How dumb is dumb? This dumb..

Some time in the past two years, I had my Celestron CPC800 telescope on the footpath to the rear of the house, taking a look through the developing twilight at the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

I had invited the others in the house to come out and take a look, as for some it was to be their first time actually seeing the gas giants through a telescope.

One of the girls enjoyed looking at Jupiter and could discern the equatorial bands, then could see the Cassini division in Saturn’s rings. She then looks up at me and asks in all seriousness “Can you show me Earth now?”. Dumbfounded and utterly gobsmacked, I extend my arm to the right, rotate my forearm and extended index finger to point vertically downwards. “No, I mean through the telescope!” she says then. She genuinely thought that I would be able to show her, through the eyepiece, what the Earth looks like from space, while simultaneously standing on the surface of the same Earth.

What’s the worst thing is, she never realised how stupid the first question was, and then to double down on the dumb when she was given an out to laugh with.

I am glad I no longer have to interact on a regular basis with that level of dumb.

You may now call me EI4IWB

Echo India Four India Whiskey Bravo. That’s my new identity ont he airwaves.

Saturday July 25th, I travelled to the Maldron hotel in Tallaght, Dublin, to sit the IRTS/Comreg HAREC Amateur Radio Licensing exam. Two-part paper, two hours long, 60 multiple choice sections, questions chosen from the syllabus and corrected by Comreg.

About ten days later, including a 5-day quarantine of the paperwork to comply with Covid-19 regulations, I was informed of my e-Licensing account with Comreg. Later that evening the exam results were posted up, and I had a grade of “Pass” with a score of 85%, >60% needed to pass. Straight away once the qualification was showing up, I applied for the callsign, and a few hours later I knew I had EI4IWB as my for-life HAM radio identity.

Since then, I’ve cautiously called CQ on the ham bands, I’ve started using FT8 to make digital QSOs, and I’ve been transmitting WSPR signals as well. Logging the QSOs has been interesting, making sure I have the right accounts at the right places. I also made sure to reserve my callsign @gmail and both the .com and .ie domains of my callsign.

My WSPR signals have been heard from Alaska to the Canaries to way past Moscow. That’s amazing for under a tenth of a watt. By voice I’ve been heard from Portugal to Slovakia, as well as within the country.

I do see myself getting a half-decent RF amplifier in the near future, it’ll be good to be able to get to the current legal limit of 400W on most bands, and ideally it’ll be great to get to the 1.5kW limit during contests. But quality equipment is hard enough to come by at a price that is not eye-watering. Acom 2000A amplifier is my preferred item, but at over €6000 it’s not really a runner yet..

It’s good to get on the air, good to make contact internationally without using an intermediary network, it’s good to get to a first principles kind of thing – it’s really basic physics and really effective.

More learning, and more toys to come.

Solder kits – soothing constructions and learning tools

Since the start of the year, I’ve been teaching myself how to solder properly. I’ve found that putting together a complex kit is something akin to the same sense of progress and accomplishment that I used get with e.g. Lego Technic kits as kid. It’s good to get back the access to that set of feelings!

I started with some cheap antenna kits from the QRP Guys to get better reception on my SDRs, found I quite liked putting them together and fettling them after the completion of construction.

I purchased a proper Weller soldering station from Amazon and a varied set of tips. Also included in that purchase was a roll of proper leaded solder – none of that really hard-to-work-with unleaded “solder” for me thank you very much. The Weller iron has certainly made smaller electronic kits an awful lot easier to do, with 70W and a needlenose tip.

The most complex kit I have completed to date is a QCX-40 kit by Hans Summers ( with a fair few toroids to wind and quite an amount of densely packed small through-hole componentry. It’s a 4W Morse radio, that other builders have reached worldwide with appropriate antennas. It’s piqued my interest in learning Morse, as that’ll be useful to me as a future Amateur Radio Operator.

I’ve also completed QRP-Labs U3S kits, one to be used with an amplifier and the other is going to be barefoot. Both have the relay kit for multiple low pass filters, so I will have choices from 160m to 6m for WSPR transmissions. There’s also a nice 50W class C amplifier built and biased, for the QCX to be guaranteed worldwide reception of my signals.

Having the decent soldering iron has also meant that I can perform repairs on my own stuff that broke. A nice example is my Yamaha AV amplifier, the decided to stop powering on. Troubleshooting with a multimeter, careful application of a soldering iron, replacement of a failed component, and it’s now as good as it was when i got my hands on it.

When I’m assembling a kit, putting the components in and soldering them to the PCB, it is really calming and quite zen. It’s definitely something that I have found that I greatly enjoy. And, when the circuits are completed, I usually have a new toy to play with..

