February 28, 2015
February 28, 2015
We are at the end of winter for sure – not that there was much winter here in the SF Bay Area this year. The days are longer and its sunnier in the mornings when I ride my bike to work. All of the buckeyes and many cherry trees are in bloom, with other trees having big leafy buds ready to pop.
South Africa is booming in at 1500z on 40M, and last night I broke a very large simplex pileup being run by 4X4TT on 20M at our sunset. So the new DXU-32 is performing as it should, and its everything I was hoping it would be. I can say with confidence that even a low-ish and shortened 2 element yagi on 40M is better than phased verticals or a single dipole at the same height. Since I can no longer get a dipole on 40M up 70′ as I had before the neighbor cut down the huge Monterrey Pine – I will never know that comparison.
The best thing about this antenna is that it is quieter than what I had before. With better S/N, the signals sound more clear, and there is much less listening “fatigue”.
Wow – ZS6AVM is now S9 +2- dB at 1520z. This sure is fun!
February 27, 2015
My good friend and VK0EK Logo Artist, Jeff, K1NSS has created this wonderful cartoon / logo which I have thought about a lot as soon as I saw it on his web site at http://www.dashtoons.com/ He calls it “Iron Mike”, which is hilarious.
I usually gloss over a couple attempts at getting back into ham radio when I say I was inactive from 1979 until 2001. After I bought my house on Bella Vista Road (Miraloma Park) in San Francisco in 1991, I put up an R7 vertical and had an ICOM IC-725 and was active in San Francisco in Emcomm. I had been in a band that had played San Francisco dive bars from about 1984 – 1990 and then when I stopped doing that I thought I would get back into ham radio. My first son, Graham was born in 1991, so I’m guessing getting back into ham radio was some sort of weird “nesting” behavior. That phase didn’t last much more than a year – and unfortunately , I didn’t get into DX-ing, else I might have worked Bouvet, 3Y5X (and friend Jacky, ZL2CW – who is on the Heard Island VK0EK Team!), and South Sandwich, VP8SSI in 1992 – when I think I stopped bothering (again) with ham radio.
The second period that I made an attempt to get back in ham radio was 1994, just after moving to Lafayette from San Francisco. My son Graham was getting close to kindergarden age and my second son Trevor – born in 1995 was on the way. More nesting behavior. This time I put that R7 back up but decided to start building QRP rigs. In the late 1970’s – while still in Newton High School (WA2QHN) in Sussex County, NJ (Newton), I had built a Heathkit HW-7:
and then the less “microphonic” HW-8:
At the same time – there was this new thing called “The Internet”, and I vaguely remember using Pine for email and the very first Mozilla based browser and Alta Vista. What was great about that is the QRP community was probably the first internet based user groups that I hooked up with. I remember QRP ARCI and guys who were doing HW-8 mods, and I did quite a few. I also vaguely remember WB8VGE – who wrote a book of mods that started out as posts on the QRP user groups:
The one rig that I remember building and really loving was the Wilderness Radio SST:
I added two accessories to mine – a morse code id-er that told you what frequency you were on, and a keyer (they were an integrated set of features if I remember correctly). This was probably the coolest rig – because it was so small and was just so much fun. At this same time period, Wayne Burdick, N6KR, was selling his Norcal 40A rig, and then finally, the zenith of this age – and progenitor of the Elecraft K2, the Wilderness Radio Sierra:
If I remember right “QRP Bob” lived in Sacramento at the time – and sold these kits. He still does – check out his web page – http://www.fix.net/~jparker/wild.html used to go to the Livermore flea market, and then after, the California Burger in Pleasanton, where the Norcal and QRP ARCI guys would meet. My parents lived right up the road on Pimlico Road – right off the Santa Rita Road exit.
During the years 1994 – 1995, there were no DX-peditions of anything I still need. In 1996 I got out of ham radio yet again – because I went bonkers over cycling. I had back surgery in 1995, and could no longer run every day, so I bought my first Cannondale bike – an R1000, and that deep sixed ham radio until 2001:
I guess Emcomm, just calling CQ on 40M CW and even QRP wasn’t enough to keep me back in ham radio, but I have very fond memories of the QRP days. After I got back into ham radio – as a DX-er in 2001, I did build a couple more QRP rigs – the K1:
and finally the KX-1, when I first realized my eyesight was starting to become challenged by small component soldering:
So as you can see – I did have a fascination with QRP, and pretty much CW only. Today, I own an Elecraft KX3 – which I use on vacation:
So – all of this has led up to a different way to QRP, which is writing code for the Patriot. And it was fun to reminisce about my two attempts to get back into ham radio in the 90’s. Although I missed Bouvet and South Sandwich in the 90’s, I did get another chance for South Sandwich in 2002 – with VP8THU:
and Bouvet with 3Y0E in 2007/8:
3Y0C and K5K were on the air just months before I got back into ham radio. So – since 2001 I missed 3Y0E, VP8THU and FT5GA due to my own fault, and only KH5/K and VK0/H are one’s I could not have tried for – since I was cycling at the time and had no radios or antennas set up. So I guess this means Kingman Reef and Heard Island are the most rare for me – as far as how they fit in my life.
