Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What to bring?

I was reading a post on QRP-L the other day that brought a smile to my face. Someone (can't remember the name or call sign) was lamenting on how he went out for QRPTTF last Saturday and discovered that he had just brought along too much stuff. This brought that smile to my face, because I have also found myself in that position........many times.

Let's face it ...... those of us who are Weekend Warriors do not really need to pack like as if we were  SOTAteers. Those intrepid QRPers usually have to hike for many, many miles to get to their final destination. For them to not have a redundant set of just about everything would be a disaster. I can only imagine how much fun it would be to hike five or ten miles to a mountain top, set up the station only to find out that your BNC to SO239 adapter broke and that you didn't carry a back up. That would be a hair-tearing-out day, indeed.

For those of us who go to a local. county or state park and set up at an available picnic table usually have the luxury of parking nearby. That makes life so much easier! I usually leave the backpack full of all extemporaneous stuff in the back of the Jeep.  All that comes with me is the KX3 in its padded case, the battery and a paddle and set of ear buds along with the antenna du` jour. I carry these items in a very light, over-the-shoulder messenger bag that Cafe Press used to offer, but sadly, they no longer do. Glad I got mine while they had it!


This bag fits everything I need for a few hours of operating outdoors in a park-like environment.  Of course if I were to set up somewhere that required a substantial walk or hike, I'd bring the entire backpack with me. It's no fun walking a couple miles back to the car because you didn't bring any zip ties or extra antenna support rope with you in a small day pack. Not only is that frustrating; but it takes away from your operating time. The object it to maximize operating time and minimize set up and tear down time, right?

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you learn as you go. Do enough portable operations and you'll learn soon enough when to carry light, or when to bring the kitchen sink along with you.

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Geez! Another kit!

From QRPGuys. No shortage of offerings to the QRP community!


Here is another circuit design from Cliff Donley, (K8TND) he calls “Lucky Strike”. It is a sensitive direct conversion receiver kit that covers the 40m band for cw or ssb reception. It is a through hole kit that uses the popular NE602/612 mixer/oscillator and an LM384 audio amplifier for ear buds or a small speaker. Cliff has incorporated an LED  for the AGC system. There is a switched attenuator on the front end to prevent overloading. All the controls and I/O are board mounted. Front controls are Coarse Tuning, Fine Tuning, and Audio Gain. Rear connections are 12V power jack, 3.5mm audio jack, and the BNC antenna connection. The Power and Attenuator switches are board mounted, with pads for 9V battery operation if desired. We have provided power and signal pads for our Digital Dial if you want to add that option. All the receiver components are included in the kit with the pcb. It is a little over 2.50” square, and the same size as the MMM+ transmitter. Current usage is ~10mA

Yours for $25

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Never enough time for radio

Humbug!

Saturday got away from me again. Too many chores and errands, not enough time for radio. QRPTTF will have to wait another year for participation from W2LJ (as is that even matters).

From the summaries and reactions that I have been reading on QRP-L, it looks like the QSO rates were quite light for those who took part. Some have reported only 4 or 5 contacts for the entire event. Band conditions were pretty bad to say the least; and was probably the main reason for this.  Related to that, I saw on Facebook where Mike KC2EGL posted that he and John K3WWP only made 15 contacts during their subpedition to the USS Requin yesterday. I guess band conditions were lousy both days.

Personal experience would tend to back that up.  Yesterday afternoon, I got a few free moments and decided to set up the KX3 and magloop on the back patio. It was sunny and 65F (18C) and sitting in the sunshine, it actually felt much warmer. I haven't used the loop in a while and I kind of surprised myself how adept I've become at tuning it. I heard some loud signals on 40 Meters, though far and few between. 20 Meters was even worse. Any DX that I heard at the low end of the band was way down in the mud and was hard to hear. Stations from Slovenia and that area of Europe usually boom into NJ that part of the afternoon. Yesterday I had to strain my ear bones to hear them.

I called CQ for a bit on both bands for a few minutes before the battery that I was using went down below 8 Volts and caused the KX3 to turn off.  I guess that was just as well; because from the RBN chart, I wasn't being heard anywhere very well, anyway.


I saw in one post to QRP-L that Rick N9KG and Jerry N9AW were discussing that during the lower end of the sun spot cycle that "all day" QRP events might be better served by turning them into 3, 4 or even 5 hour sprints. The idea being to concentrate the participation and activity into a smaller time frame so that the experience becomes meaningful for all those involved.

Off hand, I'd say that's a pretty good idea. It keeps interest in the event alive from year to year when people feel that they've had a modicum of success. If you've made 20, 30 or 40 or more QSOs, you're more likely to make an effort to go out and conduct a portable operation again the following year. No one wants to go through all that trouble only to have it become an exercise in setting up and tearing down. When the sun spots come back in plentiful numbers, you can always adjust the hours of the event to reflect that.

Just a thought; and if I daresay, a good one on the part of NK9G and N9AW - two avid veteran QRPers whom I both respect, very much.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

QRPTTF - "A River Runs Through It"

QRP To The Field is tomorrow. QRPTTF always seems to signify the beginning of the outdoor QRP season, at least for me.  Once QRPTTF comes, Spring can't be far behind.

The rules can be found at http://www.zianet.com/qrp/qrpttf/2018/ttf.htm

The weather in our neck of the woods will be somewhat Spring-like. It's supposed to be sunny with a high in the afternoon somewhere around 65F (18C). Pleasant enough, for sure.

What will be getting in my way, is a busy schedule. I have a doctor's appointment at 9:00 AM for a regular check up. Follow that with the weekly trip to the grocery store and then I can hopefully mow the lawns. Even though the weather feels more like early March instead of mid-April, the lawn seems to have awoken from its Winter slumber. While not really full, it has greened up and I have a lot of what I call "lawn porcupines" - little tufts if grass that grow really tall and are scattered here and there. They look like little green porcupines, sleeping on the lawn.

If I can get those chores out of the way, maybe I can sign on as a home station and hand out some points. Hope to hear you on the air!

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I gave in!


I went and ordered a 40 Meter QCX kit and it arrived last week! My wife wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday, coming up next month - so I handed her the box.

I can wait.

After hearing so many good things about my friend Bob W3BBO's QCX, and the good words from Dave Richards AA7EE - both of whom I highly respect - I just couldn't resist. So much for only $49 - it seems like a sin not to take advantage.

God knows, with the way my eyes are aging - this might be a Herculean undertaking, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Happy World Amateur Radio Day!

Ice cream for everybody!


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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Two days of Summer - gone!

After a long and miserable Winter, we were finally greeted with two days of Spring/Summer last Friday and Saturday. Daily high temperatures reached into the 80s (29C), and both days were sunny. So of course, for the ARRL Rookie Roundup, we were presented with a return to Winter!

As the last few years, we set up at Putnam Park, a local park here in South Plainfield.  I think even Dave KD2FSI was feeling the chill as he kept the setup to a modest two rig, two antenna affair.  When the weather is good, Dave usually gets out everything but the kitchen sink, but given how dang cold it was, he did his usual stellar job.

How cold was it? At the time we started, it was only 42F (5.5C) an entire 40 degrees F lower than the day before. The killer was the breeze.  Checking into my weather station at home via my smartphone, we had 4-5 MPH continuous winds with occasional gusts to 8-10 MPH.  Hardly hurricane weather; but it was enough to chill you to the bone.






Why not operate from inside? When SPARC participates in these kind of events, we like to make them as public as possible, so as to maybe generate a little public enthusiasm for Amateur Radio. There weren't many visitors to the park on this cold, breezy, gray day - but there were a few, and you never know when you're going to get a chance to plant that seed.

Oh, and for those of you out there who think I'm a biased shill for Elecraft, we used exclusively Dave KD2FSI's Yaesu equipment and it worked very, very well, indeed!

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Another portable antenna from the QRPGuys

Boy, these fellows are really cranking out the new kits! Any new portable antenna is bound to catch my eye - here goes:


The QRPGuys Multi-Band End Fed Antenna is designed as a portable 40/30/20m two trap wire antenna with a built-in tuner and SWR indicator. It consists of a main board with tuner and SWR indicator, two trap pcb’s and an end wire support. It incorporates the N7VE led SWR indicator and has a board mounted female BNC for connection to your rig. The built-in absorption bridge design will ensure you do not damage your finals with a poor SWR. Our test show and SWR of 1:1 on 20m, 1.1:1 on 30m, and 1.3:1 or better on 40m. It is rated for 5 watts continuous, 10 watts PEP. The kit comes complete except for the user supplied #22-24awg wire for the elements. All S.S. connection hardware for the radiator and counterpoise connections. The tools required are a soldering iron with a small tip, rosin core solder, small side cutters, and can be built in an hour or two. On a difficulty scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the most difficult, this is rated at 2.



N.B. - I am not affiliated with any company that you see that has products that appear in this blog. I deem these posts to be newsworthy enough to share with the greater QRP community.

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

Another evening - another demo

Admittedly, my appearances on the HF bands have been pretty much nil, lately. But as I have mentioned before, that does not mean my life has been a void, Amateur Radio-wise.

Last night we gave another Amateur Radio "demo" to Boy Scout Troop 125 right here in South Plainfield, NJ.  It's a small troop of only about a half dozen scouts; but they seemed to take to the presentation given by Dave KD2FSI and Harry KC2PGX and Marv K2VHW.

There were two "hits", as far as the reaction of the Scouts seemed to indicate. The first was when Dave produced his Go Kit.  The concept that a small HF radio, a battery and a wire antenna tossed into a bush or tree could get you talking around the world from the middle of nowhere seemed to interest them to no end. Of course, you would think that portable operations and Boy Scouting would go "hand in glove" wouldn't you?  And yet this seems to be something that's not promoted enough. Sure, there's JOTA and all that; but can you imagine a serious effort to integrate Scouting and SOTA - or even Scouting and POTA?

The other big hit was, once again, Morse Code. Not exactly sure why, but the code just seems to have a certain "wow factor" that impresses the heck out of youngsters. They eagerly ran up to the table where the keys and oscillator were so that they could play with the straight keys, the bug and paddles that we brought to show them. And they were duly impressed when they heard and saw Morse Code being transmitted on 40 Meters. Dave had Fldigi (I think that was what he was running) on his laptop and it was decoding the Morse as it was being sent.

So, how does one get a feel for whether or not the presentation was a success?  Two or three Boy Scouts asking if we could offer a class seemed to be a big indicator. Personally, I would love to hold a Tech course just for kids and Scouts in general, both boys and girls.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

So why am I so skittish?

I've been an Amateur Radio operator for 40 years this year.

1) In that time I have built enough Heathkits to qualify for their Master Builder status.
2) I have built an OHR 20/40 Classic, a PFR-3A and many other non-Heathkits as well. Probably so many kits that I can't remember them all  In all that time, I have never built a kit that didn't work; or that I was not able to get to function.
3) I have built a K1, K2, KX3 and K3.
4) I worked for 22 years for Sinar Bron, Inc. performing component level repairs on multi thousand dollar professional studio strobes. I worked on equipment that was powered both by 120V and 220V AC and that stored up to 6400 Joules of flash energy. I started out as a bench tech and worked my way up to Service Manager after graduating from DeVry with a degree in Digital Electronics.

So why does the thought of opening up and replacing the battery in my daughter's iPhone 6 make my hands sweat?  I think mainly, the thought of screwing something up and disappointing a person that I would give up my life for.


Ahhhh, the joys of Fatherhood.

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

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Our friend, Vinnie

Seems like I'm writing about Silent Keys these days.

Vinnie Lobosco KC2IZK was a member of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club, among others. One day this past January, the club received an e-mail from his niece. Sadly, she informed us that Vinnie had suffered a heart attack, and that the prognosis was not good. A few days later, Vinnie was taken off life support and passed away.

Vinnie was a confirmed bachelor, having no wife or children. He lived in his parent's house and he became what could be called (charitably) "an extreme collector" of antique radios and audio equipment. There was so much equipment left behind that his niece opened the house Friday and Saturday to anyone who might be interested in obtaining some of Vinnie's collected treasures.

Marv K2VHW and I made the trip yesterday. When we entered the house, the first thing you noticed was the smell of old paper and dusty, old equipment. Was met our eyes was this - antique radios and phonographs and test equipment from floor to ceiling.






The garage had even more equipment, including TVs - including this extremely rare Hallicrafters TV.


Marv found a gold plated Astatic D104 microphone, a Golden Eagle. It was in excellent shape.  I found this old Hallicraftes S-53A, with all the tubes in place, including an instruction sheet on the inside. I've always wanted a piece of either Hammarlund or Hallicrafters gear in my shack ever since I was licensed in 1978. Thanks to KC2IZK, that dream has come true.


I think it's in good condition. The power cord has been switched out to a current type and everything on the inside looks clean. In a few days, I'll plug it in and will flip the big switch. I'm going to see if anyone in SPARC has a variac that I can borrow so that I can "ease" it back to life. As long as I have this receiver, KC2IZK will always be around.

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

Thursday, April 05, 2018

WB3AAL - Silent Key

This morning, I was shocked to read a post to QRP-L by Ed Breneiser WA3WSJ, that Ron Polityka WB3AAL became a Silent Key last Friday.


Not to say that Ron and I were close friends - mere acquaintances would be a better description of our relationship. But Ron's name and call were a steady show in the major QRP Outdoor events and sprints.  His website was a good resource on all things QRP Portable, especially antennas.

His presence in the QRP community will be missed, as he was so well known and so highly regarded. In addition to his operating exploits from the Appalachian Trail, he was also a presenter at Atlanticon when that was an annual event in the early 2000's.

RIP, Ron - Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

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

Monday, April 02, 2018

April Fool's Day - one day late!

After a beautiful Saturday and a very nice Easter Sunday, I awoke to a world covered in white. Yes, Virginia, it is once again snowing in New Jersey. There'a about 2-3 inches down already, as a rough guesstimate without any actual measuring.

The drive into work was a hoot as nothing was plowed or cleared. I would hazard a guess that all the normal road crews were off to enjoy the Easter/Passover weekend.  It was a white knuckle ride, driving in preceding car's wheel ruts on the highways; and then getting bombarded with splattering snow thrown up by passing tractor/trailers.

I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those years where Winter hangs on, kicking and screaming until the bitter end. Then, a week later we'll start getting temperatures in the 80s and 90s, with no Spring to speak of.

Whatever, I wish the seasons would change, already, so that I could start enjoying some lunch time QRP at work again.

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

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter 2018

Wesołego Alleluja - He is risen! Happy Easter!


And to all my Jewish friends - a very Happy and Blessed Pesach!
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!"

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Technician class

Our Technician class ended last night with the administration of exams. It was a mixed bag of results. At the beginning of the class, we had eleven students. Two of the students were actually licensed during our last class and were attending this class as a refresher in addition to home study in preparation for taking the General class exam.

One student decided to take the exam a few weeks ago and passed. Another student had to temporarily move up to Massachusetts because of a family issue and is going to take the test up there. Three students couldn't make it last night and are coming to our normal, monthly VE session, the next of which will be on Saturday, April 14th.  One was away competing in a track and field event. I'm not sure what he plans to do about the exam.

So that left five students to take their exams last night. Four took the Technician and one took the General. Three passed their Technician test and the one student upgraded to General.  The one who did not pass was crushed. I am sorry to say. However, the good news is that a local hospital has had some employees engage in a self study course. They are holding a one day review and exam session this coming Friday.  Our candidate was made aware of that; and I am fairly sure she is going to attend.  I think with a little more review and pin pointed study; that she will be successful in getting her license.  It's not that she doesn't know the material, I think she's just one of those people for whom taking tests is difficult.  During our classes she was always quick to answer practice questions correctly.  Put a test paper in front of her and the pressure mounts. Unfortunately, that is a situation many of us face.

All our students who took the Tech exam and passed, also took the General exam.  We tell them that it is normal for most new Techs who have not studied for the General to get about 50% of the answers correct. One of our new Techs missed his General by one question!  He will also be coming back on April 14th and I'm sure he'll pass with flying colors.

It will be interesting to see the results from this Friday and April 14th.  It's always our goal as instructors that everyone who attends our classes walks away with their ticket.  I hope that holds true.

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


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Universal HF Receiver

Diz, W8DIZ has a new offering - a Universal HF receiver. The price is $20 for the main board and each band module is $10.  Looks to be a nice kit, modestly priced that will allow you to have some fun and do some experimenting.  Diz offers suggestions for implementing a digital display and the like.

It's nice to see so may low priced, high quality kits being offered, especially through the QRP community. I saw a post by Hans Summers from QRP Labs, that he has sold over 4,000 QCX kits. Bob W3BBO raves about his and Dave AA7EE had good words to say as well.  Two very highly  respected opinions that are inching me closer and closer towards sending Hans some $$ in order to build one myself. The only question would be 40 or 20 Meters?

It's hard to believe that Easter Sunday is this coming weekend. When I opened the door this morning to leave for work, it was only 24F (-4C) and there was frost all over the car windows. It feels more like mid-Winter than Spring. To add insult to injury, I saw where AccuWeather is posting about a polar vortex for the first week of April that will keep the Northeast in temperatures well below normal.

I'm itching to start bringing the radio gear with me to work, so that I can resume lunch time QRP operations again. As I get older, it gets tougher for me to deal with colder temps. Back when I was working at Sinar Bron some 11 or 12 years ago, I was headed out to the parking lot just about every day at lunch time, no matter what time of year it was. Cold temperatures didn't seem to phase me as much as they do now. My knees and hands seem to work much better in temperate weather.

Tonight, our Technician License class concludes with the exam being administered. One student gave it a go early and got her license a few weeks ago at a local VE session.  It was very gratifying to see her enthusiasm and excitement when she came in last week to tell us all about it. I think it also helped alleviate some of the jitters that some other classmates may be experiencing. It's always easier when it's all over; but I really, truly do expect a 100% passing rate tonight.  This is one of the best groups of students that it's been my honor to have instructed.

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