Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bright Lights and Grey Skies

The electronic flasher came today from Amazon. To install it, I just needed to make three jumpers with male and female spade lugs at each end. These were inserted into the plug on the wiring harness and matched up with the appropriate terminals on the flasher unit. It works great. I then installed the LED bulbs in the front turn signals. I like this one particularly since it has the projector lens on the front making for a very bright turn indicator. After installing them, I figured that I may as well order them for the rear turn signals as well. The flasher works as advertised and maintained the same flashing rate even with the lower amperage LED bulbs.

Since they are LED, I now have the option of connecting them to the Skene Design Photon Blaster electronic module. One cut wire and a splice later, I had the left turn signal connected and tested. The left signal now has that distinctive flicker and really is pretty visible. The right turn signal is a bit more challenging as there is a single wire from the headlight shell, where all of the wiring is located, to the sidecar and is for the front and rear right turn signals. amber parking lights on the rear are not permitted so I will need to run a new wire for just the right-front turn signal. I have not started this task yet.

Update - I ran the wire from the sidecar front turn signal and connected it up to the Skene module. It is a lot brighter than the parking light on the sidecar and the flicker really makes it easy to see.

And, the solar is working. I set the charge controller to do an equalization charge so anytime the array voltage (red line on the first graph) is high enough, the controller will push the battery up to whatever is needed according to the battery temperature. Since the batteries are on the cold side, the equalization voltage is around 15 volts. The current is low as the batteries are fully charged. The only thing drawing power is the CO/propane detector and the Raspberry Pi monitoring the charge controller.

The weather was very dreary today. Not cold (50°F) but overcast. Everything is gloomy and grey. The following video is just a short loop around town and is sped up 8x like the previous couple of videos. I keep thinking of simply adding voice over to the sped up video and make it a vlog. But that seems like a lot more work...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Spring Snow

Friday was windy, overcast and it looked and felt like fall. I had removed the gauntlets from the Ural earlier in the week but was having second thoughts. Maybe a week too soon. By late Friday afternoon, we were getting snow flurries. Nothing like the northern midwest last week but just enough to remind one that we were still in Alaska.

Saturday morning brought brilliant sunshine but it was still below freezing. The dark pavement was absorbing enough warmth from the sun to melt the snow but there was still a little ice in the shadows. I'm glad that I still hadn't removed the studs from the tires. Or at least the minimal number that I had installed.

I had ordered some LED bulbs to use in the Ural front turn signals and discovered that, for some reason or another, Ural chose to wire the turn signal sockets backwards. Instead of negative on the body of the base, it is wired to the base of the bulb. Time to dig out the soldering iron and shrink tubing again and rewire. But I still wonder why they would do that. My intent is to wire the front turn signals to the Skene module so they would flicker as well possibly improving my forward visibility. The Ural still has an old style flasher module that uses the current to the bulbs to determine the flashing rate. Removing the front bulb from the circuit causes it to flash very fast. On the BMW, I just added resistors to simulate the bulbs but that just consumed amps. The proper way is to change the flasher to an electronic unit which has a constant flash rate no matter what the load. Like many things, it's easier to just order from Amazon than deal with the local auto parts store as they provide parts based on the year/make/model of the vehicle. If you try to explain what you want, they just ask you for the year/make/model again as that is the only way they know to look up parts. There are exceptions but I get tired of trying to find that person. Once the flasher arrives, I’ll rewrite the lights and I’ll need to rewire the flasher as well. I think the one that’s installed has three connections instead of two. The third one would simply be a ground.

Todays Ural task was replacing the battery. The last battery came from Jed's 2015 Ural as it was still installed even after Ural of New England added the automotive battery. We used the stock battery location for a 12volt bus to simplify the addition of accessories. So it was barely 3 years old. The replacement battery came from Walmart. The only difference between their "premium" AGM battery and their regular AGM battery is that the regular one ships dry. You need to add the acid and charge the battery before use. After filling it with acid, I went ahead and installed it on the bike before connecting my smart charger. The smart charger just means that it has multiple charging profiles including one for AGM batteries.

The video below was shot this morning to show off our fresh dusting of snow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

RV is Back Home

Finally have the RV back in the driveway. I picked it up around 2:30 pm and thanks to a good friend and neighbor SteveJ, we managed to get it into the driveway. It took multiple attempts to maneuver it in. The truck was in 4WD and low range due to the steep driveway. The resultant speed in reverse or 1st was less than walking speed at idle. This really helps.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


This post seems to have a little bit of everything. Ural issues, RV, ham radio, and technology. Though no travel or anything related to Barrow aka Utqiaġvik. The title of the post started out as CW challenges but over the weekend, more challenges kept arising.

For the Morse code class, which is generally referred to as CW, we use a practice program called RufzXP. It was written back in the days of Windows XP which explains the "XP" in the name. It sends random letters, numbers, and symbols to the audio port and you need to type it into a box. If you get it right, it sends the next series of characters slightly faster. Unfortunately, I have a hard time typing as well as listening. Especially for numbers and symbols. I seem to spend a lot of time looking at the keyboard for the letters. Especially when punctuation is sent. I believe the goal is to remember the letters and punctuation then type it in after it's sent. I have a hard time with that as well.

To help me with some of the audio practice files available for download on the CW Ops website, I installed a morse decoder on the iPad. Feeding the audio out from the laptop into the microphone input on the iPad, the app attempts to convert it to text. As you can see from the text in the image, the decoding is far from perfect. This particular file is pretty straightforward to read but some of the CW files have so much shorthand or abbreviations, I have a really hard time understanding the text even if I decode the Morse code accurately. I believe that understanding the abbreviations comes from experience. Here is an example of a conversation between two operators. I guess it really isn't any different than two teenagers texting. I added the meaning of the abbreviation in parentheses.

cq (calling) cq cq w1rm (the target call sign) w1rm de (from) n3am (the source call sign) k (ok) n3am w1rm ge (good evening) es (and) tu (thank you) fer (for) call ur (your) rst (received signal) 569 569 (numbers refer to the strength and quality of the received signal) qth (my location) is ct (Connecticut) ct es (and) name is pete pete ok? de (from) w1rm w1rm de n3am fb (ok) pete ur (your) rst is 589 in md (Maryland) md name is john john hw? w1rm de n3am k de w1rm r r (are) solid hr john wx (weather) is snow es (and) temp is 24 24 rig runs kw (kilowatt) to 5 el (element) yagi up 60 ft (height of antenna) age is 72 hw? (how are you receiving me) de w1rm w1rm de n3am ok pete gud (good) cpy (copy) wx (weather) is cla (clear) eemp 33 rig runs kw to 4 el yagi at 55 ft age is 70 ok? w1rm de n3am de w1rm all solid john nice to wrk u (you) agn (again) so soon will look fer (for) u (you) agn (again) on 40 (assume meters) take care es (and) 73 (best regards) sk (end of contact)  n3am de w1rm w1rm de n3am enjoyed the qso pete cu (see you) agn (again) sn (soon) 73 sk w1rm de n3am ee ee 
On Friday, I had planned to pick up the 5th wheel from the RV storage lot and bring it back to the house. But, when I went there, the large pile of snow was still in front of the trailer and it looked like they tried to move it with their plow truck. Not much chance of that as the snow pile was solid enough to stand on. Anyway, they were waiting for the loader to come and move the snow. Maybe Monday or Tuesday. Anyway, there were snow flurries on Friday.

On Saturday, I took the automotive battery out of the Ural and reconnected the stock motorcycle battery after having it on the charger overnight. It seemed to crank the engine over just fine. On Sunday morning, not a chance. Just click-click-click. So on Sunday afternoon, the automotive battery went back in. I guess it needs battery number 3. Maybe time for one from Walmart...

BTW, over 15 hours of daylight (sunrise to sunset) today and almost 18 hours of light (first light to last light)!