Waiting list update

On Halloween Steve Weber KD1JV has announced to the AT-Sprint Yahoogroup he’s considering planning to take orders online for the ATS-4B at 11:11:11 AM, EDT on the 11th November, 2011. Clearly a time and date not to be forgotten. Shipping would follow close behind then. One exciting aspect of this latest ATS-4B version is the planned integrated CW/PSK decoder on a daughter board, planned for a January release.

And the other hotly awaited item for the QRP and HFpack crew, the new Elecraft KX3 is now likely not to start shipping until the new year, 2012 I presume. An apparently hastily written update indicates “KX3 estimated ordering date (Winter 2001) and shipping date (January)”.

UPDATE: We’re getting closer. On 2 November this has been updated to “KX3 estimated ordering date (Nov/Dec 2011) and shipping date (Late January)” [my emphasis].

I’m dreaming of an expensive Christmas.

ATS-4 b due late September / early October

UPDATE: As of mid October the new availability date for the ATS-4B is November 2011. Also Steven Weber is developing a daughter board to enable the ATS-4B to decode PSK and CW – which has a January 2012 delivery date. This board can’t be added to the earlier ATS-4A. 

Since late June, Steven Weber’s site at http://kd1jv.qrpradio.com has displayed a short announcement that the next batch of ATS-4a kits will be available in the “fall of 2011″.

Steven Weber KD1JV's ATS-4 5 band trail friendly transceiver

Steven Weber KD1JV’s ATS-4 5 band trail friendly transceiver

On the AT_Sprint Yahoo group Steven has just confirmed that he anticipates having the kits available from late September or early October. He’s expecting the boards to be delivered “soon”.

This will be a revision ‘b’ as there are some minor circuit and layout changes. These include

  • a simple AGC circuit to add to the audio output to limit the volume of very strong signals. The AGC should limit the audio output to about 200 mV p-p.
  • a change of LCD display, reverting back to the graphics type used in the first run ATS-4 rigs.
  • using the 28 pin version of the now scarce 20 pin SOIC MSP430 chip in the new board layout.

These kits enjoy a passionate following – especially the ATS-3b – and they sell out very quickly. Monitoring the AT_Sprint group closely over the next few weeks is the best way to avoid disappointment. An automated alert (such as changedetection.com) when the kd1jv.qrpradio.com page changes might help.

Ultraportable Elecraft KX3

UPDATE: Steve G4GXL’s 10 minute YouTube video of Wayne N6KR’s quick overview of the new KX3 is available from http://qrparci.org. Also there are early photos on Twitpic here - courtesy of Jeff Davis KE9V including this one:

The new KX3 seen at the Elecraft stand in Dayton - photo by Jeff Davis KE9V

One of the earliest - and clearest - photos of the new KX3 taken at the Elecraft stand in Dayton by Jeff Davis KE9V



Under the tantalising subject line “Something *really* new at Dayton from Elecraft” and while en route to Dayton – Elecraft’s Wayne Burdick N6KR announced to the Elecraft email lists a very interesting new offering to be launched there – the KX3 and a companion 100W amp, the KXPA100.

According to Wayne, the KX3 handles all modes, SSB/CW/AM/FM/DATA (the latter including built-in PSK31 and RTTY encode/decode/display).

He promised to post full details and photos later this weekend. But that was too intriguing for the list. This is an edited and probably repetitive summary of what they managed to find out about the new set.

KX3: Ultra-compact K3/KX1 hybrid, 160-6 m, 10/100 W, all-mode, 32-bit DSP/SDR, 1.5 lbs.


  • 1.5 lbs (680g)
  • 1.7″ x 3.5″ x 7.4″ (4.3cm x 8.9cm x 18.8cm)
  • extended KX1 form-factor (KX1 - 1.2 x 3 x 5.3″ (3 x 7.5 x 13 cm) KX1 base weight 9oz / 255g)
  • internal battery pack & charger
  • internal wide-range ATU
  • new adjustable, attached keyer paddle

…and a K3-like front panel, including the same LCD.

RX-mode current drain ~150 mA. Very efficient on TX, with dual-output-impedance 5W/10W PA.

The optional 100W amp is in an external chassis. The internal amplifier is 10W with switchable impedance matching so it can also operate with maximum efficiency at 5W.

PA output impedance switch allows efficient 5-W use from internal batteries, or 10 W from external supply.

