Catchup

It’s been a week or two since I last posted. Life got a bit chaotic. A very dear friend was killed in a tragic industrial accident, and ham radio and blogging had to take a back seat.

There’s not actually much to report about. I’ve only been on the air a couple of times during this period, and those were mostly FT4/8 contacts. I don’t think the bands have been too stellar this past week.

I did spend a bit of money on radio things. I bought a yellow reflective vest for when I assist with public service events. I know … I know. Stereotypical self-important ham prepper, right? Actually, it does help with visibility if someone needs to locate you quickly during the event.

I also ordered a new toy. It’s supposed to be here around the 9th of September. I’ve read several blog posts and seen several YouTube videos about this low-cost vector network analyzer that piqued my interest. Less than fifty bucks on eBay.

NanoVNA

It covers 50 KHz to 900 MHz … does Smith Chart and antenna analyzer functions … and more. It’s about the size of a credit card, but maybe 5/8-inch thick. I’m going to enjoy playing with it, I think.

I just signed up for my next public service event. It’s a marathon, a 50K, and a marathon/50K relay run simultaneously. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? It’ll be a bit cooler then … October 13th. The race is so long, we’ll be covering it in two shifts.

Well, that’s about all I have to report. Catch ya’ later!

73 de Dick N4BC

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

Sixty Meters

Ya’ know … if you haven’t tried this newer band yet, you’re missing out. It’s not a heavily used band, but there are people there. I’ve only done FT8 on 5.357 MHz (Channel 3, I think), but I’ve bagged a few new ones there. My LDG tuner tunes my vertical just fine. I have no idea what kind of efficiency, but I’ve worked all over the world with around 50 watts.

This is where I was heard this evening

It’s an odd band. It’s shared with government and military, and they’ve got priority use … it’s channelized … the max power is 100 watts. Really an odd duck, but it is what it is. We just have to work with what the FCC allows us. Oh, and not all countries have given the amateurs the same channels, so that complicates things even more. Hey … just work ’em when you hear ’em. Try it … you’ll like it!

73 de Dick N4BC

Software stories …

I’m still trying to get Win4Icom interfaced with N1MM. I’m close … I can’t get the WinKeyer USB working properly … I think it may be a port conflict, but a bit more study and experimenting is required.

I’ve got JS8Call working OK. That was pretty simple. All I had to do was install a pair of virtual ports with com0com and it worked the first try. It’s still difficult to make a contact, though, with so few users. Unless you catch them on the air, there are long periods of no activity. The mode is still in development and users haven’t reached a critical mass yet.

I went to the SKYWARN class last night. It was interesting … a lot of it came back to me from years ago when I was a pilot and had to learn it for my license, but I did pick up some new things, too. There was a good crowd … probably about twenty people. There were military, CERT, hams, old folks, young folks, in-between folks … just a good cross-section of the population. Maybe the tornadoes we had when the remnants of Michael passed last week spurred attendance?

My shack is getting to the point where I can’t find anything without tearing everything apart. I’ve got stuff on top of stuff. I think this weekend, there’ll have to be a reckoning with stuff!

73 de Dick N4BC

WSJT-X 2.0 rc2

I was on the air for a while last night, and was trying the new message format for WSJT-X  2.0 rc2 FT-8 (incompatible with the “current” version 1.9.1 message format). I set anything up and called CQ on both 40 and 20 meters, with no takers. Some evenings you luck out and others … FAIL! I guess there were no “experimenters” listening on the bands when I was on.

I did make a couple of sixty meter FT8 QSOs, but for some reason, I was just not having a lot of luck last night. I could hear (see?) plenty of stations on 80 through 17 meters, but couldn’t get an answer for trying. I called CQ and didn’t have any takers. It’s like fishing … sometimes you don’t even get a nibble!

I’m driving up to the Gloucester EOC for SKYWARN training tonight. It’s about a one hour drive and then a couple hours for the class. I should be home by 9, hopefully. I’m looking forward to it.

73 de Dick N4BC