Conditions

Monday, September 17, 2018

Nostalgia, Antenna repair, QRP at the worst of times and etc.

Nostalgia:
 Back in 2012, or there about, I tried to look up my old call sign (WB1AHE) on the F.C.C. U.L.S. site with no results. I could not remember when exactly I had gotten my first Ham license and wanted to see if it was in their data base. Alas, No.

The other day, I decided to google my old call signed and got a pleasant surprise. There is a web site called archive.org .that has a ton of free material on line. It actually had the Radio Amateur Callbook on line and searchable!! Visit the site. I think you will find it interesting. Oh, bye the way, I did find my call sign in the 1977-78 Radio Amateur Callbook.

As you know, I just moved into my new/last QTH. As I was unpacking, I noticed a book marker in a 1976 ARRL Handbook. When I opened to the bookmark, I saw the article for the QRP transmatch that I had built for my HW-8. I had forgotten all about it. It even had some of my hand written scribbles for a switch I had added for a 50 ohm resistor load used to tune the final of the HW-8! Also I found the section for the first dipole antenna I built. It was a folded dipole (bazooka) antenna cut for 15 meters.

It actually worked quit well. Conditions must have been good back then because I made a lot of contacts to TX, MS and LA with it.

My first home made dipole. A 15 meter "Bazooka"
The QRP transmatch I build for my HW-8 random wire antenna
Antenna:
When I moved from VT at the begin of March 2018, I had to take down my outside antenna. There was still a foot of snow on the ground. One end came down without a problem, but the other end; was not coming down. The rope I used to tie that end had wrapped itself around a branch. I could not budge it. I finally was able to break the wire at the crimp. Of course, I wound up flat on my back in the snow. Was pretty funny, but it was down. So now I need to repair it.

I got all the pieces to repair my Carolina Windom™ antenna. Up until now, I have been calling this a OCF dipole, which turns out to not be exactly correct. I think when you add the vertical radiator, it becomes a Carolina Windom™. But since that is a trade mark name, W8AMZ (SK) could not use it. Therefore, it is called an OCF dipole / Windom. If you are interested, there is a good explanation here of the  Carolina Windom  by Jim Thompson, W4THU.

The dimensions for the W8AMZ are slightly different then the  Carolina Windom™. The short side is 44' for the W8AMZ and 50' for the  Carolina Windom™.  Overall length is about the same, only where the off center is placed is different.

So repairs are complete. Just waiting for the leaves to drop.


My W8AMZ OCF dipole/ Windom missing the short leg
First Step: solder new wire to the end of the old wire and do the strain relief.

Second step: measure out 44' and add isolator to the end

WES:
I had a great time with the September WES this month. I was not able to work most of Saturday, but was able to work almost all of Sunday. I finished with 72 QSOs and 870 bonus points.

I was 22nd overall and 15th in the QRO 100 W or less group. I will take it.

This month's theme was Cootie/sideswiper operators, of which, I am one. So for every cootie contact I made I got double points.

Brag:
Had a good August brag count. 106 plus the bonus station, Steve  VK7CW. September will probable not be as good.

QRP:
I have decided to try for thr 1xQRP and 2xQRP awards. Since conditions at very poor and will only get worst in the next year or so, I figured it would be a good challenge. Lets face it, anyone can work QRP when the conditions are good HIHI.






Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Final Destination.. No, not the movie!

Final destination:
Well, been at my final QTH for 9 weeks now. It did not take me as long to get my station on the air as the last time. Got it up and running on Sunday, July 15th. Three weeks instead of 2 months this time. It help I had all my stuff this time.

Things are not going as smoothly as I would have hope. Buying a house is not much different them buying a used car. "Buyer beware". It doesn't matter how well you inspect a house, you can't see everything that may cause a problem. Like a new roof!

We have had a lot of plumbing and some electrical work done. Plan to have more electrical work done soon. The garage has a descent space over it, but quite a bit of work needs to done before it is usable.

I am having problems with the new GFCIs the electrician installed in the bathroom next to my radio room and in the kitchen. My radio seems to trip them with ease when I put out 100 W. 30 M is so bad I can only put out 10 Watts!!! 40 and 20 I can run about 50 Watts.

The other drawback is the altitude here. I am only 79 feet above sea level, where Randolph, VT was almost 700 feet. I don't get out quite as good here.

SKCC:
For July I got 60 brags plus the bonus brag for K5MP. Was not able to operate the first two weeks of July due to move, but did respectable. For August, I am in the mid 90's right noe. A few more days left for brags.

WES:
Was able to participate in the August WES. Made 100 QSOs. Did a lot more CQing this time. So far I am in 13th overall out of 213 and 6th in my category out of 98.

