The Solar Superstorm of 2012

As we hams bemoan the fact that sun spots are sparse currently we can't forget the power of the sun. Below is a link to an interesting article, recently published, and  a video on what could have been a disastorous Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) in April of 2012.

It never hurts to have a back-up plan.

Mike Crownover, AD5A, is a regular contributor to and writes from Texas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

The Old Man

Hiram_Percy_Maxim2The several times I’ve read the writings of the Hiram Percy Maxim, I get the feeling I would have really liked this guy in real life.  I think a lot of his writings could be republished today with some minor editing of language and figures of speech that are no longer around, and the content and arguments would easily apply to current modern day situations and problems within amateur radio.  It’s amazing that as much as things change, things are still the same.

This article, Rotten Damped Spark Stuff, is a Maxim gem.  Considering Maxim’s feelings at the time about damped spark, I think Maxim would have been equally vocal during the AM versus SSB and code versus no-code test battles in favor of more progressive trends and technology in amateur radio.

Something interesting to note about the article, Maxim ends it with “So long and 73’s to the gang. “[emphasis added].  Any time a boob on the two US ham moron forums wants to argue about the inappropriate use of 73′s, quote this article and tell him to go away.

Anthony, K3NG, is a regular contributor to

Random Antenna Musings and Power Line Noise

As I have shared in the past I have a 66' dipole in the attic fed with ladder line.  I live in a HOA controlled neighborhood so my antenna options are pretty limited.

Last night I set WSPR up running 2 watts on 20 meters.  Started about 2200 UTC.  Wow it really seemed open.  My 2 watts was spotted multiple times into Europe, Alaska and all over the USA.  This antenna does not have a problem getting out.

The problem with my antenna setup is on receive.  I have minimum S5 noise on 40 and 30 meters.  Typically S7 on 20 meters.  Interestingly enough 15 is quieter and 10 meters is typically S2 or so.  The noise is static with some noticeable "crackling".

Last night on WSPR was a great example.  I was getting heard ALL over, but I was only decoding about 2 or 3 stations - all in the USA.  Also on PSK31 or JT-65 I see guys working DX that I can't even here or see on the waterfall - my noise level is just too high.

Sometime soon I am going to cut all the power to my QTH and see what the noise level is.  If significantly reduced, I will see what I identify as noise sources in my QTH.

Beyond that, less than a 1/4 mile as the crow flies I have identified some very noisy power lines.  They are so noisy that it they will completely blank the AM radio in your car when you drive past them.

Here is a picture of where my house sits in relation to the power lines (my dipole runs parallel to the power lines):

Blue marker is my QTH - Red line is power line (X's are noisy poles)
I will be contacting the utility company at some point, but first I want to see how much of the noise is coming from my own QTH.

I think the other problem with my poor receive performance is that fact that the antenna is in the attic.  I have been thinking about some solutions to get some wire outside the house to see if that can help.

I have to be very stealth, for both the happiness of the XYL and the HOA :)

I was thinking about setting up a long wire using the 9:1 UNUN that I use for my Portable QRP Antenna - only using trees and setting it up as an inverted L.

You can see in the picture below, I have 2 trees that are taller than my house.  The tree on the left, which is the front of the house will hold the vertical portion of the wire, and then it will run horizontal to the tree on the right, which is in the back of the house.  

Red markers are trees - red line would be horizontal leg of inverted L
I am thinking if I use like a 22 or 24 gauge grey wire it should be almost invisible.  The horizontal leg will be about 25' fee in the air.  All told I should be able to get about 70-80 feet of wire for the inverted L.

I will probably wait until the leaves drop this fall to make it easier to fish the wires through the trees.  I just wonder how much of a difference getting wire in the clear will make to my receive quality and noise issues.

I guess that's enough rambling for today.  If you have any thoughts I would be happy to hear them!