But it is really interesting to see how QRP has also been intertwined throughout – in fact – even longer as an interest time span wise as DX-ing. I’m pretty jazzed about QRP with the Patriot – and writing some code instead of soldering. For me, QRP is just relaxing fun and every QSO is precious. QRP and hanging with the QRP crowd is the antidote to some of the intensity going on in the DX World these days – so its a really nice “safe harbor” to go and hang out in.
Make in USA! Yes indeedy.
February 26, 2015
For the last several years I have been a high falutin’ “Data Architect”. Its been a strange turn in my career – after having been an Oracle Database Administrator and Database Developer for over 30 years – the last several years has found me sitting in an office making technology recommendations. The job has been like an old class I had in college that I doubt they teach anymore “Systems Analysis I” and II. Its a paper job – you just draw diagrams and do technology research. But I have felt somewhat useless not being hands on and “making” something. I also have wanted a real reason to write code – and two languages I want to get into seriously are Python and Scala. I’ll see if Python works well with the Patriot, and at work – luckily, not only am I working on doing big data science on train sensors, I have been put on a project where I have to overlay and analyze sensor data on maps – where the geographic rendering software is the ESRI software, plus another package. The BEST thing about this project is that I will get to use Spark and a language that suits me much better than anything else out there these days – Scala. Its what I would have hoped Java would have been – and for whatever reason – I have never gotten excited about Java. I basically don’t like all of the “boilerplate cruft” you have to code in Java just to do simple things. And if you want to do concurrent multi-threaded programming, Scala “thinks” like I do – since I am an old PL/SQL and Perl guy – where I could get a ton done quickly. But I also love the library support that comes with Python. The development community really seems to have risen to the top in terms of data science – so – I need to get on board – and what better way than with a ham radio QRP rig? There is Python that runs in a JVM – Jython. Hey – here’s a weird idea – Scala runs in the Java JVM, and it looks like the Arduino development platform is Java – maybe Scala could be used to drive the Patriot? See – I already have questions that are fun “musings”. Gee whiz – I think I have found a new avenue for fun that perfectly combines ham radio and my software career. And believe me – 10 years away from retirement – and this old dog needs some new tricks. The timing of all of this couldn’t do better.
I’ve run the gamut with DXCC and the whole awards chasing thing. I’ve also become tired of some of the very weird negativity in the DX Community these days. So that I won’t sour on it all – enter the Patriot. It combines two things that I still love – QRP and writing code. And it runs on 20M and 40M – which is a perfect fit for my N6BT DXU-32. QRP with a great antenna and writing code. Perfecto!
February 24, 2015
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I have been working on this project for quite some time, and when Dr. Bob, KK6EK returns from his VK – ZL – HS trip, he will have lots of great news to report (spoiler). But from now until when the team sets sail in November, this will be my main Ham Radio activity for sure. I have no DX to chase until VK0EK, and no antenna projects on the drawing board. I will enjoy some casual DX-ing and testing propagation using my new antenna farm. I did receive my new bigger and beefier 10 KW relay, and wow – its a real beauty. I will replace the smaller Radio Shack relay tonight when I get home from work.
Speaking of work (which is the reason I get to play ham radio), I have just started work on a really exciting project – its using Spark with GraphX to track and analyze billions of GE Train sensor readings and to try to predict the reason for a train fault. Trains these days are all software driven – so anticipating, and ultimately preventing train faults saves time, money and contributes to safer transport. Now how cool is this? Some play ham radio all day – every day. I play ham radio after work and after my 20 mile bike ride – 10 miles each way – so now you see how ham radio and all related projects fit in in my life. My wife and I spend a lot of time together as well.
As passionate as I am about ham radio – “its only a hobby” . . . . and always will be just that.
February 23, 2015
I’ve had dreams of having an antenna system like this for the 14 years I have been a DXer. I had to wait until I got to the point where I am in the DXCC pursuit (and to forget about Challenge greenie chasing) and also needed to wait until we started seeing reports of “no sunspots” – which we have just started to get. In a couple of years we will be back in the lower bands as far as openings are concerned. However, even 10M to JA yesterday was still excellent, so for the next year or so – we should enjoy some openings even as high as 10M. When I retire, I will be able to bring it all with me, which is fantastic.
The name of the game for me – for the rest of the year will be VK0EK, so I have no problem at all not having to worry about an ATNO until then – I’ll be way too busy. Our detailed planning is just about done – and now we will be building and packing very soon.
February 22, 2015
I was able to get a 12V 10 amp DPDT relay at Radio Shack. It wired up perfectly and according to the diagram in a previous blog post. I will use the Radio Shack relay and test with 100 watts, and swap it for the Array Solutions relay when it arrives.
Luckily, with the ARRL CW DX Contest going on this weekend, I was able to do some testing of the Tee – Vee antenna. Here are the results:
10M – Vee
12M – N/A
15M – Vee
17M – Vee
30M – Tee
80M – Tee for DX, Vee for local
160M – Tee