Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder …

Been absent from here for a while, but I’m still around. I’ve been busy with numerous things, and my daughter is graduating from high school this coming Saturday. It sure seems there’s a lot more stuff leading up to graduation than there was 50-some years ago when I graduated. I’ve been listening a bit when occupied with other tasks, but the bands have seemed pretty lackluster lately, and noisier. Guess it’s summertime.

Hopefully, I’ll be re-energized after the furor of graduation dies down … at least until she heads off for college in August :-).

73 de Dick K4FTW

Computer Crashes and Antennas

I spent a bit of time last night working the various QSO parties (IN, NE, 7QP) and had a pretty good time. N1MM kept crashing the computer, and I couldn’t figure out what had changed since I last used it. I was using the FT-450 hardware file for my FT-450D, and had had the occasional crash before, but it was getting worse, so I decided to try the FT-950 file. Night & day, folks. I haven’t had a crash since I changed, and everything seems to work OK. I guess the FT-450D is a lot more like the FT-950, since they are both SDR digital DSP boxes. I’m not sure how the FT-450 is different in how the computer sees it.

I want to say a couple of words about the W1SFR End-Fed 40 – 6 m Antenna that I bought from Steve at kx3helper.com and used for the first time last weekend. This is a quality product and Steve really stands behind what he sells. Just because the website says kx3helper, there’s plenty there that’s useful for other small portable rigs, too. Yeah, sure … I could have built the matching network in a box myself and cut some wire and had something functionally equivalent, but what I didn’t spend was TIME. Between work, family, scouting, and church, I don’t have a lot of time. I treasure the (too few) moments that I have to myself to do ME things (like ham radio). To me, it’s worth buying it ready to go. Visit Steve’s site and see what he has to offer, especially if you like portable operation.

Well, that’s about it for now. 72 and 73 de Dick K4FTW

Hammin’ in the Woods

Operating has been pretty spotty lately. I’ve just been so busy with other things that radio has had to take a back seat. I have worked a few of the W1AW/x stations, but not much else.

This weekend, though, I did get on the air in a different manner. I am also a Scout leader, so I took all of my portable gear with me on a weekend camping trip into the woods. I wanted to expose the kids to ham radio, and gauge the interest for participation in the Radio Merit Badge.

This was really the first weekend I’ve had the time (and the decent weather) to get out and do some portable operation. This past winter was too nasty for me to trek to the woods and do ham radio!

I had the Ten-Tec R4040 QRP transceiver, the ZM-2 tuner, and a 40-6 Meter End Fed antenna with 9:1 balun from Steve at kx3helper.com, along with the assorted odds and ends needed to connect everything. The antenna was up in a “L” configuration, no more than 20 feet high at its highest point.

I powered up everything from a 12V 7AH battery, tuned up, and got on the air. The Florida QSO Party was going, and the signals were pretty good. I answered a few stations and they came right back to me. I was impressed. I was even more impressed when I noticed I’d made quite a few QSOs with the ZM-2 in the TUNE position … I wasn’t even connected to the antenna! I flipped the switch, and the results were much better!

This was the first “Field Test” of the entire setup and I was duly impressed. Everything worked just like it was supposed to, and I had several of the boys (and adults) interested in learning more. It was really a great weekend in all respects.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Virginia QSO Party

I got a few QSOs in for the Virginia QSO Party. Once again, life interrupted Ham Radio :-). I only had 39 QSOs this year, quite a few less than last year, but what I did was still fun. It’s one of the great QSO parties … pretty laid back, compared to some. Unless a station has a run going, they’re usually willing to have a few words with you.

So, Spring starts this week, and they’re predicting rain, sleet, and snow tonight and tomorrow. It’s a cold rain outside this evening, and it looks like the rest of the night is all downhill. I’m hoping for warmer weather by next weekend. I’m going on a Scout camp out with the Troop and hope to get in a bit of qrp portable operation while in the woods. Although we’ve had some nice days in the past couple of months, they were just that … days. No real spells of “outside” weather.

Well, I’ve got to import my contacts from N1MM into my log and email the Cabrillo log to the QSO party folks. After that, I think I’ll just relax and do some reading, Don’t get to do that as often as I like.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Antennas and One and Zeros

Digital modes are addictive. I’ve worked several days now of JT-9 and JT-65 and managed to pick up a few new states that had been elusive in the past. I tried a couple of different software programs and settled on WSJT-X with JT-Alert and linked everything to my DXLab software.

I was noticing a few tuning issues on my vertical antenna, so I finally went out to the back yard and checked it. It’s a 31-ft wire on a Jackite collapsible fiberglass pole and one of the sections had collapsed. I had a wire tie at each joint to keep that from happening, but I guess this one was not snug enough or had slipped. Anyway, to make a long story short, I re-extended the pole section and twisted it to lock it.SWR readings are back to normal now.  I’ll put another wire-tie on it when I get around to finding one :-).

Tomorrow is a Holiday — President’s Day, so maybe I’ll have a chance to get some operating accomplished. I did work a couple of stations in the ARRL International CW contest this weekend, but those don’t count as a ragchew, for sure!

73 de Dick