Monday, September 16, 2019

My sharp, public, critiques of FT8 has nothing to do with the software or its use in amateur radio communications.

I use FT8 like (literally) everyone else. In fact, I jumped on that bandwagon the same week the software was released a few years ago and used it to make over two-thousand contacts in a few months.

I hold WAS Digital and WAS FT8 certificates and am well on my way to DXCC Digital thanks to the new mode.

My disdain is for the automation of the software that permits users to fill their log without interaction, or without even being present while the log-fill takes place. Oddly enough, I can be impressed by the technology required to fully automate the mode, while at the same time holding to the notion that it’s bad for our hobby.

There’s a certain lunacy required to want to outsource the joy of personal, two-way radio communications that I can’t understand. I liken it to buying a machine that shakes your FitBit so that at the end of the day you can claim to have “walked” a hundred miles… Pointless, useless, and not at all good for the hobby.

And worse, there’s not yet a way to know how many of these robot stations we’ve already logged - without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Friday, September 13, 2019

I’m attending the W9DXCC Convention this weekend. It opened today (Friday) and I attended a full tract of programs. I managed to pick up a lot of hints and kinks from some of the best contest operators and DXers, which was well worth the price of admission - and there’s still tomorrow’s lineup of speakers and the closing banquet.

Elecraft, FlexRadio, and Icom are all here with equipment on display.

Gerald, K5SDR took a little extra time to show me the new (not yet released) iOS software that permitted him to make FT8 contacts on his iPad via his station in Texas. It wasn’t just a session running in a window on the iPad, it’s an actual application with a modified user interface to take advantage of the iPad format. He told me the software is ready to go but since Apple is imminently updating iOS to version 13, they want to wait and shakedown the new app with it before it’s released.

Speaking of Flex, every contester who spoke and that I casually bumped into were all FlexRadio users. I guess I’ve missed that transition. You can argue all you want and point to Rob Sherwood’s receiver data but all the big dogs are still running Flex whether you realize it or not.

I had a chance to talk with Ray Novak, N9JA the Sales Manager for Icom America. He thinks the IC-705 is going to be a killer alternative to the Yaesu FT-817/818 and the Elecraft KX-family. I think he’s at least half right but in any event, Icom will sell a boatload of them and other manufacturers with a focus on that market segment will be in for considerable turbulence.

On the Cycle 24/25 transition, Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA says he doesn’t think we’ve yet hit solar minimum, but when we do, most projections for Cycle 25 are fairly bleak. Best case is a repeat of Cycle 24, worst case we continue the downward trend of the last few cycles. But he was quick to point out that 20 meters will continue to be capable of supporting worldwide communication even with zero sunspots. And he added some “good” news to the gloom – “if you currently own any records at ten meters, you’re probably going to own those for a long time…”

One other interesting tidbit mentioned, 2019 may well see the most amateur radio activity at HF of all time, despite it being at or near the bottom of the solar cycle - thanks to the new FT modes. Something to either fret about or celebrate. Your call.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A few nights ago I watched a string of bushcraft type videos recommended by a friend. I’m not an avid camper or hiker, yet these YouTube offerings were considerably more compelling that whatever was on television that evening.

In one video, a fellow made use of a small solar setup that he uses to charge his phone, camera batteries, provide a little lighting, and even to power a heating pad that he says helps warm his little “cabin” when he spends a few nights in the frigid wilderness to make maple syrup.

The equipment was from a company called AIMTOM.

He was using an all-in-one unit. Charge controller, battery, inverter, all in a lunch-box sized package. With a matching solar panel it might be too large to hike with, but it looks pretty cool for mobile/portable solar charging and use.

It should be noted that I’ve done zero research into portable solar power and there are probably more compelling options for radio enthusiasts who like to take the hobby into the field. This just seemed kinda slick to me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Stability has long been a top priority for Hamvention organizers. The decades long run it enjoyed at Hara Arena was truly a rare thing for an annual show that attracts tens of thousands. I’m sure the folks at DARA would be happy to be in a similar situation with its new venue. Given that, it’s not surprising they would work fo such a deal. And having secured it, we can assume that Hamvention has also been good for Greene County.

Dayton Hamvention Signs 5-Year Contract with Greene County Expo Center

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) has signed a 5-year agreement to keep Dayton Hamvention® at the Greene County Expo Center. The agreement was announced on September 9 by Hamvention General Chairman Jack Gerbs, WB8SCT.

“It has been a wonderful experience working with the Expo Center team in the development of this agreement,” Gerbs said. “With the 5-year agreement signed, the Expo Center and Hamvention can move forward with additional enhancements to the facilities.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

This is what happens when smart people work together pioneering communication technologies. I can’t imagine a scenario where this collaboration won’t one day benefit our hobby on many levels…

Raytheon-FlexRadio team to develop airborne high-frequency radio

Raytheon will develop and qualify a high-frequency radio under a $36 million Project Agreement through an Other Transaction Agreement with Consortium Management Group. “Raytheon’s partnership with FlexRadio combines commercial innovation with advanced military hardening techniques to rapidly deliver a next-generation operational capability that supports strategic and tactical missions.”

The Raytheon-FlexRadio team is one of two recipients for this development program. After the 31-month period of performance, one team will be named to move on to production.

Chunky & Power Hungry

Since bringing home the IC-7610 from Hamvention, I hadn’t powered on the 7300 and was pretty certain that the internal battery would be dead. Sure enough, when I powered it up this weekend, it displayed January 1, 2000 for the date. I don’t generally keep equipment around that I don’t use regularly and I briefly considered selling it. But the NEW market price has fallen so much since purchasing it that USED market value isn’t worth the effort.

I’ll find some use for it, either as a capable back-up transceiver or perhaps I can take with me on trips where chunky and power hungry are acceptable performance traits. I might just make room for it on the desk and dedicate it for straight key duty where it will remain powered with a key connected.

Almost anything beats boxing it up and storing it in the attic…

It was a busy weekend on the air with special events. Seemed to be plenty of HPM, RT66, and POTA activity, and most of that was via phone.

That’s one number that’s up. Way up. 21 percent of all the contacts I’ve logged this year have been via SSB, the most for me ever. There’s simply more phone activity than CW these days and I’ve started taking advantage of it. At the bottom of the solar cycle beggars can’t be choosers.

I’m only working three days this week as we will travel to St. Charles, Illinois on Thursday for the weekend W9DXCC convention. I’m really looking forward to putting a face to many radio operators whose calls are familiar but have never met. The long weekend immersion into the world of DX and Contesting seem like a fine idea to me.

Be sure to say ‘hello’ if you go too!

Initial Thoughts on the IC-705

By now you’ve heard that ICOM announced a new QRP transceiver, the IC-705. It’s an SDR with a color touch panel much like the IC-7300 only this one includes all HF plus VHF/UHF and all-modes. Its small size and internal battery option makes it look ready for the field. More information about the new offering is available all over the Web so I won’t re-hash specific details here.

It’s great to see this kind of innovation and ICOM will no doubt sell a lot of them. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the best solution for all kinds of portable operations. The market for trail friendly equipment has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade and while we haven’t yet hit “peak portable” the market is beginning to mature.

The Elecraft KX-line, which commands that space now, has been around for several years.

Of course that won’t last forever as the market constantly changes. In fact, I’ve noticed that POTA stations aren’t so much of the QRP CW variety as was typical during the genesis of the portable radio explosion. Low-powered, trail-friendly equipment used to be the norm, but CW POTA spots are becoming rare as many activators have switched to phone.

They can afford that performance hit because many now employ 100-watt equipment in the field. These radio operators are doing it different, they aren’t hiking into the field as much as they are driving in, parking, and operating from their vehicle. This permits the use of higher-powered mobile equipment and antennas that yield better success.

This change in operating style may be a result of perpetually poor band conditions in this extended minimum, or maybe it’s the lack of CW operators available to chase them? In any event, it looks to me like the immediate future for some chunk of the portable trend is more power and less need for battery efficiency, and if that’s the case, low-powered equipment is bound to lose some desirability.

Of course there are still those who hike into the mountains (SOTA) and these will continue carrying featherweight gear and as few batteries as possible. For these, CW will remain the dominant mode, at least until FT8 runs on a smartphone with a Bluetooth link to a trail-friendly radio.

The IC-705 could be a hit with satellite enthusiasts who have long-suffered without commercial portable equipment capable of simultaneous multi-mode operation on VHF and UHF. It isn’t clear to me if the new transceiver includes a satellite mode (transponder tracking) like the IC-9700, but if not, a workaround might quickly emerge.

I’ve no doubt Icom will succeed in some segment of the shifting portable market with this offering, but it’s not clear to me exactly where it will land and what it might displace.

One thing is certain, it won’t be the “KX3 killer” some have prematurely claimed. It’s weight, size, power consumption, and performance on HF+6 meters will disappoint the hiking crowd (by comparison) and I suspect it’s low-power output will disappoint the newest breed of POTA enthusiasts.

It will hit the spot for anyone seeking a portable solution for all-mode VHF/UHF operation that also happens to bring a little HF along for the ride. It feels to me like a product whose price needs to hit a very specific sweet spot in order to succeed.

Unless of course ICOM is keeping a secret. Like maybe the new little transceiver can also be used like the FlexRadio Maestro to remotely control other (modern) ICOM transceivers via Ethernet/WiFi…

New From Elecraft

I already had the AX1 portable antenna for 20 and 17 meters, so it wasn’t a tough decision to order the recently announced AXE1 extender that adds 40 and 30 meters to the portable party with the KX3.

These little antennas aren’t solutions for climbing the DX ladder, but it’s been enough when I just want to plop down at a picnic table and tap out a few contacts without the ordeal of erecting a proper portable antenna. The addition of 30/40 meters will only enhance the fun.

Elecraft has this part figured out well. It’s like the paddle that bolts onto my KX3. It’s no replacement for a Begali Signature, but it’s more than usable for a few hours of field work and much easier to bring along.

The new extender is supposed to ship this week, maybe it will arrive in time for a little field test this coming weekend?

Monday, September 2, 2019

The 245th day of 2019 - 20 days until Autumn…

WEEKEND UPDATE: I took a vacation day from work on Friday turning this three-day Labor Day weekend into an even longer holiday. With the yard work caught up I figured I would enjoy some extra time on the radio. That didn’t work out so well due to weather, both on the ground and in space.

Rain and thunderstorms dominated Friday. By Saturday morning those had moved along but by then the Earth was experiencing a fairly sizable electromagnetic storm that made HF all but unusable for most of the day and that continued until Sunday evening.

By Monday morning I was sorting through the log and see that I made two more POTA contacts, three Colorado QSO Party contacts, and three contacts in the HPM event. I had better luck on Sunday evening in the Tennessee QSO Party where I made a whopping 21 contacts, all via CW and S&P and most of them on 80 meters.

It’s interesting that this Labor Day solar event coincided with the big one, the Carrington Event, a powerful geomagnetic storm during solar cycle 10 triggered by a solar coronal mass ejection that hit Earth’s magnetosphere and induced one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, almost exactly 160 years ago (September 1–2, 1859).

Not sure I want to waste the last day of my holiday hoping for better conditions. I might spend the day catching up on QSLing, the stack has grown to embarrassing proportions. Or maybe just a bit more spelunking thru the logs to find interesting trends and anomalies.

Frankly, almost anything would be better than spending more time listening to static crashes on bands nearly devoid of signals…

Friday, August 30, 2019

ICOM looks prepared to introduce another SDR transceiver, perhaps as early as this weekend. It’s the IC-705 and looks like it’s the modern successor to the IC-703. Best I can tell it’s an all-band, all-mode, QRP transceiver with the touch display like the 7300 and 9700.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the League’s first president and cofounder, Hiram Percy Maxim (HPM), W1AW. HPM was born on September 2, 1869.

As has been done with earlier birthday milestones, ARRL is again holding an operating event to celebrate HPM’s legacy.

Happy 150! The Hiram Percy Maxim Birthday Celebration!

This event is open to all amateurs, and the goal is straightforward: Find stations operating in the event, many adding “/150” to their call signs, and contact as many as possible during the 9-day celebration on each of the event bands (using any/all of the 3 event modes on each band).

The 9-day event begins 0000 UTC August 31 and runs until 2359 UTC September 8, 2019.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Amateur Radio resources organized this week as Hurricane Dorian threatened Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and worked its way through the Caribbean. A change in direction spared Puerto Rico — still recovering from hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 — from taking a direct hit; the Virgin Islands suffered downed trees and widespread power outages.

In an effort to more effectively address HF digital technology issues, ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, has reactivated the ARRL Board of Directors’ HF Band Planning Committee. The six-member panel, chaired by First Vice President Greg Widin, K0GW, will primarily focus on spectrum allocation issues that have gained increased visibility with discussions on accommodating automatically controlled digital stations (ACDS) — many employing Winlink email. The committee will also discuss operating frequencies for FT4, FT8, and other digital modes.

ZK3A Tokelau Islands DXpedition 2019, 1st October - 11th October 2019 - IOTA OC-048. The ZK3A team will be on all 3 of Islands in Tokelau. Fakaofo, Nukunonu & Atafu. The Amateur Radio Club in Tokelau will have callsigns for each of these islands, ZK3RF, ZK3RN & ZK3RA.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

With autumn looming large in the viewfinder, it’s time to get busy with the outdoor radio projects. This includes replacing the existing antenna with something new. Since my station is currently built around an IC-7610 running 100 watts, and I’m partial to wire antennas, I’ve decided to install an Inverted-L for the coming season.

I’ve had good success with the Inverted-L in days gone by and since it will be paired with Icom’s AH-4 antenna tuner and a decent ground system, I have high expectations for good results across multiple bands.

The plan is to install a new 40-foot mast at the end of the house near the radio shack. The vertical component of the new antenna will be roughly 40-feet tall with the horizontal portion extending about 80-feet. It’s not quite as long as I’d like but it’s the best I can squeeze onto my lot.

I spoke with a helpful fellow at DX Engineering a few days ago and explained to him what I was after and he suggested I look into the Rohn H50, a 44-foot galvanized push-up mast that was precisely what I was after. I’ll guy it at 25-30 feet after attaching it to the side of the house. The antenna wire will run directly to the tuner mounted in the shack on the outside wall.

Whole lot to do and time is growing short to get it done…

Monday, August 26, 2019

I’m a casual radio enthusiast but I do keep track of the total number of contacts made each year as one metric of my activity. In each of the last three years I’ve averaged over 100 contacts per month. So far this year I’m lagging those numbers by about 30 percent.

Band conditions have worsened but that’s not the root cause for this decline. My abandonment of FT8 this year accounts for most of that dip.

In addition, I skipped Field Day which usually adds 100-150 contacts to the log. This leaves me behind my goal for the year though there remains plenty of contests and other on-air activities before 2019 closes. I still expect this year to eclipse the last several in total contacts logged, but it’s going to require more time in the chair to make it happen.

Less activity and poor band conditions are to blame for my having only worked 32 DX entities so far in 2019. I’ve been averaging more than 60 a year for the last five years. Given where we are in the Solar Cycle, I don’t expect to come close to my recent average for DX worked.

Friday, August 23, 2019

VE5SDH (SK) Key Collection for Sale

“Summer Hartzfeld, VE5SDH, SKCC #11155, became a silent key last summer after losing her battle with cancer. In the short time she was licensed, Summer became a very proficient CW operator, made many friends on the air, and gathered an impressive collection of code keys. One of her final requests was that her key collection be sold and the proceeds donated to the First Class CW Operator’s Club (FOC) of England”.

A list of the keys with prices, a link to an on-line photo album, and purchase instructions may be viewed here.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

This week has so far been a bust for me on the radio. Thunderstorms day and night have kept my feedline disconnected all week. I hope we get a break from that pattern soon but whether it happens this week or another is of little consequence. The early signs of Autumn are visible everywhere now and it will soon bring welcome relief from the heat and frequent storms.

One of the local radio hams contacted me last night to see if I had any interest in joining a new weekly 6-meter AM net. I told them I was interested and would check-in whenever it commences. I recall fondly the old 6M AM nets from days gone by and look forward to re-living those days without the TVI woes we used to “enjoy”. I mentioned it on Twitter and received many replies from those who participate in such nets. I guess reports of the death of 6-meter AM weren’t completely accurate…

I received a small handful of these very nice CW OP (lapel) pins in the mail today. Look at the QRZ listing for K8KIZ if you’re interested in ordering one or more for yourself. I have no financial interest in this product, I’m just a happy customer.

Here’s hoping the weekend brings better weather, and a little propagation!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Beverage Antenna: Maintenance, problem detection and isolation

How do you detect problems with your Beverage wire antennas? Is a wire down? How do you know without walking the lines in the field? Where is the break in my feed-line? Using the antenna analyzer and saving antenna sweep and TDR files, you can evaluate the status of your Beverage wires and pinpoint exactly where a coax line has failed from the comfort of your shack.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Prolific ham radio blogger Rich Holoch, KY6R has set off on another quest - working 300 DX entities using just five watts. His latest project and new blog name is The Free Range QRP DXer.

Rich’s writing comes at you like an open firehose but it’s loaded with information worth sharing.

Upcoming State QSO Parties:

The August 2019 edition of SOLID COPY - The CW Operators Club Newsletter is available for free download and features an article about the Club’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration.

In a small room stacked to the ceiling with books, radio technology and eclectic interests in a house in Avon Lake, a series of dits and dahs regularly are sent out for the rest of the world to hear via ham radio. Chet Roberts (K8KIZ), owner of ANCR Sundials, has continued to pursue his radio hobby that he picked up in high school.”

Department of Defense Message Prompts Listeners to Take WWV/WWVH Survey - Through Saturday, August 24, WWV and WWVH will transmit a US Department of Defense (DOD) message in conjunction with the COMEX 19-3 interoperability exercise in Tennessee. The broadcast also urges listeners to complete a survey on WWV/WWVH listenership and listening habits.

Monday, August 19, 2019

I visited Denver last week. I was booked to return home on Friday morning but a dense fog rolled over DIA delaying my departure. Not once, but three times and then they canceled the flight altogether. Many of the planes coming to Denver had to be diverted causing more headaches. With few options, and none of them good, I unexpectedly spent Friday night in Colorado (without my luggage!) and caught the first available flight back to Indiana on Saturday.

Weekend Update: Arriving home much later than expected left me with less than an hour to play in the NAQP SSB. Not much was missed since thundrstorms had been rumbling through here all day and the bands were noisy and unproductive. I managed a mere fifteen contacts and that adventure was over.

Another powerful storm crashed the area at 3am Sunday morning knocking out power for a few hours. When I awoke, power was restored and the skies were clear, but the bands were still plenty noisy. Made it tough to listen to the DX-60 Net who meet on 3880 kilocycles on Sunday mornings.

Sunday afternoon I managed to work a couple of SKCC members including Bert, F6HKA on 17 meters and John, W1TAG in Maine on both 15 and 10 meters.

Then I jumped into the Skeeter Hunt from home and running 5 watts from the KX3 and made two skeeter contacts (N0SS and N9AW) but then the thunder rolled again and I pulled the plug ending my shortened weekend of radio, after finishing all the log submissions.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Weekend Update: Friday evening I enjoyed a very nice chat with WA5CAV. Dick was in Louisiana using a homebrewed, rock-bound transmitter running about 60 watts from a couple of 807’s into a G5RV. He was using a Hallicrafters SX-122 for the receiver. I was using the KX3 at 10 watts and though we enjoyed a long chat, we could have gone longer. No QSB, QRM, or QRN. Just rock solid copy both ways, a real joy.

We spent most of Saturday on the run and working in the yard though I did manage to bag a few more POTA stations.

I didn’t jump into the SKCC Weekend Sprint until Sunday morning and then for only a few minutes. I logged just five contacts though one of those was with Steve, VK7CW in Tasmania. I have him in the log many times but it’s always a treat to work that path on 40 CW using low-power and wire antennas and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The ARRL has taken a stand against automated QSOs in Contests and DXing (during the July Board meeting). It’s not difficult to imagine that the technology to do this already exists, however, it’s a bit much to swallow that anyone would actually want to use it in a radio contest or in pursuit of DXCC awards.

Given that the point of these pursuits are for pleasure, it’s a hobby for crying out loud. Why would anyone assemble a ham radio station in such a way that would put the operator out of a job?

Hey! Here’s a thought. Since we can’t use automation perhaps that work could be outsourced to some low-wage worker in another country? Hire them to operate your station remotely so “you” could be chasing a DXpedition while playing golf or piling up “your” big contest score while at the same time taking a Zumba class (wink-wink).

In fact, why not just outsource the entire hobby and then we all could paper our shacks with lots of operating awards and kudos while never having to personally make contact with another radio amateur?

That the ARRL even has to clarify its position on unattended station operation for award credit is a sad commentary on the voracious appetite for “winning” of some in the fraternity who have clearly lost their way and their minds…

Thursday, August 8, 2019

I was working in the shack yesterday with the radio on but listening to a comatose 40 meter band. There was absolutely nothing to be seen or heard for hours on end. Then suddenly at 1900z the hills came alive with the sounds of CW. It was the CWT or CW Test which is apparently an hour long sprint conducted every Wednesday.

I’m rarely ever home on a Wednesday afternoon, and not being a member of CWops, I had no clue. I checked their site to figure out what was going on and saw that the exchange for non-members was name and SPC.

I waded in and reeled off five contacts in short order. Had I been better prepared, it would have been easy to work 20-30 as there was a lot of activity and signals on the “dead” band were surprisingly strong. But the event was nearly over by the time I figured out what was going on and the moment the CWT ended, the band “died” again.

I really figured that would conclude all radio activity for me yesterday but later in the evening, with absolutely nothing worth watching on television, I wandered back in the shack and this time fired up the KX3. Tuned across a fat CQ from a station in Arizona at 7.033 and was about to reply when someone beat me to it.

I stayed on frequency and listened to that QSO then tail-ended the Tucson station. Enjoyed a nice QSO with Alan, AC2K while burning just ten watts up the ladder line. And another propagation surprise, the band held up for our entire QSO.

I have yet to figure out the rules for life at the very bottom. One minute the band is devoid of signals, the next it’s jumping. Often when it does work the rapid fading makes for only brief contacts. Nearby stations normally worked can’t be heard while those thousands of miles away pound into the shack.

Fans of radio feast and famine are probably enjoying this journey thru the Modern Maunder…

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Seems silly that I had to take my server down for more than twelve hours adding security measures because one bad actor was attempting to hijack my domain. Sorry for the interruption. - ke9v

Today is the last full day for the CY9C St. Paul Island operation. They plan to shut it down around 1300z on August 8th. I hadn’t spent much time trying to work them since I didn’t need it, but two nights ago I heard them well on 40 meters and made a few calls with no luck. Then yesterday morning I was up early, about 5am local time.

I turned the rig on, still parked at 7.025 where they had been the night before and they were calling CQ for several minutes with absolutely no takers which is hard to imagine. Got them with one call and our contact appeared a few seconds later in their Club Log.

You gotta love the instant, online, electronic logging when you can get it! Though I don’t need their paper card, I left a small donation via their Web site because I do appreciate their effort and expenses in mounting this operation.

I suppose sometimes the early bird does get the worm…

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The CY9C DXpedition to St. Paul Island is humming along nicely with over 84,000 contacts in the log as of this morning. Given band conditions, that’s pretty amazing. With only a couple of days left to go, now is the time to work them if you haven’t already. And don’t forget to drop them a donation. It’s easy enough to do.

The August edition of the NAQCC newsletter is now available for download.

The FCC is seeking to hire an electronics engineer for a full-time, permanent position at the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau, Office of Field Director in Columbia, Maryland.

An updated TQSL file has been released (Aug 5th). Changed in this release in the Satellite enumeration, added entries for:

  • BO-102 — BIT Progress-OSCAR 102 (CAS-7B/BP-1B)
  • NO-103 — Navy-OSCAR 103 (BRICSAT 2)
  • NO-104 — Navy-OSCAR 104 (PSAT 2)

Club Log Weekly DX Report. Spoiler alert, 62% of all uploads were for FT8, amateur radio’s most popular mode.

An APRS amateur radio balloon, callsign NA1WJ-5, was launched from the World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia and floated across the Atlantic Ocean.

Fifty years ago, Vic Jackson got into a lively debate with his boss about just how small a boat you could take to cross one of the Great Lakes. What came next is the stuff of legend. On a $5 bet, Jackson declared he could cross Lake Michigan in a bathtub…

Monday, August 5, 2019

Weekend Update: The bands weren’t in nearly as good a shape for the NAQP CW as they were for the RTTY contest a few weekends ago. When the event got underway I loitered a bit on 10 & 15 meters hoping for a repeat but while I heard a few signals in the noise, I didn’t work a soul there and wasted thirty minutes in the effort.

Things were only a little better on 20 so I didn’t spend much time there before deciding to wait on darkness and 40 meters. It was entirely a search & pounce, single-op effort, using the IC-7610 at one hundred watts with the wire antenna. Logging was done by hand.

Nuttin’ fancy here.

Once the sun went down and the stars came out, 40 started coming to life and things moved a little better. Two hours there and another hour on 80 meters and I was ready to toss in the towel and hit the rack.

My claimed score was paltry but I had a good time once things started popping a little on 40. There were a few interesting contacts. One was with Bill, N0AC who was operating mobile from Wyoming. Another was working Ward Silver, N0AX, an active contester and no real surprise except it still feels like a brush with ham radio celebrity.

It’s always enjoyable to spend a few hours in the chair and see what magic can be coaxed from the aether. It’s just a lot more effort these days, like trying to go in through the out door…

Friday, August 2, 2019

On air activities at KE9V have been a lot more relaxed since removing the computer from the shack. I really don’t miss the constant interruptions from social media, email hitting the inbox, or any of the thousand other distractions that intrude on my radio time.

To be certain it’s not for everyone, I log and take notes by hand.

But that’s no different than the way I operated when I was a Novice and Bill Gates was just another snot-nosed rich kid who hadn’t yet invented a damn thing. And I recall ham radio being a whole lot of fun without all that falderol in 1977 - and what do you know, it’s no less fun in 2019 without it too.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The 213th day of 2019 - 52 days until Autumn…

“Ragchewing by CW is a pastime that has been enjoyed since telegraph operators surreptitiously used idle time on their wires to share jokes, scuttlebutt, and build friendships (and romances) by telegraphy. For us hams, with the airwaves at our disposal but with no commercial traffic to get in the way of recreation, the joy of conversing freely with another operator using only the paddles endures as a unique form of communication that must be experienced to be appreciated.”

So begins the excellent treatise, RAGCHEWING 101 by John Silzel, N6HCN writing for Solid Copy, The CW Operators Newsletter. Radio hams have got the “quantity” down pretty good. Among us are legions who have become proficient at reeling off a thousand “contacts” in one good week.

But when it comes to a quality exchange of thoughts and ideas that go beyond QTH and weather, we more often than not miss the mark entirely. How great would it be if we all had a long list of call signs of true conversationalists to enhance the community of radio telegraphers?

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

An instrument failure on the helicopter that was scheduled to fly on July 29 from New York to Nova Scotia could delay the full operational setup of the CY9C St. Paul Island DXpedition.

“However, every effort will be to begin operations as soon as possible, perhaps with a partial setup on Wednesday,” Randy Rowe, N0TG, said.

Three vehicles loaded with equipment and supplies departed from different locations on their way to Dingwall, Nova Scotia, the staging area for helicopter transport to St. Paul Island.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The CW edition of the North American QSO Party takes place this weekend. 1800Z, Aug 3rd to 0559Z, Aug 4th. Easy exchange, 100W max, work anyone, operate 10 of 12 hours. See the complete rules including scoring and log submission information before wading in.

And if CW is not your thing, this weekend is also the 10-10 International Summer Phone Contest. Check the rules and good luck in the contest!

Seven of the 2016 CY9C DXpedtion Team will be returning to St Paul Island and operating July 31st to August 8th. All who donate in advance and work the operation will be sent a QSL card automatically….no additional action required.

ARRL is seeking a Development Manager for full-time employment at ARRL Headquarters in Newington, Connecticut. The Development Manager is responsible for the development and implementation of strategic plans to maximize funding from donors for the organization through creative and effective campaign management and relationship building.

When Linus Torvalds first created Linux in 1991, he built it on a 386-powered PC with a floppy drive. Things change. In 2012, Torvalds bid the i386 processor adieu saying, “I’m not sentimental. Good riddance.” Now, it’s the floppy drive’s turn to bid Linux adieu.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Weekend Update: It was a slow weekend on the radio. Wasn’t in the mood for the RSGB IOTA contest and given that conditions were just fair to poor, I don’t think I missed too much. I don’t track with IOTA even though I know it’s become more popular as some DXers have nothing to work until someone gets on a boat and goes somewhere so they’re filling their time with 6 meter FT8 and IOTA.

I did work ten more POTA stations which brought my total up for the year to nearly 40. Still pretty weak but bagging a hundred by year-end seems possible. And once we get into Fall weather, I plan to participate from the field as an activator instead of staying home and working as a hunter.

Half of the contacts made this weekend were CW and the other half phone. If I had to make a totally unscientific guess I’d say that more than half of the activators use phone only. Nothing wrong with that except the rule has generally been that since CW has some weak signal advantages for puny stations, you’d think CW would dominate in this field.

I guess that’s more a SOTA thing than a POTA thing. Park operators can drive in with a boatload of gear and easily use 100 watts where someone hiking up a summit is probably more inclined to take lightweight, low-powered gear where CW does indeed enjoy an advantage over phone.

While tuning around on 20 CW on Saturday morning I did happen to tune across VY2TT on Prince Edward Island and since he didn’t seem to be in the contest I gave him a quick call.

I’ve worked him a few times before and couldn’t help but notice his PEI DX Lodge that he visits multiple times each year - but he also rents it out. Hmmm. Maybe next year for vacation…

On Sunday I spun the dial in search of a few Bumblebees. Again, I wasn’t in the field (and won’t be until Autumn) but was happy to hand out a few contacts for those who were.

I used the IC-7610 dialed down to five watts. Okay, the logging software showed 5.1 watts but that was as low as I could get it to go. I worked six stations over the course of a very lazy hour:


It feels odd to hear N0SS on the air again. Tom Hammond became a Silent Key in 2011 and now his is the memorial call sign of the Mid-Mo Amateur Radio Club located in Jefferson City, Missouri where Tom was a longtime member.