Monday, August 31, 2009

I am a happy camper

After much wrangling and trial and error; I finally figured out how to migrate my old Thunderbird e-mails from Windows XP over to Vista.

It was confusing; and I probably made it harder than it had to be; and I am definitely not the computer genius. But I did get it done; and I am happy as there were a lot of e-mails that are important to me, such as the instruictions for ftp'ing to my Website and things of that nature.

Life would not have been over if I had not been successful in migrating the e-mail over; but it is nice that I still have them for reference now. I think I'm going to take some time to go through all of them and print the more important ones out.

It is also working out quite nicely using my old hard drive as an external one on the new computer. It's a nice repository for old documents, doc files and pdf files; such as all my old K9YA Telegraph issues (which I have also burned to CD for posterity).

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Missed # 95 !!!!


The kids were on the new computer playing games at; so I headed down the basement to hear what I could hear on the bands. There's obviously some kind of contest going on, as I heard a lot of Baltic stations on 20 Meters. I did work Latvia, thinking I didn't have them in the QRP log, only to find that country already worked QRP.

I bopped on over to 30 Meters and heard Sardinia IS0/I9JX (or something like that, I don't have my shack notepad right in front of me at the moment). He was in and out, loud and weak as the QSB was up and down. I tried working Tony for the better part of half an hour with no luck. Antenna didn't seem to matter, whether it was the G5RV, Zepp or Butternut HF9V - I couldn't raise him with 5 Watts; and I tried about every trick I had up my sleeve (with the exception of raising the power level!).

This was pretty frustrating as European stations are generally pretty easy to work from New Jersey. But for whatever reason, today it was not meant to be. I'll try and get downstairs for a little bit more radio time this evening. Maybe I'll run into another Sardinian station on 40 Meters, if I'm lucky enough.

Just goes to show that propagation isn't always reciprocal. Just because you're hearing a station 599 doesn't mean they're going to hear you (especially if you're QRP, I guess!).

Better luck next time - there WILL be a next time - there always is!

73 de Larry w2LJ

Smooth transition?

From Windows XP to Vista?

So far it has been. I have my logging software, Webmastering software, and Echlolink all transferred over and working.

The only problem I have so far is with Thunderbird. I have my old hard drive set up as an external hard drive on the new computer. I know where my old Thunderbird e-mails reside on the old hard drive; and I moved them to my Thunderbird profiles in Vista - but it doesn't seem to recognize them.

I guess I will have to do a bit more investigating to get this cleared up. There are a bunch of old saved e-mails that I would hate to lose. Although, if it came to that, it would not be the end of the world.

What's nice about the new computer, is that it's like starting with a clean slate. All brand new without the bugs and problems of the old one.

Bad thing is, I discovered that my old Lexmark printer isn't supported for Vista. I've checked the Lexmark Website and there are drivers for XP and Windows9X - but nothing for Vista.

Looks like a trip to Target or Walmart will be in order.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New computer

My new Dell Inspiron desktop arrived today; and I am using it now as I type this.

It has over twice the processor speed, six times the memory and the hard drive is WAY bigger than my old Gateway. The speed is amazing compared to the old machine. Applications come up in a snap and there's no waiting for things to happen after pressing a key or performing a mouse click.

I'm sure as I fill this machine up, that will change - but for now I am a happy camper. When I get some time, possibly tomorrow night, I will take the hard drive out of the old machine and hook it up to this computer using an external hard drive kit. This way I can still keep my pictures and transfer some data files to the new hard drive.

This computer uses Vista, which is a bit different from XP. I suppose it will take a little getting used to; but I don't foresee any major problems.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Crazy 20 Meter Foxhunt tonight

I combed the 20 Meter Foxhunt "grounds" from 14.050 to 14.070 MHz for what seemed like forever tonight. I was not hearing either Fox our any hounds for that matter.

I seemed to be creating a callous on my thumb tuning back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Then what to my wondering ears I should hear? All of a sudden, Karl K5DI from New Mexico came out of nowhere into my aether with a 559 signal, which sounded very loud indeed; considering the nothingness I was hearing everywhere else.

A quick call nabbed him and I got him in the log at 0159 UTC.

Then back to search for Jim K9JWV, who lives in Utah; and as far as NJ is concerned, that's K5DIs next door neighbor. Tuning back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Never heard a peep out of Jim; nor the pack chasing him.

