Monday, 11 June 2018

More power!!!!!!!!

I own a 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan. It's the baseline model with absolutely no frills or addons whatsoever. And that included things like USB charging outlets. So I decided to add a few outlets of my own.

The USB outlets were purchased from amazon and are wired in parallel with the cigarette outlet so that they will follow the ignition. The Anderson Powerpoles are wired directly to my Ham Radio fuse box in the back of the van and are fused for 10 Amps. Again, the outlets were purchased from Amazon. I also purchased a set of large step-drill bits. The required holes for the outlets were 1-1/8" and you can see the remnants of the panel on the floor. I was able to source a replacement panel just in case I sell my van. I can then return it to factory condition.

Can you prove you have a brain?

Can you prove you have a brain? I can! Take a look at this. It's an MRI (one of MANY!!) of my brain. Clever bastards reading this will be able to spot my 1/2 ventricles, 3rd ventricle and 4th ventricle. Look really close you'll also see a Pineal Cyst right at the back of my 3rd ventricle.

According to my brain guy (he's my 3rd on this journey) my enlarged ventricles are suffering from something called Obstructive Hydrocephalus most likely cause by the Pineal Cyst. And whilst the ventricles are not "impressive" (thanks, Doc) my other symptoms were causing alarm. Alzheimer's like memory issues, incontinence, difficulty descending stairs, wide gait etc, etc, etc. So it was decided that we should "fix" the issue. The Ventricles are full of spinal fluid and because the fluid cannot drain as normal its like inflating a water balloon in my head.

I was scheduled for a procedure to install a VentriculoPeritoneal Shunt. Basically its a McDonald's straw connected to a valve that then dumps out into your stomach. After almost 9 months of chasing this issue down and a few wrong diagnosis and even being thrown out of a brain surgeon's office (thanks, Penn Med!!!), being told another surgeon did not have the tools for the job I ended up at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. These guys know what they are doing!!!

The night before surgery I had to shave my head.
Surgery day was June 1st 2018. As I write this I am 10 days post surgery. I'm still very sore but getting 500% stronger every day.

Erin and I share a laugh in the pre-op waiting room. My head is shaved but yet still I have to wear that ridiculous hat. 
So in a nutshell they put a hole in my skull. Into the hole they inserted a tube which was pushed through my brain into the right side Ventricle. This will allow the buildup of fluid to drain safely and thus deflate the balloon effect.

This is the hole they put in my head. You can clearly see the tube exiting under my skin to the right.

Here we can see the valve placed under my skin on the side of my skull. There's another tube that goes behind my ear, down my neck, across my collar bone and eventually to my abdomen in a single feed. That's the output with the waste spinal fluid.

Finally, the tube arrives in my abdomen where they cut me open, grab the end and secure it behind my muscle wall. Of all the wounds I got this is the one that hurts the most!!!

The tube from my ear to my abdomen is one complete section. The surgeon basically stabbed me from my ear to my stomach in one go. He used a sharp long steel tube with a wooden handle on the end and rammed it under my skin. I can actually feel the hose!

So that's pretty much it. I'll have to go for annual checkups on it and even though mine is an "MRI Safe" model I will still need x-rays taken before and after I get another ride through the MRI scanner. This would be so they can tell if the valve settings have changed. I'm good for up to 3 Tesla's - whatever they are? It also has a service life of about 5-7 years so I'll be back in there fairly shortly. Although, I'm told a replacement is not as bad as an initial installation. I'll let you know.

MMDVM based digital modes hotspot

Now that there are so many different digital modes around for the V/UHF bands I decided that it was time I had a hotspot that could cover all the modes at the same time.

I've been following G4KLX's MMDVM project since it's initial inception and have even donated one of my NQSMHS modems to the project (it started out as a D-STAR project). Today the project has gained quite some momentum and is now able to run on a Raspberry Pi Zero W along with other hardware addons such as screens and buttons etc. Significant work has also gone into creating a RPi distro explicitly for the MMDVM.

My hotspot is based on the RPI0W and ZumSPOT hotspot board that you can get from HRO here in the US. I followed this HowTo which said to download the latest image from the PiSTAR site and transfer it to an SD Card (just like any other RPi distro).

And this is the finished result. The 3D printed case is by George, M1GEO and is available from Thingiverse. It only supports a 3.5" Nextion LCD display but having also tried a 2.8" display I can tell you that you want the bigger screen! I have asked George to knock up some designs for other screen sizes and also to add some cooling holes into the box as it can get quite hot in there after a good round table QSO!

The Nextion screen is quite clever in that you upload a handful of screen images to it when setting it up. These images also have various text fields that will be populated with data every time the MMDVM host sends some info to the screen (eg, which screen image to display, what frequency, RX Callsign etc). Below is a selection of the screens that mine does.

The bootup screen. I decided to abandon this particular one as I couldn't really see it properly.
Traffic arriving from the Internet. This will be broadcast via the built in 20mW TRX. Note the RPi3 mounted next to it on the left. That's an Echolink system.
It's listening for my local input. It'll do this for 10 seconds. If I do not respond in YSF (in this case) it'll drop back to listening for any mode.

Receiving my YSF signal from my HT in the shack. Note the BER. This is quite high and can be attributed to overload in the RX. When I'm on the other side of the room the BER is down to almost 0%.