September 15th, 2013 by K2DSL

It’s that time year when summer winds down and contest season and American football start up. This weekend had all that with cool evening temperatures dropping into the 40s, a VHF contest, WAE SSB contest and a Giants home football game.

Friday night after work, I made a dozen WAE SSB contacts with 10 contacts on 20m and 2 contacts on 40m in a short time on the radio.  I needed to then gather up things to head out the next morning.

Saturday morning I woke up early and got ready to head to where we keep our club’s equipment (towers, generator, antennas, coax, tents, tables, etc) to help load up the equipment for a trip to the top of a mountain not far from the Tappan Zee Bridge and Hudson River. A group of us met there and pulled out what we needed and loaded it onto a 24 ft rented truck for transporting to the contest site. The weather was gorgeous and a little cool when we started out, but all that lifting gets you warm pretty quick.

Around 9:30am we were at the location and unloading the equipment. We had small teams of people working on the 6m antenna, the 2m/220/440 antennas, the generator, the food area, etc. Everyone was helping out doing something. We had a 6m antenna on a nice 2 section crank up aluminum tower that worked well and the 3 other bands stacked and on another 1 section tower we raised up. We also had a station setup to handle 2m/220/440 FM and a vertical antenna for each. Here are some pictures of the setup and start of operations. Click any picture for a larger view.
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We were on the air right at the start of the contest with one tent housing the 6m station and the other larger tent with the 2m/220/440 stations. I operated the 6m station for a while and though I was able to consistently make contacts, there were no openings out west or south. I stayed around until 9pm and set out for home.

Sunday morning I woke up and made some more contacts on 15m and 20m in the WAE contest. I also exchange QTCs with the EU stations. Sending QTCs is me providing the EU station with a list of (up to) 10 previous contacts not yet given out by me with the time of the contact, the callsign and the serial number the EU station gave me. In the CW and SSB versions of the WAE, we give EU stations the info while in the RTTY contest it can go either way. It’s a good twist and N1MM makes it simple to do. I ended up sending all my QSOs as QTCs which essentially doubles my # of contacts. In the end I ended up with 73 actual Qs logged and 72 QTCs for a total of 145 QSOs as counted in WAE contests.

  Band   Q/QTC  QSOs    Pts  Mlt
     7    QSO     2       2    6
    14    QSO    24      24   30
    21    QSO    47      47   42
    21   SQTC    72      72    0  <-- QTCs sent to the EU stations
 Total    All   145     145   78

Score : 11,310

I wrapped up the ham activities and headed to get my daughter going to college in NYC to join me at the home opener for the NY Giants. It was great spending time with her, but the Giants played poorly and it wasn’t a good football game if you are a Giant fan. It could be a long season ahead! :-(

The contest season is getting ready to get into full swing and hopefully I’ll be able to spend a good amount of time participating and trying out the new NA4RR hex beam.

73,
K2DSL

September 9th, 2013 by K2DSL

Thanks to both Rob KC2RDW and Niko AA2NI, I am really back on the air now. This weekend they both spent a good part of their Saturday helping me get the NA4RR hex beam mounted up in the air on a Radio Shack rotor I had picked up at a local hamfest a year or so ago. Together they figured out the best plan to get the pole made up of two 1.25″ steel pipes securely mounted on the back of my garage and then get the rotor and antenna on top of it all. We hit a bit of a snag with the mounting brackets I had not well suited for the 1.25″ pipe (though it states it can accept up to a 1.25″ pipe) but they improvised and it worked out fine.

I did measure the height but based on the poles and the rotor I’d guess the bottom of the hex beam is about 18 feet (5.5 meters) or so off the ground and it is working fine. In some tests on Saturday and Sunday after it was up I was able to easily work Namibia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, a dozen Japan stations in the All Asia contest and even snagged a new DXCC working ZD7DC on St Helena Island in the South Atlantic.

After we got the NA4RR hex beam up, Niko shot a line perfectly placed into one of my trees and we pulled up a line attached to a spare G5RV I had that will allow me to work 40m and 80m in addition to the bands covered by the hex beam.  This replaces the G5RV that was taken down, along with my triband fan dipole when a huge tree fell across my property taken down the wire antennas (and my gutters along with other things) during Superstorm Sandy the end of last October.

Thanks so much Rob & Niko – you made a very happy ham again!

Below are some pictures taken while getting things set up.  Click any picture to see a larger version.

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NA4RR beam getting ready to mount into the rotor. I spray painted the beam (fiberglass polls, center post and center hub) with Rustoleum Painter’s Touch flat black. Makes it less noticeable in my environment as black vs the brighter grey/silver.

 

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Mounting brackets on the side of the garage

 

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Niko (AA2NI) and Rob (KC2RDW) getting ready to mount the beam onto the end of the rotor

 

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Rob (KC2RDW) on the garage roof

 

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Picture of the setup from our deck

 

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Close up of the beam with rotor

 

73,
K2DSL

July 28th, 2013 by K2DSL

Why waiting for the family to get ready, I figured I’d download JT65-HF and give it a try. The hardest part seemed to be finding the actual download. I was not able to download off Sourceforge as the link kept telling me the file wasn’t found. The ARRL has a link at http://www.arrl.org/hf-digital but it is for an older version. I eventually found the current version at http://jt65-hf.com/downloads/ .

You need to have accurate time and need a time check/sync program that is more frequent than one built into Windows. I would suggest the free NetTime program at http://www.timesynctool.com/ which installs as a Windows service.

Installation and configuration was very straightforward for me. Configuration involved just specifying my call, grid square, soundcard input.output and PTT port. I have a SignaLink USB and just needed to select the SignaLink in the drop-downs for input and output devices. I did reduce the audio gain on the main screen until the signals were the only noticeable output on the waterfall. I watched a couple quick YouTube videos to get the idea and I was off and running.

Using JT65-HF is essentially point-and-click. A JT65 cycle occurs as follows:
1) On the top of each minute 47 second transmission occur.
2) There is a pause for 13 seconds which allows everyone to select their next action
3) #1 repeats

A typical QSO is a station sends CQ and at 47 secs after each minute you can see what stations are calling. You double click on their CQ in the list before it hits the top of the minute and the program sends your call back to them for 47 seconds. Your radio is transmitting for the full 47 seconds. Assuming the CQing station picks up your call, he has ~13 seconds to initiate the action which QSLs it from his end. You have 13 seconds to see it and either double click the acknowledgement or click on Send Report. The next 47 seconds your radio is in transmit sending the report. The CQing station then sends 73 and you send 73.

Here’s a screen shot of an exchange (click to enlarge):

jt65-hf

 

1) EA3CS called CQ (green highlighted line) at 20:01z and I decode it at 20:02z
2) I double clicked that line which captured his call and grid square and told JT65-HF to send my call and grid square
3) EA3CS acknowledged and sent my signal report (red line) which I receive at 20:04z
4) I double clicked his response which captured my report and told JT65-HF to send EA3CS his report
5) EA3CS replied back confirming with RRR (red line) at 20:06z
6) I double clicked his QSL and it sent him back EA3CS K2DSL 73

You can see from the times that I saw his CQ @ 20:02 and finished sending my 73 as the last exchange which completed at 20:08. So it’s a 6 minute QSO. Not fast but interesting. It required no typing and just double clicking. You want to remember to re-enable the Enable Multi option or you will just continue to decode the offset for the QSO you just had vs the bandwidth for the waterfall. The program has a built in log which can generate an ADIF file of contacts you can import into your favorite logging program.

