Monday, May 11, 2020




"I JUST GOT DOWN"  (he's no longer living, but the videos live on)




Like everyone else, and being at home every day, it didn't take long for me to realize how crappy my shack looked due to wires being run-hung-dropped-laying EVERYWHERE, so I did something I normally don't do - I grabbed my DX Engineering catalog and looked for a way to clean it up.

For some reason I've always shied away from Anderson Powerpoles because (to be honest) they seemed intimidating to me. Other concerns (i.e. - financial) had also played a part in my reticence because I didn't have a decent crimper. By gazing at the price of connectors + a Powerpole crimper I'd always channeled my money into other things, like radios, microphones, antennas, and yes - more power cords.

I had some extra cash left over from a recent sale of a radio so this time I took what I needed, jumped online to DX Engineering's website and ordered a Powerpole crimper, some connectors, and Rigrunner 4012 DC power outlet panel.

Just to be sure I didn't screw up the incoming connectors I found a great step-by-step video on YouTube that showed me it was as easy as everyone had told me over the years (that video is just beneath this article).

In minutes I was be-bopping all over the shack, crimping everything I could think of (much like someone who gets their first label maker and suddenly labeled items are everywhere). The power leads within the shack are now organized, crimped, and easily plugged/unplugged into the Rigrunner, which is wired directly to my big power supply. For the first time, the light's on my two watt/swr meters actually work.

I can kick myself for not do this sooner, but I'm glad I finally took the plunge! 

(next project: big antenna switch and same-length coax jumpers). The video below should really set your mind at ease regarding doubts about difficulty...






Friday, May 08, 2020




That crossword puzzle I attempted (a couple posts ago) never really worked well, but after spending a lot of time searching old hard drives, I found the original software that I used before 2010. Here are two links, one is a java driven page for real time solving and the second is a plain HTML page that you can print out and work on the puzzle at your leisure, and I'll do another one next month!


In the beginning, CB was created, and all was well. It became popular, and then it became a fad. During this fad, in the mid-70's while driving into Houston down I-45 at least 75% of the cars I saw had CB antennas on them, and everyone was trying to talk at once with a "coffee break" on Friday's almost every other exit, from one I-Hop or Denny's to another. And then it wasn't a fad, and it was quiet again, but people were still lurking on the channels (yes, there were other factors like the 40 channel radio bloodbath - but I digress). 

"we've been practicing social distancing for over one hundred years..."

The late sixties was my introduction to two-way radio by way of CB. Ham radio had been there for decades earlier, but if I'm being honest with you I'd have to say that CB base station radio had a cool factor going for them that Ham radios of that same period did not. My friends were all on CB and I decided that this 11m band would be my home for awhile (approx. 15 years, before a ham license).

I guess we've all read recent stories about people who can't deal with the isolation, whereas a radio operator may not even blink when it comes to staying home - we've been practicing social distancing for over one hundred years.

Before the mad chaos of the mid-to-late 70's it was a much less technical world. At home in Connecticut, we had 2 VHF and 2 UHF TV stations so getting local news was rare, and even national news was usually on once a day. There was one local newspaper which had only a few pages, and two larger newspaper editions: The Hartford Courant (early morning) and the Hartford Times, delivered each evening. I had the misfortune of getting up at 4 a.m. to sort and deliver the Courant. Peddling a bike while loaded down with papers wasn't the easiest thing to do with a foot or more of snow on the ground... If someone required their news faster than that they had to turn to their broadcast radio, CB radio, or Ham station.

"I got pretty good at forecasting when school wouldn't open, or how long it would stay closed"

Besides using CB to talk among friends I remember getting much of my local news and information by sandbagging some of the adult (over-25) frequencies as well as asking truckers on channel 10 about things like road conditions after a severe snowstorm, current weather conditions regarding a Nor'easter that was headed out way, to even asking about the origin of that smoke rising on the horizon. Using this information I got pretty good at forecasting when school wouldn't open an how long it would stay closed.

I've typed enough (for the moment) about the good 'ol days, but what about ham radio? Well, there's plenty of fun to be had on the ham bands too. You have the ability to go up or down the frequencies to find the best amateur band of that moment. Some bands like 80m are great in the early morning, possibly for within the state communicates in the late afternoon, and most other times it's good to move up in frequency like 40 or 20 meters. There are plenty of ways to get your signal out, and many frequencies to do it. 

6 meters, a.k.a. the magic band can work well locally, and hundereds if not thousands of miles during e-skip. You'll find AM, FM, and sideband along with a variety of digital modes. 2 meters is where you typically find satellite work, ssb at 144.200 and repeater's higher up. Many repeater's are hang outs for various local amateur radio groups.

One of the Houston area ham radio clubs (BVARC) began having week day 2m net's at noon to pass along gathered information, as well as to keep some operators abreast of what each ham was up to since the stay-at-home orders were in affect. I'm listening to it right now, and today's subject is: "What was your first ham radio?" (brief pause while I check in) and my answer was: a Heathkit HW-5400.

Ham radio is valuable during events of major importance, like Hurricanes, floods, and Tornadoes, and I've done a bit of throwing my hat into the ring in helping out others over the decades, since licensed. It also allows you to practice social distancing across the world. In a nutshell: stay safe, and if you're stuck at home, a CB, Ham radio (or both) can be a great friend to have.


VK3YE: Interesting Homebrew 100 watt 7 MHz magnetic loop for units and apartments

"if you haven't sent an email to the seller within the first minute or two of his posting, you're not going to be able to buy it"


Many ham event has been canceled so far this year, most notably Dayton's Hamvention. Because of the cancellations, several groups have flourished: Sellers (those stuck with a lot of ham gear) and buyers (some who just long for making a "deal"), and here are my observations:

  • EBay listings for 2-way radios are decreasing in the sheer number of posts due in part to the lack of garage sales.
  • QTH ads have been somewhat fewer than usual, for possibly the same reasons
  • But QRZ's buy-sell-swap forum has been swamped with sellers as well as eager radio op's who are going through hamfest withdrawal. Typically when an item was posted for sale, and it was a good price, it would get sold in 30 minutes to half a day. Radio items don't last that long now. If you've ever gone to a ham event early, before the main building is open to the public I'm pretty sure you've seen folks with flashlights running from tailgate to tailgate in an attempt to beat someone else to a good deal.  
  • Flashlights have been replaced by mouse-clicks, and if you haven't sent an email to the seller within the first minute or two of his posting, you're not going to be able to buy it - it's that fast! For example, I saw an item where it had been posted for sale "2 minutes ago". It was something I could use, and at a very fair price. In the time it took to compose and send my email (less than a minute) I got my e-mail off to the buyer. I wasn't fast enough.

So, whether you're yakking with friends around town, across the country, or joining a pack of swarming mouse clicker's on a swap forum... have fun doing it!

I did some catalog scanning this week, and here's a few pages for your enjoyment!