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Thursday, March 15, 2018

3D Printing - Using the built in WiFi on the monoprice select mini

How to Overhaul Your Business to Take Advantage of the Internet of Things

How to Overhaul Your Business to Take Advantage of the Internet of Things: It’s easy to write off the Internet of Things (IoT) as a great technology solution looking for a problem; yet another acronym clogging up the hype cycle. But some organizations see it differently. They don’t see a new technology to connect things. Instead, they see a business decision—and a better way to inform it.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Adventures of a Math Geek: The Bridger Ridge with Al

Adventures of a Math Geek: The Bridger Ridge with Al: Al Parker and I were PhD students together back in the early 2000's. Now, he's one of my best friends, and we make the effort t...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Best First Amateur Ham Radio HF Antenna for New Operators

Contest starts, station down! Posted on March 10, 2018 by W6PNG

SOTA summit: N/A
Location: Lat/Long 10.688425, -85.234327 Guayabo, Costa Rica
Contest: ARRL DX SSB, 48 hours over March 3 and 4th, 2018
Portable operation: Suitecase DXPedition 
Radio: Elecraft KX3, PX3 Panadapter and KXPA100  operating at 100 watts SSB
Antenna: Buddipole dipoles, verticals and “experimental” Yagis and OCF wire dipole
Bands used: 10m, 15m, 20m, 40m, 80m and 160m
Hike:  None….we sat for 48 hours (ouch)
Solo operation: No, contest team was Matt (K0BBC), Chris (W6HFP), Harold (WJ1B) and me W6PNG
Recommend: Yes
ATT Coverage: Yes
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2018
Sunset just before contest start. Volcano Miravalles left side of picture
We’ve erected the best portable antennas we could bring, we’ve spent time laying out the station for maximum ergonomics, we’ve verify things work including ourselves through numerous “practice” contacts over the previous days.
Chris Drummond pointing to his experimental 20m Yagi
Game on. It’s 6pm, the sun has set, I’m up first and launch us on a forty eight hour non stop run. The call signs roll in, are logged and we are excited at the frenetic pace and especially excited that 20m is holding up to North America, twenty five hundred miles north.
Contest station – N1MM on laptops, Elecraft PX3, KX3 and KXPA100 … excellent, excellent, excellent!!

Contest station with volcano in back ground
Posing and resting ahead on contest from operating area (gazebo)
It’s dead, the radio is down and we are dead in the water! Ten minutes in and our frenetic run comes to an abrupt end. My energy is transferred to a bark “….who pressed what, we have no power to the radio, we’ll lose our run frequency….” What seems like an eternity is really only a minute or two while Matt and Chris re-wire things and I’m back on the air. I regain my rhythm and as my ninety minute shift ends, I’ve logged almost 150 contacts and I’m momentarily declared “The Man”. That was fun, that was quit the adrenaline rush and why we have come.
Tower supporting two wire OCF dipole, 20m Yagi above gazebo and 15m dipole (right)

