Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I am one of the 20 Meter Foxes tonight!

I know this is short (very short) notice in blog land; but I am the 20 Meter Fox tonight in the QRP-L Foxhunt. If you have NEVER given this a shot ..... it's entertaining and fun!

Here's the deal. Tonight, between 0100 and 0230 UTC, I will be hiding somewhere between 14.050 and 14.070 MHZ. I will be calling "CQ FOX DE W2LJ UP". This will be to indicate that I will be listening up from my transmit frequency. Exactly how far up is for you to figure out.

If I hear you, I will answer (for example):

KB9BVN DE W2LJ TU 559 NJ LARRY 5W BK (RST/State/Name/Output Power)

You would answer (if you were KB9BVN):

TU 559 IN BRIAN 5W BK (Same exchange)

Then I would answer:

TU DE W2LJ CQ FOX DE W2LJ UP

If any fills are needed I would ask you for them. Getting involved in these hunts is not only fun; but it's good CW practice and it's good pile-up practice. If you can get the hang of how to consistently nab Fox pelts, then you're going to increase your odds of getting through (eventually) in the big DX pile-ups. Listening well and figuring out when and where to call are half the battle.

So if you have some time tonight; and want to have some fun, try and grab my pelt. Or perhaps you might want to listen. By the way, there are always two Foxes. Rene K5JX will be my partner in crime tonight. Give a listen for him, too!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, August 30, 2010

It may get wet

later this week - a lot wet!

It's too early to tell yet; and hurricanes are notoriously unpredictable, but it looks like Hurricane Earl might hug the Eastern Seaboard as it treks north this week.


Courtesy of AccuWeather.com

For more on Earl, you can go to AccuWeather.com.

On a lighter note, my bag of 12 fiberglass mast sections, which I got through eBay, arrived in the mail today. I haven't given them a good examination yet; but I can only wonder what the letter carrier must have thought. The olive drab bag is labeled, in official military lettering: "CAMOUFLAGE SCREENING SUPPORT SYSTEM WOODLAND/DESERT" with all kinds of official serial numbers and stuff. He probably thinks he's delivering to a survivalist or something. Next thing you know, I'll be put on some kind of watch list !!!! (Just joking!) Actually from when I served with Middlesex County Emergency Management back in the 1980's, I already have State Police and FBI dossiers opened on me from background investigations- so this would be nothing new.

Secondly, Jim W1PID posted another New Hampshire QRP outdoors story. You can read it here. These are always worth reading and really get the "Outdoors QRP" juices flowing! Truly, I think Jim has the outdoors "concept" nailed - his success rate proves this. A small transceiver and a wire, battery and key. I know for a fact that from time to time, I get too caught up in the trappings, worrying too much about the equipment and what to bring. The simpler, the better. KISS holds true to form here; and I think that's a lesson that I personally need to pay better attention to.

Last week, I got around to replacing the AAA battery holder in my AA0ZZ keyer that I got from the Four States QRP Group. The original that came with the kit kind of fell apart; or maybe I applied too much heat when originally installing it. The replacement that I ordered from Jameco arrived last week. I got it all re-wired and finally applied the decal that I made. By they way, that Inkjet decal paper works wonderfully! I highly recommend it.




Lastly, the next project will be to return back to my ATS3B and figure out why it's not working. I'm not sure I even remember from when I last worked on it so many months ago. I hear the "ATS-2" message in the headphones when I power it up. I also managed to calibrate the Reference Frequency Oscillator tonight to exactly 10.000.000 MHz. If I remember correctly, I had problems when I got to the Local Oscillator frequency trim step.

In any event, I am buoyed by the success I eventually had in getting the PFR3A to work. Even though I had a lot of help, I eventually got that to work; so I can probably get this to work - given enough time and research. I always have the ATS Yahoo Group archives to search for clues.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

2X QRP DX QSO

As things turned out, I did not get the opportunity to head out to the local park with my PFR3A, Fuchs tuner and 69 foot hunk o' wire. I wanted to get the wire up in the tall trees and see how the QRP Project Fuchs tuner behaves. Maybe one day this week or over the long Labor Day weekend.

But I did get some on air time this afternoon, listening for John K3WWP and Mike KC2EGL who were doing a portable outing from a park in Kitanning, PA. As it turned out, I never heard them. But I did go on 20 Meters for a bit and called CQ near the QRP watering hole.


Nyaregyhaza, Hungary


My effort was greeted by a call from Laci HA7UG in . Laci was a solid 579 into New Jersey and I received a 569 report back. Laci and I were both at the 5 Watt level. We exchanged the basics and then the QSB started bothering us, of course!

The only thing better than a DX QSO is when it's a two way QRP DX QSO! It's amazing to think of 5 Watts travelling over all that water and land. It works out to be only 881 miles per Watt; but it's still quite a feat in my book.

Other than the QSO with Laci, it was very quiet on the bands today. There were no major CW contests going on; or at least I didn't hear much in the way of activity. 40, 30 and 20 Meters all seemed very quiet today - almost dead.

