Thursday, March 31, 2011

K6JSS/4 - North Carolina

I just finished working Joe W2KJ as K6JSS/4 in North Carolina to keep the streak alive.  Joe mentioned that he was on 40 Meters on QRP-L.  I nabbed him first call after he finished a QSO with Jim W1FMR.  There was a ton of very close, loud QRM.  Once again, the K2's crystal filters came to the rescue.  And I didn't have to tighten up all that much.  The first filter setting blocked out the offending signals, allowing me to hear Joe's wonderful 2 Watt, 589 signal.

The QSO was completed using the 88' EDZ.  I must say that, in the few weeks that it has been up, that I am pretty pleased with it.  It seems to work a ton better on 30 Meters, where I zero success with the G5RV on that band.  Granted, it's not a 100' tower with a yagi at the top; but it is what I have space for and can afford.  So in that regard, it's great!

Looks like we're going to dodge a bullet here, as the April Fool's snowstorm predicted for tomorrow will be a rain event here.  Snow will occur in NY state, primarily along the Hudson River Valley.  You know?  It's going to be April for crying out loud!  Time for flowers and bunnies and duckies to be prancing out on the lawn - not more white stuff!  I've had it with the winter of 2010/2011 and am ready for Spring and Summer time.

Hey - a last thought ...... don't forget that this weekend is the QRP-ARCI Spring QSO Party.  Rules and details here:

http://www.qrparci.org/content/view/8347/118/

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Interesting

I was browsing e-Bay today, looking into the possibility of perhaps bidding on an Acer for the shack.  For the heck of it, I decided to also look at my saved search for "QRP"  I came across this antenna:


Looks like a Buddipole - doesn't it?  In fact, a closer look reveals kind of a PAC-12/Buddipole hybrid:


The antenna is manufactured up in Canada and $185 US will get you one.  You need to supply your own mast and coax.  The Buddipole, on the other hand looks like this:


 $14 more will get you different arms, coax, a carrying case and the Versa-Tee.  I am not endorsing either antenna, it's just the first time I've ever seen a Buddipole "knockoff" made available.  I've seen plenty of guys copy Jim Bennet KA5DVS's PAC-12 antenna and offer it for sale; but never an iteration of the Buddipole.

Interesting.

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

Monday, March 28, 2011

Homebrewer Sprint after action report

As indicated earlier, I had a good time operating in last night's NJQRP Homebrewer Sprint.  In two hours of operating, I made 15 QSOs of which two were kind of longish ragchews (10-15 minutes).  The EDZ performed well.

1 QSO on 20 Meters
2 QSOs on 80 Meters.
12 QSOs on 40 Meters.

2 QSOs were completed using the HF9V, the rest were made using the EDZ.  The rig was "Ol' Reliable", my K2 at 5 Watts.

00:09     AE4O    559   GA   5W    20M
00:22     W0PQ   559   NE   5W     40M
00:23     WB2VEN   599   NJ   1W   40M
00:26     K1DPE   599   NH   5W   40M
00:27     W1PID   599   NH   5W   40M
00:29     RK3AW   599  DX   100W   40M
00:46     N4FI    599   VA   100W   40M
00:48     N2QK   599   NY   5W   40M
00:50     AG4IP   579   NC   5W   40M
01:01     K4WY   599   VA   5W   80M
01:16     W9PRD   559   IN   10W    40M
01:26     K9FO   569   IL   5W   40M
01:29    WA2MDF   589   VT   100W   40M
01:45     AB9CA   559   AL   5W    40M
01:57     KD8A   449   OH   5W   80M

It will be interesting to see how many logs I get, if any.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oh What a Night

As I sit here, typing this post, the K2 is merrily sending out "CQ QRP DE W2LJ" for the NJQRP Homebrewer Sprint.  I have been at this for about 90 minutes now and there have already been high and low points.

The high points include getting called by Jim W1PID and having several small side chats with him.  It's always nice to meet someone on the air that you know, but it's always special to run into Jim..  Another high point was having Oleg RK3AW come back to one of my CQs and have him give me a 599 report from Russia.  He was absolutely blasting into NJ and at first, I thought I was hearing things.  Oleg sounded more like he was down the street than half way 'round the world.

The low point was having a good half hour run on 40 Meters come to an abrupt end when 20 over 9 RTTY signals came on the frequency out of the blue.  I mean, c'mon !!!!!!  Don't any of these guys listen at all before transmitting? 

