Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kudos to Ameren Illinois

This morning we lost power during a thunderstorm. The repair crew said they thought a lightning strike took out the breaker on the pole with the feed for our house. We lost power around 6:30am. They stopped at the house around 8:00am to say they were out of the part on their truck and had to go replenish their supplies. By 9:30am or so we had power again.

Pretty good service I think.



Friday, May 13, 2011

The Poor Ham's Radial Plate

A lot of discussion around building an HF vertical includes talk of a "radial plate" to attach your radial wires to the ground side of your feedline. There are several commercial offerings that look similar to this one from LDG (S9 Antennas):

These are all well and good but they strike me as being a little pricey for what they accomplish. With a little effort and a trip to the hardware store for a piece of aluminum flat stock you can get enough material to build several for about $10 or less. Fabricate yourself something along these lines:

When I originally sketched this I indicated 2" wide flat aluminum. In fact 1" wide stock or even 3/4" would probably work as well and will be less expensive.


Well, ideas abound on simple solutions to this. My buddy Scott NE1RD sent along a link to show the technique he used on the 40 Meter vertical at his new house. Not only is it economical but you don't have to drill any holes yourself!

Plumber's Strap



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Easy Ethernet Connections

There was a time when I could attach an RJ-45 plug to a piece of CAT5 cable very quickly and without a great deal of thought. That has changed over the years. Now that my eyes, as well as the rest of me, have made 55 trips around the sun I find that things are'nt quite so easy as when they were "less experienced." Getting the wires ready, cutting them to just the right length, fitting them into the connector, crimping, and then trying to see if all eight have a good connection can be a chore. Fear not aging geek, there's hope.

The folks at Bowmar Interconnect have a new RJ45EZ connector. The design is very simple and pure genius. Have look here:

The end of the RJ45EZ has holes in it. You strip the jacket back so you have plenty of wire to work with. Then you thread each wire through the proper hole. Once you verify they're correct you crimp the connector in place and finish up by trimming off the excess wire.

The Bomar connectors are carried by most of the regular suppliers such as Digi-Key, Allied, Mouser, etc. I did a search around the time I wrote this post and found the least expensive price at CMH Electronics in Canton, OH. Single pieces were around $1. The part number you want is Bomar 300668EZ.

In addition to their intended use the RJ-45 is also common on the microphone cords of many amateur radio products. Having a few of these on hand for repair work could save you from having to buy an expensive cable from the manufacturer.

Now, if I could just quit forgetting where I put down my glasses...



Friday, May 06, 2011

SparkFun Electronics

A lot of us like to tinker and build and several people have mentioned getting cool stuff from SparkFun Electronics. I'm always interested in knowing how neat companies like this got started and how they operate. Recently, the 37 Signals blog Bootstrapped, Profitable and Proud did a piece on SparkFun. It sounds like an interesting place to work. Heck, you can even bring your dog with you!

Nathan Seidle (left, in a photo from

Keep on tinkering!