Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Skeeter Hunt updates

First, my apologies to the winners of certificates from the 2017 Hunt.  Last night, I printed out the certificates. They will get placed into envelopes tonight and will be mailed later this week. I got an e-mail from one of the winners a few weeks ago, inquiring as to where his certificate was. That's when I had an "Oh, my gosh!" moment - or a Senior Moment, if you will.

I thought I had taken care of this last September or October !!!!  A few discrete e-mails of inquiry, on my part, to a few other winners revealed to me that I hadn't taken care of it at all. No one has received their certificates.

I hang my head in shame.

All I can say is the situation is being remediated and I will do my best to make sure it doesn't happen again.

As far as the 2018 Skeeter Hunt goes, 91 of you have signed up for Skeeter numbers so far. There's about a month left until the actual day of the event, so there's still plenty of time to get one. Just send an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net and I will happily oblige your request. All Skeeter number requests will be acknowledged by a return e-mail. So if you don't hear from me personally with your number, please try again.

Remember, while going out into the field is highly encouraged ....... you don't have to in order to be considered a Skeeter. That goes also for Skeeters who get rained out. Use your number from home! No restrictions there.

Happy hunting and I hope to hear you all on the air on Sunday, August 19th.

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Two more new ones from the QRPGuys

This is really neat - a Digital Power Port - https://qrpguys.com/qrpguys-digital-power-port

"The QRPGuys Digital Power Port is a handy way to turn a common sealed lead acid battery (SLA)  or Lithium (LiFePO4) into a convenient power source for your indoor, portable operation, or other projects. It can be used with just about any size battery and voltage from 3-30V, as it is attached to the battery with clear packing tape. It uses a digital voltmeter will with .1V resolution so you can easily check your capacity before you depart and while your are operating. The output is fused with an automatically resetting Polyfuse rated at 3.0A continuous/5.1A trip. There is a convenient 2.1mm pin coaxial power jack for charging. Output connections are captive S.S. hardware. This kit can be built in less than an hour. On a difficulty scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the most difficult, this is rated at 1 or 2, depending on your experience." 

This is going to be great for Field Day - I placed my order!

The other kit is a Digital Field Strength Meter - https://qrpguys.com/qrpguys-digital-field-strength-meter

"The field strength meter is one of ham radio’s earliest diagnostic tools that can be used in a variety of tasks inside the shack and out in the field, from detecting rf leaks in coax cables, testing antenna improvements, and aid in determining antenna emission patterns. The QRPGuys Digital Field Strength Meter can detect RF energy over the VLF-500MHz range with sensitivities from -80dBm to +10dBm. It uses the popular Analog Devices AD8307 logarithmic detector/amplifier, used in many popular VNA’s, coupled with an on-board digital voltmeter that has been modified to compare small signal changes of about 0.7dB, and display a relative digital reading. We also see use of this device as an RF probe for troubleshooting signal flow thru circuits. The sensitivity is equal to our retired RF Probe, and the BNC input jack is the input point to connect a scope probe for this use. It is powered by a 9 volt battery (not supplied) attached directly to the pcb, with a continuous “on” switch, as well as a “momentary” pushbutton switch for spot checking the presence of RF. There is a potentiometer to adjust the amplitude of the RF sampled, an SMA connector with antenna, and a female pcb mounted BNC for connection to longer antennas, probes or other test inputs. It does contain one SMT IC component (AD8307), but all the other components are through hole. The pcb is small, 2.50” x 2.75” (63.5mm x 69.9mm) and can be used without a chassis. On a difficulty scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the most difficult, this is rated at 3 to 4. Allow an hour or so to build, depending on your experience."

Once again, I have no affiliation with the QRPGuys, 4 States QRP Group, SOTABeams or any other company for whom I make product announcements. Just trying to keep the QRP community informed as to new offerings as I see them.

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

I played hooky

For those readers who are not from the USA - we have a saying here. When you're a kid, and you don't go to school when you're supposed to, but you go off and do something else that you would rather do - it's called "playing hooky".

I played hooky in more ways than one last week. First off, it was our yearly family pilgrimage to Lake George, NY, so I was on vacation and was "playing hooky" from work. At least it was an excused absence!

Secondly, I did bring the radio gear along; but I have to confess I did not use it much at all. This vacation was markedly different from the past ones. With Joseph and Cara being teenagers now, my time was not spent trying to keep them entertained. They are capable of doing that for themselves now. So I spent my time mostly "vegging", and "playing hooky" from radio, and just about everything else! . I listened to music, enjoyed the view and the fresh mountain air and napped - a lot! It was fantastic. If I felt like doing something, I did it. If I didn't feel like doing anything - I didn't. I was a real lazy bones all week. I can't remember the least time that I had the opportunity to do nothing - and boy, did it feel great!

I did break out the gear on Tuesday and Wednesday.  We had some thunderstorms come through the area on Tuesday morning; but it cleared out and was bright and sunny in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the bands were dead in the afternoon. I worked my bud, Bob W3BBO on 40 Meters, but it was a real shorty QSO. We gave each other 339 reports. he was using his new to him HW-9 and it sounded good. We were both too weak to carry on a QSO of any length or substance, though.

Later as it got closer towards evening, 20 Meters started to open. I began to hear several loud DX stations from Portugal and England and Russia and the Ukraine. I managed to snare UX1RX that evening.  5 Watts from Upstate NY to the Ukraine with a magloop - not bad!

As an aside, two of my cabin neighbors were curious as to what I was doing and what I was using. I had the chance to explain all about Amateur Radio and QRP. Both were fascinated when I told them it was possible to work stations around the world using less power than a nightlight. So now, every time the one cabin neighbor sees me, he calls out "CQ CQ".

Knowing that the bands were dead during the day and not open until the evening was kind of an inconvenience and a disappointment.  Just as the bands were opening, it was usually time to make dinner, or go out and eat and spend some family time together. But that's what a family vacation is all about and I didn't want playing radio to interfere with or spoil those opportunities.  As my children are growing older and becoming college age, I know I won't get many more vacation opportunities like this.  They'll have their own lives to deal with and family vacations where we're all together will become more and more scarce.

Radio can wait - family comes first. Besides, Dad will have his opportunities to play in both the FOBB and Skeeter Hunt, which are coming up soon!

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

Monday, July 09, 2018

That ol' Summertime Classic

That's how I think of it, anyway ..... right up there with BBQs, lemonade, ice cold beer, pretzels, watermelon, ice cream and swimming pools ..... The 2018 Flight of the Bumblebees has been announced!  Thanks to Rich Fisher for putting this on from year to year, this event, along with QRP To The Field has gotten me "into" portable QRP operations more than anything else.

OK, so maybe I'm an Amateur Radio and QRP nerd, but what is more sublime than sitting somewhere in a nice shady spot on a hot summer day, making contact after contact with QRP friends around the USA and the rest of the world? The breeze in your face, the Bumblebees buzzing, the bands hooping with CW?

That's right ....... nothing!

This year, the last Sunday in July falls on July 29th and the contest runs from 1700 to 2100 UTC. So grab your radio, a hunka wire and make like a bee and get out to the field and pollinate those frequency bands! Get out of that musty ol' shack and enjoy the beautiful weather and sunshine. These are the things I dream about while I'm shoveling the pile of frozen over, rock hard slush that the snow plow leaves at the end of my driveway after every big snowfall.

For the rules, please go to http://arsqrp.blogspot.com/

For the roster, please go to https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1OzR8FvgVX9J2U0BsjPPg7uzqbuv4C93IAmf7hr8_5GY/edit#gid=0

72 de Larry W2LJ - Bumblebee # 12
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

New offerings

The heat wave across the United States sizzles - and it must have something to do with QRP kits, because they're coming forth like rabbits!

First, from the 4 Sates QRP Group - The Murania

This is an AM Broadcast band radio - just like we used to have back in the 50s and 60s.  Remember when you used to have one of these? We'd sneak them to bed with us and listen to ball games or Jean Shepherd K2ORS on WWOR Radio out of New York City.

It's described as perfect for the 1st time kit builder. The price is a modest $35. This would be a great kit for youngsters or scouts, because unlike a lot of Amateur Radio kits - this is something that can be used immediately after they've finished building it.  The details are at http://4sqrp.com/Murania.php

The other offering is a Simple RF Probe Kit from the QRPGuys:

Coming in at $10 - this is a great item to have on your workbench for troubleshooting RF circuits. No RF output?  Go back to the beginning stages and see where the output stops. Trouble has to be there! For details - https://qrpguys.com/qrpguys-simple-rf-probe

You can always get one of these to have on hand if you have trouble with your Muriana - although, like most 4 States kits, I doubt you'll encounter any problems.

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Independence Day - 2018

Thank you to our Founders!

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

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Amateur Radio Curmudgeon - Reality or Myth?

So I had a conversation with Jeff KE9V on Twitter this afternoon.  It resulted when I saw the following tweet that he posted:

I have to admit, what struck me was the line, "just to annoy that one curmudgeon at the radio club who always tells others HOW to have fun".

Curmudgeon? Really?  A little background. As you know I live in New Jersey - in the Northeast, the USA's Home of Nasty. Driving on any of our roads, you're more likely to see "the bird" or the "five finger salute" as a stop sign or a traffic cone. Think of Frank Barrone from "Everybody Loves Raymond". That's an example of typical here in New York and New Jersey.

But yet, not in the Amateur Radio world. At least not that I've experienced, in the five or six local clubs of which I have been a member at one time or another during my Ham Radio career. So I answered: "Damn! In 40 years of Amateur Radio, I've never once ran into that fabled "curmudgeon" who actually tried to tell me HOW to have fun, other than by encouraging me to get on the air. For the most part, all of the experienced Hams I have ever met have been kind and enthusiastic."

And Jeff could not believe that. But to be totally honest with you - as God is my witness, with my hand on the Bible, I have NEVER run into anyone who told me (or anyone else that I've been near) HOW to have fun in Amateur Radio, or that something I was doing "wasn't REAL Amateur Radio".

I've encountered inebriated Hams on local repeaters. I've encountered "know-it-alls" who would tell you "THAT'S not how you make a dipole!", but would then show you how to.  I've even had Hams joke about my first few attempts at my homebrewed wire antennas. But I have never, and I mean NEVER, have I had a Ham tell me that something I was doing "was not REAL Ham Radio", or "That HAS to be done this way."

In fact, it's been just the opposite. Some of the most experienced Hams that I have had the privilege to know have been the most supportive and enthusiastic.  Take Jules WV2O (SK). He was a dedicated CW man. He was a Morse operator in the Merchant Marines. He didn't even know what a microphone was. In fact, I'm pretty sure he didn't own one. He had a really stereotypical gruff exterior that might have scared some people away.  He was exactly the type you might expect to say, "Pffft! If it ain't CW, it ain't Ham Radio!" But in fact, he was just the opposite! He encouraged all new licensees to experiment and find out what worked best for them. He certainly was an advocate for CW; but he never discouraged anyone from trying anything that might bring them joy.

And all the Hams I have had the privilege to know have been pretty much the same. Oh, they might make a comment about a new mode with something like, "I don't think that's for me" or something like that; but I have never, ever heard the words "That isn't Ham Radio" or insinuations to that effect.

Maybe I've been lucky. Maybe living in New Jersey gives me a thicker skin. We have a saying here in NJ, when we hear something we don't like, we say "consider the source." So maybe we just don't pay attention to or really even hear negative comments about how we enjoy our hobby. Maybe we ARE just different up here.

So I'll keep on searching for "The Curmudgeon" and while I'm looking for him, maybe I'll find Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

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

Monday, July 02, 2018

Not holding my tongue

This is part of what I had in mind last week when I said I was holding my tongue.  Today, I am not. This appeared on the Facebook on the 13 Colonies Special Event page. It's a darn shame that anything like this even need to be posted!

From organizing and running something as simple as the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, I can only estimate the planning, and blood, sweat and tears that go into running the 13 Colonies event.  That it is so popular is a testament to the work of the organizers.

In addition to the on-air activity, comes the necessary log checking, QSL printing, QSL sending, certificate sending and everything else. But some people seem to forget that this is NOT the livelihood of the people behind the scenes. THEY ARE VOLUNTEERS. They are doing this because the love Amateur Radio, they love the United States and they love the Independence Day holiday.

Are they perfect?  No. No one is perfect. I am sure they make their share of mistakes. And I'm sure the amount of mistakes made are insignificant to all they get correct. But in an event like this, some people need to take a deep breath and take a step backward, instead of whining, yelling or screaming.  This is not worth sending your blood pressure into the stratosphere, for either the organizers or the participants. In the grand scheme of life, this is small potatoes, folks.

So just enjoy the event for what it is and let's all play nice and have a good time. Shall we?

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