Thursday, December 29, 2011

Topband Holiday Gift !!

Gifts from "TopBand"

To my surprise...
 160 meters gave many of us a nice holiday gift last night.
Late Wednesday afternoon I decided to turn on the K3 
and see if  I was hearing any signals on Topband.
(As many of you know Topband has been poor this season so far.)
At around 6 pm local time or (23:00Z)
I was hearing a few signals from Europe
but nothing to get excited about.
Signals were mainly weak but seemed workable.
I checked the DX cluster and found several spots.
Actually more spots than I had seen in a while.
During the next 45 minutes I managed to put 4 DX contacts in the log.
UR5 , HA8, ON4, DL7
Not great ... (yet) ... but a start.
Anyway .... It was time to get ready for church,
so I turned the rig off and planned to check the band again after church.
When I returned, I turned the rig back on around 9 pm or (2:00Z).
To my surprise, the band was wide open into Europe !!
I managed to put 22 contacts into the log from 9pm to 1am (02:00 to 06:00)
not bad for a band that seems to be just waking up.
I ended up working 18 countries in 4 zones.
Austria, England, Euro Russia, France, Hungary
Poland, Finland, Czech Rep, Bulgaria, Netherlands
Norway, Italy, Romania, Ukraine, Germany
Belgium, Lithuania, Sweden
Zones ... 14,15,16,20
The neat thing was ... 
As I watched my gray line map throughout the night,
 I could see the signals peak for each country
 as the gray line moved across Europe.
The odd thing I noticed ...
 was that most signals were 559 with qsb both ways 
most of the night.
Although they did peak higher at sunrise times.
The band was quiet as well
unlike the night before.
It was "Holiday Magic" for radio !!
What a great Holiday gift.
Thanks "TopBand" !!

73 de N4LA

Friday, December 2, 2011

80 Meters : New Country - New Zone !!

Thanks Mr Wu !!
 I worked Mr Wu in Taiwan this morning on 80 CW
For a new country / new zone (Zone 24)
Qso time was 12:19Z
He was 449 to 559 with qsb when I worked him 
just after sunrise .. and his signal was still building !!
I received a 559 signal report.
I used the APF feature on the Elecraft K3 for the 1st time
during the qso with Mr Wu ... and I was very impressed,
as it made his signal pop right out of the noise !!
Conditions were Good on the low bands this morning
as the Aurora level was only at 1 ...
which created a possibility for good polar path openings.

73 de N4LA


Monday, November 28, 2011

N4LA Update

Many of you have probably noticed the lack of blog entries for November.
So I thought I would give a brief update.
On Nov 6th my mother passed away unexpectedly.
So for the past few weeks, life has not been easy...
especially with the holiday season upon us,
Needless to say .....
My radio time and computer/blog time 
have been very limited over the past few weeks.
Thanks to all the support of all my ham friends 
around the world during this tough time.
And a special thanks goes out locally to my good friends
Jack / W4TJE  & Abe / K4MK
and also my church family
" Farmer Old Fashioned Baptist"
Over the past weekend I finally resumed my radio activities
and found it to be a nice distraction to the past few weeks
As many of you know the CQWW  CW contest was in 
full force over the weekend.

I worked a handful of stations of stations worth mentioning.
40 meters
80 meters
160 meters
* This was the first JA's of the season for me on Top Band*
As many of you know I also enjoy the SOTA program
"Summits On The Air"
On Sundays I typically relax and play radio if I get the chance.
This past Sunday I decided to keep and eye on 
for SOTA activations.
I was not disappointed, as I put several new summits in the log
VA2IEI / Dennis on VE2/QC-002 ... 20 meter SSB
KD0BIK / Jerry on W0/FR-107 ... 17 meter SSB
NE1SJ on W1/CR-007 ... 17 Meter CW
KD9KC / Mike on W5/PO-007 ... 20 meter SSB
WT5RZ / Ron on W5/PO-007 ... 17 meter CW
Thanks Guys for your summit activation efforts... 
as we all know
 some of these summits are not easy to get to !!
For more info on SOTA 
go to 

Thanks again for all the condolences
73 de N4LA

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Antenna at K4SSU !!

