Monday, September 26, 2016

Nibs bitter the butter

Remember that TV commercial from the 1970s?  I think it was for Jif peanut butter. Basically, the point was that the peanut butter company removes the little "nib" from between the two peanut halves before processing, because including them taints the sweetness of the peanut butter.

I had to deal with a bunch of nibs yesterday during the NoGA Peanut Power Sprint.  My "nibs" were RTTY stations on 40 Meters that pretty much made the band useless for CW. I believe it was the CQ WW RTTY contest that was in full bloom, with RTTY stations going right down to the very band edge.

There was a time, way back in the 90's, that Digital ops respected a line around 7.055 MHz or so - where they would go no lower in order not to disrupt CW operations on the band.  And I would know as I was pretty heavy into RTTY and the TOR modes at the time. I see that "gentleman's agreement" has been pretty much shot to Hades.

20 Meters was in good shape, however, so that took away the sting of not being able to make many contacts on 40 Meters.  When all was said and done, I made 25 contacts, most of which occurred on 20 Meters. Without having my log to refer to, I believe only 5 QSOs happened on 40 Meters.

The smart one was Marc W4MPS in North Carolina.  Marc was able to find this little tiny spot between two very strong digital ops, and he just ran the frequency like the pro that he is. Most of my 40 Meters contacts were from searching and pouncing. I tried calling CQ for a while on 40 Meters, but it proved to pretty much just be a waste of time.

My best contact on 20 Meters was with a station in Washington State.  Again, without my log in front of me, the call escapes me - it was an N7 station - that much I remember. Anyway, he was about 20 over 9 to me in NJ.  20 over 9 with only 5 Watts from 3,000 miles away. He almost knocked the earbuds right out of my ears. So much for the "QRP equals weak signals" argument!

And that's an argument that needed to be refuted on Facebook again this morning.  On the "100 Watts and a Wire" page - someone asked how many members are truly QRP.  In the middle of the answers, a German op came on with the old "It's all in the listening station" fallacy" again. "The better question to ask is, Who has a big enough station to hear QRP.?"

Blech!

Obviously, I had a big enough station to hear QRP signals yesterday; and all I was using was a KX3 and a PAR END FEDZ 40/20/10. And if I could hear QRP stations just fine with that - then what's anyone else's excuse?

The excuse turns out to be that there are a plethora of Hams out there who really don't understand propagation and antennas.  They believe that power is everything, and as it turns out, nothing could be farther from the truth.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Peanut Power Sprint - this Sunday !


Listen to Lucy and don't be a blockhead!  The NoGA Peanut Power Sprint is this Sunday, and as usual, it will be a ton of fun!

If you have EVER been shy about QRP contesting; but have been hankering to give it a try - then this is YOUR event!  It's only two hours long - who can't spare two hours on a Sunday afternoon?

What's that? You're thinking "QRP CW ...... hmmmmm ........ I don't know ........? " Well, those wily NoGAnauts have thought of you, too. There's a QRO entry category AND this is NOT a "CW Only" event - SSB is allowed- so NO excuses! For the rules (which are simple!) go here and click on "Peanut Power Sprint" on the left hand side.


So do yourself a favor and go nuts for a few hours! You deserve it - you know you do!

And don't be a party pooper like Snoopy and keep this a secret - tell your Ham Radio buddies and let them join in on the fun, too!


See you on the bands on Sunday afternoon! "Goober" or "Salted"? - not sure yet!

72 de Larry W2LJ - Peanut #43
QRP - When you care to send the very least

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Filed under "Miscellaneous"

From the ARRL:

Amateur Radio-Military Interoperability Exercise Set for October 31-November 1

An Amateur Radio-military interoperability exercise will take place October 31 and November 1. The event will begin at 1200 UTC on October 31 and continue through 2359 UTC on November 1 on 60 meter channels 1-4 —5.3305 MHz, 5.3465 MHz, 5.357 MHz, and 5.3715 MHz, respectively.

During this exercise, military stations will attempt to make radio contact with stations in as many of the 3143 US counties as possible. Radio amateurs providing “county status” information will receive a US Department of Defense “interoperability QSL card.”

Also from the ARRL:

Logbook of The World to No Longer Accept Contacts Signed by TQSL Versions Earlier Than 2.0

As of 1400 UTC on January 16, 2017, ARRL Logbook of The World (LoTW) no longer will accept contacts that have been digitally signed by versions of TQSL earlier than version 2.0.