I really miss it when I can't do the WES.

SKCC Awards:
Got several SKCC awards lately.
15M Cx1
20M WAS, WAS-C, Cx6, Px6 and Tx9
30M Px2
40M Sx2, Px6, Cx7 and Tx10
80M Sx1

Thank goodness for the SKCCLogger. I would have never figured this out with just a spreadsheet
Thanks Ron AC2C!!!

Flex:
Been working like a charm, mostly.  I had a couple of lockups recently, but not often enough to worry. There have not been any updates the 1.X version of the software, only the 2.X version. I have been happily running version 1.11.12. Since I have the "cheap" radio, I don't see the need to pay the $200 for the upgrade. I have had no issues with Windows updates messing up the DAX or CAT interfaces.

Antennas:
I have got most of the parts to repair my 80-6M OCF dipole. I will wait until the leaves are off the trees to get it back up. Also want to get my 160 Slopper up then.

I was toying with the idea of a 160-6M OCF dipole. But it turns out, If I make the long end of the 80-6m OCF the short end of the 160-6m OCF, and add the required length to short end the long end of a 160-6M OCF, It would be the same. Only thing I don't know is how long the vertical radiator has to be.

New Shack:
Below are some pictures of my shack. It is not fully up. I still need to put up my Slim Jim antenna for my 2m rig.

Bad news: My 2M rig causes the GFCI's to trip. I guess I will have to wait until they are changed.

New Shack!!


EFHW 80-10m up in the trees about 50'

One end tied to deck post close to the house
First try at a video






Monday, June 18, 2018

Big changes.. some good... others...not so much. WES, K3Y and Brags

Big Changes
Well the biggest change is that we sold our house in VT and have moved back to MA. Right now, we are renting a house in Rockport. Actually not a bad place to be in the Spring. Weather is nice, cool but not cold and the tourists haven't shown up yet so the traffic is still OK.

Also nice to get back to some decent fish in the restaurants. You just can't get good fish in VT, sorry.

The worst part was being off the air for almost 2 months. That was not fun.

We found a house in Georgetown and will be moving at the end of June.

I don't mind telling you the last six months have been the worst of my life. I will never do this again!
I don't miss VT much but I do miss my house. We had it build for us and it was just what we wanted. But, best laid plans as they say.

Temporary Station
The below pictures are of the temporary station. Since I didn't want to impact the property, I bought an EFHW 80-10 meter antenna and hung it over a tree in the back yard and tied it off to the porch on the back of the house and to a tree out in the woods. It's direction is NW to SE. I didn't intend it that way, it just happened.

I had a 20 foot piece of COAX and used that to connect the radio and antenna. Unfortunately, it was not long enough to bring in through the window, so I have to leave the radio on the porch. A little bit of a nuisance since I can't leave it out there.

The antenna works quite well. It tunes 80 - 10 meters fine except for 30 meters. I only get a 2:1 SWR on 30.

Wires come in through the window and I use foam strips to form a seal.


Temporary EFHW 80-10 tied to the porch railing.


EFHW up over the tree, about 50 feet up.


Using an old laptop as my computer for the Flex-6300.


Radio sits outside. My feed line was not long enough to put the radio indoors.

WES
I was able to do the January February and June WES.

Month      QSO    Overall    QRO
Jan             50         33           25
Feb            92         15            7
June          33          60          47

K3Y
As you may know K3Y is a month long SKCC anniversary event. The goals is to contact as many K3Y operators on as many bands and areas as possible. 
This is not a contest, so WARC bands are permitted. I did good this year I got a total of 67 out of a 143 slots. and got the grand sweep. Worked all zones 0-9 plus KH6, KL7, KP4, EU, AF, OC, SA, NA and AS. 19 in all.  I also worked 90+ different operators out of 195. I also operated as K3Y/1 and made 16 contacts. I am happy with my results.

Brags
For January I had 124 brags (K3Y counted as brags), 38 in February, 19 in April and 81 in May.
So far for June I have 52 brags.

All for now. Thanks for stopping by!

73 Dave KB1WOD




Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The SKCC for the Intellectually Challenged



The SKCC for the Intellectually Challenged

Introduction

Why am I writing this? Well, in the four plus years that I have belonged to the SKCC, I have picked up quite a few nuggets of information and techniques that have greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the SKCC and CW in general.

Like a lot of new ham operators, I was glad the FCC did away with the code requirement. That was a hurtle I didn't think I could jump and kept me away from getting my license for many years.

Little did I know that after getting my license, I would be spending 99% of my time on CW.

