Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Busy Monday

Yesterday I took off so that I could take my Expedition into the shop. When I had it in for an oil change last month I asked my mechanic to take a look and see why it sounds like there’s a hole in a part of the exhaust system. Well, there was a hole in the left exhaust manifold. Due to the fact that unscrewing a 9 year old manifold may result in broken bolts, which in turn would require removing the engine to get the manifold off, he wouldn’t do it. So, it’s at a local Ford dealer. While there I’m also having them add refridgerant to the AC system, lubricate the drive shaft, and do some front end work.

It’s going to be a big damn bill {sigh}. Unfortunately I can’t afford a new vehicle so I have to sink money into this one. Our next new vehicle will probably be for Judith because her ’99 Nissan Sentra is small. At least the dealer paying for a rental car for the day or two I’m without my truck.

While I was home I worked on my next article for Techbuilder.org. I’m using my old Dell Latitude CPiA as a test bed, so I loaded FreeBSD 6.1 onto it. The install went very smoothly. I did have to go back and install a new X server – the framebuffer server – to get the GUI working.

Since the box is cramped on disk space (5.5 GB) and has a slow processor (P-II/366MHz) without much RAM (128 MB) I’m using FVWM as my window manager. It’s got a few more features than the default TWM but doesn’t kill system performance like KDE or Gnome. The heaviest desktop I’d use on this hardware would be XFCE.

Once the article is available I’ll post a link.

Finally, I received two new antennas that I ordered last week from Gigaparts. The first is a Comet SMA-24 2M/70cm for my Yaesu VX-5RS HT. The MFJ 1720S 2M/70cm/6M that I’d been using worked OK but made the radio really top heavy. I couldn’t just site it down without propping it up on something. I was also worried that it was putting undue strain on the SMA connector.

In contrast to the MFJ, the Comet SMA-24 is a very thin and light whip that allows the radio to sit on a flat surface without tipping over. It doesn’t work for 6M but for an HT that’s not a problem.

The Comet is very whippy. Above the base, the antenna wire seems to be coated with a rubber layer with a small nub on the tip. Once it starts moving it takes awhile to stop. To give it a little more rigidity I put a piece of heat shrink tubing on it down near the base, and to prevent poking out anyone’s eye I added a small flag of orange duct tape to the tip.

I also got a Diamond MR77 mobile antenna for my truck and field ops. The MFJ 1729 I bought last year vibrated into unusability in short order. The MR77 is a mag mount antenna for 2M and 70cm, with a PL-259 (UHF) connector on the end of the coax cable. I have a UHF-to-SMA adapter cable for use with my VX-5; the FT-7800R has an SO-239 on the back. Before I put this on my truck I’ll probably seal the antenna/base junction with liquid electrical tape to keep our moisture. I noticed that water did get into the MFJ mag mount and when I disassembled it I saw some rust.

So far I’ve used the SMA-24 for listening but not transmitting, while the MR77 is still in the packaging. I’ll post reports once I’ve had the chance to use them for a bit.

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