Blog Archives

Try an HF Net… Rack up those States and Countries FAST!

I was rolling across the 40 Meter band one night and hit a nightly net called the OMISS NET (Old Man International Sideband Society) and there was a busy back and forth between stations making a call sign and signal report in a very orderly way on 7.185 MHz LSB.  So, I tuned up (off frequency) and when they called for “check-ins” I threw my WT8WV call sign in and they called me back and the next thing I knew I racked up 14 new states in about an hour or so!  The next night I added 10 more states!  They have nets on most of the HF frequencies and can be found on their website.

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OMISS 101

OMISS, or Old Man International Sideband Society, has been operating list-type awards nets on the General Amateur bands since 1981. Want to get your WAS quickly? This is a great place to get it done. Do you like to work lots of stations for unique awards? We have several challenging awards to work for, each with an attractive certificate to hang on your wall. Do you like contesting? We hold an annual QSO Party and invite the whole Amateur community.

The real cool thing is they use a free software program called NETLOGGER  (see info on Netlogger below) that is an online logging server that shows in real time who has checked into the net and available to be contacted. When it’s your turn, you call who you need and make the exchange with them.  Then as you listen someone might want to call YOU to get your state!  Slick as a whistle!  For a one time cost of $7 you can get your own OMISS Number (i.e. 10722 is assigned to me) and you log in with it each time for a speedy check-in process and it is also tied to numerous awards you can get.

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.

koch_display

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!

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)
1._Merle_doing_code_feature

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!

ADMS_M100_U_2__89502.1447692865.220.220

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

 

 

Intro to Kit Building for Radio Amateurs by K7QO (Chuck Adams)

Chuck Adams (K7QO) makes a club presentation on Kit Building basics.  He highlights what every ham radio operator needs on his workbench to build kits or make repairs.

K7QO Chuck Adams website

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)…

 

Make your own Dipole Antenna

Randy does such a good job of explaining how to make your own 10 Meter Dipole.  Get on the air… 10 meters is a fun band when the sun cooperates!

Magnetic Loop Antenna

I always wondered if this type of magnetic loop antenna would “get out” to the world and how it worked.  This video shows both!

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.

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!

Aluminum Soldering Demonstration at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention

I have seen this presentation several times over the years while attending the Dayton Hamvention.  Don Wilke does a great job demonstrating the process of bonding various metals at a low temperature using this special material.  I finally purchased a pack of these rods in May 2016.  As many things as I can mess up around the house and garden, I am sure it will come in handy soon.  I decided to film it for my blog and then sent the video to Don for him to use.

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!

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”.

Logbook of The World (LOTW)… not as difficult as you think!

I set up LOTW and it was not as hard to do as I was led to believe!  I have the TQSL’s for all 3 of my ham radio licenses dating back to the 1980’s… KA8LJO… KB8FIR… and now WT8WV… here are some helpful videos to assist you in getting it up and running fast and easy.  (I learned a lot by watching the videos before I even downloaded it!)  I will add links to LOTW at the end of this post so you can get everything you need.

http://www.arrl.org/logbook-of-the-world

Kent Morse Tutor

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Kent Morse Tutor
Android App available from Google Play

HELP TO LEARN, IMPROVE AND MAINTAIN YOUR MORSE CODE PROFICIENCY

The FREE KENT Morse tutor app generates random Morse code in groups of 5, or random length groups of 1 to 10 characters and lesson lengths of up to 250 groups of characters.

The selectable letters, numbers and punctuation’s can be played individually or in any combination.

Code speeds from 5 WPM to 40 WPM can be selected in 1 WPM steps, and an independent delay can be inserted between characters. This feature allows you to learn each character at the correct speed but allows thinking time between characters. as you improve, the delay can be reduced.

The tone can be set between 500hz and 1750hz

Please visit Google Play to download the free version of the android app

Cool Android App to help you turn into a CW Pro!  Learning the Morse Code is not hard and adds extra fun when you warm up the radio.  Click on the link above from The DXZone website for more information about the smartphone app.

Ham Radio Reference Site… RigReference.Com

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I stumbled onto this really cool website called RigReference.Com and was able to find some information on several older pieces of equipment I have in my ham shack.  Here is what their website says…

Who we are

RigReference.com is designed for and by Ham Radio enthusiasts. RigReference.com provides information about new and vintage amateur radio equipment (rigs) and allows and encourages members to share their opinions about these rigs.

RigReference.com is always looking for amateur related news, especially new equipment announcements. If you’ve seen or heard anything interesting please don’t hesitate to contact us!

RigReference.com explicitly does not sell ham radio equipment and/or parts.

Twitter… @RigReference

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playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

HarsH ReaLiTy

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

BG5TLA's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

Tinkertoytech's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

KC4LMD

Chronicling my pursuit of amateur radio’s "Worked All Neighbors" award

Casey's Place

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

Hackaday

Fresh hacks every day

VK4JAZ

Writings about Amateur Radio

Tactical HF

I love the smell of ozone in the morning...smells like...radio.

WB5RMG : RadioActive Blog

slightly sub-orbital testing facility

73, de N2HTT

A blog about ham radio, Linux and more...

Ham Radio Blog PD0AC

Thoughts of a Dutch radio amateur

Silver Bells Blog

Truth Appealing...

CQ de WT8WV... GraHAM's Dits & Dah's

My journey in amateur radio intrigues and hobby interests

K5UNX Ham Radio Blog

A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

Mountain Mists...

A pleasant journey into how I see things... big and small

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