The SKCC web site has a wealth of information Everything you need to know is there, but it can be overwhelming trying to sort it all out. What I hope to do here, is to give a simplified view of the SKCC and how to use all the tools available to enhance the experience.
Here is a link to the main web page: Straight Key Century Club (SKCC)

The SKCC

The SKCC is a group of CW operators who enjoy using mechanical keys to make CW contacts. The goal of the group is to encourage members to make contacts with other members to achieve personal goals and promote the use of CW.
Your skill level is not important, but it does enhance everyone’s enjoyment.
The members and officers are pretty laid back but are very active in their club duties. They are very responsive to any request or issue.
They have a user group here: SKCC User Group

Software and Online tools

Software, I believe, is the key (pun intended) to the SKCC success. What software does best is routine repetitive tedious tasks repeatedly without complaint, something us humans hate to do.
One thing I am not going to do is explain how to use these programs. The old term applies RTFM! If you don't know what that means, Google it. The authors of these programs have spent a lot of time writing the help files. Please read them. Most are searchable and there is always Google or Bing, if you are of that camp. There are also user groups that you can search.
Warning to Windows user: Some of these programs write data into the directory that the software is installed. The windows directories “Program Files” and “Programs Files (x86)” may not allow you to write to these directories. Therefore, you may have to install these programs elsewhere. Mine are at C:\.

SKCC Sked Page

Where to meet people. It is not a spotter page per se, but more of a chat board. Great place to hang out. My SKCC QSOs really took off once I started visiting the sked page. It was a little intimidating at first. I wasn't sure what to do and it took a while to get comfortable. But finally, I relaxed and have made some good friends there.
One approach is to logon but stay “Away”. That way you can see who is there and send them a PM (private message) to request a QSO. New numbers are in great demand, so if you are visible on the sked page, you might get overwhelmed with request and panic, not that I did that..HIHI.



The Sked page is here: SKCC Sked Page. There is a help file here: SKCC Sked Page Help

SKCCLogger by AC2C

Don't let looks deceive you. This is a very powerful logger, especially for SKCC QSOs. The only thing it doesn't do, is to upload logs directly to either LoTW or eQSL.cc. But that is easy to overcome.
Its ability to analyze your logs and detect your goals and generate reports that can be used to earn your goals is outstanding. I have used it exclusively for almost all my SKCC logging needs. It can be also be used for sprints.
The program can be downloaded here SKCCLogger Download
Ron also has a user group here: SKCCLogger User Group

skcc_skimmer by K7MJG

This is a windows console based SKCC member RBN (reverse beacon network) program. No fancy GUI just the info you really need to know. I use this for my regular QSOs and for WES. You can have multiple copies running with different configuration files. This is a real-time update program. That means it periodically updates the members you have sent a “de THEIRCALL”.
For this program, the three things that you should supply to the configuration file are: your call, the location of your log file in adf (example: mylog.adi) format and your grid square. You may also adjust the SPOTTER_RADIUS parameter. I have mine set to 200 miles radius. This gives me about 6 RBN stations that are near to me.
Another interesting feature of this program is if you call CQ, skimmer will report where your call is being heard, regardless of your radius limit. This helps to see if your signal is getting out. It is also a good indication as to how long it takes for the skimmers to decode your call. One thing you might also get from this is how good your sending is. RBNs are software tools connected to radios that listen to CW on the bands. If your sending is not good, then your call will never be decoded. So, practice your sending or you might never be heard.
You can download the program here. SKCC_Skimmer download

VOAProp by G4ILO

GUI for propagation prediction software. Based on Voice Of America propagation prediction software.
This software helps you determine which band may work for a particular station. Though it is not perfect, it will give you a good idea of what bands are good for the time of day.
You can download the program here. VOAProp GUI

SprintLogger by K2RFP

Not a must but I like it for WES and SKS. It can also be used for cwfun events. The reason I like it is because for sprints, I start with a new log and then start skimmer with it pointing to the K2RFP log file. I also run skimmer without reading the sked page see below.
SKED = {
'ENABLED': False, # usually is set to True
'CHECK_SECONDS': 60,
}
This tells me if the calling station is already in my log. Save a lot of time. After the sprint, I import this log into my main SKCCLogger file.
You can download the program here. SprintLogger by K2RFP

Awards

There are many awards that you can achieve with the club. I am only going to talk about what I believe are the top five awards. One thing to note. There is no cross-log checking for awards. I believe this was intentionally done because some people don't like to summit logs or don't like to be bugged by people to submit their logs. Since there is no monetary value associated with SKCC awards, it was felt the honor system was good enough. (IMHO)

Centurion

The easiest, but the most critical. Why? Because a lot of members never reach this first goal. They may have joined the club for reasons other than awards. Myself, I was looking for help learning CW. I never really paid attention to goals, was not interested.
It was a follow ham that I used to talk to on 2 meters that got me interested in chasing some of these awards, Matt AA1JD. He would talk about the SKCC and some of the events and so I decided to try and get some of these awards. Once I got into it and started figuring out some of the tools available, I was in all the way. Matt was first on my list for Centurion.
Some things you might want to think about. If you are calling an unspecified CQ and are using an electronic keyer, please also have a mechanical key hooked up. Why? If a SKCC member responds to your CQ, he would like to exchange numbers. That means you will have to do the exchange with a mechanical key. If you do not have one connected, you can't do the exchange. Also, if you are looking for SKCC members please call CQ SKCC. It really helps other members who may want to exchange numbers, but are not sure that you will do that. Also, it wouldn't hurt to give your number for any exchange, providing you are using a mechanical key, e.g. “MY SKCC NR <YOUR_NUMBER>. The other operator may not know about the SKCC and he might ask you about it. Never hurts to advertise.

Tribune(s)

These awards are a little confusing and daunting, at least to me they were. However, once I understood what each level meant, it was a piece of cake. Well, maybe not that easy. Mark, K7MJG, has a very easy to understand chart that explains all levels from Centurion to Senator.
The basic Tribune award requires you to make 50 unique number exchanges with Centurions, Tribunes or Senators since the date of your Centurion award. However, if you want to achieve a Senator award, you need another 350 unique number exchanges with Centurions, Tribunes or Senators. This is quite a lot so breaking it into 8 - 50 QSO blocks seems like a good idea. At least you have manageable goals and other members can see your progress with the SKCC_skimmer program.
You can view Marks chart here. Award Chart

Senator

THIS IS NOT THE END! You are almost there! The hard part is over. Getting that last number for Tx8 was a tough one for sure. Enjoy this part. Getting your Senator will be a walk in the park compared to reaching Tx8. Remember you start over with contacts. So, any T or S station you QSOed with to get your Tx8, can now be QSOed with again to get your S.
But don't let it end here. All too often hams reach the Senator level and just go away. Why? IDK. I guess they were looking for a challenge and are now on to other things. Who knows. The more members who are active, the easier it is for others to reach their goals. We do have some members who are Sx5 so keep at it.

WAS

There are four primary WAS awards WAS, WAS-C, WAS-T and WAS-S. Please see the explanation of each of these awards on the SKCC web page.
Since this is a relatively new and small club and reaching Senator is not easy, not all states have Senators yet. In fact I was the first Senator in Vermont and only got that in Jan of 2016, so not quite two years ago. North Dakota, for example, doesn't have any Senators. But the good news is portable operation is permitted so a Senator from one state can travel to a state that doesn't have a Senator and exchange numbers for people to get their WAS-S award.

PFX

Prefix award where the SKCC number of the prefix is added to the prefix score. The interesting thing about this award is if the SKCC number of a station you work is greater than the number of a previous prefix you work, you get to add the difference between the two numbers to your score.

Activities

There are several monthly activities and one yearly activity. These activities are a great way to get more new numbers for awards. I usually get quite a few numbers that I need for awards participating in these activities. None of the sprints permit WARC bands. I am not going to go into a lot of detail here. The web site has all the info you need to operate these activities.

SKS

Two-hour sprint. Always held at the same time every month. Much like other sprints.


SKS-E

This is a special sprint that is more EU friendly. But NA participation is allowed. Also has some accommodations for QRS operators.

WES

My favorite, the Week End Sprint. This is a 36-hour event, of which you are only supposed to work 24 hours. I like the “work a few then take a break” aspects of this sprint.

K3Y Anniversary event (not a contest)

This is a month-long event held every January. This is the only event where all Ham bands, including WARC bands are permitted. The goal is to fill in as many K3Y/X band slots as possible. One thing to note here: Try to get as many DX K3Y as soon as possible. It turns out there may not be DX K3Ys for the whole month so get them while you can. I missed out on SA last year because very few SA stations were on late in the month. Those that were, were on late (after 00:00 UTC) and only on 20 meters. Which from my QTH in VT, made it impossible to get a contact.

SKN

Monthly SKN is truly the reason the SKCC exists. However, over the years it has become less important since all the other activities seem to generate quite a bit of CW on the air.
First night of every month. Not much is said on the web site about it. I assume it uses the same rules as the ARRL SKN. No logs or QSO counts are submitted.

Brags

A monthly - month long “event”. Contacts with other members not included in other events and not yet QSOs with that month.
I try to work at least 3 brags a day. Doesn't always happen, but I manage usually get between 50 and 100 brags a month.

Final Comments

The SKCC is not for everyone, but it seems to fit my personality. I always felt that there should be some objective to obtain or some skill to be mastered. The SKCC seems to provide me with both.
As of December 31, 2017, there are over 18,000 members. Granted not all members are active, but enough are active that you can always find a member on the air almost any time and almost any band.
There are many other clubs that emphasize other aspects of CW. Each are very good at what they try to accomplish.
I hope these few pages will be of use to others and come join the fun of CW.


Monday, October 23, 2017

 Ham Radio - QRP: Vibroplex Vibrokeyer

 Interesting analysis of the design of Vibro-Plex single lever. It all makes sense to me.


 Ham Radio - QRP: Vibroplex Vibrokeyer: Get it right the first time The electronic keyer, for sending Morse code, came into into use in the late 1950's and early 1960's....

NEAR-Fest eyeball QSOs, The latest digital fad, Flex update, SKCC awards and more!!

Hello again! It has been a couple of months so time to do a new post. I wanted to wait until after NEAR-Fest so I could write about my eyeball QSO with some the SKCC members.


NEAR-Fest:


First of all here is a link to a video of the October 2017 edition of NEAR-Fest NEAR-Fest Oct 2017
This was a special one for me because I got to meet several members of the SKCC club.  Below is a picture of our get together. All were great guys and had interesting stories as well. If you get a chance, visit their QRZ.com pages.

Larry KJ1RE, has a really nice time lapses video of his tower going up. I think you will like it. Larry is a Marine veteran.

John W1TAG, splits his time between MA and ME.  He runs a KX3 with the 100 Watt amp (when he has to HI-HI).

Urb W1UL, is one of the SKCC officers. He is the DX, WAC and WAS manager. He is from NJ, but made the trip up here to work as a VE for NEAR-Fest VE session. So it was a pleasant surprise to have him there. Urb last name is LeJeune, as in Camp LeJeune.  He is related to the LeJeune that the camp is name after.  Here is a link to the biography of Lt Gen John A. LeJeune who had a nice 40 year career.

Jim NM1W, Also owns a Flex radio, a 6700. We commiserate  over our "issues" we have had with the Flex SDR. Well like I said when I bought it, the 6300 was "Bleeding Edge" and it has been. Jim is a software developer and has done some work on the server side of the new SKCC Sked page, contributed back mods to the skcc skimmer, and wrote the centurion/tribune/senator/prefix  awards program used by AC2C and K3EW.

SKCC eyeball QSO at NEAR-Fest Oct 2017.
left to right
Larry KJ1RE, John W1TAG, Dave(me) KB1WOD, Urb W1UL and Jim NM1W

Enigma:

These next three photos are of the Enigma machine used by the Germans in WWII. I was surprised when I showed my son these pictures and he had no idea what Enigma was. Of course, my generation, which is the baby boomer generation, had relatives that were in WWII. So needless to say, it was something that effected us deeply. So anything related to WWII has always been of great interest to me.

If you don't know about Enigma here is a link to it BBC History of the Enigma machine Breaking the Enigma code was probable the most important event that help the Allies win the war against Germany. 

Also of much importance was the breaking of the Japanese JN-25 code which allowed the US Navy to defeat the Japanese at Midway Island. 

Here is a link to the JN-25 story Breaking of the JN-25 Naval code.

 Probable what is most interesting and sad thing about both these extraordinary events, is how badly the person responsible for each project were treated afterwards. For the Enigma it was Alan Turing, for the JN-25 it was Capt. Joseph Rochefort. "No good deed goes unpunished".

Enigma display at NEAR-Fest

One of the German Enigma machins

Did not realize this, but the Russians had their own version

Nut Net:

 No trip to NEAR-Fest would not be complete without a visit to the Wolf, Brian WO1VES and his friend, Harry WA1VVH. They are there at every NEAR-Fest both days and camp over night.

Brian "runs" the nightly Nut Net on the Danvers MA 2 meter repeater at 11:00 PM every night. And I mean EVERY night.
Brian WO1VES and Harry WA1VVH. As you can tell Brains is a great fan of wolves.

NEQRP:

I stopped by the NEQRP Club display and talked with Bruce N1RX. Bruce is, I believe, a director for NH and ME. (I may have this wrong). We chatted for awhile and we had our picture taken. This is the club I bought my NESCAF (switch capacitor audio filter) for my HW-8 project. They do some fun events. Bruce said they are trying to do more scheduled events like Boxborough Ham fest, which is now every year instead of every other year. Here is a link to their website. NEQRP Club

Bruce N1RX and Dave KB1WOD


SKCC:

One of the things we (SKCC members) talked about at NEAR-Fest is how people seem to disappear once they get their Senator award. There are many awards you can get and going for that Sx2 or Cx10 or 20 meter Senator keeps it interesting. So please DON'T STOP AT SENATOR!!!

Brags:

For:
Aug    94
Sept   91

Overall I am in 10th position and was 5th for September. I have a total of 642 brags for the year.
Brags are a personal challenge and It gives me an excuse to be on the air. I have been trying to do more  chatting with brags. I need to get better with my cootie so I need to practice more on air.

WES:

For:
Sept   11    good for 102 overall and 82 for QRO
Oct    113  good for 22 overall and 14 for QRO

September I really didn't work it much. I had my son and his family up for the weekend, so didn't really work the bands on Saturday. On Sunday, the bands were the worst I have ever seen. completely dead for several hours. I believe this was do to solar storms. Oh well can't win them all.

October was MUCH better. Got to work both days. I actually started CQing, which help my score. There are plenty of shy operators out there (including myself) that don't like calling CQ. But like anything else the more you do it the easier it gets.

SKCC Awards:

It seems like the stars were aligned perfectly for awards for me this last month.
I was awarded:
Cx10, Tx15, Sx3, Px8 and the big one WAS-S. It was truly amazing how they all seem to happen at the same time.

Of course the WAS-S would not have been possible if not for the efforts of Dave KD9VT, who was portable in ND so a bunch of us could get this last remaining state. BTW there are no Senators if ND if you were wondering.

Flex:

I thought I had an issue, but thankful it was easily resolved. The MOX was getting set for no apparent reason. Turns out I had created a PTT CAT port that was causing this. I created it because I thought my fldigi needed it, but it turns out to not be the case. I forgot to remove it, and that's what was causing my problem. All is well now and the radio seems to be doing well.

FT8:

The new mode. I have been using this mode not for awhile and am please with the performance. There is a new release candidate, RC3, that seem to be pretty good. Of course I forgot to mention that I have bought a new computer. An Alien Aurora R6. It is running Windows 10 Home edition 64 bit. This may have more to do with better performance of FT8 then the updated program. I have 185 QSO so far and 37 states on 20 meters.

This mode seems to have taken over, especially JT9. It seems like no one works JT9 anymore.

The new computer Nice!!

160 meter Antenna project:

It seems like this doesn't want to happen. About a week ago I tried to shoot another line over the big pine tree in my yard. But there was like 100 pine cones at the top of the tree and when I shoot the line over the tree, the line got stuck in a damn pine cone!! Luckily, I was able to retrieve my projectile with no damage done. I guess I am going to have to wait for the pine cones to drop before I can try again.

Oh by the way, I did buy some stuff at NEAR-Fest for my 160 m antenna project.

QSO totals are 470 from Aug 28 to Oct 22

73 for now

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Flex controversy, SKCC for the intellectually challenged and what the heck has been going on?

Hello again! It has been a long stretch this time, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

Operating:
Since Mar 26 2017 until Aug 24 2017, I have had 514 CW contacts, 17 JT9 and 2 FT8. FT8 is a fairly new digital mode. It cycles every 15 seconds instead of one minute like JT9 or JT65. Haven't really gotten into it yet but soon. For more information on FT8 go here > New FT8 Mode   
BTW I am doing a lot more CQing now QSOs are getting hard to come by these days and, besides, I got to start doing at some point.

I have been using my "cootie" now for eight months and, I must say, it is coming along. Some people can tell I am using one. Beats me how they know. I can never tell who is using one.

Met a gentleman on air that has a blog that he keeps up pretty regularly. He is Mike W9ODX. Here is a link to his blog Adventures in CW   Stop by and say hello. I am sure he will appreciate it.

WES:
Let see how many WES have I done since March?
Month  QSOs  Overall QRO
April     57        30       15
May       0           -          -
June      30        62        45
July      56         17        9
Aug      74        14         8

May was a disaster for me. Was not not really motivated to do much of anything, so let's leave it at that. June I only work one day, so not bad for that. August was good. I actually did some CQing in that one. There didn't seem to be too many stations around.

Brags:
For:
April  71
May   11
June  74
July   78
Overall I am in 12th place and 8th place in July. I know it may seem odd to some people, especially those still working on their C, T and S levels, to do this but as you get more awards, needed numbers get rarer. So brags are a way of getting around the "I don't need them" problem, since it starts fresh every month. I have a personal goal of 3 brags a day. Some days I get more and some I don't get any.

Novice Rig Roundup:
Got this certificate in the mail the other day. I was quit surprised to say the least. Thank you Bry AF4K for this. I appreciate it. Visit Bry's web page  AF4K Web Site  . Not many contacts but had fun with it anyways.




