Monday, November 30, 2015

CQ World Wide CW Contest 2015

QRP Setup
The holiday were pretty busy but I had to take a few minutes to turn on the QRP rig and make a handful of QSO's. I was limited to 10 & 20 meters. I heard so many stations I could not work, but it was fun listening to the excitement on the bands. Even with indoor antenna's, there were some very awesome stations out there. I heard D4B and EF8R on 20 meters with respectable signals with my set up. Stations well over 5,000 miles away were coming through the speaker connected to my Icom IC-703Plus. Simply amazing! And the strongest station I heard on 10 (and worked) was XE2B! For me to work stations with my current station, those on the other end do most of the work. Stations are more patient the last day of the contest, so it's a bit easier for QRP stations to find their way into logbooks abroad. That was the case for me on Sunday. A few contacts are better then no contacts. 

On a sad note, I was shocked to hear of the recent passing of Rich, KL7RA. While in Alaska, Rich was extremely helpful in building my contesting skills even from hundreds of miles away. Rich invited me into the Alaska contest group and he and the group helped me in so many ways. It was great to meet up with Rich last year at Dayton. Rich had a way with words and he was always there to help. I regret not getting down to Rich's station to operate after being invited. Rich had an amazing station and had a group of first class operators giving out Zone 1 in most of the major contests. His signal and wit will be sadly missed. I mentioned the AK group in my old blog many a time as all of them helped me to take contesting to the next level. Thanks Rich for all the fond memories and help over the years! RIP my friend! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Going Portable

Portable Setup
Time to get the portable gear out once again. Batteries are charged and I'm looking forward to a bit of off road radio'n. It's also nice to know that if for some reason I'm out of cellular coverage, I still have contact with the outside world. My antenna arsenal could be a bit better, but I'll add as finances allows. I plan on doing some operating from the comforts of our camper as we work south in the coming weeks for a short break from the office. Highlight will be spending quality time with our long time friends KL1SF and KL1MF. Snow and cooler temperatures have arrived at the office, but warmer temperatures are on the horizon.  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

NPOTA - National Parks On The Air for 2016

Crater Lake - Edit

In the news lately has been the announcement of the National Park Service Centennial Celebration. In 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) turns 100 years old! This is an exciting time and I'm even more excited about being involved with this milestone both professionally, and personally. And to make things even more exciting is the announcement of National Parks On The Air (NPOTA). Ham radio operators will be active from National Parks throughout the year. For those activating and for those chasing, the bands will be busy with celebration. I can see this being as big as the Triple Play Award when it first rolled out. But the most exciting part of this for me personally, is when my two worlds collide, NPS and Ham Radio!

Crater Lake National Park 2015
I will be looking forward to dragging my equipment to the lake and doing some operating throughout next year. If you remember, from my blog postings when I first arrived at Crater Lake, propagation was not very favorable at headquarters. But there are many places around the Historic RIM Drive that will yield some fantastic views and some great propagation. Even though I continue to downsize my shack at home, my portable equipment will be my main focus as it has for the last few years. Mother Nature will determine when most of Crater Lake's facilities, roads and trails will open next year. In a normal snow year, Rim drive would not fully open until late June or even early July. With the Pacific El Nino predictions, I'm curious as to what this will bring to Crater Lake during the winter of 2015/2016.   

This is a great excuse to get out, enjoy your National Parks and see the beauty our National Parks have to offer. Even if you are not active in ham radio, just visiting a National Park and helping the NPS celebrate this event will make memories that will last a lifetime. The ARRL has announced the rules for the event and if you plan on operating, please make sure you review the rules first. Depending on the park, size of operation, activating from a National Park may require a Special Use Permit, so please contact the park you plan on operating from for any restrictions, etc. Always think safety first and let's make some noise on the bands from some of the most breathtaking landscapes you could ever imagine. I know it's on my agenda and getting outdoors is never a bad thing. QRZ?   

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Bear & The Bull - You Decide

ISES Solar Cycle Data from NOAA/SWPC
It's obvious we are entering into a Bear Solar Cycle as it seems each and ever day I turn on my HF rig I hear more and more silence. As sunspot numbers head south, so do the number of QSO's in my HF logbook. Certainly a direct correlation for most logbooks. Not that I've added hundreds of contacts to my logbook lately. Operating QRP with indoor antennas makes this downward cycle even harder to produce logbook additions. All the more reason I will operate the weak signal modes like JT9 and JT65. The good thing about these cycles are there seems to be a pattern which make them predictable. 


Stock Market - As mapped by Google & Yahoo Finance
Recent non-scientific AK7DD data has made a connection between solar cycle data and the stock market. Not only has my QSO's suffered lately, so has any additional dollars to my 401K. 

Since 2011, you will see both cycles were on an upward swing. And as we hit 2015, now both cycles are on a downward swing. So what does this have to do with ham radio? Radio manufactures probably watch these cycles closely. As the solar cycle peaks and the stock market follows, hams have more money to spend on ham equipment! More new radios are born during this period than any other. And when I compare my new purchase equipment receipts, I find my additions follow this same pattern! I also look at family time and from the notes left on my shack door, my family sees much less of me during solar cycle peaks! But now that things are falling, this means that my family can expect to spend more time with me. I'll be broke yet again and with nothing on the bands, I'll spend the next few years catching up with my kids, friends, family and relatives. And in looking at the birth certificates of my five children, I find most were born at the bottom of the last five solar cycles! Now you have the rest of the story...
  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Downsizing Sell Off Finally Begins

Bencher SK
As I hit the popular auction site eBay with various pieces of ham equipment, I'm finally getting to see my no longer needed accessories going to good shacks. I've been trying to list a handful each weekend as time allows. 

One key that I've had for a long time is my Bencher RJ-1. These are great keys but once I took a Navy Flameproof for a spin down RF alley, I've never looked back. I prefer the Navy Flameproof and it's my key of choice when sending manual Morse Code. My introduction to the Flameproof prompted me to put the Bencher back in the box it had arrived in. It's been there ever since. Now hopefully it will find a good home as it's currently listed on eBay. 

Heil HM-10-Dual
There is equipment that's tough to part with and then there is equipment that is pretty easy to part with. Since I'm mostly a CW guy, any Single Side Band (SSB) equipment is pretty easy to part with. When I had my shack in Alaska, I had plans of hooking up a boom microphone but it never really happened. I became addicted to my Heil Pro Headsets and the rest is history. So, I have some microphone and accessories currently listed on the auction site as well. And since I have no plans of having another contest station (unless I'm lucky enough to win the lottery but with my previous history with luck, that's highly doubtful) this is equipment that needs to be used elsewhere by someone else.

Icom SM-20
My goal is to reduce the clutter in my current shack over the next several weeks and downsize to only those pieces of equipment that I'll be able to use. I'm the original owner on much of it, but a few pieces I acquired from friends or other auction sites. And since my equipment comes with many of the original boxes and a smoke free environment, hopefully most, if not all, will find new homes in shacks that will put them to use once again.

Again, my SSB equipment is pretty easy to part with so items like my Icom SM-20 should hopefully be easy to sell (and it already has). I have lots of stuff that I need to list on a local level (towers, amplifier, etc) due to shipping issues but hopefully I can list some equipment with some local ham clubs. 

When I tore down my shack prior to leaving Alaska, I had hopes of someday putting it back together again. As time moves on, the likelihood of that happening fades with each passing month and changing future plans. I am concentrating now on a portable and QRP station. If we do eventually win the lottery, I'll be back to crank-up towers and a retirement home in a propagation rich part of the country. I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, August 3, 2015

JT9, 3 Months Later

JT9
Hard to believe it's been three months since my last QSO. My shack computer began giving me errors so back to the shop it went. First comment was, "Well, it could be a virus" followed by a call a few days later telling me the hard drive failed. I then received a call a week later that said it was an issue with RAM. When I got the phone call to pick it up, it was time to reload my ham programs and I take it for a test drive, which happened this past weekend. I decided to start off with some JT9 on 20 meters. I enjoy that mode as running QRP, a weak signal program is just the answer to adding contacts to the old ham radio logbook. I still have to set up a few macros but it's nice surfing the bands and making some contacts. 


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Thee Dying Art of Inconspicuous Green Stamp Stuffing

Pre-LOTW, EQSL, Clublog, QRZlog etc...
Back in the day, to get a foreign QSL confirmation, one would send a QSL card, return airmail envelope and green stamp(s). You kept your fingers crossed that the envelope made it intact with all the contents and the return would share the same fate. Postal theft has always been an issue as has been green stamp collectors (those who would receive the $$ but would not return QSL) so the art of QSL'ing, almost at times, felt like a cat & mouse game. You know the drill, no callsigns on the envelopes, using brand new green stamps as they would fold tightly and be less obvious (some preferred non-folded green stamps), covering the QSL card with paper so a bright light would not identify it like a Cracker Jack Box with a prize inside. Also, taping the envelope to make it a bit harder to peek through the seams to see the contents.  

Over the years, I've sent hundreds (and maybe thousands) of $1.00 bills abroad. Where currency was a no-go, I'd send International Reply Coupons (IRC's). I had a need for these envelopes while in Alaska, as I received many direct QSL requests. But that need has fallen to near zero. Now I need to find a good home for these as I'll probably never use them again. I have a few on hand just in case I get a few last requests. I'll post my unopened packages and boxes on a few websites and the first reasonable offer gets em. 

I have written in the past that I have a nice foreign stamp collection thanks to Ham Radio! I kept every foreign stamp I ever received and they are safe in hopes that someday, my kids can enjoy them and maybe even make a few bucks. Like the days of Box 88 in Moscow, this "back in the day" shack accessory is becoming a vintage memory for this ham. There are still those that send direct and I think sending direct will be like Morse Code. Some thought it was a dying form of communication but it continues and will continue. So maybe someone will be able to put these envelopes to good use. These are great backdrops for the American Global Forever Stamp.   

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Do I QSL? Um, Yea...

KL8DX QSL Box
The last several days have been unseasonably warm here in southern Oregon. We have seen temperatures hitting triple digits at the house. Very warm but I'm thankful we do not have the humidity that we had on the east coast. The warmer temperatures had me visit the local big box store and pick up a couple air conditioners. Many of the local stores are now sold out, so I'm thankful I beat the rush.

Since it's so warm outdoors, it makes it easy to stay indoors and accomplish ham tasks. I once again decided to dive into the shack and continue my QSL purging exercise. I've stored my QSL cards in totes for several years and this one happens to contain many of the cards I received while I was active in Alaska as KL8DX. All of these cards have been answered either direct of via the bureau. I actually have a few hundred I received in my last bureau drop that I need to answer. I will leave no request go unanswered! 


Floor to Door
I went through each and every card, one by one, as I removed them from the tote and put them on the shack floor. As you can see, I have hundreds from all corners of the globe. QSL cards have changed over the years and many are now photo quality and simply brilliant. With digital cameras and being able to easily send photos to QSL printers, each and every card is unique. Many even print their with photo quality printers.  

When I moved to Alaska, I no longer had to send for QSL cards as many came to me first. I did send off for confirmations to DXpeditions or new entities but 99.89% of my QSL duties were answering those QSL cards I received, direct or via the bureau. And let me tell you, the more active a person is, the more requests one gets. I had to actually get a larger Post Office Box just to accommodate the volume of QSL cards I received direct. Needless to say, bureau envelopes were bursting at the seams. It's always great traveling down memory lane but I still have a handful of boxes to go through. My goal is to save my favorites and one or two from each DXCC entitiy and place them in large photo albums. Several of my QSL cards and contest certificates along with various awards will now be easily be stored on a shelf. I will always answer hard copy QSL requests for as long as I receive them. I will continue to keep credits or envelopes at incoming bureaus until no more QSL cards are received. At the end of this year, it will be two years since I operated as KL8DX, but I'm expecting to receive QSL cards for at least the next five or six years. The bureau is an inexpensive way to exchange cards but the turn around can take several years. The beauty of electronic confirmations, they can be received and credit awarded in minutes. One of the highlights of getting QSL cards direct is I've accumulated a nice stamp collection. Now that, I will never part with.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

QSL - Relived And Then Recycled

Recycle
If you've followed my blog at all, you will know that I'm downsizing my shack dramatically. First is cleaning up files and paperwork followed by parting with various pieces of shack equipment. As I prepare for my retirement years, I know I can't drag most of my ham radio hobby with me. Certificates, which used to hang on the shack wall, have now been removed from their frames and placed into a large photo album. The frames, along with other household items we no longer need, have been donated. Equipment has been stacked in two piles, one pile that I will keep and the second pile, I will sell. The sale pile includes tower sections, rotors and control boxes, hundreds of feet of cable, shack equipment and more. Today I began the sad reality of working my way through my QSL cards. I will be downsizing my QSL cards in much the same manner as I did my certificates. My DXCC QSL cards along with a few other of my favorites will be retired to a photo album as friendly reminder of years past. 

QSL's of Yesteryear
Included in recycling project is my own personal QSL cards sporting my previous callsigns and operations. I held onto some of my old QSL cards to make sure I had enough for any bureau requests. Since I no longer receive any requests of my previous older callsigns, they found their way into our recycling bin. As you can see, many of my QSL cards from the late 80's and 90's also found the bin. These were mostly my 432, 144, 6 and satellite contacts from back in the day. I browsed each and every card as I tossed them into the bin and I'm sure my neighbors were curious as to what I was doing. A colorful reminder of days before electronic QSL'ing.

In some ways, this act almost seemed criminal. That is probably the reason it's taken me so long to begin this process. I've moved across the country a few times and after this last move, I decided it was time to stop lugging them around. This activity will continue as time allows and as room is had in the recycling bin. Yes, the Coors Light made it a little easier but it's still tough to close the lid on so many fond memories. Life goes on...

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Commanding QRP Tri-band Configuration

Indoor Par EndFedZ Antenna Configuration
I have three bands (antennas) within my QTH at the moment. I've identified the Par EndFedZ wires I currently have up in the photo to the left. My shack is a bit out of sight below, but the open concept allows me to easily run wires indoors. The 20 meter wire is a bit long so I have it making a 45 degree turn down into the shack. Couple indoor antennas with running QRP, there certainly are challenges in making contacts if propagation is not good. Basically, it's nearly impossible, but when propagation is favorable, I can work Europe. This configuration is a great conversation piece for anyone who visits, as the wires always raise an eyebrow or two. Command Strips make it pretty easy to run wires indoors without scaring interior finishes. The antenna's also don't mind the wires running to, or through them. I still have plans of exterior antenna's but for now, this is how I'm wired.     

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Windows 3.1 Directions Discovered And My Indoor 6 Meter Comes To Life, Finally!

6 Meter Indoor Antenna
At the urging of my long time friend KL1SF, I finally put up my indoor 6 meter Par EndFedZ antenna today. I heard my first weak SSB signals on 6 meters, mostly from 6 and 7 land. As you can see, the SWR is pretty respectable considering it's indoors and running in between my 10 and 20 meter indoor wires. I had been listening to a few hams chat on 50.140 while I was stringing the wire. The entire portion of the 6 meter band (CW and up to about 150) had the same SWR. So now, need a grand opening to be able to work my first stations on 6 from this QTH. My only dilemma is needing to find my microphone, but hopefully will hear some 6 meter CW in the near future. The keys are ready but I normally don't have a microphone hooked to my rig. 