KXPA100 - 100 W+ with new high-performance external amp/ATU that works with most 5W to 10W rigs.

>Same flat layout as the KX-1 – just bigger box I would assume????

Yes, but with new fold-up rear tilt-feet.

>…and a K3-like front panel, including the same LCD.
> And it makes use of EVERY display on that LCD?? Carumba!

Not quite. I think there are a couple annunciators that are not used. But it’s amazing that the design team managed to fit almost all the features of a 10W K3 into a box that is a small fraction of the size and weight. And with space left over for an internal battery pack!

By the time we’re done, we’ll be using every icon.

Totally different architecture than the K3, of course. (Wayne N6KR)

RX-mode current drain ~150 mA. Very efficient on TX, with dual-output-impedance 5W/10W PA.

> More $$$ or less $$$ that the regular K3?

Much less.

> Dual output impedance 5w/10w pa? I don’t understand.

The MOSFET 10-W amp stage includes an output transformer with both 1:4 and 1:1 windings. When using low power, or when running from internal batteries, the 1:1 winding is used, which optimizes efficiency at about 5 W, greatly reducing transmit current drain. The 1:4 winding is used when running higher power (using an external supply).

> One email said 10w/100w models. Is that correct?

The 1.5-pound radio itself puts out 10 watts+. We’ll also be describing a new, high-performance 100-watt+ companion amplifier/ATU for fixed-station/mobile use. It will work very well with other 5 to 10-W radios besides the KX3.

From follow-up discussion etc it appears as if the base price of the KX3 will be US$799. Availability towards end of 2011. See video for a pretty comprehensive outline of features. Options for the KX3 include roofing filters, internal battery pack and ATU similar to one of K3. Truly an exciting trail friendly radio!

I’ve created a page where I’ll pull together all the available information there is about this ultimate trail friendly radio.

Winnie the war winner

The other day I noticed a very interesting photo on a fellow Australian ham blogger, Peter Mark’s site. The blog entry was titled a “Radio nerd’s tour of Canberra“. The first photo is described as ‘a transceiver with a nifty antenna tuner’. But the instant I saw it I sensed there was slightly more to it.

Winnie the war-winner

Winnie the war-winner seen in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. It was named after British wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

The fact that it was built on a beaten up old kerosene can prompted me to google “Winnie the war winner” and the results confirmed Peter’s photo is of this most famous piece of Australian ham homebrew ingenuity. Max (Joe) Loveless’ skill to be precise. The photo prompted me to find out the story of this iconic wireless set that’s an inspiration to a generation of Australian radio hams proud of their traditions of ‘making-do’.

The wikipedia entry on the Battle of Timor gives detailed historical and military background to this little radio’s moment of fame in April 1942.

As a result of British intrigue Australian troops were sent to Portuguese East Timor to disrupt any Japanese invasion on Australia’s northern doorstep. By April the 2/2nd Independent Company had been fighting a guerilla campaign for four months. Many were ill and they were low on supplies, and had had no contact with Australia since February.

For weeks a team had been trying to build a transmitter from salvaged parts from damaged radio gear. Before the war Max Loveless was a radio amateur in Hobart with the call 7ML. He became a Signaller with “Sparrowforce” on the Dutch part of Timor with the Australian Infantry Forces (AIF).

Bill Marien reported the story in the Melbourne Argus of 1st January 1943:

“Force Intact. Still Fighting. Badly Need Boots, Money, Quinine, Tommygun, Ammunition.”

This was the first official message received in Australia from the lost AIF commandos of Portuguese Timor who, for 59 days after the Japanese landing on the island, had been written off as missing or dead.

The signal came to Darwin on the night of April 19. It was transmitted by “Winnie the War Winner,” a crazy contraption built from scraps of wire and tin, and pieces of long discarded radio sets.

When the commandos showed me the incredible Winnie recently, it was easy to recapture the scene of that night of April 19.

In the thin air of a Timor mountain hideout, 4 bearded, haggard Australians were working by the smoking, stinking light of a pig-fat flare. Three of them watched anxiously as the fourth thumbed a Morse key. Weak batteries sent the dots and dashes of the morse dimly across the Arafura Sea to the Northern Territory of Australia. The tension was something physical as the operator strained his ears for a reply. At last a reply came.”

