Friday, September 29, 2006

More on Sunpots

Despite my last attempt at a humorous post title, I do indeed realize that we need sunspots to excite the ionosphere for extraordinary radio propagation conditions.

While we're in a lull right now, take a look at that sunspot on the left side of the sun in the picture. Looks like a good one, eh?

It's not what you think - but it is definitely way cool!

Click here, for what Paul Harvey would say is, "The rest of the story!".

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

We don't need no steenking sunspots!

OK, so it wasn't a QSO to Gambia using 100 mW and a wet string for an antenna. But for the supposed sunspot low, the QSO I had at lunchtime today wasn't so bad, either. 5 Watts to the Hamstick on top of the car yielded a solid QSO between W2LJ in Edison, NJ and K6TLL in Tule Lake, California.

Jim was very strong - 589 into NJ. He was using 100 Watts on his end. My 5 Watts garnered me a 569. Certainly respectable enough. And considering that we're approaching the low spot of the sunspot cycle, I consider it to be pretty darn good. I can only imagine how good things will get once the sun develops a few freckles on its face.

As colder weather approaches, my lunchtime QRP sessions will be coming to a close in another month or two, probably. As I've stated elsewhere, I hate the cold. Once standing behind my Ford Explorer becomes uncomfortable, that will mark the end of another lunchtime QRP season until it warms up again next year. Going through my log on my Palm m130 today, I see I did pretty well for Summer 2006. Since June, I have netted about 70 lunchtime QSOs.

It was a fun season - now all I have to do is send everyone I communicated with one of my commemorative Edison QSL cards.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, September 25, 2006


Last night was the Fall Homebrewer's Sprint, sponsored by the New Jersey QRP Club. I try my best to make an appearance in this Sprint when it occurs each Spring and Fall because I'm a proud member of NJQRP.

I got a late start. The Sprint began at 8:00 PM EDT; but yesterday we had a birthday party for our two children. Needless to say, they were pretty excited and torqued up; so we didn't get them to bed until a little later than normal.

When I finally got to the QRP fishing holes at 9:00 PM EDT; it seemed like they were all fished out! 20 Meters was dead, dead, dead , dead, DEAD! 40 Meters wasn't much better and it seemed like almost all the signals were just whispers - even from guys who I can normally expect some pretty good signals from. I made 5 contacts in about a half an hour before I crashed and burned. My tank was on fumes from the busy weekend; and I was actually nodding off while the K2's memory keyer was calling CQ !!! It was a bit embarassing hanging it up after only 5 QSOs; but I couldn't go on. It also seemed like the few signals I was hearing were fading away into the aether.

This morning, I was a bit relieved to see a couple posts on the NJQRP e-mail reflector echo my toughts about band conditions. In general, it seemed everyone was experiencing lousy propagation. In fact, Joe Everhart N2CX, one of the founders of NJQRP metioned how he only heard two stations all evening long; and only worked one. I guess I should feel pretty good about my five QSOs, then.

One good thing - it definitely won't take long to come up with a summary log for Ken Newman N2CQ!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's still not radio!

Echolink that it is. But, I hate to give the impression that I dislike it or disapprove of it. On the contrary, it is what it is. It's another method of communication; and to a certain extent I make use of it myself.

I have found it to be an excellent way of keeping in touch with my friend Bob W3BBO. Bob lives in Erie, PA; and for a short time, he lived here in Central NJ back in the 90's when his job had transferred him out here.

When Bob retired and moved back to Erie, it was a serious blow. Fortunately, beside keeping in touch via HF we try to hook up with each other each weekend via Echolink. It's like talking on the telephone, more than anything else. But it's free; and it is good to hear Bob's voice on a regular basis. We chew the fat and keep tabs on progress of each other's radio projects.

