Tag 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!

Spread the radio love

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!

Spread the radio love

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.

Spread the radio love

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.


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

The uBITX V6, winter weather and power outages

Yesterday, a weather front moved through the area that dropped temperatures from an unseasonably high of 50F to 25F in the space of a couple of hours.  Fronts like this always equate to high winds here at our altitude. This time, it packed a little snow as well.

Last night, around 22:00 local, our power went out due to a fallen tree further down the road.

Here at SWLing Post HQ, we don’t panic about power outages. As I’ve mentioned before, our refrigerator, freezer and some of our home lighting is solar-powered and off-grid–we also rely on passive solar heating and a good wood stove to keep us warm and cozy.

Without fail, I always use power outages as an excuse to play radio on battery power.

This morning, the uBITX V6 transceiver was already hooked up to a LiFePo battery on my desktop, so I simply turned it on and started tuning around the 40 meter band, where I had recently logged a few POTA contacts. Problem was, the band was absolutely dead, save a couple weak stations. After thinking about it a few seconds (keep in mind this was pre-coffee) I put on my boots and coat, walked outside and confirmed my suspicions: the antenna feedline had become detached from my external ATU box.

The winds were strong enough last night, that the ladder line pulled itself out of the banana connector jacks on the side of the ATU box. This happens quite often during periods of high winds and is a bit annoying. Of course, I could secure the feedline in such a way that it would easily survive high winds without disconnecting, but frankly this is an intentional design choice. You see, when a black bear walks into my feedline, it easily disconnects before the bear gets tangled, up, frustrated and yanks my antenna out of the tree!

Trust me on this: bears and antennas don’t mix. I speak from experience.

After re-connecting the antenna, I fired up my portable alcohol stove (the one you might have seen in this post), boiled water, and made a fresh cup of coffee to take back to the shack.

I turned on the uBITX once again and found that the 40 meter band was chock-full of strong signals.

It’s time to go chase a few more parks today and plot my next POTA activation.

Frankly, I’m in no hurry for the power to be restored.  It’s a wonderful excuse to play radio.

Readers: Anyone else enjoy radio time when the grid goes down? Please comment!


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

Los Altos History Museum features “Ham for the Holidays” 

(Source: Southgate ARC)

The Los Altos History Museum serves up “Ham for the Holidays: Amateur Radio Operators, Then and Now,” a historical perspective on how radio hobbyists help keep neighborhoods safe during disasters, in an exhibit appearing in the J. Gilbert Smith House through January 5, 2020.

They say: Tis the season for giving thanks, and around the holidays we are especially grateful for our local amateur radio operators. Known as “hams,” these volunteers help keep our community safe throughout the year at regular public events and during times of crisis. In this exhibit, learn more about the history of hams and how a fun hobby can also keep our neighborhoods prepared and resilient.

The exhibit is free to the public, and open Thursday-Sundays, noon-4pm

https://www.losaltoshistory.org/exhibits/ham-for-the-holidays/

Los Altos History Museum, 51 S. South San Antonio Road, Los Altos, CA, USA

Spread the radio love

Mario acquires an Index Labs QRP++ general coverage transceiver

May 1996 QRP Plus ad from QST (Source: WD8RIF)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post that was originally published on the Delaware Valley Radio Association (DVRA) website:


Amateur Radios from the Past: The Index Labs QRP++

The Index Labs QRP ++ was an intriguing little radio manufactured back in the mid-‘90’s by Index Labs of Gig Harbor, WA.  For those interested in QRP (low power operating, generally less than five watts output) this transceiver filled the bill perfectly.  It supports CW and SSB, transmits on all WARC bands, covers 1.8 – 30 MHz receive, has full break-in CW and a built-in iambic keyer.  It boasts 20 memories, weighs four pounds (perfect for portable operation) and measures 5.5 x 4 x 6 inches.  It’ll run on a 12V 1.5 amp supply or a stout 12 volt gel cell.  The internals (see second pic) are an engineering masterpiece with stacked circuit boards reminiscent of commercial rigs.

Index Labs QRP ++ on the test bench

I recently acquired one of these radios as I was heavily into QRP in the 1970’s while using a TenTec Argonaut 509 and vertical on our apartment house’s roof.  Back then the sunspot numbers scored much higher than today and many contacts were made, most notably a CW contact with Japan with a paltry one watt.  So for nostalgic reasons I had to have one of these QRP++ rigs even though more modern and sophisticated versions are available.

At the moment bench tested is being done prior to sending it into action.  One important component needing replacement was the memory battery which was totally kaput.  Interestingly, this battery not only keeps the 20 memories alive but also brought back to life the CB radio-style S-meter reminiscent of radios from decades ago. Other items on the testing  “to do” list will be checking power output, frequency accuracy, drift, and finally, on-air performance.  The radio will feed a ground mounted 31’ vertical with 53 radials. With the right ionospheric conditions hopefully contacts will be aplenty.

Neatly stacked circuit boards and clean layout of QRP++

Unfortunately, no service manual exists for this gem, but it rates a 4.1 out of 5 on the eham.net Richter scale, and a number of ops have published helpful information on problems, solutions and modifications.  Notably the first run of these radios was later replaced with improved models boasting higher performance via a custom designed mixer, so knowing the serial number of your unit helps to determine if yours was an upgrade.

Rear panel control layout. Power is adjustable and tested at a hair under 5W.

You can read and see more photos from the author, Mario Filippi N2HUN, at https://www.qrz.com/lookup/n2hun

Click here to read this article on the DVRA website.


Thank you, Mario, for sharing this article and many thanks to the DVRA for allowing us to re-post it.

I owned a QRP++ for a few years and absolutely loved it. At the time, it was one of the most portable full-featured transceivers on the market. Although it can struggle in RF dense environments like Field Day or other contests, for daily use it was very effective. I eventually sold mine to fund the purchase of the Elecraft KX1 and, later, KX3.

I always loved the simple front-panel ergonomics of the QRP+ and QRP++. It’s an incredibly easy rig to operate in the field. Plus…it has a bit of a “cute” factor, if you like radios shaped like cubes.

There is a dedicated email discussion group for Index Labs transceivers–currently, they’re on Yahoo Groups but may migrate to another platform by end of year.

In addition, SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), has an archived webpage with a wealth of information about the Index Labs QRP+ series.

Thanks again for sharing this, Mario! I know you’ll enjoy the QRP++ once you get it on the air!


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love