Archive for August, 2009

Colorado QSO Party

colorado-flagThe Colorado QSO Party, sponsored by the Pikes Peak Radio Amateur Association, will be held this Saturday Sept 6th. This is a great opportunity to get on the air and have some fun on the HF, VHF and UHF bands. There have been some changes to the rules this year, so be sure to review the complete rules.

Amateurs outside of the state of Colorado work as many Colorado stations as possible. Colorado stations work everyone. The emphasis is on activating counties, so if you might consider operating portable or mobile to support this goal.

The contest period for 2009 is from 1200 UTC 5 Sept. 2009 until 0400 UTC 6 Sept 2009 (6AM to 10PM MDT).

I plan to operate from our cabin in Park County, near Trout Creek Pass.

73, Bob K0NR

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This Spewed Out of the Internet #8

0511-0701-3118-0930I am trying out a new twitter ap called DestroyTwitter. There are many to choose from, so as I reloaded my PC I decided to give this one a try. So far it seems to be good, which means compact, not too fancy and easy-to-use.

John C. Dvorak wrote that Twitter is the New CB Radio. I think he is right. My enthusiasm for twitter drops about 1 dB per week.

The VHF/UHF crowd is excited about the new ICOM IC-9100 that was shown recently at a Japanese ham radio show. This is basically an HF + 6 Meters + 2 Meters + 70 cm transceiver set up for satellite and (optional) D-STAR. Kind of does everything.

I am very much in favor of a Cash for Clunkers program for amateur radio gear and computer gear more than 5 years old. It seems like the gubment is handing out money to everyone else (without much logic applied), so why can’t we get a piece of that?

Interesting piece from the ARRL about power line companies and their responsibilities concerning radiated interference. Despite all of the concern about Broadband Over Powerline messing up the ham bands, there are far more incidents of good old power line noise causing trouble for ham radio operators. I have been involved in several of these cases and it is generally a real mess….especially if the utility is incompetent.

AMSAT has rejiggered its Suitsat program to fly without the spacesuit. I always wondered why they needed a spacesuit to make this work anyway. It turns out they don’t. The new suitless name is ARISSat-1.

There has been plenty of bickering on the AMSAT-bb email list as various people have complained about this project or that project AMSAT is pursuing. For some reason Suitsat-2 has become a target for complaints. My philosophy? Anything that involves amateur radio in space that works is OK by me.

I continue to play around with D-STAR now that the repeater is up and running in Monument. I was sitting there last night fiddling with the radio when VK2LOB from Sydney, Australia comes on the frequency looking to demonstrate D-STAR. We had a nice, short chat — what a pleasant surprise!

73, Bob K0NR

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D-STAR is On Line in Monument

One of our local radio groups has put a 70 cm D-STAR repeater on the air here in Monument. Here’s the announcement from Elliot KB0RFC:

The W0TLM B repeater and gateway are on the air in their new PERMANENT home in monument near hwy 105 and I 25, coverage reports are needed. All gateway functions are operating please feel free to link to the repeater, or just call around.

The repeater is a joint effort between the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire radio association, the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Department Communications Auxilary, And the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District. The purpose of this repeater is  to support emergency communications in northern El-Paso County. we will do what we can to create an environment conducive to training and support for actual emergency events.

We run a net on 447.725- 100.0hz tone every Monday night except the last Monday of the month where we have our monthly meeting at Tri-Lakes Fire station 1. All are welcome We hope to be participating in the CO-D-STAR net soon. W0TLM++B and W0TLM++G are on 446.8875- please check it out!

Please email any questions to kb0rfc@arrl.net
Elliot Linke
KB0RFC

I got a chance to try D-STAR out from a remote perspective when I was out in the San Francisco Bay area. I got on the W6YYY repeater in Oakland on 440.03750MHz and chatted with Elliot KB0RFC back in Monument. This is way  cool!

OK, you may be thinking “I can do that with EchoLink or IRLP”, which is true (and that is also way cool). The benefits of D-STAR are still emerging, but one big difference is that each transmitted packet has callsign routing. One feature that I see as useful is the callsign squelch mode. I can keep my radio squelched expect for people specifically calling me. Other advantages of the “all digital” network are starting to surface, so stay tuned on that.

There are several D-STAR repeaters popping up in Colorado. The group leading the way is the Colorado D-STAR Association in the Denver area. The Cheyenne Mountain Repeater Group has a system on the air in Colorado Springs, currently in a test phase (limited coverage) on 446.9125 MHz (KC0CVU B). A group in Boulder is also working on a system but I am not sure of the status of that effort.

New technology, new learning, new fun.

73, Bob K0NR

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Pikes Peak Operation – 2009 Colorado 14er Event

We rounded up the usual collection of suspects to operate from Pikes Peak in the Colorado 14er Event. Our crew included me, Joyce K0JJW, Ken WA6TTY, Stephen KZ0Q, Steve KD0BIM, Stan WA0Z and Matt KC0LBA.

Since Pikes is a “drive up” mountain in an event where most radio operators hike in, we tried to compensate by covering as many bands as possible. We had 4 stations on the air:

  • 2M FM
  • 50 MHz (mostly SSB, some FM)
  • 222 MHz FM, 440 MHz FM
  • HF (20 Meters – Mostly SSB, some CW)
Antenna tear down: Bob K0NR, Stephen KZ0Q and Steve KD0BIM

Antenna tear down: Bob K0NR, Stephen KZ0Q and Steve KD0BIM

This had to be the best weather for the event in years, with no one reporting being chased off the summit by approaching storms. This is odd considering the stormy weather patterns we have seen this year.

Most of the 2M FM contacts used callsign KD0BIM, everything else used the club callsign K0YB.

Summary of Pikes Peak Log:

Band      QSOs    14ers          Comments
146 MHz    83       13    Best DX: K4S Mt Sunflower and N0KQY in Kansas
50 MHz     21        1    Only 14er: KQ6EE on Elbert
222 MHz     3        1    Only 14er: KQ6EE on Elbert
440 MHz     7        3
HF (20M)   17        1    Only 14er: N0B on Humboldt
Total:    131       13

We operated for about 4 hours, averaging about one QSO every 1.8 minutes. Pretty good rate for this event, based on past experience.

We clearly missed some of the 14ers that were on the air. Based on my count, there were 16 summits activated during the event:

Elbert, Massive, Grays, Antero, Torreys, Quandary, Evans, Princeton, Yale, Bross, Pikes, Humboldt, Bierstadt, Redcloud, San Luis, Huron

Thanks to everyone that came out for the event!

73, Bob K0NR

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Taking the Radio out of RadioShack

rsk_logo_do_stuffYou’ve probably heard that RadioShack is rebranding itself to be The Shack. This has triggered another round of criticism of RadioShack stores, with the usual tired references to “Rat Shack”, “Radio Schlock”, or worse.

Apparently, RadioShack has failed to live up to the expectations of the technorati. Well, it is true: RadioShack is the worst chain of electronics store in the US. It is also the best chain of electronics store in the US. That is, it is the only one we have with any breadth of coverage. (The RS web site claims that 94 percent of America lives or works within 5 minutes of a RadioShack store or dealer.)

So what’s going on here? Electronics experimenters, computer geeks and ham radio enthusiasts all lust after having a local store that stocks all of the parts and trinkets that they’ll ever need, with knowledgeable staff and reasonable prices. We want RS to be the electronic equivalent of the local hardware store. In reality, RS is more like the local Walgreens store than a hardware store — offering up what sells quickly and not always what we want.

So now remove RS from the picture — imagine that all of their stores closed overnight. Would our access to electronic treasures improve? I don’t think so. In fact, we’d really be hosed in most parts of the US. (If you have a great electronics store nearby, count your blessings.)

There are some RadioShack stores that operate above the norm — they are usually the franchise stores that are not owned by the RS corporation. These stores augment the RS product offering with product that serves their local community. One example is my local RS: Tri-Lakes Electronics in  Monument, Colorado. They do a pretty decent job serving their customers and I try to give them business whenever possible.

You might hypothesize that something better could evolve out of today’s RS (something more substantial than a “rebranding”). When I think of this possibility, I imagine larger stores and better product selection. I don’t think it is realistic to have a deep stock of every possible transistor, capacitor, resistor and integrated circuit… this might work in San Jose but not across the US.  I do think RS could be a stronger supplier of computer networking gear, connectors, cables and adapters (the things that it takes to make all of the electronics stuff work). A bit more like Fry’s Electronics but without the appliances and Jolt cola. (Interestingly enough, Fry’s has plenty of detractors, so serving the ‘tronics market appears to be a tough gig.) I also think some (not all) of RS products need an upgrade in quality (e.g., their RG-8 cable is lean on shielding…and where is the 9913 Flex equivalent?). A thorough scrubbing and makeover of the product list could really help.

So if you were in charge of RadShack, how would you change it?

And would you make any money at it?

73, Bob K0NR

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This Spewed Out of the Internet #7

0511-0701-3118-0930This is the usual “catch up” posting, when I don’t have a specific topic but try to share some interesting things flying by on the internet.

I came across this article about poor passwords being the biggest computer security problem (as opposed to viruses and worms). OK, maybe so. Using passwords like “password” and “xyzzy” may not be the best approach. (If you recognize “xyzzy”, that says something.) How about we come up with a new approach to computer security that doesn’t require me to have 23 different passwords, all of which need to change every 3 months? And then the security guys get grumpy if we actually write these down.

I had another gosh darn mf  &$%$# meltdown on my notebook computer, but fortunately everything was backed up using Carbonite. Unfortunately, it took 14 days to pull the data back off Carbonite onto my new netbook computer. That download time seems a bit excessive, don’t you think? I don’t know what the problem is with Carbonite but it is not just me..do a little googling binging on “carbonite slow restore” and you’ll find lots of unhappy customers. Or check out the reviews on Amazon.com. I have taken Carbonite off the Bob’s Preferred Vendor List. Don’t use them.

From the Maturing Market Department, MFJ buys Cushcraft amateur antennas. We’ll probably see more of this.

I already mentioned the Colorado 14er Event, which is tomorrow morning (Sunday August 9th). We will have quite a crew on Pikes Peak…including an HF station, most likely on 20 Meters SSB. Look for us around 14.260 MHz with callsign K0YB.

Apparently, RadioShack is in the process of rebranding itself to be simply The Shack, according to Engadget.com.  Interesting development….how much “radio” stuff do they really carry anyway?

73, Bob K0NR

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Colorado 14er Event – August 9th

I woke up yesterday to the idea that it really is August 1st and that July is now history. I understand how that happens… I just don’t know how it happens so freeking fast!  If August is here, then it is time for the premier mountaintop ham radio event: The Colorado 14er Event.

What is that, you ask? It is ham radio guys having fun in the mountains, where Height Above Average Terrain takes on a new meaning.  

Amateur Radio operators from around Colorado will be climbing many of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains to set up amateur radio stations in an effort to communicate with other radio amateurs across the state and around the world. Radio operators with 14er climbing experience who plan to climb a 14er should log their name and intended peak at the HAM 14er Yahoo group.

I will be operating from the summit of Pikes Peak with a crew of other ham radio operators, using club callsign K0YB.

Last year we had a California operator (N6IZ) get on (yes, they have mountains there, too) and work one of the Colorado summits (N0B), for the first 14er-to-14er interstate QSO. See the goathiker (WG0AT) video for the full story:

 

We expect to have some California 14ers on the air again this year. Not only that, the K4S team in Kansas is planning to ascend the highest point in the state: Mount Sunflower at 4039 feet !

This is too much fun.

   73, Bob K0NR

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