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

Weekend Project

So … I’m almost ashamed to admit that I have had a BTech UV-5001 2m/70cm mobile rig sitting on the floor in my shack for a looooong time, instead of mounted in my truck where it could be put to use. Hey, I’m talking MONTHS here, folks.

MY WEEKEND PROJECT is to get it mounted and wired this weekend, so it’s not just used as a paperweight. I don’t know why there hasn’t been more of a priority for getting it done, except the fact that the repeater scene is pretty un-busy around here. It’s nice to have when you want or need it, though, so I’ll bite the bullet and “git-er-done”.

On another note, I was on 80 meters last night and made a few JT-65 and CW QSOs. They are out there, folks … you just have to chase them down and lasso them.

73 de Dick N4BC

Hamfests

I made the annual trip to the Virginia Beach Hamfest last weekend … not sure I should have bothered. Yeah, yeah – I know we need to support the hobby, but this was pretty pathetic. No major manufacturers, no first-tier retailers, no tailgating, and the prices that sellers figured their boat anchors were worth … wow!

I remember the crowds and aisles of sellers not that many years ago. I guess the internet has really caused cutbacks in the numbers of both sellers and buyers, It was nice, though, to actually put your hands on that new or used rig before parting with your money.

I guess the “Good Old Days” are gone forever, though. I’ll keep buying a ticket to support the hobby and keep attending, just in case I see something … anything … I want or need there.

73 de Dick K4FTW

In a Real Rut

I seem to have settled into a rut lately. I get home from work, turn on the rig, and work a few JT-9 contacts, and then shut down. I think I need a bit more spice in my life :-). I hereby resolve to try and inject more variety into my ham radio practices. This weekend, I think I’ll do a bit of PSK and a bit of CW, and MAYBE even a little SSB. If it wasn’t so darned hot and humid (106 deg. heat index), I might even venture a little antenna work and generator servicing.

I’m at work right now waiting for the HVAC guy to show up and service the failed A/C unit at one of our radio sites. I don’t like to see high-temp alarms at my sites!

I just finished up a week long class today on Motorola Networking Essentials. I learned a lot and am looking forward to more classes this summer. These classes are a result of us updating our analog trunking system with a new P25 digital trunking system. It’s all IP-based, so networking is an integral part of the infrastructure.

73 de Dick K4FTW

DIgital and Low Power Stuff

I finally got around to setting up WSJT-X and JT Alert on the new laptop, and found quite a bit of action. I worked 18 stations (mostly Europe and the US) in a couple of hours on 20 Meters. I seemed to have a lot more luck on JT-9 than on JT-65. Sort of like watching paint dry, but I did fill in a few missing digital Grid squares, prefixes, etc in the meantime.

QCWA Chapter 119 activated Fort Monroe National Monument recently, and although I couldn’t lend a hand with the operation due to a prior commitment, I did manage to work them on CW. I haven’t heard how they did number wise, but it was a beautiful day to be operating portable.

We’ve found a site for W4MT, our 146.73 repeater. We lost our previous site and had been searching for a new location for quite a few months. In the interim, we’ve been having our Tuesday evening club net on the WN4HRT repeater.

Overall, the bands have not been the greatest, but the digital modes offer an opportunity to make contacts with lower power. I made those 18 contacts this evening using 10 watts to a vertical tied to the clothesline pole. Nothing sophisticated about that, folks! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Don’t forget, CW was the original digital mode.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Celebration of Life for Bill, WB4UYA

Before Bill passed away, he told his family that his wish was for them to throw a party in memory of him, and to invite all his ham buddies. Well, today that happened. We met at Nick’s at Gloucester Point for a celebration and get together. Everyone was given 5 raffle tickets upon arrival and had the opportunity to buy more.There were several HF radios (Icom 746, TenTec Orion) and several VHF/UHF radios (Kennwood TH-F6A, several mobiles) raffled off, along with miscellaneous items (RigBlaster, antennas, microphones, a fifth of Jamieson’s, etc). Not to be forgotten was his collection of coffee cups.All proceeds of the raffle went to the ARRL. I won the Kenwood TH-F6A and several coffee cups.We had a great lunch as well, and left laden with our wins and lots of fond memories of Bill.

de Dick, K4FTW

Back Again

I seem to show up here apologizing for not posting in a while quite often. What is it they say? “Good intentions pave the highway to Hell” … or something like that. Anyway, I have been somewhat productive. I’ve been experimenting with a homemade magnetic loop antenna for QRP operation, and it looks promising. I am AMAZED at what I can hear and work with a 13-ft loop of wire at ground level on twenty meters. Sure, it’s obviously not as good as a beam at 75 feet, but I can get on the air and communicate with it.

I also finally gotten around to loading FLDigi onto the new laptop. I expected a lot more trouble, as I remembered that there were problems when I first started using it. I must say, WIndows 10 cooperated wonderfully. The setup seemed to go much easier, too. Maybe experience counts for something.

I’ve been lurking on 20 meters in the digital portion of the band (14.070+) and reading the mail. Just trying to get a feel for QSO content and so forth. The last time I really was serious about RTTY/PSK/DIgital/etc. was when I was operating as VQ9RB on Diego Garcia. Those were the good old days … hamming pretty much every night from the club station, and a great bunch of guys. Some now Silent Keys and others still very much alive and kicking. It was a good mix of people, too. Navy guys who were fluent in CW and Merchant seamen (mostly Radio Officers who, in those days, were REALLY CW ops). Satellite communications on ships was fairly new, and CW was still required. Me, I was one of the few there that did CW only for fun! For all the others, it was job-related.

I think the first time I ever did RTTY was when I was VQ9D or S79D in the Seychelles. I had a Commodore 64 computer with a plug-in module on the backside that generated the keying signal. Worked great.

Well, enough reminiscing. Look for me again around the digital frequencies. I’d be pleased to have a chat.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Computer work

Well, I was going to be good and get that 80M antenna up in the air last night, but rain and thunderstorms took care of that idea. The weather is supposed to continue this way for the next couple of days, so I decided to do some work in the shack. I needed to back up the laptop, since the last time that was done was in April. I saved an image to my 1TB external drive, so that’s done now. I also made an image of my newer Dell Venue Pro 7140 11-inch tablet, just in case.

I think I’ll keep the laptop at Windows 7 and not upgrade to 10 right away. Most of the hams that have tried the Windows 10 previews find that almost all the ham software that I use runs fine under Windows 10, but I think I’ll wait a bit before I do something drastic.The Win 8.1 tablet is already in the queue for the upgrade at the end of July, though.

I am having an issue with the laptop and a very slow boot, however. The drive activity light really does a lot of blinking, which tells me that it’s getting accessed a lot. It takes 5 minutes or so to completely boot. I know there’s a lot of junk on there … it’s 4 or 5 years old now and still has the original Windows 7 install on it, and I know people that do a fresh install every six months. I just hate to have to reload LOTS of software, and then configure it again for all the radio gadgets.

Oh well, tonight is the monthly Radio Club meeting, so I can postpone my decision for a day or so, anyway. I’m sure there will be a lot of info about the upcoming Field Day effort, and an after-the-fact review of the picnic last Saturday.

73 de Dick K4FTW
dick@k4ftw.us