Mobile install

I have my HF mobile up and operational again. The setup I had last summer was with a stake pocket mount with my Tarheel Stubby 75 towards the rear of my Toyota Tundra’s bed. The problem with the stake pocket mount is that the Stubby 75 kept coming loose. I ordered the MT-1(S) mount from Tarheel. I had the MT-1(S) mounted on the inside of the bed of the truck towards the rear. The trick is getting the thing secured to the side. For this task I enlisted the help of the local body shop which did the job for under $40. The mount and antenna are now incredibly secure. I have to redo the PL-259 connector connector from the feedline to the base of the Stubby 75 – should have time to do it after school on Friday. Oh… and this picture is not actually of my install but thought it looked like some good intentions gone wrong. I will try to take some pics of my mobile install and post them this weekend.
In other news… EI9FVB emailed me confirming his receipt of his YI9MI QSL card. That’s great – hopefully the others will be receiving their cards soon (if not already).
… last but not least, it looks like the ARRL store has field day shwag for sale.

Force 12 From Santa Cruz

In an attempt to improve his antenna situation my dad, KD6EUG, was perusing Craigslist and found a seller in Santa Cruz that was looking to part with his Force 12 Sigma 5. I had just been reading about this antenna on one of NE1RD’s blog’s:The 100lbs DXpedition. Scott used his Sigma 5 on a few DXpeditions and reported good results. The Sigma 5 is a 5 band (20-17-15-12-10) vertical dipole. This should be easy for my dad to setup at the home QTH in San Jose, CA and also up at the cabin in the Sierras. I also have high hopes that this antenna will allow for an HF QSO between my dad and me. And a big thanks to Jack, WA6FYD who was the previous owner of the Sigma 5. I got to exchange emails with Jack – he’s retired military and a devoted CW aficionado.

Kind of looks like a toaster

I think I have come up with a good home networking storage solution: the D-Link DNS-323. This network storage device can do quite a bit. It arrives out of the box without drives – you have to supply them. I like this because I can determine the types, speed, and size of the drives. My solution was two 1.5 TB drives running at 7200rpm. I configured the drives for RAID 1. This gives me only about 1.5 TB worth of storage, but if a drive fails all I need to do is swap in a new drive and I will be back in business. The device connects directly to by networks hub and can be configured using a web interface. The firmware on the device is linux based and allows for ftp and telnet. Other interesting features include UPnP, iTunes server, and print server. I already have a print server, but later on that feature might come in handy. The UPnP works great with my Phillips Streamium device. I have not played with the iTunes server yet, but I think that will be fun to see how it works.

Linux in the Ham Shack

I found an excellent podcast focusing on using linux in support of amateur radio. The show is hosted by Richard, KB5JVB, and Russ, K5TUX. The first episode debuted in October 2008 and as of this month there are a total of 8 episodes with another episode due any day. Richard is a good ol’ boy from Dallas, TX and it is worth listening to the show just to hear his banter. Russ is the brains behind the operation. There is also a forum for discussion.
I am trying to find a good logging program that I can use. Under Windows I use Ham Radio Deluxe, which is hard to beat with all its features. Is there any piece of linux software that is a feature rich?
There is CQRLOG. This looks like a fairly new piece of software that is described as: an advanced ham radio logger based on Firebird database. Provides radio control based on hamlib libraries (currently support of 140+ radio types and models), DX cluster connection, QRZ callbook (web version), a grayliner, ON6DP QSL manager database support and a most accurate country resolution algorithm based on country tables developed by OK1RR. CQRLOG is intended for daily general logging of HF, CW & SSB contacts and strongly focused on easy operation and maintenance.

How-to: Mount a Network drive in Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a great distribution of linux – setup is quick and painless. However, mounting network drives can sometimes get tricky. Here is a great reference to get through it.

