Friday, October 28, 2011

A contest weekend and other assorted trivia

CQ WW DX SSB contest

I've never been much of a contester.  Before I retired, there just wasn't enough time to fully engage in one of the exciting phases of amateur radio.  There was always something that restricted my time at the old Swan 100-MX.  Now that I've removed myself from the daily routine of getting up at 0230 hrs local time for my news shift at Pacific Radio Group, time has been more generous.  With the CQ WW SSB contest in full swing, I tried my hand at a few pile ups...not too successful, but I did manage a few contacts with my modest station.  Running around 10 watts SSB into an inverted "v" and a homebrew 20-meter vertical dipole surely made for some frustrating moments, but I enjoyed every minute of my limited exposure to the contest.  The October 2011 edition of "CQ" had a nice article on contesting by Geroge Tranos (N2GA), who showed how emergency responders and contesters share many of the same attributes.  This is an article worth reading.  As time rolls along, I'll make changes to my station in the hopes of doing better against "kilowatt alley" and the super stations dominating the bands.  Propagation from Hawaii Island was good on 15-meters from 2200 UTC to 0300 UTC.  Twenty meters was alright but nothing spectacular.

Spectrum defense

The "ARRL Spectrum Defense Matters" newsletter, dated September 2011 contains some interesting material concerning the upcoming WARC-12 conference set for January 2012 in Geneva.  It appears momentum is gathering for a secondary allocation for the amateur service at 461-469- and 471-478 kHz.  It would be nice to have another amateur band, even at these low frequencies.  A quarter wave vertical at these frequencies would be immense--almost 1,000 feet!  Of course, such a stick would be almost impossible for most of us.  None the less, amateurs who have been running experimental stations in the neighborhood of 500k Hz have devised some ingenious, short antennas that most of us could build should that portion of the spectrum become available.  An interesting challenge lies ahead.  Also, the newsletter outlined current negotiations over HF Oceanograph Radar in the 5,250-5,450 kHz section of 60-meters.  Apparently, the United States is the only country pushing for this slice of spectrum--frequencies shared by government and by amateur radio operators on a secondary basis.  Apparently, some of those using CODAR signals have been willing to move down to 4.9 mHz for some of their operations.  The ARRL has made a pitch for funds in order to protect and extend current amateur radio frequencies at the WARC-12 conference.  While I don't support everything the ARRL does, spectrum defense has my support.  I will send a few dollars to ARRL HQ--hopefully this will help our delagation in negotiating an improved position for amateur radio.

A good weekend ahead

That's about all from this side of the central Pacific.  Enjoy the contest.  I'll do my best with what I have.  Have a good weekend.  Get on the air and have some fun.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 14

Final step completed--new career awaits

After 3 weeks of intensive study and three exams, I finally finished my substitute teacher course and submitted all of the necessary paperwork.  In a short time I should be getting my certificate and the opportunity to end this lifetime as a teacher.  It's sort of ironic.  Before I became an amateur radio operator back in 1977, I started out as a teacher.  Life took its inevitable twists and turns, with work ranging from an air force officer to a radio newsman and broadcast engineer.  And now, I've come full circle.  I'll end my days as a teacher.  The circle is closed.

More time for Amateur Radio

Between teaching assignments, I can devote more time to my main diversion all these years--Amateur Radio.  I hope to get on the air more often and build more antennas.  Speaking of which, I was reading a 1978 edition of "The ARRL Antenna Anthology" and came upon a simple ground plane antenna that should fit in my small backyard.  On page 19, Arthur S. Gillespie, Jr. (K4TP) described a simple, yet effective antenna for 20-meter enthusiasts.  "A multi groundplane vertical antenna with tuned feeders" is straightforward and may provide a decent antenna for those facing severe space restrictions (like I do).  The antenna is just a 16'9" piece of wire or tubing supported on a pole with four 16' 9" radials running from the base of the antenna.  The arrangement is fed with what appears to be 450-ohm twin lead to an antenna tuner.  I built and tried this antenna over the past weekend and it works very well on 20, 15, and 10 meters.  Performance on 40 meters is marginal, but you can work in the 7 Mhz region if you have to.  The antenna cost me nothing since I had the materials on hand.

Keeping the vertical alive

Because of my smallish back yard, most of my antennas have been verticals or loops strung under the house.  My trusty 40-meter vertical had been taking a beating from the rains and salt air over the past few months, so I decided it was time to restring the wire on the fiberglass mast and examine the feedlines and coax to the shack.  I'm glad I did a routine maintenance check on Sunday.  The coax to the shack from the 4:1 balun had been chewed by some kind of rodent, most likely a roof rat which can eat almost anything.  Since I was out of RG-8x, I pressed some RG-6 cable into service.  Fortunately, I had some "F" to UHF male adapters on hand, so the hook up was painless.  I got the fairly rare connectors from B & A Products, Co., P.O. Box 1376, Muldrow, Oklahoma, 74948.  The adapters work very well.  The Drake MN-4 handles the slight mismatch between 50 and 75-ohms without any trouble.  The 40-meter vertical with its associated tuned counterpoise is once again doing its job.  Still on the drawing board is the 20-meter vertical dipole, which should be erected in the next week or so.  

None of these antennas are anything special, but they do work.  As with all my vertical antennas, I can lower them when I'm not operating--a great convenience when it comes to nosey neighbors or protecting the antennas from lightening.  As the old saying goes, "so many antennas, so little time."  I trust that your weekend will be filled with interesting might even hear me from the isolated Hamakua Coast on the lower side of 40-meters.  I always QSL...something I picked up as a novice amateur radio operator.  Have a good weekend.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.                                         

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beginning a new life outside commercial broadcasting

Exchanging the old life for a new one

Eversince I retired from Pacific Radio Group on 30 September 2011, I've been attending classes to get a substitute teaching certificate from the state of Hawaii Department of Education.  I should complete the academic work and the required exam by 21 October 2011.  Once I get interviewed by my wife's school (she is a substitute teacher at Laupahoehoe High School and once served as its school librarian), I should find some temporary work until I get my life fully in order.  After 40 years of broadcasting (both in the military and in civilian life), I welcome the chance to try something new.  I suspect I will enjoy teaching, so this retreaded announcer could find himself before the toughest audience of all--students.

Amateur radio will occupy more of my spare time

I have a list of antenna projects to complete, numerous household chores that are due, and some slack time to enjoy the remaining years of my life.  No regrets, but I do look forward to dedicating more time to my xyl, travel, and, of course, to amateur radio.  The immediate antenna project is the erection of a vertical dipole for 20-meters.  My 40-meter vertical with tuned counterpoise works reasonably well on 40 through 20 meters, but laying out a decent radial field in my small backyard is a real challenge.  The under the house 40-meter loop will stay in place, since it works well for the local coverage I need.  This NVIS loop does extra duty as a shortwave and medium wave antenna for my vintage  Hallicrafters SX-62-A.  Most likely, I'll use my 33-foot pvc mast for the supporting structure with equal 16' 6" wires attaced to the pole and connected to approximately 50' of 450-ohm twin lead.  That wire will go to a 4:1 balun fed by 20' of RG-6.  The coax will be attached to the venerable Drake MN-4 ATU before it enters the Swan 100-MX.  I had a similar arrangement a few years back and the set up seemed to work well.

