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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Code practice

So you say you're not satisfied with your CW skills. Maybe you're just learning the code (WELCOME!); or perhaps you're a veteran who is stuck at a certain speed level and you want "to bump it up a notch".

Let me begin by saying that there's no supremely easy way to accomplish this. By that, I mean that accomplishing your goal will not necessarily be difficult; but there's no easy way to do it, either. By "easy", I mean there's no magical pill you can take; or some magical tape you can listen to, or "method" like sleep learning that will make this a snap of the fingers cinch.

It takes practice and patience - a lot of patience. The biggest enemy you will have will be yourself; as you slam yourself for not accomplishing your goal as quickly as you think you should.

The best practice, of course, is getting on the air and making QSOs, especially in a contest. Devote a weekend to a contest and you will be amazed at how much your code speed will have increased.

But what if you're just learning; or you hate contests? What if you'd like to try and increase your code speed while you do other things? Then I have a possible solution for you; at least it's something you might want to try.

Go and download the Koch Trainer program from www.g4fon.net. Install it on your computer (if you don't already have it) and familiarize yourself with the program. The neat thing about the Koch Trainer is that it will allow you to create your own code practice CDs.

I just made myself a CD of random words at the 35 WPM speed in a session that lasted an hour - this will just about fill up a CD. It's easy to do and here are the steps:

1) Start Koch Trainer and set it up for the speed you want.

2) Go to the "settings" tab and input how long you want your session to last.

3) Go to the file drop down and select "record audio file".

4) Hit the "Common Words" button to start the session.

At this point the code practice session will begin and will last however long you have chosen. The Koch Trainer program will generate a .WAV file of your practice session and will store it wherever you directed your computer to store it.

Next, go to Google or whatever search engine you choose and type in "free WAV to CD converter". You will get a plethora of links to choose from. Personally, I use a free program called AllMusicConverter. What you need to do is convert the .WAV file to an .mp3 file. Once you've converted it; burn it to a CD using Windows Media Player if you have a PC (don't know what you Mac users use) and viola'! You have a code practice CD that you can listen to on your way to and back home from work. You can also put that file in your iPod or your Palm Pilot or whatever mp3 player you might have and you can listen to code practice anytime your heart desires.

73 de Larry W2LJ (struggling to become one of those QRQ guys)

Monday, March 30, 2009

On being a conservative wackaloon

My rant against what I consider to be the great Global Warming Hoax of our time was not accepted well by a lot of you out there. Comments which appear in the "comments section" and through private e-mails that I have received, tell me as much.

So be it.

For the record - I am not in denial. I do believe that the climate is changing. However, I don't accept that this is 100% attributable to humankind. I believe that this is a living planet and that there are cycles that exist that we probably don't even begin to comprehend or know about. To be so arrogant and cocksure that we know the definitive answers seems a tad silly to me. Just 30 short years ago, we were certain and worried about the onset of a new Ice Age; and that the polar ice caps were growing at too fast a rate. There were actually plans to place soot on them to try and limit their growth. Maybe we should just let nature be nature and try not to tamper with it; either by polluting it or "helping" it. Like I said before, conservation of resources and being a good steward to our home is a good thing; and that should be enough. We should always try to remember that there is a "Law of Unintended Consequences".

My comments about religion were not well received, either. Well, I'm sorry if my beliefs make you uncomfortable. I don't see why they should. If you have enough faith in your own belief system; then what I think shouldn't matter a tinker's damn to you. If they do make you uncomfortable; then maybe you need to look inward.

I will not apologize for being what I am. I'm conservative by choice and I happen to be religious by nature and upbringing. That does not make me ignorant, stupid, uneducated, backward, or somehow something less than you. This country was built on the backs of a lot of people just like that - you might do well to read a little history.

If you choose not to read this blog because of any of this; then goodbye and I wish you well and nothing but the best. If you decide to return; then I hope to offer a lot more about Ham Radio - even if I should digress every now and then. It is just my opinion, after all. :)

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What to do next?

From earlier posts, you know that I have been ruminating on what project to tackle next. I have been thinking of going in several directions - perhaps a Pixie, or perhaps my QRP paddles kit that I have sitting in the basement.

I think that instead of those (which all need to get done!) that I will build a very simple 40 Meter receiver - ala' the MRX-40 Mini Receiver which first appeared in QST in 1997. My reasoning is several fold:

A) Going through my parts bin, I find that I have 90% of the parts needed for the job. The only thing I need is the NE612 and the LM380N and I've ordered those from DigiKey today.

