Sunday, May 30, 2010

Flying with the Owls

Just got finished with the Hoot Owl Sprint for 2010. I put in three out of the four hours. Goes to show you I would NEVER make a Big Gun contester! My butt just can't handle sitting in one place for that long.

0001 W1PID 40M
0002 VE3EZP 40M
00015 K4WY 40M
0020 W8TM 40M
0023 AK4MT 40M
0027 VA3RKM 40M
0033 KD2JC 80M
0035 W2JEK 80M
0047 WZ2T 40M
0103 K4KSR 80M
0108 N8TA 20M
0121 KB1PBA 40M
0132 AE8M 40M
0134 N8TA 40M
0142 KN1H 80M
0142 AI2T 80M
0200 KN1H 40M
0202 AI2T 40M
0235 AA1MY 20M
0247 K2HX 40M
0255 N3KRS 40M

Only two contacts on 20 Meters, although I did hear W0UFO and KT5E well on that band. I tried them both on the G5RV and the HF9V; but neither antenna yielded a QSO. 40 Meters was once again the "money band" with a good amount of activity around both 7.040 and 7.030 MHz. I think Hams are sometimes very slow to break their habits; and the migration to 7.030 from 7.040 is taking place slowly - but taking place just the same.

21 QSOs in 3 hours is not a great pace by any stretch of the imagination; but it's what I ended up with!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend 2010

Memorial Day - the traditional kick off to Summer here in the USA. A weekend full of outdoors, barbecues, picnics, family, friends and traveling. All of these wonderful things, a result of the freedom we enjoy. Freedom bought and paid for with the lives of those brave men and women who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice to keep our nation free.

Enjoy your weekend! But please, keep those men and women in your thoughts and prayers.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Staying up with the owls

Tomorrow (Sunday) night is what I consider to be the kick off to the Summer QRP contesting season.

It's also one of my favorites, the QRP-ARCI Hoot Owl Sprint. This one runs on your local time - 8:00 PM until Midnight, wherever you happen to live.

For details:

Happy Hunting and hope to hear you on the bands - although I see we're heading into a period of geomagnetic disturbance. With any luck, we'll have some decent propagation and some fun.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, May 28, 2010

May fall off

Compared to the first four months of the year, the amount of postings for May has fallen off. It's pretty obvious that I will not even come up with 30 for the month. For the last week or so, my attention has been diverted.

About a week and a half ago, I smacked my foot at work. I don't quite remember whether I knocked it into a wooden pallet; or a steel shelf post. I was busy at the time I did it, and remembered thinking to myself, "That's not going to look pretty in a couple of days". It didn't even hurt until a few days later, and in fact, never even got black and blue. I was walking around with a limp and it was actually getting better.

Wednesday, while mowing the lawn, the same foot went into a hole in the ground that my dog Jesse had dug. It was pretty painful and I could tell that not only did I re-injure the foot; but that it actually hurt more this time around.

I got my carcass over to a podiatrist's office this morning and explained what had happened. She took some X-rays and found out that there were no obvious fractures. However, I did damage to the tendon under my second toe on my right foot.

The cure is elevation and rest and the tendon should heal in about 3 - 4 weeks. Whenever I go out, I have to wear this surgical boot that keeps my foot cushioned and immobile as far as flexing goes. All in all, not a difficult cure. I was told to "take it easy" whatever that means. The only work restriction is that I am not to stand for too long for any one period at a time; and to take frequent breaks. I guess that means that my CERT activity and also the hamfest that I had wanted to go to this weekend are now "no go's".

Fortunately, I can do the Hoot Owl Sprint and the Michigan QRP Club Memorial Day Sprint sitting down.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, May 24, 2010


Looking through my May QST for the umpteenth time, I came across the Silent Key page, only to see that Ed O Donnell, K2YJE has become a silent key. Ed was an "average Joe" Ham, he was not one of your standout celebrity Hams. But what Ed did have was a love of the hobby and the desire to share it. Ed O Donnell taught me how to be a Ham 32 years ago.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was out of school with a full time job. For a long time I had wanted to be an Amateur Radio operator, and the spark ignited during high school; but I did not have the discipline to let the spark develop into a flame. With newly acquired spare time and some disposable income, I was ready! Through the local newspaper, I read about a class being formed on Tuesday evenings at North Brunswick High School as part of their Adult Education program. I signed up and eagerly joined the class. There were about 20 of us there, ranging in age from high schoolers to retirees. Ed made the concepts simple to understand. We were given the ARRL Morse Code class on cassette tapes and between classes we studied and studied and studied some more!

