Posts Tagged ‘books’

Ever been to Cornbread Road?

My favorite amateur radio blog comes from Jeff Davis, KE9V. If you have been following Jeff’s blog through the years you’ll have seen a constant evolution of his site and content. In addition to his ponderings of the current state of ham radio, Jeff has produced a number of engaging podcasts. Long Delayed Echoes was Jeff’s podcast series that covered a great deal of the early history of amateur radio. It featured selections from Clinton B. DeSoto’s 200 Meters & Down as well as other significant historical sources of ham history. In addition to his written contributions to QST (see the May 2005 issue on page 56) Jeff has also shared his talent for fiction with us. He has several other ham radio related stories that he posts now and again on his blog (… it is worth checking his blog frequently because once in a blue moon he will put links up to his stories… my favorites are QRP Christmas and Tragedy on the Trail).

Besides his blog, Jeff prodigiously uses social media and you would likely enjoy his ham radio musing that can be read via Twitter and Google +.

Jeff combined his podcast talents along with his fiction writing skills with the production of Cornbread Road. All 13 episodes of the serial are currently available and on the 30th of September, Jeff has promised us a final installment. I’m looking forward to that!

Review: Array of Light (3rd Edition)

My friend Matt, KB9UWU, eggs me on to buy things.  Sometimes I listen.  Sometimes I don’t.  But, eventually he wins me over and I’m usually happy with the purchase (e.g., K3 and Hex beam, although I built the Hex from scratch, which reminds me that I owe the blog a discussion of that).  I like to think that I let Matt be the early adopter and then pick and choose based on his experience.  He convinced me to buy a copy of N6BT’s book Array of Light.  Here’s my review.

If there’s anybody that knows antennas in the amateur community, it’s Tom Schiller, N6BT, the founder of Force12 and now owner of N6BT Next Generation Antennas.  He’s also a member of the very successful Team Vertical contest team, who have revolutionized DXpedition and contest expedition antenna systems by replacing trapped tri-band Yagis like the TH-3jr(s), TA-33jr, and A3S, with arrays of verticals located at the water line.  Schiller’s work has been nothing short of revolutionary so I had high hopes for the book.

My copy, like every other copy, is signed by the author.  It’s a good-quality laser print and has the same spiral binding as the Elecraft manuals.  The book is a loosely-edited collection of articles and clippings that read pretty well in series.  But, it’s bear to skim or go back to find specific things unless you’ve read the whole thing cover-to-cover a couple of times.  But, that’s pretty easy to do because Tom is a good storyteller.  My only other complaint is that there are a couple of places where I think Tom has drunk his own Kool-Aid regarding the efficiency of his antennas, especially “linear loading.”  This is a topic that I need to revisit with a pencil and paper study at some point because there is a lot of misinformation floating around about traps, linear loading, and “multi-monoband” antennas.  It’s not clear to me that anyone has sat down and really examined this in a methodical way.  It was disappointing that he quoted numbers like “greater than 99% efficiency” without going into more detail about the efficiency of a full-size antenna versus the linear-loaded one, etc.  Of course, this is difficult, but it’s something that always makes me a bit skeptical.

Array of Light is worth the price of admission for a couple of reasons—the first is the stories and the second is the antenna designs.  I’m a big proponent of not reinventing the wheel on most of my homebrew projects and this book is sure to provide some proven designs to work with.  Especially if you want a good discussion of practical antennas for DXpeditioning and contesting I think it’s a real winner.

100 years ago

Last night, I received an e-mail from Bob W3BBO about an item he saw in The County Hunter News.  The article was written by Bob Voss N4CD, and it concerned a book written 100 years ago, entitled  “Bert Wilson, Wireless Operator“.  The book has been made available through Project Gutenberg.

