Archive for March, 2007

Cleveland, OH to St. Louis, MO

March 31, 2007

Another long day and lots of rain. I left the hotel in Cleveland around 8:15am and found a place to park near the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and put my antennas back on. I put on the 40M Hustler to see if it would make a difference with the problem I was having with the Icom AT-180 tuner. I rolled out and tested the radio with the Hustler antenna but encountered the same problem as before.

I headed over to the AES store in Cleveland. The store was well stocked – equivalent to what I’ve encountered in an HRO store, although I think AES had more magazines and books. I purchased an Icom AH-4 longwire tuner and a LDG 4:1 balun.

Back in the parking lot I disconnected all the cables on the AT-180 and then reconnected them. That seemed to have fixed the problem…. because 40M started working without issue. I had a nice QSO with Stan, W??JMV, who was operating from his attic radio room on the Jersey shore. I then checked into the ECARS net, the NCS had a nice solid signal. I then worked 20M talking to England, Serbia, Czech Republic, and Italy.

When I was about 5 miles east of St Louis a tremendous rain started coming down – I had to pull over on the side of the highway. It was the worst downpour I’ve ever seen. Tomorrow should be an easier drive.

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Iraqi Amateur Radio Shutdown Continues

March 30, 2007

NEWINGTON, CT, Mar 30, 2007 — Iraq Amateur Radio Society (IARS) President Diya Sayah, YI1DZ, says a ham radio blackout in his country remains in effect, with no end in sight. As part of the new security plan in Baghdad, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense earlier this month requested that radio amateurs remain off the air until security improves.

Because of a miscommunication, however, word failed to reach the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission, which still is issuing licenses.

Sayah chalks up the open-ended ham radio blackout to a misunderstanding of Amateur Radio on the part of the defense minister. Working through the Ministry of Education and Scientific Research, the IARS has attempted — so far without success — to explain Amateur Radio to the Ministry of Defense.

“Because it’s between ministries, this will take time also,” Sayah said this week, adding that he was not optimistic about meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki anytime soon.

“Now anyone on the air is a pirate, as everyone is obliged not to use their radios at the present time,” he added. He said IARS members continue making contacts using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) modes such as IRLP, EchoLink and others.

The Ministry of Defense also had asked the IARS to store all licensees’ ham radio equipment during the shutdown, but Sayah says that’s not happening because of the dangerous situation that persists within the capital.

The ham radio shutdown affects non-Iraqi licensees, including members of the military and contractors holding YI9-prefix call signs. It does not apply to Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) operations, which use military frequencies.

Hampton, VA to Cleveland, OH

March 30, 2007

I left yesterday at about 10:20am, having done a poor job packing and generally having any semblance of organization. I ended up dumping a lot of extra stuff in a footlocker, piled everything in the backseat of the truck and headed out. Not more than a few feet out of the driveway I answered a CQ from Andy, W2QIQ. Andy has been a ham for 66 years (as opposed to my 6 years). He served in the Army during WWII in Europe, starting in Egland, making his way through France and ending up in Berlin.

My radio started acting up on 40M. I was using my Workman Hamstick tuned for the 40M phone band. The Icom AT-180 gets a good match right away bringing the SWR down to a 1:1. But then after I’m transmitting for about a minute, the Tune light flashes for about 10 or 15 seconds and then the Tune light shuts off and the power drops and SWR goes up. My first guess is that the radio and tuner need to have a better ground. But the matching impedance range for the AT-180 is only between 16 and 150 ohms, so that could be the problem. This is only a problem on 40M.

My TH-D7A APRS kludge seems to be working well when there is a digipeater. When I was on I-77N coming across the West Virginia/Ohio border, I accidentally pulled one of the power leads. I didn’t really notice it because all through the Smoky Mountains the APRS coverage was nonexistent. I got a few hits through Charleston, WV and then it (maybe) tapered off after Charleston or maybe I had pulled the power. When I was approaching Canton, OH, I knew something had to be wrong, because it was such a large area it would have to have a digipeater. That’s when I noticed the power was disconnected. I reattached the power and there was tons of APRS traffic.

