May 2024 Entries

Wednesday, 15th May, 2024

Went to the local hackspace last night, what an amazing place full of good tools, materials, bits and pieces and vintage hardware and general stuff! Also has a nice work area, social area, drinks/snacks, local servers, music all sorts that makes it just a great space to hang out. There were about 10 people there, maybe half uni students and half older, probably about my age, folks. Mostly guys but a couple of women too. Everyone was very friendly and so diverse. Most folks were doing programming projects but one guy was doing some wood work. I’d taken my lego pieces to build the unikitty tram, and that attracted a lot of attention and had a good chat with folks about lego and Studio software.

There was an older guy who I talked to a lot about all sorts of things, well mostly I listened, but he was interesting. Does a lot of social work and interfaces with different groups and has interesting stories.

They do weekly meets but if you’re a member then you can use it at any time. Probably going to join, although I wouldn’t surprise myself if I never build anything there but just hang out and chat!

Planning what mountain to climb this Friday…

Going to the hackspace, where most people are running linux on their laptop has obviously got me thinking about running linux again… One guy was running i3 and whilst it’s been years and years since I’ve used i3 window manager, I really want to use it again. It’s so clean and straightforward. One of my laptops was dedicated to running linux on it, I just haven’t got round to doing anything. One guy had a really nice Lenovo laptop, it looked like a surface but better. I’ll add it to my list of todos. The list is quite big and I’m debating if I do my list on Friday, when I’m off work, or if I go up the mountain and play radio. Play radio is my first thought, as the weather is supposed to be lovely. I was eyeing the 10 pointer, circa 1100m, summit that’s about an hour away. That would probably take the whole time I have. Alternatively I go find something closer and lower and do that, then come home and do some jobs.

I also stayed out very late and didn’t get home until 11:30pm, then I was all excited about the place and had to have a cup of tea and some computer time to calm down, but that meant it was post midnight when I went to bed. So now I’m tired and whilst it’s still light outside, and inside, and I could do some jobs, I just can’t be bothered.

My daugther has been using my ipad a lot and the Smart Keyboard cover is showing heavy signs of stress. I think I need to remove it as it’ll get wrecked. She doesn’t use the keyboard, it’s just that it’s attached the whole time and gets handled a lot. It also means it’s on 2% battery right now…

I sort of need to do some work tonight but I’m also feeling too tired for that. Maybe if I park myself in front of the computer I’ll spring into life. Which also reminds me that the office really needs a good clean and sort out. It just accumulates all sorts with everyone using that room, and it’s never clear enough for the cleaner to clean so it’s also dirty.

Archive box, that I host, stopped working the other day. In fact I don’t know when it stopped working as I was hardly using it. It just annoys me that it stopped working for some reason. Nginx also was throwing some weird error about not being able to write to a folder. So I made the folder /tmp/nginx/client-tools or something like that and it ran fine. I don’t understand where that came from… Makes me think about redoing everything. The hackspace runs all it’s websites on a little HP Microserver in the rack there. Maybe I need all my stuff at home on my server. I get why people just pay to have services. I like self hosting but it’s just another thing to look after.

You might see a theme…I also liked the hackspace as everything was done through necessity and with what they have. My problem is that, for the most part, I can pretty much just buy whatever. I feel like this leads to excess of stuff, over engineered solutions, and malaise of tech. On the other hand, using some old thing for something can be annoying. I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m going to try and find stuff to sell in this weekend’s ebay sellers fees promo. I think the Mac mini G4 should go, and the Xbox one, and whatever else I can find.

A while ago I ordered this kit from the US which lets me build a standalone digital radio (ham) where I can connect to all of the digital radio networks and then use a mic and speaker together with a mini PC to chat to people without having to get a real radio out. I always found the digital hotspots a bit weird, where you’d transmit into your hotspot and then it routes over the internet to the network. Why bother with the handheld part? I suppose people already have them. Anyway, I bought all the stuff but have never used it. I’m not sure I really will. I think there’s software I can run on the computer to connect and I never do that either. I just don’t know if anyone would buy it/even be looking for it. I suppose I can list it and see what happens. I’ve also got the Dell Wyse with it, but that was only £20 and I could use that mini PC someplace else. I should just wipe it and reinstall linux on it so it’s more general purpose. Maybe for packet radio that I said I’d do but have never done so either….also including a kit to build the node thing.

Feeling in a purge mood, but also want to buy that small e-ink reader - boox palmer. Perhaps selling the Mac mini G4 and xbox will cover most of the cost of one? At least it’s fewer things and I’d definitely use the palmer.

Friday, 10th May, 2024

My new radio fad has already faded.

I ordered some secondhand track from a bricklink seller back in the 20th of April. He took over a week before posting due to “moving warehouse”, but they still haven’t arrived. I keep thinking “this weekend we’ll build the big track” but no. Messaged him today asking for tracking. It can’t be a scam as it was only £9 of track.

Should’ve just ordered 50 knock offs from Aliexpress for £15. Might still do that.

In fact they have huge train sets on there for £25. Can barely buy a carriage in parts for that with legit Lego. No one will care except me and do I really? I bought €15 of stickers for the Maersk train that I feel like I’m never going to build as I’m not sure I want to spend £200 on it.

Hoping to find some deals on eBay on used Lego trains. There have been a couple of pieces. Maybe I should low ball them and see if they bite with a counteroffer. But there’s no theme to it other than random stuff.

I wanted to not waste my whole evening on the computer faffing about, but guess what.

Lovely weather forecast for this weekend though.

Do I have a short attention span? Is that why I constantly find new things I want to buy.

Is working part time going to quell my purchasing habits…or am I going to bail on the idea.

Have been thinking about 0.9 instead and making use of the flex day scheme to earn an extra day via slightly longer working. Means I’ll get 3 days a month for the price of 2 vs. 4 days for the price of 4. Seems better value.

Supposed to be maximum aurora here tonight. I’ll go outside before bed and see if I can tell. Probably too much light pollution here.

Thursday, 9th May, 2024

So I’m back on the which radio decision again. There’s no perfect radio. There’s no perfect camera. I’m not perfect. etc. The portable radio that I have, the KX2, is probably one of the most highly recommended radios out there. It is absolutely tiny, does 10W (most others only do 5 or maybe 10W but with an external battery - another thing), has an internal tuner that will match anything - basically means you can take a long bit of wire, plug it in and then transmit on just about any band. Is very user servicable, has a nice formfactor, has all the controls you need via buttons and dials and minimal menus needed. Think it’s great for CW (morse) for reasons I don’t know. You can even use it as a big handheld with the onboard mic (I’d probably never do that). I’ve made a tiny mic for it, and it lives in a tiny case. Internal battery is good, and it really is the ideal portable radio.

So why don’t I like it? I do miss a waterfall. Even though I don’t really need one, I’m so used to using one now. All my other radios have it and I just like being able to see what’s going on. It feels wasteful to have an expensive radio mostly sitting around and only getting used when I go out. Now this should start getting a little more frequent but still. My current problem with it is that I never use it except when I go out and I forget how to do stuff. I already have a reasonably portable radio which is 20W and has a waterfall, and was my sole radio for several months, so I know how it works. It does need an external power supply/battery though.

Is it just my brain making me want to buy things?

The thing is, I know what I would buy - the ICOM IC-705. It’s a portable (although bigger than the KX2), 10W (but only with external battery, 5W otherwise), mutliband, modern, digital SDR radio. It can do HF AND UHF/VHF, it has a lovely screen, with waterfall, it has various digital modes, it can be remotely controlled, it has a lot of hackability and interop stuff, it’s also readily available from stores (although not an issue now I already own a KX2 but previously was an advantage).

