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

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

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?

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Quick Step Forward

Hello All! I wanted to step away from my adventure up to this point and take a moment to be in real time. After being granted my Amateur Extra license I became a VE (Volunteer Examiner) with 2 groups. WD9BSA Bert Johnson Memorial Amateur Station VE Team and the Indiana Elmer Network VE Team.

Last night the IEN team conducted testing in Indianapolis and we had a 100% pass rate. Four new Technicians received their callsigns this morning, and with inclusion in the ULS on the FCC site, can now legally transmit on the bands that give them privileges.

Congratulations to:

KD9ICH Jared
KD9ICI Charles

All these gentlemen took the time to give the General exam a shot as well but none were successful. If you take an exam and pass at that level what do you have to lose by taking the next level? Great job guys!

We also had one gentlemen make an attempt at his General upgrade and was very successful. Congratulations to Cary KC9NEF.

If you are in the Indy metro area and you want to test follow the links above to the two teams and check out our test schedule. Both teams provide free testing so you have no excuse!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Equipment History

I thought I would tell you about the gear I have owned and the gear I currently have my eye on. Like many people who get interested in ham radio I bought a cheap China made HT (handy talkie) made by Baofeng. These radios are popular because they offer the opportunity to listen in, and transmit, on the cheap. I purchased the UV82 prior to ever receiving my ticket and monitored the local repeaters for about a month until I tested. Baofeng gets bad mojo from hams who consider them cheaply made and they have also been tested and found to have spurious emissions, a no-no in amateur radio.

After a couple months I used some Christmas money and at the end of 2015 I purchased my first mobile unit, a Yaesu FT-1900R. This little 2m rig packs a might punch through my 5/8 wave Larsen BM-150 NMO mount antenna. I still run this radio in my car and talk daily to the morning and evening rush hour crowds on the 146.700. It is really fun and consider many of these guys close friends now. It is almost like a bunch of old guys sitting at the local Hardee's in the morning drinking coffee. HaHa.

My first HF rig was purchased in September of 2016, four months after gaining HF privileges by passing my General exam. I was interested in voice and getting on JT65 so my purchase was the excellent entry level HF rig Icom 718. I also picked up the LDG IT-100 automatic tuner and a Signalink USB Sound Card Interface to run digital modes. The 718 proved to be exactly what a new ham like me needed. The simplicity of setup and operation was amazing. I had a great time running this rig starting out for a month or so on JT65 and finally making voice contacts. Did I mention I logged contacts in North and South America from a homebrew 20m dipole strung up on my bedroom walls? I love this hobby!

Icom IC-718

Being the gadget geek that I am I soon wanted to upgrade to a different rig. My choice? You guessed it if you picked the Yaesu FT-857D that you see in the header of this blog. Out went the 718 and the IT-100 and in came the 857D and LDG Z100 Autotuner. I kept the Signalink and continue to run both voice and JT65.

My current shack as of 3/9/2017

I also recently purchased a Buddipole Deluxe package so that I can operate portable. I will eventually take the 857D out of the shack and make a portable solar powered setup. When I do, I will replace the 857D in the shack with either the Yaesu FT-991A or the Icom 7300. Right now I am leaning towards the 7300 for superior receiver. So, what plans are beyond that? None at the time but remember, I am a gadget geek.

Next time we meet up I will be discussing my favorite operating modes and my latest attempt at learning something new in the ham world. Keep the adventures coming!!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Adventure Begins!!!


Welcome to the ham adventures of W9BRI. I was inspired to start this blog after a couple of fellow hams began a WAS (Worked All States) contest and have been blogging about it. In this first post I will give you a very quick look into my start in ham radio and where I am at today.

I originally became interested in amateur radio when I became interested in survival in a compromised world. I would not call myself a full blown prepper but I do believe that there are things that should be prepared for, just in case. One of the things I thought about was the fact that if the electrical grid went down we would not have the ability to find out what the situation was outside of our small radius. Cell phones, televisions, and radios would no longer work as they required electricity to either use or recharge. So how do we find out what has happened and what needs to be done? By having or knowing an amateur radio operator who has the ability to run off of solar power of course.

So, I jumped in and started studying in September of 2015 for the Technician license exam. I printed off every question in the question pool, used the ARRL, QRZ, and Ham Test Online testing sites, and downloaded the free book "No Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide" from the KB6NU website. I went crazy taking 15 to 20 exams per day and found a license exam session in my hometown of Mooresville, IN and tested. Passed on the first shot only missing one. The next couple of weeks were grueling waiting for my "ticket" to be listed on the FCC ULS site. Once it shows up there you can officially transmit. My first call sign, returned by the FCC, was KD9FBH.

So, I started mixing in with the 2m crowd on one of the busy Indianapolis local repeaters. 146.700 is a repeater maintained by the Indianapolis Repeater Association (W9IRA) and it sees a ton of traffic. If you happen through Indy please jump in  and throw out your callsign. After a month or so I was encouraged to work on the General class license and join the world of HF. So back I went to the previous testing sites, printed out the General Question Pool, and purchased KB6NU's book "No Nonsense General Class License Study Guide" from Amazon. I wanted to take advantage of my Kindle is the only reason I did not purchase directly from Dan's site.

A couple of weeks prior to my test date I decided to look for a vanity callsign. I wanted a new call with the suffix BRI. This call sign, should it not be taken in other forms, would be in honor of my daughter Brianna Nicole McQueen who passed away 3/21/2012 from an inoperable brain tumor. You can learn more about her and our fight by following this link. The day that I went to test for my General Class license the FCC posted my new call sign, W9BRI on the ULS. I was so excited and the day got even better as I passed my General license exam missing 5.

When this adventure began I never gave thought to obtaining the highest license class, the Amateur Extra license. But, I began to want to see if I could do it just of pride. In May of 2016 I passed my test and I have been having a blast since.

I will try to keep my ramblings a little shorter from here on out. I hope you will check in now and then and see where my Ham Adventures have taken me!