Posts Tagged ‘AlexLoop’

I’m back…

So where have I been..........really nowhere actually I can't believe my last post on the blog was June 10 but at least I am still in the year 2015!! The blog has gone quiet for almost 3  months and really so has ham radio here at VE3WDM. I have been very busy with work, here in Toronto we hosted the Pan Am games and I was directly involved with that.......to the point of around the clock standby. Before Pan Am there was the prep time and then after the post Pan Am "stuff" To be honest there was time at home but after getting home I just just to tired to turn the rig on or post on the blog. I have been reading all your posts and really enjoyed that. Now that things are slowing down a little bit of "normal" seems to be happening I'm back in the radio saddle. I did check my blog stats and readership sure has fallen to almost nothing but that makes sense seeing it's been same old same old regarding my blog content. So what is new here? Well, most of the "new" things happen in the last few weeks as I started to slow down. First off I sold my Alexloop antenna it seemed I just was not using it  now that I moved to Toronto. I posted the sale online and it was gone within an hour! With the sale of the Alexloop I was able to purchase the P3TXMON add on to my Elecraft P3. This week I also upgraded my PC.  One of my hard drives gave up the ghost, the one with the OS on it!!. At the same time I figured it was time to move up to the next level with my PC.  So I looked at purchasing a new machine or just upgrading what I have. I decided to upgrade the PC as I have 3 fairly new hard drives in the tower, up to date video card, I just replaced the power supply and the DVD player has no issues. The decision was made to upgrade the motherboard, the processor and ram. So the new system is Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD3 motherboard, AMD 8320 8 core processor at 3.5 GHz, 8 Gb (2x4) of DDR3 ram at 1600 mhz. I really had not done this before so lots of reading on the internet and YouTube videos, surprisingly things went smoothly. I now have an Asus M3A76-CM motherboard, AMD Phenom IIx4 2.8GHZ fan cooled processor, 4 Gb of SDram, Zoltac GT620 64 bit graphics card, and D-Link 1GB lan card hanging around..........may put it up for sale.

Things are very slow on the bands

I have been on the radio now and then this past week the only one there was me and the static, there is nothing wrong with the K3 or the antenna the wrong has been the atmospheric conditions.  This weekend alone there have been 3 M class solar flares not making those in the CQ SSB contest happy campers. Not saying there is no DX out there as I have been reading from fellow bloggers and there has been some DX contacts but for me it's just not there. I was on the radio today and was not able to even raise U.S contacts just south of the boarder.
Lets hope the conditions some what improve this week…..

Shut down two days in a row!

A foggy view of Toronto from my setup
This weekend I planned on getting some radio time in Julie was going to see a friend who lives out of town on Saturday so I thought I would get out and get hamming. We live right on Lake Ontario and within a short walk and or bike ride there are some great locations on the lake to do some portable op's. On Friday night I charged up the KX3, set out all of the needed items for outdoor ops. Saturday came and off I went, I decided to walk and it turned out to be a longer walk then I thought. I arrived at my
Trail on the way there. 
spot and setup the KX3 along with my Alexloop. Just as I sat down to get some operating time in it started to rain! With no rain gear and about a 1/2 hour to walk back I packed things up and headed back. Well I tried it again on Sunday and this time I took my bike and some rain gear just in case. This time I set everything up and was ready to go until I tried to connect the Alexloop to the KX3…..it seems for some reason I removed the adapter that allowed me to go from PL 259 to BNC at home! There was no way to hook up my antenna to the KX3 radio so I decided the radio god's were just not smiling on my this weekend and I headed back home the long way to tour around the lake.  Lesson learned I now plan to make up a small 3x5 card with all that is needed for the trip.
Small river on my way home. 
One of the many beaches 

Shifting the focus…….

There has been a big change here since our move with regards to ham radio.   Antenna challenges, finding a spot for the radio, having the setup "eye friendly" to non hams who visit.  The antenna challenge seems to be solved with the MFJ 1788 loop antenna. There are still some hick ups with it, for example not being able to tune 20m below a 9.1 to 1 SWR. I have spoken with MFJ and they have given me some great ideas to try with the loop. (more on that as I venture into the loop's insides) The setup was solved with a great roll top desk all is hidden away and protected with a very fashionable piece of furniture. Now it's time to look at expanding my radio operations beyond CW but still very much not forgetting about CW it will still be a large part of my operating. CW is perfect for low power and simple antenna operating. BUT also with my new antenna it has a narrow bandwidth and needs to be returned as you move up or down the band. With practice the loop can be retuned very fast. I was wanting now to add a mode that would favour the loops narrow band width. The digital world came to mind.
The last time I was in digi land PSK31 was the ground breaking mode and I have come to understand by many of the blogs I read there are some new modes in town!! PSK is still around but it too has changed. There is also now SIM31 and 63,  JT65, Olivia and the list goes on, I have been out of digital for some time now and am not sure what all is out there. What I am looking for is something that uses a narrow bandwidth, (most digi modes do) only requiring low power, would be great to have a "conversation mode" and not signal reports and goodbye and not a mode that takes forever for exchanges as I have heard about some digi modes. Having said all that one thing I can remember about the digi modes is they can be lot of "fun" to setup with your rig and PC! BUT that is all part of the fun I guess. So you digi fans out there help me out with some suggestions as to an HF low power narrow bandwidth digi mode I can scramble my brains with. Oh and if it helps the bands I have available are 10-40m and the rigs I have are the Elecraft K3  and KX3.

Finally some WSPRing with the Alexloop.

A shot of the loop with the "T" fitting
I have been looking for a way to place the Alexloop  in the horizontal position as from my playing with the loop it seems to work better for me on the balcony in the omnidirectional horizontal position. Yesterday I was able to pick up a 1 inch "T" fitting mainly used for piecing together plastic pipe. I was able to feed the loops center support through the "T" fitting and place it nicely on the tripod. With just a little electrical tape to hold it in place it worked great. 
I finally set things up to get  WSPR up and going, so yesterday during the day and then into the evening I was WSPRing to see how my signal was getting out from the condo. Up to this point I have only used the Reverse Beacon Network or RBN which involved CW at 5 watts. I was not thrilled with the results and was really wanting to give WSPR a go. During the day I tried 10m and 20m I started out with 1 watt and in terms of WSPR that is some pretty high power. The antenna once again was the Alexloop in the horizontal position, at first attempt on both bands the Alexloop was indoors. It was not surprise that there were no spots at all it was time to move the loop out onto the balcony. Once setup I went back to 10m and it was about 2pm local time with no results again. I then jumped over to 20m and it was just U.S stations and very few I might add that received my signal. It was time to pack it in for the afternoon and some chores had to be done and I would get back on in the evening hours.
At 7 pm local time I was up and WSPRing on 40m and with great hopes as the band sounded good and I was decoding some WSPR DX such as EA3NEI. I once again was only heard in the U.S and this time I used up to 5 watts!! Maybe it was that conditions were poor out this way as they have been over the past week. Over the weekend if I get time I am going to give WSPR a go once again and see how it works out.

There is a chill in the air.

A view of Lake Ontario from the balcony
It's not news to anyone in North America that the temperatures sure have taken a dip whether you are in Canada or the south U.S. I was reading today that down in Myrtle Beach it was -4C, on the weekend the Green Bay Packers fans were freezing with the very low temps! This evening out this way with the wind chill it is suppose to hit close to -40C. By way of ham radio I am in the process of trying to Macgyver (referencing a TV show called Macgyver}something for the Alexloop to sit in the horizontal position on the tripod. This is only until the MFJ 1788 loop arrives. On Sunday I did manage to get the Alexloop on the balcony in the horizontal position.......for some reason that just does not sound right.......anyway I was able to get out on 40m but nothing on 20m. It was late in the evening and I was happy with getting some spots on 40m. It was a very short effort as the antenna was in a make shift setup for horizontal polarization...now that sounds better. For all you in North America stay warm and as for Europe I have been speaking with some of my blog bud's over there and the temps in some areas are balmy so enjoy those temps.
 

It’s now between two antennas……….and some last minute exciting news!!!!

The weather here has sure cooled down and had 20cm of snow on Saturday this will at least make the ground white. At the old place there is a pile of snow but here in the city not so much.....speaking of not so much that has been the progress with my antenna situation in the condo. I have not really had all that much time to try anymore idea out. My next plan of attack  will be to place the Alexloop on the balcony in the horizontal position (in the cover of darkness of coarse) and see how that does for both receiving and transmitting. I have now narrowed my antenna selection down to two antennas, the MFJ 1788 loop or the MFJ 1780 fan box loop. I contacted MFJ and asked their opinion and was told the 1788 was a better construction and the 1780 was more portable but both are good antennas! Well that really didn't  help much. I called the local ham dealer and they do not stock the fan box loop and the 1788 has been on back order since October!!
I am tending to lean towards the fan box loop as it looks nothing like an antenna as the last thing I want are the condo cops coming after me. This unit is not really made for rain and is "portable" meaning I will have to take it in and out when using it. As for the 1788 it sure is more money but it covers more bands and is built better and I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for! So my delema is which antenna to go for.......
The 1780 fan box
1. It is cheaper but that may not be a good thing
2. It looks nothing like an antenna.
3. Very portable so small footprint.
BUT
1. Only covers from 14-30 meters
2. Not good in bad weather due to housing construction.
3. Has to be taken in and out.

The 1788
1. Covers from 15-40 meters
2. Solid construction
3. Able to be left outdoors year around.
BUT
1. The cost is more.
2. It looks like an antenna
3. May be hard to hide and hiding it may affect it's preformance.

Some exciting news regarding my signal getting out in this concrete jungle!
I was able to get the loop out and in the horizontal position and it worked great! The receive was very good and I was able to finally get spotted on the RBN. This are only U.S spots but with 5 watts and up to this point batting ZERO in the spot dept I am thrilled to see that my signal is getting out. Now I just have to fine tune things. At this point I have not tried WSPR but now that the horizontal position seems to work that is my next step to see how I do using WSPR.
rows to show:
showing spots for DX call: VE3WDM
search spot by callsign
dedxfreqcq/dxsnrspeedtime
W8WWV VE3WDM 7016.9CW CQ [LoTW] 7 dB23 wpm2305z 13 Dec
NY3A VE3WDM 7016.9CW CQ [LoTW] 9 dB23 wpm2305z 13 Dec
WZ7I VE3WDM 7016.9CW CQ [LoTW] 10 dB23 wpm2304z 13 Dec
W2MKM VE3WDM 7016.9CW CQ [LoTW] 11 dB23 wpm2304z 13 Dec
K1TTT VE3WDM 7016.9CW CQ [LoTW] 10 dB23 wpm2304z 13 Dec
W3LPL VE3WDM 7031.9CW CQ [LoTW] 1 dB23 wpm2255z 13 Dec
K1TTT VE3WDM 7032.0CW CQ [LoTW] 8 dB23 wpm2255z 13 Dec
WZ7I VE3WDM 7031.9CW CQ [LoTW] 8 dB23 wpm2255z 13 Dec
WE9V VE3WDM 7031.9CW CQ [LoTW] 6 dB23 wpm2255z 13 Dec
W8WWV VE3WDM 7032.0CW CQ [LoTW] 8 dB23 wpm2255z 13 Dec
W4KKN VE3WDM 7031.9CW CQ [LoTW] 4 dB23 wpm2254z 13 Dec
NY3A VE3WDM 7031.9CW CQ [LoTW] 9 dB23 wpm2254z 13 Dec
 



 

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