Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cold enough for antenna work

My last big project before winter was getting a wire antenna up for 160m. My HF antenna has been a Carolina Windom up 40' or so, hung below the trees. It has been a fabulous antenna for me, allowing contacts all around the world. But lo, it does not work well down at 160m. The HF gurus in my area continued to remind me that I needed to get down on that project finally bubbled to the top of the list. I would have a two HF antenna QTH!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

My buddy Shannon took his first amateur radio licensing test last Tuesday. We spent weeks trying to find him an exam session, jumping from club to club. We successfully found a VE session 50 miles from him. He passed both the Tech and General exams with flying colors! The VEs told him it would take 7 to 10 days before the FCC would post his license on their website. That was surprising to me, as I had seen the W5YI group get me a club call in two days within the last year. Oh well, technology does change and sometimes not for the better.

And then, 7 days later, Shannon sends me this link this morning: FCC not processing test results

What bum luck he has! Hopefully the fine folks in IT will get the problem solved quickly. A new ham awaits his call!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The long drive

I'll readily admit that I don't mind driving. I've been fortunate to own some pretty nice vehicles. My latest is a Ford F150 that has my Diamond VHF/UHF antenna mounted at the back of the the bed and my ICOM 2820 D-STAR radio nicely tucked into the console. When an impromptu trip came up Tuesday, instead of taking the ultra fuel efficient Honda, I took the truck. The ride is so much more comfortable, I enjoy riding up higher on the road, and of course the radio is much better than any temporary installation I can swing into the Honda.

It's around 9pm and no one is around on the repeaters. This isn't a route I travel very often so maybe I'm not on the active repeaters. I tuned over to 146.52 simplex. A quick call (not a long winded CQ) returns no takers. So wait a few minutes and try again. Just a simple call..."KG9DW mobile on I-39 southbound, listening on 52". And back comes a fine OM - WA9CEG, John in LaSalle. I'm about 20 miles north of LaSalle, so I know John has a fine station. Even in the flat lands of Illinois, working a mobile station 20 miles away does require more than a Ringo Ranger on a 10 foot pole.

Even at highway speeds, our QSO lasted a good 30 minutes. We talked about what we do (or in John's case did) for a living, family, radio, the weather...everything except for medical history! John worked in a steel mill and then owned an ice cream shop before retiring. His 6 kids were spread out about the area, with one living about 10 miles from my home QTH. We spoke of friends, common areas we've traveled, and then of happiness. We talked about things John was proud of, and the impacts he has had on others.

Talking with such a fine man, it was hard not to remember my own grandfather who died last year. The voice was similar, and so were some of the stories and advice. It was even harder not to think of my friend Fred Slayback who passed away earlier in the day after a long health struggle. As I as headed further south, I said my 73s before I ran out of range. John was still running a strong S5 signal as I fell over the hill for the flat run into McLean county. I hope to meet John on the air again someday, but if I don't I'll certainly remember our QSO on a rainy fall night in Illinois.

They say that it's all about the journey and not the destination. Likewise, in ham radio it isn't about the radio or antenna; it isn't about the mode or technology. It's about the conversations.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Setting a Baofeng on FIRE!

I came across this video through the forums. K5CLC did some extreme testing of a Baofeng UV-5R, including setting it on FIRE! The results are interesting. Skip to 2:57 to see the flames. I really like my Baofeng HT...not as my primary radio but as the one that is with me when I'm working on the farm, tinkering in the barn, or anytime I'm likely to have dirty hands.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

An Arduino arrived

Monday brought a pleasant surprise in the mailbox...our first Arduino! The $5 board from eBay arrived as promised, and it was just as simple to use as everyone said it would be. My youngest daughter and I quickly had it doing a few minor tasks prior to me running off to a fire department meeting. Our next task is to get it to work with a temperature probe. This looks like a very simple and fun little platform. I'm excited!