Friday, May 18, 2018

It’s 5am and time to hit the road for Xenia, Ohio. It’s less than a hundred miles as the crow flies, a little farther by automobile. Hopefully there will be no traffic snarls. 62F and mostly cloudy right now at the Greene County Fairgrounds. I’m bringing rain gear and hoping to see improvements in the mud situation that plagued the outdoor fleamarket last year.

See you there or back here on Monday for the wrap-up report. Watch the photos pile-up as the day wears on via my Twitter account, you don’t need an account to view it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Many of the Hamvention related activities get underway today. It’s become custom to make use of the day before the gates open at the fairgrounds for all manner of related activities given the high concentration of hams who have traveled to the area for the big show. Contest University, Four Days in May, Thursday night dinners and bull sessions and plenty more.

It’s a busy day before an even busier day!

I decided to skip the full-on weekend this year. I’ve done enough of it and living jus 100 miles from Dayton provides me the opportunity to commute back and forth on Friday and Saturday which is what I typically do every other year.

So here I sit, away from the action, watching the hams flocking to Dayton via APRS like the swallows to Capistrano. I’m also keeping an eye on the weather report for the weekend which now shows a 90 percent chance of rain all day tomorrow. My rain gear is ready to roll.

I’ll be there tomorrow morning. And as usual, photos and on-site commentary via my Twitter feed. You don’t need a Twitter account to follow along or to view my photos.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Bootstrapping ham radio’s biggest event for a hundred bucks…

Since 1952 Hamvention® has been sponsored by Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA). For many years it has been the world’s largest amateur radio gathering, attracting hams from throughout the globe.

About 1950, John Willig, W8ACE, had asked the Dayton Amateur Radio Association to sponsor a Ham Convention but was turned down. John wanted to have a quality affair. Speakers and prizes would be a drawing point. John finally found a champion in Frank Schwab, W8YCP (W8OK), the newly elected president of the club.

A meeting was held and the DARA Board allocated $100 to get started. The first organizational meeting was held in January 1952. The Southwestern Ohio Hamvention was born.

The next year the name became “Dayton Hamvention®” and was registered as a trademark. April was determined to be the best time but the Biltmore Hotel, in downtown Dayton was booked. March 22 was the chosen date, causing a short lead time. How far did $100 go? Not far! A 12″ TV was raffled off to help raise funds.

The FCC agreed to give license exams and Phil Rand, W1BDM, a pioneer in TVI elimination was on the program. First prize, a Collins 75A2, was purchased locally. Hoping for 300 visitors, the committee was amazed that over 600 showed up!

There were 7 exhibitors and 6 forums. The ladies program was successful with a luncheon at the Biltmore and a trip to a local TV station. In 1955 the Awards Program began with the “Amateur of the Year.”

The Flea Market has grown from 200 to more than 2000 spaces. In 1964 the Hamvention® moved to Hara Arena. Shuttle buses and handicapped parking were added in 1969. In 1973 it became a 2-day event with Sundays added in 1974.

The event moved from Hara Arena to the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia, Ohio in 2017. The official attendance for the first show in Xenia was 29,296.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

AMSAT has BIG plans for Hamvention. First, there’s the booth (1007-1010 & 1107-1110) where on Friday 9am-6pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 9am-1pm you’ll get a chance to meet board members, officers, and active satellite operators. Ask your questions and see demonstrations of AMSAT’s current and upcoming technologies.

Amateur Satellite operation demonstrations will be held every day outside the main Maxim Hall (Building 1 or E1) entrance. AMSAT will be be demonstrating contacts with operational amateur satellites. We especially invite youth to make a contact via an amateur satellite. All are invited to observe, participate and ask questions. Satellite pass times will be posted at the AMSAT booth and in the demo area.

If you plan to arrive a day early, join the “Dinner at Tickets” party held Thursday at 1800 EDT at Tickets Pub & Eatery at 7 W. Main St, Fairborn, Ohio where you can feast on a great selection of Greek and American food and great company. No program or speaker, just good conversation.

Then there’s the twelfth annual AMSAT/TAPR Banquet at the Kohler Presidential Center on Friday at 1830 EDT. This dinner is always a highlight of the AMSAT and TAPR activities during the Dayton Hamvention. We are pleased to announce that Jeri Ellsworth, AI6TK will be our speaker. Jeri will present her innovative ideas and adventures in Amateur Radio. (Banquet tickets are no longer available, hope you already have them).

