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Saturday, June 30, 2012

And the heat goes on ......

but definitely not quite as bad as yesterday.  The high for today was only around 94F - about 5 degrees cooler than yesterday.

Looks like we might get some thunderstorms tonight - I've got some chicken, potatoes and corn-on-th-cob on the grill.  Hope it waits until AFTER dinner is cooked!

Tonight's plan is to start working on the K3.  I'm really torn between using the KX3 and having some operating fun and the build of the new radio.  Another determining factor is that I am beginning to pack away the KX3 in preparation for vacation soon.  I need to finalize the logistics of my new Lowepro "portable ops" pack.  I'll try and shoot some photos or perhaps a video once I get the final configuration down.

Radio, key, battery and accessories aren't the problem.  The problem is figuring out which antennas to bring along.  This year the Buddistick and the magmount will ride along in the Jeep. But for hiking purposes, I think I will end up taking only the EFHW wires that I have pre-cut.  They take the least amount of space and are quick to set up - AND, they are proven, I have gotten decent results with them before, including some European DX last year.

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hot, hot, hot!

Years ago, that was the title of a song by Buster Poindexter.  That title is very apropos for this coming weekend.  Just to give you a little of our flavor - here it is 10:20 PM and it's still 82F (28C) outside.  When I got to my car to come home from work, the Jeep's thermometer read 101F (38C). I thought to myself, "Yeah, that's because the car was sitting in the sun, it will cool down as I move and I'll get the real reading in a few minutes".  Ten minutes later, the temperature did indeed drop, all the way down to 100F. One degree!

This weekend is going to be brutal as this is supposed to last right through Monday. It's a good thing we had the air conditioning fixed last week. At least we'll be able to sleep in relative comfort. No matter how bad it gets, though, in my mind this is better than 6 inches of snow and 22F outside.  I'll deal with this any day of the week!

Two cool (pardon the pun) events took place tonight.  First, yours truly, one of the most inept people on the face of the Earth when it comes to figuring out COM ports and such stuff, managed to download the KX3 utility from Elecraft. Not only that; but I got it to work!  I downloaded from the Elecraft server and then uploaded into my KX3, the latest version of firmware. And I discovered that using the KX3 utility, that you can enter a start up banner. So now, when I turn the rig on, where the secondary VFO display normally is, you see "W2LJ's KX3" for a few seconds before that changes over to the normal VFO display.

Second cool event:


I completed the K3 inventory. Everything was there! Well, just about everything - I am missing three #6 split ring washers.  But I can pick those up (or an equivalent) at a local hardware store. None of the screws were missing.  In fact, there was OVER the amount needed and that does NOT include the extras that can be found in the Elecraft spare hardware bag. The picture above does not do the situation any justice.  When I opened up that big cardboard box, it was jam packed with bags, envelopes, static bags and other things.  By the time I was done, the entire table was covered with Elecraft goodies - you couldn't even see the table cloth.

I am hoping to start the build tomorrow night after all Saturday's chores are done.  I am also hoping for a chance to run over to the park on Sunday with the KX3 a battery and some wire,  If I get the opportunity, I will post myself on QRPSPOTS and maybe we'll run into each other on the air!

By the way, we're up to 75 Skeeter numbers given out for the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt to be held on Sunday, August 12th,  I'll be handing out numbers right up to the day before; but don't be part of the last minute rush! Get yours today by sending an email to w2lj@arrl.net 

And no, to answer all of you out there who are concerned about FOBB - I have not heard anything new. I have no inside information; and in fact, there may be more of you out there who have better info than I do!

72 de Larry W2J
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

KX3 is extremely Fox worthy

I used my KX3 for the first of the 2012 Summer 20 Meter Fox hunts tonight - and it was great!

Using the K2, you hit the "split" button and you tune each, VFO A and VFO B with the same main tuning knob.  You have to switch back and forth between the two VFOs in order to tune each one.

Not so with the KX3!  Hit "split" and tune VFO A with the main knob and tune VFO B with the smaller, side tuning knob.  No need to keep switching between VFOs to tune each one!  This made things so much easier.

I worked Paul K4FB pretty much right off the bat.  Don NK6A in California was more of a challenge. He was weak, but was picking up in signal strength as the hunt progressed.  Nabbed each pelt using the Butternut vertical.

This was a great way to start the Summer season. Hope it stays this good!

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A day early again!

I got confirmation from Elecraft on Monday that my K3 was shipping UPS 3 Day Select. So you have to figure - Tuesday, Wednesday, and delivery on Thursday.  In fact, that's what the official UPS Tracking Website confirmed for me - delivery by the end of the day on June 28th.  So imagine my surprise when I got home to find a big brown box waiting for me.  Inside was:


Serial number 6625 - just waiting to be built!

Also included inside are the K3 ATU, the 400Hz, 8 Pole Roofing Filter, and the handheld microphone. I also ordered a microphone for the KX3 while I was at it.  And no, before anyone gets all excited, I am not renouncing CW!  I got the microphone(s) for two basic reasons.

