Contest season is back

Contest season is starting up, so I’ll be more active, and share more here on the blog. I added the Elecraft P3 Panadapter a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been happy with it. This weekend was the California QSO party, so I used it as a good chance to see if I have all the software and radios working together. So far, it is. I can even run the P3 Panadapter and the LP-Pan Panadapter on the computer at the same time, so I have band scope both on the computer and on the screen next to the radio. The attached video gives a quick demo.

iPad radio control

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to control the K3 from the iPad, and I’m so close I can taste it, but never have succeeded. I’m using an iPad App called Jump, that streams the audio back to the iPad, as well as controlling the remote computer.
It works very well, except I can’t get it to stream audio from the computer’s sound card output. I know I’m missing a small setting somewhere, but I’ve been through every menu I can think of, and I haven’t found it.
I can stream other audio from the computer back to the iPad. I can hear the sounds, play a Youtube video, etc, and hear it on iPad. But I can’t get the audio out from the sound card.
I did have it running the other night where I controlled the radio with the iPad, and used Skype to send audio back to my iPhone, but then I’m using two devices. If the iPad would multi-task, I’d be there.
I’m running Vista on my comptuer, by the way. Anyone have any ideas, I’d be glad to hear them. For the moment, I’m ready to admit failure on this one.

Random new country

I was doing my usual Saturday morning routine of tuning around 40 meters CW when I heard Zl7LH calling CQ. I replied, and worked him on the first call. ZL7 is Chatham Islands off the coast of New Zealand, not a bad Saturday morning QSO on 40, and a new country for me. That was a good way to start Saturday.

Last night I had a good high-speed CW contact with Neal, N4HAF in Raleigh, NC. It’s nice to get back on CW and get the CW muscles working again.

Slow summer

Looking in the log a couple weeks ago, I realized I had nearly been off the air this summer. So I tried to get on the air for some simple cw QSOs a couple weekends ago, and it was nice to hear CW again.

Last weekend I ran the North American QSO party for a few hours. I did a couple hundred contacts, mostly on 40. 80 meters was just too noisy to deal with.
This weekend I messed with the Worked All Europe DX contest on Saturday night on 40. I could hear a few EU stations, between all the US stations calling CQ Test. I managed to squeak out 25 contacts on 40 meters last night, but that’s less than an hour on good band.
As the weather changes, I’ll get more active on the radio and more active on the blog, I promise.

Lack of activity

This has been a slow summer for ham radio. I made a couple of contacts running mobile the last week on 40 CW, but really haven’t been on the air in the past month. I even missed Field Day, for the first time in 10 years. A wedding of an old friend’s daughter took precedence. Hopefully, I’ll get back on the air the next month, and have some things to post about.

I did pick up a software defined receiver at a Hamfest a couple weeks ago, but haven’t gotten it out of the box to mess with yet. Stay tuned.

Dayton Hamvention

I spent Saturday at the Dayton Hamvention and had a good time at the contest forum and at the hospitality suite of the SMC (SOciety of Midwest Contesters) on Saturday night. It was a great chance to talk contesting and station building with other contesters

My only purchase was another keyer, plus some odds and ends. More on that keyed and a couple other things when I get home.

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SteppIR update

Ok, I got outside and worked on the STeppIR vertical this morning. As I suspected, the problem was with the coax connection to the antenna. As I kept trying different coax and radio combinations, suddenly everything worked again. In plugging and unplugging the coax and trying different combinations, I evidently cleaned the connector on the antenna. After it started working again, I went back and cleaned everything with Deoxit, and hopefully it will solve the problem. All I know is it’s nice to have the vertical back.

I did open the antenna, and will post some pictures shortly.

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SteppIR vertical problems

I’ve been using the SteppIR big vertical for about three years with 20 radials under it. It works great, but over the last winter an intermittent problem has shown up.

It seems I’m somehow losing connection with the antenna. All of a sudden, the antenna goes deaf and won’t tune. I can recalibrate it a few times, and sometimes it comes back. This happened again this week, and for the life of me I can’t get it to come back.
Last fall i opened the antenna up and did continuity checks, and suddenly it started working again. I guess that’s what I’ll do tomorrow. I may take some pictures and post here on my progress.
So far, I’ve removed the coax from the antenna and attached it to a dummy load at the antenna base. I get a nice flat SWR reading when I do that, so it’s not the coax. I also hook my Yaesu FT-817 directly to the antenna with about a 3 foot run of coax, and get nothing buy high SWR and no signal. So I know the problem is with the antenna. I suspect either to coax connector on the the antenna, or the connection to the element within the antenna.
If you’re totally confused at this point, let me offer a little more explanation. The SteppIR works by a metal tape moving to different lengths inside a fiberglass tube. This allows the antenna to be adjusted to a perfect quarter-wave vertical for any frequency from six to 40 meters. It’s all controlled by a controller within the hamshack, which I’ve also tested. There is one spot where a spring-loaded piece of metal pushes against the tape to give the electrical connection. More details tomorrow.

Minis on the Dragon

Took the Mini to Minis on the Dragon last weekend. Not much radio time, but did meet two other hams at the event. There were over 600 Mini Coopers there, by the way. Here’s a nice shot of the car and antenna.

I’m thinking of heading to Dayton next weekend. Not much radio time with all this travel.

Mobile cw

I had a couple of good cw mobile contacts yesterday. Look for me on 40 cw all day today and Sunday.