Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Learning lessons

Today is a sunny and warm day in New Jersey, with a lunchtime temperature of about 66F (19C). This made it a good day for some outside QRP, as the sun made it feel a bit warmer than it actually was, thus providing a comfortable operating experience. The fact that the leaves on nearby trees are changing and are very colorful didn't hurt, either!


I set the station and magloop up in all of about 5 minutes. I seem to be getting better at this. 20 Meters was alive with some activity, but not overly crowded.  I worked Josef at DL0IL in Germany, and then a little later Alexei who seems to be on holiday in the Canary Islands EA8/UA4WW.  Both were decently loud here. I got a 559 from Josef and a 579 from Alexei, so they both seemed to be "honest" RSTs, as opposed to "cookie cutter" 599s.

I heard a French station around the 20 Meter QRP watering hole, but I couldn't quite make out the call.  He was also decently loud here, perhaps even louder than DL0IL and EA8/UA4WW. However, his fist was shaky, and his callsign was extremely hard to make out. F6VAT, or something like that? RBN showed him as F63AT, but that's not a valid call, either. Anyway, it mattered not, for as loud as he was, I wasn't able to get him to hear me, even after trying 4 or 5 times. So much for reciprocal propagation, eh?

So as I gain experience with the magloop, what am I learning?  This is all subjective as I have no empirical data to back me up, but I would say (IMHO):

1) Magloops work, as improbable as that may seem (to me, anyway - still seems weird to me).
2) They seem to work as well, if not better, than compromise verticals, such as the Buddistick or a Hamstick.
3) I have no way of proving this right now; but my hunch would be an EFHW in a tree would perform better. This would be an interesting experiment, to see if I could set them up side by side, for at least a listening comparison.
4) It would seem to me that a permanent "home station" antenna such as a dipole or full sized vertical would have a better performance edge.  This would seem to be only common sense, given the size and efficiency of these antennas.

So when is a small magloop antenna a viable solution?

1) When you are portable, and you are pressed for time and require a very quick set up and tear down.
2) When you are bound by an HOA or other agreement that does not allow for outdoor antennas at your home QTH.
3) When you are operating portable and using trees is out of the question because A) there are none, or B) it is prohibited.
4) When you are operating portable away from your vehicle, thus losing a very effective ground plane for a compromise vertical.
5) When it's all you've got!

My magloop will continue to remain as one arrow in my antenna quiver. I doubt I would ever rely on it, entirely, in an outdoor Sprint such as FOBB or the Skeeter Hunt, although it might be interesting to give that a try, some day.  I think I'm going to have to pull out my WSPRlite and do some more testing, in the mean time.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Disappointed last weekend

I did not have a walloping amount of success with the QRP-ARCI Fall QSO Party over last weekend. Granted, I didn't put in a lot of time.  I would have made a bigger time investment had my QSO rate been higher.

I got on the air both mornings, Saturday and Sunday, around 1400 UTC or so.  20 Meters seemed dead on Saturday and on Sunday, I was able to make out a few whispers of signals, but that was about it.  40 Meters was active as all get out on both days  ......... with Pennsylvania QSO Party participants.  It seemed like wall to wall  PA QSO Party'ers, as a matter of fact.  And don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, it's just that unfortunately, there didn't seem to be many QRPers on the bands.

In all, between calling "CQ QRP" and tuning around and pouncing (no panadapter here, guess I'm too 'old fashioned'), I made about seven Fall QSO Party contacts in the span of a combined total of about three hours operating time. I'd be more willing to glue my posterior to the shack chair for a larger turn out.  If band conditions and a low participation rate seem to be the dominant factor, well then ....... I have more useful ways to spend my time.

My fingers are crossed that The Zombie Shuffle, occurring this Friday night will see more QRPers on the air, and as a result, will yield a lot more fun.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Another rant ..........

Sometimes I make the mistake of going over to eHam or QRZ and reading the forums.  I say "mistake" because of one type of post that really gets my blood pressure elevated. Those are the ones by Amateur Radio ops who dismiss the value of Amateur Radio in Emergency Communications.

I understand that some Hams feel there is too much emphasis on EMCOMM by the ARRL and other organizations. They usually dismiss the people they are speaking with by saying something like, "Yeah, When All Else Fails ....... like that's going to ever happen!"

I don't want to hear that from anyone, ever again.  I think over the past weeks, we have seen that not only is "When All Else Fails" possible - it can happen at anytime, anywhere.  The power of Nature laughs at our infrastructure.  The sin of pride fools us into thinking that as human beings, we are infallible; and that our edifices are indestructible.

The hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, as well as the wildfires in California are showing us that humans are no match for the forces of water, wind and fire.  All our finest efforts in building and engineering can be laid to waste in a matter of hours.  As we have seen in Mexico, in the case of an earthquake, that could be minutes.

When a disaster occurs, Amateur Radio operators are poised to go into the breach, volunteering their time and talent, or even their treasure by donating to the ARRL's Ham Aid Fund. Our brother and sister operators (when asked) will always be running towards where other people are running away from.

God bless them and the First Responders that they support!

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

Rainy weekend

The forecast for today is cloudy, cool and damp. The forecast for the weekend is rainy. Not deluge type, hurricane rain; but enough to curtail any outdoor (leaf raking, lawn mowing) activity. So maybe, just maybe, I can get the certificates printed up for the 2017 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.  Then, maybe I can get them posted during the next week.


I don't mean to pontificate or mount a "high horse" here, or do any self-back patting with what I am about to say, but if I may utter a few words with your kind indulgence. I know from various private e-mails that I receive, how maddening it can be to participate in a QRP Sprint and then get the results months down the road; or maybe never!  I know that for many of you, "the win" is not so much important as seeing where you stand in the crowd. This is how you evaluate your portable ops setups and antennas, especially for those of you who participate from year to year.

That's why it will always be a top priority for me to get the Skeeter Hunt Scoreboard out within a week, if not a few days, after the log submission deadline.  This year, I was fortunate enough to get the Soapbox out at the same time.  Last year, 2016, I slipped badly.  I got the Scoreboard out quickly, but sloughed off with regard to the Soapbox and certificates.

As long as I am able, that will never happen again.  The Scoreboard and Soapbox will always be timely, with the certificates following shortly thereafter.  You folks so graciously put your time (time is money!) and talent into participating. For that, I am eternally grateful. The least that I can do is to post the Scoreboard and Soapbox as quickly as I can, followed by the certificates - just another way that I can say "Thank You" to all of you.

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Zombie Shuffle in a week!

I may have mentioned this before, but a week from tomorrow, one of the most fun events of the QRP year will be occurring - the 2017 Zombie Shuffle.  And I am going to be able to participate this year, as it is occurring a week early!


This is more an operating event than a hard core contest. The idea is to get on the air and have fun, regardless of your CW speed/skills. All the details, the whole magilla, can be found here: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/zombie/2017/pg.htm


I'll have to decorate the shack in a Halloween motif and submit them with my score to NA5N.

Remember ....... "Zombies shuffle because they can't run!"

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

Crummy weather

Crummy weather the past two days have curtailed my lunch time QRP activities.  I guess as we transition from Summer to Summer/Autumn to Autumn and things become more stable, conditions will become favorable again.

Yesterday, though, I was pleased to be able to have lunch with another Amateur Radio Op.  Chris KA5W is a consultant working at our firm. One day, a few weeks ago, he had sent me an e-mail stating that he had seen my call sign plates and a couple ARRL bumper stickers on my car - would I care to meet for lunch.  Conflicting events on our schedules precluded that from happening until yesterday.


Photo courtesy of KA5W and QRZ

It was an enjoyable hour that flew by way too fast.  Chris is a Marine, now engaged in IT as a civilian (there's really no such thing as an ex-Marine!). He's working here for a few months, so we took the opportunity for an eyeball QSO.

We talked of rigs, CW, DX and antennas, but mostly about portable ops, which seems to be near and dear to both of us.  I promised Chris that I'd send him an e-mail the next time I head out to the picnic tables, and maybe if he has the time, he'll come out for a look-see. He's interested in the KX3. I'll have to remember to bring the mic along.

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

QRP-ARCI Fall QSO Party this weekend



2017 QRP-ARCI(sm) Fall QSO Party

Date/Time:
1200Z on 14 October 2017 through 2400Z on 15 October 2017. You may work a maximum of 24 hours of the 36 hour period.

Mode: HF CW only.

Exchange:
Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, ARCI member number
Non-Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, Power Out

QSO Points:
Member = 5 points
Non-Member, Different Continent = 4 points
Non-Member, Same Continent = 2 points

Multiplier:
SPC (State/Province/Country) total for all bands. The same station may be worked on multiple bands for QSO points and SPC credit.

Power Multiplier:
>5 Watts = x1
>1 - 5 Watts = x7
>250 mW - 1 Watt = x10
>55 mW - 250 mW = x15
55 mW or less = x20

Suggested Frequencies:
160m1810 kHz
80m3560 kHz
40m7030 kHz (please listen at 7040 kHz for rock bound participants)
20m14060 kHz
15m 21060 kHz
10m28060 kHz

Score:
Final Score = Points (total for all bands) x SPCs (total for all bands) x Power Multiplier.

BONUS POINTS: None available for this contest.

Categories:
Entry may be All-Band, Single Band, High Bands (10m-15m-20m) or Low Bands (40m-80m)

How to Participate:
Get on any of the HF bands except the WARC bands and hang out near the QRP frequencies. Work as many stations calling CQ QRP or CQ TEST as possible, or call CQ QRP or CQ TEST yourself! You can work a station for credit once on each band.

Log Submission:
Submit your entry online at http://www.qrpcontest.com >
Contest logs are not required for entry, but may be requested by the Contest Manager if required.

Deadline: Entries must be postmarked on or before 29 October 2017.

Results: Will be published in QRP Quarterly and shown on the QRP-ARCI website along with qrpcontest.com

Certificates: Will be awarded to the Top 10 Scoring Entrants.

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Phooey!

Today may well be the "Last Rose of Summer" until Indian Summer arrives, if indeed we get one this year.  It was partly cloudy and warm - near 80F (26C). Over the next few days, the temperatures are supposed to drop and bring weather that is more normal for Autumn.

I was hoping to work W3BBO for a lunch time rag chew.  I thought 40 Meters would do us in good stead; but looking at my RBN spots. Bob, who lives in Erie, PA, may have well been in the skip zone.


I called him a few times without an answer and then called CQ a few times, hoping he would look me up on RBN and try to answer me.  An after action e-mail confirmed that's exactly what he did, but he didn't hear me and if he tried calling me, I didn't hear him. Humbug.

I went up to 30 Meters after a while and didn't hear much there. 20 Meters was way busier, and in the time I had left, I managed to get both DR5E and ON4UN in the log.  Quickie DX QSOs rather than the rag chew I was looking for; but it's better than being skunked.

From the admittedly small sample of times I have used the magloop. compared to the multiple times I have used either the Buddistick or Hamsticks on the Jeep - they seem to be about equal performers in a very preliminary estimation.  It's hard to know for sure, though. I used the Buddistick and Hamsticks when the sunspot cycle was much more favorable. Having success with the magloop now makes me wonder how much better it might have performed when solar conditions were more robust.

Apples and oranges. It always seems to come down to apples and oranges.

On a side note, I got the chance to give Amateur Radio a little PR.  A woman came up to me and asked me what I was doing.  She and her lunch buddies at the next picnic table over were curious. I told her it was Amateur Radio and she looked at me like I had three heads - obviously she had never heard of it before. I asked her to Google (when she got back to her desk) Amateur Radio, hurricane, and Puerto Rico.  There are plenty of positive articles and videos out there that shed good light on our hobby/service.

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

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Skunk for lunch

I headed outside again today with the QRP gear, to try some stuff.



1) I wanted to try a different method for tuning the magloop capacitor
2) I wanted to try a little more Reverse Beacon spotting.

Although I made no contacts, I did have success (more than I thought) with the new method of tuning the magloop. Instead of listening for the loudest receive noise with my ears, I keep my eye on the KX3's S-Meter and watch for the most bars.  Once I get there, I tweak very slowly for the loudest receive noise and then use the KX3's SWR Meters for the lowest SWR.  I was surprised how much better and quicker this worked.  It was markedly faster than my older method of just listening. I guess in my old age, the KX3's S-Meter reacts more quickly than my ears do.

The second "experiment" involved sending out CQs with the primary purpose of wondering how RBN would pick me up.  I certainly would have answered any calls, as that would have been icing on the cake, but even though I got no takers, I fulfilled my primary objective.


17 and 20 Meters got me the most distance - no surprise there. 40 Meters got me the most hits.

While it would have been more fun to have actually had a QSO, it wasn't a totally wasted effort. Tomorrow, I'll spend more time actually trying to nail down a QSO.

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

Zomboids afoot!

Paul Harden NA5N has officially announced that the Zombie Shuffle for 2017 will be on Friday, October 20th - which means I get to participate this year!  For the past few years, the Shuffle has fallen on the same Friday as the meeting for the ETS of NJ Club, of which I am Secretary.  It would be bad from to shirk my duties for participating in a QRP Sprint, so I have had to abstain.

I don't know why I luck out this year, and I don't care! I'm just glad that I will be able to participate.  The Zombie Shuffle is more of an operating event than a "contest" in the pure sense of the word, and it's always a good time.

Check out http://www.zianet.com/qrp/zombie/2017/pg.htm for the rules. If you've never joined in on the event, then please consider doing so this year.

And to answer that age old question, "Why is a QRP Sprint called the Zombie Shuffle?"

"Because Zombies can't run!" Bah-dum-bah.

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


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Another family commitment

is going to preclude me from operating in one of my favorites - The Peanut Power Sprint, this Sunday. Darn!

The PPS is one of my favorites because not only is it sponsored by the wonderful NoGAnauts, but it's also a quickie - only two hours long - from 4:00 to 6:00 PM EDT this Sunday.

We're meeting family for dinner. I might get a chance to operate the first hour; but that's iffy, at best. But this is one you should consider jumping in on, PARTICULARLY if you're a First Timer in QRP Sprint land.  It's fun and easy and all the ops are great and patient.

For all the details go to: http://www.nogaqrp.org/ - and then click on the "Peanut Power Sprint" link on the left side of the page.

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It's been a long, long time.

It has indeed been a long time since I've moved to this new work location. The old work QTH was in Warren, NJ and the new is in Whitehouse Station, NJ. Same job, same company, different campus.  I am about 10 miles (more or less) farther west into the interior of New Jersey than I used to be. It adds about another 10 minutes to my commute.

There are two of us in my department. Things were easier in Warren, as we both worked from the same (and only) building on campus.  We staggered our lunch breaks so that one of us was always on duty. Here, at the new work QTH, we are split between two buildings, each one of us minding our own store, so to speak. Unless you master bi-location, you can't manage both buildings at the same time with one man.

That led towards a hiatus in lunchtime QRP operations as it just seemed not the greatest idea to spend so much time away from the desk. I know, it's time I'm entitled to (it's only an hour) and I really should get away from the desk to remain fresh in the afternoon.

So I decided to take advantage again, beginning this week.

