Sunday, May 12, 2019

Johnson 250-888-2 Mic with a Anytone AT-5888UV-III


Well, the above diagram about covers the topic! Sadly, the results were disappointing. The mic works well if you hold it about 1 in from your lips, but has poor audio at typical desktop distance of about 12 to 16 inches. I'll have to come up with a way to add a little gain to it...
Likely a little pre-amp. Or maybe I'll swap the innards with those from a Turner +2.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Anytone AT-5888UV-III Tri-Band FM Transceiver Review


I picked up this Anytone AT-5888UV-III Tri-Band FM Transceiver about 2 weeks ago. I purchased it on Amazon, but the same unit is available from the seller on eBay too. Note a very similar two band unit exists, but that this is the tri-band "III" unit.
Note this is a amateur radio, or ham radio. As such, in the USA, you need a Amateur Radio License from the FCC to legally transmit with it.

So far I love the thing.

I'm a relatively new ham, so take that into consideration. Most of my experience has been with a Kenwood handheld and a BTech DMR handheld (essentially identical to the popular Anytone AT-D878UV). I'm good technically, but have limited experience evaluating ham radios.

I really wanted a tri-band radio, 2m, 1.25m and 70cm. There were only a couple choices, and this looked like the best option to me. Right now I'm using it with a mag mount mobile antenna on a cookie sheet in my garage, but it will get hooked to a rooftop tri-band Comet CX-333 antenna soon.

A few random comments:

Note this radio is similar in design to the Yaesu FT-8900R, TYT TH-9800 and Alinco DR-638T and I strongly suspect they all come from the same factory.

Everything works and I have been getting very nice signal reports.

I've played with much of the menu system and everything seems to work as it should, but programming through the software is easier. It's also a pretty complicated device and as usual, the manual doesn't always do a great job explaining things. The Bank, Hyper and Limit memories can be confusing and are not really explained in the manual. But the Yaesu FT-8900R manual does provide a little description of these, you may wish to take a look at that manual, from the Yaesu website (the Yaesu buttons and numbers of memories are different, but the concepts are the same).

For a moment I thought I was having some selectivity issues from two repeaters right next to each other in frequency, but that ended up not being true. So far so good.

Note that the radio comes with an updated manual, the older manuals I have found online have some inaccuracies.

The "TV/SQL" button has nothing to do with TV, it is used for memory bank switching and squelch (long press is squelch). Other versions of this radio offered some TV function and had a dedicated TV output but that connector is used for an external speaker with this version of the radio.

I have used the programming software that came with it with good results but it does not have great capability to move channels around. I have also tried the RT Systems software and it works better. Sadly, CHIRP does NOT work with the version (III) of the 5888UV radio.

The fan runs after a couple minutes transmitting and it is a bit louder than I would like. But after using the radio a bit I don't notice it anymore

The unit has speakers on both the top and the bottom. The bottom speaker is the "main" one. You can use the main bottom speaker for all the bands with the top speaker turned off. There is a setting that enables the top/sub and the external speaker together. The second speaker setup kind of strange with some division between UHF and VHF between the speakers. There is also a microphone speaker that can be enabled.

Some tech details:
Claimed output is 50W on 2m, 25W on 1.25m and 40W on 70cm.
Note 1.25m band is only available on the left side of the radio.
The unit also receives 350 - 400MHz on the left side of the radio.

FCC ID sticker:

And here is a copy of the User's Manual:


Monday, March 25, 2019

Too Many Utility Knives: a Comparison of Box Cutters


From left to right:
Top row: OLFA SK-9, OLFA LA-X, Stanley FatMax 10-777, Stanley FatMax Extreme 10-815, Stanley Titan RB 2-10-122
Bottom Row: Sears 9488, Stanley 99E, Sheffield 12113

I personally purchased and tested all these knives. I broke my leg 8 weeks ago, and in my pain killer induced haze and my stir crazy condition, I ordered far too many options!

Note, if you use the links in this post to buy one of the knives I will receive some compensation from Amazon. Frankly, I'm just curious if anyone will actually ever do that!

The Problem:


I've been using "standard" box cutters like the Stanley 99E and Sears 9488 for more than 40 years. And they have been fine and I haven't had much trouble with them. But the last couple years my use of them has changed. Now I frequently use them about once or twice a week to cut down shipping boxes to put them in our recycling container. And I have found two problems. One: changing the blade is a pain because I have to get a screwdriver. Two: we don't always close the blade all the way and leave it dangerously protruding in the drawer, just waiting to nip us when we reach for it. This style knife has multiple detents on the switch that moves the blade back and forth, and with casual use it is just too easy to miss pulling it all the way to the retracted position.


So, I decided to find a better replacement.

The OLFA Knives

The OLFA SK-9
OLFA 1086095 SK-9 Self-Retracting Safety Knife With Tape Slitter


For cutting down boxes, I wanted a knife that is easy to use and automatically retracts. We have found that using regular utility knives like the Stanley 99E, sometimes the knife gets put away with the tip of the blade still extended. This knife is easy to use and solves that problem. The only negative is that it takes special blades. But these blades are made in Japan and easy to change: OLFA 9613 SKB-2/10B Trapezoid Blade, 10-Pack. We've been using this knife for a couple weeks and love it.

The OLFA LA-X
OLFA 1072198 LA-X 18mm Fiberglass Rubber Grip Heavy-Duty Utility Knife



This is a good knife, but maybe not for box cutting. I've never liked snap off blades. I've always been concerned they might snap off at a bad time or fly through the air when snapping off. That said, it's fast to get a new cutting edge. VERY sharp, and requires special OLFA blades: OLFA UltraSharp Black Snap-Off Heavy-Duty Blade. I'll use it for fine work, but I do not recommend it for cutting down boxes.

The Stanley Thumb Wheel Knives


The picture above shows the various style of Stanley thumb wheel knives in the open position.
Thumb dial knives have the advantage that when the dial is tight it holds the blade firmly and the blade doesn't wiggle much. But when the dial is tight, it is tough move the thumb switch that extends and retracts the blade.  (It is possible to move the blade with the thumb screw tightened down, but I do not think it is intended that you use the knife that way.) So these are slow knives to use: loosen the thumb wheel, extend the blade, tighten the thumb wheel. Then when you are done, you have to loosen the thumb wheel, retract the blade, and tighten the wheel again. Really, this is best when you need a tightly held blade and don't need to retract or extend the blade.

The Stanley FatMax 10-777
Stanley 10-777 FatMax Locking Retractable Utility Knife


I do not think this knife is a good occasional box cutter because the thumb wheel prevents extending and retracting the blade. Thumb dial knives have the advantages and disadvantage described in italics above.  It also seems expensive (approximately $15 at this moment) for it's construction. On the plus side, it feels very good in my hand!
To switch blades, you have to loosen the thumb wheel all of the way and then you can pry open the handle at the yellow triangle and swing the handle open. It works, but it is awkward. It uses standard utility knife blades.

The Stanley FatMax Extreme 10-815


This thing is hard to find... and I wouldn't use it at a occasional box cutter. But if you need a heavy duty knife, this is the one! Again: Thumb dial knives have the advantages and disadvantage described in italics above.
To switch blades, it you open the thumb wheel all the way and there is a spring that automagically rotates the handle open! (You do not have to pry it like the 10-777). Very nice. The blades are held in place with a spring clip so you don't have them rattling around and getting dull. It uses standard utility knife blades.
The construction on the knife if great. All metal construction. Nice castings. Brass thumb wheel. It is really solid, and it's big too, much bigger than the 10-777. If I was cutting roofing or something heavy and making lots of cuts between retractions, this would be my knife. Look for it on eBay from sellers outside the USA.
If I need a heavy duty knife, this is the one I'll grab.

The Stanley Titan RB 2-10-122
Stanley 1-10-550 Knife"Titan" with fixed blade, Silver (this version comes with a holster, which I didn't have to test.)


Almost fish-like in shape! It is up to you if this shape appeals to your hand. I thought it was a bit slippery. Heavy duty, all metal construction, brass thumb wheel. Once again:  Thumb dial knives have the advantages and disadvantage described in italics above.
To switch blades you loosen the thumb wheel all the way and flip the handle open on the hinge. Easy enough! Unfortunately the blades are loose inside the handle and rattle, perhaps dulling them.
I just didn't like how this knife felt in my hand.
Note they sell versions of this knife that requires a screwdriver to open (without the brass knob), be careful what you order.

Folding Utility Knives

These have a big following and lots of people love them. 
But personally, I'm not a fan. I carry a folding pocket knife all the time in my pocket, and I'm OK with the operation of opening and closing it. I'm always careful. But for casual use I don't think these are a great idea for someone who doesn't use a knife like this every day.

The Sheffield 12113
Sheffield 12113 One-Hand Opening Lock-Back Utility Knife, Blue

I selected the Sheffield 12113 because it got great reviews and had a mechanism that securely held the blade in place. (I've seen complaints about knives like this with button release blades opening accidentally.) But I found I really disliked this knife: One, the flip open mechanism is just hard someone not familiar with this kind of knife to close safely. Two, see the metal tab that says "OPEN":

That is the latch to release the blade, not to open the knife! Wow, that seems dangerous for a casual user. As someone familiar with these knives I didn't notice that, but the first time my wife went to open it, she started prying on that blade release and I stopped her before an accident could happen.
So, I really do not recommend this knife for casual users. Leave these to the professionals.

Summary - My Choices

For the box cutter that we will keep in the kitchen drawer:

For detailed precision work in the shop:

For heavy duty work:
The Stanley FatMax Xtreme 10-815 Try eBay here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Yamaha 175 CT3 Enduro - Tire Choices

Above: The original Yokohama "Trail Sport" on my bike.

I just ordered new tires for my 1975 175 CT3. I looked at a bunch of options so I thought I'd share that info here.
I should note that I only looked at dual sport tires or tires that looked similar. There are certainly more options if you want a "street only" tire.
The original rims are 1.60-18 front and rear on my bike. (The parts manual indicates that some bikes may have had a 1.85 rear rim.) The original tires are Front: 3.25-18 and Rear: 3.50-18. The original Front tire on my bike is a Yokohama "Trail Sport". I presume the original rear was the same.
I personally believe in not putting "too much tire" on bikes, so I rejected anything brands that did not provide a front tire 3.25 or smaller and a rear tire 4.00 or smaller. Frankly, in my opinion, even 3.25 is a lot of tire on these 1.60 stock rims.

Note that I did not check the actual availability on all of these.

Shinko 244 Series   Front: 3.00-18    Rear: 3.50-18    Modern look "knobby" dual sport tires

Shinko 241 Series   Front: 3.00-18    Rear: 3.50-18    Similar trials type appearance to the original Yokohama "Trail Sport" tires

Kenda K270    Front: 2.75-18    Rear: 3.50-18    Modern look "knobby" dual sport tires

Vee Rubber VRM022   Front: 3.00-18    Rear: 4.00-18    Modern look "knobby" dual sport tires

Vee Rubber VRM022    Front: 3.00-18    Rear: 4.00-18   Similar trials type appearance to the original tires

Heidenau K37    Front: 3.25-18    Rear: 3.50-18    Modernish Trials Tires

Mitas H-03 / Sava H-03    Front: 3.25-18    Rear: 3.50-18  Street tires for rough roads. 

I chose the Shinko 241 Series. I'll post some pictures when I get them.

1973 Yamaha 175 CT3 Enduro - The next project!




When I was a about 11 years old my neighbor got one of these and I was really jealous. There was no chance my parents were getting me one!

It took until my senior year in high school in 1981 when I bought a street bike, a Kawasaki KH250 Triple, before I became a motorcyclist.

At any rate, the 1973 Yamaha 175 CT3 was imprinted on my memories.

After a long search I just picked one up this morning! It's low mileage and undented, but rather crusty. I'm excited to get it back running.
I scoped the cylinder through the spark plug hole and it looks OK in there and it turns over fine.
I have some other projects in line first, but then I'll clean the tank and carb, change the oil, and check the Yamalube system and see how it runs.
I'm excited!

More pictures:





Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Motorcycle Tank Rust Removal with Evapo-Rust

Before:

You can see a thin layer of red rust on most of the inside.

After:

Much better! Almost all of the rust is gone. You can see some pinkish paint overspray on the inside of the tank, don't confuse that for rust. Whoever painted this tank must not have masked off the filler opening. The red oil in the bottom of the photo is some Marvel Mystery Oil I used to prevent rust.

What I used

I found this stuff called Evapo-Rust that had good reviews. I had used it on a couple items and was very happy with the results so I decided to try and use it on the inside of my Mondial gas tank.

The manufacturer of Evapo-Rust claims it is relatively safe. This is from their website:
"Evapo-Rust® rust remover is safe on skin and all materials except rust! It's also biodegradable and earth-friendly. Water soluble and pH-neutral, Evapo-Rust® is non-toxic, non-corrosive, non-flammable, and contains no acids, bases, or solvents. Evapo-Rust® is simply the safest rust remover."
They also claim is is safe on paint:
Powder coating and paint will not be removed as long as the paints do not contain oxides.
However, NOTE the exception they mention about oxides! Some paints do contain oxides, particularly red paints. Use care, especially around red paint.
I also saw it damage the clear coat on some of my decals. I was able to clean this up on my tank without trouble, but you should be careful!

My Mondial gas tank is 16 Liters or 4.2 Gallons.  Conveniently, the Evaop-Rust is available on Amazon in various sizes:
Evapo-Rust 1 Gallon

Evapo-Rust 5 Gallon Pail

Other items I used:
90% Isopropyl Alcohol to help rinse out the tank.

Marvel Mystery Oil to coat the tank after cleaning to prevent rust.

How I did it

I took the tank off the bike and removed the petcocks. I've heard people have done this with the petcocks installed but I didn't see any advantage to trying that. I made two petcock hole plugs out of a pair of bolts that I shortened and some rubber washers. I also used some teflon tape to help seal the plugs.

I put some plastic down and used a aluminum turkey roasting pan to catch any drips. I also put some blocks under the tank to hold it off the bottom of the pan. I made sure the top filler of the tank was perfectly level so I could fill the tank completely.

After filling the tank, I made sure the outside of the tanks was completely clean and that the was no evapo-rust on the outside. I didn't want any chance of damaging the paint!


And then I left the tank for a couple hours. I'm not sure exactly how long, but it was more than 2 hours and less than 4.

I've seen metal "flash rust" quickly after de-rusting, so I really focused on completing the next steps quickly.

When I decided the tank was "done", I emptied the tank into a large plastic bin so I could recover the Evapo-Rust for future use. And the I immediately washed the outside and inside of the tank with water. (It was really nice that the Evaporust is biodegradable, minor spills were no concern!) 

After shaking the tank out I put in about a cup of 90% rubbing alcohol and shook it all around and then drained that. And then I repeated that again with another cup of alcohol. The idea is the alcohol blends with any remaining water and then dries out quickly. 

But I was still concerned about flash rust, so after shaking out all the alcohol I could I immediately poured in about half a cup of Marvel Mystery Oil and shook and tilted the tank every possible way to coat the entire inside. I poured out the oil and repeated this step again with fresh oil. After the second oil coat the excess oil poured out looking nicely unpolluted with water or alcohol.
(Note: I wouldn't count on Marvel Mystery Oil for long term rust proof storage of an empty tank. But for short term use before filling with gas it is good. Marvel Mystery Oil is commonly used as a fuel additive and it a pleasing peppermint smell.)

Results

I think the tank came out very well. Most of the tank looks great. That might be a bit of rust left in the bottom, I probably should have left it a bit longer or maybe rinsed it once and refilled for a second Evapo-Rust treatment.

I'll be curious how long this lasts. Some say they you should use a treatment that leaves a coating to protect the tank from rust, they tend to recommend a phosphoric prep and etch. I have done that in the past, but dealing with the acid is very hazardous! This Evapo-rust is much easier. As I said, we will see how it lasts!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Pi-hole advertising blocking and DNS - a complete kit


I decided to build a Pi-hole to block advertisements from our home network and so I could use it as a separate DNS server from our router. I set mine up on a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ that sits headless (without monitor, keyboard or mouse) next to my router.

Detail on technology: Pi-hole and more mmm-pi-hole.
Detail on the Raspberry Pi Hardware: Raspberry Pi.

As I built this thing I discovered a few things so I thought I'd share some tips. These are not detailed directions, just a basic outline of what worked best for me. If you know your way around this kind of stuff (setting up DNS servers and home routers) it will probably be enough, but if you don't, consider finding a more detailed guide than this one! 

Here is the hardware I chose (with pricing today 2018-10-5):

Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Motherboard $40
Power Supply with switched cord $10
32GB MicroSD card and adapter $9
Flirc Aluminum case with integral heat sink $16

Total cost: $75
(You will also need a monitor with HDMI cable and a USB keyboard and mouse.)

Steps:


  1. First you need to format the SD card as FAT32.
  2. Next you need to install an operating system image on the SD Card. Raspian (Debian for the Raspberry Pi) is the obvious choice. Most of the directions recommended using "NOOBS", an installer program, but I found it set up a corrupt image on my card, and googling showed many people had problems with this. I tried the alternative method and actually found it to be much easier and I highly recommend it:
    1. Download Etcher (the image flasher)
    2. Download Raspian Stretch with Desktop (the OS)
    3. Unzip the Raspian Image
    4. User Etcher to Flash Raspian onto your SD card.
  3. Put the SD card in the Pi motherboard and connect the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Power it up!
  4. Once you have configured Raspian, you need to install the Pi-Hole software. Follow the directions on the Pi-hole website, its easy.
  5. Note, if you configure the Pi-hole initially for wifi, wlan0, it will not work over a wired Ethernet connection! You will have to go back and change the connection to your wired Ethernet port, eth0 or to "all interfaces".
  6. Configure the Pi-hole DNS as you desire. Be sure to note the password! You will need to assign it a static address on your network (see your router configuration for that) and point it at the appropriate upstream DNS servers of your choice. If you stream video services, I recommend using the servers assigned by your ISP or some other quality local server. Good article on CDNs and DNS.
  7. After power cycles, Raspian and the Pi-hole application seem to boot automatically. So you won't have to login or start the Pi-hole application manually after every reboot.
  8. If you want to operate the Pi without an attached keyboard or monitor, you can enable the VNC server built into Raspian. You can find this in the "Raspberry Pi Configuration Menu" under "Interfaces". You will need to install the VNC client on whatever device you want to use to view the server. Hard core users can enable SSH if they wish.
  9. Note you can access the Pi-hole software from any device on the local network by entering it's address in your web browser.
  10. At this point I tested the Pi-hole by telling a single computer to use it for DNS. When I was happy with how that worked I then changed the DHCP DNS settings in my router to enable the Pi-hole for the entire network.
  11. It works great!
I will note; there is not much visible improvement on a computer for the end user over something like uBlock Origin. However, the Pi-hole works great for smart phone and tablet users! And while it doesn't appear much different to computer users, it does substantially cut back on network DNS requests. The results are visible in the picture at the top of the page.