Another Good Reason to Buy Astron

When hams ask me what kind of power supply they should buy for their stations, I always recommend Astron, and I always recommend the linear supplies. I know that modern switching supplies are a lot better than older ones as far as RF noise, but why screw around? Get a linear supply to start with, and you don’t have to worry at all.

I always recommend Astron because the supplies are well-made and reliable, and when they do fail, you can fix them yourself (I have). Now, I have yet another reason to recommend them: good customer service.

I inherited an Astron RS-35A, a 35 A supply. When I went to turn it on for the first time, it turned on, but the switch wouldn’t latch in the ON position. This was a real bummer as I was trying to give a demonstration of ham radio to some middle-school kids.

At any rate, I just called Astron in an attempt to either purchase the part or get them to give me a manufacturer and model number. I got through to someone there, who said, “Well, we have a ten dollar minimum, and that part costs only two dollars, but I’ll put one in an envelope and just mail it to you.”

So, that’s why great customer service is yet another reason to buy an Astron.

QSLs – Incoming and Outgoing

A couple of days ago, I received another package of cards from the QSL bureau. Predictably, most of them were from Europe, including seven from Spain, three from the Czech Republic, and one each from Mexico and Great Britain.

The most unusual one was from the special event station, ED5JAC, commemorating the Ten Days of Astronomy in Cartagena in October 2004. What made this one unusual is that it was a double-sized card (folded in half), with a bunch of advertising from the station’s sponsors. I now know where to find a supplier of electronic components, an electrical contractor, and the Federacion de Tropas y Legiones in Cartagena, Spain.

A lot of these cards were not responses to cards I sent out, so now I have enough to send to the outgoing bureau—54 to be exact. Again, most of them are going to Europe:

  • 1 – 9A, Croatia
  • 1 – C5, Gambia (just worked this one on Monday!)
  • 6 – DF/DH/DJ/DL, Germany
  • 6 – EA/ED, Spain
  • 3 – F, France
  • 2 – G, Great Britain
  • 1 – HA, Hungary
  • 2 – HB, Switzerland
  • 1 – HR, Honduras
  • 7 – I/IK/IS/IT/IZ, Italy
  • 1 – JA, Japan
  • 1 – OE, Austria
  • 1 – OH, Finland
  • 5 – OK, Czech Republic
  • 1 – PY, Brazil
  • 1 – SE, Sweden
  • 2 – SP, Poland
  • 1 – T9, Boznia/Herzegovina
  • 1 – TF, Iceland
  • 1 – UA, Russia
  • 1 – UT, Ukraine
  • 4 – VE, Canada
  • 1 – VP8, South Georgia Island (!)
  • 1 – YN, Nicaragua
  • 1 – YU, Yugoslavia
  • 1 – YY, Venezuela

First Voice Broadcast Commemorated

Thanks to Arthur, N1ORC, for this link….Dan

In August, the town of Marshfield commemorated a big year in the history of broadcasting. The first voice broadcast in radio history happened in 1906 in the Marshfield village of Brant Rock. As Matt Largey reports, the town is trying to give a radio pioneer some long-overdue recognition.

Yet More Links

Here are more websites that I’ve come across that could be of interest to amateur radio operators:

  • MIT Open Courseware. Want to get an MIT education without moving to Cambridge or paying high tuition? Take courses online! Of course you won’t get an MIT degree, but I bet you learn a lot. One place you might start is 6.071 Introduction to Electronics.
  • W5LET’s Bare-Essentials Transmitter. 1968 was a simpler time. That’s the year this one-tube transmitter project was published in Electronics Illustrated. It’s articles like these that got me interested in ham radio. Find a 50C5 and build this rig.
  • W5GI’s Mystery Antenna. I found this antenna while looking for a design for an 80m antenna that would fit on my lot. I haven’t built this antenna yet, but it’s on my list of things to do.
  • Amateur Radio Special Events. I like working special events stations, both operating them and contacting them. Here’s a website devoted entirely to special event stations. For example, it lists the following taking place in November:
    • XE2BC – Nov 10 – XE2BC , founded in 1946, will celebrate the founding date on November 10th 2006
    • K6PV – Nov 12 -15 – mini IOTA DXpedition to Santa Catalina Island (NA-066) California
    • ARMAD – Nov 13 – Amateur Radio Golden Corral Military Appreciation Day
    • W6OI – Nov 25- 26 – 10 -10 International Club Station Special Event
  • Ridge Equipment Company. This company sells both new and used test equipment, including dummy loads and attenuators. The prices for the used gear looks pretty good.

Another Project Off the Workbench and Into Operation

About a year ago, I bought a CI-V interface kit from K5LXP. The CI-V interface is the half-duplex serial interface that Icom uses to connects its radios to a computer. Putting the kit together was a real challenge.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work right off, and I put it aside to look at later. Well, later turned out to be eight months later. I probed around, and when the results didn’t really make much sense, I e-mailed Mark. He noted that some of the boards were lacking a trace, and that adding a jumper wire should clear things right up.

It took me several months to get to that, but I did that tonight and my laptop is now talking to the IC-746PRO. It’s very cool. My N3FJP logging software talks to the radio, automatically recording the frequency of a QSO.

I don’t know if Mark has any more left to sell, but he only charged me five bucks, so I think I got a pretty good deal. Now, it’s on to the next project, which I think is going to be a regnerative receiver.

Yet More Kits

A couple of day ago I worked George W2BPI. He had a pretty good signal–he was peaking at S7, and as I expected, his QTH was in upstate New York. What I didn’t expect is that he was running only 500 mW!

He mentioned that the rig he was using was a “DC-40.” That didn’t ring a bell, so I did a quick Google search. (I love having a computer in the shack!)

I quickly found out that the DC-40 is made by Hendricks QRP Kits. Here’s what the website says about the DC-40:

The DC40 Deluxe is a design of well known Hall of Fame designer, Steve Weber, KD1JV. I asked Steve to design an entry level transceiver, that would be simple to build, yet would be capable of making contacts easily.

The DC40 is a moderately complex rig, which yields excellent performance, yet is small enough to fit into an Altoids tin. The receiver features nearly complete immunity to AM SWBC interference and can be run on an AC supply without hum pickup or AM BC interference common to most DC receiver designs. One stage of audio band pass filtering gives the receiver some selectivity. The transmitter puts out a respectable 750 mW of power, with a 12V supply and over 1 watt with 13.8 volts. The transmitter frequency is automatically shifted up about 600 Hz to provide the proper T/R offset. The rig also includes a simple keyer chip.

The rig is priced at $30 plus $4 shipping and handling in the US, $6 S&H DX. The DC40 Deluxe Kit includes all board mounted parts, including a 7.040 MHz crystal. You will need to supply the antenna and power connectors of your choice. The PC Board is double sided plated through, solder masked and silkscreened.

This sounds like a pretty nice little radio for only $30. I’m really tempted to buy one just for kicks.

Hendricks also has some other cool kits. For $60, you can get the “Firefly.” This transceiver has a variable, crystal-controlled oscillator and an SDR receiver. That is to say that you have to connect the rig’s output to a computer with a sound card to use it. All of the “tuning” is done in software.

There’s also the Altoids Long-wire Tuner (ALT). As the name implies, this tuner fits into an Altoids tin and allows you to tune up a long-wire antenna. It even includes an SWR bridge to help you tune it.

These sure look like great kits to me, and I’m going to add QRPKits.Com to my list of kit suppliers.

What Should I Have Done?

The other day I was on 40m and heard a signal with very bad key clicks. It was a very strong station, too, from somewhere near Columbus, OH. I listened to the QSO he was having for a while, and heard him say that his transmitter was homebrew. Unfortunately, the other station didn’t report any clicks.

I decided to send him a QSL card, informing him of the problem. Now, I’m kind of wondering if I did the right thing or if I should have left it up to the Official Observers. What do you think?

A CW Presentation for Your Club

Last February, I gave a talk to our club about the basics of operating CW. I thought I’d already posted the slides I used , but I guess not. At any rate, here are the slides I used for the talk. Feel free to use them to give a talk at your club and to modify them as you see fit.

===========================

CW is Fun!
Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, February 8, 2006

Getting Started – Learning the Code

  • G4FON CW Trainer (www.g4fon.co.uk)
  • K7QO (http://www.kc5cqm.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Main.K7QOcwCourse) or get a CD from Fists – www.fists.org)
  • Many others, including CodeQuick, Ham Radio University, etc.
  • Tips for Learning the Code – http://www.arrl.org/FandES/ead/learncw/
  • Start! You’ll never learn it if you don’t start.
  • Practice, but don’t overdo it. Too much practice and you’ll burn out.
  • Don’t be discouraged if you don’t copy 100%. You don’t need to copy every single character to pass the test or to take part in a QSO.

Getting Started – Choosing a Key

  • The three basic types are straight key, bug, paddle and keyer.
  • It’s tempting to start out with a straight key because it’s the simplest way to go.
  • I recommend starting with a paddle and keyer, however. It takes a bit more practice to master, but you’ll send better code and sending is much easier on the arm.
  • This means it will be more fun, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

Making Contacts – A Basic QSO

  • Calling CQ: CQ CQ CQ DE KB6NU KB6NU KB6NU K
  • Reply to CQ: KB6NU KB6NU DE W8JNZ W8JNZ K
  • The First Exchange
    W8JNZ DE KB6NU TNX FER CALL–UR RST 599 599–NAME IS DAN DAN–QTH ANN ARBOR, MI ANN ARBOR, MI–HW? W8JNZ DE KB6NU

    KB6NU DE W8JNZ R TNX FER RPT–UR RST 599 599–NAME IS CLAY CLAY–QTH DIXBORO, MI DIXBORO, MI–HW NW? KB6NU DE W8JNZ K

Making Contacts – Using Abbreviations

  • CW ops use a whole raft of abbreviations to transfer more information in a short period of time.
  • Can be confusing. Sometimes there are two commonly-used abbreviations for the same word, i.e. TNX and TKS for “thanks.”
  • K3WWP’s Lists – http://home.alltel.net/johnshan/cw_ss_list_abbr.html

Making Contacts – Q Signals

  • Q-signals are also used to speed up a message.
  • Q-signals take the place of entire phrases, not just words. For example, QTH ANN ARBOR, MI means, “My location is Ann Arbor, MI.”
  • When followed by a question mark, the Q-signal is a question. QTH? means, “What is your location?”
  • Other common Q-signals include QRM (You are being interfered with), QSB (Your signals are fading), and QRS (Send slower!).
  • K3WWP’s list of Q-Signals: http://home.alltel.net/johnshan/cw_ss_list_q.html

Making Contacts -Prosigns

  • Prosigns = procedural signals.
  • Similar to abbreviations, but usually call for the other operator to do something.
  • For example, the prosign “K” is used at the end of a transmission to invite the other operator to start sending.
  • Other frequently used prosigns include R (all received correctly), AS (wait), BK (break in immediately).
  • K3WWP’s list of prosigns: http://home.alltel.net/johnshan/cw_ss_list_proc.html

Getting Faster

  • GET ON THE AIR!
  • Copy in your head.
  • GET ON THE AIR!
  • Work contests. Not all contests are 30+ wpm affairs.
  • GET ON THE AIR!

ARRL requests members’ input on recent FCC “omnibus” Report

ARRL Bulletin 20, dated 10/13/06, follows:

The ARRL is requesting member input concerning the FCC’s Amateur
Radio proceeding, WT Docket 04-140, released October 10. The Report
and Order will not take effect until 30 days after publication in
the Federal Register. This publication date is not yet known.

The complete text is available for viewing as a PDF file on the FCC
Web site
. A summary is available on the ARRL Web site.

The ARRL is specifically seeking member guidance on how the changes
will affect current operating activities on 80, 40 and 15 meters
(see the current ARRL band plans and an
ARRL FAQ, which includes a chart showing the band changes).

Comments may be submitted by e-mail to bandplan@www.arrl.org. All
e-mails will be read and considered, but individual responses will
not be possible due to the message volume expected. The deadline for
comments is October 31.

I don’t operate 80m very often, but it looks to me that the CW portion is really getting squeezed. Maybe the level of activitiy justifies it, though. If you’re more familiar with this situation, I’d encourage you to submit your comments.

The deadline for comments is October 31, which seems awfully short to me. What’s the rush?

FCC Makes Sweeping Rules Changes

Last week, the ARRL reported that they would “press” the FCC to release the “Omnibus” Amateur Radio Report and Order. Well, yesterday they got their wish. The executive summary of R&O FCC 06-149 states:

In this R&O, we amend the Part 97 Amateur Radio Service rules as follows:

  • revise the operating privileges of amateur radio operators to allow more spectrum in four currently-authorized amateur service HF bands to be used for voice communications;
  • permit auxiliary stations to transmit on additional amateur service bands;
  • permit amateur stations to transmit spread spectrum communications on the 1.25 meter (m) band;
  • permit amateur stations to retransmit communications from the International Space Station;
  • permit amateur service licensees to designate the amateur radio club to receive their call sign in memoriam;
  • prohibit an applicant from filing more than one application for a specific vanity call
    sign;
  • eliminate certain restrictions on equipment manufacturers that are no longer
    necessary;
  • permit amateur radio stations operating in Alaska and surrounding waters more
    flexibility in providing emergency communications; and
  • remove certain restrictions in the amateur service license examination system that are no longer necessary.

One item that will affect those of us who operate HF is that most of the Novice bands has been re-allocated to phone operation. The full, 45-page Report and Order is available online on the FCC website.