Sunday, December 31, 2023

DX'pedition Antenna

In 2024, I will be ramping up a business venture to make bespoke antennas for DX'peditions.

I already have a few orders for special "VDA" (Vertical Dipole Array) antennas and those will be in design and production in January.  Special VDA means a significant gain differential, compact, and easy to put up.  Designed for use near salt water.    The POTA/SOTA variants will be less gain, but still adequate for the operations inland.

The goal is to make custom (or nearly custom) antennas for use on DX'peditions.  These are not general purpose antennas.    For operations on islands, DX locations with special properties, and POTA/SOTA work these antennas will be ideal.

For all other types of fabrications, they will be on a case-by-case basis.

I'll make an announcement once the paperwork is done and the business is established.   

In the mean time, a little teaser --


Monday, December 4, 2023

2023 almost over

Its getting close to the end of the year and I'm taking stock of things that I need to do.

For many years I let my ARRL WAS (Worked All States) languish.  I hadn't tried to finish it.  I think I have it on one band, but not on 5 bands.  So I'm doubling down on getting more contacts on 80m, 15m and 10m so I can wrap up a 5BWAS soon.  I'm within 10 states or less on those bands.  In fact I'm down to just a handful of states on 80m (2 states), 15m (6 states) and 10m (about 15 states).  The rest are covered.

I might be able to even get 5BWAS on both PHONE and CW by the end of the year.  It'll be close, but there is no deadline.

I'm also narrowing the gap on the 5BDXCC.  I have a bit of work there.  I only need to work 80m, 40m and 10m for those bands to wrap up 5BDXCC.   

I'm also sitting on a stack of QSL cards that will push  my DXCC to about 210 or so total Mixed.

CQ Marathon for 2023 -- I hadn't really started paying attention until May and now I'm at about 166 Mixed across the bands.  And I just need one more Zone (Zone 34 I believe) to wrap that.

I don't think I can get CQ Marathon past 200 by the end of the year, but I will try.

Those are just the numbers.   On other fronts, things are looking good.

As far as my DX'pedition preparedness, I am making some strides there.  I can copy fairly well at 20wpm in contesting (or DX'p) mode.  I need to be able to raise that to 25 wpm in order to be really effective.  It would be great to get that speed even higher, but my disabilities are making that difficult (hearing disorder and memory disorder of some kind that I don't know how to explain.)

My homebrew projects have taken a back seat while I work on the CW practice, but I have the boxes of parts and schematics that I've been meaning to get to.  I'm going to try to finish my home-brew solid-state linear amplifier (100W) for Portable work.  It will go along with the KX3 that I am purchasing.

I also am actively working on designing some new DX'p antennas for a friend and when those designs are final, I'll be announcing some products to sell in that area.  I'm going to have a side business of making and selling "bespoke" antennas for DX'peditions -- VDA's -- vertical dipole arrays for 30m through 6m.   There'll be more on that in coming weeks.

The year has been busy.  I had a few goals, reached some -- missed some too -- but all together a great year.

Next year it looks very promising.  
  • I'll be attending Visalia again.
  • I have an article that might appear in an up-coming issue of QST or On The Air -- they won't say which. But it was accepted for print (or maybe it won't actually get printed -- I don't know).  The proceeds were already donated to NCDXF.
  • I'll be trying to activate some islands in the Puget Sound region -- San Juan Islands probably.
  • I'll be trying National Park / National Forest "On the Air" next year (when it warms up) -- likely in the Stehekin River Valley or some other place in Eastern Washington State.
  • I'm going to try to visit more friends in the next year that are special to me in the ham radio community.
  • I'm going to investigate some outings and recurring "coffee" meet-ups with my friends at Western Washington DX Club.
  • And, I'm going to make myself available for going on a DX'pedition by socking away a nest-egg.  A nest-egg that will sit there and be ready in case someone gives me a call to go!  
  • And, a whole lot more.
If you can think of something else that I ought to do, let me know.

The year is winding down and a new year will let me reset.   I'm looking forward to it.

Jeff

ps. I'm also trying to get a "Blue Origin Amateur Radio Club" off the ground at work.  We have a fairly good set of people who are interested at work -- and perhaps that will become a thing next year too.




Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Trees

25 years ago the XYL and I bought this property.  I didn't know at the time that I'd be operating amateur radio.   The trees were (and are) tremendous.   Over the years we've had a couple of "logging events" where we took out a bunch of cedar for the mill.    Not old growth but some of them were at least 130 years old cedars.

The QTH is the little house just right of center, the road goes around the north east corner.  What is pictured is the extent of the property - 3x east-to-west as 1x  north-to-south.

When I mention to people the story of the "tree problem" it comes in two versions.

The first version is that I have so many trees so dense that I couldn't spin a boom even if I wanted to.  So I'm left to string up wire in trees, lacing the wire between them when there is a clean line between points on the perimeter of the loop of wire.  (Loops are the way to go).

The second version of the story goes along the lines that -- I wouldn't want to take any of them down really.  They give me shade, and the wildlife in the forest around me is very natural and park-like.

But there is a spot that could work.   I found a pocket where the turning radius could be about 20-30 feet.  And in that pocket I could spin a boom.  So, there might be hope after all.



Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The NAANY

The Western Washington DX Club has a contest they call the NAANY


It works like this.

A maximum score is 260.   You get a point for every combination of the last number followed by the first letter after that number in a call sign.   So, W7BRS would count for 7B.

9K2GS would count for 9K,  PJ2T would count for 2T, and so on.

26 letters, 10 call-sign areas, 260 points maximum.

The catch:

Have to work stations not in your continent.  So for those in North America, you exclude any station from North America.

I thought it might be easier to make Software calculate your score, so wrote a tool to do that.


Not a GUI application, but a console application that cranks through an ADIF log file and produces a score.  Here's mine so far:


     0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9
----------------------------------
A |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
B |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
C |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
D |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
E |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
F |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
G |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
H |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y  Y
I |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
J |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y
K |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
L |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
M |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
N |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
O |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
P |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y  Y
Q |     Y  Y  Y     Y     Y  Y
R |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
S |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y  Y  Y
T |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
U |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
V |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y  Y
W |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
X |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
Y |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y
Z |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y

Summary:   245 worked,  15 unworked.

Details:

By Band:
Band    Count
---------------------
6m      0
10m     32
12m     1
15m     56
17m     12
20m     78
30m     25
40m     38
60m     0
80m     3

By Continent:
Cont    Count
---------------------
NA      0
SA      24
EU      89
AF      8
AS      88
OC      35
AN      0
AS_AF   1
EU_AS   0


SCORE: NAANY [245] * Continents [6] * Bands [8] = 11760


NAANY score of 245.   I added the multiplier business for extra spice.



Monday, November 27, 2023

CQ WW CW Contest

The contest is over and I had a lot of fun working DX.   I don't have the best antenna system and my power amplifier isn't enough to cut through any pile up, but I do alright.  I can usually work the ones I want to, and for those I cannot work -- they'll have to wait.

A good friend asked me about the new DX that I might have worked -- if any of the contacts will be all-time-new-ones (ATNO) and I remarked that I hadn't yet worked any new ones, but perhaps on certain bands some are new.  As I try to fill out the slots for 5BDXCC it becomes apparent that I still need a few.

I passed by the 205 mark on DXCC Mixed some time ago and now it's just a matter of the "islands and rarely visited countries".   Perhaps a few continental countries are in that list -- especially the Middle East and parts of Africa, but I'm still confident that I can reach them -- eventually.

And, as I wrote that reply to my friend, I checked my log software.  I asked the software to check my progress on CQ Marathon and lo and behold I must have added 6 new ones -- but for just this year.  Still not ATNO's, but it was good to boost the CQ Marathon totals. The CQ Marathon is a great thing -- it definitely keeps me pushing on working new DX and in a few weeks it will all start over again at 0.  How wonderful!

My friends on H44WA are wrapping up their DX'pedition.  What a ride for them.   9 bands and a lot of Q in just a short amount of time, if you think about it.  I'm pleased that they got good use out of the 10m and 15m VDA antenna that I made for them.  I also am glad that the capacitance "hat" I machined out did the trick on their low-band antenna.   It was really fun to see so many of their contacts on that band.

I'm just trying to round-out the year with a good effort on MST.   The daylight savings time moved the hour back so it adjusts my work schedule a bit so I can fit in the mid-day slot of the MST.

After the CQ WW CW contest, I turned the dial up to the phone portion of 40m and CQ'd.   I was surprised to hear a bunch of LZ's (Bulgaria) come back and I had a succession of them.  One was even like "Can you stay and listen for my friend, sort of thing", from LZ.  That was fun.  I explained to some of the other W's that took my call I don't' do a lot of SSB these days and in fact I make it a point now to write out a QSL card for the SSB contacts.  Why not.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Thanks

First real break from work in a while.   Glad to be able to turn off the work-computer and do some things at home.

It's also a time to think about friends and family this year and pass along some thankyou's.

My son is going to be home for the holiday and that's great.   He's a big guy (21) and studying at University and we're (XYL and me) are glad he's going to be home for a couple days.    My dad is also going to venture over from Sequim to our place.  He's doing fine and still hanging in there.  77 and still doing the work in the machine shop.

The kid's education objectives are still on track and we're proud of him.  All things are going good there.  We're very thankful for his dedication and making us proud.   He's doing just what needs to be done for himself, that's all that matters.

It's going to be a good day on Thursday.

When I think about the friends I have and the friends I've made this year I am truly thankful.

I have been fortunate to gain wonderful knowledge from people this year.   For those I work CW with, talk to, and meet at club meetings and conventions, I sincerely am very appreciative and thankful for your help and support.    It's always a pleasure to have a chance to talk with you.

This Thanksgiving, I'm feeling fortunate and relieved that so many good things have happened this year.

I hope your holiday is safe and relaxing.    I look forward to our next meeting.

-jeff








2 Hour Nap

I was going to get up at 1:30 am to work H44WA 160m but I missed the alarm.

It was 5:30 am. Start the coffee.  Good.

OK.

I had left the radio on to keep it warm. The shack has been cold this week. For the last few days I've been trying to work them on low bands. But the noise on 160m was S4. Barely copy.

So I went to the computer and pulled up a west coast remote radio. OMG. There they were.  Loud enough.  Not busy.

All I need now is 60m

Monday, November 20, 2023

Philately

UX5UO sent me another batch of cards I ordered.  

Anyway, the package is plastered with Ukrainian postage stamps. I collect stamps.  

The package is wonderful.  Just look at the variety.


Some of them are under cellophane tape, but many are not.  I can float them off and put them into the binder.  

I opted to get the WWDXC cards for the Totem Award thing.  (If you want one, just let me know).





Just Add Water

So it's going to be a year of back in the radio thing.  Seems like a long time since 2006 when I finally got nudged by my XYL's great-uncle Art Rutledge, Esq,  WA6SLI  (who is not in the best of shape at the moment after a stroke) -- his encouragement to take the test and get the ticket.   (Tech-Plus = 5 w.p.m).  I had to know code to get the first ticket, at least there's that.

But for a long time I used a microphone for the most part, and CW only when I had to for some DX.

That's all flipped around now.  CW for the most part and SSB when I have to.

Now the anguish.  

What will it take to go on a DX'p ?   I listened to Tom Berson ND2T give his talk at Visalia '23 and it was really simple.
  • Skills - North of 25 wpm.
  • Time - At least 2-3 weeks and $5,000 - and more.
  • Networking - Who leads teams, who decides, etc.
  • Followership - Can take direction and follow it.
Connect, Contest, Practice, rinse, repeat.  But Tom made it pretty clear that it's both not that hard to go and extremely difficult to chart that path.  It depends.  There are things to do.

It has also been mentioned to me a number of times by others (after a couple beers) that more important from the Skills/Time/Networking -- really it comes down to not being Jerk.   Sharing a project, tent, plane, boat for weeks on end.  Who wants to hang around trouble?  If I don't get my coffee in the morning, do I come unglued?  

OK, no coffee.  Eat another chocolate covered espresso bean,  put the headphones on and listen.   Nescafe comes in packets.  Just add water.

The Boy Scouts, crab-fishing, back-packing, and shipyard/machinist slogan "WDFA" (We don't F Around) has been my basis of preparedness for whatever happens.  Also, raising a kid does a bit of that too.  Things that can go sideways, do.

I also live by another saying:  "I know what I'm doing when I'm doing it."  (that drives my XYL nuts, so I tend not to repeat it too often) -- which also is probably corollary to what my dad taught me "Learn by doing."

I'm not really worried.


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Stats on H44WA

The most up to date version of this is:  https://w7brs.com/h44wa/   (with links to the source code and raw-data)

I've been manually collecting data on the number of QSO from H44WA.  I will continue to grab the data manually.  I reached out to ClubLog for an API surface to retrieve the Q-count but that is not available.