Here is a shot of my longtime friend Dave / K4SSU  
On the way up ...
 to install his new 4 element Monster Steppir Yagi

Here is a shot at the "MonsterIR" at 140 ft !!


EI8GQB Expedition 31 October 2011 broken antennas

Here is video from Olivier ... after the storm during CQWW 2011

EI8GQB Expedition 27 October 2011 antenna farm

EXTREME PORTABLE OPS !! ... Thanks for the video Olivier

Friday, October 28, 2011

WOW !! >>> Two All Time New Ones In One Week

Cocos Keeling Islands

With over 340 DXCC Countries worked since 1999....
I can't remember the last time 
I worked 2 new countries in the same week.
But It happened this week ...
As I put VK0KEV ( Macquarie Island )
and VK9CX ( Cocos Keeling  Islands )
in my log !!

I worked Babs on 27 Oct 11
at 12:00 Z on 15 meter SSB

DL7AFS (Babs) and DJ7ZG (Lot)
Will be QRV from October 19th till November  9th 
from Cocos Keeling Island.
6m - 80m - mainly in RTTY, PSK and SSB  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TX7M ... For A New Band Country

Marquesas Islands
The Marquesas Islands are a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. The Marquesas are located at 9'00" S, 139'30" W. The highest point is the peak of Mount Oave on Ua Pu island at 1,230 m (4,035 ft) above sea level.

I've been chasing TX7M 
for the past couple of mornings... at my sunrise.
I worked them on 80 SSB on Tuesday morning...
Then on 80 CW / 40 CW /30 CW / 20 CW this morning 
All for new band countries !!
As many of you also know  ...
They are using four Elecraft K3's and various Vertical Arrays
Looks like good ops and great radios ....
Make for a winning combination !!


73 de N4LA

Saturday, October 22, 2011

VK0KEV ... For A All Time New One !!

New DXCC Country
For N4LA

I have chased Macquarie Island for a long time...
and YES ... I finally put it in the log
If you haven't worked Kevin / VK0KEV ...
Time may be running out.
Kevin says he will leave the island in a few weeks.

23 Oct 11
I worked Kevin for an all time new DXCC country at 03:02 Z
On 18.153 SSB ( He was working split & listening 5 down )
Signal reports were 5x8 both ways
Sorry guys ... this one wasn't worked with qrp pwr and wire antennas
I worked him using 1 KW and my yagi at 100 ft

Here is Kevin ...
Operating as VK0KEV on Macquarie Island
54 30' S 158 57'E / QD95LM / AN-005

Thanks for a 

73 de N4LA

Monday, October 17, 2011

QRP Rocks !!

I noticed over the past few days ...
 that lot's of QRP ops have been working the T32C DXpedition.
I have heard over and over how well T32C could hear.
So I thought what the heck ... I noticed they were on 10 meters calling CQ...
so I fired up my Elecraft K2 turned it down to 5 watts and threw in my call.
The first call did'nt make it ....
But the second call BINGO !!
I worked them at 22:13 Z on 28.018
Split ... Up 1
Now I know you're sayng  ....
Of course you worked them with a big yagi at 100 ft
Well this time that's not the case
I wanted to do it the hard way so I used my OCF sloper at 60 ft.
So T32C is in the log using 5 watts and a wire sloper.
It doesn't get much better than that !!
The Magic of radio ... what can I say.

73 de N4LA

Sunday, October 16, 2011

CW Tip # 5

Listen ... Listen ... Listen
Back To The Basics

Listen, Listen, Listen to well-sent code.  Listen at every opportunity as well as at planned practice sessions.  Listen to the radio, to tapes, to computer-generated materials.  Do it whenever you don't have something else to do which requires conscious mental activity: try it during lunch, while driving -- listen and enjoy it.  There are several kinds of listening  -- first, listening at any speed where we can understand all or nearly all of what is sent; next, there is listening at speeds where we can "read" maybe 75% of it; and finally there is listening to sending so fast that we can only catch some letters or a word here and there.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New Beverage Antenna Install at AE4LD

I spent the day at my friend Larry's qth  ...
Helping him install his first ever Low Band Receive Antenna.
Its a 300 ft reversible beverage antenna.
The Transformer and end termination box 
was purchased from Bruce ( K1FZ )
Below is the link to Bruce's website

Here is Larry (AE4LD)
checking to see if the post at the termination end
 of the antenna is level.