Awards:
Finally got eQSL.cc JT9 on 20m. Finally got NM. so that's in the books. Now what? Who knows.
Flex:
Well version 1.10.16 has a very annoying bug. It will occasionally lockup the radio. So bad, that you have to do a hard reset i.e. press and hold the power button until the radio turns off. Other then that, I am pretty happy with my 6300.

Now for me it has happened about 3 times in 5 months. Not catastrophic but annoying just the same. Some people have it happen every day and sometime multiple times a day! Very annoying for them, especially if you have a 6700 and paid a lot more then me. There was quit a thread on the Flex community forum. It got so intense, that Flex shut down the thread. Basically they said that they know there is a problem, but they can't reproduce it so they don't know when it will be fixed.

Let's just say a lot of people were very upset that FRS was not fixing this issue as quickly as people would have like. I can understand this. These people spent thousands of dollars on these radio, or should I say bricks.

FRS released V2 of SmartSDR a little while ago. I have not installed it. I have no interest in remote operating and that is about the only new feature in version 2. So for me, forking over $200.00 would be a waste of money right now.

Supposedly any performance enhancements of bug fixes will be in the next V1 release. Though I have yet to hear of when that will happen, or as they say "RSN" (Real Soon Now)

SKCC for the intellectually challenged:
So one great idea I have is to write a "book" on how to get the most out of all the tools available for the SKCC along with some simplified explanations of most of the awards and events offered by the SKCC club. I got it started but don't know how long it will take me to get it done, but it will be RSN!! Will keep you posted on progress.

Well that is all I can think of for now. See you next time - 73

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Windows 10 Anniversary BSD.. IT'S ALIVE!! K3Y event, Andy K3UK is retiring, WES events, Brags, Latest Flex 6000 updates and NRR.

Well it has been four months since I last posted. I was going to wait until I got my K3Y QSL card in the mail, but that hasn't happened yet. So when it does I will update this post.

Update: QSL cards have arrived!

Windows 10 BSD:
Well finally my computer is back to running fine. The latest updates to windows has resolved my once a day Blue Screen of Death. So this gives me less reason to buy that shiny new thing.

K3Y Event:
This is a month long event in January, where volunteers use the special event call K3Y/* (* is 0-9, KH6, KL6, KP4). You try to work as many regions and bands as you can. There are also DX regions. However they can not use the K3Y call sign since they are not U.S. areas. They usually call CQ K3Y then their own call sign. Not hard to tell what region they are in.

Last year I filled in a 101 slots. This year only 70. Might not seem so good. But the top station with all Bands-Areas was only 110, so not too bad I would say there were 20 stations that got more then me.

Like last year, I only was able to get 18 out of the 19 regions. Last year it was AS I couldn't get. This year is was SA I couldn't get. This had more to do with lack of reliable operators and what band they were working at what time. If you are interested about the K3Y event, follow the link below:
K3Y Home Page  


2017 K3Y QSL Card 


Operating:
I have 467 QSOs since Nov 26. 1 SSB 11 JT9 and all the rest CW.

WES:
Did not do WES in December 2016 or January 2017. I did do February and March of 2017.
Month   QSOs    overall    QRO
Feb        101       21            13
March     57       33             20

Brags:
Finished off 2016 with 52 brags in Nov and 51 in Dec for a total of 872 brags for 2016. An average of 72 brags a month and in 10th place for the year.

For 2017 brags counts are 62 for January and 80 for February. Not in the top 12 yet but consistence is what counts. We will see how we have done by the end of the year.

Flex 6000 Software:
Well the "beta" releases are over and now I have upgraded to version 1.10.16 All went well. Had a slight problem with the CAT interface, but was able to resolve it easily. I could not happier with this radio. Just works like a charm.

Andy K3UK retiring:
Andy hosted the SKCC sked page for many years. He has decided to retire and give up the sked page. I want to thank Andy for all his fine work and wish him the best of luck in his retirement.

THANK YOU ANDY!!!

Since Andy no longer maintains the sked page, Mark K7MJG has developed a new sked page. It will be under the control of the SKCC group and therefore has a new link:

SKCC Sked Page


Novice Rig Roundup:
This was my first time participating in the NRR. Only made 5 QSOs all on 40ms but had fun. Also made me realize how much better the Flex is then my old novice rig. Biggest problem with the HW-8 is it is a double side band receiver. Effectively you have demodulation of signals above and below the carrier. Very hard to use with a crowded band. I have had this rig pictured here before. I have a home made antenna tuner and some extra goodies in the big box, such as SWR meter, audio filter and a digital frequency read out. The key is a MFJ-553. Cheap but works just fine.
HW-8 Novice rig

Awards:
LoTW: JT9 WAS 20m. I have been working on this one for over a year.The hardest states to get were the ones closest to VT. I believe MA was the last state I got.

I am still working on eQSL.cc JT9 WAS 20m. There I need NM. I have the QSO but the station has not or will not confirm it. Which is funny, because he confirmed it in LoTW and he is active on eQSL.cc. Go figure.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Windows 10 Blue screen of death!! Boat load of QSOs and more

Windows 10 anniversary Update:
The saga continues!! Well Microsoft got me again! They forced the update on me and this is the results. Once a day my PC crashes. The good thing is, it is only once a day and if I reboot before it crashes, it doesn't happen for the rest of the day. Definitely a clue as to what is wrong, don't you think?


Windows 10 Blue Screen of Death
Operating:
Since Aug 16, 2016 I have 543 CW QSOs logged and 56 JT9 QSOs logged. I am still missing a couple states for 20m JT9 on both LoTW and eQSL.cc. I am missing MA for LoTW and NM for eQSL.cc.  I haven't been trying real hard for that. It will happen when it happens. As you can see with only 56 QSOs in three months, I am not really working at it.

SKCC:
WES results for Sept, Oct and Nov 2016:
Month    QSOs  Overall  QRO
Sept         82         24         18
Oct           82         27         20
Nov          93         18         13

Results have been OK. I just S&P, never call CQ. I could probable do a lot better If I did call CQ for awhile. I also cherry pick. Looking for QSOs that will get me closer to one of my goals.

I have not participated in the  SKS for Sept, Oct or Nov. I am usually busy doing something with my wife. We like to play a hand of cribbage every night. We also have about a 1/2 dozen TV shows we like to watch together. After all, she did let me buy my Flex-6300 HIHI.

Brags:
I have started to put more of an effort into the brags.  I had 104 in Aug, 99 in Sept and 76 in Oct. I am 9th overall for the year so far. Two months to go and falling way behind my goal of 100 brags a month.

Flex-6300:
Radio is doing very good. New SW updates seem to install rather easily. The next release is going to allow the USB ports on the radio to be used by some devices but not the FlexControl knob.

CWFUN event:
There was an event on Oct 22, 2016. There were 60 people registered but only 34 participants. I was 10th. out of 31 who turned in logs. Always have a fun time with this. Wished more people participated.

Keys:
Well I finally switched over to a cootie. Or more exactly, single lever Vibroplex wired as a cootie. My hand was just getting too tired using my straight key and I was making too many mistakes. So for better or worst I am now a cootie guy.

Vibroplex Single level key wired as a cootie.
Awards:
Waiting for a few WAS 20m endorsements from LoTW. Manly digital.

Had to do a little antenna work a couple of weeks back. We had some heavy snow, not a whole lot, but enough to sag my antenna almost to the ground. I also think a branch broke in the tree is was in. So I had to pull it back up to it's original high. So I am good to go!

Projects:
Nothing to report on this. I have about 3 weeks of vacation that I am taking in December so I will try to at least finish the BiTX20.

All for now - 73

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dog days of Summer.

Like the title says, things are slow.

SKCC:
Well I made Senator times 2 this last week. That is another unique 200 SKCC Tribune or Senator contacts.  I didn't do the WES or SKS in June. For the WES I was away for the weekend so didn't operate. For the SKS, just lazy this month. Update: Now it is August!! It is taking me forever to post this. So for July, I didn't do the WES again for two reasons:
1) was down in MA visiting with the my grandson and
2) Wind storm took down my ant.

I was able to do the July SKS but stayed on 40m because I was using my fan dipole that is in the attic. It causes RFI problems on 20ms so I limited my operating to 40.

Got my OCF back up before the Aug WES. Boy did I miss having it. I was able to work one day of the Aug WES and made 36 contacts.

Sunday we went to the "Wings over Vermont" air show in Burlington, VT so no operating Sunday. However, I did get to shake the hand of Col. Charles McGee one of the Tuskegee airmen from the famed Red Tails. See picture below. What an honor!!

Col. Charles McGee Red Tail pilot. He is 96 years old


I did manage to record 51 Brag QSOs for June.

Operating:
I have been doing some more JT9 operating. I would like to get 20m WAS on LoTW.  Right now I have 46. I am missing MA, NE, UT and, of course, VT.
For DXCC, I have 74 in both LoTW and eQSL.cc. This will come. I am not really chasing it at the moment.

Projects:
Working on the 160m Slopper. First attempt to hang the rope failed. Mono-filament line broke when I tried to pull attached rope over the top of the tree. I think I need heaver line.

Well 160m is on hold for awhile. We had a HUGH wind storm on July 23 which brought down the tree that was holding up one end of my OCF dipole. It has taken me awhile to get it back up. Oh ya, It also took out my Slim Jim ant so no 2 meters either.
Tree holding up my antenna laying on the left.