Back In Business

April 7th, 2010

I got things switched over so this is my first post on the new system. Lets see how it works!

ARRL Gets A New Website

March 24th, 2010

The American Radio Relay League, ARRL, is launching their new website today! I heard the site was changing at the ARRL’s section meeting at the past Columbus Hamfest. I will be curious as to what it looks like.

As per the bulliten on the current site, they will be down for a few hours starting around 10:00AM EDT (1400UTC).

Blogger FTP Publishing To End May 1

March 21st, 2010

I have been using Google Blogger all this time to get my content up on my site. I just publish over to a different server, which is accessed through my .com address. This is why my blog doesn’t have a “.blogspot.com” address.

Well, Google is stopping the support of FTP publishing May 1. This is what allows users like myself to have their own address.

I am not sure what will happen between now and May 1, but hopefully I can get something in the works that will allow me to manage my blog on my .com address. I sure don’t want to loose all of my content.

IC-756ProIII and LDG Z-11pro

March 13th, 2010

The April edition of QST has some neat articles in it. One is adding a 5kc roofing filter to the IC-756proIII. The filter is produced by International Radio, the same company that makes the filters I put in my FT-857D last year – good stuff.

One fact of life with the middle of the road and down HF radios is they generally use a 15kc+ front end. My TS-2000 is no different. Even though the specific radio might be a DSP rig, the IC-756ProIII and TS-2000 included, there is only so much digital filtering can do to help the performance of the radio. Having a mechanical filter to narrow the passband up front is most definitely the best route to go. That way your DSP has less crap to work with = better performance.

This may be something I should look in to for my TS-2000. I have a blown RF choke on the CW keying circuit right now so I need to get my hands in the case anyway. Speaking of that, I ordered the part (3 to have extras) about two months ago. They were out of stock when I placed the order so I figured as soon as they become available again they will ship. Maybe I should follow up and see what the deal is…

In any event, adding a narrower roofing filter would surely add to the usability of the TS-2000. Having all those bands in one box is amazing. However, you can’t get all that in one package without some sacrifices. Receiver performance, unfortunately, is one of them.

There is also a nice article on the LDG Z-11Pro autotuner in QST. I would like to see a review of the tuner. The article isn’t a regular review. Maybe they can toss in some other tuners in the same range. I know MFJ makes one and the SGC tuners may fall in a similar category also.

AT Hikers Story: Three Hundred Zeroes

March 4th, 2010

I am not one to read books. I have books from my last quarter of college that I bought new because they were the only ones left and I needed at least something to flip through, which I never ended up reading.

However, I read the recent article in QST magazine about Dennis Blanchard, K1YPP, and his hike of the AT (Appalachian Trail). I discovered through e-mail correspondence about his book – Three Hundred Zeroes. So as soon as it was available I ordered it!

Those that have read several posts of mine probably have figured out that I like backpacking. I won’t spoil the book any, but that is the main topic. The Appalachian Trail is what is typically thought of as the crown jewel of backpacking – over 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine along the Appalachian mountains.

Though there isn’t much talk of Ham radio in the book, if you have any interest in backpacking, with or without Ham radio, I would recommend the book. I have a hard time putting it down. I have finished the first half of the book in three days (thats really saying something!). I don’t know that I could ever devote my life to such a journey, but Blanchard does give me some inspiration for more treks, albeit shorter!

VUAC Taking Votes on EME Contest Categories

February 14th, 2010

For anyone that is interested in EME (Earth-Moon-Earth, or moonbounce, communications) I think you should read this and take a stance. This past Fall the VUAC changed the rules for EME contests, effectively chopping out the Assisted category.

The problem with this move is that EME is perhaps the most difficult, technically challenging mode of communication possible and requires either well-equipped stations or a little bit of planning to have a shot at making a contact at all. The smaller, lesser equipped stations have no chance of making many contacts (except with the big-gun stations like W5UN, KB8RQ). Without setting up scheduled contacts the chances of the smaller stations to compete is non-existent. Even if a schedule is set that doesn’t mean that the two stations will be able to make it through, but without a schedule there would be no chance at all.

Here is a message from Army, AE5P with an offer to vote on the issue. Please read thoroughly. Note that any correspondence to be considered must be in by February 17th:

______________________________________________________
ARRL’s VUAC is considering revising the current rules for the ARRL International EME Contest, and we would like your input.

Effective with the 2009 contest, assistance is not allowed per rule 6.3 as follows:

6.3 During the contest periods, no contest entrant, in any category –single-operator or multi-operator– may use non-EME means for the purpose of self-spotting, solicitation or coordination of QSOs or attempts to make contact; nor may any entrant use assistance or provide assistance in the form of frequency spotting or use any form of DX spotting, Packet Cluster, Ping Jockey, email, telephone, etc. Exception: liaison to coordinate band-by-band activity is explicitly permitted for the bands2.3 GHz and higher.

