Archive for the 'technobabble' Category

Trying for a New Amateur Radio Callsign

500px-fcc_new_logosvg.pngI have been considering becoming more active as an amateur radio (HAM) operator. I have had my ham ticket since high school and there is always an underlying interest for me in the radio hobby, no matter how inactive I may be. I am a life member of the American Radio Relay League and still get my copy of their magazine on-line. I read QST every month and get the weekly ARRL email.

The truth is, that I have had a hand-held VHF/UHF radio for almost five years and only use it once in a while. The radio goes with us in the RV when we travel and is available for emergencies or just for “rag chewing” with other hams.

That brings us to the reason for this post. I have had my current callsign since 1979 or so, and it is a special one that identifies me as a top-of-the-pack Amateur Extra Class licensee. It also, unfortunately, identifies me as being from California by virtue of the numeral “6″ embedded therein. I currently reside in, and am proud to be a citizen of Arizona for which the identifying numeral should be a “7.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a program which allows amateur radio operators to apply for a “Vanity” callsign. I have submitted several applications for desired callsigns but the competition is so great that I have had my applications dismissed thus far. The FCC uses a raffle system to randomly pick a winner for a given callsign and I have competed with twenty to fifty other applicants. I intend to keep trying, however, as the callsigns become available.

One of the applications I made was deeply disappointing. I went to the trouble of finding a “silent key” which is a term used for a ham that has passed on. I found one such ham here in Arizona and submitted some paperwork to the FCC which included his obituary. The FCC cancelled the callsign and it became available. I wanted this callsign since the prefix was a classic W7 and the suffix was my first and last initial. Even more disappointing since the eventual recipient was in the “9″ call area. I am old school and believe in having the regionally appropriate numeral.

As I said above, I am still trying. I have my hat in the ring for three different callsigns at this time.

Monthly Generator Run

Generator Run Day

It has actually been a little over a month since we fired up the little 3KW Honda Generator. We ran it for a while today in the truck bed parked by the “orchard” next to the RV Driveway.

We took advantage of the electricity generated during the run and trimmed up some of the stubble from the lemon tree where the mule deer had eaten the outermost leaves. They did that last year too, but the tree came back with a lot of growth to compensate. The lemon tree, on the left in the clickable image above, looks a lot better than it did before using the hedge trimmer on it. I didn’t take a before picture.

I was going to change the generator oil after this run, but decided to do that next month and help The Better Half who was working on her Xeriscape Garden in front of the garage.

Today was ‘Run the Generator Day’

Clickable ImageWe try and maintain a schedule to run the little Honda EU3000is generator from time to time in order to keep it ready for use. However, due to a couple of extended excursions in the big RV, we let the regularity lapse a bit. It was long overdue, but today, we got it running again. It was a bit hard to start, but the generator finally started after several tries.

We originally bought this generator to power up our travel trailer. Now, however, we have the Class A diesel pusher which features an integral Cummins Onan 6KW diesel generator.

These days, the Honda only gets used for several things as needed, including running garden tools in areas where there is no commercial electricity. This includes the west rock and cactus garden for bush whacking and cactus clean up and once in a while down the road when native vegetation grows into the roadway.

It ran for thirty or forty minutes today using one of the big RV’s A/C units as a load. Next time we run it, an oil change will be due for the Honda.

LED There Be Light

LED Fixture Installed

Over six years ago, we bought a couple of fluorescent light fixtures for the garage as the house was being built. Each fixture had two four foot tubes and the ballast, starter, etc. As we look back at getting these lights, we recall settling for a cheap house brand from one of the big home improvement stores in Surprise, AZ.

Last week, one of the tubes in one of the fixtures crapped out. We were going to get a replacement tube, but when trying to remove the diffuser, it broke. At that time we also noticed that one of the plastic parts containing the electrodes on the end of the tube was broken away from the housing. We made the decision to upgrade the fixtures to a more modern solution.

We opted for a couple of LED fixtures available from Amazon.

  • 4-Foot LED linear flush mount features an impact-resistant polycarbonate diffuser with brushed nickel cast aluminum decorative end caps
  • Integrated LED provides 3,460 lumens and 4000K cool white color temperature
  • Energy star-certified and listed for damp locations
  • UL-listed to US and Canadian safety standards
  • Delivers general ambient lighting for surface-mount ceiling applications

Installation was pretty simple, really, with toggle bolts holding the frame to the ceiling and wire nuts making the electrical connections. The fixtures are better looking than the ones they replaced and put out as much or more light with a similar color temperature.

The Better Half helped with the installation and took the (clickable) image above and the inset while I was preparing the house wiring to receive the new connections.

BZZZZZT!

Short Circuit AftermathThe Better Half had a little mishap yesterday when she went to the electrical outlet in the hallway to plug in her camera battery recharging unit. Upon her attempt to plug the little unit in, she was greeted by a shower of sparks, a whiff of ozone and a tripped circuit breaker. I was in the courtyard when I heard her yell for me. I came running to see what happened.

(Clickable) image: Outlet under repair. Note the black mark inside box.

Not knowing what the problem was, I went to the circuit breaker box and attempted to reset the tripped breaker with no load on the outlet. No dice, it wouldn’t reset.

The only recourse was to open the outlet in question with the breaker still off. Once open, I immediately saw the problem - the bare earth ground wire had been looped around the outlet such that it was in close proximity to the screws on the hot side. The wire had actually fused to one of the hot screws and burned it in half, apparently when TBH jostled the outlet plugging her charger in resulting in a dead short hot to ground.

I cut the ground wire away from the hot terminal and prepared the end to be reconnected to the ground terminal away from the hot side. After reassembly, the circuit breaker set correctly and the outlet (and the rest of the several shared outlets) functioned correctly once again.

TBH and I recall having interfaced with the electrical guy that worked on the house as it was being built. We both thought he was a flake at the time. It makes us wonder how many other little time bombs might be lurking in the other wiring around the house.

Fixed a Design Flaw in the RV

Thermostats

After returning from our second excursion in the Palazzo RV, we noticed a whining sound coming from the rear of the coach long after it had been shut down. I investigated and discovered that an exhaust fan was running in the compartment where the inverter resides. The inverter produces household AC power while the RV is underway, primarily to power the refrigerator.

I did an on-line search for “inverter fan running” and found a forum where my exact problem had been discussed. Many others had experienced the same thing. One forum commenter posted that there was a thermostat monitoring the air temperature in the inverter compartment and it was activating the fan at too low of a temperature, thus resulting in the continuous whine, even after a considerable cool down period.

Another commenter had solved the problem by replacing the fixed thermostat with an adjustable one. He was able to quickly replace the old thermostat with the new one (slide on tab terminals).

I ordered an adjustable snap disc fan control, S.P.S.T., close on temperature rise adjustable in 10° steps from 90° to 130°. In the (clickable) image above, you can see the new device installed with me holding the original one for comparison.

I set the thermostat to activate at 120° which should be adequate for this purpose. Our next trip takes to warm and cool places and I will be interested to see how the new device performs under varying conditions.

Satellite RX to Go

Deployed Stowed

You may have read here and on the other blog about our new motorhome. Having graduated form an “entry level” RV to this new one encouraged us to ask for a number of desired add-ons, one of which is satellite TV reception.

Since we are already DirecTV™ customers, we opted for the Winegard™ satellite system which is DTV compatible. In the clickable images above, you can see the rooftop satellite dish deployed and in the stowed position.

I got the satellite antenna system and the DTV receiver activated today. I first had to turn the satellite dish control on and it began auto acquisition of several satellites in the “constellation” of geosynchronous birds. That process took a while with the system retrying several times before locking on. But, when that was complete, it was all downhill. I got on the phone with the DTV folks who walked me through the rest of the setup.

After that process was complete, we now have very satisfying HDTV reception on the three TVs in the motorhome - a 48″ TV in the parlor, a 32″ TV in the bedroom and another 32″ TV behind an access door outside on the passenger side of the rig for outdoor viewing. I verified that all were working as advertised.

Having the satellite system gains us independence from the limited and often flaky cable access in many of the RV parks we have visited, and, in fact, we can now camp in areas with no hookups and still be able to enjoy our TV entertainment.

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