Monday, March 18, 2019

A photographic trip with QRP

Intrepid Mk 3, lenses, film, KX2
I read Tim KA9EAK's two recent postings with a greater-than-usual amount of interest a few days ago as I was preparing to dip my toes into a different type of photography.

Later this week I'll be heading to central Texas in hopes of photographing the wildflowers that are in bloom this time of year. Mainly bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, they literally carpet pastures in blue and red.

A few months ago, I re-entered the world of upside-down photography via a view camera that shoots 4x5-inch sheet film.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

DXing with FT8: An operator will be with you shortly

I was a fairly early adopter of FT8 and, like many, embraced it full-on right from the get-go.

Many of its advantages appeal to me:

  • QRP friendly
  • poor propagation friendly
  • ability to listen to music while operating

and there are others.

What I don't like about it - and this is particularly true in the Fox/Hound mode - is the knowledge, that with a rare DX entity, I'm not working DX. I'm waiting in line to be worked by the DX.

Waiting their turn to be selected


Working rare DX on FT8 requires a DXer to substitute skill for patience. You are waiting in line - nothing more.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Two significant new features in SDRuno v1.3

SDRPlay has released version 1.3 of SDRuno (the software that runs their SDR receivers) today and it contains two new features: IQ Out and a scanning function.

I'll probably tinker around with the scanning function later but I've been waiting a long time for the IQ Out implementation and wasted no time in putting it to its intended use - enabling my own local CW skimmer.

A YouTube video by Mike KD2KOG explains how to set up the software for CW Skimmer with my SDRduo. There's not a lot of CW on right now but there is enough to show that it's working quite well:



My own set-up differed a bit from what's explained in the video in that I have to set my VFO to 14.035 to cover the bottom 70 kHz of the 20m band. I'm not sure why only 70  kHz since I do have a 192 kHz sampling rate selected in the newly installed VAC and in the set-up menu in CW Skimmer.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

How to compel hams to buy a clone of your product

mcHF, RS-918, OVI40
Most developers and innovators of ham radio products go to lengths to ensure that their carefully crafted designs don't fall victim to intellectual theft that is seemingly endemic to Chinese culture.

This is true not just of ham products but of anything electronic and of many things in other categories, from shoes to cameras to...well, everything.

One ham radio developer seems hell-bent on encouraging theft of his product. As a result, his creation is probably the single most cloned (stolen) product in our hobby - the mcHF by Chris M0NKA.

The mcHF is a small SDR QRP transceiver kit that has a lot of the features I want in a radio. Specifically, these are:

  • Portable, small, lightweight
  • SDR architecture
  • No need for connectivity to a PC for CW, SSB operation
  • A single USB connection to PC for digi modes, ie no 'Audio In' 'Audio Out' 'PTT' etc
  • Panoramic display, split VFO capability, full 10-160m coverage

I've almost ordered a mcHF several times over the years. What stopped me? Several things.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Lagniappes, tapas and other morsels

A few brief tidbits:

My many-yeared history of successfully building kits is now sullied - in the Slop Bucket II, I've met my match. With the last component installed, the moment of truth had arrived. Application of power resulted in - nothing. Well, there was a soft audible "pop" in the headphones. Only this and nothing more. Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore (Poe would say).

I have a 3-part plan and am happy to report that the first two parts have already been accomplished:
  • Cry
  • Curse
  • Troubleshoot
I think my first checks will be for DC power...checking to see if 12V and 5V is everywhere it's supposed to be. Hopefully, it won't be - and that would be an easy fix.

In the meantime, a voice inside my head is asking, "What were you thinking - you're not a phone op?"

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The 7P8LB DXpedition 8-16 March) is now on the air from Lesotho and they are making use of QSO Director to display their frequency, mode of operation and near real-time log. I'll be looking for them on 17 and 80 meters. Solar conditions being what they are, 80m will be the easier of those two bands.

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Speaking of DXpeditions, team leader Dom of the upcoming 3Y0I DXpedition to Bouvet recently announced that Wayne N0UN will no longer be managing their website and "is stepping back for personal reasons". Neither the Rebel DX Group or N0UN's personal websites seem to exist anymore. Now it is just the 3Y0I Team. Good - the air smells better already and I'm happy to support their endeavor.

And I'm very much looking forward to their post-DXpedition report where they name names of those attempting to sabotage their operation. They've already indicated that this includes "the ones who didn’t succeed recently, and now trying to torpedo our plans" "The ones who didn't succeed recently" reference can only mean the 3Y0Z team. If true, what an ugly chapter in DX history.

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Yesterday was the first 10-minute episode of the ARRL's new podcast, "So what now?" and you can listen to it here with an annoying commercial interruption halfway through.

It's a very basic podcast meant for newcomers to the hobby and I wish something similar had existed in my Novice days.

It's sometimes hard to remember how daunting the hobby once seemed with no online forums to ask for clarification on topics barely understood. I remember being so naive that I thought mentions of a band being "closed" were legal in nature rather than ionospheric. To me, a closed band meant that we weren't allowed to operate there for the time being, like a closed highway or business.

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March 16-17 is the 30m Multi-Mode Weekend, an event whose goal is to "promote experimenting and using different digital modes on 30m".

Details can be found here and other info on the sponsoring group (the 30m Digital Group), including awards, is here.

If you've ever wondered about a digital mode other than FT8, this might be a good opportunity to try it out. And, with so many ham stations now configured for FT8 it's a simple matter of mouse clicks (rather than hardware additions) to operate any of those modes. I may give Olivia or Opera a try - or JS8Call a re-try.

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It's a great hobby, mostly.
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