What is your dream Rig?

Posted: August 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

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If you could formulate the specs and design your dream rig, what would it be?

I like the appearance and ergonomics of the Expert MB1. The size and the feel is just right for me. Not too big or too small. In contrast, my long sold Icom IC-7800 was too big and heavy. My Elecraft K3 is just the right size and it’s light weight makes it travel very well. I think the Icom IC-7610 would travel and perform well but I have yet to try one.

As much as I like the looks and ergonomics of the Expert MB1, I would be hesitant to buy a radio manufactured in Russia for various reasons.

I would call my dream rig the K4 and I hope it would be manufactured by Elecraft which is local to me here in Northern California. Elecraft has long been producing and supporting world-class radios and accessories with phenomenal support. As a K3 owner, they have spoiled me with their high standards and performance.

I would also like the ability to use external software such as Flex Radio’s Smart SDR. While Smart SDR is proprietary to Flex Radios, there is plenty of room for competing technology in that realm. The Spectrum display or “fish finder” in Flex Radio’s Smart SDR 2.0 and above is just spectacular.

Any radio that meets or exceeds the performance of the Elecraft K3S would certainly be a big hit and would meet the needs of many of us.

What would be your dream radio?

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ready

There has been much written over the years about “the Deserving” and their ability to work DX vs the “Undeserving” who fail to get the DX that they seek.

The Deserving:

The Deserving optimizes their station as much as possible for best performance.
The Deserving is ready and prepared for that sudden rare activation.
The Deserving hones their operating and station building skills.
The Deserving listens before calling and studies the pileup.
The Deserving gets up in the middle of the night to work the DX.
The Deserving takes a vacation day from work to work the DX.
The Deserving uses CW/SSB/RTTY and FT8 to maximize their toolbox.
The Deserving provides some level of support to DX Foundations and DXpeditions.

The Undeserving:

The undeserving neglects their station as it falls into disrepair.
The underserving believes their 100 watts and a wire should work anything/everything.
The underserving whines and complains when he/she can’t work the DX.
The undeserving complains that the DX didn’t accommodate their busy schedule.
The undeserving fails to recognize the value of CW to boost their skills and increase their chances for a contact.
The undeserving does nothing to help or support DX Foundations and DXpeditions.

The vast majority of DXers are among the Deserving. They are ready and able to work any rare DX that comes along. Are you among the Deserving?

What do you think?

KH1/KH7Z Wow!

Posted: July 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

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KH1/KH7Z has just concluded after nine days of on the air activity. Wow! This was tough! I found that all of my contacts were difficult to extremely difficult to make. Propagation was about as bad as it can get! There were no sunspots!

Still, the team pushed on. On six of their nine days, they made in excess of 8,000 contacts per day! That is a tremendous effort. They had four days where they made in excess of 9,000 contacts per day and one day with 10,737 contacts! That takes a very intense, focused effort. I wonder if they got up to do bio breaks?

Their signals were never really what I would call loud and clear. They were most workable right before and after our West Coast sunset. On 40 meters they were fairly good copy at our sunrise. Contacts on 30/80/160 meters were very tough!

The operators were excellent for the most part. The CW Ops were “World Class” often making out full calls very quickly. Two of the SSB Ops appeared to be learning the ropes. Lets hope they had fun and go on another DXpedition soon!

KH1/KH7Z was really tough for Europe. I can attest that the KH1/KH7Z team was on the right bands at the right times and was actively listening and calling for EU stations. Propagation just did not cooperate to the extent that any of us would have liked.

All in all, KH1/KH7Z was great effort and I am grateful for this team’s efforts and the contacts that I was able to make with them. I really had fun working them, particularly with FT8 on various bands.

What was surprising from my West Coast perspective is that DQRM seemed very minimal to me. I did not hear the endless hours of jamming and deliberate interference that I have heard on top of so many other high visibility DXpeditions.

Maybe that can be a new trend?

Thank you KH1/KH7Z Team! I can’t wait to hear your stories.

What do you think?

Win10UpdateHell

I have three HF radios in my shack. My 1990’s Yaesu FT-1000MP gets little use these days but remains one of my favorite all time radios. My venerable Elecraft K3 has travelled the world with me and has been to Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia, Myanmar and many other exotic places. This K3 has made somewhere over half a million contacts. While I have never been crazy about the K3’s menu and ergonomics, it is a very solid and reliable performer. On CW, there is no better radio in my opinion than the Elecraft K3 (or K3S)

My newest radio is the Flex 6500 with Smart SDRv2.2.8 and the Maestro. I like the Flex 6500 very much. The SmartSDR is dazzling to display on a large LED display. The learning curve for the Flex technology is quite steep. I have often wished that Fred Cady who writes “How to” books on the Elecraft gear would do the same for the Flex gear. My Maestro does not get much use as I prefer the larger display of SmartSDR. I look forward to that time when I can use my Maestro in conjunction with SmartSDR at the same time.

As great as SmartSDR is, it must rely on a Windows PC. As great as the Flex hardware is (and it is really great) the weak link in the system is the Windows PC. Currently, I am in what I call “Windows Hell” as the last three Windows10 updates have seriously modified my sound card configurations and I have spent considerable time and effort trying to restore them. If it were not for my “Flex Elmer” Ria-N2RJ and the Flex user community, I would have dumped my Flex gear. None of this frustration is Flex Radio’s fault. It is just that it relies on Windows and Microsoft has made Windows an unreliable product/platform.

I’ve had minor frustrations with the Maestro. Because I don’t use it often, it seems that nearly every time I turn it on, it too needs an update of some sort. I end up using my K3 as I await my Maestro to complete its 15-20 minute update and restart.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I clearly prefer radios that are not dependent on any sort of computer as the computer and Windows is the weak link and source of difficulty.

If I were to buy a new Flex, I would consider the stand-alone models that can operate independently of a computer or Maestro. I would also use a PC that is insulated from the Internet and the rest of the world and run SmartSDR on that. That way, I could turn off updates and have a more robust and reliable PC/SmartSDR experience. I regret using SmartSDR on my main PC that is connected to the Internet and is used in many different ways outside of Radio and Logging.

So as things stand, my PC’s sound card settings are seriously hosed and I am spending a lot of time trying to restore them so that I can use and enjoy SmartSDR. In the meantime, I am using and enjoying my trusty K3. Lets hope that Microsoft stops screwing around with Windows 10 so that we can enjoy other activities besides fixing our computers.

What do you think?

 

Fun with FT8!

Posted: June 18, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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FT8 has been a really fun new mode for me. One of the many aspects that I enjoy about FT8 is that it seems to work really well with very little propagation or otherwise poor conditions.

This past week, there has been a “pipeline” of propagation to India just about an hour after our sunrise, on 20 meters. I would not expect this in late June. This morning, I had a lot of fun as both AP2MQ and JT1BV were calling CQ via FT8.

FT8 is the “great equalizer”. It seems to level the playing field where big or small stations can all participate and make the contacts. Some naysayers will scoff and say that the computer does all the work but I don’t agree with that. You need to “chase” the difficult/hard to work stations on FT8 just as you would with CW/SSB. You need to understand and follow the propagation. You need to have your station configured perfectly to complete the contact. You need to understand “split operation” in FT8 and how to listen off frequency from the DX. If you fail in any one of these areas, you won’t make the contact.

And FT8 is not immune to the other problems that plague SSB/CW. There are many out of turn callers who continue to call the DX even though he is replying to you. As it was this morning, I was not able to complete my QSO with AP2MQ even though he replied to me 7-8 times with a signal report as others moved onto his frequency to call him. There are continuous callers who just seem to call a station over and over even as he is replying to and working others. And what seems more unique to FT8 callers is when you are calling a rare DX station and then 4-5 guys start calling you on the frequency you are telling the rare DX station that you are listening on.

Even with these issues, FT8 is still a very fun and productive mode.

What do you think?

Trump

In the weeks and months building up to yesterdays historic Summit between US President Donald Trump and DPRK Marshal Kim Jong Un, I was asked many times by interested amateurs if a DXpedition from the DPRK might be able to happen?

Based on what I saw on the news coverage of yesterdays Summit, I would have to say that “anything is possible” and it seems that the possibility is more likely today than it was yesterday.

That said, there are many obstacles that must be overcome. We know from our previous efforts to activate the DPRK (nine combined visits to the DPRK) that the cost of permission is quite steep. These costs are enmeshed into hotel and internal travel costs but never the less they are significant and more than a self funded team could carry on their own.

We know that absolute secrecy is required from the DPRK authorities and as hard as we tried, we know that one of our P5DX team members “spilled the beans” to his friends.

Most formidable is the current Trump Travel Ban which prohibits Americans from visiting the DPRK currently. With the travel ban in place Americans are unable to take advantage of this newfound goodwill or make any travel to the DPRK. If that travel ban is lifted the possibilities for a P5 activation involving Americans increases significantly.

So with these considerations in mind, we can “watch and wait” and see if the travel ban is lifted or if any other group is able to make inroads into the DPRK.

Update as of June 27th, 2018: The Trump administration has renewed the “Travel Ban” which prevents US citizens from traveling to the DPRK for another year.

What do you think?

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While I at the Dayton Hamvention, I purchased the new Geochron Digital 4K UHD “shack accessory”

DX Engineering sells the new Georchron for $399. I have owned a Geochron Standard mechanical wall clock since 2011 and I have enjoyed it on my wall in my shack above my radios and displays.

The prices on new Geochron standard editions have increased mightily to $1,895 currently. I paid no where close to that for mine in 2011.

Well, I am enjoying my new Geochron 4K so much that I will sell my Geochron Standard edition (listed on QRZ.com for $850)

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The new Geochron 4K comes with everything you need (not shown is the included HDMI cable) to couple it to a display (computer monitor or TV) It really displays well on a 4K LED television. Setup is very easy and only takes a moment. The Geochron 4K has built in WiFI so it can time synch over the internet if you enable that feature. There are easy menus that let you select various types of displays depending on your desires. I like the “Ham Radio” display. You can also chose Aircraft display and it overlays a map of all of the current flights onto the Geochron display.

My Geochron is connected to a 43″ Samsung 4K LED television as seen above. 

This is a terrific and affordable “shack accessory”. DXers can benefit from seeing the “terminator” in real time and it help you know where you are likely to have grey line propagation.

Plus, it just looks way cool!

What do you think?