These items are an archive of past Topical Smorgasbord items that have appeared on the RF Cafe homepage. In keeping with the "cafe"
genre, these tidbits of information are truly a smorgasbord of topics. They all pertain to topics that are related to the general engineering
and science theme of RF Cafe. Note: There is also a huge collection of my 'Factoids' (aka 'Kirt's Cogitations') that might interest you as well.
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Woo-hoo, I have finally achieved Ham radio license Nirvana! Reporting
this on World Amateur Radio Day seems appropriate. On Saturday, April 15, 2017, I passed my
Amateur Extra exam in the
presence of three VEs at the Wattsburg Wireless Association meeting room in Erie, PA. Nearly 7 years
have transpired since I took the Technician test in the same room in 2010. My General license test was
taken Forsyth Amateur Radio Club meeting room in Winston Salem, NC, in, 2015. Until the FCC updates
my record in the online Universal Licensing System (ULS), my call sign will be KB3UON/AE. Motivation
for pursuing the Ham radio license goal was ...
Is this an über-cool homebuilt radio or what?
Proud Canadian and RF Cafe contributor
Dr. Marek Klemes wrote to me a
couple weeks ago regarding a quotation I had posted a while back. At the end of our communications,
he casually made a comment about needing to engage in an electronics project that would be free of the
rigors of his professional pursuits. Being a trained notable quote recognizer myself, I instantly realized
that his statement was itself worthy of being quoted widely. He granted permission to post it here (with adornment of ...
As mentioned in the past, I put a fair amount of effort into
making RF Cafe as user friendly
and resourceful as possible while also providing a valuable venue for RF product and services companies
to advertise. Reading articles on search engine optimization, effective user interface and user experience,
webpage organization, navigation, page load speed and content organization are popular topics that the
'experts' have decided are most important to success. My ultimate philosophy has been to make RF Cafe
the kind of website I enjoy visiting. A piece ...
RF Cafe visitor and frequent e-mailer Joe Birsa (N3TTE) sent a
note saying that the Spring 2017 issue of Classic Trains magazine contains an article titled
"Radio and the People's Railway," by Greg
Gormick. I do not have a copy on-hand, so I went to Wikipedia for some information on the Canadian National
Railways Radio Department, where it says in part: "The Canadian National Railways Radio Department was
the first national radio network in North America. It was developed, owned and operated by the Canadian
National Railway between 1923 ..."
As you might expect, Ham radio operators tend to be the type
of people who engage in more than one pastime. Many are handy with tools and like doing challenging
home improvement projects and renovations of cars, trucks or antique furniture. Others enjoy hobbies
like flying model airplanes and/or rockets, boating, fishing, baseball, and other endeavors of skill
and prowess. Some, like Canadian amateur radio operator
Neil Carlton (VE3NCE), count
stamp collecting amongst their extracurricular activities. Stamp collectors are known properly as philatelists.
Neil does not collect just any kind
Sputnik Watch in Erie, Pennsylvania
The Space Race officially began on October 4, 1957, when the
USSR successfully launched Sputnik 1, the world's first Earth-orbiting communications satellite.
It was a big deal. The 'bird' transmitted a continuous alternate series of pulses at 20.005 MHz and
40.002 MHz, with a 300 ms on and 300 ms off time. The batteries lasted through October
26. Sputnik 1 burned up in the atmosphere on January 4, 1958. Radio monitoring stations all across
the Earth scrambled to detect and track Sputnik 1's signals while noting signal strength, frequency
The Broken U.S. Patent System - Kirt's Cogitations™ #277
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is constantly advertising for
examiners. Its workload is overwhelming and the consequences are significant. Based on information on
an extremely well-written and researched article in the July/August 2016 issue of Popular Mechanics
magazine titled "The Greatest
American Invention," the situation is practically out of control. Similar to many other pieces published
in the last few years, author Scott Eden meticulously outlines the systematic failures of the current
patent bureaucracy and how, as is typical, mostly unqualified lawmakers in an attempt to 'reform' it
pass regulations that make matters
2017 Obamacare Cost for RF Cafe - Kirt's Cogitations™ #276
have heard that
Obamacare rates are WAAAY up for 2017. Being self-employed in Pennsylvania,
the cost for bottom-end (Bronze) plan for Melanie and me in 2017 is $772.28/mo.
($9,267.36/yr.) + $13,900 deductible. That's $23,167.36 out-of-pocket
before Obamacare pays anything at all, and then only 60% of fees after full deductible has been paid.
