Ham Radio Deluxe – A tale of the worst case scenario

Back in 2010, I was getting back into amateur radio. I wanted to do more with hobby other than hanging out on the local repeaters. I wanted to communicate with the world. Until then I never made a true “DX” contact. I’ve upgraded my license and soon as I made my first DX contact, I was hooked. It was easier than I thought, I was working the world on a simple doublet antenna.

The DX contacts started rolling in. I was having fun until I got my first QSL card. “Oh no! What now?” I thought. Did I make contact with the person? Their callsign sounds familiar. From then on I knew I had to log my contacts. There must be some kind of software that will help me out. Of course I found many types of software but this one piece of software was glaring out from the rest. It was Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD).

At the time HRD was being developed by Simon Brown. He did a very excellent Job with the software and had it easily hooked up to my FT-857D and was logging contacts with it in no time. I then notice Digital Master 780 (DM780) and it opened my eyes up to the world of digital communications. I purchased a soundcard interface and was tearing up PSK, RTTY, FELD HELL and all sorts of other modes. I was now more on digital than compared to SSB with thanks to HRD.

Fast forward a few years and I noticed that Simon’s attention started drifting elsewhere. He is now working on SDR-Radio. Ham Radio Deluxe wasn’t getting as many upgrades as before. I honestly thought HRD was going to be a lost and forgotten project. Word through the grapevine was that a group of hams got together and would purchase the software from Simon and continue where Simon left off.

I was looking forward to see what the new version 6 would have to offer. I’ve had some issues with the software randomly shutting down. Since I wasn’t paying for it, I didn’t mind. I was hoping the new crew would fix the issues and the software would improve.

Sometime later version 6 came out.  I was excited until I went to the new website and saw the $100 price tag for a lifetime license of that revision. Thankfully they released a trial version and I gave it a go. I’ve noticed some changes but nothing that really stuck out that was wanting me to pay for it.  The other thing that turned me off is that after the first year, if you wanted to continue with support or receive updates, it would cost an additional $50 annually. Just not sure if it’s worth it.

Let me just state that this has nothing to do with being a “cheap” ham. I don’t mind shelling out the money knowing that I am getting a quality product that lasts. This has more to do with having a free product that does almost the exact same thing compared to the paid version of the same product. At this point I decided it wasn’t worth the money and I’ve decided to switch to DXlabs suite. I would periodically check back to see if there were any major improvements that would make me want to purchase HRD. However there wasn’t. Awards tracking seem to improve but since my trial expired, I couldn’t confirm it.

For the record, I LOVED HRD. Their DM780 program is what got me into PSK and since I’ve switched to DXlabs, I haven’t been able to comfortably do digital modes using Winwarbler. It’s not the same. I couldn’t get myself used to it. I wanted to use HRD. I would constantly read the reviews over at eham and I would pay attention to their press releases over at QRZ.com to see if there was something that would attract my wallet. There were rumors of adding JT modes to DM780 so that really got me looking into it.

As I’ve looked into reviews and postings on forums, I’ve noticed that support from HRD is questionable. Sometimes they give excellent service, sometimes they give horrible service. I always take reviews from hams with a grain of salt. I understand that some people don’t bother to read the manual, some are lazy and some are flat out incompetent. There are some people who take the term “The Customer Is Always Right” out of context and demand way too much. With a piece of software that has to support so many different pieces of hardware, it will be impossible to please everyone.

Recently there was a review on eham.net from N2SUB about HRD, He gave it 1/5  and offered in great detail about his issues and he even gave them a tip on how to make it better. It wasn’t one of those cranky “this sucks” type of review because the reviewer couldn’t instantly get it to work and is too good to read the manual or search for similar issue. It was a legit review.

In the background a much bigger story was unfolding. N2SUB reached out to HRD support to figure out what was going on and how to fix it. According to the support ticket, HRD  instructed him to download the latest version. Soon as the user installed the new version and started it, it quickly shut down. When he asked HRD support about it, they responded that his support was expired and they requested that he doesn’t renew support because of the review on eham. HRD then referenced section 8 of their EULA that states “We reserve the right to refuse service and disable a customer’s key at any time for any reason”.  They also stated in order to have access to the software, he would need to remove the negative review from eham.

What HRD just did was extortion, N2SUB (Jim) paid for the software and now he can’t use it at all until he removes his review from eham.net. In some countries this is flat out illegal. Just recently, US president Obama signed the “Customer Review Fairness Act” into law which basically forbids what HRD just did.

Jim posted his experience on the QRZ.com forums. So far it was just hearsay until he posted his support ticket for all to see. Over on Twitter.com, @textfiles (Jason Scott) who is a well known internet archivist, questioned HRD about the support ticket. HRD replied that the ticket is “copywrited” and shouldn’t be posted and will be looking into alleged libel issue.

It appears HRD is doubling down in attempts to remove and/or coverup what happened. According to Jim, Rich Rhul (W4PC) called him on the phone and left him a voice mail where Rick threatened to sue him and will have Fred (Owner of QRZ.com) remove the thread. A short time later, the thread on QRZ.com was removed.

However it was too late. Since then news of what happened were posted on eham.net and the amateur radio subreddit over on reddit.com. As a moderator of the subreddit, this where I started following the story. At first I thought this was an isolated incident and that maybe the support staffer was having a bad day.

A bit later Fred (Owner of QRZ.com) posted his own version of what happened and his explanation for deleting the thread is that is was full of “misinformation”.  He then added “QRZ would also like users to note that HRD is not a QRZ advertiser and other than for free technical exchange we have no business relationship.” In Fred’s version, he forgot to address the part about the extortion. This got the people on /r/amateurradio to really start looking at the actions of HRD and the relationship between QRZ.com and HRD.

Full out Streisand Effect.

In attempts to cover up HRD’s wrong doings, It caused more people to pay attention to what’s going on. It got people looking and many interesting things came up. There is indeed a business relationship between HRD and QRZ.com. There have been many times where Rick (co-owner) of HRD mentioned that him and Fred are “Business partners” and that HRD gave QRZ.com $$$ over the years for advertising. It’s also clear that QRZ.com staff delete threads and banned some of the users who were critical.

There is also a history of horrible abuse of customers by the HRD staff. HRD has license check server. When the software starts, it will check your callsign against their database. At the time, it would return one of three replies. You had valid, deleted and blacklisted. All of this was plain text on an un-encrypted server. The “blacklisted” return is what got the people over at amateur radio subreddit interested. User /u/fohdeesha started polling the server against negative reviews posted on eham.net and noticed that at least 50% of the negative review came back as “blacklisted”.

Since then many people stepped forward and shared their experiences with HRD. It’s apparent that this is no longer an isolated incident. People are being “blacklisted” because of poor reviews. They were even banned from the software because they were on a Yahoo group.

There was one thing in common… Rick. It’s apparent that he is the main source of all the negative issues. He is a co-owner, lead programmer and handling support. Most of the negative experiences users shared were in result of dealing with Rick. It appears he is a bully and very vindictive. Even support volunteers were stepping aside because of his actions.

Some time goes by and there is finally a response from the HRD staff. Rick replied on the thread on QRZ.com and on eham.net the following

We we have an official statement soon, but we do not condone anyone that blacklisted any ham for a bad review

As of today, Randy, Mike and I went though the license server and removed all blacklisted hams. That’s not good business or good policy.

More to come.

It was rather odd considering there is overwhelming evidence that he was the person that was blacklisting hams for bad reviews. From the looks of it, they were getting ready to blame someone else.

A short time later, another co-owner (Mike, WA9PIE) of HRD chimed in with a more official apology.

I want to make a statement of apology on behalf of HRD Software.

We regret that we have been unable to maintain our high standards of quality in our service to one of our customers. I have reached out to this customer to correct this regrettable situation. I am looking forward to speaking with him.

We apologize for what has happened here. I have stepped in and personally taken corrective actions to ensure that this mistake does not get made again.

It is not the policy or practice of HRD Software, LLC to retaliate, in any way, when negative reviews are made about our company, its products, or our employees. If this has happened in the past, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. We will strive to avoid, even the suspicion of, such things in the future.

