Month: March 2020

Natal day woes

Hello, fellow isolators.

I have just returned from my single daily exercise allowance: extending the dog walk into a much longer walk up to my sister’s house, to post a card through the door for my nephew.

With money in it.

I don’t like putting money in their cards, especially when they are that young (he’s three), but this year we have little choice.

In fact, that’s the second one in just a couple of weeks.

For some reason, most of my extended family – including my immediate family: Mrs Masher and the two kids – all seem to have their birthdays within the first 4 months of the year!

And I’m only a day later than that.

I guess warm Summer weather is to blame.

However, with people being at home during this Coronavirus thing,  who knows, maybe we’ll have a bit of a baby boom  toward the end of the year.

Amelia’s birthday was just a couple of days ago. I felt sorry for her: normally, we would go out for a meal and maybe go bowling or something. But not this year, of course.

We did our best: Mrs M knocked up some enchiladas (one of Amelia’s favourite dishes) and then we played board games instead of lounging in front of the telly.

It was fun, but not as good as Ten Pin and a Chiquito’s.

Oh, and whilst I was walking the dog, I saw a lady wearing a surgical face mask.

In her car.

On her own.

What’s the point of that?

Still here

Greetings one and all. I hope you are all still alive and are staying well, during these ‘interesting’ times.

I’ve been working from home for the past two weeks. Somehow, I’ve not yet gone stir crazy.

Some of that is undoubtably down to the Skype chats that many of us are using as our natter/gossip catch-ups.

And some of it is because I am supremely excellent at getting distracted by other things.

Many other things.

Any other things.

Ooh look, a squirrel.

But, I have been surprised at just how actually productive we are all still being.  Conference calls and video meetings are in abundance and they seem to work pretty well, now that we have decent laptops.  I’m thinking that when all this shit is over and things get back to whatever counts as normal, I may look to see if I can work from home more often.    Some things definitely require me to be in the office, but it seems that I can effectively do 80 to 90 percent of my work from home.

Food for thought.

Talking of food, I went up to do my weekly grocery shop this morning.  I thought that it might be less busy than going at the weekend – I hasten to add that I am on annual leave today… I’m not shirking. But when I got up to the supermarket at 8 bells, I was astounded to see a single-file queue of people – all clutching trolleys and bags – stretching out the door, around the full perimeter of the car park, along past the petrol station and down to the road.  I reckon that’s probably a two-hour queue. Sod that! I went straight back home.

Of course, I won’t be saying that when all we’ve got to eat in the house are the bread crusts and that half a tube of tomato puree that’s been in the fridge for the past year.

Project Phoenix

I was gifted a lovely little radio a while back – a Yaesu FT-270R.

It’s an old 2m model, dating back to the late eighties, I’m guessing.  As such, it lacks CTCSS capability, which limits its use somewhat.

However, there is a space inside to fit a FTS-8 subtone encoder board. And so I thought I’d fit one of these and give it a new lease of life.

Sadly though, the FTS-8 board is no longer available and secondhand ones command a hefty price tag.

What to do? Well, make one of course!

I found an elegant design on the web and built it onto a piece of veroboard. Plugging it into the radio, changed some of the available functions, so the radio obviously detected the board.

It allowed me to choose the subtone from the front panel. Excellent.

But it didn’t work.  Checking  the output with my scope, the tone just wasn’t there… or rather, it wasn’t what it should have been.

I spent ages fiddling with it, but ultimately could find nothing wrong.

And so I passed it onto Dave, who – being a clever bugger – worked out pretty quickly that the board I had built actually worked perfectly. Unfortunately, the radio didn’t. It was giving out the wrong signals to the board.

This wasn’t something that could be easily fixed – possibly a microprocessor issue. And so, I figured a workaround, that would allow the tone to be selected manually, using a combination of switches to produce the binary equivalent of the hexadecimal value that the board was looking for in the tone lookup table.

This worked perfectly and when I tested it, I was successfully able to open several different repeaters, all using different subtones.

And then I found a bug, where the tone would only change after five minutes and not whenever the PTT was keyed.  This looked to be a fault with the MCLR on the PIC… possibly damaged by putting in 7.6 volts from the radio (datasheet states that Vpp shouldn’t exceed Vcc). Not having another chip available, I made a slight mod and fitted a miniature relay, which only allowed the board to be powered when the PTT was depressed.  This seemed to work nicely and I was able to switch tones easily and on-the-fly.

So, I put a call out on a repeater. “Your audio is awful!”, I was told.   I replaced the mic ( a new one from ebay cost fifty quid! Yes, fifty quid for a 30 yr old mic!) with an old YM-47 from an FT-290 and it worked perfectly… once I had figured out the differing wiring scheme.

And so, after many weeks of working on it, on and off, it is ready to be put to use.

Not that I need another radio at the moment, so a friend is going to borrow it.

Many times I nearly gave up on it and was going to throw it away. But, I had invested a lot of time and a reasonable amount of money on it and so I wanted to see it through.

I’m pleased that it is finally finished and working… because that means I can now move onto my next project 🙂

Hammer Time

It’s 08:30 on a Sunday morning, as I type this and through my slightly open window, I can hear the sound of a hammer drill pounding into brickwork.

It’s not coming from any of the houses in my road, but rather, from the next cul-de-sac along.

I suspect it’s the same chap who got an angle grinder for Chrismas because, bright and early on Boxing Day, we could hear the distinct sound of angles being grinded. And that went on for several days.

OK, I know that the weekend is the only chance for people to get these sorts of jobs done, but this early on a Sunday morning. Really?

It doesn’t bother me too much, as I’m an early riser, but for those that like to have a lie in…

I too sometimes have noisy jobs to do at the weekend, that will involve power tools, but I have rules: no earlier than 9am on a Saturday and 10am on a Sunday.

I think that’s reasonable.

But not everyone is as considerate as me, so we can’t stop this.

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