27 December 2023

sBITX V3 Board Review

 A few months back Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE, the father of the BITX series of QRP transceivers came out with the latest edition of that line the sBITX. Once I checked out the copious number of attributes of this little, I immediately realized that this is the HF Transceiver that I have been waiting for. It first came out as the sBITX D.E. (Developers Edition) this edition was to help iron out all of the little problems that come with launching a new product. 

The sBITX DE may have been mainly for ironing out problematic issues, but it proved to be capable of paving the road for the sBITX series. The future and pretty much the present of HF transceivers is SDR- Software Defined Radio. An SDR is in layman's terms, where many functions of transceivers is performed by software instead of traditional electronic components. This allows the physical size of the transceiver to remain small and at the same time expanding its features. What Farhan did with the sBITX DE was genius. He took a relativity cheap (at the time) single board computer the Raspberry Pi 4 and incorporated it into a custom built 40-watt HF Transceiver. He then made the transceiver, and 

Raspberry Pi OS open source and made everything freely available for anyone to download the software and hack it and change it in any way that they see fit.  

The sBITX DE covered the 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meter bands. It was about the size of a bread toaster. It incorporated a Raspberry Pi 4 (2 gb) and a 7 inch Raspberry Pi touch screen. By having the Raspberry Pi fully incorporated into the system, a whole new plethora of features that are not even seen it transceivers costing ten times as much. 

Digital modes has been a large part of the hobby for decades. Usually you need to have an HF transceiver, a computer and some sort of interface that connects the transceiver to the computer. On top of that you need all of the cables that come with the computer, all of the cables that come with the transceiver and the cables required to connect it all together. The sBITX gets rid of most of that mess. You need a power cable and a antenna coax. That's it. Yeah a keyboard and mouse are great additions to the sBITX (does your expensive HF radio use a keyboard and mouse?) but with the Raspberry Pi, those can be wireless. So without any extra devices, cables etc, the sBITX allows you to operate on most if not all digital modes. To help you keep track of all of the QSO's that you will have with this rig a logbook is also incorporated into the system. In some modes it will do all of the logging for you on its own! As we all know, we like to brag about getting some rare DX in your logbook. A lot of the time your buddies will just have to take your word for it. The sBITX now allow you to back up your bragging with the ability to record that QSO and play it back to your envious friends. 

One of the sBITX features that i really love is CW. It is well known that I have a host of medical problems. Some of those problems are neurological in nature. These neurological issues keep me from sending CW via key, paddle, bug and most other devices. I can type decent enough though. There are a few ways to send CW via keyboard. Usually in the form of an expensive keyer that has a keyboard feature as an afterthought. The sBITX really makes my heart thump with its options at sending CW. You can send with a straight key, a bug some paddles, and of the traditional stuff. Also you can have a keyboard on the 7" touch screen where you can send by using the on screen keyboard. As mentioned earlier you can use a wireless keyboard and mouse with the sBITX. So of course the coolest option is you can send CW with the wireless keyboard. The CW signal is decoded on the screen as a back up to you decoding it yourself. 

The first edition for public sale was the sBITX V2. This offered all of the features of the DE edition but the depth of the enclosure was cut down by more than half. The new version was about the size of the ARRL Handbook This made it much more friendly for POTA, SOTA and other portable activities. 

You can pack up the sBITX, a battery and antenna and get out of the shack and go out to a local park and get on the air. You wont need any extra parts like a computer of fancy keyer to show all of the passer by how cool amateur radio is. Also you can use your cell phone as a hotspot so you can use THIS HF radio to catch up on Farhan's latest YouTube video or you can cruise on over to the BITX 20 io group to ask any question you want about any of the BITX radios. The sBITX comes pre loaded with the Libre Office suite of software, so when the bands are dead you can make a antenna measuring spreadsheet on LibreOffice Calc or you can use LibreOffice Writer to write your next best selling novel. Can you write a book on your two thousand radio appliance? Didn't think so. 

The latest edition is the sBITX V3. This is the one that I am blessed to have. I have the board only version where I had to supply the Raspberry Pi, 7" touch display, speaker and microphone. 

The V3 has a new gui (Graphic User Interface) however the V3 operating system and sBITX software will work on the DE and V2 versions. Instead of transmitting 40 watts the V3 has a more respectable (to me at least) 20 watts. 

Now I have put my V3 through some use and racked up a few new countries. Here is my setup, but your mileage may vary. 
  • sBITX V3 transceiver board only (I really need to figure out an enclosure for it before something gets shorted out.) 
  • Raspberry Pi 4 (4 GB RAM) 
  • ATU-100 EXT Automatic Antenna Tuner, I really do not need this (see antenna below). I'm mainly using it as a power/ swr meter which again is not needed at when transmitting the sBITX displays the transmitting power and the SWR. 
  • 20 Meter homebrew Inverted V dipole broadside east-west. The feed point is 32' above the ground. I have it tuned to 1.0:1 - 1.1:1 SWR on the CW and Digital portions of the band (14.000-14.200 MHz).
I do not have a dedicated room for my shack. My house is fairly small and there are four humans and a cat that call this place home. My "shack" is one wall on the side of my bedroom that I share with my beautiful XYL. We have been married since June 1997. To have a long lasting happy marriage both parties must be willing to compromise. Saying that me and my wife have two different sleeping patterns. My wife likes to sleep in late and decades of work tuned me into getting up a couple of hours before the Sun. So I make an extra effort at being quite so my wife can sleep. To make this even more challenging, I'm mostly deaf and I live in my bed, so getting up and going to another room is generally not an option. So I tend to lean towards the quieter modes like CW and digital modes there I can wear head phones. Typically we still have to put up with the sound of a fan keeping the finals cool on the radio and of course the ever present clacking of the relays. Well the sBITX has neither of those. Operation is really quite. You can hear the electricity flowing during transmit but that isn't really loud enough to be a bother. I was having a problem with SWR. The radio would dial down the power to one or two watts, the SWR was being displayed at 25:1 and higher. Every time I would transmit the computer monitor that I was using for a display for the sBITX would shut off. It was driving me crazy. The antenna kept measuring a perfect 1:1 SWR. After several days of looking for the problem (Remember because of my health I could search for just a little bit at a time so what would take a healthy person a few hours took me days) and I finally found the problem as being a loose coax connector. Once I got that tightened up, the sBITX has proved to be better than I even dreamed that it would be. I use a 15" computer monitor instead of the 7" touch screen display. The reason for this is entirely because of my eyesight and has nothing to do with the radio. I'm due for some new eye windows so that problem should go away. I have been mostly on FT8 and I'm not used to having such an awesome waterfall display. I still have a lot to learn about this awesome radio and I bet I'm going to be enjoying the learning process. You can go ahead and view the sBITX as the new radio on the street. To me it the ONLY radio on the street. I plan on pushing this radio to the limit and I'm sure even at a proper QRP level of 5 watts the sBITX is going to make my logbook fatter than my stack of bills. 

