I recently upgraded my PiRLP node to a NORMAD node.

The PiRLP node provided EchoIRLP capability. With the node, I was able to use IRLP and Echolink. The PiRLP interfaced directly to my Kenwood TM-D710. I have been using the nodes from David Cameron, VE7LTD, for a number of years with only very small problems now and again.

Once I got my Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station up on APRS via the same TM-D710, I started experiencing problems with the audio output level of the PiRLP node. The big problem was that if I wanted to use the TM-D710 to get on the local repeater, I had to shut down the PiRLP node first. Not ideal.

Enter the NORMAD IRLP node. I first heard about the node on Jeff’s blog at Like my node for Wires/Fusion, the NORMAD IRLP node has a small transceiver built into it. This is a great solution. It provides me the ability to dedicate my TM-D710 for weather APRS as well as also using it to monitor the local repeater without making any changes here in the hamshack.

The primary purpose of this blog is to act as a station notebook. A log that serves as a record as to what I am doing in the shack, how I configured certain items, how I overcame obstacles that were in front of me. Admittedly I have done a poor job at keeping up. And sometimes I do not realize or remember what I have placed in the log so it could assist me in the future.

My configuration of the Normad for Echolink operations (in addition to its native IRLP ability) is a great example. I wished I had looked here first – it would have saved me about two hours. I received the Normad and swapped it out with my older PiIRLP. Got on to IRLP immediately. NOTE: here two great troubleshooting commands for trying to get Echolink working; killall tbd and tbd -ddd. The results provided by tbd -ddd show if your callsign and password are valid for the Echolink connection. A key place to start when Echolink is not working correctly.

I also enjoy using the Echolink functionality of EchoIRLP – mainly to listen to the Coffee Break net hosted by W6EK, the Sierra Foothills ARC every morning from 7:30am to 10am (Pacific).

If you are lucky, you have been involved in a truly great net at one point in your radio amateur career. The most memorable net for me was a 2m morning commute net back in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The participants were smart, well spoken, and directed the conversation to a number of topics which almost always focused on some aspect of amateur radio. In classic roundtable fashion, the conversation moved cleanly between those that checked in which allowed the focus to be on the conversation. Mark, N1LO, was one of the ringleaders. I miss those guys.

The Coffee Break Net is very similar. Check it out if you can. While the net does run on their terrestrial repeater (145.430 MHz -0.6 Offset PL Tone 162.2), you can join via AllStar (51018), Wires-X (W6EK-2M-ROOM (62545)), or Echolink (4128).

Weekend Wrap Up

Went up to the Yorktown Battlefield Saturday and linked up with Mark, N1LO. I got to see his portable setup. He was using a delta loop antenna made of speaker wire, maybe about 25′ per side. The speaker wire was in three sections, the sections were connected using fishing line lure links. The speaker wire was terminated using banana plugs and fed into a 1:1 balun. To support the legs of the delta loop, Mark used a combination of a painter’s pole and a fiberglass fishing rod secured by a 3′ picket easily driven into the ground about 8″.

The fiberglass fishing pole’s end easily nests into the painter’s pole with about 6″ overlap raising the loop to a height of about 20′. The painter’s pole was secured to the picket using two small hose clamps. The delta loop tuned easily from 80M to 10M, but would not tune 160M. All the antenna components compacted down to fit into a plastic rifle case. Mark connected the delta loop to his IC-706MKIIG through his LDG AT-200 Pro autotuner and was easily making QSOs into Ohio (the Ohio QSO Party was underway). Power was provided by a ~100aH marine battery and a nice homebrew PowerPole distribution hub. The best part of the setup was the location – in a very nice, shady park on the southern banks of the York River.

In an endeavor to consolidate my 2M packet operations (APRS, Winlink 2K, and good ol’ fashion BBS packet) into the garage, I spent a good chunk of time pushing around boxes and crates. I purchased three 3′ high bookshelves from Target, arrayed them in an open “U” and then placed a 4’x6′ piece of plywood across the top. I filled the bookshelves with back issues of QST and equipment awaiting to be put into use. Next to this workbench, I put a previously unused, small table where I positioned my monitor and PC. I spent the late afternoon converting the PC from Ubuntu back to Window XP (… I can’t commit the time needed to tweak Unbuntu to my needs). Now I need to move the my KPC-3+ from the radio room out to the garage and see if I can get a basic packet station operational.

Also been preparing for the upcoming RV DXpedition. I’ll be taking the ARSIB along with the vertical dipole, but was also thinking about taking a G5RV. I’m also going to try and use a 75M hamstick, we’ll see how that works out.

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.