So I shut down the station, and Marianne and I took Joey and Cara to the community pool for a few hours. It reached 93F (34C) here today; and they really enjoyed it. Then when we got home, I got a surprise when I checked my e-mail and saw one from my good friend, Bob W3BBO in my In Box. He wrote to tell me that he saw that I was on 20 Meters working DX stations. I was taken aback as to how he could have possibly have known that; when I further read that he was checking out the DX Clusters this afternoon and saw that Laci had spotted ME! First time I've ever been the DX!

Cool beans!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

It has often been said

that when one door closes; another opens.

So - I have added to the blogroll and introduce to many of you, a new one. New at least, in the sense that it's new to me and may be new to you as well.

The blog is entitled "KIX-Online" authored by Johnathan KB1KIX. It is full of good and practical and useful stuff.

Enjoy!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oh, man !!!!

I note the "passing" of three Amateur Radio blogs on the blogroll.

For some time now, Jeff Davis KE9V has not posted any new entries to his blog; but he has kept up with new entries of his "Cornbread Road" audio series. And although I very much enjoy "Cornbread Road", I also miss Jeff's written posts. From his writing, I can tell that Jeff and I are on opposite poles of the political spectrum; but he is a very talented writer; and I respect his opinions - no matter how much they differ from mine.

And now today, Dick N2UGB and Paul PA0PSY have announced they will no longer commit pen to paper; or fingers to keyboard, whichever you prefer. While I regret their decision; I respect their reasoning and feelings. There are days when this isn't the easiest thing to do. It requires motivation and inspiration to keep it from becoming stale. You want to write about what interests you; and at the same time you don't want to bore the people who are visiting your blog. There are days when you definitely feel that you have "said it all" and it begins to feel pointless. But then there are other days when all you want to do is share your experience about that new mode you tried, that new kit you bought or built, that new country you worked, that great ragchew you just had ........

I look at it this way, if I ever feel this is becoming old, I will probably just post less with more breaks in between. I think sometimes bloggers fall into the trap of "quantity vs. quality". I know I fall into that trap myself, too. But I am still passionate about Amateur Radio and I hope that I can somehow share that with other folks - especially "the newbies". If you haven't tried doing this - give it a shot for a while! Blogger and WordPress are free. You don't have to be Shakespeare or Hemingway. All you have to have is some enthusiasm and a desire to share.

I will keep all three blogs listed on the blogroll for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, Jeff, Dick and Paul might get a burst of inspiration to write about something from time to time. Here's hoping to see more posts from these gentlemen - even if they don't come as often as they used to!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

160 Meter capable

My K2 is now 160 Meter capable - but not without a few heart stopping moments along the way - all caused by myself, of course.

I've posted previously about my phobia with opening up the K2. My philosophy is, "If it ain't broke don't fix it" or put another way, "Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane?". But, if you want to add options to a K2, you have to open it. I guess another way of putting it is, "If you want to make mayonnaise, you have to break some eggs". So I took a deep breath and proceeded to crack a few eggs.

In whole, the procedure wasn't as bad as I had feared. I installed the 160 board without any difficulty. As it turned out, all I had to do was remove one jumper from the K2's RF board, add three capacitors and do the actual physical installation of the board. I was lucky enough that my K2 is of recent enough vintage that I did not have to swap out two designated capacitors on the RF board. The existing ones were of the right value. I don't enjoy replacing components. Too much chance to do damage to the circuit board - and that's with 22 years of electronics repairs under my belt. I've seen "simple procedures" turn into deep doo-doo.

The alignment, such as it was, was a piece of cake. Using my OHR Wattmeter, I was able to peak L3 and L4 for maximum power output on both 80 and 160 Meters. If I so desire, I can go past 10 Watts out on both bands without breaking a sweat.

The bad things started happening when I started buttoning things back up. The first piece to be put back together was what Elecraft calls the heat sink. The K2's two PA transistors attach to this sheet o' metal (which also acts as part of the housing) in order to transfer heat away from themselves. However, there are two fiber spacers that go between the transistors and the circuit board in order to insure that the transistor bodies A) stay away from the circuit board and B) stay close to the heat sink. Of course, in the process of putting things back together, one of the two fiber spacers went into orbit.

I got out the heavy duty flashlight and checked the basement floor for what seemed like an eternity. I checked my pockets, I checked my socks, I checked my sneakers, I checked everywhere, to no avail. Then I did what some "Old School" Catholics do when they lose something. I said a short prayer to St. Anthony, to ask for his aid in helping find this minuscule piece of insulating collar. In a short while, I was hit with an inspiration. What if the darned thing had never hit the floor? I decided to check the pockets of my antistatic mat. Sure enough that's where the little bugger landed! No need to call Elecraft and wait for a week while new ones were delivered. Thanks, St. Anthony!

Having everything put back together - heat sink, bottom cover, top cover - I connected the antennas, plugged in the key and external power supply. I turned the unit on and ....... no receive audio! What the ........ ??????? (Break out the defibrillator, Honey!) Plugging in headphones ensured me that I was still able to hear received signals; but ...... ????? I disconnected the top cover completely and ran a 9 Volt battery across the speaker terminals. I heard the satisfying crackle which indicated that I had not somehow damaged the speaker. But that probably couldn't be anyway, as I was not getting anything from either the internal or my external speaker.

