Fixing An Old Microphone

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When I bought the TS-820S, one of the extra things that he gave me was this microphone. It doesn’t have any label on it and any decals or writing have long since worn off. However, with a little web searching, it looks a lot like a Shure 522, but maybe a knock off, or a different Shure model number, since the microphone cover is different.

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Either way, I had the simple task of replacing the plug, and doing some general cleaning. Looks like the previous owner was a heavy smoker.

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In any event, replacing the plug went fairly quickly and a quick radio check showed it keyed well. The only problem was that I didn’t find anyone to talk to on the 10 meter band, so I don’t know how well it sounds. But, it looks like it is functional from an electrical standpoint. I’ll try using it on the next net meeting and see what feedback I can get from the others on the net.

Linux – keep it simple.

A new layout for more space.

Having a household of several children, it can at times be hard to find some space for my projects and equipment. As it was, I had a perfect spot in the laundry room with a whole desk to myself. However, the desk was a bit crowded with my TS-820S radio, my 3D printer, and my home server computer. With this equipment on the bench, I didn’t really have a space to work on anything new.

So, I decided to try to rearrange the laundry room a bit and build a shelf to help organize my stuff.

As you can see in the pictures, the before shot shows the laundry room as it was, with my desk. The after picture shows my new shelf and the shortened desk.

This has worked out incredibly well in the short time I’ve been using it since the switch. The entire contents of the desk are now on four shelves, and the shortened desk is completely empty and ready for me to work on equipment and projects! It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing shelf, but it is very sturdy and quite functional, and since it is hidden away in the laundry room, it is not in view of anyone who comes over. It also makes great use of what was once wasted and empty space.

Linux – keep it simple.

Piping audio into RSCW

In my spare time, I’m still playing around with RSCW, the Morse code decoder program. One of the hurdles that I’ve finally overcome (Praise God!) was how to send sound to the decoder. It turns out to be pretty simple, it just took me a few tries to get it right.

You see, by default, RSCW has several examples and options for sound input. Since it is an older program, it was written back when Linux kernel still used /dev/dsp and /dev/audio, back when everyone was using OSS and only a few had switched to ALSA sound. I don’t think PulseAudio was even a thing, yet…. It could also use input from programs such as sox, converting wave files to raw sound data, or use it’s own noise and CW generator.

Obviously, it would not be practical to record audio and then use sox to convert it and send it over to RSCW, nor would it be helpful to generate my own Morse code with the noise program, since I want to get live feeds from my HAM radio. I don’t want to downgrade my Linux kernel or OS to go back to the old method of sound card control, and to be honest, I’m not sure I really could without wiping my current setup.

Fortunately, there was a much simpler answer: arecord. Arecord is a “command-line sound recorder and player for ALSA soundcard driver”. In essence, it allows you to create recordings of anything being played or input into your sound system from the command line. The great thing is, as it has command line support, I can actually pipe it directly into RSCW rather than record the audio.

So, as a test, I jumped onto Morsecode.world’s translator page, which can generate Morse code from your input, and pasted information from the PulseAudio Wikipedia into the text field. This started playing Morse code over my speakers, to which I then used arecord to pipe to RSCW! Here was the output:

alaskalinuxuser@alaskalinuxuser-OptiPlex-790:/etc$ arecord | rscw -w 20 --track
RSCW 20 wpm mode track 1 - 3999 Hz ( rscw -h for help)
Recording WAVE 'stdin' : Unsigned 8 bit, Rate 8000 Hz, Mono
S A SOUND SERVER THAT PROVIDES REALBTTIME0 LOW LATENCY TGIAKEAK 5 MILLISECONDS OR LESSTQ AUDIO PERFORMANCE AND0 SINCE JACK20 SUPPORTS EFFICIENT LOAD B^CAborted by signal Interrupt…
alaskalinuxuser@alaskalinuxuser-OptiPlex-790:/etc$

The command is pretty basic:

arecord | rscw -w 20 --track

Of course there are more options that you could use, for both arecord or RSCW. Of interest is that you can use arecord to send just one specific input/output rather than everything or the default. You can list the available options with arecord -L:

alaskalinuxuser@alaskalinuxuser-OptiPlex-790:/etc$ arecord -L
default
Playback/recording through the PulseAudio sound server
null
Discard all samples (playback) or generate zero samples (capture)
pulse
PulseAudio Sound Server
sysdefault:CARD=PCH
HDA Intel PCH, ALC269VB Analog
Default Audio Device
front:CARD=PCH,DEV=0
HDA Intel PCH, ALC269VB Analog
Front speakers
dmix:CARD=PCH,DEV=0
HDA Intel PCH, ALC269VB Analog
Direct sample mixing device
dsnoop:CARD=PCH,DEV=0
HDA Intel PCH, ALC269VB Analog
Direct sample snooping device
hw:CARD=PCH,DEV=0
HDA Intel PCH, ALC269VB Analog
Direct hardware device without any conversions
plughw:CARD=PCH,DEV=0
HDA Intel PCH, ALC269VB Analog
Hardware device with all software conversions

Now that I can accept input, now I just need to play around some more and see what I can do for speed settings for RSCW. It currently requires that you choose a speed, as it is not programmed to detect the speed of the signal. A Telegram user told me I should try “Fldigi”, so I’m going to take a look at that as well.

