Posts Tagged ‘Uncategorized’

Yet in Quarantine, Life Blossoms!

About a month ago, I asked,

What is going on with you during this challenging situation?” and, “How do you use amateur radio, now that we are all stuck at home?  Are you using ham radio more, now?  Less?

I am moved to say, “Thank you, to each of you who commented and even those who made a video response. I sure appreciate it!

During that video blog (or, Vlog), back a month ago (link: Chat From a Quarantined Software Engineer – Welfare Check!), I mentioned my need for dental surgery. 

I did have to have the tooth removed.  It was completely split down the middle (top to bottom), down to the root.  There was no justifiable way to save the tooth. 

I now am missing two bottom back-most teeth, and one bottom, back-most tooth.  I can report that I have healed up nicely.  I am starting to enjoy a hamburger or two.

Through all of this, I’ve still been working. Also, I’ve been involved with a LOT more ham radio–especially with Morse code activities.

How has the last month treated you?  After watching this new video (below), please leave a comment or two, or three; let hear from you, okay?

More than anything, please leave a comment to let me know how you are doing.  I hope to hear from you.

Here’s the video:

73 de NW7US dit dit

 

Not Getting It

ARRL announced today that they have filed comments with the FCC requesting a dismissal of the Petition for Declaratory Ruling filed by New York University (NYU) regarding digital encoding and encryption.  This petition basically claims that proprietary and closed protocols like PACTOR violate current FCC rules, an opinion I’ve had for several years.  I think the AMBI vocoder used in D-STAR and other digital voice modes falls into the same category as well as it’s not openly documented, like the rules require.  Due to the lack of documentation and openness, such encoding is de facto encryption, which is prohibited.

ARRL’s filing has me smacking my head.  Rather than openly addressing the issue of protocols in amateur radio that are closed and proprietary, they attack the language proposed by the Petition.  Furthermore, they pull CW into this, stating,

The proposed prohibition arguably could include, presumably unintentionally, CW (Morse Code), which is a longstanding means of encoding transmissions. The very fact that messages sent in CW are “encoded” by any definition of the term starkly demonstrates the problem with this proposal.

I’m not sure if ARRL is intentionally being obtuse or just doesn’t understand the crux of the issue with “un-openly” documented digital protocols.  CW, while technically encoding, is 100% openly documented, and has been for a century or more.  It doesn’t require proprietary hardware, software, or algorithms to decode.  PACTOR until most recently could only be decrypted with proprietary hardware.  AMBI and others continual to be closed protocols.  That’s the problem, not semantics over the proposed language in the petition snagging CW as encoding, and encryption.

A few weeks ago I started writing comments to file with the FCC, but I quite honestly lost interest.  I don’t have a horse in this race, other than wanting to see amateur radio continue on well into the future.  I’m just disappointed ARRL doesn’t get what the real problem is, doesn’t make an effort to correct it, and fails to even acknowledge that closed digital protocols are antithetical to the openness and historical foundation of amateur radio.

This article originally appeared on Radio Artisan.

CW Part 3

I thought I would post another in my series about learning CW. You can go back and find my previous two posts if you would like to catch up.

I wrote in July this year that I had made a single CW contact this year, which was a big mess. Since then I have have completed the CW Ops Academy Level 2 course. I have to say that this course helped me a great deal. For those not familiar with CW Ops Academy, more information can be found on their web site. Their courses are highly regarded and are very good. The goal for our class was to be pretty solid at about 15 wpm receiving and sending. I didn’t quite hit that goal, but I did improve a great deal comparing my ability before and after the course. I probably was not as prepared for the class as some of my classmates were. Also starting a new job, my practice time was interrupted a bit as well.

Since then, I have logged about 40 CW contacts. I am not able to spend a lot of time operating and squeeze time in here and there. Most have been quick, QSO party type contacts. A few have been short contacts trading signal reports, name etc. I have yet to get brave enough to try a slow rag chew, but will someday soon.

The highlight of my short CW operating career was making a CW contact with VP6R on 15 meters. This was the Pitcairn Island DXpedition. I tried making a contact via SSB phone and grew frustrated as I was unable to succeed with my small station of 100 watts and a wire antenna. I decided to try CW and found them operating on 15 meters one afternoon and start listening. I understood the exchange, figured out the split operation, and waited for a lull in the pileup. When VP6R called CQ, I transmitted my callsign and heard them respond with my call and we completed the exchange! It showed up in Clublog a day or so later. I experienced the ability of CW getting through where I could not with SSB phone.

If you are thinking about learning CW or just beginning, I want to say it’s possible and you should be able to learn it. I seem to be learning a bit slower than some people, but I am making steady progress. I am using several tools in addition to the CW Ops Academy materials. My favorite resources, but not a complete list be far, have been:

  • CW Ops Academy Classes (I & II). I am not ready for Level III yet. The courses are free and well worth the time and effort.
  • K7QO Code course. I have copied all the files to my phone and can play them in my car when I don’t have passengers.
  • https://lcwo.net/ Free online lessons and exercises.

There are many other resources for learning CW. There are a lot of phone applications for both Android and iPhone, many other websites and programs you can download and install on your local computer. Those listed above were just three that I use the most.

Good luck learning CW & 73!

MFJ JOINS CORPORATE PRIZE DONOR LIST

RIDGELAND, MS – August 23, 2019 – The list of corporate prize donors is growing for the Homebrew Heroes Awards program. MFJ Enterprises of Starkville MS has agreed to donate a key prize for the workbench of the Hero in 2019. “We owe our corporate success to the practice of homebrew electronics in amateur radio,” said MFJ Founder and President Martin F. Jue. “MFJ is delighted to support this annual award. We sell a high volume of parts to the homebrew and maker community. It’s in our business interests to encourage and support hams and other enthusiasts to design and build things that contribute to this space in the hobby. And, it’s just good business to encourage it, too!” Martin added.

MFJ has identified the popular HF/VHF Two-Port Graphic Antenna Analyzer sold as product number MFJ-225. The 225 uses free downloadable software to access the vector analyzer through a PC. Richard Stubbs, Customer Services Manager at MFJ says that “It has all the basic analyzer functions plus a host of advanced features like a built-in LCD graphics screen, two-port VNA measurement, PC-Interface using IG-miniVNA freeware, precise DDS frequency control, and is self-calibrating.” Mike Enis, Manager at MFJ, says that the MFJ-225 should enhance most every workbench that uses RF circuits, especially through the S-parameters that the device measures, all without a lot of computations required without a two-port vector device.

We owe our corporate success to the practice of homebrew electronics in amateur radio.

MFJ Founder and President Martin F. Jue
MFJ 225 Dual-Port Analyzer
George W5JDX on the MFJ-225 Dual-Port Analyzer

Homebrew Heroes Award Steering Committee member, Frank Howell K4FMH said that “MFJ’s joining our corporate donor list with this test gear shows leadership in the amateur radio maker space. We are delighted that this corporate list is growing in support of our annual award winner.” Details on the new awards program can be found at its website.

MFJ Enterprises, Inc., was founded in 1972 by Martin F. Jue. The company began operations in a small rented hotel room in the old Stark Hotel in downtown Starkville, Mississippi. The company began marketing its products in October of 1972. The first product was a high selectivity filter that would enable a receiver to separate one Morse code signal from scores of other signals that were being transmitted over the radio airwaves and was offered as a kit to homebrew builders in amateur radio.

New Homebrew Heroes Award…

Ridgeland, Mississippi— July 8, 2019— Today, the ICQ Podcast (icqpodcast.com) announced a partnership in the founding of the Homebrew Heroes Award by three members of the podcast. This annual award is to recognize persons, groups or organizations who help define the frontiers in amateur radio technology through the long-standing tradition of “home brew” construction. It is housed at the separate website, homebrewheroes.org.

“We felt that with all of the technical homebrew activity in amateur radio today that there should be a means by which to identify and highlight those whose technical creativity has made a clear impact on the hobby,” said Frank Howell, K4FMH at ICQ Podcast (icqpodcast.com). “Our recent visit to the Hamvention conference in Xenia, OH convinced us that the traditional homebrew craft and science is alive and well,” said Martin Butler, M1MRB from London. “But there was no clear means to bring additional and independent attention to the fruits of their labor,” added Colin Butler M6BOY, of County Kilkenny, Ireland. “My background in strategic marketing and information technology led me to believe that the time was right for such an award,” he added. Howell stated, “If you look at some of the workbenches for many successful homebrew entrepreneurs, their equipment is vintage, to say the least, so our awards program may assist them in getting corporate support through donated products to enhance their future ability in this maker-space.”

The new awards program is independent of the ICQ Podcast but these three podcast members comprise the Steering Committee for the annual award. These include Martin Butler M1MRB, Colin Butler M6BOY, and Frank Howell K4FMH. The ICQ Podcast is a promotional partner in this endeavor while the Homebrew Heroes website is maintained by Howell. “The idea for this awards program originated while we attended, for the first time, the Hamvention in Xenia, OH. It struck the three of us that this was another way to give back to the hobby,” said Martin Butler.

Other podcasters in the homebrew electronics maker space have applauded this new program. Jeremy Kolonay KJ7IJZ, co-host of the wildly popular Ham Radio Workbench (hamradioworkbench.com) said, “When I heard about this new award program, I was very excited. The homebrew electronics community in amateur radio has grown tremendously as our biweekly podcast has attempted to track and encourage. It’s really important to have a way to recognize and promote excellence achieved by the most successful participants.”

“Commercial companies have begun signing on to donate prizes to the future recipient,” said Howell. “Digilent Inc., a National Instruments Company, immediately told us that they would contribute their highly successful Analog Discovery 2 test device. Kaitlyn Franze, Software and Hardware Product Manager with Digilent, said, “When I learned that this was being planned, I immediately said that Digilent would like to be a corporate prize sponsor. Our market base has been significantly impacted by amateur radio operators who design and build equipment in this maker space. Digilent is proud to be on board with the Homebrew Heroes Award Program.” Other companies have expressed positive interest and are evaluating the right product to donate. Howell added, “We anticipate that this donor list will grow with the awareness of the awards program.”

Founded in 2008, ICQ Podcast (icqpodcast.com) is one of the more successful amateur radio podcasts in the world. It is published every two weeks and has a team of a dozen international presenters on the podcast, based in the United Kingdom.

###

For more information on the Hombrew Heroes Award:

https://homebrewheroes.org

Graphic Logo: https://homebrewheroes.org/index.php/about/

CW Part 2

In 2016, I posted that I was learning CW by taking the CW Ops level 1 course. I did complete the class, made two on air QSO’s then life got in the way of the ham radio hobby and until recently, I left CW alone. In January this year, I decided to get started again and set a goal to make 100 CW QSO’s by the end of the year.

I started reviewing the CW Ops materials I had from 2016. I also copied the all the K7QO code course mp3 files to my phone so I could listen to that while in the car. In addition to those two things, I am also trying to listen to live QSO’s on the radio. Most of them go too fast for me to not miss a bunch of characters. Some QSO’s are difficult due to timing or no spacing. I heard a CQ call that sounded like “CQCQdeCallSignk”. There were no spaces in between the characters or words. One long string of dits and dahs.

So far, I am making progress. I relearned the alphabet, numbers and a few punctuation marks, and am trying to gain faster recognition so I can understand more.

I did make my first CW QSO of the year last week. It was a bit of a mess but we managed to actually exchange enough info to make an official QSO! That lead to an exchange of emails and this fellow ham and I made another scheduled QSO and he’s going to help me make more so I can practice CW! Gotta love the ham radio community!

If anyone is thinking of trying to learn CW, do it! If I can do it, then I think most people could do it as well. It’s going to take some effort and time but what doesn’t? 73.

My Last Post Ever Regarding ARRL?

In the past I’ve been a strong proponent of ARRL.  I often mentally tied the past and future success or failure of amateur radio to the organization.  I’ve come to the conclusion that this just isn’t the case, and in my evolving opinion the organization is becoming less relevant as time goes on.  The elected leadership hierarchy to me seems archaic.  I tend to doubt the slate of new blood “change” candidates which got elected will change much, as long as the majority of ARRL leadership, and to some extent the general population of amateurs in the US, continues to have the demographic makeup that it does.  My life membership has essentially become a good deal on a perpetual magazine subscription, assuming that I don’t get hit by a bus anytime soon.  I’m convinced it’s non-centralized grass roots efforts from individuals that are going to make or break amateur radio in the coming decades.

So, one of my 2019 “amateur radio resolutions” is to stop worrying and pontificating about ARRL, and be that individual that leads my own grass root effort.


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