Category Archives: Amateur Radio

Can I get into FT8?

Can I get into FT8?  Technically for sure, but as an intellectual engagement I’m stuck in a quandary.

It is not that I lack the gear or the experience to run another digital mode – I’ve tons of contacts on PSK31/PSK63, Hellschreiber, and most of that wave of modes including Throb.  Then I played with some Olivia/Contessa type modes.  I’ve only dabbled with the semi-automated modes which include FT8.

In the day I even completed the ARRL’s online classes for digital, and ever took first place in one obscure digital contest – most likely because I was the only one who read the rules realizing that the multipliers were too generous compared to pure raw numbers of QSOs.

A lot of my digital radio time was through necessity.  While my voice is not a “radio voice” it would travel through the house if I went on the air SSB once our young children were put to bed, the majority of the time I had available for radio was late after the bands shut down for SBB, and I didn’t have very good antennas available – so digital was my solution.  I even bought a “no-click keyboard” keep from disturbing the house when I was operating, as I’d learned our small children would grasp at the noise as an excuse from their evening routines and sleep.

But over time the kids got older – they became the evening/night noise makers keep us from our sleep!  The bands became marginally better.  And I invested in a tower and decent antennas.  Oh, and I figure out how to use the equipment & later software better so my voice worked as a “radio voice.”

And I found I preferred talking over typing.  Actually more accurately I found I could do a voice QSO at the same time as doing emails or other typing.

When I started working PSK it was hand-typing everything.  Avoided Macros and used the typing as a way to keep my keyboard skills up.  I even ran some PSK63 events hand typing, but started using Macros to run faster versions of PSK and because I wasn’t all that satisfied with my PSK QSOs.

It is hard to get your personality to come over typing.

I started running more Hellschreiber largely because I thought the mode was cool & retro, and different enough to be interesting.  Not the best mode to run though as unless there is a published event few hams monitor for a Hellschreiber CQ.

Staring into the increasingly automated modes didn’t last long for me.

While I was technically fascinated the QSO’s became more about Macro’s, computer clock timing, and then even character limited.  FT8 is of course just a flavor in the continuum.

While I have a Twitter account I never spend any time on Twitter, though I do let announcements of my radio postings “tweet” automatically.  Have to admit that part of the account is to “control” the user name that matches my call sign.  A good hacker or any other technical glitch could end that of course.

So back to FT8 – while I have had the software up and running, done a few QSOs and figured out how to get all the software I’d like to run playing well with each other, I didn’t get “the buzz.”

Letting the machine manage a series of FT8 contacts feeling like pushing the graph command back in Lotus 1-2-3 days – the “gee-wiz” fades to a “meh” after a few repetitions.

Wonder if I am alone on this or if I’m just missing something?

Thinking I will set everything up to run FT8 again and maybe set a quick goal of an FT8 WAS (Work All States) or take a stab at a  FT8 DXCC to see if I’ve stopped running FT8 too quickly and before the “bug sets in?”

Or I may find that already know the answer – that I need to do QSOs on modes where more personality is shared.

 

73

Steve
K9ZW

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K9ZW Station Evolution – The Direction K9ZW is Heading

That questions would come my way on what I was doing after hams read the extensive list of excess equipment I’m selling off was expected.  That the questions would start within hours of posting the list of gear for sale wasn’t expected though!

Both my Home QTH and Island QTH stations are becoming FlexRadio focused.  I’ve not used the backup radios (TenTecs) in a long time, and have rarely used the vintage stations.

I’m also actually in the final stages of completing a third station at my workplace, and of course with the Home QTH house move the Home QTH Station is at the starting stages of being redesigned & rebuilt at the new location.

Going forward, each of the three stations will have a Flex-6000 and a local computer.

Presently I have four Flex-6000s – two 6700s, a 6600M and a 6300.  Work QTH will get the 6300 and must likely each of the other stations will get a 6700.  The 6600M will be a hot-swap backup radio, and will fill much of need for a transportable HF rig.

Island and Home QTH’s will have FlexRadio PowerGenius XL amplifiers, AntennaGenius antenna switches, RotorGenius rotor control of AlphaSpid Rotators, Studio-Grade Microphones with Behringer amps, Radiosport Headsets, and roughly similar antenna arrays.

The Work QTH station is not getting an amp and will be limited to a HF vertical antenna only.

As the present Vintage Collins Stations are simply are not being used, they are on the block.  When both sell I will be looking to replace them with a single “very mint” station of a TBD configuration.  Basically I don’t have shack space for gear I can’t make time more than a few times each year to operate.

The TenTec units once were my mainstay, as they have excellent RX and decent TX, are light and robust.  But unused since buying the Flex-6000 transceivers, again how many extra radios can a guy have?

The Alpha-9500s are being replaced with FlexRadio PowerGenius XLs.  The Alphas are awesome amps by any measure, and I’m not 100% certain I should even be letting them go – especially as they are in short supply at the moment.  But again I don’t have the room to store them.

I’ve really enjoyed the PowerGenius XL I have had since being able to buy one as an Alpha Tester very early in the production.  I have a second PGXL I ordered I deferred delivery to let somebody else have an Alpha Tester opportunity, though I hope to get that unit this Spring.  Eventually I expect to order a backup third PGXL at some stage.

So I’m standardizing equipment between QTHs, rationalizing any extras, and cutting back the excess.

End result is to spend more time on the air of course!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Excess Gear for Sale – November 2018

I’ve not been very good about getting rid of excess gear, and I’m overdue clearing several excess rigs & bits from my shack.  This gear really should find a new home:

  • TenTec 1253 Shortwave Receiver – Built from Kit by an SK, looks unused – $75 plus shipping
  • QRO King 6 meter full Kilowatt Amp built on a Heath SB221.  I lack the room for this outstanding amp in the shack.  – $1200 plus shipping.
  • ATS 909 SW Receiver – Like New – $150 plus shipping
  • W2IHY 8 Band Audio Equalizer/Noise Gate and EQplus set with Ten-Tec Cables – $600 plus shipping
  • W2IHY 8 Band Audio Equalizer/Noise Gate and EQplus set with Flex-6000/Yaesu Cables – $600 plus shipping
  • TWO NEW 4o3a Antenna Genius 8×2 Antenna Switches, SO-239 connectors.  I had ordered N-Connectors and the replacements arrived before I used these in the field. $650/each plus shipping (I’ll pick up shipping if someone takes both of these).
  • TenTec Pegasus Transceiver – Excellent NOS Like New Condition – Purchased as NOS and only Tested on air – original box, manuals and disks. Includes a 302 remote tuning pod. (This Pegasus does not have the internal AT, but is like new) $500 plus shipping [Had been retained as a Back-up]
  • TenTec Jupiter, original version but black case, updated firmware, includes an uninstalled Internal Antenna Tuner kit, $700 plus shipping
  • TenTec Jupiter, original version grey case, with factory installed Internal Antenna Tuner, $700 plus shipping
  • TenTec Jupiter original version grey case, no Antenna Tuner, $500 plus shipping
  • Alpha-9500 Amplifier, second version, low hours, has been retained as my back-up Alpha-9500, picked up or price plus shipping $5800
  • Alpha-9500 Amplifier, second version, also low hours, has used as a back-up to a FlexRadio PowerGenius, picked up or price plus shipping $5800
  • Collins KWM-2A station, including 30L-1 Amplifier, 312B-5 Remote VFO, Collins Power Supply, second Collins portable power supply (the one that goes on the back of the KWM-2A, and D-104 microphone, with interconnect cables  – this is my Island QTH Collins station – $2200 plus shipping
  • Collins S-Line station, including 75S-1, 32S-1 ( the receiver/transmitter pair), 30L-1 Amplifier, 312B-4 Remote VFO, Collins Power Supply, Digital VFO (uninstalled, see ads in Electric Radio magazine), Speech Processor (uninstalled), and Collins SM-1 microphone with interconnect cables  – this is my home QTH Collins station, unused since gathered from known working components – $2200 plus shipping
  • Palstar AT-Auto Antenna Tuner – unmolested original, modest hours, updated firmware, $800 plus shipping
  • Palstar Kessler AT-Auto Antenna Tuner, withe most Kessler mods installed by Kessler, unused since upgrade, $900 plus shipping
  • Murch UT-2000 Antenna Tuner(s) – I may have two of these in storage, but for sure have one left.  Working except usually meter problems.  $250 each plus shipping, or $500 for the pair shipped.

Contact me for more details. You can find lots of information on these tuners & radios, including photos, at eHam, the manufacturer’s websites and by google.

I’ll leave these posted here for a couple weeks or so before putting out eHam & QTH ads.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Moving stuff – including station move planning

One dreads moving.

One really dreads moving their Amateur Radio station.

Even knowing the end result will be a much better station, the logistics are daunting.

My move involves taking down a couple Log Periodic Antennas, and the tower, then removing feed lines, control cables, moving the actual shack gear and spares, moving a spare tower (Skyneedle) that will end up at the new QTH, moving all the other accumulated ham gear and spare antennas, then getting things set up again.

Thinking that for this winter I may revert to a vertical and a dipole, leaving tower erection to next spring.

That will give me enough time to properly develop the station plan and do things less rushed.

May be a challenge to operate this way in poor band conditions, but such is life.

One dreads moving…..

73

Steve
K9ZW

Moving the Main K9ZW QTH – Part 1

Letting the cat out of the bag – the main K9ZW QTH is moving.  Bought a nicer place, with 16 acres and a ham-friendly workshop building about 10 miles west of my present main home QTH.

Until the old house sells the present station will stay running, and I will be accessing it remotely from the new QTH.

The new QTH is getting a fiber internet run between the house and workshop installed next month, just in time to move the radios.

Initially I will be operating with a couple vertical antennas.  The planning and replacement tower base delivery process most likely will put off erecting a tower until Spring 2019.  May be two towers actually.

Both Towers and the antennas will be stored on bucks at the new QTH.  Unfortunately I forgot to order a replacement base for the 56 Ft Tashjian and have decided to do more preventative maintenance on the 70 ft Tashjian Skyneedle even though I otherwise have everything to put it up.

At the Island QTH a 48 Ft Extra Heavy Duty Rohn BX that had been a temporary tower (up about three years) for an area provider is likely to be pressed into duty under the Hexbeam there.

I am presently undecided whether the very large custom Radiowavz Hexbeam will be the Island antenna or if I will keep using the DX Engineering Hexbeam there, diverting the big one to the new home QTH.  Time for some contemplation and some modeling analysis?!

The New QTH is largely wooded, so it is going to take some thinking to make an antenna layout work with the limited area of clearings not directly adjacent to the house itself.  On the plus side there is nearly a mile of jeep/golf cart sized roads mostly built of gravel, which makes access very easy.

A lot to think of and plan…

73

Steve K9ZW

From A Reader: AmRRON T-REX 18 AAR

The AmRRON program takes the best of Emcom adding the ideals of Freecom organizing it into an effective tool.

Worth studying and having a good heart-search about what you and your station really offers for effectiveness when the chips are down.

73

Steve
K9ZW

brushbeater

AmRRON (American Redoubt Radio Operator’s Network) holds an annual grid-down exercise, having its members relay traffic and reports for a disaster scenario. In my view its what the ARRL’s Field Day actually should be, but that’s another story. Mauser sends the following:

First, I'm not sure how familiar you are with AMRRON, so a quick run down of their SOI is as follows: Nationwide voice and digital traffic nets on 30min windows, every 6 hours upon activation. This is followed by a rolling regional net every 6 hours consisting of 30 min voice followed by 30 min digital comms windows, which is supposed to be followed by 2m local voice and digital nets and dissemination of relevant traffic to the unlicensed public by the Channel 3 project (FRS/GMRS, CB, MURS) and the Black Echo project (low power FM broadcast). I really don't think there is anything else like AMRRON in…

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