Work a satellite–QRP style

Clint Bradford, K6LCS, recently posted a link to his website on the HF Pack group. He has a great article about working satellites AO-51 and SO-50 from low power rigs. QRP HF rigs like the Yaesu FT-817–which have VHF/UHF–are ideal for this type of satellite work. This article is well written and contains good references. I should mention that Clint is an AMSAT Area Coordinator in California and uses this document in his presentations.

Links:

Radio time station CHU is moving

After seventy years of broadcasting Canada’s official time, NRC’s shortwave station CHU will move the transmission frequency for the 7335 KHz transmitter to 7850 KHz. The change goes into effect on 01 January 2009 at 00:00 UTC.

Many QRPers use CHU to check propagation and UTC in the field. Follow this link to a full press release on The SWLing Post.

The perfect key to use when you’re in a pinch.

I think this homebrew key by Laurent Dumas (F8BBL) is simply amazing. It’s portable, easy to make from spare parts lying about the house and can serve you well if you’re in a pinch. (Sorry, I just can’t use this pun enough).

Admittedly,  I think there would be some serious operator fatigue if you tried to use this key in a contest. But for emergencies–it certainly fits the bill!

If you can’t see the embedded video below, simply click this link.

Sol food! Sunspot numbers on the rise.

According to a new article published by NASA, we may have finally hit the rock bottom of the Solar Cycle and are on our way to Solar Cylce 24.  According to sunspot forecaster David Hathaway of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, the recent sun spots groups that have appeared on the sun belong to Solar Cycle 24. This is an encouraging development since we have been dealing with the solar minimum for what feels like an eternity in QRP time (nearly 2 years, according to NASA). 

I’ve seen a lot of discussions on ham radio sites, in the ham press and in email groups about hams waiting to try QRP until the next sun spot cylce is in full swing. I don’t think this is necessary. In fact, I have been operating QRP throughout this lull and found that the solar minimum has had no effect on my daily/weekly QRP QSOs in the lower bands (160/80 & 40 Meters). I’ve also done some pretty respectable DX in the higher bands as well. Yes, those DX contacts are more rare, but it makes me appreciate each one even more. 

With that said, QRP will really come alive in the higher bands in a couple of years. There’s no better time to hone your skills than to be practicing when the going is tougher.   It’ll make you a better operator. I promise.

So, box up that amplifier and sell it on eBay. Then, find the power knob on your transceiver and turn it down until you barely notice the power output meter trembling–hit the air and have some QRP fun!

WorldRadio Magazine now a part of the CQ family

I have subscribed to the basic black and white newsprint magazine, “WorldRadio” several times since I first got my ticket. I’ve actually known several hams who have published in this magazine–can’t say that for the glossy magazines.

I also enjoy reading Richard Fisher’s (KI6SN) QRP column each month. He also hosts a very nice QRP blog found here.

It looks like WorldRadio will now become a part of the CQ family of magazines. According to the press release, CQ wants to respect WorldRadio’s flavor, but will transition everyone’s subscription to CQ and make WorldRadio available online. They will keep Nancy Kott (WZ8C) as Editor.

Here is the Press Release:

(Hicksville, NY and Sacramento, CA, November 12, 2008) — CQ Communications, Inc. has acquired “WorldRadio” magazine, CQ Publisher Dick Ross, K2MGA and “WorldRadio” Publisher Armond Noble, N6WR, announced jointly today. CQ, based in Hicksville, New York, currently publishes “CQ Amateur Radio, CQ VHF” and “Popular Communications” magazines.

“WorldRadio”, based in Sacramento, California, has been published monthly since July, 1971, with a primary focus on the human side of ham radio. “CQ”, a general-interest ham radio magazine best
known for its support of DXing and contesting, has been in print since January, 1945.
Armond Noble, N6WR, Publisher of “WorldRadio”, said that at the age of 74 the time had come for him to retire. “I wanted to be sure that ‘WorldRadio’ found a good home, and that our readers would continue to be served by an independent voice in amateur radio,” Noble said.

“CQ” Publisher Dick Ross, K2MGA, said, “‘WorldRadio’ has filled an important niche in our hobby for nearly four decades. We welcome “WorldRadio’s” readers to the CQ family, and we look forward to
meeting their needs for many years to come.”

Current plans call for “WorldRadio” to continue to be published online as part of the CQ family of magazines, with Editor Nancy Kott, WZ8C, continuing in that position. “WorldRadio” subscribers
will also have their subscriptions transferred to “CQ” magazine. Readers will be notified of details as plans are finalized.

NorCal 2N2/XX transceiver kits update

Over half of the 2N2/XX transceiver kits have been sold. You’ll recall (see previous post) that these kits were first offered at Pacificon and have been sold online since then. If you are interested in building one of these kits, you should not wait to make a purchase. Go to NorCal’s website for details.

