Franki Made My Day

I grilled some chicken for dinner today. Unfortunately, the cheap, store-brand charcoal I bought wasn’t all that hot, so it took longer than usual. Fortunately, though, I used that time to fire up the rig and get on 30m.

At 2130Z, Europe was booming in. I got on 10.118 MHz and started calling CQ. Nearly right away I get a call from SP3DIO who gives me a 579 report. Very cool.

After calling CQ again, I get a call from HA8KW, Feco. I give him a 449, and he replies with a 559. (Concidentally, I hear K8QKY, who’s less than 5 miles away from me, call HA8KW right after me and exchange 599 reports with him. Makes me think that I need to do something about my 30m antenna.)

At this point, it’s 2145Z, and I have about 15 minutes left before the chicken’s done. So, I tune around a bit and hear OQ5M, Franki, calling CQ around 10.106 MHz. He has a good, strong signal, and with band conditions being so good, I’m sure I’ll work him.

Sure enough, he comes right back to me and gives me a 579 report. He throws it back to me, and since it sounds like he’s running stations, I keep my transmission short, giving him the “TU 579 73 ES GUD DX” thing.

Well, I’m surprised when he comes back and thanks me, using my name, and saying, “I ENJOY READING UR BLOG.” Now, I’ve run into the occasional reader from here in the states, but Franki is the first DX op I’ve run into who reads my blog. It not only surprised me, but really made my day.

W1T Commemorates Invention of Toroid

From Leigh WA5ZNU via the fpqrp mailing list:

Don’t forget International Toroid Day, August 29th 0000-2359 Zulu time. That starts tomorrow evening in the US.

Special event station W1T honors the 176th anniversary of the invention of the toroid by Michael Faraday, and will be operated by many toroid luminaries, including W8DIZ, the Toroid King. Please see the Intl. Toroid Day website for operating times, frequencies, and modes or listen for the call “CQ T” (long dash) or “CQ Toroid Day.”

For a suggested Toroid Day snack, please see the Evil Scientis website. I’m also told that you can wind red licorice around donuts, yum.

I bagged W1T last night. :)

Update 9/7/07:
I got this cool QSL yesterday. The drawings are from Faraday’s notebooks in which he describes the toroid.

W1T QSL

A New Antenna for My KX-1

Since I’ve owned my KX-1, the only two antennas that I’ve ever connected to it are the 40m dipole in my backyard and the 28-ft. wire (with three radials) described in the KX-1 manual. The 28-ft. wire is the only antenna I’ve ever used when operating portable.

While I’ve had good success with the wire, I knew I could do better, So, last night, at our club’s AMP Team meeting—where AMP stands for ARROW Mobile and Portable—I tried something new. I built a 67-ft. doublet from some 30-ga. wire I have and fed it with some twisted-pair wire. Theoretically, I figured that if I made the twisted pair a half-wavelength, then I’d have a relatively low impedance at the rig.

I cut the two elements, and then had a brain fart and cut the feedline to the same length. Now, theoretically, that should be bad, but I decided to hook it together and see what it would do.

I stripped the wires, and using a dogbone insulator as the center insulator, used wire nuts to connect the feedline to the antenna elements. At the end of the elements I just looped the wire and then tied a piece of string to the loop. Using a tennis ball on the other end of the string, I got the string over a branch and the wire up into the trees. The antenna was up only about ten feet, and I got some ribbing from one of my friends about it making a good NVIS antenna, but I pressed on anyway.

I connected the feedline to the binding posts on the BNC-binding post adapter, turned the KX-1 on and hit the antenna tuner control. Despite having only a quarter-wavelength of feedline, the tuner tuned it up just fine.

The real test was whether or not I could make any contacts. Tuning around a bit, I was very much encouraged. There were lots of signals, many of them S7 and above. Just for kicks, I called CQ around 7040, but when I didn’t get a response, I tuned around a bit.

Doing so, I nabbed Jozef, WB2MIC, in Wells, VT around 7058. He had a fine 599 signal, and he gave me a 559.

After a nice QSO, I tuned around some more and heard N5DY, Stillwater, OK calling CQ at 7036. He came right back to me, and although he wasn’t copying me as well as Jozef, we had a nice QSO. He was running a 4 W homebrew transmitter.

Finally, I worked Greg, AA8V, in Frostburg, MD. He gave me a 459 report.

All in all, I’d say my new antenna is a big success. Being made from 30-ga. wire, it’s very light and I got it up into the trees pretty easily. And it also turned out to be a good performer.

I’ll be trying it out again at the next AMP Team meeting. Next time, I’ll take my antenna analyzer along to actually measure the impedance.

Series Focuses on ADC, DAC Theory and Use

Audio DesignLine has been running a series of articles on analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and digital-to-analog converters (DACs). Written by two engineers at Analog Devices, the series focuses on their use in digital signal processing (DSP) systems. Good stuff!

  • Part 1 introduces the concept of sampling and explains Nyquist’s sampling criteria and how to use undersampling and antialiasing filters,
  • Part 2 explains how ADCs and DACs introduce noise through quantization and other “DC” errors as well as explaining the characteristics of an ideal ADC,
  • Part 3 examines distortion and noise in practical ADCs,
  • Part 4 examines jitter, delay, and other errors in ADCs, and
  • Part 5 examines DAC performance, including glitches and rolloff.

WA2HOM is on the Air

Earlier today, we activated the WA2HOM callsign for the first time at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. WA2HOM is the vanity callsign that I was issued specifically for operations at the Museum.

The first contact occurred at 1510Z with KA3FNH. Overall, we made 14 contacts, including nine SSB contacts and five CW contacts. Four of our contacts were with stations operating from lighthouses that were participating in the International Lighthouse-Lightship Weekend.

More importantly, we were able to give some several adults and kids an introduction to amateur radio. One, Brian, who’s ten years old, says he’s all ready to take the test and can’t wait until the September 8 test session.

For the next four months, we’ll be operating from the museum on two Saturdays each month. The dates are:

  • September 15th, 29th
  • October 20th, 27th
  • November 10th, 24th
  • December 1st, 15th

If you’re in or near Ann Arbor, come on down and operate for a while. If not, listen for us, probably around 7280 (SSB) or 7050 (CW).

Understand RF Instrument Specs

RF DesignLine is running a series of three articles by David Hall and Matt Anderson of National Instruments explaining RF instrument specifications.

  • Part 1 covers generic RF instrument specifications, such as: instantaneous bandwidth, frequency range, tuning speed, phase noise, and VSWR.
  • Part 2 covers five specifications that are particularly important to RF signal generators: frequency tolerance, output level accuracy, output power range, intermodulation distortion, and modulation bandwidth.
  • Part 3 covers specifications that apply to RF analyzers, specifically dynamic range, averaging modes, and displayed average noise floor.

A Good Night on 30m

Conditions were pretty good tonight on 30m. Just after I turned the rig on, I heard an OZ1 calling CQ and bagged him.

Then, I tuned up the band, found an open frequency on 10.114 and started calling CQ. I got a little despondent after about five or six tries, but then an F6 called me.

After that short QSO, I called CQ again. This time, I got a reply on the first call, EA1ARW, Luis. I looked up Luis on QRZ.Com and found out that he was an English teacher. We actually had a nice ragchew, one of the few ragchews I’ve had with a DX station.

Despite my three Qs, the lack of activity on 30m still bugs me. On the 30m mailing list, there’s a proposal to start a 30m club similar to the Ten-Ten Club. I think we should do it.

An Interesting QSO

I just had an interesting QSO, and I was paid a very nice compliment in the process. I called CQ and got a reply from Howard K7JNX. We were operating somewhere between 25 and 30 wpm.

Howard complimented me on my fist, mentioning that he was using MixW software to copy. I must have a pretty good fist because MixW usually only copies machine sent code really well.

He also said that he hadn’t operated CW for almost two years, but that he was really enjoying this QSO. I asked him how much he was able to copy by ear, and he estimated that he was getting about 60%, and that MixW was filling in when he missed what I was sending.

I’m usually not a big fan of using a computer to copy code, but if it encourages operators to get back on CW, then I’m all for it. Howard said that he enjoyed the QSO so much that he was definitely going to try it again.

He also said that he would try to find out what programs that other guys were using to copy CW and e-mail me what he finds out. I’ll post that here when I get that e-mail.

A Teacher Institute for the Great Lakes Division?

From the 8/10/07 ARRL Letter:

==> 2007 ARRL Teachers Institutes Reach 45 Schools

Forty-eight teachers representing 45 schools from around the country attended the 2007 ARRL Teachers Institutes, held this summer in Rocklin, California, Spokane, Washington and at ARRL Headquarters in Newington. Each class of 12, ranging from pre-school teachers to college professors, got the opportunity to explore and experience firsthand wireless technology basics, how to teach basic electronics concepts integral to microcontrollers and robots, as well as how to bring space technology into the classroom. The four day course culminated with building and programming a robot.

[lots of stuff deleted]

[Education and Technology Program Coordinator and Director of the ARRL Teachers Institute Mark Spencer, WA8SME] has many long range plans in mind for the Teachers Institute. “In the next 10 years, I would love to see a Teachers Institute in each of the 15 ARRL Divisions. These instructors would work in conjunction with their state’s science museum and run the Institute regionally through the museum. What a great way to bring science to kids,” Spencer said.

I think this is an idea worth pursuing once we get the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum station up and running.

Getting Started Info Sheet

I’ve gotten two calls in the last week from folks interested in our amateur radio classes. I hate having to tell them that they have to wait until the next class starts, so I tell them that they should give it a try on their own and go on to list the Internet resources that are available to help them.

That got me to thinking about putting together a one-pager that gives a little background and lists these resources. The result is “Getting Started in Amateur (Ham) Radio”.

I realize, of course, that not everyone is a self-learner. For those folks, I tell them to feel free to call me with any questions they may have. I also volunteer to have them come over to my house and see my humble station.

Feedback, please
I’d love to get your feedback on this info sheet. You can email them directly to me or just comment here. Thanks!

UPDATE 7/8/10
I’ve just updated this info sheet and have changed the name to “Getting Into Ham Radio.” It now contains the correct URLs for my new study guide and links to the ARRL website.