Friday, November 30, 2012

A little ham radio experimentation.

I live at a relatively high spot for the area, but there are a couple of smaller hills between my home and the village of Marcellus, NY and the visage itself is located way down by the 9-Miles Creek. I hope to have a nice map/graphic to illustrate that. Anyhow, most repeaters don't make it to the village. I wanted to find a way to be in touch down there, especially since there are many places even the cell phone don't work in that rf black hole.

I decided to try out with my base radio set to cross-band repeat, from 70cm to 2m simplex. On one side, I used a Yaesu VX-7 set to tx/rx on 70cm, using 50mW of power, the base station, a Yaesu FT-8800 set to rx/tx at 5 watts into a high gain collinear antenna. Finally, my mini-van is equipped with a Kenwood D-700, set to tx at 5w into a quarter-wave mag-mounted antenna. In addition, I had an ht, a Kenwood TH-72 with a Smiley antenna, on high power, 5 watts. I made several contacts while on the way, first before I crested the infamous hills, then below it. All contacts were good. Once down in the village, the transmission got a bit scratchy, but quite understandable, meaning I may want to bump the power up a notch on the 2m side of the base radio. I then gave it a final try with the ht and I was quite pleased to hear things as well as with my mobile radio. The latter might benefit from a better antenna, but then it won't make it into the garage, so I can live with what I have now.

By using the lowest power setting I could on all the radios but the Kenwood by I used in the village, despite the known difficult location, I once again have proved that it is not so much the power one uses but the location and quality of the transmitting antenna that make a good signal. I realize I could have shown scientifically all I said above but to me, the final proof is whether it really will work, and that I got!

Friday, August 3, 2012

CQ WPX Awards

I finally got my 600th WPX mixed QSOs confirmed via LOTW. That means I qualify for the WPX Honor Roll.  Of course I need to apply and the LOTW fee is not cheap.  eQSL is free,  but I don't have enough confirmations via that system.

It will cost me about $87.00 or so to LOTW.  That's not cheap,  but at $0.12 for each QSO,  it is way cheaper than cards,  and a good number of those would have to go overseas,  so the saving is substantial,  let alone the long wait and frustration due to "lost"  mail etc.

I guess that at some point,  I'll pull the trigger,  get the three awards and endorsements,  but for now,  I  know I have all these QSOs not only in my log,  but confirmed,  so that makes me very happy.

Crap!  The imported jpg is impossible to read.  I guess I'll need to do it in a different way...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

WPX awards

I did participate in the IARU contest. Conditions were not great but I had fun! 120 QSOs, sure better than last year and even a new entity, Kuwait. My wire antenna worked very well, allowing me to use my beam in one direction while the wire was omni- directional. I could hunt with the wire, then hone in, if needed with the beam. I also made a few contacts on 40m and 80m, something I've rarely done, esp. 80m. I did try 160m but the antenna would not tune there and I also did not hear any contest stations. Now that I have an antenna launcher, eventually, if I come up with a good design and enough wire, I'll consider an extra antenna, as I do have the room and a wire is not too visible, especially when high enough. Sitting on 597 WPX Mixed QSOs, I expected that the IARU contest would put me over the top and on the WPX honor roll. Well, so far, I'm at 599, one below the 600 mark! I also had 60 QSOs with headquarters stations! I wish I had read the rules better as 75 would have given me a certificate, oh well:( But I certainly wish that HQ stations would use LOTW and log their QSOs in a timely fashion. None so far have shown on LOTW! Actually, I only have 17 new confirmed QSOs coming from the IARU contest! :( Now, while LOTW is a great tool for tallying WPX results, it will cost me about $70.00 to apply via LOTW and in addition, there will be the CQ fees. That's not cheap for wallpaper! Sure less expensive and more convenient than sending 600cards, but certainly something to mull, especially when I could print a screen dump of my eligibility to the awards and be happy with that! It certainly would be better than just my statement, as those are confirmed QSOs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Antenna Launcher

For Father's Day I asked and got an antenna launcher This launcher is well priced, compared to others.

This is a wonderful device, easy to use and safe too, well, as long as you consider it being a loaded gun and act accordingly. Launching has virtually no kickback. Aiming is simple too.

So armed with the new toy, I decided to take my Cobra ultra-lite antenna down and relocate it so it can take full advantage of the mature trees I have on the property and at the same time be better oriented.

After a few hiccups, it went smoothly down, well this antenna has been up there for 5 years!  Putting it back up took a bit of work, as some trees were in the way and catching the wire, but all got solved and the gun performed flawlessly.

So now my antenna is at 48 feet above ground and I am happy with it. It refuses to tune on  160m but it never had. No loss there. It tuned nicely on the other bands and I did make quite a few QSOs with it already.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Well, I did not have the entire weekend to devote to the contest, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. No pressure on me, I did what I could, when I could. Things started a bit on the wrong side, with part of my coax line to the Cushcraft MA5B going bad. Might have been just a connecting barrel that fell apart in my hands, the barrel I'll chuck, the coax, I'll check, pun intended of course. Fortunately, I had some spare coax, so I fixed that first thing in the morning.

20 meters was crazier than ever, so I migrated to 15m and 10m were I made most my contacts. Boy, I got to really use the narrow filter on my Icom 756proIII, and it certainly allowed me to separate between close signals. I also decided to try out the low power, single user, assisted category. I sure did enjoy the cluster and the stations appearing on my screen. I think that my days of non-assisted category may be over, as this is a more pleasurable way to search and pounce.

My new rotator worked well, but something is still wrong on the connecting cable so my control box does not show the antenna's direction. I just set a security camera looking towards the antenna and all day long, I could see where it was pointing at. Not so at night, but then I mostly used my wire antenna (difficult to change its direction tough, as the trees refuse to move on my command...)

One of the grand moments in a K9 SAR career

This post also never got publushed, it is also about a year old...

While you might expect the story of a find, or a great training feat, or a superb certification, this story might pale by them, yet it brightened my day and I still relish it a week afterwords and probably will do so for the rest of my life.

The dog, a chocolate Labrador retriever that I barely knew. But I have a very fond place for the chocolate labs, I do understand them quite well. I am also a fan of Cesar Milan. His way with the dogs matches theories I learned in the past, and these have worked for me quite well.

This chocolate lab, a SAR dog in training, was quite hyper about his tennis ball on a rope reward. Let's just say that the yellow cover was coming off the ball and the ball itself was half busted. That lab bit HARD on it and would not let go of it for his handler. The latter had to grab the dog by the harness and wrestle the ball out of its mouth, a real pity.

I approached the dog and claimed my space, which the dog gave me without a second thought. I was calm and assertive and the dog switched to a much calmer way and definitely was submissive. I asked the handler to give me the ball and I immediately threw it to the dog, not 30 feet, not 20, just 5 feet in front of the dog. The dog retrieved it, gave it a bite or two and I extended my hand and asked the dog to give me the ball. The first time, the dog missed my hand, the ball fell on the ground and the dog let me pick it up. Almost immediately, I threw it again, 5 feet away. The dog retrieved, saw my extended hand and put the ball in my hand. We practices a few more throws and the dog had total confidence in me, I could now take the ball, pocket it, pet the dog, talk to the owner, throw the ball, again 5 feet etc. Why 5 feet? The short distance kept the dog calm and focused and this is the mode a reward for SAR ought to be given, clam and focused as not to disturb the learning that just has occurred prior to the reward.

Rita, another now seasoned handler tried it as well, and had the same behavior I did.

Now came the owner's turn, and guess what, when thrown calmly, with expectation to get it delivered back to hand, it happened to him too. The shorter the throw, the better the retrieve and release. It took all of maybe 10 minutes and the handler learned a new way to reward his dog and in so doing, I think there was trust building between the two, something that was sorely missing in that equation.

As for me, I was surprised how quickly the dog gave me his trust. Maybe Stryder, my chocolate lab did talk to that younger dog. Who knows? Fact is, I could get the ball from the dog just by asking and a bit of body language.

AlexLoop Walkham PY1AHD

This is a post from almost a year ago, never got published...

I recently purchased the Alexloop Walkham antenna. Between the weather not cooperating among others, I did not have much time to spend outdoors, playing radio. So I am not going to call this a review of the product, b ut more a bunch of comments by an occasional user.

I got this antenna as I wanted to have a portable antenna that is easy to set up and needs little tweaking between band changes etc. The Alexloop filled those two requirements quite well. Putting it together is a breeze, an untrained monkey could do that. No small parts to lose or fiddle with, no tools required, nothing to measure, no counterpoise wires. It is up in a few seconds and has nothing my dogs or grandchildren will get tangled into.

Being a high-Q antenna, you need to re-tune it between changes in frequency/bands, but turning one knob to the highest reception level, then fine tuning it takes maybe five seconds... I can live with that, especially since the knob is at arm's length from my chair.

The next requirement from an antenna is that it would be a good receiving antenna. Simply, if you can't hear'em, you can't work'em. Well, tha Alexloop Walkham is an excellent receiving antenna. Can I say it is better than a SteppIr on a huge Luso tower? I can't as I have neither of those available, but I can hear stations and hear more of them than I can work. Not only that, with its null, I can cancel noise that otherwise would drown some stations out.

Now my last sentence might sound as it the Alexloop has problems in transmitting. Not so, but there, we have many extra and uncontrolled variables coming into play. Suffice to say that a fellow with that SteppIr, Luso tower and legal limit amplifier will send my 5 watts into smithereens. Not the antenna's fault... And many times the local operator (me) has not tweaked  the SWR well enough, or remembered to switch  the power back up, so my minimum power transmissions are really minimal thus not making it.

OTOH, I've made quite a few contacts in the US, sitting on my deck with the Alexloop. And yesterday, I made my first contact across the Atlantic, to a station in Italy. Not yet the 1000 miles per watt transmission but getting closer to it! Yes, with QRP you need to be lucky and I was as this guy had just started calling CQ so I did not have to break into a pile-up.

I'm happy with the Alexloop Walkham.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

IARU Championship 2011 or shooting yourself in the foot

Camping in the Adirondacks this year, so I had the choice of going QRP with my Yaesu FT-817 and Transworld antenna or low power with my Icom 706MKIIG, same antenna. Well, after setting up on Friday afternoon, I found that I had lots of noise, S9 and above... Since we were near the office, pool etc. I figured out they had some RFI problems inherent to the mechanical parts of the pool, refrigerators and what not. And campgrounds are known to have electrical problems anyhow. Not much I could do about it, certainly not saving my 24-hours contest...

So I opt for maximum power, set up the Icom 706MKIIG as my station and heard almost nothing but noise on all bands, 40m-10m, covering most of the band... I did manage a few DX contacts, in the 5000 miles range, something that would send he whooping and hollering on 5 watts, but less so on 100 watts. Sure, I'm just operating portable, with a good antenna, but still a compromise one, so I'm not unhappy, but I was hoping for better.

I even tried my FT-817, battery powered, outside the rig with my Alexloop antenna, one that has a directional pattern, but even with this, I could not null the noise. Made a few QRP contacts anyhow...

I had planned on staying up late at night, to improve on my score as much as possible, but conditions seemed so bad that I figured out it is not worth losing sleep over, so I went to bed.

I woke up in the morning, walked the dogs, all six of them are with us in the RV and then it dawned on me. I was using a spare cell phone/iPod charger, the same I used at home, but at home, I discovered its power supply made all kind of noise so I replaced it, this one, a spare, still had the original power supply. I turned the Icom on, to be greeted by S9 noise. I unplugged the sucker power supply and the noise was GONE! Well S2-3 is quite acceptable in a campground! And parts of the 20m band were totally quiet! Ugh! I feel so stupid. A less than $5.00 piece of Chinese crap robbed me of a beautiful day's contest!