15m dipole transformed into a 15m experimental yagi and yes it performed great
The global ham radio community likes to contest. So much so that you can pretty much find a contest any weekend of the year and sometimes quite a few mid week. They vary in length, vary in “modes” such as voice, talking to the other participant, morse code, sending dits and dahs over the airwaves all the way through to digital transmissions using computers at either end to encode and decode messages sent one the airwaves by the radios. The objectives vary but all have one common aspect, a point system and the goal is to get the highest point score. For some contesting is a very serious pursuit and they have antennas that cause many of us to drool and have skill levels built up over years that most of us are in awe of and for these hardened participants it’s about one thing; WINNING! I’m nowhere near that category. I’m a neophyte and this is my first serious contest and while I want to do well I’m here to have fun!
The objective of this contest is to encourage the US and Canadian ham radio community to interact with their global brethren. It’s about creating awareness and understanding of how best to communicate with hams in Europe, Asia, Australasia and us in  Central/South America. Herein lies the magic and difficulty of ham radio. Some frequencies might work well during the day in a certain direction (say to Europe) and different frequency ranges at night. Some frequency ranges (bands) might be perceived as “dead” given where we are in the 11 year sun cycle but we may get a very welcome surprise and discover that a “dead” frequency range (band) is a money make.  Simplistically you get points for making a valid contact (i.e from the US/Canada to anywhere in the world such as Costa Rica) and then a multiplier for each new foreign destination (for example England, Japan, Russia or Brazil). As a foreign station our multiplier is contacting hams in each of the lower 48 states and Canadian Provinces.
Lots of factors come into play to do well. Choosing the best band especially as we have one radio and it can only work on one band at any given moment and not all. Each band requires a specialized antenna such as a directional dipole or yagi. Antennas vary in size and we aren’t really in a position to bring an efficient antenna for the night time bands (160, 80 and 40m). Clearly, we want to concentrate on gathering as many contacts but these ideally should be spread across as many states and provinces as we can muster. We have four ham operators who definitely want frantic shifts logging hundreds of contacts but also need to pace them through the inevitable long boring dry spells such as the  graveyard shifts during the wee hours of the night. Clearly planning ahead and then reacting in realtime can and does make a big difference. Mat (K0BBC) is our leader and has created an initial operating schedule for us and bands to focus on.
To give you an idea how serious the ham community takes contesting, a variety of contest logging software has been developed by the community. It’s what we use to record the call sign of the other person we contacted for points, the frequency, time of day etc. We are using a piece of software (N1MM) that is remarkable. It’s networked and can support multiple operators all at different laptops, it synchronizes the logs over a wifi or wired network and essentially provides a running summary of progress to all. Its summary information is tailored to the specific contest and in our case provides a graphic summary of the states and provinces we have contacted that now represent multipliers to our score. This helps us see how we are doing and possibly point antennas award a hard to contact state such as Montana given its sparsely populated or pick a band that might do well reaching out to New Brunswick Sometimes serenity enters in. Hours have passed in the contest and I commented to a ham in Massachusetts that so late in the game we hadn’t added Rhode Island to our list.  Moments later Rhode Island was in my log. Maybe he called a friend in Rhode Island.

Partial N1MM contest screen. Blue tiles represent states/provinces (multipliers) in our log book
March in north western Costa Rica is windy. At night the wind would howl through our villa blowing open bedroom doors. Very spooky and not great when you only have a handful of hours in the sack before heading back for another shift. Our glass sided gazebo where we operated from was pounded relentlessly at night and I sometimes wondered if the glass panels would blow in. The antennas twisted and jerked in the wind that gusted thirty or forty miles an hour at points leaving us slightly more anxious. During one of my graveyard shifts with my team mates tucked up in bed, I shared the gazebo with others that wanted to escape the elements. A millipede seemingly as long as my arm made a bee line across the floor watched by the locust the size of my hand that I was convinced single handily had eaten the Sahara of it’s vegetation.
Grave-yard shift, alone with my millepede and locust that robbed the Sahara of its vegetation

Friday, March 9, 2018

Your Shopping Experience Is on the Verge of a Major Transformation. Here's Why.

Your Shopping Experience Is on the Verge of a Major Transformation. Here's Why.: The convergence of exponential technologies has already revamped how and where we shop, how we use our time, and how much we pay. But there's still plenty of room for more digital disruption from machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing and more.

Solo Shot

Pay Up or Die

Pay Up or Die

Image result for flu images

MT Adventures: Big Creek is for Big Tours. Glen to Heavenly

MT Adventures: Big Creek is for Big Tours. Glen to Heavenly: Heavenly Twins and my second run gully on the looker's left side of the bowl. Looking glorious. It was all but impossible not to s...

Pacific ham radio drone KH6JF/MM using FT8 | Southgate Amateur Radio News

Pacific ham radio drone KH6JF/MM using FT8 | Southgate Amateur Radio News

The Next Generation Wave Glider

The Wave Glider: How it Works - with Audio 2017

Cabin Life: Snow at the Off Grid Pallet Wood Cabin - Unboxing Mail

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Power to the Hams and Makers! (AD #122)

What Type of Mountain Bike Should I Buy? By Greg Heil

Choosing the right type of mountain bike can be an intimidating prospect. The sport of mountain biking now encompasses a wide range of bikes from hardtails to full suspension, cross country to enduro to downhill, fat bikes and plus bikes, and all manner of variations of these different breeds. Choosing the right type of bike can be confusing for those who are not familiar with all the different varieties available.
While Singletracks has published guides to choosing a first mountain bike and how to decide how much suspension is necessary, this article is focused on finding the right type of mountain bike. To help make this decision easier I will outline 5 key questions to ask.

“How much am I willing to spend?”

Squatch Bikes and Brews. Photo: Aaron Chamberlain
Every bike-buying decision should begin with this question. Whether you’re buying your first mountain bike or your 10th, determining a budget is key. Only the rider can decide how much a mountain bike is worth to him or her. This also isn’t to say that just because someone is buying their 10th mountain bike they’ve automatically upgraded to a $10,000 purchase. For example, adding a different style of mountain bike to the stable to ride occasionally might not justify the same budget as an everyday rider like a trail bike.
However, a budget can limit choices later on down the line. If, for instance, you really want a carbon frame, the budget will have to be large enough to accommodate the increased cost compared to other frame materials.

“Where am I going to ride this bike?”

Mountain biking in the Utah Desert. Credit: SCOTT/Scott Markewitz
Experienced mountain bikers should consider the type of terrain they will be riding. Is it rocky and technical, filled with roots, or really steep? Will there be a lot of climbing or shuttle laps? How big are the features like jumps and drops?
Based on the difficulty of the terrain, decide how aggressive this new mountain bike needs to be. One factor to keep in mind is that it’s best to choose a mountain bike based on the majority of the riding that you’ll be doing with it. If this will be just another addition to your quiver of mountain bikes and it’s destined chairlift rides up and ripping it down through the bikepark, then great: buy that Trek Session.
On the other hand, if you’re shopping for a trail bike and want it to be able to handle a variety of terrain, don’t get sucked into the common thinking that a bike should be able to handle the most difficult challenges on every trail. If, for instance, you might encounter a 4-foot drop once every six months, but 99% of the time you’ll only face more moderate rock and root gardens, lots of pedally climbs, and fast (but not insane) downhills, you don’t really need an enduro bike. A short- to mid-travel trail bike will probably be just fine. It’s possible to push a trail bike beyond its limits every once in awhile, and heck–4-foot drops don’t have to be ridden. Most obstacles have a ride around or at worst, require a quick hop off the bike.
For newer riders who don’t know exactly what kind of bike is best for their area, it’s a good idea to head out to a local trailhead to see what types of bikes people are riding. Are most people riding hardtail 29ers? Singlespeeds? Full suspension trail bikes? Long travel enduro bikes? Or are people loading bikes with lots of suspension into the back of a pickup and driving them up the hill?
By Chris Daniels
Another way to do this same sort of reconnaissance is to head to a bike shop close to the trails that you want to ride and see what type of bikes are for sale on the showroom floor. While you might think that all bike shops sell the same types of bikes, that isn’t the case–they tend to sell the bikes that work best for their local area. For instance, it’s actually pretty rare to see a dual crown downhill bike on a showroom floor unless there’s a ski resort with a bikepark nearby.
Local bike shop employees will often be your best source of advice.
Shop: Sycamore Cycles. Photo: Aaron Chamberlain
Don’t forget: you can always ask the shop employees for recommendations, too. In many cases, they’ll be your best source of information and can help guide you through many of these steps. If the questions in this article don’t help narrow the bike buying focus sufficiently, getting guidance by buying from a local bike shop will probably be very beneficial, and will generally be well-worth any additional expenses incurred.

“When am I going to ride this bike?”

Photo: Snow Bike Festival, Gstaad, Switzerland
The first question related to “when” is “what time of year will I ride this bike?” If you’re looking for a bike solely for riding in the high mountains during mid-summer, a normal trail or enduro bike will work just fine. If your answer is “winter, and on snowy trails” then a fat bike is probably the answer.
But what if you are a one-bike-quiver kind of person and you want to be able to ride all year round, even through the cold winter months in the Midwest? While perhaps a trail bike with standard 2.3″ tires would be better optimized for mid-summer riding, if you truly want to ride one and only one mountain bike all year ’round, a bike with fat tires is the best option. A fat bike will always work on dry trails in the summer, but a normal mountain bike will get stuck in deep snow.

“Do I want this bike to have any specific attributes?”

