POWr Countdown Timer

Sunday, January 31, 2010

SR-71A guy, please meet this B-29 guy......

This was pointed out to me via Bob W3BBO.




Obviously, the German modeler with the SR-71A Blackbird; and this American modeler with the B-29 need to get together, hoist a few cold ones and compare notes.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Playing Radio

I finally took the opportunity to sit down behind the radio to do some operating today, which is something I haven't been doing as much as I should. In the late afternoon, I got some free time and did some listening on 20, 30 and 40 Meters.

There seemed to be the ever present opening to the Caribbean; and on 20 Meters, I was able to work Derek J6/VE3CZF. He was holding court on 14.0079 MHz and was really running stations. I gave him a 599 and got a 579 in return. A QRZ look up has revealed that Derek has lived in quite a few location on this globe of ours and just recently permanently settled on St. Lucia.

J6/VE3CZF QSL courtesy of QRZ.com

That's one beautiful view, isn't it? It would definitely be not hard to wake up to something like that every morning.

30 Meters was quite noisy; and I was having trouble hearing any but the loudest stations. Still, I got to have a very brief QSO with Rey CO6RD from Cuba. Again, the mojo to the Caribbean was holding true.

I heard Gibraltar on 30 and 40 Meters; but was not able to break either pileup. It seemed both stations were favoring QSOs from Europe, which they were probably hearing better. I did hear them work a few loud state side stations; but my QRP signal was probably getting lost in the sauce.

If I get a chance this evening, I will melt some solder on the PFR3A. With this cold snap we have been enduring, it's been pretty cold down in the basement!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Friends are a good thing

It's good to have friends, especially in Ham Radio. They see things that you don't and catch things that your brain sometimes just overlooks.

I had my weekly Echolink session with Bob W3BBO today. I've mentioned Bob many times on this blog; and will probably mention him many more times in the future. Bob lives in Erie, PA; but we got to know each other and become close friends when he was temporarily transferred to NJ in the 90's by the company that he used to work for. Since retiring, Bob has moved back to Erie. We meet often enough on the bands; but we also have a weekly Echolink BS session. At least we try to, every Saturday afternoon. More often than not we are successful.

Today we were talking about a lot of things and the conversation came around to some of the things that I have posted about here. Bob told me that he was sorry I was having so much trouble with AC Log; as he has used it for quite a few years now with no problem. Anyway, I went into a bit of detail about that annoying delay problem I was experiencing. While I was describing it, Bob switched windows and opened up his log. Sure enough, he told me, he was seeing the same delay or hesitation that I was experiencing. But then he told me that this was really the first time he had noticed it.

Immediately I began to wonder how it could be the first time he really noticed it. I know that Bob has been using AC Log pretty much since it first came out. Surely, if this wasn't a phenomena unique to my computer, he should have seen this before. He then explained to me that after the basic information is inputted, that he does not use the Tab Key to scroll through the rest of the fields to get to the comments box. If he needs to go to that field after inputting the basics, that he just goes there by clicking on the field with his mouse.

Duh !!!!!

V-8 smack to the forehead !!!!

Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees !!!

The solution was SO simple and SO obvious that I could kick myself for not thinking of it. I tried that approach on the shack computer, which was giving me the most delay; and of course it worked like a charm.

Now I have a new problem. I like the look and feel of AC Log. I like the look and feel of Ham Radio Deluxe. I wonder which will eventually win out?

Tomorrow ...... more work on the PFR3A.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, January 29, 2010

HRD - worth a look!

Thanks to Dave K2DSL, because of a comment he left on my post from yesterday, I am giving Ham Radio Deluxe a serious look. Although I do not have my rig hooked up to the computer for control, and I do not use the digital modes, the log book part of the program is REALLY nice!

The log book part features a grey line indicator ( a little world map with current day/night data), a DX Cluster window as well as the standard log book window. It seems like it can be customized in just about any fashion you could come up with and the price is right - free!

The program was written by Simon Brown HB9DRV. I remember reading a lot of posts from him; back in the days when I used to subscribe to the Elecraft mailing list (before it became the K3 mailing list). He has obviously put a lot of sweat, blood and tears into this program. It seems to look and feel as good as any commercial program out there. In fact, it probably gives some of those expensive programs a run for their money! The beauty part is that it seems to be very user friendly, intuitive and will not require a steep learning curve.

I haven't given up on Win-EQF just yet; but HRD looks like a program I could become comfortable with in a hurry. And if I ever decide to add the RS-232 interface to my K2; or the SSB board for that matter, this program would be able to handle both controlling the rig and providing me with the digital modes.

73 de Larry w2LJ

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In The Lower Right Hand Corner

there is a poll.

Which logging software do you use? Do you use any at all? I am keeping this up all month; so please feel free to take part. If you use more than one, you can make more than one selection. Logging software is a favorite topic of mine. It seems whatever program I use, they always have something missing that I want. I wish I knew enough about writing code so that I could come up with a program that had everything that I wanted. Unfortunately, that is not one of my talents.

I bought a mug from CafePress.com and it arrived today. I was VERY impressed by the quality. I didn't think they would be as nice as they are.

The past few weeks have been unseasonably warm around here - I guess we have been experiencing the fabled "January Thaw". Today started with an unexpected period of snow squalls which left the roads super icy! I witnessed the results of more accidents on the way to work today than I think I've ever seen in all my 35 years of driving. I was cut off by a woman in a Saturn; and I thought I was going to be a statistic this morning. I guess I was driving too slow for her tastes; and she whizzed around me and then proceeded to squeeze her vehicle into my lane, ahead of me. Luckily, the anti-lock brakes did their thing and there was enough traction for my tires to bite the road and bring me to a stop. Of course, the woman drove on, unfazed by the fact that she had nearly taken me out. It took a few seconds for my heart to leave my throat and return to its normal position; and I was able to continue on to work without further incident.