When I get back home, I'll give this PS the 10lbs hammer test, meaning what happens to it when pounded by said hammer...

As for hunting the noise down, the RV is 30' long, and that makes it hard to pinpoint the noise. In addition, I have power lines overhead, the power receptacle and the stupid PS were within feet of each other so with only an HT, I don't think I could have zeroed on the real culprit, but I did not try, as I assumed wrongly tht the noise came from the campground...

So here is my score:

At least I participated!

Monday, June 13, 2011


With my wife visiting our grandchildren in PA and me dog-sitting at home, this is a perfect opportunity to try something new, as my activity on VHF has been relatively limited, especially on SSB, actually it was nil there.

So I started making plans, the weather having been quite hot, I wanted to operate from my deck, thus close to my antenna, as I was also the designated rotator... So by Wednesday, I got my equipment out, my little FT-817, my Arrow antenna and I listened/participated to my club's net on 2m FM, making sure that my equipment worked well. Passed that hurdle with flying colors.

But now the weatherman starts talking about colder weather for the weekend, with rain and well already by Friday, the nice weather was gone and we had a bit of rain. So I go to plan B, working from my screened porch. The screening material is metal, so it makes it a great Faraday cage. No transmissions come out of it, unless the antenna is outside, and that means mileage on the rotator's legs, mine!

Now, my Arrow has a diplexer built-in so I did not want it exposed to rain. I hauled my Elk out, checked it with my analyzer and it was fine, so it got the job. With that antenna, I could go to 200 watts so instead of my FT-817, I took the Icom 706MKIIG from the RV and that gave me a certain advantage as now I was able to transmit up to 50Watts on VHF. My computer easily connected to the 706MKIIG and I could have logging on-the-spot and even LoTW as I had wi-fi everywhere. So here I am, comfortably installed in the screened-in porch, working a few stations, when I noticed the sky getting darker and darker, my dogs, one by one going back inside... I had a plastic tablecloth to protect my equipment should high winds push the rain inside... At one point, I went to turn my antenna and the air felt funny, Just a single droplet of rain fell on me, the ground was dry. I turned my antenna by 90 degrees, to try listening to another quadrant. I got back in and my behind did not reach the chair when the sky opened up with a vengeance. Sheets of rain and wind... The tablecloth flew over the station and covered everything. I quickly disconnected the power, then the antenna and moved everything back to the kitchen island.  Reconnected everything, no damage and now, this is where the VHF station will stay till the Party is over.

Unfortunately, I keep hearing the same three, four stations and nothing more. One of then has a contest station, so my 706MKIIG and its Elk antenna slung on a painter's pole (held by duct tape) and bungee corded to the deck swing may not mean much. But maybe propagation will help a bit later on. Anyhow, it is not bad to be contesting without any pressure. Whatever will happen, it will be better than last year!

Well, I never heard any more stains than the four I logged. I will probably need a better antenna if I want to do better, and better propagation too. The antenna is not going to happen, too much expense for too little fun, IMO. So will I participate on VHF events in the future? I hate to say a definite no, and be proven wrong at a later time, but with my current equipment, probably not.

2010 10-Meters ARRL Contest

As you can see from my previous entry, I won first place in the Western New York Section, Single Operator, Low Power SSB. Sure, I'm tickled pink and happy to have sent in my meager results and now can prove that you may be 1st in your category, even with two QSOs. But I was hoping to do a bit better, score-wise at least, this year.

Propagation was not great, to say the least. I also had some equipment malfunction, like my rotator freezing (antenna pointing east) and some quirk in my Heil headset or mike switch, but that was fixed with me reverting to the old hand mike.

The frozen rotator freed me from having to look at propagation charts as my Cobra-Ultra-lite antenna and my Transworld Backpacker are omni-directional so all I could do is listen and answer calls I heard without possibility of enhancing them locally.

This time I'm claiming 26 QSOs and 728 points. This certainly eclipses 2 QSOs and four points from last year. Will it be good enough to win the category? Time will tell.

I worked a Canary Island station, one in Columbia, a few Argentinian stations, Aruba came through too as well as several Mexican stations. Several stations in the US were also worked, NY, AZ, FL, CA and IL. I want to thank the operators for taking my call.

Friday, December 10, 2010

2009 ARRL 10-Meter Contest

Well, just as I'm getting ready for this year's contest, and having by now completely forgotten about last year's, I get this nice certificate in the mail. Talk about a pleasant surprise!

Upon further review, I had only 3 QSOs on that contest, no wonder I did not remember it at all, as there was nothing to howl about. But given enough categories, Single Operator, Phone Only, Low Power, I probably had no competition in the WNY Section!

I sure am hoping to do better this year. I guess the goal might not be too high! I'm sure glad the score is not on the certificate, but that certificate sure has re-energized me and is a great motivator.

Thank you ARRL! This one goes on my wall!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Israel's Critial Security Needs for a Viable Peace

Well, before Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, I was not opposed to the withdrawal. It was IMO, worth the risk. Evidently, not only did it not work, it backfired... Who is to say that the Palestinian regime, a regime that is barely hanging in by its fingernails, will not fall and be replaced by Hamas/Jihad/Al-Qaida, just as it did in the Gaza strip? And this time, Israel cannot take many risks. Here is why:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Garmin 62s track sampling most often vs 1 yard

First let me say that although these tracks were taken using the 62s, I believe that the sampling would be quite similar in the 60csx, Oregon, Dakota and Colorado as they have the same track sampling options and use the same or a very similar algorithm for that purpose.

The cyan track is set at the most often sampling rate, in auto mode. The red track is set on 1 yard, distance. These were made during a K9 training, searching for divers under water. Each pass was for a different dog. THe difference is obvious, you want precision in the track, chose the sampling rate by distance, 1 yard.

I certainly cannot see the boat, a very nice FD inflatable boar, making an angular pass like in the cyan track. Below are two screen dumps directly from the 62s:

Now I also checked elevation profiles, as elevation was one point that was fixed in the latest beta and on the water, the elevation should be quite the same. Unfortunately, I did not set my GPS to barometric altitude, so that point was not checked. Yet look at the differences:

The cyan track (most often sampling) is on the left, the red track, 1 yard sampling is on the right. The water was not flat, just little waves, no white caps, wind about 5-10mph.

I will stay with my setting for track, 5 yards sampling on land, 1 yard on the water.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Funny and cute: Tagging black bears in Algonquin Park, Canada

Altitude reporting on the Garmin GPSMAP 62s

As usual, click on the picture to see a larger version thereof. At first glance, the elevation graph seems to confirm that pressing a button on the 62s causes altitude spikes to be registered. Well, first, this is untouched data, as displayed by TopoFusionPro. At the start, I know I did set the tracking to be on, so I did press buttons and there is a slight, 10ft, loss of altitude whereas I'm in the parking lot. I don't know what caused the next two humps and depression between them but I did touch buttons around the 1.0 mark and the change there is not spectacular. I can't find a reason for any other spikes but the last one, when I was saving my track. 20 ft difference or so, I just eyeballed it, did not look at the actual track elevation numbers.

Do I want Garmin to look into it, perhaps fix it? Of course. But does it really matter to me for Search and Rescue purposes? Frankly, without others talking about it, I would not have noticed it, as I rarely even look at altitude. I rarely, if ever reset the barometer as altitude is of little consequence to me. My legs are good at telling me whether I'm going up or down and I can read the map (on the GPS or on paper).

The GPS graph shows altitudes between 320 to 370 ft, quite acceptable for my use.

Google Translate!

As a linguist, I find this amazing. An innovative idea, what else would you expect from Google, and mega computer power making it work. And while the results are not perfect and human touch is often needed, by now, I'd say any translation I would do, will certainly begin on a Google Translate base, then add the human touch to make it better.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

World Trade Center 2009

I have not been to the World Trade center since September 2001 when Radar, my search dog and I worked in Staten Island's recovery effort. I did not want to really see that huge hole in the ground. Having watched this video, I cannot wait now till the area is going to be open to the public.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

GPSMAP 62S vs. Oregon 400i

I got the 62S for two main reasons. With age, near sightedness is a problem, and it is hard to rely on reading glasses in the woods. So I needed a better display than my Oregon 400i could offer. While the 62S has a lower resolution than the Oregon 400i, that lower resolution seems to make it easier for me to read it, and the brightness of the display is helping too, so that problem (of mine) had been addressed.

The 3-axial compass is easy to calibrate, easier than my Droid Incredible, and once that done, it is a pleasure to use, no more trying to level things out. Beautiful. Compared between the two and my trusted Brunton Eclipse and had the same results, all three compasses indicating magnetic north where it should be.

I tested both units on the road near my house, a complete square shaped circuit, mostly in the open but the south side, especially on the outside of the road comes next to tall trees in full foliage. First time around, I walked on the inside, clockwise. The second time around, I walked on the outside, still clockwise and I reversed the GPS position.
At first, in the open, I noticed both units being very close in numbers, in single numbers even, sometimes just a foot away from each other, well they actually were, as I held one in each hand! But further down the separation grew to six feet, the 62S always being the best. I had WAAS acquisition, quite strong on both units, satellite 48. I lost it for a brief moment on the southern leg on the Oregon, but it came back. Now on the second time around, still on my east leg, I noticed the Oregon becoming less precise, much less so than the 62S. I also noticed the WAAS reception was not so good on the Oregon and it was on satellite 33, whereas the 62 was on 48. I lost WAAS on the southern leg on the Oregon, while I did not on the 62S. Precision went down to about 18ft on the 62S but was double that on the Oregon at nearly 40ft. I was watching the satellite screen all the time on both units.

So how do the track look and compare?

On the left, the Oregon 400i's screen and on the right the 62S.

You can see that the scale is different as going to 120ft did not allow to have the entire picture on the 62S' screen.OTOH, on the Oregon at 200ft the two tracks almost blended, due to the higher resolution, I guess.

I would have been very pleased with either, as they show me on the correct side of the road, and this is not a major thoroughfare, mind you.

Look at the NW corner. On the outside, I had to decide when to cross the street and the way I crossed is better shown on the 62S than on the Oregon 400i. Looking at the SE corner, on the outside, I had to leave the edge of the road as it was overgrown there and the 62S shows it a bit better. Really, I am nit-picking, yet the 62 is the winner!
The maps displayed are not the same. The Oregon has Topo 2008 and NY 1:24000 topo that is displayed, whereas the 62S had the Garmin 1:24000 NE on a uSD card.

I will now put those tracks on an aerial in TopofusionPro and see if the win stays with the 62S.

OK, now we are talking magnification (click on the picture is you need to see it larger) and I see nothing further to add. The two units are darn good, with victory by points to the 62S because it tracked me more accurately in those corners and its WAAS fix was much more stable.

I was tempted to dig up files from the past, but then I remembered that GPS constellation would be different and also the GPS software and firmware would not be the same, thus introducing uncontrolled variables, so I'll stay away from that.

This is a work in progress, I'll add more as I do more. For now both units will accompany me in my forays, but I have a very sound feeling about the 62S. Scott from GPSFix fame told me he had tested the 60csx vs. the 62S and the display of the 62 is at least as good if not better than the 60csx because of the added colors. And his eyes are better than mine, I believe, certainly not as old.

