Thank you, WayBack Machine!

Tonight, as I was updating some of the content on my website, I discovered that I had a link to a page that didn’t exist, and realized that I was missing a number of posts. Rather than trying to dig through the database backups, I went to the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine” at Archive.org for my site, and was able to find a copy of my website from 2018, when it was still running Drupal, before I migrated to WordPress. It had the missing posts, which I was able to copy and paste. I need to go back and add categories and tags, and fix some links and put images back in, but at least I was able to recover all of the text!

PreciseRF HG-1 “WR” MLA Review

While I’m fairly happy with the performance that I get from my first HF antenna, an MFJ-2299 telescoping rotatable dipole, which consists of an MFJ-347 mount with a pair of 16.9′ telescoping stainless steel whips which will cover from 6m-20m, mounted on an MFJ-1921 tripod, with a DXE 25′ telescoping fiberglass mast, I wanted to have an antenna that covered the lower bands, especially 40m, as well as 80m and 30m, which the MFJ-2299 does not cover. I live in a small neighborhood in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, and have a very small lot, so stringing up 120′ of wire isn’t really an option. It’s also a new neighborhood, so the trees are all quite small, so I don’t have anything to use to get a wire antenna up in the air, nor to camouflage a stealth antenna. After doing quite a bit of research, including reading the ARRL book on “Small Antennas for Small Spaces” it seemed that the “unsung hero” of limited space may be the Magnetic Loop Antenna (MLA), or Small Transmitting Loop. A magnetic loop antenna for amateur radio is typically made of about 10′ of large diameter coaxial cable (utilizing the braided shield rather than the center conductor) which makes about a 1m diameter loop, connected to a tuning capacitor at the bottom. A smaller inductively-coupled loop is connected to the transceiver. The capacitor can be adjusted to change the resonant frequency of the loop. An MLA doesn’t need to be mounted very high, only 1-2m, …

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Amateur Radio: One Year In…

I took my Technician and General tests together, last July (2019). I had started with a Yaesu FT-60R handheld, but really started to learn things last October (2019) when I bought a Yaesu FT-991A and started working on HF. Looking back over my first year+ in amateur radio, here are some things that I have learned: It’s all about the Antenna — It’s easy to focus on the radio, with knobs, buttons, and flashing lights. Probably the biggest factor to one’s overall success/performance is not the radio, but the antenna! The “best” antenna is the one that you can put up (given any location, size, HOA restrictions), but an antenna that is resonant in the frequency band you are using is going to be the most effective. Higher off of the ground is generally better if possible. Antenna tuners, loading coils, traps, etc. are compromises in performance for size, and flexibility. A compromise antenna can work for you, but may not be ideal. You can find lots of information and ideas in the ARRL book on “Small Antennas for Small Spaces.” Antenna performance is important with handhelds as well. The typical “rubber ducky” antenna is optimized for size/cost, not for performance. An aftermarket 1/4 wave antenna that is 14-16” will generally perform much better than the stock antenna. With the original antenna on my handheld, I could barely hit the repeaters from outside — with the aftermarket antenna I can reach them from my basement! You can also use a …

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Adding an Epic PWRGate to the Powerwerx MEGAbox

When I was looking for a portable 12v DC power solution, I started with a West Mountain Radio Epic PWRGate as a controller/charger for the 12v Deep Cycle/Marine/RV battery from my travel trailer. Since I bring the battery from the trailer inside during the winter, I figured that I might as well make use of it with the radio, and keep it charged. The West Mountain Radio Epic PWRGate is a slick device. It has inputs for power supply and solar panels, connection to/from the battery, and the output or load. It will act as a battery charge controller, and can be set for the battery chemistry — sealed lead acid/gel, AGM, or LiFePO4. It will also act as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) that will automatically switch from the input power to running the load from the battery. I used the RV battery for Winter Field Day in January 2020, and it worked well to power the radio, but it is HEAVY! The RV battery weighs about 53 lbs. I had decided that for ARRL Field Day in June 2020 I wanted to have a LiFePO4 battery, which are much smaller and lighter, but can offer similar or better capacity/run-time. By comparison, the 30Ah LiFePO4 battery that I selected only weighs 7.6 lbs. Researching some of the run-time calculators showed that a 30A/hr LiFePO4 should power my Yaesu FT-991A for an estimated six hours, which I think is a reasonable compromise between run-time and cost. This is actually double …

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Moved to WordPress!

After using Drupal for many years, I’ve decided to switch to WordPress as my Content Management System. My hosting company, MacHighway, uses cPanel to manage user sites, and it provides a default version of PHP and its associated modules, which I don’t have access to change. It seems that recently, Drupal has changed their system requirements to require additional PHP modules, which are not installed, so I have not been able to upgrade to the most recent releases. I found the FG Drupal to WordPress plug-in, which can migrate the content from Drupal sites which work quite well, so I’ve migrated this site to WordPress. I’ve done a few updates already, but I’ll try to review each of the pages to make sure that the graphics are there, etc.