Tonight the temperature is supposed to drop into the low 'teens (around -10C). Next week is supposed to remain colder than normal.

Did I mention that I hate Winter?

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Question for you AC Log users out there.

I've been using Win-EQF for years; but I like the "look and feel" as well as some of the features of N3FJP's AC Log. I have it loaded on my desktop, my shack laptop and my netbook. I'll admit that I am paranoid and like to have double logbook redundancy (kind of like NASA during the Apollo program).

Anyway, the problem I am having is this. When I input data and tab through the fields, everything is fine until I hit the 'State" field. When I hit the tab button after the "State" field, there is a delay until I get the jump to the "Comments" field. On my shack laptop which is old and is running Windows 2000, the delay is VERY noticeable - like about 8 seconds. On my netbook, which runs XP, it's maybe 3 or 4 seconds. On my desktop, which has my fastest processor and which runs Vista, the delay is only about a second.

Am I doing something wrong? Do any of you out there notice this? I really like the program; but if I am going to have this delay every time I try to enter a new QSO, I might just stick with Win-EQF.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Greenbrook Electronics

I stopped by the local electronics emporium on the way home from work this evening to pick up the following:

1) Solder Wick
2) A spool of 30 gauge enameled wire
3) 8 pin DIP sockets
4) A few 2n7000 transistors

I was able to get the solder wick and the wire, and sockets. They had no 2N7000 transistors or any equivalents, so it looks like I will be placing an order with Jameco.

The roll of solder wick was about $6, which really didn't surprise me. I was surprised by the price of the wire. A 1 lb spool (they sell it by weight) cost almost $22 !!! At least it's a lifetime supply. The DIP sockets were also pretty pricey - about $1.75 each. I think from here on out, I will be placing most of my orders through the mail. I'd like to patronize a local merchant; but wire, solder wick and some DIP socket (5) ran me over $40. That seem s kind of high to me. I mean I don't expect this stuff to be free; but I didn't think it was going to be as expensive as it was.

73 de Larry W2LJ

So ....... I did go to the Jameco Website and ordered the following:

10 - 2N7000
5 - LM386
10 - LM358
10 - 78L05
10 - 9V Battery Clips
20 - 8 Pin Dip Sockets ($0.13 a piece as opposed to almost $2 each at the store!)
20 - 14 Pin Dip Sockets
10 - 18 Pin Dip Sockets

All for less than half of what I paid today! It will take about a week to get here; but I'm not going anywhere; and it's good to re-stock the parts bin!

72

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday night

was spent going over EVERY solder connection on the PFR3A that I have made so far. They all looked good to me; but while trying to sort out my receive problem, I figured "What the heck". Certainly can't make things worse to make sure there were no "iffy" solder joints.

I am still going to re-do T1 (again!); but I haven't had the chance to get to the electronics store. I need to pick up some more 30 gauge enameled wire. Those teeny little cores need the thin stuff when you're trying to put 45 turns of wire on them! Maybe tomorrow night on the way home from work, I can take a slightly different route home and stop at Greenbrook Electronics. I have a roll of 28 gauge, but would really prefer the thinner stuff. That's what came with the kit for rolling this transformer, anyway.

The other thing that I was doing, was engaging in the 80 Meter Foxhunt. I bagged Steve NØSM in Iowa who had a very nice signal into New Jersey. There was some QSB; but when his signal was at its peak, it was over S9. I never did hear KIØG in Texas. I only heard one Hound chasing him; but when I would go to the frequency that I was guessing was his transmit frequency, N4QR was calling CQ ( and he was about 20dB over 9 here in NJ). So if I was guessing right, KIØG was covered up. It's never a good sign when you can only hear one or two Hounds chasing a Fox - the odds are against you.

You know, I think I'm spending too much time before the keyboard. January is not over and this is my 32nd post for the month. Hope you're not getting tired of this stuff!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ham Mag

I got a notice in my e-mail inbox that HAM MAG, the French Amateur Radio e-zine is going to no longer be a free publication. Beginning immediately, if you want to subscribe, it will cost $15.00 dollars a year.

I am not quite sure why an e-zine has to be a subscription deal; but personally, I think I am going to pass this one up. K9YA does a superb job; as does WorldRadio; and neither one of them charge a cent.

I am typing this while watching "24" - just goes to show how indispensable this Acer Aspire One has become to me. It's nice not to be tied to a desktop. Anyway, I really don't get to use the desktop that much more. My two kids are becoming more and more computer savvy and are spending time on line on Disney's "Club Penguin".

73 de Larry W2LJ

Making progress

Thanks to Lou W0TQ for some ideas that he sent me via the PFR3 group list, I think I am making some progress with my PFR3A receive problem.

Lou had asked me if I am getting DDS LO output and I am pretty sure that I am; but I went and touched up a bunch of solder joints from the Group 1 build that had to do with DDS LO output.

From there, I took my antenna lead and touched pin 1 of U1 and now I am hearing a lot more actual receiver noise than I had before. I still think T1 is a problem; so I will yank it out and rewind it once again. This time, however, I am going to wind the secondary using green enameled wire. I don't know .... maybe these old eyes are messing up the wire placement once it comes time to solder T1 to the board. The different colors should help.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, January 24, 2010

PFR3A - Group 2 roadblock

I am not having much success with getting the receiver working in the PFR3A and I've been hitting my head against the wall trying to figure it out. Well, maybe I should rephrase that. I think the receiver is technically working; but is very, very deaf.

