Western States Autumn

October 22, 2014

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By now, the North East US will have had their glorious Fall color show. Here out West, things are now in full swing, and will last until about Thanksgiving time.

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The weather for cycling is perfect now through the end of November, and the sights along the roads and trails are at their peak.

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Combine mountain biking and hiking and fall colors in the West, and you really have a glorious experience.

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I grew up in the North East, but moved to the West just after college. I’ve very much become a Westerner – and haven’t even been back to the North East since 1991.

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In the North East, the colors are grand and the geography somewhat subtle – at least compared to the West – where the colors are subtle but the geography is grand.

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Its almost Halloween, so here is a “ghost tree”.

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And throw in a spooky spider from a bike store in Moab.

 

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The model above shows the pattern for a 60′ aluminum vertical that then has a linear loading “stub” made from 15′ of 450 ohm ladder line that drops down along the vertical to 45′, and then which is connected by a 45′ “stinger” – or Inverted Vee “tail”. The part that has the stub does affect the pattern – and causes a sort of shadow at a high current point. Here is a close up of just that section:

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The biggest benefit is that I can maintain resonance without a heavy coil at the top of the vertical. But I’m not too crazy about how the pattern is affected. Here is the same vertical, but with a coil at the top:

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This is a much nicer pattern, but it then becomes an antenna that is a lot like what I have now – except that it introduces a high angle horizontal component that sort of acts like a hat – but not like it does with my present antenna. If the coil can be set up to trap at 80M and then let the rest of the wire add in resonance at 160M, maybe its of value.

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This idea – just a regular Inverted L with a tiny “tail” hanging down at the far end (meaning a little linear loading) works the best on 160M. Resonance is achieved on 160M, and the pattern is still a low angle vertical (DX) pattern. HOWEVER, the pattern on 80M ends up being an NVIS “cloud warmer”.

So – this is the first and most compelling reason to stick with what I have now – and just improve on the variable capacitors ability to handle higher voltage. And then – after replacing the capacitor – just keep the power down to maybe 1 KW instead of 1.5 KW?

I will have increased my power from 500 watts to 1 KW – and will have done it as efficiently as possible and will have a good DX pattern and angle on 160M and 80M. Furthermore, 1.5 KW on 80M will be no problem. Here is what my present hatted vertical looks like:

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And this is the same pattern on 160M and 80M. Mechanically, it ends up being the best of all worlds. Trying to keep multiple “tails” up in trees where squirrels have constantly eaten through my antenna rope leads me to just replace the capacitor . . . .

Fall Harvest DX Spectacular

October 21, 2014

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Besides enjoying the gorgeous autumn colors here in the West, the DX News engine is running at full “fever pitch”:

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I could very well be two away from DXCC Honor Roll #1 by Visalia of 2016. Now this is something I did not expect – but again – I never expected to go from 325 to 331 in a year – my last year to make Honor Roll – 2012, and where the 331st QSO was New Years Evening, 2012/13. Its autumn 2014, and who knows, maybe I could make Honor Roll #1 in less than 20 years? That would be pretty darned cool.

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And this is why I stay in the game . . .

 

 

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I have figured out a way to get a “nearly resonant” 160M antenna and a resonant antenna up for 80M. I can have two separate wires – or maybe one aluminum and one wire vertical and use a Stackmatch II switch to switch one or the other. I have two trees that can be used – one that will give me 70′ on 80M, and the other that will give me about 100′ on 160M – so on Top Band, I will need to add some L, C or both. But it will be much more efficient and have better bandwidth than my short hatted lowband antenna – where the voltage high point requires a very high voltage capacitor. Mechanically, this new antenna idea should be better than the big capacitance hat – that makes the short vertical VERY top heavy, and could be subject to some issues in high winds.

The only issue with the new antenna would be squirrels eating through the support rope – but getting this much height on a lowband vertical on a small lot is tricky.

One other idea would be to attach a 30′ Jackite pole on top of a 40′ aluminum vertical to get resonance on 80M, and then just run the 160M wire as more of a “slanted” Inverted L. The entire antenna could be telescoped up from the base – with a ladder leaning against the base support as I have it now. It won’t be top heavy, and it tapers and gets lighter at the top – so can support 70′ height easily.

I have all of the components to experiment, and it seems that the best idea so far is to not have a flat – horizontal “tail” – or a tail that drops back down from the top of the vertical – as you would with an Inverted L or other variation. Keeping the vertical always going up – even on a slant seems to really be the trick.

Oh – don’t worry about the picture showing the feed at 50% of the elements – I am using an old PC that has the demo edition of EZNec – which is pretty useless, but it at least shows the pattern OK.

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I have been struggling with trying to take a 55′ top hatted and loaded vertical and run QRO with it. Its possible, but the voltage gets so crazy high – that you then have to end up with a capacitor in your circuit that can handle voltages in the 6 KV plus range.