Users of earlier versions are encouraged to upgrade as soon as possible, as older TQSL versions contain uncorrected defects and display inaccurate error messages. The current versions of TQSL for Windows, OS X, and Linux are available online.

To date, LoTW has confirmed some 135 million contacts for its 90,000 users. — Thanks to Norm Fusaro, W3IZ

Morse Code in the News

 http://www.wusa9.com/travel/open-road/morse-code-man/319351895

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!



Sunday, September 18, 2016

Weekend plans go semi awry.

I had planned on two Amateur Radio activities this weekend. I almost ended up going 0 for 2, but ended up batting .500 instead.

My first planned activity was to participate in the NJ QSO Party on Saturday.  The work party that I attended at the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management went longer than I anticipated. I'm glad we got the work done that we did, though, as it was important that it got done before the Simulated Emergency test in October. When I got home, there was still plenty of time to participate in the contest - no doubt. Other chores had to be taken care of first, though; and I made sure I got those done. End result? One very tired W2LJ and no NJQP on Saturday.

After dinner, I sat down with the tablet and saw on the ARRL NPOTA Facebook page that Peter K0BAK was doing  a sweep of NJ activations this weekend, including AA17, the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail.  My heart sank a bit because he's such a superb operator and activator - does AA17 really need to be activated twice the same day? And if you had the chance to work either me or Peter .... heck, even I'd rather work Peter than me !!!


When I went to bed last night, I was really iffy about making the effort. The weather was supposed to be suspect but I decided to sleep on it, thinking perhaps that maybe it might be better to wait for another weekend.

Sunday morning dawned muggy and overcast. Not exactly the greatest of weather conditions. But then the thought occurred to me that K0BAK normally does most of his operating on SSB, and mine was to be CW; so I decided to throw caution to the wind and decided to go to Cheesequake State Park, anyway.

I left the house a little after 9:00 AM and got to the park just around 9:30 AM.  I found the Spring Hill Picnic Grounds to be deserted, save for a few parked cars. The occupants of those cars were all going off on hikes as the lot also served as the starting point for one of the park's many trailheads. With the picnic tables all to myself, I set up the PAR ENDFEDZ 40/20/10.  The line went up over a 60 foot tree with ease thanks to my trusty Joplin MO ARC Antenna Launcher.  I literally had the antenna up within minutes.  I've had enough practice with the launcher to now get a good shot on the first try, at least 90% of the time.

The setup was the usual, KX3 to antenna, the Power Werk deep cycle battery, the Palm Micro paddles and a set of ear buds.  The ear buds turned to be a life saver, as the picnic area turned out to be pretty gosh darn close to the Garden State Parkway, and there was lots of highway noise.  In some cases, there were also some ignition noise moments.  I thought I was far enough away where that wouldn't be a concern; but there must be a few vehicles out there that are close to being spark gap transmitters!

I got on the air at 1400 UTC, calling "CQ NPOTA" on 40 Meters at 7.034 MHz, and had my first QSO with W3JRR at 1415 UTC.  I stayed on 40 Meters for about 45 minutes before taking a break to stretch my legs and to use the rest facilities. Thank the Lord they were open!  I came back to the ear buds, and I could have sworn that I heard "BBO".  I thought that was my good friend W3BBO looking for me; as I spotted myself on the Cluster.  I called him a few times and heard no come back; so I decided to move on up to 20 Meters.

20 Meters turned out to be the better band.  My farthest DX QSOs happened there with S58AL in Slovenia and ON4RO in Belgium. I also ended up working Arizona and Washington state on 20 Meters. So even though I made it to Europe, this is where the Reverse Beacon Network picked me up:


Just before 1600 UTC, I was visited by a Park Ranger who came to put up a sign showing that the picnic grounds had been reserved by a Baptist Church group for a BBQ.  It was booked for 1:00 PM local or 1700 UTC.  I decided to pack it in, anyway.  My original plan was to put in about two hours, so that I wouldn't be away from the family for the entire day; and I put in my two hours, so I was happy.

