Archive for the ‘Life’ Tag

…new computer upgrade…

Yes, I was already unhappy with one aspect of my new system as soon as I was done building it. The video card. I originally bought two 3850’s to run a crossfire setup, but ran into problems due to the motherboard I selected.

Anywhoo, the single 3850 was working out great (as you can see from the pics in my previous post), but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. So, I upgraded.

I have now installed a Radeon HD 3870×2! That’s a dual GPU card with 1GB of RAM. Upgrading to this card has more than tripled my 3DMarkVantage score from the low 2100’s to over 7400.

I’m also running dual monitors now. This single video card can support up to four monitors! For now, I’m getting used to two.

Here’s some pics so you can see how huge this thing is:

3870x2

These are the 3870×2 and 3850 cards side by side.

3870x2

Here you can see the four ports for the monitors.

I had to move some things around in the case (like move my hard drive cage up higher) to make room for this monster.

Oh, and here’s my new Call of Duty 4 Game-O-Meter score:

…world record…

Want to be part of a world record? Download the FireFox3 update on Tuesday, June 17th.

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/blogs/mcallister_on_software/147039/firefox_3_to_launch_with_a_bang.html

Me? I’m a FireFox user. I was converted about two years ago when I started getting back into hand coding websites with xhtml/css. I was learning quite a bit about browser rendering and standards and compatibility. Up until then, I had thought that the differences between IE and the “other” browsers had to do with the other browsers not being as up to date or as good. Little did I understand at the time that the difference was really that IE was too good to follow the standards put out to make the internet truly multiple platform compatible and render-able(sp?) on multiple types of devices.

Basically, building websites would be easy if everyone followed the same format for rendering the data. Unfortunately, we often have to “work-around” the code to get things to look the same in all browsers. This issue has become more obsolete in recent versions of all browsers, but IE is still the one standing on the corner across the street, waiting for the light to change because they think their light will change first.

But, that’s just my opinion. Are you an IE or FireFox user?

…new computer…

Well, I finally built a new computer. The old one is still hanging on, but it is time to go big. I bought the old one slightly used for $300, over 5 years ago and have only had to upgrade it’s RAM and video card. But, it’s days are numbered. Rather than wait, I got the pieces and parts and put together a decent system for not too much money.

Here’s the system (all parts purchased from zipzoomfly.com):

Case: old Antec full tower (like 8 or 9 years old)

Processor: Intel E8400 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo

Motherboard: Asus P35 chipset P5K-E

RAM: 4GB OCZ DDR2 1066

Video Card: Asus 512MB DDR3 HD3850 PCIe x16

Power Supply: CoolMax CUG-600B Green Power 600W

Hard Drives: (3) Hitachi Deskstar T7K500 500GB 7200RPM Serial ATA II w/16MB Buffer (I’m running the 3 drives in a RAID 5, so they are fast – but I also have drive failure protection. Basically, if any one of the 3 drives fail, I can change it out with a new blank drive and the information will be rebuilt from the other two drives. Pretty slick, huh.)

And, I believe, that’s the main stuff. After the combo drive, case fans, processor fan, LCD fan controller and card reader, etc. (oh, and shipping)… I spent about $1200. The computer benchmarks pretty high.

However, I’ve already learned a couple lessons, and if I could go back and do it again already – I’d get a different motherboard. I had originally purchased 2 of the Asus 512MB video cards, planning to do a dual CrossFire system. However, the P5K-E, though it advertises that it supports CrossFire and has two PCIe x16 slots, doesn’t support two cards at x16. Confusing, huh. Apparently the fine print states that the second PCIe x16 slot only runs at x4. So, what a waste. I sold the second video card and am only using one.

Here’s where my system benchmarks for a popular game, Call of Duty 4 (which I don’t play – but was told to check my system against it):

Call of Duty 4 benchmark

And here’s a couple of screenshots from Flight Simulator X. I can’t believe how much better this runs. It is truly amazing!

So, that’s it! What do you think? I’m pretty happy with it…

…finally done…(mostly)

Well, I’ve finally (mostly) finished the EARC website remake. I started with a rough idea of modifying an Andreas Viklund template. I think I have served his ideas well.

Of course, there is more to do… more to update… more to tweak… but the main site is up, and I think it looks great.

So, if you are interested in the Honolulu, Hawaii Emergency Amateur Radio Club, visit www.earchi.org.

…aviation frequencies…

If, like me, you enjoy listening in to the various aviation communications, then here is a list of the various Honolulu Airport frequencies:

  • 127.900 – ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information System. You have to listen to this and remember the information letter so that Clearance doesn’t have to repeat any information already on the recording).
  • 124.100 – Clearance (To get your planes callsign into the system, verify you have the information from ATIS, and give you permission to depart Class B airspace via any one of the departure routes).
  • 121.900 – Ground (Permission to taxi to the runway).
  • 118.100 – Tower (Controls the planes through the takeoff and the landing).
  • 119.100 – Approach/Departure (For planes turning West after takeoff and for all planes coming in).
  • 124.800 – Departure (For planes turning East after takeoff).