The AMSAT Forum will take place on Saturday, May 19 in Forum room 4 at 2:45-3:45 PM. The speaker and topic line up includes:

  • Moderator: Keith Baker, KB1SF / VA3KSF
  • “AMSAT Status Report” by Joseph Spier, K6WAO, AMSAT-NA President
  • “AMSAT Engineering Program” by Jerry Buxton, N0JY, AMSAT-NA VP for Engineering
  • “ARISS Report 2018” by Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, AMSAT-NA VP for Human Spaceflight

In case it’s not obvious, AMSAT at Hamvention 2018 is going to be HUGE. Don’t miss it!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Given that many competing vendors show up for Hamvention, there’s a constant churn of people moving from one dealer to the other to find out the price on one or more items in an effort to get the lowest possible price. That’s certainly sensible but it creates long lines of people only interested in learning the price of the latest Nimbus 2000.

These long queues could be reduced considerably by the dealers displaying their price on at least the most popular equipment. I get that this might eliminate the chance for a little face time with potential customers, but patrons in this environment almost always buy on lowest price and no amount of glad-handing will change that.

At least one vendor did that last year and I thought it one of the most innovative bits of technology at the entire show.

Having a scrolling list of prices prominently displayed would move the long lines from the service counter area to the LCD area and make life easier for those trying to step up and unload some hard-earned cash. If you’re favorite dealer doesn’t do something like this, perhaps you should mention it to them – everyone benefits from this kind of improvement.

Dayton Week Commences

One week from today the gates will swing open in Xenia and the 2018 Dayton Hamvention will get underway. But before Friday, many other events will have already started as Thursday has become a popular “fourth” day addition for many groups.

I was in Cincinnati this week and stopped by R&L Electronics in Hamilton, Ohio to pick up tickets. You save five bucks purchasing them in advance but in addition to saving a little coin, it means not having to stand in line to purchase tickets at the gate, and it provides an opportunity to pre-fill out the part of the ticket that goes in the barrel for all the prizes.

I live about 100 miles from ground zero and have fallen into the routine of spending four days over there in a hotel one year, then commuting over on just Friday and Saturday the next year. It’s a little more cost effective that way and besides, it’s a bit much to do it all every year.

This happens to be a “commute” year so I will drive over and back on Friday and Saturday and skip the rest this year. I’ve been going to Hamvention since 1976 and have only missed a handful of years over that stretch. I really enjoy Hamvention, especially seeing old friends.

My list of things I want to see and bring home is a very short one. The UPS man has been dropping off enough ham radio stuff here this year that I wouldn’t know where to put any more of it.

Official attendance last year was 29,296 but I expect that to be a little lower this year. Not because of the mud or anything negative about the new venue. I just think last year was a bubble with people interested in attending the first Hamvention in Xenia. My guess for 2018 is about 26,000. We won’t know for sure until about a month after it’s all been said and done but I will be keeping an eye out for that detail.

If this will be your first time attending, good luck!

It’s a really BIG event and if you haven’t properly prepared for it there’s a good chance you won’t appreciate it all. But if you’ve done your homework, you will find that you made an excellent decision to come to Dayton and soak in all that ham radio has to offer over a 32-acre playground that for one weekend a year, is transformed into a radio paradise.

See you in Xenia!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Radio Active Weekend

It was an uncommonly radio-active weekend in the KE9V shack. The PX3 panadapter arrived from Elecraft while I was out of town last week so I had some unboxing joy when I arrived home. Included in the order were cables that permit me to connect the KX3 to a sound card for digital operation.

After playing with the panadapter Friday night, I decided to see if I could get the transceiver working with my Mac using the inexpensive USB sound adapter that I had purchased just for digital work. It all went together easily and within minutes I was using FT8 with the KX3.

In fact, I made nearly a hundred such contacts this weekend and would have had more except for some loud thunder that caused me to pull the plug earlier than I would have liked. These were the first FT8 contacts made with my KX3 and my first for this year. I made over a thousand FT8 contacts last year but then set it aside a few weeks before the end of the year and hadn’t looked back.

It was drop dead simple making contacts using just five watts. I even managed to work a few European stations. But I was soon reminded why I quit using it last year. Once you get over the excitement of seeing how easy it is to make contacts, it’s about as much fun as watching paint dry. But it certainly can fill your logbook quickly and in my case, pushed me to WAS Digital with the FT8 endorsement. So there’s that…

More Fun in the Park

I saw on the QRP-L mailing list that frequent park activator Joe Everhart, N2CX was going to be operating portable in a few different parks this weekend. I managed to work him from Tuscarora State Park in Pennsylvania (K-1429) on 40 and 30 meters. Chasing Joe around never gets old and in the coming weeks I’m looking forward to activating a couple of State Parks near here.

Speaking of field ops, the newest book from the ARRL, Portable Operating for Amateur Radio - Everything You Need to Get on the Air from the Great Outdoors - is now available.


I didn’t plan to work in any of the State QSO Party’s this weekend as there were other things to do. But I ended up knocking off twenty quick ones in the NEQP on Sunday. It’s easy to do when you’re cherry picking the loudest stations. I wasn’t in it for the score it was more about getting my head right with a little Morse after a few hours of FT8.

One of the stations worked was retired ARRL CEO Dave Sumner, K1ZZ. He’s an active contester and I have him in the log on multiple occasions, always in a contest or Sprint. Another was Mark Wilson, K1RO who is also an active contester that I’ve worked many times but his call stuck out because I remembered working him on Six Meters a few years ago and was my first NH on the Magic Band.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

I worked tweny-four stations in the Florida QSO Party this weekend. All on 40 and 20 using five watts. Always lots of participation in this one and while the bands were predictably lousy, the activity kept it hopping and, as usual, it was an enjoyable operating event.

Over the weekend I heard news that the Icom IC-9700 that I pre-ordered is now not expected until 2019. This is not welcome news as I had hoped to be active on VHF/UHF for the Fall season. I’ll probably wait until after Hamvention to make sure this news was correct and if it is, I’ll cancel my order and look for an alternate solution.

REALLY NICE: I listened to a casual QSO on 40 meters Sunday morning between two guys at about fifteen words per minute. It’s refreshing to hear a real CW conversation at a comfortable rate. The 40 wpm machine gun staccato from the contests has become an annoying buzz in my cans. One of the guys in this conversation was K1OV. That call seemed familar so I checked my log and sure enough, I worked him in 2002 and my note in the log for that long ago contact: “REALLY NICE, LONG QSO”.

Friday, April 27, 2018

I was parked on 7.052 this morning copying the mail on a couple of QSO’s while working in the other room. After awhile it got quiet and I nearly forgot that the KX3 was still turned on. I was only reminded of that when a loud signal started calling CQ. It was Jim, N0UR on a POTA operation from KFF-2306. Even though the straight key was connected I called him using the new KXPD3 attached paddle and had him logged in a jiffy.

And that reminded me that we still needed to purchase our annual park pass for the State of Indiana. There are several nice State Parks within minutes of my QTH and I hope to operate from these many times this summer. So for lunch we packed a basket and visited nearby Mounds State Park where we purchased the annual pass and enjoyed a picnic in the comfy 65F weather.

Now I’m nearly set to get on the air from a nearby park – after an equipment checkout in the backyard.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

SKCC members in Central Wisconsin are invited to stop by the Morse Telegraph Club Milwaukee-Madison Chapter’s annual “Morse Day” event.

“Morse Day” is the official, annual meeting of the Morse Telegraph Club, an association of retired railroad and commercial telegraphers, telegraph industry employees, historians and others having an interest in the history of telegraphy and the telegraph industry. In addition to meeting individuals who were employed in the rail and telegraph industries, one will also have an opportunity to see American Morse Code and authentic telegraph instruments in use. The event will be linked via telegraph with other MTC chapters throughout the Untied States and Canada.

The event will take place on Saturday, April 28 from noon to approximately 3-PM. The location is:

Spring Brook Golf Course 242 Lake Shore Dr, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965

Please feel free to drop in.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Join me on August 4-5 at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Central City, Iowa for the 2018 American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Midwest Division Convention - and First Annual Midwest STEM TechFest.

The grounds occupy a 39 acre site along with six acres of free parking, so there will be plenty of room for convention activities. The event is hosted by the Cedar Valley Amateur Radio Club in Cedar Rapids and a large attendance is expected from not only the Midwest Division states, but also neighboring Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois as well.

