I love breaking into a pile up with QRP!

Ok, sometimes I just feel like bragging, but being able to break into a huge European pile up with QRP just tickles me to death.

I don’t mean to step on anyone’s toes when working pile-ups, they seem to happen a lot nowadays due to the rarity of some stations, but if I can hear’em then I work’em!

I quickly try to hand the frequency back over though, because lets face it, propagation may only favor me for a brief moment, and I want every other ham to have just an equal chance at making a contact.

Check out this crazy pile up recorded by WE5I:

Folks, when things get this crazy on a channel, just pull back, open a beer, and relax. Sometimes it’s quite amusing to listen to some other hams out there. Some people really take this stuff seriously! But on a side note, can’t we all just be friends? 🙂

I’m still not a believer when it comes to the saying “Do more with less power,” but I’m certainly getting there.

Sometimes I don’t want to concentrate on my technique, which is what QRP requires. Sometimes I just want to flip that old radio on and just chat a bit with someone, in that case I use the trusty 100w radio.

An amp is definitely in my future, but distant future. Those things aren’t cheap!

Ionosonde in Austin, TX!

What, what!?? Just found out that there’s an ionosonde in Austin, TX!!!! Had no clue! I’ve been using the data from the Boulder station since beginning in Ham Radio.

I had to look it up too: Ionosonde

Still figuring out how to interpret all of this data, so far I only understand the MUF!

Here’s a link: Austin Ionosonde (real time)

Now my next project will be to create a widget that has this data in it, instead of the Boulder data.

I’ve been reading up on propagation lately, and it seems we’re about 2 years past the peak of the solar cycle. Very interesting stuff indeed.

73’s

Palm trees and QRP

Ahhhh…..

That’s the sound I let out today while kicking back at the beach…
Oh and another sound I made… Yesssss!!! 

After making my first successful QSO on the KX3. Using 10w, I spoke to a gentleman on the East coast today, my report was 5-7, he was coming in 5-9+. I wasn’t able to make anymore contacts after several tries, but luckily that QRP frequency really helped! Apparently folks monitor those freqs often.
At least I know it works after assembling it!! 
Time to kick back, enjoy vacation, and go QRT for awhile…

73’s
KF5ZHJ

First DX! Only 100w and a wire!

So, this is what I’ve been missing…

Been licensed as a general class for about a month with virtually no luck on HF (except for a few fat chances).
Couple friends suggested an end fed.
They’re great for HOA’s they said. I was skeptical to say the least, but I’m officially a believer now because I just made more contacts in the last hour than I have in a whole month. (Ok it was only 5 QSO’s, but it was like being a kid in a candy store!). My first DX was with a station in Sweden today! I was able to break into a huge pileup, using 100w, and my new Chameleon EMCOMM II end fed antenna. I was able to tune every single band from 6m to 160m using this antenna, amazing! (Tuner required of course). Not to mention there was a coronal mass ejection recently, and everyone has been experiencing radio blackouts recently (go figure… During xmas break!)
Here’s the 5:1 transformer with ground wire attached and 50′ of RG-213U. This thing is built solid, with quality components:

Above is the wire suspended from the top of a 31′ Jackite pole strapped to a 4×4 post. The wire was 60 feet long so I had trouble keeping it all off the ground without causing the pole to bend too much. I also used a 60′ ground wire in the opposite direction (14AWG stranded). The results were better with a ground!
I got it on audio too! Just trying to figure out how to upload audio to blogger from an iPhone! Suggestions welcome 🙂

Update 12/23/2015: Soundcloud won’t allow mobile uploads, so had to goto the desktop site, but here it is!:

First DX (Sound Cloud Audio Link)

I’m going to hop on again tonight on 20/40m, hope to see you there! 

73’s & Happy Holidays!
Johnny

My first mobile install – Yaesu FTM-400DR & Diamond NR770HNMO

Decided to take my first stab at a mobile install last night. Took my Yaesu FTM-400DR and a Diamond NMO Mag Mounted Dual Band Antenna to the Toyota Tacoma. Install was relatively painless because I used a mag mount, and routing the power wires through the firewall was a snap due to the hole I had previously created to hook up my sub & amp in the truck. Decided to mount the base unit behind the center console, and just route the antenna wire through the rear window.

I consider this setup semi-permanent, while I could leave it like this, I don’t like the fact that my rear window is unlocked, it closes just enough though to prevent any wind from coming in. The hand mic comfortably sits in the rear cup holders, although I may decide to drill the mic holder on too. I’m always weary of drilling holes into my automobile! Here’s a few after pics of the install:

(This is an Arkon floor mount, but holds the FTM-400DR head just fine, the shaking can be reduced if you support the rod by clamping it to the center console with a clip – had a few folks ask me about it so here’s the link: Arkon Floor Mount )

 

 

(I’ve since flipped the unit over to take the stress off the antenna wire and power cable)

(Diamond Mag Mount DMN-SPMNMO)

In the future I may go with the NMO mount that has to be drilled, but for now this works just fine! It’s weird, but the noise level seems to have actually dropped moving my unit from the house & a j pole antenna in the attic, to mobile and a mag mount antenna, not sure why?  I had to decrease the squelch a tad as a result.

I was only able to pickup one guy on the nat. simplex freq. (146.520), but that was because he was driving directly behind me and saw my antenna! When I asked what his location was, he said look in the rear view mirror!  I guess the antenna up top is like a universal symbol for “Yup, I’m a ham, give me a call & lets chat!” Wondering what most folks do when they’re traveling, do they just leave it on 146.520? Look for local repeaters constantly? How about you?

Kite Antennas, what will they think of next?

I’m filing this in my “To-do experiment bank.”

Hoisting an end fed wire antenna up in the air using a kite!

Check out this video!

I live close to the Texas coast which always has a constant supply of wind coming in from the Gulf of Mexico. Although I don’t own a kite, they can usually be found online or at a kite shop close to the coast. This seems like it might be more of a pain than using a telescoping pole. There aren’t really many options on the beach! Another problem with attempting this method is there’s usually crowds of people at the coast, but maybe if I try during an off season or early in the morning when the beach is empty!
The pros of using this method are being able to get the wire antenna up really high in the air! Some kites have line that extends out 300-400 feet! Of course my end fed won’t be that long, but this would allow me to try the end fed in a vertical orientation with radials! I bet the saltwater would prove to give good efficiency on this type of antenna at the beach!
I recently read an article “The Very First DX – December 12, 1901” over on dxzone.com & discovered that the very first DX by an experimenting amateur (Guglielmo Marconi) used balloons & kites to lift his antenna as high as possible!. Now I’ve really got to try this method!
Safety disclaimer: (I think I need to start posting these!) Ensure that you have plenty of clearance around you & that there isn’t even a remote possibility of a lightning storm! Stay away from power lines, and you might want to experiment using a dummy antenna wire before hooking one up that’s attached to a fancy balun (or ugly for that matter!).

73’s
KF5ZHJ

Update 01/04/16: Failed miserably at attempting a kite antenna. I used a Clarke Kite Star to attempt to lift my wire antenna up in the air, and there’s two things that I learned:

1. Wind doesn’t fly in a straight line – this led for a rather frustrating experience when trying to keep the kite stable and make a transmission

2. Get your kite up as high as you can before attaching the wire, the higher up your kite is, the more stable it will be.

Still, I don’t see myself using this method of hoisting a wire antenna again, it was more trouble than it was worth!

Here ye’ Here ye’ Get yer’ free vanity call sign!

CQ CQ CQ This is Kilooooo Foxxtrotttt Fivvveee Zuluuuuu Hotellll Juliettttt (emphasis place on the phonetics here so I can get my message across clearly…) is a mouthful!

After reading an article over on the ARRL website “FCC Eliminates Amateur Radio Vanity Call Sign Regulatory Fee,” I decided to hop on over to the FCC and apply for a vanity call sign this week! There were actually some 1×2 & some 2×1 call signs available for my region, I doubt I’ll get them, so at the very least it will be shortened to a 2×2 call sign, rather than a 2×3 call sign. I only placed about 8 or 9 options on the application, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’ll get one.

I appreciate my original call sign, but when I’m on the radio, being able to quickly and accurately pronounce a call sign that is easy to say and also easy to understand is important. I find myself repeating my call sign multiple times, (not necessarily due to a bad signal either) so now that it’s free to do so I encourage anyone to apply for a vanity call sign of their choosing!

73’s

It’s meme Friday & SWL on the beach!

Oh Elecraft, you’ve really engineered a fine piece of equipment I must say. Being able to take this radio with me ANYWHERE is a big plus!

Pretty soon i’ll be headed to the beach, and i’ll be taking my Elecraft with me and a good ole’ wire antenna! I’ve heard that operating on the beach can offer somewhat better results due to the conductivity of the salt water in the ground & in the air. I’m a bit nervous to get sand in the receiver, but i’ll be careful enough and probably keep it on my tailgate (there are certain areas along the Texas coast that allow you to drive & park on the beach). I really wish I could take a trip out to Big Shell, but unfortunately you must have a 4×4 vehicle to get out there. I posted a poll below to find out how most folks have their end fed wire antennas configured. What works for one person may not always work for another, but I’d rather start with tried and true methods. Once I pull that wire up in the tree, I’m really hoping not to have to take it down and readjust. I’ve also switched the rechargeable batteries from Lennar (found them at Fry’s) to Eneloop:

 The Lennars just weren’t holding a charge that long, I forgot to get slow discharge batteries, so i’ll have to open up the Elecraft case and swap these out. Don’t make the mistake of getting some off brand or cheap rechargeable battery (the Lennars were actually more than the Eneloops – but they had 2700 mAh of capacity). I had an old NiMH battery charger that I acquired while in the military (made by Rayovac?) that works great still. I’ll use this to charge my spare sets & leave a set in the Elecraft (is that safe?)

Edit (12/14/15): I’ve been thinking of upcoming trips, and do I really want to rely on QRP to enjoy the HF bands? I’m thinking I may even take my HF rig with me. We’ll be camping in an RV with some friends, they have no problem with me using the radio in their RV, I’m just not sure if the Astron power supply will draw too much power for a 30amp hookup, I’m guessing only if the A/C or heater were running, maybe even the refrigerator, not sure, i’ll have to find out that one too, geez so many questions!

Another QSO for the mag loop

I haven’t had much time to operate lately. Don’t we all wish we had more time to operate!? Oh, believe me, when I retire, I’m moving to the country side, and putting up huge Yagis and multiple towers! Can’t keep me off the airwaves then! But alas, as I still sit here and wait for my end fed antenna to come in the mail, I called out to W7P, a special event station in Arizona last night at about 11 pm local CST. The 40m band was outstanding last night! Solar data indicated that the 40m was at its peak, which is probably why I was able to make a contact!

 Received a 4,4 report. Not bad for being behind an aluminum framed window surrounded by electronics!  I didn’t record my QSO, but the few minutes Norman decided to stay on the net, check out the short vid, enjoy!

I think I really do need to get an external speaker, my headphones are great for listening, but i’ll want to record videos like this in the future. I have some studio monitors, but haven’t figured out how to integrate them into the system. For now the headphones work great though, they’re crystal clear and allow me to search for signals. Hydrogen times pi! *wink*

I still haven’t been able to make a contact on the loop with the Elecraft, I’m not sure if my settings are off or what, still learning the KX3 though, I’ve learned to appreciate the Kenwood & its ease of use! I really like this rig now that I’ve used a KX3!

I find myself checking the solar conditions more throughout the day, because if there’s any signal noise above S1-2, then there’s no way I’m getting any signal at my house until I rectify the antenna situation.

Frustrated with HF

Time & time again I browse the amateur radio forums & blogs, and the single most mentioned item would probably have to be the HOA. Ah, the good ole’ Homeowner’s Association. Some say they help keep communities safe & clean, others just hate them! I’m still on the fence about them. I’ve only been a homeowner for a few years, but thus far it has proven difficult to get on HF radio. I live on a lot that is 4,500 sq. ft., so space is precious. What do we do when we want to get on HF radio, but can’t because of where we live?

One option was brought up to me about having a vertical antenna mounted on one of those DX engineering tilt mounts, that way when I’m done using it, I can just tilt the antenna back down. Problem being, is that the DX engineering verticals are 43 feet tall! Granted they work every band from 10m-160m, I think I’d be find with one that supported 4 or 5 bands, just need to find the right one. I would also like to keep the height down to a minimum (my 2 story house can only hide so much in the backyard, a 43 foot vertical might stand out like a sore thumb! Not to mention that the 43 footer requires radials (recommended 65 feet long!). Here’s a pic of the antenna folded on the tilt mount:

There’s no way I have space for that, I don’t even have 65 feet across in my backyard! Question is, is there a vertical that will meet my needs that requires shorter radials? Should I get one that doesn’t require radials? I’m sure there would be some type of compromise with that antenna. More to think on that one, if anyone has any ideas, please feel free to comment. Below is a picture of my house (ignore the graphics, I was putting up a fan dipole under my eaves of the house indicated by the yellow & green lines in the below pic, but it picked up so much noise (probably from coupling to electrical wiring in the house) that I had to take it down.

The only space I have to work with is really the backyard, which will also need about 125′ of coaxial run, but as you can also see, there’s not much room to lay a vertical down unless I were to put it in one of the corners of the backyard and layed it down during the day when not in use. These vertical antennas though are pretty expensive, and I want to make sure that whatever I get next is going to work.

So until I get my HF working, it’s back to VHF. What is it about HF that draws amateur operators in? Is it the fact that your making a contact further away? Its basically the same principle of radio operation, except that your contacts are local! VHF can be fun, if you’ve got a good repeater your hanging out on. So far the guys on N5OAK have been really friendly, and always willing to give signal reports if needed! I took disconnected the discone antenna in the attic & connected the Arrow J Pole in its place. Luckily I had just enough room to squeeze the antenna in the attic vertically. The antenna is about 57 inches tall, and is built like a brick compared to my diamond discone. I can see why these j poles have had such success, they may not necessarily be the best antenna for your purpose, but they’re built solid, will last for years to come, and get the job done for most people!

Here’s the antenna after assembly & before I placed it in the attic:

So far I’ve gotten great reports on it, but have only connected to repeaters about 30 miles away (Cedar Park, TX) using full power on the FTM-400DR (50 watts). I’ve just started researching EchoLink as well, which is apparently a way to communicate with hams all over the country using 2m frequencies. Interested to try that out!

Edit & update: After asking the question over on eHam & Reddit, it seems that the best option would be to go with a Hustler 5BTV or 6BTV. They’re relatively inexpensive, so if it doesn’t work, it won’t be too big of a hit. Some folks were also suggesting trying different configurations of wire antennas, but what I’ve done thus far hasn’t worked. Not only will I have to buy the vertical antenna, but the radial plate, the tilting mount, the radial wires, and the long coax run, probably almost 400 in total!