Mobile CW in Mazda 3

My log for this week. This is a great logging app for the iPhone.

The install in the Mazda 3 has been a big success. I made a half dozen good contacts during our short road trip to Nebraska., and have had nothing but good reports.  Last week Ihad two days where I did the long commute to Rockford and made a couple good contacts each day. I even worked some DX, Columbia, on Tuesday on the way home on 20 meters.

Today I did more work on the install, and will put up more photos tomorrow.

I have started using HamLog, an app on the iPhone to log mobile contacts. The biggest challenge on CW mobile is remembering who you talked to, their names, etc. With this app, I can easily get the call typed in while I’m listening to them, or I make a voice recording of the call and fill it in later.

This program is very slick. You can even e-mail an ADIF file to yourslef from it, so you can merge these contacts into your main log. It also has some cloud logging features, that I’m just starting to investigate. More on that later.

 

 

Mobile CW station is back

The Little Tarheel ready to go on the Mazda 3. I have a 2 meter/440 antenna on the right, but I’m not sure why I put it on the car. When you have HF mobile, why mess with 2 meters?

Last weekend we had nice weather, so I didn’t have any excuse not to get the Icom Ic7000 installed in the Mazda 3 and get back on mobile CW. I have finished the installation with only one hole drilled in the back of the back seat, and everything is working.

For an antenna, I picked up a Litttle Tarheel on eHam classifieds a month or so ago. It was brand new, it had never even been assembled. I bought a new Comet trunk lip mount and put it on the back hatch of the Mazda. I also purchased a N2VZ Turbo Tuner, which mates with the 7000 to automatically tune the antenna.

I’ve had good luck/bad luck with short screwdriver antennas in the past. I ran three different ATAS 120s through the years. Two failed, and I was still using the third when I sold my Mini Cooper and went off the air mobile a year and a half ago. I sold the ATAS, as I didn’t like the way it interfaced with the Icom 7000.

So it was with some trepidation that I hit the tune button on the radio after I got everything together. I could hear the antenna start moving, and in a few seconds it was tuned on 40 meters. I switched the radio to 20m hit the tune button again, and it tuned on 20 meters in a few seconds. I’m happy.

At that point I was running the radio off of an accessory power outlet in the car, which isn’t a good solution. This afternoon I wired it directly to the battery, so I’m 100 percent ready to go. I even found a nice little cubbyhole that the Vibroplex Code Warrior Junior paddle fits into.

Tomorrow morning I have the 80-mile commute to Rockford, so I’ll be testing it on 40 meters. Then Wednesday through Sunday I’m driving to west Nebraska and back — a 2,000-mile round trip — so there will be a lot of mobile cw time while cruising Interstate 80. Listen for me around 7025.

More reports on it next week.

The control head is held next to the gearshift with Velcro. That's the weak link in the installation at this point, I've had good luck with Velcro in some installations, but so far it doesn't seem to sturdy in this one. Note the paddle in the cubbyhole at the top of the picture. I can rest my hand on the gearshift while sendiing. Perfect.

Heathkit HX-1681

I picked up a new old radio, the Heathkit HX-1681 transmitter, which is the mate to my HR-1680  receiver. This is a fairly rare radio, produced in the late 70s as a kit by Heath. It is a cw-only transmitter, which is why it’s rare. Not many people were buying cw-only rigs when this came out. As a CW-only radio, it has a very slick system for full break-in with the matching receiver, so it makes a very nice little vintage CW rig. It is solid state, with two 6146 finals and is supposed to run 100 watts. This one is currently running about 20 watts, so a new set of finals are on the way from e-bay.

I did make a few contacts the other evening on 40 meters with it, and the 20 watts got out fine and I got very good reports on its sound

DX contest and bands are hopping

This weekend is a major DX contest, where stations try to work as many foreign stations as possible over a short period of time. Due to the increased solar activity and sunspots, the upper bands of 15 and 10 meters are active again after years of near silence. So it’s easy to sit in the basement on Saturday and Sunday morning and work hundreds of stations from around the world.

I didn’t make a big effort of this, as we had some company in town and after all, this is just a hobby. But for the few hours I operated, it was a lot of fun.

The line noise is back

After a lovely weekend with low noise and many, many enjoyable contacts, the line noise from hell has returned.

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.

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You can now follow this blog on Twitter @bplantz. It’s an easy way to be alerted when the blog is updated.

New old Yaesu FT 101

I added a Yaesu FT 101 this winter as my vintage radio. For the nonhams out there, the Yaesu FT 10 was introduced by Yaesu, a Japanese radio manufacturer in the early 70s. It was one of the first hybrid radios, a mixture of solid state and tube driver and final tubes. Prior to that, most radios were all tube. The Yaesu was incredibly popular, and many, many radios were sold throughout the 70s.

It was a solid radio with good performance, and thousands of them are still on the air today. Unfortunately, they have also become a favorite of the CBers and Freebanders, so many of them have gone over to the dark side.

I use this primarily to participate in two different Midwestern nets on Saturday monrings — the Midwest Classic Radio Net at 7:30 on 3885 is an all AM net, and its followed by the Vintage radio net which starts somewhere around 8:30 somewhere near 3840. It’s a fairly lighthearted net, filled with guys running their old SSB radios from the 60s, and 70s. Anyone who attempts to check in with a new radio is ridiculed — all in good fun.

That’s why you see that strange device in front of the radio — a microphone. That’s the only mic on the desk, and that’s the only time I even listen on the phone bands.

In other news, my line noise from hell has returned, which is severely limiting my enjoyment of the radios. It seems to come with ice and snow — a leaky insulator in the neighborhood. I need to document the problem and start my yearly battle with the power company. About the time I get their attention and they send someone out, the snow melts and the line noise goes away. Then they say it isn’t their problem. That’s life in the city.

Newest addition to the shack -- an 1970s-era Yaesu FT 101E