Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Contests, Haters and QRM

The greatest thing about this wonderful hobby of ours, is the diversity of it.  If you are into emergency communications, good.  If you are into chewing the rag with friends near or far, good.  If you are into tinkering with electronics, radio direction finding, satellites, etc. that's great also.  Alternatively, if you are not into some aspect of ham radio, that is also great.  There is so much to the hobby, that you are bound to find some aspect of it that suits your fancy.

For me, I like emergency communications.  I like making contacts with QRP stations and I like tinkering with electronics.  These are fun for me and they are the aspects I missed most when I was off-air.  The most fun I have, however, is contesting.  Sure, there are some that don't like it because of any number of reasons (including the oft cited claim that contesting isn't staying true to the hobby) but they are allowed to not like it and are free to express their dislike of it, but there is a time and a place for it.

I have spent many, many hours listening to these hams complaining up on 40m, 75m and 160m.  These stations are usually the ones that meet on the air each evening, rag chewing for several hours at 800W power or more and get bent out of shape if anyone outside of their clique dare to try to join their discussion.  New hams learn the hard way that even though the laws say that no one OWNS a particular frequency, there are certain places one dare not tread unless you have the output power and can stomach being told you are a sub-par ham because you became licensed under the no-code rules or you cannot copy code at 30wpm.  As far as I am concerned, these hams, unfortunately, have placed themselves in the same category as a certain crazy Canadian (and his US ilk) that hangs out around 14.313MHz, especially after this weekend's NAQP.  Let me explain how I have come to this conclusion.

There were a few contest stations that were staying put on one frequency on 40m for several hours.  When it came time for these contest-haters to have their daily sked and they found that someone was parked on their usual frequency, instead of scanning around for an open frequency (or canceling their rag chew session for one evening) they deliberately tuned up on to of the original station, started talking over the original station (saying, "The Frequency IS in use" as if they were there first) and just other deliberate forms of harassment.  Then, not only were they doing this on their normal meetup frequency, they started traveling the band QRMing everyone, everywhere on 40m.  One even brazenly set down a dead key and turned the VFO slowly so as to maximize his performance and damage.

It isn't like these contests pop up at the last minute.  The information about the dates, times and bands are well published ahead of time in places like QST or at the WA7BNM/honicopia website, so there is plenty of time to steer clear of the contests or make other plans.  There are certain contests I don't really get into and that is what I do - I get away from the bands or away from the rig altogether for the duration of the contest.

I am sure that these same OMs will be at it again during Field Day and every other big contest in the future - unless they come to their senses and figure out that the contests aren't going away anytime soon.

73's and hope to catch you on the bands.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

We're Back!

For all of you that heard certain rumors concerning me - they are true.  KDØMCV is back on the air!

After a dismal few years in my personal life - which still are not all back to bliss - I have taken the rig out of storage, dusted it off, thrown up a G5RV Jr. and flipped on the filament switch.

The magic smoke works and I have been able to get on the air for both the Skywarn Recognition Day as well as the North American QSO Party, in addition to a little bit of working the bands.  Boy, I sure missed this.

Here are my QSO's from the Skywarn Recognigion Day:

2014 SKYWARNTM Recognition Day
Call Sign
WX5AMA Amarillo, TX 20m
WX4RNK Blacksburg, VA 20m
WX0DEN Boulder, CO 20m
WX2BUF Buffalo, NY 20m
WX7LKN Elko, NV 10m
W5W Fort Worth, TX 20m
WX0GLD Goodland, KS 20m
WX8GRR Grand Rapids, MI 40m
KC0NWS Kansas City, MO 20m
K5LCW Lake Charles, LA 20m
WX9ILX Lincoln, IL 40m
WX5LZK Little Rock, AR 20m
WX4MLB Melbourne, FL 20m
WX7MSO Missoula, MT 20m
K4OHX Nashville, TN 20m & 40m
NE0NP North Platte, NE 20m
WX6LOX Oxnard, CA 10m
WX4PTC Peachtree City, GA 20m
WX0PUB Pueblo, CO 20m
WX5TUL Tulsa, OK 20m

I was fortunate enough to work 72 stations in four countries (US, Canada, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic)  on 3 bands (10m, 20m and 40m).  While I was able to work the first hour of the contest, I had to leave and missed the next four hours - thus was limited to only the 40m band for most of the contest.

I truly am glad to be back on the air, heating up the ethereal and I sincerely hope to catch many more QSO's on the bands.

73's de KDØMCV

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Crazy Year - Crazy Propagation

What can I say, this year has - for me personally - been a crazy year full of ups and downs.  My venture in hamdom has also been very interesting.

First of all, I have been appointed as the Amateur Radio Emergency Services Emergency Coordinator for Dubuque County, Iowa.  That is a big step and has (thankfully) been without any needed emergency coordination on my part.  In March, I went to the Iowa Section ARES leadership meeting in Ames, IA and then attended our district meeting this weekend in Iowa City.  The learning curve is pretty steep so far, but I have made a lot of friendships with the other EC's in the state, so at least I can fall back on that.  I have also finally completed 14 different FEMA NIMS (National Incident Management System) courses to better my education for this position.

I have noticed that the "Old Man in the Sky" has been chugging along and making radio propagation fantastic.  Unfortunately, I have been so busy that I have not been able to really take advantage of it.  I did, however, take advantage of the Sporadic E Propagation on 6m yesterday and made my first QSO on the "Magic Band." On begins a journey in collecting grid squares.

Once again this year, I have been chosen to be the Field Day chairperson (let me correct that - no one else wanted to take it off of my hands).  I love Field Day as it is a time for me to celebrate my anniversary of getting my first ticket in June 2010 when I pulled my Technician License out of the mail on the first day of our Field Day operation.  I still remember the excitement I had when I showed up at the FD site and opened up the envelope and signed it in front of all those club members that were present.  It was official and I wanted to operate the rig, but was scared that I would screw something up, so I did some logging instead.  My, how long ago that seems and how far I have come from that day.

I have also started tackling my biggest hurdle in Amateur Radio - CW.  I was given a gift of a program that uses "sound-a-likes" to learn the sounds of the letters and numbers.  I have put off my study temporarily to focus on getting Field Day together, but so far, it has been easy to remember that K is kan-ga-roo and WET is No-Wa-Wa  Eeek  Tall (or WET is dit-dah-dah dit dah or .-- . -).  See, I will eventually get this, it is only a matter of time.

So, I have updated you all on where I am and you can see some of the future in learning code and such.  Now time to get these Field Day invites out.

Hope to see you all on the bands and waterfalls - Have a great Field Day everyone.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

CQ, CQ, CQ 2012

Well, we finally made it to the year 2012.  Sunspots are on the increase as are the band conditions.  This is set to be an awesome year and I am really looking forward to it.

As you may or may not know, I do not make New Year Resolutions, opting instead to set goals.  While you may think they are the same, I see them as somehow different.  These are just my ham radio goals (the rest are featured on my other blog). 

Reviewing the goals I set last year:
  • Obtain my Extra License - my biggest and most important goal;
  • Assemble my home shack - mobile is great, but being out of the elements is better;
  • Get involved in more contests; and
  • Earn my WAS (Worked All States).
Above all else, I plan on having a lot of fun with this hobby.  
I did all except for earning my WAS, so that goes to the top of the new list, but what else...

OK, I am back.  I have thought it out and here we go with the list for 2012.

  • Earn my WAS (Worked All States)
  • QSL 100% - I have some generic cards that I designed rather quickly on the computer and have been using.
  • Catch up on the backlog of QSL cards to send out.
  • Get caught up on LoTW.
  • More contesting.
  • Make my 500th and 1000th QSO.
  • Get digital running in my home shack.
  • Spend at least an hour each day on the air.
  • Elmer at least one person.
  • As the club secretary for our local club, I need to get the minutes from the meetings posted online within 24 hours.
In addition to my goals, I have something else that has entered into the ham radio picture.  I have been asked to take over as the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) Emergency Coordinator for Dubuque County, Iowa.  

I am looking forward to 2012 and hope that everyone else is.  This is going to be an exciting year.

So, time is wasting here.  I hope each and every one of you has all the best in 2012 and I hope to work you all on the bands.


Monday, November 21, 2011

2011 November Sweeps

Well, the ARRL November Sweeps (SSB) are officially over and I, for one, had a fun time - even though I was only able to operate for 10 hours.

So, how did I fair? Lets compare my first year (2010) and this year.

Last year, I was still learning the radio and antenna as I had only had it for about a week. I was still learning what a log was and there was a vehicle breakdown. This year a lot of things actually went better. I still had to work on Saturday and I still had husbandly duties to attend to. Other than that I made almost 100 more contacts this year than last (2010=19 Q's and 2011=116 Q's) This year, the learning curve was with the logging software that I was using for the first time.

I really like using the software to log. Last year, I did paper log and it took me a little bit to get the logs filled out, entered into the computer and then submitted. With the computer logging program, I don't get the writers' cramps and I have also submitted my log already - take that pudgy fingers! Additionally, the computer logging allows me to throw together a spreadsheet to share, as in this:

Yes, there it is - the extract from my Cabrillo file. If you find yourself in there, a heartfelt thanks for the Q.

Next year, my goals are as follows:
1.) Operate from the warmth and comfort of a truly fixed shack - mobile shack means getting the same exact spot if I was to leave, facilities at a distance and the (brrrrrr) elements.
2.) Computer logging is a must - no way I will return to paper logs for a contest. One entry point and instantaneous determination of whether a station is unique or a dupe.
3.) Request time off for contest - this is absolutely necessary and means more hours to operate
4.) Make 200+ Q's.

So, again, thanks to all those that I had QSO's with and I hope to see you all next year.

73 de KDØMCV

Monday, October 10, 2011

Weekly Review - 09OCT2011

I really haven't been all that fair with my posts on here so I have decided that instead of pushing myself for a daily post (and then getting frustrated with not getting first one, then a second, then on and on done, only to give up), I will post occasionally during the week, but push myself for a weekly update.

So, this week was all about anticipation.  Funny how when I earned my Tech license and then again with my General, I burned up the web checking out the FCC's ULS to see "my name in lights."  I figured that Extra would be different, but that was not to be.  I searched several times a day, every day, until I saw it posted there on Friday evening.  Like the school kid looking for that first day of class each year, I was anticipating and hoping that I would see my upgrade and elated when it came through on Friday.  Now you can only guess how many times a day I am checking the mailbox to see if the hard copy has arrived yet.

The only unfortunate part of seeing my upgrade appear on the ULS is that I did not get to work any stations as KDØMCV/AE.  I really wanted to, but time constraints with work and exhaustion didn't allow for that.  Minor detail, I guess.  What matters most is that I can use all of the frequencies now.

I did spend a bit of time listening around on the bands to see what all was out there this weekend.  I noticed that the bands were, for the most part, somewhat quiet and open.  Even 10m has been active which is a good sign.  I did work the DX-pedition station, T32C at East Kiribati on Kiritimati (Christmas) Island on 15m.  Here I am, sitting in the parking lot of the local Walmart and worked a station in the South Pacific.  Gotta love mobile ops.

I have been experimenting with different tools that are out there - tools on the internet and specifically, social media.  I have been tweeting a lot more and following some of the hams that are also on Twitter - namely @NW7US and @amatradio.  Reading on, I came across an article about having the confidence to use low power more than "defaulting" to 100W.  It fell right in with what I have been reading about QRP and so I figured I would give it a try.  That Q with T32C was made using 50W.  I was so excited when the op said my report was 5/9 that I am going to start trying to work my way down to 25W.  Mind you, I am mobile all of the time, so it is a bit harder to make those Q's as the ground plane is minimal, but I will work at it nonetheless.

Also, I cam across a station working 40m on Sunday morning that I thought was really odd sounding.  When he called out his CQ, I heard that he was AM.  Really?  I changed modes to AM (never done that before) and he was crystal clear.  I was fascinated and listened for over half an hour and I also pulled his call, WB9ECK up on QRZ.  This led to his website and all I can say is that you really have to read it for yourself.  I will tell you that he built his rig from scratch and even built his own crystals.  I am wanting to get up there and see that thing in person.  Maybe, someday soon.

When I was visiting with the Rock Island (IL) EC last Sunday, he gave me a starter kit for an NVIS antenna for working 80m and 40m.  I have started to get this project complete and am looking to get it tuned this week and  maybe use it this coming weekend to see how I did.  More on that later.

I also met a guy at the Radio Shack (buying a couple parts for another antenna I am putting together for a fellow ham up the street from me).  The kid told me that he was interested in being a ham, but that it cost too much as a hobby.  He attends a local community college here and we all know about the finances of a struggling student.  Chris' uncle is a ham and has a large station setup and naturally Chris thought that you would have to have all of that just to get into the hobby.  I really shocked him when I told him that all you need is a little time to study and the price of the test.  That got his curiosity and so (hopefully) he is studying for his Tech license.  I guess I will have to find something else to buy at Radio Shack later this week. HI HI.

Well, back to work so I can support my wonderful hobby.

73 de KDØMCV

Monday, October 3, 2011

Southeast Iowa Hamfest - My Lucky Spot

Well, I awoke at 3am on Sunday, studied for my Extra Class ticket and begged the XYL to let me head off to West Liberty, IA for the Southeast Iowa Hamfest.  Permission was granted (as long as I picked up a Sunday paper before I left), so I loaded up with two copies of my license, the original (still in the frame), directions printed out and a full tank of fuel and coffee.

West Liberty is over an hour-and-a-half drive south and west of Dubuque.  I am always aware - and a little bit fearful - of hitting a deer on the highway.  Harvest season, which we are now into, is the worst because they are getting pushed out of the corn fields and, because it is the start of the rut season for deer, the boys just aren't thinking with the larger of their brains.  :D

When I left Dubuque, the fog was thick and the eyes were peeled for deer.  Twelve miles out of Dubuque, the cruise control was set at 65, the fog had cleared and we were on our way.  Next stop - I-80 Truck Center to stretch the legs and kick the tires. 

If you are ever traveling through this part of the country on I-80, this is a must stop.  Cleanest restrooms, great food and plenty of things to lighten your wallet.  They also have some pretty neat trucks and some beautiful murals.  If you have time, check out the truck museum around back of the place.

Having filled up the coffee mug and emptied the bladder, it was time to hit the road again to finish the trip.  I was making awesome time and new I would get some study time in before the test started.  My goal was to get there when they started the test session so I could re-take if I needed.  As luck would have it, I didn't need a second chance.

I had three goals with the hamfest.  They were to pass my Extra Class, meet up with the Scott County EC, and witness a balloon launch.  This wasn't just any balloon launch, though.  This was the iHAB (Iowa High Altitude Balloon Project) and the 7th launch of their balloon with payload.  As a space nut, this really interested me.

So, I passed my Extra Class test and the first thing I did after that, was to find my Elmer - W0SAT - and let him know that I had reached the pinnacle of amateur radio.  I was so ecstatic that I had passed that I was floating on Cloud 9.  I thought nothing else could lift my spirits - how wrong I was, as two things lifted me to the heavens.

I promised myself that I would be a good boy and not bring any new radio toys back home.  Money is tight and I honestly knew I couldn't afford it.  Then I stumbled upon a Time magazine that was for sale and I couldn't pass it up.  It was the issue from my birth day.  Not just any birth day, but the one where I first learned that it's a cold, cruel world and also the one that I met the first love of my life - my mom.  Yes, it is from THE birth day.  Price was $2.00 and I couldn't pass it by.

The second thing that lifted me to unimaginable heights is the iHab balloon.  As W0OMT was filling the payload, he snapped a couple test pics with the payload camera and, you guessed it, I am in two of the shots - SCORE!!!

While my actual, physical body did not get to travel to an altitude of 82,138ft, at least my image did (and if the aliens are going to abduct anything, I would rather it be my image and not my person.)  :D

Lastly, I was honored to spend 6 hours of time with the Rock Island (IL) ARES EC discussing two very important issues for both of us - Skywarn and EmComm.  A regional utility has graciously given all the wideband radios that they no longer need (because of the mandatory narrow-band change out) to him and he is trying to distribute to other clubs.  We discussed what is needed to get a UHF repeater back up in Dubuque and discussed how he needs the skywarn reporting to come into the NWS office in Davenport.  It was a great meeting and full of a lot of information.

So, I did it - did it all in one day - and arrived back home in one piece.  Now I hope to work a lot of the frequencies that were out of reach to me just a few hours ago.

73 de KD0MCV/AE