SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Monday, January 19, 2015

How Sweet It Is By the Saltwater

On the MLK Holiday, I signed up to operate as K3Y/4 for two hours in the morning. K3Y stations are special event for the Straight Key Century Club Anniversary. With the nice weather, I decided to operate portable at St Andrews State Park near Panama City, Florida. As QRP is not encouraged for K3Y I took the Icom 7100 for QRO. I chose 15 meters and picked a spot with a picnic table right on Grand Lagoon. I deployed the N6BT Bravo 7K right on the water. I kept busy for the two hours with twenty five CW contacts. Two were DX, France and Czechoslovakia.

After some lunch, I decided to proceed to Sandy Point at the Northeast end of the park. I had to lighten up so I took the KX3. I still decided to continue with the Bravo 7K. At twelve pounds not so light, but I discovered I could put it on my shoulder and do pretty well. I setup after the one kilometre walk. I really enjoy the boat and yacht traffic in the channel. I also discovered a rather large bird was listening in. I made seven contacts on 17 meters. Several were very long as I got quizzed on the KX3 and the Bravo 7K. The Bravo 7K lived up to expectations for the day. When the wake of the larger boats came in the waves crashed on the tripod. I held the frequency rather well using the Bravo 7K near the saltwater. I got some good reports for using 10 watts. Having nice weather, a beautiful location and ham radio come together on my day off is awesome! Enjoy the photos.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rockets, Radios and Friends

I had a good day at the rocket launch Saturday in Samson, Alabama. I like to combine amateur radio with the launch. My rocket had a Byonics Micro Fox on-board which puts out a two meter FM beacon. While I never lost site of the rocket, I was able to practice getting a bearing on it with my KX3 and an Elk antenna.

My 3 inch diameter rocket on an I140 motor. There was a 2 meter fox on-board.

The portable antenna setup this time was a tripod support made of camo poles. I put a two meter slim-jim on top allowed me to access the repeater back in Bay County Florida. The mast also held up a forty meter half wave dipole up at only 20 feet.  This however this was fine to get back to Panama City Florida  about 85 miles away. I worked Bob KK4DIV, Jim K4LIX and Vic K4GXV from there. I also worked Don KK4QAM  in Sweetwater, Alabama. The rig was the Icom 7100.

N4KGL setup using camo poles to deploy a 40 meter dipole and a two meter slim jim on top.

As mentioned Bob KK4DIV and I made contact on 40 meters. Here are some photos of his setup in his yard in Lynn Haven, Florida.

Bob KK4DIV in Lynn Haven

Bob KK4DIV's portable setup

Bob WB8PAF a ham buddy from Panama City attended the launch. Bob is getting into portable ops. He used a G5RV and his FT 817 from the cab of the truck. to make some contacts.


Bob WB8PAF operating the FT 817 from the cab.

At my parent's house,Tom WD0HBR and I started working on the 1931 Philco Model 50 I inherited. We found the chassis was a mouse condo. However there was no evidence of chewing. The on off switch did not work but responded to contact cleaner. Tom checked the type 47 and 80 tubes they were very weak. We brought up some voltage with a variac and the transformer hums pretty bad at 80 volts. The filter caps don't seem to be shorted. So running out of time, we will have to continue this project in the future.

Philco Model 50

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Android Adventures with the KX3

I am doing a better job on portable QSO logging with the help of the HamLog App and the Piglet from Pigology. The App runs on any Android device. The Piglet interfaces to the Acc1 plug on the KX3 and makes the serial rig data accessible via WiFi. Initially, I used my Galaxy S4 smartphone. As you can imagine the phone is hard to see and hard to type on. My good luck was to get the Nexus 7 Android tablet for Christmas. The tablet is better in sunlight and easier to type on. Of course there is no ideal sunlight readable phone or tablet to my knowledge but the Nexus 7 beats my smartphone.

The HamLog App works well and the Piglet captures the KX3 frequency and mode for the log. The contacts get logged and after the ops I can hookup the tablet to regular WiFi to upload the contacts. If there is no other WiFi available I can use my Phone as a mobile hotspot.  I am uploading my contacts to three places. First is the HamLog CloudLog, second is EQSL and third is the HRDLog web site. HRDLog lets me show the last ten contacts on this website. Then I erase the log on the phone so I will not be uploading duplicates for the next round of portable ops.

The next App I have tested is the KX3 Companion from IU4APC. You can use an OTG adapter and the Elecraft serial programming cable to hook the app to the KX3. However, a pleasant surprise was the KX3 Companion can use the Piglet to interface to the KX3. Now even more surprising is that the two apps seem to be able to share the KX3 without crashing!

The KX3 Companion takes advantage of the native PSK mode of the KX3. So the Android device does not generate any audio. It just sends a stream of serial commands to the KX3.  Likewise, there is no audio input to the Android device.  The KX3 decodes the PSK-31 and sends the data to the Android device. Note all this works the same for CW and RTTY as well. I find the KX3 Companion to be fairly easy to use. I like its capability to capture a call sign from the incoming text. The macros are well done and I can use them for CW as well as PSK. I did see a minor problem with the time field on the Companion's logging and I will need to check with the developer.  The next step may be a BlueTooth Keyboard for easier PSK31 chatting.

Well it is great to see the efforts of the the smart people at Elecraft, Pigology, and IU4APC all come together. I am glad I can use the Piglet to share the KX3 among apps. It might work the same with the OTG adapter. I am not sure. This all works well for casual portable ops. But for the four hour RaDAR contests the logging might revert back to pen and paper based on weight and time constraints. We will see.

