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!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

An addition

I was surprised to come home from work last Friday evening to see a small package sitting on the front steps.  It was small, but yet a little too big to fit into the mailbox. I haven't purchased anything lately, so I figured it was something for either my wife Marianne, or perhaps for my daughter Cara, or my son Joseph.

But no, it was addressed to me; and when I looked at the return address, I saw that it was a package from my good friend and Ham Radio mentor, W3BBO. I opened the package like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning.  When I opened the box I was able to detect a whiff of "fresh paint" smell. Oh goody, a homebrew project!


It turned out to be a home made DC Voltage monitor, manufactured from a voltage display that Bob had picked up at a local Hamfest, near his home in Erie, PA.  We either spoke about this topic, and my need for such a device during one of our weekly Saturday chats, or Bob is a talented mind reader! Wow!  Adding mind reading to his impeccable talents as a master builder / home brewing craftsman is quite the combination.

This is just the addition that I was looking to cobble up myself for my portable ops battery box.  I know that I can monitor the input battery voltage on the main screen of my KX3; but I prefer having an off board meter.  I can keep a tab on things when I use my batteries as well as when I charge them.

This ammo box, that I purchased from Dick's Sporting Goods holds my PowerWerx deep cycle battery as well as a smaller 5Ah SLA.  The two plastic boxes hold a battery charger and the associated cables that I need to connect these babies up to the KX3.  Now Bob's DC Voltage Meter is a welcome addition that will reside in the same container.

Yesterday, Labor Day was spent performing CERT duties for our town. We host a parade in the morning, a big "lawn party" on the grounds of the Middle School in the afternoon and then a fireworks display in the evening.  Our duty was to aid the Police Dept with crowd control duties so that no onlookers would get hurt.

There was a break between the lawn party and the fireworks, so I went home to grab some dinner and relax for a bit. I grabbed my tablet to check out e-mail and to take a quick look at our town's Facebook page to see what the reactions were to the parade.  Most were positive; but a couple were quite negative.  To the naysayers, I suggested that perhaps they should join the Public Celebrations Committee and help make the parade better next year.  You would think that I had just announced that Santa Claus had been shot dead by the Easter Bunny!

It's really sad that often, the people who complain the loudest are also the least willing to roll up their sleeves to help make things better.  My Mom always said that there are some people who just aren't happy unless they're miserable.  I think she was right.

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

Monday, September 04, 2017

2017 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Results


The results of the 2017 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt results are in!  Congratulations to the following:

N5GW - First Place Overall
AB9CA - Second Place Overall
N3AQC - Third Place Overall
N0SS - Fourth Place Overall
K9DXA - Fifth Place Overall

To view the entire 2017 Scoreboard, please go here.
To view the 2017 Soapbox comments and photos, please go here.

Once again, thanks to all who signed up and participated - and special thanks to the NJQRP Club for supporting this annual Summertime QRP Event. Without ALL of you, sponsor and participants, none of this would be possible.

It is our fondest hope that the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt will continue to bring you fun and a good time well into the future!

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Say it ain't so, Joe!

As Elecraft announces the availability of their KXPA1500, full legal power amplifier, it has become apparent that, as you peruse through their Order Page, that the Elecraft K1 has gone the way of the Dodo bird - it is extinct.


You can still acquire some of the accessory band modules, the autotuner , the noise blanker and the back light modification kit; but that's about it.  I would expect that declining sales; plus the problems associated with purchasing "through hole" components are what led to the demise of the K1.

In the back of mind, I knew the day would come; but it's still a shock to see it become a reality. The K1 was the first transceiver kit that I purchased from Elecraft - in fact, the above photo is "my" K1. I very reluctantly sold it in order to afford my KX3.  I don't regret having the KX3 as it's my dream rig; but I sure wish I could have found a way to afford it without selling my K1.

So if you have a K1, give it a pat on the head for me tonight.

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

Yesterday was very good day!

Once again, we were blessed with picture perfect weather for our Annual K2ETS Club Picnic.


The food was excellent and the company was excellent and the day was excellent. If you look to the bottom right of the photo, you'll see Harold laying in the grass.  He was basking in the glow of the limelight yesterday as just about everyone stopped over to say "Hi" and to pet him and give him attention - and even a few treats.  I took him for a long walk and he must have enjoyed the day too, because he slept like the proverbial brick last night.

I won the picnic door prize!  Me, who hardly ever wins anything!  I won a Baofeng 2M/220 MHz dual band handheld.  My Wouxon 220 MHz HT, which I had purchased a few years ago, died recently. This is a welcome addition and I can keep tabs on our 220 MHz repeater.

But the best surprise of the day was this.


