Ham Radio COW (Comms on Wheels)

Sometimes I get a little wrapped up in a particular ham radio project I am working on. Like how many antennas does a VHF contest rover really need? Is 6 enough? Is 12 too many? I think “gee, maybe this is getting a little out of hand.”

Then I come across someone else, usually on the internet, that is really taking the hobby seriously and I feel better. I think “hey, I am not that wacked out….look at this other guy…he is way more intense than me.”

The cellular telephone industry has the concept of COW: Cell on Wheels. This is a portable cell site that can be dropped into a special event (think Super Bowl or World Series) or into a disaster area (think hurricane Katrina).

Enter Roland N1JOY, who decides to build himself a HAMCOW (Ham radio Communications on Wheels). What a project….a ham radio trailer with 5 operating positions, shower, toilet and bed! OK, I feel more normal now. Thanks, Roland.

Seriously, cool project….good luck with it!

73, Bob K0NR

Visit to Akihabara

Every once in a while, I pass through Tokyo, Japan on business travel. When the schedule permits, I make a trip over to Akihabara (AKA “Electric Town”), the center of electronic and computer gadgets in Tokyo. This place is amazing, offering everything from resistors to wide-screen televisions (and, yes, ham radio equipment). The only thing I can compare it to in the US is Fry’s Electronics….but it it more like a multi-vendor Fry’s that spans many blocks. They have small shops that are very specialized…..such as focusing only on transformers or coaxial cable. It is amazing what you can find there.

Last weekend, I was staying in Shinjuku and made a quick trip over to Akihabara. Assuming you know the basics of the JR train system, it is an easy ride from Shinjuku Station (or Tokyo Station) to Akihabara. (Akihabara has its own train stop.) For ham radio equipment, you have to aware that the Japanese version of the radio may be set up differently than the radio sold in your home country. For example, the 2M band in Japan goes from 144 to 146 MHz, so VHF radios sold there will usually be enabled for transmit in that range. Just as important, with the weak dollar there are not really any great bargains for ham gear in Tokyo. You can probably buy the right radio in the US for the same or less cost.

What I look for in Japan are radio accessories that are hard to find in the US. It seems that Japan is the land of gadgets, so there’s always some little antenna, adaptor or other gizmo that catches my eye. I guess I am saying that I go to Akihabara for the experience and the occasional gadget purchase. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday for an electrical engineer geek.

My big purchase for the weekend is a $5 screwdriver that has a continuity tester and a AC voltage sensor built into it…typical Akihabara gadget that I could not pass up. More information on Akihabara is shown here and here.

73, Bob K0NR

My Hard Drive Would Never Fail

I powered up my PC a few days ago and it gave me a very blank stare. Actually, it had one small message for me: operating system missing. Hmmm, that did not sound too good.

I investigated further…booted the computer from a CD. Did “chkdsk” which told me my hard drive was Missing in Action.Lucky for me, I had just backed up the My Documents folder a few days earlier, so in theory I had all of the important stuff saved away. After messing around with the computer for a while, I came to the conclusion that I would have to format the hard drive and reload everything. Even then, I wasn’t sure the format was going to work….maybe the hard drive was totally dead.

It turned out the format worked and I spent the next couple of days reloading Windows XP (thank goodness I found the recovery CD that shipped with the computer). Then I reloaded the My Documents folder without any trouble. The thing I miss the most right now is my email address book, which disappeared. I have an older copy backed up somewhere so I’ll try to reload that one. In the future, I’ll add the address book to the backup strategy.

I count myself lucky that I had all the docs backed up but it is still a major pain to reload Windows XP and all of the applications. It will be weeks before I get it all done.

73, Bob K0NR