UPDATE — 12/01/2008

Please read the update below from Doug Hendricks:

Due to problems with the stability of the VFO in the 2N2 kits, we hav suspended shipping until the problem is resolved and we can figure out which parts to put in the remaining kits, and which parts to send out to those we have already shipped. Please bear with us. We will get it right. Also, please, please, please do not send us emails asking where your order is. Every order is safe, and will be filled, we just need time to take care of the problem that we found. Emails to me won’t help, nor will an email to James or Kathy or Dean or Jim K. Thank you for your understanding. 72, Doug, KI6DS

UPDATE – 12/16/08

Hendricks has started shipments again and fixed the VFO problem.  Read message posted to QRP-l below:

Finally there is some good news to report!!  James tells me that shipping
has resumed on the 2N2xx kits for those that were held up while Jim Kortge
solved the problems in the VFO.  Jim did a tremendous amount of work and
we now have the parts to fix the problem.  The kits we are shipping now
have the correct parts in them, and those parts are being mailed to all
who previously purchased the kits.  Please, please do not email and ask us
where your kit is or when it will be shipped.  We are shipping as fast as
possible, and hope to have all kits shipped before the 1st of the year
that have been ordered.  (Don’t you just love my sentence structure??  My
English teacher is rolling over in her grave.)

We will be accepting new orders sometime in January and it will be
announced here.  James, Kathy, Jim K., Dean and Ron are working like crazy
to get your kit to you.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Doug, KI6DS

New Hendricks Dual Band HF Transceiver Kit Announced

Hendricks QRP Kits has announced that they will have a prototype of a new CW transceiver kit, designed by Steve Weber (KD1JV), at their Pacificon booth this year. Features of this transceiver include:

  • Dual Band – you get to pick 2 bands (anything from 160M-15M) when you order
  • Built-in keyer
  • Digital readout
  • Tuning knob
  • DDS VFO
  • A custom powder coated and punched case with a bright red top and an antique white base

Hendricks has not announced a price yet, but they plan to keep it very competitive. Their goal is to have the kits in production in time for Christmas. What a great stocking stuffer!

I will post more information on QRPer as it becomes available.

QRPacificon 2008 – Oct 17, 18, and 19

If you are attending Pacificon, the largest ham radio convention on the west coast of the US, you should consider attending QRPacificon as well. It is a great way to hear some of the experts in the field of QRP and meet fellow QRPers.  Information can be found on NorCal’s website.

Below, I have pasted an informative message sent to QRP-l, from James, KA5DVS:

Folks,
We are only 2 days away from the start of Pacificon in San Ramon, CA and the start of our QRPacificon activities.

Brief Schedule:
Friday: No host dinner at 6PM followed by homebrew show and tell with prizes
Saturday: Speakers 9AM=11AM and 2PM-4PM, Indoor Flea Market and Vendor night 7PM-?

It all starts at 6PM Friday evening with a no host dinner organized by Jim Duffey.
The restaurant is the same as last year:

EL Balazo
250 Market Place
San Ramon
(925) 328-0510
Click here for map

We will meet in the lobby at 5:30 and head over to the restaurant.

After dinner, we are sponsoring a builder show and tell with prizes. Bring your homebrew creations to show off and be judged. We will have categories for tube gear, test gear, radios, etc. Prizes will be given for the best in class.

Saturday morning starts with coffee at 9AM and we have a great speaker lineup:

9AM
Douglas Quagliana, KA2UPW
Introduction to Amateur Radio Satellites
Douglas holds an Extra Class Amateur Radio license
and has been chasing amateur radio satellites since 1996.
His writings have appeared online
and in amateur publications including QRPp, QRP Quarterly,
and the Proceedings of the AMSAT-NA Space Symposiums. His
other amateur radio interests include digital signal
processing, APRS, QRP, and mobile HF. His current amateur
radio work includes a 38k4 baud DSP soundcard modem and a
matching telemetry program for the amateur radio satellite
AO-51 (Echo). Douglas holds a Bachelors Degree in Computer
Science from St. Bonaventure University and a Masters
Degree in Computer Science from Stevens Institute of
Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He has one patent.

10AM Dave Farden, AA0ZU
Homebrew mobile antennas amd operation.
Dave Farden, AA0ZU, was first licensed in 1963 (WA0HAU)
at the age of 14. He has been operating HF mobile, on and
off, since 1965 with a wide variety of vehicles, rigs, and antennas.
The hobby became a career: he is currently a Professor of Electrical
Engineering at North Dakota State University, with professional
interests in communications and signal processing.

Dave joins us from North Dakota and will be talking about his homebrew mobile
antennas and experiences operating mobile in North Dakota. If you have worked
a mobile station in North Dakota, especially on the low bands, it is very possible
it was Dave.

2PM: Jim Duffey KK6MC
Jim needs no introduction. He has been a previous speaker at Pacificon and always
delivers a great presentation.

3PM: Dan Tayloe:
Dan Tayloe has been in ham radio for over 35 years. From day one, Dan
has always been a builder. Dan likes to build more than he likes to
operate. For the last few years, he has been heavily involved in
designing very high performance, very low power direct conversion
receivers. In his spare time he works for Motorola as a cellular>telephony
systems engineer. Dan is married to a very understanding XYL, Vicki, who can
usually be found negotiating for him at hamfests.

My presentation is called “Receiver Audio Filter Design – Approaches for
Improved Receiver Audio Performance” I will be mainly taking about R/C
active filter design, but will also touch on other topics like filter Q
and ringing, the need for hearing protection, effects of op-amp
distortion on high performance filters, and impacts of dual overlapping
filters.

After the speakers wrap up at 4, we will break for dinner.

We will regroup at the hotel at 7PM. This year, we will not have the Auction but will provide table space
for you to sell any QRP related equipment you would like at our indoor flea market. We will also
have a number of QRP equipment vendors present.

On behalf of the entire Norcal QRP Club staff, we hope to see you there All QRP activities are provided courtesy of the Norcal QRP club and are free of charge.
You only need to pay your admission to the Pacificon event to attend.
Pacificon tickets and information are on their website www.pacificon.org

72/73
James
KA5DVS

NorCal offering limited run of 2N2/XX transceivers

The NorCal QRP club is offering a limited run of their PN2222 based analog transceivers. These transceivers are based on 10 years of prior K8IQY 2N2 designs–an evolution originating from a design contest, Wayne Burdick N6KR, one of the co-founders of Elecraft, proposed for the 1998 Dayton convention.

A total of 500 kits are available – 200 on 20-meters, 100 on 30-meters, and 200 on 40-meters. They are available at $125 each (or $225/two, and $300/three). Only 5 kits per order are available.

These kits will be available for order on October 14th.

–UPDATE 10-13-08 —

Doug Hendricks posted a 2N2/XX update on QRP-l–this includes significant changes to availability. Here’s his message:

Guys, in our excitement at getting the NorCal 2N2xx CW transceiver kits
out we didn’t think things through very well. Here is the problem. This
coming weekend is Pacificon, and all of us will be totally tied up on
Thursday, Friday and Saturday and part of Sunday. The number of kits
available is only 200 on 40 Meters, 200 on 20 Meters, and 100 on 30 Meters
and we will have to monitor sales very closely or there could be a huge
problem. We don’t want to accept orders and not have kits to ship because
they are sold out. We just don’t have anyone available to monitor the
orders.

So this is what we are going to do. We will take one half of the kits to
Pacificon to sell in our booth. We will save one half of the kits for
“Internet” sales, so there will be kits for guys who can’t get to
Pacificon. I really doubt if we will sell 250 kits at Pacificon, but I
might be wrong. Even if we do, there will still be kits for those of you
who can’t make it.

The window for orders will now be open at 7 AM on Weds. Oct. 21st. I
apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused, but it is the best
solution that we can come up with.

Hope to see you at Pacificon. We have a great lineup of speakers and lots
of fun planned. 72, Doug

Links of interest:

How to learn morse code (CW) for free!

QRPers know that the best mode to get the biggest bang out of the lowest amount of power is with morse code, (a.k.a. CW).

If you haven’t learned CW yet or are looking to improve your speed, you’re in for a treat. A new website by Fabian Kurz (DJ1YFK) called LCWO (Learn CW Online) has been launched. Features of this site include:

  • The ability to learn via web browser (no software to download)
  • The proven Koch method CW course
  • The site remembers who you are and your stats
  • Hey, it’s free!

Some thoughts and advice on CW

I had been intimidated by CW for a long time and only started learning it a year ago. I had forgotten almost all of the CW I had learned to pass the 5 WPM Novice Exam in 1997.

With the use of some old CW training tapes and a little time set aside each morning in my living room, I was able to re-learn the alphaphet and numbers in a couple of weeks. In fact, the moment I had learned all of the characters and numbers, I picked up the phone and called my friend, Mike Hansgen (AA8EB), and told him to meet me on the air in 5 minutes. It was tough–and I was way outside of my comfort zone–but I made it through the QSO and felt great.  Mike was probably working me at 3 words per minute–a speed that was, ironically, taking him outside of his comfort zone!

I found out that, once you know the characters, you can begin having QSOs immediately. Speed comes naturally with on-air practice. To help me along, Mike and my good friend Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), began having a daily CW sched with me. The results? In only a couple of months I was comfortable listening to CW at 15 WPM! And trust me, I’m not a quick learner.

The thing that held me back all of those years was the fear of getting on the air and not understanding the operator’s code on the other end. Do you feel that way too?  Keep reading…

I was lucky to have friends (or Elmers) that were willing to help me gain ground with code. Indeed, not only were they willing to work with me, but they were actually excited to be given the opportunity. Think this is rare? Think again!

FISTS – “When You’ve Worked a FIST, You’ve Worked a Friend”

The International Morse Preservation Society (FISTS) sponsers the amazing “code buddy” program.  FISTS will put you in touch with a ham radio operator, a “code buddy”, that will meet you on the air and work with you to learn/improve morse code.  You don’t even need to be a member of FISTS and it’s a totally free service driven by hams with a passion for teaching others CW. This will give you a venue not only to learn CW in a comfortable, on air, environment, but you’re also sure to make a friend in the process.

So what are you waiting for?

Take these three steps to learn morse code:

  1. Go to the LCWO website, create an account, and start learning CW online.
  2. The moment you know all of the characters, either call a friend and get on the air, or sign up for FISTS’ Code Buddy program.
  3. Practice and have fun–speed and comprehension wil come naturally