Visit to the TWiT Ham Shack

I’ve been blogging here and there about the TWiT Network’s Ham Nation show. I kept thinking that one of these days, I should pop into the TWiT Brick House Studio in Petaluma, CA for a look. I often travel to Santa Rosa for business, flying into San Francisco International Airport and driving up Highway 101 right past Petaluma.

When I noticed the announcement about the TWiT ham radio open house that was on the same weekend that I would be in Santa Rosa, I thought: Coincidence? Maybe. Fate? Probably. So Spousal Unit K0JJW and I swung by TWiT Headquarters late on Saturday afternoon.

The TWiT Ham Radio Station

Bob Heil K9EID and Leo Laporte W6TWT posing in front of the ham radio gear

It was great to chat with Bob Heil K9EID, Leo W6TWT and George W5JDX for a few minutes. I met a number of other hams that included Mike WT6H and Randy K7AGE (sorry, I don’t have everyone’s name & call written down). You may know K7AGE by his extensive collection of ham radio videos on youtube…if not, check them out. George W5JDX has been on Ham Nation multiple times now and has his own set of videos on amateurlogic.tv.

The TWiT studio with some of the ham radio crew hanging out.

The radio guys were commenting about the high noise level on HF but I didn’t get a clear picture of the spectral content and what bands were affected. Things were actually pretty quiet by the time we arrived, but take a look at the video that K7AGE put together with footage from earlier in the day. It really shows the studio and the activity during the day.

The Ham Nation show is still finding its legs but gets better every week. It is clearly having a positive impact on amateur radio.

73, Bob K0NR

Announcing: Colorado FM Sprint

The Colorado FM Sprint

Sponsored by:  The Colorado VHF Group (KØYB) and the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Radio Association (WØTLM)
Direct any questions to k0yb@qsl.net

Rules and FAQ are posted on the KØYB web site.

Saturday – September 10, 2011

This contest is held concurrently with the ARRL September VHF QSO Party, with compatible rules and operating procedures. The purpose of this contest is to:

  • Promote the use of FM VHF/UHF simplex
  • Provide an opportunity for radio amateurs to test the limits of their stations using FM VHF/UHF and to experiment with ways to improve their stations
  • Practice deploying portable and mobile operation as a means of identifying effective locations for temporary relay stations
  • Provide a simple and enjoyable radio contest experience (“Have fun!”)

Time:

 Saturday, Sept 10, 2011; 1200 to 1700 Mountain Time (1800 to 2300 UTC)

Objective:

To work as many stations as possible using FM simplex on the 146 MHz, 222 MHz and 440 MHz bands in as many different VHF grids as possible.

Frequencies:

Operate on FM simplex frequencies consistent with the Colorado Council of Amateur Radio Clubs (CCARC) band plans

(Consistent with the ARRL Rules, 146.52 MHz is not allowed to be used in the contest.)

Suggested Frequencies:

2 Meters: 146.58, 146.55

222 MHz: 223.5 MHz

440 MHz: 446.0, 446.100 MHz

Do not operate on repeater frequencies or 146.52 MHz, the National Simplex Calling Frequency.

Remember to be a considerate operator and share the frequency with other operators.

Contest Exchange

To complete a contest QSO, you and the other station must copy each other’s callsign and 4-digit Grid Locator. You may optionally exchange Name and geographic location (city, landmark, etc).

Entry Categories:

The following entry categories are available for this contest, consistent with the entry categories for the ARRL September VHF QSO Party. All categories (excluding Single Operator Portable) operate within these power limits: (146 MHz–200 W PEP, 222 MHz 100 W PEP, 440 MHz 100 W PEP).

Single Operator – same as Single Operator Low Power in the ARRL rules

Single Operator Portable – power limit of 10 W PEP, operating from a fixed location using a portable power source, portable equipment and antennas

Rover – operates from 2 or more grid squares with 1 or 2 operators, same definition as Limited Rover in the ARRL rules. Rovers must sign “Rover” after their callsign.

Multioperator – operates with more than with operator from a fixed location

Scoring                     

QSO Points: Count one point for each 146 MHz QSO and two points for each 222 MHz and 440 MHz QSO.

Multiplier: The total number of different grid squares worked per band. Each grid counts as one multiplier on each band it is worked.

Final score: Multiply the total number of QSO points from all bands operated by the total number of multipliers for final score. 

Rovers only: The final score consists of the total number of QSO points from all bands times the sum of unique multipliers (grid squares) worked per band (regardless of which grid square they were made in) plus one additional multiplier for every grid square from which they successfully completed a contact.                         

Miscellaneous:

1.  Use only one call sign per entry per station, except family members who share a station.

2.  A rover station may use only one call sign.

3.  Soliciting contacts during the contest on repeaters, e-mail, telephone, etc. is not allowed.

4.  Final interpretation of these rules is the sole responsibility of the contest committee.

Awards:

Certificates will be issued to top scoring entrants in each category. Other certificates may be issued depending on the level of competition present in the contest. Results will be listed on the KØYB web site at http://www.qsl.net/k0yb

Log Entry:

1.  Log entries must be received by September 30, 2011.

2.  A log entry contains the following for each contact completed:  Date; Time (Universal Coordinated Time); Station Worked; Grid Locator

3.  A summary contains:  Your name, call, and address; entry category; grid locator; score calculation; and this statement:  “I have observed all rules of the contest and have operated my station in accordance with FCC rules.”

4.  Entrants are strongly encouraged to submit an electronic log in Cabrillo format, using commonly available logging programs (configured for ARRL September VHF QSO Party). Send electronic logs to k0yb@qsl.net, with Cabrillo file attached and subject line containing your call sign and the words “FM Sprint”.

5.  Paper logs may be sent to:  K0YB – Contest Logs, 21060 Capella Drive, Monument, CO 80132

Grid Locator Information:

Grids are 2° longitude x 1° latitude squares designated with 2-letters and 2-numbers, such as DM78. To determine which grid you are operating from, refer to this web page: http://www.k0nr.com/rwitte/vhf_grids.html or use a GPS receiver that displays the location in Maidenhead (vhf grid) format.

Here are some general guidelines that may help in case you work someone who does not know their grid square:

  • Greater Denver is in grid DM79
  • Boulder is split between grids DM79 and DN70, so check the location carefully.
  • Colorado Springs and Pueblo are in grid DM78
  • Fort Collins, Loveland and Longmont are in grid DN70.

 

Radio Fun on Mt Antero

My favorite radio partner (and wife), Joyce K0JJW, and I climbed up Mt Antero for the Colorado 14er Event.  See my post announcing the event here.

We got up at O’Dark thirty on the morning of the event and drove the Jeep Wrangler up the 4WD road to Mt Antero. This road got us to within 1000 vertical feet and maybe a mile from the summit, making the climb a lot easier. But it still was climbing over rocks at 14,000 feet (read: no oxygen to breathe).  The weather was outstanding…blue sky all around and none of those nasty thunderclouds anywhere in sight. (It turns out that lightning on an exposed mountaintop is not a good thing.)

Here’s Joyce operating with a handheld transceiver.

 And here’s the view looking out to the west from the summit: 

We worked quite a few 14er stations, including the KBØSA crew on Pikes Peak and the Goathiker WGØAT on Handies Peak. All QSOs were made on 144 Mhz and 440 MHz FM using handheld transceivers. We were on the summit for almost 3 hours and then descended back down.

   73, Bob K0NR

Colorado 14er Event – Sunday!

I am getting ready for the Colorado 14er Event tomorrow morning. Here’s the brief description from the www.14er.org web site:

Amateur Radio Fun in the Colorado Mountains
Sunday, August 7, 2011

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. Join in on the fun on the Sunday of the first full weekend in August and see how many of the mountaintop stations you can contact. The prime operating hours are from approximately 9 AM to noon local time (1500 to 1800 UTC), but activity may occur at other times during the day. Most mountaintop stations will be running low power handheld radios. Stations running high power need to keep in mind that they can interfere with stations they cannot hear.

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.

Joyce K0JJW and I will be heading up Mount Antero, taking the Jeep as far as we can and then hiking the rest of the way. It should be fun!

There will be a crew of Boy Scouts on Pikes Peak, using club call sign KB0SA, so look for them.

You don’t have to be on a mountaintop to play in this event. Here are a few options:

  • See who you can work from home on 2 Meter FM and 70 cm Meter FM. The frequencies are listed on 14er.org.
  • Operate from a high spot that is line of site to the 14er summits. For example, Wilkerson Pass (west of Colorado Springs on Highway 24) is a great spot. Harder to get to but even better would be Mosquito Pass or Weston Pass. Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is another great drive-to location.
  • Work the 14ers on HF. Many of the 14er stations will be up and running on HF and there is usually a pileup of stations wanting to work them. The Goat Hiker crew WG0AT will be out in full force  on Handies Peak, likely using N0B special event call sign.

See you on the air!

73, Bob K0NR

Finally, A New HF Rig

My wife and I have a cabin up in the mountains that we use as a getaway as often as possible. Oddly enough, this place is a pretty good location for radio propagation. It sits at 9600 feet in elevation with low electrical noise and a decent radio horizon in most directions.

I’ve been putting up temporary antennas at the cabin for VHF contests, Field Day and the occasional HF contest. I am slowly building the ham station, with high expectations but slow progress. I wanted to get an HF rig to put in the Cabin Shack. Actually, I started out thinking I needed a DC-to-daylight rig so that I could cover all bands in one radio. I had my eye on the new ICOM IC-9100 that was announced back in 2009. I patiently waited for well over a year for this radio to become more than vaporware and they start to show up in the US in early 2011. Unfortunately, the street price turned out to be $3700, which seemed a bit too high to me.

This sent me back to rethinking the whole approach. I have to admit that I had not shopped for an HF rig since I bought my Yaesu FT-847 back in the 1990s. The 847 has been my all-time favorite transceiver based on how the controls are set up and the coverage of HF plus 6M, 2M and 70 cm. My only beef with this rig is that the receiver can get overloaded during heavy band usage (like popular HF contests and Field Day).  I started thinking about getting an HF + 6 Meter rig to complement the FT-847, which would give me two radios during contests. In particular, for VHF contests, I’d leave the new rig on 6 Meters all of the time and jump around 2 Meters and 70 cm with the FT-847. I also wanted the new HF rig to be very solid on HF and include some of the advanced features for DXing and contesting.

Soon I was looking at all of the radios that cover HF through 50 MHz. That’s when I really got sticker shock — the FT-DX9000D costs over $10k, the IC-7800 costs $12.5k, the IC-7700 is $7200, and so forth. All of these radios look like fine gear but I was unwilling to invest that much in a transceiver for the cabin. I quickly redirected my radio hunt to something below $2500, looking at the IC-7410 ($1900), FT-950 ($1350) and TS-2000 ($1575). In the end, I chose the FT-950 due to its price advantage and the ability to share accessories (microphones, mostly) with my FT-847.

I got the radio just in time for Field Day, where I gave it a good work out on 14 MHz, 21 MHz and 50 MHz. Wow, did it work great! The receiver performed very well even when the band was packed. In the heat of the battle, I pushed a wrong button or two and sent the rig off to some new and wonderful frequency. Yes, I did take the time to read the manual but I’ll have to spend some more time with it. This thing has enough features that it will take some time to master it.

-73, Bob K0NR