Friday, August 07, 2020

Idiot !!!!!!!!

 Of all the bone-headed, idiotic things that I have done ....... I realized that I have missed the deadline to send in my Field Day results to the ARRL!  I feel like such a moron.

I've let down my fellow SPARC members. Argh!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Dreams

Ever since this COVID-19 thing has been front and center, my friend Marv K2VHW has been running what has been come to be known as the "Middlesex County Chat Group Net" each evening at 8:00 PM on the Middlesex County OEM repeater.

It's a Health and Welfare Net with local Hams keeping in touch with each other. If anyone needs something, it's our chance to help out. But beyond that, it's also a general discussion net, where any and all topics can come up. It's also been kind of an Elmer net. We've discussed radios, antennas, how to route feedlines, etc. 

Over the past few weeks, our discussions have been drifting towards the International Space Station, tracking satellites, the stars, planets and astronomy.  Tonight's session seemed to linger particularly on astronomy.

When I was a mere youngster, that was my dream - to be an astronomer. As a product of the "Space Age" I was thrilled by all things connected to space and space flight. I built a 6" Newtonian reflecting telescope when I was about 13 -14 years old. I wanted to spend my life unraveling the mysteries of space.

That was when math hit, and my dream died. My Mom often told me how my great grandfather (or was it my great, great grandfather?) was a professor of mathematics at the University of Kiev. That gene missed me completely. Mathematics might as well have been Greek to me, as I comprehended neither. Mathematics, however, IS the language of astronomy. Without the proper affinity for mathematics I was reduced to never becoming anything more than an avid stargazer.

Such are the things of life, but I guess I'll always wonder "how it could have been."

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

Isaias

It's been all over the news. A little storm blew through here on Tuesday - Tropical Storm Isaias. 

Fortunately, the W2LJ household fared very well. We lost power a couple of times, maybe for about a 1/2 hour each time, but no more than that. My weather station recorded only about 1.3 inches of rain at my location and a maximum wind gust around 20 MPH. The lot on which my house resides is surrounded by some pretty tall trees, so I'm sure they break up and affect the wind coming at my weather station.

I say that because while I only had some twigs and a few minor branches fall out of my two trees, the greater part of South Plainfield saw more damage than my block received. There were roads closed with major limbs down in the streets and taking down power lines. Many homes are without electricity and the local power utility is saying it may not be until next Monday that power is restored everywhere.

Somerset County, which is our neighboring county and the one I travel through to get to work fared much worse. Lots of trees down and many traffic lights on State Highway 22 are out of commission. In fact, the highway (eastbound) was closed Tuesday afternoon because of downed trees and power lines. My commute home was a lot longer that evening as I was forced to take several detours throughout the county.

My son Joseph texted me at work when power went out for the first time. He also told me there was a wire coming from the house that was down in the driveway. I immediately thought it was the mains wire from the house that had snapped from the utility pole. Power came back on shortly, so that proved my initial thought was incorrect.

When I got home in the evening, it turned out that the wire was an old length of cable TV cable that was left hanging on the house from when we switched from Direct TV to Verizon FiOS service. I cut it down and discarded it. Interesting stuff - it looked like regular 75 Ohm TV coaxial cable, but it had an extra wire running down the length of it. You could see and feel a raised "hump" where that extra wire was placed.

Both Amateur Radio antennas made it through unscathed. In fact, the Butternut came through all the better. There were some overhanging branches from my neighbor's yard that were coming close to the vertical and would brush against it from time to time. It seems they didn't make it through the storm and must be laying somewhere in my neighbor's back yard. Except for one grabby vine, my Butternut is free and clear. I'll snip that vine with my tree pruner this evening, if it's not raining when I get home. Otherwise, that will go on the "To Do" list for this weekend.

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

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Cool stuff!

I just watched a pass of the International Space Station, as it passed in the Northwest to Southeastern sky. It was cool to be talking a bunch of local Ham buddies on a local repeater while watching. We also saw two dimmer satellites pass over, as well. I wonder if either of those two was perhaps an OSCAR.

This afternoon, I watched the splashdown of Dragon Endeavor as it gently landed in the Gulf of Mexico, While it reminded me of Mercury/Gemini and Apollo days, it was also apparent how far we've come since those days. The live TV from the communications airplane circling the recovery area made watching the deployment of both sets of parachutes possible. And after splashdown, it wasn't the US Navy responsible for recovery, it was a private commercial operation. As the spacecraft was bobbing in the ocean, there was live, high definition TV from inside, showing the two astronauts working on their touch screens going through their checklists. In days of yore, tbe first glimpse we got of the returning astronauts was when they were maneuvered into a raft by Navy scuba divers.

On the Amateur Radio front, I got more done on the QCX today. I installed the diodes and about 75% of the resistors.


In my younger days, I'd have had this done by now - but I'm taking my time. Plus ...... there's Harold, my faithful Beagle. For some reason Harold will not come down the basement steps. When I go down the stairs to work on the QCX, he sits at the top stair, waiting for me to come back up. It may seem stupid or overly sentimental , but I don't like to leave my buddy alone for too long on days when I'm home from work. So I go for small bits of time. Maybe I'm just a sucker, but I know I won't have Harold forever, so I like to spend as much time with him as I can.

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

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Reminiscing

Last night, I installed the last of the capacitors onto the QCX 40 printed circuit board. I got those new magnifying glasses the other day and they really helped make things easier. I was able to read the capacitor nomenclature without resorting to the "microscope". The added light form the magnifying lamp helps tremendously.

A word to the wise (for what it's worth). I saw the magnifying headset in an ad on Facebook. Almost everything I view on Facebook is somehow Amateur Radio related outside of posts from friends, so the ads that pop up are mainly related to electronics. I liked them as soon as I saw the ad, but was not enamored with the price, so I did a search for the same type of headset on eBay. Got one for less than half of what the company on Facebook was charging. Moral of the story - always look around.

As I finished soldering in the last cap, i was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I got to thinking of my Heathkit "Glory Days" back in the 80s and early 90s. I built so many Heathkits, I was able to join their Master Builder Club which came into being very close to their demise. In no particular order, these are the Heathkits that I can remember building. There may have been a few more:


My very first Heathkit was one of their VTVMs.

Then came a flurry of Amateur Radio Kits:


The HR-1680 was my Novice receiver.


Who didn't have a Heathkit Cantenna Dummy Load (filled with toxic PCBs)?


The HW-8, my first QRP rig.


The Heathkit HD-1410 Keyer - VERY popular


My Amateur Radio coup de grace build. The SB-104A with macthing speaker/power supply and auxiliary VFO.

And there were also some non-Amateur Radio builds of neat stuff:



Had this alarm clock for many, many years.


The GR-70 scanner which had all the local repeaters programmed in.

And then, in my audiophile years - rack mounted stereo equipment:


Graphic equalizer


125 Watt per Channel Power Amplifier

Stereo Pre-amplifier

I spent a lot of money in those years - hey, I was working, single with no commitments at the time. I melted a lot of solder, got a lot of solder burns (along with the scars to prove it). But most of all, I had a blast building each and every kit.

There's a lot of great kits to be had today.  Some are questionable, some are downright excellent and come with instructions that actually outshine the Heathkit manuals - but there will never be an equal to what we knew as Heathkit.

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




Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Coming up in August

and something you might really like to pre-register for - Eric Guth of "QSO Today" fame is sponsoring a virtual Ham Radio Expo the second weekend of August.


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

Monday, July 27, 2020

Some good news ..... some bad news

First the good news. I got more capacitors soldered in to the QCX 40 Meter kit.


They're almost all in. Just a few more to go and then I move on to other passive components.

The other good news is that this arrived in the mail today:


The 20 Meters QCX+ kit arrived!

The bad news is that I ordered a QCX enclosure from BaMa Tech over the weekend. The bad news is NOT that they are no longer available. The bad news is that DHL has suspended shipping outside of Europe because of Covid. So I will get the enclosure ...... eventually, but only God knows when at this point.

Lastly, the magnifier lamp arrived from Banggod last Friday. I hooked it up today before soldering tonight and it really made a big difference for me during my build session tonight. It's great to have the extra light and the magnifying lens does a fantastic job.

72 de LarryW2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Looking forward to the weekend

No progress on the QCX last night. I have a Bible Study group that meets on Zoom on Thursday evenings, where I help to facilitate. That took up a good chunk of the evening. Afterwards, I did run down to the shack to see if I could hear either of the 20 Meters QRP Foxes last night. I am batting 1000% failure on that, this summer.

On the bright side, three nice things happened. The first is that the magnifying lamp that I ordered from Banggood arrived yesterday. I'll get that installed either tonight or tomorrow - I really, really, REALLY need the extra light. The other nice thing was that, while I couldn't hear either 20 Meter QRP Fox, during a switch to 40 Meters to make sure my antennas were working, I heard and worked K1ZT who was activating a park for POTA. I was kind of surprised that someone would be in a park close to 9:00 PM, but then it dawned on me that he was probably camping.

The third nice thing that happened is that I got an e-mail from QRP Labs yesterday that my 20 Meter QCX+ kit shipped yesterday from a "USA Source" and that I should have it in a few days. Yay!

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Pig Out! If this was a baseball game

you'd hear the following over the public address system:

"Ladies and Gentlemen - stepping up to the plate to pinch hit for the Flight of the BumbleBees are the Flying Pigs!"

Yes ...... there IS something happening this Sunday to satisfy you avid, outdoor QRP enthusiasts. The Flying Pigs Amateur Radio Club International has hastily put together an event - called the "Pig Out"

Here are the basic rules as posted by Brian KB9BVN on Facebook. The official rules will be posted tomorrow - most likely on the Flying Pigs website and/or http://www.qrpcontest.org

Preliminary rules and info: This is a 4 hour fun event on Sunday July 26 2020.

Object: Work as many CW contacts as possible; Multiplier points for working Flying Pigs and working Flying Pigs not at their home QTH.

Contest period: 1700 to 2100 UTC

Bands: 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters CW only.

Exchange: If FPqrp member using normal Home QTH station, send RST and FPqrp# and X2; i.e. 559 NR1234 "x2" else if FPqrp member using Field station, send RST and FPqrp# and "X5" ; i.e. 559 NR2345 "x5" else send RST and Power; i.e. 559 5W Entry

Categories: None

There is only one power levels: QRP - no more than 5 watts

Scoring: Score is number of QSOs per Band with/without FPqrp# and Field multipliers

Special bonus points: None

To Enter: Post your score via the AUTOLOG (at qrpcontest.com) within 15 days of the event (July 26, 2020).

Gotta hand it to the Flying Pigs for putting together something at the drop of a hat!

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

It's a start

 Confucius opined that every journey begins with a single step. I took my first step tonight. In between running the South Plainfield ARES/RACES Net and participating in the NNJ ARES/RACES COMMEX Net, I soldered in the 28 pin IC socket, a 14 pin 74ACT00N quad NAND gate, and six LM 4562 op-amps on my QCX 40 printed circuit board.


No big deal, but at least I'm going in the right direction. 

I can't wait for that magnifying lamp that I ordered from Banggood to get here. A bit of extra light and some magnification will be just what the doctor ordered.  I received an email that it was shipped today.  If I'm lucky,  maybe it will be here by the weekend.

I also bought one of these from eBay today:


I have a very simple one, like you see for sale at Hamfests all the time (in fact, that's where I got it). However, it just doesn't do the trick for me. This version has different diopters and has two LEDs, and this one is designed to be used with glasses (which I already have). It should be here Monday.

On another note,  blogging via a phone is a pain in the posterior. 

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

Cleaning up the Blogroll

I spent a little time cleaning up the blogroll. I've a few more to move, but basically ..... anything that's been dormant for a year or more gets moved to the bottom list of "Dormant, But Not Forgotten" blogs.

The active ones still outnumber the dormant ones, but it's getting close.

What saddens me as I go through these are the number of friends who are now Silent Keys. I'll keep their blogs listed as long as they are still available on the Web, in part to honor their memory; but also to be able to share their words and wisdom to the next generation of Hams.

Some of the others are from Hams who have either lost interest in blogging; or have lost interest in Amateur Radio in general. While that concept is foreign to me, I understand that it happens. People move on.

It takes a certain amount of dedication to do this for a prolonged basis. It also a challenge to try and keep the ideas somewhat fresh and not a rehash of the same ol', same ol'.  I am probably guilty of that to the nth degree, myself.

Currently, we're in the middle of a heat wave here in Central NJ, as are many other parts of the country. The coolest space in the house is the basement. While it's remarkably chilly down there in the winter time, it's a refreshing oasis right now. If things go well and no unexpected events turn up, I hope to start melting solder on that virgin QCX printed circuit board tonight. I may not get a lot done each night, but like the turtle in that famous fable, "Slow and steady wins the race".

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

Monday, July 20, 2020

This thing is a life saver!

I began the process of building my 40 Meter QCX kit tonight. It's been a while since I have attempted to build a complex kit. One thing that became apparent is that my eyes are not what they used to be. Granted, the light here in the dining room table is not the best. One chandelier hanging above the dining room table really isn't up to the task, but I went with what I had. While the main build will be done down in the shack, I wanted to inventory the parts up here because there is more space and less of a chance that anything would get lost.

Another big difference is the manual. No doubt that Hans Summers went out of his way to produce a SUPERB building manual .........but. It's on the computer and not a printed out hard copy. I do not have the ink to print out a 141 page manual. So I am going to have to get used to not "checking off" each step as I go along, like I used to in Heathkit and Elecraft Manuals.

Welcome to the 21st Century, W2LJ!

The good news is that everything that's supposed to be there, is there. There were a few extra capacitors of values that were not listed in the parts manual, but they're not going anywhere just in case.

And speaking of capacitors ....... the print on them is infinitesimal! It was not too long ago that I was able to read those tiny characters with only occasional help from a magnifying glass. That's not the case anymore, so thank God for the person or persons who came up with this concept:


Due to the glare, you can't see the capacitor on the surface of the white board, but look how nicely the numbers printed on the cap pop out on the screen of the magnifier. This made a potentially frustrating chore a relative breeze!

Again, due to failing eyesight and less than ideal lighting, I had to resort to using a VOM to measure the resistors. The colors were hard to distinguish and the meter made that chore relatively painless, as well. The magnifier/microscope thing would probably have worked well here also,  but I didn't think of bringing it upstairs until faced with identifying the capacitors.

I filled four egg cartons with parts in the order as they appeared on the parts list of the manual. Of course, being as OCD as I am, I will re-check each value before I install it. But I am looking forward to melting solder - maybe as early as tomorrow evening!

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

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Inspired

I was inspired by Bob W3BBO's success in completing his 20 Meter QCX+ kit. So much so, that I am going to start my 40 Meters QCX kit that has been sitting in the shack for over a year now. But before I begin that, I wanted to get my O'scope completed and running. Mr. Procrastination (yours truly) started this a long time ago. I only had a few components left and decided to finish it today.


The only thing I had to solder in today were the slide switches, the signal input jack and the headers on the LCD Board and on the main board. When I got to soldering the headers on the LCD Board, I came to realize I was shorted two male 2-pin headers in the parts count.

So what do you do? You go to the junk box, of course! I had a spare six pin header that was extra and left over from some previous kit, and I was able to break off two 2-pin sections, trim them to the proper length and install. Worked like a charm!

Another lesson learned ...... don't EVER throw anything extra away. You never know when it will become useful.

One thing I noticed though. In the testing procedure, you are asked to measure for a test voltage at a test point - and then, if it reads OK, solder a short on two points on the board.  How come I can make a solder bridge when I don't want to - but can't seem to WHEN I HAVE TO?

I ended up soldering a discarded component lead across the two solder pads in order to create the necessary short.

With this little kit completed, I think I will start inventorying parts on the QCX tomorrow night. I think I have enough egg cartons to hold everything.

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

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Home again.

 We're back from our Lake George vacation. Before we left this morning,  I was able to grab a neat photo (at least in my mind).

I call it,  "The Lake,  First Light,  the Moon and Jupiter. "


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

Friday, July 17, 2020

This is not an advertisement

as I don't do advertisements. But this is something I saw mentioned on-line and purchased from Banggood:

https://www.banggood.com/DANIU-Flexible-Desk-Large-33cm33cm-5X-USB-LED-Magnifying-Glass-3-Colors-Illuminated-Magnifier-Lamp-Loupe-p-1592702.html?rmmds=myorder&cur_warehouse=USA


The one I had down in the shack finally gave up the ghost a couple of months ago. The bracket holder part gave out and the lamp crashed to the floor and the magnifying glass part shattered into a couple different pieces.  

I looked for a replacement on Amazon, but was not impressed with the prices. This one came in at under $30 and seems to be a good deal. This will come in way handy in order to build my QCX 40 Meter kit and my QCX+ 20 Meter kit.

As I get older, the old peepers ain't what they used to be. This will help.

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


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

COVID-19, the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, Common Sense and You

I was initially surprised today, when I read on QRP-L that Rich Fisher KI6SN has decided to postpone the date for the 2020 Flight of the Bumblebees. After some consideration, I guess I should not be surprised. COVID-19 does seem to be making a rebound in some states, and Rich's home state of California is one of them.

In some ways, the Skeeter Hunt and FOBB are very similar. But in some important ways, they are not. And I think those differences are what is leading me to keep the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt on schedule for August 16th, 2020.

As with FOBB, the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt encourages portable operations. For the Skeeter Hunt, portable operations also include working from the safety of your own back yard. If your state, county or town has parks that are open and you're comfortable with going to one of them - that's great.  If you prefer the safety and seclusion of your own back yard - as long as you use a temporary antenna that's not part of your regular home shack antenna system - the Skeeter Hunt classifies that as a "portable op". I set up on my patio in my back yard back a few years back when there was a threat of rain. I used my Jackite to support my PAR END FEDZ and spent the whole four hours at my patio table.

However, if you do choose to operate from a public venue, then it is expected that you will follow all the safety dictates requested of you by your local government. If that includes masks where social distancing may not be possible, then you are expected to comply with those requests.

The bottom line is that I expect all Skeeter Hunters to use common sense. Have a good time, but at the same time do everything you have to do to curtail the spread of the Corona Virus. Wear face coverings if you need to - maintain proper social distancing where needed and bring along hand sanitizer if equipment is going to be shared in groups.

If the current crisis disturbs you to the point that you want to operate from home using your everyday shack - that's fine too. The idea behind this little sprint is to have fun - that's it ........ have fun. And you can easily do that while adhering to all the safety rules we are under during these current times.

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