Amateur radio in the news: Hurricanes, North Korea, advanced communications

hurricane_symbol_blueHam radio still part of hurricane center arsenal. Amid the high-tech computers, satellite dishes and sophisticated equipment at the National Hurricane Center is a HAM radio operator station, somewhat hidden in a back office. It might seem like it’s akin to placing a teletype on a space shuttle. But when hurricanes form, the amateur radio station cranks up and receives weather information from HAM operators in the affected areas. Their observations help the forecasters in Miami-Dade County better judge a storm’s strength or position and issue more precise warnings.

ARRRRGHHHH. Someone please tell this reporter that “ham” is not capitalized!!

Ham radio operators hope to put North Korea on the air. A group of amateur radio operators are hoping to get permission from the North Korean government for a month-long trip to the country during which they’ll set up a ham radio operation. If they manage to pull off the plan, they’ll have succeeded where few have before. North Korea has no amateur radio operators and government-sanctioned transmissions by foreigners in the country are extremely rare. This makes North Korea the rarest country for contacts in the amateur radio world.

Can you imagine what a pileup this operation–if they can get permission–is going to generate?? 

NIST and NTIA announce plans for new advanced communications center. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced plans to establish a national Center for Advanced Communications in Boulder, Colo. The new center will implement a key provision of a memorandum President Obama issued earlier today on “Expanding America’s Leadership in Wireless Innovation.”

This sounds like something that the ARRL should keep an eye on.

Amateur radio tip of the day: DXers have their own set of phonetics

While it’s always appropriate to use the standard NATO phonetics, DXers have their own set of phonetics. For example, you will often here “Mexico” instead of “Mike” or “Honolulu” instead of “Hotel.” This is especially true in DX contests. So, if a DX station doesn’t seem to understand the NATO phonetics, give the “DXer phonetics” a try.

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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?

Operating Notes: DX @WA2HOM, 4/25/13

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is open Thursday evenings, but from September though April I bowl on Thursday nights, so never get to take advantage of that.  We’ve finished for the year now, though, so yesterday, I walked down to the museum and put WA2HOM on the air for a couple of hours.

One of my first contacts was with Marco, IZ8LJZ. The contact itself was the standard DX contact, i.e. short and kind of boring, but when I looked him up on QRZ.Com, I found this photo below. What a lovely spot!

Marco, IZ8LJZ lives in Praiano, on the beautiful Amalfi Coast.

Marco, IZ8LJZ lives in Praiano, on the beautiful Amalfi Coast.

20m was open to Europe, so I made several more DX contacts before I left for the day. One of them was with Tom, G3HGE. We were both 599, and we had a not-so-normal DX contact, chatting for nearly 30 minutes.

Tom’s QRZ page said that he used to be a manufacturer of amateur radio gear, so earlier today, I Googled him. As it turns out, Tom was the man behind TW Electronics, a manufacturer of VHF gear from 1958 – 2000. There’s a nice history of the company on the TW website.

Now in his 80s, Tom now makes paddles and bugs. I don’t know if he’d like this comparison, but you might call him the “English Begali.” His latest creation, the TW Olympic shown below is a dual-lever bug that uses magnetic tension. He was using this bug for our QSO, and it sounded great. I’m already thinking that maybe I could get the XYL to put that on my Christmas list.

The TW Olympic is a two-lever "bug" that uses magnetic tension and has a speed range of 14 - 28 wpm.

The TW Olympic is a two-lever “bug” that uses magnetic tension and has a speed range of 14 – 28 wpm.

WA2HOM Operating Report: Toad Suck, counties, Polish DX

I had a blast down at WA2HOM today.

One of my first contacts was with W5STR, the club station for the Small Town Amateur Radio Service (STARS), a club in Arkansas. The club was operating from a campground in Toad Suck, AK. Yes, you read that right–the place they were operating from is named Toad Suck, a place that a recent poll says has the “most unfortunate name” in the U.S.

As you may know, I’m a sucker (pun intended) for odd place names. That being the case, I had to find out how Toad Suck got its name. According to their website:

Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend lives on.

I love it.

og3077f_back_1_

Next, I worked Heikki, OG3077F. On his QSL card, found on QRZ.Com and shown above, Heikki says, “I applied for this special callsign to commemorate my contacts with all 3,077 U.S. counties, all on CW, which took me 24 years to complete. I started chasing U.S. counties in 1987, which I met Bud, W0UBT, in Minnesota. He gave me the USA County Record Book, as a gift, and upon my return to Finland, I started to fill it up. Many thanks to all of my local and international county hunter riends for all of your support throughout all of these years.”

Finally, I worked 20 stations in the Polish DX contest. One of the stations I worked was SP9ATE, whose QSL card will be a nice addition to my collection of QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words. I almost worked SP9GEM, but after many attempts to get him to copy my callsign, he gave up and went on to the next QSO.

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.

Operating Notes: Africa, four new countries, JT65

Operating notes from the last couple of days:

Africa
I finally worked the 5X8C DXpedition in Uganda Thursday night on 40m. They must have worked nearly everyone that’s wanted to work them because they were actually calling CQ. I got them on the second or third call.

On Friday night, after the DX contest had started, I worked 9U4U DXpedition in Burundi on 30m. I thought this a bit odd because I would have thought they would be operating the contest, but apparently not. That made it much easier for me to work them. They were actually calling CQ, and I was able to get them on the second call.

Three new countries for WA2HOM
Yesterday, I went down to WA2HOM. I hadn’t really intended to participate in the ARRL CW DX contest, but after making a couple of phone contacts, I couldn’t resist tuning around to see how conditions were. As it turned out, conditions were pretty good on 10m and 15m. Ii was able to add four new countries (errrrrr, DXCC entities) to the WA2HOM log:

  • New Zealand: ZL3IO, 15m.
  • Peru: OA4SS, 15m
  • Senegal: 6V7S, 10m

@kb6nu
I’m @kb6nu on Twitter and enjoy tweeting about my operating activities there. Several of my followers have said that they enjoy reading my reports. One night last week, after complaining about not getting any replies to my CQs, @VA5LF saw that tweet, fired up his rig, and came back to me. We were having a nice chat until his QRN level jumped.

A lot of the guys on Twitter seem to enjoy working JT65. I’m going to have to look into that.

Operating Notes: “?” is not a proper response to QRL?

Random notes about my recent operations:

  1. “?” is not a proper response to QRL?

    Last night, someone responded to my call of QRL? with a question mark.  This is not the first time that this has happened. This is not a proper response. Let me repeat that. This is not a proper response. How the heck is the station sending QRL? supposed to respond to that?

  2. “?” is a proper response to a CQ.

    I also got that last night. Generally, that means that I’m sending too fast for the station to copy my call. (Hopefully, they were able to understand the CQ part.) When I hear a question mark after my CQ, I slow down so that the other station can copy my call. Doing so has resulted in several nice QSOs, including the one with N0JTE last night.

  3. EAs on 30m.
    On the evening of January 25, I worked 3 EAs in a row on 30m:

    • EA8BLV
    • EA2SS
    • EA2DPA

    It’s really not all that unusual for me to work EAs on 30m, but it was unusual to work three in a row. Also, I didn’t really hear any other Europeans on that night, and it’s been a while since 30m has been open to Europe.

  4. Dit, W8IX.
    A couple of days later, I worked Dit, W8IX. First of all, it was remarkable because of his nickname. It isn’t a result of his affinity for Morse Code, but because his last name is Ditmer. The second remarkable thing about the QSO is that Dit now has the callsign W8IX because it’s the call of his Elmer, the original W8IX. The original W8IX worked a spark-gap transmitter back in the day! You can read the story on W8IX’s QRZ.Com page.

Operating Notes – 10/23/12

  1. 10m has been open for the past couple of days. Last night, I worked Hiro, JH0INP from here at my home QTH, using only my loop antenna. He gave me a 559 report. Of course, I’m sure that his seven-element tribander had something to do with that report. :)
  2. I seem to work DX in bunches. Of my last nine QSOs here at home, seven have been DX contacts. W4UTI and W3PX are the two rare domestic QSOs. This evening, I worked I8SAT on 30m. My last contact with him was way back in May 2003.
  3. Pet peeve: stations that respond to my CQ with only their callsigns. I know that this has become standard operating procedure for contests and even DX operation these days, but I’m not having any part of it when it comes to normal operation. If a station sends only his call sign, I either reply with QRZ? or with just a question mark. It’s not just the new ops doing it, either. Some of the guys who are starting to do this are old-timers.

Olympic special event station on the air

2012L - the London Olympics special event station

The London Olympics special event station, 2012L, is on the air. Says the website,

The call sign of the London Flagship Amateur Radio Station celebrating the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. This unique amateur radio special event radio station is based at the Royal Greenwich District Scouts Activity Centre in New Eltham, south-east London. Eltham is in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, one of the six “host boroughs” for the Games.

We plan to make at least 60,000 contacts during the seven weeks of round the clock operation. The first contact was made on the afternoon of Wednesday 25th July, when the first Games football event took place in Cardiff. Operation will continue until the end of the Paralympics on Sunday 9th September.

They have been apparently generating huge pileups, especially on 20m. I’m hoping to work them before they close down.

UPDATE
GW0RYT informs me via Twitter that there is also an Olympic special event station, 2012W, in Wales.