Frequently Asked Questions
1. How to you make your schematics?
Within limits, schematics are drafted to be as readable and small in file size as possible. They are hand drawn using the Paint Program that ships with all Microsoft Windows(tm) operating systems. The Windows Clipboard is used extensively to copy and paste the desired components from previous schematics so that very few new components are ever drawn; rather they are recycled from schematic to schematic. This format allows color 3-D labels and small photographic bitmaps to be pasted into schematics.
The raw 24-bit bitmap drawings are compressed to 16-bit png files. Prior to May 17, 2010, bitmaps were compressed as 8-bit gif files. An example drafted circuit using the Windows 7 Paint program follows.
At least 10 people have sent or recommended software for making schematics. Thank you for this kind gesture, but I prefer my current method.
2. How come you don't supply parts lists? Other people do.
The answer is simple; lack of time. It takes considerable time and effort to put up a new web page and also to maintain a large web site. I save time by leaving the parts list up to the builder. In addition, this site is about experimentation and using what parts you have on hand.
3. Why didn't you answer my email?
I answer all legitimate emails as soon as possible. Our POP3 server gets an average of 1993 spam emails per month (August 2012 data), however, our software removes 99.3% of these and I never see them. Occasionally, legitimate emails are filtered in error and I apologize.
Our mail server software tracks and analyzes the network information of all spammers and may automatically filter and/or block their addresses or even their entire ISPs at the router level -- no second chances. Analysis indicates that 90% of our SPAM comes from just 3 countries and if you happen to live in one of these countries, the filtering will be especially sensitive.
This sounds dogmatic and unfriendly, however, until you've set up a domain and have to wade through a mountain of spam emails, your naive about it. Massive amounts of bandwidth might be otherwise wasted by processing unwanted email unless we actively block all spammers to keep the site running well for legitimate hobbyists. Not to mention all the wasted time. Further:
The 3 host web servers, the power, the server software, the security apps, the internet bandwidth etc.are owned or purchased by my family, and as you know, nothing is free. Despite offers by companies to place ads on our pages, we keep the site advertisment free and running pops.net costs us a few thousand dollars each year. We ask you to please respect our site for the sake of the many amateur electronic experimenters who visit.
While I appreciate that some people might want to email invite me onto their social networks, I do not have time to participate. All email traffic from or involving social networks see this page for a list is deleted automatically by our POP3 server control software.
- I never buy or sell parts via email, nor exchange hyperlinks. Never. I do give free parts to those in need though.
- All email with the .info domain is blocked.
The number of people selling kits has jumped up by ~4 dB in the past 5 years. Increasingly, builders who need help with kits were emailing me for support. I rarely build kits and my knowledge regarding kit building is nearly 0. Please contact your kit seller for help.
You may wish to enquire with the kit seller about their online support polices and promptness prior to purchase. Additionally you might try the "support" email address provided and see if and how promptly they reply. Most of the popular kit sellers (AADE, Kits and Parts, etc.) provide excellent support to their customers. Like anything else online; buyer beware.
4. How come you didn't link to my web site - I linked to yours?
A big thanks to the folks who link to this web site! The QRP/SWL HomeBuilder site focus is content, not web links. Making a lot of links means spending time testing for and tracking down dead links - the so called "link rot". Time spent on the web site is time away from the electronics work bench. In addition, it is not logistically possible to reciprocate in kind, as hundreds of web sites and blogs have linked this site.
5. I see the word "popcorn" used a lot on this site- what's this all about?
Popcorn connotes the essential theme of the web site; simple, frugal, without
fuss and over use of technical jargon, or complex math and engineering techniques. The QRP/SWL
HomeBuilder web site is
referred to as the popcorn site by many. The site
targets hobbyists. The emphasis is fun. The hope is that it will attract new
people to electronic design and experimentation. Hopefully, this site
stimulates interest in QRP homebrew electronics.
Soon after I began building electronic circuits, my teachers and the popular electronic-related media of the day pushed me towards etched, printed circuit boards. I complied and this killed my passion for electronics. For me, habitually stuffing circuit boards lacks creativity and freedom.
Later, I discovered people were building guitar and bass amps using point to point wiring techniques with terminal strips and partial circuit boards. I became interested in building
and repairing guitar amps and this passion continues today. In 1992, the discovery of 2 QST articles changed everything
for me (complete reference provided):
The Ugly Weekender: parts 1 and 2 by Roger Hayward,
KA7EXM and Wes Hayward, W7ZOI; published in QST for August 1981 and June 1992.
