Field Day Has Something for Everyone!

On the qrp-l mailing list, Bill, N4QA, posted the following. Field Day really does have something for everyone.

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Whether you’re into:

  • QSO counts/rates,
  • certain modes of operation,
  • working rare stations,
  • erecting antennas,
  • staying up late,
  • leaving your usual world behind for a while,
  • camping out,
  • doing FD from the comfort of your own home (my personal favorite),
  • testing a new rig,
  • eating/drinking things that are really good/bad for you,
  • enjoying the company of others,
  • dealing with the environment,
  • public service, and
  • having a great time

It’s all good!

Wish I’d Have Thought of This…

On the Ten-Tec Omni VII mailing list, Bert, W0RSB, reported on his recent experience with Customer Service. He said,

Rig came back this past Monday, a day early. The auto tuner now appears to be working correctly. Unfortunately, the invoice simply says “Could not duplicate complaint.”

Maybe being manhandled by UPS or being poked and prodded by the service tech bounced something into place. At any rate, this exercise cost me nearly $200; if the problem comes back, I can buy a decent external auto tuner for little more than that.

I had a similar problem with my Icom IC-746PRO. I sent it in, and the service tech could not duplicate the problem, and when I got it back, it worked just fine.  My guess is that it was a sticky relay that got unstuck with all the jostling during shipping.  My bill was about $170, but for that, I at least got them to fix a minor problem with the LCD backlight as well as install all of the factory updates.

I never even considered buying an external tuner instead of getting the internal tuner fixed, but this is a really good idea.  At Field Day, we used an LDG Z-11Pro  that plugged right into the IC-746PRO and was tuned by hitting the TUNE button on the radio.  Worked like a charm.  Universal Radio sells them for $170. They handle a wider SWR range, too, than the internal tuner on this Icom. If the internal tuner ever goes out again, I’m buying an LDG.

Field Day 2010 – Part 1

2010 Field DayWell, another Field Day has come and gone. While this year’s Field Day was fun, for several reasons, this Field Day wasn’t quite the blast it has been in the past.

First of all, my plans changed at kind of the last minute. I had been planning a simple, one transmitter operation down at the Hands-On Museum. A couple of weeks ago, though, I let myself be talked into being captain of one of local club’s CW stations.

That wouldn’t have been so bad, but I really didn’t prepare properly. My predecessor, KT8K, always did a magnificent job of getting ready for this event, but I just didn’t have the time or energy to do the same. So, when I got out to the site on Friday evening, I found myself without a shelter or a radio.

So, doing what I could, I set up antennas. First, we put up the antenna for the GOTA station. This was the same exact antenna that we used last year, namely a 40/20 inverted vee fan dipole suspended from a mast made up of those military surplus fiberglass poles.

Next, we put up the antenna for my 40m CW station. For some reason, I got it into my head that I wanted to try a full-wave, 40m loop, even though I’d never really been successful with antennas that used open wire feedlines. But, I had just about the right length of 14-ga wire, as well as a roll of 450-ohm ladder line that I purchased at some hamfest a couple years ago. My idea was to suspend this loop from several of the irrigation pipes that we use for masts out at our Field Day site. There was a little bit of a glitch getting it all up in the air, but we managed to do so before it got dark.

Saturday morning, I arrived out at the site a little after 9 am. What I was to use for a shelter and a radio was still a little up in the air, that issue was settled when Dave, N8SBE, offered the use of a tent. We also seemed to be short of power cords, but Quentin, KD8IPF, stepped into the breach by offering the use of a 100-ft. extension cord that he’d brought. I drove home to get my IC-746PRO and an antenna tuner to use with the loop.

When I got back to the the site, I connected the 450-ohm feedline from the antenna to the tuner and connected my antenna analyzer to the tuner output. That’s when my troubles started. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to find a setting that would give me a 50-ohm output.

At this point, Quentin, KD8IPF, stepped up again. He had brought his LDG antenna tuner. We connected the 450-ohm feedline to the binding posts on the balun, the coax to the tuner, hit the tune button, and everything seemed to tune up fine. “Seemed” is the keyword here, but more about that later. I hooked up the radio, and even made a few contacts.

It was a little after 1pm at this point. I was all set up, except for the logging computer. The computer guys were working feverishly on getting them all set up, though, and just a little after 2pm, I was on the air.

One disappointment was that the computer I got had only a single USB port, and that port was used for the wireless network adapter. That meant that I couldn’t use the port to drive my WinKeyer, but I had set up the memories for FD operation, so it wasn’t really that big a deal. Instead of hitting the computer’s function keys, we could hit the keyer’s memory keys.

The long and the short of it is that at right around 2:20 or so, we were good to go.

More to follow…….

Component Basics: Resistors, DACs

The latest issue of AudioDesignLine contains two articles that might be of interest to radio amateurs:

Are You Afraid….

…of soldering? Despite an uncalled for swipe at the ARRL near the end, this 2.5-minute audio clip is kind of funny.

Thanks to K8JHR for the pointer.

Tube Tip

Here’s a great tip from the 6/23/10 ARRL Contest Update:

Uh-oh! You dutifully cleaned off all of your vacuum tubes to make them shiny and the numbers came off with the dirt! Pat AA6EG saves the day – “Put the tube in the refrigerator, cool it down, then bring it into a warm room temperature environment. There will be moisture condensing on the glass envelope, sometimes leav[ing] a readable outline of the tube numbers.”

If you have any tubes at all in your junkbox (mine’s more like a junk closet), you’ll undoubtedly have some that you can’t identify.

More on Microcontrollers

Despite the low price of the TI Launchpad, most of the AMRAD folks thought that this was hardly an Arduino killer. They pointed to all the users and support that the Arduino has.

One cool thing that someone pointed out is the Processing language. This looks like a very cool thing that I’ll have to play around with. According to their website:

Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to create images, animations, and interactions. Initially developed to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context, Processing also has evolved into a tool for generating finished professional work. Today, tens of thousands of students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists who use Processing for learning, prototyping, and production.

One of the projects they pointed to is the “Poorman’s Oscilloscope.” This project uses an Arduino as the analog front end and Processing as the display back end. I think that with a little thought and programming you could also create a simple spectrum analyzer and make your own waterfall display. (I’m thinking that I could perhaps write a Mac version of Argo with Processing.)

TI Makes a Run At Arduino

TI LaunchpadOn the AMRAD Tacos mailing list, Andre, N4ICK writes, “Who couldn’t use one of these?” One of these happens to be the Texas Instruments’ Launchpad, a development platform for their low-cost line of microcontrollers. The kicker is that they’re selling this puppy for only $4.30.

According to the Hack a Day blog post:

Each Launchpad device comes with a whole lot of goodness. In addition to the board itself you get a 0.5 meter USB cable, two pin headers and two pin sockets for the pin breakout pads, two different MSP430 microprocessors (MSP430G2211 and MSP430G2231), and two free IDEs; Code Composer Studio 4 and IAR Embedded Workbench Kickstart (note that the latter has a 4K or 8K code limitation depending on the processor used).

Sounds pretty cool to me.

Your First HF Dipole

On the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list, Tim, N9PUZ, pointed a link to the eHam article, “Your First HF Dipole.” As Tim points out, the article “describes a good technique for zeroing in on a low SWR,” Here’s that portion of the article:

  • Put the thing in the air as high as you can. Then find the frequency where the SWR is lowest. This might be at the bottom of the CW band or at the top of the phone portion. It doesn’t matter. RECORD that frequency.
  • Then take the actual length of the antenna (you wrote it down, remember?) and multiply it by the frequency (in MHz) of the lowest SWR. That number will be your new constant, to replace 468.
  • Divide the new constant by the frequency you want to have in the middle of your preferred range. This is the length the antenna should be. Now you need to adjust the one you have in the air to this length. You might find it’s easier to simply add or take away equal lengths on either side near the center insulator rather than on either end.
  • After doing this haul the antenna back up into position. It should now give you the lowest SWR at the desired frequency.

If for some reason you later want to trim an HF wire antenna (say, you decide to move to a different band segment), don’t waste your time cutting a half-inch at a whack. You can estimate how much to cut or add based on the band and how far you have to move it.

For example, compare 468/ 14.0 = 33.42 ft with 468 / 14.35 = 32.61 ft , so only about 10 inches to move the width of the entire band on 20 meters.
On 75/80 meters, the difference between the band extreme edges is better than sixteen feet.

A RIB, an EAR, and a Hank of Hair

More QSLs from stations whose call signs spell words. I’m still looking for a TOE and an EYE and a LIP.