Category Archives: Ham Radio

Robert’s Series: “The Care and Feeding of Electronic Equipment”

SWLing Post contributor, Robert Gulley (K4PKM–formerly AK3Q) recently posted two excellent articles on his website about the “care and feeding” of electronic equipment.  Here’s the description from Robert’s blog, All Things Radio:

Just a quick note to let you know there are two new articles published in the Reviews and How-Tos section dealing with simple checks and preventative care of electronic equipment. Over the years I have learned some important lessons for keeping computers and radios working properly, with the goal of having as little downtime as possible. The two articles were originally published in The Spectrum Monitor June and August issues, respectively. (If you have not subscribed to this magazine, you really should check it out – it is in my opinion the best radio magazine on the market today, and not just because they occasionally publish my articles!)

Here’s a quick link to the review page:

Reviews and How-Tos

And while you are there, check out some of the other reviews I have posted! Cheers, Robert K4PKM

Your articles are always amazing, Robert.  Thanks for sharing!

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Ham CAP and VOA Prop: Fixing SSN look-up files

VOA Prop

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans, who notes:

Users of these two propagation prediction programs will find that they don’t work beyond Dec 2019 because the SSN look-up files didn’t go any further.

I noticed this 2-3 years ago and added to the end of the files required. I entered guesses for solar activity values, but with auto mode turned on they will fetch current values. At least this will get you started again. Or my guesses might be right!! 🙂

For Ham CAP use: http://w4.vp9kf.com/SSN.dat

For VOAProp use: http://w4.vp9kf.com/ssndata.txt

Download them and swap them into the directory where the application is located.

Thanks or the help, Paul!

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On The Air: ARRL’s excellent magazine for newcomers…only available behind their paywall

Cover of the new “On The Air” e-magazine from the ARRL

Today, the ARRL released their new electronic magazine for ham radio newcomers: On The Air.

The ARRL describes On The Air‘s mission:

“On the Air magazine is the newest ARRL member benefit to help new licensees and beginner-to-intermediate radio communicators navigate the world of amateur radio. Delivered six times a year, the magazine will present articles, how-to’s, and tips for selecting equipment, building projects, getting involved in emergency communication as well as spotlighting the experiences of people using radio to serve their communities, and those using it for enjoyment.”

I checked out On The Air and was quite pleased with the scope of the magazine. The first issue covers topics such as: understanding the ionosphere, choosing your first radio, building simple antennas, and much more. I love the fact that the articles are written with newcomers in mind, too; less technical jargon and more explanations.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been teaching a ham radio class to a group of high school students. Most of the students have now acquired their Technician licenses, and we’re even plotting a General class course for the fall.

Last month, I shared some copies of QST (the ARRL monthly member magazine) with my students. While they enjoyed looking through the pages of QST, many told me they simply didn’t understand the articles yet…There’s just not a lot inside a QST issue to grab the attention of a fifteen or sixteen year old who’s just gotten her ticket. Understandable.

Then, I learned about On The Air from a friend with the ARRL.  I was so glad to hear that the League was finally making a bi-monthly magazine aimed squarely at newcomers! I was also pleased it was an e-publication, because it will be that much easier to share with my class and propagate to prospective students.

But today, I discovered, to my dismay, that other than the premier issue, On The Air is for ARRL members only. Here’s a screen grab from the website:

But…”for members only”––?

Alas, in limiting access, the ARRL has essentially insured that most of their target audience won’t ever have the opportunity to read On The Air, and thus they’ve crippled the best ARRL recruitment tool I’ve ever seen. 

What a shame.

I’ve contacted my ARRL representative and asked that they reconsider the decision to hide this brilliant magazine behind a membership paywall. I’m pretty sure that ad revenue and membership fees could readily cover the cost of publishing this electronic edition. After all, On The Air could lead to a lot more ARRL members! And, indeed, I hope it will.

If you feel as I do, please contact your ARRL Section manager. It may be that those making the decisions are, in this case, a little out of touch with the future of amateur radio.

