Saturday, August 23, 2014

Another Season Coming Up - Preparations

The midnight sun had its last display on July 27, so evenings are getting darker even if the time span from sunset to sunrise is only 7 hours - and it still doesn't get completely dark at local midnight. However, from this time onwards, Australians are possible to hear if propagation is right, so today was getting-out-the-500-meter-50-degrees-beverage-day. It will be a BOG until I'm sure there are no reindeer around.

This beverage is very directive, and dead quiet. I have often wondered if there was something wrong with it. 50+ MW stations from New Zealand over the years is proof enough there's nothing wrong. Below is a comparison with a makeshift 55 metre L-antenna I've had up this summer. The Perseus on top displays the waterfall from the L-antenna while the SpectraVue display below is the beverage. Almost no signals on the beverage! Which is according to plan because the L picks up Middle East and eastern European stations while the beverage doesn't. For example, IRIB 1449 was measured 20 dB weaker on the beverage than on the L-antenna this afternoon.
L-antenna Perseus on top, 50 degrees beverage SpectraVue below.
A new PC in Kongsfjord this year is the Intel NUC, a desktop PC as small as it gets. Actually it uses Intel's laptop CPU line. It was bought for remote operations only, using LogMeIn Pro - however there were some unexpected obstacles to this setup. To make a long story short it isn't designed for "headless" operation, i.e. remote operation without it being connected to a display or audio peripheral. So I had to 1) buy a dummy video adapter with enough resistance to fool the video driver into believing there is a display at the other end, and 2) make a dummy audio jack for the same purpose (30 ohm resistor over the center and ground leads). That done, it works very well indeed. The 19V external, switching PSU is quiet.

It has four USB 3.0 connections, two video connections (mini-DVI and mini-HDMI). It can be equipped with an SSD of your choice, and has two RAM slots plus one Wifi/bluetooth slot (which I didn't bother to fit since I run cabled network). Basically you have to buy the PC barebone, plus the necessary boards and OS, and install the lot yourself. And then download all the drivers from Intel to make it work properly.
Intel NUC. On the left from above: Power plug, video output (to dummy adapter), USB peripheral. On the right from above: dummy audio jack, USB output to external HDD.

Another great improvement over previous years is internet! The past several years we have had to rely on a wireless internet provider which could only supply 0.5 to 1.3 MBPS down and a little less up. This summer, the largest mobile phone company in Norway (Telenor) set up 3G in this tiny village. We are now enjoying a comparative luxury of 15-20 MBPS down and 3-5 MBPS up. And the connection is much more stable too. This will make remote operations a lot easier.