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QRP TTF 2013 Contest Point Giver Report!
May 4th, 2013 by kmack

Last weekend was a fun one for me. I had an open day following a morning commitment, and then I was free to operate in the QRP TTF event. I had originally planned to strike out to a nearby trailhead for the extra multiplier but a hastily planned meeting nixed that plan. So I operated from the park area by Lake Fredrica in our housing development. It is my favorite spot due to the nicely spaced tall pines and open area to a sandy beach on the lake. The lake is spring fed and one of the clearest natural lakes in the area despite being surrounded by civilization. It is also a nice quiet RF location free of most appliance generated noise that is so common these days.

Being a dedicated Contest Point Giver, I set out to give some points to the serious ops among us. What a treat to casually listen, and try to improve my cw copying speed by listening to all the exchanges going on during events like this one. I love the fact that the SOTA gang was included and there were a few Florida QSO Party ops on 20m where I spend most of my time. It was also Polar Bear QRP monthly outing time and I got to Grrrrrr to several of my fellow Polar Bear ops.  Thanks and an extra long Grrrr to Larry W2LJ, Perry N5PJ, Barry N1EU, and John N0EVH and hope I did not miss any other PB’s.

My view of the lake K4UPG

My view of the lake K4UPG

In the end, I had a fun day. Seems the bands were not solid, but I’ve gotten used to that in this current solar cycle. I kept hearing the same stations over and over. Now and then a new call would appear but most of the time they disappeared before I could work them with my Sierra at 2.4 watts. Even with my jumper dipole up at 45 feet I suspect my signal isn’t always loud enough to attract much attention. So I search and pounce and enjoy reading the mail and waiting to pounce. I did collect 14 different states and give myself a bit of multiplier for that fortunate turn of events.

Nothing like spending time outdoors doing something that I love. I especially appreciate my fellow QRP ops and the fun we have making QSO’s with limited power and gear.

CU on the air!

72,
Kelly K4UPG

Hamcation 2013 and QRP
Feb 10th, 2013 by kmack

One of my favorite events is the Orlando Hamcation. This year I didn’t really have a “get list” so could enjoy more time with fellow QRP ops. Our Central FL QRP Group regular Jim Diggs K4AHO helped us get a QRP Forum and Jim Stafford W4QO came in from Georgia to help bring a good session about working DXCC with QRP. Wow! Jim also did a lot of recruiting of QRP ops as he manned the QRP ARCI booth and allowed us to hang out and assist. We had quite a good turnout of QRP Ops from FL and all over the US and a few overseas members too!

 

W4QOatHamcation2013QRPForum CFLQRPHamcation2013 Crowd at Hamcation 2013 QRPARCI booth Hamcation2013demoN4KGL  Carl AA2JZ brought some of his homebrew masterpieces and along with some QRP rigs W4QO displayed we got a lot if interests and questions on what was in the Altoids tins.

After the QRP Forum, Greg N4KGL gave us a demo of his Alex Loop and KX-3 at a nearby picnic table. The weather and bands were both cooperative and we were all impressed with the way the antenna and rig set up and operated!

Thanks to all who joined in the fun. Check out our Central FL QRP Group blog for details on our outings.

Double Dip Weekend August 2012
Aug 13th, 2012 by kmack

Homebrew Buddipole inspection

Homebrew Buddipole inspection

Great weekend of QRP Portable fun. Saturday our Central FL QRP group had some new ops join us and we had a good time comparing antennas and rig setups at Sylvan Lake Park in Sanford, FL. As is typical, we did more talking than operating but did manage to sneak a few qso’s in on 20 and 17 meters. The contesters in Europe were hot and heavy on 15 m too so made for a fun day despite the heat and high humidity. I was a bit disappointed to not be able to snag any fellow Polar Bear QRP ops on 30m but the band did not stay open long and the other stations were operating on alternative bands.

Sunday after church was the first annual NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.  So glad to work Skeeter Hunt promoter and fellow Polar Bear, Larry, W2LJ before the lightning ran me off. Larry was my last QSO of the day as a thunderstorm started making LOTS of noise and it was my signal to pull down the 31 ft Jackite and wire and get out from under the shade of the 50 ft tall pine trees down by the lake! YIKES… just made it too!

