Monday, December 11, 2017

New offerings

Some offerings:

The uBITX, or micro BITX - being offered at $109 for a limited time.

The uBITX is an HF transceiver capable of 10 Watts output on CW and SSB. It features a general coverage receiver, digital tuning, dual VFOs, RIT and a built in CW keyer.  It comes pretty much assembled, except for a housing and the user would have to hook up the controls knobs, speaker and antenna connections, etc.  Details can be found here: http://www.hfsignals.com/

It comes with open firmware and is designed to be hacked and experimented with. The original software is available online, so if you mess up you can go back to the default, easily enough. The programming language is Arduino C language.

The QRPGuys have also announced some new products:

1:1 and 4:1 voltage Baluns - http://qrpguys.apps-1and1.com/qrpguys-11-41-voltage-baluns

K8TND's 40 Meter Direct Conversion Regenerative Receiver based on a heavily modified Kitchin, N1TEV design. - http://qrpguys.apps-1and1.com/k8tnf-direct-conversion-40m-receiver

Note: W2LJ is NOT connected in any way with any of these companies - just trying to offer the latest news I come across to the QRP community.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, December 08, 2017

In keeping with the Season

and the band conditions during our diminishing sun spot cycle, I will post a graphic that I saw on Facebook, courtesy of Jim Stephens NX8Z:


Last night's 80 Meter QRP Fox hunt was a tough go.  I finally managed to nab Randy NC4RT  in North Carolina for a single pelt.  Dave K5IX in Texas was a mere whisper, although my relatively close by neighbor Steve WX2S managed to squeak in a QSO in the closing minutes of the hunt.

QSB was tough, rapid and fluttery, and there was a low, whooshing noise across a part of the band that made things very difficult.  I'm not sure whether that was just local noise or some kind of over the horizon radar; but it was not pleasant to deal with.  I thank God for the Butternut, as it allowed me to snag the pelt.  Going against conventional wisdom, the vertical was giving me less noise than the horizontal wire!

Unfortunately, I think we have a few more years of this before things get better.  Maybe Santa will bring us some sun spots if we're all good Amateur Radio ops?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least1

Thursday, December 07, 2017

QRP ARCI Holiday Homebrew Sprint this Sunday

No, not for guys who make their own adult beverages - for you guys who brew up your own equipment!


This sounds like it would be right up the alley of my good friend, Bob W3BBO - he's got more homebrewed equipment than you can shake a stick at!

The rules are here - http://www.qrparci.org/contests/142-holiday-homebrew-sprint

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Fermi Labs Special Event

Fermi Labs celebrating their 50th Anniversary

https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/radio-lab


Don't get too close to the collider!

On a side note, one of the finest, most sleek looking Special Event certificates that I ever earned was when I worked the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee during one of their milestone anniversaries. That one is framed and hangs on the shack wall to this day.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Attention KX2 owners / users!

From Wayne N6KR on QRP-L this morning:

The latest KX2 field-test firmware allows power output to be set as high as 12 watts on 80 through 20 meters. (Max out is still 10 watts on 17-10 meters.) Supply voltage must be 12.8 V or higher on key-down. ~14 V supply recommended.

Yes, this is only about 1 dB, but it did help me snag XF1IM this morning on 20 CW.

We consider the change experimental at this point. Not all KX2s are guaranteed to hit 12 W on all of these bands, and this level is recommended for low duty-cycle use, i.e. hunt/pounce.

If you’d like to give it a try, please email me directly. (Editor's note: n6kr@elecraft.com)

73, Wayne N6KR

So there you have it from The Man, himself!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

SOTA, POTA, NPOTA ??? Now there's NOTA

AND ....... if you're a space buff like me - this one's a goody!  NASA On The Air!

From the ARRL Website:

The Amateur Radio clubs at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) centers around the US have invited the Amateur Radio community to join the NASA On The Air (NOTA) special event. NOTA gets under way in December 2017 and continues through December 2018. In addition to being the agency’s 60th anniversary, 2018 will mark 50 years since NASA orbited the first human around the moon, and 20 years since the first elements of the International Space Station (ISS) were launched into low-Earth orbit.

Starting on Monday, December 11, 2017 (UTC), Amateur Radio club stations at various NASA centers and facilities will be on the air with special event operations to celebrate these monumental achievements, as well as current milestones. Some clubs will offer commemorative QSL cards, and a special certificate will be available indicating the number of NASA club stations worked on various bands and modes.

“We plan to have a web-based system for you to check your points total and download a printable certificate at the end of the event in December 2018,” the NASA announcement said. “Points will be awarded for each center worked on each band and mode (phone, CW, digital, and ‘space’ modes — satellites, meteor scatter, EME, ISS APRS).” That would, of course, include contacts with any of the Amateur Radio stations on the ISS.

Key anniversaries during NOTA include the 45th anniversary of Apollo 17 on December 11, 2017, which kicks off the event; NASA’s founding on July 29, 1958; the 20th anniversary of the ISS first element launch on November 20, 1998; the 20th anniversary of the ISS Node 1 Launch on December 4, 1998, and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8 — launched on December 21, 1968, and returned on December 27 — marking the end of the event.

Ham radio clubs at various NASA facilities will sponsor their own special events to commemorate and celebrate specific events.

“We hope to be on the air for casual contacts and contests as well. All contacts with NASA club stations will count toward your total,” the announcement said. “QSL cards can be requested from each club you work and details will be on the individual QRZ.com profile page for each club call sign.”


I can imagine the pileups now!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, November 27, 2017

I had second thoughts

about replacing the W3EDP this past weekend. While it's not the greatest or most efficient wire antenna I've ever had, for some reason it's the best wire antenna for 160 Meters that I've ever had. In the past, my 88' EDZ and G5RV were very poor performers on Top Band, if I could get them to load at all.  Contacts with those netted me QSOs in New Jersey and New York could have been considered DX. On the other hand, the W3EDP has taken me up and down the East coast and gotten me as far as Illinois with 5 Watts.

I know, no great shakes, but even a small trickle of water is like a river to a man dying of thirst. For the coming season of shorter days and longer nights, I decided that instead of replacing it for now, I'd just try to get it up higher, and I did.  I managed to shoot a line over the tree and the apex of the W3EDP is now at about the 40 foot level.  Unfortunately, as it slopes down to meet the mast on the far side, it's a zig-zag affair within the tree limbs.  But it will do for now, while I do some more research to figure out what to swap this out with next Spring, before the leaves return.

I didn't play much in the CQ WWDX this weekend.  I only made 1/2 dozen contacts or so on Saturday afternoon, as I got busy with other things. But it was apparent that the absence of sunspots is doing QRPers no big favors.  QSOs with locations that were easy pickin's just a few years ago were still able to be accomplished - but took a lot more effort. I was a surprise that the Caribbean stations weren't hearing me as well as they used to.  It's amazing how quickly you get used to great band conditions and good propagation when the sunspot numbers are up, and how quickly you notice it when they're not there anymore.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017


Today, in the United States of America, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The day was set aside as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln, in order that we, as a people, might take time to reflect upon and be thankful for the bounty that Almighty God has bestowed upon us.

Where do I begin? Of course, I am thankful for the "things" we have. A warm house, clean clothes and enough food to keep us well fed. But even more than the "things", which are just things, I am so grateful for all the people in my life, past and present.  My loving family, friends, associates, acquaintances, teachers and professionals who have been part of my life and who helped shape me into the person that I am.

No man is an island, and I am so grateful to God that He put all these wonderful individuals into my life. I am particularly grateful for Amateur Radio and because of it, for the friendships and associations that I have been able to make with you through this blog.  I thank God for each and every one of you, and I thank you for your continued reading of this little blog. You are in my prayers, today and every day, and I hope that I will be in yours.

"Give thanks to the Lord our God, His mercy and love endure forever!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I just can't do it!

I hate it when someone on Facebook; or some other visual media decides to get "cute" and spell out Morse Code characters.  For instance this morning, I saw several:

....   .-   .--.   .--.   -.--      -   ....   .-   -.   -.-   ...    --.   ..    ...-    ..     -.   --.

which of course, translates to "Happy Thanksgiving".

I stared at that for minutes, and finally made the connection because of the holiday tomorrow.  I just cannot, for whatever reason, very easily translate visual Morse. I have to HEAR it.  I sit or stand there for minutes, slack jawed and mouth agape, trying to figure out what I'd be able to decode in a nanosecond, if I could just HEAR it!

I guess it's just me, becoming a curmudgeon in my old age.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Monday, November 20, 2017

No line up over the weekend

My plan was to hopefully get a line up over the maple tree in the backyard as a prelude to building and installing a new wire antenna over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Again, it was not to be.  By the time I got home from the FLDigi/NBEMS seminar that a bunch of us attended Saturday morning, it was already raining.

Sunday was a no-go here because it was extremely windy. It was so windy, that as Harold (my Beagle) and I sat on the couch in the living room, we could actually hear the wind "howl" as it blew up and down the street. If I had attempted to shoot a line in that wind, I would never have gotten good placement.

So that leaves next weekend. I kind of hate to take down the W3EDP as it served me decently well on 160 Meters.  It really shouldn't have; but with 5 Watts, I was able to routinely get out as far west as Illinois.  For a small suburban lot like mine, that's no small feat. I know that any doublet that I put up will not be nearly long enough to get me any kind of signal on 160 Meters.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hmmmmmmmm........

Coax is on the way. A new LDG 1:1 Current Balun is on the way and Dave VE7EZM is planting seeds in my brain:


Not only is this do-able, it's not all that far away from the configuration that I had in mind, anyway. 46.8 Feet on the short side may be tight, but I think I'll be crossing the back yard on a bit of a diagonal and not straight across, parallel with the property line. That may just give me the few extra feet of space that I'll need.  

