Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It's getting to be that time!

The NJQRP Club is announcing the 7th Annual " Skeeter Hunt", which will be held on Sunday, August 19th. As in the past, It will be a four hour sprint - from 17:00 UTC to 21:00 UTC (1:00 TO 5:00 PM EDT).


QRP stations who wish to be designated as "Skeeters" can get a Skeeter number by requesting one by sending an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net  Skeeter numbers will be issued from June 21st (the First Day of Summer) through the day before the event. You do NOT have to be a portable station to be a Skeeter - home stations can be Skeeters if they so desire.

You can send your e-mail requests in now, if you want to; but the Skeeter Hunt roster will not be published until the first day of Summer. We have to have something to look forward to, no?

As in past years - Skeeter numbers are not issued for life. They change each year. This gives everyone an even shot at getting the much coveted lower numbers. The only exception to that rule is that I assign myself lucky number 13, each year.

This year's theme will be "Water - the breeding ground for Skeeters!"  Operate near any sizable body of water - lake, ocean, creek, river, bayou, stream, brook, pond, etc, for an extra 100 bonus points.

The rules can always be found at http://www.qsl.net/w2lj/  The rules are not cumbersome, this is meant to be an easy going, friendly little operating event where everybody gets to have an enjoyable day behind the radio.

So get out of your shack for the day; and into the fresh air and sunshine, and spread your wings and fill the airwaves with "Skeeters"!

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

A neat little app

I ran across this the other day, while I was in the Google Play store and I did a search under Morse Code:


The name of the app is Morse Notifer Free.  There is also a Morse Notifier Pro, which you can pay for; but I chose to download and install the free version. What the app does is to let your smartphone ring using Morse Code instead of the usual bells, whistles, or tunes.

While the app does a whole lot of stuff, the feature I like the most is the SMS text message notification.  When a text message comes through, the phone will not only notify you that you have a message - but also who is sending it.  For instance, when my wife texts me, I hear "Message Marianne" come out of my phone.  On the other hand, if someone is texting me that I don't know - or if I haven't associated a name to the number, the phone will let me know that.  For instance, if I get a Nixle alert the phone will send "Message Unknown 88877".

Another neat feature that I like is there's an hourly chime.  At the top of the hour, your phone will et you know that its "TIME 1000" in Morse. It uses the 24 hour system so when it's 5:00 PM, the phone sends "TIME 1700".

Another neat feature is that Morse Notifier can set the vibrator of your phone to send in Morse. So when you've silenced the phone, you can feel the Morse instead of  hearing it. It takes a little getting used to; but once you realize what it is, you pick up on it pretty fast.

Here's a link to the instruction sheet if you might be interested - http://100dof.com/software/morsenotifier/manual_morse_notifier.pdf

I haven't fully explored all the possibilities, but it's neat to hear morse Code come out of your smartphone instead of the standard stuff.  One caveat, I believe, but am not certain, that this app is for Android phones, only.

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hoot Owl Fun

With a much improved right leg, I was able to get down to the basement shack quite easily for the Hoot Owl Shoot Out this past Sunday evening. It was nice to get on the air after being absent for quite a while. I made seven contacts in the allotted hour, two with good ol' reliable Don W2JEK on both 40 and 80 Meters.

The QSO with Don on 80 was the only one had there. The rest were all accomplished on 40 Meters. I heard some very faint signals on 20 Meters at the very beginning of the event, but nothing that was copyable.

Given the crummy band conditions and the fact that we're in the armpit of the solar cycle, one hour was probably plenty for the shootout. But I wish there had been another hour. Even though there was a lot of calling CQ between sparse replies, I still had a ton of fun.

When you're away from the hobby for a while due to circumstances that are kind of beyond your control, it's a blast when you can finally get back into it. We (it would probably better to say "I") take Amateur Radio for granted, knowing that we can go to our shacks at just about any time and jump on the air.  When you can't for one reason or another, it's like that line from that song from the 60's - "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got 'till it's gone?"

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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

I went to my local grocery store yesterday to do the food shopping for the week.  On my way out to the parking lot, I saw a member of our local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, selling paper poppies to raise money for disabled veterans.. I stopped, took a buck out from my wallet and handed it to him. As he took the dollar bill from me, I smiled and said, "Thank you for your service". He looked at me straight in the eye, and he answered me, his voice a bit choked up with emotion. "Thank you," he said, "I never got to hear that 52 years ago when I came home from Viet Nam." He held out his hand, and I took it in mine and we grasped each other's hand very firmly.


This weekend, in the United States, we honor and remember those countless brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation. From the grassy fields of Lexington and Concord. to the rocky mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, so many gave everything so that the rest of us back home could continue to live in freedom and liberty, without fear.

While we pay tribute to and pray for those departed souls this Memorial Day weekend, should you by chance see someone who served our country in any branch of the military, and had the good fortune to be able to return home ........ a smile and a "Thank You" will go a long way towards paying a debt we can never adequately repay.

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

Friday, May 25, 2018

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend in the USA always coincides with the QRP ARCI Hoot Owl Sprint.


And I see that according to the rules, it's now called the "Hoot Owl Shootout" and the event has been shortened to only one hour.  This event has always been one of my favorites as we never travel anywhere for this "Unofficial Start of Summer" weekend. And to devote one hour on Sunday evening doesn't seem to be a hardship.

After my hiatus from being away from the radio - I am really looking forward to this. I hope there's a decent amount of activity.

Da Rulz can be found at http://www.qrparci.org/contests/147-hoot-owl-sprint

Hope to hear you on the air!

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


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On the mend

This blog has been silent for the past few weeks - quite frankly because I was kind of out of the loop as far as Amateur Radio was concerned. About a month ago the dreaded tendinitis flared up in my right foot again (old dog walking injury).  In order to keep pressure off the toes, I over compensated when I would walk, which unintentionally caused undue stress to my calf and hamstring muscles.  Needless to say, the tendinitis went away a lot quicker than the injuries I caused to my leg muscles.

The pain got so bad that I briefly considered a trip to the Emergency Room at the hospital; but opted for a regular office visit to my primary care physician.  A prescription of muscle relaxers seems to have done the trick and after about a week on them, I am almost walking normally again.

If any of you have never experienced a hamstring injury, let me tell ya - it's NOT fun! The muscles were so tight that every time I tried to bend my knee I felt like the muscle in the back of my thigh was either going to snap or tear.  When my doctor examined my leg, he told me the hamstring felt like it had a knot in it.

So what does this all have to do with Amateur radio?  A lot.

It was too painful to go downstairs to the basement shack, so I avoided the shack like the plague. And to be honest, walking around for the most part was such a pain that I didn't even feel like setting up the KX3 and magloop in the living room.  I was just so pre-occupied with discomfort that I literally had the air let out of my balloon for close to a month.  The routine became go to work, hobble on home, eat dinner, and then go to bed early to elevate my leg for as long as possible.

But now that things are starting to resemble some kind of normalcy, I hope to start bringing the KX3 to work with me for lunchtime QRP sessions as soon as next week.

It's amazing how you can lose interest in even your most favorite things in life when your brain is busy dealing with the nerves in your body telling it that something is wrong.

The only bright side that I can think of is that I didn't purchase Hamvention tickets for this past weekend.  I would have never been able to deal with all the necessary walking, and it would have been massively depressing to have the tickets in hand and then not be able to go.

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

Christmas in April

I'm so happy for my friend Bob W3BBO. He had a major score yesterday and was able to acquire something he's been wanting for a long, long time.

A little background ....... while I messed with QRP as early just a few years after I became licensed, I wasn't what you would call a "dedicated" QRPer. I had joined QRP-ARCI in the early 80s. and I had my HW8 and I even joined in and participated in the very early QRP Fox Hunts all the way when I was still N2ELW. But I still messed around at the 100 Watt level a lot. And don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with that.

It wasn't until one Piscataway Amateur Radio Club Field Day, when Bob brought along the K2 that he had finished building that I really became hooked. That coincided with the fact that my wife Marianne was pregnant with our son at the time, I had a wire antenna hanging from the house just outside a window of what would become Joey's room.  Knowing that there was going to be a baby monitor in there,  and knowing how completely those things are shielded against RF interference, I was concerned that my CW might start the thing buzzing and blaring at all hours of the night while our son was sleeping. That kind of calamity and headache I did NOT need! (YOU WOKE THE BABY!!!!!!!)

That was when I decided to go totally QRP. I just had a gut feeling that 5 Watts would not cause an apocalyptic reaction from a baby monitor, and I turned out to be right. I finished an OHR 40./20 that had been languishing since my single days and went from there. The rest is history. But if it weren't for Bob bringing his K2 to Field Day, and us actually using it when one of the generators conked out ....... things might have turned out differently. So Bob became my QRP mentor, just like he had served as my satellite mentor.

Over the past couple of years, during our weekly Echolink and then Skype talks, Bob would every now and then mention ho he would love to have a Heathkit HW9. He has a K2, a PFR3, various homebrew radios that he has built, but never an HW9. Yesterday his dream came true, when looking at the NAQCC Shop and Swap e-mail, he saw one for sale. it turned out that the party doing the selling didn't live too, too far way from Bob - over in NY State. So after some phone calls and some discussion, they agreed to meet at a halfway point which resulted in Bob taking ownership in these:



After bringing them home and doing some housekeeping, they now look like this:



As Bob said, "a little soap and elbow grease go a long way". And I'd have to agree!  Bob fired up the gear last night and make a QSO on 40 Meters, so all appears to be well.

It's always neat when a fried; or someone you know scores big in their personal goals in this hobby. You can't help but feeling great for them!

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Tomorrow, April 27th, is Samuel F. B. Morse's birthday

And here is an excellent suggestion by Wayne N6KR:


No matter how busy I am tomorrow, I aim to make at least one QSO on this coming Friday in honor of Samuel Morse’s birth (227 years ago!). I’ll be dusting off my oldest hand key for the occasion, one with a leg strap and Levi’s-style button that was used by the South African army circa WW2. 

If you have an even older hand key, and you manage to get its contacts cleaned in time for this auspicious date, please send me a photo of it. I’ll collect the photos and post them on the Elecraft website photo gallery.

73,
Wayne
N6KR

I have a collection of several fine straight keys, including a McElroy; but none of them are what I would consider to be really old antiques. My J37 and J38 keys are probably from the WWII era. (Funny how for us Baby Boomers, things from the WWII era still don't seem to be that "antique" - Unless you include us!) My Vibroplex Original goes back to the 1920's I think; but that's not a straight key.

In any event, tomorrow might be a good day to pack the KX3 and battery in the car and get out there during lunchtime, in order to inaugurate the W2LJ 2018 Lunchtime QRP Season.

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What to bring?

I was reading a post on QRP-L the other day that brought a smile to my face. Someone (can't remember the name or call sign) was lamenting on how he went out for QRPTTF last Saturday and discovered that he had just brought along too much stuff. This brought that smile to my face, because I have also found myself in that position........many times.

Let's face it ...... those of us who are Weekend Warriors do not really need to pack like as if we were  SOTAteers. Those intrepid QRPers usually have to hike for many, many miles to get to their final destination. For them to not have a redundant set of just about everything would be a disaster. I can only imagine how much fun it would be to hike five or ten miles to a mountain top, set up the station only to find out that your BNC to SO239 adapter broke and that you didn't carry a back up. That would be a hair-tearing-out day, indeed.

For those of us who go to a local. county or state park and set up at an available picnic table usually have the luxury of parking nearby. That makes life so much easier! I usually leave the backpack full of all extemporaneous stuff in the back of the Jeep.  All that comes with me is the KX3 in its padded case, the battery and a paddle and set of ear buds along with the antenna du` jour. I carry these items in a very light, over-the-shoulder messenger bag that Cafe Press used to offer, but sadly, they no longer do. Glad I got mine while they had it!


This bag fits everything I need for a few hours of operating outdoors in a park-like environment.  Of course if I were to set up somewhere that required a substantial walk or hike, I'd bring the entire backpack with me. It's no fun walking a couple miles back to the car because you didn't bring any zip ties or extra antenna support rope with you in a small day pack. Not only is that frustrating; but it takes away from your operating time. The object it to maximize operating time and minimize set up and tear down time, right?

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you learn as you go. Do enough portable operations and you'll learn soon enough when to carry light, or when to bring the kitchen sink along with you.

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Geez! Another kit!

From QRPGuys. No shortage of offerings to the QRP community!


Here is another circuit design from Cliff Donley, (K8TND) he calls “Lucky Strike”. It is a sensitive direct conversion receiver kit that covers the 40m band for cw or ssb reception. It is a through hole kit that uses the popular NE602/612 mixer/oscillator and an LM384 audio amplifier for ear buds or a small speaker. Cliff has incorporated an LED  for the AGC system. There is a switched attenuator on the front end to prevent overloading. All the controls and I/O are board mounted. Front controls are Coarse Tuning, Fine Tuning, and Audio Gain. Rear connections are 12V power jack, 3.5mm audio jack, and the BNC antenna connection. The Power and Attenuator switches are board mounted, with pads for 9V battery operation if desired. We have provided power and signal pads for our Digital Dial if you want to add that option. All the receiver components are included in the kit with the pcb. It is a little over 2.50” square, and the same size as the MMM+ transmitter. Current usage is ~10mA

Yours for $25

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Never enough time for radio

Humbug!

Saturday got away from me again. Too many chores and errands, not enough time for radio. QRPTTF will have to wait another year for participation from W2LJ (as is that even matters).

From the summaries and reactions that I have been reading on QRP-L, it looks like the QSO rates were quite light for those who took part. Some have reported only 4 or 5 contacts for the entire event. Band conditions were pretty bad to say the least; and was probably the main reason for this.  Related to that, I saw on Facebook where Mike KC2EGL posted that he and John K3WWP only made 15 contacts during their subpedition to the USS Requin yesterday. I guess band conditions were lousy both days.

