Monday, May 22, 2017

Saving up!

As Hamvention weekend was coming to a close, I have decided that I am going to make my best effort to attend FDIM and Hamvention in 2018. If I put a little $$$ aside each week, I should have ample funds come the beginning of the year.

Now that my two kids are older, I really want to attend FDIM to meet as many of you as I can; as well as all the great folks I've worked over the years in the various Sprints, etc.

So, to you FDIM veterans out there - I take it that the event is still taking place at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn?  When's the best time to reserve a room?

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Them QRP'ers ..... they show up EVERYWHERE!


Thanks to Tom Medlin W5KUB for keeping me informed and entertained today!

Speaking of which ...... Tom is providing a great service, keeping those of us who can't make it out to Xenia informed and feeling like we're still in the mix.  Traveling out there and setting up an operation like his is a labor of love ...... but it ain't cheap!  If you go over to his Website and click on his "Live Video" link, you'll get a pop-up which will allow you to enter into a raffle to help defray his production costs. The prize is a really neat antenna analyzer, which I sure as heck wouldn't mind winning - so I threw a few bucks his way ..... and I hope you might consider doing the same.

By the way .......... if there are any of my regular readers at Dayton and you happen to have a picture of you, or someone you love (or even a total stranger for that matter) wearing either a Skeeter Hunt shirt, or a "QRP, when you care to send the very least!" shirt - please send me a copy!

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

Saw this little guy on W5KUB

While trying to keep an eye on Hamvention via the W5KUB live video, I saw this little guy out of the corner of my eye, which made me sit up and take notice.  In all the talk about all the QRP radios out there; and all the kits, I never seen this one widely discussed before:


A QRP transceiver designed and produced by Chris, M0NKA in Great Britian.  It's official name is the mcHF Radio, which stands for "Mega cheap HF Radio". Cool!  That's Carl, WD8VXS who is walking around with it and is being interviewed by W5KUB.

It's an all band, all mode radio that will do up to 10 Watts out up to 30 Meters and then about 6-7 Watts on the bands higher than that. It has the sound card built in, has a USB port for easy firmware updates, or for hooking up to your computer and has a touch screen.


It can be purchased several ways:

1) Just the boards - you supply the parts - about $35
2) All the boards and all the parts - about $270
3) All the boards and all the parts, BUT with the SMD components already pre-installed, (No price mentioned during the interview)

The case can be gotten from a source in China.  About $80

For a lot more detail - you can go to the Website, here - http://www.m0nka.co.uk/  There's also an M0NKA Facebook page.

I don't know why this little fella hasn't garnered more press within the QRP community, especially within the kit building community.  Maybe it has and I'm just woefully uninformed?

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


Spreading the word

Hoping we can get this to spread like wildfire!  I saw the link on Chris KQ2RP's blog and am embedding the video here - QRP Night ... the night before Field Day.

Let's make this happen!



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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lessons learned the hard way


You'd have thunk that after being an Amateur Radio op for some 39 years now, and a dedicated QRP'er for about 14 years now that the "slogan" shown immediately above would be like second nature to me. But no, I still fall prey to the occasional troll, especially the species that insists that "The guy on the other end of the QRP QSO is the "hero" who does all the heavy lifting". While I agree that the receiving station is an invaluable part of the QSO - isn't that true for EVERY contact, not just the QRP ones?

Calmly explaining that signal strength is a combination of power, antenna and propagation falls on deaf ears with these folks. It's power, power, power and more power, and that's it.  When you counter with the addition of  the word"skill", that usually gets even more laughs from these folks. "How much skill does it take", they ask, "to shoot out 5 Watts out of a piece of wire?"

Thanks to Steve Yates AA5TB for answering that question in a recent discussion I became involved with on a social media site.  Steve put into words, what we all know; but sometimes fail to enunciate. Steve countered with (and I'm paraphrasing) that the skill comes in in knowing your equipment, understanding propagation and understanding antenna theory enough to put all three of those elements together in order to get the communication through is a reliable and efficient manner.

Eloquent and to the point!  So the next time you're baited - feel free to use the words you've read here and "Keep calm and move away from the troll".

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wish I was going to Dayton ....... err, Xenia

Maybe the better terminology would be, "Wish I was going to Hamvention" and leave it at that.

PREDICTION: Attendance will be up significantly this year as the new venue is a big draw.

New venue or old, I wish I was going.  It's been 20 some years now since I last made a trek to Dayton.  Various things have taken precedence - work, marriage, offspring, etc.  I think the last time I was to Dayton was the final year before the switch over to May. I do miss it.

Not that I'm looking to buy anything, because I'm not. Well, at least nothing major, anyway. What I do miss is the trip out and back with local friends and meeting up with far away friends for a few days.

I'm ashamed to admit this - I've been writing this QRP and CW blog for 12 years now and I've never been to Four Days in May! How lame is that? And watch, by the time I'm able to make it, FDIM will become a thing of the past.

That's what happened with Atlanticon.  The several years it was held, both Joey and Cara were in their toddler years.  I could have taken time off; but my wife also works full time. With no one to watch the kids, attending Atlanticon was not a possibility.  When my kids became old enough were I could have left them alone until Mom got home from work, Atlanticon had gone the way of the Dodo.

Sorry to be such a "Debbie-Downer", but I see Facebook posts of good friends making their way out to Ohio and my gray matter takes me back to Memory Land and the good times I had in days of yore. I would dearly love to meet my many QRP friends, Skeeter Hunt friends, QRP Fox hunt friends, and NPOTA friends who I have come to know, oh so well, but have never met face-to-face.

Wait a sec ...... come to think of it, I have a commitment on Saturday morning that would have precluded my going this year, even if I could.

But I still wish I could.

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Solving the final loop problem

One of the major issues that I've had with my home brewed magloop antenna is the base.


The first iteration was a totally home brewed base made out of PVC. It ended up being unusable as the antenna would pivot sideways at the two points indicated by the yellow arrows.  An accidental tug on the coax or a good stiff breeze would create havoc.

The second edition involved removing the PVC base and using the mini tripod that came with my Buddistick Deluxe package.


I took the center column out of the tripod and slipped the 1/2" PVC of the loop frame into the hole. It worked well, but as its name implies, it's a mini tripod. Even with the legs extended all the way (as shown in the photo above at Morristown National Historical Park), it was still very short and it occupied a very small foot print.  This solution was better, but not ideal as the whole affair was still entirely too top heavy and if I wasn't careful, or if it was too breezy ......... havoc ensued, again.

Wanting a better solution, I went to the Magnetic Loop Antennas page on Facebook and asked for opinions. Ido Roseman 4X6UB suggested going to the hardware store and purchasing a construction light.  These are halogen lamps that usually come with a stand.


I went to Home Depot this morning and asked to be directed to the construction lights. Much to my delight, in addition to the lights mounted on stands, they also sold just the tripods.  I bought one of the Husky brand tripods for $19.00 and brought it home.  What you can't see on the photo above is a little box at the top of the stand that allows for quick mounting of the lights.  The quick mount is held on by four screws. Removing the screws and the quick mount box leaves a hollow tube that is just wide enough to slip 1/2"PVC into with no trouble.


So what I have now is a very sturdy base that still collapses down compactly enough to fit into the stuff sack that I keep the un-assembled loop in. A little bit heavier package than I used to have; but still totally and conveniently portable.

Kudos to 4X6UB for the wonderful tip!

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

HW-8


It was fun hooking up the HW-8 (courtesy of Dave KD2FSI) to the 4 States QRP Group antenna tuner and playing around on 40 Meters last night.  I only made a couple of contacts; but they were solid and easy.

I was surprised by two things:

1) How little I have forgotten since I had the HW-8 I had originally purchased and built.  Knowing where the controls, the settings, the peculiarities were like second nature (not that it's a complex piece of equipment. It's not) - like riding a bike, you never forget.

2) The bandspread and selectivity. Yikes!  Compare to the KX3 and other, more modern rigs the bandspread on the HW-8 is very tight. Meaning a little twitch of the VFO knob goes a long way. Maybe 40 Meters was very crowded last night with the NAQCC Sprint going on, but it sounded so crowded,  kind of like my old Novice days on the bands.  I guess with the KX3 you get more "twiddle room" between signals - and I've gotten used to that.

In all, it was a joy to use again; and I am going to be using it more and more as time goes on.  This will definitely be my SKN rig from here on out; and maybe, just maybe, I'll take "The KB9BVN Challenge" and will see if I can get WAS with this 'lil pup.

Thanks again, to good friend Dave Hackett KD2FSI for graciously re-uniting me with a relic from my Amateur Radio halcyon days. With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, "Sometimes you CAN go home again."

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

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Worse than trying to bust a pileup to North Korea

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine when someday, North Korea joins the rest of the world and finally allows its citizens to have access to Amateur Radio? Can you imagine what that pileup will be like?  All the Honor Roll guys who will finally have the chance to "have 'em all"? Can you imagine that headache?

I can.

Last night I attended a workshop for "Financial Aid for College" put on for the parents of Juniors at my son's high school. I came home with a headache about the same that I imagine I would have gotten from trying to bust a P5 pileup.  Deadlines, forms, EFCs, FAFSA, merit scholarships, etc, etc, etc,  Oy! It's enough to make my head spin!

When I finally got home around 9:00 PM, I was in no mood to head down the basement to tackle the completion of my 4 States QRP Group antenna tuner.  Hopefully, I'll get to that tonight after dinner and mowing the lawn. Once that's done, I'll put my HW8 on the air for a bit to give the new tuner a workout.  The HW8 takes a 1/4" mono headphone jack for the key input, so I'll have to make up a cable so that I can use my AA0ZZ EZKeyer with it. Maybe I can use that combo for the NAQCC Sprint, which is tomorrow (Wednesday) night. Oh yes, I forgot, the NAQCC Sprint requires a straight key for a better multiplier.  OK, one less cable to make.

At a time when folks are leaping into SDRs and panadapters and other hi-tech goodies, I seem to be going "retro".  Hey, whatever floats your boat, right?

That's another thing - I have to get out the "publicity e-mail" for the Sprint tonight, as well. Sometimes I feel like I have too many irons in the fire, or that I'm burning the candle at both ends AND the middle.

On the "feeling good" side of the coin ....... a few months ago, I lost a 32 GB USB Flash Drive.  I had blog photos, Web site HTML files, Tech class material, Skeeter Hunt stuff - just about everything that was near and dear to me regarding Amateur Radio on it, in one convenient place.  It had fallen out of my pocket and I thought it was lost forever.  Nothing was irreplaceable, as all the content exists on various other computer hard drives at home.  It was a pain in the you-know-where to try and re-assemble all of that, though.

Last night, while getting out of the car, I stooped down to pick up my work backpack, which had fallen off the rear seat and onto the rear floor during the drive home.  As I was looking down, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the Flash Drive in that little space on the floor betwixt the driver's seat and the driver's door. Hallelujah!  What a great feeling to have all that information back. Tonight I am going to copy the contents of this USB stick onto my wife's 3 TB external hard drive for insurance sake.

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


Monday, May 08, 2017

Doctor, my eyes !

It was good to melt some solder yesterday.  Other than building the magloop and soldering some PL259s, it's been way too long since I've done any serious kit building.

But I have to tell you .......... my eyes!


My eyes are not what they used to be. The last "seriously big" kit that I built was probably my K2, back in 2004, 2005?  Not exactly sure which year it was - and it appears my memory is fading as well as my eyes! LOL!  I mean, I've built other kits since then, but nothing as intense as the K2 experience.

Anyway, back then I wasn't wearing bifocals yet.  My eyes have definitely gone downhill since then. Bifocals are great for reading, but suck seriously when it comes to kit building. The "close" part of the bifocal lens is useless for the kind of closeup vision needed for soldering and for reading component values. For reading component values I used a magnifying glass, but for soldering? It was easier to just take off my glasses and rely on my own myopia.

So it was a hilarious routine.  Glasses on to read the manual, then pick up the magnifying glass to read the component value.  Put down the magnifying glass to re-check the manual.  Glasses off for the installation and soldering of the component. And so forth, and so forth, and so forth .........

I think I spent more time taking my glasses on and off than soldering! It made for an interesting afternoon of juggling.

Sadly, I think SMD would be pretty much out of the question for me, now. Not that I would be incapable of it; but I think the frustration factor would make the experience joyless, and that's part of the reason we build things, right?  Not only to end up with a functioning piece of equipment; but also to have some fun in the process.

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

Sunday, May 07, 2017

This is May?

For the 7th of May, I would be expecting warmer temperatures. The last week has been on the chilly side and rainy, not very May-like at all! This time of year normally fills my head with ideas of heading out to a park and setting up the station in the nice, warm sunshine.  Today, I was happy to stay indoors, where it was nice and warm.

I purchased one of those 4 States Crickets and am looking forward to building it and getting it on the air. However, I need to do something about a transmatch first.  The KX3 has the built in autotuner, and while I have an Emtech ZM-2 tuner, that stays in my portable ops backpack.

A while back I had purchased, also from the 4 States Group, one of their 4-S Tuners.


I realized I needed a good QRP antenna tuner for my various QRP transmitters and transceivers; and this seemed to be a very good little unit that would fit my needs, nicely. Today was a good day to sit down at the bench and do some building.

It's not a difficult kit to assemble, but at the same time it might surprise you.  This is a kit that's a hybrid between "standard" kit building and homebrew.  I say that, because while the kit comes with a printed circuit board/top cover, it's a bit different from what you might be used to.


There are no through-holes, just pads that are reminiscent of Manhattan style construction.  But since the pads are not hard wired together, but are connected by circuit board traces, the 4 States Group refers to this as "Pittsburgh Construction".

The first step was building the main inductor. It looked more complicated than it turned out to be.


The rest of the components went on easily enough. It kind of reminded me of my old days at Sinar Bron when the first SMD circuit boards came out in the studio strobes that we sold. At the time, we had no SMD devices to repair them with, so we took regular discrete components and just soldered them to the SMD pads. You do what you have to, right?



In just a couple of hours, most of the work was done. 


This photo doesn't show it, but I got the two polyvaricon capacitors mounted and all that's left for me to do is construct the rest of the enclosure, which are pieces of circuit board material which will solder together. The final steps shouldn't take too long and then it will be on to the Cricket.

This little unit will get a workout. Besides the Cricket, I have various other monoband QRP transceivers and transmitters that will now be able to be hooked up to the W3EDP.  The plan is that this unit will stay in the shack and the Emtech will stay in the backpack.

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

Friday, May 05, 2017

A very nice article

As posted by Sean KX9X on the Facebook NPOTA page:

https://rootsrated.com/stories/hamming-it-up-on-the-trail-the-story-of-alabama-s-ham-radio-hikers

Granted, I kind of glossed over the article quickly, but the author seemed to take the time to get the details correct.  And any article that goes out of its way to put Hams, QRP and the Great Outdoors in a good light is always a winner as far as I'm concerned!

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Books

Books.  I love books.  Books and reading are a love that was passed down to me from my Mom. When my sister and I were little kids, my Mom would "treat" us with a trip to the local public library. We would bring home stacks of books to read, and I loved every minute of it. A trip to the library, or even better - the book store, was always enthusiastically welcomed.

That habit stayed with me all my life. When I first became interested in Amateur Radio as a teenager in high school, my "bible" was "The Radio Amateur's Handbook" by Collins and Hertzberg. That book was my constant companion in my teen years and I must have read it, cover to cover, at least a half dozen times. It fueled my wishful dreams of becoming a Ham Radio operator, making contacts with people from all over the world.


I still have that book, and it holds a place of High Honor on my Amateur Radio book shelf.

A few weeks ago, I came home from work to see a rather large package sticking out of my mail box. As I was bringing it into the house, I noticed it was from Schiffer Publishing.  I thought that this was kind of odd, as I hadn't ordered anything from Schiffer. After dinner, I opened the package to find a most wonderful book entitled "Compendium Of Automatic Morse Code".  I couldn't believe my eyes! The book was sent for me to look over and to offer a review.  It is a wonderful piece of work by Ed Goss N3CW.  The amount of work and detail that he put into his book is phenomenal.


Granted, this is a niche book. Not every Amateur Radio operator will gravitate towards an edition like this. If you have a love for Morse Code and for the keyers, paddles and other devices that produce it, then this book is for you.

It is exhaustive in its content and detail and everything about this book screams "quality". From its size, 9 X 11 inches, to the feel of the heavy stock of the pages, to the rich and highly detailed color photography, everything about this book says, "Coffee Table Book for Ham Radio".



The table of contents includes chapters on

Chapter 1: An Overview of Telegraphy and Early Keys - History
Chapter 2 - Code Readers, Oscillators and Morse Trainers
Chapter 3 - The Electronic Keyer
Chapter 4 - The Single-Lever Paddle (Without a doubt, my favorite chapter!)
Chapter 5 - The Dual-Lever Paddle
Chapter 6 - Portable/Miniature/QRP Paddles (My second favorite chapter!)
Chapter 7: Commemorative Paddles
Chapter 8 - Combination Key and Paddles
Chapter 9 - Convertible Paddles and Paddle Modifications
Chapter 10 - Automatic Mechanical Keys
Chapter 11 - The Elements of Paddle Design
Chapter 12 - Paddle Adjustment and Maintenance
Chapter 14 - Telegraph Machines, Keyboard Keyers and Terminals
Chapter 15 - Computer Interfacing and the Internet

And various appendices and a bibliography as well as a list of recommended reading.

Pretty exhaustive, eh?  If you're thinking,"Well really, how much is there to write about on this subject?"  I'll answer that question by saying, "Over 300 pages, as a matter of fact!"

It's not hard to tell that writing this book was a labor of love for N3CW.  It's one of the best if not THE BEST book to come down the pike on the subject.  It has earned an honored place on my book shelf, right next to my beloved Hertzberg and Collins. However, I can tell you that it doesn't stay on the shelf for long. It has been in my hands a lot and will be for a long time to come.

I would highly recommend adding the "Compendium of Automatic Morse Code" to your Amateur Radio library if you're as much as a devotee of CW operating as I am. I can see this book as a golden answer to that age old question that every Ham gets asked every now and then ....... "Honey, is there any Ham stuff that you'd like for your birthday? Or Christmas, or Hanukkah, etc, etc, etc.

Thanks to Ed N3CW and Schiffer Publishing for sending me a copy!  It was a very pleasant surprise and is appreciated more deeply than you will ever know.

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

Dit, dit!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Amateur Radio .... sort of

Today was a busy day with a lot of commitments and a lot of chores and not much time for Amateur Radio. So what does an intrepid Amateur Radio op do?  Put his tail between his legs and slink off into the distance?  No, he does the next best thing  - he engages in related activities.

I had a class this morning that meets one Saturday a month. It started last September and ends next month, and it runs from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. You can see that that's a good chunk of the day. So it was SOTABEAMS WSPRLite to the rescue!  It's kind of like a Ronco counter top oven - "set it and forget it". So I hooked up my WSPRLite to my W3EDP, set it up for 200 milliWatts on 20 Meters and let it go to town!


I figured that I'd let it run, see how the W3EDP gets out and still do the things I had to do today.

This WSPRLite is so cool!  It's a software defined WSPR beacon in a package about half the size of an Altoids tin.  It's powered by the USB port of your computer.  You pick the band and power output and hook it up to your antenna.  You wait until 2 seconds past any even minute and you press the little black button on the right to kick things off.  The beacon transmits for 110 seconds and then waits for the next opportunity when the frequency is clear.  I set it so that it would randomly transmit about 20% of the time; and you can let it run for up to three days if you want.

In the meantime, yesterday, while checking my e-mail, I saw that Joe Everhart N2CX co-founder of the NJQRP Club was going to be activating Edison State Park for Parks on the Air.  It's designator is KFF-1615 and it's all of about 15 minutes from my house. So I e-mailed Joe back with my cell phone number and told him to text me when he got there; and I would come out and meet him.

After class I came home and broke out the lawnmower and got the front yard done. As I was walking to the backyard, I felt my pocket buzz. I whipped out my phone and read a text that Joe was on site and setting up. I dropped the lawnmower like a hot potato and high tailed it to the park. After all, what QRPer in his right mind would miss the opportunity to talk with a QRP Legend, right? When I got there, I saw Joe had finished setting up and was operating from his car.


If you click on the picture to get a better view, you will notice that mounted at the rear of the car was Joe's 16 foot crappie pole.  He had a loading coil attached and ran wire to the top. He told me that this arrangement seems to work for him as well as a full blown 31 foot mast secured via a drive on mast support. And who am I not to take him at his word?  Joe is quite the QRP innovator. It seems that not an issue of "QRP Quarterly" goes by without some kind of juicy tidbit from Joe. And if N2CX says it works, then by golly, you can be assured that it works!



When I got there, Joe was making contacts on 40 Meters with his KX3.  He noticed the same thing that I think we're all keenly aware of, that 20 Meters seems to stink, lately. Anyway, we kibbitzed for a few minutes and then I took my leave after Joe's son Kevin took a few photos of us together.  After all, he came all the way to Edison from his home to make QSOs and put KFF-1615 on the air, not shoot the breeze with W2LJ!


When I got home, before I started on the back yard, I raced downstairs to the shack and hooked up the KX3 to the HF9V and went looking for Joe.  I listened on 7.034 MHz, where I saw him operating from during our visit, only to hear not a peep. Figuring that he changed bands, I checked both 30 Meters and then 20 Meters,  Bingo on 14.062 MHz (goundwave)!  I got Joe in my log and helped him towards making the minimum number of contacts he needed to qualify for an activation.

Before resuming lawn duty, I decided to check WSPRNet, to see how the WSPRLite was getting out.


It was getting out all right!  Into the midwest USA and into Europe on 200 milliWatts!  The W3EDP seems to be doing OK!


It turned out to be a good day, after all.  I got to attend my class, got my chores done and got to hob-nob with a QRP giant - while giving my wire antenna a check out at the same time!

And here I thought the day would be a bust, Amateur Radio-wise!

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


Thursday, April 27, 2017

My somewhat annual rant about power.

I got involved in another "discussion" on an Amateur Radio page on Facebook about QRP - again. The basic premise was that someone came on and mentioned that they finally made their first HF contact, after many months of trying with 5 Watts. Said person said that they " gave up on that for now" and that "A little more power was all I needed."  It turned out that our intrepid new HF'er was using a 40 Meter dipole at a height of 16 feet.  Immediately, a tsunami of comments followed, some good, some questionable.  The one that caught my eye was:

"40M is not a band real well known for QRP operation. In fact it is most known for success with QRO (at or near legal limit.) Same thing applies for most HF bands (except 30M & 60M as required by law) and except during really prime conditions (not much of that lately.)"

Wait ....... what?!?  To me, this is a red flag. You might just as well say, "The science is settled." Same reaction.

OK ....... first let's take care of some business.  I know what you're going to say, "QRP is not for beginners!"  Well, I do have to kind of agree with that, somewhat.  Maybe not all beginners. When your anxious to get that first HF QSO under your belt, I would also advocate for using as much "nominal" power as you have at your disposal. So yeah, it was a good idea for our newbie to tweak up the power.  I'll give you that.

So I answered the above comment with:

""40M is not a band real well known for QRP operation." ...... What? It most certainly is! In fact it's one of the two favorite bands of most QRPers."

Which got this response:

"Larry Makoski I know I haven't heard any lately.... When they turn it up to 100W+ no problem, maybe there's a hidden message there somewhere? What is your definition of QRP? Mine would be 5W or less."

OK - so here we go. "I know I haven't heard any lately". That's an odd statement to make. How would you know whether or not a signal you are hearing is a QRP or a QRO signal?  Bingo!  He had not heard any WEAK signals lately, so ergo - they all HAD to be QRO signals.

Weak signal = QRP and strong signal = QRO ........ got it?

No ....... I don't got it. So I responded:

"You haven't heard any lately? How would you know they're QRP? Because it's a weak signal? If that's your criteria, then you're dead wrong. Yes, QRP is 5 Watts or less on CW, 10 Watts or less on SSB. Signal strength has everything to do with propagation and antenna. Output power plays into it; but not as big a factor as the other two. I've worked 100 Watt stations that I've struggled to copy and I've worked 5 Watt stations that have blown the earbuds out of my ears. It's a whole bunch of factors that determine signal strength, not just raw power. And BTW, most serious QRPers will never even mention they're running low power. You've probably worked a bunch and never even knew it."

You would think more experienced Hams wouldn't jump to conclusions like this; but sadly they do. I guess that's part of this blog's missions - to educate ALL Hams that effective radio communications have more to do with antenna, propagation and band conditions than raw output power (alone). If QRP is not your "cup of tea" that's quite all right with me. No skin off my nose.  But even as a QRO op, if you want the best signal you can deliver, look at your antenna and band conditions first.  You needn't always empty your wallets for an amplifier. (Sorry, Elecraft!)

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Hearing crickets"

I guess that's a relatively new saying.  When someone says something that is so outrageous or so amazingly stupid that it deserves no response from anyone - it is often said that "All he heard was crickets".


Thanks to the 4 States QRP Group, soon we'll be hearing an entirely different kind of Cricket.  This kind of Cricket:


This kind of Cricket is an 80 Meter QRP transceiver designed by David Wayne Cripe NM0S. It was the OzarkCon Build Project this year.  As you can see from the photo, it's all through-hole parts - no SMD.  A great project for the first time builder.

It's based on the Pixie, but is much better than a Pixie.  No toroids to wind (you can see the coils etched into the board), and it also comes with an included straight key. However, if you want to use your favorite keyer and paddles, there's an input for that. The Cricket also uses MOSFETS for improved sensitivity and switching and uses a NJM2113D for the audio amp.

All the details and specs can be found at http://4sqrp.com/cricket.php

All proceeds go towards keeping OzarkCon a viable yearly event.  QRPers helping other QRPers - what's better than that?

In other news ............


"Morsum Magnificat" was a great little periodical produced by Zyg Nilski G3OKD, devoted to Morse telegraphy and those who love it. I was a subscriber, until the publication ceased in 2004.  Some (a lot) of issues are now available for downloads as .pdf files.  You can go here
http://www.n7cfo.com/tgph/Dwnlds/mm/mm.htm to download.   "Morsum Magnificat" was really a niche publication. You really have to have an interest in Morse Code telegraphy and its history to appreciate it. Thanks to N7CFO for making these available to us!

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

The weekend

Saturday was a normal, busy Saturday and it was cool with on and off rain. As such, that forced me to operate indoors for QRPTTF - and in a way that was a blessing. As it turned out, the bands were so dismal, that had I went out and traveled to a river and gone through the whole outdoor setup procedure, I would have been bitterly disappointed.  Somehow, making only four contacts isn't as disappointing when you don't have to brave the elements and the added work of setting up a portable station in the rain.

I could not believe the conditions on 20 Meters!  I heard stations, but only to the degree that I knew they that someone was there. Signals were so weak and into the ESP realm, that I was not able to copy any call signs.  I knew Morse Code was being sent; but that was about it.

40 Meters yielded my four QSOs.  I worked North Carolina, Ontario and Maine. There was one station (call sign withheld as I can't remember it! LOL!) that was frustratingly loud that I called and called and called ....... only to get "CQ TTF" as an answer for my effort. I finally gave up, figuring that he was either in a high ambient noise location, or that once again, propagation was not reciprocal.

The bad thing (or maybe it's a good thing?) about being a home station is that when the bands are dismal you can trot off and do other things, like chores and stuff. If I were a field station, I would have stuck it out longer because of the effort of putting a portable station on the air. I think the frustration level would have been markedly higher, though, as you look for a return on your expended effort.

In other things, I would be remiss if I did not mention the passing of Jerry Haigwood W5JH on April 21st.  I read of Jerry's passing via an e-mail to 4 States QRP Group (of which I am a member) by Terry WA0ITP.  While I did not know Jerry very well on a personal basis, I have worked him numerous times on the air.  In addition, Jerry was the driving force behind the AZ ScQRpions Black Widow and Mini Black Widow paddles.  I still have my Black Widow paddles and at one time I did own a set of the Mini Black Widow paddles attached to my PFR3A.  Both were/are excellent paddles and are a testament to Jerry's machining skills.


RIP, Jerry - you will be missed.

Lastly, I finally had the opportunity to sit down and play with something that was sent to me by Richard, G3CWI, owner of SOTABEAMS.  A few months ago, Rich graciously sent me a WSPRLITE, to play with and evaluate. The WSPRLITE is a small WSPR transmitter beacon, if you will, that you can use to test your antennas.


I hadn't the time, up until now, to give it the attention it deserves. Mind you, it's very easy to use - as easy as falling off a log - but as John Lennon wrote in a song, "Life is what happens while your busy making other plans."  I don't want to give the impression that I put off getting this little beauty on the air due to it being a difficult process. Nothing could be farther from the truth!  It's just that things (obligations, chores, colds) always seemed to get in the way each time I had planned to get it up and running.

Well, last night I got it up and running within a few minutes and got results almost immediately!  This lil' guy is way cool and I want to play with it for a few more evenings this week and then I want to let it run for a few hours in the daytime before I let you know what my impressions are.  But so far, it's a very neat tool to have, especially if you have more than one HF antenna and you want to see how they stack up against each other.

I hate to keep you hanging; but that's all I'm going to say about it for now.  The WSPRLITE will deserve it's own post to properly give it the evaluation it deserves - and you can look for that either next Saturday night or Sunday.

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Filters

The last few Field Days, the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club has been plagued by that perennial old bug-a-boo ........ stations interfering with each other.  Even QRP transmitters at close proximity can wreak havoc on each other! This year, I intend to do something about it. Since we typically run only two HF transmitters, I was thinking of building a set of these K4VX filters.

I've spoken with my good friend Bob W3BBO about this in the past, and he put the bug in my ear about using coaxial stub filters, instead. He has some experience using them and he told me they worked well for him.

I did some Googling and searching of the ARRL Web site last night and found this:

http://www.k1ttt.net/technote/k2trstub.html as well as this YouTube video:


As I'm going to be replacing the coax out to the Butternut as soon as the weather cooperates, I'll have a useful purpose for the old coax, instead of just tossing it.  It would end up being a lot cheaper than purchasing toroids and capacitors and enclosures and antenna sockets needed for the K4VX filters. All I need for the stub filters would be some PL259s (which I have) and a few T-connectors which I can get at a local hamfest.

If they don't work as well as I'm hoping, then maybe a combination of the K4VX filters along with the stubs can be used next year.  But it's already mid-April and time is growing short. Field Day will be here before you know it.  And even just the stub filters will be better than the nothing we've been using.

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

QRPTTF this weekend

This coming Saturday, the 2017 "Summer" Outdoor QRP Season begins with QRP To The Field. This event, put together and sponsored by Paul NA5N is one that I always look forward to. Sometimes, I even get to participate!

The extended weather forecast for the day is still somewhat ...... meh.

Overall, an overcast day with temperatures reaching a high of about 64F (18C).  The chances for showers increase as the afternoon rolls on.  The weather that day will be a big factor.

This year, the theme of the event is "A River Runs Through It".  The idea is to get out and operate from the nearby vicinity of a river, creek, stream, brook or what have you.  There are various possibilities around here ...... depending.  "Depending on what?", you may be asking.

Depending on ease of access, location, and name of said body of water.  The name of the estuary is part of the exchange.  I can go a bit farther from home to a nice park and have "Raritan" as part of the exchange; or I can stick close to home and have "Bound Brook" as part of the exchange. Obviously, the name of the river is a heckuva lot shorter than the name of the brook.

This might be one time that I may be sorely tempted to load a "canned" exchange into one of the KX3's memories, so I don't have to pound out "Bound Brook" all day long. I don't like doing that, as for me, that seems a bit too "automatic" for my tastes.  I know, I know ....... all the die hard contesters do that with their N1MM logging program and all they have to do is hit the F1 key all day long and make a ton of contacts to take the top places.  I'm old school.  I like making the exchange by myself and doing it the "old way". Of course, that's another reason that I rarely ever get beyond the middle of the contest pack.

The other factor, as mentioned before, is the weather. If it really looks like rain, I'll be tempted to stick closer to home.  If it's a gray day; but seems like it will most likely stay dry, I might be more inclined to go to the park farther away from home.

Hopefully, nothing will come out of Left Field (as it so often does) to make all the above a moot point - and for all intent and purpose ..... spoil the day.

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


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday 2017


Wesolego Alleluia
Death has died - the last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Happy Easter!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday 2017


From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
 And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”

 But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.
 And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!"

A Blessed Good Friday to all de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Plans

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Ain't that the truth?!?

I am taking tomorrow, Good Friday, off from work.  Tonight, with the Mass of the Lord's Supper, we Catholics enter into the holiest time of our year - The Sacred Triduum.  There will be a lot of time spent between now and Easter Sunday in prayer, remembrance and commemoration.

But there will be time for other stuff, too.  Namely, mowing the lawn for the first time in 2017.  I am hoping to get that done tomorrow. IF the lawn mover starts without a hitch.  The first time starting it up in the Spring is always dicey.  I always make sure to run the gas tank out in Autumn before stowing it away, and always put in fresh gasoline ....... but, you know.  So if you're so inclined, please say a little prayer tonight that W2LJ's mower will start tomorrow - OK?    :-)

If I get that done tomorrow then on Saturday, I plan to run the new RG213 that I bought from DX Engineering last Summer, to the Butternut. (You were wondering when I was going to get to Amateur Radio, weren't you?)

Now's a great time as it will not be freezing outside and the new "greenery" (weeds) hasn't begun to grow yet.  It's a 150 foot run from HF9V along the back fence, along the side fence and house into the basement.  I'll need to go to the hardware store to pick up a small amount of plumber's putty.  When I seal my coax connections, I put down a layer of electrical tape, then some plumber's putty, and then another layer of electrical tape.  The plumber's putty works just as well as Coax-Seal (TM), but it comes off a lot more easily and cleanly when you want it to.

The coax run that is currently there is probably fine, but it's almost 16 years old now and I think I may have nicked (but not punctured) the outer jacket with the lawn mower a time or two. While I'm at the hardware store I need to find something that I can use to elevate the coax a few inches to a foot above the ground, so that I don't nick the new stuff. Some kind of heavy duty garden stake - or something like that. Once I get to the side fence, which is a chain link fence, all I do is cable tie the coax to the top cross posts.  That keeps it completely off the ground.

Once I get that done, I think I'll need to order another bit of RG213 to replace the feed line to the W3EDP antenna.  That could use it, too.

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tough going

As planned, I did participate in the SKCC 150th Sprint last evening, for about 90 minutes of the two hours. I must say that from the beginning, my fist was rather lousy. It's one thing when your fist is lousy and you're blissfully unaware. It's altogether another thing when your fist is lousy and you're wincing as you make mistakes! It's strange to be looking at your hand while you're sending CW, making a mistake and thinking, "Why did you just do that?", as if your arm and hand belonged to someone else.

Thanks to all who hung with me for that barbaric assault on your ears - I deeply apologize.  That was the end result of using only a keyer and paddles or a bug for the last however. I do have to admit that as the evening went on, and I got more comfortable, my fist improved ........ marginally. I found out that I got better if I pounded the brass with my eyes closed, and relied solely on concentrating on the sound.

I must have been doing something right, though, because after 90 minutes of NAQCC Sprint, my wrist, hand and elbow suffered no discomfort at all. And people DID copy me ........ I did not get many "?'s", so again, I must have been doing something right. And the Reverse Beacon Network was able to copy my 14/15 WPM CQs, so I guess I wasn't as bad as I thought.  I AM my own worst critic!


I don't have my log in front of me; but I think I walked away with 18 QSOs - scattered across 20, 40 and 80 Meters.  40 Meters seemed once again to be the money band, yielding the most contacts. My meager effort was a lot of fun and brought back fond memories of when I participated in these sprints on a regular basis.  I'm now kind of interested in doing that again.  Not only will it help to fatten up my log book, but it will also keep me in regular practice on the straight key.

Last night, I used my LTA SKCC Straight Key, which is a nice enough key.


I keep on telling my buddy, Bill Koeth W2WK that I want to buy one of his straight keys.  Bill is a machinist with amazing talent and he produces straight keys that feel great and work marvelously and they're beautiful to look at, too!  I've test flown a few prototypes for him and want to add one of his production models to my bench. I think using one of his straight keys would be a further enticement for entering these NAQCC Sprints on a regular basis.

The other thing I noticed, quite happily, is that there seemed to be no increase in the ambient RF noise level at my QTH.  A neighbor two doors down just installed solar panels on his roof.  I've been told that with some installations, when the inverters kick in, there can be plenty of RF hash.  That was not the case last night; but I'll have to check this weekend during the daylight hours to make sure there's not a problem. Can you imagine going to your neighbor and saying, "Hey, I hate to tell you; but your brand new solar panels are wiping out radio reception at my house." THAT would go over like the proverbial lead balloon!

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Special NAQCC Sprint tomorrow night

Tomorrow night, April 11th ( The morning of April 12th for those of you not bothered by UTC conversions), will be the 150th NAQCC Monthly Sprint.  That's 12 and a half years of monthly NAQCC Sprints now - since the club was formed.  In honor of this momentous occasion, the leadership of the NAQCC has planned something special.  Rather than try and go into my own details, I'll post the email announcement here:

On Tuesday evening, April 11 (4/12 UTC), we will have our landmark 150th regular monthly sprint. We want to celebrate this event by giving away a prize worth $150 to one member-participant! But there is a catch, we will only have a prize drawing if we get at least 150 submitted logs. You don’t have to be an experienced contester or a high speed CW operator to participate. Just get on the air, make at least 1 sprint QSO, and submit your log, and you will be eligible for the prize drawing. So mark your calendar and get ready!

EDT - 8:30-10:30PM, CDT - 7:30-9:30PM, MDT - 6:30-8:30PM, PDT - 5:30-7:30PM), which translates as Wednesday, April 12th, 0030 to 0230Z in all cases.

For all the "official" information, please go to:

http://naqcc.info/sprint/sprint201704.html

There you will find all the details as to time, frequencies and other important information.

This is a monthly event that caters to the CW veteran, the CW newcomer, straight key and bug fans. All are welcome to participate (this includes QRO); but you must use QRP power levels to compete for awards.

If you've been hesitant to join in our sprints because you hear other sprints running at breakneck speeds, have no fear. Our sprints are geared to the newcomer to CW and/or contesting. Virtually everyone including the many veteran contesters who regularly enter our sprints will slow down to YOUR speed to help you make your contacts.

If you are not already a member of NAQCC... membership is FREE! Now is your chance to join the largest QRP CW Club in the world!! We currently have 7100+ members in: All 50 States - 9 VE Provinces - 100 Countries. Sign up on the NAQCC website today (http://naqcc.info/) and receive a handsome certificate, with your membership number on it, which is good for life.

Come join us and have a real good time!

72/73 de Larry W2LJ NAQCC #35

for NAQCC http://naqcc.info/

Admittedly, I have not participated in one of these in a long time. Between various commitments, I have either not been home Tuesday or Wednesday evenings; or I have been too pooped to pop from a long day's work. But I am going to try and participate for at least the first 90 minutes tomorrow night.  I'm not eligible for the prize as I'm quasi-NAQCC staff, but I can help drive the number of log entries up.

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

Friday, April 07, 2017

QRP ARCI Spring QSO Party this weekend

I hope to get on!  But it looks busy - VE Exams tomorrow morning, followed by grocery shopping and some house chores.  Sunday afternoon is our monthly stint at the soup kitchen, so maybe some time in between chores and possibly Saturday evening?  I sure hope so!  I have not been on the air much lately and I'm feeling that tug to get on more.  Again, not that I'm that much into contesting; but the idea to flex some CW muscle and fatten up the log book is appealing.

2017 QRP-ARCI(sm) SPRING QSO PARTY

Date/Time:
1200Z on 8 April 2017 through 2400Z on 9 April 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:
160m - 1810 kHz
80m - 3560 kHz
40m - 7030 kHz (please listen at 7040 kHz for rock bound participants)
20m - 14060 kHz
15m -  21060 kHz
10m - 28060 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 23 April 2017.

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

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

Hopefully, I'll see you on the air at some point this weekend!   (At least this year, the contest doesn't fall on Easter Weekend!)

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

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Ham Cram Results

Let's just say I was expecting and hoping for better results and leave it at that.  I drove home Saturday afternoon disappointed and a bit depressed.  It's hard on the instructors when candidates fail to pass the license exam. In my case, I immediately wonder, "What more could I have done?"  My personal problem is that, since I love Amateur Radio so much, I assume that every one in the class wants their license as badly as I wanted mine. So when they fail, I tend to internalize the blame.

But there was a clear division between the two camps. There were the people who wanted their license and actually studied the material diligently and there were the others who may have cracked open the license manual once or twice, if at all.  Listening to some of the comments from the folks who didn't pass, I was surprised at how little they applied themselves.

Let's face it, the Technician Class license exam is not the hardest exam in the world, but you DO have to study and you DO have to want it. Going to class because your good friend talked you into it; or because your supervisor thinks it would be a good thing to have a license is not good enough.  There has to be some personal motivation driving the effort.  As my RACES Bureau Chief said to me as we were leaving the building, "Just remember Lar, you can lead a horse to water; but you can't make him drink".  He's 1000% correct, but maybe there's more we can do to make drinking more enticing.

So where do we go from here?  While I am still wary of the Ham Cram process, I am willing to give it another shot.  I still think the full blown eight week class concept works better, but I do realize that less than perfectly motivated people are busy and have lives, and are not willing to give up that much time from their busy schedules.  I think with a couple of tweaks, the Ham Cram route can be a successful one.

Two changes in particular that I would like to make:

1) Ahead of the next "home study cycle", I would like an accurate head count of all the participants.  I would like to order their ARRL license manuals ahead of time and have a meeting with the candidates BEFORE the front cover of the manual is even opened.  I would like to take that opportunity to hand them their manuals, study guides and point blank tell them, "If you fail to study over the next month, or wait until the last minute to study, past experience indicates that you will not pass the exam."  I think it needs to be impressed upon the candidates how important the home study portion of this process is; and that without it, there's really no point in continuing on.  It would also be an excellent opportunity for Marv and I to introduce ourselves and give the students our contact information - so if they have any difficulty whatsoever, they know there's someone they can reach out to for help.

At that same meeting, there's an excellent video on Amateur Radio that we use for the first session of our eight week class sessions, that I would like to show. It comes in two versions, one 30 minutes long, the other an hour. Both go into a lot of the "fun" aspects of the hobby.  For those who are getting a license just for CERT and EMCOMM purposes, if they see the fun they can have once they're licensed, I'm willing to bet that it might be easier to get them to take a good, long drink.

I know that time is precious, but between handing out the manuals and study guides and then giving a little pep talk and then showing the video, we can keep that introductory meeting to less than 90 minutes.  I am coming to believe that this may be a crucial step in the process. If you're not willing to come to a meeting to get your manual and get a little pre-home study guidance, there isn't really a point with continuing on, is there?

2) A change of the Ham Cram review material. We used the W9PE Power Point last Saturday.  While it is complete and comprehensive and very good, I think it is more geared to the prospective Ham who is into getting a license for the hobby aspect of it.  I was given a Power Point produced by Alan Wolke W2AEW of YouTube Ham Radio videos fame.  His presentation is ideal for presenting to those who are coming to the Amateur Radio world from the First Responder world.  It is more visually appealing with lots of graphics; and as a result, I think it will be more successful.

I think if we make these two changes, our next Ham Cram venture will be more successful.  Now all I have to do is pitch this to the "Powers That Be".

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

Monday, April 03, 2017

I've never worked either of these ........

Courtesy of the ARRL:

Midway and Kure Islands are Now Deleted DXCC Entities
03/31/2017

Midway and Kure Islands have been placed on the list of DXCC deleted entities, effective August 26, 2016. This came about as an unintended consequence of action last summer by then-President Barack Obama that expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to include the northwestern Hawaiian Islands west of Ni’ihau Island, making it the largest contiguous protected conservation area under the US flag.

Midway (KH4) had qualified for DXCC status by virtue of its being governed by a separate administration. Because it is now under the administration of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, however, it becomes a deleted entity. Approximately 50 people live on Midway, including US Fish and Wildlife Service staffers and contractors. The Battle of Midway, a turning point in the Allied World War II Pacific Campaign, took place in June 1942.

Now uninhabited, Kure Island (KH7K), a part of Hawaii, is separated from the rest of the state by Midway; because of that, it qualified for DXCC status under Section II, 2 (b) (iii) of the DXCC Rules — separation from its “parent” Hawaii. Midway Island’s change in DXCC status in turn made Kure Island no longer eligible for DXCC status, since Kure no longer is separated from the rest of Hawaii by intervening land or islands that are part of another DXCC entity.

Kure Island once was home to a US Coast Guard LORAN station, remnants of which are still evident. It has been a state wildlife sanctuary since 1981.



The relevant parts of Section II of the DXCC Rules follow:

A Geographic Separation Entity may result when a single Political Entity is physically separated into two or more parts. The part of such a Political Entity that contains the capital city is considered the Parent for tests under these criteria. One or more of the remaining parts resulting from the separation may then qualify for separate status as a DXCC Entity if they satisfy paragraph a) or b) of the Geographic Separation Criteria, as follows.

b) Island Areas (Separation by Water):

A new entity results in the case of an island under any of the following conditions:

iii) The island is separated from its Parent by intervening land or islands that are part of another DXCC entity, such that a line drawn along a great circle in any direction, from any part of the island, does not touch the Parent before touching the intervening DXCC entity. There is no minimum separation distance for the first island entity created under this rule. Additional island entities may be created under this rule, provided that they are similarly separated from the Parent by a different DXCC entity and separated from any other islands associated with the Parent by at least 800 km.

Neither Midway nor Kure was able to be activated without prior permission and only for a planned DXpedition. Only contacts made on August 25, 2016, or earlier will count for these two entities.

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

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Product reviews

I have two product reviews to do, from two kind Amateur Radio vendors who sent me some "cool stuff" to try out. Many. many thanks to hamshop.cz and SOTABEAMS for thinking highly enough of me to do some product testing.

I am going to do one review tonight and another after next weekend.  I have played with both products and both are superb; and I want to give each its due, so tonight, I will talk about hamshop.cz's Mini Iambic Mini Paddles, which I received first


I received these paddles a couple of months ago - soon after their availability was announced. They looked interesting to me and I had even mentioned on this blog that I would have liked to purchase a set.  Not long after that, a sample arrived in the mailbox. Thank you, hamshop.cz !!!

These are constructed from parts printed out from a 3D printer if I am not mistaken.  They are light in weight and are ideal for QRP portable ops, whether that be SOTA, POTA, or just a trip to your backyard, if that's what you have in mind.



One might think that something that came out of a 3D printer would be cheap or shoddy and I have to tell you honestly, that nothing could be farther from the truth.  I have played with these paddles for a while now and I have to tell you that they compare VERY favorably with my Palm Pico paddles. They are roughly the same size, but the hamshop.cz's iteration are a bit lighter and also a tiny bit larger. They use a magnetic return for a very smooth feel and a very positive return.The tension can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the big screw at the top and lever spacing can be adjusted by two tiny set screws by each paddle at the front of the housing.

These first run paddles came without a cable and I had to wire them up myself, but that was not a big issue.  I see on the hamshop.cz website that the paddles now come with a cable for the circuit board pin configuration that they use as a connector.


So, how do they work?  Very well actually! I have been using them on the KX3 and they have been a joy to use. As I mentioned, they are smooth and have a good feel to them. The positive return makes sure the paddles always return to "home" position reliably, so there is no issue with getting stuck sending unintentional strings of dits or dahs. I have sent at speeds from about 13 WPM to 25 WPM with no fumbling or mistakes due to the equipment. Any mistakes originated from the "gray matter between the ears".

They are ideal for portable ops as they are a breeze to carry in a backpack and are so light that you can hold them in your hand all day and send Morse for hours without getting tired.  I see hamshop.cz now supplies them with magnets on the base so that you can stick these to something if you'd rather not hand hold them for any length of time.

The price is a selling point, too. Currently, a set of these paddles go for 25 Euros, which is about $27 US Dollars. Compare that to the Palm Pico Paddles, which go for about $116.  I know, I know - this is kind of like comparing apples to oranges.

Would I give up my Pico Paddles?  No, not at all. When you compare the two, the craftsmanship and the materials used in the Palm paddles justify their cost.  But for $27, I think the hamshop.cz paddles are a bargain!  The operability, size and weight compare favorably to the more sophisticated Pico paddles, but the price is a clear winner.  If you're on a tight budget, you can have a set of really good miniature paddles for a very reasonable price. And, if you should have an accident and damage them; or even be unlucky enough to lose them, there's no heart attack factor involved - you just order another set!

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Great news

for QRPers with REALLY long wire antennas:

http://cqnewsroom.blogspot.com/2017/03/flash-fcc-approves-new-mflf-ham-bands.html?spref=fb

The FCC has authorized two new bands for experimentation. 2,200 Meter (Yes, that's right - 2200 Meters) and 630 Meters.  Can you imagine having enough property to build a true 1/2 wave dipole?

2200 Meters will be limited to 1 Watt EIRP and 630 Meters to 5 Watts EIRP.

There are lots of rules to adhere to because "we" will be secondary on these bands, as they are used primarily by Electric Utility companies for controlling the power grid.

Click on the link above for more information.

ALSO ............ there's a new "NA5N-type" fun QRP Sprint debuting today/tonight (depending on where you live).

It's called the "Sasquatch Stomp" and it's sponsored by the Pacific Northwest QRP Group.

Here's "Da Rulz": https://sites.google.com/site/pnwqrpgroup/sasquatch-stomp

My official Sasquatch Stomp Badge

Tonight is our monthly radio club meeting, so I doubt I'll get much time to participate, but it looks fun, in the same vein as the "Zombie Shuffle".

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Long day, yesterday

'Twas a very long day, yesterday. After a full day of work, I immediately traveled to the Middlesex County Fire Academy for our CERT class on catastrophic bleeding control. To say that it was eye opening and intense would be an understatement. But of all the CERT training sessions that I have attended, this one was by far the best. No competition, there.

Our instructors included an EMT who works with Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in Newark, NJ. That right there caused the needle on the "Impressed Meter" to go off the scale.  Another was an EMT who used to be in the Air Force and did two tours in the Mid East as a Casualty Evacuation Corpsman. (I was mentally debating, "Which is safer - Newark or Iraq?) The third instructor was an EMT who works with the NJ Medical Reserve Unit and he specializes in S&R and Wilderness Emergency Treatment.  We were in good hands for the evening. Very, very good hands.

The instructors taught us in the proper deployment and use of tourniquets, as well as how to pack a wound with both regular gauze and gauze treated with coagulant materials in order to control or stop hemorrhagic bleeding.  We also learned how to dress sucking chest wounds and how to do quick assessments for catastrophic injuries in the field.
The job for our trainers was difficult.  It had to be no nonsense, in order to impress upon us the need for speed, clear headed thinking, and acting upon a really bad situation without freezing or choking up.  But yet, they manged to keep the session light enough that we were not frightened by the task before us. These guys were the best, hands down.

As a CERT volunteer, sometimes you get the feeling that you're considered somewhat as "an outsider" by the local police and fire personnel.  They know their jobs, they do them well, and it can be very apparent that they consider CERT to be unnecessary; or just a bother, in their eyes.   I have to say that out of all the training that I have received so far, the guys last night, and the people from Homeland Security, who gave us our AuxComm training, were definitely different in that regard. Last night we were treated ......... what's the word I'm looking for .......... seriously - very seriously.  In their eyes, we CERT volunteers were just as valuable to them as any regular police or fire officer, or EMT.

I guess when you're in a situation where three minutes can make the difference between life or death, the gentlemen who taught us last night were very happy to have some good eyes, hands and minds out there in the field.  At the end of the evening, each of us were issued an IFAK - and Individual First Aid Kit, complete with supplies needed to make that difference.  I pray I'll never be in that situation where I have to implement it; but if I am, I'm pretty darned confident that I now know enough to save someone's life, if it comes to that.

Kudos to our three instructors and the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management for last evening.  We hope we'll make you proud.

As an aside, when I got home at 9:45 PM, my Harold was sitting in the bay window, faithfully waiting for me. What a good doggie; and just the thing to come home to after a very long day!

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New QRP Podcast

A new QRP Podcast - "The QRP'ian" - can be found at Spreaker.com.  This one is hosted by Mike Malone KD5KXF, and the first episode can be found here: https://www.spreaker.com/user/8972678/episode-001?autoplay=true

The guests on the first episode are Brian KB9BVN, who's a good friend and a fellow Flying Pig. Also appearing is Dave Cripes NM0S - a QRP Hall of Famer and a guy I enjoy following on Facebook.

I'm listening to Episode 001 as I type this and it is excellent!  It's like sitting around the workbench with your QRP buddies, shooting the breeze, while sharing a cup o' Joe.

I'm not big into following podcasts, but this is one that I will listen to on a regular basis. This and QSO Today will be my two favorites.

BTW, I'm going to a different kind of CERT training class tonight .... Bleeding control.  I have to high tail it over from work; as the class starts promptly at 6:00 PM. Should be interesting as it's a "practical" class with hands on experience. I was told we each get a tourniquet for our CERT kits, since we will have been trained on their proper use.

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ham Cram

This coming Saturday, Marv K2VHW and I will be attempting our first one day "Ham Cram". Normally, we conduct Technician License classes over an eight week period, one evening a week for two hours with self study in between sessions.

The group that requested this did not want to go that route.  With the unpredictable winter weather that we have been having, that's understandable. Instead of the usual routine, we composed a "Technician Class Self Study Guide" which was issued to all the prospective candidates a month ahead of time.  We broke down the ARRL License Manual into four manageable chunks. We also provided links to appropriate You Tube videos, as well as other on line resources to accompany the material in the manual.


The session on Saturday will start at 8:00 AM and will break for a one hour lunch period at Noon. We will continue on to about 3:30 PM with exams following at 4:00 PM.  The half hour in between will be used to fill out 605 forms and all the other necessary paperwork.

Marv and I will be "going boldly, where we have never gone before"!

Wish us, and our candidates luck!

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Toothpaste works!

Yesterday, we had a work detail at the Middlesex County Fire Academy, where I volunteer as a RACES operator.  Our goal for the day was to assemble our UHF/VHF Go Kits, put them on the air, and make sure the antennas were marked, so that when they're deployed by the various municipalities in the county, that the SWR will be optimal.

As I was putting the kits away in the storage room, which is tiny, I heard a strange noise. I wasn't aware of what it was until I got in the car to come home.  I had my Wouxun UV8D on my belt, and I was navigating the storage room, I was unknowingly rubbing the face of my HT against the cinder block wall.


It was nowhere near as bad as the above picture that I found on the Web, but there were a few noticeable, long scratches.

When I got home, I went into one of our bathrooms to see what kind of toothpastes we have. I use AIM, which is a blue, minty gel (and is cheap); but my daughter uses Arm & Hammer Extra Whitening, which is a standard "white" toothpaste.  I put a tiny dab of that on my finger and made continual circular motions across the HT screen while slowly counting to 100 in my head.  I cleaned off the toothpaste with a paper towel and was happy to see the scratches were almost gone!  I repeated the procedure once more, and now the scratches are 99% removed. You can still see them slightly, but you have to know that they're there and you have to look for them.

So if you ever scratch the display of your HT (and it's not a touch screen), don't despair. A few minutes of your time and some toothpaste will fix that right up.

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