I think the HF bands are more conducive and are far more practical for a "CQ" and then hooking up with someone you don't know. You put out a call; and if someone is interested, they take the bait and you begin what will hopefully be a good conversation. To me, it seems a bit presumptuous to just pick a stranger's callsign off a list, and then connect with them and just start rambling on, hoping that they'll be interested in talking to you.

However, for keeping in touch with (how's this for an oxymoron?) distant, close friends then Echolink is the "cat's pajamas" or "da bomb" as the young folks say today.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, September 22, 2006

Miscellaneous stuff

This Sunday night is the Fall QRP Homebrewer Sprint, which is sponsored by the New Jersey QRP Club; of which I am a proud member! For details, please go to:

Also, my friend Hank Kohl, K8DD is going on a QRP DXpedition with some members of QRP-ARCI to the Isle of Man, between Ireland and England. You can check out the details here:,en/

Lastly, the NAQCC is sponsoring a Worked All States Bear Hunt. Every week, a NAQCC member volunteers to be the 'Bear". If you need states to complete your Worked All States award; this may be just what you need! Dale WC7S is putting Wyoming on the air this week. Bill K1EV will be putting Connecticut on the air next week. Here's the place to go for details:

Have fun operating!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I just noticed that the CQ Worlwide RTTY DX Contest is this weekend! The regular non-WARC bands will be shot to heck for any kind of CW work this weekend. Darn!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Excuse me, Mr. Chavez .......

but please take the UN, take your CITGO gasoline; and take them both back to Venezuela with you. And please leave ..... NOW! You are an invited guest in our country. Guests don't trash the head of the house they're visiting without being asked to leave.

73 de Larry W2LJ

80 is coming back !!!!

I love the spring and summer. I disdain the fall and winter. I love the longer days and the warm temperatures. I dislike the dark and I only grudgingly endure the cold. I especially dislike snow. When I was a kid, snow was fun - as an adult it only means more work!

Saturday is the first day of Autumn and usually about this time of year, I get a little maudlin. The one bright side (besides looking forward to playoff baseball!) is that 80 Meters is making its annual revival.

Last evening, during the NAQCC monthly sprint, 80 meters just beat out 40 meters as my "workhorse" band for the night. Signals were good and QRN was stil so-so; but nowhere near as bad as it is during the summer. 80 meters is on the comeback trail and that makes me a happy camper! The bulk of QSOs that I will have at night over the next 5 or 6 months will primarily be on 80 Meters.

The G5RV works exceptionally well for me on 80 Meters and the KAT2 gives me a 1.1 to 1 match. Can't ask for more than that! I am looking forward to another season of foxhunts on 80 Meters. This is a band where I rarely, if ever, fail to find a QSO. If there's nothing going on near the QRP or FISTS frequencies, then there's always folks hanging out near the SKCC frequencies. I'm rubbing my hands together in happy anticipation.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fixing problems

I went down to the shack the other night to spend some quality time with the K2; only to find that my newly installed KAT2 would no longer tune up my G5RV in all instances. I got good matches on 80 and 40 Meters; but on any other band, the best match I could get was about 3.5 to 1.

I just installed the tuner last week; and it was working fine. This was definitely a disappointing development. Since it previously had worked, it seemed reasonable that I hadn't built anything altogether wrong. I decided that the beat course of action would be an SWR recalibration. Maybe that would point me in the right direction.

I followed the manual and got all the correct voltage readings. I got to the point of actually redoing the SWR calibration. I got great readings on 40 meters and 80 meters; but then I noticed someting very odd. When I would go to the other bands, I would get a good SWR reading; but then the display would go from reading SWR to power out. It's not supposed to do that!!!!!!

I figured that maybe I had a bad solder joint; or maybe I hadn't installed the microprocessor well enough. I was going to un-install the KAT2 when I found it! One of the two connections on the plug for the RF connection on the K2's main circuit board had come out of its plastic housing.

I undid the connection from the main board and this time, pressed the connection point into its housing really, really well. I plugged the 2 pin RF connector back into the K2 and fired it up again to find that this had indeed been the problem.

A quick run through all the bands revealed the KAT2 was matching the G5RV on all bands with an SWR of no worse than 1.4 to 1 in any case.

It's nice to be able to troubleshoot and repair your gear yourself.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Religion of peace ?????

Let me get this straight .............

The Pope made reference to some words an ancient Byzantine emperor made about Islam, in a lecture he gave about reason, religion and for an appeal to end religious violence.

The worldwide Islamic community, which INSISTS that it is peaceful, immediately calls for the execution of the Pope, for words he used to show that hateful words against religious beliefs are wrong.

Am I missing something here?

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, September 18, 2006

No radio tonight .........

My Mets are poised to win the Eastern Division of the National League tonight, for the first time since 1988. I've been a Mets fan for 39 years. Making DXCC and all the amateur radio awards that I've earned are ALMOST as good as this!

There is NOTHING better than baseball and the NY Mets!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Maybe I'll get on the air later after the locker room celebration; but I doubt it!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I find DX QSOs for the most part to be pretty boring. I know, I know ..... QSOs with foreign hams are considered to be a premium. The foreign station is often besieged with pileups and fires off as many QSOs as possible to accomodate as many Hams as possible.

It was refreshing to have a DX QSO that went against the grain. I was hanging out near the QRP frequencies on 40 Meters when I heard a Cuban station, CO6XH calling CQ. No one was answering him, so I threw out my call into the night air.

Lo and behold, he answered me! Ydi, who lives in Camajuani, came back to me and gave me a 559. I answered him and gave him a 559 also. But delightfully, the QSO didn't end there! Ydi was running a SEG rig, running 15 Watts to a dipole. I came back and described my station as "QRP 5 WATTS ANT G5RV". He acknowledegd my information and we talked a bit more before wishing each other a good night and offering our respective 73. It wasn't the conversation of the century; but it was definitely better than "UR 599 TNX QRZ?"

I love DX QSOs that are more than contest style exchanges. THAT is how the goodwill is spread.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Unfortunately, we don't.

Five years ago, our lives were changed forever. 3,000 fellow Americans were murdered in the span of a few hours. While it was an absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful day weather-wise; it was to become one of the gloomiest and darkest days of our Nation's history.

For a while, this country had resolve, backbone and purpose. Unfortunately, for a lot of us that determination has withered away to become replaced by uncertainty and unwillingness.

The road to defeat this enemy is long, hard and uncertain. But be aware of one thing, we must see this to the end and be victorious. There is no room for compromise, no room for appeasement, no room for negotiation in a situation where the enemy wants us dead simply because of who we are and the way we live our lives and enjoy our freedom.

As President Bush spoke so strongly that night, we must not waiver, we must not fail, we must have the courage to see this to the end. This is not an issue that is umpteen shades of gray, it is an issue that is black and white - whether you want to admit it or not; we are at war and we must win. This is the only way to honor those heros who have fallen.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, September 08, 2006

It is finished.

The KAT2 is finished and installed; and it works like a charm! Even though the installation instructions looked a little daunting in the manual; taking it step by step made the process a piece of cake. No problems - no smoke - no disasters!

The few flubs I commited and subsequently caught and corrected proved to be of no consequence. The real "nail biter" for me was when I connected the KAT2 for its intial check out and ran through all the settings that would test each individual latching relay. I was wondering whether or not I had destroyed that relay where I had slightly melted the housing with my soldering iron. No worries! Each relay clicked in turn just as they all should have.

Again, however, I cannot overstress the importance of not working on these kits while you're tired. All the errors I made were from being a bit ragged and not having my powers of concentration up to snuff. I missed things in the instructions that I would otherwise would not have if I had worked when I was in a more alert frame of mind. Fortunately I do electronic repairs for a living, so fixing mistakes is second nature to me. If you're newer and not quite as experienced a kit builder, then these common mistakes can be avoided by taking your time, working slowly and working only when you feel fresh.

The next project will be to resume and finish my ATS-3 transceiver. I had just installed the very first parts when I had put it aside. I think perhaps I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of building a kit that is totally surface mount technology. Building and finishing the KAT2 has put me back in a building groove.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Doctor, my eyes ........

I finished the actual construction of the KAT2 last night; and will attempt to get the installation done tonight. This project has taught me a very important lesson ......

I need new glasses! Or better lighting or something. I guess it's not so much the lighting since the building place is the same as where I built my K1 and K2. But I REALLY do need new glasses, particularly the bifocal part. I was really getting walloped when I was trying to examine solder joints or do other real close-up work. I guess the fact that my current pair has lenses that are scratched nine ways to Sunday doesn't help either.

Next month, I really have to get my butt to either Lenscrafters or Pearl Vision.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Have to get this off my chest ............

REAL radio involves an antenna, a radio, a key or (shudder) a microphone.

REAL radio does not involve telephone lines or the Internet.

Thank you.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Just about done

As the title says, I'm just about done with the KAT2 internal autotuner that I purchased for my K2. I finished winding and installing the toroids tonight. All that's left is to make up the cables and complete the final installation.

I'm hoping that all goes without a hitch. I ran into some difficulty earlier by installing a pin connector wrong. I got it out and got the situation rectified okay; but in the process, I melted the outside housings of one of the latching relays just a touch. I don't think I did any harm; but won't know for sure until everything is up and running.

I'd gotten spoiled by the LDG AT-11MP. It will be nice to have an autotuner again. I'm currently using my Emtech ZM-2 Z match and my OHR WM-1 wattmeter to tune the antenna manually; just like in "the good old days". Some things are definitely better now than they used to be. Autotuners is one of them.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Silent Keys remembered

I was greeted last night by a pleasant e-mail from Mary Bonczek. Mary is the daughter of Julius Kardos WV2O, who I knew back in my days of running the Volunteer Exam program for the Raritan Bay Radio Amateurs in Sayreville, NJ. Julius was one of those Ham radio ops you meet once or twice in a lifetime. Julius is now a Silent Key and I dedicated my Website to his memory as well as that of George Miller K2FD and Chuck Phillips WB2MSV. Mary was doing some Google searches and happened to type her dad's name in. The resulting search led her to my Webpage.

In my Ham career I have been blessed with meeting and knowing some really fine individuals. A lot are still active; but some have passed on to "The Big Shack in the Sky". The three Hams I mention on my Website are what I would consider to be the "cream of the crop"; real "Ham's hams" - guys that come to mind when you think of the Golden Age of Amateur Radio. George K2FD and Jules WV2O were the kind of Hams I gravitate to. CW men first and formost, kind of curmudgeonly and crusty; but with hearts of gold! These guys were outstanding ops who learned by the rules of the old school. They took pride in their operating and their craft. They believed in doing things the right way with no nonsense about it. At the same time, they would give you the shirt off their backs to help you; and when new Hams showed an interest in CW .....

Both George and Jules enjoyed being the pioneers of Sayreville's Volunteer Examing program. They ran the sessions with authority and professionalism. But when someone came in and wanted to take a Morse Code exam, you could just watch their eyes light up! They offered encouragement and a positive influence to anyone showing an interest in the Morse Code.

When George became too ill to carry on the program; he thought enough of me to ask me to take the reins. I tried to run the sessions with the same dedication and professionalism that George and Jules did. Jules kept coming to the sessions, even after George had died. I must have been doing a decent job, for if I wasn't up to snuff he would have had no qualms in letting me know. And I would have had no problem if he had; I respected his opinion that much. Still, I'm glad he didn't have to check me on anything; his seal of approval meant that much to me. I especially enjoyed the brief meetings at the Dunkin' Donuts after the exam sessions. Jules would hold the rest of the exam team spellbound as he recounted Amateur Radio history in the area; or with stories about his days in the Merchant Marines.

Jules passed away shortly after I left the Sayreville club. I had left East Brunswick after getting married and bought a house in South Plainfield to begin the process of starting a family of my own. When I found out about Jules, I was shocked and saddened. A double blow came when I found out a short time later that Chuck WB2MSV had passed away just about the same time. Chuck was one of the founders of the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club, of which I had the privilege and pleasure to serve as president and vice-president. Chuck was another crusty curmudgeon who steadfastly believed that if you were going to do something; then you had better do it right. Chuck was not only a superb op; but was the inspiration for the phenomenal Field Day efforts that PARC held in the 80's and 90's. With Chuck's guidance and knack for getting folks to get involved, PARC's Field Days were THE event to be at. We might not have ever won or had a fantastic score; but we sure had a ton of fun every last full weekend in June. Chuck moved away to Trenton, South Carolina shortly after his wife passed away. Not too long after moving out there, he got ill and passed away himself after just a short time.

Like I said before, in your Ham Radio career; sometimes your lucky to meet only one or two guys of this caliber. I have been fortunate enough to have met more than one or two. These three guys were three of them. They left us way, way too early. I can only hope that one day, I will have had made enough of a difference in some Ham's lives like these three did in mine.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, September 04, 2006

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day, everyone! I know it's the "unofficial end of summer" and all; but in South Plainfield, NJ the holiday is a big one. We hold the largest (and maybe the only) Labor Day parade in the State of New Jersey. The community really becomes a family for the day with a foot race kicking off the festivities, followed by the parade, then a community "picnic" at the Police Athletic Field. The community pool's last day is today and the whole celebration will be topped off tonight with a fireworks display at Spring Lake Park.

This is amateur radio related; because the South Plainfield hams become involved in a big way helping to provide communications for the parade and the fireworks display. This morning, it was very gratifying to see 9 hams turn out for communications detail (myself included). Everyone who graduated our Technician class in the winter showed up, except for one Ham who moved to South Carolina about two months ago.

All the Hams were used; and we could have used a few more, too! Last minute additions and deletions from the parade lineup had to be given to the two grandstand announcers on separate points of the parade route. We also helped keep tabs on the running of the foot race and helped the boro police with traffic detail where needed. It's good practise in radio usage and discipline. Hopefully, we'll never need to use the techniques we've learned in a large scale emergency. But if we're ever needed, the town has a pool of capable amateur radio operators to call upon. I'm so very proud of each and every one of them.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Learning the hard way

I'm definitely not an HTML expert; but I do have fun maintaining and trying to be creative with my Webpage. For the most part, I use Mozilla Composer that's part of my Mozilla Suite. I do like to try new things however; and there are some things that Composer just won't let you do.

One of the things that Mozilla is not capable of; is embedding sound files onto your Webpage. Since my Webpage (like this blog) is concerned mostly with QRP, CW and Morse Code, I thought it would be neat to have a little Morse Code play as the page is loaded. Nothing too elaborate, just a short little message in Morse Code.

Thanks to Google, I came across "The Web Diner" when I initiated a search on how to "add audio to a webpage". The first Google link was for "The Web Diner". The instructions were quite clear on how to do it and they even supplied the needed HTML code. All I needed to do was to figure out how to get the required sound file in the appropriate directory on my Host's computer. Memory kicked in and I remembered that I have a neat little program called WS_FTP LE on my computer. Using this program, I connected with my Host computer and added the needed audio file into my directory. Once I did that, the HTML I added took care of all the rest. Now when you load up my Webpage, you'll get to hear a short message in Morse Code at about 18 WPM.

Trial and error is a wonderful thing because once you learn something; your bound to not forget it in the future. I'm learning more and more about HTML and Web design which is a good thing. Maybe there's a future for me in Webpage design? NOT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

73 de Larry W2LJ