Thanks Comet and SWODXA!

Friday night at the Dayton DX Dinner I won in a drawing this wonderful antenna analyzer from Comet, the CAA-500.  It features a measurement range of 1.8 to 500 Mhz and displays SWR and impedance.  It is powered with five AA batteries or an external 8 to 16 volt DC supply can be used.

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Thanks Comet and SouthWest Ohio DX Association!  This will really come in handy considering I’m in a new QTH and I’m in the process of putting up antennas and reassembling the radio artisan shack.  I couldn’t have asked for a more useful measurement tool.

(I am back home and I have several reports from Dayton to post in the next few days.  Stay on frequency…)

Dayton!

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Yay!  After a nine hour drive I made it to Dayton.  This year I drove solo so I got to listen to audiobooks and actually did several long business phone calls.  I forgot how flat Ohio is, but at least they have several three and four lane highways which makes the drive go quicker.

I’m in the Dayton Marriott if anyone is around and wants to have an eyeball QSO and a cocktail =)

Are You Going To Dayton?

This is a question I ask of vendors I order equipment and amateur radio goodies from. You should ask the same of your vendors. If your vendors don’t support Dayton, perhaps you should consider supporting different vendors. Why, you ask? Dayton is the largest amateur radio event in the US and perhaps the western hemisphere. It’s struggled over the years.  However, the visual appearance and condition of Hara Arena tends to tarnish the state of the Dayton Hamvention, in my opinion.  I think the Hamvention is actually doing well.  Attendance was up last year.  Looking at the schedule of seminars this morning, it’s a wonderful collection of varied topics, with something for everyone.  The flea market is huge and it’s exhausting to cover the entire area in the three days.  If your vendor is devoted to amateur radio, they should come to the Dayton Hamvention.  If they can’t make a profit attending and selling products or generating sales leads, perhaps something is wrong with their products, marketing, or business model.  If a vendor devotes the time and effort to come to Dayton with products to sell, buy their warez!  The Hamvention is more than a hamfest, it’s a social event, a gathering, a celebration, and an economic ecosystem for amateur radio.  See you at Dayton!

What Would You Say?

In July I’m giving a 45 minute talk on amateur radio to a local neighborhood group that restored and maintains an old historic schoolhouse down the road from my QTH.  I plan on bringing my FT-897 and throwing a dipole up in the yard so I can tune around the bands and maybe even whip up a phone QSO.  (It sure would be nice if 20 was open to Europe.)  I’m going to avoid “death by PowerPoint” and just work off of some simple bulletpoints.

So, any suggestions on what to talk about?  What would you definitely not talk about?  Any tips from seasoned speakers on things to wow the audience with?

Let the Speculation Begin

Kenwood took out a full page back cover ad in this month’s QST hinting at a new HF rig being unveiled at Dayton.  What could it be?  Another super multi-kilobuck uber contester rig?  A KX3 competitor?  A fun little rig like the Yaesu FT-817?  Inquiring minds want to know!

The Menta


MakerShed announced a new product that will probably appeal to radio artisans who like to build little rigs.  It’s the Menta, a smaller version of the Arduino which fits nicely in the venerable Altoids tin.

Get a few 2N2222s, some toroids, resistors, and a crystal soldered on the prototyping area, then burn some CW keyer software on the Arduino and voila, you got a nice little QRP rig.

Supporting CW

RSGB had this puzzling note in its recent news script:

Some say that CW has been made obsolete by modern digimodes, which work well in conditions far too poor for the older mode. Now that Morse is no longer used in commercial radio traffic, the RSGB confirms that it would fight any moves to prohibit CW on amateur bands. The Society recognises that Morse gives much pleasure to thousands of operators, and will continue to support its use.

The blurb doesn’t cite any specific threats.  To use a quote never said by, but attributed to Jerry Seinfeld, “Who are these people?

I’ve said before that there are people saying there are people saying that CW is dying, but I have yet to find anyone saying CW is dying.  Much like American politics, we tend to get our panties in a bunch making up things to be outraged over and threats to be worried about.  No radio amateur who has been licensed more than a week would seriously propose to outlaw CW operation.  Any amateur who does is likely insane or doesn’t have the capacity to garner support of anyone from amateurs to government officials.

Perhaps I’m reading more into the RSGB statement and giving it more time than it deserves, but my guess is RSGB suffers from one of the thorns that has been in the side of ARRL here in the States.  People make accusations that the organization doesn’t support the code, in order to increase the number of licensed amateurs and fill its coffers with more memberships.  The people who make such nonsense accusations are still upset with the elimination of the code test or just dislike the organization and look for whatever means to criticize it.  To this day I still hear people claim ARRL doesn’t support CW, despite petitioning the FCC for a 5 WPM test for the Extra class test and running code practice and bulletin broadcasts every weekday.  Myths are hard to replace with facts.

HRD

HRD Software, LLC has released version 5.11a of Ham Radio Deluxe, the first version since their acquisition of HRD from Simon Brown, HB9DRV.  The release appears to be a minor update with the most notable changes being cosmetic updates to splash screens, showing the new ownership of the product.

As many predicted at the time of the acquisition, the next version of HRD, 6.0, will be a pay-only product.  The 5.x version will continue to be free and will have bug fixes released for an unidentified amount of time.  Version 6.0 will be released at the Dayton Hamvention, but customers can receive a $20 discount for the product by subscribing to HRD support for $59.95 prior to Dayton.  At Dayton and afterwards the price for 6.0 will be $79.95.  That is a one year subscription.  Subsequent support subscription renewals are $39.95 for two years of support.  The software doesn’t expire and can continue to be used after support expiration, however users must have a subscription in order to get software updates.

Personally I think Ham Radio Deluxe is worth this price.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I think it’s the best amateur radio logging software ever written (though in a sea of outdated and badly designed sophomoric applications, the bar is often set low).  But considering how good version 5.x is, it may take quite awhile for people to actually want or need to upgrade.  Unless the trial version of 6.0 really knocks my socks off, I’m going to wait until perhaps version 6.1 or 6.2 to consider upgrading.

Decisions

Yesterday while I was continuing my research into new rigs, my TS-850 stopped working with a dead silent receiver.  I pretty much wrote off the rig thinking it wasn’t worth the repair and I would be getting out the credit card and picking up the phone to place an order for its replacement.  But my good friend K3PH happened to see my rig death announcement on Facebook and posted a link to a Kenwood service bulletin about a known issue with Kenwood 850 receivers going dead.  For giggles I opened up the rig and checked the “RXB” voltage point, and sure enough it had the symptoms of the issue.  I replaced one culprit SMT diode with two run-of-the-mill 1N914 diodes and the rig came back to life.  As if that wasn’t enough, the CW QSK is now much better, with full break actually much quieter and smoother than before.  It’s like the rig has a second lease on life.

So for now the decision that seemed eminent is postponed while I enjoy my reborn Kenwood 850.  I’m still mulling over the choices for a new rig, but I think I have it down to the Kenwood TS-590 and the Yaesu FT-950.   Despite my initial thoughts of abandoning Kenwood altogether, the 590 seems to have some of the old Kenwood flair I liked years ago.  I’ve ruled out the K3, KX3, and Ten Tec Jupiter.  The Ten Tec Eagle is getting pushed out of the race.  I haven’t seriously considered Icom, but perhaps I should take the extra time to look at them.

So far the Kenwood and Yaesu offerings are neck-and-neck in the race, though from review comments, going through the manuals, and my experiences with other Yaesu products, I get the feeling the Kenwood interface may be more user friendly than the Yaesu menus.  I do like the front CW key jack, the separate RCA REC and PTT jacks, and the rotator integration feature in the Yaesu.  I wish I had an amateur radio store nearby I could touch each of these rigs.

Last night I operated during the CQ 160 phone contest with the 850.  I ran 100 watts to an inverted L with a meager seven or eight short radials on my acre lot, and I worked all but perhaps four or five stations in the midwest who couldn’t hear me.  It was like shooting fish in a barrel and quite fun, and really speaks to what you can do with a modest antenna on 160.

nanoKeyer

I’m pleased to report that Oscar, DJ0MY, has created an open source hardware initiative and kit offering called nanoKeyer.  This project utilizes my Arduino keyer code and the Arduino Nano, a smaller cousin of the Arduino Uno, but fully software compatible.

Oscar is offering the kit at a reasonable price, but also provides Gerber files on his site for those wishing to reproduce the hardware design.  The hardware kit features three memory buttons, a speed potentiometer, a PS2 Keyboard connector, and optically-isolated keying and PTT lines.  The Arduino Nano module that mates with the nanoKeyer supports the K3NG keyer code command line interface and K1EL Winkey emulation via the built-in USB port.  The Arduino Nano is programmed via a typical Windows, Mac, or Linux machine with free software.

This kit offers commercial / contest quality performance and features in an open source package that can easily be assembled by beginners or customized by advanced experimenters.