After a couple of weeks of intensive study, I successfully upgraded my amateur radio license from General to Amateur Extra!
Once it shows up in the FCC database in about a week or so, I’ll apply to for a vanity call sign which I’m told takes about 3 weeks and then I can get an amateur radio license plate and work at becoming a VE and be able to give exams to others.
I’m especially pleased that Connie/NR4CB was able to be one of the VEs at today’s test and signed on my paperwork again. She was there when I got my General and signed my paperwork back then and did the same for me today.
I guess I have to see about getting an HF radio now and start surfing the bands.
This has been running through my head a lot lately as I’m learning more letters. I’m up to 10 letters plus the numbers now.
I need to get some practice hearing and then translating.
After spending the last couple of “spare time” months looking at the material for the amateur radio Extra class exam, I decided it was time to take a more intensive approach. The past week I’ve been spending whatever time I can grab reviewing questions and material, taking practice tests and stuffing more radio material into my brain. I’m having to dust off all the old electronics knowledge I used to have (but never really put to use). The question pool for the Extra test has a lot more questions on electronics and circuits than the Tech or General question pool.
I’m making pretty good progress, and am getting to the point where I’m consistently getting a passing score or very close to a passing score in the practice tests I take. CARS has a testing session this coming weekend (Oct 13) and my goal is to be ready by then to take the test.
This past weekend, the radio’s GPS and APRS got tested out on a road trip to the Chattanooga, TN area.
The GPS works pretty well. Takes a few minutes to lock onto the satellites after turning the radio on, but once it locks it tracks well. The radio displays latitude/longitude, speed, direction and altitude. It’s neat watching my GPS coordinates update while driving down the highway.
APRS worked well, but I’m discovering that at 5 watts of transmitting power, the APRS holes are pretty big. Receiving APRS beacons from other transmitters was pretty easy. Getting my own APRS beacon out and received was harder. With my radio in the car with me on the way out to Chattanooga, it beaconed pretty well in the Charleston area, and again in Columbia, but after that nothing. On the way back to Charleston, I was able to connect my radio to Connie’s mag mount antenna on the trunk of the car. Outside of the big metal cage that is the car, I was able to receive even more APRS beacons from other stations. Getting my own beacons out was also noticeably easier. My radio beaconed a lot more on the way back with the mag mount antenna than it did on the way out. It was still pretty sporadic and the holes were still pretty big, but a definite improvement over trying to transmit through a big metal cage.
Thanks to a stop at Ham Radio Outlet in Atlanta, I now have my own dual band (144/440 MHz) mag mount antenna (an MFJ-1729 mag mount kit) mounted to the trunk of my car. Now I should have a much longer range on the radio when I’m in the car. Help me test it out. I’m usually listening on one of the CARS repeaters. Give me (KK4JRP) a call on the radio!
My radio has its first accessories: a speaker/mic (MH-74A7A) and the GPS module.
The first thing that struck me about both the speaker/mic and the GPS unit was how small they were. Quite a bit smaller than what I expected from a hand mic (something big and chunky). The MH-74A7A is the size of my palm and at first seems like it would be too small to hold or use comfortably. Turns out to be not so bad though, and the lighter weight (compared to holding the radio) will probably mean less fatigue when playing radio. I think the cord weighs more than the microphone itself. There’s a single PTT button on the side and that’s it, so using it is pretty simple.
Sound quality is pretty much the same as what I get out of the radio speaker, although perhaps not quite as loud. No complaints there. The nice thing is that I can clip it closer to my ear for easier listening, rather than walking around holding a radio up to my head. Stick the radio in the side pouch of my backpack, clip the speaker/mic to the shoulder strap and i can walk around listening to the weather radio or for any radio activity. Much easier than walking around holding the radio up to my ear or in front of me.
The GPS module is even smaller than the speaker/mic (about half the size) and plugs right into the top of the speaker/mic and secured by a screw. So far it seems to work pretty well and gives the radio GPS capabilities and makes the radio’s APRS feature useful. It’s small and light enough that it doesn’t make the speaker/mic top-heavy when it’s attached and secured into place.
Overall, the combination is nicer and much easier to use than I expected it would be at first glance. Used it a few times now to play radio and so far the most awkward part is getting tangled up in the cable. I think I’m going to enjoy using the speaker/mic with my radio.