I remembered I had a Gilsson external amplified antenna which I had not used since I got the Oregon. I found it nevertheless and since today is a rainy day, all I want to do is indoors testing. So here are the screens:

Left is with the Gilsson external amplified antenna, right naked 62S, same location, well read the UTM! I am indoors BTW. Location is as correct as I can place it on an enlarged aerial, altitude is right too, the only difference is the GPS precision circle and stronger reception of the satellites in general with the external antenna. Notice that WAAS is working fine (full bar with the external antenna) but I'm not far from a window. IMO, for SAR work, I don't see the need for the external antenna. I'll put it in/on my radio harness, to be used if conditions ever necessitate it, but not as routine use. I also noticed that the MCX connector is quite difficult to detach. I even used needle nose pliers.

Scott (GPSFix/wikis) had trouble transferring tracks adn Geocaches wirelessly. I tried too, from the Oregon 400i to the 62S and although both units indicated transfer completed 100%, I could not access these tracks on the 62S. Now upon checking via computer, I can see those files in the GPX folder! I have just restarted the 62S, still no-go! We may have a minor bug there!

The 62S at its worst!

I left my 62S on by my keyboard at my desk. I don't remember what I did check, but I forgot the unit on for just over an hour. Now my shack and computer are in the basement, facing a wall that is below ground. Behind me are stairs and the living room and only part of a window is visible, double pane glass, window treatment and behind it there is a huge tree in leaf. Most GPS units have no reception here, maybe if I hold them up so they have a better angle at the window and the satellite geometry is just right, but in most cases, I have no reception. Well, I have a track of 148 points, .52 miles long, my 62 being set at marking a point every 5 yards!

So here is the display on the 62S' screen:

And here on TopoFusionPro:

Well I measured the total deviation, north-south was 70 meters and east-west was 50 meters.

Frankly, I've seen much much worse from earlier Garmin units. Why did my 62S do that, simply the signals from the satellite were bouncing all over the place, my below ground wall being just two feet from the 62S, as well as my desktop computer and HF radio and other ham gear. I always like to know how my equipment will function in extreme conditions and although I did no set up this test, the results are interesting and actually, IMO quite good. Tomorrow, I'll leave the 62S in outdoors for a hour and we'll be able to compare results. Satellite geometry will be different but the placement should give it quite an advantage.

OK, so today, I left the OR400i and the 62S on the table on my deck, is good position to acquire satellites for over an hour and a half. Here are the results:

Screen size tell you which is the OR and which the 62S (ok the latter is on the left). Well, both did well, both in a 20ft diameter circle. Length of the "track" was different, maybe due to the extra sensitivity of the 62s' antenna? Now I did not take a screen dump of it but under a more normal working scale like 120, 200, etc. you can't even see that drift on the screen. Now for those of you who are looking for a 35mm film canister (Geocachers), you need to search for it in 314 square feet, a circle that has a radius of 10 feet.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

SAR training with Amigo SAR dogs

That was a pleasant event, a round robin of problems, enough to make you and your dog happy. We were lucky weather-wise as the hear spell got broken the day before and the heavy rains made way to a really nice day.

Training is also where I test my gear, in conjunction with working my dog. This time it was my new Droid Incredible and its topo mapping capabilities as well as track saving.

One thing I learned is to put the darn thing in airplane mode in areas with no reception. This will help the batteries last longer. This is the main problem with cell phones in general, they die due of lack of power in wilderness settings. I already have a power pack on order, one that can not only recharge the cell phone but be recharged itself by AC/12v and/or SOLAR! Now solar panels are not so efficient when moving, as most of us will try to stay in the shade, but when stationary, it can be directed towards the sun to be as efficient as possible.

The Droid Incredible has apps that can save your GPS track to the unit and can also share them by email (and other means) with friends or yourself, so you can then open the email attachment you sent yourself and import the track in your mapping software. While this app, MyTracks, is Google based, meaning road map and aerial, Gaia GPS beta gives you a nice USGS map, but it is quite a dated one. Looks terrific though till I looked at my Garmin Oregon 400i with its 24K maps on a memory card and the picture there was by far better, crisper, as long as the light was right, as the Oregon's display is not the best (acceptable but not great). Gaia GPS beta allows you to download map segments ahead of time, quite useful when going in no reception areas. My Tracks left me with a blank screen.

PICTURES: you can click on each picture to see an enlarged version.

Here is a screen view from Gaia GPS Beta on the Droid Incredible, as it has a share option, so I emailed it to myself:

Below is a computer screen dump from MyTracks, this time I send the track to My Maps on Google Maps, so there is a way to share the tracks from the field, without a physical connection to the computer, if there is cell service.

I can make the Droid Incredible do most things My Oregon can do, but battery life and waterproofness are concerns. They can be overcomed but still, I prefer using a dedicated navigation GPS in the wilderness and save my battery on the Droid foir phone and pictures. OTOH, the ability to send tracks and photos is something to consider sometimes.

Below are two out of four photos taken of a "crime scene". 8-megapixels pictures that can be sent over the cell network and that ate geotagged, meaning the GPS location is encoded in the file and they can be placed on Google Earth for exact location!

As you can see from the shadow, I'm standing and yet you can count every shell casing! From a phone camera!

And below is my Google Earth screen dump and you can see the geotagging information encoded in the picture.

Road navigation:
The Droid Incredible and my Garmin Nuvi 765T did well, but when I missed a turn, the Nuvi recovered and the Droid got stuck (maybe because of lack of phone reception, I don't know, as I was close to my destination and driving on a dirt road that needed my full attention. I was using the Droid on car power to conserve battery.

We also had a M+C course. After 18 years in SAR, my compass does not even have a scratch on it! Am I an armchair SAR searcher? Heck no, but simply my Brunton Eclipse developed a huge bubble so I sent it back to Brunton and a few days later, a brand new compass appeared at my doorstep. Hey, I sent an old, beat up compass and got a brand spanking new one in return. And now I know it works just fine in the woods! One leg was a GPS exercise (like Geocaching) and while I found a glitch in my GPS, I cannot reproduce it, yet, glitch or not, I used my unit and found the cache.

During one of the breaks from K9 work I took, waiting for an area to become available, I put my low power ham radio station together, radio, battery, antenna and counterpoise wire, in less than five minutes I was on the air, hearing a lot of European stations (there was a contest going on) and managing to make a contact with a Florida station, working 5 watts, just like a portable radio! SAR, K9-SAR and my ham radio hobby all at once! Life is good!

With all this going on, Stryder, my dog, found his live subject as well as his "dead" and hanging one. I was particularly happy to see him work out a nice scent pool, get out of scent, then back in solving the problem by following the fringe to the source and indicating up the tree. He is an experienced dog, but beautiful dog work still gets to me. The day I tire of it may be the day I need to retire from K9 SAR!

Field Day 2010

This year I decided to check out on my club's Field Day location. I came early and helped a bit in erecting their yagi. We finished just in time to have some lunch and we beat the rain. Erecting said antenna in the rain would have been unpleasant to say the least.

I then discovered that I was in a no-cellphone zone, and as CNY does not have many K9 resources, I felt I could not spend more time there, totally off the grid. Next year, I may just pass the local landline number to my wife and teammates etc... That premonition was well founded as I did get a call on Sunday!

I decide to operate in minimalistic mode, using just what was in my my fanny pack (a small one from and an 7A SLA that was on my screen porch and that I had used previously. Amount of power left in it unknown. I also had a 5A Li-Po battery that had been recently recharged as well as the internal 2.7A pack, also recently recharged. My old used SLA battery lasted me the entire field day! And yes, the poor think needs to be recharged now!

For next year, I want to be able to use a folding solar panel for recharging my battery (5-10 watts).

Well I used what was in the fanny pack the ATX and my Miracle MMD 20m antenna. No ATU, nothing else. I used the ATX on bands other than 20m, but just for a short while. Most of my work was done on 20m with the Miracle MMD antenna. I just threw the antenna from my deck to a tree, some of the antenna was horizontal, but did not go in a straight line to my rig (physical constraints of the house) and some was hanging vertically from the branches of my tree. Definitely not ideal but to me it simulated well a situation where I would be asked to get communications going in the shortest amount of time, no help, just get it done!

It got done! I had two contacts on Saturday. Competing with stronger stations was hard. I did better Sunday morning, four QSOs and I was hoping to achieve ten when a search call came to interrupt my Field Day. Since I started setting up well after the start of Field Day, regulations allowed me to operate an extra 3 hours. That's when I got most of my contacts for a total of 17. Those last few hours were good, as competition was much smaller and any station was ready to deal with a weaker signal just to get the points.

Next year, I might try operating later at night or in the wee hours of the morning, when competition is not as fierce.

Conditions were bad on 20 meters. I could hear a station loud and clear, nice and high on the S-meter just to have it fade within a few seconds.

I enjoyed working QRP. Life is not too short for it. Those who shun it don't know what fun it can be! Using 100w into a beam now seems like shooting fish in a barrel!

I think I'll continue using QRP next year. I would like to see batteries charged with a solar panel, work later at night or in the wee hours of the morning, and this time use my best portable antenna, the TransWorld Backpacker. The latter is also very easy to set up in a few minutes. But this year, I wanted to just use my fanny pack.

Now in real emergencies, I think that I still would like to be able to Tx with 100w. That means using my Icom 706MKIIG. But what I could do is use the FT-817 for listening and then turn on the IC-706MKIIG and using it to make the contact, once done, power it down till I'm ready for the next one. One of these Field Days, I may try this configuration and see whether I can conserve power while listening and still use 100w for Tx.

I kept a paper log. With 17 QSOs this is not a problem. I don't even know if N1MM will do the (IMO excessive) paperwork ARRL wants us to do. I've never so far submitted my logs for FD, just for that reason. Maybe I'll do it this year. Who knows, 17 QRP/battery QSOs might just be enough to get a mention? I don't know if I want to use my laptop for logging, as while it may make things easier to log, it means a much more complicated and less portable station.

Well I just got a Droid Incredible and hopefully soon I'll be able to log from there and send the ADIF file to my email address and import it into HRD without too many problems.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Close-Up Footage of Mavi Marmara Passengers Attacking IDF Soldiers

To me these pictures speak a ton. I don't need more to understand why deadly force had to be used.

And if more is needed, here is a long video from a non-Israeli source. Just notice the "peace" activists, with clubs, metal pipes, knives, gas masks

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Good Life Central NY Magazine May-June 2010

The Good Life, Central NY Magazine reporter, V. Michelle Bernard wrote a wonderful article about Search and Rescue, my SAR dogs and a bit about myself. The magazine is a very nice local publication but unfortunately has no web presence so I secured permission to publish the article here, on my blog.

The two pictures below will get larger and the text will be readable when you click on them. Use your back button to return to the blog and view the next picture in the same way.

The material below is (c) 2010 The Post Standard. All rights reserved. Used with permission of The Post Standard.

I would like to thank The Good Life, CNY Magazine for having published this article and a special thank you to Michelle Bernard for he excellent work writing this article. Michelle did a lot more than just interviewing me. She researched her facts, talked to others in my circle of SAR related friends and her professionalism showed throughout her work all the way to the finished product.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What QRP can do for you!

I got a brick today, meaning a Mirage BD-35 VHF/UHF amplifier I bid for on eBay. Fist thing, I wanted to see it worked! So I connected my tiny Yaesu VX-2 to my collinear antenna, something I've never done so far and I was really surprised by how well the radio worked with that antenna. All of 1.5 watts and with that antenna, I was reaching quite far, without the amp. So let it be a lesson, it is not the watts you put out it is what you do with those watts in the antenna system! This is something I've learned over time, but never experimented with and now I have a solid proof for it! Makes me happy!