The AIF commando force which had been in Portuguese Timor were joined by other Australians from Dutch Timor including two signalmen, Cpl John Sargeant, of Bonshaw, NSW, and Lance-Cpl John Donovan, of Lindfield, NSW. Under leadership of Capt George Parker, of Earlwood, NSW, they joined Sigs Max (Joe) Loveless, of Hobart, and K. Richards, of Victoria, both of the original commando force.

“On March 8 the 4 men got to work — Loveless just out of sick bed and Sargeant just recovered from malaria. Three days later a Dutch sergeant, exhausted, stumbled in. He had carried what he thought to be a transmitter-receiver 40 miles through some of the roughest country in the world. It was an ordinary commercial medium-wave receiving set – and out of order.


Loveless, whose knowledge made him No 1 man of the team, thought he could build a one-valve transmitter from parts of this set and of another small and weak set. He planned a circuit, and all the commandos were asked to be on the lookout for anything that might serve as a radio part.

Cpl Donovan went scrounging at Attamboa, on the north coast, to see what he could salvage, while his companions recovered an abandoned army set. The parts of the 3 sets were unsoldered, and a bamboo used to catch all the melted solder for re-use. Loveless had carefully preserved 2 small batteries, but they needed recharging. A generator was taken from an abandoned 10-year old car and rigged to a series of wooden wheels, which a native was persuaded to turn. The set was complete on March 26.

It would not work!

Three of the team who helped Max Loveless build Winnie the war winner re-enact transmissions from a hill in East Timor - Signaller Keith Richards, Corporal John Donovan and Lieutenant Jack Sergeant. Photo by Damien Parer

The only tools available were a tomahawk, pliers, and screw-driver. They had no test equipment to determine the set’s frequency. The coils were wound on pieces of bamboo.

On March 28 Donovan returned from Attamboa – laden like a treasure ship. He had the power pack from a Dutch transmitter, 2 aerial tuning condensers, 60ft of aerial wire in short lengths, and a receiving set. Next day the men had to move all their precious gear, for the Japanese were getting too close.

Loveless got to work on a second transmitter twice as big as the first, and built it into a 4-gallon kerosene tin. A battery charger was recovered from enemy-held territory. To get it 14 commandos went through the Japanese lines to the old Australian headquarters at Villa Maria. There, within 100 yards of Japanese sentries, protected only by the dark, they dug up the charger which had been buried when the headquarters were evacuated.


On April 10 the signallers heard Darwin on the receiver, and knew then that Darwin was still in Australian hands. But their second transmitter was also a failure.

Loveless had another idea, but he needed more batteries. Four were found. Then the petrol ran out and the charger could not be kept running. So they raided the Japanese lines and carried off tins of kerosene. Finally the charger was started oil kerosene and run on diesel oil.

With batteries at full strength they signalled Darwin on April 18, but got no reply. They did not know that their message had been picked up on the Australian mainland and passed on to Darwin, that all transmitting stations had been warned to keep off the air and listen to Timor the following night.

You can get a good sense of the story from this video of the documentary ‘The Men of Timor’ filmed in Timor by Damien Parer in late September 1943. You can see a reconstruction of the building of the radio about 3’16″ in from the start.

On the 19th April they heard Darwin but their batteries failed again.

On the night of April 20 they again got Darwin. But Darwin was suspicious; demanded proof of their identity. So questions and answers like these were rushed across the Arafura Sea:

“Do you know Bill Jones?”— “Yes, he’s with us.”

“What rank, and answer immediately?”— “Captain.”

“Is he there? Bring him to the transmitter. . . . What’s your wife’s name, Bill?”— “Joan.”

“What’s the street number of your home?”

Once they provided the correct answers, help was on its way.

I found the newspaper report on the National Library of Australia’s brilliant Trove, where digital versions of many Australian newspapers have been put online courtesy of crowd-sourced editors across the global internet. Truly astounding!

QRP at Bamarang

Last weekend I had a great time playing radio. Along with half a dozen other families and all our kids we went to spend the Easter weekend at the “mud brick mansion” at Bamarang on the Shoalhaven River, a few km west of Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales. Courtesy of the pod on my car I was able to take quite a few radio bits and pieces along.

We enjoyed perfect autumn weather while it rained back home in Sydney!

I even managed to build the neat little EFHW (End Fed Half Wave) Tuner designed by Stu, KI6J on a shady verandah. The kit had arrived a few days earlier and I made sure I had everything I needed to build it away from my attic/shack/workshop. In fact the weekend became a sort of trial for field day and a great way to identify the essentials. If there’s a lot of gear on hand an awful amount of time can be wasted deciding which bits to use and how.

I was inspired by reports about the EFHW tuner and the appeal of not having to worry about ground radials. What clinched it for me was a photo I saw on one of the (far too many) qrp email groups I try to follow showing a ham on a mountain side beneath his arching squid pole with the little tuner matching the hi-Z of the half-wave antenna to the 50 ohms expectations of the tiny transceiver which was probably an ATS3b.

So that was my mission for the weekend.

The tuner kit went together in a very short time. Before accepting my order Stu, KI6J sent me a powerpoint of the assembly instructions so I was sure I could handle the construction. The fiddliest bit was the tiny binocular ferrite core transformer for the bridge. Fortunately he provided enough wire in the kit for me to botch it the first time round and do it perfectly the second!

After a couple of leisurely hours mostly taken up with drilling holes in a tiny plastic box it was working on the test lash-up. The polyvaricon is delightfully sharp. You tune by dimming the LED – and then switch out the bridge to transmit.


The KI6J EFHW Tuner kit almost complete with the 5k ohms test load in place. The builder provides the enclosure and connectors. (Photo sourced from instructions)

I had a 10m (almost 33 feet) squid pole (aka Jackite or crappie pole) with a tiny pulley from a boating store attached to the top with cable ties. I used the guy ropes from my Buddipole setup to hold the pole up straight. It stayed up all weekend.

The half wavelength formula in feet is 477/freq in MHz, or just on 68 feet (20.7m) for the code end of 40m. The far end of this was held up – via a plastic button insulator – by a fishing line launched up into a tree using a half-filled plastic drink bottle. All too easy! The near end of the antenna simply terminates in a banana plug that connects to the little tuner. I also connected a short 5-6 foot counterpoise, which was essential.

I had a great time playing with the tuner and my new SDR-Cube pumping out a whole watt of RF, as well as the trusty little FT-817.

Now I have a clear idea of what’s required for an effective little kit of gear to take up a hill for relatively speedy SOTA style deployment. And maybe I’ll fill the water bottle for those trips.

If you’re interested in getting hold of one of these nifty little EFHW Tuner kits you should contact Stu KI6J at [email protected]. US$27 included shipping across the Pacific Ocean! Fast and very fair!

QRP operation at Bamarang, near Nowra, NSW

My blissed-out second operator in the field at Bamarang, near Nowra NSW. He helped me retain my QRP calm.

During a trip into the township to replenish supplies I found a fishing tackle shop with an Easter sale on, and bought a couple of handy Plano tackle boxes and some inexpensive 10m lengths of nylon coated stainless steel ‘leader line’ wire which I’m sure can be used for a handy weatherproof dipole. As long I don’t have to solder the stuff.

Monitoring Odyssey Dawn

One of the most memorable DX programs was Radio Nederland’s Media Network presented by the energetic and innovative Jonathan Marks. Both the program and the presenter live on in different guises.

I remember being astounded to hear intercepted military signals from the early hours of the Falklands War being broadcast on the program. Long before crowdsourcing or the internet, Jonathan Marks had a network of highly skilled shortwave enthusiasts and gave them a destination – a tape recorder linked 24/7 to a phone number – where they could leave recordings they had made along with relevant details like time, frequency and identifying callsigns etc. From memory he had sounds of commands being issued by the Argentine Navy to the Belgrano.

After almost 20 years on air the last Media Network was broadcast in 2000. The program morphed into a weblog in the northern spring of 2003 as war broke out in Iraq.
I was reminded of Jonathan Marks’ ingenuity by reports this week of another radio enthusiast based in Holland and how his monitoring activities revealed a US Psyops broadcast as part of the current ‘Odyssey Dawn’ operation in Libya. It was heard on 6877kHz at 0900Z Sunday 20 March.

In fact Jonathan Marks may have been one of the sources of this latest story! It appeared on his Critical Distance blog the day before.

Now in place of Media Network’s phone and cassette recordings, we have blogs, twitter and audioboo! And a torrent of information.

