Etomite on php 5.6

This post is on the geeky end of the scale a bit, but might be handy for someone out there in the interwebs.

Back in the mid 00’s I was a big fan of a CMS called Etomite that begat MODX which I still use for some projects. You can read about the death of Etomite and the rise of MODX on wikipedia.

Anyway, I used etomite for an earlier blog site at www.ohmark.co.nz which is the name of an electronics development company I ran from about 1996 till 2004, ish.

When I sold the rights to the then-current products and designs the new owner wasn’t crazy enough to take on the meaningless company name and oddly spent domain so I kept it for my blog.

That blog was used to record progress on a couple of microcontroller projects I was working on at the time and got enough traffic that it was worthwhile putting google ads on the site.

As I was earning one or two cents a week in advertising revenue from the site I kept it online until May last year when I rolled my web servers over to Debian 8 which included PHP 5.6.x.

Unfortunately PHP 5.6 was a bridge to far for Etomite and my efforts were rewarded with a dreaded deprecation error which are quite often journey to no-where to unravel.

Depreated

Deprecated mysql library error in Etomite

I was already running the last version of Etomite released, Version 1.1, and as it was the only site out of a few dozen on that box that did not survive the operating system upgrade I went for the cop-out option and put up a cop-out home page and forgot about it.

cop-out

Cop-out offline message that lasted over a year.

Skip forward to this weekend and I decided to re-visit it as I’m back on the blogging kick again and I still get the odd email about broken links to one of the projects on the site for a CNC stepper motor controller design I posted to some forums.

Long story short, here’s how I fixed up my Etomite install so you can get your crusty old Etomite site working again as well and revel in the y2k feeling of the admin interface.

To silence the error handling, add a new line at the top of index.php:

<?php
error_reporting(E_ALL ^ E_DEPRECATED);
etc...

Then pop down to the executeParser() function and line 605 or there about’s and comment out the handler and reporting calls.

  function executeParser() {
    //error_reporting(0);
    //set_error_handler(array($this,"phpError"));

You should also comment out any other calls to error_reporting in index.php.  I had four of them but I think they were from my original half-hearted attempt to fix the deprecation error in 2015 but they may have been original.

Lastly put an ‘@’ in front of the deprecated mysql_connect statement on line 1323 or just after given you’ve added a new line at the top.

Change:

    if(@!$this->rs = mysql_connect($this->dbConfig['host'], $this->dbConfig['user'], $this->dbConfig['pass'])) {

to be:

    if(@!$this->rs = @mysql_connect($this->dbConfig['host'], $this->dbConfig['user'], $this->dbConfig['pass'])) {

And your Etomite will rise from the ashes, sorta, ish.

Now that you’ve got Etomite running again, shift the website to something else before you go much further.  There are some common open-source components in Etomite that have had long published exploits which could bite you in the proverbial bum if you leave it online.

At the very least make the entire site read-only to protect against the TinyMCE injection issues which surfaced after Etomite last received an update.  I’ve made mine read-only and have an IDS monitoring for file system changes but it is not what I’d call a ‘trusted’ site on the server and I’ll probably chroot it as well.

There was an attempt for a couple of years to get Etomite moving forwards called etofork on github but it seems to have died and if you want a similar CMS toolset MODX is the way to go now, or if your site was a blog you could go where everyone else seems to have and use WordPress.

For my part I’ll probably move the content to this site, as maintaining two blogs is kinda silly, but given my on-again, off-again blogging style that might have to wait another year or so. 🙂

Icom IC706MKIIg self-oscillation problems

The Icom IC-706 in all it’s versions is one of the best know amateur transceivers of the last 20 years. Originally released in 1995 with the last in the line being the IC-706MKIIg which last rolled off the production line in 2009.

I managed to pick up a MKIIg a while ago in excellent condition which appeared to be fully functional as Icom intended it apart from problems with the microphone I posted a short note about a while ago.

After I fixed the microphone issue I made a few good DX contacts on 20 and 12m. I was getting a good impression of the shack-in-a-box and was looking forward to taking it out for portable VHF contesting which is what I bought it for.

