Yes… the bands are open

Like you needed me to tell you about it.

I was initially licensed in 2001. Finally upgraded to General in 2005. Up to this point, my ham radio career has been under less than optimal propagation. From the oldtimers, I’d heard tales of 10 meters… when the sunspots where there, 10 meters could be worked around the world with only a wet clothesline (not even wet, just a bit damp). Frankly, it was hard to believe. My one prior 10 meter contact had been an opening QSO during the 2006 Field Day… Virginia to New York, some serious DX? [I thought so at the time.]

We’ve all heard the news… 10 meters is open. But from an HF standpoint, I was limited to my Buddipole, where I was nugging out CW contacts on the 40M Novice Band.

This weekend I threw up some wire and everything changed…..

Europe, the Caribbean, Alaska, 10 meter magic! (… I thought 6 meters was The Magic Band?) 10 meters was like a local 80 meter ragchew without the S5 noise floor, everybody has a 2KW amp, and the vast majority of the inbreds were nowhere to be found.

Thanks be to Apollo – may the sunspots continue!

Time to look about getting a 10-10 membership…. and, with a little luck, I might even have the cards for DXCC.(!)

…. need to put a map up on the wall.

Ham Radio Deluxe vs fldigi

I’ve recently re-established my station here in Kansas. The majority of all the components of my station I was using previously in Korea: Elecraft K3 rig, a Dell Zino PC, using the MicroHam USB III as an interface between the radio and computer. The Dell Zino PC is configured for dual-boot: Windows 7 and Ubuntu. Last year I spent a good deal of time configuring fldigi, under Ubuntu, to fulfill the majority of my amateur radio automation requirements (rig control, logging, digital modes). After a bit of trial and error, I had fldigi working quite well.

Once I was back here in Kansas, I had a problem configuring the K3 – CW, as a mode, wasn’t working. Figuring I had messed up a setting, I reset the K3… which ended up not being the smartest move. Up to this point, I had never updated the K3′s firmware or backed up the settings. I (incorrectly) believed that Elecraft’s configuration software was for Windows only. An email to Elecraft generated a quick response with a copy of the software configuration file for my specific rig.

Weeks past as I avoided getting the hamshack into proper order. The hamshack became the default location for stashing half unpacked boxes. Once I finally made serious progress in sorting through and organizing everything, I was able to get to the K3 and PC. I booted up Windows 7, connected the PC to the K3, updated the firmware, and reloaded the original factory software settings. Things were looking up.

I decided to see if Ham Radio Deluxe under Windows 7 was easier to use than fldigi. I updated Ham Radio Deluxe to the current version and then attempted to get the MicroHam USB III to work. Frankly it was a pretty kludgey process. An additional program had to be installed to create a virtual com port in order to allow the MicroHam USB III to work. Configuring the soundcard, resident in the USB III, was also not very successful. Then I tried Ham Radio Deluxe, which had been my software of choice a little over a year ago. Bottom line, I was not pleased with Ham Radio Deluxe and decided to switch back to fldigi.

Booting into Ubuntu, fldigi worked from the get go…. rig control, log, and digital modes. For now, I’ll be sticking with Ubuntu and fldigi.

NOTE: Here is a list of settings that I use:

Fldigi config:
Rig control
- RigCAT
- /dev/tty/USB0
- Baud rate: 38400
- Toggle DTR for PTT

Ubuntu Sound Preferences
- Hardware: USB Audio CODEC, Analog Stereo Duplex
- Input: Internal Audio Analog Stereo [this confuses me, because I would expect the input would be associated with the USB Audio device (aka the Microham)
- Output: USB Audio CODEC Analog Stereo
- Application: No application

Wire in the trees…

Finally got around to hanging some wire today. At times it seemed like the trees possessed some type of magnetic properties, the wire clinging to every branch (… reminded me of Charlie Brown and his kite experiences). The good news is that the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher is still fully operational. I used the small air compressor from my wife’s emergency car kit to fill it up. Admittedly, the first couple of shots from the CSV19 were a bit off. But once I had the CSV19 zeroed in, I was pretty accurate. Thankfully the XYL arrived home and was able to help me with some of the finesse work of pulling the wire up into the trees. The G5RV is up and operational. Now it is time to start filling up the log.

Radio Works – I love your antennas but your website needs a serious update.

More good news… I should have my 2m/70cm antenna up on the chimney on Monday.

Autumn = amateur radio time

Out here in Kansas, on the eastern edge of the prarie, the leaves are turning and the first frost is upon us. The time is NOW to get the hamshack in order.

(1) My VHF/UHF antenna and Davis weather station NEEDS to get mounted up on the chimney. I have the mounting brackets – thin aluminium straps that circumnavigate the chiminey. However, the roof at the new QTH is basically three stories high and the roof itself is pretty steep. Too steep for me. The solution? I am trying to get a local roofing company to give me an estimate for the job.

(2) The HF antenna. In the course of sorting through all the hamshack flotsam, I’ve started to identify “stuff” I can part with. Already I’ve said goodbye to some old MFJ TNCs, the Kenwood TS-930S, and my old TinyTrak (thank you Craigslist!). There’s more to part with and I’m still in the process of identfying them (… like an ICOM PCR-1000, TenTec RX-320, and a D-STAR DV Dongle for starters). More importantly (and back on topic), I unearthed two in-the-package wire antennas. The first is an 80M OCF dipole from RadioWavz and the second is a G5RV+ from RadioWorks. Now I need to dust off the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher and let the tennis balls fly.

(3) Once I have my antenna situation under control, I can take the hamshack innards to the next level.

Questions to ponder:

Do I retain the hardcopy collection of QST magazines I’ve been carting around since 2005ish? Starting for the late 40′s, it is a solid collection up to 2000. It takes up a great deal of space and I have the same issues on CD. I’d like to find the collection a new (local) home, if possible.

My new job has me on the road – it would be great to take some gear on the road with me. What to take? Needs to have a small footprint. Sounds like a job for the KX1. What to use for an antenna?

Hamshack Hula

I have been steadily working at getting the hamshack into some sense of functionality. Back in June, everything was looking good. I’d moved everything from the old house to the new house and adjusted for the more “constrained” space that my shack now occupies. I was just about there… and then my household goods from Korea arrived. Lacking time to adequately put everything in its place, boxes ended up getting dumped in the hamshack.

The basement gameroom has been my primary focus for the last two months. We got the new couch, the arcade cabinet is working, the pinball machine needs a bit of work, and the cocktail arcade cabinet is doing great. Now that the gameroom is just about where I want it, I’ve turned my attention back to the hamshack.

Before I moved my workbench to the new house, I should have taken a photo of how I had the pegboard setup. Being gone for year and not using the bench, I had no idea of what I had hanging where. Today I was able to get the workbench in order after spending a few hours sorting through the boxes that had come from Korea.

I’ve also started parting with equipment I don’t need or will probably not doing anything with. The Kenwood TS-930S is now sold. Hopefully the Heathkit SB-220 will soon be sold. Also the Radio Shack HTX-242 that was in the XYL’s car until I upgraded her to a TM-D710A is sold. It is time to get rid of the FT-1500Ms as well. Being a proud ownder of the Yaesu VX-8GR, I can now part with my trusty Kenwood TH-D7A(G). I am continuing to rumage through the shack pulling out what I really don’t need. So far, Craigslist has been working well. I’ll use eBay as a last resort.

So with my efforts, I can actually reach my operating desk, turn on the computer, sit down.

…. now I need to get an antenna up, something more permanent than a Buddipole.