RaDAR – A practical approach

I was going through a little nostalgia tonight. The family went into town and will only be back tomorrow so I could choose the content I wanted to watch on TV and that is usually something on You Tube.

I’m an “all rounder” a “Jack of all trades” but certainly not a master at anything. I base a lot of my decisions in life on gut feel and common sense. I have a wide range of interests but ham radio has always been the center of everything. In my nostalgic mood tonight I was browsing for something to remind me of early army days. I was a signaler, a radio operator but never took part in the war. After many years of national service, citizen force and commandos I found myself at the Heidelburg Army Gymnasium, a basics training camp for signalers. I passed my training as a signals troop sergeant.

That discipline in the use of radios and communication via radio is what I regard highly among RaDAR operators. A different breed to your usual radio ham. One that can move quickly, deploy quickly and provide an efficient means of communications for whatever reason. An all rounder, able to handle any situation that may be encountered.

I wasn’t the best at mathematics, well until I learned Trigonometry because I could see it’s uses within amateur radio. My last thirty working years were spent in an IT environment of which thirteen were as technology manager and after that a contract programmer doing front and back end programming. The younger guys were better at it having grown up with the technology. Of course there is always someone more knowledgeable on any subject. I learnt a lot from those younger chaps!

During interviews with prospective candidates throughout the years I always regarded engineering drawing highly. Those doing well in it can usually see things from a different angle. I see a lot of value in that.

Now that I’m retired and being an “all rounder” I can usually take on any problem with a reasonable outcome. I can help myself but am I worth anything to anyone else, a company? Probably not and no one is interested in anyone over sixty so I’m basically on my own and need to survive and provide during the last years on earth, How many is not in our hands!

The world is facing COVID-19 and is affecting everyone of us. We can’t make dangerous choices or take too many chances and opportunities are less than they have ever been. What happens when the kitty dries up? The kitty has already felt the famine from the last three months of lock down! So, we’ve got to play our cards carefully.

My XYL already believes I have a new hobby and I think she feels safe in thinking so. That hobby was initially my RaDAR playground which was my dream ten years ago. That has become reality. Although the family enjoy walking there I’m left to do all the landscaping and maintenance by myself. I regard it as exercise and it certainly is a great RaDAR playground. Whatever I do there, the RaDAR playground idea is always at the back of my mind.

My RaDAR playground, alias the “E-Trail” (All our family’s first names start with an E), can be seen via this URL, a simple static website, http://www.radarops.co.za/FriendsOfTheETrail/index.html That is what keeps me busy and active most days. I’m still very young at heart.

I need to rethink how I do my movements and deployments now as I’m exclusively only active on the FM satellites and cubesats. I’ve always believed in the sats for reliable communications. Much more predictable than shortwave.

July 11th sees the winter RaDAR Challenge. Have fun and challenge yourself, compare results if you may.

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

Ham radio – My final rant

MFJ 9440

Well after two weeks the seller returned my mail but requested I send a WhatsApp message to him to get the rig photos, no number given. Then I cancelled the whole thing – been going on for too long.

He PROMPTLY replied via E-Mail with the pics and I thought maybe I was too harsh and gave him a second chance to continue with negotiations giving my PostNet address and requesting his bank details for payment …. well close on two days later he replied saying the rig was sold and collected by the second customer on the list! Well I’m glad for the other guy!

So, I’m finished dealing with radio hams in the second hand market / swops.

I have met so many good people over the years and many are my very good friends, good, caring, passionate radio amateurs – These guys and gals are my true friends even if we’ve never met. Through interaction, participation and sharing of their private worlds I know they are good people.

Luckily, we can choose our friends.

So, that’s the last, the old ZS6BNE is back having learnt a lot about human nature over the past year or two. Tomorrow marks twelve weeks of COVID-19 quaratine and I truly am concerned for my friends worldwide and their well being.

Many of my good friends have been made through RaDAR. I really miss the old Google plus RaDAR group where there was a lot of really good interaction, sharing of ideas, knowledge and experience.

I’m quite active on Facebook, it works for me and many of my local and international ham radio friends are there. It’s a good place to be and has certainly helped relieve the loneliness during the lock down period of which we see no end …….

Hamming after forty five years

My link dipole in the bush – No noise but no power either

I’m all for supporting the CW, SOTA and RaDAR initiatives but I no longer have a HF radio – for a while now. My 817 does however receive well but the finals have blown for the second time and that’s all I have. I miss the reliable radios I once had but that’s a story I’d rather forget.

I had a good deal for a 40m MFJ QRP radio but during lockdown PostNet courier services were closed. I made contact again with a ZS1 ham now that it’s possible to courier but the guy just forgot about replying to my mail! He’d probably forget to send the radio after payment too. I’m fed up with this kind of nonsense!

I made the decision last night that HF is a thing of the past for me. Well I tried to get back but hams are either holding on to their equipment or selling them for ridiculous prices! Buying new is now out of my league and it’s getting even worse especially now that the world is in turmoil since COVID-19.

But, I still have my TH-D7A and it’s a great radio for the FM sats. The 817 I can use for shortwave listening or tracking weather satellites or even listening to the linear sats. So I’m still an active ham in that regard.

I got tired of spending too much valuable time trying to break through and making a CW contact at 200 milliwatts. I used the driver section fed directly into the filter section of the 817. It works. I did have a few QSO to prove it’s possible!

So that’s it, no more HF communications for ZS6BNE but space communications, yes! I’m happy with my decision. I’ll base my RaDAR escapades on the sats like I did during the April challenge and if the SOTA guys use the FM sats I’ll support them too!

“My Project” – Obstacles along the way

The whole idea using an infrared movement detector to trigger a smartphone camera is a good one.

As mentioned in my previous Blog, I intended using my old cracked screen Nokia 3 smartphone as the camera. I had fitted it nicely into the box with an opening for the lens. When it came to testing, the phone simply did not react to the 450 ohm resistor across the mic connector like my Samsung did, no matter what App I used and I tried a few. This was quite disappointing!

I refined the timing in the Arduino NANO program and added switching for the infrared “flash”. It worked reasonably well and then I discovered something about cell phone cameras. They don’t see infrared light and so need a “white flash” for night time photography. Those bright flashes will certainly frighten the animals I so want to photograph!

I used my CCTV monitoring cameras to prove the infrared flash was working. You see the flash very clearly on replay. The eye however only sees a dim glow on the LED’s. This is definitely the right flash for the task!

I have a Rasberry Pi and also a Pi camera which I’ve used in the past. I got that going again using MotionEyeOS, a perfect solution for movement detection, snapshots and video’s although the camera is no where near the quality of a smartphone camera. BUT, as soon as I removed the Pi from the network MotionEyeOS became non operational. Now that’s useless if I want to take it to the field!

Then I tried using Python to talk to the camera and I was in control of the software which I like. BUT, the Pi is so slow, the animals would pass by long before any capturing could be done. This added to my frustrations …..

Sure, buying a dedicated trail camera is cheap enough and brings a lot of fun and excitement but I still want to get this dinosaur walking (In comparison to a dedicated, compact trail camera!)

An important point worth mentioning is that the Pi draws way more current than an Arduino. The 12v to 5v converter I use just cannot deliver the current required by the Pi which is important powering the system from a 12v 7 A/Hr SLAB in the field. The converter however appears to deliver enough current to keep a smartphone charged ….

This is the latest Arduino program. The next version will make use of interrupts, a more intelligent way of reaction to the infrared motion detector signal. Watch this space …..