Items of interest

Interesting post on W2LJ’s blog about his PDA. I have an assortment of PDAs:

– Palm Pilot Pro that I got an upgrade kit for to make it a Palm III (new chip along with IR sync capability)

– Palm IIIxe which I bought on eBay. It works well except that it eats up batteries even when it is turned off. I have used this PDA with my Kenwood TH-D7 to do mobile 2m packet and PocketAPRS.

– Palm m130. This was the first PDA I had that allowed you to use an SD card. I have used this to program my TinyTrack APRS device.

– Palm Tungsten 3 (or T3). First PDA with wireless connectivity, in this case Bluetooth. Also has a slot for an SD card. I used this PDA for mobile logging, mainly taking advantage of the voice recording function… I’d have a mobile QSO, pick up the Palm T3 and record a voice memo of the time, freq, callsign, and any other significant info. At a later point I used that to update my primary log.

– Some variant of an HP PDA that has WiFi and an SD card slot.

Also have an assortment of keyboards, cameras, and other doo-dads that go with these.

I have the Palm T3 with me now… I’m guessing it needs to be charged.

K3OQ has a post about his upcoming trip to the Outer Banks. He also plans to activate The Bodie Island Lighthouse (USA-067). I had the opportunity to activate that light back in June of 2006. Beautiful area out there – very relaxing. One of the highlights of any hams visit to the Outer Banks is using the Outer Banks Repeater Association’s 2m and 70cm repeaters. I had a few great exchanges with Jack, W2EHD who lives in the area year around. The repeater system also allowed me to stay in contact with the XYL while I was off activating lighthouses.

N9IK’s Radio Blog has a new post about his completion of the Rock-Mite 40 transceiver kit. He’s got some great pics of his work. I hope to develop my building skills to that level. Very nice work. I look forward to hearing about the contacts he makes with it.

K9ZW tries to solve the age old question of the best way to organize QSL cards with his latest post. I’m curious to see how others keep their cards organized. I don’t have a ton of cards yet, but I would like a solid method of keeping my cards organized that will last for years and allow me to access them as needed.

As always – I enjoy reading your blogs. It keeps my interest in amateur radio strong even if I don’t get on the air as often as I’d like.

W1AA activation of Dumpling Rock Aug 4, 2007 USA 1231 and USA 247

The Cape Crusaders ….Don N1DT and I finally back on the road again to activate Dumpling rock on Saturday …. and it felt great !!

We arrived and set up the generator and truck station by 6:45 AM local time ….started on 75 phone … band conditions were very poor … Solar Flux was 70 .. A index 5 .. and K index 0 … static levels were S9 or better … Difficult to copy through the crashes …. only worked five Qs on 75 phone …. KD3CQ… N3HIS ….

We then went to 40 phone …. band conditions were no better …. almost every QSO was a struggle through the static and noise… 19 QSOs… 2 on 40 CW …. worked a few of the regulars …VE3TPZ… K8YTO… VE1REC
VO1RYL … KD3CQ …. 2 on 40 CW …..

After the event I received an email from a local ham friend George KA1PS … about 40 miles away … He said he could copy us on 40 phone and hear others calling us but we could not hear him and did not go back to him … we were using a 33 foot vertical wire on the back of the truck … vertically polarized … he was using a horizontal dipole … horizontally polarized … the difference in signal with these conditions can be as much as minus 20Db …. on ground wave this is more than enough difference for us not to be able to hear him or copy him … add the high static level on 40 to this and we can understand why we did not hear him …

At 1247 UTC we went to 20 phone …. the band was stretched out … not much short skip … still had a high static level … We had a QSO with VA2ASS/W1 on Ground wave …. he was on Cape Cod on vacation running 5 watts… That call is CORRECT … seems that Canada issues calls with that suffix … we worked VE6ASS many years ago..
When I asked him he how he got the call … he said when the officials looked at him they said they had an appropriate call for him … that call is no longer active …. We worked a few familiar calls … K9PVZ (ARLHS #1000) … WA5TDK …. W5AZO Patty and W5AXN …. VO1RYL…

By noon the 20 meter band had completely gone in the tank … We could copy WA8REI working stations on the Gulf coast … Joe W5PVZ … etc … but we could not work WA8REI or W5PVZ … we had lost the propagation but being further west the W8s… W9s and W0s still had it as they were further west ……

Our last QSO was with Jim KA3UNQ on 40 phone ….. he is always there ….

Stats …

22 States

4 DX Stations … France … European Russia… Virgin Islands …. Ukraine

23 ARLHS Members

Phone CW
75 5
40 20 2
20 55 6
80 8

Total 88 QSOs

A big thanks to all of those who hung in there to work us under miserable propagation conditions and the QRN …

Don N1DT and I will be out to activate another light for the International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend on Aug 18th.

Keep the Flame

Don N1DT #962 and Whitey K1VV / W1AA

Monday ham radio

I made the trip over to Ft. Story this morning to activate the Old & New Cape Henry Lighthouses (USA 122 and USA 121). I wanted to accomplish a couple things:
(1) activate the lighthouses. I’ve activated them in the past with limited success and wanted to give ARLHS members a chance to earn the USAARS Lighthouse award.
(2) test out my mobile setup using my different antennas.
(3) attempt to use a logging program on my Palm Pilot.

I ended up having five contacts – all on 40M even though the noise level was pretty high. I called CQ on 20M for quite some time but didn’t get any takers. I think I had two or three ARLHS folks qualify for the USAARS award. For the antennas, I started off with a trio of Hustler coils. The antenna went up quick on the 54″ mast and I had already tuned them to be a good match for the ARLHS calling freqs. I then switched to the Hamstick-like Workman antennas, first for 40M then 20M. No real difference in results. I’m going to stick with the Workman Hamsticks when I’m actually mobile and use the Hustler coils when operating from a fixed site. Using the Palm Pilot for logging is not easy. Adding headphones with a boom mike might help. Using the Palm Pilot takes two hands so it requires setting down the handmike, inconvenient for fast paced operation.

Back at the home QTH I rolled up on 20M CW and got an answer to a CQ from DL4SEW, Stefan in Stuttgart. There was a lot of fading but I was able to get most of what he sent. This was my first QSO with Germany and my second with Europe.

Back in the mobile and heading to Fort Monroe, I answered a CQ on 20M from YU1XA in Serbia. He gave me a 59 plus and was surprised I was mobile. It is just pretty cool talking to Serbia while driving down the road.

40M mobile

I played around with the Opek and Workman 40M antennas this morning. The Opek tuned from about 7.150 to 7.290 and the Workman tuned from 7.040 to 7.250. I noticed a difference in the receive – the Workman was doing a better job. I have an extra stinger for the Workman, so I’m going to shorten it a bit allowing me use of the upper phone band on 40M (good for lighthouse work on 7.270). I can then lengthen the existing one just a bit to allow me to cover all the CW area of 40M.

Had a nice QSO with Frank, AC9T, located up near Chicago. He served in the Navy aboard the battleship USS Iowa and told me what it was like sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

No hamming….

I haven’t been on the HF bands for a while. No CW, no DX Packet Cluster, nada. I’d like to get some quality time with the CW paddle.

The weather station is down – not sure what’s wrong.

My 2M packet station is partially working. The TNC is hooked up to yet another old computer that I moved out to the garage. But the wireless network connection out to the garage is hit and miss…. so I’m going to try to set up a bridge to extend the network out there.

I have been prepping the W4V Veterans Day Special Event cards and certificates. I plan to finish up the cards and should be able to print the certificates out tomorrow. All should be in the mail on Thursday.

Beer update: The total fermentation time was two weeks. I bottled the first batch on Saturday. I varied the amount and type of sugar. In 1/4 of the bottles I put 1/2 brown sugar and 1/2 regular sugar. In another 1/4 of the bottles I put all brown sugar. The rest of the bottles got the regular sugar. We’ll see what kind of difference the sugar makes. This Saturday I’ll put 4 of the beers in the fridge for conditioning….. then 4 more the next week, etc. I have another batch to start fermenting… probably this weekend.

Went to the eye doctor today and was diagnosed with keratoconus in my left eye. At first I thought that meant that my eye would bulge, possibly pop out and/or bleed… but it’s actually not too bad. Keratoconus, or KC for short, is a thinning disorder of the cornea that causes distortion and reduced vision. The biggest short term impact is that I have to get hard contact lenses. I do need to start taking better care of my eyes.

Already the 19th of November!

I’ve been falling behind on my updates…

(1) W4V – Veterans’ Day Special Event Station. I got a late start on Saturday… took a while to pack the truck. Setup at Fort Story took longer than expected – my biggest challenge was tying down the center mast after I’d gotten it vertical. It’s really a two person job and hard to do alone. But once I got the antenna up, the rest was easy. A beautiful day as well, low 70s and clear skies. The QSOs rolled in, as long as I was calling “CQ” I was getting QSOs. Sunday was a different story. The forecast called for rain, but I thought I could weather it out. I arrived at Fort Story but the winds became too extreme – no chance of getting the center pole up. I threw in the towel for a portable operation and headed home to operate. Not the same satisfaction running a special event from home, but I still enjoyed the QSOs. Even got Wyoming… which completes my Worked All States Award!

