July 22, 2017

Why Bother Getting an Amateur Radio License?

From the FaradayRF blog:

“Our Amateur Radio and the Maker Community post defined our stance that the future of ham radio is in experimentation and learning. This post builds upon that cornerstone article by outlining why you should even bother getting an amateur radio license…”

July 21, 2017

Sean Kutzko, KX9X has submitted his resignation to the ARRL effective August 4th. He has worked at League Headquarters for ten years, his latest role being that of ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager. Kutzko had joined the ARRL as the Contest Branch Manager in October 2007. An enthusiastic and active radio amateur, he can frequently be found operating in contests and operating from the field - often chasing satellites. In other words, he’s going to be a tough act to follow. Stay tuned…

July 20, 2017

There seems no shortage of interest in FT8, the new digital mode that first appeared only a few weeks ago in a beta release of WJST-X. It’s similar to JT65, with a minimal exchange (callsign, locator, signal report) but with much faster timing. It’s ability to dig out really weak signals will be tested in the coming weeks but a few things stand out.

First, the Daily DX reported that A92AA, OY1DZ, VR2XMT, YE2IJ, TR8CA and YI3WHR had already been spotted using it. If the DXers are onboard with it there’s a good chance it will begin showing up on future Dxpeditions. Maybe even on the Bouvet Island expedition. With band conditions ranging from “not great” to downright “lousy” a mode like FT8 could be a real lifeline for many DX chasers.

Also, I noticed that Koos van den Hout, PE4KH has been using FT8 since it was released and he reported just days later that he had managed to upload those contacts to eQSL. According to him that was “about a week between first seeing mentions of FT8 in radio amateur news and the first confirmed contacts”.

This is moving with amazing speed…

July 19, 2017

Revised FCC Form Will Ask Applicants “the Felony Question”

A revised FCC Form 605 — Quick-Form Application for Authorization in the Ship, Aircraft, Amateur, Restricted and Commercial Operator, and General Mobile Radio Services — going into effect in September will ask all applicants to indicate if they have been convicted of or pled guilty to a felony. The FCC used to ask “the felony question” on the old Form 610 and still does on other applications. It’s now expanding it to Form 605, apparently for uniformity.

July 18, 2017

Virginia Tech expert to study solar eclipse effects on radar, ham radio, GPS

Greg Earle, W4GDE - a professor of electrical engineering, will head up a team of faculty, staff and students to study the effects of the eclipse on things like over-the-horizon radar, amateur radio, and even GPS. “Radio wave propagation is affected by the electrical part of the atmosphere and during the eclipse, we really have the opportunity to collect data and learn more about the impact of these changes on systems we’ve come to rely on,” said Earle.

July 17, 2017

The 97th issue of CALLING CQ - the weekly ham radio newsletter - has been emailed to subscribers. You can grab your own FREE subscription here.

But be advised, Yahoo.com email addresses remain a problem. Yahoo frequently marks mail from TinyLetter as spam triggering automatic unsubscriptions. There is no current workaround other than reading it online.

The weekly letter is available for viewing online 12 hours after the letter is sent via email.

July 16, 2017

TX Factor - Episode 17 (TXF017)

Time for another episode of my favorite amateur radio program. Settle in for about an hour of ham radio goodness from our radio friends in the UK. Visit them on the Web or via their YouTube channel. And don’t forget to support them every chance you get!

TX Factor goes digital as Mike Marsh gives Bob McCreadie an introduction to operating on DMR, Yaesu Fusion and D Star as part of his digital fun. In part one of the series, they take a trip to a local farm to see how an amateur has set up his own Fusion Gateway.

Ever wonder why QSL cards take a long time to complete their journey? Bob finds out what we can do to help speed up he process.

Pete visits Norwich to spend a day with the Norfolk Amateur Radio Club at their annual field day event, Radio Active to discover why they won the coveted prize of RSGB Large Club of The Year.

July 15, 2017

More fun with 100 watts, a wire, and a straight key.

You never know what might turn up when loitering on 40 meters in the early morning. I worked Larry, KJ1RE who had a huge signal from New Hampshire. It was the first time we had worked so a new SKCC number!

That was my 34th contact with someone in that state since I’ve been keeping electronic records. Somehow as a Novice, it felt like NH was a tough one to get (from Indiana) and pretty elusive. Still feels kinda like a “rare” one to me even if the logbook begs to differ.

While working Larry I had an eye on the SKCC sked page and saw that Steve, VK7CW in Tasmania commented on copying me and asked for a call after the QSO with Larry. We had a nice little chew on the rag with surprisingly good signals over the 10,000 mile path.

Having worked New Zealand with some ease last weekend it seems a path to the australs remains in play even without the assistance of spaceweather.

July 14, 2017


“I hope you have Monday, August 21st circled on your calendars in bright red ink. A total solar eclipse will be seen on that day by millions of people from Portland, OR to Charleston, SC. Many more millions will see a partial eclipse. The US couldn’t have a better opportunity. While totality — in which the entire solar disc is blocked by the Moon — will be viewable at any point along the path for about two minutes, some portion of the Sun will be covered by the Moon across the US (including Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, and some of northern South America”.

July 13, 2017

July 12, 2017

Bryce Salmi, KB1LQC previewed FaradayRF on FLOSS Weekly recently. Check out this five-minute video taken from that interview. If you are interested in watching the entire interview check out FLOSS Weekly #436.

July 11, 2017

Happy Amazon Prime Day!

The August edition of Digital QST magazine is now available and includes:

  • FREE Article: Get ready for the Total Eclipse QSO Party
  • Build a companion SSB transmitter for the WA3TFS SDR receiver
  • Learn how to spend your feed line dollars wisely
  • See what happened at the 2017 Dayton Hamvention.™

CALLING CQ - ISSUE #96 was sent to subscribers via email yesterday and is now available for viewing online.

July 10, 2017

CALLING CQ - Issue 96 started hitting readers inboxes overnight. Not a subscriber? Sign up here. It’s free and all your ham radio friends are reading it, what are you waiting for?


Today marks a full month of daily “short-blogging”. I’m not certain that’s a real term, so don’t quote me. I call it that to make clear that there isn’t some long, pedantic article waiting at the other end of the link. Most days it’s just a comment, quick observation or maybe a link to something of interest.

I’ve titled each of these short posts with just the date which makes life easier. Crafting catchy titles for blog posts can be harder than writing the content!

Lonely Little Petunias

Publishing daily can be burdensome and it forces me to be slightly more diligent. I like that. The short format blog is more like social media than blogging. Most Facebook posts consist of less than a hundred words with an attached photo or other media while Twitter is even more constrained.

I could just drop this ephemera on Facebook but I prefer to keep it here.

For the record, there’s been no appreciable change in audience size here over the last thirty days. About all I can say is that readers don’t seem put off by the short posts, neither has it attracted a larger audience. It’s just an experiment with a live audience. You.

Come to think of it, there’s no reason to stop by here if you subscribe to the RSS feed. I publish a full-feed so you can read every drop of the last ten posts in your favorite news reader without visiting. If you don’t already have a favorite news reader allow me recommend mine, FeedWrangler.

Here’s to the next thirty days of short-blogging!

July 9, 2017

Yesterday was another good one on HF. I spent an hour or so in the IARU HF Championship. Not a serious effort by any stretch but I did work a handful of stations, all on phone. Most notable was a 15 meter contact - my first on 21 mHz in nearly eighteen months.

My real motive this weekend was a shakedown of the IC-7300 and the new HF antenna I put up a few weeks back. Thumbs up all around on station performance.

In the evening I jumped into the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES) but not before having to put a new plug on the end of my favorite straight key. Different size for different rig. It was an easy fix but then I fumbled a few more minutes finding the menu setting to select a straight key instead of a paddle.

With that done I was off and pounding brass the old-fashioned way. I spent an hour or two and collected several new SKCC numbers from several states (WI,KS,CA,FL,AR,AL,MD,UT,GA) and that of RD7A - my first Russian contact during a WES.

It was a good day on the shortwaves.

July 8, 2017

I drove thru a lot of high water on the journey home from Cincinnati last evening. Heavy storms had dumped a lot of water in a short time and there was a spot or two deep enough I probably should have avoided them. But I got lucky and made it home safely.

Things cleared quickly as the Sun set and I connected the HF antenna for the first time in a few weeks because that new IC-7300 has been gathering dust and that’s just not right. Turned out to be a good move as 40 meters sounded pretty good. I was hearing numerous West coast stations early in the evening and that’s usually a good sign.

In short order I worked a handful of stations including Peter, HA3RM in Hungary. I had an eye on DX Summit and chased FK8GX in New Caledonia around 20 without luck.

In the process I tuned right over Paul, ZL4TT in New Zealand. Backing up, I managed to put him in the log after three calls. While it’s not a new one, it’s also not bad for a hundred watts and a wire in poor conditions and I’m pleased to have worked him.

Before closing station I snuck up to 14.062 where I often call CQ in the evening and frequently bump into some old-time QRPers who often park there. I snagged Larry, WA2ALY who was hanging out there.

I thought the 7300 handled the CW workout well tonight. It’s a fine performer with enough creature comforts and features to make the casual operator very happy.

July 7, 2017

Moving closer to the minimum of the current solar cycle is not news for most radio amateurs but it’s being covered by the media like it’s a cataclysmic once in a lifetime event:

A way to sell more newspapers or just messing with muggles?

July 6, 2017

Amelia Earhart can’t seem to rest in peace. People have been on the hunt for what happened to her ever since her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 as she attempted to become the first female pilot to fly around the world.

Every few years another new theory raises hopes without solving the mystery. Now, investigators believe they have discovered something that would support a decades-old theory that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.

July 5, 2017

I’ve purchased more audio books this year than those in readable formats. I’m spending more time commuting than usual which could explain it though Audible has really stepped up their game - making popular new titles available in audio much more quickly than in days gone by.

Latest in my library is the thriller Camino Island by John Grisham. (Check its reviews on GoodReads).

But I’m not listening to this one in the car, I’m listening to it at home with my wife. We’ve enjoyed several books together this way and found it an enjoyable experience and we look forward to sitting down in the evening and spending an hour or two with the book.

It sure beats an hour of changing the channels looking for something decent on television.

It’s facilitated nicely by our Amazon Echo. When we’re ready to listen we just say, “Alexa, read the book” and we’re transported to wherever we left off and right back into the story. When we reach a stopping point we tell Alexa to “stop”.

Sometimes I like living in the future.

July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day!

Calling CQ - Issue 95 arrived in subscribers inboxes yesterday and is available for viewing on the Web this morning. Subscribe today and I’ll send it to you via email every week and keep you IN THE LOOP about the amazing world of amateur radio!

FaradayRF is hosting a one day sale offering 20% off the entire cart when shopping on FaradayRF between 12:00AM PDT and 11:59PM PDT Tuesday July 4th, 2017. Use the coupon code “july4th” at checkout to receive a 20% discount.

July 3, 2017

Day three of a four-day weekend. Where does the time go?

I’ll hit the send button on issue 95 of CALLING CQ later this morning. About twelve hours later than usual and it’s going to be shorter than usual too. Maybe I’m enjoying the holiday a little too much? I’ve abandoned plans to further publicize the letter as subscriptions are stable at just over 3,000 and it may have reached a saturation point. Besides, I’ve no idea how much longer I’ll continue to publish it.

My Dad’s baby sister died at her home in South Dakota this weekend. She was 84 years old. That makes my Dad the last surviving sibling from his rather large family. I started life with sixteen aunts and uncles and now have only one. An 86 year-old aunt on my Mom’s side. It’s an inevitable part of growing older but it’s still weird to consider how large we were and how small we’ve become.

Hail to the Tweet

The diminished mental capacity of that orange fellow in the White House (when he’s not on a golf course) led him to ‘tweet’ more stupidity again recently that spawned at least one news item I found interesting. Only about 1 in 5 Americans make use of Twitter. I didn’t realize its adoption was so low. Apparently, more than 88% of Americans know what it is - but only 21% make use of it. No wonder it remains unprofitable after more than a decade.

July 2, 2017

My interest in the hobby pivoted about eighteen months ago when I decided to abandon HF - for at least the balance of Cycle 24. Band conditions at HF have been abysmal enough over the last several years that my interest in HF had taken a nosedive.

I made that decision knowing full well that Cycle 25 is expected to be even worse. At 58 years of age and capable of doing math, it became obvious that band conditions at HF may never return to “wonderful” or even just “good” again in my lifetime.

Having been licensed for over 40 years there were always some facets of the hobby that I wanted to explore. But these were esoteric and in my head I pushed them to the end of my radio life. I told myself that I would one day get involved with moonbounce, meteor scatter, etc. after I retired when I had “more time”.

When my overall interest in radio began to wane, I knew it was time to go QRT on the typical ham radio fare and begin what I had always thought would be my “later in life” exploration of these other facets sooner than planned. So I moved on. Put HF on the back burner and began chasing VUCC via satellites.

Then came Dayton 2017 with all the energy and excitement that goes with it. The friends, the chatter, the DX banquet. Next thing I knew I was driving home with a new IC-7300 and plans to remodel the shack and antenna farm in a way that would give me a shot at working Bouvet Island early next year…

I got off script. Drifted off course. Took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

Now it’s time to get back to the idea of radio exploration - without the shortwaves.

July 1, 2017

Happy July! With the year now more than half-way behind us I can begin counting down the weeks until Autumn. It’s my favorite season followed by Winter and Spring. I could live without Summer but I won’t go so far as to forbid it…

I’m enjoying the first day of a four-day holiday weekend today and have been working in the backyard. At some point I took a long break and was thinking about all the plans I’ve recently made for improving the ham shack and antenna farm when it dawned on me that I’m going about this all wrong.

More about that in tomorrow’s post.

Right now I’ve got to get back to the kitchen. I’ve got a pot of fresh out of the garden green beans and potatoes on the stove and Brenda is making cornbread in a skillet.

It just doesn’t get any better than that. At least until we go for ice cream later at this little place just 13 miles north of here that makes it fresh.

It’s going to be a fine evening!

June 30, 2017

My Outernet receiver has been collecting dust since late last year.

Not that I didn’t find it interesting, but I had only set it up in temporary fashion. I powered it eight hours at a stretch from a small battery pack intended for charging a cell phone. When I couldn’t get a decent downlink signal in the house I transported the whole shooting match into the backyard where it sat collecting data on a lawn chair.

That worked perfectly well for days on end and I was easily able to receive the Wifi signal from it inside the house where it was accessible via any Web browser. I carried it all back into the shack and dropped it on a shelf when bad weather arrived and haven’t thought about it since.

Today, I thought about it again.

I revisited the project site to see what might be new. Turns out, there’s new hardware available and the software has been updated.

The project now offers the Dreamcatcher, a Linux based ARM single board computer with built-in RTL SDR. An Armbian image is available for the board but this hardware comes with this important ominous interesting warning:

“Although some assistance can be found on our forums, Outernet provides no direct support for this product. If you are not a tinkerer, hobbyist, or hardware hacker, you may be disappointed with your purchase”.

If you’re interested, there’s a review available on the RTL-SDR web site.

The software update (Skylark Release 4.4) is available for download. It includes a handful of bug fixes and other improvements. The version was incremented to 4.4 from 1.2 with this update to “align with the build versions”.

There seem more users now than when I first got involved. The forums are busier with more questions and answers – I think that’s a good sign.

I remain enamored with the concept of data being broadcast globally from space, but that’s purely geek love. The Outernet is primarily intended for the third world, places where the Internet isn’t readily accessible and low-bandwidth is acceptable.

While scanning the forums, I saw this screed from one unenlightened first-world bonehead who decided to READ about the service only AFTER purchasing the hardware:

"I'm really shocked to know that I have payed 99$ to receive text files
   1. News, that can be sent to my Mobile phone for free. I hate news
   2. Wikipedia: very poor Wikipedia that is received after 24 hours and
contains silly subjects.
   3. Weather: that appears on my phone for 24 hours and can find the
weather anywhere by one click on my phone.
Is this a joke or an official fraud?"

Life must be particularly onerous for those this stupid.

Setting it up again in some sort of permanent fashion is now on my list of ‘things to do’ before the snow flies.

June 29, 2017

Demonstrating an ‘Alexa’ skill for identifying what planes are flying by the window.

Details on how it’s done with a Raspberry Pi and an RTL-SDR dongle here.

June 28, 2017

The median age of amateur radio practitioners keeps going up, much to the consternation of those who are leaving no stone unturned in a quest to turn back time.

But here’s more trouble, according to the Census Bureau, the general US population is growing older too.

The nation’s median age is 37.9 years old, more than two years higher than the median age in 2000, according to new Census Bureau numbers released Thursday. The number of Americans over 65 years old has jumped from 35 million at the turn of the century to 49.2 million today.

That graying of America comes as the baby boom generation born between 1946 and 1964 edges toward retirement. At the same time, younger Americans are going through what some demographers call a baby bust, either choosing not to have children or delaying the decision to get pregnant.

Attracting younger people to our hobby becomes even more of an uphill battle when the pool we’re trying to draw from is quickly draining.

June 27, 2017

Make mine Earl Grey - and pass the scones.

Regularly drinking a cuppa (or three) of tea — green or black — may cut the risk of dementia among older adults by 50 percent, new research suggests. Findings from the new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, also show that for those who are genetically at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, regular tea consumption may cut their risk by 86 percent.

June 26, 2017

Calling CQ - Issue 94 arrived in subscribers inboxes overnight and is available for everyone to read online this morning. Subscribe today and I’ll send it to you via email every week at no cost and keep you IN THE LOOP about about the world’s greatest hobby!

June 25, 2017

I ordered a spiral logbook from the ARRL yesterday. First time I’ve bought one of these in ages. There was a time when this was how most of us logged our amateur radio contacts. Handwritten. If you were a prolific operator chances are you had stacks of these.

But with room for 1,300 entries, one book will last me a year.

I suppose it’s all part of slowing down. Besides, I like the notion of making logbook entries by putting pencil to paper like we did in the old days. Oh sure, I’ll eventually move these into electronic format because I believe LoTW is one of amateur radio’s smartest innovations.

But instead of using a program custom made for ham radio logging, I plan to put contact info into a SQL database where I can manipulate and extract the data any which way I want without concern that my favorite software logging author is going to make radical changes - or lose interest in continued development.

Or even worse, drops dead.

June 24, 2017

I arrived home late last night after my long drive down South. Crossed the Mississippi river six times this week. Three times on the way down and three on the way back. Put nearly 2,000 miles on a rental car in four days.

Every few hours of the trip I spent a moment scanning the AM and FM broadcast bands for music. All I found were religious stations shouting about the “end of world” and 24/7 political talk radio. It explains a lot about what ails America.

Since I wasn’t certain when I would return home, I made no plans for Field Day.

I expect to jump in the fray late tonight operating ‘1-D’ from the shack. My favorite part of the event is staying up past midnight local time when stations on the West coast start rolling in on 80 meters. That’s when the real fun begins!

June 23, 2017

Happy Friday!

Field Day is ham radio’s open house and it’s upon us once again. Best of luck, have fun, and always be ready to give a good report about our hobby.

‘Last Man Standing’ Talks at CMT Break Down Over Cost.

Why Phoenix’s Airplanes Can’t Take Off in Extreme Heat

I want one of these. But for only a few dollars more I could have one of these. Why must life be so difficult?