I’m especially intrigued by the innovative approach being taken for this event:

“Based on declining attendance at hamfests across the country in recent years, CVARC has chosen to modify the traditional hamfest / convention format and include other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) organizations in addition to amateur radio groups. It is our belief that this cross-pollination of STEM organizations will help strengthen each other with a win-win event for all involved”.

There will be traditional convention activities such as Forums, Organization Meetings, and Hands-on Activities for kids and adults alike. But other planned events are not the typical fare for hamfests and reflect some outside of the box thinking:

“We have enough space to include balloon launches, drone races, rocket launches, and radio control hobbyists in the track centerfield”.

There will be a banquet Saturday night with a Wouff Hong ceremony afterwards. There’s limited camping onsite and a large campground (Pinicon Ridge Park Campground) across the 4-lane highway for those wishing to camp at the event.

Hotels are 15 minutes away and they expect block-room pricing. VE Testing will be available Saturday and Sunday. Kids under 18 are FREE, adults $10 per person. $10 per indoor table ($15 after July 1), $10 per outdoor flea market site (car/truck/tent/table) ($15 after July 1). $20 per banquet ticket and $20 RV camping per night.

I’m anxious to see how well this new-concept is received and am making plans now to attend. Save the date and see you there!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The KXPD3 Attached Precision Keyer Paddle arrived last week and I was finally able to give it a good shakedown. I’m a big fan of my own keys but look at new and unproven keys and paddles like a dog looks at a new dish.

But with warmer days comes the desire to take my KX3 to the park and I want it to be as easy as picking it up and walking out the door.

The internal batteries will provide the power and the attached paddles mean I don’t have to carry another key. Just the transceiver and portable antenna and I should be good to go.

The paddles are designed well and include extra springs with varying degrees of stiffness and a hex tool for adjustments. Of course it mates perfectly with the transceiver and after making a half dozen contacts with it, I’m pretty sure this will work well for portable work and is a useful addition to my KX3 adventure.

The PX3 is likely to be the next accessory to join the party.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Yesterday was a nice radio day. 40 meters was quiet all morning with better propagation than we’ve been treated to lately. I worked ten stations in the Ontario QSO Party and enjoyed a handful of casual chats peppered around those using the KX3 at five watts.

I had read earlier in the week that K3WWP and KC2EGL would put the submarine USS Requin on the air from its permanent dock near the Buhl Science Center in downtown Pittsburgh. Their published schedule indicated they would be on 7039 KHz at 10AM EDT using NY3EC. I heard them calling at 10:15 and had them in the log four minutes later.

It was one of those days where contacts were easy to make and everyone seemed in a good mood. It was relaxing, fun and enjoyable. Nothing fancy. Just slapping a little brass and peppering the aether. CW remains the blue-collar, hardworking mode that made ham radio famous.

Friday, April 20, 2018

I pre-ordered an ICOM IC-9700 today. The new transceiver looks almost identical to the IC-7300 but covers only VHF, UHF, and 1.2Ghz. I intend for this to anchor my new VHF and up station that will also facilitate EME, meteor scatter, VHF Contesting, and satellite operation.

The price is unknown at this point and we don’t know when it will be available. This one has been dangling just out of reach since late last summer but I’m guessing it may be ready to ship in time for Hamvention.

Some of the features include:

  • Direct-Sampling SDR design
  • High definition, Real-Time TFT display
  • Connection for external display
  • Main and Sub RX
  • Dual Real-Time Spectrum and Waterfall displays
  • Dual Watch (with Spectrum/Waterfall displays)
  • Touchscreen interface (LCD touch-screen control)
  • 50 Watts RF 2m and 70cm; 10 Watts RF 1.2 GHz
  • Expected connectors: 2m SO-239, 70cm Type N, 1.2 GHz Type N

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Joe Taylor, W1JT recently spoke at the MicroHAMS Digital Conference in Redmond, Washington. A nicely edited version from Budd Churchward is now available via YouTube.

Both the HillTopper 20 and the Cricket 30 kits are now available from the Four State QRP Group.

The Wireman” Pressley W. “Press” Jones, N8UG, of Landrum, South Carolina, died on April 10. He was 89.

On the air this weekend - QSO Parties:

The Nano-Spot is hot, pricey, and in heavy demand.

An absorption profile centred at 78 megahertz in the sky-averaged spectrum

Dalton Holds Annual Georgia QSO Party for Amateur Radio Members

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Scott, N1VG recently posted this update about the new Tracker4:

“The Tracker4 is getting close to release!  I’m expecting to have it ready at the end of May or start of June - there’s one more board revision expected, adding a DB9 serial connector to the front for the sake of interfacing with weather stations and Garmin devices and such, though with the internal GPS receiver most users won’t need to touch it”.

“Your pre-orders will help me make some decisions on how big a first production run of PCBs to make, and whether we’ll be doing all of the enclosure machining in house or outsourcing that”.

“The link below has some information about the new features, in case you missed my previous post.  It’s a tracker, TNC, and digi like its predecessors, but it’s also a standalone IGate and a multi-function gadget that gives you easy BASIC scripting access to external sensors and relays, parsed APRS packets, DTMF encoding and decoding, WAV file recording and playback, and (still in progress) networking features for interacting with web services”.

“The T4 is also very closely related to the new ADS-SR2 repeater controller, and currently it’ll work as a simplex repeater for voice or SSTV.  That feature might get made into an optional upgrade, but if you pre-order we’ll make sure that you still have access to the repeater features in future updates”.

“The pre-order price is $139, and that includes a magnetic mount GPS antenna and a WiFi antenna”.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I’ve often thought about adding a large AGM battery (or three) to the shack to provide for power in the event that all else fails. And then a few days ago I happened across this message from Dave, K9DC about the Progressive Dynamics PD9270 70 ampere power supply.

Basically it’s a filtered, regulated, 13.6V power supply capable of 70 amps continuous.  It automatically scans 13.2, 13.6 and 14.4 volts and determines if there is a battery present. If there is, it starts out at 14.4V (boost mode) until the battery is 90% charged, then drops to 13.6V (standard) for 30 hours, then drops to 13.2V (float mode).  While in float mode, every 20 hours, it switches to 14.4v for 15 minutes. This prevents battery sulfating, without overcharging.  If there is no battery, it simply stays at 13.6 volts.

Because of the automatic voltage switching, you can charge nearly any battery you have for standby power. At my UHF site, I have a 100AmpHour and a 55 AmpHour AGM battery simply connected in parallel. This gives me several hours of full power operation of the repeater.  At the VHF site, where I have an automatic backup generator, just a single 55AH AGM battery is present.

Progressive Dynamics sells these power supplies primarily into the RV and marine industries. Cost is roughly $220 from Amazon (compare to a 70 amp Astron for ~$475).

Monday, April 16, 2018

I played a little in the Georgia QSO Party this weekend. The usual setup here; KX3 at five watts, CW-only, into a dipole at thirty-feet. Managed to work fourteen stations in eleven different counties in Georgia. I uploaded those contacts to LoTW but I don’t plan to submit a log. The GAQP folks require a Cabrillo formatted submission and I don’t have a way to generate that format.

On the other hand, I also worked N7IV in the Idaho QSO Party and while it was my lone contact in that QP, they accept logs in ADIF so I did submit my log there.

There’s a lesson in that for QSO Party organizers, but few will be willing to make life easier for participants, especially for little pistols with paltry scores like mine.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Having spent this entire week recapping the OzarkCon QRP Conference, I wanted to wrap things up with one more kit that was introduced last week, the Cricket 30 (it’s not yet available for purchase online but coming soon).

The Cricket 80 first appeared at last year’s conference. The single-band 80-meter CW transceiver is powered by a 9-volt battery and works on a single frequency. The kit ships with a 3579 KHz color burst crystal though others (not FT-243) may be used. The transmitter produces about one watt of output and a snap-off section of the circuit board is used as an attached and onboard straight key.

There are only 36 total electrical components in this kit and no toroids to wind as all inductors are etched on board spiral coils. At just thirty bucks it’s a perfect one-night kit project for beginners or as a club build project. Group discounts were available for just such application. It’s been a successful kit and comes as no surprise that a 30-meter version of it appeared this year.

I haven’t had time to unbox my 30-meter Cricket yet but I’m anxious to get it on the air. In addition to being downright cool, there’s a “Cricket Society”. You make 10 QSO’s with your Cricket and you can get a special certificate along with a coveted “Cricketeer” number.

Yet another way to build something with your own hands and have fun with ham radio.

Related Links:

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Friday night banquet speaker at OzarkCon was Tom Vinson, NY0V. Tom and his wife live in a small town in a log home he built after retiring in 2010 following more than 30 years working for Rockwell Collins (Collins Radio) in Cedar Rapids.

He’s been a lifelong ham radio enthusiast having gotten into the hobby as a youngster. Along the way he has enjoyed chasing DX (#1 Honor Roll Mixed, Phone)and being chased as DX when he operated from Tarawa, West Kiribati (T30CXX) in 2002 and Christmas Island (T32CXX) during the Oct 2008 CQWW SSB.

Tom shared briefly about his ham radio life, but the topic of his dissertation this night centered on his involvement with the Eustace Earhart Discovery Expedition.

Rockwell Collins contributed to the modern-day search for Amelia Earhart by offering up a few hours time from a couple of its employees to assist the discovery team in answering some technical questions they had about radio transmissions between the Coast Guard ship and Earhart’s plane. At the time, the company expected their total involvement to be about “three hours”.

Three-thousand hours and two expeditions later, Vinson had become the radio expert for the Nauticos discovery mission.

You can learn much more about NY0V and the search for Amelia Earhart by listening to his 2016 QSO Today interview here and from links at the bottom of this post.

But here are a few of my thoughts…

First, I was impressed and inspired to know that the technical acumen of ham radio enthusiasts is being employed around the globe in matters of scientific discovery every day.

In the early years hams were on the leading edge of radio technology because there was no one else to do it and we quickly became subject matter experts. I find it amazing to discover that we’re still the experts when it comes to radio, even in this new century.

Tom mentioned several other scientists that he worked with on this project who were also hams and this should serve to inspire us and to make us proud of our hobby.

And besides all that, I found it incredibly cool that hams are working to solve one of the last great mysteries of the 20th century - what really happened to Amelia Earhart.

Related Links:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

One of the new QRP kits that arrived at OzarkCon was the highly anticipated HillTopper 20, the first new design from Dave Benson, K1SWL since closing the door on his Small Wonder Labs.

It’s being kitted by the 4SQRP group with help from David Cripe, NM0S.

It hasn’t yet appeared on the group’s Web page, but I believe the regular price will be $80 when it becomes available again. I picked one up for the special show price of $70.

Here are a few details from the manual:

  • Frequency coverage: 14.000 to 14.350 MHz
  • Tuning: 100 Hz /20 Hz steps
  • TX power output: 5W nominal. Receive current draw: approx..60 mA
  • Size: 4.35” x 3.95” x 1.07”, weight 8 oz
  • ‘On-the-fly’ CW speed control. Iambic mode A, 8-35 wpm
  • Adjustments: BFO trim cap, one-time Frequency Calibration
  • Frequency readout: Audio Morse
  • SMT Parts (2): Pre-installed

The receiver is adapted from K1SWL’s ‘SW+’ Series with minor modifications. The front-end circuitry was revised to replace the now-vanished 10.7 MHz IF transformers. The output of 1st mixer U1 is transformed to a 220 ohm value by L3/C8. The following crystal filter has a -3dB bandwidth of approximately 400 Hz. L4 and C12 step the impedance back up into the 2nd mixer U2. Trimmer capacitor C53 provides adjustment of the BFO frequency during the alignment process. The two op-amp stages following provide approximately 60 dB of audio gain. The final audio stage is configured as a bandpass filter centered on 800 Hz with a Q of 2. The receiver output is suitable for headphone use. An 800 Hz sidetone is injected into this final stage.

The transmitter strip closely resembles Steve Weber’s – KD1JV- fine work. The frequency source for both transmitting and receiving is an Adafruit Si5351 board.

The controller IC is a 28-pin DIP- the Atmel ATmega328P used in the Arduino UNO. It relies on an external 16 MHz crystal for its timing. The application firmware was written in the Arduino environment. An on-board rotary encoder outputting 24 pulses-per-revolution provides a tuning function.

The variable DC voltage provided by Speed pot R16 is read by an A/D converter and scaled for Morse code timing. A pair of inputs are used for dot/dash paddles, and Straight-key mode is also available. The remainder of the I/O provides various control signals and sidetone for a variety of operations.

The Hilltopper firmware was written in Arduino’s (mostly) C language and supported by its own compiler. The firmware is open-source and can be downloaded.

In a letter to the 4SQRP mailing list, K1SWL said “I’ve built 3 of them so far, including a one-of-a-kind for another band. Mine put out 5-6 watts”.

Keep an eye on the 4SQRP Web site for availability.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We attended the OzarkCon QRP Conference in Branson, Missouri this weekend. The event was held at the Stone Castle Hotel and Conference Center. Nearly 200 attended, a record for the event. The facilities were first-rate but I could imagine this conference outgrowing these accommodations over the next few years.

This was a first time visit for me and because it was in Branson, my wife joined me in the radio adventure. The 550 mile, nine-hour, one-way drive was at the limit for how far I’m willing to drive anywhere until after I retire.

The conference officially opened on Friday evening with registration, vendor swap (tables available), and the banquet dinner. This year’s speaker was Tom Vinson, NY0V who spoke about his role in the Eustace Earhart Discovery Expedition. His talk held both mine and my wife’s attention for several hours as he stuck around patiently answering questions from the audience for a long time.

Later that first evening was the kit-building session with everyone who signed up for it assembling the brand new 30 meter Cricket transceiver kit.

Saturday was an all-day session of individual speakers kicked-off by Bob Heil, K9EID and his Pine Board Project. Other morning speakers continued to drive home the central theme which was to BUILD something.

After lunch came still more speakers including WD5AGO and NM0S who announced several new kits. When the track of speakers had ended the event moved directly into announcing winners of the HomeBrew Contest by category and then the main prize drawings. Over three hundred prizes had been donated with the grand prize being an Elecraft KX2.

Following dinner “on your own” on Saturday evening, there was still more revelry around the vendor and swap areas and then finally, a hidden transmitter hunt in the hotel.

The conference officially ended at 9:00am on Sunday morning though we were on the road and headed back to Indiana two hours earlier.

Having attended the Four Days in May event in Dayton more than a dozen times it’s difficult not to compare the two. While FDIM draws a larger crowd, OzarkCon was on par by every other measure. It’s all well organized and has been finely tuned by the 4SQRP group who has been at this for more than a decade.

My wife says “we will be back” which is as solid an endorsement as I can offer. If you’re a QRPer and can get to Branson, I’d recommend you not miss the opportunity to join the fun next time it rolls around.

Monday, April 9, 2018

We got back home from our weekend at OzarkCon last evening. Then it was a mad scramble to get things ready for me to hit the road again today. I had commented to Brenda how nice these kinds of weekends will be when we are retired and don’t have to rush back home in time to get back to work…

Absolutely wonderful time at the QRP Conference and I’ll have plenty more to say about it as this week unfolds. If you were following along via Twitter then you already got the details and photos. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account you can take a look at the photos here.

I understand that the new kits announced and available for sale at the conference will begin appearing on the 4SQRP Web site this week so keep an eye out if you’re interested, most sold out at the conference as they are kitted in batches and I’m guessing the next few batches will come and go quickly.

Friday, April 6, 2018

More than 30,000 New Ham Licensees

For the fourth year in a row, more than 30,000 new licensees joined the Amateur Radio ranks, and the ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) conducted more than 7,000 Amateur Radio exam sessions, serving some 35,350 candidates for a new or upgraded license. At the end of December 2017, the US Amateur Radio population stood at 748,136.

Sounds too good to be true. So where’s the problem?

Despite the optimistic influx of 32,196 newcomers last year, the net growth of 5,349 — about 0.72% over December 2016 — reflects some 27,000 expired or cancelled licenses in the FCC database over the past year.

Oh. Now I get it…

Thursday, April 5, 2018

I spent some time fiddling with the openSPOT last night. The goal was to test the ability to call another station directly, DMR ID to DMR ID. The test was performed with N9AVG in Illinois. It didn’t require any changes to the openSPOT configuration, just the addition of his ID to my transceiver configuration.

This was based on a comment in the SharkRF support forums:

“Create a channel with your friend’s ID as the TX contact instead of a talkgroup, and then have your friend do the exact same with your ID. Disconnect your openSPOT from any connected talkgroups (group call 4000), and then switch over to the new channel that’s just your friend’s ID. Key up & you will come out of his radio only”.

It worked as described though we still want to continue the test to see if a direct connection made will interrupt an ongoing connection to a talkgroup or reflector or if the direct “channel” can be continuously monitored via scanning, etc.

With a little more hacking it’s apparently even possible to create a similar private connection between more than two users.

There’s much to learn about the emerging world of amateur radio networking.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Big storms rumbled thru here yesterday and last night. 40 degree temperature swing in just a few hours triggered tornados and related mayhem. I guess Spring has arrived and needed to make an entrance.

Looks like the popular Zumspot is a dead project.

The Spring 2018 NCDXF Newsletter is ready for download.

Jim, W1PID and Tim, W3ATB visited Livermore Falls in Plymouth, NH. The Pemigewasset River was raging with spring runoff - and the DX was pretty good too.

The second public test of FT8 DXpedition Mode will take place on April 7, and all radio amateurs are invited to participate.

A new version of the Trusted QSL (TQSL) application — version 2.4 — has been released. The major new feature in this release is the ability to pre-set state, county, and grid values for a station location and verify that gridsquares are correct for the given QTH. Please see the release notes.

QRPGuys Portable 80/60m Vertical Antenna – $20 (In Development)

Expanding on our experience of using the readily available eBay telescoping 17′ fiberglass fishing poles for a vertical support in the Tri-band Vertical Antenna, we are offering a portable 80/60m, center loaded, 15′ long vertical antenna. It has an easy changeable coil clip that allows for selecting a 40-50KHz portion of the upper and lower part of the 80m band or all of the 60m band.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

LoTW Support for CQ Worked All Zones (WAZ) Award

ARRL and CQ magazine have announced the launch, effective immediately, of Logbook of The World (LoTW) support for CQ’s Worked All Zones (WAZ) Award program. The goal of the project, under way since last year, has been to create the proper technical support system to enable radio amateurs to submit LoTW confirmations for WAZ credit, and that has been accomplished, CQ and ARRL said in a joint statement. LoTW already supports CQ’s WPX Award program.

Nice. Convenient. Handy. Kudos. But is there more to it?

Everyone knows CQ Magazine has been having a tough time keeping the presses running lately. The glass half-empty part of me wonders if this isn’t a strategic move by the current publisher to transition these popular awards to the ARRL for long-term curation just in case…

Monday, April 2, 2018

April Fool’s and Easter on the same day we got a few inches of new snow. It’s a brave new world…

My log shows forty-six contacts were added during the month of March. Not particularly a productive span at the key but I nearly reached my target of fifty QSO’s a month for this year.

I’ll need to work a little harder in April to get ahead of the average.

I turned in my brag report for March. Thirty unique SKCC contacts and I missed picking up the bonus station.

I used the KX3 at five watts the entire month and continue to be pleased with the results. When I ordered the transceiver I thought about picking up the 100 watt amplifier and while I still haven’t ruled that out, I’m in no hurry to add that hardware.

It’s a short work-week, we’re headed to OzarkCon on Thursday.

Friday, March 30, 2018

DMR has been the topic of the last two Ham Radio Workbench podcasts.

They’ve taken a fairly deep dive into the subject which I found very interesting since I’m a DMR user who has managed to fumble my way to some success despite it remaining mostly a mystery to me.

Most of my technical questions were covered by these two programs.

It took me more than a week to get thru them both as they run over two hours each. Worth the time if you’re interested in more than just a casual introduction to this digital mode of communication.

The links they’ve collected in the show notes (click Read More) of both programs cover the entire DMR galaxy and it would be worth your time to click over and have a look just for the high-value linkage.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Sasquatch Stomp

The Sasquatch Stomp is an amateur radio contest sponsored by the Pacific North West QRP Group designed to get QRP operators on the air for a fun event similar to the Zombie Shuffle.

Hours of operation: From 21:00 UTC Friday until 03:00 UTC Saturday

Unlike “real” contests, there is no point to this event other than simply getting on the air and having fun. The event is scored, but unlike other contests the final score for each participant will be a negative number with the object being to get the lowest number below zero.

Why do Sasquatches Stomp? Because we can, and we’re good at it!