Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Still amazes me

It still amazes me that I can do this. Well not me, but 5 Watts of RF energy can span the globe. To quote my son Joey, "What sorcery is this?"

 
I had a quick lunchtime QSO with Chris G4BUE on 17 Meters. He answered my CQ and gave me a 559. I told Chris that he was 599+ and that he sounded like he was just down the street.
 
Just 5 Watts from the roof of a Jeep, parked in a parking lot in Warren, NJ to a house in West Sussex, England. Just thinking about that - !!!! In the blink of an eye - less than the blink of an eye, my tiny signal traverses the Atlantic and made it to Chris' home. Wow! Simply wow!
 
Having an appreciation for history, to realize it took weeks, even months for sailing vessels to travel from Europe to the New World - and that I can make the return trip (in a manner of speaking) at the speed of light. How cool is that?
 
 
I've worked Chris before, but this was a new band for us. Thanks, Chris for your good ears and your superb station!
 
According to RBN, this is where my QRP signal was being heard this afternoon:
 
 
Personally, Amateur Radio never gets old. Each QSO feels like a new adventure. I feel badly for those who feel it does get old, and walk away from the hobby.
 
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Baofeng UV-5R mishap

A few weeks ago, our cat Sandy knocked my Baofeng UV-5R off the bookcase where I had placed it. It wasn't all that far a drop - maybe 2 1/2 feet (close to a meter - just under) and I really didn't think twice about it. Fumblefingers me, had dropped it before with no ill effect. A few days later, as I was going to a radio club meeting, I happened to grab it, only to notice that it must have hit something on the way down and the LCD display had cracked.  Again, no big deal, I could have lived with that. Then I noticed the keyboard had also gotten damaged as I can't change the frequency now. Luckily it's set to the repeater that I support - but that's not good for CERT activities, because various repeaters and simplex frequencies are needed and used. When I get the time (????), I'll try prying the case apart myself to see if perhaps there's just a stuck key - but am not sure when that opportunity will occur.

If the same thing had happened to a Kenwood, Yaesu or Icom, I would have really been upset with the cat. She was lucky it was a Baofeng. However, in all honesty, a Kenwood or a Yaesu or an Icom might have withstood the accident. We'll never know, as I don't have one of those. 

If I didn't have a lot of CERT activities coming up in the next few weeks, I probably would have put off replacing it. But the next three weeks will be chock full of CERT communications as we have track meets, a 5K race, middle and high school graduations and a church sponsored carnival happening all within a short span of time. So I ordered another one from Amazon, parting with a bit of money that I hadn't planned on spending. And it arrived yesterday - delivered on Memorial Day. Wow - who would have thought that could happen?

When I got into this hobby some 38 years ago, I never thought that I'd see the day when a hand held would become, for all intent and purpose, a disposable item.  But that's where we've gotten to - and in reality, I think that's pretty much where we've gotten to with a lot of electronics. i.e cell phones, TVs, tablets, etc.  I'm not sure that there's anyone who really does cell phone or TV repairs these days. The corner "Fix-It" shop is a rare thing, and in many cases, a repair would be less economical than purchasing a new unit, anyway.

Society worries so much about being "green", but this age of disposables really goes against that when you think about it. Repairing a TV or a radio or what have you was the Older Generation's way of recycling. Instead, today we just "buy another", using up more resources and generating more garbage in the process. We really have "evolved" haven't we?

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

All gave some

Some gave all.




We honor, we remember, we pray.

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

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend - 2015

To all my friends in the US, Memorial Day is so much more than "The Unofficial Start of Summer". It's more than BBQs and hamburgers and hotdogs and picnics.  It's more than a "long weekend" away from work and school.

It's the time we remember, honor, thank and pray for the men and women who wore our country's uniform and willingly went into battle, but never came home. We honor and remember their Ultimate Sacrifice and that of their family's as well.

So set aside some time this weekend to fly Old Glory, visit a cemetery, leave a flower, say a prayer, remember and be grateful. We have our freedoms because of them.


Happy Memorial Day - and THANK YOU to all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen and Marines who died to keep this Nation free. We owe you so much more than we can ever possibly re-pay. May you forever rest in peace in God's loving arms.


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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Feeling nostalgic this morning

While digging out a mug for this morning's cuppa, I found this all the way back in the cabinet, hiding amongst the bajillions of mugs we seem to have amassed over the years.



This mug as to be over 20 years old. I changed my call in 2000, and moved from East Brunswick to South Plainfield in 1998. I had this for a good number of years before then.

Seriously though, do you guys have the same problem? Between door prizes, company "gifts", and vacation souvenirs we have quite the coffee mug collection. Some are buried so far bag in the cabinet that they haven't seen the light of day in years, like ol' N2ELW above,

If coffee mugs were a rare commodity, "I'd be rich, socially secure - a happy miser!"*

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


* - Apologies to Daffy Duck for stealing his line.

Friday, May 22, 2015

FCC Eliminates Amateur Radio Vanity Call Sign Regulatory Fee

Courtesy of the ARRL:

05/22/2015

The FCC is eliminating the regulatory fee to apply for an Amateur Radio vanity call sign. The change will not go into effect, however, until required congressional notice has been given. This will take at least 90 days. As the Commission explained in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Report and Order, and Order (MD Docket 14-92 and others), released May 21, it’s a matter of simple economics.

“The Commission spends more resources on processing the regulatory fees and issuing refunds than the amount of the regulatory fee payment,” the FCC said. “As our costs now exceed the regulatory fee, we are eliminating this regulatory fee category.” The current vanity call sign regulatory fee is $21.40, the highest in several years. The FCC reported there were 11,500 “payment units” in FY 2014 and estimated that it would collect nearly $246,100.

In its 2014 Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) regarding the assessment and collection of regulatory fees for FY 2014, the FCC had sought comment on eliminating several smaller regulatory fee categories, such as those for vanity call signs and GMRS. It concluded in the subsequent Report and Order (R&O) last summer, however, that it did not have “adequate support to determine whether the cost of recovery and burden on small entities outweighed the collected revenue or whether eliminating the fee would adversely affect the licensing process.”

The FCC said it has since had an opportunity to obtain and analyze support concerning the collection of the regulatory fees for Amateur Vanity and GMRS, which the FCC said comprise, on average, more than 20,000 licenses that are newly obtained or renewed, every 10 and 5 years, respectively.

“The Commission often receives multiple applications for the same vanity call sign, but only one applicant can be issued that call sign,” the FCC explained. “In such cases, the Commission issues refunds for all the remaining applicants. In addition to staff and computer time to process payments and issue refunds, there is an additional expense to issue checks for the applicants who cannot be refunded electronically.”

The Commission said that after it provides the required congressional notification, Amateur Radio vanity program applicants “will no longer be financially burdened with such payments, and the Commission will no longer incur these administrative costs that exceed the fee payments. The revenue that the Commission would otherwise collect from these regulatory fee categories will be proportionally assessed on other wireless fee categories.”

The FCC said it would not issue refunds to licensees who paid the regulatory fee prior to its official elimination.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

So basically the FCC is saying, it costs more to process the fees and refunds of fees than it's worth.  I am going to assume (a dangerous thing), or at least hope that this also applies to the renewal as well as the initial application.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Some great news

I received an e-mail from John AE5X this morning. John is one of the best Ham Radio/QRP bloggers out there, IMHO, and it was great to hear from him.  He informed me that he has undertaken authoring a specialized niche blog - about off road motorcycling and QRP.

My initial reactions were thus:

1) Wow! It's great to hear from John.
2) John's writing again - fantastic!
3) I know diddly squat about motorcycling.
4) This ties into QRP, so how can this be a bad thing?
5) Even though #3 is true, #4 is also true, so maybe I can learn something here.
6) Boy, it's good to have John back again.

So even if you're like me (and don't know squat about motorcycling), you do know about QRP and you do like the way John writes - it's still a win/win situation. AND if you DO know about motorcycling, then you've really hit pay dirt! (Win/win/win).

I have added John's new blog to the blog roll on the right, and the hyperlink above will take you right there.  Please take the time to read his work, and if you like what you're reading - let him know. We bloggers appreciate the feedback and love hearing from you, good, bad or indifferent. Just do ME a favor and tell him W2LJ sent you.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Skeeter Hunt 2015

E-mails are starting to roll in - so I wanted to make an early announcement.



Yes! There will be a Skeeter Hunt in 2015.  It will be held on Sunday, August 9th. Skeeter numbers will be issued starting on the "First Day of Summer", which will be Sunday June 21st - the weekend before Field Day.

There is one major rule change for this year - there will be no extra bonus points for working DX stations this year.  As many of you know, the Skeeter Hunt seems to always coincide with the "Work All Germany" contest, and in years past, working a DX station was worth 3 points.  Several Skeeters in the Mid-West and on the West coast pointed out that this is an unfair advantage to East coast Skeeters. After considering it, I have come to agree with this, and have eliminated that extra DX bonus.  The playing field will be much more equal this year.

The Bonus word for this year is "CULICIDAE", which is the Latin word for the family of insects that mosquitoes belong to.  Work enough call signs that include those letters and you can garner yourself another 100 points. There's an "L" in there and I will be happy to be the official "L" provider for the Hunt. Hi! (I think Don K3RLL among others, will also be happy to give away "L"s, too.)

I am having a bit of trouble with the QSL.NET webpage, so for all the details of this year's Skeeter Hunt, you can go to my Skeeter Hunt page of this blog - http://w2lj.blogspot.com/p/njqrp-skeeter-hunt.html.

I am hoping to have the QSL.NET problems ironed away by this weekend, but then again, you never know.

72 de Larry w2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Only one QSO during lunch

bands seemed "meh", and my partner is out from work today, so I had to make it an abbreviated lunch.  But I did work (on 15 Meters):


 
It's always fun busting a pileup with only 5 Watts!
 
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Hooray NJ2SP - SPARC Rookies!


Great job by the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club Rookies who activated NJ2SP - and an equally great job by Marv K2VHW who mentored the event.

Can't wait 'til Field Day!

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

Ham Radio to the rescue!

After kind of causing the problem, in the first place.

http://kdvr.com/2015/05/17/littleton-snowshoer-rescued-after-falling-off-icy-ledge/

Thanks to Drew W2OU for pointing this one out.

But in all seriousness folks, portable ops can seem harmless, but they come with their own hazards and some can be life threatening.

Just a few basic things to keep in mind:

Don't go hiking alone if you're unfamiliar with the trail. It's too easy to get lost. I speak of this one from personal experience. Once I was out on a hike in the Adirondacks on an unfamiliar trail for the first time, and I took a turn I shouldn't have and found myself off the trail. Fortunately, I kept calm, retraced my steps and found my way back quickly and easily. However, if you panic, all bets may be off. Moral of the story - two or more sets of eyes are better than one when looking for trail markers.

Always take along extra water, food and appropriate clothing. While it may be hot and sunny when you start out, weather can and often does change in a heart beat, so keep weather conditions in mind. For good measure, always bring along your VHF/UHF handheld, it could literally save your life.

Let someone know where you're going and approximately how long you'll be gone.

This is an obvious one, but people sometimes forget. If you can hear thunder, shut the station down! A storm does not have to be right on top of you to be a lightning threat. Lightning bolts can touch down more than 10 miles away from a thunderstorm's leading edge.

Portable operating is about the most fun you can have in Amateur Radio, but you have to approach it in a common sense fashion.

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wishing I was at Dayton

not so much for Hamvention itself, as that's always fun - but for FDIM.

For the newbies and those not familiar with QRP ..... FDIM is an acronym for Four Days In May. FDIM is a mini-convention or gathering of QRPers in advance of Hamvention.  FDIM consists of an arrival greeting at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn, OH on Wednesday evening, followed by forums all day Thursday. Vendor Night is Thursday evening and there are get-togethers, meals, other QRP activities and QRP fellowship that occur to fill in the gaps.  Hamvention itself takes up Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning.  FDIM closes with the QRP banquet on Saturday evening. Pretty good summation from a guy who's never been, eh?

The last time I was to Dayton was way back in 1996.  FDIM inaugurated the following year, in 1997. so I missed it by a year, basically.  As I previously mentioned, it takes place at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn, which is literally across the parking lot from the Homewood Suites where I used to stay the years that I did go to Hamvention. The Homewood Suites was where the AMSAT group stayed, and I was big into working RS 10/11 and RS 12/13 back in those days. (See?  I have done stuff other than QRP CW operating!)

I'm getting off track here.

As part of my "QRP, You and the Great Outdoors" presentation that I gave earlier this month, I started explaining that one of the side benefits of being a QRPer is how close and tightly knit the QRP community is.  FDIM would give me the chance to finally meet face to face with so many people that I have come to call friends over the years. I sorely miss the opportunity to do that, and would love to - at least just once!

Maybe, just maybe, if God is willing - next year might finally be the year. My kids are getting older and don't need Dad to be with them 24/7.  If I start saving now .........

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

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The scoop from Elecraft at FDIM

So Elecraft came to FDIM today, to announce the new K3S.

The new product is an enhanced K3 with many new features - here's a link to a .pdf which explains them all in detail. And here's a link to a FAQ.

It appears the new K3S will be approximately $500 more than the old version, and the original K3 has been "discontinued" or "replaced" - whichever you prefer. In addition, it appears most, but not all the enhancements will be retro-fittable to make a K3 a K3S. The new bezel and the attenuator, for instance, will not.



I wonder - how does the guy feel who took delivery on a brandy new K3, in the very recent past?  Are they happy because  they squeaked under the wire and got their K3 at the lower price?  Or are they feeling a bit miffed because they ordered and received something that is no longer "the latest and the greatest"?  Except for the cosmetics, it appears that you can pretty much turn your existing K3 almost into a K3S - and you do have a "system" that is continually upgradable. So if you're an Elecraft owner, you can take comfort in the fact that when you buy something, the company does its best to stand behind their product and you.

I for one, am quite happy with my KX3's. They're all the radio I need, and should Elecraft come out with a KX3S tomorrow, I would not be bothered in the least.

The morning UStream feed from FDIM was disappointing. If you attempted to watch it, you saw that only a portion of the video picture appeared and none of the audio. Basically, you missed the entire Elecraft K3S presentation. Things got straightened out during Rev. Dobb's presentation and we were able to hear that the good Reverend was inaugurated as QRP-ARCI's very first Lifetime Member.

The silver lining is that hopefully the feed will be up and running normally for the remaining sessions.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Something new from Elecraft?

Will Elecraft be introducing something new at Hamvention tomorrow? Seems like it to me. Eric and Wayne posted the following on Facebook:


Notice the use of tomorrow's date in the display. Also - the current black chassis radios in the Elecraft line are the K3 and the KX3.  Both use black screws on the bezel - not silver. AND the last character before the word "Transceiver" on both radios is a "3" ...... not an "s". Lastly, there's no current radio in the Elecraft line (that I'm aware of) that has that little "down arrow" above the VFO knob.

Seems to me that a major announcement is in the offing for tomorrow. I guess time will tell!

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

Nice shack!

Ed N3CW was kind enough to grace me with a photo of his shack - with the latest addition hanging on his wall.


Thanks for the e-mail, Ed. I am amazed the stamps got to Ed's house so quickly. I mailed them, via Priority Mail, on Saturday afternoon. He had them on Monday. That's way better (and cheaper) than UPS or FedEx - and the glass didn't get broken - icing on the cake!

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It's time

As much as I hate to do it, I need to look for a new laptop for the shack. A few months ago, when the family computer gave up the ghost, I pressed my shack desktop into service in that role.  To fill the void in the shack, I resurrected my old Acer Inspire One netbook. It's a small machine with a very small screen, with hardly any processor power. It was performing duties way beyond its pay grade. This is the kind of computer that was designed for looking at e-mails and Facebook, and that's about it. Needing something better, I tried recruiting my even older HP laptop (the one with the broken top lid hinges - thanks, kids!) into service. Alas, it's better than the Acer, but only by the breadth of a hair.  It has a bigger screen, more RAM and a bigger hard drive, but it's still an old XP machine that has grown long in the tooth.

To explain what I mean ..... I went down to the shack last night to add some entries to my main logging program from the HamLog app I use when operating portable. I flipped the on switch at 9:30 PM and by the time it had booted up and the logging program had loaded it was about 9:47 PM.  17 minutes is not good. I wanted to start pulling out my hair by then. I think watching paint dry, or grass grow would have been less stressful and more entertaining.

That exercise in frustration drove me to start searching the Web. At work, IBM issued me a Lenovo T410.  I still use this model every day. Yes, they are slowly being refreshed out with the newer T440 model, but mine has served me decently well at the job over the last few years. I have found a couple places where I can pick up a refurbed T410 with 4G of RAM, a 250 GB hard drive and Windows 7 Professional in the $150 neighborhood.


This model has everything I would need. It can hook up to the Internet wirelessly, it has 3 USB ports (need one for the KX3, one for a mouse, and one for an external keyboard), provisions for adding a second VGA monitor and the standard audio ports, so I can do the digital modes, should I ever be inclined to go down that road. Not planning to go there, but you never know. I'll have to dip into savings to acquire one, but having a computer in the shack has almost become a necessity.

Of course, I could always go native and log strictly with paper and pencil, but I don't think the ARRL would accept mailed in Xerox copies of my log for LoTW.  Also, I like to keep my eye on QRPSPOTS as well as SOTAWatcher.  Can't do that without some kind of computer, although I guess I could always just use my cell phone for those. And having a Telnet DX Cluster at my disposal for confirming that I correctly copied the call of that DX station who was sending at a blistering 45 WPM is a nice thing to have, too. (Was that an "H", or a "5" ? - 37 years of Hamming and my ears still wig out on those two, at times.)

This is another occasion where I'll just have to bite the bullet and take the plunge.  Good thing I wasn't planning on going to Dayton.

Oh, and by the way, as long as I mentioned Dayton .... best wishes to all those heading to Ohio for FDIM and Hamvention. May the weather be good, the traffic light and travelling conditions safe - there and back!

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

Monday, May 11, 2015

US Amateurs - how to print out your license.

This appeared on QRP-L over the weekend, in a post by Bruce N1RX:

"Here are the steps to download an official copy of your license (authorization). Go to the FCC ULS database at:

http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home

Log in with your FRN number and password by clicking on the "LOG IN" button, next to "ONLINE FILING".

After logging in, click on "Download Electronic Authorizations" in the left-hand column.

Enter your callsign and click search. Your license will appear in the left box titled "My Authorizations". Click the "ADD" button, to add it to the list of Authorizations to download.

Scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on the "DOWNLOAD" button in the lower right hand corner. Your computer should then prompt you to "open or save" the PDF file."


Following Bruce's steps will get you to the "Official Copy".  If you just go to the ULS and do a simple search on your call, you will be able to print out a "Reference Copy". The "Official Copy" should be the one you hang on the wall and carry in your wallet.

Your FRN number (if you have one, and just about all of us should have one by now) can be found at the bottom of your license.  If you've never registered online with FCC via the Universal Licensing System website, you'll be asked to set up a password.  This, of course, will allow you to log on to your account in the future.  If you've registered before, but forgot your password, you'll be asked a security question which you had previously set up. If you answer correctly, you will be allowed to reset your password.

It's not a hard process - just one more password in a virtual blizzard of passwords to remember these days. Not sure how much money this actually saves the FCC, but it is convenient and it takes away having to wait for an envelope to come through the mail. It was nice, however, to get your license on whatever color paper they happened to be using with the official FCC emblem on it in the background.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

This may work

Drew Moore W2OU was at the QRP presentation I gave last Monday and was recording it with his iPhone. He posted it to YouTube, and if you click on the link below, you should be able to see snippets of it.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdsjK-zolD2jT-LIREdQwdvAd9NUPx-70

So now you'll be able to know what I sound like. Not sure if that's a good thing or not!  :-)

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