Over this winter I plan on having a few more surgeries to get some of my back problems ironed out. I plan on healing up in time for spring. The plan is for me to be able to start riding my recumbent trike again. Since I was last active on my trike Midwest City has built many new miles of bike trails and even a new city park. With the small size of the sBITX V3, I will be able to put it in my trikes saddle bags with a battery and some wire and go back to operating portable. Permanently mounted on my trike is a 23' telescoping fishing pole that is perfect at supporting a wire antenna. I recently was able to get a second matching fishing pole so expect me to add that to the trike to expand my options. I have already added a HT and a small dual band mag mount antenna. This is to let me talk to my friends while riding the trike. Also in the past I would go out and ride and hurt my back or have my blood sugar to drop to dangerous levels and would require someone to come and help me out or bring me to home or the hospital. On my trike I wear a small head set so I only need to press a single button to operate the HT and get into the repeater. I'm lucky that my mother in law and daughter have their radio license and I have many wonderful friends that monitor the repeater just in case for me. 

I plan on sharing my sBITX exploits here on this blog. I have many plans for it in the future. My brother recently moved into a house that is just yards from a state parks that will need to be activated. I have family that live on SOTA Summits that need to be activated. I can't wait to work the world with this little radio, its gonna be fun. So as always, feel free to share any comments or ask any questions in the comments section below. You can be notified of my adventure and any future blog posts simply by subscribing. Please email me (I get lonely) at Aaron@K5ATG.com

Until Next Time 
'72
Aaron K5ATG

25 December 2023

Merry Christmas

 Merry Christmas from the K5ATG Amateur Radio Station in Oklahoma City to each and every one of you through out the world. May the Lord bless all of you. 

72

Aaron K5ATG

AR Notebook #1.1 sBITX RFI

 I had my sBITX v3 hooked up to my computer monitor via HDMI - VGA adapter cable. I removed the HDMI - VGA cable and took my computer monitor out of the system. I then hooked up a 7" Raspberry Pi monitor to the sBITX via HDMI Micro to HDMI cable. This worked pretty good, but that isn't surprising since the sBITX is designed with a 7" Raspberry Pi Touch Screen. As mentioned earlier my sBITX v3 is just the bare board model. I have to supply the Raspberry Pi 4, Monitor, and enclosure. At the time of this post the sBITX is still without an enclosure so that could also be a cause of RFI. 

Since my eyesight is really poor it is hard for me to see everything with the 7" monitor. The sBITX gives you so much information on the display that the font becomes really small. If you use the WEB option on the display that helps quite a bit with larger font. The sBITX is open source so I bet that there is a way to design a optional display that cuts down the amount of information displayed on the sBITX screen to make room for a larger font. I should look into that. 

The sBITX gets its brains from the Raspberry Pi 4. In my experience you can operate the RPI4 headless using VNC and other options. I can then use my PC monitor as a display for the sBITX without any cables. That looks like the easiest option at this point. 

Again until next time you are encouraged to leave comments or questions in the comments section below. Also you can email me at Aaron@K5ATG.com

'72

Aaron K5ATG

16 December 2023

AR Notebook #1.0 sBITX RFI

 Got my sBITX v3 from HF Signals and set it up to kick the crap out of the F Layers and in true Aaron the Great style, there was no assault on the atmosphere. Actually the atmosphere did not even get bumped. 😢 But hey I tried. First things first, here is my setup:

  • Cool I made a dot
  • sBITX v3, 20 watt SDR transceiver that is good on 80-10. In my case it is just a populated PCB with a large heat sink. HF Signals are running a little bit behind on the enclosures and they will get one to me when they can. So for now it is all open air. 
  • N7DDC ATU-100 Extended Board Antenna Tuer
  • Another dot
  • Homebrew 40 Meter EFHW
  • Just one more dot for the road. 
I have a 15 inch computer monitor hooked up to the Raspberry Pi 4 that make up the smarts for the sBITX v3. I also have a wireless keyboard and mouse hooked up to the sBITX. How many HF radios do you know of  that uses a keyboard and mouse? 

The problem is that when I go to transmit the computer monitor goes black and remains that way until I stop transmitting.Once I stop transmitting the monitor goes back to normal operation. Since the transceiver is not in an metal enclosure I think that may have something to do with the RFI. Since I'm still in bed rest recovering from my surgery, I'm very limited on what I can do. My first step is I will try to put some ferrite beads on the HDMI cable that connects to the HDMI Micro jack on the Raspberry Pi 4 and I have it connected to the display with a HDMI-VGA adapter. Once I do this, I will post the results and try to come up with a plan to go from there if it does not work.

As always feel free to leave a post in the comments any suggestions for this RFI is welcome. You can email me at Aaron@k5atg.com

72
Aaron K5ATG

10 December 2023

Sacroiliac Joint Surgery

Here is a little update on my surgery. 

On 07 Dec 2023 I had surgery on my lower back. My sacrum and ilium (as seen in pic below) are no longer properly attached to each other by the sacroiliac joint.  


The sacroiliac joint is normally formed with ligaments and cartilage. In my case the cartilage is completely gone and for several years now the joint has been nothing but bone on bone. To repair the sacroiliac joint they have to put in sacroiliac fusion cages on each side. Last Thursday they did my right side sacroiliac joint. They had planned to use three of the sacroiliac fusion cages but they were able to use just two. 


 Here is a pic of a sacroiliac fusion cage. It is just a large pin that is hallow. I have two of these on my right side. 


I don't know yet if the surgery helped out  or not. I'm still in a hell of a lot of pain. The surgeon told me that B.L.T. was out of the question at least until my two week follow up. That made me want to eat several B.L.T.'s just to show them that eating a bacon sandwich would not destroy my hip. Then they explained that No B.L.T. means No Bending, No Lifting, No Twisting. That is a load off my back because I could really use a sandwich right now. 

After the surgery on Thursday the hospital staff really irritated me. My room was really hot so me and Desi kept asking for a fan and they said that they don't have any. So I was laying there sweating all darn day. Then the night nurse came in and got a fan that was hidden in my rooms closet. That helped out a lot. Then later on another nurse showed us that the rooms heater is actually a heat and air unit. We set the temp down to 58 degrees for a bit and things got a little bit better. 

Then there was the issue with my pain medicine and insulin. I had just had surgery and they would not get me any pain medicine! They would say, "If you are in pain let us know and we will get your pain medicine" I would tell then and they would go off  to get it and we would not see them again. It is like they got distracted and never bothered. Then one they would come back again I tell them that I need pain medicine and they would again go off to get it and never return. 

