Monday, October 21, 2019

JOTA was kind of a bust.

This past Saturday, an intrepid few from the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club, and a few friends, set up in Putnam Park in town. Our goal was to get local Scouts from town to come and work other Scouts as part of Jamboree On The Air 2019.

As it turned out, no Scouts showed up.  I guess, once again, our second attempt at this fell short. We (actually Drew W2OU) DID speak to some Scouts up at the Watchung Reservation via the W2LI 2 Meter repeater. So in that regard we were successful, but we were really hoping to provide some Scout to Scout QSOs.  That's where the magic happens.

Drew W2OU talking with Scouts on the W2LI repeater while Bill W2AOF, Dave KD2FSI and Bill KC2PLO observe.

Bill W2AOF brought the VHF/UHF gear and I brought my KX3 and the PAR END FEDZ. Bob WB2UDC brought his K1 and that Elecraft AX1 antenna.

Bill W2AOF programming the W2LI and other JOTA frequencies into his VHF/UHF rig.

WB2UDC's K1 with the AX1 antenna attached.

I have to admit when this antenna was first introduced by Elecraft that I was very skeptical as to how it could perform. And I remained skeptical when Bob brought it and placed it on his K1.  But then I worked ON6VL with the KX3 and the PAR, which was hoisted up into a tree.

The PAR END FEZ in a nearby tree - you can see the coax going to the matchbox pretty clearly.

About five minutes later, Bob also worked him with that "thing" sticking off the back of his rig! I guess I'm too stubborn to see how that little bitty antenna is effective as an everyday QRP antenna. It goes against all those times the mantra of "Get up as much wire as high as you can" was driven into my skull. But I have to admit - it did work!  Bob even contacted a German station with it a bit later. So, OK ....... I'm still not buying one. The PAR and the KX3 got me a few more German as well as a few NY QSO Party contacts, so I was happy that everything worked the way it was supposed to.

Dave KD2FSI brought his HF/VHF/UHF rig along with his high power PAR and a VHF/UHF J-pole antenna, so we had that at our disposal, also.

Dave KD2FSI's set up.

We also had Marty WB2BEW show up with an old Swan rig. It was a friend's and he wanted to see if it still worked. He hooked it up to my PAR (I told him he had to limit power so as not to burn up the PAR's matchbox) and he was still able to make contacts - so he was pleased as punch!

 That's Marty WB2BEW to the front, right making QSOs with the Swan.

With regard to meeting up with and hanging out with friends, making a few QSOs, having some pizza for lunch and generally having a good time - the day was a HUGE success. With regard to reaching our JOTA goal of getting South Plainfield Scouts on the air and exposing them to Amateur Radio - not so much. The fact that it was a pretty chilly and at times, breezy day didn't help matters much. My hands were cold all day. I can't possibly see how Bill W2AOF and Dave KD2FSI were comfortable in just shirt sleeves. They both must have hot coffee running through their veins!

We've had great success at Camporees and at the recent JerseyJam, and I very much want to continue presenting at those kind of large scale events.  But I am tempted to bring up at our next club meeting that unless WE are invited by the local troops to give an Amateur Radio demonstration, that I think we're pretty much spinning our wheels inviting them and hoping against hope that someone will show up.

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

Sunday, October 20, 2019

FLARC Presentation

My presentation of "QRP, You and the Great Outdoors" before the Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club went quite well Friday night. After a few opening technical difficulties, the presentation, which was scheduled to start at 7:00 PM, began a bit closer to 7:30 PM.

Several friends from other radio clubs showed up to attend and it was most appreciated. Alan W2AEW from the Raritan Valley Radio Club was there as well as Dave KD2FSI from SPARC and Don W2JEK from the Bergen Amateur Radio Association.  Seeing friendly and familiar faces in the audience was a great nerve calmer.

The hit of the presentation, at least in my mind, was the video by Sean KX9X and his QRP adventure at Pigeon Key, Florida for his Islands On The Air activation. A person can talk about QRP all day until he's blue in the face - but to see and hear actual QRP contacts from Florida to Alaska and Florida to France ....... well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Thank you so much, Sean, for giving me permission to include your YouTube video in my PowerPoint.  I think you may have won over more than a couple of QRP converts!

No one threw any tomatoes at the presenter and there were some thoughtful and good questions asked afterward, which I was able to answer.  There were 38 people in attendance and Ed Efchak WX2R, the Program Coordinator said that a lot of club members told him they enjoyed the presentation. So it all went well - and for that I am extremely grateful.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A challenge posted by Wayne NK6R

For the budding radio designers out there - a challenge presented by Wayne NK6R. I know this blog is read by a lot of people with tons more technical expertise than myself - and this seems like a most worthy project, so I am re-posting from QRP-L:

Hi all,

Someone recently told me that he'd benefitted throughout his life from learning Morse code as a teen. Ham radio helped him cope. He's gone on to promote Morse because it can help kids with certain cognitive or social issues. Such problems are exacerbated by social media, these days. We all know of teens who've ended up ostracized or worse.

He was wondering what the ham community may be able to do for them.

I proposed a simple ($5-$10), unlicensed CW transceiver (kit or assembled or both) that would put out maybe 1 milliwatt. It would serve as a code-practice oscillator for solo use. But with a short wire hanging from the PCB, kids could work "DX" -- like across a room, or better yet, outdoors.

This got his attention. I went on to describe a scenario that he found very plausible, based on his experience with Morse advocacy: You hand kids the little modules (just a PCB with a built-in 4x AAA battery pack, code key, antenna wire, and cheap earbuds), and ask them to try sending/receiving a few letters. The complete code would be silkscreened onto the PCB. After they try this, you say, "Now see how far apart you can get and still copy you friend's signal." This is where the magic happens, at least for those of us who have been leveraging action-at-a-distance ourselves for many years :)  It takes things a step beyond ordinary code practice. Connects kids to other kids. At best it could serve as a bridge to a world outside themselves.

I'm picturing the little rig as SA602 based, with one crystal for TX and one for RX, running so little power than licensing is a non-issue. Frequency? TBD. Something available in cheap fundamental crystals from Digikey. Each one would have its crystals offset slightly from the others, so the effect of having a number of them in one room might be a bit like being on a crowded CW band. Picking out the pitch of a signal of interest and copying it is a skill many of us have learned. I'm sure kids who are motivated would be able to do it as well.

It should not have debilitating clicks or thumps when keyed. The only control should be for volume. It should be full break-in, which at this power level is easily obtained.

This is a project I would gladly take on myself if not for my greater-than-full-time commitments to Elecraft products. I'm hoping there's a tinkerer out there with more free time who could start from a minimal description and design the little rig.  The gentleman I spoke to has been frustrated over the years in trying to get his message out, and in trying to find ways to take Morse code to a wider range of kids. He felt that this idea had a lot of merit.

If you're interested in this project, or know of something that matches this description that's already available, please contact me directly.

73,
Wayne
N6KR

How about it, guys?

72 de Larry W2LJ - A builder of other folk's designs
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Hmmmmm ....... interesting!

From the ARRL:


ARRL to Launch New On the Air Magazine in January
10/17/2019

ARRL is launching a new magazine, On the Air, in January 2020. To be published on a bimonthly basis, On the Air will offer new and beginner-to-intermediate-level radio amateurs a fresh approach to exploring radio communication. Each issue will include advice and insights on topics from the variety of Amateur Radio interests and activities: radio technology, operating, equipment, project building, and emergency communication. The goal of this new magazine is to be a vital resource in helping new and newer radio amateurs get active and involved in radio communications.

“On the Air responds to the brand new and not-so-brand-new radio amateur seeking ideas and answers,” said QST Managing Editor Becky Schoenfeld, W1BXY. Schoenfeld is part of the ARRL staff team that developed the new magazine. The planning included an extensive national-level study of new Amateur Radio licensees, identifying their motivations for getting licensed and their experiences of getting started. A focus group responded positively to a trial sample edition of the magazine.

“Too many new licensees never take the next step,” says Schoenfeld. “We’re excited to introduce a new Amateur Radio magazine for this audience, aimed at getting them active, getting them involved, and getting them on the air.” 

The first issue of On the Air will be published in January 2020 (January/February issue) and will be introduced as a new ARRL membership benefit. Effective November 1, when eligible US radio amateurs join ARRL or renew their memberships, they will be prompted to select the print magazine of their choice — On the Air or QST. Current members receiving the print edition of QST, upon renewal, may choose to continue receiving the monthly print edition of QST or the print edition of the bimonthly On the Air.

All ARRL members, including international members, will be able to access digital editions of both QST and On the Air. Members who already access QST on the web or from the mobile app will be able to access QST and On the Air starting in January. 
_______________________________________________________________________________

Thoughts?

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

What a night!

We had a coastal storm / Autumn Nor'Easter blow through here last night. While the rain forecast was not up to snuff, the wind forecast was everything they said it would be! We were forecast to get between 2 to 3 inches ( 5- 7 cm) of rain last night, we only got just under an inch and a quarter. We ended up with 1.24 inches ( 3 cm ) of rain. But the wind ...... the wind!



When I arrived home from work last night, one of the first things I checked was the weather station display that hangs on the kitchen wall. There was no wind speed reading!  It was still raining pretty hard, so I took my flashlight, went to the backdoor and focused the flashlight beam to as small and tight a cone of light as possible. I aimed it at the weather station to see the anemometer cups were gone! A piece of flying debris must have hit them and knocked them off! All night, you could hear the wind howling past the windows. It was unnerving at times.

When I awoke this morning, and we let Harold out to do his business, I noticed the wind had knocked the patio table over on its side. After getting dressed, I went out to correct that and to look for the anemometer cups. Luckily, they were only a few feet away in the grass and I was able to find them easily. I snapped them back onto the anemometer axle and raised the sensor back to its normal height.
So far this morning, there have been gusts in the 16 - 18 MPH range. The wind has calmed down a lot since last night, so I can only hazard a guess that we were getting wind gusts somewhere in the 30 MPH range.

Luckily, the antennas both survived the Autumn storm. I never have to worry about the Butternut. It survived Hurricane Sandy, so I know it's not going anywhere. I do worry about the W3EDP, though. A segment of the wire is routed haphazardly through the branches of the Maple in the backyard. I always worry that enough wind will cause one of the branches to sway enough to snap the wire.  Not last night, though. I always say that will happen in the dead of winter during a blizzard!

In any event, I'm glad this storm is over and that I don't need to do any antenna repair this time around!

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


Friday, October 11, 2019

Oh ..... and by the way

The QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party start tonight!

2019 QRP-ARCI(sm) Fall QSO Party

Date/Time:

0000Z to 2359Z on 12 October 2019

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.

You can work a station for credit once on each band.

Log Submission:
Submit your entry online at https://www.qrpcontest.com

Printed Contest logs are not required for entry, but may be requested by the Contest Manager if required.

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

Not sure how much I'll be able to participate as I'm going this afternoon to pick Cara up for her first visit home since starting college. We have a very busy weekend planned, chock full of stuff.  If I get an hour somewhere, i will try to do my best to be a "giver of points" LOL!

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

Zombie Shuffle ...... with a twist!

Paul Harden NA5N announced the Zombie Shuffle rules for 2019 - this year, there a tiny twist, just a little something different.


QRP Zombies,

The 22nd annual 2019 ZOMBIE SHUFFLE will be held Friday evening, NOVEMBER 1 from 1600-Midnight your local time (EDT, CDT, MDT, PDT). The mid-afternoon start time is to get a little 20M propagation before sundown, and the midnight cutoff for those die-hard night owl Zombies. You do not need to operate all 8-hours, just what you can to join the fun.

Rules are here:
http://www.zianet.com/qrp/ZOMBIE/2019/pg.htm and a link from the QRP home page: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/

Rules and scoring are unchanged. The Summary Sheet on the rules page calculates your score for you.

BONUS STATIONS:  Instead of "Elvis" stations this year, bonus stations will be sending their name as "MGY" -- the call letters of the RMS TITANIC.  It was the sinking of the Titanic that put wireless communications on the world stage and demonstrated the need for regulation and a body of licensed operators - including the creation in 1912 of a licensed non-commercial "amateur wireless service" - the hobby we enjoy today.  Thus, ham radio has its roots to the Titanic.  And for nostalgia, this year QRP Zombies will be given the opportunity to work the RMS Titanic.  Each MGY station worked will be 666 bonus points (just like Elvis stations in the past).  This also gives us an opportunity to put some morse code into the air to honor those pioneer radio ops and the sacrifices they made (for example, Titanic wireless op Jack Phillips perished on the Titanic).  Much of the morse code procedures, protocols, and Q-signals you hear on the air today are from those early maritime Marconi operators.

Our "main" MGY station will be Brian, VE7MGY.  Working him is worth even more points (see rules).

If you'd like to be an MGY Titanic operator for the Zombie Shuffle, please let me know.

So regardless of your code speed and band conditions, get on the air, have some pointless fun working fellow Zombies, and some unique nostalgia from 107 years ago.

72, Paul NA5N/MGY
Zombie #004

The Zombie Shufflle is always a fun event and I love it when Paul puts in these "twists" from year to year. It keeps it fresh and exciting. I'm also pleased with the date. If the Shuffle was a week earlier, I'd miss out as the K2ETS monthly meeting is always on the last Friday of the month. This year, I get to play!

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

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Should you be in the area on Oct. 18th.

The Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club, here in New Jersey has decided to scrape the bottom of the barrel. From the ARRL Hudson Division NNJ Section news e-mail:

FLARC SPEAKER
Larry Makoski W2LJ Focuses on QRP
Highlighting The FLARC October 18th
2019 Speaker Series Program

With the amateur bands near or at the bottom of the solar cycle, what better time to focus on low power operating, getting outside and just having fun with ham radio.

As part of our 2019 FLARC Speakers Series, the Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club is honored to have one of the top QRP amateur radio ops (Huh?) in the nation as part of our program.

Larry Makoski  W2LJ will present the topic "You, QRP and the Great Outdoors." It covers the basics of QRP and portable QRP operations. Larry is one of the hobby’s leading QRP enthusiasts (Seriously? I can think of others way more deserving of that title other than me.) and is certain to get you out of the shack and into the field with low-power operation.

The lecture and discussion will be held on Friday, October 18th at the Fair Lawn Senior Center, 11-05 Gardiner Road in Fair Lawn beginning at 7PM. 

The program is open to all and refreshments will be served. For more information, please visit the club's website at www.fairlawnarc.org or call 201-791-3841

I'm in the process of re-tweaking the PowerPoint, as it is AMAZING how much has changed since I presented this program to another club only a few years ago! There was no KX2, there was no QCX, many of the the kits offered by The 4 States Group as well as The QRPGuys weren't around yet. The FT-818 was only a dream and the IC-705 wasn't even on the horizon yet. The Chinese rigs were just entering the market and were nowhere as sophisticated as they are now. Sometimes I think we non-chalant these QRP advances because we see them as they happen. But yet if you step back and take into account all that has blossomed in just the past few years ......... WOW!

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

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Mt. Allamuchy

Our (the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club) day at the Mount Allamuchy Scout Reserve for Jersey Jam 2019 was very successful. A good day was had by SPARC members, the Scouts, and their leaders. I hope we can do this again next year, should there be a Jersey Jam 2020.

The day started on the brisk side. Marv K2VHW, Chris N0CC, Wayne N2LRE and I caravanned  the hour ride up to the reservation, after loading up essential gear from our SPARC meeting place. When we left South Plainfield, it was probably around 44F (6C). When we arrived at our destination, it was 37F (3C), and you could tell there had been frost on the ground overnight.

Dave KD2FSI, who lives only 17 miles away, had already been there and had set up most of his equipment. He had an HF/VHF/UHF station going with his big batteries in attendance, running 100 Watts. In addition, he set up his portable man pack station, as well as his satellite station and his Alex loop for demonstration purposes. It was an impressive sight to say the least; and I saw no point in setting up a QRP station. We would have been in such close proximity that I probably would have been blanked out on receive and the day was for demonstrating Amateur Radio, not operating QRP,




The Scout Reservation has its own Ham Shack and WW2BSA was on the air, making contacts at the other end of the venue. This was a great opportunity, as we were able to put Scouts on the air, allowing them to talk to WW2BSA from the field using VHf/UHF handhelds.  Scouts visiting the Ham shack got a chance to talk to Scouts at out field and visa-versa. There was a shuttle bus that ran back and forth between sites, so we encouraged the Scouts at our set up to go and visit WW2BSA.



Dave KD2FSI's main HF antenna, a 20 Meter Buddipole type, was working its magic. We were able to demonstrate HF contesting to the Scouts as SPARC members took turns working a lot of station from the California QSO party, which ran yesterday. To demonstrate working DX, we were able to make contacts with Slovakia, Norway, and Hawaii to name a few.


Even with the sunspot total down in the dumps, it's amazing who you can work with a good antenna and some patience and determination.

But once again, the hit of the day was the Morse Code demonstration area. Marv K2VHW brought along a code practice oscillator, a bug and a paddle, and I supplied one of my straight keys. The kids were fascinated by the set up. This area of our booth seemed to be almost constantly occupied, and Marv and I took turn explaining the history of Morse Code and how it evolved over time from land line telegraphy to CW in Amateur Radio.




Another facet of the hobby which interested both the kids and the adults was Dave's satellite antenna.



Although the station was set up more for looking at, rather than trying to work an actual satellite, both the kids and adults were fascinated when they found out that with a Technician  license they could communicate with not only the many Amateur Radio satellites orbiting the Earth, but the International Space Station as well.

All in all, it was a fantastic day, getting the chance to spread the news about Amateur Radio to people who probably had no idea of what was available to them. At 5:00 PM, we tore our display down and headed home, tired and hungry, but satisfied that we had accomplished our mission for the day. Thanks go out to the Scouts, Chris WW2BSA, Bill W2AOF, Marv K2VHW, Harry KC2PGX, Wayne N2LRE, Chris N0CC and of course to our "Main Man" Dave KD2FSI for another successful venture.

Now ....... on to Jamboree on the Air in two weeks!

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

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Cool beans!

I've mentioned before that the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club is headed up to North Jersey this coming Saturday to demonstrate "The Ham Radio Experience" at the Mt. Allamuchy Scout Reservation at the 2019 Jersey Jam.


It just so happens that Tim W3ATB's "Leaf Peepers QRP Contest" is the same day. (Click on the event name for a link to the rules.) What a happy coincidence!  As long as I have to be on the radio demonstrating Morse Code, with a QRP contest in progress there may be a chance for these young people to see and hear what CW radiosport sounds like.  Hopefully, there will be a decent amount of activity, rather than me putting out long strings of CQs.

There will be enough of us there so that another SPARC member will be able to explain radio contesting in general, and maybe CW radio contesting specifically. During the lulls in the ebb and flow of Scouts coming by to visit, this will also keep me occupied - a win/win situation!

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

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Peanut Power Sprint this Sunday!

Our good friends from the North Georgia QRP Group will be running the Peanut Power Sprint again this Sunday, October 6th from 2200 to 2359 UTC.

This is one of my favorites! It's a shorty, only two hours long and anyone can play as the event is open to CW and SSB and all power levels. It's always fun, and this sprint and Tim W3ATB's Leaf Peeper Sprint are the last two big outdoor QRP events for the year. The 2020 season will open with FYBO, but that's not until February. A lot of water has to go under the bridge between now and then. So if you're like me and you love these outdoor QRP Sprints, then now's the time to get your fix in before Ol' Man Winter barges in on us.

For a complete copy of the rules, go to http://www.nogaqrp.org/PeanutPower/rules.pdf

Hope to hear you on Sunday.  Between the Jersey Jam on Saturday and the PPS on Sunday, it's looking like a busy HF weekend for W2LJ. Fortunately, the weather should be dry, both days.

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