As you can see...
Larry takes no short cuts
as a transit was brought in to 
line up the beverage supports.

Two types of antenna supports were used  ...
Here is the first type of support.
A 10 ft section of PVC pipe ...
with the antenna wires spaced 12 inches apart.
( Notice the big Opti-Beam in the background )

Here is the 2nd type of support
Electric fence insulators were used on the trees
Also spaced at 12 inches.

Here is the feed end of the reversible beverage
Electric fence insulators were used on both ends.
The two legs were then attached to a tree via 2 eye bolts.
The transformer will be mounted between the 2 wires.
It will be attached to to 2 antennas and also to a ground rod.

Here is the opposite end  or Termination end of the beverage antenna.
The 2 wire termination box will be placed between the 2 antenna wires
It is also connected to a ground rod located beside the post.
The antenna itself was made of electric fence wire.

Larry (AE4LD)
Radio-Active !!

73 de N4LA

My New QRP Station !!

Elecraft K2/qrp
Here is my newest edition to the Elecraft line at N4LA
My new K2 ... built by my good friend Larry (AE4LD)
This is the QRP version with CW only right now.
I plan to add the SSB module ...
 and the internal antenna tuner in the near future.
It now sits in my 2nd/qrp operating position.

Whats funny is ....
 Charles GW0LVH

said ...

The best method I found to improve my CW 
was to throw away the microphone! 
If the mic is within arm's reach it is all to easy to cave in and use it. 
My new K2 has no MIC or SSB !!
73 de N4LA

Sunday, October 9, 2011

CW Tip #4

Back To The Basics

ENJOY the experience of learning.  
Make each practice period fun.

Those who engage in the learning process with a carefree, unhurried, unworried attitude and enjoy it progress the fastest. So don't press your ultimate objectives, don't try too hard, this will hinder our advancement. Be content to go ahead a step at a time.  We need to let go any unconscious resistance, and permit our subconscious minds to function without interference. The more we give ourselves permission to let go of any concern and the more fun it is, the better we will do.  


Fact or Fiction


This Info was obtained from the HF Pack Users Group

Bonnie Crystal KQ6XA, VR2KQ6XA

KQ6XA Rule of Thumb: CW v. SSB Power Effectiveness Comparison

CW -vs- SSB Power Effectiveness Comparison
KQ6XA Rule of Thumb:
5 Watts on CW gets out like 100 Watts SSB.
1 Watt on CW gets out like 20 Watts SSB.
250mW on CW gets out like 5 Watts SSB.

For those who are interested, here is the background
of RF engineering/guestimation/field experience behind
this Rule of Thumb, and the given conditions:

Operators = skilled, talented operators
Language = American English
CW Speed = 15WPM
Bandwidth CW = 1kHz
Bandwidth SSB = 2.7kHz
Signal/Noise Ratio CW = -1dB SNR a Talented CW Ops
Signal/oise Ratio SSB = +12dB SNR a Skilled SSB Ops
5 Watts Power CW = 37dBm
100 Watts Power SSB = 50dBm
Difference = 13dB

Note: Some tricks can be played with CW or SSB to
skew this comparison. Things like bandwidth and
super-operator talent (contest ops), language
(Japanese is 3dB better than American English),
speech compression, morse speed (coherent CW is better),
and types of noise or fading present. For those
wondering about DSP noise reduction... most of the
super-ops who can copy either CW or SSB at abnormally
bad noise levels, don't use DSP noise reduction to do it!

I would love to hear some comments on this comparison
73 de N4LA

Monday, October 3, 2011

CW Tip # 3


Back To The Basics

The first secret of increasing your receiving speed is to shorten the time it takes you to recognize each code character as soon as it has been completely heard.  The shorter that time interval is, the faster you will be able to receive.  Aim to make it instantaneous.  IF YOU DO NOT INSTANTLY RECOGNIZE THE SOUND OF ANY CHARACTER, YOU HAVE NOT REALLY LEARNED IT YET.  (That is the one character you need to practice on until you know it immediately.)  The goal of practice and drill from here on is to speed up your recognition of characters, and then of words, to the point where you can both "read" them easily without writing, and copy them down more and more automatically.


Extreme Portable Ops  "UPDATE"  from my friend Olivier
Hello ...
I have evolved in SO2R (Single Operator 2 Radios) operation with 2 new antennas for the RUN station
SSB Contest preparations have started. I will be back on air from Ireland between 23rd October to 1st November 2011.
73 and regards
Olivier EI8GQB/ON4EI

An Elecraft K3 is used for the main operating position
Click on the link below for Olivier's QRZ Blog

New "Motivation" for CW Improvement !!

The Keys to my Success ?
GHD GT504 Standard Key

GHD GN407 Single Paddle

New "Toys" at N4LA !!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cw Tip #2

Sending Speed
Back to the Basics
It is asking for trouble to call CQ with a speed faster than you can comfortably copy, because that will probably be the speed somebody will use when answering you.  Don’t get frustrated if the other station doesn’t slow down for you, even after you have sent PSE QRS (please send slower).  The other station may be pressed for time, in the heat battle during a contest, or has been operating at a fast speed for so long that they have difficulty copying or sending slower.  You also need to be courteous.   Do not assume that everyone who does not slow down is being a jerk.  If you cannot copy the other station, just say SRI TOO FAST, send them a 73 and move on.  You are sure to find somebody that you can work.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Eagle Cap SOTA Expedition

New Goat Hiker Video !!
Thanks... Steve ... Guy ... Chris... and the rest of the Eagle Cap Gang
You guys are a inspiration for all portable ops !!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Radio-Active CW Tips Are On The Way !!

"Back to the Basics"


Over the next few weeks ...
I'll be adding various CW tips to my blog 
on a regular basis.
To help myself stay focused on my GOAL

My Goal:  
To Improve My CW Skills on a Daily Basis
Along the way ...  Help other Hams who struggle with CW.

I will try to add at least 1 Tip a week and possibly more if time allows.
These Tips are targeted at those who are just starting to learn code ...
 And those who are trying to improve on their current CW skills
The CW tips that I will post ...
Will come from my own personal internet research
and are not based on my personal knowledge or experience.
Feel free to comment at any time ...
 Please add your on CW tips to my comment section 
at the bottom of each post, if you like.

I hope you enjoy

Now to 
CW TIP # 1

Learning  Morse Code Is Similar To Learning To Read

Learning the Morse code is much like to learning to read by eye.

Learning to read print has several stages of skill level.

- First we learned to recognize the individual letters,
and could slowly spell and sound out words.

- Next we began to recognize and read many common
short words as words, instead of having to spell them all out.

- Before long we learned to recognize short phrases
(“of the”, etc.)  
and some of the longer words as whole words.

- Finally an expert reader can read whole clauses, 
sentences and even a paragraph as a unit of thought,
almost at a glance.

This  gives  us a clue as to how to
go about learning and improving
Morse code skill. 

73 de N4LA

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Morse Code ... Are There Any Short-Cuts ?

< CW >

Over the past couple of years ....
I've been making a half-hearted attempt 
to improve my ability to operate using Morse Code 
Mainly due to the fact that I enjoy combining two of my favorite hobbies
Ham Radio & Hiking 
Portable ops are really fun ... 
And I love playing radio in the great outdoors !!
But no one likes to lug heavy radio gear up and down the trail
So what is a Ham to do ?
The equipment I want to carry needs to be
Small ... lightweight  ... Battery friendly ... and VERY EFFICIENT
To me that means only one thing
Why QRP ? ... size and weight
Why CW ? .... Efficiency
It has been said that there is a 18db advantage with CW
That's like turning on a amp and gaining 3 S units !!
If I'm using only 5 watts or less of transmit power ...
CW is the advantage I need !!