Ultra long top tube, water bottle in the front triangle, and more–the Mondraker Dune offers several unique features. Photo: Aaron Chamberlain
If this isn’t your first mountain bike purchase, chances are high that you want your next mountain bike to have a specific feature. For short riders, it could be ample standover clearance or a lower seatpost mast for more dropper post travel.
Or, one might want a bike with frame spacing wide enough to accommodate plus or fat tires–or want the bike to come stock with plus or fat tires.
Perhaps you know that you’re over the harshness of riding an aluminum hardtail and that while you don’t want a full suspension bike necessarily, you do want the forgiveness that a frame material like steel, titanium, or carbon can provide.
If this is your second mountain bike and you’re coming off a hardtail, perhaps you know that you want a full suspension mountain bike with as much travel as possible!
While answering questions 2 and 3 can effectively make some of these decisions, not all of them will be easy. Features like frame bag space and fitting a water bottle cage in the front triangle aren’t necessarily dependent on the style of the mountain bike in question.

“How long will I own this bike?”

Transition’s new Sentinel is pretty well future-proofed… for now. Photo: Transition.
On the surface, this doesn’t seem like an important question, but digging deeper into the bike buying decision matrix, this can have a profound effect on the ultimate decision. If you plan for this bike to stay in your stable for a very long time, maybe you want to go back up to question #1 and increase your price point. Buying a nicer bike on the front end often means a bike that stays relevant for longer.
This could also affect question #4 above. If you plan to hang onto this bike for a really long time, it might be worth buying a bike with the latest Boost spacing, metric shock sizing, internal cable routing, etc. so the bike is as future-proof as possible. While it’s impossible to buy a totally future proof mountain bike, if you have the means to purchase a bike with the latest tech, do it. A bike with the latest features won’t become outdated as quickly as one that utilizes more mature standards.
On the other hand, some riders may plan to flip a bike at the end of the season, which will factor into the decision. Maybe that means buying a brand spanking new bike, or maybe that means buying used. Since mountain bikes depreciate about 45% after one year, buying a year-old mountain bike and flipping it a year later will reduce the losses over flipping a brand-new bike one year later.


Mountain biking in the Utah Desert. Credit: SCOTT/Scott Markewitz
With not only numerous categories of mountain bikes but also dozens upon dozens of different brands and bikes in each category, buying the perfect bike can feel like a formidable challenge. Yet, once you ask yourself these key questions, the decision will hopefully become much clearer.
As you search for the perfect bike, there are many other questions you could ask yourself in addition to these five. If you’ve purchased a mountain bike recently, what questions did youask yourself when buying a bike? Share them in the comments section below!

