Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Illinois QSO Party results

The good folks that run the ILQP quickly turned around the logs and tonight they issued the final results of the contest. To give out results for a late October contest on Dec 29 is amazing. Nice job!

Usually I have operated as a portable station but this year I was a rover station so we could activate some rare counties in southern IL. The PRIME ARA rovers helped out our club score plus it helped push our clubs anchor station W9AIU/P into 1st place for portable 4 county corner.

My score put me in 5th place in the rover category. I lost the last hour of the contest due to not being able to get on 80 meters. I will fix that for 2016.

I look forward to the "new" strategy for 2016.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Callsign display by Jim's Engraving KF4NBG

Mrs. ND9E had this made for my Christmas gift. Jim's Engraving was great to work with per Mrs. ND9E and it arrived in plenty of time and was well packaged.


The display has an LED strip in the base that is remote controllable. You can select different colors, fade patterns and random colors. Below shows it transitioning to green and blue.

Now I need to clear a spot in the shack to display it.

Santa supports NPOTA!

These items will get put to use on Jan 2nd for my activation of the Ulysses S Grant house as part of the National Parks on the Air program. Lets get this event started!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

PIGLET interface by Pignology (updated 12/26)

As I prepare for the National Parks on the Air activation from my mobile I wanted a way to log from the drivers seat while stationary. I have used paper logging in the past as there is no easy place to manage a laptop. I have used the Hamlog app for years for casual logging but never in a fast paced event. I played around with the app on my tablet but I thought I could log on paper faster unless I could get the Hamlog to talk to the radio so things such as the frequency and mode fields could be populated.

I purchased the PIGLET from Pignology with is an interface that uses wifi to talk to the phone or tablet and gives a DB9 serial port output to the radio. Since I use ICOM radios it needed to talk to the CIV port on the radio. Pignology also sells a CT-17 module that plugs into the PIGLET's serial port and then outputs to CIV.

The phone or tablet sees the PIGLET as a wifi network so you join that network. The serial port on the PIGLET has a default baud rate of 38.4K which the ICOM radios don't support. So you use a terminal program such as Tera Term on your PC and you plug that into the PIGLET serial port and reprogram the port speed to 19.2K or less. Directions are in the on-line users guide. Next you set the radios CIV port speed to match.

Then with the Hamlog app, you set the baud rate to match the radio and set the CIV address. Now the radios frequency and mode will automatically update Hamlog. For simple logging you type in the callsign and hit save. Then it is ready for the next contact. To make it easier I paired up a bluetooth keyboard to the tablet. My plan is for the tablet to hang from the steering wheel at eye level and the keyboard will be on my lap.

Customer support from Pignology has been great and I would recommend them anytime. I should mention that the Pignology folks are the ones who wrote the Hamlog app.


Update 12/26/15

I needed a case for the PIGLET and the CT-17 board mainly because of the CT-17. Normally I could always count on one of the plastic hobby cases from Radio Shack to solve the problem but there are no Radio Shacks within 25 miles now and they don't have this kind of stuff anymore. Since I am a sucker for cool boxes I remembered that I had a iPhone case that I figured would come in handy someday. I found it (took awhile) and it is a very good fit. I glued a foam pad that I found in yesterday's Christmas trash into the bottom. Then I drilled holes to align with the CIV and power cables, added grommets and then stuck the boards to the pad with double-sided tape. With the lid on it I will feel better about it in the floor board of my truck during a mobile operation. Now I am curious if a Tiny Trak 4 with the bluetooth module would fit in one of these cases. 

Without lid

and with lid.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

ARRL 10 meter contest is over (for me)

This contest was loads of fun with me realizing that I need to try a different antenna next year. The antenna I used was a fairly low inverted L because it was slightly more quiet than my vertical. I worked lots of CA stations until late this afternoon. The last hour I could only work the equator and south but I did get a VK2 station. This was all mainly on CW and all search and pounce.

Now it is time to focus on my National Parks on the Air activation on Jan 2nd. 73 everyone.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

ARRL 10 meter contest

It has been interesting experiencing the propagation on this contest. I started Friday night on CW with making 14 contacts with 12 of them from Florida. Then on Saturday morning I could hear the east coast folks working DX stations but no one could hear me. Saturday afternoon I was able to get west coast stations and then they faded out leaving DX stations to the south. So far I only have 3900 points with very few multipliers because I keep working the same states. Regardless, it has been fun!

Monday, December 7, 2015

National Parks on the Air activation

I am excited to activate the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site on Jan 2nd from their parking lot. Operating times will be 1800z to 2200z. I will be using the mobile setup that I use for state QSO parties so the antenna will be attached to the truck and can be setup and torn down quickly. This location sits in a ravine along some very large power lines so we will see how this works.

Logging will be with voice recorders so hopefully I can keep things moving.

NPS unit number is NS73.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

ARRL 160 meter CW contest final comments

The ARRL 160 meter CW contest finished up today and it was a blast! I decided to go QRP this year and was starting to get discouraged when I only had 10 contacts on Friday night. I know that 160 meters is mainly a nighttime band but I guess I gave up too early on Friday night.

On Saturday evening I got started around 8PM (0200z) and there were more stations for my search and pounce approach. I noticed at 10PM (0400z) that some stations that could not hear me earlier I could work now. So the real fun began for the next 3 hours. I wound up with 88 contacts and a score of 6512.

Some things I learned and already knew. 


I learned that 160 meters continues to get better later into the night and that I need to plan accordingly.

Timing is key for QRP operation during a contest.

Already knew:

My inverted L that slopes to the southeast needs to be improved. This is my second season for this antenna and the 3rd contest. It is clear that this is mainly a NVIS antenna for the midwest and strongest signals coming from the southeastern states. I only heard one 6 land call and that was at 1AM (0700z).

Friday, December 4, 2015

ARRL 160 meter CW contest

I am hoping to play in the 160 meter CW contest. Just finished putting up the inverted L for the winter, log is ready to go and the wattmeter is in-line reading 5 watts. Equipment being used is:

LDG AT-200Pro tuner
K42 CW Keyboard (love it!)
153' Inverted L with a Balun Designs 9:1

Update: With only about an hour of operating time I was able to get 10 contacts logged.

QRP can be lonely!

Monday, November 30, 2015

IC-7100 control head mount idea

I needed a temporary control head mount for my IC-7100 when using it in my work vehicle. I tried some of the usual cup-holder mounts with the flexible necks but they moved around too much. I wanted to be able to put my elbow on the center console armrest and my hand resting on the control head. While sitting in my favorite thinking spot (garage), I spotted a Harbor Freight welding rod holder. I wondered how it would fit in one of my cup-holders in my work Jeep. The fit was almost perfect but too tall. I shortened the rod holder with a saw until I got the right height.

Next I cut off a nub from the lid of the rod holder that is used to tie the lid to the other half of the rod holder. Now I had a flat spot to place the IC-7100 control head. I figured out where the 1/4" hole needed to be and drilled the hole. I used a large rubber flat washer between the head and the mount to keep the head from spinning.

Final touch was to paint it black to match the interior. Now I keep a spare welding rod holder around for other possible radio mounting emergencies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Power center for field work

Here are pictures of my second power center that I built. It is used for portable use and sometimes for voltage stabilization during mobile operations. The box has a 35ah lead acid battery, power poles on the battery side and power poles on the dc-dc converter output. It also has 12v accessory ports along with USB ports. Below is a run down on the parts used.

Minn Kota trolling motor battery box
35ah lead acid battery (battery commonly found in wheelchairs and scooters)
Blue Sea battery breaker
30 amp self-resetting circuit breakers for each powerpole
TGE Electronics DC to DC booster
Lots of lugs and shrink tubing!

The little toggle switch on the left side is for switching the volt meter between the battery side powerpoles and the DC converter output powerpoles.

Rocker switch on the right is for turning on the DC converter. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Managing QSL cards with DX Engineering photo frame

I would love to have a nice shack with a wall lined with QSL cards but that is not possible. A great alternative is a photo frame and scanner from DX Engineering. All of my QSL cards have been scanned and uploaded to the photo frame. The photo frame displays the cards in a loop.


Here is a picture of the photo frame.

Picture of the scanner.

The scanner does not copy full size 8 1/2" x 11" such as some contest certificates. For those I use a full size scanner and transfer the file to the SD card in the photo frame. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

ICOM AH-4 tuner

The AH-4 by ICOM has to be one of the easiest and versatile pieces of ham radio gear I have experienced. I use when mobile,  for portable operations and occasional home use. Here are photos of a trailer hitch mount I will be using for the National Parks on the Air program and the Missouri QSO Party.

Mast is a S9v31 product.
PVC is 3" with a 3" to 1 1/2 adapter.
Wire is a rubber coated test lead wire which is very flexible.