The highlights of the day were working Kay Craigie N3KN, Dave Benson K1SWL of Small Wonder Labs and Rockmite fame, as well as Paul Signorelli W0RW, of QRP and Paraset Pedestrian Mobile fame.  It's always cool when you go on an outing like this and hear the call signs of people you regard as friends.  Not to say that ALL of you aren't friends ........ but you know what I mean!

37 QSOs later, my activation of AA17 was in the books for the day.  I still hope to join up with Dave Hackett KD2FSI to activate the Pine Barrens and the Delaware Water Gap and the Appalachian Trail before NPOTA comes to a close - so stay tuned!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, September 16, 2016

New Jersey QSO Party this weekend!

Not one of the biggies, by any means, but the Burlington County Amateur Radio Club has been working their tails off to get the NJ QSO Party back in the mainstream.  For years, there was a lack of participation; but due to their diligence, it seems to be making a comeback.


For all the details, please visit: http://www.k2td-bcrc.org/k2td_index.html

I have a Middlesex County OEM work detail to attend in the morning.  I hope to get some operating time in sometime during the afternoon.  Maybe out on the patio table with the mag loop?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

It's a toss up

The weather forecast for Sunday is uncertain.  There's a good chance for scattered thunderstorms throughout the afternoon and evening; but the morning is looking "OK".  I have the morning free; as we'll be attending Church on Saturday evening - so I have two options.

Option A is to attend the Garden State Amateur Radio Association Hamfest in Tinton Falls, NJ.  I've never been to this one. I'm not sure how big it is, whether or not it's worth it, etc.  I am intrigued by their offering of "entertainment".  What could that possibly be?
Hopefully, it's something better than watching a bunch of Hams trying to duke it out over the "$1 Bargain Bin".

Option B is to activate NPOTA AA17 - The New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail.  Cheesequake State Park is part of the Trail and seems to offer many picnic areas near wooded spots. Can you say "antenna support"?


That would offer an ideal location to set up, sit down and possibly launch a EFHW into a convenient tree.  The park opens at 8:00 AM, and now that Labor Day is behind us, it's now considered to be "Off Season". That means that there are no park entry fees (cheapskate that I am). If I get there around 8:30 AM or 9:00 AM-ish, I could operate for a couple or three hours (probably relatively undisturbed) and still get back in time to do something with the family.

I'll probably end up going with the NPOTA activation, as it's cheaper (for me) in the long run. The temptation of GSARA is that I'd probably come home with something I don't need - an empty wallet.

Stay tuned!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11


Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may Perpetual Light shine upon them ......

Remembering those who perished - NYC, the Pentagon, Shanksville, PA.

72 de Larry W2LJ

Friday, September 09, 2016

Who owns the frequency, Kenneth?

No one.

I received an interesting e-mail (which I have since answered and deleted) from an Amateur whose name and call sign I can't (and don't want to) recall. It started out, "Sir".

You know you're in trouble when you receive correspondance that starts out like that.

Anyway, the tone of the e-mail was gently chiding (this is NOT verbatim), "I see you recommend 14.060 MHz as a reference frequency for your Skeeter Hunt.  Don't you know that's only 2 kHz from the SOTA frequency? Your event may have caused interference."

I counted to 10 before replying, and I took time and effort to make sure that I was polite and charitable. I explained that 14.060 MHz has been the recognized QRP Watering Hole for like ..... forever. And since the Skeeter Hunt is a QRP event, it kinda makes sense we should be there.....no?  I also pointed out that the Skeeter Hunt happens once a year and it's only for four hours.

I wanted to go on, but didn't, lest I lose control and become sarcastic. But when you think about it - where the heck are we supposed to go?


Go to 14.062 MHz and you tick off the SOTA people.

Go to 14.058 MHz and you risk stepping on the toes of FISTS folks.

Go to 14.056 MHz (or thereabouts) and you risk the wrath of the County Hunters.

Go to 14.055 MHz and you will upset the SKCC people.

Go up to 14.070 MHz and you run into digital territory

See what I'm getting at?  Everybody has "their" frequency, but yet, NO ONE "owns" any frequency! Ahem, that includes nets! If the SKCC'ers happened to be holding their WeekEnd Sprint and wandered on up to 14.060 MHz, while the Hunt was in session, what am I supposed to do - lob grenades at them?  No, you just spread out and deal with it the best you can.

I wonder what this guy would have done in the "Good Ol' Days" when the bands were literally wall-to-wall with signals and you couldn't swing a dead cat and find an empty spot?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Tree news

There is none.

