Time marches on

August 31, 2016

I’m a little embarrassed that it’s been over two years since I’ve posted anything. Admittedly, I haven’t been on the radios much. Of course, I’ve done the 13 Colonies event every July 4th. It’s almost the only time I transmit. And, while I complete it every year, I’ve since stopped sending in the form to get the certificate. I’m just happy knowing I did it.

I was particularly amused by some of the CB-like atmosphere. I don’t know about everyone else, but I had to take tests to get my license that covered things like radio etiquette. And it seems that most hams are elderly, theoretically mature, folks. I would think they would know that listening is as important as talking. And yet, while a station was trying to cut through the contacts, there’s always at least a handful of people who will burst on the freq and start broadcasting their callsigns before even listening to see what’s happening. Of course, maybe they can’t hear what’s happening.. which begs the question of, “Why are they calling a station they can’t hear?” Besides… unlikely. Nah.. you have ot chalk it up to rude.

Don’t think so? How about when the event station is “working the numbers”?

“Taking stations with ‘5’ in the call. Taking the ‘5’ stations…”
And you get at least one or more people with N1*** or KJ7*** or some such. And to make it worse.. the event station will try and pick out one caller.. “How about that station with 5 whiskey juliet?”

Will someone barge in who has no 5, whiskey or juliet in their call? Of course, they will!

Again.. “listening” is as important as “talking”.

It’s usually not long before someone calls someone else an idiot, which they seem to be.. and I’m waiting for someone to start yelling “breaker, breaker. <sigh>

Overall, I just think it’s amusing.

Some months ago, I was listening for satellites and, after not hearing anything for days, I realized that my rotor was kaput! It was always a stop-gap setup. I really wanted a full blown satellite setup and ended up using TV antenna gear. It sorta worked but I didn’t end up doing a lot of sat work. Maybe a better antenna system would have enhanced my experience and I  would have done more but.. I didn’t have the money to buy one at the time. Since I hadn’t used my Yaesu FT736 much, I decided to get rid of it until I decided to get serious about satellite. I made some contacts with it. It was cool. But I wasn’t using it regularly. I’ve been going through all the “stuff” in my life and getting rid of things I haven’t used in years. It’s sorta minimalism but not extreme. So that’s gone, along with the rotor.

I have a Yaesu 2mtr mobile that I was using for packet. But there’s really not much going on locally, other than APRS. I had thought about maybe doing some coding and coming up with some sort of useful and cool packet app but.. it’s been one of those “someday” things and I’m trying to break that habit. If “someday” comes, I’ll get the gear I need. In the meantime, I can use my HT for packet. (Packet’s cool like that.) I haven’t quite ditched the mobile yet. But I’m trying to live without it to see if I need it. So far, so good. It’ll likely come out of the shelf.

I’m kind of a radio voyeur and far more likely to listen to radio than talk. So I’ve been spending a lot of time tooling around HF and looking for digital signals.. rtty.. amtor.. etc. I like seeing if I can decode stuff. Obviously, a bunch of it is encrypted or in some format I can’t decode. But it’s a fun challenge to try.

Sometimes, I still think I’d like to get a CB so I could listen to that too. But then I tune those freqs up on the Icom. That pretty much reminds me why I don’t want a CB. Besdies, on there, I wouldn’t even know what to call myself that didn’t feel like a silly, self-assigned nickname. At least on the ham bands, I have a callsign I worked for.

Oh.. and, after a long vacation from it, I’ve started working with morse code again.

Packet (user) problems

March 30, 2014

There was really no packet in my area other than APRS. None. Nada. Crickets. So I was really interested when a local ham threw up a WinLink gateway that allows you to send and receive internet email over radio. Awesome! (Of course, it’s low speed and governed by ham rules.. no commercial traffic, etc. But it’s a great fallback method of email.)

The traffic on the system is really low. Actually, he recently told me I’m the only one who’s used it in.. what?.. a year? Even then, I don’t use it much. I’ll pull it up every month or so to make a connection and make sure everything’s still working. Unfortunately, the WinLink client doesn’t run under OSX so I have to pull up Windows and.. well.. that’s just a nuisance. So I don’t do it often.

At some point, I built a new Windows virtual machine and reinstalled WinLink. Went thru the settings. Fired up the client. No connection. What? Started in on troubleshooting, which led me to turning up the handheld so I could hear my tones going out. Not sure what it was but it sounded like a wounded camel. Oh that’s not good. I reset the PK-232. I swapped cables. I tried a different radio. Ugh.. clearly my old and trusted PK-232 has gone to it’s eternal resting place.

As much as I love my PK-232, I can’t afford a new one and, let’s face it, most of those modes can be done in software now. But I gotta have my packet. And, yes, I know that too can be done in software but the last time I tried it.. well.. I hated it and it never really worked for me. And, as I find myself saying more and more, “ain’ nobody got time for that”. So, I ordered a new PK-96, which also gives me 9600 baud packet.. not that anyone has it around here. But I’ll be ready.

My modem came in and I got it hooked up. Of course, you KNOW the 12v plug was backwards from the PK-232 but I got that fixed and the little beauty fired up. Had some problems getting the serial connection going and, in the process, went into the settings on the WinLink client.

You know that moment when you realize you did something stupid?

My serial connection to the PK-232 was at 9600 baud. In the process of reinstalling it, I had selected 9600 baud. What I DIDN’T realize is that I had set the WinLink client so the packet would be 9600 baud. The PK-232 doesn’t support that. (Not even the new one, which I’m not sure I understand).

Are you telling me that….? I swapped the new PK-96 back out and put the PK-232 in. Set the packet speed for 2400. Hit the start button and the CON(nected) lights up on the PK-232. Everything works fine. <sigh> What an idiot.

Well.. I’ve wanted to buy another packet modem so I can do some coding and testing. And, it’s nice to have 9600 available. I just couldn’t justify spending the money. Problem solved. The user problem? I suspect I’ll see that one crop up again.

Chris  AK4KZ

The shack

April 21, 2013

Messy shack

Shack stack

I’m lusting (yes, there’s no other word for it) for the Icom IC-9100 but thought I’d take a pic of the current setup before I waived the magic credit card.

Victory, sweet victory

August 22, 2012

Woohoo! First satellite contact. Thank you, Allen (N5AFV). Sorry to be such a noob but… baby steps. I was so excited, I forgot to log the call until after the fact. Logging the satellite is a little different. I’ll get it.

Chris AK4KZ

Sometimes I can be dense

August 20, 2012

Got up on YouTube today to look for satellite videos. Surely there must be something to gleen there to help me. I was specifically looking into tuning. I’m not acquiring the satellites. I can hear that I’m   not making it up there. The most logical thing is tuning. But I have my super-cool sat radio that tunes the Rx and tx at the same time. What could go wrong?

After a little digging and a few rabbit trails, I’ve got it. Tune in your Rx and then tune your tx independently. Perfect. Hey.. wait.  They’re running LSB on the transmit! Whoa.. gosh that would take me way away from the right freq. Perfect can’t wait to try. Next couple of passes were beautiful. Still couldn’t hear me. Huh. Next pass 

Couple more passes… well let’s try the FM bird. Tuning around to find the signal. You know? The receive sounds funny. Wait! There’s no UHF antenna hooked up. What a dope! Now.. it WAS hooked up so that hasn’t been my problem all along. But today? Yeah. That’d do it.

Tomorrow’s another day and more passes.

– Chris / AK4KZ

Hot radio room

August 15, 2012

Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated. I haven’t been on the air much because my house lacks air conditioning. Of course, the radios make it the hottest room in the house. Hence, it’s kinda miserable to sit in there are listen or talk. But I’m still here.

I did manage to lose a swr/power meter after an electrical storm. Thought for sure I lost my finals but some fiddling around and I was tuning up fine with the meter out of the path. Replaced the meter and all is good again. Whew! That was close.

Oh… and I walked through this year’s 13 Colonies event with no problem. Even got one station on CW. I also got the bonus station. Epic fail on the satellites though. Just couldn’t get a signal up there in any useful fashion. Have to keep working on it. Talking on the birds seems to involve some artistry I’m not privvy to yet.


– Chris /AK4KZ

Whole lotta shakin’…

March 31, 2012

Lots going on. Significant? Maybe not. But lots of things.

I’ve been listening to a lot of code on the air. I’m getting better at decoding, which was much slower than my sending. It’s easy to send. You know what letters are coming up. Decoding? Sometimes. Not always. So I’ve been trying to get faster with that. Or at least lose my place fewer times.

I bought the Heil Proset-IC headset. Now.. I’m not much of a talker but when I do talk, I want it to sound decent. So, I’m rockin’ that. And I found out that the pedal to my wife’s Casio keyboards makes a GREAT transmit pedal. Pre-wired with a 1/4″ plug, baby! Oh yeah!

My DX-CC dipole, which has served me so well stapled to a wooden fence, is now up suspended 20′ or so in the air. If I can figure out how to move some branches, I can probably get another 5′ or so out of it. But right now, it’s a step up. The only problem is that I think the new altitude has changed my propagation. There’s a group I listen to (and sometimes join in) in the mornings and I have a tougher time hearing some of those guys until later.. usually right when it’s time for me to go to work. But, the upside is that I think I’m hearing farther better. Transmitting will be the real test. Oh.. I also replaced most of my RG-8X with LMR-400.

On the scanner front.. I bought ProScan for my Bearcat. I like the logging a little better than FreeScan and, being a signal hunter, that’s important to me. I just came in from taking my MFJ discone out of the bush I jammed it into and putting on top of a couple used 2x4s nailed together and leaned against the house. I took some old dipole wire I had and wired the 2×4 “tower” to the fence. It ain’t pretty but it’s up there. Eventually, my plan is to get a couple 10′ PVC sections and replace the 2x4s.

Haven’t been doing much digital lately. I haven’t forgotten it. But there are just so many hours.

As far as Worked All States.. I haven’t contacted MT at all and I have to confirm LA MI NV NJ OK SD and VT. I also have Hawaii, which I talked to but I have no expectation that it’ll be confirmed. There’s a QSO manager.. in another state.. not sure how LoTW knows that I talked to HI if my QSO is confirmed in Oshkosh… or where ever. That’s fine. We’ll just consider Hawaii untouched. I mean, it shouldn’t be hard to do it again, right? I’ve been slowing down on WAS though because I’d really like to get one using CW so I could qualify for the Triple Play. I think it’s more price money. (I’m kidding. I know there’s no prize money. It’s just a personal challenge.)

Satellites.. well, I’ve pretty much written off the idea of controlling my FT-736R by the computer. The support in HRD is nonexistent without a workaround that provides partial support. I have no memory management programs that know what to do with the 736. MacDoppler supports it but it didn’t really seem to act right. And.. perhaps the worse yet.. when I hook up the CAT cable, I get a low but definite hum from the receiver. Cheap cable? Maybe. That’s not so bad, I guess. Part of me wants to fully automate the satellite station but the other part of me wants radio without computer. So.. I’m not heart broken. It’s easy enough to tune manually. The part that’s concerning me now is that I’m not sure how to tune it for receiving UHF and transmitting VHF. I’m assuming you have to change VFO modes but it still seems wonky. And.. I haven’t been able to tune into an FM bird to check it. On the other hand, my UHF yagi is kludged into a bush right now so.. not quite time for disappointment yet. I simply don’t know.

I’ve got a cheap TV rotor in. Just waiting to get a ladder to get on the roof to install it (and my 2 mtr J-pole). I’ll fix the Yagi up to 20 degrees for now to at least get to the satellites. Later, this year, I’ll go for the Yaesu G5500. (hopefully before July)

But all in all.. slammin’ good time!