Having Fun with Ham Radio: Letting my inner geek out

Having Fun with Ham Radio: Letting my inner geek outI have a new book out!

Having Fun with Ham Radio: Letting my inner geek out is my third book. It’s a collection of some of the popular blog posts written between November 2002 to February 2005. There are four different chapters:

  1. Antennas
  2. Clubs
  3. Operating
  4. Gear and Gadgets

The antenna chapter includes posts about the Slinky Antenna and the J-pole antenna. The clubs chapter includes my post on the ABCs of Good Clubs. The operating chapter includes my post on casual DXing. The gear and gadgets chapter includes a couple of posts on using an antenna analyzer.

All of the posts have been updated. That was actually a lot more work than I thought. Many links I included in those early posts are no longer, so I not only had to  check that they were still valid, but find alternates, if they were not.

It’s only available as an e-book, and it only costs 99 cents! I’ve already sold a couple of copies on Amazon, but none so far on Barnes&Noble. Click on the links below to download it immediately to your e-book reader

Contest encourages hams to develop microcontroller apps

From Luc, ON4ZI via the Linked In Amateur Radio Enthusiast group:

ON6NR starts the second Ham – mbed/ARM contest

Discover top notch microcontroller. Propose and describe a Ham application using mbed board see http://mbed.org. 10 projects ( described in French) will be selected and will receive an mbed module to realize the suggested project. Appropriately documented circuits (Doc or txt), with video (uTube) and/or pictures (jpeg) to prove affective functioning send by June 30th, 2012 will be entitled for the final draw with sponsor pricing to be defined.

The contest aims at 3 objectives: 1) Help Ham fellows to discover and experiment with “top notch” 32 bit microcontrollers; 2) Make their development useful to the ham community; 3) Generate quality articles to be published in QSP Revue, the freely monthly electronic publication issued for Hams at the radioclub (5000 + downloads, plenty of mirroring)

Submissions must be sent to either on5fm@uba.be or on5fm@dommel.be no later than 24:00 (GMT) 22nd April 2012. A jury of ham operators, embedded specialists and engineers will review proposals for concept quality, possibility of realization, reproducibility, interest and usability. It will not necessarily be the most impressive proposals that will be selected, so all participants have an opportunity to win!

The mbed microcontrollers are interesting in that they are 32-bit designs in a very small form factor. The entire microcontroller, including a USB port fits on a PC board the size of a 40-pin DIP!  By contrast, the Arduinos are all eight-bit processors.

ARRL to hire educational services coordinator

ARRLToday, the ARRL posted two open positions at HQ. One of them, the Education Services Instruction and Resource Coordinator, caught my eye. The short description reads:

The person who fills this position will, among other duties, identify, review and organize resources needed by license instructors, teachers and Scout leaders, develop curricula/lesson plans, instructional media for instruction of ham radio license and other ham radio related topics (including radio science and basic electronics topics for use by classroom teachers) and develop an orientation course for license instructors and materials for instructor training. Candidates should hold an Amateur Extra class license (or be willing to achieve this within one year from date of hire) and a wide range of operating experience. Experience with instructional media is a plus. A Bachelor’s degree, along with teacher certification (and/or experience as a teaching or training professional) with Amateur Radio, electronics, science or technology subjects is required. Click here for a job description.

 What’s ironic about this is that I just recently e-mailed our new division vice-director, Dale, WA8EFK, about what I perceive as a lack of support for volunteer instructors. The instructor newsletter hasn’t been published for more than a year, and the Web page for instructor resources really needs some beefing up. I hope that the ARRL fills this position quickly and that they start providing the support that instructors need.

From the Trade Mags – 3/27/12

Three more articles from the electronics engineering trade magazines that ham radio operators will find interesting and useful:

  1. Understanding Modern Digital Modulation Techniques. Want to understand what’s happening when you operate PSK-31 and some of the other digital modes? Read this article.
  2. Understanding CTCSS from A to Z. This short article does a nice job of describing CTCSS, which stands for Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System. It includes a table of all the standard tone frequencies.
  3. Understanding Amplifier Operating Classes. A nice review of amplifier classes from A to H. I didn’t know that we were up to Class H already.

Winter 2012 TAPR Journal now online

The TAPR PSR Digital Journal, Winter 2012 edition, is now online (www.tapr.org/psr/psr117.pdf). Contents include:

  • President’s Corner
  • iQuadLabs-TAPR Agreement
  • 2011 DCC Video Online
  • TAPR Directors Elections
  • VK5DGR on Codec 2 at linux.conf.au 2012
  • Doodle Labs DL-435
  • Going to Ohio
  • When Digital Was Mechanical
  • Now on YouTube
  • TAPR-ARRL DCC 2011
  • HPSDR Projects
  • Frequency & Time Related Kits
  • The Great Create
  • My Steve Jobs Story
  • LW and MW DX
  • Join TAPR on Twitter & Facebook
  • Write Here!
  • PSR Advertising Rates
  • Still Fixing a Little TAPR History
  • The Fine Print
  • Our Membership App

New QRP kit measures power, SWR

From Terry, WA0ITP, via the qrp-l mailing list:

QRP-o-meterThe Four State QRP Group is pleased to announce a new kit, the QRPometer, a sensitive and accurate power/swr meter designed by David Cripe, NMØS.   Complete specifications, assembly manual, and ordering information can be found online PayPal is accepted.

The range of accurate power measurement extends down to a low 100 milliwatts.  This kit was conceived to fill a need within the hobby for an inexpensive, highly accurate RF power and VSWR meter for QRP power levels.  With it’s large digital display it makes a very useful addition to your shack.

The QRPometer uses simple analog signal-processing circuitry to provide a set of essential measurement features not previously available in a single unit. High quality, double sided, printed circuit board construction is used, with solder mask and silk screened component reference designators.

All components are  through-hole for easy assembly. NO toroids are required, and all controls  and jacks are PCB mounted. The QRPometer can be constructed by beginners as well as experienced builders. Construction time is approximately 3 hours, depending on experience level. The only equipment required for calibration is a digital voltmeter, and a QRP transmitter..

All proceeds  go to fund OzarkCon.  As always, thank you for supporting the Four State QRP Group.

Beam fixed!

A week and a half ago, my friend, Bob, WD8BNA, came  up to me at our Rotary Club meeting and said, “Have you taken a look at your beam lately?” referring to the three-element Yagi at WA2HOM, our club station down at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.

“No,” I replied, “what’s up?”

“Part of the antenna’s missing,” he said. “It must have come off during the high winds we had last week.” I drove by the next day, and sure enough, we were missing half the reflector.

Jack, WT8N, who was majorly responsible for us getting the beam up in the air in the first place, jumped right on this. He got up onto the roof, found the missing element, and organized a work party to re-attach it.

The work party was this afternoon. Jack; Ovide, K8EV; yours truly; and Jerry, head of maintenance for the museum and the son of a ham headed up to the roof to lower the antenna and fix the antenna.

Lowering the antenna proved easier than I expected. We unbolted the tilt-over tower from the mounting bracket and it came down relatively easily. Re-attaching the errant element was also pretty straightforward. All the bolts were there. It looks like we just didn’t tighten it down well enough the first time.

Tilting the tower back up proved to be a little more difficult. We first tried it with two men pushing and two men pulling on one of the guy wires.  When that didn’t work, we tried three guys pushing it, and one pulling. That didn’t work either.

Ovide then went in search of another helper. He returned shortly thereafter with one young museum employee, and with four guys pushing, we finally got the tower into an upright position. We inserted and tightened the bolts, and now we’re back in business with all of the elements in the right position. Overall, this took just an hour to do.

Despite missing half of the reflector, the beam seemed to work just fine. It tuned up just fine, and was still quite directional. I’m sure with the complete reflector, it works even better, though. If I knew more about antenna modeling, I’d run a simulation and figure out how much directionality we were actually using.

Has anyone done this? If you have, or have some idea what the effect of losing half of a reflector has on a three-element Yagi, I’d like to hear from you.

TAPR starts “interest list” for Hermes SDR

From the TAPRARRL Letter, 3/22/12:

Tucson Amateur Packet Radio (TAPR) announces the opening of the “interest list” for the openHPSDR Hermes single-board Software Defined Radio. The Hermes interest list is used by TAPR to determine the number of Hermes boards to manufacture in the pending initial production run this spring. Hermes is a long-awaited addition to the openHPSDR project lineup, advancing through four prototypes while evolving from a USB-based to an Ethernet-based transceiver in about two years. Hermes is a Direct-Down-Conversion receiver, a Direct-Up-Conversion 500 mW transmitter and a gigabit Ethernet interface all on one board. Also on board is an RF-quiet switch-mode power supply, which allows Hermes to run from a single 13.8 V dc source. Read more here.

QSLs – 3/21/12

It’s been kind of slow lately as far as QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words. These last two are from special event stations, though. That makes them, well, special.


W0EBB is the callsign of the Kickapoo QRP ARC.

W0EBB is the callsign of the Kickapoo QRP ARC. It was established in 2003 to honor Clarence Drimmel, W0EBB of Atchison Kansas. This club sponsors a winter operating event every third Saturday in February called “Freeze Your Keys”. This event is an outdoor event usually run from a shelter house in Weston Bend State Park which is about 10 miles north and west of Kansas City and just east across the Missouri river from Leavenworth Kansas. This card confirms a contact made during that event.

K0ANT is one of several stations that participated in the Antarctic Activity Week.

K0ANT is one of several stations that participated in the Antarctic Activity Week. Their card reads, “The intent of the AAW special  event is bring worldwide attention to Antarctica and to the international scientific community working to preserve and protect this pristine corner of the Earth, unlocking its secrets, and to share a message of peace.”

Customers or Members?

Three weeks ago, I held the first Amateur Radio Club Leadership Workshop here in Ann Arbor, MI. (I’ll post more about that later.) While we were talking about member retention, one of the attendees said that we need to think of the members as “customers.”

I suppose that I used to think like that, too. Give the customers what they want, and they’ll keep coming back. Now, I’m not so sure that is a good way of looking at things. There are some major differences between customers and members.

For one thing, there is a certain sense of entitlement about being a customer. A customer hands over some money, and in return, expects to receive a product or service. Do you want members like that? Don’t you want to get members to actively participate in your activities and not just consume them? If you have customers instead of members, doesn’t that put a lot of pressure on you to make sure the “product” is as attractive as possible to the “customers”?

A customer is in no way responsible to a business, but a member is responsible for the organization he or she belongs to. He should be, at least. If not, then why be a member?

The challenge is how to encourage that sense of membership, that sense of ownership. I don’t have the answer to that. What do you think?