Author Archive

Nifty I Phone Morse Code Decoder



Hot Paw Morse Code Decoder


Screen Snap of Hot Paw Morse Code Decoder

Screen Snap of Hot Paw Morse Code Decoder

I recently installed a ham radio station in my truck. Since then I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, using SSB mostly, since that is a novelty for me. Most of my operating has been using CW, but taking a side trip into PSK occasionally. Logging is somewhat cumbersome in a truck. I used big elastic bands to attach a small clip board to my leg so I could quickly write down a call sign and very basic information. This information would be then transferred to a computer log at home. I tried using the computer in the truck also, and that proved even more cumbersome, having the laptop jammed into the steering wheel.

I like to use a keyboard to send code but no matter what I used, it was a bit awkward in the truck. At the very least, the laptop stays put when its jammed into the steering wheel.  Using the passenger seat would require my changing the radio head orientation, the antenna control and paddles which are all set up for easy use from the drivers seat.

Occasionally I’d switch to CW and fumbled for a pen to write down a call sign, time, and band. The guy I was chatting with on 40 meter CW was running just a tad too fast for me to copy ‘everything he sent’, so I missed some of it. It seems that the ‘buffer in my brain’ is smaller than I’d like it to be and with FIFO being the rule, the beginning of a word vanishes as I copy the ending.
(FIFO, First In, First Out’) Some folks may complain that using a ‘decoder’ is cheating somehow. Yes, for a contest, but for every day QSO’s its not cheating at all. If you don’t like it, don’t use it!

I discovered this app and tried it last night for the first time. Wowzah, can it copy code! Just lean it up against your radio, or just near it,  and it copies CW. This is a really great help when someone is sending just a ‘tad faster’ than my ability to copy ‘everything’! Its also handy to ‘get the entire call sign’, while I was fumbling with other things in the truck! It works pretty well even in poor band conditions, and has Farnsworth Method as well as regular copy. It has ultra high speed copy, but I have not tried it. 1oo WPM code is hard to come by on the air.

This proves very useful in the truck, but my guess is that other hams will find it handy in other ways.

User Hostile! Radios that you love to hate!

Three band HT Radio, 2 Meters, 70 CM and 6 Meters

Three band HT Radio, 2 Meters, 70 CM and 6 Meters

“I hate this radio”

Have you ever said this?

I certainly have. Some radios are a joy to use. They are intuitive, easy to use and you don’t ‘NEED THE MANUAL’ every time you want to change something!

HT’s seem to be the most ‘user hostile’ radios available to hams. I know! All HT radios should have certain things, VFO, on off knob/button, volume control and keypad, and in my opinion, they should not be so difficult to use that you need to read the manual every time you want to do, what should be a simple task; change CTCSS tone of a repeater, for example!

When HT’s were reduced in size, they became more complicated to use. Menu systems were instituted. They were further reduced in size and menus were multi-layered! How many times have I yelled at my HT after holding button a for 1 second, then within 4 seconds, tried to press button 2, for 1 second but no more than 2.5 seconds, while doing 3 pirouette turns on my left foot, only then, can I use my radio. That same button has 3 functions now a days. Press it once for one thing, press it again within a specified number of seconds and you get another function. Press and hold it and you get yet another option.

Enter the English Translation, manual! Poorly translated from Japanese, but at least its in English!  (With many pertinent things omitted!)

Why do manuals go to great lengths to tell you in great detail everything that you ‘don’t want to know’ and will most likely never use or use very seldom?

But tell you want you NEED TO KNOW, naw!  Tell you how to ‘undo’ something? That would make it too easy!

Actually, I really like this VX5-R HT from Yaesu. It’s a love/hate relationship, however! So very handy, it fits in the palm of my hand, has lots of memories, and many many nice features. Accessing those features is not always easy, especially without the manual right in front of you. If you ever push the wrong button, and send it into ‘never-never-land’, its hard to un-do what you just did! One thing that was left out of the VX 5 is a memory clear feature!  That omission makes life with this radio difficult at best!

You cannot return a designated memory channel to its ‘no data’ state. The only thing you can do from the radio itself is to overwrite that particular memory with another frequency!


2 Meter IC V8000

2 Meter IC V8000

I’m not picking only on Yaesu!

This Icom V 8000 is the most ‘User Hostile’ radio that I have ever owned.

Not only is it difficult to use, but it has problems as well. The mic is notorious for a mechanical problem with the PTT button, and the external speaker jack does not work well. Unfortunately, the external speaker jack is where you have to plug the programming cable in to program the radio. The Icom program for doing this is also ‘user hostile’ BTW!

Editing and Cloning Software RT Systems I bought software and cable from RT systems to program and manage the Icom T 70-A. The HT and its programming software arrived yesterday.


IC T 70 programming software and cable

IC T 70 programming software and cable

Icom T70 A with spare battery, left, drop in charger, and speaker mic

Icom T70 A with spare battery, left, drop in charger, and speaker mic

 The Icom T-70-A, is the replacement radio for the Yaesu VX 5

It will replace the VX5 as my ‘go to’ HT. Just last night, I picked up the Yaesu VX5 the wrong way, mashed some buttons on its face and sent it into never-never-land!  Try as I may, I could not undo it with normal button press. Since the radio has an RT Systems program and cable on its way, I went nuclear, and reset the processor. Finally, the radio was operational once more. It needs programming of course but the display is no longer stuck!

It programmed the Icom T 70-A radio to my specifications with only a cursory reading of the manual. The radio is intuitive, easy to use and has some great features. RT Systems Programming Software and Cable


IC 7100 and Touch Paddles

IC 7100 with Touch Paddles

Funny, I just installed an Icom 7100 mobile HF/VHF/UHF/MF radio in my truck. That radio was ‘done right’ by the manufacturer! Its easy to program and use, so there is no need to keep the manual handy for simple tasks. I run mobile CW/SSB and VHF repeaters with it. If there were any UHF in the area, I’d have that programmed in there too. Its a joy to use!

This photo shows the IC 7100 on a modified clip board held in place with bungee cords. So far, I have not seen the need for programming software. That said, there is an SD card on board this radio. It can save the settings to the SD card. I have not explored this avenue yet. It would be nice to keep a copy of the settings on an SD card and on my laptop for future use. Something unexpected can happen. Spare radio data would come in very handy then. Replacing all the settings would be very easy with the programming/clone software. RT systems sells that one too.

Do you have a radio that you love to hate? 

2 Meter Portable Ground Plane Gizmo Antenna

Portable, Ground Plane for 2 Meters made with BNC antennas

that you can take down’

Its a compact ground plane antenna for portable use!

2 Meter Ground Plane Portable Gizmo Antenna in Operation 2

2 Meter Ground Plane Portable Gizmo Antenna in Operation 2

This antenna is built on a 2 inch washer. Holes were drilled in the washer to accommodate 4 radials. The center hole for the BNC to BNC connector was already there, but had to be reamed out. This (male to male) connector is where the coax from the radio is attached on the bottom of the washer. It also serves to hold (the center radiator element)! 

(Note: The radiator, in the center, needs to attach to a BNC MALE connector, the cable from the radio also needs a BNC MALE connector. I used a male to male adapter for this purpose. It didn’t fit tightly so I used an old bike inner tube to cut a small spacer for taking up the slack. I’d have used a metal washer for ‘fitting’ the adapter, but I had already make 3 trips to the hardware store, so I used what I had)


Gizmo Portable Antenna 

without the cover

Center Post of BNC Connector for the Radials are Shorted to the Shell Side

Center Post of BNC Connector for the Radials are Shorted to the Shell Side

I used BNC female connectors from, Digikey, a good source for components! The center post of this connector is shorted to the ‘shell side’ to provide a ground plane with all the radials!

The 24 inch antennas from China were purchased on Ebay! CHEAP!  The 2 inch washer is from the local hardware store. Everything fits on this washer, a 2 inch space, but the center coax is tedious to attach with all the radials in place, especially if you have big fingers.

The Cap is from a spice bottle!

