I switched back to Android

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No, I can’t believe I just said that either. But… it’s true.

Let me put things in perspective here. I’ve been an Apple fan since the mid-90’s and got to use my first Macintosh in kindergarten. I forget what model it was but it had a 5¼” floppy drive. Old school, I know. I was a huge fan of the iMac when that came out in 1998 and thought it was super cool (it wasn’t beige… that was huge back then!)

The first computer I bought with my own money was a Power Macintosh 5200 that was being surplussed by Detroit Lakes Middle School in 2002 for $100 and thought it was the coolest thing on earth (I still have it BTW, the monitor has issues but last time I tried to boot it up it still worked!). Once I got into High School and got a job the first major purchase I made was a MacBook. I sold that in 2009 and bought a MacBook Pro that I still have to this day.

My (mostly complete) collection of retired Apple products.

It was in those same Middle School/High School years the iPod became a reality. And it took me until 2005 but I finally bought my first iPod, the 1st gen iPod Nano 2GB in black. I upgraded that next summer to the 5th gen iPod (the video iPod) 30GB Black, and still to this day is my favorite iPod.

Shortly after that Apple came out with the iPhone, and I wanted one so bad. But even if I could have afforded it, the iPhone was originally on AT&T only, and AT&T didn’t come to Fargo until 2011. So I instead settled for an iPod Touch when that came out in September 2007. I was the first student at West Fargo High to have one… I pre-ordered it and ran home for lunch on launch day to open it up. I was THAT excited.

I later graduated to the 2nd gen iPod Touch, the 4th gen iPod Touch, and finally when Verizon got the iPhone in 2011 I got the iPhone 4S on launch day. I later upgraded to an iPhone 5S, then an iPhone 6S. Somewhere in there picked up an iPad 3 and an Apple Watch Sport. We’re talking avid Apple fan here.

In between all of that, in 2009 I think, I played with this thing called Android. I REALLY wanted a smart phone, but the iPhone was not yet an option for me. I thought about a Blackberry Tour, but ultimately settled on a Motorola Droid. It was supposed to be the iPhone killer, and for a while I think it was. But it ran Android, and Android was just a tiny little baby back then, and it was extremely buggy. iOS (which may have still been called iPhone OS back then) was worlds ahead of where Android was, and I wanted to get on the iPhone train as fast as I could.

But… it’s not 2009 anymore. And while in some regards I wish it was still 2009 (hey, I hadn’t totally screwed up my Computer Science career yet!), it’s 2017. Things have changed.

Which kinda brings me to the point of this blog post. Since I bought a iPhone 6S in 2015, I was due for a new phone recently. I wanted to see what Apple did with the iPhone 7S or iPhone 8 or iPhone X or whatever it was going to be called. And I ended up buying an Samsung Galaxy S8.

So why did I, the life-long Apple nut, go to Android?

Apple is not the same company it was 10 years ago. And while you hope people and companies change, you want them to change for the better. You see, when Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone in 2007, he said the technology in the device was 5 years ahead of what everyone else was doing at the time. And he was absolutely right.

The problem is Apple has (in my opinion) failed to innovate recently, and the iPhone is now 3-4 years behind what everyone else is doing.

“The iPhone 8 has wireless charging!” That’s cool, Qi charging has been around since 2010 and has been stock on the Samsung Galaxy line since 2015.

“But it has facial recognition!” Also been available in Android for some time.

“But… they had the courage to take away the headphone jack!” Courage? More like stupidity. (I hate Bluetooth headphones and require wired headphone for my job).

Now, Apple has always kinda been behind the eight-ball when it comes to new features. I remember being miffed the original iPhone didn’t have 3G. Apple at the time said they didn’t have the battery life perfect with 3G and it wasn’t ready. But when the iPhone 3G did come out, the battery life was stellar and kicked the ass of every other phone on the market.

And I really have no problem with doing it that way… if you’re going to be late to adopt something, your implementation has to be spectacular. And Apple was doing that. For awhile.

I don’t want to pin this whole thing on Steve Jobs, but ever since he passed away I’ve felt like Apple has lost the sparkle it used to have. The way they built a product made you want it as soon as it was available, even if you had absolutely no reason to upgrade.

