Note: Initial post of this article was around 5 PM on April 20, 2022. I corrected the post around 6:20 to reflect the proper call sign.
In case you didn’t know, Telstar was the first satellite to do communications between 2 continents. It launched in June 1962 and lasted less than 9 months.
YouTube was nice enough to suggest this Periscope Film called “Behind the Scenes with Telstar.”
This left me with a few questions:
At 27:08 in the video the tech says “sending station identification” and you hear in Morse what appears to be DE KF2XBR.
Correction from initial post: I found a second video where you can hear the Morse Code and it’s clearer now. The call sign is KF2XCK as found in the linked video from AT&T Tech Channel.
I don’t know that satellites to this day that satellites have had their own callsigns, so I’m assuming this is the ground station call sign. That ground station was in Andover, Maine. (An additional Bell Labs Telstar video confirms at least the DE KF portion of the call.)
This raised a couple of questions for me. If it was a communications service, why didn’t it have a XXX#### type call that seems to have been given out at the time?
Why was if KF2*** when Maine is in the 1 call sign area? My guess is that KF2XBR would have been assigned to Bell Labs, and that would have been coordinated out of their New Jersey HQ. I looked at the 1961 and 1963 Call Books, but there are no K*2X* stations listed.
I’ll be doing more research but if I am to believe Wikipedia, all experimental call signs, not just amateur, were in this **#X** format.
I did find a later use of KF2XBR as part of a BellSouth permit granted by the FCC in 1990. These look like cellular telephone frequencies.
From reading through these FCC proceedings, it might say that these experimental calls were given out sequentially instead of by call region, because many of the calls listed were KF2X** calls.
Back in January found an 80’s vintage airline gate sign in an antique store and decided to upcycle it into something that would fit in my tech center redesign.
I introduce the SpaceX Gate sign.
The sign was supposedly a Piedmont Airlines sign from Newark. It had no power or instructions but I knew I could get past that. Two power bricks later and the LED’s were working great. I reached out to the manufacturer but no luck on getting a manual. I powered along.
I reached out to AlphaGraphics in Dunwoody where one of my former co-workers had set up shop. They were great in going back and forth with me to get the sign elements just the way I wanted.
There are 4 possible “vehicle” inserts. Crew Dragon, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Starship. There are 4 possible “gate” inserts, 39A at KSC, Pad 40 at CCSFS, Pad 4 at Vandenberg and Starbase, Texas. Here’s an example:
I plan on updating this with the latest manned mission info, which is currently NASA Crew 4 as shown. The LED’s are updated with a slide out keyboard on the right.
You can see this in action and the entire build in a video on my N4BFR Vision You Tube page:
What do you think? Leave feedback on YouTube or tweet me @N4BFR.
I purchased a Xiegu X108G HF Transceiver at the Dalton Hamfest from an estate seller. The radio appeared to be lightly used and in it’s original foam shipping container. I connected it to my LiPo battery and my dipole HF antenna to check reception. This video shows WWV on 10, 15 and 20 Mhz. All three frequencies were coming in to my location nicely on this Sunday morning.
My goal is to build this into a small kit with a battery and end fed antenna that I can keep in my car for when the POTA bug strikes me on road trips.
Sounded fairly good when warmed up. On first power up, I was picking up RFI bleeding in at 15 Mhz from a local broadcaster, whose transmitter is 6 miles away as the crown flies on 680 Mhz. That seemed to fade out as I switched around between the bands. I also toggled the preamp on and off, so I can’t isolate what the culprit is.
The best control of the radio seems to be from the Icom like microphone. I could switch bands, directly enter frequencies and try different modes like AM vs USB. I wasn’t impressed that USB was set to a 2.3 Mhz bandwidth by default, I prefer 2.7 so this was a little narrow.
The power on screen listed firmware from 2017 so I will be looking for options to upgrade that. It did not remember the frequency I was on when I turned it off and on, instead defaulting to 14.270 Mhz and LSB.
Saturday – February 12 I was enjoying a nice weekend on the beach when on Saturday Evening my cousin sent me this in Facebook Messenger:
That’s real me at the bottom and fake Insta-clone me at the top. She was nice enough to block and report the account that was asking for money. I figured, “hey, we reported this quickly, that should put this fire out quickly.” Ha! Just in case, I added a post of my own:
Monday, February 14 Home now and assuming that the now multiple reports of my clone have encouraged the Meta company to take action. Ha! The clone has not contacted me directly so I can’t find them to check on it. They did seem to pick my wife to hit up:
Now I have a name. Back into Facebook and Instagram to make some reports. I even reach out to the clone myself:
No response. The account remains. I add some background info to my followers.
