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Communications

January Ranch Visit

by on Feb.07, 2011, under Communications

Well, after 8 years, I can now say that I have visited the Ranch at least once in every month of the year.  My good friend John and his son Dan were traveling to California, and we decided to all meet up at the Ranch for a weekend, as they passed through.

When I arrived on Friday afternoon, the first thing I noticed was that my wire Ham Radio antenna had broken. The rope holding one end to the pole had disintegrated from the sunlight. Note to self: do not use the blue/white rope for outdoor long tem use.  The plain white poly rope lasts much longer.  The Blue/White rope lasted about 1-1/2 years.  The White Poly rope looks like it will still be good for a couple more years.

So after getting settled in on Friday, we awoke on Saturday to fix the antenna.  First, we lowered the pole from which the rope had broken.

Tilt-Over Antenna Mast

Tilt-Over Antenna Mast

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Telephone System Install

by on Jul.07, 2010, under Communications

We finally got the phone system installed at the Ranch. It ends up looking like this:

Phone Booth

Phone Booth

It has a 20 watt solar panel charging a Marine battery to run the whole thing.

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More Phone work at the Ranch

by on Jul.07, 2010, under Communications

While my friend John was up for Ham Radio Field Day, we took some time on Sunday to test the 900 mhz cordless phone link to the cellphone.

I sure hope Tara doesn’t see this picture…

Phone Test Setup

Phone Test Setup

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More Phone Testing for the Ranch

by on Apr.23, 2010, under Communications

Because the Littlehouse is located far up in the valley that surrounds our ranch, we have had trouble getting cell phone service near the house.  We have tried 3 different Sprint phones (our home carrier), 3 different Nextel phones, 1 AT&T phone, 1 T-Mobile phone and even a GlobalStar Satellite Phone and an Iridium Satellite Phone.

Of course, the Iridium phone is the only one that worked flawlessly.  But at a cost of $1.00 per minute of talk time, it’s a little pricey.  The GlobalStar Satellite network has issues, and was not reliable when we were testing it.

All of the other phones pretty much work the same.  We can receive and make calls down near the road on the west end of the property, but once we head up toward the house by more than about 100 yards, we lose all reception, and cannot make calls.  The Nextel phones are the best of the lot, as they work on a lower frequency and have a little better coverage than the others.  But even then they only work 20% of the time near the house (usually if it has been raining).

We had heard that Verizon has the best coverage in the Ranch’s area, so we picked up a pay-as-you-go Verizon phone from Walmart.  It is the Nokia 2605, and unfortunately, behaves the same way as all the rest. 

Verizon Pay-as-you-go phone from Walmart

Verizon Pay-as-you-go phone from Walmart

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Some Radio Work for the Ranch

by on Jun.17, 2009, under Communications

We have found that there is a weak cell signal (at least on Verizon and our Nextel phone) at the LittleHouse. If we go down to Markham Pass at the end of our lane, we can get a pretty good signal (2 – 4 bars) and make calls with ease. Then if we leave the cellphone on, and hurry back to the LittleHouse site, we don’t have any bars, but can still make calls with acceptable quality.

The problem is, if we turn on the cellphone at the LittleHouse, the signal is so weak, that the cellphone never acknowledges that it is there. I’m thinking that installing an antenna up in the clear near the house has a good chance of providing reliable service there. So the first step of that project was to build an antenna mast near the house. And just to complicate things, I decided that it needed to support a rudimentary Ham Radio antena, as well. Here is what we came up with. You can visit my ham radio site for details on the installation.

Two of the antenna masts

Two of the antenna masts

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