Category Archives: Ham radio

Good weekend on CW

This weekend the bands have been open, the local line noise relatively quiet, and I’ve had some free time. The result is I’ve had a half dozen nice CW contacts in the last day or so. That hasn’t been the case most weekends lately.

This morning I talked with NI9Y, Dan, in Mishawaka, IN. I had talked to him a couple times before years ago, but we had a nice conversation. What’s notable is this morning he sent me a recording of what my radio sounded like at his station. The attached file is me, talking about how I bought a certain radio and wrapping up the contact. Conditions were such that we were both loud at each other’s stations.

Last night I had a couple of interesting conversations. I talked to AC7M, Doc, in Twin Falls, ID, and discovered that he had also grown up in western Nebraska. In the years talking to random people, I’ve talked to very few who also started out in west Nebraksa. We had a nice chat about the area, etc.

Right before that I had a very unusual CW contact. It was with Greg, K0GDI, near St. Louis, and it was the first contact he had made on CW. He is a fairly new ham, and said he was challenged by another ham to learn CW. He did it, and evidently did a good job of it as I was clipping along at 20 words per minute. It was obvious he was a new operator, as he was missing some of the standard operating practices. That’s fine. I tried to follow good procedure, and by the end of the contact he was starting to mimic that. That’s how you learn in ham radio — making contacts and paying attention to how other people operate.

It was nice to hear a new, young, operator on CW. There aren’t many on, and I’m not sure who is going to be around to talk to in 20 years or so.

Enjoy listening to the audio clip below.

K9OZ ON PRO3 FEB 11 2012 ON 3.550 MHZ AT 1217 UTC DE Ni9y

When looking for problems, keep it simple

Last weekend I came down to participate in a 160 meter contest, and I couldn’t get my logging computer to work correctly. Every time I went to a drop down menu, the menu would go crazy, and it wouldn’t work. That makes setting up a new contest in the logging program very difficult.

I spend some time on this computer looking at foreign web sites for work, and I’ve run into some viruses before doing that. My first assumption was I had a virus. I ran scans from Norton and McCaffee, found a bunch of tracking cookies, but nothing that looked like a bad virus. I checked and I still had the problem.

By this time I’d killed a couple of hours, and my contest time was over for the evening. I briefly thought about substituting a laptop for the main computer, but gave up and went back upstairs instead.

I came down during the week a couple times and messed with the computer a little, and couldn’t find the problem.

There is another contest I’d like to run Saturday night, so Friday night I came down and got serious about getting station back on air with contest logging program. I first downloaded my master log file to a thumb drive, disassembled the big computer, moved everything around and set up the laptop. I fired up the laptop, copied the master log back to the laptop, and started the logging problem. I had the same problem with the laptop.

Had I infected the laptop with the same virus by simply copying the master log file? That didn’t make sense. I started running a virus scan and went to bed in disgust.

I came down this morning, and Norton had found 6 tracking cookies. I didn’t think the virus was my problem. I did a Google search for “drop down menu doesn’t work” and started looking at results. As usual I was reading through a lot of posts I didn’t understand, but then there was one that said, “it’s your mouse.”

I had switched the wireless mouse from the big computer to the laptop. I unplugged the mouse, and presto, the drop down menus worked. Then I looked at the mouse and the scroll wheel was pushed to the left and stuck — probably from the last time the cat knocked the mouse off the desk. I pushed the scroll wheel back into the right position, plugged the mouse in, and everything was fine.

So I turned around, unhooked the laptop, reassembled the main computer and plugged in my repaired mouse. Everything is fine.

The point — always look for the simple problem first. I was so quick to assume it was a software problem, that I didn’t even look at the hardware.

So why am I talking about computers on my ham radio blog. Because today the computer is an integral part of the station. I use it for logging, keying the transmitter during contest operation, scanning the band, and decoding calls on CW when I’m in full contest mode. The problem is that for every day operating, I feel lost without my log, which lives in the computer.

So what is a log? Back in the 60s when I got started in this hobby, the regulations stated that every amateur operator keep a log of their operation. You were to log every contact with time, frequency, and mode of operation.

The regulation to keep a log disappeared in the early 70s, but the practice has remained. It has progressed from paper logs, which didn’t really do you much good, to computerized logging programs. For every day operation I keep a log of every contact. That allows me to quickly see if I’ve talked to someone when I hear them on the band. It’s a good memory aid when a call sounds familiar.

For contests logging takes on an entirely different function. In contests, you can’t work stations multiple times on one band, or in many cases during the entire contest. Fast accurate logging is a must, and there are very sophisticated programs that take care of that. They also drive the keyer that keys the radio, so contest operation consists of sitting at the keyboard typing in calls and pushing buttons, with an occasional reach to the paddle or radio. So the computer is an integral part of that operation, and computer failure or glitch can ruin a contest weekend.

For everyday logging I use WinEQF. For contests I use N1MM, which is free to download and WriteLog, which requires a purchase. Both are very robust, full-featured logging programs.


Saturday morning ham radio fun

This was a normal Saturday morning for me with the radios. I started out with a quick cw contact with K7FU, who was running mobile in western Oregon on his way to a fishing trip.

After that I moved to 80 meters AM and listened to the Midwest Classic Radio net. I forgot to check in, so just lurked.

Then I moved down the band to 3840 and listened, and checked in, to the Vintage SSB net that starts sometime between 8:30 and 9: I enjoy hearing the old radios, and use my Yaesu FT-101 as my vintage radio. I’m getting the bug to get more vintage gear, but holding off so far. If you nose around on their web site, you can hear audio of me checking in, if you wonder what all this sounds like. I’m going to start adding more audio and video to the blog.

Test from phone. Getting ready for w9dxcc

It works

First contact with the new mobile this evening while coming home from Rockford. N4YG, Joe, in Huntsville, AL. We both had good signals, so I think the new setup is working. I got the MFJ remote antenna controller and it works. You push the button to raise or lower the antenna for best SWR. Yes, I can’t change bands while driving down the road like I could with the Yaesu radio, but the Icom IC 7000 is a much nicer radio. More on that as I spend more time on the air. Listen for K9OZ/m around 7030 mornings and late afternoons.

Getting the mobile bug

Hello to K2CZ who commented on my Mini Cooper silliness. Yes, I need HF mobile in it. I’ve got 2 meter/440 with the Yaseu FTM-10 — that strange little radio designed for motorcylcle work. It does work well in the Mini, the control head has the speaker and the mic in it, so that’s all I really have up front.

But I miss my HF mobile. I ran a Yaesu FT 857 and ATAS 120 antenna for years, but the ATAS has died and my wife gave me an Icom IC-7000 for Christmas. I can see having the 7000 driving a Hamstick on the back of the Mini. I do a 90-minute commute two days a week, so I have plenty of mobile time to kill.

That’s my Spring project, if Spring ever arrives. Stay tuned.

Slow winter for ham radio

I thought it was jut me, but last month in both CQ and QST magazines, there were articles about how bad the bands have been this winter. Ok, that’s my excuse for not getting on enough and not blogging.

Actually, I’ve just grown lazy on the blogging. I was on last weekend and had three very nice CW rag chews. They were Bruce, K6ZB, in Thousand Oaks, CA; Tony, N2ATB, in Chrerry Hill, NJ: and Bill, KA1RVM in Hollison, MA. All three were nice conversational contacts, where we talked about a wide range of things clipping along at 25 wpm or so. That’s when CW is really fun for me.

Contest season is about over. I tried to get on the the 160 meter phone contest last weekend, but my dipole antenna blew down a couple weeks ago. Instead of a dipole at 50 feet, I now have a dipole at 50 feet on one end and 10 feet on the other. It still gets out ok on 80, but I could tell the difference on 160. Oh well, spring will be here soon and I’ll get a new rope up to the top of that tree and get it back up in the air.

Enough of this, I hear a CQ on 40 meter cw….

Straight key night

Every year on New Year’s eve and New Year’s day there is an event called Straight Key Night, when cw operators get out the old straight keys and pound out a few contacts. I made eight this eyar, and it was enough to remember how much work is is to send with a straight key. Today we all use electronic keyers, much faster and much easier, but maybe not as much romance.

I’m always surprised my fist — that’s how well you send cw — isn’t that bad with a striaght key. I used two different keys, a Vibroplex I picked up at a hamfest a few years ago and an old miltary key — it says WEP 1940 –on the bottom

The K3 is here

I ordered my K3 from Elecraft on May 12, trying to get ahead of the orders placed at Dayton. It arrived September 9. The first picture shows the boxes unpacked and unopened about 7 p.m. After a quick trip to pick up an anti-static mat, I started assembling.

The second photo shows my stopping point the first night, after a couple hours. The third photo my ending point on Wednesday night. The fourth is late Thursday night, where I had it together and on the air. All in all, it was maybe a 6 hour process.
The result is a very sweet little radio. More on that later.

Field Day is coming

Field Day, where Hams all around the country spend a weekend “in the field” operating under emergency conditions is coming. Next weekend I’m travelling to Nebraska to mount an operation with my cousin Brad, KG0GY, from Juniata, Nebraska.

Brad and I have similar operating interests, and we’ve been talking about doing this for years, so it should be fun. He’s been active with the Lincoln Amateur Radio Club for years, and I’ve been active with the Wheaton Community Radio Amateurs. We’ve both been active in Field Day with those clubs, and have both been very active in those clubs. We also share the view that we’re tired of clubs, but like Field Day, so this is our solution.

We’ll be operating 80, 40, 20, and 15 meters, primarily on CW, but may run a little SSB, if we’re bored. We’ll be running my Elecraft K2/100 and his Icom 746Pro. I’ve got a small Honda EU2000 generator that will provide our power.

My Field Day philosophy has always been “if I have to spend more than a couple hours in preparation and more than 30 minutes in setup, it’s too complex.” For the 20 and 15 meter antenna I’m using my Force 12 vertical dipole. I’ve used it past Field Days, and it meets my antenna raising criteria: “If the antenna is too big for my wife to put up, it’s too big.” I’ve included a shot of the antenna broken down and ready for transport. The base is the biggest part of the package.

I’ll post more details from the Field Day site next week, and more photos and summary after the event.

Look for us on 80, 40 and 20 CW as KG0GY, 2A NE.