Monday, July 12, 2021

Loopy at the lake

 Marianne and I have headed back up to Lake George, NY for our yearly July sojourn. This year I decided once again to keep it really light in the radio equipment department. I left the full QRP portable backpack at home and brought along just a daypack. This year I have just the KX3, my small lithium battery,  a couple set of earbuds, a backup Bulldog clip key and the Alex Loop.

Since I acquired the Alex Loop from Peter NN9K a couple of years ago, I have not used it enough to be comfortable with it. It works, but I don't know its "ins and outs" very well. I'm not totally sure you can thoroughly know the "ins and outs" of any antenna, as there will always be surprises. By comparison, in the case of wire antennas, I'm a lot more confident in knowing what I can work and what I cannot work. I am hoping to become more familiar with the Alex Loop this week.

I tried listening for some ops in the QRP-ARCI Homebrew Sprint yesterday afternoon. I was disappointed as I only was able to hear some SKCC Weekend Sprinters. Even though I heard them, I didn't work any as I haven't brought a straight key with me. It doesn't seem quite kosher to participate in an SKCC event with keyer and paddles.

This morning, I attempted to work Mike KC2EGL and John K3WWP as NY3EC at the USS Requin in Pittsburgh. I set up HamAlert to let me know whenever they were spotted by RBN or the Cluster. I did not hear them on 20 Meters when they were spotted there, and I did not hear them on 40 Meters when they were spotted there. I was able to make them out on 30 Meters, however. They were at ESP levels, and I was able to hear the stations they were working, and was able to figure out that it was Mike at the key. I patiently waited for their signal strength to rise. Eventually they got up to about a 449 and I gave a call. I made contact, but it's a busted QSO as I'm pretty sure that Mike was copying me as W2BJ. I did get a 339 report, though. Then QSB reared its ugly head and they disappeared, even though reports from HamAlert confirmed they were still on the band. Maybe I should follow K3WWP's advice and invest in a PX3 panadapter. I don't care for waterfalls, though - call me an old fogey. I was, am and always will be a dial twiddler - and cheap! The Ham Alert app is a freebie!

So then I did a little experimenting by calling CQ and looking at Reverse Beacon Network reports on the various bands. It seems the Alex Loop is best heard on 40 and 30 Meters. Those two bands gave me the best db above Noise Level reports. 

So later in the afternoon, I sat down to try and work NY3EC again, as I was still getting reports that they were on the air. No matter what band they were on, this time I couldn't hear them. However, while tuning across 20 Meters, I heard RW3XW calling CQ at the bottom of the band. He was strong, but there was a lot of QSB but I decided to give the ol' roulette wheel a spin and give it a shot. My recent experiment be darned, telling me that my RBN reports on 20 Meters are not the best - I gave it the ol" college try.

Success! I got him in the log on the second try. Shaking my head, I was not able to work Pittsburgh on any band, which is a small hop away - but I was able to work Russia which is several thousand miles away on a band where the loop doesn't give me my best results. If I live to be a hundred, I'll never figure propagation out.

I came into our cabin to log my contact on AC Log only to get a bit of a scare. This old Lenovo T430 came to life, only with no mouse cursor pointer! The finger pad and the little "mouse" controller button in the middle of the keyboard were both inoperative, Great - just what I really need - a bum computer for the rest of the week and of course, I did not bring along an external mouse.

I'm not what you would call "IT savvy" but I know enough about using the keyboard keys to navigate around. Soon I was able to get to the Control Panel to try and see if I could get things working again. The drivers were up to date and re-loading them didn't help any. The Device Manager was telling me that the drivers would not upload on boot up  Why? I have no idea.. I did remember that when I shut the laptop off last night, it did a Windows Update. Something funky must have happened then and there.  I managed to navigate over to the recovery area. I did not do a full blown backdate, but I was able to do a recovery and a re-boot which got the mouse pointer working again.

Whew - computers ARE black magic - especially when you're not an IT whiz. I was lucky this time, but now I'm strongly considering an upgrade in the near future. This machine is too old to run Windows 10 reliably and Windows 8 support stops sometime soon.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!


  1. When one is unfamiliar with loops, there can be a certain 'this can't possibly work' prejudice to overcome. Yet, a well-made loop at 20m, say, is going to be in excess of 95% efficient. Therefore, you have to ask why this prejudice continues through time. It's not so surprising that the loop works well on DX, not so well on shorter hops, because a vertical loop has vertically-polarised radiation in the plane of the loop. This is by no means my best post, but it provides some reassuring info:

    1. Yes, there definitely is prejudice to overcome. You nailed it. All my Amateur Radio career, I was hammered with that old saw, "The more wire you can get up, the higher, the better." I'm learning that's not necessarily true, but it goes against the grain .... for now. Thanks for the link! de W2LJ