Other Amateur radio news of note
Bob Scheider, AH6J, the ARRL Pacific Section Manager, has reported the theft of solar cells and batteries from the Hualalai site of the Big Island Wide Area Repeater Network.  A similar theft occurred in early September at the FAA radio beacon site in Pahoa.  The BIWARN system is part of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service and supports many government and non-government emergency responders.  Bob reported the incident to the Hawaii Island Police Department, the landowner (Bishop Estate), and the FBI.  Bob belives the theft was well planned and carried out by a well-equipped gang.  The equipment will not be replaced until the perpertrators are caught and "put out of circulation".  Those with information on this case are encouraged to call the Hawaii County Police Department.  The theft puts everyone on the west side of Hawaii Island at a greater risk in time of emergency because this vital communications link has been disable.  As for the Pahoa incident, the beacon (POA) serves trans pacific flights and general aviation as a backup safety net.  One wonders why anyone would deliberately sabotage public safety by committing the above crimes.  I suppose some people have no sense of responsibility or decency.  Just look at the state of current events--no leadership, abdication of responsibility, incompetence through all levels of human affairrs, and the tolerance of stupidity.  I saw enough of this pattern in my 40 years in the commercial broadcast business to last a lifetime.  Please forgive the rant, but you'd think our nation would have learned something in the past 235 years.  Apparently, we have to commit the same mistakes repeatedly to gain any insight into our behavior.

Three cheers for amatuer radio

In light of the above events, I'm glad amateur radio provides a needed break from the insanity loosely described as current life.  At least you can turn the dial if someone offends you.  Thankfully, most hams I've run across are decent, considerate people.  I'll be back to my usual cheerful self after I complete my substitute teacher course and get busy putting up that 20-meter vertical.  Even though I'm retired, I can't let grass grow beneath my feet.  Enjoy the coming week. 

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

New Beginings

On 30 September 2011, I left my post as News Director of Pacific Radio Group (Hawaii Island) to enter a new phase of my life--that of retired  senior citizen.  After almost 40 years of delivering the news, questioning politicians, and answering thousands of phone calls from the thoroughly sane to those bordering on the truly outrageous, I've turned off the Shure S-7 broadcast micorphone and opted for a more quiet life along the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island.  Presently, I attending recertification classes to qualify for a substitute teachers certificate  so I can teach at the same school my xyl does.  So much for idle time.

The Old Antenna Farm gets a face lift.

With retirement and some teaching time, I'll be able to devote more attention to squeezing every last watt out of my modest range of antennas--the inverted 40-meter "vee", the 40-meter vertical, and the 40-meter loop under the house.  In the past, my amateur radio time has been spotty because of my commitments to the radio station.  With my retirement, I can participate a little more in local ham club activities such as field day, which I missed again this year because of work requirements.  Although I won't be working a regular shift at the radio station, I will be available to cover elections and natural disasters.  I'll be availabe as a contract worker for specific assignments.  This suits me fine.  I can still keep my hand in broadcasting while having more time to spend with my xyl and community.  The radio station gave my an excellent send off, complete with a proclamation from Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi.  I never expected that.  I guess my reputation wasn't as bad as I thought.  All told, my radio experience was excellent despite the long hours and time away from the xyl.  At least I'll be home most of the time.  We are also planning to build our final home, which would complete the cycle began when I arrived in Hawaii back in 1959.  How the time does fly!

New antenna idea

The September 2011 edition of "CQ" Magazine has an interesting article by Ted Luebbers, K1AYZ, who has set up his amateur radio station in a home trailer in Orland, Maine.  He has done a lot with very little space.  His suggestions may prove inspiring to those of us restricted by HOAs, CC&Rs, and lack of space.  The article is well-written and contains some valuable suggestions for those of us forced to operate with the barest minimum of equipment and antennas.  As time permits, I will be offering a few antenna ideas of my own--nothing too technical--just workable and usable with readily obtainable parts.  Part of the fun of amateur radio is the building, erecting, and using home brew antennas.  In this area, your local hardware or building supply store can offer many items to the antenna enthusiast.

Back to the books

It's time to end this brief update and head for the study hall, aka the living room table.  I have a lot of catching up to do before the state of Hawaii allows me to run a classroom.  One thing is for sure--life is as exciting and challenging as you make it.  One of these days, I hope to meet you on the air.  So, if you hear a cq from Laupahoehoe on the lower end of 40 or 20 meters, don't be afraid to respond.  There are so many people to meet and so little time to do so....Have a good week and get on the air.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM