My thoughts on Ham Radio … and everything else, too!
Category: General operating
I fired up the rig when I got home from work yesterday, and found a few takers on the bands.
All of these were quickies (as are all FT8 contacts) … less than an hour for all sixteen. I was rushed, as I had to get myself ready and head out to my weekly Scout meeting and then choir practice … grabbing dinner on the way (Whopper combo). Not the healthiest dinner, but fast.
After choir practice, I had to rush home for the weekly Tidewater DMR net (TG 31515). I joined only 7 minutes late at 9:07. Participation was good, with quite a few new check-ins, and lots of spirited conversation. Next week (being Thanksgiving Day) we’ll not meet.
I can see this holiday season is stacking up to be hectic. Lots of events coming up … concerts, banquets, family events … you know what I mean. By the time the new year is here, you’re just glad for a break!
The combined PARC/SPARK Holiday Dinner is coming up on Tuesday, December 4th at the County Grill in York County on Route 17. The food is always good there, and the company will be too!
I see the ARRL November Sweepstakes is this weekend. This is the SSB one, and I am just not into SSB so I’ll pass. Furthermore, I’ve always thought the exchange was too involved and complex, so I’ve just never participated in the Sweepstakes events. If it’s your thing, more power to ya’. Just not my cup of tea.
The new Icom ID-51A PLUS 2 that I won in Icom’s monthly drawing arrived late yesterday, and I’ve been exploring the intricacies of programming it. I still haven’t totally conquered the software. I do have it working reliably with my hotspot … Raspberry Pi / MMDVM / Pi-Star. There was lots of reading and watching YouTube! I am experiencing some short momentary dropouts that I’ve got to track down. I’m not sure where the problem lies … there are so many variables in the chain.
The radio itself is so chock full of features, it’s gonna take a while to get familiar with all the menus and where things are located. It took a trip to the manual to figure out how to change the power level to “super low” to conserve battery and not overload the hotspot.
I’ve been sitting here “reading the mail” on REF001C while I’m composing and editing this post. Lots of interesting things going on there. Right now I’m listening to a couple of guys talking about Chevy Camaros. One’s in Texas and one’s in Florida. They’re both pretty knowledgeable about classic cars.
This is pretty solid communications, and I love it! No QRM … no QRN … no straining to hear. It’s either there or not there. Great for laid back chats, especially during these lean times.
I was reading through posts in one of the on-line forums (sorry, I can’t remember the poster), and he made a comment that made me stop and say to myself, “That’s so true.” The gist of his post was that with the advent of spectrum displays in more state-of-the-art SDR radios (such as FLEX, IC-7300, et cetera) we have changed the way we search for stations to work. With the older radios, we tune around, listening for other stations to work. Unless you happen across a station while he is putting out a signal, he doesn’t exist as far as you’re concerned. He could have stopped transmitting just a second before you reached his frequency, and you wouldn’t know he had been there. But, with a spectrum display, you’re looking at a broad swath of the band and seeing ALL the activity … ALL the stations. One of those “light bulb over the head moments” for me. ‘Ain’t technology grand?’
Good vibrations … to quote the Beach Boys … RF vibrations, that is. Last night, I heard stations on just about all HF bands, some quite strong. I worked over a dozen FT8 stations on 40 and 60 meters. The higher frequencies, not so much luck. Although they were solid reception, I just couldn’t connect. Even 80 meters was reasonably devoid of QRN.
I got my RTTY setup working. I was using the wrong mode on the IC-7300. I was set to RTTY and should have been in USB-D since I was using AFSK. At least, it seems to work now. I couldn’t find any RTTY stations on the air yesterday evening to do a final test. But … listening on another receiver, I can hear the diddle and mark/space tones when doing a test transmission.
I see the sunspot number is still at zero … where it’s been for the last three weeks. Those scientists much smarter than me say it’ll be there for at least the NEXT three weeks, too. Ah, well … even with secret rites in the dark of night, I don’t think we can make any difference. We just have to wait for old Mother Nature to crank up the next solar cycle.
BUT … as I noted last weekend … even with the numbers as abysmal as they are, there’re always QSOs to be had. Contest weekends, especially, seem to light up the ionosphere.
Our DMR net (TG 31515, Tidewater VA) yesterday evening was a bit sparse … only four of us checked in. It’s pretty much the doldrums of summer now. People are on vacation, outside doing family things … you know the drill. This weekend we’re looking forward to scattered thunderstorms and rain. A typical summer weekend. At least it’s been cooler the past few days.
Not much ham stuff going on this weekend that I’m interested in. The North American QSO Party for RTTY is happening. I haven’t participated in that in forever, so I might dabble a bit there. I’ve got to get me a thicker cushion for my shack chair, though. The IARU CW contest last weekend was murder on my butt!
Well, enough blather! Have a great weekend and do some radio!