Category Archives: Digital Modes

Perfect CW / Morse Code Trainer

This program G4FON Koch CW Trainer has been a joy to play with and learn from.  I am wanting to increase my Morse Code speed skills and this is a perfect way to do that!  I am wanting to get back into CW but have gotten rusty from not practicing for years.  I seem to be stuck at copying  about 7 words per minute.  My goal is 20+ words per minute so I can help rack up more points at Field Day events!  The key, I have now found, is to HEAR letters at 25 words per minute… but at a longer spacing between them when received, and then begin shortening that spacing time over a period of practice sessions.

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I have it set to send the individual letters at 25 words per minute (wpm).  I am starting at the time between those letters at 10 wpm.  I started with two letters and would copy just those two for a few minutes in one minute drills.  Once I get to 90-100% copy, I add another letter!  I practice about 15 minutes each night, if I can.  I am halfway through the alphabet now and having a ball.  It is easy to download and configure… you’ll be instantly surprised at how much fun it is!

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You Need Your Own QSL CARD

WT8WV QSL

I know, I know… we have QRZ and eQSL and LOTW (Logbook of the World) and Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) and Netlogger and N1MM and… blah, blah, blah.  An old fashioned paper QSL card is still sweet to hold in your hand and to enjoy the real memory of a fun contact. Especially if it’s a DX station from a far away land toward DXCC or the last state you needed for WAS.

They aren’t as expensive as you think.  For simple black and white cards you can buy 100 cards for about $12… my color card above cost about $30 for 100 of them.   I got mine from Cheap QSL’s on the internet and they sent the proofs the same day and shipped them out the same day!  Most folks are migrating toward electronic QSL’s these days.  I predominately use Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) Logbook for my main logging software but also upload my logbook to eQSL, QRZ and LOTW every couple days of logging, however if someone requests a paper card I will oblige.  Sooooooooo… if I do that once in a while I’ll have about 65 cents in the effort by the time I add postage.  Below is a Special Events Station I worked and got this electronic QSL a few days later…

WT8WV-Tesla4-N2T

 

Merle Taylor: Maven of Morse Code

Such a great story!  Click link below after reading first few paragraphs for the full story and pictures.  (by Elinor Florence)
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When this Manitoba farm girl joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, she proved to be such a whiz at Morse Code that she was assigned to instruct the air crews. Now almost ninety-three, Merle still practices her dots and dashes every day, claiming that Morse Code keeps her mind sharp.

Merle Taylor of Lochaber, Nova Scotia, wrote to me after reading my column in The Senior Paper, a newspaper widely distributed to seniors across Canada. (If you haven’t seen a copy yet, email me for more information).

We exchanged copies of our books – I sent her my wartime novel, Bird’s Eye View; and she sent me a copy of her memoirs, Until the Cows Come Home.

When my husband and I travelled to the Maritimes recently, I was determined to meet Merle in person. We found her still living on the farm she operated with her husband Fred since 1946, about thirty kilometres south of Antigonish.

After serving lunch to us, Merle took me on a farm tour in her electric golf cart. I loved hearing her stories of life in the air force, and in the decades since then.

Programming Your New Ham Radio… the Easy Way!

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downloadI recently took a deeper dive into digital ham radio and picked up a Yaesu FTM-100 mobile System Fusion rig.  VHF and UHF… 500 Channels on each band!  Holy Crap, Batman…  I’ll wear my aged, stubby, fat fingers to the nubs tryin’ to poke all that individual channel info into those 1,000 spots using those little buttons!  Plus, I have to look up all that info… somewhere… on EVERY channel I want to add to my line-up.  Ain’t no-body gotz time for dat!  (I also had to do that with my Baofeng UV-5RV2+ portable HT a couple years ago.)

What to do?  Path of least resistance!  Did a little research and found a computer program that does it all for me.  (I actually used the free CHIRP software to program my HT a couple years ago.)  RT Systems software makes the programming easy!  You simply pick out your software version based upon what radio you want to program, download the software, (Hopefully your radio came with the right interface cable to hook your radio to your computer to make the download of freq’s to your rig.), grab the repeater frequencies from some site like RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory and in 20 minutes you can load up your rig with more frequencies than you will ever use.  (While CHIRP is freeware, RT Systems and RFinder software platforms are paid versions.  I can honestly say that the software is very reasonably priced for both and you might only need to use it once in a while but it saves you HOURS of manual poking and prodding your radio buttons.)

(Click link below to see the typical instructions)

Radio Programming Software for the Yaesu FTM-100

(See the videos below…)

You can easily marry RT Systems software to RFinder software and quickly create a sort routine that grabs the EXACT frequencies you want and transfer it to your radio.  You can sort by town, state, zip code, ham bands, NOAA frequencies, etc.  

It makes short work of all of it!  You’ll spend more time convincing yourself to not pull in frequencies you will never use than the download takes!  

Once you set up your channel database you want to use for your radio, you simply hook your radio to your computer with the cable… poke a couple drop-down menus… and then the magic happens!  UPLOAD COMPLETE.  

I programmed about 75 VHF and 75 UHF Channels into my radio, start sort to finish sort to upload compete in under 20 minutes.  You might export your databases to your laptop or website to store for the future.