I ran my Sierra at 2.4 watts out into an end fed half wave suspended as a sloper from the 31 ft Jackite pole in a WNW direction. I normally use the trees to get a bit more height for my wire, but the Jackite goes up and down faster and with storms coming, I chose the simple and fast way to git ‘er done. Turned out to be a good choice. Band conditions were pretty good on 20m and I was hearing a good bit of activity. After 1800 the Caribbean, Central and South American SSB stations were causing a good bit of QRM down here in FL. They all seem to run power and gain antennas so we learn to listen through the chatter here in FL.  The approaching storm was obvious as QRN increased with distant lightning stirring up the noise and crashes. Nonetheless, the signals were pretty good despite the distractions and there were some SKCC, FISTS and other cw fans out there having fun too which made the band busy.

I built a simple key and am posting  a photo of my K4UPG Knee Cap Key. Used the lid of a bulk black peppercorn jar and made a simple non-iambic key with paper clips, standoff and a bit of wire. It actually worked fairly well, but not good enough to use for the whole contest. As a long time CPG (Contest Point Giver) I decided that was a good way to give myself some points so took advantage of the bonus points! It did inspire me to try a more substantial lid and make a strap to use it as a leg key for portable ops.

K4UPG Skeeter 2012

Umbrellas for the rig and the op!

 

 

It was fun to hear so many familiar calls and work a few of our fellow Polar Bear Ops who were out for the fun too. Sure appreciate the effort to put this event on the calendar and process the results. Thanks to the NJQRP group for the support of our niche in the hobby and to you Larry for the time you devote to contests, blogs and getting us all out and on the air.

Here’s my results before the storm drove me for cover:

Date Time Call Band Pwr RST RCV SPC Nr
8/12/2012 17:12 N0SS 20 CW 2.4 559 579 MO #122
8/12/2012 17:17 W0EA 20 CW 2.4 559 559 IA #22
8/12/2012 17:23 NK9G 20 CW 2.4 559 559 WI #75
8/12/2012 17:25 VE3WDM 20 CW 2.4 559 559 ON #15
8/12/2012 17:37 KQ2RP 20 CW 2.4 449 439 NJ #27
8/12/2012 17:39 AB4PP 20 CW 2.4 579 599 NC #79
8/12/2012 17:42 N0JRN 20 CW 2.4 559 559 MO 5W
8/12/2012 17:46 N3AO 20 CW 2.4 449 559 VA #109
8/12/2012 17:49 W4MPS 20 CW 2.4 599 559 NC 5W
8/12/2012 18:00 KR9Z 20 CW 2.4 449 449 IL #10
8/12/2012 18:06 AA4GA 20 CW 2.4 579 569 GA #2
8/12/2012 18:08 N7UN 20 CW 2.4 579 559 NJ 5W
8/12/2012 18:14 WF4I 20 CW 2.4 559 559 NC #71
8/12/2012 18:18 K3RLL 20 CW 2.4 449 339 PA #21
8/12/2012 18:31 KX0R 20 CW 2.4 449 359 CO #69
8/12/2012 18:36 W2LJ 20 CW 2.4 579 599 NJ #4

A good time was had by me!

72,
Kelly K4UPG

Speculation-Biased Speculation…
May 9th, 2012 by kmack

If you are old enough, I bet you remember the game Fascination and that song in the commercial that stuck in your head all these years? For you new ones, here’s that commercial in YouTube format.

If you change the word fascination to Speculation, that naggy song becomes Speculation, Biased Speculation… the game we love to play! Seems like today’s political and journalistic culture has invaded ham radio if you follow the threads on QRP-L reflector about the Ten Tec 539 which is yet to be released. It has been diced, sliced and all sorts of factless speculation has already been thrown out as to why it won’t be popular or competitive with brand x’s new scrumpdillyicious xcvr. Whew!

I think it is a sad sign of the  times that instead of waiting for things to be released publically and from the source, products are already condemned as unworthy and judged based on hearsay and not true facts. It is bad enough that our culture does that in tv news broadcasts. Everyday we endure seeing the accused virtually tried and convicted on the screen by endless talk show hosts and experts often months before the courts are convened. I hate to see that culture spilling over from the current US political context where finger-pointing, wild speculation, and always attempting to  avoid responsibility and accountability begins to be spewed out on our hobby.

I for one will look forward to the final roll out of what looks like a very nice new transceiver from a US company before I make that buying decision.  Might be something I want, but who can tell until the process is finished and we get to see the final product? From here, it looks promising despite the speculation that is taking over all the airwaves and culture here in the USA. As for me and my house, we will wait for the facts!