Slow down, take a deep breath and figure out what's wrong. The thing was working a half hour ago - what stupid thing did I do? It had to be something stupid that I had done.

Sure enough, it was.

When plugging in the wires for the speaker, I had placed the connector on the two pins where you would hook up the internal battery - if I had one! I removed the connector and placed it where it was supposed to go and viola' - sweet audio came racing out of the speaker(s) both internal and external depending on which I had chosen. (You can take the defibrillator back to the hospital, Honey!) I was listening to N1ZZ call "CQ DX" via CW for a few minutes and then went up the band a ways and went into LSB mode to listen to some ragchewing. Everything sounds great! I can even get the K2's internal ATU to get the G5RV down to about a 1.3:1 SWR. But I'm not kidding myself into thinking that that's a long term working solution. Gotta get that 160 Meter vertical built before winter sets in - but I'm sure that will be another story.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

20 Meter Foxhunt fun!

Wow, what a rush!

The two Foxes for tonight were Paul NG7Z in Washington and Sam N4SAM in Alabama. As I thought, Paul turned out to be the easier pelt to snag. He had a good signal into NJ (especially with the ALC off!) and I managed a QSO at 0133 UTC.

I thought that was going to be it for the evening. I thought that Sam in Alabama was too close to New Jersey for a 20 Meter QSO, and for a long time I couldn't even hear him - or the pack chasing him.

But, as QRPers are fond of saying, patience pays off. During the last half hour of the hunt, I started hearing Sam. He was very weak; but his signal strength began taking an upswing. So I started calling, and calling, and calling.

I finally decided to switch antennas from the HF9V to the G5RV, even though I could hear Sam better with my vertical. So I began a sequence where I would transmit via the wire; and then would hit the K2's antenna switch button to go back to the vertical for receive. With four minutes left in the hunt, I managed a QSO with Sam! I was only a 449; but hey, we made a complete exchange of information and it counted.

A minor accomplishment, I guess, in the big picture of things; but it sure was fun to achieve something that was difficult!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

NAQCC does itself proud

I was reading John K3WWP's daily "diary" like a lot of you; when I came upon the posting where John relayed how the NAQCC gifted him with a straight key and a Begali paddle.

Way to go NAQCC !!!

If there ever was a booster of that organization, it is definitely John. Tom WY3H conceived the idea, and he and John brought it to fruition, and have made it the success that it is. And that is in no way denigrating the contributions made by the NAQCC volunteers who shared Tom and John's vision and also helped in making the Club as successful as it is.

What started with just a few Hams now numbers more than 4,600 devotees to QRP and CW. And the monthly Sprint is regularly raking in over 100 log entries a month. If there's another monthly QRP Sprint that gets that amount of entries each month, I'm not aware of it - although the closest that I can think of is probably the monthly ARS Spartan Sprints.

And John's daily QRP CW streak is now in its 16th year if I'm not mistaken. Between that effort and his efforts put forth for the NAQCC, it's obvious that John "walks the walk" and doesn't just "talk the talk" where QRP is concerned. A worthwhile consideration for the QRP Hall of Fame, as far as I'm concerned!

Anyway, it did my heart good to see the organization honor John in such a fashion.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another decent deal

Not as good a deal as the fiberglass poles; but another decent one, nonetheless.

The Harbor Freight catalog came through the mail today and what caught my eye immediately was a 180 Watt soldering gun for $8.99 - Item 04328-1DKN.
Not that I am going to have a daily use for it; but this should come in handy for quick antenna wire splices; as well as soldering PL-259s. And for $8.99 plus shipping, it's one of those deals where sometime in the future, I would have smacked myself in the forehead for not getting it.

It is way easier to do PL-259's with a soldering gun than an iron. It is possible to use an iron; but it has to be a hefty one, and it takes a long time to build up enough heat. Then, you always have it in the back of your mind if the solder connection was good enough (at least I do). Whenever I have done a PL-259 with a soldering gun, I have never had one fail. And if I hope to get this 160 Meter antenna project done before winter, this baby will come in handy.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

NJ QSO Party - "Chirp, chirp, chirp"

Maybe I should emulate the wise cricket to the left; and should consider the NJ QSO Party to be a SSB event. Because QRP and a paddle don't seem to be cutting it!

I have been calling "CQ DE NJ DE W2LJ" for close to two hours now on both 40 and 20 Meters alternately; and all I've gotten is diddly squat. All I seem to be hearing is Mr. Cricket's chirps coming back at me.

Maybe it's just crummy propagation; as I don't hear much on either band, really. Maybe the bulk of activity happened yesterday and I'm just shoveling sand against the tide.

Maybe I'll try a little bit more, later. If you happen to hear someone calling "CQ DE NJ" on either 7.035 MHz or 14.035 MHz, that may be my lone voice crying out in the wilderness.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Very slow going

in the QRP ARCI SK Memorial Sprint.

So far in 45 minutes of operating, I have worked the following - N4BP (as always!), AB7AN, NT9K, K0LWV, K9IS all on 20 Meters. 40 Meters is nice and quiet - but no activity there.

I don't know if it's a case of crummy propagation or just a lack of participation; but it's definitely not hopping. If this keeps up, I think I'll pull the plug way before the 1800 UTC official end time.

I have heard K7TQ, Randy in Moscow, Idaho; but the QSB has been really bad and so far he's been between 549 and ESP. I know I can't be much better. I also heard and tried to work Kelly K4UPG, who is the author of one of the blogs in my blogroll. Kelly was about 449 to New Jersey and I tried working him on both the G5RV and the Butternut HF9V - but no dice.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Note: Added K4JPN and N5URL on 20 Meters and K3HX on 40 Meters to the total. Pulled the plug at 17:30 UTC - have to get the grocery shopping done!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Good deal !

Hey, I may get that 160 Meter vertical built before winter, yet!

Take a look at this deal on eBay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=160456742675&ssPageName=ADME:X:eRTM:US:1123

A set of 12 pieces of 4 foot interlocking fiberglass poles for $7.00 plus shipping! The deal came down to less than $26.00. Let's see ..... if I put eight of these together, it will probably come to about 30 -31 feet total height. The lowest price I was able to find a 31 foot Jackite pole was $60 without shipping!

I found this via K1TP's website.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

QSO with W2DEC

Urb LeJeune has been trying to have an SKCC QSO with me for a bit now. Due to whatever scheduling conflicts that have stood in our way, we were unsuccessful until tonight. Tonight we hooked up on 80 Meters and exchanged SKCC info. Urb is one of the co-founders of the North Jersey DX Association; and to be invited to a QSO with him was indeed an honor.

Urb hooked me up to a cool spotting page, authored by K3UK. Oddly enough, it's called the K3UK Sked Page and you can find it here. If you're a QRPer, FISTS member, SKCC member or non-member to any group, I think you'd find this a very useful tool for spotting yourself when you want to scare up a QSO on those days when you just can't seem to find anybody around. Needless to say, it worked pretty well! I posted that I was QRV on 3.550 MHz and the QSO with Urb was quickly followed by two more. Neat!

If Ham Radio is like fishing; then spotting yourself is like using a fish finder!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Busy weekend

I was going to install the 160 Meter board in the K2 tonight; but I'm a bit on the tired side from a tough day at work.

But the weekend looks like a good opportunity to get some "on air" time in. Tomorrow morning is the QRP ARCI SK Memorial Sprint, which last from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM EDT. I hope to spend some time in this one.

Then, later in the afternoon, starting at 4:00 PM is the NJ QSO Party. I will put Middlesex County on the air with my blazing 5 Watts and will attempt to hand out as many QSOs as I can, tomorrow and Sunday.

I will actually submit my scores this time, no matter how appalling they turn out to be! ;) I just hope that propagation is with me and that the bands are open.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stupidest thing I've ever done

in my 30+ years in Amateur Radio?

There have been a few; such as frying the finals in my SB-104A, buying used gear that turned out to be dogs. I once bought a Kenwood R599 receiver that some idiot had tuned the 10 Meter band for CB ..... but I managed to rectify that.

Without a doubt, the stupidest thing I have ever done, in my own mind, was to sell my Heathkit HW-8. Back in the 90s, I donated it to one of the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club auctions. If memory serves me, John WA2F was the winning bidder. He's also a member of the Raritan Valley Radio Club. One of these meetings I should ask him if he still has it and make him an offer. Chances are it probably went via the RVRC Hamfest Club table many moons ago.

I've sold a lot of equipment that I've no longer wanted; but when you sell something that you've built with your own two hands ..... there's something regrettable about that. I wasn't into QRP 100% back then. I sure wish I had it now, even though it's definitely not the greatest QRP radio in the world.

Yeah, I could go on eBay or QRZ or eHam and hunt out another; but it wouldn't be the same.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very lest!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Just as I thought!

I managed to snag a pelt from Don NK6A in California. I heard the Hounds chasing Arn K0ZK, in Maine; but did not hear even a whisper out of him. So it's a "1fur" in New Jersey tonight.

BUT ...... I did manage to build the entire 160 Meter board for the K2 while I was listening for Arn. Funny, but I seem to have misplaced the panel mount BNC connector. I have no idea where it got itself to. Luckily, I have one with a Rockmite kit that I never finished; so I will use that one. I will order a replacement for the Rockmite and a few spares in the meantime.

So now all I have to do is open the K2 and do some minor surgery to install the 160 Meter board. I hate tearing open a perfectly working radio! I will probably swallow hard and bite the bullet possibly Friday night and get it installed and the K2 buttoned back up before this weekend. I have the QRP ARCI SK Memorial Sprint on Saturday as well as the NJ QSO Party this weekend.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

20 Meter Foxhunt

starts in about 47 minutes.

Don NK6A in California and Arn K0ZK in Maine are the Foxes this week. The way 20 Meters has been lately, I think I will stand a better chance of hitting California than Maine. Maine may just be a tad too close.

We had a CERT meeting tonight in town. South Plainfield's big "End of Summer" bash is coming up with the (52nd or 53rd?) annual Labor Day Parade and fireworks later that night. South Plainfield is one of only three towns in the entire state to have a parade for Labor Day and the CERT team has been providing communications since 2004.

This year we need a big presence at the fireworks, too. Last year there was "an incident" and the plan is to hopefully pair up CERT members with Police and Special Police from neighboring towns.

In addition, I met up with Marv K2VHW and we decided to pursue a club callsign for the newly formed and fledgling South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club. Marv and I will also be meeting up together in the next couple of weeks to plan out another licensing class like the one we held a few years back. Several CERT members as well as at least one of the town's police officers have expressed an interest in earning their tickets.

Looks like autumn may be busy and interesting!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Perfect QRP Portable day ???

I really have to start hanging with Jim W1PID !!!!

http://www.mv.com/ipusers/w1pid/aug2/aug2.html


;)


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, August 16, 2010

QSLs

I like getting and sending QSL cards. I am guilty of not QSLing as fast as I should; but I do eventually get them out. I also like looking at other Ham's QSL cards, especially old ones.

I found this great site through eHam. If you like looking at older QSL cards, I think you will really enjoy this site:


Next project will be the 160 Meter board for the K2. I dug it out and looked at it last night; and even at my snail's pace, I should be able to get through this quickly. I already sorted the parts out. I should be on 160 Meters this Fall and Winter, even without a proper antenna. The 160 Meter vertical that I want to build will have to wait as the purchase of the Jackite pole is on hold for a while.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CQing away

I have the K2 on autopilot, calling "CQ FP DE W2LJ" as I type this. So far at 0138 UTC, there is not a whole heckuva lot of activity. I have worked three stations so far, KB6NU and VE3MO on 40 Meters and N4BP on 20 Meters. I have some really bad QRM on 20 Meters, making that band pretty unusable. The only reason I heard Bob N4BP is that he's booming in 20 over 9. Looks like a long night tonight; and I advertised the Sprint in plenty of locations in ample time. I guess folks are busy or on vacation.

On the bright side, I did finish my Fuchs antenna matching unit today. I would have tossed some wire up a tree to play around with it; but today we got some rain (first time in a couple of months!). And it was a nice gentle rain, too. The ground is so hard and dry that a hard rain would have run right off. This rain had a chance to soak in. But the fact is that we could use about a week of this. The forecast for tomorrow is back up to the upper 90s with high humidity. As hot as this summer has been, I will be sad to see it eventually go.

Well, back to the Sprint and maybe I'll hunt and pounce for a bit.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Before I forget

One last thought before I turn in for the night.

Tonight - Sunday night - is the Flying Pigs monthly QRP Sprint, the Run For the Bacon. It runs from 9 - 11 PM EDT or 0100 to 0300 UTC (Monday morning).

For the details you can go to: http://fpqrp.com/fpqrprun.php

Like the majority of Flying Piggies, this is a laid back event. It's not a cut throat contest (well at least for most). So if you're new to QRP CW contesting and have always been meaning to give it a try - join us! You say your code speed is not that great? Most Piggies will slow down for you; and if you ask us to QRS, then you should be fine. Only a lid wouldn't comply at that point, right?

The exchange is RST, followed by your state, province or country (the dreaded S/P/C). followed by your Flying Pig membership number. What? You don't have one? What are you waiting for? The dues are ZIP, NADA, ZILCH !!!!! And the only club requirement is that you have FUN! In the meantime, just give your output power until you come to your senses and join this august group (no pun intended!).

If you're new to RFTB and you hear two Piggies end their exchange with "OO ES 73", just know the OO means "oink, oink". See what I mean? What SERIOUS and STUFFY contest would include that!

See you tonight in the pig pen!

72 de Larry W2LJ
Flying Pig #612
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

And now for something completely different

I did something tonight that I have not done in years. Something that I used to do on a very regular basis in my younger years. I went to a baseball game!

No, unfortunately, it was not a NY Mets game. I have been a Mets fan for 43 years now, since my Dad first took me to Shea Stadium when I was 10 years old. In fact, during the mid 80s until the mid 90s, my cousin John and I shared a partial season plan. We had tickets for all the Saturday home games. Those years were so much fun!

But with Major League Baseball ticket prices skyrocketing out of sight, in addition to outrageous toll and gas prices, it almost required a second mortgage on the house to keep that up. Going to just one game now probably costs what an entire season worth of games used to.

But tonight was Girl Scout night at the Somerset Patriots, a team with the independent Atlantic League. So all four of us went - Marianne, Joey, Cara and myself. Between the cost of the tickets, parking and food, we spent a ton less than what we would have by going to see the Mets at Citifield.


And it was a good time! The kids had fun, I enjoyed the game and even Marianne seemed to be enjoying herself; and she's not a baseball fan. We had fantastic seats just a small ways up the third baseline from home plate. It was good to see the rich, lush, green grass and to smell the rich earth that makes up the infield. The Patriots won, 6-1 and it's always a good thing when the home team wins.

I snapped up a schedule on the way out of the ballpark; and the regular season ends the last weekend in September. Plenty of opportunity to catch another home game.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Time for another W1PID story

Jim certainly has the mojo!

He tosses a 30 foot wire up a tree and works half of Europe. I throw a 30 foot wire up a tree and end up with poison Sumac!

http://www.mv.com/ipusers/w1pid/august/august.html

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Holy 1,021 !!!

I just took a look at the ol' Blogger dashboard to find out that it's been 1,021 posts since this joyride started back in April of 2005.

Thanks for sharing that ride with me!

My passion for Amateur Radio grows stronger every year. Hope it's that way for you too.

Thank you, Google - for making Blogger available to the likes of me.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

A trip to Radio Shack

is in the offing. The 80 Meter PSK31 Warbler that W3BBO has graciously loaned me arrived in today's mail.



So, I will be needing two stereo cables with male to male ends. No problem - I know that the Shack has those! The tricky part will be to see if they carry a 9 pin D serial cable. The online store has them; but my local neighborhood poorly stocked store probably won't have one.

Worse comes to worse, I think I might have a male and female connector hiding somewhere in the junk box. I'll just have to hunt around around for some multi-conductor cable.

Of course, Bob did not just send me the circuit board as show above. His is nicely fitted into a handsome enclosure.

This being August, I normally start getting the "end of Summer" blues about this time; and start dreading the return of colder weather that's just over the horizon. But if the eventual cold weather brings awesome conditions back to 80 Meters - this little kit will make my annual descent towards winter all that much more bearable!

Oh yes, tonight should be the waning phase of the Perseid meteor shower. I doubt I would see any thanks to our Suburban New York City light polluted environment. But it might be worth a listen on 10 Meters to see if some spurious ionization takes place.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

20 Meters is long tonight!

I managed to snare one of the 20 Meter Foxes tonight - Dale WC7S who lives in Wyoming. I can't hear a peep out of John K4BAI; and I suspect there is no propagation tonight between NJ and GA. We are probably too close!

20 Meters seems to be long tonight. I am hearing and working a few stations in the NAQCC Sprint while hoping against hope that I will eventually hear John. I have worked Manitoba and Nebraska and have heard California quite clearly.

No K4BAI, though. And I've got the AGC off and it's playing havoc with my eardrums!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Bucket List

One of the things that's on my Ham Radio Bucket List is to try and do some PSK31. That probably sounds strange. PSK is by all accounts a very popular mode; but it is one that I have never tried.

Looking in my log, I saw that the last QSOs that I made using a digital mode were made back in March of 2000. Some were RTTY and some were PacTOR. I used to do quite a bit of digi in the 90s. I guess the fascination wore off; as it seemed to be too much like "e-mail over the radio" for me. So ever since March 2000, it has been CW all the way.

One of the problems is that I no longer have a radio that will allow me to do PSK31. My K2, K1 and PFR3A radios are CW capable only. I was contemplating buying and building the SSB board for the K2; but that would involve messing with the crystal filter settings and they are PERFECT where they are now. I don't want to mess up a great thing.

So Bob W3BBO has come to my rescue once again; and is going to temporarily lend me his Warbler. This was a kit sold by the NJQRP Club a while back; and will allow me to do some PSK31 during the cold winter nights on 80 Meters this winter. With an output of 3 Watts, this still keeps me quite happily in the realm of QRP.

If I like it, there are the PSK series of kits offered by Small Wonder Labs. They are reasonably priced and if I end up REALLY, REALLY liking the mode, I can buy one for 20 Meters, say, for $120.

So do me a favor and don't report me to the CW police, OK? They might want to take away my Morse Code credentials. Hi!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Small hamfest

I woke up early this morning to go to the Jersey Shore Amateur Radio Society (JSARS) Hamfest.

It was exceedingly small with three vendors in the indoor space and perhaps 12 - 15 vendors outside in the parking lot. I got there right at the opening bell at 8:00 AM and stayed for about an hour. If more vendors came any later than that, I missed them.

I picked up copies of the ARRL's "Wire Antenna Classics" and "More Wire Antenna Classics" for $10 for both books; as well as a 24 LED flashlight for $5. One vendor had one of those small Grundig AM/FM/Shortwave receivers for $25; but I passed.

There were a lot of tubes. Motorola gear, and a lot of old tubed gear; and even some digital SLR cameras. I was contemplating purchasing one of the digital SLRs - they were Kodak bodies with a Nikkor lens and were only $75 - but they were only 2 megapixel. That resolution is poor by even today's "point and shoot" standards. My little Polaroid point and shoot is 5 megapixel.

I saw an Icom IC-730 and was tempted. The IC-730 is capable of being adjusted down to the 100 milliwatt level. I used to own one. But I didn't even ask for the selling price. And sitting here now thinking about it as I type this, that was clearly a stupid mistake on my part. It would have been a great rig for PSK-31 had I been using my brain at the time.

