Hamfest Time

Last Saturday was the Virginia Beach Hamfest at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, so I made the trek. I already had a ticket, purchased at the club meeting. It was a nice time … met some old friends, saw some new things … also saw a Heathkit DX-100B for sale for $100.00. It was pretty clean, and according to the seller, worked flawlessly. Nostalgia is great, but no thanks. I’ll pass.

I was looking for some mobile hamstick-type antennas, and one of the flea-market sellers had some, but not for the bands I wanted or the price I wanted. I got home and ordered what I needed from HRO in northern Virginia, and should have them Tuesday. Even regular shipping is pretty much overnight to my QTH.

I’m not planning on mobile operations, but more truck-portable ops. I like Larry’s (W2LJ) habit of getting on from the parking lot at work for lunchtime, and a mobile antenna is a quick way to get on the air from there. He seems to have great luck, so I’ll give it a try with my FT-817nd and a hamstick.

The Hamfest, while worth a trip, is a shadow of its former glory. There were NO major ham radio vendors there (Elecraft had a local team there). Not even a lot of second-tier companies there. If you were looking to buy a name-brand, new hf rig, you’d be better off ordering it. I think this is a problem with all hamfests nowadays. The manufacturers just don’t have the budget to hit all the non-major hamfests. It’s a shame, really … no chance to “touchy-feelie” things.

I’ve been very busy lately at work. We’re updating our 800 MHz Motorola trunked system from analog to digital, so I’ve been involved with developing the new fleetmap and templates for programming the radios. Working at the computer for 8 hours a day makes your eyes cross after a while, so frequent breaks are needed and welcome.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Field Day 2014

I had hoped to help more with the club Field Day, but too many other things going on this weekend. I did get down to help set up on Saturday morning, but unfortunately, wouldn’t make it back to operate. I had my granddaughter’s fifth birthday party to attend, and that’s very important. I also had to buy a new dryer for the wife, since our 20+ year-old drier finally reached the dreaded “point of no repair”. I did get a good deal, though :-).

W4MT Field Day Site

W4MT Field Day Site, Northampton Church of Christ, Hampton, VA

I did get a chance to operate some from home as a 1D station, but it’s not quite the same. I worked probably 75 stations, mostly on 20M CW, but also some on 40M and 80M CW. It was a good run, but alas, no elusive ND section :-). Propagation was good … I can’t complain.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Happenings

I haven’t been very active lately. I’ve had lots of other irons in the fire, and ham radio has had to take a back seat. I got on 20m sideband tonight and worked a RA7 and AM08TL. That one threw me for a bit, but it’s a special Spanish call in honor of the new King. The station is in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands.

I’m getting things together for my trip to Pennsylvania for Boy Scout summer camp with two other adults and eight boys. We’ll be at Hidden Valley Scout Reservation, and I’m taking “ham stuff” with me. I’ve picked up an FT-817nd and am carrying that for some portable, battery-powered QRP. I think the boys will be more interested in SSB than CW, because they can actually hear what’s going on. I’m hoping to make a few more converts.

I got a certificate in the mail this afternoon from the Virginia QSO Party. I was the “High Newport News Mixed Mode 40M” scorer. I suspect I was the only Newport News Mixed Mode 40M entry ;-). In any case, it’s always nice to get another piece of paper for the shack wall.

That’s it for now, I guess. I’ll write a bit more later.

73 de Dick k4ftw

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder …

Been absent from here for a while, but I’m still around. I’ve been busy with numerous things, and my daughter is graduating from high school this coming Saturday. It sure seems there’s a lot more stuff leading up to graduation than there was 50-some years ago when I graduated. I’ve been listening a bit when occupied with other tasks, but the bands have seemed pretty lackluster lately, and noisier. Guess it’s summertime.

Hopefully, I’ll be re-energized after the furor of graduation dies down … at least until she heads off for college in August :-).

73 de Dick K4FTW

Computer Crashes and Antennas

I spent a bit of time last night working the various QSO parties (IN, NE, 7QP) and had a pretty good time. N1MM kept crashing the computer, and I couldn’t figure out what had changed since I last used it. I was using the FT-450 hardware file for my FT-450D, and had had the occasional crash before, but it was getting worse, so I decided to try the FT-950 file. Night & day, folks. I haven’t had a crash since I changed, and everything seems to work OK. I guess the FT-450D is a lot more like the FT-950, since they are both SDR digital DSP boxes. I’m not sure how the FT-450 is different in how the computer sees it.

I want to say a couple of words about the W1SFR End-Fed 40 – 6 m Antenna that I bought from Steve at kx3helper.com and used for the first time last weekend. This is a quality product and Steve really stands behind what he sells. Just because the website says kx3helper, there’s plenty there that’s useful for other small portable rigs, too. Yeah, sure … I could have built the matching network in a box myself and cut some wire and had something functionally equivalent, but what I didn’t spend was TIME. Between work, family, scouting, and church, I don’t have a lot of time. I treasure the (too few) moments that I have to myself to do ME things (like ham radio). To me, it’s worth buying it ready to go. Visit Steve’s site and see what he has to offer, especially if you like portable operation.

Well, that’s about it for now. 72 and 73 de Dick K4FTW

Hammin’ in the Woods

Operating has been pretty spotty lately. I’ve just been so busy with other things that radio has had to take a back seat. I have worked a few of the W1AW/x stations, but not much else.

This weekend, though, I did get on the air in a different manner. I am also a Scout leader, so I took all of my portable gear with me on a weekend camping trip into the woods. I wanted to expose the kids to ham radio, and gauge the interest for participation in the Radio Merit Badge.

This was really the first weekend I’ve had the time (and the decent weather) to get out and do some portable operation. This past winter was too nasty for me to trek to the woods and do ham radio!

I had the Ten-Tec R4040 QRP transceiver, the ZM-2 tuner, and a 40-6 Meter End Fed antenna with 9:1 balun from Steve at kx3helper.com, along with the assorted odds and ends needed to connect everything. The antenna was up in a “L” configuration, no more than 20 feet high at its highest point.

I powered up everything from a 12V 7AH battery, tuned up, and got on the air. The Florida QSO Party was going, and the signals were pretty good. I answered a few stations and they came right back to me. I was impressed. I was even more impressed when I noticed I’d made quite a few QsOs with the ZM-2 in the TUNE position … I wasn’t even connected to the antenna! I flipped the switch, and the results were much better!

This was the first “Field Test” of the entire setup and I was duly impressed. Everything worked just like it was supposed to, and I had several of the boys (and adults) interested in learning more. It was really a great weekend in all respects.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Virginia QSO Party

I got a few QSOs in for the Virginia QSO Party. Once again, life interrupted Ham Radio :-). I only had 39 QSOs this year, quite a few less than last year, but what I did was still fun. It’s one of the great QSO parties … pretty laid back, compared to some. Unless a station has a run going, they’re usually willing to have a few words with you.

So, Spring starts this week, and they’re predicting rain, sleet, and snow tonight and tomorrow. It’s a cold rain outside this evening, and it looks like the rest of the night is all downhill. I’m hoping for warmer weather by next weekend. I’m going on a Scout camp out with the Troop and hope to get in a bit of qrp portable operation while in the woods. Although we’ve had some nice days in the past couple of months, they were just that … days. No real spells of “outside” weather.

Well, I’ve got to import my contacts from N1MM into my log and email the Cabrillo log to the QSO party folks. After that, I think I’ll just relax and do some reading, Don’t get to do that as often as I like.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Antennas and One and Zeros

Digital modes are addictive. I’ve worked several days now of JT-9 and JT-65 and managed to pick up a few new states that had been elusive in the past. I tried a couple of different software programs and settled on WSJT-X with JT-Alert and linked everything to my DXLab software.

I was noticing a few tuning issues on my vertical antenna, so I finally went out to the back yard and checked it. It’s a 31-ft wire on a Jackite collapsible fiberglass pole and one of the sections had collapsed. I had a wire tie at each joint to keep that from happening, but I guess this one was not snug enough or had slipped. Anyway, to make a long story short, I re-extended the pole section and twisted it to lock it.SWR readings are back to normal now.  I’ll put another wire-tie on it when I get around to finding one :-).

Tomorrow is a Holiday — President’s Day, so maybe I’ll have a chance to get some operating accomplished. I did work a couple of stations in the ARRL International CW contest this weekend, but those don’t count as a ragchew, for sure!

73 de Dick

 

New modes (for me)

This weekend I was stuck in the house with a cold and feeling generally miserable, so I decided to look around at some of the digital modes I had never tried. I took a look at JT-65 and downloaded WSJT-X to give it a try. Lo and behold, it was really simple to set up and I worked MM0AMW.

I set up WSJT-X to work with DXView Commander, using my Signalink USB, and nothing could have been simpler. I did do a bit of reading beforehand, so I sort of understood what the heck I was doing, and the QSO was painless. I still have mixed feelings about JT-65 (and JT-9), but I have to admit, there was a bit of excitement when I saw MM0AMW come back to me. I think it’ll be added to my bag of tricks. It’s pretty interesting, even with a 13-character limit.

Other than that, not much happening. I’ll be so glad when this winter is over. The older I get, the more I seem to become a warm-weather creature.

73 and CUL,
Dick K4FTW

Brrr …

Boy it’s COLD. And that’s inside!

Just kidding. Our heat has been out here at the qth since last Friday and it’s Wednesday now … parts had to be ordered and have just arrived and should be installed today … Hopefully! We’ve been coping with space heaters and electric blankets for a while now.

I can’t believe I haven’t posted since last November, but it’s true. I really haven’t been on the air much. The holidays are always so hectic and work has been more demanding lately. I have worked a couple of W1AW/x stations since the first of the year, so I’m not totally off the air!

The WX has been so cold that no qrp portable operation has happened. It’s 18F outside with a wind chill of 3F, and 6 inches of dry snow on the ground. That’s a blizzard for coastal Virginia … Parts of Virginia Beach had ten inches! I think this is the coldest winter we’ve had for a long, long time.

Speaking of qrp/p, I think I’ve finally gotten everything sorted out for my go-kit. The last bit was a solar panel (Goal Zero Nomad 7). Not totally necessary but useful for when I’m camping “off-the-grid” for a week at a time during the summer.

This weekend, I’m off for Frostfest in Richmond, VA. A couple of ham friends and I are heading out at 5:30am for breakfast and the hamfest. It’s a little over an hour drive. I usually pick up a few odds and ends but I’m not planning anything major this year. I always seem to run into someone I haven’t seen for ages when I’m there. Should be a great day!

73 de Dick k4ftw