Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Will this Winter never end?

The forecast for the ride home tonight is snow, sleet and freezing rain. That most wonderful of combinations.

If that weren't enough - two of my most favorite and reliable weather prognosticators have released maps for tomorrow night into Thursday:

First off, the NAM (North American Model) - W2LJ is in the 10 -12 inch area


And here's the map from the NJ Weather Guy:


W2LJ is in the 6-12 inch area. So it appears that we are looking at some kind of significant snowfall according to two different forecasters.

I am hoping this will be Winter's "last hurrah" as Spring is only 2 & 1/2 weeks away, and I want to be able to get out there and do something to replace my 88' EDZ - even if that means just getting the W3EDP higher.

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

3G0ZC


Looks like I am going to run out of time in order to attempt a QRP QSO. For me, as well as for many others, this was an ATNO (All Time New One) so it was most important for me to just get them in the log. On 10 Meters, they were 599 and I was so excited to stumble across them that I didn't even consider trying QRP. And I literally stumbled across them. I was twiddling across 10 Meters when they rose up out of the blue - an instance of being at the right place at the right time. Two days later, on 12 Meters, they were only about 559.  I tried QRP there, but after a couple of hours as they were beginning to fade, my resolve failed and I switched over to 85 Watts to nab them on another band.

The DX bug seems to have bitten me hard lately. I like getting these new ones in the log and I feared that without the KXPA100, that this one might have eluded me like FT5ZM, Amsterdam Island did last year. I didn't have the KXPA100 for that DXpedition and totally missed out, unable to break the pileup, even though I put many hours behind the key on that one. A valuable DX lesson was learned there that will always be with me.

The beauty thing is that, even though I had to use 85 Watts to get them in the log, QRP discipline and the lessons learned from being a QRPer stood me in good stead. Knowing how to find the pattern, knowing when to call, and most of all - doing a lot of listening were valuable lessons learned and are now precious tools in the QRP/DX tool belt.

The more DX that I attempt to work, the more I realize that dedicated DXers and dedicated QRPers aren't all that different from each other.  They seem to have the same skills and disciplines, such as patience and endurance. They just like to hang out at different power levels - until you run across that very rare animal, the dedicated QRP DXer, who will hunt with 5 Watts or less - no matter what (even if they fail to get the DX in the log). Personally, I haven't reached that point, yet, as I like getting them in the log (for the first time, at least) a bit too much.  WFWQL

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

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Fairly significant QRP News

I saw it posted to QRP-L and is also appearing on the Web page for QRP Kits, that Doug Hendricks has sold the business. The new owners will be James Bennett and Kathy Long who own Pacific Antenna. For those of you who might not know, Pacific Antenna is the home of the PAC-12 antenna, a very popular portable, lightweight multi-band vertical. The target date for the takeover is April 1st.

It states that Doug will continue on as a consultant, but has decided to fully retire and will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.

This is significant news and Doug has long been an advocate of bringing affordable, relatively easy to build kits to the QRP community. He has collaborated with Steve Weber and others in recent years to market such radios as the PFR-3, the Ft. Tuthill transceivers, and many other receivers, tuners, and useful accessories as well as pieces of quality, yet inexpensive test gear.

Best wishes to Doug KI6DS, as he embarks on his retirement. Maybe now he'll get more of a chance to get on the air more and enjoy the hobby he has supported for so many years.

On a similar note, when Dave Benson K1SWL ended his business, Small Wonder Labs a few years ago, it looked like a gloomy day for the QRP world. However, many of Dave's kits have been picked up by QRPMe and now I see Dave post to QRP-L every now and then about radio events that he is actually able to participate in and enjoy.

So we have the best of both worlds in that these long time QRP stalwarts are passing the torch to the next generation of QRP entrepreneurs. Not only are we not losing their life's work, but at the same time, we're actually getting the chance to meet and converse with these QRP icons on the air. Seems to be a win/win situation.

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


Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy - RIP


Live long and prosper, Mr. Spock.  

Pile up rant

Last night's 80 Meter QRP Fox hunt was interesting and frustrating, all at the same time.  I have written about the Fox hunts here many, many times - but for newbies, or those unfamiliar with the process, the procedure is germane to rest of this post.

The 80 Meter Fox hunting ground takes place on spectrum real estate centering on the QRP Watering Hole of 3.560 MHz. The 80 Meter woods is 10 kHz on each side of that, from 3.550 MHz to 3.570 MHz. One Fox "hides" in the upper half and the other in the lower. You find the Fox calling "CQ FOX", send the required exchange back and forth, and you earn a pelt if successful.

Last night, the two Foxes, Earl N8SS and Dale WC7S decided to do something a bit different. Earl planted himself 1 kHz below 3.560 MHz, while Dale planted himself 1 kHz above the Watering Hole. Both worked split - Earl down and Dale up.

Sounds like good, clean fun, eh?  In theory, yes - very good. In practice, good - but not very good. And the difficulty that ensued was not the fault of Earl or Dale. Once again, it was due to the Hounds (AKA, the pile up) not listening.

I caught Earl two minutes into the Hunt at 3.559 MHz. I heard him (key words) call "CQ FOX" and then "DN". That raised my eyebrows a bit, as I wasn't expecting that.  But I quickly adjusted VFO B and nabbed him on my third call. At this point, all was peachy keen.  Then, going up to the high end of the 80 Acre Woods, I heard Dale's pack of Hounds - not very far away at all.  From the location of the Hounds and figuring on a "standard split" of 1 kHz, I figured out that Dale was probably sitting around 3.561 MHz. I tuned over there and indeed, there he was - very weak, around 119 ESP levels.

What made things even more difficult were the Hounds chasing Earl, who weren't listening and were trying to work him by calling "up". And they overwhelmed Dale's weak signal completely. And there lies my complaint.  If you can't hear the Fox well enough to determine that he's calling "DN" then what are you doing, calling him at all?

Listen - don't make assumptions!

It got to the point where Dale must have realized something not good was going on, as he moved up a little bit farther. That was nice, but there were other problems to deal with, on that end. I had the KX3 in Dual Watch mode and finally had to turn it off, because some of the shenanigans going on there were pretty bad too.  I heard one Hound who blindly sent his call - I kid you not - 10 times in a row without so much as taking a breath! 10 times - really ?!?  I think that Dale was able to work two Hounds in the time it took this one guy to send his call that many times. Wow! And obviously, if you are sending your call that many times, then you are not listening - and that's the most important thing you can do in a pile up.

Paul WW2PT is one of the bloggers I list in my blogroll. He has a very good post that contains an interview with the K1N Team, post-Navassa.  Go over there and read his post. What you read there will make your eyes wide as saucers.  But because this is so important, I am going to take the opportunity re-post the K1N Team's assessment on why many in a pile up are not successful.  I wish the Hounds in last night's hunt had read this. The main issues they saw were:

  1. Not listening to the DX operator
  2. LISTEN to and LEARN the rate and rhythm of the operator
  3. LISTEN to WHERE the operator is listening and his PATTERN of moving his VFO, know where he will listen next!
  4. Learn to use your radio (split/simplex, etc)
  5. Do NOT jump to and call on the frequency of the last station worked. The DX station will NOT hear you because the din is total unintelligible chaos.   Move UP or DOWN from that frequency, as we on our end were continuously tuning up or down after each Q, so if one jumps onto the last-worked frequency, we will not hear you, even if you were the only one there, as we have tuned off.
  6. TURN OFF ALL SPEECH PROCESSORS AND COMPRESSION! Do NOT overdrive ALC.   There is a night and day difference in listening to NA/AS and EU pileups.   The horrible distortion makes it impossible to copy many, if not most EU callsigns.   There were MANY loud stations that we did not work, simply because we could NOT understand their terribly distorted callsign.   Have you ever listened to yourself in a pileup?   We gave many stations a “19” signal report.   Very loud, but extremely unintelligible!   You want to have INTELLIGIBILITY, not distortion!
  7. Give your callsign ONCE and ONLY ONCE!   DO NOT KEEP CALLING! We would tune on by those who did not stop calling.   We are looking for RATE and getting stations into the log.   You should be, too!!!
  8. If the DX station comes back with your callsign, DO NOT REPEAT YOUR CALLSIGN, AS WE ALREADY KNOW IT or we would not have answered you.   Many stations (in all modes) would repeat their callsign two, three and even four times!   We only want to hear “5NN” or “59” from you.   Anything else is a total waste of time and CHEATS others out of a chance to get into the log.   Only repeat your callsign if it needs correction, and then let us know it is a correction.   Anything else is cheating others out of a contact, as our propagation windows and time on the island are limited and we need to maximize the opportunity for everyone.   SPEED.
  9. Take some time to listen to the next DXpedition working NA and listen to the rate and rhythm of the operator.   It is fast, quick and efficient, and more people get into the log! Then listen to him work EU.   The wise operator will catch on quickly to what it takes to get into the log!
  10. SPREAD OUT!   Our highest rates (for any continent) were working the edges of the pileup where there was less QRM and weak stations were much easier to work than loud stations in the middle of the pileup.   If we say, “Listening 200 – 210,” 70% of the pileup sits exactly on 200 in an unintelligible din, 25% of the pileup sits on 210 and is almost as bad.   5% of the pileup will be spread out somewhere between 201 and 209, making them very quickly put into the log.   S P R E A D   O U T ! ! ! !
  11. LOUD is NOT better!   MORE AUDIO/COMPRESSION is NOT better!   Finding the spot to be HEARD is the MOST important thing you can do to get into the log. My biggest thrill (and I’m sure on both ends) is finding the lone weak station and getting him into the log quickly.
  12. LISTEN to the DX operator INSTRUCTIONS!   As we would constantly tune our VFO, if we find a clear spot, we would often say, “33” (meaning for YOU to transmit on 14033, 28433, etc) and a few would listen and get into the log very quickly.   You cannot hear these hints if you keep calling calling calling calling………   Many times I would say, “listening 200-210” and after a while would say, “listening 240-250”.   Often 30-45 minutes, even and HOUR later, I would find MANY still calling on the original “200-210”…..of course, they would never show up in our log, as I was not listening there.   LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and LISTEN SOME MORE.   The less you transmit, the better chance you have of getting into the log.
  13. LISTEN
  14. If you don’t want to get into the DX log, just ignore the above suggestions.
The best advice IS "listen, listen, listen and listen some more". Avoid the temptation to jump in blindly and work shot gun style. In the end, you will work more DX - and Foxes, if you listen. And, by becoming a better operator, you will not only be more successful, you will earn the admiration and esteem of your fellow operators. No one wants to earn the label of "LID".

End of rant.

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Haunted?

Something is definitely wacky with this HP laptop that I am using. Maybe I need to call in a priest and have an exorcism done. Maybe I need to shake a dead chicken and some garlic at it.

You know the story. The other night, I loaded the latest version of TQSL for LotW and requested a new call sign certificate from the ARRL. The certificate came, I tried loading it, it wasn't recognized. I tried re-booting the computer several times - nada. I uninstalled TQSL and re-downloaded it and re-installed it. Zilch.

I e-mailed the League and described my problem. They kindly sent me an eleven page .pdf file, describing what to do with troublesome call sign certificates. I was going to un-install TQSL again, delete my certificates and start from scratch. But then I got this nagging little feeling. Give it one more shot, a little voice said.

I successfully signed and uploaded my ADIF file to Newington, without so much as a hiccup, burp or hitch. I did NOTHING new, different or out of the ordinary. Tonight it worked like a charm, when the other night nothing worked. Then I took a look at the certificate properties. "Successfully loaded 2/23/2015" or words to that effect. What? But that's not possible! At least that's not what it was saying the other night! The other night, the certificate couldn't be found!


Excuse me while I run out for some Holy Water. Computers are dark magic and evil. Either that, or I have just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

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


Farewell

It's been a week since John AE5X posted his last to his "Radio & Photography" blog. I for one, am gong to miss his posts, very, very much.  John has a flair for writing as well as his evident acumen for things photographic.  That he didn't make photography his life's work is astonishing to me. He is more than capable and I think he could have made a comfortably satisfying living from it.

I say that based upon working in the professional photographic support business for close to 30 years. I've come to personally know and have seen the work of some of the best that are out there. John's photos are right up there. There is nothing amateur about his images.

But back to Amateur Radio. John's posts were always interesting and made for an entertainingly good read, whether they were about whatever he was doing at the moment; or even he was just expressing some thought or idea about the hobby.  There are a lot of Amateur Radio blogs out there - heck, just look at my blog roll - these are just a sampling of what is out there, if you look hard enough.  AE5X's "Radio & Photography" ranked high in the Top 5 in my most humble opinion. He will be missed.

Thank you, John, for sharing with us as long as you have. Hope to catch you on the air on a regular basis.

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

HV0A



HV0A, one of the Amateur radio call signs at the Vatican will be QRV during the CQ WW DX 160 Meters SSB Contest on February 27th. They will also be active on the CW sub-bands outside of the contest - News courtesy of QRZnow.com

The Vatican is a relatively rare one and the pileups are usually moderate to big - not K1N big, but big nonetheless. It's a nice DX catch if you can manage to work them.  Here's a video of the station:



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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Call me behind the times,

old fashioned, an anachronism, a square, an old fuddy-duddy - whatever you want, but this is just not for me. It's wonderful, I suppose - how far we've come since the Dark Ages, but this remote stuff is just not for me.

http://www.arrl.org/news/no-one-in-the-shack-as-station-logs-4200-contacts-in-arrl-dx-cw-contest

Different strokes for different folks, but I'll be a dial twiddler, sitting right next to the radio until they pull the radio and key from between my dead, cold fingers.


And I'm comfortable with that.

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

LotW problems - continued

Just a word that I received a VERY prompt reply from the League - Norm Fusaro W3IZ, in particular, who sent me an 11 page .pdf with detailed steps to go through.  Scanning quickly through it, I thought I had followed all the steps last night, on my own - but I will give it another shot, including sending off for yet another call sign certificate.

All the steps make sense, and we'll see what happens (working K1N was easier). We can land a man on the moon, but .........

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Logbook of the World problems

I have been using Logbook of the World for years now without a single problem. Well, I guess there's a first time for everything.

Now that I switched shack computers out, I loaded the latest version of Trusted QSL to my shack laptop. I requested a new callsign certificate from that laptop and it arrived today.  I tried uploading the certificate to the Trusted QSL program and I keep getting this error:


The certificate is there - the League just e-mailed it to me! I even went to the LotW Website and manually downloaded my certificates - still nothing, same message box pops up.  I even tried deleting Trusted QSL and re-installed it thinking there might have been some kind of error when it loaded - no dice.

Any LotW gurus out there have any idea as to what might be going on?

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

Mail call!

Thank you, Ed WA3WSJ and QRP ARCI !!


One more DXCC entity and I will qualify for the 150 endorsement.

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

ARRL DX post mortem

My ARRL DX Contest effort was almost identical to that of fellow blogger Mike VE3WDM.  Limited amount of time, and not what you would call a "serious" effort. I don't know what it is with me, but after about two or three hours in the chair, I get antsy and have to get away.  I guess I just don't have it in me what it takes to be a contest monster.

I put in five brief sessions over the weekend, in between chores and other commitments. A very brief effort Friday night, a longer one Saturday morning, a short one both Saturday afternoon and then another one after dinner on Saturday evening.  Then I put in a short effort on Sunday morning, probably just a bit longer than what I had done Saturday afternoon and evening.  I didn't keep track of my time, but if the sum total was more than four hours, I'd really be surprised.

My plan of attack was to tune from one end of the band to the other, listening for stations who I thought would stand a good chance of hearing me. If the station didn't hear me after three or four tries, I moved on.  Happily, there weren't many times that I had to "move on", maybe three or four all weekend long. Conversely, there were also a few instances where I heard a station calling CQ in the clear, and based on their signal strength to me, I was fairly certain they would not hear me calling. Surprisingly, they did. That was cool, I like to be wrong in instances like that!

My Saturday morning/afternoon effort was interrupted by computer problems. As stated recently, my shack computer is now the family computer upstairs. I had resorted to employing an old Acer Aspire One for shack duty and it seemed to be working well last week.  However, adding a lot of contacts to the log in a short amount of time caused its processor to have serious problems. I would type in a call and there would be a lag before it appeared on screen. Several second lags resulted between pushing the tab button and the cursor moving between fields.  This was annoying to say the least, as I was attempting to log in real time, instead of logging on paper and entering the data later.

I ended up turning the radio and computer off and shutting the whole works down. I dug out and resurrected my old HP laptop, which is physically and cosmetically beyond its last legs, but electronically in relatively decent shape - as it has a much faster processor than the Acer. I propped up its screen as the hinges are broken, plugged in an auxiliary monitor so I could have two displays, as well as an auxiliary keyboard. In essence the laptop is just acting as a shell and that's OK. The processor is able to handle Log4OM without a whimper. It served me well throughout the remainder of time on the air this weekend and will be my shack computer until the day comes when I can afford to purchase something newer. I'll have to give this HP a medal when its time finally comes because it has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

I spent most of my time on 10 Meters. The band was alive and it was fun. I also spent some time on 15, 20 and 40 Meters, although not as much. For me, 10 Meters was the happening place to be.  My antennas were the same as usual, my Butternut vertical and my W3EDP.

I'll have to take a good look at the log, but I made somewhere between 80 to 100 QSOs in the course of my effort. I am guesstimating somewhere between 30 - 40 DXCC entities worked. My goal was to demonstrate how easy it is for the budding newbie QRP DXer to get his or her feet wet.  The ARRL DX Contest has a very easy exchange, a very wide audience, and you can get great results without a huge antenna farm.  In four hours, I accomplished a decent amount. If the newbie QRP DXer were to give it "a true effort" I can see how a huge dent can be made in achieving QRP DXCC, if not outright accomplishing it in a single weekend.

BTW, the two red dots showing up on mainland USA are the home QTHs of two of the Caribbean stations.

One last note - I hadn't realized how much my code speed has improved.  At least I am assuming it has improved. Either that, or the whole world has slowed down. There were far, far fewer stations that I had to outright bypass because I just could not copy them, and also fewer stations that I had to stop and listen to several times before "getting" them.  I found myself bumping up the code speed on the KX3's keyer several times towards the 26 -28 wpm neighborhood in order to send the exchange back in order to match the speed of the station I was trying to work. I guess after 30-some years, this CW thing is finally starting to kick in.

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cool map at N0HR.com

Go and play with it! http://www.n0hr.com/ham_radio_population.htm

This is the world:


This is the world on Ham Radio:


By clicking on each country, you can find out how many Amateur Radio Ops that country claims.

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

Steve WG0AT test Drives the new LNR QRP rig


Certainly sounds nice and looks good, doesn't it?

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

C'mon Springtime!

It's hard to believe that it's only four weeks to the beginning of Spring when you wake up and the thermometer informs you that it's only -3F (-19C) outside.  I know for a lot of you, that's probably a heat wave. However, South Plainfield is only 20 miles away, as the crow flies, from that big, warm Atlantic Ocean, and it normally protects us from 0 or -0 temperatures.

When it gets this cold, my basement shack chills down even more. I was comfortable for the 80 Meter QRP Fox hunt last night, but I sure wouldn't have minded racks full of tube gear! It was a treat as we had on duty two of the finest Foxes that we have. John K4BAI and Jim N0UR were handling the Hound pileups like the pros that they are. It was so cool (pun intended) to work both of them rather early, and then to be able to just sit there and listen to their masterful Amateur Radio skills.

 "Hey, Brother, can you spare a Dah?"
Tnx and a hat tip to Randy NC4RT for the caption.

A lot of my QRP friends are jumping feet first into the ARRL DX Contest this weekend, and I suspect they will do quite well.  For instance, Dave N1IX and Dale WC7S recently received certificates from the ARRL, declaring them the top QRP Ops in their respective sections in last year's contest. It's an honor to be able to know and call high quality ops like this, your friends.

Getting back to the seasons, though. Some encouraging signs are that pitchers and catchers reported yesterday for Spring Training, and when I walk out to the car at the end of the work day, it's still light outside. When the sounds of baseball return to fill the air and the days start getting longer, the warmer weather can't be too far behind. Hopefully, in about six to eight weeks, these cold temps will just be a bad memory and some planning for outdoor QRP ops can commence. I am also hoping that sooner than that, the snow will melt enough that I can take down my 88' EDZ antenna for good, and that I will have the opportunity to raise my W3EDP even higher.

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

US Islands Award Program

This is the program that Sean KX9X was talking about in his video from Pigeon Key that I posted a few weeks back.  Looks like they're sponsoring an outdoor (not necessarily QRP) event for this coming May 9th.



For FAQ on the program - go here: http://www.usislands.org/USI-1DG-FAQ.pdf

Might be an excuse to get down to Long Beach Island for the day.

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


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ARRL DX Contest

I am not a big contester, as I've said here many, many times. I just don't have the patience or the time to put the long hours in a chair that are necessary to make a substantial effort. I do like to dabble. And this weekend coming up is one of the "majors" that I like to dabble in - the ARRL DX Contest - CW portion.

This is an excellent contest for budding QRP DXers. And this post is just for you, who are new to the QRP DX game.  If band conditions are favorable, the newbie QRP DXer can easily gather one half, if not all the DXCC entities to earn QRP DXCC in one weekend. The goal of this contest are simple, for W/VE stations to work as many DX stations as possible in the time allotted.

The exchange is also easy-peasy - RST and your state or province.  Even if you're relatively "light" in CW, the exchange is not something you should stumble over.

A few things for the budding QRP DXer to keep in mind.

1) Don't get discouraged early on. When you turn on the radio Friday night, a lot of the CW will sound like buzzsaws to you. Wait until Saturday night or Sunday morning to jump in. By then, the big guns will have tired a bit and may send a bit slower.

2) If a station will not QRS for you, don't get sweat it. Just move on and work someone you can understand.

3) Keep listening all this week, leading up to the contest. A lot of stateside Hams will be traveling to exotic locations this week - solely to operate in this contest!  They will be setting up and testing their stations ahead of time - get on the air and work them under non-contest conditions.

4) Sunday afternoon to Sunday evening is the prime time for QRP stations. Big gun contesters who are still hungry for points will be more willing to listen for weaker signals towards the end of the event.

5) Even if you're a veteran QRP DXer, you can make this contest fun. You can cherry pick and listen for DXCC entities that you have never worked before - or you can try your hand at DX QRPp. I did this one year. I went down to the shack and turned the power down to 750 milliWatts.  I was amazed by the number of contacts I made.

I have never seriously kept track of how many DX stations that I was able to work QRPp. This is something I may start doing this weekend.

Hope to hear you guys fattening up your QRP DXCC totals this weekend. Let me know how you did!

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

160 Meters

I use my W3EDP antenna for 160 Meters. I'm 100% positive that it's not the best solution for that band. It's probably grossly inefficient to begin with, and it's nowhere near as high up in the tree as it needs to be. All that aside, it's the only thing I have that loads up on "Top Band" right now, and it's the only working wire antenna that I have, to boot.

Imagine my surprise then, when tuning across the band Sunday evening, I heard C6AUM in the Bahamas calling "CQ UP" with surprisingly few takers. Not thinking that I stood a snowball's chance, for kicks and grins, I upped my power from 5 to 75 Watts and threw out my call. He came back to me first shot!  I got the standard DX "599" report, but there's no way in Hades that I was actually 599. He wasn't 599 to me, and as it was, I didn't even expect to be heard.

With each snowfall the 88' EDZ comes closer and closer to the ground. If Ol' Man Winter keeps up his snowy attack on us, I won't need to worry about lowering the EDZ come Springtime. It will already be on the ground.  My only chore will be to get the W3EDP up higher - to about the 35 foot level maybe, or install something else all together.

A vintage 1950s issue of the ARRL Antenna Handbook has been keeping me company as of late.

Oh, and I bit the bullet and purchased a 365pF variable air capacitor from eBay in order to construct a homebrew magnetic loop antenna. This should be interesting.

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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Computer problems and an ATNO

I have been down here in the shack busily making computer changes. The family computer died - kinda sorta. I can't get it to connect to the internet. Neither Ethernet cable nor wireless adapter work.  It's an older refurbed HP machine that I got on the cheap, so I got my money's worth out of it. My shack computer, which is a Dell Optiplex that is running nicely (knock wood) will now become the family computer. For the shack, I am resorting to my old Acer Aspire One. With an external keyboard and an auxiliary monitor, it will fit my needs - even if it is an older XP laptop.

I loaded the essentials onto it, Log4OM, and TrustedQSL. It already has DX Atlas, OmniRig and a few other Ham programs loaded onto it, so I am good to go. Not my idea of an ideal situation, but I can't afford anything different right now. The processor in this thing is a little pokey, but at this point, it's irritating but not fatal.

Anyway, while I was checking out Log4OM, to make sure everything was working properly, FK8IK popped up on 15 Meters as I was tuning around. Once again, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I have never heard New Caledonia so loud. The pile up was very thin, so I thought I had a good shot.  About ten calls with 5 Watts yielded nothing, so I bumped up the power. I rarely work stations "from the other side of the world", and I wasn't about to let this opportunity get away from me. I punched up the KX3 to 90 Watts and got him on the first call.

QRP would have been nice, but I'll take the ATNO. I can always turn down the power next time.

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Speaking of FYBO,

here's a video of Steve WG0AT and Frank K0JQZ's operation in balmy Colorado last weekend. Frank mentions this is Steve's back yard - VERY NICE back yard!

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

Something that struck me as odd.

I was looking around the K1N Website - of course I went there to make sure that I'm in the log:


As stated before, 80 and 40 Meters were QRO, for the ATNO, and 20 Meters was the QRP ATNO. Only three band spots, but I met my goal(s), so I'm happy.

But looking at some of the pictures, I saw:

 and this:


Look at all the graffiti!  I guess most of it was done before the island became protected in 1999 (although I plainly see "2014" scrawled on the wall in the top picture). Still, to see that much of it in a supposedly "out of the way" place (and a wildlife refuge, to boot!), surprised me. If I didn't know any better, I could have thought these photos were snapped in Newark, Philadelphia or some other large city.

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


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Now, THIS would have been

the weekend to have held FYBO! The weather people are saying that along with the polar vortex that will be visiting this weekend, we'll be getting (probably) the coldest weather of the season. We had a high temperature of 41F (5C) here today around lunchtime. Ever since then, the degrees have been dropping like an elevator coming down from the top floor a skyscraper. It's currently 27F (-2C) and there are some pretty fierce snow squalls at the moment. Oh, and if the dropping temperatures weren't enough, the same forecasters are broaching the possibility of significant snow, perhaps on Saturday.



 I'm sitting in the shack, waiting for the 80 Meter QRP Fox hunt to begin. I have a big mug of hot chocolate to keep me warm. I am listening to the K1N pileup on 30 Meters. I think the K1N ops are exhausted by now. They're not whittling away the pileups like they were - long pauses before answers. These guys are just fantastic in my book. It's been hot as heck on that island - I saw the one photo where their digital thermometer was reading 112F (44C), and supposedly the island is home to rats the size of cats and there are also supposedly a lot of black widow spiders. Not exactly like home. And through it all, they've handed out somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 QSOs. I can't wait to see the video of this DXpedition.

That being said, I'm not terribly sad they're going QRT this coming Sunday morning. It will be nice for a while to get back to normal, where trying to work a DX station means only going up 1 or 2 or perhaps 3 kHz - not 20 to 30! Even on CW, the pile up behavior has been atrocious, and I've never heard so many curse words spelled out in Morse before. I think this DXpedition was a triumph for the K1N team, but a lot of our brethren in the pile ups have a lot to be ashamed about.

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

Sunday, February 08, 2015

MIstake in my FYBO log

Some of you might notice the change in my FYBO score in the immediate proceeding post.  This is a hazard that occurs when you log on paper and then transpose to computer. I missed transposing a QSO!  I am going to send an e-mail to the AZscQRPions, but if they don't accept my log change - that's fine with me. I was in it for the fun, not to win, and I'll probably place somewhere in the middle of the pack when all is said and done, anyway.

The only way I spotted my log error was due to an e-mail that I received today from Steve WG0AT, with a link to an audio file of my FYBO QSO with Frank K0JQZ. I remembered the QSO immediately, but also remembered that I didn't count Colorado as one of my worked S/P/Cs.  That's when I realized, the QSO is in my little notebook, but I had skipped over it when transposing to my Master Log in Log4OM, down here in the shack. The QSO took place at 0201 UTC.

I really need to stop using paper and pencil and just rely on HamLog in my tablet.  Old habits die hard for us pluggers, though!

Here's a link to the audio file of how I sounded it Colorado. Not bad for a Buddistick plopped onto the roof of a Jeep in Central New Jersey, eh?

https://soundcloud.com/goathiker/fybo2015?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email

Thanks, Frank for the QSO and thanks, Steve for the audio file!

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

Saturday, February 07, 2015

All in all - a good day!

There were a lot of things to get done before playing in FYBO, and (channelling Yoda) get them done I did. Believe it or not, my FYBO operation was from the street in front of our house. I live on a relatively quiet side street, so there was no danger of being hit by a car or something like that. I opened up the hatch of the Jeep, just like I do at work, and set up my nylon camping chair and used the "trunk" of my Jeep as an operating table. My antenna was the Buddistick/magmount combo on the roof . I'm sure the neighbors were staring - wondering, "What the heck is he doing now? And what is that tall stick poking up from his car roof?" "And why is our dishwasher going crazy - I'll bet it's him!"

As I set up it was flurrying slightly and the temp was 35F (1C). And then it happened. I tried tuning up the KX3 and couldn't get a decent match. Of course these things always happen at the worst time! Calmly, I took the Buddistick off the roof and inspected it - no problems there. Then the magmount - AHA!  Where the coax meets magmount, the dielectric foam surrounding the center conductor wire cracked open (from the cold, I guess, because I keep it in the trunk when not in use). The shield was ever so slightly touching the center conductor and was making for a bad situation. A quick trip to the basement shack was in order. I cut the coax back, soldered on two new ring terminals and put everything back together. The KX3 was a happy camper with a 1:1 match.

In about two hours of operating, here's my summary:

W2LJ
Team Polar Bear
Field - Yes
Category - Single Op
Alternative Power - No (Batteries- Mains charged)
Lowest Temperature - 35
QRPp - No
Final Score - 7780 points

BAND  QSOs  SPCs  NQ7RP Stns
------------------------------------
    20      15       12          0
    14      10         8         1
------------------------------------
TOTAL:  24       20        1

Score - (24X20) (X4 Temp multiplier) (X4 Field Multiplier) +100 =7780

15 Meters was pleasantly active, affording me 10 of my 24 QSOs. 20 Meters was also busy but noisier, with some TN QSO Party stations and some SOTA stations thrown into the mix. I also was contacted by an SKCC station - I guess they have something going on this weekend, as well as one DX station - G4OBC. I tuned around 40 Meters at the end of my operating time, but heard no FYBOers.

There was no wind to speak of, so it actually didn't feel that bad outside.  I think the temperature reached a max of 38F (3C) while I was out. I was comfortable, except that my hands were cold, as I really couldn't send Morse while wearing heavy Winter gloves. And another discovery - the older you get, the more bathroom breaks you need when it's cold!  Too much information? Sorry!

Now, if that wasn't enough - my FYBO day was made even better by finally working K1N with 5 Watts. YES!!! I came down to the shack this evening to enter my FYBO log into my Master Log. While doing that, I heard K1N on 20 Meters (haven't worked them there yet) and they were truly 599 loud.  I double checked my power setting to make sure I was at 5 Watts and I jumped into the pileup. In about somewhere between 5 to 10 calls, I finally heard my call come back to me. Sweet! My personal goal is now complete. I got K1N in the log for an ATNO, and I also got them in the log using QRP power.

It was a good QRP day. A VERY good QRP day!

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