May 19, 2018
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The life thing has been pretty disctracting from ham radio the past few weeks. I just returned from a week long business trip to the Philippines and then had a bunch of catch up to do. This week I started making Field Day and Portable operation preps. I took out all my battery packs and charged them with the solar panels. All are ready to go now.
I ordered a cool little gizmo for the FT-817ND. It is a 3D printed power connector that fits nicely on the back of the radio and converts the power inputs to Anderson powerpoles. I got mine from Ebay:
Regarding Field Day, I am still thinking about a 20m beam. I’ll be doing some modeling comparing the Buddistick, the 2 element vertical beam and a 2 element, inverted-V wire beam. I have already built two of these three and have good results on QRP.
I tried some operating today but so far conditions have been…well they have been pretty bad. SFI=68 and SSN=0 makes for some pretty bad propagation. Definitely need to up the antenna game.
April 28, 2018
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Rainy day today.
I had planned to take down the vertical beam antenna today and send up the end fed half wave to test for possible field day use. So instead I have left the 2el vertical beam in place and cranked down the power on the IC-7300 to 5W on SSB. I frankly was not expecting much as band conditions have been awful on 20m. I called CQ for a minute or two and a portable station in North Carolina picked me up. We had a short QSO and I received a 59 signal report. Called CQ again and picked up a station in Georgia. I was having more trouble receiving than he was in hearing me. QSB on 20m is pretty bad sometimes. Made one more call and was picked up by a station in KS who gave me a 57. Made these three contacts over 10 minutes on 5W.
There is hope for Field Day this Year!
April 10, 2018
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I came across an interesting read from Jim, N2GXJ entitled “Thinking about Field day Antennas“. This talks about Field Day scoring and how to improve your score. He points out that the key to Field Day comes down to the sheer number of QSO’s you make irregardless of where they are from. Jim starts by looking at poulation density from the US Census as an indicator of where ops will be located:
This map tends to confirm my previous experience that the bulk of contacts are made up and down the east coast and in California. Last year I ended up running at 45W due to poor propagation and did notice many stations coming in from California. I made the mistake of not working more of them.
So from my QTH in South Texas I need to target the East and West coasts with daytime activity on 20m and 15m. The 2el vertical beam for 20m will definitely be a good choice for pointing to the east coast and should let me go back to QRP levels. I’ll try and test this out this coming Saturday if the weather holds (good to test the battery system while I am at it).
June 28, 2017
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I got a late start to field day this year due to a late breaking family commitment. Our club tried to setup at the local weather station but cancelled operations due to a large noise source crashing the bands at that location.
I started operating about 19:30 UTC. I started at 5W on SSB but over the first hour only made one contact. The band conditions were not good on 20m with lots of QRM and QSB. I added the amplifier and started to work on 45W. My power draw was significantly higher but my Q rate increased. The solar panel kept up with the power consumption even though there was quite a bit of cloudiness. I continued to operate on 20m until dusk when I switched to 40m. Overall I made 60 Phone contacts over the course of about 8 hours. My score this year will be lower even with more Q’s due to the higher power I ran. I did not get a chance to run digital.
- Digital logging – netbook needed one charge cycle during this period. The 12V to 18V DC-DC converter was running at abou 2.2A during the charging cycle. I used a 7Ahr for this through a spare Solar Charge controller. I am going to look at a tablet for next year.
- The EFHW antenna worked great on 20m.
- SOTAbeams travel mast + TV tripod worked great to support antenna with no guy lines.
- Solar generator box had enough juice to supply the day’s activity even at the higher power consumption and had some power to spare.
- Tube Tarp came in real handy as shade. Luckily no rain on Saturday. I’ll do better with the depolyment next time as I figured out how to guy it better.
What did not work so good:
- Can’t run digital mode while using an amp. The amp uses the ACC port on the radio but provides no pass through. I am looking at how I can accomplish this for next time.
- I don’t have the battery budget to run 45W phone for 24 hours. I figure I would have run out of power after about 12 hours. Partly cloudy day didn’t help.
- Didn’t take advantage of more 6 stations to raise Q count.
- Calling CQ consumes a lot of power. Need to refactor the power budget.
So I figure my score this year for 60 SSB QSO’s + bonus points for emergency power will work out to 310 for my 1B station. I am convinced now that I have to finish learning CW so that next year I can run 5W on CW and up my point count. A more directional antenna would be nice but a portable beam antenna remains elusive. For some reason I seemed to be doing better with stations in California than on the more densely populated east coast.
In summary, A great afternoon of outdoor radio fun and already looking forward to next year.
June 21, 2017
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I purchased the following for $1 at Home Depot yesterday to form links for the EFHW I plan to use for Field Day:
These are buckles to make paracord bracelets. Here is how the resulting link looks like using these, a couple of cable ties and a pair of Anderson Power Poles:
I have made initial wire cuts for 15m, 17m, 20m and 40m. I also cut 1/10 wavelength counterpoise wires for each band. I have also prepped the Travel Mast and the TV Tripod so I will hopefully setup later this afternoon (when it cools off a bit) and tune the wires. I’ll run 15m-20m as a vertical and 40m as an inverted V.