I can hear background and white noise in the headphones; but when I hook up an antenna, there is noting there that says, "Yep, this is 40 Meters.".

I have rewound and reinstalled both L1 and T1. Not to pat myself on the back; but I've wound enough toroids and transformers to know that I didn't totally screw them up. I have gone over parts placement and values of components; and unless I am totally blind, everything looks Kosher.

The audio stages work fine. I can hear paddle sidetone and the "beeps" when the actuator switches are pressed - and that's about it. When I press pins 4 and 5 of U2, I can hear 60 cycle hum; so Q4, the mute switch, is not shorted out. Interestingly, when I touch pin 6 of U2 with a dental pick or the tip of my tweezers, I can what sounds like shortwave broadcast in the earphones, so it seems like something is working.

I am beginning to wonder if perhaps the DDS might not be working? I have posted a message to the PFR3 Yahoo group. Hopefully, someone else has been through a similar situation and can shed some light on it for me.

73 de Larry W2LJ

QRP-L and 7.040 MHz and WSPR

Wow!

I guess I shouldn't say anything after my slight rant about RTTY on 40 Meters last night; but there is a "discussion" on QRP-L about 7.040 MHz and WSPR that is getting downright ugly. The word discussion is purposely used in quotes as there's a lot of vitriol and nastiness floating back and forth. Not a civilized discourse at all.

A black eye for QRPers, for sure.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, January 23, 2010

80 Meters - the safe haven.

Disappointed by the intrusion of RTTY signals which caused the break up of my QSO with KG4TUY on 40 Meters, I found a safe harbor on 80 Meters.

At 0146 UTC, I heard NN3C calling "CQ" and decided to throw out my callsign in answer. What resulted was a most delightful QSO with Kurt which ended up lasting nearly 45 minutes. Kurt doesn't live all that far from me - he hails from Oreland, PA, which is a suburb of Philadelphia. As the crow flies, that's probably 50 miles away - 60 miles tops.


NN3C photo from QRZ.com - take note of the HW-8 on the top shelf!


What made the QSO interesting is that we're both about the same age (I'm two years older) and we were both licensed in 1978. We are both fans of CW and Kurt likes to dabble with PSK31 also. Kurt's fist was excellent and he had a good 579/589 signal - armchair copy all the way.

Kurt was using his Kenwood TS-930S to a dipole; and his equipment did a fantastic job for him. We had a great time conversing about our common interests and the histories of our original callsigns - mine being KA2DOH and his being KA3ALP.

It was one of those QSOs that ends way too soon; and leaves you hoping for another. With luck there will be one.

73 de Larry W2LJ

That was disappointing !

I got on 40 Meters and was hearing wall to wall RTTY across a large portion of the band. So I went all the way down to 7.032 MHz to put out a CQ. After listening for a bit, it looked to be relatively quiet and safe enough to put out a call. I was pleased when Dave KG4TUY out of Nashville, TN answered. I was hoping to get a ragchew in. Dave had a nice 579 signal into NJ; and this QSO looked promising.

Then, out of the blue, RTTY signals came on the frequency at only about 40dB over 9! I tightened the K2's crystal filters to the max and twiddled the RIT trying to get Dave's signal to produce a tone that my gray matter could decipher. The RTTY proved to be too strong a foe.

I thought the RTTY guys stayed up in the 7.100 to 7.060 neighborhood? I guess I'm dating myself; but I remember participating in RTTY contests; and 7.060 was always the line we did not cross out of courtesy. In recent years, I know that the digi guys have been coming down lower and lower - but as low as 7.030 MHz ? And again, whatever happened to listening to the frequency before transmitting - regardless of the mode?

So much for the Amateur's Code.

73 de Larry W2LJ

An attack of nostalgia.

I took my car for State inspection this morning. In New Jersey, once you pass a four year period after you buy a brand spankin' new vehicle, that vehicle has to be inspected by the State every two years. They test for basic vehicle safety and to ensure that your vehicle is within current emission standards. No big deal really, and in New Jersey you can either have the State perform the inspection for free; or pay for an "authorized" private inspection. Being the frugal Ham that I am, I go for the free inspection.

But I ramble; and you are probably wondering what this could possibly have to do with Amateur Radio.

The inspection site is in Edison, NJ - which is two towns over from me. In between us is Piscataway, which was home to the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club, of which I am still a member (as I guess it still technically exists). Driving to inspection I passed the firehouse where we held our annual auction; and I also passed the McDonalds where Bob W3BBO and I used to meet for coffee and Ham Radio BS'ing from time to time. I also passed the street where Chuck Phillips WB2MSV used to live. Chuck was kind of the "guiding spirit" of PARC, for lack of a better term.

I served as Secretary, Vice-President and then eventually as President of the club for two terms. You've seem me write about PARC's Field Days before; and those were good times. All this got me thinking and ruminating on how things change; and yet, at the same time, things remain the same.

My interest in Amateur Radio has never waned since I was licensed in 1978. Sure, like everyone else there have been ebbs and flows as far as my activity levels went; but the initial spark and flame never faded. The activities changed a lot in all those years! Although CW and QRP have been constants and are now my only preoccupations, there have been others that were part of the mix throughout the years.

There were times when I was DX crazy; and there was a time when I was very much into the digital modes - mostly RTTY, PacTOR and AMTOR. I think I still have a few certificates from the ARRL hanging around somewhere for placing high from NJ in the ARRL RTTY Roundup for three or four years. And there was a period of time when I would spend some time every weekend hunting down Special Event Stations. I have quite a few certificates from chasing those; and some of the certificates are so beautiful that I have them hanging on the Shack wall to this day.