Now with the amp, I could reach even farther repeaters and 1.5 watts was enough to drive the amp on VHF. The 1W I got out on UHF gave me only 10W out of the amp (still 10x improvement), but then I switched radios, put my VX-8 on line and now I got full power out of the brick.

My idea is to save buying another APRS rig for the RV and use my VX-8 with the brick, giving me the same output as any mobile radio and for the price I got the brick on eBay, I could not even come close to another APRS radio! Do I need the power? Well with the through the glass 1/4 wave antenna I have on the RV (I certainly did not want to make it any taller/higher than it is), I can use some help, so where the gain is low, the extra watts will hopefully help.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Good news!

As I logged on to my LoTW account today, I noticed one new DXCC entity, Monserrat, the QSO having been made  in 2009, but then I noticed the asterisk near the Phone and 20m tabs, meaning the award has been issued! Wow, I applied on April  26th, 2010 and we are just May 4th 2010! Now that is fast. I bet that just using LoTW had something to do with it! Now, I'm waiting for the paperwork but that ought not to take too long.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Often, at search scenes, when it is time to go home, we get a verbal thank you from a representative of the agency we worked with, which is always nice. Understandably, sometimes things can be a bit hectic and we just go home.

From time to time, the agency we worked for sends a thank you letter to the team, and most teams pass copies to their members, or participating members.

It is much less common to receive personal letters from the Chief of the agency involved in the search. It has happened to me a few times in the past but it is always nice and motivating to get such letters. Here is one I just got today:

Yet below is one of a kind, the only hand-written note I ever got from relatives of a missing person. This is definitely not the run-of-the-mill, very unusual and what more, we never even found the victim (was found at a later date outside the search area). That kind of note to is very invigorating, very motivating to say the least!

New DXCC awards

Well I just checked my ARRL LoTW account and low and behold I have a second and third DXCC Awards waiting for me to apply for. I knew for a while about the phone award, as I am sitting on 109 QSLs but I was inching along on the 20m award getting very close but now I've got it too, 100 QSLs!

It sure makes me happy and more energized and eager than ever. I'm doing ok on RTTY and 15m so I will concentrate my efforts there, the bands allowing of course.

I have now to figure out the LoTW application process which should not be too hard as this one is a pure LoTW application. While I have more cards, I'll keep them for when I really need them and work at getting more from QSOs I've made but not send cards, waiting for LoTW confirmations.

Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 WPX SSB Contest

Yes, with 310 QSOs and a score of 153,957, I beat my result in the 2010 CQ WPX RTTY contest, but I worked longer 27hrs 32 minutes compared to 19hrs 28 minutes. Phone contacts take longer, I'd say but I would have to validate that with other scores to generalise. I am happy with those results though. I did compete in the TB-Wires overlay category, so maybe I have a chance to see my scores published...

This time I decided to give the newest version of the N1MM contesting logging software a try. Thanks David K2DSL, for convincing a pig headed ham to try it out. OK, really not kosher pun there right before Passover! It performed pretty well for me, with a few moments of panic and a lot of saved files for backup (I did not trust it fully, so I was prudent). Some of my problems stemmed from not heeving read the 4000+ pages manual, fortunately in pdf form and searchable, which allowed me to solve some of the problems while contesting. Others remained unsolved as they were not critical. All I can say is that I logged all my QSOs, did not lose any to the program. I avoided dupes and the only ones I did call were due to call signs errors. This part worked much better than HRD. At the end of the contest, the Cabrillo file was created very smoothly. While contesting, I discovered I was elligible for the TB-wires category overlay and I did not know how to do change that with N1MM, so I did it manually, a breeze when compared to entering a whole column of data. BTW, I never send in my CQ WPX RTTY log because I had to edit so many entries. That made me decide to seriously try N1MM as I was not ready to do so much paperwork after a contest. I don't know how people managed to do it before computers...

I made 310 contacts with 56 different entities (most are countries, but not all). From Alaska in the north to Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands in the west, Chili and Argentina to the south, Morocco and Senegal in Africa, to Russia in the east. That's a lot of ground, but there is a lot more out there.

Band-wise, 160m was a bust, I heard some station but they never heard me, 80m was not very productive, but then I was not up late at night, 40m was ok, not great either. 20m was my strongest but 15m was right up there with a huge number of South America stations, a pleasure to work them. Finally 10m showed up too and made me very happy to operate on it. While I did call CQ several times, mostly on 20, 15 and 10 meters, I did not get any replies so my score reflects a search and pounce strategy.

I did not hear too many local stations on the air or being replied to, but AB2TC and I were playing cat and mouse over the same stations for a few minutes. I don't know if he heard me though.

20 meters at times became very challenging, as it was so loaded with signals that it became hard to pull them apart. I first found solace on 15m as there were many stations and making QSOs was relatively easy but on 20m, I had to use many bells and whistles my Icom756ProII has and indeed, I managed to isolate signals and making contacts. It was time consuming though. My MO5A antenna was still frozen on Friday night and Saturday morning, but temperatures got up in the day and never got much below freezing after that, allowing me the use of the rotator. I will replace that el-cheapo Rat-Shack one with a decent one that can be computer controlled. That is my next step/expense for my base station. And now the weather is starting to allow thinking about getting on the roof...

This hour-by-hour breakdown shows me where the weaker work hours are. It seems that 10-11 UTC, or 6-7 EST are not very productive, under double digits, so I could stay in bed longer, but my dogs wake me up anyway... But maybe staying up later at night might be worth while, especially working 40 and 80 meters. I may want to try that. I also noticed a drop in the afternoon of the second day, well, most stations were dupes for me, so all I can do is try harder and maybe call CQ a few more times.

