January VHF Contest – 2 Meters at 9500 Feet

Activity was light during the ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes, but I had fun anyway, working more grids on 2 Meters than I expected. The January VHF contest is not a big deal for me but I try to at least get on the air. In previous years, I have operated backpack portable for the contest.

This year, I was up at our cabin near Trout Creek Pass in the western part of DM78. The cabin sits at about 9500 feet in elevation with a good radio horizon in most directions. It is blocked a bit to the west due to some 14,000 foot mountains. I don’t have serious antennas up there (yet), so I decided I would just temporarily install a 2 Meter yagi and focus on working that band. (I am thinking I need to get serious about 2M VUCC.) The snow can be quite deep so I wasn’t sure that I could get the SUV up the driveway. Since we might have had to carry everything up on snowshoes, I was thinking minimal equipment. (It turns out the neighbor with a frontloader cleared the driveway, so this was not a problem.)

The rig is a Yaesu FT-847 (one of my all-time favorite rigs) that puts out 50 Watts on 144 MHz. I probably should have brought my Mirage amplifier along but, again, I was going for minimal equipment. With only one band to worry about my operating focus was, well, only on one band. This basically meant hanging out on the calling frequency (144.200 MHz) listening for activity and making calls. During other contests, I’d be jumping around from band to band, trying to make sure I didn’t miss anyone. The one band approach certainly is simpler…perhaps a bit boring.

I was careful to set up my station for both SSB and CW modes. In previous contests, I’d forget about CW until I really needed it….then scramble around for my keyer, frantically trying to plug the right cable into the right jack and get it all working.  For CW, I had my XT-4 CW Memory Keyer, which is a simple, but effective 4-memory keyer. I loaded up the first memory with a “CQ CQ CQ de K0NR” message. The second memory was loaded with “R R R DM78 DM78″….which sends my vhf grid to the other station. The third memory is used for calling a specific station. I manually send the other stations call sign, then punch the third memory “de K0NR K0NR DM78 DM78”. The fourth memory is to acknowledge that the contact is complete: “QSL QSL 73 de K0NR K0NR”.

I put the 2M9 Yagi from M2 on a TV mast strapped to the front deck of the cabin. There was very little wind so I didn’t bother to guy the mast, but I did take it down at night in case the wind came up.

Most of the stations I worked were in my grid and DM79 (greater Denver).  I made only 20 Qs but picked up 9 grids (DM68, DM69, DM78, DM79, DN70, DN80, DM89, DM98 and EM09). This is a rather high grid/Q ratio and I felt like I did pretty well in terms of picking up the available grids.

I worked N0KE over in the western part of the state in DM69. On this path, some of the adjacent mountains get in the way. I heard Phil calling on CW on 144.200 MHz and worked him on that mode. I doubt that we would have completed the contact on SSB. CW really does get through when you are operating near the noise floor. I also managed to snag N0LL over in EM09 Kansas using CW. I have worked Larry in the past on 2M from other locations but not from this far west. I figure that he is about 390 miles away from the cabin….not bad for 50 Watts on 2 Meters. Of course, Larry has an awesome station on VHF and puts out a big signal. My wife Joyce K0JJW did an impromptu rover run over to DM68 (about 6 miles away) to activate that grid. Another nice surprise was finding KI0SK out roving in DN80 and DM89. Those are relatively rare/unpopulated grids so the only way they get activated is via a rover station.

So my summary is a poor showing on number of QSOs but pretty decent on number of vhf grids. And a weekend in the mountains messing around with ham radio is always a good time.

73, Bob K0NR

ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes This Weekend

Just a reminder that the January VHF contest is this weekend, starting at noon on Saturday Mountain time. I will be at our cabin up in the mountains (DM78av) with no real antennas up yet but I’ll have a decent Yagi set up temporarily for working 2 Meters. I’ll listen on the calling frequency 144.200 MHz for SSB contacts (if it gets busy, I’ll move up to 144.220 MHz). I’ll also have a radio listening on 147.42 MHz for anyone working FM. (Use of 146.52 MHz is prohibited for contest contacts. Dumb rule, long story.)

This is a great opportunity to try out weak-signal VHF since there will be stations on working the contest. See the contest rules on the ARRL web site.  If you are new to VHF contests, see my page: How to Work A VHF Contest.

73, Bob K0NR

Been Reading Stuff Again

There have been quite a few news items, blog posts and tweets flying across the net lately. Here’s what I have been reading:

It looks like the FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is out and Julius Genachowski is in. I’ve only found “Julius is a good guy” articles without much detail behind them, so I guess we wait and see.

A company called CellAntenna wants to be able to sell cellphone jammers. I am totally in favor of it as long as I am the only one that gets one. I’d keep it in the car and jam all of the people driving while cellphoning (except for me, of course).

Check out this new cellphone from “Sumsing”, pretty funny video.

Interesting post from Kelly AB9RF about Why the Hell Would You Want a Ham Radio?

Jeff KE9V wants his QST electronically. I think he has a point.

Bruce Vaughan, NR5Q, from Springdale, Arkansas survived WWII with a few stories to tell. He loves to build radios and got an email from a musician that said he was in a band called The Eagles. Bruce invites him over to the house….turns out it is Joe Walsh.

Obama thinks we need to delay the shutoff of analog TV. He is wrong….time to go through the transition and deal with it. Rip the band-aid off quickly. (Did you notice that watching television is now a right guaranteed by the US Constitution?)

CQ Magazine embraces eQSL for their awards program. Jeff KE9V questions whether we are headed done the wrong path with electronic QSLs.

K3NG gives us a list of things to test Whether We Are Part of the Problem.  Close call for me, as I do think saying 73s is dumb….but I don’t correct people on the air.

Good reading and 73,  Bob K0NR

How Many Gigafarbles is That?

As the storage capacity and cost of computer hard drives continue to improve, it just amazes me how many bytes you can store for a reasonable cost. For example, you can purchase an external 1 terabyte drive for less than $150….which is probably a good thing, since downloading a few videos and your daily email will fill that up in no time.

This got me thinking about how megabyte and gigabyte have made it into everyday language. Even Grandma knows that you want lots of gigabytes in your hard drive. Expect terabyte to make it into dinner conversation shortly. These prefixes that help us handle humongoid numbers come from the International System of Units (SI).

When I first started out messing around with electronics as a kid, I had to get used to these units. Back then it was mostly kilohertz and megahertz, along with kilohm and megohm. Not too bad. Capacitance was in microfarads and picofarads. (There was this strange usage of micro-microfarad, which I eventually figured out was the same as picofarad.) I didn’t know a tera from a giga.

There are twenty SI prefixes listed on the NIST web page, including:

1024 yotta Y
1021 zetta Z
1018 exa E
1015 peta P
1012 tera T
109 giga G
106 mega M
103 kilo k

When we get to 1000 terabytes, that will equal a petabyte. I don’t think I’ve ever used peta to refer to any numerical value, and certainly not exa, zetta and yotta. I kind of like the sound of yotta, as I can hear myself saying “there’s a yotta bytes on that 5 yottabyte hard drive.”

On the low end, we some other prefixes to deal with:

10-3 milli m
10-6 micro µ
10-9 nano n
10-12 pico p
10-15 femto f
10-18 atto a
10-21 zepto z
10-24 yocto y

I have often used the prefixes up to femto and might have said atto once or twice in my career, but never zepto or yocto. Isn’t zepto the name of one of the Marx brothers? 🙂 I’ve noticed that nano has worked its way into dinner conversation, via terminology such as nanotechnology. I’ve even heard a few non-technical people say something like “that will last about a nanosecond.”

It seems that things are getting more numerous (bytes on hard drives) and smaller (width of a transistor element) at the same time. This stretches out the dynamic range that we end up dealing with, and not just related to technical fields.

We just seem to have a lot of stuff.

73, Bob K0NR

Apple Pushes the Limit with New Computer Design

Apple is legendary for avoiding unnecessary distractions in its elegant designs (e.g., a Right Click Button on a mouse). Always trying to push the limits, they have introduced a new computer that doesn’t require or even have a keyboard. Wow, no buttons!

Warning: satire here

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard