Radio W4KAZ

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2012 CQ 160m CW – Saturday Morning Review

Well, going back to the salt mine after 1:00an local proved to be a waste of time.  Conditions had not improved to areas in the Western US/Canada….or to anywhere else.

Actually, the QRN was lower, and the 8’s and 9’s were louder, as well as stations from AL, GA and FL.  There just were not enough callers to justify Butt-In-Chair.

Set the clock for a couple of hours with the hope of getting the early risers….NOT.  Slept right through the alarm, so Saturday morning was lost.


2012 CQ 160m CW – Break Time

Not too shabby.  After 6.0 hours of operation, 270 Q’s in the log.  Not much in the Western US, but have CA and AZ.  Spent the first 30 minutes S&P, then a couple of short runs, another stretch of S&P, and then a nice steady run.  Nothing fabulous, but the Inv-L is playing much better than is has in the past.

Early in the evening, the K9AY was the best on RX.  The QRN has slowly been tapering off, so RX on the Inv-L is better.  The K9AY still has the edge – when it happens to be pointing in the correct direction.

Blew two fuses in the power line to the K2.  Both blew when switching the RX antenna during xmit.  Must be causing a voltage spike.  Solution:  Don’t Do That!

So far the anecdotal evidence indicates I’m being heard better with the changes to the TX antenna.  Gonna save looking at the RBN spots for Sunday.

Back to the salt mine….

Solar Flux Does Its Thing

Well, glad to see we didn’t get a complete solar fizzle.  As the sunspot numbers for the new cycle swung up, propagation had mostly not improved tremendously.

Then like the flick of a switch – whammo.  Suddenly this past week has seen improved conditions above 20m.  All coinciding with the calendar shift from summer to autumn.  10m conditions have been good relative to the last six years this entire week.  JA’s on 10m.  EU on 10m every morning.  These conditions are a very nice improvement which would be welcome to continue, but are at the mercy of the capricious nature of a three percent variable star.

Smoke ’em if ya got ’em.

Summer Review – Field Day 2011

Drove out to the mountains to hook up with N4YDU and N4PY for another great FD.  The Stone Mt. site is just plain awesome.  The set up was heavy on keeping it simple. We used 40m doublets and an 80m Vee operating 1A with a 6m setup.

One of the 40m antennas showed a high noise level again, which I expect is being generated locally.  Probably something in the park restroom is generating the RFI.  We had the same problem when we operated from the site previously.  But thats all a part of FD – working through the problems.

The 56 ft doublets were a lot less impressive on top of a mountain than at the beach for IOTA, which is not really a surprise.  I expect most of their performance in 2010  IOTA was due to ocean side proximity and propagation.  Left to my own devices the first choice for 40m will forevermore be resonant dipoles or loops.

The FD wx was great.  Overnight temps fell into the low 60’s or 50’s, which is a really nice change after afternoon temps in the 90’s.

And as always, operating with N4YDU and N4PY was great.

The only downside was there was no time before or after to get in a couple of days of camping and hiking the park trails.

CQ WPX CW 2011


I had saved Friday afternoon for some nice relaxing antenna maintenance time.  It is time to replace the K9AY wires.  Both loops have suffered a lot of damage from the odd falling branch, and the loops were made from fairly thin 18ga tinned automotive wire, I normally use for other reasons.  Time to put up loops made of heavier gauge wire, because the RX antenna is a keeper.  The 15m/10m loop also needs some work.  It needs to be adjusted for better SWR if kept, but it will more likely be replaced with simple dipoles.  Also need to check out some of the support lines, etc., etc. etc.

The wx did not cooperate with this plan.  A big thunderstorm moved in, and there was a mini monsoon, the likes of which I’ve not seen very often here in NC.  It was more like the spring storms more common on the gulf coast.  “Torrential downpour”.  “Monsoon”.

Anyway, with half of the XYL’s landscape floating away to the accompaniment of claps of thunder, the antenna plan hit the crapper.  The occasional light shower continued through the afternoon, and the wx radar kept me from plugging into the antennas(aka “lightning attractors”) until about 0400Z.  It would probably have been OK to operate sooner, but there was no reason to take the risk.

So, Friday resulted in a whopping 13Q’s of disinterested S&P.

Slept late Saturday(see where this is going?).  Still not much interest.  More half-hearted S&P on a mostly dead 20m band.  A 10 minute 20m run produced zilch.  Had more fun texting N4YDU than operating.  In the early evening, 40m sounded good.  Worked A73A, and hope he finally copied my number. He got the call on the first transmission, but needed fills on the number.  But if they could hear me in Qatar, it must be worth giving running a shot.  A forty minute 40m run produced about 50 Q’s, and some skimmer spot activity.  Operated “assisted, low power” to test out the packet connections.  Figured on a mostly S&P weekend, and figured it would be interesting to watch the band map.  Somewhere in that time the N/S 40m dipole became disfunctional[after nabbing a lot of russians while S&P].  Bailed early again.

Sunday, more Q’s were made running than S&P.  20m was a lot more fun than on Saturday.  15m stunk using the 40m dipole, although it looks like it stunk for bigg gunz too..  The N/S 40m dipole showed intermittent, so I guess that huge branch that fell in February must have given it a good wack on the way down.  Another repair project.  Running stations was pretty easy on both 40m and 20m, so conditions on Sunday were much improved over those on Saturday.

The station was good to go inside the shack.  With the skimmer spots being fed from the Reverse Beacon Net’s server, the band map was well populated.  The filters established were adequate.  The only part missing there were skimmer spots from a truly LOCAL skimmer.  The SO2R arrangement was also good-to-go, although the lid operator was not motivated enough for “S&P2R”.  If band conditions ever really break open again, with activity from 40m though 10m, the two radio capability is going to be more useful.  However SO2R was mostly a learning project – figuring out how to accomplish it was the real goal.  Time to revisit those filter projects again.

The Good:

  • Nice to hear 20m sound better.  Saturday was like sunspot minima.  Sunday-much better.
  • N/S 20m and E/W 20m dipoles produced good results in the expected directions, up to three S-units difference on weaker signals.  Definitely worth having both
  • Ditto 40m.  Before it broke, the N/S 40m dipole was hearing  many fine Russian ops much better than the E/W dipole, that is normally the  first choice.  The N/S works well into the GA/FL/Carribean/SA direction too.
  • Packet set-up will work when it is wanted
  • CW skimmer is every bit the game changer I expected.
  • Pulled the 40m antenna switch box to debug for possible intermittent.  Replaced broken connector on unused position, all seven positions on switch re-checked, switch good to go.

The Bad:

  • CW skimmer is every bit the game changer I expected[depends on mood]
  • didn’t get the repairs done
  • bad attitude.  Just not feeling the force
  • No real game plan going into the contest
The Ugly:
  • Washout on Friday afternoon.
  • Broken antennas:  K9AY, N/S 40m, 15m/10m loop
  • New problem on 40m switch box

The final “Final”:

Call: W4KAZ   Operator(s): W4KAZ   Station: W4KAZ
Class: SO(A)AB LP                  QTH: NC
Operating Time (hrs): 12.5

 Band  QSOs
   80:   10
   40:  132
   20:  208
   15:   15
   10:    1
Total:  366  Prefixes = 260  Total Score = 215,540

Vicarious Dayton Hamvention 2011

***in progress, last update 2011/06/03, 09:00am local***

Just as soon as the pollen clears, it is time for another swat at Dayton Hamvention.  Spending time at the house with the pressure washer is a lot less fun than going to Hamvention, but that’s the way it is again in 2011.  [Those silly kids of mine BOTH want to go to college – cha-ching!]

No contest University – again.  No FDIM visit.  No chit-chat with the vendors.  But it is possible to tour the 2011 Hamvention after the fact. On a vicarious 2011 Hamvention tour…………….

…and thanks to the astute reporting over at The Fi-Ni Report, we were certain Hamvention was still going to be taking place despite the onset of Zombie Armageddon. So if there HAD been any travel plans, there would have been no need to cancel them to instead hoard the shotgun shells needed for those hard to eradicate zombies that always pop up when the world ends.

New Stuff and various video:

NEW STUFF IS ALWAYS FUN- The Elecraft KX3 video tease! by the QRPARCI group. Actual KX3 data sheet.   Fun facts being teased out on the Elecraft mail list.  Actual genuine Elecraft KX3 webpage.   O’course, the ubiquitous yahoo group for the kx3 is formed.

Another KX3 video by WB8CXO

Other takes and other New Stuff#1, LazydogSDR [new to me anyway].  This KE9V photo caught my eye…..A speaker/mike with a display.  Really?  LOL. Really?  Thanks to Jeff for catching that one.

Video of ring-rotor that incorporates a motorized adaptation of a PVRC mount.

New Alinco DJ-G29T 220/900 Mhz HT Announced at Dayton 2011

Who shows up at Hamvention?  ARRL video of chat by KF5BOC.

Contest University Webinars[warehoused by PVRC]:

K3LR’s vault of 2011 Antenna forum programs:

  • #1 goes here
  • #2 goes here
  • #3 goes here
  • #4 goes here

You never know what you will find in the flea market#1, fleamarket experience#2, fleamarket experience#3, fleamarket experience#4, fleamarket experience #5 [willing to wager this was NOT KF5BOC] {in hindsight, maybe useful around the sewerage spill}

RadioGuy was busy with the video camera: MFJ on the main floorYaesu, ICOM, Steppir,  and more on RadioGuy76’s youtube channel.

Shaky Fleamarket tour part#1 and tour part#2 by KA1SUN

Video montage by TofuHasenpfeffer

Video Montage by joehusker.

Hamcity MONEYGRAB! video by ArkAngelz.  Fun for kids of any age!  Way cool.

VE7HHS video demo by Flex radio, VE7HHS finds what happened to the Geiger counters, and the inner workings of a Steppir.

And o’course, FD is not a contest.  Although that’s a state of mind issue, aina?

The local “professional” coverage, and WHIOTV.

W5KUB Vendor Setup Tour [choppy stream??] .

Hamvention-too much fun to sleep! recap on Contest University, hara flyby, and “holy crap cow !” recaps by “sterwing’s”

Old School Morse – REALLY old school

What does one do at Dayton? a Hamtwits hamvention meetup.

There really is all sorts of “stuff” in the hamvention fleamarket!  Yowza!  O’course, you always need to watch your step in a fleamarket area anyway…..but….Yowza!

Bloggers Do Dayton:  Missed a chance for a meetup with some of these folks.
Some  2011 Hamvention photo albums, in no particular order:

Despite a larger number of Twits Tweeting the Hamvention in 2011, the ephemeral nature of the stream-of-consciousness twitter style is too much like mental cotton candy for my own tastes, and thus twittishness of all sorts shall hereby be firmly relegated to remain forevermore in the bit bucket.  [Except maybe a few photos].

Very Cool, Hope it Works

A UK developer has hacked up a $25 computer.  I hope its real.  If it is, its quite an achievement.

Even if its $25EU……Whats that these days about $40USD?

Love It

It ain’t radio, but even better……

10m Band Still Dead

I see the solar flux ended the day Sunday over 100 for the first time since 2005.

Yet Sunday afternoon, 10m was still just as dead as a doorknob.  Spent a few minutes several times hunting beacons, but only the local one here in FM05 was audible.  Didn’t hear much on 15m either, but there were a few CW Q’s and some RTTY signals.  One very faint SSB QSO.

Perhaps a few days of flux will help improve conditions.  What with ARRL DX CW coming, that would be a welcome change.

But the whole extended propagation drought has me re-evaluating the 160m antenna versus the 10m/15m antenna.  Its not necessarily an either/or, but the supports they occupy could probably be used for other things.  Its probably a good time to re-evaluate the available support/actual usage trade-offs again.  Most of the wires were hoisted based on what supports were unoccupied, rather than as a whole station best use plan. [ Plan?  Plan?]

There’s a three week window here where the temperatures will be moderate and the leaves are not yet budding.  Plan?  None yet occurs.

The 10/15m loop is probably in a spot that might be better used for the 160m vertical.  The 160m vertical is a bit on the long side, and the darn thing is working – kinda-sorta hate to “fix” something that works.  But there’s also K2AV’s new idea for the radial/counterpoise to consider.  Not sure what the real fun factor is in the situation.  In the end, the real plan is to maximize the fun.

So, where’s the long-term fun gonna be? 40m and 80m?  Never much cared for 20m……although it has its moments.

For the current moment, procrastination may cause the ideal antenna work window to come and go. The squirrels in the biological antenna support structures may get to enjoy spring unmolested.

Lost Opportunities

Blew off most of the recent fun contests.  Just a few QSO’s in Stew Perry, fewer in NAQP CW, and zero interest in NAQP SSB.  Atypical, but there it is.

During Stew Perry I operated long enough to observe the K9AY was having a good night.  RX on the K9AY was much better than on the transmit antenna in a lot of cases, even though QRN was relatively low.  I was able to copy several stations on the K9Ay that were below the noise on the TX inv-L antenna.  The wx conditions had been very wet leading into that weekend, so I expect the ground conditions were better.  The radial field for the K9AY got torn up during this seasons leaf harvest, so its mostly just a ground rod.  That’s worth investigating more thoroughly and methodically.

Currently the normal shack-time has been squandered toying with the Linux file server.  Been toying with some PHP/html curiosities, and getting a project gathering band data from the  ARRL Sweep contest migrated to the server.  Most recently been more compelled by curiosity into looking at the raw data now available from the reverse beacon network.  The “reverse beacons network” is simply a site that has been set up[by PY1NB, F5VIH, and N4ZR, et. al.] to gather spots generated by various CW skimmers that have public access nodes.

Currently the network is fairly irregular, in that most of the skimmers seem to be part-time.  But there are more of them active for more regular durations as time and interest marches forward.  Interesting idea.  The data available goes back to 2009, by the day.  It occurs to me that the data might be useful as yardstick for measuring a station’s relative strength.  A good way to compare stations in the only way that really counts – how well can they hear you.

The amount of data available is fairly large, even with a relatively small and irregular network of skimmers being aggregated.  It seems like it might be interesting to peel off the data I feel is of interest, and see if anything interesting can be “squouze” from it.  To that end, a whole new array of “how do I  get ????” questions pop up.  The spot analysis tool written by F5VIH is a great start, but maybe not exactly what I’d like to see.  In the end, nothing may come of the recent curiosities other than a less than rigorous exercise of the gray matter.

Let the leaves blow where the wind takes them.