Friday, October 12, 2018

My ISS APRS attempt tonight was a rainout.

Since we’re traveling to Winnipeg on Sunday one of items on my checklist this week was to see if I needed a roaming plan. We’re ATT customers and I was told that I would have to pay ten bucks a day, per phone, for service in Canada.

An alternative was to modify our service to an “unlimited” level of service which would only amount to ten dollars more a month than I was already paying. The idea was to upgrade to the service for one month, then fallback to my previous plan thereby paying ten bucks for all the service we wanted in Canada and this option seemed like a no-brainer.

Until a friend mentioned that the ATT unlimited service does not include tethering. And sure enough, my iOS option to tether was missing once my plan changed. Not sure that’s a great loss as I only ever used tethering for my DMR hotspot and that ship has sailed for me.

Not being constrained by a data limit makes things a little happier since I can endlessly stream music and videos on my mobile devices without concern for generating unexpected charges. I’m beginning to think I’ll keep this unlimited service and add one of the new cellular iPad Pro’s when we get back from our trip.

I use iOS for almost everything now and it’s beginning to feel like an inflection point has been reached in my computing life.

Going to put the journal on hold for the next week or two. 73 es see you again on the “other” side.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The temps have dropped as predicted and it finally feels like Autumn in Indiana again. I’m happy about the end of summer but the chill in the air (and maybe frost tonight) reminds that time is growing short for antenna work before the snow flies. I’ve decided to remove the Cobra antenna that has been a reasonable radiator for the last two seasons and install an Inverted-L.

I believe the foreseeable future of HF will be at 160-80-60-40 meters with occasional openings on the higher bands. Given that, my antenna choices will focus on whatever can best fit on the lot that will provide more opportunities for success on the low bands.

Apparently there was an article in a recent issue of CQ Magazine by someone who claimed that the current solar cycle may not hit rock-bottom for another year or two, and then the next few cycle will be more anemic than this one has been, even going so far as to speculate that the solar cycles may come to a complete stop for some extended period before resuming the more regular pattern.

I don’t subscribe to CQ and haven’t read the article, neither do I know who the author was or what his qualifications might be. I read about it from a discussion on a ham radio mailing list and wasn’t surprised that such speculation upsets a lot of people.

For the record, I think the theory is likely to be correct. I expect conditions at HF to remain in the dumpster for the rest of my life if not for much, much longer. Sad as it seems, this is just the new normal.

What’s more, I think it’s possible that the cycle could decline to the point that even low frequency signals will fail to propagate. My antenna work is probably just my way of whistling past the graveyard until even the sounds of whistling can no longer be detected…

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ham radio enthusiasts have been historically resilient. It just makes sense when you consider it in the context of the early days of radio. If some new design or concept didn’t work as planned and had that caused our predecessors to simply give up, we wouldn’t be here today.

When the “going gets tough the tough get going” is a phrase that sums up radio pioneers from a century ago and I believe it extends to this present day. As an example, then the bands don’t cooperate using well-known communication methods we don’t give up, we dream new ways to make contacts.

Also interesting to me is how one segment of the hobby has embraced portable operation because they can’t or prefer not to do their radio work from a home “shack”.

Advances in lightweight, high-performance equipment along with battery and non-traditional energy sources has been impressive. And then there are the many games we invent to challenge ourselves to make the most of the way we advance the art of radio from the field.

Here’s another phrase I’ve heard recently, “micro-adventure”. In the context of our hobby it often is used to describe operations from parks, mountain tops, or a floating vessel. These aren’t on the scale of a large, modern DXpedition but these include many of the same challenges only in a “micro” format. I really like the concept of the “Micro-Adventure” and that might find its way onto a printed tee-shirt or hat next year…

Just today I saw another similar phrase.

Elecraft will soon be shipping their new 4-foot telescoping whip antenna intended for 20 and 17 meter operation with the KX3 or KX2 transceivers. The efficiency of a very short antenna isn’t especially good, but it’s not unusual to trade performance for convenience. To this end, Wayne Burdick, N6KR wrote that there are times in the field when you can setup a larger, more efficient antenna, but this new ultra-portable unit was intended for pedestrian or “quick deployment field operation”.

That reminded me of my desire to carry my KX3 with only the internal batteries and attached key to a nearby State Park for frequent but brief thirty-minute operations from a picnic table.

Call it a “micro-adventure” or a “quick-deployment field operation” or whatever you like - we all make our fun wherever and however best we can.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I’ve spent a little time after dark the last few evenings copying packets from the ham radio digipeater aboard the International Space Station. The first night I used only the stock rubber duck antenna with the Kenwood TH-D74 handheld transceiver. Despite the relative strength of the signal, I only managed to capture a couple of packets.

Last night I took the Arrow antenna to the backyard and had much better results.

Messaging via the ISS digipeater is popular because it’s relatively easy. Full-duplex isn’t required and the signal from the ISS is strong and easy to copy.

That’s the relatively “easy” part.

The more difficult part, at least for me, is becoming adept at fiddling with the handheld transceiver, in the dark, to push the right buttons at the right time, to call or respond to the other stations heard.

This is harder than it sounds even using canned messages. But it’s only difficult, not impossible and I expect with a little more practice I’ll soon be making contacts via this unique method of communicating using equipment on an orbiting outpost in space as an intermediary means of signal propagation.

One more note on using the Arrow Antenna. Until I really started looking, I would have said that I should have much success using the Arrow in my yard. It’s not until I start pointing the thing that I begin to see all sorts of problems. The trees, power lines, and even the house itself. These all limit a clear view of the sky especially below a certain elevation.

The falling leaves will help a little but I’m going to start looking at alternate locations for some of the weaker signal work. For instance, my father-in-law has 25 acres on the outskirts of town with wide open spaces and a decent view of the sky. It’s a good option but one that requires I start thinking more like a portable operator with a ready-to-roll satellite ground station.

Monday, October 8, 2018

It’s 39F in Winnipeg Manitoba as I write today’s entry…

We’re now just a week away from to our trip to Winnipeg and things have shifted into a higher gear. Confirming plane tickets, hotel reservations, and making certain our phones will work there without the need for a roaming plan. I haven’t yet rented a car but that’s the only thing left on my to-do list other than pack. We’ve got tickets for NHL Jets games on Tuesday night and on Thursday night at Bell MTS Arena - a five-minute walk from our hotel.

There’s also been the matter of arranging pet sitters and the like. It’s going to feel good to sit down on the plane for the short hop to Minneapolis and then on to Winnipeg Sunday evening, but we aren’t scheduled to arrive until almost midnight Manitoba time, so Monday is going to be a lazy, sleep as long as we want day.

It’s 89F in Muncie, Indiana as I write today’s entry…

We had a tiny taste of autumn for a few days before this terrible hot weather returned to taunt us for another week. I’m not sure I still believe the weather prognosticators, but they are saying to expect cool, fall weather to begin later this week.

It will be welcome relief to be able to shut down the air conditioning and open the windows. A nice fire in the backyard along with a bottle of something red would be nice too. If only…

Friday, October 5, 2018

I’m KE9V and I approve this message…

The election for ARRL Director’s is heating up with more interest than usual in changing whatever the League is doing completely wrong.

I may be too unconcerned given I’m a Life Member, but certain data being cited by every new prospective board member is not only wrong, it’s deceptive. I’m talking about the faulty notion that since there are now over 750,000 amateur radio licensees in the US, an all-time high, declining ARRL membership is a clear sign that the folks in Newington don’t know what they’re doing.

What’s wrong with this line of thinking is that anyone who believes there are over 750,000 active, ‘interested in radio as a hobby’ licensees in the US is nuts.

We could argue endlessly over the what constitutes “active” but it doesn’t take much gray matter to comprehend that people who get a Technician license in a day and promptly become bored with their new handheld transceiver probably won’t be inclined to pay an annual fee to become an ARRL member.

Likewise with those who only got a license to provide emergency services in their community. Same goes with the preppers. And there are bound to be many other single-use interests that require a license but not a relationship with a national organization.

And don’t get me started on the number of records in the FCC database of dead hams, or those with a license who have long since been moved to some care-giving facility removing their ability to be “active”.

Fact is, the elimination of the code requirement removed a barrier to those who have a use for a license, but no real interest in getting neck deep into amateur radio as a hobby. That’s perfectly okay with me but to assume these should also become dues paying members of the ARRL is either naive or just stupid and I’m leaning toward the latter.

Using the “record high number of licensees” to highlight the League’s inability to recruit more paying members is weak sauce. The real number of active radio amateurs is probably more like 300,000 which means the ARRL still has room to grow, but it’s certainly not the dismal failure some are making it out to be - in an effort to get elected.

As century-old hobbies go we’ve got ninety-nine problems but this ain’t one.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

I dropped a link to the book, Radioman: An Eyewitness Account of Pearl Harbor and World War II in the Pacific back in August with only a brief overview. I bought this book assuming there would be some frequent references to military radio operation during the war but there were not.

In the end that didn’t really matter as it was very enjoyable reading.

My father is a WWII Navy veteran and I gave him the book after I read it and he barely put it down before finishing it.

He told me how accurate it was with his own recollection of that period and military service and it stirred a lot of deep memories for him. With a hearty endorsement like that, I thought I’d mention it one more time.

RADIOMAN is the biography of Ray Daves, a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Navy and an eyewitness to World War II. It is based on the author’s handwritten notes from a series of interviews that began on the eighty-second birthday of the combat veteran and gives a first-person account of the world’s first battles between aircraft carriers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

From 1988 until 1996 my amateur radio activity was largely focused on satellite operation. I had assembled a world-class ground station for use primarily with AO-13 though I was quite active on the 9600 baud PacSats as well.

Some months before AO-13 took its final fiery plunge we moved back to Indiana and I used that opportunity to sell off all my equipment and antennas with plans to buy new once we had settled in our new home.

Besides, I told friends, it would only be another year or so before AO-40 would be on orbit and I wanted to have the latest and greatest technology in place for it. As it turned out, Phase 3D wouldn’t fly for several more years and when it did, it blew up on orbit before it was fully commissioned.

That mostly ended my time as a satellite operator though I have made numerous LEO contacts using handheld transceivers and antennas since then. More recently, I picked up a TH-D72 handheld and Arrow antenna, made a handful of FM satellite contacts, and then put all that away.

My interest in chasing satellites again has sometimes ebbed, but I think that’s mostly because it’s not easy adjusting the radio frequency for Doppler correction while holding it in one hand and holding and pointing the antenna in the other. All the while tracking the position of the rapidly moving satellite across the sky and trying to log whoever I work.

It can be a LOT of work for the briefest of contacts.

But I do want to resume that action since there are many times when the HF bands simply will not cooperate. Besides, I support keeping ham radio in space. I’m a long-time member of AMSAT-NA and AMSAT-UK and I frequently donate to these causes.

And I’d really like to nail-down VUCC via satellite.

So, I’m assembling a few creature comforts that should make things a little easier, like an audio recorder and cables so I can record the entire pass and pick the details for logging out later. I’d also like to have a portable tripod that will support the Arrow antenna and permit me to easily move and rotate it without having to hold it.

I made a comment to that effect on Twitter a few nights ago when I wrote, “Curious why there are no commercially available portable tripods ready-made for mounting an Arrow antenna?”

I got a lot of replies to that, mostly folks sharing with me how they either built their own or modified a camera tripod to support the antenna. These replies were all good and appreciated, especially those who shared their how-to photos, but these didn’t really answer my question.

Given the fairly large number of satellite operators using handheld antennas, it seems an obvious product idea for MFJ or some other enterprising supplier - even the Arrow Antenna manufacturer - to offer for sale a slick version ready to use right out of the box.

I would buy one today but since it’s not available, I’ll spend some upcoming weekend putting something together myself. And then the chase for VUCC will get underway in earnest.

Tuesday October 2, 2018

Being the first of a new month, I was handling some logging chores last night after I got home from work and noticed that I hadn’t logged a single SKCC contact during the month of September.

That’s not good considering that I aspire to achieve the next step on the Straight Key ladder (Senator) and that requires a much higher level of activity than I’ve been putting in this year. I decided there was no time like the present to take it up a notch, so I went trolling in the SKCC waters and ended up making four contacts, three of them were new numbers of the proper flavor and that bumped my total up a little.

Notable (at least to me) was that three of them were with operators who happened to be younger than me.

Despite being nearly 60, most of the people I meet via CW are usually considerably older than I am. It’s not so strange to find old guys pounding brass but, in my experience, it’s a little unusual to find younger folks attentive to the key. There’s no breaking news here or inferences to be drawn from this sampling, just an observation that’s seemed a little out of the ordinary.

I’ve also noticed lately that 40 meters is going long much earlier in the evenings than usual. I worked these three not long after local sundown and they were all “out West”. Nevada, California, Oregon. These were easy 599 copy with solid signals. Meanwhile, I copied them working other stations within 500 miles of me whose signals were completely hidden from my receiver.

Hopefully time in the shack tonight will be as productive and as interesting as it was last night.

Monday October 1, 2018

Most of the weekend was spent working on house projects and catching up on yardwork but that still left a little time for radio. It was a QRP weekend as I used the KX3 and its internal batteries to add a lucky thirteen contacts to the log.

One of those was when I worked Joe, N2CX who was operating portable from some park in Maryland - I think. I haven’t looked it up yet. Joe has been operating frequently from the field up and down the east coast. I’ve worked him at least a half-dozen times and it always feels like a conquest since he announces his planned operations and I know he’s out there, somewhere, just waiting to be found.

Then on Saturday evening I was trolling 40 meters when I heard a mystery call sign down around 7020 calling CQ. 6D50I sounded exotic and I worked him, but it turned out to be a fellow in Mexico using a special call sign and not some rare DX.

The other eleven stations logged were all playing in the Texas QSO Party. By the time these were logged the batteries were starting to give up the ghost in the KX3 so I pulled the big switch.

The kids came over for Sunday dinner then we all watched football for a few hours and relaxed. Nice weekend, great weather, got a lot accomplished. No regrets but now back to work for another week. Sometimes it seems it never ends - but who would want that?

Friday, September 28, 2018

About a week ago, while looking for something online I stumbled across the NEQRP Club Web site. I hadn’t visited there in a long time but wasn’t surprised that the site was still intact. I don’t really know the current status of that group. Like a lot of the QRP clubs born in the explosion that began the Second Turning of low-powered radio enthusiasm, things have gone mostly silent and many of these kinds of sites have remained untouched for some time.

While clicking around there I discovered a partial archive of the the old club letter still available for download. Called the “72 Newsletter” it’s first edition appeared in January 1992. Face-to-face with such a treasure I spent the next several hours reliving the good old days when I first discovered the Joy of QRP.

It was a bittersweet discovery as many of the familiar old calls from that era had long since become Silent Keys, but it also sharpened some of the memories that had either become fuzzy or been completely lost. Any old QRPer would appreciate that archive.

And I always thought the NEQRP logo (designed by Jack Frake, NG1G) patch design was one of the best I had ever seen. It perfectly captured the mood and the movement that swept so many of us into this facet of the hobby. I had always intended to order one of those patches but never got around to it. I remember when it was first offered, four dollars for one or six dollars for two of them but I just never got around to it.

That prompted me to wonder if someone, in some corner of hamdom, might still have one in pristine condition that they would be willing to part with. I knew it was a long shot but I posted a message on the QRP-L mailing list to find out and sure enough, one kind soul replied in the affirmative.

I received a very nice email from W2APF informing me that he did indeed have a patch and would be happy to send it to me at no charge - in his own words, “I’ll consider it my penance for purchasing a liberal amplifier this year”. It arrived yesterday in absolute pristine condition and I can’t believe I have this perfect NEQRP logo patch just one week later.

He also sent along a “bonus” patch from the Michigan QRP Club so I was doubly blessed by his generous act of QRP Kindness.

This story would end there except that he also stuffed in a few QSL cards for good measure and it turns out that Thaire Bryant, W2APF is quite the radio operator. He’s traveled around the world operating mostly QRP from the field in more places than I will ever visit. Have a look at his QRZ bio and you’ll see what I mean.

And there was more…

“The call sign W2APF was formerly held by David “Uncle Dave” Marks from the 1920’s until his death on January 11, 1992. “Uncle Dave” founded “The People’s Radio Store” in the early twenties. It became “Uncle Dave’s Radio Shack” in the early thirties (advertised in QST) and later was called “Fort Orange Radio”, all in Albany, New York. He loved people, travel, and Ham Radio. I married his granddaughter in 1978 and he infected me with the bug (amateur radio that is). My call sign changed from KA1MJR to W2APF on August 16, 1996 through The FCC vanity call system. W2APF is back on the air!”

I got the patch I was looking for plus one other and I got to discover this wonderful radio heritage. Was it worth the time spent spelunking thru PDF archives from somewhere back in our long ago? Absolutely. If our hobby was only about yakking on the radio I’d have grown bored with it decades ago.

But we have this amazingly rich history whose exploration never grows old.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

“What does a freezer full of underwear, 2,914 nautical miles and a little red rubber boat have in common? A remote island in the middle of the Pacific called Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)…”

So begins this compelling report on the KH1/KH7Z Baker Island operation by Don Greenbaum, N1DG writing in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Northern California DX Foundation newsletter.

Download the letter here and read all about it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

SKCC’s QSO Party - October 6-7

The SKCC QSO Party aims to bring together operators with different skill levels in a informal operating event lasting 24 hours. The event starts at 1800 UTC on Saturday, October 6th and runs through Sunday, October 7th, 1800Z.

SKCC members who participate in the QSO Party must use straight keys, sideswipers (cooties), or bugs. Waivers from this policy are possible. For details, see the club’s policy on approved keying devices here. Because this event aims to include newcomers to CW as well as experience brass-pounders, operating speed should be adjusted accordingly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Official SKCC Sideswiper is now available for order from LNR Precision, Inc. But be prepared to wait awhile for this one, it’s going to be one hot commodity thru the first few production runs. $94.95 US.

The SKCC Sideswiper is patterned after the Kungsimport key produced in Kunsbacka, Sweden in the 1980’s by Hakan Scard (professional operator at Gothenburg Radio, SAG) and Ben Jomkert. It is a classic very traditional Sideswiper produced for the Straight Key Century Club.

The light weight Oak fingerpiece allows for a close gap setting making it a very fast key with little chance of chattering. The heavy 2.8 pound base makes it a very stable device on your desk. No chasing this key around the desk or needing two hands to operate.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Saturday was the first day of autumn and right on cue, the sweltering heat gave way to much cooler air. The entire weekend weather has been delightful and the ten-day forecast looks to be more of the same.

The kids and grandkids were all here over the weekend to celebrate a birthday and it was certainly nice to have them all together in one place. That’s becoming more difficult with each passing holiday or special event so these are moments to savor.

Radio was on the back-burner until everyone left on Sunday afternoon when I did manage a few on air moments. Earlier I had read on QRP-L that frequent park activator N2CX would be active, but I had no luck finding him. Band conditions seemed sub-optimal though there were a few stations scattered here and there.

I used the KX3 since I chase SOTA/POTA using five watts. I’ve been a low-power enthusiast for a long time and have found the QRP lifestyle adds a lot to to my enjoyment of the hobby. Much more about this as the week progresses.

Tuning in the vicinity of 14.060 while looking for Joe, I heard a weak CQ from John, N0TA who was operating from some summit (W5N/SG-009) in New Mexico.

One call and he was in the log. I’m always amazed that anything I can hear with the KX3, I can work. It’s like magic in a box.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Finally, another long, hot, summer is drawing to a close. I used to enjoy the season until a decade or so ago when things heated up and “record breaking temperatures” year after year became the norm. Good riddance to that and now on to a refreshing Autumn.

The Peanut Power QRP Sprint is right around the corner on October 7th. Sponsored by the North Georgia QRP Club, the goal is to work as many Peanut Power numbers as possible on 80, 40, and 20 meters. Get your Peanut number now (details in the link above) and you’ll be smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy!

The 4SQRP group has been kitting the 20 meter version of the HillTopper, designed by Dave Benson, K1SWL. Apparently some parts issues has the portable transceiver kit out of stock at the moment but they recently posted that the problem will soon be solved and once they are rolling again, they expect to also offer a 40 meter version.

I had all but forgotten about the International Grid Chase. Seems the only way to significantly advance in that game is to run FT8 for as many hours of each day as humanly possible. That’s mostly due to the fact that you need LoTW confirmation and the digital operators are far more likely to quickly confirm your contact using that method.

So I took a peek at the leader board and found that I’m ranked 8080 in the world, right there in the meaty part of the “don’t give a crap” curve. According to my own logbook, I’ve made just over 1,000 contacts in 2018 but only about half of those have confirmed via LoTW – so my score drags.

Maybe I would be 7070 if everyone used LoTW? :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

FlexRadio has been speeding the evolution of amateur radio since its inception. The company has crafted a collection of amateur radio equipment that brings into focus new technology, high-performance, and clear direction for all the SDR’s that will follow in its wake.

I was impressed after reading A Review of the Flex 6600M Software Defined Radio by Paul Staupe WØAD. His article appears in the September 2018 edition of The Gray Line Report newsletter and is an excellent summary and detailed description of how he has integrated the new FlexRadio into his own operating environment.

“The sheer amount of data that’s decoded by the SCU is incredible. An Intel i7 hex core processor is capable of decoding between 4-8 gigaflops, (a gigaflop is a unit of computing power equivalent to 1 billion floating point operations per second). The specialized SCU in the Flex is capable of decoding 121 gigaflops per second or about 20 times the speed of the most expensive PC.”

It’s a fascinating look at the results of this technology that will be worth the time to read it for anyone with an interest in this new digital world of HF communications.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

If antenna restrictions are keeping you off the air, you might be interested in the September 2018 edition of the ‘Rag Chew’ newsletter. This quarterly publication of the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) is generally packed with news, information and photos of member activities.

But this edition includes a rather large section on Stealth Antennas that begins on page 38. It also references an excellent primer developed by The Villages Amateur Radio Club (K4VRC), which includes a collection of radio operators living in the 100% HOA restricted retirement community in The Villages, Florida.

Their hints and kinks for keeping your radio activity under the radar is well presented and quite valuable. If you’re looking for more information on stealth antennas, you will want to check this out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Somebody get the Aloe vera, ham radio just got burned:

“Like many technologies from an earlier era, ham radio is largely made up of older men trying to come up with ways to make it appealing to a younger demographic that isn’t that interested”.

This really stings because it isn’t wrong. It’s not a lie. Best I can tell radio enthusiasts have been wringing their hands about getting younger people interested and involved in our hobby for at least half a century.

Of course we have some young people in our ranks, but when you see them celebrated with photos in QST and being showered with awards and prizes, just because they are young and interested in radio, that only serves to amplify just how rare they truly are.

It seems to me that our fraternity includes a lot of very smart people. Engineers, scientists, and various other professionals from every walk of life. If the solution to this lack of youth problem isn’t apparent to anyone by now, perhaps a solution doesn’t exist?

Monday, September 17, 2018

I haven’t been on the air for a few weeks. Things got busy around here as the end of the summer neared, but more than that, the bands have been pretty lousy churned by a few solar storms and the general malaise that comes at this point in the solar cycle.

Not that I regularly keep up with space weather forecasting but I do keep up with my Twitter feed and when I read about how bad conditions are on a given day I tend to take it as gospel and skip even trying. I know better than that but it happens. That’s my excuse anyway…

So this evening I broke the drought with an hour on 80, 40, and 30 meters making fifty contacts via FT8. I saw a few European and South American stations in the display but signals were weak and with one exception, I only called North American stations.

And as usual, the miracle digital mode delivered enough activity to make me feel like I was getting back in the routine. I’ll spend the rest of the week chasing new SKCC numbers via CW as I resume my quest for Senator level by disturbing a tiny corner of the aether.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Hurricane Florence has made ground in the Carolina’s and is wreaking havoc on that region. Meanwhile, amateur radio is once again in the news about its value during times like these.

ARRL Hurricane Information

Win a FREE AnyTone 868 DMR Bundle From BridgeCom Systems

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Leaves are just beginning to turn colors, some are even turning loose. Autumn is just around the corner. Curl up with a cup of something warm this weekend and catch-up on your ham radio reading:

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Writing about the newer digital modes, Larry, W2LJ said: “I’ll just keep going with “Ol’ Reliable” and will continuously ride “Westward, Ho!”, right into the old dinosaur sunset”. I share his sentiment. I’d like to be that radio enthusiast who embraces every new thing that comes down the pike, but truth is I have a passion for one facet of the hobby that comes from somewhere back in our long ago.

Noted Daily DX publisher and “How’s DX?” QST columnist Bernie McClenny, W3UR is the guest on Episode 214 of the QSO Today Amateur Radio Podcast hosted by Eric Guth, 4Z1UG.

The Leaf Peepers QRP contest is perfect for low-powered radio enthusiasts who want to peep out their signal to be heard by other peepers. If you decide to set up outdoors in the midst of Mother Nature’s once-a-year eye-candy show, your eyes will be rewarded as well as your ears.

Did you know the ARRL offers up a free article from each monthly edition of QST magazine? Get in the Halloween spirit with Allison McLellan’s article “The Ghost in the Machine” about the use of ham radio in paranormal and extraterrestrial activity — the free article of the month for the upcoming October issue of QST.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Another date that lives in infamy…

Brooklyn firefighters George Johnson, left, Dan McWilliams, center, and Billy Eisengrein raise a flag at the World Trade Center in New York. The photo has appeared on T-shirts, buttons and Christmas ornaments. It hangs at firehouses across the nation. Copies were left as a calling card in Afghanistan by U.S. commandos.

Monday, September 10, 2018

One day last week I asked why there were no podcasts specifically about amateur radio satellites. It’s a relatively mature facet of our hobby, and one that has recently been growing quickly for many reasons. Chasing satellites isn’t beyond the reach of any licensee willing to spend a few hours learning how it’s done, still, it’s far enough outside the norm that I think it warrants a regularly produced program.

It seems to me that AMSAT would want to launch something like that - similar to the ARRL’s very popular ‘The Doctor is In’ podcast.

Someone did remind me that the Houston AMSAT Net is recorded each week and made available as a podcast. I used to listen regularly and checked into the net often via IRC. I believe the net was launched in the days before having home Internet was common and the format included reading the weekly AMSAT news bulletins.

Oddly enough, that format hasn’t changed over the intervening years.

I listened to a recording of the latest net last week and after a surprisingly large number of check-ins, the moderator began at the top of the latest news bulletin and worked his way through the list. At the end of the net, there were a few SSTV transmissions which weren’t useful to me listening in my automobile as I drove home from work.

I think this net remains useful given that questions can be asked and answered in real time, however, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I asked why there were no podcasts covering amateur radio in space.

Some blend of history, science, updated news, best methods for working specific satellites and frequent interviews with AMSAT engineering and other staff who could explain in greater detail the status of current projects as well as the planned path to keep ham radio in space.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a program like that?

Friday, September 7, 2018

On Sunday hams will celebrate the seventy-sixth Findlay Ohio Hamfest.

76 years is a long time to keep a hamfest running, but the Findlay Radio Club has managed to do just that and in the process created one of the most loved radio events in an entire region that includes Dayton, Ohio.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

AMSAT recently made known an interference problem to the amateur satellite service caused by a DMR signal:

This week, AMSAT News Service (ANS) cited an August 27 report from AMSAT Vice President-Operations Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA, saying that a digital mobile radio (DMR) signal has been interfering with the AO-92 (Fox-1D) satellite’s 435.35 MHz uplink frequency. Glasbrenner said hotspots, repeaters, terrestrial simplex, and “anything not satellite” should never transmit in the segments 145.8 – 146.0 MHz or 435 – 438 MHz by international band plan.

Since repeater frequencies are generally coordinated, the problem is a result of the proliferation of “hotspot” devices that provide network connectivity on a local level. Despite these incorporating ultra low-power transmitters, their use requires that the radio being used in conjunction with them be set to the same frequency.

So while your hotspot may only run 40mW and seem benign, the radio you use to interact with it will most certainly utilize higher power. In addition, one of the first questions asked by most new hotspot users is, “how can I connect my hotspot to an external antenna to extend its range?”

And then consider that the most popular such device, the openSPOT, shipped with a factory default frequency of 436.000 MHz.

If AMSAT’s gentle suggestion to clean it up and get with the bandplan isn’t enough to spur you to action then perhaps the fact that there are multiple online services reporting your hotspot frequency to the entire world right this minute, even as you read this, might shame you into action.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

I have a Twitter account. You probably do too. There was a time when we all wanted more followers. Now Twitter wants to tell you which of those you should quit following:

“You don’t need to follow everyone to know what’s happening,” one notification read. Another said, “Make sure you’re only following the people that make Twitter great for you.”

It’s not a bad idea especially given that we’re just about 90 days away from yet another contentious election, now’s as good a time as any to shut that noise off at the source.

So much noise…

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

I’ve resumed working and now endure a twice daily hour-long commute. This has me thinking about a mobile setup to make some hobby use of my time captured in a vehicle, but HF is off the table for now. I get plenty enough time listening to crummy band conditions and noise in the shack and have no need to replicate that in an automobile.

It will be VHF/UHF and I’m keen on having FM and at least one digital option. I have handheld transceivers for D-STAR and DMR but I’d like to install something permanently in the vehicle and am thinking the ID-5100 though I haven’t ordered anything yet.

It’s actually been a long time since I last installed a mobile radio in my car, probably the mid-1990’s, and a lot has changed, especially with regard to the digital options.

I might be kidding myself, but I think it will be good to become reacquainted with the local repeaters and operators again. I haven’t been on a local repeater in years and feel that I have isolated myself by only participating in the hobby via the HF bands.

Besides, streaming music and podcasts are really getting old and hopefully this will help melt a few of the hours spent on the road each week.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Happy Labor Day. The traditional end of summer. The closing of the pools, return to school, and a major milestone on the road to concluding another year. The heat persists here but the change in the leaves is already noticeable and it won’t be long before we can sleep with the windows open again. I can’t wait.

This long weekend has been radio-less. The new Amazon Prime series ‘Jack Ryan’ dropped its first season on Friday and my wife and I watched all eight episodes in two extended settings. We enjoyed it, and yes, it lived up to all the hype.

Since we were already in the mood to relax and watch television, we also caught up on a few more episodes from another Prime series so it’s been a lazy, enjoyable weekend (so far) which is the way it should be celebrated.

Today I’m going to have to mow the lawn in 90F heat but I’ll be thinking about the cooler weather that’s bound to be on the way soon. This evening I’ll toss something on the grill and we’ll enjoy one more quiet evening before returning to the regular grind tomorrow.

I hope you enjoyed your long weekend.