Whew!  I nearly gave up on this project several times.  I can’t believe how long it took before I finally got it working right, but the EchoLink project is on the air and functioning the way it should.  The audio is still a little low.  Maybe we can find a way to boost it a little more.

I always seem to get tripped up by the less than obvious solutions.  For example, the audio delivered back through the Internet to the end user was terribly distorted and I couldn’t figure out why.  The solution?  Turn the volume slider on the microphone input all the way down.  I would have thought that would eliminate the audio altogether, but no!  Instead it took out all the distortion.  Go figure!

Anyway, there’s still more to do.  As you can see, it still needs some tidying up! LOL

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Yesterday, I finally started doing something that I had felt the desire to do for quite a while now.  I went to the local food pantry and volunteered some of my time to help them distribute food to local needy families.

I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to actually do it, but I’m glad I finally got started.  It was an eye opening experience for me, and I felt pretty good that I was actually helping someone else for a change.

I regret not having done it sooner.  And I will be going back to do it again!

If you’re thinking about volunteering your time for a worthy cause, I would encourage you to quit hesitating and jump right in.  It’s good for your heart and soul!

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MT2000Ok, I admit that I didn’t read up on how to do this before I tried.  I guess it’s that typically male characteristic of “we know how” that got in my way once again!  (Don’t you think that at some point I’d learn?  Go figure!)

A while back I acquired some Motorola MT2000 radios for literally a steal.  I got a programming cable and found the software to program them and dutifully loaded them up with a bunch of ham radio repeaters, simplex frequencies and some public service frequencies to which I like to listen.  Easy peasy!!  I even created a scan list in the unit that included the public service channels so that I could use the radio as a scanner as well as a Ham HT.  (Yep, I even remembered to program one of the buttons on the HT to turn scanning on and off!)

But having done all that, I could NOT for the life of me get this radio to scan.  I think I tried every scan option I could find in the programming software, but alas, no joy!

Today, I decided I was going to fix this problem or else.  After all, scanning the public service channels was one of the key reasons I wanted the radio to start with.  So with noone around that might have ever done this before to ask, I turned to the one source that I was certain wouldn’t let me down:  Google!

I love the way you can just ask Google a question and more often than not, it will find the right answer for you.  Sometimes you have to phrase the question just right to help Google hone in on what it is you want to know, but mostly it just works.  I love things that just work!  In no time flat, I had the answer to my dilemma.

It turns out that just creating the scan list is not enough.  One must go back into the programming of each of the channels (personalities) that you’ve defined and tell the radio which scan list you wish to use if you invoke the scan function while the radio is tuned to that channel.  It’s not hard, it’s just not obvious when you first create the channel itself, hence I never noticed that it hadn’t been set.  In my situation, I only have one scan list, so I just changed each channel to scan list number 1 when the scan function is started.

To give myself a bit of a break here, it seems a little odd if you’ve not worked with commercial or public service radios very much.  But after reading some explanations of why it’s set up that way, it makes perfect sense.  For my use, it’s a simple thing now to scan public service channels while still being tuned to my favorite repeater.  And my cheapo MT2000’s have become much more valuable to me because they scan at a much faster rate than your average Chinese HT (meaning my Baofeng!)

If only I’d looked it up earlier, I’d have been happier earlier!  Gee, it seems like I’ve had people tell me that before.  Maybe old dogs CAN’T learn new tricks after all?  LOL

 

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Arrrrgggghhhhh!!!

Two dead hard drives in a row??  Seriously???  Something is really WRONG with this picture!

I’m beginning to think that the Gods of EchoLink don’t want me to complete this system!  I mean, cmon!  I know other people who slap stuff together with little thought and it always just works!  My deliberate approach is suffering though by way of lack of results.

Tomorrow I’m ordering two hard drives from Newegg and if they both fail, I’ll give up and take up gardening! (Yeah, right! Like I could grow anything!! LOL)

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MaxtracI admit it!  I have a THING for Motorola radios!

I started with one:  A simple VHF Maxtrac that I use as my primary 2 meter radio.  It’s simple to use, works extremely well, and I get great audio reports from other hams when I use it!  Best of all, as a used radio, it was very inexpensive.

But then it started.  I wanted another Maxtrac in UHF.  Then another in VHF to use as an EchoLink node.  Then a slightly newer CDM1550 to use as a mobile radio in the car.  And then a slightly newer Radius in UHF because it has a nice DTMF microphone that I’ll need to control the EchoLink.  Will it never end?

I guess not!  I just acquired 3, that’s right THREE, MT-2000 Handi Talkies!  Why?  Because they were extremely cheap, they are rugged (read that as nearly indestructible!), and you see, I have this… ummm… errr… problem now! SMH

If you see me at a Hamfest casually browsing someone’s Motorola radio collection with that certain gleam in my eye, PLEASE, drag me away and try to talk some sense into me!  Or if you catch me searching Ebay for Motorola radios, please distract me with something shiny.  Clearly, I need help!

