Inconsiderate Assholes

Hi All,

So this is not your usual tech-related post, it has nothing to do with HAM Radio, nothing to do with trains, and more to do with the kinda of people that will do things that make you simply shake your head and walk away.

We recently went on a Holiday, this was made to be public knowledge. I wasn’t going to be easily contactable, and my girlfriend and I were going on a caravanning trip. In the months prior we had a few hiccups with some people. I had an Agistee (Person who pays me money to keep their horse on our property) play up and leave, owing me a lot of money of which I’ve completely written off, and our housemate decided that she was going to move out. Both people left on less than desirable terms, but both Eleisha and I comfortable in the fact that we would never have to deal with these people again.

At this point, I feel it’s appropriate to point out the fact that we live off-grid when it comes to water. We have a large concrete tank and nothing else, that’s it. Once that’s gets low or is gone we have to either pray for rain or buy water (If you’ve ever had to buy water trucked in, you’ll know that’s really only a last resort option).
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Beer, mmmmm, beeeeeer and Arduino?

Hi All,

Now first of all, i want to point out that I’m a SysAd, sortof. My official title is “Senior Operations Engineer” at work, however I’m more doing SysAd work than engineering work, nonetheless, I’m a SysAd, and SysAds like beer. There’s a small problem with that though, in the quantities that we tend to drink it can be quite an expensive hobby.

I’ve been considering brewing my own beer for quite a while, and after speaking with a few friends of mine that are involved with HomeBrew, I decided that for christmas, I’d buy myself a Home Brew beer kit. I decided on the Coopers Home Brew Kit after I was pointed at it by a friend. This kit comes with everything you need to start your first brew. I bought the kit, eagerly set it up, and the brewing began. Using the “can” method – that is you buy a pre-mixed can of ingredients, it really is quite simple, you just need to make sure that all of the parts are thoroughly cleaned before you begin.

Here’s an image of the setup, just after I unboxed it, and set the beer brewing on the bar (After all, what better place for beer to brew?). We started off with the first brew of “Coopers Australian Pale Ale” although I accidentally used the wrong brew enhancer, so it’ll be a little less malty than it’s supposed to be. We started off with a specific gravity of 1.037, targetting around 1.008. My friends advised this would take 3-4 days to brew.
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Posted in Arduino, Beer | Leave a comment

SOTA Activation VK3/VC-015

Hi All,

So to take a break from the interface posts, I’m going to write up my report on my most recent SOTA activation, that at time of writing took place about a week ago. Things with my day job and the interfaces have been very very busy, so I’ve not really had some time to myself lately. About two weeks ago I was looking at having a free day on a weekend coming up, that Liesh and I didn’t have planned. With the regular events at the railway our spare time on the weekends are usually spent around the house doing bits and pieces, one thing for sure is that there’s always something to do when you live on land, and we happen to live on (but not own yet) 30 Acres. I suggested that we take some time off the normal house duties and get out of the house, and go do a SOTA Activation.

The activation in question was one I had been looking at as an “easy slam dunk” so to speak. The peak in question was VK3/VC-015, and I checked it out on Google Maps, Nearmap and the Forest explorer, and everything was looking good. The Ascent to the summit was expected to be about a 70m climb along the ridge from out expected entry point over about 1km on the ground through relatively open bush. I arranged with a friend to borrow his Yaesu VX-8 handheld, and as i have a Kenwood D710 in the car I set up a custom APRS path of “VK3XJM, WIDE2-1″ so that the car would only digipeat the VK3XJM path and nobody else. I managed to borrow a mast from Ian, VK3XID, as my regular 9m squid pole was out of action following a mishap setting up the antenna at my fathers two weeks before. With all that said and done, all that was needed was to put an antenna together the day before and head off. I put together a coax fed 30m dipole, complete with lightweight home-made 4:1 balun the day before, and decided to pack my AT-100 tuner. The AT-100 is absolute overkill for this task, but until I can afford to buy a T1, it’s all I’ve got.
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Posted in APRS, FT-817, HAM Radio, Liesh, SOTA | Leave a comment

