Operating notes: FAT, ragchews, newbies on 2m

FAT. I’ve added yet another station to my collection of QSOs with stations whose callsigns spell words. WA4FAT, who subscribes to my tip-of-the-week mailing list, volunteered to work me and did so on 40m this last week. Now, I’m waiting for the card.

Two nice ragchews. Last night, I had a couple of nice ragchews. The first was with Bill, WB4DB0. I’ve worked him several times, and it’s always been a nice conversation. Last night, I mentioned that I was going to a Civil War re-enactment on Monday, and as it turns out, he used to be a big Civil War buff.

Later on, I worked Steve, KF7YRL in Lame Deer, MT. On his QRZ.Com page, he says, “You may think you’re boring, but I don’t. I want to hear about your family, your career, your military service, your ham-life, your other hobbies, what it’s like where you live, or crazy stuff you’ve lived through. Give me something that helps me remember you.” Now that’s the attitude you should bring to a QSO. Talk about real stuff. Make it memorable.

During the course of our QSO, I mentioned that I’d written some study guides. This morning, I receive an e-mail from him. He says, “Great to meet you.  Got curious about your study guides, so I looked in my folder of ham stuff on my computer, and sure enough, the ones my bro had sent me a couple of years ago were yours.  High five on that effort.  Very nice guides.” It’s nice to make connections like that.

Newbies on 2m. Possibly the silliest situation we have in amateur radio is that nearly all newcomers buy 2m handhelds only to find that they can’t hit that many repeaters, there aren’t that many guys on 2m anymore, and the old farts that are on 2m won’t talk to them, anyway.

We should all try to do something about this. If you have a 2m radio in the shack, turn it on while you’re down there. If you here a guy give his call sign, return the call, even if you don’t recognize the callsign. You could be missing an interesting conversation, and you’re certainly missing a chance to improve amateur radio in your area.

Last night, I did just that. Shortly after turning on the rig, I heard “KD8YQZ listening.” I was putzing around with something and thought about not calling him back, but then decided that whatever it was I was doing, was certainly not important enough to not talk to this guy.

As it turned out, Tom had just passed the test at Dayton last Saturday, and his callsign appeared in the FCC database on Tuesday. How cool is that?

Shortly after we started talking Todd, KD8WPX, broke in and we started a round-robin QSO. These were two younger guys, and not only were they interested in amateur radio, but also in the local “maker” groups. I was able to point them in the right direction on both counts.

It was also an “Elmer” moment. I taught the about the courtesy tone and about round-robin QSOs. I hope that it was as positive an experience for both of those guys as it was for me.

What I want you to take away from this is that you should turn the radio on when you’re in your shack or out in the garage, and monitor the repeaters. Not only that, return the call when you hear someone come on. If you don’t, I don’t want to hear any complaints from you about how there’s no 2m activity anymore or how ham radio is getting to be just a bunch of old guys.

Should amateur radio operators know how to use the Internet?

My No-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide is available for free here on KB6NU.Com

My No-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide is available for free here on KB6NU.Com

Often, I get requests from hams teaching courses to print a number of copies of my No-Nonsense Technician Class Amateur Radio License Study  Guide. I normally reply that individuals are free to download and print the study guide if they like, but that I don’t usually give permission to print out many copies. There are a couple of reasons for this, the main one being that when individuals each download their own copies, I get a better indication of how many are actually using it.

Sometimes, they’ll come back and say that the reason they’re asking for permission to print copies is that some of the students aren’t very Internet-savvy, and that they may not know how to get on my website and download the study guide. That, of course, begs the question, “Should amateur radio operators know how to use the Internet?”

The NCVEC question pool committee obviously thinks so. There are a number of questions on the test about IRLP and EchoLink, both of which use the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to allow communications over the Internet.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it that folks want to use my study guide, and I will continue to make it free for as long as I continue to produce it. It seems to me, however, that knowing how to use the Internet is now a basic skill that every ham should have. That being the case, I’m going to continue to ask that teachers that want to use my study have their students download it from my website and not print copies for them.

From my Twitter feed: JT65, Shack Nasties, hashtags

@kb6nu The main program is JT65-HFhttps://t.co/Sz8ijw2m – also a handy add-on is jt-alert, found at http://t.co/MrpgL78X

#hamr m0xpd Shack Nasties is bookmarked and I like his sense of humor as a ham radio blogger including tech prowesshttp://t.co/vfxZllp6

http://t.co/nGCZt8nz ; Amateur “ham” radio hash tag proposal: #radio #cqdx #hamr_usa #hamr_world

From my Twitter feed – 11/15/12

 @ke9v: On this day in 1971 Intel released the world’s first single chip microprocessor, the 4004.http://t.co/3kPHrBbd


 @kQ2RP: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” – Thomas A. Edison http://t.co/IMnHbFa8


 @k9swx: I wish there was a ham radio rental company like @borrowlenses does for camera gear. Would love to try out a few things before buying.#hamr

On the Internet – cat sends Morse Code, IARU band plans, Tek gets with the program

Sorry about not posting much here lately beside the Extra Class questions of the day, but I’ve been pretty busy with my work and I really do Here are some more links to ham-related items on the Internet:

Cat sends Morse Code. I love cats, and while there are many videos of cute cats on the Internet, here’s one that shows a cat sending Morse Code. (Well, not really, but if you watch, you’ll see what I mean.) As I was watching this video, and then viewing a couple of other cute cat videos on this site, I noticed that my cat, Poochie, who was sitting on my lap, was intently watching the videos as well. That’s the first time that I’ve ever noticed that he was interested in what was going on on my computer screen.

