Posts Tagged ‘hobbies’
Radio activity around here was asymptotically approaching zero until this past weekend when I managed to put about two hours into the ARRL January VHF contest. In brief, here’s what’s happening around K8GU:
- 47Q x 17G on 6 (8/2), 2 (29/11), and 432 (10/4) in ARRL January VHF. The 6-meter QSOs were all made with an HF antenna. I ran 100 watts on 432 so I’m ineligible for the 3-band category. Heard, but didn’t work, N1GC (EM59), K1TEO (FN31, whom I almost always work), and VE3??? (FN03, I had the whole call at the time but forgot, working K1RZ).
- I did not work EP6T on any bands and really don’t care. I didn’t hear much of the jamming when I did listen (on 40 and 80). To paraphrase KE9V quoting JA1NUT, “I’m kind of over DXing.” Who has time for this, anyway?
- Speaking of the seedy underbelly of DXing…do you know what a “QSL grubber” is? I’ve experienced a couple of different variations on this in the past year and it’s disturbing. One guy was asking about specific QSOs and provided detailed description of (my) signal characteristics. Nevermind the fact that I never operated on the band he mentioned during that operation. He sent similar e-mail to several friends. As if DX operators don’t talk to each other? The DXCC desk has been notified. I wonder if anybody actually falls for it or gives in, though?
- I made token efforts in NAQP CW and Phone to chalk up a participation multiplier for PVRC in the three-way PVRC-SMC-NCCC competition.
- No homebrewing or repair work has been undertaken since the summer.
- The baby can crawl and wants to walk so badly she can’t stand it. The end is near.
- I took Evan to the Odenton Hamfest on Sunday morning. The highlight for him was stopping for donuts…and stopping at a playground on the way home. Bought some Snap-N-Seal F-type compression connectors for a work project, part of my quest to find the perfect F-connector for the perfect RG-6 type cable (quad-shielded, flooded). More on this in a future post.
- It seems there are plenty of Elecraft K2’s on the market these days. As the price slips below 1000 USD for a loaded K2/100, this radio is becoming a good buy. As a secondary note, they all seem to be “professionally constructed by a well-known builder.” This leads me to wonder what fraction of K2s were built by someone other than the owner (I estimated this fraction once to be about 1/3 of them). I also wonder if people who built their own K2s hold onto them longer?
And so it goes, time to punch my card…
On Christmas Eve, I was sitting at my in-laws’ kitchen table with the Small Wonder Labs SW-40 I built as a high school kid in 1998 listening to beautiful music and I got the itch to come up with a radio smaller (and less expensive) than the K3 to drag around with me when I go places. My mind wandered to the NorCal Sierra, which was a featured project in ARRL Handbook’s of my youth. I was able to come up with a draft version of that Handbook article on the web—pause for a moment and think how revolutionary that is—my in-laws don’t have an ARRL Handbook, let alone the one that contained the Sierra article. I looked at the bill of materials and realized that I had some 70% of the parts in my junkbox. This seemed like a good idea until I went searching for a PCB.
Why PCB? Well, I’ve done the dead-bug thing and it works great but it’s a pain to troubleshoot and unless you have decades of experience doing it, it looks like a Mexico City suburb, sprawling unpredictably in every direction with only the most tenuous connections to the core. Since I was seeking a travel radio, I wanted it to be compact, easy-to-troubleshoot, and relatively rugged. Due in no small part to the wishes of the Sierra’s designers (not coincidentally founders of Elecraft), boards are no longer available. I looked into doing my own board, but if you don’t mix chemicals yourself, you’ve suddenly spent $150 on PCBs, plus the layout effort. I toyed with making the board smaller (a win in several ways) by using surface-mount parts but even that was a non-starter since my junkbox parts are through-hole, requiring me to buy everything.
Astute readers can extrapolate what occurred next. I went to the Elecraft web site to price the Sierra’s successor, the K1. I had all but made up my mind to sell off some junkbox items and raise the capital to buy a K1 kit when something occurred to me: fellow ham blogger Mike, VE3WDM, had recently moved to a smaller QTH and was offering a half-completed K2 kit for sale. His asking price was only a little more than the K1 kit with some of the options I wanted and it was all-band. The ad had been posted for some days by this point, so I fired off a sheepish e-mail to Mike asking if the radio was still available. It was. We sealed the deal and the radio made the somewhat tortuous ride (for us, not the radio—it sat in Chicago for two weeks) from his QTH to mine via the postal system.
I would not have bought a partially-finished kit from just anyone. However, since this was Mike’s second K2 build and he was documenting it carefully in a blog, I figured it was a pretty safe bet. So far, that is definitely true.
While I was eagerly awaiting the radio’s arrival, I redoubled my efforts to get a friend’s TS-930S off of my workbench, a task that involved replacing all 115 electrolytic capacitors on the cookie-sheet-sized “Signal Unit” board (similar to the K2 and K3 “RF unit”). That radio still has low drive (it has ALC again and sounds like a million bucks), something I traced to a hard-to-find semiconductor that’s now on-order. So, I gathered it up and started work on the K2 on Sunday afternoon.
Last night, I got it on 40 meters RX-only and peaked up the RX BPF. Former K2 owner KL9A mentioned to me that it has some blow-by on strong signals but that he thinks it’s a pretty good radio. I can confirm that based on my experience last night. It sounds really really good on CW.
More on the build to come…including a look back at some troubleshooting of the BFO circuit.
Some good planning on Sarah’s part yielded a bridal shower for her sister scheduled on the same weekend as the Hamvention. Huge win.
- Speaking of huge wins, there was no sewer back up this year.
- Like the last time I attended in 2011, I’m pleased to see more younger (than me) hams in attendance. A high-ranking ARRL official noted to me the “energy and enthusiasm” present in this generation of young hams that was not present 15 years ago (this year marks my 20th year as a ham, but I didn’t mention that). Attendance was still thin compared to my first visit in the mid 1990s.
- Deals. I stimulated the economy by purchasing a small CDE rotor for my VHF activities, an HP server power supply for a future solid state amplifier project (>55 amps at 50 volts), a couple of 900-MHz antennas, and some miscellaneous small parts. I sold some junk to partially cover that expense.
- People. Ran into a lot of old friends and made some new ones. This is really why I go to Dayton, well, that and the junk. K8MFO tells me there are Bureau cards coming. W8AV has 930s for me to work on. W2NAF had people for me to meet. AD8P was able to win himself a pizza from an unnamed W5 in the “SB-200 challenge” of correctly differentiating an SB-200 from an SB-220 at a distance of 20 feet—a tribute to the W5′s failure to distinguish the two until after the sale last year.
- W2NAF has written an article about our trip to Adak (NA-039) that was published in the June 2013 issue of CQ. It has a lot more background detail than what I wrote on the blog. Check it out. I picked up a copy of that and the May 2013 issue which has the 2012 CQ WW CW results in it.
- Products. I just don’t care that much about new products. The Ten-Tec Rebel that several people have already discussed is a cool idea. I know that Ten-Tec took some flak for not opening up the Orion SDR core when they produced it. But, let’s be realistic, people. Hams would have bricked those suckers in a heartbeat. A sandbox “open source” radio is a step in the right direction, but I question what a ham can really customize that matters without screwing it up. Maybe I’m just not visionary enough. Almost 10 years ago now, I interned in the R&D lab at a large consumer appliance manufacturer as an undergraduate my supervisor was always saying, “How can we make this attractive to the [hardware] hackers?”
- Guns. The Hamvention web site was very specific that the Trotwood Police Department would be actively enforcing Hara Arena as a non-gun zone. Seriously? It’s a ham radio convention. Bill Goodman is there at least once a month the rest of the year. Do hams bring their go-kits to gun shows? They must. Inquiring minds want to know…
- Suites. I did not do the contester suite thing. Was thinking of going on Friday night but fell asleep in my in-laws’ living room. This is a recurring problem when I visit so no one bothered to awaken me.
Was the trip worthwhile? I think so.
“What have you done to my play set?” This gym made a convenient place to string wires, etc. Two poles in the photo form part of the EWE RX antenna here at K8GU that was hastily erected before the NA Sprint CW. One of the poles is ty-wrapped to the play set. Doing my best to keep it klassy and impress the neighbors.
And, we’re up in the air! The M2 9M2SSB is a little bit out of alignment due to the hex getting tangled in one of the antennas that it was due to replace. I have already realigned that. So far, the antenna seems to have useful front-to-back. Gain is hard to tell since I took down all of the antennas it was to replace. But, it does seem to work. I’m suffering from high SWR (above 3) on both 21 and 50 MHz. G3TXQ warns of interaction between 18 MHz and 50 MHz. Do not yet know the cause, but I’m looking into it.
Although the antenna is relatively easy to handle, I don’t plan to make a habit of taking it down for work. Speaking of taking down, the 40m dipole whose center insulator is just visible behind the reflector of the 2-meter beam will be replaced by an as-of-yet-secret antenna.
In other news, the blog has been silent for a while, but that doesn’t mean things haven’t been happening. I have a couple of challenging projects that have been taking up the usual blogging time. Stay tuned!