When I go through my log, looking at my activities through all those years, the majority of SSB contacts that I have made were from chasing those Special Event Stations. It seems that only a minority operate in the CW portion of the spectrum. That's kind of sad, as I found working them to be very enjoyable; and I really can't work any of them now as I don't have anything that is SSB capable. (Time to add a new rig? Unless I win the Lottery, I don't think so!)

And the rigs! Like most Hams, I've had my share of different rigs. It's fun to remember the joy and anticipation that occurred with the planning and eventual purchase of a new radio. Over the years, I guess I have had relatively few new rigs. Once I bought something, I tended to stick with it for a while - probably out of loyalty and financial circumstances, too. I have known guys who would change rigs like they changed their socks - almost on a daily basis, it seemed! I could never afford to do that.

During the heyday of RS-10 and RS-12, I was really into operating through those two satellites. I even had a QSO with Great Britain through RS-10 once, which was a rare thing for a Low Earth Orbiting satellite. I never accomplished WAS through satellite, which was a goal; but it was fun, none the less. To this day, there is still nothing quite like the experience of hearing your own signal on the downlink from a satellite orbiting hundreds of miles above your head. Just the thought of what was going on was impressive to me; and it never lost its luster. I wish those two Russian satellites were still up there and operational. I have Bob W3BBO to thank for introducing me to that super exciting portion of the hobby.

Anyway, it was fun remembering all of those things, the events, the activities; but most especially the people - the friends, the personalities; and even the "characters" ( we All know a few of those!). All that being said, I look forward to the coming years, the new friends, activities, and events.

One eye on the past and one eye on the future.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, January 22, 2010

A painless process

I've mentioned before that I had just recently renewed W2LJ and I am good for another ten years. I got the hard copies from the FCC for my wallet and wall just about a week ago.

I wanted to reiterate just how easy it was to do. I renewed in a snap; and believe me, I am no IT wiz. If I can do it, anyone can. The thought of someone paying W5YI some ridiculous fee for doing this pains me. If you'd like to renew electronically; but for some reason are intimidated, then send me an e-mail and I'll do my best to walk you through - gratis.

If you can build a radio, or solder, or put up an antenna, then you can navigate through the FCC's Universal Licensing System. It is literally as easy as pie - pie that you shouldn't have to pay for - unless you have a Vanity Call ! ;)

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Got me a Fox pelt tonight.

40 Meters was quiet tonight. That was good and bad. Quiet from the normal neighborhood QRN is a good thing. Quiet in the lack of hearing any other radio signals is a bad thing!

I tuned up and down the 40 Meter QRP Foxhunt slice; and I wasn't hearing anything. I was starting to sweat with worries about antenna problems; but then I came across some digi signals and some strong CW around 7.016 MHz. So I wandered back up to the hunting grounds to tune around very carefully; and heard Jim NØUR calling "CQ FOX" very weakly. (As compared to Tuesday, when he was one of the 80 Meter Foxes and was absolutely banging into NJ.)




I gave Jim a 449, which was probably more than I should have; and I heard him come back to me with a "QSL" that he had gotten my exchange. They must have good water or something up there in Minnesota, because Jim has an excellent pair of ears!

73 de Larry W2LJ

QRP DXCC

I am now official. My QRP DXCC certificate arrived in the mail today. It was slightly bent by the USPS, even though the League did put a piece of cardboard in the envelope as a preventative. No creases, however, so you will never know once it's safely under glass and framed.


It's a rather neat certificate, although the colors are actually more saturated and brilliant in the little photo above as opposed to the actual certificate. From examining the life sized version, I would hazard a guess that it is an OHR rig that is being used (although I'm probably wrong on that) along with a Micronta power supply (I'm positive on that). I have no idea as to whether the wattmeter being used is homebrewed or commercial. The laptop is running N3FJP's "AC Log" program. The QSL cards on the desk indicate that the operator is AA1GW, although if you go to the ARRL Website and look at the list of QRP DXCC recipients, AA1GW is not listed. Perhaps the QSL cards are just props for the photo. I did notice that I do have one of the cards posted on the wall next to the map. The most upper right hand QSL card is FOØAAA - from the 2000 DXpedition to Clipperton Island. When I worked that DXpedition, it was at 100 Watts and one of the few SSB contacts that I have made in my Ham radio lifetime. I worked Clipperton again in 2008 - TX5C on 40 Meter CW at 5 Watts with the G5RV. Ann Santos WA1S was the op.

Does any of this matter? Of course not. I guess it's just all the years I spent in the professional photography field that get me noticing details like this.

The sunspot numbers do seem to be on the upswing; and I even noticed that some of the solar weather forecasts were calling for radio blackouts due to flares. Once we get into a good steady swing of good propagation, I might be tempted to try this again - but this time QRPp. THAT should get me tearing my hair out!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

K4TWJ - SK

It was with profound sadness that I read the following on QRP-L upon arriving home this evening:

My Fellow QRPers,

It is with a heavy heart that I have to report that Dave Ingram, K4TWJ, became a silent key this morning. He fought hard but was unable to recover from the after effects of the massive heart attack that he suffered on New Year's Eve. I have expressed my heartfelt sympathy to Sandy, WB4OEE, from the entire QRP community but I am sure a card of sympathy to Sandy might help HER in her time of grief. I know I will miss reading Dave's column as I have truly enjoyed the enthusiasm Dave had for everything aspect of QRP. He will surely be missed!

Sandy's address is:

SANDRA W INGRAM

3994 LONG LEAF DRIVE

GARDENDALE, AL 35071

USA

Rex W1REX

I met Dave over the telephone back in the early days of the NAQCC. I am not exactly sure how he got my number, he probably e-mailed me and I gave it to him. When he found out about the NAQCC, he was genuinely enthused and wanted to help publicize this fledgling group devoted to QRP and CW. We spoke several times and a CQ article was the result. I had worked Dave several times on the air after that, usually in a QRP sprint; and never once failed to receive a 'Hi, Larry".

