K-5589: Attempting rare POTA activation Tuesday

If you’re involved with the Parks On The Air program, you may be interested in a park I plan to activate on Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

I plan to activate K-5589, Seneca State Forest in West Virginia.

I thought I’d give a heads-up here in case you need this park–it’s only been activated once before and only a handful of contacts logged.

I plan to start around 22:00 UTC (Feb 25). Time is approximate as this activation will take place after a long day of driving. This activation is in the middle of the National Radio Quiet Zone thus I will have no mobile phone reception to self-spot or provide tips to chasers. I do have approval from the NRQZ coordinator to operate, however.

I will pack my Elecraft KX2 and Mission RGO One transceivers. I plan to deploy a long wire antenna with the idea that perhaps I can serve up 80 meters as well. I will also bring the W4OP loop in the unlikely event I’m not allowed to use a tree to support my wire antenna (this would certainly restrict me to 40 and 20 meters).

Look for me on 3,986, 7,286, and 14,286 kHz.

If, for some reason, I can’t activate this site due to access, I will attempt to activate K-1808 (Cass Scenic Railroad State Park) instead. Both are rare.

If time allows, I’ll attempt both!

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Silent Key: Marshall Emm (N1FN) owner of Morse Express, Oak Hills Research and Ameco

Many thanks to Dennis (K2DCD) who shares the following from the Fireflies QRP Group:

We are sad to announce that Marshall Emm, N1FN – long time QRP advocate, owner of Morse Express, Oak Hills Research and Ameco – is a Silent Key. Marshall passed away peacefully Monday morning, February 17, 2020, at Aurora CO Medical Center with his daughters and wife surrounding him. When more details are available, we will post a more comprehensive announcement. Our thoughts and prayers are with Marshall’s family. Messages, thoughts, stories can be sent to COLORADOQRPCLUB@GMAIL.COM.

Dick AB0CD.

Thank you for sharing this sad news, Dennis. Rest In Peace, Marshall.

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Icom IC-705 demo and pricing

Many thanks to QRPer, Pete (WB9FLW), who shares the following sneak peek video of the new IC-705 transceiver from Amateur Logic TV with guest Ray Novak from Icom America:

Pete also notes that Ham Radio Outlet’s price has been announced a the 2020 Orlando Hamcation. According to two members of the group, the pre-order price at Hamcation is $1,175 US–the price will increase $100 after Hamcation.

Availability is still unknown: retailers and Icom have not committed to firm delivery date yet other than noting it will be sometime in 2020.

Thanks, again, Pete for the tip!

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Draft of new ARRL HF Bandplans

(Source: Southgate ARC)

The HF Bandplanning committee has been looking at the HF digital mode segments and has issued a new draft bandplan

In their report the committee say:

“Conflicts have surfaced about interference among digital segments of HF bandplans.  The situation was referred to the HF Bandplanning Committee for consideration and recommendations to increase harmony.”  

“The group considered a variety of positions on the issues, and developed the recommendations below.  In general, the Committee agrees that the recent, extreme popularity of digital modes is likely to continue or accelerate.  FT8 as a mode is the poster child for the rapid and extreme rise in popularity that is possible with the new digital modes.  We expect more of this evolution in the future.  Along with digital modes, there has been an increase in automatically controlled digital stations (ACDS). We believe this trend will continue as well.”

“In general, the committee is of the opinion that there is justification for additional space to become available for digital modes, as well as for the operation of digital stations under automatic control.”

Read the HF Bandplanning Committee report at this link

Draft HF Bandplan – Click here

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On The Air: ARRL’s excellent magazine for newcomers…only available behind their paywall

Cover of the new “On The Air” e-magazine from the ARRL

[Please note: this is a cross-post from our sister site, the SWLing Post.]

Today, the ARRL released their new electronic magazine for ham radio newcomers: On The Air.

The ARRL describes On The Air‘s mission:

“On the Air magazine is the newest ARRL member benefit to help new licensees and beginner-to-intermediate radio communicators navigate the world of amateur radio. Delivered six times a year, the magazine will present articles, how-to’s, and tips for selecting equipment, building projects, getting involved in emergency communication as well as spotlighting the experiences of people using radio to serve their communities, and those using it for enjoyment.”

I checked out On The Air and was quite pleased with the scope of the magazine. The first issue covers topics such as: understanding the ionosphere, choosing your first radio, building simple antennas, and much more. I love the fact that the articles are written with newcomers in mind, too; less technical jargon and more explanations.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been teaching a ham radio class to a group of high school students. Most of the students have now acquired their Technician licenses, and we’re even plotting a General class course for the fall.

Last month, I shared some copies of QST (the ARRL monthly member magazine) with my students. While they enjoyed looking through the pages of QST, many told me they simply didn’t understand the articles yet…There’s just not a lot inside a QST issue to grab the attention of a fifteen or sixteen year old who’s just gotten her ticket. Understandable.

Then, I learned about On The Air from a friend with the ARRL.  I was so glad to hear that the League was finally making a bi-monthly magazine aimed squarely at newcomers! I was also pleased it was an e-publication, because it will be that much easier to share with my class and propagate to prospective students.

But today, I discovered, to my dismay, that other than the premier issue, On The Air is for ARRL members only. Here’s a screen grab from the website:

But…”for members only”––?

Alas, in limiting access, the ARRL has essentially insured that most of their target audience won’t ever have the opportunity to read On The Air, and thus they’ve crippled the best ARRL recruitment tool I’ve ever seen. 

What a shame.

I’ve contacted my ARRL representative and asked that they reconsider the decision to hide this brilliant magazine behind a membership paywall. I’m pretty sure that ad revenue and membership fees could readily cover the cost of publishing this electronic edition. After all, On The Air could lead to a lot more ARRL members! And, indeed, I hope it will.

If you feel as I do, please contact your ARRL Section manager. It may be that those making the decisions are, in this case, a little out of touch with the future of amateur radio.

Update – To be clear about this post: I’m not implying anything bad about the ARRL here, I just think it’s a lost opportunity if they keep future editions of On The Air behind the member pay wall. I imagine that ad revenue alone could more than support this niche publication if they simply release it as a free PDF. The real benefit, though, could be an increase in ARRL membership as On The Air readers get a taste of what the League could offer! In other words: this is an opportunity!

What do you think? Should On The Air be free to anyone interested in amateur radio, or for members only? Please comment!

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The uBITX V6 is a power outage companion

QRPer Readers: Please note that the following is a cross-post from my other radio blog, the SWLing Post. For more information about the uBITX V6 and a short post about assembling it, check out this post.


Yesterday, a weather front moved through the area that dropped temperatures from an unseasonably high of 50F to 25F in the space of a couple of hours.  Fronts like this always equate to high winds here at our altitude. This time, it packed a little snow as well.

Last night, around 22:00 local, our power went out due to a fallen tree further down the road.

Here at SWLing Post HQ, we don’t panic about power outages. As I’ve mentioned before, our refrigerator, freezer and some of our home lighting is solar-powered and off-grid–we also rely on passive solar heating and a good wood stove to keep us warm and cozy.

Without fail, I always use power outages as an excuse to play radio on battery power.

This morning, the uBITX V6 transceiver was already hooked up to a LiFePo battery on my desktop, so I simply turned it on and started tuning around the 40 meter band, where I had recently logged a few POTA contacts. Problem was, the band was absolutely dead, save a couple weak stations. After thinking about it a few seconds (keep in mind this was pre-coffee) I put on my boots and coat, walked outside and confirmed my suspicions: the antenna feedline had become detached from my external ATU box.

The winds were strong enough last night, that the ladder line pulled itself out of the banana connector jacks on the side of the ATU box. This happens quite often during periods of high winds and is a bit annoying. Of course, I could secure the feedline in such a way that it would easily survive high winds without disconnecting, but frankly this is an intentional design choice. You see, when a black bear walks into my feedline, it easily disconnects before the bear gets tangled, up, frustrated and yanks my antenna out of the tree!

Trust me on this: bears and antennas don’t mix. I speak from experience.

After re-connecting the antenna, I fired up my portable alcohol stove (the one you might have seen in this post), boiled water, and made a fresh cup of coffee to take back to the shack.

I turned on the uBITX once again and found that the 40 meter band was chock-full of strong signals.

It’s time to go chase a few more parks today and plot my next POTA activation.

Frankly, I’m in no hurry for the power to be restored.  It’s a wonderful excuse to play radio.

Readers: Anyone else enjoy radio time when the grid goes down? Please comment!


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Posted in Kits, News, QRP | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

TK0C 2019 Contest Video

Many thanks to Paul (W4/VP9KF), who shares the following:

Having almost become a TK resident, this is one of the best ever contest
videos ever:

I recognise their QTH and so wish I’d been there!!!!!!

Thanks for sharing this, Paul! An amazing amount of effort was certainly put into this contest and no doubt it paid off!

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Icom IC-705 price and availability

Note: We will update this post as pricing information is confirmed by retailers. This is a cross-post from our other radio blog, the SWLing Post.

Many thanks to several SWLing Post readers who have been carefully tracking the price of the Icom IC-705 transceiver which is expected to start shipping around the second quarter of 2020.

Pricing in Japan: 124,800 yen

Paul Evans notes that the price in Japan, according to this Icom Japan press release [PDF], is 124,800 yen + tax. That’s roughly $1150-1200 USD.

Pricing in UK: £1200.

In addition, ML&S have recently posted updated details from Icom UK and have noted that they “anticipate a price of around £1200.” To put that in perspective, the IC-7300 is currently being offered for the same price and it’s been on the market a while now.

This could mean that after the IC-705 has been on the market for a while, discounts could place it well below that of the IC-7300. Of course, if history is an indicator, early adopters will likely pay the top price.

Pricing in US: [TBD]

No confirmation yet from US retailers, but at this point, I would bet we could see pricing around $999 USD. That would be a competitive starting point. Of course, once we have confirmation from retailers we’ll update this with actual figures.

Other regional pricing

We will update this post with pricing and availability once we confirm details. Please comment with any tips!


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uBITX v6 QRP transceiver now available for $150/$199 US

Many thanks to QRPer, Pete (WB9FLW), who notes that Ashhar Farhan (VU2ESE) has recently announced the availability of the uBITX v 6.0–as Pete notes, “just in time for the Holidays!

Pete shared the following message from Farhan:

Here is what [the uBITx v 6.0] looks like :

And of course, you can buy it on hfsignals.com. The shipping will happen from Tuesday onwards. We have a limited supply of the first 200 boards. The rest is for after Christmas.

The most important thing about this revision is that the Radio circuitry is almost unchanged. We have incorporated the connectors on the PCBs. So, this kit needs none of the confusing soldering. You snap in the TFT Raduino onto the main board, plug the power and antenna from the back, snap on headphones, plug in the mic (supplied with the kit) and off you go!

It is offered in two kits now : The basic kit (150 USD) is without the box (like old times) but with a microphone and two acrylic templates for the front and back panels.

The Full kit (199 USD) has the box with speaker, mounting hardware etc. Both are described on the website.

Now, about the TFT display:

For those who are using the 16×2 display and you would like to upgrade, you will have to do three things:

Add a heatsink to the 7805 of the raduino

Buy [here] and hook it up as per [this article].

Grab the new Arduino sketch from https://github.com/afarhan/ubitxv6

Background:

I have been hacking away at adding a TFT display for the Arduino for sometime. Finally, I managed to do this with a really inexpensive 2.8 inch TFT display that uses a controller called the ILI9341. The display update is slow but, clever guy that I am, the display very usable. it uses the same pins that earlier connected to the 16×2 LCD display. This display is available everywhere for a few dollars.

Many thanks, Pete, for sharing this announcement. The price was simply too attractive to me, so I just purchased the full kit for $199 US. (Thanks for being the good enabler you are, Pete!)

I’ll post an update when I receive the transceiver and assemble it. I do hope this is a workable little radio–it would be pretty amazing for newcomers to the hobby to be able to get on the HF bands for a mere $200 US. I also love the fact that this is all based on open-source, hackable technologies.

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Cold War Sports: High-Speed Telegraphy

Many thanks to Paul Evans, who shares the following short radio documentary from the BBC World Service:

The end of the Cold War in 1989 spelt the demise of a little-known, but surprisingly popular sport behind the Iron Curtain – high-speed telegraphy competitions. With the help of two of Czechoslovakia’s best former Morse-coders, we revisit the inaugural World Championship in Moscow in 1983 when the Soviet Union rolled out the red carpet for teams from across the Communist bloc. Ashley Byrne reports. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production.

Click here to listen to this program via the BBC.

As Paul points out, “HST is still going strong as a sport!” Indeed it is because CW is simply timeless! Thanks for the tip, Paul!

Note: This is a cross-post from the SWLing Post.

Posted in CW | 1 Comment