QRZ Logbook

Saturday, February 25, 2017

How many???

How many ham operators does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
  • 1 to install the bulb...
  • 1 telling them they're using the wrong bulb...
  • 1 telling them they've installed bulbs for 35+ years and that he knows how to properly install one and that the installer's doing it right...
  • 3 to commandeer the group conversation to discuss a completely different topic (e.g. body aches/pains)...
  • 1 to post on Facebook about how frustrating it is to listen to all the garbage in the house over a stupid bulb...
  • 7 to come into the group just to say they're "listening" then back away...
  • 1 to question whether the installer has the right license class for the wattage of the bulb being installed...
  • 1 to casually throw in the fact that you only need a 10w bulb to see most things in the house...
  • 1 who is a Brand X bulb mark and has all the products made by that company...
  • 1 who worked for the light bulb company telling you how great that bulb is...
  • 1 who hasn't worked for the Brand X light bulb company (or any light bulb company for that matter) to tell you why Brand Y is still better...
  • 1 to compare Brand X and Brand Y and brag that their Chinese bulb does the same job for less money...
  • 1 who is the house owner and jumps in there to tell everyone to play nice or he'll shut off the power to the house so that no one gets to use their light bulbs PERIOD...
  • And 1 to announce to the entire house that there will be an ARES net in 5 minutes and clear the house so that they can use it.
If you've been in ham radio for any length of time you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Has it been a year already?

Sometimes it's easier to SAY you're going to update your blog than it is to actually UPDATE your blog...

A lot has happened since I last posted. Most of it in the last 5 days. Here's the ham radio side of things:

Because of a drought, the city of Gatlinburg suffered major wildfire damage last Monday and citizens and business owners/employees have yet to be allowed back in. As of now, 10 people have died and several are still missing.

You can listen to a portion of the net I helped call here:

The following night, an EF-2 tornado hit McMinn County and did damage to several buildings. 2 fatalities were reported and several were injured.

I called nets on both of these nights. Already riding on very little sleep following the disastrous Chimney Tops 2 fire, I called the SKYWARN net that was needed for several severe storms that hit the region the night after the Gatlinburg Firestorm. We tried a few new concepts and they seem to be working out well.

In other news, I've revamped the East Tennessee SKYWARN site and We've rebooted This Week in Amateur Radio.

And in yet more SKYWARN news, it's that time again for SKYWARN Recognition Day this weekend. It runs from 7PM ET Friday to 7PM ET Saturday (0000z-2400z).

I've been running full steam this whole week, so I'm pretty drained. I promise to elaborate on all of this at a later time this weekend.

On a personal front, I left my previous job of 13 years and have taken on a new job at Scripps Networks Interactive. I've been blessed with an amazing career opportunity and so far, I am (hopefully) making the best of my new career.

Again, not much time to devote for now, but I will update this weekend. Hopefully I will have some time to devote to this on a regular basis. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

SKYWARN Recognition Day 2015 is TONIGHT!!!

Just a quick reminder that tonight after about 9PM, I should be at the National Weather Service participating in SKYWARN Recognition Day
It's an annual event where the local NWS bureaus have ham stations set up to make contacts on HF, VHF, UHF, repeaters, APRS, you-name-it. 
This year, I'm taking my DMR radio to work up a few digital contacts if possible. I got permission from the folks at Vol-Net to use their system, so hopefully we'll be able to make it work.
I'll attempt to tweet out my frequency as I go along (@k4hsm). Sometimes I'll be scanning around, other times I may call CQ on a dead frequency. I typically get on repeaters more than HF, but that changes based on band conditions.
So do be looking for me tonight. SKYWARN Recognition Day goes for 24 hours from 7PM-7PM ET (0000-2400Z) so if I'm not around, be listening for WX4MRX all day, because someone should be there!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

My Tennessee QSO party activity (or what should've been!)

Well, I *WAS* supposed to participate mobile during the Tennessee QSO Party this past Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, the stars bounced out of alignment and a number of things conspired to prevent my quest from being fulfilled.

Just after work on Friday, I felt an "itch" in the back of my throat, which became the late summer cold I've been contending with all weekend long and still am fighting off. I was awake most every night trying to sleep, and too tired to stay awake during the day. But couldn't rest because my throat felt like it hot coals were embedded in my larynx and lying down made it worse.

Needless to say, talking hurt and not talking made the pain only more noticeable.

Fast-forward to Sunday morning. I got a text at 9am asking when I would be heading up to Morristown to meet my friend Jim to operate mobile. I texted back that I was recovering from a cold but I was getting better and wanted to get up and get mobile.

However, Jim couldn't have me around because...well...I was sick!!! The reasons are many but they made sense and I was extremely bummed out, because we'd been planning this for months. All gone to hell in a handbasket.

I eventually got out of bed and got on the radio and tried calling "CQ TNQP" on PSK31, and was met with about as much enthusiasm as a fox in a chicken coop. I finally made one contact after putting myself on the DX Cluster, basically announcing that I'm out there if anyone cared. Another station tried to reach out to me, but it was in the middle of a sneezing fit and when I finally took care of it they were gone.

I did get on voice - albeit unenthusiastic - and called CQ and worked several here and there on 40 meters, which seemed to be the main band to work on this day. But most all the bands were dead until late in the afternoon heading into the evening. Someone even put me out on the cluster and I became a hotspot right as my throat began to feel the effects of talking over several hours. Perfect timing, again!

Overall, I made just under 100 contacts. It wasn't my greatest showing. But I probably would have had way better success had I not gotten sick to begin with...

It seems I have a history of this happening when contest time appears, no matter which I want to work. One Field Day event we did at Melton Hill Dam, the day it took place, my voice was lost due to allergies, and I pinched a nerve in my shoulder blade area and moving my neck hurt tremendously. But, I had to stay because the group was using my callsign (I was the only extra class licensee at the time) and I had to stay in order to allow us to use the full allotment of bands to operate. To make matters worse, I checked into the Tennessee Phone Net to relay some bonus points (no one else apparently wanted to help!!!) and they couldn't hear me...BECAUSE I HAD NO VOICE!!! Imagine both my frustration as well as the receiving station trying to hear me, as well as all the other stations (im)patiently waiting their turn...

There's always next year, I suppose.

ULS Still Down (to the surprise of nobody familiar with government)

In case you weren't aware, the FCC took down the ULS site for upgrades and it was expected to be offline for the extended labor day weekend, but, since this is the federal government we're talking about, it turned out about as well as you would expect.

From the ARRL:
“Over Labor Day weekend, a dedicated FCC team worked day and night to complete major IT upgrades,” the FCC’s Chief Information Officer David A. Bray, said in a statement. “This work included physically moving more than 200 different legacy servers out of FCC's headquarters to a commercial service provider.” This move — a cost-saving measure, Bray explained — ran into trouble when it was determined that additional cabling was needed to complete the transition. “Unfortunately, this delayed completion of all of the system upgrades — even with the FCC team working around the clock throughout the holiday weekend,” Bray explained.
For now, attempts to log in to the ULS to look up callsigns (or apply for a vanity callsign for free!) is met with "page cannot be displayed" errors or a continuous "loading" action which will eventually time out.

It should be back online today, but I'm not holding my breath for it.

Only time will tell.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tennessee QSO Party this Sunday SUNDAY SUNDAY!!!!

It's that time of year, again, the Tennessee QSO Party is about to happen, and this year I'm going to be doing it a bit different.

Most times I've operated from home during the party, however this year, I'm tagging along with a couple of friends and we're going to go mobile, operating along county lines to work stations and hopefully make a lot of contacts and points. We'll be using my callsign (K4HSM) during the event.

Jim, N4UHZ, Chuck, K4KKH, and I are going to hit the road in Jim's truck and gallivant across upper East Tennessee to make as many contacts as possible in the course of the 9 hours that the contest is active (Sunday, September 6, 2-11PM Eastern Time, or 1800z Sunday, September 6 until 0300z Monday, September 7, 2015) enjoying the views and the camaraderie as we trek across a few of the highways and by-ways of Tennessee.

I will be trying to update our progress via Twitter (@k4hsm) and I hope we'll be talking to you on the air!

The rules and such are here.

We'll try to operate from Hamblen, Grainger, Hancock, Claiborne, and Hawkins counties, and perhaps Greene, Jefferson, and Knox if there's time. We'll be mainly on voice but if we can get digital to work (PSK31) we may get that going as well. Jim's got D-Star but we're not sure how it will work, since no repeater QSO's are allowed.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

US-based BridgeCom producing sub-$100 220 MHz HT

These days there are a lot of handy-talkies (HTs) being produced from China that are selling like crazy because in part they are so inexpensive. It caters to the amateur radio operator on a budget. I myself own 4 and purchased 8 for some kids in my daughter's school radio club for when some of the students get their license.

I find it rather ironic that 20 years ago, a lot of the "old timers" in ham radio were saying that the expense of the hobby was going to kill ham radio, how $200 HT's and $300 mobiles and $500 HF rigs were going to suck the life out of the hobby and that it was going to deter new hams from coming in.

Now, those exact same hams are complaining that these "cheap Chinese radios" are going to be the downfall of the hobby, allowing any Tom, Dick, and Harry to get on the air and cause chaos and havoc. So which is it, "expensive and a deterrent", or "cheap and all-inclusive"?

It does seem like the VHF and UHF bands are growing with new hams getting the Baofengs/Pofungs, Wouxuns, Anytones, TYTs and Jetstreams...but to me, if it keeps the bands active and encourages new hams, and especially young hams, into getting on the air, then let them have at it. To me at least, there's not a difference in quality of the signal (although programming the radios can be a bear without the cable and software). Typically, as long as you're not talking about what kind of radio you are using, then it doesn't matter what kind of radio you're on, does it? Ignorance often is bliss.

The big reason I bought the Wouxun KG-UV2D was the fact that it had 220 MHz (1.25 meter) capability. Until then, getting a 220 MHz radio was an expensive endeavor. I had not seen a 220 MHz radio selling for less than $200. And it seemed that the older the radio, the more "valuable" it was to the seller. 

BridgeCom BCH-220
I have 2 of the Wouxuns and the biggest reason was that they offered 2m/220 dual band capability and at about $105 it was too good to pass up. Unfortunately 220 MHz is still a bit quiet. 

Chances are the reason for the animosity about the "cheap radios" from some is the fact that they are made in China. While that can be a point of contention for some, the fact is that these radios are out there, people are buying them - and using them - and it's not really affected the bottom line of the heavyweights such as ICOM, Yaesu, and Kenwood, at least not as far as I can tell.

However, if you're interested in getting on 1.25 meters, and don't have a lot of cash to spare, and are really trying to keep in tune with "Made in the USA", then BridgeCom out of Missouri may just have the radio for you.

Due to be released in September, the BCH-220 is a single-band portable radio that should hopefully satisfy the ham who wants to get on 220 MHz on a budget, yet not have to "lower themselves" to purchasing from outside of the US. Current selling price is $80.

Although it appears to be just a monoband radio, it has 199 memories, tactile buttons to press, 2/5W power output, is durable and easy to carry, weighing 230 grams, or just over a 1/2 lb.

Below is a video from BridgeCom VP Tim King describing the radio.

This may be my next 220 radio!