Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ham radio with a low power radio

If you've been following my posts lately, you've seen more of a move from the "farm life" to the "ham life"...ham being amateur radio. I've re-kindled my interest in amateur radio. I sold the radio I purchased a year ago on ebay and bought a used Elecraft KX3. This is a truly modern software defined radio. It's quite the wonder...talk to the world with a radio that fits in your hand and an antenna made from 40 feet of wire.

Besides the technology differences between the FT897 I had before and the KX3, there's a shift in operational thinking. The FT897 is a 100 watt, bulky, mainly fixed based unit. Yes, you could mount it in the car and take it camping...but it certainly isn't something you want to pack around for a while. The KX3 is small - it fits in your hand. It is low power - 10 watts or so if you connect it to external power, but it shines running 5 watts or less off of 8 AA batteries.  While I do operate from my home office, I also enjoy sitting on the porch and listening for new people to meet.

In my few weeks of ownership, I've noticed a shift in my operating patterns. I'm spending more time doing CW (morse code). I'm still doing a little PSK. And I've made 3 voice contacts with a piece of wire temporarily strung up to a low tree branch. This weekend I worked a special event station in Georgia after hanging up my wire on my Mom's porch. It was pretty cool...

Sure, I can Skype all over the world. Need to get a message to a friend? Facebook or LinkedIn is probably my first choice. But when it comes to meeting new people, ham radio, and especially low power (aka QRP) operations are the way to go.

Friday, September 26, 2014

UPDATE!!!! Evergreen FS in Bloomington IL - no guns - no Michael

UPDATE 10/17/2014:

I received a phone call from Mr Kendall Miller, general manager for Evergreen FS. They have decided to take down their no guns signs in response to my letter and the many others received from across the area. Thank you Mr. Miller and I'm happy to be able to visit FS FarmTown again!!!!

Original post from 9/26/2014:

Dear Mr Jon Thomas - Manager FS FarmTown -

I've been a patron of Evergreen FS for 7+ years. I routinely buy fuel as I've found your diesel to be of the highest quality. Today I stopped by and purchased propane for the first time this year. I noticed the no guns signs on your doors. I'm disappointed by your decision to post your business in this fashion.

I will no longer be patronizing your facility now that you've decided to limit my ability to protect myself. Although your staff has always been friendly and helpful, I am doubtful that they can ensure my security. 

I would never have noticed your signs as I never go inside. But today I did and now I know that you have chosen to restrict my rights. 

I will share your decision with my friends, fellow farmers, and colleagues. Should you chose to revisit your policy, please let me know. I would welcome the ability to provide you with the money I spend each week in diesel.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Illinois D-STAR Net

Every week on Wednesday nights at 9pm Central is the Illinois D-STAR Net on Reflector 001B. Normally hosted by Milt, K9QZI of Champaign, the net attracts amateurs from across the state to share the events of the past week. We spend a few minutes each talking about the hobby and just keeping track of each other.  Sometimes 10 people check in and we're done in 30 minutes, and other times it's over an hour!

If you're in Central Illinois, you can catch the net on the W9YR, W9PIA, or KD9AKF repeaters. And if you're using our Heyworth repeater, feel free to move it to REF001B if it isn't already there for the net!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How much to put up a D-Star HomeBrew Repeater?

We've got the Heyworth D-Star on the air...and completing the testing. I've gotten a couple of questions about how much it all costs. So to share with everyone, here's what we've invested:

Used Kenwood TKR-820 UHF repeater, narrowbanded $270
Duplexer - notch only, mobile type, donated $0
DVRPTR d-star connection, with cables and enclosure $130
Raspberry PI computer board, with case, with heatsinks, with power supply $70
Coax, donated $0
N-Connectors $12
Power strip with surge connector $15
Coax surge protector  $35
Antenna, donated $0

All together, we have $532 invested in the KD9AKF system. If you were building a comparable system, you would probably spend another $100-$200 on a duplexer, $100 for coax, and then anywhere from $150 to $350 for a quality antenna. Low end, you're looking at $900 for a complete system - high end, you should be under $1400.

We went really quick getting our system up and running - we went from "idea" to "working system" in 60 days. We'll end up having another $100 in labor costs to get the repeater reprogrammed for our final coordinated frequency.

We also have been really fortunate to have a great working relationship with the local grain elevator that is providing us with tower space. We're also getting a free internet connection from the wireless internet provider that is co-located at the elevator. How sweet is that!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Heyworth D-Star Ham Radio Repeater

My ham radio adventure continues. I know I haven't written much about life on the farm lately, but since it is so cold not much farm or outdoor stuff is getting done! I have started working a new mode in ham radio - Digital Voice, specifically D-Star! With the help of my buddies K9GUN, KC9REG, KB9GIG, and KJ9P, the Heyworth D-Star repeater is on the air! It's under callsign KD9AKF on 444.2375. You can read more about it on our QRZ page (http://qrz.com/db/KD9AKF). This hobby is really, really fun!