Wednesday, September 27, 2017

CW Academy - Lesson 5

The key to learning morse code is practice, practice, practice. Obviously copying is the focus for most people as it is very challenging. Any time I find a few minutes I throw the earbuds in and practice copying. I definitely exceed the suggested one hour practice time per day.
What I did not do very well for the first three lessons was practice sending. During the three days prior to Lesson 4 I started adding sending practice to the mix. Morse Trainer not only has the copy content in it but it also provides words for sending. You play the word and then you try to emulate it exactly as you key it. I thought I would show you what I use.

This setup is extremely easy to transport everywhere I go which allows me to practice just about anywhere. The paddles are a kit from American Morse Equipment and are called DCP (Dirt Cheap Paddles). The kit is $49 US shipped to your door (domestic). I built the kit at work one day over lunch and it is very simple to do. The keyer is a kit from HamGadgets and is called the Ultra PicoKeyer. Be sure to read up on this because it packs alot of features for what you pay for it including memories to store those repetitive transmissions for field day or contesting. It is $34.95 and shipping needs to be added. It was my first attempt at kit building and I found that I extremely enjoy soldering kits up and hoping they work at the end, Hi Hi. I recommend both of these products, not only for practice but for use anytime. Both companies provided me with excellent customer service as well.

So, this is what I looked like for much of our class Monday night. I felt comfortable going into class as I did not have much trouble with the lesson while studying in Morse Trainer since class 4 ended on Thursday but somewhere between 5 and 7:30 Monday my brain turned to mush. This lesson introduced  M,W, 3, 6, and our first punctuation mark, ?. At the beginning of class we started with me, one of the NC guys, and the instructor. We had one at a JOTA meeting, one absent for work, and the other Hoosier out for an unknown reason. We gained one after the Jota meeting. We started out with words and we did not have too much problem. We did have a faux pas here and there with a and n and the other struggled with d and w, but not too terrible. We then worked on call signs. I am still breaking the habit of expecting a call sign to be in a US format but I have made progress here. We moved along to copying phrases sent by the instructor. This is where I started to go downhill. I have not overcome my bad habit of dwelling on a letter that does not immediately register. I spend too much time thinking on that letter and BAM!, (No that is not an Emeril Lagasse Kick It Up A Notch BAM) I have missed the next three.

After this we were asked to send our call sign and a phrase and I was tasked to go first. Sending came a little easier but still not smooth or worthy of being on the air in my opinion. Our fellow students had to copy what we were sending. Once we completed that our instructor, Dennis, had one of us ask a question and the others had to copy. It, like most items, had to be repeated 2 to 3 times in hopes that the students copying had it complete. By this time the third student had shown up and we had to, in turn, answer the question by returning code. Two of us had some struggles during this back and forth and the third, who I believe is the most advanced in the class, seemed to do fairly well. Our time drawing to a close Dennis told us to brush up on call signs as next week we were going to work on the Morse Trainer lesson plan and we were going to do mock qso's so that we can start learning the format. Time to go study up on sending RST's and QTH's! See you closer to the end of the week.


Friday, September 22, 2017

CW Academy - Lesson 4

Greetings! Lesson 4 is in the books and with that we are 25% done with the course. During these first four lessons I have discovered what may be my biggest obstacle in learning the code. During copying, after the first couple of letters in a word are keyed, my mind immediately races to what I think the word is going to be. When the third or fourth letter is not what I expected I quickly try to regroup but then multiple letters have passed as my mind is still trying to process what the letter was that was not what I expected. At that point I am lost. So, this is a habit that I need to try and break over the next couple of lessons and train myself to copy one letter at a time.

When I signed up for the academy I had looked all over the internet for reviews or experiences from other hams. I did not find many and I really wanted to understand what it was all about. How it functioned, how you studied, how you met up for class, what you studied, etc. That is why I decided to blog my journey and I just hope that some of you reading this are finding the answers you want and I hope others are being inspired to give morse code a shot. I can not tell you how much fun I am having and I know that the fun I am having now will not compare with what is ahead once I start making contacts.

So, this week seems to be more of a review week covering the letters and numbers introduced in the first three lessons but, we do have two new letters, U and C. With that we are now working with half the letters of the alphabet and four numbers. Last week I struggled to find quality study time for lesson three but was able to find a little more this week. Remember they suggest one hour per day minimum at no longer than 30 minutes per sitting. I believe that my pre academy attempts to learn morse code were doomed from the start as I found most of my free time during my commute back and forth to work. Driving takes a ton of concentration and, at least in my case, I was not "hearing' the letters. I heard them but I did not hear them. I hope that makes sense.

Attendance this week was down. Our N. Indiana student was absent as was one of the Tarheels. We did have an issue this week with one of our students having bandwith problems and he dropped out of the Skype call multiple times over the 45-50 minutes we were in class. We started out this week in much the same manner as the others, copying words sent by the instructor. I did pretty well on this but still struggle occasionally with a and n. The problem with this is that if you think about it you will miss the next couple letters. When we practice copying the instructor will send the words, and phrases for that matter, 2 or 3 times. If we all get it faster then he queries one of us for the translation. It is mixed whether I get it quickly or not at all sometimes. Next we moved on to copying three word phrases. This was my best week yet on phrases. If you stop to think about a letter in a phrase your are really setting yourself back as you will miss words instead of letters while you think about it.

Our third task of the evening involved copying call signs. I have work to do here as my mind is locked on the US format of a one or two letter prefix, a number, and a one to three letter suffix. My mind immediately looks for that pattern and when a DX call comes around I question what I heard. I will focus on this going forward.

Next we were told to send our call sign followed by three word phrases. My fingers decided to disrespect me tonight. I am usually much better at sending but tonight got me. I was not alone as the other students had their fair share of problems as well. I have been focusing on copying and barely putting the time in on the paddles so I think I may need to allot a little more time each lesson to sending as well.

After this we finished up with both copying and sending longer phrases. We were sent a few seven word phrases and I did well. On one in particular I missed a letter in the third word and was able to shake it out of my mind and begin copying again. I picked up the last three words which helped me not bomb the entire phrase. I need to continue to condition myself.

Well, this is long enough so I am going to stop here. Lesson 5 coming up and things are going to start heating up a bit. I hope you all are enjoying the blog and if you are thinking about trying CW I encourage you to do so. It is rewarding and a load of fun!!

--... ...--
.-- ----. -... .-. ..

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

CW Academy - Lesson 3

Thank you all for following this journey to what hopefully ends up with me being a no code ham. The views on the posts about this quest are amazingly high and I appreciate the following. If only it was a paying gig, hi hi.

I looked back over the posts about the first two lessons and realized I did not cover one thing. I told you where you could go practice the lessons but I did not tell you how to set Morse Trainer up. This is information I wanted once I signed up for the course. Within Morse Trainer you can set your tone, wpm (character speed), and wpm. This is also known as the Farnsworth method. It allows you to learn the characters at the quicker speed but slows the word spacing down to make it easier. Once you have the characters down you can increase the wpm. The goal is at a full 20 wpm. We are currently running 20 wpm character speed at a 10 wpm pace. Down the road we have been told we will increase the wpm to 20. So, you have the information that will allow you to go practice on your own.

Lesson 3 adds the letters R H D and L and the numbers 2 and 5. So one week in we are working with eleven of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet and four of the ten numbers.After a pretty dismal performance last week I am happy to say I got some redemption last night.

It was a poor showing at first as there were only two students that showed up at 1930, me and one of the Tarheel guys. The other NC operator was absent due to some work travel. The other two students ended up showing up late, one of which was the N. Indiana no show from last week who was sick, and the other, our Canadian who was delayed by a Boy Scout meeting. I have been surprised at the number of amateurs that are involved with Boy Scouts.

The lesson started out with the instructor sending us words and we had to copy. The same format was used. Raise your hand when you have it and the last one pretty much gets called on. I did pretty well in this drill and we moved on to 3 word phrases. In the middle of this is when the other two students arrived on the call. There were one or two phrases that I struggled with during this time and of course I got the question, "How did you do Steve?" and I responded with a very confident, "As far as you know I did great!". That broke up the seriousness a little. About this time Dennis, the instructor, showed off the QSL card that he received that day from a CWop in Bahrain. One of the students paddled out the call sign and that led to a short stint of the instructor holding up DX QSL cards from his ragchews and contests and we would send the call sign.

Finally we moved on to our final task of the evening which involved us sending our call sign followed by a 3 word phrase. Sometimes the phrases make sense and sometimes they don't. When it was my turn I paddled out (one of these days I will try straight key and I will be able to say tapped or punched out) the following:

.-- ----. -... .-. ..  .-. . -..  -.. .. .-. -  .-. --- .- -..

You got it! W9BRI red dirt road

During this time I was happy that others commented on the mechanical noises during sending on one of the KX3's. I mentioned this in my last post and it also caused others in the room problems in copying his transmission. He is going to try something different next class to see if he can separate the paddles and the computer somewhat to pull the sound away from his speakers.

It still takes most of us 2 to 3 times to catch some of the phrases but we seem to be getting better. The important thing is that it is alot of fun and becoming a CWop will be a great accomplishment and an honor to follow in the footsteps of so many greats. I hope to get as good one day as W9ILF (Ivin) and KB9BVN (Brian), a couple of my elmers. Don't forget to check out their blogs listed over to the right and make sure to check out the Adventures with CW blog (W9ODX) as well.

--... ...--

Saturday, September 16, 2017

CW Academy - Lesson 2

Last night, Thursday September 14th, was lesson 2 of my Level 1 CW Academy class. Not sure what happened to our Northern Indiana student but he did not make it in last night. I put in the time since Monday on the Morse Trainer app and I was feeling good about how I would perform during lesson 2. That feeling was pretty short lived.

Everything started off bad when I arrived home only minutes prior to the start of class and I had to rush around getting things set up. When I fired up the computer to get Skype rolling Windows decided it needed to do some reconfiguration after an update which cost me a couple of precious minutes. That set me off right off that bat. The instructor thankfully called me a third time on Skype and I was able to participate. My frustration became apparent as soon as he started to send words and I started struggling right off the bat.

I have come to the realization that I have to be in a quiet environment to copy effectively right now. I hope that will change down the road but right now it is what it is. I started the class with the shack window open and even with headphones on I heard the kids playing outside and my dogs barking downstairs. My concentration blown I excused myself to shut the window so I could try to resurrect what was left of the session. I did do a little better going forward once I got some of the noise out of the way but I still had some issues.

One student is sending on a KX3 with the optional paddles. His computer microphone picks up every clack of his paddles and kills the rhythm for me. Another has a tone that it seems struggles to get out. I am not sure if I will do better in the upcoming classes by not being late to start with and lowering my frustration level but I sure hope so.

Anyway, some of you are stopping by because you are interested in taking the course and you are curious how it works. Notice I put all my personal stuff at the top so you would have to read through it to get to the part you wanted. I kid. I kid.

So, here it goes. Lesson 2 added letters and numbers to the original letters of T E A and N and, as an added bonus, we started numbers. The new letters were O I and S and the numbers 1 and 4. This session started out by the instructor sending us words and the four of us raising our hand when we had it. We moved on from that to copying three word phrases sent by the instructor and then he had each of us send a three word phrase and our fellow students had to copy. Beyond the problems I already stated that I had we all had some issues with copying due to improper spacing.

At the end of Lesson 1 we were told to practice sending our call signs. We were asked to send them tonight and our fellow students had to copy. This went fairly well except for some of the students who had not learned some of the letters that were in some of the calls. Again, sending suffered some due to our spacing. The instructor suggested we start practicing using the word Asian to work on our spacing because it is easy to run together and the word be unintelligible.

We returned to sending three word phrases and copying until time for the lesson to end. We will be back for Lesson 3 on Monday. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

CW Academy - Lesson 1

.- -. -..  ... ---  .. -  -... . --. .. -. ... .-.-.-

Last night, 9/11, was our initial meeting for Level 1 CW Academy class. All five students and the instructor showed up so that was the good sign. There was some concern earlier in the day about the possible need to evacuate for our instructor, K2SX Dennis, as he is a resident of Pawleys Island, SC. Fortunately for him, and us, at the time of class he was only experiencing 30 to 40 mph wind gusts and the authorities had not felt the need to evacuate his area. Because the class was held on Skype we were able to hear some of the gusts in the background as we completed our lesson.

I am trying to recall if I told you in another post that I was attending CW Academy and where my fellow students hailed from so pardon me if I have. My class consists of Gerald from Canada, Craig and Tim from opposite ends of North Carolina, Joel from northern Indiana, and myself. We started out with a new round of introductions as Gerald had not been on our earlier meet and greet call to test out Skype last month. After introductions Dennis asked us to try and flip the camera around and show what our gear was that we would be using to participate in the course.

There were two or three Elecraft KX3's, which of course made me drool, and each of those students were using the KXPD3 paddles that are on option with that rig. There was also an Icom IC-706 paired with Bencher BY-2 paddles, a Yaesu FT-857D (running off a deep marine cycle battery), and my FT-991A with Bencher BY-1 paddles. You do not need anything nearly as elaborate as any of these rigs to participate in the class. If you have a key, keyer, computer for Skype, and something that will put out a sidetone then you are set.

The course follows the Morse Trainer on Morse Trainer is a program that was developed specifically for the CW Academy courses. You can find it here. The typical course involves meeting twice per week covering two lessons during that time. The meeting nights are determined by the instructor after polling the students to find the two nights during the week that work for everyone. My class is on Mondays and Thursdays and runs approximately one hour, beginning at 1930 EDT or 2330 UTC.

The first class centered on the letters T E A and N. Dennis started by sending the letters in random order and asked us to raise our hands when we were able to copy. He likes to call on the last person to raise their hand or the last person who is unable to copy. After a few minutes of this he asked us to send the four letters in random order as well and our fellow students had to copy. We moved on to sending short snippets of two to three words using the letters for the lesson. This pretty much ended the session.

I think the biggest struggle for many of us was copying some of the sending of the others. Spacing seemed to be the most prominent problem we were having during sending which caused us problems copying at different points throughout the lesson.

I hope to write a little review of every session as long as it does not interfere with my studying for the next lesson. If all goes well I will see you in a few days.

--... ...--

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The 400 Came Home!! The 400 Came Home!!!

Just jumping in for a quick note to say that the FTM-400XDR came back last week. The radio is working great and the first thing that I noticed was how much operating on 2m on my work commute had become a part of my life and how much I truly missed it while the radio was at Yaesu.

Back on August 9th I wrote about the radio leaving for the emergency room, aka Yaesu repair facility. You can find that post here. Due to some work obligations I did not actually get the radio on UPS until the 14th. They let me know 4 days later that they had received it and would be evaluating it for repair. What seemed like forever passed before another email arrived explaining that they replaced the internal speaker and that parts and labot were under warranty so no charges would be added. The radio was shipping the next day and it actually arrived in back in town on 9/6. So, if you take away the eight days of transit you are left with 15 days of actual repair process. I would say that is not too bad.

So, if you have a radio in need of repair get it sent in. Just try to have a backup in place so you can avoid withdrawals like I did.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

QRP Dummy Load

There are quite a few choices one can make for a QRP dummy load kit. There are offerings from QRP Labs, QRP Guys, Oak Hills Research, etc. Sure you can buy a low power dummy load ready to go for $30 or so but there were two factors that fueled my decision. One, I really like putting things together. I find it relaxing to sit at my bench listening to the radio and soldering things up. I never did this type of stuff in the past so it is pretty exciting for me when you are done and the moment of truth comes and you power it up or run the test and things are as they should be. The second factor that made me decide to purchase a kit was the cost. $30 plus shipping or $14 to my door. Well, that is not a decision that takes long for me. You see, I am a self proclaimed cheapskate. Well, I guess not so self proclaimed as my wife and kids would probably tell you the same thing about me.

So, I looked all over the internet and settled on a 10 watt dummy load kit from Oak Hills Research (OHR). This particular dummy load is actually a joint venture between OHR and the Colorado QRP Club (CQC). It consists of two 5w 100ᘯ metal oxide resistors, an SO-239 connector, and two adapters. You get both a UHF to UHF adapter and a UHF to BNC adapter. This is the perfect size to throw in a backpack or go kit for when you find that perfect operating position. The best part? It takes longer for the soldering iron to heat up than it does to make it. After I got my soldering done I performed the obligatory check and it read a perfectly acceptable 50.1Ω.

There were many other kits available that I really liked the look of but some, with a piece of PCB attached, seemed a little less "combat ready" than this all metal offering. The other thing I found is that the customer service is second to none from OHR. Marshall, N1FN, was excellent at communicating with me throughout the order and shipping process and we had a nice conversation about some of the other products that are offered. Check out what they have to offer by going to Milestone Technologies, which seems to be the mothership for OHR, Morse Express, and Ameco. Make sure you tell Marshall that Steve McQueen, W9BRI, sent you. After all, who could forget a name like that?

Until next time.....

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

USS Indianapolis

Perhaps my most rewarding experience in amateur radio so far occurred the first weekend in June of this year. The annual Museum Ships on the Air event took place June 3rd and 4th and a few friends and I decided to accept an invitation to operate from the mock station located inside the Indiana War Memorial.

As some of you may know, the USS Indianapolis was hit by a Japanese torpedo at 0014 on 30 July 1945. At 0026 the ship was fully submerged and on the way to the bottom of the Phillipine sea. The ship's crew, 1,196 men either went down with the ship or were left floating in shark infested water. It is estimated that 900+ were floating in the water, hoping for rescue. Because this was a top secret mission with no escort the ship was not missed and the men were not discovered for four days, and then by accident. When discovered, the survivors of the shark infested water numbered 316. This top secret mission, which cost an extraordinary amount in human life, let alone the cost of the ship, was to deliver key components of the atomic bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima one week later. The USS Indianapolis accomplished her mission.

So, it was with great honor to operate as WW2IND for the Ships on the Air event. I spent about 3 hours on the air running SSB making 71 contacts from all over the US. My vantage point was behind this fine rig, the Icom IC-756 Pro III and we pushed the 40m signal out through a dipole mounted at 110 feet. Power was supplied with an Ameritron AL-80B pushing 450 watts.

The other amateurs that operated split the time on CW working 20m. Both of these guys are extremely proficient CW operators and you may remember them from my post about the very low power WAS contest they decided to have. You can get an update on their progress by clicking on their blogs to the right. On the left is Brian, KB9BVN, and on the right at the controls is Ivin, W9ILF. Both of these guys are great elmers and really love for people to learn morse code.

I decided to write this post for two reasons. One, the USS Indianapolis wreckage was discovered this week after 72 years. And, two, to bring this yearly event to your attention and encourage you to get involved next year and volunteer to operate. I want to leave you with a couple of pictures inside the mock radio room. I decided to watch the movie, "USS Indianapolis" last night and I was shocked to see that it looked so close to the actual. If you get a chance, check the movie out and definitely watch for the next Museum Ships on the Air event.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Antenna Test

You can't blame a guy for trying. Tried to get my Yaesu FT-60R to work inside my office. Hung the N9TAX 2m/440 ladder line antenna outside my office on an air line about 15' up so I could get reception. My office is a normal wood and drywall structure but sits inside an all metal walled building. Unfortunately I did not hit any repeater on either band but when keying up I did make the intercom pop. Looks like I am going to have to get an antenna outside if I want to listen in.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Winning the Battle

So, last night I was tuning around and tried to pull in the Ohio slow code net. They hold muster every evening at 2200 UTC on 3535.35. I did not have much luck and when I did QSB quickly took the signal away so I did not stick around long. Not finding much else going on in the cw area that I could even hope to copy at my current skill level and the fact I needed to complete some paperwork for the Harley class I just taught I decided to just move to voice and tune around and listen while I worked.

As I tuned around 40m and heard the usual evening nets and ragchewers I stumbled across a Spanish station calling DX and requesting North America stations. There were some big power players in there with booming audio and he could not hear me. His signal faded in and out over the twenty minutes or so that I listened and called and finally I heard it. "W9B station, come again." My heart jumped up in speed as I repeated my call sign. "W9BRZ you are 58 into Barcelona, QSL?" W9BRZ? The old heart dropped a bit as I quickly responded with "Correction on the call. Whiskey 9 Bravo Romeo India India India."  "Copy W9BR India." I returned his signal report with a 59+ into Indianapolis and we finished our call. It was a great feeling to put my first SSB DX into the books. I have had JT65 DX but never a voice contact. 100 watts and a wire to Spain. Felt pretty good about that one.

EA3JE Spain flag Spain
Lluís Parellada Roig
Puignovell, 39
08221 Terrassa
Ham Member Lookups: 302592 
Lookups302592 (377700)
QRZ Record#1000999
Last Update2011-07-24 06:55:44
Latitude41.564589 (41° 33' 52'' N)
Longitude2.006955 (2° 0' 25'' E)
Grid SquareJN11an
Geo SourceUser supplied
Bearing56.3° ENE (from W9BRI)
Distance4418.3 mi (7110.5 km)
Long Path20438.6 mi (32892.7 km)
Sunrise05:03:03 UTC
Sunset18:48:56 UTC
ITU Zone37
CQ Zone14
QSL by Mail?No (e.g. Will this ham QSL by Postal Mail?)
QSL by eQSL?No (e.g. Will this ham QSL with eQSL?)
Uses LOTW?No (e.g. Does this ham use ARRL's LOTW ?)
Admin For(1) EA3JE
Map data ©2017 Google, Inst. Geogr. Nacional
Explore on HamGrid Maps

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Are You a Fanboy? (Or Fangirl)

We, as humans, all have different interests. We find those things that bring us pleasure and we pursue those things. We believe in those things and we tend to be happy to promote and share with others. Sometimes we become very passionate about the things we enjoy. Our hobbies help us to find peace and relaxation away from the everyday work load and daily stresses of living. My chosen hobbies involve amateur radio, motorcycling, firearms, and chasing my daughter around while she plays fastpitch softball.

Whatever your chosen hobbies are they, most times, involve tools or products that you use to participate in your interest. Radios, tuners, amps, motorcycles, riding gear, guns, calibers, etc. I could go on and on with the choices available to me in any one of my hobbies. When we become truly passionate about something we are sometimes referred to as fanboys. I have become pretty much exclusive Yaesu for the main gear and LDG for tuners. But, I also know many hams who just like good equipment and have multiple rigs in the shack from all the big producers.

I am curious who you are a fanboy, or fangirl, for. Icom? Elecraft? Kenwood? Yaesu? Begali?  Those are the big ones. Have some "off the beaten path" manufacturer you are a fanboy of? Throw it in the comments and let us all know about your favorite gear, who makes it, and why you give it the thumbs up.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Follow Me

Good Morning All.

If you enjoy reading about my Ham Adventures I have made an easy way for you to get an email whenever a new post is published. If you would like a notification please look to your right and drop your email address in the space provided. Blogger will notify you the next time I hit the publish button. Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Off To the Emergency Room

So, my return from the paradise of California has brought me challenges.On the HF side I knew I had a problem before I ever left and, as you know, I traced that back to a feedline that was either hacked by a lawnmower or a weed eater. I picked up the necessary connectors to put that back together again and will work on that this evening.

But, on the VHF / UHF side I thought everything was "just peachy" as the saying goes. So Monday, I jumped in the car to make the trek to work and catch up with my favorite amateurs on the local repeater. We were getting a little rag chewing in and as I sat back and listened it happened.

I know you can't hear through a picture! But, I was sitting right inside the car and the audio came to a tragic end. As I looked down I still saw that the scale was indicating that both were receiving signal I just could not hear anything. I shut the radio off and powered back up. No luck. I made it to work and went inside. Twice before lunch I cycled the power again hoping to get audio again. When I went to lunch I got the idea to throw some earbuds at it. It was working! Positive step, right?

Wrong. Pull the earbuds out and no audio. I shut the radio off again and fired it back up. Radio had audio but it sounded like a twenty year old speaker cone rattling like the paper was deteriorating. And, it only lasted about twenty seconds. I have not been able to get any audio out since other than by wearing earbuds. So, the FTM-400XDR will be boxed up and sent to the ER at Yaesu Community Hospital in Cypress, CA.

The only thing that sucks is that I was only fifteen minutes or so from there during my stay in Cali. Just my luck.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What is Your Go To Store?

After writing the HRO Anaheim post I got curious about a couple things. The first thing was if the locations of the various stores were based on the amateur operator population in the states they were in. So I went to Google and checked it out. My research is only based on stores everyone hears about. HRO, DX Engineering, Gigaparts, R and L, Universal Radio, and Main Trading Co. I am sure there are plenty more but these are the ones that we all hear about. Here is what I found.

DX Engineering
Ohio - 27,965

Alabama - 12,002
Nevada -  7,594
**Interesting to find out that there is a Gigaparts distribution center less than 10 miles away.

Arizona - 19,950
California - 104,950
Colorado - 17,008
Delaware - 1,704
Georgia - 18,507
New Hampshire - 5,399
Oregon - 18,662
Texas - 52,141
Virginia - 19,671
Wisconsin - 11,136

Main Trading Co.
Texas - 52,141

R and L
Ohio - 27,965

Universal Radio
Ohio - 27,965

To me, it is quite obvious that most locations are located in states that have a higher amount of licensed operators than others but I do not understand how the NE area gets stores when they are in the bottom tier of licensed operators. HRO has two stores in that area. The area east of the Mississippi River that is lacking covers a large area such as KY, IN, TN, MO, and MI. The only state with less than 10,000 hams in this area is Kentucky so why do we not have a store there? I am lucky that I can drive 2 hours and get to a store but there are alot of people who can't. (You can see the numbers for yourself by clicking here.)

The second thing that I was curious about is what your favorite store is. Let us all know by commenting on this post. You may reveal a smaller store we do not know about. I am sure they would appreciate it!


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Answer to Tuning Problem

The rain stopped earlier today and I decided to go and look at my antenna to see if I had the opportunity for a quick fix so I could get on the air today. If you recall I picked up the Yaesu FT-991A recently and have not had the opportunity to transmit on it due to the fact that I could not get it to tune. I dropped one end of the antenna down as I did not have the balun supported and I am going to pull it back into a tree for support. When I got it down I decided to trace the entire length of the coax to check connections and the integrity of the coax itself.

It did not take long to locate what my problem might be. I am going out on a limb and guessing that this is the cause of all my problems. Ha, who am I trying to kid? I guarantee I found my problem.
What do you think? The only explanation for this is that my stepson cut the coax mowing the yard. Guess I need to bury it as soon as I get it fixed.

Unfortunately, even though my investigation found the problem I did not have any connectors at the house to make the necessary repair to the coax to get me on the air this evening so it is going to have the wait a few days. I am going to run right now and place my order for the items I need and fix the coax on Tuesday or Wednesday when the parts arrive. You all have a great time on the air and I will join you all soon.


Visiting HRO - Anaheim

One of the biggest drawbacks in amateur radio is the fact that the places to put your hands on equipment are few and far between. In the past I have visited HRO Milwaukee and R and L in Hamilton, OH. I totally prefer to put my hands on gear before I buy it but I do not have a place in any major city in Indiana to do so. R and L is my closest chance and it is around two hours away in the Cincinnati area. The hams in Ohio are pretty lucky as they have a few stores to choose from with R and L in the southwest corner, Universal Radio in the west central region, and DX Engineering in the north east portion of the state.

So, imagine my excitement when I found out that the Anaheim Ham Radio Outlet store was only twelve miles away from the house we rented in Santa Ana. We were in town for my daughter's softball tournament and I was hoping to find some free time to make it to the store. Of course 12 miles in Southern California means at least a 25 minute drive for the most part but we did have a break where the others had beach plans and I did not want to sit in the sand. So, I made my way over one afternoon.

This location made a comeback of sorts as it was destroyed by a fire in 2000 and had to be rebuilt.

In the store there is a reminder of the fire and a tribute to the employees who worked hard to get the store back together again. The owl in the following picture was, from the explanation, a lone survivor.

When I first entered the store the staff seemed a little stand offish, although they did greet me, but I came to realize that they were in the middle of trying to do inventory while running across the room to answer the phones and take orders. I walked around the store and browsed and was taken aback at their vast inventory.

There was so much more that can not be seen in just these pictures but this was just the accessory items. They also had some old equipment for sale and I thought this old Heathkit linear amp was pretty neat and was in great shape too.

But, the really impressive display was the wall of HF and VHF/UHF transceivers that took up most of one entire wall of the store. Milwaukee had a similar wall but did not seem to have but  about 2/3 the amount of radios on display.

As I walked the line of transceivers my eyes spotted every transceiver I have owned and currently own. But there was one that really stood out and it was the first time that I ever saw it in person. I heard the trumpets blare and the lighting seemed to intensify. There it was in all its glory. The Kenwood TS-990S.

What an awesome rig. I am sure it is as fun to operate as it is easy on the eyes. So, after browsing for a few the guys got an opening in their busy day and told me to help myself to some coffee that was brewing in the corner. I got into a conversation with one of them about learning morse code and he provided some good advice. My stay was coming to an end and I felt I could not leave without making a purchase. Since I was about $6500 short for the Kenwood I decided to buy a clock that I had been looking at for the shack.

That pretty much ended my visit. I completed this post here in cool, overcast Indiana. We arrived back this morning around 1 a.m. and my hopes were to work on my antenna so that I could get the 991 on the air today. Looking like a little rain so that is out. I may just sit down at the bench and solder up the 4 State QRP tuner I purchased awhile back. 

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Ham Radio Pet Peeve

I have read a list of pet peeves in the past dealing with amateur radio. Things like people saying, "calling cq on 40m" unnecessarily as the station hearing you is also on 40m..
Some hams get a big red face when others use Hi HI.
Others cringe when an operator uses the term destinated.

I thought I would share my pet peeve just to have something to post about. Mine is pointed towards the big retail stores that send you catalogs, namely HRO and DX Engineering. When I am looking at equipment in the catalog I want to see the price listed right there, right now. I want to know if I can afford that piece of gear or do I need to look at a cheaper version. That is my pet peeve. Possibly very trivial to many but a shared pet peeve with other operators I am sure.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

California Dreamin'

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It is a great day here in Santa Ana, CA. I woke up early and got in a little morse code copying practice before getting ready to head to the softball diamonds. Yesterday I sat around the pool while the family went swimming and I read my July QST magazine. I have to catch up as the August issue already arrived.

I like operating JT65 on occasion and I recently was given a Raspberry Pi by a friend. There is a good article in the magazine that guides you on setting up the Pi and WSJT-X. I have been running WSJT-X on a normal computer and it even gave suggestions on setting up the program better. 

They also had a review on a touch key paddle kit called the TKEY-1. The paddles have no moving parts and work off the capacitance that appears when your fingers touch the paddle. Looks like a fun little kit to build. If you are not an ARRL member and do not get QST magazine you can get more info by clicking here.

If you are not an ARRL member how are you supporting amateur radio? The cost of membership is worth it just for the magazine alone as it is packed each issue with awesome reviews and great projects. Consider joining today!

I am going back to practicing and wishing I had a portable rig and a random wire with me.



I tend to stay way too busy with life sometimes between working as a Supply Chain Manager, teaching motorcycle safety classes, acting as manager of the Harley Davidson Riding Academy at Southside HD in Indy, and chasing my daughter around the US for her softball tournaments. I have two new radios, one in the car and one in the shack, but have had little time to learn and play with one of them. The mobile rig, FTM-400XDR, is pretty straight forward in most areas and a fellow ham turned me on to WiresX this weekend. What a fun and neat feature. I enjoy throwing that up while still monitoring my favorite local repeater. I have spent alot of time with the 400 as I have been in the car alot lately.

My frustration level is with the FT-991A. Not necessarily the rig itself but I seem to have some major SWR issues that were not as noticeable with the 857D. I know that my dipole really needs a good tuning and I have a suspect piece of coax that I need to replace. It would be nice if those quick fixes remedy my situation because I really want to get the 991A on the air. That will be the first project once I get back from California.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Is It Christmas?

Yesterday I told you all that I recently got a Yaesu FTM-400XDR for the car. Well, I may have struck gold for the shack as well. I am currently running the FT-857D at the house. I have, since getting my ticket in 2015, always wanted a specific radio but it has been out of reach. I have waffled many times on what rig to get but have always floated back to this one. I have enjoyed the 857 but the chance to get my MWR, Most Wanted Rig, has presented itself. So, tonight the 857 finds a new home and the FT-991A will find its way in the shack.

I have read countless reviews and watched many YouTube videos on this rig. I have listened to the pros and cons presented by the masses but I always go back to one thing. Just like a movie, just because Porky Ham down the street thinks the movie is bad doesn't mean I will. I have to go see it for myself and see if it meets my expectations, not theirs. So, tonight I hope to start testing, albeit in a very limited fashion as I do not have a tuner and I do not think the internal tuner is going to tune up a large area on my 80m OCF dipole. But, I will enjoy playing on whatever frequencies I can. I will be back at a later date to share my thoughts.


Monday, July 17, 2017

It's Been Such A Long Time....

I would bet that some of you have the Boston song in your head right now after reading that title. But, it has been a long time since I posted. Not a ton of amateur radio related things have happened lately but I did acquire a new Yaesu FTM-100DR mobile 2m / 70 cm rig. I loved it. "Huh?" you say? "Loved it?" Yep, loved it. You see, an FTM-400XDR came available soon after and was offered to me. I jumped all over it!! I have only had it for 3 days now and have not even tested half the features but just the dual receiver sells it for me. I will never have anything but dual receive from here on out and may never get rid of this radio!

I started back into my CW adventure and I am starting to be able to copy. I am turtle slow but instead of just listening to the letters on some app I am trading mp3's with another local ham, who, by the way is the one who called me out and kickstarted the blog posts again. I am going to add his blog to my favorites list on the right so be sure to go and check him out! His blog is Adventures with CW. Click on the name and it will take you right there.

Be back soon, or at least alot sooner than this time.


Monday, May 1, 2017

The Struggle Is Real

I am fortunate to have many fellow amateurs encouraging me in my quest to learn code. Many have offered to meet me on air and have a qso but I feel I am far from that. I have one elmer that offered to trade mp3 recordings with me so that I could practice decoding his and he could critique my sending skills. Every new ham should be so lucky as to have elmers who help explain whatever new mode that is being tried. We should all be willing to help in this way.

But, back to me. I am frustrated. Part of me says to give up. In my head I hear, "You will never get it." I am struggling. I received an mp3 a week or so ago and it was way too fast for my skill level. So, like a great Elmer, Brian sent me another. This time I heard the first part pretty clear. W9BRI de KB9BVN. That much was easy because I use my friend's call signs in my sending practice often. After that I continuously hit rewind to try and decode each word. Even more discouraging is the speed he sent it seems, at least in my mind, to be about 5 wpm. And I am struggling!

Tell me to send a letter and I can do it no problem. To ask me to decode a letter I struggle. I do not understand. Am I counting? Am I anticipating the word? I don't know, all I can tell you is that I am not hearing the sound even on letters I have worked on for quite some time. The struggle is real.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Code Learning Choices

For those who want to learn morse code there are many programs out there. They have different methods on how to aid you in your learning process. Some are on paper and some are auditory and you have to decide what works for you. But, I buy into what many operators say and that is that you should not learn code by counting dits and dahs and that is the problem with the paper process. Counting dits and dahs seems to slow down your words per minute (wpm) capabilities. I am learning right now at 18 wpm but if I had to learn by counting I think I would be closer to 5 wpm or less. I buy into what I believe is the best method and was suggested to me by two elmers KB9BVN and W9ILF and that is to learn by the sound of each letter. Ivin, W9ILF, plays the cello and he is very proficient in operating cw. He attributes that to the fact that he has always associated reading cw with playing music. This seems the most logical way to learn to me.

So, my learning started with the program from K7QO. Unfortunately, the files have been pulled down for site maintenance and I allowed myself to take a rest. BIG mistake. I stopped for a couple of weeks and finally downloaded the program from G4FON. I continue to work with that one and I also recently signed up for CW Academy. My course does not start until September so I have plenty of time to prepare. I found out that the Morse Code Trainer is based on the training program written by one of the CWOps academy facilitators so I am using a mixture of that, to be ready for my class, and the G4FON depending on which device I am using. Search around and find out what is best for you. There are multiple programs to choose from.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

No Code Hams

February 23, 2007 was a day that will live in infamy. To many an older ham this was the day ham radio took a turn for the worse. On this day the FCC eliminated the need for a prospective ham or a ham wishing to upgrade their license to show proficiency in receiving and sending morse code. Get on the air and tune around the bands. You will hear it as the topic of conversation in many QSO's. If you were licensed after February 23, 2007 you will find out that you are not considered a "real" ham. According to many, you, and I, might as well be talking on 11 meters (That would be CB frequency for you non ham educated readers). Probably the only thing the older hams hate worse than a no code ham is a CB operator.

I am not learning morse code to appease those who think no code hams are the reason there are so many LIDs on the air now. No, I am learning morse code as a challenge to myself. One thing I have found in amateur radio so far is challenge. I went from not knowing anything about electronics to learning a little while studying for my Technician license. My thoughts were to upgrade to General so that I could at least get on the HF bands and talk all over the world instead of 50 miles in most directions around Indianapolis. When I learned enough to pass my General exam I thought I would be content. That is when I felt challenged to see if I could pass my Amateur Extra exam. I accomplished that and now I look at learning morse code as the biggest challenge I could face in amateur radio. I can do it. I will do it. 

How far are you willing to reach? Oh yeah, you won't be calling me a no code ham forever!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Today is a tough day. Five years ago my wife and I had to make a decision like no other, one that I would not wish on anyone. We had to make the decision to remove the ventilator from our nine year old daughter and hope that she would be able to breathe on her own. She could not. 3/21/2012 at 1412 p.m. our beautiful daughter Brianna Nicole became an angel.

Pediatric brain tumors are real and their research is underfunded. If you are of the charitable type and you would like to give to our fund to help research and provide smiles for the kids battling please take the time to donate by going to our page and giving a few dollars. You can reach it here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Learning Morse Code

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A few weeks ago I decided to restart an adventure I began once before. I decided I wanted to learn Morse code. Like many others before I went into it motivated and got so frustrated that I gave up after a month or so. I have new motivation now and have found that I am doing better this time even though I am learning different letters than I did last time.

After reading the websites of a couple of well known "fists" it is quite obvious where my failure came from the first time around. I was spending too much time trying to count and not listening. By the time you try to count the dits and dahs the next letter is gone and you will never keep up. I still find myself doing this occasionally but now that I recognize it I can re focus and get back on task.

I have been using the code course by K7QO playing it on my cell phone while working, driving, and just sitting around. I realize that Chuck Adams (K7QO) says to get in a quiet room but I stay pretty busy and find time whenever I can to listen and learn. You can find the code course here.

My latest inspiration came from two fellow hams who decided to do a QRP WAS on 40m using only 2 watts max. Brian, KB9BVN, is running his newly acquired Heathkit HW-8 on a dipole in his attic. Ivin, W9ILF, is running a Small Wonder Labs SW+40 and an unkown antenna. Check out their blogs and enjoy the challenge. Brian can be found by clicking here and Ivin here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What Do I (We) Owe Amateur Radio?

Photo Credit: Doug Butchy

So what do we owe back to the hobby that brings us joy? This question is so loaded and I bet we would agree on many answers that others might give but in turn, I would also have to believe that we might be shocked at some of the answers. Not everyone is into amateur radio for the joy it might bring them. I have noticed during my brief adventure that for every ten good operators out there we have an idiot among us. But, giving them attention just provides incentive for them to work that much harder at being annoying so let us move to the subject of what do we owe amateur radio. I may have to revisit the LID situation down the road just to encourage the new operators to ignore these people but for now it is all about you, the good operator.

It is pretty simple really. We need to promote the hobby and encourage those who might be interested or newly licensed. We need to be elmers and not answer questions we have heard a million times in a condescending manner. We need to be courteous operators and follow the rules by operating in a manner that is in line with what we learn in our first studies of Technician license content. In other words, don't be a LID!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

What Do I Want from Amateur Radio?

I want what this ham has. A smile on my face. I have truly found that so far in my adventure. I find enjoyment from listening in on a ragchew while I am doing work for my second job as Riding Academy Manager at Southside Harley Davidson in Indianapolis. I like to join in on those occasionally and I frequent the OMISS net to get a few contacts here and there. I get a thrill while chasing contacts on JT65, especially when it is a new state or country.

And, I want a challenge. I find challenge in learning a new mode or method of operation. I am trying to learn the nuances and protocols of PSK31. I plan to work heavily on QRP adventures over the summer. My daughter plays fastpitch softball all over the US and this summer I will set up the Buddipole in the outfield and run the FT857D and see how many contacts I can make. We have a tournament the weekend of ARRL Field Day so I plan to work from there.

I am also in the process of learning morse code. I believe that knowing this may pay off in the long run. As frustrating as it is, I find great enjoyment in it and believe it will just add to the fun factor I take away from ham radio. The coming posts will probably deal alot with my learning adventure. It is going to be a fun ride.

So, what do you want from amateur radio? Take the time to throw it in the comments and let me know. A little food for thought for next can you give back?