FrostFest

Well, I made the annual trek to FrostFest at the Richmond International Raceway Complex the first Saturday in February, as usual. It’s about an hour’s drive from my QTH, depending on traffic in several construction zones on I-64.

Frostfest 2019

Although in years past I had an early start in order to be there when the doors open, this year I took my time and didn’t arrive until after 9 AM. There was a pretty good crowd, and lots of interest in the offerings by various vendors. None of the “major” vendors were there (Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood, HRO, etc.), but that’s par for the course nowadays. Quicksilver and Ham World were there in force and were doing brisk sales.

I am particularly interested in the Forums, and this year, the website only showed the ARRL forum. Upon arrival, I saw that they had added SKYWARN and Mesh Networking, both of which I had attended before at the Virginia Beach Hamfest. I did sit in on the SKYWARN again, mainly to support Howard, WZ4K, who did the presentation. It’s almost like the forums were an afterthought this year.

Of course, I did make the rounds of all the vendors. There were some nice items for sale, but nothing that I needed. Some vintage rigs were for sale, and of course lots of everything else, including cookies, brownies, and candles 😀 .

My pet peeve (as usual) is everybody’s obliviousness of their surroundings. People stop right in front of you to carry on a conversation and totally block the aisle. A subtle word or, in desperation, a gentle push, usually moves them, but come on guys … move to the side!

All in all, it’s one of the better hamfests that I attend, and I congratulate RATS, who organize and put FrostFest on each year. Good job!

The trip back home was not a pleasant one. Just outside of Richmond, I spent over an hour in the I-64 parking lot. There was an accident in a construction zone, and we didn’t move until it was cleared. By this time, my back was killing me, and I was not my usual happy self! I finally got home, and my first action was to get horizontal and take a nap! Priorities!!

73 de Dick N4BC

Hamfest and Weather

Saturday was the Virginia Beach Hamfest, and I made the annual trek to the Convention Center. The crowd was smallish, and there were a few vendors, and several tailgaters at inside tables. I ran into a lot of friends and acquaintances, and generally had a good time.

I attended the Mesh Networking talk (two hours) and found it interesting and informative. They talked about the implementation in Hampton and some of the issues with installation and operation. Good forum and well worth the time spent.

This past weekend, we had a pretty strong storm event … lots of thunder and lightning and several inches of rain, causing a lot of flooding. We’re under the gun for a hurricane watch as well … all waiting to see just what hurricane Florence is going to do. The storm has the potential to tear us up and we’ll surely get flooding and rain, but just how bad it will be remains to be seen. I’m charging everything up, just in case.

I’ve already been informed that I’ll be on call for the duration of the storm. When you’re involved with public safety communications, your time is not your own. My family doesn’t appreciate that philosophy, but you “gotta do what you gotta do”.

So we’re doing pre-storm checks at work, and just waiting for the forecast to become more refined. We should know more by mid-week.

73 de Dick N4BC

Updates

Last night, we had our monthly radio club meeting. We had a good turnout, with some old friends we hadn’t seen for a while, and some new ones. We even picked up a few new members … HOORAY!

Our Treasurer, who has held that position for over fifteen years tendered his resignation as treasurer due to health and family issues, and I was elected to take his place. I’ve really got some big shoes to fill, don’t I?

We had a good meeting, and the presentation was on mobile radio installation. Well done and very interesting. It’s my turn next month, and my tentative subject will be portable operation … Radios in the Wild.

There were ten checkins to the Tidewater 31515 DMR Net this evening. Topics of discussion were the upcoming Virginia Beach Hamfest and IDing on DMR to comply with FCC Regulations … Section 97.119, to be specific. As I’ve said before, it’s more of a casual gathering than a formal net, and it’ll be nice to put some faces to the calls at the hamfest Saturday. I noticed that a couple of new calls showed up as unknown, so I updated the user database in my MD-380. I hadn’t done that for a while.

I also went into my new DStar radio and added some local non-digital simplex channels. The programming in that radio is still a work in progress, but truthfully, with the GPS and built-in repeater database, not much pre-programming is needed for repeater use.

73 de Dick N4BC

DMR Stuff

I just finished doing radio for the first time this week. Somehow, I just couldn’t get motivated to turn on a radio until our weekly DMR net tonight on TG 31515, Tidewater VA. Each week, we have a few more join us … this week we had thirteen check ins. As the word gets out, people who are interested drift in on Thursday evening at 9 PM.

Most of the discussion tonight was on DMR programming … specifically simplex programming. WZ4K had some pearls of wisdom to impart, and thanks to him for his research and for passing it on. The official DMR simplex frequency for the Virginia Beach Hamfest is 441.000 MHz. I’m really looking forward to the hamfest this year. It’s a chance to put some faces to the net members. WZ4K, Howard, will also be presenting a SKYWARN forum, so that’ll be interesting. I think I mentioned in a previous post that the forums actually interest me more than the sales at the hamfests. There’s also a forum on Mesh Networking that I want to attend.

73 de Dick N4BC

Lots of Action Yesterday

I was pretty busy yesterday afternoon after work. I downloaded the software for the new FT8CALL and installed it, and then fired it up. It’s a very easy setup, especially if you’re already running FT8 … it’s almost identical. I’ll have to admit, keeping track of all the functions and following the QSOs on the screen can be confusing at first … there’s lots going on. It’s really essential to read the documentation first and then keep it handy to refer to. Will it become a popular mode? I don’t know … it is sort of a ragchew mode, and many don’t seem to be interested in interacting beyond the minimal exchange, but time will see. It does have its place.

Last night, we had our weekly DMR net on TG 31515 (Tidewater, VA), with a good, lively crowd and some interesting discussions. We hesitate to call it a “net” … it’s more of a very loose roundtable. Very casual compared to a formal net. We had eleven area hams check in, which was a record, I believe. We discussed “Static TGs vs Dynamic TGs, a Meet-Up at the Virginia Beach Hamfest on the 6th of September, Talkgroups vs reflectors. I noticed that a couple of the guys were showing up as unidentified on my display, which reminded me that I hadn’t updated the DMR user database in my HT for a while. I did a quick download of the data into my portable and VOILA! … they were no longer unknown!

The DMR 31515 Thursday Night Group keeps growing. If you’re a participant, invite a friend! Everybody is welcome! If you’re not a participant, here’s an open invitation to just ‘holler’ at us when we pause for people checking in.

We also talked about a local DMR simplex frequency and decided that we would adopt 441.0000 (TG99,TS1,CC1) as our common simplex frequency. We’ll try it out and see if we can find each other at the hamfest in a few weeks.

73 de Dick N4BC