I’m a winner again!

Maritime QSO Party certificate

As you can see from the certificate above, I am a champion again. This time, I had the highest score from Michigan in the 2013 Maritime QSO Party. My score? 212, including a 200 point bonus for working the club station of one of the contest’s organizers. The other 12 points came from my four QSO points and three multipliers. The Maritime Contest Club didn’t publish a list of all the entries, but I gotta believe that I was the only one from Michigan.

Amateur radio in the news: Art Bell, Vietnam vet, amateur radio “Olympics”

Art Bell to make comeback with Sirius show about the paranormal. Art Bell, W6OBB, radio’s master of the paranormal and outward edges of science, will return to the microphone on Sept. 16 with a new nighttime show on Sirius XM Radio. Bell was one of radio’s top syndicated voices in the 1990s before walking away from his nightly show in 2002 due to family issues. He worked occasionally after that but hasn’t been on the air since Halloween 2010.

Learning on the fly: Kent’s Sealfon recalls the skills he learned in Vietnam after Army training. Life rarely goes as planned, and even the best training doesn’t prepare us for everything. If there’s one lesson Michael Sealfon learned during his yearlong tour in the Vietnam War, and the 40 years since, it’s that.

Operators prepare to host amateur ham radio ‘Olympics’. The World Championship of amateur ham radio is coming to Massachusetts next year, and local ham-radio operators were helping prepare for it by testing sites around the region this past weekend. “This is big international stuff, and Massachusetts is the one that’s hosting it,” said local ham radio operator Bob Reif. He helped set up a radio tower in Heald Street Orchard Friday morning to test the site for the competition. “It’s the Olympics of amateur radio.”

Over the weekend at KB6NU/WA2HOM: poor propagation and a jammed copier

Last Saturday was a real bust down at WA2HOM.

First of all, the weather’s been really overcast and rainy around here the past week or so. Saturday was no exception. We didn’t get a lot of rain, but it was overcast and dark all day.

Second, when I got down to the museum, I found that the relatively new keyer wouldn’t key the radio. I tried resetting the keyer, changing the keyer output (the WKUSB keyer has two different outputs), and some other things, all to no avail. Then, it occurred to me to change the batteries. I hadn’t thought about that right off because I could hear the sidetone OK. Anyway, changing the batteries worked like a charm, but I wasted at least 45 minutes goofing around with it.

As it turned out, I needn’t have bothered. The bands were so bad on Saturday, due to some kind of solar disturbance, I guess, that I only managed to eke out one contact.

Then, Tim, KT8K, showed up. No, that wasn’t a bad thing, but the weekend before, I’d been bragging about what a great station we had, with our three-element Yagi and all, and that he should come down and visit sometime. Well, of course, when he does make it down there, that bands were so dead, it wouldn’t have mattered much what kind of antenna we had.

Finally, just to add insult to injury, when I tried making copies of the brochure that I hand out, Getting Into Ham Radio, the copy machine jammed on me! This is only the second time that this has ever happened to me down at the museum.

Sunday, I fared much better. I pointed the beam southwest and made three really nice CW QSOs  with N5KY, KB5GXD, and KB0KIE. All three of them were just a few degrees of the beam heading, and all three had good signals. Morgan, KB0KIE, is just getting back into amateur radio and was a bit apologetic about his fist, but I told him not to worry. We need all the CW ops we can muster.

Sunday night, I got sucked into the RAC Canada Day contest. I got started late, and by that time, many of the contestants already had hundreds of contacts. That didn’t stop me from claiming and running a frequency for a while. I pulled the plug about 0315Z, with just over 1,000 points.

Field Day 2013: A low-key, high-Q affair

This year, Field Day was a low-key affair. One of the reasons for this—and I hate to admit this—is that I just wasn’t motivated to put all that much effort into it. So, when Tim, KT8K, suggested a two-man operation, I thought I’d give it a try.

We swapped several e-mails, trying to figure out how exactly to approach this. For example, one question was where to do this, his house or mine? Since Tim’s house is higher up than mine, and he has a better crop of antennas, we decided to do it at his house.

The next question was whether or not we’d run QRP (class 1B) or a more conventional class 1E. To run 1E, Tim would have to get his generator up and running. To operate class 1B QRP, we’d have to find some batteries and figure out a way to charge them with alternative power. (This year, the rules were changed so that to the the 5x multiplier for QRP contacts, you have to use some kind of alternative power.)

Even as late as Friday, we weren’t sure what source of power we were going to use. One of Tim’s co-workers volunteered to see if he could get the generator running. I took the small solar panel that Tim had and tried to charge a gel-cell with it.