The book was available in various formats, including kindle format.  Bob and I are both kindle owners and avid readers, especially (although not exclusively) when the topic is Amateur Radio.  I downloaded the book last night and began reading it today.  Even though the book is 100 years old, it is a fun and easy read. It’s not terribly long, and I’m already a third of the way through.
You do have to keep in mind that this was written in 1913.  The author, J W Duffield makes an early mention of “the unfortunate accident and loss of life” that happened “last year”. Of course, he’s referring to the Titanic, without directly mentioning the ship by name.  The language is a bit different, with a lot of “By Jove”s, “Great Scott”s appearing throughout.  Friends are referred to as “fellows” and there’s a lot of back slapping that occurs instead of the “high fives” that we have become so accustomed today.  Further examples – baseball teams are referred to as “nines” and ball fields as “diamonds”, all fitting descriptions, but all very old-timey. There are also some very un-PC descriptions of things in there, so if you’re offended by that kind of thing, please be aware. We are talking 1913, here.
But as I’ve mentioned before, it is a very entertaining little story. I can only imagine that the target audience back then was the same audience for which the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift books were written in my younger days.
In fact, if you go to Project Gutenburg and type in “wireless” into their search box, there are a couple dozen various books that you will be led to.  Some appear to be fiction, while others definitely are not.  But they are all free and readily available to be downloaded for your reading pleasure.
The other thing that I wanted to mention is that there’s another unbuilt HW9 up for bid on eBay:
A couple of weeks ago, John AE5X mentioned an auction for one of these.  That kit ended up selling for close to $2000.00.  This one is up to $305.00 with 5 days to go.  I am pretty certain that any unsuccessful bidders from the first auction learned a lesson about holding their cards closer to their vests.  I am predicting that bids will probably (and I mean probably, but I might be wrong) not move much until right before the end of the auction in an attempt to keep the winning bid lower than the $2000.00 neighborhood.  It will be interesting to see how much this unbuilt Heahtkit will end up selling for.
Almost makes me want to buy a K2 and just stash it away somewhere for my kids to sell in about 30 or 40 years.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Two things

Two topics that I wanted to bring up today:

Number One – Don’t forget that this weekend (starting in about 45 minutes from the time that I am typing this out) is the CQWW DX Contest – CW.  The exchange on this is soooooooo simple – RST and your CQ Zone (in my case, that would be 5).

If you are thinking of starting QRP DXCC, in the middle of working on QRP DXCC, or towards the end of reaching QRP DXCC – this contest is a good way of helping to achieve your goal.

Don’t be put off by the high speed and don’t be put off with the fact that you are running 5 Watts or less.

A) There will be plenty of DX stations on the air.  You WILL find ones that you will be able to copy.  Search and pounce until you find someone that doesn’t sound like a buzzsaw to you.  Hey, I’ve been at this for over 30 years and I still run into stations where I just shake my head and say,”Huh?”  If you’re not 10000% confident in your CW copying capabilities, you will have the chance to hear that one station give out their call a jazillion times as they run stations. And if that still doesn’t work for you, and you can only copy a partial call – it’s not a mortal sin to log onto DX Summit or some other DX Cluster to see if you can find that station listed by someone else on the band/frequency that you are hearing them (as long as you are not “officially” entering the contest – then I believe the use of spotting is not allowed). But make your best effort. By the end of the contest you will be amazed at how much your CW copying ability can improve in the course of a weekend.

B)  Put out of your mind that you are QRP. I really mean that. Approach the contest just like anyone else running a 100 Watt barefoot rig.  Look, you’re not going to be able to work everyone you hear – but concentrate on the loud ones at first and don’t be afraid to throw out your call.  Contesting brings out the bionic ears on some of these guys and it’s amazing what they can pull out of the aether – ESPECIALLY towards the end of the contest when they are still hungry for points.  Serious DX contest stations that might not otherwise give you the time of day under normal circumstances WILL go out of their way to pump up their contest score.  Take advantage of that.  As the contest progresses (especially the last 24 hours) you will find that you will be able to work stations other than just the loudest ones, too.  But don’t beat your head against a wall.  If you’re trying and you’re just not being heard, move on and come back and try a little bit later.  Propagation may improve and work in your favor.

Number Two – The Android tablet has some Ham apps available that I didn’t even think of when I purchased mine – namely the Zinio and Kindle apps, which are both free by the way.

“Ham related?” you ask?  Yes, through Zinio, I can read both CQ Digital and WorldRadio Online (Note – the subscriptions for these are NOT free). And since the tablet is small and is a WiFi device, I can take it with me into “The Library” to read, if I choose to – or just about anywhere else for that matter.

The Kindle app is strange in a way.  For books, I actually prefer using my Kindle.  But for e-zines that come in a .pdf format?  It’s perfect!  I could never get the “K9YA Telegraph” to load into my Kindle properly. But with the Kindle app on the tablet, it’s better than sliced bread! Prior to this, when I wanted to read “The Telegraph”, I had to sit in front of the desktop or the netbook.  Not always the most convenient situation. I loaded the latest issue onto my tablet just to see how it would work; and I was like a kid on Christmas.  I have a whole bunch of back issues on my desktop computer that I am going to move onto the tablet via DropBox.  Now I will be able to enjoy them in a more relaxing setting.

The ARRL just recently introduced an app for idevices for QST Digital.  Hopefully, they will come out with an Android app soon and I can do all my Ham Radio magazine reading on my tablet – with the exception of QRP Quarterly, of course ……. although………… anybody from QRP-ARCI reading?  😉

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

The other thing I wanted to talk about tonight

is the new book out by Don Keith N4KC.  If you haven’t read about it on his blog, then I am going to tell you about it here.

The name of the book is “Riding the Shortwaves: Exploring the Magic of Amateur Radio

I purchased it the other day, and this book is fantastic, IMHO!

If you have someone that you know is thinking of becoming a Ham, has inclinations about becoming a Ham, or is actively studying to become a Ham, or recently became a Ham – direct them to this book!  Don is an accomplished, published author –  and this book showcases his writing skill.

It is written in friendly, plain language, with just the right amount of Ham jargon infused (fully explained) that is perfect for those who are getting into or just got into the hobby.  And the primary focus of this book is getting on the HF bands.  How many new Hams do you know that get their license and then just seem to stagnate on VHF/UHF, get bored and leave the hobby?

That situation vexed Don N4KC also, and this is his effort to solve that problem.  The first thing he does (and does it really well!) is to inform the prospective or new Ham just how great operating on the HF bands is.  He puts “The Magic” that is HF into words better than I’ve ever read before.  Then he builds upon that by covering how to set up your station, how to choose and set up an antenna, which are just a few of the topics covered in this book. I have to tell you, that in all honesty, I wish this book was out 34 years ago when I first got started.

This book has all the stuff that we OT HF operators learned the hard way.  Now it’s written down in a book that is a delightful and very entertaining read.  Hey, there’s even stuff in here that’s a good review for us OT’s, too!  Learning and having fun while doing it – what could be better than that?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

OK, OK! I Will Write that Ham Radio Book!

Ever since I began writing articles about my hobby of choice–amateur or “ham” radio–for my ham radio web site and several others, people have been asking me when I was going to do an amateur radio book.  The truth is, I have just been too darn busy to even think of such a thing. And I also knew, in my heart of hearts, that it be would difficult indeed to get any kind of decent book contract for such a niche book.  I presented my idea of a half-fiction/half-nonfiction book to the ARRL and they passed, so that confirmed my feelings. If they had no interest, I doubted anyone else who published books would either.

Fast-forward to July 2012.  Things have changed, both in my personal life and in the wild and woolly world of big-time book publishing.

Riding the Shortwaves: Exploring the Magic of Amateur Radio by Don Keith N4KC

Don Keith N4KC has just published his new book of short stories, articles, advice, and more about ham radio.

First, I retired from my 60-hour-a-week day job back in May.  And as I shuffled through the articles I had in the can, several more I was working on, and a few still in my head, I realized I was closer to a book than I had thought.  And I truly believed I had something that would be different and could find a readership.


Secondly, as I investigated Kindle Direct Publishing at for the re-issue of a couple of my previous now-out-of-print books, I realized that I should absolutely pull the ham radio book together for that outlet–Kindle and some other e-book readers–at least.  Amazon has become a real threat to traditional publishing companies–especially when it comes to e-books–as the old-line publishing houses struggle to figure this newfangled thing out.  At the very least, it gives me the opportunity to make my book available at a very reasonable price to those interested in amateur radio.  No, I don’t make much money at the price I set, even if I actually sell some downloads of the book, but that is not really the object anyway.  As I have said many times, and not totally facetiously, if I wanted to make a fortune writing books, I would write pornography (See FIFTY SHADES OF GREY).

Then, as I considered other options, I realized that Amazon offers a truly unique opportunity for works like this one that allows me to offer the book in a traditional paperback format with minimal investment up front.  Remember, I’m retired, on a fixed income these days!  Amazon’s is a print-on-demand deal, but they seem to have it down to a science.  I ordered some copies as soon as I got the book and cover uploaded and accepted for publication.  The very next day I got the email that they were being shipped that day. Wow!

Again, this was with very little upfront cost and minimal hassle.  Now, the paperback will be available not only via, but through major distributors, for order by libraries, and even in many European markets. We will see how good the print job is, but believe me on this: the major houses don’t necessarily produce the highest quality book any more either.  They have to cut where they can to make a profit and printing, binding, and warehousing is a big drain on them.

Talk about rapid technological change and its effect on society and the media!  Broadcast radio, TV, the Internet and telephone communications are not the only things evolving at a dizzying pace.  Include the anachronistic business of book publishing in that mix, too!

Realistically, will tons of booksellers and all the Barnes & Noble stores order a box full of the books each?  Or will hundreds of thousands of libraries order up a couple dozen copies each?  Of course not.  The big publishers do have sales staff to encourage that sort of thing. But a) no big publishing house was going to do a contract for RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO and b) even if they did, it would be somewhere near the bottom of the sales staff’s sample case, so c) Amazon’s various self-publishing options are perfect for this kind of book.

By the way, if you have any interest in the dynamic and rapidly growing hobby of ham radio–believe me, it ain’t your weird uncle’s past-time any more!–then you may want to stop by and take a look “Inside the Book,” read the description, and maybe buy a copy or two…for yourself or someone you know and want to spark the interest in our amazing hobby.

See, right there in that last sentence, I did more publicity for RIDING THE SHORTWAVES than the big publishers do for most of the books they print up and ship out!


Don Keith N4KC 


Where did I find those other 60 hours a week?

So I finally pulled the plug on the day job six weeks ago. For the first time since I was 18 years old, I don’t have a regular pay check coming in. Unless you count that Social Security thing, which is hardly enough to call a “paycheck.”  I had big plans for all the new spare time I was going to have in retirement, including actually getting on the air more, seeking out long, rambling ragchews, working more PSK31 and RTTY, doing some QRP, maybe even building a kit or two and trying out an antenna idea I’ve been contemplating.  Contemplating for a dozen years.

Truth is, I only retired from one of my several jobs.  For some reason, I quit the only one that actually paid me a regular wage, which automatically brings my sanity into question.  But like a gas occupying a vacuum, the other things I do quickly expanded to take up all my available time, including what the day job once took.  I have no idea how I was able to work those sixty hours a week at the old vocation!

Some of you may be aware that I am a writer, too, and just published my 24th book.  I’ve also finally gotten around to putting one of my novels–my second book, published way back in 1997–up on as an eBook.  (I hope it finds a bigger audience this time because it is near to my heart, the story of a young man who falls in love with the magic of radio, goes on to a career in broadcasting as a deejay, and eventually his best friend, who just happens to be a ham, saves his bacon…using a trick many of you will recognize.  It’s titled WIZARD OF THE WIND and, yes, there is a lot of me in that story!)

I’m also finishing up an amateur radio book, one that has been in the works for a while, too.  It will include some of the articles and short stories I’ve put up on and more.  I want it to not only entice those who develop an interest in ham radio to go ahead and take the plunge but to also encourage those already in the hobby to explore other aspects and become true evangelists for it.

When I was writing WIZARD OF THE WIND, I actually took a weekend job at an oldies radio station for a year, working a weekend deejay shift,  just to get that old feeling back.  It really helped me put it into words as I worked on the novel.  Maybe now is the time that I should be getting on the ham bands more, broadening my own horizons so I can capture the magic of the hobby as I work on the new book.

I think I just talked myself into getting off this blog and seeing what the DX clusters are saying.  Or watching the waterfall for a bit on 20M PSK31.  Time’s wasting!

Don Keith N4KC

(A blog about rapid technological change and its

effect on society, media, and ham radio)

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