Figuring the numbers

As you all know from reading this blog, my main interests in Amateur Radio are QRP, CW, portable ops and DX.  I don't consider myself a hardcore DXer.  I will look for it, I will work it when I hear it, but I'm not one of those guys that has the Cluster send alerts to his smartphone.  I'm not one of those who will set his alarm clock for 2:00 AM just to work a new one. I will, however, bump up the power and leave QRP land to work a new one if I hear it.  I did that last night.

I consider myself one notch above the "Casual DXer" level.

I was fooling around playing with Logger32 and LOG4OM.  While the computer was doing its thing, I saw Easter Island and Qatar spotted on the Cluster.  These were two new ones that I have never worked before. My first move was to bump up the power to 75 Watts.  I'm enough of a DXer to want them in the log that I'll try to get them in there using QRO power first and will worry about QRP later. Jumping into each pileup, I was surprised to actually work each on the first call.  Qatar was a nice and clean QSO.  Easter Island took a bunch of repeats, even at higher power, but I did hear my call and a "TU" at the end.

Afterwards, I got curious about how many countries I have worked.  I went to Log of the World to do a bit of research.  I have 165 countries confirmed via LoTW.  The problem is, that I have worked a bunch of countries via Hams who don't use LoTW.  If I send out QSLs to each of these and get QSLs in return, I will have 185 countries confirmed.  I am a bit "iffy" about being in the logs of one or two of those, so 183 is probably more likely.

I know that with my set up here (antenna situation, in particular) - I am not DXCC Honor Roll material.  The probability that I would ever reach that level is slim and none, and slim left town.  I just don't have the antennas, or the will power to get me there - as I have said before, I am not a hardcore DXer. But, if someday at the end of my Ham career, I could have 250+ countries confirmed, I'd be a happy camper.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!
Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Many thanks

to those of you who posted comments, or sent me private e-mails concerning the 9:11 UNUN, and particularly to "Anonymous" who provided the link to: http://www.balundesigns.com/servlet/the-102/QRP-9-cln-1-Unun-1.5/Detail

That was an eye-opener.  If the weather isn't too chilly or damp this weekend, I think I am going to see what happens when I use the 24.5' and 36' wires as the radiator.  As my friend Bob W3BBO says, this is the fun of playing around with homebrew antennas - playing around until you discover something that works for you.  It will help if propagation is decent - it's never a great day to evaluate an antenna when just about no one is around!

The 24.5' wire would allow decent SWRs on 40 through 6 Meters (according to the chart, the highest SWR would be on 17 Meters at 2.1:1), while the 36' wire would allow decent SWRs on 80 through 6 Meters (according to the chart, the highest SWR would be on 20 Meters at 2:1).  In either event, this should work better than what I had previously tried, where I was getting a 3:1 SWR or higher on some bands.

I know there's no "one size fits all' kind of solution here. If there was, someone would be either very rich, or very famous.  My concern is to be able to go to the park, toss one manageable wire into a tree and get as much operating time in as possible.  Multi-band doublets might yield better results, but at a cost of increased setup time as well as the need for two supports. Another simultaneous goal is to be able to switch bands as much as possible, without messing around with wires too much after the initial set up.

I know - about as easy as trying to change lead into gold.

I'll keep you who are like minded posted as to what I discover.

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




Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Switzerland on 40 Meters


I've worked Switzerland several times previously (10) but usually on the upper bands. I was surprised to hear and work HB9FIR on 40 meters last night. This was my one and only Swiss station on this band. I was happy to work him!
John Smithson, Jr., N8ZYA, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from West Virginia, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Great way to kick off Holy Week.

First off, please allow me to wish all my friends of the Jewish faith a very Happy Passover, which begins tonight.  May your Holy Days be blessed and enjoyable, surrounded by good food, friends and family.

Holy Week began yesterday for those of us who are Roman Catholic, or those who are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church as well as most Protestant denominations.  So what better way to kick off the week (Amateur Radio wise) than by working 3Z14EASTER?

