MI QRP Club 2014 Picnic

On Saturday, I ventured out to the wilds of Oakland County to join 11 other members of the Michigan QRP Club for the annual picnic. It was a lot of fun, and I even returned home with two prizes: one for the high score in the CW copying contest and a door prize–a very nice nice QRP balun kit. Here are some photos taken by K1ND from the picnic:

The whole group. In the front row areKB9YIG, KD8FCB, KU8H, W8XW, WA8THK, KJ8O, K8NWD, and KB8TXZ. In the front row are K1ND, AB8DF, KD8QNZ, and KB6NU.

The whole group. Back row: Bob, KB9IVA; Ned, KD8FCB; Bill, KU8H; Ernie, W8XW; Perry, WA8THK; Joe, KJ8O; Tim, K8NWD; and Jim, KB8TXZ. Front row: Jan, K1ND; Ed, AB8DF; Ric, KD8QNZ; and Dan, KB6NU.

Mike, W8XW, and yours truly. The cap is my prize for winning the CW copying contest.

Mike, W8XW, and yours truly. The cap Mike’s holding is my prize for winning the CW copying contest.

AB8DF at the controls of WQ8RP. KU8H looks on.

AB8DF at the controls of WQ8RP. KU8H and W8XW look on.

I'm not sure what we're all looking at here, but it must have been funny.

I’m not sure what we’re all looking at here, but it must have been funny.

I had a great time at the picnic and plan to attend next year. Maybe I’ll meet you there.

From my Twitter feed: HF receivers, voltage reference, FDIM

ke9v
A History of HF Receivers | Smoke Curlshttp://t.co/A2uHc38mic #hamr

 

dangerousproto
Erl’s voltage referencehttp://t.co/X0MOESc8BO

I need to build one of these……Dan

 

qrparciFDIM 2013 (Dayton) – Full seminar schedule now online http://t.co/9eWdTI0FEx #hamr#qrp #hamvention

I’ll be attending FDIM. If you see me, say hi….Dan

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: Hacking a ham radio, KX3 video, sleeping cat

This is very cool…

Radio_2_Radio
Amateur Radio: Hacking a Ham Radio http://t.co/n2FIT4J56U

Build a KX3 in a minute

dl2ymr
You can watch a Video on youtube about building the #Elecraft #KX3 http://t.co/aGVscI5L0B

Who doesn’t like cats? I used to have a cat that slept like this.

socketwench
?????-Sunny spot and Maru.-:http://t.co/PNUd4aM4kS #cats

From my Twitter feed: QRP rigs, logging program, SW digital text

DTL
@Stefano_NVR Have you seen G3XBM’s simple transceivers? https://t.co/egG5MtYKcan mod to be on other band than 10m.

These really do look like fun little projects.  The G3BXM website has lot of other cool stuff, including a one-transistor regen receiver project and reviews of the QRP gear that G3BXM uses.

 

OY3JE
Check out DX Logger, looks to be an excellent logbook for portable use etc.http://t.co/fQDPKOWn #hamr #dx

A friend and I had talked about doing something like this several years ago. Kudos to the DXLogger people for actually doing it!

 

More shortwave digital text (and the reason behind it) http://t.co/M50ed1tO
Interesting idea. I guess if amateur radio operators can use digital modes, why shouldn’t broadcasters? I’m still wondering exactly what they’d send, though.

Dayton 2012: Another great ham radio experience

Dayton 2012 TicketMy Dayton experience started at 3:45 am Thursday morning. That’s when I had to get up so that I could make it to the Fairborn Holiday Inn in time for the first session of this year’s Four Days in May (FDIM). FDIM is a one-day conference put on by the QRP Amateur Radio Club International and is a great way to start the “Dayton experience.”

There were somewhere between 300 and 400 attendees at this year’s event, and we were treated to six very fine presentations. They included talks on using microcontrollers for various projects, software-defined radio, VHF and UHF for QRPers, homebrewing with “hollow state” devices (more commonly known as tubes), using open-source electronic design tools, and operating pedestrian mobile. The two talks that I enjoyed the most were “Hollow State (Thermatron) Homebrewing” by Grayson, TA2ZGE/KJ7UM and “Leveraging Free and Open Source Tools in Homebrewing” by Jason, NT7S.

Two things about TA2ZGE’s talk stood out for me.  First, was his method for homebrewing tube circuits. What he does is to take a Dremel tool and create pads on a bare piece of circuit board material, including pads that you can solder a tube socket to. Using this breadboard, you can create prototypes “Manhattan” style. Second, was the list of online resources. I’ll post those in another blog post. Grayson’s talk has certainly given me the incentive to use those “tubs of tubes” as I’ve been threatening to do now for several years.

Jason’s talk was about how he used open-source design tools to create his latest kit, the OpenBeacon, a crystal-controlled QRPp beacon transmitter. There are more out there than I realized. I’m thinking of asking Jason if he would be interested in expanding his paper into a small book that I could publish for him.

Thursday evening, they had their normal show and tell and vendor night. At this event, those selling kits and keys set up shop in the ballroom. Jason was selling his kits and the Four States QRP club had some of their kits there, too. I don’t know how much, if anything, they charge the vendors, but perhaps next year, I’ll take some of my books. They’re not exactly the right audience for them, but perhaps they’ll buy them for friends and family.

Friday morning, I got up early again, so that I could make the 7:30am bus to the Hamvention. We arrived about 8:00 am, just as the gates were opening. The first thing that I did was to head to the FAR Circuits tent, which is–as the name implies–at the far end of the flea market. There, I made my first purchases, a board to make a regenerative receiver and one to make an audio breakout box.

The rest of the day was a combination of wandering the aisles of the flea market, fighting the crowds inside the arena, attending the odd seminar, and meeting people that I know. One of the guys I ran into was Dennis, KT8K. He asked me what I thought was this year’s flea market “theme.” Every year, he says, there is always an abundance of one type of equipment or model of radio.

He’s right, too. One year, for example, I saw a dozen or more Icom IC-735s. This year, I saw none. Oddly enough, this year I saw a lot of Swan transceivers and DX-60 transmitters. There were also lots of more modern transceivers for sale, too. I even saw a K3 for sale, although by the time I got to it, it had been sold.

Another fellow that I ran into was Ed, N4EDT. I probably wouldn’t have stopped to speak to him, but he was wearing a shirt with the Rotarians on Amateur Radio (ROAR) logo on it. I introduced myself to him, and we had an interesting discussion about what kind of service project that ROAR might want to start. Since he is the Assistant Director for Education for the ARRL’s Southeastern Division, he was advocating a local project. I, on the other hand, still favor an international project that would promote amateur radio in a developing country. We also talked about possibly having a ROAR booth at Dayton next year.

By the time, 4:30 pm rolled around, I was pretty hot and tired. Temperatures topped 80 degrees, and on the blacktop surface of the flea market, temperatures were undoubtedly higher. I was happy to get on the bus and head back to the hotel.

Saturday, was pretty much the same story, except it was even hotter. The temperature almost hit 90 degrees. I didn’t bring any sunscreen, either, so I got a little rosy.

I ran into some people that I knew that had just come down for the day, or perhaps that I’d missed the day before. One guy I ran into at the Ohio Repeater Council booth, pulled out his new Elecraft KX-3 and gave me a quick demo. It’s actually quite a cool, little radio. I’m still saving up for a K-3, though.

One forum that I attended on Saturday was the Drake forum. The room was packed with people still keeping alive their old Drake equipment. The reason that I attended was I have a friend who recently was given some Drake C-Line equipment. He wants to find a good home for them. After attending this forum, I’m now thinking about buying it from him and using them in my station. I know that if I ever have any trouble, I’ll have plenty of guys out there who can help me.

After the Drake forum, I went to the food court for a slice of pizza and a glass of beer. Seating is catch as catch can, so I shared a table with several other hams. This is great because you get to meet all kinds of different people.

This year, an older gentleman sat down next to me with his beer. We got to chatting, and as it turned out, this was his 55th straight year attending the Dayton Hamvention! He started going before it was even held at Hara Arena, and even after they moved to Hara, they didn’t use the entire facility as they do now. I’m really glad that I got to speak with him.

