Author Archives: k9zw

Let’s talk on the Radio, but perhaps put off Eyeball-QSOs for a bit? A ham’s Response to the Coronavirus

I had been asked if I was planning to go to Dayton 2020?

After a fairly short reflection on the topic, I think not this year.

Though I have some other concerns that influenced my decisions – work load, some family needs, and a station build that is stalled for better weather – this new Coronavirus thing tipped the scale personally.

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Revisiting LoTW (Logbook of the World)

LoTW (Logbook of The World) when it first came out was not a great experience.

Back in its early days I tried, and basically gave up.

Well like all things in heavy use, LoTW has gotten a lot better.

Using the ARRL link I decided I would knuckle-down and see if I could get things going.

I found LoTW much easier and much quicker than in the day.

As a starter it took only a day to get my main certificate approved, that is so much better than the weeks plus postcards sent in the mail stuff back in the day.

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Revisiting one’s Go-Kit

Following up on a request that would use my main go-kit that didn’t result in an actual need to use my equipment, I decided to “play radio” with the gear.

First I found that some of my gear was disorganized following our QTH move.  My bad – my real bad!  As a convenience in the house move things got split up.

Second I found some of my gear was not-deployment ready.  Either just didn’t work, or because I had let it sit too long needed servicing to be usable.

Third and last, anything rechargeable simply wasn’t charged.

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Station Design – What is the Fallback/Rescue if something goes wrong?

This weekend in a heavy snow I seriously hung up my skidsteer clearing the drifted snow.  I’m not going to post pictures, as in the end it all turned out okay, but only after I enlisted several people to help with additional equipment.

The point I’m going to write about is the simple fact than without help – without added manpower and equipment – I could not undo the mess I got my skidsteer into.

My very Independent way of working became highly Interdependent really quickly.

Fortunately I had available resources to sort the situation out, though it wasted several hours of several folks time, and was highly embarrassing in the process.

What I learned was:

  • Make sure I have a Plan-B and a Rescue plan.
  • Avoid pushing operations to the edge – when my safety margin was lost I was done.
  • Don’t try to do a rescue plan by oneself.

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Preparing an FT8 Linux Laptop from a Chromebook

UPDATE – “It’s Alive! It talks!”  Using some hints from I got the audio working.  I’m also editing in a few hints.  See the Sat Oct 19,2019 1:04 pm post for the step-by-step.  Basically seemed to be a driver issue with this particular Chromebook model.   


The Audio Fix

[Edited 08FEB2020]


CAUTION [SEE ABOVE – Resolved with some research and work!] – I’m struggling to get the Audio I/O working.  Some users are reporting that the Dell 3120 (Candy) Chromebook running GalliumOS ends up with the audio inoperative, and few say they have it working.  I’ve undone the whole process and repeated with the same problem.  Might be better to pick a different Chromebook in the end.  More to follow!  [Edited 08FEB2020]


With some help from Vic KC9NWB I’ve mostly prepared a very inexpensive laptop to run WSJT-X with my soon to be built Midnight Design Solutions Phaser FT8 transceiver Kit.

I started with a Dell 3120 Chromebook which was a scratch-n-dent sale item at Amazon’s Woot.  With the larger memory Amazon usually gets $100 plus tax for one of these, but catching it on a short Woot offer saved about $30 in my case.  So with taxing delivered I’ve added $71 to my FT8 Phaser project for a dedicated computer.  At the time of my writing Amazon does have some on offer (again S&D/renewed) for the $75 range.

Rugged Chromebook

I followed the conversion to Linux Joshua Woehlke wrote up at

Some notes: Backup the firmware to a separate flashdrive, and do make a set of backup media to restore ChromeOS just in case you have to revert to solve problems like I did. is also another good reference. You can make a new ChromeOS restoration media drive through the chrome browser app plug-in as well.  But having the right stuff handy is helpful and saves time if you do have to go back.  [Edited 08FEB2020]

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Building a Portable FT-8 Vertical Antenna

Taking much inspiration from recent posts on the US Islands reflector and his previous articles I’m endovoring to emulate John KL7JR’s efforts to use Wilson FTG-2 CB antenna tuned to useful ham band frequencies.


FTG-2 with the 20m whip

A quick ordering spree at Amazon and a dash to the local Ace Hardware got things going.

What I bought were:

From Amazon:

From the Hardware Store:

  • A 10×32 knurled cap screw to replace the set screw in the FGT-2 antenna ($0.55 plus tax)
  • Several lengths (nominal 72 inch long) 12-gauge “ceiling tile” wire, the galvanized wire used by suspended ceiling installers to hang ceiling grids ($0.99 each plus tax)

For testing I used my SARK-110 analyzer and I used a common fence-pliers to cut & form the wire.

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