Best wishes in your continuing enjoyment of our hobby.

Regards,

It seemed to be a heartfelt apology and I personally thought it would end there. However some of the wording of the last couple paragraphs didn’t sit right. “It is not policy” and “If this has happened in the past” stuck out. Well it was policy because it was being done and it did happen. There is no question of IF.

Then Rick chimed in with

Jim,

No one is going to be sued. I made a serious mistake and error of judgement in this and many cases and I am truly sorry.

Jim, I apologize publicly to you. I do have diabetes and sometimes this affects my judgement and it did in that voicemail I truly regret it. I’m talking to my Doctor about changing my medications so I wont have any more low sugars.

Randy, Mike and I are discussing my future with HRD.

It appears both Rick and Mike were treating this whole situation as an isolated incident. It was clearly not. Rick also blamed his poor treatment of Jim as a reaction to his low blood sugar at the time of the phone call. Their reactions angered me. Their attempts at an apology made it even worse. It also appears the Mike isn’t not really privy to what is really going on over at HRD. He does mention that he doesn’t participate in the day-to-day operations over at HRD and that he claims he had no idea of what was going on. Personally I believe for that to be false because there has been years of abuse and even other HRD staffers (volunteer) knew what was going on. However Mike is insisted that he did not know.

Why Should I Care?

I care about what is going on because I really do like the software and there is a chance that it will go away. I actually want to purchase it at some point. I’ve also been treated horribly by other amateur radio software developers. I was told by the support of a popular software that they weren’t going to support my homebrew hardware and that I should purchase the real thing instead of looking into my issues. That’s what I get for trying to shake the “appliance operator” that gets attached to newer hams.

Digging A Deeper Hole

One of the co-owners of HRD stuck around in the ongoing thread on QRZ.com in attempts to take blame and recover from the damage that was done. Even though he had good intentions, he made things much worse. This started getting the attention of some news markets. A major international IT related news publication, The Register (el reg)  released an article about the whole HRD situation. They reached out to HRD for comment and HRD released a press statement that was basically deflecting what was going on and trying to define what they meant by “blacklisting”. HRD also claimed that it was “outside support staff” and not the co-owner that was responsible. That lead to a much bigger response to where The Register had to release another story about Ham Radio Deluxe a couple days later. HRD also deleted their twitter account which to me was an attempt to cover up some of the public tweets from HRD staff.

Since then there have been articles on Slashdot, Techdirt and many others about what has been going on. It even got attention from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). These aren’t some blogging websites like mine, these are some respected international publications and digital rights group. It’s not looking good for HRD and I honestly don’t want to see them go away. I wouldn’t want people to be out of work and I didn’t want to see this software tossed aside. But the actions from HRD are not helping.

About a week later, HRD annouced that co-owner Rick stepped aside and is now retired. HRD also claims they will be editing their EULA to renew their commitment to their customers. This is a step in the right direction. Some were sad to see Rick go but I feel it had to be done in order for HRD to move forward. I’ve publicly spoken with Mike and it appears he really cares about the company and HRD users. Even though I don’t agree with everything he said, it appears he is sincere and wants to improve.

HRD now faces an uphill battle. They no longer have their lead programmer, there are known bugs within the software and they are now swimming in a sea of negative press. I really hope that the staff from HRD learn from this and I hope other amateur radio developers learn from this as well. It goes to show that even one bad experience could lead to major trouble. Even though the term “The customer is always right” is often taken out of context, you should at least take the high road and respect those who prove to be difficult.

The future and their actions will set a precedence on what type of company they will be. I really do hope HRD recovers and even prosper from what happened. There are thousands of satisfied customers, hopefully there will be thousands more. Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading.
– Jeff (NT1K)

This article is of my opinion. I’ve came to this opinion based on what I’ve read throughout the past couple weeks. I try to be un-bias as much as possible. Since I do not work or have never worked for HRD, I am uncertain of what exactly happened. Just sharing what has been said elsewhere. I could be wrong. Please view the evidence for yourself.

 

 

 

 

My first attempt at NPOTA

The ARRL is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by doing a year long event called “National Parks On The Air” or NPOTA.
It’s where operators go to National Parks and “activate” them by making contacts from the NPS site/unit. Chasers that make contact with the activators will get points which encourages more operation.

From my point of view it looks like the ARRL got the NPOTA idea by combing SOTA (Summits On The Air) with POTA (Parks On The Air). SOTA is very popular with portable operators but POTA is not as known. The POTA website hasn’t been updated in a long time but locally there is a group that are trying their best to keep POTA alive and well. Hopefully with NPOTA, it will get more people in POTA and hopefully it will improve.

I wanted to give NPOTA a try because there are a couple places locally that I can activate. It also seems that NPOTA is quite active on social media with their Facebook Group. I figured a dual SOTA/NPOTA would be perfect. Be able to do what I know and give NPOTA a try at the same time.

Short Notice Activation

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Like usual, I decided the day of that I am going to do a dual activation. The weather forecast for the next week included cold, rain and snow. I figured this was my only shot but there was strong winds. I thought I could fight it and decided to activate Bare Mountain (SOTA W1/CR-014) in Hadley/Amherst Massachusetts as it’s close by and is on the National Scenic Trail (TR06).

Due to my past SOTA activations, I knew it’s best to spread the word so that I’m certain that my activation will count. I posted SOTAwatch, ARRL’s NPOTA upcoming activations page and numerous facebook groups. I am set!

Fighting The Wind

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As I started my hike, the wind started to get worse and worse. There would be moments of calm followed by this huge gust of wind. I was worried that I wouldn’t even get my antenna up but it wasn’t stopping me. The hike wasn’t bad at all really. I was proud because I didn’t have to stop to catch my breath at all. Not sure if it was because I’m hiking more or that I am used to doing these hikes on snow and ice covered trails.

Setting up against the wind did prove to be a pain. The end insulators on my homebrew G5RV acted as a kite and cause some funny moments of me trying to secure the wire ends. Even the twin lead took to the wind.

Finally On The Air

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The true reason why I did the activation was that I just purchased a new battery from Bioennopower through Hamsource.com . I wanted to test it out.

I found a nice quiet frequency on the upper portion of 20m and sent out a self spot on the SOTA cluster. Some operators get grumpy when someone self spots but this isn’t the CQWW contest. It’s some guy running low power and is portable on top a windy mountain.

After a few CQ’s some of the SOTA regulars come onto frequency and made contact. It was great to hear them because it confirms that I can at least get into the west coast since they were out of Washington state and Oregon. However I wanted those NPOTA pileups I hear so much about.

Thankfully someone from the SOTA group spotted me on the AR cluster. You can tell because it’s like someone opened up the flood gates. Calls were pouring in which put a huge smile on my face. I love pileups.

Murphy’s Law

Since I was very excited because of the pileup, something had to go wrong. After 6 or so contacts, the pileup was silenced. I was hearing nothing. Due to the wind I had earbuds in my ears which blocked out the sound of my antenna falling. I scrambled to get everything back up and running. I picked up the antenna, added more straps/cord and got back on the air. During my first contact back on the air, the antenna mast collapsed. Once again I am scrambling to put it back up and making sure to tighten each telescoping section as best I can.  I didn’t even have a chance to make it back to the radio when a big steady gust of wind came and pulled the BNC connector off the ladder line.

At this point I had enough contacts for a SOTA activation. I decided it was best to packup and leave. I didn’t even last 15 minutes on the air and I didn’t even make it to 0:00z or even to the other bands. It was getting dark and didn’t want to deal with it.

NPOTA Nut Jobs

Since I had to cut it short, I wasn’t able to get on 40m that I stated I was going to be on. In the SOTA world, it’s common for an activation to be cut short for weather reasons. However it doesn’t fly with some of the NPOTA chasers.

I attempted to post on the NPOTA facebook group that I had to go QRT due to the wind. However it didn’t stop people messaging me on Facebook and E-Mailing me. They were chastising me because I wasn’t on the air long enough and were upset because they were waiting for me on 40m and didn’t make enough contacts on 20m.

There was also a lot of poor operating during my short time on the air. There were at least 3 operators who didn’t seem to listen. I am not even sure if they heard me because they kept calling and calling even though I was in mid Q with someone else. I was also hearing other operators yelling at them to “Shut Up”.

I was very upset by the comments and poor operating at first until I realized that a good portion of these chasers probably never did a true portable setup before. A lot of the NPOTA activators are doing these activations from the comfort of their own vehicles and RV’s. They have the comfort to stay on for hours at time. I think the SOTA crowd is more understandable because they know what it’s like to be portable on top of a mountain. SOTA ops tend to make as many contacts as possible and get moving. However there is no excuse

Thoughts about NPOTA

I love the idea behind NPOTA. I hope it encourages more portable operating with POTA and SOTA after the event is over. But with what I see on the NPOTA Facebook group and my own personal experiences, there needs to be improvement.

Honestly I don’t think I will be publicly advertising that I am doing NPOTA activations in the future. The attitudes of some of the operators was just outright rude. Both on and off the air. You can’t “Turn the big knob” in this situation.

These are just my opinions, I very well could be wrong.

Thanks for reading,
NT1K

 

 

 

Op-Ed: My Open Letter To The FCC

Dear FCC,

Due to recent changes with vanity callsigns fees, There will be an increase of applications for cancelled 1X2 and 2X1 callsigns (N1ZZ NZ1Z for example) and other vanities now that it’s free to apply. It’s already difficult to obtain the short 1X2 or 2X1 callsigns. With the recent changes, it will make it much harder. Currently any licensed amateur with the appropriate class can apply for these short callsigns no matter what district they are located in. If multiple applications are submitted for a recently available call, the application is put in competition with the others and an application is chosen at random to receive the call. I would like to suggest that if there is a competition for a callsign, those who applied in the same district as the requested call have preference over those who are applying that reside outside the district.

For example a 1×2 or 2×1 callsign that has a number 1 in call becomes available and multiple people apply for it. Currently someone located within the 6th district can apply and possibly obtain the call while someone who is located in the 1st district can lose out. I feel that it should be assigned to someone within the district since they are currently living within it. If there were no applications in competition from anyone within the district as the callsign became available, then it should be up for grabs by anyone regardless of district.

Thank you,
Jeffrey Bail – NT1K


Before I got NT1K, I applied for a couple 1X2 callsigns that are in my District, I also have fellow operators doing the same thing. However most applications are awarded to those outside of district. It was upsetting to find out that I lost out on a callsign to someone located in a different call area. It’s also upsetting to lose out on a callsign that was awarded to someone who already has a short callsign. It’s even more upsetting when they have a short callsign and live in different district. I’m just asking that those located within the call area or district have preference if there is competing applications.  If no one within the district applied than it go to whomever applies first.

This is just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Thanks for reading,
NT1K

 

This blog/website is 5 years old. Some changes will be made.

This week marks the 5th anniversary of my website. I’ve created this website when I upgraded my license to general as a way to show others my adventures in amateur radio from there. Anything that I’ve done that was worth sharing was put onto this site. That way if anyone asked or I started to brag, I can point them to my website for a more detailed explanation. If others happened to stumble upon it then I  considered it an added bonus.

According to my stats, I’ve received over 300,000 views. Not bad considering it’s a personal amateur radio related blog. However I also did some number crunching. I’ve spent quite a bit of money as well as a ton of time working on this website and it’s content. It was a wake up call that I am spending money on this with no benefit other than possibly helping out other hams. I don’t mind putting in the time but I would like to avoid any more out of pocket costs. There are ways to offset my spending. Don’t worry, I am not going to annoy you with kickstarter or gofundme campaigns nor will I beg for donations. But I have to do something.

There will be advertisements 

I have enabled advertisements on certain youtube videos to get an idea of how things would work. My videos are nothing special and really don’t get many views, I use them to mostly compliment articles on my website. So as expected, I am not seeing any income. Do I care? A little. Otherwise I wouldn’t really be mentioning it. I’ve decided to give advertising a try here on the site since it generates way more traffic. Unless you have adblock installed, you can take a look on the right side of the screen and you will see an advertisement. You will also see one at the end of every post. I am trying to make it as less intrusive as possible but yet still be visible. Even though I resorted to using banner ads, I won’t stoop lower by trying to trick you, split articles onto multiple pages or have annoying pop-ups. If you would like to support this site, all you would need to do is just enjoy and come back. If you are running some form of ad blocking program, consider adding this site to your white list.

The goal is to offset the costs. Not to profit but If I do, I am not going to complain.  It may make me work harder on the site.

Other Changes 

The website needs some slight changes. I’ve made a mistake with wordpress when I created N1BMX.com and now NT1K.com. I downloaded a theme and modified it to the point where trying apply updates would have made things worse. I should have made a child theme of a popular theme but I was very new to wordpress at the time. This site is no longer mobile friendly and since more and more people are using their phones and tablets, I think it’s time for a change to be more mobile friendly. You will see layout changes in the near future.

Thank You

So far it’s been a fun 5 years in the HF game. I thought I would never participate in the hobby again but upgrading to general and getting HF has changed me. I’ve accomplished so many things, met so many people and had a lot of good times. It’s also great to see people benefit from my articles even though they articles are nothing special. I haven’t re-invented the wheel or found some technological break-thru. A lot of what I write is already all over the web but they are mixed with my opinions. So I am grateful to those who visit and more so to those who follow me on here and other social media platforms such as twitter.  Thanks!

Thanks for reading!

– Jeff (NT1K)

My Amateur Radio Bucket List. What’s Yours?

I’ve been interested in radio/rf every since I laid my eyes on a radio shack catalog when I was a kid. I’ve just always had this attraction to it.
25 years later, I am still into it. I’ve been licensed since 2001 and I’ve upgraded in 2009 and 2011. For some of you, that’s not a long time but I feel it is… for now.
I have accomplished many goals I’ve set in amateur radio. Got my license, got my extra, made DX contacts,  got my VE creds, taught a class, held my own exams, operated at W1AW, operated a large multi-multi contest station, ISS contact and many other things, but there is still so much to do. That’s what’s great about amateur radio. There is just so many possible things you can do within the hobby that it could possibly take a lifetime to achieve. Even though some hams lost their marbles, I think ham radio will keep your mind sharp as long as you put the effort into learning and keep an open mind.

I still have a list of things I would like to do in Amateur Radio. Here they are in order of most importance.

  • Learn Morse Code – Ever since I upgraded, I wanted to learn Morse Code. Even though I am a “Dittless wonder” according to some, I understand the importance of CW. I do a lot more with CW than phone. It would especially help out in multimode contest where CW contacts are worth more points. But knowing that my CW signal will travel farther than my phone signal is why I really want to learn. This is extremely important to where I am spending more time learning CW than being on the air at this moment in time.
  • Phone EME contact – I’ve always wanted to bounce a signal off the moon. It would be much better if I can bounce my voice off the moon and get a reply. I have really never dabbled in the VHF/UHF spectrum other than hopping on a repeater here and there and participating in a VHF contest or two. There is a chance where this is possible since there is an array close by.
  • Win a major contest – I’ve always wanted to win a major contest. Sure that is easily said than done but it would be great to get a plaque from participating in a major contest. However I doubt it would be from my home. Maybe I can sweet talk a near-by big gun station for just one contest. I would like to win it solo under my callsign.  However learning CW and being able to contest with it is key.  This is reserved for later in life.
  • Build an SSB transceiver – Even though some harp on the AM’er on 80m, I am amazed that a lot of them are talking on homebrew equipment with studio sounding quality to their signal. That is some talent considering we’re now living in a consumer age where everything is software based and on proprietary IC chips that fit on the surface area of a postage stamp. I would like to build my own rig from scratch. I don’t care if it’s someone elses plans, I just want to build my own rig. I want to know what exactly every component is doing and why it’s there.  If I were to start now, the MiniMA radio would be perfect.
  • DXpedition – Also reserved for later in life. I would love to take my equipment and run off to an island or a semi rare spot to do an DXpedition. Be on the other side of a major pileup for a change. So far the biggest pileup I’ve ever had was for W1AW/1 (MA) and I had an absolute blast doing it. I would love to be part of a team but I just don’t have the time or money to make it happen.
  • Aeronautical mobile on HF – I would love to be able to do HF from an airplane high up in the sky just once. That is very difficult but I just wonder what the traffic would be like on the frequency. How packed would it be? I do have an option to try it on VHF so I will try to take advantage of it.