Burke Jones, NØHYD, is a regular contributor to and writes from Kansas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

One way to see the windmill

There was a man dangling from a rope painting the cap of our local windmill. I felt like telling him there are easier ways of seeing the windmill! Rather him than me.
Someone suggested I string a long wire to the top of the mill from my bungalow next door. But what happens when the cap turns and the sails go around?

Roger Lapthorn, G3XBM, is a regular contributor to and writes from Cambridge, England.

Elecraft – my personal opinion

I have been involved in the Service Industry for all of my adult working life.  I have worked in photo studios, photo laboratories, photo retail, professional photographic equipment distribution and service, and most recently in the IT field through inventory control and logistics.

Throughout that period, there was one Prime Directive (to borrow the term from Star Trek), and that is that Customer Service is, was, and always will be #1. Coming up close to 40 years in the field now, I can attest to how that's not always the easiest philosophy to live up to; but it is paramount. For truly, years of hard work to build up a solid reputation can be squandered in mere seconds by an instance of lousy customer service. And once you have squandered your reputation and credibility, even with one person and in one instance, word can get around so quickly that it can take years to get back to where you started from.

"What has this to do with Amateur Radio?", you are probably asking yourself. 

There are many service and product providers in the Amateur Radio market, as small as this niche is. We have many places where we can spend our heard earned dollars. There are many very good companies out there that will bend over backward to make sure that your experience with them is the best possible one that you can have.  On the other hand, there are also companies out there who quite literally (excuse my language) don't give a damn what you care about or want.  All they want is your dollars and once they have them, you are pretty much dead to them.  Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully these companies are the smallest minority and they usually die a pretty quick death, going out of business rather quickly.

On the other end of the spectrum are the companies that go out of their way to ensure that you are happy and satisfied.  In my experience, Elecraft has done an exemplary job in that department. I have been a happy Elecraft owner since 2003, when I first bought my K1.  Since then, I have purchased and built a K2, a K3 and a KX3, along with numerous sub-kits and accessories. In each instance, I had a great experience. The manuals are extremely well thought out, leaving (at least in my case) no doubt as to how things are supposed to go together. In the two instances where my kits were missing parts, or had a wrong part shipped - a quick e-mail to Elecraft got me the needed pieces in literally a day or two.

I have been fortunate that my radios worked right off my assembly line. However, I do know of instances where that has not been the case for other Hams, for one reason or another.  In those cases, it seems that the help that was received from Elecraft via the telephone from their outstanding staff,  or from the Elecraft e-mail reflector(s) where other Elecraft enthusiasts congregate got them up and running quickly.  I also personally know of instances where "stuff has happened" and telephone calls to Elecraft brought timely solutions, even though the equipment in question would have been considered out of warranty by any other manufacturer.

All that being said, the clincher came for me just prior to Field Day, this year.  On QRP-L, many of the guys were beginning to list where their QRP Field Day efforts were going to be held.  I chimed in with information about where the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club's effort was going to be, and I also mentioned that we were going to be all QRP, using my KX3s as our HF transmitters. Out of the blue, that night I received a private e-mail from Wayne Burdick N6KR, one of the principal owners of the company. In the e-mail he informed me that he read my posting to QRP-L and saw that we were going to be using my KX3s. So from there, Wayne proceeded to tell me how to set up the KX3s so that they would cause minimal interference to each other in close quarters.  And that information, which he also posted to the KX3 and general Elecraft e-mail reflectors, turned out to be a life saver.  After we first got going, it turned out that the SSB station was just swamping me out, and I was basically doing the same to them.  When that became apparent, I whipped out the printed e-mail from my back pocket (it was next to my Swiss Army Knife), made the setting changes and from there we were in like Flynn. The two stations sat side-by-side and hummed along for the rest of Field Day - fat, dumb and happy!

This boggled my mind.  One of the owners of Elecraft was keeping his eye on QRP-L, saw that one of his customers would be using their product and then graciously offered tips on how to make the radios work even better.  That, my friends is ADVANCED customer service - the stuff upon which legends are born.

Now don't get me wrong. No company in this world is perfect. Far from it. Heck, just go to the Elecraft reflectors and you'll find lots of instances where people feel they haven't been satisfied and take ample opportunity to vent.  Some of it may be justified, and some of it is pure nonsense.  But in my mind at least, Elecraft is a very bright spot in the Amateur Radio market, and I would recommend them highly to anyone. And aside from Amateur Radio, I think that they are a shining example to all industries on what great Customer Service is and should be.

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

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

Reflections on the passing of VO-52

Unfortunately, our concerns were well-founded. Yesterday, on the AMSAT bulletin board, the official news of VO-52's passing was announced.

The loss of VO-52 leaves quite a gap. What I enjoyed about it particularly, was that it was the one of the linear transponders that could be used with very simple antennas. My V2000 vertical worked very well for a variety of contacts. I just wish I had started using it earlier.

VO-52 had a great downlink signal and was always in transponder mode (AO-73 is great, but I rarely hear it in transponder mode, or if I do, it's usually brief, as it switches over to telemetry). So, hopefully the new generation of satellites which will be coming on stream soon - some already in orbit doing other things, waiting to be activated into their amateur radio roles - others waiting to be launched.

A good time to remember to support AMSAT (a VO-52 lookalike would work very well, thank you...)

Tim Kirby, G4VXE, is a regular contributor to and writes from Oxfordshire, England. Contact him at [email protected].

A New 3.5 GHz CB Radio Band?

Download (PDF, 904KB)

Is a new “CB” allocation of 100-200 MHz in the 3.5 GHz microwave band just around the corner? Possibly, according to Bennett Kobb, AK4AV. Not “Citizens Band” but “Citizens Broadband Radio Service.” Scroll through the embedded presentation above. Quite interesting.

Source: Hackaday

Matt, W1MST, is the editor of

The bands are slipping

Band conditions seem to have vastly deteriorated from what they were just a few months ago. It's not that propagation is non-existent, it's just that it seems to have left us in a bigger hurry than I would have thought.

I went out at lunchtime today (around 1730Z) to find activity on 15 Meters to be nil.  A quick scan of 17 Meters revealed not so much.  Just a few months ago, both these bands were hopping with all kinds of DX. It wasn't all that rare to hear Europe, South America and Asia all at the same time! It wasn't all that rare to hear a good amount of activity on 12 and 10 Meters just a few short months ago.

Since 15 and 17 seemed inactive, I went to 14.061 MHz and called CQ after QRLing to make sure the frequency was dead.  I was answered by fellow New Jerseyan, QRPer and blogger, Chris KQ2RP who gave me a 559 from Maine.

After that, I worked fellow Polar Bear, Ken WA8REI who is having a hard time enduring the heat and humidity in Michigan.  It's hard to put up with the Temperature Humidity Index when you have so much fur! ;-)  Ken was a good solid 579 here when the QSB wasn't wreaking havoc. We had a nice little chat and then it was time for Ken to go, and my available lunchtime minutes were growing short, too.

Before heading in, I decided to check out 17 Meters one more time.  There, blasting in at 599+ was GA14CG, the Special Event Station for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.  There was a bit of a pileup, but he was so loud that I figured that I could work him, if only I could place myself correctly.

With time running short, I was able to eventually find the right spot.  GA14CG was using the ol' racetrack pattern scheme. Start at a frequency, move a bit higher after each call, reach a high point and then continue to work stations, moving a bit lower after each QSO until arriving at starting point and starting the process all over again. Essentially, he was doing laps, which I guess was appropriate considering it's the Commonwealth Games.  I placed myself correctly on the return trip home and got into the log. They're on the air until August 3rd, so you have plenty of time to work them.

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

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

After 25 Years

Last February I celebrated 25 years in Amateur Radio. Unlike many who were licensed at a  young age, I didn't get my ticket until I was 32 years old. In fact I recieved my license the same day that my then 12 year old son,Michael received his. We had consecutive calls, KB5ILS and KB5ILT. We subsequently upgraded to extra and received AB5EA and AB5EB. My son kept the later call but I recieved the vanity call AD5A in 1996.

As a teenager my cousin exposed me to shortwave listening. As many of us will say, it was magic to be able to sit in my bedroom and hear signals from around the world. I was mesmerized. I couldn't wait for the mailman each day to see if a QSL card might arrive. However, there were no local hams, learning morse code seemed impossilble, so I never pursued my ham license until years later, when I came across a Gordon West course in the local Radio Shack. The course cover proclaimed that a novice license was good for 10 years and you could talk on 10 meters. I bought the course, my 12 year son listened along as I did, we learned the code together.

So fast forward 25 years, what has changed? I supposed in many ways things have changed a lot. Things like:

- Internet
- Email
- Enhanced Digital Modes
- Online Confirmations
- Equipment functionality

I'm sure I'm missing a few things, but the efficient access to information is much easier now. QSL routes used to be one of the great mysteries of the world, in fact, INDEXA used to have a net on 14.236 that dipensed the lastest QSL route news. Setting schedules required weeks/months of letter writing. Increasing your DXCC count meant turning the dial, find the pile-ups and then back down to figure out the split, find which DX station might be on and then jumping into the fray . Logging was manual and data mining your log for forgotten contacts was a laborious task, but just as rewarding. DXing news came in weekly newletters not daily emails.

But there are some things that haven't changed:

- The concern over how to fund expensive expeditions
- Frequency cops
- QRMer's
- Complaining about the cost of getting a real QSL card
- The thrill of receiving that QSL card
- The excitement of a new one
- The magic of wirelessly communicating around the world
- Dayton, Friedrichshafen, DXCC, IOTA, WABA, etc....

Like some many things, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Here is a toast to the next 25 years, God willing.

Mike Crownover, AD5A, is a regular contributor to and writes from Texas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

It was 45 years ago today ……

that "Men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 A.D.  We came in peace for all mankind."

I was 12 years old and was obsessed with anything that had to do with the manned spaceflight program. Some of the earliest TV memories that I have included the launches of Alan Shepard and John Glenn during the Project Mercury days. As young as I was, I don't think I missed a second of any live television coverage of Project Gemini (that didn't occur while school was in session, that is!). My sister and I dutifully wrote to NASA requesting any free "NASA Facts" literature that they would send us. And they sent us plenty! I think I built every Revell model that there was that had anything to do with manned spaceflight,

On July 20th, 1969 my family and I were glued to the TV the entire day.  I believe it was just around 4:00 PM when we heard those famous words, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."  Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra were the commentators. I had watched them so much that they felt like part of the family. I remember Walter removing his glasses and uttering "Wow!" when those famous words were relayed, finally announcing that men had successfully landed on the lunar surface.

Fast forward to that evening.

After a sufficient amount of pleading. my parents let me stay up past my bedtime in order to watch the first live TV from the moon.  When Neil Armstrong pulled the cord that lowered the panel from the side of the LM, revealing the TV camera, we witnessed grainy, ghost like and upside down images from the moon. Someone at NASA quickly inverted the picture and we were able to clearly see the first human being take a fledgling step on celestial body that was not the Earth.  For the next couple of hours, we sat before the TV and we didn't go to sleep until Neil and Buzz had climbed back up into Eagle and had safely closed the hatch.

That was a wondrous time to be alive. To watch history being made - good history being made, is a wonderful thing.  The national will to explore space may have died somewhat with the conclusion of Project Apollo, but countless youngsters learned that it really IS possible to dream big dreams, and to do great and wondrous things.  All you have to do is have the will and ambition to get them done.

Earlier this afternoon I worked WA3NAN , the Goddard Spaceflight Amateur Radio Club station in Greenbelt MD, on 40 Meters Sideband (I know, I know!), in order to work one of the few Apollo 11 Special Event Stations that was on the air this weekend. I tried working N4A and N4R in Alabama, but it seemed like neither 20 or 40 Meters were allowing my signal the hop it needed to get the job done.

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

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

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