Check it out on healthcare.gov . Oh, and if I want to keep my current
doctor, that plan this year is $974.75/mo. + $13,900 deductible ($25,597.00/yr.).
It does NOT pay for emergency room, diagnostic, x-ray, MRI, etc., until AFTER the
deductible has been paid ...
Is Your Domain Being Blocked by a Country?
Recently, a company based in China contacted me about advertising
on RF Cafe. After doing a lot of up-front work for them creating advertising materials, the representative
informed me that he cannot access the RFCafe.com domain from his location. It is really difficult to
conduct business when the customer cannot review your work, so at least for now, I am going to pass
on the opportunity. The obvious question that arises from the experience is whether RFCafe.com is being
blocked by China, and how do I find out? Fortunately, a few options exist with websites that will perform
the check for you by pinging your URL from servers within multiple countries. Some, such as
tests from inside China using servers in Beijing
"There is no
new thing under the sun." "Everything old is new again." Many such idioms exist regarding how often
things tend to run in cycles; it's just that often times people who think they are witnessing a new
phenomenon are not aware of the previous occurrences. I have written of examples where 'old timers'
lament the attitudes of a fledgling work force when writings show the previous generation of 'old timers'
who worked with the current 'old timers' in their youth expressed the same type concern. Experienced
Ham operators think newbies cannot carry on the tradition of wireless because they are not required
to learn Morse code anymore to earn a license. An article titled "OMG! We've Been Here B4," appeared
in the March 2016 issue of Smithsonian magazine ...
Long before there was a World Wide Web for getting the latest
weather report and the local time for setting your clocks, there were phone numbers that were set up
with recordings of the sought after information. As a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, I called the weather
forecast number, WE6-1212
('WE' for weather), multiple times daily during the winter in hopes of
hearing a forecast for snow, and during the summer in hopes of favorable conditions for flying model
airplanes and launching Estes rockets. An obsession with time and watches and clocks had me calling
the time phone number, TI4-1212
('TI' for time), so often that my father used to refer to the lady on
the recording that updated ...
Since I do not have time to watch television on a regular basis,
paying for a cable or satellite subscription cannot be justified. My plan was to install a traditional
FM/VHF/UHF television antenna on
the roof along with a rotator. Some pretty models are still available from Channel Master, RCA, and
a few others. TV broadcast stations in the Erie area are all within 10 miles or so, so signal strength
would not be an issue. I listen to both AM and FM radio most of the day, so being able to get an FM
signal boost from a steerable antenna would be a nice bonus since occasionally reorienting the FM dipole
was needed to get a clear signal. The entire outfit would cost less than a year's
DIY (do-it-yourself) is the relatively
new term adopted to describe any activity engaged in by laymen and even professionals plying their trades
after hours. Subjects range from hanging a kitchen cabinet or planting a tree, to a total engine rebuild
or building a robot. Reasonable quality and capability tools for performing around-the-house chores
are fairly cheap and available for purchase or rent for projects most people undertaking such challenges.
Cordless saws and drills, stud finders, airless paint sprayers, and electronic readout levels can be
had for under ...
Early automobiles presented significant challenges to mobile radio
designers due to a combination of a fledgling understanding of electrical and electronic circuits and
quickly evolving automotive materials and configurations. A 1935 issue of Radio-Craft magazine
presented eight automotive radio designs
that represented break-through techniques for dealing with some of those innovations. All of the technical
issues involved here have been pretty much solved in modern radios. Ignition interference is nearly
invisible to FM and satellite reception, although audio frequency circuits can still pick up noise is
not properly filtered ...
