Monthly Archives: July 2008

IOTA Contest

This weekend was a 1 day IOTA (Islands On The Air) contest. It lasted from 8am (1200 UTC) Sat morning through 8am Sun morning. I made a total of 43 contacts all on 20m, many outside of the US including the Ukraine, Canada, Belgium, Madeira Islands off Portugal, Scotland, Germany, France, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Columbia, Bahamas and a couple to Hawaii. I looked on 40 and 80 and there was no one there that I could hear.

As the bands were opening to Europe around 7pm ET (2300 UTC) I had to leave to go to a party with my wife. Crummy timing! When we got home around midnight, I made a few easy contacts before heading off to bed as the band was empty and only a few were calling CQ. I woke up in the morning around 7am ET with 1 hour left in the contest but 20m was quiet and I didn’t find anyone on 40 or 80.

A fun contest and it was nice to get some new countries in my log.  I used N1MM for logging in the contest and when I was done, imported them into Ham Radio Deluxe. I’m also testing out a utility by WD5EAE which is working well in automating tasks when importing into HRD and automating the processing of logs into ARRL’s Logbook Of The World (LOTW).

73, K2DSL

Ham Radio Deluxe

As a computer geek, I’m always investigating things online that I’m already interested in or thinking about ahead of when I need it. Before I even had a HF rig (loaner Icom from a friend), I was looking at computer controlled software and logging programs. I downloaded and installed a few just to see what they provided and the user interface of the application.

What I decided on, and have used since I’ve had a HF radio (a whopping 2 months), is Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) by Simon rown HB9DRV. The decision was not made on price, though FREE is a really nice perk. The decision was made on the user interface and functionality provided in 1 integrated (or what feels to be integrated) solution. There’s also 2 online forums for the software – traditional site hosted forum and a Yahoo Group, both of which are active and receive responses from the developer.

I use HRD for controlling the radio for tuning the frequency, switching bands, initiating an antenna tuning, etc. What I typically touch the radio directly for, though I could use the program too, is for the volume and RF Gain knobs. Maybe I’ll get used to adjusting them in the program via sliders too.  The darn program does pretty much everything you’d want to control on my TS-2000.

The TS-2000 is mindless simple to connect to using a standard RS-232 cable. When I was borrowing a friends Icom, I got a cable for that unit on eBay for $10. If you can hook a radio to a computer, I’m guessing HRD will control it.

What I really liked about the program when I checked a bunch out is the logging functionality and integration with the radio control. I’m sure there are stronger programs to do just logging but if you’re not contesting it’s more then adequate. It’s also the area where I have the most ideas for more full featured integration with the rest of the program and with outside programs, many of which are already on the feature request list for the developer.  My main requests are about integration of creating new log entries and querying existing log entries based on the DX cluster window which is also integrated in the program. With these added it would save some clicks and make it more user friendly. There’s plans for additional integration in this area.

When logging, it automatically sends the log entries, in real time, to eQSL and supports exporting for signing/loading into LOTW. I’ve used N1MM in 2 contests and imported those contacts into HRD. There’s some manual work to do after importing (or I don’t know how to automate it) but it’s all possible if not a bit tedious.

What I did over the weekend is launch the Digital Master 780 (DM-780) program that is also installed/integrated and used it to have it read CW and show me what was sent, display RTTY data that it captured, and also capture SSTV pics just by hooking up the audio out (split my headphone jack) to the microphone connection on the PC. I was amazed at the accuracy of the CW and RTTY captures and even though 20m SSTV was noisy, I could still make out the still pictures that were sent. I’ve ordered a SignaLink USB which should be coming in the next 2 weeks and that will allow me to more easily send/receive CW/RTTY, etc. I’m really looking forward to checking those out. Maybe even make my first CW contact without really knowing CW.

So check out Ham Radio Deluxe to see the wealth of features it has. It really lets you become more productive on the radio.

Ham radio items from eBay

I don’t mind using eBay to find a good deal. I’m amazed at how folks will bid on items on eBay and pay as much or even more then they could get them from a brick and mortor or other online e-tailer. But I don’t get caught up in the bidding frenzy and know what I’m willing to pay. And of course, you need to factor in the shipping and handling which is typically inflated in the total cost.

I’ve bought a bunch of ham equipment on eBay for my Kenwood TH-D7A HT and now for my TS-2000. For my HT I’ve purchased additional batteries, a mic, a Mirage BD-35 dual band amp and a decent car cup holder stand for the radio. I also purchased the True Talk G5RV I use as my HF antenna from the individual that makes them and uses eBay to sell them.

