Gone Fishin'

This being the 328th post published here over the last twelve months, nearly one a day, surprises me. That time passed as quickly as the tens of thousands of words that were assembled to make it happen.

But now that we’ve solidly entered the summer doldrums, it’s time to push the keyboard away for a season and just go fishing. Taking a break is seldom a bad thing. The pause that refreshes if you will.

I’ll be back in time to celebrate the autumnal equinox with you. In the meantime, check in from time to time, I might end up making a random post or two. And if you subscribe to the RSS feed you won’t miss a thing!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The first batch of FT8 shirts has come and gone quickly!

The 2nd batch arrived a few days ago and immediately sold out of the 3XL’s. I still have some quantites of the other sizes, but don’t expect to have more 3XL’s anytime soon.

Details for getting one of these great looking t-shirts in your hands and on your back can be found here. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Many moons ago, Uncle Wayne W2NSD wrote in one of his long-winded 73 Magazine editorials about the best way to deal with a ham who was making trouble for local repeater users by suggesting a personal visit from a dozen or so club members carrying pitchforks and shotguns might remedy the situation.

I don’t know about that, but it certainly seems like it would be more effective than leaving it up to the feckless Feds.

In a July 9 Order, FCC Administrative Law Judge Richard L. Sippel has ended the decade-old license renewal proceeding involving William Crowell, W6WBJ (ex-N6AYJ), of Diamond Springs, California, upon a motion by Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary C. Harold. Termination of the proceeding and the dismissal of Crowell’s license renewal application followed his refusal to appear for a hearing in Washington, DC, to consider his license renewal and other issues in an enforcement proceeding that dates back 15 years or more.

Fifteen years is a long time to wait for justice. Unfortunately, that’s downright speedy for this hapless government agency. The truth is you could decide tonight to break every commission rule with regard to amateur radio, and you would very likely die of natural causes long before your license would ever be revoked.

What do you think of the disposition of this other situation about the fellow who intentionally interfered with the communications of other Amateur Radio operators and failed to properly identify? Despite being heavily fined for his actions ages ago, he’s just recently settled that by agreeing to pay the $7,000 and his Extra class privileges will be set aside for six months though he will be permitted to continue to operate with Technician privileges during that time and then return to enjoying all amateur privileges. Gee, how nice for him.

This could be handled much more aggressively, like making tougher laws that would make violating commission rules felonies requiring prison time instead of merely civil fines.

But don’t hold your breath. Riley Hollingsworth admitted years ago that upon further investigation, many licensees who were causing some of the most egregious problems were military veterans with mental issues and the federal government had no stomach for going after war vets.

The good news is that our fraternity is filled with very nice people who are friendly and courteous to a fault and most go out of their way to avoid making radio less fun for others. There are so few bad guys that most are known to us by their name. But the very nature of radio makes it possible for one bad apple to spoil it for a large portion of our population.

Which is what makes Uncle Wayne’s vigilante justice seem like such a damn fine idea.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I’ve been an AMSAT member since the early 1990’s. Yeah, we had ham radio and satellites way back then! In fact, some of my best days in the hobby was when I had an automated groundstation for AO-13 and the 9600 baud Pacsats. Good times.

I’m still a member and though I’m not nearly as active today as I was way back then, I try to at least keep up with what’s going on in that corner of amateur radio.

But I managed to miss this one.

I had heard about the GOLF project, but just assumed it was yet another LEO bird which would be fine by me, but satellite enthusiasts are currently enjoying an embarrassment of riches and new launches seem to be announced every week. Amongst the waves of all that good news, I failed to read and comprehend what GOLF was all about.

GOLF - Greater Orbit, Larger Footprint.

Continuing to build on AMSAT’s CubeSat abilities by incorporating new systems such as Software Defined Radios and deployable solar panels into a 3U spaceframe. The first of these will begin life at LEO with plans to move the next one into a higher orbit. That kind of move requires propulsion and attitude control and with an increase in altitude it must also be capable of eventually de-orbiting to prevent orbital debris.

That’s a lot for the AMSAT engineering team to learn, demonstrate, and deliver. And there will be much more to learn for operators on the ground who will have to deal with different operating techniques and modes of operation not familiar to today’s bird chasers.

The payoff is big. A higher orbit will provide a larger communications footprint meaning longer distance contacts and slower relative motion means longer pass times and easier tracking.

And the best part, these payloads aren’t a decade down the road, they’re practically here. Plans to launch the first GOLF payload are as early as the fourth quarter of 2019.

Study the GOLF project and if you want to help, join AMSAT or make a generous contribution to help bring this project to fruition. It’s a good second, or maybe even third step on the road to getting ham radio back to HEO.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Waking up in Kalamazoo, Michigan this morning.

Busy weekend on the radio, whenever I could snatch a few free moments.

I managed to make 20 contacts in the SKCC WES, including one with VK7CW on 40 CW on Sunday morning.

Nine of the 13 Colonies was the best I could manage though I wasn’t actually chasing them, just working them as I tuned across them on the bands last week.

Then there were fifty-five FT8 contacts with a smattering of DX including; European Russia, Austria, Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. Also in the mix were on-air contacts with several good friends; Bernie, W3UR, Goody, K3NG, and Joe, K0NEB.

The bands cooperated nicely as did the weather and it was another very enjoyable weekend. Good thing. I’m now observing radio silence until I return home on Friday.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Our short vacation is over and we’re back to the humdrum world. We visit the western edge of Michigan along the big lake several times each year. Mostly because we enjoy it but also because we think we might move there one day. If we do, I’ll change the name of this blog to Lake Effect Radio. #

It’s time once again for the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES). And for this month, it’s a tour of the 13 Colonies. Get the details here. The Straight Key Century Club now includes nearly 19,000 members who enjoy making Morse manually. #

I deactivated my Twitter account for a few hours this week. I had read an article about how to do that and wanted to see for myself how it works. Turns out, you can deactivate your account and resume it, so long as you come back within 30 days of deactivation. After 30 days it’s gone forever and your username can’t be re-used by you or anyone else. #

The first run of the FT8 t-shirts have nearly sold out and I’ve ordered a second batch. I still have a couple dozen of various sizes on hand with more to arrive early next week. Let me know if you want one. #

Thursday, July 5, 2018

We’ve spent the last couple of days in Pure Michigan, hanging out in Holland and gazing into the wonder of a Great Lake. It’s been a short, refreshing break that’s not quite over. I’ll be back home on Friday and back to work on the blog.

Until then, enjoy our view of Lake Michigan. Unsalted.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

I was in the shack at 9pm local time last night in order to participate in the Spartan Sprint. Not hearing any sprinters on 40, I moved to 20 meters and called CQ SP without success. The band wasn’t dead at that hour and I managed a nice QRP-to-QRP contact with K4JPN in Georgia.

By 10pm I was getting suspicious that the sprint would be a bust for me and returned to 40 meters and finally heard a few stations around 7041 calling ‘CQ SP’ and went to work. K4BAI and WB5BKL were quickly in the log and that was it. I heard, or imagined, a few other extremely light signals in the noise but never worked another soul in this Spartan Sprint.

Nevertheless, two contacts beats getting skunked and when it was over I sent off my results and feel good about continuing that QRP tradition.

While on 40 meters, I also managed to work a few more of the 13 Colonies stations. K2E in Delaware and K2K in New Hampshire bringing my total to eight colonies worked in that special event.

But now I’m QRT for a few days. In fact, by the time you read this we will be happily motoring north where we intend to spend the next few days enjoying our favorite getaway, Holland, Michigan.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The first half of the year is behind us, welcome the 2nd half of 2018. #

The heatwave continues unabated and is full-on miserable. I often include comments about the weather here because it’s such an intrinsic part of most every CW conversation. I took up the habit long ago of checking the local weather report and making a few notes because it’s bound to come up in the course of daily QSO’s. #

It was another good radio weekend. The RAC contest has really grown and dominated the bands on July 1 and it was good to hear all the activity. I worked a dozen SKCC’ers including ND9M who was doing the POTA thing out in Wyoming, K/KFF-3297. And then somehow managed to work five of the 13 Colonies stations; K2A, K2M, K2L, K2G, K2H. #

All 40 meters. All CW. All five watts with the KX3. #

Another of the Colonies stations was using RTTY and I tried in vain to work them using the paddles with the KX3. Five watts of RTTY on a noisy 40 meter band was probably asking too much, but it was fun to try and I plan to give that a whirl in the next big RTTY contest just for kicks. #

Tonight is the montlhy Spartan Sprint and I plan to jump back into it for the first time in a long time. I keep an eye on the logs from that activity and can see that its popularity has trailed off but I’m a big fan of the two-hour sprint format. #

We’ll be headed north tomorrow. Not far enough to escape the heatwave, but standing hip deep in the icy waters of Lake Michigan ought to help. #

Friday, June 29, 2018

Third morning this week I’m in a Starbucks sipping a hot brew and listening to lousy music. The summer doldrums have arrived, bigly. It’s too hot and muggy to spend time outdoors and a pre-dawn hour on the radio is about all the sitting around the house I can stand. #

I did manage to work Ed, W0RJW up at Fife Lake in Michigan on 80 meters this morning. The band was noisy and we exchanged 339 reports a couple of times. I’d like to work him again with better conditions. But this QSO moved my SKCC total to 300 in the quest for Tx8 and I’ve already submitted my application for Tx6. #

I see that attendance at the Dayton Hamvention was down about a thousand from the previous year. I wouldn’t have been surprised had it been even lower. Attendance was down at Friedrichshafen this year too. Organizers of both had good excuses but perhaps a developing trend? #

Just upgraded MacLoggerDX to version 6.19. #

I shipped another box full of t-shirts this morning. The lady at the Post Office recognizes me. I need to begin wearing a disguise to stay below the radar. HI! #

23 new grids towards VUCC on 50MHz so far this week. Six is great fun when it’s open and it’s usually “hot” for about 20 days or so around the solstices. Won’t be long before it goes back into mostly sleepy mode so trying to make hay while it can be made. Don’t miss it. #

We’ll be in Michigan next week, hanging out on a Great Lake. I might take the D-STAR handheld and hotspot or maybe not. Might just turn into several days of radio silence for me and that’s okay.

The Radio Amateur is Balanced… and I’ve been hitting it pretty hard lately.

Have a GREAT weekend! 73 de Jeff #

Thursday, June 28, 2018

I’m sipping morning coffee while listening to the dogpile on 40 meter phone calling the KH1/KH7 operation. No interest in wading into that mess this morning. In a few days I’ll look for them on CW and FT8. #

Yesterday was another busy day. I shipped the first batch of t-shirts then spent considerable time catching up on some long ignored email. I even assembled and mailed the paperwork required to get the $100 rebate on the IC-7300. When did I ever used have time for work? #

It was a good radio day too. I logged a handful of Europeans, South American stations, Australia, and Anguilla. Yeah, Anguilla. I guess I should keep better track of my DXCC totals because when I worked VP2ETE my logging program congratulated me on a new DX entity via a digital mode. #

Shortly after lunch I got in on a nice little 6 meter opening to the East coast. Added two new States and nine new grids. All less than a thousand miles via a single hop but I guess you never know what’s rattling around the troposphere this time of year. #

The next batch of dog days begin today as a massive heat wave moves into the region. The long-term forecasts show high temps in the mid 90’s for most of the next ten days. I despise hot weather. If it were possible I’d live in Copper Harbor, Michigan where 70F is considered quite the warm day.

Just 86 more days until Autumn. #

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The UPS man delivered the new IC-7300 at 6:35pm last evening and the first QSO with it was logged thirty-five minutes later. Having used a 7300 for six months last year made it quick and easy to fall back into the routine.

First contact was via phone on 40 meters with Tom, W5KUB who was running the roundtable net prior to his Tuesday evening broadcast.

After that, it took a few minutes to re-configure the software for logging and WSJT with the new radio. 20 contacts via FT8 then a handful of CW contacts and I considered the new transceiver to be fully broken-in.

This morning comes news that KH1 is up and running so the next few days will doubtless be wasted for me by chasing that operation. I have zero expectation of success, but you can’t work them if you don’t try and there’s always the chance that a propagational fluke might drop a surprise.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Resolution of the Elecraft Equation turned out to be as simple as ordering another IC-7300. Purchasing a very good 100 watt HF transceiver was much less expensive than acquiring the add-on amplifier with its internal tuner for the KX3.

Being a casual operator means certain performance stats go unnoticed by me and these come at a steep premium. But this decision wasn’t binary, other factors besides cost factored into it.

Beyond just being expensive, the KX3 doesn’t make for a great desktop radio, it’s designed specifically for field work. Once I added the PX3 and set it up to work with the computer for logging and for digital modes, my desk became a rats nest of cables that terminate on the sides of the hardware.

I can only imagine the labyrinth of cable congestion from adding the KXPA100.

The new 7300 has already been dispatched from DX Engineering and should arrive today. Fortunately, I still have the AH4 auto-tuner and PS126 matching power supply sitting on the floor. It will be a quick replacement and then I’ll probably list the KX3 and accessories for sale in all the usual places.

Drop me a note if you’re looking for a loaded KX3.

FT8 Ham Radio Without the Jibber-Jabber

Grab one of these great looking Stonewashed Green Hanes Beefy T-shirts with a clear message about amateur radio’s new favorite mode.

I’ve got them in-stock right now in M, L, XL, and XXL. Take a look at the sizing chart if you’re not certain what size you need.

I’ll send you one for $25 via US Postal mail (US only). Send me an email with your size and I’ll reply with details on how to pay via PayPal or personal check.

Monday, June 25, 2018

My backyard Field Day operation went mostly as planned. I used the KX3 powered by batteries into a wire that sloped up to a tree in the backyard. It was five watts, CW only, and 40 meters only. It was also all search and pounce and every dit and dah generated was sent by hand. No memory keyer used here.

I planned on 100 contacts but stopped short after I had logged the 50th contact. I didn’t even attempt the one satellite QSO that I had hoped to make. The ‘birds’ are crazy busy during FD and most who try to work them are disappointed - so I didn’t even try. Later I caught this tweet from WD9EWK who used NO84 to make some packet contacts. Wish I had thought of that.

I didn’t jump into the fray until the sun went down and then worked an hour and a half on Saturday evening then awoke early on Sunday morning and spent another hour pounding brass. 40 meters wasn’t particularly good but there was enough activity that with low enough expectations, I was able to feel pretty good about this “portable” operation.

The QSB was wicked fast at times. An amazingly strong station would call CQ FD but when returning his information would drop almost below the noise. This was the first FD that I didn’t work California. That was disappointing as I enjoy hearing the West coast begin to roll in on 40 meters after dark. I copied several 6’s but none heard my peanut whistle.

And that may be a lesson learned. No more QRP Field Day for me. In a real emergency low-power would work fine. I am supremely confident that if I absolutely had to get critical radio traffic out of my station during a full-on disaster that I could do it and do it well using low power, wire antennas and battery power.

But who are we kidding? Field Day is a contest and social event. During a real disaster there wouldn’t be 100,000 stations on the air calling CQ on top of one another. But that’s the reality of Field Day and I see no reason to suffer with QRP while only pretending to respond to an emergency with a hotdog in my hand and a cooler full of beer.

From now on it’s 100 watts or bust for Field Day for me. More if I can manage it. By the way, thanks to all the great ears who pulled my puny signal out of the noise!

Some button pushers have got to lighten up a little. I was set at 20wpm and often didn’t have time to send my callsign before a station calling CQ would start calling again. Punching the memory button is too easy and occasionally there isn’t sufficient pause for a reply. That didn’t only happen to me, I heard offending stations do that often and if they thought they were helping their score by going faster, they were losing points.

When sending CQ FD you’ve got to do a few “one Mississippi’s” or something before sending again. Stations with 2x3 calls would need to send at 100wpm to squeeze their calls in-between some of the rapid-fire CQ’s I heard.

And just like that, Field Day 2018 is done and half the year has passed. Coming up is one major DXpedition and a few State QSO Parties and then the serious contest season gets underway.

Friday, June 22, 2018

My Field Day battery is charged and ready to roll. My plan at the moment is to operate 1B QRP from the backyard. I’d like to make a hundred CW contacts and one satellite contact - but I know how chaotic the sats are over FD weekend and wouldn’t be disappointed if all my work is terrestrial. #

Bringing food to the Field Day site? Southern Potato Salad is super creamy with a blend of mayonnaise and mustard, hard-boiled eggs, sweet onion, sweet pickle relish, and celery. It’s a potluck must and the only recipe for potato salad you need. #

My IRLP node (4212) has been out of commission for a few weeks. It’s of the PiRLP variety and is a couple years old. It came up lame and wouldn’t boot and I’ve not looked any further into it. I’ve maintained an IRLP node in my home since 2003 and hate to simply walk away from it, but that may well be how it ends. #

The 2018 Baker Island DXpedition team (KH1/KH7Z) departed Pago Pago and anticipate arrival at Baker Island on June 26th. Hopefully they have better luck finding Howland than Amelia did… #

Reading newsletters between the raindrops #

Be safe and have a FUN radio weekend!

73 de Jeff, KE9V

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Happy Summer Solstice! Summer officially kicks-off today even though the heat and humidity has been unbearable for most of our Spring. From this point forward the days will be getting shorter and we’re finally on our way to Autumn, driving the air-conditioning hard every step of the way.

This E-season has not disappointed radio fans who are taking advantage of the higher frequency openings. Reports of increased activity on 50MHz and up has got our propagation-starved fraternity fired-up. I got an email just last night from a buddy who lives on the western slopes of Colorado telling me that he finally worked Rhode Island via 6m last night on a double-hop.

Fingers crossed that Field Day operations with 6 and 2 meter stations will be pleasantly surprised this weekend!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I was on top of the Amazon Echo revolution from the moment it was announced. We had the original Echo and now the 2nd generation model along with an Echo Spot. The Echo takes its place in the main part of the house and we use it a lot, usually for asking the age of some actor in a movie we’re watching, or to find out when they died.

It’s also a handy way to re-order Amazon goods. For instance, I can tell it to “order more coffee” and it will respond by reciting to me my last coffee order and then ask, “do you want to re-order that?” A simple “yes” response and another package of Tim Horton’s is on its way.

The Echo Spot is smaller and sits on the night stand beside my bed. I thought it would be handy to have another Echo in that part of the house but it doesn’t get much use, at least not like the primary unit.

But it does get used once nightly. When I hit the rack I say to it, “Alexa, play the sound of thunderstorms” and for the next hour it plays a loop of rain and gentle thunder sounds. I’m usually asleep in five minutes. It’s brilliant.

When it comes to automation via voice using Echo devices, I’ve always drawn a blank on how I could best make use of it. Right after I got the original unit I copied the plans a friend had made to open his garage door by telling Alexa to open it. I don’t have a garage but thought remotely turning on and off a relay by voice command would be cool.

It’s the way these devices are used to turn on lights by voice command except I find that pretty useless too. If we leave the house in the evening we always leave a light on. And even if we forget, the light switch is just inside the door. It’s more effort to say “Alexa, turn on the lights” than it is to just flip the switch.

Then yesterday as I was walking out the door mid-day there was a sudden clap of thunder and the feedline was still connected to the equipment in the shack. In that moment I thought how handy it would be to simply say “Alexa, disconnect the shack antennas” and wondered if I might have finally found a use for voice control in the shack.

Until it occurred to me that if I was going to add relays to the feedline switches, why not just wire the relays so whenever the equipment was switched off the feedline was disconnected?

Automation without the need for a spoken word.

I had a good chuckle at that and then went back to my premise that while there are many good uses for the Amazon Echo and its voice technology, none of them are applicable to the way I practice our hobby. At least not yet..

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Paul, N6PSE recently reviewed the new Geochron 4K Digital UHD Map. It’s an interesting electronic derivation of the mechanical version of the same. The device takes the form of a small box that requires power and WiFi connectivity and provides an HDMI output that permits connection of a 4K television/monitor

Couple of interesting notes in addition to the primary grey line display:

  • presents continuous location of the International Space Station
  • demonstration mode permits a year to be depicted in 15 seconds
  • lifetime updates for five mapsets are promised
  • overlays for Earth at night, shipping routes, flight routes

The mechanical version will set you back about $1,895 US while the new electronic version is being offered for $399 US.

It’s interesting but I think it’s too expensive. I want a lot more.

Given that it’s doubtless built on a small single board computer, perhaps even a Raspberry Pi, I want something similar that will drive a large 4K flat screen on the wall of the shack that runs like a stadium jumbotron. I want to see current band conditions, DX spots, upcoming net schedules, W1AW bulletins, satellite pass times, space weather alerts, scrolling QSL card images, etc.

I want that kind of ham radio information center on the wall in my shack and see no reason why this couldn’t be the next hot ham radio thing jumping off the shelves at $299 a pop.

Standing by with my credit card, ready to order…

Monday, June 18, 2018

A recently posted tidbit on the VHF-Contesting reflector suggests the ICOM IC-9700 I pre-ordered months ago might appear soon in the Japanese market. Maybe. Price guess $1,900 US with the 1.2 GHz module. Fingers crossed.

While rooting around those reflector archives I found plenty of grousing about how FT8 has destroyed the universe. This in the wake of the recently concluded ARRL VHF Contest. Most were general complaints and hopes that the new mode would soon pass into oblivion. But one guy said if FT8 continues to be popular then he’s done with contesting…

Grumbling about the impact of the new digital mode on the hobby are reminiscent of other technologies that have significantly disrupted the status quo. For instance, imagine how tough it would have been to accept the horseless carriage more than a century ago.

In 1908 retired Supreme Court Associate Justice H.B. Brown wrote about the impending automobile revolution after a very similar fashion:

“The invention of the automobile has introduced upon the public roads of the country a novel and not altogether welcome guest. Although barely ten years since it first made its appearance, it has already conquered an important position in the domain of travel. Indeed, its great power, speed and weight have made it a veritable king of the highway, before whom we are all invited to prostrate ourselves.”

“To those who occupy or drive them, they are undoubtedly a fascinating amusement. The speed of which they are capable intoxicates and bewilders the senses, and deadens them to the dangers which surround the machine, and by a sudden mishap may turn in the twinkling of an eye into a terrible engine of destruction.”

“Whatever the outcome may be, every true admirer of the horse will pray that it may not be the extinction or dethronement of the noblest of all domestic animals.”

Friday, June 15, 2018

Based on the weather forecast, yesterday was the last nice day for awhile. Another heat wave is moving into the area that’s supposed to run the temps up into the mid-90s with high humidity, a depressing combination.