The Milcom Monitoring Post blog is pulling material together including mp3 clips. But the action and spots are moving very fast. The most appropriate tools appears to be twitter feeds. The source of the psyops recording is @FMCNL. Other monitoring tweets come from @MilcomMP and @QSLRptMT, occasionally using hashtags such as #odysseydawn or #libya.

US Marines conduct air strikes in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn

An AV-8B Harrier jump jet returns to USS Kearsarge for fuel and ammunition resupply while conducting air strikes in support of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, March 20, 2011. (USMC/Flickr)

@cencio4 David Cenciotti is an aviation writer and he’s published comprehensively detailed daily ‘debriefings’ of Operation Odyssey Dawn. His writing is clear and military acronyms are de-coded and explained.  The posts on his blog reveal an deeply informed understanding of strategy and a profound knowledge of the aviation industry. His analysis shows how even in the heat of battle there’s some high powered marketing going on!

Here are some of the frequencies that were being monitored in the early stages of the campaign:
4196.0 Naval Military style CWC tracking net USB (American English accents). AGI (3/21 @ 2150 UTC). Early on in Operation Odyssey Dawn that was used as a NATO AWACS tracking net USB: Callsign Magic ##/NATO ##
5725.0 UK Royal Navy CWC-style net USB.
6688.0 French Strategic Air Force Net – Commandement Des Forces Aériennes Stratégiques (CFAS) USB: Callsign Capitol
6712.0 French Air Force Commandement De La Force Aérienne De Projection (CFAP) USB: Callsign: Circus Verte
6733.0 RAF TASCOMM YL weather traffic to Solex 11 a Sentry AEW1 with TAF weather for LCRA RAF
Akrotiri. QSYed to 9019.0 and 9031.0 kHz USB
6761.0 USAF Global refueling Operations USB
6877.0 USAF Psyop transmissions against Libyan Navy + jamming
9019.0 UK RAF TASCOMM USB TAF weather traffic.
9031.0 UK RAF TASCOMM USB Operational Messages + TAF weather traffic
10315.0 DHN 66 NATO Geilenkirchen GER E-3 AWACS/Magic to DHN66 Link USB
12311.0 French Air Force Centre De Conduite Des Opérations Aériennes (CCOA) USB: Callsign Veilleur/AWACS callsign Cyrano.
16160.0 French Air Force up with voice and RATT on 16160 kHz USB.
Libyan GMMRA HF ALE network was still active as of 3/21/2011 on 5368.0 6884.0 8200.0 9375.0 10125.0 10404.0.

Seems like a good time to sign up for and account with www.globaltuners.com to get my radio ears a little closer to the action. If you follow any of the twitter accounts mentioned above you will have no shortage of up to the minute details of air (and radio) traffic to follow.

FUNcube Dongle – sold out in 49 seconds

The latest batch of 135 of Howard Long G6LVB’s FUNcube Dongle Pros sold out a few hours ago in less than a minute!

The FUNcube Dongle Pro is a tiny SDR receiver for the frequency range 64 to 1,700MHz. It’s the “ground segment” of the AMSAT-UK FUNcube satellite project.

FUNcube Dongle Pro

FUNcube Dongle Pro

The best source of information about what to do with the FUNcube dongle and how to get hold of one is the Yahoogroup. Howard is active on the list and the main website and is quick to join the discussion and respond to all manner of queries.

The FUNcube Yahoogroup page explains the background and aim to the project:

AMSAT-UK’s FUNcube is an educational single cubesat project with the goal of enthusing and educating young people about radio, space, physics and electronics.

It will support the educational Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) initiatives and provide an additional resource for the GB4FUN Mobile Communications Centre.

The target audience consists of primary and secondary school pupils and FUNcube will feature a 145 MHz telemetry beacon that will provide a strong signal for the pupils to receive.

… FUNcube will carry a UHF to VHF linear transponder that will have up to 1 watt and which can be used by Radio Amateurs worldwide for SSB and CW communications.
Measuring just 10 x 10 x 10 cm, and with a mass of less than 1kg, it will be the smallest ever satellite to carry a linear transponder and the choice of frequencies will enable Radio Amateurs to use their existing VO-52, DO-64, HO68 and similar stations.

Howard seems to be producing and selling the Dongles at an amazing rate. But on the basis of this recent post “What do 500 dongles look like?“ there are at least another 360-odd on the production line.

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