1) Doing Ham Radio demos.  I have found that demos go best when you show folks CW and SSB.  There's nothing like putting a mic into the hands of someone and allowing them to speak with someone halfway around the country, or the globe for that matter.  It's something that THEY can relate to.  Morse Code is "cool" as I have been told by a lot of kids - but letting them talk to someone in far off Uzbekafgonalakistan is the ultimate "Wow".  (A note to my lawyer - yes, that is a made up country name).

2) Special Event stations - I really used to like to hunt them.  A lot are not on CW at all these days, a lot are phone only.  Hence, my decision to buy some microphones.  Take for instance the "13 Colonies" Special Event that is held each year around Independence Day.  Last year I was able to find exactly ONE state (MA) on CW.  Maybe I won't work many; but at least now I can try.

I really have to tip my hat to you SSB QRP guys.  You guys have supernatural patience!  Except for the rare instance, I will stick with CW for a 99% majority of my operating time.  I don't have your kind of patience.

Tonight was preoccupied with other matters. Tomorrow night, God willing and the creek don't rise, I will begin by doing a complete inventory.  I don't expect anything to be missing as K3s are not rushing out the door as the same rate as KX3s.

Oh, and by the way, in case I didn't mention it ..... the K2 is going NOWHERE!  I am NEVER giving that radio up!

Even though the sunspot number is a paltry 28, I had a good night on 20 and 30 Meters.  Germany, Lithuania, Ecuador and The Ukraine were all easily reached with 5 Watts. I even managed to bust a mini-pileup to work the Lithuanian on 30 Meters.  That felt really good!

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

Taking a plunge.

This past weekend was terribly busy, busier than even I thought it would be.  As a result, I didn't make it to ANY Field Day activities. Friday (I took the day off), Saturday and Sunday were all spent clearing out my Mom's apartment, which has to be vacated by this coming Friday.  Thanks to our efforts (my sister, her husband, and myself) we are at the point where only relatively minor things have to be done.  We will make the deadline with no sweat. Well, actually we sweat a lot this past weekend!

My sister and I got into a discussion about the small amount of money that my Mom was able to leave each of us.  My sister suggested that my Mom really wanted her and I to use a small portion of that on ourselves.

With that in mind, I took a deep breath, and placed an order for a K3 last night.  The K3/10, the ATU (have to be able to hook up both antennas), the 400 Hz roofing filter, and (get this!) the hand microphone.

I am excited by this; but have mixed emotions.  I am not used to splurging on myself like this.  Usually, when I get a new piece of gear like my PFR3A or the KX3, I have to sell something or somehow otherwise earn or save up the money (birthday and Christmas money gifts, etc). This is truly bittersweet as it is the last temporal gift  that I will ever get from my Mom.

 But she always approved of my hobby and was glad for the enjoyment it gave and continues to give me. 

Thanks, Mom - for everything!

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

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Field Day and sleep?

Field Day 2012 for W2LJ was not to be, so far.

I went down and helped my sister clean out my Mom's apartment as scheduled.  That was planned and was no big deal - in fact, I enjoyed spending some "alone time" with my big sister.  As we both have our own families now, that just doesn't happen often enough.

The plan to go down to the Sarnoff Radio Club Field Day site got "kiboshed", however.  Actually, my sister drove me past the site at around 11:00 AM as we were driving to Princeton to donate some paperback books.  I didn't see anyone setting up at that point and had planned to stop by later, on my way home.

Of course, shortly thereafter, while packing items in the apartment, my cell phone went off - work. They were looking for a Cisco 9513 switch and line cards for an emergency switch replacement and "could I stick around close, on standby" just in case they needed me to come in and help them locate components?

So after our cleaning session ended, I hurried home just to be available, if needed.  Luckily, I wasn't needed; but it did put a damper on my plans.

But in the evening, during my weekly Echolink session with my good friend Bob W3BBO, he mentioned his visits to some Field Day sites today and that he might visit a few more tomorrow.  Then it hit me!  Tomorrow!  Maybe tomorrow, when I am back down there, I can hit the Sarnoff site for a half hour or so. And that is assuming they're still set up.  I know Field Day runs until 2:00 PM; but I know some clubs like to call it quits early.

So for a bit, I lived Field Day vicariously through Matt W1MST's AmateurRadio.com, where he's running some UStream of a couple of Field Day sites.  I was watching KC2RA for a couple of minutes when one of the guys mentioned setting up his tent so that he could sleep tonight.

Sleep on Field Day?  What is that, he asked, smiling knowingly?

When I was an officer with the Piscataway club (and was still single, BTW), I did my best to be there for set up, the whole event, and a good part of tear down.  I remember quite a few years where sleep on Field Day was nothing more than a few minutes of cat napping in Rich W2PQ's pop up camber or Bill W2WK's trailer. C'mon, man!  We're there to operate, not sleep!  Who can hit the sack when there's CW contacts to be made on 80 and 40!

Of course, the end result was being rather bleary eyed and dysfunctional for work come Monday morning.  The other side effect was hearing Morse Code in your head for about 3 - 5 days later until that faded away.  But those were fun days and I wouldn't trade those experiences for all the tea in China! (Ooops!  Am I still allowed to say that; or is that something the PC police are going to shut me down for?)

