Remember An Old Friend This Holiday Season

As we get deeper into the Holiday Season it's easy to get caught up in all the activities that can run you ragged this time of year. There are parties, events, travel, family gatherings and the list goes on and on. We get so busy that we lose sight of the meaning and spirit of the Holiday Season, whatever your religion. It's Christmas time for me, but that has come to mean busy schedules and trying to get as much done in a short time as we can.

Today, I think I may have started a tradition, something that put the holiday season into a little clearer perspective, I contacted an old friend, a ham radio buddy that I haven't communicated with in at least a couple of decades. He was IOTA chasing buddy and fellow activator. I used to visit him on business trips to Calgary and we would meet up and share a Molson and talk the hours away. We did a couple of Canadian Islands together and genuinely enjoyed each others company. Then I changed jobs and don't get back to Calgary and eventually our friendship faded from a lack of use. Today I wondered how he was doing. He is 34 years older than me, I  thought I should check on him., he is about to turn 93 years old.

I sent him an email, not sure of a response, but let him know that I was thinking about him and those old memories were as fond now as they ever were. To my surprise, in a couple of hours he responded. He was clearly happy to be communicating with someone and to renew our friendship and hopefully to refresh a few good memories from the past. He still ties fishing flies and trout fishes, mainly with the sons of his fishing buddies. He still volunteers in his community and has been recognized for his volunteer work. He lost his wife of 69 years in 2013 and misses her dearly. He still gets on the radio and told me of his latest exploits on air. He wants to stay in touch and wished me a healthy 2017.

It made my day, my week, my month. I need to do this sort of thing way more often and it made me think about how good it feels to be remembered. After you read this look up an old friend, someone you haven't seen or heard from in years and let them know that you remember and that you were thinking of them. It will do you a world of good.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

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

1929 QSO Party Weekends





This Saturday as well as the next will be the annual Bruce Kelley 1929 QSO Party, otherwise known as the '1929 BK'.





It's the once a year opportunity to celebrate the sounds of early amateur radio ... only transmitters that are 'era-appropriate' are allowed to be used. More specifically, transmitters must employ tubes that were available in 1929 or earlier, and transmitters must be self-excited. No crystals allowed! Crystals were new and largely unaffordable for most hams back in the depression days.

1929 marked a real turning point in amateur radio as governments finally cracked-down on things such as frequency stability, out of band operations and re-alignment of call districts. In short, hams were henceforth required to behave themselves and to clean up their signals and methods of operation.

courtesy: http://www.arrl.org/
Although the new rules did a lot to improve things when it came to 'signal purity', there was still a long way to go ... but the wheels of improvement had been officially set in motion and the next decade would see monumental changes in both transmitter and receiver architecture, as engineers along with some particularly gifted amateurs, strove to unlock the challenges of this relatively new technology.

If you tune across the CW bands during the next two Saturday nights, you will have the rare opportunity to hear exactly what the bands must have sounded like back in the early '30s'.

For the most part you will hear single tube Hartley, Colpitts or TNT oscillators with a few two-tube MOPAs' thrown in. Many of them will suffer the same problems encountered by the boys of '29 ... chirp, drift, buzzy notes and frequency instability from antennas swaying in the wind. The MOPAs' will sound much better but some surprisingly nice-sounding signals can be heard coming from properly tuned and optimised single-tube oscillators. I recall being blown away by the lovely sounding signal I heard from such a rig when first tuning into the BK activity several years ago, only to learn that it was a self-excited Hartley using 1/4" copper tubing for the oscillator tank circuit!

The '29 watering-hole on 80m will be around 3550-3580 kilocycles (be careful not to confuse this with kilohertz!) while the early afternoon to sunset 40m activity will be found from 7100-7125 kc. There may even be a few on the very low end of 160m, later on the first Saturday night only. Although many of these transmitter styles were used on 20m and higher, BK rule-makers have wisely decided not to inflict these sounds on the present populace as it would likely keep the 'Official Observer' guys busy for several days writing pink-slips.

You can learn more about amateur radio happenings leading up to and following the 1929 crackdown in my earlier series of 'Why '29' blogs here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Those wishing to put something together for next year's event can find everything needed here:

Introduction To Building ... '29-Style

Building '29-Style - Part 1

Building '29-Style - Part 2

Heck, there me even be time to throw something together for the following Saturday if you have a few parts and an older tube or two ... the '27 comes to mind and is readily found in many junk boxes. Maybe you know an old timer with 'lots of stuff' that could help out.

Unfortunately due to a number of coinciding events, I'll not be on-the-air for the event this year, the first one I've missed since getting in on the fun several years ago.

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

LoRa LoRa Laughs!

Due to the restrictions on airborne amateur radio operation in the UK High Altitude Balloon (HAB) enthusiasts have been forced to utilise licence exempt low power devices in novel ways to make radio trackers for their payloads. I have written plenty on this blog about my HAB tracking, the UKHAS distributed listener network and my own flights.

Until recently the preferred method was to use RTTY transmissions, however the advent of the IoT (Internet Of Things) has seen manufacturers of radio modules develop devices to increase both the range and reliability of communication between 'connected' embedded devices.

One such development are LoRa devices, primarily for devices to connect to a global wide-area network LoRaWAN, more information can be found at the LoRa Alliance in addition there are some open hobbyist networks such as The Things Network using these devices.

Using chirp spread-spectrum modulation these LoRa devices are marketed as being capable of robust, interference and fade resistant communication over longer distances and higher data rates.

The UK HAB community has begun experimenting with these devices and one of their keen proponents is Dave Akerman (M0RPI). Dave has developed both payload software for the "Pi In The Sky" PITS tracker along with Anthony Stirk (M0UPU) and gateway software in collaboration with Robert Harrison M0RJX. The 'gateway' is the necessary receiver element to upload the data to the tracking system. (all software is on the PITS Github page)

Dave gave an informative presentation on LoRa at the UKHAS 2016 Conference which is now available online (starts around 3 minutes in)


I had intended to fly a LoRa transmitter on my 2015 Hamfest balloon but it stopped working at the eleventh hour and hadn't done anything else with LoRa till recently.

Spurred on by the conference presentation and the fact more and more flights are carrying LoRa I invested in one of the Raspberry Pi expansion boards sold by Uputronics and built up another prototype tracker with a working LoRa module.

I have done talks at various radio clubs and societies and demonstrated it working but hadn't actually received a 'real flight' as opportunities have been scarce due to the weather. However in the few weeks I have tracked a couple of flights receiving both telemetry and image data, getting a couple of complete images from the imaginatively named 'SPACE' flight.


Dave Akerman also flew a flight experimenting with multiple payloads using Time-division multiplexing (TDM). It had 10 small of "AVRLoRaNut" trackers (of Anthony M0UPU's design) all set to the same frequency (434.450MHz) and same transmission mode. The trackers took turns to transmit, with each one allocated a particular transmission slot in a 20-second cycle. The cycle was GPS-timed but, if any tracker lost GPS lock then it derived timing from the transmissions from the other trackers (the LoRa devices are also receivers) All 10 trackers were suspended from the same balloon. This was in preparation for the 'Operation Outward' re-enactment next year (Steve Randall gave a presentation on it in the above conference video starts 1 hour 16 mins in)

I successfully received telemetry despite the flight not being local and constantly heading away from me as can be seen in the screen shots.


Always a busy man Dave also flew a flight with an experimental camera setup. The SSDV images this time came from a Nikon compact camera, connected to the Raspberry Pi via USB, and using gphoto2 software to take and transfer images to the Pi where they were stored, resized and converted to SSDV format for transmission. These were large images with a high quality SSDV setting so lots of packets per image, approx 1400 per image in testing. 