In a Scientific American article titled "Elemental Urgency," Jennifer Hackett reported on
a paper published in 2013 by Yale University's Thomas Graedel et al regarding the availability (or unavailability)
of the raw elements - and suitable substitutes - used extensively in modern manufacturing. Unlike half
a century ago when most products were made from relatively common and easily obtainable elements like
lead, iron, tin, nickel, aluminum, carbon, zinc, silicon, and even silver and gold, many more elements
are now regularly included in mass manufacturing processes. Rhenium (Re), used in high strength, temperature
The January 2016 issue of Scientific American ran an
article by Clara Moskowitz titled "Elegant Equations" that presented a few prints from "The Concinnitas Project" which "...is a collection of ten aquatints
produced from the contributions of ten mathematicians and physicists in response to the prompt to transcribe
their 'most beautiful mathematical expression.'" My personal favorite is "Ampère's Law," by Simon Donaldson,
because it incorporates a simple line drawing along with the familiar equations. It brings back memories
of sitting in electromagnetics class at the University of Vermont watching my seriously brilliant professor
(no kidding), Dr. Kenneth Golden, draw
No, this is not a liberal vs. conservative thing, although you
might be tempted to think so when considering the terms of each. A copyright, as you know, is legal
protection against unauthorized usage or obvious modification of original works, something a right-winger
would like because it represents a right to private property. A copyleft,
on the other hand, is a left-winger's dream because it permits free distribution of original works with
the only restriction being that it and/or derivative works also be declared copyleft material. That
explains why evil capitalist companies like IBM copyright and patent everything it creates, and why
liberal-dominated companies like ...
to a tesseract was during an episode of Carl Sagan's
"Cosmos" series in the 1980s, where he was demonstrating how beings in of dimension N would perceive
items of dimension N+1. The tesseract, Sagan explained, is a 3-dimensional projection of 4-dimension
hypercube. Watch the embedded video for more information. The Tesseract website, which has nothing to
do with a hypercube as far as I can tell, deals in some very cool antique scientific instruments. I
learned of it from an article in Astronomy magazine where an editor recommended it when researching
the potential value of a collectible telescope. Run by Drs. David and Yola Coffeen, Tesseract has a
huge inventory of items ...
"The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress
of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Tımes to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right
to their respective Writings and Discoveries." - United States Constitution, Article I, Section
8. Therein lies the authority for legislation and prosecution of rights for virtually every human creation
within the jurisdiction of the country. Each nation has it own version, and international agreements
help assure universal protection of a creator's rights of ownership; e.g., the "Convention for the Protection
of Literary and Artistic Works" of 1886 and the World Intellectual Property Organization. America has
the U.S. Copyright Office. Those of us involved in presenting information and referring to legally protected
Questions asked by interviewers at Google are objects of much
ballyhoo. Depending on the job being sought, questions range from relatively simple and objective to
massively esoteric and subjective. Perform a search on "Google
Interview Questions" and you will find a host of websites that collect experiences from recent interviewees.
Some people curse Google for their insanely difficult questions, but what is fundamentally a form of
profiling and discrimination is what provides Google with exactly the employees they need to be at the
leading edge of all sorts of technology - networking, software, hardware, publishing, website design,
social media, global politics, search optimization, etc. As you can see, many questions require the
interviewee to state assumptions and conditions prior to asserting a solution. For instance, "Estimate
the number of tennis balls that can fit into a plane" has no single answer because while the size of
a tennis ball ...
Many format changes to RF Cafe have occurred since its inception
in 1999, primarily to optimize the layout and content for presentation to my targeted audience - engineers,
technicians, hobbyists, managers, and salesmen who make a living and/or pastime of electronics. This
latest format change, however, comes in response to Google deciding to penalize website search ranking
for any page or pages that do not pass its Mobile-Friendly Test. With 2/3 of the world's search business,
they set the rules. If a page is not deemed Mobile-Friendly, it will likely be demoted to a lower spot
on the search result page compared to if it was compliant. In some cases a website that would
February 15, 2016
That is probably Yogi Berra's most famous line, and is the first
thing that came to mind today when I read in the local newspaper where
here in Erie, Pennsylvania, plans to layoff 950 production and 100 management employees. An additional
200 "temporary" layoffs could also occur. Rumors have been in the works for a couple years regarding
an eventual total plant closing, since a new plant with the same capability (and more) was being established
in Fort Worth, Texas. The Erie location is totally unionized, and Texas is a Right-to-Work state (union
membership not mandatory). In an effort to be "globally competitive," labor rates must be kept as low
as possible - for everyone, not just production workers. Texas also has no income tax, which helps keep
wages low as well. Property taxes in Erie are quite high, typical of the Northeast...
