With the kids in town for the holidays there hasn’t been much time for radio. But I’m an early riser and have spent the last few mornings before dawn in the shack while everyone else was sleeping.
The DX has been unremarkable though I never take any contact with VK’s for granted. It’s a 9,400 mile path which still impresses me so I was pleased to have worked another VK this morning on 30 meters.
I worked a South African a few days ago who I later learned doesn’t use LoTW or QSL which made that contact a waste of time for both of us. That same day I received confirmation for a couple more on 12 meters meaning I’ve now confirmed contacts via FT8 on all bands from 160 thru 6 meters.
These achievements may seem inconsequential, but considering this new mode has only been around a few months, was born during historically abysmal band conditions, and how modest a station I operate, I remain impressed beyond words.
Meanwhile, I’ve been spending a lot of time with DMR this week since the openSPOT is running and I’ve kept the handheld within arm’s reach. The capability to explore all of the talk groups and reflectors has been an eye-opener for me and I realize now that my original glimpse at this facet of the hobby was obscured by being limited to repeater only access.
Setting things up wasn’t difficult but there are many parts to the configuration of the entire system - openSPOT, WiFi router, and radio. Enough that I’ll no doubt forget what I did six weeks hence so I plan to document the experience mostly for my benefit but perhaps you might find it useful too.
I’ll update the Projects page to include it as time permits.
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Happy Thanksgiving! - a national holiday celebrated in Canada, the United States, some of the Caribbean islands, and Liberia. It began as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.
I pre-ordered a Flex-6400 a few months ago with expectations that it would ship sometime in January 2018. It appears that estimate will be about right. I received a note from the company a few days ago with the following update:
The factory completed the last printed circuit board assembly for the first production run on November 18th.
We also received first article (FA) final production assemblies on November 18th for validation as shown in the photo below. We were successful in confirming quality and performance of the FA units over the weekend.
The factory is in the process now of building the major chassis subassemblies in preparation for final system test and calibration.
This week is Thanksgiving week in the US, which has the factory short on staff and closed on Thursday and Friday. Full production will resume on Monday after the holiday.
Barring any unforeseen problems, our manufacturing partner has committed best efforts to complete the first production run during the month of December. Both they and we are highly motivated to do so.
Shipments into the US market will begin first.
We expect to begin CE testing during the first or second week of December. Shipments to the EU will begin as soon that testing is successfully completed.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas 54 years ago today. A century from now historians will mark that date as the beginning of the end of the United States.
Since Bob, K0NR opened the gates of hell for a glimpse at amateur radio in the Internet connected future, let’s consider his notion of the long microphone cord, the remote operation of ham radio equipment:
“The day is coming when a DXpedition to a remote island will consist of a helicopter delivery of a remote radio box (with satellite link and self-deploying HF antenna) that is operated by someone sitting at home using their smartphone”.
I’m pretty sure that the most recent Heard Island Dxpedition included an operator back in California running some gear that was located on Heard Island.
There’s probably too many things that could wrong with a fully remote operation using a self-deploying antenna, but it doesn’t seem at all far-fetched that some future DXpedition might send only two or three maintenance guys with a boatload of gear that they would setup and keep running.
Think how much money could be saved by not transporting a twenty-person team along with all their food, water, and shelters. It’s an interesting concept to consider but one that, for now, would require commercial satellite connectivity.
I know what you’re thinking, “that’s not real radio”. But what if the link was provided by an amateur radio satellite parked in a geostationary orbit - would that be “real radio”?
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
I spent a few more hours working on the openSPOT project before being able to declare victory. The final piece of that puzzle being programming my DMR handheld to work with the new network hardware. The good news is that it’s all working, and was done in time to join 36 others in checking into the weekly Hoosier DMR Net.
DMR is certainly a different world than where I come from but I’ve come to prefer spending my time in the hobby in the places where the crowds are gathering. Besides, DV is going to help fill the void in ragchewing and keeping us connected while the HF bands continue to sputter and spiral towards ever deeper solar minimums.
We could talk more about this if you like. Let me know where to find you on on DMR and I’ll give you a call.
Monday, November 20, 2017
29F and clear when I woke up this morning. That’s better. I like it cold!
I picked up a SharkRF openSPOT at the hamfest this weekend and then spent Sunday evening getting it setup and working on WiFi - with the addition of a TP-Link WiFi travel router. I’ve ordered a battery pack to turn it all into a portable hotspot for DMR, D-STAR, and Fusion.
HamRadioNow video from a talk at the TAPR Communications Conference by the HamSCI team on the Solar Eclipse QSO Party. It’s good stuff, especially for the future of the hobby. And be sure to toss Gary, KN4AQ a few bucks for his effort - he does great work.