72,

Kelly K4UPG

QRP TTF 2012
Apr 29th, 2012 by kmack

Great weather here in Orlando for a good afternoon of QRP Portable. The QRP To The Field contest is always a good time to get out and give out a few more points to the serious contesters. I enjoy the concentrated QRP contacts and hearing my virtual friends once again. Every QRP event has a few regulars that are almost always heard. This year the bands were only so-so in Florida with lots of QSB on 20m which was by far the best for the day. It was solid at times and then signals would suddenly drop to the noise level which made RST reporting fun!

Just above sea level

Mt. Cedar Tree: Just above sea level

Because of band conditions, I spent most of the 4 hours on 2om, but I did check 15 and 10m on an hourly basis. To do that, I pulled out my Ten Tec Argonaut 509 and used a Buddistick with the base up about 12 ft.  I called CQ about 50 times on 15 m but heard almost nothing on 10m all day. On 15m I heard a couple Eu  (IV4 and DK)  stations but was not getting a response to my calls and only heard 1 or 2 US stations so I assume the band conditions here weren’t quite right for those two bands.

Managed 18 QSO’s in 4 hrs of switching between my Wilderness Sierra to an EFHW, Delta Loop for 20m, and the Buddistick / Argonaut combo for 15 and 10m.  40 m was full of Florida QSO Party stations and a couple of nearby (within 4 miles) stations were pounding my receiver and causing the AGC to go nuts when I tuned across them so I only managed a single contact on 40 before retreating back to 20m.

I’ll be looking to give out more points in upcoming contests. So call CQ and I’ll be out there lookin’ fer ya!

72,

Kelly K4UPG

BS goin' up

Buddistick on the way up

Breaking News…Grinches ALMOST Stole My Favorite SDR Site
Dec 22nd, 2011 by kmack

BREAKING NEWS!  Mack has rebooted and W4AX.com is back online. It is a huge blessing  and thanks again to Mack and the host of others who serve all of us! YAHOOO>>> Grinches lose! W4AX.COM is online again! Belay my last!

A few years ago, we did not know the term, Software Defined Radio but now it has become one of many new technologies that we hams are learning to adapt to our needs. As an antenna restricted condo dweller, I’ve found it most helpful for being able to listen to the bands at various times through the day.

W4AX.com Screenshot

W4AX.com during IARU CW contest

Yesterday I learned my favorite site, W4AX.com is shut down due to abuse by non-hams and other constraints. A big thanks to Mack, W4AX and others who are the unsung heros that provide services like these and have allowed access to others over the years. The Reverse Beacon Network is another great service and we often forget the time and expense that our fellow hams have put into keeping them going.  As a blogger with multiple sites, I understand the challenges and resources it takes all too well.

I’ll miss being able to check the bands 24 x 7 on my favorite site, but perhaps it will prompt me and others to set up our own SDR site and share it with others. I salute those who like Mack paved the way for new technology to provide access to so many hams. Sorry that the burden got too heavy to keep it going, but know your work was appreciated by many. I’ll be sure to let others who are working behind the scenes know that they are appreciated too.

Blessings gang of pioneers and Happy Holidays to you all!

72,

Kelly K4UPG

Contest Point Giving for Christmas
Dec 19th, 2011 by kmack

The weather was too nice to sit inside. In the low 70’s with a very slight breeze so after church and a short nap I headed out to try my hand at giving out points in the QRP ARCI Homebrew Sprint. My startup was delayed by curious folks in the lakeside park wondering what in the world I was doing and how I got that string and wire so high up in the nice tall pine trees!

HB Sprint 2011 daylight

Next to the Lake in the Sun

I checked 40m first with an inverted L end fed half wave and my trusty Stuner (KI6S Stu’s kit) and decided to change to 20m after not hearing much activity. 20m was decent and there were a few of the big gun qrp contest regulars shooting it out. N4BP, K4BAI, K0ZK and a few other were running stations while the little guys like me were mostly doing Search and Pounce. Hey it is fun even if you cannot run a frequency, right?

Sun went down about 1745 local and the mosquitos were quick to find the hole in my hat and attack. This time I remembered the repellant and after a few bites I took time to spray my hat and hair and the backs of my hands. The temperature dropped fast and my hands got a bit stiff pounding out the morse code on my J-47 straight key. 50 degrees is cold for a Florida evening. The darkness also brought out the raccoon family and it was fun to shine my flashlight on them and watch them stand on their hind legs and stare into the night wondering what the funny guy was doing in the dark.

