FrostFest 2018

FrostFest was last Saturday, so I made my annual trek to Richmond to attend. It was clear, but cold, and waiting in the line outdoors to enter was not pleasant for me. I was bundled up in a heavy coat, and I was amazed at the people standing with me in just a T-shirt and seemingly comfortable!

The first thing I noticed was that the layout in the exhibition hall was different this year. All of the empty space was moved to the center aisle, making it a wide expanse and much easier to navigate than prior years. I was told the real reason was to allow less chaos with vendor vehicles coming in to offload equipment … evidently in prior years, navigating the narrower aisles was not pleasant.

One consequence of the wide open center of the hall was that it gave the impression of a smaller crowd this year. I read that the organizers have unofficially said that this year’s crowd was the largest yet. We’ll have to wait for the final count, I guess.

The only significant manufacturer there was Elecraft, but there were lot of second-tier vendors there, and LOTS of “tail-gate” individuals with tables. There was much nostalgic equipment there, and I did see quite a few “boat anchors” being carried out to waiting vehicles.

I spent most of the day attending the forums … DMR, Puerto Rico recap, ARRL, SkyWarn, and I did wander the sales floor several times, too. I actually didn’t buy anything this trip … my big purchase for the winter was a new IC-7300 on  Black Friday last year. I was looking for a shielded USB A-B cable, but didn’t see any, so I ordered one from Amazon when I got home.

It was a pleasant day, and worth the trip. I did take some things away from the forums, and I reconnected with several friends and acquaintances that I only see here every year at FrostFest. My congratulations to RATS (Richmond Amateur Telecommunications Society), the club that puts all this together and coordinates this. Well done!!

73 de Dick N4BC

Early Operating Impressions for the IC-7300

Oh, man … this is one smooth rig. Now I’m asking myself why I didn’t buy one of these IC-7300s months (or years) ago. I’ve gotten a bit of cockpit time on it and I am impressed. I’m sitting here reading the mail on some 40-meter SSB nets this evening, and between the PBT, Notch, RF Gain, Noise Reduction, and BP filters, I can tune out pretty much most interference and heterodynes.

Earlier, I was doing some digital operations, and it’s just so effortless. One cable – USB-A to USB-B. Setup was easy … plenty of documents and YouTube videos to help you along. G3NRW has a resource page with loads of information. Click on his callsign to visit.

The audio is superb. It’s pleasant to listen to and not tiring at all. I’ve been listening to SSB nets this afternoon while doing some other tasks in the shack, and I’m not irritated yet!

Tuesday evening is our club Holiday party. We’ll be having dinner along with one of the other clubs in the area. Unfortunately, it takes two clubs to muster up enough manpower to come up with sufficient numbers to reserve a banquet room at the restaurant these days.

More later!

73 de Dick N4BC

There it is again …

I had that problem pop up again where my output power in WSJT-X dropped to 5 watts and I couldn’t increase it. I fiddled and fiddled with settings and turned knobs and fiddled some more to no avail. Still good power out with FLDIGI and on CW, etc. So, that seemed to be a good time to have dinner. I returned from dinner and lo and behold, everything was back to normal. Windows 10 had just finished its big Fall update earlier in the day, so maybe that had something to do with it? Still an unknown …

I made a few FT-8 contacts on 80 meters, and a few more on 40 and 30, but 20, which is usually pretty good, just wasn’t cooperating with me last night. I tried calling CQ on JT-9 on several bands without any luck. Although I like the speed of FT-8, I like the sensitivity of JT-9 better. It can really pull the signals out of the mud.

Saturday I’m going to the QCWA Chapter 119 luncheon. Twice a year, it’s on my side of Hampton Roads (Newport News vs Virginia Beach). It’s the only time I get to see some of these guys. I’m not sure what the program is about, but it’s usually pretty interesting.

There’s a real chill in the air, now. Fall is officially and truly here. The past couple of mornings, it’s been in the 40’s when I leave for work at 5:30 AM. Used the heat in the house for the first time this season just the other night. Yep … Winter is coming!

73 de Dick N4BC

A little life in the ol’ bands (and me) yet …

It’s been a while, but I didn’t fade away … I’m still here and kicking! Most of my activity has been digital modes (and I include CW in that). Just last night, I worked a station about 150 miles away on 80 meters JT9 that I literally could not detect on the waterfall … zilch, nada, nyet! The waterfall was pretty much flat except for background noise, yet WSJT-X detected and decoded the signal. Spooky magic!

The weather has been a bit dodgy lately … HOT and afternoon and evening thunderstorms. Not conducive to safe operating. I did remember to renew my ARRL equipment insurance, though. The reminder was a particular loud and near BOOM! Didn’t affect me, but it sure made me jump! this weekend’s forecast is for mid 90’s and heat indices in the low 100’s. I think I’ll skip portable operation until we get a break.

I missed field day this year … didn’t get a chance to participate at all. I had family obligations. Oh well … maybe next year. I really missed getting together with the guys. At the club meeting last night there were lots of photos and talk about how much better we did this year than last year.

I had a neighbor’s tree drop in our yard, so now it’s MY tree. I have to get out there with the chainsaw and knock it down to size. It’s not a big trunk, thankfully … about 4 inches in diameter. If it wasn’t for the hot weather, it would be an easy job.

Well, that’s enough for now. Catch you later!

73 de Dick N4BC

Some CW Action this evening

I’ve had some luck this evening working CW. There were some pretty strong signals coming out of the Caribbean and Central America … ZF2, HR9, PJ4 … etc. They were working pileups (mostly into Europe with some North Americans – me being one of those). All good operators, and just knocking them off, one after another. Not the most leisurely QSOs … more “Slam, Bam, Thank you Ma’am”. BUT … a contact in the log on an otherwise poor evening is a contact in the log!

Had a little lightning and thunder in the area this evening, too. I would think that as cool as it was today, that’s unusual.

Our repeater trustee wants me to give him some help setting up and interfacing our new Yaesu Fusion repeater with our RLC-2 Controller this weekend, so I guess I will give him a hand with that. We’re finally getting it installed SOON, I hope. Seems like it’s been forever since we lost our old tower site.

73 de Dick N4BC