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?


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


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!