Charleston Hamfest 2016

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This past Saturday was another Charleston Hamfest. Pretty good hamfest this year with some cool but nice weather for the morning. Pretty decent sized crowd showed up, and I had a chance to make some eyeball QSOs with some of the Twitter hams that I follow, including Andrew/KK4DSD and Beverly/W3BRB. It's always a little bit weird to have random strangers come up and say stuff like "hey, I know you", but I'm glad to have the chance to meet them.

Lots of busy tables at this year's hamfest, which is good. Saw lots of nice radios and a lot of Heathkits that I wouldn't have minded taking home with me.

IMG_20160206_094021.jpgQuite a few nice door prizes being given away this year too, including a donated Elecraft K1 and a couple of quadcopters. One of them was given away to the youngest ham present at the hamfest at 1PM.

IMG_20160206_081610.jpgIMG_20160206_082409.jpgMakelab Charleston had a table there, which was nice to see. I know there are a few hams in the Makelab.

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This year I spent some time at the front of the room helping out with making announcements and giving away some of the door prizes.

With no active projects going on, I didn't really have much of a shopping list. Still managed to leave the hamfest with a bag of goodes though including this gem that Bryce/K4LXF was going to put on the free table, but gave to me instead.

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I'll see how well (or if) it plays in the car. Could be useful for the drive to and from work.

Also picked up a couple of Mini-Circuits low noise amplifiers, some tools and supplies for the workbench, and a couple of PoV (persistence of vision) kits the Makelab Charleston guys were selling.

Another good hamfest this year, and looking forward to the next one.

K3NHI sweep system by VE7BPO

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From Todd/VE7BPO/@QRPHB of QRP HomeBuilder is the K3NHI sweep system that he built. He put out a call asking for people to host a zip file of his build and I offered to stash them here for him.

Inside the zip file you'll find a description of the sweep generator, schematics, build notes and lots of pictures by Todd.

Zip file: K3NHI sweep system or here

It's a pretty cool looking build. I'll have to spend some time studying it when I get a chance.

Shack is QRT

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The shack is QRT.

With the move coming up at the end of December, the next few weeks are pretty busy and there probably isn't going to be much time for any significant radio for a while.

Brought the antenna down this afternoon. After being in the trees for almost three years, it still looks in pretty good condition.

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Didn't see any significant wearing on the wire insulation anywhere. A good spraying off and it would probably look just like new aside from the label on the center insulator fading a bit.

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It's not likely I'll be able to set up an antenna or shack while we're in the apartment, so playing serious radio will have to wait until we get things set up again at the new house. Might put the radio in the car and try to do some mobile work, or find a nice tree to throw some wire into and play radio out in the field between now and then.

Kentucky QSO Party 2015

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Got on the air to play in the Kentucky QSO Party for a few hours yesterday. Tuned around 20 and 40m for a while, but wasn't hearing too much KYQP related SSB activity. Made 9 contacts including the bonus station (KY4DXA) all on 40m.

Nice fun little QSO party.

CQWW 2015

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Spent a few hours playing in the 2015 CQ WW contest. Didn't play nearly as long as I did a couple years ago.

10m was pretty active, and that's where I ended up spending most of my time tuning around. 10m was good for getting to EU early in the day, and then into South America mid to late afternoon. Late afternoon/early evening when 10m started fading out was when I started hearing stations across the Pacific. Grabbed a few contacts on 20m when 10m died out, and snagged a contact on 40m toward the end of the contest just to cover that end of the spectrum.

Even though the number of QSOs and my score didn't match what I did in 2013, still had a few good highlights this year.

  • JA7OWD (Japan) on 10m
  • VK2GGC (Australia) on 10m
  • KL7RA (Alaska) on 20m
  • TF2LL (Iceland) on 20m
  • KG4EM (Guantanamo Bay) on 20m

109 QSOs across 3 bands this year. I'm happy with that.

 Band     QSOs     Pts  ZN    Cty
     7       1       3    1    1
    14      24      60   13   18
    28      84     221   16   39
 Total     109     284   30   58
Score: 24,992

2015 ARRL Auction

It's preview time for the 2015 ARRL Auction. Quite a few items up for auction this year, especially in the Vintage books section. As usual, there are copies of ARRL Handbooks from decades past. There are also a lot of books from the 1910/1920 period, which is different from previous auctions I've seen. I'm pretty intrigued by those items.

Also interesting this year are 5 mystery boxes filled with goodies from the ARRL Lab.

So what's in the box? We don't know--exactly (more about that below). But Lab Engineers do because they personally put these boxes together and they've promised extra surprises in honor of the ARRL On-Line Auction's 10th anniversary.

Now keep in mind, what they see as treasures may not be everyone's cup of tea, but we did sneak a forbidden peek and think that, if you're a winner, you'll be happily surprised once this mystery is unwrapped.

It will be interesting to see what some of the auction items will go for this year. There are a few books that I'll be bidding on, maybe some of the gear, and at least one of the mystery boxes.

Kansas QSO Party 2015

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Got on the radio for the first time in quite a while (since Field Day I think) to play in the Kansas QSO Party for the first time. The KS QP is one of those two day contests, Saturday and Sunday. Rain and thunderstorms here on Sunday meant that I only got to play radio on Saturday.

One of the fun things the organizers did this year was have a bunch of 1x1 stations participating, which would spell KANSAS SUNFLOWER QSOPARTY if you worked enough of them. I managed to work enough stations to spell KANSAS, and was short only an R station to spell SUNFLOWER.

Managed to make 22 contacts on 20m and 40m. Strangely enough, with the exception of two stations, the only stations I was able to hear were the 1x1 stations. Maybe if I had played for a few more hours I might have found some other stations.

Fun QSO party to play in. Hope to be able to participate in it again next year.

Field Day 2015

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Field Day this year was a little different this year since we were road tripping to Orlando.

On Saturday, we ventured out to the Orlando EOC to check out the Field Day operation there. They had a pretty impressive set up going with a big air conditioned tent and 10 transmitters running. We got there kind of late in the afternoon, and they were nice enough to set up a 10m GOTA station for us to get on the air with, but the band was kind of dead by then. We were able to give my sister, brother-in-law and nieces a good introduction to what Field Day and amateur radio is about though.

Sunday we hit the road back to Charleston after watching the SpaceX launch. Fired up the radio and started tuning around on 20m for the last few hours of Field Day. Got 3 contacts in the log which was good enough for me.

This was also our first Field Day together. Maybe next time we'll do it again when one of us doesn't have to drive.

More cards from the buro

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Received my second batch of QSL cards via the buro today. 6 cards total from Hungary, Russia, Slovenia, Mexico, Germany and Brazil. Most were from contacts from about a year ago, but a couple of them were for 2013 QSOs.

Always exciting to receive QSL cards in the mail :)

An RF probe

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I camee across N5ESE's site and started browsing around some of his projects. He's got quite the list of them. In his Gizmos section is an RF probe which looked pretty easy to build.

I had a set of those springyy hook-y grab-y DMM leads that were broken, so I cut off the spring-y hook-y grab-y part to use for the DMM side.

On the work bench was a perfectly sized piece of PCB from when I was experimenting with cutting and scoring PCB. From the RXTX build, I just happened to have some extra 0.01 μF SMD capacitors which were perfect for the job. A 1N34A diode and 4.7MΩ resistor finished off the parts.

I used a small hacksaw to score the PCB and divide it into three sections, cut out a notch for the diode and cut the head off a brass nail to serve as the probe. Soldering everything in place was pretty easy.

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Soldered on the leads and a ground wire with alligator clip and put everything into a shrink wrap tube.

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The full probe, with all the leads ready for some RF to measure. I still need to find a decent enclosure to shield the probe with.

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