— IslandCT Journal 2019 —

Island Creative Time
The family web site of Kelly Sears and Patrick Sears.

Server migration complete.

2019-03-04 -- Patrick

Migration to the new server. The migration to the new server (mseal) is complete. I think. I may have missed some stuff or some files may have been corrupted on the old computer without my noticing it. But it all looks ok so far. The computer that used to act as our server (mplesiosaur) is still limping along. So if anything is missing, I may still be able to retrieve it. Along with the migration, there will be a few changes. We're closing the blog. It was fun but most new content was going in other places. So that's where we'll put our efforts in the future. It was nice to have the latest blog entries show up on the IslandCT home page though. So instead of the blog entries, we'll feature pages we're working on in the news section on the home page.

Some work continued in background. While the website appeared stalled, work was continuing in the background. Mostly work has been for the ARDF spring season and other radio work. Anyone checking the CHCCS ARDF pages could see stuff changing. That part of the website has been tested and is functioning as before. Most important, the event registration is working. Happy day : )

Course timing system. The big change for this season's CHCCS ARDF is our new course timing system. cts for short. Actually, we had a huge failure yesterday evening. We finally got the last six field boxes built. There was a big premature **Hurray**! We then tried to do the initial firmware upload on one of the boxes. Fail : ( Tried it on another one. Fail, oh ho. Houston, we've had a problem. There were not too many changes between the previous and this version. So there shouldn't be a design error. And yet two in a row failed. Could it be the USB-FTDI cable? Anyway, we're working on that. At least we have enough working field boxes to run the classic events. The sprint is another story. It requires twice as many field boxes. Stay tuned.

GPG and vim for file encryption on several computers.

2019-03-06 -- Patrick

This is a quick reminder for myself since I just did this yesterday evening. If it gets more complicated, I'll write a full web page for it.

The system: Debian 9 (stretch), Xfce, 64-bit.

On first computer.

  gpg --export-secret-keys -a "Patrick R. Sears" > prs-20190305a.priv

On second computer.

- Install
  . rng-tools5
  . secure-delete
  . pinentry-tty
- In .bashrc, at the top, add
    export GPG_TTY
- Create
  and put the line
    pinentry-program /usr/bin/pinentry-tty
- Then
    echo RELOADAGENT | gpg-connect-agent
- Mount the mfuse m folder and copy the file
  onto maurochs.
- Do
    gpg --import prs-20190305a.priv
- Delete the priv file using srm.
- Copy the contents of
  into the .vimrc file.

Note that I found the vimrc code on a Terry Grant website. But the code is actually by Wouter Hanegraaff.

Layout diagram for MFJ-9040 transceiver.

2019-03-08 -- Patrick

Have you ever checked out the layout diagram in the MFJ-9040 manual. Hmph...

We'll, I'm currently work on repairing my MFJ-9040. So to make my life easier I made a new layout diagram. I hope it can be useful to others.

Right-click and view image to see full size.

The diagram is not complete yet, but I'll update it as I work on it.

IslandCT course timing system progress.

2019-03-20 -- Patrick

Work continues. Progress is being made. The failure mentioned in the 2019-03-04 journal entry was not as bad as expected. You know when you look at something a thousand times and don't notice it's incorrect. You're so sure that's not where the problem is, so you look but you don't register the error. Well, I tracked down the failure to an obvious item in the configuration of the development environment. I was then able to program one of the field boxes that had failed.

I haven't programmed the other five boxes yet. I don't expect any problems and getting the download/master working is the new priority. The first ARDF meet is less than three weeks away.

The plan for the download/master system is solidifying. Because we need to get it done soon, everything is being simplified. Simplified to make it easier to develop, that is. So it will be a bit more difficult to use and definitely not as cool. The original plan was to use a Raspberry Pi running a curses program. That's on hold. Instead a laptop will read serial data sent from an Arduino. The Arduino will have an Adafruit PN532 module attached to download data from the RFID cards. To see the results, we'll just open a file created by a program running on the laptop. Less fancy, but ready on time.

Side note regarding using an Adafruit 3.3 V Pro Trinket. It seemed like a good idea. We're already using these in the field boxes. The new master box will not need to do practically any processing since all it has to do is send serial data to the laptop. The voltage of that Trinket already matches the 3.3 V of the Adafruit PN532 module. It's perfect! Or is it... The problem is that there is no serial to USB chip on the Trinket. I think we could get the data out using an FTDI-to-USB cable. But using the Trinket is getting a bit silly if an FTDI cable has to be part of the solution. Eventually we'll back to a Raspberry Pi solution anyway. So the Arduino it is, for now.

Course timing system, master #2 hardware. On the left, the assembly. It has the Adafruit PN532 module (blue) on top. Below that a small PCB (white) with part of a CD4050 visible. The CD4050 is being used as a level shifter between the 5 V Arduino and the 3.3 V PN532 module. Then there is the Arduino. And finally some prerf-board at the very bottom, just to hold the stand-offs in place. At right is the enclosure. The bottom has a peice of rubber just thick enough to place the PN532 close under the cover. Right-click and view image to see full size.

The software for the PC and the Arduino have been tested in parts. The hardware is pretty simple and almost completed. I tested the basic setup with a breadboard. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, I spent the evenings building. I cut and soldered the PCB, built the assembly to hold all the modules together, and fitted all into an enclosure. Test it, and... It doesn't work : ( Wait! It does work! No it doesn't. What is happening??? More testing with two different Arduinos... It works outside the enclosure but not inside. It's probably a bad solder join on one of the wires that opens when pushed into the enclosure. I hope that's all it is.

Anyway, we're getting close. I can't wait. This should be super cool.

CHCCS ARDF spring season starting this weekend.

2019-04-02 -- Patrick

We're super excited. This Saturday is the first spring 2019 CHCCS ARDF event. Announcements and Info for the events are posted _here_.

Kelly and I had a wonderful morning last Sunday putting up antennas. It wasn't a run. Just a nice couple hours in Carolina North Forest, enjoying nature and the beautiful weather. We got to watch a large owl for a few minutes. No horns. The markings were difficult to discern because he was backlit. We talked a lot about the up coming ARDF season and other outing plans. The USA ARDF Championships coming to North Carolina will be super exciting.

Joseph Huberman and Ruth Bromer (Backwoods Orienteering Klub) just purchased a full set of dual-band ARDF transmitters from Jiri Marecek (OK2BWN, Czech Republic). They offered to loan them for our CHCCS events. Thanks guys, that's super! We'll get to test them in a few weeks. If enough of our 2 m receivers work, we'll put on a 2 m Classic on May-18. Super cool!

But for this first event of the spring, the most exciting thing is the new electronic course timing system (cts). A lot went into getting it working and we're finally ready to use it. This will make a huge difference to both participants and course designers. For participants, it means that they will see exactly when they found each fox. It also means the start and finish will be more exciting. In the past, we had to write down everything by hand. So the timing had quite a wide margin of error. Also, it was hard to bother with the starter box since the timing wasn't precise. Now, the starter box will be close to the start and participants can wait for the start beeps, punch their RFID card, and know that fox #1 just came on. For course designers, it means that we can place remote starts and finishes since no one has to be there to record the time. Very cool. In practice, we won't have either the start or the finish more than 50 m from our main base. After all, we want to get pictures : ) But, it will definitely be more like a championship event; much fun.

The field boxes. We're still building and writting software. But we have enough to run the first event. I just checked the RTC on each one and had to scramble a bit. One was off by many years and one didn't read the RFID card. Both could just be a quick fix, or maybe more. Try to fix them? Five days before the event? Nope. We have spares. Redundency is great : ) In the end, one box was 4 seconds off and all the others were only 1 second off. That would be a serious problem for the transmitters, but not for the cts field boxes. In the future, we'll implement RTC drift adjusment in the software that runs on the laptop. The box at the far left is actually the download box that will be connected to the laptop. Right-click and view image to see full size.

If you're coming to an event, consider registering. A new way this will help us both is that we can enter your info in the group-list file for the course timing system and pre-assign an RFID card. This way, when you arrive, we just hand you the card.

Hope to see you out there!

Lost podcast found - IslandCT-055, Canaan Valley.

2019-05-24 -- Patrick

We just found this lost podcast. It was recorded in December 2018 with our son Isaac. We were in a Canaan Valley State Park cabin, WV. The podcast can be downloaded as IslandCT-055.ogg or as IslandCT-055.mp3 . Notes can be found on the 2018 IslandCT podcasts webpage. It's the last entry. The recording is a bit scratchy. We discuss lock picking, implantable nano-devices powered like RFID tags, and tracking cellular changes during development.

As an aside, we've been too busy to keep up with our original podcast schedule. Mostly, it's putting on the ARDF events that has been eating up our time. It's all good. The ARDF events are super cool. Also, it won't go on like this for ever. Most of our time is taken up with building equipment and that's nearing completion; we hope : ) Anyway, the plan is to keep the podcast going. But for now, we're not setting an schedule.

Podcast 056 posted - Deep sea fish opsins.

2019-05-27 -- Patrick

First podcast of 2019. It's back! And this one is fascinating. Fish with more than ten opsin genes! Multi-layers of photoreceptors! Super cool.

Check it out on the 2019 IslandCT podcast page .

Podcast 057 posted - Amber fossils.

2019-07-03 -- Patrick

This podcast is about the wonderful fossils coming out of the amber mines in Tanai, Myanmar. We talk about the Chinese paleontologist Xing Lida, about the how the amber makes its way to Tengchong in China, about how the amber is mined, about insects in the amber.

On the 2019 IslandCT podcast page there is a paragraph with keywords from the podcast.

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