Hope you all are having a wonderful Field Day!

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

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Heat is Gone

The past few days, "The Heat Is On" by Glenn Frey from the movie "Beverly Hills Cop" had been constantly running through my head.  It's been a scorcher and was best described by my friend Kevin, who looked at me Wednesday night and just said one word - "Oppressive".

Now, truth be told .... I love the Summer.  Just love, love, love it!  The heat and humidity normally don't bother me too much, but (pardon the pun) there was no "warm up" to this.  One day - beautiful Spring weather. Next day - WHAM! - the height of Summer.  While we had the benefit of an accurate forecast, no one was ready for this, there was no ramp up of heat.

But today, the "Heat is Gone".  Actually, it was still pretty bad all day; but at around 5:30 PM, while it was still around 90F(32C), dark thunderheads appeared in the western sky. By 6:00 PM it was lightning, thundering and pouring buckets of rain - and ..... it was also 72F (22C). A drop of almost 20 Farenheit degrees.  The balance of the forecast for the weekend looks good - sunny each day and highs in the mid 80s (29C).  That should mean excellent conditions for Field Day.

Tomorrow (and possibly Sunday) I have to continue to help my sister with emptying my Mom's apartment. However, she just texted me that the David Sarnoff Radio Club will be having their Field Day just down the street (literally) from my Mom's place.  The NJQRPers sometimes join in on Field Day with the Sarnoff group, so maybe on the way home, I can stop off for a few minutes and mosey a bit.



Another good friend, Rem K6BBQ posted another of his entertaining and informative portable ops videos.  The one shows his efforts during the 7th Call District QSO Party back on May 5th.



Since it was May 5th, Rem was also sure to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by partaking of a burrito for lunch.  It sure looked good and I'll bet it tasted as good as it looked.  Rem is not only a superb QRP op, (and a superb PORTABLE QRP op) but is also a Ham in the finest tradition of the hobby, making sure that good food is also included as an important part of all these events.

Hope all of you have fun this weekend with Field Day.  You know, even if you're not affiliated with a club, as long as you have time and no conflicting commitments, there's always the backyard picnic table or patio table, or local park or whatever.  AND ..... even if you're not into contesting (and we all know that FD is NOT a contest - Hi!) - Field Day is a good opportunity to try out that new portable antenna you just built. Or that new radio you just built, or that new antenna tuner you just built and need to try.  You get my drift - practical field environment!

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

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The spirit is willing

But the flesh IS weak, tonight!

I would like to operate a bit more tonight; but I am almost falling asleep behind the key.  Due to the heat in the house last night, it was very uncomfortable trying to fall asleep.  My pillow felt like a big sponge all night long; and I finally ended up drifting off around 3:00 AM.  Of course, that was only to wake up for work about 3 hours later.

I will have to be satisfied with one contact on 20 Meters, having worked Serge RN3DN whose QTH is near Moscow.  He had a very pleasant fist and a nice 589 signal into New Jersey and I received a 569 in return.  I would love to tune around and work a few more; but it's not a good thing when your head snaps as you fall into that grey area between being awake and falling asleep.

The KX3 continues to amaze me. So many features jammed into a radio that is really only just a little bit bigger than some of the 2M handhelds that were around when I first started my Ham career 24 years ago.

Thank the Lord, the air conditioner repairmen came today and were able to make repairs without the need for a new compressor.  It reached 98F (37C) here in Central New Jersey today - not quite high as they expected.  With the combined high humidity, it was quite oppressive.  But right now, it's a relatively cool 78F  (25C) in the house which is much, much better than what I had to deal with last night.  I should be able to garner a good night's sleep tonight.

Tomorrow is expected to be very hot and humid again; but not quite as warm as today.  Heavy and possibly some severe thunderstorms are expected late tomorrow afternoon and tomorrow evening, which will break the back of this heatwave.  High temperatures over the weekend are expected around 85F (29C).

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hot!

The first day of Summer came as a prototypical Summer day - hot and humid!  The high temperature did reach 96F (35C) and is expected to be about the same tomorrow (maybe a little higher) and in the 90s on Friday. A heatwave is defined as a period of at least three days with temps in the 90s - so Summer is starting off with a bang!

Unfortunately, our air conditioning unit picked a heckuva time to give up the ghost!  We have a repairman coming tomorrow and I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will not need a new compressor.  Our Central AC unit was not brandy new when we bought the house 14 years ago, so it may be time for a new one. Eeep!

On the CW-Bugs Yahoo group, Donnie WA9TGT posted a picture of a beautiful (and I mean beautiful!) picture of a bug that he fabricated himself.  I would love to post a copy here; but the original is in his picture folder on the group, so  it is not public property.  If you are a member of the group, however, you can take a  look-see for yourself at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cw_bugs/photos/recent/1291589982/view  It is a thing of beauty and I wish I had the talent to make things like this.

Now for something not radio related: If you have a kindle and are also on Facebook, here's a site to "like":
http://www.facebook.com/EreaderNewsToday

Over the past few months I have been able to "buy" about 30 or 40 books for FREE.  There are all types of genres available and there may be days when it seems that nothing good is being offered except for a bunch of turkeys.  But then the days come when there are a lot of good mysteries, suspense novels, thrillers, etc. In true Ham fashion, stuff that's offered for free can't be all bad, can it?