I arrived at the park early, around 9:15 AM in order to help out with setting up for the day. After sweeping out the pavilion where picnic tables were and then washing them down, it was time to put up the antenna.  Every year we throw a wire up into the trees and we bring along the club HF rig for anyone who wants to operate.  When it came time to put up the antenna, Dave KC2YRC said to me, "Come over here, we have a gift for you." I must have looked confused. He presented me with a new antenna launcher that he and his brother Dave W2OIL had made for me.  They even painted my call sign on it. To say I was gratefully overwhelmed is an understatement.

Flash back two years, when both Dan and Dave were at set up for SPARC's participation in the Rookie Roundup at Putnam Park in South Plainfield.  I was going to put up an EFHW into one of the trees; only to discover that the air chamber in my Joplin ARC antenna launcher had cracked on me when I must have dropped it at some point.  I didn't even realize it until I tried to use it that day. I ended up supporting the wire with my 31 foot Jackite pole.

Fast forward to yesterday, when they presented me with a launcher of their design with a used METAL (translate that to "unbreakable") oxygen bottle serving as the air chamber. In addition, they gave me a fancier (and much smoother) air release lever and they also installed an air pressure gauge so that I don't have to rely on the pump's gauge.

I couldn't thank them enough!  That they thought of me and had me in the back of their minds meant so much to me. These two guys, Dave W2OIL and Dan KC2YRC are the salt of the earth and have hearts of pure gold. They would do anything for anyone. They are just THE best and it is an honor and a privilege to be their friend.

Anyway, after returning home, I just had to try it out.  I went to an empty field and pumped it up to about 20 LBS of pressure and let the weight fly.  Because the air chamber is a bit smaller than the chamber of the Joplin launcher, the weight didn't fly as far.  A second shot, with the chamber filled up to about 35 LBS psi easily sent the weight over a  (my guesstimate) 70 foot tree.  That smoother release lever allows me to hold the unit steadier during launch, better enabling me to send the line where I want it to go.

By the way, during the picnic, the club station K2ETS was reasonably busy throughout the afternoon. Talking with some of the other fellows, I discovered that we had worked several Kansas QSO Party stations, as well as stations from Germany, Brazil, Georgia (the country, not the state) and Oman. Not bad for 100 Watts to an off center fed dipole sloping from about 15 feet at the low end to about 55-60 feet at the high end.

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Got 'er done

I feel badly saying this, considering what's transpiring in Texas - the weather here today was gorgeous! What a beautiful day! Sunny, with a high of 80F later in the afternoon and low humidity. Perfect for changing out the coax on the W3EDP.

And that's exactly what I did; and it got done without incident or mishap. I used the 46 foot stub that I had made for Field Day for 80 Meters. After the cable run part was done, I was able to cut about 10 feet off that.  I soldered on a brand spankin' new PL259 and was in business.

I had other things to accomplish after that, so I wasn't on the air for long. I called CQ at the QRP Watering Holes on 40 and 20 Meters without result, but the Reverse Beacon Network let me know my signal was being heard. Then I listened to a ragchew on 17 Meters for a while before pulling the plug and getting to work on other things.

Both HF antennas now have brand new, low loss coax runs. Hot dog!

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

1st test was a success

Before I begin, a shout out to all my friends in the path of Hurricane Harvey. Evacuate if you can, hunker down if you can't. Stay safe and don't take unnecessary chances. My prayers are with you.



Harvey as seen from the International Space Station

Harvey as seen from the Seawall.cam in Galveston, TX

Last night was the first chance that I had to get on the air after switching out the coax on the Butternut. As I had mentioned in the Skeeter Hunt post, we were away last week on a college open house visit to Virginia. Between the "before trip" planning and the aftermath that always occurs when you get back home, I was radio silent.

I thought that it would be a good idea to jump into the 20 Meter QRP Foxhunt. I haven't participated in it much at all this Summer, maybe only one or two sessions. I figured this would be a good a test as any.

When I got home from picking up my daughter Cara from high school Color Guard practice, I went down the basement a hooked up the coax to the rig and plugged in the power strips. These were all still disconnected since we had left. Someday I'll tell you the story of the routine my wife and I go through before leaving the house on an extended trip. Talk about OCD kicking in!

Anyway, I got everything plugged in, turned on and got the laptop to start the laborious procedure of booting up. I flipped the KX3 to "ON" and set the band to 20 Meters. I put the ear buds on and was greeted by ......... quiet. The background noise was lower than I was accustomed to.  I thought maybe something was wrong. Had I possibly not soldered a PL259 correctly?  But then I thought, "No, when I did the quick listen that Sunday, I heard stuff".  So I twisted the dial and before I could even turn it a quarter of a turn, N0UR's signal came skyrocketing out of the background.  So much quiet and then, "BAM!".  It was like seeing a black lump of coal on a pristine white field of snow, or watching a firework blaze brightly against a dark sky. The contrast between Jim's signal and the lack of background noise was stark. I'm sure it was mostly just band conditions, but it was amazing, nonetheless. I got him in the log on the first try, and then it was off to hunt for K4BAI.