From the blog Automaticable:

#1 First you will need to install the “smbfs” package. This is what we will use to mount the drive.

sudo aptitude install smbfs

#2 We will also need a folder to mount the drive in. I used /media/public.

sudo mkdir /media/public

#3 Then, we need to edit /etc/fstab. This is where we add all the information needed to find and mount the drive. Open /etc/fstab using the command:

gksudo gedit /etc/fstab

At the end of the file add the following lines:

Mount our network drive
//SERVER/SHARE /MOUNT-POINT smbfs guest 0 0

Where “SERVER” is the name of your drive on the network. This can be either a name or IP address. For example, mine was “MAXTOR”. Replace “SHARE” with the folder in the drive you’d like to mount– mine was “Public”. “MOUNT-POINT” is the directory we created earlier, such as “/media/public”. The rest of the parameters have to do with permissions, and also where you can add advanced options. For more information on the advanced preferences, see

man mount.smbfs

#4 The final step is to tell the system to reload /etc/fstab and mount our drive. Do this with the command:

sudo mount -a

Then, you’re done! At this point you should be able to see the files in your drive with the command

ls /MOUNT-POINT

More info here.

Another antenna book?

I am really enjoying this book. I have many of the ARRL books on antennas (and there are many) but I have found this book to be indispensable in understanding how antennas work and why. It starts with basic, simple antennas and builds from there. I was especially pleased to read one of the sections by Tom Schiller, N6BT. Mr. Schiller works for Force 12 and is an antenna guru. But more importantly, he is the father of Traci Schiller, one of my good friends from high school. The Schiller’s backyard backed up to Foothill Expressway in Los Altos, CA and you could always see Mr. Schiller’s massive tower. I wish I had been involved in the hobby back then and gotten a tour of Mr. Schiller’s shack. His article in this book is about how every antenna will work, but some work better than others. He does a great job of differentiating between great antennas and antennas that get you on the air. He also shows the rate of diminishing returns you receive at a certain point. I am enjoying Simple and Fun Antennas for Hams and recommend it if you don’t have a firm understanding the basics of antennas and would like to experiment, build your own, and attempt to master the mysteries of the aerial.

YI9MI QSLing

I have devoted a significant amount of time to plow through QSL cards for my YI9MI operation in Iraq last year. The highlight was getting a few cards with actual valid CW contacts. The hard part was sending QSL cards back to folks who had contacts with the CW pirate station. I know this isn’t a news flash, but why does the Post Office never know what to do with an IRC? I handed over a stack and it took a few phone calls before the postman working the counter said I could get one 0.94 airmail stamp for each IRC. I know that is not the right answer, but at least I got the QSL cards in the mail. So now all the direct QSLs have been taken care of and I will get the QSL BURO cards finished by the end of the week. I have never used the ARRL’s outgoing QSL bureau before, so this will be a learning experience.
I have been reviewing the rules this year’s field day. It looks like my dad and I will be running a 2B field day site. Now we have to figure out what antennas we are going to use. I would like to try a wire vertical in addition to the flattop dipole we are putting up.

Strategic Communications

The title of this post is a little misleading. As I mentioned before, I am attending the Army’s Command & General Staff College (CGSC) here at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (… I bet you thought I was out here in Kansas just for the nice weather). One of the new requirements we have as students at is to egage in “Strategic Communication”. Wikipedia defines strategic communications as: communicating a concept, a process, or data that satisfies a long term strategic goal of an organization by allowing facilitation of advanced planning. Our requirements as students to engage in strategic communication does not exactly line up with that definition, but I think it gives you an idea of where the Army is headed. The bottom line is the Army wants to develop officers who are familiar and comfortable in dealing with the media in order to get the Army’s “message” out. In the past the military has been traditionally media shy (understatement), either making heavy use of the “no comment” or deferring to our public relations officers. No more. The Army recognizes this is the new media age and those that get their story out first, in a clear and understandable fashion are likely to better garner public support… both domestic and international. Okay… so back to school. My requirements, as related to strategic communications, are to: (1) participate in an actual media interview (television, print, or radio), (2) speak to a community group, school, or other organized gathering of citizens, (3) write professionally by submitting a letter to the editor, Op-Ed piece, or article for publication, and (4) participate in a reputable blog about their military service.

#4 is pretty easy. I think I can figure out how to blog.

#3 not too hard. I can either repurpose one of my existing papers and send in to a newspaper or I can try to be original and maybe send something in to ARRL.

#2 is a bit harder. What I have decided to do for that is put together a presentation of amateur radio operations by military members who are deployed… kind of a DXpedition in a Combat Zone. I have a lot of information on amateur radio operations by folks in both Afghanistan and Iraq and I can use my own experience as well. Then I have to find an amateur radio club to give the talk to. Ideally I need to have all of this complete by the end of March.

…and #1. That is the hardest, in my opinion. Knowing the challenge of this particular requirement, our instructors are allowing us to get credit if we are able to call and get on a radio talk show. This interpretation makes the requirement a little less severe. Now I have to find a radio talk show to call. There are several here in the Kansas City area that I am scoping out:
KCUR: Up To Date
KMBZ: Shanin & Parks

I also found some great advise on how to be prepared before I call at both NPR and KCUR.

Wish me luck.

Weather Display problems

I have been using my Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station along with the Weather Display software since the start of January without serious issue. I also have not been on my HF rig much. I’ve noticed over the past few weekends when I did key up the mike for a short QSO that the Weather Display software had locked up. The computer is still functioning, to include UI-View32 but Weather Display freezes. After a little testing, it looks like this only occurs when I transmit on 20M at some point above 50-75 watts out. I played around with a few ferrite chokes on cables between the computer and my IC-7000, but it did not fix the problem.

I need to fix this problem. I can’t have my weather data locking up every time I want to get on HF.

This week I am going to tear apart the station and try to isolate the problem. I am also using the opportunity to put sliders on the legs of the table which will allow me better allow me to pull the table away from the wall when I need to get behind the gear.

Station goals


I set a few goals back in July and thought I would take a look at my progress:

What I want to accomplish in the Kansas Shack:
- HF phone and CW operation; 80m-10m
- HF digital modes (PSK-31, RTTY, PACTOR III)
- Computer logging
- 2m FM base station
- APRS weather station, interfaced with a dedicated 2m transceiver
- Online weather page, showing current weather conditions
- Separate, organized workbench

HF phone and CW operation; 80m-10m – my HF activities are centered around my IC-7000. I would like to get the TS-930S up an operational, but I am afraid that is not in the budget at this point.

HF digital modes (PSK-31, RTTY, PACTOR III) – I am using my RIGblaster Plug & Play for digital modes… other than PACTOR III. I have not yet hooked up my SCS PTC-IIusb Modem.

Computer logging – I do have Ham Radio Deluxe loaded now, but I want to find a good linux version.

2m FM base station – currently the FT-2800M for the job. I do have some plans to move my IC-208H from the truck into the shack. That will give me a 70cm capability in addition to the 2M. The truck is getting a new rig… more on that soon.

APRS weather station, interfaced with a dedicated 2m transceiver – I am using a FT-1500 for the job, connected to UI-View32 and receiving data from the Davis VantagePro2. The problem here is that I only have the one antenna up so this limits my ability to hop on the local repeaters from the shack. I need to either get a coax switch to be able to switch between the two rigs or put another antenna up.

Online weather page, showing current weather conditions – yes indeed… I think this is working pretty nice.

Separate, organized workbench – also a success… although it seems to be too crowded with stuff. The best part is the pegboard for tools – I no longer have the problem of quickly locating the tools I need.

Overall, I am happy with the progress I have made getting the shack in shape. What I want to work on now:
- New antenna for HF
- Fix up the ARSIB
- Get the SB-200 amp working
- Transition all shack computers to Ubuntu linux