This weekend is Field Day and the weather here in the Northeast looks to be perfect for it. I will not be participating this year as my sister and I have to finish clearing out my Mom's apartment before the end of the month.  We've gotten a lot taken care of so far; and are about halfway done.  I think all the small stuff will be boxed up and moved out this weekend.  Whatever furniture is left over will be donated to charity and will be picked up next week.

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Holy Hannah!

I looked at the weather forecast for the next two days - 96F tomorrow (35C) and 102F on Thursday (39C). Wow! I guess it is no coincidence that tomorrow is the first day of summer.

And wouldn't you know it ?!?  Band conditions seem to be headed right into the toilet as Field Day weekend approaches.  The Sunspot number is 66 and declining. We'll get to see of Amateurs create their "own" propagation this weekend.  Maybe with that much RF heating up the ionosphere, we won't need so many Sunspots.

The past few nights have been very good on the bands.  Tonight, the noise floor seemed to be higher and it sounded like there was less activity.  FG5FR was booming into NJ from Guadeloupe; but I worked Frantz about a week ago, so it's time to let other stations have at him.

Looks like some reading tonight and then sack time.

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

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hate to do this.

I hate "stealing" material from my fellow bloggers.  I saw this referenced on John N8ZYA's extremely good blog and I thought that it could withstand repeating:



This is such a good video for promoting Amateur Radio!

It not only shows some of the "cooler" things you can do with the hobby; but it also stresses that Amateur Radio still serves as an important communications back up role.

A very big tip o' the hat to John N8ZYA - cool beans, John!

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

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Here in the USA

we are celebrating Father's Day tomorrow.  So from W2LJ to all my Ham friends around the world who are dads - Happy Father's Day!


Being a dad has come a long way from what it was when I was a kid.  Not to say that my Dad wasn't involved, he was.  But back in the day, Dad's primary role was "The Provider".  He put in his time at work and when he came home, Mom made sure we didn't bug him too much!  He did his share of chores (yardwork and such) but Mom always made sure he got a chance to unwind and relax at the end of the day.

Today, I find myself way more involved with my kids, than my Dad was ever involved with me.  This IS NOT a complaint, as I wouldn't have it any other way - but it can be exhausting, especially when a school project or a game or whatever comes up after a long, hard day at work.

But you know what? This is exactly what I signed up for when I said, "I do".  My kids are the apples of my eye and I don't ever want to go back to the life I had before they came.  Not to say that it was bad, as it wasn't; but the two of them have made life so much better.

Getting back to radio, that double CME that was foretold by Spaceweather.com didn't seem to really put any damper on the bands.  After a multitude of chores were completed, I got to relax at the end of the day down in the shack.  I worked David MI0VKO in Northern Ireland on 17 Meters and on 30 Meters,  had a very nice rag chew with Jeff, K8CQ who lives down on St. Simons Island, GA.  The KX3 continues to impress, especially its ability to really dig super weak signals out of the background.

I did something the other day with it that really surprised me.  And it was something very simple.  I plugged in ear buds instead of using the internal speaker.  Wow!  The difference was amazing.  I can only liken it to listening to a broadcast radio in the "old days" and switching from AM to FM. The change in fidelity and richness of the audio is remarkable.  I've never experienced this with any other rig, including my K1 and K2.  Eric and Wayne HAVE hit a home run here, and I'm tempted to say it was a Grand Slam.

Again, to all of you who are dads out there - Happy Father's Day!  And of course, my prayers go out to all the Dads who have gone before us and can't be with us tomorrow.

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

Friday, June 15, 2012

Getting in some operating time

tonight, because according to Ron WB3AAL and a post he made to the Polar Bear reflector, band conditions might turn into a mess this weekend:


Space Weather News for June 14, 2012
 http://spaceweather.com 

DOUBLE CME: Active sunspot AR1504 is facing Earth and hurling coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in our direction. A fast-moving CME that left the sun on June 14th is expected to scoop up another CME already en route and deliver a double-blow to Earth's magnetic field on June 16th. Weak-to-moderate geomagnetic storms are possible when the clouds arrive. Check http://spaceweather.com for images and updates.

Tonight, band conditions are nice and I am having a blast.  I had a very brief QSO with TJ W0EA and this ended up being my first KX3 to KX3 QSO.  I am also hearing a lot of European stations and am able to work quite a few.  But this just goes to show you ...........

My QSO with TJ was very brief because my signal to him was exceptionally crappy.  I looked down and realized that I was still on the EDZ for our QSO.  After signing with him, I switched over to the Butternut, called CQ again and got a 559 from OM7DX in the Slovak Republic.

The other night was a first for me.  I heard my very first VU station - ever!  For whatever reason, I have never even heard a station from India before.  Hearing one the other night was an exciting first for me.

Ah, yes .... it's Friday night, the work week is done, the weather is nice and I get to go on the radio.  Great way to start Father's Day weekend!

