The G7AQK shack is located in a garage in my garden. Having the shack remote from my house gives me a plenty of space to enjoy my hobby but it can get extremely cold out there during the winter months. Initially, my solution was to use a small and largely ineffective portable heater.
During the autumn of 2009 I purchase an retired Compaq Deskpro EN computer from a computer fair for the princely sum of £25. This is an 866MHz machine with 256MB of RAM (now 384MB) running Windows XP. This old PC can run PSK, SSTV, morse & logging programs as well as driving my PSK audio stream. It does stuggle a bit with some of the newer programs such as DM780 and Airlink Express, but Digipan and FLDIGI are very easy on system resources.
The computer is connected to the internet via my wireless network and can be remotely operated using LOGMEIN software. Logmein is free for non-commercial use and can connect the host PC to any other internet linked computer from which you can operate the host computer as if you were sitting in front if it. Using LOGMEIN, I can run Digipan remotely from my laptop or other desktop PC from inside my home and not have to endure the less comfortable temperatures out in the shack.
The shack PC runs 24 hours a day broadcasting its audio stream and also running FLDIGI. The FLDIGI program spots all the PSK31 transmitters received and sends the information to www.pskreporter.info, where they are displayed on a world map.
If you watch my audio stream you will sometimes see all the received traces disappear and replaced by a single trace on the waterfall display. This will be me operating on PSK31 using Digipan.
Update May 2010
The Compaq Deskpro has provided faultess service running almost continuously for the past 8 months or so, but I had the urge to run some of the more modern programs, which were a bit beyond the capabilities of the old PC. After much watching and unsuccessful bidding on Ebay, I managed to win a HP 2.8GHz Plentium 4 PC for just £16.05 (although I did need to pay another £14.99 for delivery). This beast will run just about any amateur radio program and is certainly much quicker than the old Deskpro. I can now play with DM780 and Airlink Express with ease and I may even abandon my old favourite PSK workhorse Digipan.
How to get a good deal on Ebay
Here are my tips for getting a good deal on Ebay.
1. Find out the typical price that the item sells for and decide your maximum bid.
2. Look for auctions that end during the day midweek. Weekend ending auctions tend to attract higher bids.
3. Do not place your bid until the last few seconds of the auction (as there is less chance of getting outbid).
4. If you are not going to be around when the auction ends, put in a bid anyway (you might get lucky).
5. Consider using a bidding service such as "JustSnipe" to automatically bid at the last moment.
I do not use this service personally but some of my friends recommend it.
6. Look for items that are being sold locally and can be picked up free. Large items such as PC's can attract high postage
7. Look for items that may not be listed in the correct category. These are less likely to show up in some of the searches
meaning fewer bidders and lower prices.
8. Do not get caught up in a bidding war. Be patient, and the good deals will come.
9. If you lose, keep trying. If you keep losing check the winning bids and consider increasing your maximum bid