It doesn’t have an internal tuner. That is the main downside, the 5/10W thing also but probably not that much of a big deal. It’s also more fragile than a KX2 for carrying about.

The thing that attracts me to this radio is the UHF/VHF with sideband mode vs. just FM. So I could use it with SSB satellites, or even try for SSB contacts up mountains. It has more uses, although I’d probably not use them that much. It’s not duplex so technically not suitable for satellites…although you can always cheat 👀. I could also use it as my sole radio. I’d probably want to get an amp at home, but I could plug it into that to use at home and then out portable. There’s several good pieces of software that would let me operate it remotely. So I could sit in the warm house and use it when it’s cold in the garage. If I have the amp in the garage I could also run some cable to the office, use it on my desk but still get 100W out of the amp into the antenna in the garden. So I get the feel of using the radio but not the clutter. It has lots of functions and settings and options but if it was my sole radio, I would learn everything and make the most of it.

The lack of tuner can be overcome with either an external tuner - lots of small ones - or just use a reasonant antenna. Up a mountain? I’d just use a EFHW. In the shack at home? Can get an amp with a tuner or, again, just use my EFHW at home on the bands. 5 vs 10 W? Well that depends on what I want to do when out activating a site. Do I just want contacts? Or am I trying to get places…I think at the moment, I just want contacts. I end up spending an hour on the summit just faffing about and making about 20 contacts on a couple of bands and I’m happy with that. Heck, I’d be happy to make 4 contacts on 2m FM with a handheld and walk back down. So 5W will still get me plenty of contacts in UK and Europe. Probably nothing exciting but not that bothered. There are small amps I could take with me, and get 40-50+W if I wanted to try that. Or take a little battery to get 10W out the box. I was worried about the KX2 only have 10W vs. the 20W of my G90.

I also thought the KX2 would be good for taking on holiday, but I’m still not sure I want to risk a £1000 radio going through security at the airport. Think I’d rather try and pick up a cheaper one (or use my G90 which was £300) and then if something bad happens, I’m not too upset.

Like tools, you pick the right one for the job, so there’s always the case of having multiple radios. But I just don’t like that. I could have one, with supporting items, that would do probably everything I’ll ever want to do with ham radio.

The good news is the KX2 is well sort after so I’ll be able to sell it without losing any money.

So I guess I need to watch a bunch of videos on all this. Maybe that’s want I wanted all along?

Well the videos didn’t really help. I should do something else to distract myself from it all.

Wednesday, 8th May, 2024

After spending what feels like weeks designing and redesigning Lego trains on Studio, I finally settled on one I liked and ordered it. Even the ordering process took me all evening yesterday as I was looking at the combinations of pick a brick, the various Bricnklink stores around the world, Europe and in the UK. As one store doesn’t sell everything I wanted, it was trying to find the combination of everything that was the most cost effective. After lots of trial and error and a spreadsheet, ordering from all UK stores on bricklink worked out to be the cheapest. I did have some tiles which were only available from a couple of stores but they had hardly anything else I wanted. It meant that one seller was just sending me 8 bricks…plus £3 in postage…so after trying to find somewhere else, I ended up just ordering some fun minifigures from them as well, which meant I spent more than I needed to, but oh well.

There was a Thai store that had loads of bricks, almost everything I needed, and was very good value - but when I added in taxes and shipping it wasn’t much better. Likewise with a Serbian store. pick a brick did have free shipping and had a lot of items but it was still more expensive, and the remaining items still had to come from bricklink.

Now I wait for all the packages to arrive, no doubt with some comment from my wife on the number of packages! to then build it. I can see why people just buy two sets from lego and join them together! I just don’t know what to do now…

I spent this evening reading a new Lego Trains book and listening to Dire Straits live.