IARU Region 2 band plans. A year from now, the IARU Region 2 General Assembly will take place.  On the agenda are new  Region 2 band plans.  These band plans set the framework on how we use our bands and what modes we use in specific frequencies. If you’re interested in this topic, this Web page contains information on the current band plan and the procedure that will be followed for updating them next year.

Tek hypes ham radio.Tektronix, the big test instrument manufacturer, has many hams working for them. Perhaps the most well-known is Alan, W2AEW. I’ve blogged about him before. He has produced a really great series of videos on YouTube. He’s now blogging on the Tektronix website, and his latest post is an introduction to amateur radio.

On the Internet: W2AEW videos, Raspberry Pi programming, classic radio

Here are a couple of Internet resources to start off the week:

W2AEW on YouTube. Alan, W2AEW, has a great selection of cool videos on YouTube. Some of the latest cover the basics of phase-locked loops, how to zero-beat WWV to check out a frequency counter’s accuracy, and a tutorial on resonant circuits. Good stuff!

Baking Pi – Operating Systems Development. This course, published by the University of Cambridge Computer laboratory, is a free online course that takes you through the basics of operating system development. The Web page notes, “[This course]  is aimed at people aged 16 and upwards, although younger readers may still find some of it accessible, particularly with assistance….I have tried not to assume any prior knowledge of operating systems development or assembly code. It may be helpful to have some programming experience, but the course should be accessible without.”

Classic Exchange. Mac, WQ8U, wrote to the Glowbugs mailing list, “The Classic Exchange (CX) is a low-key, on-air celebration of rigs of days gone by – particularly boat anchors. The latest CX Newsletter is available on the CX web site, as well as details for the next CX on September 16th (for AM and SSB) and September 23nd (for CW). Please enjoy the newsletter, spread the word and join in the fun during the next CX.”

Interesting stuff on the Internet – 8/27/12

Here’s some more interesting stuff that I’ve run across on the Internet:

  • HamInfoBar. This toolbar, which is available for Firefox, IE, Safari, and Chrome, give you easy access to a wide variety of net info, including callsign info, APRS station info, eQSL data, and electronic component data.
  • Area51 ham radio forum. Area51 is a set of bulletin boards. Some hams are trying to establish a ham radio forum there, but they need a minimum number of “followers” to do so. Click on the link and follow the forum.
  • Simple Ham Antennas. This ham-radio blog, written by KH6JRM, has some very specific content – all of the posts describe simple antennas that can be home-brewed. For example, the last three are a 40m – 10m loop antenna, a vertical antenna for 40/20/15/10m, and stealth antennas.

Interesting stuff on the Internet – 8/21/12

Here are three more interesting links that I’ve gleaned from the mailing lists and ham radio groups that I belong to:

  • G8MNY Technical Bulletins. G8MNY has been providing these technical bulletins over the packet network in Europe for many years. They were written by many different authors and cover many different topics including aerials, baluns, filters, microphones, and more.

These last two are from the LinkedIn amateur radio groups. If you’re on LinkedIn, send me a connect request and I’ll add you.

  •  Tubebooks.org. This site has PDFs of many older electronics books. Among them:Audels Radiomans Guide, Edwin P. Anderson, 1945, 880 pages
    An odd book, about 4-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ and a whopping 880 pages, “covering theory, construction, and servicing including television electronics”.  It covers everything from sounds waves through basic electronics, PA systems (including a little info on a WE theatre amp), transmitters, car and aircraft radio, troubleshooting – you name it, it’s in here.  Not a college text, this looks like it could be a handbook for the radio technician or advanced hobbyist of the 1940’s.  Lots of good vintage info!
  • Slim Jim antenna calculator & Slim  Jim information. I always thought that “Slim Jim” was just another term for J-pole. I was wrong. This site not only explains the difference, but has a calculator that lets you design your own. Now, I’m going to have to build one of these!

How do you feel about the political ads on QRZ.Com?

If you use QRZ.Com at all, you’ve probably noticed that they’ve started running a lot of political ads, namely ad criticizing President Obama. Now, I don’t have any insight into AA7BQ’s financial status, but I think running any kind of political ads on a ham radio site is just plain wrong. I’ve donated to QRZ.Com in the past, but I think if these political ads continue to run, I’m not going to contribute in the future.

What do you think?

Operating Notes: Twitter encourages CW operation?

I just finished a QSO with John, KR4RO. What is remarkable about this QSO is that it probably would not have occurred if we hadn’t first made contact on Twitter. John, who is @kr4ro on Twitter, and he and I follow one another there. Apparently, he saw my tweet (a tweet is a message posted to Twitter) that I was calling CQ on 7026 kHz and waited for my QSO with Vin, W1IDL to end and then called me.

John mentioned that he hadn’t been on CW for quite some time, and that he was kind of nervous. He did just fine, though, and I was very flattered that he would go out of his way like that to contact me.

I think more hams should use Twitter. It could open up a whole new world for hams. And, as my QSO tonight proves, it can even encourage some to get on CW, and as we all know, we can never have enough CW ops on the air. If  you already use Twitter, please follow me there. I’ll be certain to follow you back.

Speaking of W1IDL, my QSO with Vin was remarkable on several counts. First of all, there must have been some weird short skip going on because he was 599 plus 20 dB here in Ann Arbor, even though he was located barely 50 miles away.

Secondly, it was notable because we had such a great conversation, even though this was our first QSO. Right off the bat, he started asking me questions about Ann Arbor and what I did here. I looked him up on QRZ.Com and found out that he was also a Rotarian and asked him about the club he belonged to. All in all, it was a memorable QSO.