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

Friday, September 9, 2011

Team K7S activates Mt Little SI for Summits on the Air with Elecraft KX3

New Elecraft KX3 Video ( Protype SN #001 ) ... Video via Steve / WG0AT
The day before SalmonCon 2011 nine ham radio OPs as Team-K7S climbed Mt Little Si near North Bend, WA. Little Si is a SOTA summit - # W7/KG-134. Part of the Elecraft KX3 design team Lyle/KK7P and Rich/AC7MA brought along their engineering prototype of the KX3. We eagerly jumped at the opportunity to operate this coveted trail-friendly radio for this was the first time the ham public had access to a working KX3 prototype! For 3-hrs we tried hard to break Lyle's engineering prototype SN001 but we failed! However we all had smiles on our faces as we returned to base camp that afternoon just knowing we touched a KX3.

SalmonCon is a QRP focused conference which mostly draws NW ham radio QRP affecionados. Resulting in several days of presentations, good food and fellowship amongst friends while camping at Valley Camp - North Bend, WA

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

VOACAP Online ... A Great DX Tool

A great tool for chasing DX !!
A great tool for checking propagation !!

Ever wonder when is the "best timeor  what is the"best bandto work that rare DX-pedition ?

While I was On St Lucia (J6) last December with the "Buddies in the Caribbean" ultra light DX group ... 
One of our team leaders (Guy / N7UN) introduced me to this really neat site called VOACAP Online ...
The team used it on a regular daily basis to check propagation into different areas of the world ... 
This program will not only tell you the best times to work the DX ... it will also show you the best bands to work the particular country you are looking for. 
You can add your different antenna configurations  and TX power levels as well ... best of all it's very simple to use.
I highly recommend it to both new and old hams that like to chase DX !!

Another tool that's really neat is the
 VOACAP Area Coverage Map 

Here is the link: VOACAP / Coverage

Message from Jari Perkiömäki, OH6BG & VOACAP Online team:-

A new addition to the VOACAP Online HF prediction toolbox are coverage area maps. The coverage area map service uses a familiar Google Maps interface, with an added possibility to choose TX and RX QTHs from a DXCC-type of a list of over 470 pre-defined locations all over the globe. Also entering a Maidenhead locator in the Name field and setting a coordinate point as the user’s default TX location are supported.
The result map shows the probability to achieve a CW QSO from a TX site to a grid of RX sites. The prediction is plotted on a map of equidistant cylindrical projection, together with the grayline terminator and the position of the Sun.
This service should be of particular interest to DX peditions and contest operators who want to find the most suitable times of operation on different bands. If a more accurate HF prediction between two locations is needed, then VOACAP-based point-to-point site should work best.


73 de N4LA

Monday, September 5, 2011

The "Shelby Hamfest" 2011 ... North Carolina's Largest Hamfest

Saturday I rode down to Dallas NC
with my friend Larry Draughn / AE4LD
to attend the annual Shelby Hamfest
The  weather was great 
except it turned out to be ...
Hot & Humid as usual.

Ham turnout seemed to be about like last year
which in my opinion was ...  very good.
The only downside to this years event was ... 
due to storms the night before...
there was no air conditioning for the inside vendors.
And yes its was HOT inside.

As for Dealers ...
I was a little disappointed..
Out of the Big 3 ... Yaesu  / Icom / Kenwood
only Yaesu showed up !!
Ham Radio Outlet was there 
MFJ had the largest floor coverage as usual.
A big thank you to the ones that did show up !!

The new face at Shelby this year was 
and yes they drew a bunch of attention.
Now my question is ....
Where was Elecraft ??
They showed up at 
the Raleigh NC hamfest earlier this year.
And where was Ten Tec ?
They are located just across the border in TN ??
Come on guys ....
This is the Grand Daddy of them all in North Carolina.
And you decide to stay at home and not show up ???
What a bummer !!
Yes I'm a K3 owner & Elecraft lover
My hats off to FLEX RADIO ...
Thanks for showing up !!

The "BEST" part of the Shelby Hamfest
has to be the flea market ...
Even the "Old Buzzards" won't miss out on this !!

Did you know ...
 there is now a company producing 
the old fashioned "Caged Dipole" ??
It's called the DX Blaster

What about a ....
6 element vertical phased array
on the mobile !!
This was no joke ... 
this guy had this monster antenna on his mobile.
and yes he also had a amplifier !!

As for a hamfest location ...
Dallas NC is a great location !!
Personally I like this location much better than
the old location in Shelby NC.
Thank you SARC ... Shelby Amateur Radio Club.

Randolph County's Finest  ... at the Shelby Hamfest.
L to R ... Butch ... Ruth ... Larry
3 of my local  (RARC) club members
Good Friends ...
Good Food ...
Good Deals ...
Thanks for another successful ... Shelby Hamfest
I can't wait until next year !!

73 de N4LA

The Signs ..... Fall & the "Low Band" DX season is almost here !!

As we grow older ... 
we'll always remember our parents and grandparents
 talking about the signs of the seasons.
So what are some signs that Fall is on it's way
besides the leaves changing color ?
The first sign I can think of is Spider webs ...
They are everywhere !!
The picture above shows a Black & Yellow Garden Spider
as it spins it's web across my back door.

These spider are NOT poisonous 
They are very colorful 
They are one of the largest 
One of scariest spiders in North Carolina !!

The second sign I can think of is ...
Caterpillar Nest
I took this picture today 
while out hiking with my daughter ... Taylor
and my dog ... Otis 

73 de N4LA