I also got involved in a couple of nice ragchews with guys who didn't realize I was calling CQ for a Sprint.  Never one to turn down a QSO, it was easy to switch between contest mode and ragchew mode.  It might not help my contest total; but I'd rather give up points than hurt someone's feelings by having them feel that I didn't want to be bothered having a QSO with them.

I just switched on over to 80 Meters as the pickings on 40 seems to be getting slim. I'll sit here for a few and then will QRT as tomorrow IS a work day and the alarm goes off too early!

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

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mixed bag

Today was a mixed bag on the Amateur Radio bands at station W2LJ.  First off, the bands were hot!  On 20 Meters, I even heard a VU4 station who was quite loud.  I don't often hear that part of the world so clearly here.  It was good to hear the VU4 station, it was not so good to hear the melee that ensued.

Of course, some idiot just HAD to come on and start deliberately jamming the transmit frequency, spoiling the fun for everyone.   But what followed was even worse.  Stations were sending "messages" to the jammer, using words that I had never even heard sent in CW before!  It was one of the few times that I was very glad that my kids don't understand Morse.  First off, guys, the jammer can't hear your "expletives" as he's too busy doing his juvenile thing.  Second, there's no need to stoop to that level by pounding out such inappropriate language.  As soon as that garbage started, I hightailed it out of there and fast.

17 Meters proved to be hot, also.  I worked VE5BCS in Saskatchewan and then GD4RAG for a new QRP DXCC entity, the Isle of Man.  That brings me up to 110 worked.  I was a bit surprised that the pileup for John wasn't a little bigger.  I saw him posted on the DX Cluster; and when a station has been posted, it's generally a tough go QRP-wise.  I also worked a couple of stations from Denmark, using the newly installed EDZ.  So far, so good, for the new antenna.

Then I hopped back down to 20 Meters; but stayed near the QRP watering hole, 14.060 MHz.  It was there that I heard OK1AQW calling CQ.  I answered him and Zdenek came back to me - and we actually had a short QSO!  Zdenek lives near Zamberka, which seems to be a more rural area of the Czech Republic.  It was cold and sleeting at his location.  Zdenek was pumping out 10 Watts to his dipole located in his garden; and he was a VERY solid 569 into New Jersey.  No problems at all copying his nice fist.


Having a QSO with a DX station that involves more than "599 TU 73" is way cool!  Even though our QSO lasted but a few minutes, at least it felt like we actually communicated something other that RSTs.  I really don't like those "Wham, Bam, Thank You, Ma'am" type of DX QSOs.  I understand their places in contests and DXpeditions; but weekend QSOs like this can be so much more!

BTW, tomorrow night is the NJQRP Homebrewer Sprint.  It runs from 8:00 PM to Midnight, Eastern time.  I'll let you determine when that is in your time zone.  For the rules, you can visit:

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

All the basic information is there.  And for you guys out there who aren't into CW, this Sprint also makes for the use of PSK31.  So jump in and join in on the fun!  And to make matters even better, George N2APB posted this on the NJQRP e-mail reflector tonight:

*** PRIZE ALERT ***
---------------------------------------------------
Top Scores in the NJQRP Homebrewer Sprint tomorrow night get an assembled & tested GROWLER SWR BRIDGE.  One for top overall score (from anywhere), and another for the NJQRP member score.
---------------------------------------------------
*** PRIZE ALERT ***

Get on the air tomorrow evening, even for just a few contacts!  See below and http://www.njqrp.org/data/qrphomebrewersprint.html for all the details.  (The dates are indeed correct on the website).

73, George N2APB
   http://www.njqrp.org


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

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I stand corrected.

Once again, thanks to Jim WA2OQJ, for supplying me with the name of the Little Rascals short that I had referred to.  It wasn't due to Spanky lobbing light bulbs on the floor, as I had wrongly remembered; but it's funny just the same.  And I pretty much felt like this poor radio engineer last night, trying to put up with the radio wrath of the thunder sleet. 



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

A big thank you to Jim WA2OQJ

for giving me a big smile after a hard day's work.  To understand this better, please read last night's post.


72 de Larry W2LJ (Hee, hee!)
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Apocolypse!

Trying to work K6JSS/0 again and not having much luck. No dice on 20 Meters and now not much luck on 80 Meters, either.  I did have an enjoyable QSO with John KQ1P on 40 Meters however.  John lives up in Orland, Maine and we've worked each other a few times in NAQCC Sprints.  It's always nice when you can ragchew with a station that you've previously only had brief contest QSO with.  John was running 1 Watt and was sounding superb!


The weather was furious during our QSO!  I heard heavy rain, turning to sleet, pounding against the basement casing window.  Then I heard the thunder.  That caused me to do a double take, as I've heard thunder in the summer and even during a snow storm.  This was the first time I've heard it when it was icing outside.

Mark Twain once said, "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes." The same can be said of New Jersey.  Last Friday it was Summer. Today it was back to Winter with thunder thrown in for good measure!

The thunder made me pull the big switch for a bit.  After a 20 minute wait, I have the rig on again and am listening to K6JSS/0 calling CQ on 80 Meters.  Not many takers; but once again, my puny lil' signal isn't being heard, either. The QRN and static crashes are fierce on 80 Meters, not making it the most enjoyable listening experience.  Remember that old "Our Gang" short, when the Little Rascals went to the radio amateur hour show and Spanky kept on throwing light bulbs on the floor and it blew out the ears of the radio engineer who was monitoring the broadcast?  80 Meters is like that here tonight.


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

PS: A few hours later and it keeps changing from ice to rain to snow and back through all three.  There must be bands of air of varying temperatures causing the precipitation to change its form every ten minutes or so - very weird.   Also, 40 Meters once again turned out to be the proper band for working K6JSS/0.  When John N0EVH mentioned that he was taking a break from operating for a few,  I posted a quick plea for some 40 Meter airtime via QRPSPOTS.  I saw that he resumed operating on 7.115 MHz and tuned right in.  He was very clear without much QRN or QSB. In fact, this was the best I had heard him all week!  I managed to ger K6JSS/0 in the log right after John finished a QSO with AB7CE.  John, if you should happen to read this - thanks so much for being so kind and accommodating.  I hope to return the favor later this Summer as K6JSS/2.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reciprocal propagation - hah !!!

Sunday night, when I tried working K6JSS/0 in Missouri, that bad neighborhood QRN reared its ugly head, as I had mentioned  I'm not sure whether or not John N0EVH who was behind the key heard me or not, so I figured I'd have to try for another "insurance" QSO.

I saw K6JSS/0 spotted on 20 Meters on QRPSPOTS this evening and thought I would give it a go.  The station was pretty loud here in NJ,  569/579 and building.  I thought to myself, "OK, this is going to be a piece of cake!"  Not so, my friend, not so!  The EDZ and the Butternut made no difference.  I even ran upstairs for the PFR-3A thinking a different rig might sway my luck.  Nada, zip, zilch, nothing, donut hole, the big "0" - even though he was calling CQ and getting no takers! Maybe, just maybe he was experiencing some local noise himself and I was not able to break through the noise floor?  I guess anything is possible.

So much for being loud back to a station who is loud to you.  Most of the time, that rule of thumb holds up, but it sure didn't tonight.  I hope K6JSS/0 gives 40 Meters a try tonight - maybe I'll have better luck there.

Such are the trials and tribulations of the QRP op.

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

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Darn!

Looks like RFTB is going to be a bust for me this month.  I was trying to work John N0EVH on 20 Meters as K6JSS/0 about an hour before the Sprint.  As I was working him, someone in the neighborhood turned something on, giving me S9 hash on both 20 and 40 Meters and rendering them both useless.  The hash is just as loud on the EDZ and the Butternut.

80 Meters is quiet, but doesn't usually see any activity in these Sprints until the last hour or so.  By then I will be wanting to hit the hay as tomorrow is a work day.  In the meantime, I will call "CQ FP" on 80 Meters to see if I can scare anyone up.

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

Got 'er done !!!

As forecasted, it was a sunny and beautiful, if slightly chilly day here in Central NJ.  Seasonable for mid March (the first day of Spring!); but chilly compared to the Summer like temperatures that we had on Friday.  In any event, the weather was conducive to antenna work, and I got the work done that I had planned for the day.

The first order of business was to take down the G5RV.  It didn't come down without a bit of a struggle.  Perhaps it sensed its fate and didn't want to be retired!  It kind of "grew into" the tree; or perhaps the tree grew around it.  It was with considerable effort that I managed to untangle the legs and the feedline from the branches that have grown quite sturdy since the install so many years ago.  It did not come down in one piece either. Once I got the center insulator down, I had to cut off one of the legs and pull it down from the anchored end in order to free it from the tree's grasp.  If you're at all familiar with the Peanuts comic strip, then you know about Charlie Brown's escapades with his "kite eating" tree.  Mine seems to like antenna wire so much that it didn't want to let go!


A close examination of the antenna post-mortem revealed why it had become such a poor performer recently.  Last summer, while trimming some nearby hedges, I must have grazed the window line without even realizing it.  Part of one of the feedline legs was pretty chewed up.  Not all the way through, but looking at it now, it makes sense as to why all of a sudden the performance factor decreased.  Note to self - be more careful with the hedge clippers in the future.

The 88' EDZ went up without any problems.  The new window line is much more robust.  I didn't worry about the exact length so much, I just used enough to get to my 1:1 balun.  From there I just hooked up the coax I had, which is still in excellent shape.  The PL-259 was so bright and shiny after the dozen or so years it's been out there, to the point that I was quite surprised  I must have done a decent job of weatherproofing it.  I still want to get some sort of plastic box to protect the balun from the elements, though.

I came inside and eagerly fired up the K2.  On all bands from 80 Meters to 10 Meters, I get a decent match with an SWR if no greater than about 1.4:1.  My first contact was on 17 Meters with PA1CC, Ton in Tilburg, Netherlands.  He was blasting at 599+ into NJ: and I got a 599 report in return.


Not bad for a first contact with a new antenna!  The real test will be to see how it perform in tonight's Run For the Bacon - the monthly QRP Sprint of the Flying Pigs.

On another note, today was the day that the 4A4A DXpedition was supposed to pack up for the return trip home.  I never made contact; and it wasn't for lack of trying  It would have been interesting to see if the new antenna would have done the job.

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Looks like a go

It is looking like tomorrow will be antenna work day at W2LJ.  Today is busy, and the weather forecast for tomorrow is sunny with a high in the upper 40s (9C).  Marianne is the "on call" dialysis nurse at the hospital tomorrow, so we can't go anywhere in the event she were to be called in.  So it will be me, some wire and the maple tree in the back yard.  At this point, I will be re-using the same coax until I can put some funds together to buy some new feedline.  What I have has been well sealed at the connectors, so it should be okay until I can pick some up at a local Hamfest.

Speaking of Hamfests, today was the inaugural kickoff Hamfest of the NJ Hamfest season - the Cherryville Hamfest in Flemington, NJ.  I wasn't able to go as I had to ferry Cara and Marianne over to a cheerleading competition in a nearby town early this morning, plus the fact I have a lot of chores to do.  Listening to the local repeaters, the verdict is that it was "OK", but not great.  There were no major vendors, but everyone seemed to enjoy seeing each other once again, renewing old friendships.

The Splitrock Hamfest is in a few weeks and that one is on a Sunday morning.  I went to that one last year and it wasn't bad, either.  It's another small Hamfest, but I always manage to pick up an item or two.  The only problem is going to be the rising cost of gasoline may prohibit me from attending Hamfests that are farther away.

I sure wouldn't mind going to the Timonium Hamfest in Maryland next weekend, even with gas being as pricey at it is. That is a two day affair and is very large from what I am told.  Not "Dayton big" but certainly much larger than any local club fest.  In fact, the Atlanticon QRP conference used to coincide with the Timonium Hamfest, much in the way that FDIM coincides with Dayton.  Alas, my wife almost always works on Saturdays (as I am off) and the kids are still too small to be left alone by themselves for the whole day.  Maybe in a year or two, though .........

I am finding out that I am missing having the VHF/UHF rig in the car more than I would have otherwise imagined. Listening to broadcast radio gets stale after only a little while.  As much as I don't want to put screw holes into the new vehicle, I think I am going to bite the bullet and put the Icom in the Jeep the next nice weekend that we get.  This time however, I am going to get a different mount for the antenna.  The magnet mount base really scuffed up the roof of the Ford Explorer.  I'll have to go online and see what hatch lip mounts are going for.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2011

All right !!!

I heard and worked Len K4NK who was behind the key as K6JSS/4 in South Carolina tonight.  That keeps the string intact for now, but it was rough!  80 Meters has summer time conditions tonight with tons of static crashes and other QRN.  Not hard to believe that Spring officially starts in four days.  In fact, our forecasted high temperature for tomorrow is supposed to be 72F (22C).

On 40 Meters, which is way long again, I heard and worked Silvio HB9LCW with ease.  He was 599 into New Jersey and I got a 579 in return - not bad for 5 Watts!  But of course, this indicates to me that trying to work Dennis N4DD in the 40 Meter Foxhunt tonight will probably be futile.  Tennessee is probably too close for the band.  I'll probably stand a better chance of hooking up with Paul NG7Z in Washington State.

Strange thing tonight is that I am experiencing the direct inverse of band conditions that I have experienced for the past couple of years.  40 Meters is the only band that is quiet for me tonight.  All the other bands have loud hashy noise in the background.  Just the opposite of the past couple years where all the bands were quiet except for 40 Meters. Go figure!

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

PS: So much for my expertise and knowledge!  Heard and worked Dennis N4DD in Tennessee who was clear as a bell. Not a peep heard from Paul NG7Z, although I can hear the pack of Hounds chasing him.  Man, this propagation stuff will humble you, every time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunday

I just checked AccuWeather and it looks like this coming Sunday might end up being antenna day.  The forecast is for sunny skies and high temps of 52F (11C).  Saturday is out as Cara has a cheerleading competition on that day, and I will more than likely be providing transportation.  I wish I had Friday off!  The forecast for Friday is also for sunny skies, but high temps are supposed to be near 70F (21C). Now that's antenna weather!

I have been watching QRPSPOTS and it seems like there has been a dearth of South Carolina operators as K6JSS/4 this week.  In fact, Jim W1FMR has been cheerleading the cause on both QRPSPOTS and QRP-L for more SC ops to climb on board and operate.  This is very surprising to me as I never seem to be in a QRP Sprint without at least 3 or 4 SC QSOs.  The problem is that a) this is a volunteer operation and b) a lot of us still work, so "on air" time can be at a premium.  I'm not about to fault any of the SC ops for even a nanosecond as I myself worry about getting enough volunteers from NJ to get on the air when it's our week.  Never criticize until you walk a mile in the other man's shoes as that wise old Native American saying goes.

All that said, the QRP-L Foxhunt season comes to a close this week.  Last night was the last 80 Meter hunt which I missed, and tomorrow is the last 40 Meter hunt.  I missed last night's hunt as I went to bed pretty quickly after coming home from work and eating dinner.  The firm I work for has tasked me with getting large amounts of networking gear to their branch offices in Asia on very short notice in response to last week's natural disaster.  It's very hard, as well as stressful to explain to someone that. "No, FedEx can NOT get 300 pound pieces of equipment halfway around the world, overnight!"  Priority shipping has become something that is so taken for granted, that people have come to believe that you can send ANYTHING to just about ANYWHERE over night.  Sometimes, I really have bad feelings for the man who started Purolator Courier.  They were the first ones in the business, I think.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.

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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

12 Meters was good pickin's

Sunday afternoon was good on 12 Meters.  I didn't light up the band; but made solid QSOs with Portugal, Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe.  OX3CR from Greenland was booming in at over 599 also.  The funny thing there is that on the DX Cluster, everyone was reporting 4A4A on that frequency.  Now 4A4A doesn't sound anything like OX3CR on CW.  The only thing that I can think that might have been happening was that they were both on the same frequency and some people were hearing and working 4A4A, while they were being covered up by the Greenland station here.

There's only one week to go for the 4A4A DXpedition and it's looking doubtful for me.  That direction is just one of my weak points from this QTH, with the current antenna set up.  I'll keep an eye on the Cluster for them every night this week.  Maybe I can pull a QSO out at the eleventh hour.  I've managed that before with other DXpeditions.

I also got the 88' EDZ built today.  Built, but not installed.  I found some good 14 gauge insulated wire in my junk box that was left over from making HF9V radials.  I measured of the two 44' legs and connected them to the window line.  Using the Ladder-Grabber as the center insulator, I was able to make good mechanical AND electrical connections.  Emtech says soldering is not necessary; but I went that route anyway.

I also dug up some plastic dog bone insulators at the bottom of the junk box.  If the weather is decent next weekend, I will be good to go to finally retire the G5RV and replace it with the EDZ.  Since it's really early in the season, I'll have all summer to replace it, if it turns out that I don't care for its performance. Always the optimist, eh?