I ran the data through gnuplot and produce this.  Linear regression (y = mx + b) to calculate roughly their trend.  I could do curve fit to 3rd ( 4th order ?) maybe, but that would be over-doing it.  It's not a day for that much math. 

Should answer the 64,000 QSO Question. /hi hi/

Remote Radio

I'm going to try something I haven't done before -- that is to use a remote radio (remotehamradio.com) to work a DX station.   

I signed up on remotehamradio.com and tried out a couple stations.  It's really interesting.   Sort of weird in that I am using someone else's radio station.

I've operated from one of the Remote stations personally, and after seeing how the technology works to make the station accessible, it is no wonder that folks like this kind of operation.

I cannot say that it's cost-effective for me, but then again there will be a time when I really need to work a station and I don't have the location for advantage.

Thanks to Mark, K6UFO for showing me the ropes.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

H44WA and VDA's

My friends on the Solomon Islands operating H44WA are having a good time working the bands.

They have been operating now for about 24 hours (almost) and the Livestream results so far have been impressive.

Nearly 8,000 Q's in the first 24 hours and it's going well it seems.

I admit that what has been on my mind was the operation of 10 meters and 15 meters using the VDA's I put together for them.  I had a good feeling that they would work since we tested them on the beach at Golden Gardens in Seattle (just a jaunt north of Shilshole Marina).

Justin, K5EM did a lot of work to optimize the lengths of the sections so that when it was assembled, the SWR was low and the radiation far-field pattern was lobed out in the direction of the Director Element (in the case where the Director was selected by way of jumper wire on the Parasitic Element).

Now that the Team is on H44WA, and I'm watching the spot-clusters I am glad to see reports of "Loud" in the comment section.  It has a lot more to do with their power amplifiers than the antenna -- but nonetheless, the telemetry I got back from the Team privately was that the SWR was matched to nearly 1:1 which is great.  In the modelling of the antenna the take-off angle was around 10-12 degrees too.  These are special antennas - the VDA - and they are made to work near salt-water ground.  There are no radials (necessary).

As the Team operates I am also trying to find the chance to work them on the other bands too.  I was glad to have them in my log for 12 meters (worked off a VDA made in what we call the "French Design" -- which is a single fiberglass mast with a rhombus shaped wire driven element and parasitic element).  That French Design is effectively "steerable" because there is only one mast and the DE/PE are always attached to the single mast.

The other VDA they are using is the 20 meter (Again, of the French Design).  The VDA I gave them were for 15 meters and 10 meters  -- and those are two element versions so they are not "steerable" -- the Parasitic Element is fixed to the ground as is the Driven Element.  But the beam-width of the VDA in that design is at least 90 degrees so all one has to do is point it North from the shore of the beach and they can work easily both Asia and NA/EU fine short path.  The hind-quarters of the pattern (VK/ZL and SA are another matter -- I think it will work but it won't have as much gain in the rear quarters).

While they are working on their operation, I'm back at the NEC2 software and optimizing the next generation of VDA that I will be making.  Despite the protests I will still try to make the 30 meter version and also a 6 meter version.   But the main set consists of 20m through 10m.

I look forward to the Team working 30m and 40m when I can hear them.  At the moment, they are working mostly grey-line so I think that when the sun begins to set across NA I should have a shot to work them at the low bands.

I also gave them some guy-rings to use for guying the antennas.  They were made to slip over the tube but not fall down past the larger OD tube.  There were three chamfered holes on each ring to tie off their paracord/guy line.  Ignore the blood.  I had 20 minutes to make these before Rob had to jump to the airport the day they left.


Here is Rob N7QT and Tom NU7J are getting the 10 meter VDA up.



Delrin makes a great insulator material.  Strong and Lightweight.  Easy to machine and will not be affected by salt-water or corrosion.   




Monday, November 13, 2023

That's just perfect

I got a new plastic watch that has UTC time so that I would stop missing MST/SST.  The Daylight Time switch over threw a wrench into the monkey.

So I got the new watch on and I was emailing someone about an antenna -- and got carried away and realized that I missed the MST for the Noon hour (11 am Pacific).   

It figures.  New plastic watch, miss the contest.



Thursday, November 9, 2023

Sand in my shoes

How wonderful it is to get sand in my shoes putting up vertical antennas on the beach of a salt-water shoreline.




That's where I was lately testing the VDA (Vertical Dipole Array) antennas I made for Rob N7QT just prior to his departure for the Solomon Islands (H44) this week.

The job (the ask) was to help Rob out with fabrication of two VDA that were designed to operate DX-style on a salt-water shoreline at H44.    The VDA concept is ideal for this application -- Low take-off angle, utilize the salt-water nearby to replace the typical ground-plane and use a Director element (or Reflector if needs want).  But most likely, the setup with these VDA on H44 will be Driven element to a Director.

The gain differential is awesome for these VDA.  8-9 dB gain in the direction of choice.  That's amazing.

Making these antennas though was a challenge because the material I needed wasn't readily available in the local Seattle area and it required some hard-core work to just figure out how to get the parts to work.  Had there been time I could have ordered the right sized (wall thickness) to make all of the sections slide as-is into each other (making the job easier and faster).. But I had to do a bit of machine work at the lathe to get the 15 meter VDA to integrate per the design.

The 10 meter VDA utilized some spare aluminum I got from Rob N7QT which luckily had the right wall-thickness to make the telescoping effect much easier to achieve without a lot of machine work.

The insulators between top/lower half of the elements was specifically chosen Delrin (Acetal Round Rod Delrin Homopolymer) -- which is both easy to machine and strong as you wouldn't believe.  Even down to narrow diameters, the Delrin should stand up to the battle against the elements/wind on Solomon Islands.  I made extra parts just in case there is a problem.

These antennas were the first generation version.   We're going to revise things -- improve things and after H44 we will collect data about their operation and use that knowledge to improve the design for the next batch.

In short -- if you need a DX antenna for your operation, you might consider these.   20 meters through 10 meters and there is even a route to making a 6 meter version, but that is still on the drawing board.   VDA's like these have a special application -- near the beach, near salt-water.   Ping me if you want one.

The box was checked:  "Sand in my shoes putting up vertical antennas near salt-water for a DX'p"   Maybe not a full check since we weren't on an island, but a bit closer to that goal now!

Here's the fun we had testing out the VDA's for 15 meters and 10 meters.   Looking forward to working H44 once they arrive and are activated.

(L to R:  Justin "Jay" K5EM, Robert "Rob" N7QT and Jeff W7BRS)



(Photo credit: Justin, K5EM)




Saturday, November 4, 2023

Late Nite Antenna Fabrication

Making a set of VDA (Vertical Dipole Array) antenna.

Due to shortage of materials, I have to adjust the OD of stages in the stack of pieces.

Monday, October 30, 2023

The CW

The ham radio hobby for me is incredibly fun.   It is fun because I get to do technical things -- electronics, fabrication of antennas, and integration of systems that involve radio.

I have always preferred the analog nature of ham radio (SSB or CW).  Data modes like FT-8 or other modes that I don't quite understand are less interesting to me because they are modes that I cannot personally decode, but rely on Software (or special hardware) to decode.   FT-8 is fun except that is difficult to decode without a piece of Software. 

In the analog modes (SSB and CW) the PHONE operations are just easy.   Pick up the mic, call CQ and have a QSO as naturally as using the telephone.

CW on the other hand is deceptive.  Yes, it's analog but it's a digital message but carried analog.   The hobby for me has increased in levels of fun when I am able to decode the CW in my head.   I don't think there is any other mode in ham radio that is 'decoded' between the ears.

So it comes down to this -- being able to decode CW in my head is the frontier of my work in ham radio.

This leads to an often stated question -- how does someone get better at working CW?  What does it take to be able to "copy" CW easier, faster and reliably.   What does it take to work CW just as fluently as if working SSB?

CW is just a language, really.  The tokens of the language are represented in a code -- Morse code and the skill to work CW is being able to recognize instantly the tokens of a message in CW as rapidly and easily as one recognizes tokens of a message uttered in SSB.

A unique feature of working CW is also knowing the grammar of working in the CW language.

By grammar I mean the use of the language.   And, the grammar in CW has a frame of reference.  In one frame of reference, the contesting frame of reference, the grammar of working CW amounts to recognizing call-signs and comprehending the exchange required.    

5NN TU  for just a plain signal report.

or 

5NN 001 TU   for a signal report and a serial number, and so on.

In another context or frame of reference the CW QSO has a different grammar.  The 'rag-chew' context means aside from the obligatory exchange of call signs and signal reports, we engage in a conversation as fluid and free as any SSB QSO.   That kind of work in CW needs far more skill in recognizing tokens and words than the contesting context.

I'd argue that the contesting context is the precursor to good abilities to work 'rag-chew' conversational QSO in CW.

And by that working even further back -- recognizing tokens and words in CW in either context has a precursor of instantly recognizing the tokens.    I think the CW lessons I've seen refer to this as Instant Character Recognition.

When I started out on CW I did not know what path is best.   But I made a guess.  The first guess seemed the practical option.  Learn how to send and recognize my own callsign.

First thing to learn:  Sending my call and recognizing my own call.

this means practice sending my call sign and being able to hear that my callsign is heard on the frequency.   I must have spent days and weeks just practicing sending my callsign 1000's of times and being able to recognize my own callsign coming back to me.

The first device I used to send CW was a Bencher BY-1 paddle and I accidently wired it up so that the left paddle was the 'dah' and the right paddle was the 'dit'.  That proved to be a mistake because as I learned later -- most have it the other way around.  But I had spent so much time sending letters and numbers with that dah-dit ordering (left to right) that I couldn't re-learn the motions for sending the characters in the dit-dah ordering.

But as far as recognizing letters, I tried a lot of different software programs to help me practice.  I must have downloaded a dozen or so programs but the one software package I gravitated to was the Ward Cunningham MORSE program.

Second thing to learn:  The letters and numbers.  I didn't know the right method to do this so I took a brute force approach and just began to simply learn how to hear and send the letters and numbers.  I used the MORSE program by Ward Cunningham.



It was a PC Windows application.   It was simple.  It plays a letter and I have to type in the letter that I hear and if I'm correct, it plays another letter.  If I am not correct, it replays the letter until I get it correct.  The software manages a score level internally -- in other words the author of the Software decided that if a letter is consistently correctly identified the software adds a new character to the mix.  In one session the user starts with four letters.  If the user keeps the session running and goes for about 30-40 minutes by then (maybe earlier) the software will be throwing the user all of the letters and numbers randomly.    That's what I did.  I ran MORSE until

1. All of the letters and numbers were being thrown at me.
2. I can correctly recognize the letters on the first hearing.

That was good for a while.  And for years that's all I did.   I would work DX over CW when I had to (when the DX station was only operating CW -- or more typically when the SSB pile ups were just too much for my tiny power station..  Sometimes it felt like 500W wasn't enough -- but that would change later).

Years go by and then I found a book called "The Complete DX'er"  (Bob Locher, W9KNI)   We know this book.  It's great.    

I don't know how I missed this book, but I didn't really realize what it was until much later.  Maybe around 2009-2010.  I think I read the book in one short weekend.   What a revelation -- so much of what I was doing before was plain wrong.    I think (without exaggerating) that the weekend I put the book down, I worked 11 new DXCC in one evening.. But that was probably helped by band conditions and propagation.  But, I also attribute it to one key concept -- better listening.  Listening to where the DX is and transmitting where I know the DX is listening.   I began to understand better the effect of working-split -- I worked split but I would not set the VFO-B frequency correctly -- it wasn't being set to where  the DX was listening -- so I tried to learn how to figure out when the DX station came back to a call, where was that station transmitting from.   UP, yes, but where? How far up? etc..

Then I began to unravel the QSO text in the book.  The QSO in Bob's book were likely fictionalized (perhaps not) but the grammar is what stood out to me.  When to say things, what to include, what not to include, when to repeat things, and so on.    That was a revelation also.

The third thing to learn:  Sending and copying the bare essentials of a CW QSO.   Recognizing the basics:

5NN
RST
TU
TNX
BT
DE
HW?


This is what I call my idle period.  The period of working CW only when I needed to, never because I wanted to -- because I didn't want to.    CW was painful for me -- I couldn't copy very well,  I would not  be able to copy a QSO and probably copy call-signs if I actually 'ran' vs 'search-pounce'.

That idle period lasted for a long time.  I racked up 205 DXCC and about a 1/3 of them CW, but the plateau was around 200 DXCC and it wasn't budging.   Even better listening wasn't always the key -- it was the fact that I was still operating SSB for the most part -- gravitating to it and I think I wasted a lot of time making my SSB signal good (ESSB, audio-chain work, all sorts of things).