Update – To be clear about this post: I’m not implying anything bad about the ARRL here, I just think it’s a lost opportunity if they keep future editions of On The Air behind the member pay wall. I imagine that ad revenue alone could more than support this niche publication if they simply release it as a free PDF. The real benefit, though, could be an increase in ARRL membership as On The Air readers get a taste of what the League could offer! In other words: this is an opportunity!

What do you think? Should On The Air be free to anyone interested in amateur radio, or for members only? Please comment!

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Arcángel San Gabriel (LRA36) special broadcasts and LU1ZV activation

Source: Base Esperanza – Antártida

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tracy Wood, who writes:

I listened to LRA36 streaming this past Friday with their special show, including callouts to other Argentine scientific stations via satphone and lots of greetings by ham radio enthusiasts, both recorded and via live call-in.

Source: Base Esperanza – Antártida

…At the conclusion the announcer said they would be back this Monday at 1800 Buenos Aires time or 2100 UTC.

Details about last Friday’s broadcast:

http://www.radionacional.com.ar/continuan-las-emisiones-especiales-en-lra-36-arcangel-san-gabriel/

Source: Base Esperanza – Antártida

The audio stream is only up when LRA36 is on the air apparently but is at the Radio Nacional website under the audio streams listing:”

http://vmf.edge-apps.net/embed/live.php?streamname=sc_rad32-100131&autoplay=true

Thank you so much for sharing this, Tracy! It’s incredibly difficult for me to snag LRA36 broadcasts off the air, so it’ll be nice to have this stream link as well.

I also recently received a note about LU1ZV: the amateur radio station at the Esperanza Antarctic Base.  What follows is a rough English translation of the press release. Click here to download the original press release in Spanish (MS Word Doc).

Source: Base Esperanza – Antártida

THE HAM RADIO ACTIVATION OF ESPERANZA ANTARCTIC BASE

Started on December 8, the activation of the LU1ZV amateur radio station of the Antarctic Base Esperanza, after years of being inactive.

The radio activity of LU1ZV has as primary objective to remember the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the transmission of the radio station LRA 36 “Arcángel San Gabriel” of the Esperanza Base, the first shortwave station in AM across Antarctica, which began broadcasting on October 20,1979. In addition, this activity seeks to maintain the continuity of emission of stations of radio amateurs from Antarctica.

The LU1ZV activation has registered more than 900 contacts with amateur radio stations
nationally and abroad, and in addition to covering all regions of the country, they have already

Source: Base Esperanza – Antártida

contacted twenty-two Argentine provinces.

Among the most relevant data that LU1ZV activity exhibits so far are the distant radio contacts  (despite the low emission power) as in the case of Japan, Canada, Latvia, Ukraine and Finland among others. They have contacted most South American countries, several of Central American countries and all from North America.

Another outstanding contact was made with VP8HAL, the Halley VI scientific station of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), located in the Brunt Ice Barrier, about 1,700 km SE of Hope.

The operation of LU1ZV is carried out from the study of LRA 36 and the rhombic antenna of the station, while the station isn’t operating. The amateur radio station activity adapts to the general schedule of the base and of LRA36, so activation times are reduced to a few hours during the evening – night.

The Head of Hope Base, Lieutenant Colonel Norman Walter Nahueltripay was present during some contacts and received greetings from radio correspondents.

This special activation also includes the project “Uniendo Voces” of the National University of Quilmes (UNQ) of the province of Buenos Aires, an initiative that included areas of interest to amateur radio and Antarctic activations, and which was presented to the
Antarctic Joint Command (COCOANTAR).

“Uniendo Voces” has participated in these radio activations since 2013 (in Marambio Base and Matienzo) to which the historical emission from Base Esperanza is now added, within the framework of a special initiative called “DX Radial Expedition Uniting Voices”.

The amateur Radio Claudio García (LU1VC) member of the LRA 57 Radio Nacional de El
Bolsón (province of Chubut) and Juan C. Benavente (LU8DBS) of COCOANTAR and UNQ, perform the activation for which they had to move equipment to that Antarctic base.
The radio activation of Esperanza has the support and collaboration of Adrián Korol,
director of the Argentine Broadcasting Abroad (RAE) who expressed his emotion and
satisfaction for “this joint achievement with the Antarctic Command and the National University of Quilmes. “

Antarctic bases are licensed by amateur radio stations, and like all the activity, is regulated by the National Communications Agency (ENACOM). These radio activations have a “high symbolic and real value”, as Korol says, and they contribute, in addition to remembering ephemeris, to the promotion of sovereignty in the Antarctic region from the radio spectrum.

Likewise, the amateur radio activity contributes to the study of communications – such as
radio wave propagation conditions- and keeps an alternative communication service active and effective.

Many Argentine radio amateurs from different parts of the country are attentive to the
calls from LU1ZV and collaborate with the initiative.”

Along with the photos and LU1ZV press release above, I also received press releases from two special broadcasts that happened earlier. Click here and here to download the MS Word documents in Spanish.

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Popular KiwiSDR portal now requires ham radio license: alternatives

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who discovered via Gilles Letourneau’s YouTube Channel that the popular SDR.hu KiwiSDR portal now requires registration and a ham radio callsign.

I almost didn’t believe this at first, but then checked on the SDR.hu FAQ page to find this message:

What is a callsign and how do I get one?

An amateur radio callsign is issued by the appropriate authority in your country (e.g. FCC in the US). The amateur radio callsign allows you to both transmit and receive with amateur radio equipment, and you need to pass an exam to get one. (If you are not familiar with this, please search Google about amateur radio.)

Can I access the receiver list if I do not have a callsign?

No.

Why do I need a callsign to access the receiver list?

The purpose of the site is to serve amateur radio. I decided to restrict access to the receiver list in order to protect the site and its purpose in the long term.

To be clear: this doesn’t imply you need a callsign to access the KiwiSDR network. This only applies to the SDR.hu KiwiSDR portal operated by András Retzler. I’m guessing he’s doing this to regulate his site’s resources. (See UPDATE below.)

Alternative KiwiSDR Portals

kiwisdr.com/public/ provides a list of all active KiwiSDRs.

As Dan points out, there are a number of other KiwiSDR portals that do not require registration or a call sign.

Here are a few:

If you prefer another KiwiSDR portal, please comment with a link.  I’ll try to update this post with any new additions.

UPDATE – Many thanks to Cristiano Amaral who shares this update sent by Andras to all of the OpenWebRX contributors:

Hello,

You are receiving this e-mail because you were listing a public OpenWebRX receiver on SDR.hu in the last 3 months.

I wanted to let you know that the OpenWebRX project is discontinued [1], which means that it will not receive any updates (including security fixes) from me. I hope that you will be able to run your receivers without problems in the next years, and hopefully the community will be able to help each other even if I’m not working on the project anymore.

It is also important to know that starting from next year, Python 2, a dependency of OpenWebRX is not maintained either, at least officially by the Python team [2], as it is deprecated in favour of Python 3.

If you want to keep running your public receivers securely, you should be looking for a Python 2 fork that is still patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. There is a possibility that Anaconda [3] or Red Hat [4] will keep patching Python 2.

As a note, you can also find unofficial Python 3 ports of OpenWebRX online, though I’m not involved with those either.

Thank you for participating in the project, and I wish you a Happy New Year!

VY 73!

Andras, HA7ILM

sdr.hu

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Mission RGO One: Impressions, availability, pricing and upgrades

Readers might recall that I picked up a Mission RGO One 50 watt transceiver from Boris (LZ2JR) at the 2019 Hamvention. I’ve been helping Boris and his team evaluate this Bulgarian-manufactured general coverage transceiver since then.

I’ll be writing a comprehensive review of the Mission RGO One for The Spectrum Monitor magazine later this year, but in the meantime I thought I’d post a quick update.

I’ve gotten a number of emails from readers asking specific questions about this transceiver and its availability/pricing. Here are a few answers to your questions:

Is it a good one?

This is the most common question, of course.

In short: the Mission RGO One has exceeded my expectations. The RGO’s noise floor is low, the dynamic range high, the audio pleasant, and the ergonomics are top-notch. As I said in a previous post, you can tell the RGO One was designed by an active ham radio operator. The radio is a pleasure to use and harkens back to the days of benchmark pre-SDR transceivers.

Keep in mind I have a very early evaluation model and it’s due a firmware upgrade. The only negatives I’ve experienced are ones I would expect as we flesh out minor firmware bugs. Indeed, most all of these have been sorted already.

I’ve used the RGO One in both the shack and in the field and find it’s a capable radio in both situations.

In fact, last year I taught a ham radio class to a group of home-schooled high school students. Of course, I wanted to offer them proper on-the-air time so they could experience a little HF radio magic. My radio of choice was the RGO One for its ease of use and excellent built-in audio.

I took the class outside and we connected the RGO One to a resonant portable 20 meter vertical. One of the very first SSB contacts we made was with a ham radio operator in Slovenia–with solid 5 by 9 reports on both ends. After that, my students were hooked! (In fact, four of my seven students have since passed their ham radio license exam! I’m incredibly proud of them.)

If you’re curious how well the RGO One holds up during contest conditions in CW, I highly recommend checking out this CQWW report by John (AE5X).

Market niche

With a large number of QRP and 100 watt sub-$1000 transceivers on the market–including the Elecraft KX2, Yaesu FT-818/FT-891, Icom IC-718/IC-7300, to name only a few–where does the Mission RGO One fit in?

Good question.

In my mind, what makes the RGO One unique is the fact that it has the price, weight, and form factor of a field-portable, front-panel QRP transceiver, but is capable of pumping out a full 50 watts of power without an external amplifier.

The RGO one is lighter (about 5 lbs) and draws less current on receive than most comparable 100 watt general coverage transceivers.

I see the RGO One becoming my choice radio for most Parks On The Air (POTA) field activations this year. In the past, I’ve used my beloved Elecraft KX2 for NPOTA and POTA activations because it’s extremely portable and incredibly versatile. I’ll still use the KX2 for activations that require hiking or in situations where I can’t easily set up a tabletop radio, but I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had a little more TX output Since the RGO One can provide up to 50 watts out, it’ll give me a little more “juice” when conditions demand.

Availability and pricing

At present, there are a limited number of early production Mission RGO One transceivers in the wild. The company is in the process of scaling up production.

To that end, you will now find a Mission RGO One pre-order form on their website.

The price is 790 Euro (roughly $880 US) plus shipping. There will be two shipping options: directly from Bulgaria, and from the USA in mid-May 2020. These units will all be fully factory assembled and aligned.

It’s my understanding that eventually there will be a modular kit version of the RGO One and the price will be much less than that of the assembled unit.

Internal ATU option

The RGO Team is also in the final stages of producing an optional high-performance internal ATU.

I have no details about pricing or availability yet, but I will be testing this ATU in the shack and in the field later this year. After I’ve evaluated the ATU, I will publish my full review of the RGO One in The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

Other Questions?

As you might have gathered, I’ve really been enjoying my time with the Mission RGO One transceiver. Lately, it’s even taken the place of my beloved KX3 in the radio shack.

Please comment if you have other questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.


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Tomorrow: Morristown Hamfest and youth radio event

My buddy, Vlado (N3CZ), and I have decided to head to the Morristown, Tennessee hamfest tomorrow morning. The event is sponsored by the Lakeway Amateur Radio Club and also features a “kids day” to promote amateur radio to unlicensed youth. The club provides opportunities for both individuals and youth groups to get on-the-air experience and help sort out the best path to get an amateur radio license.

Neither one of us knew about this regional hamfest until last month when I received a request from the radio club’s president asking if I could help spread the word. It was then that I discovered Morristown is within a two hour drive. Vlado and I are always up for a road trip (even if it means leaving at 5:00 am…egad–!).

We’ll keep our expectations in check, but we both hope to sell some radio gear that is in excess to our needs. If you happen to live in the area, pop by and introduce yourself!  Here are the details:

Lakeway Amateur Radio Club’s
28th Annual HAMFEST
Where: 1615 Pavilion Drive, White Pine, TN 37890
8:00 AM -3:00 PM
Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Gates Open @ 8:00 AM.
Admission $10.00 at the Gate
Opening Cermonies @ 8:30
HAMFEST Forums start at 9:oo AM, District 8 Meeting and ARRL, David Thomas
Keynote: Jason Johnston W3AAX, Parks on the Air!

Grand Prize is an Icom IC-7300.

Click here to visit the hamfest website.

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