That’s about it really. I am sure many other things will come up as technology improves and my interests change. DXCC honor roll and other awards should be up there but at this point in time, they don’t really seem important to me. After getting DXCC basic, chasing paper sort of went downhill.

Thanks for reading. What is on your bucket list?

–  Jeff NT1K

K3 and Beam: 6 months update

At the end of 2014 two major upgrades took place in my shack. First was a new Elecraft K3 to replace the Yaesu FT-950. The reason I got the K3 was because I wanted a new radio that was easier to use and had better filtering/options. The other major upgrade was that I’ve added a 3 element tri-band yagi to my antenna farm. This is my first ever HF directional antenna.

I decided on the major upgrade because Amateur Radio is basically the only hobby that I’m active in. I’ve felt that I got the most out of my radio and especially my G5RV. There was no more enthusiasm to get on the air anymore. I never went a week without turning on the radio but I noticed I was slipping away from getting on the air. Nothing was exciting me other than a contest here and there and field day.

K3 6 Months In

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I made a joke when I purchased the K3 that Elecraft will release the K4 not far after I purchased my K3. The reason I made this joke is that Kenwood came out with the TS-590S soon after I purchased my FT-950 and I knew the TS-590s was a better radio for the price. Sure enough a couple months after I purchased the K3, they release a new synth board that makes the K3 better and is now standard on the K3. Then in May, elecraft releases the K3S which is even better. Another punch to gut. I wasn’t really happy to be honest.

But…

Compared to the FT-950, I am having a much better time with the K3. There is some things I missed about the FT-950 but with what the K3 has to offer, it made me not look back. The K3 is much easier to use. I can easily adjust power, DSP settings, filtering and even have the radio perform a custom set of functions with just a push of a button. With my two “Custom” buttons I am able to cycle through different TX EQ profiles and easily switch between my headset and my front panel mic.

I also want to believe that the narrower filters I’ve installed made NEQP more enjoyable. I was able to test the difference between the 2.7Khz filter and the 1.8Khz filter with a packed 40m band and there is a difference. During the QSO party I took the 1.8Khz out (through software) and did some comparisons using the 2.7Khz filter at 1.8Khz. To the ear there was some differences, Adjacent signals on the 1.8Khz were not as pronounced as the the 2.7Khz turned down.

So even though there is the new K3S, my K3 was still worth the purchase. I just wish it felt and looked better to use but it doesn’t matter during a major contest when you need a radio that will not only work but it will work well.

3 Element Yagi 6 Months In

Up until I installed the beam, I never really used directional antennas.  The only time I ever used directional antennas were at K1TTT and W1AW. Those stations are pretty much optimized and there is no way I could compare to my home setup. So for the past 5 years I’ve been active on HF, all my contacts from home were using a G5RV or G5RV jr.

I was used to the wire antennas and basically told myself  “that’s it!”. I thought it would be only antenna I will ever use. It has served me well but I knew I could do better. But what are my options considering I live in a semi urban area with a 150ft steep hill directly behind my house? Of course I wanted 70ft+ tower with at least a tri-bander (20/15/10m) stacked on top of a 40m Beam but that wasn’t going to happen. The wife wanted no guy wires and the cost of red tape,  pouring a base, tower and other stuff exceeded what I can really afford. I thought it was out of the question but someone suggested a roof tower and it seemed to be the only logical choice. I have a very tall house which would put the antenna at least 40ft up in the air. Thankfully someone local was moving and wanted to get rid of his roof tower and antenna. I ended up with a 4.5ft tower and a Mosley CL-33 (Classic 33).

NewBeam1

Why didn’t I get a beam sooner?

There was an instant major difference. I was able to play in the ARRL 10m contest that year and did quite well. I never really liked 10m because it was never open to me. Now that I have an antenna for 10m, it proved to be an enjoyable band. On 20m and 15m, this antenna is excellent. Of couse it’s better than my G5RV but having the beam really opened things up. It’s easier to navigate pileups and I have increased the amount of DX contacts I am making drastically. Contesting is much easier and even rag chewing is easier. I mostly rag chew with newer ops and most of them are on wires like I was and being able to do some of the heavy lifting on my end has made contacting newer ops much better.

Overall thoughts

Should you drink the Elecraft Kool-Aid? That depends. As much I joke around, I wouldn’t suggest the K3(S) to a casual operator. I wouldn’t suggest it to the guy who doesn’t contest and just gets on the air every once in awhile to make an occasional DX contact or rag chew. The Kenwood TS-590SG is a really excellent radio packed full of options for considerably less. The money you would save could be put into your antenna which is just as import, if not more important than the radio.

But if you’re into contesting, I would suggest the K3(S).

With the antenna, I’ve always suggested to people to just get (or make) an antenna that could get you on the air. But that has since changed. I would strongly suggest a beam but I know not everyone can have one. Just make due with what you can do.

Thanks for reading!

– Jeff

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 Op-Ed: Preppers and Ham Radio

I have been seeing a lot of preppers out there on the internet promoting Amateur Radio. For those who don’t know what a prepper is, you can compare it to a survivalist as they are similar in some ways. In my opinion a Survivalist learns how to live off the land and a Prepper is “Preparing” for an event. It can range from someone preparing for a storm all the way to someone preparing for when the S#!T hits the fan ( SHTF as they call it) or “Doomsday”, the end of the world.  Some of them go far as building huge underground bunkers equipped with enough fresh water, food, power and ammunition to last for years. Recent TV shows like “Doomsday Preppers” have increased the spotlight on these types of people.

I think some of these extreme preppers are nutty but as long as they are spending their own money and don’t bother anyone else, they can prepare all the want. Who knows, they might have the last laugh but I am not going to spend my life worrying about a “What If”.  By the way, I do believe that you should have at least some preparations such as a flashlight, weather radio and the plans that are mentioned on the Ready.Gov’s website. I am not here to put down the preppers.

At some point along the way in the prepper movement, it was mentioned that Amateur Radio is a necessity as it allows you to communicate with the “Outside World” and to keep tabs on what’s going on. It’s suggested on many websites and there are a lot of YouTube “Prepper” videos which promote Amateur Radio. I am all for promoting Amateur Radio but the way it’s being promoted is what bothers me. Instead of focusing on Amateur Radio as a whole, it’s only focusing on the prepper aspect of it with a sprinkle of EmComm.  I know it’s their angle but there is more to Amateur Radio than just for using it during an emergency or when “Doomsday” happens and I wish more of these sites would mention it or dive into Amateur Radio a little deeper.

Preppers getting licensed at what cost?

I am glad they are getting licensed and I am sure certain radio organizations are glad so they boast about higher numbers, but at what costs? Sure, they have a license but are they going to use the radio other than listening? Are they going to take advantage of their new license? Are they going to be interested in the hobby other than from a prepper standpoint? I would rather see 10 people licensed that are active and really care about the hobby than 100 people get licensed to check into a couple nets and put their radio into storage mode.

I am NOT stating that Preppers shouldn’t get licensed!

I am glad they are taking the steps in being legal. It’s better than having the equipment in the hands of someone who has no clue what they are doing or don’t care. Hopefully while in the process of studying for their license that they see what Amateur Radio is all about and end up being more involved. All I ask is for these websites/bloggers/podcasters/youtubers that are promoting prepping and amateur radio to consult an active and established amateur radio operator. You wouldn’t want me on your show giving prepping advice just because I’ve read a couple blog sites. There are many operators that would love to make an appearance to correctly promote ham radio. all you would have to do is just ask.

This is just my opinion, I maybe wrong!
Thanks for reading and 73,

Jeff – NT1K