Also during the surgery they gave me steroids, and this caused my glucose to sky rocket. The glucometers that we were using topped out at 400. So all day Thursday they would not give me any insulin to lower it. All day long my insulin was at least 400. Then Thursday evening a nurse gave me 6 units of the insulin that I normally use 20 units on. 

Once I got home I was able to get back into my routine on insulin and medicine and now I'm starting to feel human. It hurts really bad, I can't put any weight on it. I ended up getting 9 staples so this makes the first time that I got staples. 

So now I'm in bed rest and can't do anything for at least 2 weeks. Once I recover from this surgery then we will get my left side fixed. Until then I have to really take it easy because my hips are kind of lop sided. One side has a strong joint and the other side has nothing there to hold it together. 

Well that is about it, feel free to leave any comments in the comments section below. You can email me at Aaron@K5ATG.com

08 November 2023

How Photographs Were Transmitted by Wire

 


This is some pretty cool old school technology. This technique was used in the 1930's to send a photograph using radio waves. Not really sure why they made it so complicated. It would have been a lot easier just to send the picture in a text message lol. Seriously though, this was probably the best technology that they had and we had to go through that to get to where we are today. They were technological pioneers who paved the road to Silicon Valley.

As always feel free to follow and you can leave comments in the comments section below. My email is Aaron@K5ATG.com


'72/73

Aaron K5ATG

24 September 2023

Crick Mint 20 a Homebrew Minimalist 20 Meter Transceiver Part I

 As I have said before in previous posts, I'm net to homebrewing. I have started working towards a homebrew sBITX but I feel that radio is much more advanced at what my skill level is. So to build up more experience, and to get a cheap pretty sweet transceiver to boot, I have decided to build a 4SQRP Cricket 20 designed by David Cripe NM0S and Virginia Smith NV5F


This transceiver was inspired by the infamous Pixie QRPp minimalist transceiver. (QRP in amateur radio terminology is generally considered to be a radio that is transmitting 10 watts of power for phone modes and 5 watts for CW and digital modes. QRPp is transmitting a power levels that are below 1 watt.) Even though there have been thousands of Pixie's made around the world, a probably logged dozens of contacts. It just did not have that special something to make it worthy enough for the prestigious 4SQRP name. So David NM0S and Virginia NV5F got together and came up with a design that is greatly improved over the humble and overrated Pixie. 

As you can see in the piciture above, the Cricket kits from 4SQRP doesn't have toroids to wind, This is a design feature by David NM0S thus eliminating the need for winding toroids. Another feature with the Cricket kits are  the on board straight key it is all powered by a 9 volt battery. Get a 49:1 UNUN and a 34 foot wire that is tuned to the frequency of your Crickets crystals (14.030 MHz and 14.060 MHz) and you can have a complete station that will easily fit in a pencil box. 

Please visit the 4SQRP Cricket 20 for more information about this wonderful little transceiver. A great read is the Introduction to the Cricket by David NM0S. 

My mission with the 20 Meter Cricket is to homebrew it and also have it fit in an Altoids tin if possible. There are some other changes that I would like to make if possible:
  • Remove the on board key. This will save a lot of space in the Altoids tin. Also I prefer to just add a key jack. I have to send CW with a keyboard and I need a jack to plug my keyer in. 
  • Increase the transmit power from 0.7 watts to 1 watt,
  • Possibly add a small speaker onboard
  • Get rid of the 9 volt battery. I would rather set it up to power it with a 12 volt battery so that it is standard across all of my radios. 
  • Add transmit and receive LED. Lights are cool. 
One feature that I would like to explore and see if it can be done with my Crick Mint 20. QRPGuys AFP-FSK Digital Transceiver III has an interesting way to make a small QRP radio multi-band. 

They have different modules that plug into the transceiver. Each module has all of the band specific components for each band. You could make a module for each HF band and to change bands you remove the current band module and plug in the band module that you want. This is something that I really would need help with but it would be pretty cool to have a multi-band Cricket.  Let me know what you think in the comments section below. 

That is about all for now. You can follow along this build by following this blog. Another place to follow along is the Crick Mint 20 Thread On the 4SQRP Group thread I will have discussions from other amateur radio operators about any problems or modifications that I make. 

Again if you want to follow this build or any future builds hit the subscribe button. Feel free to leave any comments in the comments section below. If you wish you may email me at Aaron@K5ATG.com

'72
Aaron K5ATG 

09 September 2023

Big Brutus Bash 2023


 

Each year in September members of the Four State QRP Group gather near the small town of West Mineral in southeast Kansas. The place of the gathering is the Big Brutus Electric Shovel and Rustic Museum. I can go on and tell you all about Big Brutus but I do not think that I could do a description any better than the Big Brutus website. So through the magic of copy and paste here you go:


THE RICH HISTORY OF BIG BRUTUS

Constructed in 1962 by the Bucyrus Erie Company for the Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company, Big Brutus served as a testament to human ingenuity and hard work. This colossal machine operated for over a decade, dramatically increasing the efficiency of coal mining in the region before retiring in 1974. However, its retirement marked a new beginning. In 1985, it was dedicated as a museum and memorial, signifying its enduring legacy. This dedication recognized Big Brutus as not just a symbol of the past, but as an eternal tribute to the mining heritage of southeast Kansas and to the minors across the nation who toiled to support their families. In September 1987, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) designated Big Brutus a regional historic mechanical engineering landmark, the tenth such designation since 1971. Adding to its accolades, Big Brutus was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, further cementing its significance in American Industrial History. 


This was the very first time that I was able to visit Big Brutus. I would not have been able to go this time if it wasn't for my friend Tim Harpor W5TAH taking me. The drive from McLoud to the Big Brutus site took us about four hours. I wasn't really sure what to expect until we got there and I saw Big Brutus rising 160 feet (48 Meters) above the beautiful southeast Kansas landscape. To say that this electric shovel is big is really just a big understatement.


For scale look to the right of the picture and between the shadow and the digger in the distance. That silhouette that you see is a 6 foot (1.8 meters) tall man. 

The 4 State QRP Group was located under a very nice pavilion not far from the museum or Big Brutus.  There were around 20 people there for the event. Radios that i saw there were the Elecraft KX3, Elecraft K2, uBITX. I saw a 4SQRP radio there but I can't recall which one it was and I forgot to take any pics. My setup was my Elecraft K2 with my homebrew end-fed random wire. 

For me the main attraction was the people. I got to meet people from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Arkansas. Basically all of  the 4 states that originally made up the 4 State QRP Group plus Nebraska. In the afternoon we were all spoiled by some wonderful bar-b-que. 