This weekend looks to be busy, getting the house ready for Thanksgiving guests and all (plus I'm attending a seminar on FLDigi and the NBEMS messaging system for AUXCOMM tomtorrow)- but maybe, just maybe, I can find time to shoot a line up into the tree so that I can be ready for the long Holiday weekend next week.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All WX Solar Powered Amateur Radio Field Station


Julian OH8STN is featured on my blog roll, to the right. Just a few days ago, he made a video about operating a field station totally from solar power, off the grid.  The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club does this every Field Day, by using solar power to charge up our batteries. Our radios run from this power source for the entire 24 hours.

Last year, I purchased a portable, brief case type of solar panel, along with a charge controller in order to accomplish the same goal.  I haven't taken it out to the field yet, but I have used it from the back yard; and I know it will work if needed in an emergency situation.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Going back to basics

Next weekend is the long Thanksgiving Day Weekend here in the US.  After the holiday on Thursday, that leaves me with three days off.  If the weather is not bitterly cold (which it is not supposed to be), I am thinking of taking down the W3EDP and putting up a random length doublet in its place. Of course, this is all depends on no surprises coming out of left field that could possibly occupy the entire weekend. You know what they say about "The best laid plans of mice and men ......"

The main objective would be to get the wire higher than it currently is. I am going to follow the old rule of thumb - "Get up as much wire as you can, as high as you can." This is the antenna that I used for so many years as a Novice and it served me well.  I think I still have a Ten Tec Antenna T kicking around in the basement.

Basically, I would get that up as high in the maple in the backyard as I possible could, and then run as much wire as I could to each anchor point.  I will feed it with 450 Ohm window line to the ground, to a balun (A few years back, Bob W3BBO made me a beautiful 4:1 that I still have), and then RG213 to the shack.

Off the top of my head, I am thinking I'd have about 50 feet of wire to one side and about 70 feet of wire on the other. The main thing, though, is that I'm hoping I can raise the wire level from about 25 or so feet to about 40 feet.

This would be my customized version of "The 4$ Special" antenna.

Ah, the joys of living on a small, suburban lot!

You might be thinking, "Why did he wait until now? Why not do this in the Summer, when the weather is more comfortable?"

I'll tell you why - most of the leaves are gone now. Hopefully there will be less snags and fewer #$*&! words uttered.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Morse Code - still relevant today Part Deux

Kudos and tip of the straight key lever to Jeff K1NSS (and he, in turn,  thanked The K9YA Telegraph) for pointing this one out on Facebook today:

http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/macy-s-airs-poignant-holiday-ad-bbdo/311293/

As Jeff says, "Morse always makes it through!"

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least1

Morse Code: A Staple in the Navy IW Toolkit

IW is an abbreviation for Information Warfare.

It would appear that Morse Code retains its relevance (outside of Amateur Radio) even in this day and age of computers and digital communications.

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=92864

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Big shoes to fill!

After a "year off" the ARRL announced in the December issue of QST, it's newest operating event.


The 2018 ARRL International Grid Chase follows on the heels of the successful Centennial operating event and the even more successful National Parks On The Air operating event.

The idea is work as many different Maindenhead grid squares as you can, on any band (expect for 60 Meters) using any mode. Contacts made through satellites will count; but contacts made through earthbound repeaters will not.

So how will all these contacts be kept track of?  Through Logbook Of The World, of course! So it is imperative that you have an LOTW account as well as the station you are working. When you both upload your logs to LOTW; and you get a match, you get credit for a valid QSO for the ARRL IGC.

While total cumulative results will be posted at the end of the year, the clock will "reset" so to speak, at the beginning of each month. So each month of 2018 will be like a new operating event; or competition. (I hate to use the word "contest", as we all know that contests are forbidden on the WARC bands.)

Should you not know your Maidenhead Grid Square locator, it's easy to find out. You can either look yourself up on QRZ.com, or go to http://www.levinecentral.com/ham/grid_square.php. What's interesting about these two methods is that you might get different results. QRZ tells me that my grid square is FN20to and Levine Central tells me that it's FN20so.  No matter ...... for the purposes of the ARRL IGC, you'll only need the first four places.  In addition, exchanging the grid square during the QSO is not required. LOTW will keep track of that.  I suppose that for those who will go out and activate rare grids, there will be some provision made for identifying what grid square was operated from when uploading contacts into LOTW.

Will this be as successful as the last two events?  That remains to be seen. The Centennial Event was huge success and NPOTA was a monster success. In any event, kudos to the ARRL for continuing to come up with ideas to keep Amateur Radio life a little on the spicier side.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Field Day 2017 Results


The resuts are in; and just as we suspected, the South Plainfield Radio Club, operating station NJ2SP had the best Field Day outing so far of our brief 4 year history.

Operating as a 3AB station, we placed 2nd in our category, nationwide.


We also placed 2nd in our ARRL Section - NNJ.


Kudos to all the mebers of SPARC. You had a great Fied Day and you have every right to pleased with your peformance. And once again, to the doubters .... I think this shows that QRP can compete well with the rest of the pack - even in the death throes of a solar cycle.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!