Steam Engine Progress

Hi All,

So I’ve eluded to the fact in the past that I have a part-built 7 1/4″ live steam engine, but I don’t think I’ve actually posted any details on the engine at all. So here goes:

Engine Type: Wato Locomotive Works “Lil Lima”
Wheel Configuration: 2-4-0
Boiler: 8″ Briggs type steel boiler, 41″ long, copper tubes
Length: TBD
Width: 24″

This engine is a American Style Baldwin loco, with a tow behind tender. The engine uses a briggs type boiler, that is, the boiler isn’t a full locomotive boiler. Instead of having water filled walls in the firebox, the walls are plate steel and lined with a clay refractory and there are two large 5/8″ syphon tubes that run from the very rear of the boiler through the firebox and connect to the boiler at the bottom. The majority of the heating is provided through the copper tubes when a draft is present, and only minimal heating is provided through the crownsheet/syphon tubes.

The engine will hopefully, some day, look like an 2-4-0 version of this engine that we have at Bulla. I’m planning on going for a Black/Grey/Chrome colour scheme though.

So now, I’ll post up some pictures of the engine as it was when I got it, the boiler, and the frame assembly as it currently stands.

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Posted in Miniature Trains, Steam | Leave a comment

Model Engineering, Steam Engines and more

Hi All,

So if you’ve been following my blog, then you’ll know that my girlfriend Liesh and I are in to Model Engineering, namely ride on miniature trains. We are members of the Tullamarine Live Steam Society, who operate the Bulla Hill Railway just north of Melbourne in Victoria Australia.

I’m in the process of building a Petrol-Electric 5″ gauge locomotive for Liesh. This engine is an 0-6-0 freelance outline “shunting” diesel and will eventually have a 6.5HP Briggs and Stratton engine, driving two alternators (One for power generation, one for traction) which will in turn drive 4 * 300W 24VDC traction motors that drive the wheels. So far we’ve drawn up some rough sketches of what the engine will look like and started work on the engine. Namely we have:

Drawn up the frames, wheel sets and axle boxes in CAD courtesy of a friend who’s “CAD-Foo” is much better than mine
Had the frames and axle boxes cut out by a local lazer cutting service
Sourced the wheels, axles, sprockets, bearings and chains
Turned up spacers to sit between the press fit wheels, and hold the sprockets where they need to sit
Keywayed the sprockets and spacers
Turned up and riveted the axle boxes together
Milled up the axle boxes
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First SOTA Activation VK3/VC-030 – Flinders Peak

Hi All,

So, I said in a post a few days ago that I was going to be doing my first SOTA activation today up at Flinders Peak, which is the summit of the You Yang ranges in Victoria, Australia. This gave me an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, as my girlfriend’s sister is staying with us over the school holiday period, so I got the opportunity to hike ahead and reach the summit as quick as I could to setup, and the girls could spend their time coming up the track.

I had been mulling over how best to provide light, portable, easy to use battery power for use on this and future acticvations, and this week I decided that I would go the LiPo path. I read a LOT of articles on LiPo batterys, and I’m well aware of the dangers of charging, carrying and running from these batteries. I eventually decided to get a 3S (11.1v) battery that was well above the requirements for the FT-817 whilst also getting a charger that will charge at a max rate of lower than the 1C max rate specified for the battery. I eventually settled on the following:

Battery, 5000mAh 30C discharge rate (max), 6C charge rate (max):
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Posted in FT-817, HAM Radio, Liesh, SOTA | 4 Comments

My First SOTA Activation coming up

Hi All,

So, I recently bought an FT-817ND, and I’ve been seeing on the HFPack and FT-817 mailing lists people talking about this thing called SOTA. What is SOTA? Well it stands for Summits On The Air, and it’s basically an awards based program where you score points by making more than 4 contacts from the top of a designated “Summit”. To see more information on the SOTA program head over to I’m planning on eventually trying to do some activations on horseback, so that I can do so with Liesh and we can have a good day out together, and I get a HAM radio fix at the same time, for now though, I thought I would start with something a little easier.

I’m planing to be heading up to Flinders Peak, which is the Summit in the You Yang ranges, south west of Melbourne in Victoria. The technical data for this peak can be found here and it’s identifier is VK3/VC-030. Although this summit is only a 1 point summit, it’s easy to get to via a 15 minute/1.5ishkm walking track, and there’s plenty of room at the top to set up (I’ve been there before) so it should be a good “first crack” at SOTA. I’m planning to activate the summit at 04:00 UTC on the 14/7/2012 and I’ll be operating on the following bands:
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Posted in FT-817, HAM Radio, SOTA | Leave a comment

Liesh driving Steam

So, one of Liesh (My long term girlfriend) and my hobbies is Live Steam. We are members of the Tullamarine Live Steam Society (TLSS) and we operate the Bulla Hill Railway (Web) (Facebook) where I’m a qualified 7 1/4″ Guard, Diesel and Steam driver. Liesh, at this point is a qualified Guard and Diesel driver, but is still doing her training for steam.

This school holidays we have Liesh’s sister Bree down, and due to crappy flights she’s not going to be able to make it to the railway for one of our run days, so we got permission to light up one of the steam engines for a bit of a play, to do some laps and help run in the new pony wheels on Billy J, one of the steamers. We headed down on the 8/7 and I took this opportunity to let Liesh light up and drive. This allowed Liesh to take things at her own pace as sometimes there can be a bit of a rush on to get the engines ready on a run day. We have photos, and videos too!

Liesh did really really well, doing 3 laps with me riding on the tender giving Liesh instructions, and one lap with me behind, videoing; Links for the videos are below
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Posted in Liesh, Miniature Trains, Steam | Leave a comment

AFHC/SERG convention – Last minute tradition

On the “Queens Birthday Weekend” each year (It was the 9/10/11th this year) the South Eastern Radio Group (SERG) hold their annual convention. This year was the 48th convention, and the 50th year anniversary for the club. In conjunction with (infact as part of) this event they also hold the Australian Foxhunting Championships. For those who don’t know – no we’re not chasing furry little creatures with guns, we’re actually tracking down hidden radio transmitters through the bush. It’s a nerd thing, if you don’t get it, you’re probably not a nerd :P

To provide a little bit of backstory, I’ve been foxhunting with a group of Friends (Gary – VK3TXO, Pierre and Hamish) at the regular “Friday night” (Third friday of each month) foxhunts on 2m and 70cm for quite a while now, and we had been intending to get some equipment together to use over at the convention for a while. Friday night foxhunts usually contain hunts on the VHF & UHF bands of 2m and 70cm, but the AFHC has hunts on 23cm, 2m, 70cm, 6m, 10m and 80m, so some work was required to get the gear “Mount Gambier” ready and last year, we got all the equipment together and participated in the championships.
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Posted in AFHC, Arduino, Foxhunting, HAM Radio | 1 Comment

How to script checking for callsign allocations on the WIA & ACMA Websites

First of all, I want to make a shout-out to Mark Jessop who co-authors the linked blog for the ACMA code. It was his code that encouraged me to build a version for the WIA website.

First, a little bit of history. As I’ve mentioned earlier I’ve just recently passed my AOCP(A) exam. All of the paperwork has been submitted and I’m awaiting my callsign. Basically, I’m am impatient individual, always wanting to play with new toys, and manually checking the WIA website to see if my callsign has dropped off the list of available ones seems like too much hard work. Apparently I’m not the only one to think this, as one of my friends (Mark) did the same thing when he upgraded to his advanced callsign.

I want to start off by saying that I’ve put in for one of the following three callsigns:

VK3XJM VK3XML or VK3FU (Which is currently the only available 2 letter call in Vic)

Mark gave me this little snippet of code to crawl the ACMA website which will send an email notification when the callsign has been allocated. All you need to do is change the QRY=VK3XJM section to your expected callsign, grep “Mesilane” to your surname, and bingo, it will email you when it has been allocated by the ACMA:
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Posted in ACMA, Linux, Scripting, WIA | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment