Major purge…

I’ve been doing some serious house cleaning lately. This was partially in preparation to live in an RV in the not too distant future.

First, I got rid of all my computers and traded in my 11-inch iPad Pro on a new 13-inch iPad Pro. This new 13-inch iPad Pro will be my main computing device. I’ve kinda done this before as an experiment. So I already know what to expect. This time it is more out of necessity. But, I am leaving open the possibility that I could pick up a MacBook Air. I’d really like to make the iPad-only thing work though. Technically, we still have a Windows laptop. But it doesn’t really count. It only gets used when there is no other way to get something done.

Second, I cleaned out virtually all of my unneeded ham gear. I’ve been selling stuff left and right. What I have left is about six handhelds and one desktop radio. The desktop radio is the ICOM IC-7100. So I will use that for repeaters and the occasional HF work. The handhelds will be used with my openSPOTs and my Allstar nodes.

As part of my “shack cleansing” I sold my WiRES-X node. And I’ll be giving away the desktop computer it ran on to my mom. She’s got a really old machine and this would be a big upgrade for her.

I also decided to sell all my ZUMspot-USB sticks. This will remove the indecision where I’ve occasionally switched back and forth between the Raspberry Pi hotspots and my openSPOTs. No more switching. Not sure what I’m going to do with the six Pi 400s that I was using with these ZUMspot-USB sticks. Probably just Goodwill them.

I’m still working on selling my shack power supply setup. This is the setup that used an Astron RS-35A with a 40ah Bioenno battery and a charge controller to take care of the details. That stuff would never work in an RV. It would take too much room.

As I was picking through my stuff to sell things… I came across my Alinco 70cm monoband radio. And I got to thinking. Why don’t I put my IRLP node back up? Of course I won’t be running an IRLP node in the RV. But I might as well run it until that time comes. Just for fun. So… the AI7HL IRLP node is back up and running!

It’s not just ICOM

My last post was a little harsh toward ICOM. After thinking more about this, I realized the Yaesu FT-991A has a different but very similar problem. The fact is, neither the IC-7100 or the FT-991A are good for use with digital voice hotspots, if you are going to use them with repeaters at the same time.

As previously discussed, the drawback with the IC-7100 is… the level of mic gain that is suitable for regular FM repeater work is totally unsuitable for D-Star use. So trying to use the radio with both regular FM repeaters and D-Star hotspots requires a ton of knob twisting to adjust the mic gain back and forth every time you change what you’re doing. This is because there is a single stored mic gain setting for the entire radio. All they would need to do is store separate settings for each mode and the problem would be solved.

A similar drawback with the FT-991A is… the power level setting is not stored with the memory channel info. So whatever your power level is set to, it applies to all memory channels. This means extensive knob twisting to move the power level from one end of the scale to the other every time one switches between a repeater and a local hotspot. I guess we’re all spoiled with the newer Yaesu radios where each memory channel has its own stored power level.

The IC-7100 doesn’t store the power level with the memory channel info either. But at least it is stored separately for each band. So… that technically works if all your hotspots are UHF and most of the repeaters you work are VHF.

All this being said, the answer to these problems is EASY. I cannot believe I didn’t see it sooner. If one uses a handheld for their local hotspots, then none of these aforementioned problems really matter. To be clear… I think there are obvious problems with some of the design decisions made for both the IC-7100 and the FT-991A. But the level of impact these have totally depends on your use case. And there is probably a good reason why virtually no one I’ve spoken with has really understood what I’m griping about. They simply aren’t using their radios the way I want to use mine.

The ICOM problem

I’m a little irritated at ICOM. My latest ham radio purchase was an ICOM IC-7100. Before that I bought an ICOM ID-5100A and an ICOM ID-50A. I generally like ICOM radios. They have some really nice features that competing radios don’t have.

However, I also used to have an ICOM IC-9700. And I sold it because of a design flaw in the radio. The design flaw has to do with the mic gain setting. If you are using this radio for FM… you would probably have the mic gain set to around 50%. Perfect. Until you want to use D-Star. When you want to use the radio for D-Star you will have to dial down your mic gain setting to around 15% to make it usable. This is serious inconvenience for people who are constantly scanning a mix of FM and D-Star repeaters/reflectors and wish to use the radio for both.

As I discovered today, the ICOM IC-7100 has a very similar problem. The perfect mic gain setting for me on analog FM and SSB is 50%. But to use the radio on a D-Star reflector… again… the mic gain needs to be adjusted down to 15-20%. Not a feasible situation when you are scanning dozens of FM repeaters and D-Star reflectors at the same time. Every time you want to talk, you’d literally have to see what mode you are in and adjust the mic gain before you key up.

This problem could easily have been solved by simply having separate mic gain values for each mode stored in the settings. But no. ICOM chose not to do that. They have one setting for all modes and as a result the setting must be adjusted when changing modes.

This mic gain problem goes way back. The ICOM 706 Mark II G had a very similar problem. If you were happily talking on SSB… you’d better turn your mic gain down before getting on an FM repeater or else you would blast people out of their chairs. Seriously? That was like 30 years ago. You would think ICOM would have learned by now.

As a result of being burned on this with multiple ICOM radios. I don’t see myself buying another piece of ICOM gear anytime soon.

Prepper stuff

We have been thinking about being more prepared for awhile now. Simple things like having some extra toilet paper and non-perishable food on hand.

But we recently took a big step. We contracted with an electrician to wire the power panel of our house for use with a generator. This allows the generator to basically power everything in the house with no need to run extension cords and such.

There were two key components to the project. First… we had to add a circuit for the generator “inlet”. This included a beefy new circuit breaker and wiring that went from the power panel to the back patio. The second component was an interlock kit. This ensures that you can never feed power from the generator back into the power grid. The interlock kit is simply a sliding metal plate. It’s notched in such a way that it physically prevents the main power breaker from being on at the same time the breaker for the generator is on. Nice and simple.

A fair portion of the cost for this project was running the circuit for the generator all the way to the back patio. On the back patio there is an “inlet” for the generator to plug into.

Generator inlet on the back patio

We did spring for a “tri-fuel” type generator. This generator can run off regular gasoline, propane, or natural gas. There happens to be a natural gas outlet right out on the back patio next to where we placed the generator inlet. That should work nicely in most cases. In the case where the natural gas supply is disrupted, we can always fall back to using propane.

For the curious… the electrician work, wiring, etc… cost about three times as much as the new generator. But this “manual” solution is still only a fraction of the cost of those next-level systems that automatically switch over whenever the power goes out.

Dopamine detox

I am currently attempting something called a “dopamine detox”. I have just read a booklet by that name. As part of this detox, I am attempting to avoid the activities that provide “over stimulation”. One goal was to identify these before starting. Turns out there are a lot of them. And when I think back about my habits over the course of my life, I can conclude that I have been pursuing these activities that provide over stimulation for quite a long time.

And regularly practicing these over stimulating activities, reduces one’s sensitivity to stimulation. Just like any drug addiction. And reducing one’s sensitivity to stimulation causes regular daily activities to no longer be fulfilling or enjoyable to the extent that they should be.

So right now… I am motivated. Not to pursue these over stimulating things… but to avoid them. And avoiding them is far better. Because as I do this I will essentially reset my level of sensitivity to stimulation. And my normal daily activities will be more fulfilling and enjoyable. This is the purpose of the detox.

I think this will become more than a short term “detox” goal. I think it may be a long term lifestyle choice. Because… as I continue to avoid these over stimulating things… the pleasure that regular life gives will be restored to a more natural level.

Finally… HF RFI problem diagnosed

I’ve been frustrated by an ongoing RFI problem here at home when I attempt to transmit on my HF radio. I will frequently blow 4-5 circuit breakers when I key up. Not fun.

Well, I happened to be Googling around a couple of days ago and found a very interesting article on the ARRL website.

This article describes a certain model of faulty circuit breakers that will incorrectly trip when faced with the RF from a ham radio transmission. These are AFCI breakers. Kind of a special thing. They trip when they sense an arc. Well, turns out this article was written within months of when our home was built. And the circuit breakers they were talking about are the same exact ones that we have!

So, problem solved. The manufacturer will be sending us $345 worth of replacement circuit breakers under warranty. Yay! I just have to pay an electrician to replace them.

But after they are replaced, I should be able to use my HF radio without being concerned about popping breakers.

Well almost. My neighbors undoubtedly all have the same circuit breakers because our houses were all built by the same builder around the same time frame. I’m really hoping that they won’t be suffering from tripping breakers when I play radio.

Religion or relationship?

My cousin posted this meme on Facebook today. I thought it was interesting.

I know I need to think about God more… and my relationship with Him. I seem to go through phases. When I am out of practice… there is a certain sort of “coming to terms” with Him that is necessary. That forms a barrier to getting there. And that can significantly delay the process. Because the longer I wait the harder it is.

I don’t really have an answer to this. Except to acknowledge that it’s good to make sure one is on speaking terms with God on a daily basis. Going weeks (or longer) without real communication means that getting back to where I should be will not happen without significant effort and/or some kind of wake up call.

It’s hard to imagine a neglected friend who continues to wait day after day for us when we just go about our days not giving them more than an occasional passing thought. But God is faithful, even when we are not. And I believe that when we do turn toward Him, He is there. And He welcomes us.

Wayward Son

There was a song by the group Kansas that was very popular when I was in high school called “Carry on Wayward Son”. Unfortunately that became my anthem for roughly the next decade. Let’s just say, I made more than my share of bad decisions.

But thank goodness that I was raised in the church and had a personal relationship with Jesus. He kept bringing me back to himself. And he still does. Every day.

There are at least a few people who think those bad decisions “ruined my life”. I would challenge that. God forgives and forgets. And the Bible clearly teaches that when we confess our wrongs to him he no longer holds them against us.

Why should people have a higher standard for others than what God does? If God can forgive and forget, it seems like others should as well. I don’t feel very good about being used as an example of what not to be like.

The fact is, God has blessed me beyond any measure that I could have imagined. If my life was truly ruined… why am I so thankful? Every day God inspires me to be my best. And I fully believe that he furnishes me with what I need to do that. If my life was ruined… then I guess I must be the luckiest person with a ruined life that there ever was.

I am thankful that God has been with me through all my experiences, good and bad. He said he will never abandon me and I have personally found that to be true. And not only do I feel extremely blessed. I can be extra thankful because I am under no illusion that I earned any of it. It was clearly a gift from a loving God.

I do occasionally lament the choices I made when I was young. That’s my prerogative. But I would appreciate it if others didn’t do that for me.

What should have happened

It’s funny. I was just sitting here thinking about my immediate family. I’m turning 60 in a couple of months. My older brother turns 65 today. My younger brother is a couple of years behind me. And my mom is a central figure in our lives (thankfully).

The part that is funny… I don’t think any of us have really changed all that much in the last 40 years or so. Sure we have changed a bit. But we are way more the same than we are different.

I look back at my youth with the knowledge that I squandered an inheritance. I encountered a fork in the road in high school… and I chose badly. The inheritance I’m referring to is the legacy of a solid Christian family life with parents that loved God. And… grandparents that loved God.

After I got a little older… and maybe a tiny bit wiser, I have been trying to gain back what I lost. But it seems that those bad decisions and the experiences that went with them have become a permanent part of me. And yes… scripture teaches us that God forgives… and erases our sin. But I really think I forfeited being the person that I would have been had I taken the other path. But I will keep trying.

The main epiphany that I had was… that I have been spending most of my life trying to become what I would have been had I made different choices when I was young. I guess that’s ok. It does make me thankful. To a large extent I feel like I was rescued. And I thank God that He doesn’t give up on us. He keeps drawing us to Him.

I’m going to leave you with the following song… which illustrates my feelings on this matter.

What makes you a Christian?

I was thinking. I’ve been in the Church quite a lot over my lifetime. I know a little. And one thing I know… is that most pastors will tell you that going to church does not make you a Christian.

As a matter of fact, one of my favorite Christian artists… Keith Green, was famous for saying… going to church no more makes you a Christian than going to McDonalds makes you a cheeseburger.

And of course, everyone knows that a good Christian should give to the needy. But that doesn’t make you a Christian.

As Christians I think we are constantly told this whole list of things that do not make you a Christian. Reading the Bible is good. Praying, also good. There are many good things that Christians should do. None of which makes one a Christian. That begs the question… if those things don’t, what does?

Well, most churches will tell you that you can’t earn it. It’s a gift. And this is clear. And most churches will also tell you that it really just comes down to believing a fairly specific and agreed upon set of things and affirming that belief. The better churches will also say that repentance is a key component. But not all.

Ok. Then what about all these things that don’t make you a Christian? The way it seems, is that they are all pretty much optional. Sure it’s a good idea to do them. But you cannot earn your salvation, so doing these things clearly cannot save you.

But there is something else that I know in my heart. A person cannot simply affirm a set of facts and then go about their life and expect anything to come of it. I am convinced that being a Christian is not the result of a one-time event or decision. Sure, that’s where it starts. But if that’s where it ends, then it truly does end. I think it can also be discarded at a later time. But that gets into the weeds. Let me just say that I would surely not wish to bet on the outcome of making that particular choice.

I have often thought that living as a Christian isn’t so much about where you are at morally or spiritually, as it is which direction you are moving. I think being a Christian is about moving toward God. Getting closer. Putting behind us things that are not from Him. This of course takes effort. Effort and sacrifice.

Sacrifice? What is that you say? Yep. While salvation is a free gift from God. It will literally cost you everything. Because that’s what it’s about. Only when we give up all the ungodly things we continually clutch to, all the things we think we want, can these temporary things be replaced with eternal things that are so much better. Of course this is a fantastic opportunity for us. But letting loose of things that we are comfortable with in favor of what is essentially unknown to us just seems so counterintuitive.

You have to give to get? That is a truth found throughout the Bible. Jesus is even quoted as saying this very thing twice in the book of Matthew.

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

The only way you can really have life is to give it up. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Hey, I thought it was free?

Here’s what I think. God did all the work. He came and died a horrible death at the hands of His own creation. Just so that we could have this path to life. He did the hard stuff.

When you hear people say… that all you need to do is “accept” this free gift. I don’t think God ever intended it as a singular event. As a matter of fact I’m sure He didn’t. I think that the act of accepting it is truly a lifelong process. And this ongoing process of accepting it results in us giving up our lives in exchange for what He is truly offering us.

I recently had pretty much this whole discussion with a friend. And when asked what I thought was the answer, here’s what I said. I think that the answer to all these questions and living in a way that truly does “make one a Christian” is the by-product and natural inevitable result of an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

Ok, and what on earth does that mean? I ran across a verse that drove this home a few days ago. I realize the truth I gleaned from this was not the full meaning of what was being said. But it was a pretty good nugget. It was a promise. And it starts like this:

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you…”. You know, I think that kinda sums it up. There are a bunch of cools things in the Bible that we get where those are the actual requirements. And what does that mean? I figure it means that we regularly spend time talking to God. And we regularly spend time in the Bible. That covers both abiding in Him, and His words abiding in us. And that’s what actually constitutes the “relationship”.

Honestly… I’ve heard pieces of this my entire life as well. And I’ve practiced it to varying degrees. But I just happened to put it together in my head for the first time in quite awhile. Figured I would share. While I started out talking about the things that don’t make you a Christian (and might seem optional)… the relationship with Jesus is the one thing that is not optional. Particularly since all the rest of the things are a result of that. And it would follow that doing the things that actually cultivate and foster that relationship are way more than just a good idea.