The Lego train I’m making is small and realtively simple but it still ended up being about £50…watching YouTube videos of people’s setups make me realise just how much they’ve spent on stuff. Especailly the low subscriber count channels, a favourite, whereby they’re not making much/any money from videos to help fund it. I suppose they’ve been doing it for years and years and not being me wanting to go from zero to mega train city setup in one month. I also want Lego Monorail, but they only made about 3 sets in the 90s and used prices are astronomical. I also have to remember that my kids want to play with the Lego, so I shouldn’t get too precious with designs, parts, layouts, etc. and I’m better off buying real lego sets with instructions that they can follow along with.

I was going to make the Maersk train set but now I’m not sure about this, the raw parts are about £170 (with 3 wagons and 6 containers) plus postage from about 5-6 stores, so probably getting towards £200. I have bought several motors and battery boxes, for two new trains, either ones I make, or motorising the Harry Potter train…which given the price of stuff this is probably the best deal, plus everyone would enjoy it. Except my wife will disapporve of just buying it, as it’s like a big present for the kids for no reason whatsoever (welcome to being an adult with disposal income I guess 😅).

Sometimes I wonder what I’d be doing if I wasn’t married with kids. Not in a “I regret my life” way but just out of curiosity. Would I have done ham radio? Lego trains? Where would I be working? So many questions which would all be different. I do think things ended up well for me in general because of life. I do think I’d spend way more money on my own! Housing and food etc. would be less but hobbies would be out of control.

This build is amazing.

Saturday, 4th May, 2024

I want to make another train but I just can’t decide what. Was going to make the maersk freight train and wagons but now I’ve decided it’s too expensive and I don’t really love it. I look at other designs and like those but then I’m not sure. I’ve already ordered some more motors and battery hubs. I just can’t decide.

There’s a nice U.K. diesel engine but I’d have to pay for the design. Or I could design my own. Which I’ve done but still not sure. It’s getting to the point of annoying myself. Maybe I should just buy one of the cargo sets that Lego makes vs. making ones myself. Originally it started as making cheaper versions or more flexibility on the carriages.

Maybe I should write out what I want and try and deduce something that way…

Friday, 3rd May, 2024

Today is my first day off as part of my part time schedule. Still not 100% sure if this is the right thing to do. Mostly the worry of not maximising pay now in case something should happen.

I’m waiting for the washing machine to finish so I can take everything out before I go t the dump and then up a mountain with the radio. Probably once I get out I’ll have forgotten this concern.

Wednesday, 1st May, 2024

May 4th Lego is doing a promo week on Star Wars lego. I like Star Wars but I don’t actually like Star Wars lego. It’s just 9000 pieces of grey. Anyway, they often do a “spend over £x and get a free set” and so they’re doing one for star wars week. So I put off ordered the powered up hubs and train motors until today. I found that the controllers are super cheap used but the others either aren’t available used or the same price as new. This did mean I was short of the spend limit, so I added a minifig for the kids and me. I also used our work website thing to get discounted gift cards so I save 8% on the price. Go all through this and buy it, then think “there was no promo in my cart, I hope I wasn’t meant to add it”. Turns out you only get the free set if you spend it the amount on Star Wars lego sets…Ah well.

I now just need to decide what train(s) we’re going to build next. I’ve got the knock off Maersk one, my cutise unikitty one for the girls, or something else I’ve yet to decide upon.

Instead of wasting all evening on the computer I decided to do 5km on the rowing machine. Turns out I’ve not used that since November 2022! 😬 My hands sure know that. The usual inertia to actually get going but then once you do it’s not that bad. I decided to watch this YouTube video, which is 80s synth over the top of scenes of the TGV in France. I guess that’s my life.

Now I want a TGV lego train. There was a set which was based upon the TGV, and people have modified it to look more like it. It is very similar to the passenger train we do have, so seems like it should be further down the list of trains I should get.

I was thinking it would be fun to rent some small office space, where I could setup computers, radio, lego trains, work bench, all that stuff but just one big, indoors floor space. But I bet it’s way more money than I want to spend, and a complete hassle.

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