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Stepping thing up a notch.


Very small Hard Drive

I do a lot of things on my desktop PC and for that reason, I try to keep it at a reasonable speed and try to have decent quality hardware in it. My annual clean the PC day was coming and I was thinking of upgrading my solid-state hard drive in the PC. I decided on an M.2 SSD I have a few slots in my MSI motherboard for this type of drive. The drive I decided on was the Western Digital Black SN770 1TB and when it did come in I was shocked at how small the drive was. I gave my motherboard manual a good read-over while the drive was on its way from Amazon. I am glad I did as it indicated that when I installed the M.2 drive and it came online my hard drive SATA 2 port would stop functioning. It was good I read that as my operating system, C drive is connected to that port. I have 6 SATA drive ports so it was a matter of swapping it to another port. But that could have given me a big headache for sure. 

M.2 drive as Unallocated.

After doing a cleaning to the inside of the PC it was time to install the M.2 card and move one hard drive from the SATA 2 position to an unused one. The M.2 drive was very easy to install and as it turned out the hard stuff was yet to come.
Once the PC was all back together I hit the power button and hoped for the best....well the PC started and Win10 loaded without issue as I expected. At this point, it was just another drive added to the PC but I did swap out the SATA position for the C drive but all was good. I then looked at the drive status for all the drives in my PC and the new drive was there but was shown as unallocated but that is not a big deal as it is a simple right mouse click and select "new simple volume". I did that and I was good to go and it was now called Drive G. 

M.2 SSD as Drive G
Now the fun begins I want my M.2 SSD known as Drive G to have an up-to-date clone copy of my present Drive C which is my boot drive. Then I want my M.2 Drive G to be designated as Drive C my boot drive and then my old Drive C (to soon become the new Drive G) my new drive to hold clone copies of my new Boot drive.....are you still following the hard drive bouncing ball..... I like having a clone of my hard drive this way if anything happens to the main drive if a Windows update screws things up or if a malicious program gives my hard drive issues. I simply go into the Motherboard BIOS and tell the PC to boot from the drive that has the latest clone of my boot drive and I am good to go. I have done this twice when the Windows update messed some things up. This is one of the main reasons before I download a Microsoft update I do a fresh clone of the C drive just in case. 

I used Macrium Reflect (free version) to clone my new M.2 SSD with a copy of my Boot drive C. I then restarted my PC and went into the BIOS and to the Boot menu. I wanted to do a test boot from the newly cloned Drive G to make sure it worked. I tested it and all went well so then I used Disk Genious (free version) to swap around my Drive C and Drive G with each other. I then crossed my fingers and restarted the PC to see what happened. All was good but I wanted to double-check as computers can do funny things. I wanted to be sure that it was booting from my new M.2 drive (new Drive C) and not somehow from the old Seagate SSD drive. So it was back to the BIOS to view the boot drive menu again. It confirmed that my Boot drive was the Western Digital SN770 drive. 

New M2 SSD now cloned

I did make all this sound easy and that it went without a hitch but there were "what the"moments, "are you kidding me" situations and "I better sleep on this one" times but in the end, all worked out.

Below is the speed comparison from old Drive to new M.2 drive 

Old SSD what is now my clone storage drive

New M.2 WD Black drive New boot drive


Whats going on with Morse code?

   It would seem from the blog reading I have been doing that CW seems to be on the rise within our ranks. I am not sure what it has to do with but Parks on the air, summits on the air and so on are getting popular these days and maybe folks are realizing you may get more bang for your buck with CW. If you have read my blog for any amount of time you know that I am "into" CW. Way back CW was a must if you wanted your ham licence to get onto HF. At that time I forced myself to learn CW to get my licence and that was it. I hit the needed 12 wpm for advanced and then put CW on the sidelines. 

I moved into a townhome and had to operate stealthily as the HOA cops were always out and about and antennas were a BIG no no. I set up an antenna in the attic the Alpha Delta DX-EE and it worked great. I was operating SSB in the Canada Day contest and having a blast. Later that day my next-door neighbour said she could hear "CQ contest" from her speakers!!! If I wanted my love for ham radio to continue I had to change things up. I had to drop the power and in doing so SSB was going to be tough for contesting. It was then I decided to take up CW again and go QRP with it. 

This meant basically relearning the code, I did it before but this time it was for keeps! Below is my journey with the code and some of the pitfalls and joys. I found the second time around learning the code was not like the first. This time I wanted to learn it and not have to and that made a big difference. 