B) Once this is done, it will be a perfect match the MFJ 40 Meter QRP transmitter that I purchased last year at the Sussex, NJ Hamfest for $5.

C) Inspired by Neal W3CUV, I think I'll order a PCB for it from Far Circuits. I've never used on of their products before; and the cost of the board is very reasonable - only $4.50.

This should be fun. Not only can I use this receiver with the MFJ; but I also have a 40 Meter Glowbug transmitter kit kicking around down there somewhere that I have yet to build. Maybe this receiver and the Glowbug can be my Straight Key Night setup for this coming New Year's Eve.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Returning to our normal programming


OK - political rants aside ...... I received an e-mail from W3BBO yesterday. It concerned Neal W3CUV, who Bob has known for years since their Novice days together; and I have known only recently through a few on the air QSOs and a few e-mails.

Neal has been busy again, and recently completed another project, which is a homebrew amplifier for his SW-40 transceiver. 1.5 Watts in gives him about 35 Watts out.



From these photos (and you can click on any of them for a larger view), you can see the wonderful job Neal has done. As I understand it from Bob, Neal purchased the finished circuit boards from FAR Circuits and then sourced out all the components, hardware and enclosure himself. "Kit building 101A" if you will.


Being a QRP advocate aside, I still lick my chops at the sight of a finished project like this. First, this is obviously a first rate job well done. Second, there are times when QRP just doesn't cut it - like maybe the last day of a DXpedition and you're just not getting through. It would be nice indeed, to have one of these babies that you could pull out from your sleeve, put in line and have a little extra muscle to jump into the fray with.

But there's another lesson here. Neal had a need for something that there wasn't a current kit available for. He found sources for the circuit boards and components and got the job done. Being a homebrewer doesn't necessarily mean you can, or even want to fabricate your own printed circuit boards. It's nice to know that there are services like Far Circuits that can supply those for you. Then it's just a matter of going to the local electronics store or visiting Mouser, or Jameco or perhaps DigiKey on the Web to get the components you need to get going.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Time to be politically incorrect

There's a "debate" raging on QRP-L as the result of a person's posting last night about "Earth Hour". Most of the resulting comments were about the "Global Warming" argument. The one that bothered me the most was not a post itself - but the signature line that appeared at the end of it.

Here is that "tag line":

"Welcome to the Anthropocene Epoch - a point in geologic history characterized by an environment substantially altered/damaged by human activity..."

OK. It's cute - but damaged? Damaged?

C'mon! Give me a break! I'll not deny that as a species, we humans have caused a lot of pollution and have used a lot of resources - but we have damaged the planet? How come for most "Greens", history started yesterday? Yes, since the Industrial Revolution we have put a lot of stuff into the air, water and land. But we're destroying the planet? How about billions of years ago when we had more than a gazillion volcanoes spewing all kinds of carbon into the atmosphere? More than we could possibly ever generate? Guess what, the planet is still here!

How about the untold number of cycles of the sun which have caused periods of warming and cooling - Ice Ages and Warm Periods - and these all happened without humans even being around! It is the height of arrogance and conceit to think that we humans are responsible for everything.

But the Global Warming movement has become the new approved secular religion. Previously accepted organized religion is ridiculed and has been removed from the public square. To invoke the name of God get you labeled as just a little bit weird, perhaps even a little "ignorant" with underlying tones of people accusing you of being a racist or homophobe. Saying a prayer to the Judeo-Christian God in public gets your behind hauled into Court or worse. All instances of religion are looked upon as hokey superstition and are to be vanquished from our midst because "We know better, now".

But worshiping at the Altar of Gaia is not only accepted, it is encouraged! The people who worship Gaia are intelligent, hip; and are "in the know". Funny thing is how intolerant they are of people who don't agree with them. Scientists who dare to disagree are stifled, fired or not hired because of their views. More and more are starting to make their disagreement known now; but for the "Non-Believers" the fate is as bad as any Inquisition.

And the Global Warming movement has become a sacred cash cow, too. Follow where the billions of dollars in grant money is going - it's not hard to figure out. And where's the most Reverend Leader of the Church of Gaia (Al Gore) making his money? Selling "carbon credits" while the rest of us poor fool hardy souls use less energy in years than he does in a day.

