Not a lot happening in my shack

Wow, October flew by and now we’re into November. Consequently, the number of updates on the blog for the past month represents the exact number of times I’ve turned on my HF rig. No time spend on the air = No updates. About the only thing I’ve done is checked into the local net a few times, and did some 70 cm simplex with a friend. Nothing particularly advanced or interesting.

That’s not to say I haven’t been busy at least thinking about radio. Back in October I gave a presentation on software-defined radio at a very well-attended meeting of the Columbia Amateur Radio Club. I demoed the RTL-SDR dongle with SDR# software, and I brought my SoftRock Ensemble II RX for show and tell. I would have loved to provide a live demo, but we haven’t managed to run a feedline into our meeting facility yet. I did show a few videos I recorded of the SoftRock in use for SWLing, CW and SSB operation, and demonstrated how to monitor a 2-meter net with the RTL-SDR.

Overall, I think folks enjoyed the talk and several guys were inspired to purchase the RTL dongle for further experimentation.

In other news, I’ve been elected treasurer of our club for the third year, despite my best efforts to nominate others for the position, hehe.

There have been some interesting bits around the web lately, which I’m sure many readers have already seen:

  • A great article on Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” album and its connection to shortwave over at The SWLing Post. It’s safe to say this album is one of the factors that interested me in ham radio, in particular, numbers stations. (Check out the album on Spotify) The SWLing post has been writing about music and shortwave this week, with previous articles about The Clash’s Joe Strummer, and Peter Gabriel.  Excellent web site.
  • KB6NU, who should be no stranger to any ham owing to his “No-Nonsense” study guides and excellent blog, has been working on an excellent series of articles titled the “CW Geek’s Guide to Having Fun with Morse Code.” Oh man, these are good: Learning the Code | Choosing a Key | Abbreviations | Q-Signals | Prosigns | CW Clubs. I’ve learned quite a bit from reading them and it’s safe to say his articles are better than the ARRL’s recent CW beginner book (Overpriced and underwhelming in scope. All the information it contained could have been found with a few Google searches and had scant information on actual operating).
  • I was sad to learn of the recent passing of Julian, G4ILO. I always enjoyed his blog and his expertise will certainly be missed in the community.
  • The Manfred Moon Memorial Mission (4M) wrapped up yesterday. The window to listen in on this probe was very small and I was obviously undergeared for the task (a high-gain directional antenna with azimuth and elevation adjustments was recommended), but apparently 29 amateur ops did report in. The probe transmitted messages on 145.980 MHz JT65B with 1 watt of RF power. Fascinating stuff!
  • Somehow I won the South Carolina section for the single-op, mixed mode, low power category of the 2013 IARU HF World Championship. I couldn’t remember participating, so when a certificate arrived in the mail a few weeks ago I figured someone made a mistake at the ARRL. Thanks to the magic of this blog, I went back and discovered I’d made 50 QSOs during that contest. That doesn’t sound like a lot of QSOs, but I suppose it was enough for the wallpaper. Even stranger, I completed those QSOs using the old FT-847, as I hadn’t ordered my K3 at that point.

I must make an effort to get back on the radio, particularly if the Worked All Twitter effort is back on for the Thanksgiving weekend. But first, I need to check to see if my dipole is still in the air after high winds last week wreaked havok on my neighborhood. At least half the dipole is still up, but the longer section that runs into the woods behind my home may have become a victim of falling limbs (this has happened before!).

Someone has time on their hands

Saw this on the ARRL’s site this week and couldn’t believe that two hams actually received warnings from the FCC for not IDing properly on-air.

The FCC Enforcement Bureau has released Warning Notice letters it sent in July to two radio amateur, advising them that it monitored transmissions in which they failed to identify properly. The Bureau posted the correspondence earlier this month on its Amateur Radio Service Enforcement Actions web page.

One of the accused gentlemen named in the article is an Extra-class operator from Inman, S.C., so that piqued my interest. The other, a General class op, is located in Delaware. Both were said to be on 7.185 on July 15 and 16 operating “for 20 minutes without identifying in a timely manner.”

Yes, all good hams know you are supposed to ID every 10 minutes, and these two guys were evidently breaking that rule. Both should know better. It just seems unusual to call them out publicly in this manner.

Maybe this will serve as a warning to some of the grumpy guys down on 75 meters?

“Archie’s Ham Radio Adventure” comic artist Stan Goldberg is SK

archie_1I’ve become a huge comic geek in the past year, and one of the real treasured items I have in my collection is a copy of “Archie’s Ham Radio Adventure,” which was given to me by a friend a year ago.

I didn’t really know a lot about the book, but I scanned it up and gave it a quick review here on the blog. I bagged and boarded the comic and placed it in a storage box along with Spider-Man, Harley Quinn, Batman and everything in between.

After returning from DragonCon in Atlanta, where I spent the Labor Day weekend immersed in comic book culture, I learned Stan Goldberg, one of the artists responsible for Archie’s Ham Radio Adventure, had passed away. The news came directly from Jim Massara, N2EST, who penned QST cartoons in the 1980s and also once worked for Marvel. He found my blog post about Archie and left a comment concerning Mr. Goldberg’s passing.

Jim was quoted in the ARRL’s article on the artist’s passing and elaborated on his significance:

“He’s the reason Spider Man’s costume is red and dark blue, the reason the Incredible Hulk’s skin is green. Goldberg was a giant in our industry.”

Massara said Goldberg was best known for drawing teen-related comics, first for Timely, a Marvel Comics predecessor, where Goldberg started as a staff colorist in 1949, when he was just 16. He went on to work for DC Comics and, finally, for Archie Comics starting in the early 1970s. “He was Archie Comics’ prolific lead artist for a number of years, and along with Dan DeCarlo was one of two artists who defined the look of Archie and the gang for several decades,” Massara told ARRL.

There’s a very nice tribute to Stan and his influence on Archie over at the artist’s Facebook page.

I can only imagine what impact this book would have had on me as a kid!


High emotions at QRP club meeting


KERRVILLE, South Carolina; Feb. 4, 2013 — Arguing and fisticuffs marked the monthly meeting of the Kerrville QRP Ham Radio Club this past weekend. Gathered at the local Denny’s Restaurant to discuss club business and enjoy the “Early Bird” special, the mood turned sour quickly when it was discovered that none of the members have ever been able to make a QSO.

From Noise Blankers

The large ears of the law

Saw this in the ARRL newsletter this week and found it interesting that someone was actually “raided” and fined $10,000 for illegal transmissions. Of course, the write-up doesn’t really elaborate on the details of what exactly the guy was allegedly doing (wouldn’t surprise me if he was engaging in the stereotypical ham chatter: The weather, rigs, antennas). He was a lapsed ham, who never advanced beyond Technician class, so he was definitely out of order being on 20 meters.

From the report:

In December 2012, the FCCs office in Kansas City received a complaint from an Amateur Radio operator, reporting interference on 14.312 MHz. Upon investigation, agents from that office heard a male voice transmitting on the frequency 14.312 MHz. Using direction finding equipment, the agents located the source of the radio frequency transmissions to a transmitting antenna mounted on a pole next to [the suspect’s] residence.

The feds nailed this guy on 14.312, but what about the almost continuous verbal mosh pit just a nudge over on 14.313? I wonder if there’s any enforcement of that?

Oh well, at least we can just spin the dial and move on.

The sky is falling!

X5.4 Solar Flare of March 7, 2012, CREDIT: NASA

I heard about this earlier today, but a pal of mine just sent me this:

Space Weather News for March 7, 2012

SOLAR ACTIVITY: Big sunspot AR1429 has unleashed another major flare–an X5-class eruption on March 7th at 00:28 UT. As a result of the blast, a radiation storm is underway and a CME will likely hit Earth’s magnetic field in a day or so. Geomagnetic storms are already in progress at high latitudes due to earlier eruptions from the active sunspot. Last night, auroras were spotted over several northern-tier US states including Michigan and Wisconsin.

The last big coronal mass ejection happened a day or so before SPAR Winter Field Day earlier this year, and as a result, most of the club guys had lousy results on the bands that day.

We’ll see what happens come Thursday.