Category Archive: Uncategorized

Here’s one for the guy on eHam

who was bitching about Universal Radio’s cat haven.

2015-10-04-21-52-39This is Frankie (so called because of his blue eyes).  He was sitting in his buddy Tiggr’s usual spot while I worked the local weekly Scout net on UHF the night we took Tiggr to the vet for his trip across the Rainbow Bridge.

Opinions are like assholes.  Everybody’s got one.  If you don’t like the fact that UR has a gazillion cats wandering around, don’t go into their store.  I’ve been in there three times myself, and I’ve only ever seen one or two cats, and the store is cleaner than a lot of shops (of all types) I’ve visited.

At 11:04AM: “The time is now 11 AM.”

One of the local repeaters reports the time on the hour.  Which is a cute feature.

Problem is, it’s 4 minutes behind.

You’d think the repeater owner would fix that.

QRZ doesn’t get it.

While I applaud QRZ for recognizing that their Ragchew Central (RCC) forums caused a lot of trouble, their latest attempt to calm things down by getting rid of RCC (some months back) and RCCII (which was created to soothe the wild beast of the vocal minority after RCC was killed) and creating a new “Just Talking (Subscribers Only)” forum that can only be posted to by people who pay QRZ for some level of subscription strikes me as marketing by wishful thinking.

For one thing, nobody is going to subscribe to QRZ who doesn’t see value in doing so.  Being able to post in a ragchew forum when there are so many free places online to vent about politics and general bullshit isn’t going to inspire anyone to pay good money for a subscription.

For another thing, most of the troublemakers in the RCC forums were subscribers.  So what’s the point?

So now, someone (a non-subscriber) has created a “Filter Out Subscriber Only Forum ??” thread in the Community Help Center forum to ask if those forums could simply disappear from view for non-subscribers instead of remaining visible but non-writable.  The responses from QRZ staff are hilarious; they amount to “Go away kid, you’re bugging me.”

The trick is this.  I run Xenforo myself, on a (non-radio) site.  They could, in fact, “disappear” the new forum from non-subscribers, and from anyone else who didn’t want to see it.  I’ve done this myself, primarily to create space for mods to discuss things without the general membership being aware that space exists.  (Because, yes, people complained about forums they could see but couldn’t access.)

QRZ could do it the same way I did, by changing user permissions and creating privilege groups, then setting the forums to be visible only the the appropriate privilege groups.  That’s essentially what they’ve already done to block posts from non-subscribers; there’s no other way to do it, so bottom line, all they have to do is go through one more time and set those fora so they can’t be [i]seen[/i] by non-subscribers.  That they won’t do it suggests that they think gaining the ability to post there will drive subscriptions.  I rather doubt that, but I’m cynical about that kind of marketing.

For me, as an XML subscriber (a service I find useful, or I wouldn’t pay for it), I’d be happy not to see the ragchewing fora at all when I go over there and hit “New Posts”.  QRZ’s biggest Achilles’ heels are its off-topic fora.  And until Fred understands and addresses that, preferably by nuking them and making them stay nuked regardless of the pissing and moaning from the vocal minority, alternative and competing sites like eHam and RadioReference are going to get more attention from dissatisfied hams.

Not sure who to blame…probably me.

Because I didn’t want to spend a lot of time explaining to TSA what ham radio is, and because we already had a surfeit of carry-on luggage to begin with, I decided to ship my rig and other equipment to a friend in Naples, and then ship it back from the hotel where we ended up later in the week.  To do this, I looked at comparative prices from UPS and FedEx for a box of a particular size, weighing 29 pounds, shipped ground freight.  UPS was going to take 3 days, FedEx 2.  And Fed Ex wanted $10 less for the privilege, even with $1K of insurance.  So I went with FedEx.

There was absolutely no problem on the outbound receiving end; the friend was home and signed for the box.  I got to play radio for several days as noted below.

When we went up to Punta Rassa, I didn’t operate because I had to work two days of the four we were there, but also at least partly because I didn’t want to do something that might set off alarms.  (We have that problem at Belzer sometimes if we put out too much RF on 40 meters — because the alarm wiring in the building wasn’t done right, and there’s a pull station fairly close to our riser going up and out of the basement, and that pull station is always the culprit when we set off the fire alarm.)  So I slipped the Nanuk case holding my gear back into the cardboard box it came in, and created the FedEx shipment on Friday.  Once that was all done, I took the box down to the desk and the hotel put it with their outgoing stuff.  Perfectly normal; I’ve done that before with other things.


I missed the pickup on Friday.  Well, figures, it was well after noon before I took it downstairs.  So it sat there over the weekend, during which time FedEx tracking kept insisting they had no record of the tracking number.  Which is annoying, because most shipping companies will tell you that the shipment has been created but not yet picked up.  I figured that would change on Monday.

It didn’t.

I was just about ready to call the hotel and ask, “WTF, over?”  But I thought I’d give them another day, just in case the package got picked up and somehow didn’t get scanned.

Yesterday morning it finally showed up, with a delivery date of June 30 (tomorrow).  So I’m happy now.

The lesson learned is that I should have held onto the package and dropped it off at a FedEx Ship office on Saturday (there were three of them on the way to the airport) instead of leaving it at the hotel.  But no real harm done, except perhaps to my state of mind 🙂

FWIW, I bought this Nanuk case from DX Engineering and everything I took (except the Buddipole, of course, which went into checked baggage, and the computer, which I tote in my backpack) fit nicely into it.  When it gets home, I’ll take a few pictures and post them.

End results

So my Florida QSOing ended at 53 contacts in just about 73 hours.  (Again, I wasn’t trying hard; it was true “holiday style” operating.  I’d operate for a while, then go do something else, then operate for a while, go do something with my wife, etc., wash rinse repeat.)  I had one 6M JT65 contact but that was nothing to write home about; it was a Florida ham who was only a few miles away.  I also had one complete 15M JT65 contact with a ham in Brazil, but I had to stop using 15M after that because the antenna was too close to the rig and even at 15W it was interfering with the USB link between the SignaLink and the computer.  (I was lucky that the other ham was patient.)  But I was ready to stop then anyway; it was my last QSO of the trip.

All QSOs were JT9 and on 20M except for those two, which were the last two; I stayed on 20M because it was easiest to leave the Buddipole configured for that band, and I was only playing around at the last.  According to the log, I worked hams in Brazil, Spain, Italy, Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Portugal, France, and European Russia — all entities I’ve worked before, but who cares about that.  The other 42 contacts were all US, at least one from each call district.  Sadly I didn’t work anyone from Alaska — or from Hawaii or West by God Virginia, either, the two of which I NEED for JT65 and JT9 both.  (Not that I can count any of these toward WAS — I was too far away from home.)

The Buddipole worked splendidly.  I really liked the ease of setup and it was pretty simple to work it with a tuner, but I think I wouldn’t have had any trouble getting the SWR down even without the tuner.  I’ll probably try that now that I’m home and can set it up outdoors.

All in all a fun trip; I hate going outdoors in Florida in the summer, so this worked out quite well for me.  We also ate well.  Too well.  And got to see some friends we hadn’t seen for a while.  One thing we did that we had never done was visit the Naples-Baker Museum of Art, which had some interesting exhibits on display.

I’m looking forward to our next Florida vacation 🙂

Another picture

Still working it holiday style for about another 24 hours.  Don’t know if I will be able to set up when we go to Sanibel on Tuesday or not.  Anyway, here is a shot of the Buddipole and my operating position together.  (I moved the Buddipole to get it out of traffic.)

KC9YTJ/W4 portable station in Naples, FL

KC9YTJ/W4 portable station in Naples, FL


So I’m down in Florida right now, Naples/Collier County to be exact, in grid EL96.  I’ve finally managed to bring an HF rig down with me for the first time.  The question was, what antenna was I going to use?

I finally bit the bullet and bought a Buddipole Deluxe.  Small enough to fit in the big suitcase we brought for my wife’s stuff (she is doing a presentation at a symposium next week and brought things for the group’s auction), and according to the specs, good down to 40 meters.  The rest of the gear went into a Nanuk case from DX Engineering and was FedEx’ed to a friend’s house down here, because I didn’t want to have to explain ham radio to TSA.

The rig is my Yaesu FT-857D.  It’s got an LDG Z-11ProII tuner with it and I’m using a SignaLink for digital work.  Which is mostly what I’m doing — sticking to JT modes just to make it easy, because I’m working holiday-style.  That means, whenever the XYL is at the beach, I can be on the radio.

I didn’t bring any batteries or solar equipment, so I’m stuck with wall socket juice and a Samlex SEC-1235M switching power supply that is running everything through a small RigRunner.  I’m also stuck in the condo for an operating position, which means…

…the Buddipole is set up in the condo’s living room.

Yep, that’s right.  I have the Buddipole set up in a second-floor living room at just about ceiling height, which puts it about 20′ AGL.  The Gulf of Mexico is across the street and the building backs up to a salt-water canal.  The antenna is pointing roughly ENE/WSW and is configured for 20 meters.

And I’m working hams on JT9 (using WSJT-X of course) in European Russia, France, and Portugal, as well as the US.  I’m receiving signals as far down in the mud as -26 and had one report back of -27.

I would never have thought this antenna would do that, given the constraints I’m working under.

Color me impressed, Buddipole.  Color me impressed.

ETA:  Bad cell phone pictures.

My shack away from shack.

My shack away from shack.

Buddipole antenna in condo living room!

Buddipole antenna in condo living room!


Saw a post on one of my FB groups yesterday about NPOTA and whether folks would be participating.

Followed by six comments (before I gave up in disgust and hid the post) ragging on the LOTW requirement as being a secret ARRL plot to drive membership, and/or install crap software on one’s machine, and/or that LOTW would just lose your QSOs at some point down the line…

I can only say that if you can’t install the LOTW software on your machine, you shouldn’t be installing any software on your machine.  If you act like a “real ham” and don’t read the manual first, yeah, you’re probably going to have issues.  On the other hand, if you have a bit of intelligence and are moved to read the manual first, you probably won’t have any trouble at all.

One guy said he’d rather log his stuff to QRZ.  OK…did you know that QRZ has a really easy interface to LOTW?  All you have to do is feed it your certificate and login credentials.  In fact, I don’t even use ARRL’s TQSL software anymore…I upload to QRZ and from there to LOTW.

We used to say that there was nothing wrong with Freemasonry that a few Masonic funerals couldn’t cure.  I’m really thinking it’s the same way in amateur radio — a few more SKs in certain places wouldn’t hurt a thing.

VHF/UHF/Packet go-box part V

The SignaLink worked.  Yay.  Now I just have to put in the PS/2 pass-throughs so I can get rid of the rat’s nest of wires that come out of the box.  So it will now be a VHF/UHF Packet/NBEMS go-box.

I have to admit that I really like the SignaLink.  Well-built and simple to understand.

OK.  So here is the promised electrical schematic.  Pardon the crappy pencil drawing; I need to trace it out in pen so breathing on it doesn’t smudge it.  (Well, if not, it comes close.  The scanner certainly managed to smudge it, so I cleaned it up and took a picture of it with my iPad instead.)

2016-03-07 14.48.07I forgot to note that the TNC and radio connections are Anderson PowerPoles.  They didn’t have to be, but they are.  Just makes life easier if I want to pull one of them out of the box.

The USB charger port I used is here:  BANDC PJH-RS-0123 Power Outlet Dual USB Charger Socket 2.1A 1A for iPad iPhone Car Boat Marine Mobile  It’s similar (probably identical) to one I bought from PowerWerx some time back for another project, and cost about the same.

I think I mentioned earlier that the batteries are standard AGM 7.5Ah batteries wired in parallel.  When using the batteries that way, be sure you take the positive off of one battery and the negative off the other battery.  (If you use more than two in parallel, take the positive off the first battery and the negative off the last battery, like I did for my 30Ah battery box.  The picture doesn’t show that, because I wasn’t done wiring it, but that’s how I did it.)

I’m going to use the box on the voice nets this week and see how it works.  I think it’s going to need an external speaker; it sounds like it’s down at the bottom of a well 🙂  Definitely audible, just crappy sound quality.

ETA:  I just realized that I left the 4-way PowerPole block out of the schematic.  It would look pretty much the same as the USB port, except that it has a 15A fuse on the positive side.  The PowerPole block is kind of important, since I charge the batteries through it 🙂

VHF/UHF/Packet go-box part IV

OK, well…I guess I’ll be buying a SignalLink like everyone else, because I cannot get the Plug-And-Play to key up the FT-7900.  No matter what I do, nothing works.  Sure, the PTT lamp lights on the PNP when I engage TX in FLDIGI, but nothing happens to the radio.  And I know the PNP itself works because I’ve been using it for months with my FT-450D.

There’s no rig defined in FLDIGI because there’s apparently no rig-level FLDIGI support for the Yaesu FM rigs at all.  Which is fine, because so far as I can tell, the PNP ought to be triggering PTT just by taking RTS high.  Other than finding the FT-7900R in West Mountain Radio’s compatibility list for the PNP, I can find NOTHING indicating that anyone has actually tried the combination for NBEMS.

I imagine it would work with my FT-857D, but that rig is a little big and a lot overkill for what I want to do with that box.

So I’m going to order a SignalLink and associated cable for the FT-7900, and I’m going to install a PS/2 passthrough connector in the lid of the box so I can easily change from the packet TNC to the SignalLink as required.  I hate doing it by using patch cords but I haven’t found an appropriate switch for a PS/2 line.  Lots of KVMs have them, but again, that’s overkill for what I want to do.


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