Over 100,000 LoTW users now. Why everyone doesn’t use it is a mystery for the ages.
A little swag from FaradayRF showed up in the mail today…
Sunday, November 19, 2017
In part one of our reports from Hamfest 2017 we have a sneak preview of the Icom IC-7610 and IC-R8600 rigs. We meet the new owners of PW Magazine, and Pete tries his hand at the RSGB on-line exam. There’s also an update on the Society’s EMC Committee’s findings.
Bob finds his way back to New Broadcasting House in London where the Director General discovers he has amateurs working for the Corporation. Nevertheless, Lord Hall broadcasts from the shack of the newly resurrected club station G8BBC. And, Laurie Margolis G3UML recounts an historic QSO he had from the early 1980s.
Saturday, November 18, 2017
We traveled about an hour north of here, through a lot of rain and thunder, yesterday morning to attend the Ft. Wayne Hamfest. I wasn’t looking for anything particular, this is simply the last hamfest of the year for me and I wanted to say “hello” to a few old friends and stroll in the presence of those things that make us remember the way we were.
As it turned out, Christmas came a little early for me as I walked away with a new Kenwood TH-D74A handheld and a SharkRF openSPOT digital radio IP gateway/hotspot. The handheld was being offered by R&L Electronics for a hundred dollars less than it could be found anywhere else and it seemed too good a deal to pass on.
The openSPOT will be used for both D-STAR and DMR and will help facilitate my digital voice activity. I’ve ordered a portable battery and WiFi to Ethernet adaptor from Amazon so I can assemble a portable hotspot to carry this facet of ham radio along wherever I roam.
Friday, November 17, 2017
Been on the road the last few weeks without much time off but I got home this evening ready for 10 days of R&R. After dinner I spent about 30 minutes in the shack and what do you know, I finally managed to work a station in Wyoming via FT8 on 80 meters.
WY had been the lone holdout in my quest for WAS on the new mode and I was beginning to think I might never close that circle. Even better, the operator on the other end confirmed our contact via LoTW within minutes and the deed was finally done.
I’ve already applied for the FT8 endorsement and I can finally move on to other operating goals!
I’m still a rank novice when it comes to digital HF operation but I want to share a technique I’ve used with some success, and it’s the way I worked the Wyoming station this evening.
In some previous Twitter whine about needing WY on FT8 someone had mentioned that I should keep an eye out for K7HRO. Just by chance I noticed him in QSO with someone in the receive window but he wasn’t calling CQ. I watched his QSO end and didn’t see him for a few minutes so I called him - off the frequency he had been on as it was busy.
I found a clear spot and just called him. If you think about it, if he decoded my signal the software would highlight it in red. It doesn’t matter if we’re on the same frequency or not. If someone calls you and you can copy it, your call sign will be highlighted - like sending the “bat signal”.
He saw it, called me back and I had finally worked all states using this intriguing new mode.
This can also be handy for a pre-arranged contact too. I have a friend who lives a few hundred miles away and we were talking one evening and decided to see if we could make contact via FT8. He asked me what frequency I would be on - and I said just go to 40 meters and call me, I’ll see you if I can copy you.
My own call sign popping up in red is hard to miss.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
A variety of how-to guides that have been developed for various HamSCI projects - including “S-Meter Calibration” by Carl, K9LA. A measurement of the out-of-the-box accuracy of a number of radios is compared, and steps you can use to calibrate your radio’s S-Meter are presented.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
The last few solar cycles have been non-impressive from a shortwave perspective. HF enthusiasts have (mostly) remained resilient in the face of continuously eroding band conditions. Now comes more bad news.
Researchers at Cornell University are suggesting that the next two solar cycles will be even weaker than they are now. If they’re correct, it could be more than 30 years before we might expect the bands to have a chance at returning to the way we were.
“Using the epochs where the orbital angular momentum of the Sun is steeply decreased during the period 1600-2099, we infer that Solar Cycle 25 will be weaker than Cycle 24. Cycles 25 and 26 will have almost same strength, and their epochs are at the minimum between the current and upcoming Gleissberg cycles”.
And if you can stand one more kick in the nuts:
“Our analysis also suggests a much lower value (30-40) for the maximum amplitude of the upcoming Cycle 25”.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enough years left to patiently wait for the HF bands to show significant improvement. This extended period will doubtless yield all manner of new weak signal digital modes as hams struggle to maintain global communications via HF.
But if you’re not a big fan of change, you’re probably not going to survive in this brave new radio world.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
A lawsuit filed by former ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager Joseph Ames, W3JY, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, against ARRL and several of its officers and Board members was dismissed with prejudice by the United States District Court in Philadelphia in December 2016.
Ames filed an appeal of that decision, and on November 11, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the suit.
This one was always a head scratcher. It started in 2016 when the ARRL Board of Directors relieved ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager Joe Ames, W3JY, of his appointments in the ARRL Field Organization, including his position as Chairman of the ARRL National Traffic System™ Eastern Area.
He was out and a new SM was selected to replace him. The ARRL said Ames had “repeatedly communicated with officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on behalf of NTS, making commitments on behalf of ARRL without authority and in violation of the rules and regulations of the ARRL Field Organization”.
Ames filed suit because of the ARRL’s use of the word “repeatedly”. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the suit.
In its opinion, the appellate court wrote, “because the record shows that Ames acted contrary to [an] August 2015 directive on at least two occasions, the [ARRL’s] statement that Ames ‘repeatedly acted contrary’ to the directive is true and cannot support a claim for defamation.
Monday, November 13, 2017
Here’s a romping fun idea for a Christmas present that might put some youngster on a path toward science and technology. It might even create a spark that would lead to a lifetime of amateur radio fun. It did for me!
A strange sea monster appears on the lake…a fortune is unearthed from an old cannon …a valuable dinosaur egg is stolen. Watch out as the Mad Scientists turn Mammoth Falls upside down!
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Pretty good day on the air despite poor band conditions. After another session of FT8 I decided to come up for air and do something else.
Just after lunch I saw a message from Sean Kutzko, KX9X that he was planning to activate three parks in Connecticut today as part of the Parks on the Air program. I worked him from two of those three, KFF-1713 on CW and phone and KFF-4369 on 40 meter phone.
As it turned out, he made 250 contacts in that effort today - congrats to Sean for keeping the bands buzzing!
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Nice day here in the Heartland. Chilly but lots of sun. We worked in the yard cleaning up leaves for nearly four hours before calling it quits and ordering pizza. We just couldn’t find enough energy to get cleaned up to go out for dinner.
I worked W5KID, the USS Kidd Amateur Radio Club that maintains a permanent amateur radio station on board the USS KIDD, DD-661, a restored World War II Fletcher class destroyer. The station consists of a Yaesu FT-450D running 100 watts to a random wire, 150 ft. long in the ship’s rigging. Much of this antenna is the ship’s original HF wire antenna.
Today’s operation was a special event for Veteran’s Day. It was also notable that the contact was made using FT8 - and that’s not the first special event station I’ve worked using the new digital mode. It’s growing acceptance for special event use validates it’s place at the table.
An LoTW confirmation showed up today from CN3A for our contact made during the CQWW SSB contest a few weeks ago. Happy dance because that was my first confirmed phone contact with Morocco.
And one special note, I was getting ready to close the station when I noticed Bob, VA3QV in the FT8 waterfall on 30 meters. Despite having been online friends for several years, we finally made our first radio contact!
Friday, November 10, 2017
After dinner this evening I spent a little time in the shack. Made a few FT8 contacts though RI1ANO eluded me again despite having a big signal and watching him work a lot of stations that weren’t me.
Between contacts, I scanned the DX cluster and saw that 9U4M was on 40 CW so I dropped to 7.005 but no joy there either. Up the band a bit the DXpedition on Montserrat was calling on 7.010 and listening up. Three tries and VP2MDL was in the log.
Listened for Burundi again without luck and decided to call it a good night after an hour of RF exploration. The adventure resumes tomorrow night.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Looks like we get to Tweet a little longer.
The fraternal whining continues a week after an NCIS episode portrayed amateur radio inaccurately. I suppose the producers could have written K1MAN and a couple of drunk dudes from 75 meters into the TV script if they were going for a reality piece…
DX Engineering to offer OptiBeam:
“DX Engineering is excited to announce that it is now the exclusive North American retailer of HF directional antennas from OptiBeam—a company widely recognized for its high-performance, handcrafted antennas used by Hams around the globe”.
I managed to get my 10,000 steps in today by taking a walk in the park after work while listening to the latest episode of 100 Watts and a Wire. Happy Birthday Christian!
Monday, November 6, 2017
From ARRL News:
HamSCI — the Amateur Radio citizen science initiative — has announced a 2-day workshop February 23-24 at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark. HamSCI’s Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, has posted a survey to gauge interest and potential attendance.
It’s also interesting to note that NJIT Magazine, a quarterly publication of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, recently published a great article about the Solar Eclipse QSO Party that was organized by HamSCI.
Lots of interesting activities from this dynamic group of amateur radio enthusiasts who see radio as more than just one more QSO.
Sunday, November 5, 2017
My 1,000th unique FT8 contact was with WA9THI. Still no Wyoming.
We spent most of the day yesterday in Illinois celebrating my grandson’s sixth birthday. I had hoped to make a few satellite contacts today but the weather has been rough - thunderstorms and tornado warnings prevailed.
I added color tape to the mast and elements to help me quickly assemble it in the field. It came with paint marks but those have always been tough for me to see. The colored tape should make this a little easier, especially on a dark morning in the car.
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Now it’s my turn. I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts this week. Not that I ever devoted much time to either, I’ve simply come to believe that Facebook is ruining everything.
It’s an echo chamber where you can hear and see whatever you want to hear and see everything that agrees with your position. That makes people feel good. Makes them feel “right”. It vindicates their decisions whether they are right or wrong.
If you love Trump and hate Hillary you can find endless confirmation that he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread while she’s the spawn of Satan and it works equally well the other way around…
Quitting Facebook and Instagram was easy. Twitter will be a little tougher for me but I’ll eventually let it go too, for all the same reasons.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
I’m not sure how, but we’ve arrived at the end of October.
With only a handful of weeks left in this calendar year I took a look at the plans I made for 2017 at the end of last year. I’ve accomplished a few of the goals that I had for this year, but much remains unfinished. Like the one hundred satellite contacts I wanted to get in the log.
I’m only 100 short of realizing that goal.
I believe I can still log those hundred satellite contacts before the year is over but it means focusing my radio time on it and little else. In any event, I’ll give it a solid effort and see where that gets me by New Year’s Eve.
Monday, October 30, 2017
“The thread began when veteran 160m DXer Steve, (VK6VZ) posted an observation that also hit home with me … the seemingly overnight disappearance of a huge percentage of CW / SSB activity on the HF bands. With the sudden popularity of the new FT8 weak-signal fast-mode, the bands have changed”.
Is FT-8 killing ham radio? Probably not. But there’s no question the new mode is crazy popular and has displaced a lot of CW and phone activity on the HF bands.
Whether it’s a passing fad or here to stay is unknown. But let’s not get all weepy about it. You’re only lying to yourself if you believe that every CW and phone contact is awe inspiring. Most are little more than rote exchanges of basic contact information regurgitated over and over again.
Sunday, October 29, 2017
I spent another hour or so today listening to the CQWW activity but found nothing new or interesting. Last night I did work a few stations in Morocco and one in the Canary Islands. I’m not certain any of those use LoTW so it may have been for nothing - I’m not doing paper QSL cards again, even for a P5 confirmation…
I previously mentioned that the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors elected Joe Spier, K6WAO, as the next President of the organization. The other elected officials included:
- Paul Stoetzer, N8HM, of Washington, DC, as Executive Vice President
- Jerry Buxton, N0JY, of Granbury, TX, as Vice-President Engineering
- Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA, of New Port Richey, FL, as VP Operations
- Clayton Coleman, W5PFG, of Granbury, TX, as Secretary
- Keith Baker, KB1SF/VA3KSF, of Corunna, ON, as Treasurer
- Martha Saragovitz of Silver Spring, MD, as Manager
Saturday, October 28, 2017
I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen some snow on the ground when I let the dog out this morning. There was none to be seen in the dark and I noticed the temperature was 34F. It had been raining when I went to bed last night and the temperature was falling.
Snow in October here in Indiana would have only been unusual because we haven’t seen it much in the last decade. When I was a kid no one would have thought it out of the ordinary but times and the climate changes.
With the dog and cat both fed and the coffee made, I walked into the shack to check on the CQ WW SSB contest that had been underway for about nine hours. And as usual, band conditions were fairly lousy.
On 40 meters there were the usual suspects in the Caribbean and a few South American stations stirring things up. I copied a strong KH6 on the Big Island but not much else out of the Pacific and nothing from Europe.
I was listening to 9Y4W calling and calling while I was catching up on all the morning news when something occurred to me and I did some log checking. Yes, I’ve worked Trinidad and Tobago many times on CW but never on phone. So I called the 9Y4 and got him in the log on 40 phone.
This is the first weekend in months that we won’t be working in the yard. It’s been raining for about 24 hours with more on the way. And given the cool temperatures, we will likely find chores indoors this weekend. Or maybe we’ll just relax and watch old movies. I like this kind of lazy weather!
Later tonight I’ll run the bands again to see what else I might be missing.
Good luck in the contest!
Friday, October 27, 2017
Colin O’Flynn reviews the Hakko FR-300 desoldering tool
Colin O’Flynn YouTube Channel
Thursday, October 26, 2017
At it’s annual meeting, held at the Silver Legacy Resort Hotel in Reno, NV, the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors elected Joe Spier, K6WAO, of Reno, NV, President, succeeding Barry Baines, WD4ASW, who has retired after nine years of service as AMSAT’s President. Joe is a Life Member of AMSAT-NA and has previously served as Executive Vice President and Vice-President Educational Relations. He also has Life Memberships in the ARRL, SARA (Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers) and the AFA (Air Force Association). He holds an Extra Class license as well as commercial licenses.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Everyone Invited to Join the California QRP Club
In a recent message Doug Hendricks, KI6DS wrote:
The purpose and goals of the California QRP Club is to promote QRP. We don’t have dues, we don’t have officers, and we don’t have business meetings. We do have monthly get togethers in San Jose, and we will be a co-sponsor of the QRP activities at Pacificon next year. The club will have two caretakers, Steve Smith, WB6TNL and Doug Hendricks, KI6DS. They will be responsible for the running of the club. We will not do anything that involves the exchange of money to the club. If there are expenses, Steve and Doug will pay them.
The “new” organization appears to be the NorCal group re-born. The club model is consistent with most of the non-club – QRP clubs. I was particularly attracted by the mention that QRPp might once again be published and made available as a PDF download.
I plan on doing more issues of QRPp, but it will not have a regular schedule and will be posted as a downloadable file in the file section of this list.
It’s too bad the group chose to stick with YahooGroups instead of taking the opportunity to migrate to Groups.io as most are doing these days, but the possibility of a born again QRPp will certainly keep me watching closely.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Telemetry is the ultimate expression of what our licenses permit us to do. Anyone can “talk” to anyone else via a cellphone or Skype. That we are permitted to send remote data via RF makes our privilege exceptional.
What will you do with such an invaluable resource?
Few radio amateurs use the telemetry functionality of APRS. We count telemetry as any standard or BASE91 telemetry packet. Over a 24 hour period we’ve observed around 44 distinct stations with an average of 13 stations sending telemetry over 5 minute periods. This pales in comparison to the entire APRS-IS stream which in 24 hours averages 7,000 distinct stations and totaling over 31,000 stations sending a packet. This means just 0.13% of the APRS user base sends a telemetry packet. Disappointing. Amateur radio was founded in experimentation and remote telemetry is paramount to exciting experimentation. FaradayRF is changing this.
Monday, October 23, 2017
An excellent project employing a Raspberry Pi and a touch display to interface software and an az-el rotor controller from the Our Ham Station blog:
Anita, AB1QB got great results using a Raspberry Pi 2 with a Touch Screen for her DX Alarm Clock Project so I decided to do something similar with GHTracker. The new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B boards feature a built-in WiFi networking interface and four USB ports which made the RPi 3 a perfect platform for this project. An email exchange with Jeff at Green Heron Engineering confirmed that GHTracker could be made to run under Linux on the Raspberry Pi (RPi).
Sunday, October 22, 2017
I know this fellow whose personal preference is to reduce his role in ham radio to the bare minimum. He uses CW only with an Elecraft KX3 at low power levels with a solar charged battery. His antenna is made from wire. He has nothing to do with LoTW preferring to log using pencil and paper and exchange QSL cards via the postal service.
He makes fewer than 300 contacts each year and prefers long ragchews to chasing DX or contesting. He seems to enjoy learning about the lives and location of those he works on the air and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with his particular approach to the hobby.
In fact, I read his personal bio frequently because it inspires me to follow in his footsteps and opt for the road less traveled. I do wonder what he may be missing when it comes to higher tech aspects of our hobby, but at the same time, I wonder what I might be missing when it comes to the ‘Zen of Simplicity’.
Most who have reached my age are likely exhausted by the pace of technology. I know I am. The notion of turning back time to a simpler age is compelling though probably destructive to the future of amateur radio.
This is a theme that will be revisted here from time to time. I hope I don’t bore you with it, but it deserves attention because keeping one foot in this century while keeping the other in the last century is a weird place to be but one worthy of discussion.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Chuck Adams, K7QO has created an interesting series of videos detailing the Manhattan style of homebrewing electronic circuits. In this particular series, K7QO is building the 25 year-old NorCal 40A, a 40 meter QRP CW transceiver.
The new Islands on the Air (IOTA) Web site and software system is now up and running.
I spent two hours in the New York QSO Party. 40 meters, S&P, CW-only. After a steady diet of FT8 it was delightful to be slapping the paddle again and I managed 20 casual contacts before calling it quits. Very nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon!