Aircraft, Computers, Digital Modes, News

Murphy’s Law and a Blood Moon


I am writing this on my laptop since my main computer went down recently. I built my computer about 2-1/2 years ago from top quality parts, which was something of a re-learning experience, as technology has changed drastically since the 90s.

I used to build my own computers for years, rather enjoying the process. Then as computers got more complicated (in reality just more expensive with software leading hardware around by the nose), I finally started just buying inexpensive systems. I’d wait for a sale at Dell or something like that.

Oddly enough, the last three Dell computers I bought, 2 laptops and a desktop, still work. They were all purchased before 2005 as I recall, one laptop for my wife, and the desktop and a laptop for me. Time and technology have left them behind, especially in terms of being on the Internet where media-rich applications (I am being kind by using the proper name for this!) require far more processing power and graphics capabilities.

What does all this have to do with radio? Well, I use my computers mostly for radio and now photography, as well as my various writing projects. Any computer I have will handle the writing part, so my old Dell laptop could handle that. My radio projects use moderately advanced software, but still capable of being run on a reasonably outfitted computer. My photography stuff? Well, that’s a different story, but I will leave that for another day.

Where Murphy comes in relates to what I was doing when the computer died. I was just starting to have some fun with ADS-B again. That’s an airplane mode where many planes broadcast information about the plane and sometimes additional information. Basically it”s a tracking mode so everybody knows where a plane is located, and these planes can be displayed on maps.

Image result for planeplotter images
A typical Screen using Plane Plotter (Image from Plane Plotter WIKI)

I have found in the past this can be a bit tricky to set up, particularly the mapping part, and I had one program which I could never get to work. Having been away from this mode for some time, I started over and installed fresh versions of the software and used a new SDR Dongle I had purchased off Amazon some time back.

After a considerable amount of time fiddling with two different mapping programs, I got the first one to work. Emboldened by my success, I worked with the other program and got it to work! It was a wonderful day in Radio-land here at radio studio AK3Q!!

I was just starting to customize some features when all of the sudden my screen went black on both monitors. Ok. That happens now and then. Just need to reboot and get back to work . . . not this time.

I won’t bore you with the details, but after testing several options I determined the motherboard went belly-up. Fortunately it is still under warranty, but frankly, I am only half-sure the motherboard is at fault. Based on my years of experience it seems likely, but with today’s systems, there are so many things which can go wrong I am half expecting the company to write back and say, “nothing wrong here!” Then it is back to swapping out other parts to see where the problem exists.

So now my laptop is being pressed into service to do all the things my desktop did. If anyone has played with WSJT-X software you know how finicky it can be to get the sound settings right, at least under Windows. I am going to be setting up the ADS-B software later today, keeping my fingers crossed that I can get it working, all while wearing garlic cloves around my neck to ward off the evil radio spirits.

I have installed printer drivers to work with my printers here in the house, and updated my photography software since the last updates on the laptop were back in 2016. Oh, and of course there are email addresses I had to add to my email client because I typically don’t use the laptop for email. Thanks, Murphy, Thanks a whole bunch!

On a brighter note, last week wasn’t a total loss. On Sunday night we had a full lunar eclipse, and despite the snow and cold temps, the sky cleared just in time for me to take some photographs of the moon in 12-degree weather. Surprisingly I managed in the cold just fine, and had a great time seeing one of nature’s best shows.

At least Murphy didn’t mess this up – maybe it was too cold for him?!

Here’s hoping Murphy stays away from your radios, computers, cameras, and life! Cheers!

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