The evening of the test, which was for the Novice class license, we were all a bunch of nerves. Everyone had worked hard and no one wanted to fail. Sensing our nerves, Ed and the other instructor (whose name and call escapes me) gave us a "practice" code test. Needless to say, we all passed and were given our written exam. Back in those days the Novice test was given by General class or higher "Volunteer Examiners" (shades of things to come). Six weeks later, I received an envelope form the FCC in Gettysburg, PA informing me that I was now KA2DOH.

The book we used was "Tune In The World With Ham Radio", which I still have. Leafing though the pages, I can still see my judicious use of red highlighter. And it's a blast to go through this book for some very fond memories:

First picture on Page 7 shows two Hams huddled on a mountain top with an HW-7 or HW-8 hooked to several dry cell batteries. Was this where the QRP seed was planted?

RTTY is shown with a full boat clunker teletype machine with a "printed out" picture of Santa Claus for a demo of RTTY art.

The theory section was still heavily involved with "hollow state" or tube theory that was still the most common at that point.

The advertisement section in the back is the greatest! The Kenwood TS-520-S with the DG-5 auxiliary digital display was the rage! By the way, this rig still had controls for plate current and drive. Other advertisers included ICM (International Crystal Manufacturing), Ham Radio Outlet (with three California locations!), Heathkit (providers of my Novice receiver, the HR-1680), Henry Radio, Harrison Radio, Burghardt Amateur Center (from whom I would buy my first transmitter, the Drake 2-NT), Ameco, Rusprint (still around!), and Morse Code Instructograph among others.

The bottom line is that Ed helped me get my ticket and started me down a long, winding road on which I still travel today. If it wasn't for his help, his enthusiasm and his encouragement, there are a lot of friends, good times and memories that I have now that wouldn't have been. And he taught me one other, valuable lesson .... to take the knowledge that he passed on to me and to share that with others in turn. And that my friends, is the best way to say "Thanks" to your Elmer.

Thank you, Ed and may you always have good DX and great propagation from the Big Shack in the Sky.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Too good to be true?

Looking at my G4ILO propagation box, I see the SSN is up to 15, but more importantly, the solar flux value is creeping a bit higher towards that 75 - 80 mark. Could it be that Ol' Sol is reawakening from the little snooze he's been taking ever since that last geomagnetic disturbance? Values fell like the stock market after that episode. It would be nice to see the values back up there for the "Summer Kick-Off" Sprints next weekend.

The other "buzz" that was generated at Dayton, which I noticed, but failed to report about here (until now), is that Ten Tec has introduced two new trail friendly radios into their line. They look identical to the Chinese HB-1A, with the exception that they are dual band models. You can choose from either 40/20 Meters or 40/30 Meters.

There is no built in tuner; but there is built in "general coverage" receiver coverage between 5 to 16 MHz. The output is 5 Watts, a built in keyer, RIT, built in crystal filters, and a memory that will allow you to store 20 frequencies. The power consumption on receive is a low 55mA or there abouts; and 550 - 950 mA on transmit (depending on your power supply voltage).

The scuttlebutt on QRP-L is that this basically IS the HB-1A. However, to acquire FCC type acceptance to be sold by a US marketer, that the rig had to be reduced to a dual bander and that the output filtering had to be tightened up.

Two of these were awarded that the FDIM banquet., one of each model. Also, these are not kits, they are finished transceivers. The price, as of now, is $249.00.

I definitely would not mind having one of these puppies. According to the Ten Tec Website, they are out of stock; but will be shipping this month.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It goes so fast !

Springtime, that is!

It seems like Springtime started just a few weeks ago; and here we are, almost at the end of May. In the United States, next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, which is the "unofficial" start of the Summer season here in the US. We kick off the season with picnics, barbeques, parades and other outdoor events for a whole weekend of fun. But also intermixed with that fun is a tinge of sadness and reverence, as we remember those from our Armed Forces who made the Ultimate Sacrifice for the United States, freedom and liberty.

Two big QRP events to keep in mind for Memorial Day weekend - the QRP-ARCI Hoot Owl Sprint and the Michigan QRP Memorial Day Sprint. Both are top notch QRP Sprints that are a lot of fun. I have enjoyed operating in both in years past and actually got a certificate once, for placing as top scorer from NJ in the Hoot Owl Sprint. That came as a surprise and I will do my darnedest to repeat that performance this year.

I am looking forward to next weekend as it will be a busy one! I am taking next Friday off to help out with Field Day at my kid's school. I will be behind a grill flipping burgers and hot dogs. Then on Saturday morning, I should be with the CERT group helping out in the statewide high school track meet that takes place in our town every year. I was contemplating going to the Bergen Amateur Radio Association hamfest that morning; but want help out with the public service event, instead. Of course, if the town tells me that they already have enough volunteers, then I can always be persuaded to make the hamfest instead! :)

The only reason that I might not be at the track meet is that the original e-mail looking for volunteers went out on May 10th, and for some reason, my e-mail address didn't make the list. It was only when another CERT member asked me if I was serving, that I became aware of it. I sent the Director of Emergency Management an e-mail volunteering my services. However, it's already 10 days after that original e-mail went out, so I just might be told that there's no room at the inn.

Then the rest of the weekend will be spent playing radio and performing household duties. Let's hope that Ol' Sol wakes up from his nap and starts making with the sunspots and flux again!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, May 17, 2010

The shape of things to come .....

Between the video streams offered by G4GXL at FDIM (in particular the FlexRadio one) and some conversations that I have had with some returning Dayton attendees .... it seems that SDR is now VERY mainstream.

I must admit being a bit behind the times; and not giving it as much due as the subject warrants. But from what I can tell, software defined radio has left the "fad", "niche" and "experimental" stages and has become a force to be reckoned with. When you start hearing some locals (whom I respect) on the repeater say that , "I will never buy a "regular" radio again"; well, that makes you sit up and take notice.

This is a very good thing, of course, as all things should progress. I would certainly like to try one; but I would have to say that the reason that I probably will not at any time in the near future is due to economics and not an aversion to the radios. Too many things that I would like to try; and too little disposable income.

It was interesting to watch the chat room during the FlexRadio presentation. You could actually sense fellow QRPers drooling over these. And some comments were made saying that FlexRadio is the "only way to go" and that products like Genesis were a "waste". Having no idea as to the validity of such claims, it makes you wonder. Are these just the ravings of "fans"; or is there some truth in that?

I'd hate to plunk down coin only to find I had made a wrong decision. Looks like a lot more research is in order. As a confirmed CW curmudgeon, I still get the hankering to get back to the digital modes from time to time. Truth be told, I've never even tried PSK31. While it would be cheaper to buy the SSB board for the K2 and go to town, there is also something appealing about building one of those Genesis 20/30's and giving SDR a whirl.

Decisions, decisions .........

72 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thought so !!!!

At first, I thought it was because every active QRPer is on the way home from Dayton. No one seems to be on the air today! But I see from the G4ILO propagation box that the sunspots are once again at zero and the solar flux is hovering around 70. Pitsy conditions once again.

This solar cycle 24 is once again reminding me of my lawn mower on a bad day .... starts to rumble, sputters out, starts to go again with a shudder, sputters out and so on and so on. Eventually my mower warms up and I get the yard mowed - I wish cycle 24 would warm up for good!

I just realized that tonight is the monthly Run for the Bacon and I will put an e-mail out if I can tear my daughter away from the "main" computer for a few minutes. I am suspecting that a lot of the normal players are traveling today and will be to pooped to pop tonight.

But then again, I may be wrong. I usually am!

72 de Larry W2LJ

New monitor

I awoke this morning, to hear from my lovely wife that "something is wrong with the computer, the screen is all white!". Sure enough, the Dell LCD monitor that I had purchased via eBay two years ago, had given up the ghost. I knew that it had to be the monitor and not the "brand new" computer; but to double check, I plugged it into the netbook to get the same display .... nothing.

I had to go to Target to buy a piece of poster board, so that Joey could finish up his science fair project. While I was there, I decided to see what they had in the way of monitors; and it so happened that they had a very nice Acer 19" monitor on sale. There was one left; so I swapped it up. I very distinctly remembered last year, when they had the great deal on Acer netbooks; and I hesitated, only to lose out. So I guess the old saying is true, "He who hesitates is lost."

We desperately needed the monitor, anyway, as Joey and I had to come onto the Web to print out a nice chart of the electromagnetic spectrum for his science fair display. The project is all done now and is ready to be taken to school tomorrow morning. I hope the first fledgling steps towards a radio hobby have begun. At least the seeds have been planted .... even if they take years to germinate, it will have been well worth it.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Good job, QRP ARCI !!!!

Watching the QRP banquet, I was able to see who got inducted into QRP Hall of Fame this year. Most deserving is Jim Stafford W4QO. I've spoken of Jim before and the honor is "a natural".

The second inductee is most unfortunately, a posthumous entry. I wish Dave Ingram K4TWJ could have been up there to receive the award in person. He will be sorely missed by the QRP community for his infectious enthusiasm.

The third inductee is Rex Harper W1REX. He was a very good friend of K4TWJ, and could best be described as his protege. Rex has that same infectious enthusiasm, is a boon to QRP and is a very deserving inductee!

72 de W2LJ

The radio itself is done

Following plans I found at The Xtal Set Society Webpage, my son Joey and I built a very simple crystal radio out of a Quaker oatmeal box, some wire, a 1N34A diode, a 47K Ohm resistor and a 100 picoFarad capacitor. It works fairly well and we are able to pick up about six AM stations so far during the daytime. That may go up as we get into nighttime.

I helped Joey measure the wire for the coil and to wind it, and I did the soldering. I also made the holes where use of an X-acto knife was needed. Now we have to put it on some kind of display base and explain a little bit about the electromagnetic spectrum and how we can detect the other parts of it other than the visible light portion (a la' the crystal radio).

I am hoping that it will work in the school room for the Science Fair night coming up next Wednesday night. I have my reservations as the rooms are illuminated by fluorescent lights and they might wipe out any reception we are able to get. I am also wondering where we might be able to find a decent ground in the classroom.

Well, it worked real well in the shack, anyway!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, May 14, 2010

You can tell it's Dayton weekend

It is amazing to see the dwindled amount of posts to the QRP reflectors. I guess the most prolific posters are busy this weekend at Dayton.

I missed the Elecraft presentation tonight; as I was watching "D2: The Mighty Ducks" on the Hallmark Channel with my son. He got a kick out of watching kids play ice hockey.

I suppose that after the hoopla is over; and when everyone is safe and sound back home, we will inevitably see some Dayton reports pop up on the QRP reflectors. They will be interesting to read. If the Webcasts that I have watched are any indication, then everyone is having a superb time. Even though I have never had the good fortune to attend an FDIM, my hat is off to QRP-ARCI and the organizers for their outstanding effort year after year.

Tomorrow, my son and I are going to build a crystal radio as part of his school science fair project. I will try and post some photos; and will let you know how it turned out.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Excellent observations

If you are a reader who does not take advantage of the list of other Amateur Radio blogs that I have on the side here, make sure to at least read this one:

It's worth reading.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Almost as good as being there.

Steve G4GXL is setting up some live streams from FDIM. I just finished watching a presentation given by FlexRadio.

Keep your eye on:

Go to
Choose Members Streams
Choose G4GXL

I have no idea what the schedule is; but there is going to be some more streaming from Vendor Night, and tomorrow night at 8:30 PM EDT, he will stream the Elecraft presentation.

72 de Larry W2LJ

A new organization

I went to my first RVRC meeting last night - Raritan Valley Radio Club. This is the other repeater group that I was considering joining. I submitted my formal application and began the process. Not that I'm that much into repeater operating; but it is nice to have someone to talk with on the way to and from work. Also, as a side benefit, a lot of the Hams who used to belong to the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club also belong to the RVRC.

Again, my timing is impeccable as I am joining in the midst of a complete repeater overhaul. This item of discussion dominated the agenda last night, It seems that the 2 Meter repeater, the 440 MHz repeater and the antenna ALL need replacing! A vote was taken and approved to buy two Icom repeaters, and have the 2 Meter antenna that is currently in place swapped out with the club spare. The hopes is that the main antenna, which is a sort of folded dipole can be repaired from a "near" lightning hit. It is thought that while the antenna was not directly hit, that some of the internal elements got damaged by the lightning just hitting close enough.

In any event, my application has to be read at a second meeting and a vote taken. If I am approved, I am sure they will be more than happy to accept my dues money, given the current financial situation.

On a lighter side, I was not lucky enough to win the meeting's 50/50 drawing; but I did win a copy of the 2010 ARRL Handbook on CD that someone had donated. Not quite the same as winning the grand prize at Dayton; but nice nonetheless.

Several other blogs have mentioned the annual "Pee and Moan Fest" that always seems to accompany the Dayton Hamvention. I've gone there enough times to experience the best and the worst. However, if I was given the chance to go back (and could afford to), I would do so in a heartbeat. Dayton is something that EVERY Amateur Radio op should do at least once in their lifetime. Those who can go should enjoy the ride and not complain so much. There are plenty of us out here who would change places with you quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.

Not much more than that. Now that Spring is here and the pollen abounds, I am feeling quite miserable. I think it will be an early night tonight.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No answer from the ARRL

A couple of weeks ago, I sent the ARRL (they don't seem to want to be referred as to The League anymore) an e-mail concerning their new, spiffy, redesigned, 21st century Website. I have mentioned on this blog before how the new site does not list the holders of QRP DXCC, like the old site used to. So I decided to ask them about it. Just a polite query ..... was this an oversight that would return?

I guess that since I am only a Life Member; and not Icom, Kenwood or Yaesu or anyone from the industry that I should not hold my breath waiting for an answer. I appreciate the certificate (that I paid for); but would really like to see the listing of award holders. And lest you think this is a vanity thing ...... while I would like to see my callsign there, I am really more interested in seeing which of my friends have also earned the award.

The regular DXCC award, which is of course way more prestigious, still has the complete listing of those who have earned it. I can only imagine the ruckus that would have ensued had that been eliminated!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, May 10, 2010

Adventures in building

If you followed my blog and the PFR3A build with any interest; then I have another for you. No, it's not one of my builds .... I won't put you through another run of my trials and tribulations! This time I offer you the chance to watch the efforts of a much more skilled and courageous builder than I, Guy N7UN.

I added Guy's blog to the blogroll about a week ago. It's titled N7UN Adventures and Ham Radio Activities. It's a great blog by a Ham who is very much into portable QRP operations. But in addition to his regular postings, Guy is chronicling his progress in building one of Steve Weber's ATS-4 transceivers. It is a separate page located off the main blog; and it is titled, appropriately enough, "My ATS-4 Build Project". Click on the title and it will take you right there.

So far, it looks like Guy is making great progress and I expect he will have his new transceiver built in "no time". The ATS-4 is supposed to be the next step up from the ATS-3B which had phenomenal success; and was extremely popular. I am sure that Guy will have a superb transceiver when all is said and done.

SMT building is not the easiest; but at the same time, not the hardest. It's just different. If you have some kitbuilding or homebrewing experience; and you've been thinking about taking the SMT plunge, then be sure to follow Guy's progress.

On another note, I recently purchased a new NiMH battery for my Alinco DJ-V5 off of eBay. I got it at a real good price - less than $35 - and got it through the mail last Friday. I charged it up and have had it powering my handheld since. So far it has lasted through three days of monitoring (not too much transmitting) and am pleased. And it looks like it still has a good amount of juice left in it before it will need to hit the charger again. So it looks like I have two good batteries for the 144/440 MHz HT and two good batteries for the 144/220 MHz HT. Looks like I will be in "handheld heaven" for the next while to come.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Barnes & Noble - think twice!

This is not related to Amateur Radio in any shape, way or form; but it might be something you might like to keep in the back of your mind.

I had an unpleasant experience at Barnes & Noble. I hope none of you ever run into this; but you might want to think twice before you purchase books from them with the intentions of giving them as gifts.

My sister bought three books from her local Barnes & Noble back on April 13th. One was for our mom to be given as a Mother's Day gift, while the other two were bought for me as a birthday gift. It became apparent to my sister that the one she bought for our mom was a duplicate. Our mom already has the book; so my sister went back and exchanged it for another.

She gave the other two books to me for my birthday last week; and as luck would have it, I had them also. She included the receipt as she suspected I might already have them. Normally you would think that this was no problem.