I went out to the car yesterday and hooked up the KX3 to the Buddistick. I heard a lot of stations on 20 Meters, but got no answers to any of my calls.  I know the equipment works, I figured it was just a bit of "rust" on my part. But, boy howdy, was it hot yesterday! It reached into the upper 80s (about 30C) here at lunchtime and since I was parked outside, it was hot like an oven in the car. It was a double negative experience - too hot and skunked on contacts.

Not one to be deterred, my little eye spied on something that I had forgotten. This campus has picnic tables!  Many of the employees go out to eat outdoors on the nice days. There are plenty of tables, they are spaced widely enough apart where conversations cannot encroach on one another.

It dawned on me that this would be the perfect place to set up the KX3 and the magloop! Sure, I'd probably get some stares from the other lunchers, and maybe from some of the employees who take advantage of their lunch break to walk the perimeter of the campus - but what they heck? Right? It's not like I haven't been stared at before. It's not like people haven't come up to me to ask, "What is that?" before, so tossing self-consciousness into the wind, I decided to set up at one of the tables today.

I chose a table towards the end of the line of tables, the one with no umbrella. Sure, it would be a little hotter with no shade, but it's less than an hour and besides, there's be no metallic umbrella ribs to possibly interact with the magloop.

Before hunting for a QSO, I decided to call CQ for a bit on both 20 and 17 Meters.  I really didn't expect anyone to answer, although there's no reason why anyone wouldn't. I just wanted to conduct a little Reverse Beacon Network experiment.

Experiment done, I went back to 20 Meters and found the "sweet spot" with the loop's tuning capacitor. (I was able to set up in under four minutes, by they way. Almost as fast as setting up the Buddistick on the car.) Tuning the KX3 around, there were a bunch of loud stations.  Finally, I came upon GI4DOH, Rich in Northern Ireland.  He had a strong signal and a great fist, so I gave him a call.  He came back to me on the first shot!  He was 559+ here in NJ, and I got a 559 in return.


According to his QRZ page, the loop that Rich is using is a receive only loop.  This was not a loop to loop QSO.

After working Rich, I popped on up to 17 Meters.  There I heard OE3DXA, Wern in Austria calling CQ. Again, loud signal, great fist, so I gave him a call.  Just as with GI4DOH, I gave him a 599+ report but this time I got a 599 in return.  Both QSOs were solid with no repeats asked for with regard to info, so I am assuming I was at or near Q5 copy. (Even if the 599 in return wasn't exactly accurate.)


It was time to pack it in, and I was satisfied with the two DX QSOs for the day.  With regard to my Reverse Beacon Network experiment, this was where the loop was allowing my signal to be heard:


As for spectators, I did get one guy who stopped to ask, "What is that? And what are you doing?" I explained that it was Amateur Radio and an Amateur Radio antenna. In response, I got the (what seems to be standard) "People still do that?" question.

I went into "pitch" mode and explained that yes, Amateur Radio is alive and well, and that for a lot of people in the Caribbean right now it's the only way they can get word out to their families abroad, that they are OK after the hurricanes.

So it was a successful day, I'm happy and it looks like there might not be rain for the rest of the work week.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Interesting .........

I read this e-mail on the Flying Pigs QRP Club International e-mail reflector:

Do you need an excuse to take your radio to a park? I try to go out and operate portable as often as I can, but sometimes the motivation is the hardest part. So this year I decided to make my own motivation, and invite some friends.

Announcing:
The Portableradio.org Fall Operating Event!

The rules are the same as ARRL Field Day (with a few minor modifications). Use your favorite log program and submit a summary to a google form available on portableradio.org

The event happens on the same schedule as ARRL Field Day, except on October 21-22, 2017.
Maybe your club does something big for Field Day and you’d like to try something different. Maybe you’ve got a different location you want to test out. Maybe it’s just too darn hot in the middle of the summer where you are. Whatever your reason, join us for the Portableradio.org Fall Operating Event on October 21-22, 2017.

This is a new event, so if you play please submit your summary sheet. The submission link will go live on portableradio.org closer to the event. Results will be posted as soon as possible and updated weekly until the log submission deadline (one month after the event), when they are considered final.