Upgrade to LED Headlights

One of the most noticeable changes when switching from the Touareg to the Canyon was the headlights. The Touareg had really nice self-leveling High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps. By comparison, the OEM halogens in the Canyon felt like driving with a flashlight… I found that this was a common complaint discussed on forums like ColoradoFans forums and took one of the recommendations. It surprises me that for a high-end pickup that GM builds it with such crappy headlamps, when more modern, brighter LED headlights cost under $75 retail. GM could certainly have done better for very little difference in cost. I was also surprised to find that even aftermarket HID conversion kits are only about $250, much cheaper than the $1,200 that many manufacturers charge for upgrading to HID lights. I went with the LED for simplicity, as well as cost, since the HID lights require an external ballast, so they are a little more involved to install. I ordered a set of Sealight X1 from Amazon, which were only $70 for both low and high beam. I ordered them on Friday morning, and they were delivered early this morning. It took about a half hour to install, and was fairly easy. The hardest part was getting under a rubber cover on passenger side, which I think directs cold air into the air filter intake. Even in the daylight, I could tell that they were brighter, mostly due to the 6000K color temperature being bright white instead of yellow. I’m going to go …

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2019 GMC Canyon All Terrain

Back to a Diesel Pickup Truck

The lease on the VW Touareg is about up, so we decided to start looking at our options. I was considering buying out the Touareg, as it’s been a very comfortable vehicle, it’s big enough to tow the trailer, but small enough to fit into the garage. We had to go to a VW dealership to get the details on the buyout, since we’re within 90 days of the end date. The residual was about $25,500, but the “deal” that McDonald VW presented to me had about $6k in fees and crap added to it, making the cost over $31k. Their “offer” for me to buy the vehicle that I’ve been driving and paying for the past three years was about $500/month with $4K down! I quickly realized that I could get something brand new for that much… I had been looking at options for SUVs that could tow over 7,000 lbs. and there isn’t much that isn’t full sized, or over $75K. I thought that if I wasn’t going to be able to fit it into the garage, and was going to have to pay that much, I might as well look at another pickup truck. My last pickup truck was a 2005 GMC Sierra K2500HD Crew Cab Long Bed with the 6.6L Duramax Diesel, which would cost over $65K now, with similar equipment. In my search, I discovered that GM has a smaller 2.8L inline 4-cylinder Duramax Diesel that they offer in the Chevrolet Colorado or GMC Canyon mid-size pickup …

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MacBook Pro to iMac

After continuing to have trouble with my old 2011 17″ MacBook Pro, I’ve concluded that it’s time for a new machine. I tried replacing the RAM, but it still won’t boot up. I concluded that it probably wasn’t the memory or the drive, but maybe the CPU or Logic board is failing… Rather than spend more time and money trying to replace the SSD, I figured that it was time to replace the MacBook Pro, after 6 years. I surveyed my options on Apple.com. The new MacBook Pro’s only come in 13” and 15” now, with the Retina display with high resolution but high pixel density as well. None of the laptops have optical drives any more, so I still think that there is not much advantage in carrying around a laptop vs. my iPad Pro. When I have travelled that past few years, I have only taken my iPad with me. Also, the 15” MBP costs nearly $2,800! Having realized that I don’t really carry my laptop around with me, I checked out the options for iMacs. They have a 21.5” model, and a 27” with a 4K or 5K screen… Since I will likely be keeping this machine for another 5-6 years, I really wanted the 27” 5K screen model, which also has a faster 3.8GHz i5 processor, and a 2TB “fusion” drive, that is a hybrid small SSD with a larger conventional hard drive. The system is supposed to keep frequently used files on the SSD, and less …

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Upgrade didn’t go so well…

So, last week I decided that it was time to upgrade from Drupal 6, since it was past it’s end of life for support. I had dabbled with Drupal 7 a bit on my laptop, and had read through a couple of Drupal 7 books over the past year or so… The CPanel script installer kept nagging me that there was an upgrade to perform, and it appeared to have a script to go from 6 to 7… I took backups of all of the MySQL databases, put both of my sites into “Maintenance Mode” and disabled all of the non-core scripts, then let CPanel run the upgrade… Boom! It didn’t get through the update script without errors, and I decided to try the update.php script, and that threw errors as well.. I poked at for a couple of hours, trying to work through the issues. The first problem is that Drupal 6 kept a list of blocked IPs in a table, which Drupal 7 doesn’t have, at least not when it tries running the update. I was able to find a tip with a script to create the missing table, which got me a bit further, but it continued to have issues. I finally decided to try jumping up to Drupal 8, which has an updated “Migrate and Upgrade” module which supports both version 6 and 7. I restored the database back to their original condition, then created two fresh installs of Drupal 8 in separate directories. I enabled …

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