Ham Radio Analysis Paralysis

Lately I’ve been pretty quiet on all ham radio fronts because I’ve been stagnant on getting the ball rolling on a lot of stuff. So I’ve been facing a turning point that’s leading me down a road to learn how to write firm/software – C for Embedded things, C++ for everything else, and python for everything everything else. And GNURadio for radio hacking. However, I’m an Electrical Engineer, and I really want to design and test hardware, but as time goes on everything around me is about software. Even my fiancée is a software engineer!

Life also has priority – I’m 25 years old, so between all my friend’s weddings that I have to go to, I have a wedding coming up next year, I’m trying to travel my butt off around the world with my fiancee, and otherwise generally when I come home I like to cook, clean, play with cats, then sit around and watch YouTube or reddit until I fall asleep.

Stuff on my “want to do this but I’m faffing about” list:

  1. YOTA – I want to lead the charge to bring YOTA to IARU Region II (North & South America).
  2. Ham Radio Hackathon – I think ham radio needs it’s own hackathon. There is a huge opportunity in the hobby to bring hackers and hams together to create some really cool stuff, so I want to cooperate with folks from places like Hackaday, Adafruit, etc to start something up. Cloud logging, improving APRS, connecting DSTAR/YSF/DMR/P25 together, just a few ideas for such an event.
  3. Youtube. I have a lot of ideas of videos to make, but that takes a lot of time to record and edit, and I really don’t get that much inspiring feedback, that many views, no revenue whilst spending about $20/month for Adobe Premiere Student…
  4. Phasing Line Podcast – same as Youtube, but with Adobe Audition. Marty is also busy 110% of the time with Baker Island Dxpedition Social media stuff and being the young ham of the year and all. Earlier this year I also help start the Noisy Key Podcast, which didn’t even get off the ground due to availability of a bunch of teenaged hams and me.
  5. Contesting – my favorite activity in ham radio, but haven’t sat down for a full contest since last year’s SSB sweeps. Weekends are usually spent in new cities, at new food places, at cool bars, or cleaning the apartment.
  6. Projects on my mind:
    1. Project Echoloon – haven’t done anything with that besides the Blog Post
    2. FaradayRF – what I think might be a perfect foray into improving my programming skills, but I’m reluctant to start because I don’t want to buy $300 of radio equipment I might not end up using (except I already bought two Gotenna Mesh’s for $150 for the explicit purpose of hacking them…at least I could resell), and I generally have a disdain for programming I can’t seem to get over: I prefer heat and smoke, not compile errors, when things break.
    3. GoTenna Hacking – same as above, except I realize I need to get dirty with GNURadio, which i’ve been installing and learning for about a year now. Not getting very far. I don’t have a real point to it besides seeing if it’s feasable to use GoTenna on amateur bands, or adopt similar meshing protocols for ham radio.
    4. Mesh Networking with SLSRC Engineering squad – basically go on the roofs of tall buildings, install some networking stuff in the St Louis Suburban Radio Club’s repeater racks, and have fun. In the past I hung out more often, but then their work days were colliding with days I was busy doing other stuff, and eventually got out of touch. Doesn’t help that hteir meetings are on Friday evenings, when I’m either in another state…physically or mentally.
    5. Creating a new amateur radio datalink paradigm/protocol/philosophy – I really like when computers talk to each other. But when it comes to APRS, it makes me very angry – it’s slow, it requires a TNC or computer to create audio tones that plugs into an FM voice radio, and uses packet which isn’t very robust, and the documentation leaves a lot to be desired. I want to see FaradayRF (which uses plain 2-FSK at the moment) to revolutionize amateur radio data to get away from 1.) 1200baud APRS and 2.) having to buy a D-STAR radio to use digital 128kbps “fast” data. or 3.)buying a COTS radio module for a specific task.

Or just find a way to make it easier to connect with D-STAR without having to buy an Icom radio since it’s protocol is already written, and it’s not that hard (in my mind at least) to find a cheap a GMSK modem and microcontroller pair, plop it on a PCB, work some software magic, and boom D-STAR data radio modules. However, I can’t not believe that someone has done this already and the fact this is is also reinventing the wheel puts me off (there’s sooo many radio protocols out there!).

Also, yea yea yea APRS is compatible with every voice FM radio on the market and it was a great use of equipment at the time (which was the late 80s) but now we really need to have our hands on small data radios similar to zigbee and LoRA.

These are the things on my mind. Perhaps writing them all down will help me think about it in a different way.

I will be attending HamJam in Atlanta, GA this weekend, so that’ll be fun and hopefully inspiring. It’s very close to where my fiancee’s family lives (near Alpharetta) so it’s double points.

Anyone else got so much on their proverbial plate that it makes them halt all processes? Let me know in the comments, my twitter, email, etc. for your ways to swim through the mud of analysis paralysis in ham radio.