I had no success with the small solar panel. If I’d been more motivated, and had thought twice about this, I could have probably found a more suitable solar panel. Indeed, after describing my travails, someone did volunteer a solar panel for next year, should we want it. This year, it was not to be, though.

Fortunately, Tim had more success with the generator. His co-worker cleaned out the gummy generator, and Saturday morning, Tim re-assembled it. The thing ran like a charm, and we were class 1E.

fd-2013-at-kt8k-450x360One order of business for me Saturday morning was to get acquainted with Tim’s Orion. That’s me above getting set up and finding my way around the rig’s controls.

The Orion is waaaay more transceiver than I’m used to operating. For one thing, it has two receivers. It’s a little quirky, too. Tim noted, for example, that the RIT never did work. After Tim’s instructions, I hooked up my Begali Simplex and Winkeyer, and racked up a bunch of QSOs. I was good to go.

For the first five hours, we swapped in and out every hour to hour and a half. About 7pm, I headed home for dinner, and to get some sleep. I returned about 2am to take the night shift, while Tim hit the sack. When he got up around 7:30, he once again took the controls, while I sacked out on his couch for a couple of hours. After that, we switched in and out again.

Overall, we made about 870 QSOs. While that’s pretty good, it was a little bit unsatisfying. We thought that we’d do better. We never really found the sweet spot, though. That is to say, we rarely found a frequency that we could run for very long.

Overall, though, it was a lot of fun, and I learned something about operating a radio with two receivers and the value of having two antennas that you can switch between while operating. It is kind of amazing, but with one antenna, a band can seem dead, while with another, it’s much more lively. Switching between Tim’s inverted vee and his vertical dipole allowed us to choose the better antenna for the operating conditions.

Next year, if we do this again, we really need to do more planning. If we had done a few more things beforehand, instead of just operating, we could have improved both our number of QSOs and our overall score, I think. These include:

  • Make a more concerted effort to charge a set of batteries with solar power. Like I noted above, we’ve already identified a beefier solar panel that we could use.
  • Do a little antenna work to improve the antennas. While the antennas we had worked well, Tim also had a loop antenna that had recently incurred some damage. If we could have gotten that up a little higher, that could have proved a valuable asset.
  • Invite more operators. In addition to Tim and I, Joe, N8OY, stopped over to operate some. He operated for a couple of hours or so, and made about 100 contacts. We would have been fresher, if we’d invited some other guys to join us. Might have had even more fun, too!
  • Work on some of the other bonus point opportunities. We didn’t even copy the fricking ARRL bulletin, for example.

From my Twitter feed: no code test, Contest U, iPhone sig gen

NO CODE TEST! If that don’t grab ‘em, I argue MIGHT AS WELL! Outreach according to http://www.dashtoons.com  #hamr #qrp pic.twitter.com/vAngtDNmmu

Matt MaszczakMatt Maszczak @rocknrollriter
For the new or newer op looking into contesting: http://www.arrl.org/news/view/dayton-contest-university-videos-available-on-youtube?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook …

Jacob BeningoJacob Beningo @Jacob_Beningo
Turn a Smart Phone into a Signal Generator | EDN http://www.edn.com/electrical-engineer-community/industry-blog/4416138/1/Turn-a-Smart-Phone-into-a-Signal-Generator … via @edncom

From my Twitter feed: Field Day, HackRF, intruders

AMATEUR RADIO FIELD DAY – GET OUT AND OPERATE: Field Day Is Just Around The Corner – Plan Now …http://t.co/crdHOFKEno

Who’s intruding #hamradio bands (and how)? The answer is blowing in the April @IARU_R1Monitoring System newsletter!http://t.co/Afp6XUScxH

Giving Away HackRF #sdrhttp://t.co/zxXnOyg4q2 #hamr #diy#electronics

From my Twitter feed: N1MM, good-looking hams, ham-radio growth

New Version 13.05.00 of #N1MM is available from website http://t.co/wtmm4Q8bj4 #hamr#hamradio #cqwpx #cqww #ure @ure_es

WHY HAMS SO GOOD-LOOKING? Miracle Mask secret coverup shockerhttp://t.co/ZVkrcQQsu8 #hamr #hamradio#RSGB #QRP #CQWW

Ham Radio Growing In The Age Of Twitter : NPR - #nerd #hamradio #hamr -http://t.co/4kZ1VJHDSS

From my inbox: 43 years of 73 magazine, SP DX contest, useless answer

I found these three items in my inbox this past week…Dan

73-apr-67-cover43 years of 73 on-line
Wayne Green has now released all back issues of 73 to the public domain. Although the last issue was published more than ten years ago, there’s still lots of good stuff to be found in them. You can download individual issues by going to archive.org. Indexes can be found on these web pages…

The first lists the contents of each issue. The second has direct links to the to the issues at archive.org.

The cover shown at right, a takeoff on MAD Magazine, is one of my favorite covers. Take a closer look at the soldering job Al Freddy is about to attempt. Click on the image to get a larger version if you can’t quite make it out.

Wayne Green actually published the first article that I ever wrote, “Assembling Robots with a TRS-80.” I was 23 or 24 at the time. It was published in Byte, arguably the first widely-read magazine for computer hobbyists. The article was a short one on how to program in assembly language on the TRS-80. It displayed a robot-like thing on the screen using the blocky graphics available on the TRS-80.


SP DX Contest actually wants my log
A month ago, I made a few contacts in the SP DX Contest. It was only 20 contacts or so, and I had meant to submit the log, but I soon forgot about it. Well, this morning, I go this e-mail:

The first review of logs received for the SP DX Contest 2013 shows that your callsign KB6NU apears in many logs. However you propably have not submitted your log.

The SP DX Contest took place during the first weekend of April (2013.04.06-07). This year we are celebrating 80th Anniversary of the SP DX Contest as it was organized for the first time in 1933. We would like to make the log checking process as accurate as possible. It will also be a honour for us to list your callsing in the final results.

We would kindly ask to send your log to the SP DX Contest Committee, even if you made only a few contacts, even if perhaps you are a causal contester.

Well, how can I refuse? I’ll have to do this as soon as I can get down to the museum again.


Useless answer department
I’ve been doing writeups for the product pages on AmateurRadioSupplies.Com. (Yes, that’s a plug for them, but they’re paying me to do these writeups, and they’re even advertising here on KB6NU.Com.) For the past week, I’ve been working on coax descriptions.

In doing this, one question that came up is why does marine grade coax have a white jacket? I e-mailed a question to Marinco tech support, and got the following answer, “It’s hard to say but I think it is to distinguish it  as marine grade vs. house cable.”

Seriously? That’s all there is to it? Does anyone know the real answer?

Think the bands are crowded during contests? You’re right.

While writing a post for Radio-Sport.net on the CQ WPX contest, I ran across this slide in a recorded webinar on rules changes for 2013:


I’m sorry about the quality of the slide, but that’s the best I could do. Even with the poor resolution, you can see that the number of logs that have been submitted for the CQ WPX have just about doubled in the last ten years. Nearly, 5,400 logs were submitted for the CQ WPX SSB contest last year, while more than 4,000 were submitted for the CQ WPX CW contest. These numbers do not include stations who participated in the contest in some way, but did not submit a log.

Want to get in on the action? Well, the RTTY and SSB contests are done for the year, but the CW contest is coming up on May 25-26, 2013.

Operating notes: MI QSO Party, Rookie Roundup

I started the weekend off by going to the ARROW monthly breakfast. I don’t know why, but attendance was way down this month. Only eight of us showed up. One notable presence was Sam, KC8QCZ. We hadn’t seen him for quite a while.

After breakfast, I had intended to make a ton of points in the Michigan QSO Party from the Hands-On Museum station. Instead of using WA2HOM, which would have only confused people, we used W8CWN, the former callsign of Dr. Richard Crane, a U-M physicist and the builder of some of the earliest exhibits at the museum.

Ed, AB8OJ, met me down there, but unfortunately, the propagation gods were not with us. 15m and 10m were completely quiet. 20m was a little better, but even there, conditions were only fair to poor. After about three hours, we just gave up with only 74 QSOs in the logbook.

As it turns out, all the activity was on 40m, and we still don’t have the 40m inverted V back up yet at the museum. I really should have made more of an effort to do this last fall. It’s the first thing on my list to do when (if?) the weather here warms up enough to get up on the roof.

Saturday evening, I did operate the MIQP from home for about three hours. Since I don’t have an 80m antenna, I stuck to 40m. I was thinking of trying 20m again, but there was so much activity on 40m, I didn’t bother to listen to 20m.

The propagation was very favorable for MIQP operation. Not only was the propagation long enough to contact the eastern half of the U.S., it was also short enough to make contacts in the neighboring states and many MI counties. I ended up making more than twice as many contacts at home as I did at the museum in roughly the same amount of time. I quit at just after 10pm with just over 40,000 points.

On Sunday, I went down to the museum again for a short time. 20m was still in pretty lousy shape, but I made a couple of CW  contacts, then went looking for the Rotarians on Amateur Radio net. I was again unable to find them, but I did log into the Heathkit Net right at the tail-end of that net.

I then tuned around a bit before pulling the plug. I found a couple of stations working the Rookie Roundup. One of them was working W6YX, the Stanford University Amateur Radio Club station. The other was a husband and wife team working the same station with both their calls. I thought that was pretty cool.