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Log of The World Status

Published for Tuesday - June 18 2024

LoTWStatus2

Written Saturday - 06/15/24 7:40 AM

Hard to believe that LoTW has been down so long. No doubt in my mind that they are facing a major disruption of service such as a ransomware attack.

It's been a full 31 days down, 32 in you include the partially up day where they went down. That blows their good stats out of the water.

I'm glad I use QRZ.com for logging my ham contacts. I'm also glad I keep a backup of activities for my digital contacts.

If QRZ.com has the same problem I will be in trouble since I don't have a good backup of my voice contacts with LoTW being down. Fortunately, I don't have but a few voice contacts at present.




Ransomware Attack?

Published for Saturday - May 25, 2024

Ransomware Attack

Written Thursday - 05/23/24 6:30 AM

For a quick update, LoTW has been down 8 straight days, 9 if you include the first day where it was only up for just over 5 hours before going down.

An outage this big has to be caused by something equally big. It seems to me that a ransomware attack is likely.

I would guess that they have everything they need backed up so the real question might siply be how to take back control of a locked down system. It would make sense to me since they said they are consulting with experts.

Of course, all of that assumes a ransomware attack which may not be the problem at all. I hope they will tell us what happened when the time is right.




More About the LoTW Issue

Published for Thursday - May 23, 2024

LOTW

Written Tuesday - 05/21/24 2:00 PM

All of the online locations where ham operators talk are abuzz with speculation regarding the LoTW problem. After all, LoTW has been down for a week now.

Some are saying that the ARRL was hacked and others have taken it a step further to speculate that there's a ransomware issue going on.

Original story from ARRL below:

5/16/2024

We are in the process of responding to a serious incident involving access to our network and headquarters-based systems. Several services, such as Logbook of The World® and the ARRL Learning Center, are affected.

Please know that restoring access is our highest priority, and we are expeditiously working with outside industry experts to address the issue. We appreciate your patience.

This story will be updated with new developments.

Updated 5/17/2024 Some members have asked whether their personal information has been compromised in some way. ARRL does not store credit card information anywhere on our systems, and we do not collect social security numbers. Our member database only contains publicly available information like name, address, and call sign along with ARRL specific data like email preferences and membership dates.




Logbook of The World Status

Published for Wednesday - May 22, 2024

LOTWStatus

Written Monday - 05/20/24 8:40 AM

Many of us use LoTW (Logbook of The World) to log our contacts. Others just use QRZ.com while some of us (me included) use both.

On the 15th of this month I went to add my log entries to LoTW and received an error. Because LoTW is almost always up and available I checked to see if I had a problem.

No problem found so I checked the status of LoTW and discovered it was down. Wow, that was an unusual thing!

I decided to add my log entries to QRZ.com and skip the steps to add them to LoTW. Later that day I tried again but with no success.

In fact, and as can be seen in the screen shot above of the LoTW status page, LoTW has been down for several days. Very unusual. I just checked and it's still down. Again, very unusual for such an often dependable system.

I will have to go back and upload all log entries from the 15th of this month to the LoTW system when it becomes available. Until then, I'll be on standby.




Two Meters

Published for Monday - May 20, 2024

Jpole

Written Saturday - 05/18/24 6:45 AM

It's Saturday morning as I type and I never expect to see anyone on two meters during an early Saturday morning. But I was wrong today.

146.55 was busy and it's in channel 20, which I don't even have on my blog under the ham radio two meter repeater list. It's busy but I don't even know where it is.

With a bit of further thought, I came to realize that 146.55 is a simplex frequency. It's no wonder I don't have it on my repeater list. It's not a repeater frequency.

A simplex frequency is dedicated to radio to radio communications without the benefit of a repeater. In this case more power and a higher antenna are your friend.

A repeater frequency, on the other hand, is dedicated to those who want to work through a repeater for the benefit it brings of 'repeating' the signal out to a greater distance, often without the benefit of additional power and a higher antenna.

I didn't even take time to see who was talking but they have since cleared the frequency. And the two meter bands are all clear here on a Saturday morning.

By the way, pictured above is a j-pole two meter antenna. It's just like the one that I use here at the house. It's a dual band antenna tuned to both the 144-148 mhz and 440-450 mhz bands.




Ham Radio

Published for Thursday - April 25, 2024

Icom 7600 - 2

Written Wednesday - 04/24/24 6:30 AM

Hard to explain. I don't understand why the ham bands have been so bad lately.

There's just no activity. Even after I run and/or workout it seems the only stations on the bands are few and far between and ones I have already worked.

As can be seen above, it's particularly early and there's just no one out there. 15 meters is very quiet and if I swap off to 10, 12, or 20 it will be exactly the same.

Oh well, can't put it off any longer. Time to do a 2 mile run and take the day off from weight training.

Those 2 milers are getting more and more difficult at these fast speeds. Let's see how today goes.




TEOÄŒAK

Published for Sunday - April 14, 2024

Teocak

Written Saturday - 04/13/24 8:05 AM

The ham bands are getting better. I worked a lot of countries yesterday, including Thailand which is a hard one to find and get.

It's a bit confusing though because (when the bands are in good shape) I'm used to getting Europe in the AM and the far east countries in the PM. However, today I'm working the far east countries in the AM. Go figure.

Just got a run in and already worked 15 stations this morning. 15 is what shows up on the QRZ Logbook page and is therefore my daily goal.

Today's far east countries include Indonesia (5) and China (2). I also worked some European countries including Spain, Germany, Scotland, Russia, and Italy. I even worked a station in the Majevica mountain range (in the municipality of TEOÄŒAK) in the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A location in TEOÄŒAK is pictured above.




Dead Bands

Published for Thursday - March 28, 2024

Band Conditions

Written Tuesday - 03/26/24 8:55 AM

I'm not talking about some oddly named music groups. I'm talking about the dead ham radio bands. They are in very bad shape.

Sunday and into Monday was supposed to bring with it an emission from the sun that might take a serious toll on anything electronic and especially anything communications related.

Usually such an emission brings with it good band conditions but not this time. In fact, I heard that we were supposed to get another round of those emissions from the sun and if we did, they brought along some very bad band conditions. Things are very, very quiet.




Thanks

Published for Tuesday - February 27, 2024

Jon1

Written Monday - 02/26/24 9:10 AM

I was just thinking to myself how amazing it is that I can send out a call on my Ham Radio and almost consistently receive a response. That's amazing!

That thought led me to the thought of how grateful I am to have had my son come over and assist with getting my antenna (hexbeam) up and working properly.

I've had a lot of help over time, but my son has traveled 1+ hours each way just to support my hobby and has done it more than once. That's pretty cool!

So this post is dedicated to him. I'm sending out a big THANK YOU for all of the assistance. Things are working out very well on this end and I have you to thank for it.




Ham Radio Log History

Published for Monday - January 29, 2024

QRZ.COM

Written Saturday - 01/27/24 8:20 AM

When we moved from Douglasville, GA to Pensacola, FL we moved to a townhouse and I honestly thought I was going to leave the ham radio ranks. After all, a townhouse is not very suitable for the ham radio hobby. Especially when it comes to trying to put up an antenna.

Well, the townhouse life lasted about 4 years and then we moved inland and back to a house. I managed to purchase an Icom 7600 with a power supply and an antenna tuner. Furthermore, I was able to string up a 20 meter dipole in the attic and did a pretty good bit of 20m SSB (20 meter single side band) between April 16, 2016 and March 18, 2017.

I noticed in the log book that I dabbled with RTTY (Ham Radio Teletype) between December 10, 2016 and December 17, 2016 and even did some PSK31 as well. I did that with a keyboard USB attached to my rig. That period was my first exposure to QRZ.com and the 646 contacts I made were logged in my Escambia County Log book on QRZ.com.

Still searching for ocean-front, Patty found a beautiful ocean-front home in Crawfordville, FL and we moved there on Cinco de Mayo in the year 2017. Two days later on May 7, 2017 I assembled my ham radio gear and went live with the same 20 meter dipole antenna - this time strung up outside on the porch rail which was some 25' in the air.

I started tracking the QRZ.com WAS (worked all states) award and the QRZ.com DXCC award (DX Century Club = 100 world-wide entities.) I completed the QRZ.com DXCC award on Feb 18, 2019 with Peru.

According to my Wakulla log book on QRZ.com, it looks like I was operating SSB up until 06/12/2018 and moved to PSK31 (digital) on 06/15/2018. It looks like I went back to SSB on 07/14/2018 (I also retired from IBM during this month) and made my first FT8 contact on 10/6/2018.

I apparently stayed on SSB until 01/16/2019 and made the switch over to all digital (FT8 only) on 01/18/2019 and once again started tracking my WAS award. Around 02/02/2019 I realized I could tune up on 17 meters and started using that with 20 meters to try and earn my WAS which I completed in the fall of 2019.

While operating in Wakulla, County I also put up a 40 meter dipole and used it with 17m and 20m for the balance of my time in Florida and the balance of my 5,287 contacts made there in Crawfordville and logged in the Wakulla QRZ.com logbook. I closed shop in Florida on 07/13/2021 and opened up my Baldwin county QRZ.com logbook on 10/01/2021.

The Baldwin county, Alabama (Spanish Fort, AL) operation involved another attic mounted 20m dipole and 1,526 digital FT8 and FT4 contacts. I closed shop in Spanish Fort on 06/14/2022 and opened shop here in Calhoun County on 07/25/2022. I put up a hexbeam and a rotor and have enjoyed 6m, 10m, 12m, 15m, 17m, and 20m all on the hexbeam. It has even allowed me to tune up on 30m, 40m, and earn a few contacts on 80m. I don't understand it but am not going to press my luck by asking questions.

So, using QRZ.com for my logging, it looks like I have made a total of 17,459 contacts in all 4 logbooks over a 7 year and 9 month period.

Now I would add 30 winter field day contacts made on 15 meter SSB. First opportunity to be back on voice in quite a long time. Very exciting to work those stations so well with the hexbeam. Fantastic signal reports too!




Ham Radio Digital Modes

Published for Friday - January 26, 2024

Digital X

Written Thursday - 01/25/24 7:00 AM

Well, the big deal is the 10,000 digital contacts that I should report tomorrow at the latest. I'm currently at 9,950 and 10k is just ahead of me.

I'm not sure if I should focus on Oceania thereafter (while I'm still operating in digital mode) or move to more of a mic based QSO style.

One thing is for sure, I will have put aside a major goal. And, it will definitely have an impact on my operating style.

I also have a weird situation occuring on my screen and have no idea how to correct it. It seems that for no apparent reason the cursor will suddenly move and will often take with it some of the text.

It's a very frustrating scenario and I have no idea what started it or how to fix it.

Strange, but with this new paragraph the problem has almost gone away and it seems that things are almost back to normal, but it still happens every now and then - just no where near as often as before.

In fact, I now believe the problem has left completely and as quickly as it arrived. Very odd...

Addendum: 1/26/24 7:25 AM

At around 6:45 PM on 1/25/24, I completed the 10,000 contacts mark.

Snip




Ham Radio Outing

Published for Monday - January 15, 2024

Radio Lunch

Written Sunday - 01/14/24 7:00 AM

Patty and I had an opportunity to join the 2 meter crowd that frequents Bob's repeater. We met this past Saturday for lunch at Charlie B's in Oneonta, Alabama. It was billed as a Christmas dinner even though we met well beyond Christmas and New Years day.

Patty and I sat at the table with Rodney, Phil, and Ernie. That's Rodney in the picture above. It was a good lunch and a wonderful time with great friends.

Bob hosted the event and took a few minutes to share the repeater's history. I've heard most of that before but it's always good to get a refresher. Looking forward to doing it again next year.




ISS

Published for Monday - December 04, 2023

Doug Wheelock

Written Saturday - 12/02/23 8:55 AM

This is a picture of Commander Doug Wheelock back in 2010 and aboard the ISS or International Space Station. When I contacted him, it was a pleasant surprise to hear him say, 'Welcome aboard the International Space Station.'

I made the contact with Commander Wheelock back on November 20th at 22:07 UTC. Speaking of honors, it's probably the most notable memory of my ham radio hobby.

Since that time my daughter actually had an opportunity to meet the commander at a teacher's event when she and her family lived in Dallas, TX. She mentioned our contact and of course that seemed to get his attention as she shared with me.

What a cool thing!




Wondering

Published for Sunday - December 03, 2023

Wondering

Written Saturday - 12/02/23 8:35 AM

I just finished making a bunch of distant contacts on the FT8 and FT4 digital modes of my ham radio. It's such a treat to contact individuals in foreign countries.

My relatively new hexbeam has provided me the opportunity to reach new locations which I have never before contacted. India and Thailand would be good examples.

That got me to wondering. After all, many of the contacts I make are of those individuals who live in countries that are at war and are in deadly war zones.

When I do QRZ.com lookups on their callsigns I noticed that most have withheld their addresses. I can only imagine why they have done this but it makes sense.

There are a few places, like North Korea, with which I am not allowed to make contacts. But much to my pleasant surprise, many of the questionable regions do permit contacts. China would be a good example.

Some of the war zones, or potential war zones, that I have successfully contacted include Israel, Russia (both the Asian and European regions), Taiwan, Ukraine, China, Israel, and perhaps a few others.

So earlier I said that these contacts got me to wondering. Wondering about who these people are that I'm contacting and what life is like for them in these war zones where they feel a need to withold their address on the QRZ.com ham radio website. What are they thinking about their situations and does ham radio help them feel more a sense of normalcy?

I consider it an honor to make these contacts with these individuals and even those in other countries that may not be at war or in a war zone. God bless them all!




Hexbeam

Published for Sunday - November 19, 2023

Hexbeam 2

Written Saturday - 11/18/23 12:55 PM

I just finished writing a piece that will have to wait to be published due to the nature of the content. Nothing serious - just getting a bit ahead of myself.

In the meantime, I just hit 8,000 contacts on HF digital FT8 and FT4 and using all bands including 2, 6, 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40, and 80.

The activity on 2 was VHF as usual. The activity on 6 was very rare but nice to have 6 meters included on the hexbeam.

In fact, the antenna is not designed for 30, 40, and 80 but just happens to tune up very nicely on those bands. Each acts up a bit from time to time as can be expected due to the nature of trying to use an antenna for a band on which it is not designed.

In fact, I have no idea why it tunes up so well on those bands but I do get a perfect one to one SWR and the same can be said for the other bands for which the antenna is and is not designed.

Go figure.

The hexbeam is only about 25 to 30 feet off the ground. It would be nice to have it higher but that would require guy wires on the push-up pole and I just don't want to go there. Still, and for the lack of height, the antenna performs very well much to my surprise.

Best of all, and after so many decades in the hobby, it is wonderful to have a directional antenna and a nice rotor. I would have never imagined that happening, but my sweet wife has been beyond supportive for everything involved.

As I have said so many times before, I am indeed a very blessed man. Smiley




Ham Radio

Published Friday - November 17, 2023

Oceania 2

Written Thursday - 11/16/23 7:00 AM

Well, I grabbed two more entities in Oceania and I only saw one of them. I don't even know when or where I earned the other one.

That means I have 12 entities to go in Oceania. I've earned 48 of 60 entities or 80% of what I need to earn the Oceania award.

The one of which I am aware was a late confirmed New Zealand on 12 meters that I worked back on November 8th. Hmmm, I guess it's not really that late LoL!

Having worked it just over a week ago makes the confirmation rather timely. It's not a new entity (I've worked New Zealand 12 times according to my log) but, this was on a new band for me (12 meters.)

Turns out I also worked New Zealand on 12 meters on November 28th. Apparently that is the one QRZ used to give me a point for New Zealand on 12 meters.

Earning the Oceania award is requiring patience at a new level. It has demanded very slow and steady progress.




Ham Radio

Published Thursday - November 02, 2023

Jon1

Written Sunday - 10/29/23 1:30 PM

As I write, my power supply still has several days before its scheduled arrival. As I publish, it's back, working, and has been in use for a while.

As to the 'working' and 'in use' parts, I'm speaking from a level of faith. I don't have a power supply yet in hand here as I'm writing on Sunday October 29th, but I'm counting on it working and my putting it to good use.

I guess I'll have to rewrite this post if it is not working. But I'll set the catastrophizing aside and think and believe in a more positive light.

I'm also waiting on doing the new monthly updates. Too much change too quickly can be hard to manage. Perhaps I need to stop writing posts so far ahead.

But, it works out well for today since I have a doctor's appointment at 1:00 PM in Birmingham on this post's publication date.

Addendum: Written Wednesday - 11/1/23 11:20 AM

Well, the power supply arrived and was clearly not tested as I feared. The unit did not work and I will have to buy another one since I have no interest in any further dealings with Astron Corp. Fortunately, I can buy one from HRO and get it in one day (tomorrow.)