So, what did you buy?
I didn’t really go down to Dayton with much of a shopping list. My short list included more PowerPole connectors, the circuits boards I mentioned earlier, and I was going to buy a mic boom for WA2HOM. I got the connectors and circuit boards, but decided against the boom.

I did pick up a bunch of other little stuff including some strain reliefs, more clamp-on ferrite cores, a paddle pad from Vibroplex ($1) to keep the paddle down at the museum from sliding around, and some tube sockets! One of the vendors there had a box of tube sockets that they were selling for a quarter apiece or five for a dollar. I picked out five and paid the lady, and as I was walking away, I decided that they were such a good deal that I went back and bought five more.

My biggest purchase was NT7S’s OpenBeacon QRSS transmitter. It cost me $40. It looks like a very nice kit, and I’m hoping to be on 30m QRSS shortly with it. The nice thing about this transmitter is that it has a microcontroller that lets it transmit DFCW and Hellschreiber, in addition to CW. It should be fun to both build and operate.

I almost bought a K3. I stopped by the Elecraft booth and picked up an order sheet, but decided against it. If they had been offering more than a $50 show discount (<2%), I might have gone for it, but that just wasn’t enough incentive.

Too rich for my blood
In other news, both Kenwood and FlexRadio both introduced new radios at Dayton. Perhaps the most buzz was around the Kenwood TS-990. Of course, they didn’t really have a working model. There’s not even any information on the Kenwood USA website.

What they did have was a mockup under a Plexiglass cover. In addition to being incredibly expensive, the radio is huge! I heard someone joke that to produce this radio, Kenwood is going to have to corner the market on buttons and knobs. If you’ve seen the photo in QST (which was allegedly produced with Photoshop), you’ll know what I mean.

The other radio with a bit of buzz is the new FlexRadio FLEX-6000. For the past couple of weeks, the FlexRadio website was proclaiming that this radio was going to be a game changer. Perhaps it is, but at $6,000+, this radio is out of my league, and too expensive for the majority of radio amateurs. That being the case, I really don’t know what all the buzz is about.

I’m sure that the TS-990 and the FLEX-6000 are both great radios, but I think that the law of diminishing returns applies here. At some point, are you really getting $6,000 or $12,000 of fun out of the radio? I don’t think that I would.

Well, that’s it. Another Dayton Hamvention is in the bag. It was a lot of fun, and I’m already looking forward to next year. In addition to possibly participating with other Rotary Club members in a ROAR booth, I’m thinking about pushing for an adult education forum. I think that’s something that’s both needed and would be popular. I’ll just have to make sure to leave enough time to hit the flea market and grab some more tube sockets or coax or whatever.

QRP ARCI aims to make accessible kits

QRP ARCIIn January, the QRP Amateur Radio Club International challenged their members to come up with a kit that would be buildable by those with physical disabilities. The original deadline was this year’s Four Day’s in May, held in conjunction with the Dayton Hamvention.

Yesterday, however, they decided to extend the deadline to next year’s FDIM. In an e-mail sent to various QRP mailing lists, Ken Evans, W4DU, QRP-ARCI president says:

Since issuing the challenge, we have received feedback from a number of sources stating that a four month timeline was overly optimistic to perform all the needed steps to develop such a kit.  We have discussed various alternatives and have decided to extend the timeline.  The rules will stand as initially stated, however this will be a special category at FDIM 2013.  Thus giving a full year for the development and design effort.

Complete rules can be found on the QRP-ARCI’s Accessibility Challenge page.

Australia on 5 watts and a wire

by Alfred Gruenke PE, KB3JPP

VK2GWKIt was a cold and rainy February evening in suburban Wescosville, Pennsylvania. It was “tween” time, the time between the Super Bowl and the opening of baseball Spring Training.  This is when physical and mental activity in general slow down. February is, in general, a pretty useless month. Other than a few exceptions, it’s usually cold, wet, and miserable. The month just doesn’t have much going for it. For years I’ve been advocating going from January directly to March, skipping February entirely. However, my voice of reason has been a mere cry in the wilderness, drowned out by the forces of darkness and disparagement.

It was early Friday evening and I was home recovering from surgery.  My recovery left me with a lot of time to spend on my favorite leisure activity, globe trotting with my Elecraft K1. I fired up my ICOM IC-746PRO and the K1, Ham Radio Deluxe and QRZ.com on the computer. Then I went hunting for DX on 20 meters. Utilizing two receivers really makes a difference when Dxing; monitor one QSO while searching with the other. My antenna is a mere 52 ft. G5RV Junior 25 feet above the ground.

Up and down the band, I would listen to a station, check if I had worked that country or state, and then skip to another. This went on for some time. Then I heard it! A VK prefix! Any prefix that starts with the letter V (other than VE or VA) will get my attention since it’s sure to be a pretty exotic DX. I listened for a while to verify the call, “VK2GWK”. I checked the call on QRZ.com. Yup, that’s Australia! I’d already worked VK land with 100 Watts, so I thought I’d give it a go with the K1, QRP.

After finishing his QSO he called, “CQ, CQ de VK2GWK”, and I responded. He came back, “KB3???”. I did a fist pump and repeated my call. Again he sent “KB3???”.  I repeated my call about three or four times, after which he had my call correct. My RST was a mere 339, but, as they say, a slight ripple in the cosmic ether is better than no ripple at all. His RST was a very respectable 579

VK2GWK is Henk Tobbe, New South Wales, Australia.  It’s a few miles up the coast from Sidney and 9.776 miles from Wescosville, or 1,995 miles per watt. Not bad. A few watts go a long way! I intend to apply for another 1,000 miles per watt award. Henk has a rather sophisticated website which allowed me to download an electronic QSL card. It’s nice, but I’d rather have a real card in my hand. Call me old fashioned. Besides, I don’t know if an electronic card is valid for any awards.

I don’t know if I was just lucky or whether the long-promised sun spots are coming back, but my QRP QSOs have been increasing lately. So far, I have confirmed QRP QSOs with 38 states and 62 countries. I’ve had QSOs with Oman, Nigeria, and Kiritimati, but this one is the most memorable. Just think of it, Australia, with only five watts and a wire!

Ham Radio in the News – August 22, 2011

When Pigs Fly. A blog posting by a reporter—who also happens to be a ham radio operator—on the art of QRPing.

70 years of ribbing, hamming and wedded bliss. Bob and Dorothy Truhlar attribute their long marriage to a healthy sense of humor, as well as a clear division of duties, and a common interest in ham radio. And, they both admit, a bit of blackberry brandy every now and then doesn’t hurt.

Ham radio verification cards on exhibit at Harford Community College. This exhibit features QSL cards as examples of an “operator’s personality and home life.”

Got My Mojo Workin’, Well Mostly Working, Anyway

Elecraft owners joke about the Elecraft mojo. Sometimes it seems as though the radios are imbued with a certain magic and get through when others don’t.

Here’s an example from yesterday night. I fired up the KX-1 and tuned around for a bit, and after about ten minutes, I heard Derek, WB0TUA, calling CQ. He was S9 on the KX-1 S-meter, so I thought I’d give him a call. He replied, giving me a 589 report! Not bad for a radio running only 3W. And, as it turns out, Derek was running a new K3.

It turns out that we had a lot to talk about, and we had a great contact for more than a half hour. First of all, he was a graduate of the University of Michigan. (Ann Arbor, where I live, is the home of U-M).

Second, he’s a member of the Morse Telegraph Club, a group devoted to the practice of American Morse, the type of Morse Code used on landlines across the U.S. I used to belong to that group, and have it on my list to learn American Morse one of these days.

Now, I get to the part where the mojo didn’t come through for me. After our QSO, I heard a bunch of DX stations calling CQ, most notably RA6EE. RA6EE is located in Cherkessk, which is not very far from the Georgian border. QRZ.Com calculates that he’s about 5,600 miles away.

Alas, no matter how many times I tried, he just couldn’t hear me. I guess I’m going to need a better antenna in addition to that Elecraft mojo.