17m!

I’m happy to report that I’m now on 17m.  I don’t know really what took me so long—especially since I enjoy working 30m so much—but I finally put together a dipole for 17m and hung it up yesterday.

Yesterday evening, the band seemed to be hopping. The first station I copied was CE3FZ at about an S5. I tried calling him a couple of times, but after no response, I went hunting. I found PY7WC pounding in at S9. After a couple of calls, he became my first 17m contact.

I tried calling a couple other stations, but without success. This led me to believe that my antenna was far from optimal. It is kind of low, but so is my 40m dipole. The 40m dipole works pretty well, and I was hoping the 17m dipole would work well, too.

This morning, however, I had a quite different experience. Even though it was quite early in the morning (1230Z), I punched the 17m button on the IC-746PRO. There wasn’t much activity, and what I could hear was kind of weak, but I tuned around until I heard EA1ARV calling CQ. He was barely moving the meter, but I gave him a call anyway. Not only did he hear me, but we had a decent contact.

So, I guess the upshot of all this is that the dipole is not in an optimal position (which I knew anyway), but it does work, and I can make contacts. I’ll have to play around with getting it up higher, maybe in an inverted-V configuration. It seems like a fun band to operate, though.

Find Hams in Your Area

I’ve blogged about finding hams in your area before:

A recent thread on the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list prompts me to revisit this topic, though. The replies list four different websites that you can use to find out this information:

The first two, the FCC ULS and QRZ.Com, produce text listings. The latter two map out each ham’s location. One feature of the FCC website that the others don’t have is that you can get information on nearly any licensee of the FCC. There’s a dropdown menu that lets you specify a particular service.

I typed in my zip code – 48103 – into each website. The FCC returned 177 hams, QRZ.Com 143, Where Are  All the Hams? 140, and the Ham Locator 139. I’m not sure why they all differ, but my guess for why the FCC number is so much higher than the others is that it includes hams whose licenses have expired.

Vacation Pics

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a week in a cabin on Elk Lake, MI. Over 25 members of my family congregated for this annual event., including my three sisters, a passel of nieces and nephews, their spouses, and kids. It’s a beautiful spot, and we have a great deal of fun.

As I have for the the past four or five years, I bring my KX-1 and attempt to make contacts. This year, the conditions were very good, and I had some nice, long QSOs with my little three-watter. I even managed a contact with HA8RM on 40m.

I operate from the screened-in porch of the cottage I stay in. Below, is me at the key.

At Elk Lake, August, 2010.

Just to give you some idea of how nice this place is, here’s a shot overlooking the lake at sunrise:

WA2HOM Introduces Cub Scouts to Ham Radio

Yesterday, down at the museum, we got a whole pack of Cub Scouts on the air, thanks to Ovide, K8EV, my ever-ambitious “kid wrangler.” No sooner had I managed to make a decent contact than he lassoed a group of five Cub Scouts from Detroit. Fortunately, conditions held out so that I could give them all a turn at the mike.

They must have liked it and told their buddies. About a half hour later, another group showed up. Fortunately, I was already in another QSO (with W3BEE), and he was gracious enough to talk to everyone in the second group.

W3BEE is a very interesting guy. As his vanity call implies, he’s a beekeeper as well as a ham. I’ve often thought about trying beekeeping—especially because of the bee crisis. He encouraged me to look into it further, noting that now is the time to start preparing for next year.

Ham Radio at This Year’s National Jamboree

The ARRL recently posted the article, “K2BSA: Amateur Radio Fun in the Warm Virginia Sun,” which discusses amateur radio activities at this year’s National Scout Jamboree. It reports:

…nearly 6000 youth scouts — 13 percent of the total Jamboree attendance — received thorough exposure to ham radio, touring the K2BSA station and getting on the airwaves. Six lucky scouts conducted a memorable contact with astronaut Doug Wheelock, KF5BOC, aboard the International Space Station (ISS) before a crowd of Jamboree participants.

ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Director and K2BSA Station Coordinator/Manager Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT said, “We held Technician license classes and two VE exam sessions daily, resulting in 147 new Technicians, 33 Generals and 8 Amateur Extras. 210 scouts earned their Radio merit badges, too.”

They used my study guide, so I’m going to claim some of the credit for the 147 new Technicians.

The QMN: A Celebration of the First Traffic Net.

This is from the August Michigan Section News, by Dale, WA8EFK, Section Manager:

The year 2010 will mark an important anniversary in the History of Amateur Radio: The birth of the first public service net and it happened here in Michigan.

Before the implementation of a net concept, radiogram traffic and emergency communications activity was conducted on a system of schedules and random contacts. Radiogram traffic moved across the country on “Trunk Line” networks staffed on a daily basis by “iron man” traffic handlers. From these key stations, traffic was routed to its destination via individual schedules, directional “CQ” requests, and similar techniques. The ARRL “Amateur Radio Emergency Corps,” “National Traffic System,” and similar programs had not yet emerged.

This all changed during the autumn of 1935 when members of the Detroit Amateur Radio Association (DARA) formed the Michigan Net and adopted the net call “QMN.” The plan was simple and elegant in concept. Using the relatively new technology of crystal control, radio amateurs from throughout the State of Michigan would gather on a single “spot frequency” to exchange radiogram traffic and coordinate emergency communications response to disasters. A QMN Committee standardized the procedures and created the familiar “QN-Signals” so familiar to generations of traffic handlers. With the creation of QMN, the modern traffic net was born.

This year, QMN will celebrate its Diamond Anniversary with a very special event! A 75th Anniversary Banquet will be held at Owosso, Michigan on Saturday, October 23, 2010. Activities include:

  • A special event station on 7055 KHz and 3563 KHz using the call K8QMN. This special event station will use vintage equipment from the 1930s and ‘40s. Visitors will have an opportunity to sit down at the key and experience QSOs using 1930s era receivers.
  • A presentation entitled “An Early History of Radio” will be featured along with a talk on the history of QMN.
  • Long-time members will reminisce about their experiences in Amateur Radio.
  • Vintage radio equipment will be on display for all to enjoy.
  • A working Morse Telegraph Circuit will be available on site for those who would like to see land-line telegraphy and American Morse Code in use.
  • A special commemorative booklet will be provided to each attendee. This commemorative booklet will include an excellent history of QMN written by the Don Devendorf, W8EGI (SK), along with an introduction covering the early history of Amateur Radio.

QMN members both past and present are invited to attend, as are all radio amateurs with an interest in the history of Amateur Radio and the history of public service communications. Those wishing to attend this event should request a registration form from James Wades, WB8SIW at the following e-mail: jameswades@gmail.com You don’t want to miss this celebration to be held on October 23, 2010 at the Comstock Inn, Owosso, Michigan.

September is National Preparedness Month

I got this from Allen, W1AGP, the ARRL’s Media & PR Manager:

There are only 13 days left until National Preparedness Month (NPM)! If you haven’t done so already, please consider joining the NPM Coalition. More than 2,800 organizations have signed up so far. Help us reach our goal of more than 3,200!

NPM is designed to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities. NPM Coalition membership is open to all public and private sector organizations for free. By joining the Coalition your organization would agree to promote emergency preparedness during the month of September.  Once you register you will receive access to the NPM Web site where you can find a toolkit that includes templates, resources, and tips to assist you with promoting emergency preparedness. You will also find an NPM calendar where you can post your events and see what other organizations are doing in your community.  In addition, can share your success stories and read about the successes of others.

You can register to become an NPM Coalition Member by visiting http://ready.adcouncil.org. To learn more about NPM, visit www.ready.gov and click on the NPM banner.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Ready Campaign at NPM@dhs.gov.

Allen added:

The DHS National Preparedness Month program is a natural for any ARES group.  The easy part is that you probably don’t have to do anything more than what you are already involved in – just get recognition for it!  If your group hasn’t done so already, sign up and let them know what you are doing and have done for your community.  There’s a special section just for signing up Amateur Radio groups.  (That happened after a couple years ago when we totally swamped them with all the things hams were doing.  They got a fast “education” :-)

While you are there, take a look at all the free Ready Campaign promotional things available for groups that have signed up.

Reader Feedback

Many moons ago, I was a writer and editor for Test&Measurement World, an electronics engineering trade magazine that covered electronics test and measurement. I wrote about stuff like how to use oscilloscopes, how analog-to-digital converters worked, and how to interpret multimeter specifications.

This was so long ago, that we didn’t even have e-mail! As a result, any reader feedback was precious. Even now, reader feedback is precious to me, so I thought I’d mention two bits of information that has just made it my way.

The first was from Dave, N4KZ. I worked Dave last week while I was on vacation. Every year, we spend the better part of a week in a cottage on Elk Lake, which is just north of Traverse City. I take my KX-1, throw up a dipole in the trees, and make contacts sitting in a screened-in porch overlooking the lake. Very idyllic. It’s always a thrill when guys recognize my call sign from reading my blog.

Next, is an e-mail I just received from Mark, KD8BIG. He writes, “I just wanted to let you know I spent a great deal of time on your web-site and really enjoy it.” He asked for permission to link to my blog. Well, the more links, the merrier! Feel free to link to me any time, any place (well, almost any place).

Mark also has a blog—the KD8BIG Blog—that is certainly worth taking a look at. He has some interesting posts on the recent coronal mass ejection (CME) and the resultant ionospheric disturbances. Check it out.

Do you have anything that you’d like to tell me or have me write about?  Comment here or e-mail me.

Spectrum Defense Matters

The latest ARRL Letter has a short bit on the new newsletter, Spectrum Defense Matters.  According to the Web page describing the new newsletter,

This first issue of Spectrum Defense Matters includes articles on how the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is opposing an amateur allocation on 500 kHz. ARRL Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price, N4QX — as the United States spokesperson for Amateur Radio issues at the ITU — is working hard to effectively and fairly present the case for Amateur Radio over significant resistance by maritime interests both inside and outside the United States.

Other articles include how the ARRL is preparing to advocate for Amateur Radio at WRC-12, coming up in January 2012. WRC-12 will consider a number of items that could, in a worst case scenario, adversely impact Amateur Radio. WRC-12 will consider an allocation to the radiolocation service somewhere within 30-300 MHz, potentially affecting the Amateur Radio 50, 144, and 222 MHz bands. Also on the agenda are potential allocations to HF oceanographic radar between 3 and 50 MHz; these radars have operated on an ad hoc, experimental basis for a number of years, and while they are unquestionably useful, they are incompatible with Amateur Radio. Studies regarding these issues will also be finalized in November.

I’m all for spectrum defense, and support this ARRL initiative. BUT, neither the item in the ARRL Letter nor the Web page to which readers are sent for more information has a link to the page where they can actually find the newsletter itself.

In addition, when you finally get to the page where you can actually download the PDF version of the July 2010 issue of Spectrum Defense Matters, it says, “The newsletter will be posted on the web site 2-3 times a year and will cover both domestic and international topics.” It also says, “Important note: If you do not wish to receive the Spectrum Defense Matters newsletter electrnoically (sic), please send an email to the Development Office to mhobart@arrl.org with your full name and email address.”

This implies to me that ARRL members have been automatically subscribed to the newsletter and to opt-out, they need to contact Mary Hobart. Indeed, when you go to  your profile page that allows you manage your newsletter subscriptions, Spectrum Defense Matters doesn’t appear at all.

I certainly hope that the ARRL will allow people to subscribe electronically. If they don’t, I doubt that the circulation will be very wide, and spectrum defense really does matter.

Finally, I also think they have gone a little overboard on soliciting donations for the Spectrum Defense Fund. The sentence, “Your financial support is vital to support ARRL’s work to protect your operating privileges by contributing generously to the ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund,” appears in the first paragraph of the item in the ARRL Letter. This makes me wonder if the purpose of the newsletter is really to inform members of spectrum defense issues or just to get them to donate more money.

UPDATE 8/16/10
I swapped some e-mail with Mary Hobart, K1MMH, this morning, who clarified how subscriptions to this newsletter are to be handled. She said, “With regard to the opt out message on the page, I placed it there since I was unable to arrange for such an option on the web sites Email Subscription page in your member profile.  Once I have that option added, I will remove the note from the Spectrum Defense Matters Page.”  Apparently, this is yet another problem with the new website.

I was still somewhat confused about how one subscribes to this newsletter by e-mail, so I e-mailed her again. This time, she said, “We are sending the newsletter to ARRL members who have selected “special offers” on their subscription page.”

So, for now, if you want to make sure that you get this newsletter, log in to your account on arrl.org, click on “Edit your profile,” and check the “Publication Announcements and Special offers” box there.

A Quick Review of the Top Ham Radio Blogs According to Google

I often claim that I have the #1 ham radio blog, according to Google. This is true. When you type in “ham radio blog” or “amateur radio blog” into Google, I come out on top. I don’t know how good this recommendation actually is, and it certainly doesn’t mean that my blog is the most widely-read, but it’s better to be rated #1 on Google than #100. :)

Having said that, I thought I’d do a quick review of the other blogs that appear on the first page of the Google search results:

Ham Radio Blog by DL6KAC – Talking about Ham and Amateur Radio, SEO, & More. This blog is no more.  The last post was on May 2, 2010, and notes, “Today I decided to shut down ham-blogs.net.” It has only ten posts since the beginning of the year, and only three or four of those had amateur radio content.

K2DBK’s Ham Radio Blog. K2DBK’s content is a lot like mine–a lot of personal musings and reports on his operations. The content is mostly interesting, especially the “Ham Tools” series, but I didn’t really like the design. White type on a black background is too hard to read.

Ham Radio – a Contact Sport. I liked the story on the ABC (Atanasoff-Berry Computer) and some of the other stories, but there just wasn’t enough of them. This blog has only eight posts in 2010.

IW5EDI: Ham Operator in Florence. I liked this blog for a couple of reasons: 1. The header has a great aerial photograph of Florence, a city that I love, and 2. IW5EDI’s writing style. For example, his post on why he recently chose the Palstar  Palstar PM2000 A/M power meter/SWR meter over the DAIWA CN-801 was well-written and useful, and my philosophy is that blogs should be useful as well as interesting.

Ke9v.net. KE9V blogs prolifically on a wide variety of topics, not just ham radio. For example, he’s recently blogged on the most recent Debian Linux distro, Android cellphones and the “Culture of Death.” On the current homepage, only two of the ten posts were ham radio related.

N0UN’s Ham Radio Blog: My Ham Radio Experiences Through the Years. This blog has some interesting and useful posts, but they are few and far between. The last post was on May 30,2010, and there were only three posts in all of 2010.

W2LJ’s Blog – QRP – Doing More With Less. Larry, W2LJ, is an on-air friend of mine, and I’m glad to see that his blog has edged it’s way onto the first page of search results. Like me, he likes to mix the personal and the technical, and his blog is up-to-date. Worth reading.

Well, that’s it for page 1 of the Google search results. I’m kind of surprised that some of the blogs that made this list were relatively inactive, but I guess that it would be difficult for Google to automatically figure that out.

Happy reading!