How things change in a week! Last Tuesday night, I worked both Foxes, N1FN and K4BAI within two minutes of each other. Last week I was the windshield; tonight I was the bug. Sorta.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Announcing yourself

If you're taking some time off from work; or deviating from your daily routine (if you're retired), to go out into the Great Outdoors to do some QRPing, it's always nice to make some contacts while you're out there.

We have a great resource at our disposal to help facilitate this.

If you know you are going to be QRP portable, post yourself! Give an ETA of when you will be QRV and on what frequencies. It certainly can't hurt! It's definitely another way to go in addition of posting your plans to the QRP e-mail reflectors.

There's nothing more frustrating than taking the trouble to set up a portable station only to be greeted by dead silence on the bands. By using the wonderful resources we have at our disposal, we can have a ton of fun in the process.

BTW, I was amazed at the number of responses that my post about Twitter received. I think it was one of the briefest blog posts I have ever made; but yet got a relatively high amount of responses - mostly negative. Instead of being turned off by Twitter; how about possibly making it into a tool that we QRPers could use to our advantage? Twitter could be another venue where you can post your portable ops intentions. If enough other QRPers are "following" you - maybe that will help get the word out about your portable activities.

I remember just a lil' while back the Adventure Radio Society used to post "Wilderness Alerts" that QRPers could use to publicize their outings. I haven't seen any of those lately since the ARS went to the Wiki format. Maybe between QRP Spots and Twitter, we have something that can help fill the void. This way we have the opportunity to make it a tool that we can use in our favor; instead of it being just another useless Internet gadget. To be honest with you, I'd much rather receive a tweet that says, "de KB9BVN - QRV 14.060 +/- 10 at 1830 UTC from Caesar Creek Park" (for example) than some utter nonsense from someone telling me that he just bought his fifth Iphone.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Website update

I updated my "Portable QRP Ops" page on my Website, with details about the switch from the aluminum case to the rucksack. It's just a rehash of what I have posted here; but I have put the details on the Website for permanent referral.

There was a thread started on the Monthly QRP Field Day e-mail reflector about "What do you take out into the field with you?". Ron WB3AAL is going to compile a database of all the answers given and should make it available later this week. It should be interesting; and it's always a good thing to learn a new tip or two from the Field Ops veterans.

The humidity is around the 85% level here in Central NJ. It's not terribly warm outside right now; only about 75 degrees or so. But if you go outside, it feels a lot hotter than that - it feels steamy and soupy. The next three days are supposed to be sunny and hot; and I think the humidity is supposed to go down a tad. It would be nice weather to go for a hike and do some portable operating. Too bad that things like "work" get in the way of that!

73 de Larry W2LJ


Wasting my time behind the computer on a warm, ultra muggy, soggy Sunday morning, I have signed up for Twitter.

Why? God only knows. I haven't a clue.

If you want to follow W2LJ and see seldom sent "tweets", you are more that welcome. I will gladly fill up your computer screen with mind numbing uselessness.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Favorite QSLs

I have a lot of QSL cards hanging down on the shack walls protected by those plastic protective sheets. I don't have enough space to display all the QSLs that I would like to. Each QSL card is special to me; and I like them all. There are a few however, that I really, really like looking at over and over again. It might be because of the quality of the card; or the subject matter of the card, or perhaps it was a memorable QSO. Here are a few of my most favorites:

I got this card for working Special Event station W1AA on International Marconi Day back in April of 2000. This card is special to me, because I visited Wellfleet during my first year as a Ham Radio op, shortly after upgrading to General. I remember looking over the vast Atlantic, and thinking of Europe and my own DX contacts and just being filled with awe that MY signals have jumped over all that distance!

This card with the penguins brings back to mind a memorable QSO. I heard VK0MM in QSO with another station and "tail ended" at the end. I thought Alan was "just another" Australian op and had a quick QSO. I didn't find out until much later that QSOs with Macquarie Island are not common as the scientists stationed there get precious little free time to get on the air. I stumbled across the QSO just scanning the band and running into Alan. That's the way I like to work DX - IMHO, it's more exciting that way.

I love this card because of the photo, pure and simple. A key and a log book filled with a ton of contacts! How does it get better than that?

In the weeks and months to come, I will post photos of other memorable QSL cards that I have lining my shack walls. I love everything about traditional QSLs; and I hope you do, also.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A post that I agree with .....totally!

I was going down the blogroll; and I see in "Ripples in the Ether" where Jason NT7S and his lovely fiance', Jennifer will be getting married in a few days. He came across a quote by Benjamin Franklin about "Choosing a Mistress" which would probably be better titled, "Choosing a Partner".

I read the quote, which he posted, and have to agree with it totally. Personally, I do not know where I would be without my lovely wife, Marianne. Later this year, we will be celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary. There are times that I could swear we were just married a couple of years ago; that's how fast time has gone by.

It's corny, I know, but just like the line from "Jerry McGuire", my wife DOES complete me. She is everything to me; and is without a doubt, not only my wife; but my best friend, too. Together we are raising a family; and I often confess that I don't know where I would be without them. Marianne, Cara and Joey are my anchor, my safe harbor. When things get tough (often enough) my thoughts turn to them; and sure enough, in a little while, everything falls into perspective.

Congratulations, Jason and Jennifer. My family and I wish you the best and many, many happy years together.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm not counting it

Nasty pileup on 30 Meters tonight to work KG4NL out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I'm pretty sure I snared him; but I can't be 100% sure. He was operating at about 10.108 MHz and was listening up 1. There were so many inexperienced pile up ops calling on the listening frequency, that it was at times impossible to tell who he was answering. One of those times, I could swear that he came back to W2LJ; but not enough to bet the farm on it. And since QRP DXCC is done via the Honor System (no QSLs required) I will not include him on my list of DXCC entities worked; as I am just not sure. If he shows up in eQSL or LOTW, then that will be another matter altogether.

Add to that the idiots who feel they have to police the frequency sending "UP" and "LID". Anyone who sends "LID" is obviously one him or herself! I would hazard a guess that the guys sending "UP" think they are being helpful; but in reality they only make things worse.

Now it's time for the 20 Meter Tuesday night QRP Foxhunt to begin; but I am seeing bright flashes of lightning out the window and am hearing rolls of thunder. I guess we are having an official heatwave here in NJ with the third day of 90+ temperatures; and boomers are bound to happen. So it's time to unplug the antennas and read a book for a while before turning in.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Postscript: There's a saying in New Jersey ...... "If you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes!" For good measure I waited for ten. No flashes of lightning and no thunder; and two Fox pelts in the bag! Now I'm ready for that book. This was a nice way to end the evening radio-wise after the Gitmo debacle.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Eegad! What a weekend!

You get a pretty good idea what your weekend is going to be like when you receive a phone call 15 minutes before leaving on Friday afternoon to inform you that a major calamity has taken place; and that you have been thrown under the bus AND that all hell is breaking loose. I ended up having to stay for over an hour and a half, helping to piece together a plan of action for remediating the mess; AND to show how the blame was being wrongly placed.

Needless to say, it did not set a good tone for the weekend; and it carried over. In the back of my mind, I was preoccupied with the events from Friday. And from there everything I touched seemed to go south very fast. I turned on my "brand new" e-Bay PC and a big blue spark flew out the side. This was accompanied by a rather loud "BZZZZT" and the familiar (to me at least) smell of burnt components and evaporated circuit board traces. So much for bargains; and this will be another mess to clean up.

The weather was HOT! I don't know where Summer has been in the NorthEast; but it showed up with a vengeance this past weekend. Temps were in the mid to upper 90s and the humidity was "up there". I spent a lot of time watching my two youngsters at the community pool, which was definitely where they wanted to be. Since I never learned how to swim, let's just say the pool is not normally my location of choice. But as long as the kids are happy, I'm generally happy too. I have to admit that I did go in the shallow end up to about waist level. That was especially nice after mowing the lawn Saturday afternoon in that Godawful heat.

Yesterday, I got caught up in other things; much to my dismay. I didn't get the chance to play in the NJ QSO Party of the Run For The Bacon as I was exhausted each day by around 7:00 PM.

The good news, I guess, was that while the mess from work did carry over to today, I was actually able to help things get resolved and I still have a job. My position at work is not high level and my words don't carry a lot of weight; but honesty does. I have found out that when things are my fault, that it's best to own up to things and take the consequences. This way, when things AREN'T my fault, I tend to be believed as I am known for not shirking responsibility.

I wish the same could be said for others.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, August 10, 2009

Goodies from eBay

My rucksack that I purchased through eBay arrived in the mail today. And after the kids went to bed, I got busy transferring everything from the hard case into it.

This first photo shows just about everything I had in the hard case transferred into plastic containers. Starting at the top left is the K1, the container next to it is holding my Autek antenna analyzer, then pencils and miscellaneous stiff, the next has jumpers and wires and cables, the next after that has a 4:1 balun and my ever present Swiss Army Knife and the last is holding a single lever paddle (on the yellow wooden base). Up at the top you can see my slingshot, the battery, headphones and ZM-2 tuner.

This all packs very neatly into the rucksack, which appears immediately below:

What you can't see added to the inside is a legal pad for taking notes and my solar panel which doubles as a nice support and keeps the pack from being all mushy and fallen over. I'd estimate that everything altogether weighs around 12 pounds or so; which is not bad. There's still plenty of room inside to toss in the Zip Cord 88 or the NorCal doublet; or even a HWEF antenna.

I got on the air yesterday afternoon to tune around and listen to the Worked All Europe contest. There still are a few European countries that I have not worked QRP yet; and I was hoping I might get lucky. I was using search and pounce and did end up working Belgium, which I have worked many times - but never QRP. I heard a station from Finland, which I need via QRP; but he was also searching and pouncing. I was tempted to give him a quick call; but it my mind that would have been interfering with the station "running" the frequency, and would have been in bad form.

That brings me up to 94 worked via QRP CW and I only need six more now for QRP DXCC.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Amateur Radio T-Shirts

I was participating in the Great American Pastime today, standing in line for something, when my mind wandered and I started thinking about Amateur Radio T-Shirts. An odd thing to start thinking about, for sure; but that's where my mind went.

I have several T-Shirts with an Amateur Radio theme on them; and a lot of them I don't wear outside the house. The reasons vary. Some are poorly made and others, quite frankly, look stupid. I don't know what I was thinking when I purchased them.

Two however, have become favorites of mine and I don't mind wearing them outside the house. Both of these are ARRL Field Day T-shirts and I think they are classics. The ARRL produces a new Field Day T-Shirt every year; and some are definitely not winners. This one from a few years back IS a winner.

This design was put on a black T-Shirt; and in my opinion, was the classiest T-Shirt that the ARRL had come up with to that point. It is a relatively simple design that conveys a message with a minimum of words; and quite frankly, looks pretty sharp.

My other top pick is THIS year's Field Day T-Shirt. I've worn it today; and I'm still wearing it right now, even as I type this.

This design on a Forest Green T-Shirt (which is my favorite color) is a classic that I will wear many times in the future. I think I'm going to go to the ARRL Website and buy another or two before they run out. (Rats! Too late!)

What makes these classics, in my mind? The design is simple and clean. They are not overly complicated or "cute". They are easy on the eyes and are not "busy" and cluttered. In essence, they follow the QRP philosophy in my mind ..... "Do More With Less".

I hope the ARRL continues to use whomever it might be that designed this year's Field Day logo and will keep coming up with superior designs in the future.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, August 07, 2009

Good intentions

I always mean to do certain things and never get to them.

One of those is to participate in the NJ QSO Party. This year, that's next weekend. I've downloaded and printed out the instructions via the NJQRP e-mail reflector. There doesn't seem to be a specific QRP category; but I think I'm going to give it a whirl and see what happens, anyway.

It runs for 11 hours on Saturday; and for 13 hours on Sunday. I am sure that my backside will not be able to put anywhere that amount of time in; but maybe I can generate a lot of QSOs out of this and fill out my log some.

I am in the county of Middlesex; and if you look at the picture above, you can see that's in the thin "waist" of New Jersey. If you were a bird and could walk out my front door and fly directly East for about 15 to 20 miles, you would be in Staten Island.

I have two friends from the old Piscataway Club, Bill W2BT and Don KO2K who used to enter this and take first place for Middlesex County year after year. I think they won the whole thing as top NJ Station a few years, also. Bob W3BBO would probably remember better than me. I'm not sure if Bill and Don are still as active as they were. Maybe if I gave it a half-hearted effort, I could place well.

Tonight, I'm having tons of fun doing some house cleaning chores. I'm trying to offset that "fun" by enjoying a few Sam Adams Brown Ales. As soon as I'm done with the chores, I will sit down for a bit and continue with the book I am currently reading - "PowerCurve" by Richard Herman. The story is about the first woman President and how she and an Air Force general, who becomes her National Security Advisor, deal with hostilities that break out between Japan and China. It's a pretty good read and is going fast. I would probably do my mind a better favor by reading something from the classics; but I'm a techno-thriller junkie. What can I say?

