Tag Archives: Travel

Back at the dial again…!

Ship-Throttle

Many of you might have noticed I’ve been absent on Facebook/Twitter , slower to correspond, and not posting quite as often this summer.

Yes, you guessed it: I’ve been on the road again.

Starting in mid-May, we made our annual pilgrimage to Dayton, Ohio, where we hosted an inside exhibit at the Hamvention, made some NPOTA activations, and visited the phenomenal National Museum of the USAF.

The LNR Precision LD-11 and QRP Ranger during a National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activation in Ohio.

The LNR Precision LD-11 and QRP Ranger during a National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activation in Ohio.

I then returned to the shack for one week, frantically finished a few projects, then hit the road again.  Headed even farther north this time….Destination: Canada.

The Udvar-Hazy Center houses a number of large aircraft including the Concorde, the SR-71 and even the space shuttle Discovery.

The Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center houses a number of large aircraft including the Concorde, the SR-71 and even the space shuttle Discovery.

Stopped in the Washington, DC area for a few nights and spent the better part of one day at the Udvar-Hazy Center. The aviation geek in me was in the skies––wow, what an amazing place!

By June 5th, i was just outside Québec City in the town of Beaupré.

My station on Field Day operating as VE2CQ.

My station on Field Day operating as VE2CQ.

While in Québec, I participated in a Field Day event with the incroyable members of the Club Radio Amateur de Québec. I practiced my French, the club members treated me like one of their own––hosting an excellent lunch and dinner––and I even got a few hours on the air as VE2CQ.

Oh, and you might recall a post from June in which I shared photos from an aerial display in Québec City featuring the Snowbirds. It was our first time seeing them, and it was, as you might expect, just spectacular.

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We spent the rest of June and part of July in Québec, then made our way to Prince Edward Island via New Brunswick and Nova Scotia where a rustic off-grid cabin awaited us.

The view from our off-grid cabin on PEI.

The view from our off-grid cabin on PEI.

While the condo in Quebec had all of the radio interference one would expect, the off-grid cabin was blissfully quiet, free of radio interference. As you might imagine, I played a lot of radio…

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I also sampled a lot of Island craft brews!

We spent several relaxed weeks in Prince Edward Island, then made our way back to the States.

I’ve only been home since last Wednesday, and found quite a pile-up in the work zone, so I’m busily catching up.  However, I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I should be current with correspondence by next week.  Thanks for your patience, email friends!

And if you’re interested, just for fun, I plan to write a more detailed trip report later this summer or fall. I do have a few pics from side trips I’ll likely share in the meantime.

Yet again, we had a terrific adventure in Canada!  But it’s sure good to be back home…and back at the dial.

Anyone else done a bit of traveling this season? Feel free to share & comment!

Portable antennas: a review of the Par Electronics EF-SWL

Last August and part of September, I traveled through the US with the CommRadio CR-1 and a couple of portable antennas: the Par Electronics EF-SWL and  NASA PA-30. I had the opportunity to try both in the field, and took notes as I used them. Following is a short review of the Par Electronics EF-SWL.

The EF-SWL ready to deploy.

The EF-SWL ready to deploy.

Par Electronics EF-SWL 

At the Dayton Hamvention last year, I had the pleasure of speaking with representatives of the North Carolina-based LNR Precision Inc. LNR is a mom-and-pop company with a focus on providing antennas, keys, and transceivers for the ham radio and shortwave listener markets.  Indeed I have several SWL friends who use on a daily basis an antenna this company manufactures and retails: the Par Electronics EF-SWL. LNR asked if I would consider reviewing their antenna, and since I was planning a road trip with radios in tow–the perfect opportunity to test such an antenna–I agreed.

The Par Electronics EF-SWL is an end-fed shortwave antenna designed for 1-30 MHz reception. It’s a receive only-antenna–perfect for the SWL. The radiator is 45 feet of #14 black polyethylene coated Flex-Weave wire. When I first used the EF-SWL, I noted the quality of its construction: no doubt it can withstand many deployments in all weather conditions–and it’s manufactured here in the US.

With a 45′ radiator, the EF-SWL needs a little space, but offers more gain than the other portable antenna I packed, the NASA PA-30 (look for its review in the near future). I put the EF-SWL to use in New Mexico where several large trees were readily available. I hooked the EF-SWL up to the CommRadio CR-1 and simply hung the end of the radiator as high as I could in a nearby tree. Though not a picture-perfect installation, it nonetheless certainly did the trick! I didn’t bother with a ground connection as I wasn’t in an area with much radio noise (RFI).

In the past, when setting up portable ham radio and shortwave listening, I’ve typically built my own antenna either for the specific meter band I hoped to use, or brought along a portable antenna tuner. It was quite nice having an antenna designed to be resonant on the broadcast bands.

Par-EF-SWL

Though I didn’t do this, I did noticed that the EF-SWL’s radiator is attached via a stainless stud–Par Electronics did this so you can remove the radiator and replace it with a different wire length. With the stock 45′ radiator, I still find the EF-SWL quite portable, especially when compared with most of the portable amateur radio antennas I use, which tend to take a dipole or delta loop configuration.

After returning from my trip, I decided to hook up the EF-SWL at my home base for longer-term evaluation. These past months I’ve had it on the air as an auxiliary antenna, and I’ve been impressed with its performance. In truth, it’s not in an optimal location hanging off the corner of my house, but I think this may actually represent with some accuracy the installation most SWLs will likewise be able to provide–in other words, placement that must factor in antenna restrictions or limited space. Of course, for any permanent installation, you will need to ground the EF-SWL for lower noise reception.

And yet, even in these suboptimal conditions, the antenna performs remarkably well.

As with any exterior antenna, of course, take precautions against lightening if you live in an area with thunder storms. If nothing else, at least disconnect the antenna when not in use.

Moving forward, I will plan to relocate the EF-SWL to a more ideal permanent location and most likely purchase another to keep in my antenna bag. I hope to use this antenna in a DXpedition I’ve planned later this year.

The EF-SWL retails for $75 US directly from LNR Pecision or $72 US from Universal Radio.

Note that LNR also sells a number of QRP field-portable transceivers: the LD-5, FX-4a and Mountain TopperClick here for more details.

Chrome Remote Desktop: another application choice

chromeDesktop

In response to my post about SWLing in a hospital waiting room via TeamViewer, Stephen Cooper comments:

“Google Chrome Remote Desktop also works well for this.

[Click here to download]

Allows me to listen to my Elad when I am in work. Although it doesn’t transfer sound on Android (not sure about iPad) which isnt that good if you haven’t got a PC/Mac to use to login to home.”

Thanks for the suggestion, Stephen!

Shortwave listening in a hospital lobby

ExcaliburviaTeamviewer

This morning, at 6:00 am, I had to take a friend to the hospital for a scheduled (minor) operation.

The hospital waiting room is spartan for a projected three hour wait, but the complimentary wi-fi Internet is quite speedy. I had planned to catch up on a movie or two via Netflix, but the hospital blocks video streaming.

Fortunately, I just noticed that the hospital does not block TeamViewer–my remote PC application of choice.

Remote listening

I just logged into my home PC and launched both the Elad FDM-S2 and WinRadio Excabur SDR applications–fortunately, I discovered that the Excalibur was hooked up to an external antenna.

Not only does TeamViewer allow me to control a software defined radio, but it actually streams the receiver audio from my PC. With my inexpensive in-ear Sony headphones, the sound isolation and audio fidelity are quite good for a compressed audio stream. Indeed, other than a one second delay in response, the user experience is nearly as good as being home.

I should note that I could also use the TeamViewer app on my iPhone, but 4G reception in the hospital is very poor and controlling an SDR from a small touch screen is less than desirable (though works in a pinch–no pun intended).

I’m currently tuned and listening to Radio Australia, Radio Mali and the Voice of Korea.

The 31 meter band seems to be wide open at this morning. At this point, I don’t think I care if my friend’s out-patient procedure takes a while longer!

Radio Australia: SWLing in the Colorado Rockies

Sony-ICF-SW7600GR-RA-CO I’m in Keystone, Colorado at about 9,300′ (2,835 M) above sea level; mornings are crisp and chilly (38F/3C), but that doesn’t stop me from putting on a jacket, heading to the balcony and listening to Radio Australia on 9,580 kHz. Despite flaky solar conditions (flaky, frankly, is an understatement) I managed to snag RA Wednesday morning (13:58 UTC) on my Sony ICF-SW7600GR. There was a little fading, and a little local noise, but overall signal quality was quite good.

gnav_logoThis recording starts a couple of minutes before the top of the hour; you’ll hear the TOTH news brief and then triple ja brilliant show dedicated to new Australian music.

Click here to download the recording as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below: