Friday, December 14, 2018

Earlier this week I received an LoTW confirmation for a 20-meter CW contact with FM5BH back in 2003. He’s obviously moving his log data into LoTW for which I’m grateful. Getting a QSL confirmation fifteen years after the contact was a special joy!

Many eyes are on the main LoTW counter as the system is nearing the one billionth record entered. While I’m an ardent supporter and an evangelist of LoTW, it’s a bit of a bust for me. Until just last year 90 percent of the contacts that I logged were via CW.

And as it turns out, non-contest CW operators don’t seem to care much for electronic logging. I don’t know if that’s because those above a certain age are less inclined to want to fool with the software or just what. But my own numbers reflect about a 30 percent return rate when counting CW only contacts.

Since dipping my toes into the HF digital world I’ve noticed a tremendous increase in confirmations for those contacts. It’s higher than 90 percent. After a few thousand FT8 uploads, my total LoTW return rate has finally exceeded 50 percent but this won’t be sustained. My interest in FT8 has been a temporary diversion and soon I’ll return to the prime directive.

Last night I operated again briefly, during the intermissions of a hockey game we were watching. Despite the limited time and poor band conditions, I managed eight more FT8 contacts. The first three on 30 meters and the rest on 80. It was raining outside and that gives me some problems on 40 so I avoided it. Nothing out of the ordinary to report and no DX worked though I did copy a few stations deep in South America for a second straight night.

One other note, earlier in the day there was some online chatter about activity on 6-meters which isn’t terribly uncommon around the time of the solstice’s.

Yeah, winter is still approaching…

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Having seen warnings about the need to upgrade the WSJT-X software to the latest version (2.0) I got around to doing that last night.

Then to make sure it worked properly I spent 45 minutes in the shack giving it a spin.

It took several tries before I made the first contact which had me concerned that some new setting wasn’t adjusted properly. But after a few unsuccessful calls I finally made one and then a few more so I’m assuming all is well with my installation and configuration.

Sometimes the bands aren’t very kind, even to the weak signal folks, and last night may have been one of those. I made a few contacts on 40 meters and then switched to 80 and worked another handful. I thought 40 seemed especially stingy until I worked LW8DOZ who was 5,600 miles away in Argentina. I never know how to interpret or explain exceptions like that…

As previously noted, my current antenna is none too efficient on 80 meters and I’m looking forward to installing a new Inverted-L to replace it a few months from now once winter has done its thing and steps aside. I hope that will provide some opportunities on TopBand as well as improving my capabilities on the 80-meter band.

First impression of the upgraded software was positive. It looks solid with a few enhancements that were obvious and many more that weren’t. It’s going to take a few more hours in the cockpit to discover all the bells and whistles but that will happen quickly - what else does an HF enthusiast have to do these days besides loitering in the FT8 traffic?

Stations Logged: K2IAM  N4BP  KG5VHT  WC4H  LW8DOZ  AA4JS  N9RC  W1EQ  KS4OT  W1HS  KB0VHA

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A couple of days ago I shared that recent NOAA update to its solar cycle progression report via Twitter. Given that it wasn’t good propagation news, I didn’t expect it to be merrily received and it wasn’t. I am a little surprised, however, by how many in our ranks are inclined to reject this bad news as questionable science.

The typical reply was that it’s only a “prediction” and “no one really understands how the Sun works.”

While that’s true, these counter points don’t seem very well considered. If you’re willing to accept that nobody knows then you must also concede that the NOAA could be spot on accurate, or the possibility that they’re wrong and we face a 1000-year solar minimum.

After all, nobody knows, right?

I figure the NOAA has no vested interest in good or bad HF propagation. They aren’t selling (or buying) ham radio equipment. This isn’t a beloved hobby for them and they have no reason to merely hope for better or worse band conditions, they simply call it as they see it. They could end up being wrong, but it seems to me they are shooting straight with the available data.

Besides, this possible outcome should surprise no one. We can easily see in the rearview mirror that the past few cycles have reflected a steady decline in solar activity that has lasted longer than what we think of as normal. And we know with certainty that extended quiet periods like this have been previously recorded, this isn’t without precedent.

None of us want to see lousy band conditions for an extended period, but there may be more to it than just that. Admitting that the scenario is possible, or even likely, at a time when half or more of the HF radio enthusiasts on the planet have moved deeply into their golden years may provide too raw a glimpse at their mortality.

Many of us may not live long enough to see another cycle with decent band conditions and so hoping against hope seems to be the preferred method for dealing with it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Registration for the 2019 Four Days in May event is underway. I signed up this morning and registered for the Thursday seminar. I also requested a hotel room there. Yes, I still have a room booked at the Crowne Plaza downtown in Dayton so I’m more than covered.

In case you are unaware, FDIM is a QRP event managed by QRP-ARCI. It’s been going on every year since way back when. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve attended but I’m pretty sure it dates back to the late 1990’s. It’s called “Four Days in May” because they tack an extra day on to the three day Dayton Hamvention weekend.

Hamvention runs Friday thru Sunday and FDIM takes place mostly in the form of an all day session on Thursday but it’s much more than that.

Since the event takes place at a hotel, most attendees stay at or near the event providing plenty of opportunity for sharing a cup of coffee, a meal, or a late night beer and gab session with like minded radio enthusiasts. Friday night a large room is set aside for vendors to show off their latest and greatest inventions. Saturday night is reserved for the QRP banquet. There’s a lot going on at FDIM - even without that little hamfest that takes place a few miles away.

Like I said, registration is now open and the special hotel room deals are reserved for those registered for FDIM. Everybody who is anybody in the world of QRP will be there along with a whole lot of nobodies like me. It’s a friendly event that shouldn’t be missed. See you there!

Monday, December 10, 2018

The NOAA recently updated their solar cycle progression chart to indicate they belleve this solar minimum will extend (at least) four more years - “through the end of 2022”. Their data shows a smoothed sunspot number of 10 for this month, declining to 2 in July 2020 through January 2021, then 1 during February 2021 through January 2022, and 0 after that and through at least the end of 2022.

Of course, they could be wrong, but all the signs and data point to an extended period of declining solar activity. We could cry or hope the science is all wrong, but it seems prudent to prepare for what may come.

While I had been trying to decide what antenna to install next, this convinces me that it’s time to return to the Inverted-L antenna. 160, 80, 60, and 40 meters are the “future” of ham radio at HF and so the decision was an easy one to make.

Next season, the Inverted-L with lots of radials – and maybe an amplifier.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Eric Schwartz, WA6HHQ and Wayne Burdick, N6KR were featured guests on Hamnation this week. The occasion being the 20th anniversary of the company they co-founded, Elecraft. You can watch that interview here.

Launched in the halcyon days of the 2nd QRP movement, the K2 was their first commercial product. I still have mine (#524 built in 1999) and it remains the only piece of amateur radio hardware that I would never consider selling - I intend to be buried with it.

Thousands were sold and amazingly, the K2 is still available and stands alone as the only 160-10 meter, all-mode, HF transceiver kit on the market.

Elecraft has become the leading manufacturer of HF equipment for amateur radio and their business has grown into something considerably more than the garage where they began. Their innovative approach to offering equipment with optional add-ins permits customers to pick and choose only the options they require while easily adding new features as those needs evolve.

In addition, the Elecraft mailing list has been a constant lifeline to its customers who have questions about building or operating their equipment. The large cadre of seasoned Elecraft veterans are seemingly available 24/7 via the popular mailing list.

During the interview Eric and Wayne didn’t drop any hints about how long they will continue designing new equipment, but I didn’t get the impression that they would be retiring anytime soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I can never get enough of TX Factor.

TX Factor - Episode 22 (TXF022)

This episode features two new exciting radios. There’s a sneak preview of the Yaesu FTdx 101 hybrid transceiver and a comprehensive overview of the high-performance Icom IC-R6800 general coverage receiver. Pete Sipple M0PSX visits the 2018 RSGB Convention. We chat with Graham Shirville G3VZV with an update on the latest news from AMSAT-UK including what to expect when the geostationary satellite Es’hail-2 is in full operation. And more down to earth, Bob Mccreadie G0FGX ventures into the controversial world of Network Radio!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The North American chapter of FISTS - the International Morse Preservation Society, is attempting to comeback from its near-death experience.

The once thriving organization was halted by the untimely death of Nancy Kott, WZ8C. Nancy had managed nearly every club detail for many years until she became a Silent Key in 2014.

Following that, FISTS-NA fell mostly silent too.

But I happened across a note in another club newsletter a few days ago announcing a nice incentive for new and past members to join (rejoin) the fold with a free two-year membership offer:

A “one time” extension of two FREE years membership has been added to all expired memberships from Jan 1, 2017 to Aug 15, 2018, due to no Keynote newsletters being produced during that time frame. This two year extension started on Aug 15, 2018.

All paid memberships as of Aug 15, 2018 were automatically given a “one time” FREE extension of two years membership.

Any previous members with lapsed dues that are not included in item [1] or [2] above and wish to renew their membership, may ask for and receive a “one time” two year FREE extension of membership, from the date of their request.

If you wish to join FISTS as a “New Member”, you will receive a FREE “one time” two year complimentary membership which includes downloaded newsletters ONLY.

There was even a suggestion that dues may be permanently suspended if the organization can attract enough interest and maybe raise a few bucks through merchandise sales and donations.

As a past member (6641) I would be pleased to see FISTS resume its role in helping preserve the use of Morse Code for another generation if it can find more than one person to lead the organization into a future filled with popular digital modes and perpetually discouraging band conditions.

I may sound skeptical, but I’m rooting for their success. I hope lots of us take advantage of the two-year offer and while you’re at it, download a free copy of The KeyNote newsletter to get a flavor for the organization.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The first of the month snuck up on me and I’m just now completing the logging chores for November. I’ve submitted my SKCC Brag result, though it was certainly nothing to brag about. While I have no targeted monthly goals for radio activity, November was far below normal, whatever that might be. I expect to be more active in December…

I do plan to participate in the upcoming SKCC WES and intend to hang around long enough to make a reasonable show of it. I always enjoy the event but too often don’t plan for it and then other things come along that compete for that time. I usually only get an hour or so near the end but this time I’m setting aside more time for it.

There’s a little more urgency now because I’m getting close enough to the final run for Senator level that a good showing in the WES will move things along nicely. In addition, January brings the annual K3Y event which brings more operators into the fray improving my chances for making “S” in the next 60 days.

And there’s one more SKCC note to share. The December Rag Chew newsletter is available and ready for download. It’s another jam-packed edition that’s as nice a ham radio club letter as you’re likely to find anywhere online.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Randy, K7AGE gives us a look at the highlights from the 2018 AMSAT Space Symposium that took place earlier this month in Huntsville, Alabama.

Visit K7AGE’s YouTube channel for more videos. Visit the AMSAT Web page for more information on how you can get started with ham radio in space!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

It hasn’t been all that long ago when the popularity of FT8 was quickly growing that naysayers called it a “fad” and something that would soon pass. Not so, at least so far. As its use has outpaced phone and CW to become amateur most popular mode, the digital mode appears headed for a long life.

Makes me wonder how its adoption might change the hardware that facilitates it. For instance, since most of the heavy lifting takes place in software, does the dedicated digital enthusiast really need a world-class transceiver to succeed? Might the market for high-end gear with lots of bells and whistles for Phone and CW operators begin to shrink?

Perhaps we will one day see a dedicated digital transceiver hit the market. I realize there are a few SDR-only black boxes available that would do the same thing, but I mean from one of the big manufacturers. Say a faceless box with a built-in sound card with the only user connections being power, antenna, and a USB port. About the size of a VHF mobile transceiver with 25 watts out and maybe even a decent auto-tuner inside.

A “brick” like that might catch fire if it were offered for less than $500. Especially among those new to HF who are without previous investment. Sure, if you already have a K3S then why not use it for digital modes. On the other hand, why buy a K3S if all you really want to explore are the nooks and crannies of the HF digital underworld?

The transition to digital on the coattails of the wildly popular FT8 will change amateur radio in ways we’ve yet to even consider. But one thing looks certain, the staying power of interest in FT8. And it’s proving that the naysayers are just that and not great prophets.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

On the air conversations almost always include the local weather report. It was a lot more useful in the days before the Internet, but I continue to appreciate it for its true value, as QSO lubricant. No matter where I’ve traveled I can always sit down around a bunch of old fellows and make an off-the-cuff comment about the weather that will turn into a conversation.

And as it turns out, the weather hasn’t been kind to us in East Central Indiana this autumn. I’m one of the few who enjoys colder weather and I especially enjoy snow, so I always look forward to Fall and Winter.

While the temperatures have dropped as expected this season, it’s been too wet to enjoy. 35F and sunny is a special treat but 35F with rain is just cold and nasty.

Living on a wooded lot we’ve had difficulty getting ahead of picking up the fallen leaves. Wet, soggy leaves are almost as miserable to deal with as standing in a cold rain to pick them up. On top of that, we haven’t been able to enjoy even a single fire in the backyard since the first week of October because everything is just too wet.

The changing climate has made living in this region less enjoyable for me. We haven’t had Spring here in about a decade. We now transition from Winter to Summer almost overnight. In March of this year it was 28F one day and 84F the next and we moved directly into hot and muggy weather from that point until October this year.

Enjoying a few weeks without the need for heating or air conditioning with the windows opened wide is becoming a distant memory.

Given that we expect to move one more time in our lives, our conversations about that now include the weather. I’d really like to live somewhere that still enjoys four seasons - even if the summer is shorter and the winter longer. The only problem is that our family all resides in this general region which is what has kept us here all along.

Keeping a home here and getting another much farther north to live in part of the year is one solution though I don’t relish the idea of upkeep on two homes as we transition into our golden years. Maybe a condo here and a cabin somewhere up north. It’s certainly something to think about because the weather almost certainly won’t go back to the way it used to be here.

See, an entire journal entry based on nothing but the weather. I told you it was lubricant for long conversations…

Monday, November 26, 2018

The kids all left on Saturday afternoon after we had visited a local Christmas tree farm where everyone brought home fresh cut trees. By Sunday morning the house was quiet as a chapel and I got to spend a little time hanging out on 30 meters where I worked a smattering of stations.

I enjoyed a very nice QSO with KD1RT out in Western Massachusetts (671 miles). Roy was using an IC-703 running ten watts into a vertical wire antenna. He was light but very copyable thanks to the absence of any QRM. 

Still, I find weak signal work like this much improved using the APF function on the KX3. The Audio Peaking Filter turns on a very narrow filter that improves copy of a very weak CW signal buried in the noise. With it switched on, reception was solid copy.

I thought Roy’s call seemed familiar, but I was paper logging and didn’t check into at the time. Later, when I was transferring the info to my computer log, I saw that we had worked just last month in the SKCC WES but we were both using paddles for this QSO.

The number of stations being added weekly to my log has dropped off lately as I’ve been more interested in making contact rather than “contacts” and I’ve really enjoyed the casual conversation so much more. I look forward to at least a few good nights in the shack this coming week.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday has arrived. I’m not nutty enough to get out in that madness, but my wife and our daughter both work in retail and so are consigned to work the most ridiculous hours imaginable during this weekend. The level of greed and rudeness is off the human meter. It horribly taints Christmas if you ask me and I can’t imagine anyone really wants it to be like this…

I haven’t had nearly as many stolen moments to play radio as I thought I might this long weekend. I’ve managed a single QSO so far but it was an enjoyable ragchew with Butch, NM1I in Massachusetts.

The big CQWW CW contest will be underway soon so I’ll probably spend whatever stolen moments remain this weekend hanging out on 30 meters, trying to avoid the Black Friday like radio frenzy.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

It’s early morning as I jot this down. Coffee is brewing and preparations for the noon time meal are already underway. The grandkids (and their parents!) arrived late last night - they’re still snug in bed. The house will be filled with the others who live around here in a few more hours.

Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and I hope to see you on the bands sometime over this long weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Tonight is the monthly NAQCC Sprint and I hope to jump into the fray using my KX3. This will mark my return to using low-power exclusively as I have boxed up the 7300 for sale and the only HF gear remaining in the shack now is of the QRP variety. Things have come full-circle in this regard as the year began for me with only QRP gear available and it will end the same way.

It’s time for a return to my QRP roots. Having shed a boatload of equipment these past few months, the shack is finally beginning to take on the look of a minimalist hobby space. Can’t explain it, but I’m craving simple things these days.

It’s probably just the mental exhaustion that comes from the overload of technology on our lives. I have little control over that without adopting a hermit’s lifestyle, but I can prevent it from permeating my hobby time. Especially when “simple” aligns with my goals for amateur radio.

If yours is to become a big-league contester or to climb to the top of the Honor Roll then God bless you. Climb in and hang on because you’re going to need every tech bell and whistle available to achieve your goals. My goal is less ambitious. I want to make a few CW contacts in the evenings using a battery-powered station while sipping a beer. I don’t care where they are located, I just hope they’re friendly.

As for the myriad of other things that tend to distract me, I just don’t care anymore.

I don’t care if the ARRL censures its own Board Members for real or perceived grievances. I don’t care if amateur radio attracts more youth. I don’t care if there’s another DXpedition to Bouvet Island or anywhere else for that matter. I don’t care if some think that ‘Makers’ will save the hobby. I don’t care if the next solar cycle is better for us than the last two. I don’t care if most amateur licensees pretend that VoIP is ham radio. I don’t care if FT8 is the most popular ham radio mode…

I just need a small cadre of CW enthusiasts to continue responding to the signals from my peanut whistle station for another twenty years. If somehow those fail to materialize, I’ve had a good run and will move on to some other hobby.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

I attended the 46th Ft. Wayne (Indiana) Hamfest on Saturday. This year it also hosted the ARRL Central Division Convention. The trip (90 miles) has become a tradition for us as Ft. Wayne is a larger city than where we live and my XYL drops me at the hamfest while she kicks off our Christmas shopping at some large mall there.

Ft. Wayne is the biggest indoor fest in Indiana and given that it’s set in mid-November, it’s also the final hamfest of the year around these parts. Like most, this one continues to shrink a little with each passing year.

Oddly enough, attendance has remained strong but the number of sellers has been in steady decline. I don’t think there’s much chance of it going away anytime soon, but the growth in barren floor space is obvious to those of us who attend year-after-year.

I picked up a few odds and ends, and spent all of twenty-bucks if you don’t count the cost of my ticket. I’ve rarely been a big customer at any hamfest. Like most I’m there to enjoy some throw-back nostalgia and chat with old friends.

I bumped into the newly re-elected Central Division Director Kermit Carlson, W9XA and we spoke for a few minutes. Ron, N9RC is an old friend from Cincinnati who meets me there every year. In fact, his wife and mine shop together while we kick around the Coliseum.

I also got to catch-up with Bill Murray, W9VC. Bill is a Hoosier by way of Michigan. He retired not so long ago and now has more time to homebrew QRP gear and enjoy hiking and camping in various Michigan parks bringing his radio gear along. One of these days after I retire I hope we can plan such a trip together.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The lede from the November 2018 Elecraft Newsletter begins like this:

“20 years ago this month, we were putting the finishing touches on our first product, the K2. Wayne (N6KR) was busy finalizing the firmware and manual. Eric (WA6HHQ) had purchased all the parts for our first production run and was building the web site. With a staff of just five people – plus the enthusiasm and support of 100 dedicated field testers – we were ready for prime time”.

I can’t believe it’s already been 20 years. Time flies. I built K2 #524 in 1999 and that launched my journey as a dedicated low-power enthusiast.

Speaking of the monthly newsletter, it has been published fairly regularly during 2018 and in a recent post to the Elecraft mailing list, Wayne Burdick said they are looking for article submissions concerning “Elecraft gear, or of general interest”.

Sharpen your pencils and get cracking.

Friday, November 16, 2018

I’ll be at the Ft. Wayne Hamfest tomorrow morning. Don’t want anything, don’t need anything, don’t expect to buy anything. But it’s always a good time and big enough to see all kinds of interesting things. Look for photos via my Twitter account - you don’t have to have an account to view them.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Awoke to an ice storm this morning. Many schools across the area were closed or delayed so I decided to wait an extra half-hour before heading for work, to let the Sun wake up. No reason to drive on ice and in the dark if it can be avoided.

When I did finally hit the road, I listened to the latest Solder Smoke podcast. A couple of interesting thoughts from that program.

One of them being the term “hardware defined radio”. I liked that.

Sure, I understand the many advantages of SDR and have several of them to choose from in the shack, but I also have some “hardware defined radios” on the shelf and none of them have ever nagged me for a new firmware update or complained when a software company failed to provide a proper driver…

The other was when Bill talked about his recent use of QRP SSB on the 60-meter band. He pointed out that since amateur use on that band in the US is channelized, there’s no adjacent channel interference from a station that moves in just above or below you. He also went into some detail about the military traffic he’s copied there - the band is shared in the US too.

Got me thinking that I haven’t been on 60 for quite some time and how I really should revisit that space. I used to have a nightly sked with a friend in Cincinnati (110 miles) on that band and it worked very well considering that we could never do that on 20 and some nights not even on 40.

Lightly used, 100-watt power limit, no contests. What’s not to like?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Elecraft looking to add to our tech support team

We have a new local Ham Radio Job opportunity at Elecraft HQ in Watsonville, CA! (On the coast just west, over the mountains, from Silicon Valley).

This group answers customer pre-sales, technical support, product setup, usage and troubleshooting questions on our high performance K-Line, KX-Line and legacy lines of HF/VHF Ham Radios, Panadapters, Auto-Tuners, Solid State Linear Amplifiers (100, 500 and 1500+W) and accessories. (These inquiries can be via telephone, email and also occasional customer visits to our HQ.)

There is no need for a detailed understanding of all our products up front. We’ll bring you up to speed on selected products quickly and allow you to expand your knowledge over time. :-) Feel free to ask for more details if needed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Walked into the shack last night (0100-0200) for an hour of fishing on 80, 40, and 30 meters using FT8. Not a hardcore digital session, my goal was to simply make just ten contacts. The bands were kind this night and I ended up putting twelve in the log.

I spent the next hour visiting the QRZ bio for each of the stations worked, which I find as enjoyable as the contacts themselves. I always learn something new and interesting in this process. I really need to put something on my my own bio page one of these days!

Signals on 30 meters were light at this early hour and as is often the case, all emanated from the same geographic region. Tonight it was SE Texas and Louisiana. It’s an interesting band to be certain.

And is the usual case with digital operators, most have already confirmed via LoTW.

Monday, November 12, 2018

I managed to get my IRLP node back up and running this weekend. Other than some minor configuration issues the only real challenge was forwarding some ports on a router that was new since the last time the node was online.

The new router was provided by Xfinity when we recently upgraded our service. Port forwarding is considered an “advanced” task, especially since the target device was a Raspberry Pi. But once I found the information it was as simple as logging onto an Xfinity Web site and making a few changes.

Despite having digital capabilities with DMR and D-STAR available to me, I’ve missed the old IRLP network where I’ve maintained a node since 2003.

Now I need to figure out where and when some of the old nets are meeting so I can try to catch-up with friends - I’ve been away since the node crashed back in April of this year.

Drop in sometime and let’s chat. 4212 is enabled whenever I’m home to monitor it - so weekday evenings would be best or send me an email and let’s set something up.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Kenwood has discontinued the TS-2000 transceiver with no immediate plans to replace it. Just like some years ago when Yaesu discontinued the FT-847 without replacing it.

These “home” station transceivers with extra features for satellite use fell out of favor after the loss of AO-40 and were never replaced. You can’t blame the big boys for bailing on the dwindling AMSAT crowd.

But nearly two decades later it’s inexcusable that there’s only one FM handheld transceiver capable of full-duplex operation. Resilient and resourceful hobbyists with a desire to touch the edge of space from their backyard have worked up all manner of duct-tape and workarounds to make it so.

But they deserve much better. Look at it this way, if they go away because of the lack of readiliy available, high-quality handheld equipment, then eventually Yaesu and the others will have no one left to buy their $13,000 HF transceivers – and that’s exactly what they will deserve.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Having just cleared the front yard of 14 huge bags of leaves I can confirm that it’s officially “Fall” in Central Indiana. I came home today from a short out of town trip to find that the two really big maples in the front yard had turned loose and the leaves were a foot deep. It’s good now but this was only the first big batch of several more to come.

While out in the yard I kept looking up at the old center-fed zepp. I’m planning to take it down soon. I’m finished with HF activity from the house and need to make room for several planned VHF and UHF antennas - something I should have done months ago.

The newly configured SD card for my non-working IRLP node arrived while I was out of town. I’ve already cloned it and put the clone away for safe keeping but won’t get around to getting the node back up and running until the weekend.

Rain is moving in here overnight and could turn to snow tomorrow morning. Little is expected but if it turns into a messy weekend then I’m just going to goof off and catch-up on all the AMSAT videos from the Symposium.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I published a weekly ham radio letter a few years ago. That was an enjoyable and interesting medium for writing. But work related projects got in the way and after just fifteen months I closed the curtain on that project.

Being a few steps closer to retirement my work schedule has become much more predictable and I’ve been thinking about bringing the weekly letter back for another run. But then I discovered that the service I used to manage the letter has been absorbed by another company and that simple and inexpensive service is no longer available.

After some digging I found a replacement service that looks promising. I’ve got more work to do before re-launching but I think the first letter will begin hitting inboxes next week.

If things go well I’ll announce how to subscribe to the letter in a post here on Friday. I never charged for the letter and don’t plan to do that this time around either. It’s just another low-key publishing project that provides another unique outlet for sharing the gospel of amateur radio.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The 4SQRP Group continues to make available interesting kits for the amateur radio community. One example, the NM0S Murania for instance, is a simple transistor radio kit (broadcast) that’s easy enough to be a perfect “first kit” project for builders of all ages.

Meanwhile the 40 and 20 meter versions of the K1SWL Hilltopper are high-performance CW transceiver kits, a great solution for portable operation - small, lightweight, and low current drain. A custom silk-screened PCB enclosure is included with the kit and no drilling or cutting is required.

The large user community means support is just an email away and 4SQRP supports these kits as evidenced by this recent note to buyers:

“It had been brought to my attention that we have shipped a Normally Closed switch with with the latest shipment of Hilltoper 20 and 40. We are currently reordering the correct switch, and will be shipping them to the recent buyers of these kits. Sorry for the inconvenience”.

Mistakes happen. Volunteers assemble, package, and mail the kits. But that sort of candid honesty and online support are why I always look forward to whatever kit the group comes up with next.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The 36th Annual AMSAT Space Symposium took place this weekend. The event has been named in honor of Bill Tynan, W3XO. Tynan, a founding director of AMSAT, passed away at the age of 91 earlier this year.

As usual, much of the event was recorded. The Saturday sessions are already available via YouTube and no doubt more will follow over the coming week.

The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, or AMSAT, is a worldwide group of Amateur Radio Operators (Hams). It was formed in the District of Columbia in 1969 as an educational organization.

AMSAT’s goal is to foster Amateur Radio’s participation in space research and communication. The Organization was founded to continue the efforts, begun in 1961, by Project OSCAR, a west coast USA-based group which built and launched the very first Amateur Radio satellite, OSCAR, on December 12, 1961, barely four years after the launch of Russia’s first Sputnik.

Friday, November 2, 2018

AMSAT’s 36th annual Space Symposium got underway today in Huntsville, Alabama. I last attended in 1995 when the event took place in Orlando where we were able to see Phase 3D at its integration center.

The new ARRL Contests landing page is live.

I just finished the book The Brasspounder by D.G. Sanders who worked 50 years for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a telegrapher and block operator. It was recommended by someone on a radio mailing list recently so I snagged the Kindle edition for a couple of bucks.

The author begins the book this way:

“This is the story of how it used to be in the romantic days of railroading, when the entire force, from the policymaker at the top to the track laborer at the bottom, took pride in a railroad’s service, its efficiency, its safety, and its personal appearance … and ‘on time’ was a religion.”

I like railroads and I like the telegraph. There’s a lot more of the former in this story but I still enjoyed every bit of it. You will too.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Despite a whole lot of rain we had more trick-or-treaters stop by last night than I would have imagined. I think maybe they were brought in on a bus or something. Not that I minded, it was just unusual since the number of creepy visitors had been tapering off year after year until this year.

I’m not anti-Halloween or anything, but it is one weird religious holiday. People dressing up like dead or seriously injured people, ghosts, goblins, and monsters. And then there’s the matter of sending your kids to beg for candy from strangers - what could possibly go wrong?