IRMA!

Even though the storm track is still unknown, our Emergency Operations Center here in Tidewater Virginia is already in storm preparation mode. Since I work for the city communications folks, we have started assessing our readiness. Right now, we’re charging up spare batteries from our stocks. What we’re looking at is mainly a rain event, with all the ensuing flooding. there’s one apartment complex here that usually has the ground floor under water after major rain events.

Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma, predicted to turn North over Florida.

Our infrastructure should be OK. We just upgraded to the latest Motorola system version (R 7.17, if you’re interested), so everything has just been tested and is running fine. All sites have emergency power, so now we just wait …

The upcoming weekend is busy for me without all these complications. The XYL is having cataract surgery … it’s the Virginia Beach Hamfest on Saturday … I’m preaching Sunday at my church … lots going on. I will be on call as well.

73 de Dick N4BC

New Portable/Mobile Antenna

Based on several good reviews, I’ve picked up a Silver Bullet 1000 Take-It-Along Antenna Kit from Wolf River Coils. It consists of 3 – 33-foot radials, a tripod, an adjustable coil, and a 120-inch adjustable whip. Works from 80 through 10 meters. Quick setup and reasonable performance.

They were out of stock when I checked, so I looked at the “Lite” model, which is the same without the adjustable whip (and cheaper), and that was in stock. Guess they’re out of whips! I ordered a whip from Buddipole, and all’s well now.

Yeah, I know an inverted-V or a dipole would be more efficient, BUT … if it pans out, it should be the perfect tool for rapid setup in parks and portable operations. As a bonus, I could use it on the truck as well with a mag mount.

I just love experimenting with antennas!

73 de Dick N4BC

Issues with WSJT-X 1.8.0 rc1

Well, everything was going along well … no problems … just great! When I booted up the computer the next day, max power out had decreased from 20 watts to 5 watts. Can’t get it above that. I didn’t change anything, and I can’t find anything in the computer that’s changed … audio levels the same, right source for the audio … everything the same. No changes to the Signalink USB or the radio settings. Just can’t figure it out. All the computer settings are the same for PSK-31 with FLDigi and power out there is the same as it always has been.

Well, I have enough to keep me busy with other modes, so I’ll just wait until the final version is released and see if it gets fixed. Just odd that it did that all of a sudden.

73 de Dick N4BC

IARU HF Contest

Wow … first time I’ve participated in a major contest in a long time. Not a truly serious competition … only about 150 QSOs over the 24-hour period. Enough for me, though. All S&P (search and pounce, if  you’re not familiar with the term), and all CW.

Had contacts on all of the bands except for 80. Eighty was really noisy … I could hear some weak signals, but they obviously couldn’t hear me. Forty was good and twenty was also good. Fifteen and ten were workable, but not a lot of signals that I could hear. There were some strong ones though!

I’ve already got my LOTW logs uploaded, QRZ, ClubLog, and eQSL uploaded, and imported the N1MM .adi file into my logbook. Contest —> DONE!

The Yaesu 450D performed well. The DSP was a blessing to use. I really could bring a lot of the signals out of the mud and to a comfortable listening level.

All in all, it was fun … no regrets. Lots of stations, and I didn’t see any poor behavior … everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. That’s the way it should be.

‘Til next time, 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

Looking up …

Not literally … I meant that conditions improved quite a bit over the past couple of days. Forty meters really seems to be the workhorse, but twenty had its moments. I was working JT-65 and JT-9 with one hand, while doing some catching up on paperwork with the other and the waterfall was full, with stations stacked on top of stations. I would transmit a CQ and at least two stations would decode coming back to me. Midwest, East coast, and Europe were all workable. Lots of fun!

Yesterday afternoon, I adjusted the hamsticks for my truck using my handy-dandy MINI60 Antenna Analyzer. Yes, I parted with my hard-earned cash and I must say, I’m really pleased with the device. It’s well-built and does what it’s supposed to. With the Bluetooth linked to my smartphone, It’s easy to see where the resonance is … the answer is just a scan away. I’m hoping to get some portable operations in from some nearby parks soon, now that the weather is nice.

So, I’ll catch you later.

73 de Dick N4BC

Updates

I did get on yesterday afternoon, using JT-9 and had propagation into the US and Europe. My signal reports were not great, but were obviously sufficient for QSOs. I was hearing them much stronger (in most cases) than they were hearing me. I have GOT to get out this weekend and try to get my Cobwebb antenna put together and raised. Now that the weather is improved, I really don’t have any excuses. I guess it’ll REALLY upset me if it doesn’t perform better than my homebrew wire vertical!

I’ve been looking at the SARK-100 MINI-60 Antenna Analyzer and AM impressed. I have a MFJ-295 and it works fine, but a graphical analyzer (with BlueTooth now, as well as USB!) and functional PC and Android software is almost too good to pass up at the price point (~$140). If I keep on like this, I’ll eventually talk myself into springing for it. That’s how it usually winds up!

Well, back to work … later!

73 de Dick N4BC

On again!

Well, I’ve been somewhat of a slacker … my last sustained activity was in February. I just had an accumulation of things that couldn’t be put off any longer that took precedence. I’m still not out of the woods, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

I have managed to get some JT activity the past couple of days. Yesterday, in particular, seemed to be pretty good propagation during the early afternoon, but I didn’t have the time to get much operating done. Ah, well … I can only hope!

The weather is decidedly more cooperative lately, so maybe I’ll have a chance to get the cobweb antenna up, and do some portable operations from the truck as well. I checked out my FT-817ND and the associated mobile and portable goodies the other evening, and I think I’m OK there.

I got a couple of QSL cards this week, too! That’s an unusual occurrence for me nowadays. Back in the “good old days,” it was NOT unusual to get a few cards every week. Of course, when I was rare DX, I used to get LOTS of cards every week. Times change.

Well, I’m about finished my lunch break at work, so let me get back to work. See you later …

73 de Dick N4BC

Frostfest 2017

I made the annual trip to Richmond for Frostfest, leaving at about 7 am for a drive of a little over an hour. The crowd seemed to be a bit bigger this year, and the vendors seemed to be doing a lively business. The video below was taken about noon … the crowds had thinned a bit, and people were also grabbing lunch.

I saw a few old friends … Rob, Al, Dan, Darrell, Will, Charlie (I’m terrible about callsigns). We talked about a variety of stuff … none of any great importance in the overall scheme of things. Still, it was great to see them and catch up.

I attended a couple of forums, both very interesting. the first was on DMR radio and I learned a lot from that. The second was a Winlink forum. It was interesting, but I don’t think I will ever get into it. It’s primarily used for ARES/RACES, and I don’t participate due my status as “critical personnel” during an emergency because of my job in public safety communications.

I hung around until the bitter end so I wouldn’t miss the grand prize drawing ($1000 to be spent at the Hamfest). There were several other unclaimed prizes drawn then, too. As usual, it was a bust … no goodies for me.

I DID have a great day, but my back and feet are a bit tired. All I bought was about $40 worth of powerpoles and coax connectors. Then again, that’s all I planned to buy, unless I saw a deal I couldn’t refuse.

73, everybody de Dick N4BC