The Third Time’s the Charm?

I just worked John in Belle Glade, FL for the third time. That in itself isn’t so remarkable, but what is different about this series of contacts is that each time I’ve worked him it’s been with a different call.

The first time I worked him with his personal call, WB4MED (FISTS #10516). The second time I worked him he was using the FISTS club call KN0WCW (FISTS #10000). This time I worked him he was using the local club call, WA4VVA (FISTS #11500).

Now, I just have to figure out a way to work him with a fourth call next time.

Special Propagation Bulletin – 5/16/05

I mentioned in a previous post about the horrible conditions on Sunday. On Monday, I got the following special propagation bulletin from the ARRL:

Propagation Forecast Bulletin 20 ARLP020
From Tad Cook, K7RA
Seattle, WA May 16, 2005
To all radio amateurs

This is a special edition of the Propagation Forecast Bulletin.

On Friday the Thirteenth (May 13, 2005) at 1650z a tremendous
explosion near sunspot 759 blasted toward earth. The impact on the
earth’s magnetic field was felt at 0230z on May 15, producing an
extreme geomagnetic storm.

I use a service from called
“SpaceWeather PHONE.” I can set parameters for alerts, and the
service calls my cell phone when events occur, such as the planetary
K index rising above a set value. The service rang me up so many
times this weekend that I finally shut the phone off. I could have
gone to the web and shut it off or raised the parameters, but at the
time I just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep.

On Sunday, May 15 the planetary K index reached 9. This is huge.
The middle latitude, high latitude and planetary A indexes for
Sunday were 44, 77 and 105 respectively, all very high values. The
planetary A index predicted for Monday, May 16 is 40. Solar flux is
expected to stay around 100 for Monday through Wednesday, May 16-18.

If you would like to comment or have a tip, email the author at,

For more information concerning radio propagation and an explanation
of the numbers used in this bulletin see the ARRL Technical
Information Service propagation page at, An archive of past
bulletins is found at,

I guess Friday the 13th was an unlucky day for radio amateurs.

Can’t Go to Dayton? Watch the Webcam.

Tom, WA5KUB and crew will once again be webcasting from Dayton. In addition to the camera at their fleamarket booth (spaces 3350-3351), they will have a “helmet cam” (shown below) to broadcast pictures from around the Hamvention.

WA5KUB Helmet Cam

For more, go to

This Weekend on the Radio at KB6NU

This weekend was the Fists Spring Sprint, but I had to miss it. Silvia, my wife, and I took Friday and Saturday off to drive over to Holland, MI, on the west side of the state to go to the Tulip Festival.

I did get back home in time to work some of the Mid-Atlantic QSO Party. This contest was fun in that there were quite a few stations on as the states participating in the contest included NY, NJ, PA, MD, VA, and WV. The downside is that not only do those stations have to give you their counties, but their states as well. Fortunately, my logging software had a nice list of county/state codes.

The contest continued into Sunday, but band conditions were horrendous today, and I was only able to manage two contacts today. Overall, I made 26 QSOs, scoring about 950 points.

Sunday morning, I headed out to Manchester to help the Chelsea ARC work the Manchester Canoe Race. For this public service event, I was able to drag along seven other ARROW members. We were positioned all along the 3.5-mile route. It was fun, but the weather was not the best. At least it didn’t rain.

K9TRV and KB6NU at the Manchester Canoe Race
K9TRV (at the mike) and KB6NU (supervising) at the Manchester Canoe Race.
Photo courtesy Mark Mueller, KD8AOM.

This evening, as I mentioned, band conditions were really bad. There must have been some kind of solar flare or something. I did manage to make contact with Jozef, WB2MIC, but after the first set of transmissions, we couldn’t copy one another.

I sent him an e-mail apologizing for losing him, and he replied with a nice note. He said,

The band just went dead. I called CQ about 5 time afterwards and nothing. Tuned around and nothing. Looks like the absorption is now at a max. We’ll do it gain. I was telling you about the Monster Xmatch I built.

This is a very cool project. He not only built the circuit, but built the variable capacitors as well. Click on the link above to read more about how he built the tuner and the capacitors. The page also has links to other articles online that describes how to build your own air variable capacitors.

In a second e-mail, Jozef says,

All the materials to not only make the caps but the coil, standoff insulators, including a nice pair of circular sheer cutters came out to be less than the cost of one Ten Tec variable capacitor “kit”. Total tuner parts was a tad over $40.00. Now what kind of MFJ can you buy for that? There are two links on my Monster Xmatch page that go to where I got the main construction plans and ideas. Let me know what kind of interest there is in my project. I’ll be glad to answer any questions.

Morse Code Still Beats Instant Messaging

In Sydney, Australia, the Powerhouse Museum staged a contest that pitted the oldest type of electronic text messages with the newest–Morse Code vs. instant messaging. Winning the race was 93-year-old telegraph operator Gordon Hill, who learned Morse Code in 1927 and worked for the Australian Post Office. He easily beat Brittany Devlin, his 13-year-old rival, , who used a mobile phone and text messaging shorthand. Mr Hill, whose messages were transcribed by another telegraph veteran, Jack Gibson, 82, then repeated the feat against three other children and teenagers with mobile phones.

Read the complete report at

Ham Radio to Go

Ed Breneiser, Wa3WSJ, sells antennas for hams that like to take their ham radio to go. I haven’t used them, but they look well-made, and if Ed’s experience with them is any indication, they work well, too. He always seems to be operating while backpacking somewhere or operating portable from a covered bridge.

Now, he’s added a PDA links page to his website. The page lists four logging programs as well as a program–HRR–that provides a bunch of functions, such as the ability to calculate dipole lengths, inductance, etc. While I haven’t tried it yet, HRR looks to be a very useful program. I tried developing something similar, but never did finish it.

Also included on Ed’s link page are links to other programs that might be useful to hams on the go. These include text readers, a personal diary, and first aid info. Great stuff!

Stuck for a Club Presentation?

If you need to plan a presentation to your club, but are stuck for a topic, check out the new additions to the ARRL Multi Media Library. They recently added five new presentations:

  • Well known contester and DXer, ARRL Assistant Technical Editor Dean Straw, N6BV, has two new programs on HF Contesting For The Beginner and DX-pedition to Venezuela.
  • Allen Wolf, KC7O, showcases the communications provided for a 24 hour endurance run in the mountains of California.
  • Mark Spence, WA8SME, ARRL Technology & Education Program Manager (The Big Project) shares his program on the fundamentals of Digital Signal Processing (DSP).
  • There is also a program that covers the basics of repeaters for new hams. Most new hams first contact is through a local repeater. This program is designed to be an introduction to repeaters for the brand new ham.

There are a bunch of other programs that look very interesting.

Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, the ARRL Affiliated Club/Mentor Program Manager,, 860-594-0230 notes that they are always looking for fresh new programs to add to the Multi Media Library. If you have a PPT or video that you would like to submit for consideration, please mail it to ARRL, Attn. Field & Educational Services, 225 Main St., Newington, CT 06111.

More Ham Radio Blogs

One cool thing about having an amateur radio blog is that you get e-mail from people who read your blog. Lately, I’ve gotten e-mail from hams who have blogs of their own. Below, find links to and mini-reviews of these blogs.

The first is the blog of my friend, Ramakrishnan, VU3RDD. I met Ramakrishnan via my blog, and we’ve been swapping e-mail for the past year or so. I’ve blogged about Ramakrishnan’s efforts to get licensed, and now he has a blog of his own. Ramakrishnan’s blog is somewhat like mine, a diary of his activities. He’s a DSP engineer with Texas Instruments in India, so many of his entries are technical in nature.

For example, the entry for April 12 talks about using the TI MPS430 process or amateur radio applications. This was interesting to me as most amateur radio microcontroller applications are now being built around the PIC family of chips. As Ramakrishnan points out, however, the MPS430 may be more appropriate for amateur radio applications. Of course, it is a TI chip, and he may be a bit biased in that direction :), but it does have a lot of features that might make it more useful for hams, such as high-performance analog functions.

The second is bytes and hertz, a creation of Zane, K2DYB. It’s a bit more news-oriented than mine is, and perhaps has a more local focus (Zane lives in western NY), but still an interesting read. I liked the article on the Indian amateur radio satellite. I hadn’t seen that anywhere else. It also has a cool little “Ham Chatterbox” in the righthand column. I think I’m going to add one of these to my blog, but call it “QRM.”

Finally, we have the Alaska Ham Radio Reference. I picked up this link from bytes and hertz. AHRR is a production of KL0RN, and, as he points out in his first post, is dedicated to the “activities and operating modes of hams in the interior of Alaska.” This blog was only recently started, but already has a couple of good items.

Please support these bloggers. If you live in India, western New York, or Alaska, read these blogs and send them items of interest that you think they might want to write about. These ideas will help the blog grow and prosper.

If this keeps up, we may have to start a network for ham radio bloggers. But, where would we have it–20m or Echolink?

Taking a Turn as KN0WCW

Well, for the past 24 hours, I have been masquerading as KN0WCW.

KN0WCW is the callsign, appropriately enough, of the Fists CW Club. I operated for approximately two and a half hours, making 12 contacts in 10 states. All of my contacts were on 40m, as that was the most appropriate band at the times I was on.

It was a lot of fun. Two of the 12 stations I’d worked before, one of them many times. He was quite surprised to hear that it was me using the Fists call. Conversely, I was quite surprised to find out that he was a Fists member. In the dozen or so previous QSOs, he’d never mentioned it, and I had never asked.

I would encourage all Fists members to take a turn as KN0WCW. Not only was it fun, but it does promote Fists and the use of CW.

Online Romance……….via Morse Code

In the late 1800s, if you wanted to chat online, you had to do it with Morse Code. In the novel, Wired Love, a telegraph operator named Ella Cheever Thayer describes not only chatting online via the telegraph, but also a romance that develops between a female operator and a male operator down the line. In this radio essay, writer Paul Collins describes how it was to work as a telegrapher at that time. It also includes a few excerpts from the novel. It’s very interesting.

As a followup, Dean Olscher interviews Mel Schneider K2KEY. Mel, who is vice president of the Kings County Radio Club, talks about ham radio and how hams communicate with Morse Code. The report describes the differences between American Morse Code, which was used by the landline telegraphers here in the U.S. and the International Morse Code, which was used by telegraphers elsewhere around the world and by the maritime operators.