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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

5/5/2010 - Baby steps

First off: Happy Cinco de Mayo.

This whole single sideband (SSB) radio e-mail stuff is kind of a mystery to me. I'm usually a pretty tech-savvy guy (or at least I was when I was still working), but this stuff is really foreign to me. However, I had a bit of success today. First, several months ago, I installed my SSB radio. Then, over the course of a few months, I managed to put together an antenna and a ground plane that seemed to be acceptable as far as I could ascertain from various web sources. Next step was to connect the Pactor modem to the SSB. Fortunately for me, I bought my radio and modem as a package (used) from a guy who had previously had them on his boat. Besides the big pieces (radio, modem, automatic antenna tuner) there was also a baggie full of cables and various other gizmos. I found it really hard to find a definitive answer as to what connects to what and how. But, luckily, I only had so many cables and the ends were each unique enough that it was fairly easy to figure out what went where. Still, a little scary because, knowing as little as I do about this stuff, I could just see myself plugging the wrong thing in, keying the microphone and blowing some expensive piece of equipment up. But, as always, you eventually have to bite the bullet and go for it.

So I got everything connected to each other but I still wasn't sure if anything was going to work or not. The next step was to install Airmail and all its accouterments on my computer, configure it correctly, and fire that mutha up.

You cannot believe how happy I was when, after many incorrect paths, I finally hooked everything together, told the computer (via Airmail) what frequency to set the SSB at, and then watched as it actually happened! Coooooool. Still wasn't making any contact with anyone or anything but at least the computer could control the modem and the radio (actually I think the computer is controlling the modem and the modem is controlling the radio... but what do I know?).

Each one of these little steps represents weeks of fussing and fuming about what to do next as well as many hours on the internet poring over advice.

Today, another breakthrough. I actually made contact with an Airmail PMBO (Participating Mail Box Office) in Olympia, WA. My queued-up messages didn't go out and nothing came in and it disconnected me after just a few minutes, but I MADE CONTACT!

Next step: actually get the whole e-mail thing to work. I suppose it would also be a good idea to make voice contact with someone. I've been unsuccessful so far but I've only tried a couple of times. But that's okay. Baby steps. I know that eventually I will get it all working right.

Oh, BTW, Lulu has decided she needs to climb the ratlines at least once a day. I assumed it was for some sort of exercise but she says that she does it just 'cuz it's fun.

1 comment:

Livia said...

The SSB has been such a complicated install. I have the tuner and transceiver mounted and the wires run between the two of them and connected to the modem.

I still have to install:
- the wire connecting the tuner to the (already) insulated backstay
- foil to the thru hull with capacitors
- power to the transceiver (although that wire is already run so relatively easy)

I'm going to post about it when I get it all sorted...