Slack! An excellent way for your Ham Radio Club to keep in touch!

I just wanted to share this excellent service, called Slack, which is an online messaging platform that works across multiple platforms & devices seamlessly! Our club was looking for a better way to keep in touch, and what better way than real-time!

slack

Lets face it… we can’t always be on the repeater, or monitoring (lurking as some call it) to see what’s going on, but we do like to keep in touch and abreast of what’s going on in the club, so our VP, KG5CDP, Brandon, decided to introduce Slack to the club, and boy am I glad he did! Sure, there’s Facebook, Twitter, and all other kinds of social platforms, but we wanted one specifically for our club, and that’s what we got with Slack! We’re able to invite members by their email address & they join in on the conversation…

In our Slack account we have several channels within, some devoted to propagation alerts, signing up for the Thursday night net we hold every Thursday @ 8pm, and even a channel devoted to our new DMR repeater that’s up and coming. It’s nice to be able to periodically check in throughout the day and see what folks are upto. Homebrew projects are a regular occurrence within the group, and it’s so cool to see what folks are building! Slack is absolutely free. Microsoft is even trying to compete with their setup because it worked so well. Seamless integration across everything is what drove us to it.

slackmenu
A preview of the N5OAK Slack Room

 

It’s a great way for clubs/groups to keep in touch. If you’ve been out for awhile, Slack will archive upto 10,000 messages (I think) for you to go back and catch up on anything. Communication within a club is key to its success IMHO, plus I’ve had lots of fun with Slack, almost more so than any other social platform!

Just a fun recommendation for your club!

Happy Friday 🙂

73

K5ACL

Winter Field Day is getting closer!

Well, you certainly won’t feel it in Texas anyways… Winter that is. 😛 I was wearing shorts & sandals about a week ago, the weather here is so up and down, I do miss having seasons as I’ve experienced elsewhere! Winter Field Day is just around the corner, and our club, the N5OAK is hard at work preparing for a really exciting day of operating, if you or anyone you know might be interested in getting on the air and are in the Central Texas area (Luling to be exact), then let me know and i’ll be happy to provide details on the event. I think they’re even trying to setup a “GOTA” (Get on the Air station) for folks that are new to HF.

Here’s a rough draft of our layout for WFD (Courtesy Photo: K5URU):

wfd-layout
Yellow = Antennas

 

So far there’s at least 8 HF stations that I know of that will be there (some with VHF/UHF capability), there’s also a planned satellite station that I’m looking forward to learning how to operate (if we can get through to the bird on a contest day!).

There’s plenty of space to go around from the above aerial, so it will be fun to experiment! I may just end up taking my sleeping bag and crashing in the back of my pickup truck to get some shuteye on Saturday night (hardcore eh?). During the last ARRL field day, I attempted to stay up throughout the whole thing & operate, but I bet we’ll have a bit bigger crowd this time & I’ll be able to catch some Z’s while other folks operate! We will also take advantage of setting up the equipment prior to the contest starting @ 1900UTC on Saturday. We have everything from DMR simplex, Broadband Hamnet, Satellite Ops, SDR, and lots and lots of radios! It will be interesting to see the coordination between us operators @ the field site to ensure we all operate on different bands!

This will be my Kenwood TS-480SAT’s first real-world test in a contest environment, I’ve only ever used it for casual operating up until now. I’ve still yet to tap the IF out in it, I need to crack the case and plug in the coax wire I got from mypanadapter.com. This way i’ll be able to use my SDRplay as a panadapter. I think having a panadapter out @ Field Day will be a huge advantage. Stay tuned for a wicked cool setup, pics to follow!

Thanks to N5OAK members for making this event possible, if there’s one thing ham radio needs more of, it’s field days! We’re having a club meeting tomorrow to discuss everything (and breakfast!) Nothing like discussing ham radio ops over a nice warm cup of coffee & some breakfast tacos!

www.n5oak.org

www.winterfieldday.com

73

K5ACL

Winter Field Day (2017) Prep

Field day is probably one of my favorite events in ham radio. It’s the day when hams from all walks of life get together for a common goal – to contact as many stations as possible within a given time period! (that & have as much fun as possible doing it!). This particular event is my first (Winter) Field Day, which isn’t run by the ARRL, but it is promoted by the ARRL 🙂 There’s all sorts of planning that goes into such an event, i.e. location, gear, food, power requirements, etc, but I’m lucky to have some really capable & friendly folks in the N5OAK who have been planning the event for quite some time! I think this will be the N5OAK’s first actual entrance into the contest.

We’ll be using a site out in Luling, TX with lots of space for antennas! I’ll be stringing up, tuning & trimming a new portable OCF that I can use whilst HF mobile. I originally had plans to put up a vertical of some sort, but verticals usually require a bit more deployment time, and as such, I wanted to keep my setup & break down time as quick as possible. (I learned that lesson from the last field day!). It’s no fun breaking down a station in the pouring rain with mud all underneath you & your gear!

We have 6 operating stations planned so far, some will include VHF/UHF capability, and you can bet that we’re going for that satellite QSO bonus! An extra 1,500 points! I think we’re also going to be using our own power generation equipment, so that’s another 1,500 points!

I’m most looking forward to this field day because it allows a lot of different modes to be worked, and I think events like that really bring folks together, because lets face it, not everyone does voice… not everyone does cw… not everyone does digital. An event like this can allow hams who are proficient in those areas to really show others, and give them an opportunity to try something that they might just be surprised they like! (I’m especially looking forward to the Satellite qso tutorial!)

My station will be designated the voice station, so I’m planning on using my Kenwood TS-480SAT, and an off-center fed dipole. I’ll also have a headset this go around, as well as panadapter capability. Might be a bit much for field day, but if we’re already going to have laptops for logging purposes, I’m going to take advantage and put a panadapter up! I have an HP S140U external portable monitor that runs on USB power only that will serve as the panadapter screen, while the logging software stays on the primary screen, cool huh? I’m planning on capturing the whole event on film/camera, so stay tuned! I hope to hear you on the air for WFD, look for us & work us on the bands as N5OAK!

If you’re interested, check out WinterFieldDay.com for all the official details & rules.

73

K5ACL

Running a 2 meter Net Control

Brandon (KG5CDP) was kind enough to allow me to be net control for our local VHF club here in Austin, TX. I jumped on the chance so I can get some practice in last night, and thought it might be cool to record the net too in the process (even though I messed up a few times, lol)

Our nets are usually around 15-20 people who check in, and the cool thing is that they all bring something unique to the table!

I brought the FTM-400DR in from the truck last night, I also made some fusion contacts after the net which I attempted to record so I could show the audio quality of C4FM, with Jon, N5CFB & Sam, K5JM, we were all able to contact each other on 5 watts simplex, but unfortunately my battery ran out after recording the net :(. Another time maybe…

I think after you’ve done a few nets it gets a bit easier, and its always exciting to hear someone new pop on the repeater! If your in Central Texas and can join in, please do so! Or even through IRLP or EchoLink, just lookup N5OAK.

Hope you enjoy the video…

73 & Happy Friday

K5ACL

N5OAK Logos

Jeff, K1NSS, was kind enough to make these logos for our amateur radio club just in time for field day! I had many decals made so folks could slap’em on their vehicles or wherever, to hopefully promote the hobby & the club!

 

IMG_1879IMG_1878

He’s such a great artist, I recommend him to anyone looking for logos/art/qsl cards! You can check his site out at Dashtoons.

 

Field Day 2016

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

This was my first field day experience, which spanned just about 2 whole days, and it was fantastic! I felt like a kid going camping again, lol!

My friend, K5URU, Blake, hosted the first day of field day @ his ranch where we were allowed free range to setup just about anything we could imagine! Thanks Blake!

fd19
That’s me in the distance covering up my screen room tent, it started to rain a bit.

We had scattered rain showers coming in all throughout the day it seemed, then it finally cleared up late afternoon. I brought my HF rig & VHF rig (and a truck absolutely full of stuff!). I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing a thing. Setup everything pretty quick, and we were on the air in no time, although it seemed as if band conditions were not favorable (at least for our club). We were still able to snag contacts left and right though.

K5URU also constructed this mobile mast and was able to demo its operation for the club members this weekend:

fd21

I’ll let you read about his great write up here: Freestanding Mobile Mast Project

I was definitely interested in something like this for my truck, I had to fashion a pole stuck in a concrete bucket (which still worked ok), but the concrete bucket was a pain to lug around. And this mast is just oh so beautiful! As soon as we were up and operating, my buddy KG5LVT, Matt (or CWBoss as we like to call him) was putting my 590SG in CW mode for the first time!

fd18
KG5LVT with his vintage key on the Kenwood TS590SG

CW is definitely in my future, I’m only up to lesson 3 on ‘LearnCWOnline.’ The mode is just so simple, and I’m sure with practice, I could really get out with CW even on my compromise antennas, Matt really had his technique down, and is getting faster with each lesson.

fd17
KG5LVT & his homebrew 6m moxon

 

 

Was also able to test out a 6m moxon that KG5LVT built. Had several analyzers around that day, so we were able to get it resonant around 50.125. Although conditions weren’t too favorable that day, not to mention all of the lightning crashes we kept hearing on the radio.

Our day was full of BBQ, good times, good friends, and most importantly ham radio!  This was a great opportunity to checkout other gear as well and compare the different brands. I was curious as to how other HF rigs sounded in person (I’d only ever heard my 590SG & a KX3). I was surprised to find out that I was actually impressed with the sound of the Icom line of HF rigs.

 

We used our club call sign, N5OAK/1D/TX. This was the first ‘contest’ type event that I’ve taken part in, and I actually liked the fast paced nature of it for once, not sure I could contest every weekend, but it was definitely fun! Our day stretched late into the night, but eventually I had to call it quits just past midnight to get ready for the next days events!

Our next day was spent at the local fire department, which was really cool, because we were able to use their ‘training tower’ as an anchor point for our antennas, and it also made for a really cool operating position up top! There were members of the public stopping by and asking questions about the hobby, some were even interested in getting licensed. I think next year, we’ll try to do a better job of getting the message out to the community that they are more than welcome to come out and operate with us! I acted as a control operator a few times helping some folks make their first contacts 🙂

fd11
Oak Hill Fire Department Training Building (HyEndFed 4 band hanging with LMR400 off to the left)

 

We strung up a 4 band HyEndFed antenna all the way to the top of the tower, attached some LMR400, and pulled the end up and attached the other end to a tall light pole in the parking lot, worked great! The top of the tower is about 50 feet up. There is a floor under the top floor that we were able to run our coax into and make another operating position!

fd8
K5ACL scrolling up hoping for some action on the higher bands (no luck)

 

There was so many folks on 20m, it seems like they were calling CQ over each other on the same exact frequency, so yes, it was a bit crazy, I’d usually just spin the dial, and look for someone else calling CQ Field Day. No international contacts were made on either of the two days, next field day, we won’t be using an end fed, but rather an OCF dipole at a minimum, we definitely had the space for it, but wanted to be as portable as possible.

Had the chance to try out lots of new modes I’d never even tried yet, there are just so many routes you can take in ham radio, I say focus on the one that interests you the most and excel at it! Then you can move along to the next.

Looking forward to events like this in the future, but who says you have to wait for field day to enjoy operating like this? 🙂

Lessons learned though – be a bit more prepared for adverse weather, have a backup antenna for HF & VHF, try to promote the event more, and eat more BBQ! I also think it might have been neat if we provided like a class on something that we could all learn from as a club, we each have something we’ve specialized in, I’d like to think my focus has been more on SDR’s, so maybe I can provide some training on that at the next FD. All in all, a great success, hope you had fun too!