I live alone so it was not a problem! LOL

Spice Bottle Cover

Spice Bottle Cover

I love to use things for which they were never intended! This spice bottle cap is a good example of this. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll seal it to the top BNC antenna radiator element or not? If I seal it (with hot glue, maybe) , the cap becomes permanently attached to the radiator element, and would be difficult if not impossible to remove. The whole idea here is to use this antenna as an impromptu portable antenna!

Here is another photo of the Gizmo Portable 2 Meter Ground Plane Antenna

2 Meter Ground Plane Portable Gizmo Antenna Hanging from a Taped Tie Wrap

A tie wrap is used to ‘hang’ the antenna. Its hanging from a hook on my porch at the condo. I put 50 watts into it to get a repeater 10 miles away. SWR was 1:1 This is a portable antenna! Its not meant to be a permanent one. If you have ever needed a 2 meter antenna that you can pull up into a tree with a string or rope, this is it! Hauling it up 40 or 50 feet on a rope will get you better results than at ground level.

There is a joke that says, have you ever seen a golfer with only 1 club? Ham radio antennas are in the same category as golf clubs. You just can’t have too many! 

All the elements can be removed for easy storage and transport, (radials as well as the vertical element)! I’m sure some clever ham will come up with a suitable case for this entire assembly. If I had one of those nifty clear plastic shipping tubes, I’d store in that! I’ll be on the lookout for one!



HF Mobile, A Different Kind of Radio Shack

This is my favorite ham radio portable/mobile venue.

The Scorpion Antenna is mounted in a good spot in the rear of my pickup truck bed. Seen here at Hagen’s Cove in Perry Florida on the Gulf of Mexico in the ‘big bend area’!

Going Mobile, Rag Chews, Nets, CW, its all available and very doable when you are on the road!


Mobile HF radio adds yet another dimension to Ham Radio. This is my second go, at HF Mobile operation.

Years ago, when ‘real life’ happened to me, I had no home QTH to operate from so I bought a new (at that time) Icom 706 M II G radio.  It was a great choice. A DC to daylight rig, and its still working 15 years later. This next episode of HF mobile is greatly improved over my previous one. A good antenna at the time, was made by High Sierra. It was a screwdriver type. (the original mobile antenna’s were nick named ‘screwdriver’ because they used an electric screwdriver for moving the coil)

High Sierra no longer makes mobile antennas, but the good news is there is a good company making them in Arizona, Scorpion antennas!

Scorpion Antennas

The Scorpion antenna is a heavyweight, at 18 pounds and it needs a very robust base to hold it. Breedlove Mounts

Its the Rolls Royce of Mobile screwdriver type antennas, and not just because I bought one, it is indeed, a very rugged and carefully crafted antenna.

I’m primarily a CW op so I incorporated a touch sensitive paddle to do CW on the move or sitting still in a local park like this one at Hagen’s Cove, on the Gulf of Mexico in the ‘big bend area of Florida!’

Bayonet Adapter with Cap Hat Mast

The cap hat ‘whip’ is a 3 foot rod of solid aluminum. It shortens the overall whip. This is nice for parking my truck in the breezeway without hitting the roof.


A motorized coil is moved up or down electrically! Listening for the greatest noise, depending on the band of choice, puts me in the ball park for checking the SWR. A 1:1 ratio is easily obtainable if care is taken during installation. Bonding straps are a must. All the parts of the truck body, door, tailgate, hood, fenders and truck bed, must be bonded together to from a good RF ground. Not a DC ground, mind you, but an RF ground plane. (The ‘other half’ of the antenna’)

All the Doors Are Bonded

All the body parts of the truck must be bonded together with straps. RF flows on the surface not the cross section of a conductor, so the wider the better. Copper flashing best carries RF current but a compromise is make for braid due to continuous flexing while opening and closing doors, and tail gates.

Bonding is one of the things that separates a good installation from a poor one. I had fun with the first truck and radio set up back in 2001 but I learned a lot about mobile HF radio since then and did things differently this time.

Location, location, location! It sells real estate and its very important for HF Mobile Antennas!

What makes a good location on a vehicle?

I’ve seen many examples of HF radio antenna installations that work, but some work much better than others. Besides bonding, another good trick for a good installation is to use a very good location; the main mass of metal must be Directly under, not near, the base of the antenna. Will a bumper mounted antenna work? Yes, but one with a mass of metal directly beneath the antenna will work better.