73,
K2DSL

July 27th, 2013 by K2DSL

 

ordered the NA4RR Hex Beam last weekend and it arrived a few days later in 2 boxes via FedEx. Here’s a picture of the boxes as they arrived. The taller box contained the main center post and the 6 fiberglass arms, each arm made up of 3 segments that fit into each other.  The smaller square box on the chair contained all the other components – instructions, main hub, bolts/nuts, pre-cut wires for each band and the bungee cords.

na4rr_boxes

Here’s a picture of the box with just the instructions removed. On the left in the ziploc bag is the ferrite balun I ordered along with the antenna. The coated wires for each band were wrapped neatly and individually labeled. The bolts to secure the center hub to the main post and the pole, along with lock washers and bolts were packaged in a small envelope you can see looking into the center of the main hub. Just looking at the components in the box (click the picture for a larger view), you can tell everything was well organized and meticulously packed.

na4rr_main_parts

 

I’m lucky to have a friend like Rob (KC2RDW) who came over this morning with some tools, spare parts and an antenna analyzer. Rob has previously built his own hex beam so he’s very experienced in it’s construction and has helped others put hex beams together.  Rob mad a great suggestion that we use the patio table with the umbrella removed as a way to get things setup as it allows you to move around and under the antenna as needed. We started with the hub placed on a spare metal pole. The hub has each of the tubes that accept the fiberglass poles numbered so it is easy to align the components and keep everything straight. Using the supplied bolt we attached the main center pole to the hub with the coax connector at the back. Once that’s in place we unwrapped the 3 parts of each fiberglass pole that were shipped grouped together. Each is marked so they go into the center hub and into each other properly. It took 15 minutes to attach the center post and slide the 3 parts for each pole together and in their respective slots. Here you can see a close-up of the marked center hub with one of the fiberglass poles:

hub_marked

 

The next step is to take 6 of the bungee cords and place the S hook on one end into the end of each fiberglass pole and the other end onto the eye bolt at the top of the center post. This step gives the hex beam it’s familiar inverted umbrella shape. There are 2 other bungee cords that attach between the fiberglass poles on the front of the beam to keep things in place. This takes 5 minutes and it is helpful to have 2 people for this with one bending the end of the pole up as the bungee cord is attached to the center post.

The next step is to take each of the wires and secure it to the center post and route them through the rings on each pole until you come all the way back to secure the other end to the center post.  You start with 6m which is the shortest wire and closest to the center pole and go out from there. As previously mentioned, the wire for each band is neatly wrapped and labeled so there’s no guesswork. Here’s a picture of one of the center hubs with 2 bands attached and a picture of the loops on each of the poles that the wire passes through:

center_post_connection
pole_loops

Once looped through all 6 poles, the connector at the other end is attached to the opposite side of the center post completing the wiring of each band.  This process which entails unwrapping the wires for each band, looping them through and bolting each end takes about 30 minutes. It is helpful to have two people doing it to pass the wire for each band through the loops.

With all 6 bands wired up and connected, the last step in the setup is to attach the coax. I’m reusing the coax from my tri-band fan dipole that was torn apart last October when a 70 ft tree fell across my yard during Superstorm Sandy. We ran the coax through the hole in the hub and placed the rubber grommet around it. Rob placed a loop at the top of the coax and attached to the connector on the back of the center post. A little electrical tape to hold the coax in place and the antenna is complete! It’s now about 90 mins after Rob arrived which included looking at where I wanted to put the antenna, moving the patio table into place, and getting the pole in place before we even started. We don’t have a rotor on it yet so Rob just points the NA4RR hex beam ENE.

The antenna is only 6 feet off the ground but we head inside to check things out. We hook up the coax to TS-2000, power everything up and check out how things look. Well, it looks FANTASTIC! From 6m to 20m, as we tune the bands the SWR is between 1:1 and 1:1.5 and we’re hearing signals. What I immediately notice is that on an empty frequency my S meter which was never lower than S3 and more like S5 is showing nothing. If I wasn’t hearing others and seeing the S meter move when someone was on frequency I would have thought that nothing was plugged in.  The first contact we make is with a PI4 station in the Netherlands and everything seems to be working well. Rob checks each band with his nice RigExpert antenna analyzer and things look good.  I’m now back on the air after about 9 month hiatus.

