Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Condolences to the family of well-known contester and DXpeditioner Anath Pai, VU2PAI, of Mangalore, India, who died on July 13. He was 47 and was reported to have suffered a heart attack while on a business trip.

Another Phone Fray this evening. I’ll be in the chair and hope to top the five contacts made last week though I will remain in S&P mode this time around too.

I’m booked for the 67th Annual W9DXCC DX Convention and Banquet that will take place in St. Charles, IL in September. I signed up for Contest University. This will be my first experience with it and I look forward to gaining skill and knowledge in this facet of the hobby.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Weekend Update: Saturday morning started early and with a bang. Worked back-to-back VK’s on 40 CW then worked a couple of POTA activators. The IARU HF got underway a little later and I spent a casual couple hours working 50 stations on Phone and CW.

Final two contacts were F5OHM and GR2HQ both also on 40. And it was nice to see a little activity on 15 meters as well.

LoTW confirmations from those began hitting the server 24 hours later. It was a short weekend given that I had to work on Sunday, but Saturday morning was a good time on the radio.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Long ago I developed a theory that I call the “Faux Radio Complication”.

It’s based on the notion that given sufficient time, any form of radio communication that doesn’t rely on RF from point of origin directly to point of reception, without intermediary hardware, will disappoint humans.

This started as a bit of a lark that I would pull out of my hat whenever local radio friends would get into a snit over some new repeater policy that changed the game for them. But it’s becoming more widespread given our rapid development and adoption of faux radio systems.

These include all the “acronym” systems like IRLP, DMR, D-STAR, C4FM and others in addition to all the analog repeater systems around the world.

The “complication” that arises from the use of these systems is that the end users don’t own the intermediary hardware or network. They’re not so much radio operators as they are “users” of someone else’s equipment and as such, are subject to the whims of the “owners”.

That’s not to say that the owners haven’t been incredibly generous with their time and treasure in building these systems and making them available to others, but given sufficient time, someone will get their panties in a wad over some change or new policy that they don’t like and “users” are powerless to do anything about it except to take their ball and go home.

Recent rumblings in the AMSAT world reminded me that amateur radio satellites are also faux radio complications.

The hardware is built and launched by those who control the use of those assets. The money will be donated by “users” who ultimately have little or no say in how those assets will be controlled. Of course those in charge will counter that their decisions are made in the best interest of the orbital assets and they’re probably correct. Anarchy isn’t good for satellites or terrestrial repeaters but given sufficient time, “users” will become disappointed about something and that’s the point.

Launching RF into the aether and having someone directly drag that signal out of thin air, without any other hardware in the middle, is as simple and pure as it gets and in that scenario, you need only to get along with one other human.

But build an infrastructure that requires dozens or even hundreds of humans to all get along, and it’s all but certain that, eventually, disappointed “users” will be left in its wake.

That’s the Faux Radio Complication.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

AMSAT certainly seems to be going to a lot of trouble to prevent ballot tampering for their upcoming Board of Directors election and, I assume, all future elections. Has there been some undisclosed problems?

“The QSL Man” Wayne Carroll, W4MPY, of Aiken, South Carolina, died on July 3. An ARRL member, he was 87.

Bob, N6TV from the Northern California Contest Club has made available his 2019 Contest University and Visalia Contest Academy PowerPoint Presentations:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Phone Fray is a 30-minute weekday SSB event similar to the NAQP. I jumped in for the very first time last night and made a few contacts. The hardest part was staying awake until 10:30pm (EDT) on a weeknight!

Though the suggested frequencies include 15 and 20 meters, I wasn’t hearing much there so switched to 40 where I made three quick contacts. With only 30 minutes to work you can’t afford to hangout on a non-productive band very long.

Switched to 80 in the last five minutes and picked up a couple more. Updated the log, uploaded my results to 3830, and was in bed by 11:05pm. Will I do it again? Yep. See you in the fray next week.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

If you are running N1MM+ contest logging software, you may run into an error when the program tries to check for updates or you manually make the check. There was a change to the web site that wasn’t reflected in the initial update routine of the software. To correct the problem, go to the N1MM web site. Download and run the lastest update file. This will update your copy of N1MM+ and resolve the issue. Note, if you are running Windows XP or Vista, the N1MM+ auto update feature is not compatible with the new site. You will have to do manual updates going forward.

CQ has published the raw scores for the May WPX CW contest. These are the top ten before log checking in each category.

QRZ.com recently made available Two Factor Authentication. The feature is optional for all users except sellers in the site’s swapmeet section. The feature is mandatory for those users. To activate, log in to QRZ.com. Hover on your call in the upper right of the screen and select “Account.” Near the top center, you will find a large button with the Two Factor Authentication option. That will take you to the setup screen. It can be configured to work with your cell phone or with a code generator if you don’t have cell coverage where you normally use QRZ.

Monday, July 8, 2019

We arrived back home on Saturday evening after a three night holiday getaway to Michigan. Although there was no escape from the sweaty weather, it was more tolerable walking along the shore of Lake Michigan than slow-roasting at home.

The 13 Colonies Special Event had been underway all week but having been out of town I assumed I would miss it. But when we got home I spent a couple hours on the air and had ten of the colonies stations in the log by bedtime. Another hour on Sunday morning and I had worked all Thirteen Colonies on 40 meters.

After those logging chores I noticed that a few more of the POTA stations I worked a few weeks earlier had finally gotten round to uploading their logs and a new award was waiting for me. My overall chasing score isn’t impressive but I only go looking for stations when I see a spot on Twitter.

I’m still in the process of liquidating my HF equipment, though the pace has slowed a bit as I near the bottom of the pile.

Next to go will be the Elecraft KX3. I sold the PX3 last week. I originally intended to keep the KX3 and sell the IC-7300 but rapidly falling prices for a brand new 7300 has made it almost worthless in the used market. So I’ll keep it as a main station back-up and for occasional chunky portable use.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Amateur radio was suspended in the United States and in much of the rest of the world at the beginning of World War II. During the war years, there was some local radio activity in the US as the government eventually began to organize war time radio services and permitted hams some local traffic for public service. But contact with anyone outside the States via radio was strictly forbidden. At the conclusion of the war it would take some time before the amateur radio service would resume normally.

Having never lived through a radio service “shutdown” I’ve often wondered if hams obeyed those rules to the letter. Could you really sit by your receiver and hear someone calling and not respond? I’ve collected a small pile of anecdotal evidence that some hams continued to make use of the radio during the band. There are even a few stories of amateur radio operators in the military service who were positioned on lonely Pacific outposts continuing to use their modified shortwave transmitters thru the war years and I wonder who they were working?

Still others were just anxious to get back on the air after the War:

On VJ (Victory over Japan) day, August 15, 1945, one fellow was in Shanghai, China. Even though the FCC still didn’t allow the military to transmit on the ham bands in the USA or on foreign soil for at least another year, military personal around the world (and some US citizens) were putting up wire antennas and became active. This guy was no exception. He had his homebrew transmitter with him, a pair of 807’s, built from the 1937 ARRL handbook. He got on the air from Shanghai in October 1945 as W3AG/XU. When contacting other GI’s across China, he noticed that their “made-up” callsigns had the XU substitued for the prefix. He then changed his call to XU3AG for his remaining time in China. Several of these GI’s were approached by the FCC on their arrival back to the USA. They were chastised for their operations abroad before formal approval but nothing else was done.

And hey, no judgement on this from me. I understand the temptation and given the same situation would probably have done the same thing. Now that most of the Greatest Generation has passed, we’ve lost the ability to easily interview these fellows to get the complete scoop. And I’m just guessing some of those radio tales would have been amazing.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Completely out of the blue my wife asked me if I ever knew a ham whose call letters were W9BZI. I did and told her as much and asked why she wanted to know. Turns out she was chatting with an old high school friend of hers and somehow that conversation included the fact that I was into ham radio. Her old high school friend then said that W9BZI had been her grandfather and that was why she asked.

That call sign was from somewhere back in my long ago and got me thinking about the fellow. He was easily one of the most prominent radio amateurs in my home town back in the 1970’s when I joined the hobby. I knew he had died several years ago but his mention caused me to take a look to see exactly when he passed. He died in 2012 at the age of 91 but his obituary revealed something I knew but had long forgotten:

He had been “hired by the Nickle Plate Railroad, (now the Norfolk and Southern Railroad), as a telegraph operator. He continued working in Ohio, Portland, IN, and Indianapolis, IN. He became a freight agent and telegraph operator in Hartford City, IN, finishing thirty-five years on the railroad retiring in December of 1977”.

I have no doubt his sixty-seven years as a radio amateur were interesting. But I’d really like to have another few hours with him to hear all about his adventures as a railroad telegrapher.

There are all kinds of fancy jobs and titles to be had, but being a telegraph operator for the railroad is one that holds a lot of prestige and historical romance for me. Maybe because of my ham radio link with Morse code or maybe because I know no one will ever again hold that job title.

Just more proof that the 20th century was the most amazing time in human history to have been alive.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Field Day 2019 seems to have been another success for most who participated. I skipped the exercise this time around. I usually operate using batteries in the backyard with a wire tossed over a tree branch like a real emergency scenario.

But I wasn’t willing to ride the thunderstorms out. Besides, I’m more than just a little confident in my simple setup. If a real emergency situation presented itself I could make contact and exchange information with someone, somewhere outside the impacted area.

No question about that, and really no need to “practice” it.

Simple works. It’s those big Field Day operations which are mostly complete home stations crammed into tents and campers that seem at some risk of failing due to too much technology.

Many of the reports I’ve seen leave me wondering just how effective some of these will be if all else really failed. I get that Field Day is more than just a training exercise for the local club. It’s some combination of contest, emergency preparedness, and fraternity. You know, a chance to spend a romantic evening in a sweaty tent with the brethren…

But reports about the success (or failure) of the computer networking operation, the software, or the logging and dupe checking tools leave me wondering if we haven’t gone astray with too much cruft?

In a real emergency nobody will care even a little bit about accurate logging, dupe-checking, or the excellent BBQ and potato salad. And I’ll bet it will be nearly impossible to rouse enough volunteers in an actual shitstorm to assemble and erect those big antennas, amplifiers, tents, and generators.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The 13 Colonies Special Event is underway and continues for the entire first week of July (July 1, 2019-1300 UTC to July 8, 2019-0400 UTC). You don’t need to work all 13 colonies to get a certificate and you don’t need to get the two bonus stations for a clean sweep. 13Colonies.net

AMSAT announced its list of 2019 Board of Directors candidates. Ballots will be mailed to the AMSAT membership by July 15, 2019. ARRL.org

The Kenwood TH-D74A/E firmware has been updated from Version 1.08 to Version 1.09. Kenwood.com

The Kenwood TH-D72A/E firmware has been updated from Version 1.08 to Version 1.09. Kenwood.com

The Land Where the Internet Ends. nytimes.com

“At the age of 20, we don’t care what the world thinks of us; at 30, we worry about what it is thinking of us; at 40, we discover that it wasn’t thinking of us at all…”

Monday, July 1, 2019

The 182nd day of 2019 - 84 days until autumn begins…

I bought an IC-7610 at Dayton and it was delivered a few days later. After the unboxing I put it on the air to give it a trial run. Five QSO’s later I shut it down and returned it to the box and the work of remodeling the shack got underway and I was QRT for the next few weeks. I returned to the air this weekend and despite the dismal band conditions, things went rather well.

In total, a couple dozen contacts were added to the log on Saturday and Sunday. Seven were with POTA operations from various State Parks. There were also a half dozen or so SKCC contacts. One of those, with Ed, W0RJW took place on 80 meters after trying unsuccessfully on 40. Ed lives just 300 miles due north of here in Michigan. Could be my imagination but 40 seems a lot less reliable since the sunspots disappeared.

A little later on Saturday Dan, KB6NU tweeted that he had just worked VX4WARC in Winnipeg celebrating the 100th anniversary of their local radio club on 30 meters. Having visited that fine city in Manitoba just last October I wanted to work them. Switched to 30, heard them calling and worked them on the first call. I replied to Dan that “it’s got to be harder than that…”

Hours later, just before pulling the plug on Saturday night, I was still on 30 when I noticed a crowd forming near the bottom of the band. That turned out to be HR9/AD8J operating from the Bahia Islands (NA-057) in Honduras. Worked him in short order, then pulled the switch and closed station for the night. Nice! #