Yaesu G-400RC Rotator Controller gone blind

The Yaesu G400 has given good service, I can’t remember when it went blind. As well as making the dial visible in low light the scale lighting is a reminder that the thing is switched on.

yaesu G400 Replacing the bulb was a job I have put off for ages. Finally I pulled the controller apart. It is not easy to get at the scale illumination, just one bulb taped with a silvered tape at the top left hand corner.

Once all the necessary screws were removed to get access to release the scale it was obvious that the bulb had actually melted the plastic. An ideal candidate for cool lighting. There are positions for lighting provided at the top left and top right of the dial. I arranged 2 bright blue LED’s in series with a 1N4001 diode and a 1K Ohm resistor connected to the original bulb supply. I secured my LED’s with gaffer tape at the corners and re assembled.

The result is a very modern look for the trusty G400, plus the dial will not be melted by the LED’s.

blue illumination

The Samsung NC10 Netbook put to the test

The specs seemed to indicate that it would do it. I ‘spose I was a little rash to take the plunge and buy a Sammy to try. Well it does. What? Perform just like any other 1.6GHz Windows XP Machine with 1GHz of RAM and a 160GB hard Drive. The Intel Atom Processor means it is small and low in power consumption, high in performance.

Of course being a Netbook what it does not have is an Optical Drive, there just isn’t room, the thing is only twice the area of a CD anyway. This means any disk bound software has to be installed from a USB CD Drive or in my case from a Networked Drive.

Installing MS Autoroute from a Networked Drive is not straightforward, it comes up with a message immediately telling you that it can be done but not the way you are trying it. The way that is outlined didn’t work for me. Solution is to put the contents of both CD’s into one shared folder on the Master Machine and map that folder as a drive on the Slave (Samsung).

I have come across a couple of small problems. My Bluetooth GPS plays up, it has never been easy to pair and is old and slow so a USB GPS Module will be the best solution there. The Samsung Screen Saver and the Samsung Software Updater do not allow for a non administrative account user. Log in using a restricted user account and a. the Updater complains and b. the Screen Saver crashes. In time they will no doubt both have to go, word has it that the Software Updater is not that clever anyway.

For assured safety I am using my fully isolated home brew interface between Netbook and Radios. A poor quality photo, sorry, it has Opto Isolated USB Rig Control and Line Isolation Ttransformers for Audio In and Out.

The Ham Radio Aplications I have tried out up to now are are covered in this video. The ‘Sammy’ is a Netbook that thinks its a Notebook and does what a Laptop can do.

A Netbook that cuts the Mustard

I had to do it, my existing Laptop which I use for Portable is a Dell Latitude. Purchased second hand it has done remarkably well, it runs Windows 95, the Display is 16 Colours so photos and SSTV look weired.
That old girl boots up and closes down quicker than my 2GHz Dual Core machine running XP, its OK for Packet, SSTV, PSK31, Hellschriber and would you believe it has been my standard machine for WSJT JT6m Meteor Scatter, running WSJT the clock loses as the machine devotes its time to de-coding and I manually correct it continually during a session.
Why do I put up with it? well it’s connected to the 6m rig you see.

The battery is wrecked which was a problem for Portable operation untill
I tried one last trick, I chopped the power lead fitted a couple of 4mm plugs and connected it directly to 12 Volts. It works a treat, now there is no question of battery life, well not really I have 160AH of battery storage when the sun is not shining or the wind blowing, if the Green charging is taking place its a win win situation.

What that old girl won’t do is Wireless Internet and Mapping and Navigation and some of the more demanding Radio Communications tasks. Come on now you tight old git, its time you got the Plastic out ready for the next /P season.

As I have said previously, being mean I want the replacement to do shack jobs as well as /P and Internet Cafe, that is why I have researched for several months. Finally the right machine and some Sale discount have come together.

I had just a little aprehension re the loading and running of Ham Software and Linux so I have done the first checks, I have run Ubuntu 8.10 and Fldigi booted from USB Stick. Also WSPR 1.1 on Windows. No time yet to connect a rig and my Home Brew Opto Isolated USB interface but I have no concerns about it working, it was tried and tested on my Zoostorm Laptop and the software runs and Ouptuts audio fine.

When surveying the available Netbooks it is easy to get quite addicted to YouTube Unboxing Videos judging by the hits they get they do provide a valuable service. It takes a little self control to share the parcel opening process. Here is my Blue Version of the Unboxing Video. Ha! pun intended.

Blog written and posted on Samsung NC10. The keyboard is comfortably large for phat phingers, battery life 7.5 Hours, coo I haven’t tested that out yet.

Netbooks and Ham Radio

I have commented on my companion blog about the EeePC. Personally I think that by using a cut down obscure Linux O/S Asus did Linux no favours. Only recently did I read a review which said ‘If you are a child then buy an Asus EeePC’. That could be about right, unfortunately Linux is thus presented as a ‘can’t do O/S rather than a ‘can do’.

A whole generation will know ‘because they had one’ that Linux is OK for Browsing, E-mail and a few Games but that’s it.

Since the first Asus Netbooks there have been many more makes and models of Netbook, some have 120GB Hard drives instead of the SSD Cards which have a finite life of read/write cycles, this cannot be good for 24/7 use such as WSPR. I have considered purchasing one for Ham Radio use. The Linux versions installed still do not come up to scratch, a pity because the machines are capable of running a full distro.

Today I downloaded and installed Linpus Linux as used on the Acer Netbook range. Whilst it is fine for plain ordinary Netbook use it is far short of a Linux distro suitable for Ham Radio.

This leaves two options, buy the cheaper Linux version with a real Hard Drive and instantly replace the O/S, not something I would really want to do.

Alternatively purchase the Windows version and run a USB booted Linux on that. Problem is the cost is coming close to that of a real laptop with a CD/DVD drive and all the advantages that come with a higher specification machine. Shame, I would like to play with one but I still can’t talk myself into it. What will the recession do to prices I wonder. I have noticed that the only price reductions in the so called ‘Sales’ are the reduced VAT. Otherwise the January sale price is the same as last summer. I wonder do we need to buy soon before they become unaffordable?

That is ignoring the PC World advertised prices, yes they have none for online purchase, none at any store for collection. Just like the advertised £2.49 1GB Memory Stick and the £6.95 80GB Hard Drive they don’t have any. Who do they think they are kidding.