So, while talking with good friend Drew W2OU this evening, I have decided to be proactive.  The only thing that I am sure of, is that I'm not sure of anything at this point.  What I definitely know is that my neighbors want to remove the oak tree from their front yard. The maple in the back "may" have carpenter ant damage.  Or it may not. The tree specialist that they are hiring will look and make a determination whether to just "top" the tree (trim it back) or make it go bye-bye.

I am going to assume the worst case scenario and will assume "bye-bye".  With that outcome in mind, I am going to go to Home Depot some time this weekend and will buy one of their big five gallon paint buckets and some Sakrete.

I will dig a hole in the back corner of the backyard, big enough and deep enough to hold the paint bucket even with ground level.  The bucket itself will be filled with Sakrete and will anchor one section of the military surplus aluminum masting that I have. This will serve as my base.  It will be there, ready to accept another 25-30 feet (8-10 meters) of masting, if and when the maple disappears. Should the maple stay, then all I will have is a piece of pipe sticking out of the ground in the extreme corner of my backyard, where it will hurt no one.


In either case, I will be ready to either return my wire back into the topped tree; or hook it up to the 30 foot (10 Meter) mast as quickly as possible, before the weather turns miserable for Winter.

Sounds like a plan; and I feel better when I have a plan.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Haven't said this in a while

but "Thank You" to all of you who read this blog.  It would be foolish and time wasting for me to do this if you weren't out there. From the e-mails, photos and comments I receive, I know that you all are, indeed, out there. Again, thank you so very much.

On the QRP side of things, I see from an e-mail by Doug KI6DS to the QRP-L list that the QRPGuys have a new kit offering out. The following is their description:

The QRPGuys Multi-Tuner is a Z-match design that will match a wide range of coax fed, long wire, and balanced line antennas, like high-impedance, low-loss UHF twinlead or ladder line for 40m-10m. 

It uses the N7VE integral led swr indicator with an absorptive bridge to protect your final transistors from a poor match. In the TUNE position, you cannot damage your transmitter caused by a high SWR. It is looking at a 50 ohm load and the LED is indicating only the reflected power. At full brilliance your SWR is 4:1 or greater, at half brilliance your SWR is approximately 2:1, and the LED will completely extinguish at 1:1. 

Rated for 5 watts continuous, 10 watts intermittant, weighs (4.3 oz.) and comes with female BNC connectors for the input/output, with S.S. hardware for the long wire and balanced line connections. There is no point to point wiring. All connections are accomplished by mounting the components on the PCB. This kit can be built in a couple of hours. On a difficulty scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the most difficult, this is rated at 3.

For more information, and ordering, you can go to  http://www.qrpguys.com/

I don't have to tell you (but will, anyway) how important it is for us to patronize concerns like QRPGuys, QRPMe, QRP Kits, SOTA Beams, and the numerous other QRP vendors around the world that are out there. Blogging is my way to give a bit back to the hobby. Offering kits is the way these guys give back to the hobby. Yeah, they are there to make a buck or two; but they're definitely not in this with visions of becoming the next Elecraft. You keep me "in business' by reading; and we keep them in business (and as a result, keep the QRP hobby alive) by purchasing their wares.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Now what?

Yesterday was Labor Day in the USA - the unofficial end of Summer. School resumes, vacations end (for the most part), everybody gets back into the swing of things. With the resumption of routines, comes less dispensable free time. That being said, there are a few things that I want to accomplish before the weather turns cold and nasty as we head into "those" months.

1) I purchased a 150' length of RG213 from DX Engineering this summer. I want to get that run to the Butternut, replacing the 15+ year old coax that is there, before the weather turns.

2) Get the W3EDP redeployed if it comes to that. I hope my neighbors don't dilly-dally with their decision on that maple tree.

3) Get a few more NPOTA entities activated. The NJ Coastal Historical Trail beckons as well as the Appalachian Trail.  Dave Hackett KD2FSI has a spot in mind that would entail some hiking. Perhaps during foliage changing season, that would be a worthwhile endeavor.

4) Play around some more with the magnetic loop antenna that I built. In particular, I am looking to the New England QRP Club's "QRP Afield" and the NoGA "Peanut Power Sprint" to help in that regard.

