Baofeng UV-5RA Review

20130203_162150After leaping into the world of inexpensive Chinese handheld radios, I have found that given the right circumstances and some lowered expectations, you can actually find a pretty decent radio for everyday use. I recently picked up a Baofeng UV-5RA off Amazon.com for around $50 shipped (with Prime). Here is my review.

Build Quality

This radio is pretty solid. While light, it doesn’t feel hollow or flimsy. There are very few “moving parts”, primarily the knob for the volume/power. It has decent resistance and hasn’t been fuzzy so far. The front actually has a metallic panel over the speaker, making it seem a little more rugged than the Wouxuns I’ve used in the past. There is a tab to attach the included hand strap, which is kind of a quirky addon for a radio, but nice if you’re prone to dropping these.

Functionality

As with most Chinese radios, front panel programming is a nightmare. Save yourself the headache, get a programming cable. There is plenty of free software to program these (see CHIRP) and you’ll be able to get the best experience with labels and extra switches with programming software.

There is a VFO-ish mode, but it requires a bunch of menus to get tones and modes set properly. It is a bit better than a Wouxun, in that you can easily go to VFO mode with a button press (Wouxun required menu options). However, this radio is better if you have a fixed set of channels that you use all the time. That being said, one thing the Wouxun has is a rotary encoder knob for quick flipping through channels. On this one, no knob, so be ready to memorize the channel numbers or pressing up/down a whole lot.

Reception/Transmission

Receive-wise it works pretty well. Seems to be as good as any other handheld.

I haven’t actually done enough TX on this yet to make a determination. I just got it, so the review is more on first impressions than full functions.

Verdict

20130203_162226Get one. They’re around $50, which is way less than some of the other ones. It does dual-band, it’s Part 90 certified (so it’s good for non-ham channels), and the battery life seems to be pretty good. I would suggest it for a kick-around radio or as a compliment to a cross-banded vehicle setup.

New Server

If you can read this, then it means you’re on the new server! I migrated everything over tonight to a new server, and probably will be abandoning Dreamhost soon.

Of Yubikeys and Routers

So my last post I was starting back at work. Now I can safely say that I am back in the groove again. I’ve already had three travel occasions (two of which were impromptu) in the past 7 weeks, which is pretty¬†aggressive. My sleep patterns are back to what they used to be. I no longer need a sleep aid to fall asleep, which is a big thing for me. Though I still am banned from napping…

A black yubikeyThis week I’ve gotten a couple new toys to further my computing knowledge. The first one, which I already have, is a Yubikey. These are little USB dongles (you may giggle at that word if you wish) that generate one time passwords, or OTPs. These OTPs can be used to authenticate with all sorts of services. If you’re interested (and I totally know you are), read up on Yubikeys here. I ended up getting two, one white and one black. They each have 2 identity slots, so I can mess around with long static passwords or different OATH-HOTP methods. Terribly nerdy.

 

The second item, which I’m eagerly waiting for from UPS, is a new router. I have long been an advocate of DD-WRT on WRT-54G’s or other compatible Linksys hardware. But now I’m going to consolidate an old Catalyst 2950 and an E2000 into a RouterBOARD product. The Catalyst is a power-hungry heat-generating beast that is starting to show its age, and the E2000 doesn’t have enough ports to do what I want. I also want to do some advanced networking, such as VPNs and multiple SSIDs, which DD-WRT can do, but not very cleanly. A lot of DD-WRT is hacked together (which I am not saying is a bad thing) and can take a lot of tinkering to get it to work. This RouterBOARD should do everything I want and more out of the box, with no special scripts or software.

I chose the RB2011UAS-2HnD-IN¬†which is one of the top RB2011xxxx models available. It has 10 ports, built-in Wifi, and a L5 RouterOS license. Probably overkill for what I need, but it’s going to be a good learning tool for advanced networking. I’ve been given a very good primer on these RouterBOARD systems, and hopefully don’t run in to too many pitfalls. I’ll of course still have my E2000 to fall back on if everything royally breaks.

Well, this post will also serve as a test to see if Facebook posting is still working. I never did get it working 100%. Here goes nothing…(clicks post)

The next chapter

After 269 days, nearly 9 months, I will work my first full day tomorrow. I decided to count up some things that have happened in this relatively short period of time.

  • 4 rounds of chemotherapy
  • 100+ days of hospitalization
  • 1 visit to the ICU
  • 3 seasons viewed for the 7th floor (winter, spring, summer)
  • 50mg of Benedryl around the clock
  • ~30 red blood cell transfusions
  • Countless platelet transfusions

Here’s what Wolfram|Alpha has of note about December 12th, 2011 (my diagnosis date)

To me it has been a long road, and this is just another big milestone along it. It’s like the first day at a new school all over again. Even went out and bought new clothes and new shoes for the occasion.

Games. Go.

I’ve launched a new site…which really just looks like this one only I’m regularly updating it. I’ve decided to start hosting a Minecraft server for a few of my friends. For now we just have some simple building and a whole bunch of TNT. See some of the screenshots and more info about the servers at the link below.

ARL Gaming Site

 

Living with Leukemia

Back in November, right around Thanksgiving, I started to feel very run down and developed flu-like fevers and lower back pain. I thought it was a simple virus that would work its way out of my system, but it never did. Finally, on December 11th, 2011, I went to the walk-in clinic for severe pain and a fever.

Up until now, every walk-in visit has been either a preventative measure (physical exam) or sent home with antibiotics to fight a mild infection. I guess it makes sense to have this option, but the doctor told me that I would have to go to the hospital overnight instead of home with a prescription. My white blood cell count (WBC) was over 4x normal, and there were a couple options. I could (a) have a severe infection and need IV antibiotics, (b) having complications due to the pilonidal cyst that had developed and hurt, or (c) leukemia. I initially discouraged the cancer diagnosis, thinking it was a worst case scenario that was possible but not probable.

The next day at the hospital, after spending an unpleasant evening of doctors poking the one painful spot on my body trying to determine how to proceed, I was told that I did in fact have leukemia, a rather aggressive form, and that I would be undergoing chemotherapy as soon as possible. They also had to address the cyst before they could begin chemo.

There is no doubt that this is a life-changing event. Up until now, my medical history could fit in a small binder. Now every time I go to the hospital for chemotherapy, they have to use a 3″ binder to hold all the charts and forms for my treatment. I also now live with a Hickman catheter, which has some advantages and disadvantages. Prior to December 11th, I didn’t know what a Hickman was, what NPO meant, or the difference between general anesthetic and sedation. I didn’t know that they made a man-purse-sized Wound VAC for portable use. Heck, I didn’t even know what a wound VAC was.

My family and I have gone through some very tough days in the past nearly three months. But even with all the procedures and paperwork and puking, the good days still outnumber the bad. I thank my family and friends for sticking by me and being the best damn cheering section around. There is absolutely no way I would be here writing this out if it weren’t for all the cards and well wishes on CaringBridge and visits and prayers and support.

This week, the plan is to be re-admitted for my third round of chemotherapy. The past two weeks I have been able to get some sense of normalcy back into my life. I spent a good amount of time at my own apartment (last time between hospital stays I was at my parents with only a couple visits to my own apartment). I was able to get some projects worked on and clean up my space so the dusting will be easier the next time I get out. It was quite thick from two months of neglect.

I hope to update and post again after the final round of chemo, when hopefully I will be done with hospital stays for a while and just have scheduled clinic visits. It is hard some days to sit down and type out how I feel. This morning I happen to be on NPO (non per os, no food/drink by mouth) so I can’t have breakfast (not that I usually do) or even a drink of water until I get to the clinic and they decide what procedures they will be doing.

Now, some information that has been posted other places, but I thought I’d really quick aggregate it.

1.) CaringBridge – this site is updated daily-ish by my parents on my status. It is the most up-to-date news on my treatment. http://caringbridge.org/visit/andrewlynch

2.) IWillBeatThis.com – Site set up by my co-workers to coordinate benefit efforts. This includes a benefit event that is being developed. More information regarding that, including an online donation system, will be posted on IWillBeatThis.com.

3.) This site – I haven’t been very good about updating this site while I’m in the hospital. I always have the best of intentions, but never get around to it. I will try and post something here, so follow if you like. There is also a Donate button in the right column if you so choose.

4.) Benefit fund – There is a benefit fund established at State Bank & Trust in Fargo. This fund is for helping with medical bills and other care costs. You can make checks payable to “Andrew Lynch Benefit Fund”, 3100 13th Avenue S, Fargo, ND 58103.