.

I started the actual installation last night in the cold and dark, using an engineers hammer (4 lb short sledge hammer) to pound a 1 1/4 inch plumbers pipe about two feet into the ground. This sure would have been easier a couple of weeks ago before the ground had frozen solid. I still have to pound an 8 foot ground rod all the way into the ground, that isn't going to be fun. After that, I can actually install the antenna, although it won't work very well until I put down some radials (pieces of wire extending out from the base of the antenna). My radials will have to be buried so the kids won't get into them, and so the ones that will extend out into the common area won't be discovered. Finally, I'll have to drill a hole in the house to bring the transmission line in, I'm really not looking forward to that.

I hope to have all of this done by March 1, so I can operate the ARRL International DX contest that weekend. Oh yeah, and there are more important things that I want to do this week, like study a lot this week to pass the Extra exam, I need to work getting Zoe's room ready for her to move into, have a fine meal with Amy on Valentine's day, play with Alex & Aidan, and of course, work, but I don't really want to do that.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What doesn't Google do?

I was working on a document at home last night that I thought I might not finish and would work in during lunch at work. I decided, instead of e-mailing it to myself like I normally do, I would just load the document into Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

I was a little surprised at how much like it was like using Microsoft Word. That doesn't mean that all the fancy high end features that Word can do will work in Google Docs & Spreadsheets, but for basic document editing on any platform anywhere, it is really handy. I'll have to check the terms of use, privacy policy, & legal notices first, but I might move most or all of my word processing and document management, I can even publish documents directly to blogspot (it can publish to other blog systems as well).

I don't think I really have a use for it yet, but the spreadsheet functions seemed pretty neat, so I uploaded a spreadsheet from work just to see what it would do. Everything worked, formulas and all. Again, it was a simple spreadsheet with just a basic formula, but that is all most people need.

I haven't used it yet but it looks like these documents can be shared and worked on by more than one person. Many enterprise document management systems have a hard time doing that. Even without collaboration, the revisions feature might be a lifesaver.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Failed Extra Test

I wasn't really ready but I saw that there was a test session nearby so I went. It is a 50 question test, and you need 37 to pass, I got 35. I guess that isn't bad for not knowing a third of the material, but I'm pretty sure I got a few wrong from the chapters that I know pretty well. The final chance for me to test before the 23rd is the 17th. I should be ready by then.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Amateur Extra

I've decided that I want to pass the exam for the Extra class amateur radio license before February 23, 2007, the date where Morse code testing officially ends. I've already passed the Morse code test for the General class license, but for some reason, pride maybe, I want to have the Extra license before the end the Morse code era!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Boston Bomb Scare (If you can call it that)

Homeland Security gets out of hand sometimes. A couple of advertisers have been arrested for a creative advertising campaign. Why, because some idiot mistook this for a bomb.

The people being arrested should be the ones that are blowing this thing out of proportion, not a couple of creative dudes just doing their job.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A little snow

Wow the roads were a mess this morning. Last night around 7pm we got about an inch of snow, maybe a little less. I was listening to the ham radio last night and some folks were out driving in it, the roads weren't that good. This morning it was still pretty bad. There were major accidents on I270, and 2 on US 15 which I take to get to work. It wasn't a lot of snow, and it was snow, not ice, but it sure did make a mess of the roads. Tomorrow they are calling for ice and snow, now that should make for an interesting commute.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

More on Script Logic

I guess I should provide some more detail about my scriptlogic problems, and I’ll through in a little bit more about why it just doesn’t work for me in my environment.

The organization I’m contracted is running with about 4,000 desktops on the domain that I manage. A little over a year ago, script logic was upgraded to version 6.52 and when customer started logging on, they were receiving some errors and their drives weren’t mapping. This was my first real experience with scriptlogic and it wasn’t good. It was decided recently to upgrade to the latest version 6.60. Recalling the problems that were experienced the last time, I contacted support for some guidance on the installation. The technician I spoke with assured me that simply running the product setup and installing it over the existing installation on the server would work. That didn’t happen. Almost immediately after the install, customers were getting these errors during logon: “The global variable file is not correctly signed and will not be processed!” & “The profile list is not correctly signed and will not be processed!”. I called support again, after troubleshooting for two and a half to three hours, we finally found the cause. The script logic binaries in the domain controller netlogon were not being updated when we told script logic to replicate, even though the servers would report a green check, which I took to mean that all of the files in the slscripts$ folder had been copied to all of the netlogon folders. I was pretty sure that the problem was solved, but then I got a call from one of the IT guys in one of our larger business units, they were still getting the error, even though it seemed to be working for everyone else. This group has a slightly modified desktop image with more security than most of the organization. I was able to resolve this in about an hour without contacting support by adding the script logic service account to that unit’s global group configured for their IT department.

The support technician that helped me resolve the problem was very helpful. It did take a while to get to the root cause, but the troubleshooting method was pretty thorough. Checking the version of the binaries in the netlogon folder should probably be up there on the list of things to check when getting these errors. But I’m no expert on the product, all of the steps we took to get there made sense.

Now, on to why I don’t really like the product or at least the implementation in our environment.

Scriptlogic, which seems to have been renamed, Desktop Authority Express would have been an awesome product in the mid to late ninety’s into the early part of this decade for those who continued to use Windows NT 4.0 domains. I don’t know much about the product’s history, but I expect that is exactly when the product was introduced. It looks like a powerful product to manage desktop settings, from simple registry changes to complete application configuration management, while NT4.0 had policy files and the policy editor, implementing them in an enterprise environment wasn’t exactly easy, if at all possible. Script logics functionality definitely filled a need back then. Microsoft fixed the NT 4.0 policy mess in Windows 2000 with Active Directory & Group Policy Objects, which provided much of the functionality that scriptlogic provided natively.

Scriptlogic is also pretty good at mapping drives, adding network printers, & running commands when a user logs on. This is all the organization I’m with uses it for, with the exception of a few registry settings, all of which can be accomplished with a couple of fairly strait forward scripts without the overhead of installing extra services on the domain controllers and all of the workstations, and certainly without the problems associated with managing and maintaining these services.

It could be just because I like the keep it simple method of systems management. I think to myself “why use a third party tool to do something that is already built into my operating system? It would be just one more thing to manage”

I Hate ScriptLogic

Once again, I'm working late on an issue with a software package that is way more complex than what it needs to be. Back before Windows 2000 and Group Policies, it was fairly useful, but now, it is just a lot of overhead. And when it doesn't work right, it takes forever to troubleshoot and fix. An actual logon script would be a lot easier to manage in the long run, if it didn't work, you could open the script in your favorite text editor and find the line that it was causing the error, and fix it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Madden 2007 Cheating

One of Amy's gifts to me for Christmas was Madden 2007 for Xbox. I've enjoyed playing the game lately. But I would often get frustrated when I couldn't accomplish particular feats in the game. Like, 40 rushes with one player, or complete a pass to 7 different receivers in a game. I decided to play a game against the CPU Cologne Centurions (I always play as the Baltimore Ravens). I figured it would be pretty boring, but decent practice, and more fun than the mini camp practice. I was right, it was a little boring, until I realized that I was getting close to 100 points, actually, I think Amy pointed that out, then, the game got fun, there were about 2 and a half minutes left and I needed 21 points to get to 100 exactly, I abandoned the run for the most part and went to the air. I ended up winning the game 108 to 0, and I even managed to achieve the goal of completing a pass to 7 different receivers.

Last night I played against the CPU Amsterdam Admirals, the goal, 40 rush attempts. That was a much lower scoring game, but fun. I was also trying to run back a punt for a touchdown, but just about every punt was a shank and went out of bounds about 10 yards down field. The hard part was actually running enough plays on a short field to get my rushing attempt total up!

So, playing these NFL Europe teams with the Ravens is cheating, it is still sort of fun. I need to play the Colts, to simulate (LOL) Saturday's playoff game.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Years Resolution

I'm not much for new years resolutions, but I've decided that I want to post at least 4 blog entries per month in 2007. I'm already betting against myself, lets see if I can actually do it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Family Picture

Little Pictures

I've updated the pictures at the top of my blog. Ok, so I didn't really update them, I just replaced the picture of Kitty with a picture of Zoe, but the important thing is, now there is a picture of Zoe.