Friday, October 30, 2009

More on WSPR ... Rainbows in the dark.

I'm continuing to enjoy
WSPR -- Last night in a series of propagation studies I have been undertaking from ki4SGU studios, I explored the world of 80m internationally. A thought normally unheard of in these sunspot starved days.

I could not believe that Germany and Italy could be so easy worked
on a low band. Studying the SNR data closely, I further believe that working these locations with traditional digital modes (PSK31, RTTY) would be easy, as would also CW but few try, hence few succeed.

(Click on Images to Expand)

Please pause and notice in this image that the Canadian HAM [ve6OG] is engaged in a WSPR QSO with a trans-Pacific station also on 80m.

Here are a few of the QSL cards that were sent electronically to me from Italians HAMs.

... a copy of my electronic log from the WSPR site;

Timestamp Call MHz SNR Drft Grid Report RGrid Km Az
2009-10-30 04:34 KI4SGU 3.594104 -10 1 EM73 NN6RF CM87uw 377 289
2009-10-30 04:16 KI4SGU 3.594090 -4 0 EM73 WA7KGX CN85 3484 304
2009-10-30 03:54 KI4SGU 3.594109 -23 0 EM73 IQ3AZ JN65qq 8003 47
2009-10-30 03:36 KI4SGU 3.594095 -16 0 EM73 KE0CO CN87tl 3476 308
2009-10-30 03:36 KI4SGU 3.594097 -27 0 EM73 G0DJA IO93if 6699 43
2009-10-30 02:34 KI4SGU 3.594093 -21 0 EM73 DL2NI JN48ul 7612 45
2009-10-30 01:54 KI4SGU 3.594099 +6 0 EM73 WB2LMV FN21ts 1314 42
2009-10-30 01:14 KI4SGU 3.594097 -12 0 EM73 VE6OG DO33fn 3164 324
2009-10-30 01:14 KI4SGU 3.594098 -20 0 EM73 AB3DI FM19ma 951 47
2009-10-30 01:14 KI4SGU 3.594095 -13 0 EM73 KC2RXS FN32bj 1391 41

Thereby proving that 80m is a TRUE world band, and that patience, persistence and curiosity are a healthy substitute for sunspots, as well as a welcome respite from the endless regional "ache & pains rag-chews" so common with US hams on the lower bands.

Then finally is an image from later this morning as the propagation faded, imaged captured remotely from work (a nice use of multi-tasking during those rather boring corporate conference calls -- And here you should wonder, How really boring these must be for a guy that likes to "listen to static" mind to wonder off into the ether. Numbingly Boring! - But I digress).

Have HAMs just grown lazy? ... Please quit waiting for the good propagation next year, HAM radio is about doing, action, and making waves.
Please get on the air, on any mode tonight - And make your own Rainbows in the Dark.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pssst.... Do want to know a secret? - Try WSPR!

Last night in a bought of radio depression, I was motivated enough to try WSPR -- as I wasn't too motivated to do anything else -- the band conditions were dismal. I had held off on trying WSPR being loyal to PROPNET a similar venture that uses PSK31. I never do well in those Coke/PEPSI or BETAMAX/VHS sort of questions.... Well PROPNET is equal to BETAMAX, it is better in every way, but you guess it!, WSPR is more popular and hence the better choice. The idea of internet cross tabulating propagation reports is way cool, and more so when the whole world tunes in.. For a quick thrill on 30 watts or less try WSPR.

-- WSPR stands for Weak Signal Propagation Reporter, but it's pronounced "Whisper" - quite an appropriate name as it is all about sending and receiving signals that are barely audible. DOWNLOAD

The software is written by Joe Taylor, K1JT, a Nobel Prize-winning Princeton physicist. It was first released in April 2008. It uses a transmission mode called MEPT-JT. The "JT" stands for Joe Taylor, while MEPT stands for Manned Experimental Propagation Transmitter.

Consequentially, a very interesting interview with Dr. Taylor, k1JT can be found in this month's CQ Magazine - A link provided here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Emperor Has No Clothes - More on my infatuation with coils.

As you may already know, I have developed a wholesale interested in coils. I have been trying to increase my personal understanding of coils as used for antennas (as baluns) and as they are used in band-pass-filters (ummm, as well ... coils) and all other things of an inductive nature.

After the normal frenzy of Google searches, I was lead to -- "Understanding, Building, and Using Baluns and Ununs" by Jerry Sevick, W2FMI -- This book is presented (ARRL, eham, and everyone else) to be universally touted as the pinnacle and the state of the art for those seeking a deeper understanding and actually building. I ordered it....

20 bucks and a few days later... I wish I could tell that it were true, in short they are all wrong and I would strongly suspect not one of them actually read the book. I found the book to be at best a loosely coupled collection of articles which seems to start in the middle of basic ideas, and seem to trail on and then abruptly end. To the say the book is badly written, I will not say, I'm no English major myself, and I'll leave that to others. What I can and will say is; I did not enjoy it, and I found it to be contradictory, weak and misleading. -- In many cases the author warns the reader of the evils of voltage baluns (probably a true statement), but then extols the superb benefits and divine merits of Ruthroff's work on the same. huh?!

The author constantly refers to the seminal publication of G. Guanella in the Brown Boveri Review in September of 1944 (PDF) but never really takes the time the explain to the modern reader the construction outlined in the article. The article also constantly referred to C. L. Ruthroff August 1959 equally seminal article (PDF) -- I'm sorry, I had missed that one too, as I imagine most modern readers will have (as in 'we were not born yet!?') and my subscription to the BBR is still in the mail. -- I have posted both of the articles above so that you may acquaint yourselves with their genius.

Like the little boy in Hans Christian Andersen's story, "The Emperor’s New Suit". I post this rather negative review at great peril to myself, because HAMs are a funny lot (as in not "ha-ha"), and are very similar to sheep, and do not take kindly to folks having a difference of opinion on something they hold sacrosanct. Flame On QRPers!

As to not become the Andy-Rooney-of-HAM-radio with my Casandra like opinions, I will share with you that I did find a few articles (Free PDF) on the web that are very helpful, and go a long way towards really being helpful.

C. Greene w1CG 2002.pdf (PDF) & C. Greene w1CG QRP 4:1.pdf (PDF)
and R. Bertran vk2DQ 2005 OCF dipole.pdf (PDF superd, must read!!)

I also share with you Jim Brown's J. Brown k9YC APR-2008.pdf (PDF), but with a warning. For it also seems to suffers from Current-vs-Voltage confusion affliction -- For the record the Guanella balun is NOT a voltage balun.

73 ki4SGU

Monday, October 5, 2009

Having Fun at the EAA's B-17 - Aluminum Overcast Event

If you were looking for me this last Saturday, you would not have found me at home. For Mel /k4JFF, Ted /wb4CAB and I all headed towards the Gwinnett County Airport (Briscoe Field (LZU)) in Lawrenceville, Ga Lat 33.978 / -83.962 @1061Ft for the EAA's B-17 - Aluminum Overcast Event featuring their B-17. Although it is essentially an aircraft event, with guidance from Arnold /kc4ZUA we had lots of fun playing radio with various HF and CW displays. -- Here are some of the pictures from Dick /k2UFT.

And some more great Photos from Kevin /n5PRE on his "The Rocketeer's Photostream"

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Electrons on Parade

Treat yourself to this 1942 factory promo for RCA vacuum tubes. The short 18 minute video shows how they made metal-can octal base tubes.

A truly fascinating video of how incredibly complex and automated the manufacturing process was even during WWII. Electronics as an industry has lost something of its mystic with vacuum tubes becoming more and more rare, and America as nation, has truly lost something of its brains in the lost of minds like this that built these incredible factory machines.

Many tubes are only available now from places like China and Russia. I think I will begin to catalog and cross reference these to make them more available to other radio amateurs, who like me would like a cheap and simple access to these treasures.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Groovy Baby! Those Seventies were so Randy - GIRLS (Pretty Ones) !!!! On the Cover

I have often commented to my more marketing savvy Ham friends -- Why don't HAM magazines have ads that appeal to men, and not just Hams. After all they are men first, and Hams second. -- Therefore, I would think that ads selling shotguns, sports cars, and dare I say it cigars and chewing tobacco! This would be not too dissimilar to Popular Mechanics or Sports Illustrated ads of today?? I also wondered why Hooters and Budweiser don't sponsor the local Ham Fest or VHF Rally's? Here again, there are parallels, VHF Contest's are a manly competitive sport like football or baseball? Surely from the sponsors point of view Hams are a very similar buying demographic to any male-dominated, testosterone-driven event.

But proving there is nothing new under the sun; I recently came into a bit of good fortune. I HAM colleague of mine needed more space in his basement office and needed to find a good home his super-duper collection of 73, CQ, QST magazines dating from 1955 to 1999, lucky me!

When I got them home, I set myself to organize and catalog them as best I could. I leafed through a few and looking at building projects filled with half a century of ingenuity and craftiness that Hams are famous for. But my eye was drawn to something I had never seen since I had been following Ham mags in the early eighties.

73's editor Wayne Green was one crafty business man, he reasoned most Hams are guys, therefore they would favor a magazine with a good looking gal on the cover. It is no wonder those were the good old days, and here I foolishly thought they were talking about sun spot cycles and glowing tubes. -- Maybe the hobby has gotten older, and lost a bit of its libido and zing!? Maybe we take ourselves a bit too serious? Maybe good old "Shep" /K2ORS and Wayne Green /W2NSD were right all along to say "Never Say Die!"

-- If the hobby is going to survive, let's make it fun. Be polite and welcoming on the air to new Hams, build something, try something new, quit whining about not using the repeater tones, and then complaining about kids kur-chucking the machine for fun.

When was the last time you just turned the dial and listened, really listened to some random spot on your dial and wondered --"Where in the world is that signal from?". I too find myself on internet led missions to this net or that special event without just spinning and grinning like a kid. After all, I have often said had what make my hobby fun, is the things we don't know.

In months to come I hope to share with you my impressions of some of those great articles, and build projects from my newly acquired collection of RF and dreams.