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Ok, so a while back I decided I wanted to build an EchoLink node.  After discussing my plan with my friend Paul (AA0GB), he got fully behind my building the node and setting it up to work on our favorite repeater.  Paul has been a gem, encouraging me, helping me get the parts I needed, showing incredible patience with me and I admit, I have taken a LONG time to get it to work correctly.

Finally, about a week or so ago, I got it working properly.  I was overjoyed, and even wrote a Facebook post about it, but still didn’t complete the work.  Two days ago, I decided that I would get it finished, and of course, Murphy and his Law decided to squash my project.  The computer that would run the EchoLink died.

After beating my head against the wall for a couple hours in frustration, I finally calmed down and did some troubleshooting.   The hard drive died in the computer and would no longer allow it to boot.  After a little re-engineering with my other computers, I made a hard drive available and proceeded to rebuild the system.  I’m now back at the point I was before but I think I’ve learned a lesson or two here.

First, testing is a good thing.  I could have rushed this system into service only to have it fail shortly after going live.  Second, be cautious when using used critical computer parts.  Having done this sort of stuff for most of my professional career, you’d think I would have known better and paid more attention to these two lessons.  But I guess I was just trying to get it moving along.  Oh well, no lives were lost and with the exception of Paul’s waning confidence in me, I’m no worse for the wear! LOL

We’ll be putting up the EchoLink node hopefully sometime this week for general public use.  If you’d like to use it, look for node N0NOE-R.  It will be tuned to the 146.805 repeater in Sullivan MO.

P.S.  I’ll be putting a list of DTMF commands that you can use when connected to N0NOE-R in a separate page here on this website when the node is actually up and running.  Check back later for that information. 😀

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Though some of my friends have often commented that I have a face MADE for radio, I often wonder if my experiences with ham radio are typical, atypical, or just bizarre.  For some background, I have been a licensed Ham for over 20 years.  I was licensed initially as a Technician and enjoyed a lot of 2 meters and 440 activity for several years.  Life intruded and I fell into inactivity until a couple of years ago.  In the interim, I had lost all my equipment and so I decided to purchase a new HT.  I spent several months trying to listen around to the local repeaters and heard virtually no traffic at all.  I gave up and put it away until a few months ago when I decided I’d try again.  Figuring that I was in a zone where reaching anything with just a tiny HT and it’s rubber ducky antenna, I invested in a couple of small, inexpensive antennas to try to get some better “reach”.  Listening carefully, I still heard a minimum of traffic and nearly gave it up again until I came across a few people who showed up on a couple of the repeaters I could reach.  I established contact and made some friends and started listening even more, trying to talk with anyone who came onto the repeaters.

Sound familiar at all?  It’s true there had been a relative dearth of people to talk to, but through all this I learned something about myself.  By not asking who was listening and not being “vocally present” on the repeater, I was participating in furthering that vacuum.  I was helping to further the very situation about which I felt so sad.

Now I assure you, I am not taking any credit for the changes, but there has been a significant change on the repeater I frequent most often.  Several people who admit to have been only listening for so long now regularly get on the air and participate.  Maybe it’s a few new voices to talk to, or maybe they’re just remembering the excitement that I still feel when I get to talk to someone over the radio.  Whatever it is, I think I’ve learned my lesson and will make a distinct effort to be on the air and “active” more often.

Remember, Amateur Radio privileges are just that, privileges.  We either use them or we will surely lose them!


We still buy oil from countries that hate us. In fact, in many ways, we are at their mercy when it comes to oil.

We have a great neighbor to the north, more than happy to sell us their oil at a reasonable price, relieving somewhat, our dependence on our current unholy alliance with the Middle East and South America. In fact, they have proposed to build a pipeline to bring it directly to our refineries. This project, called the Keystone Pipeline, would not only benefit us with cheaper, friendlier oil from a very stable partner, it would also generate thousands of much needed jobs at a time when jobs are needed so very badly in our country.

The only thing currently standing in the way of this pipeline being constructed is our President and the “debt” he owes to the ecology / green energy activists that helped get him elected. These people and their ideology would have us (and HAVE had us, remember Solyndra?) invest in technologies such as solar cells and wind farms that are NOT yet capable of supplying our energy needs at reasonable prices. Rather than investing in our own oil exploration, our President made $2 billion available to Brazil to further THEIR oil exploration. It’s as if he wants everyone BUT the USA and the US economy to prosper. So, once again, OUR LEADER (if you can even call him that any more) is standing in the way of progress we need to make our country energy independent. He’s standing in the way of much needed jobs (while at the same time he rails in public about how unemployment insurance benefits CREATE jobs…WTF???)

Pardon me for saying so, but this is just insane. Partisan politics and ideology are at the core of the President’s beliefs and actions about this project, and he’s just plain WRONG.

Mr. President and Washington, it’s time to get off your collective asses and DO THE RIGHT THING for USA. No excuses, no quarter, no bullshit! Get the HELL out of the way and let our country get healthy and become great again! Let the Keystone Pipeline construction begin NOW!