Since I found N0UR, I knew I had to go to the other side of 14.060 MHz to find him as the Foxes always (most always) split up in to a High Fox and a Low Fox. So I twiddled and I listened, then I twiddled and listened some more. Finally, I heard a signal, but it wasn't John - it was a familiar call, one of the Hounds chasing him.  Knowing how K4BAI operates (textbook and professionally) I tuned down exactly 1 kHz.  There he was; but just the faintest of a faint whisper.  My first reaction was that perhaps it was only going to be Jim N0UR in the log, but I decided to sit and listen for a bit. It wasn't like I had anywhere to go or anything else to do. Well, actually I did, but putting the dishes in the dishwasher could wait for a while.

John's signal started to increase, slowly but surely. I thought at first that it was propagation changing and maybe that was part of it, but then I remembered that John owns a beam and he must be turning it North. Eventually, his signal rose up to about 569. Nowhere as loud as N0UR, but surely good enough to make a QSO!  I gave John a call and again - an answer on the first try.  Two Foxes in the books for the night.

I know this itty-bitty sample is nowhere big enough to let me really evaluate how much a change in the coax has made. But so far it seems to be working well. Maybe it's just like getting your prescription changed in your eyeglasses.  At first you notice the big change and then as you get used to it, the new prescription becomes the new "normal".  I'll be more than happy if this perceived hearing improvement becomes the new normal in my shack.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

N3FJP's AC Log - Version 6 available

Although I use Log4OM as my logging program for my Amateur Radio logbook, I do own a registered copy of AC Log. As the Trustee of NJ2SP, I use it as the official logbook program for the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club.


"Why?", you might ask, "It seems kind of stupid to keep two logbooks on two separate programs."

Because of Scott's program's popularity, there are other AC Log users in the club so I keep a current N3FJP generated ADIF in the club's Dropbox file folder so that they all can have copies of the logbook, should they desire.  And as universal as ADIF files are supposed to be, I have found that ADIFs work absolutely the best when you load one onto another computer that uses the same logging program as what generated it.

It was announced yesterday, that the newest version of AC log was made available for download. According to Scott, N3FJP, these are the details regarding the new version:

Enhancements include:

- You can optionally display digital modes in the DX Spots list based on the frequency of the DX Spot (Click Settings > DX Spotting > Configure > More Filtering > Display Digital Modes to enable). You'll also need to download the latest BandPlan.txt file by clicking File > Download Country Files from AD1C.

- AC Log now uses ARRL's LoTW User's list to identify LoTW users (an L is placed in the DX Spots list). Click eLogs > LoTW Users > ID LoTW Users to enable the feature. If you already have enabled the feature in AC Log 5.9, AC Log 6.0 will detect that you don't have the new LoTW user list on start up and download it for you with a single click.

- The last LoTW upload date of the station contacted is optionally displayed when tabbing from the call field. (Click eLogs > LoTW > ID LoTW Users on Call Tab). If the station you are working has a recent upload date, that will give you a better sense if he is really active with LoTW or not.

- Added FT8 to the mode drop down lists.

- Ability to update mode drop down lists without requiring a new release.

So if you have a registered copy of AC Log, you can get the download for free by visiting his Website - http://www.n3fjp.com/index.html Just go to the "About Us" tab on the header and choose "Recent News" from the drop down menu and it will take you to the newest release.

As I said above, personally, I'm a confirmed Log4OM user. It suits my needs so very well. I like it's looks, it's feel and they way it operates. It has all the features that I could hope for and I've become super comfortable with it. That being said, logging software is a very subjective matter. What works for me may very well not work for you. In any regard, AC Log by N3FJP is an excellent program as well.  I would highly recommend it if you're not satisfied with whatever you're currently using. It's highly intuitive and easy to use; and if you've never used a computerized logging program before, AC Log might just be what you're looking for.

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One down, one to go

Yesterday was the day of the Great American Eclipse.  I wasn't thinking too much about it; as I was at work, where my desk happens to be in a room with no windows. I wasn't anticipating much of a view. Around 2:44 PM, when totality for NJ reached the peak of approximately 75%, I wandered out to the lobby, where I saw a bunch of people just outside the building, looking at the sun with eclipse glasses, cell phone cameras and the like.

