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.


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.


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.


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


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.


Review: ARRL Satellite Handbook

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The book is split into two parts. The first part covers some history of amateur radio satellites, software and terminology, and some of the gear you'll need.

The second part consists of several QST articles describing simple antenna and rotor controller projects that can be used for satellite contacts.

Two appendices let the reader get down and dirty with the math and physics of satellite orbits and the various components and subsystems that go into satellites.

There's a good discussion of Keplerian orbital elements ("Keps"), which are essential to figuring out where and when to look for a particular satellite. Fortunately you don't need to use them yourself, software takes care of all of that. Unfortunately the discussion about Keps is made a little bit confusing by using three completely different sets of numbers in the tables showing different Keps formats and the text describing each of the elements.

One of the projects is titled "Work OSCAR 40 with cardboard box antennas!", a great example of how you don't need fancy expensive gear to hear satellites.

I think I'd call The ARRL Satellite Handbook more of a primer than a handbook, which implies something more comprehensive. Still, it does a pretty good job of covering what you need to know to start working the "birds".

4 stars out of 5.

Review: Radio Science for the Radio Amateur

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Radio Science for the Radio Amateur is one of the more recent ARRL publications that I added to the bookshelf.

At a couple hundred pages or so (it follows the ARRL's annoying chapter-page numbering rather than using regular page numbers), the book is pretty light reading and should be pretty easy to get through in one or two reading sessions.

The concept behind the book has a lot of potential, but this attempt doesn't go deep enough into anything to be all that useful. I'm left with the feeling of "Oh, that's pretty neat" but then end up grasping at air because of the lack of substance.

One significant flaw in the book is the lack of references and other resources that readers can go to for more information. For example, the circuit simulation chapter mentions SPICE and tells you it can be used to simulate circuits, but that's it. You're left to go find additional information on your own. A list of resources (books, websites, etc) at the end of each chapter would be immensely useful for such an introductory level book.

2 stars out of 5.