Monday, April 29, 2019

My XYL is Now a Ham! - KN4UGX

Years ago when my XYL and I were dating, I was playing with CB and Ham radio.  We had a radio station in our home and I had a radio in my car.  With a little convincing, she would actually talk to me on the CB radio on my way to and from work.  When I got pretty active in Ham radio, upgraded my license, and became active with ARES and the Lanierland Amateur Radio Club she actually started to entertain the idea of getting her Ham license.  She's been around radio alot.  She hangs out in the shack with me, she listens when we are mobile, and she even attends some of the club events.  However, she declared that IF she ever got her license it would just be to shut me up.

Truth be told, I had given up. I wasn't even asking her anymore.  She told me that she was going to get her license soon, but she didn't have time to study because she's been so busy.  I didn't put any pressure on her.  Hall County ARES and the Gainesville Middle School Amateur Radio Club put on a HAM CRAM this past weekend. I had told my wife that if she ever wanted to get her license this would be a good time.  Due to scheduling issues, she didn't think she could attend the HAM CRAM.  Closer to the date, she realized she was free and could do the class.  She actually asked me...that's right...she asked me if she should take it.  I said YES!  So she began studying with only 4 days until the HAM CRAM and VE Testing.  She went to the HAM CRAM and tested that afternoon.  She PASSED!  She has been so excited and I couldn't be more proud!  She hung her CSCE on the refrigerator and smiles when she walks past it.  Now she's anxiously awaiting her callsign to be issued by the FCC.


She's already talking about getting her General because she wants to do some HF digital modes.

Her callsign is KN4UGX

UPDATE 5/3/2019:
We've actually had a few QSO's on 2m and she even checked into the club net! 

73 de KG4LST and KN4UGX sk

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Worked Mongolia (high power FT8) - JT1BV

I had a little free time so I went in the shack and went QSX on 17m FT8.  I saw Egypt again, but only briefly and was unable to make contact.  I saw Kuwait which I worked before on phone but not on FT8 and after a few calls was able to work them.  I then moved over to 20m FT8.  There, I saw a couple stations in Mongolia!  They were coming in very strong and I was confident I would be able to work them with ease.  I was very wrong!

I tried calling both stations in Mongolia.  I was using my 3 element Mosley Yagi to make sure I had the best chance of working them.  I was very surprised to not get an answer from either station.  In fact, they seemed to call CQ pretty often and not work many stations at all.  I figured that they must have been running an amplifier or some antenna condition that was causing their signal to be much stronger to than they were able to receive.

With this thought, I decided to try my amplifier on low power.  I made sure everything was set so that I would put out only a few hundred watts and called a few times.  Still no answer and both stations continued to call CQ, unable to decode any of the many stations calling them.  I couldn't believe I was going to do this but, I upped the power level again.  I pushed 500 watts to the Yagi on FT8. I had never ran that much power on digital.  In fact, I have never run an amplifier on digital at all.  I called 1 time at 500w and got an answer from JT1BV.  I was super excited to get this new country in my log.  The signal report I was given was not very good even with the excessive power and Yagi.  Thinking about it now, I am not very proud of using 10x the amount of power I typically use on FT8.

There are some take-aways from this experience:

  1. If DX can't decode my signal, I can run additional power as long as I don't exceed the duty cycle rating of the amp or overdrive and distort my signal.
  2. It is much more rewarding to work DX without my amplifier and I typically run a max of 50w.
  3. Nothing blew up, no one complained, and it could be acceptable to run an amp on FT8, but it is typically not needed and I will not likely run my amplifier for FT8.  The FCC says I can run up to 1500w but should use the least amount of power necessary to make the this case it was 500w.  I don't like the deflated feeling I got.  It feels like I cheated in a contest or something.
  4. It occurred to me that it is very possible that JT1BV was working me from the path across Europe and I was working him via the path across the Pacific Ocean which could explain the excessive power I needed to get back to a station with such a strong signal.  If I was working him a different direction than the propagation was flowing...

Mongolia is is a landlocked country in East Asia. It is sandwiched between Russia to the north and China to the south, where it neighbors the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. 