This past week I bid on and won a copy of CQ Magazine from February 2001 where they have the first article on the Kenwood TS-2000 I just purchased. Thought it would be nice to have that one issue.  You can view the CQ Magazine cover a picture of the ad for when it was released but the full pages require a subscription to view.  I also bid on and won the Nifty Mini Manual for the TS-2000 for less then 2/3 the price I could get it anywhere else including the least I found it for from a vendor at local hamfests.

Im trying to decide if I should get the Super Antenna MP-1 portable screwdriver for when I travel. It has mixed reviews, as does almost every portable antenna. On eBay, it’s about $10 less then through the manufactor or Ham Radio Outlet. I’m also keeping an eye on MFJ Voice Keyers and Heil Pro Set headsets auctions that are coming up. The voice keyers seem to be going for list price and I haven’t found an abundance of Heil headsets yet. I’m interested in the Heil Pro Set with the HC-5 element. But I can be patient.

Happy bidding!

Collins Special Event Stations

Following up on a recent post – Special Event Stations – the Collins Radio Club is currently running a special event to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Collins Radio and the 50th Anniversary of the S-Line. There are 6 stations participating in the event, 5 of which are in the US and the other in France. Making contact with 4 of the stations qualifies you for a special certificate. Last weekend I was able to make contact with W0CXX on 20m and 40m and W5ROK on 20m. Since last weekend, the other US stations weren’t online when I was and if the DX cluster spotting would have shown them online even if I wasn’t, they showed nothing during the week for those stations.

Well last night, after dinner, I got on and N0CXX, W4CRC and W6CXX were on the air. I was able to quikcly make contact with W4CRC in Florida. The operator said I was busting through the pileup on my simple 100w G5RV. Always amazes me when they say that. It took a while longer to track down N0CXX as they were moving around on 20m. It was frustrating for a while because the op and some other contacts were rag chewing while there was a large pile up waiting to make contacts. But finally, I got in and was able to make contact with N0CXX which is located in Cedar Rapids along with W0CXX. I found W6CXX which is located in California but there was too much splatter from other stations on nearby frequencies to get a good copy on them even if I could make contact.

So I have the 4 I was looking for, but I’d like to still make contact with W6CXX if I can before the special event ends on the 20th. No one, including the other Collins ops that have mentioned it, have heard the France station online so I don’t think there’s much hope to make contact with K6FNZ for a clean sweep.

Busy weekend – contest and hamfest

This was a busy weekend. Starting Saturday at 8am ET, the IARU HF contest started. Bands were very noisy but during the day/evening on Sat and for 30 mins on Sun morning I made 111 contacts. Countries outside of the US (though I got Hawaii again) were: Brazil, Cayman Islands, Canada, Argentina, Netherlands, Italy, Slovenia, Serbia, Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica, Austria, Czech Republic, Madeira Islands, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, St Pierre & Miquelon, Aruba & Columbia. There were some very large pileups to cut through and my 100 watts, it was persistence vs pure power that paid off.

After making a couple contacts on Sunday morning I set off for the Sussex County hamfest. It is the largest hamfest I’ve been to so far. Took a while to just walk around. It had the usual assortment of crap that I can’t believe people would even look at let alone buy, but there was a lot of really interesting stuff to check out. One fellow had a Kenwood MC-60 desk mic I’ve been looking at picking up which he said was used twice but it looked a bit more used then that though it had the original box and instructions. He wanted $100 for it which is the same as or a bit more then you’d pay on eBay so I walked away.

I also saw the Midland 13-898B CB base station I had when I turned 13 yrs old and another vendor had the Turner Plus Three microphone I used with it. The vendor with the CB said I could take it for $5 but I wasn’t interested in bringing home something I didn’t need even it it was $5.

Saw lots of BARA club members and some other folks I also know.  Spent about 2.5 hours there and took off to head home and process the log from the contest.

Tonights contacts including a unique special event

After eating dinner I popped on the radio and made some good contacts on 20m and 17m.  On 17m I made contact with CU7APP in Portugal. Signal was weak but we were able to make contact and exchange signals and info.  Next on 17m I made contact with Joe in the Cayman Islands. Can’t not think of the commercial/jingle when you think Cayman Islands.

Switching to 20m and just bouncing around the dial, I heard a station calling CQ. It was NU5DE which I mention in my last blog post. They are a special event station for the Naturist Amateur Radio Club. What a coincidence that I had just mentioned them and I randomly found and made contact. Bob was the operator when I made the contact.

Also on 20m I made my first contact with Italy. IZ8JAI, Domenico, was the operator. Took a couple of times but we were able to exchange signals and names. Nice to be able to check off Italy as well as a few countries I had not yet logged. Now time for the

Special Event Stations

Something that I find pretty neat right now is trying to contact special event stations. You can find them in QST magazine or on the ARRL Special Events web page.  This past weekend was July 4th so there were a bunch available – probably over a dozen. Most seem to provide some certificate or special QSL if you are able to make contact with them and follow up via postal mail.

So, this past weekend I made contact with as many of them as I could. I found it funny that there was usually no issue contacting those that were farther away from me, yet the closest one to me I just couldn’t make contact with because I couldn’t hear them or they couldn’t hear me.  They are the NJ DX Association and they are operating the special event station W2B for a few more days so maybe I can sneak in a quick contact with them.

Looks like a few more special event stations are scheduled for this upcoming weekend. There’s a large local hamfest on Sunday and the IARU HF World Championship contest too, so plenty to do this weekend.  There’s a special event station for a Nude Awareness Celebration with the call of NU5DE. I wonder what that QSL card looks like?

There’s a bunch of special event stations this upcoming weekend for the Collins 50th Anniversary of their S-line. If you contact 4 stations, you get a special certificate. Something to try for with all the stations except one being US based and one in France.

My Setup

When I first received my license, i purchased a Kenwood TH-D7AG dual band APRS enabled handheld from KJI Electronics. I also purchased an inexpensive mobile antenna. I used it primarily for VHF repeater activity. Over time, I purchased a Mirage BD-35 dual band amp off eBay along with a MFJ-4225MV power supply to use at home. I subsequently purchased a Diamond X200A antenna I have off my bedroom balcony. I used this setup for repeater communications at home or in the car. I also had the TH-D7AG connected to my notebook and often ran UI-View APRS software. In the car the BD-35 is used with the HT and the mobile antenna for good communications.

In May, from a generous friend I borrowed an older ICOM 706 HF radio, LDG antenna tuner, Astron power supply and G5RV Junior type dipole. This was my first dip into HF and pretty exciting to hear all those far away stations. Based on how I had the G5RV Jr installed, I was never able to make contact. I subsequently purchased a True-Talk G5RV antenna and have it strung across my propery. Once that was up I was able to make contact with DX stations. Field Day was coming and I needed to return the loaner IC-706 so I placed an order (from HRO) for a Kenwood TS-2000.

Besides the TS-2000 I purchased my own an Ashtron power supply for the radio and a Diamond duplexer to split my dual band VHF/UHF vertical into the distinct VHF and UHF connections needed on the TS-2000. The TS-2000 arrived just before Field Day and I’ve been on the air with it ever since. It’s a tremendously powerful and sophisticated radio which I’m learning how to make it do what I want. I look forward to years of enjoyment and learning with the TS-2000. I have the TS-2000 connected to my notebook via a RS-232 cable and run HRD (Ham Radio Deluxe) to control it and for logging. I also use N1MM for some light contesting.

About K2DSL

My name is David and my call is K2DSL. Here’s a brief intro of who I am.

With the Internet, there isn’t too much privacy so there’s not much and can say about myself you couldn’t find on your own with some poking. I live in Waldwick, NJ and I’m married with 2 teenage daughters. I’m in the IT field and have been been so my whole career.

I have always been interested in radio having a CB when I turned 13 and scanners throughout my life. In the summer of 2007 I decided to go get my ham radio license. I took the tech test in August and passed with 100%. The call sign I was issued was KC2SAU and I immediately applied for K2DSL. In Oct 2007 I took the General test and passed. There’s a big difference in privileges and very worth the studying.

After passing the General, I applied for being a VE. As a General, you can only grade Tech tests in a VE session.

I just started to study the material for the Extra test. There’s a few reasons I’m going for Extra. The first is that as a VE, I would be able to grade all classes and not just Tech. The second reason is once you’re on HF, seeing the stations on the frequencies you don’t yet have privileges for makes you nuts :-)

That’s a quick overview and I’ll add additional posts about my equipment, my club, my experiences and whatever else comes to mind. I have other sites at http://www.levinecentral.com which you can also check out.

73,
K2DSL

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