Tag Archives: Echolink & IRLP

From eastern Kansas to the California Sierra Nevada – QSO with KD6EUG

Back in December of 2011 I got this email from my dad, Larry (KD6EUG) about the severe storm damage to his cabin in Mi-Wuk, California – located in the Sierra Nevadas:

The big pine tree that is located at the corner of the back deck, the one that we used as the center for all our antennas, split in two and about 90 ft of it landed on the back deck and cabin/garage. All the dining room windows and sliding doors are blown out. There is a 6″ separation between the garage and the kitchen. The PG&E power meter and feed lines to the power pole are ripped out. The wind had gusts of over 35mph.

Dad

Here are a few of the picture I received over the next few days showing the destruction:




My dad and I had a great field day from the cabin back in 2009. It was quite a blow to see what nature had delivered.

It has been a long path since December 2011. Through diligence and perseverance, my dad was able to revive the cabin. The work was finally completed this past summer.


We had another scare with the Rim Fire back in August and September. The fire actually came within a few miles of the cabin but fortunately the firefighters were successful in stopping it before it could do any damage.

My dad is now up there enjoying the California QSO Party from the cabin in Tuolumne County (…sometimes a pretty hard-to-get county in the CQP).

We have tried on several occasions to attempt HF QSOs while he has been at the cabin and I have either been here in Kansas or when I was stationed in Virginia. We never had much luck and have primarily used my EchoIRLP node as the best way to chat (IRLP Node 3553/EchoLink Node: KI4ODI-L 518994). Well, our luck changed today. We decided to give it a go prior to the CQP and started at 10Ms and worked down until we got to the 15M band. On 21.400 MHz we had brilliant success in carrying on an HF QSO. I’ve already send out the QSL card to confirm the contact.

With my coming retirement from the Army, I am going to have the opportunity to head back out to the California Sierra Nevadas this next June for Field Day 2014. I am looking forward to that!

What’s going on in the hamshack?

(1) Two shelves are up. I offloaded my computer that handles the weather station, my printer, the EchoIRLP node, and the TM-D710A that supports both the weather station via APRS and the EchoIRLP node. I put wheels on the hamshack table after I moved it from the rental we were in to our current house. This raised the table to the perfect height, allowing my chair to slide under. The wheels also allow me to swing the table out to get to the back side and take care of any wiring issues with a fair degree of ease. But the weight of the equipment that piled up on the far end of the table made it hard to move. With the equipment I rarely touch placed up on the shelves, the table is much easier to move.

(2) I got my West Mountain Radio Super PWRgate PG40S hooked up. And it works! Additionaly, I have an UPS hooked up. So I should be good for backup power to run the weather/APRS station.

(3) The maps are up! I have the world map and a North America map. It looks like Millennia Arts no longer produce these maps. Who can blame them? I purchased these maps in 2006 and how many additional entities have there been since then? I’d imagine it is just not cost effective to produce up-to-date, high-quality maps like these.

(4) My kindergardener had a weekend project to collect 100 of something. Why not a 100 QSL cards? I dug through my pile pieceing together a variety of cards. Not quite ready for DXCC submission, but going through my tub-o-cards has motivated me to organize my card collection (… and prep for my DXCC submission).

(5) Speaking of QSL cards, it is time to address the “log problem”. Since my first DX contact (VP5VAC, 21 May 2005, on 6M), I have jumped around to differnt logging programs (and different computer OSes). I have txt files, MDB files, and adi files. Logs from special event stations, lighthouse activations, Field Day, Iraq, Korea, and just sitting in front of the rig spinning and grinning. I have used LoTW and eQSL. I’ve also had a few different callsigns. It is time to establish the MASTER LOG. One-stop-shopping for all my contacts that exist currently as some form of a digital log. The tool to get me to where I need to be appears to be DX Shell’s Contest LogChecker. The application will allow me to take many different types of formated logs and combine them together.

(6) Were we speaking of QSL cards? Jeff, KE9V, says he is getting out of the QSL card game. [AE5X as well] I can understand his motivations and why he arrived at the decision to forego the hard copy QSL card. I may, someday, arrive at a similar decision. Although it looks like AA6E is proud of his card. But as of now, I still love QSL cards… desinging my own, sending them, receiving them, getting that fat package from the Buro, etc. That being said, I designed a new QSL card for my new QTH here in Lansing, KS:

…. I hope to receive them soon – and hope to work you soon so I can send one your way.

Ham radio and my year in Korea

Here is a a re-cap of my amateur radio activities during my past twelve months in Korea:

(1) DX – I enjoyed working a good bit of DX, enjoying most QSOs with stateside contacts as well as Pacific exotics. The greatest limitation I had was my operation location and resulting inability to ideally situate an HF antenna. Living in the barracks (the ultimate in CC&R) restricted any type of permanent antenna installation, further limiting my options. I solely used a Buddipole (which after many additional accessory purchases, became two Buddipoles). Despite the antennas being positioned next to a three story building, I was able to make contacts to North America, South America, Europe, and even Africa. I credit this to improved band conditions over the past months and also the Buddipole… it’s a keeper.


(2) EchoIRLP node – I brought my embedded EchoIRLP node to Korea and interfaced it with a Kenwood VHF/UHF rig. Again, with my poor location and inability, I could not have an antenna installed outdoors. Instead, I kept the Kenwood rig at its minimum wattage setting and used a roll-up J-Pole made from ladder line. With my HT also set on minimum power, I was able to make effective use of the EchoIRLP node. My primary contacts via the node were with the XYL back in Kansas. She has a mobile VHF rig, to include APRS. I could check to see when she was on the road for her morning or afternoon commutes, connect through my EchoIRLP node here in Korea to our EchoIRLP node back in Kansas. With the XYL’s rig set to the frequency of the Kansas node, I could frequently ride along with the XYL and harmonics as they moved about. Additionally, the Echolink capability of the embedded node allowed me to regularly talk to my dad, KD6EUG, while he connected to my node via an app on his cell phone. Another great enjoyment was the ability to monitor the different IRLP reflectors and sometimes participate in ongoing nets. I am sold on the flexability of the embedded EchoIRLP node and will take it with me again when I get deployed for a long duration.


(3) D-STAR – starting with a D-STAR Dongle, I moved to a DV Access Point and got an ICOM D-STAR HT. I enjoyed playing with D-STAR and the ease of having the Access Point as well as the IC-92AD (http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/ht/5092.html) made using D-STAR pretty straight forward. There is no aruging that the audio quality for D-STARS is poor. The complicated nature of setting up a rig at home for the XYL would also make D-STAR a poor choice to replace the EchoIRLP node. However, I enjoyed having the flexibility of having the ability of getting on D-STAR.


(4) Linux – all my radio operations here were supported by using the Ubuntu distrobution of Linux. After toying with CQRlog, I have settled on fldigi as my primary interface to my HF rig.


(5) APRS – although my APRS operations here were limited to the internet (Korea has virtually no APRS traffic), I used xastir (www.xastir.org) to show where my operating location was and also advertised my EchoIRLP node.


(6) WX station – never happen. I could not find a good location to place the collector, so it is still in the box. More importantly, wgoohat I didn’t get the opportunity to learn was how to interface a weather station to the APRS application xastir.


(7) Stars & Stripes article – I was able to discuss my amateur radio experiences with a reporter from Stars & Stripes.

Post-Christmas Wrap Up

Christmas has come and gone – we had a great time here in Kansas. We had friends over Christmas Eve for dinner. The XYL made a huge feast and I took advantage of the home cooking. Meanwhile, we tracked Santa via the NORAD/Google Earth website. At 7pm, we were actually able to raise Santa via EchoLink and the USA Reflector. The kids enjoyed talking to Santa and where able to get in their last minute requests. After the guests left, I helped the 5 year-old put out milk and cookies for Santa. Then it was upstairs for a bedtime reading of The Night Before Christmas. Once the harmonics were snug in their beds (… not sure about the dancing sugar plums, more like dancing Zhu Zhu hamsters), the elves went into overtime setting up for the following morning (to include hanging the stockings with care). With the work finally complete, I was able to watch the last 30 minutes of It’s A Wonderful Life. I have seen it a million times, but always enjoy the sappy ending.

Christmas morning finally arrived. With a flurry of discarded (and ever growing pile of) wrapping paper – treasures were revealed. Lots of toys for the girls – to include an astronaut Barbie doll for the 5 year old (oddly enough, they don’t make a ham radio Barbie). I received an excellent book: Array of Light: Straight Talk About Antennas and Related Subjects (Third Edition) by Tom Schiller, N6BT. My dad picked the book up for me at Pacificon and I was quite surprised when I opened it. Mr. Schiller is a prolific author of antenna articles, co-founder of Force 12, and the dad of one of my good high school friends. Little did I know back then that my friend’s dad was a ham radio guru.