QRP is not only fun... it's a challenge !!

For me ... CW practice in the past has been hit and miss 
Generally a slow process ... and at times even painful !!
I've found it requires... 
Patience ... Discipline ... Persistence
I've tried all the magic programs and software that I can find
But I've yet to find that magic CW learning / improvement tool.
Currently I can receive basic CW qso's up to 15 - 20 wpm on a good day.
That is .... If I write it down.
My short term goal is to consistently copy 20 wpm in my head
NO pen ...NO paper
I'm not gonna lie ... It's tough for me
 I've increased my practice sessions over the past couple of weeks 
and I can see a difference already !!
 I thought I would give you the links 
to some of the CW software that I like & use to hone my CW skills.
These links If used on a regular basis ... 
can help those just starting to learn code ... 
and those trying to increase their CW speed and skill.

( Mouse over and click on the links below to go to the sites)

Another Tool I like ...
That I probably use the most is 
My Little MFJ Pocket Size Code Tutor
This little pocket tutor is great...
I take it with me everywhere I go
Yes ... even to the bathroom ... Hi Hi !!
This is my favorite of all the tools I use to improve my CW
But I have found, It helps to combine my methods 
I typically combine the code tutor with 1 or 2 other methods
Including actually getting on the air and making qso's
Finally .... I was reading various articles about CW the other day ...
and came across a great article by N1FN / Marshall G. Emm
Marshall is the owner of Milestone Technologies / Morse Express
and has a great line of CW keys and various other equipment for sale.

Below is a snip from one of Marshall's articles
and a must read for those of us that are struggling 
with the challenge of learning or improving our CW 

On Learning the Code
Using Morse code is a skill, like riding a bicycle, or playing golf. You have to learn how to do it, and you get better at doing it through practice. Riding a bicycle is a good analogy, because it seems impossible at first but eventually something "clicks" and you can do it. Not only can you do it, you wonder what all the fuss was about. In one respect, however, playing golf is a better analogy because it is open ended. The more you do it, the better you get, but you never quite reach perfection.
There are many, many techniques for learning Morse code and for increasing proficiency. The unsaid secret is that almost any of them will work if you give them a chance. The only way to really learn Morse code is to use it. You are teaching your brain to understand what it is hearing, and teaching your hand to send what you are thinking. Skills are developed through use, and there are no shortcuts.
As amateurs we do often have unrealistic expectations about the learning Morse code. There are few if any professional Morse operators left in the world, although there are lot of hams who used to be pros. A professional is someone who makes his living from sending and receiving code, eight hours a day or more, day in and day out. It's their job. Amateurs have limited time available and so it takes a good bit longer to reach anything resembling "mastery" of Morse code, but it will happen if you keep at it. At some point, whether you are giving a "first qso" to a novice at 5wpm or ragchewing with a friend at 20wpm, it will suddenly dawn on you that you are not copying what is being sent, you are hearing what is being said.
That's the point at which you will have discovered the real joy of Morse code, and become a member of the international and eternal brotherhood of brasspounders. Not because you have to, and not because it is fun, but simply because you can.

To veiw the entire article 
CW - The Once and Future Mode

Some People say
"Life's Too Short For QRP"

I Say
"The Trail's Too Long For QRO "

There Are No Short-cuts !!
CW PAIN = Practice
CW GAIN = 18 db Advantage

de N4LA


Cycle 24 ALIVE & KICKING !!

10 Meters 
With the solar flux at 190 right now...
The bands have exploded this weekend !!
Last night 15 meters was open to Asia and the South Pacific
until well after 9pm local time.
I ran a pile-up of Europeans on 10 meter SSB yesterday... 
and did it again this morning ... 
with signals coming in at S9 plus at times !!
I had a 30 min chat with Bob /M3DPQ on 10 meters ... 
He was running a little Icom 703 at 10 watts !!
I haven't seen conditions like this in years !!
The "Magic" has returned ...
at least for this weekend.

M3DPQ / Bob
from his 10 watt qrp station

M7.4 Solar Flare: The Solar Flares just keep on coming. This time Sunspot 1302 churned out an M7.4 Solar Flare at 04:50 UTC Sunday morning (Sept 25,2011).

Solar Update: ( Via ... Solar activity has been strong over the past 48 hours with numerous M-Class flares as well as now two X-Class flares around Sunspot 1302. The chances for an Earth directed Coronal Mass Ejection are increasing.
New Sunspot 1303 located in the southern hemisphere is also capable of producing M-Class flares.
More Flare activity will be possible within the next 24 hours.
Top 10 Solar Flares of Cycle 24: (Sunspot number in brackets)
X6.9 - Aug 9, 2011 (1263)
X2.2 - Feb 15, 2011 (1158)
X2.1 - Sept 6, 2011 (1283)
X1.9 - Sept 24, 2011 (1302)
X1.8 - Sept 7, 2011 (1283)
X1.5 - March 9 , 2011 (1166)
X1.4 - Sept 22, 2011 (1302)
M9.3 - Aug 4, 2011 (1261)
M9.3 - July 30, 2011 (1260)
M8.3 - Feb 6, 2010 (1045)

7 of these 10 flares in the past 2 months.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Admiral (K8EAB) and his Glowbug !!

My old pal Wey / K8EAB ...
Using a 1-tube, 1-Watt XTAL controlled transmitter on 40-meter CW ...
This brief QSO was with Sam, N5QAB in Cherokee Village, Arkansas ...
441.9 miles ... not bad.
The Magic of radio will never die !!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

N4LA in the Birkheads

First Portable Op of the Fall Season
Yesterday I decided to take advantage of the nice weather
and take a hike into the Birkhead Wilderness Area
that's located about 15 minutes from home.

The photo above is my hiking buddy ... Otis
My QRP (size) Dog !!
Otis is a Wire Haired Dachshund

Antenna Line
This is what I use to pull my antenna's into the treetops
It's simply a spool of masonry string with a handle
Purchased at my local hardware store.

Here is my portable antenna launcher !!
Yes ... its a golf ball on a string, with a fishing swivel on the end.
With a good arm ... you can easily hit tree limbs at 40 to 45 ft.

On most of my portable ops
I always carry a first aid kit that includes 
a small flashlight and a fire starter for emergencies.
And I carry a lightweight tarp ...
that I can use for a ground cloth or sun / rain shelter.

Here is a couple of items I recently added to my portable op station.
On the left ... is a small digital audio recorder for qso logging and notes.
On the right ... is a small ear bud / speaker amplifier.
I have found that the small amp 
really helps improve the audio volume of my Elecraft KX1.
especially if I use my small portable speaker.

This is a photo of my portable speaker system that I use
with both my KX1 and FT-857D
It opens up like a book when in use ...
It's not amplified... so it doesn't require batteries
It's smaller than my KX1 when folded ....
and very light weight.
The sound quality isn't bad either.

My portable operating desk ...
Simply a clipboard turned upside down
which secures my notepad at the bottom.
this way the pages won't flap around in the wind.
I also put velcro on both top corners
to secure my clock (on the left side)
and my cw key (on the right side)

My Lenovo Netbook
Great for any ham software you want to take into the field.
Plus the netbook case makes for a nice mouse pad !!

Size Comparison ?
This photo shows my 
Portable speaker ... folded
micro speaker/ear bud amplifier
compared to the 
Elecraft KX1

Here's another view with the portable speakers open.
I used a 28ft vertical wire w/ 4 X 16ft radials for my antenna
With this configuration ...
The tuner on the KX1 ...
showed a swr of 1:1 
on 3 bands
20 / 30 / 40  meters !!

MY Portable QRP Station !!

I made a short video of the qrp set-up
( See video link below )

Sorry about the voice audio
I tried the YouTube download twice...
but each time the voice audio was distorted.
I hope the next video will be better