Unfortunately it wasn’t 100% as intended though as a fault which was addressed in a service bulletin from Icom back in 2002 appeared. Long story short the final amplifier goes into self oscillation when transmitting in any mode on 15 or 17m.

The rig transmits correctly into a dummy load or perfectly matched antenna but if the wind is slightly up hill the visible effect is that SWR pops up to infinity because the final amplifier is generating a carrier somewhere out of band.

A quick google revealed the Service bulletin along with a bunch of forum posts about successes and failures in fixing the issue.

The recommend repair from Icom involves improving the earthing of the PLL and filter boards.

The factory earthing is some wee spring contacts that touch the aluminium chassis in various places and the screw-down points for each of the circuit boards. These springs slacken with time I imagine and some received a new spring ‘MP6’ on the filter board as part of the service bulletin.

My example had the ‘new’ spring on the filter board but another one on the rear side of the PCB was visibly not making a good contact at all. On the filter board I replaced both the ‘new’ contact (MP6) and the obviously faulty one (MP4) with solid copper wire links to chassis. With the filter board out I also re-tinned all of the mount points and cleaned the surface of the ‘posts’ they screwed down to.

On the PLL board one of the spring clips came away from the board due to a dry joint when I tried to re-tension it but otherwise the contacts appeared to be sound and I stuck the whole thing back together with great expectations.

Unfortunately my great expectation turned to greater disappointment as I could still not transmit on 15 or 17m into my Hexbeam which is by all accounts a good match on both of those bands. Oddly enough I could now key up if the lid was off the case so I had at least changed the fault, but not fixed it at all.

Clearly there is something critical in the RF deck that does not like stray RF back into the first IF / mixer section of the rig on those bands.

About now we’ll go for the ‘long story short’ option. I took the rig apart a few more times, added more earthing and generally tried random things and did actually manage to have one QSO on 15m with a JA station with the lid off but a fix based around the service bulletin was not even in the ballpark for my example.

That matches up with some very frustrated forum posts I found which starting to cause me some concern as I only really bought the rig to prove or disprove it’s performance on 2m SSB during a contest and selling the rig on fairly quickly was part of my grand plan for not filling my small shack with rigs I don’t use very often if it wasn’t up to the job on VHF.

Somewhere along the way I’d emailed a local ham who does some repair work asking about the problem and we’d had a bit of a conversation about the problem during which he suggested a ferrite choke between the mixer/modulator board and the filter to stop the feedback in it’s tracks.

I’d run out of things I could earth and it’s one of those suggestions that makes so much sense you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. Many thanks to Tony, ZL3HAM for pointing me in the right direction as without him I’d be pondering what to do with an all-band rig that didn’t work on two very useful HF bands.

I validated the idea by un-plugging the coax between the filter and mixer board and transmitting on 15 and 17 into the hexbeam at full power and it worked fine. Listening on another rig the modulation sounded fine and aside from the rig being effectively stone deaf it worked.

That started a hunt through my junk boxes and misc cables for a suitable donor ferrite that I could get one turn of the annoyingly rigid internal coax through and still get the lid closed. The one that finally presented itself came from the power lead on an LDG tuner that could quite happily survive with a much larger one and I set about threading the coax through the proverbial needle.

The thin grey coax they use in rigs between boards is interesting in that it is quite rigid for it’s size and has crimped connectors I’d have no show of replacing if I chopped it off so I had to gingerly trim the ‘wings’ of the crimp to fit through the hole in the middle of my little metal oxide donut.

Once through the first time getting one turn on the thing and still reach the connector on the board while allowing the lid to shut was a long painful process which would not have been much harder if I tried to do it wearing leather welding gloves.

The effort paid off though and I can now key up on 15 and 17m into truly lousy antennas and the rig folds back the power as it should but remains steadfastly on the set VFO frequency.

Hopefully someone else will find this article useful when they find their rig doesn’t respond to the ICOM prescribed fix. I understand in a lot of cases the earthing fix does work and that should be your first port of call. It was the combination of earthing and the ferrite that fixed mine.

