Plodding Along

Not a lot has changed in the past couple of weeks, radio-wise. I’m still working lots of digital modes (including CW) and enjoying it. FT4 activity seems to be increasing … probably since the FT8 segments are so crowded. PSK and Olivia activity is still sporadic, but I did notice some nice signals on 20 meters around lunchtime today … strong and lots of them!

One of my coworkers just became a ham last week. He attended an outdoor testing session, to comply with the social distancing recommendations. He passed the Technician and General class licenses, and was formally granted KO4DBF after about a week’s time or so.

Our club held its first virtual club meeting last night, using Zoom. Last week I attended our QCWA chapter meeting via Zoom as well. Looks like Zoom is the preferred method of social interaction now. At work, we’re using Microsoft Teams, but I like the Zoom interface better.

As a matter of fact, I’ve got two Zoom meetings later this evening. First, our Scout Troop, and then after that, our church Choir. We’ve been doing virtual meetings for Scouts for several weeks now and it seems to be working well. The choir meeting is more of a social thing rather than musical … just to keep in touch while in-person services are suspended. Our virtual church services are on FaceBook live.

73 de Dick N4BC

Digital Stuff

Let’s try this again … I was just putting the finishing touches on this and I don’t know what I did, but everything vanished … and I couldn’t find any of the drafts. So it’s back to the beginning …

I was looking back through my logbook and noticed that the last time I worked PSK-31 was six years ago! I’ve been cranking out FT, JT, SSB, CW, and even some contest RTTY, and neglecting bunches of those other modes.

So I decided to remedy this oversight. I spent the day updating software (FLDIGI), going through the menus and updating entries, rewriting macros, reading the new documentation, and watching YouTube videos. I must say, FLDIGI has had some nice updates in the past few years, but basically, it’s pretty much the same to operate. I saw Olivia, Throb, PSK, Domino, and several other modes I couldn’t ID. I wish everyone would use Reed-Solomon ID on their signals.

I spent a while this evening “reading the mail”… just observing how other operators are doing things nowadays. Pretty much the same … one old guy was cataloging his aches and pains and medical issues, but there were some interesting conversations, too. It’s going to take some getting used to … actually conversing with people again! LOL!

I’ve also ordered a new solid-state drive (SSD) to upgrade my laptop. It’s not as fast as it used to be, but I figure that a SSD will boost the speed considerably … especially on boot and on disk-intensive programs. Hey, it’s cheaper than a new laptop. I picked up a 1 TB WD Blue SSD for $120. Amazon is a bit slower shipping nowadays with the COVID-19 issues, but everything is supposed to be here by May 3rd. Then I’ll clone the HDD and swap the SSD with it.

We had some pretty scary thunderstorms come through earlier in the evening. Thunder, lightning, wind, and rain.

That’s all from the quarantine hut for this evening. Catch you later!

73 de Dick N4BC

Strange Times

It’s eerie at work this week. Normally, we have a steady flow of customers in and out of the shop, all having some sort of communications difficulty. This week, I think I can count the number of visitors on the fingers of one hand … the Coronavirus is definitely affecting business. Traffic is noticeably lighter when I head home after work, and it’s odd seeing all the empty restaurant parking lots.

I’d much rather be at home, isolating myself. My wife and daughter are both at home this week, due to their workplaces being closed. I’m in the at-risk group … chronic illnesses, over 66, etc. But since I’m working in the public-safety field, I’m considered “essential personnel.”

FT-modes have been pretty busy this week. I’ve worked a lot of Europeans. I’ve seen quite a few Asian stations, but haven’t managed to work any. I check the spotting page for POTA frequently, and see lots of posts, but when I go to the indicated frequency … nada! Forty and twenty meters are not being cooperative for CW and SSB.

Today is the first day of Spring, and the temperatures are supposed to climb into the mid-seventies, but it’s still gray and dreary-looking outside. Tomorrow is supposed to be in the eighties … maybe Spring is actually here?

73 de Dick N4BC

Changes

I’ll have to admit … I haven’t been very active lately. Not sure really why … band conditions, dreary weather, just didn’t feel like it … whatever. I was off work today and fired up the radio to mediocre propagation and not much going on. I did manage to snag a KL7 station on 20 meters FT4.

I’ve had a big change in my life, too. My hearing has been declining for years. I’ve really been having difficulty in understanding speech, and decided to finally do something about it. A trip to Costco, and now I’m the proud owner and user of hearing aids.

What a difference! I’m still acclimatizing to them, but the improvement is spectacular. I’m hearing things that I haven’t heard for years. I never realized how noisy my shack was! Clicks, squeals, fans … all audible now, but not that hard to ignore. I need to find over-the-ear headphones that can accommodate my RIC hearing aids. They need to cover the part behind the ears.

73 de Dick N4BC

Catchup

Not the red condiment … just a few notes about what I’ve been up to.

I just did a quick calculation of confirmations. Confirmations are running at 80.3% on QRZ and at 71.2% on on LOTW. I must admit, I NEVER saw rates that high, even when I was at a DX location years ago. Electronic confirmation has revolutionized QSLing. As a practical matter, I really don’t care as much as I did when I first started out fifty-three years ago. I still really appreciate the occasional physical card in the mail … very few and far between nowadays.

I haven’t been active much lately. I’ve had other things to compete for my time. One BIG life-changing thing I’ve done is get my first hearing aids. Truthfully, after the first week, I could kick myself for not doing this years ago. Meetings had become a real ordeal. I could hear fine, but understanding what was said was the problem. My problem is high-frequency loss … moderately severe. That’s where all the speech intelligibility lies. Too many years working around aircraft and in a shipyard, back before hearing protection was a big thing. It’s been a real eye-opener … or should I say ear-opener? 😀 😀

I’ll try to work a bit harder to get back into the radio groove and catch you all later.

73 de Dick N4BC