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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Did you feel the earth move?

Did you feel it? There were rumblings throughout the Amateur Radio and QRP worlds today! The epicenter was in Aptos, California and shock waves are still being felt throughout the Amateur Radio community; and probably this will continue right throughout the time of Dayton Hamvention.

Today, Elecraft announced the new pinnacle of its line of Amateur Radio transceivers as they rolled out the K3!

You know, I cannot do justice to the explanation of this radio; so I will just post what Wayne Burdick, one of the co-founders of Elecraft posted to the Elecraft and QRP e-mail reflectors:

Greetings!

This afternoon at the DX Convention in Visalia, CA, we unveiled a new top-of-the-line transceiver -- the Elecraft K3. This is the culmination of three years of design, test, and refinement, and we believe the K3 will set a new standard for performance and value in its class. It has features and performance comparable to present radios ranging from $4000 to $12000.

(We'd like to thank the many surprised convention attendees. What they all said boils down to something like "Yes!")

A full K3 web page will be set up by Monday, complete with order form and other details. Meanwhile, please take a look at the temporary page:

http://www.elecraft.com/K3

Among other things, you'll find a very high-resolution front panel photo (as well as other photos):

http://www.elecraft.com/K3/K3_big_v2.jpg

And the K3 data sheet:

http://www.elecraft.com/K3/K3_Data%20Sheet_rev06.pdf

There's also an order form that could be printed and mailed, but sometime on Monday the on-line order page will be up and running, which is the preferred method.

As explained on the order form, you can reserve a K3 now for initial shipments in July. A 50% deposit is requested if you'd like to secure one of the first 200 production units (serial numbers 20-220, probably).

Here's a quick summary of the K3's specs:

- K3/100 and K3/10 models (the K3/10 can be upgraded very easily, internally, to a K3/100)

- Basic K3 price ranges from $1399 to $1989 depending on whether you start with the
10-watt or 100-watt model, and whether you choose factory assembled or
modular, no-soldering, kit (this is the subject of the next email).

- Desktop/portable size: 4"H x 10"W x 10"D (10 x 25 x 25 cm) -- optimized for both
home and travel use

- All modes (SSB, CW, DATA, AM, FM, plus AM-sync receive, and built-in PSK31/TTY decoder)

- High-dynamic range, down-conversion architecture, plus 32-bit I.F. DSP
for software-defined capabilities (and lots of room for future expansion)

- Optional subreceiver with *identical* performance to the main receiver,
including a fully independent front end, its own set of roofing filters,
its own DSP, and low-noise synthesizer; binaural or combined receiver audio

- Up to five crystal roofing filters *per receiver*, with bandwidths as narrow as 200 Hz

- Narrow ham-band filtering, plus optional general-coverage receive filters
(can be added to either or both receivers)

- Internal 100-W ATU option with two antenna jacks

- 100 W PA module includes two large fans, circuit breaker, full parameter monitoring

- All signal sources phase-locked to common 49.380 MHz reference oscillator;
1 PPM TCXO option, firmware-correctable to better than 0.5 PPM

- Built-in PSK31, RTTY, and CW decoding and display allows use of
digital modes with or *without* a computer; use CW keyer paddle or
attached computer for casual, two-way data QSOs

- Advanced noise reduction; auto- and manual notch. Noise blanker included (both
I.F. hardware pulse blanker and DSP noise blanking)

- Easy-to-use DSP shift/width and locut/hicut controls with automatic crystal filter
selection based on selected passband width (in real-time -- no filter calculation delays)

- Dedicated CW/voice message buttons; optional digital voice recorder

- 100 general frequency memories with alphanumeric text labeling, plus 4 scratchpad memories per band

- Full-custom, optimized, segmented LCD with two VFO displays, alphanumeric text, and
dedicated filter passband graphic

- Rich I/O set: stereo speaker outputs, fully isolated soundcard interface, dedicated RS-232
I/O (and optional USB adapter), receive antenna in/out jacks (for patching in RX filters, etc.),
and both front- and rear-panel mic and headphone jacks

- One-click PC firmware download program checks for updates automatically and quickly
updates microcontroller and DSP firmware

If you have any questions on specifications, performance, etc., that are not answered by the data sheet, feel free to email wayne@elecraft.com.

Sales questions should go to Lisa:

sales@elecraft.com

We'd like to acknowledge the hard work of the following colleagues:

Lyle Johnson, KK7P (DSP, digital I/O, audio I/O, many of the PC boards, and countless critical tasks)
Bob Friess, N6CM (RF deck, ATU, high-performance 1st mixer, noise blanker, other receiver design)
John Grebenkemper, KI6WX (synthesizer, general receiver architecture)
Brian Broggie, W6FVI (manufacturing engineering -- say hi to him at Visalia tomorrow)
Paul Russell (purchasing)
Lisa Jones (who somehow held down the fort during the entire process)

Eric (WA6HHQ), as usual, applied pressure in all the right places to ensure that this would be the best radio we could make: he's Mr. Performance and Features. Wayne (N6KR -- yours truly) was the principle designer, and also got to do all the fun parts (packaging, firmware, and Owner's manual). And that's why he gets to answer your questions :)

We'd also like to express our thanks to our very patient 15-member focus group. Over a period of about a year, they endured a never-ending series of concept drawings, refinements, and feature discussions. They're a distinguished bunch! I'm sure you'll hear from some of them as the K3 is discussed at length.

Finally: thanks to all of you who have generously contributed ideas for a hypothetical K3 during our many on-line "fishing expeditions." You had wonderful input, and I hope we've created the radio you've always wanted.

73,
Wayne, N6KR
Eric, WA6HHQ

Thanks Wayne, Eric and all the folks at Elecraft! If this radio is even as good as the K2, you have a proven winner on your hands! Now all I have to do is start saving and maybe in about 5 years, I'll be able to afford one! (I guess there's always the lottery!)

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, April 20, 2007

Please excuse my absence

Please excuse me not blogging for the last week and a half or so .......

I just started a new job last week - my first new job after 23 years. And I have changed fields entirely. Ever since I left college to join the work force, I have been involved in the photographic field. I have worked as a studio assistant, I worked as a Public Relations photographer for Six Flags corporation, I have done the photo retail thing; and I also worked in a custom color lab. For the last 22 years, I worked for Sinar Bron, a distributor of high end Swiss made professional photographic equipment, as the Service Manager of the Service Dept.

Last week, I went to work for Pitney Bowes. I work in an IT environment, prepping routers, switches and servers for installers to install in their various facilities.

On Monday night I was overwhelmed.

On Tuesday night my head was spinning.

On Wednesday night I was asking myself what ever made me decide to change jobs?

On Thursday night I was feeling a little better.

Tonight I'm feeling like I might actually get the hang of this!

So once I'm feeling a bit more confident, I'll get back on the radio more. Right now, when I get home, I'm ready to hit the rack - and that's about it! The one good thing about this job? An hour lunch break! That will leave me with more time for lunchtime QRP sessions!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You would think I'd know better!

This is one for the "Frustrating QSO' column - the name and callsign of the Ham are withheld to protect his stupidity.

It began with me calling CQ on 7.055 MHz. I was answered by W$XXX, who was absolutely pinning the S meter on my K2. ALL the LEDS were lit up - he had to be 60 over 9! Of course, I gave him a report of "5NN plus". In turn, I got a 579 - pretty good. Perfectly readable, moderately strong signals - I love to get RSTs like that.

We go further into the QSO and I'm always getting "FB COPY" whenever he starts transmitting. Cool beans!

Then I make the dreaded mistake. On my next over, I mention that I am running a K2 to a G5RV. On his next transmission, I get "BK RU QRP?"

I answer, "BK YES 5 WATTS".

Oh crap! I knew it ...... here it comes!

"U BETTER RUN LIL MORE POWER. BAD QRN RUFF COPY. 73 TO U. W2LJ DE W$XXX SK"

Like magic, I went from a 579 to a 229 in one fell swoop! I hate QSOS like that and the lids who hear the words "5 Watts" and suddenly go deaf. If I had never given my power; or perhaps lied and said that I was running a K2/100 at 100 Watts; I'll bet the stupid QSO could have lasted a lot longer. But no, "5 Watts" means "crummy signal no matter how well I'm hearing you - don't disturb me with the facts, please!"

Sheesh!

73 de Larry W2LJ

SOC

SOC stands for The Second Class Operators Club. It's a group of good natured and perhaps a little bit too self-deprecating bunch of Hams who celebrate our human-ness, our foibles, and our ability to screw up royally!

We realize we're not icons of Hamdom; and we're darned proud of it! The only requirement for membership is to realize that you're not perfect and to have fun with that reality. Today on the SOC e-mail reflector came a post by Rich Arland W3OSS who is an SOC member and a member of the QRP Hall of Fame, by the way!

"As long as we are sharing stories: In the mid-late 80s was stationed at Langley AFB, VA and was a member of the Southern Peninsula Amateur Radio Klub (SPARK) who's membership was made up of a group of rocket scientists. No, I mean "REAL" rocket scientists....from the OSL (Other Side of Langley)....the NASA side. One of our FD sites was on the NASA grounds a couple of blocks away from a huge wind tunnel. (Believe me....this was MUCH better than the Nike missile site and it's bazillion mosquitoes!!) Several of our "Rocket Scientists" had researched an idea for a huge loop antenna for 80 meters. They announced at a meeting before FD that their newest antenna design would garner some really good 80M Qs....much better results than over the last several years. The "Rocket Scientists" proceeded to erect their "super-loop" on Saturday afternoon and shortly before sundown they started hunting on 80M with a virtually no success. They worked a few stations over the night but nearly not as many as previous years. They futzed and putzed with their death-ray antenna to no avail. They still had problems working stations on 80M. Signal levels were down and it took many calls for them to work even the loudest stations. About 9AM on Sunday, I was told to drag my Argonaut 509 into the 80M camper and use a hastily erected G5RV to make the five Qs for our "low power points". So here I am, rummaging around inside the camper setting up the Argo. I look down behind the table and saw several runs of coaxial cable laying on the floor. The "Rocket Scientists" had apparently loaded up into he dummy load the night before, confused the coaxial cables (they weren't marked) and tried making 80M Qs using the dummy load. Amazingly, they actually made contacts....I made sure to tell them that I was extremely impressed by their "QRP" operations, but they should really leave the low power stuff to some of us that knew what we were doing! Needless to say, there were some red faces at the next club meeting."

"Rocket Scientists" or no; these guys are prime membership material for the SOC. After all, who among us hasn't screwed up big time to the point of wanting to disappear?

Just so you know what we're all about, here are two quotes from a couple of our members:

Competence is tolerated, but not encouraged (Chris, SOC#436)

I demand the right to make a fool of myself in any way I see fit (Lee, SOC#425)

If you think you're SOC material; and want to investigate a little further, then visit:
http://www.qsl.net/soc/

73 de Larry W2LJ
Proud to be known as SOC Member #619

Friday, April 06, 2007

5 Whats?

40 Meters didn't seem to have a whole lot going on. I called CQ up by the QRP watering holes for a while and was fruitless. I wanted to get my QSO in for the day; because I 've been doing real well in that department. In the first four months of 2007, I think I've only missed one or two days without at least one QSO.

I decided to go down to the bottom of 40 Meters and see if there was any decent DX that I could hear. I did hear an Israeli station calling "CQ USA"; and I tried calling once or twice without success. Then the station must have shut down for the night; as I didn't hear any more CQs out of him.

A bit further down the band I heard RA6AU, Vasili in Russia calling CQ. He had quite the little pile up going. I heard some pretty loud stations calling, too. For the heck of it, the next time he called CQ, I waited for just about two seconds before throwing my call into the mix. I figured that I'd let the QRO stations drown each other out for a bit; and then try and make an end run.

It worked! Vasili came back with "LJ?" and I repeated my call two times more. We exchanged RST and names and he was on to the next station with a "TNX QSO QRZ DE RA6AU". Not the rarest of DX; but it's always nice when a 5 Watt station can beat out some of the big boys.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Foxtravaganza 2007

Last night was Foxtravaganza. Foxtravaganza is the final event of the QRP Foxhunting season. The individual hunts are over, and team and individual results have been tallied and recorded. But for one last frenetic evening most, is not all, the Foxes get on the air at one time for an fast paced, frenetic evening of fun.

I divided up the evening into two halves. I spent the first 45 minutes on 40 Meters and the last 45 minutes on 80 Meters. When all was said and done, I handed out a total of 34 pelts. This total was a bit less than the evenings during the regular season; but during the season, I only had one other Fox on the air along with me. Last night there had to be at least a good 10 -15 Foxes on the air all at the same time!

It was a ton of fun; and the Foxtravaganza experience just reinforced to me just how good the other Foxes and the Hounds are. These guys are the best!

Today is Good Friday, the most solemn day of the year for Christians. It is the day we remember how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took upon a human nature and offered His life up in order to win our salvation. The day is spent soberly and quietly.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

March Poll Results

For March, the poll on my Website featured a question about antennas. Specifically, the questions was, "Which of the following antennas do you use most of the time?"

The answers, rather surprisingly to me, shook out as follows:

Resonant Dipole received 8 votes or 20.51%
Yagi or log periodic received NO votes!
Doublets received 10 votes or 25.64%
Verticals received 11 votes or 28.21%
Spider or Hexbeams received no votes.
Full sized wire loops received only 1 vote for 2.56%
Compact Magnetic Loops received 2 votes for 5.13%
Cubical or other quad antennas received 2 votes for 5.13%
Long Wire or Zepp antennas received no votes
"Other" received 5 votes for 12.82%

I am surprised that no one who voted in my poll seems to use either Yagi or long wire antennas. And I was also surprised that vertical antennas won the vote by a narrow margin. I expected Doublet (or multi band) antennas to receive a large portion of the vote; but I also thought the resonant (single band) dipole category would receive more votes than it did.

I guess more people are using verticals as a way to deal with the limitations of small, suburban lots.

Interesting.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Madre de Dios!

The Democrat leadership of the House Armed Services Committee is doing away with the term "Global War on Terror" in all 2008 budgetary documents.

They don't like the way it sounds.

Hmmmm ..... the terrorists have no problem declaring war on the United States by using passenger planes as weapons of mass destruction.

Maybe the Democrats need to grow a backbone; or better yet, we can call them the "Linguini Spined Party of Appeasement".

I like the way that sounds.

73 de Larry W2LJ
(Sorry for getting political ...... but enough is enough.)