Courtesy of QRZ and SP6IEQ

Dionizy SP6IEQ, is running the Special Event station until April 24th. I worked him on 15 Meters with 5 Watts from the Jeep and the Buddistick.    Thank you, Dionizy for the QSO and Wesołego Alleluja to you and your family!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!
Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

AmateurLogic.TV 65: True Grits!

Episode 65 is On-The-Air ...

AmateurLogic.TV Episode 65 is now available for download.

Special guest Randy Hall, K7AGE joins us for a chat and good times. Tommy sets up his solar powered portable rig, George talks about DX Clusters, and Peter builds a metal detector. Plus the boys from Mississippi exact some revenge for the Vegemite incident with Grits. Did it work?

1:26:54 Ham Radio fun and a little nonsense.

Download

YouTube

George Thomas, W5JDX, is co-host of AmateurLogic.TV, an original amateur radio video program hosted by George Thomas (W5JDX), Tommy Martin (N5ZNO), Peter Berrett (VK3PB), and Emile Diodene (KE5QKR). Contact him at [email protected].

10 meter WSPR

10:54 Spotted by PY2RN 9786 km SNR -1 dB on 10 meters with WSPR 5 W.
Paul Stam, PC4T, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from the Netherlands. Contact him at [email protected].

Incentives and Licensing

Jeff Davis, KE9V, wrote in his weekly letter, Quintessence, about something we’ve all heard on the air, the roundtable discussing and lamenting about those who are not real hams.  He posits this is one unintended consequence of incentive licensing, where new amateurs tend to stay on repeaters and not upgrade to acquire HF band privileges, creating this us and them mentality.  Newbies will always be on repeaters and the real hams are on HF.

Incentive licensing was introduced in 1964 by the ARRL and FCC.  I got my ticket as a teenager in 1984, but I don’t recall hearing the term incentive licensing or angst about it until perhaps ten years ago.  It never really occurred to me that there was something before incentive licensing in amateur radio.  It was always what I knew amateur radio to be, even when I was a budding radio artisan in the 70s.  License classes were an integral part of amateur radio, much like color television is in every living room today.

The original motivation behind incentive licensing was to get amateurs to increase their knowledge and skill.  While in theory it makes sense, in practice I don’t think it’s been very effective.  Today you can find Extras who are, well, quite simply, numbskulls.  While the exams can test for specific isolated technical tidbits, they never were able to test for operating skills, uncover deep understanding of topics, or examine practical skills like soldering a connnector.  Some would argue the CW exam tested for operating skill, but in reality it didn’t.  It tested operators copying CW for a certain period of time but didn’t really test whether they could copy weak signals, send code, or have a QSO.  It certainly didn’t test whether they were proficient operators or good and wholesome people.  A review of FCC enforcement actions and on air monitoring in which violators and LIDs most often are code tested Extras provides empirical evidence that exams and incentive licensing aren’t always effective at determining good operators or weeding out those guys.

Over the years I’ve found that license class has little to do with the technical proficiency of amateurs.  The biggest factor I’ve found has been professional experience and formal education.  The most technically astute amateurs are, ironically, professionals in telecommunications, electronics, and engineering.  Often these folks have access to equipment and resources that let them expand their knowledge, and amateur radio is a secondary technical endeavor.  The best of these folks seed the rest of the amateur radio community with technical know how.

Personally I’ve found passing amateur radio exams to be trivial.  While I’m a telecommunications professional with some schooling in electronics, I’ve thought tests were fairly easy to pass with just simple question memorization and very little, if any, technical study.  I’m not saying I didn’t know the material.  I could draw a bipolar transistor amplifier circuit from memory and do the calculations on a whiteboard or explain modulation.  Passing a test was merely an inconvenient formality.  Advancing my knowledge and skills in amateur radio has never been driven by a test or advancing in license class, like the original intent of incentive licensing.  It certainly wasn’t driven by getting an extra 20 kHz of space on 20 meters at the time.  Increasing knowledge has been triggered by my interests.  I really got into CW when I saw others using it and saw how quickly and efficiently QSOs could be had, not because I had to pass a 20 WPM test.  I took up rig building when I saw others making simple rigs from 2N2222s and it seemed cool.  I’m exploring satellites now because I find relaying a radio signal through a little box orbiting the Earth intriguing.

If incentive licensing isn’t really motivating amateurs to learn more and increase their skills, what purpose does it serve, other than supporting a needless hierarchy, one implemented back when post-war middle-agers and old codgers were bucking free love and turn on, tune in, drop out?  I think incentive licensing in the US has outlived its usefulness, and it’s perhaps time to eliminate it — one test and license class to rule them all.  What is the worst that could happen, someone new won’t be destined for that local repeater and its accompanying unfair stereotypes, and will instead make a QSO on HF, perhaps get interested in CW, build a rig, and then work through satellites or do moonbounce…and become… the proverbial real ham?  

Anthony, K3NG, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com.

Portable Hexbeam

Saturday saw me opening a beer celebrating finishing off the new decking area…which means….Sunday saw me finishing off my portable hexbeam from Folding Antennas. The build took quite a while, about 8 for the hardware and about 3 for the layout and tuning. I’ve not used it much in anger as the rains started coming.

An early doors write up is here…..but so far its looking worth the build time. Here’s a shot of the half finished decking…oh and a half finished antenna.

2014-03-25 12.10.50

Alex Hill, G7KSE, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cumbria, UK. Contact him at [email protected].

And here I thought it was me!

To say it is a beautiful day in New Jersey today is in understatement.  The sun is shining, and the temperatures are in the upper 60s (20C).  The breeze (if there is any) is so gentle that you don't even notice it.  So I decided that after grocery shopping, but before other chores, that I would sneak off to the park and try out the EARCHI antenna.  I built the 9:1 UNUN late last Autumn and didn't get a chance to try it out.

The antenna line launcher worked perfectly, once again.  First shot, I cleared a 50 foot tree with ease. The end fed EARCHI was up in record time.  I used a 33 foot piece of wire attached to the UNUN, and ran a 20 foot piece of coax from the UNUN to the KX3.  My results with tuning it via the KX3's autotuner were so-so.  The KX3 loved the antenna on 30, 20, 18 and 12 Meters. On 40, 15 and 10 Meters, I got a decent match, but the KX3's tuner clacked around noticeably longer finding a match on these bands.  I think I am going to have to experiment with different radiator lengths to see what ends up working best as an "all around" antenna length.

But even with decent matches, the bands seemed dead!  I did end up working W1AW/KP4 on 20 Meters, but other than them, I did not hear much.  I hear much more activity during the workweek from the Jeep than I heard today. Naturally, the first thing the Ham suspects is that it's the antenna - especially when it's a new one. Actually, my first reaction was that I screwed up something when I built the UNUN. I came home after only a short time out, a bit dejected.

Then when I got home, I got on the computer to order some wire and rope from The Wireman.  For the heck of it, I also decided to check out Facebook.  A lot of my Ham friends had posted about how lousy the band conditions are today. In fact, one commented that he went outside to make sure his antennas were still in the air!

Courtesy of Facebook

So it ends up that today was not the day to base a critical performance review on,  I will have to wait for another weekend with decent weather and better band conditions for another test. In the meantime, I will also browse the Internet to see if I can garner more information on optimal radiator lengths for use with a 9:1 UNUN.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!
Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

AmateurLogic Live Stream

AmateurLogic.TV will be streaming live tonight at 7:00 PM CDT. Special guest Randy Hall, K7AGE. Plus Tommy and George’s revenge for the Vegemite incident and more.

The live stream has completed now. Thanks to all who joined us. Look for it to be posted in the next day or so.

George Thomas, W5JDX, is co-host of AmateurLogic.TV, an original amateur radio video program hosted by George Thomas (W5JDX), Tommy Martin (N5ZNO), Peter Berrett (VK3PB), and Emile Diodene (KE5QKR). Contact him at [email protected].

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