Kits, Kits, and Ham Radio!

Fired up the new soldering iron tonight and built my first kit with it, a HF/VHF amplified antenna. In a couple of days (once the 800F tips and better solder arrive in the mail), I’ll be building this shortwave receiver kit.

I’ve also decided to get back into amateur radio. I passed my No-Code Technician license exam back in 2001, and was given the callsign KD5LQR. I eventually changed to the “vanity” callsign K5WCB. I’m digging my books back out, and along with the electronics stuff I’ve been doing, will finally be learning Morse code and getting my General-class license before they eventually eliminate Morse from the testing requirements. Fortunately there’s a regularly-scheduled license test not far from here. I’ve already got copies of all the study books, so it’s just a matter of brushing up on things and remembering stuff I’ve forgotten in the past four years.

I’ve dug up old passwords and updated my license address information with the FCC (at 3am; isn’t the Internet wonderful?), and will eventually rejoin ARRL. Not this month though, it’s $39/year and that’s what the shortwave receiver kit cost today.

Google Talk works for me!

Google Talk works! I used these settings for a Jabber account with iChat:

Description: mrbill@gmail.com
Jabber ID: mrbill@gmail.com
Password: mypassword
Server: talk.google.com
Port: 5223
Connect using SSL selected
Allow self-signed certificates selected

Update: Looks like Google Talk has been officially released. They only have a client for Windows right now, but provide instructions on using Jabber-compatible IM clients on other platforms.

Books I’ve Read Recently

  • Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking
    by Malcolm Gladwell

    A *good* book. It started out slow, but sucked me in about halfway through. The premise boils down to “about 90% of people’s first instincts or gut reactions are correct, but we don’t know exactly why”. Some of the examples are great – my favorite was comparing traders on an exchange floor with generals on a battlefield.

  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
    by Malcolm Gladwell

    I actually read this about six months ago; it’s the precursor to “Blink”. I remember reading about how little things can affect an entire market – almost like “The Butterfly Effect”. Good, but I liked Blink better.

  • Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War
    by Evan Wright

    Evan was an “embedded” reporter with one of the first Marine forces to enter Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom. An excellent report, and it shows what the troops “over there” are going through. A followup with a current-day occupation force dealing with Iraqi insurgents would be nice.

  • Jarhead : A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles
    by Anthony Swofford

    Swofford’s memoir of going into the Marine Corps, becoming a sniper, and being sent to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in the early 90s. There are a few “urban legend” tales presented in the book as fact, but overall it was an entertaining read (I finished it in a single sitting). Swofford clearly had issues with being in the Marines, and lets it show.

  • Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
    by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

    I’d heard good things about this book, and wasn’t dissapointed. Where else are you going to read about the financial operations of a major crack dealer and why he still lives at home with his parents?

  • Me Talk Pretty One Day
    by David Sedaris

    I’d heard about Sedaris, but never read him before. I picked this up because I was bored, and it turned out to be one of the funniest “personal stories” books I’ve read in a long time. I’ll be picking up “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim”, the sequel, soon.

  • Electronics projects status

    After I finished the last two electronics kits (only one is left – the scrolling LCD display), I decided to let things rest for a while so I could pick up some better equipment. This morning I won an eBay auction for a much nicer soldering iron; it should arrive in a week or so. Once it gets here, I’ll have to buy a tip for it ($5), then I need to order some better solder before I get around to assembling the Southern Cross 1 Z80 computer.

    Things we often overlook…

    Throughout all of my recent hobbies and obsessions, I’ve sometimes gotten tunnel vision and failed to thank the most important person in my life – My wife. No matter what crack-brained scheme or idea I come up with, no matter what I bring home and put down on my desk, she’s been supportive. Critical when necessary, but supportive. When I was first learning how to use the soldering iron, she even helped with suggestions and unsoldered a couple of parts for me (as she has experience using a soldering iron to make stained glass).

    She’s not really a geek, but she’s learned enough from osmosis to pretend to be one when necessary.

    Thanks, Amy.