Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ham Cram

This coming Saturday, Marv K2VHW and I will be attempting our first one day "Ham Cram". Normally, we conduct Technician License classes over an eight week period, one evening a week for two hours with self study in between sessions.

The group that requested this did not want to go that route.  With the unpredictable winter weather that we have been having, that's understandable. Instead of the usual routine, we composed a "Technician Class Self Study Guide" which was issued to all the prospective candidates a month ahead of time.  We broke down the ARRL License Manual into four manageable chunks. We also provided links to appropriate You Tube videos, as well as other on line resources to accompany the material in the manual.


The session on Saturday will start at 8:00 AM and will break for a one hour lunch period at Noon. We will continue on to about 3:30 PM with exams following at 4:00 PM.  The half hour in between will be used to fill out 605 forms and all the other necessary paperwork.

Marv and I will be "going boldly, where we have never gone before"!

Wish us, and our candidates luck!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Toothpaste works!

Yesterday, we had a work detail at the Middlesex County Fire Academy, where I volunteer as a RACES operator.  Our goal for the day was to assemble our UHF/VHF Go Kits, put them on the air, and make sure the antennas were marked, so that when they're deployed by the various municipalities in the county, that the SWR will be optimal.

As I was putting the kits away in the storage room, which is tiny, I heard a strange noise. I wasn't aware of what it was until I got in the car to come home.  I had my Wouxun UV8D on my belt, and I was navigating the storage room, I was unknowingly rubbing the face of my HT against the cinder block wall.


It was nowhere near as bad as the above picture that I found on the Web, but there were a few noticeable, long scratches.

When I got home, I went into one of our bathrooms to see what kind of toothpastes we have. I use AIM, which is a blue, minty gel (and is cheap); but my daughter uses Arm & Hammer Extra Whitening, which is a standard "white" toothpaste.  I put a tiny dab of that on my finger and made continual circular motions across the HT screen while slowly counting to 100 in my head.  I cleaned off the toothpaste with a paper towel and was happy to see the scratches were almost gone!  I repeated the procedure once more, and now the scratches are 99% removed. You can still see them slightly, but you have to know that they're there and you have to look for them.

So if you ever scratch the display of your HT (and it's not a touch screen), don't despair. A few minutes of your time and some toothpaste will fix that right up.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mag loop success!

After Sunday's discouraging outcome,  I decided to give the mag loop another little workout tonight during the 40 Meter QRP Fox hunt. Even though I'm dog tired after a long day at work,  I had enough energy to give it a shot.

I must say that I'm getting pretty darn good at putting it together.  It's getting to the point now that I can be on the air within 5 minutes. I do need to get a better tripod, though. My little Buddistick minipod doesn't offer enough stability.

At any rate,  tuning the capacitor was once again a breeze, and I found Todd N9NE rather quickly. He had a great signal, as always;  and he's such a great op that it wasn't hard to figure his split.  I got him on my second or third call. What's nice about the loop is that I was able to rotate it for maximum signal strength from Todd. He was his usual strong 559 and I received the same in return.


Even though I usually have a pipeline to Todd in Wisconsin, it was nice to have another success with the loop. I'd still rather use a conventional antenna whenever possible, but it sure is nice to have another reliable RF arrow in the quiver. After some 39 years of "More wire ....... and the higher, the better!", it's hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that a 3 foot diameter loop at no more than a few feet off the ground works at all, let alone that it seems to work well. Physics and results don't lie, I guess.

Conventional wisdom isn't so conventional - again.  Maybe I need to go search for some of that "unconventional" wisdom.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bands were crappy yesterday

Saturday was a very busy, busy day for me.  I was determined to do "not much of anything" on Sunday, as a result of that busy-ness. It was still chilly in the basement; so I brought the magloop upstairs to do a little experimenting

First off, in my mind, the loop has proven itself as a viable performer on 20 Meters.  I have made several trans-Continental and trans-Oceanic QSOs with it.  However, I have not used the loop much on 40 Meters, or any of the other bands at all, if I remember correctly.

That said, I was itching to log some QSOs, so I started out on 20 Meters, where my previous success had been.  I was disappointed as I didn't hear many signals; and the ones I did hear were weak and watery.  On the bright side, I was able to find the "sweet spot" on the tuning capacitor as easily as I did before and it was pretty easy to bring the SWR down to about 1.2:1.

So I hopped to 40, 30 and 17 Meters, respectively.  On each band I was able to find the "sweet spot" on the tuning capacitor with ease.  The background noise would peak very easily and some careful tuning back and forth resulted in very respectable SWRs on each band.  But again, 17 and 30 Meters seemed to both be pretty dead.

40 Meters had a few loud signals; but it seemed everyone I heard was already in QSO. I wasn't able to hear anyone calling CQ.  Because of that, I called CQ on both 20 and 40 Meters.  No answers on 40 Meters, but there was a very weak answer on 20 Meters.  I could tell that a station was calling me; but I just could not pull them out of the background noise.  Whoever that might have been, I apologize.

In all I spent about 45 minutes playing around, mostly just band switching to see how quickly I could tune the loop after band/frequency hops.  Even with the 6:1 reduction drive installed, it was not long at all before I was ready to go after making a change.

Here's an RBN map of where my CQs were being heard:


Disappointed by the band conditions, I headed down to the basement shack to see if perhaps it was the antenna instead of the band being dead.  Nope - the Butternut HF9V and the W3EDP weren't hearing any better, if at all.  Just another one of those days of when you want to get on the air; but there's just not much doing.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Stella !!!!


Not done yet. For now, due to the storm sweeping in tropical warmth in the upper troughs, the precipitation has changed from snow to sleet and ice pellets.  As things wrap around, we should go back to snow within a few hours. So far, 7 inches on the ground and the antennas are still up; but the winds are starting to increase.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Tomorrow


I "just" make it into the 18-24 inch area.  The boundary between us and less snowfall will be the Raritan River; and I'm north of it.

The reminds me of a snow event back sometime in the mid 80s when I was living in East Brunswick. We got rain; but my sister and I were in her car and we crossed one of the bridges over the Raritan and it was like driving through a door - rain on one side, snow on the other.

Weather can be a funny thing.  I just hope my antennas escape, unscathed. I never worry about the Butternut; but I'm always checking the wire during events like these.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Another cold weekend

Another cold March weekend in New Jersey.  The trees are budding, and the daffodils are quite sad as thry are being blanketed with snow.  We got just a coating yesterday, but the possibility is emerging for a MAJOR snow event this coming Tuesday.


Budding trees


Snow on the gound (not much ....... for now!)


Very disgruntled Daffodils!

And this morning, when I woke up, it was a very brisk 15F (-9C) outside.  Not my favorite time of year, by any means. It seems Nature is playing a game of tug-o'-war with Old Man Winter; and he's in no hurry to give up and go!

To warm my heart and to remind me of what's shortly to come, I received this certificate via email from the WWFF/KFF folks:


I am hanging on for dear life to the fact that soon, this cold weather will be just a bad memory, and that I will be in a park somewhere in NJ activating POTA entities - with the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair and a song (to the tune of CW) in my heart.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

C-c-c-c-old !!!!!

It seems surreal that just two Sundays ago, I was sitting in Washington Rock State Park making QSOs at a picnic bench. The temperatures were in the 60s (18C).  Today, I woke up and the thermometer read 8F (-13C). The temperatures took a nose dive on Friday and this weekend was frigid.  So instead of doing much operating, I spent Saturday and a bit of today cleaning the shack.

I'll admit it, I got sloppy and lazy the last few months. But on top of that, it seems the rest of the family used my little area of the basement as a dumping ground for cardboard, Christmas wrapping stuff and other effluvia.  I spent the day cleaning, tossing and organizing, and ended up filling up five large garbage bags.  I also cut up about a dozen cardboard boxes and consolidating them for our bi-weekly recycling pick up tomorrow.  I can now sit in my shack again without being totally disgusted with myself!

Here's a video tour of the somewhat cleaned up W2LJ shack:


I apologize for the video quality as it's not the best; and I'm still getting used to this.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, March 03, 2017

QRPTTF 2017 announced!

Today, Paul Harden announced the theme for QRP To The Field 2017 - "A River Runs Through It" or, as he also refers to it - "Rivers On The Air".

http://www.zianet.com/qrp/qrpttf/2017/ttf.htm

To quote Paul:

Qualifying River: To avoid any confusion defining a river, creek, stream, canal, etc. – if it has a name, it qualifies, whether or not there's water in it when you arrive.  This would include dry river beds and arroyos (with a name) common in the Southwest.  Operate from near the river as safety or local facilities allow.


This year, QRPTTF falls on Saturday, April 22nd. It runs 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Local Time (so it varies from time zone to time zone).

The name of the river is a required part of the exchange, but you're welcomed to shorten it to something manageable - so something like the "Chattahoochie" won't be so daunting on CW.

There's no shortage of rivers, creeks and streams near me, so finding a suitable location to operate shouldn't be a problem.  QRPTTF is one of my most favorite events of the year and is the kick off to the Summer QRP Outdoor Operating season.  Once QRPTTF rolls around - you know Winter is definitely over!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Warm!

February 19th and it was warm!  It felt more like a Spring day than the middle of Winter; as it reached a high of 68F (20C).So what does a relatively young man's fancy turn to when it warms up like this? Why, Amateur Radio of course!  In particular, portable QRP operating.  Too nice to stay cooped up inside, right?

I decided on a very impromptu activation of Washington Rock State Park, which is designated as KFF-1635 in WWFF (World Wide Flora and Fauna nomenclature). Probably not my brightest idea as it's the ARRL DX Contest weekend; but I decided to head out, anyway.  Before heading to the park, I had to stop by Dick's Sporting Goods to pick up some fishing swivels (with clasps).


I use these to attach the "bullet" of my Joplin ARC Antenna Launcher to the fishing line. This allows me to quickly detach the projectile and attach in it's place the Mason's twine that I use as support rope during these activations.  A package of a hundred (a lifetime supply) cost all of about $5.

I got to the park and it appeared that everyone else from Central NJ had the same idea that I did! There was a small crowd at the park. It's very popular, because as I've mentioned before, Washington Rock is located on the first ridge of the Watchung Mountains and provides an unobstructed view of the NJ Shore and the Piedmont.  On a clear day, like today, it is even possible to see Manhattan and Staten Island with the help of binoculars or a telescope.  This is why General Washington used this spot during the Revolution.  By going up there at night, he was able to clearly see the campfires of all the British troop encampments.

But I digress.I found the last empty picnic table and claimed it by placing my equipment on top. Then I got to the business of hoisting the antenna.  Again, the Joplin ARC Launcher made this an easy task. I become a better shot each time out and once again, the "bullet" cleared the tree and went exactly where I wanted it to go.  The PAR END FEDZ 40/20/10 went up easily and within minutes, I was on the air.  Actually, I arrived at the park at about 1850 UTC and was calling CQ by 1900 UTC,

I really like the PAR END FEDZ 40/20/10, as it deploys easily and with the KX3's autotuner, it also loads up and seems to get out really well on 30 Meters and 17 Meters in addition to the three bands it was designed to operate on.

I started out on 40 Meters with no takers, despite spotting myself on DX Summit as well as the WWFF/POTA Facebook page.  That was a disappointment, as I was hoping for a decent amount of local activity.  At that time of the day, DX from Europe (and thus any contest QRM) is minimal, so I was hoping to work folks along the East coast and up into Canada. After about 20 minutes or so of no answers, I went up to 20 Meters.

Calling CQ POTA in the midst of the ARRL DX Contest was probably pure folly, but I did get answers. I worked S52A, EA8KW, S50Q, C6ARU, FY5KE and CO2JD at various points.  They were probably wondering what the heck "KFF1635" was. I think they probably just wanted the "599 NJ", but that's neither here or there.  They were QSOs made from the park; and they count whether they were looking specifically for me or not.

17 Meters yielded contacts with KG5CIK, WR2E and WB2MKX, both of whom were in New Jersey.

30 Meters was good for two contacts. One was with KA9CFD and the other was a half hour or so rag chew with N1KW, Bob in IL.  Bob was also enjoying the warm weather in Illinois and was in his back yard, using his K2 at 10 Watts straight off a solar panel - no battery.  I really enjoyed the QSO with Bob and it's made me anxious to try out the solar panel that I bought from Harbor Freight last October.  I purchased a voltage controller from Bangood, and once I wire it up, I should be able to get a good and steady 12 Volts on a decently bright day - more than enough to power the KX3.

After the rag chew with Bob, I realized I had been at the park for close to two hours, so I decided to pack up and head home while there was still plenty of light.  I did have a few people come up to me, asking me what I was doing. I was able to give Amateur Radio, QRP and portable operating a couple of good plugs.

With that, I'll close this post with a very short and hastily made video that I took just prior to tear down.  I apologize for the quality - Steve WG0AT has nothing to worry from me as far as video expertise goes. But maybe, just maybe, if I keep this up, I can get better at that, too.  Lord knows, I've come a long way from my first attempt at portable QRP ops!


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Interesting

It appears that in September of 2016, the ARRL formed a committee, looking into the possibility of petitioning the FCC to create a new entry level Amateur Radio license.  At this point, they are looking for membership input.

So if you're a member of the ARRL, please log in to their Web site and take a survey, by clicking here.

Personally, some of the best times I have had in Amateur Radio occurred when I was a Novice.  I learned so much, most of it by the Amateur Radio School of Hard Knocks.  So, I was very saddened when the FCC ditched the Novice license.  I thought this was an excellent way to enter the Amateur Radio world, with the focus on operating in the HF bands, not just VHF/UHF.  Not that there's anything wrong with VHF/UHF, but I think opening up the world of the HF bands is the way to go, keeping interests piqued and offering endless possibilities.

It will be interesting to see how this all pans out and if anything comes of it.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Had to post!

Saw this on the "100 Watts and a Wire" Facebook page - too funny not to share!

KUDOs to Andre Vorreiter


LOL!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Skunked again - sort of.

I got on the air last night, in my 62F (16C) shack in order to participate in the 40 Meter QRP Foxhunt.  These hunts have been deplorable for me this year, with hardly any success.  Last night was no different.  The Foxes were NK6A in California and KV2X in New York.  I didn't hear either one of them - although W1AW/KP4 was absolutely booming in to NJ.

Instead of turning the radio off and running upstairs to warmer quarters and an episode of MacGyver on MeTV, I decided to participate for a bit in the NAQCC 160 Meter Sprint.  Just for grins and giggles, I did the search and pounce thing for better part of a half an hour, and also called CW for about 15 minutes or so.

Although my W3EDP tunes up on 160 Meters, thanks to the dazzling auto tuner inside the KX3 (I'd swear that thing would tune up a strand of wet spaghetti), I was probably sending RF into the HF equivalent of a rubber duckie antenna.  Even so, with 5 Watts I made 10 contacts, ranging from Maine, down to North Carolina and as far west as Michigan.  Not a band burner in any sense of the concept; but satisfying enough for an evening that looked pretty bleak, Foxhunt-wise.

What was also satisfying is that, thanks to a great suggestion gleaned from Facebook, I successfully stowed away my magloop antenna.  A few weeks ago, I went onto the DIY Magloop page and asked for suggestions on how the various members stored and carried their loops.

One of the suggestions was a stuff sack - a nylon bag with a draw string that normally you would use to stow away a sleeping bag or other camping equipment.  I went to Amazon and purchased this in the 25" (63 cm) version.


It's made by Liberty Mountain.  The longest piece of the antenna fits with room to spare, and the coiled up loop of LMR400 went in very nicely.  It doesn't look like as picturesque the above photo, as I'm not stowing away a sleeping bag - but it will serve its purpose very well.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Delinquent in posting

I began 2017 with a pledge to post more often, and there's one resolution already shot to Hades!  But I do have a reason for my lack of blogging activity. I've been battling a crummy case of sinusitis the past two weeks. I'll spare you the gory details, but it's been accompanied by a bad, hacking cough,  As a result, I've been staying out of the chilly basement shack. Staying out of the shack limits me severely as to what I can talk about.

I did get these through the mail, though - so I'll post two images:


and 


I could be picky and say I actually participated in 10 activations, as one of those was under the NJ2SP call sign of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club - but only 9 under my own call.

A few folks have been bothered by the price of the certificates, However, if you consider the IT, publicity and staff man hour costs that it took to make NPOTA such a success, it's really not that much.  The amount of enjoyment I received throughout the year from NPOTA makes the cost of these two pieces of paper a mere pittance in comparison. Also, you have to consider that this is probably a "once in a lifetime" event.  I highly doubt that I'll make it to the National Park Service bicentennial.

I did receive something very recently from Rich G3CWI at SOTA Beams that I'm very excited about, I hope to play with it this coming weekend and I'll be posting about it real soon, so stay tuned!. This stupid sinusitis is definitely a drag.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

To help with your NPOTA withdrawal

There IS a Parks On The Air program that has been up and running for a while.  In the USA, POTA is part of the World Wide Flora and Fauna program, which is international in scope.  Like NPOTA, WWFF was devised in order to get Amateur Radio ops off their duffs and into the Great Outdoors. I love their catch phrase - "Make nature your shack!"


POTA is the United States arm of WWFF and POTA encompasses not only NPOTA, but State Parks as well.  So if NPOTA was difficult for you as an activator, POTA should be easier as it will include many places that were not part of POTA.

Take for instance, the Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge (KFF-0454)  here in NJ.  I drive through it every time I go up to HP28, Morristown National Historical Park (KFF-0746), which is part of NPOTA.  Since the Refuge is administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, it was not part of NPOTA - but it IS part of POTA. My favorite portable operating spot, Washington Rock State Park, is also part of POTA (KFF-1635).

Activation requirements for WWFF are a bit stricter. For a valid activation, WWFF requires 44 QSOs, while NPOTA required only 10.  Happily, according to my good friend Greg N4KGL, POTA also requires only 10 QSOs for a valid activation. A good day's worth of portable operations should cover you. If you're bound and determined to work towards Activator awards, then you have a good program here to fill your heart's desire.. Me? I'll just be happy to have the "excuse" to go out and put some NJ parks on the air.

I've only just registered and have not looked into all the details about how to upload logs and stuff; but I am bound and determined to put some parks in New Jersey on the air this coming Spring and Summer for the chasers that are really into this.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!