Tuesday, December 31, 2019

This works really well!

I loaded this onto my cell phone a while ago; and I don't use it all that much. When I do use it, it works very well!

I added W2P as a trigger to notify me when the Battle of Princeton special event station is active and on the air. I've been getting alerts all morning - SSB, FT8 and CW alerts. Now ........ if I was only home to be able to sit down behind the radio!

I would recommend this app to everyone. You can find it in the Google Play Store if you have an Android device. It's also available to use on your personal computer from: https://hamalert.org/about

If you are looking to be reminded when specific stations, countries, prefixes are on the air - then this is a really useful tool.

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

Happy New Year!

As we welcome in 2020 .........

....... remember that 2020 is a Leap Year - so you get 366 days to enjoy Amateur Radio in the coming year!

Bonne Année 
¡Feliz Año Nuevo! 
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda 
Buon anno 
Frohes Neues Jahr 
Gelukkig Nieuwjaar 
Gleðilegt nýtt ár 
Xin Nian Kuai 
San Nin Fai Lok
Mutlu yıllar 
Sťastný nový rok 
Godt nytår 
Hyvää uutta vuotta 
Godt nytt år 
Szczesliwego Nowego Roku 
Feliz Ano Novo 
с новым годом

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

Monday, December 30, 2019

Solar Cycle 25

From the ARRL Website:

Two Solar Cycle 25 Sunspots Appear


New Solar Cycle 25 is on the way, but just when the transition from Cycle 24 to Cycle 25 will take place is not entirely clear. On December 24, two new sunspots — one in each hemisphere — emerged on the face of the sun that exhibit the reversed magnetic polarity marking them as belonging to Solar Cycle 25. According to Hale’s Law, sunspot polarities flip-flop from one solar cycle to the next, the National Center for Atmospheric Research explains.

“The sun is currently in solar minimum — the nadir of the 11-year sunspot cycle,” Tony Phillips said in his article, “Reversed Polarity Sunspots Appear on the Sun” on the Spaceweather.com website. “It’s a deep minimum, century-class according to sunspot counts.” The remarkable sunspot scarcity has prompted discussion of a possible “extended minimum” akin to the Maunder Minimum in the 17th century, when no sunspots appeared for decades, Phillips said. “Such an event could have implications for terrestrial climate.”

“Today’s new-cycle sunspots (along with isolated new-cycle spots earlier this year) suggest that the solar cycle is, in fact, unfolding normally,” Phillips wrote, adding that a new Maunder Minimum does not appear to be in the offing.

Earlier this month, the NOAA/NASA-co-chaired international Solar Cycle Prediction Panel released its latest forecast for Solar Cycle 25. The panel’s consensus calls for a peak in July 2025 (±8 months), with a smoothed sunspot number of 115 and the solar minimum between Cycles 24 and 25 occurring in April 2020 (±6 months). If this solar minimum prediction is correct, it would make Solar Cycle 24 the seventh longest on record at 11.4 years.

Climate scientist David Archibald speculates that the Solar Cycle 24/25 minimum could occur as late as March 2021, and that Cycle 25 maximum might not happen until 2027.

“We are well into the Solar Cycle 24/25 minimum but [Cycle] 24 may not have ended yet,” Archibald said in a December 22 update on the Watts Up With That? website. “A solar cycle isn’t over until the heliospheric current sheet has flattened. And that could be as late as March 2021. Solar cycle amplitude does matter with respect to climate and the amplitude of Solar Cycle 25, from projecting trends from the last three cycles, looks like being about 80 in 2027.”

The Solar Cycle Prediction Panel agreed that Cycle 25 will be of average intensity and similar to Cycle 24.

In an article posted on NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center site, Scott McIntosh, the Director of the High Altitude Observatory at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), stresses that Solar Cycle 25 will happen, “but a sunspot cycle could be small.”

Predictability comes with some physical understanding of the underlying process, McIntosh asserts. “The sunspot cycle is erratic,” he said in his presentation, “provocative of a chaotic, turbulent solar interior where sunspot progressions with time and latitude are the only tracers…”

Thank you for the news, ARRL!  Two new sunspots may not seem like much - but they're better than nothing. A portent of better conditions to come - something we can all hope for!

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

New Year's Eve possibilities

Lots happening this New Year's Eve - no excuse for NOT getting on the air! (Unless you have family obligations, of course. Family always comes first!)

40 Meter QRP Fox Hunt  - With two excellent Foxes - K4BAI in GA and NC4RT in NC.
0200-0330Z - search between 7.030 and 7.050 MHz - http://www.qrpfoxhunt.org/winter_rules.htm

SKN - Straight Key Nighthttp://www.arrl.org/straight-key-night

SKCC Slow Speed Saunter https://www.skccgroup.com/operating_activities/slowspeed/

W2P Special Event Station - Commemorating the Battle of Princeton and the "Ten Crucial Days of the Revolution"https://bit.ly/2ZD9XYQ

I'm sure this is nowhere a complete listing - probably lots of other events you can join in on.

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

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Year end thoughts

As 2019 comes to an end and we get ready to begin a new decade, I've been having some year end thoughts.

One - Don't forget that this Tuesday evening (and into New Year's Day) is Straight Key Night. Besides getting on the air and pounding brass, a lot of our Ham Radio brothers and sisters will be putting their classic radio on the air. Straight Key Night is always fun as it's like stepping back in time to the days of the Golden Age of Amateur Radio.

Two - Bob W3BBO and I were shooting the breeze as we do doing in our weekly gab sessions. He asked me if I had any goals for 2020. I've been thinking about that; as I really didn't have any as we spoke - hadn't given it much thought, really.

But giving it more thought, I have come up with a goal. And the goal for 2020 is to do way more portable operating than I have in 2019. Whether that be POTA, PBMME's, QRPTTF, FOBB or the Skeeter Hunt, the goal is to get out in the great outdoors and get on the air.

The good Lord be willing and my knee and ankle hold out, I want to do a lot more than I did last year. I will be looking for a bit bigger backpack than what I have been using, as I need space for a few more antennas. I've been watching some YouTube videos on some guys who have been doing portable ops and it has been downright inspirational.

Three - More posting here, fewer quiet interludes - but not fluff  just to fill space- posts with substance

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

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Looking forward to 2020

You might want to add these to your personal Ham Radio calendars. Thanks to Brian KB9BVN for posting these to QRP-L:

QRPARCI 2020 Contest Calendar

See details, updated rules:


JAN 01 - 2020 New Years Day Sprint (3HR)
MAR 14 - Spring Thaw Shootout (1HR)
APR 11 - Spring QSO Party (24HR)
MAY 24 - Hoot Owl Shootout (1HR)
JUL 12 - Summer Homebrew Sprint (3HR)
AUG 08 - European Sprint (3HR)
OCT 10 - Fall QSO Party (24HR)
DEC 03 - Top Band Sprint (3HR)
DEC 13 - Holiday Spirits Sprint (3HR)

And as Brian put it, "We have promises from Mother Nature that say the bands will be back big time in 2020.  Don't miss out on all the fun!"

Viva Sunspot Cycle 25!

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

Friday, December 27, 2019

I hope Santa was good to you

and brought you the Amateur Radio goodie that your heart desired.

I got something that I wanted the day after Christmas, but Santa didn't bring it. I worked W2T the special event station commemorating the Battle of Trenton on 40 Meter CW!  I happened to be down in the shack, tuning around on 20 Meters when W2T appeared on the Cluster portion of my Log4OM screen. I quickly tuned over there and was able to hear them, weakly via groundwave. After a few tries, I was able to complete the exchange. Just a little bit later, I got an e-mail from the Delaware Valley Radio Association, confirming the contact. Huzzah! Now I have to begin listening for W2P for the Battle of Princeton - they begin transmitting next Tuesday.

Last night was a QRP Fox Hunt 160 Meter Foxtravaganza. The normal hunts were suspended for this week due to the fact that the 40 Meter version would have been held on Christmas Eve. So last night, there was a free-for-all on 160 Meters for an hour. Any fox or hound could work any other fox or hound. I worked a total of seven stations, the best DX being Illinois and Virginia. It was a lot of fun and I could have done better if there wasn't so much QRN on the W3EDP. I used the HF9V for receive and the W3EDP for transmit. It wasn't an ideal situation; but it got the job done.

Lastly, I close this post with something light-hearted. Many of you may have heard this before, but maybe some haven't. I guess this should go under the "oldie but goodie" department.

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

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas is a coming

And the goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny
Then a half-penny will do
If you haven't got a half-penny, then God bless you!

So Christmas is two days away! What's on your list (sounds like a Capital One commercial, eh?), that you've asked Santa to bring you?

A shiny new rig?
Perhaps a certificate for a new IC-705?
Maybe a DMR radio?
Perhaps a KX2 or a KX3?
A tower with a Hexbeam perched atop?

If I could ask Santa to bring me anything, it would either be an Alex Loop or a Begali Sculpture Mono.

The Alex Loop because it is probably one of the last things I would ever buy for myself, yet I'd love to see how it performs compared to my home brew version. Mine will not load on 15 Meters for whatever reason, I guess it's back to the drawing board for me.

The Begali key because they are simply the best! I have the Simplex Mono and it is superb! I am willing to bet the Sculpture is even more grand.

Here's hoping that you find the Amateur Radio goodies of your dreams under your Christmas Tree or next to your menorah.

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

Friday, December 20, 2019

For those of you into special events

Especially those related to the Revolutionary War - the Delaware Valley Radio Association will be putting W2T and W2P on the air to commemorate the Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton, respectively.

These two battles, fought within days of each other were a turning point in the Revolution. The Continental Army was losing badly and with the coming New Year, enlistments were up and General Washington was looking at his forces being potentially decimated by soldiers leaving for home. These two victories were major shot in the arm, not only for the Continental Army, but for the fledgling new nation as well. 

In addition to the obligatory QSL cards, you can request (for a fee) a certificate which commissions you as a Lieutenant in the Continental Army Signal Corps. How cool is that?

For all the details - please follow this link: https://www.w2zq.com/w2t-w2p-special-events-2020/?fbclid=IwAR3FdraANHb0vHHRqvKkgWoNEDf4LOEne_wQJ0eb1BYAOlsEAxbr_okDQB0

I am hoping that 40 Meter ground wave will be sufficient to work them!

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

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Not hopeful tonight

Tonight is the 80 Meter QRP Foxhunt. The two Foxes are K2MAX in Oregon and K4FB in Florida.

Of the two, I think I stand a better chance of hearing Florida; but I will probably just be intently listening to a bunch of dead air tonight. Both are a long haul for 80 Meters.

And I wonder why I have tinnitus?

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

Friday, December 13, 2019

Like I said

"It's a snap!"

In my last post, I mentioned that I renewed my license via the FCC ULS system. It is so easy! I thought for those who might be a bit intimidated by the process, that I would outline it here.

First, you go to the Webpage - https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/systems-utilities/universal-licensing-system

Then scroll down a tiny bit to the words "File Online" which will bring you here - https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsEntry/licManager/login.jsp

This is where you log in. You will need to know your FRN (FCC Registration Number) which is on your license:

You enter that in, along with your password.  If by chance you don't have an FRN, you can obtain one by following the link right on that page. I would think, however, that since my renewal of 10 years is up  (and I have an FRN on my old license), then just about every current Ham should have an FRN printed on their license. If you forgot your password, you can also get that by following the link - right on that page.

Once you log in, it will take you to your license page. On the left hand side of the page, you will see a menu of things you can do in an amber-ish color. Click on "Renew Licences" and follow the prompts from there. Hit "Submit" when you are done and you will be given an opportunity to print a copy of your renewal filing.  Before you hit "Submit". please make sure your e-mail address that the FCC has on file is up to date and accurate. That's important, because in 24 hours you will receive an e-mail with a link to your "Official Copy" of your license - all ready to print out. It comes as a pdf file, so make sure to keep a copy of it somewhere on your computer or device.

And you're done! No fees for Amateur Radio licences, even for Vanity Calls - so no need to hassle with submitting a payment, anymore. Now all I have to remember is to renew the license for NJ2SP later in 2020.

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

40 Meter QRP Fox Hunt - just as I expected!

Just like Charlie Brown on Halloween, I got a rock - nothing.  Never heard Don NK6A in California, but that was expected. I was able to hear Steve WX2S really well via ground wave. Couldn't get him to hear me, though, Kept switching back and forth between the HF9V and the W3EDP, which were giving me equal signal strengths.

Hey, but Christmas is just around the corner - maybe this is more appropriate:

On the bright side, I was able to log into the FCC Universal Licensing System in order to renew my license which expires in March, 2020. You can begin the renewal process 90 days prior to expiration. I'm probably at about 85 days at this point. It was super easy and the whole process took less than five minutes.  The tricky thing was remembering my password. Last time I used it was 10 years ago. I'm so glad I wrote it down ....... and remembered WHERE I wrote it down!

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Tonight's the 40 Meter QRP Fox hunt

and I am not hopeful.

The two Foxes are Steve WX2S in NJ, who is about 18 miles from me. Unless ground wave is possible, Steve may be too close.  The other Fox is Don NK6A all the way in California. I suppose if 40 Meters is way long, he is a possibility - but I'm not holding my breath. I hate to be such a "Debbie Downer" about this; but if I'm anything, I tend to be a realist.

However .......... and this is the wild card in this thing. A cold front will be going through our area this evening. Yesterday and today have been rainy days with temperatures in the 50s. That's supposed to change tonight, with temperatures plummeting and the rain changing to snow. The prognosticators are calling for anywhere between 1 - 3 inches of the white stuff for our area. Maybe, just maybe, that front will be conducive to me being able to hear WX2S via ground wave. Who knows?

I know that weather affects the VHF/UHF frequencies more than the HF ones, but one never know, does one? Propagation prediction seems to be as much an art as a science. In my most humble opinion, anyone who says they have propagation all figured out is kidding themselves.

The snow is coming at just the right time. I leave after work tomorrow to go pick up my daughter from college for Christmas break. The snow accumulation will be minimal, but some drivers around here tend to go absolutely insane as soon as they see the first flake. I generally refer to them as the "I Brake For A Flake" crowd. Then of course, you have the road runners who love to take snowy roads at 80 MPH.  When the roads are all white and slick, I tend to follow the advice of the turtle from the fable "The Tortoise and the Hare" ........ slow and steady wins the race.

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

Friday, December 06, 2019

Any writers out there?

Rich Moseson has put a call out on the QRP e-mail reflectors for articles:

Hi everyone,

I know this is short notice to be making this request, but CQ is looking for unique QRP-related stories for our annual QRP Special in the February 2020 issue. Have you made an unusual accomplishment, built and used something really cool with great results, taken your QRP station out portable and come back with a great story? Do you have a project article to share?

If you do, please drop me a note at and let me know your idea. We've got a short turnaround right now, so I'd need to hear from you ASAP and have finished articles in 2-3 weeks (before Christmas).

Vy tnx in advance and 72/73 for a great holiday season,

Rich W2VU Editor, CQ

Rich was kind enough to publish an article of mine in the 2014 CQ QRP Special Edition. I know a lot of you out there have some really cool experiences and some very good QRP ideas. 

Time to get published!

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

Thinking new antenna

I got one of the two Foxes in the 80 Meter Foxhunt last night - Randy NC4RT in North Carolina. I was not able to make myself heard by Wayne N4FP in Florida. He posted in an e-mail post-hunt that he was experiencing some S7 QRN. That didn't help my cause any. But a few of the other NJ Hounds DID work him - so I am thinking maybe it's becoming time to consider a new wire.

The venerable HF9 will remain the workhorse of the stable. But maybe it's time to replace the W3EDP. It's been up there since 2012, maybe it's time for a change.  I may go back to an extended double Zepp - or perhaps I need to read some of Bill Orr's HF antenna book that I recently received from CQ Publications. There's bound to be some good ideas in there.

In any event, it will end up being something I build myself and it will have to fit in my puny suburban lot. That's the good thing about wire antennas that you build yourself; generally they are pretty inexpensive. I have most of the winter to think about it. Late winter - early spring before the leaves pop out is my prime antenna stringing season.

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

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

A little bit of this and that .......

We survived our first snowpocalypse of the season over the past few days. The final snow maps published pre-storm forecasted 5-8 inches for the area of Northern Middlesex County, where I live. We ended up with maybe a 1/4 inch to 1/2 an inch? Not even close.

I had to drive my daughter back to college on Sunday for her return to school post-Thanksgiving. That was a hairy ride! Interstate 80, which is the road I normally take, was closed westbound due to motor vehicle accidents from icy roads. Google Maps took me a different and quicker way. But the trip was icy and when we arrived at the school, my Jeep was one big ice cube. My VHF/UHF mobile antenna and the broadcast radio antenna looked like icicles. And in fact, icicles were hanging off my side view mirrors!  Thanks be to God that I got her there safely and got back home safely.

Last night's 40 Meter QRP Foxhunt was another exercise in frustration.  The Foxes were Dan N7CQR in Oregon, whom I did not expect to hear - and was not disappointed. The other Fox was Dave N1IX in New Hampshire, whom I did expect to hear and work. He was weak all evening - 339 or maybe 449 at best - but I thought he was definitely workable. Sadly, it didn't turn out that way. I tried calling all session and was not heard. I'm sure you've all experienced this ...... a station that you can hear pretty well calls CQ ...... you call back ...... only to get another CQ right in your face. Argh! Maybe this is the Elecraft curse? Having a receiver so sensitive that you can hear stations that can't hear you back? I tried calling on both antennas. I really thought I would have been heard with at least one of them. Oh, well.

On another note - to stop me from whining ....... George Heron N2APB and Dave Benson K1SWL (two of the smartest and kindest gentlemen that it has been my privilege to know) have teamed up to produce the Phaser.

This is a kit radio, priced under 50 US Dollars, designed specifically to take advantage of the digital modes. It will also do SSB and puts out about 4 Watts.  The details can be found here: http://www.midnightdesignsolutions.com/phaser/.  It's a monoband rig and you have your choice as to which band you want to choose. There is even an enclosure kit available for it.

This may not be my cup of tea, but if N2APB and K1SWL have teamed up to provide something, you can rest assured that it will perform well and will be well worth the cost.  Thanks you, George and Dave for providing something that can still be built without having to resort to special equipment. That's becoming harder and harder these days with SMT becoming even more and more common,

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