Bethesda, you screwed up..

Bethesda Softworks, you’ve really screwed it up. You managed, in less than two days, to turn a large group of hardcore fans against your company. How? By requiring a rootkit to be installed in order to play a game from a famous franchise. See here:

I’ve been a fan of the Doom franchise since I first played the game way back in the mid-90s. I played on everything from my first P133 through to my current behemoth machines. I thoroughly enjoyed Doom3 in spite of its monster closets. I spent a lot of time looking forwards to the newest iterations of the franchise, and Doom2016 was not a disappointment even though my graphics card at the time very much was.. Then Doom Eternal came out as I was in Zurich for work, and I did not have a gaming PC..

I got the Deluxe edition on steam to have for when I would be reunited with that gamin PC. Then, given I was requested to stay longer on the work contract I built up a new gaming PC here, and I had Doom Eternal installed and ready to play after I was to complete The Witcher 3 first.

I saw that Doom Eternal had an update on Steam. Taking a closer look, I noted that this update required the installation of Denuvo Anti-Cheat. A little investigation of this software package shows it’s a rootkit, designed around a Ring-0 level driver (root level for those that *nix) that gave unfettered and uncontrolled access to the computer to an untrusted third party.

That’s a hard no-no from me. No software package like a game needs to have *anything* that runs in ring-0.

More investigation shows that even after the uninstallation of the Denuvo malware, it gets reinstalled if the game is attempted to be run again. That’s a definition of malware.

Given that Doom Eternal is a single player game, there’s no need for any anti-cheat to be running at all, and even if there was a large online community of people playing the multiplayer aspect, then the measures should be server-side and not client-side. That’s basic operational security – you don’t trust the client.

So, I’ve requested a full refund from Steam, as it’s not legal to change what I bought after the fact in such a manner. Installation of a ring-0 driver in order to play a game triggers my security systems, and as such I’m now unable to play the game I’ve paid for, so the game is no longer fit for purpose. It remains to be seen if Steam have the common sense to comply.

It’s really useful to note that the version of this game available on the high seas is actually more trustworthy, and is performing better, than the “official” release.

I’ll reconsider the purchase of this game once all of the Denuvo crap has been removed.

Build Complete. Beast. Behemoth..

Passmark of 8080


Game 116%, Desk 134%, Work 134%
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – 97.7%
GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 – 124.8%
SSD: Corsair Force NVMe PCIe M.2 960GB – 257.7%
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB – 46.3%
RAM: Corsair CMW16GX4M2Z3600C18 2x8GB – 116.1%

Timespy: 10974

Firestrike: 23244

Port Royal: 6643

Unigine Heaven Basic : FPS: 363.50 Score: 9158

Build details:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
GPU: Asus RTX 2080 Dual OC
SSD: Corsair Force NVMe PCIe M.2 960GB
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB
RAM: Corsair DDR4-3600 2x8GB
PSU: Corsair HX1200i
Case: Corsair Obsidian 750d
Cooler: Corsair H115i Pro

Reasonably tidy cable management!

My graphics cards and CPUs through the ages.

Primary desktops:

YearCPUGraphics CardGraphics card 2Notes
1997P1332Mb S3 Virge DX
1999P3-50016Mb Diamond Viper V550 TNT
2000P3-650 (@1GHz)32Mb Geforce2 GTS AGP Creative LabsMatrox Mystique 220
2004A64 3000+128Mb Geforce 6600GT VIVO by Gainward4Mb Voodoo 1 Stolen
2005A64 X2 4200+256Mb Geforce 7600GTDVI failed
2010A64 X2 5000+ Black1Gb HD5770 MSI HawkCPU lost by Damo :/
2011Core i7 3930k2Gb GTX660 Asus Direct Cu-II
2019Xeon E5-1680v28Gb RTX2080 Zotac Amp Maxx
2020Ryzen 9 3900X8Gb RTX2080 Asus Dual OC6Gb GTX Titan Black
Quite the interesting progression over the years.

Slight change of plan for my desktop/gaming PC

As I’m not going to be near the current desktop PC for a while, I decided to build up the bits I have incoming into a proper PC here. It’s still a bit of a behemoth, so I think I should continue with that name for this instance.

Spec sheet:

  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900x; 12C/24T 3.8-4.6 GHz, 70Mb cache
  • 16Gb Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3600 CL22 RGB
  • Corsair H115i Pro 2x140mm AIO closed-loop watercooler
  • Asus ROG Strix X570-E Gaming motherboard
  • Asus RTX 2080 DUAL O8G EVO graphics card
  • Corsair Force MP510 960Gb NVMe SSD
  • Corsair HX1200i PSU with red/black Cablemod Pro cables
  • Asus ROG Strix XG32VQR 1440p 144Hz 32″ monitor

Accidentally a complete Asus-Corsair build. Further additions to come:

  • (From the current desktop build being upgraded from)
  • 240Gb Sandisk SSD
  • 480Gb Samsung 860 Evo SSD
  • 2x 6Tb WD Black spinning rust drives, software RAID1.
  • DVD/RW Sata optical drive
  • (upgrade enhancements)
  • 2x16Gb Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3600 RGB to total 48Gb
  • Asus BD-Ray burner optical drive.
  • Addressable RGB LED strips to illuminate the case internally
  • Asus Xonar DX soundcard or, possibly a USB 5.1 sound card.

The build appears to be a very stealthy one so far, with all of the components being black with dark grey accents – well at least when any RGB is switched off! It’ll be very interesting to see how I can hide the RGB strips to ensure best illumination without seeing the LEDs. I’ll be going for red lighting anyway.

E5-1680v2 current setup benchmarks via RDP connection:

  • CPUMark 10693 (65%)
  • MemoryMark 1956 (32%)
  • DiskMark 3626 (50%)
  • 2dMark 553 (53%)
  • 3dMark
  • PassMark 3975 (partial)

More PC stuff inbound

More hardware incoming! As the circumstances update, it’s looks likely it’ll be a little while longer before I’ll be able to dig through my main desktop for the planned upgrade process. Given that, I’ve decided to go a little further down the upgade path for my main desktop.

A moderately large Corsair order went in to my supplier of choice. First part is an Obsidian 750D Airflow case, with an HX1200i PSU to be installed. Then, there’s an H115i Pro to complete that Corsair package.

There’s availability ìssues with the HX1000i that I was hoping to get, so I went one step up in size as that was immediately available. There was an AX1000i but at ~400 odd it was not going to be enough of an improvement to justify that.

It turns out that this is the first time in about 18 years that I have a proper choice in choosing what case to get. The last case I bought separately was one of Chieftec Dragon miditower cases, door on the front, EL cable delineating the arches on the front fascia, heavily modded by myself, and I loved that case. Such a pity that PC was nicked from Elm Park.

The Corsair case appears to tick all of the boxes for me, and it’ll have enough space and slots inside for all of the hardware I want, without it being too big.

My primary desktop’s octa-core Xeon hardware as installed in the case is being farmed off to a friend who will be supplying their own HDD and graphics card, as they currently do not have access to a system capable of playing current games, so now that I have decided to build up my primary here it will be good for the older machine to give good use to someone that should enjoy it.

Quite interesting that (kinda accidentally) all of the hardware being sourced is either Asus/ROG or Corsair.

Note to Microsoft Accessories people:

If you lot ever engineer a direct replacement to the current Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, with properly backlit and transparent key letterings, you will have a definite winner on your hands.

My go-to preference for a keyboard is the above-mentioned Ergonomic 4000 and I’ve had the use of a few over the past few years. The feel and fit is pretty good for me, I really like the UK key layout as done on this keyboard. The only thing it’s missing is having the keys backlit or throughlit, to aid use in the dark. Backlighting to illuminate the gaps between the keys is something I can add myself with a handful of properly laid out EL-cable or LED strings, but it would be fantastic to be able to see the key assignments by through-illumination.

Bonus points available for RGB control – not for making it more flashy but for getting just the correct tone of deep and dim amber for comfortable night work. The lighting does not have to be bright – in fact dim is very much preferable.

What are the chances of getting this idea as a product we can pay for?

RGB, time to get on that bandwagon!

It would appear that the motherboard I’m getting (Asus ROG Strix X570-E Gaming) has an onboard RGB controller as one of the options built on. There’s two 4-pin RGB headers, and two 3-pin addressable headers. A quick look around the Alibaba showrooms, suggests there’s a reasonably large amount of products that are supported by the Asus Aura RGB ecosystem – the motherboard light accents, the tops of the Corsair Vengeance RAM modules, even the AMD-supplied fan on the Wraith Prism CPU cooler is RGB..

I’m fairly sure that I’ll set things to be temperature-controlled if I can. Gentle purple for normal conditions and a lurid red for the running hot.

I did request some LED addressable strips and some other lighting from the Chinese, and it’ll likely be in Limerick before I will be..

Kinda interesting this whole scenario, given I had built case mods with windows and UV-reactive items back in 2001 before it became popular. Nor I get to try and do a somewhat tasteful RGB implementation on this instance of my main desktop.