Certain letters came easy such as M, O, T, E, C, Q and then there was J, H, B, S, F, L. As I started out I thought my frustration would subside as I learn more of the code. It did but I found it reared its ugly head for various reasons. Frustration comes with most learning and is not specific to CW. Learning a language, playing an instrument, or driving a car they all come with frustration but we press on. When learning anything one must understand that you may not become a pro. You may not be Peter Frampton, Mario Andretti or top-end CW ops. We may not be wired that way but we have to be thrilled with where our ability, hard work, work and family constraints fit us onto the scale of skills. 

What is the best way to learn the code....well it's personal and the short answer is we have to ferrite out the method that works for us. Understand this can be one of the most frustrating parts and if you are not committed to learning the code this could be your excuse to give up. Through trial and error find the way that greases your wheels to learn the code. I tried code-learning CDs in the car at home and so on that was a flop for me. Getting on my laptop for short sessions and having the program throw letters at me and I had to type in the correct letter did it. 

Things you will run into while on the journey: 

- Moving 3 steps forward and sometimes 4 steps backwards. Get ready for it will happen and understand it will pass. 

- You feel there are certain characters you will never get. Hold on and I guarantee you will get them some just take longer than others. I see parents who are all concerned that their little one is not walking at the same age as everyone else. I tell them to look around and see how many adults are not walking but crawling ...some take longer than others but we all will get there. 

- Counting the dits and dahs, I found this more so with the numbers learning. Understand it will happen and later I will tell you what I did to break this habit.

- So you know all the letters and numbers but why then all of a sudden are you have issues with certain letters or numbers that you had mastered? Understand this is part of learning and will happen. Remember 3 steps forward and 4 steps back. As you increase your speed this for sure will happen. 

- As you begin to listen to words or QSOs's your going to hear a letter and not get what it is. You then will stop to think about it and then get behind in your coping and frustration. This happens to all of us you have to learn what they said in the movie The Goodfellas "forgetaboutit", It's time to train your brain to skip over it and move on.
- As your speed increases you will have a tendency to assume the next letter and when it's not that letter you will be thrown off. Guessing the next letter is normal and you are going to have to ignore it and wait and see. This is very true with copying call signs. For me, it was I hear V and I think VE and it's VK. I hear D and I think DL and it's DF. Guessing ahead with CW will get you further behind. Let me be clear thinking ahead is not the same as listening ahead. 

Ok, enough of that for now let me go back to counting the dits and dahs and how I overcame that. I increased the sending speed to a point where it was impossible to count any part of any letter or number. This trained me to listen to the complete sound of the letter or number. With this over time came instant character recognition. We all know CQ in Morse and most of us don't hear individual C and Q but we know the sound of it and know it's CQ. 

For me, morse code is an adventure and my understanding is to get to your happy place with it in regards to speed and understanding. Why are you learning the code POTA, SOTA, Contesting or general QSO's or a combination of them? Depending on what you will be doing with the code will determine your learning path. For example, I love contesting. So accuracy, speed, letter and number recognition and being able to keyboard without looking at the keyboard. Other Morse code adventures require word recognition, sending code via a key and adjusting to weather and operating.
Enjoy the journey, have fun and keep expanding on the art of Ham radio.


NanoVNA and checking a common mode choke


Last week a new toy arrived a Nanovna and I have been playing around with it and learning the ins and outs of the unit. This unit allows me to check antenna SWR, attenuation and coax switch isolation to name a few things. I am not going to get into the details of the Nanovna as there is lots of information for those interested available on the internet. My first project was to check the attenuation on one of the common mode chokes I made. It was made from RG316 coax, FT 240-31 mix toroid and had 10 turns on it. I never put this common mode choke through any testing as I did not have anything to test it. I was going by some charts, the type of toroid mix and the number of turns needed for 40m to 10m. 

Now that I had a Nanovna I could perform an attenuation test on the common mode choke I was using and see some actual numbers. I have been reading and -30dB or more across 40m-10m is great for a common mode choke. I calibrated the Nanovna and performed an attenuation test and to my surprise, the common mode choke I made failed! The common mode choke I made was above -30dB from 40m to 10m. It was not time to fix the problem and bring my readings below -30dB. 

The red line is the results


I tried reducing the windings around the core increasing them and doing a Nanovna sweep each time to see the results. My final result was 14 windings and that gave me the ideal results. The Nanovna indicated -35dB on a full band sweep (6.5MHz to 30MHz) on individual band sweeps the readings were 10m -44dB, 15m -34.5dB, 20m -35dB and 40m -35dB. I am much more pleased with these readings. 

Full band sweep

The software to display the readings is called Nanovna saver, it's free and works great. I am very pleased with the results from the Nanovna and I was able to check and fix my common mode choke. I will now move on to the next project and that is the isolation between antenna 1 and 2 on my LDG AT200pro2 but more on that in another post.

It’s antenna farm time.

Before I purchased my Hustler 4BTV vertical antenna I was using a 45 foot End-fed antenna. I have kept the End-fed antenna coiled up and ready to go along with the coax still attached. The Hustler vertical only gives me 40, 20, 15 and 10m which is great for contesting BUT if I wanted to venture on to other bands it would mean using the End-fed antenna. Also during high wind storms or freezing rain, I have taken the Hustler vertical down and left with no antenna. I have been thinking of bringing the End-fed antenna back to life and using it when the Hustler is down due to weather and to venture on the bands the Hustler does not cover. 

I rehung the End-fed antenna recently to run it through the paces with my antenna analyzer to make sure after sitting unused for so long there were no issues. It checked out just fine and the SWR was decent and where it was a bit high my trusty LDG AT-200pro II would look after it. The main obstetrical for me is the proximity of the two antennas when they are both up at the same time. My next test was to connect my End-fed antenna to my Daiwa CN-901 antenna port and a 50-ohm dummy load to the radio port. I then wanted to transmit 100 watts into my Hustler 4BTV antenna and see what type of reflected power the Daiwa CN-901 SWR meter was showing. Below are the results for 40, 20, 15 and 20m on the 20 watts scale.


40 Meters

20 Meters

15 Meters

10 Meters

The reflected power was not significant and 10m was the highest. I plan to disconnect whichever antenna I am not using and connect it to a 50-ohm dummy load. In the future, I may prefab a 12-volt relay to switch between each antenna and use the relay contacts as the isolation point. For now, it is going to be the dummy load solution.

ARRL International DX CW contest.


Overall the weekend had great solar conditions and huge participation worldwide. At times it was very hard to find a clear section of the band to call "CQ Contest". Some may find that frustrating but in the big picture that is a very good thing. I had some memorable contacts in Japan, Australia, St Helena Island, FK8IK on New Caledonia Island and last but not least PE4BAS fellow blogger was logged on 15m. In this contest, I ran (calling CQ contest) for about 98% of the time at about 32-24 wpm. I did have an "I can't believe I did that" moment. On Saturday just before I stopped to have dinner I wanted to try a different macro. I turned the power down to zero and tried it a few times to make sure it would work. I then went for dinner and came back to go on 40m. Now 40m openings for me most of the time do not last very long. I got right back on and started calling CQ and calling and calling. I noticed on the RBN I had no spots which was a bit odd as most of the time I can something into the U.S. Then it hit me the power was still at zero! Well, that was about 20 minutes of lost time. 

All the bands (for me 10-40m) were in great shape and very busy. On Sunday evening around 6:30 local time, things started to go downhill for me. My ability to concentrate was just not there as I heard a call sign and only one or two letters registered with me. The best way to describe it was brain fog, it is not unusual for me toward the end of a long contest to get this. I was even having issues with keyboarding. I would type Zero when the call was 9, the call 9A2Y I had 0A2Y also when typing I would hit two keys at once. I then would be transmitting oddball calls. At that point, I would try to fix the call on the fly and most of the time that is a challenge and at this point in the game, it just made things a nightmare. I decided to pull the plug early as my frustration level would take the fun out of things.

The final tally


Taking my moms advice…….


Once moved out from home and on my own, I always remembered what my mom told me regarding credit cards. She said it was always good to have one as a just in case emergency BUT put it in a zip lock bag, fill it with water and put it in the freezer. This way if you are tempted to use the card you have to wait for it to thaw out and by then you may feel what you really "needed" was not a need but a want. 

The bottom line to that way of thinking is sometimes you have to take time to think about what you're going to purchase. Recently I did not use the frozen credit card theory but I am glad I took time to think. I had an email notice come to me informing me that my RSGB membership was coming to an end. The renewal was 70 British pounds which converted to about 120.00 Canadian dollars. ( I was just adding an RSGB link and noticed the fee was not 73.00 pounds which is 124.00 Canadian...NOT) That seemed very steep for me considering the main reason for my membership is the read Radcom magazine. The bottom line for me was that it was way too pricey so I was considering another radio magazine. 