One thing I did that sort of brought sanity to my programming strategy and thinking was that I added the freq’s in sort of “banks” of channels so I could visually sense what channels I needed to tune to depending on my car’s location as I traveled.  For the first 10-15 channels, I loaded repeater data for the local area repeaters within about 75 miles of my home QTH.  I live just below the Mason-Dixon Line…  and yes, I consider myself a southerner but I can be in Pennsylvania within 10 minutes; in fact, I can be at the Pittsburgh International Airport in under 90 minutes!  So, since I travel a good bit for work, I can bounce to various repeaters as I drive in any direction!

In the next grouping of channels I might add just the Pittsburgh area repeaters.  In another group of channels I added the Dayton, OH repeater freq’s since my daughter and son-in-law live and work next to Wright-Patterson AFB and I also usually attend the Dayton Hamvention each year.  Another group of channels I include are the NOAA Weather Channels.  Other groupings include various regions of West Virginia since I also hunt, fish, camp and hike all over the place.

 

Morse Code: Straight Key and Others

I enjoy a niche of ham radio called Continuous Wave (CW) / Morse Code sending and receiving.  There are all sorts of hand keys out there to use.  Lots of CW Contests occur every month for all levels of CW enthusiasts… you don’t have to send fast, if you don’t want to!  It’s a very efficient system of communicating when traditional modes of messaging are out of service, too.  Some say since the advent of the telephone and then the cellphone, it is a dying art… I say it’s a BLAST to do!

Every ham ought to try a little CW every once in a while.  Find a key you like and use it periodically to stay proficient but also pick up a straight key and join the annual Straight Key Night Contest around New Years.  (It’s not really a contest; it’s more of an opportunity to pull out a straight key and try sending Morse Code the old fashioned way.

I love to scour the hamfest flea markets looking at all the old time keys available to buy for a variety of prices.  Some served in Post Offices, Telegraph Offices, military communications, in combat and in ham shacks!  My favorite straight key is a 1950’s era South African Special Forces straight key… super compact… light weight… and darned cute… that I picked up at the Dayton Hamvention in 2015!  It wasn’t cheap, but it’s unique and has a good story.  See some of the key configurations below…

Bencher Paddles and Memory Keyer UNITE!

As soon as I get my Yaesu System Fusion FTM100-DR online, I want to mate my Bencher paddles to the new MFJ-490X Menu Driven Memory Keyer that I picked up at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention last week (May 21, 2016).  I am itching to get these two toys working in some CW / More Code Contesting very soon!  5 programmable memories plus all sorts of keyer speed, weighting, side tone, hand key capability, serial number decrements, random code practice, iambic settings, etc.

(See video below!)

MFJ-490X Memory Keyer  Instruction Manual

 

 

Morse Code: Dual Lever Paddle Adjustment Tutorial

K7QO MFJ-564B Dual Lever Paddle Adjustment Tutorial

K7QO Chuck Adams website

This is an excellent explanation of the taxonomy of a dual lever paddle (i.e. Bencher and MFJ) and how to make the adjustments that are critical for efficient CW / Morse Code sending in your ham shack.

The alphabet in Morse Code / CW sent at 20 words per minute (wpm)…

 

What is a Ham Radio Repeater?

Excellent introduction and explanation of “What is a Ham Radio Repeater?”

Comparing the Yaesu System Fusion FT1Dr and FT2DR

Yaesu FT1DR Review

Yaesu  FT2DR Review

DR-1X System Fusion Repeater and the HRI-200 WiresX

A nice video showing the basics of the setup with the HRI-200 and the Yaesu DR-1X System Fusion repeater.

Yaesu System Fusion Introduction

This is a good introduction video for anyone curious about Yaesu’s efforts in digital communications at the local repeater level.  It also sets aside some fears and misunderstandings about amateur radio operators making the decision to add or upgrade to digital from analog… you can do both!

2016 Dayton Hamvention Post-Mortem

Well… another Hamvention is in the books and it was the usual great time of fun and friendship.  WR8S  (Bill Shultz) and WV8TG  (Tom Graf) and I enjoyed three fun-filled days scouring the Flea Market and also inside Hara Arena for all sorts of treasures and trinkets.  Tom scored a pristine 1959 Hammerlund HQ-One Forty Five short-wave radio and several other vintage radios to restore.  (The Hammerlund was the first serious short-wave radio Tom bought and it eventually led him on the journey to get his Amateur Extra Class license!)  Bill and I invested in a couple Yaesu FTM100-DR System Fusion digital mobile radios so that we can explore the Monongalia Wireless Association’s new System Fusion repeaters here in the Morgantown, West Virginia area.  Below is a video recap of our annual trek to the Dayton Hamvention.  If you have never attended a Dayton Hamvention… GET THERE!  Enjoy!

APRS… from the inventor, Bob Bruninga WB4APR

I would venture to say you can’t do better than hearing it from the inventor himself!

Published on Oct 19, 2015

Automatic Packet Reporting System overview by its inventor, Bob WB4APR given at the HACDC Amateur Radio Club. For more information about APRS, go to http://www.aprs.org For more information about HACDC Amateur Radio Club go to http://www.w3hac.org

Complete Overview of MESH for Amateur Radio (2014) by VA3BCO

MESH communications in Ham Radio is another area where Amateur Radio pushes the edge of the envelope and  has put a tremendous amount of work into this slideshare that goes from A to Z on how to run a MESH!  (Click on his website for more!)

Originally published on Nov 6, 2014

This is a comprehensive introduction to MESH for amateur radio enthusiasts. It is particularly useful for anyone new to MESH but will also include some nuggets sure to be helpful to the experienced operator. Topics include:

1. HSMM MESH vs. traditional digital modes
2. Router review & comparison
3. Firmware selection & configuration
4. Antenna considerations
5. Application scenarios for ARES and experimentation
6. Updates on local efforts & recent software announcements

Visit VA3BCO.COM for more details.

APRS… Automatic Packet Reporting System

The thing I absolutely LOVE in this wonderful hobby of Amateur Radio is that there are so many diverse niches to explore!  Everything from building your own radio, working through satellites in orbit, transmitting your own slow or fast scan TV signals, Morse Code working over 300 countries in the world on less than a half of a watt of power, emergency response, tons of digital modes, bouncing signals off of the moon, ricocheting your signals off of an excited aurora… basically, if you have an idea on getting a signal transmitted or received to someone you can invent your own technology!

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) combines ham radios, GPS and tiny computers to report your location, regardless if you are standing on a street corner, in a moving car on the highway, camping, hiking, boating, balloon tracking, airplanes or even in space!  Believe it or not, your own cellphone can serve as the computer part, software and GPS .  Check out this slideshare from  on the nuts and bolts of this fun segment of ham radio.  (Click on his name above and check out his other presentations!)

REVIEW: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digital portable radio

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This is a solid review by Don Trynor from VA3XPR from July 2015 of the Yaesu FT2DR dual-bander HT.  (They have a very nice website!)

Our local ham radio club, Monongalia Wireless Association, recently bought 2 of the Yaesu Fusion repeaters and I am doing my own research into being able to enjoy a new type of technology. I am looking at my options and hope to find something to get my hands on at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention!  I would think that prices would be moderating downward by now as others adopt the new radio and there may be some rebates floating around or “Specials” by some of the dealers.  (Read Don’s full review here…  Review: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digitl portable radio )

The FT2DR is a good choice for anyone looking for a full-featured dual-band portable radio that is compatible with Yaesu’s Fusion line of digital radios. While this radio has some innovations, we think that they may not justify the $550 USD price point of this unit. In addition, we feel that Yaesu could improve upon future radios like this one, especially as it relates to the overall user experience. In this day and age when a good user experience for touch screen devices is the norm, such as with smartphones and computers, we think devices like this have room for improvement. All in all, if users can live without the touch screen display and louder audio, they might want to consider a cheaper alternative in the Yaesu FT1DR, which retails for $300 USD.

WinLink… What is it?

K4REF tells us from his YouTube Channel the basics of this interesting technology that we can use as Amateur Radio Operators.  It is most likely very similar to a technology we use daily… away from our radios!

 

Amateur Radio Go-Box and Go-Bags Examples

Ham Radio Operators need to be ready to roll out to a crisis quickly if it requires communication support.  Are you ready to “grab and go”?  How quickly could you have a functional ham radio station on-the-air ready to support an emergency situation?  Could you support your local authorities efforts, and for how long?  Can you personally sustain yourself with food and water for 3 days of support, without being a burden on the emergency relief efforts?  Constructing your own version of a “Ham Radio Go-Box” and a “Go-Bag” might be a great addition to your preparedness efforts.  Below are some pictures of potential Go-Boxes to stir your imagination and creativity.  You might even have some of the items laying around that could be put into the effort to BE PREPARED.

GO-BOX IDEAS

GO-BAG IDEAS

Straight Key Night… FUN!

Every January 1st there is a fun filled evening of laid back, “no pressure” CW (Morse Code) operating using a simple “Straight Key” to key your transmitter without the aid of added electronics to perform the speed and spacing of your sent letters and numbers.  This isn’t a contest!  It is designed for fun sending CW the “old fashioned” way.  The object is to simply enjoy sending and reading Morse Code.  There are numerous configurations and sizes of straight keys and a jaunt down any ham radio flea market aisle will often give you quite a few options for a great purchase!

Here is a video example of the annual Straight Key Night experience. MIKROWAVE1 explains and actually makes CW contacts with other amateur radio operators enjoying the annual event. (Below the video, look for some pictures of several types of straight keys you might find as a bargain to add to your own ham radio station!

Here are some pictures of various CW (Morse Code) keyers.  You can grab several to use for contesting or just simple rag-chewing.  Some hams actually collect various types of keys!

 

 

What Is D-Star All About?

Yaesu has System Fusion… guess who has this thing called, D-Star?  You can probably guess pretty quickly, if you don’t already have an idea.

Discover D-STAR from Icom

Yaesu System Fusion Introduction

Cory Sickles (WA3UVV) is active in our local ham club, Monongalia Wireless Association, and he has been guiding us in installing a new Yaesu System Fusion repeater system up on Chestnut Ridge.  Are you wondering what Yaesu System Fusion is?  What is C4FM?  What is the difference between Fusion, D-Star, P25 and DMR?  Well… here are a couple videos that might give you some insight into primarily Fusion… but the second video looks at some comparison.  (Spoiler alert… it gets territorial quickly.)  Hats off to HamRadioOutlet and HamRadioNow for spending the time on these cool systems!

Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS)

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I love DX.  I love chatting to interesting people all over the world and making new friends.  For short range chatting I use our Monongalia Wireless Association W8MWA Repeater on the 144/440 frequencies.  Sometimes it’s more difficult to talk short distances than it is to talk half way around the world.  Let’s consider Near Vertical Incidence Skywave  (NVIS) antennas with our HF radios.

NVIS is something every Ham needs to learn about.  The antenna system is not difficult to construct and can serve an important function for shorter range communications, especially in time of an emergency when normal local / regional communication systems are down for some reason.  (i.e. cell towers, cellphones, landlines, etc.)  Hams may be called into service quickly.

Here is what Wikipedia says about NVIS communications…

Near vertical incidence skywave, or NVIS, is a skywave radio-wave propagation path that provides usable signals in the range between groundwave and conventional skywave distances—usually 30–400 miles (50–650 km). It is used for military and paramilitarycommunications, broadcasting,[1] especially in the tropics, and by radio amateurs. The radio waves travel near-vertically upwards into the ionosphere, where they are refracted back down and can be received within a circular region up to 650 km from the transmitter.[2] If the frequency is too high (that is, above the critical frequency of the ionospheric F layer), refraction fails to occur and if it is too low, absorption in the ionospheric D layer may reduce the signal strength.

The most reliable frequencies for NVIS communications are between 1.8 MHz and 8 MHz. Above 8 MHz, the probability of success begins to decrease, dropping to near zero at 30 MHz. Usable frequencies are dictated by local ionospheric conditions, which have a strong systematic dependence on geographical location. Common bands used in amateur radio at mid-latitudes are 3.5 MHz at night and 7 MHz during daylight, with experimental use of 5 MHz (60-meter) frequencies. Broadcasting uses the tropical broadcast bands between 2.3 and 5.06 MHz, and the international broadcast bands between 3.9 and 6.2 MHz, Military NVIS communications mostly take place on 2-4 MHz at night and on 5-7 MHz during daylight.

Optimum NVIS frequencies tend to be higher towards the tropics and lower towards the arctic regions. They are also higher during high sunspot activity years. The usable frequencies change from day to night, because sunlight causes the lowest layer of the ionosphere, called the D layer, to increase, causing attenuation of low frequencies during the day [3] while the maximum usable frequency (MUF) which is the critical frequency of the F layer rises with greater sunlight.

NVIS is most useful in mountainous areas where line-of-sight propagation at VHF or UHF frequencies is ineffective or when the communication distance is beyond the 50-mile (80 km) range of groundwave, and less than the 300–1500-mile (500–2500 km) range of lower angle sky-wave. Another interesting aspect of NVIS communication is, that direction finding of the sender is more difficult than for ground-wave communication (i.e. VHF or UHF). For broadcasters, NVIS allows coverage of an entire medium-sized country at much lower cost than with VHF (FM), and daytime coverage similar to MW (AM) nighttime coverage at lower cost and often with less interference.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_vertical_incidence_skywave

Below are a few very good links to articles for the nuts & bolts of putting together a simple and good NVIS antenna.

http://www.tactical-link.com/field_deployed_nvis.htm

http://www.qsl.net/wb5ude/nvis/index.html

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/K2GW-NVIS.htm

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/cbp-nvis.htm

Here is a sample video by NG9D with an 80 Meter End Fed NVIS Field Antenna.

See How a Schematic Diagram is ACTUALLY Visualized

“How to read an Electronic Schematic” by Paul Wesley Lewis

Wonderful example of how to visualize and equate the schematic diagram with the actual circuit build out.

How Do I Read a Schematic Diagram?

How to Read a Schematic by RimstarOrg 

If you are going to build a simple crystal radio, a QRP rig or even a 100 Watt HF transceiver, you are going to want to understand how an electronic schematic diagram is read.  It’s not that difficult.  RimstarOrg has a great video on understanding the basic concept of reading a schematic.

 

Multimeter Tutorial by AfroTechMods

THE BEST Multimeter Tutorial

The voltmeter… the Volt-Ohm Meter… the Multimeter… digital or analog… continuity… amperage, voltage and ohms… COME ON, MAN!  What is it and how hard is it to use in the every day life of a ham radio enthusiast or just someone working in their workshop?  Once again, Afrotechmods has an excellent tutorial on his YouTube channel for us to learn from!

 

 

Explaining USB 3.0

ExplainingComputers YouTube Channel, Christopher Barnatt, explains USB 3.0 and how it compares to USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 and data transfer rates.

Analog Oscilloscope bandwidth considerations with W2AEW

Get the right O-Scope!

Monitor your Ham Radio transmitter with an oscilloscope with W2AEW

More O-Scope training!  This guy is so good at teaching it!

Analog Oscilloscope Basics: Making a Frequency Measurement with W2AEW

Bought my first O-Scope at Dayton Hamvention in 2015… here is a good way to learn!

2015 ARRL Field Day

Tom and Bill work on configuring Ham Radio Deluxe DM780.

Tom (KD8DQK) and Bill (WR8S) work on configuring Ham Radio Deluxe DM780 for our ARRL Field Day stations high atop the mountain.

Well… the 2015 ARRL Field Day adventure is in the books… the logbooks, that is. Having experienced decades of Field Day excursions, this one takes the cake!  What started out as a hot, sunny, humid Friday afternoon setting up our station high atop Chestnut Ridge, ended on Sunday afternoon having operated under conditions of torrential rains, a downward shift of 40 degrees in temperature, one antenna failure, one operator unable to man a station due to illness, a generator choked-out by all the moisture in the air and eventually walking around in a literal cloud!  We had three layers of clothes on and could see our breath on Sunday morning!  To say the least, it was a unique set of challenges to overcome.

Plan A was to slingshot and hang 3 doublet antennas, run 2 KX3’s for CW and PSK31, and run an Icom 7200 with a new Heil Pro 7 headset on voice.  We had a 5500 watt generator and 25 gallons of fuel to keep us purring along.  With 4 operators we had a good chance to keep all rigs racking up points for the duration.  Laptops were ready to log and the plan sounded solid.  The goal was to beat our score from Field Day 2014 and thought a good mix of voice and data would do the trick.

Our usual set-up has us mooching off of WR8S’s generosity when he goes to the trouble of of hauling his camper to the top of the mountain.  We extend the awning and set up a table or two to operate from.  Field Day 2014 was done via battery power and QRP mode.

WR8S and WD8DQK bundled up... oh wait...WR8S only brought shorts!  Wins endurance award!

WR8S and KD8DQK bundled up… oh wait…WR8S only brought shorts! Wins endurance award!

Sunday morning in a cloud!

Sunday morning in a cloud!

3 layers of clothes with hands so cold it was difficult to run DigiPan for PSK31 contacts.

WT8WV with 3 layers of clothes and hands so cold it was difficult to run DigiPan for PSK31 contacts.

The video below is a typical contest exchange using CW (Morse Code) and in the ARRL Field Day Contest an exchange of information would be the call sign of the other station, your operating mode (how many radios are you running and what sort of power and station are you running), followed by your section of the country.  Then you return your own exchange to the other station and move on the to next contact by calling “CQ FD CQ FD de WT8WV WT8WV” and hope for a return of your call sign for a confirmed contact to log.  CQ means “calling anyone”… FD means your are calling for the “Field Day” contest… de is French and means “from”… and WT8WV is our station’s “identifying call sign”.  (You will see Bill (WR8S) make a contact and then write down the exchange from the other station on the log paper… then he begins calling CQ FD CQ FD de WT8WV using a memory keyer that he can program with the CQ message, our contact information and a thank you good bye message.  He just needs to use the keyer paddles to send the other stations call sign during a contest.)  Our return message to the other station to enter into their own log was, “WT8WV 2A WV”.

The pictures below tell the story of our challenges and our solutions.  I have to admit I thought we were DOA when the generator croaked at 4:30 am on Sunaday… but we quickly came up with Plan X and realized WR8S had a converter in his truck!  Back to battery power to finish of a good run of PSK31 and CW for 2 points each!

The original team plan was to use my new call sign WT8WV and be “3 Alpha West Virginia” but Jay got sick on Friday so we were now down 1 team member and 1 radio.  Then we had a balun issue with 1 doublet antenna.  So now we are WT8WV 2A WV with 2 Elecraft K3’s and 1 antenna.  We decided to salvage our potential scores by focusing on PSK31 and WR8S’s speedy left hand on CW… and forgo voice comms.

Friday night

Friday night with Jay and Bill

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Bill’s new eBay score! SWEEEEEET!

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Tom working on busted antenna while Bill tries to thaw out from a cold night.

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Bill loading software and setting features.

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Added a 24 X 12 tarp for 3 total sides to block prevailing weather and winds.

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Generator exiled away for less QRN.

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Tom runs PSK31 as Bill logs.

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Spence working PSK31 and Bill keeps him straight.

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Bill cranking out CW contacts as Spence logs.

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Used a nice Android App to log with a bluetooth keyboard.

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Tom and Bill hook-up inverter to salvage our weekend.

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Tom saves the day! Good Boy Scout… WAS prepared.

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Tom fixed us a wonderfully WARM Sunday breakfast and we continued to grab a last string of PSK31 on 20 meters.

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A nice last hour run of CW on Sunday morning by Bill.

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PSK31 logs of confirmed QSO’s

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Bill brought a 16 foot long string of BRIGHT LED’s to light up our lives! Best gizmo of the weekend!

How can you become a Ham Radio operator QUICKLY?

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You won’t believe how easy it can be!  You take it in bite-size chunks of information and at your own pace.  NO MORE MORSE CODE REQUIREMENT!  (But Morse Code is a blast to still use and also the most efficient form of radio communication!  I had to be able to send and receive 5 words per minute for the old Novice License… 13 wpm for General Class… and 20 wpm for Advanced and Extra Class licenses.  There are no longer any Morse Code requirements and the Novice and Advanced Class licenses are no longer available.)  For more than 100 years ham radio operators have been exploring the world and beyond from their own little ham shacks / ham station / living rooms.  It never gets old and there is always something to explore!

What can you do with a ham radio?  Talk to people all over the world with as little as 1 watt or less… or even 1500 watts.  Assist in Emergency Communications.  Assist with branches of the US Armed Forces.  Build your own radios and equipment.  Experiment with your own antennas.  Go to fun “Hamfests and Flea Markets” to learn and get great bargains.  Find new friends who are hams in your local club.  Participate in the Annual ARRL Field Day Contest and exercises!  Talk to the astronauts on the International Space Station.  Talk to other hams around the world THROUGH many ham radio satellites orbiting the earth!  Use your local VHF/UHF Repeaters to talk to family and friends from the car, handheld radio or from home.  Track ham radio equipped balloon flights.  Work with hams with disabilities.  Refurbish or collect old time ham radio equipment.  Teach others ham radio courses and/or help with exam sessions.

ARRL-Centennial-Logo-small-1024x868           skywarn           amradiospace2013           amateur_radio_emergency_service_thumb  
                                                               

There are three different licenses you can obtain and they are designed in a way that as you study to get the first license, what you learn there will help you understand the next license study material.  The really nice thing about it is that you will have ALL the multiple choice questions in each exam pool AND THE EXACT ANSWER TO EVERY QUESTION!  That’s pretty good to have all the Q’s and A’s to study!  The sample questions in your study materials are the EXACT questions you will see on the exam.  A score of 74% gets you the license!  There are also FREE practice exams you can take online or even from your smartphone!  (I took a couple practice exams each evening as I sat watching TV in my favorite chair in my living room.)  Soon the questions you have missed in the past practice exams are embedded in your brain with the correct answers reinforced!  Each question will have four (4) possible answers; and on most of the questions you can just about eliminate two of the possible answers just by looking at them.  (I will give you some good pointers about how to study and prepare for the exams at the end of this post!  Read them before you buy any study guides or books!)

ham-radio-test

You will just need to do some interesting and fun reading, look at the questions (and the exact answers) from each chapter of the book… and before you know it you will be ready to take the exam!  You are going to learn some really cool stuff each time you read the material.  PLUS, as you advance to a higher class of Ham Radio license you can pick your own call sign!  (In the early 1980’s my first call sign was KA8LJO from the FCC as a Novice Class licensee… then I was assigned KB8FIR by the FCC when I got my Technician Class license… and better yet, when I got my Extra Class license I picked my own call sign, WT8WV… “Whiskey Tango 8 Whiskey Victor”.  I chose it for three reasons… I am fond of an occasional taste of good whiskey… I love my state of West Virginia… and phonetically it stands out and sings in a pile-up during a Ham Radio contest!)

GWTW14Stech

The first license you study for is called the Technician License and the exam has only 35 questions!  You will learn some very basic things about electricity, how your radio signals move through the air, some of the rules that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) expects us to abide by for best practices, antennas, radios, the frequencies you can use in your new radio, and much more!  You will gain legal access to some very good frequencies for both voice and data communication in several excellent ham bands.  You could be ready to take this exam in a couple weeks of study!

gwgw11gen

The second license is called the General Class License and also has only 35 questions.  This course adds to what you learned in the Technician Class study.  It really dives just a bit deeper into some common things you will find will help you get more out of your antenna, radios, contesting, which ham bands magically open at specific periods of the day and year, some simply explanations of a few electronic circuits we use every day, and much more!  You will also gain even MORE frequencies on the ham bands to use at your pleasure!  You could be ready to take this exam in 2-4 weeks of easy study!

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The third (and highest class of Ham Radio license) is called the Extra Class License and consists of a 50 question exam.  This study course really dives deeper in what you have learned in the Technician and General Class license preparations.  It will take a bit more time to study and prepare, and has a few more questions on the exam.  You gain ALL frequencies allotted to Ham Radio communications, with several excellent niches within certain ham bands reserved for ONLY Extra Class licensees!  You could be ready to take this exam in 30-60 days with some good study and practice exams under your belt!

ARRL-Logo

The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) also offers all sorts of study books for not only all the licenses but a myriad of way cool ham related stuff for every facet of this vast hobby!  I have been a member of the ARRL for years and the monthly QST magazine alone is worth my dues!  Plus you get discounts on all the other books and items.  You can even find a local ham radio license class!  http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-class  Here is a link to the ARRL study guides for the three licenses.  They are much more in-depth than the Gordon West series of license books and a good addition to your study… but I personally feel the Gordon West series in the best way to get that license quickly.  Below for more information.   http://www.arrl.org/ham-radio-license-manual

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License Exam Study and Preparation Tips

Select which study book you will use for the license you are going to test for.

Find a quiet place to read.

Have a yellow highlighter handy to highlight things you might need to refer to for a question.

Study about 20 minutes a day.  That way you won’t overload your brain!

Download a smartphone app with the ham radio practice exam questions and answers.  I used this all the time whenever I had to wait around for something or someone… or in a boring meeting (once in a while).

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iversoft.ham.test.prep&hl=en

Watch free YouTube videos to help you prepare or further understand the chapter.  I have watched all of Dave Casler’s YouTube videos and they were a tremendous help to UNDERSTAND not just the question but the concept for every ham license book.  He does each video by chapter or topic and they a short enough to consume in a sitting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEWmiMotimY&list=PL07A7D1C9D7BF7F48

I highly recommend the Gordon West Technician Class License Value Pack for getting your Technician License quickly!  I don’t get paid for saying this!  Grin.  However, I will tell your this is the best investment in getting a license you can find.  Gordo makes it fun to learn and he tackles every question and answer in a way that will etch it deep in your memory.  You will absolutely burn through the questions and he’ll teach you ways to remember even the questions that seem difficult for some reason.  I have met him at the Dayton Hamvention and he’s a wonderful person and so helpful.  He even gives you his personal telephone number to call if you have a question!  I suggest burning the CD’s to an MP3 format and put them on your iPod, iPhone, Android or other device so your can listen to them anywhere… car, at lunch, on the treadmill, working out, hiking, etc.  Worked for me every time I did my 30 minutes on the treadmill and lifting weights!  (After I completed my Extra Class license with his book and CD’s I sold them for half-price to another General License ham in our club who is now studying with them!  You could recoup some of your cost, too!)

http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=78&sort=4

I highly recommend the Gordon West General Class License Value Pack for getting your General Class License quickly!  http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=59&sort=4

I highly recommend the Gordon West Extra Class License Value Pack for getting your Extra Class License quickly!  http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=43&sort=4

Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams!

These are free and a good way to see what areas you need to focus on so you can master a question.  I did this about every evening during commercials watching TV!  Great feedback on how you are progressing in your studies.  When you begin scoring 80% on these practice exams you will be ready to sit for an exam!  (If you buy the ARRL study books, they come with a CD with all the questions in the pool, the answers, scores your exams, shows you the areas you need to focus on, and tracks your progress by each section of the question pool.)  

http://www.eham.net/exams/

Getting you Ham Radio License is NOT rocket science… but it will be fun!  It’s a hobby that is ageless.  What happens if the cellphone towers don’t work, or if there is a prolonged power outage, or a natural disaster prevents normal communications?  Ham radio operators are often the first folks getting the word out and getting the help coming in!  I doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, either!  I have pieces of equipment I have either built myself or purchased dirt cheap at a flea market.  I have also saved my money for some other items in my ham shack.  It’s also a fun hobby to share with family, friends, and associates worldwide!  GET ON THE AIR!       

Click on picture below to enlarge it so you can see the frequency privileges you get with each license!

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Doublet Antenna to Hang!

Will be putting this baby up in the air soon!  Also have a 4:1 balun to add to it.  We use these for Field Day, as well!

Will be putting this baby up in the air soon! Also have a 4:1 balun to add to it. We use these for Field Day, as well!

2015 Dayton Hamvention Exploits

Tektronix 455... have always wanted a 'scope' to use to monitor my signals.  Got this one from a engineer who upgraded to a fancy new one.  Paid $75 for it and it works great!

Tektronix 455… have always wanted a ‘scope’ to use to monitor my signals. Got this one from a engineer who upgraded to a fancy new one. Paid $75 for it and it works great!

Bill, Tom and I decided to buy a QRP rig to play with that night while in Dayton.  So we picked this little jewel up, found an old power supply, and rigged up a dipole for some 40 Meter QRP.

Bill, Tom and I decided to buy a QRP rig to play with that night while in Dayton. So we picked this little jewel up, found an old power supply, some cheap meters and rigged up a dipole for some 40 Meter QRP.

Bill and Tom (with the assistance of my daughter's cat,

Bill and Tom (with the assistance of my daughter’s cat, “Ender”) put together the custom dipole for 40 Meters. It was strung through the kitchen and up the stairs… and it made beautiful music!

Inside the MFJ 40 Meter QRP rig... CLEAN!

Inside the MFJ 40 Meter QRP rig… CLEAN!

Picked up a cheap power supply and some $1 meters to add to our Dayton Hamvention

Picked up a cheap power supply and some $1 meters to add to our Dayton Hamvention “power house QRP station”.

Bad capacitor in power supply had to be re-soldered.

Bad capacitor in power supply had to be re-soldered.

Needed a little TLC

Needed a little TLC

Stealth antenna for QRP

Stealth antenna for QRP

Bill wiring circuits with Tom's oversight.

Bill wiring circuits with Tom’s oversight.

Bought this cute and tiny South African Special Forces Keyer to use for QRP and Straight Key Night contests.

Bought this cute and tiny South African Special Forces Keyer to use for QRP and Straight Key Night contests.

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A couple of old $1 meters

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Lighting up the FINALS! Burning holes through the clouds!

NEXT YEAR... this will be our big purchase for a tower for our weekend QRP station.  Tom gets to carry it out of the Dayton Hamvention Hara Arena to the truck.

NEXT YEAR… this will be our big purchase for a tower for our weekend QRP station. Tom gets to carry it out of the Dayton Hamvention Hara Arena to the truck.

Upgraded to Extra Class License and New Call Sign ! WT8WV

In March of 2015 I took my test for Extra Class and passed with flying colors.  I then did some searching for a unique vanity call sign that would have the letters “WV” somehow incorporated for “West Virginia” initials.  None of the 1 X 2 calls were available, so I fixated on variations of a 2 X 2 call.  I tried prefixes of W? A? K? N? followed by 8WV.  After some thought for use in a contest, I settled on a “WT” prefix since you don’t tend to hear many “WHISKEY TANGO” prefixes… soooooo…

WHISKEY TANGO 8 WHISKEY VICTOR

WT8WV

A buddy of mine in the ham club said, “That’s a lot of whiskey’s…”  I told him I am fond of whiskeys and love West Virginia… hence the new call sign.  Eighteen days later the FCC granted my first choice and I retired my old call sign, “KB8FIR” and before that my original call sign from the early 1980’s was “KA8LJO”.

Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD)…

I love Ham Radio Deluxe software!  It has it ALL for your hamshack!  This is serious software for the serious Ham Radio Operator.  It integrates with soooooo many other Ham softwares, rigs and rotors.

http://www.ham-radio-deluxe.com/

Radio Control

The heart of Ham Radio Deluxe, Rig Control provides a customizable interface to control your amateur transceiver using its built-in computer aided control interface. Rig Control allows you to organize buttons, sliders, and drop-downs to toggle radio options, select modes and filter settings, and control various level inputs via your computer screen. HRD Rig Control brings out features buried in a modern rig’s menus, making it easy for you to optimize your rig with a few clicks of the mouse.
Rig Control takes advantage of computer control features built in by your radio’s manufacturer. Using your interface cable, Rig Control takes control of your radio to make the most of its features. It also provides the interface for the other modules of Ham Radio Deluxe to communicate with your radio: bring mode and frequency information straight into your logbook, key your radio while using exciting digital modes, and automatically adjust for Doppler shift while “working the birds.”

Logbook

Logbook is a complete DX operations center. Beginning with a robust database engine, Ham Radio Deluxe Logbook screams operating convenience. Packed with features, Logbook is the ideal shack accessory for everyone from the novice rag-chewer to the most accomplished paper-hanger. Keep track of all important contact information with the click of a mouse. Look up name, QTH, and other important information about your contacts using a variety of online and offline sources. Interface with the popular QRZ.com call sign database (subscription required), a free look up service, or HRD’s SAM Callsign CD (sold separately.)
Logbook also interfaces with DX Spider cluster servers for spotting the rare ones. The Bandmap feature graphically displays spots within a band with up to 10 bands visible at once. With just a click of a mouse, swing your beam to the DX station’s heading. Once you have the rare DX in the log, integration with Trusted QSL makes uploading to Logbook of the World a snap! Downloading from LoTW is just as simple. In fact, Logbook interfaces with many popular electronic logbook services, including eQSL, HRDLog.net, and ClubLog. Logbook keeps track of many popular awards too. Logbook is packed with features!

Digital Master (formerly DM-780)

Digital Master, formerly “DM-780,” is the all-purpose digital communications package integrated with the Ham Radio Deluxe suite. Digital Master uses your computer’s soundcard interface and radio connection to offer a wide range of communications options to the amateur radio operator. Digital Master is capable of a wide range of digital modes, including CW, RTTY, SSTV, PSK31, MT-63, and more. For the CW enthusiast, Digital Master interfaces with the popular K1EL WinKeyer. True frequency shift keying (FSK) and audio frequency shift keying (AFSK) keying are available for RTTY operation.
You can stay on top of the action with Digital Master’s SuperSweeper, allowing you to copy up to 40 QSO’s at once in CW, RTTY or PSK. Once the QSO is complete, Digital Master interfaces directly with Logbook to record the contact. Digital Master works with a variety of audio and multimode interfaces including the Timewave Navigator, SignaLink USB, and West Mountain Radio RigBlaster.

Satellite Tracker

Ham Radio Deluxe’s Satellite Tracking module takes the guesswork out of satellite operations. Using the latest orbital mechanics equations and up-to-the-minute Keplerian element information downloaded from a variety of trusted sources, you can predict satellite passes with confidence. Customizable visualization keep you apprised of the satellite’s foot print, projected path, and predicted elevation for given passes. A real-time link to Google Earth allows one to see what the satellite “sees” as it flies overhead – great for presentations!
Real-time tracking feeds azimuth and elevation information directly to rotator control for automated positioning of satellite antenna systems. Satellite Tracking automatically calculates Doppler shift for the satellite’s transponders and sends tuning data to Rig Control, keeping your radio locked in the transponder’s passband.

Rotator Control

Integrating with Logbook and Satellite Tracking, Rotator Control manages beam headings via any computer interfaced rotator controller. Many modern control boxes such as the M2 RC2800PX, Green Heron RT-2x series, Yaesu GS-232, MDS RC-1, and HyGain DCU series controllers have computer control capability. Many more can be retrofit for computer control – why not put them to work?
Rotator Control displays a Mercator or great circle projection map that enables click-to-point rotator operation. Drop-down country lists also make it easy to find those rare DX entities: simply select the country name to point your beam and start calling. Rotator Control is the finishing touch for your station integration project.

Technical Support

HRD Software offers multiple forms of support. You can talk to a live person by calling or emailing the support department. An email opens an automatic trouble ticket which is responded to by a member of the support team. You can check also check on your Ticket Status via the Internet. Our support team may recommend a remote session using Teamviewer to ascertain where an issue may be and to fix it. There is also the option of using the Forums for peer to peer support. HRD Software has a YouTube Channel that features several videos that can be used to help configure your system.

Updated Fixes and New Features

  • Fault on connection with IP logging enabled – fixed
  • Norton 360 – fixed
  • LOTW upload and download – fixed
  • ODBC error – fixed
  • Winkey 3 Support – fixed
  • FT-1200 Support added
  • OMNI VI Support added
  • HRD Voice
  • Updated Label Maker
  • ADX Support
  • FT-767 GX II Support
  • IC-9100 Satellite Mode to use VFO B
  • WA9PIE-2 Cluster Support
  • Unicode Support
  • Improved K3 and KX3 Support
  • Flex 6700 with SmartSDR Support

  • Windows 8.1 Support
  • Yaesu SCU-17 Support
  • Orion KY Keyer Support
  • ClubLog Support
  • Dstar Icom Radios ID-3 and ID-5 Support
  • FSK fixes (updated)
  • PSK Reporter fixes
  • Logbook and Cluster fixes
  • Radio Control fixes
  • Icom A/B and QSX fixes
  • Line colors based on WSI in Logbook
  • ID-5100 Support
  • Updated License Manager
  • RC fix for VCP ports
  • Multiple QSO’s on a singel label
  • Make your own QSL Card
  • Alinco support DX SR8/9, DX77
  • HRD WSI Filters
  • FTDX CAT Controlled Rotors Support
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4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

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Tinkertoytech's Blog

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