The only other prep I am working on today is I’ve taken the solar generator box I built last year and set it up outside with the two 15W panels to charge them up.
Update: Just did the calculations on the 40m inverted V and found that I probably don’t have enough space to lay that out in the backyard due to obstacles. Will configure the first half as a vertical and then the remaining half as a sloper which I’ll aim towards the north and terminate 4 feet off the ground. Only need a radius of about 16ft. A quick run on EZNEC show the following pattern:
June 12, 2017
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Working on Field Day antenna selection this week. I am down to using the Homebrew Buddipole, Buddistick or end fed vertical antenna this year. I plan to operate as 1B battery operation so I am limited to 5W on SSB. This will be my main challenge this year given the worsening band conditions as the solar cycle continues the drop.
A previous post showed some data on the homebrew Buddipole mounted at 16 ft with a painters pole. I am working on a few tweaks now that will bring resonance into the band and simplify the azimuth adjustments.
The Homebrew Buddistick served me well in 2015 but band conditions are shifting. Here is some modeling data comparing the Buddipole at various heights vs the Buddistick on 20m:
The Buddipole at 16ft and 20 ft outperforms the Buddistick down to about 25 to 20 degrees. The Buddistick has more gain below these take off angles. At 30 ft the Buddipole is better or equal to the Buddistick from 60 degrees all the way way down to zero.
One thing I could do is use both antennas and switch back and forth as needed. This would not be overly complex to do. My challenge is getting the Buddipole up above 16 ft. If I can get setup using the military poles I can get the Buddipole up to 30 ft and only use the one antenna.
May 15, 2017
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I came a cross a very helpful web page in determining the amount of power needed for JT-65. It is called dbCalc and allows you to enter your transmit power and signal report and then calculates what your report would have been with other transmit power levels. I tried this out today on 40m JT-65, lowered my power in half and still made several DX contacts to Japan and Argentina. You can easily measure how your signal is doing at a given power by sending a CQ and then checking the Pskreporter reports. Feed these into dbCalc and you can optimize your power settings for given band conditions. I suspect that in most cases operators are using a lot more power than necessary to make JT-65 contacts which makes it harder for weaker signals to get through.
April 22, 2017
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I have decided to use the EFHW antenna as my primary portable antenna. My previous reports on this antenna have centered around testing on 20m which performed quite well. I want to set this up now for multi-band operation using connection links to add or remove wire as needed to tune it on a specific band. The capacitor I used tested between 9.5pF and 310pF which would let me operate between 40m and 10m. I was disappointed to find the matchbox would barely tune up 10m and would not come even close to 40m. I originally suspected stray capacitance and yes some did exist but what I found today solved the mystery. Turns out that I had connected to the wrong lug of the capacitor which limited the upper capacitance to around 100pF. I changed the connection point and am now able to tune down to 40m but have lost 12m and 10m as there is added capacitance on the low end as well. So my plan now is to run this match box on 40m, 20m, 17m and 15m which should be a pretty good range for this point in the solar cycle. The 40m half wave will be ~ 66 feet long so I’ll likely figure a way to configure that as either an inverted L or as an inverted V. All other configurations will be as verticals. Next step is to cut a wire length for 15m then add wire to get to each of the successive bands. Band changes will require taking it up and down but it will be resonant. The backup antenna will be the end fed 9:1 matchbox and a tuner. Both will fit nicely into the soon to be reconfigured go-box.
April 8, 2017
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Hurricane season officially begins on June 1st. Our local club is gearing up some activities to support ARES operations in the event of a storm. We will be setting up a 2m digital simplex net on Thursdays at 7pm local time on 146.580 simplex using MT63 2000. Net control will be Cliff, N5CEY.
I will be net control for an HF voice and HF digital net on Saturday afternoons. Times and digital modes are yet to be determined. NVIS operations on HF will be desirable for these nets. I suspect that my current antenna (the DXtreme 53′ end fed) works fairly well as NVIS as it is up horizontal no more than 20 feet up. This net will give me a chance to test the 40m magnetic loop as NVIS. I am also thinking of modifying the homebrew buddipole to work NVIS as well. There is a PDF file that shows a simple way to modify a Buddipole to work NVIS portable. Yet another option is to build an easily deployable NVIS antenna for 40m and 80m per these instructions (thanks DX Engineering).
I am looking into a few choices for HF digital modes. MT63 1000, PSK31, Olivia and NBEMS. I am thinking of eventually asking net participants to limit power to 20W max to simulate off grid operations.
Last but not least, getting more local hams to test their HF rigs on Winlink using WINMOR. I cranked up the IC-7100 this afternoon and easily sent some emails on 40m to a node in Houston on 20W. Here is a good tutorial on setting this up.
February 7, 2017
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Space weather quarterly has great article on how ham radio operators are contributing to the study of space weather using data collected from WSPR beacons as well as the reverse beacon network.
The article can be read here:
Space weather quarterly