Not All Smart People Are Educated

(Written July 11, 2003) This past week we went up to central Pennsylvania for an annual party/fly-in of hang glider pilots. We stopped in to visit an old friend from when I lived there, a local hang glider pilot named Ron. Ron has never left the tiny town he was raised in and never went past high school. He learned to become a mechanic and opened his own garage which is about a quarter mile from his house (both are “downtown”), and has built it into a pretty good business. I’ve always enjoyed visiting with him because he has a lively wit and is always exploring new things.

On this visit he was showing me the new bi-directional satellite internet hookup he recently had installed at the garage. He wanted to also be able to network his house to the service. They originally set him up with an antenna/receiver setup, but it had problems and didn’t work very well. He finally came to the conclusion that the guy doing the tech installation didn’t really know what he was doing. That didn’t phase him because, as he said, “I can get on the internet and read - you know what I mean”. So he came up with his own solution based on plans he found online.

Once he had the required dimensions for the “antenna” he went through the grocery store with a tape measure looking for just the right size can. The entire setup is simply a wireless port on the garage network connected to his custom made antenna (same arrangement at the opposite end). The antenna is nothing but a properly sized fruit juice can and a bit of coax cable:

RonsWireless.jpg

He has it set up for line of site transmission to his home and says it works great. He’s even set up for automated backups of the garage files on his home computer every night. According to the plans he found this setup had supposedly been used for up to 5 miles. I forget the transmission rate he was quoting, but it seemed quite adequate for most uses.

The whole thing just tickled the hell out of me. When the ‘experts’ couldn’t make it work he just did a little basic research and cooked up his own solution. I guess “American ingenuity” isn’t dead after all.

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