Monday, December 11, 2017

New offerings

Some offerings:

The uBITX, or micro BITX - being offered at $109 for a limited time.

The uBITX is an HF transceiver capable of 10 Watts output on CW and SSB. It features a general coverage receiver, digital tuning, dual VFOs, RIT and a built in CW keyer.  It comes pretty much assembled, except for a housing and the user would have to hook up the controls knobs, speaker and antenna connections, etc.  Details can be found here: http://www.hfsignals.com/

It comes with open firmware and is designed to be hacked and experimented with. The original software is available online, so if you mess up you can go back to the default, easily enough. The programming language is Arduino C language.

The QRPGuys have also announced some new products:

1:1 and 4:1 voltage Baluns - http://qrpguys.apps-1and1.com/qrpguys-11-41-voltage-baluns

K8TND's 40 Meter Direct Conversion Regenerative Receiver based on a heavily modified Kitchin, N1TEV design. - http://qrpguys.apps-1and1.com/k8tnf-direct-conversion-40m-receiver

Note: W2LJ is NOT connected in any way with any of these companies - just trying to offer the latest news I come across to the QRP community.

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

Friday, December 08, 2017

In keeping with the Season

and the band conditions during our diminishing sun spot cycle, I will post a graphic that I saw on Facebook, courtesy of Jim Stephens NX8Z:


Last night's 80 Meter QRP Fox hunt was a tough go.  I finally managed to nab Randy NC4RT  in North Carolina for a single pelt.  Dave K5IX in Texas was a mere whisper, although my relatively close by neighbor Steve WX2S managed to squeak in a QSO in the closing minutes of the hunt.

QSB was tough, rapid and fluttery, and there was a low, whooshing noise across a part of the band that made things very difficult.  I'm not sure whether that was just local noise or some kind of over the horizon radar; but it was not pleasant to deal with.  I thank God for the Butternut, as it allowed me to snag the pelt.  Going against conventional wisdom, the vertical was giving me less noise than the horizontal wire!

Unfortunately, I think we have a few more years of this before things get better.  Maybe Santa will bring us some sun spots if we're all good Amateur Radio ops?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least1

Thursday, December 07, 2017

QRP ARCI Holiday Homebrew Sprint this Sunday

No, not for guys who make their own adult beverages - for you guys who brew up your own equipment!


This sounds like it would be right up the alley of my good friend, Bob W3BBO - he's got more homebrewed equipment than you can shake a stick at!

The rules are here - http://www.qrparci.org/contests/142-holiday-homebrew-sprint

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Fermi Labs Special Event

Fermi Labs celebrating their 50th Anniversary

https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/radio-lab


Don't get too close to the collider!

On a side note, one of the finest, most sleek looking Special Event certificates that I ever earned was when I worked the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee during one of their milestone anniversaries. That one is framed and hangs on the shack wall to this day.

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Attention KX2 owners / users!

From Wayne N6KR on QRP-L this morning:

The latest KX2 field-test firmware allows power output to be set as high as 12 watts on 80 through 20 meters. (Max out is still 10 watts on 17-10 meters.) Supply voltage must be 12.8 V or higher on key-down. ~14 V supply recommended.

Yes, this is only about 1 dB, but it did help me snag XF1IM this morning on 20 CW.

We consider the change experimental at this point. Not all KX2s are guaranteed to hit 12 W on all of these bands, and this level is recommended for low duty-cycle use, i.e. hunt/pounce.

If you’d like to give it a try, please email me directly. (Editor's note: n6kr@elecraft.com)

73, Wayne N6KR

So there you have it from The Man, himself!

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

SOTA, POTA, NPOTA ??? Now there's NOTA

AND ....... if you're a space buff like me - this one's a goody!  NASA On The Air!

From the ARRL Website:

The Amateur Radio clubs at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) centers around the US have invited the Amateur Radio community to join the NASA On The Air (NOTA) special event. NOTA gets under way in December 2017 and continues through December 2018. In addition to being the agency’s 60th anniversary, 2018 will mark 50 years since NASA orbited the first human around the moon, and 20 years since the first elements of the International Space Station (ISS) were launched into low-Earth orbit.

Starting on Monday, December 11, 2017 (UTC), Amateur Radio club stations at various NASA centers and facilities will be on the air with special event operations to celebrate these monumental achievements, as well as current milestones. Some clubs will offer commemorative QSL cards, and a special certificate will be available indicating the number of NASA club stations worked on various bands and modes.

“We plan to have a web-based system for you to check your points total and download a printable certificate at the end of the event in December 2018,” the NASA announcement said. “Points will be awarded for each center worked on each band and mode (phone, CW, digital, and ‘space’ modes — satellites, meteor scatter, EME, ISS APRS).” That would, of course, include contacts with any of the Amateur Radio stations on the ISS.

Key anniversaries during NOTA include the 45th anniversary of Apollo 17 on December 11, 2017, which kicks off the event; NASA’s founding on July 29, 1958; the 20th anniversary of the ISS first element launch on November 20, 1998; the 20th anniversary of the ISS Node 1 Launch on December 4, 1998, and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8 — launched on December 21, 1968, and returned on December 27 — marking the end of the event.

Ham radio clubs at various NASA facilities will sponsor their own special events to commemorate and celebrate specific events.

“We hope to be on the air for casual contacts and contests as well. All contacts with NASA club stations will count toward your total,” the announcement said. “QSL cards can be requested from each club you work and details will be on the individual QRZ.com profile page for each club call sign.”


I can imagine the pileups now!

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

I had second thoughts

about replacing the W3EDP this past weekend. While it's not the greatest or most efficient wire antenna I've ever had, for some reason it's the best wire antenna for 160 Meters that I've ever had. In the past, my 88' EDZ and G5RV were very poor performers on Top Band, if I could get them to load at all.  Contacts with those netted me QSOs in New Jersey and New York could have been considered DX. On the other hand, the W3EDP has taken me up and down the East coast and gotten me as far as Illinois with 5 Watts.

I know, no great shakes, but even a small trickle of water is like a river to a man dying of thirst. For the coming season of shorter days and longer nights, I decided that instead of replacing it for now, I'd just try to get it up higher, and I did.  I managed to shoot a line over the tree and the apex of the W3EDP is now at about the 40 foot level.  Unfortunately, as it slopes down to meet the mast on the far side, it's a zig-zag affair within the tree limbs.  But it will do for now, while I do some more research to figure out what to swap this out with next Spring, before the leaves return.

I didn't play much in the CQ WWDX this weekend.  I only made 1/2 dozen contacts or so on Saturday afternoon, as I got busy with other things. But it was apparent that the absence of sunspots is doing QRPers no big favors.  QSOs with locations that were easy pickin's just a few years ago were still able to be accomplished - but took a lot more effort. I was a surprise that the Caribbean stations weren't hearing me as well as they used to.  It's amazing how quickly you get used to great band conditions and good propagation when the sunspot numbers are up, and how quickly you notice it when they're not there anymore.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017


Today, in the United States of America, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The day was set aside as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln, in order that we, as a people, might take time to reflect upon and be thankful for the bounty that Almighty God has bestowed upon us.

Where do I begin? Of course, I am thankful for the "things" we have. A warm house, clean clothes and enough food to keep us well fed. But even more than the "things", which are just things, I am so grateful for all the people in my life, past and present.  My loving family, friends, associates, acquaintances, teachers and professionals who have been part of my life and who helped shape me into the person that I am.

No man is an island, and I am so grateful to God that He put all these wonderful individuals into my life. I am particularly grateful for Amateur Radio and because of it, for the friendships and associations that I have been able to make with you through this blog.  I thank God for each and every one of you, and I thank you for your continued reading of this little blog. You are in my prayers, today and every day, and I hope that I will be in yours.

"Give thanks to the Lord our God, His mercy and love endure forever!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I just can't do it!

I hate it when someone on Facebook; or some other visual media decides to get "cute" and spell out Morse Code characters.  For instance this morning, I saw several:

....   .-   .--.   .--.   -.--      -   ....   .-   -.   -.-   ...    --.   ..    ...-    ..     -.   --.

which of course, translates to "Happy Thanksgiving".

I stared at that for minutes, and finally made the connection because of the holiday tomorrow.  I just cannot, for whatever reason, very easily translate visual Morse. I have to HEAR it.  I sit or stand there for minutes, slack jawed and mouth agape, trying to figure out what I'd be able to decode in a nanosecond, if I could just HEAR it!

I guess it's just me, becoming a curmudgeon in my old age.

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


Monday, November 20, 2017

No line up over the weekend

My plan was to hopefully get a line up over the maple tree in the backyard as a prelude to building and installing a new wire antenna over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Again, it was not to be.  By the time I got home from the FLDigi/NBEMS seminar that a bunch of us attended Saturday morning, it was already raining.

Sunday was a no-go here because it was extremely windy. It was so windy, that as Harold (my Beagle) and I sat on the couch in the living room, we could actually hear the wind "howl" as it blew up and down the street. If I had attempted to shoot a line in that wind, I would never have gotten good placement.

So that leaves next weekend. I kind of hate to take down the W3EDP as it served me decently well on 160 Meters.  It really shouldn't have; but with 5 Watts, I was able to routinely get out as far west as Illinois.  For a small suburban lot like mine, that's no small feat. I know that any doublet that I put up will not be nearly long enough to get me any kind of signal on 160 Meters.

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hmmmmmmmm........

Coax is on the way. A new LDG 1:1 Current Balun is on the way and Dave VE7EZM is planting seeds in my brain:


Not only is this do-able, it's not all that far away from the configuration that I had in mind, anyway. 46.8 Feet on the short side may be tight, but I think I'll be crossing the back yard on a bit of a diagonal and not straight across, parallel with the property line. That may just give me the few extra feet of space that I'll need.  

This weekend looks to be busy, getting the house ready for Thanksgiving guests and all (plus I'm attending a seminar on FLDigi and the NBEMS messaging system for AUXCOMM tomtorrow)- but maybe, just maybe, I can find time to shoot a line up into the tree so that I can be ready for the long Holiday weekend next week.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All WX Solar Powered Amateur Radio Field Station


Julian OH8STN is featured on my blog roll, to the right. Just a few days ago, he made a video about operating a field station totally from solar power, off the grid.  The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club does this every Field Day, by using solar power to charge up our batteries. Our radios run from this power source for the entire 24 hours.

Last year, I purchased a portable, brief case type of solar panel, along with a charge controller in order to accomplish the same goal.  I haven't taken it out to the field yet, but I have used it from the back yard; and I know it will work if needed in an emergency situation.

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

Going back to basics

Next weekend is the long Thanksgiving Day Weekend here in the US.  After the holiday on Thursday, that leaves me with three days off.  If the weather is not bitterly cold (which it is not supposed to be), I am thinking of taking down the W3EDP and putting up a random length doublet in its place. Of course, this is all depends on no surprises coming out of left field that could possibly occupy the entire weekend. You know what they say about "The best laid plans of mice and men ......"

The main objective would be to get the wire higher than it currently is. I am going to follow the old rule of thumb - "Get up as much wire as you can, as high as you can." This is the antenna that I used for so many years as a Novice and it served me well.  I think I still have a Ten Tec Antenna T kicking around in the basement.

Basically, I would get that up as high in the maple in the backyard as I possible could, and then run as much wire as I could to each anchor point.  I will feed it with 450 Ohm window line to the ground, to a balun (A few years back, Bob W3BBO made me a beautiful 4:1 that I still have), and then RG213 to the shack.

Off the top of my head, I am thinking I'd have about 50 feet of wire to one side and about 70 feet of wire on the other. The main thing, though, is that I'm hoping I can raise the wire level from about 25 or so feet to about 40 feet.

This would be my customized version of "The 4$ Special" antenna.

Ah, the joys of living on a small, suburban lot!

You might be thinking, "Why did he wait until now? Why not do this in the Summer, when the weather is more comfortable?"

I'll tell you why - most of the leaves are gone now. Hopefully there will be less snags and fewer #$*&! words uttered.

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Morse Code - still relevant today Part Deux

Kudos and tip of the straight key lever to Jeff K1NSS (and he, in turn,  thanked The K9YA Telegraph) for pointing this one out on Facebook today:

http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/macy-s-airs-poignant-holiday-ad-bbdo/311293/

As Jeff says, "Morse always makes it through!"

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least1

Morse Code: A Staple in the Navy IW Toolkit

IW is an abbreviation for Information Warfare.

It would appear that Morse Code retains its relevance (outside of Amateur Radio) even in this day and age of computers and digital communications.

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=92864

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Big shoes to fill!

After a "year off" the ARRL announced in the December issue of QST, it's newest operating event.


The 2018 ARRL International Grid Chase follows on the heels of the successful Centennial operating event and the even more successful National Parks On The Air operating event.

The idea is work as many different Maindenhead grid squares as you can, on any band (expect for 60 Meters) using any mode. Contacts made through satellites will count; but contacts made through earthbound repeaters will not.

So how will all these contacts be kept track of?  Through Logbook Of The World, of course! So it is imperative that you have an LOTW account as well as the station you are working. When you both upload your logs to LOTW; and you get a match, you get credit for a valid QSO for the ARRL IGC.

While total cumulative results will be posted at the end of the year, the clock will "reset" so to speak, at the beginning of each month. So each month of 2018 will be like a new operating event; or competition. (I hate to use the word "contest", as we all know that contests are forbidden on the WARC bands.)

Should you not know your Maidenhead Grid Square locator, it's easy to find out. You can either look yourself up on QRZ.com, or go to http://www.levinecentral.com/ham/grid_square.php. What's interesting about these two methods is that you might get different results. QRZ tells me that my grid square is FN20to and Levine Central tells me that it's FN20so.  No matter ...... for the purposes of the ARRL IGC, you'll only need the first four places.  In addition, exchanging the grid square during the QSO is not required. LOTW will keep track of that.  I suppose that for those who will go out and activate rare grids, there will be some provision made for identifying what grid square was operated from when uploading contacts into LOTW.

Will this be as successful as the last two events?  That remains to be seen. The Centennial Event was huge success and NPOTA was a monster success. In any event, kudos to the ARRL for continuing to come up with ideas to keep Amateur Radio life a little on the spicier side.

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


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Field Day 2017 Results


The resuts are in; and just as we suspected, the South Plainfield Radio Club, operating station NJ2SP had the best Field Day outing so far of our brief 4 year history.

Operating as a 3AB station, we placed 2nd in our category, nationwide.


We also placed 2nd in our ARRL Section - NNJ.


Kudos to all the mebers of SPARC. You had a great Fied Day and you have every right to pleased with your peformance. And once again, to the doubters .... I think this shows that QRP can compete well with the rest of the pack - even in the death throes of a solar cycle.

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Veterans Day Weekend 2017


A Happy Veterans Day to all who have worn the uniform. Your dedication, and the time and treasure that you sacrificed while serving our country can never be adequately repaid.

Thank you!

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

I've become such a creature of routine!

Last night was the opening session of the 2017/2018 QRP Fox Hunt season.  I had a modicum of success with a "one-fer".  Our two Foxes last night were John K4BAI and Todd N9NE.  I found John easily as he was 599 in New Jersey and I worked him rather quickly, getting a 579 report back from John only 12 minutes into the hunt.

The balance of the 90 minutes was spent listening for Todd.  I knew where he was (or rather, had a good guess as to where he was) by listening for his Hounds. Once I found them, I equalized the VFOs on my KX3 and then moved VFO A down a kHz and just listened, twiddling the knob little bits in an effort to hear something .... anything..  Todd never materialized and that was kind of odd. Usually, there's a virtual pipeline of HF signals between New Jersey and Wisconsin.

Not last night.


No Wisconsin Fox for W2LJ !!!

Anyway, I stayed up until 10:30 PM, hoping against hope that I would score some WI Fox fur; but it was not to be. Boy, am I paying for it this morning!  That meant staying up past my normal bedtime and now today feels all "out of kilter". I slept 15 minutes past the alarm and if it weren't for morning coffee, I'd be shuffling around like a Zombie from NA5N's sprint a few weeks back.

I've become such a creature of routine.  If you told me this back when I was in my 20s, I'd probably have laughed right in your face.

I'm not laughing now - chuckling a bit (and wishing I could take a nap), but not laughing.

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Disappointed

Disappointed .......VERY disappointed.

Last night, I got the rare opportunity to actually park my carcass on the couch in order to enjoy a little television.  No meetings, no having to drive the kids anywhere, no chores - just a chance to relax. I was tuned into TVLand and was watching an old episode of M*A*S*H, because quite frankly, there isn't much on TV that satisfies me these days.

I had my tablet in hand and was half-heartedly scrolling through Facebook, when all of a sudden, I was made aware by several Amateur Radio ops and the ARRL that our hobby was going to be featured on "NCIS" on WCBS TV.


It was already about half way through the show's time slot when I noticed this, so I quickly changed the channel.

What a disappointment ....... what an utter, abject disappointment. To be honest with you, I was glad I didn't see this from the beginning. That probably wouldn't have dome my blood pressure any good.

The only thing the writers got correct was to use authentic Amateur Radio gear in the show.  Other than that, everything was bogus.  I don't know what formula they used for call signs; but it wasn't anything remotely close to what we use here in the US.  I know, maybe they didn't want to take the chance using a real call, but the format they used was ridiculous.

Then, they made special effort to involve "handles".  My goodness, I was swept immediately back to the '70s and Citizens Band radio.  Every now and then you'll hear a Ham refer to his first name as his "handle" or "personal" (which makes me cringe), but even those folks actually use their names in a QSO.  Nobody gets on the air and uses names like "Ricochet" or the garbage they put into last night's episode.

The final straw was how they portrayed the Amateur Radio ops that they featured in the show. To put it bluntly, the Amateur Radio characters were portrayed as losers.  I know that the world of Amateur Radio is a microcosm and that we have our share of kooks and odd balls, but the Hams portrayed on "NCIS" were ridiculous.

What steams me the most is that all the good press that Amateur Radio has garenered lately due to our involvement in assisting with or providing communications during the hurricanes and wild fires could be potentially nullified by this portrayal of Hams as nerdy, unkempt individuals who are nothing more than social misfits ...... at best.  I doubt I've seen a better instance of stereotyping in a long time.

I can only hope the show got lousy ratings last night.

A much better critique has been offered by Don Keith N4KC, who is a light years better wordsmith than I. His opinion piece on this debacle can be read here: http://n4kc.blogspot.com/2017/11/i-dont-know-why-i-expected-anything.html The only consolation is that if N4KC thought last night's episode was a piece of ........, well then, it was.

Thanks NCIS and WCBS .... for not much.

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Viva la CW!

The following is a copy of a copy.  Originally posted on the K3 e-mail reflector, to which I do not subscribe, it was then posted to the CW Ops reflector by Bob, N7WY.  It is so good and meaningful to us Morse Code fans, that I am re-posting here.

A post by Wayne Burdick - N6KR

I find that CW has many practical and engaging aspects that I just don’t get with computer-mediated modes like FT8. You’d think I’d be burned out on CW by now, over 45 years since I was first licensed, but no, I’m still doin’ it :)

Yes, FT8 (etc.) is a no-brainer when, despite poor conditions, your goal is to log as many contacts as possible with as many states or countries as possible. It’s so streamlined and efficient that the whole process is readily automated. (If you haven’t read enough opinions on that, see "The mother of all FT8 threads” on QRZ.com, for example.)

But back to CW. Here’s why it works for me. YMMV.

CW feels personal and visceral, like driving a sports car rather than taking a cab. As with a sports car, there are risks. You can get clobbered by larger vehicles (QRM). Witness road range (“UP 2!”). Fall into a pothole (QSB). Be forced to drive through rain or snow (QRN).

With CW, like other forms of human conversation, you can affect your own style. Make mistakes. Joke about it.

CW is a skill that bonds operators together across generations and nations. A language, more like pidgin than anything else, with abbreviations and historical constructs and imperialist oddities. A curious club anyone can join. (At age 60 and able to copy 50 WPM on a good day, I may qualify as a Nerd Mason of some modest order, worthless in any other domain but of value in a contest.)

With very simple equipment that anyone can build, such as a high-power single-transistor oscillator, you can transmit a CW signal. I had very little experience with electronics when I was 14 and built an oscillator that put out maybe 100 mW. Just twisted the leads of all those parts together and keyed the collector supply--a 9-volt battery. With this simple circuit on my desk, coupled to one guy wire of our TV antenna mast, I worked a station 150 miles away and was instantly hooked on building things. And on QRP. I’m sure the signal was key-clicky and had lots of harmonics. I’ve spent a lifetime making such things work better, but this is where it started.

Going even further down the techno food chain, you can “send” CW by whistling, flashing a lamp, tapping on someone’s leg under a table in civics class, or pounding a wrench on the inverted hull of an upside-down U.S. war vessel, as happened at Pearl Harbor. Last Saturday at an engineering club my son belongs to, a 9-year-old demonstrated an Arduino Uno flashing HELLO WORLD in Morse on an LED. The other kids were impressed, including my son, who promptly wrote a version that sends three independent Morse streams on three LEDs. A mini-pileup. His first program.

Finally, to do CW you don’t always need a computer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, or software. Such things are invaluable in our daily lives, but for me, shutting down everything but the radio is the high point of my day. The small display glows like a mystic portal into my personal oyster, the RF spectrum. Unless I crank up the power, there’s no fan noise. Tuning the knob slowly from the bottom end of the band segment to the top is a bit like fishing my favorite stream, Taylor Creek, which connects Fallen Leaf Lake to Lake Tahoe. Drag the line across the green, sunlit pool. See what hits. Big trout? DX. Small trout? Hey, it’s still a fish, and a QSO across town is still a QSO. Admire it, then throw it back in.

(BTW: You now know why the Elecraft K3, K3S, KX2, and KX3 all have built-in RTTY and PSK data modes that allow transmit via the keyer paddle and receive on the rig’s display. We decided to make these data modes conversational...like CW.)

Back to 40 meters....

73,

Wayne N6KR

The best sentiments I have seen or read about CW in a very long time.  Thanks, Wayne, for putting into words what a lot of us feel!

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

QRP Podcast

This episode of the ARRL's "The Doctor Is IN' is semi-devoted to QRP. I am listening to it right now.


Sponsored by DX Engineering, "The Doctor Is In" is a bi-weekly podcast offered by the ARRL. You can get it from the iTunes store, or through Blubrry or Stitcher.  I use the free Stitcher app for my Android phone.

So far, it's a pretty vanilla discussion on QRP. Nothing isn't being talked about that a seasoned veteran QRPer wouldn't already be familiar with.  However, it seems to be a decent primer for someone just getting interested in QRP.

And lo and behold, we went from a discussion of QRP to a discussion of fan dipoles.

Oh, well, so much for that!

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




New club in town

There's a new QRP Club, or new Yahoo Group, if you will. It's the California QRP Club and membership is open to any QRPer. Residence in the Golden State is not a prerequisite.

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/calqrp/info is the link.  And as Doug Hendricks KI6DS, posted:

"The purpose and goals of the California QRP Club is to promote QRP. We don't have dues, we don't have officers, and we don't have business meetings. We do have monthly get togethers in San Jose, and we will be a co-sponsor of the qrp activities at Pacificon next year. The club will have two caretakers, Steve Smith, WB6TNL and Doug Hendricks, KI6DS. They will be responsible for the running of the club. We will not do anything that involves the exchange of money to the club. If there are expenses, Steve and Doug will pay them.

We will also issue membership numbers, only upon request. You may get yours by sending an email to directly to Steve. Do not send your request to this list. It will not be acted upon. To get your California QRP Club membership number send an email to Steve Smith at sigcom@juno.com with "CalQRP Membership number" in the subject line. Steve will assign a number to you.

I plan on doing more issues of QRPp, but it will not have a regular schedule and will be posted as a downloadable file in the file section of this list.

The first announcement that we would like to make is that the club has an Amateur Radio Club License, and the call sign is WA6GER. We are dedicated to preserving the memory and legacy of Jim Cates, and plan on activating his call at least once a month. More on that later. This was formerly the club Vanity Call Sign of NorCal but it was allowed to expire and was not renewed. When the 2 year grace period for renewal had passed, the FCC cancelled the license and WA6GER was returned to the available call sign database where anyone could have claimed it. Steve Smith did the leg work to secure the call and I want to thank him publicly for it.

Everyone is invited to join the California QRP Club, and you may do so by going to (Ed. note - see link above). and signing up."

So there you - new group in town.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Pardon me .......

........ but what exactly are you doing?"

That was question from another person here at work who passed by the picnic table where I was set up at lunchtime.  This time, however, the person knew what Amateur Radio was when I mentioned it. She asked me if I had contacted anyone, and I was able to tell her, "Yes. Hungary and Italy. Both contacted using less power than it takes to light up your average nightlight."

She seemed duly impressed, and I was able to give "The Schpiel" once again.

The stations I worked today on 20 Meters were HG500L, in Hungary. A special event station commemorating Martin Luther and his 95 Thesis - my Protestant friends will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next week.

The other station I worked was IK6FWJ, Alessandro in Corridonia, Italy Al was running 5 Watts, too and he was loud! Definitely 599 and perhaps some over. it was nice to have a 2X QRP QSO - haven't had one outside of a sprint in a while.

The magloop continues to work and surprise me.

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


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Zombie Shuffle post-mortem

I was glad to have been able to participate in the Zombie Shuffle this past Friday evening. Oh, the reason it was last Friday and not this coming Friday (which is actually closer to Halloween) is that this coming weekend is the CQ WW DX Contest.

The bands were not friendly.  In fact 20 Meters was so dead that it didn't even support any "undead" Zombies.  That left 40 and 80 Meters.  I've seen on QRP-L that for many, 80 Meters was fruitful, but for me it was not.  Right around the QRP watering hole of 3.560 MHz, I had S7 to S9 noise.  Not sure what is causing it, but the lower parts of 80 Meters were as they always are. Even so, I did manage one QSO on 80 Meters with my not so far away neighbor, W2SH.

The rest of my QSOs were made on 40 Meters, all five of them.  A grand total of six QSOs in the span of about two hours.  Pretty dismal, huh?  Yeah, pretty dismal.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

JOTA 2017

On Saturday, members of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Clun were invited to join with members of the Tri-County Radio Association, in their presentation of Amateur Radio to local Boy Scout troops.


The guys from W2LI had quite an impressive set up. An IC-7100 was tethered to an OCF dipole and a VHF/UHF station was activated as well.


After a brief presentation of what Amateur Radio is and what you can do with it, the kids were given a chance to actually get on the air and make contacts.





The Scouts had fun, none looked or complained of being "bored". While the older Scouts got busy on working towards their Radio Merit Badges, the younger ones got on the air. After some initial mic fright, there were plenty of exchanges with other Scouts around the country about ages, hobbies, locations, etc.

The team from the TCRA also brought along a code practice oscillator and some printed out Morse Code sheets.  This part of the afternoon seemed to have garnered as much attention as the HF station.  The kids were fascinated by the Morse Code.  It got to the point where some of the Cub Scout den leaders had to remind their charges that they had to share!  The kids got a kick out of sending code while we translated what they were sending - mostly their names.  It was tough duty, as spacing was all over creation; but when we were able to decode someone's fist, the kids thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And of course, the adults were amazed with regard to the Morse Code, that Amateur Radio operators "still do that".

I had to leave before the official end of the event; so I'm not sure of any mention was given about possible future licensing classes. One thing is for sure, though .... seeds were planted in what is hopefully fertile soil. Maybe there were three our four (or more) potential Hams recruited last Saturday.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Zombie Shuffle Tonight!

4:00 to Midnight, local time.

Rules are here: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/zombie/2017/pg.htm

See you on the air tonight!

72 de Larry W2LJ - Zombie # 858
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

More loopiness

Another sunny day in NJ, so that meant another lunchtime QRP session.  I decided to stay put on 20 Meters for a change. I did a bit of CQing as well as a bit of hunting.  I stayed near the QRP area and heard many stations working a SOTAteer.  I heard the chasers, but not the activator.  I twiddled the dial and went up a bit to hear a very loud OM3KAP in the Slovak Republic calling CQ at around 14.063 MHz.

So I answered.

And I was heard!  But then, when the guy on the other end has antennas like this, how can you NOT be heard?


Miro was conducting a test between two yagi systems for the upcoming contest season. He wanted to know if I was able to detect a marked difference between the two.  I wasn't.  He was a solid 579-599 on both, depending on QSB.  Maybe a younger sprout with better ears could have detected a difference -  but I couldn't.  What I should have done was to ask him to conduct the test a second time, while I relied on the S Meter for an indication. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 and my brain didn't think of that in real time. This is how he was being heard around the world:


Pretty good, eh?  But then, with all that aluminum in the air, I'd be disappointed if I weren't getting RBN reports that looked like that.  I didn't tell Miro that I was running 5 Watts to a magloop.  After I gave him the report he was looking for, we signed.  It was more than your typical DX "5NN TU" QSO, but not quite a rag chew.  I was happy, though, to snag a bit more of DX.


After OM3KAP, I went down to 14.0595 MHz, which was clear, and called CQ for a bit. I was answered by Mike KA5VZE in Tulsa, OK, who was also running 5 Watts.  Mike gave me a 539 and I gave him a 569; but then things went downhill.  Fading kicked in like nobody's business and we both dropped out on each other.  Oh, what could have been!  A potentially nice lunchtime rag chew kicked mercilessly in the behind by Old Man QSB. We heard each well enough for that final 73 and call sign exchange and the final, final "dit dit". 


Curse you, QSB!

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

Puerto Rico

It will be interesting to watch out for the stories coming out of Puerto Rico regarding the ARRL's "Team of Fifty" that was sent to help out with communications. I've seen snippets of stories on social media that suggest not everything was wine, chocolate and roses.

The whole subject got me to thinking about what kind of operator would have been the best to send there.  I'm sure all the volunteers were screened and only a certain type were chosen. If it were up to me, this would have been my criteria, a blend of the following:

1) Someone who lives a lifestyle other than "sedentary"
2) Someone who is used to staying behind the radio for a long period of time - i.e  a contest type of person ....OR a DXpedtion type of person.
3) Someone who doesn't mind operating solo, is accustomed to operating in less than ideal conditions, and who can improvise and adapt when necessary.  To me, this just screams of SOTA, NPOTA or POTA.

It seems to me, in a situation like Puerto Rico, you just can't hand your average "Joe Ham" a Pelican case full of HF and UHF/VHF equipment with a power supply and antenna and just tell them, "go to town".  Ideally, the people sent should have been (and may have been for all I know) experienced in toting their own equipment around (backpacking/hiking), and operating under adverse conditions. Small, portable but yet powerful enough radios with wire antennas, lithium batteries, foldable solar panels and associated  accessories would seem to have fit the bill, entirely. But all that would do no good if the operator him or herself were not familiar with passing third party traffic or at the very least, sending information at a fast pace in a short amount of time (as in contesting or running a DXpedition pileup).

I know a lot of people get miffed about all the contests on the air on weekends (and I'm not big into contesting myself) but it IS a somewhat primitive method of preparing someone to be able to handle a Puerto Rico kind of situation.  In that regard, I think that SOTA, NPOTA, POTA and DXpedition people are kind of an almost perfect mix - because if you've ever worked any of those people, they handle(d) hundreds of QSOs in a small amount of time, as rapidly and efficiently as they are able.  I know that the conditions that these people usually operate under aren't nearly as stressful as what's going on throughout that island, but I think they have the best mix of capabilities and demeanor to be able to pull it off.

Of course, YMMV.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Learning lessons

Today is a sunny and warm day in New Jersey, with a lunchtime temperature of about 66F (19C). This made it a good day for some outside QRP, as the sun made it feel a bit warmer than it actually was, thus providing a comfortable operating experience. The fact that the leaves on nearby trees are changing and are very colorful didn't hurt, either!


I set the station and magloop up in all of about 5 minutes. I seem to be getting better at this. 20 Meters was alive with some activity, but not overly crowded.  I worked Josef at DL0IL in Germany, and then a little later Alexei who seems to be on holiday in the Canary Islands EA8/UA4WW.  Both were decently loud here. I got a 559 from Josef and a 579 from Alexei, so they both seemed to be "honest" RSTs, as opposed to "cookie cutter" 599s.

I heard a French station around the 20 Meter QRP watering hole, but I couldn't quite make out the call.  He was also decently loud here, perhaps even louder than DL0IL and EA8/UA4WW. However, his fist was shaky, and his callsign was extremely hard to make out. F6VAT, or something like that? RBN showed him as F63AT, but that's not a valid call, either. Anyway, it mattered not, for as loud as he was, I wasn't able to get him to hear me, even after trying 4 or 5 times. So much for reciprocal propagation, eh?

So as I gain experience with the magloop, what am I learning?  This is all subjective as I have no empirical data to back me up, but I would say (IMHO):

1) Magloops work, as improbable as that may seem (to me, anyway - still seems weird to me).
2) They seem to work as well, if not better, than compromise verticals, such as the Buddistick or a Hamstick.
3) I have no way of proving this right now; but my hunch would be an EFHW in a tree would perform better. This would be an interesting experiment, to see if I could set them up side by side, for at least a listening comparison.
4) It would seem to me that a permanent "home station" antenna such as a dipole or full sized vertical would have a better performance edge.  This would seem to be only common sense, given the size and efficiency of these antennas.

So when is a small magloop antenna a viable solution?

1) When you are portable, and you are pressed for time and require a very quick set up and tear down.
2) When you are bound by an HOA or other agreement that does not allow for outdoor antennas at your home QTH.
3) When you are operating portable and using trees is out of the question because A) there are none, or B) it is prohibited.
4) When you are operating portable away from your vehicle, thus losing a very effective ground plane for a compromise vertical.
5) When it's all you've got!

My magloop will continue to remain as one arrow in my antenna quiver. I doubt I would ever rely on it, entirely, in an outdoor Sprint such as FOBB or the Skeeter Hunt, although it might be interesting to give that a try, some day.  I think I'm going to have to pull out my WSPRlite and do some more testing, in the mean time.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Disappointed last weekend

I did not have a walloping amount of success with the QRP-ARCI Fall QSO Party over last weekend. Granted, I didn't put in a lot of time.  I would have made a bigger time investment had my QSO rate been higher.

I got on the air both mornings, Saturday and Sunday, around 1400 UTC or so.  20 Meters seemed dead on Saturday and on Sunday, I was able to make out a few whispers of signals, but that was about it.  40 Meters was active as all get out on both days  ......... with Pennsylvania QSO Party participants.  It seemed like wall to wall  PA QSO Party'ers, as a matter of fact.  And don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, it's just that unfortunately, there didn't seem to be many QRPers on the bands.

In all, between calling "CQ QRP" and tuning around and pouncing (no panadapter here, guess I'm too 'old fashioned'), I made about seven Fall QSO Party contacts in the span of a combined total of about three hours operating time. I'd be more willing to glue my posterior to the shack chair for a larger turn out.  If band conditions and a low participation rate seem to be the dominant factor, well then ....... I have more useful ways to spend my time.

My fingers are crossed that The Zombie Shuffle, occurring this Friday night will see more QRPers on the air, and as a result, will yield a lot more fun.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Another rant ..........

Sometimes I make the mistake of going over to eHam or QRZ and reading the forums.  I say "mistake" because of one type of post that really gets my blood pressure elevated. Those are the ones by Amateur Radio ops who dismiss the value of Amateur Radio in Emergency Communications.

I understand that some Hams feel there is too much emphasis on EMCOMM by the ARRL and other organizations. They usually dismiss the people they are speaking with by saying something like, "Yeah, When All Else Fails ....... like that's going to ever happen!"

I don't want to hear that from anyone, ever again.  I think over the past weeks, we have seen that not only is "When All Else Fails" possible - it can happen at anytime, anywhere.  The power of Nature laughs at our infrastructure.  The sin of pride fools us into thinking that as human beings, we are infallible; and that our edifices are indestructible.

The hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, as well as the wildfires in California are showing us that humans are no match for the forces of water, wind and fire.  All our finest efforts in building and engineering can be laid to waste in a matter of hours.  As we have seen in Mexico, in the case of an earthquake, that could be minutes.

When a disaster occurs, Amateur Radio operators are poised to go into the breach, volunteering their time and talent, or even their treasure by donating to the ARRL's Ham Aid Fund. Our brother and sister operators (when asked) will always be running towards where other people are running away from.

God bless them and the First Responders that they support!

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

Rainy weekend

The forecast for today is cloudy, cool and damp. The forecast for the weekend is rainy. Not deluge type, hurricane rain; but enough to curtail any outdoor (leaf raking, lawn mowing) activity. So maybe, just maybe, I can get the certificates printed up for the 2017 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.  Then, maybe I can get them posted during the next week.


I don't mean to pontificate or mount a "high horse" here, or do any self-back patting with what I am about to say, but if I may utter a few words with your kind indulgence. I know from various private e-mails that I receive, how maddening it can be to participate in a QRP Sprint and then get the results months down the road; or maybe never!  I know that for many of you, "the win" is not so much important as seeing where you stand in the crowd. This is how you evaluate your portable ops setups and antennas, especially for those of you who participate from year to year.

That's why it will always be a top priority for me to get the Skeeter Hunt Scoreboard out within a week, if not a few days, after the log submission deadline.  This year, I was fortunate enough to get the Soapbox out at the same time.  Last year, 2016, I slipped badly.  I got the Scoreboard out quickly, but sloughed off with regard to the Soapbox and certificates.

As long as I am able, that will never happen again.  The Scoreboard and Soapbox will always be timely, with the certificates following shortly thereafter.  You folks so graciously put your time (time is money!) and talent into participating. For that, I am eternally grateful. The least that I can do is to post the Scoreboard and Soapbox as quickly as I can, followed by the certificates - just another way that I can say "Thank You" to all of you.

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Zombie Shuffle in a week!

I may have mentioned this before, but a week from tomorrow, one of the most fun events of the QRP year will be occurring - the 2017 Zombie Shuffle.  And I am going to be able to participate this year, as it is occurring a week early!


This is more an operating event than a hard core contest. The idea is to get on the air and have fun, regardless of your CW speed/skills. All the details, the whole magilla, can be found here: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/zombie/2017/pg.htm


I'll have to decorate the shack in a Halloween motif and submit them with my score to NA5N.

Remember ....... "Zombies shuffle because they can't run!"

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

Crummy weather

Crummy weather the past two days have curtailed my lunch time QRP activities.  I guess as we transition from Summer to Summer/Autumn to Autumn and things become more stable, conditions will become favorable again.

Yesterday, though, I was pleased to be able to have lunch with another Amateur Radio Op.  Chris KA5W is a consultant working at our firm. One day, a few weeks ago, he had sent me an e-mail stating that he had seen my call sign plates and a couple ARRL bumper stickers on my car - would I care to meet for lunch.  Conflicting events on our schedules precluded that from happening until yesterday.


Photo courtesy of KA5W and QRZ

It was an enjoyable hour that flew by way too fast.  Chris is a Marine, now engaged in IT as a civilian (there's really no such thing as an ex-Marine!). He's working here for a few months, so we took the opportunity for an eyeball QSO.

We talked of rigs, CW, DX and antennas, but mostly about portable ops, which seems to be near and dear to both of us.  I promised Chris that I'd send him an e-mail the next time I head out to the picnic tables, and maybe if he has the time, he'll come out for a look-see. He's interested in the KX3. I'll have to remember to bring the mic along.

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

QRP-ARCI Fall QSO Party this weekend



2017 QRP-ARCI(sm) Fall QSO Party

Date/Time:
1200Z on 14 October 2017 through 2400Z on 15 October 2017. You may work a maximum of 24 hours of the 36 hour period.

Mode: HF CW only.

Exchange:
Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, ARCI member number
Non-Members send: RST, State/Province/Country, Power Out

QSO Points:
Member = 5 points
Non-Member, Different Continent = 4 points
Non-Member, Same Continent = 2 points

Multiplier:
SPC (State/Province/Country) total for all bands. The same station may be worked on multiple bands for QSO points and SPC credit.

Power Multiplier:
>5 Watts = x1
>1 - 5 Watts = x7
>250 mW - 1 Watt = x10
>55 mW - 250 mW = x15
55 mW or less = x20

Suggested Frequencies:
160m1810 kHz
80m3560 kHz
40m7030 kHz (please listen at 7040 kHz for rock bound participants)
20m14060 kHz
15m 21060 kHz
10m28060 kHz

Score:
Final Score = Points (total for all bands) x SPCs (total for all bands) x Power Multiplier.

BONUS POINTS: None available for this contest.

Categories:
Entry may be All-Band, Single Band, High Bands (10m-15m-20m) or Low Bands (40m-80m)

How to Participate:
Get on any of the HF bands except the WARC bands and hang out near the QRP frequencies. Work as many stations calling CQ QRP or CQ TEST as possible, or call CQ QRP or CQ TEST yourself! You can work a station for credit once on each band.

Log Submission:
Submit your entry online at http://www.qrpcontest.com >
Contest logs are not required for entry, but may be requested by the Contest Manager if required.

Deadline: Entries must be postmarked on or before 29 October 2017.

Results: Will be published in QRP Quarterly and shown on the QRP-ARCI website along with qrpcontest.com

Certificates: Will be awarded to the Top 10 Scoring Entrants.

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Phooey!

Today may well be the "Last Rose of Summer" until Indian Summer arrives, if indeed we get one this year.  It was partly cloudy and warm - near 80F (26C). Over the next few days, the temperatures are supposed to drop and bring weather that is more normal for Autumn.

I was hoping to work W3BBO for a lunch time rag chew.  I thought 40 Meters would do us in good stead; but looking at my RBN spots. Bob, who lives in Erie, PA, may have well been in the skip zone.


I called him a few times without an answer and then called CQ a few times, hoping he would look me up on RBN and try to answer me.  An after action e-mail confirmed that's exactly what he did, but he didn't hear me and if he tried calling me, I didn't hear him. Humbug.

I went up to 30 Meters after a while and didn't hear much there. 20 Meters was way busier, and in the time I had left, I managed to get both DR5E and ON4UN in the log.  Quickie DX QSOs rather than the rag chew I was looking for; but it's better than being skunked.

From the admittedly small sample of times I have used the magloop. compared to the multiple times I have used either the Buddistick or Hamsticks on the Jeep - they seem to be about equal performers in a very preliminary estimation.  It's hard to know for sure, though. I used the Buddistick and Hamsticks when the sunspot cycle was much more favorable. Having success with the magloop now makes me wonder how much better it might have performed when solar conditions were more robust.

Apples and oranges. It always seems to come down to apples and oranges.

On a side note, I got the chance to give Amateur Radio a little PR.  A woman came up to me and asked me what I was doing.  She and her lunch buddies at the next picnic table over were curious. I told her it was Amateur Radio and she looked at me like I had three heads - obviously she had never heard of it before. I asked her to Google (when she got back to her desk) Amateur Radio, hurricane, and Puerto Rico.  There are plenty of positive articles and videos out there that shed good light on our hobby/service.

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

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Skunk for lunch

I headed outside again today with the QRP gear, to try some stuff.



1) I wanted to try a different method for tuning the magloop capacitor
2) I wanted to try a little more Reverse Beacon spotting.

Although I made no contacts, I did have success (more than I thought) with the new method of tuning the magloop. Instead of listening for the loudest receive noise with my ears, I keep my eye on the KX3's S-Meter and watch for the most bars.  Once I get there, I tweak very slowly for the loudest receive noise and then use the KX3's SWR Meters for the lowest SWR.  I was surprised how much better and quicker this worked.  It was markedly faster than my older method of just listening. I guess in my old age, the KX3's S-Meter reacts more quickly than my ears do.

The second "experiment" involved sending out CQs with the primary purpose of wondering how RBN would pick me up.  I certainly would have answered any calls, as that would have been icing on the cake, but even though I got no takers, I fulfilled my primary objective.


17 and 20 Meters got me the most distance - no surprise there. 40 Meters got me the most hits.

While it would have been more fun to have actually had a QSO, it wasn't a totally wasted effort. Tomorrow, I'll spend more time actually trying to nail down a QSO.

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

Zomboids afoot!

Paul Harden NA5N has officially announced that the Zombie Shuffle for 2017 will be on Friday, October 20th - which means I get to participate this year!  For the past few years, the Shuffle has fallen on the same Friday as the meeting for the ETS of NJ Club, of which I am Secretary.  It would be bad from to shirk my duties for participating in a QRP Sprint, so I have had to abstain.

I don't know why I luck out this year, and I don't care! I'm just glad that I will be able to participate.  The Zombie Shuffle is more of an operating event than a "contest" in the pure sense of the word, and it's always a good time.

Check out http://www.zianet.com/qrp/zombie/2017/pg.htm for the rules. If you've never joined in on the event, then please consider doing so this year.

And to answer that age old question, "Why is a QRP Sprint called the Zombie Shuffle?"

"Because Zombies can't run!" Bah-dum-bah.

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


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Another family commitment

is going to preclude me from operating in one of my favorites - The Peanut Power Sprint, this Sunday. Darn!

The PPS is one of my favorites because not only is it sponsored by the wonderful NoGAnauts, but it's also a quickie - only two hours long - from 4:00 to 6:00 PM EDT this Sunday.

We're meeting family for dinner. I might get a chance to operate the first hour; but that's iffy, at best. But this is one you should consider jumping in on, PARTICULARLY if you're a First Timer in QRP Sprint land.  It's fun and easy and all the ops are great and patient.

For all the details go to: http://www.nogaqrp.org/ - and then click on the "Peanut Power Sprint" link on the left side of the page.

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It's been a long, long time.

It has indeed been a long time since I've moved to this new work location. The old work QTH was in Warren, NJ and the new is in Whitehouse Station, NJ. Same job, same company, different campus.  I am about 10 miles (more or less) farther west into the interior of New Jersey than I used to be. It adds about another 10 minutes to my commute.

There are two of us in my department. Things were easier in Warren, as we both worked from the same (and only) building on campus.  We staggered our lunch breaks so that one of us was always on duty. Here, at the new work QTH, we are split between two buildings, each one of us minding our own store, so to speak. Unless you master bi-location, you can't manage both buildings at the same time with one man.

That led towards a hiatus in lunchtime QRP operations as it just seemed not the greatest idea to spend so much time away from the desk. I know, it's time I'm entitled to (it's only an hour) and I really should get away from the desk to remain fresh in the afternoon.

So I decided to take advantage again, beginning this week.

I went out to the car yesterday and hooked up the KX3 to the Buddistick. I heard a lot of stations on 20 Meters, but got no answers to any of my calls.  I know the equipment works, I figured it was just a bit of "rust" on my part. But, boy howdy, was it hot yesterday! It reached into the upper 80s (about 30C) here at lunchtime and since I was parked outside, it was hot like an oven in the car. It was a double negative experience - too hot and skunked on contacts.

Not one to be deterred, my little eye spied on something that I had forgotten. This campus has picnic tables!  Many of the employees go out to eat outdoors on the nice days. There are plenty of tables, they are spaced widely enough apart where conversations cannot encroach on one another.

It dawned on me that this would be the perfect place to set up the KX3 and the magloop! Sure, I'd probably get some stares from the other lunchers, and maybe from some of the employees who take advantage of their lunch break to walk the perimeter of the campus - but what they heck? Right? It's not like I haven't been stared at before. It's not like people haven't come up to me to ask, "What is that?" before, so tossing self-consciousness into the wind, I decided to set up at one of the tables today.

I chose a table towards the end of the line of tables, the one with no umbrella. Sure, it would be a little hotter with no shade, but it's less than an hour and besides, there's be no metallic umbrella ribs to possibly interact with the magloop.

Before hunting for a QSO, I decided to call CQ for a bit on both 20 and 17 Meters.  I really didn't expect anyone to answer, although there's no reason why anyone wouldn't. I just wanted to conduct a little Reverse Beacon Network experiment.

Experiment done, I went back to 20 Meters and found the "sweet spot" with the loop's tuning capacitor. (I was able to set up in under four minutes, by they way. Almost as fast as setting up the Buddistick on the car.) Tuning the KX3 around, there were a bunch of loud stations.  Finally, I came upon GI4DOH, Rich in Northern Ireland.  He had a strong signal and a great fist, so I gave him a call.  He came back to me on the first shot!  He was 559+ here in NJ, and I got a 559 in return.


According to his QRZ page, the loop that Rich is using is a receive only loop.  This was not a loop to loop QSO.

After working Rich, I popped on up to 17 Meters.  There I heard OE3DXA, Wern in Austria calling CQ. Again, loud signal, great fist, so I gave him a call.  Just as with GI4DOH, I gave him a 599+ report but this time I got a 599 in return.  Both QSOs were solid with no repeats asked for with regard to info, so I am assuming I was at or near Q5 copy. (Even if the 599 in return wasn't exactly accurate.)


It was time to pack it in, and I was satisfied with the two DX QSOs for the day.  With regard to my Reverse Beacon Network experiment, this was where the loop was allowing my signal to be heard:


As for spectators, I did get one guy who stopped to ask, "What is that? And what are you doing?" I explained that it was Amateur Radio and an Amateur Radio antenna. In response, I got the (what seems to be standard) "People still do that?" question.

I went into "pitch" mode and explained that yes, Amateur Radio is alive and well, and that for a lot of people in the Caribbean right now it's the only way they can get word out to their families abroad, that they are OK after the hurricanes.

So it was a successful day, I'm happy and it looks like there might not be rain for the rest of the work week.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Interesting .........

I read this e-mail on the Flying Pigs QRP Club International e-mail reflector:

Do you need an excuse to take your radio to a park? I try to go out and operate portable as often as I can, but sometimes the motivation is the hardest part. So this year I decided to make my own motivation, and invite some friends.

Announcing:
The Portableradio.org Fall Operating Event!

The rules are the same as ARRL Field Day (with a few minor modifications). Use your favorite log program and submit a summary to a google form available on portableradio.org

The event happens on the same schedule as ARRL Field Day, except on October 21-22, 2017.
Maybe your club does something big for Field Day and you’d like to try something different. Maybe you’ve got a different location you want to test out. Maybe it’s just too darn hot in the middle of the summer where you are. Whatever your reason, join us for the Portableradio.org Fall Operating Event on October 21-22, 2017.

This is a new event, so if you play please submit your summary sheet. The submission link will go live on portableradio.org closer to the event. Results will be posted as soon as possible and updated weekly until the log submission deadline (one month after the event), when they are considered final.

Check out portableradio.org for more details.
73,
N0ECK

At that time of the year up here in the Northeast, this might not be for the feint of heart, as it can get really cold towards the end of October, especially overnight. But then again, sometimes we get a late Indian Summer. Like any Amateur Radio event, participation is the key.  If they can get enough people out to participate, it may grow in the next few years.  If not, and participation is low, well ............ but why dwell on the negatives?

I wish them the best of luck!

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Anudder QRP Event!

As I mentioned yesterday, this weekend is the NJ QSO Party. While that's not a strictly QRP event, I plan to participate as a QRP station.  For those QRPers living outside of NJ, or for those who do reside in NJ, but have no interest in the QSO party ......... I have an event for you!

This Saturday is also the New England QRP Club's annual event QRP Afield.

The rules can be found here - http://www.newenglandqrp.org/wordpress/afield/


Of course, this is another event that gives a better multiplier for those operating outdoors with portable antennas, so get on the air and have fun!

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

NJ QSO Party

The NJ QSO Party is next weekend. I'd really like to participate this year, QRP of course.


Over the years, the NJ QSO Party has withered away, almost to the brink of extinction. The Burlington County Amateur Radio Club has done yeoman's work towards reversing that decline. Participation seems to be growing, and I hope to add to that this year with some operating this coming Saturday.

Sunday looks sketchy, but I think I can fit in some time on Saturday.  Check that, I will MAKE some time to fit it in on Saturday, even if it's just 2 to 4 hours.

For the rules and particulars, you can follow this link - http://www.k2td-bcrc.org/njqp/njqp_rules.html

Hope to hand out "599 MIDD" to all of you this coming Saturday!

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Situational awareness

This does indeed seem to be an active year for increased Tropical disturbances. Last week Harvey did his number on the Gulf Coast and this week, Irma seems to be determined to wreak havoc too, albeit in another direction. While Irma's path seems a surety for Florida, where she will go after that is still any one's guess.


A certain "anyone", for whom I have tremendous respect is Joe Bastardi. Joe used to be with AccuWeather, but has since moved on.  I'm not sure if AccuWeather ever sufficiently recovered from losing Joe.  His ability to predict hurricane movement and behavior is uncanny. Granted, he's not always right, but he's been correct more often than not. What he came out with on Twitter yesterday, unnerved me.

Joe remarked that so far, the path that Irma is taking is remarkably close to the path taken by Hurricane Donna in September of 1960.


Hurricane Donna is one of my vaguest childhood memories.  I was only three when she traveled up the East coast, but I remember, in particular, how worried my mother was about the impending storm. Kids pick up on their parent's worries; and I was no different. To date, Hurricane Donna is the second strongest storm to visit New Jersey. Numero Uno is Hurricane Sandy, and I have no desire, whatsoever, to live through that again.

So what do you do? A hurricane's path is never a certainty. Just about anything can change it - ocean temperature, winds aloft in the atmosphere, competing high and low pressure systems further ashore. But you CAN plan for a direct hit, even if it doesn't occur. It's way better to be prepared than not.

So, for all my friends living up and down the east coast, this may be old hat for you - but if it's not, here are some tips from the National Hurricane Center and FEMA:

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/ready.php

https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

http://hurricanesafety.org/prepare/hurricane-safety-checklists/

And from an Amateur Radio standpoint, have those HTs and spare batteries charged up and ready to go. Have your personal Go Kits stocked, packed and ready to go.  For those of you who are into portable HF ops, have those packed and ready to go. If you have a generator for your home, NOW is the time to gas it up and power it up to make sure it works.

To all my readers who are CERT members - remember, even if you are not called out by your respective Office of Emergency Management, you have been trained and are expected to care of yourself and your family and those in your immediate neighborhood.  Do what you can, without putting yourself in danger, and you just might be able to spare your town's First Responders some time and resources.

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

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

An addition

I was surprised to come home from work last Friday evening to see a small package sitting on the front steps.  It was small, but yet a little too big to fit into the mailbox. I haven't purchased anything lately, so I figured it was something for either my wife Marianne, or perhaps for my daughter Cara, or my son Joseph.

But no, it was addressed to me; and when I looked at the return address, I saw that it was a package from my good friend and Ham Radio mentor, W3BBO. I opened the package like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning.  When I opened the box I was able to detect a whiff of "fresh paint" smell. Oh goody, a homebrew project!


It turned out to be a home made DC Voltage monitor, manufactured from a voltage display that Bob had picked up at a local Hamfest, near his home in Erie, PA.  We either spoke about this topic, and my need for such a device during one of our weekly Saturday chats, or Bob is a talented mind reader! Wow!  Adding mind reading to his impeccable talents as a master builder / home brewing craftsman is quite the combination.

This is just the addition that I was looking to cobble up myself for my portable ops battery box.  I know that I can monitor the input battery voltage on the main screen of my KX3; but I prefer having an off board meter.  I can keep a tab on things when I use my batteries as well as when I charge them.

This ammo box, that I purchased from Dick's Sporting Goods holds my PowerWerx deep cycle battery as well as a smaller 5Ah SLA.  The two plastic boxes hold a battery charger and the associated cables that I need to connect these babies up to the KX3.  Now Bob's DC Voltage Meter is a welcome addition that will reside in the same container.

Yesterday, Labor Day was spent performing CERT duties for our town. We host a parade in the morning, a big "lawn party" on the grounds of the Middle School in the afternoon and then a fireworks display in the evening.  Our duty was to aid the Police Dept with crowd control duties so that no onlookers would get hurt.

There was a break between the lawn party and the fireworks, so I went home to grab some dinner and relax for a bit. I grabbed my tablet to check out e-mail and to take a quick look at our town's Facebook page to see what the reactions were to the parade.  Most were positive; but a couple were quite negative.  To the naysayers, I suggested that perhaps they should join the Public Celebrations Committee and help make the parade better next year.  You would think that I had just announced that Santa Claus had been shot dead by the Easter Bunny!

It's really sad that often, the people who complain the loudest are also the least willing to roll up their sleeves to help make things better.  My Mom always said that there are some people who just aren't happy unless they're miserable.  I think she was right.

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