Its simply a case of, more bang for the buck!


Positioning the bottom of the movable coil above the  truck side wall is best.

Positioning the bottom of the movable coil above the truck side wall is best.


The Scorpion antenna movable coil still has the protective bubble wrap on it in this picture.

Scorpion Antennas

Clearance is important!

The bottom of the coil must have clearance from metal objects like the side wall of the truck.

Detailed installation instructions come with the scorpion antenna. This is very important. A good installation will insure good operation.  Skimping on installation will only hurt you in the long run.


I installed an auxiliary battery in the back set compartment of the truck. Its a sealed lead acid 75 Ah battery made by Optima. I bought it trough Apex Battery.

Optima Blue Top from Apex Battery co.

Optima Blue Top 75 Ah Auxilliary Battery

Optima Blue Top 75 Ah Auxilliary Battery


I can use either the auxiliary battery or the truck battery or both at the same time, thanks to a marine dual battery manual switch.

See its picture below.

I used #4 wire to connect the truck battery in parallel with the auxiliary battery in the back seat area. This large gauge wire greatly reduces voltage drop between the batteries. For extended stays in one place, I can operate on the auxiliary battery, without running the engine. This insures that the separated truck battery will start the truck when I’m done operating.

I have not yet mounted this switch on a back board, but that is coming. I need both hands to operate the switch now and I want to be able to do it with only one hand!

Perko Switch

Dual Battery Switch in the -Both-Battery- Position

Dual Battery Switch in the -Both-Battery- Position

The business half of the IC 7100 is mounted to the floor of the truck on the hump. The battery box can be seen with a power pole connection box on top.
The control box for the IC 7100 rides up front on the center console as does the touch sensitive paddle. The microphone hands on the cup holder.

I have a Warren Gregoire headset for SSB. It features a noise cancelling microphone. Warren Gregoire Headset (no relation to me)

(Special note here; its illegal to have both ears covered with a headset in Florida while you drive.)

Its a stupid law because you can legally drive in Florida even if you are stone deaf! So that kills the reasoning for ‘listening to sirens’ on emergency vehicles!

Okay, that rant is done!  Back to the Mobile installation.

Battery Box, with Power Pole Box,-top, IC 7100-bottom

Battery Box, with Power Pole Box,-top, IC 7100-bottom


AA1IK, Using Warren Gregoire Headset 2

AA1IK, Using Warren Gregoire Headset 2
Join me on a new Yahoo Group for HF Mobile ops.
New HF Mobile Yahoo Group

Here I am using the Warren Gregoire headset. This headset has a noise cancelling mic so its a good fit for mobile HF radio. SSB is a new thing for me. I’ve been a CW op, for most of my ham life. I’m having a great time meeting new folks all around Florida on 40 Meter SSB. Ham radio has lots to offer and I’m glad I have not yet exhausted all the possibilities. I have not forsaken CW, but SSB is a fun mode, as I’m sure many of you already know.

The IC 7100 is a two part radio. You saw the ‘business end’ in a previous photo. This photo shows the control head and the touch sensitive paddles Touch Sensitive Paddles They are held in place with a bungee cord. The black plate that you see here is a small plastic clipboard with the clip removed. It is glued in place to the light brown plate, and that is also a clipboard with the clip removed. Both clipboards are held in place with bungee cords. This allows me to remove the control head and the paddles for security reasons.

IC 7100 and Touch Paddles

IC 7100 and Touch Paddles

Remote Switch-top, SWR/RF PWR Meter-left, Speaker-right

Remote Switch-top, SWR/RF PWR Meter-left, Speaker-right








The remote switch for moving the antenna up and down to tune in each band is show in the little cubby hole. The SWR/PWR meter is stuffed into a hole where the ‘never has been used-ashtray’ was. The speaker is mounted just above the cup holder.


Remote Switch Moves Antenna Up and Down to Tune Each Band

Remote Switch Moves Antenna Up and Down to Tune Each Band

This photo shows the remote switch. It is hand held, and easily put away after the antenna is tuned.

So! That is pretty much the end of a walk through in my new mobile ham radio shack. So far, I’ve listened to CW on the road but have not called CQ or talked to anyone while driving. I became interested in CW Mobile early in my ham radio career.

The first requirement for operating CW Mobile, according to an article that I read on the subject, said to ‘become a dynamite CW operator! Its been almost 25 years since then and I’m still working on that first requirement.

I’ll keep trying!


Ernest Gregoire


My Latest Contraption, a QRP portable, all in one, seat & table, etc!

Bungee Tie Down, Close Up

I added a bungee cord on each end to prevent damage from the radio accidentally falling off the table.

Bunggee Does Not Touch The ButtonsThe cord does not touch the buttons.

Bungee Tie Down, Rear View

View from the back

My Latest Contraption, A QRP Radio, Portable Table and Chair 11-12-2014 1-22-32 PM 2448x3264

All in one, QRP seat, table,  umbrella and antenna anchor! The bottle on the table is bug spray! LOL


Kx3 Radio In Operation on the Table  11-12-2014 1-25-015

The table is a cutting board attached to the existing shelf.

The cutting board is bigger than the existing shelf, so I have more room for logging and a sturdy place to attach the antenna!

A bungee cord takes up the slack from the antenna in the wind. In a real world test, I found that one radial is all I need.

I tried an experiment, adding two, then four radials. There was no detectable change in signal level by ear on or the S meter.

One radial did the trick, and 4 radials didn’t improve the signal at all.


Me, In The Drivers Seat of My Portable Table & Chair Set Up 11-12-2014 1-35-43 PM 2168x1870

Note the guy ropes. This is to hold the chair in place. The golf umbrella is stuffed into  a piece of PVC pipe.

The PVC pipe is tied to the chair with cable ties.

Wind and the antenna pulling on the table would easily turn the chair over.

Satisfaction, with My Latest Contraption

Satisfaction! I can’t wait for the next ham radio outing with my QRP buddies.

Big Magnetic Loop for QRP in the Park

AA1IK Hagen's Cove Florida

I’ve been experimenting with magnetic loop antennas of various sizes and configurations for the past year or so. They are fun to build and even more fun to use.

QRP and Magnetic Loop antennas go hand in hand for many reasons. They work well, are very quick to set up, and are bidirectional! Its nice to be able to ‘aim’ an antenna at a prospective target, like say ‘Africa’!

Copper face plate with PL 259 and Gamma Match sticking out of the side

Gamma Match, Antenna Feed Box

Soldering with a plumbing torch is necessary in some places, like attaching the main loop tubing to the PL 259. 

It may not look very pretty here, but believe it or not, my torch soldering skill is actually improving. The PL 259 is attached with screws and is soldered with a regular soldering iron to reduce inter component resistance. I’ve pretty much settled on the Gamma Match for a number of reasons. It’s easy to match and its easy to build. It works well too.

This T’ fitting helps to make the loop more stable, therefore easier to transport for portable ops.

PVC Tee, Fitting Helps to Make This Antenna More Robust!

What would hams do without PVC pipe?

Half inch PVC tubing bisects the mast and passes through the center of it. This three point connection stabilizes the loop and makes it much more robust. My first few magnetic loops didn’t have this feature and were a bit ‘wobbly, and bent more easily as they bounced around in the back of my truck.

This is the ‘business end’ of the Gamma Match 

Gamma Match Connection is Soldered With a Pluming Torch 1

Using a plumbing torch, I attached this copper strip to the Gamma match from the main loop tubing.

Here is another nifty improvement 

Tuning Stick Keeper 2

You can see the support PVC pipe passing through the center of the mast here, The black piece is a plastic pipe clamp. It is held in place with tie wraps. I try to keep the use of anything made of metal to a minimum in the center of the loop.  I’m not worried about radiation patterns as much as trying to keep the overall weight  of the antenna low. The smaller PVC pipe on the left is a tuning stick. It is tied to the capacitor and is very light and makes reaching way up to tune the antenna unnecessary. Keep in mind that merely approaching this antenna closely affects the SWR. Touching it certainly changes the SWR as well.

How Well Does It Work?

The Compas Aids for Pointing the Antenna in the Right Direction

I got great signal reports today, and that is saying something for a high Q antenna and only 5 watts of RF

This is my favorite pavilion at Hagen’s Cove Florida.

My Favorite Pavilion at Hagen's Cove is 50 Feet From the Water

Hagen’s Cove is about 17 miles from my home, along the shore route. Its a county park that is right on the Gulf of Mexico. This particular pavilion is only 50 feet from the water’s edge. I bring a sandwich and bottle water lunch, but it took me an hour to eat it today. I had very curious visitors asking a million questions about radio, and my set up. I also keep my QSL cards handy to pass around. Visitors really like seeing them.

Hagen’s Cove

Hagen's Cove Florida, My Favorite QRP in the Park Venue

There is a kayak and canoe launching ramp here. Air boats have their own launch site close by. And darn it, I forgot my noise canceling headphones today, again! Air boats pass by in only inches of water and just 50 feet away, so I can’t hear anything on the radio when that happens. I have this place all to myself during the week, but its busier on weekend as you can imagine with such a nice venue.

For more information about Magnetic Loop Antennas go to


Hagen’s Cove is in Taylor County Florida

73 de AA1IK

Ernest Gregoire

Real World Measurements of a Multi-Band End Fed Antenna using a 9:1 Un-Un

Real World Measurements of a Multi-Band End Fed Antenna

using a 9:1 Un-Un

Excited as I was to get on the air with my new antenna, I didn’t take record any data regarding its SWR, radiation resistance (RR) and resonant point (X) with my antenna analyzer. Satisfied that the antenna worked by making QRP contacts in the WAE this weekend, I pulled out the analyzer and recorded some data for bands 40 through 10.


SWR should be 1.0      RR should be 50           X should be 0

This is the ideal but is not often the case in real life set ups especially in the field when operating portable!

I found one strange thing on 40 meters. The readings were markedly different if I held the analyzer in my hand or set it on a table by itself. The readings were better if I held the instrument in my hand. Holding the analyzer or setting it down made very little difference on the other bands with 17 Meters the exception, so I didn’t post those here.


MHz                            SWR                            RR                               X

7.030                           4.3                               104                              101   Not touching

7.030                           2.4                               66                                50     Touching


10.116                         2.0                               27                                10

14.062                         1.8                               30                                16

14.280                         1.7                               39                                25

18.085                         2.1                               35                                31        Not Touching

18.085                         1.7                               35                                19        Touching

21.058                         1.5                               45                                21

21.430                         2.3                               20                                3

24.905                         4.2                               41                                75

28.062                         2.2                               30                                30

28.560                         2.5                               38                                42


My antenna wire is 35 feet long and 30 feet above the ground and its orientation is horizontal, (perpendicular to the ground!)

Building the 9:1 UnUn was fun and I was eager to have a multi-band antenna!


This antenna got a lot of bad press among the ‘Antenna Guru’ crowd on E-Ham. They said their (facts) were from computer modeling programs, but there was a lot of opinion written their too and a lot of disparaging remarks toward anyone who would stupid enough to actually use one of these antennas. Their facts and data in no way came close to my real world measurements! 

I plan to take this antenna into the field and test it as a sloper, both with the analyzer and on the air. I’ll post the results here.

I hooked up a tuner and took readings on 20 meters. I was able to get the SWR down to 1:1 and the RR to 57 using the tuner  which is very close indeed to the ideal. The readings are sensitive to whether I held the analyzer in my hand when looking through a tuner. That bothers me. There seems to be some (not a lot) but some, RFI in the shack here too.

All antennas have trade off’s!


de AA1IK

Ernest Gregoire






Subscribe FREE to's
Amateur Radio Newsletter

We never share your e-mail address.

Do you like to write?
Interesting project to share?
Helpful tips and ideas for other hams?

Submit an article and we will review it for publication on!

Have a ham radio product or service?
Consider advertising on our site.

Are you a reporter covering ham radio?
Find ham radio experts for your story.

How to Set Up a Ham Radio Blog
Get started in less than 15 minutes!

  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor