Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Talking Maker Faire and IMS2016 w/ George KJ6VU

This week's HamRadio360 podcast contains a segment where +Beric Dunn K6BEZ and I were interviewed by George KJ6VU about the Bay-Net amateur radio project at +Maker Faire and continues with discussion about the panel I moderated for the +IEEE International Microwave Symposium.  The audio for the panelist presentations is in the podcast, and the presentation PDFs are available online in my previous blog post.

Special thanks to Cale at HR360 (nee the +Fo Time Podcast) for covering this.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How To Remove a Flow Lock Without a Key

During the drought I bought a Flow Lock to prevent people from helping themselves to my water.  They have an interesting magnetic key system and seemed like a good idea.  However I found that over time the tumbler mechanism gets corroded and then it won't unlock - even with a key.

The first time it happened I was able to unlock it by spraying WD-40 and tapping it with a small hammer.  The next time it got stuck nothing worked.  My option was to replace the entire faucet, or find a hack.

The Flow Lock tumbler mechanism, when engaged, couples the outer green metal shell to an inner metal fitting.  When the key isn't inserted. the outer shell spins freely, preventing removal.

My solution was to drill through the outer shell to the inner fitting, and then run a deck screw through the two holes.  This couples the shell to the inner fitting and it came off easily.  Side note: I was amused by the product video for this which claimed that a Flow Lock (also known as a "Spinsecure Faucet Lock II") is "virtually impossible to remove without the key" - I did it in two minutes with basic tools and a 5 cent deck screw.

Tips for doing this:
  1. Use a 5/64" drill bit designed for metal work.
  2. Drill into the center of an indent on the outer shell.  It doesn't seem to matter which indent you choose.  
  3. Maintain steady pressure on the drill.
  4. Stop periodically and cool the drill bit with spray lubricant or machine oil.
Disclaimer: Stealing water is illegal.  Destroying private property is illegal.  This hack is intended for people who own Flow Locks but can't get them off using their key.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Field Day is here!

Every year the amateur radio community conducts Field Day - one part contest, one part public outreach event, one part campout & BBQ, and four parts awesome.  Bay-Net hosts a Field Day each year, operating as K6SRA.  For the past few years we've been setting up in a parking lot of the Almaden Quicksilver Park in San Jose CA - and this year is no exception.

For some Field Day is serious stuff - massive operations running 24 hours through the day and night, generators and amplifiers and stacked Yagi antennas, with operation coordinators whose sole purpose is to encourage the radio ops to work stations and log faster.  This does not sound like fun to me.  K6SRA Field Day often devolves into an impromptu technical session where the radios sit idle while we pore over the details of some homebrew project.  Our Field Day operation has jokingly been called "Hot Dogs and Radio - in that order".  For many of our members, busy as they are with work in the always-hectic Silicon Valley, Field Day is a chance to relax and catch up.

This year we plan to shift one of our HF stations from phone to digital on a station created via the excellent Raspberry Pi hacking skills of +Beric Dunn.  I figure the kids will like this better, since it's a keyboard and not a microphone they'll probably be less reluctant to get on the air.