Monthly Archives: October 2007

iCard Series – No. 45




K9ZW, Please Meet Mr Murphy – or Breaking Bits & Pieces

They say that what can go wrong, will. Well fortunately that is not quite true, but there does seem to be a correlation with the idea that the more trouble an equipment breakdown would cause, the more likely it will actually break down.

Within hours of arriving on Washington Island WI-001L my Macbook’s hard drive again bit the dust. As I had it loaded with the software I intended to use for the CQ WW Contest it is a bit annoying.

So going to my Palm I find that it has somehow ended up discharged. That it was perhaps helped by youngsters playing its feeble games might just have something to do with it.

Seems that one of the two cellphones joined the Palm in going flat.

Calling my Apple Store I learn that certain of the early Macbooks seemed to be jinxed with loosing hard-disks. With my copy of Leopard waiting for my return I sure wish this had happened a week down the road, when the OS-X 10.5 “Time Machine” would make loosing the machine’s hard-disk pretty much a non-event.

Oh did I mention that none of the Amp cables I brought along for the FT-950 will work either in the Linear Plug or the Tuner Plug? And that the QRP PSK-31 Setup I brought along depended not only on the computer that is now DOA, but on a cable I left on the bench at home?

On the plus side the Expert SPE 1K Amp is really neat!

The FT-950 has been getting great reports.

With some very welcome help from Hector AD4C the Omni VII is set up really well!

And that the footings and slab are in place for George W9EVT’s Shack Expansion?

More soon!



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Paper, Scissors, RockMite – the Small Wonder Labs QRP Kit Radio

The RockMite Exposed

The ‘Rock-Mite’ was designed by Dave Benson K1SWL, and as he puts the reasons so well, from his website:

The ‘Rock-Mite’ grew out of my desire to offer a ‘one-evening’ CW transceiver kit which would be both affordable and easy to construct. It first appeared at ‘Lobstercon’ – a QRP gathering on the Maine coast- in early July, 2002, where it was provided to all attendees courtesy of Small Wonder Labs and the NorCal QRP club.

The Rock-Mite is a crystal-controlled direct-conversion transceiver available for 80M, 40M, 30M or 20M. It features an on-board 8-pin PIC microcontroller which controls a T-R offset on key-down. A brief tap of a pushbutton control switch reverses the offset to yield a second operating frequency. Pushing and holding on the pushbutton activates the speed adjustment routine for the built-in Iambic keyer. If you’d rather use an external keyer or straight key, there’s a ‘drop-through’ mode which allows use of an external keying source.

You’ll note in the image above that the Rock-Mite uses two crystals. The first is used in the local oscillator for transmitter and receiver. The second is used as a receiver front-end filter. This crystal significantly reduces the SWBC energy present at the receiver mixer; as a result, unwanted SWBC reception is dramatically reduced.

The Rock-mite uses one surface-mount part with fairly large spacing. There are no toroids to wind, so assembly should be a snap! The Rock-Mite uses subminiature epoxy-encapsulated RF chokes instead of toroids


Double-sided PCB 2.0″ x 2.5″, plated-thru-holes, solder masked & silkscreened for easy assembly
0.5W power output at 12V supply.
Supply voltage range 8-15V
Automatic T/R offset, reversible
Built-in Iambic keyer, 5-40 WPM
Built in sidetone, 700 Hz
Includes assembly instructions and operating tips
All on-board parts supplied in kit


3560 kHz, 3579 kHz, 7030 kHz (DX QRP calling frequency), 7040 kHz (N. America QRP calling frequency), 7122 kHz (US Novice/Tech+), 10106 kHz or 14060 kHz


Small Wonder Labs

WY3A’s “The RockMite Rocks” pages

N0RC’s “The RockMite Files” pages

Yahoo Groups RockMite Group

eHam RockMite Reviews

Google Search on RockMite

Mity Box enclosure by American Morse


This kit is a blast to build. Though I took more than one evening to build mine, mostly due not being organized for the build. I put mine in a Mity Box by American Morse and the results are awesome! This is one fun build!

