New QSL Card… Finally

About 5 years ago I received my first QSL card in the mail. I didn’t really have an idea what to do with it but  I knew I had to respond with a card of my own. Since then I’ve received many cards both domestically and from the bureau. I  need to make a card for response before I get more overwhelmed. Some of the cards I’ve received are well thought out and have really excellent quality. I didn’t want to reply with some generic card using one color on card stock. I wanted high quality glossy cards and I wanted to put some serious effort into the design. Well… That was 4 years ago. I still don’t have a card because I set my goals too high. That was until I found my doppelganger. There is a person out there that looks very similar to me. He Photoshop himself into a couple images and one of them made me burst out laughing. I thought it would be a great QSL card. The picture was of him riding a “40 ounce” bottle of in space with rainbow coming out the end of the bottle. Instead of a bottle, I thought it would be funny if I was riding my K3 instead.

One night I finally decided to do it. I setup my camera on a tripod in my shack, sat on a stool and took some pictures with me holding a bottle of beer.

First Draft. 

After some Photoshop work later, this was my first draft.

NT1KQSLOG

I thought I was done and posted it up on twitter and some amateur radio related chat rooms I hang out in. Suggestions started pouring in on what I should add to the card to make it even better. At this point I didn’t care and wanted to go for shock value. So I added almost everything that was suggested. However I didn’t want the additions to take away from me riding a K3.

Here was the final image I’ve sent to the printer

QSLFinalNB

Now it’s a very busy card. They are mostly filled with internet memes along with some semi-random stuff.
An internet meme is  “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture through the internet” according to Wikipedia.

I will break down each one.

On the top left you will see a man peeking out from the side of the card. That man is Chris Hansen from NBC’s dateline.

Chris-Hansen-Take-A-Seat-Meme

He’s known for his “To Catch A Predator” series where he catches child predators.  This image is often used across the internet when someone makes certain comments about underage people. There is no particular reason I used it other than it being a suggestion from someone on IRC.

Right below Chris is Wilford Brimley

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He’s an actor that appeared in many movies and television shows but on the Internet he is known for his appearances in commercials for a medical supply company. The commercials focus on Diabetes related supplies. The commercials are sort of funny because of the way he pronounces Diabetes as diabeetus. He is often used when people are discussing deserts, candy and the obese. I can actually relate to this because I have Type II Diabeetus. When someone suggested to use him, I went with it right away.

Between Chris and Wilford, you will see the Kool-Aid man.

ElecraftOhyeahKX3

Except I photoshopped the Kool-Aid man to be holding a K3 and KX3 and saying Elecraft instead Oh yeah!
Even though at times I may be critical of Elecraft, I own a couple of their radios. People often say I was “drinking the kool-aid” which is a term that is associated with giving in because of popularity, peer pressure or persuasion. It can be also associated with those who have a strong belief of something without really looking into it. This references the Jonestown Deaths where cult followers lead by Jim Jones consumed poisoned flavor drink (it was actually Flavor aid) which caused the deaths of over 900 people.

In various internet forums and chat rooms I frequent, I often joke around saying that you should only purchase Elecraft products. The same way some might tell you to get a mac, pc, or android device.

To the right of the Kool-Aid man you will see a teletubby.

purpletubby

I added the purple teletubby for no reason other than it was suggestion to add it from Tom, @AJ4UQ on Twitter.

Teletubbies is a BBC childrens TV show that ran in the late 1990’s. If you ever look at the teletubbies in the group you will see something familiar
telebig

Look on the top of their heads. You have a Delta Loop, Vertical, Magnetic loop and a Vertical with a loaded coil antennas.
Even though they are supposed to be TV antennas, They have some relation to ham radio. I went with the Delta Loop

To the right of the teletubby is a T-Rex trying to eat bacon

Dinobaconsmall

Both were suggestions by those in the Internet Relay Chatroom (IRC) #redditnet on irc.geekshed.net . Since I love bacon I figured why not put it into the card. I am not a fan of the T-Rex but it’s the most recognizable dinosaur so I figured to use it instead of a triceratops which is my favorite.

Below the T-Rex is Giorgio Tsoukalos, AKA the “Ancient Aliens Guy”.
This is a really famous internet meme of Giorgio from one of his many appearances on the show “Ancient Aliens”. The show tried to connect origins of technology used in history to aliens. He was singled out because of his very noticeable hair style that appears to get larger throughout the series.

historychannelprogress

I don’t really know why I put him in the card other than being an internet meme. However it’s a joke in my house that aliens were responsible for anything that happened but could not be really explained. “Who spilled the cereal all over the floor? Aliens!”

Finally, to the pièce de résistance. Me riding a K3  expelling rainbows.

QSLFinalK3ride

Me riding the K3 is an idea I saw from my what is known as my twin on the internet. He was riding a 40oz bottle of beer. I am riding my K3.  Frank (KG6EYC) from FBOM suggested that I should the K3 into a Nyancat which is a very popular internet meme of a part cat, part pop tart flying through the air with a rainbow trailing.

So instead of a pop-tart and Nyancat, it’s now a K3 instead of poptart and we call it Nyancraft.

On the very bottom of my card you will see my 3 element yagi tri-bander. The card is now complete.

So what the deal, I don’t get it?

That’s the point. It purpose was to make people go “What the heck is that!?!”. Since I know in the amateur radio community there will be a few who actually get what’s going on, it will confuse most. It’s not some plain boring 2 color QSL card that will be glanced at and thrown in a drawer or in the trash. This card will be looked at. So I did it just to be different. There are no hidden meanings or messages. It’s was done just to be different.

If you receive my card, I hope you enjoyed it. I’ve been backlogged with cards for about 4 years now so I am replying to all those who sent me their QSL cards with a SASE first. Then I am sending out cards for twitter and reddit contacts. after that I will reply to all domestic cards and finally I will make a batch for the bureau that will included replies and much needed entities.

If by any chance you are offended by my card or you feel it has hidden messages or meanings then I think you need to lighten up and not get easily offended. It was meant to confuse not to offend.

If you enjoyed it. Thanks!
– Jeff, NT1K

More Kool-Aid Please! New Rig In The Shack

 

ElecraftOhyeah

Along with recent antenna improvements I felt I needed to improve my rig. I had the Yaesu FT-950 that provided me thousands of contacts, countless hours of entertainment and awards such as DXCC and WAS.  It was an excellent radio but it also had its issues. The most annoying thing for me was the menu driven system that Yaesu loves to use. In order to adjust some of the DSP settings or even the power level, you had to dive into the menu system. To make things worse, Yaesu decided to abbreviate the menu items which makes it almost impossible to adjust without memorization or referring to the manual. However the FT-950 was a good radio, I never had a problem with it and received many reports about how good and clean my audio is. It just worked. The IF output option from RF-Space was a big plus. I could have kept using it but I felt I just need a new radio and sell the FT-950 while it still has value.

What to get?

I wanted a new radio but I wasn’t sure what to get. My budget was a little over $2,000USD. I had to sell most of my station off to obtain the funds needed for a new radio. This left me with a decent amount of choices. I can choose either the Yaesu FTdx-3000, Kenwood TS-590SG (The new version), Flex 6300, ICOM IC-7600 or the Elecraft K3.

FTdx-3000 – Didn’t want to get another Yaesu rig. Looked more menu driven than ever and wanted to stay away from having to constantly dive into menus. Not saying it’s a bad rig, I just want something other than Yaesu.

TS-590SG – Great radio and really great price. Obtaining IF output is very difficult. If they were able to have an IF output, I would have purchased the TS-590SG

Flex 6300 – Very tempting.  I love SDR and love being able to scan an entire band in one shot. Point and click tuner with one heck of a receiver and filtering is a plus. However it’s not a proven contest rig, it’s dependent on a computer for operating and I am not a fan of having to pay for software upgrades. Still very tempting.

Icom IC-7600 – Excellent radio but the price is too much for me.  I also think for the price they would have a better receiver compared to my other choices. I’ve used the 7700 multiple times and really love the radio. It’s more fitting for 756-Pro users

Elecraft K3 – Even though I am not a fan of the ergonomics and the cheap looking aesthetics, it’s a proven contest and DXpedition radio. People often compare their radios to the K3 which means a lot. It has a very excellent receiver and you can basically make the radio work for what you need it for. It can be a $1700 radio or a $7000 radio depending on what you’re willing to spend.

As you may have already guessed, I’ve decided on getting a K3. It seems to be the best for what I’m willing to spend. Even though I wanted something that was new on the market, The K3 still met my requirements even though it’s already a 7 year old radio. The amount of available options and excellent receiver is what won me over. The K3 also allows me to build up the radio over time. When one of the big 3 discontinues a radio, they often discontinue options/upgrades for that particular radio making it much harder to upgrade the older it gets. By going to Elecraft’s website, you’ll see they’re still offering previous radios as well as their options/upgrades. That means I won’t have to worry about the K4 (if there is a K4) coming out and losing out on possible upgrades for the K3 over time.

You already have a KX3. Why not purchase the KXPA100?

I purchased the KX3 as a portable rig to use for things like Summits on the Air (SOTA), Parks on the air (POTA), camping and other portable operations. Even though the KX3 has an excellent receiver, It couldn’t compete with the possible options the K3 has to offer and I honestly didn’t want a mess of cables on my desk in plain sight.

If someone from elecraft reads this, I would suggest to add a docking port on the KX4.

Kx4dock

Have a slide cover on the rear that would expose an MCX connector and a pin header that could be used to plug into a dock or cradle that is attached to the KX4PA100 to make it look like a base rig.  That would avoid having a bunch of cables coming out the side of the KX4 when it’s “at home”. Maybe put a better speaker into the docking bay. If this was available then I would have got the docking amp over a K3. Having a Dual purpose radio without the mess would be nice.

Okay, out of fantasy land.

Getting The Radio

Being the cheap Ham I am, I had to come up with the funds to purchase the K3. I sold my FT-950, FT-736R and almost everything that I didn’t need in my shack that I’ve purchased over time. I was able to get enough saved up for just a basic K3 in kit form with no options other than the 100 watt PA. I ordered it Christmas week and figured it would be awhile before it would show. Elecraft did a really good job getting me the radio quick. I’ve learned USPS from CA to MA is much faster than UPS.

A Little Overwhelming

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I was very excited when the packaged arrived and I wanted to tear into it. However I knew I should carefully read everything to avoid having a $2000 brick on my table.  I opened up each box and was overwhelmed by the amount of bags and envelopes containing just nuts and bolts. I couldn’t imagine if this were to be full-on solder kit.

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The first hour was spent making sure every single nut, knob, board and panel was accounted for. Thankfully everything was accounted for and even had extra parts. I didn’t have to jump into the “Spare Parts” bag.

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My only suggestion is to keep the parts and fasteners in their respective bags and envelopes. Don’t dump everything into one big sorting case because you will be working in stages and some require special sized screws.

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I also had an organizer box with little post-it notes stating what is in each slot. That helped quite a bit

It’s Assembly Time

Now that everything is there and counted for. It’s time to assemble. I decided to stream my assembly which gave people some insight as to how one is assembled. I managed to record 1/3 of the build.

You could watch the video but I admit it’s real boring. I was even bored. There are a ton of assembly videos and there are a ton of website/blog postings about the assembly of the K3 so I won’t bother going into great detail.

The build went quite smoothly and only had two moments of stupidity. The first was that I missed some masking left on from their metal fabricator/powder coater on the front panel and noticed After the front panel was sub assembled. A razor type blade and a pair of needle nose pliers took care of it. My other moment was that I plugged the synth board into the wrong spot. However I caught that before it could cause any trouble.

Overall it took around 5 hours to build. I don’t know how long it normally takes but I wasn’t trying to win any time trial. I wanted a working radio and I didn’t want to hear screws bouncing around the case a month or two down the road.

Is it worth getting the kit version over the assembled version? That depends on how much you value your time. I value my time but knowing I could apply the savings to options, I’d  much prefer the kit. Plus I get to get hands on with my radio and see what part does what.

It’s alive… It’s alive… IT’S ALIVE!!! 

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Once the radio was on and calibrated I wanted to get on the air. Thankfully a couple of people were watching my stream and hopped on the air willing to make contact with me. I scrambled to get on the air but had much trouble because I installed the filter in a different spot. I’ve read the assembly manual over and over but failed to read the operation manual which made getting on the air a little tricky. For some reason the speaker wasn’t working and couldn’t get the filters to default to the spot I put them in. After a couple minutes I was on the air and made my first contact with a local. It’s was really nice to know it actually works. After making a couple contacts, I went back to work and installed the 100W PA.

Initial Thoughts

After messing around with it for a couple hours I started to get buyers remorse. It felt small and it felt cheap. The main VFO didn’t have that smooth action that I am used to. It felt like I was turning a sanding disk. Nothing was impressing me which started to make my stomach turn as if I just wasted all the time, effort any money for something that was less than what I had before. It felt like my dream rig was being crushed right in front of my eyes.

But then I tried making a voice contact with someone in the noise on 80M with a strong signal nearby. I narrowed the filter and shifted the IF and that took a lot of the nearby signal out. Not bad considering all I have is a 2.7Khz stock roofing filter. I then applied noise reduction and that weak station that I could barely catch a couple words is now coming in much clearer. I can now fully understand the DX and managed to make contact. The adjustment took just a couple seconds and that knot in my stomach started to fade away the more I dived into the K3. I am now satisfied and I now feel I’ve made a wise purchase.

Let’s Compare the K3 to the FT-950

After playing around with the K3, I started comparing the mental notes I had about the FT-950 against the K3.  The K3 pretty much beat my FT-950 in almost every aspect… almost. The FT-950 looked better and felt better than the K3 but that doesn’t really matter in a contest on an extremely packed band. The FT-950 has an excellent receiver but it shadows in comparison to the K3 with even just the stock 2.7Khz 5-pole filter installed. I guess I traded an aesthetically pleasing radio for one with better performance.

The K3 even does things right out of the box that I wish the FT-950 could do. With the K3 I am able to switch from a desktop microphone to a pair of headsets quite easily because the headsets could be plugged into the back. I could get away without using an soundcard interface since there is  audio line in/out ports. I could use the headphones and have the internal speaker working at the same time which is good for field day. I have two custom buttons that I could program macros in that would allow me to do many things.

What makes the K3 really stick out in comparison is that I rarely have to dive into the menu system to make adjusts to the DSP or even the RF power level. When I do have to dive into the K3 menus. It’s much easier to navigate. I flat out hated having to dive into the FT-950’s menu system. It wasn’t in really any order and it was abbreviated or numbered. If I haven’t been in the menu for awhile, I would have a real hard time trying to adjust simple things like DNR/DNF and even my TX bandwidth. It’s much easier in the K3

What’s next with the K3?

I purchased the bare minimum when it comes to the K3 with the exception of the 100W PA. Now that I’ve played with the K3, there are some much needed options that I am starting to save for. Of course I would like a completley decked out K3 with EVERYTHING but that isn’t going to happen.  So here is my list of options I would like in order of importance starting with what I feel is the most needed with a short reason why

KXV3A – RX Ant, IF out, Xverter Interface – I love SDR and want a Panadapter
KFL3A – 1.8K – 1.8 kHz, 8-pole filer – For SSB contesting and packed bands
KDVR3 – Digital Voice Recorder – For SSB contesting, Can control with N1MM. No more WAV files
KFL3A-250 – 250 Hz, 8-pole CW Filter – For when I get into CW.
KFL3A-6K – 6 kHz AM / ESSB, 8-pole Filter – I like ESSB at times and would need this
KBPF3 – General Coverage RX Bandpass Module – I listen to more than just hams. I have SDR rig for now
K3EXREF – External Reference Input – I am bit of a time nut. I would love to use either a GPSDO or Rb Atomic Clock.

That is my “wanted” list. Of course I won’t be purchasing it all at once but I would like to have at least the 1.8Khz filter and DVR options before field day. You won’t see the 2nd receiver option unless I win the lottery. I am interested in SO2V and even SO2R operation but I would rather go all out on SO2R. I never felt a need for a sun receiver so I’ll save my pennies for something else.

Overall thoughts

It was a fun build, dealing with elecraft was great (because i didn’t), assembly went great and I don’t have buyers remorse (anymore). It’s an “American” radio and it’s a damn good one. Hopefully I don’t drown in the kool-aid

Thanks for reading!
– Jeff (NT1K)

 

ISS We Meet Again

It appears that the International Space Station (ISS) was transmitting slow scan television (SSTV) off and on for the past couple of days. The Russian ARISS team was transmitting images commemorating the 80th birthday of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to orbit earth. It was being transmitting from the Russian service module using only 5 watts of power. I wanted to see if I can get one of these images on my own. They were using 145.800Mhz as the downlink frequency so at least I have the radio for it.

It was advertise that they were going to be transmitting on December 20th starting around 12:40z and will end around 21:30z . So from about 7:40am to 4:30pm locally which is almost a 9hr run. Due to its orbit, it only allows me a couple of chances to receive the transmissions

ISSpass3

Due to work schedule, I was not going to make the 17:17z pass so I concentrated at 18:52 because the elevation would put the ISS right over my house instead scanning the horizon. It was my best chance.

At around 1:00pm, I made sure everything is in working order. The equipment I was going to use was a Radio Shack police scanner, Elk antenna, my laptop with a USB sound card, audio patch cable and the software MMSSTV.  At around 1:30 I took everything to the much colder outside and setup shop. Now that I think back, I should have also setup my home 2M using the vertical antenna on my roof to decode as well.

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I stated waving the antenna around at 1:50  and finally around 2pm is when I started hearing the ISS. If you want, you can watch the following video. Please ignore everything wrong. I thought of recording it last second and would have at least not wear my work clothes.

Once I locked onto the ISS, It was already too late. The ISS was already transmitting an image. But I was able to decode the majority of the image

Hist5

That’s not bad. All I am missing is the RS0ISS header which is the callsign used by the Russians on the space station.

I had a blast doing this. It was really fun and I hope NASA and Roscosmos would do more things like this in the future. It could really encourage people to join into the amateur radio community.

To Skywarn and Beyond!

I’ll be upfront and honest and say that I’m not really a fan of “Emergency Communications” or as the ARRL would like to now call it, “Public Service Communications”. It’s just not my cup of tea. I think that SOME of the people that are involved are using emcomm/skywarn as a way to flex their egos and/or as an outlet to their dreams of being a public safety official such as police, fire or EMT for whatever reason.  I don’t want to discourage anyone and there are hams who are really care about their community and help out without getting caught up in the whacker fest. But that’s what’s great about ham radio, there is so many aspects to it that you can dislike an entire aspect but yet still enjoy the hobby overall. Anyways, I’m not hear to harp about emcomm.

 Tasting the Skywarn Kool-Aid

I’ve decided to participate in a Skywarn class that was presented by the NWS (National Weather Service) of Taunton MA. I’m not exactly sure exactly why I went. I guess I wanted to see what it was all about and I was able to get out of the house that night so
why not.

Like everything else, I arrived to the class early so I got to see who was showing up. I recognized a lot of the people that showed up to the class as local area hams which I was expecting to see. However I also saw a lot of people that I’ve never seen before and I’ve seen a a bunch of new hams which is great to see them being active in parts of the hobby. Hopefully they don’t drink too much of the emcomm kool-aid.

The Class

I went to the class expecting that I was going to fall asleep or not be really interested about weather or skywarn because I wasn’t really interested.  I was expecting the class to be dull and boring with slides of clouds after clouds with the sleep inducing monotone voice over of the likes of Ben Stein.

However once the class started, I actually became very interested. The hosts were lively and you can see their passion about weather. It wasn’t going to be a snooze fest. I’ve learned quite a bit about weather that applies to more than just skywarn and amateur radio.

A Visit From The Local Media

One person I instantly noticed in attendance was Brain Lapis, the Chief Meteorologist from WWLP  TV 22. I’m not sure if he was asked to show or he showed up on his own intuition. Either way it was great to see a local meteorologist in attendance. I gained a little more respect for not only Lapis but for WWLP overall as I didn’t directly notice anyone else from the media there.

I didn’t know but they even did a little story on their newscast about the class
There are thousands of weather spotters in the Northeast

Overall Experience

I’m glad I attended. Ham radio reasons aside I’ve learned quite a bit and could apply it to everyday life. When it comes to Amateur Radio and reporting, I was glad to see they weren’t encouraging “storm chasing” and I finally know what information they want compared to what I often hear on the radio during significant weather events.

If you ever plan on reporting to skywarn VIA radio then I would strongly suggest to at least attend a Skywarn class.  That way when you make a report, you know it’s a report of information that the NWS actually needs instead of  tying up the airwaves with un-wanted information,  information that you personally didn’t witness with your own eyes (e.g. Reporting stuff you’ve heard from a police scanner) or the wrong information that could make things worse.

I don’t think I will ever be glued to the radio during weather events but I left the class learning a lot about weather.

NT1K.com Hits 200,000 Page Views

Looked at the stats and found that NT1K.com main page has over 200,000 views which I know is a drop in a bucket compared to other websites out there. Considering the vast amount of ham radio related  websites, 200K is okay in my book. It shows that I doing something to make it  worth the visit. Hopefully I  will come across new things to make  it more interesting.

Tailor Made to  New Hams

The main reason why I created a website was to help out freshly minted hams with information they can understand in English (albeit poor grammar) . I’ve came across many websites that have some really nice things but it’s not explained in an easy detailed manor and leaves me to scratch my head as I not well versed in Math or Electrical Engineering. I also post my observations about a project or what’s going on in amateur radio and I use this website as a way to get stuff off my chest. It’s all about keeping hams interested in the hobby.

I just want to say thank you to all who visit and to those who participate by adding comments. It ensures me to keep working and typing away and makes it all worth it.

NT1K’s Ham Radio Website Of The Week – 5/9/2013 – LCWO.net

For this weeks WOTW, I picked LCWO.net otherwise known as Learn CW online. If you even want to learn CW (Morse Code) I would strongly suggest this website to use as a tool to make learning easier.

From LCWO.net

A new website to learn and practice Morse telegraphy has been launched:
http://lcwo.net/ - Learn CW Online

There are already hundreds of training programs, MP3/CD courses and practice
aids available, but LCWO follows a radically different concept: While sticking
to  well-proven methods for learning and practice, all you need for using LCWO
is a web browser!

This gives the user the liberty to practice CW wherever an internet connection
is available, always retaining the personal settings, scores and statistics.

Currently the site, which is available in 27 languages offers a complete
Koch method Morse course, code group practice, callsign- and plain text training
modes and also allows to convert random text to Morse MP3s.

A high score list is available to compare results with other users, personal
statistics help to track training progress.

LCWO.net is a non-commercial project. Creating a free account only takes a few
seconds, and you can start practicing CW right away!

Fabian Kurz, DJ1YFK

It  has a decent layout and after making an account, it will track your progress. I’ve used this site many times. My favorite part being the Morse Machine which is the same as this piece of software

Now maybe I should learn Morse Code…. Some day!

– NT1K

My First SOTA Activation – Mt. Norwottock (W1/CR-004)

I’ve been wanting to do a SOTA (Summits On The Air) activation for quite some time and I finally had the chance to go so I took advantage of it. For those who don’t know, SOTA is “Summits On The Air”. Take your equipment, climb a mountain (or hill) with your gear and make at least 4 contacts in order for it to be a successful activation. What’s great about SOTA is that it gets you off your butt and go outdoors. Another great thing about it is that there is a website where you are allowed to self spot so at least others know where you are.  After you are done you upload or enter you logs into the website and you can start competing with others in the area and possibly get awards.

In my last article, I made a 3EL Yagi using a tape measure that I didn’t use other than waving it around like a mad man in my back yard. I built the Yagi so I can participate in outdoor activities like radio direction finding and SOTA. So for the past month or so I’ve been itching and looking for any excuse to use this antenna.  Nick (K1MAZ) mentioned that he was going to activate Mt. Norwottock after he gets out of work alone. Since my night was free and available, I contacted nick to see if I can tag along which he said sure.

Since this was last second, I ran around the house trying to locate the things that I would think I need for a SOTA activation based off of what I’ve read from other peoples SOTA adventures. I took along my Yagi, Two 2M HT’s, adapters, lots of tape, extra stubby antennas, multi-tool, knife, stuff to keep me warm. Away I went into the dark to drive to “The Notch”.

Holyoke Range

 

Here is a map of the State park. The line is red is that path from the visitors center to the summit.

SOTA Map 2

Here is the APRS map of our hike. You will notice that we sort of took a wrong turn. Trail markers are a lot harder to see at night!  After we fixed our headings, the climb started and I realized a couple minutes into the “climb” that I am out of shape. I kept stopping, huffing and puffing while Nick was having no issue with the climb. I wasn’t sure if it was all due to being out of shape or wearing very thick clothing .

Once we reached the summit, I was hot to trot so I immediately got the Yagi going and left Nick to assemble his HF wire antenna. I should have helped him but I was a little to excited and wanted to get on the air right away. After making the bulk of my contacts, I’ve stopped to help him finish installing the antenna.

3EL Tape Measure Yagi  - COMPLETE

This was the setup that I was using. My homebrew 3EL Yagi and the Wouxun kg-uvd1p handheld.

Since there was cell/data coverage on the summit, I spotted my self on the local clubs FaceBook page and thought I spotted myself on SOTAwatch. Got on 146.520 Mhz (AKA National calling freq) and started calling CQ. As there is little to no activity around here on 146.520, I decided to stay on that frequency as it was not causing any harm. Not even a minute of calling CQ, I was contacted by ED (KB1NWH) from his QTH 22Mi away from my location as well as Mike (N1TA).   At the point I was assuming that they and some of the SOTA regulars in the area were going to be my only contacts. I was wrong…  One of the people that worked me or saw my post on Facebook went on the local repeater and announced that I was up there. That opened up the flood gates and I worked the following

  • AB1RS – Rich
  • KB1PWH –
  • WD1S – James
  • W1MSW – Matt (SOTA Jerks)
  • N1FDC – Phil
  • KB1VPN – Jake
  • K1YO – Bob (Mobile)
  • KK1W – Jim (SOTA Jerks)
  • WI1N – Charles
  • WC1Y – Rory
  • KB1JFQ – Chuck (SOTA Regular)
  • WW1X – Rockwell (SOTA Regular)
  • N1KXR – Rich

A total of 15 Contacts on VHF.

All these people coming out to work me made all the troubles I had getting up there worth it. I was going up there thinking that I wouldn’t have enough contacts to make the activation count but thanks to those listed above,  I now have 1 activator point.

I’ve learned a lot by this one trip. The tape measure yagi turned out to be a success! Almost everyone that contacted me on VHF was strong and DFQ.

SOTA Plot

I plotted out all the contacts I made based on their address on QRZ.com, Two of them were mobile stations so I just put markers to area where they reported they were.
Everyone was pretty much “From The Valley” and all contacts I’ve had were crystal clear. I had a backup two meter radio and I should have used it to compare using the rubber duck to using the yagi but that thought escaped me.

HF Side of Things

Nick was more interested in the HF side to the hike. He brought along his FT100, MFJ Tuner, G5RV and coax. When we reached the summit area, Nick when right to work putting up his antenna in the dark.  He didn’t get the antenna as high as he wanted it (8-10ft off the ground)  but used it anyways. Once everything was set, Nick  spotted then went on the air.

Here is a little video I took.

At first all the locals were calling and then some of the SOTA regulars started contacting him as well.

Between 80M and 40M, Nick had 15 contacts and I had 7.

Lessons Learned

This was just a quick last minute thing for me so I didn’t have much time to plan. I quickly gathered anything that would fit in my pockets of my cargo pants and was more worried about staying warm than anything else.

Even though the Yagi I was using didn’t weigh much and it didn’t give me an issue during the climb, It started to “feel” heavy while I was using it. Holding that and the radio at the same time made logging contacts very difficult. Not sure if it was me or the cold weather but the radio kept changing frequencies which made things a little more difficult.  I am going to modify the yagi so I can put it on a Tripod and I am going to make it so the radio can be mounted to the tripod as well and use a speaker/mic to make contacts.

Overall I had a great time and I want to do it again with VHF. If I keep doing it, I might pickup some portable HF gear.

Thanks for reading

New changes in the Shack as well as on this Site.

Things have been kind of slow since Field Day. I Don’t have the drive to pickup the microphone (or practice on the key). It doesn’t stop me from doing stuff in the background. I was looking at my station and was disgusted by how it was setup. I had equipment on top of equipment and a rat’s nest of  wires behind my desk.

I recently saw an Antenna Tuner” come up for sale on eBay that matched what I needed which consisted of having a variable inductor and that it can handle at least 1000 watts. It was also within the price range that I could afford so I took a chance.

It was the Heathkit SA-2060A tuner. After reading review after review, I put this on my list of potential tuners. The only complaints I hear about this particular tuner is that  the hardware becomes loose after use. Since they are kits when they were first sold, The build quality depends on the operator who built it. When I received the tuner, I opened it up and made sure everything was tight and soldered correctly. It appears that it’s in great shape and I did no work to it other than some light sanding using a fine scotch-brite pad.

The reason I decided to get a tuner is because of my antenna(s). At the time I really have only one HF antenna which is my home-brew G5RV wire dipole antenna. Once you started getting away  from 20 meters, the mis-matched antenna places a strain on my tubes that are located in the amplifier. The “tuner” should help that out.

However I had no room for it. I didn’t want to stack the amplifier or anything else on it so I decided that I need to do something about my desk to keep everyone happy. I ended up fabricating a shelf that spans across the entire desk which would allow for me to put more stuff on my desk.

I’m liking it better than the previous setup. The most important piece is right in the middle and a tiny bit easier to get  to.

I had a chance to work some DX with the new layout. Here it is in action with LA4UOA (Tor in Norway)

Now I just have to clean the rest of the office.

Site Updates 

I am debating on placing advertising on this site. I am not a fan of advertisements and wanted to keep this site AD free but running this site isn’t free. It’s not much compared to other websites but any income I can get  that would offset the costs would help greatly. I also might place ads on my YouTube videos.  Not looking to make AMAZING profits but hopefully enough to cover the hosting.

ARRL HQ – Again and Again

That’s right! I went to ARRL HQ again. With it being in reasonable distance from my QTH, how can I NOT resist on going there often. I try to go at least once a year. I also try to see and or do something different everytime I go. Last year when I went down, the Lab where they test a lot of the things you read in QST was being remodeled so I made it a point to go back when it was operational again.

Here is ARRL HQ which is located directly behind the Hiram Percy Maxim W1AW building. They have scheduled tours provided by a great bunch of Volunteers whom take pride in their work. I had the same person as last time which was Dan Arnold (W1CNI) who gave the tour. Since I was the only one there, I only expressed interest in the lab and wanted to visit the VEC so I can take care of some VE stuff. I figured to kill two birds with one stone. If you didn’t read about the last time I went to ARRL HQ, Read about it here

Here is just a part of the ARRL Lab. At lot about the product reviews you read have most likely been tested here.

Here is where a lot of tests take place. The walls, floor and ceiling are lined with metal and RF absorbing material. You also see a lot of equipment that I wish I had (A HP Network Analyzer would look really good on my bench). In the photo is Ed Hare (W1RFI) who does a lot of work in the lab and is very passionate concerning RFI (Hence the call). Very nice person to talk with and I’m glad he does what he does and he’s an asset for the League.


NT1K w/ W1RFI in the RF room At ARRL HQ (Photo courtesy of the ARRL/Dan Arnold (W1CNI))

This is why I came down. It’s the W1AW building. It’s where all the toys are at.
Looks small but it’s packed full of fun. In the background you’ll see one of the many towers on the property.  At one point this was a lonely building on a hill and now it has neighborhoods all around it and with HQ in the back. I Guess nobody can complain about the towers since they were there before their house was.

MORE TOWERS!!! Oh man I wish I had just one tower…. Okay, maybe two. A lot of these are fixed beams that are used for the ARRL Bulletins and some of them are on rotors to be pointed where needed.

Here is studio one. You have a Yeasu FTdx9000D in the foreground and you have the Icom IC-7700 in the background. I wanted to use the 7700 because of the PR-781 microphone that was attached to it. I was interested in how they hooked it up. Since I am Biased towards the Yeasu, I got to say that I really like the 7700 If by some miracle I have that kind of money the throw at a rig, I would consider getting the IC-7700 over its Yaesu counterpart. I like the nice clear screen, The VFO knob with nice and smooth, All the important adjustment that are needed are up front, None of that menu driven stuff and the audio sounded great coming out of it.


(Photo courtesy of the ARRL/Dan Arnold (W1CNI))

Here I am at the control of the IC-7700. Muahahahahah!! I started off on 20M SSB calling CQ, the band wasn’t open so I made a lot of US contacts. I then went on 15M finding that it also was just as dead. Not sure if I was allowed to but I played with the Rotor and had the 4 El beam pointing South East (135 Degrees) and got a lot of people calling with the occasional pileup. It was great hearing some people say, “I always wanted to make contact with W1AW. This is my first time!” I’ve also heard a couple of people tell me their W1AW stories. It’s also fun when Saudi Stations are calling me (Well… W1AW) when I’m the one fighting in pileups to contact them.

Overall has a really fun day trip. Wish I could have stayed a lot longer but was worth it. Maybe I can squeeze in another trip. If you happen to be in the Hartford CT area or you know you’re going to be. Give the ARRL a call to make sure they will be ready when you get there. Getting to use the W1AW call is fun because most times there is a pileup

 

73!

New Gear: Heil PR-781 Microphone

I almost have my station setup to where I’m satisfied. Everything is controlled within arms reach to where I can operate the computer and radios at the same time and with ease. During  2011 NEQP, It got un-comfortable operating a couple of hours in while lurched over my  Yaseu MD-100 desktop microphone. I think it led to less operation and just a lack of motivation. For the 2012 NEQP I wanted to be more comfortable. I purchased a  Heil Pro Headset ($140 + Cable) and modified a Radio Shack tape recorder foot switch to work with my  FT-950. This years contest turned out to be a lot different in 2012. I doubled and almost tripled last years score. It was due to being comfortable and dedicated  to staying on the air.
I love the Heil Pro Set but I don’t like the way it sounds. The one I purchased uses the HC-4 Element. From what I’ve read on the Heil website that the HC-4 was designed for mainly contesting or DX. It cuts off the low frequency and focuses on the HIGH parts of your voice. Meaning the rumbling lows in your voice (if you have any) will be mostly removed.

Here is a youtube video of how I sound on the Heil Pro Set using a SDR Receiver

You will notice there is little to no bass on my audio. It has a narrow bandwidth which is great for contesting. It Could help you break a pileup because your “Cutting” in with the sharp audio. In my personal opinion (I am not a audio expert by any means), it’s a great microphone but it’s not for everyday use or ragchewing. Maybe the Pro Set Elite has a much wider response  and would be worth  the extra $$$ for it to be used as a everyday microphone.
Now I am back to being hunched over the Yaesu MD-100A8X ($150). I am getting more uncomfortable the more I’ve been talking on the air. It ended up where I was propping up my head with me arm while talking. The constant pressure from my arm caused some issues with my Jaw. I ended up grabbing the mic stand by the stem and using it that way which was awkward. YAESU claims the microphone could be separated from its base but I am not sure what they mean by that. Could the microphone be used without the base? It does have a TX button on it and it has a 8-pin port on the back of the microphone itself.  The cable that comes out of the base to connect the microphone is very short (6 or so inches?) and would not really allow you to “Seperate” the micrphone unless you somehow make a cable that connects from the back of the actual microphone to the transceiver.  I wasn’t sure of the pinout of the actual microphone and I wasn’t going to open it up to find out.

Here is a video of what I sound like using the MD-100

After being uncomfortable and  finding out that a lot of  my Jaw pain was insult of applying pressure to it often (I also do it at work), I decided enough is enough and wanted a new microphone. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the MD-100 and after tuning the FT-950 Parametric EQ to my liking, I’d often get reports on  how “GUD” my audio was. I actually took pride on getting positive comments and people asking what microphone I was using.

So now that I need a new microphone, I figured I can upgrade at the same time.  The only true requirement is to be able to mount the microphone on a boom. I was also thinking to use the microphone if I ever get into Podcasting. This led to a major road block. There are hundreds of  different microphones out there. There are  some that should not be used in Amateur Radio but there are many that could. I wasn’t sure what to get so whenever I heard a really nice signal on the air, I would look up the call to see if I can get what kind of microphone was being used. It helped a little bit but there is still a wide range of microphones that are out there. From the very expensive condenser microphones down to microphones that are used with computers. I also had a budget of $150-$200 for a microphone and really didn’t want to go over it.

I ended up going with Heil PR-781.

Heil PR-781 W/ Yaesu Bal Cable

The reason I wanted to get the 781 is because it’s designed with Ham Radio in mind. I know I can get a microphone that could do almost all the same things for cheaper but I’ve purchased Heil Sound products before and had nothing but good things come from them. And if something does happen, their support/customer service is outstanding. Try getting support for your drop shipped microphone and you will know why.

I wanted to go all out and get EVERYTHING for the microphone.  That includes the microphone ($175), shockmount ($100), cable ($40), and boom arm ($120) which would end up costing  $415. That costs more than what I paid for my Amplifier. There is no way that I am going to spend that much money when I am already spending a lot on something that I already have. I ended up buying  just the microphone and cable which with the sales HRO is having at the time, I ended up paying less than $200.  The reason I paid for the cable instead of making my own is that I don’t have XLR connectors, 8-Pin connectors or any cable to wire one up with. I also read that the FT-950 needed a balanced input and there  a issue with the FT-950 can get RF  into the cable so I bit the bullet and got the cable.

The only issue I have is to where I am going to mount the microphone since I didn’t purchase  a mount/boom. I went up to the attic and sure enough I found some desk lamps that had booms. I thought the lamp head was similar in weight to the microphone  so I thought I can get rid of the Lamp, keep the boom and fit it to the microphone holder. It ended up to almost a perfect match. I wouldn’t be able to swivel the microphone left and right but I didn’t mind. Once I mounted the microphone, I found out that the mic is a lot heaver than  the lamp and was pulling down the springs and not staying where I placed it. The solution that problem was rubber bands. I placed a bunch of rubber bands along the spring and balanced the microphone perfectly. Also got  rid of any spring noises.

Another great thing about the FT-950 is that it has a decent parametric EQ built right in. I can adjust how I sound from the radio instead of buying a mixer board. I used the settings suggested by Heil Sound but tweaked them so my lows would stick out and give my voice a bassy feel to it.

Here are my FT-950 Settings

  • Menu #62 – TX BPF (Maxium Signal Width) = 1-29 (100-2900hz wide) or 2-28
  • Menu #91 – Frequency = 200hz
  • Menu #92 – Notch or Boost = -4 (db) (Heil Suggests -15 which eliminates a lot of bass, Good for DX)
  • Menu #93 – Bandwidth = 6 (Heild Suggests 5)
  • Menu #94 – Frequency = 700hz (Heil’s site says 400hz which the radio can’t do. 700hz is the minimum)
  • Menu #95 – Notch or Boost = -0 (db)
  • Menu #96 – Bandwidth = 5
  • Menu #97 – Frequency = 2400hz
  • Menu #98 – Notch or Boost = +8 (db)
  • Menu #99 – Bandwidth = 5

Menu items 91, 92 and 93 are for your low range. This will give or take away all the lows or bass in the signal. Items 94, 95 and 96 are for your mids and 97, 98, 99 are for your highs and will make your voice more coherent (unless you have marbles in your mouth) . Well… That’s what I think it does for me.

These settings are the ones that I use for Ragchewing (seem to be doing more and more). It wouldn’t be much for contesting or chasing DX. At this point I will change the Settings to narrow up the signal and get rid of some or most of the bassy lows that are in my audio.

Here is a Youtube video on how I sound

After watching the video a couple of times, I think it’s great for 75M Ragchewing but not so good chasing DX. I will have to find a happy medium and remember the settings.

Just for reference, I also made a video of what the MH-31 hand microphone that comes with FT-950 sounds like.

It’s been a week since I’ve been using the microphone and I really like my purchase. Already got some good audio reports. Now I want to get the podcasting side of it going.

Thanks for reading