Monday, March 14, 2016

Spring Cleaning The Shack & The Rock - A Non-CW Surprise

The Helm
Having received feet and feet of snow at the office this year, I'm certainly ready for spring! Just this weekend, two additional feet had fallen with heavy snow still on the way. I'm expecting another foot or more by the time I make it back to the office. I'm certainly not complaining as the west coast has needed all this precipitation. Hopefully this will help with the drought conditions and keep our fire season short and uneventful. 

In thinking of spring, I decided to spend some time spring cleaning the open floor plan of a shack that I have. In regards to ham radio real estate, it takes up a small corner in a downstairs room. The photo at left shows my operating position. Currently, my sole rig in the shack is my trusty Icom IC-703+ and Astron switching power supply. If you've read my blog before, you know I run QRP with indoor EndFedZ antenna's. 

Open Storage
Most of my open floor plan shack is used for storage. I have more downsizing to do which includes parting with more internal equipment. I need to find a local outlet for my external equipment (tower, Hazer, rotors and lots of feedline). I'll work on selling those as time allows but I've purged 50% to date. But I now have room to safely move around the shack. 

You can see two of my EndFedZ wires in the photo above. My 20 meter runs to the right and my 10 meter runs to the left. I also have a 6 meter EndFedZ that is out of view. I had a 15 meter wire up at one point and I may bring the 6 meter down for the 15. I think the chance of a band opening on 15 is much greater than 6 these days.

QSL Cards 
In cleaning up the shack, I came across my bureau cards for my Alaska operation (KL8DX). I have plenty more to complete but my goal is to make that more of a priority in the coming weeks. I need to get these out. I've changed incoming bureaus twice in the last 24½ months. My QSL bureau cards continue to follow me (as I keep my information updated at the various bureaus). 

I want to publicly thank the clubs, ham organizations and managers / sorters who continue to make sure I receive my QSL cards. And the big surprise was when I received my first bureau drop here in 7'land. The surprise was who the "D" manager happened to be. I received a nice note from Rock, NE7D with my bureau drop. I worked Rock several times on CW while I was in Alaska over the years. And come to find out, Rock grew up not far from my current QTH and is very familiar with this area. It was certainly nice to hear from Rock again as I've not worked him on the radio since I arrived back in the lower 48. Bureau drops are becoming less frequent as I'm less active and my cards take a bit longer to eventually catch up to me. I'm still excited when I get a drop even though it means a bit of work replying to them. But at the end of the day, that's all part of the ham radio experience. An experience that I'll never get tired of.    

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Deconstructed APRS

Deconstructed APRS
Anticipating a change in our ham fleet, I pulled the APRS equipment out of our truck today. I've run this set-up since Alaska, after I acquired twin Kenwood TM-D700A's from a ham near Anchorage. I picked up a used Garmin GPS III and the rest is nearly plug and play. I like the old Garmin III because it also shows the Maidenhead Grid Square. So, it's dual purpose when I'm running mobile or portable. 

My brother from another mother, Sean KL1SF, got me started in APRS several years ago. I have intentions of installing it in our new truck as soon as possible. I also want to finally put HF in the truck as well. The interior layout of this truck will better accommodate the VHF/UHF equipment along with the HF equipment (Yaesu FT-857D). I have a screwdriver antenna still in the box ready to go. So, once the weather warms up and I have some spare time, my installation will begin. 

APRS'n from Crater Lake National Park
In looking back, it's funny how it took me several hours to install all this equipment and it took me less than 25 minutes to deconstruct it. My deconstructed equipment, as seen in the photograph at the top, will get a brief rest but fear not, it will be beaconing again soon. I will be running the exact same setup in regards to equipment, but I may change my antenna mount. I originally had the mount on the hood but I may opt for a more permanent location on the top of the cab roof. This should extend my range and make for better receiving and transmitting. I have some time to decide on the mount but it will also involve deciding on a location for the HF antenna. I pull our camper so it will have to favor the front portion of the truck bed, if mounted behind the cab. I look forward to sending APRS packets out again but for now, I'm QRT in that capacity.