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Interesting night on 20 Meters

I kept the radio tuned to 20 Meters for the evening and had a variety of QSOs.

The first was with CO6RD, Reynaldo in Cuba.  This wasn't a long QSO as Reynaldo was working "contest style" racking up the QSOs. But I did get him on the first shot, even though a lot of stations were calling.

Next up was a busted QSO with Mike AA6WQ, who was operating from TN.  We got through the QSO basics, only to have the band pull the rug out from under us.  One minute we were going at it, next minute we couldn't hear each other anymore. I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles, sometimes.

With two short QSOs under my belt, I was thinking that might be how the evening was going to go. But my fears turned to be for nothing as the next QSO was an almost hour long rag chew with Paul W4KLY in Stone Moutnain, GA.  This was an Elecraft to Elecraft QSO.  Paul was using his K1 and (of course) I was on the KX3.  QSB had a role to play; but in all honesty, when the band was not in fade mode,  our signals were 599 both ways.  We talked about rigs, portable ops and antennas and summer vacation plans.  It was very enjoyable and it is truly amazing to see how fast an hour can go by on you when you're having fun.

The last QSO for the night was with Rumi LZ2RS in Bulgaria.  He was calling "CQ QRP" and I was lucky enough to be heard on my first call.  Rumi was at 5 Watts; but what really made the QSO was his Yagi at 12 meters up, pointed my way.  I was on the 88' EDZ pumping out 5 Watts from my end also.  Signals were a legitimate 559.

The bands have been so good lately!  Not the best I've ever witnessed; but after the past few pitiful years, this is like Heaven (comparatively).  I sure hope it stays this way for a while and doesn't take a fast dive off a cliff into oblivion.

On another note, this new 9 cell battery that I got for the Acer is fantastic!  I got it Monday and attached it to the netbook for charging.  I've used it Tuesday, Wednesday, and tonight - about two to three hours per night.  The indicator says it still has about another two hours left in it.  Of course, I have Windows set for "Max Battery Life" through the control panel, but even so, this is way outlasting the old battery.  That one gave me about two hours computer time, tops.  This battery should be able to get me through a four hour sprint (outdoors) without breaking a sweat.

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good night on the bands

Got QSOs on four different bands tonight - they all seemed to be in decent shape.

CN8KD in Morocco on 20 Meters
UA3TCJ in European Russia on 17 Meters
UT6UD in the Ukraine on 30 Meters
EW7LO in Belarus on 40 Meters

No rag chews tonight - just quickie kind of DX contacts.  The QSOs on 17 and 20 Meters were completed through the Butternut HF9V and the QSOs on 30 and 40 Meters were made through the 88' EDZ antenna. As per the little NA5N propagation box, conditions on all the bands I used were pretty good.

Just for the heck of it, I hooked both antennas up to my coax switch and then to the KX3.  You could actually hear the signals being attenuated by the switch.  The difference between direct hookup to the rig and going through this crummy switch was like night and day.  I'll have to try and see if I can find a good quality coax switch at the hamfest this weekend to replace this piece of junk.

It would be nice to be able to switch real quickly.  Take the QSO with CN8KD for example.  When I first heard him, I was on the wire.  I called and called and called with no result.  I switched over to the vertical and bingo - first try resulted in a QSO.  Maybe it was coincidence, but in my mind, in this case the vertical made all the difference in the world.  The wire is a much better performer on 80 and 40 Meters.  It sure would be nice to be able to switch at the flick of a button.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Firefox mess up

Firefox auto updated sometime over the weekend.  Everything seems to be OK except that my revolvermap globe, down and to the right, appears to me to be a "white hole".  No more globe, although everything is still fine when browsing using either Chrome or IE.

My friend who was racing me between his house closing and me getting the KX3 has moved into his new house.  No hitches except for the fact that it's been a week and he still doesn't have an antenna up yet!  Am I a pathetic Ham or what? Shows where MY priorities are - although I have to admit that if I were in the same situation, I'm sure an antenna would not be utmost on my schedule (practically speaking), either.

I placed an order for a 9 cell battery for my Acer Aspire One from eBay.  This is the netbook that I use in the shack and  for when I go portable.  The old 6 cell battery gave me about an 1 & 1/2 to 2 hours computer time.  This new battery should add about an hour to that. Turns out that it was shipped from the next town over, so I had to pay NJ sales tax. It still came under $25, though.

30 Meters was in fine shape tonight - I had a good couple of rag chews with some of our VE brethren.  Love it when there's hardly any background noise. The incoming signals seem to jump right out at you.

BTW, the new header photo isn't new.  That's "Lake George Sunrise" that I took back in 2007.  It was taken on the day we came home that year.  I was up at 5:00 AM, packing up the car as the sun was rising.  I knew I had a decent photo in the offing, so I dug out the camera and got a few like that before we left. Hard to believe it was that long ago.  When we go up there for our annual vacation this summer, it will be our 9th year there.  Both Marianne and I love it up there and wouldn't mind moving up there when it's retirement time (like THAT'S going to ever happen!).  I don't know if I could handle the winters up in NY State, though.

Back to the shack for a bit .....