Next out of Santa’s sack with my name on it was the DVAP.

The DV Access Point Dongle is a neat device that plugs into an internet-connected computer’s USB port and allows you to access the D-Star network without having to go through a local D-Star enabled repeater. With my Icom IC-92AD, the DVAP is a perfect solution to access D-Stars. With the IC-92ADs ability to monitor two frequencies simultaneously allows me to connect and monitor a D-Star reflector or repeater while also listening to my embedded EchoIRLP node. It is a veritable cornucopia of ham radio VOIP.

New Years’ Nets


 From: Dave Gingrich
 To: irlp at yahoogroups.com
 Sent: Friday, December 03, 2010 6:42 PM
 Subject: [irlp] Happy New Year announce

 Well, it’s that time again. The annual IRLP New Years Eve QSO party is set for (you guessed it) New Years Eve! Beginning at 1030 UTC Friday December 31 (30 minutes before midnight in New Zealand) through 1030 UTC Saturday January 1 (30 minutes after midnight in Hawaii). All on Reflector 9200. No net control stations, just stop in and enjoy party as the New year celebration wends its way around the planet! Welcome 2011!

 –
 Dave K9DC

I am in the process of getting an EchoIRLP node up and running back here in Kansas. Previously I have been using EchoLink to talk with the XYL. I’d use the iPad app from my QTH in Korea and connect to my wife’s EchoLink node here in Kansas – usually while she is mobile around the local area. Here van has a Kenwood TM-D710A and is interfaced to GPS for APRS, so it is easy for me to see when she is out and about. I’ve now brought online my EchoIRLP node in Korea and thought it would make communications a bit more stable if I had an identical node back here in Kansas.

The node here in Kansas is:
IRLP node: 3553
EchoLink node: 518994

It looks like the EchoLink side is experiencing some difficulties right now, but the IRLP side is good to go.

In addition to the IRLP New Years fun, the hams here in Leavenworth run a New Year’s Eve check-in net called something like the Buffalo Chip Net. I have been able to participate the past two years and am looking forward to checking in this year as well. It is fun (and a little surprising) to hear the number of local hams check-in.

10M?

Last week was busy – I spent the whole time down in Seoul attending meeting after meeting with my evenings spent on a bunk bed in a communal room (trying to save a little cash for Uncle Sam). The week was productive, but tiring. The main US military garrison in Seoul, Yongsan, has a lot of amenities that you will not find up at my camp. I got to enjoy many of the various restaurants located there as well as venturing off into Seoul itself, located just outside the gates. Two key finds in Seoul: a restaurant that serves American Chinese food and an Irish pub that serves Guinness from the tap. I enjoy Korean food quite a bit, but also like a variety. Most people know that Chinese food in the US does not come close to resembling the actual cuisine of China… and I have no problem with that. Serve me up some Orange Chicken or General Tsao and I am a happy man. Top it off with a fresh pint of Guinness… now you’re talking.

However, by Saturday morning I was still tired and unmotivated to put up my Buddipole… despite the lure of the 10M contest. I did have a QSO with my dad via EchoLink. He used an app on his Android cell phone and connected through my EchoIRLP node (EchoLink Node #496698 and IRLP Node #3370). My friend brought by some freshly made Hotteok. These pancakes are delicious and I enjoyed them while they were still hot with some coffee. Still wasn’t motivated to put up the Buddipole.

Sunday – the Buddipole went up. A 10M dipole with the Buddipole consists of only the 9.5ft whips on either side of the VersaTee. 10M was not really cooperating. In all I had only nine contacts: Australia, Malaysia, The Philippines, and Guam. Surprisingly, I only heard one JA and he couldn’t hear me. No stations from Asiatic Russia either.

After sunset, I switched the antenna from a 10M dipole to a 40M vertical. I thought I might look for some JA stations to practice my CW. I have yet to understand how the JA’s use 40M. The JAs can use phone down to 7.030 MHz. This compacts the CW to between 7.000 and 7.030 MHz. PSK-31 is suppose to be around 7.038, but I have never seen any PSK-31 traffic on 40M over here. I must be looking in the wrong place. Shortwave stations still come in at 7.100 MHz and above. So after sunset, all the 40M action is wedged between 7.000 and 7.100 MHz. So far I have not found any one band location where the QRS folks hang out (like the old Novice band in the US). Maybe with a bit more listening I can crack the code on how the JAs manage 40M.

As for the HLs… I’ve only heard two on the air. Where are all the HLs?

Here’s the good news… cue Bing Crosby… I am heading back to Kansas for leave this coming Friday! Christmas at home with the XYL and harmonics!!

A little DX


I spent Saturday filling out QSL cards, stuffing them in envelopes, and putting on $0.98 worth of postage for the USPS first class international air mail rate. To make life easier I ran both the return envelopes and main envelopes through the printer to get my address on. It would be easier to get some kind of mailing label sheets, which I think I will try to find when I get home for Christmas. Any way you slice it, filling out QSL cards and getting them in the mail takes a while. Keeping me entertained during the QSL card envelope stuffing session was the Insomniac Net through my IRLP node.

Sunday I woke up early and put up my Buddipole antenna, configuring it as a dipole for 20M. Exceptional DX catches for the day were:
UN7FU – Kazakhstan
WH0/WH7C – Northern Mariana Islands
FK8GX – New Caledonia Island
CW3TD – Timoteo Dominguez Island, Uruguay

I am continually surprised by my ability to work stations in South America. I’m not sure what path I am getting the propagation from. There is no one single time of day for my South American contacts – some are in the morning, others in the afternoon.


Today was the first day using my MicroHam USB III. The device is small, just larger than a pack of cards. The radio cable, which comes with the interface, is very well shielded. I used the USB III for both CW and PSK – the device worked well in both modes. Is the MicroHam USB III better than the West Mountain Radio USB PnP RIGBlaster? From a performance standpoint, I think it does a better. With PSK streams, I was able to detect and have QSOs with much weaker signals using the USB III. The fact that the USB III has its own soundcard is a big plus.


Almost done reading A Year of DX by Bob Locher, W9KNI. Bob details his year-long run in the CQ DX Marathon. The reader gets to sit side-by-side with Bob as he uses his Elecraft K3 and DX cluster alarm to work country after country. Bob demonstrates the importance of researching the various rare entities, determining when they might become active and how best to work them. The book is divided month by month, detailing the QSO with each new entity. Between the month chapters are useful chapters concerned with amplifiers, SSB phone techniques, and an amusing Walter Mitty-esque short story themed around DX contacts. I’m enjoying the book and recommend it (…potential stocking stuffer!).

4th of July

I have been here in Korea for just over two weeks and am settling in at Camp Red Cloud, located north of Seoul. I think I’ve done a poor job in the blog of laying out the last month and half in which there has obviously been some significant changes in what I am doing.

On May 20th, I graduated from the School of Advanced Military Studies, culminating my two years at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, knee deep in graduate-level text books and Army field manuals. One of the requirements for graduation was to write a monograph on a military subject. I choose to write on the early history of MARS prior to World War II, when it was known as the Army Amateur Radio System (AARS). During this years Hamvention at Dayton, I had the opportunity to present the paper and I am pretty happy on how it all came together. No significant research had ever been done on early MARS history so I spent the majority of my research combing through primary sources and even conducting a few interviews with the few remaining former members of the AARS. If you have an interest in MARS, the history of radio in the Army, or the origins and organization of radio emergency communications, the paper is available here at no cost. One facet to the history of the AARS that I found intriguing was the relationship that grew between the AARS and the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The ARRL recently posted a short article I wrote on the subject and you can see it here if you are interested.

My assignment following school was to Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division. To actually get there, I elected to take a less typical means of transportation for part of the journey. I decided to take Amtrak from Kansas City to Seattle, where I would board a government contract flight to Seoul. I had ridden trains quite a bit in Europe, but never had taken a train for more than a short distance in the United States. I had also recently read Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service, A Year Spent Riding Across America by James McCommons. If you are interested in passenger rail travel, enjoy a good road trip, or would like to know why train travel fell victim to the car culture, you will enjoy this book. The author, James McCommons, travels all the primary Amtrak routes (with mixed experiences) and talks with US rail movers and shakers around the country. Overall, he said Amtrak was good and getting better. I decided to see for myself.

One of the countries more historic and picturesque routes is that travelled by the California Zephyr. Originating in Chicago, the train traces its way west, climbing through the Rockies west of Denver and on to the Sierra Nevada’s an into California, terminating near San Francisco. My folks still live where I grew up near San Jose, so California was great for a stop over. I could then take Amtrak’s Coast Starlight from San Jose through Northern California, central Oregon through Eugene and Portland, then on to Seattle.

The train ride west was wonderful and I did write a post about it. The stop over in California was a lot of fun. Arriving during the early evening of Thursday, June 10th, I was able to get some sleep and meet my dad for some QRP portable field operations. We headed up to the Santa Cruz Mountains, above Saratoga, strung up a 40m dipole and had fun playing with my FT-817 and KX1. Although we didn’t achieve any great DX contacts, it was a great time. Saturday morning we headed over to a local monthly hamfest known as the Electronics Flea Market @ De Anza College. De Anza College is a little known junior college which has overseen the growth of Silicon Valley. Although I did not find anything I couldn’t live without, I enjoyed roaming around and seeing what the vendors had.

Before lunch, we headed over to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Founded in 1999, the museum opened long after I had left the Bay Area. Very cool museum!

Then it was back to the train station in San Jose and I hopped on the Coast Starlight and headed north. The train ride was relaxing with some amazing scenery.

I spent Sunday night in Seattle and caught a shuttle bus on Monday to SEATAC. Flying with AMC can be an experience and differs from a commercial flight. The AMC counter was located at the far end of the international terminal and I joined a long line of guys with short haircuts and heavy, canvas green bags. Although I had to check in at 7:00pm, the flight wasn’t scheduled to board until 1am. They didn’t pack the flight, so there was a little elbow room. Instead of flying directly to Korea, our route would take us to Anchorage, followed by Yakota (near Tokyo) and then Osan Airbase in Korea. We got to Anchorage, deplaned for fueling, reboarded and then sat for three hours. Apparently the weather was bad over Japan, so we were held over for about 24 hours in Anchorage. I had been stationed in Alaska during 1993-1994 and it was nice to see that midnight sun again (sunset at 11:30pm with sunrise at 4:30am).

From Anchorage to Japan with a short layover and then on to Korea. The rest of the story is here.

And on the amateur radio side of things… My equipment is here. I shipped over my Icom IC-7000 for HF and a Kenwood TM-D710A to use with my EchoIRLP node. Also on the way is a Davis Vantage Vue weather station that I hope to get on line and on APRS. I need to get my Korean license and have all the necessary paperwork. Just need to get it turned in now. There is a monthly hamfest in Seoul next Sunday that I am going to try an attend – that should be an experience and I will have to bring my camera.

Have you been enjoying Jeff’s new podcast at KE9V.net? Cornbread Road is a Jeff at his best, weaving a tale of mystery and amateur radio in the heartland.

I will endeavor to keep my blog up to date with posts about my experiences here in Korea.

DXpedition to the Land of the Morning Calm


It has been almost two years of having my nose buried in the books. The school work had a significant impact on my time for radio (school as well as the addition of a new harmonic just over a year ago). Other than last year’s field day, I have not been on the air that much.

My next assignment is in South Korea and I hope to have a little bit more time on the air while I am there. The process for getting an amateur radio license for South Korea is pretty straight forward. What I don’t know at this point is what my housing conditions will be like and how that will impact my ability to get an antenna up. Worse case will see me putting up an antenna for temporary/portable operations. Ideally I’ll get a dipole up or maybe even a mini-beam like I had in Iraq. The plan is to also get up an APRS weather station and I will bring along my embedded EchoIRLP node.

If my job allows, I will try and operate a MARS station in Korea. When I was in Korea during the early ’90s, there was a pretty active MARS station down in Seoul, but I have heard that lately MARS activity has diminished a bit in Korea. There is a long history of US servicemen operating on the amateur radio bands while serving in Korea. An interesting story of ham servicemen playing an early role with Korea goes back to the Korean War. Take a look at the March 1951 QST on Pg. 40 for “Hams Aid Korean War Effort” [it is available for download by ARRL members]. Looks like there is also an interesting book called SOS Korea 1950 that I will have to get. During the war and for a while afterwards, South Korea prohibited amateur radio operations. After South Korea came back on the air, they have made it relatively easy for US servicemen to operate.

Now I have to draw up my packing list of what to take. I am limited to the amount of gear I can take with me for my year-long tour, so I need to plan carefully.