This warehouse size room in the picture above is actually inside Big Brutus. In the picture above of the exterior of Big Brutus this area is located in the right side of Big Brutus. Instead of being a factory or warehouse this is inside of a mobile machine that can move under its own power. 


This picture shows Tim W5TAH underneath Big Brutus. On the left side are the tracks. The entire machine has a total of 16 tracks. From looking at them it looks like just one link would be close to a ton. 


This is yours truly setting at the controls. Just the controls at my hands were enough to operate this Latvian. Behind this control room is a break room that is about 15X30. 

Well that is all for now. Please help me support this blog by subscribing to it and sharing. If you have any comments please leave them in the comments section below. You can reach me at Aaron@K5ATG.com

'72

Aaron K5ATG






07 August 2023

Happy Birthday Faith


Just wanted to give a shout-out to my daughter Faith K5FTS. Happy 17th Birthday. 


01 August 2023

Experimental Methods in RF Design

 My life is not in the best shape at this time. Due to my wretched health, I am confined to bed nearly every hour of the day. There are many days that I feel as if someone in prison has more freedom than me. Prisoners get to go to the yard every now and then. I don't want this to be my life. I won't let it be. Yeah, I am in really bad shape. My back surgeon doesn't want me to get out of bed even to go to the bathroom. Someday I hope that will change. 

My body may have failed me but my brain works nearly as well as a well-oiled engine that's out of gas. I have officially been an amateur radio operator for a decade. It was April 2013 when I got my ticket. It was May 2013 when I got my first QSL card. Yeah sure it was from a FCC Listening Post but I'm still counting it. 

I would really love to expand my horizons into homebrewing my own gear. Yeah I have a homebrew project started with the sBITX. that is because I REALLY  want that radio and I can't afford it, so homebrewing it is the only chance that I will ever have at getting one os to brew my own. So in order to do that, I must learn electronics. I was not born with a golden transistor in my fist. I have absolutely zero experience in electronics. I'm learning on the go. However I have a plan......

I think...

There are two books that have become homebrew Bibles. Those are Sold State Design for the Radio Amateur and Experimental Methods in RF Design. I decided to use that later since I have a paperback copy of it. 


So my plan in learning homebrew electronics is pretty simple. I plan on building as many circuits in EMRFD as I can. By doing this I hope to:
  •  Learn enough about electronics that I can possibly help someone in the future.
  • Share my builds here on my blog to encourage others to comment and advise me on improving my skill. 
  • Pay forward all of the help that so many others have given me over the years.
  • Get a follower to my blog lol
So that is my world-changing plan. is to start at the beginning of EMRFD and start screwing up uh ok, building the circuits. I'm gonna do my best to build each circuit to the best of my ability. I would like to say test and explore each circuit but since I don't have much in the way of test equipment, but we will bomb that bridge before we get to it. I'm going to write it up my way. I don't want it to be just another dry blog. I pay for the site domain, and hey, like the call sign says, I am bloody Aaron the Great. 

So if you wish to be entertained by my multitude of mistakes, and let me tell you this the mistake stein will never go dry, so all you have to do is to lay down that clock on the follow button and you will become one of the chosen few. I'm n American and I support freedom of speech so throw down your lines in the comments department. While you are at it sling me an email at Aaron@K5ATG.com

Solder on my friends
'72
Aaron K5ATG




sBITX Part II- Monitor troubles

 Greetings Earthicans,

For the last few days my progress on the sBITX has been hampered by one single problem. I loaded up the Raspberry Pi OS on my RPI and it would not load up on the monitor. It would load up just fine on my 43" television. The people of BITX20 is group came to my rescue with several attempts on fixing the problem. Eventually I slowly (Ok I admit, sometimes I can be slower than a sumo in a sprint) came to the conclusion that the issue could be in the monitor. For the record here is the monitor that I am using:LONCEVON 7 inch Mini HDMI Monitor

I contacted Loncevon support and we will see if they help me out. In the meantime, I will be stumbling forward on this build by start building the different modules. I will start by building the low pass filter. I also have another project to start but it will be more for building me than the circuits I build. 

Well, you know where to leave your words and my email is still Aaron@K5ATG.com

Be safe and hit hard

Aaron



26 July 2023

MGC- Amateur Radio's Biggest Secret

Greetings Earthicans,

    Every once in a while you become alerted to a new technique that can completely change how you operate your radios. Automatic Gain Control - AGC, is a feature of a radio that more or less regulates the volume of the radio. When you receive a very strong signal for example from a homebrew QRP BITX with a slinky antenna, it will automatically lower the volume so it doesn't hurt your ears. Also when you are surfing the dial and come across the weak signal of a Kill-A-Buck 2,000 Transceiver with a beam larger than some states, it will bump up the volume so that you can hear them. 

    The other day while "listening" to my wife tell me all about the drama down at the nail salon, I was tuned in to the Solder Smoke Podcast #247 listening to Bill Meara N2CQR and Pete Juliano N6QW giving their professional quality review of the ICOM IC-7300. Then they started discussing AGC. It was during this conversation that the topic switched over to Manual Gain Control- MGC

    The BITX series of radios was gifted to all of humanity by Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE. It is basically a bare-bones radio that does not have all of the bells and whistles that today's appliance operators have come to depend on. This makes the BITX one of everybody's favorite radios. I think that the national motto for the wonderful country of India is "If you don't like the BITX, then you are wrong!" You got to love India, this is the country that gave us Indiana Jones and the Indy 500. If you are a member of the BITX Community or wish to be a member of it, then you should really check out the digital temple to all things BITX the BITX 20 io group.  The BITX is a bare-bones rig but it was designed from the get-go to be hacked and modified. One of the first things that a lot of people add is AGC. You can get an add-on AGC kit and hook it up to your BITX. Another option is to find some schematics for an AGC module and brew your own in the haze of a cloud of solder smoke, just like this group of young and respectable men did in their VW Microbus on their way to their local amateur radio club meeting. 


    When Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE designed the BITX he hid a neat little feature called Manual Gain Control MGC. In fact, nearly all receivers and transceivers feature MGC. Yet you will never read about it in any manual. Why? The powers that be don't want you to know about it. It is a closely guarded secret. This secret is up there in importance as other big secrets like the formula for Coca-Cola, the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the location of Jimmy Hoffa. Now we have three very important homebrew heroes that are willing to share the secret. For them to share with us they had to fight off armies of drunken Eskimo Lerechauns from Swaziland, and after that, they endured financial hardships because they had to retain the services of the world-renowned law firm of Duey Cheetim & Howe. 

    Here is the secret. I will tell you and I will probably disappear. Just from writing about it, I have the CIA, NSA, MI6, and the Girl Scouts beating down my front door to silence me. Are you ready? Be forewarned, once you gain this knowledge your eyes will be opened for the first time and you will never be the same again. 

    When you are surfing the dial and you bump into a really loud signal that threatens to blow your drums, reach up to your radio and find the volume control and turn it down until the sound coming from the speaker is at a comfortable listening level. When you encounter a very weak signal, again reach for the volume control and adjust the volume higher until the sound is at a more comfortable level. 

    That is it! When using MGC the audio volume can be quickly and easily adjusted to the level that YOU prefer. Not some algorithm or black magic hoodoo stuff that is happening inside an IC chip that is deciding for you the audio that it thinks you want. The best thing is MGC is completely free. You don't have to add modules or write some code for it. You already have it on your radio! It's time to take back the controls of your radio, and YOU decide how loud you want it to be. Next time you talk to Ashhar VU2ESE, Bill N2CQR and Pete N6QW, thank them for liberating you from the cerebral processing control that the black arts of AGC that dominate our day-to-day lives. You are now free to choose your own volume. 

    (Disclaimer- I'm pretty sure that Ashhar, Bill, and Pete did not invent the volume control but they support its use, and they are important figures in the amateur radio community and that is good enough for me. Also, MI6 isn't really beating down my door. MI6 is in the UK so they are probably eating fish and chips while monitoring the 50 trillion CCTV cameras that are in operation in England.) 

Any thoughts or comments can be left in the comments section below and you may contact me at Aaron@K5ATG.com

Be safe and Don't Litter

Aaron K5ATG

24 July 2023

The Radio Flyer

Here are some pics from today of my baby. The Radio Flyer

The above pic shows my trunk. It is made from surplus ammo can for 50 caliber rounds. It is coated in several layers of spray on the truck bed liner. I have two more that are being modified to be saddlebags on both sides of the rear wheel. The plan is to get some flush-mounted custom tail lights for a motorcycle and run a 12-sealed lead acid battery. The battery will supply power to an Arduino and the LED lights in the tail lights. Since flashing lights are noticed before steady lights, I will use the Arduino Nano to make the tail lights blink my call sign in CW. The mag mount is something that I picked up somewhere. It is a compromised antenna for an HT but the football helmet adds 7 db of gain (Each of Oklahoma University's national championships should be good for a db of gain lol, Boomer Sooner) Once the 2 saddle bags are finished they will have solar panels mounted on the top of them and these will help charge the 12 battery. At some point, I want to add more batteries so that I will have an onboard source of power instead of having to bring a separate battery for portable ops. Once I am able to add an electric assist, the battery will fit on the rear rack under the trunk. 


Here is the mount for my HT. It can easily be operated while riding. If conditions are noisy like if there is a lot of truck traffic I have a 1 ear headset that fits nicely under my helmet. The coax goes from the HT at my handlebar and snakes along the frame to the little mag mount antenna on the trunk. This keeps the coax from snagging on the chain, wheels or other mechanical parts of the trike. I'm not going to work much DX with this HT but I can get on the local repeaters. I'm net control for a weekly net and I have done this while riding the trike. In my local amateur radio club there are 4 of us who have become really close friends. Out of the 4 of us there are 3 recumbent trikes and one recumbent bike. The cities in the metro are adding dozens of miles of paved bike trails each year so the 4 of us meet up quite often and have a nice ride. At this point I am unable to ride by myself so they take me out riding and one has an electric assist and he keeps a tow rope on his trike for me. There are times when I am out riding and hit a bump wrong and my back "goes out" It is kind of hard to explain but I will lose control of everything below the waist. Temporarily paralyzed. Often it feels as if my bones have become heating elements and are cooking my muscles. My skin will feel like someone poured Napalm on me and lit me up. It is a very unpleasant sensation. Because of this I spend 99% of my time in bed. I will be homebrewing the sBITX from a folding tv tray on the side of my bed. Because the seat of the trike supports my entire back, it provides me with the only source of exercise that I can get. I'm almost 49 years old and I have had open heart surgery, my diabetes is nearly out of control, I also have Asperger's syndrome, and high anxiety, Add all of that to my back problems which are spinal stenosis in several places and my Sacrum is becoming detached from my pelvis cradle, which is why they will be putting in a cage to stabilize everything. 
So I will be out cruising the trails on the Radio Flyer and my back could go out, or my sugar will drop like crazy or my heart can act up. When this happens I have to call someone with a truck to come and pick me up. If I had electric assist then I can just turn it on and steer the trik home. I don't need the electric assist to help me go farther or make it easier to pedal, I need it to safely get me home or to a place where I can recover. For most people having an electric assist is a luxury which is awesome and there is nothing wrong with it. If it gets them out of the house then they can add a car engine for all I care. I see the electric assist as more of a necessity based on health.  As said earlier my buddy carries a tow rope on his trike and when I need help getting me home he just pulls me along. It works when he is with me. At a thousand bucks, I'm not going to be able to get electric assistance anytime soon. We are saving up for it though so never say never. 

This is an accessory mount on the side of the seat. I need to move it to the left side of the seat because I am left-handed and it will be easier for me to access everything. This would be the perfect place to mount the head unit of an HF radio. I have a mount that goes on the rear fork that will let me put on a ham stick. If I run a small wire behind me, I can do decent on the radio. In 2021 I had a 20-meter ham stick and was using a friend's KX2 and was operating "Trike Portable" and was live streaming on YouTube. I had a small pile up and was talking to people all over North and South America. I would like to have that set up more permanently and do that more often. Need to get me an HF rig first though. This accessory bar beside the seat is rated for 35 pounds so It should be possible to rig something up. 

Here is the overall view of the trike. I got it new in January 2019 and I have 3,100 miles on it. I try to get on it every chance I get because it is good exercise and it is a lot of fun. 

Well, that was too much information but hopefully, it will let everyone know what my life is while I make my own custom sBITX. 
'72
Aaron K5ATG
Aaron@K5ATG.com






22 July 2023

The sBITX - My maiden voyage into the art of homebrewing. Part I

     Every once in a while a new product comes out that you just got to have. While you are drooling over the listed features you think to yourself "Wow, not only are the NSA, CIA, Homeland Security and Girl Scouts of America flex their financial and covert might at tracking every move and thought that I make, so does HF Signals out of India." When  Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE announced the sBITX I couldn't help myself. I'm a big fan of HF Signals. They are the ones that sell the most famous electronic creation of Farhan VU2ESE, the BITX series of radios. I have the BITX 40, uBITX (pronounced MICRO BITX, not U BITX), and the Antuino. So when Farhan announces a new project, well that is clickbait for me. I have to check it out. 

    A simplified description of the sBITX is a uBITX and a Raspberry Pi 4 computer get together and some magic happens. 