Check out portableradio.org for more details.
73,
N0ECK

At that time of the year up here in the Northeast, this might not be for the feint of heart, as it can get really cold towards the end of October, especially overnight. But then again, sometimes we get a late Indian Summer. Like any Amateur Radio event, participation is the key.  If they can get enough people out to participate, it may grow in the next few years.  If not, and participation is low, well ............ but why dwell on the negatives?

I wish them the best of luck!

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Anudder QRP Event!

As I mentioned yesterday, this weekend is the NJ QSO Party. While that's not a strictly QRP event, I plan to participate as a QRP station.  For those QRPers living outside of NJ, or for those who do reside in NJ, but have no interest in the QSO party ......... I have an event for you!

This Saturday is also the New England QRP Club's annual event QRP Afield.

The rules can be found here - http://www.newenglandqrp.org/wordpress/afield/


Of course, this is another event that gives a better multiplier for those operating outdoors with portable antennas, so get on the air and have fun!

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

NJ QSO Party

The NJ QSO Party is next weekend. I'd really like to participate this year, QRP of course.


Over the years, the NJ QSO Party has withered away, almost to the brink of extinction. The Burlington County Amateur Radio Club has done yeoman's work towards reversing that decline. Participation seems to be growing, and I hope to add to that this year with some operating this coming Saturday.

Sunday looks sketchy, but I think I can fit in some time on Saturday.  Check that, I will MAKE some time to fit it in on Saturday, even if it's just 2 to 4 hours.

For the rules and particulars, you can follow this link - http://www.k2td-bcrc.org/njqp/njqp_rules.html

Hope to hand out "599 MIDD" to all of you this coming Saturday!

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Situational awareness

This does indeed seem to be an active year for increased Tropical disturbances. Last week Harvey did his number on the Gulf Coast and this week, Irma seems to be determined to wreak havoc too, albeit in another direction. While Irma's path seems a surety for Florida, where she will go after that is still any one's guess.


A certain "anyone", for whom I have tremendous respect is Joe Bastardi. Joe used to be with AccuWeather, but has since moved on.  I'm not sure if AccuWeather ever sufficiently recovered from losing Joe.  His ability to predict hurricane movement and behavior is uncanny. Granted, he's not always right, but he's been correct more often than not. What he came out with on Twitter yesterday, unnerved me.

Joe remarked that so far, the path that Irma is taking is remarkably close to the path taken by Hurricane Donna in September of 1960.


Hurricane Donna is one of my vaguest childhood memories.  I was only three when she traveled up the East coast, but I remember, in particular, how worried my mother was about the impending storm. Kids pick up on their parent's worries; and I was no different. To date, Hurricane Donna is the second strongest storm to visit New Jersey. Numero Uno is Hurricane Sandy, and I have no desire, whatsoever, to live through that again.

So what do you do? A hurricane's path is never a certainty. Just about anything can change it - ocean temperature, winds aloft in the atmosphere, competing high and low pressure systems further ashore. But you CAN plan for a direct hit, even if it doesn't occur. It's way better to be prepared than not.

So, for all my friends living up and down the east coast, this may be old hat for you - but if it's not, here are some tips from the National Hurricane Center and FEMA:

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/ready.php

https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

http://hurricanesafety.org/prepare/hurricane-safety-checklists/

And from an Amateur Radio standpoint, have those HTs and spare batteries charged up and ready to go. Have your personal Go Kits stocked, packed and ready to go.  For those of you who are into portable HF ops, have those packed and ready to go. If you have a generator for your home, NOW is the time to gas it up and power it up to make sure it works.

To all my readers who are CERT members - remember, even if you are not called out by your respective Office of Emergency Management, you have been trained and are expected to care of yourself and your family and those in your immediate neighborhood.  Do what you can, without putting yourself in danger, and you just might be able to spare your town's First Responders some time and resources.

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