It just so happened that there was a light to medium cloud cover which totally obscured the Sun, at times. The silver lining to these clouds was that, when they got thin enough, you could see the Sun/Moon do their tango for a few seconds without even squinting or straining your eyes in any fashion. So I got to see the great eclipse of '17. 

I don't much remember the 1979 eclipse; but I do remember the 1972 eclipse pretty vividly.  I set up the 4" refracting telescope that I owned at the time, to do a projected view onto a white screen. I took pictures and I know that I still have those, somewhere - probably mixed in with all my Apollo program ephemera and miscellania.

The post title has to do with antennas, once again. The "One Down, One to Go" title means that this Saturday, I am hoping to replace the coax to the W3EDP antenna. This is a much shorter run than the Butternut.  The W3EDP is anchored by a second floor window which is more or less directly in line with the window that serves as my entry point to the shack.  I am anticipating that a run of coax probably no longer than about 30 feet will be required.  I am looking to replace the RG-8X with the LM-213 that I purchased to serve as coax stub filters for Field Day 2017.  I figure I can always buy more coax for a replacement filter next year. In the meantime, the band pass filters that I ordered from QRP Labs arrived yesterday.  I will build those over the Winter and will combine them with stub filters, if necessary, next Field Day. With the W3EDP coax replaced, both antennas should be set for the next decade or two barring any critter damage.

Oh, and by the way, Hans Summers has announced that the QCX transceiver kit, which I originally posted about on August 3rd, is now ready for ordering and shipping. Here's the link, so you don't have to scroll all the way back to August 3rd: https://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcx

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


Monday, August 21, 2017

2017 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt - my sincerest apologies!

Thank you to all who participated in the 2017 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt yesterday. So far, from the log summaries and soapbox comments that I have received, it would seem you all had fun despite the crummy band conditions.

I apologize for not being able to participate and work many of you this year. I was stuck on I-95 yesterday for almost 10 hours, returning home from Virginia where we took our son Joseph on a college visit. I thought I might get home in time, early enough to catch the last part of the Hunt; but it was not to be.

Please remember that log summaries and soapbox comments are due NO LATER than Midnight, Sunday Night September 3rd.  You can send them to w2lj@arrl.net. Each log summary received will be answered by a confirming e-mail - so if you don't hear from me within a day or two, please try again!

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Don't try this at home!

Before I go into today's blog post, I have to mention that for Catholics, today is the Feast Day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, SP3RN. St. Max was a Franciscan Friar who was interned at Auschwitz during WWII.  After three prisoners escaped, the Camp Commander responded by sending 10 prisoners to their deaths by starvation.  One prisoner plead for his life as he had a wife and children.  Upon hearing this, Fr. Max asked to take that man's place.  His request was granted and he was the last of the 10 to survive. Maximilian was injected with carbolic acid to end his earthly life on August 14th, 1941.

Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Catholic Hams have fondly and unofficially taken St. Max on as our patron saint, the patron of Amateur Radio operators, worldwide.

St. Max, ora pro nobis!

They say that confession is good for the soul - so I will confess. Yesterday, I replaced the coax running out to my Butternut HF9V.  The coax has been there for umpteen years since I put the vertical in place in 1999, about a year before my son Joey was born. It's been a while now that I've wanted to replace the coax and last Autumn, I purchased some 9913 from DX Engineering, My good intention was to run that coax out to the antenna before last Winter began.  You know what they say about good intentions.

Yesterday, the weather for the chore was about as near perfect as it gets. It was sunny, warm, but not hot, with a slight breeze and low humidity.  I began by putting on the work gloves and pulling up the old coax. It's been such a long time since I put that coax down; and I was mortified by what I discovered.

Connected to the Butternut's matching stub was a barrel connector and then a 100 foot run of LM-213.  At the end of the 100 foot run was another barrel connector and a 25 foot run of some more LM-213. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough - there was yet another barrel connector and a final 25 foot run of RG-8X leading directly to the operating bench.

What the heck was I thinking?!?  This was coax hack job of the century! I still can't believe that I did this; and if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed that I could do such a sloppy, piecemeal job. The only thing that I can think of was I was so tapped out after purchasing the Butternut, that I just used whatever coax I had on hand to get the job done. 

All those barrel connectors! All that loss!  I must have had an ERP of about 2.5 Watts! It seems a miracle that I made any QRP contacts at all, let alone all the DX and states I have worked with that cockamamie set up. I am truly amazed at what a lousy job I did - EXCEPT in one respect.

When I removed the electrical tape covering up those barrel connectors and their accompanying PL-259s, they were as shiny and new looking as Day One. And I owe that to an article I read somewhere, way back when, maybe it was on QRP-L.  When I made those connections, I first wrapped the coax and the connectors with electrical tape.  Then, I covered that with a layer of plumber's putty. The plumber's putty was followed by a final layer of electrical tape.  After some 18 years, the connections were bright, shiny and there was NO sign of any water intrusion, whatsoever. And considering the coax was laying on the ground through some very harsh Winters and at least three major Hurricanes, Floyd, Irene and Sandy, that's pretty darn good.

There was one section where the jacket of the LM-213 got chewed up pretty badly from lawn mower hits.  To prevent that, this time I elevated the coax as it ran along the back fence.


I used garden fencing stakes, spaced out at about 5 foot intervals and I cable tied the coax to the stakes to keep it off the ground and away from the angry blades of my coax eating lawn mower. Once I got to the chain link fence running along the side perimeter of the yard, I then cable tied the coax to the top tube.  My new run of one piece of 150 feet of  RG-9913 is safe and sound from gasoline powered lawn tools!  There's only one barrel connector, where the terminus of the coax meets the Butternut's matching stub. and you can see that little lump in the picture, above.  Now maybe I'll get a bit more of that precious 5 Watts into the antenna and out into the aether.

Later on, in the afternoon, after getting home from my monthly volunteer stint at the soup kitchen, I soldered on the PL-259 to the radio end of the coax.  I plugged it into the KX3 and was happy to see a VERY easy match made by the autotuner on all bands.  Maybe a 1/2 to one second "BRRRRP" by the relays in a few cases, and in the rest, there was no match needed at all.

There's peace of mind knowing that I now have a proper run of low loss coax out to my vertical.  I'm also going to change out the coax to the W3EDP.  That's a straight forward exchange, and I figure that as long as I'm doing one, I might as well do both. I'm happy to state that the coax currently running to the W3EDP is not a hack job conglomeration like what was running out to the vertical !

I'll NEVER do that again and like they say on all those shows on TV = "Don't try this at home!"

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least! (using good coax!)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

SOTA envious

I have to admit that I am more than "sorta" envious of those Hams who activate the SOTA summits. I look at photos like these from Steve WG0AT, and I'm just beside myself, admiring the beauty of the landscapes and the tenacity of those who go to these places.





Yeah, there are summits in New Jersey (EVERY state has a few), but they're nothing like these. Well, according to geologists that I have read, the Appalachians were once taller than the Himalayas at one point, but that was about a bajillion years ago. What we call mountains here on the East coast are mere hills compared to the Rockies. I've been fortunate enough to visit the Rockies and even come close to the Alps in Switzerland, so I can affirm that comparison.

Instead, with the limited time that I have to devote to portable ops (employed full time with a mortgage and two kids going off to college soon), I resort to POTA and NPOTA (when it was active) for my outdoor venues of operation.

Because those opportunities present themselves so seldom, I like to take the moment to enjoy the place that I am operating from. No long hikes to summits with beautiful vistas of multiple states present themselves to me; but in the parks that I do go to, I am surrounded by nature and beauty all the same. There's something special and wonderful about being bathed in sunshine and fresh air, and seeing trees, and listening to the sound of the breeze rustling through their leaves, while at the same time watching and listening to brooks, streams, rivers, wild life and what have you. Whether you're perched on a mountaintop or operating your QRP gear from a picnic table in the local city park, I would hope that all portable ops mavens take the time to enjoy the beauty of their surroundings and not dismiss that beauty for the tunnel vision of just chasing QSOs. Portable ops should be about way more than just a bunch of QSOs. Heck, I can do as much from my cinder-block-walled-in bunker of a basement shack.

Don't miss the forest for the trees!  Take the time to smell the roses. Take a moment to breathe deeply, enjoy the fresh air and Nature in all the glory of your surroundings! Life is precious - enjoy it and revel in the moment. And should you not make any QSOs, don't be disappointed. You had the opportunity to go and be somewhere that is beautiful, and that is far more precious than just making a few contacts on the radio.

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


Thursday, August 10, 2017

SEQP

Darn!  I'll be at work - maybe I can sneak out during lunch hour ........ http://hamsci.org/solar-eclipse-qso-party




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

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

If you are the owner of .......

a Yaesu 857D, 817ND, or an Icom 706/703/7000 and are interested in using them for portable operations - this site might be worthy of your consideration: http://www.portablezero.com/

As a confirmed Elecraft owner, I have no skin in this game; but am always willing to do whatever I can to promote portable operations.

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

My fist is BAD!

Last night, I was asked to run the monthly county ARES net. After that I attended our Assembly's Knights of Columbus 4th Degree meeting. A pronouncement has come from K of C HQ in Connecticut which has not gone over well with the membership. I won't bore you with the details, but the meeting was interesting.

When I returned home, I went down the basement to add a link to the Skeeter Hunt roster on the Skeeter Hunt Website. While I was doing that, I decided to join in on the monthly NAQCC sprint. A few weeks ago, I received my W2WK straight key, so I decided to take it for a spin.

The key is a beauty, a sight to behold.  The action and feel are superb. My fist is not.  Sadly, I've gotten so comfortable with paddles and keyer that my "manual" fist has atrophied.  It improved a little bit as the night went along; but I have to publicly apologize to the NAQCC members who worked me last night. You know your fist is bad when you feel yourself grimacing while you're sending. I think that if you looked up the word "ugly" in the dictionary, there would have been a picture of me behind the key last night.

I am terribly sorry for my crummy fist and the torture I put you through.  I need to practice more and hopefully, by next month's sprint, I will sound a whole lot better. When you've hit rock bottom, there's no place to go but "up".

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

Monday, August 07, 2017

Multiplying like rabbits!

It seems like there's never been the bonanza of QRP radios available like there are today. What follows is not an accurate timeline, just impressions upon my memory. For years, you had the Ten Tecs and the Heathkits, the SGC and QRP Index radios and various homebrew rigs. Then came the Sierra's and the Small Wonder Labs offerings and then Elecraft burst onto the scene.

IMHO, ever since Elecraft, it seems like there's been a non-stop parade of introductions of commercially available QRP radios. And this is a good thing.  More people are tossing there hats into the ring, and the offerings are becoming numerous. Competition is a good thing and the various models are a benefit; as no one radio will fit everyone's taste, style or operating habits.

This is the latest one I've come across, offered by Appello-funk out of Germany - the Aerial-51 SKY-SDR




Here are the specs according to their Website:

This 11-band All-Mode QRP transceiver is manufactured in Europe and combines SDR / DSP "Direct Conversion" technology with ease of use.

The device does not require a computer to operate, has almost all the characteristics of a "large" SDR transceiver and is thus particularly suitable for demanding QRP  and portable radio operators. The future-oriented RX is equipped with all common DSP functions, eg user-definable (extremely steep) filters,  noise reduction (NR), noise blanker (NB), adjustable AGC, and audio equalizer.

The built-in BANDSCOPE shows 24 Khz above and below the QRG and also works with TX.
An outstanding feature is the "differential ADC" or "differential DSP"  It provides very low noise on reception, which is particularly noticeable on the lower bands 160-40m.

The SKY-SDR transceiver is also characterized by a clean TX.  It comes with hand-held microphone, voice processor, audio equalizer, VOX, SWR & Power Meter, built-in keyer (A / B mode) and dual-mode CW (CW / CW reverse).  AM, FM and DIGI modes are also supported.  The device has a USB CAT port (with FTDI), LINE IN / OUT for DIGI Modes, and an I / Q output for computer monitoring.

Perhaps the only QRP radio with built-in band scope.

This and other unique features make it the most interesting QRP radio in the world.

Aerial-51 "SKY-SDR" 350 mA / 310 mA without illumination
TX Power Consumption : 1 to 2A
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 147x60x107mm (without buttons)
Weight: 580g

GENERAL TRANSCEIVER SPECIFICATIONS Technology Solid State SDR-DSP Direct Conversion
Frequencies / Bands 1.8 MHz to 54.0MHz 160, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10, & 6m Bands
Modes AM, CW, DIGI, FM, LSB, USB CAT: USB2 (FTDI Chip) Digital Modes JST, PSK, RTTY, SSTV, etc.
LINE IN / OUT 3.5mm Jack
Output Power 5 Watts (typical) (foldback protection for high SWR)
Antenna 50 Ohms (nominal) BNC Connection
Voltage requirements 10.5vdc (min) to 15vdc (max)
Fuse : 3.15A, 250V, Slow Blow
Current Drain RX: 350mA; TX:

First impressions - it seems to be almost an exact copy of the LNR LD-11 radio. The specifications and similarities are strikingly similar, in many areas. However, the LD-11 claims to output as much as 8 Watts, while the Aerial-51 claims to output 5 Watts, max. Despite the difference in output claims, I'm wondering if they're the same radio in slightly different housings.





The Aerial-51 is priced at 739 Euros, which translates to $871 US.  The LD-11 from LNR is priced at $790, but seems to be out of stock at the moment.

The other thing which caught my eye was the statement, "Perhaps the only QRP radio with built-in band scope." My mind immediately went to the mcHF radio, which has a nice, full color waterfall display.  Perhaps, "one of the few QRP radios with a built-in band scope" would have been more accurate.

