My writeup of 2020 experiences so far

Posted on 2020-09-20

Needless to say, 2020 has been the worst year as far as my mental wellbeing is concerned. Sitting inside home, working more than the usual times (even though I had been working from home for the past few years), definitely had an adverse effect on me. The point is that we do not live in isolation. There are others around us and they too are going through the same problems. Things are slowly easing out, though the situation is still alarming. I am also fortunate that I don’t live in an apartment anymore and have enough space to walk around and enjoy some nature.

One thing that helped me during these days and acted as a stress buster was working on hobbies. I try to listen to the Ham Radio chatter every day and make a CW contact or two (morse code for those who are not familiar with the ham radio lingo), except on those days when there are thunderstorms. There are some excellent CW operators from Indonesia and Thailand and from other parts of India in the evenings.

We have been having a long spell of rains in Bangalore this time.. no where near the levels of rain in Kerala. That reminds me that I need to do some antenna maintenance of cleaning the connectors, waterproofing them, adjusting the tensions of the dipole guy wires etc. I love doing anything with my hands.

In the early part of this year, I embarked on building filters for my radio and luckily, all the parts arrived in January/Early February. I finished the filters and got on the air with it. That was deeply satisfying. I am using the radio more or less every day.

Most of the lockdown time had been busy with work and other volunteer activities in the neighbourhood. Last week, I heard about the recently commissioned Voice Repeater on ISS and thought I should do some activity on the VHF band. Yesterday I assembled the 7-el Yagi antenna after a trip to the local hardware store to get some bolts and nuts. Still need a strong PVC pipe or a GI pipe mast to get the antenna up.

I also wrote a simple SDR program in demonstrate how SDRs work. Currently it has only one dependency - pulseaudio, that may change as soon as I add some graphical plots to it. I do not intend to support macOS or Windows. I also do not intend to make it useful for the general audience. I wrote it for myself to use and for others to read and understand. Early times and I hope to keep it minimal and easy to understand (at the cost of computing resources etc). Hoping to add a GTK+/Cairo based spectrum visualizer soon. Unfortunately, GTK pulls in tons of libraries. For a while I tried to use the Plan9Port’s graphics(3) and draw(3) library to make the drawing. They are delightfully easy to use. I decided to play with Cairo for the time being. Cairo is a lot harder to use than Plan 9’s graphics and draw functions. I find it hard to have a mental model of how and when things happen. (Not so in Plan 9’s draw API.. So, I may go back to using it sooner).

And I am so grateful for all the free software that is available readily for use for just about any purpose.

I have also volunteered to write an article for an amateur radio newsletter on some of the projects. I will post a link here when it is published. I am also constantly trying to improve my CW/Morse Code operating skills. Doing a bit of it every day has dramatic effect on the skill improvements.

A new 100W Power amplifier kit project is up-coming.

A few of us strangers who met online have teamed up and are learning Agda and it has been fun so far. And I also enrolled for a Sanskrit class which has been going extremely well.

Stay healthy and keep building!