Monday, February 20, 2012

New Tech: Spray-On Antennas

If you often find yourself lacking wireless signal, there may soon be a simple solution. Scientists have developed a spray-on coating that can boost your phone's reception, make your home amplify signals instead of attenuating them, or even turn a tree into a transmitter. Read More

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jim Baker, WG4MB/SK

The Boy Scouts, Ham Radio, & I have lost a good friend with the passing of Jim Baker, WG4MB of Myrtle Beach, SC.

At the Grand Strand Amateur Radio Club's Annual Dinner last month, I had a chance to sit & speak with Jim for a bit, it was the last time we spoke together face to face.  I noticed he was looking a bit frail, he had lost weight, and I could see an aged gauntness in his face that wasn't there before. I assumed he had been dieting, he had a heart bypass last year, and I was guessing he was following Doctors orders to rein in his diet. So I jokingly asked him what was his secret?  He smiled and paused, then told me it was a bit more serious than that. However, he immediately swore me to silence, and not to let on and breathe a word. Instead, in true Boy Scout fashion he simply said "I'm prepared", and changed the subject to his Scouts, and to the upcoming Marathon our Ham Club participated in each year.  Typical Jim Baker... never on himself, always thinking of others, always forward thinking.

Ham Radio was #3 on Jim's mind, first of course, was his family, second was his Boy Scouts, and then came Ham Radio, but he always seemed able to blend all three together very well. From him & his son Tony helping man an Aid Station at the Myrtle Beach Marathon, to having a troop of scouts invade the Radio Club's field day, getting each scout working a turn at the GOTA (Get On The Air) station, helping them earn their Communication Merit Badge. Jim was always driven to helping others before himself.

I always enjoyed the ragchews we'd have together on the radio while both of us would be stuck in Myrtle Beach traffic.  He'd be heading out to pick up son Tony from school, or making a grocery store run before dinner, and me slogging my way home after work in the rolling parking lot of Highway 501. We'd commiserate & communicate over one thing or the other, but Jim always had a positive outlook that left me feeling better about whatever it was we were talking about. I'm going to miss his wit, wisdom and advice. I'm going to miss him calling me "Bobby" one else called me that.

I could count on Jim to check in or run radio nets during SKYWARN weather alerts, or in between cooking dinner, helping Tony with homework, or whatever his busy household had going on. He kept us all informed on what was happening in and around slightly soggy Socastee Swamp. Often he came to bat in a pinch, not only on our local nets, but also on the Mobile Maritime Service Net on 20 Meters HF, where he was a regular check-in and occasional net control. WG4MB made Amateur Radio a much better place, and the airwaves will be a little too quiet with him gone.

If my life could hold even a fraction of the tireless optimism Jim Baker carried within him every day, I know I'd be a better man. God bless you my friend, you prepared me, & everyone who knew you, in your own special way.  '73 Good Friend - Bobby KI4HEE

UPDATE: Many thanks to Steve NN2NN, for forwarding on a precious Gem, a recording of Jim, recently checking into the 14.300 Mobile Maritime Service Net... quite likely one of the last transmissions WG4MB (Wille Go 4 More Beer) ever made. Always optimistic, that was Jim, a good Scout. Thanks again Steve!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Future MIT Student Launches APRS tracked High Altitude balloon to 91,000 FT!

Erin AK4JG, from Georgia writes: "I decided to send my Tube to the edge of space! I turned it into an Amateur Radio High-Altitude Ballooning project. I used two GPS-equipped ham radio transmitters (APRS) using the callsigns AK4JG-11 (me) and K4ETY-11 (my dad) to send out position packets from the Tube so I could track it on the ground. (The thing I'm soldering in the beginning is one of the trackers.) My dad and I made custom antennas for the radios for the flight. (You see one of them at the bottom of all the footage from the TubeCam.) The camera mounted to the Tube ("TubeCam") for the ride was a GoPro Hero camera, taking 960p HD video. The balloon was an 800 gram weather balloon, filled with Helium. We launched the payload around 1 pm from Lumpkin, GA on January 16, 2012. The entire flight from launch to landing lasted nearly 2 hours. Maximum altitude was approximately 91,000 feet. It landed just east of I-75 and south of Cordele, GA. Ironically, it decided to land in a small patch of trees surrounded by cotton fields. (We were aiming for the fields.) Luckily, it wasn't very high up and we were able to recover everything safely. It was fun!" (: The background song is "Circuit" by Sonic Adventure Project, courtesy of