Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Very Begali Christmas

Merry Christmas 2012!

The Bates family had a great 2012 Christmas; it was really nice to have the whole family sitting around the Christmas tree, laughing, smiling, and opening gifts.

The Ham Radio gifts this year were very nice:  2 Begali's - A Sculpture and a Blade.  One for each type of CW - they are just beautiful, they look so much better than I can use them.  I can only hope that one day I'll be worthy of them.

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Boy Scout - Field Day with Skeet & Radio Fun

I'm back home after a wet, wet weekend.  The weather guys all week long said, "Beautiful weather - upper 50's during the day and possible rain late Sunday afternoon."

Well, they were partially right - Saturday afternoon the temp did warm up to the upper 50's.  However, around 1am on Sunday morning, the downpour that arrived was not very nice :(  Eventually, the tent decided to perform the same function as a river and little rivers flowed through.  There is just nothing like a wet sleeping back to ruin an otherwise pleasant sleep!

Anyway, Saturday was a really nice day - the Scouts had a great time shooting skeet; this year we only shot around 4,000 shells - down from 5,000 last year.  My youngest son ended up shooting 250 shells, has a HUGE bruise on his right shoulder and completed the Shooting Merit Badge requirements by hitting 39/50 skeet!  He (and I) was very excited.

I set up a radio station on Saturday morning and really had a great day!  I took my Icom IC-7000 and Buddipole with me.  The first thing I wanted to do was check in to the Central Virginia 6m Net (50.215) that run every day at 7am and 8am.  The Buddipole aluminum tubing was pretty chilly in the AM as the temp was around 35 degrees or so.  I managed to get the Buddipole set up with a 6m dipole configuration and I heard Ralph (WA4FEG) calling for check-in's to the net!  I was very excited!

(A note on the Buddipole configuration - if you decide to pick on up - you MUST own a antenna analyzer of some sort.  It's just not an option to try with your radio - there is so much variation in locations, coil tap locations, and antenna whip length that you start each band "excercise" in the "general ballpark" and spend a bit of time trying to find a good resonant config.  Takes some time, but I can't imagine how'd I accomplish it with a analyzer!)

Rig Setup at Scout Camp

I used the battery power from the car as the power source.  I had forgotten that I need to run the car when using the IC-7000 on full power - but remembered VERY quickly when I keyed up to check-in to the 6m net.  My IC-7000 immediately power cycled, I jumped out of the chair and started the car, and then tried to check in again - this time success!!!

Buddipole - Set up for 6m configuration
Field Day Setup

My youngest son came on over to visit later in the morning.
My Assistant - Will
 I made a few contacts during the day with folks around the US, Portugal, and heard quite a few from Europe, Canada, Australia, and Mexico - quite a variety.  I had about 8 - 10 scouts talk to other hams during the day; it was pretty fun for everybody involved!  When the day had about ended, I had the opportunity to share a bit of detail with 3 boys who seemed quite interested in obtaining their Tech license - I'll have to follow up with them later on and see if the interest remains.

So, other than some crappy, late Sat night rain, and a cold - it was a great field day!

73 de KJ4WLH (reporting from a nice, dry QTH!)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

6m Dipole is complete - I'm finally back in business.

I took some time, but I finally made my 6m dipole.  Since I work for a plumbing company, I decided to use copper pipe and fittings :)  Here are some pics:

I did a bit of antenna modeling before I made this antenna.  I was hoping that it would be as good as the model suggested - the 1/2" copper pipe really gave it a nice bandwidth!

Since I was trying to get it resonant for weak signal work, you can see that it's really matched quite well for 50.125 - I'm quite happy!!!

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, December 2, 2012

ICOM IC-7000 Low Power Output RESOLVED!

I've recently been using my Icom IC-7000 inside my house as a convenient way to listen to W1AW Morse Code practice sessions.  One afternoon, I was on 40 meters and decided to have a QSO with a fellow ham. I went to key and noticed that my power output level was peaking around 60 watts +/- or so.  Since I had the power output set at 100% (or 100 watts), I was concerned.  I knew that my antenna was good, the auto tuner had been successfully initiated and was operational.

Hmm, had I managed to break something?  Time to search the Internet for help!

It would seem that I'm not the only person who has had this issue.  The first answer was very common, something along the lines of:  "The IC-7000 needs 13.8 volts; anything less will affect power output."  I was already familiar with that problem - mostly due to my operation in my vehicle.  The IC-7000 worked great when the car was running, but when the car was stopped (engine not running), power output > 50 watts caused the unit to cycle off and back on.  Apparently, the solution for that problem is a "voltage booster."

On to the next "most likely" cause - bad fuses.  Really?  Bad fuses; corrosion?  Well, guess what - yep, that was actually the problem.  I found a good article by AB4OJ - Link Here -> Check out the heading "Low Power Output on Transmit."

I checked the 30 Amp ATC fuses and take a look:
IC-7000 30 Amp ATC Fuses
Notice the nice dark corrosion line across them?  Yeah, I noticed them also.  I took a pocket knife and scratched some of the oxidation off the fuses, put the back in the fuse holders and yep, the IC-7000 went back to transmitting all of 100 watts.

Next step:  get out my dremel and buff the oxidation off the fuses.

73 de KJ4WLH

Saturday, November 24, 2012

1st CW QSO! Thank you KD2OY!

After many months, even years, I finally got up the courage to give a CQ using Morse Code.  Much to my terror, David Nadel - KD2OY, returned my call and we had a short QSO.  It was short, mostly because I was so nervous that I didn't know what to say!

I would really like to thank a couple of guys who have provided a LOT of encouragement and support:  Dave Meier (N4MW) and Armand Hamel (WA1UQO).  I would have abandoned CW long ago if it weren't for these 2 guys!

The 1st contact has been logged - onward and onward!!!

73 de KJ4WLH

Monday, November 19, 2012

Antenna Modeling – The Practical Use

What do these software products all have in common:  EZNec, cocoaNEC, NEC 2, and NEC-Win?

  1. They are intimidating, obscure, and un-intelligible software programs somehow related to Amateur Radio.
  2. They each provide a means to use mathematical sets of formulas to simulate antennas in the "real world."
  3. Electrical Engineers, PhD's, Nerds, and the socially unacceptable are the only humans who know the "secret and arcane" art of antenna modeling using these software tools.
  4. These are very expensive software products, well out of the reach of a typical Ham.

No, the answer is not "3"; the correct answer is "2"!  Yes, really - I'm not kidding…

One of my favorite things to do in Amateur Radio is trying to model the "perfect" antenna.  I've "invested" (or wasted depending upon whom you ask!) a lot of time with EZNec (on Windows) and cocoaNEC (on Mac) and I really enjoy them a lot.  I've often asked myself questions like:
  • I wonder what that dipole would look like in my back yard?
  • What does a 3 element, 2-meter yagi do at 8' above the ground?
  • How does a j-pole really radiate?
  • Can I make my own Buckmaster (and save a TON of $$)?
Recently, I was able to put my "investment" (of time) to good use.  I'd decided that I wanted to put up a 40m dipole and remove the doublet that was in its place.  Sure the doublet worked OK, but I'd recently discovered just how inefficient that antenna radiates on it non-harmonic frequencies.  It doesn't really matter what "it" is, but I like things that work efficiently and my doublet surely didn't.

I had to opportunity to "design" my own dipole.  How tricky can that be you ask?  As tricky as you want to make it.  Since I knew how to use EZNec and cocoaNEC, I didn't just want a flattop dipole with it's 70+ Ohm feedpoint and 1.8+ SWR across the frequency band for 40m (see Figure 1).  I used cocoaNEC to model a dipole, sized for 40m, about 45’ above the ground – which was very close to my QTH’s backyard setup – to see what a regular dipole would look like.

Figure 1 - 40m Dipole "Flat Top"

Since the 40m antenna is lower to the ground than the optimal height, I started changing my model by changing the legs of the dipole.  I started off by slightly raising the legs by 10 degrees at the insulator and saw the feedpoint resistance drop a little.  Eventually, I managed to find a nice combination of dipole leg “angle”, based upon the height over ground.  I was also able to adjust the length of the legs to get the lowest SWR across the lower part of the 40m band.  The SWR model is show in Figure 2.

Figure 2 - 40m "V" Dipole

During November of 2012, I managed to find some time to hang my 40m dipole based upon the calculations.  I hung the wires and balun, trimmed, re-hung, trimmed, re-hung, etc. for a few hours.  When I was finished, I used my analyzer to see just how close I was.  Figure 3 shows the graph based upon the numbers my analyzer showed.  The curve is about as close to a match (compare Figure 3 to Figure 2) as I could ever expect!  I was so pleased – it has been a while since a project that I’m working on has turned out so well!

Figure 3 - Actual Analyzer Measurements at my QTH

As I’m writing this, I still can’t believe just how accurate the EZNec and cocoaNEC programs are.  I know it’s not rocket science, but I was able to design an antenna based on my requirements, build the antenna, and finally, measure to see that it matches the antenna design.

Once all the measurements were complete, I got right on the air.  The ARRL was having a Sweepstakes competition and the contacts were rolling in!  Perhaps band conditions were great or my antenna worked even better than I’d dreamed ☺  Either way, there were many contacts to be made!  It was a great way to end a weekend!

If you think that you’d be interested in trying to model your own antenna, RARC will be offering a 3 or 4 week “Introduction to EZNec Antenna Modeling” class in the late winter/early spring.

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, November 18, 2012

40m V Dipole - It's up and awesome!

Well, it sure has taken me a while, but I decided that I needed to remove my doublet.  I was doing some antenna modeling with EZNec and CocoaNec and saw just how horrible the actual antenna resonance was and realized that even though I could get my tuner to match; the doublet was still not exactly working very efficiently :(

So, those thoughts as well as the desire to run a little bit of power in the future and CW, caused me to re-think my antenna situation.  After much fun, deliberation, and consternation, I decided that I'd bite the bullet and build 1 - 40m dipole and 2 - 20m dipoles.  I went to Balun Designs and picked up a couple of baluns:  the 1116de (for 40m) and the 1115e (for 20m).  Wireman got the call for some more #531 wire and I was in business.

I'd be doing quite a bit of antenna modeling and decided that I did not want a flat-top dipole, I wanted a V that I could "control" the angles a little bit.  So, I came up with something of a compromise - I tied a 50' piece of rope between the insulators, hung the wire from the insulators, and the antenna balun hung down in the air between the wires.  It sounds more complicated than it really is - the rope just let me accurately define the length of the legs of the dipole.  It also meant that I could get the Impedance down to around 48 - 52 ohms or so :)

This afternoon I got to go outside and work on my latest adventure.  I think I dropped and raised the balun and wires about 7 or 8 times, but at the end, it was certainly worth it!  I was trying to get my lowest SWR around the 7.150 mark and was only just a little bit off.  I guess I could have kept cutting, but after a while you're just in the right ball park and it's time to call it a day :)

I wired it up, connected to some LMR 400 and listened around for a little while.  Perhaps conditions were just excellent today, but I had MANY, MANY stations around that were S9+40.  I listened to a contest running and gave a shout out, immediate response with a "Hey, your 60+ over here in Annapolis" - I replied with a "Thanks for the station report, new dipole and I'm very pleased!"  I'm also very pleased that my rig was pulling more amps than I'd ever seen - FINALLY, an antenna that is NOT a compromise - just works!

73 de KJ4WLH

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012 BSA Jamboree on the Air

2012 Boy Scout Jamboree on the Air (BS-JOTA)

Link to Pictures:

The BS-JOTA was held on Saturday, October 20th from 8:30 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. at the Cub Adventure Camp, located in Maidens, VA.  The BSA Heart of Virginia Council's Cardinal District held a Cub Scout "Cub Olympics" during the weekend of October 19th - 21st.  Approximately 1,200 Cub Scouts and their families camped during the weekend.

I'd like to thank the following individuals and sponsors:

  • Richmond Amateur Radio Club (RARC)
    • Sponsored the BS-JOTA station
    • Provided HF equipment
    • D-Star repeater access
  • Richmond Amateur Telecommunication Society (RATS)
    • UHF IRLP repeater access
  • Cardinal District, Heart of Virginia Council
    • Provided facilities for the BS-JOTA station
    • Allowed the station to be part of the "Cub Olympics"
  • Volunteers (in callsign order)
    • KB4IQT - David Thomas - Troop 832
    • KK4DWX - Bob Kendig
    • N4CVA - Austin Thomas - Troop 832
    • WA1UQO - Armand Hamel
    • WA4SSG - Win Grant
  • Mac McNeer(K4YEF)
    • Use of the RARC Club callsign:  W4ZA

The BS-JOTA team set up an HF station, D-Star station, VHF/UHF station, and IRLP station over the day.  Contacts on HF were made all over the United States, Canada, and even over to Europe!  Austin Thomas (N4CVA), a Boy Scout was instrumental in showing the Cub Scouts how to make the "correct" contact - and MANY boys did make HF contacts throughout the day!  Austin did a fantastic job!

When large numbers of Cub Scouts showed up at the BS-JOTA station, Win Grant (WA4SSG) and David Thomas (KB4IQT) would take small groups a few dozen yards away from each other and they would use HT's to make contacts with each other.  Needless to say, a LOT of "local" contacts were made as well!

Armand Hamel (WA1UQO) brought one of the most fun instruments of the day - a key and code practice oscillator!  I believe Armand's key was the MOST USED piece of equipment - at least 100 scouts touched the key and the just LOVED making it squeak and squeal.  One "lesson" shared with the boys was teaching them how to say "HI" in Morse Code: ". . . .  . ."   The best part of having the boys learn to key "HI" was telling them that they could use their flashlights and do the SAME THING with the light - they could "talk" to each other in "secret code"!!  Big smiles, you could almost see the wheels turning in their heads as they figured out what they were going to do later that night.

The D-Star station was connected to the BS-JOTA reflector (REF033A) and occasionally to the Atlanta reflector (REF030C).  D-Star contacts were light as most of the operators were VERY busy helping the scouts talk either on HF or HT's in the small groups.  There were a lot of stations making contacts throughout the world on the BS-JOTA reflector:  Argentina, UK, New Zealand, and many others.  It was great hearing all the different countries and the accents of the stations were really interesting to the scouts as well.

As the afternoon wore on, the Scouts (and the operators) were getting tired!  The HF station was shut down and we linked the RATS UHF IRLP node to the BS-JOTA node (9091).  Scout after Scout after Scout made contacts primarily with other scouts in Canada and Texas.  At least 20 Scouts made contacts with other Scouts; and an occasional Ham as well - all over IRLP!

The day went great!  At least 50 - 60 Scouts made contacts with someone, mostly with other Scouts.  The day was beautiful.  The volunteers made the day go smoothly and were so generous with their time.  My final thoughts are these - I really enjoy ham radio and I also sharing my passion for this great hobby of ours with people who are open to new ideas!  We are the ones who make the entrance to our hobby "friendly" and "welcoming".  Get out there and "welcome" someone into your hobby today!

73 de KJ4WLH
Jim Bates, Troop 876, RARC Member, RATS Member

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

6m loop problem - BIOLOGICAL!!!

Wow, I guess I just live and learn...

I few weeks, perhaps months now I suppose, my 6m loop stopped being resonant on 50.125.  Really weird - I mean, it looked fine and was hanging right where it had been for a while and I hadn't done ANYTHING with it except use it.  I really didn't understand what was going on.

So, last weekend I dropped the antenna and tried to re-adjust it so that it would be resonant (again!) on 50.125 +/-.  It was really strange; I'd tune/adjust it, raise it up 20' or so, think that I'd just about got it and then it would change on me.  It was really frustrating.  So, I adjusted it "one last time" and hauled it up into the air.

Wouldn't you know; it wouldn't tune on my 9100!  My 7600 would tune it up, but that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.  I used my antenna analyzer and it was around 3:1 match!!!  WHAT??!!??  ARGHH!!

(In case you haven't followed my rants recently, I've have a bad run of radio luck...)

Time passes...  And now it's this afternoon - beautiful day and I have about an hour to kill until my next activity kicks up; sounds like a good time to take a look at the 6m loop problem.  So, I dropped the antenna again, got out the M2 6m loop PDF and adjusted all the parts to the specs in the PDF.  HOWEVER, when I was banging on the metal trying to shift parts around, ants started crawling out of the aluminum tubing!  A LOT of ANTS - I mean, tons!!!  How strange?  Anyway, I kept on making noise and gave them a little while to clear out.

I went back later and it seemed like they'd moved on - I guess most of them did anyway.  So I hauled the antenna back up in the air and guess what - 1.2:1 match :)

My "moral of the story is this", there is always a reason - it just might be stranger than what you think it is!

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2m Stack Complete - Results, Hmmm...

Well, the 2m stack is hanging the back yard and I guess it's ok.  You know, I keep thinking that the effort will mean something substantial - though I know it isn't really.  So, here's what I figure out:

  1. 3db gain for a pair of loops +/- is a LOT of trouble for half an S-Unit.
  2. I think my 2m pre-amp is broken :(
  3. My LMR-400 N connector pins don't fit my LMR-400 coax...
  4. ARGHHH...
Sometimes I wonder why I do these things!  I'm super frustrated that the pre-amp isn't working.  I'm pretty much ready to stop purchasing anything used from folks I don't know.  I mean, it was working on the bench - so, one everything it cable'd up, tie wrapped in place, and hanging up in the air - it decides NOT to work?  What's up with that?

So, all the gear is done and I still hear the faint signals of N4MW's 2m beacon on 144.280.  Pre-amp doesn't help at all and I guess sometime I'll figure out what my "lesson learned" is.

All I know is that today, I'm really tired of failure...

73 de KJ4WLH

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2m HO Loop Rebuild Project

I had a really high SWR on my 6m loop which meant that I needed to drop it to see what was going on. Since the loop mounting system also holds my 2m and 70cm loops, I decided to rebuild my 2m stack.

I have a 2m pre-amp that I've wanted to get in action for a while. I also have a M2 2m cable phasing set, which would be really great if I had a 2nd loop. So, I placed my order with HEO and ordered the final piece.

My goal is to have a pair if M2 2m HO loops, with a pre-amp mounted and up in the air by the end of the weekend.

Wish me luck!

73de KJ4WLH

D-Star DVAP with laptop tether to cell - Amazing!

Last night I was sitting in my hotel room, thinking about how ridiculous it is that any hotel would charge $20/day for internet access.  $35 for "fast" service.  What a joke...

So, for the first time, I decided to tether my phone to my laptop and just use my cell data connection for my internet access.  Seemed to work OK, actually was better than I thought it would work.  In fact, I'm using it right now to update this page :)

Anyway, when I travel I always take my IC-92AD and my DVAP (red).  So, I got it out, plugged it in, and connected to the internet.  Wow, that was easy - it just worked (like I've grown to expect!)

My local club, Richmond Amateur Radio Club (RARC), located in Richmond, VA has a D-Star net that runs on Wednesday evening at 8pm (EDT).  I took a break from my Morse Code practice to join the net and it WORKED GREAT!

I've heard of folks using their cell connection in their car traveling all around the country staying in D-Star contact, but this is the first time that I'd ever done it.  It's more fun than it sounds.

So, no R2D2 during the net and it was awesome being able to chat with my buddies - just like I was local.

73 de KJ4WLH

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2m vertical antenna relocation worked!

I've been having difficulty over the past few months trying to hit my favorite D-Star repeater from my QTH.  It's weird, nothing in my "control" changed - but one day, out of the blue, I could no longer hit the repeater with 2-3 watts of power.

Anyway, over the past weekend, I just finally resolved to move "things" around and see how that might play out - and guess what!  Yeah, it worked.  I relocated my 2m/70cm vertical to another location in the back yard and I'm back to hitting the repeater with just a couple of watts of power.


Sometimes I wonder how any of this stuff works at all...

73 de KJ4WLH

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Last D-Star net control for a while...

I ran my last D-Star Net for a while.  Since my oldest son has headed off to college, it seems that I'm back on taxi driver duty :(  My XYL and I still have 2 children left here at home and they both have weekly activities that require drop-off/pick-up's.  It sure was nice having my oldest son around to do that kind of work, I miss it!

Anyway, since I didn't believe that I could both drive and run a net, it seemed like one of those family vs. hobby conflicts that inevitably arise.

Here's to hoping my daughter learns to drive quickly!!!

73 de KJ4WLH

My IC-9100's cousin is back!

What seems like a really long time ago, but I guess it wasn't, I had an Icom IC-7600.  I sure loved that rig.  It was what I called my 1st really nice rig.  My previous were good, but I purchased them with the intent of just learning what I like and dislike; then selling them and moving along.

When Icom released the IC-9100, I knew that the rig was for me.  There are just so few VHF+ multi-mode (SSB/CW) rigs available and it also covered HF.  So, the IC-9100 came on home.  For a few months I didn't do anything with the IC-7600 and since there were a couple of problems with that:  1 - it's not cheap, and 2 - I can't abide having gear that I don't use; I put it up for sale.

Problem was, I missed it.  A lot!  As much as I like the IC-9100, I really, really liked the IC-7600.

A buddy of mine "upgraded" his QTH with a IC-7800 and now he had a IC-7600 just "sitting around."  I knew his pain :), though, not in quite the same manner - an IC-9100 is NOT a IC-7800!!!  So, he decided to put it up for sale a few months ago.  I have to say, I've thought about it almost any time I think about Ham radio.  His price was very reasonable and I know how he takes care of his gear - so that part was pretty easy; no concerns about equipment condition...

Well, last week while talking with him, I just decided to see if he still had the rig and Yep.  He still did...  Now he doesn't :)

So, I casually call the rigs "cousins" and the pair of them are working well in my shack.  I must say, I really do enjoy working HF & 6m on the IC-7600 - it's just a joy!

73 de KJ4WLH

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Morse Code - An Update

I have been upset, disappointed, frustrated, and pretty much any other words that I can find to describe how much like a failure I feel.  There are few things in my life that I have tried as hard as I'm trying now, but those other things have made progress - morse code seems to be a brick wall...

Anyway, last night I found a group of people who, like me, share the same feeling.  They almost universally  shared exactly what I was feeling.  It's just that feeling of failure, mostly (and not maliciously) as "kind advice & support" - "Hey, just keep trying, it's easy."; "I learned it when I was a Boy Scout at 9 years old, simple!" and on and on and on...

For me, it's not easy.  It's hard, very hard.  Like I just mentioned, there are few things that I have tried that require this level of concentration and continuous effort to see very poor results.

NOW, for the good news...

I AM making progress.  I do finally believe that I have the ability to learn morse code.  I also no longer think that it'll just be "20 quick hours to memorize the code and then get on the air - it's easy!"  I know that it'll take a while for me; but that's actually OK!  I know that I'm "slowly" getting there and that my pace will be MY pace.

I guess the "discouraging" reassurance of others has really made a difference for me.  I appreciate the honesty.

73 de KJ4WLH

Saturday, August 11, 2012

RARC Presentation - Remote Operation

Well, last Friday night - August 10th, 2012, I had the opportunity to present in front of the Richmond Amateur Radio Club.  Talk about intimidating!  I'm a noob, all of 2+ years in the hobby and I'm looking out at guys with 30, 40, even 50+ years of radio experience - I mean, really, WHAT in the world am I able to tell THEM?!?!?!

The group was very civil, though I was nervous, and the presentation went along fairly smoothly.  I suppose one might say it even went well, but I still know there are some things that I would have done differently (and therefore better!)

Two buddies of mine, Armand (WA1UQO) and Tom (KC4CMK), and I re-installed a 20 meter antenna that had fallen a few years previously at the church where the RARC meetings are held.  That was really nice, part of my demonstration was receiving PSK31 on 20 meters while the club members filed in and chit chatted before the meeting started.

Anyway, I enjoyed discussing my experience with Icom's RS-BA1 software package and how I use it around the house and travelling.  There was quite a bit of Q&A and the presentation was very interactive - I guess that's the kind I like best, it keeps folks engaged in the conversation.

Here's a link to the Remote Operations presentation.

73 de KJ4WLH

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Icom IC-7000 vs IC-9100 receive comparison

Here's a link to my YouTube comparison.

I was messing around in my shack and got around to doing a side by side comparison of my IC-7000 and IC-9100.  I was curious as to how well or different each transceiver was - the video showed it pretty well.

I was listening to a simplex conversation, the IC-7000 showed no s-meter reading and the IC-9100 show S5 +/-.  Unbelievable!

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Helping other Ham's in time of need

Well, this was certainly an interesting weekend...  Apparently, I'm Google "search-able" somehow or another

I received a phone call from a young man, who explained that his grandfather - WZ0T, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He said that he and his father had travelled to Newport News, Virginia to be with his grandfather.  The father and son were planning on packing up all of home furnishings and they had no idea how to "take down" the 40' tower in the back yard.  "Did I know someone who could help?"

Wow - talking about feeling responsible for helping, "Of course I can try to find someone to help!"  I offered to try and find someone who might be able to help.

I thought of a few people and a good friend of my immediately came to mind - N4MW, Dave.  Dave is a well "traveled" tower climber and I had all the confidence in the world that he'd be able to help these guys with at least some answers.  I called Dave and he graciously agreed to talk with the family.  Dave called back later, let me know that he'd be heading down on Sunday afternoon to help take the beam and tower down, "Would I like to help?"  OF COURSE!!!!

A little bit of a side note here; my wife and daughter left this morning for a week long mission trip to New York City - they'll be serving the homeless throughout Brooklyn, please pray for them :)  Selfishly, that also meant that I didn't have much of a timeline for the afternoon and could play radio!

I meet up with Dave on Sunday afternoon and we head off with all his tools of destruction and mayhem - I mean he had a LOT of tools, very specialized tools tailored for just the kind of work we were heading off to do.

We arrived and after a bit of "negotiation" agreed that the beam and rotor would stay with the family and the tower would go home with Dave.  This was great, I was going to see a pro at work!

Dave climbed the tower and fixed the broken/jammed "Hazer" and managed to slowly lower the beam down to the ground.  Well, not quite the ground but about 5' off the ground, which was perfect for working on getting the bolts off the mast.  We removed the beam and positioned it around the yard so it would be out of the way of any potential damage.  After removal of miscellaneous cables, coax, ropes, etc. we then began the work of dropping the tower to the ground.

Dave tied a rope 2/3 of the way to the top of the tower and tied it to his truck; he tied a 2nd rope to the other side of the tower and I hauled it over to the opposite side of the yard.  He cut the 1st tower leg and then cut the 2nd and 3rd legs partially through.  Dave got into his truck and gave me the go-ahead to start pulling.  Pull I did and the tower began to tilt my way; Dave started moving his truck forward a little bit and the tower was coming down!  It made it's way to the ground and that part of the job was complete!

We disassembled the tower legs, cleaned up the tools and packed the tower parts into the truck.  We said goodbye to the family and headed on back to Dave's QTH.

All in all, a very good afternoon!

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, July 15, 2012

QST - Radio Run Article submitted

I just submitted the RARC 2012 "Radio Run" article to QST.  Let's see if they are interested in the details of our club's June event :)

2012 Geek-A-Thon and Radio "Field Day"

Geek-A-Thon 2012 "Field Day" setup
I had the opportunity to "help" the youth of today with a church "Lock-In" - aptly named a "Geek-A-Thon" (GAT).  The GAT is all about playing X-Box 360, PS3, and computer games from 15:00 on a Thursday until 09:00 on Friday - Yeah, 18 straight hours of gaming "fun!"

This year I decided to bring some things that were fun for me :)  I did a mini-field day where I hooked up an 80m Buckmaster and 2m/70cm vertical to my Icom 7000.  A little PSK, some SSB on 6m, 80m, and of course - talking to the local repeater guys as well.

It was a really fun time - EXCEPT for the fact that the assisted living home RIGHT NEXT DOOR had the fire alarm GO OFF about 5 minutes after I started transmitting!  I just knew that I'd triggered the fire alarm system - but NO, someone had been smoking in bed and set their mattress on fire!  Who would have thought that!!!

Anyway, a few boys stopped by and inquired, had some QSO's and just wanted to know what all that "stuff" was about.  It was "about" fun was my response - and it is!

73 de KJ4WLH

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

MacLoggerDX & CocoaModem - IC-9100 & MacBook Air => A GREAT Combination!

So I'm now "playing" with 2 pretty neat applications for my MacBook Air...

MacLoggerDX and cocoaModem

Mac Logger DX does what you think it does - it does logging.  You know what else it does?  It interfaces DIRECTLY to my IC-9100 through the USB cable using the native "serial" interface provided by the transceiver :)  That makes me VERY happy!  Oh, it also has the 9100 CAT command set built in, which means it knows how to address and read the data from the transceiver without ANY effort on my part.  Lazy, Impatience, and Hubris - 3 of my favorite traits...

cocoaModem does the "other" thing that I use a computer to do with a transceiver - PSK31 :)  Oh, and guess what - IT ALSO found the IC-9100 sound card and uses the MacLoggerDX for keying (PTT)!  That's right, between both of those programs, I don't need a single 3rd party piece of hardware or software - they just work together...

Now, I just need to figure out how to use them efficiently and I'll be good to go!

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, July 1, 2012

30 days of QSO's - Finally at an end! Whoo!

One of my local clubs, the Richmond Amateur Radio Club (RARC), sponsored a "challenge" (not really a contest) that was called the "Radio Run".  The goal of the "Radio Run" was to have a QSO every day of the month of June - mode, band, power didn't really matter - what was important was to have the QSO!

(See "rules" here - Radio Run Rules)

So, yes!  I did manage to complete the "Radio Run" successfully.  Mostly the guilt and imagining the amount of greif that I would get if I didn't finish really helped me keep it going!

Ok, on a serious note - it was a lot of fun.  The challenge really made me think of ways to incorporate radio into my daily activity; even when it wasn't so easy to do.  (Like traveling on a business trip! - Long live the D-Star DVAP!!!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

The latest "Challenge" in a growing list of "Challenges!"

So, I sit down to run the D-Star net a couple of weeks ago; got on the right VHF frequency, adjusted power to a couple of watts and keyed up to make sure all was well with the D-Star world.  "CQ Test KJ4WLH, CQ Test KJ4WLH, CQ Test KJ4WLH" - nothing.  Huh?  I checked all my settings for the 2nd time and did my test again.  Still nothing…

I bumped the power up to about 25 watts or so, nothing…  50 watts - Hey!  The repeater kicked back with an acknowledgment - finally, but why in the world do I need 50 watts to talk to this repeater?  I normally use about 3-5 watts and can have a non-R2D2 conversation just fine.  I hadn't changed anything, yes - I know that's hard to believe :)  But still, I haven't messed with the VHF vertical that I'd been using for many months…

I ran the net and learned that I had a LOT of R2D2, dropouts and just generally cruddy quality.  Do you ever just get tired of things not working for a "while in a row?"  I'm that way right now.  I just want my VHF stuff to work, I don't want to play with it every month and see what's wrong now.  It would be great to be able to walk out to the shack and just key up and things work as they should.  Perhaps I'm just a dreamer...

Anyway, since I have 2 VHF antennas hanging in the air, I thought that I'd go ahead and swap them around and see if I had a multi-pathing problem.  Switched them and nope, no multi-path issue.  There is a repeater located in Williamsburg that I use a bit to ensure my VHF stuff is working, so I keyed up a test and had a full quieting QSO with a HAM with all of about 25 watts of power.  I was quite convinced that my station was operating as well as could be expected.

Did the repeater have a problem?  Nope, EVERYONE else was able to get into the repeater just fine.  What does that mean?  Do I really live in an anti-VHF zone?  Have aliens put a "Cone of Silence" (as I hearken back to the "Get Smart" TV show) around my shack?

I just went back to trying the same old thing about a week later and guess what?  Yep, no changes :(  Still couldn't get into the repeater with anything less than 50 > watts...  I ran the net again and afterwards performed some more testing.  I swapped the coax for both the antenna's (again) and still, no change.

I finally gave up and decided that I had one final option.  I took my "portable" Comet GP-3 dual band and my speaker stand out to the middle of my back yard.  20+ feet of coax connected to my antenna switch and viola!  2 watts of power and I was successfully communicating with the repeater.  I thought to myself, "Self - you have got to be kidding..."  Both the VHF antennas are 20+ feet apart from each other hanging in the air at least 40+ feet up in the air...

So, my station is working just fine.  I just live in a "D-Star 2m Free Zone"...

I sure am glad my DVAP works well!

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, June 17, 2012

ICom AH-4 Autotuner - It really does the trick

I've been looking for a decent auto-tuner ever since I've started working remotely with my rig.  As you might recall, I had been using a Palstar AT-2K (which is a manual tuner) for my HF tuning needs.  The Palstar worked great, it would really tune a fish (yeah, ok - that's a really bad pun...)  Really though, it did a fantastic job with my doublet.

I had tried using my LDG IT-100 (I think that's the right model), but the auto-tuner would not get close to what the Palstar could tune.  In fact, it performed so poorly with my awful configuration, I was VERY concerned that ANY auto-tuner (with the exception of the Palstar and Alpha auto-tuners!) would not perform.  A concern that I will tell you is now a distant memory!

I had read a few articles about people using the AH-4 tuner in a "non-supported" configuration.  In short, they were using it as a tuner SPECIFICALLY for doublet work.  Here is a link to a really good website dedicated to it's purpose: K9EQ's AH-4 General Information

The picture (from the previous website) shows pretty much how my connection is configured as well:

Instead of using the "Ground" connection, you simply connect the "other" side of the twin-lead and you are in business :)

I would really encourage you to read the technical details listed in the website earlier - the author (K9EQ) has done a very nice job describing his setup and how he made his situation work for himself.

Anyway, I did the very same thing in my shack.  I removed my Palstar and my Baluan which left me with an ICom 9100, AH-4, and some twin-lead coming into the shack.  Coax run from the 9100 to the AH-4, control cable run from the 9100 to the AH-4, and twin-lead connected from the doublet to "both sides" of the AH4-4 and I was done.

I switched the tuning mode to the coax with the AH-4 connected and the 9100 immediately showed a connection to an "External" antenna.  Pressed the tune button and heard a bunch of clicking and clacking and then the magic letter appeared on the display - "Tune" (meaning a match had been made)!

I tried every band I could and the only place I could not get it to tune was at the very bottom of 160m. Everywhere else, I can get a match.  That's great news - this means that I can really use my remote setup to the best of it's ability.  I can remotely control the power level, the operating frequency, and tuning the antenna.

I short, it works very well and I can now stop dreaming about the Palstar and Alpha auto-tuners!  This little ICom does the trick nicely.

73 de KJ4WLH

Sunday, June 10, 2012

VHF+ QSO Party

It was a good weekend for working some VHF stations.  Conditions were favorable and I made my 1st contact in Colorado :)  That's the furtheest west I've ever talked on 6m!

I also was just messing around with 6m PSK and started talking for the very 1st time with another local ham - that was pretty good fun as well.

You know, there are just so many different ways to make a contact in the hobby.  So many folks with different preferences - it's just great!  I've got my buddies who like their 2m repeaters, others who love CW (and QRP at that!), some who just like working PSK and other digital modes, even some who are into VH packet!  That's what I call variety!

Though I don't work HF all the time, I do like PSK contacts there.  Since my station is a "barefoot" config, I know I can't compete with legal-limit folks for breaking pileups.  It's just good to work someone, somewhere.

Which brings me to the current status of the Richmond Amateur Radio Club (RARC) June - contact a day challenge.  So far, I have managed to make a contact every day and am really hopeful that the trend will continue!  It's kind of fun and there is more pressure to it than I thought there might be.  Making a contact is one of the first things I'm concerned about every morning until the contact is made.  Then I can concentrate on other things.  Until then, however, I am constantly thinking of how I can just get a quick QSO "in the log" :)  PSK is a good friend for that, there is ALWAYS someone on 20m giving out a CQ.

73 de KJ4WLH

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I'm grounded now...

I am well grounded now!  I decided after my "scare" and faulty gear that I needed to have a way to switch all my antennas to ground when I'm not using them.  After talking with a few folks, some of which had multi-thousand (yeah, I said THOUSAND) dollar switches - I decided to go with the Alpha Delta switches.  Wish me luck :)

Every green wire is a ground and goes directly to my ground bus.  In fact, every piece of equipment in my shack is grounded to the same ground bus - no loops for me!

73 de KJ4WLH

Alpha Delta Switches
Gear, Switches, and misc stuff...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

9100 is home!

I can do nothing except say thank you to Paul Hansen, W6XA.  Paul is ICOM's man on the east coast for repair...  Fast, fast, fast repair - so fast, I had no idea that the 9100 would be home when I returned from my business trip this week.

You would have thought that a kind XYL would have let her hubby know that a SERIOUSLY large and heavy package had made it to the front door - but NO!

Oh well, I'm planning on getting it out to the shack for the test run tomorrow (Friday) sometime.

Oh, no lighting damage (or customer damage!) - "replaced defective RL501 on CTRL unit" - whatever that means...

Thank you Paul!

Sincerely, KJ4WLH

Great D-Star net last night!

I ran the RARC D-Star net last night from my hotel room in Maryland and it went very well.

I brought my DVAP with me and had a REALLY poor wireless network connection in the room. I am very pleased with how well the DVAP performs, it just continues to make my HT a wonderful transceiver.

I only had 1 person who wished to check in that I wasn't able to hear (RPT2 setting issue). It just worked great.

The D-Star digital packet requirements are very forgiving, I am much more pleased with its operation as I've learned it's pros and cons.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

5 Watt HT - My Net Control Station

So, the saga continues! But this time good things happened!
I hooked up my IC-92AD to my 2m vertical out in the shack last night. Wednesday night is my dstar net and I needed some way to run it...
Yeah, I have a DVAP - but using the DVAP means that everyone who wishes to participate in the net must have a properly configured RPT2 field. If not, then I would not be able to hear them when they transmit. I planned on using my DVAP as a last resort!
What I was REALLY hoping was I could consistently hit the 2m dstar repeater with 5 watts from my HT. I was also somewhat concerned about the temperature of the HT when transmitting at full power for the duration of the net.
It worked out great! I ran the net using only the HT, 5 watts of power, and no DVAP :)  The HT did get pretty warm, but certainly not smoking hot! I now know that I have a good way to run the net using other gear.
73 de KJ4WLH

RATS Meeting - 1st Time Attending :)

When I started down my path of Amateur Radio, I decided that part of the "path" was helping support those organizations which are an active part of the hobby.  I looked around and decided on the easy calls - MRA Repeater Association, Richmond Amateur Radio Club (RARC), Richmond Amateur Telecommunications Society (RATS), SouthEastern Repeater Association (SERA), and ARRL.  The part that made it really easy is that most of the dues were all very inexpensive ($15 or so...) - except ARRL :)

The RATS club meets in the West End of Richmond which puts it about 15 minutes further away from me than the RARC club - so, RARC became the "default" club for me to attend.  It is also the club that I passed my Tech, General, and Extra exams through - well, I guess in reality it was the ARRL VEC relationship with RARC that did the testing.

I have, for all the time I've been in the hobby, wishing to attend a RATS meeting and visit the "other" radio brethren in the Richmond area.  I could go on and on (and on and on) about time commitments and other excuses - but I made them and just never took the time to go.

Last night I made it; it was great!  I was so glad to meet guys I've talked to many times and put a name to the Callsign :)  The other thing I (knew) but only really realized is that I already knew some of the guys at the meeting!  I looks like I'm not the only Richmond Ham to have dual membership in the local clubs :)

What a nice way to support the hobby!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ham Radio Outlet - Woodbridge - Excellent Customer Service! +1

I called HRO this morning and talked with a gentleman named Joe; I couldn't be more pleased.  I explained my situation - received my Mirage BD-35 DOA, etc., etc., etc..  Without any issue, Joe completely resolved my issue to my satisfaction!  Very nice - I very, VERY infrequently receive customer service as good as I received today.

While I might not purchase Mirage/MFJ gear again, I will DEFINITELY purchase from HRO again.  No doubt about it :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mirage BD-35 - I'm very disappointed

Well, I got my Mirage in the mail today.  It didn't work. I don't mean it didn't hit the repeater as I needed - I mean it didn't power on. :(

I have been nervous about purchasing products from MFJ, I'm not nervous anymore. I am just not purchasing ANY products from MFJ.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Changes in the shack

Since the 9100 has to visit the doctor, that leaves my shack without D-Star capability. Hmm, what to do? It would seem that choices are plentiful!!!

After reflection - meaning that I really thought that a new 2820 would be nice, I realized that the price of such a piece of gear was just excessive for this temporary situation. As much as I would like one, it just didn't "feel" like the right time for something like that. What I'd REALLY like would be a new product announcement from Icom which would be a 7000 with d-star capability - I'd purchase that rig in a heartbeat...

Since I have not heard such an announcement (or even rumors!) it's time for "Plan B." I have 92AD that just isn't able to hit the local D-Star repeater(s) with any reliability. It's just not able to use the rubber ducky and make the distance. I do, however, have a Diamond X50 (dual VHF/UHF) antenna that I can use. Since I also want to have a bit more reliability for the Wednesday night Richmond Amatuer Radio Club D-Star net at 20:00 - I thought it might be prudent to pick up a small VHF/UHF amplifier. I placed the order with HRO for a Mirage BD-35 I'm hoping that it will provide just enough UMPHH along with a "real" antenna to make the distance.

Goodbye 9100! Hurry home!

Sob, sob... I shipped the 9100 to the Icom service center this morning. I sure hope it's an easy (and inexpensive!) fix.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I found my 6m loop problems...

Very disapointing... My loop is fine, my Icom 9100 isn't :(

The 9100 has 2 different HF inputs, input #1 is connected to my Palstar AT2K and input #2 is connected directly to my m2 6m ho loop.

I swapped the antenna and was able to tune it just fine. That was bad news..

I got out my Bird wattmeter and got 100+ watts from #1 and NO watts from input #2.

I guess I will pack it up and ship it to Icom on Monday.

On a positive note, I have my 7000 setup in the shack and it's working pretty well. No dstar, but such is life!

6m loop problems...

I'm not quite sure what is going on with my 6m HO loop, for some reason it doesn't seem to want to tune with my 9100 autotuner like "normal"...  I suppose it's just another thing to look at and figure out :(

QRZ Archive - This is all my content that I hosted on QRZ for a while

Here is my Archive

Ok, I've taken enough grief about my YouTube video... Here is a link to version 2 I hope that the "real world" test is accepted by the Amatuer Radio Community :)
Seriously though, I admit it - the 1st video wasn't "real world"...

The 6 meter guys ( had a tailgate party last Saturday morning, I took my youngest son over there and we got to say hello to a bunch of folks. It was a really nice time! My son, who is 12, decided that a little Icom receiver (IC-R100) looked pretty interesting - I wish I'd had one when I was a child! So, a little father/son negiotation and we agreed that it would be best if that little unit came on home with us :) Lots of smiles...
I dug up an old Astron power supply; ran the R100's long wire around his room and up into the attic. Connected all the proper cables, READ the instruction manual and powered it up - IT WORKS GREAT! My son is so excited, he told me that he listened to the receiver to a station in Tokyo until early in the morning... What more could I ask for?
So, that's the good news. The bad news is that I borrowed an SWR meter for the 800/900Mhz range. Why's that bad? Because I own an antenna that has about a 3.5/4.5 to 1 SWR around the 927Mhz freq! The guys in my area use 927.150 as the primary simplex frequency. Very disapointing - I had Will help me make a YouTube video to share: You can see the sweep in all it's ugly glory :(
Oh well, the good truly outweighed the bad over the weekend! I guess if I'm trying to be a glass half full, this gives me another "opportunity" to locate/figure out what to do on 900Mhz regarding antenna issues!
I have been involved in quite a few things recently - 900Mhz, D-Star Gateway configurations, writing articles for my local radio club, antenna (re-designs' of course!), and Morse Code! Lots of activity, mostly good, some challenging - but, in the end, just means the hobby continues to provide a great outlet for me :)

900Mhz - A buddy of mine, Richard (WB4FAX), and I have a short stretch of road that we travel along each morning. So, instead of saying hello on 146.520; we say hello on 927.150! We get some miles out of the gear - we both have Kenwood981's and they do about 10 watts +/-... Once I head off the main road, we usually have 3 - 5 minutes of more talk time and then jump back over to 2m simplex. I do love simplex - there is always a challenge there! Yeah, I live right under 3 really decent repeaters, but who's looking for range and reliability? Isn't this ham radio? :)

I've also been helping the Richmond Amateur Radio Club with the D-Star gateway server configuration. That's been quite a fun project as well - plenty of challenges too, but at this point, I hope the worst is behind us! Our repeater "stack", which includes both the 2m and 70cm modules, now has access to other reflectors/repeaters using TCP/IP (the Internet.) All very exciting!

I continue to write, albeit with little feedback from my reader(s). Still struggling a bit with this one; I'm asked to write articles for the club newsletter, but I often wonder if anyone even finds them remotely interesting. Perhaps they don't and that's why I'm now shunned at the monthly meetings (just kidding...) Seriously though, I don't really ever get any feedback - good or bad, about the articles. It sure would be nice to know how they are received. Or not...

Code, code, and more code! Another buddy of mine, Dave (N4MW), lent me a code practice oscillator(CPO) - just Google "CPO" and I bet you'll see Dave's website in the first page of results - if not the FIRST result! Anyway, I must say, sending code has been very fun! Quite different that the struggle that I've had (and am still having) trying to listen to code. It seems that the code just keeps coming and coming and coming and ... I wish I could slow it down sometimes; but I guess the right answer is just to learn it and be done with it all. So, practice sending in the car and at home, while also practicing listening! One day, I'll be a CW ninja - but today, I feel like a CW clown!
I picked up the PowerMate knob ( from Amazon for $30 on sale and gave it a try... The knob has a couple of different controls: spin left/right, knob down (like a click), knob down (long press), and knob down + spin left/right.
I took a look as the RS-BA1 key mappings and went with the following configuration:

Spin Right - > PageUp (Freq Up)
Spin Left - > PageDown (Freq Down)
Knob Down + Spin Right -> Shift + Right Cursor (Tuning Step Down)
Knob Down + Spin Left-> Shift + Left Cursor(Tuning Step Up)
Knob Down -> F (Filter)

You can adjust the "Sensitivity" of each control to make the knob spin for your own comfort level. The knob has a great feel - certainly not as nice as a true VFO, but works well. The knob is also "heavy" with a silicon base to help with slipping on a smooth surface. Anyway, it works well with the RS-BA1 Remote Control and I'll be keeping it :)
I have grown QUITE comfortable using my RS-BA1 software remotely. I've created a virtual machine (VM) based upon Windows XP that I run on my laptop - the XP VM is built to run the Icom RS-BA1 software, HRD, EZ-Nec, and a couple of other ham based software applications. Works great! I can sit pretty much anywhere I want around the house, plug in my Heil Proset media headset, and have a QSO. Or if I'm interested, I can check out some psk with DM780 and of course, it's all logged with HRD Log... I mean, EVERYTHING, just works! QRZ auto lookups, LOTW uploads, eQSL, hamlog, Oh, but I really have a new "problem" :)
Seems like my AT2K, which is just fantastic, is still "only" a manual tuner :( Fortunately, Palstar has a new auto-tuner - unfortunately, it's expensive... Somehow, I think one of them will make their way to the QTH sooner or later. The reason is this: I can do all the remote stuff I wish, except I am left with the HF band set to a single band with the tuner tuned to a specific frequency. Can't change that remotely...
I did pick up an Icom IC-7000 for mobile work (6 meters). A buddy of mine helped me figure out how to cut a whip using a Larsen 40 coil so that it resonates around 50.125 Pretty cool and works reasonably well; not going to set records for distance - but I am mobile on 6 now :)
Part of the Icom IC-7000 deal included a LDG IT-100 auto tuner. I'm not so much a fan of this tuner; I swapped out my Palstar AT2K and tried to get it to perform with my HF doublet. Not even close to what the Palstar would tune - nowhere near... On 40m and 20m there was some hope for the LDG - but even then, it only got the SWR down to around 1.5 +/- I am just so much MORE impressed with the AT2K - every band, every frequency can get to a perfect match. BUT - the AT2K is still manual :)
I'm glad I tried the LDG - you know, you kinda wonder sometimes whether or not the products you purchase perform as well as you hope - I can truly say that I would recommend a Palstar to anyone, at anytime. The LDG can work great for HF antennas that are "close" to a reasonable resonance anyway (Windom, Buckmaster, etc) - I plan on using the LDG when I take the IC-7000 out on field days, boy scout jamboree on the air, etc. as the IC-7000 does not have an auto-tuner built in. (Which is why I really wanted the LDG included anyway :) )
I suppose it's been a busy week since the last update. I now have all 6 of my antennas in the air AND they are all connected to a transceiver of some sort :) 1.2GHz vertical, 900MHz vertical, 2m/70cm vertical, 70cm loop, 2m loop, 6m loop, and my 40m doublet! I am so happy I made the move to the "shed"
Oh, and YES, I got my I-Com RS-BA1 software working correctly. Which means that I can use my gear pretty much wherever (and almost) whenever I wish. HRD and DM780 are working great as well with the remote software - I've made a couple of PSK31 contacts sitting inside my house (actually at my 'work from home') desk with my comfy headset (Heil Proset) and work laptop. I've got to say, I'm a pretty lazy person at heart and this combo has just increased my level of laziness to a higher level!!!
The shed has come a long way - I have drilled 6 coax holes through the floor and have had no complaints from my XYL. She could care less what happens out there - I've suggested that if I put a portable toilet and a coffee maker I might not have to come back into the house; I'm not sure what it means but she wasn't really upset about that ;)
For now, I'm hoping that my build out process can stop for a while - oh, except that I have about a 1:1.5 SWR on my 70cm loop - I need to get that adjusted, but am thinking that my acquisition and build is over. I'm kinda glad and sad at the same time.
Geez, it's been a long time since I've had an update... So, I've been "kicked out" of the house as my XYL decided that those "ropes" (coax) hanging from the 2nd story window needed to go... I have a shed out back that I ran power to several years ago - it's now got a heater and in the spring will have a window air conditioner :) Here is a link to some pics of where I'm now sitting:
I've also started using the I-Com RS-BA1 software; it sure makes it a lot easier to use the radio from my downstairs office. So, in a strange sort of way, I think I'm actually pretty happy about the way things have turned out! Oh, did I mention that there is a nice piece of unused yard space that's about 8' by 10' just outside the back side of the shed - hmm, that seems like just the right kind of space needed for a big cement slab :) That's got a LONG way to go, but at least there is hope for a future tower...
Rig Update. Out with the old 7600, in with the new 9100. I've got a buddy, N4MW, who is really, REALLY into VHF+ weak signal stuff. I went and visited; big mistake! I've been bitten hard with the weak signal VHF bug - so much that I picked up a used 910H (with the 1.2GHz module). However, the deal was a big mistake (the 1st time I'd ever been ripped off by someone) and I was so disappointed that I gave up looking at the used market. I subsequently convinced myself that a 9100 would cure me of my ills. It did (at least for now!)
IMHO the 7600 is a better HF rig. However, as I've been using the 9100, I have discovered that it does everything that I used my 7600 for - pretty darn well. No color scope and I think the 7600 sounded a little better; but functionally - it was very much the same as the 9100. So, I couldn't, in good conscience, just the 7600 sitting around waiting to be used on occasion - listed it on qrz and it sold 20 hours later :)
The UX-9100 modules are sold out in the US and it'll be August before they show up. I guess that's OK, as I've got some 2m/70cm antennas to work out (meaning "to buy" and figure out how to get the XYL to "approve").
The UT-121 (D-Star module) should be arriving this week. I hope to get it installed before Wed night's D-Star net!
Update on my Diamond X300 - I'm pretty disappointed with it actually :( The 9100 has a SWR meter and I was (finally!) able to check my SWR when transmitting to my local 2m/70cm repeaters. It seems that I had a 3+ to infinity reading when trying to hit my local 2m D-Star repeater (147.255)! Most of the 2m bad was 2.5+... HOWEVER, the 70cm band was 1.2 to 1.3 across the entire band! Weird huh? I hit the 70cm D-Star repeater (443.7125) with all of 2 watts - no problem. I took the opportunity to swap my X300 with an old X50 I had in the garage and guess what! 1.2 SWR on both 2m/70cm now! Same coax, same radio - different antenna and VERY different responses :) Needless to say, the X50 is the antenna hanging in the back yard now!
I think I might have figured out why my Buckmaster is causing me a TON of RFI on 80m & 40m... I changed my station location from one side of my room to the other side of the room and managed to run my coax through my backyard window; that cut my coax run from 200' to about 35'... I didn't need all of the 200' of coax, which was coiled nicely in my attic - coiled huh... I suspect that I had created my own form of choke balun when I was using the 200' run of coax, which now is no longer the case! I've also had to learn much more about the sources of RFI and what you can do to reduce it's impact.
Problem #2, I confess - I don't have my gear grounded :( Yes, I admit it... I'm a loser... I've started trying to learn all about grounding scenarios; it would seem that I'll have to move my gear from my comfy, 2nd floor playroom area to my not so comfy garage. That's about the only way that I can see having a proper ground situation. I wish I knew more about electric theory; I'm just not an EE. Sometimes I wonder why I enjoy these kind of struggles. Anyway, redesign of my power, desk, and RFI grounding environment is now under way. Wish me luck!
Last night I performed my 1st Net Control duty for the Richmond D-Star net. It was both nerve racking and fun; I hoping that this net will become a technical forum for those interested in the D-Star technology and I'll do I best to keep it so.

On the down side, I've been working on hanging my 7 band Buckmaster OCF in the back yard. It would seem that it is now picking up all kinds of interference from everywhere. VERY frustrating... I have also noticed a couple of "strange" side-effects, the primary being that I can no longer receive a good signal from the Richmond D-Star repeater. During the net, my S-Meter was 0 (zero) - nothing! However, I was able to communicate PERFECTLY with the repeater, very strange. No R2D2 garble, perfect copy... I suppose I must have done something with cable routing or antenna placement.
I guess there is no perfect thing...
Well, I did some testing of a new 2m/70cm antenna over the weekend. The improvement is fantastic - from an S5 to S9+20 :) I did a little bit of a story and if you'd like, you're more than welcome to read about it... The Mis-Adventures of a Backyard Antenna Hanger Pictures of the "Knuckle Buster."
OK, I admit it. I like rag-chewing. I like PSK31. I like 80m. I like rag-chewing on 80m. I like rag-chewing on PSK31 on 80m. The part I've realized that I like best, is getting to know folks within the state of VA (and nearby states as well.) Being able to hold a conversation with someone that you've gotten to know a little bit is nice.
Here's my problem though - all the antenna's that I own with don't "really" do 80m very well. They kinda do, but don't... So, I've just picked up the 7-band Buckmaster OCF. I'm hoping that'll take care of my high SWR's over the 80m band. (Somehow I'm just feeling lucky that I've been able to use my 4-band OCF on 80m so far!)
A buddy of mine and I were playing with different digital modes the other evening and we both agreed that we needed to continue on and experiment some more. Further talking led to the idea that we should just ask if anyone else in the local club (Richmond Amateur Radio Club) might be interested. We'll see how that turns out!
I just submitted my application for becoming an ARRL VE. Since I just don't have the radio background, I figure I can offer to help my radio club (RARC) with the test sessions - I DO know how to make coffee and chit-chat! I've also decided to represent/participate with the club during next year's Boy Scout JOTA (Jamboree Over The Air) - I've been a Cubmaster for a while and now that my youngest is moving up to Boy Scouts; my time with Cubs is at an end (yea!). It is really tough trying to figure out where my VERY limited skills can be of help when I'm around folks who have decades of experience.
I passed my Extra exam last night! Finally, I can choose to study and follow those parts of the hobby that I really prefer - instead of learning about digital circuit design perhaps I'll start spending time learning things like code :)
I've been working with HRD and more specifically, the Log program part of HRD. I need to create a good looking QSL card too! is now part of my logging, BUT, I'm stuck using an ugly, default card until I can get off my butt and make sometime that actually looks nice :)
Installed a Buckmaster 4-Band antenna over the weekend :) Antenna comparison between my attic fan dipole and the Buckmaster are located at the bottom of this page. The Buckmaster is set up in a flat top config around 50' high.
No more /AG - the FCC updated my record to General Class
Update - I passed my General exam over the past weekend :) Put updated pics of my HF antenna system.
Hmm, where to begin...
The best I can remember would be back to when I was 7 or 8 years old. Somehow, I had received a "toy AM radio" kit - I have no idea where it came from, perhaps it was a Christmas present, though I can't think of who might have picked that out for me. I remember the kit - simple board, a few "spring" wire connectors, a small white knob, an earpiece, and a cylinder with copper wire wound around it. I thought it was SO cool to be able to listen to AM radio stations (though I didn't really care what was being broadcast) without batteries! I have no idea whatever happened to that kit, but I've always had a love for communications ever since.
Anyway, I digress.
I'd tried (half-heartily) to learn Morse Code more than a dozen years ago and couldn't/wouldn't learn it. I attended one HAM meeting where I was SO out of place and had absolutely no idea what everyone was talking about. It wasn't for me.
It's now 2010 and a buddy of mine mentioned that the FCC had dropped the Morse Code requirement to obtain a Tech (and others) license. I was pretty excited to check out where the hobby was - we're talking a whole new era now - the Internet had not only been born, it was full of useful information and folks who would lend a hand to a noob!
My buddy recommended the WY5I site as a good place to obtain information on starting - so I placed my order, got my books, purchased a basic 2m HT to start listening and I'm off!!! I passed my Tech Exam and received my "ticket" on July 15, 2010 :) I'll be working on getting my General very soon and hope to hit the HF airwaves before too long! Here are a few pictures: My messy desk and couple of transceivers.
Here are some pics of my new antenna system:
I've got 40m, 20m, 15m and 10m all off of one coax :) Here is a link of my SWR's for the frequencies:

Time for a change!

I used to have all my HAM Radio blog info located in the QRZ home page, but I've decided that it's time to move it out.  Not that I have anything but respect for QRZ, I do!  It's just that I use my bio page for blogging and updates much more than just static content.  As time goes on, I'll have to find a way to move all that content over here...

Wish me luck - 73 de KJ4WLH