Falling Rocks

Coming up this weekend is the Geminids, the most dependable of all meteor showers. With this one taking place in December, temperatures are generally cold and skies cloudy in the northern hemisphere. 

NASA ScienceCasts: Enjoying the Geminids From Above and Below

This year, there will be a nearly full moon in the sky as the Geminids peak on the night of December 13/14. The fainter meteors will be obscured by the bright moonlight reducing total counts drastically.

But this won’t have a negative impact on radio communication via meteor scatter. Pity I don’t have the station ready to play in this one, but soon!


Getting Started

End of the year is always busy what with trying to wrap things up at work and getting ready for Christmas and New Year’s. And it’s all crammed into a short time for me as I’ll be on vacation for a few weeks so you can see that time is short. Carving out time to build the new station has been a challenge but there has been some progress.

My first goal with the new transceiver is to get it on the air on FM. That probably seems simple enough but I haven’t had a VHF antenna on the house in more than twenty years so this is a bigger deal than you might imagine. It’s starting from scratch.

I ordered a Diamond X-6000A antenna, a vertical that covers 2M, 440, and 1.2GHz. At the same time I ordered the Diamond MX3000N tri-plexer to handle the intermediate connection with the three radio antenna ports.

There just happened to have been a review on this hardware in the December QST (pages 38-40). I doubt that was fate, the IC-9700 is already a popular transceiver and the publishing team at ARRL is simply on top of sharing the best way to get started with a new tri-band transceiver with its readers.

Specs on the antenna and the tri-plexer were more than adequate for how I intend to use them though seasoned VHF operators may have opted for something different. I intend to mount the antenna at one corner of the house and use a short run of LMR400 cable from there, through the attic, and into the shack. I’ll install it on a 30-foot mast and after grounding and adding lightning protection I’ll call this simple first step, “done”.

Easy as that sounds, within hours of placing my order I got a note from Ham Radio Outlet that the tri-plexer isn’t available at any of their locations and will have to be shipped “later”. Meanwhile, the antenna has already shipped.

That’s not such bad news since the installation of the antenna and running new feed line is the real work. I hope the wait for the tri-plexer will be a short one. I still need to order the LMR400 and a collection of connectors and hardware.

Assuming all that can be installed over the long holiday break, I’ll move ahead with acquiring Yagis for 6, 2, and 440. But having all that in place and functional in time for the January VHF contest is, I’m afraid, just wishful thinking.

Along the way I’m also remodeling the shack. Gone is the big desk as I intend to install a single workbench to serve as the center of operation. That will require a little drywall work to route new power feeds along with antenna and rotor cables in an alternate configuration.

Lots to do and little free time to do it but progress continues, even if it’s difficult to measure.

I did update the firmware on the 9700 to the latest v1.20. That task couldn’t have been easier but it does require reading the instructions. I’m on one mailing list for that transceiver where some have had minor problems with this task, but in the end, that was all operator error due to failure to carefully read the fine manual.


Havent Got Time For The Pain

Having suffered through solar cycle 24 with its deep and extended minimum that resulted in lousy HF band conditions for what seems like forever, we now await the next cycle (25) that’s expected to be every bit as bad. It’s enough to make a shortwave enthusiast consider how many cycles remain to enjoy the hobby.

I turned 60 this year and can’t help but notice that many of the long-ignored activities on my ham radio bucket list take place at VHF and higher – frequencies where the Sun doesn’t dictate all the action. 

Satellites, EME, meteor scatter, and VHF contesting are but a few of the things firmly stamped on my list of radio things that I want to explore before concluding my ham radio life. The way I see it, I’ve been licensed and on the air continuously since 1977 and have spent almost all of that time at HF and forty-plus years is enough. 

I recently purchased a new ICOM IC-9700 around which I intend to assemble a new station. It’s useless to me at the moment because I don’t even have an antenna to use with it but that will be quickly remedied. 

Most of my HF equipment will be sold though I intend to keep the IC-7300 for its 6 meter capability. In fact, the first antenna I plan to install will be for 6M. That will probably be followed by a LEO pack for satellite work. There’s no script for where to go after that but I expect to find as much joy in the pursuit of radio adventure at these higher frequencies as I enjoyed at HF.

There’s much to learn and experience. In many ways, this will be akin to starting over from the very beginning. I’ve resumed blogging because I think chronicling this transition might be interesting. Plus, I’d really like to leave a record of this final journey.


Hello (again) World

Let’s call this the obligatory first post of a new blog. Even though it’s really another incarnation of what’s gone on here for decades. Still, considering the last round of blogging concluded here some three months ago, this does mark the beginning of another opportunity to solve the great mystery, so “Hello World!” 

This time I’ve shed the admin responsibilities. No more server to endlessly tweak, tune, and play with. That was fun and interesting for twenty years but I’m over it, and all it took was a credit card and a visit to WordPress.

I turned everything over to them, domain registration, my email service, and the hosting. That should take a load off, and having the ability to update, manage, and post articles from any platform promises to be a nifty convenience. 

But things have changed a lot since I last used WordPress as the CMS on my own server and it will no doubt require additional tweaking to get comfortable with a themed rendition that behaves properly. (In other words, expect some changes ahead). 

I considered keeping the site under wraps until I got everything just so-so but I’ve generally found that’s easier done “live” than undercover.

Besides, it was important to get rolling before the end of this year because several new ham radio goals for 2020 will become the primary subject of this new treatise and time is running out to get started.

Stay tuned.