The numbers are down.

Not really this bad 
It's not ground breaking news to any ham who has had their rig on and searching for contacts that the conditions are not all that great. I have seen the SF index hit over 100 but the low sunspot numbers  are really not supporting a sustained up swing in conditions. I was on the radio this past weekend and was very surprised that my CW QRP signal was not making it to the East coast. That has always been an easy contact for me. I then tried to contact a K6 station calling CQ and I was not even heard! There is this very dusty knob on my K3 and it's called "RF power" knob. I am going to be venturing beyond the QRP limits and jacking things up to 10 watts. It's not a real drastic move but I want to make sure I am not causing any RF issues here at the condo. Having said that I have read of ham's who are in condos using 100 watts without any issues. I'm not going to take that change, not into the "lets see what happens" way of doing things.  So let's see what doubling my output from 5 to 10 watts nets me.

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

Weekly Propagation Summary – 2016 Apr 25 16:10 UTC

Weekly Propagation Summary (2016 Apr 25 16:10 UTC)

Here is this week’s space weather and geophysical report, issued 2016 Apr 25 0446 UTC.

Highlights of Solar and Geomagnetic Activity 18 – 24 April 2016

Solar activity was high on 18 Apr due to an M6/1f flare observed at 18/0029 UTC from old Region 2529 (N09, L=342, class/area Eki/850 on 11 Apr). Type II (1869 km/s) and Type IV radio sweeps were observed in conjunction with this event, as well as a 120 sfu Tenflare. Activity dropped to low levels on 19 Apr with a C1/Sf observed at 19/2302 UTC. Very low levels were observed for the remainder of the period after the region departed the disk.

No proton events were observed at geosynchronous orbit.

The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit was at normal to moderate levels throughout the period.

Geomagnetic field activity was mostly quiet on 18-21 Apr. Quiet to unsettled conditions were observed on 22-24 Apr. Isolated active periods were observed on 22 and 24 Apr along with an isolated minor storm period on 23 Apr due to CH HSS effects.

Forecast of Solar and Geomagnetic Activity 25 April – 21 May 2016

Solar activity is expected to be very low to low for the majority of the period with a chance for M-class flares from 03-16 May due to the return of old Region 2529.

No proton events are expected at geosynchronous orbit.

The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit is expected to be at normal to moderate levels with the exception of 01-03 May and 10-13 May following recurrent CH HSS events.

Geomagnetic field activity is expected to be quiet to unsettled on 25-26 Apr as CH HSS effects subside followed by quiet conditions on 27-28 Apr. Quiet to unsettled conditions are expected on 29 Apr to 01 May with active periods likely due to effects from a recurrent, negative polarity CH HSS. An isolated minor storm period is possible on 30 Apr. Mostly quiet conditions are expected on 02-08 May with unsettled to active periods possible on 04 May due to a SSBC. Quiet to active levels are expected on 09-11 May with minor storm periods likely due to negative polarity CH HSS effects. Mostly quiet conditions are expected from 12-18 May. Isolated unsettled to active periods are possible on 14 May due to another SSBC. Quiet to unsettled conditions are expected from 19-21 May with isolated active periods possible due to effects from a recurrent, positive polarity CH HSS.

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Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to and writes from Nebraska, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Broke the 100 confirmations mark today!

NPOTA, that is:

I actually have about 1/2 a dozen more that haven't been confirmed yet. According to LotW, those stations have not uploaded logs since their activations.  A few were a while ago, so I guess it's possible that maybe they won't.

While working a few today, it was extremely embarrassing and saddening to see so may out there have no clue on how to handle themselves in a pileup.  Guys ..... YOU HAVE TO LISTEN!

Throwing out your call sign ad nauseum without taking a moment to listen is the number one earmark of lid-dome. Seriously, if you send out your call ten times without taking a breath, how are you going to know if the activator is calling you back? By the time you've stopped sending your call, the activator has worked someone else and is calling QRZ again (and everyone else in the pileup has taken note of your call sign - you can count on it!). DON'T BE AN ALLIGATOR!  You know, all mouth and no ears! Throw out your call once - maybe twice max, and then open up those ear holes and listen!

Which leads to a second and related problem.  If you can't hear the station you are trying to work, you have NO business sending out your call, in the first place.  If you can't hear the station well enough to know that he's answering someone else - or worse, is in QSO with someone else; but you keep sending your call anyway ..... bad scene, man, bad scene.  You've marked yourself as a QRM generator and no one likes those. Don't rely on the Cluster. Just because DX Summit says Joe Ham is on 7.034 MHz at NPOTA NP256 ..... if you can't hear him, then don't even try.  It's a waste of your time and everyone else in the pileup is going to think you're an idiot.

Now everyone makes an honest mistake now and then, and that's OK,  But you can tell when someone has no clue as to what they're doing. And frighteningly, it seems to be becoming more and more common.

It's OK to be excited and enthusiastic. It's not OK to be reckless or use poor operating practises. Use common sense, read the DX Code of Conduct and you'll be OK.

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

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

April’s Single-Yagi EME

With several QSL's from last month's EME action now arriving, April's 'best days' have just concluded. For me, operating with no antenna elevation, 'best days' mean those with northern-most lunar declinations (these put the moon rising clearly and almost directly out in front of the house, not in the neighbour's trees); not having the moon near the sun and also, having the moon closer to perigee (closest approach to earth) rather than apogee (furthest from earth). With just a single 9 element yagi, every db is precious.

A website that helps determine when these good days occur, is the Making More Miles On VHF eme page. A graphical display of several important elements will easily determine which days might be best to operate ...

... but I have also found success on days that don't look particularly great, with the moon approaching apogee and it's subsequent higher db path loss. As with most radio propagation, there is also some magic involved and, just like on any band, some days are simply 'better' and for no obvious reason.

This month saw six EME contacts, some with stations worked previously, in 2007, and not 'new uniques', while three were new, bringing my uniques total to 73, with this small, horizon-gain assisted system.

G4SXW John 4 x 16el array #71 ... answered my CQ
KB8RQ Gary 24 X 13el array!! worked with moon at 1 deg high
UX5UL Oleg 4 x 16el array #72
UT6UG Val 4 x 32el array #73 Val and Oleg both live in Kyiv, Ukraine
RK3FG Anatoly 4 X 15el array
K9MRI Joe 8 X 28el array - Indiana

G4SWX  4 x 16 el EME Array
KB8RQ 24 x 13 el EME Array

As summer approaches, it will be interesting to see how favorable the above mentioned variables will come into play as many of the best northerly declination days will also closely follow the sun and its increased background skynoise ... not so much a problem for me but for those bigger stations trying to hear a very weak signal in a noisier sky.

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

A Homebrew Magic Band Beam (With an Update)

21So here I am again. Still young in the amateur radio field. I made that microphone switch and that worked wonderfully. So I decided I’d try my hand at a beam antenna.

I’m not sure what spurred my desire for a 6 meter beam, other than size, maybe. I think my first bits of material didn’t amount to enough to make a 10 meter beam, so a 6 meter would have to suffice.

The start of this project involved deciding where to get my materials. I researched all over the internet and didn’t like the cost of either a complete 6 meter beam, nor the cost of materials to make one. I mulled over materials I may have laying around and found an old deep fringe television antenna, long forgotten in the weed near the fence in the back yard.

Read the rest of this post

Greg Walters, KK4TIX, is a special contributor to and writes from Kentucky, USA.

Amateur Radio Weekly – Issue 108

Repeater owner bans Baofeng radios
Simply put, these radios do not allow for “advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art” (Part 97.1).

Online streaming platform for DMR Brandmeister network
All Brandmeister Talk Groups are streamed on-demand and active participants will show up on the dashboard automatically.

Ladyada passes Extra exam
Ladyada took all 3 exams at once, including perfect scores.

Fo Time podcast is now HamRadio360
In an effort to keep it Fun, we decided to do the 50th episode with a Live Video Stream. You’ll quickly see why we do the show with audio only!

Iridium Antenna Hack
Here’s several channels simultaneously visible in Inspectrum.
ShareBrained Technology

Hearing The Hum?
Glen set up a website where people could report what they were hearing and found that it was a worldwide phenomenon.

Learning CW is not a sprint
I am in the 9th month of my CW / Morse Code journey and I will readily admit that in my case it has been slow, steady progress rather than a sprint.
Ham Radio QRP

ESDR: New portable SDR HF transceiver
The ESDR features a large color display, digimode decoder/keyer, 2x USB ports and micro-SD card. The required supply voltage is 12.6V and the maximum output power is 30W.
QRP Blog

Differences between UV5R / UV82 series Baofengs
The UV5R, RA, RB, RC, E5, F8, GT3, etc. are all cousins.

A lightwave adventure
VE7CNF successfully inaugurated his lightwave station earlier this week, on Monday night, completing a nice two-way CW contact between West Vancouver and Mayne Island.