By the way, those are in order for a plane leaving Honolulu, from the first to the last. You could listen to an airplane’s communications all the way through. You could also listen for a friend/family plane to come in. For a plane coming in, it’s a little easier: 119.100 (for clearance into Class B airspace), 118.100 (for runway, permission to land, and taxiway), 121.900 (for permission to leave the taxiway and taxi to the terminal).

…busy days…

Well, I’ve been busy. I’ve passed IS-700, qualified as a Net Control Supervisor for my club, and have taken on every other Wednesday (starting tonight) as the NCS for our nightly net. That’s 3 FEMA courses done. I have at least 4 more that I want to do.

Our last club meeting was at the Hawaii State Red Cross building over by DiamondHead. Wow. Great meeting. Depending on the progress of my various projects, I may volunteer as an amateur radio operator for the Red Cross. We’ll see.

Speaking of projects, one of them is that I’m rebuilding the club website. The current one needs a facelift. I should have it ready to upload in a week or so.

…passed IS-3…

Ok, I took another course today… IS-3, Radiological Emergency Management. This one was EXTREMELY easy due to my Navy job. The course description says it is a 10 hour course, but I finished the course material and the test in less than 2.5 hours.

That’s it for today, but I am looking through the list to see which one I’m going to knock out next.

Any recommendations?

…passed IS-100…

So, I’ve read about other hams completing courses and getting certifications dealing with emergency preparedness and disaster management. I got curious enough this morning to google the most common one I see, IS-100, Introduction to Incident Command System. I sat down at the computer for a little over two hours, went through the presentations, took the exam, and passed.

Now, I’m interested in getting more of these courses knocked out.

https://training.fema.gov/IS/crslist.asp

I strongly recommend these as a way to gain familiarity with the procedures and structures that are used in incident management. Quite interesting, and it may help you see an area that you are qualified for in the event you are involved assisting with an incident.

…DIY Alcohol Stove…

In our emergency and portable kits should be some way of emergency cooking. For me, I’ve been playing around with ultralight stoves made out of pop cans. I have finally settled on a design I like. It works well, burns just about anything (isopropyl alcohol, denatured alcohol[recommended], methyl alcohol, heet antifreeze – basically if it burns you can use it), and is small and portable.

http://back2dabike.wordpress.com/my-rides/tour-of-oahu/homemade-stove/

I have the instructions, photos, disclaimer, and video posted on my biking site via the above link.

Please let me know if you try it and how you like it!

73’s!

…antenna questions…

So, I’m joining a black bear hunt for this fall on Kuiu Island in Alaska. For emergency communications off the island, I am the only General Class licensed ham (so far) and so I picked up an FT-897 off eBay. This should be a great rig in the event we run into any problems.

I have a ton of questions based on the following information:

  • I have not yet ever operated HF.
  • Though I understand many antenna basics, much of it still confuses me.
  • I do not have an antenna tuner.
  • The manual for the 897 states

    “When installing a “balanced” antenna such as a Yagi or dipole,
    remember that the FT-897 is designed for use with an
    (unbalanced) coaxial feedline. Always use a balun or other
    balancing device so as to ensure proper antenna system performance.”

  • My pack weight for the trip is already exceeded with this radio and batteries, I must go absolutely minimum portable with the antenna.
  • Near the end of the trip, if we haven’t used the radio for emergency contacts, I plan to drain the batteries making QSO’s, which I have not yet made on HF.

Question 1: What band/frequency do you recommend for making contacts from the island?

Question 2: What antenna design do you recommend? It needs to be simple and inexpensive (which I think means a wire dipole), but I’m confused about the statement from the manual about the radio designed for an unbalanced coax feedline.

Question 3: Will I need an antenna tuner? Would an antenna tuner be only for multi band operations? Can I get by without one if I only plan to operate on two frequencies (one for QSO’s and one for the Alaska HF emergency frequency)?

Question 4: What recommendations and suggestions do you have for a beginner making his first HF contacts? I’d like to go on the air and not make “newbie-blunders”.

Basically, I’d like to make a trip to the hardware store this weekend and get the materials to build me an antenna. I can experiment with it next week, while I’m still on leave. I’m just not comfortable enough with the information I have to start building one. I’ve read everything from “you will need an antenna tuner if you are using unbalanced feedline such as coax, even with a balun” to “just throw a wire over a tree and make your contacts”. There’s a lot of middle ground between those statements.

So, any ideas for the newbie? Thanks in advance!