36 Hours of Adventure: Sand and Seas By Chris Cordes

Our plan was to make it to the beach before dark, so naturally we arrived well after it. I had expected as much. Something about keeping to a schedule while escaping meetings, emails, and calendars just doesn’t jive with me. Unfortunately, navigating the unfamiliar shores of an island at night doesn’t jive well either, so we decided to play it safe by airing down and locking the hubs.
For those who haven’t done much island driving, exploring new tracks can be a tad tricky. Choose wisely and you may be rewarded with a secluded campsite. Choose poorly and you’ll likely be buried to the frame in soft sand or a mixture of sea water and mud. We were fortunate on this trip, and stumbled upon a small cove near the back side of the island. The pass through the dunes was narrow, but with a little momentum and careful driving we were able to slip through with relative ease. Our reward was a flat, smooth spot directly against the inland waterway. We wasted no time setting up camp, but our evening arrival had put us far enough behind that it was nearly one in the morning when our tents were in place. Exhaustion was setting in, but there was still time to appreciate the smell of the sea breeze and the taste of a cold beer before bed. Hey, this was vacation after all. We swapped stories and shared laughs until the distant roll of the surf lulled us toward an inevitable sleep. Underneath a brilliant sky of stars I settled into my roof tent, and began to wonder what the next day would hold. Morning came early—too early. I had set an alarm to catch the sunrise, and I cursed it for working as I grudgingly dragged myself from the tent. I set the camera towards the coast and hoped for a stunning display. It did not disappoint. The vibrant colors lit up the sky, and I found myself feeling less bitter about my lack of sleep. I snapped a few photos and turned back to the truck where the soft boiling of water told me that coffee was almost ready. I poured the dark liquid into cups and breathed deeply with contentment. It was going to be a good day.  
Since we had made the initial jump across the dunes last night, we decided to tackle the back roads first. This series of two-tracks gives ranchers access to their cattle, as well as providing a way for locals to traverse the island when the waves are too high for beach driving. Since the tides were low and the waters calm, we had the route all to ourselves. Well, almost…
The trail is lined with tall grass, water holes, and deep sand, but it’s the scenery that makes it interesting. Old windmills run small water tanks surrounded by livestock, and right next to them flocks of tropical birds soar through beautiful marsh lands. You may see what looks like a Texas ranch on your left, and then look right to see a fishing boat passing just off shore. It’s a strange mesh between land and sea, one unlike any other place I’ve visited.
By the afternoon our supply of these strange roads was dwindling, and so we made a dash across the dunes once more for the firm shoreline on the gulf. The driving surface was now smooth giving us a fast pace, but the views didn’t get any less interesting.
These beaches are far from the maintained sands of a resort, and they often hold some interesting sights worth stopping for. For example, this frame of algae-coated concrete which felt otherworldly from a distance. It reminded me of a sort of portal, calling us to dive in and see where it leads.
Large sections of driftwood also dot the beach, worn by the crashing waves and blowing sands of the coast. We’d love to know where these trees had once grown, and what stories they could tell from their long journeys to the sea.
Sadly, we didn’t have the time to contemplate that. The sun was fading, and we needed to get moving if we wanted to make camp before dark. Our plan was to take a small road through the marshlands onto a peninsula. From the look of the satellite images on our Hema app there was an isolated campsite at the end, and a few simple water crossings we’d need to ford along the way. Of course things are rarely as easy as they appear.
The puddles that we had expected weren’t really puddles at all. Sure they looked innocent from a distance, but when inspected more closely they revealed their true nature: deep mud holes. Inside each were broken railroad ties, slowly being swallowed by the goop. Tire tracks could be seen exiting the other side, but they then turned around and headed back out instead of preceding through to the end. We decided to consult the highly scientific stick in the mud test, which proved it was far too soft for our 8,000-pound trucks to cross. We were forced to abandon our efforts rather than take the unnecessary risk of becoming stuck in salt water.
Our lack of vehicles couldn’t keep us from exploring though, so we parked the Fords and hoofed it the rest of the way through. In the end it turned out that our intended campsite had been washed away in past storms, and I was pleased we hadn’t gone through the muck just to reach a dead end. We snapped a few photos in the evening light, and then hightailed it for the next camp spot we could find. Tomorrow’s forecast called for storms, and we hoped to sneak in a little fly fishing before they arrived. It would be an early morning for us all.
The sun rose right on time, but you wouldn’t have known it through the dense blanket of clouds hanging overhead. They painted everything in muted hues of gray, and made it difficult to distinguish the still channels of water from the sky. Yet there had been no lightning thus far, so we decided to take what we could get. Stephen rolled out his drawer and began suiting up. 
Waders on and fly-rod assembled, he slowly worked his way into the water without disturbing the fish. I watched as he patiently worked the line, gently laying it out in a perfect presentation, but to no avail. Cast after cast proved fruitless, and it seemed that the fish had no interest in feeding. In fact the only fisherman having any luck wasn’t using a rod, so we sat back and watched the master at work.
Then, like the warning of a distant beast a roar of thunder echoed overhead, and we took our cue to head home.
It seemed the island had other plans however, because just as we crossed the last dune from the beach the rear of my Excursion sank deep into the sand. I tried my usual tricks, but it only dug deeper. It was time for Maxtrax.
Stephen threw a set down under the truck again and again as we slowly moved forward, and eventually we were free. Further inspection revealed the problem, a failure of the auto-locking hubs. It’s an all too common problem for Fords, and one I hadn’t caught before the trip. It was frustrating, but we had made it through in one piece, albeit one very muddy and sandy piece.
As the rain began to pour and we headed for home, I began to realize that I’d fallen in love with this small spit of sand. It may not be an epic adventure with challenges around every turn, but it’s a perfect place to reset with nature and think about everything in the world or nothing at all—possibly both. Regardless, I know that the next time I need a beach to think on, a shore to fish from, or some stars to sleep under, I have a weekend escape waiting on Texan shores.