Rare and classic shortwave QSL cards
A couple months ago at my local ham radio club meeting (the NCDXCC), my buddy Paul Greaves (W4FC) mentioned that his passion for amateur radio DXing originated with shortwave broadcaster DXing.
The SWLing Post


FCC enforcement team
We got a great demonstration on how the FCC enforcement team keeps unlicensed & wireless spectrum violators at bay.

FS 5000 receiver demo: Cold War spy radio
This is a demonstration of the receiver section of the FS-5000 cold-war shortwave spy radio, developed during the eighties by the government branch of AEG Telefunken.

Amateur Radio Weekly is curated by Cale Mooth K4HCK. Sign up free to receive ham radio's most relevant news, projects, technology and events by e-mail each week at

A Second West Coast Lightwave Adventure

51km Path courtesy:

Toby, VE7CNF, successfully inaugurated his lightwave station earlier this week, on Monday night, completing a nice two-way CW contact between West Vancouver (CN89) and Mayne Island (CN88). The distance spanned was approximately 51km (32 miles), crossing atop the western edges of Vancouver and then across the Strait of Georgia, the body of water separating mainland BC from Vancouver Island.

The details of Toby's homebrew lightwave equipment are described on his web site here and are similar to the station at this end ... also described in earlier blogs. This was the same path covered in my two previous lightwave QSO's with Markus, VE7CA, described here.

Monday evening's weather was clear and calm but at this time of the year, true darkness is a long time coming. With a full-moon just a few nights away, the sky never did get very dark it seemed. I set up my end of the path late in the afternoon, just in front of the house.

            VE7CNF/7 end showing the busy-looking site in operation.

Accompanying Toby to the mountain lookout location were VA7MM, his YL VA7MAY and Markus, VE7CA who initially scouted out and found this nice site for our original lightwave contacts. Thanks to Markus who snapped a picture of the diehard lightwave crew!

One thing that I noticed on Monday night was the very loud QRM coming from the sodium vapor lighting used on the ski hills just above Toby's location. The resolution of my Fresnel lens was just not sharp enough to be able to isolate Toby clearly without also being saturated with the lighting noise ... from my end, the ski-hill lighting appeared just above his deep-red LED.

Although Toby's signal was very strong, the lighting hum was strong enough to cause some receiver front-end desensing and slightly modulate Toby's CW signal with a touch of AC ripple. I did not notice this hum when working VE7CA at the same location a couple of years ago. It's possible that there was no snow on the ski-hill at the time and the lights were not turned on.

Moving the receiver just a few degrees to the west made a huge difference, as the hummy background noise level returned to the quiet hush of a dark sky.

Toby's recording of my signal is much cleaner as there are no bright lights when looking towards Mayne Island. It is really interesting to hear the rapid fading, almost a flutter, on my CW signal, as the light passes through various levels of ever-changing haze above the water.

Midway through our one hour QSO, Toby reported that my signal had dropped measurably as had his signal on my end. Although I could see no obvious clouds in the path, I did notice a red glow out in the Strait that had not been there earlier. When I turned off my transmitter, the glow disappeared, indicating that there was indeed some low level haze that had crept up on us, and enough to cause some signal absorption on the path. Thankfully signal levels returned to normal, and actually were a bit stronger, about fifteen minutes later, when the haze thinned and the skies had grown a little darker.

Towards the end of our QSO, I had the chance to test out my #2 receiver. It was built so that I could do some NLOS cloudbounce testing here on the island, without having to separate my main system's transmitter/receiver pairing. At the time, there were no lenses available from the overseas manufacturer, so my quest for a suitable lens led me to a local 'bargain style' hardware importer (Princess Auto), who had a good supply of $5 lenses. The lens seemed to function well in my local tests but it had never been put side-by-side with the higher quality lens in my main transceiver. As it turned out, the $5 lens worked very well, easily detecting the 51km signal although it didn't sound quite as loud since the receiver I built for it was intended to interface with my laptop and lacked the additional audio amp I had built for the main system.

A final interesting observation was made, when on a whim, I placed a large cardboard shield over the bottom quarter of the transceiver's receiver lens. The signal strength didn't appear to change at all. I gradually blocked more and more of the lens but astonishingly, was still able to copy Toby's CW with all but a 1" strip of the lens completely covered! This would tend to indicate that we would be able to communicate with a very much smaller Fresnel or optical glass lens, such as a 4" or even a 2" inch magnifier. As I commented to Toby on CW, the possibilities for experimentation are endless.

All-in-all it was a very successful evening and the mountain-top gang seemed to enjoy the outing as much as I did, and ... the QSL is in the mail.

Hopefully there are other VE7's in or around Vancouver that might be interested in throwing a signal over this way some night ... I'll leave the light on for ya!

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

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