Tuesday, February 15
It’s been almost 72 hours since the first appearance of the clone and the first report to Meta. The account remains on Instagram. I reported them again. I “escalate” to Twitter:
Wednesday, February 16
Escalation does not seem to have driven any action. I can confirm the suspect account has been reported a minimum of 5 times since Saturday. Another appeal on Twitter in addition to my daily reports,’
Thursday, February 17
It’s been 5 days since the fake Instagram clone account has appeared and I have not heard a single response from Meta, Facebook or Instagram. Today I try a new vector to disrupt this user. Since they are using a photograph I took on their profile, I have reported their profile for copyright infringement.
As of 12:05 this afternoon the copyright report is submitted:
and just to prove that I am reporting these daily via their tool:
Thursday, February 17 – 3:20 PM
Apparently Instagram cares WAY MORE about copyright infringement than stolen identities, because the picture I reported was removed in less than 3 hours. This is after FIVE DAYS of reporting the account. I hope this gives someone another tool in their tool kit to fight social media scum.
For a long time I have used two mics for my amateur radio setup, a Heil PR-40 for my HF rig and A Heil PR781 for my ID-5100. I received good audio feedback all around and every time I tried to get down to 1 I’d get noise in one or the other rig and I’d just go back to what worked.
Recently I’ve been doing some writing work and that’s required me to have conference calls a couple of times a week. The mic on the camera is decent, but I have these beautiful professional mics right next to me, and it was killing me not to use them.
I ended up purchasing a new tool to help me integrate. The Focusrite Scarlet 2i2.
Now, instead of the PR-40 going straight into the balanced input of the Flex 6500, it runs into the 2i2. The 2i2 has 2 line level outputs on the back. I run that to the Flex 6500 and it doesn’t know the difference. With the Focusrite’s USB connection to the PC, it sees it as a sound card that I can run into Zoom or Google Meet. No sweat.
This still leaves the problem of feeding the ID-5100. I’ve done this for now.
[Image Removed – It was a hot mess.]
I received feedback from the folks on the Atlanta Radio Club Sunday Night Net that the XLR Split leaves my FM audio with a high pitched whine in it. So, as the graphic says, I’m going to build an adapter to come out of the other Scarlett 2i2 line out port and step the audio down to Mic level for the 5100.
Parts are on order. I’ll update later this week on how things go.
17-Feb-21: It’s Later. Here’s what happened.
The device I made didn’t work as planned. I also purchased a commercial device and tried it on the line to the ICOM 5100. It didn’t like that either. So I purchased a mic filter that seems to mitigate some of my audio issues and here’s what the chain looks like.
If you have any thoughts on this, hit me up on Twitter @N4BFR.
I’m into accurate time. Ever since I stumbled across the SatSignal.eu site I have been running a Raspberry Pi on my network as a Stratum 1 time server. For those not familiar with the stratum, the only level higher is Stratum 0 and that is reserved for the absolute standard of time sources like the National Institute of Technology clock and GPS Satellites.
I had been having some entropy on my current set of 6 GPS clocks from various issues, so I decided to rebuild my clock from the base install of the new Raspbian Bullseye distribution. Since I didn’t see a single definitive source, I put this listing together and I’m glad to share it with the community because it has been good to me with previous builds. My sources include SatSignal.eu, tomasgreno.cz, and adafruit.com. Much of what I did is just compiling and changing the order of some steps slightly to minimize reboots. Those others may work better for you, but this version worked for me.
Let’s talk hardware. I have done this project with a Raspberry Pi 1 through a Pi 4 as well as the Pi Zero and Zero W. I prefer the form factor of the full sized Pi to go along with the GPS hardware, but as long as you can make the GPIO connections from the GPS to the Pi all should work.
For a GPS module I use the Adafruit Ultimate GPS with the following pin connections. If you want to use something different, consult the breakout manufacturer and use pinout.xyz to set the proper connections. For my connections I typically use:
GPS Breakout Pin
Raspberry Pi Pin
VIN (Voltage in)
Pin 4 – 5V Power
Pin 6 – Ground
RX (Receive, to get data from the Pi TX)
Pin 8 – GPIO 14 – UART TX
TX (Transmit, to send data to the Pi RX)
Pin 10 – GPIO 16 – UART RX
PPS (Pulse Per Second)
Pin 12 – GPIO 18
It’s not a typo, make sure TX goes to RX on the other board and vice versa.
Now on to software. Start with a clean version of Raspbian Bullseye on an MicroSD. I downloaded mine from the official RaspberryPi .com website. I used the “Raspberry Pi OS with Desktop” version and used an 8 GB MicroSD card as the media. I’m skipping the items related to base configuration of the host name and other start-up items, there are other sources for that. All the commands you see will be via the command prompt.
The instructions from here forward assume you have a working Raspberry Pi, connected to the internet with the GPS attached.
