From my inbox: VE7VC, Tonewriter, World Amateur Radio Day

Tiffany and her grandfather, Victor, VE7VC (SK).

What a Wonderful World. Tiffany remembers her grandfather, VE7VC (SK).

Use a Hammond B3 to send CW. Forest, WB0RIO, has developed Tonewriter—an experimental system that uses an Arduino and a Hammond B3 organ to encode text as a series of audio tones. The messages can then be displayed on a spectrogram, which is used by ham radio operators to visualize the audio that is received by a radio receiver.

April 18 is World Amateur Radio Day. The International Amateur Radio Union has selected the theme “Amateur Radio:  Entering Its Second Century of Disaster Communications” for this year’s World Amateur Radio Day (WARD).

From my Twitter feed: old book, HAMcurmudgeon, mountain topper radio

ke9v
Really? Everything? I somehow doubt it.http://t.co/3CKO04H3pO

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at Sat, Mar 30 - 10.06AM 1

What Jeff is referring to is the book above, All About RADIO and Television. I love books like this and tweeted Jeff about that. Being the great guy that he is, he actually bought the book and sent it to me. THANKS, Jeff! If I see you at Dayton this year, I owe you a beer….Dan

HAMcurmudgeon
U might be a HAM if when U tell your wife that 20 meters is dead she sighs & asks, “How much will that cost to fix?” #hamradio

W2MDW
First blog post in a while. My MTR arrives!http://t.co/ABZCKSU9oH

 

DX QSLs spell words, too

These are for WA2HOM, but I had to post them here because the QSLs are so cool. The VE7TUB QSL is especially cool because it’s from a special event station set up for a bathtub race.

ve7tub-qsl

ea3box-qsl

Sometimes the ARRL just doesn’t get it

ARRLWhen I renewed my ARRL membership, I must have submitted the order twice because there were two charges for $76 on my credit card bill. At first, I was going to ask for a refund from the ARRL, but then thought, what the heck, I’ll just let it go and have four years of membership, not just two.

I wanted to make sure, though, that I had actually gotten four more years of membership. So, I went to arrl.org, logged in, and went searching for my membership expiration date. I must have wasted about 15 minutes looking for it. Finally, it occurred to me that it might be printed on the electronic membership card that you can print out. Sure enough, it was there, and I was able to confirm that I was good for another four years.

I emailed the ARRL about this, noting that this should be shown on the member’s profile somewhere. I shortly received a reply from a member services representative, “Thank you for your inquiry. The IT Dept are working on adding the expiration date to the web site. If you log in, then click on edit profile, then edit groups, the number of days left on your membership is listed there.”

I replied to that e-mail, noting that having to go to the groups page for this information is definitely not the most intuitive thing to do. Not only that, it doesn’t really say explicitly when my membership expires. All it really tells me is that I am a member of the “full members” group for another 1,500 days or so.

Now that I was on the groups page, I noticed some other things. This page tells me that I am a member of the following groups:

  • Volunteer Examiners
  • Michigan
  • Assistant Section Managers
  • Teachers
  • Instructors
  • Great Lakes
  • Michigan
  • Full Regular
  • Members

This raised a number of questions:

  1. Why am I in the Michigan group twice?
  2. What’s the difference between instructors and teachers?
  3. Why do most of these groups have no information on the page I get taken to when I click the “Go Now!” link.
  4. Why can’t I “unjoin” these groups if I want to?

I hate to sound harsh, but it seems to me that this page is pretty close to being useless. It certainly is useless to me. When I e-mailed the ARRL this list of questions–noting that these were rhetorical questions–I got an e-mail back offering to “help with your questions.”

<SIGH> Sometimes the ARRL just doesn’t get it.

IS it TEA for me?

More QSLs from stations whose calls spell words:

n6tea-qsl

I worked N6TEA during our W8P End Polio Now special event.

k9is-qslI worked Steve, K9IS, during the WI QSO Party a couple of weeks ago.