Was this hamfest worth the hour's drive to get to? Probably not; but I can think of worse ways to spend a sunny Sunday summer morning. Plus if attendance keeps declining at these small hamfests, then the organizers will probably start to wonder, "Why bother?". That would not be a good thing.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Stirring the pot

I was driving down to visit my Mom today; and I had Joey and Cara (my kids) in the car with me. I had the Icom dual bander in scan mode, which happened to stop on the W2LI UHF repeater, which is located on the Jersey Shore. The repeater must have been in IRLP mode, because there were two gentlemen speaking on the repeater who, as my kids noticed right away, "sounded different".

These two gentlemen were Alan M3ELP who lives in Runcorn, UK, which is not all that far from Liverpool; and Ian G4ZPZ who lives in Dukinfield, UK, not all that far from Manchester. They were looking for Stateside contacts, and at the moment, no one was going back to them. I took the opportunity to say "Hello". It was different, speaking with Hams in England as we were driving down US Route 1 in New Jersey; and it gave my kids a chance to hear something other than the normal 2 Meter repeater fare that they usually hear when they are with me (and I have the radio on).

After the QSO, I got to thinking of all the stupid arguments that get started on e-Ham or QRZ as to whether or not this is "real Ham radio". And I think that maybe it crosses the normal lines and becomes a new kind of Ham radio - maybe "hybrid radio" for lack of a better term?

OK - we all know the definition for "traditional" Ham radio. Two guys get on the air, emit RF and communicate, antenna directly to antenna. No problems with that definition (hopefully).

Then there's one form of Echolink. Bob W3BBO and I get on our computers just about every Saturday and we chew the fat. Computer to Internet to computer. No RF anywhere. Not Ham radio - just two Hams shooting the breeze using the Internet. We could just as easily be using Skype or some other program for that matter. Echolink in and of itself does not make it Ham radio.

Alan and Ian get on their HTs, and get into repeaters in the UK, which are hooked up to the Internet. This gets them into a NJ repeater which is also hooked up to the Internet and I talk with them using my mobile VHF/UHF radio as I whiz on down the highway. Ham radio? Definitely yes! Traditional radio? No. "Hybrid" or "assisted" radio? Yes! Fun? Yes! DXCC countable? No.

And the fun part is what is most important. I can't understand the grumpiness towards IRLP, Echolink linking and newer technologies like that. Believe me, I have been called a curmudgeon and an O.F. and worse; but I bear no animosity or ill will towards stuff like this. However, I have to admit that yes, there is enough purist in me that I do cringe a little bit when I hear the term "QSO" used for Echolink conversations made via computer-Internet-computer, or for conversations made using that software driven ionosphere simulation program thingy. When there's NO radio frequency energy being used anywhere, it's not Ham radio - but the "hybrid" stuff is just fine by me!

As an aside, I guess my kids have come very accustomed to my love of CW. After the mobile QSO, my son looked at me and said, "Dad, you actually used a microphone!"

Sheesh!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

New wristwatch

Recently I ordered a new wristwatch; and it came today through the mail. From the picture, you can see I am not a fashionista. I prefer practicality.
One of my quirks concerns time. I hate it; and I mean I HATE IT when the time on a clock that I am looking at is wrong. It's not that I am always super early or exactly on time for every event in my life - I just want the time on my watch to be as accurate as possible. Like I said - a quirk.

From the picture you can guess that the watch I bought is an atomic job. No longer do I have to sit in front of an HF radio, listening to WWV and making sure I hit that "set" button at precisely the right millisecond.

I guess this stems not only from my desire to keep an accurate log; but also from working satellites where if you're a few minutes off, you can miss the better part of a pass. This probably also has something to do with some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder - hi!

In any event it didn't cost me an arm and a leg. I got it through a discount catalog and got $10 off in addition to free shipping. What a deal!

No Rolex for W2LJ.

72 de W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, August 06, 2010

It's always nice

when you run into an old friend on the air.

I was down in the shack, working on soldering L1/L2 of the Fuchs tuner in place (I got it done - yay!). After I hot glued the core into place to keep it from moving, I decided to turn on the K2 and launch a CQ into the aether.

Hot chocolate! Dan KB6NU answered me right off the bat and we had a nice little chat. Dan was using his KX1 in which he had just finished replacing the final transistor. Dan did a fantastic job as he had a 579 signal until the QSB started kicking in.

I've had the pleasure to work Dan many times - QRP Sprints and ragchews, too. It's always a treat to catch him on the air. Dan is a fellow blogger and he's listed on the blog roll to the side. I hope you guys are checking his blog out; as it is chock full of good stuff. I was really impressed by his posting about his mini-solder pot that he made out of an old soldering iron:

http://kb6nu.com/i-finally-have-a-mini-solder-pot/

I hope to go to the Jersey Shore Amateur Radio Society (JSARS) hamfest in Toms River on Sunday morning. Hopefully, if I can get there, the goal is to find a junker soldering iron that I can convert into like what Dan has written about.

