Ham Radio

Ham Radio, Amateur Radio

ARRL International DX phone contest 2013

I made one hundred seventy contacts with sixty unique countries and of those eighteen were countries I had never contacted before:

Aland Islands, Bonaire, Chile, Estonia, Honduras, Ireland, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Russia (European), Sweden, Turks & Caicos Islands, and Ukraine.

I have worked eighty five countries now, with fourty seven confirmed. Here are my DXCC statistics, as generated by my logging program.

Highlights of the contest:

Learning on IRC from #logbook that South America was easy to contact on 15 meters and 10 meters and deciding to hook up my, as yet, unpackaged LDG AT-100ProII Antenna Tuner which I got for Christmas from my Ham Dad, KG4AZX so I could try and work them using my 20 meter dipole. It worked. WIthout it I wouldn't have made contact with Paraguay, Chile, Nicaragua, Bonaire or Honduras.

Hearing several Japanese stations, but not getting through to them. I heard them on 15 meters Saturday night during grey line for 20 minutes. Next time I'll have a proper 15 meter antenna.

Hearing my old neighbor, Ken, AC4RD from right down the street booming in trying to contact the same DX station I was trying to contact, I said "Hello from Raleigh, NC" and he came back and we had a laugh before getting off the frequency.

Hearing a station in Belarus, where my girlfriend was born, and trying to work him only later realizing he was outside of the limits of my license classification. Next time.

My girlfriend tonight, aftering not being able to spend much time with me, and me being sleep deprived during the little time we did spend together, telling me she was "going to throw out your ham radio set."

EDIT:

Someone asked me how many hours I spent on the contest and from looking at my logs when I was making contacts It looks like about 13.5 hours:

2013-03-02 02:54:00 	1.5
2013-03-02 04:30:00 	

2013-03-02 11:53:00     2.0
2013-03-02 13:36:00

2013-03-02 14:54:00     3.0
2013-03-02 18:05:00

2013-03-02 20:52:00     3.0
2013-03-02 23:58:00

2013-03-03 00:24:00     2.5
2013-03-03 02:48:00

2013-03-03 11:41:00     1.5
2013-03-03 13:07:00

                           13.5 hrs

Cabrillo format from cqrlog

I wanted to get a ARRL DX contest participation pin which requires sending the first page of your log in Cabrillo format so I had to figure out how to go from my logging program CQRLOG to cabrillo format. The funny thing about Cabrillo format is it's not really a format. The only thing that is the same is the header, the order of columns and included columns for each QSO vary by contest. Here is how the ARRL defines Cabrillo for their use: ARRL Cabrillo format You can also use the cabrillo web form to generate the logs from your own manual input. I used it to check my cabrillo header. Okay, here we go.

Ham FM satellite recordings from 2000

Sometime in 2000 I got an Arrow II Satellite antenna. I used two HTs (hand held radios) (one for uplink and one for downlink) plus a tape recorder to record the pass. I would go out at night for a 12-15 minute satellite pass with all this gear and my Mom would laugh at me saying I looked like some sort of spy or something. Then I would endure the mosquitos while contacting stations all over the US, Canada and even a little bit of the Northern part of South America. It was a lot of fun.

I ripped the audio from the tapes into mp3 a long time ago and shared it on the web but the site it was on is long gone so here it is again. I have just gone through and listened to the passes and written down as best I could all the callsigns, grid squares, state and names that I could make out. Let me know if you have any corrections or additions in the comments.

Migrating CQRLOG from one PC to another

I had to do this just now and I thought I would document it (at least for myself) and maybe it will help others.

This probably isn't all the things everyone might have to do but it works for how I use CQRLOG

I use Fedora 16 x86_64
I use the binary release of CQRLOG "Complete application directory"
I mostly just use CQRLOG to log my contacts and upload them to LoTW, nothing else (so far)
I use CQRLOG 1.3.0

Install dependencies

yum install openssl-devel (needed for LoTW upload support)
yum install hamlib
yum install mysql-server (interesting this binary release of CQRLOG uses distro provided mysql but starts it manually, so you do NOT need to do 'systemctl enable mysqld.service')
yum install trustedqsl

run tqslcert and load your .p12 certificate file
run tqsl and readd your location with the same name as on the other computer

tar up the .config directory for cqrlog from the original computer

tar -cjvf /tmp/cqrlog-backup.tar.bz2 ~/.config/cqrlog/

transfer the cqrlog-backup.tar.bz2 to the new PC and extract it
cd ~/
tar -xvf /path/to/cqrlog-backup.tar.bz2

Download cqrlog_1.3.0_amd64.tar.gz from http://www.cqrlog.com/?q=webfm_send/222/1

cd ~/
tar -xvf /path/to/cqrlog_1.3.0_amd64.tar.gz
run cqrlog as normal

~/cqrlog-1.3.0/usr/bin/cqrlog

All should be good.

Creating a QSL card in Inkscape

So since I've become active in ham radio again I have been working 17 meters SSB pretty regularly. The other day I worked a French station F2FG and apparently he needs North Carolina for his Worked All States (WAS) award. I know this because he sent me his QSL card requesting I send him mine to confirm the contact, specifically mentioning WAS. Well that creates kind of a problem because the only QSL cards I have are from when I lived with my parents in Wilmington and I don't live there anymore, plus those cards were ugly anyway!

So I have some free time on my hands and I got started using the Free and Open Source vector graphics editor, Inkscape. I was familiar with this tool and wanted to give it a shot so I went through some tutorials and went at it. I was picking it up alright but I had some issues so I asked my friend Patrick Connelly who has done some work for me in the past with it for some help. He whipped up a template for my required size which I had measured from other QSL cards I had as either 5 1/2" (w) x 3 1/2" (h) or 140mm (w) x 90mm (h). What I had been doing was making the page layout as small as a single card. I asked Patrick how I would want to store this for printing, ie one file with both sides or two separate files.

Getting back into Ham Radio after a 10 year hiatus

I was originally licensed at 16 and was pretty active at the time. I built a 2 meter ground plane antenna out of an SO-239 chassis mount connector and 1/8 inch copper rod. I pulled it up into a 100 ft pine tree. I worked stations simplex on it 40-60 miles away. It was fun.

When I was away at summer camp that tree which was right next to the front door of our house got hit by lightning. It messed up a few things in the house but mostly it just scared the hell out of my little sister and Mom who were the only ones at the house at that time. The fire department came and eventually we had to take the tree down, much to the dismay of our insurance company which wanted to "save" the tree and thus not have to pay for its removal.

My family and I still disagree on the role of the antenna and coaxial cable in the lightning strike. In my studies I thought it said that the highest objects are hit but they blamed the metal antenna in the tree.

I also built a six meter Ten-Tek T-Kit FM transciever one summer and used it to work stations all over the US during sporadic E band openings. It was a blast. I still have that radio but the power amplifier in it is burned out. I tried to fix it once but it burned out again. I will fix it though.

I also worked FM satellites like UO-14, AO-27 and SO-35. I had an Arrow handheld antenna, two HTs (hand held radios) (one for uplink and one for downlink) plus a tape recorder to record the pass. I would go out at night for a 12-15 minute satellite pass with all this gear and my Mom would laugh at me saying I looked like some sort of spy or something. Then I would endure the mosquitos while contacting stations all over the US, Canada and even a little bit of the Northern part of South America. It was a lot of fun.

Eventually I went off to college and while I took my HT with me I didn't use it much. It's hard to setup a station in a dorm room, plus in college you have a lot of new things to do and ham radio can easily fall on the way side among all those new things.

After a ten year hiatus with ham radio I have gotten back into it since Fall 2011. Around 2007 the morse code/CW requirement was dropped by the FCC. I and many other Technician class hams were automatically bumped up to Technician Plus licences. This licence gives you the ability to get on HF SSB but only on 10 meters.

My Dad let me borrow his Radio Shack HTX-10 radio and a dipole which I strung up behind my apartment. Unfortunately at the time the only thing I heard was a CW beacon. I didn't know CW so I copied down each dih and dah on paper and tried to translate it. I am pretty sure it was the K4JDR beacon which is just one county over from me. So that was a bust.

Fast forward to Fall 2011 when my Dad showed me that 10 meters was open to Europe every day. So I hooked that radio and dipole back up and was working Europe stations and US stations every morning when the band opened. That got me itching to get on more HF bands and this January I passed my General. I think it's all downhill from here...

GE Mastr II VHF low band radios

EDIT 2014/07/08: These are for sale, contact me if interested(johnbrier at the popular google mail service)

I bought a couple of these on eBay around 2000 with the intentions of modifying them to work on 6 meters but never did as I was too intimidated on the work required to complete the mod. I hope to do it still, sometime sooner.

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