By the way, speaking of reading ........ Do yourself a favor and click on the link I provide down towards the bottom right for John Shannon K3WWP's "diary". For the past few days he has been discussing his QRP QSO streak. For the past 15 years he has had AT LEAST one QRP QSO a day, using Morse Code, of course.

15 years ..... can you believe that? I did it for a year and after 365 days I thought I had accomplished something. No way compared to John! I fervently believe that for this effort alone, that John is way more than entitled to be inducted into the QRP Hall of Fame. He not only has an excellent Website and "diary" (blog) as most of you probably know; but this man "walks the walk" and doesn't just "talk the talk". He's been an inspiration to more people than you could probably shake a stick at. Talk about "teaching by doing" .... this devoted Ham does it and more.

Congratulations, John K3WWP - I wish you another 15 +++++ years of daily QRP QSOs.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

"New" computer

My aging (5+ years old, maybe 7+ years - I'm not sure) Gateway desktop computer is really getting long in the tooth. It has gotten to the point where I end up waiting more than "doing" when I sit down at this machine. The problem is, I don't have a lot of expendable cash right now to buy something new, sexy, sleek and nice.

So ....... I went on to eBay last night and plunked down a bid for a refurbished HP desktop. It has a Pentium 4 processor at 2.66 GHz with 1 GB of RAM and an 80 GB hard drive. That's more than twice the processor speed, twice the RAM and twice the hard drive capacity of what I am using now.

Fortunately, I won; and fortunately it will run me just under $100 (free shipping!). I will have to use the monitor I currently have, which is a 17" flat screen; and I will probably buy an external hard drive enclosure so that I can take the HD out of this machine and use it on the new one. There's just too much useful information on this drive that I don't want to lose.

I'm not a gamer, I just want a decent computer for household stuff and Amateur Radio applications. I am hoping this will tide me over for a few years until I can get something better.

I'll bet your wondering how this is all Ham Radio or QRP related. Well ....... I'd rather save the money and put it towards attending FDIM in 2010 (hopefully!); than blow it on a "new" new computer. And maybe it's the homebrewer in me that would rather tinker around with improving the performance of something older than buying something new outright.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, August 03, 2009

K1 container pictures

As promised, here are the pictures of my creative endeavor (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

This is the Rubbermaid container as it came from the grocery store.

The lid with a 3/4" piece of foam hot glued to the inside of the lid.

Same thing; but a side view. Isn't hot glue a wonderful thing?

The interior, with foam hot glued to the bottom and two sides.

The container, minus the lid, with the K1 stored safely inside (top view).

I used 3/4" foam on the top, bottom and two sides. The K1 is now nice and snug. I placed the top on and shook things up. The radio stayed put and there didn't seem to be any movement inside the container that I was able to notice. The nice thing is that container is also inherently water proof; or water resistant at the very least. These containers are advertised not to leak; so if they won't let liquids out, by the same token, they shouldn't let liquids in.

It's probably overkill on my part; but I really value my radios and I do all that I can to keep them safe, working and new looking as well. Scratches and dents may be badges of honor to some; but I avoid them as much as I can.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Container for the K1

As I've been saying, I have been searching for a good container for the K1. I want to be able to put this container in a backpack; and carry my portable station that way. It's a lot easier, in my opinion, to carry gear using a backpack / rucksack instead of carrying around my Harbor Freight metal carrying case.

While grocery shopping today, I found what I think will be a great container at the A&P. It is one of these new Rubbermaid EasyFind Lid containers that they are now starting to advertise on TV. It is the 14 cup/3.3 Liter version.

The K1 with the tilt stand attached fits nicely inside of it. It's not the snuggest fit that I would like; but I have an idea on how to take care of that. I have some foam pieces at work that came inside some HP Procurve switch boxes. This foam was due to be tossed; but I put it on the side and saved it for myself. Some liberal application with a hot glue gun will create a nice foam padded carrying box that will allow me to carry the K1 in a pack without the worries of it getting scratched, dented or worse.

I'll post pictures as I go along converting from hard case storage to backpack storage.

The other thing I have to get myself is an inexpensive doublet carrier. Bob W3BBO, sent me a photo of how he carries his portable zip cord doublets along with him when he heads out for a day of operating. He's done a real nice job of using an extension cord winder for this purpose. I'll have to take a look in the local Dollar Store to see if I can find something similar.

73 de Larry W2LJ