In the midst of that I was becoming fascinated with the DX'peditions.  How are they planned?  How do they do that?  Where do they go, how did they get there?  What do you take with you?   What's the process?    Further, I was fascinated about being on a DX'pedition myself.   I have skills in making antennas out of whatever I have at hand, and so the boot-strap (my perception) operation seemed to be something I could do.    Get to the island, string up some wire and hook up the station and begin!  Right?  Wrong.  Way wrong.     I didn't know at all what I didn't know.   Still too many unknowns.

I found this book DX Aku written by another Bob.  His name is Bob Schmieder, KK6EK and the book is sort of a philosophical view of the inspiration of going that particular island.  The book covers an evaluation of one's heart and soul in DX'ing as well as the account of the technical innovations.

It was around this time that I passed DXCC I believe.  As much as I wanted to keep working new DX countries I was also fascinated by the prospect of going to a DX location.    I just didn't have any idea what that meant.  I knew at least that I had no skills necessary to be there, so I muddled around trying to figure that out.

I purchased the DVD's produced by Bob Allphin, K4UEE and the VooDoo Contest Group.  What I was looking for is details about how they operated.   What did they do, how did they do it, and sift through the footage to figure out the skills involved.  It was fun to watch the videos, but I still wasn't getting the big picture.  Still those videos are really wonderful.  The sad thing is my DVD player won't play them anymore and I'm not sure why.  Maybe they'll upload them to YouTube some day.

The fourth thing to learn:  Balance between ham radio life and other things.  I didn't learn this skill too well and for a while I was unable to keep the balance.  I literally put the radio away for a long time while I handled the job of being a father and maintaining a household and doing all of the things that mattered with that role.   

Eventually, around 2020, in the early phases of the Pandemic, I found myself in my radio shack picking through the projects and organizing things. I wanted the shop a bit cleaner and so I began to store and organize my tools and projects.  I could see the concrete floor much easier now!

My wire loop antenna had long since crashed down in some recent windstorm.  So I took a look at fixing that.  I found some new wire and re-mounted the wire loop back into the tall cedars.   This time using a drone to lift the guy line support over the trees rather than using an air-powered 'bazooka'.   Then I went to work on the radio equipment.  The home brew linear always needed a bit of an overhaul - so I tore into that and re-built the cooling system and re-built the parasitic suppression -- two things that seemed to never had been quite right.   I studied the schematic again and realized that I might not have been biasing the finals with the right voltage so I replaced the Zener with a different part and then got the whole thing ready for working conditions.

My K3 was still running and after some tuning and adjustments I was back on the bands -- A kilowatt from the homebrew was nothing --- it was a 2KW linear amplifier and on 40 meters conditions looked the best.  I was making contacts again, but on SSB and usually in the middle of the night when 40 meters was actually in great shape.  A lot of DX.    I found myself working a lot of JA and Pacific Ocean stations.

By 2023 rolled around I was going to make some changes -- it was either I was going to get ready for DX'p or I wasn't.  And I am getting too old to mess around.   Now is the time.

The trip to Visalia (which I won't replay here since there a lot of articles on this Blog about that already -- just scroll back to April/May) was the pivotal experience.

The fifth thing to learn:  It's about CW and Contesting.

I went to learn what to learn from the experts.  And, I did.  I learned a lot.   It boiled down to getting the boxes checked -- CW and contesting.    What Tom ND2T called "Followership" is another important lesson -- learning to stay in the groove with the team.  The leader calls the shots and the team works when the whole team is moving in unison towards the goal at the direction of the leader.  

But as far as CW and contesting -- that was what I had to do.   And that also is well documented here already (just go through the back-log of posts).

But what is not posted there is the detail about the classes I was taking.

CWOps offers classes in CW and they are valuable classes.  If you need to learn CW and learn how to use it, I would recommend the classes.   Alternatively, the Long Island CW Club offers a different kind of class-style.  I would recommend them also.  The cool part about Long Island CW Club (LICW) is that the 'registration' is just showing up.  No forms to fill out.   It helps to be a member of LICW because those proceeds help their organization.

In those classes there was one very important fact that I had not realized and I want to share it.

What they explained is that, when training yourself on software programs or web sites to practice CW the right thing to do is -- set the speed/difficulty just outside (above) your comfort zone.

For example, if you can copy 17 wpm, set the dial to 19 wpm.    If you can copy 20 wpm, set the dial to 23 wpm, and so on.

The lesson they taught was to practice with the speed/difficulty set so your "error rate" is about 15-25%.  If you're using Software and there are no errors, then you're not growing your skill.   

For instance, in Morse Runner, whatever speed you have it set to, if you can copy the calls perfectly every time on first hearing and make zero mistakes, then turn up the speed.

If you're using LCWO, set the speed higher so your error rate is 20%.   Make mistakes!   If you're not making mistakes, then the speed/difficulty is set too low.

At this point I still work CW and do my best.   I was in a few contests and worked on a 2-OP team which was fun -- we did pretty good on Salmon Run.

My new friends in the Western Washington DX Club are doing amazing work.  Some are taking trips very soon to the Pacific to activate H44WA.  They are going to be working with great operators, including Robin WA7CPA and Rob N7QT.    They are also going to be experimenting with a new DQRM avoidance system -- it's all on their web site for details.

What's next?  Just keep working CW and getting better at recognizing call signs first time.   And in the middle of that keep projects going -- antenna building is something I am going to help with soon.   I got some plans for a "Vertical Dipole Array" that need some machine work done.

That's it for now.  Until later,

-jeff  

W7BRS

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Nice hat

The DX'p that is going to H44WA is going to work the low bands.  I offered to help them out and make some cap-hat inserts to go on top of their vertical masts.

I made a initial version that wasn't quite the right design.  Originally, the design slipped over the top of the mast, but after the feedback from the expedition leaders, they were re-made so the 'hat' would slip inside the mast.   

These are roughly 6-7" long and the slender stem is machined to 0.430" so to slip inside the 0.436" ID of the mast.

Tapped with #10-32 for four even spaced cap-radials and one more for the driven element.

Easy to make.  If you need one, just let me know.



Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Old Photo of the Electronics Store

My grandfather (W7BRS) owned and operated an electronics store on 1st Ave, Seattle.

He also operated the Victoria Hotel just above the store.    Luckily a good part of the original stone work still remains, but the hotel is gone as is the business space around it.  I used to go there as a kid when I was just starting out in electronics.

The store was sold in the 70s.  The picture was taken in the late 60s.



Saturday, September 30, 2023

Long Island CW Club

When I was in Visalia earlier this year, I had the chance to listen to a talk from Bob W06W.  He was from the Long Island CW Club and he was there to talk about a device that helps people operate CW.

