Averatec's Last Breath

I don’t have a lot of time to write today, but I wanted to mention that I purchased a laptop today. I was at Circuit City’s going out of business sale with my wife, and I saw a notebook that I was attracted to, and she insisted that I get it. If I were by myself, I never would have gotten it, but it was a good price and we could surely use a laptop. Okay, maybe we don’t need it, but my wife and I each have one now! It has a 10.2” LCD, 1.6ghz processor, 1gb ram, 180 gb hard drive, webcam, wifi, and 3 USB ports. It lacks a CD-ROM drive, which helps keep its size and weight down (about 2 pounds). The box claims it’s an Averatec N1000.

Apparently Averatec is going out of business as well. This notebook is not manufactured by Averatec, but merely repackaged. The hardware is from the same source as the hardware which is used for the MSI Wind. I’m a little concerned about linux compatability, but for 300$ I can’t complain too much – I like it a lot so far… and my wife is happy because she naturally gets my other laptop. Here’s a video I found of the MSI Wind most similar to the Averatec n1000 I purchased:

Update: I installed Ubuntu Linux (8.10) on this cute little laptop without a hitch. The only issue was that the wireless network adapter (rtl8187se ubuntu) did not work. I remedied the problem by downloading linux-rtl8187se-modules-1023@2.6.27.7.11.deb from this site, and installing it via sudo dpkg -i linux-rtl8187se-modules-1023@2.6.27.7.11.deb and after I ran the command, my wireless networks popped up instantly – no further configuration! This fix was intended for the MSI Wind, but it worked fine for the Averatec N1000. Nice.


     

Finally, a Use for Inkscape!

Several days ago I gushed on and on about how amazing InkScape is. The possibly-discrediting thing is that my post was made first day I ever used it! A few weeks later, slowly reading documentation, tutorials, and practicing drawing random objects, I think I’m finally getting the feel of designing images in InkScape, and am growing to appreciate the depth of its usefulness. This week in lab I reached an epiphany which (if proven true) would be a significant revelation to the field of autonomic neuroscience. To prove it I’ll have to publish a paper with a lot of confocal images demonstrating this unique feature, and cite a lot of previously-written literature to support my theory molecularity. To clarify the process, I’d love to have some great diagrams. For example, I want a diagram to show how the autonomic nervous system innervates the mouse heart, but no such diagram exists! Here’s one for humans but it’s major overkill, shows every organ (I only want the heart), and doesn’t go into detail as to what the nerves do when they reach the heart (something no one knows – but my research is uncovering!). Also, mouse brains are very different in shape from human brains, and there aren’t any good pictures of the ventral side of a mouse brain. So, I found the best one I could and re-created it with InkScape. Looks pretty snazzy so far huh?


     

How I Cheaply Created Custom Glossy Double-Sided QSL Cards in 1 Day

I’m posting this information to the world hoping that someone else in a position similar to mine can benefit from the experience I gained through trial and error when trying to rapidly design/develop professional-looking QSL cards for as little cost and risk as possible. I Googled around for this information, but didn’t find anything too helpful, so I figured I’d share my story! For those of you who don’t know, QSL cards are like postcards which amateur radio operators often mail to one another after making long distance contacts. In addition to providing tangible proof of the communication, they’re cool mementos to tote around to show people / remind yourself who you’ve made contact with over the years. QSL cards display information bout the contact (time, date, call sign, frequency, signal report, etc.) and sometimes contain extra pictures/graphics which make them unique and appealing.

Once I got a HF rig for my apartment (a Century 21 CW-only HF rig which puts out ~30 watts, pictured below), I started making contacts and getting QSL cards myself, so I wanted to send some nice ones in return. Being a poor college student (and a graduate student at that), I was extremely cash-limited, and didn’t want to sit around for weeks while my cards were professionally printed. I wanted a fast solution. This post describes how I created amazingly cool QSL cards in a few hours, and for less than $0.25 each!

My QSL card:
12_donefront

Step 1: Design the cards with PERFECT dimensions. Here’s the deal. The most cost-effective way to print nice digital images is my local Target (a store with a 1-hr photo lab which accepts JPEGs as the image source for $0.20 cents a picture), but the snag was that they only print 4” x 6”. QSL cards need to be 3.5” by 5.25”. I used Inkscape to create an image exactly 4” by 6”, and inside of it I drew a border 3.5” by 5.25”. Everything outside that border I made black. I designed my QSL card INSIDE that border, such that when the images would be printed I could trim-off the black border and have a perfect 3.5” by 5.25” QSL card.

This is how the image turned out:
florida

This is what the 1-hr photos looked like:
01_qsl_photos

Step 2: Print the reverse side on full-size label paper. All I needed was some framed boxes for QSL information, so I quickly sketched up the design in Inkscape and saved it in the same format as before (4” by 6”). I left a LOT of white space around the edges so it’s very forgiving down the line. I then printed the design on full-page label paper (full-sheet stickers, available at most office stores cheaply in the printer paper section), placing 4 “backs” per page.

Here’s what the adhesive paper looked like after printing:
03_backs

Step 3: Attach backings to QSL cards. This part is easy if you have a paper cutter. I purchased mine ~5yrs ago and I *LOVE* it. It’s almost as useful as my soldering iron. Seriously, so convenient. I wouldn’t dream of doing this with scissors! Anyhow, roughly cut the sticker paper into quarters:
04_cutback
05_back

Next, peel and stick on the backs of cards. DONT WORRY ABOUT OVERHANG! We’ll take care of that later…
06_peel
07_overhang

Step 4: Trim the edges. Make sure you do this step AFTER applying the sticker. This was the secret that I wish I realized a while ago. If you trim first, sticker placement is critical and difficult. If you place the sticker BEFORE you trim, you get *PERFECT* edges every time. Way more professional…
09_cut
10_nice

How nice does that look? If you did your math correctly, your new dimensions should be EXACTLY 3.5” by 5.25”. Let’s view the back…
11_niceback

Perfect!!!

Step 5: fill-out information. I decided to use a metallic Sharpie to write the name of the call sign I send this to on the front of my card. How cool does that look? This is what the front/back of this card looks like after filling it out (Hi W2BFE in Maine! You’re a celebrity!).
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14_scribe

I hope this information helps you. If you print your own QSL cards using this (or a similar) method, let me know about it! I have to say, for ~5 / $1, these don’t look to bad. It’s especially useful if you only want to print a few cards! Good luck.
–Scott, AJ4VD

12_donefront


     

Homemade ECG Machine: Improving Daily

UPDATE: An improved ECG design was posted in August, 2016.
Check out: https://www.swharden.com/wp/2016-08-08-diy-ecg-with-1-op-amp/

As most of my readers know, I’ve been slowly building a homemade ECG machine over the last month. This is the most basic circuit I’m currently using, designed using two quad op-amps (LM324s). I’ve produced some surprisingly good ECG traces and even identified an arrhythmic heartbeat while I was just sitting watching TV. Currently the device is limited because you have to be attached to your computer, but in the spirit of continuously improving my work I’m working toward making it a modular device (powered by a 9V battery) which dumps heart voltage potential data to a minidisc recorder . There’s one problem – how can I optimally adjust the gain (input power) if I cannot see the trace of the wave on a monitor? I’ll billed a VU meter to monitor the output, of course! My minidisc recorder can take mic-in and echo it the line-out at the same time, so I’ll just put the VU meter on the line-out and it shouldn’t affect my trace. The result is that I can walk around for 24 hours, recording my ECG, with a device I hope to get down to the size of a cell phone. (Maybe a 1990s cell phone?)

Here’s the most attractive (super-simple) LED-based digital VU meter circuit I’ve found, along with some sample images of its (bread-boarded) construction. I have all the parts at home I think, so it should be straightforward to make. The pain now is the electrodes (which are still the junky ones made from scissor-cut aluminum cans), and I think I might splurge and buy some actual disposable ECG electrodes. I think the total cost of my device as it stands is about $4, so I don’t want to spend more than I have to on electrodes.

In other news it appears I’ve been accepted into dental school. I got a voicemail this morning at 8am, another one at 12:30pm, and apparently one on my parents’ answering machine (I listed them as an alternate number). Then they sent me an email! (pictured) They reject me one year, then get all spastic about my acceptance when I re-apply two years later – what gives? Here’s a snapshot from my inbox, and don’t forget The Phone Call 1 and The Phone Call 2!