Longwave Links

Here are a couple of long wave links sent in my Jim, K8ELR:

  • Longwave Home Page. Interested in working or just listening to longwave radio? Check out this website for the Long Wave Club of America (LCWA).
  • QRS. In order to beat the high QRM and QRN levels on the 136kHz ham band very slow CW is used (speeds going from 0.4 WPM even down to 0.01 WPM). QRS is a program that allows you to key your TX at these extreme slow speeds using the serial or parallel port of your PC.

    ON7YD has other programs that hams will find useful, such as RCL Meter, which enables you to use your PC’s soundcard to measure inductance and capacitance.

Let’s Support the Emergency Amateur Radio Interference Protection Act of 2007

From Jim Weaver, K8JE, Director, ARRL Great Lakes Division:

Dear ARRL member,

Now Is The Time For All Good Hams To Come To The Aid Of Their Radio Service!

All amateurs are urgently requested to write letters to their US Representative. These letters are to ask them to cosponsor HR 462, the current bill in the US House of Representatives that would protect Amateur Radio from interference from unlicensed devices — e.g. various Part 15 devices and BPL. The bill is in Committee and your letter will help move it to the floor of the House.

Your letter and the letters of thousands of other amateurs will be the first step in a series of actions to get this bill passed. Subsequent actions will involve liaison members of the ARRL Legislative Action Program, but we first need to get as many sponsors while it is in Committee as possible. The more letters each Representative receives, the better.

To learn the name and address of your US Representative, go to www.arrl.org and click on “Members Only” at the top of the screen. If you have already registered (free) to access Members Only, you will see the names and addresses of your US Representative and US Senators on the left of the Members Only screen. If Members Only does not fully open for you, simply register on the opening screen to use. This will give you access to it.

Mail your letter only to your US Representative. Do not mail it to either of your US Senators. The bill is only in the US House of Representatives and not in the US Senate. We are working to have a bill introduced in the Senate, later.

Click here to download a draft letter. Please copy the letter and add the name and address of the Representative. Also add your name and address.

Modify the letter to personalize it if you have time, sign it and send.

Each time we discuss sending letters to Congressmen, several people offer suggestions on how this should best be done — by US Mail, FAX, e-mail, to the Washington, DC office, to a local office, etc. The answer to the best way to get mail to them depends on the individual. I will leave it to you to determine how you wish to send the letter.

The main thing is to send it . . . and to do this fairly soon.\\

Also, if possible, please send a copy of your letter to Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, 225 Main St., Newington, CT 06111 or to k1zz@arrl.org. Why? These copies are forward to our representative in Washington who uses them as proof that the “voters back home” are interested In the bill. Thanks.

Winding Toroids: Pain or Pleasure?

Lots of kits these days use toroidal inductors. These are components that you have to make yourself. The kit vendor supplies a toroid core and some magnet wire, and tells you how many turns to wind.

For some people this is a real pain. Not only do you have to get the number of turns correct, but then you have to tin the leads. I don’t really enjoy tinning the leads, but I do enjoy winding the inductors. It’s one of the few instances where you’re not only building the circuit, but also building the component.

Now, Diz, W8DIZ, proprietor of KitsandParts.Com, has published a Web page titled “How to wind toroids without pain.” This page takes you step-by-step through the process. Think of it as Advil for the kit builder.

New Kit Provides Variety of Functions

According to Gene, N0MQ, Wayne McFee, NB6M has designed a new kit for the 4SQRP Group us. It is an HF Test Kit with the following functions:

  • Frequency Counter
  • Crystal Oscillator
  • Wideband Noise Generator
  • Audio Oscillator
  • 50 ohm Dummy Load
  • RF Probe
  • Time Domain Reflectometer

This kit is all thru hole parts with no SMT parts. Because of the large cost involved, 4SQRP needs to pre-sell the kits to raise the money to fund this kit. 4SQRP Group does not have dues or any other way to fund this offering so they ask that you prepay by sending them a $50.00 check. They will not cash it until the kits are ready to ship. The kits that 4SQRP Group sells are used to pay for Ozarkcon QRP Convention.

You can find more information on the 4SQRP website, including a picture of the prototype and the manual. This website has information on all of the 4SQRP kits currently available.

Your First Meter

One good thing about the Internet is that you can find lots of information and advice on just about anything. The bad thing about the Internet is that you can find lots of information and advice on just about anything. The problem, of course, is that much of the advice you’ll get is contradictory, and if you’re not in a position to properly evaluate the advice, then you’re no further along than before you got the advice.

Here’s a case in point. On the Ham Radio Help Group Yahoo mailing list, a guy innocently asked if the Meterman CR50 Multi-Meter would be a good choice for a ham’s first meter. At $57, it has a lot of features, and being a Fluke, it’s probably pretty well-made and reliable, so my answer was, “Looks good to me.”

Then, the floodgates opened. One guy suggested he might want auto-ranging.

Another commented, “Seems pretty pricey. My present meter looks like that and has all the same features except the capacitance checker. I found it on the closeout table in an auto parts store for $4.”

Another said, “You can find less expensive units, may be just as good, may not be, at Harbor Freight Tools.”

A third had this suggestion, “Get an inexpensive analog meter and learn how to use it…If you can find a used Triplett 630 analog, you got yourself a beauty that you won’t want to let go.”

A fourth said that, “Sears (and especially their Sears Hardware versions) offer somewhere on the order of 20 different digital multimeters, including both their own Craftsman brand and certain Fluke models. I’ve had a Craftsman meter for about five years now, and have absolutely no qualms about recommending them. I know it’s not the quality/accuracy of a Fluke, but it’s about 1/3 the price, and it’s available locally. My recommendation is to watch Sears sale ads until you see a Craftsman auto-ranging digital multimeter on sale for half-price.”

Now, if you were the ham asking for advice, what would you do?

I’ll stand by my advice that this seems like a good deal. Yes, it’s more expensive than something you can buy at Harbor Freight, but I think that for a beginner this would be a better choice. It will be more accurate and more reliable, and I think that, for a beginner, that’s important.

NIST Antenna Calibrations Extended to 60-110 GHz

From the 5/24/07 issue of NIST Tech Beat:

NIST engineer Katherine MacReynolds prepares a new NIST “tabletop” range for characterizing high-performance antennas, such as horn antennas (small gold pyramids) operating at 94 Gigahertz. The surrounding blue foam cones absorb electromagnetic fields to reduce scattering from nearby objects, thereby improving measurement accuracy.Credit: © 2006 Geoffrey Wheeler.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a new “tabletop” sized facility to improve characterization of antennas operating in the 60 to 110 gigahertz (GHz) frequency range. This extended frequency capability serves needs for advanced civilian and military communication and radar systems.

Many electronic systems are moving to higher frequencies to attain higher channel capacity, better spatial resolution and other advantages. The new measurement facility will help accelerate development of technologies such as automobile collision-prevention radars, which operate at 94 GHz and require antennas small enough to be integrated into car bumpers. Improved NIST antenna calibration capability also helps to assure the accuracy of many systems. “NIST is the start of the measurement traceability chain,” says Perry Wilson, leader of the Radio Frequency Fields Group. “For instance, we calibrate the probes used by aerospace companies to calibrate instruments launched on satellites and other critical systems. Weather satellites are an example; improvements in antenna accuracy mean better data for weather models, resulting in better weather predictions.”

The new facility continues NIST’s history of innovation in antenna measurements, building on the “extrapolated gain” technique developed several decades ago. The original extrapolation range and techniques made it practical for researchers to accurately compute an antenna’s far-field characteristics based on near-field measurements. By making the range compact, costs are significantly reduced. In addition, the extrapolation technique uses over-sampling and averaging techniques to minimize the effects of scattering and range imperfections.

The tabletop extrapolation range is used to measure the gain (increase in signal power) and polarization (orientation of the electric field) of high-performance antennas. To make measurements, one antenna is fixed on the table and a second is moved along a rail. A laser tracker is used for alignment and positioning. The laser tracker is capable of following a moving target with less than 20 micrometer uncertainty at 1,000 points per second. The range is arranged on an optical table to provide the mechanical isolation and stability necessary to achieve low uncertainties at short wavelengths of radiation. Typical measurement uncertainty for certain types of antennas in the 60 – 110 GHz range approaches that of NIST’s existing calibration facilities for antennas operating at lower frequencies (less that 60 GHz).

For more details on NIST antenna calibration services, located at the institute’s Boulder, Colo., campus, see the NIST Antenna Near-Field Measurements page.


Pronouns? What is an item about pronouns doing in an amateur radio blog?

Well, the last two three cards that I’ve added to my collection of QSL cards from stations whose callsigns spell words are from:

  • AA3WE
  • W1HIS
  • W4MY

Didn’t Get to Dayton? Watch the Videos!

This year, I didn’t go to Dayton. I figured that I already had too much junk in the shack and too many projects to work on, and if I did go, I’d come back with even more junk and more projects to put in the queue.

Fortunately, through the magic of the Web, this doesn’t mean that I have to miss Dayton entirely. There are a ton of videos on YouTube and elsewhere that show what went on there and describe the new products that were introduced there:

And, if you want more, or video’s not your thing, there’s WB8IMY’s Dayton Blog.

No-Nonsense, General Class Study Guide

Well, it took me a little longer than I anticipated, but the beta release of my The No-Nonsense, General Class License Study Guide is now available. The new General Class test is a bit harder, I think, than the old test.

Anyway, I’d be happy to have any and all review this. Comments and suggestions are more than welcome.

If you’re still studying for your Tech license, you can download my No-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide. Both are completely free. I would just like to hear of your experience in using the guides, either for personal use or as a text for a class.

A Pleasant Evening in the Shack

Last night, was a really enjoyable one down in the shack.

When I first turned on the rig, it was tuned to 40m. I didn’t hear much, so I tuned up to 30m. 30m was really hopping. Almost immediately, I heard UT5XS calling CQ, and I worked him. After that short contact, I called CQ and got an almost immediate response from OM5OA. I always like working stations in Slovakia, as I’m a Slovak-American. To make my quota of three contacts per day, I called CQ again, and this time got a call OK1DQP.

I like working DX, but I also like to ragchew, so I decided to see if anything was going on on 40m. Tuning to the Fists calling frequency (7058), I heard NM3B and had a nice chat with him.

While making these contacts, I noticed that my Begali paddle seemed to be making extraneous dits and dahs. I had noticed this before, and thought it might be some RF getting into the rig via the cable, but putting a snap-on ferrite didn’t seem to make any difference.

Somehow, I got it into my mind that there was a problem with the cable. I had originally put a 1/8-in. plug on the cable because I wanted to use it with my Heathkit keyer. To plug it directly into my IC-746PRO, I had to use an adapter. I thought there was something flakey about this combination. I rewired the cable, using a more flexible cable and a 1/4-in. phone plug, and it appears that all is now right with the Begali.

Calling CQ on 7030 yielded a call from F8OQ. There were actually a couple of stations calling, but F8OQ was the first. After working him, I called CQ again and had a nice chat with W0NBP.

I just love it when things work right and when conditions are so favorable. I worked some DX, had a couple of nice ragchews, and even got to melt some solder. It was a great evening.