Tags: antenna

Back in the saddle

I -finally- got my HF rig working here at the Kansas QTH.

Since arriving here back in July, I've been super busy. School (the Army's Command & General Staff College (CGSC)) kicked in at the beginning of August. The last formal schooling I had was eight years ago - so I was a bit rusty at getting into the swing of things (i.e. reading, reading... and more reading). I'm also taking a complementarity master's degree program in International Relations through Webster University (two nights a week). The good news is I was able to talk the XYL into taking the master's courses with me. The bad news is that sometimes the master's stuff chews up more time than my school work for CGSC.

CGSC can be intense. September was packed with wall-to-wall learning, usually from 0830 to at least 1530. The schedule is starting to lighten up a bit.

Today I was able catch my breath a bit... out of class at 1130. The sun was shining, a beautiful day. I had some antenna maintenace to do. A little bit of time on the roof and the majority of my HF problems were fixed. I'm now up on HF, except for 80M. I think a little work on my counterpoise will fix that.

Back in the basement (aka The Scud Bunker) I hooked up my Icom IC-7000 to the new and improved HF antenna - bingo... all the problems I was experiencing in the past were gone. A QSO with KC2PBX, Pierre on Long Island, NY on 20M and then TI8II from Costa Rica on 17M, later with Ray, W1RAA from Tampa, FL. It felt good having some HF QSOs. I did a little more work with my station setup; hooking up the RIGtalk and RIGblaster Plug&Play. There's more work to do and I should have time later in the week.

Other news:
- I'm switching from Windows to Ubuntu Linux. I WILL NOT UPGRADE FROM XP TO VISTA. Vista is a tool of the devil and I will have no part of it. My Toshiba laptop has been dual boot between XP and Ubuntu for a while, but had rarely been using the Ubuntu. I ordered a Dell Mini 9 (very tiny netbook) to help with school (writing papers in the library rather than goofing off in the Scud Bunker). The Dell Mini is coming with Ubuntu pre-loaded. Sweet. The next step will be setting up one of my towers as an Ubuntu server. Goodbye Microsoft.
- I've gone Kindle. Both the XYL and myself have the Amazon Kindle. I like it a lot better than my Sony eBook. Getting the Washington Post first thing every morning is great. The battery life is a little to be desired. The best part is that I can read KE9V's blog right on my Kindle.

Ok - back to the books. I will get better at making frequent updates here.

A New Beginning - Goals For The Kansas Radio Shack

One advantage of the move to Kansas will be the opportunity to redesign and implement a new shack layout. I don't have a clear picture of what I want it to look like, so I am going to start with making a list of what I want to be able to accomplish in the shack. This will be a basement shack... a big basement. I've never lived in a house that had a basement and I'm looking forward to the possibilities.

What I want to accomplish in the Kansas Shack:
- HF phone and CW operation; 80m-10m
- HF digital modes (PSK-31, RTTY, PACTOR III)
- Computer logging
- 2m FM base station
- APRS weather station, interfaced with a dedicated 2m transceiver
- Online weather page, showing current weather conditions
- Seperate, organized workbench

There are a number of tall trees to the north of the house that will support some different wire antenna options. My plan is to start out with a RadioWavz 246' End Fed Zep. We'll see how that works. Maybe try a loop before winter comes. Another challenge will be getting the feedline into the basement.

Hex Beam

From : K2JXW
Sent : Tuesday, October 17, 2006 1:30 PM
Subject : K2JXW's Hex Beam

A few have been asking about the new Hex Beam that I just installed. I purchased it from Trafie Technology (see web site at http://hexbeam.com and was able to assemble it in less than an hour from a sitting position in my WHEELCHAIR. Mine is a 20M monobander, but 5-band models are available, albeit a bit pricey ($900 or so). The construction is supurb -- every part fit exactly and went together exactly as described. Light weight (a pound or so) and compact (9-ft turning radius), this thing went up easily on a 30-ft fiberglass mast, again whilst in my wheelchair.