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

Saturday, March 12, 2011

BugNapper by Rich WB9LPU

As promised, a little bit more on WB9LPU's BugNapper, which is a device for slowing down bugs.  First off, why even bother?  The answer is simple.  There are times when I like to send Morse Code "manually" as opposed to using an electronic keyer and paddles.  Yes, the straight key is the way to go, but sending with a straight key for a long period of time at a rate of 15 - 18 WPM gets very tiring.  On top of that, if you have arthritis in your hands like I do, after a while, sending with a straight key can actually become painful!  The side to side motion of a bug is less tiring and wearing on the wrist and fingers.  But most bugs, even with a heavy weight, will only slow down to about 25 - 22 WPM.  This can vary depending on the make and model of the bug.

The answer up to now has been to add a lot of extra weight or to extend the length of the pendulum with tubes or other types of devices.  Rich WB9LPU's approach is to use two magnets of opposite polarity in close proximity to one another.  The closer the magnets, the more their attraction for one another, thereby slowing down the vibrations of the pendulum, which in turn, slows down the speed of the dits.


If you click on the above image to see it full sized, you can see the adjusting knob for the pendulum magnet right near the Vibroplex "Bug" on the metal label.  The opposing permanent magnet is underneath it and is mounted on the metal bar which says "BugNapper" on it.  In my book, there are two main advantages to a BugNapper over other solutions:

1) Cosmetics - the BugNapper is not obtrusive at all and actually looks like part of the bug itself.  No wacky extensions or weights coming off at weird angles.  No added clothespins, alligator clips. solder rolls - whatever we have used in the past to dampen the pendulum vibrations to slow down the dits.

2) Adjustability - the BugNapper takes the guesswork out of slowing things down and offers repeatability.  No more guessing of how much weight to add; or how much extension to add.  Just twist the knurled thumbscrew and you can change the bug's speed reliably and pretty predictably once you get used to it, which takes all of a few minutes.

Rich sends a complete instruction manual on a CD along with the BugNapper.  Installation is very simple and does not require you to disassemble your bug, other than temporarily removing the weight and the dit spring.  The only tools you will need are the two Allen wrenches that Rich includes and your own flat bladed screw driver.  If you're a mechanical klutz of the highest order, like me, expect installation to take all of about 10 minutes or so.

Here's some video.  I apologize for my fist.  Currently not owning a tripod, it's hard to hold a camera with one hand and send code with the other, when normally you can't walk and chew gum at the same time.  In addition, I still have a bit of tweaking to do with the bug's adjustment screws for optimum spacing and tension.  Just so you know that any cruddy sending you hear is MY fault and is in no way due to the BugNapper.

video

For a CW lover, Rich's device is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  I heartily recommend the BugNapper to anyone who desires to use a bug; but so far has been wary of not being able to send with one for fear of runaway speed.  You can visit WB9LPU's website by clicking here.  I can tell you one thing ..... if I ever win that lottery, in addition to purchasing that K3, I think I'd like to buy a couple of Rich's keys to have in my shack, also!

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

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan

On my way into work today, I heard about the earthquake, tsunamis and the resulting devastation that have hit Japan.  Immediately, my thoughts turned to fellow Ham Radio blogger, Leo JJ8KGZ, author of "A Brasspounder's Cafe"  who lives in Northeastern  Japan.  Looking at the maps of the devastation provided by the BBC, it looks like the epicenter of the heaviest damage is a bit to the south of Leo's home QTH.

My thoughts go out to Leo and all our brother and sister Amateur Radio ops and their families who live in Japan, and indeed, to the whole country.  My prayers, and I'm sure the prayers of a lot of us here in the USA go out to our Japanese friends at this most difficult time.

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

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cool!

During the 40 Meter Foxhunt, while chasing Dave AB9CA in Alabama, I also installed Rich WB9LPU's Bugnapper on my old Vibroplex original.  Trying to multi-task and concentrate on two things at once is not exactly my forte' - but I was successful in both pursuits.  I worked Dave for a pelt and got the Bugnapper installed.

The only thing that I can say about the Bugnapper is ...... cool!  It installed very easily and it works like a charm. If you didn't understand the workings, i.e the forces of opposing magnets, you might be tempted to think that Rich's invention was based on PFM - Pretty Far-out Magic!

It's amazing to see how the twist of the adjustment screw (which sets the distance between the two magnets) changes the speed of the dits.  I didn't think that a bug could ever be made to send so slowly.  Seriously - under 10 WPM ?!? 

Now, the purists will bristle at this concept.  After all, the tool for sending slow code (up to 15 WPM) is the straight key.  And the purists area right, that is (ideally) the way to go.  But if you suffer from arthritis in your wrists, like I do, the side to side motion of sending with a bug is way easier on the joints.  So for the folks out there like me who enjoy the side to side sending, but still want to go real slow, the Bugnapper is the way to go.  I currently have mine set for a comfortable 18 WPM speed right now.  Once I get some practice in (I still think the dahs will be automatic like with the paddles, so right now I tend to stutter a bit) I will probably be making way more use of my bug.

Tomorrow night, if I get a chance, I will shoot some video and will post it here.

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

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Woo Hoo !!!!

The mailman was good to W2LJ today!  The Ladder-Grabber arrived today as well as the Vibroplex bug weights (which I never DID find, BTW - although I'm certain they'll pop up now!).  I have a meeting tonight; or else I'd be down in the basement playing with the Bug-Napper that Rich WB9LPU sent me.  That will be my treat to look forward to tomorrow night.  I will let you all know how it goes; and maybe I can even post some video.

I've gotten some nice comments about last night's post referencing the importance of spacing in sending good code.  I have to relate this.  About an hour or so after I posted that, I was back on 40 Meters working Randy K7TQ as K6JSS/7 (I posted that as a "PS").  After working him, I was listening to a Ham (I'm so sorry that I did not catch the call sign) on down the band who had the most beautiful fist I've heard in such a long time.  He was sending between 35-40 WPM (that's the "fringe zone" for me); but it was sent so wonderfully that the words were just popping into my brain like I was reading a printed page.  I don't think it was keyboard sending as the gent made a few mistakes so you could tell he was sending with either paddles or perfectly with a bug. 

What a delight!  And the other person that he was communicating with was no slouch, either.  They both sent beautifully and it was just a pleasure to listen to this ragchew between two really superb fists.  You could tell these two folks have taken a lot of time and have given a lot of effort to perfect their craft.

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

Monday, March 07, 2011

There was a saying

on a little plaque that my Mom gave me for my car, when I was younger.  "Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly."  I would have to say the same applies to some of the fists I am hearing on 40 Meters CW tonight.

Before I continue, let me be the first to admit that my fist is FAR from perfect.  And there are nights when my hands just won't work and my fist is atrocious.  But when that happens, I try to slow down a bit and do my best to make it sound good.

I guess what I am listening to is some guys who fancy themselves as fledgling QRQ ops.  Wow!  In an effort to increase speed, it appears that spacing has gone out the window.  What's the point at going a blazing 35 - 40 WPM if you leave the guy on the other end shaking his head because he can't quite make out exactly what you're sending?  And if you have to send a "?" or "......" indicating an error every third word or so, what's the point?

Slow it down a tad, and remember that spacing is as important if not more important than the lengths of your dits and dahs.  From time to time, I send into my own laptop through the soundcard.  If CW Get can decipher what I am sending, then I feel I am doing pretty well.  Before the dawn of computers, I used to use a cassette tape recorder to record some of my own sending for my own critiquing purposes.

The FISTS motto is one to live by and remember - "Accuracy transcends speed".

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

PS:  The streak is intact!  Worked K6JSS/7 - Randy K7TQ in Idaho during the ARS Spartan Sprint on 40 Meters. On the flip side, 4A4A was loud on 20 Meters but still couldn't break the pileup.  My turn will probably come towards the end of the DXpedition, when they are begging for Qs.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

This stuff is so much fun!

Being a Ham for over 30 years, you would think that would be deeply ingrained in the old cranium.  I suppose that it is; but at the same time this hobby is something I take for granted.  I suppose all of us do to some extent or another.

But a good afternoon on the radio brings it all back.  In addition to working Russia this morning on 15 Meters, I also worked Martinique and Iceland on 17 Meters and had a couple of nice ragchews with Stateside "locals" on 40 Meters.  In fact, I just finished a nice one with Art K4TP who was using his old SB-102 for the evening.  It sounded great by the way - like any other piece of commercial gear out there.




