British Summer Time
It's been a really busy week. Work is going well and we're beginning to solve some interesting problems. I hope to be able to write a bit about what we're doing here in a month or two. Outside of work I've also got up to one or two things.
The week began with some really nice results from the trailcams. We'd resituated one of the cameras and it looked very much like it was where the deer hung out during the day. Dan extended the video recording time after a trigger to thirty seconds. Although this involves more editing work for Dan, the results are pretty impressive.
- video from Tuesday, a compilation of two cameras, featuring birdsong, rabbits, a magpie digging for food, a strutting pheasant, a squirrel, and some amazing scenes of the deer chilling out;
- still images from Tuesday, taken just before the video recording was triggered;
- video from Saturday, featuring a magpie collecting materials for building a nest, and a hare;
- still images from Saturday, featuring the same animals but in exciting action shots!;
- Jamie has his own camera in a more urban location. Check out the badgers in his garden, a sight which, for one reason or another, is rather less welcome around here;
- and Dan's gemlog this week about the trapcam, for another point of view.
These are getting somewhat popular; we have shared them with family and friends (and now you) and it seems other people are enjoying our own version of Springwatch too. We ordered a third camera, but Amazon now thinks it might be lost. We were talking about this yesterday and we're quite tempted to get one really good camera instead of a third cheap one. Whatever the case, it feels like these videos are going to be a weekly thing. You can check back to https://heathens.club/~palm93/video/ to see the latest trailcam videos.
Besides checking the trailcams, we braved what turned out to be only a few spots of rain to visit Warleigh Wood. It was muddy, sure, but it was a real pleasure to see the wood coming back to life all around us. I don't think we saw any walkers the whole time we were there.
During long coding sessions, I believe it can help to have a suitable five-minute distraction to switch over to now and then. For me, go is pretty good for this. This week I graduated from a 7×7 game in a day to a 9×9 go game over two days. 9×9 is its own game. I found an online book called 81 Little Lions that gives some idea of how, and it's also enlightening to browse Crazy Sensei 9×9 openings to get some idea of what (near-)optimal play looks like. Having said that, it's far more fun to play a human than a machine. If you're out there and you enjoy go, even if you think you are awful at it, please join in. We have a group called Overnight Games for this purpose. It incorporates our 9×9 go ladder, through which we'll be playing most of our games. It's called "overnight" because we try to keep each game to within two days.
⚠️ Non-ionising radiation
Well, we really stepped up our activity on the HF bands this week with our radiofurtling. Last week we didn't even transmit and this week we did. I got out the Flexweave antenna we made last week and measured it. You might remember that we essentially just got some leftover wire and cut it in half and slung it into a tree to see what would happen. It turns out we were kinda lucky. Each pole of the antenna was 19.5m, and the resulting 39m antenna has a fundamental frequency right in the middle of the 80m band, at about 3.658MHz. Being a half-dipole, this means it's also good for the 17m, 12m and to some extent the 30m bands.
However, the 80m band mostly comes alive after nightfall, and we were mostly messing about on the (unrelated and incorrect) 40m band, relying on the antenna tuner to sort out the impendance matching. We also put no thought into the direction that we oriented the antenna. Despite all this, a couple of minutes of FT8 plopped out at a pretty low power made it to south-east Australia, Fiji and Hawaii, after bouncing off the sky a few times.
Later in the week, I learned the basics of these bands and what I could do on them. I turned it all into a set of notes containing a memory map for my radio so that I could just plug in an antenna, choose the mode I want to use, and just key in a memory location. On Saturday we messed about with Dan's NooElec SDR and stuck up the antenna we made for the 80m band. I had a go at JS8Call through until the late evening, to limited success, though I did see a few conversations flash by. I may have been unlucky - the bands kept coming and going. I was operating from inside my house, though, and we were using a huge length of RG58 coaxial cable which according to a coax calculator I found, would have been up to 3-4dB of loss at the kind of frequencies we were playing with.
The 39m-long antenna is fun but I'd like something a bit more convenient. On Sunday I grabbed some more Flexweave and made another antenna 20m long. As well as being useful for the 40m band and 15m band, the whole thing will fit in my garden without me needing use some nearby woodland or having to put up scary signs to warn walkers on the adjacent footpath not to approach the wire. With the old antenna we noticed that the 40m band was quite busy but noisy, and with this new antenna, it's a lot clearer.
I realised something that would have contributed to why we weren't getting many messages out. It turns out I was putting too much audio into the radio and it was using the auto level control to try to counteract it. The audio would have been coming out distorted. I fixed this, and reports of good signal flooded in on FT8. I had a nice chat with Steve EI2GYB in Carndonagh in County Donegal, Ireland on 40m JS8. JS8Call, the program through which I was chatting, resembles a chatroom and a mailbox all in one. It inherits FT8's ability to work over even very noisy links, and when it's not possible to communicate directly, you can relay messages over JS8. Now I know all the tricks I need to do in combination to make this work, I'll have a less frustrating time.
I improved the Default Stew recipe again this week. I also worked out why the stews have tasted so bitter and revolting so far. Back when I lived near my family, I'd look after my niece once or twice a week. She'd use the slow cooker as a kind of cauldron and make potions in it with the spices in my cupboard. It would make the house stink, but it has also made the stoneware bowl retain all those bitter, intense flavours. I filled it up with a sodium bicarbonate solution and left it to bubble for a couple of days, and now bitter cumin is not the defining flavour of chilli night.
I can exclusively reveal that the next iteration of the stew will involve dumplings.
We're now in UTC+1, and so British Summer Time is here, giving us an extra hour of sunlight each evening. This is the latest in a string of changes bringing many more opportunities to get out and do stuff outdoors after work, not just at the weekend.