Field Day is just around the corner and the only plans I have are to operate using battery power from the backyard. But I don’t plan to sit out there in 90 degree weather and roast so it could become a climate-controlled event for me.

Same goal this year as in previous years, a hundred CW contacts and one satellite contact. That’s enough to test/demonstrate that I can get on the air and communicate in the event of a widespread emergency. More than that, and is just contest points.

A week after Field Day is the 4th of July, the traditional mid-point of summer. Six weeks later it’s Labor Day and autumn will begin its advance. I want to have all the antenna and station grounding work done by then. Time is marching quickly ahead.

On the Straight Key

Last night I stopped by the SKCC watering hole frequencies on 40 meters and got caught up in a micro-burst of activity. I worked one station then another called right after that. Then another and several more. Ended up working seven consecutive in short order and decided to call it quits while I was ahead.

All told, I think I’ve had about 20 SKCC QSO’s so far this month. Having missed the WES last weekend I expected a pitiful showing for the monthly brag but there’s still time to manage a decent report for June if I can have a few more nights like the last one.

Plus, I’m only two unique contacts shy of Tx6 on the long road to SKCC Senator. It’s not an exclusive group anymore, there are nearly 300 members who already sport the “S” suffix. But if I can nail it down this summer, I’ll consider it a happy achievement.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

It’s funny how certain smells can trigger memories. I used to have a Great Aunt and Uncle who lived a few miles out in the country. We used to visit them every three or four weeks and in the summer the road to their house would get a new application of black-top. I caught a whiff of that while out walking yesterday and instantly thought of them again.

I also caught whiff of a rumor about K1SWL working on a 40 meter version of the HillTopper. His HillTopper 20 is kitted by the 4SQRP group and has been crazy popular. I can only imagine a 40 meter version would also be highly prized. Dilly Dilly!

The Milford (Ohio) hamfest is on Saturday and Monroe (Michigan) is on Sunday. I was thinking about going to one or the other until I realized this is Father’s Day weekend and plans have already been made. Plus, I have a wedding to attend on Saturday evening that I nearly forgot about.

I’ve been spending early mornings on the air, usually on 40 meters and often as not, there isn’t much CW activity. After a few minutes of fruitless tuning I switch to FT8 where it’s common to put 20 an hour in the log.

Last night I popped back into the shack intending to check-in on the weekly forty meter 4SQRP net but while I could hear them, they couldn’t hear me. So I switched to the straight key and worked one lone SKCC station. I’m just not finding much CW activity on the bands these days.

I hope that’s a temporary situation and not an epitaph.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Elecraft Equation

When I took the dive into the world of the Elecraft I knew up front that it would be spendy. The KX3 loaded with all options and factory assembled and tested was nearly $1,700. The PX3 and an assortment of cables and connectors was another $700.

That leaves me $2,400 invested in a low-power station.

The matching 100 watt amplifier and auto-tuner is another $1,250 and at that point, I’d have more in the KX3 than if I had bought the new ICOM IC-7610.

Kinda shocking, huh?

Of course, the KX3 with all the accessories and amplifier is like a Swiss Army knife with multiple uses. It’s an excellent performer in the shack and I can pick it up and carry it into the field with nothing else except the antenna. It’s a portable dream machine and with or without the amplifier, it’s still a world-class transceiver.

While I’ve been successful with low-power, Autumn is coming and I’m going to want at least a hundred watts to push up the pipe. I’ve almost pulled the trigger on the KXPA100 a few times but have hesitated to become so deeply invested in this platform.

If having a hundred watts is the only goal I could just buy another IC-7300 and save $300 versus the cost of the Elecraft amp and tuner and have two transceivers instead of one.

This Elecraft equation has me frozen with analysis paralysis and I’m beginning to think there may not be a “smartest” solution.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Joe Spier, K6WAO is the current President of AMSAT North America. Randy, K7AGE recently caught him talking about CubeSats at the beach during SEA-PAC in Seaside, Oregon earlier this month.

Monday, June 11, 2018

We’re nearly half a year into the ARRL International Grid Chase event and I’m still not certain that I totally grok what it’s all about. I assume it’s mostly aimed at getting more hams to use LoTW as the scores are automatically determined.

For certain it’s yet another ham radio event where those scoring in the top five percent are so far ahead of the rest of the pack that it’s ridiculous. I find most radio contests to be that way. I’ll sometimes have a very productive radio weekend and be surprised and delighted to discover that I earned 330,000 points. Later, when the complete results are announced, I see that the top station had 57 million points…

I really don’t want to congratulate these top scorers so much as I want to ask them if they actually have a life because, I’m highly skeptical.

The Grid Chase is like that. I’m enjoying an above average year in terms of logged HF contacts. I typically put about 1,000 contacts in the log each year. At my current pace, I expect to work 1,500 over this entire year, a significant increase. Meanwhile, the top station in the Grid Chase already has well over 28,000 confirmed QSL’s.

Overwhelming odds and the fact that I can’t make every station I work use LoTW are why I have so little interest in this event. My score will be whatever it will be and I won’t finish in the top 5,000.

Still, I find the leaderboard useful to spy on the activity of others. The LoTW angle makes it non-definitive, but I can get a pretty good idea about how active you are simply by checking your score.

For instance, it’s interesting to discover that many of the top-shelf DXers are inactive. I suppose these are only looking for one or two more elusive stations which aren’t on the air at the moment. But if those near the top of the Honor Roll only get on the air when someone goes to Heard Island, or if they’re just waiting for North Korea, should we even consider these elite operators to be “active” radio amateurs?

Same goes for many ham radio bloggers, podcasters, and video producers who talk a good game, but apparently don’t actually spend much time on the bands.

This is disappointing, not because so many of those we assumed to be active aren’t, but because it convinces me that we will never be able to create an accurate definition of an “active” radio amateur and without it, how will we ever measure if activity on the bands is rising or falling?

Friday, June 08, 2018

RFShark has announced that its popular openSPOT, a standalone digital radio IP gateway / hotspot has been discontinued. This was not unexpected and though the replacement isn’t yet available, most are betting on the new device being WiFi capable.

That will be handy for those who carry the device mobile and portable. The original unit required a wired Ethernet connection which worked well enough by plugging it into a home router, but the ability to connect to WiFi networks would make it much more versatile.

Yet to be seen is how the user would connect it to networks requiring manual input, like a hotel WiFi requiring entry of a user name and password, for a connection. Perhaps a phone app or some similar method will be made available for that purpose. Maybe even a small touch screen on the device itself.

We’ll have to wait and see, but given that the original openSPOT is no longer available, I suspect the replacement device will appear very soon.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Magic Band opened for several hours yesterday causing a feeding frenzy on FT8. I got in on some of that but was even happier when I noticed someone calling CQ on CW that turned out to be W3EP.

Emil Pocock wrote the “World Above 50 MHz” column in QST from 1992 until 2002. He was operating from his home QTH in FN31. When I first began calling him he was a weak S1 or S2 but once he detected my peanut whistle and spun his beam in my direction, he popped up to above S8 and we made an easy contact.

Operating on the margin between HF and VHF is what makes 6M so interesting. Openings are rare and silence reigns until suddenly there’s a brief opening and bedlam ensues as operators know this won’t last for long. The thrill of making contacts on what seems a perpetually dead band is what makes the “magic”.

As we approach the solstices (June and December) Sporadic-E provides the propagation for this band every year without regard for the solar cycle.

Sporadic-E was first discovered by hams almost 90 years ago when the old 5-meter band (56 MHz) produced contacts covering “impossible” distances. The “E-skip season” runs from May to July, with another, shorter, peak in December and early January.

Oddly enough, I learned that from the writings of Emil Pocock, W3EP.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

We did get a momentary rain shower yesterday but it was over about the time it started and served mostly to crank up the humidity level to just above uncomfortable. There were storms in the area though and the resulting static crashes were enough to warrant unhooking the antennas.

Just past dinner time I gave a listen on 40 meters and heard N4QR calling CQ in between the bursts of noise. I called him back and we chatted briefly. Bob is in North Carolina, about 40 miles north of Charlotte. He was using a homebrew, three-tube transmitter that develops about 40 watts along with a Realistic DX-160 receiver.

Take a good look at that clean-looking station on his QRZ page.

Contacts like this one are precious enough you want them to last as long as possible. We pounded back and forth several times until the static crashes reached a crescendo and I thought it best to pull all the plugs on this end.

The number of operators you bump into these days using homebrew, tube-type gear is getting smaller with each passing year. But if you’re going to bump into them at all, it will most likely be on CW. I don’t suppose this kind of gear will ever completely disappear, but the TX combo with a DX-160 receiver moves the station into even more rarified air.

I remember lusting after the DX-160 back in the early 70’s and eventually buying one to replace a Hallicrafter’s SX-140 that had anchored my SWL’ing post for most of my teen years. The new solid-state Radio Shack receiver was a thing of beauty and got all my attention until I got a Novice ticket and traded just listening for two-way radio.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

If this is “light rain” then we need a new definition for it. There were a few drops on my windshield but looking out the window of this coffee shop, I see no evidence of any rain making it to the ground. I mowed the lawn yesterday and commented to someone that it was my “last grass cutting of the season” - unless we get some rain.

This is the fifth or sixth day where I’ve played on the radio in the pre-dawn twilight then gone for a long walk before ending up in a coffee shop to put down a few words for the blog. It’s a routine I could easily fall into…

Feeling a little guilty for ignoring my SKCC friends these last few weeks, I stopped by the sked page last night and saw my buddy Jim, W4QO. He’s a past president of QRP-ARCI and was one of the best. In addition to being a fellow Hoosier, I’ve always enjoyed his company during the annual FDIM shindig.

Yes, that’s a real word. Look it up.

We chatted briefly on 40 CW and then I worked another Jim, this one was ND9M/7 operating in Wyoming. I was using the KX3 running five watts into a dipole and signals were better than tolerable, a nice surprise.

Membership in the Straight Key Century Club has grown to nearly 19,000. With no dues you may not think that too surprising but look at it this way, it’s a very specialized club that boasts more than 10% of the total ARRL membership. You can blame that on “free” but I think it’s more about “fun”.

And speaking of SKCC fun, this weekend is the monthly Weekend Sprintathon (WES) and the annual Boat Anchor Regatta. If your rig has tubes, you’re worth bonus points. Tubes, as in the sum of the tubes in your transceiver or transmitter-receiver pair, and power supply. And if your transmitter’s frequency is set by a crystal instead of a VFO, you could be a hero without running into a burning building…

Find out more here and if you’re not already a member, join us today and get in on this event and many more. It’s easy, it’s free, it’s fun.

Monday, June 04, 2018

The project I’ve been working on for the last two years came to a close last week. It’s not particularly sad, and in my line of work they all eventually end. The successful conclusion means another job well-done. Still, leaving behind friends and moving along to the next thing always creates some turbulence and this time it feels more pronounced.

For the last twenty-five years whenever one project ended I would enjoy a month or two of downtime before going back to work on another project.

But now, nearly sixty-years on, I’ve started wondering if this might be the best time to simply retire? Or if not quit working entirely, perhaps it’s time to look for a new opportunity - something completely different - a career change.

The kids are thru college and out of the house and at this point access to health insurance is more important than income meaning I can afford to take a substantial pay cut to move into some more interesting realm of employment.

On the other hand, I’ve grown accustomed to having as much time off-work as I wanted every year and it would be tough to take a job that offers only minimal vacation time. I’m not really sure what I will do moving forward but the downtime won’t be wasted.

I’ve suddenly acquired more potential hobby time and I plan to take advantage of it. More time on the air, more time for projects, and more time for writing about it. The log and the blog will continue to grow…

Friday, June 01, 2018

When I pointed out recently that FT8 had become the most popular mode of ham radio communications you would have thought I had personally stuck a dagger in the hearts of all operators not smitten with the telemetry-based mode. Let’s be clear, I merely reported on the fact that FT8 is, to quote John Lennon, “more popular than Jesus.”

That I pointed it out doesn’t mean I’m having my “CW Forever” tattoo removed to make room for an “FT8 Rocks” ink spot. It’s simply a fact. And while we now live in a world where alternative facts are often preferred, I’d rather not argue with the data. That’s a job for politicians and related slimeballs.

FYIPortable Operating for Amateur Radio in Paperback and Kindle

The Weekend

The Kentucky QSO Party (KYQP) takes place this weekend from 14:00 UTC on June 2nd and runs until 02:00 UTC on June 3rd. That’s twelve hours if you’re counting. It’s a slightly modified schedule from previous years. Amateur radio operators around the world are invited to participate. Learn more by going to the Getting Started page.

I’ll be standing in the backyard this weekend, aiming a handheld Arrow antenna at the heavens looking for amateur satellites. It’s been nearly a year since I last logged a sat contact and I’m long overdue. I’ll be looking for WD9EWK who will have an AMSAT booth at the Prescott Hamfest on Friday and Saturday (1-2 June 2018). Patrick will be operating during the hamfest and then plans to venture out into the surrounding countryside for additional work and I plan to get him in the log sometime this weekend.

If your weekend weather forces indoor activities, you could catch up on some of the Hamvention 2018 forums that are beginning to appear on YouTube. So far there’s the TAPR Forum, the SDR Forum, and the HamSCI Forum. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The latest edition of TXFactor (TXF021) is now available for viewing. In this early summer episode the guys cover programming your DMR handie and running a SharkRF openSPOT digital radio IP gateway. They review the new Icom IC-7610 transceiver, and Mike visits Bob’s shack in Cornwall to learn more about operating through linear satellites.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Over a half-billion QSO’s have been uploaded to ClubLog and I’d argue that the data contained in all those hundreds of millions of contacts represent a fair sampling of the HF activity in our hobby. Here’s a look at the contacts uploaded by mode on a monthly basis so far in 2018 - courtesy of Andreas, LA8AJA:

FT8 is so far out in front that other digital modes are a foregone conclusion. CW only remains relevant because of its popularity in contests. Even phone, the Holy Grail of wannabe HF operators everywhere, is a nearly forgotten mode compared to FT8.

We’ve never seen this kind of new mode adoption in the history of the hobby. We’re witnesses to a paradigm shift in amateur radio communication that happened so quickly and so completely that it’s wake has forever changed the hobby.

You may consider it a passing fad, but something HUGE is happening and the only thing that’s going to unseat FT8 is whatever newer digital mode happens to be lurking around the corner.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The long, hot, Memorial Day weekend is over and the return to work and other bits of normalcy have resumed. While the summer season may not be officially underway until next month, school is out and and all the local swimming holes have opened. It was 97F here yesterday; how is this not summer?

The HF bands cooperated nicely during the recent WPX contest. Then as soon as that ended, the bands went “dead” again. We see this often enough that we really should declare propagation forecasts unnecessary cruft. You get enough people on the air and soon everyone discovers that the bands are magically “open”. Go figure.

I maintain it’s the high interest and activity that’s elevated FT8 to ham radio’s favorite mode. I was up and in the shack early on Monday morning and found plenty of DX on 40 meters using FT8. With five watts and a wire I worked New Zealand, Australia, Guam, Hawaii, Japan, stations in the Caribbean and Europe.

After 30 minutes I got tired of working that fishing hole and switched to CW. Several sweeps of the band from 7.000 to 7.125 yielded exactly one QSO in progress. One. Otherwise, crickets… Am I to believe that a magic DX window was open at 7.074 while the entire rest of 7MHz was dead due to our present position in the solar cycle?

Something weird is going on, but it has little to do with HF propagation…

Monday, May 28, 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

My plan to build a digipeater accelerated today when I ordered a TNC-Pi 2:

The TNC-Pi 2 is designed to perfectly match the form factor of the Raspberry Pi B+, Pi2 and Pi 3 models. All 40 header pins are communicated to the top of the TNC-Pi 2 board. The standoff has been repositioned to the bottom left corner to add greater stability. The TNC-Pi 2 no longer needs any jumpers to be configured. Otherwise the TNC-Pi 2 is functionally identical to the original TNC-Pi and there have been no changes in the firmware.

I placed the order with Coastal Chipworks about 9am this morning and received shipping notification 30 minutes later. Now that’s fast!

I’ve ordered a new transceiver to anchor the digi and just need to get an antenna in the air and pull it all together.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

I use a SharkRF openSPOT for both D-STAR and DMR. In recent weeks I’ve been plagued with a packet loss problem when using DMR that has rendered the mode impossible for me to use. It’s a weird problem given there’s no problem when using it for D-STAR.

I’ve confirmed that the transceiver is working properly and am now thinking there may be some problem with a recent firmware update though I don’t see others complaining about this issue. I might just have to get a new hotspot. In the interim, I’ll be inactive on DMR.

Radiogram Received

Handling traffic certainly qualifies as an old school form of communication but there’s something magical and charming about receiving a radiogram. One arrived here this week from the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) thanking me for my membership in that organization.

We need to find more ways to generate traffic so as not to lose this long-standing ham radio tradition in the sands of time.

New England QSO Party

Got an email today requesting my log submission for the NEQP that took place a few weekends ago:

“Just wanted to ask you to send in your log from the recent New England QSO Party. We hoping to receive your log to help with the log checking. Your callsign is in many of those already received”.

The email indicated that while they preferred Cabrillo format, they would accept it in any format. So I sent along my log for the event in ADI format and we’ll see if it’s accepted. The Cabrillo logging requirement remains a burr under my saddle that’s reducing my enjoyment and interest in State QSO Party’s.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I carried the Kenwood TH-D74 handheld to Dayton thinking there might be some interesting D-STAR traffic. But on the trip over and back I found the APRS traffic to be more entertaining. The number of mobile stations descending on Xenia, Ohio was stunning. I’ve seen this before from the Web but this was the first packet storm I ever sailed into.

On the return journey the frenzy continued, for awhile, but soon I was back in the hinterlands where few digipeaters exist. There are none in my own home town so far as I can tell and that’s just a shame. The APRS network is practically the only packet system that remains from that Jurassic period when all of us still had terminal node controllers.

Since no one else seems to be doing it, I’ve decided my next radio project will be the addition of a digipeater at my house that hopefully will help fill in the giant network gap surrounding my own QTH. If you’ve done this recently, drop me a note and let me know what hardware you used. It seems reasonable to assume that the Raspberry Pi would be handy for a task like this one. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Winnie and the Jets

Our Winnipeg Jets played their last game of the 2017-2018 season a few days ago when they lost in the Western Conference Finals. Despite the setback, it was a magical season for the team - and for my wife and I - and we can’t wait for next season!

Completely fed up with the NFL, NBA, and MLB, we had been shunning professional sports for the last few years.

Then when this new NHL season got underway, I suggested we pick a team at random to root for and spend a season getting to know professional hockey. We’ve seen games on television but never really understood the rules or cheered for any one team.

In order to make it interesting I suggested that we pick a team from Canada and one about which we knew nothing. We picked the Winnipeg Jets, ordered a couple of team jerseys, and hung on for a wild ride into the Stanley Cup playoffs!

Having purchased the Center Ice package from our cable provider, we didn’t miss a single game and looked forward to the action night after night. By the time January rolled around we wanted to go see a game live and bought tickets to see the Jets play the Predators in Nashville. We lost that game but became completely gobsmacked by “our” team.

So much so that NEXT season we hope to see them play three or four games in the United States and we’re also planning a week long trip to Winnipeg so we can cheer with our adopted hometown fans at Bell MTS Place for two games on home ice!

Now we’re a couple of Hoosiers proclaming “We Are Winnipeg!”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hamvention 2018 is done and over. The second time the event was conducted at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia, Ohio was almost as muddy and miserable as the first time. Improvements had been made to alleviate some of the problems in the flea market, but rainfall before and during the big event made things uncomfortable. Again.

I posted about a hundred photos via Twitter. You can see those here, no account is required.

Yaesu showed us their FTdx101D under glass (front - back) and as usual, handed out a lot of nice hats.

Kenwood teased with the TS-890S transceiver, also under glass.

Elecraft was showing a very portable two-band antenna, the AX1. Intended for pedestrian mobile or operation from a picnic table using 20 and 17. It’s not yet available.

There were many other new things but few really stuck out to me. The number of new DMR handheld transceivers might finally be slowing while the number of digital hotspot options continues to grow.

Bumping into old and new friends remains the highlight of Hamvention for me. Finding a dry spot to sit and enjoy fellowship was next to impossible. Once again, the food was much better than we ever had at Hara Arena. But a coffee truck that was there on Friday went missing on Saturday and finding a cup of coffee was harder than hell. That probably put me in as sour a mood as the rain.

The crowd seemed smaller to me than last year but that’s really tough to measure over so many acres. I noticed there were no traffic snarls this time. Plenty of parking was available on Friday and Saturday and there was no long line to get into the fairgrounds. It was either a smaller crowd or the logistics have improved considerably. Maybe both?

Here’s something else new; I’m done with Hamvention

This was my 37th visit in the last 42 years. Living only a hundred miles away, it became an annual tradition I never wanted to miss. But as the years have passed, I’ve become much less tolerant of the facilities.

Hara Arena had slowly become a full-on dumpster fire without a future and the move to a new location was necessary, but it seems clear to me now that the Greene County Fairgrounds isn’t suitable for Hamvention.

If you could get 72F with blue skies, low humidity, and one week without rain, then the fairgrounds could be ideal. But even the best event organizers in the world can’t control the weather and unless DARA is willing to move Hamvention into early autumn where the weather is more predictable, May in Ohio will remain a crapshoot that the house can’t win.

Besides the venue, I find no compelling reason for me to visit Hamvention again. I haven’t brought anything home from the massive flea market there in decades. As for new gear, I’d gladly pass on any “show discount” to have it delivered directly to my door. The last thing I want to do is lug a heavy new transceiver through rain and mud to my car parked a mile away.

I certainly plan to return to Dayton next year, but I’ll stay in town. Attend FDIM or Contest University. The DX banquet. The Contest dinner, the RTTY dinner, the TopBand dinner, the FlexRadio dinner, etc.

Maybe host a beer-bash with my friends. All inside a climate controlled hotel conference room, pub or local restaurant. I’m done with the mud, improvised toilets, humidity and smelly crowds.

I was 17 years old when I first visited Hamvention. I’ll be 60 years old when the gates open in 2019. I’m happy to hand this tradition over to a another generation as I’m just getting too old to enjoy this one anymore.

Friday, May 18, 2018

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

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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

Dayton Week Commences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you in Xenia!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Radio Active Weekend

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

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

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

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

More Fun in the Park

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

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


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

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

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

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

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

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

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

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

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