Tag Archives: Ham Radio

Sneak peek of the Apache Labs Andromeda 100 watt SDR transceiver

Many thanks to Apache Labs who share the following announcement:

Sneak peek at the Andromeda 100W Transceiver……

10th GEN Intel 6 Core i7, 7 inch built in touch screen and an option to add up to two External HD Monitors.

Windows 10 Powerful PC and an Ultra High performance 100W SDR with PureSignal Goodness in a single compact Box!

Run FT8 and other Digital Modes out of the box!

Coming Soon!

We will post more information about the Andromeda transceiver when we have solid details.

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QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo 2020

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Franco Venturi (K4VZ), who writes:

I just found out that the podcast ‘QSO today’ has organized a ‘Virtual Ham Expo’ (https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/).

The current list of speakers and their topics looks interesting (click here to read), and I thought you and other readers of the SWLing Post might be interested as well.

Thank you so much for the tip, Franco. I’ve been meaning to post an announcement about this online event.  It seems to have attracted a lot of vendors and at least early bird registration for the show is free. Vendors do pay fees to host virtual booths at the events.

There are a number of great presentations in the line-up, so I would highly encourage readers to check out the presentation schedule and register for the expo.

Click here to register for the 2020 QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo!

 

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13 Colonies Special Event this week for hams and SWLs

Although I’ve been rather busy the past few days, I have managed to fit in a little radio time.

On Wednesday, I spent part of the day doing the RAC (Radio Amateurs of Canada) Contest to celebrate Canada Day. My simple goal in mind was to work as many provinces as I could. Although I only made a total of 25 contacts, I managed to work the ten provinces along the Canada/US border (including Newfoundland and PEI).

During the RAC event I heard pileups for the 13 Colonies Event which is held each year in conjunction with the 4th of July weekend. I like this event because it’s accessible yet challenging.

Yesterday morning, I decided to start collecting colonies. By the end of the day, I made a “Clean Sweep” of all of the colonies and even worked one of the “bonus” stations (WM3PEN). Over the next couple of days, I’l try to snag the other bonus station, GB13COL.

As you can see by my log sheet, I had to employ three different modes to snag all of these in short order:

I’m not a contester by any stretch of the imagination, but I was able to snag these stations within 12 hours without sitting in front of the radio the whole day.  I simply checked the DX Cluster from time-to-time and pounced when the path was favorable. (All of my CW contacts were QRP, too.)

An SWL-friendly event!

What’s so great about the 13 Colonies Event is that they strongly encourage SWLs to participate! From the 13 Colonies website:

ATTENTION SWLs: All Short Wave listeners (SWL). You will also qualify for the certificate. Follow the instructions on the Certificates page when you submit your log. A special SWL logo will be affixed to the certificate for you. One or all 13 stations logged qualifies you. Just log ALL of the 13 Colony states and you can get a complete set of custom special event QSL cards also! All 13 are different. QSL requests to be made to each individual Colony State Station with an SASE. Consider becoming a HAM too! 🙂

Look at all the fun we are having! (NASWA members-watch for us in your monthly journal publication).

All you need to participate is a radio with a BFO or SSB mode. Even a portable radio can easily handle this as most event stations are easy to hear throughout North America.

If you live outside North America or you don’t have a radio with SSB capabilities, consider participating via a KiwiSDR site. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this as I heard a number of remote ham radio operators working stations yesterday.  If you choose to use the WebSDR/KiwiSDR route, I would personally stick with one geographic location for the entire event and declare the receiver location/url on your log sheet.

The event takes place July 1, 2020-1300 UTC to July 8, 2020-0400 UTC, so you still have plenty of time!.

Click here to read more at the 13 Colonies Event website and request a certificate.

Please comment if you plan to take part in the event or have in the past!

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W9IMS: A delayed start for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway special event station 

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Brian D. Smith (W9IND), who shares the following announcement:


W9IMS: A delayed start for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway special event station

by Brian D. Smith, W9IND

It’s a late start for auto racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as the amateur radio station that honors this century-old tradition … but the show must go on!

And this week it will, as special event station W9IMS returns to the airwaves from now through Sunday to offer radio hobbyists a fresh opportunity to collect more “wallpaper”: Two vivid racing-themed QSL cards and the popular certificate known as the Checkered Flag Award.

The 2020 certificate will be easier than ever to earn. Normally the Speedway’s three major races take place on three different weekends, but this year, because of Covid-19 concerns, they’ll be consolidated into two. Accordingly, hams and SWLs will be required to contact or tune in W9IMS during only two race weeks – the current one, which continues through Sunday, July 5; and Aug. 17-23, which ends on the day of the venerable Indianapolis 500.

