Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

There will not be much time for radio today ..... chores in the morning, and then taking my kids "Trick or Treating" this afternoon. Then this evening, my local Knights of Columbus Council is throwing a Halloween party; and I am one of the two guys tasked with running that.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a fun and safe Halloween.  Enjoy the time spent with your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. May there be enough ghosties and goblins at your door to take all your candy; so that you won't be tempted by the left overs like I am.

Hon ..... did you save me a few Snickers bars ??????

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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Human again

The Zombie Shuffle is over and I leave the ranks of the "undead" and become human once again.

Going to sleep last night, slightly disappointed with the outcome, I had a chance to read other participant's comments this morning.  I don't know about any of you out there; but when I have a poor experience with a radio event, I always assume that it was something that I did wrong; or perhaps my equipment.  I don't know why; but I guess I tend to blame myself, first.  Also, I had a pretty crappy work week; and had my mind's eye focused on the Shuffle as a fun but relaxing way to turn that around

There was some solace to be had from seeing that other folks had the same results that I got.  Band conditions were indeed poor; and Hank N8XX claimed that some of the MI QRP guys noted significant aurora in the higher latitude Michigan skies last night. 

There were also a few reports from guys who had great success with upwards of 40 contacts or so.  To them, I say "Congratulations - good job!".  But it's also comforting to know that there are guys out there, like me, who also feel that they pretty much got skunked.

As my friend Bob W3BBO constantly reminds me ...... "location, location, location!"  Guess I didn't have a good one last night.

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

Zombie Standstill

 W2LJ without his makeup on.

This Zombie didn't do much shuffling tonight.  Band conditions were pretty poor.  It's almost 11:00 PM local time and I've only bagged six Zombies.  And just about each QSO was like pulling teeth.  Heavy QRN and QSB on 80 Meters - heavy SSB QRM on 40 Meters.

I ended up pulling the plug at 11:30 PM local time; after a "micro-run" on 80 Meters yielded three more QSOs for a total of nine Zombies worked.  Nothing to brag about; but still fun!

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Listen for me tomorrow night

Not sure why; but I always get hepped up for the Zombie Shuffle.  Probably because it's a zero pressure, totally fun QRP event.  I am going to try and put in as much time as I can.  I hope to get on the air around 7:00 PM or so, local time and stretch it out until 11:00 PM or so, local time.

Hope to catch you on the air tomorrow night to hear all those BOOtiful QRP signals!

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some Halloween Events

Halloween (or All Hallows Eve) is coming up this Sunday.  Originally the day was celebrated by the Celts as Samhain.  This translates roughly to "Summer's End" and marked the time when the hours of darkness started to become longer than the daylight hours as the seasons changed.  The Celts believed that at this time of the year, the veil between our world and the netherworld became nebulous, allowing for demons and evil spirits to cross over to our realm.  This is the source of the belief in ghosties and goblins around this time. People began wearing masks or costumes to confound the evil spirits.  The name came about as the evening precedes the Catholic Holy Day known as All Saint's Day - thus the All Hallows Eve moniker.

What's this got to do with Amateur Radio?  There are several Halloween events coming up, with the ghostie and goblin theme as part of the "fun".  Probably the best known amongst QRPers is NA5N's popular Zombie Shuffle which is traditionally held the Friday before Halloween, which happens to be this coming Friday. It's called the Shuffle because we all know that zombies don't possess the wherewithal to sprint!  For the rules, you can visit  The competition runs from local sunset to local midnight; and you can operate for any four hours.  Participants are asked to call "CQ BOO".

This year, on the day of Halloween itself, the Mid-MO Amateur Radio Club will be operating Special Event Station WØO from Frankenstein, MO.  They will be operating on or near the standard QRP watering hole frequencies throughout the day and night.  If your address is good on QRZ, they will send you a commemorative QSL.

Also this year, Ed Breneiser WA3WSJ has announced that his GORC organization will be holding a Zombie Sprint.  You can operate any four hours of the entire Halloween weekend; and while this is not a strictly QRP event, there is a bonus multiplier for operating QRP.  The winner of the contest will receive a Ft. Tuthill 15 Meter Transceiver kit.  Details can be found here:

Have fun and BOO !!!!

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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The bands seem to be waking up

even with solar conditions not at their optimum.  This afternoon, while twiddling the dial of the K2, I heard several Argentinian stations on 10 Meters.  I also worked CO8LY, Eduardo in Cuba on a fourth band - 12 Meters.  I have previously worked Ed on 30, 20 and 17 Meters.  Ed was coming in like gangbusters.  His signal sounded more like he was down the street from me rather than 1,300 miles away.

I also had a nice lil' chat with Kim AB7JK on 15 Meters. Kim, who is in Largo, FL was using 1 Watt during our QSO.  There was a lot of QSB, but at peaks, AB7JK's signal was 579 into New Jersey.  I almost felt guilty using the entire "QRO" 5 Watts on my end!

I have started gathering the materials I need for constructing the 160 Meter antenna and for also adding 20 or so more radials to the HF9V.  The HF9V has been performing so superbly as of late that adding some more radials can only make things better.

And lest I forget, kudos to the ARRL for restoring the list of QRP DXCC holders on the ARRL Website.  When it went away, I was disappointed, as I like to look at the list from time to time to see how many call signs that I recognize.  It disappeared when the newly designed Website came into being in April; but now it's back - thanks ARRL !

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

And now .......

back to our regularly "not scheduled" series ........

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Antenna Maintenance

Today was a beautiful Fall day in central New Jersey!  It was sunny and not too warm; but at the same time, not too cool.  The high for the day was about 64F (17C).

After doing the grocery shopping and some "running around" errands, I got down to the serious work for the day - yard work.  For one reason or another, I had neglected all Summer long, the task of cutting back the overgrowth of foliage from my neighbor's yard.  There is a chain link fence between us; but that is largely invisible due to the large amount of decorative shrubs and bushes and plants that they have.  Every Summer I have to cut it back; or else I get whapped in the face by vines and branches when I mow my back lawn.

I got that all done today.  As I had estimated, it was a three hour job, and I was able to fill eight large refuse bags with trimmings and clippings.  The best part was that I was able to prune back my other neighbor's tree that had overgrown into my back yard which had caused my Butternut to become less than straight up and down vertical.  Two large leafy branches were cut back in quick order and my HF9V is truly a vertical once again.

Tomorrow, if nothing else comes up to deter me, the plan is to go to the local hardware store to purchase all the materials needed to construct my 160 Meter vertical.  I am hoping that next weekend will see the fruition of that dream.  I am keeping my fingers crossed already for good weather!  I am not one of those Hams who feel that the best time to put up an antenna is during a hurricane or blizzard!

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

Friday, October 22, 2010


And I am not trying to speak in "pirate".

"Oh, the pain!"  as Dr. Smith from "Lost in Space" would say.

I was fortunate enough to hook up with Dick K5TF again this evening.  We worked last week during the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party last weekend; and this evening we were able to engage in a short chat.  The QSO was fine; but a lil' work.  I was 339 and Dick was 449; but with a little concentration and a little tweaking of the RIT knob for good tone, the copy was good and the QSO was flowing.

Then an earsplitting VE9 station came on the frequency and called a W2 station.  And yes, you have guessed correctly, the VE9 station engaged in my Pet Peeve - he commenced his call up without so much the benefit of a "QRL?" 

At this point, I'm almost tired of bringing this subject up - but what the heck has happened to courtesy and manners?  Has it gone out the same window as courtesy and manners on the Internet?

You know, if the VE9 had called "QRL?" once or twice and THEN commenced his call; I would have chalked that up to him not hearing two QRP stations on the East coast from all the way up in VE9 land.  That can happen and you just classify it as "one of those things".  But to not put out a "QRL?" before calling another station or calling CQ is inexcusable in my book.

Hiram ..... can I borrow the Wouff Hong and the Rettysnitch?  There's someone I have to take care of!

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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One of our own

is sick; and could use your prayers and best wishes.

If you've been involved with the world of QRP for any length of time, you've run across Hank Kohl K8DD.  If you've attended FDIM you probably reserved your room through him.  But you may also know him from working him in any number of QRP contests, sprints, or perhaps even one of the many DXpeditions he's been a member of.  Hank is also familiar to his fellow members of QRP-ARCI, the Flying Pigs, MI-QRP, NAQCC, etc.

Hank is in the hospital with some serious medical issues.  If you subscribe to the Flying Pigs list, the details have been made known there; and I'm not going to get into specifics here.  Suffice it to say, it's not as simple as "same day" surgery.  Hank's a hurtin' puppy right now and can use your prayers and best wishes.

And, I am sure, he wouldn't mind receiving a QSL card from you letting him know that you're thinking of him.  Here's his address courtesy of

ATTICA, MI 48412-0088

I am sure that Hank's wife Kathie would love to lift Hank's spirits with a lot of well wishes from his fellow Hams and QRPers.

I'm putting mine in the Post Office mailbox tomorrow morning.

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

Last minute thought

about the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party this past weekend.

Due in large part, I guess, to yet another RTTY contest, 7.030 MHz became "home" to most, if not all of the QRP activity on 40 Meters this past weekend.  I heard and worked QRP contesters from about 7.027 MHz right on up to about 7.037 MHz or thereabouts.

So maybe the 7.040 MHz vs 7.030 MHz debate will simmer down for a bit?  I guess there will always be activity around 7.040 MHz for a while due to so many crystal controlled kits being centered around that frequency.  But when you have ear splitting RTTY signals occupying 7.038 MHz to about 7.050 MHz for an entire weekend, those built kits become pretty useless.

The next "fun" QRP event (as if they all aren't)?  Don't forget that annual Halloween ritual, the Zombie Shuffle.  This year's shuffle is scheduled to take place on Friday night, October 29th,  The Friday before Halloween.

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

More on the SDR Cube

The other day, I received an e-mail from Toby DH1TW concerning N2APB's SDR Cube.  It seems that Toby had the opportunity to sit down with George N2APB for an in-depth interview about his new product.

Toby wanted to share with you folks - so here's the link to his blog:

 Thanks, Toby, for sharing!

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mor(s)e fun!

I got to play around more in the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party today.  My time was once again limited between leaf raking and other cleaning chores.  But I got a few QSOs in between distractions; and had a lot of fun.

15 Meters was open again; but not to the extent that it was yesterday.  It also seemed like there were fewer station on 15 Meters today than yesterday.  20 and 40 Meters were the hot bands today and as the closing minutes of the event are winding down, there is some activity on 80 Meters.

The highlights today were working my good friend Bob W3BBO on both 40 and 80 Meters.  We even gave 160 Meters a shot; but I didn't hear anything.  I really have to get that 160 Meter vertical constructed - SOON!  I was also fortunate to work John K3WWP twice today as N3A - the NAQCC Anniversary station, on both 80 and 40 Meters also.

I worked TO3GA on 40 Meters at 22:09 UTC.  Boy, was he loud!  Great signal from Martinique.

All in all, it looks like approximately 65 stations were worked during the meager amount of time I was able to put in.  It was nice to get my feet wet again a QRP ARCI event.  Thanks to all of you out there who heard my signal and allowed me to give you some contest points.

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

TU UR 559 NJ NR 4488 BK

In between chores and other duties (grocery shopping, etc.) I did a lot of calling "CQ QRP DE W2LJ" today in honor of the 2010 QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party.  I did a lot of CQing and a lot of searching and pouncing and had a lot of fun in the few hours that I was able to participate today.  And the fun was the most important part.  I am not in these contests to win, I am a Contest Point Giver as my friend K4UPG likes to point out (the coiner of the term).  My QSO/hour rate was atrocious at best; but lest I repeat myself, I had fun - lots of fun.

The set up here (as always from home) was the K2 to the Butternut HF9V on 15 and 20 Meters and the G5RV for 40, 80 and 160 Meters.  Several surprises - the most heartwarming of which was that 15 Meters was wide open today!  I worked a Spanish station that was calling "CQ ARCI".  I nabbed EA2LU, Jorge at 15:51 UTC.  He had a nice 559 signal coming across the pond from Pamplona, Spain.  I also managed to work good friend and fellow blogger, John AE5X.  I haven't worked John for a while; and he had one of the loudest signals I heard on 15 Meters today.

Another highlight was working Bob N4BP on three bands - 15, 20 and 40 Meters.  Bob always has an impressive signal into NJ.  And if you want to know why, look up his call on QRZ and then look at his QTH on the satellite version of the map.  His tower and antenna are visible from space!  Here's what his signal sounded like at my QTH.

Another surprise was working Ken W4DU on 20 Meters.  Ken is the President of QRP ARCI and working him was a special treat.  He also had a VERY loud signal on 20 Meters into NJ from GA.  Here's what he sounded like:

Although he didn't answer him right away, you can hear that Ken was called by WØNTA - Dick in Colorado.  I didn't work Dick today and regret that.  I haven't worked him in a while; but have him in my log many, many times as he is a very avid QRP Contester.

Shortly after working Ken, I came across another Spanish QRP staion.  This time it was Guru EA2IF.  We completed a QSO at 20:35 UTC.  Guru didn't have a QRP ARCI number, so he gave his output power of 5W as his number.  Five Watts from Madrid to South Plainfield works out to be about 725 miles per Watt. Not bad ..... not bad!

And yet another surprise was working Rich K5TF on 40 Meters.  A quick check in my log told me that the last time we had worked each other was back in 1993 via RS12/13.  Now that's a long time between QSOs!  I wasn't even aware that Rich was a member of QRP ARCI until today.  And see?  We QRPers DO have other interests besides just QRP ragchewing and contesting - we even enjoy satellite work!  We're definitely not a one dimensional bunch.

I also had a few contacts on 80 Meters tonight; and even listened and called CQ a few times on 160 Meters.  The contest runs until tomorrow evening, so I will be anxious to see if 15 Meters will be open again tomorrow and am looking forward to working some more QRP friends both old and new!

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


Just a reminder that this weekend is the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party.  The seasonal QSO Parties remain as the most popular of the QRP contests.  I will always work some QRPers during these contests that I never seem to hear in any of the smaller Sprints.

This contest is a 36 hour event; so even the most busy QRPers should be able to find a few spare hours to get on the air.  As Kelly K4UPG would say, this is a prime opportunity for us CPG's (contest point givers) to get on the air and hand out some points to the dedicated contest ops.  To make matters even better, solar conditions, while not superb, have been decent as of late.  At least there have been no major geomagnetic anomalies to curtail activity.

All the pertinent details can be found at the QRP ARCI Website; or you can simply click here for the straight skinny.

So if you want to A) Increase your code speed,  B) Hone your contesting skills, or C) Just have some fun ....... here is a grand opportunity to do D) All of the above!

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New hat

I was looking at some posts on Twitter the other day; when I noticed that my friend Gerry N2GJ recently got a brand new call sign hat from Astrid's Embroidery & Quilts.  The picture that was posted was very nice and soon had me wanting one of my own. 

I placed an order on Monday.

It's Thursday and it's in my hands!  How is that for service?

 Here's a picture of my son Joey, wearing the cap.  He makes for a much better model than me.

In addition to your call sign, you can add the ARRL logo, like I did.  You can also add a second line of text; and best of all, it doesn't have to be your name.  I added a description of my Ham Radio passions in one simple line - QRP & CW.  And on the side, you can add a graphic, such as the flapping American flag, like I did.  If you want, there are also graphics available of a microphone, straight key, SkyWarn logo, etc.  You can really do a fantastic job of customizing your hat to just about anyway you'd like it.  If you're a member of the NAQCC or SKCC, then there are special pages that you might just want to check out!

Todd W8MC provides a quality item here.  This ain't no flimsy, chintzy hat.  This is one you will be proud to wear for years to come. 

Last spring, I lost my ARRL 2009 Field Day hat in a gust of wind during a rain storm.  Up until now, that hat was my all time favorite.  I've got a new favorite now!

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Times have changed

Oh yeah - times have changed, haven't they?  When was the last time you came home from a hard day at work, only to sit down in your shack on your callsign embroidered seat cushions, loosened your necktie, while "the little woman" came and brought you a brewski on a tray, no less?

Although, listening to some of those SSB roundtables on 75 Meters leads me to believe that some of the boys may still be having a few too many brewskis.

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not sure what to think

South Plainfield CERT/RACES members got together to take part in the Simulated Emergency Test, the first Saturday on October.  Much to our dismay, we heard no activity on any of the local OEM repeaters; or for that matter, any chatter on the NNJ ARES group page.  So we conducted our own exercise and sent our report in to the usual set of officials. Inquiries to the  County OEM by Marv K2VHW, as to the lack of activity that day went unanswered.

I guess there was a reason for that:

It seems there was an exercise planned to occur the following weekend; the only problem is that we found out after the fact.

I'm not sure what to think, who might have dropped the ball, why we weren't told.  It certainly seems like it was a good drill; and the chance to participate would have been welcomed by all members of the South Plainfield CERT Teams (there are four teams, consisting of about 10 to 15 CERT members each).  Certainly, we were one of the earliest townships to organize CERT in the county, and we are also one of the towns close to bordering on Somerset County (with whom this joint exercise was conducted).

In two words, I can sum up the entire experience as far as South Plainfield is concerned - very disappointing.

I am certainly hoping for better communications next year - after all, isn't that what we're supposed to specialize in?

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

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Are CW Veterans Killing CW?

This is the article du jour at eHam.

Normally, I take anything I see on eHam with a grain of salt.  Obviously, this little article was written with the intention "to push buttons".  I guess I was supposed to get all bent out of shape by the premise of the article and the accusations being made.  I think I laughed more than anything else.

For years it has been, "CW is killing Ham Radio".  The requirement was downsized to 5 WPM and then eliminated.  Now the mode itself is being killed by the veteran ops who "just won't slow down" for the newbies.  This statement, IMHO, is a "hasty generalization" as I know that there are veritable tons of veteran ops out there who never fail to QRS when asked - and maybe even do so when not asked.

I'm getting tired of all the whining.

If you scroll down the page, I posted a response.  It's there to be read by one and all.  I still stick with my answers - the Morse Code has never been more easier to learn than it is now.  Now before you jump all over me, I don't mean that actually learning the Code is easier than it used to be - what I mean is that there are more resources and learning tools than there have ever been before.

Back when I learned it, you had few choices.  You had the AMECO LPs, or those unwieldy Instructograph machines and paper tapes, or you had cassettes from the ARRL; or if you were really lucky, you had an Elmer who would tutor you.  I didn't have that kind of Elmer; but I did have a cassette player.  I got up to the necessary 5 WPM  in a few weeks.  I got my ticket and cut my teeth in the Novice "sub-bands" with all the other newbies.  We communicated amongst ourselves and the higher class licensed holders who ventured forth into our little world.  We kept at it, working other stations and listening to more higher speed code tapes and W1AW.  It took time and was hard work; but we kept at it and we upgraded.  And we knew one important tip that used to be stressed often; but never seems to be stressed now.  If you want to increase your speed, you have to work ops who are sending just a bit higher than the speed you are comfortable with.

So let's get down to brass tacks. These days, there are a plethora of Morse Code learning tools.  The absolute best method is a fantastic trio of programs from fellow blogger G4ILO, Julian Moss.  Morse Machine, MorseGen and MorseTest are a triumvirate of software programs that are the ultimate tools for teaching yourself the Morse Code or for helping you improve your copying ability.  If you can't get it done by using these programs, then I'm not sure what to say.

But wait, there's more!  As if those aren't enough, there's Koch Trainer by G4FON. There's also Morse Academy, and Super Morse, and Nu-Morse.  There's also Morse Runner and RUFZ, which are excellent programs designed for the sole purpose of helping you to increase your speed once you have mastered the Code.

Just about all of the learning programs allow you to make practice cassettes or CDs or MP3 files for your iPOD or whatever MP3 device you happen to own.  It has never been easier to custom tailor a learning program to your own specific needs.

That all said and done, however, the hard work and desire remain.  In these days of instant gratification, if you want to learn Morse Code or increase your code speed, then you'd better get used to the fact that you are going to need patience, desire and time.  There are NO shortcuts.  You are going to have to slog it out like the rest of us.  And unless you have some kind of physical (hearing) limitation or learning disability; then you should be able to meet your goal.

To this day, some 32 years after learning the Code, I still keep a CD in the car onto which I have burned some 40 WPM code practice.  When I get tired of listening to the chatter on VHF/UHF, I pop the CD in and continue to push myself to stretch the limits of the speed that I can comfortably copy in my head.

And as a Newbie, once you get on the air, there are even resources there!  Get involved with FISTS, the Straight Key Century Club or the North American QRP CW Club.  Each of these organizations have members who are more than willing to get on the air with you and help you increase your speed.  There are slow speed traffic nets out there with just this purpose in mind.  The help IS there, you just have to be willing to swallow your pride a little and look for it and ask for it.  It's not going to fall out of the sky and land in your lap.

Are the CW veterans killing CW?  No.  But maybe frustration, lack of patience and unrealistic expectations and maybe (I daresay) laziness might.

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

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Wouxun Mobile Radio

So here's a picture.  Not exactly too sure about any details; but you can click on the picture to look at the specs.  And I'm not sure exactly what might be getting lost in the translation.

Somehow I doubt that this will be a 2M/220/440 tri-bander like some folks I have heard desperately wish for.  If the quality is the same as the HTs; then it will surely be a good buy for the price.

Some of the radio forums are speculating on a price in the $150 to $200 range.  If this radio is like their HTs; then I'd be happy to buy a 2M/220MHz version, install it in my car and keep it on 220 MHz; and let my Icom do the rest.

BTW, so far there is no date mentioned as to when these will be available on the market.

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

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

More iHAB2

The following was posted on QRP-L today.  Take the time to go watch the YouTube launch video, it is fascinating!

iHAB-2 Launch Update

First, I would like to thank everyone who participated in the second launch of the iHAB Project. I would like to thank QRP ARCI ( for sponsoring thisflight. iHAB-2 was a great success, and I am pleased with the overwhelming responses I have received! Amateur Radio operators from around the world tuned in to take a listen and watch iHAB-2 on it flight.

Here are some statistics for iHAB-2

Flight lasted 4hours 28min. iHAB-2 ascended to 87,100 feet, and covered over 170 miles. The balloon and payload landed safely in a corn field east of Rockbridge, IL. Thanks to the help of 3 local hams operators & experienced FoxFunters, it was recovered within 30min of landing. Many thanks to Mark Joseph (KC9DUU) - Jesse Risley (K9JLR) - Jeremy Lamb (KC9KGJ) for their fantastic work!

The APRS telemetry didn't work as well as expected due to VERY sparse APRS iGate density along the flight path. The camera on board took 2100 digital photos, and provided some excellent pictures of the earth in near space. The High Resolution version of the iHAB-2 Panoramic is "out of this world"! It is a MUST SEE!

Over 350 signal reports were submitted worldwide from the 14.059 CW beacon.

The iHAB-2 website has been updated with post flight analysis data, photos, as well as PreLaunch, Launch, and recovery videos. Feel free to share your experience withyour fellow hams, and prepare for iHAB-3 launch very soon!

Keep Looking Up!

Launch Video:

Flight Photos:

Marshal WØOTM

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

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

More bug time

I was playing around with the bug some more tonight; and had a nice QSO with Paul AA1LL from Mason, NH.

I noticed two things in particular, which has got me thinking that I might be crazy, or maybe just a little odd.  There might be some people out there who would gladly jump at the opportunity to agree with me on that assessment.

However, the odd one first.  I seem to do better on the bug I keep my eyes closed while sending.  This allows me to send without any visual distractions and allows me to concentrate more on the sound and rhythm.  OK, maybe not so crazy after all, after thinking about it for a few minutes. 

Secondly, I do much better when I place the bug at a 45 degree angle in relation to how I face the shack bench while sitting.  I found that if I point the base of the bug between the 10:00 and 11:00 positions, that I have better control than if I place the bug straight on (12:00 position) or straight across (9:00 position).

My biggest hurdle, even after practicing on and off these many months, is getting it into my thick skull that there are not going to be any automatic "dahs" made via the bug.  Sometimes old habit guides me, and that first "dah" ends up being REALLY long!  Then it's a Homer "Doh" moment and I swing back into rhythm again.

It's a lot of work; but I think it will be worth it in the end.

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

Saturday, October 02, 2010


Today was the launch of another high altitude balloon by the iHAB project.  This time the payload contained a radio beacon sponsored by QRP ARCI.  The launch was out of Ottumwa airport in Iowa and everything went "swimmingly" as Gene Cernan, Apollo astronaut, used to be fond of saying.

I picked up the beacon at 14:31 UTC and it was 559.  The receiver was, of course, my K2 and the antenna was my HF9V vertical.  Later, I decided to switch over to the G5RV and was surprised to hear the beacon significantly better.  The signal didn't increase so much as the background noise decreased - typical when switching from a vertical to a horizontal wire. I stayed with it all the way to 15:23 UTC and the 27,000 foot level, when signal strength started to fail and I had to get a move on to get some chores done, anyway.  I got a chance to come back to the radio at about 17:20 UTC when the balloon was at approximately 80,000 feet.  At this point the signal here was near the noise floor - 339 at best and was being quickly covered up by contesters.  Shortly thereafter, at about 17:59 UTC, at the 87,000 foot level, the balloon burst and the parachutes deployed and the payload was recovered  in a cornfield near Winchester, Illinois.

In addition to being heard all over the US and Canada, there were reports on QRPSPOTS from the Cayman Islands, Germany, Scotland and Panama.  Not bad for a transmitter putting out 1.6 Watts to a 65 foot wire antenna.

I've uploaded a very small video of the K2 and if you turn your speakers up, you can hear the beacon as I heard it.  According to Terry WA0ITP, there will be an iHAB-3 in the near future.  Is Amateur Radio a great hobby, or what?

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

Friday, October 01, 2010

Going buggy

I had a very pleasant QSO on 40 Meters tonight with Crit, K4BXN who hails out of Hendersenville, NC.  Crit was using his Ten Tec Omni to a doublet and was manning his bug.  I would've sworn on a stack of bibles that he was using a keyer and paddles - that's how smooth his fist was!

I am very respectful of and admire anyone who can make a bug sound so good!  I don't do too badly on a bug, but I am a "green behind the ears" rookie compared to the likes of K4BXN.  I do want to get that good someday, so I have decided to try and get back in the groove, as it were.  I am going to drop the keyer and paddles for a bit and will make a conscious effort to improve the smoothness of my fist on my Vibroplex.

While it's nice to listen to the "perfection" of an electronic keyer, it is also nice to listen to the richness and "human-ness" of a good op on a bug.  I have to admit, though, that it can also be painful to listen to someone who doesn't practice and who doesn't make an effort to be as good as possible.  I don't want to be accused of falling into the second category; so I will stop being lazy for a while and will put a bit more effort into my bugsmanship.

I have been inspired!  

See? You never know just who and what you are going to run into on any given moment on the bands.  That's what makes this hobby such a hoot!

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