CQ WW SSB 2016

zonesConditions were up and down over the weekend, but not so bad as I had expected. At times, I could hear, but not be heard with 100W, so again a bit more power would have been helpful. I was probably on the air for about 24 hours out of the contest period, but did use some spotting assistance, so I won’t enter in the classic category this year. Tactically, that puts me at a disadvantage, but since this was a casual operation, I’m not too concerned about score.

I am aware of one other station from Zone 39 operating in the context, FR4NT. If cluster spots are any indication, he did a great job, with long runs particularly into Europe.

I ended up working 94 DXCC entities, some of them new to me. Through the magic of an excel spreadsheet, here they are: Aland Islands, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Asiatic Russia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bonaire, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Canary Is., Cape Verde, China, Corsica, Crete, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, East Malaysia, England, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Russia, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Guam, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kaliningrad, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madeira Is., Malta, Martinique, Mexico, Micronesia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion Island, Romania, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Senegal, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, USA, Wales, West Malaysia, and Zimbabwe.

Prep for CQ WW SSB

zone39I should be able to put CQ zone 39 back on the air this weekend, at least for part of the CQ WW SSB contest. I’ve had a ton of travel and a few other projects over the last few months, and have been off the air except for portable operations outside Madagascar. Timing is good this weekend, though, for me to get on the air as 5R8SV from the house in Antananarivo.

I think the ionosphere may have taken my inactivity as a personal affront, because it seems to have tanked. Not having really paid much attention to propagation conditions for a couple months, I am stunned by how far the averaged sunspot number has plummeted (to 12!).

I just ran some simulations for the upcoming weekend, and 100W with a hexbeam may be marginal for Europe, much less the US. I hope some of the higher bands will pop open here and there, but I am not expecting much.

I just looked at conditions over on solarham and hope that the choppiness of the last few days will settle down for the weekend. We’ll see!

storms-hoI should be in Madagascar in a few weeks, but I’m not sure whether I’ll be at home in Antananarivo or in the northern part of the country. There’s a chance I’ll be in Nosy Be, if so, I might be operating that contest QRP portable. While lower power might be a challenge under these conditions, Nosy Be is on NW corner of the island, and surrounded by salt water, so maybe worth a shot.

Pogoman Go!

coverIt’s been a few years since Ben Collins-Sussman and I put out a text adventure game, but we were inspired this summer by the painful rollout of Pokémon Go! to write a new one for entry in this year’s Interactive Fiction Competition (ifcomp.org). This year’s competition brought in 57 works of interactive fiction, all of which can be played for free online (or downloaded). I’d encourage folks to try a few of the games including Pogoman GO! If you are willing to rate at least five of them, you can participate in online voting, which is open through mid-November.

We hadn’t originally meant to target the competition, but timing more or less worked out that way, and it seemed like a good way to get lots of eyes on the game, while it was still relevant. The game is in a part a parody of the mobile game, but a good portion of it goes in a different, and it has been said, more surreal, direction.  More about the game over on its own website.

 

The last year of QRZ updates

jacklemurI make small status updates every month on the 5R8SV page on QRZ.com, but after a while, the page becomes too long and the info grows stale. I would hate to lose this record, though, because it’s a nice account of what I’ve been up to, so I am pasting the last year’s worth of comments below and cleaning up the QRZ page. Continue reading “The last year of QRZ updates”

SOTA Activation: W3/PD-006 and W3/PD-007

sugarloaf I was back in the US for a few weeks and squeezed in a SOTA activation right before heading back to Mada. I had tried earlier in the week for a summit close to work, W3/CR-003, Sugarloaf Mountain, but I had to abort that attempt. It had been hot and humid all week, with constant sun. I drove out to Sugarloaf right after work, and with the long days thought I’d have time to climb, set up and operate before it got dark. However, the closer I got to the mountain, the darker the sky grew.

The moment I stepped out into the parking lot, I was hit by a tiny drop of water. More followed – a downpour. In the car, I looked at local weather radar on my cell phone, and cloud cover was patchy, lots of small storms moving west to east, right in line with my location. A couple times, it started to clear, but only briefly. I waited as long as I could, until I judged that there would not be enough light to activate the peak and of course as I drove out of the parking lot, the sun poked through. However, a bit further down the road, there was another cloud burst and with some distance between me and the mountain, I could see that more weather was headed that way, so I think it was a good decision.  Continue reading “SOTA Activation: W3/PD-006 and W3/PD-007”

Completed Station Clock

IMG_20160612_174359In an earlier post, I described an arduino-based clock that I made for my amateur radio station. I had to interrupt work on it for a business trip, but got back a few days ago. I’m now far enough past jet lag to operate heavy machinery, so I finished mounting the board on an aluminum faceplate and installed it in the station.

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Satellite Interlude: ISS and Fox1A

IMG_20160528_210429Last weekend was Memorial Day in the US, and I spent it with friends camping at Chain Of Lake State Park in Indiana. I lugged along my FT817 and VX8R and Ben (NN9S) also brought some ham equipment including his Arrow-II antenna. The camp site was a short walk from a large field, which afforded a good view of the sky, with a tree lines down around 10 degrees elevation from the far side of the field. We had some help from a couple hams-in-training interested in pinging the ISS with an APRS beacon and in having a voice QSO via Fox1A.

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Three Time Zone Arduino-based Clock

the_eye_of_sauronI’ve been meaning to add a  clock with multiple time zone display to my radio operating position for a while. The time in UTC is displayed on my computer when I’m logging, but it’s small and it disappears when the screen sleeps. Also, I use the same room to take work-related conference calls, and it would be helpful to have a clock that displays the local time in Madagascar and the time on the US East Coast, where most of my overseas calls are scheduled. The fast, reasonable approach would be to wire up a microprocessor, a real-time clock chip, and an I2C-driven LCD display that could show all three zones at once. However, the only LCDs I have on hand have small fonts and aren’t that bright. On the other hand, I have a bunch of 4-digit x 7-segment LED displays that burn as bright as Sauron atop Barad-dûr. I went with those.

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Variable Power Supply from Targus PA350

IMG_20160316_084114Continuing on the theme of power supplies and related, I thought I would try my hand at making a bench top variable power supply based on a universal laptop adapter. My rationale is that these adapters are made to run on 11-16V, so I could run it off whatever power is available (the 12V bus on my workbench, a battery, from mains by using another power adapter upstream, or even off the car); considering where I live and the reliability of electrical power, this seemed like a good idea. Also, these brick power supplies are, well, built like a brick, and are designed to tolerate abuse.

I originally came across a posting about converting a Kensington model 33197, which seems idea for this purpose because it has two wires for power/ground, and one each for sensing voltage and current that are set by resistors to a fifth wire that carries 5V. Since then, I’ve seen other articles along similar lines.

My plan was to do something similar, but I wanted to add the twist of being able to set a current limit above which power would be entirely cut to the load until reset. I anticipated using a microprocessor and thought the project wouldn’t be to complicated… but that turned out not to be the case. The power adapter is finicky about turning on into loads, doesn’t like being reset, and I haven’t managed to get more than 15W output from it. That said, I now have it working, but its capabilities fall short of what I had anticipated.

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Electronic Load

supply_and_loadIt’s been a chicken and egg race for the last couple months – I was working on power supply projects, but at the same time needed an electronic load so I could test the supplies at known current draws. I have had a working electronic load for a few months, but only got around to making it pretty and boxing it up in the last week. The design that I came up with is not very sophisticated, but it uses common parts and it seems pretty solid. The picture at right shows my recently built variable power supply working into the electronic load.

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