Linux – keep it simple.

Updating RSCW to work with GTK 2.0

As I get further and further down the rabbit hole of HAM radio, I started looking at Morse Code (CW) decoders. As it turns out, being just a licensed technician, I can only do limited voice communications on certain bands, all of which are above 10 meters (28 MHz). Below that, however, I can only use CW. Of course, I don’t happen to know Morse Code by heart.

While learning Morse Code is ultimately the goal, in the interim, I was hoping to find a way to “listen” to others and have a decoder to help me translate. There are a lot of great programs out there for this. However, there is a very limited number of Linux programs available. In fact, I could only find one: RSCW.

RSCW looks like a very nifty tool. But it was written a long time ago, back when GTK 1.2 was the normal method of building GUI’s on Linux. Now GTK is up to version 3.0. Unfortunately, the source code for RSCW just doesn’t build on any modern machine.

So, since it was licensed under the GPL 2.0, and all the source code was available, I took the liberty of editing it to work with GTK 2.0. Granted, we are up to GTK 3.0 now days, but that was too big of a leap in the programming. To modernize it to GTK 3.0 would just about require a complete re-write, and my programming skills are somewhat weak. But, it only took a few edits to update it to GTK 2.0, and 2.0 is still available in the Ubuntu repositories, so it worked out great on my home computer.

I did email the original author to let him know, but I haven’t heard back from him yet. However, if you want the GTK 2.0 version, you can get it on my Gitlab, and you can check the edits I made there as well.

Linux – keep it simple.

AboCom Systems Inc [WN2001 Prolink Wireless-N Nano Adapter]

I needed another WiFi adapter for a computer at work. I had several old USB WiFi adapters laying around, and I thought I should try to make use of them, rather than buying something else. This lead me to try out an “AboCom Systems Inc [WN2001 Prolink Wireless-N Nano Adapter]” that I had on my desk.

When I plugged it in, the Ubuntu 18.04 computer recognized what it was and tried to load it, but gave some nasty dmesg errors in the process. It also couldn’t see any networks in the office. Here’s the output of lsusb:

alaskalinuxuser@alaskalinuxuser-OptiPlex-7010:~$ lsusb
------------------
Bus 001 Device 006: ID 07b8:8188 AboCom Systems Inc AboCom Systems Inc [WN2001 Prolink Wireless-N Nano Adapter]
..................

And here are the dmesg errors:

[1730947.161636] rtl8192cu: Failed to polling REG_APS_FSMCO[APFM_ONMAC] done! 
[1730947.161640] rtl8192cu: Failed to init power on! [1730947.161642] rtl8192cu: init mac failed!

After digging around for a while, someone suggested this online:

alaskalinuxuser@alaskalinuxuser-OptiPlex-7010:~$ echo options rtl8xxxu ht40_2g=1 dma_aggregation=1 | sudo tee /etc/modprobe.d/rtl8xxxu.conf

However, that didn’t help either. Finally, after searching around, I ended up finding that they got this information at pvaret’s Github, which also said to do this:

Make sure to blacklist the older rtl8192cu driver, which some distros seem to load by default otherwise.

So, I edited /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf with nano and added these lines:

# Bad wifi driver
blacklist rtl8192cu

All that remained was to run:

root@alaskalinuxuser-OptiPlex-7010:/home/alaskalinuxuser# update-initramfs -u

And a quick reboot gave me a working USB WiFi! It was great of folks like pvaret to share their knowledge online so I could get this thing working!

Linux – keep it simple.

Building a Balun

After watching TRX Bench on Youtube, I learned how to make a balun. I am still a bit fuzzy on all the technical terms, but it is to convert an unbalanced load to a balanced one, hence BAL-anced to UN-balenced.

It is really neat to see all the different types, and to figure out what you would use them all for. To be honest, I haven’t got it all figured out yet. For now, I’m building baluns for specific antenna projects, where some other HAM has already charted the waters. In theory, then the antenna setup should work, it is only a matter of testing my home made balun.

For this project, I’m making a 1:1 balun, and two 4:1 baluns. The 1:1 is wound on a FT130 and the 4:1’s are wound over a FT140 toroid. Thus the slightly different sizes. I followed the Youtube video pretty closely, although I did use different wire, so I hope that they work well.

I also learned that I can double them, such as these two 4:1 baluns can be put together in series to make a 16:1 balun, or backwards to make a 1:1 balun. Either way, it’s fun to experiment and learn!

Linux – keep it simple.

TS-820 With a Digital Display Problem

It’s been nice playing around with my brother’s TS-520, but I’d like to pick up a radio of my own. I was able to get a TS-820 from a local HAM who was able to help me out with not only a good deal, but extra microphones, an external VFO, and speakers as well!