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


Monday, June 11, 2012

Stuff

Sometimes, the most satisfying QSOs don't seem to relate to distance.  I had a really nice rag chew tonight with John N3WT on 40 Meters.  The band was in real good shape, with hardly any background QRN.  John is only two states away, in Maryland; but yet he gifted me with one of the nicest chats I've had since the one with Terry W9UX last week. He was using his K1, and I was on (of course) my KX3.  We were both pumping 599 five Watt signals into the aether.

The discussion ranged from things Elecraft to things Flex Radio, antennas and radio problems. Our conversation lasted but a half hour; but it will be one that I will remember for a while to come.  When the CW just flows from your fingers and the copy is armchair, a QSO can be a thing of beauty.

I've also migrated back from Ham Radio Deluxe to N3FJP's AC log.  Since Simon Brown sold the rights, and HRD will no longer be a free offering, it's probably just a matter of time until the free version will no longer be supported.  I paid for AC Log years back, so I may as well use what I have already paid for.  And seriously, with HRD, I was only using the logging portion anyhow, so it's not like I'm losing a lot of features that I never used anyway.  AC Log loads faster, since it's a much simpler program - so it's almost ready to go as soon as I am. Good thing I never threw away the e-mail with my registration number!

I was contemplating looking at the DX Lab suite of programs for a second time, but again, I think we're looking at more than I need for my purposes.  All those bells and whistles are extremely nice; but if I don't plan on using them, what's the sense?  I don't want to say that I would never be, but right now I'm just a dial twiddlin' kind of guy.  I don't envision being the kind of contesting guy who truly needs the ability to click a mouse and have the radio instantly jump to a frequency that's on a computer screen.  To borrow a line from Seinfeld - "Not that there's anything wrong with that".  But it's just not my speed.

This coming Saturday is the Raritan Valley Radio Club's annual hamfest.  Like last year, I will probably be on parking lot duty.  It will be a long day, with arrival time set at about 5:00 AM.  Watching the 10:00 PM news for the long range forecast is so far calling for a partly cloudy, but dry Saturday with highs in the mid to upper 70s.

Oh well, time to hit the sack. I have to go downstairs and pop a couple Advil first.  I am feeling some minor aches and pains from all the yard work that I did this weekend.  Don't want to be up all night with a twitchy back.

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

Saturday, June 09, 2012

17 Meters

has been very good the past few days.  I have worked a lot of European stations the past couple of days, and I have taken to listening for Special Event stations for the European Football Championships.

These stations are on the air from June 1st to July 5th.  So far, the few that I have contacted, from the Ukraine and Poland have been superb ops with great ears!  If you want to find out more about this program, you can visit:

http://sq2rh.idsl.pl/efc/index_en.php

The KX3 continues to impress.  Except for not being able to connect two antennas, like I can on my K2, it has all the features my K2 has (plus many more) in a much smaller footprint.  And the smaller footprint is not annoying, and I am a fudge fingered kind of guy.  The buttons have multi-functions, but not so many levels that it is frustrating.

I like having 6 Meter capability, which I have never had before.  I like the feature where the KX3 will auto zero beat the desired CW signal that you want to work.  The APF feature - Audio Peak Frequency really helps dig out the weak signals.  I can easily hear stations that cannot hear me, so I really, really have to get used to the fact that just because I can hear them, they might not be able to hear me, with me at only 5 Watts.

There's more to be discovered, I am sure. I still have to come into the 21st century and hook up the radio to my computer and at least give computer control a try.  Up till now, I have been a "twirl the dial" kind if guy.  I don't anticipate that changing really; but I'd like to give it a try, anyway.

One thing I am not too thrilled with is the weighting of the CW.  To my ear, the dits and dahs sound a little truncated, even with the weighting turned to the max.  Several folks have also mentioned this on the KX3 reflector and Wayne from Elecraft has agreed.  Once he gets back from a well deserved vacation later this month, he is going to incorporate a fix in an upcoming firmware update.

After watching W0EA's video about the Lowepro Traveler 150, I went out to Wal-Mart and picked one up at a great price.  I am going to see how everything fits in, later this week, to start getting ready for our Lake George summer sojourn.  Maybe I'll do my own video and post it here.

That's it for now - going to head on down the shack and see who I might be able to work.

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Got 3 spare hours?

Want to see a KX3 build from start to finish?  TJ, W0EA treated us to live video on USTREAM while he built his:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/23127348

If you have a kit on order and have the time, I would really advise watching this (Hint: Start viewing at about the 8:00 minute mark).  Looking at stills (like I've posted) is one thing.  Watching the build being done before your very eyes (in real time) is just priceless.

Even though mine is built, I also learned a thing or two.  TJ mentioned that there was a Builder Advisory note that I hadn't seen anywhere. It concerns the speaker grill and the distortion that can occur if it is installed.  I was experiencing that distortion; so as a result of listening to TJ, I took it out. The unit sounds much better now.

I still haven't done the roofing filter alignment. maybe tomorrow night as I have been way busy.  But I have found some time to get in a QSO every day for the past few days.  I worked EM2012UA tonight, which is a special event station for the 2012 European Football Championships. Five watts to the Butternut vertical is still getting my signal heard worldwide.