That is one thing I need to set up in N1MM as it has more memories available than my 765ProIII. I also then can keep the full spectrum display and not bother with voice on the radio. RTFM!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010


CQ WPX RTTY Contest 2010

Well, this is my best contest score so far. And I worked only 19 hours and 28 minutes out to the 30 hours allowed. I did not loose sleep and had quite a few other things do do over the weekend, So I really can be happy with the results.

My Cushcraft MA5B rotator, a simple Radio Shack one, probably got water in its cogs as it will not rotate when temperatures are below freezing, and that antenna while functional only in the north easterly direction is not producing  heat (not a cloud warmer) so the ice does not melt in the rotator. At least it was pointing towards Europe. There is plenty of snow on the roof, no time to fool with antennas now.

I made some new DX contacts and have now Wales and Norway confirmed via LoTW. I also hope to get a confirmation from New Zealand. I made contacts on 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meters. Only two on ten meters but that's better than none.

The contest happened just on a the weekend when I got my Ten-Tec 715 Speech Processor. It did not do me any good on an RTTY contest but I hope that it will help me break a few pile-ups easier in the future. I installed it today and it seems to be working hopefully making my voice more intelligible and stronger in lands far away. While I know that an amplifier will help, I prefer working on my antennas and signal first before inserting raw power.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A song I remember from my youth

Well, the grand-children might have a ball laughing their heads off... That's OK.

It was also made as a movie, ham radio related, about hams of all backgrounds and countries getting together to assist in the rescue of a ship at sea...

You can watch the movie here:


Ham Radio Contesting

Some good news concerning a ham radio contest. Did I win or place? No, I'm not competing at that level, just trying to get better scores each time I'm actively participating in a contest. But 13th place in my region, I'll take it any day!

Thanks for CQ Magazine for making the certificate available on line. Such a good idea!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Search in Camillus NY

I went on a search on Sunday, with my K9 partner Stryder. We did not find anything meaningful but I saw a blue heron. Unfortunately, by the time I grabbed my camera, it had flown away. Since I saw it next to a parking lot, I returned there while doing some errands today. This time my camera was ready. At first all I saw from the truck was this nice family of Mallards.

But then, I decided to park the truck and walk a bit and indeed I saw the Great Blue Heron hiding on the other side of the creek. I snapped a few pictures, distance did not matter as I had a 18x optical zoom. So here it is, waiting for fish to pass... Remember to click on the pictures to get an enlargement.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A dream come true?

I can just dream of driving this think to the grass airfield in Marcellus and take off to a search, land, drive to search base and then either work my dog, do some air searching, then fly back home!

And can you see it as toad behind our RV, get to some place, drive to stores, do a fly-by on the campground?

OK, it is a toy, a big one, and definitely not in the budget, but can one have a dream? I don't even have a pilot's license...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

SWR Exposed

This is really for hams, not so interesting to others, I'd say but one never knows for sure

Friday, December 11, 2009

Too good to pass!

This is a 8+ min movie about ham radio in a past, kind of far away by now...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Glace Bay Nova Scotia

Last summer, my wife and I and our six dogs took our first long trip with the RV.We went to Canada via VT, NH, ME, NB, NS, QC and ON. While we made good preparations for the trip, we managed to keep our pland flexible enough to allow for changes as we discovered new things to do and places to visit.

After the thrills of driving the Cabot Trail with a 30' RV, certainly one of my high points of the trip, not Kathy's though...

Well, I was cheating a bit, as the Oregon GPS was showing a topo map and I knew what was expecting me well before I reached the next curve...

It was while we were driving that Kathy discovered on her Blackberry that Marconi had a station in Nova Scotia. Once we arrived to our cmground, I investigated a little further and decided I really wanted to see the place. We made sure it would be open when we expected to get there, made a few changes in our plans, and we went to Glace Bay. Here is what we found.


A modest but nice museum commemorating Gulielmo Marconi's work and especially the establishment of his second station from where he communicates across the Atalantic Ocean with his station in Poldhu. While there now is controversy whether Marconi actually heard the letter "S" sent across the Atlantic in Morse code dit-dit-dit, and I won't touch that any further, there is no question that transatlantic transmissions emanated from this station at Glace Bay. The towers were wooden so the only thing that is left from 1901 are the foundations as you can see in the pictures below.


The museum has a nice station and the local ham that was operating it offered to let me use it. I opted to use my own portable station in the RV with my TransWorld antenna. Making contacts was not easy as I was so close to the VE1VAS's yagi antenna, which was transmitting CW at 1KW, but eventually I made a contact with a European station, LY20A from Lithuania. There was an Italian station I really wanted to talk to, as I'm sure an Italian ham would have loved being contacted from that location but unfortunately he went QRT. Here I am, in Glace Bay, with my little portable station in the RV, and with Kenna my yellow lab and Stryder my working SAR dog, a chocolate lab (you can barely see his head at the bottom).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Another DXpedition Rapa Nui Easter Island 2009

It is not easy to break in the pile-up that a DXpedition has, especially form a very desirable location. It takes time and patience, especially with a modest station and antenna. I had time to check the island out on Google Earth and boy, it is nice over there.

Today was the first time I heard the signals from XR0Y in Easter Island at a level where I knew I had a chance to make it through. Still, I'm battling big gun stations with mega antennas and amplifiers. The operator was first calling for European stations and giving a time later on for US ones. When they switched to US stations, there was a large pile up. I tried quite a few times to get through but was not lucky. The operator was working split,  transmitting on one frequency, listening on another five kH up on the scale. But when the pile-up grew too much he asked to spread the calls on 10kH and I happened to pick 8kH up for my Tx frequency. My call was answered very quickly and I sure hope I am in their log. I guess that knowing how to operate my rig, doing it fast and with a bit of luck, 100 watts made it through!

These guys are GOOD! Not only do they update their log quite often, they also use Twitter to announce it! Hats off! They really use every bit of technology at their hands to get information through. They definitively deserve some support!