Personal experience would tend to back that up.  Yesterday afternoon, I got a few free moments and decided to set up the KX3 and magloop on the back patio. It was sunny and 65F (18C) and sitting in the sunshine, it actually felt much warmer. I haven't used the loop in a while and I kind of surprised myself how adept I've become at tuning it. I heard some loud signals on 40 Meters, though far and few between. 20 Meters was even worse. Any DX that I heard at the low end of the band was way down in the mud and was hard to hear. Stations from Slovenia and that area of Europe usually boom into NJ that part of the afternoon. Yesterday I had to strain my ear bones to hear them.

I called CQ for a bit on both bands for a few minutes before the battery that I was using went down below 8 Volts and caused the KX3 to turn off.  I guess that was just as well; because from the RBN chart, I wasn't being heard anywhere very well, anyway.


I saw in one post to QRP-L that Rick N9KG and Jerry N9AW were discussing that during the lower end of the sun spot cycle that "all day" QRP events might be better served by turning them into 3, 4 or even 5 hour sprints. The idea being to concentrate the participation and activity into a smaller time frame so that the experience becomes meaningful for all those involved.

Off hand, I'd say that's a pretty good idea. It keeps interest in the event alive from year to year when people feel that they've had a modicum of success. If you've made 20, 30 or 40 or more QSOs, you're more likely to make an effort to go out and conduct a portable operation again the following year. No one wants to go through all that trouble only to have it become an exercise in setting up and tearing down. When the sun spots come back in plentiful numbers, you can always adjust the hours of the event to reflect that.

Just a thought; and if I daresay, a good one on the part of NK9G and N9AW - two avid veteran QRPers whom I both respect, very much.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

QRPTTF - "A River Runs Through It"

QRP To The Field is tomorrow. QRPTTF always seems to signify the beginning of the outdoor QRP season, at least for me.  Once QRPTTF comes, Spring can't be far behind.

The rules can be found at http://www.zianet.com/qrp/qrpttf/2018/ttf.htm

The weather in our neck of the woods will be somewhat Spring-like. It's supposed to be sunny with a high in the afternoon somewhere around 65F (18C). Pleasant enough, for sure.

What will be getting in my way, is a busy schedule. I have a doctor's appointment at 9:00 AM for a regular check up. Follow that with the weekly trip to the grocery store and then I can hopefully mow the lawns. Even though the weather feels more like early March instead of mid-April, the lawn seems to have awoken from its Winter slumber. While not really full, it has greened up and I have a lot of what I call "lawn porcupines" - little tufts if grass that grow really tall and are scattered here and there. They look like little green porcupines, sleeping on the lawn.

If I can get those chores out of the way, maybe I can sign on as a home station and hand out some points. Hope to hear you on the air!

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I gave in!


I went and ordered a 40 Meter QCX kit and it arrived last week! My wife wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday, coming up next month - so I handed her the box.

I can wait.

After hearing so many good things about my friend Bob W3BBO's QCX, and the good words from Dave Richards AA7EE - both of whom I highly respect - I just couldn't resist. So much for only $49 - it seems like a sin not to take advantage.

God knows, with the way my eyes are aging - this might be a Herculean undertaking, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Happy World Amateur Radio Day!

Ice cream for everybody!


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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Two days of Summer - gone!

After a long and miserable Winter, we were finally greeted with two days of Spring/Summer last Friday and Saturday. Daily high temperatures reached into the 80s (29C), and both days were sunny. So of course, for the ARRL Rookie Roundup, we were presented with a return to Winter!

As the last few years, we set up at Putnam Park, a local park here in South Plainfield.  I think even Dave KD2FSI was feeling the chill as he kept the setup to a modest two rig, two antenna affair.  When the weather is good, Dave usually gets out everything but the kitchen sink, but given how dang cold it was, he did his usual stellar job.

How cold was it? At the time we started, it was only 42F (5.5C) an entire 40 degrees F lower than the day before. The killer was the breeze.  Checking into my weather station at home via my smartphone, we had 4-5 MPH continuous winds with occasional gusts to 8-10 MPH.  Hardly hurricane weather; but it was enough to chill you to the bone.






Why not operate from inside? When SPARC participates in these kind of events, we like to make them as public as possible, so as to maybe generate a little public enthusiasm for Amateur Radio. There weren't many visitors to the park on this cold, breezy, gray day - but there were a few, and you never know when you're going to get a chance to plant that seed.

Oh, and for those of you out there who think I'm a biased shill for Elecraft, we used exclusively Dave KD2FSI's Yaesu equipment and it worked very, very well, indeed!

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