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.