(2) Kenwood TS-930S…. my “new to me rig”. I picked this up from a local ham at a bargain. What a radio!

This piece of electronics perfection is over 20 years old, but it performs like a dream. The receiver is amazing. Also getting great reception reports on both SSB and CW. This rig is now the centerpiece of my shack.

(3) I didn’t work the Sweepstakes this weekend, but did have a QSO with a special event station celebrating Oklahoma statehood. However, I did work a sweepstakes station on 15M who was operating from the Santa Clara Valley.

(4) Also a few CW QSOs – I’ve hooked up my Logikey CMOS4 Keyer. Amazing little device, lots of features – but does a great job as a basic keyer.

Saturday QSOs

I had a 40M CW QSO with Lee, WA1YDG from Hanover, MA. According to, Lee holds a Novice license… which is pretty unique. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a QSO with someone with a Novice license.

Also got W1AA on 40M LSB – they were activating a lighthouse (USA-820?).

This afternoon I got on 30M briefly (after I got no response on 40M) and had a QSO with Brian, WB9TPA. Lots of QSB and QRM. Finally was able to get his name and his QTH (WI). He was using a straight key (… maybe a bug?) – it seems like it is hard for those folks to slow down (QRS). Their dots and dashes sometimes get distorted.

Lots of wind and rain last night and today, but so far the new rope support for the center of the inverted vee is holding up. If the weather is nice tomorrow, I will try to put up the Carolina Windom.


Finally checked into the VA MARS net. The net started late and I had almost given up on it. I’m going to try and check in again tomorrow morning. I need to get around to raising the height of my inverted vee – I think it will better help my signal get out.

I was able to catch W1AA (Henry and Whitey) and their activation of the Highland Lighthouse (USA 110) out on Cape Cod. Whitey, K1VV, is usually out ever weekend doing a lighthouse activation – always has a nice signal.

Had a very nice Radio Merit Badge class for a young Scout out at Fort Monroe in the afternoon. I setup my 10′ x 10′ shelter and the ARSIB. Initially I planned on setting the G5RV (like during the W4M Memorial Day Special Event) but the wind was quite heavy, so I opted to put up the homebrew vertical dipole. To get some height on the antenna, I attached it to the top of the painter’s pole. Before I had a chance to tie down the pole, a gust of wind knocked the antenna down. The fall caused the feedline connection to break off. Not good. However, with a little bit of wire and some electrical tape, I was able to reattached the feedline connection. Now the antenna was low to the ground and I was a little concerned about it’s performance. The Scout arrived and we started reviewing the Radio Merit Badge requirements. I was able to easily tune WWV on 15 MHz and was also able to find a CW QSO in progress on 40M. Also demoed a bit of CW using my MFJ paddle that has a speaker built in. After we’d reviewed all the requirements, it was time for the HF QSO. The Scout called CQ and after a few tries, received a reply from Charlie, N1MUQ, in Stamford, CT. Charlie had a booming, solid signal and the Scout was able to successfully complete the QSO. We then moved to my mobile VHF rig and the Scout had a nice QSO with Randy, WB7URZ located up in Gloucester. Even with the antenna setup issues, the Radio Merit Badge session was a success and I think both the Scout and I had a good time.

International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend

I enjoyed activating the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse this weekend. Went out both on Saturday and Sunday. Had some great QSOs. Was able to work N1LO and AG4GO (operating as N4P) at the New Point Comfort Lighthouse…. that was cool. Also had QSOs with Denmark, Bermuda, and El Salvador…. all new countries.

Learned some lessons when setting up a portable operation:
(1) Don’t set your operating station up farther away from your antenna than the length of your feedline allows.
(2) Don’t print your log sheets with an ink jet printer… when you’re sweaty after setup and try to write in the log, sweat will make the ink jet print smear,
(3) If you have a shelter to keep you out of the sun, go ahead and use it.
(4) Make sure you have everything BEFORE you pull out of the driveway (i.e. your feedline, log book, headphones, and tools).

Good news… this was the first real deployment of the ARSIB. Everything worked very well. Even used the the ARSIB and the vertical dipole on 17M, in addition to 40M and 20M.