Of course, the QSO ended up with us both being nostalgic for the "Boys from Benton Harbor" and all the wonderful products that were available from them.  Lord know, we never thought a) that they would go away and b) what the kits would be worth now!  If I was smart (and I emphasize the word "if") I think I would buy a couple of K2s and stash them away in the basement, unbuilt.  I might never see the return; but in some years from now, my kids might be able to get a nice return on them.

Because of Point A, that I made above, that we thought they would never go away - I could really kick myself for all the Heathkit gear that I built over the years that I subsequently sold and no longer have.  It is true what they say - hindsight is 20/20 !!!  But I learned my lesson well after the HW-8 incident.  I don't think I could ever bring myself to sell my K1, K2 or PFR-3A unless it was the direst of emergencies.  I know only too well how much I would regret it in years to come.

The QSO with Art ended too soon, when he reported hearing some loud static crashes.  Springtime brings thunderstorms; and when they come, the best thing to do is get off the air and ditch the antennas!

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

15 Meters is open

For those of you who might have time to fool around with the radio this morning, 15 Meters is open nicely to Europe (at least from the East Coast, that is).  I worked Alex RK3ER right after he worked Jim W1PID.  I couldn't hear Jim, of course, but Alex, who lives near Orel, was coming in nicely.

I've been doing more listening than anything, and I am hearing all sort of Russian stations as well as EW8U in Belarus, England, Bulgaria, etc.  It seems like the sun is definitely waking up from it's long slumber.

I heard and tried to work 4A4A yesterday afternoon on 15 Meters.  This is a DXpedition to the Revillagigedo Archipelago off the western coast of Mexico.  They will be there from March 3rd to the 20th.  They had a booming signal into NJ; but I couldn't seem to crack the pileup.  From looking at maps of my previous contacts, it seems I have trouble with my signal being heard in that direction. I think I will have to stick with the Butternut if I hope to crack this one.  The wire probably has a null in that direction.

Hopefully, I will get more air time this afternoon.  I can't do anything outside today, even though it's very warm, it is also quite rainy in NJ today.

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

Thursday, March 03, 2011

40 Meters long again!

40 Meters proved to be quite the "long line" again tonight.  I did work one of the QRP-L Foxes.  This time it was Marshall Emm N1FN in Aurora, CO.  The G5RV didn't seem to be getting the job done, so I switched over to the HF9V.  Answered on the second call!

However, the G5RV was good enough to work HH4/AF4Z in Haiti and even though I didn't work him, F3NB was booming in like gangbusters!

The station that I really wanted to work, but didn't, was K7UGA, who I heard around 7.028 MHz.  The late Senator Barry Goldwater's call is being used for a special event station.  I never actually worked the Senator while he was alive; but it would've been neat to work it now.  I'll bet the QSL is going to be special.

No delivery yet on either the Ladder Line Grabber or the bug weights.  Why does it always seem to take so long to get something that you really need or want?  This weekend Cara has a cheerleading competition; but next weekend is looking like it might have some potential for antenna work.  If the Emtech piece doesn't come by then, I may be forced to homebrew something.  I'm sure whatever I come up with will work just fine, but it probably won't be half as pretty!

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

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Tough day

at work today.  Lately, it seems like there is no shortage of tough days at work.

To make up for it, I was delighted to see the March issue of CQ magazine in the mailbox when I got home.  That really brightened up the day.  CQ, WorldRadio and QRP Quartely are my favorites and I always enjoy reading them.  CQ has a nice balance of contest, technical and "Ham-interest" articles.  Hats off to Rich Moseson W2VU and the entire CQ staff for continuously putting out a fine publication.

I had to chuckle to myself.  Lately on QRP-L, there's a thread going on entitled "Lost".  It seems one of our QRP brethren has misplaced a rig.  That has to be something unique to QRPers.  I doubt there's any other facet of Amateur Radio where a rig can be so easily misplaced, outside of a VHF or UHF handheld, of course.  But this topic kind of dovetailed with my post the other night about misplacing my Vibroplex weights.  I still haven't found them; but feel just so ever slightly better to know that I'm not the only one.

The temperatures in the Central NJ area are upward bound.  We still have our days where we are reminded that Ol' Man Winter still dominates; but days with highs in the 40s and 50s are becoming more common.  I haven't seen the first robin of Spring, or even the first crocus; but Daylight Saving Time resumes the next weekend after this upcoming one.  It will be lighter, later; and that's always a good thing.

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