Monday, May 22, 2017

Saving up!

As Hamvention weekend was coming to a close, I have decided that I am going to make my best effort to attend FDIM and Hamvention in 2018. If I put a little $$$ aside each week, I should have ample funds come the beginning of the year.

Now that my two kids are older, I really want to attend FDIM to meet as many of you as I can; as well as all the great folks I've worked over the years in the various Sprints, etc.

So, to you FDIM veterans out there - I take it that the event is still taking place at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn?  When's the best time to reserve a room?

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Them QRP'ers ..... they show up EVERYWHERE!


Thanks to Tom Medlin W5KUB for keeping me informed and entertained today!

Speaking of which ...... Tom is providing a great service, keeping those of us who can't make it out to Xenia informed and feeling like we're still in the mix.  Traveling out there and setting up an operation like his is a labor of love ...... but it ain't cheap!  If you go over to his Website and click on his "Live Video" link, you'll get a pop-up which will allow you to enter into a raffle to help defray his production costs. The prize is a really neat antenna analyzer, which I sure as heck wouldn't mind winning - so I threw a few bucks his way ..... and I hope you might consider doing the same.

By the way .......... if there are any of my regular readers at Dayton and you happen to have a picture of you, or someone you love (or even a total stranger for that matter) wearing either a Skeeter Hunt shirt, or a "QRP, when you care to send the very least!" shirt - please send me a copy!

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

Saw this little guy on W5KUB

While trying to keep an eye on Hamvention via the W5KUB live video, I saw this little guy out of the corner of my eye, which made me sit up and take notice.  In all the talk about all the QRP radios out there; and all the kits, I never seen this one widely discussed before:


A QRP transceiver designed and produced by Chris, M0NKA in Great Britian.  It's official name is the mcHF Radio, which stands for "Mega cheap HF Radio". Cool!  That's Carl, WD8VXS who is walking around with it and is being interviewed by W5KUB.

It's an all band, all mode radio that will do up to 10 Watts out up to 30 Meters and then about 6-7 Watts on the bands higher than that. It has the sound card built in, has a USB port for easy firmware updates, or for hooking up to your computer and has a touch screen.


It can be purchased several ways:

1) Just the boards - you supply the parts - about $35
2) All the boards and all the parts - about $270
3) All the boards and all the parts, BUT with the SMD components already pre-installed, (No price mentioned during the interview)

The case can be gotten from a source in China.  About $80

For a lot more detail - you can go to the Website, here - http://www.m0nka.co.uk/  There's also an M0NKA Facebook page.

I don't know why this little fella hasn't garnered more press within the QRP community, especially within the kit building community.  Maybe it has and I'm just woefully uninformed?

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


Spreading the word

Hoping we can get this to spread like wildfire!  I saw the link on Chris KQ2RP's blog and am embedding the video here - QRP Night ... the night before Field Day.

Let's make this happen!



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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lessons learned the hard way


You'd have thunk that after being an Amateur Radio op for some 39 years now, and a dedicated QRP'er for about 14 years now that the "slogan" shown immediately above would be like second nature to me. But no, I still fall prey to the occasional troll, especially the species that insists that "The guy on the other end of the QRP QSO is the "hero" who does all the heavy lifting". While I agree that the receiving station is an invaluable part of the QSO - isn't that true for EVERY contact, not just the QRP ones?

Calmly explaining that signal strength is a combination of power, antenna and propagation falls on deaf ears with these folks. It's power, power, power and more power, and that's it.  When you counter with the addition of  the word"skill", that usually gets even more laughs from these folks. "How much skill does it take", they ask, "to shoot out 5 Watts out of a piece of wire?"

Thanks to Steve Yates AA5TB for answering that question in a recent discussion I became involved with on a social media site.  Steve put into words, what we all know; but sometimes fail to enunciate. Steve countered with (and I'm paraphrasing) that the skill comes in in knowing your equipment, understanding propagation and understanding antenna theory enough to put all three of those elements together in order to get the communication through is a reliable and efficient manner.

Eloquent and to the point!  So the next time you're baited - feel free to use the words you've read here and "Keep calm and move away from the troll".

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wish I was going to Dayton ....... err, Xenia

Maybe the better terminology would be, "Wish I was going to Hamvention" and leave it at that.

PREDICTION: Attendance will be up significantly this year as the new venue is a big draw.

New venue or old, I wish I was going.  It's been 20 some years now since I last made a trek to Dayton.  Various things have taken precedence - work, marriage, offspring, etc.  I think the last time I was to Dayton was the final year before the switch over to May. I do miss it.

Not that I'm looking to buy anything, because I'm not. Well, at least nothing major, anyway. What I do miss is the trip out and back with local friends and meeting up with far away friends for a few days.

I'm ashamed to admit this - I've been writing this QRP and CW blog for 12 years now and I've never been to Four Days in May! How lame is that? And watch, by the time I'm able to make it, FDIM will become a thing of the past.

That's what happened with Atlanticon.  The several years it was held, both Joey and Cara were in their toddler years.  I could have taken time off; but my wife also works full time. With no one to watch the kids, attending Atlanticon was not a possibility.  When my kids became old enough were I could have left them alone until Mom got home from work, Atlanticon had gone the way of the Dodo.

Sorry to be such a "Debbie-Downer", but I see Facebook posts of good friends making their way out to Ohio and my gray matter takes me back to Memory Land and the good times I had in days of yore. I would dearly love to meet my many QRP friends, Skeeter Hunt friends, QRP Fox hunt friends, and NPOTA friends who I have come to know, oh so well, but have never met face-to-face.

Wait a sec ...... come to think of it, I have a commitment on Saturday morning that would have precluded my going this year, even if I could.

But I still wish I could.

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Solving the final loop problem

One of the major issues that I've had with my home brewed magloop antenna is the base.


The first iteration was a totally home brewed base made out of PVC. It ended up being unusable as the antenna would pivot sideways at the two points indicated by the yellow arrows.  An accidental tug on the coax or a good stiff breeze would create havoc.

The second edition involved removing the PVC base and using the mini tripod that came with my Buddistick Deluxe package.


I took the center column out of the tripod and slipped the 1/2" PVC of the loop frame into the hole. It worked well, but as its name implies, it's a mini tripod. Even with the legs extended all the way (as shown in the photo above at Morristown National Historical Park), it was still very short and it occupied a very small foot print.  This solution was better, but not ideal as the whole affair was still entirely too top heavy and if I wasn't careful, or if it was too breezy ......... havoc ensued, again.

Wanting a better solution, I went to the Magnetic Loop Antennas page on Facebook and asked for opinions. Ido Roseman 4X6UB suggested going to the hardware store and purchasing a construction light.  These are halogen lamps that usually come with a stand.


I went to Home Depot this morning and asked to be directed to the construction lights. Much to my delight, in addition to the lights mounted on stands, they also sold just the tripods.  I bought one of the Husky brand tripods for $19.00 and brought it home.  What you can't see on the photo above is a little box at the top of the stand that allows for quick mounting of the lights.  The quick mount is held on by four screws. Removing the screws and the quick mount box leaves a hollow tube that is just wide enough to slip 1/2"PVC into with no trouble.


So what I have now is a very sturdy base that still collapses down compactly enough to fit into the stuff sack that I keep the un-assembled loop in. A little bit heavier package than I used to have; but still totally and conveniently portable.

Kudos to 4X6UB for the wonderful tip!

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

HW-8


It was fun hooking up the HW-8 (courtesy of Dave KD2FSI) to the 4 States QRP Group antenna tuner and playing around on 40 Meters last night.  I only made a couple of contacts; but they were solid and easy.

I was surprised by two things:

1) How little I have forgotten since I had the HW-8 I had originally purchased and built.  Knowing where the controls, the settings, the peculiarities were like second nature (not that it's a complex piece of equipment. It's not) - like riding a bike, you never forget.

2) The bandspread and selectivity. Yikes!  Compare to the KX3 and other, more modern rigs the bandspread on the HW-8 is very tight. Meaning a little twitch of the VFO knob goes a long way. Maybe 40 Meters was very crowded last night with the NAQCC Sprint going on, but it sounded so crowded,  kind of like my old Novice days on the bands.  I guess with the KX3 you get more "twiddle room" between signals - and I've gotten used to that.

In all, it was a joy to use again; and I am going to be using it more and more as time goes on.  This will definitely be my SKN rig from here on out; and maybe, just maybe, I'll take "The KB9BVN Challenge" and will see if I can get WAS with this 'lil pup.

Thanks again, to good friend Dave Hackett KD2FSI for graciously re-uniting me with a relic from my Amateur Radio halcyon days. With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, "Sometimes you CAN go home again."

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

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Worse than trying to bust a pileup to North Korea

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine when someday, North Korea joins the rest of the world and finally allows its citizens to have access to Amateur Radio? Can you imagine what that pileup will be like?  All the Honor Roll guys who will finally have the chance to "have 'em all"? Can you imagine that headache?

I can.

Last night I attended a workshop for "Financial Aid for College" put on for the parents of Juniors at my son's high school. I came home with a headache about the same that I imagine I would have gotten from trying to bust a P5 pileup.  Deadlines, forms, EFCs, FAFSA, merit scholarships, etc, etc, etc,  Oy! It's enough to make my head spin!

When I finally got home around 9:00 PM, I was in no mood to head down the basement to tackle the completion of my 4 States QRP Group antenna tuner.  Hopefully, I'll get to that tonight after dinner and mowing the lawn. Once that's done, I'll put my HW8 on the air for a bit to give the new tuner a workout.  The HW8 takes a 1/4" mono headphone jack for the key input, so I'll have to make up a cable so that I can use my AA0ZZ EZKeyer with it. Maybe I can use that combo for the NAQCC Sprint, which is tomorrow (Wednesday) night. Oh yes, I forgot, the NAQCC Sprint requires a straight key for a better multiplier.  OK, one less cable to make.

At a time when folks are leaping into SDRs and panadapters and other hi-tech goodies, I seem to be going "retro".  Hey, whatever floats your boat, right?

That's another thing - I have to get out the "publicity e-mail" for the Sprint tonight, as well. Sometimes I feel like I have too many irons in the fire, or that I'm burning the candle at both ends AND the middle.

On the "feeling good" side of the coin ....... a few months ago, I lost a 32 GB USB Flash Drive.  I had blog photos, Web site HTML files, Tech class material, Skeeter Hunt stuff - just about everything that was near and dear to me regarding Amateur Radio on it, in one convenient place.  It had fallen out of my pocket and I thought it was lost forever.  Nothing was irreplaceable, as all the content exists on various other computer hard drives at home.  It was a pain in the you-know-where to try and re-assemble all of that, though.

Last night, while getting out of the car, I stooped down to pick up my work backpack, which had fallen off the rear seat and onto the rear floor during the drive home.  As I was looking down, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the Flash Drive in that little space on the floor betwixt the driver's seat and the driver's door. Hallelujah!  What a great feeling to have all that information back. Tonight I am going to copy the contents of this USB stick onto my wife's 3 TB external hard drive for insurance sake.

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


Monday, May 08, 2017

Doctor, my eyes !

It was good to melt some solder yesterday.  Other than building the magloop and soldering some PL259s, it's been way too long since I've done any serious kit building.

But I have to tell you .......... my eyes!


My eyes are not what they used to be. The last "seriously big" kit that I built was probably my K2, back in 2004, 2005?  Not exactly sure which year it was - and it appears my memory is fading as well as my eyes! LOL!  I mean, I've built other kits since then, but nothing as intense as the K2 experience.

Anyway, back then I wasn't wearing bifocals yet.  My eyes have definitely gone downhill since then. Bifocals are great for reading, but suck seriously when it comes to kit building. The "close" part of the bifocal lens is useless for the kind of closeup vision needed for soldering and for reading component values. For reading component values I used a magnifying glass, but for soldering? It was easier to just take off my glasses and rely on my own myopia.

So it was a hilarious routine.  Glasses on to read the manual, then pick up the magnifying glass to read the component value.  Put down the magnifying glass to re-check the manual.  Glasses off for the installation and soldering of the component. And so forth, and so forth, and so forth .........

I think I spent more time taking my glasses on and off than soldering! It made for an interesting afternoon of juggling.

Sadly, I think SMD would be pretty much out of the question for me, now. Not that I would be incapable of it; but I think the frustration factor would make the experience joyless, and that's part of the reason we build things, right?  Not only to end up with a functioning piece of equipment; but also to have some fun in the process.

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

Sunday, May 07, 2017

This is May?

For the 7th of May, I would be expecting warmer temperatures. The last week has been on the chilly side and rainy, not very May-like at all! This time of year normally fills my head with ideas of heading out to a park and setting up the station in the nice, warm sunshine.  Today, I was happy to stay indoors, where it was nice and warm.

I purchased one of those 4 States Crickets and am looking forward to building it and getting it on the air. However, I need to do something about a transmatch first.  The KX3 has the built in autotuner, and while I have an Emtech ZM-2 tuner, that stays in my portable ops backpack.

A while back I had purchased, also from the 4 States Group, one of their 4-S Tuners.


I realized I needed a good QRP antenna tuner for my various QRP transmitters and transceivers; and this seemed to be a very good little unit that would fit my needs, nicely. Today was a good day to sit down at the bench and do some building.

It's not a difficult kit to assemble, but at the same time it might surprise you.  This is a kit that's a hybrid between "standard" kit building and homebrew.  I say that, because while the kit comes with a printed circuit board/top cover, it's a bit different from what you might be used to.


There are no through-holes, just pads that are reminiscent of Manhattan style construction.  But since the pads are not hard wired together, but are connected by circuit board traces, the 4 States Group refers to this as "Pittsburgh Construction".

The first step was building the main inductor. It looked more complicated than it turned out to be.


The rest of the components went on easily enough. It kind of reminded me of my old days at Sinar Bron when the first SMD circuit boards came out in the studio strobes that we sold. At the time, we had no SMD devices to repair them with, so we took regular discrete components and just soldered them to the SMD pads. You do what you have to, right?



In just a couple of hours, most of the work was done. 


This photo doesn't show it, but I got the two polyvaricon capacitors mounted and all that's left for me to do is construct the rest of the enclosure, which are pieces of circuit board material which will solder together. The final steps shouldn't take too long and then it will be on to the Cricket.

This little unit will get a workout. Besides the Cricket, I have various other monoband QRP transceivers and transmitters that will now be able to be hooked up to the W3EDP.  The plan is that this unit will stay in the shack and the Emtech will stay in the backpack.

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

Friday, May 05, 2017

A very nice article

As posted by Sean KX9X on the Facebook NPOTA page:

https://rootsrated.com/stories/hamming-it-up-on-the-trail-the-story-of-alabama-s-ham-radio-hikers

Granted, I kind of glossed over the article quickly, but the author seemed to take the time to get the details correct.  And any article that goes out of its way to put Hams, QRP and the Great Outdoors in a good light is always a winner as far as I'm concerned!

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Books

Books.  I love books.  Books and reading are a love that was passed down to me from my Mom. When my sister and I were little kids, my Mom would "treat" us with a trip to the local public library. We would bring home stacks of books to read, and I loved every minute of it. A trip to the library, or even better - the book store, was always enthusiastically welcomed.

That habit stayed with me all my life. When I first became interested in Amateur Radio as a teenager in high school, my "bible" was "The Radio Amateur's Handbook" by Collins and Hertzberg. That book was my constant companion in my teen years and I must have read it, cover to cover, at least a half dozen times. It fueled my wishful dreams of becoming a Ham Radio operator, making contacts with people from all over the world.


I still have that book, and it holds a place of High Honor on my Amateur Radio book shelf.

A few weeks ago, I came home from work to see a rather large package sticking out of my mail box. As I was bringing it into the house, I noticed it was from Schiffer Publishing.  I thought that this was kind of odd, as I hadn't ordered anything from Schiffer. After dinner, I opened the package to find a most wonderful book entitled "Compendium Of Automatic Morse Code".  I couldn't believe my eyes! The book was sent for me to look over and to offer a review.  It is a wonderful piece of work by Ed Goss N3CW.  The amount of work and detail that he put into his book is phenomenal.


Granted, this is a niche book. Not every Amateur Radio operator will gravitate towards an edition like this. If you have a love for Morse Code and for the keyers, paddles and other devices that produce it, then this book is for you.

It is exhaustive in its content and detail and everything about this book screams "quality". From its size, 9 X 11 inches, to the feel of the heavy stock of the pages, to the rich and highly detailed color photography, everything about this book says, "Coffee Table Book for Ham Radio".



The table of contents includes chapters on

Chapter 1: An Overview of Telegraphy and Early Keys - History
Chapter 2 - Code Readers, Oscillators and Morse Trainers
Chapter 3 - The Electronic Keyer
Chapter 4 - The Single-Lever Paddle (Without a doubt, my favorite chapter!)
Chapter 5 - The Dual-Lever Paddle
Chapter 6 - Portable/Miniature/QRP Paddles (My second favorite chapter!)
Chapter 7: Commemorative Paddles
Chapter 8 - Combination Key and Paddles
Chapter 9 - Convertible Paddles and Paddle Modifications
Chapter 10 - Automatic Mechanical Keys
Chapter 11 - The Elements of Paddle Design
Chapter 12 - Paddle Adjustment and Maintenance
Chapter 14 - Telegraph Machines, Keyboard Keyers and Terminals
Chapter 15 - Computer Interfacing and the Internet

And various appendices and a bibliography as well as a list of recommended reading.

Pretty exhaustive, eh?  If you're thinking,"Well really, how much is there to write about on this subject?"  I'll answer that question by saying, "Over 300 pages, as a matter of fact!"

It's not hard to tell that writing this book was a labor of love for N3CW.  It's one of the best if not THE BEST book to come down the pike on the subject.  It has earned an honored place on my book shelf, right next to my beloved Hertzberg and Collins. However, I can tell you that it doesn't stay on the shelf for long. It has been in my hands a lot and will be for a long time to come.

I would highly recommend adding the "Compendium of Automatic Morse Code" to your Amateur Radio library if you're as much as a devotee of CW operating as I am. I can see this book as a golden answer to that age old question that every Ham gets asked every now and then ....... "Honey, is there any Ham stuff that you'd like for your birthday? Or Christmas, or Hanukkah, etc, etc, etc.

Thanks to Ed N3CW and Schiffer Publishing for sending me a copy!  It was a very pleasant surprise and is appreciated more deeply than you will ever know.

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

Dit, dit!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Amateur Radio .... sort of

Today was a busy day with a lot of commitments and a lot of chores and not much time for Amateur Radio. So what does an intrepid Amateur Radio op do?  Put his tail between his legs and slink off into the distance?  No, he does the next best thing  - he engages in related activities.

I had a class this morning that meets one Saturday a month. It started last September and ends next month, and it runs from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. You can see that that's a good chunk of the day. So it was SOTABEAMS WSPRLite to the rescue!  It's kind of like a Ronco counter top oven - "set it and forget it". So I hooked up my WSPRLite to my W3EDP, set it up for 200 milliWatts on 20 Meters and let it go to town!


I figured that I'd let it run, see how the W3EDP gets out and still do the things I had to do today.

This WSPRLite is so cool!  It's a software defined WSPR beacon in a package about half the size of an Altoids tin.  It's powered by the USB port of your computer.  You pick the band and power output and hook it up to your antenna.  You wait until 2 seconds past any even minute and you press the little black button on the right to kick things off.  The beacon transmits for 110 seconds and then waits for the next opportunity when the frequency is clear.  I set it so that it would randomly transmit about 20% of the time; and you can let it run for up to three days if you want.

In the meantime, yesterday, while checking my e-mail, I saw that Joe Everhart N2CX co-founder of the NJQRP Club was going to be activating Edison State Park for Parks on the Air.  It's designator is KFF-1615 and it's all of about 15 minutes from my house. So I e-mailed Joe back with my cell phone number and told him to text me when he got there; and I would come out and meet him.

After class I came home and broke out the lawnmower and got the front yard done. As I was walking to the backyard, I felt my pocket buzz. I whipped out my phone and read a text that Joe was on site and setting up. I dropped the lawnmower like a hot potato and high tailed it to the park. After all, what QRPer in his right mind would miss the opportunity to talk with a QRP Legend, right? When I got there, I saw Joe had finished setting up and was operating from his car.


If you click on the picture to get a better view, you will notice that mounted at the rear of the car was Joe's 16 foot crappie pole.  He had a loading coil attached and ran wire to the top. He told me that this arrangement seems to work for him as well as a full blown 31 foot mast secured via a drive on mast support. And who am I not to take him at his word?  Joe is quite the QRP innovator. It seems that not an issue of "QRP Quarterly" goes by without some kind of juicy tidbit from Joe. And if N2CX says it works, then by golly, you can be assured that it works!



When I got there, Joe was making contacts on 40 Meters with his KX3.  He noticed the same thing that I think we're all keenly aware of, that 20 Meters seems to stink, lately. Anyway, we kibbitzed for a few minutes and then I took my leave after Joe's son Kevin took a few photos of us together.  After all, he came all the way to Edison from his home to make QSOs and put KFF-1615 on the air, not shoot the breeze with W2LJ!


When I got home, before I started on the back yard, I raced downstairs to the shack and hooked up the KX3 to the HF9V and went looking for Joe.  I listened on 7.034 MHz, where I saw him operating from during our visit, only to hear not a peep. Figuring that he changed bands, I checked both 30 Meters and then 20 Meters,  Bingo on 14.062 MHz (goundwave)!  I got Joe in my log and helped him towards making the minimum number of contacts he needed to qualify for an activation.

Before resuming lawn duty, I decided to check WSPRNet, to see how the WSPRLite was getting out.


It was getting out all right!  Into the midwest USA and into Europe on 200 milliWatts!  The W3EDP seems to be doing OK!


It turned out to be a good day, after all.  I got to attend my class, got my chores done and got to hob-nob with a QRP giant - while giving my wire antenna a check out at the same time!

And here I thought the day would be a bust, Amateur Radio-wise!

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


Thursday, April 27, 2017

My somewhat annual rant about power.

I got involved in another "discussion" on an Amateur Radio page on Facebook about QRP - again. The basic premise was that someone came on and mentioned that they finally made their first HF contact, after many months of trying with 5 Watts. Said person said that they " gave up on that for now" and that "A little more power was all I needed."  It turned out that our intrepid new HF'er was using a 40 Meter dipole at a height of 16 feet.  Immediately, a tsunami of comments followed, some good, some questionable.  The one that caught my eye was:

"40M is not a band real well known for QRP operation. In fact it is most known for success with QRO (at or near legal limit.) Same thing applies for most HF bands (except 30M & 60M as required by law) and except during really prime conditions (not much of that lately.)"

Wait ....... what?!?  To me, this is a red flag. You might just as well say, "The science is settled." Same reaction.

OK ....... first let's take care of some business.  I know what you're going to say, "QRP is not for beginners!"  Well, I do have to kind of agree with that, somewhat.  Maybe not all beginners. When your anxious to get that first HF QSO under your belt, I would also advocate for using as much "nominal" power as you have at your disposal. So yeah, it was a good idea for our newbie to tweak up the power.  I'll give you that.

So I answered the above comment with:

""40M is not a band real well known for QRP operation." ...... What? It most certainly is! In fact it's one of the two favorite bands of most QRPers."

Which got this response:

"Larry Makoski I know I haven't heard any lately.... When they turn it up to 100W+ no problem, maybe there's a hidden message there somewhere? What is your definition of QRP? Mine would be 5W or less."

OK - so here we go. "I know I haven't heard any lately". That's an odd statement to make. How would you know whether or not a signal you are hearing is a QRP or a QRO signal?  Bingo!  He had not heard any WEAK signals lately, so ergo - they all HAD to be QRO signals.

Weak signal = QRP and strong signal = QRO ........ got it?

No ....... I don't got it. So I responded:

"You haven't heard any lately? How would you know they're QRP? Because it's a weak signal? If that's your criteria, then you're dead wrong. Yes, QRP is 5 Watts or less on CW, 10 Watts or less on SSB. Signal strength has everything to do with propagation and antenna. Output power plays into it; but not as big a factor as the other two. I've worked 100 Watt stations that I've struggled to copy and I've worked 5 Watt stations that have blown the earbuds out of my ears. It's a whole bunch of factors that determine signal strength, not just raw power. And BTW, most serious QRPers will never even mention they're running low power. You've probably worked a bunch and never even knew it."

You would think more experienced Hams wouldn't jump to conclusions like this; but sadly they do. I guess that's part of this blog's missions - to educate ALL Hams that effective radio communications have more to do with antenna, propagation and band conditions than raw output power (alone). If QRP is not your "cup of tea" that's quite all right with me. No skin off my nose.  But even as a QRO op, if you want the best signal you can deliver, look at your antenna and band conditions first.  You needn't always empty your wallets for an amplifier. (Sorry, Elecraft!)

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Hearing crickets"

I guess that's a relatively new saying.  When someone says something that is so outrageous or so amazingly stupid that it deserves no response from anyone - it is often said that "All he heard was crickets".


Thanks to the 4 States QRP Group, soon we'll be hearing an entirely different kind of Cricket.  This kind of Cricket:


This kind of Cricket is an 80 Meter QRP transceiver designed by David Wayne Cripe NM0S. It was the OzarkCon Build Project this year.  As you can see from the photo, it's all through-hole parts - no SMD.  A great project for the first time builder.

It's based on the Pixie, but is much better than a Pixie.  No toroids to wind (you can see the coils etched into the board), and it also comes with an included straight key. However, if you want to use your favorite keyer and paddles, there's an input for that. The Cricket also uses MOSFETS for improved sensitivity and switching and uses a NJM2113D for the audio amp.

All the details and specs can be found at http://4sqrp.com/cricket.php

All proceeds go towards keeping OzarkCon a viable yearly event.  QRPers helping other QRPers - what's better than that?

In other news ............


"Morsum Magnificat" was a great little periodical produced by Zyg Nilski G3OKD, devoted to Morse telegraphy and those who love it. I was a subscriber, until the publication ceased in 2004.  Some (a lot) of issues are now available for downloads as .pdf files.  You can go here
http://www.n7cfo.com/tgph/Dwnlds/mm/mm.htm to download.   "Morsum Magnificat" was really a niche publication. You really have to have an interest in Morse Code telegraphy and its history to appreciate it. Thanks to N7CFO for making these available to us!

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

The weekend

Saturday was a normal, busy Saturday and it was cool with on and off rain. As such, that forced me to operate indoors for QRPTTF - and in a way that was a blessing. As it turned out, the bands were so dismal, that had I went out and traveled to a river and gone through the whole outdoor setup procedure, I would have been bitterly disappointed.  Somehow, making only four contacts isn't as disappointing when you don't have to brave the elements and the added work of setting up a portable station in the rain.

I could not believe the conditions on 20 Meters!  I heard stations, but only to the degree that I knew they that someone was there. Signals were so weak and into the ESP realm, that I was not able to copy any call signs.  I knew Morse Code was being sent; but that was about it.

40 Meters yielded my four QSOs.  I worked North Carolina, Ontario and Maine. There was one station (call sign withheld as I can't remember it! LOL!) that was frustratingly loud that I called and called and called ....... only to get "CQ TTF" as an answer for my effort. I finally gave up, figuring that he was either in a high ambient noise location, or that once again, propagation was not reciprocal.

The bad thing (or maybe it's a good thing?) about being a home station is that when the bands are dismal you can trot off and do other things, like chores and stuff. If I were a field station, I would have stuck it out longer because of the effort of putting a portable station on the air. I think the frustration level would have been markedly higher, though, as you look for a return on your expended effort.

In other things, I would be remiss if I did not mention the passing of Jerry Haigwood W5JH on April 21st.  I read of Jerry's passing via an e-mail to 4 States QRP Group (of which I am a member) by Terry WA0ITP.  While I did not know Jerry very well on a personal basis, I have worked him numerous times on the air.  In addition, Jerry was the driving force behind the AZ ScQRpions Black Widow and Mini Black Widow paddles.  I still have my Black Widow paddles and at one time I did own a set of the Mini Black Widow paddles attached to my PFR3A.  Both were/are excellent paddles and are a testament to Jerry's machining skills.


RIP, Jerry - you will be missed.

Lastly, I finally had the opportunity to sit down and play with something that was sent to me by Richard, G3CWI, owner of SOTABEAMS.  A few months ago, Rich graciously sent me a WSPRLITE, to play with and evaluate. The WSPRLITE is a small WSPR transmitter beacon, if you will, that you can use to test your antennas.


I hadn't the time, up until now, to give it the attention it deserves. Mind you, it's very easy to use - as easy as falling off a log - but as John Lennon wrote in a song, "Life is what happens while your busy making other plans."  I don't want to give the impression that I put off getting this little beauty on the air due to it being a difficult process. Nothing could be farther from the truth!  It's just that things (obligations, chores, colds) always seemed to get in the way each time I had planned to get it up and running.

Well, last night I got it up and running within a few minutes and got results almost immediately!  This lil' guy is way cool and I want to play with it for a few more evenings this week and then I want to let it run for a few hours in the daytime before I let you know what my impressions are.  But so far, it's a very neat tool to have, especially if you have more than one HF antenna and you want to see how they stack up against each other.

I hate to keep you hanging; but that's all I'm going to say about it for now.  The WSPRLITE will deserve it's own post to properly give it the evaluation it deserves - and you can look for that either next Saturday night or Sunday.

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