Wednesday, March 28, 2012

new batteries

About ten years ago my father bought me a portable power station for Christmas. It is a plastic box with a pair of cigarette lighter plugs as well as a set of lugs in the back connected to a 7 AH battery in the case. The power station offered a portable 12 V power supply that is effective to charge batteries for scanners and cell phones as well as antenna relays and TNC's. You could operate a low power radio for a bit of time, but with a 7 AH battery, it won't last too long, so I didn't use it for such purposes.

About a year later, a presentation at a local ham club showed a similar box, with the same internal battery, but this one was much more versitile. In addition to two cigarette lighter sockets, and lugs, a 100,000 candle power spotlight as well as a regular flashlight with blinker option and 9, 6 and 3 volt coax sockets are all included.

About a year ago the batteries started to die on me and I finally got around to buying new ones this month. I opened up the cases and replaced the cells. The power box with the light was easy as it was just plugged in with the lugs. The original box had soldered lugs which made life a bit more difficult.

The hardest part was actually getting the cases back together by getting the wires running through the tight spaces so that the cases could close again.

So after less than $20 of new parts, I have two fully-functional portable power supplies and auxillary lighting.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

First steps to DXCC

While I have been a ham since 1997, and been active on HF since 2000, I have moved so many times that I've never officially earned my DXCC. I have worked well over 100 countries from various locations, and under various callsigns, but never enough from one place to earn my certificate.

So here I am in PA (W3 land) and I am starting all over again. I have ordered my new QSL cards and even put up a rather pathetic ground mounted screwdriver antenna with four radials to get me started.

I have been on a pactor kick lately, so went to the pactor watering hole on 20 meters, 14.111 CF. So I hooked up my SCS PTC-IIe to my Icom 746 and put out a rather pathetic 30 watts. As is normal with ARQ modes, you set the radio up to call CQ every minute or so and hope someone wants to chat and answers you. For my part, I swivel around in my chair and use another computer while calling and listen for connection noise in the form of the TX/RX relay in the rig to start clicking every few seconds.

I was watching a youtube video and this very thing happened. Imagine my surprise when I look at the screen and see not a US station, but one from across the Atlantic from England on my screen. G4APL was making a link and soon enough we were chatting amicably enough using pactor II. He was using a beam antenna and I was receiving good S8 signals. My signal, even with his beam was reaching him at S1 at best, so it was slow going at times. Still, even with repeats, with the 200 bps speed of Pactor 2 at it's most robust level, it was quite fast enough to have a keyboard to keyboard conversation.

A few days later I was at it again and this time I was able to work Peter OZ1PMX from Denmark, at first on pactor 2, and then on pactor 3. My signal was even worse into Denmark, so even the robust Pactor 2 was dropping the signal quite a bit. When we upshifted to pactor 3, we were able to maintain the link quite well.

So for DXCC, my first country was not the US, but England, and followed by Denmark. Last night I worked Brazil and the Maldera Islands for my third and fourth entities. One of these days I'll have to work the US. I am just hoping to get out there with a slightly better signal and finally get 100 countries from one place.

Until next time, 73.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

VE session

Here in the US amateur radio license exams are given by trained volunteer examiners (VE's). I am new to Northeast Penn, so was not connected in with the local examiners, but I am a member of the MURGAS club and when a cry came out for an Extra Class examiner in nearby Scranton, I took up the challenge. I have not participated in an exam session since 2006, so I thought I would be rusty. Fortunately it all came back to me fairly quickly.

We have four candidates show up for the exam. Three were trying to obtain their license (Tech class) and one was attempting to upgrade to Extra (hence the need for me).

I am happy to report the W3ATS aquired his Extra license with no problem, while the other four candidates were able to pass their tech exams and earned their licenses. I just wish that there were more young people looking to get licensed. None of the new licensees were younger than 30, and two were in their 60's and 70's. We need to figure out a way to get the youth more involved.

Jeremy N1ZZZ