My Experience Getting Licensed in Ham Radio

I just got my ham radio license! I started studying for my ham radio test at the suggestion of my friend David, who was also studying for his first license at the time. He made a strong pitch to my technological curiosity and urban survivalist interests by suggesting we could potentially communicate with each other without the assistance of the power grid or cell tower networks.

I bought the spiral-bound Technician Class manual, and its corresponding question book, and began reading. Since I’m already familiar with basic electronics, some of the concepts were easy to grasp.

Other topics were completely new to me, like ham etiquette and the regulatory stuff. Wave behaviors stood out as particularly fun and novel to me– here’s an awesome video about wave behaviors that helps illuminate the subject beautifully:

I picked up a portable radio that I’ve seen commonly recommended as a first radio: it’s a BaoFeng UV-5R (3rd generation) (with an upgraded antenna). I looked up the times and frequencies of some nets in my local area and tuned my radio to listen in. I found it helpful to pick up a programming cable, so I could program my local repeaters and stations into my radio’s memory.

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Whisk (Watercolor Speedpaint 10)

The 10th watercolor in my Tools series in a whisk.

In case you are interested, I’ve made a post cataloging all the supplies I use to create watercolor paintings.

When I’m done painting, I scan it in, touch it up, and upload it to my print shop, in case you are interested in owning a copy of this design. I’ve also made a poster featuring all the tools in this series so far. You can get a discount to my print shop by signing up for my email newsletter or joining my Patreon.

Please enjoy the timelapse and let me know what else I should paint in a comment below.

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Retractable Tape Measure (Watercolor Speedpaint 09)

The 9th watercolor in my Tools series in a retractable tape measure.

In case you are interested, I’ve made a post cataloging all the supplies I use to create watercolor paintings.

When I’m done painting, I scan it in, touch it up, and upload it to my print shop, in case you are interested in owning a copy of this design. I’ve also made a poster featuring all the tools in this series so far. You can get a discount to my print shop by signing up for my email newsletter or joining my Patreon.

Please enjoy the timelapse and let me know what else I should paint in a comment below.

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Solderless Breadboard (Watercolor Speedpaint 08)

The 8th watercolor in my Tools series in a solderless breadboard.

In case you are interested, I’ve made a post cataloging all the supplies I use to create watercolor paintings.

When I’m done painting, I scan it in, touch it up, and upload it to my print shop, in case you are interested in owning a copy of this design. I’ve also made a poster featuring all the tools in this series so far. You can get a discount to my print shop by signing up for my email newsletter or joining my Patreon.

Please enjoy the timelapse and let me know what else I should paint in a comment below.

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Garmin Fenix 6S Pro Smartwatch Review

The Garmin Fenix 6S smartwatch is the first watch I’ve worn since the Moto 360. It’s hailed as the ultimate sports and adventure watch and includes maps and onboard music storage. I was skeptical about wearing a watch at all, but wanted the fitness tracking features of an activity tracker in an attractive package I could wear everywhere. This isn’t a short-sighted review: I’ve been wearing the watch for almost six months at the time of this writing. Timing is one factor that lead me to Garmin, since the Fenix 6S made one minor change over the Fenix 5 series that makes a big difference to me: the lug-to-lug distance.

Size on my tiny wrist

Previous 42mm Garmin watches were a little longer from lug-to-lug, so even though the screen’s the same size, the Fenix 6S fits a smaller wrist like mine. I like how easy it is to change to different bands, especially because I can’t stand the sticky feeling of the included silicone one. I picked up two different replacement bands:

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What’s In My Bag

The “What’s in my bag” newsletter was kind enough to ask me to participate in their series highlighting bags and their contents. Read my submission here or in their online edition.

About the bag

The Fraction backpack by Mission Workshop

I love this backpack. It’s waterproof, which is great for city commuting by any method, and it holds a lot of stuff, but can take on a smaller profile when it’s mostly empty. I bought mine in 2015 and use it for everything from day-to-day laptop toting to overnight trips, and I even sometimes use the top flap to strap something big and awkward to it, like a bag of plush stuffing.

What’s inside the bag

Wet Ones antibacterial wipes

I keep a pack of these antibacterial wipes in just about every bag I have. They’re great for wiping away germs after using the subway railings, or for sanitizing your airplane tray table. I also use them to disinfect my phone.

Paracord zipper pull

You never know when you’re going to need a small bit of strong cord! I made a tutorial for these paracord zipper pulls a few years ago and attached one to every jacket and bag. Not only are they effective as zipper pulls, they can be untied to become a useful length of strong cord.

BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watt ham radio

I recently got my ham radio license, but without an antenna on the roof, I’ve got to be outdoors (preferably up high) to make contact with other hams. This 8-Watt radio is ubiquitous in the ham community because it’s small, affordable, easy to program. I did upgrade the antenna to get better performance.

Bi-fold small parts organizer

When I teach electronics prototyping to design grad students at SVA, it’s useful to have some small parts on hand to demonstrate with and lend to my students. I love this double-sided parts organizer for transporting small things like switches, sensors, LEDs, and small microcontroller boards.

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Pavlok Teardown

Welcome to the new teardown series on my channel, where I take apart gadgets and share what I find inside. First up is the Pavlok, a shocking wearable designed to help you break bad habits.

The Pavlok comes with the main device itself, as well as two silicone wristbands.

The Pavlok pairs over bluetooth with your phone to control the settings through an app, which is also designed to keep you motivated to use the device in the most effective way possible. You can deliver an electric shock to yourself via the app or by pressing the top of the device. It also can supposedly detect when you move your hand to your mouth, say during smoking or nail biting, which are two of the habits its designed to help break.

To take it apart, I started cutting the plastic around the little metal nubs. The tricky thing about taking this thing apart, at least before the battery’s died, is that it is easy to shock yourself while holding it in place. It’s so small that one of the only flat surfaces by which to grip it is also the activation button. So I had to use the phone to make sure it was on a low setting, and try to avoid pinching it while cracking open the plastic.

The electrodes are also the case, which makes for a straightforward three-piece case. I was also able to put it back together again, which is a rare occurrence in one of my teardowns.

My friend David Cranor, an electrical engineer, came over to help examine the circuit and research the parts we could identify.

Here’s a list of tools we used:

Read on to discover the components we found…

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