The 820 did have a bit of an issue with the digital display. When I first started using it, it didn’t read anything, just a few dots. After a while of use, it would start reading, but only 19.000.0 and it was a bit hard to read. Well, after taking a stroll online, I found several people had issues with them over the years, and a few guidelines of things to check.

Fortunately for me, the easy fix was the best. I simply took the TS-820 case off, and removed all the connectors and cleaned them, putting them back into place. Praise God, this worked wonders on the display, and now it tracks with me when I turn the VFO!

I was able to hear a few locals on the 820, but I think I need a better antenna setup for listening on the lower frequencies. I also couldn’t be heard by anyone, so I’ll have to check into that!

Linux – keep it simple.

Server+ beta results are out!

Well, the results for the beta test of the new Server+ (SK1-005) are finally out! And, to God be the glory, I passed! Barely, but I passed!

It took a long time to get the results from this beta test, and after emailing the CompTIA help desk, I learned this was due to Covid-19 delaying the process. Fortunately, they were able to get it done. As well as passing the Server+ exam, this gave me the stackable certification of CompTIA Network Infrastructure Professional and another badge.

The test was very interesting, and of course, due to non-disclosure, I can’t regurgitate the test for you, but in general, it seemed to be rather balanced between Windows and Linux, which was nice. In the past, the tests seemed to be a lot heavier on the Windows side, and it was nice seeing Linux take a more prominent role in the test.

Of all the tests I took, this one seemed to be the most “cumulative”. What I mean is that this test seemed to be a better compilation of previous certificate material (A+, Net+, Sec+, Linux+) than most other tests. Perhaps that is the nature of a tests about servers, since they really are just supped up computers and everything relies on networking and security, as well as a good mix of Linux, as a lot of servers us that OS.

Either way, really relieved to get the reports and find that I did pass the test. It was a bit harder to study for, since, as a beta test, there was no study guide or tutorial to follow. I did study the previous Server+ material to help prep for the test.

Linux – keep it simple.

A Discrete 10 Meter Dipole

I’m a bit new to the HAM radio scene. I’ve been playing around with it for a while, since I got my license back in 2018. For the most part I’ve been on the 2 meter band, and I decided it was time to step it up a notch and try some lower frequencies.

One item that helped push me in this direction was the availability of a TS-520 Kenwood radio that my brother has asked to store at my house. It needed a little bit of work, so I’ve been playing with it a bit, cleaning it up, and decided to try putting it on the air.

Of course, that would mean I need an antenna. So, I decided to purchase a 1:1 balun and set up my own dipole. I could put it out in the yard, we live on an acre and a half, and I’m not ashamed to be a HAM radio enthusiast, but I felt it would look nicer if it was a little more discrete. So, I put it in the attic.

The radio itself sits in the laundry room, with a wire that runs up the wall, outside through the old dryer vent (it used to be in a different spot), up the side of the house, and into the roof trusses to the attic area. Our house has a cold roof, so it is not heated and open air.

I made sure to follow the math rules for building it at a length (feet) = 468 / frequency (MHz), giving me a dipole at around 16.5 feet total. The kids helped me hold the wire while I cut it to length, and then I climbed up in the attic to string it up. My brother brought over his antenna analyzer which gave me a little less than 2:1 SWR on 28.4 MHz, which wasn’t perfect, but good enough to get started!

We did a receiving test while he was in the yard with his mobile unit, and I was able to pick him up. I still need a microphone, so I was not able to transmit a reply yet. But, more to follow!

Linux – keep it simple.

Convert AVI to MP4 for Piwigo

As it turns out, Piwigo and AVI files don’t play nicely together. So, I shamelessly ripped off this thread, and wrote a script to automatically convert my camcorder’s AVI files into MP4 videos and put them into my gallery:

#!/bin/bash

echo "Converting videos..."
cd /home/alaskalinuxuser/Videos/
for i in *.avi; do ffmpeg -i "$i" -c:a aac -strict -2 -b:a 128k -c:v libx264 -crf 20 "${i%.avi}.mp4"; done
for i in *.AVI; do ffmpeg -i "$i" -c:a aac -strict -2 -b:a 128k -c:v libx264 -crf 20 "${i%.avi}.mp4"; done

echo "Moving videos..."
mv /home/alaskalinuxuser/Videos/*.mp4 /var/www/html/galleries/camcorder/
cd /home/alaskalinuxuser/Videos/
rm -rf *

chown -R apache:apache /var/www/html/galleries/
echo "Changed owndership"

.....EDITED OTHER FUNCTIONS THAT ARE SPECIFIC TO MY PIWIGO SERVER IMPLEMENTATION.....

exit

Note the double quotes, I learned that this is important because single quotes will not properly handle some characters and spaces in file names. As it turns out, the camcorder we have does not allow you to change the naming convention, nor to use anything other than AVI as the video format.

Linux – keep it simple.