The magnificent world of Chess

We watched the amazing “Pawn Sacrifice” yesterday which deals with the life of chess legend Bobby Fischer, thought by many to be one of the most powerful players in the world. After his legendary win against Boris Spassky, Fischer drifted off into a strange world of his own.

Ther are several documentaries on Youtube about the man, one of the more interesting ones being “Bobby Fischer against the World”.

Eric Bailey, Juneau, Alaska

This is a little corner of the internet to remember my friend Eric, one of the finest people that I had the honor to know.

Some years ago I published a piece of technical software for the Mac to display the current status of solar activity, an information that is needed by shortwave amateurs around the world to predict signal propagation. I was contacted by one of the users of that software with an inquiry as to add another specific spectrum filter so I added the same and sent him a custom version.

It turns out that Gentleman was a ham radio enthusiast in Juneau, Alaska, Mr. Eric Bailey, call sign WL7CMT. Out of his interest for the software, ham radio in general and his never ending desire to learn, we started a conversation about technical topics which soon developed into a very active and frequent dialogue just about every subject under the sun. Soon we shared insights on culture, history, personal relations via eMail across a distance of several thousands of miles.

What began as casual dialog on radio technology developed into one of the most intense intellectual exchanges. Over the course of weeks, months and years we exchanged eMails of several pages of size on a daily basis. We both came from very different cultural backgrounds, one being a liberal American, living in an isolated but intensely beautiful landscape, the other having just returned from years of living abroad, mostly in Asia. One being an American with his heart close to Europe, the other being a European with an intense past in America, occasionally feeling more like an American than European.

Over many years I witnessed Eric to be a kind and intelligent man with plenty of interests. He had traveled and met Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the Swiss born psychiatrist that researched the psychology of death. Eric was able to give a precise account of his experiences there. The next day we discussed the electrical properties of high impedance matched endfed halfwave antennas and their properties near salt water. Then, I was told about the economics of delivering frozen turkeys on thanksgiving. Then, we discussed the potential for using microfiltration to separate gold dust from an abrasion agent.

Eric was a man that believed in what he did. His day job was to work in an organic food store in Juneau. In his past time he went digging for gold in a gold field, moved apartments or helped renovate a house.
I learned that living in Alaska is not easy, let alone cheap so Erics life was often marked by the struggle of making ends meet. Still I never heard him complain or speak badly about anyone. His wife left him long time ago as he was often gone for extended periods of time for work. I recall speaking to him on thanksgiving where I offerend him to skype as I know that Thanksgiving alone can be quite lonely in the US.

On the 11th of March 2015 Eric wrote me an eMail, his last words were:

“Still winter here. Inch or so of snow last night and the past few days. still cold, inside and outside the apt.

Hope you’re happy, friend, and having some fun.”

As I could not get hold of him after that, I contacted his employer and was told that Eric had passed away after a brief battle with cancer and a staph infection.

Farewell, Eric, you were a fine and honorable man. I miss you.

Analog Computing

I recently had the pleasure to visit Prof. Dr. Bernd Ulmann, leading Guru of Analog computing, an avid collector of aged computing devices and electronics paraphernalia. I had an older HP Spectrum analyser which  I wanted to donate and I was invited to see the beautiful collection of analog computers.

Unlike the recent devices that all of us use, an analog computer does not execute algorithms in a step-by step fashion but uses precise analog circuits that are wired to solve the problem in question. Interestingly, for many kinds of problems this approach is more suitable than digital, sequential processing. Calculations happen in real time by definition and parameters can be varied by the turn of a potentiometer, lending a tactile element to IT. One area of interest is the simulation of dynamic processes such as the control of a self propelled projectile or the suspension of a car. In fact, the A4 rocket was controlled by an analog computer called the “Mischgerät”.

Pictured below is a RA770 computer by Telefunken

There are some youtube videos detailing the systems operation:

Bernd also owns plenty of more recent digital computers, such as the lovely HP9820 (aka Model 20) on which I learned programming.

In case you are interested in these areas, check out his websites at:

www.vaxman.de (more on the digital side of things)

and

www.analogmuseum.org (the analog systems)

I can definitely confirm, the man has the knack! It’s time to get him into ham radio.

RF Field Strength Indicator

Here is the latest toy that I finished. It is an active RF field strength meter. So far, I had a passive one (a detector which feeds into a microamperemeter). This one here has an op-amp stage plus a nifty VCO that outputs a sound that varies in pitch with the strength of the signal that was received.

The circuit follows the one published in Funkamateur 10/2010 by DK6UU. The circuit contains a bug as that is is published with the wrong type of chip (74HC4046 should be: CD4046).

 

History

It is September soon.  I remember that in the early days of the last decade I had celebrated the 11th of September as a second birthday. Nowadays I tend to forget the date.

I still have a lot of scary pictures in my archive from that time.

It was a beautiful, warm and clear September day.

Only 24h earlier, I used to look at the people walking that street from my office window.

We must not forget those who died on that day.

Singapore

We are going to Singapore later this year. Can not wait!

The last time I was there was in 2012, before I accepted my current role. I can not say how much I still love the country. Having lived there for many years has given me deep respect and love. I badly miss my old home, huge pools, ocean views, sim lim tower, funan center, my old motor bike and all the lovely folks that I had the honour to work with. I have never worked with people as efficient as the Singaporeans.

Happy birthday Singapore by the way. Singapore, same as myself were born in August of 1965, just 11 days apart. Maybe that is why we are close at heart.

Food channels

I have two food channels to recommend.

Number one is the holy grail of Asian food, Mark Wiens channel on Youtube. Mark is an American with Chinese heritage living in Thailand with his wife and son. He has produced some of the most delightful restaurant reviews.

Here is a sample:

The second channel is Munchies “Chefs night out” series. The idea is to have one chef take the team around to his favourite 3 or 4 culinary hotspots in his city, then returning to his own restaurant. This is an awesome travel guide.

Going to TEDx!

We are going to TEDx this fall! I am sooo excited!  Always wanted to go there. This is phantastic, intellectual entertainment.

If you want to know what it is about, check out as a sample this beautiful talk by the brilliant late Swedish researcher and professor of global health studies Hans Rosling

 

Storms in the tropics

I am just browsing through my old videos and ran into this interesting one. While living in Singapore in 2007, I had recently purchased my first Macbook and was experimenting with its builtin camera. I pointed it outside of one of the windows and let it run in time lapse mode as I wanted to see the patterns of ship movement in the Singapore straits.

When I returned home from dinner, I saw this on the recorded movie!

Endfed halfwaves (EFHW)

Some years ago I began to experiment with endfed halfwave antennas. My friend Eric WL7CMT suggested many years ago that I experiment with those. As this is an antenna which is a bit off the beaten track, I did not trust it. Then I built one for 20m and was surprised!

The one shown in the video is matched with a low pass, now I built one using a broadband ferrite transformer using two stacked Würth Ferrite cores (2 primary windings, 15 secondary windings, primary compensated with 110pF). The core material is a bit like Material 43

The results are not in yet but I am under the faint impression that the low pass is more efficient than the transformer. Certainly, using a single core drives the same into saturation.  FT140-43 would be the traditional building material.

Another insight was that two primary windings are more suitable for high frequencies than one. It is difficult anyway to get the cap to compensate for the primary inductance. I might add some screenshots of the VNA plots.