    The following is a list of features of the sBITX as borrowed from the HF Signals website:

Home station, at home

  • The big compact: Although compact, it has the largest display shipped with a transceiver, a capacitive, touch screen of 7 inches.
  • All software to run modes like FT8, RTTy, PSK31 is integrated into the radio, without any messy configurations, setup, etc. to deal with.
  • It switches soundlessly from transmit to receive and between bands due to its electronic filters and T/R.
  • Band-stacking VFOs with 4 memories on each of the 8 bands, 9 convolution digital filters for the best audio experience. 
  • High-performance electronics with a passive-FET front end, 8 crystals filter, and a low phase noise, temperature-compensated crystal oscillator. 
  • The built-in, editable macros that make it a breeze to work DX or compete in contests. 
  • Add an HDMI monitor or use the browser from your PC/tablet to have a large-screen experience of all the features of this amazing radio. 
Go POTA, Go SOTA, Go Wild
  • The sBITX will neatly slip into your backpack with its compact size of 10 inches X 6 inches X 2 inches and weight of under 4 pounds (less than 2 KGs) with room to spare. With its 40-watt transmit output, it is the most powerful radio you can put into your backpack. 
  • It is armed with an XT60 power connector that you can use with lightweight 3S LiPo batteries to provide hours of field operation (The receive current is 600 mA, the transmit current can go up to 8A depending upon the drive settings.)
  • The built-in mic and the onscreen keyboard, macros makes it easy to operate all modes, voice/digital or CW without a key, mic or an extra computer in the field.
  • It has an accurate real-time clock to time FT8 transmissions and log the contact made. 
  • The built-in logger eliminates the need to carry the logbook too. 
High-Performance Radio
  • Bulletproof hybrid superher with passive-FET KISS nixer.
  • Brickwall crystal filter with 8 crystals.
  • 80 db close-in dynamic range, 90 db wide dynamic range.
  • Low phase noise, temperature compensated reference oscillator.
  • 30-40 watts output on all bands from 80 M to 10 M
  • Transmit IMDR of 30 dB (from PEP levels)
  • Silent, fanless operation
  • Noiseless electronic T/R and band switching.
  • Built-in 2 tone transmitter to tune the antenna and measure IMD
FT8
  • Built-in FT8 that works out of the box
  • One-touch operation. Touch to call CQ or start the contact.
  • Automatically logs all the QSO's into the built-in logbook. 
  • Built-in, high accuracy, real-time clock. 
CW/RTTY/PSK31 with logging and Macros
  • Totally noiseless, fast electronic T/R without noisy relays.
  • Built-in N1MM style Macros support Running and S&P
  • Uses Fldigi with its high-performance decoder in the background.
  • Raised cosine CW keying with perfect shaping.
  • 9 ring-free Convolution filters from 3 KHz to 100 Hz.
  • Use the onscreen touch keyboard or add a USB/wireless keyboard for effortless CW sending. 
SSB
  • The sBITX uses convolution SDR technology and a 7-element crystal filter to provide superb sound quality with punchy clarity.
  • Built-in microphone and touchscreen PTT as an alternative to plugging in a mic
  • It works with any other mic (standard audio jack)
  • Transmit IMD of 30 db
  • Receiver with variable receiver bandwidth from 3KHz to 1.8 KHz.
  • Built-in two-tone generator to align external linear amplifier or tune your antenna
Logger and Logbook
  • The sBITX has a logger and a logbook with RDMS support.
  • N1MM style logger with macros and automatic logging of contacts with the frequency, mode, time, automatically filled in.
  • Use macros on CW/RTTY/PSK to send out standard messages with the press of a button/key.
Telnet
  • See the spots, DX clusters on the radio with built-in telnet to DX Clusters, Reverse Beacon, PSK Reporter, etc.
Hackable Code, Skinnable GUI
  • Full source code, circuit and explanations on github.com/afarhan/sbitx
  • Write custom apps in javascript without learning SDR coding. 
  • Open source, hackable SDR written in C
  • Develop your own skins in UI in HTML/CSS/Javascript
  • More modes and functions planned
    Hopefully, all of that information will give you a general understanding of this great and wonderful radio. See here is my situation. I'm disabled. My back has all kinds of trouble. As a result, I have to spend about 90% of my time in bed. So because of this my shack is a plastic table that is on the side of my bed, set up so that I can operate my radio from bed. Then from decades of me having to be at work by 0500 I have a habit of waking up early. Well my beautiful bride is a night owl, about the time that I am waking up, she is going to bed. Being respectful of my wife's sleeping, I try to keep the volume on the down low. So I wear headphones and earbuds when watching TV. Having to keep quiet puts a pretty good kink in operating radio while the XYL is sleeping. Because of the noise I have to be regulated to the digital modes like FT8. Well, lately I have been addicted to CW. Because of my poor hearing I use an app on my cell phone to decode the CW as a backup for when I miss something. To do this the cell phone has to be able to hear the CW signal from the radio. So I can't do CW while my wife is slumbering because of the noise. Looking at the sBITX, with the feature of decoding CW itself and tons of other stuff makes this an ideal radio for me. I could go from FT8 to SSB without having to unplug an interface and its cables. I also love to operate portable when my health allows it. With the sBITX I will be able to take my radio, a computer, and just about everything else I need in one small box. Not a truckload of stuff.  
    
    To be honest, when I heard about the sBITX it kind of made me mad and depressed. Like I said, I'm on disability, and with my low disability paycheck, I have to support my wife, my 20-year-old Autistic son with Aspergers Syndrome, and a 16-year-old daughter that I'm putting through countless drama classes because she wants to be an actress and I am doing all that I can to help her achieve her dreams. It's like I now get to go on one of those internet gatherings of like-minded people, like the BITX 20 io Group, and see those that are more fortunate than myself and are able to get this wonderful radio and then tell everyone how great it is. It is something that is out of my reach and why? It's because I sacrificed my body and my health to provide for my family. This is also the reason why I don't do Facebook very much. I get to see all of my friends and family go on these vacations and do all of these things while I am sentenced to life without parole to my bed. It sucks more than a warehouse full of vacuum cleaners. I would like to live my life also. It may be hard to understand but I'm alive but I'm not living. 

    Then from stage Left, Ashhar Farhan came into my life. He is well aware of my station in life. Even so, he got me to believe that I too could have this great little radio. I can have one by making it myself. When an amateur radio operator makes something themselves we call it homebrewing. Ashhar convinced me that I can build the all-mighty sBITX at a fraction of the cost of buying one. Ashhar first developed the BITX with the goal of having people build it themselves. Then it became another rig for people to buy. He has the same idea as the sBITX. He would rather have people build it themselves than to send out the credit card numbers in exchange for a finished radio. 

    I don't remember how it happened but yeah Ashhar got me to believe that I could build the sBITX myself. Now my experience in homebrewing is limited to making different kinds of radios. I have no history in electronics at all. If I can completely build a fully functioning sBITX radio then hopefully it will inspire others to build their own. 