Conservation of resources and being a good steward to the planet is a wonderful thing and is to be encouraged. Going over the top and recommending such idiotic practices as self-sterilization in order to not bring more "carbon producers" into the world is so stupid as to be bizarre.

God help us!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's a whole 'nuther world

My wife and my son and I accompanied my daughter to her second cheerleading competition of the season. My daughter, who is 7 years old, is a Biddy Cheerleader at Sacred Heart School here in town. They have their little routines and they cheer each week at either the 3/4th grade or 5/6th grade basketball games each weekend. Basketball season lasts from November to March and they cheer just about every Saturday morning.

Each year, they also go to two or three cheerleading competitions. Today's was in North Arlington, NJ at Our Lady Queen of Peace High School. The Sacred Heart Biddy, Junior Varsity and Varsity squads were represented, cheering against 6 or 8 other Catholic schools.

We had to be there by 8:30 this morning, and it was an hour long ride - so we were up early at 6:00AM. We got there in plenty of time; but the parking situation was atrocious! I dropped Marianne and Joey and Cara off at the school and finally found a parking spot about 5 blocks away or so.

It was all worth it as the girls had a fantastic time; and my daughter's squad won a trophy and individual medals for being the Biddy squad who performed the best stunts. Nothing earthshaking or dangerous; but pretty involved considering the Biddys are girls who are in Kindergarten through 2nd grade. This is Cara's last year with the Biddy's as she will be in 3rd grade next year; and will move on up to the Junior Varsity squad if she decides to continue to cheer.

I was amazed at my first competition a few years ago how it seemed to be a whole 'nuther world that I had never experienced before! Besides the actual competition, vendor show up selling their wares which relate to cheerleading and tumbling and gymnastics. The moms at these competitions can get pretty worked up and involved - with some taking it way too seriously!

But later I reflected upon the Ham Radio world; and how we have our Hamfests, swap meets and auction events. I guess to the uninitiated, our world is "a whole 'nuther world" and seems awfully alien to them, also. We have our own members of the hobby who take things way too seriously at times.

But in the end, whether it be cheerleading or Ham Radio, the end game is to have fun. Whether you win the cheerleading competition or the QRP Sprint du Jour isn't as important as enjoying yourself and having fun, while trying your best.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, March 27, 2009

The battery is charging

I hooked up my newly arrived 18V wall wart to the ACME QRP gel cell charger and made the adjustments as they appear in the instruction manual. Everything went flawlessly. Now to hook up an actual, live battery. Looking around my various parts bins, I noticed that I do not have the required 5.1mm jack for the output!

Not to be deterred, I took two alligator clip test leads and clipped one to D2 in the circuit and the other to circuit board ground and hooked up a gel cell. The LED ran red for a bit to indicate that the battery was receiving a full charge; and then just a little while later, it switched to green. This indicated that the battery's voltage was at the proper level and the charging current had decreased to "float charging" levels.

Now I'll have to go to either Radio Shack or perhaps Greenbrook Electronics to get a couple 5.1 mm jacks (always good to have a spare kicking around) and mount his circuit in some kind of enclosure bottom. I need to put in something to keep the circuit board insulated from any kind of metal, yet I need to keep the top open so I can view the color status of the LED. Hmmmm .... some type of clear plastic box, perhaps? That way I can totally enclose the charger; but yet still view the LED. Interesting.

When all is said and done, I promise to post some pictures.

What should be next? I have a few untouched kits to choose from. I have a set of QRP paddles from Arizona ScQRPions paddles that I purchased years ago that I never opened. Maybe it's time to get going on those.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A fun night

I got home from work today to see that my 18V wall wart finally arrived through the mail. I did not have a chance to hook it up to the ACME gel cell charger tonight - perhaps tomorrow evening.

The night was spent at my kid's school. They both take Spanish (2nd and 3rd grades!) and their Spanish teacher put on an "International Night". The parents agreed to bring the ethnic foods of each family's heritage. My wife made kielbasa and sauerkraut to celebrate our Polish heritage; and we brought a crockpot full of it!

There was soooooo much food and it was all so good! Some of the counties represented were Poland, Italy, Ireland, the Philippines, Cuba, Guatemala, Germany, Slovakia, and a few others I can't even remember right now. It was truly an international smorgasbord and everybody had a wonderful time. Even my wife commented that she had a better time than she thought she was going to have.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day here - sunny and near 65 for a high. It will really feel like Spring for a change.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Agony and the Ecstacy

I was substitute Fox last night for the last 80 Meter Foxhunt of the 2008/2009 Winter Season. As always, it was a ton of fun; and I managed to hand out 62 pelts during my 90 minute run.

The evening started off extremely well, and for the first 40 minutes or so, I was making contacts at a rate of one, maybe sometimes two a minute. Then at 0140 UTC, give or take (not sure of the exact time), it all came crashing down.

A loud (EXTREMELY LOUD = like 90 dB over 9 loud!) station came on the frequency N3SW, calling up the 3RN Net. Two things ticked me off here. First, I was occupying the frequency for over half an hour at this point - I was there first. Second, N3SW came on the frequency and started transmitting blindly, without so much as the courtesy of a "QRL?". And I don't want to hear that he couldn't hear anyone on frequency. I had a mini-pileup going. He HAD to hear some of them, even if they were QRPers! Things ended up with me changing the way I was operating; so as to accommodate them. I wouldn't have expected 3RN to move for me if they were on frequency first; and by rights, they shouldn't have made it necessary for me to vacate the frequency.

These guys are important as they move message traffic; and they can end up being a backbone someday if the country's communications network fails in the face of an all out disaster. But they can't figure out how to adapt to a situation such as an occupied frequency? These guys can't figure out how to QSY? I'm sorry - NTS or no - that was very rude and "Amateurish" of N3SW and 3RN.

No one should start transmitting on a frequency without listening first. The Foxhunt started at 0100 UTC. I was down at the rig at 0050 UTC picking a quiet spot and "QRLing" the heck out of it in order to insure that I wasn't interfering with anyone. All I ask is that other stations do the same. I don't care who you are and what you're doing. Unless it's a dire life and death emergency, courtesy should be the rule for everyone.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, March 23, 2009

NJQRP Homebrewer Sprint - the day after.

I must say that I had a good time participating in the Sprint last night. I gave it a go for 2 of the 4 hours; then I headed off to bed as today was a work day.

I made a total of 19 QSOs and as I figure it, my claimed score is 8512 points. As usual, I used my K2 at the 5 Watt setting to my G5RV. 40 Meters was very noisy with a lot of RTTY QRM coming all the way down to almost 7.030 MHz; but I did manage about 6 QSOs on that band. The rest were garnered on 80 Meters; which had some atmospheric QRN - a sure sign that Spring is approaching.

The highlights were working the ever present N4BP, QRP contester extraordinaire, as well as Jim W1PID who had a super loud signal into NJ. Maybe the best QSO I had was with NØEAX out of Missouri who was operating at the 900 mW level. I got an e-mail from Rich stating that I was the only QSO he made during his 60 minute operating period. 80 Meter QRPp is a tough business; and I'm glad the K2 was able to help me pull his signal outof the aether.

I heard some stations going back to K4BAI; but sadly, I wasn't able to pull his signal out - maybe next time!

If you participated in the contest you have 30 days in which to get me your log. Please don't forget. As the deadline draws near, I will make announcements on QRP-L. So far, I have received eight logs. I know there were more of you out there than that!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Another cool thing.

While going through the NØHR.com Website to tell you about Propfire in my last post, I came across Patrick's Hamlinks Ham Radio Toolbar.

I was intrigued and installed it. And I am impressed!

It has a lot of neat features, such as allowing you to listen to Ham podcasts while browsing the Web or doing other Internet related things. It will let you know when you get new e-mails. It allows you to do not only standard Internet searches via Google; but allows you to various Ham Radio sites, also.

It's a useful tool - check it out and I think you'll like it.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Just a few changes

Last night I got in the mood to make a few changes here. Long time visitors will notice the change in color scheme and a new style clock.

I've also added a poll, which I hope to change every week or so. Please feel free to input your vote. This isn't meant to be any kind of scientific fact finding - just fun. So even if every now and then, you find that the questions venture away from Amateur Radio and towards silliness, please bear with me.

In addition, if you scroll down to near the bottom of the blog, on the right side you'll find a table with the current solar conditions. It updates every three hours. So far, since I have added it; it seems to agree with the Propfire propagation bar that I have at the bottom of my Firefox browser.

What's that you say? You have Firefox as your browser and you never heard of this? Well, my friend, please mosey on over to http://www.n0hr.com/Propfire.htm to see what I am talking about. This is a neat little tool to have and the Website will fill you in on all the details. Oh, and by the way, it is free.

I hope to make some changes to my Website in the near future too. I won't be changing the content; just the look and feel of it. I'd like to make it "fancier"; but have to do a lot of experimenting (offline). My Webmastering skills are self taught and I'm not up to snuff with any of the fancy stuff yet.

It's a gray and dreary day here in NJ; and kind of on the damp and chilly side. I wanted to take a ride down to the shore and set up a portable op for a few hours on the deserted beach at Long Beach Island State Park; but wisely, my wife pointed out that the weather isn't really amenable to doing that; and that it would probably feel even worse right by the water. She said that I'd be more comfortable once the temps reach the 60s on average; and I'd have to say that once again, she's right.

I would like to try it though. I think the PAC-12 being close to a humongous body of salt water acting as a ground plane would play very well.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Random thoughts

My 18V Wall Wart that I won on eBay did not arrive this week; much to my consternation. Luckily, the sun will come out tomorrow (What is this, "Annie"?) and I can hook up my 12V SLA battery to the solar panel to let it receive a nice charge.

I was hoping that during the coming week, that I might get a few lunchtime opportunities for some QRP QSOs from the park near work. Last Wednesday, it reached close to 70 Degrees here. Of course now that my gear is ready and the battery charged, I am sure it won't get above 45 Degrees all week!

I see that QRP Kits has announced two new ones. Today, Doug Hendricks KI6DS announced that he has added 2 new kits to his line of kits. They are an RF Probe packaged by Ken Locasale, and an Signal Tracer/Injector also packaged by Ken Locasale.

To check them out go to www.qrpkits.com and scroll down to the News section. Click on the items and it will take you to the page. The manuals for both kits are up and available for download, according to Doug.

I went through my "In Box" today and got rid of a ton of e-mails that I never deleted for some reason or other. I reviewed them, kept the few that were important and chucked the rest. I shouldn't be; but I get amazed at times about the number of e-mails I get a day! Between all the CW and QRP related e-mail reflectors I subscribe to, it can get daunting at times. I subscribe to a good number of them in digest form; but the two major QRP reflectors I get as individual e-mails. I tried digest form on those; but ended up accidentally deleting e-mails that I had wanted to save by deleting the entire digest for that day.

I guess I will continue to make liberal use of the Delete Key.

One last thought - don't forget the NJQRP Homebrewer Sprint tomorrow night!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wrestling with the computer

I decided to try and synch my Palm Tungsten E with the computer this morning; as I haven't done it in a while. There's a lot of Ham Radio and work related data in there; and I like to keep it backed up. I have resolved perform this chore at least once a week. And I should be doing this way more often during the coming months as I am hoping the Palm will fill up with lunch time QRP QSOs now that the warmer months are approaching!

Much to my frustration, the Tungsten would not synch with the computer. I tried various things, like rebooting the computer, reloading the software and checking all connection settings, trying a different USB cable to no avail. As an experiment, I took the software, loaded it to a thumb drive and uploaded it to my shack laptop. Sure enough, after installation, it worked like a champ.

So now I knew that the Palm and its USB cable were fine. The fault had to rest somehow with my antiquated, dinosaur PC that I have up here.

That's when I had an inspiration. I went into the Windows Control Panel and totally removed the Palm software from the system. I shut the computer down, rebooted it and re-installed the software. It worked!

I have no idea what corrupted the software. I'm just glad that I lucked into a solution!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, March 20, 2009

WorldRadio Online - a success!

The transition of WorldRadio from a paper periodical to an online e-zine seems to have been a big success.

Rich Moseson, of CQ Magazine, posted on the WorldRadio e-mail reflector today that the release of the latest issue has caused a "pileup" on the server. He issued a plea to spread out the bandwidth; and politely asked folks to not overwhelm the server.

I'm glad to see that WorldRadio has taken off as an e-zine; and I hope that it garners tons of success in the future. It is definitely one of my favorite Amateur Radio periodicals.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, March 19, 2009

John Shannon K3WWP

If any of you out there are having trouble reaching K3WWP's Website; please note that the URL has changed.

It is now:

http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/index.html


The change over from "alltel" to "windstream" wasn't supposed to happen until May; but is seems to have already taken effect.

73 de Larry W2LJ

The NJQRP Homebrewer Sprint returns!

After a hiatus, the NJQRP Homebrewer Sprint is on again! And this coming Sunday night, March 22nd is the night. So put down the soldering iron and get on the air and make some contacts with the equipment that you gave your sweat, blood and tears to build!

The original purpose of this Sprint was to encourage the use of homebrewed equipment (kits count!) ; but we're not overly picky and we welcome all entries, whether homebrewed or not.

As always, this event which is sponsored by the NJQRP Club is a 4 hour event from 8:00 PM to Midnight EDT. (0000 UTC until 0400 UTC Monday March 23rd for those of you who prefer UTC).

For all the details and the whole skinny - please visit the following Webpage:

http://www.njqrp.org/data/qrphomebrewersprint.html

Special certificates will be awarded; and they will be suitable for framing!

So grab your Tuna Tin, Sardine Sender, Gnat, Flea, Pixie, ATS (any version), KX1, K1, K2 or K3, Warbler (yes, PSK-31 counts too) or whatever have you and join in on the fun!

See you all Sunday night!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gotta share this

When I announced on this blog that my lovely wife was buying me the QRP Project Fuchs Tuner kit for my birthday; it intrigued one of my friends to the point of building one based on the documentation available on the QRP Project Website.

He sent me an e-mail tonight letting me know that the project was a success and that it successfully tuned his Inverted L on 80 through 10 Meters.

And he included the picture that you see here. Wow! How good looking is that! As you can see, my friend Bob W3BBO is one heckuva a homebrewer. If I were to attempt the same project, it would end up looking like something that was hit by an NHL goaltender, or possibly something that was found on the street as "roadkill".

I truly envy you folks who can not only homebrew from scratch successfully; but make it look so darned professional to boot!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Oh, man !!!!!

"Oh, man!!!!!!" is an expression that can be used in two ways; one being a state of disappointment and the other for a state of pleasant surprise. I've used it both ways tonight.

The first reason - disappointment. I saw on the ARRL Web Page that Burghardt Amateur Center in Watertown, SD has announced that they will no longer sell Amateur Radio gear. While they will continue to offer radio repair, which is lucrative, selling new gear became unprofitable. Wow! They've been in business since 1937 and I bought my Novice transmitter from them - my Drake 2-NT way back in 1978. I'm sorry to see another Amateur Radio outlet go by the wayside.

The second reason - pleasant surprise. Terry WAØITP announced today that the Four States QRP Group is offering two new kits! The first is the Four State Dummy Load SMD Starter Kit, designed to get builders acquainted with working with surface mount materials. It looks like plenty documentation is included about the various SMD building techniques and they include an parts for an RF Probe so you can calculate your output power using a DMM. Go here for details: http://www.wa0itp.com/dummyload.html

The second kit is the Enhanced Manhattan Islander Audio Amp. This ones uses Manhattan construction and is supposedly very powerful; but yet small enough to fit into the ever versatile Altoids tin. Go here for details: http://www.wa0itp.com/emislander.html

It's nice to see new items being introduced. It helps soften the blow about losing "an old friend".

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A couple of things

I built the ACME QRP Gel Cell Charger today, even though I don't have a method for powering it up right now. It went together very easily; and if you're new to kit building, I would not hesitate to recommend this kit to you as a second or even first time build!

It's a small but not tiny circuit board, the parts are all "through hole" and with the exception of one lil' typo (that was easy to figure out), the instructions were a snap to understand and follow.

You can see a few pictures on my Web page here. Or go to my Windows Skydrive page (which I just started) and check out the folder named ACME QRP.

Kudos to Craig NR4E for putting together a neat little kit!

Secondly, a few of you might have read the article in QST two months ago describing how to homebrew a Spud Gun (antenna line launcher). Steve WGØAT (ex NØTU) of "Peanut and Rooster" fame has a YouTube video showing the very same launcher in action. It is impressive! Click here to see it.

I wish I had tall trees in my backyard where I would have a need to have one of those!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Aargh!!!

No, I'm not a pirate - just a bit frustrated with myself.

I am about to begin building the ACME QRP Gel Cell Charger kit today; and of course did another careful read through the assembly instructions. I was about to begin actual assembly when I thought I'd run down the basement to check my old junker Toshiba laptop's wall wart - just to make sure its output was in the necessary 16 - 22 Volt range. That's when I was rudely reminded that the Toshiba doesn't use a wall wart! It uses 115V AC directly - it must have a built in transformer to charge its battery!

The only wall wart I have that has the proper voltage is the one to my Dell laptop, which is my main shack computer. I'm not about to use that!

So a quick search on the E of Bay yielded several inexpensive 18V wall warts. I hit one of the "Buy Now" ones for $3.99 plus shipping; and got one for less than ten bucks.

So I will probably have the kit completed and "ready to go" for later this week, when hopefully, the wall wart will arrive. It's supposed to come via Express Mail - 3 to 5 business days from now.

With all the stupid little wall warts I have just hanging around the house, it's just my luck that I don't have ONE with the proper output voltage and that I had to end up buying one.

Aaarrrgggghhhhh!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, March 13, 2009

An interesting e-mail.

I got an e-mail from a Ham from Slovenia today. This was in response to my going into eQSL the other day and cleaning out my "In Box". I had to reject his QSO and I guess he received an e-mail in turn from eQSL telling him of my action.

So when I got home today, there was an e-mail from him saying, "Hi W2LJ. What do you mean wrong mode? I worked you in the ARRL SSB DX Contest".

To which I replied, "Right mode for you - wrong mode for me. I am a CW only person. I do not own a microphone; and I don't even own a rig that is capable of SSB at the present time. Sorry."

I doubt that I'll get any response as a result of that. I guess there's always the possibility that someone is pirating my call - but seriously, who'd want to pirate W2LJ? You'd have to be pretty desperate!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It came!

When I got home from work this afternoon, I was happy to see a little white package in the mail. It had a customs slip on it and the distinctive logo of the QRP Project of Germany.

My multiband EFHW tuner arrived today! Cool!

I immediately handed it off to my wife and told her to keep hold of it until my birthday. It's no big deal, it's only six weeks away; and I have plenty to keep me busy until then.

Now for something totally different and totally unrelated to Amateur Radio. I see the Secretary General of the UN has called the United States a "deadbeat" nation. Excuse me, Mr. Ban Ki-moon?

Hmmmmmm .... let's see ..... the United States ONLY provides about 22% of the UN's annual operating budget. Foreign diplomats in New York City routinely disobey the parking and traffic rules and NEVER pay their fines - claiming diplomatic immunity. The NY Police department spends a hideous amount of its budget in UN related protection.

Seems to me the UN Secretary General needs to see what kind of financial shape the UN would be in if we taxpayers decided to tighten our national purse strings.

And what do we get for our effort? Not a whole heckuvalot if you ask me.

I'd better stop this before I get heartburn.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, March 09, 2009

A note of passing

I read this on one of the e-mail reflectors I subscribe to:

"...At the tone, Zero Hours, Zero Minutes, Coordinated Universal Time...'BEEP'...This is Radio Station WWV, Fort Collins Colorado..."

WWV voice Silent key

The person behind the recorded voice of Time and Frequency Station WWV has passed away. Announcer Don Elliot Heald, of Atlanta, Georgia, who gave WWV its human touch, passed away on Thursday, February 19th.

He was 86 years old, and worked for a long time for WSB in Atlanta, GA. Among his other notable achievements, he was the first person to hire an African-American as an-air TV reporter; and the first to hire an African-American as an evening news anchor.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, March 07, 2009

80M was tough tonight!

Spring is coming! But by the QRN levels on 80 Meters tonight, you might have thought it was already July!

The local QRN racket on 40 Meters raised its ugly head for the first time in a long time, tonight; which forced me to go on down to 80 Meters. The local QRN was not a problem; but the atmospheric QRN was indeed a problem!

I had a short QSO with Tom W4VHH out of North Carolina. I gave him a 569 and got a 459 in return. The QRM and QSB were bad, forcing a very short QSO upon us. This was a bad thing as I was in the mood for a good "chew".

After Tom and I called it quits, I called CQ for a bit more - however, there were no takers.

For those of you into QRP, I'd like to introduce you to a Website that you might not know about. It's a QRP Cluster, per se, named QRPSPOTS. It's sponsored by the Four States QRP Group and you can get to it by clicking here.

I think this site is a wonderful idea! You can list yourself when your headed for the great outdoors and you want everyone to know that you're out there, braving the elements and tickling the aether with your 5 Watts of RF. Or, you can list yourself when you're at home calling CQ from the home station and you feel like reaching out to other QRPers.

Either way, so far the site seems to have received only light traffic. But it's another wonderful free service to QRPers; and I think we should make the most use out of it that we can! I know Terry WAØITP and the Four States QRP group would love this site to take off and be used worldwide by QRPers.

Personally, I'd love to see "DX" QRPers post their times of operating on there. It's exciting to see how far you can make 5 Watts reach. So spread the word! If you're getting on the air via QRP - let EVERYONE know!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Birthday present

Actually, my birthday isn't for a couple of months; but I talked my wife into purchasing a kit for me as my birthday present this year. The kit is for a matching network for EFHW (End Fed Half Wave) antennas, which are easy to deploy for QRP portable operations.

The kit is sold by the QRP Project out of Germany. I figured it probably won't get here until real close to my birthday, anyway.

http://www.qrpproject.de/UK/multifuchs.htm

The article was an interesting read. I am looking forward to building it, hooking up a piece of wire to it; and seeing what happens.

Of course, I will keep you all informed when the time comes.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

W2LJ reporting for duty ..... SIR!

Many of you are probably familiar with a post that appeared on all the major QRP e-mail reflectors a few weeks ago, about keeping QRP alive and healthy. It was written by a prominent and well known figure in the QRP world, with his exhortations as to what we QRPers need to do in order to keep this lil' corner of Amateur Radio alive and kicking.

All filled up with a sense of duty, I went out and ordered a kit. And it is actually something that I can use ! And it arrived today.

It is a Gel Cell charger kit, marketed by of all companies - ACME QRP. It looks like it will be a breeze to assemble and get working. It's all through hole parts and it is definitely something that I can use. Even though I usually charge my gel cells with my solar panel, this looks like a neat little device to have.

In case you're interested, here is where you can find it:

http://www.acmeqrp.com/main/page_products_gc100_gel_cell_charger.html

The only things missing are the little pictures of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, March 01, 2009

'Nother one bites the dust

I saw this the other day on one of the local club e-mail reflectors:

"Hello RVRC, I have just spoken with the guys on the Cherryville Net and received the news that their hamfest will not be held this year. Hopefully they will get things together for next year, that seemed to be the thought at this time. 73 Mike, KB2VRM"

Hmmmmm ..... it's been my experience that when you see something like this, the odds of them "getting things together for next year" are not good.

Thw Cherryville Hamfest, sponsored by the Cherryville Repeater Group has been around as long as I can remember. I think it might have been the first Hamfest I ever went to after I got licensed. That makes sense, as I was licensed in December; and traditionally, the Cherryville Hamfest kicked off the NJ Hamfest season, holding theirs each March.

Admittedly, the Cherryville Hamfest has gotten weaker and weaker in the past few years. With the advent of E-Bay and the Internet in general, smaller Hamfests have seemed to have gone by the wayside. That's unfortunate as they are not only sales events; but they are also great social events. It's always nice to go and reconnect with folks you haven't seen face to face in a while.

I will keep my fingers crossed that the Hamfest will re-appear in 2010; but realistically, I won't be holding my breath.

73 de Larry W2LJ

March rolls in like a lion .....

I guess that's true. Signs of Spring are everywhere. Next weekend, Daylight Savings Time begins again, the days are getting noticeably longer (I no longer drive home from work in the dark); and those little green tufts of grass are starting to sprout in my backyard.

But Ol' Man Winter isn't done with us yet! By the time I wake up for work tomorrow morning, there's supposed to be around 6 - 9 inches of snow on the ground. It's a raw, cold, bleek day here in Central New Jersey.

If you're like me, you've had enough of Winter back in December; and you're counting the days until you can walk around outside without a coat or jacket. This means the beginning of the 2009 "comfortable" outdoor QRP season; when you can set up the antenna and radio without the risk of hypothermia and frostbite! And you can sit outside with an iced tea or a lemonade (or a brewski!) instead of a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate.

Until that time comes, I have a link to a video that will warm the recesses of your heart. Introduced on the QRP reflectors by Steve NØTU of "Rooster and Peanut" fame, it's about a 50 pound DXpedition to the Caribbean. It seems it's always warm enough down there to sit and do some radio from the great outdoors!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7l8fdgGkHA

is the link; and this should have you inspired and anxious for some good QRP weather that's sure to come our way sooner or later!

73 de Larry W2LJ