Prepping:  No, this is not a joke.

But, for the record, I have heard the question raised by the heads of tech support of every company I have ever worked for that had a tech support section.

It also comes up from sales managers as well.  I can’t count the times I’ve heard “Boy, do we HAVE to sell to that customer?  They are so STUPID….”

(Continues below)


Of course, I would tell the sales people to “stop thinking” and “get back to selling” but the tech support side of things haunts me to this day.

A couple of examples to make the case.

Last week, we had a new Peoplenomics subscriber sign up.  They were sent the username and password – as the system automatically does.  Then they cancelled the subscription and we refunded the money because “You didn’t have a logon page.

This customer was so ready to fail that they couldn’t see the link on  every posting “More for subscribers” which does appear on every single posting.

The question “Should customers take IQ tests?” even comes back to Ure’s truly.

I recently bought some Alexa controlled electrical switches for the office.

Then, when I found that they didn’t work – the set-up software app was all Android or Mac- I posted a snotty review (what, anti-Windows?) and printed out the return crap.

But – after the use-case failing customer – I got to wondering “Is Ure one of them, too???

So now my plans for the day will consist of trying to find the best, free, Android emulator for the PC and THEN try the gawd-awful set-up program, again.

Problem is:  I come back in ALL these cases to the fundamental question:  Should the customer take an IQ test before buying?

This one has me stumped.

If I get the Android virtual machine to fly under Win10/1709 then get my printer to turn on and off, I will give myself a HUGE green star for passing the tech IQ test.

Or, will I have passed?  The time to download the Andy/VM and then download the app (again) and then run through the set-up…well NOW I’ve spent as much time as I was planning to save at least through the date of the Second Coming or my earthly departure date.  No hints on which will happen first.

Point is, even if I win, I lose so yeah, I may have to put a logon page at the top of the menu on Peoplenomics so people trained by a zillion use-cases won’t panic.

And I will have a fine opportunity to once again abuse my super computer by asking it to run an emulator in addition to the DesktopServer LAMP stack plus Nostracodeus plus downloading gigabytes the whole time over a threadbare one-notch-up-from dial-up version of HDSL.


For now, the answer to the question “Should Customers have to pass IQ tests?” is…

YES!  (As long as I don’t have to take ’em…)

Inquiring Minds

One of our readers sent in a pretty good “planning for the ‘pocalypse” question following yesterday’s longish rant on antennas…

“I was hoping to get a discussion of how to build a suitable antenna system for the FM Radio bands. I live in the boonies and can only receive a few FM stations.”

We have two answers, either or both is acceptable.

For FM, pick-up a good FM/TV antenna – OUTDOOR FM ANTENNA FOUR ELEMENT DIRECTIONAL about $60 bucks with shipping – and get it up as high as possible.  Then you might need a rotator.  No guarantees, though.

Another radio option would be to go to the Free to Air TV article (somewhere in the Peoplenomics archives.  Set up a FTA receiver on Galaxy 19 and hit the radio stations there.  All kinds of stuff.


OK, Another Antenna Note

From a knowledgeable reader:


I would not suggest using railroad tracks for a ground, since there is localized AC voltage on the track which trigger the crossing gates by shorting the 2 tracks together. Also, they aren’t intentionally grounded.  If one track is grounded, and you hook your ground connection to the track with a potential above ground, you radio may not survive the potential difference.

For mobile grounding use, I would suggest using road markers/ mile markers with their steel supports driven into the ground.  Great local grounds that can give you several dB boosts and it doesn’t cost a thing.


Good point… I usually pick a place out of visual range of a crossing, so maybe just lucky so far…shocking thought!

I can tell you long chain link fences are marvelous grounds…  Next?

Antenna Tuners?

Here’s another good comment:

Great discussion and well worth the wait. But you didn’t touch on antenna tuners at all.  In my case I’m looking at putting an OCFD for 40 and 20m on an old TenTec Scout 555 without a tuner, so SWR has to 2.0:1 or below.  Which is what got me looking at the OCF’s to begin with.

Since I’ll only be driving 50 watts max, I was thinking 14AWG if I can find some cheap.

First, you need to spend some deep time reading Maxwell Reflections II: Transmission Lines & Antennas, because SWR is not EVERYTHING. Maxwell was Engineer. Chief of Space Center Antenna Laboratory and Test Range, Astro-Electronics Division, RCA Corporation, Princeton, N.J.  He may know of what he writes.

In the K6MHE collection of articles here, for example, Maxwell straightens out some of the myths:

“These include such gems of intuitive logic as (1) always requiring a perfect match between the feed line and antenna; (2) evaluating antenna performance or radiating efficiency only on the basis of feed line SWR – the lower the better; (3) pruning a dipole to exact resonance at the operating (single) frequency and feeding with an exact multiple of a halfwavelength coax – no other length will do; (4) adjusting the height – perhaps just lowering the ends into an inverted V – to make the resistive component equal to the line impedance; or (5) subtracting percent reflected power from 100 to determine usable percentage of transmitter output power (nomographs have even been published for this erroneous method).

For these reasons (and others) I like to have an antenna that is 3:1 (or better) not so much as to match the transmission line, but rather to prevent the radio from operating to a point where the SWR fold-back circuit kicks in and limits transmit power.

Hams forget that while tuners may reduce some of the transmitter burden, all additional circuitry inserted between the transmitter output and the antenna itself brings insertion loss with it.

One of the best tools for tuning up a transmitter is a simple field strength meter and MFJ Enterprises just came out with one for $35-bucks list and about $25 bucks at  When you pick a band, and don’t mess with the meter settings, then make adjustments to the antenna,  it will help you figure out not just where the “SWR sweet spot” (of any antenna analyzer) but you will often find that max field strength for a given antenna is offset from the SWR low and represents the REAL antenna length.  YMMV from day to day…but a tuner may not improve ERP (effective radiated power) which is why the field strength meter does matter…

That said, #14 wire would be fine. We still hold to bigger is better based on capture area, and all that. Whew!

About the Thunderbolt

Reader rocketmike was wondering how we were faring on the Johnson Thunderbolt amplifier project.  Here’s a summary of that:

I got it on the air on CW and it was working so-so.  500 W out on CW.  One of the problems it may have is weak final tubes, though that was expected.

What at first seemed like a cat hair causing that explosive sound turned out to be a capacitor failing on the power-supply side of the RF choke in the B+ circuit.  This, in turn, may be a symptom of a parasitic oscillations if the cut-off biasing is wrong.  Not something to do on the main bench, so we need to get (OM2’s son) to heft it out onto the Big Bench for more work.  The Big Bench has been a bit cold lately…so when the parts get here is fine…

At the same time, we will be replacing the two 500pf/0.0005uuf caps in the tank circuit (two in parallel there) with 10 KV/ 8kw-rated.  We’ll also replace the RF choke bypass cap and test the parasitic suppressors and filter caps in the screen and bias supplies.

Meanwhile, the bending around of the main transmit-receive relay (mangled in shipping) was a “known kluge.” Hopefully the upgraded with socket-mounted relays on their way from somewhere in China will arrive in time for the bench work session.  Yes, the top two contacts are supposed to be normally closed.

A Note from Our Indonesia Bureau

Loved this:

Subject: Delamat Ulang Tahun!

Hiya chief!

Wishing you a very Happy Birthday and many happy returns! Another ring on the trunk, which continues to expand apace.

Cheers! Bernard”

Yes, those “age rings” around the middle are a continuing nuisance!  Thanks (uppity bureau chief!) for pointing them out…

Write when you get rich,