5) Marv K2VHW and I will be starting another Technician licensing class beginning September 13th at SPARC HQ. We will run every Tuesday night for eight weeks. We have several South Plainfielders who are interested in earning their licenses and one or two who eventually want to become CERT/RACES operators, also.

My one winter time project will be to homebrew band pass filters for 80, 40, 20 and perhaps 15 Meters to be used at SPARC Field Day next year, so that the stations can operate more freely without interfering with each other.

What are your Amateur Radio plans for the Fall and Winter?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Some potential bad news

I was walking out of my house to get in my car the other evening, when I heard my name being called - never a good thing.  It was my next-door neighbor who wanted to tell me that he will be removing an oak tree from his front yard.

"Whew!" I thought to myself, dodged some sort of bullet or another.

Then it came.  "And we're thinking of removing the maple from the backyard, too".

Argh!  That's the tree in which my W3EDP antenna lives!

My neighbor stated that he was thinking of having the tree topped (trimmed back), but his wife came out and commented on how she thinks the tree is riddled with carpenter ants, and she would like to see it gone.

Meh. I mean, it' s not the end of the world if they have the tree removed.  I have enough of that aluminum military masting where I could put a 30' (10 Meter) section in the back corner of the yard, and then run the W3EDP over to that. 

The pain in the butt thing is having to take it down and then be without it for a while as all this work gets done.  My only hope is that if they do go through with this plan, that they do it quickly. I need to have enough time to anchor the mast in some cement and get then get the wire back up before the cold weather sets in.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, September 05, 2016

2016 Skeeter Hunt Scores posted

The 2016 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt Scores have been posted!

Congratulations to the following:

1st Place Overall - KX0R
2nd Place Overall - N3AQC
3rd Place Overall - AB9CA
4th Place Overall - NN9K
5th Place Overall - N0SS

Thank you to all who participated, to those of you who sent in Log Summaries and Soapbox comments - and most of all to the NJQRP Amateur Radio Club for sponsoring this event.

To see the complete scoreboard - you can click here.

Soapbox comments to follow in a week or two.

PS: We got a mention in the "ARRL Contest Update for September 7th" - we hit the "Big Time"!
Thanks to W3BBO for pointing this out to me.

73 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, September 02, 2016

Labor Day Weekend ..... a washout?

Maybe, if Tropical Storm Hermine has anything to say about it.

It may chug up the coast and just sit off of New Jersey bringing wind and rain. Or maybe it will go out to sea. Or maybe it will re-strengthen and become a major concern. Too soon to tell with any certainty.

All I know is that as of right this minute, the South Plainfield Labor Day parade looks iffy at best. As part of the CERT team, we'll be providing the Parade Committee with communications; but Hermine might have something to say about that.

Stay tuned.

Personally, if Labor Day weekend was a washout, I would not be terribly disappointed.  Not only will I be busy tabulating results from the Skeeter Hunt, but the basement shack is a great place to weather out a storm. ;-)  And I might regret saying this, but if my antennas were able to withstand Sandy, then Hermine should be a walk in the park. 

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Portable Ops antennas

It's ALWAYS a good thing when more information comes out. And Peter Parker VK3YE has come out with a new e-publication on the subject. And as this is a favorite topic of mine, I'll be looking into this:

Hand-carried QRP antennas     (by Peter Parker VK3YE)


Hand-carried QRP antennas is the new book that takes the mystery out of portable antennas.  After inviting you to assess your needs, it discusses the pros and cons of popular types.  Its style is brisk and practical with almost no maths.

Many ideas for cheap but good materials suitable for portable antennas are given.   Beginners and those returning to radio after a break should especially find this section handy. 

Finally there’s construction details on a variety of simple but practical antennas and accessories suitable for portable operating.  All have been built and tested by the author over almost 30 years of successful QRP activity.  

Hand-carried QRP antennas is an ebook readable on most devices.  It’s the author’s second book, following on from the top-selling Minimum QRP, released last year.


YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imFk17gARiA


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Slowly, but surely

the dummy figures it out!

The reason I was missing so many Skeeter Hunt results was that on my tablet, the Verizon Web based e-mail client shows both my Verizon account and my gmail account in one big "In Box".  On the laptop, I have to toggle between the two.

Now I see them all. I am computer literate ........ barely. Sigh.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!