Start by adding two additional lines to the /boot/config.txt file. This starts the process to disable Bluetooth on the Pi and sets the Pulse Per Second GPIO Pin if your GPS supports it.
Note in this document, the command following $ gets entered at the command prompt, other commands are entered inside the file, at the bottom on a new line is usually good. Once commands are entered, use Ctrl-X, Y and Enter to save and exit the file and return to the command prompt. And yes, I use NANO as my text editor. You should use what you want. I’m not a text editor drill sergeant.
$ sudo nano /boot/config.txt
#Changes for GPS Clock
dtoverlay=pps-gpio,gpiopin=18 (Customize to appropriate pin)
Disable Bluetooth in system control
$ sudo systemctl disable hciuart
Add a reference to /etc/modules to software for PPS management we will install shortly.
Again, CTRL-C to stop it. If you get a stream of data and it’s gibberish your GPS may be sending at a different rate. A good place to start if you see that is this SatSignal.eu page which looks at other GPS modules and other methods.
Now, let’s temporarily send that data to some GPS software for interpretation.
$ sudo gpsd /dev/ttyAMA0 -n -F /var/run/gpsd.sock
Then we’ll open the GPSMON software to look. (There’s also a tool called CGPS. Use either, this is a personal preference thing)
The screenshot above will tell you your exact position, the number of satellites your GPS sees, and the status of your PPS data all in one screen. Did I mention you CTRL-C to get out of a screen like this? Because you do.
Configure the GPS software to auto-start when you boot your machine. I have seen a couple of different processes, but this one works consistently for me.
$ sudo nano /etc/default/gpsd
Unlike the other file edits where you add a line, this is what the whole file should look like when you are done. You may just want to cut and paste this whole section, or type it in, whatever works for you, I won’t judge.
#Updated for GPS Pi Clock
# Devices gpsd should collect to at boot time.
# They need to be read/writeable, either by user gpsd or the group dialout.
# Other options you want to pass to gpsd
# Automatically hot add/remove USB GPS devices via gpsdctl
Almost done with the GPS section. Four more commands to go.
That third $ command (between “disable” and “reboot” goes on a single line, this blog text tool wraps it. It should look like this:
If you want to reconfirm everything is working again after reboot, run GPSMON like above and look at the pretty data fly by. Now let’s connect the GPS to the clock. I’m choosing to use NTP as my time server software for this project. You might want to play with Chrony as well.
$ sudo apt-get install ntp
Once that is done, you want to stop the timesyncd service that is installed by default with Bullseye and replace it with NTP.
Let’s test. “Out of the box” the NTP software checks with servers on the internet to get the time. It will look something like this:
$ ntpq -p -c rl
Great news! Clock is syncing, but if you look at the bottom you’ll see after “leap=00” it says “stratum=2” which is nice, but we want to use the GPS to make it a Stratum 1 clock.
It’s time to cross the streams and point the NTP software to look at the GPS and PPS signals for time. That means editing the NTP configuration file.
$ sudo nano /etc/ntp.conf
There are a lot of other settings in the file, so I won’t give the whole file this time but here’s what I recommend. Scroll down until you get to this section:
Use the # sign as the beginning of a line to comment out several of those “debian.pool” lines. You do want to keep an internet server on the list as a backup and for diversity, but you won’t need all of them. Save that for the folks that don’t have satellite time at home. Just below the “pool” entries, add each of the 6 lines on a new line:
# Kernel-mode PPS reference-clock for the precise seconds
server 127.127.22.0 minpoll 4 maxpoll 4
fudge 127.127.22.0 refid PPS
# Coarse time reference-clock - nearest second
server 127.127.28.0 minpoll 4 maxpoll 4 iburst prefer
fudge 127.127.28.0 time1 +0.105 flag1 1 refid GPS
If you want to use different servers on the internet, there are plenty to supplement. The manual page about ntp.conf can tell you more about other things you can do with this file.
When your changes are made it should look like this.
Do that cool CTRL-X thing and get out of there before you break anything (kidding).
Time to get the NTP client to read the new configuration file.
$ sudo service ntp restart
It sometimes helps to reboot too. Your call. Now let’s check and see what time source we are using:
$ ntpq -p -c rl
Success! Why? Three things you want to see on this screen: 1 – The SHM / .GPS. line has a * next to it, indicating it’s the primary time source. In the “st” column you can see a 0 which indicates it’s connected to a “Stratum 0” source. 2 – The PPS / .PPS. line has an o next to it, indicating it is a “PPS peer” and it’s getting very specific pulse data from the GPS signal. It’s also a “Stratum 0” source. 3 – The “stratum” field for your NTP server now is “stratum=1” which is pretty much the best you can get as a home user.
It may take a little bit for the PPS to settle in as the primary time source, so don’t worry if it doesn’t do it in the first 5 minutes.
So, that’s the project. Why do you need this? Well, I do it for fun, but there are several applications that require very accurate time. For instance in Ham Radio the cycles for a program like FT8 depend on an accurate clock to switch between receive and send modes. Is this the thing I’m going to replace a Rubidium time standard with? No, but for about $100 bucks it’s a nice thing to have an a good early project for someone learning about Raspberry Pi. You can set Windows, Mac or Linux clients to point to your home server for time instead of time.windows.com or other sources.
One final note, this is accurate for me as of the time in that last screen shot. Something is bound to change eventually, so expect these instructions to drift over time as things change. Figuring that out is one of the fun things for me.
If you do this project and want to share success, you can tweet me @N4BFR or find me in other place on the internet.
I started upgrading one of my Raspberry Pi from Buster to Bullseye by using the APT tool and following along with the TomsHardware Guide. After completing Step 6 by changing the repository name, I ran
$ sudo apt dist-upgrade
It ran a couple of items then this advisory appeared.
Some packages could not be installed. This may mean that you have
requested an impossible situation or if you are using the unstable
distribution that some required packages have not yet been created
or been moved out of Incoming.
The following information may help to resolve the situation:
The following packages have unmet dependencies:
libc6-dev : Breaks: libgcc-8-dev (< 8.4.0-2~) but 8.3.0-6+rpi1 is to be installed
I had not run into that before, but thankfully, way down below the article and about 42 different ads I found the comment section. In that, a user name TJ Hooker had my answer:
I worked around that by executing sudo apt install gcc-8-base, then running dist-upgrade again.
So I gave it a try and sure enough, the upgrade was underway. Here are the two commands:
Pick back up at step 9 and 10 after that, which are:
$ sudo apt autoclean
$ sudo reboot
Then you are done. Hope this blog post makes it a bit easier to find if someone else encounters this.
P.S. – All in all I’m not sure if it wouldn’t have been faster to burn a new Bullseye card and port my content, but that’s no fun, is it? For additional reference here is the full set of commands because I am sure I will be doing this again on other machines, now I can find it.
I joined in to a live stream last weekend with Mad’s Maddest Writer, Dick DeBartolo, the GizWiz. We had some great chat fun and I shared my Halloween Video.
The group had a virtual scavenger hunt and I WON! Here’s the point in the video where I grabbed the winning item. Thanks to Mr. DeBartolo for sending me a signed copy of MAD Magazine and a signed Alfred E. Newman picture!
You can find his site and try and win a MAD yourself at GizWiz.Biz.
I woke up Sunday morning in Deming NM, after popping into town just after dark watching an old episode of Star Trek and crashing. he hotel didn’t have a charger but the city did, just up the road at a truck stop with a nice diner. Plug in, eat some eggs and bacon (mmmm bacon!) and get back on the road.
On my quest for roadside attractions I stopped to see “The Thing.” If you are familiar with the series of billboards on I-95 directing you to “South of the Border:” on the SC/NC line, you will be familiar with advertising for “The Thing.” For $5 (plus tax) this roadside gas/DQ stop asks the question “what if Aliens and Dinosaurs existed at the same time” and then plays out the question in animated detail. It all builds up to seeing “The Thing” which I’m not going to share, so break out a Lincoln and spend the 10 minutes to see it yourself next time you are on I-10 in Arizona.
On to Tucson and the Pima Air Museum. I loved this museum. In fact I’ll go as far as to say it’s one of the top three aviation museums I have visited. Three hours of walking more than three miles inside and outside this amazing air and space showcase and I was left thoroughly stunned. I expected to see a few wind blown old jets, what I found was a broad aviation and space museum.
A couple of particularly interesting highlights from some pictures I grabbed: I had seen several Wright Flyer replicas before, but I don’t remember any deep looks at the engines, so that was an interesting thing to see as I walked in. Also I don’t remember seeing 3 different flight demonstration planes, one from the USAF Thunderbirds, one from the USN Blue Angels and a Canadian RAF Snowbird all in once place. And who expects to go to an aviation museum and see a quote from the movie “Airplane” or a building named “Area 51.” Lots of fun.
If you want more military planes than Pima has, then you need to go to the Museum of the USAF in Dayton, OH. If you want to see the “first / best” of everything go to the Smithsonian. If you need one aerospace museum that has a little bit of everything, I’d be hard pressed not to pick Pima.
As part of the Pima Air Museum they had a building dedicated to B-17 crews in Europe during WW2 which made me want to find out more about family service. I later found out one of my Grandfathers was with the 924th Engineer Aviation Regiment, so that was interesting to dig into.
I also drove by the “boneyard” section of Davis-Monthan AFB. You can’t go on the base but seeing the rows and rows of military planes being stored in the desert is intriguing. About 30 miles up the road is Pinal Air Park where airlines send their planes which I drove by the next day.