LogSat for Windows 3.1?!
As I continue to purge my shack of old equipment and accessories, I found several old pieces of software. The picture to the right is of my first satellite program, LogSat. When I opened it up and saw the installation instructions, I had to chuckle a bit. I can sure remember Windows 3.1 and DOS before that. As we are about to embark on Windows 10, things have sure changed over the years and as some would probably tell you, not necessarily for the better. And now, CD's are becoming a thing of the past. As I recycle, sell or throw out various accessories, I'm wondering if some of these might not someday be the next high dollar eBay income piece. Sometimes I think technology moves a bit fast for my taste. This of course coming from a guy who totally enjoys Morse Code, that ancient form of communication that constantly fills the ham bands when propagation allows. Morse Code was here before me and I'm sure it will still be in use after me. I'm sure glad some things don't change...   

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Contesters Past - Hand Delivered Wallpaper Achiever?

CT & TR-Log
With modern contesting software, you go to a specific website, review the software and oftentimes, download a trial copy. You give it a spin and if you like it, you register it (if applicable). With some, there is a cost for registration and with others, it can be free. Some even have lifetime updates but I don't know of any software program that has lasted that long. Donations are always a good thing when you find software that you enjoy that come with no price tag. As I continue my theme of walking down memory lane, looking at my disk collection, I came across two of my first real contest programs. CT and TR-Log is where I first experienced having a separate program, specifically for contesting. 

I would expect that these programs are probably still in use by many hams. When you become an expert with a version of any software, change can sometimes be stressful. Changes often make software better, by upgrading certain aspects of the program and fixing reported bugs. I was (am still) hesitant in upgrading software each and every time a new version comes out. It is a great thing when a software developer continuously supports their work. Contesting software in comparison to regular logging software is the difference between driving a Chevy Vega and a Z28. In modern day, I use Win-test (N1MM for digital contests), which resemble aspects of those programs I have used in the past. Computers are faster and programs are much bigger and more powerful and ham radio software is no different. As I permanently retire these program disks, I can't help but smile. Great programs that still have a place in Radiosport today. 

PacketCluster Version? - Back In The Day

Back In The Day
As I continue purging excess from my ham inventory, I came across these 3½" disks that contained original ham software on them. I ran my own DXCluster for awhile and normally could connect to Michigan or Cleveland via the backbone frequency, which was where I exchanged data (pre-internet days). I was hoping to connect both worlds via my system but it just did not pan out as I lacked the height, gain and dedicated antenna's. I still used my system for UHV/VHF contests and I made good use of my high band Triplexer during those days. It was certainly fun while it lasted and coming across these old disks makes me take a stroll down memory lane. I have to chuckle a bit as I only have one computer left that could even read these disks. And that computer will be recycled at Best Buy at the end of this week. Remember those days when an entire program would fit on one of these disks. Oh how things have changed.



  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

QRP and Life At The Lake

Crater Lake National Park
The weather has been much more like summer and just like the ham bands during a contest weekend, things are beginning to get busy. Summer is here and I have to tell ya, I'm enjoying the abundant sunshine here at this relatively new QTH. The road around Crater Lake is almost fully open. With the lack of winter, many roads and recreational areas are open much earlier this year than in previous years. Of course, being new to the area and being my first summer here at the lake, this is where the bar is set for me. Normally these areas don't open until early July so that should somewhat put things into perspective. 


Lake View - Crater Lake National Park 
I could not attend Dayton but it was great reading the Twitter and Facebook posts by those who attended not to mention the bloggers highlighting new equipment and a play by play at the Hamvention

In speaking of the Hamvention, I saw posted on the QRP ARCI webpage that N6QW was inducted to the QRP Hall Of Fame. Pete is certainly well deserving of the award. I'm looking forward to reading more in the July issue of QRP Quarterly. There are many people who have been important in various aspects of QRP operating, covering everything from technical to education. No longer do you need that ham who is next door to show you the ropes. Nowadays, with social medial, it's a matter of doing a Google search or searching YouTube to learn anything you wanted to know about all aspects of ham radio. From Bloggers to Vloggers, there is an endless amount of information that has been shared and available with a few clicks of a mouse.

My introduction to QRP was simply that, via social media. My attention was first drawn to low power operating by coming across a video from Steve, wG0AT. That is what planted the seed for me. That was the reason that I personally nominated Steve for the QRP ARCI QRP Hall Of Fame. Steve did not get it but hey, there is always next year! There are a few others that I also wanted to nominate however, I could only nominate one and Steve rose to the top. For me, a close second would be Larry, W2LJ. I've enjoyed Larry's blog for several years. Larry's blog site is highly read and respected by many in the QRP community, including myself. For me, what edged out Steve, was my personal experiences with wG0AT himself. With that said, my nomination for Steve is below;


In finally getting around to reading the January edition of The QRP Quarterly, I scanned the past recipients of the QRP Hall of Fame on page 4. Much to my surprise, there was one callsign missing from that list. This is the reason for my nomination. My nomination details are listed below. 

I stumbled across a video by Steve, wG0AT on one of his many portable QRP adventures. I started to follow Steve's video success in 2009. I can honestly say, I never gave QRP a thought prior to catching Steve's videos. I began to research QRP operating and it was only then that I realized how big the QRP world was. 

I was living in Alaska and was active from just outside the boundary of Denali National Park as KL8DX. I was very active as a QRO operator, and I could be found in many of the major contest weekends during CW contests running 100 watts or more. Enter YouTube and my introduction to QRP operating.

Operating from Alaska was truly challenging and at times, 100 watts was far from enough to make a contact. Even with challenging propagation, the seed had been planted, and I began to research QRP operating. My first thought was that QRP from Alaska was almost a crazy idea. But it was a challenge I felt I was ready to face, or at least wanted to try!

I had a work related trip scheduled during the spring of 2010 to St. Louis, MO. My wife and I normally took advantage of any trip to the lower 48 to go visit friends and family in Ohio. I had become such a fan of Steve's adventures, I wanted to meet him personally. I had an idea, which lead to an email I had sent to Steve. I did not know Steve personally, and I did not have any previous interaction with Steve other than maybe commenting on a few of his YouTube videos. The email I sent to Steve outlined my trip plans to St. Louis and then Ohio, but I had an idea of taking a few days on our trip back to Alaska to swing through Colorado. I had asked Steve if he was available and open to a visit. It was not long afterwards I received an email response from Steve.

As it turned out, not only was Steve open for a meeting, he invited this unknown KL8DX ham radio stranger to his residence. When I mentioned to my wife that Steve would be available, plans were then made to fly into Denver and spend a few days in Colorado on our trip back home. That would be the trip that sealed the deal for my becoming a QRP operator. I had blogged about my idea of QRP operating back in December of 2009. That blog entry can be found at:


When my wife and I arrived at Steve's house, I found Steve to be as genuine as he was in his videos. It was decided that my wife was going to do some local shopping while Steve and I were going to play radio. As it turned out, Steve offered to take me up to the peak of Mount Herman for a bit of radio fun. Steve loaded up his goats and radio equipment and off we went for Mount Herman. The hike was challenging for this elevation challenged ham who normally lived just under 2,000' above sea level. Once we reached the peak of Mt.Herman
the world opened up both visually and propagationally. 

The views were fantastic, and I had a day of fun learning all about portable QRP operating, which included everything from antenna's to portable power and equipment. I managed a single DX CW QSO and of course, being Steve, he captured our days fun in a video he posted to YouTube. That video can be found at:


After spending a wonderful day with Steve, Rooster (SK) and Peanut, my wife and I had a wonderful dinner with Steve and his wife. We departed the next day to head back home to Alaska, but I was determined more so than ever to begin QRP operating!  Steve's willingness to open his world and to introduce QRP to a total stranger proved to me Steve was the real deal! I know I'm not the only person to be inspired by Steve and his adventures. Steve continues to inspire others either by promoting QRP or by coming up with the next gadget to use while operating. Just recently Larry, W2LJ mentioned Steve in one of his blog entries. Larry's mention of Steve can be found at:


In conclusion, Steve has promoted QRP radio like no other. From blogging to video, Steve is known the world wide. I now sport an entire station of QRP equipment that I use both at home and in the field. Steve is extremely professional and promotes QRP in a way I feel is very deserving of this nomination. Simply looking at the number of "hits" to his video channel and individual videos shows the number of hams Steve has and continues to influence. 

Steve attends many a Hamfest and normally a line of hams are seen standing in line to speak with Steve. Steve personally inspired me, which has led me to focus my activities on mostly QRP operating. QRP would not be where it is today without those who operate it, and more importantly, for those who promote it. Steve has done so at various club meetings and to this day, continues to use all aspects of social media to promote QRP operating with ham radio. Steve's bio on QRZ says it all. 

I respectfully submit this nomination for the QRP Hall of Fame to consider Steve Galchutt, WG0AT as the next member. 

Sincerely,

Phil Sauvey, AK7DD
EX: KL8DX 

As summer ramps up, I'm looking forward to a bit of UHF/VHF activity, more specifically on 6 meters. The ARRL June VHF Contest is getting close and I hope to make my first VHF/UHF contacts that weekend. A big change to these ARRL contests is the now allowed self spotting. I would imagine this will have the same effect as the skimmer. If you're operating from a rare grid, once the spot makes it out onto the web, fasten your seat belt as here comes the pile-up! I personally don't use spotting assistance in any contests so it won't change my world. I'm looking forward to reading and hearing how this rule change effects these contests. I would imagine it will be very beneficial for rovers.   

Sunday, May 10, 2015

100th Weekend Sprintathon and Holding Out

Straight Key Action Flameproof QRP Style 
This weekend was another personally busy one but I wanted to set a bit of time aside to work the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES). This was the SKCC's 100th Weekend Sprintathon! First off, congratulations to SKCC for achieving such a milestone. I'm looking forward to operating WES #200! I've blogged about SKCC many times over the years and I've had plenty of fun working their events! I very much enjoy the slower pace of their regular events. With this weekends festivities, I only made five QRP QSO's due to the band conditions but I was glad to make each and every one of em. I've been a fan of CW for years and in these SKCC events, you will encounter seasoned contesters and those brand new to the key. You don't have to be a member to participate but if you enjoy CW or want to learn it, why not become a member?! I enjoy several CW clubs but SKCC ranks up there at the top for me. I always enjoyed the straight key pileups I encountered while operating in Alaska. I miss those days...

In reading all the hype about the Dayton Hamvention next week, I wish I could attend. There is a new radio I've had my eye on and I have been waiting for the release and subsequent reviews. If I were able to attend, I may have the chance of getting my hands on one. It's not another HF radio, but a new handheld radio. I've wanted an APRS compatible handheld for awhile now and my first choice had been the Yaesu VX-8DR. A few of my friends have that rig and are very happy with it. Seeing the ads for the new Yaesu FT2DR peaked my interest and put me on hold for the VX-8DR. My aged eyes sure enjoy the advertised size of the display that the FT2DR has. So, as I wait until the FT2DR hits the street and I see the reviews, I'll just hold off. Heck, it might even drive the price down of the VX-8DR if I end up going with that one anyway. Since we have good APRS coverage here, I've been looking for a VHF/UHF handheld that I can use while hiking, camping or remote operating. Either way, hopefully I'll have an APRS compatible handheld this summer.       

Thursday, May 7, 2015

My Last CQ Is On The Horizon

Latest CQ Savings Pitch
For many years, I've enjoyed CQ Magazine. For many years, I've thoroughly enjoyed CQ sponsored contests. But like many, I've wondered about CQ Magazine over the last year or so. Subscription issues, which for me personally have included missed subscriptions, extremely late issues and communication problems. My last renewal was for three years but I just don't find it in my heart to renew.  From my missing issues to what seems to be no real explanation for continuing problems (other than some comments in regards to delivery issues), I feel I have no choice but to end my subscription. Money is tight these days and I can use it elsewhere. As an investor, if companies that I owned stock in started to show these types of problems, I'd sell. Any good investor would tell you the same. It's obvious CQ's issue has been financial in nature but so is my decision. I feel I'm not getting what I pay for, period.    

I wish for nothing more than for CQ to pull through and I know I'm not helping by not subscribing. But I have to do what's best for me and until CQ appears solid again, I'll use the money for other ham radio related activities or organizations. I've financially invested in life time memberships and other lifetime subscriptions only to have those organizations or software developers fold and go out of business. CQ has been one of the best magazines out there for as long as I can remember. From Popular Communications to CQ Plus and then to CQ VHF, we've seen lots of things appear and go away. Things appeared to have spiraled downward beginning in December of 2013 and actually even before. Our hobby has seen many changes over the years and this is just another. I applaud those involved with CQ in attempting to keep it going but they will have to continue without me. I will continue to participate in contests as time allows.  

Still to this day, it's hard for me to believe that there is a ham market for $10,000 HF rigs but great magazines like CQ struggle to keep alive...
  

Monday, May 4, 2015

My Icom Accessory Mysteriously Ends in 2014 & Some QSO Party Fun This Past Weekend.

My Icom 2000 Clock
This past weekend had plenty of state QSO party activity. I worked stations in the 7th Call Area QSO Party (7QP), the Indiana QSO Party(INQP) and finally the New England QSO Party (NEQP). I never heard anyone in the Delaware QSO Party. Of course, I was QRP with 5 watts and using my indoor EndFedZ antenna. Saturday was the best day but Sunday was extremely challenging. Challenging enough I did not make one QSO. I'm thankful for those I was able to make on Saturday. It just reminds me how much I miss my modest contest station. Had I still had a station, I would have been parked behind the computer for the entire weekend. But since Sunday was a ham bandwash, I was able to easily enjoy the spring sunshine here in Southern Oregon.  It's that time of year.

And in speaking of time, I put a fresh battery in my Icom IC-756PRO 2000 clock (pictured above) that I received when I purchased my original PRO several years ago. I set the time and when I went to the date, I found the the last calendar year available on this clock was 2014! So, my Icom clocks calendar year ended last year, running only from 1995 to 2014. I don't have the manual any longer but everything I tried stopped the clock calendar year in 2014. Does it render it useless? No, not at all. But I find it a bit comical that my rig outlasted the clock and I've abused my PRO for years. Or at least, I think my rig still works as it's still in the box from our last move. Maybe I should get it out and make sure it did not stop in 2014?! Something tells me it's just fine... 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

FDIM - Four Days In May. Wish I Was Going This Year, But Maybe Next Year...

Dayton 2014
It's hard to believe that it's almost been a year since I attended my first Dayton Hamvention. I had plenty of fun meeting old and new friends and spending time with my long time ham buddy and his family, Sean KL1SF. There were several events I wished I could have attended but time did not allow. One of those events was the Four Days in May (FDIM). This is a QRP event spread across four days and it's loaded with low power fun. Had we still lived closer to the Buckeye state, I would have tried to attend this years four days of QRP education and festivities. Even though I'm unable to attend this year, it's on my "Bucket List" to attend sometime in the future.

Although I could not attend the event this year, I still participated in a way. In reading QRP-ARCI's  January 2015 version of QRP Quarterly, I saw they were taking nominations for the QRP Hall of Fame (page 4). Well, I've never nominated anyone for this award but I submitted one this year. I'm looking forward to reading (since I can't be there) on who will be the recipient of this years award. I think it's great that QRP-ARCI does this, something they've obviously done for several years now. I think it's important to recognize those who contribute so much to our ever growing hobby. If you have the chance to nominate anyone you feel is worthy, regardless of organization and award, I'd recommend doing so. Like winning the lottery, you can't win unless you play. The same goes for these awards. Those hams you feel are worthy won't get a chance of being named unless you nominate. 

Now that we are seeing green-up here, I'm hoping to get a bit of time and begin some heavy thought on an external antenna or two. Having mother nature conceal my exterior efforts will help keep neighborhood harmony. Here in my current subdivision, houses are built extremely close to each other and I can literally reach out and touch my neighbors shed roof from my deck (without stretching). At least running QRP, I hopefully won't have to worry much about interfering with neighborhood electronic devices. And since most of the utilities here are below ground, things are relatively quiet. That may change once I put up a better antenna outdoors. There is only one way to find out...