The KX3 is not the most robust digital modes rig due to the PA heating up with the high duty cycle of PSK and some frequency drift with the temperature changes.  However, with my use of PSK31 I am not contesting. I just want to pick up a few contacts. Therefore, the overall duty cycle is low and I can make contacts at 5 watts without reaching any temperature limits. Note, I am looking seriously at the Elecraft heat sink upgrade and the temperature compensation procedure. I don't want to make the KX3 any bigger with a external heat sink. I think those measures may reduce the drift for doing WSPR. Hey the WSPR Beacon is yet another Android App from IU4APC.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

N4KGL's 2014 Ham Radio Blessings

Ham Radio is a combination of friends, equipment and events. I had a blessed time with Ham Radio in 2014.

Greg N4KGL doing pedestrian mobile on a fishing bridge 
In regard to friends, it was a pleasure to get to know John W8JER and Michelle better from Michigan. They spent their second winter down here. They attended several rocket launches. John and Michelle got married on the beach on Valentines day 2014. John brought his home brew mag loop and had good sucess with it from the condo and from the rocket launch site. John and Michelle are arriving on January 1st for another Winter. 

Michelle and John Raifsnider W8JER getting married on the beach
I had good times with Tom WD0HBR in Dothan, Alabama. We made many 40 meter CW contacts between Dothan and my portable locations. We meet up for eyeball QSOs usually on Sunday afternoon when I visit my Parents in Dothan. We also meet for the Headland Alabama tailgates in April and October.

Tom WD0HBR assisting on a Portable Ops in Dothan
Locally, I have many friends at the Panama City ARC.  Marv KK4DKT the club president and I attended the Orlando Hamcation together.  Bob KK4DIV and Phil N4STC and I did some fox hunting including vehicle fox hunts. There is a gang of locals that support the RaDAR ops including Bob WB4BLX, Don KK4DWC and Jim K4LIX. I had fun with Jason N4JTC. Jason is a technical wizard. He built a payload for one of my rockets that had a smartphone and a Baofeng HT on board. The payload rocket launch was a success at Samson, AL and some interesting data was collected.

Bob KK4DIV out Fox Hunting

j\Jason N4JTC and the Rocket payload.

On-line there is another category of friends. The RaDAR community is growing on Google+ I can't mention all the buddies there. It is a privilege to collaborate with Eddie ZS6BNE and Marcus NX5MK on organizing RaDAR activities.  Of course, there is Craig NM4T the Huntsville QRP Guy. Craig always cooks up great events for the Monte Sano gathering during the Huntsville hamfest. I did not make Huntsville this year but Craig came down to Panama City. We made a fun outing to St Andrews State park together to operate portable.

Craig NM4T on portable ops in Panama City

In terms of equipment, you know one thing leads to another. I got an Icom 7100 at the first of the year. I had it in mind using it as a Field Day radio and a base rig. Well, I could not resist making it a portable rig in a go box. This led to getting a large 30 amp hour LiFEPo4 battery, a SGC 237 tuner, a 100 watt solar panel and so on. I did get to use the setup at Field Day and a number of outings. You may be surprised the rate of contacts is about the same at 100 watts as 10 watts. How about that! I am using the KX3 as my go to for a portable rig. It is withstanding to the salt spray and some high heat under the Florida Sun. The AlexLoop proved itself the go to antenna for portable ops over and over this year. 

Icom 7100 Go Box

Elecraft KX3

The AlexLoop Magnetic Loop

I read Tom N6BT's book "Array of Light" during the year. His accounts of verticals on the beach peaked my interest in his Bravo 7K off center fed vertical dipole. I really do like it as it is self supporting with the tripod I purchased with it. Indeed, it does very good job near the salt water. As one thing leads to another I got a second Bravo 7K and made the two bravos into a parasitic array. 

N6BT Bravo 7K Verticals as parasitic array

As far as events this year, I had my first SOTA activation at Dowdell Knob near Pine Mountain Georgia. I was blessed with perfect weather. I logged a good number of contacts and I enjoyed the hams that dropped by. 

View from Dowdell's Knob on SOTA Activation

Surprise ham visitors at Dowdell's Knob
With my focus on Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) I am heading out portable anytime I can. I get out at lunch time often from work. This year I got to visit state parks in St George Island and Port St Joe Florida. Of course, my favorite is St Andrews State Park near Panama City. In fact, I made it to Sandy Point in St Andrews several times as it has a wide azimuth of saltwater. I am constantly preparing for the April and November RaDAR Contests. This year I did well on both making it to three locations by foot in the four hours of each contest. 

Portable ops location at St George Island State park

N4KGL at Saint Andrews State Park for the RaDAR Contest
I mentioned the RaDAR Community. We got some publicity this year as an article I wrote with the help of Eddie and Marcus got published in the October 2014 CQ Magazine. The RaDAR community is well over 600 members now. We have monthly On-The-Air Meetups and now have a RaDAR Rally achievement program.

RaDAR Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio
Well it was such a good year I can't cover it all. You are welcome scan this blog. I am blessed with good friends, great outdoor opportunities for portable ops and mostly good weather. I am looking ahead to more of the same and maybe some surprise opportunities in 2015. I thank all those endure my posts, read my blog and chat with me on the air.

Happy New Year!

Greg N4KGL