To their credit, Astron Corp. did refund my costs for having the update applied. I indicated I would cover the shipping in both directions.

Addendum: Written Thursday - 11/2/23 05:00 PM

HRO power supply came in, is hooked up, and all is good now!




Ham Radio

OCTOBER 30, 2023

Power Supply

10/28/23 6:50 AM

Looks like I'm still out of commission until November 1st when my power supply is supposed to arrive, repaired, and in good order. Looking forward to getting back on the air with it.

I don't mind confessing that I'm a bit concerned. Perhaps I'm just catastrophizing and perhaps that's okay.

It's just that the repair guy barely heard me out with the problems I was having and then quickly diagnosed that my power supply needed an "update." I went back and tried to further explain the problem but he was already locked in on his proposed solution.

I took the risk when he was preparing my power supply to be shipped and asked him if he tested it. He responded with something about when he says a piece of equipment is repaired then it's repaired. He never did indicate that he tested it.

Well, there has been a lot of wait time on my end. Three weeks total with two of those three weeks tied up in shipping back and forth across the country.

So I hope he knew what he was doing and that it's now working. I don't mind admitting that I didn't really understand how the problem could show up in the way that it did, so perhaps I'm also quite capable of not understanding how (or why) an update might correct the problem.

I guess I'll find out next Wednesday.




Power Supply

OCTOBER 20, 2023

Power Supply

10/18/23 8:55 PM

Well, looks like my previous post back on the 15th was a bit hasty and premature. My power supply failed consistently today.

Fortunately, I spoke with Fred from the Astron Corporation who handles their repairs and he indicated that there is an update that would take care of my power supply problem. He even suggested that I could do it, but I made him aware that I don't have an electronics bone in my body.

He said to go ahead and send in the power supply and he would apply the update. He also indicated that the shipping charge would far exceed the cost of applying the update. That was good news so I packed up the power supply and shipped it off from the UPS store.

I look forward to once again having a working power supply. It will be good to be able to get back on the air again now that everything else is in good working order.




Antenna Support

OCTOBER 16, 2023

Jonathan Antenna

10/14/23 4:35 PM

I'm writing this a day ahead, but the picture won't be available until the day I publish. That's because Jonathan (our son) is coming over tomorrow to make a few needed adjustments to the hexbeam antenna and I plan to snap his picture while he's here.

Back when the antenna was loose, it went out of line for what I want to show up on the rotor. I've been using it just fine (northeast and northwest) but would like to extend its use down to the south.

It appears that the weight of the coax has pulled out all of the slack I use for turning the antenna with the rotor. It looks safe to do the 90 degree swing back and forth between NE and NW. But it doesn't look safe to point it south due to the insufficient slack.

The rotor also provides an additional 90 degrees beyond the 360 degrees of normal usage. I want to reset the flag on the rotor control to display those times I'm using that additional span. In order to get that where I want it, Jonathan will have to loosen the antenna, swing it about 15 or 20 degrees, and then tighten it back down.

Patty and I are taking Jonathan out for lunch as a thank you. We're going to see what kind of damage we can do at our favorite Mexican hangout. I know Patty will enjoy that time with our son too.

Now, all I need to do is to remember to snap his picture while he's here.




Power Supply

OCTOBER 15, 2023

Power Supply

10/12/23 8:15 PM

I had what appeared to be a serious problem in my Ham Radio setup. I was not getting full power out of my Transmitter. In fact, the power has been getting lower by a few watts. Suddenly, it dropped to a much lower power and across all bands.

I thought I was being pretty savvy discovering that the power supply might be the cause for all of my problems. Apparently, if the power supply goes bad and doesn't provide sufficient amperage to the rig, then the rig can't provide the desired power out.

A new power supply was going to cost me around $300 and that was going to be a problem. I just didn't want to spend that money on something that shouldn't be failing at this time. In fact, my last one blew up and had to be replaced a few years ago. This one shouldn't be bad already, despite the fact that I expose it to heavy usage.

Against all odds, I decided to see if the power supply could be repaired and if that was indeed what it needed. After all, the power supply indicated low amperage and I concluded that had to be the problem. Further digging pointed to only one thing that I could check. Everything else was going to require a skilled expert to check out.

The one thing I could do turned out to be quite simple. Check and make sure the power cables are all tightened down on the back of the power supply. There was no way it could be that simple but I checked anyway. And, guess what?!!! The cables were loose, I tightened them down, and everything started working perfectly.

In fact, the power out was back up to 100 watts on all bands, right where it's supposed to be. That hasn't been the case in quite some time. Well, truth is I still can only get about 75 watts out on 6 meters. I have no idea why that is the case but I can live with it for now since everything else is up where I want it to be.

I couldn't believe it. I would have never believed that the solution to the problem could be such a simple one. No way! Boy, was I ever wrong!

I still find it hard to believe. Even though, I'm so grateful for simple and cost effective solutions!

Oh, and did I mention I worked a new country? Zimbabwe! That's number 176. Smiley




Recent Ham Radio Contacts

OCTOBER 08, 2023

10/04/23 7:45 AM

This is a page I pulled from QRZ.com that reflects my recent ham radio contacts.




46 of 60

SEPTEMBER 13, 2023

46 of 60

09/11/23 6:05 PM

Well, it's nice to see the United Nations Office confirm our June 5th 2023 contact. That particular contact is considered a bonus and gives me a credit in the much sought after Oceania area.

That means I'm over 75% of the way there (76.666 to be exact) with only 14 contacts of the required 60 contacts for that area remaining. It's the last banner I need for the QRZ site and very slow-go.

I think I may put out a call for help on X (formerly Twitter.)




Politics and Ham Radio

SEPTEMBER 02, 2023

6meters

09/01/23 12:35 PM

First off, I want to share another important Tucker Carlson interview. This time it's with Hungarian Primeminister Viktor Orbán and very much worth one's time.

Tucker Carlson interviews Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

089/31/23 04:25 PM

When I added the hexbeam I also was provided with a way to get on 6 meters. I had no idea how much fun 6 meters would provide.

Most of it is about as local as you can get. For example, when conditions are bad I'm still able to work things down here in the southeast corner.

Quite frankly, when conditions are bad on 6 meters it's all about calling CQ and hoping to find someone local who is monitoring the band. That's usually the way I hook up with other stations.

At other times, 6 meters is open all over the U.S.A mainland. And, still at other times the DX rolls in. Admittedly that tends to be pretty rare.

One of the local clubs runs a CW beacon on 6 meters and I can copy if most of the time. It turns out to be a big help in keeping up with my CW. That's because I haven't been on CW since I got my novice license back in the 1973.

Oh, by the way, I should mention that I've pretty much become an FT4 and FT8 guy, even on 6 meters.




Ham Radio

AUGUST 03, 2023

Quiet Ham Bands

08/01/23 11:00 AM

I've tried to access Oceania and even Europe and South or Central America, but the ham bands have been very quiet. 6 meters, which was alive, is now dead as a doornail and I'm guessing we're in a trend since it has been this way for a while now.




WD4HMR

JULY 25, 2023

Kenwood TS140

07/22/23 07:50 AM

Well, I'm impressed. Ed Leathers (WD4HMR) took my suggestion and found his way onto the bands in digital mode. Way to go, Ed!

We even made contacts on 40 meters FT8 and then FT4. Ed had to take additional steps that I don't have to take (such as manually adjusting the frequency for the move from FT8 to FT4) but he handled it like a champ!

Pictured above is a Kenwood 140, similar to the one he is using. Again, way to go Ed!




Oceania

JUNE 29, 2023

Oceania

06/28/23 07:25 AM

Well, I've got one QRZ award left. It's Master of Oceania.

Problem is, there's just no new locations to contact in that area. I keep contacting China, Indonesia, and Japan - all of which I have already contacted on pretty much all of the bands.

I guess I'm going to have to camp out on some relatively unused bands and see if I can raise one of the stations I've already worked on some other band. That has been a successful strategy so far for other awards.

As I've said before, I can truly see why so few of the Master of Oceania awards have been issued relative to the other awards. I guess you just about have to live in that area to earn that award. Europe is always coming in loud and clear, but the Oceania area is an entirely different matter.




Field Day Pictures

JUNE 26, 2023

FD1

FD2

FD3

ANT1

ANT2

06/25/23 07:30 AM

Took pictures (above) of our field day stations and antennas in Blount County, Alabama. Great crowd, good set-up, and wonderful BBQ for lunch!




Field Day Today

JUNE 25, 2023

Field Day 3

06/23/23 06:55 AM

I know it's going to be a busy day, so I'm writing this post a couple of days ahead of schedule. In fact, I'm writing this post right after the post I wrote for yesterday.

I was talking to Bob (KE4QCY) yesterday on his 2 meter repeater, and he filled me in on the Field Day location. Apparently, there are no trees in that area so we will be using vertical antennas and creative approaches for the use of horizontal dipoles.

The plan is for 3 rigs and 3 antennas. And, the plan is in place so all that remains is execution of the plan. It's a plan that has already been executed in our minds so all that actually remains is to transfer the image of that plan into an actual and carried out set of steps.

Here's to a successful Field Day!

And by the way, I'm going to try to get in a run and not miss any of my three milers. Should prove to be interesting since I don't yet have a plan for that. It may mean getting up extra early or running after I get home.

We'll see.




Field Day Coming Up

JUNE 23, 2023

Field Day 2

06/22/23 07:55 AM

As I write it is Thursday, June 22, 2023. Day after tomorrow (Saturday) I will be driving over to Sneed, Alabama to attend the field day event hosted by the Blount County, Alabama Amateur Radio Club.

Yesterday, I went over to the Glass Doctor in Anniston, Alabama and had the windshield seal replaced. And with that replacement, the air noise is gone. The noise was intrusive and started up at about 40 mph.

I'm still amazed that Glass Doctor was able to do the work for about 25% of what the dealership was asking. I called Jonathan and shared the news with him about Glass Doctor since they are a chain and he is battling a similar problem.

With the noise gone, the drive to Sneed should be a good one. I'll head to my normal stop at the Walmart in Atalla, Alabama and proceed in a relatively W-N-W direction from there.

Altogether, the drive is about 40 miles and just under a one hour ride. We're all scheduled to meet around 9 AM and I'm guessing I'll get away just before 8 AM.

They're cooking up hotdogs and hamburgers for lunch and my plan is to get home before dark, even though the event runs into Sunday and some will be staying for the entire event.




Oneonta

JUNE 15, 2023

Blount County ARC

06/14/23 05:25 PM

Well, as mentioned yesterday, it was a busy day.

Bob rode with me to Oneonta for the Blount County Amateur Radio Club meeting (pictured above) last night and we met at the Little Brick Church, as it is called. On a humorous note, no one picked up the keys to the church so one of the members climbed in through an unlocked window to gain access to the building.

A lot of discussion was had regarding the upcoming Field Day. That was pretty much our sole purpose for being at the meeting and Bob did a good job of soliciting for the much needed equipment for the event. Looks like we should be good to go weekend after next.

I had an opportunity to visit with Bob before we left for the meeting and he showed me around the radio shack and the property. It was good to be able to see where he lives and where he is located when we're talking over the air.

I couldn't believe how far away from everything Bob and Theresa's place was. What would probably require a one minute boat ride took 30+ minutes by road and it was all a 2 lane blacktop. Even with headlights, it made for a rather dark ride on the drive home.

On an unrelated note, I missed supper due to the early departure that was necessary to get to Bob's place, visit, and get to the club meeting a bit early. I snacked on some left overs when I got home and was sure my weight would be up.

Much to my surprise, it was down and put me about a pound below the bottom of my 5 lb. range. That's always a good place to be.

Looks like we're in for a stormy day today. The rain and thunder have already moved in and look like they're here to stay for a while.




Another Busy Day

JUNE 14, 2023

ABD

06/13/23 07:30 AM

Got a busy day ahead due to an eye doctor visit around lunch time and a ham radio club meeting this evening. Just got a txt message from Bob who will indeed need a ride to the meeting.

Will be nice to see where he lives and to talk together on the ride to and from the meeting. The primary focus of the meeting should be about Field Day. Bob and I are planning to be there and thought we would attend the meeting.

Bob has been around for a long time and will probably be very involved in the planning stage. As for me, I've done plenty of Field Days but will most likely be a listener on this one.

The last Field Day in which I was involved was at the Crawfordville club during Covid. We were permitted to operate from home and combine our scores. As such, I operated digital FT8 on all bands and some FT4.

Oh, and speaking of all bands, it was fun to see the band open up on 6 meters yesterday and to make about a dozen contacts while it was open.

After the meeting, this will also be the first time I've navigated the 1.3 mile curvy road up to the house in the dark. It should be manageable.




Spring Cleaning

JUNE 13, 2023

Spring Cleaning

06/12/23 08:30 AM

I suppose the title of this post should read, 'Summer Cleaning.' Thinking I'm a bit late for the spring season.

We've been picking up all along on things like the garage, but my desk was an entirely different story. Talk about things just crammed in folders.

That's what it was like until I just went through and did some paper shuffling and folder building. Hopefully things are now in a more appropriate filing system.

And talk about some things that needed to be thrown away. The garbage can here in my office is now full of stuff that should have been tossed way back when instead of saved in folders with no names.

On an unrelated note, we sure got some severe weather last night. The strong winds rearranged everything on the back deck and the lightning and cracks of thunder were intimidating to say the least.

The winds moved our sofa and blew over a heavy fan on a stand. I'm amazed that we got less than 1/4 inch of rain out of the whole thing. I still wonder if that happens to our rain gauge when the strong winds cause it to rain sideways instead of straight down.

Oh, and the wonderful news is that the high winds provided a good test for the ham antenna and rotor which stood tall and strong during the event. I'm quite grateful for that!




Ham Radio

JUNE 12, 2023

9W8DEN

06/11/23 08:15 AM

On June 6th, I worked Eastern Malaysia on 17 meters. It was a previously made location but a new station on a new band. The station was located in Kuching City on Borneo Island and the operator (pictured above at his station) was Dennis Kung Ho Wong.

The fact that the contact was made on a new band (to that location) means another point was earned toward the Master of Oceania award. Currently, there are 41 confirmed contacts with 19 yet to go.

Progress toward the award is pretty slow and it's easy to see why so few have been earned compared to the other awards. On June 5th I contacted the United Nations in New York City and once that (bonus) location confirms, another point toward the Master of Oceania award will have been earned.

Like I said, pretty slow progress toward that coveted award.




Great Ham Radio Day

JUNE 06, 2023

Great Ham Radio Day

06/05/23 08:35 AM

Today is a great Ham Radio Day. I've already worked Thailand, China, Japan, Russia, Germany, and Italy.

Yesterday was an equally great Ham Radio Day. I worked a new country (Georgia) and other desirables like Lebanon and Greenland.

In fact, the day before that was Kenya, Aruba, and another Thailand. It's very nice when conditions are that good. I don't even have to rotate the hexbeam to make some of those contacts.

Conditions have been that good.

On an unrelated topic, Patty and I had a deep time of sharing yesterday and I also received a nice Father's Day invite from Jonathan and Amy. That should be a lot of fun and I've also got a lot of reflecting to do upon my deep chat with Patty. There may be some adjustments to life that come out of that one.




Band Conditions and Running

MAY 27, 2023

Band Conditions 2

05/26/23 07:00 AM

It doesn't matter what your antenna farm looks like. If band conditions aren't favorable it's pretty difficult to create an opening.

Yesterday (Thursday) was amazing. Today started out to be less than exciting but picked up somewhere along the way. I made over 100 contacts yesterday and am up to 50 already today.

What's amazing to me is that I'm nearing 5,000 contacts in this new location and still have 3.5 months before I've been on HF for a year. That's the power and speed of the new FT4 and FT8 technology.

Treadmill 2

On the running front I've decided to back down to 2 mile runs on the days when I work out with weights (like today!) and stay with the 3 milers on the days when I'm just running. I'm also going back to a 7.0 setting on the treadmill which is right at 8.5 minute miles.

Staying away from hills and no incline on the treadmill is the only thing that makes that doable. In fact, I did an 8.0 setting which is 3 miles at a 7:30 pace. That was brutal and I won't be doing it again anytime soon.

Only reason I did it at all was because the treadmill display quit working and I was forced to use a setting with which I was not familiar. If I had known that feature would result in a sub 8 pace I would never have considered using it.




Big Day

MAY 22, 2023

Jon 1

05/21/23 07:15 AM

As I write it is Sunday morning. I am anxiously awaiting Jonathan's arrival after lunch and I plan to take some pictures of him helping with my antenna so that I can share one or two here.

Just finished my run and have pretty much knocked out everything on my to-do list. After the antenna work, I hope to get the two beds made around Patty's beauty berry bushes.

The grass cutting guys are supposed to be here tomorrow although we have rain in the forecast. If it turns out to be like recent forecasts, we may not get a drop. Still, I hope to get the beds made today to provide Patty with the comfort of knowing the guys will be careful with their cutting and weed-wacking around her bushes and beds.

I also have garage work to be done on Tuesday and an eye doctor appointment on Wednesday for my prism analysis. I hope to squeeze in some good time on my ham radio (with the new rotor) alongside my busy schedule.

05/21/23 07:00 PM

As I write and publish, it's Sunday evening. Jonathan came over and did a great job as always! As you can see in the picture above, the new rotor is in place. And by the way, it is working great!

The picture below (of Jonathan) was taken after the work and during a well deserved rest to enjoy the back deck.

Jon 2




Antenna Rotor

MAY 21, 2023

Project

05/20/23 07:30 AM

Looks like were slated for some rainy weather today and into tonight, to be followed by a beautiful sunny day tomorrow and just in time for Jonathan's arrival after lunch to help install my new antenna rotor.

As I've said before, I am so grateful to have my son make the drive over and to do the climbing that my wonky stature just won't allow me to do any longer. Letting go of that and letting someone else do it is truly a way to exercise turning control over to God. I'm sure that's what He had wanted me to do all along.

I've got a bit of prep work to do for Jonathan's arrival but don't want anything sitting out in the rain today until it's installed and water-proofed. I should have plenty of time tomorrow, before Jonathan's arrival, to do the prep work and get things ready for his arrival.

There's great excitement heading into this project and even more awaiting me when it's all done and I'm able to use the new equipment.




Rotor Test

MAY 17, 2023

Rotor Test

05/16/23 07:20 AM

Well to start with, I discovered a lot more places where I had code tucked away that needed to be changed to accommodate the new banner. I have since made those changes and hopefully all is good to go now.

On an unrelated note, and more to the point of this post, I performed all of the necessary testing on the rotor, and that was described in the product instructions, and it looks like all is ready and good to go.

That I can't do this myself, but need assistance, is where my catastrophizing gene kicks in and causes unnecessary stress. So many other hams have assumed a much greater risk and they pulled it off. I need to look at the positive and realize that my installation is relatively risk-free.

Thank you Lord for helping me see the flaws in my thinking. Help me to put my trust in you and to set my cares aside.

On another unrelated note, my wife cooked up some kale yesterday and despite all of my kidding about how bad it is supposed to be, what she made turned out to be very, very good. I was pleasantly surprised!

I continue to be amazed at how my wife can try something new in the kitchen and it always, always turns out great! I actually went back for seconds on the kale that she cooked up. It was that good.




Arriving Today

MAY 16, 2023

Yaesu Rotor

05/15/23 06:35 AM

I'm excited to see that my new rotor is scheduled to arrive today. I plan to hook it up in the radio shack and test it out.

I went the affordable route to start with, but the old rotor just wasn't up to the job. Not long after the installation, the rotor failed and had to be tied down and locked in a single position to avoid having it rotate freely as it was blown around by the gusty winds we enjoy up this way.

My awesome son is slated to come out this coming Sunday or soon thereafter to do the roof climbing and installation for the new rotor. I'm blessed to have him be willing and able to get up in the air and put this new thing in place for me.

The rotor and antenna are being installed on top of a push-up-pole (mast) which is attached to the house with 2 brackets. When all is said and done, the antenna should be about 25 feet off the ground. I would love to put it up higher but don't want to deal with the messy guy wires in the yard.

With the way it's going, it currently allows for the rotor to sit just above the top bracket and the antenna just a few feet above that. It will be great to have a rotatable antenna once again.

A big word of thanks goes out to my son for making the drive over and doing the climbing and installation. What a blessing he is for this old grounded guy!




Antenna Radiation Patterns

MAY 02, 2023

Antenna Radiation Patterns

05/01/23 03:20 PM

Antenna theory, within the world of ham radio, can be very complicated. I would have never guessed some of the results I have had with my antennas.

I was fully expecting to see an improvement when I went from my 20 meter dipole to my hexbeam. However, I was not expecting some of the ways those improvements came about.

For example, I had no idea why I've had such success off the side of the beam. I've heard of a front-to-back ratio and assumed that meant that some signal should be expected off of the back of a beam. Additional research proved that theory to be correct.

However, I'm still only learning why I'm experiencing such benefit off of the sides of the beam and from angles away from the front and the back. I can assure you I had no expectations along those lines.

I'm guessing that the antenna is high enough to act as an omni-directional antenna that includes directional aspects. I was thinking that theory might remain a mystery but further research suggests there are additional lobes in the radiation pattern for a beam. (See image above.)

I know from discussions held long ago that environmental factors also play a part in radiation patterns. For example, how high off of the ground is the antenna? What obstacles are around and/or close by the antenna?

What is the slope of the land upon which the antenna is mounted? Is water close by? How about sunspots, the solar flux index, and A and K indexes? All of these things contribute to the radiation pattern generated by an antenna.

Answers to the questions of radiation patterns are more available than ever before thanks to things like antenna analyzers and pskreporter.info. I love using the latter of those two with my digital modes and am always pleasantly surprised by what I discover.




QRZ.com

APRIL 20, 2023

QRZ

04/18/23 05:45 PM

The web page below is provided by qrz.com and is pulled from that site to display the current data for my most recent 15 ham radio contacts. The total number of contacts made and confirmed here in Ohatchee, AL are also displayed down at the bottom.

I'm so excited to have finally completed my Master of Africa award. I received it on the evening of 04/19/23 - well ahead of when I thought it would be awarded. Oh, and the yellow stars on the chart below represent confirmed QSO's (or contacts.)




Africa Ham Radio Contacts

APRIL 18, 2023

Africa

04/17/23 01:45 PAM

I opened up 30, 40, and even 80 meters last night. All three seem to tune-up just fine on my hexbeam for some strange reason. I'm sure it's not as efficient on the transmit side, but seems to be effective enough to offer a solid connection with the African continent.

I made a new Africa contact on 30 meters and was pleasantly surprised. I hadn't even thought of that possibility until I tried it last night. And opening up those bands open up new possibilities for contacts on that much sought after continent.

40 meters converts from a local band to a operation involving great distances when the evening hours roll around. I may spend some time there tonight and see if some of my ham friends are staying up late in Africa. Should be interesting.

As for the Master of African award that I'm chasing, I've got 71 contacts made and only 5 to go. At an average rate of less than one Africa contact per day, there's no telling exactly when it will happen. Still, I'm looking forward to it.




Clublog

APRIL 17, 2023

Clublog

04/16/23 08:25 AM

I spent quite a bit of time yesterday trying to teach myself how to use the Clublog system. A good number of DXCC entities use it to verify their contacts and if I intend to use it to confirm mine, I was going to have to study it and figure out how to use it.

Fortunately I found a good YouTube video that shows how to sync up Log of the World (which I do use) with Clublog so I spent most of my time with that video.

I remember being presented with a lengthy encryption key when I first tried to get started with Clublog. Unfortunately, I didn't know enough about the system to realize I would need that key in the process. As such, I didn't save it and didn't realize I would only see it that one time.

Well, I had to delete my ARRL certificate from Clublog and reload it. This time, as I went through the process, I saved the encryption key. And, I used it in the sync process when it was called for.

Little did I know that my Log of the World (LoTW) account already contained everything in my Clublog account so there was no gain there after I figured out how to use it. Libya will confirm in Clublog and I will use that to sync up with LoTW and then pass that confirmation on to qrz.com where the awards are presented.

Libya will result in 69 Africa confirmations and only 7 more needed for the Master of Africa award. After that, it's on to the Master of Oceania award for a full focus on that last award. I'm presently 32 of 60 entities toward the earning of that award, and it's a very slow-go process, so that may take some time.

There's always something new that must be learned to keep up with the hobby. I guess that's part of what makes it interesting (and a little bit scary, LoL.)




170 Degrees

APRIL 15, 2023

170 Degrees

04/14/23 11:00 AM

I think I mentioned it before but my antenna rotor is no longer working. It was swinging freely in the wind and I had no idea where it was pointed from one moment to the next.

I had handyman Mike climb up on the roof and tape the box to sort of lock it down so that it would not turn freely. I asked him to lock it on about 70 degrees (actually to point it toward a tree that is located about 70 degrees from the antenna.)

Mike left town for about 2 weeks and the day after he left, a big storm swept in and rotated the antenna, despite the tape. Now it's locked down on about 170 degrees. That's okay if I'm trying to work South America (I'm not!) but it's not okay for Africa, the location I am trying to work.

Just sent Mike a txt and he returned it with a phone call. It seems he just got home today and said he would be glad to drop by this afternoon and make the antenna adjustment. He also mentioned something about 35 inches of snow that fell where they went and only the day after they arrived.

Wow!




Antenna Rotor

MARCH 25, 2023

Antenna Rotor

03/24/23 07:10 AM

I've got handyman Mike coming by again today to do another ham radio antenna adjustment. This time it's different.

The rotor is damaged. I'm not sure if simple wear and tear was the cause or if I tried to move the antenna in sub-freezing weather and stripped whatever gears are inside due to a frozen rotor.

Either way, the rotor no longer holds the antenna's position. The antenna rotates freely in the wind and the rotor controller no longer provides any type of antenna rotation.

In fact, the rotor motor doesn't appear to provide any response to rotor controller actions. I knew I was using a less expensive rotor option and feared this might happen.

I just had no idea it might happen this quickly. And, since I don't know what caused the damage, I'm not prepared to do a simple replace with the same rotor. Worse yet, the next (more expensive) option is far more expensive and I'm simply not prepared to go there at this point.

I'm going to have Mike point the antenna toward Africa and then lock it down. That should provide me opportunities to earn the Master of Africa award and to make other contacts off the front and backside of the beam.

I've been pleasantly surprised at the contacts I can make off of the back and sides of the antenna. That may make a fixed antenna configuration work. Even as it currently sits, it does better than the fixed dipole antenna I also have installed.

One more adjustment after this one should 1) provide an opportunity to earn the Master of Oceania award and 2) point the antenna over enough of the USA to make it usable (in its fixed format) for some time to come. That's the plan and we'll see if it is going to work out as anticipated.




Ham Radio QSO Confirmations

MARCH 22, 2023

Confirmations

03/21/23 11:20 AM

One of the big challenges in the world of ham radio is confirmations. Or should I say the lack thereof. The lack of confirmations truly underscores the variety of priorities with which different ham radio operators approach the hobby.

It's quite possible to work very hard to finally connect with an entity that I hadn't been able to work, only to find that the operator has no intention of confirming. Or worse yet, the operator has created a technical maze too difficult to navigate for the confirmation and thus no confirmation is ultimately provided.

Admittedly, confirmations are not that simple to all operators. One has to go through a number of steps on a computer to provide confirmations and if an operator doesn't do it very often, it's easy to imagine some operators having a difficult time remembering those steps.

I can imagine that such difficulty might compel some operators to procrastinate and then ultimately decide never to confirm. That sounds a bit judgmental, but I've seen it happen, or some variation thereof. Most of us use QRZ.com and on that site one can 'advertise' whether or not one intends to confirm. I've seen many provide such 'ads' (of good intentions) and then never follow through.

On the other hand, I've seen some operators confirm months or even years after a QSO occurred. I scratch my head on those, but I also realize that such operators just don't place any priority on confirmations. This is especially true for those operators that have already received those awards that the rest of us are still pursuing. After all, a contact is not a contact until a confirmation is provided.

I try to be a good ham radio citizen and always provide confirmations for my QSO's. And I'm grateful for those who do the same, especially when it's apparent they don't need the confirmation.

I've been in this hobby long enough to remember when QSL cards sent by mail was the only way to confirm. That's almost a lost art these days with the cost of cards and postage, but I'm still in on that too.




My Wife

MARCH 08, 2023

God and My Wife

03/07/23 04:20 PM

I'm amazed at some of the things God shows me. I'm even more amazed at the way he shows me so many things. How, you ask?

Patty has dropped little pearls of wisdom and I've let so many of them pass me by until I started realizing just how power-packed with wisdom so many of those tiny pearls really are. Tiny tidbits of wisdom delivered directly to me from God.

I used to think that her challenges were mostly things I would place in the Lady Stuff category. Boy, was I ever wrong!

And more interesting yet, the wisdom packed in those pearls more often escaped me because I just wasn't paying attention at the time. But some how or another, God helped me rewind her words at a later point and suddenly I was able to see the things upon which I've been missing out.

Yesterday's post was a good example. Being a perfectionist means I'm going to miss out on things until I get them to be perfect like I think they need to be.

Remember how I mentioned that I was going to have to wait until I hired a roof climber to get some much-needed antenna work done (so I could enjoy my radio?) Well, as I was doing what I could from the ground today the Lord brought Patty's words to mind. Things don't have to be perfect, she had told me.

When I pondered those words, I realized I could offer a repair on an item and delay any real need to hire a climber. I made the repair, it did what I needed it to do, and I was on the air using my good antenna.

As a result, I made 45 digital contacts, mostly in other countries, and including two new countries which I had never worked before. That's what I would call a really good ham radio day.

And all thanks to my wife's wisdom!




Hexbeam

MARCH 07, 2023

Antenna and Me

03/07/23 06:25 AM

Well, I've decided to hold on to my hexbeam ham radio antenna. That means I'm going to need to find and hire a roof climber to do my much-needed antenna work.

My wonky state of affairs is not going to permit me to do that climbing as I used to do, so I'm going to have to hire a daring and dependable soul to take care of that need for me.

One cannot believe how much it grieves me not to be able to do that. But as my main man (my son) has often said, the juice is just not worth the squeeze.

It will be good to have a working and rotatable hexbeam once again but may take some time to get it back in working order. That's along with the other things we need to do to get this place in shape. The good news is that we're making great progress on those other things.




The Solution: A Coax Jumper Cable

MARCH 02, 2023

Coax Jumper Cable

03/01/23 01:30 PM

Well, that was a painful lesson.

I was so confident that I had isolated the problem to my IC 7600 radio that I sent it back to ICOM for repairs. And guess what? They sent it back to me indicating it was in good working order.

I had clearly proven the problem was not related to the antenna, but I had only made assumptions for the other things, believing those things could not possibly cause the problem I was facing. And now, I had to delve further into the debugging process.

I swapped out my external tuner in favor of the internal tuner. After doing that, I still had a problem. What I didn't know was I had a very different problem (and it would wind up proving to be a user problem.)

Well, in an effort to further debug the problem and before isolating my problem to my tuner I figured it would probably be wise to rule out the coax jumper cable that connected my IC 7600 and the external tuner.

As it turns out, that coax was the problem! A quick cable swap and all started working correctly as it had before.

What a shock and what a painful lesson learned. I was so sure that a cable that was always inside (and never touched or subject to the outside elements) could never develop a problem.

Wow, was I ever wrong.




Waiting on a Radio

FEBRUARY 17, 2023

Icom 7600 - 2

02/15/23 11:00 AM

It would be nice if I received an email from Icom that my radio is on the way but I'm not going to hold my breath. As I type it's February 15th, the day after a very nice Valentine's Day celebration. As I publish, it's February 17th and if things go like I'm not expecting, perhaps I received an email between the two aforementioned dates. But again, I'm not holding my breath.

I sent my radio to Icom Repair via UPS. It was shipped on Friday, January 20th and arrived at the Icom loading dock on Friday January 27th at 1:20 PM their time. I was notified on Friday February 3rd that the radio was packed and ready to return, but would probably not ship until the following week due to an 'emergency' they had going on there at the shop. They did not tell me what the emergency was and I had no idea what it could possibly be.

I tried to call Icom but by this time their repair desk calls were all going to voicemail. I struggled with the idea, but decided to provide a Twitter tweet about the situation and another ham operator tagged my tweet to the primary Icom account.

That must have lit a fire because the next thing I know I'm able to talk to a support person (Mary) and am informed that the president of the company is now involved. I'm told by Mary that they are testing some new software and don't know when my radio will be released to be shipped back to me.

I'm supposed to receive notification when my radio has been shipped.

I'm still waiting...




Water

FEBRUARY 13, 2023

Well

02/07/23 12:45 PM

I made a radio contact with 7Q7EMH who was located at the Embangweni Mission Hospital in the African country of Malawi. It was through this contact that Patty and I were introduced to the Marion Medical Mission and their outreach program to build wells providing life-saving fresh water to communities all across Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and beyond.

It was a real honor to donate the well in memory of Patty's mom (Martha) and in honor of Junior, who facilitated the radio contact with 7Q7EMH for me.

We are so excited to be a part of this outreach and will be praying for more success to follow.

Well Pics

Well Info



Survey

JANUARY 26, 2023

Survey

01/24/23 12:55 PM - #610

I had a great chat earlier today on two meters. For those not in the know, two meters is a VHF (Very High Frequency - local - direct line of sight) form of communication. That's as opposed to HF (High Frequency - 10 meters through 160 meters) which is not often used for local communications.

My HF radio has been shipped off for repair so I'm basically restricted to the two meter VHF form of communication. And, that's just fine with me.

I ran a poll on Twitter trying to see which of the two forms is most common within the ham community with which I hang out on twitter. Looks like 50.8% of the 67 respondents opt for HF, where as 16.9% go for VHF or UHF and 32.3 go for both. That was an interesting finding for me.

I have over 2,000 hams in my community so the numbers above are far less than representative of the majority. Still, it was interesting to hear from those who chose to participate.




Icom Repair

JANUARY 22, 2023

Icom Repair

01/21/23 03:25 PM - #606

I couldn't let my Icom 7600 sit in a box unable to function. So, Patty and I went to the UPS Store and I shipped it to Icom Repair in Kirkland, Washington. I knew it was going to be pricey to ship it and pricey it was. All total it was $117.82 from Ohatchee, AL to Kirkland, WA. Weight with box included was rated at 35 pounds and totaled out at 33 pounds on the UPS scales.

It's going to take the better part of a week to get there and is scheduled to arrive next Friday, January 27th. I'm guessing I'll receive a call, TXT, or email early the following week with the repair estimate that I requested.

I've already got to pay for the return shipping. So, if the cost of repair is outlandish I may opt for a new Icom 7300 and store away the non-working 7600.

The last repair I had to deal with was for the power supply that I use with the rig. Shipping back then was only $60 and repair was something like $35. As I recall, with that company I didn't have to pay a high-priced return shipment so that was a pretty good deal. With a rig that won't tune and fights high SWR, I fear that things won't be so sweet on this deal. The return shipping is going to be bad enough, but repairing that SWR problem could also be costly. Again, we'll see.

Addendum:

01/22/23 - 02:35 PM

Found out a bit earlier that the arrival of my radio to Icom Repair in Kirkland, WA has been moved out from Friday Jan 27th to the following Monday, Jan 30th. Guess it may slow things down just a tad but I can live with that. No worries.




2 Meter Ham Radio

TUESDAY - JANUARY 17, 2023

Icom 2m

01/16/23 01:45 PM - #601

Well, I've officially retired from the world of HF Ham Radio. I will stay active on 2 meters but am officially off the air for 6 meter through 80 meters. See you somewhere between 145.00 and 147.50!




A Special (DX) Ham Radio Day

JANUARY 13, 2023


DX

01/11/23 06:55 PM

Today was one of those day where everything I touched turned to gold. Or should I say (in ham radio language) everyone I called answered me and then confirmed our contact - or at least it seemed that way.

Better yet, most everyone I worked was a super good DX (long-distance) station and I could not be more pleased with the overall results for the day. I finally worked Thailand, which is about the farthest station I've ever contacted and one I've been trying to reach for sometime now.

I also worked other new countries including Angola, Namibia, and even Equitorial Guinea which I contacted (and which confirmed) all on three different bands - 20, 17, and 15 meters. The awards we can earn are based on confirmed contacts and a contact with the same station on a different band counts as an additional contact. So with one station, I actually earned three contacts. It's a rare treat for me, but not bad!

I also made over 30 contacts for the day. All of those contacts were made using the digital FT8 technology that I have grown to enjoy. It involves my computer logging a contact with another computer in another location, both through our respective ham radios and ham radio equipment, which perform the heavy lifting to make the contact over so many miles.

All of this has only become truly possible with the directional multi-band hexbeam antenna I installed and wrote about recently. It takes my power and sends it all in one direction and also tends to pull in signals in a similar fashion. It sure adds a new twist to the hobby and brings new excitement I never imagined.

One of the really cool aspects of the hobby with which I have only recently become familiar involves a website. That site provides me with a bearing in degrees where I can set my rotor to point my antenna in the direction of the station I am working.

I've always used omni directional antennas and never had to know such information. Pretty cool that it considers geography, the shape of the earth, shortest path, and overall distance between us.

It also provides me with a bi-directional approach (short path and long path) in case I am actually transmitting and receiving via the long path to the location. Pretty cool indeed!




Logfile Problems

JANUARY 08, 2023


Log File X 2

01/07/23 05:10 PM

Earlier in the year I mentioned potential topics for the new year. I included in that list some posts on technology. But I was thinking website technology. It never dawned on me that I might be writing about computer technology and the issue I battled recently in the (ham radio) QRZ.com and Log of The World (LoTW) spaces.

It all started out with my contacting the QRZ.com helpdesk for assistance with a LoTW update that wouldn't transfer over to QRZ.com. Unfortunately, I was misled and there actually was no LoTW update. That's why I couldn't get the confirmation to transfer over. It simply wasn't in LoTW to start with.

But I had been assured it was there and wasn't exactly sure how to verify that for myself, so I had to trust the guy who told me. Looking back, that was a mistake and it led to a bunch of headaches.

In order to correct the problem, the QRZ help desk guy decided to reset all 1,670 of my records as if they hadn't been loaded from LoTW to QRZ in the first place. This was done in order to force the (non-existent) confirmations to transfer over.

Unfortunately, neither he nor I knew how long that was going to take and it turned out to be a very long time. To add to my troubles, the LoTW system was going down very often and would force my already long-running jobs to crash each time it went down.

The jobs ran and crashed many, many times and none of us had any idea on each restart if the jobs were starting over or were able to pick up and run where they had left off after the last crash. And, to make matters even worse, it was clear to me that no one at the help desk really knew enough about the functionality of the system to correct my problem.

Fortunately I was motivated and hopeful that I could get a run in that would complete the entire task. Considering that one particular job had run for 7 hours before it crashed, I feared I was being a bit optimistic about my chances for success.

Turns out the job was indeed picking up where it had left off after the previous crash. On day five of the incident, after countless hours of running the job, it finally finished successfully.

It was a great feeling to see that job finish successfully and upon its completion I notified the QRZ help desk and was immediately back to normal operations.




6 Meters

JANUARY 02, 2023


Antenna and me

01/01/23 02:20 PM

Well, kicked off 2023 with my favorite hobby (ham radio) and made my first ever contact on 6 meters. I was using FT8 and linked up with a station (W4IMD) in my neighboring state of Georgia. I have a six band hexbeam and made the contact using the smallest (6 meter) element. Pretty cool!

I didn't even pay attention to the beam setting but was positioned southeast around 130°. Probably not the best direction for a CQ and the band was extremely quiet until I rustled up a contact.

Turns out the contacted station was located in Dacula, GA which is roughly 40 miles northeast of Atlanta and out I-85 just past Gwinette Place. It's also just over 120 miles from the house as the crow flies and roughly 150 miles by road. It's pretty much due east of my location.

I also received an email from Junior, my contact in Malawi, Africa, indicating he would take care of my contact confirmations. Patty and I are excited to be donating a well to a needy city over there. We're making the donation in memory of her Mom and also as a thank you to Junior and 7Q7EMH for putting us on to the Embangweni Mission Hospital. Patty put her Google research skills to work and found a wonderful donation opportunity associated with that location.

Nice way to start the year!




Ham Stats

DECEMBER 10, 2022


Ham Stats

12/09/22 09:20 AM

I figured there would come a day when I will finally earn all of the basic ham radio qrz.com awards I'm going after. I've got many of them but have three remaining. Those are Masters of Asia, Africa, and Oceania.

I thought it would be worth my time to publish my current standings since things are moving rather quickly. Wouldn't be surprised if things slow down just a bit (due to band conditions) but still thought it would be good to publish my current situation on the way toward a final level of success. I have my new hexbeam to thank for picking up the speed in earing these final three basic awards.

I'm looking forward to injecting a bit more voice operations into the mix after I complete the three aforementioned awards. Should be fun - especially with the locals on 6 meters (which is quite new to me.)




Band Conditions

DECEMBER 08, 2022


Band Conditions

12/08/22 11:20 AM

I'm learning that connecting with a DX station centers first and foremost around band conditions, with the quality of the antenna being a clear second.

I'm watching folks struggle to make contacts and who have superior antenna systems to the new hexbeam I purchased. I think I got spoiled just a bit with some outstanding band conditions when I first installed my new hexbeam.

Now the reality is kicking in and I'm even seeing guys with a SteppIR who are not able to make reasonable contacts. That's truly an eye opener for me.

What I finding is that I have no idea how to set my expectations. On one station I can be receiving an initial report of around -10 and make an easy and quite surprising contact. With another station, I can be receiving an initial report of +10 and cannot connect even if the report jumps on up to +15 or a bit more.

Even with those positive situations I am at a loss to understand why my signal is not even showing up on the PSKreporter. The whole thing is truly a mystery to me.




Embangweni

DECEMBER 06, 2022


Mission

12/06/22 08:25 AM

Yesterday, I was able to work a station that was set up at a mission hospital on the continent of Africa. In particular, they were located in the country of Malawi on the west coast of the continent near the southern tip of Africa.

The name of the mission is Embangweni and it was a real treat to be able to reach out to them and make the contact. The picture above is the entrance to the mission and I have included some additional pictures below including a picture of the continent of Africa with the location of Malawi indicated.

I had seen the station on the air days before conditions were suitable for making the contact. I was so glad conditions became suitable last night.

Malawi1

Malawi2

Malawi3a

Malawi4

Malawi5a




Busy Day

November 21, 2022


Busy Day Today

11/20/22 08:25 PM

Another short post today. Lots going on and lots done!

No workout scheduled but got my run in today. Also broke 100 entities on my DXCC effort. Wrapped up the day with 102 entities including India, which was a major shock and provided a big vote of confidence for the hexbeam.

Will now move to earning the Master of Asia award. The plan is to follow that up with the Master of Oceania and finally the Master of Africa.

Although that's the plan for the order of awards, I suspect band conditions will have a lot to say about what order actually occurs. It should be fun to see how everything unfolds. I'm still in awe of contacting India when I haven't even heard or seen evidence of them before the hexbeam!

Afterward, I'll take a break on digital and swap back to voice for a season - maybe in time for 2023 field day. Should be interesting to put the 600 watt Ameritron amp back in line with the new antenna for voice.

In fact, when I spoke to one of my ham buddies earlier this week, he indicated that he hadn't even needed his amp with his hexbeam in line while doing voice operations.

I will schedule a new mic and mic stand when that new voice season rolls around. The plan is to quit working with the hand held mic at that point. I suspect going back to voice operations will feel a bit like going back in time. Hopefully band conditions and the sun-spot cycle will work with me on that transition.




DX

November 20, 2022


54

11/20/22 06:35 AM

Just a short post today because I want to jump into day three of the new ham radio antenna. Should be another great day.

As the post title and picture suggest, in two short days with the new antenna I've made 54 DX (long distance and outside of the USA) contacts. Pretty amazing!

Some are duplicate countries of each other or others that I've worked before. And as usual, not all are confirmed. Still, it is quite exciting to be able to call someone and often secure the contact. With the old dipole antenna I called and called and often never secured the contact.

The new experience has been to lookup the contact I want to call, find the bearing to that contact from my location, and turn the rotor to that position before making the call. I've have often seen that function yield a strong improvement in the signal report before even making the call. That's something I've never seen before and very exciting!

Here's to another day full of ham radio fun!




Ham Radio Day

November 19, 2022


Ham Radio Day

11/18/22 07:45 AM

Today is the big day. World Ham Radio Day is actually April 18th, but for me it's today!

Today is the day we raise the antenna mast and rotor and mount a hexbeam on it. The 75' coax is going to be a close fit and may require that I change the shack up a bit to add an extra few feet to the feed. We'll see on that one.

There's a lot of other things that have to go well today to make it all work. The key piece will be getting the assembled antenna up on the roof. The other key piece will be avoiding one tree limb.

At some point I will probably have to have it cut down but that would require a tree climber and none were available to suit my timeline. I think we're okay on that one. If not, I'll delay the ultimate mounting of the antenna until I can get that limb cut down and will get everything else done in the meantime.

So, here goes...

Footnote

Antenna and Me

Success!

11/18/22 04:55 PM

I confess, it has been a stressful season in prepping for this antenna project. Lately, I've felt uncomfortable about my ability to get things done and particularly to get them done well. I'm not sure where that came from, but I need to send it back and be done with it.

I prayed last night and again this morning about the project. In my prayers I gave the project to God and I did it over and over again. At lunch I asked my prayer warrior wife to pray for the project. She confirmed what I already knew, that she had been praying for a successful result, and then went ahead and prayed with me about the project. It was so good to hear her kind and wise words.

All I can say is that the project went perfectly. I could not have asked for a better result. Everything went according to plan and Justin (the help that I hired) was amazing. I could not have even dreamed of doing all that he did and he deserves much credit for the success of the project.

I got my workout and run in today but everything else centered on doing the ham radio thing with the new antenna. Wow! What a great experience. And what a blessing to have such a supportive wife. I am so blessed and so grateful!




Hexbeam

November 16, 2022


Hexbeam 2?

11/15/22 03:25 PM

Well, it's official. The assortment of hexbeam related items, including the hexbeam, are all here. And, I met with my help on a rainy morning today to discuss the installation process.

Based on his schedule, we're going to try and get the thing completely installed this coming Friday. I'm doing all of the lead-up work, including assembly. And with the good results I've had so far I'm thinking this should be doable. It's going to be cold but I can live with that.

I've got a lot of the work done and still a bit more to do before Friday gets here. It's going pretty smoothly and I'm holding my breath for a continuation in that direction.

I actually have more time to assemble the antenna than I planned for and am pleasantly surprised at how many of the other things are done. The biggest challenge remaining will be to get the antenna up on the roof and installed on the rotor. Brackets are all installed so once the antenna is set down on the rotor, it will simply be a matter of tightening things down.

With the mounting bracket (the one that holds the antenna on the rotor) bolted to the antenna and ready to receive the rotor, there shouldn't be any bolts, nuts, washers, and lock washers that are dropped as I initially feared. Everything is already positioned and, as I mentioned, it's just a matter of putting the two pieces together and locking things down.

I purchased good rolls of coax and rotor cable and have already attached the rotor cable to the rotor. I temporarily attached the other end to the rotor controller and enjoyed a successful test. Next steps will be to run the coax and the rotor cable from the office, through the wall, and out to the antenna location. I'll also connect the rotor cable back to the rotor controller on my desk.

We'll wrap things up by applying a balun to the coax, connecting the coax to the antenna, and sealing everything up with silicone (waterproof) self-fusing tape.

Can't wait to try it all out!




Antenna Project

November 13, 2022


Project

11/12/22 08:35 AM

Well, I started working on the Antenna project this morning. I'm staying true to my focus with lots of planning and a slow and steady approach.

Right off the bat I ran into a snag but was able to get around it and make some measurable progress. On a humorous note, I thought I was going to be able to pull the car out of the garage and build the antenna in there to stay out of the weather.

Unfortunately, the antenna is too big, even for that two car garage! The antenna is round and when put together will have a diameter of almost 22 feet. I think I will also have to trim a limb or two on one of the trees in order to install and rotate it as needed.

Looks like building the antenna outside will force antenna construction to come later in the schedule of events. I can't afford to leave it out and on the ground where it could be damaged, or worse yet stolen. I doubt either would happen, but I don't think the revising the schedule will hurt the project either.

My plan calls for a four-day schedule. Day-one will be focused on any tree trimming that I decide is necessary, laying out the mast and setting the length, mounting the rotor, rotor cable, and three-foot extension. It will also include running the rotor cable and coax from the office to the antenna mast and installing the rotor controller and coax in the office.

Day-two will be focused on having my helper here to raise the mast and get it mounted against the house. Day-three (the next day) will be focused on antenna construction and day-four (the next day) will be focused on having my helper mount the antenna on top of the three-foot extension pole, hooking up the coax and ferrite beads, applying water-proof tape to the coax connector, and working together to finalize proper orientation of the antenna.

Not quite sure when all of this will happen since we're moving into a period of less-than-desirable weather combined with Thanksgiving weekend travel to see the crowd in Atlanta and a visit to go and see Jon and Amy and their new house.

Since some of the schedule includes the necessity of back-to-back days, and since I will need to work with my helper's schedule, I haven't yet nailed down a start date. But it should happen pretty soon, weather permitting.




Leo Shoemaker

November 09, 2022


Leo Shoemaker

11/07/22 07:50 PM

I put out a call for ham radio help on Twitter recently and had a gentleman reach out to me in response. As such I had a short phone call today with Jim (K8CXM) about his experiences with his K4KIO Hexbeam, and particularly about the performance and installation process.

He was very helpful and had some great insights to share. He reminded me that the founder and owner of KIO technology, from whom I also had ordered a hexbeam today, was located down this way, so I went searching.

I remembered the call sign and that he had a Florida address. I didn't know he also had a Birmingham address. I just finished reading about Leo Shoemaker (K4KIO) and all that I have read makes me even more excited about my purchase today of one of his KIO Technology Hexagonal Beams or Hexbeams as they are more commonly known.

While I'm writing this on the evening of November 7th, it won't be published until November 9th. By then the election will be over and my focus will likely shift more in the direction of Ham Radio and my preparations for receiving and installing my K4KIO hexbeam and all of the supporting equipment.

I'm so glad there are smart people like Leo who make this technology available to the rest of us. I've been reading about this antenna for many years and only now have felt right about expanding my ham radio station in that direction.

If you haven't been reading and keeping up with me, we're both retired and have retired to a beautiful place here in Ohatchee, Alabama. Everything seems right to go ahead and upgrade the ham radio hobby and station and I'm very excited about all that's up ahead on this journey.

It was great to read about Leo's life, marriage, and particularly his faith and walk with Christ. From that, it seems we have more in common than just the ham radio hobby.

If you are interested you can learn more about Leo's at his blog, which is located at leoshoemaker.com.

Footnote



Election Wrap-up

11/09/22 07:40 AM

Well, we went into the morning hours with vote counting and I could not understand the situation with Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock and why there needed to be a runoff. Where was the other 80k votes or the missing 2.1%?

Turns out there was a third (Libertarian) candidate who received those votes and that missing 2.1% of the tally. So, now I understand the process as I read about it and studied it late last night. There were actually more than two candidates, but the run-off will include only the two candidates and should be held in December.

Some states only allow ballots to be cast (in the run-off) by those voters who voted in the main election. I'm interested to know if that will be the case for Georgia? Online reports suggest that it has been extremely rare for as many votes to be cast in a run-off as were cast in the preceding election. It seems Alabama was the exception in the past. Interesting!

I'll need to do some homework on to find out exactly where we stand in the Senate. From what I'm reading in early articles, it seems Democrats may have picked up a seat.

It does indeed seem that Republicans captured control of the US House by a very slim margin. That will make a very big difference in things going forward, but the anticipated red wave never occurred.

I wonder how many Republicans didn't vote due to the expected red wave? Not placing any blame since Democrat voters might have done the same thing. Just curious.




Two Days

November 06, 2022


Two 2

11/05/22 08:40 AM

For the record, there are now two days in our countdown until the 2022 mid-term elections.

I found this on a fellow ham operator's web page. I thought it was incredibly funny and, at the same time, there's probably some truth in there.

Explain


Ham Radio & Politics

OCTOBER 25, 2022


Ham Radio & Politics

10/25/22 11:00 AM

Well, I've got enough promises of confirmations (3) for QSO's to get South America finished and have already completed North America and Europe. I'm only a few entities away from the DXCC and will have re-earned (at my current location) all of the ham radio awards earned at previous locations.

And, I've got a very good start on the other awards of which I had made no progress at any of my previous locations. It looks like Master of Asia may be first, followed by Master of Oceania, and I'm making small progress on Master of Africa, so it will probably be the final award earned and it may be a while before I secure it.

On a totally different note, there are 14 days until the mid-term elections. I'm going to start my official countdown here on the blog this coming Saturday when we hit the point of ten days left. What happens after the election (and especially with the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election) should prove to be very interesting!

The DeSantis / Trump thing should be very interesting as will be the choice Biden faces in pushing for four more years. There should be some other entertaining players but I can't believe any of them will make a serious mark on the outcome. I guess as time passes, we'll see how it all unfolds.

Footnotes

Storm Forecast

10/25/22 12:25 PM

Looks like we've got some potentially serious weather moving in tonight.

Storm 2

Online Autism Test

10/25/22 12:25 PM

I don't think there's ever been any doubt in my mind, but I took the online test (once again) for the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). Results are below.

Autism 2




Fleeting Opening

OCTOBER 22, 2022


Fleeting

10/21/22 08:05 PM

By the time it showed up, it was almost gone. A fleeting opening of the band. Things went crazy and for a few moments anyone and everyone could read my ham radio digital signal.

In that fleeting band opening, I managed to eke out six DX (long distance) contacts. Two were new locations and the other four were locations I had worked before but on different bands, so there was still credit to be earned. And then the bands shut down and went silent just as quickly as they opened up.

The two new locations I worked were Taiwan (very cool!) and Isle of Man (not bad either!)

I suppose Taiwan intrigued me because it has been in the news as of late. And speaking of in the news, and much to my surprise, I've been working stations in Ukraine that all share something interesting in common. On their respective QRZ (ham radio) web pages, each says Address Withheld or something similar.

I'm guessing they don't want to bring trouble to the area where they live and have decided to stay under the radar with their radio operations. Probably a pretty smart idea.




HTML and PHP

OCTOBER 21, 2022


HTML

10/20/22 02:45 PM

Had some more fun changing, and cleaning up, the format for comments here on the blog.

It's still possible to see what has been done without having to add a comment or do anything to the blog. Simply click on the "Display Comments" menu item in the left-hand menu to view what has been done.




Web Stuff

OCTOBER 20, 2022


Web

10/19/22 10:00 AM

I made the normal changes to my system to add today's post. When I went to test the search function it was not working. Worse yet, I hadn't tested in a while and wasn't sure how far back I might have to go to find the problem.

Usually, I know exactly what the problem is and just have to go and do a hunt for the location of that known problem. Unfortunately, that was not the case today.

I went through a lengthy process of deleting and adding back code in an attempt to find the problem. The problem was difficult enough that I seriously considered doing away entirely with the search function. That is, until I found the problem. Apparently, back on October 12 I did a sloppy copy and paste and left out some critical code.

That's what broke the routine. And once I knew what the problem was, I was able to copy some good code from an existing post and set it against the October 12 problem post to get the whole search routine working again. Problem solved!

While I was doing the code thing, I decided to add a date and time function to user comments. It went much better and faster than I expected and seems to be working well, although no one has yet used the comment feature. Oh well, the coding is fun anyway. And, if you want to see the new feature without adding a comment, you can still click 'Display Comments' over in the menu to see the evidence of the new change.

My greatest challenge continues to be the amount of time it takes to add a post. As I've noted before, I have to do several things to simulate what a tool like WordPress does in a more automated fashion. And as I've also noted before, the juice is just not worth the squeeze to try and add that functionality to my system. Either way, it's a lot of fun and that's why I keep at it.




Pushup Pole

OCTOBER 17, 2022


Push

10/16/22 12:30 PM

Well, when it comes to all of the states and countries (actually geographical entities) that I need to work in order to earn the ham radio awards I'm going after, I think I'm just about done picking all of the low hanging fruit as they call it.

What happens next will either be the result of better antennas, a lot of patience, or perhaps a combination of both. Perhaps I could pursue an average antenna system and avoid the extra expense. I'd be better off than I am now, but still not where I would need to be to knock things out quickly. I'm still considering my options, but haven't been able to nail down a decision yet.

It's interesting that there are more big players on the field these days than there used to be and that makes it a bit easier to grab some of those hard-to-reach locations. By Big Players I mean the kind of ham operators who have invested large sums of money in their radios and especially their antennas. Their antennas often do all of the heavy lifting that enable me to contact them with my ever so humble, less than optimally located, dipole antenna.

Quite honestly, I'm okay with that. After all, a contact is a contact no matter how it is achieved. The challenge I'm facing is one where I've made part of my decision and am not sure if what remains is doable.

I don't want to make the significant investment required for a tower and I don't want one of those big clunkers in my yard either. That leaves me considering the possibility of a pushup pole. (See picture above.)

But with a pushup pole, I don't want guy wires scattered in my yard either so I've got to come up with a strong and creative installation that will support an antenna and an antenna rotor. Perhaps a pushup pole bracketed against the house and against the roof of the house.

Considering weather (wind!), strength of the pushup pole, and other important factors, I'm not sure if I can safely and realistically accomplish all that I want to do. There is so much left to consider before I can make a move or ride out this adventure with my gear as it sits presently.

Footnote

Running

Running Too Fast?

10/16/22 02:05 PM

I'm getting ready to do my run for today. When I started off with my run yesterday, it felt a bit uncomfortable. Somehow, it just seemed faster than usual. I was breathing harder and working harder.

How could this possibly be I wondered to myself. I'm relatively fit and haven't changed anything of which I'm aware, so I shouldn't feel so pushed should I?

Our treadmill display shifts from time, to calories, to speed, and then loops through again. When it got to speed it seemed everything was okay. But then I realized it. I must have had a brain glitch when I set the speed because I ran it up to 8.0 instead of my usual 7.0. Not quite sure how I did that, but by the time I realized what I had done, I decided to stay with it for the full two miles. And, I did!

So, instead of my usual 60/7.0 = 8:57 pace I did a 60/8.0 = 7:30 pace. I haven't done one of those since I ran competitively with Windsor Group on the downtown Atlanta 3.5 mile race known as the Corporate Challenge. Of course, with everyone watching it was much easier to bust a gut and run that fast in the race. Not quite the same on the treadmill here at the house.




Focused

OCTOBER 13, 2022


focused

10/13/22 06:35 PM

It's nice to be so focused and interested in something that everything else kind of falls to the side. On the other hand, it's not nice to be so focused on something that we lose sight of our priorities.

I have made blogging a priority such that I want to write something each day. However, and that's a big HOWEVER, I've been so focused on ham radio lately, and the updates and potential updates to my equipment, that my routine has been highly distracted. I got my weight training and run in today, but other things (including this blog) have suffered.

I can tell my dear wife is wrestling with the same thing. She is such a talented writer and her current trends in reading have inspired her to take up writing once again. And, she has taken it on with a vengeance!

I can tell we feel similar in that we work hard to get through the things that must be done to get ourselves back to the things that are so interesting to us. Her with her writing (novels) and me with my ham radio.

It's fun to see so much excitement around here!

In the meantime, let me get this published so I can get back to my ham radio.




Awards

OCTOBER 12, 2022


Awards 1

10/12/22 08:00 AM

I have to admit, it's a bit brutal when one realizes that everyone is not after the same goals in the ham radio community. It really takes patience for some of us!

For example, I used to be very focused on QSL card collecting. If someone didn't send QSL cards, I was sort of argh! about it.

But now, I have my binders (one for the USA and another for Global) and add new cards as they arrive. I also take the time and effort (and money!) to return the favor.

It's not a big deal for me anymore. I still like it, but it's nowhere near the priority it once was and I now have amazing grace for those who don't collect cards at all.

At the moment, my passion is DX. Well, that's not really true. Good DX supports my passion of new countries worked so that I can earn the related awards and have them posted on my QRZ website for the world to see. That sounds sort of prideful, doesn't it? Is that really my motivation?

Before the internet, it used to be about collecting paper certificates and hanging them on the wall in one's 'shack' for all to see. Unfortunately, hams rarely get out to visit shacks anymore but are quick to visit a fellow ham's online profile. And so, we chase the things others go after.

Unfortunately, I need the other person to confirm our contact. And, not everyone is motivated to confirm contacts. In fact, a large number of people never confirm contacts.

Currently, about 25% of my contacts have not confirmed and probably never will. That gets a bit brutal when I make contact with that hard-to-get location and months later that person still hasn't confirmed. Definitely another argh! moment!

I guess for them it's just about using the equipment they have and making the contacts. In most cases, with their fancy and costly equipment, they've already earned more awards and at a deeper level than I could ever imagine or be interested in earning. I suppose it's quite possible I will feel the same way after I've earned the primary awards in which I'm interested.

But until then...




JT Alert

OCTOBER 08, 2022


JT Alert

10/07/22 08:55 AM

Just finished the tedious process of installing, setting up, and activating JT Alert. The biggest challenges surrounded the simple concept of following instructions.

I didn't install everything in the right order. As such, it wasn't destined to work from the beginning. So, after a careful read of the installation instructions, I uninstalled and reinstalled in the proper order and things started to show up that I had been looking for and that weren't there before.

Imagine that!

Next came the challenging effort toward getting the sound to work properly. I realized to my surprise that the default was no sound. That meant I had to do some selecting of options to get things working. Once again, and still much to my surprise, after selecting everything I needed the sound started working!

Finally came the tedious process of selecting the DXCC entities that I still needed. Apparently, you can let the system run down your log and build the list for you, but I chose to do it the hard way and manually select the entities I needed. It was a lengthy (but also healthy) exercise. Much easier than having to learn and perform that automatic log method LOL!

A quick test revealed that everything was working and that I was good to go. So, now I receive notifications in my ham shack when a DXCC entity I need shows up on the digital horizon.




Ham Radio Awards

OCTOBER 06, 2022


Ham Radio Awards

10/06/22 07:50 AM

I've taken on some challenges in the ham radio world that have kept me pretty busy! I've received several awards in the past and am trying to 're-earn' those awards once again in this new location. I'm not actually going to 're-receive' them, but am going to ensure I qualify for them based on my operations in this new location.

Included in that list of awards that I've already earned are Master of North America, Master of South America, Master of Europe, Worked all States, Worked all Continents, and the ever-important DXCC, which represents working 100+ countries (or entities as they are more formally known since places like Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and others, geographically qualify as entities despite being part of the USA.)

In addition to those awards that I have already received, I'm working to earn the other two major awards. One is for entities in the region of Asia and the second is for entities worked in the Oceania Region. Those are far more difficult since the qualifying entities in each are so far away. For example, the Oceania region includes so many locations in and around Australia and New Zealand.

Some guys with far more expensive setups are trying to earn each award on each radio band. I'm just trying to earn the awards in a mixed bag across all bands. That's as far as I'm willing to go in terms of the effort, radios, and antenna systems, that would be required to take awards to the next level and attempt to work all entities on a specific band.

I've already put a lot more time and effort into this than I ever expected to, but I'm having a great time - which is what it is really all about. It's so technical and there's always so much to learn. The Twitter community of hams has been incredibly helpful, as has Google and other ham-specific online systems.




Hex Beams

SEPTEMBER 30, 2022


Hex Beams

09/30/22 05:25 PM

A lot of my time these days is being spent in the ham radio world. I would like to upgrade the antenna situation, but don't really have a good setup for anything that I could do myself and keep it both safe and affordable.

I'm taking a hard look at a more expensive proposition, but just can't get myself to pull the trigger on that one. This is one of those situations where I want to use things I can manage such as a push-up pole and a light duty rotor.

I found a hex beam that only weighs ten pounds but hex beams in general have a ten foot turning radius which nets out to a twenty foot diameter when it's up in the air.

I'm going to have to give this situation a lot of thought!




New Chair

SEPTEMBER 20, 2022


Living Room

09/20/22 08:45 AM

Our new chair, that matches the sofa, was delivered today from Rooms to Go. Patty has done a masterful job of coordinating everything in the house and, in this case, in the living room.

She also saved us over $100 by having the chair delivered to our front porch, and having us bring it in, unwrap it, put on the legs, and throw the trash away. You just can't beat that kind of deal.

I'm also looking forward to giving our two delivery guys a good review. They were both gentlemen and that's a rare treat these days from those who provide a service for the rest of us.

Footnote

Icom 7600 - 2

Ham Radio

09/20/22 09:00 AM

Sad to report that the bands just aren't being agreeable for my purposes, which means I'm playing a hurry up and wait game to work some new countries. I'll continue to look at options for installing a hex beam, but right now it doesn't look very promising based on the physical limitations around here.




To Upgrade or...

SEPTEMBER 18, 2022


To Upgrade or

09/18/22 08:20 AM

To upgrade or not to upgrade. That is the question!

I've been thinking about a couple of antenna upgrades for my ham radio station for quite a while now, and have not been able to settle on a decision. There are just too many variables in the equation.

If I didn't have a working station, it would be a far easier decision. But, to invest time, effort, and money, without a real idea as to what I'm up against and what will result, has made the decision all the more difficult.

I say a couple of antenna upgrades because I have a 2 meter j-pole and a 20 meter dipole. Both are simple antennas and both are omni-directional. It's the omni-directional part upon which I would like to make my improvements. I'm just not sure, as my son would say, that the juice is worth the squeeze.

Footnote

Expectations

Expectations

09/18/22 09:15 AM

I want to add to the above post that I have no doubt an antenna upgrade would improve things. The real question still is: What are my expectations for the improvements?

Over the years I have learned that bad bands are very simply bad bands and its next to impossible to create a band opening with antennas. Even if you can get somewhere, can the station you've reached out to get back to you (likely trying to use your antenna as a crutch for the contact?)




More Ham Radio

SEPTEMBER 13, 2022


More Ham Radio

09/13/22 09:05 AM

Yesterday, I wrote about the sleepless mornings and nights of the ham radio world. Well, today defied all of that!

I put in an early round before coffee and chores and made a few DX contacts. Thinking the excitement was over, I then went and got some things done.

When I returned, thinking the DX fun was over for the day, I made some of my best contacts. Now I've got a start toward Master of Oceania and Master of Asia. I had a weak shot at starting up Master of Africa, but that should come with time.

Either way, and with only 100 watts max and a dipole (wire) antenna, I'm pretty excited about the results and enjoying the great band conditions!




Sleepless In Ohatchee

SEPTEMBER 12, 2022


Sleepless

09/12/22 10:15 AM

Unfortunately, the best times for good Ham Radio DX (working countries far away!) are early in the morning and/or late at night. And, that's not always true so you can plan ahead for one of those time slots only to be disappointed by poor band conditions.

I'm always surprised when I don't get up early or stay up late and still manage to make some cool contacts during more normal hours. But, it's quite rare to work good DX during the middle of the day. And it's not unusual, early in the morning, to be working some good DX only to see those good conditions fade into nothing.

At that point, it's all about the 48 contiguous states or some subgroup of that. That's when it's usually time to get up and do something else. Maybe in a few years when the sunspot cycle has changed, we can bring back the good old days where, as they used to say, you can work the other side of the world using a ladder for an antenna. LOL!!!




Gadsden Hamfest

SEPTEMBER 10, 2022


Gadsden Hamfest

09/10/22 02:10 PM

This morning I changed things up a bit and went over to Gadsen Alabama to attend the Gadsden Hamfest. It's been a long time since I've been to a hamfest, but it seemed all to familiar.

I went most of all to see Bob (KE4QCY), one of the guys I often talk to on 2 meters. Beyond that, I thought it might be fun to scope out the situation and see who shows up on a misty day.

For a smaller hamfest, it was pretty well attended. I got to see Bob and his wife, who were tailgating and pedaling their goods. I also met Glen, one of the other guys I have talked to on 2 meters.

I scoped out the tailgaters and the inside tables a few times and then it was time to go. Good to get out and see Bob, his wife, Glen, and the crowd.




New Web Feature

SEPTEMBER 06, 2022


Rep Map 2

09/05/22 05:30 PM

In the left-hand menu, I added a new feature in the repeater section to display a map of the repeaters I can reach. It corresponds to the Repeaters by Channel page and displays the locations of those repeaters.

I'm still amazed at the distances I can reach with this mountainous terrain that we have up here in the northern part of the state. Even in some points south, such as Cheaha Mountain at just over 4,000 feet, we find prominent repeaters that are well known throughout the south for their coverage, due to their antenna elevations.

I'm up to 19 repeaters, including one in Summerville, Georgia that was very active with the recent flooding that occurred up that way and that made the news. The reports I was hearing from that area were absolutely amazing. And so have been the video reports that I've seen in the news. Incredible!

Footnote

Cousins

John Frederick Banzhaf

09/06/22 07:45 AM

Today would have been my cousin's 67th birthday. We lost him just over a year ago as he was approaching his 66th birthday.

Long ago, I used to call him up to wish him a happy birthday and then would call my sister the next day to do the same. I still call my sister each year, and that call is a reminder that my cousin is no longer with us.

Johnny is survived by a son, (Forrest) who was named after my Father, as was I. His son now lives with, and is cared for by, a niece (Liz) and her other half (Josh) up in Atlanta. I look forward to seeing them and my sister and the rest of her crowd at our Thanksgiving celebration this year.




More Ham Stuff

AUGUST 04, 2022


More Ham

08/03/22 06:05 PM

Been really enjoying the world of 2 meter FM in the Ham Radio arena. It's nice to carry on QSO's with locals and learn more about the people and the area, unlike what I was experiencing in the HF digital world of FT4 and FT8.

Digital was fun, but I've been ready for a change and the move just sort of fostered that desire and turned it into a reality for me. It's been nice to meet all of the hams, check into some of the nets, and generally get a station put together and active on the air.




More Repeater Stuff

JULY 27, 2022


Repeater 2

07/27/22 06:55 AM

I made some more changes to my repeater page based on new repeater research. There is now a 'notes' section that explains what I'm doing and what I'm finding.

The repeater page can still be accessed via the left-hand menu near the top.




Ham Logs

JULY 25, 2022


Ham Logs

07/25/22 10:42 AM

We've made several moves in a relatively short span of time and with each move I've had to create a new logbook for QRZ.com. I've also had to start over with logging contacts for each of the locations since they are more than 50 miles apart.

It all started in early 2014 when we landed in the townhome on Perdido Bay. I was so sure I was giving up the ham radio hobby in favor of the ocean at my back door. Boy, was I ever wrong! We stayed there for two years and then moved inland to Cantonement, Florida where I once again picked up the ham radio hobby.

I created my first QRZ log in Cantonement, Florida and also logged 646 QSO's in just under a year between April 16, 2016 and March 18, 2017. These were all 20 meter SSB (phone) and made with an attic mounted 20 meter dipole.

Next, we moved to Crawfordville, Florida where I logged 5,230 contacts in just over four years between May 7, 2017 and July 13, 2021. On January 18, 2019 I swapped over to digital modes (FT4 and FT8) and never looked back. That's where I made most of my contacts and earned most of my awards including DXCC and WAS.

Next, we moved to Spanish Fort, AL where I spent just under one year on digital modes - mostly FT4 and FT8. That was between October 1, 2021 and June 14, 2022 and I made 1,526 contacts during that time for a total of 7,402 contacts in the previous six years.

We landed here in Ohatchee, Alabama on July 9, 2022 and I was active on two meters by July 14 and logging two meter calls by July 25. I plan to remain inactive on the HF bands for the time being and look forward to all there is to discover and log on the two meter band.




Three Things

JULY 19, 2022


List

07/19/22 08:18 PM

This post will be short and sweet since it's late. I spent most of the day 1) moving the j-pole antenna outside and 2) completing the building out of my list of all the repeaters that I can hit and 3) adding a new feature to the website to present that repeater list.

On the left menu right near the top, I've included a new menu item for the repeater list. Feel free to check it out.

I was quite surprised at some of the repeaters I was hitting and especially for Cullman, which is quite a distance away.

I was also pleasantly surprised at getting the hole drilled through the outside wall of the house where I could feed the coax to the antenna from the rig. The difference was night and day!


Repeaters

JULY 17, 2022


A Repeater

07/16/22 07:15 PM

I've been methodically investigating Alabama county maps, repeater books, and city/county relationships to determine which repeaters might be close enough to serve as prospective points of contact. I've had good success discovering activity on 146.52 and 146.58 simplex along with 6 repeaters in Anniston, Gadsden, Talladega, Moody, Oneonta, and on Cheaha Mountain in Cleburne county. This has turned out to be a pretty exciting ham radio day.

Here's a table of what I found and that I can reach:

NumberFrequencyToneLocationCounty
1147.09131.8Cheaha MountainCleburne
2147.16100.0GadsdenEtowah
3147.375077.0OneontaBlount
4146.74131.8TalladegaTalladega
5146.62146.2MoodySt. Clair
6146.78100.0AnnistonCalhoun



First Contact

JULY 16, 2022


First Contact

07/16/22 10:53 AM

When we prepared ourselves for the pro's and con's of making this move, I was pretty confident that internet was going to be on the down side of that list. I couldn't imagine anything but wireless internet opportunities and I've gone that route before with all of the challenges that come with it.

However, I must say it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that they ran coax up on this cliff and that I can get all the high speed internet I can stand and with that plenty of streaming. What a delight!

I should also note that I just made my first 2 meter contact and that was with Bob, KC4QCY on 146.52 simplex. Based on our QSO, he's on the other side of the river from me and down just a bit. He was also running 25 watts like me and was full quieting. That's very encouraging as was his comment that a lot of the guys up here meet on 52.

Foot Note

07/16/22 05:01 PM

It's been interesting to observe the changes in gas prices over the past few months. Prices are definitely averaging down here in our new location. I think the highest we saw it down and around Spanish Fort was $4.80 and up here we saw it at $4.03 when we arrived and it's already dropped to $3.99 since we landed here about a week ago.




Ham Radio

JULY 15, 2022


Icom 2300h

07/15/22 02:51 PM

Well, my better half and I keep getting things done and watching our post-move to-do list grow shorter and shorter. With that in mind, I ordered a 2 meter rig yesterday from Ham Radio Outlet of Atlanta and to my surprise it arrived today.

The handy talkie wasn't hitting anything so I decided to get back to my roots and purchase an easy, dependable, more powerful, and affordable Icom 2300h mobile rig. I pretty much grew up with the Icom 2200h so it was a natural step for me. I'll run it in the house until I see what level of success I'm going to have.

Then I'll make a decision about possibly moving it to the car and picking up an Icom 9700 base station. So far, things are looking good for going in that direction, especially with all of the driving I have to do to get anywhere beyond Ohatchee.

A Twitter friend put me onto the amazing Cheehaw mountain repeater and I'm able to hit it with the new rig sending only 10 watts to my j-pole antenna. The rig has four power settings 5, 10, 25, and 65 watts so I've got a strong reserve for other repeaters.




QSL Cards

MAY 07, 2022


QSL Cards 1

05/06/22 04:21 PM

Just got back from a very warm run and my wonderful soulmate dropped off an envelope full of QSL cards sent to me from the USA QSL bureau and that she picked up from our mail box. I should probably provide some back story for those who don't know about QSL cards.

QSL cards serve as a way for ham radio operators all over the world to confirm contacts with other ham radio operators. When two ham operators make a contact, and if they both confirm on their respective qrz.com sites that they do indeed swap QSL cards, then both may fill out a QSL card (postcard) with the contact information and mail it to the other operator via the address located on the qrz.com website for that station.

The QSL bureau is a non-profit organization that helps ham radio operators world-wide save money by receiving international postcards destined for the USA and sending them in bulk to the USA bureau, which in turn has many volunteers who sort and distribute them to their respective contacts.

The guys who serve the USA bureau (QSL Managers) are all volunteers who do the labor to sort and send free of charge. Envelopes and postage are paid for by the contacts who will receive the QSL cards. Those contacts might typically have an account with the QSL Manager and keeps funds in that account so that the QSL Manager can pay for envelopes and postage when enough cards have been received to justify sending them out. I usually get about 7 cards at a time.

I have two notebooks, one for cards received directly from other ham radio operators in the USA and one for international cards received via the bureau. Pictured above and below is the last batch I received from the bureau.

QSL Cards 2

These cards came from ham radio operators living in locations including Wilzheim and Eichenbuhl, Germany; San Sebastian de La Gomera, Spain; La Roquebrussanne, France; Toronto, Canada; Cabo da Praria Terceira Azores, Portugal, (That's a civil parish on the east coast of the municipality of Praia da Vitória on the island of Terceira in the Portuguese Azores;) and a Special Event station (callsign CJ3A) celebrating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.




More Radio

APRIL 14, 2022


mmnet

04/13/22 1:40 PM

It's been another couple of ham radio days. I haven't been on Single Side Band (SSB) voice in forever and it was really cool to get back onto that today! I checked into the Maritime Mobile Net on 14.300 and had my first opportunity to manually log a contact on the QRZ.com website - since the digital contacts have all been auto-logged for the past couple of years.

Also managed to score my first 40 meter contact last night on the new attic mounted 40 meter hamstick dipole. It was an FT8 digital contact with KK4OJZ (James Pate) located in Big Canoe, Georgia which is in the North GA Mountains.

It's been fun to listen to the QSO's and POTA stations on SSB voice but I haven't had much success reaching out to any of them since they have all been pretty busy. That's okay though. It's just good to mix things up a bit and jump back into the SSB side of the world.

Correction, I managed to work a POTA station next door over in Mobile, AL. And I finally jumped on 2 meters and said hi to some of the guys who hosted the POTA station I worked earlier. Pretty cool!

Also checked into a hosted net on 2 meters but didn't hang around very long. Definitely enjoying the new opportunities afforded by the new equipment. Now, we're standing by for the storms that are slated to arrive later tonight.




Markers

APRIL 13, 2022


Markers

04/12/22 2:58 PM

Experience can be misleading! That's the lesson I'm taking away from my most recent experience.

For years, and I mean years, I have had to live with a problem with my Icom 7600 ham radio that I could not solve. There were signals showing up on the radio's scope and I could not get them to go away, not matter what I tried.

Now when I first purchased the radio, I was having the same kind of issue. Random signals were being generated on the radio's scope and I could not figure out how or why. Finally, I happened to unplug a battery charger out in the garage for the weed wacker and guess what? You guessed it! The signals went away!

Turns out the charger was sending a signal through the wiring in our house (by virtue of it being plugged into the wall outlet) and my radio was picking it up and the interference was outputting a signal on the radio's scope.

And now, with many more signals being sent to my scope, this problem was definitely a new one, but my experience led me to believe that it was kind of an old one at the same time. In other words, something was sending interference to my radio and the result was signals that I knew were not related to any radio transmissions.

Once again, and as I had done a few times before, I went to Twitter and asked for help. Everyone tried to take me down the same path I had traveled before with an approach to looking for interference generators. I must admit, there were some great ideas (e.g. check the computer mouse if it's blue tooth) but I knew that the problem even preceded any computer in my shack. In fact, it even occurred when the antenna was disconnected which led me to believe I had an internal problem with my rig.

By the way, this time I had new information. This problem was occurring at the old house and now again at the new house. That rules out all sorts of potential environmental problems. In fact, I couldn't come up with anything (other than the radio itself) that was common to both situations. I had even used a different power supply and knew that wasn't the difference either.

I pulled up Icom America support and chatted online with a technician. He didn't know the answer and suggested I do a factory reset on the radio per the instructions in the manual. With what I now know, I'm guessing that would have fixed my problem.

Giving credit where credit is due, Guy Roberts (@bakeliteguy on Twitter) and holder of ham radio callsign G0UKN, pointed out that there is a marker that is turned on and needs to be turned off.

I found the marker in the frequency calibration section of my manual and using the set command figured out how to turn it off. Wow! Problem solved!

Since I didn't even know about that setting, I have no idea how it was turned on unless it was just a random thing. But, as I said before, and with what I now know, a factory reset would have likely fixed the problem (although it would have also erased all of my settings, representing a great deal of work, and I didn't want to go there LOL!)




Radio Roots

APRIL 08, 2022


AARC 1975

04/07/22 4:30 PM

It just dawned on me that I've been a ham radio operator for 49 years. In 2023 I will celebrate 50 years. That's crazy when I think about it. Hard to believe I've been doing anything for 50 years.

The picture above is of the Albany Amateur Radio Club (W4MM) back in 1975. That's me sitting down and second from the left end. On the end and to my right is Walt Burnett with whom I talked and visited often. Walt was a TV technician in town and went to Sherwood Baptist Church where he managed and maintained the church's cable TV station and all of he equipment owned by the church. He was also instrumental in helping Alex Kendrick start the film making over there and was cast in several of the movies they did.

On my other side was Bobby Jones who played in a country-rock band and used to call me to sit in for him when he couldn't make it. Good memories! Also in the picture are Leon Perret (K4GCR) and John Crosby (K4XA), both who became close friends and both who had sons that I taught at Merry Acres Junior High School.

John passed several decades ago and his son Graham was able to secure John's old callsign. As for Leon, I've spoken with him a couple of times via 2 meters and rather recently. I was still in Crawfordville, Florida and not so far from Albany that I couldn't secure a contact via 2 meters whenever conditions were good. Leon ran an electronics store in Albany and sold me my first 2 meter handy-talkie. The brand was Standard.

It's fun to look back on all that has changed in the hobby over the many years and also to look back on my Citizen Band Radio roots in the early 70's. I remember being in the J.C. Penny automotive department and seeing their Realistic 23 channel Citizen Band (CB) Radios, and I was instantly hooked. It was without a doubt love at first sight and a very natural fit for this evolving techie.

I remember the challenges I encountered trying to get a license for my Citizen Band radio. But KFL4219 finally arrived in the mail. As busy as the CB bands are these days, it's funny thinking back to a time where I had to call someone to get them on the air so I would have someone to talk to with my CB radio.

I also remember riding with dad on business trips and telling him how neat I thought it would be if other drivers had CB radios and could talk to each other. Little did I know what the future would hold! The coffee breaks, where some would meet up for coffee while the rest of us grabbed cokes and pizza, is another great memory from my CB days.

I knew two David Turners and the one who played bass in our rock band was a constant companion on the CB radio. What great fun and such cool memories getting into all of that and all that we learned along the way.

I had no idea that only a year or two later I would meet Sgt. Glenn Picard from Mississippi, who ran the Mars Radio Station on the Marine Base there in Albany. He invited me to sit in on a Mars session and I was hooked and ready to move on from CB to Ham Radio.

I've tried to find Glenn to thank him, but my search has never produced any positive results.

Because Ham Radio has always been a big part of my life, I've included it in my category list over in the left margin. There's plenty more there for any geeks in the audience.




SkyWarn

APRIL 03, 2022


SkyWarn

I got a call a couple of days ago indicating my repaired power supply was being shipped back to me. It was supposed to go out either last Tuesday or Wednesday and if the trip out there was any indication, it could take a week for me to get it back.

I shipped it UPS on a Monday and it was to arrive the next Monday, which would have been this past Monday. If it takes a week to get it back, we're looking at the middle of this week coming up. I hope it will be sooner.

My power supply drives everything in the shack and without it I'm pretty much dead in the water and off the air. The exceptions to that being my Handy Talkie and EchoLink on my cell phone.

I played with EchoLink during the storm last week but am hoping to have a working 2 meter base station if the power supply makes it back in time. If not, I may check into the SkyWarn net via EchoLink if a storm arrives as is currently in the forecast and if it's bad enough to require a net.

I've always been very active on 2 meters during my time in the ham radio hobby and I'm amazed I have not talked on it yet in the seven months I've been here in the Spanish Fort, Alabama area. There's quite a large and active crowd of locals on 2 meters so I have no excuse for not getting on and at least saying hi to everyone.

Maybe this week.




Ham Radio Station

MARCH 22, 2022


Ham Radio Station

I had to order some fuses for my ham radio station power supply and had a good idea that they were not the real problem. They (5) came in today and a quick test blew one of the fuses and confirmed my concerns.

I shipped the power supply back to the manufacturer for repair and look forward to getting back on the air in a few weeks. It's going to take a full week for it to get from Alabama to Irvine, California and after repair and return shipping my guess is that I'm probably looking at around three weeks before I'm back on the air.

I put a tweet out on Twitter to see if I'm doing anything wrong that would tend to abuse the power supply, or to see if it's pretty normal for this kind of thing to happen as a power supply ages and gets lots of use.

No matter the problems or lessons to learn, Amateur (Ham) Radio is a great hobby!




Malaysia MH370

MARCH 12, 2022


Malaysia MH370

I've been an avid follower of the MH370 story since it first came out back in March of 2014, literally 8 years ago. I'm sure it haunts us all and we all want to know what happened. Well, thanks to ham radio, we may all finally find out.

Not that many years ago, the world of Ham Radio was introduced to new digital modes of communication. In some of these modes we type into our computer and it sends the data via a ham radio to another operator doing essentially the same thing.

In still other digital modes, FT4 and FT8 for example, we do the same thing as previously mentioned except we don't type messages - we simply make contacts and log them in our log books.

In yet one other digital mode, known as WSPR and which operates more like a beacon, we are simply able to see how far our transmissions reach out and to be made aware of the location of the listeners who hear our transmissions.

A UK ham radio operator, Richard Godfrey, who is also a retired aerospace engineer with incredible credentials, has introduced breakthrough tracking technology using existing ham radio digital technology, and believes he has the exact location where MH370 went down. The story is well documented on this YouTube site.




Digital Modes

FEBRUARY 18, 2022


FT8 2

I was going after a ham radio contact on FT8 this morning. I read his signal into my system at a -5 which is not bad, so I thought I would chase him. However, by the time he responded his signal was a -21 and I feared we would not be able to confirm our contact. And, I was right. We couldn't and we didn't.

I've read that signal reports in digital modes are less about the transmitting station's power and more about the noise and interference on the receiving end. Still, I've not be able to put 2 + 2 together and figure out exactly what is happening on my end to cause such signal report swings. All I know is that they are indeed happening.

I know we're still in the low point on the sun spot cycle, and I'm aware that the bands have been very good recently, but the changes from day to day are difficult to imagine and even more difficult to explain.

Funny thing is I feel bad when I initiate a contact and can't complete it. I almost feel like I'm telling the other guy that his station is not doing the job, and nothing could be further from the truth. What I know for sure is that 'good' station signal reports are no guarantee that a contact can and will be confirmed.

These digital modes sure do produce strange results and reports with our ever-changing band conditions!




QSL Cards

FEBRUARY 12, 2022


QSL Cards

One of the cool things about the ham radio hobby is the opportunity to swap QSL cards with the ham radio operators I've contacted. It's a fun way to confirm and verify a contact, and it's a fun way to share pictures with hams and non-hams alike. Not all hams take advantage of this feature, but those of us who do tend to really enjoy seeing those cards come in the mail.

QSL is one of many Q codes in the hobby and gives the operator the ability on CW (morse code) for example to send fewer words and letters when sharing information with a contact.

I started collecting QSL cards back in 1973 when I entered the hobby but unfortunately got rid of them when we moved to Florida in early 2014 and when I thought I would be leaving the hobby. I've been active, once again, in the hobby for the past 7 years but not terribly active in the QSL swapping department.

I recently purchased plastic pages for my cards and placed them in binders to make it easier to save and share them. Currently, I've got about 80 DX cards, (cards from other countries all over the world) and about 100 cards from all over the USA.

I've made contacts in all 50 states but don't believe I have a card from each state. Fortunately, we have LOTW (Lot of the World) and the QRZ websites which are both set up to help hams confirm and verify contacts by matching up submitted data from each operator in the contact.

Pictured above is my QSL card. I've had a lot of fun swapping it for the cards of other hams I've contacted over the years.




Ham Radio & FT4

JANUARY 07, 2022


FT4

I've done most of my digital on 20 meters, primarily because the 20 meter dipole is the only antenna I have. Well, I have a 40 meter ham stick dipole (and a 20 meter ham stick dipole) but neither has been installed so band choices are limited.

Months later after a battle with bronchitis, I'm still coughing just enough to dissuade me from jumping on voice and encourage me to stay with the digital route. Honestly, I've simply grown to enjoy it more just for the sake of wondering which states or countries I'll be able to contact when I jump on the radio. With the current band conditions, I'm lucky if I can make a voice contact just down the street.

We're still low on the sunspot cycle which means low power operations are going to be the preferred mode and digital definitely covers that base. Just a few short months ago even digital didn't have much to offer with the horrible band conditions. I was lucky to make 5 contacts in a day. But lately, band conditions have been good enough to easily pull in 15, 20, or even 25 digital contacts in a relatively short period of time.

Ham Radio is such a cool hobby and has so much to offer between the cool technology and an awesome community of great people all over the world!




Running Ham

DECEMBER 17, 2021


Handy Talkie

I was thinking about posting stuff from yesterday's ham radio activities and today's run that I just finished. But, the two different topics made for a challenge when thinking about a title for this blog entry.

Running Ham really didn't make sense until I remembered the number of times I ran in races with my 2 meter ham radio (handy-talkie) and passed along reports for the security and first aid volunteers.

In fact, when dad earned his ham license to get on the air with me, he decided to work a few of the races since I was already there and running in them. It was fun to know that he could hear my reports as he worked and I ran those races. And what a blessing to have my father and my wife earn their ham licenses purely out of their love for me. Amazing! IC 7600

Yesterday's FT8 ham radio activity included a contact with a new country in Africa and one that I'd never come across before. Burkina Faso is not a country or name that you come across that often, I suppose unless you live over there. But it sure was fun to get that one in the logbook.

I have to admit there's always a bit of a heart flutter when I see a CQ show up on my screen for one of these countries I don't have in my logbook. The excitement and intensity of effort to secure a contact is almost palpable.

A bit of hand shaking and a rapid heartbeat always seem to be involved. I guess it's just one of those things that really does add fun and excitement to the hobby. Garmin

Today's run was a good and strong one and I recorded a new record time on just my fifth day back at it. In fact, as I looked at my daily times in my running log, I noticed that each one was better than the one before it. Wonder how long that will last?

I started my run at 9:00 AM and logged an 18:14.1 two miler. Mile one was 9:19.44 and mile two was 8:54.67. Average pace came in at 9:07 and calories burned was reported at 244 from my Garmin Vivo Active smartwatch.

AHR was a high 151 and MHR came in at 183. Both of those are way too high and tell me I'm pushing my pace too hard for the point I'm at trying to build up my endurance. That's always been my problem and one that I absolutely must address. If health is to come first I need to make sure it comes first!




Ham Radio

DECEMBER 12, 2021


Icom 7600

One of the things my Twitter profile claims is all things geek and, in fact, my Twitter account (@K4SQL) is pretty much focused on the geeky world of Ham Radio.

I posted my ham radio story back on October 19, 2020 and it can be found in my October 2020 blog archive on that date. I also posted a story about FT4 and FT8 (digital modes) which can be found in my February 2021 archive on February 18th.

I still spend most of my time on HF and most of my HF is centered on the FT4 and FT8 digital modes. These modes, which don't require much power, have been a particular benefit with the attic-mounted dipole I'm using here in the new location. I'm not under any covenant restrictions for an outside antenna, but just don't think I can make it stealth enough to suit my own preferences. Thus, the attic option.

I'm already up to 235 contacts here in the new location just using FT4 and FT8 and am particularly pleased with the great DX I've already enjoyed including Cuba, Mexico, Australia, Peru, Spain, Italy, Canada, Portugal, Lithuania, Estonia, Belgium Finland, France, Argentina, England, Slovenia, and the Canary Islands where the La Palma Volcano still remains active after so many weeks.

That DX is not bad for low power with an attic-mounted 20 meter dipole!


CLUB MEETING

MAY 21, 2021



Club Meeting 1

Club Meeting 2

Our K4WAK Amateur Radio Club down here in Wakulla County, officially named S.P.A.R.C. or the Sportsman's Paradise Amateur Radio Club, held an 'in person' club meeting last night, and that was the first in person meeting since February of 2020.

It was a real treat to meet so many of the members and to put faces with the names and callsigns. I look forward to their getting back to meeting at Hardee's each Saturday morning at 10:00 A.M. I also look forward to grabbing some coffee and hanging out with the guys!


HAM SHACK

MAY 19, 2021



Ham Shack

The term is Ham Shack. It can be anything from a dedicated space out next to the car in the garage, to a desk in the corner of one of the rooms in the house, to an entire room in the house that's been dedicated to ham radio, and finally to a fancy climate controlled building constructed out in the yard filled with high-end shelves and consoles that are loaded with the latest and greatest in amateur radio equipment, not to mention more radios and microphones than one ham operator could ever use.

I get a lot of QSL cards from other guys with pictures on them and, between the pictures of their shacks and their antenna farms, it's quite an amazing site to see. They often look more like a museum filled with an over abundance of equipment that would put any major commercial radio station to shame.

Mine (pictured above) is actually quite humble by comparison. I can't hold a candle to many of the stations out there, or their antenna farms! But, I do enjoy what I have and I'm grateful for it! It's hard to believe that there are actually radios out there with prices over $20k. Who buys that stuff? And the prices on some of the antenna farms I've seen would probably run much higher.

With what I have and have had, I've connected with ham operators in all 50 states and in over 125 countries all over the world. I even had the privilege of speaking from my VHF radio with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station as he was flying overhead. What a treasured memory and one that I will never forget!


HAM RADIO STUFF

MAY 07, 2021



Ham Radio Stuff

I mentioned in a previous post that we moved to our current home on 5/5/2017. Two days later on 5/7/2017 I had my ham radio station in place, operable, and made my first contacts on single sideband. And now, four years later and on the anniversary of that station going live, I've logged 5,000 contacts with 1,266 of them on sideband and 3,734 using digital modes, mostly FT4 and FT8.

It's by far the most active I've been in my 48 years of ham radio. Having retired in July of 2018 also made a big difference in those totals! And, I must say that the digital technology showed up just in time to help us overcome the poor conditions we've experienced with voice transmissions during this horrible low in the eleven year sunspot cycle (which has basically provided seasons of silence to our hobby in former decades.)

In case you're not aware, the digital technology I'm enjoying specializes in overcoming the weak signal problems that arise during poor radio transmission conditions. These technologies are known as weak signal modes and it's truly amazing to be able to watch our computers talk to each other when the station operators can't.

It's also quite amazing to see the incredible distances that are covered in making these contacts. I've already made contacts in all 50 states and in over 125 countries located all over the world. Without this technology (or far better band conditions) this would certainly not have been possible.

Here's to more exciting contacts with new countries that I haven't worked before.


HAM RADIO TECH

APRIL 27, 2021



FT8 Tech

Back on the 22nd, I wrote about Ham Radio from a more philosophical standpoint, but today I approach it from a technical standpoint. As digital forces the shack to become more and more complex, we're forced to deal with those challenges if we choose to operate in that environment.

Today was a good example of just that!

A few months back, I downloaded a version of wsjt-x and then discovered after the fact that it was purely beta. For the last few weeks (months?) it presented a warning message that it was slated to disable access to itself after today. I'm not one to wait until the last minute, so I took on the project of loading a more valid version of the software to avoid any problems if I wanted to operate tomorrow.

Of course there's always the usual tweaks that go with any install, but in the case of wsjt-x, I'm always impressed with how little there really is to adjust with any install. It goes in quite quickly and most often comes up working on the first try. Such was the case today and so I decided to continue with a test run, despite the less than appealing conditions!

Worked a station or two, but nothing to write home about!

I also performed a bit of maintenance on the dipole but have yet to get it back to a 1:1 SWR where it performed for such a long time. My 1:3 is not bad at all, but there are just those of us who are never satisfied until we find that 1:1 on the SWR meter.

All in all, it was quite a busy day and I'm looking forward to slowing down as the evening rapidly approaches. Hope you've having a great day wherever you are and with whatever you're doing!


PERHAPS IT'S ME

APRIL 22, 2021



Perhaps It's Me

I must say that I'm very grateful for the digital technologies that have been added to the Ham Radio arena. It's been too many years since I've had anything but a dipole antenna and that doesn't make for a very good SSB (voice) configuration when conditions are poor, as they often are nowadays with our less than desirable location in the sunspot cycle.

I'm fully aware of the debate that rages over digital and its place in or out of the world of ham radio. While I might be tempted to side with the purists on that one, life has demanded otherwise. The combination of a dipole and the sunspot gutter has pushed many of us over to the dark side of digital if we intend to power up our rigs for any useful cause.

Add to that my disdain for headphones, the age-related struggle to hear and process correctly, the extra noise floating through the house which originates from my shack, and the benefit to earning additional awards not so likely in the purists' camp, and I'm left with a number of good reasons to prefer digital over voice and CW.

And for some odd reason, which I'm simply unable to explain, the quality of rag-chews has diminished greatly in recent years. It seems they just aren't what they used to be!

Perhaps it's me.


HAM RADIO

FEBRUARY 18, 2021



FT4

Amateur (Ham) Radio is such a cool hobby and it's changing at the speed of light. I was slow to get into the world of Ham Radio's digital modes but in 2018 I started dabbling with them and on January 18, 2019 I said goodbye to Single Side-Band and hello to FT8.

Since that time, and as of yesterday, I've made 3,331 FT8 contacts. I also upgraded yesterday from WSJT-X 2.0 to 2.4 and jumped in with both feet to FT4 with 33 contacts made yesterday just before the 20 meter band said good night to this part of the country.

I'm not sure what it is, about allowing a computer to make an electronic contact via my ham radio that is so fun and interesting, but that's basically what I'm doing and it is indeed fun and interesting.

The world of digital modes has opened up doors of opportunity that I could have never imagined including having worked all 50 states and presently 125 countries on all of the major continents, not to mention additional awards from qrz.com for contacts made to most all of the countries in Europe and South and Central America.

Not bad for 100 watts and a wire.


MY HAM RADIO STORY

OCTOBER 19, 2020

IC7600

I started my radio adventure in 1970 at the age of 16 years old in Albany, Georgia where I lived at the time. It all started with a Realistic 23 Channel Citizen Band (CB) mobile radio that I purchased from J.C. Penny's automotive department and installed in my 1961 Volkswagen Beetle. I added a pair of co-phased whip antennas that provided my VW with an odd and humorous insect-like appearance.

I was a member of a rock band and one of the other members (David T.) also purchased the same mobile CB radio from J.C. Penney's and we used to talk on the way to and from our late-night weekend gigs. In fact, when I purchased a CB base station, David very kindly came over and climbed a very tall pine tree to install my new omni-directional antenna at the very top.

With a bit of investigation, David and I discovered that the 23 channels on our CB radios were synthesized using 4 crystals. By swapping the location of these crystals we were able to generate private frequencies. To this day, I have no idea what frequencies we had generated, but they sure weren't any of the 23 channels that were derived when the crystals were in the factory installed positions.

As a senior in high school I used to attend what the CB crowd called coffee breaks. Truth is, these were nothing more than a meet-up at one of the local and more casual pizza places there in Albany. My favorite at that time was the Pizza Villa on Broad Avenue. (In fact, I took my wife there on our first date, and I took her back again at a later point to propose to her.)

It was at one of these CB coffee breaks that I met Sgt. Glen Picard, who was originally from Mississippi and had been stationed at our local Marine base. Glen was the MARS operator there on the base and ran the prestigious Collins S line of radio gear owned by the Marine Corps.

I met up with Sgt. Picard on the base one evening and joined him in the radio shack for a Mars radio session. I was hooked! Next thing you know I'm earning my novice license from the FCC (WN4FLV) and building a Heathkit transmitter and receiver.

I tied the rig into a half dipole mounted vertically on one of the pine trees in our yard. The other half of the dipole was actually a short piece of wire attached to a metal stake that was driven in the ground at the base of the tree. Of course, back then it was CW (Morse code) only for the first year and I managed to set up a weekly schedule on 40 meters each Sunday afternoon to play chess with another teenage ham up in North Georgia.

After the required 12 months as a novice, I drove to Atlanta and took and passed my General exam and the 13 words per minute Morse code test. Weeks later I received my new call (WA4KGC) in the mail.

By the time my General license arrived, I had already sold my Heathkit gear and moved up to a Drake TR4C transceiver and a TA-33 jr beam antenna mounted on a well guyed 30' push up pole.

Of course, as a high school student I was still living at home and in retrospect it sure was kind of my parents to tolerate all of my radio shenanigans there around the house - especially installing a large rotating beam atop our nice home in an area of town not known for that kind of (less than appealing) stuff waving up in the air.

When I was not away to college, I was an active member of the Albany Amateur Radio Club. In the very early 70's when touchtone became available to the world of Amateur radio, I went to the junk yard and purchased an additional dash panel for my Chevy Vega. In it, I cut a hole and mounted a touchtone pad that I attached to my 2 meter mobile rig and was an early adopter of mobile phone calls, well before cellular phones were on the horizon. I had become a technical legend in my own mind!

My junior year was spent at FSU in Tallahassee and I took my HF rig down and managed to do a midnight install of a 40 meter dipole antenna with a feed to my window. Funny how no one ever noticed it. I suppose no one ever stopped to notice that it (what they must have thought was a power line) actually terminated on a pine tree. I also started the first, and a very humble, FSU Ham Radio Club. Unfortunately, we never had enough members to get anything interesting going.

My senior year was spent back in Georgia at (then) Valdosta State College. In a much more daring midnight install, I mounted a 2 meter beam on the roof of my dorm. I had a room on the top floor and remember climbing out of my window and up onto the roof. The funny memory, which I'll never forget, was me hanging on the edge of the roof (after the install) preparing to go back through my window when a security guard walked out of the door immediately below me. He looked around but never looked up. After he went back in I managed to climb back through the window and that was that!

In 1980 Patty and I moved to Savannah and I joined the K4NLX club. I was very active on 2 meters and HF and called a lot of the weekly 2m nets. The kids were getting old enough to do stuff so I sold my gear and my ham radio hobby went silent.

It wasn't until 2002 that I jumped back into the hobby while living in Douglasville, Georgia. I took the vanity call K4SQL. Not long after, my dad earned his technicians license (N4WIA) and we met up on 2 meters from Douglasville to Stone Mountain. In 2005 my dear XYL (wife) earned her license (KI4ODL) so we could keep up with each other if we were both out and about.

In 2010 I earned my extra class license but the high point for all of the years I have been in the hobby came on November 20, 2010 when at 22:07 I made contact with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station on expedition #25 as it made a southeasterly pass across the United States. It was a short QSO but quite amazing to hear him say, "K4SQL, this is NA1SS. Welcome aboard the International Space Station."

In 2014 we moved to Florida and landed in a townhome on Perdido Bay in Pensacola, Florida. I was convinced that we would probably retire there (wrong!) and that I would probably have no more involvement with the ham radio hobby (wrong again!) but In 2016 we moved inland a bit and I purchased the IC-7600 (pictured above) that I use presently. I was in a covenant restricted neighborhood and I must admit the 20m dipole in the attic left a lot to be desired.

Fortunately, we moved here to Wakulla county a year later (May 5, 2017) and I strung up my 20m dipole some 25' in the air and have had a blast with HF ever since! In 2018 I became active with digital modes and in 2019 I took up FT8 and have not looked back since!

When I earned my amateur radio license from the FCC back in 1973, I had no idea I was joining such an elite community of individuals with so much knowledge and a highly diverse set of technical skills. It's a great group of people from all walks of life and from all points on the globe.

The friends I have made and the things I have learned from them will stay with me for a lifetime. It's been an amazing journey!

If you're a ham and don't catch me on the air, you can catch me on Twitter @K4SQL.

73's,

Hutch ~ K4SQL



2 METERS!

May 16, 2020

hamradio6.jpg

This will be the first non-Corona virus post I've put out in quite a while. I think we're finally getting (back?) to some sense of (a new?) normal.

I was first licensed in 1973 and for the next 40 years was very active on 2 meters in addition to HF. Afterward, when we moved to Florida, I kept up with HF but 2 meters seemed to fall by the wayside.

Well, yesterday I installed an 85 watt 2 meter transceiver at the house and a jpole up 25'. I also submitted an application for the local club (Sportsman's Paradise Amateur Radio Club) and sent in my dues. For my first 2 meter qso in forever, I made a contact on 146.52 simplex with another ham out to the west of Tallahassee, somewhere between 25 and 30 miles away.

When I was first getting things set up, I was hoping to reach the local repeater and maybe one, or at most two, other repeaters. By the time I began testing everything, I was truly excited to have reached 9 repeaters in a 40+ mile range. And, to top it all off, I enjoyed checking in on an ARES net that was handling traffic for a hurricane simulation. All in all, a fun way to get back into 2 meters!

Above is a picture of the jpole antenna I installed out on the rail that surrounds the front deck and the rest of the house. With only the gulf to the south of the house, I wanted to install the antenna in an area that provided my best shot at all of the reachable repeaters, which are generally to our north.

I've never used an Alinco radio before, but took a chance on the DR-B185 and have not been disappointed! With 85 watts out it's an attractive rig, and with 500+ memories it was very easy to program. I'm new to digital squelch, but once I understood the concept, and was introduced to the ease of use, I became a real believer!

It's also been a real treat to be able to connect with the local hams!



CONTACTS AND QSL CARDS

April 1, 2020

QSL Cards

I'm so grateful for those ham radio operators who still take the time to log contacts so the rest of us can obtain awards for those contacts. I've seen a lot of operators who seem to have about every award that has ever been presented and yet they are kind enough to keep logging.

I also envy those ham operators who live in exotic locations for they enjoy the benefit of being sought out by the rest of us and are able to log countless contacts. It helps me understand why other operators go on dxpeditions just to enjoy being on the other end of those pileups.

Last but not least, I'm so grateful for those ham operators who continue to exchange QSL cards. It's always a joy to receive an envelope full of international cards from the bureau and a few more directly, not to mention the many from here in the states.

I received this QSL card (located above) this week and proudly displayed it, along with many others, here in the ham shack. And I must add that I'm grateful for FT8 technology for without it I doubt I would have ever had an opportunity to enjoy adding so many beautiful international cards to my collection, especially at this low point in the sunspot cycle.

Thanks to everyone who was kind enough to send a QSL card my way. I'm honored to have them in my collection and proudly displayed here in the shack!



SPACE FLIGHT

February 2, 2020

Space

One of the things I love about the ham radio hobby is the number of experts I encounter and the incredibly technical and interesting things they are doing with their expertise.

Today I made an FT8 contact with callsign OZ2SPACE, which represents a group of Danish rocket experts working on the Danish rocket and space project called Copenhagen Suborbitals.

According to their QRZ web page, it's a group of experts and hobbyists working for free to make a space limit rocket capable of launching a person into space. The picture above is of their ship, Spica I and the project to build it is featured in (as of this writing) 16 episodes at their website, which is located here.



January 6, 2020

DIGITAL MODES

Ham Radio

Above is an internet-based application allowing digital users to observe the reach of their digital HF (High Frequency) radio transmission.

I'm saddened to see that digital modes (and FT8 in particular) have caused such a stir in the amateur radio community. I acknowledge that the digital traffic and the digital community have taken a bite out of the original modes of communication with which so many of us grew up, but I think there's more to the story than the critics are letting on.

For many of us, the combination of humble antennas (dipoles?) and a dead low in the sunspot cycle have left us with few alternatives if we want to enjoy the hobby. Add to that the busy lives we all tend to live these days, and even a CW QSO (Morse code conversation) can eat up the precious time we often need to be using for other things.

At a place in time where everyone has a cell phone and access to the internet, amateur radio has got to continue to evolve as it has in the past (remember the introduction of Slow Scan TV?) or the hobby is sure to suffer the consequences. For those among us who consider themselves purists, I say enjoy whatever you enjoy. But, I encourage you to maintain space in this hobby for the interests of everyone.

It was one of the exciting changes in the hobby that permitted me to connect with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station. I still find it hard to believe this hobby that I love has afforded me such a wonderful and amazing opportunity!



December 26, 2019

MY HAM RADIOS OVER THE YEARS

Heathkit

My first rig was the Heathkit HR10 receiver (left) paired with the DX60 transmitter, both that I built back in the very early 70's.

Drake

My second rig was a new Drake TR4C. After I spent a year as a novice with my Heathkit rigs, I graduated to the Drake rig. I purchased the rig after earning my general license and the rig arrived before the license.

Fortunately, Mr. Roland Ring, whom I believe had the call W4OAT, (Old American Traveler) came over one evening and allowed me to operate under his call sign in order to test out the new rig. So exciting at that time!

ft840 After a break from the ham radio hobby, I re-entered with a Yaesu ft840 that I enjoyed for quite some time!

ft950 Sometime later, I upgraded to the Yaesu ft950 and operated that rig for a number of years until we moved to the Florida coast. I sold all my equipment and went silent for about 2 years.

ic7600 In 2016 we moved inland for a year and I purchased my current Icom 7600. I fed it into an attic mounted 20 meter dipole. The antenna was nothing to write home about, but it did better than I expected.

als600 In May of 2017, when we moved to our current home, I located the 20m dipole outside and up about 25' and added the Ameritron ALS-600 amplifier. It was a great addition to the ham shack along with the LDG AT600 ProII AutoTuner and M-600 meter combination!



December 22, 2019

MY HAM RADIO JOURNEY

Ham Radio

This picture above is of the Albany Amateur Radio Club and was taken in 1975 at a club meeting. In the picture I am seated second from the left end.

I started my radio adventure at 16 years old in Albany, Georgia where I lived at the time. It all started with a Realistic 23 Channel Citizen Band (CB) mobile radio that I purchased from J.C. Penny's automotive department and installed in my 1961 Volkswagen Beetle. I added a pair of co-phased whip antennas that provided my VW with an odd and humorous insect-like appearance.

I was a member of a rock band and one of the other members (David Turner) also purchased the same mobile CB radio from J.C. Penney's and we used to talk on the way to and from our late-night weekend gigs. In fact, when I purchased a CB base station, David very kindly came over and climbed a very tall pine tree to install my new omni-directional antenna at the very top.

With a bit of investigation, David and I discovered that the 23 channels on our CB radios were synthesized using 4 crystals. By swapping the location of these crystals we were able to generate private frequencies. To this day, I have no idea what frequencies we had generated, but they sure weren't any of the 23 channels that were derived when the crystals were in the factory installed positions.

As a senior in high school I used to attend what the CB crowd called coffee breaks. Truth is these were nothing more than a meet-up at one of the local and more casual pizza places there in Albany. My favorite at that time was the Pizza Villa on Broad Avenue. (In fact, I took my wife there on our first date, and I took her back again at a later point to propose to her.)

It was at one of these CB coffee breaks that I met Sgt. Glen Picard, who was originally from Mississippi and had been stationed at our local Marine base. Glen was the MARS operator there on the base and ran the prestigious Collins S line of radio gear owned by the Marine Corps.

I met up with Sgt. Picard on the base one evening and joined him in the radio shack for a Mars radio session. I was hooked! Next thing you know I'm earning my novice license from the FCC (WN4FLV) and building a Heathkit transmitter and receiver.

I tied the rig into a half dipole mounted vertically on one of the trees in our yard. The other half of the dipole was actually a short piece of wire attached to a metal stake that was driven in the ground at the base of the tree. Of course, back then it was CW (Morse code) only for the first year and I managed to set up a weekly schedule on 40 meters each Sunday afternoon to play chess with another teenage ham up in North Georgia.

After the required 12 months as a novice, I drove to Atlanta and took and passed my General exam and the 13 words per minute Morse code test. Weeks later I received my new call (WA4KGC) in the mail.

By the time my General license arrived, I had already sold my Heathkit gear and moved up to a Drake TR4C transceiver and a TA-33 jr beam antenna mounted on a well guyed 30' push up pole.

Of course, as a high school student I was still living at home and in retrospect it sure was kind of my parents to tolerate all of my radio shenanigans there around the house - especially installing a large rotating beam atop our nice home in an area of town not known for that kind of (less than appealing) stuff waving up in the air.

When I was not away to college, I was an active member of the Albany Amateur Radio Club. In the very early 70's when touchtone became available to the world of Amateur radio, I went to the junk yard and purchased an additional dash panel for my Chevy Vega. In it, I cut a hole and mounted a touchtone pad that I attached to my 2 meter mobile rig and was an early adopter of mobile phone calls, well before cellular phones were on the horizon.

My junior year was spent at FSU in Tallahassee and I took my HF rig down and managed to do a midnight install of a 40 meter dipole antenna with a feed to my window. Funny how no one ever noticed it. I suppose no one ever stopped to notice that (what they must have thought was a power line) actually terminated on a pine tree. I also started the first, and a very humble, FSU Ham Radio Club. Unfortunately, we never had enough members to get anything interesting going.

My senior year was spent back in Georgia at (then) Valdosta State College. In a much more daring midnight install, I mounted a 2 meter beam on the roof of my dorm. I had a room on the top floor and remember climbing out of my window and up onto the roof. The funny memory, which I'll never forget, was me hanging on the edge of the roof (after the install) preparing to go back through my window when a security guard walked out of the door immediately below me. He looked around but never looked up. After he went back in I managed to climb back through the window and that was that!

In 1980 Patty and I moved to Savannah and I joined the K4NLX club. I was very active on 2 meters and HF and called a lot of the weekly 2m nets. The kids were getting old enough to do stuff so I sold my gear and my ham radio hobby went silent.

It wasn't until 2002 that I jumped back into the hobby while living in Douglasville, Georgia. I took the vanity call K4SQL. Not long after, my dad earned his technicians license (N4WIA) and we met up on 2 meters from Douglasville to Stone Mountain. In 2005 my dear XYL (wife) earned her license (KI4ODL) so we could keep up with each other if we were both out and about.

In 2010 I earned my extra class license but the high point for all of the years I have been in the hobby came on November 20, 2010 when at 22:07 I made contact with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station on expedition #25 as it made a southeasterly pass across the United States. It was a short QSO but quite amazing to hear him say, "K4SQL, this is NA1SS. Welcome aboard the International Space Station."

In 2014 we moved to Florida and landed in a townhome on Perdido Bay in Pensacola, Florida. I was convinced that we would probably retire there (wrong!) and that I would probably have no more involvement with the ham radio hobby (wrong again!) but In 2016 we moved inland a bit and I purchased the IC-7600 that I use presently. I was in a covenant restricted neighborhood and I must admit the 20m dipole in the attic left a lot to be desired.

Fortunately, we moved here to Wakulla county a year later (May 5, 2017) and I strung up my 20m dipole some 25' in the air and have had a blast with HF ever since! In 2018 I became active with digital modes and in 2019 I took up FT8 and have not looked back since!

When I earned my amateur radio license from the FCC back in 1973, I had no idea I was joining such an elite community of people with such a diverse set of incredible skills. It's an amazing group of individuals from all walks of life and from all points on the globe.

The friends I have made and the things I have learned from them will stay with me for a lifetime. It's been an interesting journey!

If you're a ham and don't catch me on the air, you can catch me on Twitter @K4SQL.

73's,

Hutch ~ K4SQL


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