I was looking at CQ magazine as in the past I did have a subscription from them but even then (about 8 years ago) the subscription missed issues and other times issues were late. I decided to wait it out and let the RSGB membership expire and then think about the next move. Kinda like letting the credit card thaw on the counter before I jumped.

Well CQ magazine does not seem to be doing well and online chatter has not been glowing. I just recently checked and their website is no longer loading. There was a statement from CQ saying they have "temporarily " suspended the magazine. In my humble opinion that is never a good sign. I have also read recently of those who just purchased a 1 or more year subscription and so far have received nothing. As a sideline, I feel CQ magazine should refund those who just purchased a subscription but we shall see. 

Well, I am glad that I let the credit card thaw on the counter before I jumped and made a subscription purchase to CQ magazine. To be upfront I will not be taking my chances on this company until it can show stability for at least 2024 without issue. Until then I will have saved some money and I can throw the credit card back in the freezer.

Computer issue solved.



Last week I clicked on a desktop shortcut to open one of my radio programs and the arrow kept spinning and then disappeared and no program opened. I tried some other desktop shortcuts and some worked and some did not. 

Below is the road I travelled down to eventually fix the issue and it turns out that this could happen to any one of us. By outlining the path I followed I hope it helps others out there who may encounter the same issue. 

Before I begin by way of background my setup is as follows:
Win10 home 64bit
 Intel Core i5-10600K CPU @ 4.10GHz  4.10 GHz

My first step was simple and has helped in the past, to restart the PC and give the desktop shortcuts another try. That did not work.
 I then chose one desktop shortcut and it's program to investigate and try to get it working. 

Next, I turned off my Antivirus software (Bitdefender) for a period of 15 minutes and restarted my PC, checking to make sure the Antivirus was still off (it was). I tried the program again and it did not start. 

I then went into Bitdefender antivirus made an exception file for the sample program and restarted but that did not work either.
Next, I started the PC in safe mode and was going to try the programs there but once the PC started the programs I wanted to test were not there. 

I uninstalled the program using Revo uninstaller (great program by the way) I then restarted the PC went to the program's website and downloaded the program again with the antivirus turned off. After restarting the PC I tried the program and it did not work. 

I did not think it was a Windows update as I run a program called Windows Update Blocker (another great program) it blocks all updates until I get the all-clear from the Askwoody site. This is a great site and click on the link to check out lots of great information there. 

It was now time to take things to the next level. I am a firm believer in backing up your PC for the just-in-case moments. The program I use for this is Macrium Reflect and with it, I make a clone and image file of my solid-state C hard drive. The backups are stored on separate internal HDs. One drive for the clone and one for the image. Click on clone or image if you are not sure what they are and you will be taken to a website that explains them. 

I decided to use an image of my C drive from an earlier date when I knew the desktop shortcuts and programs were working. Now you have to remember that anything on your PC after the date of the HD image date will be gone. If your image is from January 30th, 2024 anything on your PC after that date will not be there once you revert to that image. Now I know there is the Microsoft system restore as well but I have never had success with the program. I always get the message "System restore failed to restore to earlier image"
After Macrium Reflect did its magic and I was using an earlier image of my HD all programs were now working fine! So this thought.........
The next day I was on my PC and started the sample problem program and low and behold a spinning arrow and then the program did not start! 

I was doing some nosing around in Bitdefender and turned off the antivirus again, then under protection I turned off Online threat protection and did a restart still had the issue. I then did the same to firewall, ransomware, vulnerability protection and advanced threat protection. It was then I turned on advanced threat protection everything started to work just fine. 

Macrium Reflect restoring HD to earlier date

I then turned on each protection feature and checked the programs and there were no issues but once advanced threat protection was turned on programs would not start.
Within advanced threat protection in the settings, you had the option to set up exceptions but these exceptions had to include the "exe" program file within the file exception. (I found this out with lots of reading on the internet). As well all exe files from the program have to be included or the program will still be blocked from working.

Bitdefender Advanced threat exceptions

Once all this was done my problem of certain programs not starting was solved. I don't understand why only certain programs were affected....that is for later reading. Bitdefender is constantly performing updates in the background and I am guessing that something was added that marked some programs as a threat and stopped them from loading until an exception was made.

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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor