Archive for February, 2008

This Blog is Moderated

I have this blog configured so that all comments are moderated. It seems that without this, spammers and scammers like to post all kinds of useless stuff. So when you post a comment, it may take a day or two for me to notice it and process it. (It depends on my schedule, of course.)

I generally approve any comments that have substance. If you just rant and rave, it will go into the bit bucket. I usually reject anonymous comments, so please include your first name and amateur radio callsign when you post a comment.

I do appreciate your thoughts, so keep them coming!

73, Bob K0NR

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2007 September VHF QSO Party

The March issue of QST arrived in the mail today, so I sat down and did my usual browsing through it. Ah, the September VHF contest results article by Sean KX9X is in here. The September contest is not a focus for me….usually I am out of energy for serious VHF contesting after participating in the June ARRL contest, the July CQ VHF contest and our local mountaintop event (Colorado 14er Event) in August. More to the point, propagation is usually not that great in September in Colorado and not that many VHFers participate in the contest (compared to the June event).

So I was a bit surprised when I scanned through the article and found my score in the Single Operator Portable category. Oh, now I remember, I got out my FT-817 QRP rig and worked a handful of stations while standing on the back deck. I usually try to do this to hand out a few contacts for the serious contesters. It seems I must have taken the time to submit a contest log with the totally awesome score of 20 points.

Just as surprising, this outstanding effort resulted in a first place score for my category in the Colorado Section, Rocky Mountain Division and the entire Midwest Region. Talk about taking names and kicking b***t!

In the article KX9X wrote:

In what may be the the most concentrated effort in history, Bob, K0NR, needed only five minutes’ worth of operating time to capture the QRP Portable category in the entire Midwest region!

Oh, I guess I should say that there was only one other entry in the category: N0JK submitted another Single Op Portable log with a score of 9 points. So the competition was not that intense.

Well, I guess you never know how it will turn out. So get off the couch, turn on the radio and work someone this weekend.

73, Bob K0NR

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Happenings in the ARRL Rocky Mountain Division

The Rocky Mountain Division of the ARRL has established a new web site to aid in communications with the membership. It looks to be a great place to find out about regional ham radio events, including local hamfests.

Jeff Ryan K0RM is the Section Manager for the ARRL Colorado Section. Jeff has recently created a web site for the Colorado section of the ARRL.

Speaking of hamfests, the 2008 Division Convention will be held July 11-13 in beautiful Bryce Canyon, Utah. Count on there being excellent forums, equipment sales, fun competitions, great eyeball QSOs, and wonderful food, all at a gorgeous venue, and all in the company of hams from around the Division and beyond!

It is not too early to start thinking about Field Day (June 28-29). The ARRL has published the updated rules for this event. Although FD is run like a contest, it really is more of an “operating event,” with lots of opportunity to socialize, provide publicity, have family activities and pull in non-hams. Oh, yeah, and it might even help with emergency preparedness.

I like the Field Day logo this year….with the theme of “Ride the Waves”. That insect/bug thing last year really missed the mark. I might even buy a Field Day T-shirt this time.

- 73, Bob K0NR

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The Use of 146.52 MHz

One of the local clubs recently had a heated discussion about the use of the National Simplex Calling Frequency, which is 146.52 MHz in the US (per the ARRL band plan). You have probably heard the argument before… the calling frequency reserved to just calling or is it OK to ragchew on that frequency?

In the Summer 2006 issue of CQ VHF, I wrote about mountaintop operating and included these thoughts on the use of 146.52:

Calling Frequency
What frequency are you going to use to call CQ from your favorite high spot? Well, the calling frequency, of course…. most likely 146.52 MHz. This usually works pretty well as many simplex-oriented operators make it a point to listen on .52. While we don’t normally make long CQ calls on VHF FM, making a call such as “CQ Five Two,this is K 0 N R on Pikes Peak” is a good way to go.

One problem I’ve run into is when the calling frequency is tied up with lengthy contacts by other hams. If the frequency is in use, I generally just stand by and wait for them to finish. If it seems appropriate, I might break in and chat with them.

Disclaimer: It is difficult to write authoritatively in a national ham magazine about VHF issues that often tend to be regional in nature. What works in rural areas with lower population density may not apply in New York City. Ignoring that, I’ll jump in with both feet (maybe with one in my mouth, who knows?)

What is the purpose of a calling frequency? Back in the old days of crystal controlled rigs it was important that we had common channels crystalled so we could talk to each other. We typically only had a dozen or so channels, so having a common calling or simplex frequency (or two) was an obvious thing to do. These days, we have synthesized 2M FM rigs that cover the entire 4 MHz band in 5 kHz steps. Now the purpose of a calling frequency is, well, for calling. You use 146.52 MHz when you want to establish contact on the band, lacking any other information. For example, if I know my buddy Steve KØSRW is going to be listening on the 146.94 MHz repeater, I’ll call him there. If I know the local DX crew hangs on out 146.46 MHz, I’ll make a call there. But when I don’t have any other information, and I am making a call or listening for a call, I go to the calling frequency. Why? Because that’s what it’s for! If I am out of repeater range and I just want to talk to someone on simplex, I try the calling frequency.

The Three Minute Rule

There are two ways to make a calling frequency useless:
1. No one ever uses the calling frequency (nobody there, nobody home)
2. The calling frequency is always tied up due to lengthy contacts

So we need to encourage hams to monitor and use the calling frequency, but not monopolize it. We don’t have to be extreme about it. Perhaps a “three minute” rule of thumb: if I am in a contact with another station on the calling frequency for more than 3 minutes, it is time to change to a different frequency. This opens up the frequency for other hams to use. Just as important it keeps the long ragchew sessions away from the calling frequency. These long sessions have a tendency to discourage monitoring of 146.52 MHz. One ham recently told me that he tries to keep a receiver tuned to .52 for anyone just passing through the area that might need some help. But when some of the locals get on the frequency and chat for an hour, the radio gets turned off.

There, I said it: the calling frequency is for calling, not for ragchewing.

Now you have heard my opinion, what do you think?

73, Bob K0NR