April Showers


My zest for all things HF generally begins to ebb about this time of the season. In my head, HF is something to be practiced when the weather turns nasty cold and it’s more agreeable to stay indoors rather than out. But when April showers begin to turn to May flowers and the windows are open more than closed, I’m inclined to spend what precious free time I can manage outside — away from the shack.

Knowing my radio reaction to the change in seasons, I’ve planned a few things to try and keep radio on the front burner, without the need to stay indoors. Someday, I might take HF gear to the field. That’s what I like to think and sometimes say out loud, though I do it rarely. The hassle of setup and takedown of gear, portable power and antenna make it less attractive to me than I wish it would be, though I know plenty of folks who live for that opportunity.

I’ve already made some headway in the quest to return to satellite operation. Many years ago I built a world-class ground station that permitted me to enjoy long QSO’s on AO-13 and digital operation on several of the PacSats. Those days are long gone of course and now if you want to work the FM LEO birds, you mostly have to buy a 30 year-old handheld transceiver and an Arrow antenna.

I’ve done that many times and honestly, it’s mostly downhill after you work a hundred others who are usually also standing in their backyard manually pointing a small Yagi at an invisible, seemingly imaginary moving point along the horizon while rapid fire exchanging call signs and grid squares.

Still, I haven’t done that lately so I’m making plans to reprise that role.

Of greater interest to me is the FunCube Dongle Pro+ that I obtained some months ago. I’m interested in using it to download telemetry data from the FunCube satellite on a regular basis using a Raspberry Pi. It’s purely SWL action unless you add some sort of transmitter to the mix, something that I’m not terribly interested in doing. Believe it or not, there’s much joy to be found spelunking through piles of data on the general health of these little satellites. It’s a hobby all unto itself — and one that doesn’t even require a radio license to practice.

I also plan to install a VHF/UHF mobile transceiver in my car. For these last ten years I’ve told myself that there’s no traffic on the local repeaters anymore so there’s no point in investing in a mobile installation. I think that questionable notion has cheated me out of many opportunities to get to know the local fellows better and I regret it.

My IRLP node (4212) deserves some attention too. After twelve years of operation as a low-powered UHF neighborhood node, I plan to install an improved antenna with new feed line and replace some of the hardware in an effort to make my node usable all over town.

That’s probably enough to keep me busy and out of trouble, at least until Dayton after which I’ll reconnoiter and make the necessary adjustments to make reasonable use of my time, without turning on the HF gear.

Author: Jeff Davis