Multicast Digital TV

Since American television stations made the conversion to digital back in 2009, there was the debate whether stations would opt to use their bandwidth for a high definition signal or use it for multicast broadcasting where a single channel will have multiple channels.  It appears that stations are able to do both to some degree.  Most major network channels broadcast at 1080i or at least 720p.  The secondary channels seem to be mostly lower resolution programming. There have been many new multicast networks that have appeared and gone away.  Here in Oklahoma City, we’ve had Antenna TV, MeTV, Get TV, Grit TV, Charge, Comet, EscapeLaff TV, Bounce, among others.  Recently with Sinclair TV stations creating their own networks, they have bumped a couple networks that we really enjoyed. We lost Grit TV and GetTV because they were on Sinclair stations.  So far we’ve managed find Get TV on another station in the local area. I really hope that we get Grit TV back.  We’ve also lost Laff TV and Bounce. I hope we get them back as well.

I do wish they would carry these stations on the satellite companies like Dish Network and DirecTV.  It is clear this is an ongoing evolution with networks becoming either growing market share or going out of business. As someone that has always been into this sort of thing, I am pulling for all of them to succeed.  I am hoping that we get even more of them.  Here in Oklahoma City, I have scanned 58 channels over the air.  That is another issue.  People need to remember to re-scan their TV’s frequently to capture these changes.  To be honest, I re-scan our TV at lease once a week.  I am constantly finding changes with new channels coming online and others going away. It is like a treat to find another channel.  If you haven’t re-scanned your TV with an over the air antenna, do it and you may be surprised.

New QSL Card

QSL Card

For the first time in years, I have ordered some QSL cards for my ham radio hobby.  I ordered them from a place called QSL Works.  I supplied the picture of Oklahoma City to be used as the front of the cards.  The text is on the back side for collecting information about the contact.  I figure since we are finally settled in a home with no intentions of moving anytime soon, that it was time to get some cards made.  I hope you like them.

Feeling a bit Sick this Morning

I had a rough night of throwing up that I am just zapped of energy.  I was laying in bed and will likely go back to bed, except that I keep getting awaken by phone calls of an exercise on base.  It keeps telling me that we have a 100% accountability check and that it wants me to check in.  I’ve unsuccessfully attempted so that I just sent an email to my wife and boss to check me in.  I still feel pretty bad and want to go lay back down.  I hate burning sick days but today I clearly do not feel good.

I will get this posted and make another attempt at going back to bed.

Sprinkler System Installation

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This past week we finally started a project that we’ve been saving for a long time.  We’ve talked about installing a sprinkler system for years but never got around to doing it.  On Thursday, April 13th we had Oklahoma Irrigation install our system for us.  They were over half way through when it began to rain.  They had to stop work until it was over and dried up a bit.  It was too wet to work on it the next day, yesterday.

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They were going to come back yesterday but it was too wet. It looks like tomorrow (Easter) it is scheduled to rain again so they may not even be back on Monday.  We’ll see how conditions are.  I will never complain about getting rain so to me, I am okay with the delay.  Yes, the lawn is torn up but this is the third year in a row so I think we can handle it.  The first year, we had a storm shelter installed, then it was the ham radio tower pad and finally, now it is the sprinkler system.  I guess this will force our hand on dealing with the non grass around the storm shelter (cellar).  We are going to have to place some sod around it to get it growing now so that we don’t have erosion.  We’ve been holding off for this very project to get completed.

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As you can see in these pictures, the lawn is a real mess.  We wanted to mow it and edge it last weekend but could not because the utility companies had to come out and mark the locations of their lines across the lawn.  They did this with paint and flags so I could not mow the flags over.  I can’t wait to get this project complete and the lawn begin to repair itself.  I’ll keep you posted with more pictures as it moves forward.

Finally Some Rain

After nearly two months of no rain, we finally manage to get a couple inches of rain on March 28th.  Then we got another quarter inch on April first.  We need much more than that but it is a good start.  This morning I got up and it was really foggy and there were many birds singing loudly.  It is hard to imagine a better morning.  Of course, waking up to a rainy day would be better but I am satisfied for now. 🙂

We’ve had a great weekend with family visiting from out of town.  Yesterday we mowed the lawn for the first time though it was the second time for my dad’s lawn.  The only reason we made it this long on our lawn was because we have no weeds and the Bermuda grass is slow to turn green.  We are very blessed to have a pretty lawn this year.  I just hope the rain continues so that we can end this horrible drought.  I am very thankful for the rain we received.

I will continue to post on this blog and try my best to avoid politics.  It is not worth the arguing that ensues. 🙂

Trip to Tucson

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The last week of February we took a trip to Tucson, Arizona for my wife’s work and I tagged along.  Tucson is where my wife and I had our first home together after we got married.  I was in the Air Force and was stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB.  We have lots of wonderful memories there and so I didn’t want to miss this trip.

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In this picture we were standing on the balcony of our hotel room at the Radisson Suite Hotel. We chose this hotel for a specific reason. My wife use to work at this hotel when we lived there but since we were young and low income at the time, we could never afford to stay there when we actually lived there.

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I had to take a picture of this billboard simply because anyone that has ever driven Interstate 10 (I-10) between El Paso, TX and Phoenix, AZ will remember these billboards. This is nothing more than a gas station and “The Mystery of the Desert”.  There are literally hundreds of these billboards on this stretch of freeway.

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In this picture you can see the white sand as we travel the road between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, New Mexico.  I’ve been past this spot many many times as my mom was born in Fair Acres, NM, just outside of Las Cruces. We’ve traveled to that part of the state so many times that I can’t count.

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In this picture you can see the New Mexico state line coming from Arizona on Interstate 10 (I-10).  The Land of Enchantment is a phrase that I’ve heard hundreds of times over my lifetime due to my mom being from there.  I have great love for my family that still lives there. That is a very beautiful state that feels like home to me.  I really miss my mom and being able to go see my family there, is one way that I can stay close to her.  We lost my mom in 2005 and as you can imagine, there is no amount of money that could amount to the value of spending another minute with my mom.  Going to New Mexico, the place that she always called home and loved so much sort of makes me feel close to her.

I hope to be able to go back and see my family as often as possible.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures. To see the entire album on Flickr, just click on any one of them and you’ll be taken to the unedited full resolution versions.

Digital Mobile Radio (DMR)

Lately I’ve been playing around with DMR as it seems to be the new game in digital amateur radio.  I was late joining digital radio as I just got my first D-Star radio with the Icom ID-5100A back in July just to find out that all of the D-Star repeaters have gone off the air or I can’t reach them.  I thought about maybe trying Yaesu’s System Fusion (C4FM) because it seems to be pretty cool as well but the adoption seems to be slow.  Here in the Oklahoma City area it seems that DMR is the direction that seems to be winning the digital game.

I recently bought the new TYT MD-380 and installed the newest firmware, MD-380 tools by WH6AV, the full DMR ID database installed and I have to admit that I love it.  All of the local DMR repeaters are connected 24 hours on time slot two on the Brandmeister, OK Central, talk group, 31401.  Time slot one is reserved for connecting to remote repeaters and talk groups.  The remote connections will drop after 15 minutes of local inactivity.  I would like to thank local hams Jesse, KD5JP and Bob, W5RLW for immense help on educating me, my brother (WX5DEL) and my dad (W5QO) in the operation of DMR.

We are teetering on whether we want to go in this direction or not with our own repeater(s). While we love it, we want to make sure that people are willing to adopt the technology.  There is quite the learning curve in the beginning but to me it is worth it. My fear is that like the old Beta-max VCR being the better technology to VHS is that people may not appreciate it.  I am a fan of Linux, and the security, custom-ability.  The problem with Linux is the attitude of the users and their seemingly elitist mentality that nothing is better than the command line.  While I too enjoy it, the reality is that society has gotten use to everything being a large, colorful, button like Apple promotes.  Until Linux users understand this, it will never be accepted widely outside of those that are technology oriented.  That is my fear of DMR.  I hope that more manufacturers take advantage of the open source technology and make equipment more widely available.

On a similar note, I’ve noticed that despite Ibiquity’s in band on channel (IBOC), so called HD Radio, it lacks industry adoption.  It is not that consumers are not interested but rather that manufacturers do not include the technology in new cars.  I am a firm believer that people would love to have HD Radio in their cars if manufacturers would include it. Most people don’t want to spend a lot of money to add it as a feature after the fact.

DMR in the amateur radio service has a huge potential and I really hope it succeeds long term.  I hope that Icom and Yaesu do not try to protect their technology by failing to make equipment that used DMR.  If they are going to do that, then I think if they genuinely wanted to help the consumers, they would make radios that had DMR, D-Star and System Fusion capabilities.  Let the market choose the technology they want. If they build a quality product and make it easier for the consumer to plug and play, I believe people will come.

I think that we are leaning more toward the idea that DMR is here for the long term than the other way around.  The reason is that most hams are by definition technology oriented and as such, more willing to take the time to learn it. If there is an appearance that most people are adopting it, then others will join. Let’s be honest, people are followers as can be proven by political parties spending millions of dollars doing polls on a daily basis.  I personally think that it is worth the time to learn DMR.  After all, D-Star has been out for years, System Fusion has been out for a couple of years and yet, here in the Oklahoma City area, DMR rules the day and yet not one of the major amateur radio manufacturers has even one radio to use.

This is my opinion and I really hope that it pans out this way because it is really a cool technology.

Over Priced Light Bulbs

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I am sure that I am not the only one that feels this way but man!  These light bulbs claim two years, six years and even ten year life span as this one claims.  As you can see, this $10.00 light bulb was installed July 19, 2015 and while it did last a record 22 months for us, this bulb claimed it would last ten years on the box.  This is an LED that did work longer than any compact fluorescent bulb that I have tried but still, for $10.00, that is not long enough since I have a house full of these.  Our house uses about 50 light bulbs throughout and so you sort of hope they’ll last a while.  In fairness, there are some bulbs that we bought the same day that are still working.  It just seems that all these promises of long life, environmentally friendly bulbs never seem to pan out.  Oh well, at least we still have good health.  I’m done ranting.

Wildfires

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We recently had a wildfire not too far from our house due to the drought and high winds. It has been so dry the last few months that wildfires has become common. We’ve been in a red flag fire warning for so long that I can’t even remember. Thankfully this fire did not damage any homes except for a mobile home.  There was a lot of grass burned but property was for the most part spared.

New Fence

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Recently we had a new fence installed in our yard that we are very proud of. This is six foot steel fence that sits on top of a concrete barrier all the way around the yard.  Our old fence was the standard wood stockade type fence that gets old looking in short order

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I can’t say enough about what a great job they did installing it. We used a company called Iron Tough Vinyl Fence. While we did not go with the vinyl, they were very professional and did a more than satisfactory job.  The best part is that it is paid for and we do not owe them anything.  My wife and I have been talking about doing this for a long time but we wanted to wait until we could afford to get it done. We had many colors to choose from but we finally decided on the brown color with the tan trim.

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In this final picture, you can see the tan trim a little better. Please ignore the two Crape Myrtle stumps in front of the fence. 🙂  They will grow back thick before you know it. They have to be trimmed back at the end of the season anyway and this allowed the fence workers to get in there without tree limbs in their face.  As you can see in the pictures, there are no leaves on the trees as this was done in February.  That explains the lack of flowers in the flower bed. 🙂  I won’t lie, the fence was expensive though I will not reveal what we paid for it. To us, it is worth it because we live in the city and it gives us the privacy that we desire.  When we moved back into the city, we were concerned that we would not have the privacy that we had at our old house.  This allows us to be in the backyard and not see a single person or window of a neighbor’s house.  It was worth every dime to us and we would definitely recommend one for anyone.