Tuesday, June 02, 2020

So maybe Field Day is not a goner after all.

By now, it's not news that the ARRL has amended Field Day rules for 2020 (only) in face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, that news came out the day AFTER our last SPARC meeting, where we tossed out the idea of putting forth a Field Day effort for 2020.

Now that the rules have changed, and we can aggregate our scores, we just might do something as a group, albeit from our individual locations. We're going to discuss this at our monthly evening "activity gathering" tomorrow evening on ZOOM. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

I know our club President plans to be at his Pocono Mountain cabin retreat that weekend. I'll probably operate from the backyard like most of our other members. I'm sure that Dave KD2FSI will be operating from his home, too - as will Marv K2VHW. Marv and I anchor the CW leg of the effort, so I'm hoping he plans to operate!

One thing, though ....... Field Day participation or no, I haven't totally decide, but I don't think I'm going to purchase the T-Shirt this year. Even though I'm a Boomer, I'm not a big fan of the "concert tour" design.


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

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Wow ..... unreal!

Things have changed so much since I was a kid! To say that even sounds stupid in my head .... but things ARE so different. I've said this before, I'm a Space Age kid. I was born in 1957 and some of the earliest TV images that remain in my consciousness are watching the Project Mercury launches of Alan Shepard and John Glenn. I followed all three projects - Mercury, Gemini and Apollo like a rabbit in the middle of a carrot patch. I devoured every bit of information that I was able to.

Then came the Shuttle Program, and by then, I was a Ham. My 2 Meter HT was my constant companion as I would listen to the Shuttle audio re-broadcasts courtesy of the Goddard Spaceflight Amateur Radio Club.

But yesterday's launch of Dragon and Falcon-9?  Unreal! Awesome! Fantastic! And ....... so DIFFERENT!

Take for instance the space suits - I'm so used to the bulky things that were used in past times. Project Mercury and Project Gemini suits weren't so bulky, they had their own distinctive look. By the time we got to Apollo, the suits were pretty bulky. Look at the evolution:

Project Mercury

Project Gemini

Project Apollo

Dragon

The Dragon spacesuits are almost form fitting by comparison! Another thing that seems so unreal was to see live real time video of the crew in the spacecraft.


Back in the day, once the crew entered into the spacecraft, that was it. The only time you saw them again was if there was an in-flight video broadcast issued by NASA (or of course, the moonwalks). Yesterday, watching the launch, as Launch Control was talking with the crew, you could actually watch them give a "thumbs up" as they were given launch status reports. Then as the countdown was approaching its final seconds, you could not only hear, but you could actually see Commander Hurley say "Let's light this candle!".

This is the kind of stuff that I dreamed of and wished for as a kid.  A lot of the differences in the way this mission is covered is due to advances in technology. Instead of relying on the big TV networks for coverage, I can turn on my Roku streaming device and I can watch the NASA Channel via the Internet.

But the cameras aboard the spacecraft that allow you to see all the real time images ..... I have to think that a big part of THAT, is that this is a commercial venture. This is a Space-X mission, being conducted in partnership with NASA, as opposed to being a NASA only mission. And I think that as a public corporation, Space-X wants all the good publicity and coverage that it can get. To them, it's good business. And if that's the real reason, I don't really care. I'm enjoying every minute of this mission.

By the by, something to keep in mind - the Pilot of Dragon is Bob Behnken - who is also known as KE5GGX. Maybe he'll get a chance to use ARISS during his couple month visit aboard the ISS.

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

Saturday, May 30, 2020

"That's the way the cookie crumbles .........."

Normally, when you hear that phrase, you think something not quite nice has happened.

"Sorry your balloon popped kid, but that's the way the cookie crumbles."

"Sorry about the fender bender, Maude, but that's the way the cookie crumbles."


To the QRP community, that phrase takes on a whole other meaning - because in two weeks, on Sunday June 7th, it's time for the 4th Annual Cookie Crumble Contest.

This event has become a part of the QRP Outdoor Operating Season. We kick off the year with FYBO, transition to QRPTTF in Spring and then comes Good Ol' Summertime with the "CCC".

It's a fun event, and it lasts five hours. Not that you need to participate for all five, but it's a big enough window that will allow you get some activity in, even if you have other events or obligations scheduled for the day. It's always a ton of fun and the rules can be found here at - https://w3atb.com/cookie-crumble/

If the weather cooperates, I plan to go to a local boro park - either Putnam or Cotton Street Park, set up either the MFJ-1982LP or the PAR END FEDZ and get some fun time in. I haven't had the chance to try my version of Dave KD2FSI's Jackite holder yet, so this may be my chance.


In any event, it feels like winter has lasted forever, even though the weather has turned warmer. I've not had the chance to go outside for an extended period of time and just have some fun. The Cookie Crumble Contest may just be what the doctor ordered to shake those "stuck inside" blues.

72 de Larry W2LJ - Cookie # 173
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Moderation is "ON"

For the time being, for comments.

Mr. "Do you know your hidden name meaning ?" has made it a personal goal to post the most spam comments. So until he goes away or learns to play nice, all comments will have to be approved before publishing.

I don't, never have and never intended to make a profit off of this blog - I don't intend anyone else to do that, either.

Thanks for your understanding.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A word about comments

If I may ..... a word about comments.

I will allow just about anything as long as it relates to Amateur Radio and the post, in general. You want to agree, that's fine. You want to disagree, that's fine. You want to take the opportunity to call me an imbecile or idiot, that's fine, too.

All I ask is that you be respectful, polite and to comment in English, so I know what's being said - sorry, I'm stupid that way.

What I will not tolerate is spam. And please, let it be known far and wide, that I watch the comments section like a hawk. So do yourself a favor - don't bother if you want me to find out "what my hidden name means" or what that "new stomach remedy is" or how that "new keto diet" is superb above all others. Your comments might see the light of day for a tiny bit; but they WILL be deleted.

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

I think it's no secret

that as far as years go, 2020 has been a real kill-joy, a real "Debbie Downer".

The latest casualty has been Field Day.  No, not Field Day in and of itself, but Field Day as far as the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club is concerned. We just completed our meeting for May (on Zoom, of course), and it was decided that we will not put together a Field Day effort for 2020.

There were several reasons, add all of them together and the decision makes sense.  It doesn't make any of us happy, but it makes sense.

1) The park where we normally set up is a county park. While it is open to the public, there will be no scheduled gatherings or events until further notice.

2) Several of our members are older and some others have conditions that classify them as "immune system compromised". Thus, that would cut down on the number of people who would participate.

3) If the social distancing and "in public" mask policies don't change, nobody thinks it will be a fun thing to be wearing a mask on a hot, muggy Summer weekend for 24 hours.

Personally, I'm not a die hard contest person. I don't mind participating in contests for a limited amount of time, and I love the QRP Sprints, but an endeavor like Field Day is more than what I would normally engage in. To be honest, if Field Day was strictly a solitary event, I probably wouldn't bother. The camaraderie, the fellowship, the concept of doing it "for the club" and not for myself is what keeps me seated behind the key for the good part of 24 hours.

So MAYBE I'll go to a local boro park for a couple of hours to participate as a 1B Battery station; but I'm sure as heck not planning to put in a whole hog effort. The weather conditions that weekend will be a major factor in whatever I eventually end up doing.

72 de Larry W2LLJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


QCX+ Video

Here's an interesting video produced by Hans Summers about his newest creation:


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

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Hoot Owl results

That was a lot of fun.

Paring the sprint down to a single hour seems to have drummed up activity.  There were lots of stations to be worked on 20 and 40 Meters, and even one on 80 Meters.

Like just about everyone else, I started out on 20 Meters. Pretty quickly, I worked N9NE, W4QO, K4FB and NK9G - all QRP stalwarts. Todd N9NE answered one of my CQs; but the rest were worked via search and pounce. It became pretty apparent to me after 15 - 20 minutes that I had plumbed 20 Meters for all it was worth.

40 Meters was my money band, where I made nine more QSOs. The signals seemed a bit stronger on 40 Meters and the QSB was not as bad. I worked K2QO, K2EKM, WB9HFK, N9NE (again), K4FB (again), W1RFY, NX1K, N8HZM, and K0ZK. I made on QSO on 80 Meters with W3TS.

All in all, it was 14 different contacts with 11 different states worked for a score of 4,928 points, and it put me squarely in the middle of the pack - about where I usually end up. I used the HF9V on 20 Meters and the W3EDP on 40 and 80 Meters.

Again, it was a lot of fun, but it went by so quickly! Maybe once the sunspots make a comeback the sprint can be lengthened to maybe two hours.

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

It's become kind of personal

I've been a member of QRP-ARCI since my General days. I joined in 1980, way back when QRP was considered to be 100 Watts or less ...... way before 5 Watts became the QRP standard that we hold to now.


In all those years that I've been a member, I've come to make some really great friends, but leadership was kind of foreign to me.  I've never knew any of the "upper ups". They were always there, at the helm, guiding the QRP-ARCI ship through Amateur Radio waters, while I was down in the hold with the other economy passengers.

That's changed recently. I am still down in the hold with the other economy passengers, but the captain and some of the crew are actually people that I kind of personally know, now.

David Wayne Cripe, NMOS was recently chosen as President by the Board of Directors. Dave is a QRP Hall of Famer and has many accomplishments to his name. But in a way, I "know" Dave. We follow each other on Facebook and I've built a few kits that he's designed. He's the first QRP-ARCI President that I know something about other than reading his name and title on the officer masthead. It's not like if we saw each other that we's slap each other on the back and say "Hi, buddy!", but the connection is more than I've ever experienced before. 

Paul Womble K4FB is now the Contest Manager for QRP-ARCI. Paul and I are both avid QRP Fox hunters, We are friends on Facebook and we have communicated with each other. I know first hand how good of an accomplished QRPer that Paul is and the club made an excellent choice in naming him their contest chief.

Bryan Murrey KB9BVN is the QRP-ARCI Webmaster. Bryan is one of the coolest guys I know. He's a good friend on Facebook and he's also a Brother K of C member. We've communicated in the past and we almost got together a few years ago when he was in the area on business. It's just my luck that the night we could have gotten together for dinner, I had to work late.

And one of the "movers and shakers" behind the scenes - Jim Stafford W4QO ..... seems like we've met on the radio so many times before. Jim is good people and he's one of the many people who I consider to be a "real good friend that I have never met".

The purpose of this post was not to name drop, or anything like that. It's just that when you know some of the people who are running the ship, somehow membership becomes something just a bit different and a bit more .......... I guess "valued" is the word I'm looking for. These guys actually know me, I'm not just a number to them and that makes being a member of QRP-ARCI more special to me. Maybe that's not the right way to look at it, but that's how it feels for me.

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


Saturday, May 23, 2020

It's only an hour!

It's only an hour ..... what have you got to lose? Nothing - and a lot of fun can be had in a short time.

Of course, I'm talking about tomorrow night's (Sunday night) QRP-ARCI Hoot Owl Sprint. It's been pared down to just an hour long ....... that what I call a "Sprint"!


This is a traditional Memorial Day Weekend event and in the past, it's been a lot of fun. It will be interesting to see what kind of activity we see. The official link to the particulars is here - https://www.qrparci.org/contest/hoot-owl-sprint.

Technically, the event runs from 0000 - 0100 Monday morning UTC time, but for those of us in the States, that's 8-9 PM EDT, 7-8 PM CDT, 6-7 PM MDT, and 5-6 PDT. Should be interesting because at 8:00 PM, it's still kind of light here on the East Coast, so 20 Meters might still be open to the West Coast. And of course, 40 Meters can be hopping with activity ....... if QRPers would just get on the air and make some noise!

The exchange is classic. ARCI members give RST, S/P/C, Member #
Non-ARCI members give RST, S/P/C, power output.

There's even an autologger where you can post your results - http://www.qrpcontest.com/

To paraphrase the old song, "Hey Buddy, can you spare an hour?"

I think you'll be amazed how much fun you can cram into 60 little minutes!

72 de Larry W2LJ (Hint ...... QRP-ARCI #4488)
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Saturday, May 16, 2020

I've got some good news and some bad

First the bad news .......

Hans Summers, G0UPL has announced the end of the QCX radio. Sine 2017, this monoband QRP radio has enjoyed quite the following, with over 9,000 units sold. And the reason for its popularity was clear. It's not every day you can buy a kit for a SUPERBLY performing radio for under $50.

The good news is that Hans has announced he's taking pre-orders for the QCX+, which will ship this June. Rather than letting me go on about it, let me post some pictures and I'll let the designer speak for himself.

First the old kit:


Out with the old and in with the new:






Now, some words from the designer himself:

Hi all,

9,937 QCX kits have been sold since the launch in August 2017. The current batch of kits are almost at an end. Despite the huge number of kits sold to date, the ongoing demand is still very strong. It became apparent to me that regardless of what other new kits come later, there will always be a place in many radio ham's hearts for a high performance, mono-band QRP CW transceiver kit. With its high performance, easy to build and use, CW decoder (including practice mode) and keyer, etc etc., the kit has also proven attractive to newcomers to amateur radio and/or CW.

But I wanted to fix some of the things that have always nagged me at the back of my mind since the start. For the YOTA 2017 summercamp hosted by RSGB in UK, I was under such tight budgetary and time constraints that I had to compromise on certain things. Particularly the inconvenience of fitting the QCX into an enclosure due to the connectors on the two sides, with controls and LCD all at different heights. This has been a distinct disadvantage in many people's mind (though also unleashing much creativity among mechanically inclined constructors).

QCX+ is the replacement for the QCX. No more QCX kits will be made. You can read about the QCX+ here http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp .

The QCX+ development is complete, it is currently in production and will be shipping in mid-June. I am making this announcement now, to allow pre-orders, since the current batch of QCX kits is now practically finished.

But:

QCX+ is the same circuit as QCX.
QCX+ runs the same firmware as QCX.
QCX+ operates just like a QCX.

The changes in QCX+ are as follows (summary, see http://qrp-labs.com/qcxp for full details):

Optional beautiful extruded aluminium enclosure
Much larger PCB. The PCB area is more than doubled. This permits a less dense component installation, following feedback from some constructors who found the QCX PCB rather densely populated. The main PCB is 13 x 10cm (compared to 8 x 10cm in QCX).
Thicker PCB traces (at least 16mil, rather than 12mil in QCX)
Traditional front-panel arrangement: vertical front panel PCB holds LCD and controls, rear horizontal PCB has the main circuits. Pin-headers connect the two.
Power on/off button on front panel
All connectors are on the rear PCB edge
Two additional 3.5mm stereo jack connectors for PTT (50W PA) and CAT control.
2.1mm barrel connector for power
7805 bolts to rear panel for heatsinking
Three BS170 PA transistors and the MPS751 keying envelope transistor are now bolted flat on the PCB for heatsinking purposes - reducing probability of overheating
Lots of pin headers and test pads for debugging, extending, experimenting, modifying etc., including modifying the purpose of the rear panel 3.5mm jack connectors
Plenty of space for modifications and experiments
C24 increased to 470uF (quieter Tx/Rx transitions in full-QSK mode)
Incorporates IC3 pin 13-14 10K resistor mod http://www.qrp-labs.com/qcx/qcxmods/ptt.html
Due to the 2.2x increase in PCB area, additional inter-board connectors, switches, hardware etc., there is a modest increase in price from $49 to $55.
The price of the optional enclosure kit is $25. The combination of QCX+ and QCX+ Enclosure is still cheaper than the combination of QCX and the most popular enclosure (BaMaTech aluminium enclosure).

Manufacturing is already underway and PRE-ORDERING is now open, for shipment in mid-June 2020. See http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qcxp

Wow! Looks good to me! I have a 40 Meter QCX, I might just be tempted to order a 20 Meter QCX+

Thanks, Hans for continuing the "Art of QRP" and favoring us with your superb design and engineering skills!

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

Friday, May 15, 2020

Hamvention Weekend

This is the weekend that thousands of Amateur Radio enthusiasts normally descend upon the great state of Ohio for Hamvention.

Thank you Covid-19 for totally screwing that up this year.

However, from 8AM to 8PM EDT tomorrow (Saturday), you can vicariously attend Hamvention by participating in the Hamvention QSO Party.

The exchange is super easy - a signal report and the first year you attended Hamvention.  In my case that would be 1984. If you've never been to Hamvention, you would use "2020".

Hopefully the bands will be alive,  propagation will be decent and we'll hear lots of stations on the air.

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

Thursday, May 14, 2020

N4CCB hits the nail on the head!


N4CCB in an instructional video about Morse Code spacing, and he hits it out of the park! Spacing is everything - give the man a cigar!

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

Monday, May 11, 2020

Strange

Getting two QSOs in the Arkansas QSO Party was a quick and easy affair this Saturday and for that I was very glad. I spent most of the day cleaning and straightening up the house as part of Marianne's Mother's Day "gift". There's not much else you can do when the all the stores are either closed, or a pain in the butt to get into.  The kids were busy studying for finals, so that left it up to me. It was too chilly and windy to do any yard work on Saturday, so I took care of the inside, instead.


Then, I discovered, much to my surprise, that HamLog by pignology is no longer available in the Google Play Store. I am loading some Ham apps onto a different Android device, and when I went to look for HamLog in the Google Play Store ......... nada, zip zilch.  So I ended up downloading one of those "share apps" apps, and I copied it from my cell phone to this older tablet that I'm playing around with.

My Lenovo T430 laptop is not always down in the shack, and it's easy to just enter the contacts into HamLog and the transfer them via ADIF file into Log4OM. HamLog is a fantastic app and I hope it's not going away; or even worse, gone for good.

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

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Getting back on the horse.

This weekend, there's only one QSO Party and that's Arkansas - from 1400Z, May 9 to 0200Z, May 10. That's 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM EDT, Saturday.

I'll attempt once again to get at least two contacts in the log, after failing to get Delaware in the log last weekend. Delaware was too close for 40 Meters and I just plumb couldn't hear anyone on 80 Meter CW at night - so Delaware goes as #1 on the "Didn't Make It" list. I'm sure there will be others to follow.

The good news is that NJ Parks re-opened last weekend and will remain open as long as people do not violate social distancing "laws".  I still feel that Field Day is going to be totally messed up this year.  Unless the limits are lifted regarding gatherings of 10 people or less, I don't see how Field Day can really be like it used to be. And if the weekend is hot, who's going to want  to wear a mask for 24 hours while they're out in public? Plus, to be honest - a lot of the Hams that I do Field Day with are older - myself included. They don't WANT to be in situations that could potentially kill them.

For some states that haven't been hit hard by this virus, that's all a moot point. But for Hams in states that are now only beginning to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, it's going to be a very strange Field Day, indeed.

Hopefully, things will be a lot better in six weeks.\

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

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Where the heck is Delaware?

I know, I know, it's due south of me a hundred miles or so. I know where it is GEOGRAPHICALLY, where is it on the air?!?

The 7th Call Area QSO Party was a snap this afternoon on 20 Meters. Like shooting fish in a barrel. The Indiana QSO Party was just as easy.  Tonight, 40 Meters is wall-to-wall NE QSO Party stations - can't swing a cat without hitting one. 80 Meters is all NE and IN QSO Party stations.

Where the heck is Delaware?

Delaware - are you going to be one of the few QSO Parties that I don't hear on the air this year?

The good thing is that it runs all day tomorrow as well. Maybe I'll have better luck hearing "The First State" tomorrow morning.

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

Thursday, April 30, 2020

It was 15 years ago today

that all this blogging got started. My very first blog post was about the presentation we did on Amateur Radio for "Take Your Kid to Work" Day at the IEEE.

http://w2lj.blogspot.com/2005/04/take-your-kids-to-work-day.html

That was a lot of fun and it's actually hard to believe that was so long ago. The whole adventure evolved into an article by Rich Moseson in CQ magazine later that year.

I've learned a lot in 15 years of blogging - I'm not the same person that started this, so many years ago. I've gotten older, grayer and hopefully wiser (I almost misspelled that "wider" and that would be true, too!).

I've hopefully learned that my opinion really doesn't count for as much as I used to think it did, and I've learned to respect opinions that do not mesh with mine. I like to think I've become more respectful, thoughtful and kinder towards others over the years. I've definitely developed a taste for crow because of some of the things I have posted from time to time. 

All that said, this blog isn't about me. It's about you, us and Amateur Radio. I really appreciate all of you out there who take the time to read my words. If it weren't for you, this would really amount to nothing more than trying to shovel sand against the tide. My one wish is that I could meet all of you in person, give a handshake ....... er, fist bump and spend some time chatting face to face. That would be so cool!

Now ...... onto the winner of the hat giveaway. Twenty three of you took the time to enter. I thank you for that. And the winner is (drum roll, please!) ................

Entry #8 - Steve AA9VJ

Steve, I trust your QRZ address is good, I'll get the hat out to you this weekend.

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


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Busy weekend coming up!

Last weekend, there was only one state QSO party - the Florida QSO Party. I ended up working about a dozen stations to fatten up the log. This coming weekend there is a plethora!

The 7th Call Area QSO Party - May 2nd 1300 UTC to May 3rd 0700 UTC - Exchange RST and S/P/C

The Indiana QSO Party - May 2nd 1500 UTC to May 3rd 0300 UTC - Exchange RST and S/P /DX

Delaware QSO Party - May 2nd 1700 UTC to May 3rd 2359 UTC - Exchange RST and S/P/DX

New England QSO Party - May 2nd 2000 - May 3rd 0500 UTC and again  May 3rd 1300 - 2400 UTC - Exchange RST and S/P/DX.

Tomorrow is the drawing for the Hat Giveaway - so far only 20 people have entered, so take heart all of you who have sent me your call sign so far - your chances are really, really good!


PT9KKLuciano
KC9IHKC
KF6FODRobert
K2SQSFrank
K5KHKKarl
K8WPEDave
K2DCDDennis
AA9VJSteve
K2WOGeorge
NN9KPeter
SV1GRNPanagiotis
K0TCRon
KD8OCWJim
W0JMWJeff
KC9URBob
N9WKEBruce
KF7JAFDave
AD8ATJay
K0LAFCharles

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