Saturday, April 29, 2006

Got the Appalachian Trail dipole put together. I used an MFJ 33' fiberglass pole to hang it up on. That put the feedpoint roughly 30' off the ground. I had the legs in a rough "inverted vee" configuration. The end insulators were about 6 feet off the ground.

The first attempt was resonant with an SWR of 1.3:1 at 6.8 MHz.

I shortened it up another 1.5 ft and got really reasonable results.

Here is the SWR curve. The Y-Axis is SWR with 1.0 at the bottom and 0.2 unit intervals.

Since my three main operating frequencies on 40m are 7.060 and 7.250 and 7.2685 MHz that should work just peachy.

I called CQ both CW and SSB but nobody came back. Answered a CW from W7WE but he didn't hear me. Finally asked for a signal report from a group that had just broken up. Jim, K6SEK came back and gave me a 56 or a 57.

Jim is exotic DX. Aptos, CA. All of 20 miles away. Hi hi!

I'll have lessons learned from tuning and using the Appalachian Dipole later this evening...

Not a lot to post tonight. I'm up too late.

Tried CWs on 40 and 20m. No joy. Listened around a lot. No joy.

Hunted down another 40m noise source. Light dimmer. That's two.

Cleaning up my 40m noise is sorta like the "lowering the stream" quality philosophy.

Essentually removing the big rocks from a stream allows you to "lower the water in the stream" which in turn reveals more, but smaller, rocks.

Maybe I'll have better luck tomorrow.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tried to check into the "Gordo" ARES/Rescue net again this morning.

Conditions were still really bad, but I stopped at the "Piddle Point" up near the summit of highway nine. JV (K6HJU), Dave (W8FLL) and Craig (AE6RR) were all hearable.

So we had a SLV mini-version of the 40m net.

Noontime was too busy to get on the radio.

Ran the SLVARC net this evening. 5 people: Tom KG6AO, Brad KD6ZJN, Donya KI6DAR and Sam KE6ZRW made it in.

After net Sam checked in for some SLV slow speed CW practice. He worked through a couple of "bumps" and we went at it for about 45 minutes.

Tomorrow I get to go to the bank & post office for a new toy.

Hopefully that will leave some time for a little QRP in the Park, but maybe not.

If I'm feeling like beating myself up, I'll focus on working weak stations for a while... :-)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

For 4/26

A good day over all.

First off tried to check in to the "Gordo" ARES/Rescue net on 40m on my way to work. No joy. Propagation on 40m was "weird." I could hear the foreign broadcast stations but only one station in California.

It turns out that there were a series of solar flares this morning!

Noon was better. I was able to check in to the Noontime net on 40m and got a good signal report using the Alinco DX-70H and a 40m ham stick on my car. First mobile contact, eh?

Finally, got to have a really nice CW QSO with "Dick" K8GTQ of Flushing, MI on 20m. I was just tuning around and caught a quick CW. And... and everything worked "the way it's supposed to."

After that I did some more tuning around on 40m but didn't find anything happening. Also tried a couple quick CQ's on 30m but didn't really hear anybody. There may have been one station that tried, but I'm not even sure about that.

I like the concept of 30m so I'll have to try it some more.

Finally, I installed a pair of filters into the Icom-706MkIIg. A FL-100 500 Hz CW filter and a 2.8 kHz wide SSB filter. I think the CW filter will help a lot. But I think I made a mistake on the wide SSB filter. Oh well... The price was right...

For 4/25

Heard the "Gordo" Rescue/ARES net, but was on too late to check in. (Got to leave the house earlier!).

The noontime net was unhearable due to strange propagation.

Ran the SLVARES net this evening. We had 13 check ins. Pretty good for a "boring old spring night." We've got a good group of hams up here in the valley.

Finally when fishing for a CW QSO to finish off the day, I called CQ on 10m hoping that one of my SLV QRS buddies might be listening. Sure enough, back came Hap KQ6YV, my CW guru/Elmer.

I wasn't as focused as I normally am, but the QSO was great as it stood. It flowed well and I had "pert near" 100% copy. I'd really like to get fast enough so that Hap can use his bug.

Practice, practice, practice!!!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Best news?

I had a nice CW QSO on 40m with WB5KJE "Bob" in Paris, TX.

FINALLY some luck on CW.

Next best news?

Got the Alinco sorta working in the Saab. Swapped out the 720 lip mount for the 730 and whaled down on all the fasteners. I _still_ don't trust it mobile, but at least I can operate it when I'm parked.

I've got the 20m and 40m antennas in the trunk. If I'm standing still I'll try the Gordo net tomorrow morning. And certainly the Noontime net tomorrow at lunch.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Real world experience QRP/portable in Oakhurst...

The PAC-12 antenna 4/20

The PAC-12 is MUCH better than a "Miracle" Whip.

On Thursday (about 14:30 PDT) I set up using the PAC-12 portable vertical antenna. At James, of Pacific Antenna, suggestion I added an additional 2 one-foot sections between the feedpoint and the bottom of the loading coil (for better efficiency on 40m). A quick check using the "SWR" meter on the Yaesu-817ND showed that the sweet spot on the loading coil didn't change with this addition.

My immediate reaction was that the antenna isn't mechanically sound in this configuration. There was a lot of "teetering" going on. It sorta leaned off in one direction or another.

I can't tell much one way or the other if my actual "on the air signal" improved. The band was really noisy, but I was able to check into the Noontime net, after many repeats and a relay...

Lesson learned: I need to get a field strength meter if I'm going to play with these things seriously.

Dropping down into the CW portion of the band drove the SWR meter on the rig from zero bars to two bars. Three bars is supposed to be the beginning of "bad". Being the tweaker that I am, I moved the tap on the coil up a wire or two and brought it back down to zero. Nice practice I suppose...

Good old wire: 4/21
Get da fire in da wire en git it up higher.

The 1/2 wave end-fed was much better than the PAC-12. It was in a rough inverted-U configuration. First leg up roughly 25', then horizontal or slightly up to about 30' for 35' then the rest of it dangling down. (I misjudged the distance between the two limbs, but since they were a nice height for my water bottle launching method I figured to leave well enough alone...)

I used the 40m set-up with a 1/4 wave counter poise and a ZM-2 tuner.

It was a different day, so propagation was a bit different, but I did get into the Noontime net first call with a signal report of S2 "Good signal for QRP."

Then I shifted to 20m and did much better when I folded said counterpoise in 1/2.
Heard Texas and Il but didn't work either of them. Time/battery.

Will add a sling shot to my kit before the next outing.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

From 4/18

Tested the Astatic M6 575 microphone with Craig, AE6RR today at lunch. We tweaked with both the Volume and Tone adjustments. The volume gives a roughly 10-15 dB change in received S-meter reading. I parked it at about "6", or just above the 'L' in volume. Any higher didn't get good results.

The tone was a bit harder to adjust. Higher seemed better to Craig, but it sounded "nasal" to me at the highest levels, so I backed it down to about 75%.

Need to run some A/B tests on the air to see if it actually is any better than the stock mic.

From 4/17

Hooked up the Astatic M6 575 power mic to the rig. The PTT works. The rig's modulation meter seems to move when I talk. Will test tomorrow with Craig.

From 4/15

More frustration.

From 4/14

EXTREME frustration. Spent about 1.5 hours calling CQ on various bands.

80m 3.550 MHz
20m 14.050 MHz

No responses.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

PAC-12 antenna experience

I assembled the PAC-12 and laid it out in about 5 minutes. The longest
part was putting out the radials.

I then dialed in the multi-band coil for 40m using an MFJ-296 antenna
analyzer. I was pretty much able to get the SWR down to 1.0 or 1.1 on
the coil's "sweet spot" and was pretty much able to keep the SWR down
below 2.0 across the band.

The PAC-12 was attached to a Yaesu FT-817 running on its internal
battery pack and with the stock microphone. It was on "high" power. A
whopping 2.5 watts. The battery wasn't fully charged beforehand but it
should have been between 2/3 and 1/2 full when I started.

I tested the antenna by checking into the noon time net on 7.2685 MHz.
The network control station was coming in 5xS8. Some of the other
stations we S9+. A San Francisco station was about S2.

The outbound signal sure wasn't breaking any pile-ups but they were
eventually able to get my call. I'm guessing I was about 3x3. The net
control then tried to get me in contact with Craig, AE6RR. He was mobile
someplace in the Mountain View/Sunnyvale area. I heard Craig 5xS8. Craig
was unable to hear me. I'm betting NVIS was working but the signal was
too weak for local groundwave.

My impression is that the PAC-12 was doing better than the inverted-L
end-fed 1/2 wave strung in the trees that I normally use. Of course it
was MUCH better than the (snork) "Miracle" whip. (The miracle is that I
suspended disbelief to shell out $90 for it.) I still think that the
NVIS folded dipole is the "best" of the antennas we've tried.

I then tuned the PAC-12 up on 20m. It was about 1.5 at the "sweet spot"
and 2.0 at one end and about 2.2 at the other. Since the radio's battery
had petered out I just tuned it using the analyzer. We'll need to leave
the operating to another day.

The PAC-12 came apart about as fast as it went up. The longest part was
coiling the radials.

I also quickly tested the Palm Paddles, but didn't expect anybody to
answer my short CQ at 2.5W on 40m. They worked, that's all I was
expecting to find out.

My biggest lesson learned is that the FT-817 internal battery pack
really isn't the way to go. It doesn't hold up very long and limits the
output to 2.5W more or less. The radio goes to 5W with external power.
Sounds like I need that extra signal strength. I really should shoot for
a 4x4 signal to be kind to the folks at the other end.

Second is that I probably need to get a different mic going for some
additional punch. If I'm giving up 3 to 6 dB by not having any speech
compression, that should be an easy thing to fix. The Astatic microphone
is in the bag, but I'm not quite sure of the pin-out. I should just hook
something up and try it.


Sheesh. I called CW on 10, 20 and 40 meters to no avail. Came back to one guy, but somebody else beat me to it.

Copy parts of multiple different QRS QSOs.

Very frustrating. Oh well. Patience, patience, patience...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

From 4/11
Wanted to operate at noon-time but didn't get the opportunity.

JV didn't come out to play this evening but Hap did.

We had a nice CW QSO. He says my fist is getting better. However I have a tendency to run words together and occasionally stop in the middle of a word.

Guilty as charged. Sometimes I need to stop and think of the spelling. Perhaps I should break between words, get the spelling then continue. Kills two birds with one stone.

OK, hassles galore the next couple of days. Hope to get some noon-time or evening CW in.

And hope I have power tomorrow morning.

73 de WyreRider.

From 4/9
Not much operating, VERY tired.

Did hunt down one of my noise sources. It was a Battery Tender in the garage. Heard it about 1/2 a mile away.

Located it with my Yaesu FT-817, Miracle Whip and pseudo body fade techniques.

Still have several more to hunt down, but this was the nastiest one.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dear Lord,

Please keep a$$holes away from me, and not allow me to become an a$$hole like them.

I know I am called to "love them" but there are folks that are much more loveable when you can't see or hear them.



From 4/6

Was running really late this morning so no 9am talk net. Instead rag chewed with "the normal suspects" on the W6WLS/W6MOW machines, switching to WR6ABD as I got into Silicon Valley.

Noon on Thursdays is self-designated "QRP in the Park" day. I grabbed a sandwich and headed to Washington Park in Sunnyvale.

I used the water-bottle method to string an end-fed 1/2 wave antenna into the trees. The lawn guy came over and wondered what it was. I told him that it was wire for a ham radio antenna and I would take it down when I was done. He wanted to know if "I was talking to aliens" I assured him that it was more like Reno and Sacramento. He thought that was pretty cool and went back to mowing.

My normal first test is to check into the noontime net on 40m, but I just couldn't hear net control. Could hear lots of other people, just not net control...

So I tuned on down the band and heard AE6VR calling CQ from Los Angeles Harbor. I replied. It sounded like I was about 3 or 2 by 3. It was pretty rough copy for Jimmy, but we did make the contact work. He was running 100W into a hamstick mobile. That got him a 5x8 in Sunnyvale. My 2.5W almost didn't get the job done...

The end-fed antenna is very easy to put up, but I have a sneaking feeling that the folded dipole actually worked a lot better...

The evening was taken up by the County ARES' Emergency Communications class. The last one. I got my certificate. That and $4.25 will get me a cup of coffee. Actually the training was good to get everybody "on the same page." The exercise went MUCH better than the SET did last year.


From 4/5

Noon was fun. I hooked up the paddles, key, keyer and fired up the rig in the shack at work. Sent out two CQs and back came Kern, W7BXD in Klamath Falls, OR.

I only copied about 70% but it was my first non-scheduled CW QSO, and also my first one from the shack at work. COOL!

Somehow 60 whole watts seemed sorta wasteful... ;-)

Wednesday evening Greg, KI6CK was on so we had a nice, relaxed CW QSO on 10m

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lots for today and I'm tired/need to sleep, so I'll get an outline down and maybe edit it to fill in later.


Joined Adventure Radio Society. #2122 yea!


9am talk net.


Checked into the noon-time net on 40m from the work shack. Lots of noise, but did the best I could with the rig's filters. I want to make a couple CW QSOs from that shack too. Maybe tomorrow.


Ran the Santa Cruz County and San Lorenzeo Valley ARES nets.


CW QSO with Hap (KQ6YV)

Poor Sam couldn't hear us on 10m. Did get Telpac to work for him though.


Analyzed the antenna improvements.

The center of the G5RV Junior is up about 24 ft. Both ends are at about 20 ft.

The ends used to be at 8 ft and maybe 12 ft.

I'm sure that Jeff feels that the SWR measurements taken through 50 feet of RG-8 feedline aren't valid, but they're what I have.

I dropped from 1.9 down to 1.7 on the low end of 40m. It stayed the same on the higher end.

30m was the same

20m dropped from 3.3 to 2.5 at the low end, with a similar drop across the band.

17m stayed the same

15m dropped from 6.6 to 6, across the band

12m dropped from 6.2 to 5.2

10m and 6m stayed the same.

So, "minor improvements" but I'm pleased I was actually able to measure a difference (and it was in the right direction.

Monday, April 03, 2006

For 4/3

9 am talk net check in.

Also talked to Gordon West about using his Morse Code method on a local repeater (W6JWS-2m). He said yes and wants us to use the "6 CD set." I'll order one presently.

Now it's time to drum up interest and figure out the operations details...

Got home too late for a CW QSO, so did some Code Quick and Morse Runner (12/12 and was just about to put #13 in the log when time ran out... Where have I heard that one before???)

73 de WyreRider

For 4/2

Sunday's largest effort was helping get the 802.11 link going from Ron's (K6EXT) house to the K6FB repeater shack going. I wasn't much direct help, although I did configure the router to forward the web server. oh... wow...

I was quickly tapped however to do maintenance on the KI6EH packet BBS system. I cleaned up the database, renumbered the messages, checked the disks for errors and defragmented them.

After the internet is working, I'm tasked to get a Telpac node set up.

The good news?
There is already a nicely positioned VHF antenna on the mast.

The bad news?
It is currently tuned for 156 MHz (the police band) rather than 145.something (the ham band). Hopefully it will be "good enough" so that a tower climb isn't needed.

The evening wrapped up with a nice CW QSO with Greg KI6CK.

Finally, recorded my 40m noise and forwarded it to several of my Elmers. JV believes it is power line noise. Craig thinks it is a controller, light dimmer or electric motor. And Jeff? Jeff suggests hunting it with an AM broadcast band or shortwave radio.

Sigh. I've never done this before and have absolutely no insight into what I'm supposed to be doing. Argh! Help?!?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Not much on-the-air today, but did get "one" of the "projects" completed.

The "north" end of my G5RV Junior antenna is now 20' up and the unsightly piece of spring loaded edging is no more.

Huzzah. SOMETHING accomplished.

If I get time after the kiddlettes go to bed this evening, I'll reanalyze the antenna and post the (hopeful) improvements. I'm personally not betting on a big improvement, perhaps an incremental step towards "goodness."

73 de WyreRider

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