Listen!

Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, “You can observe a lot by just looking.” Well, to paraphrase that wise old man, “You can hear a lot by just listening.”

Let me give you an example. Sometimes, when I’m tuning around, I’ll pick up a copy of QST or World Radio, that’s lying on the desk. I was just doing that a minute ago and almost missed a DX QSO.

As I tuned to 7024, I heard WA3RLP calling CQ. He was kind of weak, and I almost continued tuning around, but for some reason, I decided to leave it right there. The station didn’t get a reply to his CQ, so he started again. This time, I really listened and got a surprise. It wasn’t WA3RLP at all. Instead it was RA3RLP! I had to call him a couple of times, but he stuck with me and we had a nice QSO.

So, the moral of the story, I guess, is to put down the magazine and really listen to what’s on the radio. Who knows what I’ve been missing all these years. You can really hear a lot if you just listen.

Podcasts!

I recently purchased an iPod Touch. One of the cool things I can do is to subscribe to podcasts. There are podcasts on any number of topics, including ham radio. Here are some of the podcasts I found for free in the iTunes store:

  • SolderSmoke
  • Practical Amateur Radio
  • Resonant Frequency
  • ICQ

And, for the CW-obsessed, theres is QOTD at 20 WPM and QOTD at 5 WPM.

There were some others, but I’m not listing them here because they haven’t had new episodes for quite a while.

To subscribe to these podcasts, I use the iTunes program that came with my Mac. If you use a PC, don’t worry, though. You can get iTunes for the PC now, too.

WD2XSH Goes Long (600 meters to be exact)

From the 10/25/08 issue of the ARRL Letter:

* ARRL’s 500 kHz Station, WD2XSH, Wants to Hear from You: Fritz Raab,
W1FR, coordinator for ARRL’s 500 kHz Experimental Station, WD2XSH, reports that fall has brought lower static and good propagation, making excellent conditions for the 500 kHz experimenters. The experimental license, issued in September 2006, has more than 20 active stations. Raab said that last year, a second US experimental license — WE2XGR, with five participants — joined the project, as well as experimenters in the UK, Germany, Sweden and the Czech Republic. These stations’ operating modes include CW, QRSS, PSK-31 and others. Contacts have been achieved at distances up to 1234 miles, with signals received from all over North America, Alaska and Hawaii; trans-Atlantic reports are not uncommon. “The 500 kHz experimenters are experiencing excellent propagation conditions,” Raab said. “The best time to listen is between sunset and sunrise.” The operating frequencies are: WD2XSH — 505.2-510 kHz; WE2XGR — 505-515 kHz; UK — 501-504 kHz, and SM, DL, OK — 505.0-505.2 kHz. Raab requests that listeners file reception reports at the experiment’s Web site so that they become part of the station’s data base. Additional information can be found at the experiment’s Web site and also in the July/August 2007 issue of QEX.

FCC Responds to ARRL Petition Against Experimental License using 40 Meter Band

If you think that there are no longer any threats to our shortwave allocations, read this:

ARLB015 FCC Responds to ARRL Petition Against Experimental License using 40 Meter Band

On Monday, October 20, the ARRL filed a “Petition for Modification or Cancellation of Experimental Authorization” (Petition) with the FCC with respect to WE2XRH. According to the FCC, this experimental license — issued to Digital Aurora Radio Technologies (DART) — proposes to “test digital transmissions in 4.50-5.10 MHz, 7.10-7.60 MHz and 9.25-9.95 MHz for a terrestrial digital radio service to the citizens of Alaska.” The League’s protest was prompted by the certainty that high-power operation in the frequency range 7.10 to 7.30 MHz would cause unacceptable and harmful interference to the Amateur Radio Service in this part of the 40-meter band, which is an exclusive amateur allocation in ITU Region 2 (North and South America).

On October 24, the FCC responded by issuing an amended license that redefined one of the station’s frequency ranges to eliminate conflict with the Amateur Radio Service. The amended license narrows the range to 7.30 to 7.60 MHz and gives as the reason for the change, “operation in the band 7.1-7.3 MHz will cause harmful interference to Amateur Radio Service licensees.”

“We are delighted that the FCC acted so promptly to correct this error and are pleased that the matter has been resolved,” said ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ.

My first reaction was, “Who would even propose such a thing, and would Alaskans actually sign up for a radio service like this”? After doing a little Googling, however, I found the article, “Alaskan company to test new shortwave technology.” As it turns out, these experiments are not really for a commercial service at all, but rather for a military application. The article notes:

The company [Digital Aurora Radio Technologies] told FCC that its initial tests would be funded by and conducted for the Defense’s Joint Electromagnetic Technologies program, a classified operation whose mission is to develop technologies for use by special forces and intelligence units. Defense also will supply surplus transmitters from the closed, Cold War-era Over the Horizon Radar, located in Delta Junction.

It sounds like another boondoggle, but who knows?

Let’s Get on the Maker Bandwagon

Here’s my column for October………..Dan

About a week ago, I got an e-mail from a ham down in Texas who had attended the Maker Faire. “Makers” are people who love to tinker and make things. They even have their own magazine, Make.

He was amazed at the lack of any amateur radio content. He wrote,

“The Maker Faire was unbelievable. Incredible stuff. Pedal powered carnival rides, robots, computer drive routers, kits. Outside of a table with a Vectronics kit, and a license manual, and a QRP book, the only radio stuff was from a pirate radio group.”

I’m kind of amazed at this as well. It just goes to show how disconnected amateur radio is getting from the mainstream. These are exactly the kind of people we want to get interested in amateur radio, yet there was no one there representing us.

Ham radio needs to be at these events and get plugged into the “maker community.” The Faire has not yet released attendance figures for this particular Faire, but more than 65,000 people attended the Faire held in May 2008. Dayton, with its attendance of about 20,000, looks anemic by comparison.

I blogged about this back in May. One of the things I suggested then is moving Dayton to some place like Austin. Seriously, if you were a new, young ham, where would you rather go, Dayton, OH or Austin, TX? Let’s be real here.

And can there be a worse place for an event than Hara Arena? The parking lot, where they hold the flea market looks like a mine field, and it usually rains, making the flea market a wet, unpleasant experience. Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer vendors choose to haul stuff out there? Some of us older hams might fondly reminisce about the bargain we found while traipsing around wearing a trash-bag poncho, but a story like that is not going to resonate with new hams.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to badmouth the Dayton Amateur Radio Association or the Hamvention. I actually think that they do a great job, all things considered. I’m just pointing out that if ham radio wants to again be part of the mainstream, we have to get with the program. Unfortunately, that program probably won’t be at the Hara Arena.

Ham radio has got to figure out how to latch onto the Maker phenomenon. At the very least, the ARRL should have a booth at the next one, and in addition to all the books and t-shirts, they need to come up with some kind of demo or display to attract makers into ham radio. I don’t know what exactly, but I’m willing to start talking about it.

This phenomenon might also be a boon for clubs who hold hamfests. Just as the computer craze turned ham swaps into ham and computer swaps in the 80s, perhaps ham clubs could turn their hamfests into a combination hamfest and Maker Faire in their communities.

As I said earlier, Makers are exactly the kind of people we want in ham radio. Let’s go out and get them.

———-

When Dan’s not pontificating about ham radio, you’ll find him working CW on 40m, teaching ham classes, or running for the ARRL Board of Directors. Read more by going to www.kb6nu.com. Send e-mail to cwgeek@kb6nu.com.

A Cool Site for DIYers

VHF DF AntennaI just discovered the website instructables.com. This is a very cool site that gives step-by-step instructions on how to build things. When I searched the site for “radio,” I found hundreds of projects including:

Tubescence and the “All-American Five”

Donald Christensen has written an homage to the vacuum tube. He notes that many young engineers aren’t aware of the rich history of the vacuum tube. He writes, “Some [young engineers] may even believe that aside from a few special-purpose tubes (magnetrons, klystrons, photomultipliers, and CRTs for example), tubes are no longer manufactured and are found only in museums.”

He should have also included some links to information on the “All-American Five” radio he refers to, but they are easy to come by on the Net. Here are a few links:

Work DX Now

The DX stations are cranking up for the upcoming DX contests, and now is the time for casual DXers to bag them without having to participate in the contests. As I mentioned in the previous post, I worked 6W/DL4JS on Sunday evening. Yesterday, I worked a bunch more on 40m, including:

  • CN8IG
  • CU2AR
  • 9A2N
  • EA7GOJ
  • F6CHT

CN8IG is my first Moroccan QSO.

I still haven’t managed to bag the 9L1X DXpedition, though. The pileups have just been ferocious—more ferocious than for any other DXpedition in my memory.

This Weekend on the Radio at KB6NU

My ham radio weekend started early. Even though we were scheduled to start operating at the museum at 10 am, I thought I’d turn on the rig and see what condition 40m was in. One reason for doing this is that we intended to operate the Jamboree on the Air. I found that the band was in great shape, and I managed to work three stations—one on CW and two on SSB—all getting ready for JOTA.

I got to the museum just before 10 am. Jim, K8ELR, had brought his laptop and a power supply, and we not only set up the IC-746PRO to operate 40m, but we also had 2m and EchoLink setups. Unfortunately, only one Scout showed up, and he didn’t come until 12:30. Even so, he got to make several contacts, and that was a lot of fun.

It was partly our fault; we really didn’t make an effort to get Scouts to the museum. It was partly their fault, too. They didn’t contact us until a week before the event.

Another Ham on the Air
On Saturday afternoon, I went over to help Ian, N8SPE, set up the 40m/20m dipole that I sold him after Field Day. He had gotten it up into the trees, but wasn’t getting the SWR he expected.

Sure enough, when I got over there and put the antenna analyzer on it, the SWR at 7.000 MHz was about 5:1. Going outside to take a look, we found that one of the legs had come loose from its stake (he set it up in an inverted vee configuration) and was just laying on the ground. We got that straightened out, but the SWR was still rather high.

The readings indicated that it was too long. That seems to nearly always be the case when you cut an antenna using the 468/f(MHz) formula. It’s almost as though someone said way back when, “We’ll just tell everybody that the number is 468, and if they use that to calcuate the antenna length, the wires will be too long, and that’s certainly better than being too short.”

We first took a foot off each end. Still too long. Then, we took another three inches off each end. Closer, but still a little too long. Three more inches and we were pretty much right on the money. The SWR was 1:1 at about 7.200 and 1.5:1 at 7.300. We fired up the radio, called CQ, and got an answer to our first call. We even got a 59 report! As W might say, “Mission accomplished.”

I spent the day Sunday with my in-laws, but did get on a bit Sunday evening. I worked 6W/DL4JS, one of the stations preparing for the upcoming DX contest. That was my DX contact for the evening.

Later on, the band was really dead, but I heard K8KS calling CQ over and over. Kaz, K8KS, lives just a couple of miles away from me, but since it seemed that no one else was hearing him, I called him and we had a nice chat. He’s a good operator and a nice guy.

Make the (RF) Connection

The October 2008 issue of High Frequency Electronics contains the article, “A Review of the Major Types of RF and Microwave Coaxial Connectors.” It describes about 20 different types of connectors. To get to it, you have to download the PDF version of the issue.

That’s not so bad, though. It’s only 7 Mbytes, and there are also some interesting advertisements and product announcements, such as the Bird SignalHawk on page 60. This looks to be a competitor for the Agilent N9912A FieldFox RF Analyzer I wrote about earlier. I couldn’t find a price for this analyzer, but I’m guessing it will cost as much or more than the Agilent unit.

It’s kind of funny that they’re both named after animals. Which would you rather have—a fox or a hawk?