Tuesday, April 14, 2015

QRP ARCI 1,000 Miles Per Watt Award

1000 Miles Per Watt Award
On February 24th, I emailed two applications for the acclaimed QRP ARCI's 1,000 Miles Per Watt Award. It was nice to visit the Post Office box today finding a large white envelope. The envelope contained one of the awards I applied for. Since getting into QRP operating, this is one award that is offered by a few clubs and it speaks loudly of what you can do with very little. This is an award that I'm extra proud of considering I'm currently using indoor antenna's to make my contacts. Having a beam outside sure helps any QRP signal but operating not only QRP but also with indoor antenna's can sure try one's patience. It's a great test to operating skill and technique and taking advantage of being in the right place at the right time. Obviously in my case, a huge pat on the back goes to the stations on the other end. They were the ones who listened hard and pulled my weak signal out. Plus, ain't this a great looking certificate?! 

My other claimed KMPW application
I had a YouTube recording of the signal that CS2C had into my QTH. Yup, a nice accomplishment getting 1,827 Thousand Miles Per Watt. But even better, is my QSO with KP2M which that contact was captured and posted on my YouTube page. That equates to a claimed 7,455.8 Thousand Miles Per Watt! My mileage data comes from QRZ. Again, ½ watt with an indoor antenna!! That is a huge accomplishment for me. But I honestly feel the contest station did all the work and propagation was certainly in my favor. Accomplishing such things inspires me to continue to do even better by making farther contacts with minimal power. CW is my mode of choice as I feel that weak signal software gives me a bit of an advantage. Contest weekends are great times to accomplish such contacts as the big stations are out and it's easy to dial in on propagation paths as many more are on and contest frequencies are often packed. I've operated 1,500 watts to a tower mounted beam for several years but operating in those same contests while running QRP certainly increases the excitement when decreasing the power, especially when a valid contact is completed. That feeling is amplified (pun intended) when operating my indoor antenna strung from my upstairs stairway into my shack. Feels like winning the QRP lottery.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ham Throwback Thursday

Hamshack of Yesteryear. Recognize any of this?
I did not become interested in ham radio until the late 80's. Novice Enhancement back then along with a nudge from an old friend got me started in this great hobby. It has certainly been one of the most rewarding life experiences for me personally. I was recently browsing some old photo albums and came across a few photos of my Ohio hamshack. Life before the internet was very different. Packet was a hams internet back then and it was fun to node hop around Ohio, Michigan and beyond. Checking into the N8FIS BBS in Fremont, Ohio was the way you got messages and browsed for sale items and DX bulletins. 

Back In The Day
I think about my first computer, an old 8088 that originally had 2, 5¼" floppy drives. With a friends help, the black drive you see in the computer was a 30MB hard drive! You talk about room! I expected to never run out of hard drive space. It was slow but it got the job done. My first logging program came on 3 of those floppy disks. I ran JNOS or TCP/IP and experimented a bit with the packet side of the world. It was exciting to walk into the shack and see the blinking light on my MFJ TNC meaning someone had left me a mail message. I regularly checked my "Heard" list to see what other stations I might have heard either directly or via a digi.

The Good Ol Days
It might sound strange but as much as I enjoy modern technology, I miss those days long ago when I first got into the hobby. But, it's been fun watching our ham world following the modern trends but the basics are the same. We use radio waves to communicate with people all over the world. We hook an antenna to our transceiver and the world suddenly becomes much smaller. So much has changed and for those older than myself, they have seen much more of a change than I. As some of the other hobbies I've had in my lifetime, this has been the one constant. I was not born a ham but I will sure die one. It's been a fun ride and I'm hoping to have many more years behind the key(board). Oh, and the Vibroplex key in the picture is one that I still use today. CW certainly has been the KEY to my DX success!  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ham Radio Horse Power - A Bit Late But Still...

Shack Computer Front View
 Since my previous Dell shack computer crashed shortly after I purchased it (diagnosis, fried motherboard), it was time to do a bit of upgrading. I wanted something a bit more robust so when I choose to do multitasking, I would not see the slow downs that I saw with my previous off the shelf units (Walmart). I could of used this new computer during my active years in Alaska. Now that I don't have a modestly competitive contest station, it's somewhat overkill. However if I can pick the right six numbers on the Oregon lottery, I could see a full blown contest station sometime in my future. 

One of the biggest issues I saw with my previous shack computer(s) is sharing it with my personal use. By the time I downloaded all the other non-ham radio related stuff and loaded all of my other non-ham programs, I feel this led to much of the decreased performance I would see. This new computer will simply be a dedicated shack computer. There were times with my old computer, when sending CW with my contest software, I would see inconsistent sending speeds. Apparently the processor was a bit busy to handle my constant F-KEY and call stacking requests along with all the other garbage running in the background. 

Shack Computer Rear View
So, what did I do differently this time? I opted for stacked drives with the Windows OS going onto a 256 GB Solid State Drive. This will yield much quicker boot times and for those handful or programs I use daily, this drive will allow my world to arrive much quicker. Have you ever heard a new entity or need to get your software up and running before that new entity left the frequency it was spotted on? And while you computer was booting up, you were pacing the floor like an expectant father waiting for news from the deliver room (back in the day) as it could not fire up fast enough!? Many leave their shack computers run 24/7 but I try to save on my electric bill by shutting mine down. It always has been a controversial longevity conversation, is it better to leave em run or shut them off? With that said, most of my software will be on my internal 500 GB secondary spin drive. I will also have an external (for now) TB drive to back up all of the data. I plan on adding another internal backup drive at some point so everything is all inclusive. 

Of course, the main compliment to this hardware is the 16GB of available RAM. This will allow multiple programs to run at the same time with ease. When I got the unit home, I did throw in a serial port card for those older interface cables that I have for my Rigblaster's, etc. My real work now begins as I pull everything from the old backup drive and install it on this machine. I'm looking forward to getting this machine totally configured and once again having a stable but much faster shack computer. I have plenty of room to add on additional hardware if the need arises. Now my next hurdle will be to find the desk space to accommodate two computer screens. Being spoiled with dual screens at work, it's something I've wanted to do in the shack as well. As my eyesight continues to get worse, the wide and much larger computer screens are invaluable. With this new computer, it's obvious it will be main brain behind any AK7DD operating. I'm just hoping it will last much longer than my last.