Tags: qsos & qsl cards

A Sunday In November

Temperatures have dropped here in eastern Kansas, off the Missouri and Platte Rivers. Morning temps are getting down to the high teens but we've had generally clear skies - so no snow yet.

Been having a problem with my Toyota Tundra. I had the shocks replaced about two months ago, but I am still having a suspension issues. Often when I drive over uneven pavement I hear a type of popping or low banging. I'm dropping the truck off tomorrow morning at a garage in town and I hope they identify and fix the problem.

I popped the first cap on the KC Ale this past Thursday. One word: Tasty! I was so happy with the results that I brought in a 12-pack to distribute to my small group at CGSC. We will see what kind of feed back I get tomorrow. The KC Ale batch has a great cooper color, medium head, slight hoppy aroma. The taste is crisp and smooth, no off-flavors.

The California Common batch went into secondary fermentation last Tuesday (18 NOV). I'll try to get it bottled up this coming Wednesday (26 NOV). Then it should be ready for a first by 11 DEC... a good day to celebrate my last night class for this term.

While the CGSC program here at Fort Leavenworth is considered a Masters-level program, it does not award a degree at graduation (unlike the Navy's program in Monterey or the Air Force in Alabama). Therefore, in order to get a masters, I signed up to take two night classes a week and then by graduation I'll get the degree. It is a bit of pain now, but this is really the only opportunity I am going to get to earn a master's degree.

Back to beer: I need to get crackin' and cook up the batch of Raspberry Wheat. If I am able to get it into primary fermentation today, I should be able to hit secondary fermentation by next Sunday (30 NOV) and then bottle by 14 DEC. It should be nice and tasty by New Year's Eve.

I need to put together a sample pack for my Team Jedi brethren (Team Jedi are the fine folks I spent my last year in Iraq with). So it looks like the pack will consist of ESB, KC Ale, California Common, and the Raspberry Wheat.

I've also had a request from the 7-land Inbound QSL Bureau back in Oregon. I received an email from Marc, NC7M, who let me know I had 200+ QSL cards headed my way. I need to also replenish my postal funds for the bureau. And next week - I will answer all the YI9MI QSL card request that I have... which is quite a significant pile.

Fabulous Friday

We had an offsite for class this morning at the Santa Fe Station in downtown Leavenworth, KS. Great breakfast and great discussion.

I've got the wort in the bucket, should be done with primary fermentation in a day or two. This was the first time I had a hydrometer and I need to figure out how to use it. I've got to get a good bottle count. I have about a dozen with the rubber seal and stopper. I think I may need to get new rubber seals.

I have to decide if I want to do a secondary fermentation with the carboy.

I turned on the HF rig briefly and heard stateside stations talking with a station on Guantanamo. Then I heard a familiar voice, K4STW, Stew in Virginia Beach. Stew probably doesn't remember me, but we chatted now and again on the 2M repeaters in Hampton Roads. It was great to hear his voice.

I got Ubuntu working with my Linksys print server. This will make my life much easier.

Looks like we'll have good weather this weekend.

Another day in the shade

I hooked up my Morse key to my Icom IC-7000 and it appears to be working fine. Also hooked up an external speaker which is working nicely. I tried to connect my SM-20 microphone but realize now that a need a connector that I don't have. I don't want to hook up my Heil headset with the boom mike just yet. I was able to have a QSO with an Italian station and again with TI8II (Costa Rica), except on 20M this time.

More stuff I'm going to get done tomorrow:
- gather up my old (digital) logs
- back up my current Kansas log
- load up my YI9MI logs and prepare and organize the remaining received QSL cards
- order the adapter for the SM-20 mic
- find my weather station software
- have a CW QSO

I'm prepping to start a batch of homebrew beer. Tomorrow I'm going to start the process. Maybe have some fresh beer by Halloween?

QSL Cards... what makes a winner?

My dad has recently upgraded to General and has been getting on the air making contacts. This isn't the first time he's been on HF or exchanged QSL cards. Back in his younger days, he held the call KN6ILL (I Love Lucy) and operated an HT-20 transmitter and a National NC-57 for a receiver with an 80 meter dipole. His license lapsed but now he is back in the game with an IC-718. He is making regular contacts using PSK-31 and has started to receive QSL cards. But he hasn't made up his own cards yet. I figured I'd try an help with a rough draft - something to get the creative juices flowing.


Wikipedia defines a QSL card as a written confirmation of either a two-way radiocommunication between two amateur radio stations or a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, or television station. A typical QSL card is the same size and made from the same material as a typical postcard, and many are sent through the mail as a standard postcard. QSL cards derived their name from the Q code "QSL", which means "I acknowledge receipt."

I really enjoy QSL cards, both receiving them in the mail from other hams verifying our QSOs and designing my own to send out as an acknowledgment of the contact on my end.

The appearance of your QSL card can be important for many. It gives the recipient a snapshot of you... and I find it difficult to do that on the small area provided by a 3.5" by 5.5" card.

The general agreed upon minimum elements of a QSL card are the following:
- Your callsign
- Basic information concerning the QSO
+ the other party's callsign
+ time/date of contact in UTC/GMT/Zulu
+ band or frequency of the QSO
+ mode (SSB/CW/digital mode)
+ signal report (RST)
- Your name and mailing address

Additionally most hams include the following information which is useful for a number of different awards:
- County (for the county hunters)
- Grid (for the grid hunters)
- ITU and CQ zones

After that the door is wide open on what is found on a QSL card. Many include membership numbers which go towards earning awards (FISTS, SKCC, 10-10, etc.). Some also include one or more logos of clubs and organizations they belong to (ARRL, ARES, MARS, SKYWARN, contest club, local club, etc.).

Many hams like to individualize their QSL cards with a picture showing their hamshack, antenna farm, QRP rig, mobile setup. Others put a picture of a some notable location or landmark near where they live (National Park, major league stadium, civil war battlefield, etc.). And a few portray an additional hobby they are active in beyond (or complimenting) ham radio. This is where you can really set your card apart from others, make it stand out in a crowd.

I think some sound advise is to keep the card relatively clean and simple - don't try to do too much in such a small space. Have fun and make your card something you are proud to share with others.

Here are some other sites with more information on QSL cards:
- eham.net: QSL Cards
- WA7S: QSL Cards - How to Make Your Own
- QSL Factory
- The QSL Man

Items of interest

Interesting post on W2LJ's blog about his PDA. I have an assortment of PDAs:

- Palm Pilot Pro that I got an upgrade kit for to make it a Palm III (new chip along with IR sync capability)

- Palm IIIxe which I bought on eBay. It works well except that it eats up batteries even when it is turned off. I have used this PDA with my Kenwood TH-D7 to do mobile 2m packet and PocketAPRS.

- Palm m130. This was the first PDA I had that allowed you to use an SD card. I have used this to program my TinyTrack APRS device.

- Palm Tungsten 3 (or T3). First PDA with wireless connectivity, in this case Bluetooth. Also has a slot for an SD card. I used this PDA for mobile logging, mainly taking advantage of the voice recording function... I'd have a mobile QSO, pick up the Palm T3 and record a voice memo of the time, freq, callsign, and any other significant info. At a later point I used that to update my primary log.

- Some variant of an HP PDA that has WiFi and an SD card slot.

Also have an assortment of keyboards, cameras, and other doo-dads that go with these.

I have the Palm T3 with me now... I'm guessing it needs to be charged.

K3OQ has a post about his upcoming trip to the Outer Banks. He also plans to activate The Bodie Island Lighthouse (USA-067). I had the opportunity to activate that light back in June of 2006. Beautiful area out there - very relaxing. One of the highlights of any hams visit to the Outer Banks is using the Outer Banks Repeater Association’s 2m and 70cm repeaters. I had a few great exchanges with Jack, W2EHD who lives in the area year around. The repeater system also allowed me to stay in contact with the XYL while I was off activating lighthouses.

N9IK's Radio Blog has a new post about his completion of the Rock-Mite 40 transceiver kit. He's got some great pics of his work. I hope to develop my building skills to that level. Very nice work. I look forward to hearing about the contacts he makes with it.

K9ZW tries to solve the age old question of the best way to organize QSL cards with his latest post. I'm curious to see how others keep their cards organized. I don't have a ton of cards yet, but I would like a solid method of keeping my cards organized that will last for years and allow me to access them as needed.

As always - I enjoy reading your blogs. It keeps my interest in amateur radio strong even if I don't get on the air as often as I'd like.

gerryk - Bringing tech to the West


Nice new blog... and I really enjoyed this post:

First proper HF QSO
July 21st, 2007

Now I have a proper dipole up, albeit not all that high, at about 15ft, signals are coming in very strong on all HF bands. Now that could mean a great antenna and matcher on my part, or, is more likely, a mediocre antenna system but huge signals from stations with massive beams and amps in the 100w plus range.

Going on what I was hearing today, though, it seems to be a combination of the two. I heard plenty of 100 watt, G5RV at 60ft people, as you might expect, but also a few putting small powers out, like one gent putting 30w into a random wire who was chatting to another putting 5w into a resonant dipole. Both were 5/6 to 5/8 which boosted my confidence no end, given that my max output with the FT817 is 5w. I listened around the 40m band and, ok, it wasn’t completely crowded, but there was plenty going on all the same. I listened into a few chats and whenever I heard one wrapping up, got ready to pick up the open station after the other went QRT.

Time after time, I waited for a QRZ or CQ and went straight back with my call, but when I unkeyed, generally heard a booming 5/9+ signal, or, more commonly, a few, coming back to the calling station, drowning my little signal completely. Frustrating, you might think, but, to be honest, I enjoyed tuning up and down the band, listening not just to people ragchewing or notching up QSOs, but the atmosphere too. The weather has been almost tropical of late, by which I mean tropical rain rather than tropical sun, and that sort of weather means thunder. Not thunder I could hear with my ears, unless you consider the added hearing aid of about 66ft of wire hanging about 15ft in the air. With that to pick up the discharges, the thunder sounded like feet crunching in gravel, in amongst the ever present hiss.

I didn’t spend a couple of hours throwing rocks into the branches of trees just to listen to clouds blowing off steam, though, I did it to talk to people far away with a tiny amount of power, and in among the big guns it just wasn’t happening. I tried tuning down to the 80m band, but apart from some very weak signals, it was dead as a morgue. I tried 20m. Not anywhere like 40m, but a few here and there. I tried catching loose stations at the end of a QSO, but again and again was rendered inaudible by what one QRP op called a pocketbook op. Those with deep pockets rarely have problems being heard, but, a well placed whisper can be like a shout, so I stick to my rather small guns on the power output. I tried 15m, and it’s pretty silent too, until, up at 21.190MHz I hear a clear voice calling CQ 15! He repeated his call a number of times while I frantically rematched the dipole with the Emtech ZM-2. Finally got a nice low SWR, switched back to USB and heard him still calling CQ. I keyed up, and as slowly and clearly as possible gave my callsign. “QRZ? QRZ, that station.” he said, and I was in. I repeated my call, almost shouting it into the mike. “Echo India 8 Delta Foxtrot Bravo?” he replied. I reread my call, “Echo India 8 Delta RADIO Bravo, Echo India 8 Delta ROMEO Bravo” and this time he got it. “EI8DRB from Charlie 3 3 Portugal Panama” he returned, mixing up the phonetics as hams often do. He gave his QTH as Andorra and his name as Pedro. Andorra! That’s nearly a thousand miles away! On 2.5w and a dipole 15ft off the ground, surrounded by trees, that’s not a bad achievement.

He gave me a report of 3/5 and I gave his as 5/5, we bade each other good DX and 73 and went about our business. He also said I could QSL via QRZ.com, and within the next few days, Pedro in Andorra will be getting a postcard from Galway confirming our brief QSO. I don’t think he fully realises the significance of this to me. To him, I was just another weak station for him to log, for me, it is the beginning of an adventure.

Monday ham radio

I made the trip over to Ft. Story this morning to activate the Old & New Cape Henry Lighthouses (USA 122 and USA 121). I wanted to accomplish a couple things:
(1) activate the lighthouses. I've activated them in the past with limited success and wanted to give ARLHS members a chance to earn the USAARS Lighthouse award.
(2) test out my mobile setup using my different antennas.
(3) attempt to use a logging program on my Palm Pilot.

I ended up having five contacts - all on 40M even though the noise level was pretty high. I called CQ on 20M for quite some time but didn't get any takers. I think I had two or three ARLHS folks qualify for the USAARS award. For the antennas, I started off with a trio of Hustler coils. The antenna went up quick on the 54" mast and I had already tuned them to be a good match for the ARLHS calling freqs. I then switched to the Hamstick-like Workman antennas, first for 40M then 20M. No real difference in results. I'm going to stick with the Workman Hamsticks when I'm actually mobile and use the Hustler coils when operating from a fixed site. Using the Palm Pilot for logging is not easy. Adding headphones with a boom mike might help. Using the Palm Pilot takes two hands so it requires setting down the handmike, inconvenient for fast paced operation.

Back at the home QTH I rolled up on 20M CW and got an answer to a CQ from DL4SEW, Stefan in Stuttgart. There was a lot of fading but I was able to get most of what he sent. This was my first QSO with Germany and my second with Europe.

Back in the mobile and heading to Fort Monroe, I answered a CQ on 20M from YU1XA in Serbia. He gave me a 59 plus and was surprised I was mobile. It is just pretty cool talking to Serbia while driving down the road.

Getting back up on that CW horse

After being away from my CW paddle for quite some time, I've been trying to get back into CW. Over the past few days I've been having success with a few QSOs. Tonight I went down to 80M and had a QSO with Ed, AB8DF, from Michigan. Ed was operating QRP with an Elecraft K2 - a very cool rig. I'm going to keep working on my CW... eventually I'll work my speed up to something I can be proud of.

40M mobile

I played around with the Opek and Workman 40M antennas this morning. The Opek tuned from about 7.150 to 7.290 and the Workman tuned from 7.040 to 7.250. I noticed a difference in the receive - the Workman was doing a better job. I have an extra stinger for the Workman, so I'm going to shorten it a bit allowing me use of the upper phone band on 40M (good for lighthouse work on 7.270). I can then lengthen the existing one just a bit to allow me to cover all the CW area of 40M.

Had a nice QSO with Frank, AC9T, located up near Chicago. He served in the Navy aboard the battleship USS Iowa and told me what it was like sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

More on the mobile install

I spent some more time on Sunday improving my HF mobile install. After completely removing the rear interior panel of the cab and finding no grommet or any other easy method of passing the feedline into the cab I was able to find a nice sized grommet under the passenger seat. I was able to keep the feedline to a length of 10 feet, ran it through a plastic covering for protection, and then tied it off underneath the truck at multiple points using zip ties. For the antenna mount support, I found an L bracket at Home Depot that I was able to securely bolt to the bed of the truck near the cab. I ran a short length of braided grounding wire from the other side of the bolt (inside the bed frame) down to the frame of the vehicle underneath the cab. For the antenna mount, I'm using a 3/8 inch X 24 Radio Shack base fitting - standard for use with Hamstick, Hamstick knock-offs, and the Hustler varities. The base fitting fit neatly through a pre-drilled hole through the top of the L bracket.

In the past when I operated portable HF from the truck I used one of the 12v convenience outlets (aka cigarette lighters). I have consistently failed to locate any easy access through the engine firewall for a power cable. Now with finding the grommet under the passenger's seat, I decided to use that for the entrance for 12v power. I used 10 gauge wire from the truck's battery terminals (both with in-line fuses), routed the cable around the engine and down the passenger side to the grommet. I terminated the line using Anderson PowerPoles and am using a Saratoga Amateur Power Panel for distribution.

I took advantage of the IC-706MKIIG's detachable faceplate, using the mounting kit to attach it to a Belkin iPod/PDA holder that secures into a cup holder. This allows me to easily tune around the band with my right hand without any reaching. The handmike attaches to the faceplate.

I haven't found a great place to actually secure the radio and auto tuner. Right now they're tucked under the rear of the front passenger's seat. The seat immediately behind the passenger's seat folds up towards the front of the truck and provides protection (and shade) for the rig. If I can find a way to mount the radio that still allows me to quickly and easily remove it for portable use, I'll do it.

For antennas I'm using a two Hamstick knock-offs made by a company called Workman. One is for 20M and the other is for 40M. They easily screw into the 3/8 inch X 24 base fitting. Both work well, the 20M tunes the entire band and the 40M tunes nicely below 7260. I also purchased a cross between a Hustler and a Hamstick antenna (also for 20M and 40M) made by a company called Opek at the Virginia FrostFest last month. The 20M antenna is worthless. It won't tune anywhere in the 20M phone band. The 40M antenna does a nice job covering the 40M band and tunes up to 7290 without issue. I also have a 75M Hamstick (can't remember where I bought it) - with a little trimming of the stinger I was able to get the stick to tune the upper portion of the 75M phone band. The tuneable bandwidth for the 75M stick will be narrow, no way around it. But I can cut a few different length stingers to provide coverage down into 80M.

I've had successful QSOs using the Workman 20M and 40M antennas as well as the 40M Opek antenna. This evening I had the 20M Workman antenna mounted and first had a QSO with PS7JS in Brazil. There were several stations calling, but PS7JS came back to me after my second call and gave me a 59 report. Ten minutes later I had a QSO with Pedro, XE1REM, operating from Mexico City. Pedro also gave me a FB 59 report. Earlier today I had a QSO with a station in Slovakia, receiving a 57.

A couple of notes on operating mobile:
(1) I need to get something to take notes with. I need to be able to jot down callsigns, freqs, and times.
(2) I have to remember to include "mobile" after my callsign.