A VOIP Contest??

In my e-mail just now, I got the following:

Hi , Daniel

My name is Rick, and my call sign is XXXX. I’ve been a contester since 2004 when I became a ham, and I love it!

I wanted you to see this information from a friend of mine, Trippy, about a new contest that will be held in March of this year! I will be in it myself, and I hope to work you in it.

Please tell every contester you know about this new contest. I look forward to working you!

73,

Rick, XXXX
PS, contest letter and announcement from Trippy to you, is below

There were several problems with this e-mail. First of all, there was no attachment. Second, this was obviously spam. I don’t know Rick or Trippy, nor have I ever worked them on the air. Third, I just can’t excited about a CQ100 contest.

Here’s my reply:

Hello, Rick–

First, there was no attachment.

Second, as I hope you know, CQ100 isn’t really a new mode. It’s a computer program that simulates amateur radio contacts using the voice over Internet protocol (VOIP).

I’m not one of those OFs (old farts) who gets all hot and bothered about the use of VOIP in ham radio. I use EchoLink when it’s appropriate and feel that it does have a place in ham radio. Having said that, I just can’t get very excited about a “contest” that takes place over a VOIP network, especially one that you have to pay for! Operating a “contest” over VOIP is like shooting fish in a barrel.

If you’re having fun with CQ100, more power to you. I think, however, that you’ll have a lot more fun by actually radiating some RF energy of your own.

73!

Dan KB6NU

What do you all think?

ARROW’s September Construction Project

Every September, our ham radio club, ARROW, does a construction project. In the past, we’ve done a keyer kit, J-Pole antennas, and other small projects that you can complete in an evening.

Bare Bones BoarduinoThis year, we’ve decided to build a low-cost version of the Arduino microcontroller called the Bare Bones Boarduino, from Modern Device. This is a pretty good introductory soldering project.

What’s an Arduino (or Freeduino)? It’s an open source microcontroller board that is cheap ($11), and fairly easy to program from Linux, a Mac, or even Windows. You program it in “C”, and there are libraries other folks have written to let you do things like run servos, blink LEDs, and so on. The Bare Board Boarduinos use the ATmega328Phave processor and have 32k flash memory and 2k of RAM.

What can you do with an Arduino or Boarduino? Well, you can check out the Arduino website for ideas.

In addition, the September/October 2009 issue of QEX contains a story on how to use the Boarduino to build a keyer. I don’t really need another keyer, but that article, coupled with an idea gleaned from the Ten-Tec-Omni-VII mailing list has given me an interesting use for the Boarduino, I think.

The mailing list thread discussing the 610 got my creative juices flowing is the thread discussing the elusive Ten-Tec 610 Remote Keyer. I say “elusive” because if you search the Ten-Tec website for information on this product, all you’ll find is a press release that says it will cost $169 and that it will be available sometime in 2009. There are no product specifications or photos to be found anywhere.

This dearth of information has, of course, led to a lot of speculation about what it will do and what it won’t do. Carl, N4PY, seems to have the most information on this product. He writes:

This keyer will interface through a USB port and become an additional keyboard for the computer. Paddles will plug into it and operating the paddles will cause the 610 keyboard to send characters to the application that has the focus just as though the characters were typed on a regular keyboard. There will also be a provision to add the Ten-Tec remote tuning pod to this device. Turning the knob left or right will cause certain special characters to be sent to the application that has the focus. The application will realize a right turning or left turning operation from the 610 keyboard and take appropriate action. So all programming will simply look at the receiving characters to figure out what to do.

This all sounds very cool, but $169 seems kind of steep. I’m guessing that I could program the Boarduino ($10 hardware cost, plus the cost of some kind of USB port) to interface to my computer so that I could use paddles instead of a keyboard for text input. Wouldn’t that be cool?

My iMac currently uses a USB keyboard, so I’m guessing (hoping?) that I won’t have to write a driver for the Mac end. Anyone know where I can find interfacing information for the Mac USB port?

More Sweet Tweets

Here are some more links to interesting Web pages I found by Twittering:

  • N3OX’s Remote Tuner Control. N3OX has added some servo motors and controls to a manual antenna tuner so that he can move it closer to the antenna, but still control it from inside the shack. Very inexpensive solution.
  • Band Plans for 900 MHz and Above. KB9MWR feels that the future of ham radio is above 900 MHz. I don’t know that I totally agree, but I do think we need to start thinking more about those bands. Give this a read.
  • Morse Code vs. Text Messaging. Chas Sprague, who’s not a ham, ruminates on how Morse Code could make text messaging more efficient. I wholeheartedly agree! Someone get this man his ham ticket.
  • Ham Logging as a Service. There’s been a lot of twittering about this KE9V blog post. I like the idea myself, and if I had more time, I might even take a crack at it. Anyone want to collaborate?
  • Planning a Digital ATV Station. After pondering a digital ATV station for the museum, I opted to go analog. If I’d seen this article first, I might have opted to stick it out and go digital.

Free EM Simulator Available As Download

From Microwaves&RF:

By Jack Browne

Sonnet Lite Release 12 from Sonnet Software is now available for free download. The no-charge three-dimensional (3D) planar electromagnetic (EM) simulator is an excellent training and learning tool for those new to the analysis capabilities of EM simulation software. It is a fully functional software program based on the company’s full-featured Sonnet Professional Suite of EM analysis and simulation software tools. Sonnet Lite can be used as a stand-alone program or within the Advanced Design System (ADS) environment from Agilent Technologies or the Microwave Office environment from Applied Wave Research (AWR).

According to Shawn Carpenter, Vice President of Worldwide Marketing and Sales for Sonnet, “We’re proud to provide a leading-edge ‘virtual prototyping’ tool for the student and experimenter in high-frequency planar circuits, packages, and antennas. Sonnet maintains our commitment to students and learners through free access to top-notch high-frequency electromagnetic software.” The planar EM software is ideal for performing transmission-line or discontinuity analysis and is available for free download from the Sonnet Software web site.

Unfortunately, it won’t run on my Mac.

Hot Amateur Programs…..To Go!

WD6CNF has a number of cool-looking programs on his website – hotamateurprograms.com. Most of them are Vista-compatible, and they are all available for free, including:

  • CW Decoder
  • Audio Spectrum Analyzer
  • Audio Generator/Audio Spectrum Analyze
  • Digital Voice Keyer
  • Simple Windows Packet Controller
  • DSP Audio Filter
  • Instrument Tuner
  • Dual Channel Oscilloscope
  • Dual Function Generator

I plan to download and try out the CW decoder at the museum. It would be nice to have a program that will display what’s being sent and received while I am working CW there.

If any of you do download and try out some of these programs, please comment below.

Dog Park Offers Free Software

Dog Park Software is now offering two packages free of charge:

The catch is that they’re unsupported.

MacMemoriesManager doesn’t support my IC-746PRO, so I haven’t tried it. I haven’t downloaded the iSpectrum Audio Analyzer yet, either, but it looks like it could be a nice addition to my shack if it will work on my G4 MacBook.

ShackBox

ShackBox is an all-in-one CD for amateur radio operators. Shackbox claims to include programs that will allow you to:

  • control rigs and scanners,
  • design antennas,
  • design PCBs,
  • etc., etc. etc.

The feature that attracted my attention is that it will run on Macs. Unfortunately, it only runs on the newer Intel Macs, and I only have an old G4 in the shack.

New Year’s Resolutions

I know it’s pretty dopey to do New Year’s resolutions, but I’m going to do it anyway. Maybe if I list them, I’ll actually get some of them done this year.

  • Build more. High on my list of things to build is “A Simple Regen for Beginners.” I even have the PC board already. I’d also like to try some of the receivers described by George, G3RJV, at the two Four Days in May that I’ve attended.
  • Put up that 80m loop antenna. I’ve been saying that I”m going to do this for a couple of years now.
  • Get on 900 MHz. I’m throwing in an easy one. I’ve already sent off the check to get a 900 MHz radio so that I can get on the repeater here in Ann Arbor. Over and above just getting on, though, I want to explore some digital communications possibilities.
  • Work on some Mac software projects. It shouldn’t be too hard to come up with some simple ham radio software that will run on the Mac.

Mac Logging Programs

Last October, I purchased a used, iBook G4 Mac laptop and promptly started looking for logging programs. I found one that was kind of expensive (MacLoggerDX); one that was free, but didn’t want to work so well (RUMLog); and one that worked OK and cost somewhere in between the first two (Aether).

I ended up purchasing Aether, but was never very happy with it. For one thing, it took forever to do any kind of sort or look up previous QSOs. Another pain was that it carried over none of the information from the previous contact, so you had to enter all of the information from scratch, even if you didn’t change frequencies or bands. It also had an odd way of doing notes about a contact, and I was disappointed to find out that it didn’t import the notes from the ADIF file I created from the N3FJP logging program I used previously. Since I had paid for it, though, I was reluctant to just dump it.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I’d had enough and decided to start searching again. Since RUMLog was still free, I decided to give the new version (v 3.0, March 15, 2008) a go. I’m happy to report that this version likes my computer a lot better, and I like using it a lot!

One of the coolest things is that it did import the notes from my N3FJP ADIF file properly. So, now, when I type in a callsign, the program searches the database, finds all the previous contacts I’ve had with that station, and then displays them in spreadsheet style WITH the notes. If I’ve taken notes about a previous conversation, I can pick up right where I left off. Very cool.

It also has a very nice way of showing you what countries you’ve worked, on what bands you’ve worked them, and whether or not you’ve QSLed that country or not. Not only that, it shows what type of QSL you have, either a paper QSL or a Logbook of the World (LOTW) QSL. To get it to show LOTW QSLs, you have to somehow feed it information that you download from LOTW. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.

According to RUMLog, I have 142 countries worked, but only 69 confirmed. After getting this report, I pawed through my QSL file and found cards from 18 countries that weren’t QSLed via LOTW, so I’m still 13 short for DXCC.  I guess I’m going to have to generate some more paper to get that certificate.

Free Spectrogram Program, Web-Based Radio

Here are a couple of items from mailing lists I am on.

Free Spectrogram Program
Ken, K3IU writes to the Elecraft mailing list:

For those interested, Spectrogram is again available as Freeware. Richard’s website, says:

Version 16 is being made available as freeware to replace the older freeware versions of the software relied upon by the majority of Spectrogram users. The download at left is a self-extracting setup program that will install Spectrogram on a single computer.

Web-Based Radio in Europe
Steve, G4GXL writes to the qrp-l.org mailing list:

This really deserves a bit of publicity !

A web-based SDR (software defined receiver) located in The Netherlands but controlled simultaneously by multiple listeners worldwide is now available. Listen in realtime to parts of the 40 and 80m bands as heard in Europe.

Definitely the coolest thing I’ve seen on the web for some time !

Go listen at – http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/