I stayed up late last night (early this morning, actually) to
watch the FITSAT-1 CubeSat satellite flash its Morse code "HI DE NIWAKA JAPAN" message via super-bright
LEDs over eastern North America. It was scheduled to pass just south of my location in Erie, Pennsylvania,
at 1:14 AM, with a lights-on intensity great enough to be easily seen with binoculars. FITSAT-1
is a project conceived of and built by professors and students at the Fukuoka Institute of Technology
(FIT) in Japan. In addition to the LED visual display, the satellite also carries several Amateur Radio
payloads including a CW beacon on 437.250 MHz, a telemetry beacon on 437.445 MHz and a high-speed
data downlink on 5,840.0 MHz. The CubeSat Project was developed by California Polytechnic State
University and Stanford University's Space Systems Development Lab. It creates launch opportunities
for universities previously unable to access space. A CubeSat...
almost anything for free." That is the tag line of the Khan Academy. While the claim is a bit of a stretch,
especially when you need to delve below surface level, they do have over 3,300 videos on everything
from math to physics, finance, and history. According to their website, in August 2004, Sal Khan began
remotely tutoring his cousin, Nadia, who was struggling with unit conversion. Soon, Sal also began tutoring
her brothers as well. He became so popular that he started recording videos and posting them on YouTube.
More and more people kept watching, and Sal has continued to make videos ever since. Khan eventually
drew the attention of Google ($2 million grant) and Bill Gates ($1.5 million grant). The rest, as the
saying goes, is history. RF Cafe visitors might be particularly interested in subjects like circuit
analysis (4 lessons), capacitance, magnetism (12 lessons), electric motors, electrostatics, Doppler,
optics, and fields. You might also like watching the video lessons on momentum and torque, friction,
gravity, thermodynamics (5 lessons), Newton's laws , and fluids (12 parts)...
Tax Freedom Day for this year is April 18 - five days later than
last year. Today, April 15, is the day in America by which half the population gets to pay its *fair
share* to the government in the form of income taxes (the other half pays no income taxes). Oh, excuse
me, it is when we are "asked" to pay our fair share. Don't you love the "asked" term ...as if we have
the option of refusing without going to jail? Six envelopes are pictured here that contain various tax
mailings for Melanie and me: one each to the IRS for income tax and Q1 estimated income tax, state income
tax and Q1 estimated income tax, local income tax and estimated income tax, plus a local services tax.
The local services tax is just for the 'privilege' of working - I kid you not. After paying federal,
state, and local income taxes, sales taxes on all we bought (including gasoline), utility taxes, taxes
on savings, property taxes, school taxes, etc., etc., etc., our total 'fair share' works out to 37.6%
on adjusted gross income. So, more than a third of my income was paid in taxes. Just our federal adjusted
gross tax alone worked out to 26.6% of adjusted gross. By comparison, according to Whitehouse.gov, "The
President's effective  federal [adjusted gross] income tax rate is 18.4%..."
Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis (SPICE) has been around
since 1973. The basic computational engine has always been open source. It began as a simple analog
circuit simulator that took a structured text file as the input net list and provided a text file output
that contained the calculated values that the user specified such as DC bias points, transient analysis,
and AC analysis. Component models started with relatively simple definitions. If you wanted a graph
of the response, it was in the form of text characters with a standard 80-column division on the y-axis
and the x-axis was as many divisions as it needed to be to cover all the points calculated (often printed
out on fan-fold paper in a pin printer). Yes, I personally used those versions in the mid 1980s. As
time progressed, improvements were added to the computational engine to handle a wider range of component
models including digital and RF/microwave. More parameters were added to component models to yield a
better agreement between simulation and laboratory measurements. Lagging...
The old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is
validated often with charts and graphs made for science, engineering, and finance. This chart illustrates
levels of collaboration between 25 countries on scientific papers published in 2011 in a select group
of journals. Author John Sexton uses color and line width to indicate origin and volume between countries.
Circumferential length is relative volume overall. He also includes a similar chart showing internal
collaboration within the 10 countries with the highest scientific paper output. Per Mr. Sexton, in 1996
about 25% of scientific articles were authored by people in two or more countries; today it is 35%.
Non-commercial "Big Science" projects like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, with multinational
funding, contribute largely to the increase. Aptly pointed out is how global access to and...
How much do you pay every month for all of your
personal communications? That includes,
but is not limited to, smartphones with data plans, land lines, Internet, cable TV or satellite TV,
wireless tablets and computers. Life in 2013 practically requires some degree of connectivity, but many
people are paying for way more of it than necessary. I absolutely need a high speed Internet connection
because of publishing RF Cafe (14 Mbps for $44.90 per month). Since most of my personal
communications are via e-mail, phone service is not a high priority so my cell phone is a TracFone that
I pay under $100 per year to use (mainly when away from home). Since there is no time for
TV, any watching is done via the Internet - it doesn't matter if shows are a week or month old - so
no cost there. I like using an old-fashioned telephone with a handset at home, so a landline is also
used. Up until a couple months ago I was paying the local phone company $27 per month for basic local
service (no long distance, caller ID, messaging, etc.).
"Squaring the circle" may as yet be an unattainable goal for even
the best mathematicians, but the November 2012 edition of The Family Handyman magazine had a tip for
how to use a square (of the framing type) and two nails draw a circle. This is what it
said: "Make a Circle with
a Square - Here's a tip for laying out small circles or parts of circles. Tack two nails to set
the diameter you want, then rotate a framing square against the nails while you hold a pencil in the
corner of the square. You might need to rub a little wax or some other lubricant on the bottom of the
square so it slides easily. Don't ask us why this process works; all we know is that it does." They're
either very honest or they don't think the average reader would understand the explanation. The Pythagorean
theorem is the key, of course, for explaining the reason. For any right triangle: a2 + b2 = c2, where 'a' and 'b' are the lengths of the two perpendicular sides,
and 'c' is the length of the hypotenuse...
Each year the Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) holds an
essay contest inviting writers to submit missives addressing the question chosen by the FQXi board as
being particularly thought-provoking. In their words, "FQXi catalyzes, supports, and disseminates research
on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology, particularly new frontiers and innovative
ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality, but unlikely to be supported by conventional funding
sources." The 2011 question was "Is Reality Digital or Analog?" Scientific American magazine,
being one of three partners, published the runner-up entry in the December 2012 issue: University of
Cambridge professor of theoretical physics professor David Tong's paper argues that the world is in
fact fundamentally analog.
Professor Tong actually tied for second place, but for some reason SciAm
does not tell us whether the other second place paper supported an analog or digital viewpoint. For
that matter, it did not say which side the winning paper came down on. Strange. I looked it up on the
FQXi website. First place went to Jarmo Makela, who believes reality is digital in nature based on a
personal discussion with Isaac Newton in his London home in the year 1700. When...
You have probably heard
and/or seen the scuttlebutt about Congress trying to push through an
Internet sales tax, ostensibly in
order to level the playing field for brick and mortar businesses versus online businesses. You can be
sure the effort has nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with politicians' insatiable appetite
for tax money. They have been salivating over the possibility of reaping that new revenue source for
years. The plan is to require online sales from out-of-state buyers to have sales tax collected and
remitted to the appropriate state revenue department. Local businesses are per the claim disadvantaged
because they must collect their home state's sales tax, which supposedly causes buyers to prefer Internet
vendors in order to avoid such taxes. As one who has purchased many items over the Internet in the last
15 years, I can't think of many times when avoiding sales tax was the prime motivation for my decision.
It was usually because either the item I wanted was not...
far do you commute each day for the privilege of doing your part to push back the frontiers of technical
ignorance and to boldly go where no engineer - or technician - has gone before (split infinitive by
Roddenberry, not me)? Do
you know what the cost equates to you each year? This handy-dandy poster by the folks at Streamline
Refinance lays out some gruesome numbers. Those with a weak stomach probably should pass on viewing
this one. Here's a hint at what you will see: See that big $795 in the thumbnail image? That's the average
cost per year for commuting -- per mile! Yessiree,
if you live just 10 miles from work, you're losing nearly $8k per year, depending on you automobile
type, on gas, tires, maintenance, devaluation, and loss of your personal time (which is valuable,
after all). Back in the early 1990s I drove 45 miles each way to Comsat, which took about 65
minutes due to miserable traffic. That's 130 minutes round-trip, or 2 hours and 10 minutes
(about the run time of an average movie) each day. Figuring two weeks vacation and
10 holidays, that leave 48 weeks x 5 days/week = 240 days per year of commuting. 240 days...
while sitting in the studio where Melanie takes her cello and piano lessons, I usually read technical
and hobby magazines, but lately I have been studying the ARRL General Class License Manual
in preparation for taking the written exam in a couple months. Last week a lady saw the book title and
remarked, "I didn't know
ham radio people were still around." Wow. It would be tempting to blame her for being
ignorant, or to blame the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) for not adequately getting the word out,
but the reality is that the mass media does not consider Ham radio's contribution to be significant
enough to cover in news stories. Amateur radio operators perform a mighty service in times of trouble,
but they do it so efficiently and effectively- without actively seeking credit - that their efforts
are lost in the noise. Ham radio operators have been on the front lines of national and civil defense
since World War II and even a bit before...