On the air this weekend at WA2HOM

WA2HOM is our club station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. I go down there nearly every weekend and operate for anywhere from two to eight hours. This weekend, I had a lot of fun down there.

This photo, from the Boy Scouts of America website, shows one Cub Scout sending code to another.

Late last week, I was contacted by a woman who was a Cub Scout pack leader, asking if she could bring some Scouts by. Silly question. Of course, she could! We arranged to meet around 1:45 on Saturday. Well, right on time, she arrived with three Cub Scouts in tow.

Fortunately, I had just made contact with Jim, K0JIM, and he had a really solid signal here in Ann Arbor. That’s important because it’s sometimes difficult for inexperienced operators to hear a weak signal or one that’s accompanied by a lot of noise. When signals are weak or hard to copy for any reason, the kids get frustrated.

We were doubly fortunate in that Jim was just great with the kids. He asked each their name and got them to tell him a little bit about themselves. And, none of the kids were mike-shy, so it was a good experience for everyone involved. In addition to having them talk on the air, I took them over to our Morse Code display and showed them how to send their names in Morse Code.

I really hadn’t planned to go down on Sunday, but after doing some things around the house, I decided to zip down there about 2:30 pm to check into the Rotarians on Amateur Radio net. It’s so much easier to do from down at the museum because of the beam antenna. I didn’t hear a peep on the net frequency (14287 kHz) at either 3 pm or 4 pm (2000Z, which is the time listed on the ROAR website), though, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

When I’m at the museum, I’m usually also tweeting. (I’m @kb6nu on Twitter.) I tweeted that 20m sounded kind of quiet, and got a reply from @hamradioireland, EI2KC, suggesting that we give it a try. After agreeing on a frequency, I pointed the beam northeast and gave him a call. Unfortunately, the propagation didn’t cooperate, and we could barely hear one another. Even so, it was still pretty cool using Twitter to arrange a DX QSO.

Tuning around after my short QSO with EI2KC, I found a couple of interesting nets. The first was the Collins Collectors Association Net on 14263 kHz. I could really only hear the net control station, but it sounded as though everyone checking in was running some kind of Collins gear. It was interesting to listen to, but not being a Collins operator, I didn’t check in.

Around 4 pm, I started looking for the ROAR net again. I never did find that net, but I did find the Heathkit Net on 14293 kHz. According to the Web page Heathkit Resources, the net starts at 2030Z, but I’m guessing that it really started at 1930Z.

Since I have a bunch of Heathkits—several that I still use regularly—I did check into this net. They’re a great group of guys, and I will definitely be checking into this net again. Who knows? It may even spur me to get my HW-101 back on the air.

Ads of note from the April 2013 QST

I couldn’t sleep this morning, so rather than just lie in bed, looking at the ceiling, I got up and made myself a (very) early breakfast. Whilst eating my eggs and cantaloupe, I scanned the ads from the latest QST. Here’s what caught my eye:

The TT1A costs $129, and that doesn’t include the 200 V power supply. Yipes!

  • YouKits (page 128). YouKits is offering a new kit this month – the TT1A two-band, two-tube CW transmitter. It’s very cute, but according to the YouKit website, it costs $129 (plus $29 shipping), and even at that, you have to buy or build a 250V supply to power the thing. Call me crazy, but I think that’s a bit much for a 4W transmitter, don’t you? I think I’d rather spend that money on the Funk Amateur SDR kit (see below). TenTec is YouKits U.S. distributor, but I don’t find this kit on the TenTec website yet.
  • Mosley Electronics (page 132, 153). Mosley has been making quality antennas for many years. In the April 2013 QST, they are running a very small ad on pages 132 and 153. I guess they have such a good reputation that they really don’t need a big ad. You’d think that I’d be more familiar with their products (since I’ve been a ham for many years), but I’m not really. Their ad prompted me to go to the Mosley website, where I found out that they not only made beam antennas, but verticals and dipoles as well. In addition to information about their products, there is information about antennas in general. I particularly liked the short article on “SWR-itis.”
  • Funk Amateur (page 147). A lot of amateur radio operators are funky, but “funk” in this case is German for radio. This German company is offering two kits: the FiFi SDR kit, which is a 0.1 – 30 MHz SDR receiver for $169, and a voice keyer kit for $55. Both prices include shipping to the U.S. I’m going to contact them and see if they’re going to be at Dayton. If not, I might just pop for one or both of the kits.

From my Twitter feed: Sports Illustrated, free shipping, daughter helping with QSLs

w0sun
Ham Radio in 1958 Sports Illustrated #Hamr#Hamradio – The Article -http://t.co/h7hCkdzeJx

kQ2RP
Need parts? Jameco is offering free ground shipping in continental US with Code OLP05951Y until April 12.

oh3ggq
My daughter helping me with QSL cards.#hamr http://t.co/Gm1S6XjUVU

U-M ARC needs antenna ideas

W8UM

The University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. The recently reinvigorated club has a great station, W8UM, in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Building on U-M’s North Campus.

The University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. To celebrate, they’re planning to operate a special event station from the Diag, an open space in the heart of the campus.

The problem they’re having are all the rules for such an event. For example, the event can’t be too noisy, even though it’s outside.

The biggest problem they’re having though is trying to come up with an antenna setup that the powers that be will approve. They can’t, for example, drive any stakes into the ground. Supposedly, that will damage the lawns. That rules out the 40m/20m inverted-V setup supported by the surplus fiberglass masts that we often use for these kind of temporary operations.

There’s also a rule that whatever structure is erected be no higher than eight feet tall. That also rules out the use of the fiberglass mast.

There are some trees near where they want to set up the station, but the grounds department have concerns about ropes in trees. That kind of rules out dipoles.

This morning, it occurred to me that we probably could use BuddiPoles and/or BuddiSticks. We could easily keep them under eight feet, and if operated vertically, they could be decent antennas. Using an insulated wire for the counterpoise should be safe enough.

I’d like to hear what you think, though. What kind of antennas have you used for this type of operation? Do they meet the restrictions these guys must meet?

Operating notes: DX, OKQP, U-M net, LOTW

DX, DX, DX. I’ve been working a lot of DX lately. It’s almost as if I can’t avoid working DX. About half my recent contacts have been DX contacts, when you subtract the 50 Qs I made in the WI QSO party last weekend. A lot of these have been made calling CQ. It’s still a rush when a DX station answers my CQ.

Working the OK QP at WA2HOM. The Russian DX contest just swamped the Oklahoma QSO Party yesterday. I worked a few OK stations on 20m CW yesterday from WA2HOM, but just about as soon as I worked them, they were gone, as stations working the Russian DX contest took over the frequencies. Phone operation was about the same.

10m was dead yesterday. I only made one contact, EA5BY (which I can hopefully add to my QSL collection as I don’t have a “BY” yet). I called CQ TEST for about ten minutes 3 kHz below EA5BY, but never got any replies.

LOTW. I don’t know what I did differently, but I just got the N3FJP ACLog program to upload my log to Logbook of the World (LOTW). Not only that, LOTW processed the upload in a matter of minutes. So, it looks like the ARRL folks really nailed those LOTW problems…at least for now.

There were four new entities in this latest upload, including Uganda, Oman, and Burundi. This brings my DXCC total up to 118 now, and that doesn’t include my contact with TX5K on Clipperton Is.

U-M ARC Net.  The University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club Net meets every Sunday night at 8pm on the W8UM repeater on 145.23 MHz. It can also be accessed via EchoLink (W8UM-R). It’s a very eclectic net, and you never know who will join us. One guy checks in from Honolulu, mainly to gloat about the weather. Another is  U-M astronomy professor, who sometimes checks in from Chile, when he’s working at a telescope facility down there.

Tonight, I put out a call on Twitter, and Flo, @WM6V joined us from Livingston, TX. Flo is the first of my followers to check in to the net as a result of my Tweets. That was pretty cool.