Up, Up, and Away

I tuned in to Tom, W5KUB’s videocast last night. One of the guests was Bill, WB8ELK, who is quite an authority on balloons, telemetry, tracking … well, all things “balloon”.

Bill and his balloons!

He’s been on the roundtable before, but I usually catch the broadcast after the fact, on YouTube, and then I just skim through the “good parts” (strictly subjective). This was the first time in a long time that I have watched it live, start to finish, and really paid attention to everything.

Fascinating“, is the first word that springs to mind. I was rapt. I never really knew much about this balloon sub-genre of ham radio. This is really neat stuff. If I were a bit younger and had more free time, I would definitely be into this part of the hobby. Unfortunately, it’s all I can do to keep up with my present interests.

The other parts of the broadcast were interesting, too. It’s well worth the time to check it out … either live or on YouTube later. You can find details at w5kub.com, or on their social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter …) accounts.

73 de Dick N4BC

Changes …

I took off early from work today to tackle a task that I’ve been wanting to get started on … and also dreading … rearranging the equipment in the shack. I would look under the table at the rat’s nest of wiring and just shudder! And the dust bunnies … sound like a regular zoo under there, doesn’t it?

So, every thing disconnected and placed out of the way … all of the old cabinetry removed and discarded … then everything placed on the new shelving. Here’s the result:

N4BC

The shelving is a “shoe rack” that I purchased from Amazon. It’s perfect for what I wanted to do.

Mind you, it’s still a work in progress. It’ll never be this neat and clean again. As a matter of fact, it’s a lot more cluttered now, just a few hours after this photo was taken. I already made a couple of POTA contacts from the new configuration.

73 de Dick N4BC

Shellfish and Volts

Yesterday was only partially about radios. I pulled the trigger on a Bioenno BLF-1212W/A, 12V 12AH LiFePo4 battery and charger. My old SLA 12V 7AH battery was not cutting it any more, so I have upgraded to the new chemistry. By all reports, it should be a quantum jump for my portable operations. It’ll even allow me to use my FT-450D when I need more than 5 Watts.

I ordered from my favorite ham store, Ham Radio Outlet in Woodbridge, VA. Always great service from them. I had shipping confirmation from them within hours, and being so close, the order should be on my porch today or tomorrow. The USPS tracking leaves a lot to be desired … I sometimes receive an order before the USPS says it’s been picked up 🙂 .

The wife and daughter and I went out to the Surf Rider restaurant in Poquoson, VA for a belated Anniversary dinner last night. Our wedding anniversary was Monday, but Monday being a holiday (Memorial Day), the restaurant was closed. I had a plateful of juicy, perfectly fried Chesapeake Bay oysters. I seem to be stuck in a rut … I almost always order oysters here. Love ’em!

It’s been HOT here … 94 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday and 57% humidity, with 97 degrees being called for today. Uncomfortable, but certainly nothing compared to those folks in the Midwest, with tornadoes and flooding. Terrible!

73 de Dick N4BC

Rough Copy …

I was working POTA stations in the upper reaches of 40 meters, and you wouldn’t believe how rough the copy was … or actually, maybe you would. Summertime is here … terrible deadly thunderstorms in the Midwest … the general elevated noise levels in our normal environment … all combine to raise the noise floor on the lower bands to the point where many signals are on the cusp of being unreadable. Quite a few of the stations are using low power and compromise antennas. That, coupled with the heterodynes from AM broadcast stations, drive you to distraction. The QSB tantalizes you by raising the signals above the noise and then just when you’re ready to copy something critical, dashing them down into the mud. Life is hard 😀 !

But … help is available! Today’s SDRs really have the capability of pulling some of them out of the hash (I have an IC-7300). Yesterday, I resorted to using all of the bells and whistles I could … auto notch, noise reduction, twin passband tuning, RF gain, tone controls … even the outboard audio filters in my speaker enclosure. All helped to give me just enough of an edge to copy some of those “unreadable” stations. DSP RULES!

So, what’s the moral of this story? Use all the tools that you have available! Yes, many of the older radios have beautiful sounding audio and great sensitivity, but today’s modern radios offer many tools that were not even dreamed of when those radios were designed and built. We truly live in amazing times!!

73 de Dick N4BC

Checking the Log …

I was looking back at my log today … this POTA park chasing is really increasing my SSB numbers 😀 . Most of the operators (not all, though), are using phone. I AM up to over sixty parks worked now.

I did a bit of FT8 last night … nothing spectacular. I was being heard all over the world, but working mostly stateside and Europe. All contacts are good though … even if I don’t need them, maybe they need me for my state … or grid … or something 🙂 .

The weather has been beautiful the past couple of days. Why are the weekdays beautiful, and every weekend rainy and stormy? At least, that seems to be the case. On that same note … it’s really nice to drive to work at a quarter to six in the morning, and the sky is already getting light. I don’t miss the pitch-black drive at all.

I just built a Porta-Paddle II Kit from American Morse Equipment, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it. The instructions were clear and it went together with a minimum of @#$%!&*. I got the heavy base, and it doesn’t go anywhere when I send … it’s solid! I paid $94 for the kit.

OK, that’s about all that’s new … catch you later!

73 de Dick N4BC