Rob and I talked about where I was going to more permanently mount it and what I need to get. Once I have all that in place we can get the rotor on the pole and the antenna on the rotor. I’d expect the bottom of the hex beam hub to be about 18-20 feet off the ground once everything is in place.  Here’s a picture of the completed antenna in the middle of the back yard supported by the patio table at 6ft off the ground. Click for a larger view.

completed_na4rr_hexbeam

I’ve made 7 contacts to EU stations and a 6m contact to a strong Alabama station and everything appears to be working well. The NA4RR hex beam is a terrific value for a well constructed plug-and-play hex beam. With everything pre-cut and well labeled, it’s ready to go with detailed instructions that make assembly foolproof.

I’ll post some more pictures once the antenna is up higher with the rotor attached. Thanks again to Rob KC2RDW for all his advice and help both pre and post purchase! It’s great to have the headset on again and be back on the air!

73,
K2DSL

July 20th, 2013 by K2DSL

I have been off the air since Superstorm Sandy brought a 70 ft tree down across my wire antennas. With spending all free time since then dealing with the aftermath of the storm, being extremely busy at work and then my younger daughter’s high school graduation party for her entire class, I just didn’t put in the effort to get any antenna back up. I even missed Field Day for the 2nd year in a row as it took place on my daughter’s graduation weekend.

This morning I ordered NA4RR’s hexbeam antenna! NA4RR’s design is based on G3TXQ’s design as other similar hexbeam products are. I investigated other comparable models from DX Engineering, Traffie and K4KIO. I decided on the NA4RR since the design was similar, the online reports/reviews were all excellent, and the price was the lowest. Everything is pre-cut and assembly time is reported around 1 hour. I’ll be relying on some help from my local club friends, a few which have hexbeams, to assemble the antenna and get it in the air once it arrives and we can all find the time.


Soon!!!
K2DSL

February 27th, 2013 by K2DSL

In the latest ARRL Contest Update there was a photo taken by N0AX (Ward) of K1DG (Doug) and K3LR (Tim) with a copy of a 1958 Sports Illustrated magazine.  Inside that Sports Illustrated issue is an article titled “The Battle Of The Hams“.

Some of my favorite snippets from the article are:

“a hobby—amateur radio—that is distinguished by one of the most grueling international competitions in all sport”

“It takes about six months before logs, sent from the six continents, can be tabulated and checked.”  - Some results still take that long.

“Depending on just how serious he is on the subject, the DX contest man will not only kill himself in a contest, but he will spend the better part of a year getting ready for the exquisite torture of 48 hours of almost continuous operating.”

I don’t know if this story is true, but you will chuckle… “Zone 23 is mostly tundra and Tibet, and hams there are as rare as centerfielders. Robert Ford, an R.A.F. radio operator, put Zone 23 on the map, operating from a monastery for a few months eight years ago. Then he was captured by the Communists and became famous as a man who survived five years of attempted brainwashing and Red torture. When he was released in Hong Kong three years ago, the first Westerner to greet him was a British colonel. The officer was a ham first and an Englishman second. He threw his arms around Ford and cried, “Thank God you’re alive, Bob. I’ve been sweating out your QSL card for six and a half years.”

You can read and print the entire 1958 Sports Illustrated article. The article is all still relevant today, 55 years later.

73,
K2DSL

February 16th, 2013 by K2DSL

In January we were able to get our gutters repaired on the house and garage after they were damaged when Superstorm Sandy came through the end of October and a large tree came down taking out my G5RV and home made fan dipole. After the new gutters were installed I was travelling and then we’ve had cold and snowy weather (Nemo dumped 12″ of snow). I need to shoot up some new ropes with the help of some local club members and then we can pull up a spare G5RV I have. I also have been offered another fan dipole a local ham made so I might put up some extra rope even if I don’t have anything to attach them to yet.

I missed out on some contests in January and February as well as some DX so hopefully I can get something back in the air again soon. I have been following RTTY and Contesting reflectors as well as the 3830 reports and see how well folks are doing and what others are reporting for conditions.

73,
K2DSL

December 3rd, 2012 by K2DSL

I just finished my LoTW DXCC submission for the year and I have 202 entities. I have another LoTW one that came in and a few paper QSL cards I need to have a DXCC card checker process so it’s closer to 208-210 right now.

Still need to get an antenna back up after Hurricane Sandy brought them down but just need some good weather and some time.

73,
K2DSL

Posted in Misc | 1 Comment »
October 31st, 2012 by K2DSL

I need to post about last weekend’s CQ WW SSB contest and I’ll get it eventually. Hurricane Sandy passed through NJ this past weekend and boy did it do some damage. Things were sort of ok until a huge 70 ft tree from our neighbors yard came crashing down. Luckily it didn’t have a direct hit on the house or detached garage and mostly fell in between both, It took out the gutter on the side of the garage and gutters on both my 2nd floor and first floor of the house.

The tree also took out my G5RV and my 10/15/20m fan dipole. It bent the pole my dual band VHF/UHF antenna is on but otherwise I think that is probably ok. So without antennas I might not be on for a while. Hopefully I can get some new ones made and shoot some rope up to get them in the air and me back on the bands.

No power since since Monday around 6pm and I wouldn’t expect it back until late in the weekend or early next week. At the end of our street we had a huge tree come down and take 5 poles with it. 4 of the poles snapped in half and there’s still piles of transformers laying in the street. I have a generator for keeping the fridge powered and our phones charged but no heat and no hot water in the house.

Here are some pics (click to enlarge)…


 

Some pics of the downed power lines (click to enlarge):

 

When I see pictures of the devastation in NYC and the Jersey Shore I know my family and I got away pretty lucky!
73,
K2DSL

Posted in Misc | 4 Comments »
October 27th, 2012 by K2DSL

Last weekend was the JARTS RTTY contest. It’s been a busy week and I’m just getting around to posting about it. Bands were good and especially 10m and 15m . I worked just a few contacts on Fri night but Sat I was able to work a good amount of the day. I worked 2 stations in China last weekend when I only previously worked 1 China station since I was licensed. There were contacts with Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and many others. I worked 55 different DXCCs across the bands. For me, it again seemed most productive to scan the bands in S&P mode vs put my call out there in run mode.

On Sunday I worked a very short time in the morning before heading out for 8 hours to go the NY Giants football game. But after I got home late in the day I got back on the air for the final 3 hours and the bands were still hot. The JAs were active and the bands allowed me to work a lot of JA stations. To give you an idea of the JA activity I saw… I logged 47 JA QSOs with 36 unique calls so 11 stations were worked on 2 bands. I logged 18 JA Qs on 10m, 28 on 15m and 1 on 20m. For the JA sections I logged all of them except JA0 and JA9. I logged JA3 on 3 bands and the JA call areas gave me a combined 15 multipliers. Japan was my most worked DXCC outside of the US over Canada, Italy & Spain. I’m pretty sure that never happened before.

I worked John WA5ZUP on all 5 bands and he was the only one likely because I didn’t spend a lot of time on 80m. John seems to be in every contest and always one of the strongest signals on the bands.  I worked 5 stations on 4 bands and 33 stations on 3 bands.  The 515 total Qs in the contest is the most I’ve made in a JARTS contest so far and that’s with 8+ hours being away from the radio on Sunday.

Map of contacts using ADIF2MAP (click to enlarge):

 

N1MM Summary:

 Band    QSOs    Pts  DXCC  Area
  3.5      18    36      0    9
    7      81    174    11   15
   14     111    269    31   11
   21     184    472    39   19
   28     121    329    34   14
Total     515   1280   115   68

Score : 234,240

Up next weekend (or this weekend as I type the summary) is the CQ WW SSB contest and 10m is again hopping.

73,
K2DSL

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