VUAC members have received numerous messages from many of you folks regarding this change; some in favor; some opposed. We are considering making further changes to the rules to address your concerns, and we would like to hear from the EME community on this.

Several proposals have been put forth, such as:

1. Reinstate the rules regarding assistance as they existed in 2008.

2. Establish a new class of operation called “Coordinated”. Entrants in this class would be allowed to post ONLY their call-sign and calling frequency via the internet or other methods for other entrants to see. Any station posting or viewing this information would be considered to be in the “Coordinated” class.

3. Let the current rules (non-assistance only) apply to one of the two weekends for 50-1296, and let assistance be used on the other 50-1296 weekend.

4. Run a separate EME contest for 50-1296 using assistance on the weekend reserved for 2304 and up.

5. Don’t make any further changes. Let the rules remain as they are now.

The VUAC would very much appreciate hearing from you concerning these proposals. Where do you stand on this matter? Which proposal do you prefer, and why? Feel free to modify any or all of this as you deem best.

Please respond to this survey to your VUAC representative AND to Army Curtis, AE5P (ae5p@arrl.net) . A list of VUAC members can be found at http://www.arrl.org/contests/vuac.html . Comments must be received no later than February 17, 2010 to be considered by the VUAC. If you do not have a VUAC representative, please respond to Jon Platt, W0ZQ (w0zq@aol.com ) AND to AE5P (ae5p@arrl.net ).

When you respond, please indicate what bands you have made EME contacts on, and if you have ever participated in an EME contest.
Please let us hear from you.
73,
Army – AE5P

49 States Covered With Snow?

February 14th, 2010

Yeah, that’s what I just heard today on The Weather Channel! With the last snow storm that hit the south from Texas all the way through the pan handle of Florida, on to the Carolinas, all but ONE state, Hawaii, has some snow cover on the ground! Incredible.

We are again looking at some snow for Monday where I am. They are calling for up to 6″ as of now, but I am sure that will change a bit. With the last two storms we got a foot the first time and 6-8″ the second.

What happened to Global Warming??? I like the snow, though. Lets keep it around as long as we can!

Good Deal – Fluorescent Shop Lights, Grow Lighting

February 13th, 2010

Last year I set up a fluorescent shop light as a grow light for starting my garden plants. I got a 2 foot long single T-12 light. This got the plants growing OK but became problematic once I brought the plants outside. The plants were used to the very limited amount of light and got burned real easy in the sun.

So I figured I would get some bigger lights so I can get my plants used to more intense light!

Lowes has a really good deal on two bulb T-12 4′ shop lights – $10! That’s what I paid for my 2′ single bulb T-12 last year.

I picked up two of them. Each bulb is 40 watts, so I will have 160 watts x 4′ of lighting (as opposed to my 20w x 2′ last year). That should help with getting my plants used to more intense light. I will still have about the same amount of plants.

Last year I used an outdoor timer for Christmas lights as my light timer. This worked OK. However, I found a digital in-wall timer today that I am going to try this year. It should make for a cleaner set up.

The next task is to get a shelf set up that I can mount everything to. I really rigged up my light last year and it worked, but I would rather have a nicer set up than what I did in the past. The timer will be in a box on one of the legs and the lights will be mounted so the plants get hit on both sides.

Red Wing Shoe Company – Great Boots!

February 9th, 2010

I ordered my second and third pairs of Red Wing boots today from The Rugged Boot and Shoe Company (the link is to the Red Wing dealer page, but the name of the store is The Rugged Boot and Shoe company in the phone book). I also realized that the pair I am wearing right now is nearly four years old! The guy I spoke with on the phone said I got them in 2006. Wow.

They lasted me this entire time as my daily shoes. For the past six months to a year I have been wearing on the inner layer of the dual density soul as the first layer has been worn through. However, the boots are still pretty solid. I have never had wet feet in them thanks to the Gore-Tex lining. Combined with treating them every month or so with Red Wing NaturSeal dressing they have worked flawlessly this whole time.

Before my Red Wings I wore a pair of Wolverines that weren’t water proof. Besides the lack of waterproofing they wore quickly in comparison. I know people that have had great luck with them. However, the pair I had didn’t hold up. At one point in time I worked for a landscaping company on a mowing crew and did a LOT of walking on all kinds of terrain in my Wolverines. From experience I can tell you that after an 8 hour day hiking around in uncomfortable boots with a string trimmer my feet HURT. That taught me to get a quality pair the next time around.