Just for laughs, I decided to model an antenna that is 60′ aluminum up – and then wire to a tree – on a slope that then goes up to about 80′ – and so its not an Inverted L – but a “slanted vertical”.

Its actually quite a lot better on both 160M and 80M, so I will be replacing the more complex antenna that I have with this much simpler antenna. A major benefit is that it has q much better bandwidth than the very short hatted vertical that I have up now. At QRO – the bandwidth is a lot narrower than it is with 100 watts. It may just seem that way because of the heating of components – due to the high voltage present when you have such a short antenna.

Size matters!

 

DXCC “Mysticism”

October 15, 2014

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The ARRL’s DXCC program has a surreal “magnetic attraction”. Its very easy to get “hooked” or addicted to it. Anyone who earnestly chases the DXCC “operating activity” knows how wrapped up you can get – and how your thinking can go off into the wild amber ether. I know – because it has happened to me. And I have had to always remember, “This is a Relaxing Hobby”, and DX-ing is a subset of this hobby, and ARRL DXCC is even a subset of DX-ing. I always remind myself of the “context” of DXCC within the greater hobby of amateur radio.

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Lately, there has been quite a few passionate discussions regarding Remote Operation and DXCC, and there is ALWAYS some discussion of why one entity or another should or should not be on the DXCC list. Some are political, geographical and natural / environment based in their reasoning. The motivation behind this many times (even though some may not admit to it) is that “yearning” to get to Honor Roll or Honor Roll #1. Its a tough fight to be patient and rational vs. impatient and irrational. Part of this is because trying to rational with an irrational program is really tough. It is counter intuitive to “normal thinking”.

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The biggest charm and curse of the DXCC Program is that is started out pretty straightforward, and through lots of “gerrymandering”, became stranger and stranger – and completely illogical. So much so – the rules and reasoning for many entities on the list are “grand fathered in”. This is a blanket to protect some of the truly ridiculous entities – but there was this nutty drive years ago to “add more so the guys at the top wouldn’t get bored”. I do think they got carried away and some cracks have recently started to form because of this. Here is the history timeline of the program – you can see how adding entities is the name of the game, and that deleting entities is a sin:

http://eastbayarc.org/pdf/dx-entity-history.pdf

The “Jenga” situation with the DXCC program is that there are many entities that – if you tried to make them conform to a logical rule, you would have to take out a big cleaver and Delete too many entities, and the program would then lose its “mystique” or charm. But these same rules make it impossible to add an entity like Kosovo. I think we have hit critical mass, and that its going to be difficult to add or delete anything from now on.

If you look back at the first paragraph, I called DXCC Honor Roll and DXCC Honor Roll #1 “Operating Activities” and not “awards”. I did this intentionally because there has never been or never will be a level playing field. It is something you do any way you like (i.e. from your own back yard, a club station, remote, etc), and you get to enjoy it as you like. Comparing two DX-ers and their accomplishments in most cases is like comparing apples to oranges. So – I have learned that that aspect of the program is just a given. But because my “thing” with the program is to have some bragging rights with working them all with my own station and my own home brewed antennas – I simply have added a disclaimer to my QRZ.COM page. That completely removes any issue of whether remotes are accepted or not – and at whatever distance between station and control operator. The issue is moot for me. In fact, I think the remote technology is ultra cool – and applaud anyone who experiments with that. And since I have been a database and networked application guy for 33 years in my career, and even worked for several cloud based companies, the whole remote ham radio thing is fine by me – its “DX-ing in the cloud”. I won’t use it – but I support others use of it. The convergence of my radio and computing hobby and careers have converged – and guess what? Ham radio is the reason I chose my computing career and went to school for my Computer Science degree! I can be “old school” and applaud “new school” at the same time. its not black and white . . . its both and everything in between.

Finally, since I would much rather have the DXCC program – as imperfect as it is – retain its “mystical charm”, and in the end – I drop my silly irrational – rational thinking and just accept this operating activity for what it is – warts and wrinkles. If I wanted rationality – I’d look at the CQ operating activities – but for whatever reason – even though they might even be more of an accomplishment, maybe its the irrationality of the DXCC program that is what draws me to it. Its really like playing some surreal fantasy game – and that might be its “secret sauce” – its a great escape from reality. . . .

 

New Low Band Match Case

October 15, 2014

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I just received a nice weatherproof enclosure for my low band matching circuit. Its a:

BUD Industries NBF-32038

Plastic ABS NEMA Economy Box with Solid Door,

20-55/64″ Length x 16-29/32″ Width x 7-55/64″ Height

Here is the box with the door closed:

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I will be putting the new larger components in:

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And this will replace my old matching network:

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