It was described as the Haptic CW device.

I will link to the information about the device at the end.  The intent here is less about explaining the device, but to write about the Long Island CW Club impact on my CW training.

Unlike the CWOps classes, the LICW classes are much more loose and freestyle.  I didn't have to register to visit the class.  I just needed to join at the right time and Zoom room.

And, in the class something distinct occurs.  The leader of the class, gives rather practical and interesting exercises for everyone to do together.   What I like about the format is that the classes do not 'break out into rooms'.  We stay together and listen and copy from each other.

In the last Intermediate-2 class (the level that I'm at), what the instructor did was show a graphic image of pet or animal and on the fly each of us had to send a quick sentence about it.  Nothing scripted, nothing pre-arranged.   Then the instructor asks who copied what that student sent.   We take turns and it's a fun way to practice copy and sending.

I'm of the opinion that it is best to 'learn by doing' -- and so real QSO with real people is my favorite way to practice.  Drilling on pre-recorded things is fine, but not as satisfying as working a real station on the air.

The other comment I will make is that something occurred during both the CWOps class that I am part of as well as the LICW sessions.  The remark was made that (paraphrasing) "When practicing with automated software like Morse Runner or the facilities in Learn CW Online (http://lcwo.net) what you want is to have errors that hover in the 20-30% range.   If your errors are less than 5% then real learning isn't happening.  When the errors rise to 20-30% then real learning takes place."

I had been waiting for a while to learn about better techniques in CW training and it has taken a long time to get to that kernel of information.  I guess in hindsight it seems obvious.      I can reflect on the world I'm used to -- the software development and engineering world -- we use the phrase "fail fast" which is a way of suggesting that getting a design implemented as soon as possible to see and experiment yields rapid corrections and refines the design.  By failing 'fast' we improve 'faster'.

The translation in CW-training is that by failing 'faster' we figure out what to work on faster and what to practice more diligently.

Just an observation.


As promised the link to the Haptic CW device.




Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Encoding MP3 for CW Practice

Pangram Audio Files


In my CW-Ops Academy class, we are learning to copy simple phrases and words.

Among those phrases are lines of text called pangrams.

If the word pangram is unfamiliar, I'm sure this is not:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

That's a pangram.

In the class we were given a list of them and asked to practice sending them.  I wanted to practice copying them so I used some software, and wrote some more to support that in order to make these encodings.



In order to share the knowledge for how to do this yourself, here are the steps below.

Just a note -- it will require a bit of technical know-how to get setup.  I don't have it all packaged up so nicely that it is a simple "application" to download.  You'll have to make the environment yourself.

I did so on a Linux system.  I'm sure it's possible to do this on Cygwin or even in Windows, but the steps for that are more complicated.   The key is that these tools are scriptable.   They are not GUI applications.  We cannot use the GUI application to batch process strings of text into MP3s.

The first step is to get the main software that can encode text into WAV files:  WAV files are not the final product we want, but we need the WAV files first.

(If you don't have git, then I'd reconsider this process.  It needs some skill in getting the software installed correctly.  If you've never used git, then you're likely not to have used apt, which means unless you want to do some additional homework, the process may frustrate you.  But you are encouraged to carry on if you wish.)

The tool we need is  a python script that someone wrote to convert text into WAV files.  Many tools can probably do this, but this one is very simple and command-line oriented.  We do not want a GUI application.

That tool is located here:


So, in Linux  (or any shell where you have git), clone the repo.

$ git clone https://github.com/cduck/morse.git

Don't use the software there yet.  We need another tool.  We need to get ffmpeg

$ sudo apt install ffmpeg

ffmpeg is a package that you can install on your system.

Once those tools are installed, here is how you can test them.

$ cd morse

That takes you into the directory of the repository you cloned above.

Then type this:

$ echo "hello world" | python3 play.py -f 650 --fs 10 --wpm 20 -o input.wav

What that does is offer the string "hello world" to the python script play.py.

-f 650
--fs 10
--wpm 20
-o input.wav

Here is what they mean:

-f N   is to set the tone frequency (Hz) of the CW.   Choose N that correct for your use case.

--fs N  is to set the Farnsworth speed of the words.  The lower the value N, the more space there is between the letters.

--wpm N is to set the words per minute speed (this is effectively the character speed).  Each character of each word is timed to this speed.  If you are used to setting your "speed" dial on your radio for CW, this is that setting.

-o FILE  is to specify which FILE to use when writing out the resulting WAV file.

Usually it makes sense that the "wpm" speed is always greater than or equal to the Farnsworth speed. It doesn't make any sense that Farnsworth speed is greater than the WPM speed.

If you want the audio to sound like 25 wpm but the space between the letters and words is evident, then set a Farnsworth speed to about half of the wpm speed.  Make a file from that and then adjust the parameters to suit your need.

But you need that first file generated, let's continue.

Some systems may let you actually play WAV files as-is, and if that is the case, you can try to do that.
But this process has a second step which is to convert the WAV files into MP3.

We need the ffmpeg application to do that:

Here's the command:

$ ffmpeg -i input.wav -vn -ar 44100 -ac 2 -b:a 192k sample.mp3

This application ffmpeg has many options, we're only using a fraction of them.

-i FILE instruct ffmpeg which file to read from for the source audio file.
-vn  is a flag to block all video to be part of the result.
-ar is to set the audio stream sampling frequency.   44.1 kHz is about the sampling frequency of a typical Audio CD.
-ac is to set the number of audio channels.  We want to set two audio channels for left and right.
-b:a N  is to set the output result MP3 bitrate.  192k is perfect.  The human ear cannot really easily discern better fidelity beyond 192k for usual listeners.  Audiophiles may have better skill to do so, but 192k is plenty of data.

When that finishes, there will be a sample.mp3 file.

That's the result we wanted, the MP3 of the text.

The Morse software that was cloned has knowledge of a few "pro-signs" so you can be sure that if you use prosigns the encoded audio will sound right.

For instance. for BT use the = character in your text.  You'll get what you want.  If you use BT, you'll get the tiny gap between the B and the T, and it won't sound like the prosign of BT.

For AR, use the + character.  Same situation as with BT.

That's all there is to it.

What you can do next (what I did) is write software around this to automate the process so that I can generate a large number of encodings at different speeds without any manual command line invocations.

I'm sure if you got this far, you know exactly what you want to do next.

Good luck.

QSO Files


The other kind of encoding that you might want to do is one where two (or more) stations are involved.

The instructions above will produce a single MP3 at a given speed, and tone frequency.

What if you wanted to make a real QSO sound --- two stations, each with a different tone frequency and perhaps even different speeds.  You'll need to make several MP3, one for each passage (or send) of the whole QSO.

But what you'll have is a set of MP3 files, not one MP3 file that can be played from.. one file.

So ffmpeg can also help there.  After you've made the MP3 files of each "send" of the QSO then do this:

1. Make a file called manifest.txt

In the file manifest.txt list ALL of the MP3 files involved in the QSO

But they have to be in this format:

file 'vvv.mp3'
file 'cq.mp3'
file 'answer.mp3'
file report.mp3'
file 'response.mp3'
file 'tu.mp3'

In this example the file names vvv.mp3 (which is just a recording of the  string "VVV", nothing more), and the rest of the files are arbitrary.  You can name them however you want as long as that is the name you used when you generated the MP3 file.

And, most important, there is no rule or limit on how few or how many files make up the manifest.  In this example, I used six files.  You may use any number of files you want as long as the file names are listed as shown   file 'FILE'   The single quotes is required.  

You don't necessarily even need to name the manifest file manifest.txt.  You can name it whatever you want as long as you use the same filename in the next step 2.

2. With the manifest made, and the constituent MP3 files already made as shown above, then use ffmpeg to concatenate the audio files to make one MP3 file.

$ ffmpeg -f concat -i manifest.txt sample.mp3

As you can probably guess, the tool uses the manifest.txt to iterate over each file to concatenate and then produce a final product sample.mp3 from that.

So going back to your challenge of making the QSO -- that is where the selection of the TONE frequency is important if you want to differentiate one station from another.   Even slightly different speeds can help make the QSO sound a bit more realistic.




Monday, September 18, 2023

New Key

I was holding off buying a new key.

After Salmon Run I decided that it's time to get a fine key so I'm ordering a N3ZN iambic paddle.

Working out the details now.  



Sunday, September 17, 2023

Finished Salmon Run 2023

I'm in line at the Kingston Ferry, the route reduced to one boat, instead of the usual two. I'm leaving the west side where I spent the weekend operating with Rusty, W6OAT during Salmon Run 2023.  I thought I'd drop a quick note before the Ferry starts to load.

Far and away the best experience contesting this year.

It had been on my calendar since 7-QP and with all of the MST contesting as well as other state QP's the copy-practice paid off.

I cannot comment directly on the score -- I don't know precise numbers.  But we did as good as we hoped we would.   Some highlights:

  • We got to work K7TQ (Randy and Mike N7WA) on each of the counties they travelled -- many times on multiple bands.  Fantastic!
  • A lot of the WWDXC members were in the log too.  N7SS -- we worked Dan I believe on all the bands 160-6.  "7-Band-Dan"  And for a lot of other members, we worked them on several bands during the contest. K5EM, WA6CPA, and a whole long list.
  • The DX was great. 9N7AA was a good contact, and I believe we made contacts across all the continents except for Antarctica.
  • The SAC provided a lot of good DX.
  • Rusty and I chuckled at the spot-networks -- the Canadian provinces we really needed were skimming our signal routinely.  But no VE6's or MT's to be found!  Still we did reach into a VE2 late in the contest and that was great.
  • About mid-way through the contest we re-mapped some of the Macro-keys to ask "QSY up?" essentially trying to get some contacts on 6m and 160m.   It was fun when we'd get a bit of tracking on that.
  • Our friend NN7SS also gave us some Q's -- and that was fun since the last time I heard NN7SS was when I was operating it for RSGB IOTA in July.  Mark, K6UFO -- thanks for the QSOs!

It was a lot of fun and I appreciate all the hard work that went to prepare the contest.  I'm especially thankful to Randy and Mike for taking a ride through eastern Washington for two days+ to give us those Q's.   Thanks guys!

My thanks to Rusty and all the help and guidance.  We had a great time.

There's probably more that I could say and I'll leave room for that when the score gets posted.   Thanks again for the QSO's and QRS to my speed.  

Another big contest is just around the corner:  The California QSO Party.    https://www.cqp.org/Rules.html


Until next time..  73 and GD DX. 






SR goals

We had a few goals to strive for:

All the counties (39)
Work all States
Work all of the Canadian Provinces
1000 Q

We reached one of them. 😊

About hour or less to go.  Rusty is mopping things up on the bands.  We're in good shape.

I'm very much looking forward to posting the scores.  


Making Qs

The rate is getting sparse now on the second wave of the Salmon Run.

We'll have to keep picking out stations.

Hoping to get the Canadian east provinces and 5's and 6's.

Near the end of Day 1 - Salmon Run

The Run for day 1 is almost over and we're doing great.

Far exceeded our 7-QP numbers for the first day of Salmon Run.    Highlights were to use 160 meter antenna and also the 6 meter beam for the Salmon Run.   

We managed to log way more DX than we needed -- we had the maximum countable DX within the first few hours.

The state count is still missing a couple and we're shy a handful of counties.

But we expect to round out those numbers tomorrow morning.   As long as the CME that was expected to brush by doesn't make it too much trouble.

On the plus side, I got to work the station for most of the time and even ran the speed about 23 wpm for most of that time.  And several calls I could copy without the check from Rusty, but I still relied on his ear.  It was a team effort!

Practice is what this is.

A fun day!




Saturday, September 16, 2023

Salmon Run 2023

Rusty W6OAT and I are well into the Salmon Run today.

About six hours left in the first session before the break.

We're working all the stations that will give us multipliers and add to the score.

The bands have been relatively good, except 20 meters a bit noisier.  All together, a great Salmon Run so far, but we have many hours to go.

The adventure started on Friday afternoon when I took the ferry from my home QTH across the sound to Kingston and then travelled to Rusty's QTH.

We spent the evening going over our plan for SR and talking about the stations we want to work, and the rovers we knew of that would be in the Eastern Washington counties that are more difficult to hear.

After the setup was done, we worked on the N1MM macros and then setup the audio chain so we can both hear the signals at the same time when one of us is working the key.

I brought some hardware to allow us to use my key (Bencher BY-1) and Rusty could use his Vibroplex without any cable changes.   

In the evening Friday we played on the radio -- and I worked a handful of DX with his station using my call.  The feature I love about his station is the KPA and the 4 element SteppIR that lets us put the gain where we want.  Really nice setup!

The goal we established was to simply have fun.  We're up against some good competition for Salmon Run so it is going to be challenge to work numbers to get to the top of the list.  But that's not as important as having fun.

Although it's a bit fast, I set the key to work 23 wpm -- I can just about copy most call signs there, but Rusty is there to help always make sure we copied it right.  When Rusty's working the key, we run a bit faster, around 27-29 wpm and that really moves us along.

Well, back to the contest.  Just thought I'd give an update.

Thanks for all the QSO and QRS.   We have more multipliers to go!   Looking for those East coast Canadians and a few K States that would help us round out the list.




Friday, September 15, 2023

Mea Culpa

On the CW-Ops Groups page I made a mea-culpa saying that in effect I had been using decoders for some of my contesting -- when the speeds were 28+ , and that I had to come clean.   I had already turned off the decoder, but the catharsis in the apology was important to me.


Anyway, then I get an email from CW-Ops editor to use the parable in the next Solid Copy issue.  And they did.   


Page 8.

Thanks.

Monday, September 11, 2023

All good things

I thought that my procrastinating in 2011 would make my QSL from ZD7 go unanswerable.  Mail to ZD7 is tricky.

17m, SSB

What a surprise in the mail today.

12 years...

Saturday, September 9, 2023

This week has been one

This kind of week was a killer.  The work at the office was neck deep and we had a lot of things going on.  So I was relieved when the weekend rolled around and I would fine time to be on the radio.

The contest calendar had two events that interested me.   The FOC contest and the Alabama QSO Party.

I've wanted to participate in the FOC "event" (it's not actually a contest).  So I dug up the rules and looked over what the exchange was supposed to be.

Now that I've been using N1MM for a lot of things, I've learned how to pull up the Call History files of a contest (a very valuable resource) and I tune my function-key macros to be simple.

I didn't get a lot of contacts in the FOC.   I was sort of distracted actually.  My shack has been established for a while since the big move from the out-building to the space in the garage.  I have it pretty much the way I want it.  Simple.    I don't have a tower of radio's on shelves like I used to.  

I just run the K3 with the new KPA-500 and the KAT-500 connected.  I went back to my original MFJ-25A power supply (I have a decent high power DC supply, but I need to re-wire the garage to run it).

I still have the IC-9700 to setup and the rotator for the satellite antennas to build.  It seems that the shack move has so many moving parts.    I was also thinking that the S.A.T. device I bought with the I-9700 needs to be figured out.  Apparently this little device does all of the work to track the bird (satellite).  When I used to run working satellites, I had to manually track the Azimuth and Elevation by hand.

But as I said, I was distracted.   The surface of the bench I built had a plexiglass cover.  I put the Yaesu map of the world under the plexiglass so I have a rough guide of some of the Zones and Prefixes.  The other day during my CWOps class, the topic came up of Belarus and I thought the prefix was EW?  So I looked at the map and the map seems to be out of date !    I couldn't find Belarus on the map.    It was part of the Soviet Union then, I guess.

I wish Yaesu would update that map they produce.  There's not a map like it (the font and color selection seems good and easy to read).   But I will look online for a new map anyway.

Ever since I put a 24 hour UTC clock in the shack, it has been nice to be able to glance up and see when things are supposed to happen (contest wise) -- and the built in thermometer is nice too.   I haven't had to turn on the furnace in the garage all summer.  I installed one in February and it is ready.   As Fall starts to progress, it may be necessary to use it.

The real distraction was just that I've been overloaded.   I have a big contest coming up -- Salmon Run and I am very excited about this contest.  I'll be pairing up with a new friend of mine, Rusty W6OAT and working at his station.  We'll be using his call-sign.   But I think I'll be operating for a lot of the contest.  Of course Rusty has the good ear for CW (excellent ear for CW, no kidding around here).  I'll need his help in a lot of ways.

But it's Saturday night and although I'm a bit wiped out, I was planning on just getting some sleep.   Yet, on the night-stand was a copy of The Complete DX'er.    One copy of many.   My first copy I bought was the 3rd edition and for some reason I loaned it or it went astray during a office move.  I just don't know what became of it.  So I had to buy a second copy (2nd edition) and I put that in a book cover and it doesn't leave the shack.   But, the other day I was looking for it and I just forgot it was in a brown paper bag book cover and I overlooked it.  I panicked.   Where did that book go?  Did I lose another one?   So I went online and found a retailer who was selling a 1st edition, but for $13.   A bargain.   Seldom do I see it sold for less than $50.   So I snapped it up.

Why is the book so important?   Well when I read it, it's like talking to an old friend in ham radio -- retelling the same advice again, and the way Bob (W8KNI) writes the book, it's so easy to read.   As it happened I was about to call it a night, read a little and then go to sleep.  But the first chapter (again) got me excited about chasing DX.  I wondered --- I bet there is some DX out there?   I told the XYL -- "Oops, not going to bed after all."  She was up anyway doing some chores herself and my late night radio work doesn't phase her at all.  Especially on the weekend.   I even made a "Hotel-like Do Not Disturb" sign that I can hang on the garage door handle -- that sign means "If you can avoid it, don't interrupt with questions."   It isn't absolute, but it at least lets me avoid any awkward problems when I'm in the middle of a CW QSO.

So, I put the book back down, put my shoes back on and made a fresh pot of coffee (Just like Bob) and now the radio and amplifier is warmed up.

I'm going to find what is on the band and if nothing is there, I'm going to try to scare up some DX with CQ -- in CW of course.

Today I re-sorted the ham shack a little -- I went to the local TAP Plastic and ordered a sheet of 1/4" plexiglass that is 8 feet by 22 inches.  It now covers the entire working space, not just the radio area.  It looks a lot better and I can put more maps and reference material under the sheet now.

ps.

The reason why I wanted the book the other day was due to a concern about the CW Ops class.  We are learning about QSO and Stories.  We're asked to listen to QSO and Stories (MP3 files).   We were also given a set of Pangrams (sentences that have words where all 26 letters are used in the sentence -- The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog, etc..).

I decided to write some software to convert the Pangrams we were given into MP3s.  So I did.

You can find them here:  Pangrams from CW Ops

Then I decided that I'm going to convert all of the funny/instructional "QSO" from Complete DX'er into MP3's as well.  That's still in work.   But I'll finish it soon.

Tomorrow I need to get to the shop and machine parts for Rob, N7QT -- I need to make him some 'cap hats' for the fiberglass masts he's taking to H40.   But that can wait until morning.

For now, the coffee has finally stopped dripping and my cup is ready for a night of DX'ing.





Things happening

It has been a busy few months since I hung up my software-spurs. On deck -- DX'pedition for Lord Howe Island Lord Howe Island (July 202...