“The Knack” or that moment when projects go wrong …

OK, so it’s time for me to come clean!

My friends, even my family call me a geek; I have some slightly off the wall, not exactly main-stream interests which some of them have in the past commented on my “expertise” and “knowledge”.  Amateur Radio (if you haven’t guessed already) and all that the hobby entails might just be one them!

That’s not what I want to come clean about …

You see, there are folks out there that are far more clever than I within this hobby we call ham radio.  I have come to the conclusion I am still a novice!  Yes, I hold a CEPT Class A equivalent licence, yes I have been doing this for 20-something years and yes, I am the proud owner of an “old and bold” G call.  But in the grand scheme of things, I am still finding my way.

I see some of the brilliant and innovative projects that my fellow hams are coming up with, and I am in awe!  I try to replicate said projects and it either goes one of two ways – It kind of works, but not brilliantly or it falls over, spectacularly.

My latest attempt was just such a spectacular failure (I have the blisters on my finger tips to prove it, but more about that in a bit!)

If you haven’t been watching my sporadic blogging, I have been involved (in a very small way) in an open source project – the Multi Mode Digital Voice Modem or MMDVM.  So far this has been limited to writing a few bits of code based around the HD44780 LCD, maybe the odd very basic bug fix or even the addition of some altogether new functionality – I’m not a brilliant coder by any sense of the imagination, but I can have my moments!  I also wrote a few HOW-TOs on setting up the MMDVMHost software to work with the DVMega based on my own experiences when the project was in its infancy.

For those unfamiliar with the MMDVM concept (I’m guessing most reading this already are as you probably came across my blog by searching for info on the project but I will assume ignorance for a second!) it’s basically a home-built D-STAR, DMR, Fusion and P25 voice modem based around Arduino that when interfaced with an appropriate radio (or radios) becomes a hotspot or repeater for a fraction of the cost of a commercial offering from say Motorola or Hytera.  Best of all, it’s designed by hams for hams!

The project has also involved a fair bit of hardware design and circuit building, which I had left to others.  Until yesterday.  As I said, I have a chequered past with hardware.  Last night was no exception!  You see, contrary to the belief of some of my friends and family, I am not that geek that is good at everything that appears complicated and technical – I too am just as much of a biff as the next man.  Last night, I attempted a simple electronics task – something I would have not thought twice about doing 20 years ago when I was studying and working with electronics and had the correct tools to hand, except this time I didn’t have the correct tools or the necessary experience to hand.  I attempted to work with surface mount technology.  Hang on, I’ve been here before?  Not that anyone would know as I didn’t publicise my previous failure(s) with surface mount components.  But I didn’t learn.  I carried on, thinking “I can do this, how hard can it be?”

The task at hand was to modify a circuit board by de-soldering a crystal oscillator and replace it with a temperature compensated crystal oscillator that would enable the modem to keep a more accurate time when it came to using some of the digital modes of the MMDVM.  One component, just one!  I’d seen how it could be done by studying other’s successful attempts – again, “how hard could it be?”

The original component came off the board without too many issues.  But could I get the new component to solder to the board in its place?  Nope!  In the end all I managed to do was burn my fingers and wreck the board in the process!  Oh well.  That’s that then ….

But then, the “ham spirit” that I had started to think was waning of late suddenly reappeared with a vengeance – two hams that I have only a passing acquaintance with through Twitter and have shared some brainstorming of ideas with on this project offered to modify a board on my behalf and send it to me.  Guys (you know who you are) thankyou for the very kind offers.  I will forever be in your debt!

So, the point of this blog entry? I may “appear” to be that geek, but, well, I’ll just leave you with this video clip ….

2 thoughts on ““The Knack” or that moment when projects go wrong …

  1. Usually there is enough solder left to rework with a dip of the replacement componentcontacts in ‘flux gel’ then a hot air from above to avoid pane movement whilst
    using fine tweezers to manipulate position. Calm deep music is beneficial during the process.

    I had a similar experience trying to solder a rssi line on a lifted back leg, on a JST 8 socket, on a new 4 x opamp Cali mmdvm design I am testing.

    In the end, I removed all and used new connections. Have also ordered a micro drill set to renew those very small holes that cannot be cleared of solder.


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