Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Is the end near for the Alpha 9500?

Posted: September 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

alpha9500

I have owned two Alpha 9500 amplifiers. The first amp was a very low serial number and was a “wild and wooly beast” That amplifier had a mind of its own and I sold it having been dissatisfied with it. A few years later, I bought a used Alpha 9500 and enjoyed it for a few years before moving to a solid state, instant on amplifier.

As ownership of Alpha Amplifiers has changed hands several times, the prices and availability of this amplifier has fluctuated wildly. At its height, this amplifier sold for $7995. In contrast to today where the future of this amplifier is increasingly in doubt among some of us, I have seen used excellent condition Alpha 9500s sell for $4,000.

Last week on QRZ.Com I saw an Alpha 9500 sell for $3,000 as the seller wanted to buy a new solid state amp. With late model Alpha 9500s selling for $3,000 to $4,000 I don’t see how the current owner/manufacturer of Alpha amplifiers can continue to produce or sell them for upwards of $6,995. With the new Elecraft and Expert solid state amps selling for well below that, the big gun tube amplifier such as the Alpha 9500 might be a dinosaur with its future in doubt.

What do you think?

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My thoughts on list operations…

Posted: September 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

RareDX

DX comes in many shapes and forms. Some of our favorite DX comes from big “Mega DXpeditions” where we know that we have a good chance to make a rare and wanted contact. Sometimes we have to work the DX station the way that the DX wants to be worked. Some DX operators prefer not to have a large and unwieldy pileup. Sometimes the DX station wants to have a brief chat or exchange of pleasantries in addition to an exchange of signal reports.

Not so common anymore but occasionally there are “List Operations”. The List Operation has a control operator who takes a list of callers wanting to work the rare DX station that may be available. Last week, there was a flurry of activity on 40 meters SSB as David-ZS8Z made daily appearances on a list operation being run by Stan-KE5EE.

There is no question that ZS8Z on Marion Island is a rare and coveted contact. David-ZS8Z is a relatively new DX operator and he prefers not to have a wild and crazy pileup. That is certainly his choice.

Some DXers will argue that these list operations are “spoon fed” DX and will look down upon these contacts. My perspective is that a contact is a contact and if it is the only way you can get this rare DX then you ought to go for it. From my West Coast perspective, it was nice to actually hear David and not have to compete with all of the guys seeking their annual Marathon points and Challenge band slots. The list operation was run in a sane and calm manner that made the contacts fast and easy. I appreciate Stan-KE5EE for running these list operations and for making it possible for many stations to work David-ZS8Z.

 

What do you think?

 

 

Who is Low Cost Ham Radio.com?

Posted: September 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

Low-CostHamradio-4

Recently, a new ham radio website was launched. The URL is http://www.lowcosthamradio.com

This site states “Amateur radio should not be an hobby for the rich people! in recent years, however, we have witnessed increased equipment costs which can dissuade a lot of people, especially young people from becoming amateur radio”

It goes on further to state ” This is insane for the wealth of the entire community. LowCostHamradio.com doesn’t want a muscle hobby where the rich race to get more and more KW to overcome others”

The website touts some of the features and benefits of low cost radios by BaoFeng and Xeigu. These are cheap, difficult to use radios manufactured in China.  The website lists several reviews and tries to get you to sign you up for their updates.

What I find strange about this website is that no where do they list who they are, what their ham call signs are. In fact, the registration for the lowcosthamradio.com domain was done confidentially. This means they pay a fee to the domain registration organization to keep the ownership of this website private. Typically, websites of a dubious nature such as porn sites or other illegal schemes employ the private registration. IF this is a legit website, why are they secretive about who they are?

So before I give this website any credence, I want to know who is behind LowCostHamradio.com

Don’t you want to know?

Exciting times ahead part II

Posted: September 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

In addition to the rare and exciting DXpeditions that have been announced, there is also some exciting new gear on the horizon and a new and very exciting digital mode to enjoy.

IC-7610

Sales for ICOM’s long anticipated IC-7610 are expected very soon. But wait! There is more! Just revealed at the Tokyo Ham Fair 2017 is a new ICOM IC-9700 SDR 144/440/1296 all mode rig!

IC-9700

The new ICOM IC-9700 at the Tokyo Ham fair.

Elecraft has received FCC approval for their new KPA1500 legal limit solid state amplifier and they are now taking orders. I’m very excited about this new amp. If it operates as well as the KPA500/KAT500 combo it will be a huge hit!

DSCN0597

The Elecraft KPA1500 shown at IDXC Visalia 2017.

SBE is taking orders for their new Expert 1.5K-FA legal limit solid state amplifier.

15k

It has got a little more power output than the venerable Expert 1.3K-FA in a similar light and nimble package. Ideal for DXpeditions!

Flex Radio is also taking orders for their legal limit “Power Genius” solid state amplifier.

Flex

Its a great time to be in the market for a new rig or amplifier. And lastly, many of us are enjoying the new FT8 Digital mode by Joe Taylor K1JT. Its a faster and fun way to work some rare ones via this new digital mode.

ft8

Here is an image of FT8 by Jim Heath W6LG. You can view a presentation on how to use this new mode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3iuPyIFhco

So we have new rigs, new amplifiers and an exciting new mode to enjoy. Indeed, exciting times are ahead!

What do you think?

Exciting times ahead!

Posted: August 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

Bouvet

I am extremely excited about both announced and the parade of yet to be announced DXpeditions in the pipeline. I feel that very exciting times are ahead!

The early 2018 “mega Dxpedition” to Bouvet Island, led by the “best of the best” will surely be exciting!  Their world-class team will certainly do a great job despite the many obstacles and challenges that they will encounter along the way.  Their planning and preparations are extremely impressive and this group will certainly do the best job possible. Wishing them all success!

Baker

The KH1-Baker Island Team has just launched their website. They have also assembled a world class crew capable of a great performance. I hope that propagation and weather allows them to meet their DXpeditions goals.

They plan to be active for ten days in late June/early July 2018. That’s not exactly a prime propagation window as say compared to March/April or September/October would be. Low bands will certainly be affected by these dates. Let’s hope that their Sponsors are excited enough by their plans to help them move forward.

Weather may also be a factor for the KH1-Baker team as the Central Pacific hurricane season is from June 1 to November 3rd (according to accuweather.com)

Let’s hope the bad weather and poor propagation that has plagued other recent South Pacific DXpeditions does not adversely affect the KH1-Baker Team.  You can see their new website here: http://baker2018.net

vk9ma

And let’s not forget the previously announced DXpeditions to VK9-Christmas Island, VK9-Cocos Keeling and the November Dxpedition to Mellish Reef by the VK9MA team. I’m also looking forward to working many of my 3D2R/3D2C team mates as they activate Spratly in March 2018 as 9M0W.

jdn

Lastly, in March 2018, Seb-F5UFX and his amazing French Team will activate 3B7-St. Brandon. 

Definitely exciting times ahead!

What do you think?

10

There are many phases to a successful Dxpedition. From the Idea or Concept phase, all the way through the planning and execution or operation phases ending with the wrap up or conclusion of the Dxpedition which culminates in the mailing of QSL cards, LoTW uploads and the preparation and storage of the equipment for the next Dxpedition.

My favorite phase of the Dxpedition takes place just after setup and operations begins. Typically, during my first 3-4 shifts on the bands, I am making notes of which bands are open to which continents during certain times. I really enjoy operating on the higher bands while my other team mates relish operating on 80 and 160 meters.

I love to watch the effect of propagation as it rolls like a large Ocean Wave from continent to continent. When operating from places in Africa, such as South Sudan and Eritrea, I have seen where at our sunrise, the propagation moves westward across the globe. Africa and Europe are open as the sun rises and within a few hours the first North and South American stations receive propagation. This was also apparent from Iraq in 2010 and Yemen in 2012. I noticed that as I was working stations in EU that every once in a while, I would hear a weak W1 or W2 station. Within a few hours, the W1, VE1 and W2 stations were almost as strong as the European stations. As the W1/W2 stations grow in strength, you begin to hear some W4, W3 and W8/W9 stations.

Soon, the signals from the East Coast peak and begin to fade as the W8/W9 signals become stronger. The effect of the Ocean Wave rolling westward continues and the W0/W5 signals begin to get stronger as the W1/W2 and W4 signals begin to fade. As my shift continues, I begin to hear the W6/W7 signals. From Africa and the Middle East, W6/W7 contacts are not strong and have only a very short window of propagation. As the W8/W9 signals are fading out the W6/W7 signals begin to peak. Within a short time, the W6/W7 signals are fading as the KH6 signals are becoming stronger.

When I operated from Myanmar in 2013 during the XZ1J Dxpedition, I saw much different propagation. Surprisingly, one of our toughest area to work on the high bands was the US West Coast. In contrast, we had very good long path openings just after our sunrise to the US East Coast. During those long path openings, propagation would move westward across the USA but would die out completely before it reached the US West Coast.

Sometimes, during a Dxpedition, we experience anomalous propagation behavior. During the VP8SGI Dxpedition, I was operating on ten meters SSB one late afternoon and I experienced several hours of “spotlight propagation” to North America. By spotlight propagation, I mean that the band was only open to small areas at any one time. Sometimes, the propagation was one way. I was hearing stations well that were calling me (split) but they were not always hearing me.

Some DXpeditioners become very distracted by the remote station users. They pause and think how can that be?  A station calling me with a strong signal when he should not have propagation?

Unless one has the QRZ.com/Callbook database memorized, it’s not worth the time or effort to address the issue of remote users during the DXpediton. The ARRL has thoroughly covered this issue and I won’t address it further in this Blog entry.

So, for me, my favorite part of the Dxpedition is anticipating and experiencing the propagation band by band, day by day to see how it changes by time of day. While propagation can be predicted, many times I have seen where there were good openings where no opening was predicted.

 

What do you think?

In Awe of Contesters…

Posted: August 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

contesting-collage

My amateur radio activity primarily involves DXing and participating or organizing DXpeditions. I have dabbled in Contests over the years while mostly seeking new band/country contacts.

At times, I have been frustrated with the frequency of contests and the behavior of contesters on the bands. Many times, I have been trying to work a DX station only to have a contester plop down on top of the DX station and start calling CQ Test. I have often wondered if contesters and DXers could co-exist on the bands.

As time goes by, I have come to recognize the many contributions to amateur radio that the contester community makes and I also recognize the skill, stamina and knowledge that most contesters possess.

In fact, by and large the best Dxpedition operators are contesters. They can operate with great accuracy and a fast rate for many hours at a time. Their contesting skills are like a muscle that has been exercised and well developed. They can simply go faster and farther than many DXers that don’t participate in contests.  The best Dxpedition team are largely comprised of experienced and top contesters.

Whenever I have a complex technical challenge or a question about a logging program, I always look to the contesting community for help and I almost always get a multitude of well thought out and informative responses is short order.

If you look at “cutting edge” amateur radio gear, the vast majority of it has come from advances made by the contest community. They are constantly trying to find new, more efficient ways to operate and make rapid fire contacts.

So, I am grateful for contesters and the many contributions they have made to this great hobby.

What do you think?