By the way, conditions on 20 Meters were superb tonight.  The noise floor was about S1 and I heard so many European and Caribbean stations up and down the band - it was amazing (especially the fact that it was around 02:30 UTC - recently the band has been dead by then).  The fact that the sun spot number is 154 is a good thing.  Maybe Venus imparted some magic as she crossed the face of the sun yesterday?  Who knows?  If conditions like these keep up for a while, I think we'll all be happy.

I am becoming more and more familiar with the radio and quite honestly, it isn't as complicated as I initially thought it would be.  The controls are well labeled and are pretty intuitive and easy to get the hang of.

The bait's been taken; but the hook hasn't quite set yet, but this fishy really wants a K3 now.

I've been getting a lot of spam comments over the past week or so.  Been averaging about 20 a day since I took the Captcha code thingy off.  I apologize for keeping the comments on moderation; but if I didn't I'd be overrun by spam.  So if you make a comment and don't see it for a while, it's nothing personal - just haven't gotten to allowing them through.

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

Monday, June 04, 2012

FOBB 2012 News

Today I received the following e-mail from Bill W4ZV:


"Hi Larry, FYI on the WRO live blog Richard KI6SN just confirmed that he will be doing FOBB this year and promises results within 2 weeks. Said he would be making an announcement on QRP-L next week. Great news! 73, Bill W4ZV"

End

OK - that's all  the news I have.  I have not received any answers to my inquiries about FOBB, so I would suggest you keep your eyes peeled on QRP-L for the next couple of weeks.  I do not know if FOBB numbers will be issued; or who will be doing the issuing.

This is a great event, and I'm glad to see that it's not going the way of the Dodo.

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

Sunday, June 03, 2012

On the air

It rained and thunder stormed here today, on and off, in fits and starts. That prevented me from doing the yard work that I was planning to accomplish - boo hoo!  :)

So I spent some time on the air, getting used to the new radio.  Fate would have it that band conditions would be on the less than optimal (read that as: crappy) side today.  But I did manage some QSOs both foreign and domestic.  Hungary, Italy, and England were successfully worked.  The domestic QSOs were brief QSO Party contacts for the most part.  They let me know that I was getting out and being heard; but not very satisfying.

I did have another short QSO with Terry W9UX last night on 30 Meters.  I was calling CQ and he answered me and asked, "Larry, is that your new KX3?".  Obviously, Terry is a regular reader of this blog.  I answered him that yes, it was and he was my first "real" QSO - something other than "UR 599 TNX QRZ?"

I'll have to send him my QSL card - the funny thing is that my QSL cards have the image of my K1 on them.  I still have a bunch, so I am not going to discard these just because of that. It's still QRP, which is what the idea behind the card is supposed to be about.

The KX3 is really cool and I'm getting used to it rather quickly. It has really great features like the APF or Audio Peaking Filter that will really help to dig a weak CW signal buried in the noise. I like being able to decode RTTY and watch it scroll at the bottom of the LCD display.  I also like the CW Tuning Aid, where you tap a button and the KX3 automatically zero beats the person you're trying to work.

As the radio is configured now, as a strictly QRP radio, I cannot hook up two antennas like I can on the K2,  and I use that feature a lot to switch back and forth between the Butternut and the wire. I suppose I could always go back to using a mechanical manual coax switch; but by going that route, I would be incurring some signal loss, and I would rather not do that.

There is a button on the KX3 that will allow you to switch between two antennas, but that is enabled only when  the 100 Watt autotuner is used.  As of right now, I have no plans to make this a QRO radio, so the main shack radio will be the K2, unless a K3 should come waltzing into my life for some unforeseen reason.

The other thing that I am looking forward to in the near future is making some contacts on 6 Meters, which I have never done in the 34 years that I have been a Ham.  This is the first radio that I have ever owned that is 6 Meter capable.  The other thing I want to do is hook this netbook up the the KX3, just to see how Ham Radio Deluxe interfaces with it.  I never installed the RS232 option in the K2, so I was never able to have rig control until now, either.

Lots to look forward to!

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

Saturday, June 02, 2012

It lives !!!


As anticipated, the remainder of the KX3 build did not take long at all.  If truth be told, I am technically not finished - I still have to calibrate the roofing filter. But I am done to the point where I have a working radio.

I left off at the point where I had to install the battery holders and the KXAT3 auto tuner.


That is them installed.  I am not sure if I am going to bother with internal batteries.  The option is available to me if I ever decide to; but that li-on battery I bought is so small and light!  And if I don't have to open the case - that makes me happy, also.  You can see the auto tuner to the right.  Here's a close up:


It's quite a piece of work!  Once I turned the KX3 on, I had to go through the menu and select it so that the radio "knew" it was there.  The tricky thing was that once you turn it "on", for the first time, you have to turn the radio off and then back on, so that it initializes with it there.  A bit different than selecting options with the K2.

Next came the roofing filter board:


There it is, right behind one of the battery holders. When you install the KXFL3 you have to take out one of the chassis screws.  It is replaced with a much longer one that actually extends through a hole in the KXFL3 circuit board.   This is to prevent the roofing filter circuit board from becoming jostled loose accidentally if the going gets rough on the trail.

Then came connecting the two halves with the ribbon cable, which was a snap.  Connecting the battery holders to their connector and then mating the two halves together and buttoning the radio up.


The first thing to be done was to hook up the battery, cross my fingers and say a small "No smoke, please!" prayer.  When the moment of truth arrived, the display came up and static came out the speaker. No smoke, no disasters, no disappointment.  From there, it was off of the workbench and onto the shack table we go!


I hooked up the DCP paddles and antenna and made a contact on 20 Meters in whatever 4 land QSO party is going on this weekend.  I have it written downstairs; but I think it was K4SAV. Second QSO was on 40 Meters - G5LO in Great Britain.

There's going to be a learning curve here because this is definitely more complex and sophisticated than my K2.  For now, I just want to make a few QSOs and play around a bit.  I will intensely study the Owner's Manual and will probably try to calibrate the roofing filter tomorrow.  Right now, it's back down to the shack to play!

Thanks to all of you who went for this ride with me, beginning last year, when I started saving and selling things to raise the needed funds.  Thanks for sticking with me as I ordered and began the, what seemed to be, interminable waiting period.

Now that the radio is built and seems to be working, I can truly say it was worth the wait and am looking forward to many hours of fun filled QRPing.

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

A couple of thoughts about the KX3 build

I have a bunch of chores and chauffeuring to do today.  I probably won't get around to continuing the build until this evening.  To paraphrase John Lennon's quote: "Real life is what happens while you're busy making Ham Radio plans".

However, here are a couple of thoughts about the progress so far, for those of you who might be inclined to get one of these but are undecided.  This isn't meant to sway anyone either way - just some observations.

The assembly manual is superb.  No ambiguities at all.  Each step is very clearly outlined.  If you have any questions, they are always readily answered on either the regular Elecraft reflector or the KX3 reflector.  It's a big community.  Even though the number of kits shipped so far has been less than the number of factory built units shipped, the Elecraft folks and the Field Testers are quick to supply answers.

Elecraft was super quick to answer my query about missing screws and supplied me with a tracking number the next day.

In the opening pages of the manual, the words appear "Even easy for first time kit builders".  This is true - don't think that just because you've never built a kit before that you can't undertake this.  I know that the price point can make the effort seem foreboding, but it's really not. 

Do make sure to do the parts inventory, though.  I am sure the missing screws incident is due to the haste to get product out the door.  As the opening rush subsides, I am sure missing parts will become rare.  I ordered my K1 and my K2 way after the initial release and neither of those kits were missing anything. Indeed, I had excess screws which are proving to be a real life saver now.  But in the meantime, if you have ordered a kit and will be getting it soon - DO THE INVENTORY.

Hopefully, I'll be posting more photos later tonight.

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


Friday, June 01, 2012

Onward

The build continues.  So far I have put about 2 hours into this.  While I'm not quite done, I can see this being done in the 2 hours that Wayne mentioned on the KX3 reflector.  But being uber careful, I am going slow and really taking my time (and also taking time to take photos).  At this point I am "basically" finished.  I still need to install the battery holders, the auto tuner and the roofing filters.  That won't take long.  While I am done for the night, I should have this completed and will hopefully make my first QSO (God willing and the creek don't rise) tomorrow.


This is what the top half looks like from the back. You can click on any of these photos to get a larger image.  The speaker and VFO encoder are towards the top right.


Here's a close up of the speaker hooked up to the CP board.  Directly below that is the VFO encoder (and shield).


Here's the finished top half.  If you look at the bottom right hand corner of the plastic bezel you will see where I have a temporary "make do" silver screw holding the bezel down.  This is where I was shorted one screw. I will put a black one in whenever it arrives from Elecraft.


This is the RF board in the bottom housing.  That big black square to the upper left is a magnetic shield.  Things are really crammed onto these circuit boards, I can only imagine the effort it would take to build these boards as a "conventional" kit.


This is the BNC connector. It was a bit tricky to get this in, as with the RF Board in place and screwed down you have to finagle the connector part way into the hole, then get the lock washer and nut in place and started.  Then you have to push the BNC to its final resting place against the chassis wall while simultaneously tightening the lock nut.  There's just not a lot of space!


Here's the two final transistors tightened down to the chassis/heat sink area.  This is another area where you have to be careful as Elecraft makes sure to mention (with a big caution) not to disturb that electrolytic capacitor.

So far this has been real easy as kit builds go.  The assembly manual is superbly done. The hardest part so far was installing some nylon screws for the rubber feet.  You want to make sure you get the screws started at exactly the right angle so you don't end up cross threading or otherwise mucking up the screw threads.

And except for that one silver screw at the bezel, I have been able to make do and keep the build going using those extra screws I had left over from my K1 and K2.  Kudos to Elecraft for basically staying with the same hardware so that my "junk box" screws blend right in.  The hardware that I have coming from Aptos will go to replenish my "extras".

The bad side of all this ????  This is really making me want a K3 now!  Maybe if I sell off some of my baseball memorabilia collection ................

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