First Contact, the Moon and Brains

Outside temperatures of −4°C this week meant I was happy to stay inside most of the time, drinking cups of coffee, watching the snow falling outside and the wind in the trees, while listening to NTS Radio and Music for Programming. Oh, and doing the odd bit of coding, of course.

On Monday our regular radio net went pretty well. I could hear Kipz M7KPZ through GB3BS in Lansdown and we then went back over to our Signal call. For a few weeks we've been talking about whether we could get a direct connection between our stations. And so, after working out that the skylight in my bathroom points towards Kipz (roughly), I dangled my antenna out of it, and, with the radio on the cistern of the toilet, I sent a (fairly strong but not antisocially so) test transmission. On the waterfall plot of Kipz's OpenWebRX SDR receiver, visible over a video call, we could see a definite stripe. This is good news. I will try again to get my antenna installed, as well as look into making a Yagi antenna pointing towards him. Next week we hope to get OpenWebRX set up so that I can use his WebSDR from my house. We're also looking into adapting the HackRF One to output single sideband on 144.300MHz for a direct contact between us, with the help of my teachers Richard G4AWP and Peter M0DCV. Richard pointed us to (among other things) the HeyWhatsThat Path Profiler, which, given two locations, shows any big hills between any two locations. Unfortunately, there does appear to be a bit of obstruction, but nothing we can't overcome I'm sure. To some extent, the pandemic is getting in the way of lots of radio projects with M7KPZ and M7XER, but playing around like this on Monday nights will do until now. I'm really looking forward to messing around with shortwave in the summer.

This week I also made a start on the Heathens' Almanac, a little script which gives a dynamic calendar of moon phases, solstices and equinoxes, and other events, with some moon lore in there too. It was a fun programming challenge and it fits in with the theme of, but the main bonus is we have a long list of excuses to go outside and party when the lockdown restrictions are sufficiently lifted.

Colin Rowat sent me an icibici kit this week. It's a brain-computer interface which plugs into phones, tablets and the like. You stick an electrode onto your scalp and it will send EEG signals from your brain to your device. The v0.1 kit comes with all you need to get going, including the PCB, cables, electrodes, swabs, and even a bathing cap to keep it all in place. By analogy with Google Cardboard, icibici uses these simple components to keep the cost down to £20 for a one-channel EEG sensor. This is significantly cheaper than competitor interfaces like the OpenBCI. As well as a general interest I've had in brain-computer interfacing for a while, this is for a project forming between me, Adam FC, Toxie and Dan. Hopefully I can try it out and report back sometime in the coming week.

Until then, you can read about the icibici kit and what it comprises in a review at Robert Oostenveld’s blog.