This flight was using a 868MHz LoRa device, rather than the usual 434MHz due to the IR2030 restriction on bandwidth and duty cycle. Dave was using his Turbo-X or Mode 4 setting which is as fast as LoRa will go within IR2030 bandwidth restrictions (approx 8 packets / 2k bytes per second)

I hastily ordered a 868MHz device and soldered it in the spare slot on my gateway and built a collinear for 868MHz similar to the one I built for ADB-S reception (see video here).


You can see it lashed up just below the dual-band collinear - not ideal mounting and it wasn't tested in anyway, built blind!  The less than optimal setup at UHF, the insane data rate and the distance (>100miles) were going to make reception difficult, so I was pleased I did manage to receive telemetry and image packets.

 
Most of the current LoRa development in the HAB community has tended to be on the Raspberry Pi due to the use with SSDV and the easy availability of cameras and ready built kit. LoRa is of course available on the Arduino platform and I had purchased a couple of 'Dragino' shields (pictured below) with a LoRa device on.


Dave has done some work on a AVR tracker software and a simple Arduino 'Serial' LoRa receiver. The receiver connects to a host PC appearing as a serial port and by running some gateway software the receiver can be configured via the serial link and received data is sent back to the gateway to be uploaded to the Habitat tracking system and SSDV system - the software can be seen here during the 'Operation Outward' test flight.


This gateway software is written in Pascal using Delphi and is not as functional as the Raspberry Pi Gateway software. Dave has made the source code available but I am not au fait at all with Delphi however I installed the free development IDE and intended to get in and make modifications but it seems to require a non-free(?) library for the serial comms so ditched the idea.

Instead I have spent the last few days developing a C# .NET version using Microsoft Visual Studio (the community version is free) and also have been modifying the Arduino code in the receiver to add functionality, such as storing the SSDV images locally.

It is still a work in progress but I have made a video showing the current state


Anyway as Cilla Black would say it's been a Lorra Lorra Laughs!



Andrew Garratt, MØNRD, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from East Midlands, England. Contact him at [email protected].

This Spewed Out of the Internet #33

0511-0701-3118-0930Here’s some more good stuff flowing forth from the interwebz.

HamRadioNow has a video of Laura Smith’s (FCC) talk at Pacificon. There’s lots of good info here on FCC enforcement activity. Gary KN4AQ produces some of the most valuable amateur radio video content on the web. How else are you going to see someone from the FCC speak about ham radio?

Sterling/NØSSC and Marty/KC1CWF have started the Phasing Line ham radio podcast, talking ham radio with a younger person’s perspective. They are on episode two…give them a listen. Look for them on the usual podcast feeds, or go here: n0ssc.com

I was interviewed by Eric/4Z1UG on QSO Today. Yeah, probably boring as heck but you’re reading this blog so your standards must not be very high.

The ARRL is cranking up an initiative to encourage collegiate ham radio clubs. Good idea.

DX Engineering visited the new venue (Greene County Fairgrounds) for the Dayton Hamvention. See DX Engineering visits the NEW 2017 Hamvention® venue and the drone video by Greg/W8WW that provides an aerial tour of the fairgrounds. I am looking forward to attending Hamvention next spring, the first time in many years.

Use Phonetics: HamRadioSchool.com republished their classic article on the use of phonetic alphabets. Also, take a look at my Shack Talk article on the same subject.

While reviewing the Technician license exam questions, I noticed that SWR is referred to as “2 to 1” or “1 to 1”. I see this as old school terminology…a ratio can be expressed as a single number: “my SWR is 2.” This triggered some discussion and a KB6NU blog posting.

That’s it for now. Happy interwebzing.

73, Bob K0NR

The post This Spewed Out of the Internet #33 appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.


Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

ARRL 160 / 630m DX

courtesy: http://www.arrl.org/

This weekend's ARRL 160m CW was a ton of fun.

Conditions were unusually good, which always makes things more interesting.




I ended up with 412 contacts in 78 out of 83 ARRL sections. If I was attempting a WAS on Topband, I would have made it to 48, missing just Nebraska and Rhode Island. Oddly enough, RI was my 50th state when I completed my original 160m WAS, back in 1984, which was certificate #225.

That was done from my tiny 33' wide suburban lot, using the same antenna that I have now, a half-sloper. My radials were strung around all four edges of the property line and just lay on the ground or were stapled to the fenceposts. The power came from a pair of 6146's and was just a little less than I used in the contest this weekend as I entered in the Low Power (150W) category ... however, back then it took me several winters to finish my Topband WAS as there was a lot less activity than there is nowadays it seems. The only other sections missed during the contest were Puerto Rico, Newfoundland and North New York.

With a fairly dormant Sun and the 'almost-quiet' geomagnetic conditions of late, good propagation continued into the week ... in fact, Sunday night was the best I have ever observed on 630m!

Such stable conditions here on the west coast always favor the east-west and polar paths and Sunday proved that in spades. Overall, 53 different stations reported reception of my 630m signal, more than any previous overnight period.

The highlight however, was the reception of my signal in Europe, with five decodes from LA2XPA on Kalvoya  Island off the southwest coast of Norway. Rolf has an exceptional location and nice beverage antennas so most of the heavy-lifting was being done on his end. However, without the co-operation of the propagation gods, none of this would be possible. To make things even better, John, VE7BDQ, also made it across to Norway as his small station continues to perform amazingly well. As I mentioned in an e-mail earlier today, his is the textbook example of what can be done on 630m with a small suburban backyard, some homebrewing skills and a small antenna system.

courtesy: http://wsprnet.org/drupal/wsprnet/map

The WSPRnet map shown here illustrates just how many folks are tuning in every night to this part of the spectrum ... with many getting instantly hooked. Hopefully this great propagation is just a small taste of what lies ahead for us over the next several years of low solar activity.

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Is is wise to buy your wife an appliance for Christmas…..maybe!!

I was operating in the CQ WW CW contest the other weekend and all was going well. I left my operating  post for a short time and came back to see my P3 screen shown in the above shot. I was not sure what was going on but I did know it was wiping out the entire band. In an instant the CW WW CW contest I was in was on hold. After a very short time I found out it was the mixer my wife was using to make some holiday short bread cookies. I showed my wife and once the short bread mixing was done I was back in the contest again.  I thought I would never say it but "I think it wise to buy my wife an appliance for Christmas. Truth be told I think I am buying it for myself.

Mike Weir, VE3WDM, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Ontario, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Technician License Class – Black Forest, CO

Time: Sat Feb 25 and Sat Mar 4 (8 AM to 5 PM) 2017

Location: Black Forest Fire Station 1
(intersection of Burgess Rd. & Teachout Rd., Black Forest, Colorado)
Sponsored by the Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association

The FCC Technician license is your gateway to the world-wide excitement of Amateur Radio, and the very best emergency communications capability available!

  • Earn your ham radio Technician class radio privileges
  • Pass your FCC amateur radio license exam right in class on the second day
  • Multiple-choice exam, No Morse Code Required
  • See live equipment demonstrations
  • Learn to operate on the ham bands, 10 Meters and higher
  • Learn to use the many VHF/UHF FM repeaters in Colorado
  • Find out how to participate in emergency communications

For more background on ham radio, see Getting Started in Ham Radio.

Registration fee: $30 adults, $20 under age 18

In addition, students must have the required study guide:

HamRadioSchool.com Technician License Course
Second Edition, effective 2014 – 2018, $21.95

Advance registration is required (No later than two weeks before the first session, earlier is better, first-come sign up basis until class is full.)

To register for the class, contact: Bob Witte KØNR

Email: [email protected]  or Phone: 719/659-3727

The post Technician License Class – Black Forest, CO appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.


Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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