Now, if you dont want to buy the commercial version, construction of an easy and cheap homebrew 5-band version is described at http://www.leoshoemaker.com/hexbeambyk4kio/general.html

C U on the air with a signal about 3 S-units stronger than previously.

73 from K2JXW and the
Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society,
with 1400 members and over 10,000
subscribers, the largest lighthouse
society of its kind in the world!

Lunchtime DX

Instead of trying to knock out a quick CW QSO, I decided I'd try to tune around 20M to see if the new antenna was picking up any DX. I was rewarded with a brief QSO SSB with Mike, RX6AM. I believe that was my first SSB contact with Russia, up to now I've only had a few confirmed PSK31 QSOs. The next station I heard was Abdula, 9K2GS from Kuwait! That marks a first - up to now, I'd never heard an amateur station from the middle east. I was unsuccessful in breaking the pileup and had to head back to work. All this is helping to build my confidence in the new antenna.

Weekend Wrap Up

I finally got the RadioWorks Carolina Windom 80 up in the trees! Again, a wonderful job done by the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher. I used it four times, each time it performed perfectly.

The matching unit is up about 50'. I was able to put the 82' leg over the house and tied off to a tree in the front yard. The 51' leg went out the other direction tied off to a tree behind my backyard. Each leg is tied off at about 35'. Unfortunately, the antenna is not in a completely straight line from end to end, but I think its the best I'm going to get. So far I have noticed a lower noise level than my inverted vee. I particpated in the MARS training net tonight and was able to hear all the stations very well. I also had a 20M USB QSO with Argentina and a 40M LSB with southern Florida.

I had a few CW QSOs Saturday night. I hoping to have a few tonight and test the new antenna a bit more.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Finally put the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher into action. The objective was to drop the four 10' PVC pipe sections that supported the center point of my B&W inverted vee and replace it with a heavy duty rope supported by the upper sections of a pine tree in the back yard.

I pumped up the launcher to 70psi, loaded the ball, launched it almost straight up. I fired the tennis ball up over some tree branches at about 60'. The ball went up, cleared the branches and easily came down the other side. I attached some heavier line to the far end line and pulled it up and over the branch. I pulled down the PVC and attached the center point to heavy duty rope. I then pulled the center point back up. The launcher worked great and my next step will be to raise the end points from 10' to 20'.... which will allow me to then raise the center point a few more feet.

I had two 20M SSB QSOs: a station in the British Virgin Islands that gave me a 59 and a station in Italy that gave me a 57. I'm pretty comfortable that my antenna is working at least as well as it was before I made the changes.

This weekend in the shack.....

GYFWW: Get Your Feet Wet Weekend. This was an interesting event... all CW. My CW skills are atrocious and this was my attempt at improving. I enjoyed it, although at times it was very frustrating. The exchange was RST, name, state, FISTS #, and year licensed. Most folks were good at slowing down and repeating missed parts of the exchange. I spent a lot of time just sending CQ without a response. A contest doesn't have the personal interaction of a regular QSO. At the end of the contest I had 18 contacts and over 200 points... no records broken here. I still have a long way to go on the CW. I would like to get my speed up to 15-20wpm - that will take a lot of consistent work.

Virginia Beach Hamfest: My second year attending the Virginia Beach Hamfest. A two-day hamfest, I went on Sunday. $5 to get in. There were a few vendors, but I had primarily come this year for RadioWorks, a local company from Portsmouth that makes great wire antennas. I purchased a Carolina Windom, 133' long, good on 80M to 10M. The challenge now is to hang that bad boy. I'll be assisted by my CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher.

T-238+ APRS WX Project: The main board was good to go. I put the modem board together Friday night, checked out and good to go. Then came Saturday, I was interfacing the WX sensors (temp, wind speed and direction)... it worked! I was getting the data to read out properly. However, when I tried to interface the modem board with the radio, the LCD screen started showing all solid squares instead of text and the heat sink got very, very hot. The LED heartbeat light is still functioning, but clearly there is something wrong. Hope I'm not back to square one. http://www.tapr.org/kits_t238plus.html

Weekend Wrap Up

Went up to the Yorktown Battlefield Saturday and linked up with Mark, N1LO. I got to see his portable setup. He was using a delta loop antenna made of speaker wire, maybe about 25' per side. The speaker wire was in three sections, the sections were connected using fishing line lure links. The speaker wire was terminated using banana plugs and fed into a 1:1 balun. To support the legs of the delta loop, Mark used a combination of a painter's pole and a fiberglass fishing rod secured by a 3' picket easily driven into the ground about 8".

The fiberglass fishing pole's end easily nests into the painter's pole with about 6" overlap raising the loop to a height of about 20'. The painter's pole was secured to the picket using two small hose clamps. The delta loop tuned easily from 80M to 10M, but would not tune 160M. All the antenna components compacted down to fit into a plastic rifle case. Mark connected the delta loop to his IC-706MKIIG through his LDG AT-200 Pro autotuner and was easily making QSOs into Ohio (the Ohio QSO Party was underway). Power was provided by a ~100aH marine battery and a nice homebrew PowerPole distribution hub. The best part of the setup was the location - in a very nice, shady park on the southern banks of the York River.

In an endeavor to consolidate my 2M packet operations (APRS, Winlink 2K, and good ol' fashion BBS packet) into the garage, I spent a good chunk of time pushing around boxes and crates. I purchased three 3' high bookshelves from Target, arrayed them in an open "U" and then placed a 4'x6' piece of plywood across the top. I filled the bookshelves with back issues of QST and equipment awaiting to be put into use. Next to this workbench, I put a previously unused, small table where I positioned my monitor and PC. I spent the late afternoon converting the PC from Ubuntu back to Window XP (... I can't commit the time needed to tweak Unbuntu to my needs). Now I need to move the my KPC-3+ from the radio room out to the garage and see if I can get a basic packet station operational.

Also been preparing for the upcoming RV DXpedition. I'll be taking the ARSIB along with the vertical dipole, but was also thinking about taking a G5RV. I'm also going to try and use a 75M hamstick, we'll see how that works out.

2M Mobile Install

I installed a 2M rig in the Toyota Avalon today. I got a Radio Shack HTX-242 off of eBay. For the mount I used a Diamond K601M UHF hideaway trunk mount and a Diamond dual-band antenna. From the tests so far, the rig works pretty well. For an older radio, the HTX-242 has all the features of the rigs that are out there today.

Lazy Sunday

Knocked out some more QSL cards and certificates for the W4M special event station. It's fun going through all the QSL cards. Two QSL cards stood out from this morning, one from Washington State near Fort Lewis and the other from Sierra Vista, AZ... near Fort Huachuca. Each QSL response has the W4M folded QSL card, the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse (USA 567) QSL card, the W4M US Army Amateur Radio Society special event certificates, and sometimes a picture or two from the actual event.

The US Army Amateur Radio Society is picking up more members. We've been able to identify more hams downrange as well as hams getting ready to go - trying to get them their reciprocal licenses as soon as possible. Also identified some folks in Korea, to include a POC to help with licensing. I need to start looking at Germany as well... I'm sure there has to be quite a few Army hams in Germany.

.... and I even had a 40M CW QSO today! Had about a 40 minute ragchew with AA4TB who is down in Summervile, SC (near Charleston). Tommy put up with my horrible CW skills and kept it slow. I need to find the time to do some serious work on my CW. I wish I could find somebody I could establish a regular CW sked with... like two or three times a week. I think this would really help me improve. Plus - on air practice is a lot better than working one of those CW computer programs.

I have grand plans for a new antenna. The Radio Works is a local company and produces quality antennas. I have two Radio Works G5RVs - one of which I bought from a local ham. The antenna was originally purchased back in the 1980s, but unused. I used the antenna for the W4M special event station - still looked like new and worked like a champ. My current antenna is a B&W end fed inverted vee. Although it has omnidirectional properties, it has a N/S orientation. My plan is to put a Radio Works Carolina Windom 160 Special with a E/W orientation. I intend to use it as a flattop, 133' in length. I have nice pine trees in the front and back yards, I think I can get the Window up about 50' or more. Just waiting for my CSV17 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher!