Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Wayne N6KR on CW

Wayne Burdick is a QRPer's QRPer.  He's been putting great kits out there for us to enjoy for more than a couple of decades now.  Here's his take on CW, culled from the QRP-L reflector, I couldn't have said it better if I sat down and tried real hard.

Read on:

I find that CW has many practical and engaging aspects that I just don’t get with computer-mediated modes like FT8. You’d think I’d be burned out on CW by now, over 45 years since I was first licensed, but no, I’m still doin’ it 

Yes, FT8 (etc.) is a no-brainer when, despite poor conditions, your goal is to log as many contacts as possible with as many states or countries as possible. It’s so streamlined and efficient that the whole process is readily automated. (If you haven’t read enough opinions on that, see "The mother of all FT8 threads” on QRZ.com, for example.)

But back to CW. Here’s why it works for me. YMMV.

CW feels personal and visceral, like driving a sports car rather than taking a cab. As with a sports car, there are risks. You can get clobbered by larger vehicles (QRM). Witness road range (“UP 2!”). Fall into a pothole (QSB). Be forced to drive through rain or snow (QRN). 

With CW, like other forms of human conversation, you can affect your own style. Make mistakes. Joke about it.

CW is a skill that bonds operators together across generations and nations. A language, more like pidgin than anything else, with abbreviations and historical constructs and imperialist oddities. A curious club anyone can join. (At age 60 and able to copy 50 WPM on a good day, I may qualify as a Nerd Mason of some modest order, worthless in any other domain but of value in a contest.)

With very simple equipment that anyone can build, such as a high-power single-transistor oscillator, you can transmit a CW signal. I had very little experience with electronics when I was 14 and built an oscillator that put out maybe 100 mW. Just twisted the leads of all those parts together and keyed the collector supply--a 9-volt battery. With this simple circuit on my desk, coupled to one guy wire of our TV antenna mast, I worked a station 150 miles away and was instantly hooked on building things. And on QRP. I’m sure the signal was key-clicky and had lots of harmonics. I’ve spent a lifetime making such things work better, but this is where it started. 

Going even further down the techno food chain, you can “send” CW by whistling, flashing a lamp, tapping on someone’s leg under a table in civics class, or pounding a wrench on the inverted hull of an upside-down U.S. war vessel, as happened at Pearl Harbor. Last Saturday at an engineering club my son belongs to, a 9-year-old demonstrated an Arduino Uno flashing HELLO WORLD in Morse on an LED. The other kids were impressed, including my son, who promptly wrote a version that sends three independent Morse streams on three LEDs. A mini-pileup. His first program.

Finally, to do CW you don’t always need a computer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, or software. Such things are invaluable in our daily lives, but for me, shutting down everything but the radio is the high point of my day. The small display glows like a mystic portal into my personal oyster, the RF spectrum. Unless I crank up the power, there’s no fan noise. Tuning the knob slowly from the bottom end of the band segment to the top is a bit like fishing my favorite stream, Taylor Creek, which connects Fallen Leaf Lake to Lake Tahoe. Drag the line across the green, sunlit pool. See what hits. Big trout? DX. Small trout? Hey, it’s still a fish, and a QSO across town is still a QSO. Admire it, then throw it back in.

(BTW: You now know why the Elecraft K3, K3S, KX2, and KX3 all have built-in RTTY and PSK data modes that allow transmit via the keyer paddle and receive on the rig’s display. We decided to make these data modes conversational...like CW.)

Back to 40 meters....

73,

Wayne
N6KR

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fatima, Medjugorje, JOTA and things

The Vigil celebration of the 100th anniversary
of the miracle of the sun in Fatima
Looks like it has been about three weeks since my last update, as some of you know, we have a bunch of grand children, and we have had eight of them staying with us for about 12 days while my son and his wife were on a pilgrimage to Fatima Portugal and Medjugorje Bosnia

The two eldest are hams, recently getting licensed last month but the other six are still working on it,.  The one year old seems to enjoy CW so she is of course, my favorite. 

So I have been very busy with work, and helping my wife keep an eye on the grand children, and I have had very little time to be on the air until this weekend. 

So I fired up the K2 today, and tuned up 20m the best I could and called CQ JOTA  many many times on 14060....and heard no one.  OK..so how many Boy Scouts actually know CW anyway?  Well my mic is busted so CW is my mode of choice today.  So I tuned back down to 40m and landed on 7039 Khz and sent out a few CQ JOTAs and ran into Fred KD8SMO over in Massilon Ohio.  We traded 599's and he was hoping I was a Boy Scout and I was hoping he was too.  I am a Scout leader, a job I have been doing for the last almost 32 years.  It's one of my most favorite volunteer jobs.  Fred is a retired engineer that graduated from Ohio State University (THE Ohio University) in 1970, most of my family are Buckeyes and I knew exactly where Massilon was located.  Fred is fairly new to CW operations and has a great fist.  It was my pleasure to work him. 

Next up I got to meet Gary K8NYG from over in Dunbar WVa, we traded 599's and I told him I was originally from his state but had lived most of my life here in Indiana.  Dunbar is an interesting place.  The town was formed in 1921 on land that contains 11 Native American mounds, and was at one time the property of General George Washington.  Washington was awarded the land there in recognition of his military service.  Mineral rich and located on the Kanawha River, Dunbar was home to the Gravely Tractor company and numerous glass factories. 

Going to go watch Abbot and Costello Meets Frankenstein this afternoon with a couple of the grandsons and their mom and dad.  We enjoy the Artcraft Theatre in Franklin Indiana very much.  It's a 1920's movie theater that has been undergoing a renovation for the last 10 years or so.  It's THE place to go watch old movies.  

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New QSO's

Bruce KA8TNK
As of October 1st I have decided that I will start using my K2 again to try and finish off my 2017 Worked All States QRP CW attempt.  The HW8 is not going anywhere as I have become quite attached to that little green radio.  I will also be doing some Alexloop time with the K2 as well.  I am looking forward to wrapping the WAS effort up, and then trying it again next year.

Last night on 40m I was able to have a nice QSO with Bruce KA8TNK, he lives up in Trenton Michigan near the big city of Detroit.  Trenton has historical significance as it was part of the Michigan area that was captured by the British during the War of 1812.  I was on the K2 at 5w to the attic dipole and Bruce was running an old Heathkit SB-101 on his end.  It sounded awesome and his fist made for easy copy on 7034 Khz.  I noticed he lives in Wayne County...Bruce in Wayne...do you think he's Batman?  Did I QSO with BATMAN??



This afternoon I had the K2 warmed up and firing out 5w to the 20m band at about 20:30Z  and got a nice call back from Jim K1GND  in Rhode Island!  Jim was QRP as well running 5w from his KX2 near Providence.  QSB started getting pretty bad after about 10 minutes, so this was no ragchew but it was still a load of fun.

Jim K1GND with a basket of Quahogs (Hard Shell Clams)
Jim likes to cook what he digs up in the bay...feast your eyes on this!
Fresh - on the half shell - with homemade cocktail sauce, consisting of ketchup, horse radish,
Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of lemon juice.
Looks pretty good to me!

Thanks for the QSOs guys!

Best 73 de KB9BVN


Friday, September 29, 2017

Good Tech Talk Last Night

Last evening, Ed Valasek K3HTK came to the IEN Tech Talk to discuss using the Raspberry Pi in different amateur radio projects for the shack.

Ed is a long time IT professional with experience galore in playing with technology and his experience working with small board computers is vast.  Ed runs a good website at http://indyham.com and you can email him by sending to edvalasek@hotmail.com - he is also available on Twitter @indyham and is happy to answer any questions. 



ED K3HTK starting his Pi Presentation

Projects covered: 

FLDGI on the Pi - Ed has created a time saving script that is available on the website.  His script runs on the Pi and goes out and grabs all the latest fldgi software and dependencies from all over the net. Give it a try.

GPredict - a cool satellite tracking program for the Pi

SkyPi40 - A nice little WSPR transmitter for propagation study

EchoIRLP Node - How to run a IRLP node off your Pi

And several others.  We had 11 hams there, counting Ed, and I think everyone, especially me, walked away with some great ideas and project options. 

Thanks Ed! 

Our next Tech Talk is October 26th at 6PM, Solar Conditions and Radio Wave Propagation will be discussed by Bob KN9RES.  Bob has 30 years in the Navy as a Radioman and was responsible for compiling reports on propagation predictions.  He promises to make this subject interesting and fun! 

Best 73 de KB9BVN



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Another Fine 'chew on 40m Tonight

This is my first evening to not be on call for work in a week.  I even managed to leave on time and got home with plenty of daylight left and to my poor neglected radio buddy, my K2.  So I setup the Alexloop tonight on the back porch, it was sunny and about 88 F...started out on 20m and heard a few stations but they were not too loud, went up to 15m and then 10m and found nothing.  It was still pretty early, like 5:30PM and I figured 40m wouldn't be hopping for a few hours but I tuned in 7036 Khz and heard Karl KA1FSX calling CQ from the far northeast corner of Pennsylvania.  Looks like about 560 miles on the map from my QTH here in New Whiteland IN. 

When I heard the 1 call I was hoping for Maine or Vermont...but I was not disappointed in my QSO with Karl.  KA1FSX has been a ham since 1980,  but he went inactive for a bit and just started back on the air this August.  He's running a IC-718 to a dipole and using a LDG autotuner with his setup.  Karl had a very easy copy fist, even in the mild QSB we were experiencing.  I did not have headphones on, the guy next door was mowing his lawn, and I was fighting off a flock of Indiana sweat bees...and I was still 100% copy...that just how good his fist was.  If you hear KA1FSX on the air, WORK HIM, he's armchair smooth.  We were moving along at about 17 wpm....fast for some...slow for a lot of others...but it was very enjoyable and relaxing after a hard day in the computer mines.

Karl lives in Montrose PA, this town was settled in 1812 and is named from the French word mont, which means mountain, and Rose which was the last name of Dr. L.R. Rose (he was a prominent person in the area).  Started out with about 90 people in 1812 and by 1912 was a thriving town of over 1800.   The population now is about 1610 according to census data.

Downtown Montrose PA - 2017

Karl if you ever hear me out there, give me a shout!

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Neat Antenna Idea from W9ILF

I was talking with Ivin W9ILF yesterday and he was asking me if I remembered the hamstick verticals he made a couple summers ago. I remembered I had one of the stands/connectors he had made for me.  It's pretty straight forward. 


Ivin basically took a piece of flat aluminum, and drilled in a hole for the antenna stud and a smaller hole that he threaded for an aluminum "spike" about 12-14 inches long, made from aluminum rod and threaded.  The way this works is you push the spike in to the ground, connect the hamstick to the antenna stud, and connect your radials to  the wingnut.   Yesterday Ivin was using this antenna on 20m with a set of 8 radials each about 12 feet long. He worked Hungary on CW with 5 watts of QRP power.  Pretty cool huh? 

Here is his setup from yesterday:


So what you need is some flat bar aluminum stock, 1/4 inch aluminum rod material, antenna stud, and a tap and die set so you can tap the small hole and thread the aluminum rod, and a ham stick. Sounds like a trip to the local hardware store.  The antenna stud hole does not need to be tapped. 

Best 73 de KB9BVN