This was my first exposure to Ugly
Construction and it was immediately adopted as the defacto standard bread
boarding method in my electronics work shop. In fairness,
etched circuit boards are a great tool, but not essential for the experimenter.
After working with Ugly Construction over time, considerable progress was made in understanding RF circuits and one output was the launch of this web site in 1998.
Currently, little has changed, I continue to prefer scratch-homebrew rather than kit-homebrew electronics. My interest in Short Wave radio and general electronics has grown considerably. For me, electronic circuits hold a certain mystique which arouses my curiosity to learn, enjoy and share. As a lay person, this web site has facilitated meeting some awesome people through email from all continents and it has been a privilege to learn from them, my mentors, book and web authors and often enough; from my mistakes.
5. What do you mean by a 5K1 or 3K3 resistor value?
For E24 or 5% tolerance resistors 5K1 = 5.1K, 3K3 = 3.3K and so on. For E96 or 1% resistors 31.6K is written as 31.6K. All resistors are 1/4 watt unless otherwise specified.
6. How do you measure audio amp output power?
Please see Figure 4 on this web page. Any amp when cranked, outputs much greater power than when it is providing a clean sine wave. The quoted power for any audio power amp on this web site is the maximum average power it will give before the pure sine wave becomes distorted.
7. I noticed a new web page appears and then it is edited for 1-2 weeks. When is the web page completed?
When a new web page is added, it takes a week or so to find and change some of the grammar and spelling errors. Sometimes new ideas or feedback will cause me to further edit a web page at any point in time. This whole web site is a work in progress. The last date any given web page was edited is posted on the bottom of the web page.
8. Do you buy or sell stuff?
No and no. I receive numerous emails from people asking me to sell them stuff. I do not sell anything - no parts, books, coffee cups, ball caps, tee-shirts, ad space — nothing. I do not buy parts in commercial-quantity volumes and have no need to make contracts for obtaining any electronic components. Every week, Asian companies email to ask about buying their parts — please note, my answer is always the same: no thank you.
9. Concerns about printing and printability
Each year, a few readers email to complain how poorly the web pages print. This is true and I apologize.
Some people prefer pdf files for easy printing. I have resisted going to pdf format for 3 main reasons:
- 1. The web site audience is international and many are using web translators. PDF files are 8-bit graphic image files and do not translate.
- 2. More and more readers are using mobile computer devices and pdf files are a pain for them.
- 3. We should all print less often to save resources
As an experimenter, I dislike crammed, small-size schematics and feel they should be drawn for maximum clarity. Therefore, my schematics tend to have a lot of white space and color contrast. I try to make them no wider than 600 pixels, although sometimes it's impossible to do this. Big schematics are not printer friendly. The only practical solution is to click on and open them in a separate browser window for easier sizing and printing.
I also feature big photos which burn up a lot of printer paper. Project photos are important to me; they provide a more intimate glimpse into the bench work and promote the real purpose of the site — building stuff.
A potential printing solution for Microsoft Explorer 8 users; Click
10. I have noticed in your CMOS logic photographs, you don't always ground unused input gates. Isn't this bad?
Proper CMOS logic practice mandates the grounding of all unused input gates. In prototypes and experiments, I don't always do this as I generally want to re-use the IC in other experiments. This is a cost saving measure. When you build a lot of stuff, it can get expensive and recycling parts makes sense. In keeper circuits or critical prototypes, unused input gates are directly soldered to the copper clad board. This also anchors the IC very well.
11. What is the proper URL of the home page?
The following pre-2006 URL was decommissioned August 6, 2010: http://www.qrp.pops.net/default.htm
12. What are the QRPHB Design Centers and Professor Ivanenko character about?
This web site is about design and not just providing circuits to copy; I'm hopeful that the QRPHB Design Center concept initiated in 2011 will invigorate the site. Design Centers are the presentation of simple, but useful algorithms for amateur builders to advance their skills on the bench.
Professor Vasily Ivanenko (Васи́лий Иване́нко), a fictitious retired Russian physics professor wants to share his knowledge and give back to society. He signifies each Design Center. Professor Ivanenko was drawn for me by Rod Adams in 1996 using the Paint program that ships with Windows (the same app I make my schematics with). Rod did all of the other original bitmap art for this website including the coil guy and junk box pictures. This character was inspired by one of my favorite photographers: Irving Penn — this photograph, which is all over the web.
A new character; Dr. Natasha Petrovna appeared in late Summer 2012.
The professors are just a good bit of fun — add intrigue, characters on whom to focus and a means of identifying Design Centers. Electronics with just math and physics bores us all. Adding splash, color, clear photographs and characters such as the coil guy or the Professors boosts the site's appeal and provides a creative outlet for me.