73 and good (but slightly embarrassing) DX de KG4LST sk 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Running My First Net

I've been licensed for ham radio since 2001.  Over the years, I've heard many Net's conducted on the radio.  The once Net that I am most familiar with is the Lanierland Amateur Radio Club's Wednesday Night Net.  I've heard Mike-N4HGO calling that net for years. He's always calm and collected.  He has a very natural soothing voice and easily glides through the check-ins, announcements, swap shop, and the ragchew.

At a club meeting we discussed that Mike should get a break.  We asked for volunteers to run it once a month and I volunteered for April.  I was supposed to run it last week, but it fell on Spring Break and we were on a camping trip.  So the next Wednesday (4/24) it was my turn!

I talk on the radio fairly often.  I know most of the people that check into the Nets.  I've met most of them in person.  I speak at our club meetings and I often feel like I can talk to anyone.  So why was I nervous?  Early Wednesday, I started to realize that I was going to be stumbling through and forgetting what to say and the format we typically follow.  Mike had sent me our preamble and I decided to use it to write a script.

When it got close to time to call the Net, I opened my script on my computer on one screen.  On the other, I opened an excel sheet I had created that had columns for callsign, name, location, and traffic.  I felt pretty prepared.  Then I realized it was 8:28PM.  The Net starts at 8:30PM.  I felt my heart beating fast.  I was in a bit of a panic and thought "I'm going to run out of breath".

Alas, the time came anyway.  Ready or not it was time.  I struggled with myself for a few seconds and then I keyed the mic.  I read through my script and felt a little nervous.  As I read, it felt easier and more natural.  All those years of hearing Mike run the net with such skill had made it feel very natural for me.  There were a few mistakes and a lost my place a time or two.  Perhaps I rambled on.  Everyone that checked in was very kind and supportive.  Ed-KB4ZBM said that he wouldn't have known it was my first Net and there was nothing to be nervous about because I was among friends...and he was right.  What a great group of ham's we have here in North Georgia!

I was very proud to have run the Net and look forward to doing it again and practicing my skills as Net Control in the future!

73 de KG4LST (Net Control) sk

Worked Macedonia - Z36W

I haven't spent much time in the shack lately. I've been missing HF radio pretty bad.  I decided to get in the shack after work and play radio for a bit.  I don't consider myself a serious DXer, however I do have a tendency to always check FT8 and the DX cluster for new ones before doing anything else.  Lately the conditions have been less than desirable.  I struggled on Easter Sunday for 1.5 hours trying to work Indonesia on both FT8 and phone with no success.  To me, it seems that the conditions are favorable only one way. I can hear or decode some good DX, but I haven't been able to make contact.

Anyway, I was decoding Egypt on 20m FT8! I called many times. I called on his frequency.  I called on split.  I called off frequency while he was working someone else.  I replied to his CQ call.  I never got a response from him.  While I was on the chase, I did see Z36W in Macedonia decode in deep purple (which is a new country).

I tried giving Z36W a call, but couldn't seem to get the timing right. I was just about to give up when all of the sudden, he started giving me a signal report.  We got stuck trying to exchange the reports, but eventually we were able to complete the QSO and I got a new one in the log!

KG4LST to Z36W
North Macedonia, officially the Republic of North Macedonia, is a country in the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in September 1991 under the name Republic of Macedonia.  A landlocked country, North Macedonia has borders with Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west.

73 and good DX de KG4LST sk

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Worked Niue - E6AF

Sometime after 20m seemed to be closing down and getting quiet, I was enjoying a local ragchew on 80m phone.  I saw someone spot E6AF in Niue on the DX cluster.  As I often do when I see a unrecognized entity, I tuned over to see if I could hear him.  To my surprise, I was able to copy the station just fine.  The S meter barely moved, but the noise floor was so low that it was still arm chair copy.  I called only twice and was able to get a reply!  It's always a joy to get such an easy reply from a new entity.  I returned to my group on 80m and let them know of the DX.  A couple of the guys tuned over and worked Niue also.

KG4LST QTH (right) to E6AF in Niue (left)

Niue is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand, east of Tonga, south of Samoa, and west of the Cook Islands. Niue's land area is about 101 square miles.  The island is commonly referred to as "The Rock", which comes from the traditional name "Rock of Polynesia". Niue is one of the world's largest coral islands.

73 and good DX de KG4LST sk

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