All posts by Matt

Counterpoise wire experimentation on HT radios with push-connect spade connectors

Several weeks back I wrote an introduction to my first amateur radio transceiver, a handheld Baofeng BF-F8HP.  While researching these radios I kept reading blog posts and reviews indicating that performance is marginal on most stock “rubber duck” aerial antennas.

I already have the tools, wire, and push-connect spade terminals to experiment with a counterpoise wire
I already have the tools, wire, and push-connect spade terminals to experiment with a counterpoise wire

I decided my first amateur radio experiment should be to try my hand at adding a counterpoise wire to the radio chassis to see if I can quantify any performance gains over the stock antenna.  Rationale for this decision was simplicity—I already had all the tools and supplies needed down in my basement from other projects.

Continue reading Counterpoise wire experimentation on HT radios with push-connect spade connectors

No reason to feel intimidated taking your first amateur radio license exam

It was five minutes to noon and cold rain fell hard against a troop of girl scouts as they ran with poster-board projects from the door of the Hopewell Branch public library to their parents’ idling cars.

I’ll wait five more minutes, I thought as I sat dry in my own car watching through the rear-view mirror.  The exam doesn’t begin until twelve-fifteenMaybe I’ll catch a break in the rain.

My amateur radio examination form received upon successfully passing written Element 2
My amateur radio examination form received upon successfully passing written Element 2

I spent two months preparing for my Technician exam and set my eyes to attend the closest license session, a twenty-minute drive from my home that was sponsored by the Delaware Valley Radio Association (DVRA).  By the time exam day arrived I had taken several online practice tests and passed most with a comfortable margin, missing only two or three questions on each attempt.  I’ve got this, I thought.

Continue reading No reason to feel intimidated taking your first amateur radio license exam

Hurts like hell to publish my inner-most thoughts and feelings

Any sensible writer or blogger knows the act of writing inner-most thoughts and feelings is analogous to swallowing a tortilla chip with a sore throat—painful!  But it’s the act of publishing our writing that really wratchets up the risk we take as writers.

risk by avifain is licensed under Creative Commons | Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
risk by avifain is licensed under Creative Commons | Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

To write well requires an immense leap of faith.  My current publishing struggle can be summarized in the form of the question, How or when is someone going to use my words against me in the future?

Continue reading Hurts like hell to publish my inner-most thoughts and feelings

How to remove news article suggestions from the Google Chrome browser on phones and tablets

In October 2017 I wrote about escaping the news and my difficulties with social media apps.  To continue with this theme, I discovered a method to remove news article suggestions from the Google Chrome browser on my Android Nexus 5x phone and Nexus 7 tablet.

Disable server-side suggestions to remove news article suggestions from the Google Chrome browser on phones and tablets

The left-pane of the three-panel image shows the Google Chrome browser displaying news article suggestions by default.  To disable this:

  • Enter chrome://flags in the browser search bar

The middle-pane of the image shows various browser settings in this well-hidden menu.

  • Scroll down to the setting labeled Show server-side suggestions on the New Tab page and select Disable in the dropdown box.  Press the Relaunch Now button that appears at the bottom to save the settings

The right-pane of the image displays new, blank Google Chrome tabs without any news article suggestions.

 

 

 

Writing immersive interactive fiction using near field communication (NFC) tags

I found a drawer full of near field communication tags and remembered this article I wrote a few years back.

Today's Author

Talented fiction writers are skilled at drawing upon their readers’ five senses–sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.  But what if a writer had a way to truly immerse their readers into an environment where one could literally smell the zeppoles from the carnival stand or feel the forceful rush of wind from a moving passenger train past the platform?  The technology exists—sort of—in the form of near field communication (NFC) tags paired with mobile smartphone and tablet technology.

NFC tags are a form of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips that cost mere pennies and are often sold in the form of self-adhesive stickers.  Requiring no self-contained power, NFC tags are easily programmed from freely-available software.  And when an NFC tag is physically “tapped” by an NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet, the tag issues commands to the smartphone to take an action like setting an alarm, starting an application, or for the purpose…

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Three study resources for the Level 1 Technician Ham Radio License exam

Five days from now I will visit my local library and sit for the Level 1 Technician Ham Radio License exam.  I feel confident I will pass the exam largely from the help I received by three study resources below.

Three resources I use to study for the Level 1 Technician Ham Radio license
Three resources I use to study for the Level 1 Technician Ham Radio license

Depending on your age and prior knowledge of Ham radio operation, you may believe that knowledge of Morse code is required as part of the examination process.  This is no longer true as of 2003.  Knowledge of Morse code is no longer a requirement to achieve a Ham radio license!

The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual

I began my adventure studying for the Level 1 Technician Ham Radio license exam by reading through The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual only once.  I admit I felt intimidated when I reached chapter two, but I pushed ahead regardless of thoroughly understanding some of the context and lessons.  I purchased the Amazon Kindle electronic version for $19.95 as opposed to the $29.95 soft cover.  I experienced some formatting issues with the two-column practice questions and answers, but it isn’t a large enough roadblock to purchase the softcover book if you’re already comfortable with e-readers.

The Ham Whisperer on YouTube

After reading The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual I discovered The Ham Whisperer on YouTube, specifically Andy’s Technician License (Updated and good through June 2018!) playlist.  The format of the video series is excellent as Andy walks through the question pool, culminating each lesson with a brief quiz of the actual exam questions.  I really like that each lesson is structured in approximately ten minute sessions.  More can be found on Andy’s website here:  hamwhisperer.com.

HamStudy.org

Simultaneously while working my way through The Ham Whisperer playlist I would take a random practice exam from HAMSTUDY: Technician Class (2014-2018).  I took two practice exams per day over the period of two and a half weeks.  My first six exams I failed miserably but slowly started to watch my scores climb into the 80% up to an average now of 96%.  The point here is repetition as actual exam questions and answers are presented.  The exams are structured well and include the correct answer and a brief explanation upon conclusion of each exam.

Quest: Writing and Playing Text Adventure and Interactive Fiction

I read an article this morning about text adventure games and was reminded of this article I wrote a few years ago.

Today's Author

I recently stumbled upon Quest, software created and distributed under an open-source license by Alex Warren for individuals to write and play text adventure games and interactive fiction.  The platform is extremely flexible, allowing reading/playing in either a web browser, downloading to a PC for offline play, and even allowing the option for creating mobile application distributions.

Writing Quest Stories

Quest comes in two varieties for writing your own stories.  You can either download the open-source software for Microsoft Windows OS to create your masterpiece locally on your machine, or you can create a free account on the website to build your story online.  Key features include:

  • No programming skills needed
  • A full tutorial with illustrative examples
  • Write your story in any language
  • Ability to embed pictures, sound, and video
  • Encouragement to share your creation

Here’s an example of the web-editing interface:

Quest-Web-Editor

Reading/Playing Quest Stories

The homepage for Quest, http://textadventures.co.uk/

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Shrink a hard disk partition before upgrading to a smaller capacity solid state drive

Do you remember any notable events from the year 2011?  Pop culture websites tell me it was the year the band R.E.M. disbanded after thirty-one years, comedian Russell Brand and singer Katy Perry filed for divorce, and actor Charlie Sheen was fired from the hit television show Two and a Half Men.

The Windows 10 Disk Management console shows my primary hard drive volume reduced to 175GB
The Windows 10 Disk Management console shows my primary hard drive volume reduced to 175GB

I don’t recall significant personal life events attributed to 2011, but records show me in July of that year I bought a Dell XPS 17″ laptop to replace a two-year old Dell netbook that was a tad too small for everyday use.  I still use this laptop six and a half years later.

Continue reading Shrink a hard disk partition before upgrading to a smaller capacity solid state drive

Hook readers simply by writing more descriptive post titles

While participating in online communities for writers I often hear others ask, “How can I gain more readership to my blog or site?”

newspaper by Nicolas Nova is licensed under Creative Commons | Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
newspaper by Nicolas Nova is licensed under Creative Commons | Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

My answer:  Use a more descriptive post title so that a reader is compelled to read on. And no, this doesn’t give you liberty to write click-bait titles like, You won’t believe what she did next!  

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Why Microsoft Excel’s new AutoSave feature may cause you to lose work

If you’re a user of Microsoft Excel 2016 at work or home then you may have noticed in the past few weeks the new AutoSave feature that appeared in the top menu bar.

Excel 2016's AutoSave feature is enabled by default for files stored on SharePoint and OneDrive.
Excel 2016’s AutoSave feature is enabled by default for files stored on SharePoint and OneDrive.

I want to specifically caution individuals who store Excel files on SharePoint or OneDrive that there is a situation where you may find this feature causes you to actually lose work!

Continue reading Why Microsoft Excel’s new AutoSave feature may cause you to lose work