I took the books to our local Barnes & Noble and explained what happened. I didn't want a refund, just some other books. I was told that since the original purchase was over 14 days old; and that one of the books from the original purchase of three had already been exchanged, that I was out of luck. It did not matter that these were purchased as a gift. The information on the back of the receipt mentions a 60 day period of return for gift purchases! That was from the person behind the register. Speaking with the manager/supervisor yielded no further result; just a parroting of the company line that I received from the young woman behind the register.

This is highly disappointing; and in my opinion is pretty poor customer service. I will find it VERY hard to step into a Barnes & Noble for a very long time. I suppose there's always Borders or some other stores to go to; or even for that matter.

I fired off an e-mail to the Customer Service department that I found at the Website; but I am not holding my breath for any response or happier outcome. So be very careful when you go to purchase gifts for your friends and loved ones at Barnes & Noble. If you buy it too early, you just might find out that you wasted your money.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, May 07, 2010


Migrating the information from has been a bit more involved than I thought. But so far, I have moved over the more important pieces of the "Station W2LJ", "Morse Code", and "QRP Contesting" pages. This is a work in progress to consolidate the information here so as to eliminate hopping between blog and Website.

On the other hand, I have figured out more of the quirks of my new Wouxun 144/220 MHz handheld. There is a menu - Menu 21 that lets you choose between VFO and memory modes. The difficulty that I was having was in realizing that in the manual "Frequency Mode" = "VFO Mode" and that "Channel+Frequency Mode" = "Memory Mode".

But on the whole I am impressed with this little radio after just a few days. The price was right, and the audio output is great, and it's not all that hard to use. I like the heftiness and sturdiness of my Alinco DJ-V5; but the Wouxun will serve well as the 220 MHz radio and as a 2 Meter radio backup.

This weekend, if I get the time (it being Mother's Day weekend), I would like to try downloading the free software for programming the radio's memory channels using one of my PCs and the cable that I purchased for the purpose. The only thing I have to do beforehand is locate one of my ARRL repeater directories. I had one in the car; but I went looking for it in the glove-box and console storage area, only to find that I had moved it somewhere else. The problem is that I can't remember where that somewhere else is!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, May 06, 2010

220 MHz solutions

As you've read here before, I have been searching for a 220 MHz solution. For CERT and Emcomm use, 220 MHz is ideal as it is a WAY underutilized band in these parts. I am quite content with my Alinco DJ-V5 144/440 MHz dual bander; but was thinking of selling it in order to purchase the Kenwood Tri-band handheld. Seeing that as a bit cost prohibitive, I then started thinking about purchasing an Alinco 220 MHz monoband HT.

I started discussing this with Tim AB2ZK, one of my fellow VE partners at the test session last night (who also happens to be a Kenwood Tri-band owner). He made me aware that one of the candidates happens to be selling Wouxun Chinese manufactured VHF/UHF handhelds at some really great prices.

So I waited until the session was over and approached him about it. Sure enough, he still had several of the 144/220 MHz models left (in his car); and asked me if I was interested? It turned out that the radio, the KG-UVD-1P (which comes with two antennas and a drop in charger), an extra battery and a programming cable came to quite substantially less than either option I was previously contemplating.

Figuring out some of the basics was quite intuitive and easy and I was able to quickly program in my repeater club's 144 MHz and 220 MHz repeaters. I even managed to figure out how to store them into memory rather easily. What I am not having an easy time figuring out is how to switch from VFO mode to "memory" mode. It's not quite as easy as other handhelds as I don't see any buttons marked as "mem". The manual is pretty good; but not the absolute greatest. The fact that I can be thick as a brick at times doesn't help matters, either. Looks like I'll have to do some Web surfing to see what other Hams have figured out.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

VE session

I attended a VE session this evening, to help out an old friend Drew W2OU. This session was the culmination of an Amateur Radio class that was offered by Jeff AC2X. There were 12 candidates taking exams and Drew wanted some extra VEs on hand to grade tests, sign 605 forms, Certificates of Successful Completion, and in general keep things flowing.

It was a nice session with a variety of tests being given - Technician, General and Extra. I wish I could say that every single candidate passed; but the majority did. And those that didn't were very upbeat and were eager to find out where and when the next local exam session would be held.

Drew is an experienced VE and runs a nice, tight ship. The session was run in a well organized, well thought out, thorough and efficient manner. It was nice to "get back in the saddle" via his test session; and I look forward to doing this again in the near future.

By the way, you might notice at the top of the page, I have added headers for new pages. Over the next few weeks, I am going to migrate most of the information from to here. I will weed out the old and will add some new stuff as well. This way, everything will located all at one handy place, rather than have people shuffle back and forth from somewhere else.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, May 03, 2010

Planting the seeds

My children know very well about my fascination and passion for Amateur Radio. They probably just thing of it as a "Dad thing", without much meaning for them. But that just might change.

It is time for my 9 year old son to come up with a project for this year's science fair in school. He was a little undecided about what to do when I started explaining to him about the electromagnetic spectrum; and how there are other parts of it besides light.

That's when we got to the part about radio waves; and I asked him if he'd like to build a radio that wouldn't need batteries out of simple household objects. His interest was piqued and now we have a project to work on together.

Hopefully, it will go over well; and maybe, just maybe a few radio seeds will be planted for future cultivation.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Oh man!

I was sitting on 30 Meters listening to ZB2FK, Erne from the Rock of Gibraltar. I've never worked Gibraltar before and Erne had a pretty good signal without too much of a pileup. I was excited, stoked and ready to go.

That's when I got the call from upstairs that there was something wrong with one of the toilets. Nothing major - just where the water fill valve is, the fitting needed tightening as there was a small leak and water was ponding on the floor. I managed to take care of it quite quickly and figured I'd give Erne another shot before cleaning up the mess.

By the time I got back to the basement, as luck would have it, he was going QRT. I tried sending my call anyway; but got no answer. Probably my 5 Watts wasn't making it with the disrupted band conditions due to the solar flares.

Gibraltar would have been a new one; and it's not very often heard. Too bad Murphy struck with his illustrious timing to mess things up!

72 de Larry W2LJ

That was close !!!

I mowed the lawn today and almost experienced the nightmare. The lawn mower kicked up something and I saw the coax to my Butternut move !!! Oh, no !!! It turned out that I seriously lucked out. The PVC jacket took a very slight hit, but only enough to allow me to see the underlying shield braid. The braid itself is undisturbed, there was not enough damage done to do any damage. I covered the PVC nick with a thorough covering of electrical tape. I will replace the coax before winter; but for now there is no immediate danger.

I've gone over that spot hundreds of times with the mower and never came close to hitting the coax. I don't know why that happened today. I placed the coax closer to the fence hoping that this will eliminate a further problem. When I eventually put down the new coax, I might also purchase a quantity of those 3M sticky plastic hooks to attach to the fence in order to support the coax 1 - 2 inches above lawn mower level. It is a costly error when this occurs.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Solar Weather

It appears that ol' Sol is having a bit of a conniption today.

According to, there is a nest of unstable magnetic fields near the Sun's northeastern horizon. The central area of this activity does have a dark core; but has not been officially declared a sunspot just yet. C-class flares are emanating from the area. There is aurora alert for the higher latitudes for tomorrow.

Courtesy of

Maybe things are starting to heat up again? Sorry, but that pun WAS intended!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Thinking of possibilities.

There are several 220 MHz repeaters here in Central NJ with fantastic coverage that are very underutilized. Our CERT group is thinking of relying on the the ETS 220 MHz repeater as an alternative to simplex for use during civic events. We participate by providing back up communications during the annual Labor Day parade and fireworks, the annual Statewide High School track meets which are held in our town and other events.

I have an Alinco DJ-V5 which is several years old; but is in solid shape. However, it is dual band only - 144 and 440 MHz. I like it a lot and don't really care to get rid of it. But I was thinking of saving up the necessary coin to purchase a Kenwood TH-F6A - which goes for around $285.00 depending on where you look. The advantage? 144, 220, 440 MHz in one, neat package. A full 5 Watts out on each band. The disadvantage? $285.00 for a cash strapped Ham.

The other possibility that has recently crawled through the recesses of my brain is perhaps to look into an Alinco DJ-V27T - a mono band 220MHz HT - a full 5 Watts out for about $169.00. The disadvantage - having to carry around 2 HTs. Although I suppose in a "go bag" that wouldn't be such a big deal. However, different kinds of batteries, different kinds of chargers .... but financially, it's the more attractive solution. However, it's not as convenient or elegant a solution.

I have plenty of time to think about it though, as the Ham budget is currently at zero bucks.

72 de Larry W2LJ