Back to the Fuchs tuner. I have one more big toroid to wind and install and then finish up the wiring. It really shouldn't take me more than an hour to finish -really. The tough part is finding the quiet time to get my butt into the shack to work on it!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Antenna thoughts

The next project after the Fuchs Tuner will be to build and install the 160 Meter board for the K2 before the winter sets in.

It will be nice to have 160 Meter capability; but will even be nicer if I do something installing a proper 160 Meter antenna. I am particularly interested in the possible solution offered by Greg Crossman WE0D, on page 44 of this month's QST. This antenna looks like a pretty economical solution for my plight. A base loaded, bottom coil vertical antenna, which uses a 31 ft (9.4 meters) fiberglass pole as a support.

There is a corner in the backyard behind my shed where I just cleared out a pile of brush and weeds. I can lay some radials along the side and back property line, too. And the location is pretty unobtrusive as far as sight goes, also. I don't think that Marianne would notice it or care about it that much.

I don't have a convenient anchor point for an Inverted L. WE0D's antenna just might do the trick. Heck, at this point, it would be better than nothing!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

20 Meter Foxes and the Fuchs Tuner

While trying to snag the 20 Meter Foxes tonight, I continued or re-started if you will, building the Fuchs Tuner kit that I got from the QRP Project in Germany. Tonight I tinned the leads of the L1/L2 transformer while trying to snag Jay KT5E in Colorado. To say that I am not the expert at multitasking is an understatement. Trying to switch between soldering iron and paddles at a second's notice was not the easiest; but at least I managed to do so without burning myself.

Jay KT5E started out really loud in NJ at the beginning of the hunt. At 0118 UTC, he dropped from 599 to almost ESP levels. For a moment, I thought an emergency popped up and that Jay had to QRT. But listening for a little bit revealed that he was still there but VERY weak - 229, perhaps?

Fortunately, Jay's signal rebounded and I snagged him at 0144 UTC. The other Fox tonight was Jim N0UR, who lives in Minnesota. I expected him to be easy pickin's as I regularly have a pipeline into MN and WI. Stations from those two states normally blow my ears out. Not so tonight. Not a peep was heard from Jim or his hounds. Strange.

For those of you who have never participated in a Foxhunt and have no idea as to what I keep talking about, I took a little video of KT5E handing a pelt to K0EVZ.


video

Besides hearing the Foxhunt exchange, please notice that the horrible QRN that I was experiencing last week was nowhere to be heard. Thank the Lord! Turn up your speakers and give a listen, especially towards the end; and you will notice the "Hound's bane" - QSB. KT5E starts out nice and strong and is a fraction of his volume towards the end. All in a night's hunt!

To those of you who are not into "competitive" Amateur Radio (and I am not, for the most part), you probably wonder why we get all hepped up about making a contact that is so short and for the most part, meaningless. I guess it's the idea of a test of equipment, patience and skill that we Foxhunters look forward to week after week. It is what it is!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, August 02, 2010

So hopelessly out of touch

I'll admit it, that would be me.

Personally, I don't give a rat's heinie:

1) What Chelsea Clinton's wedding cake cost.

2) That Lady GaGa is against the Arizona immigration laws (which I am sure she has not bothered to read - and furthermore, how could she read it with those idiotic masks she wears?).

3) Who LeBron James decided to play for.

4) That Steve Jobes pulled a hissy fit during the unveiling of the new Iphone.

5) That our Commander-in-Chief decided to make kissy face with "The View".

6) What Oprah has done lately.

7) That Angelina Jolie was "scarred" by her recently released movie.

8) That Heidi Montag (whoever the heck SHE is) is getting divorced and is getting more plastic surgery.

9) That Prince Charles feels that it is his "life's work" to save the world from Global Warming. Sheesh!

These are all "headlines" that I have seen the past few weeks.

Sorry CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, et al. If it has something to do with a celebrity, sports figure, movie or TV star - it bores me to tears. It would be nice to get the "news"and not opinion, editorializing, or fluff.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Rumblings ?

Space Weather News for August 1, 2010
http://spaceweather.com

GLOBAL ERUPTION: During the early hours of August 1st, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded a complex global disturbance on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Most of the sun's northern hemisphere was involved in the event, which included a long-duration C3-class solar flare, a "solar tsunami," and a massive filament eruption. As a result of these blasts, a coronal mass ejection (CME) is heading toward Earth. High-latitude geomagnetic storms and auroras are possible when the cloud arrives a few days hence. Check http://spaceweather.com for movies and updates.

Those Coronal Mass Ejections can really play havoc with HF communications. I remember when I was doing the "QSO a Day" thing back in 2006. We endured a few CMEs and I thought those were going to be "streak breakers" for me. Fortunately, by calling CQ long enough, I was able to establish communications via ground wave and was able to keep the streak intact.

In a day or so, HF conditions will probably deteriorate. However, aurora will probably be visible at the higher latitudes.

Should be interesting.

72 de Larry W2LJ