    My mission is to try to learn every aspect of the sBITX and share it the best that I can here on this blog. As of right now, I need to learn a lot. Right now the only parts that I have to go towards this build is a Raspberry Pi 4 (4gb RAM) and a monitor for the Raspberry Pi 4. When Ashhar designed the sBITX he made everything open source. So everything, including the OS that is on the RPI is hackable This radio isn't just soldering a transistor to a resistor. It's about learning the code, knowing what electronic component goes where and why. Like I said, I plan on sharing everything here on this blog and on the BITX 20 io group. I'm gonna tell you right off the bat. I AM BAT POO CRAZY! That being said you can and should expect lots of failures and lots of laughs from me. In fact more failures than successes. When I fail at something I want to know why it failed and what can I do to fix it. You learn more from mistakes than you do by never failing. If that is the case then I should be a genius. I should be Aaron the Great. lol

    So PLEASE subscribe to this blog so that we can go forth on this Journey together and keep slugging away. We will succeed as long as we Don't Stop Believing. (See what I did there?) We are gonna show those street light people how to build an sBITX. Anyone can comment so please do so. You can also email me at Aaron@K5ATG.com
Check back often for updates, or just subscribe so that you will know when this blog is updated. 

'72
Aaron K5ATG


09 June 2023

Jesus Plaque

This is a picture that I did way back in 2005 when I first started to do scroll work. I gave it to family members but eventually, it came back to me. 


Anniversary Plaque


Last June 16 me and my wife Desiree celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. So I made this little plaque for her. The wood in the background is Purpleheart and that is its natural color, the foreground wood is oak. 

23 May 2023

Rose Rock of Oklahoma

 I feel very lucky that I was born and raised in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Mile for mile it is one of the most diverse areas for its size in the world. South-East Oklahoma you have humidity, rain, mountains, rivers, and lakes. Walk along a river's edge or a creek and you can find bamboo growing, we call it cane and it makes some great fishing poles. In the heat of the day you can jump in the river and swim with alligator gar and American alligators. Go up to the Northwest part, the panhandle, a.k.a. no-mans land, is flatter than a calm lake. It gets hot and cold, lot of ice storms and out west you can climb the mesas. Hike u Black Mesa, the state's highest point and you will be gifted with the site of 5 states, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. Oklahoma is home to the Great Salt Planes and Little Saraha State Park. To best describe Oklahoma listen to this song by Oklahoma native Vince Gill, which he wrote for Oklahoma's Centennial celebration in 2007. 


One of the most unique things about Oklahoma is the  Rose Rock 


The Rose Rock is a naturally forming rock shape that is found only in Oklahoma and the mighty Sarah Desert of Africa. As you can see by the picture above it is a very unique shape for a rock. The current theory is that they were formed over 200 million years ago when a shallow sea existed over what is now Oklahoma. To me the formation of rose rocks is simple. God wanted to make a rock that looked like a rose and so there was. The rose rock is the official rock of Oklahoma. Isn't that cool!

My mom loved all things rose. She even liked Texas because of the Yellow Rose of Texas. Well no one is perfect and I forgave her for that deviance. When she had her farm in Choctaw, OK she had a really nice rose garden. That is where the majority of the garden stuff in the Rose Rock Observatory came from.  Unfortunately, I do not have any of her roses, but I have two aunts that do and they are working on getting me some cuttings. 

To go with her rose garden she also collected rose rocks. When she passed I inherited her collection of rose rocks. It is from her collection that the Rose Rock Observatory was built around. 

It still hurts me badly that I can't pick up the phone and talk to my mom. I miss her a lot. I am very lucky that when I am missing her, I can go out to her rose rocks, her other plants, and her statuary and it makes me feel better. Yeah, she is still watching over me.  

I miss you mom


For Mom- 1952-2021


Email Me Aaron@K5ATG.com

22 May 2023

Painted Rock

 There isn't much of a nightlife on Ascension Island, there isn't much of a social life on Ascension Island. People live there but that is about it. However, they do have a pretty cool tradition with a rock that has been named Lizard Rock.

The tradition goes that if you are to go out on the night before you leave and throw some paint on Lizard Rock, then you will never ever return to Ascension Island. It sounds kind of odd that the biggest tradition for the island is a ritual that once performed will make sure that you never return. Guess they are not big on repeat business. So that is where I blatantly stole the idea. 

I decided to change it up a bit. The last few years have been devastating to this planet. COVID has taken so many of the loved ones that all of us Earthicans are wailing out in sorrow. In the past few years, I have lost:

My mother

an Aunt who was like a mother

2 uncles who were like fathers

A nice

Our time on this rock is limited. So here is how I changed up the tradition of the Lizard Rock and the goal is to make it more loving. When a person's birthday comes up they can pick any color of paint that they wish and paint the rock with it. By doing so you are saying "Hey I'm gonna paint this little rock for my birthday but by putting my layer of paint on it, I'm saying that I will do everything that I can to come and put another layer on it next year" People will come and go but the layers of paint that they put on this rock will last far beyond the years of a lifetime. 

So let me introduce the famous Painted Rock of the Rose Rock Observatory!

I sprayed a little bit of blue spray paint on it because I did all of the work and I wanted to start the tradition. So if your birthday is coming up feel free to stop by and add your paint to the rock. This is not limited to just birthdays, any special event will work. 

Any comments are welcome and as always feel free to email me at Aaron@K5ATG.com

'72

Aaron K5ATG

21 May 2023

Product Review- Microphone Flag

I found a good little deal and decided to splurge and get a little bit of bling for my ham shack. If you live in the modern world, and you should or you wouldn't be reading this blog on the internet, then you have seen these little microphone flags. These are usually little plastic boxes, they do come in different shapes, and display a logo, typically a TV network and such. This is something that I looked into but the usual price is $100 and up, I learned to live with the possibility of never getting one with my callsign on it.    

Then one day I was cruising around aliexpress and came across this amazing seller, Blue Mantis 01 Store They offered a custom microphone flag for less than $15. You send them an image when you make your purchase and a day or two later you get an email showing your new microphone flag. They do this for you to confirm how it turned out and if you like it or not. 

I was not expecting this kind of customer service for a product that had such a low cost. Let me tell you that after getting this microphone flag in my own hands, it may have a low price, but it is not cheap. The K5ATG logo that is on the microphone flag is one that I made up myself., the finished logo is a full-color sticker that was professionally printed. The colors on the logo matched the colors displayed in Microsoft Paint where I made the logo.  The plastic that makes the main body is a hefty 2 mm thick. 

As you can see in the photo above, the interior foam that protects the microphone from coming into contact with the body of the flag is a pretty dense foam but it is not dense enough to put unwanted pressure on the microphone. 

I'm really impressed with the quality of this microphone flag. I will be giving Blue Mantis 01 Store my future business. 

Once again feel free to leave any comments that you have in the comments section below or you my email me at Aaron@K5ATG.com

Lose the hate, Love all
'72
Aaron K5ATG

05 May 2023

Rose Rock Observatory

In case you are just now getting to know my greatness 🤣 I truly enjoy the subject of astronomy. In 2007 I got my dream telescope, a 12" Dobsonian telescope. I used this scope so much that my wife named it "The Other Woman" because if I wasn't spending the night with my wife, then I must be with The Other Woman. Every weekend that didn't have a full Moon, you could find me half-frozen in a cow pasture somewhere in Western or Northern Oklahoma exploring the universe. The size of my Silverado was picked so that it would have enough room in the bed to haul around The Other Woman. 



Fast forward to today and I still have the Other Woman and I still have the Silverado. However because of my back,  can no longer drive, and I can't haul the Other Woman to enjoy celestial adventures under a star-filled night. Instead, she has to experience the challenge of seeking the stars in a light-polluted suburban sky that is just seven miles distant from the skyscrapers of downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

Like most amateur astronomers, I have dreams of having my own backyard observatory. Actually, the ultimate dream is to build a 10'X10' roll-off roof observatory that has a 10'X10' warm room. The warm room will be pretty much a man cave for me and my son Dakota. There are a few things preventing me from this. One of course is money and two is I have three of the most evil pecan trees in the known universe. My backyard is 60'X90' and the pecan trees shade about 80% of it. So that leaves me with a patch of sky that is about 30 degrees wide east to west and 90 degrees north to south. So as the saying goes, when life gives you a lemon, you bean somebody in the head with it, or something like that. 

Then in 2021, my mother passed away. It was somewhat expected but it hurt me a lot. Now all of my parents are got, my mother, my father, two step-dads, and my mom's long-term boyfriend who saw me as his own when he didn't have to. My mom really loved her flower and rose gardens. When she passed I was blessed with some of her flowers and roses along with some of her garden statuary. Hidden among some of the overgrown flowerpots was her collection of Rose Rocks. 

After I and my bride Desi bought our house in 2003 (It is hard to believe that we have been here for 20 years and we have just 10 more years left on the mortgage! )  I got myself into gardening and landscaping. Oh yeah, I had this really awesome backyard. I had a 10X20 foot goldfish pond which had underwater lighting and featured a four-tiered waterfall. Behind each tier of the waterfall were a light and an echo chamber that slightly magnified the waterfall's sound. It wasn't annoyingly loud like a politician during campaign season, but you could hear it softly in the background all over the backyard. Many wonderful hours were enjoyed sitting there reading and napping to the sound of the waterfall. Soaking in the sight of the flowers of the lily pads. During the thousands of tadpoles enjoyed swimming with the goldfish. 

Then my back grew into some really bad shape. I could no longer do the maintenance on my pond my days of building and maintaining my flowerbeds were over. Since I no longer could do those things that I love, I took up growing bonsai trees to satisfy my desire for gardening. By 2022 my once beautiful pond ad filled up with leaves from those vile pecan trees and the goldfish and tadpoles had disappeared. It became both an eyesore and a health hazard. I was limping around the backyard looking at my bonsai trees and my mom's flowers. I was missing my mom pretty bad. I still do to this day and I will until I become a silent key (In the world of amateur radio when a radio operator passes away, they become a silent key.) I wandered over to the rotting carcass that was once a magnificent pond wishing that I could restore it to its former glory. Sadly the 15'X30' pond liner was full of holes. Its days of retaining water had long since passed. Then somehow an idea formed in the vast empty expanse of real estate that has its address of being between my ear drums. The pond liner could no longer work as a pond liner for it was full of holes. However, it could have a second life as a really big weed blocker. 

It took me about three months to clean out the debris that had filled up the pond over the years. Before I hurt my back I could have done it in a few hours. Now I could get one shovel full of junk then have to go lay down for a couple of hours to recover. It was a really painful process. 
Eventually, I got the liner out and cleaned it up as best as I could. 

Here is the idea. I would make a garden that measured 15 feet wide and 30 feet long. That size was determined because it is the size of the pond liner. It would be divided in half into 2 parts each 15'X15'. The western half is to be the garden area. This will display my bonsai trees and my mom's flowers and such. The eastern half would become an open-air observatory.  Throughout 2022 I worked on it as best as I could. 


In the photo above you can see the garden/ observatory at its full length. The near end is where the majority of flowers and bonsai will be displayed. The "mulch" that is covering the pond liner is nothing more than shredded leaves.  I would like to get proper mulch but finances will not allow it. The city of Midwest City will give me a tree truckload of much for free. It is the mulch that the city gets when they shred the limbs and trees that they acquire from damaged trees and such when a storm rolls through. The city doing this actually saves hundreds of tons of tree limbs and such from going into the landfill every year. I do wonder why the city ends up with tons and tons of free mulch yet they turn around and spend tax dollars to buy mulch for their own landscaping. Ok, I'm not going to get started on the city. Let's move on, shall we? 

This is a little garden bench that we made. The red landscape blocks are from my mom's rose garden that she had at her farm out in Choctaw, Oklahoma. The big red rock was from my sister Tammy's house when she lived in Del City, OK. My son Dakota and his friend Jace put it all together for me. Thanks, everyone for the materials and muscle power for this garden bench. I would like to get the top of the bench flattened to make it more comfortable but I don't know how to do that. 

Of course, you have to display the most beautifully designed flag in history. The flag pole is something that I got off the internet and it turns to allow the flag to rotate for the wind. You can just see one at the lower left corner of the picture, but I have two solar-powered garden walkway lights aimed up at the flag so that it is lit up at night as proper flag etiquette demands.  



Here is the little bench that displays some of my bonsai trees. The garden statues are from my mom, so I am really proud to have them. 


This is the far eastern end of the observatory garden. At this end, I will put some sort of pad so I will have something solid to put my telescope on. 

Not pictured yet are the rose rocks. My mom collected rose rocks and I was lucky enough to get her collection. I'm working on a way to display them in the garden. Another item is the Painted Rock. It is just a simple rock that is in its own little bed. The idea is that when someone has a birthday, then they can get some paint of any color that they want and dump it on the rock. Over time the layers of people will build up. 

Well, that is all for now, feel free to leave any comments in the comments section below. You may reach me at Aaron@K5ATG.com 

Lose hate, Love all
'72
Aaron K5ATG

Bob Heil K9EID SK

 The amateur radio community is sad by the loss of amateur radio legend Bob Heil K9EID. He is the founder of Heil Sound, who makes audio equ...