Friday, March 23, 2018

KF7IJZ tweeted this morning that he was taking a long drive to a weekend tech conference and would be monitoring the Bay-Net talk group during his journey. Jeremy is the host of the popular Ham Radio Workbench podcast and produces interesting videos. We chatted a few times during his trip and as he was a captive audience, it was nice to catch up with him.

Site News: New posts now appear daily, Monday thru Friday.

The lead story in the latest edition of THE GRAY LINE REPORT is ‘Implementing a High Performance, Low Cost SDR Into Your Station’ by Kirk Pengelly, NØKK.

LoTW has been struggling the last 24 hours. Maintenance is scheduled for Monday but that might have to happen before then.

Everyone else is doing it so I did it too.

From a box of radio parts, Digi-Key grew into a $2.3 billion anchor of northwest Minnesota

“Now 74, Ron Stordahl, a ham radio operator (AE5E), created a digital key that improved the transmission of Morse code. After successfully selling his “Digi-Keyer Kit” to other ham operators, he branched off into the electronic components business in 1972. His brainstorm was selling parts in any quantity, no matter how small. Other suppliers sold only in bulk. But if you needed a single transistor or capacitor, Stordahl would ship it”.

How Low Can We Go?

Since I was home last night, I popped on 40 meters hoping for a single contact with another SKCC operator in Iowa as I recently discovered I only need that for SKCC WAS. That wasn’t to be last night though I did make several contacts. All of them except one on 80 meters.

More proof, as if any more were needed, that this solar cycle is driving us to lower and lower frequencies.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Handling QSL cards has always required some cost and a lot of effort. And for what, so that you and I can “prove” to a third party that we did what we said we did?

I’ve always believed that meme about the “final courtesy of a QSO is a QSL card” was concocted by some ham, who was probably also a postal worker, attempting to guilt the rest of us into funding his retirement.

When LoTW came along the process became so much easier that I got fully onboard. A few years later, I decided the time had come to terminate my use of printed cards and announced as much on my QRZ bio. I confirm all contacts via LoTW - no other electronic service, and no printed cards.

I still believe that’s the common sense approach even though LoTW adoption remains relatively low. The only thing certain about postal rates is that they will continue to rise. Will you still exchange postal QSL’s when it costs five dollars per card? Ten dollars? Where do you draw the line?

And beyond the cost and the effort, what am I to do with the thousands of cards that have arrived here over the last forty-two years? They currently occupy space in several large plastic bins but only until I get the gumption to take them to the landfill.

That’s been my thoughts about the chore of QSLing until a few days ago…

I was trolling around the old 40 meter Novice portion of the bands a few nights ago when I replied to a CQ from WD4NKA. Gary was in Florida and after our chat I looked him up online. Interesting fellow with some very interesting old hardware.

And something else. Gary runs a small artisan Letterpress Print Shop. Invitations, announcements, that sort of thing. Oh, and he designs and prints 1920’s era QSL cards too.

I watched his short video detailing the laborious process of handcrafting QSL cards the old-fashioned way and I was hooked.

Suddenly, I have an appreciation for the value of quality printing work. And while I still have no interest in exchanging “cheap” post cards for mass contacts, I understand the value in sharing handmade memorabilia from a personal radio contact.

I’ve rescinded my policy and will resume exchanging printed QSL cards. And I’m ordering custom cards from Gary. They aren’t cheap, but I wouldn’t buy them if they were. I value quality craftsmanship and am willing to pay for it.

I’ll still use LoTW for each and every contact and I won’t send paper for low-value contacts like sprints and contests.

But I’ll be happy to commemorate a good CW QSO with a high quality, handcrafted, printed QSL card. No SASE required.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

An update from Scott Miller, N1VT on the Argent Tracker4:

It’s close to being ready for production. It’s been on the back burner for a while with the ADS-SR2 repeater taking up so much development time but the T3 has been unavailable for a while since we ran out of enclosures and the T4 is far enough along that I’m moving it up rather than ordering more parts for the aging T3.

The most obvious change with the T4 is WiFi support.  It still has USB and the command shell has been improved, but the easiest way to configure it is with a web browser.  It has a responsive web interface that works well on a desktop, tablet, or smart phone. It’ll also act as a standalone IGate, and the shell is accessible via telnet.

Instead of the T3’s primitive scripting system, it has a complete BASIC interpreter with some APRS-specific functions to make it easy to automate actions.  This part’s still under development, but it’s already a whole lot more flexible and easier to use than the T3’s scripting.

It’ll still support Dallas 1-wire for sensors, but it adds Modbus RTU over RS-485. 1-wire has never done well for long cable runs and doesn’t tolerate noise very well, but RS-485 is reliable over thousands of feet and in noisy environments. Modbus RTU has been around for decades and is supported by all sorts of sensors and I/O devices.  I’ve been testing everything from < $10 quad relay boards from China to $400 intrinsically safe industrial I/O modules and assorted temperature, pressure, and humidity sensors.  The BASIC interpreter has access to Modbus and does floating point math so transforming sensor data is easy.

I’m planning to add the ability to upload weather data to Weather Underground directly, but that’s not done yet.  It’ll also have a basic weather display in the web interface.

It has only one external RS-232 port versus two on the T3, but it adds an internal GPS receiver with SMA antenna connector and includes a GPS antenna so most users won’t need to connect any serial devices.  It has 32 MB of internal flash memory that can be used for local data logging, and a battery-backed real-time clock that can be automatically synced to the GPS time and/or NTP.

Physically it’s about 1/4” larger than the OT3m in all dimensions, with a flanged aluminum case that’s easier to mount to a surface. I expect we’ll have more compact versions to replace the T3-Mini and T3-Micro eventually but those are going to have to wait until late in the year.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ham radio podcasts suffer the same attrition as all other podcasts. Almost all of them close shop after only a few episodes. You can count on one hand those ham radio programs that survived their first year with regular production.

I think podcasting is over-hyped and that some producers make it seem so easy that a lot of people assume they are up to the task.

Most are not.

It can be grueling work with little or no financial pay-off. All podcasts begin with a load of enthusiasm that quickly runs out when it’s realized that listeners are staying away by the billions and the six hours a week it usually takes to crank out something decent begins to feel like hard work.

One ham radio podcast that has defied those odds is SolderSmoke, produced by Bill Meara, M0HBR (N2CQR) along with Pete Juliano, N6QW. Unlike the others, this one just keeps going and going. I began listening when it first launched in 2004 or 2005.

In the beginning, Meara was in London and his co-host, Mike, KL7R was in Alaska and the program was pitched as “tech talk between two radio amateurs”.

Tragedy struck early in 2008 when KL7R was killed in an accident. I stuck around for many episodes after that to see how Mike would make the transition from tech-talk between two buddies to a single host. He did a good job and has continued to crank out programs ever since.

For some reason, the program fell off my podcast radar at some point and I quit listening. I knew that it had continued to be produced despite my absence, but I managed to avoid it. Then I subscribed again last week and listened to the latest SolderSmoke program.

It was the same show, same Bill, and still very good.

There are obvious reasons why this program has avoided fading. First, Bill is a good communicator who is obviously passionate about sharing his unique spin on the hobby. He’s also diligent about publishing show notes and maintaining his Web site and feeds.

But perhaps most of all, he never fell into the trap of publishing too often. He claims the program is produced “once or twice a month” but in reality it’s more like once every five or six weeks. And that seems about right for a one-hour podcast. It gives me a chance to fit listening to it into my schedule. Too often two-hour (or longer!) programs are produced weekly and I fall so far behind that I can’t catch up and end up unsubscribing.

Once a month just feels right. I can keep up with the latest programs and I actually end up missing it while waiting for the next one to hit the Web.

Keeping listeners wanting more should be the golden rule of podcasting.

Monday, March 19, 2018

It was an exceptionally nice week off work. We took a short trip down south early in the week and was back home by Friday. If you’re curious about our road trip, here are a few clues about what we did.

The weather on Saturday included freezing rain which made it perfect weather to spend time in the shack. And this weekend, the bands didn’t completely disappoint. Mind you, the bands are not at all in “good” shape, but they were tolerable and that was enough to keep me occupied.

POTA, SOTA, and the Virginia QSO Party all helped fill my log. Then later on Saturday evening I plugged in the straight key and spent time with my SKCC friends.

Sunday morning was more SKCC fun, including working F5UQE and F6HKA back-to-back on 20 CW. All with five watts to the wire antenna.

After that, I cooked dinner and enjoyed the company of our daughter and three-week old granddaughter before we settled down to watch a Winnipeg Jets hockey game Sunday evening.

A very nice week and weekend and despite the fact that I’ll be back to work by the time you read this, I’m sure the memories will last until at least our next break from work and a road trip to Branson, Missouri for the OzarkCon QRP Convention in April.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A lot of words were expended in this week’s ARRL Letter defending their decision to petition the FCC to add privileges the Technician Class license.

“ARRL has asked the FCC to expand HF privileges for the entry-level Technician license to include limited phone privileges on 75, 40, and 15 meters, plus RTTY and digital mode privileges on 80, 40, and 15 meters, where Technicians already have CW privileges. ARRL believes the additional digital privileges will attract younger people to Amateur Radio.”

I’m not sure I follow the logic. Technicians already have some HF privileges but are still finding the hobby uninteresting. Somehow adding certain HF phone and digital privileges will cause them to take a deeper interest? I haven’t taken a test in decades but is there a significant degree of difficulty difference between the current General and Technician class license tests?

This seems a lot more likely to kill the General class license than to enhance the Technician license if it works like the ARRL suggests. Tech’s who have become bored with amateur radio will get new privileges with even less reason to upgrade. But apparently, Tech’s don’t often upgrade anyway:

“The 378,000 Technician licensees comprise more than half of the US Amateur Radio population, yet the Technician-class license no longer serves its original purpose from 18 years ago. Many Technicians do not participate actively, pursue on-air and public service opportunities, renew their licenses, or upgrade. An uncomfortably large attrition rate exists among Technician licensees. Technician licenses are not upgrading, because they don’t find their operating privileges interesting enough to keep them in the hobby.”

Having enjoyed all US amateur privileges for decades I don’t really have a dog in this hunt and I’m not against Technicians gaining more operating privileges but I doubt this will alter the trajectory of amateur radio licensing.

If I’m wrong and it does work as planned, it will reinforce the notion that the only thing that can be done to generate interest in the hobby is to continue giving away privileges until, eventually, everyone has the same privileges. Then what? What do you do to get people interested in our hobby once you’ve given everyone all the trump cards?

Because whatever that is, we should be doing that right now instead of kicking the can down the road for the next generation to figure out…

Thursday, March 15, 2018

According to QRP Labs, the number of QCX monoband 5W CW transceiver kits sold has passed the 4,000 mark.

The QCX transceiver is a single-band 5W CW transceiver kit, with WSPR beacon and built-in alignment/test equipment. Available for 80, 60, 40, 30, 20 or 17m bands. It has rotary encoder synthesised tuning, VFO A/B/Split, Iambic keyer, CW decoder, and more. $49 US but does not include an enclosure.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

My 2018 Novice Rig Roundup (NRR) Highlights

“Well this year’s NRR has come and gone, providing a full nine days of CW fun for those of us that love old radios.”

Steve, VE7SL has compiled a blog post of classic stations that were active in the event and it’s a virtual journey down memory-lane. Enjoy the photos and station descriptions and try not to drool all over Steve’s site.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mt. Airy VHF Radio Club Now Streaming Meetings Online

“Packrats who can’t attend a meeting at Ben Wilson Senior Center may now be able to view our meetings live. Phil K3TUF set up a Facebook group and configured a dedicated laptop for the club to use to broadcast meetings live. Search for “Mt Airy VHF Radio Club” on Facebook”.

Here’s another good use for social media. Live streaming a monthly club meeting. While I’m no fan of Facebook, I figure any port in a storm. And it’s a nice touch for members who can’t attend. The first couple of meetings experienced some technical difficulties, but the process is continually improving and this is something any local radio club could easily duplicate.

Monday, March 12, 2018

“I’ve been finding 40 meters to be terrible the past couple weeks” - was the email reply I received this morning from a friend in reply to my asking him how he was enjoying his new KX2.

Now, permit me to whine. My work takes me away from home frequently. That narrows my window of opportunity for HF activity mostly to Saturday and Sunday’s. I woke early on Saturday for this very purpose but tuning from one end of the 40 meter band to the other yielded zilch, nada.

Turned the radio off and got on with life. That might become my new motto. Given how much ham radio activity doesn’t take place on HF these days, I’m once again thinking about abandoning the short waves and moving on.

Good Reads

The Gray Line Report - March 2018 edition from the Twin Cities DX Association.

Cheese Bits - March 2018 newsletter from the Mt. Airy VHF Radio Club.

Orbiting astronaut talks life in space with San Bruno students via ham radio

And finally, this guy is my new messiah…

Friday, March 9, 2018

Finally. Friday. I’m going on vacation next week so of course this week dragged by slowly. But we made it and there’s a lot of radio happening this weekend.

The Oklahoma QSO Party, Idaho QSO Party, QCWA QSO Party, Wisconsin QSO Party, SKCC WES plus the Stew Perry Topband Challenge to name just a few.

And if your thing is satellites look for WD9EWK from the field:

“AMSAT will be assisting the University of Arizona Amateur Radio Club (K7UAZ) at their booth for the ScienceCity science fair, on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson on Saturday and Sunday (10-11March 2018). The science fair will be on the mall along University Blvd., west of Campbell Avenue, in conjunction with the Tucson Festival of Books which is also taking place on the UofA campus this weekend”.

Lots more about this operation here.

And here in most of the US, Daylight Saving Time will begin on March 11th. Change your clocks AND your smoke detector batteries, QSL?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Setting up a Raspberry Pi running Raspbian Stretch or Jessie

“This document is intended for new users to both Raspberry Pi SBC computers and the Raspbian based Linux operating system. This doc will help the user create a reliable device that operates as an AX.25 / APRS packet radio system with GPS support. This guide is focused around the Raspbian Linux distribution, specifically the “Stretch” or 9.0 version. This document also covers the previous Jessie version of Raspian which both of these versions use the new SystemD method of configuration. This document includes SD card hardening with a relatively secured configration for general connection to the Internet. It’s also directly manageable via Wifi via say a smartphone/tablet for off-Internet maintinace as well”.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Dave Benson, K1SWL is the former proprietor of Small Wonder Labs. He has designed some of the most popular QRP kits ever offered. When he retired a few years ago, he closed the door on the Labs for good.

Dave continues to be involved in the QRP community and has been hitting the woods with some custom made trail-friendly radios. Recent reports and photos on his QRZ bio have created a buzz among kit-building enthusiasts, especially this one:

“My most recent project is a 20M CW rig intended for Summits on the Air (SOTA) later this year.  It puts out 3 watts and weighs a little over 6 ounces (180g). Audio-morse frequency readout, RIT and an ‘on-the-fly’ CW speed control.  A single 2.3 x 4.0” board includes an Arduino Nano and an Si5351 (DDS) breakout board as well as the Rx/Tx components.  It’ll be powered by an 11.1V LiPo battery (4 ounces) in the field. I’ve had it on the air since February and have worked 57 countries with it so far.”

Then yesterday the Four State QRP Group published the March edition of its monthly newsletter, the Ozark QRP Banner, that included photos and descriptions of several new QRP kits that will make an appearance at the OzarkCon QRP Conference next month.

One of them, “the Hilltopper”, is a 20 meter transceiver co-designed by Dave Benson, K1SWL and David Cripe, NM0S.

I’m glad I made plans to attend months ago and hope to walk away with a few new QRP kits to keep the solder melting.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

SKCC members have a variety of free software to help them with the book keeping chores associated with logging and tracking many of the operating awards that can be earned.

One of those is SKCCLogger written by Ron Bower, AC2C. Ron recently released versions of his popular Windows application for Mac OS X and Linux. While it’s early days with considerable work to go before these are as solid as the native Windows version, it’s always nice to have options.

And if you’re looking for community support for SKCCLogger, take a look here.

Monday, March 5, 2018

John Shannon, K3WWP has surpassed the five year mark of making at least one DX contact using QRP CW and his wire antenna each day. And that’s in addition to his even more remarkable QRP CW contact-a-day streak that’s been going on without fail since 1994.

The March edition of the Straight Key Century Club publication ‘Rag Chew’ is now available for download.

FLASHBACK: Wayne Green Has Left the Building

Wayne Green passed away this morning in a peaceful, painless transition from this life on Earth. An eternal optimist, and one who loved to share his never ending zest for life, he was a friend to many and will be missed greatly. Wayne was not afraid of dying and was very much ready to embark on his next great adventure to the afterlife.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The power went off here at 1:00am the result of a car crash in the area. It was off for nearly eight hours and by the time power was restored and we got the day rolling, half of it was gone.

As usual, the DX Contest (phone) created favorable propagation where none had existed before. Pile-ups on 15 and even 10 meters were copied here but I had no interest and avoided the scrum.

Sometime before lunch I visited the SOTAwatch page and saw a few operators that I was able to copy. I first worked N4SFR on W4A/VR-002 on 40 meters and worked him.

A few minutes later I saw W2EMA was operating phone on 40 from W0D/NW-051. Since I have never even tried phone with the new KX3, it took a minute to locate the microphone and give him a call. I was surprised that he heard me given that I was using purely stock settings and five watts. With him in the log, I managed one more — W5ODS operating from W5O/OU-021.

My totals as a chaser aren’t impressive but I’m still a newbie at SOTA and as much as I enjoy working these stations, I enjoy even more reading about their operations and seeing the photos the next day on Facebook.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

I resigned from the ARRL Public Relations Committee this week. I would have preferred to remain in that role for another year because I believe it’s important. But having missed the last few meetings due to my chaotic work schedule it became obvious that I don’t have enough spare time to devote to it.

It’s just another example why amateur radio is a great avocation for retired people, but less than perfect for those still in the workforce.

Since the earliest days there has always been considerable hand-wringing and perpetual worry about “getting younger people into the hobby” and that obsession continues to this very day.

It’s the perpetual problem that ham radio has never been able to resolve and it never will. When we will accept, and embrace, that ham radio is a hobby best suited for retired people?

Friday, March 2, 2018

The ARRL has petitioned the FCC for expanded Technician class benefits to include HF voice, RTTY and other digital privileges.

The reason given is that the current growth rate doesn’t support the long-term health of the hobby. It’s certainly a problem but one that almost certainly can’t be fixed by giving Technician class licensees additional operating privileges.

Mind you, I’m not just being stingy in this regard. I would support a single class of license issued without any testing and granting the same privileges for all. But that doesn’t support the current business model for license manuals and “how-to” upgrade books and media which is, and always has been, a small money-making industry unto itself.

It would also undermine local radio clubs. Can you imagine if there were no more need for one-day cram sessions, six-week licensing classes, or Saturday morning testing sessions? Clubs would then either become interesting or close shop.

Since nobody wants that, we will maintain the status quo while slightly tweaking the formula here and there to support the industry of study manuals and the facade of club vitality while we watch the numbers continue to decline.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

March usually brings with it chaotic weather here in the Heartland. “In like a lion, out like a lamb” is the standard wisdom but it’s not uncommon for weather in March to come in like a lion and then stay that way.

Lots of things to do this month beginning with the phone version of the ARRL International DX Contest taking place this weekend. The Novice Rig Roundup also gets underway and runs thru March 11th.

If temperatures remain moderate, I hope to spend more time in the backyard with my hand-shack chasing amateur satellites. I also plan to spend some extra time this month working the straight key as I knuckle down about moving from SKCC Tribune to Senator.

That task is going to take as much or more time sifting my log to find credits and then put them in proper format for submission as it will operating time. I am looking forward to the WES this month as it will be just a plain, simple, sprint with no bonus work.

Happy thoughts of Spring are tempered by that hour of sleep we’re going to lose on the 11th when Daylight Savings Time gets underway again. Driving to work in the pitch dark isn’t worth the extra hour of light at the end of the day if you ask me, but no one ever does.

Around the Ides of March I’ll take some time off work and head south. Brenda and I will be in Nashville to watch the Winnipeg Jets play the Nashville Predators on the 13th. Since we’re staying downtown, we intend to check out the Country Music Hall of Fame and a few other nearby sites before heading further south for a quick family visit in Alabama before returning home.

With several State QSO Parties scheduled for later in the month (OK, ID, WI, VA) there will be no lack of radio activity. Ham radio shakes off from the long winter nap and things begin to warm-up in March in more ways than one…

This month’s journal image (top of page) is cropped from a photo of some old voltmeters that were for sale at the Ft. Wayne hamfest late last year.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February came and went quickly and the pace of radio activities will quicken as we approach a new season. Care will have to be taken with the antennas as we transition into thunderstorm season with all the possibilities for violent weather that this time of year brings to the region. On the plus side, warmer weather means more opportunity to take radio to the field, even if that’s just out in the backyard.

February was a slow month for me on HF. Just 33 new CW contacts were added to the log, about half the number I worked in January. But my total for the year still has me on track for somewhere over 500 CW contacts which is slightly above target for my goal.

One surprise was an ATNO that resulted from the DX contest this month. French Guiana. I had no idea that I had never confirmed this entity and was pleasantly surprised when it created a “hit” in LoTW.

The drop-off in HF activity was not unexpected as the Bouvet disappointment turned my attention back to satellite and digital voice activities.

I sold the TenTec Eagle in February and the HF station is now fully-anchored by the Elecraft KX3 at QRP levels using the same winter-worn dipole at 30 feet. I’m looking forward to a BIG upgrade to the antenna farm here over the next few months.

On to March!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

I’ve been distracted for the last few days while our daughter and her husband had their first child, our fourth grandchild. Baby and mother are back at their home and doing fine.

Having a few days off work, I finally managed to exercise that new Kenwood TH-D74 handheld transceiver that I bought in November. After updating the firmware, I programmed several memory channels, including one for my IRLP node (4212) along with several local repeaters.

I configured D-STAR to work with my openSPOT and spent several hours on REF30C, a friendly spot on the digital voice highway. Next up will be configuring it to work on APRS and see if I can copy packets from the ISS.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

For most of my 40-plus years in the hobby I’ve been an HF enthusiast. I’ve never really been a big fan of repeaters. It’s a different style of operation and one that doesn’t hold much interest for me. But in recent years, I have sampled Digital Voice via D-STAR and DMR and I’ve found these a little more interesting.

These forms of communication don’t really intersect, but I’ve noticed that I regularly use HF for brief data exchanges and when the mood for longer conversation strikes, I pick up one of the DV radios.

This could be the result of perpetually poor band conditions that make rag chewing at HF tougher than it used to be. Or it could be that there are many other ways to communicate that are more appealing than they used to be.

Sprints, contests, state QSO parties, SOTA, POTA, FT8 - you name it, modern HF enthusiasts like to make contacts. Hundreds and thousands of brief contacts. These are short exchanges via the aether, a high-five on the shortwaves, ships passing in the night - and that makes up the majority of activity on the bands these days.

Of course there are naysayers who claim these aren’t personal enough to be “real radio” but these guys are quickly fading away. Their complaints are nothing more than the death rattle of a passing generation.

I think there’s a fundamental shift taking place in front of our eyes.

HF for the adventure of launching radio signals into the unknown to discover what echoes may return, and digital voice via the Internet to reliably stay in touch with like-minded enthusiasts around the planet who share an interest in conversation without the vagaries of propagation.

This combination might well be the new future of amateur radio.

Monday, February 19, 2018

This post about the US Towers ALM-31 crank-up aluminum mast from the Top Band Chordal Hopper blog caught my eye this morning.

I contacted the company to get additional details, including its price and already received a reply.

It’s 31-feet when extended and Rich, KY6R posits it as a smart support for the SteppIR UrbanBeam. It’s an expensive combo, but it would be nice to have a directional antenna for 40-6 meters and it would definitely make it easy to move it to a new QTH.

A very important feature since we’ve got one more move to make before settling into full-time retirement.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Low expectations and little effort resulted in meager results in the ARRL DX CW contest this weekend, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Nothing new and notable in the log this time, it was mostly the usual suspects.

Still, it was a lot more fun that one should expect for five watts, a wire antenna, and manually sent Morse code. All search and pounce and I was only pouncing on the big signals.

I ended up working just 32 stations on 40, 20, and 15 meters, seven of those contacts with stations in Hawaii. If CR3W on Madeira Island confirms our contact that would be an ATNO for me. My log shows I’ve worked six other operators there but none have ever confirmed.

Nearly all replied on the first call but a few sent “AGN” a time or two and I truly appreciate that in the heat of battle, with my peanut whistle no doubt ruining their rate, they stuck with me until the contact was made.

Serious contesters are the very best radiomen that our hobby has to offer and it’s easy to overlook their prowess. These guys and gals are simply the best.

Another Trip Around the Sun

Today is my 59th birthday and I’d like to hang around for a few more.

Some years ago I took up the habit of reading Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ to mark the occasion. It’s message of minimalism resonates deeply and usually brings course corrections in my life. The fact that you’re reading this tells me you’d probably like it too. Download it here.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Saturday, February 17, 2018

I’ll wait until tomorrow to wrap-up my results in the DX contest. There will be very little to report as I’m not making much of an effort. Five watts, wire antenna, manually sent CW. Old-school stuff and when the weekend is over, I won’t have two whole hours in it.

But it’s worth noting that here we are, circling the drain, about to sink into the solar minimum yet there was still a lot of DX worked today. Oh sure, it wasn’t like the good old days, but I’m beginning to believe that instant propagation reporting may be doing the hobby more harm than good.

People see those silly reporting banners that have been slapped onto the side of every ham radio blog, and they see a lousy report and don’t even bother to get on the air. Yet almost every time we have a big contest, HF propagation magically improves. Go figure.

Hope you’re having fun and finding a few keepers for the log this weekend. If nothing else, it’s good to hear the bands alive with the sound of Morse!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Good luck in the contest – this weekend is one of the big ones, the ARRL International DX CW contest. Band conditions being what they have been will no doubt put a damper on the festivities but if you can’t put a handful of DX in the log this weekend you likely never will.

Patrick, WD9EWK is setup and making satellite contacts from the Yuma Hamfest. I’m going to try my best to work him, despite the usual weekend congestion on the FM birds.

If long reads don’t scare you, I’d recommend you grab a cup of something good, kick your shoes off, and enjoy this online article: The White Darkness: A Journey Across Antarctica.

And if you’re looking for a warm fuzzy radio feeling this weekend, be sure to read February at Potter Place. Another trail report from Jim, W1PID who brought along K1SWL and W3ATB to share the adventure and round out the crew. Jim has archived over 200 such operations on his Web site, anyone of which should make you smile.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Nearly five years ago I concluded that it was silly to rent a modem from the cable company on a month by month basis when I could buy my own for less than a hundred bucks. Enough time and technology has passed since then that it’s time for a home network upgrade. I plan to visit the cable company and get their recommended hardware since apparently, I’m unable to get the speed that I pay for.

It’s also time to run some new network cables to a few strategic points around the house so I’ll wrap all of this into one project and get it on the to-do list which means it could take a long time but at least I’ll feel guilty about being behind on the to-do list…

I’ve spent a little more time exploring the RSS feed problem mentioned yesterday. It’s tough to troubleshoot given that my feed reader and browser cache articles so what looks good to me doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. I did get a note from a reader confirming the problem (thanks!) and that’s been a help in figuring out what’s really going on.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I use a static Web site generator called Jekyll to create my site. I had installed it on the production environment which is a Linode running Ubuntu. But I’m in the process of converting to Debian so I migrated my site generator to another machine a few days ago and the transition wasn’t completely smooth.

A configuration error on my part fouled up the RSS for a couple of days and that went unnoticed by me until today. I believe the problem has been solved but I’ll keep an eye on the output for a few days to be certain.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Looks like the mercury will be rising this week. The 10-day forecast looks like a lot of high temps in the 40’s and 50’s which should provide a nice break on the heating bill. It might even afford an opportunity to take a closer look at how the antenna survived the cold weather.

I skipped the SKCC WES last weekend. No point in kicking against the rocks, or fighting for a spot with the RTTY folks. I did manage a nice 30 meter chat with John, KA2VBI who was in New York. Other than that, HF was a total bust so I moved along to greener pastures.

On Sunday evening I happened across a few of the AMSAT heavyweights in a roundtable on D-STAR Reflector 9C.

AMSAT-VP of Engineering Jerry, N0JY, Executive VP Paul, N8HM, Director of Field Operations Patrick, WD9EWK and a few others. The chatter was mostly about the 1.2GHz uplink on AO-92 since the bird had been switched into L/V mode earlier that day.

As you might imagine, the discussion was a cut above the typical ham radio pablum and made me glad to have access to D-STAR.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The DX Engineering order information for the brand new ICOM IC-9700 has been updated. Perhaps this was just wishful thinking or a mistake as it shows the new transceiver as being “in stock” and available to ship today though no price is listed.

All-mode VHF/UHF/1.2GHz in a package without HF. What’s not to like?

I expect the price to be under $1500 US but that’s just a guess. I’d like to know the price. I’d like to know if it supports satellite mode. I’d like to order one. I’m ready. Giddy up!