Almost dark

Sun is almost outta sight

40m came to life after sunset and I finished with a respectable 20 contacts for about 3 hours of operation and was able to give some Christmas contacts to the needy fellow contesters who were chasing another certificate. What a great way to spend the afternoon… by the lake in the sun and outdoors playing radio.

QRPSPOTS.COM and IHAB Do it Again!
Oct 2nd, 2010 by kmack

Wow! Great way to bring together a lot of ham radio ops on a Saturday using all sorts of technology!  Way to go! QRPSPOTS.COM is normally used by QRP ops to spot each other when we are out operating portable or to alert others of band openings. It was ALIVE with reports and updates from all over the USA and even a few DX ops adding input too! In addition, several QRP reflectors were buzzing with updates and info. What a great community effort this turned out! Congrats to all and thanks to QRP ARCI for helping get the word out.

iHAB Logo

Iowa High Altitude Balloon Project

One of the 4 States QRP bunch, Terry WA0ITP, provided the 20m beacon again and has some great info on his informative website.

But for me, the coolest thing was listening in on the streaming webcast of  VE3EN and his wonderful IC-7700. Sure wish I had thought of recording a bit or doing a screenshot to share here. But what a treat to listen in and hear the beacon’s signal right up until touchdown. Thanks Kevin for a fun way to eavesdrop on this event since the lawn mowing crew took over my condo’s yard and didn’t allow me to put an antenna out today. There is a ton of info and creative website construction on Kevin’s website and it is worth spending some time looking at the solar cycle data.

Congrats to the team for a successful event today and for bringing so many hams together for a good learning experience and something out of the ordinary. Well done W0OTM, well done indeed!

Duh: Learning Curve #6 What’s a ham to do?
Oct 1st, 2010 by kmack

Here’s my dilemma:

I am a rookie homebrewer. My kit experience is good, but I have struggled to build direct from schematics. Part of it is my lack of ability to conceptualize the physical layout and part of my challenge is lack of building experience and mentoring.

Boxes

What should I use?

Several of my antenna tuner projects seem to have a TON of hand capacitance effect. They are built in plastic cases, some from the Shack and some from the local surplus shops and hamfests. Most commercial tuners are built in metal cases and I wonder if that would eliminate the sensitivity to the tuning hand?

I have a couple metal enclosures I can use and a great ham friend sent me some thin copper with adhesive tape on the back.  I am thinking of slapping some copper tape inside the plastic cases and see how it works.

So, I am putting it to the vote:

Which material should I build with?

  • Metal case is the only way to go (79%, 11 Votes)
  • Use the copper tape inside plastic case (14%, 2 Votes)
  • Just use the plastic case (7%, 1 Votes)
  • Give up and buy a commercial tuner (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

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And for the record, the vote in the poll  for best ham radio QTH in the US was won by West Virgina. Here is the top 5:

  • West Virginia (17%, 11 Votes)
  • Kansas (14%, 9 Votes)
  • Texas (8%, 5 Votes)
  • Hawaii (6%, 4 Votes)
  • New Hampshire (5%, 3 Votes)

Thanks and 72,

Kelly K4UPG

New Open Source Rig Project? Dah Mini-Pig+
Sep 27th, 2010 by kmack

The QRP-L reflector has been buzzin’ with the news and chatter (positive and some negative btw) about a new project to design and build a new transceiver for QRP HF use. YAHOO!

Manhattan Style

K8IQY Style Test Setup

What I love the most about this is that the QRP community is able to contribute ideas, resources and participate much like the Open Source software community operates. This could really be a fun project for our Central Florida QRP group. After all, we are not that far from Diz W8DIZ who is facilitating and coordinating this project.

If you like to build, experiment and try some QRP operation with a new rig… you should tune in and join the fun.

This is the last week to vote in the poll on my blog for the best US QTH for ham radio… Here’s the standings as of Sunday at 2100 EDT:

  • West Virginia (17%, 10 Votes)
  • Kansas (16%, 9 Votes)
  • Hawaii (7%, 4 Votes)
  • Texas (7%, 4 Votes)
  • New Hampshire (5%, 3 Votes)

You can cast your vote by following this link!

72,

Kelly K4UPG PB #173

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