I am afraid I lost my in-process build pictures when the Macbook’s aftermarket large hard drive stopped driving, but the RockMite is well documented on the web.

Highly recommended!



You Can Say That Again – Repeaters Made a Bit Easier

My local club, Mancorad W9DK, arranged to have its former backup repeater retuned to an additional 2 meter frequency pair. The club’s ARES/RACES efforts would very much benefit from having an additional repeater to run a second net during drills or a a possible call out.

The process of course involved applying for an additional coordinated frequency pair, and then having the existing 146.61 backup unit reworked to the new frequency. Our local Motorola dealer did this work for a very modest cost knowing the community as whole would benefit from their work.

The unit is an old Motorola MICOR family unit, which a series of modifications for Amateur Radio Use.

As this unit require physical intervention for control, I’m one of several club members responsible to deal with any problems with this repeater.

Of course it seem to know that those of use looking after it are not familiar with the nitty-gritty of MICOR troubleshooting or even navigating around a MICOR setup.

There are several on-line resources we’ve found helpful:

  • Clint’s WA6TMJ Corner of Amateur Radio Repeater Building Stuff
  • The Repeater Builder’s Technical Information Page
  • As I write the unit is down waiting for some additional troubleshooting and correction of a discovered safety issue requiring rework to protect anyone inside the unit from a spot of exposed line level wiring connection.

    The club may add a third repeater (this one a 440 unit) which of course is a completely difference design. Fortunately where the details may differ the main designs are pretty straight up.



    Another Big Cat – Apple Rolls Out Leopard (and why I am excited)

    Apple OS-X Leopard

    That Apple Computer rolls out of Leopard OS-X 10.5 this Friday is hardly news. 

    The Media is full of public announcements telling us all about it.

    But the reasons why I am extremely eager to put it into use are more personal.

    A number of the new features look to have direct applications for my use.

    The enhanced iChat will make supporting relatives living around the world so much easier.  By being able to “share” their desktops I will be able to have a good look at their questions & needs.  Should be slick!

    Time Machine backup system is a double edged sword.  Recovery of children’s lost homework or the file I loose will be helpful.  My XYL Alison thinks being able to scroll back and forth through various edits is really trick.  But it does bring home that a deleted file may live on in systems with backups on-line.  It will be interesting to see what the explicit-delete-file process is.

    The improved Desktop will help keep me organized with “stacks.”  I use project folders currently, but this looks like a nice way to arrive at the same point with a bit more flare.

    A better integrated Mail and iCal system appears to have automated or semi-automated a number of task that frustrate under OS-X 10.4 or under Windows.  The way it handles email-to-calendar and email-to-Address Book will be a great improvement.  The harmonization started in Tiger OS-X 10.4 certainly will move way ahead under Leopard 10.5.

    The implimentation of Linux Spaces will be another incorporation of the best of other systems into the Apple OS-X product.  I can see having a Blog Space, an Amateur Radio Space, a Correspondence Space and a Fun Space running like I do on a Linux Box.

    There is much more, but so far the details look to really support one of my goals with computers, to make the machine & software as transparent to the task as possible.

    I have a copy (family pack) arriving on Leopard Day and then have four machines to update with the new OS-X 10.5

    More after the this Friday!



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    100 Pound DXpedition’s Scott NE1RD QRV as V4/NE1RD for the CQ WW SSB

    Map showing where St Kitts is

    (click on map for bigger version showing where St Kitts is)

    Our fellow blogger and friend Scott NE1RD of 100 Pound DXpedition bloging fame is off with his XYL Sandy for a well deserved Island Vacation.

    The ARRL Bulletin listed his effort as:

    ST. KITTS AND NEVIS, V4. Scott, NE1RD will be QRV as V4/NE1RD
    from St. Kitts, IOTA NA-104, from October 24 to 31. He plans
    to run QRP power in the upcoming CQ WW SSB contest. QSL to home call.

    Though Scott NE1RD assures us that he will be running more than QRP this trip!

    Keep an eye on Scott NE1RD’s 100 Pound DXpedition blog for the latest information!



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