That very Apple vibe that existed in the late 90’s and the first decade of the 2000’s is gone. The Apple I grew up loving is gone.

When the iPhone 7 came out last year, I was hoping it was just a one-year setback while they prepped for the 10th anniversary iPhone this year. I hoped that because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to admit that Apple had moved on from the company it once was.

In the meantime, that other mobile OS that I thought was garbage had evolved. Android has really matured since I went away from it in 2011. And based on all the bugs that iOS 11 has had on release, I think Android is the winner right now. And ever since the Samsung Galaxy S8 came out, I thought it was an amazing phone. The phone that the iPhone X should have been and fell short. I’m also not an avid Mac user like I used to be. Everything at work is PC based and I’ve kinda switched over. And my iPad never gets used anymore. My iPhone 6s was my only iDevice that I used. I decided that now was the time to take a chance and make the switch.

I’ve had my Galaxy S8 for six days. How do I like it? So far so good. There are some Android quirks I’m still trying to get used to, but overall I am loving the phone. The only real downside is not being able to use my Apple Watch, which unlike the iPhone is on top of its game in the wearables world. I’ve gone back to my analog Fossil watch for now, but I may try a Samsung Gear S3 at some point soon.

I should point out that what I did is not for everyone. If you’re very much ingrained in the Apple eco-system, or really don’t want to learn a new smartphone OS, then I wouldn’t recommend switching like I did. It’s not that iOS and Apple is bad, I’ve just decided that it’s not for me right now.

And that’s a very important point I want to close with. I haven’t gone to hating Apple or becoming anti-Apple; I still very much love the company and love what they do. I just don’t think they have the better product right now. If you know me you know I like having the latest and greatest, and right now Apple is way behind the eight-ball. Maybe they’ll get it together and my next phone will be an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 or something. But if Apple stays their current path, I may be on Android for the foreseeable future.


2017 Ford Escape Ham Radio Install

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Ham Radio, Tech

2016-09-06 15.46

Even three years later, I still get a ton of hits on the write-up I did for the ham radio install in my 2014 Ford Escape. Well, the lease on that car has come and gone and I now have a 2017 Ford Escape. You know what that means: time to do it again.

Since I essentially got the same car again, and there is really nothing wrong with the ID-880H or the 2m/70cm antenna I have, I decided to reuse everything from the old car. The only thing I had to purchase was some hardware for the Lido mount, and a new mic holder. So for the complete list of parts see the last install article… I have links to everything I bought and why I chose what I did.

ID-880H is up and running!

As for the install itself… it went very much like the last install I did. We’ll start with the antenna. The Diamond K412CNMO mount and Comet SBB2NMO mounted onto the tailgate of the Escape, and I ran the coax through the small grommet and the back molding of the cargo area. Like last time the coax went into the spare tire area, into the back seat, under the rear passenger door molding and under the front passenger seat.

The radio itself once again went under the passenger seat. This is for two reasons. First, there is a bit more room under the passenger seat versus the driver’s seat. And since the control head is mounted on the passenger side of the console, it makes running cables a little easier. In the last article I said I used Velcro to hold the radio down to the floor, with the intent of doing something more permanent later. Surprisingly, the Velcro never had one issue that caused the radio to slide loose. So I have reused the Velcro on the bottom of the radio again.

The head unit placement in this install did change slightly. The old Escape had a manual passenger chair, whereas the new one has a powered passenger chair. Thus, there is less room under the front of the seat to attach the mount. Luckily I was able to find a hole in the power seat track for me to put a screw and attach the Lido Mount’s base.

Finally is power. While the body of the 2017 Ford Escape is different from the 2014, the overall frame is the same, thus the grommet for the firewall is in the exact same place. The only other change here is one I made. Instead of going for the large O-ring type connectors to go over the battery terminals, I opted for spade terminals to go over the battery tightening screw and negative frame terminal. I went this route because I was having issues with the O-ring connections coming loose in the old install. While I may swap out for some larger spades later, this should work better I’m thinking. They are standard run-of-the-mill 12 gauge spade terminal connectors that are available from Digikey, or really any electronics parts vendor.

And there you have it. the complete install of my Icom ID-880H in my 2017 Ford Escape. I realize I didn’t go into as much detail as last time, but again, nothing has really changed. I would encourage you to read previous install article for a more-detailed write up of the install.

Got any questions on what I did, or what I should have done differently? Throw ’em in the comments. I’m always looking for ways to make things better!


APRS Madness Part 2: Height helps… sometimes….

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So in Part 1 of my foray into APRS, I setup an APRS iGate and came to the conclusion that I needed to gain some height to make this thing work. And seeing as I work as a radio engineer and thus have access to towers, I decided to try it out.

Outside of my office, we have a 120 ft tower that houses STL gear and a few auxiliary FM antennas. One of the FM bays on the tower is no longer in use and is used an FM receive antenna. This is routed to my office where I have a modulation monitor and FM tuner hooked up. This antenna is 85 ft up the tower and receives excellently. So, I tapped into this and attached another RadioShack scanner to a computer in my office.

In theory, this should blow the smoke out of my N9TAX Slim-Jim, right? Well, not so much…

If you compare the stations heard in the last six weeks between the iGate at my office and the iGate at my house, my home iGate, which is only 25 feet off the ground on an indoor antenna hears way more. Why would that be?

A tower crew working on the 120 ft tower at my office a few weeks ago.
A tower crew working on the 120 ft tower at my office a few weeks ago.

There are two explanations I can come up with. As mentioned, there is some Microwave STL gear on this tower… in the order of 5 STL dishes in the 950 MHz band. While that wouldn’t effect APRS on 144.390 MHz, it could certainly produce noise that would impede reception. Not helping is a few blocks away is the studios of a competing radio group, and they have STL dishes that point towards my office to get audio to their transmitters northwest of town.

The other possible issue is the fact I’m using an FM antenna bay to receive. This antenna is broad-banded, but is designed to operate between 88-108MHz. While I have put a 2m rig on this antenna before, there is a possibility that being slightly out of tune could hinder reception.

My guess is that it is a combination of the two here. I do have a 2m/440cm J-pole on the tower for my 2m rig (yes, I have one of those at work too) and  I could try that out and see if that helps. But personally I think there is just a lot of RF noise in the vicinity of the office.

So for the time being, my home APRS setup is my primary iGate. That being said there are a group of hams from the area club (me included) that are looking into finding a site for an APRS Digipeter. And perhaps that is the solution. But until then…

APRS Madness Part 1

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2016-05-15 13.56.21 - Copy

So this week I took the plunge and picked up a Yaesu FT1XD Handheld. This is one of the new Yaesu HTs that supports C4FM Digital (ie: Yaesu SystemFusion). Since we now have two SystemFusion repeaters here in Fargo (WØHSC at NDSU and WØJPJ in Moorhead) I thought it was worth picking up and trying out. I may do a full review later, but right now I’m still trying to get familiar with the radio.

One additional feature it has that I haven’t had in previous radios is APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System).  APRS is a single frequency (144.390 MHz here in North America) that gives the mobile ham a place to monitor Announcements, Bulletins, Messages, Alerts, Weather, etc. It also takes location coordinates (if equipped with a GPS) and can map out stations across the web, such as aprs.fi. My Icom ID-880H supports DPRS (which is kinda the same thing but with D-STAR) but I’ve never had any luck with it. There’s a lot more to APRS than what I just described. If you’re interested check out APRS.org for more info.

So wanting to get my hands on APRS, I got it setup on my HT yesterday. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere, because for some reason there isn’t a single APRS reporting station (either iGate or Digipeater) in the Fargo area. APRS is only useful if there are stations receiving or transmitting info. The main thing I was trying to do was to get my coordinates onto aprsi.fi, and for You can guess where that got me thinking next.


My latest obsession: AM Stereo

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Why, yes, I DO love that AM Stereo light!
Why, yes, I DO love that AM Stereo light!

Anyone who reads my blog (or my Twitter feed, for that matter), knows that I sometimes like to obsess over certain things for a period of time. My latest obsession: AM Stereo.

Now any radio engineer or radio geek whose been around the block for awhile knows what I’m talking about. Those of you who belong to the younger generation… say, my age, are probably looking for an explanation about now.

First, let me give you the back story here. I’m a 90’s kid. I was born in 1990 (never mind that I was conceived in the 80’s but we won’t go there). Ask any 90’s kid about their thoughts on AM and they’ll tell you it’s a bad sounding mono radio signal that old people talk on (you’ve gotta remember, the FM revolution had already taken place by this time). In fact, I remember driving around with my grandpa in Minot, ND around 1997-ish (who at the time was a radio engineer himself) and he had an AM station on (presumably his) that was playing music. And I was blown away you could do that. Every other AM station in Fargo had already become either a news/talk or a sports/talk, so I assumed that’s all that was ever on there. I was 7 or 8 at the time so that was a fairly reasonable assumption. There may have been one music AM in Fargo at the point, but I really don’t remember. And radio has always fascinated me, even at that age… even before I even considered working in radio myself, I was always interested in how the technology worked.

Now, fast forward to about two years ago. I was working for the radio group I work for now, but I wasn’t technically part of the engineering staff at that point. One day I was BS’ing with one of part-time engineers (whose job, coincidentally, I ended up taking when he left a few months later) about our AM station in Fargo, KQWB 1660. And he was telling me it could do AM Stereo but we had it turned off for some reason.

Hang on a second… you can do Stereo on AM?


The Great Software Debacle

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System RequirementIf you’ve been watching my twitter feed over the last few months, then you maybe have noticed that I have been doing an obscene amount of Windows installs.

It started as an on-going problem with my main tower, where I kept losing my solid state OS drive. After re installing Windows after 3 or 4 crashes, I finally replaced the SSD with a regular Hard Drive at the end of September and haven’t had an issue since. Then last month, my Windows PC that I have at my Ham Radio desk lost a hard drive, warranting a new drive and a Windows re-install. If that weren’t enough, my computer at work puked BOTH hard drives within 10 minutes of each other two weeks ago (I’m attributing this to a SATA bus problem, as the odds of two drives going at once naturally is very slim).

I finally got a replacement computer at work last Monday and spent most of that day at work trying to rebuild my computer to the state at which I once had it. That of course not only means documents (which I had backed up, thank God), but programs as well. Which really brought up a common question that all geeks seem to argue about: What programs should you install with a fresh install of Windows? Since i had to do it again today, I figured this would be a good time to share what I install every time I have a “fresh” computer.


Repairing Ancient Technology

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Ham Radio, Musings, Radio, Tech


If there’s one thing you’ve learned about me, it’s that I like to pick up weird projects. This one isn’t so much weird, as it is… why?

As most of you probably know, radio stations do live broadcasts from area businesses. In the broadcast industry we call these “remotes”. Remotes are done with either some sort of internet device, or with an old-school Remote Pickup Unit. An RPU is essentially a one-way radio that transmits broadcast quality audio in the 150 MHz or 450 MHz range back to the studio. Since they only use 15W-40W of power, they work very much like a ham radio. In most major markets RPU’s are considered “ancient technology”… they’ve already moved away from RPU’s in favor of the other internet devices out there. In smaller markets like mine, RPU’s are commonplace and are still used all the time. Ancient, yes… but they’re still used.

IMG_0132Back at the end of October, I came across a Marti RPT-15 on eBay for a little over $125. It looked in good condition online, but the seller had no way of testing, which I believe scared off all the buyers. Except me, that is. Seeing as it is something I could use, and something that I have the gear to test out, I bought it.

When it arrived I immediately threw it on the bench and tested it out. It outputed the full 15W as it should, and overall the unit was in good condition. The only problem? It was setup for a frequency that my stations are not allowed to use. And unlike most modern two-way radios where you can just put in a frequency, this particular Marti unit uses frequency crystals, which basically means to change the operating frequency, I needed to order new crystals. The larger problem? Finding someone who still makes crystals!

Luckily, International Crystal Manufacturing in Oklahoma City still does, and they were able to make two crystal that would get my Marti to work on two frequencies my stations are authorized to use. They arrived right before Thanksgiving. I popped them in, did a little bit of tweaking, and I was right on frequency.

Now the main question I kept getting… what I am I going to do with this? To be honest, I have no idea. I have the feeling though it could come in handy if we run into a situation where one of our RPUs fails, we could use mine a backup. If nothing else, I got a little electronics tinkering in.











Mobile Ham Radio Install

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It’s been a long time coming, but I FINALLY got around to documenting my mobile ham radio install. The radio has been in since April, but I’ve been so busy with other things (ie: life) that it’s taken me until now to get this all written up.

The idea here is simple: install a ham radio in my 2007 Ford Taurus with drilling as few holes as possible and still keeping the interior looking a factory as possible. So without further ado… 


Ham Shack Update: April 2013

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This post has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here. A ham shack update! I should quick note this will be my last ham shack update for this setup… I will be moving into a condo sometime next month so everything will be completely different, and hopefully a lot cleaner looking. More on that soon.

Anyway, back to the ham shack update that I had promised. As I mentioned in the preview post, I’m using a Yaesu FT-1900R as a 2M base station radio. That is hooked up to the N9TAX Slim Jim 2m/70cm antenna. It does an okay job, but the issues I’m having I believe are related to where my shack is located (an issue soon to be fixed when I move next month!). Also, as mentioned last time, I purchased another FT-1900R that I just installed in  my Taurus this weekend. Pictures and post to come soon on that.

Now, onto new business. As I wrote last time, I had just gotten a Kenwood TS-50 (10m-160m HF Mobile radio) from a club auction. I have since gotten the “accessories” I need for it to run great.

First and foremost, I got a tuner for the radio. I really wanted the AT-50 automatic tuner from Kenwood that is designed for the TS-50. Unfortunately  the only ones I could find on eBay were well out of my budget. So much for that.


However, I did score something else. I got an MFJ-925 Intellituner, a generic automatic tuner. This tuner will work on any radio by either transmitting on low power in CW or AM, or via it’s universal interface. The universal interface is designed to work with the automatic tuning functionality of just about any radio from Yaesu, Icom, Alinco, and yes, Kenwood. The MFJ-925 and the adapter cable (and a jumper change) later, and I was auto-tuning away. I have that hooked up to the 20m Bazooka I got from KDØLHB and I can tune up on just about every band except for 160m. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Not a whole lot else has changed, other than I did get myself another Baofeng UV-5R+ handheld.. I did this so my other one could stay in the car, but I just got my other Yaesu FT-1900R installed in my car this weekend, so that is no longer an issue.

Down the road

Lots of things are happening down the road. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times now, I’m moving into a new place next month. It’s a 3rd floor condo with a balcony, away from downtown. As much as I love living in Downtown Fargo, the RF noise in this part of town is horrible. Getting away from downtown, along with having balcony antennas, and being an additional 20 feet off the ground, should make things a lot better ham radio wise. Plus the new place is only couple blocks from work, another plus.

Got any comments or ideas for my new ham radio setup? I would love to see them below. I am for sure going to have a separate desk and computer for my ham radio. This will not only give me more operating room, plus then I can separate my work from play in my new office setup.

As it stands right now, I’m thinking I may do a video of my current setup, both computer-wise and ham radio wise. I would like to document what I had setup, and I may as well share it with viewers while I’m at it. I’ll be sure to post a link to that if and when I get that far.


– Jake


This Week in Radio Tech featuring…. me!

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Something very exciting happened last week. I was asked to be a guest on GFQ’s This Week in Radio Tech, a weekly video podcast about radio engineering. I talked a little bit about being a young radio engineer and how I’m slowly learning the ropes, and also how coming from the IT side of things makes things different.

I had lot of fun talking with hosts Kirk, Tom, and Chris. As someone who has been watching the podcast for over a year and a half it was very cool to not only get to talk to the hosts, but have them interested in what I do as a young/new broadcast engineer and how I’m slowly, but surely, learning how things work. It was a blast!

Check out the video above (the whole thing is 1:20:00 or so and I’m on throughout, but the segment featuring me starts at about the 50:00 mark), and thanks to Kirk Harnack for inviting me on the show!

TWiRT 159 – Jake Bechtold [This Week in Radio Tech]