Morse Code Day April 27th

Morse code is part of everyone’s life, even if they do not know it themselves. We’ve heard the sound tapping its way out in movie. Heroes use it to help request rescue. It served a vital role influencing transportation and commerce, until relatively recently. Morse Code Day celebrates this concise and effective way of transmitting information and the history of how it changed the world.

Learn about Morse Code Day

Morse Code Day has been designed to pay tribute to this traditional form of communication. It involves using standardized sequences of two different signal durations. These were called dits & dahs or sometimes dots & dashes. The name “morse code” is based on the name of the inventor of the telegraph; Samuel Morse.

Morse code was designed so that for every symbol’s length is roughly inverse to how frequently the character appeared in the English dictionary. For example “E” is the most common language within the English alphabet. So, based on the notion mentioned, “E” is going to have the smallest signal, and it does; just a dot. A “T” is a dash… Less frequent letters, like a Q (dash dit dash dash) are much longer.

History of Morse Code

Back in 1836, Samuel F.B. Morse was focused on developing the telegraph, which would drive long-distance communications for decades. would drive communication until the radio telegraphy developed in the early 20th century.

Morse code has the distinction of being a coded language that a human, with the right experience, can translate by ear, at speed, without a decoder.

How to celebrate Morse Code Day

One of the best things to do on Morse Code Day is to learn your name. Look at a sight like Morse Code Fun, as a possible choice to learn more.

If you already know Morse code, practice. I wrote a program (QSOSender3) a while back for the Android platform that helps you receive Morse code interactions like those you would have in a ham radio QSO. These can be more difficult than just getting common words, since QSOs will include location or weather or a wide variety of other information.

There are many resources online that can assist you in developing your Morse code skills.

Nano Vector Network Analyzer presentation

I recently posted about purchasing a version of the Nano VNA. Since I knew a number of folks in the Sun City Hilton Head Ham Club would be interested in learning more, I created a presentation to share what I learned so far. This is scheduled for our next meeting in early May.

The VNA has much more capability than what could be covered in a brief presentation, but most people will only use the basics — that is what I concentrated on. There are literally hundreds of resources available on the Internet for people to dig into if they want to know more.

I plan to discuss briefly the use of the PC and the device standalone, showing the same measurements on each.

Lasers for hobbyists

Recently, I gave a presentation to the Tech Enthusiast SIG at our woodshop guild. I just thought I’d share it here in case it is of any use to someone. The presentation is shared in both PDF and PPTX format.

The goal of the presentation was to help people who are thinking about buying a laser scribe or cutter. I shared the attributes of the device that I looked at and why. I am sure it isn’t a perfect list, and everyone has their own criteria that are critical to them, so look it over.

I currently own two very low end lasers, one for very small precision projects and another for larger designs.

World Amateur Radio Day

April 18, is World Amateur Radio Day (WARD). This year marks the 96th anniversary of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), which was founded at the 1925 International Radiotelegraph Conference in Paris.

IARU has chosen “Amateur Radio: Home but Never Alone” as the theme for World Amateur Radio Day 2021. The theme acknowledges that during our physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Amateur radio experimenters were the first to discover that the HF spectrum was not the wasteland experts of the time considered it to be, but a resource that could support worldwide communication.

At the 1927 International Radiotelegraph Conference, amateur radio gained allocations still recognized today — 160, 80, 40, 20, and 10 meters. Over the years, the IARU has worked to defend those allocations and to give all radio amateurs new bands at 136 kHz, 472 kHz, 5 MHz, 10 MHz, 18 MHz, 24 MHz, and 50 MHz. This also led to the formation of the FCC.

The 25 countries that formed the IARU in 1925 have grown to include more than 160 member-societies in three regions. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has recognized the IARU as representing the interests of amateur radio.

On World Amateur Radio Day, radio amateurs will take to the airwaves to share global goodwill with other amateurs, promoting the value of amateur radio to family and friends, and in their communities.

Sound effects for outdoor model train…

Here in Sun City Hilton Head, we have a good sized G gage train layout beside our woodshop. G gage (garden scale) trains are scaled at 1:22.5, so they are fairly large models.

One of our members wanted to put sound in the layout so visitors could walk up and press a button and hear sounds. The tools he found online were dedicated to playing just one sound. After he installed a few, I asked him how much they cost, and it turned out to be around $40.

I thought to myself that I’d have thought it would be closer to $15-$20, so I started researching options. I wanted the device to be small, be programmable and there was also a requirement that it run on 12VDC.

After a brief look around on Amazon, I found the following circuit:

WayinTop Sound Module Button Control 8MB MP3 WAV Music Voice Player Programmable Talk Chip Musical USB Downloadable with AA Battery Box + USB Cable + speaker and switch.

After removing the battery box and the switch, I ended up with a fairly small piece of gear that was less then 2.5” square with the dimensions pretty much defined by the size of the speaker.

I then needed to find a small power regulator end ended up with:

Valefod LM2596 DC to DC High Efficiency Voltage Regulator 3.0-40V to 1.5-35V Buck Converter DIY Power Supply Step Down Module

This board is suitable for various electronic projects. DC 3V to 40V (input voltage must be 1.5V higher than the output voltage, no boost). DC 1.5V to 35V voltage is continuously adjustable, maximum output current is 3A. Its size is 45 * 23 * 14 mm (with potentiometer).

With a little bit of 3D printing, some small sockets, power leads and some soldering, I was able to create a small module that could be programmed via USB for about $15 apiece in quantities of 6. We can then place them inside buildings… on the layout, to protect them from the weather. I was actually shocked by how loud the speaker was.

So now our little church with a graveyard can have church bells or spooky sounds during Halloween or Christmas carols during the holiday seasons. You just need to unplug it, connect it to a phone or PC and replace the MP3 sound.

Nano Vector Network Analyzer

VNAs used to be expensive devices used by engineers to analyze antenna systems, among other things. I have had an antenna analyzer (similar to the 259D) for decades, keep in mind though that some antenna analyzers are VNAs, but not all. It cost a pretty penny when I got it. I end up using it a few times a year.

This new nano VNA cost about $65 (including tax) and came in a nice box with quite a bit of useful connectors… That is a heck of a deal and since I have a Buddypole a useful investment. The Buddypole antenna needs to be tuned every time it is set up, so having a graphic tool to facilitate the process is going to be great.

The device purchased is the NanoVNA-H Vector Network Analyzer. It should be capable of measuring S Parameters, Voltage Standing Wave Ratio, Smith Chart, TDR

The storage box included:

NanoVNA-H (with battery)

USB Type-C data cable

15cm SMA male to male RG316 RF cable

Calibration connectors:

  • SMA male calibration kit – OPEN
  • SMA male calibration kit – SHORT
  • SMA male calibration kit – LOAD

Since this machine is equipped with a small touch screen, you can operate the device by the touch screen or using the multi-functional dial/switch on the top of the case.

Using the PC software NanoVNASaver (a github open-source project), a PC can connect to the NanoVNA via a USB port and display the data, as well as save the information to files. The SNP files can be exported for use with other software.

There appears to be a fairly active users group on Groupsio for this device (something I always look for when buying just about anything), averaging well over 500 posts a month. There is also a very complete getting started guide in the files section.

To connect the device, I plugged the cable into the USB port on my PC and turned on the VNA device. My computer found it quickly. Next, I loaded up the software on my PC, made sure the right port was selected and then clicked the connect button.

I tried it out on an old 2M antenna I had sitting around, and the results made sense. The first thing you need to do is calibrate the device (I calibrated the software on the PC as well). Be sure to celebrate using port 0 on the device. I started out using port 1 and that just didn’t work. This is a straightforward process that probably should be done periodically. I did figure out that I needed to turn the device off and on again after calibration before the readings made sense.

Here is a picture of the SWR screen on the device:

The yellow line shows the SWR graph. Not the SMA connector in the Channel 0 port. That should give you some scale for the size of this thing.

Here are the same measurements shown on the PC:

I think we can all agree that the PC is easier to read.

So far, I am pleased with out it works. I’ll need to take it in the field to evaluate it in action though.

Anyone else noticed a frenzied feel to tourism?

This past week there has been a significant uptick in tourism around Hilton Head. I guess peoples perspective about Covid has shifted and they have a ‘can do’ attitude about getting out of the house.

There have been significant traffic jams trying to get anywhere. Each time I go out to Hilton Head, Beaufort or Savannah I run into a jam caused by some accident. Every time one of the cars involved has out-of-state plates. Sometimes both cars are from somewhere else. People — let’s pay attention out there.

Just because you made it down here from the great white north, doesn’t mean you can take your eyes off the road. These cars just don’t drive themselves, yet.

New phone – a Motorola 4G One

There comes an time when an event takes place that causes you to shift from thinking about a new phone to buying one. That happened to me last week when the case that protects my phone cracked in two. Granted that is better than the phone cracking but still…

The reasons were mounting for me to replace the phone:

  1. I live in the hinterlands where my cell phone service is poor. The microcell installed from AT&T to address the problem will no longer be supported after December 2021. Any new phone would need to support Wi-Fi calling.
  2. There is good 5G coverage in the area, so having a 5G phone would be nice.
  3. The old phone has been getting slower lately, so I was going to have to rebuild (factory reset) it anyway. Granted a rebuild takes me about 4 hours, but I’d have to do that work on a new phone anyway.
  4. I had just put on my last tempered glass protective screen, so I’d need to buy more of those if I am going to keep the phone.
  5. I had not received an update for my phone in over a year. I’ve had it for about 4 years and now even Motorola had given up on support. They supported me through 3 major Android operating system versions — what more could I hope for. Based on what I’ve heard about some phones from other manufacturers, having Motorola support that long was a gift. As hopefully everyone is aware, updates are a critical element of having a secure phone.

The case breaking apart was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Motorola is having their spring sale, which means that they are probably coming out with new models. The 5g One was over $150 off its list price. The 5g One appeared to have high real-world satisfaction ratings, nice camera options, high performance, good battery performance and supported Wi-fi calling.

The one downside is that all the phones I’ve purchased for at least a decade have been unlocked phones. This one is tied to AT&T.

Time will tell if it can last as long and be as effective as my last phone, but for under $300 – I just felt I could risk it.

The last tessellation

Since I purchased by CNC machine, I’ve been creating various wooden tessellations. Now I’ve finished my fourth one and I hope my last.

It is not that these are that hard to design and create, it is just tedious.

I cut these out four at a time

I am thinking about taking all four designs:

Seahorse

Lizard

Turtle

as well as a topographical map of Hilton Head and the surrounding area.

I definitely know much more about the use of epoxy resins than I did when I started. It is hard to believe the lizard started back in 2019.