Archives For Ham Radio

Last week I participated in the 13 Colonies Special Event. The 13 Colonies Special Event is a contest (of sorts) where the object is to contact another (specific) station in each of the original 13 colonies (plus two bonus stations).  The event lasts the entire first week of July.

This is the second year in a row that I’ve participated in this event.  Last year I nearly had a “clean sweep” (the term used to describe you successfully contacting all stations in a given contest) save for one bonus station.  This year, I was able to contact all 15 stations — although I had a great bit of difficulty reaching South Carolina.  Such difficulty, in fact, that I’m uncertain they got my call 100% correct.  (The noise on that band was louder than the station which made it extremely difficult to hear them even when I had DSP noise reduction enabled.)

My impressions about this particular event haven’t changed since last year, but since I didn’t blog about it then, I’ll talk about them here: Continue Reading…

Every year the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) sponsors a contest called “Field Day.”

According to the ARRL flier,

ARRL Field Day is the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada. On the fourth weekend of June of each year, more th an 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations.

In other words, Hams all over the nation drag their radio junk outside and set up temporary stations in attempt to contact as many other stations as possible.  You could say it’s the intersection between a contest and emergency preparedness.

I’m not certain when Field Day began (and I’m too lazy to look it up) but this is the second Field Day since I’ve been a licensed Ham.  Last year I didn’t participate since I had a few-week old new born.  This year I originally wanted to head out with my friend, WK4U, and operate from the field.  Preferably while camping.  Due to differences in our schedules, we only had Saturday to work with so we decided to drive around and visit various Field Day sites.

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Late Friday evening I dropped an alert that if everything lined up, I intended on activating Sweat Mountain during the ARRL VHF contest.  I also followed it up with a rambling blog post, because 60 characters sometimes isn’t enough to explain the details surrounding a mountain activation.

My priority was to meet up with a fellow Ham and work as many stations as we could and before we packed up to head home for the evening, I would activate the mountain.  Unfortunately, we got started much later in the afternoon than I had anticipated and I never bothered to update my alert to let anyone paying attention know that I was going to be late, if at all.

In hindsight, I probably should have done that as a courtesy to others but by my estimation (looking at my web logs), only two people clicked on the link to my blog from the alert I posted on SOTAWatch anyway.  So to those two individuals, I apologize.

While my activities during the VHF contest weren’t anything to write home about, the adventure to activate Sweat Mountain turns out to be blog-worthy.  I’ll start by saying that it’s the activation that almost wasn’t.

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I had participated in the ARRL January VHF QSO Party my very first year as a licensed Ham and I must admit that I wasn’t that impressed.  It was cold, my fingers were numb and my arms were tired from holding an Arrow antenna at arms length trying to chase a dozen VHF/UHF contacts across metro Atlanta.  Yet, I still answered the call from a fellow Ham to participate in this year’s VHF contest. I actually thought this year would be different — and for the most part, it was.

I was equipped with new radios, new antennas and most importantly, I intended on letting a mast do the work: I wasn’t going to be holding any antennas this time.  So I met up with WK4U Saturday afternoon and we rolled up to the top of Sweat Mountain, found a spot in the shade a little ways down from all the antennas and EMI and got to work.

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I apologize for redirecting you Shack Sloths over here but I had more to say than would fit in the SOTAWatch Alert comment field…

This Saturday June 14th (and/or possibly Sunday June 15th?) I will be on Sweat Mountain W4G/CE-002 participating in the ARRL VHF/UHF contest. Depending on how things work out, I will attempt to activate the mountain via VHF in hopes of avoiding stringing up an HF antenna.

What things would prevent me from activating?

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Last weekend (April 12th-13th) I participated in the Georgia QSO Party and while I achieved a score I’m proud of, I have mixed emotions about the contest.  But before I discuss all the reasons for that, here is a summary of my contacts for the weekend:

Contacts Multipliers
222 United States 43 Unique States
4 Canada 2 Unique Provinces
3 DX
229 TOTAL 45 TOTAL
229 QSOs x 45 multipliers = 10,305 claimed score

 

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In case you aren’t current on this topic, you might want to read Setting Up My Ham Shack and My Thoughts on CQRLOG.

A few weeks ago I mentioned the “powerful logging features” of CQRLOG.  Such features don’t come without a cost.  Or, in this case, a “processing” cost.  And by processing cost, I mean the type usually tied to using a traditional database.  SQL databases aren’t exactly known for their low overhead, which is why CQRLOG was not a good candidate to run on a Raspberry Pi.

My Intel i7 2.7gHz processor with 8 gigabytes of RAM, however, is a different story.

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Setting Up My Ham Shack

March 11, 2014 — 2 Comments

I really wanted to be chasing a couple of new states for the ARRL Centennial QSO Party, but I feel like I need to pump a few blogs out — so those contacts will just have to wait until later.  This post is mainly to serve as some background for future topics; certainly not to establish any baseline for how you should outfit your shack OR possibly cover everything on the topic.

I haven’t been a ham radio operator very long (less than 2 years), so I don’t exactly have an established ham shack (what ham radio operators call the room or area where they operate from).  Seasoned ham radio operators put a lot of thought and consideration into their shack setup for a multitude of reasons, mainly to avoid unwanted RFI (radio frequency interference).

While my RFI problems are mainly limited to not being able to tune to certain frequencies (noisy interference) or being able to turn some of the lights in my home on/off using my ham radio, I mostly considered how I was going to fit ham radio gear on my already-established “home office” desk. Between two laptops, a display, large printer and all the other accessories that clutter one’s desk, space was certainly limited!

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March AARL DX Contest

March 4, 2014 — 2 Comments

This past weekend the ARRL sponsored a DX Contest which I participated in as time allowed.  I racked up 78 QSOs for 62 new DXCCs.  I was hoping that would be enough to push me over the top for 100 DXCCs, but I fell short by 6 contacts.  I’m sure I’ll fill in the blanks before the next big HF contest…

All contacts were made QRP via my KX3 on 5 watts or less.  I backed down the power on several stations to qualify for more than a dozen 1,000 miles-per-watt awards.  (I would have displayed the actual MPWs and country names in the table below but I couldn’t figure out how to get my logging program to export all those details.)  Anyway, here are the QSOs I made this past weekend:

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As a Ham Radio operator and a Linux enthusiast, my options for programs to log QSOs is somewhat limited.  Unlike the Windows environment, there are only a handful of Linux logging programs to chose from.

I had initially taken a liking to CQRLOG for it’s powerful logging features but quickly became disappointed with it’s system requirements.  Namely, it won’t run on a Raspberry Pi — especially when operating side-by-side with FLDIGI.  While I don’t use a Raspberry Pi as the primary computer in my shack, I’d like to have that low-power option should I need it. (Such as, for a Field Day.)

Ultimately, I decided upon Xlog not only for it’s ability to run on systems with less horsepower but also in part because of it’s speed and simplicity of use.  I also liked that it uses a flat file for the log instead of a database on the backend.  (However, check back with me when I have several thousand contacts and we’ll see how that flat file holds up.)

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