I wear model 2412’s – which I ordered a replacement pair of. Once I get them I will send my current pair back in to be re-souled. That way I can use them as my crap pair and keep the new ones nice. Apparently they do a whole boot “tune up” when you send them in – you get new inner and outer souls, laces, and cleaning/treating of the leather. I have never had a shoe/boot re-souled before, so I am curious as to how they turn out.

The other pair I ordered are model 427’s. They aren’t readily made yet so it might be a while to get them in. I wanted a water proof black boot with good heavy tread. I will have to try them on before I buy, though. I don’t think I will have any complaints, but if I do there is no re-stocking fee and I can pick something else out.

One piece of advice I will give to anyone looking for quality boots, especially if you are going to wear them nearly all the time, is be careful with how you select them! Go to someone that knows what they are doing – a specialized footwear store. Don’t go to a retail store where the employees don’t specialize in footwear, but sell everything. Being sized properly is half the battle. The second part of it is look at the features that are important to you – soul style/material, waterproof/non-waterproof, insulated/non-insulated, steel toe/safety toe/soft toe, the list goes on and on. The right boot is the one that fits well and is suited to the environment you use them. I know cost can be a factor, however really try to keep in mind how the boots will be used. The difference between the right boot and the wrong boot could be a decent amount of money, but if you aren’t comfortable and get worn out it doesn’t matter how much money you saved. Then if you take care of them and they last you three years or more you will probably save money over the life of the boot by not needing to replace them much.

If you want high quality footwear that is made in America you can’t beat Red Wings! They are hand made in Red Wing, Minnesota. It isn’t often in today’s global economy that we find good quality American made products.

LDG AT-200Pro Autotuner

February 3rd, 2010

If you read my post earlier about the Z-11Pro Autotuner by LDG you know I was really thrilled to get that and experience the versatility. That got me to thinking about getting something like that to stick in the shack.

The reason I bought the Z-11Pro was to use it with my FT-857D for portable operating. It is a fantastic tuner for portable use. Only, I ended up putting it in the shack and using it for my main HF station. That created an inconvenience for using in a grab-n’-go situation as I had to unhook it from the station.

So I solved my issue! I picked up an AT-200Pro tuner to keep in the station. This tuner works the same as the Z-11Pro in that it is RF-sensing, has memory recalls, and is fully adjustable from the front panel. The only differences are the box, meters, antenna ports, and power handling.

The AT-200Pro is a 200w capable tuner. It has 16,000 memory channels (memories recordable in 8 antennas per frequency). The tuner has two antenna ports on it, which are selectable from the front panel.

As was my only negative comment with the Z-11Pro – the AT-200Pro is LOUD. If you aren’t expecting the relays to slap when you first plug it in you may be quite startled.

However, only the initial tuning sequence lets the tuner roll through all its impedance combinations. Once a setting has been acquired it is stored as a memory. That way when you go back to the same frequency (generally entire bands can be covered with one setting) the tuner knows exactly where to go – one click and it is tuned.

The AT-200Pro’s relays are rated for 10 amps – heavier duty than the Z-11Pro’s. As a result, the relays take longer to move and the overall time the tuner takes to acquire a match is lengthened. Again, though, once the tuner finds a match it is recorded and won’t have to hunt again – just feed it a bit of RF and in less than a second it goes where it needs to go.

I had thought about getting an AT-100Pro tuner. However, I figured the extra $30 was worth the double in power capability. Plus, you get a power button, the 16,000 memories, and multiple antenna configurations whereas with the AT-100Pro there are just 4200 – 2100 per antenna port (I know, thats still a lot) without the antenna recall. At some point in the future I would like to get a higher performance base station rig and that could end up being a 200w radio. Having a 200w tuner would have me covered.

This past weekend during Winter Field Day we set up the AT-200Pro with a third HF station with a friend’s FT-857D. It worked great! The Z-11Pro was in a box remote mounted at the base of my 80m 1/4 wave vertical. This week I am out of town again and have the AT-200Pro feeding a random wire with the plumbing as a counterpoise. No complaints here! When I get home in a few days I will hook it up in the shack.

Though I can’t speak for the durability and longevity of the tuners having had them for such a short amount of time, I can honestly say that LDG really has a spectacularly operating product. If you are in the market for an HF tuner for low/medium power applications I think you will have a hard time beating LDG, especially for the money. Compare the Z-11Pro to a manual MFJ tuner – you are in the same ball park. The AT-200Pro is a bit over what a regular manual tuner runs, but not by much. When you factor in the autotuning and memory recall LDG is clearly the winner!