Had some nice QSOs along the way: KL7GKY, EB7xx, YU1XA, and KB5YAY.

Vote for your band

March 28, 2007

Morse Telegraph Key, 1844-45

March 28, 2007

Part of the Smithsonian collection…

The telegraph key Samuel Morse used on his first line in 1844 was very simple–a strip of spring steel that could be pressed against a metal contact. Alfred Vail, Morse’s partner, designed this key, in which the gap was more easily adjustable because of changes in its spring tension. It was used on the expanding telegraph system, perhaps as early as the fall of 1844 and certainly by 1845.

Mobile Intermittent Power Failure Fixed

March 28, 2007

There was something wrong with the power connection on the back of the IC-706MKIIG. Power would sometimes cut in an out, usually when I was driving over bumpy roads. I pulled the cable off and noticed that the pins were bent out of shape. The pins in the connector (cup shaped) were spread too far out and were not making solid contact with the pins on the back of the radio. I had replacement pins, so I yanked each of the old pins from the connector (no easy doing) and soldered on the new pins, slid them into the connector, used the tip of a pair of needle nose pliers to lock them into place. I placed the the power connector back on the rig in the truck and it works great!

The dog ate my SWR

March 28, 2007

Was having high SWR on 40M and I checked my ground out of the shack window to the grounding rod. I knew there was something wrong when I saw the braided grounding cable slack… I looked closer and saw it was no longer secured to the grounding rod. The dog had chewed through it.

I guess it serves as a reminder now that Springs here to get out a check the antennas, cable runs, and grounds.

Monday ham radio

March 26, 2007

I made the trip over to Ft. Story this morning to activate the Old & New Cape Henry Lighthouses (USA 122 and USA 121). I wanted to accomplish a couple things:
(1) activate the lighthouses. I’ve activated them in the past with limited success and wanted to give ARLHS members a chance to earn the USAARS Lighthouse award.
(2) test out my mobile setup using my different antennas.
(3) attempt to use a logging program on my Palm Pilot.

I ended up having five contacts – all on 40M even though the noise level was pretty high. I called CQ on 20M for quite some time but didn’t get any takers. I think I had two or three ARLHS folks qualify for the USAARS award. For the antennas, I started off with a trio of Hustler coils. The antenna went up quick on the 54″ mast and I had already tuned them to be a good match for the ARLHS calling freqs. I then switched to the Hamstick-like Workman antennas, first for 40M then 20M. No real difference in results. I’m going to stick with the Workman Hamsticks when I’m actually mobile and use the Hustler coils when operating from a fixed site. Using the Palm Pilot for logging is not easy. Adding headphones with a boom mike might help. Using the Palm Pilot takes two hands so it requires setting down the handmike, inconvenient for fast paced operation.

Back at the home QTH I rolled up on 20M CW and got an answer to a CQ from DL4SEW, Stefan in Stuttgart. There was a lot of fading but I was able to get most of what he sent. This was my first QSO with Germany and my second with Europe.

Back in the mobile and heading to Fort Monroe, I answered a CQ on 20M from YU1XA in Serbia. He gave me a 59 plus and was surprised I was mobile. It is just pretty cool talking to Serbia while driving down the road.

MAKE magazine

March 24, 2007

Have you read MAKE magazine?

If you haven’t – pick up a copy. It’s full of inspired projects, hacks, and other interesting goodies. Most projects use inexpensive or junk box parts. The magazine comes out quarterly, I discovered it last summer and have since bought (and devoured) all the back issues.

Getting back up on that CW horse

March 24, 2007

After being away from my CW paddle for quite some time, I’ve been trying to get back into CW. Over the past few days I’ve been having success with a few QSOs. Tonight I went down to 80M and had a QSO with Ed, AB8DF, from Michigan. Ed was operating QRP with an Elecraft K2 – a very cool rig. I’m going to keep working on my CW… eventually I’ll work my speed up to something I can be proud of.