Even if you succeed in snaring W9IMS only once, you can still send off for the corresponding QSL card. All certificate and QSL designs are new each year.

The coming Independence Day weekend will feature an unprecedented racing doubleheader, with the IndyCar Grand Prix and the NASCAR Brickyard 400 slated for Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Consequently, the first W9IMS QSL of 2020 will be a full-color, four-sided card portraying images from both races.

So where do you find W9IMS? The station will stick to three bands, 20, 40 and 80 meters, and may appear at any time of day or night from now through Sunday.

However, the best bet is to catch the station during prime time – 2200 through 0200 UTC on weeknights (6 to 10 p.m. Indy time). W9IMS operators also plan to activate 20 meters during daytime hours, often between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. (1200-1800 UTC); and will cover the various bands all weekend starting at 10 a.m. (1400 UTC) daily.

If you still haven’t caught W9IMS by the time Sunday evening arrives in Indianapolis, operators commonly conduct their own happy hour – working stations in rapid contesting style – right up to midnight (0400 UTC Monday).

Here are a couple of hints for tracking down the station during special event weeks:

  1. Go to the W9IMS web page (www.w9ims.org), find the “2020 Operating Schedule” heading, and click on the link to “Grand Prix & Brickyard” or “Indianapolis 500.” Although some W9IMS operators get on the air at unscheduled times, you’ll have your best luck looking for the station during the hours and bands reserved with a name and a callsign.
  2. Check DX Summit (www.dxsummit.fi) for spots that identify the current frequency (or frequencies) of W9IMS, if any. And if you type “W9IMS” in the search box, you can customize it to show reports for only that station.

For additional details, consult the W9IMS web page. Feel free to submit both of your 2020 QSL card and certificate requests in the same envelope, and if you don’t have your own QSL card, a printout of your W9IMS contacts or reception reports will suffice.

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A Field Day weekend of rain, shine, battery power, pile-ups, and radio improvisation

If you’ve been reading the SWLing Post for long, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of portable radio gear. Whether it’s a portable receiver, an SDR, or a ham radio, I believe radios are made to be taken outside––rain or shine; hence I love programs like Parks On The Air (POTA ) and Summits On The Air (SOTA), and I’ve always loved ARRL Field Day.

Of course, this ARRL Field Day was a bit different than years past due to Covid-19––there were more individuals on the air with their own Field Day stations, while there were relatively few clubs on the air. Typically, the opposite is true.

This year I’d planned to operate from the field at various POTA locations in western NC; some contenders were the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, and Mount Mitchell State Park. In the past few years, my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) and I––with spouses in tow––hit the field together, but this year he was out of town, and I planned to go solo.

I plotted a few hours of Field Day time at Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The night before, I had my antennas and the Elecraft KX2, KXPA100, Heil Pro Headset, and 15 aH LiFePo battery (all packed in my go-packs, of course), in the car and ready to go.

Saturday morning.  I woke expecting fairly nice weather: partly cloudy with a chance of showers. Turned out, it was chilly, gusty, with total cloud cover and fairly constant rain. I’ll admit, it dampened my enthusiasm for Craggy, because while it’s a gorgeous site, it’s well above 5000′ ASL, thus the winds up there can be seriously gusty and the weather can turn on a dime.

So, I decided to put up my feet in the shack  and operate class 1E, meaning on emergency/battery power.

I started calling CQ at the start of Field Day and, to my surprise, worked a constant pile-up for nearly an hour. Within that fairly short space of time I found I’d already collected about 90 or more stations on 40 meters.

After that, I hunted and pounced for maybe an hour, then took a break; later that night, I operated intensively again for 30 minutes or so.  Had I been at a Field Day site, I would have been a much more dedicated operator, but frankly, I’m not even sure I plan to send in my logs. Still, it was fun.

My set up on a damp picnic table at the Craggy Gardens Picnic area.

Sunday morning.  The weather was much more pleasant from the get-go, with sun and wind, though thunder showers were in the forecast. Around 11:00 or so, my wife suggested we pack up and head to Craggy Gardens for a little radio fun followed by some lunch and hiking.

We reached the site–it was beautiful, but ominous. Thick fog and Saharan dust (no kidding) covered the site and surrounding mountains.  Still, I set up the station and my new Wolf River Coils TIA portable vertical.

My daughter and I deployed the TIA vertical in a matter of 5 minutes.

I think I logged two stations before the misty clouds rolled up all around me; then (remember that change-on-a-dime weather?) a sudden––and torrential––downpour came from nowhere. My wife snagged all she could carry and ran for the car, and I quickly covered my gear with my raincoat and packed everything in my packs as soon as possible. I had to make two trips to the car to pack everything, and needless to say, with my raincoat in the service of my equipment, I was drenched to the skin. I literally looked like I had jumped into a lake with my clothes on.  Fortunately my gear––at least, the important gear––was only a bit damp, but internally fine. Herein lies one of the great things about being a pack geek: quality packs tend to be water-resistant, if not fully waterproof.

But. If I’m being completely honest, I’ll admit I was a bit miffed that I got so little radio time before the heavens opened. We knew there would be a risk of bad weather and, frankly, other than the hassle of packing and unpacking, we actually acknowledge the entertainment value of a little WX from time to time. After all, this is the hazard of operating under a wide open sky.

My wife, sensing my disappointment, suggested we go to another site to play a little radio, but at that point I just wasn’t feeling it. What I felt instead was the damp…wringing wet-level damp…and my spirits were dampened. too. I suggested we make our way back.

En route, I saw a sign for the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace––a historic site that I knew was a POTA entity. I’d completely forgotten about this site, and decided to make a detour so I could scope out the site for a future activation. By now I’d warmed up a bit, and a bit of lunch helped revive my flagging spirits.

Turns out the site’s visitor’s center is closed on Sunday, but the gates are open so the public can enjoy the grounds. We drove up to their covered picnic area, although the cover was now peace of mind only, as the sun was again making an appearance. The setting was…well, ideal. And here I was. How could I not go ahead and activate this POTA site?

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

It was windy but warm, and while my wife spread out the packs, lunch cooler, and jackets to dry, I, too, found I was no longer dripping. By the time I set up the Wolf River Coils TIA vertical and my KX2/KXPA100, the togs were fairly dry, and indeed I was quite comfortable again. I hopped back on the air and worked a number of stations in short order, easily logging the ten needed to confirm the park activation.

The Wolf River TIA is outstanding in its field (sorry!)

Later, I discovered that the site was an “All-Time New One” (ATNO) in the POTA system. A bittersweet discovery, in a way, because Field Day is not the best time for POTA hunters to log a new site. Still, I wasn’t even calling CQ with POTA in mind; I just worked Field Day stations and had a great time.

Just as I finished, there was yet another downpour, but as the picnic area where I’d set up was covered, I no longer feared my gear getting soaked. This time, it was a sudden loud clap of thunder that gave me my cue to pack up quickly!

Still, all in all, I was very pleased with my weekend Field Day chase, and it was worth dodging rain storms for it. Sure, I would have loved to play radio at Craggy Gardens for a couple hours, but it was a pleasant surprise to fit in an ATNO activation before the end of the day. I’d have never guessed the Vance site was an ATNO, since it’s so accommodating and accessible. Indeed, I’ve discovered that, at this stage in POTA, most of the sites that haven’t been activated are either newly-incorporated into POTA or are very inaccessible. If you missed me there on Field Day, no worries: I plan to head out there again in the very near future.

Oh, and I did learn one more thing over the weekend: the Wolf River Coils TIA vertical antenna is incredibly easy and speedy to deploy. I’m very pleased with this recent acquisition!

Parkway and parks? I’ll be back soon. My radio’s already packed.

Did you participate in Field Day or put your receivers to the test by trying to log exchanges between stations?  Please comment!


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Radio in the field: Two new POTA activations this weekend!

This past weekend my wife suggested that I do a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation. I think she wanted me out of the house so that she could prepare a birthday and Father’s day surprise with my daughters.

Of course, I happily obliged. My motto in French: “Profitez-en bien!” or “Make the most of it!”

Hazel (our dog) made it crystal clear she wanted to join me as well. She’s a great hiking companion and also watches out for black bears while I operate in the forest!

DuPont State Game Land (K-6902)

I decided to activate the DuPont State Game Land which was about a one hour drive from my house. Not only was it a new park for me, but it was also an ATNO (All-Time New One) for the POTA program.

I arrived onsite around 10:15 AM local and the parking lot for the forest trail heads was already packed.

It was a gorgeous day and this part of the DuPont Forest is well-known as a great mountain biking spot. I was very lucky to find a place to park.

We’re still in full social distancing mode in North Carolina due to Covid-19, so I had no desire to be anywhere near other people. Hazel and I went off-trail and hiked in about 1/4 of a mile to a nice clearing.

I set up the EFT Trail-Friendly end-fed antenna and operated with the Elecraft KX2.

I called for quite some time before I was spotted in the POTA system. After being spotted, I quickly racked up more than the required 10 contacts for the activation to be considered valid.

Although the weather was amazing and my antenna deployment was near-ideal, the bands were rough and unstable, so it was challenging.

Hazel and I packed up, moved out, and made a detour to visit a waterfall near a site I hope to activate in the near future. Here’s a short video:

Kerr Scott State Game Land (K-6918)

Since Sunday, I’ve been visiting my hometown to help my parents with a few projects.

Yesterday, I had a four hour break in the day and decided to, of course, benefit from the beautiful weather and activate another new-to-me site. (Can you tell I’m addicted to POTA?)

I picked the Kerr Scott Game Land because it was “only” a 50 minute, rather scenic, drive.

It was quite easy finding a spot to park.  Like most game lands, though, you must be prepared to go through off-road conditions. Part of the driveway into the site was incredibly muddy and definitely required at least all-wheel drive.

I set up my station in the shade and easily deployed the end-fed antenna once again.

Lesson learned

This activation of Kerr Scott Game Land taught me an invaluable lesson: if you don’t have a “spot” of your activation on the POTA site, it’s like you don’t exist.

The POTA spotting network (much like popular DX spotting networks and clusters) is simply amazing. As a POTA hunter, you open the spots page and you’ll see a list of all of the current operators, their park numbers, and frequencies where last heard.

As an activator, your number one priority when you find an available frequency and start calling CQ is to be spotted on the POTA network.

If I have good mobile phone coverage at my site, I self-spot on the network. Within a few seconds of the spot posting, I’ll typically have a pile-up of a few operators trying to reach me.

If I have cell phone service, but no data, I’ll text my good friend Mike (K8RAT) and ask him to spot me on the network.

Kerr Scott, like most game lands, however, had no mobile phone service whatsoever, so I had no way to self-spot. In fact, this particular site was a good 15 minute drive from the nearest cell phone signal.

I called CQ for 30 to 40 minutes on my announced frequency, at the announced time, but not one single op come back to me.

Since I had just driven 50 minutes to reach this site, there was no way I was going to give up so easily. I had already set up my station in the trunk/boot of my car, so I simply secured it, disconnected the antenna and tied it to a tree branch (so it wouldn’t be in the way), and drove 15 minutes to a spot where I could send a quick message to Mike.

When I got back to the Kerr Scott, I hooked up the antenna, made one call, and had a pile-up of five operators I worked in rapid succession. In fact, I had my required 10 contacts within 8 minutes.

I do wonder how some of the most adventurous POTA activators manage to post spots while in remote areas. It’s such a key component of having a successful activation, I wonder if they use a satellite phone or satellite messaging device to text a friend for help. (If you’re a POTA or SOTA activator, I’d welcome your comments here!)

At any rate, I was very pleased to hammer out an activation so effortlessly once I was spotted on the network.

The CW secret weapon

I should add here that CW activators have a secret weapon that’s incredible effective: the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN).

As a CW operator, the POTA spot system will read your callsign from the RBN as long as you have made an announcement on the POTA website in advance or have already been spotted to the POTA website. All you have to do is set up your station at the site and call CQ: the POTA system will auto-generate an accurate spot for you based on the frequency from the RBN.  It’s incredibly effective and more than enough reason for me to think I should start doing CW activations.

I can operate CW–in fact, I routinely make CW contacts in POTA and in other contests. However, I’m not quite brave enough to call CQ from a POTA site and work my way through even a modest pile-up.

I need to practice CW more, and I will!

This week, I also take delivery of my Wolf River Coils TIA antenna. I’m looking forward to having the TIA as an option when I need a self-supporting antenna that’s quick to deploy and can handle up to 100 watts when needed.

Post readers: Did you play radio in the field this weekend? I’d love your comments–especially if you simply took a receiver outdoors to enjoy some noise-free broadcast listening!


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Listener Post: Mike Stutzer’s love of radio began with a Hallicrafters S-120

Photo: Universal Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Stutzer, who recently shared the following listener post:

I started SWLing as a teenager. My favorite uncle gave me a Hallicrafters S-120.

My dad hung a longwire under an eave and through a casement window frame into my bedroom. I marveled at all the AM international stations broadcasting in English, listening to everything from BBC cricket coverage on Saturday morning to hysterically unbelievable Albanian political news coverage.

After college I could afford something better, so I upgraded to a “boat anchor” Hallicrafters SX 110. It had a useful crystal filter to improve selectivity, but it was still nigh on impossible to decipher a Ham on SSB.

Photo: Universal Radio

Many decades later I bought a house on a steep foothill. Realizing that it was a perfect QTH for a Ham station, I got licensed and now am President of the local ARC. Here is a loving look at the original SWL receiver that got me hooked.

Prof. Mike

Boulder, CO

Thank you for sharing this, Mike!

Mike’s radio story is the latest in our multi-year series called Listener Posts, where I place all of your personal radio histories. Feel free to submit your own by contacting me.

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