Sunday, April 21, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday 2019


All is quiet at the W2LJ household, as we remember.

 "He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by His wounds we were healed."

Have a blessed Good Friday de W2LJ 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

W5LFL SK - Owen Garriot

The original "Ham Radio Operator in Space" - Owen Garriot W5LFL has passed away at the age of 88.


Owen's historic flight took place in 1983 on the Space Shuttle Columbia's STS-9 mission. I can still remember sitting in my car, tuned to the appropriate frequency as the Shuttle flew over NJ, several times during the mission.  As soon as Owen announced his call and mentioned that he would be listening for call signs, the frequency became maybe the worst pileup in history! Of course, I never made it through, but it was still a thrill to listen. When W5LFL came on the air with his uber line of sight signal, it was like he was sitting in a chair right next to me.  Some of the more famous Hams of the age DID make contact with W5LFL, notably King Hussein of Jordan JY1 and Barry Goldwater K7UGA.

Interestingly enough, years later, his son Richard W5KWQ, became a private space traveler. Launched to the ISS via a Russian launch vehicle, he also made contacts from space, following in his father's footsteps.

I think this mission whetted the appetites of many Hams for making satellite QSOs. I know it did for me; and some years later, I was very active on RS-10/11 and RS-12/13. Back then you could make contacts on satellites using your "everyday" shack HF equipment. It was a thrill to hear your own signal come back from space on the downlink - especially for this "kid" who cut his teeth on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.  I worked many states through those two LEOs - but alas, not all 50. I did, however, work across the pond into England on a rare mutually visible pass.

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

QRP-ARCI Spring QSO Party this weekend

Thanks to Don W2JEK, another New Jersey QRP stalwart, for reminding me that the QRP-ARCI Spring QSO Party is this weekend.

It runs from 0000 - 2359 UTC on Saturday, April 13. The usual QRP operating frequencies. If the rules haven't changed, and memory serves me correctly, it's CW only and the exchange is RST/State/ ARCI # (or power output if you're not a member).

Curiously, there seems to be nothing about it in the official QRP-ARCI Webpage. In fact, there doesn't seem to be anything on the QRP-ARCI Website about ANY of their operating events/contests.

I'm hoping that's not due to lack of participation, but one never knows.

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

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Interesting!

Got this e-mail from Panos SV1GRN yesterday. It's about a propagation survey/study being done by our brother and sister Hams in Greece - on 60 Meters!

Propagation Survey

A call to test the propagation on 60 meters, at noon and while in the grayline, using NVIS antennas and QRP power. AegeanDXgroup and Athens QRP Net invite you on May 5, 2019 in a meeting on
60 meters to study the propagation on the frequencies (5351.5 - 5366.5 MHz) of the band.

Duration: 09:00 - 11:00 UTC and 16:00 - 18:00 UTC

Power: QRP not exceeding 5 Watts

Modes: CW (5351.5 – 5354 MHz), SSB(USB) (5354 – 5364 MHz), BPSK31 (366 -
5366.5 MHz).

Stations can transmit on any or all modes.

Please sent Log (in adif, cabrillo, word or excel format) with real RS(T), QTH
locator and Antenna description to: sv8cyr@gmail.com

Participants will receive souvenirs. The participants with top qso’s (independently of
modes) will receive commemorative gifts

Now, NVIS antennas and 5 Watts may pretty much preclude any participation from our side of the pond; but it might well be worth a listen, at least. I have not been on 60 Meters much at all. I would be lying if I were to tell you that I was familiar with its propagation characteristics and properties. If anyone from our side were to hear any SVs or even manage to work one of them, I'm sure they's be thrilled!

I hope they post the results somewhere when all is said and done. It would be interesting to see how it all worked out.

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

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

It was a good night last night.

As it slowly turns to Spring and warmer weather in NJ, it has become relatively comfortable once again, in the W2LJ basement shack. I can go down there for extended periods of time without freezing, as the ambient temps have returned to the 60s.

Last night, 40 Meters was positively jumping! And it turned out to he a rich Fox hunting environment. I was able to work both Jim N0UR and Wayne N4FP within the first 15 minutes of the hunt. The Propagation Princess smiled on me last night, and THAT hasn't happened in a very long time. It felt good. There were so many missed pelts this past Winter season that I was beginning to doubt my equipment, my antennas and my skills - each at one time or another.

Rather than run upstairs, I put some more time into my DSO138 Oscilloscope kit. I started it on Sunday and I've been doing a little bit every day. So far, I've gotten all the resistors, diodes, switches and RF chokes in. If I get home early enough from tonight's South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club meeting, I'll get the capacitors in.

After that, there's not much more to it. I should be able to complete it by the end of the weekend, if all goes well. After that, I think either my 4 States Ozark Patrol receiver, or my 40 Meter QCX kit will be next.

Oh, and by the way, that Mustel G600 microscope came in mighty handy last night. One of the components soldered into the DSO138 circuit board last night was a mini USB connector jack. The pins on that thing are entirely way too tiny and close together. I thought that there was no way I was going to be able to get that thing soldered in without creating one or more solder bridges. After I finished making the last solder joint, I brought out the Mustel and gave the solder pads a good look at ultra high magnification. No bridges!

You may be thinking that the kit building season is traditionally Winter. Not for me. I try to limit my time down in the basement when it's uber cold. Not only is it uncomfortable; but it's bad for the arthritis I have in my hands and my ankles. When I want to operate in the Winter, I either turn on a space heater down there; or I resort to operating from the living room using my magloop. And that's not a bad alternative, actually. It's definitely not as nice as using my outdoor antennas. However, if someday Marianne and I decide to sell the house when we retire, and we end up in some place that doesn't allow outside antennas - the magloop will provide a suitable, stealthy solution. It would not be the death knell of Amateur Radio for me.

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

Monday, April 01, 2019

QRPTTF Announcement

The rules have been posted for QRP To The Field for 2019.  I seriously doubt that i will be able to participate this year as the scheduled date is Saturday, April 20th - which is also Holy Saturday of Easter Weekend.

At any rate - here are the rules (as per NA5N) for those who are not otherwise occupied:

Gang,

It's now spring (though hard to believe in some parts of the country) and April is almost here. Time for QRP TO THE FIELD.

The 2019 QRPTTF Rules are here: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/qrpttf/2019/ttf.htm

I've received several emails regarding this years QRPTTF, like: 

1) My favorite forest and campground burned down and now closed 
2) Go for a water theme as my town is still under water 
3) The bridge leaving town to my favorite spot is still closed 
4) Can't travel too far these days - pick something close

So on the side of caution, this year's QRPTTF is laying low and pretty easy ... "Any Ole Park" from the empty lot down the street to a recognized park. Can be close to home for safety for those in flood areas and closed highways. And of course, SOTA operations are invited as always.

Last year's QRPTTF the solar flux was rock bottom at 64. The USAF is predicting a solar flux of 74-78 and Kp=2 for April 20, so at least some improvement to daytime HF. Maybe we'll get a little solar flare to kick it up even higher (actually been a few solar flares past couple of weeks).

So get your field gear out of winter hibernation and give it a checkout for April 20. 

73, Paul NA5N 

So there you have it, for your edification.

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


Sunday, March 31, 2019

Another pleasant surprise

Two weeks ago I was walking past the steps leading to the basement, and I noticed that ol' familiar electrical burning smell. Not overpowering, without any visible smoke, but enough to set off the alarm bells in this Ham's cranium.

I went downstairs to find the smell emanating from our clothes dryer. The top was very hot and the smell became even stronger after I shut it off and opened the dryer door. Fearing a lint trap fire, I gave the lint duct a touch with the back of my hand to see if that was warm. Compared to the dryer itself, it was stone cold. I went outside to the vent opening on the house and gave a good sniff. Nothing from that end either.

Convinced and relieved that the house was not in danger, I unplugged both the washer and the dryer and let them sit. The dryer cooled off. I wasn't sure what the exact cause was, but I suspect that the control circuit board had gone again, as it did a few years back. The odor was identical to that of either burnt components or traces on a circuit board.

The matching washer had been giving us its own problems for over a year now. I decided that it was time to purchase a new pair.  My wife didn't object to my statement that I didn't want a fire hazard in our house.

We went to Lowes, one of the big box hardware stores where Marianne picked out a pair of machines manufactured by Samsung. I was a little wary. Our cellphones and TV are from Samsung, but our washer and dryers have always been Whirlpool, Maytag or even GE going back to my parent's house.

They were delivered a week ago; and as Marianne seems happy with them, I didn't give much more thought to them - until yesterday.  I was downstairs listening to not much on 20 Meters, when Marianne came down to put in a load of laundry. I was about to answer a lone CQ from UA3EDQ when I thought to myself, "Here we go!"

Our last pair of washer and dryer were notorious RF generators. If I was on the radio and Marianne put in a load of wash, I could literally hear the agitator motor in my earbuds. I could heard the motor rev up and die down during the spin cycle. The dryer wasn't as bad, but was still a nuisance.

To my delight and surprise the Samsung pair are the antithesis! I was able to work Igor without having to listen through RF hash. Both the washer and dryer are RF silent on 20 Meters. I checked the other bands as well, and they all seem to be free from washer and dryer hash.

So kudos to Samsung! Whatever and however these machines were engineered, they seem to be Amateur Radio friendly!

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

Saturday, March 30, 2019

A pleasant surprise

My best friend since high school, Donald Jakubowski, posted the following photo on my Facebook timeline yesterday. It must have been from one of the many times when he came over to my parent's house to visit.


The lighting is what we would call in the photographic world as "low key". Usually a single light source and a lot of deep shadow and drama. The light source here is the desk lamp.

This was taken, in what I would guess to be 1980. It must have been in the late fall or winter, because if it's dark enough at 2222 UTC to have a desk light on, it must have been pretty dark outside at 5:22 PM local time. . I was working at the North Brunswick Camera Center at the time. I was wearing one our store's signature "Keep on Clickin"" t-shirts. I can make out that, at this point, I was beyond my initial Novice station. That's definitely my Heathkit HR-1680 receiver, but to the right of it would appear to be my Kenwood T599D, which had replaced my Drake 2NT as my transmitter. The R599D would come very shortly thereafter. I did not acquire them both at the same time. When you're a young kid, working at your first "real job", you're not exactly rolling in dough. Stations got built, a piece at a time.

To the left of the Heathkit was my MFJ VersaTuner with a speaker on top of it, and a clock on top of that. On the bottom shelf was my Realistic DX160, which was my SWL receiver. To the left was its speaker. To the right of that was open space for whichever Morse Code key I was happening too use at the time.

On the wall you can see some meager wallpaper. My RCC - Rag Chewers Club certificate, and my W1AW code proficiency certificate. Only 13 wpm at this point, but that's what is leading me to believe that I had upgraded to General by the time this photo was taken. I think that's a copy of a Gil cartoon the the left of the RCC Certificate, behind the clock. Phil Gildersleeve, always was and always will be my favorite. Attached to the dormer, over my left shoulder, was an ARRL world map. Above and to the left of the RCC Certificate was probably my ARRL Membership Certificate, then something in between, and then my license to the right of that.

I was so surprised to see this! As much as I was into photography at the time, I never thought of taking photos of myself, or of my pursuits. I was always taking photos of other things, and thus, I lack any documented personal history.

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

A Tale of Two Georgians

Last night's 80 Meter QRP Foxhunt featured two Foxes from the Great State of Georgia. One was John K4BAI, who lives close to the Alabama border, about half way up the state line. The other was Jim N4TMM who lives in Atlanta, which is not all that far way from John, if you look at their respective QTHs on a map.

You might expect, that although they live a couple to several hundred miles apart, that difference would make "no difference" compared to their distance from New Jersey. Given some variables, such as antenna, etc - they should sound about the same at my end of the QSO - no?

NO!

Their signals were miles apart (pun intended!) John K4BAI was down in the noise. QSB was terrible and at times he was unreadable. He had to QSY due to a traffic net on a nearby frequency. And to my surprise, he was working simplex, which a Fox does not often do until the very end of a hunt after the Hounds have dried up. Listening to him was tough.

Jim N4TMM, on the other hand, was pretty loud. Not 599, but definitely 569 - 579 his signal was pretty stable. There was some QSB, but not nearly as bad as the QSB on K4BAI. Jim had a good, almost conversational quality signal going for him all night.

So which one did you think I worked?  If you guessed N4TMM - surprise! You're wrong!

As bad as K4BAI's signal was, I got into his log. I called N4TMM all night until I was blue in the face. I tried changing frequency a bit in order to vary my tone in his ears. I tried changing from the Butternut to the W3EDP, thinking that one antenna over the other might yield a more successful result. All I got for my efforts with Jim was a skunk pelt.

So what did we learn?

Once again, we learn that propagation is not reciprocal.  Just because he's loud in your headphones doesn't mean you're loud in his. You'd think after 40 years in this hobby that would not be such a surprise; but I have to tell you, it still is. "I can hear him so well - he HAS to be able to hear me!" I'm sure that many of you have uttered that same sentence. It's amazing how hard that lesson is to learn.

We also learn that just because two stations are roughly at the same distance, doesn't necessarily mean both will sound the same, or even nearly the same.  I have no idea why K4BAI and N4TMM were heard so differently here in NJ. I'm sure their antennas probably had a lot to do with it; but I'm sure other, unknown variables to me also made a difference.

We also learn that when you assume ..................... (I'll let you finish that one). I assumed that both stations would be heard about equally as well here in NJ. Once again, I made the wrong assumption.

So better yet, what do we take away from all this?

Since propagation is not reciprocal, the next time you hear a DX station, and he's weak - that doesn't necessarily mean that your signal will be weak to him. It may be; but then again it might not. So don't pass that station by automatically. Throw out your call and give it a shot - you might just be surprised.

If you're looking for a certain country or state, or county, or what have you - and you find one on the air - but they are having a hard time copying you - don't assume that ALL stations in that certain country or state, or county, or what have you will also have a hard time copying you.  When you're working towards WAS and the Hawaii QSO Party comes around and you find a station and he can't copy you, no matter what you try - don't turn the radio off, walk away and give up. There may be another station only 10, 20, 50, or 100 miles away that may be able to copy you like you're in the same room with them.

I think the longer you're in this hobby, the more you think "you know" the ins and outs of what is and what isn't. Instances like last night just go to prove to me, once again, that "you never know ....... you just really never know." It's a hard lesson learned - and maybe it's never completely learned.

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Just renewed

I sent in my $25.00 renewal to QRP-ARCI this morning. And I got to thinking how QRP has changed over the years.

When I originally joined back in the late 70s - the stated goal of the organization was to keep output power under 100 Watts, in order to mitigate QRM and needless interference. 100 Watts! Wow! We've come a long way from 100 Watts. It makes me wonder what the original founders would have said if someone had asked, "Hey ....... why not make that 5 Watts?" I can only imagine that stares that question would have received, at the time.

In a time when a lot of organizations seem to be raising their dues, QRP-ARCI has been pretty consistent. $25.00 is not a bad price to pay for "QRP Quarterly", the organization's magazine. It's full of tips and technical stuff - I'm always learning something new. There's also more "human interest" non-technical articles in there, from time to time, that just extol the fun of running QRP.

And even though I have never been, QRP ARCI does a bang up job of running "Four Days in May" every year at Hamvention.  I would dearly like to make it there one of these years in order to meet, face to face, the many QRP friends that I have made over the years. That would be grand, and is definitely on my "bucket list".

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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Maker Day 2019

I haven't posted for a while. There hasn't been much going on with W2LJ to post about .... until now.

This past weekend was Maker Day Weekend in New Jersey, with Maker Day activities happening at various locations around the state. The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club pitched in and joined the effort at the same location as last year - the JFK Memorial Library in our neighboring town of Piscataway, NJ.

We gathered at the library at 9:00 AM our goal was a bit different this year. We wanted to emphasize soldering and kit building skills, so we purchased a variety of different kits that would interest a wide variety of people.  As last year, we wanted to feature kits that had a relatively low parts count, so that the kits would be relatively easy to build, and could be completed within a reasonable amount of time.

To that end, we scoured Bangood's offerings (there are literally thousands of inexpensive electronic kits available online there, and other places) and bought some digital clock kits, some voltage/temperature meter kits, some LED flashlight kits, wireless FM microphones and 8 note electronic organ kits and we also had a decent number of code practice oscillator kits left over from last year.

The day went like a whirlwind! I was busy from 10:15 AM to close to 4:00 PM helping to build kits and instructing proper soldering technique. I have to say that some of the participants really picked up on soldering, and their work looked almost professional, even though this was their first exposure to soldering irons and solder.

In addition, these "kids" (for the most part the participants were young, but there were a few "close to 20 somethings" and even one parent participated.) learned what different components looked like, the difference between ceramic and electrolytic capacitors, and even a little bit about the color code on resistors. We taught them about the indents on the ends of integrated circuits and the flat side of transistors.

I helped out with 2 and 1/2 code practice oscillators, two clock kits and one electronic organ. Much to our delight, everything that was built worked, with the exception of one dud. We didn't have time for too much trouble shooting, as we were booked for time slots right up to the closing bell. We had about 5 building stations ready to go at all times, with an hour allotted for each kit. In the end, I think we had twenty first time builders take advantage of SPARC being there.

In addition to the kit building, we had a video on "An Introduction to Amateur Radio" going in loop fashion throughout the duration. We also had "Ol' Reliable" Dave KD2FSI set up an HF station. He had his Yaesu hooked up to his AlexLoop and was able to pick out quite a number of FOC stations doing their thing on 20 Meters. Dave set up a big 24' monitors and had CW Skimmer going on his laptop so that visitors could see Morse Code being displayed before their eyes in real time. As always, Morse Code still draws and fascinates people - ESPECIALLY younger people!








I couldn't stay to the very bitter end, but I'm pretty sure the library staff was happy that we were there again. It was a very successful day and I'm so proud of all the SPARC members for the time and talent that they donated.

We learned some tings in addition to what we learned last year; and I'd say we're probably pretty certain to return for Maker Day in 2020. It's gratifying to share what we've learned about electronics and building with the rest of the world - especially the younger world.

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

G3RJV

During one of my last few Skype sessions with Bob W3BBO, he commented on how this blog has gotten depressing as of late., with all the SK notices.

Sorry to say that I have one more, and I would be very remiss if I didn't post it. One of the QRP Giants is no longer with us.  The Rev. George Dobbs G3RJV, Founder of G-QRP has passed away, early this morning.


I never met the good Reverend, or had the chance to speak with him and shake his hand. I've read many of his articles and it was obvious that here was a man "who knew his stuff".

This was the e-mail, posted to QRP-L by Ken Evans, Past President of QRP-ARCI. It was sent to him by Graham Firth G3MFJ:

"I’m sorry to have to tell you, but George Dobbs, G3RJV died early this morning. He was taken to hospital a few days ago with pneumonia, and an infection, but he didn’t respond to the antibiotics. He was 75. His wife JoAnna was with him when he died. He had suffered from dementia for some time, but was still taking as much interest in the running of the G-QRP Club until recently."

RIP, Reverend Dobbs.

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hank Greeb N8XX - SK

I don't like posting these; but Hank was a fixture in the QRP world.


It was reported recently that Hank had suffered a heart attack and then a stroke somewhere around the February 16th time frame. At that time, he must have expected a full, but slow recovery, as he thought he would be off the air for about a year. Sadly, it was announced that he passed away yesterday.

Hank was a stalwart QRPer and participated in just about every QRP Sprint that you can think of. The only one that he didn't partake of much was the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt; but that was always because his annual family reunion occurred the same weekend. Every year he sent me an e-mail with his regrets.

Hank was also a fixture in NPOTA and POTA.

Hank was outspoken and I will miss his e-mails to the various QRP and CW reflectors, complete with his "Shucky durn" and "Corn Whiskey" lingo. Hank was a chemist by trade, I believe - and a true gentleman by nature.

73 Hank, we will miss you. Say "Hi" to Ken WA8REI for us.

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

Posting just to post

Is something I will not do. I know there has been a dearth of activity on this blog the past few weeks; but that's just because I have not been very active radio-wise. I will post when I think that I have something of value to offer, not just to have you read empty words.

LAST Saturday, February 16th, I attended a conference on Amateur Radio in Public Health and Medical Services Emergencies. It was help at Cooper Hospital, in Camden, NJ, which is the home of Campbell's Soup, the Battleship New Jersey and the NJ State Aquarium.

Tim AB2ZK drove us down the 50 or so minute ride to Camden. I was a bit apprehensive about attending as I had a flare up of tendinitis in my left ankle and I was pretty uncomfortable. But Tim offered a ride and the ankle was beginning to feel better, so I decided to give it a shot.

I am glad I did. There were excellent presentations by AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network) who provides the equipment needed to set up an emergency mesh RF domain. You're probably asking yourself, "Exactly what on earth is THAT?"

I may be explaining this incorrectly, but a mesh network is kind of like a private, little closed Internet domain. By adapting routers to use the microwave frequencies in the Amateur Radio bands, we can create a little independent Internet style domain which will allow the transfer of data - e-mails, SMS as well as regular messages, pictures, etc between an emergency site or multiple associated sites and an EOC without having to rely on the regular Internet - especially when that becomes over clogged and over worked with traffic. And let's face it - when the fecal matter hits the rotary oscillating air current generating device, the Internet and cell phone networks are among the first casualties.

It's not as expensive or complicated to set up as you might think; but it IS helpful to have someone who is familiar with computer networking if you seed to get a domain set up with more than just a few access points. You can click on the AREDN link that I have above to get more information.

There was also a good talk on NVIS antennas given by Joe Everheart N2CX, one of the co-founders of NJQRP. Joe gave a good talk on what will work in order to make HF usable in an emergency when you needs to communicate with stations pretty much in just your local area.

There are a couple of other presentations that made me wonder why they were included, but that's par for the course, I guess. In all, it was a very informative day with a lot of good information made available to us who are involved in AUXCOMM.

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