Like I said, so many rigs to choose from - we QRPers have never had it so good!

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

Plans

I think I have mentioned this before. A quote from Robert Burns, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry".

That described my yesterday. My plan for the day was to replace the coax to the HF9V with the 150 feet of RG213 that I had purchased from DX Engineering last Autumn. I was just about to get started when my wife Marianne called out, "Larry, there's something wrong with the washing machine!" Sure enough, she had loaded the machine and was about to start a wash cycle, and it filled partially and then just ........ stopped.  Dead in its tracks.

Step 1 - Cancel the cycle and get the water out of the machine.
Step 2 - Remove partially wet laundry to a basket so that my XYL could take it to the local laundromat.
Step 3 - Breakout the laptop and Google and YouTube.

These machines are so sophisticated these days with microprocessors, control boards and touch panels.  Gone are the days when all you had was mechanical timers that regulated and controlled the wash cycle. Luckily, through Google, I found a YouTube video which described how to run a diagnostic on the washing machine.  It boggles my mind to even write "run a diagnostic on the washing machine."

Anyway, I did that and got a F51 error which seemed to indicate a problem with the rotor position sensor, whatever the heck that is. An accompanying article suggested unplugging the machine for two minutes to clear out the capacitors on the control board in order to reset the microprocessor, and then run a wash cycle, as a first attempt to fix the problem.

I grabbed a few dirty pieces of clothing and tossed them in the machine along with some detergent. Fingers crossed, I closed the lid and punched the proper buttons. Everything worked!  It seems the problem is solved with the exception that the spin cycle seems a bit louder than it used to. A new rotor position sensor runs about $100, so if it eventually gives out and we get the same error again, I'll order one of those and will give it a go.

Needless to say, figuring this out and then carefully monitoring a couple wash cycles took a big chunk out of my afternoon. On the bright side, while waiting for a cycle to get done, I walked over to the other side of the basement where my shack is and I put a PL259 one on end of the RG213. Putting a PL259 on RG213 is extremely simple. I found these instructions found on eHam to be most helpful. They were written regarding installing a PL259 on LMR400 - the procedures are the same:

"Any standard PL-259 fits LMR-400 exactly, and perfectly without any modification to the cable or the connectors.  I've installed hundreds of these on LMR-400s and use ordinary Amphenol 83-1SP PL-259s.

You *don't* peel back the braid of LMR-400 for this operation, where'd you hear that?  That won't work at all.  The correct procedure is the same as installing a PL-259 on regular RG-213/U.

The braid must remain in place exactly as it was originally, and the only thing you strip is the black vinyl jacket.  Leave the braid right where it was, under the jacket and tightly braided over the foil.  The best way to prepare the LMR-400 cable end is with a sharp (new) single-edged razor blade, cutting through the vinyl jacket, braid, foil and dielectric all in one single slice and leaving only the center conductor, stripping all else (with a single cut) back about 3/4" from the end of the cable.

Now, you have a copper plated aluminum center conductor sticking out and the rest of the cable fully intact.

Now, measure back 1/2" from the edge of the vinyl jacket and use much less pressure to strip only the jacket, and leave the braid, foil and dielectric intact.  This only takes gentle pressure, not the several pounds the first "strip" requires.

Pull off the jacket.

Push the PL-259 over the end of the cable so the center conductor protrudes through the end of the center pin and when you hit an obstruction, that will be the cable jacket hitting the internal threads in the PL-259 body.

Rotate the PL-259 body clockwise while applying gentle pressure to the connector, and it will screw itself on to the cable jacket.  About four full rotations are required to fully assemble the connector on to the cable, and when you're done, it won't twist on any more, and you'll see the braid showing through the PL-259 body solder holes.

This entire process takes fifteen seconds if you know what you're doing.  It can take forever, and never come out right, if you don't.

WB2WIK/6"

I am hoping and praying that the weather next Saturday is good and will allow me to get this done. As of right now, the forecast is for a cloudy day, but with very low chances for rain. I'll take it. If I can that done and the coax on the W3EDP exchanged out, I will be happy camper.

This morning, I had to chuckle when I read John K3WWP's diary entry for yesterday. He was writing about his DX Streak QSO for the day:

"Sun Aug 06 2017 8:50PM - It doesn't get much harder than this. I hate to make a DX station work so hard to get me in their log, but some folks have a tremendous amount of patience and will stick with someone till the QSO is complete. They will put other station trying to break in 'on hold' so to speak and continue to work with the one station till he is in the log or it becomes hopeless. That pretty much describes what happened between me and SP5ELA on 40M a little while ago. It must have taken about 2-3 minutes for him to get my call, but he didn't give up. I guess I must have sent my call about 30 times before he got past K3W and finally sent K3WWP TU 559. Thanks to him, the DX streak goes yet another day."

What caused me to laugh was when I saw the station he was trying to work, SP5ELA and then going back to his words - "but some folks have a tremendous amount of patience".  I had to send him an e-mail basically telling him that, being of Polish descent myself, I'm not sure if it was a matter of patience so much as it was probably more of a matter of stubbornness! I've always been told by my grandparents that stubbornness is a trait common among the Poles. And I find it true with myself, once we start something, we're not likely to give up on the task, no matter how long it takes!

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



Friday, August 04, 2017

23 years under his belt!

As my regular readers know, I often mention John K3WWP here in the pages of this blog. No doubt, I'm a fan of his. John is a "QRPer's QRPer".  His whole Amateur Radio career revolves around QRP, Morse Code and simple wire antennas.  He is dedicated to showing that you do not have to have an overly elaborate set up to enjoy Amateur Radio; and that in fact, it can be done with very moderate or even meager means. He is dedicated to showing how much fun and rewarding all this can be. If there was ever anyone who deserves to be in the QRP Hall of Fame, without a doubt, John Shannon K3WWP deserves to be there.

Tonight, John will embark on trying to begin his 24th year of making at least one QRP CW contact s day.  Allow your mind to wrap around that.  It's easy to read it, it's easy to say it. But take some time to think about that. That is over (not sure how many Leap Days are in there) 8,395 daily QRP QSOs in a row, completed.

Over 8,395 days uninterrupted. That's quite the feat when you take into account all of the multiple solar lulls, CME's, solar flares, bad weather, equipment mishaps, and personal circumstances that could have easily ended this streak early on. Nevertheless, John endures and persists through it all, and continues to make the QSOs - with 5 Watts, or less. I'm sure this streak will never be equaled or surpassed. It will probably never make the Guiness Book of World Records, or even be acknowledged by those outside the QRP Community.  But it's there and we know, for a fact, what can be done with QRP.

So the next time someone tells you that QRP is a joke, or it's a waste of time, that it's a matter of luck and not skill; or that all the success is totally due to the receiving station, OR that "Life's too short for QRP" ....... stand fast and unwavering and think of John K3WWP. Chuckle quietly to yourself and move on, knowing that the power and worth of QRP and CW have been more than adequately proven - over 8.395 times in a row.

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

Thursday, August 03, 2017

New kit offering

From QRP Labs (Hans Summers - with whom I've had the pleasure to work on the air) - a 5 Watt Transceiver Kit.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "5 Watt transceivers have been done to death!".

Well, look at this one!




And here's the features:

* Easy to build, single-board design, 10 x 8cm, all are controls board-mounted
* Professional quality double-sided, through-hole plated, silk-screen printed PCB
* Choice of single band, 80, 40, 30, 20 or 17m
* Approximately 3..5W CW output (depending on supply voltage)
* 12..15V supply voltage
* Class E power amplifier, transistors run cool… even with no heatsinks
* Good 7-element Low Pass Filter to ensure regulatory compliance
* CW envelope shaping to remove key clicks
* High performance receiver with at 50+ dB of unwanted sideband cancellation
* 200Hz CW filter without ringing
* Si5351A Synthesized VFO with rotary encoder tuning
* 16 x 2 blue backlight LCD screen
* Iambic keyer or straight key option included in the firmware
* Simple Digital Signal Processing for a CW decoder, displayed real-time on-screen
* On-screen S-meter
* Full or semi QSK operation using fast solid-state transmit/receive switching
* Frequency presets, VFO A/B Split operation, RIT, configurable CW Offset
* Configurable sidetone frequency and volume
* Connectors: Power, 3.5mm keyer jack, 3.5mm stereo earphone jack, BNC RF output
* Onboard microswitch can be used as a simple straight Morse key
* Built-in test signal generator and alignment tools to complete simple set-up adjustments
* Built-in test equipment: voltmeter, RF power meter, frequency counter, signal generator
* Beacon mode, supporting automatic CW or WSPR operation
* GPS interface for reference frequency calibration and time-keeping (for WSPR beacon)


All for $49 - and available for later this month.  This looks like a great project for the budding, incoming young Ham.  Keep this one in the back of your minds, Elmers!  Lots of opportunities to teach soldering and kit building skills, CW, and operating techniques among other things. The actual Webpage is found at http://qrp-labs.com/qcx.html

While I was there, perusing around, I purchased his passband filters for 80, 40, 20 and 15 Meters. Those will be used next Field Day in conjunction with the coaxial stub filters for even more isolation between our stations. Lots of good stuff available at QRP Labs!

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