To say he was enthusiastic about QRP and CW would be an understatement of the nth magnitude. He was so enthusiastic that he was infectious. But on top of that he was a true gentleman and a kind soul. He will be forever missed by those of us who shared his passion. His shoes will probably never be filled in exactly the same way.

Requiscat in Pace, Dave.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, January 18, 2010

A bump in the road

I finished the Group 2 Build last night and the receiver section is not working like it should. There are two things I want to redo; and that I think might be the most likely culprits.. First is L1. It did not turn out quite as nicely as I would have liked. The windings are a bit loose and the toroid is a bit "floppy" on the circuit board. I am going to tear that apart and redo it.

Second is U2. I see the 8 pin DIP socket is a bit tilted. I am going to go by Radio Shack and pick up a few spares and will replace it. I noticed that when I took a dental pick; and pressed down on pin 1, that the receiver seemed "livelier". That may be the problem. I was SUPER careful winding and installing T1; so I don't think that's the problem.

In addition to the DIP sockets, I am going to need to buy some solder wick. I only have a couple of inches left on the roll that I have. Even though today is an off day, I will be pretty busy with my two kids. Hope I can make it to the store today.

73 de Larry W2LJ

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Made it to the store and whenever I go to Radio Shack, I always end up wondering why I bothered. They did not have 8 pin DIP sockets; and the clerk didn't even seem to know what I was asking for. "Everything we have for ICs in this drawer". There were some IC's but no sockets. Looks like I'll have to go to the electronics store one day on the way home from work this week.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Solder Smoke

No, not the blog or the podcast - that's what I was busy creating tonight ...... solder smoke! I am almost finished with the Group 2 build on my PFR3A. All I have to do is wind and mount T1 and L1 and C1/2 and make a couple of recommended modifications, and I will be ready for the smoke test.



As you can see from the photo, the upper right hand corner of the circuit board is just about filled. There is something that I discovered in completing the receiver section or Group 2 build that I would like to share with potential PFR3A builders.

There are two places from which you can download the PFR3A construction manual - the www.qrpkits.com Website and the PFR3 Yahoo Groups Website. Download and use the one from the files section of the Yahoo Groups Website. There are a couple omissions in the pdf file from the qrpkits site. Namely, that manual does not mention soldering in R2, which is a 1 MEG resistor and C28, which is a 0.1 uF capacitor. Oh, these are noted on the layouts and the schematic diagram of course; but if you're going to follow the "step by step" procedure - they ARE mentioned in the Yahoo Groups pdf file but NOT in the qrpkits pdf file.

If you're new or newer to building kits, you might not notice the omission. But when you've been doing this kind of thing for a while, and you see blank spots on the circuit board where it looks like components SHOULD go, you tend to dig a little deeper.

73 de Larry W2LJ

New Jersey QSO Party

I received a letter from the Englewood Amateur Radio Association with the results of the 2009 NJ QSO party. The good news is that the EARA received more logs this year than in the past. The bad news is that participation still seemed light.

The top NJ scorer was N2MM from Burlington County. There were no entries from Middlesex County (mea culpa !!!). In fact, it seems that only 7 of New Jersey's 21 counties were represented.

The NJ QSO Party for 2010 is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of August 21st and 22nd. I am going to make a point of putting Middlesex County on the air this year. Maybe a portable QRP effort? Hmmm ..... maybe from the Edison Memorial Tower in Menlo Park, where the light bulb was invented. Back when the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club was in full swing, we operated a special event station from that site. It was a blast.

More about this as August approaches.

73 de Larry W2LJ

It's a terrible thing

when you are tired as all get out; but cannot sleep! I went to bed and awoke about an hour after turning in. I cannot sleep for some reason. I am too bleary eyed to work on the PFR3A and at this hour not much is happening on the bands. So I came and got on the computer for a bit and went to YouTube and typed in "QRP". It's amazing how many QRP related videos are being posted. This one caught my eye.




This video has to represent the ultimate scenario of just about anybody who's ever operated QRP from the Great Outdoors. The scenery here is just so stunningly beautiful. I can only hope to operate from somewhere as breathtaking as this, someday. Thanks, Leif, for sharing your hike with us.

The lateness of the hour is beginning to catch up with me. I think I just might be able to head back upstairs and catch some ZZZZZZs.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, January 15, 2010

Got the new QST

Got the new QST today and while doing a quick perusal, I saw an article on "Ham Radio on the Flight Line". The article is about using Ham Radio frequencies to control model aircraft.

I immediately thought of this YouTube video which I saw on the SolderSmoke blog a few days ago. I showed this to the guy I work with and he was as amazed as I was. I am embedding it here so you can see it (those of you who didn't see it at SolderSmoke). It is worth watching (and posting here)!



Talk about talent and dedication to a hobby! My guess would be that this man worked in the avionics industry but maybe he's just a dedicated aircraft modeler. The thing that is obvious is his passion for detail and accuracy. There are times when this aircraft is flying that you think it's the real Blackbird. And I think this is the first model aircraft that I have ever seen that uses jet engines. From the audio, it sounds like the people in the background are speaking German - so this could have taken place in Germany, Switzerland or perhaps Austria.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A new offering

Just wanted to make sure you all noticed the new addition to the blogroll, "MK1TA's QRP ham radio blog", by Dom Baines MK1TA. My recommendation is that you visit this blog often and spend some time there. Dom is an accomplished builder and his blog is well worth the time spent there. Dom is a treasure trove of information for today's QRP homebrewers. I wish my projects came out looking so good!

On a much more serious note, for those of you out there who are moved by the devastation that has been visited upon the people of Haiti; and you feel that you'd like to help in some way, I'd like to make a suggestion. You might want to consider donating to Cross International Catholic Outreach.

Cross International comes and speaks before our Church community every summer. What impresses me the most about them is that 99% of your donation will go to help the needy. The other 1% goes towards actually transporting the food, medicine, or medical equipment that they provide. Personally, I tire of giving to organizations who claim to help, only to find that their administrators get too healthy a salary, when that money should be going to the needy. With Cross International, you can safely feel that those in need are getting the "biggest bang" from your buck.

I know times are tough here; but what we're going through is nothing compared to the people of Haiti.

One last mention about the blogroll. I try to list the blogs that I feel are worth your time and effort to investigate. There are a lot out there that I haven't discovered yet; but if I do, and I feel that it's a blog worth your time and trouble, I will link to it here.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti and the Foxhunt

After the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that has devastated Haiti, the ARRL announced that 7.045 MHz has been designated as one of the emergency frequencies. As luck would have it, that is right in the middle of Foxhunt territory.

I am awaiting for the Foxhunt committee to show a big dollop of common sense (I am confident that they will) and either postpone tomorrow night's hunt; or move it up in frequency - say 7.100 to 7.200 MHz ?

I have worked Haiti and the Dominican Republic and all over the Caribbean with 5 Watts with no problems. I would hate to think that an enjoyable pastime might be QRMing and hampering some important emergency traffic.

Now is the time to put "games" on the side and to let the real work of emergency relief begin.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Not sure my confidence was well founded as the hunt will go on. The committee has decided to keep a 3 kHz "slice centered on 7.045 mHz" clear. I think I'll spend the evening working on the PFR3A and avoid 7.045 mHz altogether. As a Fox and Hound who has taken good notice of pileup discipline in past hunts, I know that unintentional QRM is way too likely.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nothing tonight

I was at a meeting tonight; and made no further progress on the PFR3A. I did work on it last night and have almost all the capacitors installed in the receiver section. Looks like tomorrow night, I'll be able to finish those; and perhaps get started on a pesky toroid and transformer. I'm kidding, of course, when I term those as pesky. I have enough toroid and transformer winding experience from my K1 and K2. I anticipate no problems.

Still cold here in NJ; but it looks like we might actually catch a break and see the low 40s on Thursday. I think it's supposed to get cold again for the weekend. However, it's a long weekend coming up with next Monday off, so I am really looking forward to that already (only Tuesday!).

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Group 2 progress

I got the chance to spend some time on the Group 2 build (receiver section) of the PFR3A today, between doing other things and going places. Actually, I got about half way done with Group 2. I am going to have to make a run to Radio Shack tomorrow; to hopefully find a BNC connector and some test probe tips. I'd like to make a test cable so that I can hook my frequency counter up to the PFR3A circuit board and make the required calibrations to the receiver section when Group 2 is complete.

I doubt I'll find test probe tips; but maybe some clip leads and the BNC connector will do in a pinch. I'm not looking for elegance; just some functionality. I could swear I already have a cable that would fit the bill. I tore the shack apart looking for it; but no dice. So I'm either dreaming that I have one; or I'll find it AFTER the PFR3A is completed, when I won't need it anymore! That's the more probable outcome.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Freezin' in NJ where it's currently 16F (-9C)

New kit offering

You may have seen this on the QRP e-mail reflectors before; but for those of you who have not, the Arizona ScQRPions are offering a new 80M Transceiver kit for about 50 dollars!

There have been various postings on other blogs and in forums that Ham Radio does not need to be as expensive as some other hobbies. This kit goes a long way to support that hypothesis!


The Fort Tuthill 80


The radio offered as the standard kit will end up looking like the above photo; once completed. The announcement of availability will be made sometime near the end of January. Keep your eyes peeled as the first offering will only be for 100 kits. I'm pretty sure that this will be a quick sell out!



For all the specifications - please click here.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Comments

Guys, please feel free to leave comments on any posts that you wish. I enjoy getting and reading them. However, I've had to turn the "Comments moderation" feature on. It seems someone has been leaving comments in some form of Chinese script. If you clicked on them, you were taken to a spot featuring pornographic materials.

I consider this a "family blog" and I won't tolerate that kind of abuse for a even nanosecond. I want this to be the type of place where Hams can bring prospective new members, especially young folk without having to worry that they might be exposed to inappropriate material. There's way too much of that on the Internet, anyway.

So if you leave a comment, don't be disappointed if you don't see them for a while. I will publish them as soon as I separate the wheat from the smut.

BTW, I have found out who is leaving the spam and I have made a Terms of Service report to Google.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, January 08, 2010

Group 1 Smoke Test ..... passed !!!

I spent just a little time with the PFR3A tonight. I'm more in a mood to relax and read tonight; but I did want to see how the build is going so far. So I soldered in a few more components:


namely the key and headphone jacks and then the on/off switch. Then I inserted U7, the microprocessor. As you can see I also temporarily tack soldered in a battery clip, which was hooked up to a fresh (recommended by KD1JV) 9V battery. I turned the power switch "on" and the display came up just as advertised! And pushing all the push buttons resulted in everything the instruction manual said should happen.

I am going to post a very poor photo here to try and show the display lit up. This was at a very slow shutter speed and is kind of un-sharp and blurry. I sharpened it up as much as my photo software would allow; but I apologize in advance for the poor quality:


But at least you can see the display DOES work as it should. I am a happy camper for now. Tomorrow is shaping up to be a busy day; but I am hoping to begin the Group 2 build tomorrow evening.

We had a tiny bit of snow today, just a dusting. The weekend promises to be very cold with highs only in the 20s both tomorrow and Sunday. It won't reach the freezing point until sometime next week. If we didn't live so close to the ocean, we'd be experiencing the mind numbing cold that the Midwest is enduring!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, January 07, 2010

CERT duty tonight


Tonight was not spent Fox hunting or PFR3A building. Tonight was spent doing CERT duty. Our county sponsored a free H1N1 vaccination clinic for all of Middlesex County and it was held in South Plainfield. After coming home from work for a really quick bite to eat, I headed over to the Police Athletic Building to volunteer my time for a couple of hours. No Amateur Radio was involved; but it was nice to see the other RACES Hams who showed up to volunteer, also.

Our time was spent writing up and handing out "receipts" for those individuals who chose to receive the H1N1 vaccine either by injection or nasal mist. Children under 10 require a second dose, spaced about 30 days after the first. There is going to be another clinic in the county; but it is not definite that it will be in our town again. The advantage of holding such a clinic in South Plainfield is that we are super close to a lot of highways that run through New Jersey; so we are VERY centrally located. The NJ Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, Interstate 287 and US Routes 1 and 9 are all not very far away.

The clinic ran all day from 9:00 AM until 8:00 PM; and just under 1,200 vaccinations were administered.

As we were leaving, our Director of Emergency Management told us that he wanted us to hold another Amateur Radio licensing class sometime between now and summer. He wants the first offering to go to newer CERT members; but anyone from town or neighboring towns will be welcome. I believe that last class we taught was 4 or 5 years ago; so it will be nice to do again. I also think that a couple of the graduates from that first class would also be interested in teaching a session or two; and that helps to free Marv K2VHW and I from giving the class each week.

It is nice to live in a town where the town officials believe in the value of and want to incorporate Amateur Radio into our Emergency Plan.

Just for kicks, I decided to check the FCC's ULS (Universal Licensing System) Website the day after I electronically filed my renewal. Sure enough, W2LJ is now renewed until 2020. Ain't technology wonderful?

73 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Good for 10 more years

My license expires in March of this year. It's hard to believe that I've had W2LJ for 10 whole years now! My son Joey wasn't even born yet - sunspots were much better - I did DXCC Millennium back in 2000!

I went to the ARRL website and clicked on the links for license renewal a few days ago. I was already registered on the FCC's ULS system; but it's been so long since I'd transacted any business that I couldn't remember my password. What didn't help was that I never set up a "Secret Question" with the FCC to use as proof that I was trying to access my own file. So over the weekend, I had to put in an electronic request to set the question up; and today I was able to change my password, and renew my license as well.

Back in 2000, I had to send the FCC a check with a remittance form as W2LJ is a vanity call (L and J being my first two initials). Today I was able to go and enter my credit card info and got it all done in one fell swoop. Viola! About a month ago, I got a letter from the W5YI group, with an offer to renew my license for me for some ridiculous fee. What a waste of money that would have been. It is so easy to do yourself!

I was also able to put in more time on the PFR3A while listening for the 80 Meter Foxes. I am almost done with the Group 1 Assembly. I managed to work one of the Foxes, W8RU too! A good night, all in all.


As you can see (click on the photo to make it larger, then hit the "Back" arrow to come back to the blog) in addition to the resistors, there are now capacitors, diodes, IC sockets, the LED display, push button switches and the 78L05 voltage regulator soldered in.

One error that I have noticed in the instructions - the 78L05 is referred to as U9 on the manual page. On the circuit board silk screen and on the accompanying circuit board layout, it is U5 - not U9. That might lead to confusion; but a simple double check of the circuit board and layout made it clear.

One thing I would advise prospective builders is to NOT install R53 until after installing the LED display. Here's my reason. The LED display only goes in one way; but here's the rub - the instructions tell you to leave some space between the LED display and the circuit board so that the LED's pins stick out only 1/32 of an inch from the back of the circuit board. It would be easy enough to stick in a small sliver of PC board material in there to act as a spacer if R53 wasn't in the way. Without the spacer, you have to solder one pin - set the distance and try to keep everything level. I managed all right; but the PC board material spacer trick would have made it much simpler.

Tomorrow night I have a meeting to attend. Hopefully after that is done, I can come home to solder in a few more components and then perform the Group 1 Smoke Test. I'd continue on tonight; but my eyes are getting a bit bleary.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, January 04, 2010

More progress

I did not get much done on the PFR3A tonight. I did get more resistors and some RF chokes soldered in. Not a blistering pace; but my wife and daughter are off at my daughter's gymnastics class and I didn't want to leave my son all alone while I kept busy in the basement soldering.

He's only nine and he still likes to hang out with Dad. I figure I only have a few years left of this until he becomes a teenager and begins to act like he barely knows me! He'd rather play a game or watch some TV together than watch me melt solder and at this point, I am eager to accomodate.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Prayer need !!!!

This was on QRP-L tonight - Please keep Dave K4TWJ in your thoughts and prayers!

My fellow QRPers,

I received an Email from Sandy the wife of Dave Ingram, K4TWJ, who we all know writes the QRP column for CQ Magazine. Dave suffered a massive heart attack on New Years Eve and his situation is not good. He is at St. Vincent's Hospital, 810 St. Vincent's Drive, Birmingham, AL 35025. I hope some of you can send him your best wishes. I'm not sure if he is in any condition to be able to read them but I know that cards and notes from his readers would certainly be a positive thing! I am an avid reader of his column and would love to be able to continue to read it in the future. My prayers will be with Dave and Sandy.

Rex W1REX

I've corresponded with Dave a few times about matters CW and QRP - he is good people. So if you can, please send him a QSL card at the above address so that he knows we're with him at his time of need.

73 de Larry W2LJ

The solder is a meltin'

After dinner, I took some time to read over the PFR3A manual yet again, to familiarize myself with the order in which things are to be done, etc. Then I plugged in ol' Weller and got some solder melted. I did not get a whole heckuva a lot done; but I did get the first series of resistors in.


There are a few things that I am noticing. The first and foremost is that my eyes are not what they used to be. Since my last "major" builds, I have been prescribed bifocals. I used to use a headband magnifier as a convenience. Now it has become a necessity. Not only does it make component identification easier, it allows me to more easily check for cold solder joints and bridges.

I am not one of these guys who inserts 20 components at a time and then solders them all in. No, I put in a component, solder it, cut the leads and check for cold joints and bridges. I am not the fastest builder in the world; but I do end up having fewer problems with this approach. I've used this method since I built my first Heathkit, an HR-1680 receiver back in 1978 and I'm not about to change now.

As you can see from the photo, I've only soldered in about a dozen resistors or so; but it is a start. It is good to be building again!

73 de Larry W2LJ

First things first

in the New Year; and in kit building.

I finally got some quiet time and was able to inventory the PFR3A kit. This is what everything looked like after I took it out of the box:


You can see the housing, circuit board, battery holders and components bag. Above the printed circuit board is the Hendricks Battery Status Indicator kit. As this stands, it is all well and good; but won't do much unless I put it together!

I used muffin tins and an egg carton to divvy everything up. I think that in the future, I will use egg cartons exclusively as you can close them, which is a good thing when small children and pets abound - less chance for an accident!


It might not look organized to you; but it is to me. I know where just about everything is located and I won't have too much trouble finding anything. Everything was there except for some nylon washers. I will stop by the electronic parts store on my way home from work one night this evening to pick some up. I will buy more than the six that I need. It's always good to have extra.

Hopefully tonight I can begin to install the very first few components. I might do that; or I might spend a little more time reviewing the construction manual. I have found in the past that thoroughly familiarizing yourself with the manual before building leads to fewer surprises during construction.

In any event, the first step of this journey has been taken. Hopefully, a new radio will be available soon; and hopefully I will be able to take you along with me on that journey.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Yet another CW Club

Saw this on the "CW" e-mail reflector yesterday.

A new club has been formed among Amateur Radio operators who are Morse Code (CW) enthusiasts. It is called The CW Operators' Club (CWops). CWops encourages the use of CW in Amateur communications, and it promotes goodwill among Amateurs around the world by planned CW activities. CWops is international in scope, membership and management. Its focus is the use of CW, whether for contesting, DXing or ragchewing. Moreover, it promotes every form of sending -- if it's CW, CWops supports it! For further information, go to www.cwops.org. There you will find everything that you might want to know about CWops, including our bylaws and articles of incorporation, our planned activities, an explanation of how to become a member, and a list of current members.

Jim Talens, N3JT
Secretary, CWops

Sounds good; but this club incorporates the paying of dues - $12.00 per annum; and you have to be nominated by a current member and work three "sponsors" twice within a twelve month period. The nominations process must occur within five months. Then you have to wait 30 days, and then you get the honor of paying your dues and receiving a club roster number.

I guess I am dense; but to me, the whole procedure seems kind of complicated and exclusive. As far as CW clubs go, I'll stick with FISTS, the NAQCC and SKCC and the SOC (which is more appropriate for me!); and as far as QRP goes, I'll stick with the Flying Pigs, QRP-ARCI, and again the NAQCC (encompasses both). If you're interested, however, here's the link: http://www.cwops.org/index.html

73 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's Day

The first day of 2010 turned out to be a relaxing one; as well as kind of warm. It got up into the 40s today - around 43F (6 C), which is warm for this time of year. That's going to change; but more on that later.

We went to Mass as a family and came home and had lunch. Marianne went to visit her Mom for a bit; and then we took the kids to the movies. Joey and Cara had wanted to see "Alvin and the Chipmunks - the Squeakquel"; so we took them. Afterward, we stopped at the diner for dinner; so all and all it was a real nice day.

While Marianne was busy taking care of the visit to her Mom; I took the opportunity to take care of one of those previously mentioned New Year resolutions. I gathered the information for filing for QRP DXCC. It was actually quite easy - easier than I thought it was going to be. In fact, I had all the information I needed completed beforehand; I just didn't realize it.

I went to the "Operating" page of my Website to the table that I have with all my QRP DX contacts. And as it turns out, all the information that I provided in that table is already all the information that the ARRL requires. I highlighted the table and copied and pasted it into an Open Office spreadsheet. I printed it out; along with the QRP DXCC application and now all I have to do is make out a check and pop it in the mail - probably tomorrow. Along the way, I discovered that I had one more DXCC entity worked via QRP.

I went into Win-EQF and did a query to give me all my contacts that were made with less than 6 Watts. I then exported that sort as "QRP DXCC". I then ran a DXCC report on that log and found that I had 102 entities worked - not the 101 that I thought I had. Seems that back in 1994, I had worked C2MV - Nauru, with only 4 Watts. I definitely hadn't remembered that one.

The weather is supposed to get pretty cold overnight and into tomorrow and Sunday. The winds are supposed to kick in also, making it feel colder than it will actually be. The actual highs for tomorrow and Sunday and pretty much all of the coming week should be right at or below freezing.

I am hoping that after taking care of some errands tomorrow morning; that I will be able to spend the afternoon with my magnifying headset on in order to inventory the parts for the PFR3A. I also hope to keep a running dialogue of my progress here.

73 de Larry W2LJ