Some relevant links:

The original Service Bulletin Courtesy of W1MJ:
http://w1mj.com/radio/IcomBulletin928.pdf
W1JM’s comments on the issue:
http://w1mj.com/radio/IC706MKIIG.htm
AD5X’s comments on the same issue:
http://www.ad5x.com/images/Presentations/IC706InstabilityRevA.pdf

Footnote: I actually wrote this article in 2014, but never got around to posting it to my blog. The rig did good service for a year or so before I sold it on as I had too many in the shack.

IC-706 Audio weirdness – Check for One Big Punch

I picked up a 2nd hand Icom IC-706MKIIG to add to my eclectic collection of gear earlier in the week. The rig is excellent condition and aside from a loose wire on the molex power lead there were no visible problems which one of the best known Icom boxes of tricks there is.

I re-crimped the power cable and plugged into a dummy load and tested transmit on all bands at lower power and all was well until I got to 2m and the audio was horrible. Really harsh with a pulsing buzzing/grinding noise in the background. Worse than that, going back down the bands the fault was apparent on all bands.

After trying a few random things I found the fault was intermittent so I swapped the microphone for another Icom compatible job and the audio returned to the normal smooth Icom defaults, better than when the microphone was working as it happens so into the back of the microphone I dived.

one big punch

One Big Punch board in IC706 hand microphone

Once the back was whipped off the microphone I found a poorly installed ‘One BIG Punch’ W4RT speech processor stuck inside which had a loose earth connection making all the noise if you held it just so.

I’d never heard of the product before but I yanked it out on the basis that Icom probably knew what they were doing. Only difficulty there was having to replace the .33uf SMD capacitor which was removed during the installation of the module.

As luck would have it the W4RT module had a donor capacitor and the repair was complete after some tweezer and squinting at small components soldering action.

Once plugged back into the 706 and tested locally into the dummy load everything seemed to be in order so I connected up to the antenna and promptly worked VP8AIB/100 in the Falklands and BX3AH in Taiwan on 20m SSB barefoot so I’m picking the One BIG Punch wasn’t really needed.

I don’t understand why folks mess with the audio to get ‘more punch’ but in the process make themselves sound like they’re talking through a toilet roll with corks shoved up their nose. Is this really helpful?

Portable Power Pole solution with a fuse

A bit of random DIY for a sunday and it involves hot glue, so it must be good.

Being a fan of Anderson Power Pole connectors along with a chunk of the amateur radio fraternity I’ve chopped the fuses and other gubbins from the power leads on most of the equipment I own that uses 13.8V and simply terminated them with a pair of standard power poles.

The trick once fuse-less is to use one of the dandy fused power distribution boards. RigRunners being the most common commercial option, although I’ve made my own because, well, ummm. Not sure why.

Although my DIY power pole distribution units are smaller than the commercial option they are still quite bulky to lug around when operating portable.

While looking around the web for ideas on more compact options I found a couple of commercial ones that were small with no fuse but that’s not really what I was aiming for given that I’ve viciously hacked the fuses off all my rig power leads.

A side note on working portable and the risks therein; you can get quite a bit more fault current from a sealed lead acid battery or Lithium based pack than most regulated power supplies you’ll use in the shack.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect 100 amps for not very long from a modern LiPo pack for example, and that’d do quite a bit of damage to the wiring at least, and possibly whatever it was that shorted the pack out. Best off you have a ten cent fuse in the line somewhere, which will undoubtedly stay perfectly intact as your $1,000.00 HF rig catches fire.

With a pretty clear plan in mind I went off out to the shed and cleared a space about the right size for a small project on the bench which is no small feat in itself due to the piles of assorted junk lying around from a number of other unfinished diversions.

I had a quick rummage through the bits boxes and came up for breath with three pairs of power poles, some suitable wire and a standard in line automotive fuse holder. Enough bits of a handy-dandy two-output, single fuse adaptor doofer.

I trimmed the ends of the fuse holder a little, soldered some of the decent sized stranded copper into the power poles, mixed over a low head and came up with what’s in the photos below…

Once all wired up I was planning an elaborate machined affair from billet aluminium with hidden fasteners right up until the hot glue gun caught my eye and the utility of running plastic goop entirely replaced the intent.

The end result works well, and will take up half the space of my equally home-brew four port unit I’ve been using portable up till now.