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!

1 comment:

  1. The WSPRlites are spreading fast, and it's easy to see why, with its compelte transmitte package that can be carried and deployed from an USB power stick anywhere.

    There is a problem with this unit's popularity, in that it is transmit-only. The listening is left to others. If too many operators start switching their WSPRlite on and forgetting about it (technically unlawful in some countries, where supervised operation is required), there will come a time when the whole WSPR system becomes imbalanced and too few listeners will exist.

    Sure, dedicating a whole rig to WSPR is a waste of a good, expensive rig for long term use. But, I think standalone units like this will ultimately need to be transceivers, not just transmitters.