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HOWTO: Getting Started with CW
radio : by Tommy - October 18th 2011, 05:50PM
It's been a year since my post about Morse Code: Brief History, and I figure I might as well shed some light on how to get started operating with Morse Code. Since the Morse code requirement for ham radio was lifted in 2007, the number of amateurs getting their HF privileges has grown substantially, but with the "repeal" of code, entry level Technicians are granted privileges in certain portions of the bands. Most commonly, Technicians can operate SSB in the 10m band, but can also operate CW, or Morse Code, in 80m, 40m, 15m, and 10m. So, if you're a ham, you already have privileges to operate CW - you just need to learn where to start.

Learning the Code
For starters, you will need to learn Morse Code, one way or another. (duh.) While it may not be the universally agreed upon best way, I learned Morse Code through the Code Quick program. It really is an easy way to learn and quickly remember the code. There are countless gimmicks and "5 Minute Ab"-type programs that try to rush you through the learning process as fast as humanly possible, but few are ever successful. You just can't hurry the learning process. The downside of the CodeQuick method is not immediately known until you're trying to copy signals that are faster and faster. Once you hit about 10wpm, the CodeQuick lessons that you've used as a crutch finally become a hindrance and make copying code faster more difficult. The big plus is how quickly you'll learn the code in relatively enjoyable lessons compared to other methods.
Another alternative to learning the code is one of dozens of Koch method trainers. The Koch method, and most others, ram the code into your head seemingly through brute force.

Continue reading...

tags: ham radio cw morse code howto

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User Friendly URLs
neodux : by Tommy - October 9th 2011, 11:01PM
Thanks to mod_rewrite and a little "why didn't I think of this before?", Neodux now has user-friendly URLs. Now instead of "cryptic" URLs with "?" and "&" signs in them, you can now just type in /read/ and the name of the blog entry you're interested in.

To see this feature in action, you can click on this story's title, or the "Full article" link. This should not affect old links and I'd also ask that you please inform me if you see some functionality is all messed up. I think I caught all possible errors, but you can easily overlook some parts of a project like this.

So, bottom line, links to Neodux should be much more friendly and bookmarks should be easier to understand. Enjoy!

update: Yes, old links should still work. Too many blogs and sites around the web link back to articles here and I didn't want to screw them up. So everything should work seemlessly.

tags: neodux mod_rewrite

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

HOWTO: ISS Viewing
outdoors : by Tommy - October 5th 2011, 09:08PM
The fact that there's a space station orbiting above the globe right now has become somewhat passe in pop culture. Not many people are truly wowed at the news of it. Within seconds, a few clicks of a mouse will take you to hundreds of pictures and videos of the International Space Station; but did you know you can see the space station yourself? No binoculars or telescopes needed! I figured I would write up a HOWTO for the uninitiated. It isn't hard, it just takes a little know how.

For starters, you need to know a few terms used when talking about satellites (the ISS is a satellite of the planet Earth).

The first term when dealing with satellites is azimuth. Azimuth is a technical term that means the same thing as heading, bearing or direction. Most people are comfortable with the cardinal directions North, South, East and West. The cardinal directions are fine for general directions, but to know exactly where something is we need to be more specific. When dealing with an azimuth, a number of degrees is stated. 0 is North, 90 is East, 180 is South, 270 is West, and on around to North again. Kinda get the picture? It's a full circle divided into 360 degrees. (Also note, there's technically no such thing as 360 when dealing with Azimuth, because 360 would be the same as North, but that's already 0.)

It's not entirely what you think. Sure altitude means height, but we're not talking in feet or meters here. Remember, we're dealing with observational angles here, so knowing how high something is is of little consequence to us. Altitude in astronomy means "angle above the horizon". Altitude is expressed in degrees, just like azimuth. 0 is at the horizon, 90 is straight up. 45, you guessed it, is right in the middle.

Continue reading...

tags: iss space astronomy satellite howto

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

Texas Historical Markers
programming : by Tommy - September 1st 2011, 10:51AM
While arguably probably not my best work, it only took me all of a couple hours, I present a listing of all the Texas Historical Markers. I don't know why I never linked to it before. Maybe I'm not too proud of it, but I wanted to give you access to it. What features do I need to add?

I discovered one evening that Texas has a database of all historical markers in the state freely available online in a comma separated value file (among other formats). What's a geek to do but grab the file and throw it in a MySQL database!
I whipped up a quick drop-down list of all the marker names and used AJAX to show the marker's text. A couple of simple URLs allow you to see, generally, where the marker is located. I have the location information in the database, but it's not Lat/Long which would make for easy map-making. Perhaps that will be my next step. Found a supporting .txt file that has most of the Lat/Long. A simple JOIN from the database fixed that problem. (though, to be honest, some of the coordinates are way off. Unless Texas has markers in Mexico.)

At any rate, take it or leave it, there it is: http://n5dux.com/histmark/

tags: texas history php database

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

WAS Complete!
radio : by Tommy - April 22nd 2011, 10:01PM
After working diligently last Fall, then doing absolutely nothing with HF for most of the winter, I finally got back on the air this evening and finished contacting the last of all 50 states. Tonight I was able to contact Wayne, KB1TMA, for #50, Rhode Island.

I can now say I have talked to someone in all 50 states and will soon have a postcard from each of those contacts to prove I've done it.
Contacting all 50 states has been something I've tried to do for years, but never having a permanent setup made the task near impossible. I was close when I was living in Nacogdoches, but my count started back at zero when I moved to Longview.

Joining and checking into the OMISS net really helped me knock out a lot of states early on, and I probably could have done the entire job in under a couple months if I had really, really tried, but I took a leisurely pace and just happened to check into the net tonight with that last hard-to-get state. So thanks for the help OMISS members.
Next up? Probably the Worked All Continents award. (I only need Antarctica and Asia.) Worked all Canada may not be out of the question, but I doubt I ever get so detailed as to try for the Worked All Counties award.

tags: was ham radio arrl

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

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