HF Email From The Mobile?

Last summer when we were camping in the national parks, there were many campsites where we had no cell phone service. I am not complaining about that, but our work around to communicate back home to the XYL often required a trip to the pay phone (sometimes hard to find). I thought about perhaps using APRS’s capability of relaying short pieces of text as emails. Part of the problem is that there are many areas of the parks that don’t have any APRS digipeater coverage (Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks for example). How to get a message through?

Then I remembered my MARS station (AEN5AC) in Iraq. I was using an ICOM IC-7000 and an SCS PTC-IIusb modem to pass MARSGRAMS from my location north of Baghdad to another station at the US embassy in Qatar. The pairing worked quite well and I was consistently able to connect and pass traffic using PACTOR 3 at the 1400 baud rate. Could I use a similar setup to provide an HF email option while camping this summer?

September 2007, Taji, Iraq - MARS Station AEN5AC
September 2007, Taji, Iraq – MARS Station AEN5AC

I dug out my SCS PTC-IIusb modem. I had not used it since shutting down the MARS station in June of 2008. Everything was still in the box. To include the cables necessary to interface the modem with an ICOM IC-706MKIIG… the same rig I use for HF mobile.

I pulled out my spare IC-706MKIIG. Coming back to Kansas from Field Day in California back in 2009, my IC-706MKIIG quit on me. I ended up buying a second at the HRO in Denver and sent the broke one to ICOM. ICOM fixed it and returned it. I kept it in the box and it went back on the shelf. I did order a 6 pin Molex connector with powerpoles to allow for an easy power connection (#9). I connected the two cables from the modem to the rig. Once cable is for the data and plugs into the 706’s 13 pin accessory connection (#4). The other cable connects to the 706’s CI-V interface (#6) to have the radio change frequencies based on what station is being contacted.

Rear of IC-706MKIIG
Rear of IC-706MKIIG

I had the basic hardware of a HF email station, except for a computer. I would need one that would function out of the vehicle. This would probably require a laptop. I also decided for the ease of simplicity that the computer should be Windows driven (instead of Linux). Gasp! The bottom line is that the software and drivers required to send email via HF and use the SCS PTC-IIusb modem is Windows based. The answer ended up being an Dell XPS 15.

Using a Windows based computer helped me with a number of summer travel tasks that could not be accomplished by my small Linux laptop:
(1) Run the software required for HF email (more on Winlink and Airmail later)
(2) Run ARRL’s TravelPlus for Repeaters
(3) Run RT Systems radio programming software for my TM-D710A
(4) Run RT Systems radio programming software for my VX-8RGs
(5) Read the SD card from my Canon digital camera

Interestingly enough, the new laptop does not have a CD/DVD drive nor an RJ-45 connection for a LAN cable. Neither of these have been a show stopper yet.

ARRL’s TravelPlus for Repeaters

travelplus_repeatersI had purchased TravelPlus for Repeaters with the intent of installing it on my existing Linux laptop and running it under a VirtualBox Windows session (similar to how I run iTunes on my Linux laptop). However the software failed to install. I tried troubleshooting and looking at suggested fixes found on the forum sites but still had no luck. I tried installing TravelPlus using WINE. It installed but would not run as well.

Dell XPS 15 to the rescue. As the laptop does not have a CD/DVD drive, I copied the drive onto network storage. I then was able to install TravelPlus over the network and it is working without issue.

RT Systems Programming Software
The RT Systems programming software works fine under a VirtualBox Windows session. As I was moving all my vehicle related radio/computer tasks to the new Windows laptop, I attempted to install the programming software for the TM-D710A (used for beaconing the location of my vehicle and talking on VHF/UHF). Following a similar procedure that worked for TravelPlus, I copied the programming software from the install disks to a network drive. The software installation for the TM-D710A worked without a hitch. The software for the VX-8RGs (HTs we use for around camp and hiking) failed to load. The error said that I must use the original disk to install. A big challenge when the laptop doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive. The work around is that you find another Windows computer with a CD drive, load the software CD, then back on the driveless laptop, map the CD drive (like you would map a network drive). That worked and I was able to install the programing software for the VX-8GR.

HF Email Software
There are two main choices for software to allow for HF email: RMS Express and Airmail. I installed both. Airmail was the same program I used in Iraq and it offered easy configuration with the IC-706MKIIG and the SCS PTC-IIusb.

I now had all my equipment for a test run setup in my basement hamshack: spare IC-706MKIIG, SCS PTC-IIusb, and the Dell XPS 15 with Airmail. I connected the IC-706MKIIG to my Elecraft tuner and used my existing G5RV antenna. Airmail configures easily. The software has a list of stations offering mailbox services that can be viewed on a propagation chart by frequency and distance. Based on time of day, I selected a station in Texas that offered a 40M PACTOR 3 connection. Airmail allows me to click on the frequency in the propagation chart which then changes the dial frequency of the radio. After listening to see if there were any ongoing connections, I initiated contact. The modem lights flashed and the rig clicked between transmit and receive. The connection was made and I was able to send a test email as well as a position report.

Propagation Prediction & Frequency Selection
Propagation Prediction & Frequency Selection

Success! The position reports that go into the Winlink system are copied over into APRS. Now, even if I am not able to reach a digipeater with my VHF APRS beacon, I can send a position report over HF to let the XYL know where we are.

APRS.fi showing Position Report  from WINLINK
APRS.fi showing Position Report from WINLINK

I then thought about the steps I would have to take of transitioning my IC-706MKIIG configured for HF mobile to be ready to work with the PTC-IIusb to send email. As the remote head is located up near the drivers seat, this would present problems with being able to observe the modem, laptop, and radio control head all at the same time.

Remote control heads for the IC-706MKIIG and TM-D710A to the right of the center console. APRS Avmap GPS to the left of steering wheel.
Remote control heads for the IC-706MKIIG and TM-D710A to the right of the center console. APRS Avmap GPS to the left of steering wheel.

What if I just dedicated the spare IC-706MKIIG rig to the task of HF email? It would save me time and bother in pulling and plugging cables. It would also give the camping option of being able to operate HF from outside the vehicle.

VHF/UHF antenna is forward, above driver's door. Tarheel antenna is mounted on a swing out jerry can holder.
VHF/UHF antenna is forward, above driver’s door. Tarheel antenna is mounted on a swing out jerry can holder.

Using an additional iPortable box, I rack mounted the spare IC-706MKIIG and the SCS PTC-IIusb. Now I will have a spare HF rig with me, so if one goes out I will still be operational. I also attached the Tarheel screwdriver antenna’s rocker switch to raise and lower the antenna on the side of the box. During normal HF mobile operations, the TurboTuner (connected to the other IC-706’s tuner connection and CI-V connection) manages achieving a correct match between the operating frequency and the screwdriver antenna.

I only have the one TurboTuner. The TurboTuner requires a connection to the CI-V. So does the SCS PTC-IIusb. My solution was to leave the TurboTuner alone. Instead, using the rocker switch, I can manually tune the antenna while visually observing the 706’s SWR meter.

HF Email Ready: SCS PTC-IIusb, IC-706MKIIG
HF Email Ready: SCS PTC-IIusb, IC-706MKIIG

To transition between using the 706 dedicated to HF mobile to the 706 now dedicated to HF email, I have to do the following:
(1) disconnect the antenna feedline from the TurboTuner
(2) disconnect the control line that goes from the TurboTuner to the Tarheel screwdriver antenna
(3) connect the antenna feedline directly to the HF email 706
(4) connect the control line to the rocker switch
(5) connect the laptop to the SCS PTC-IIusb via a USB cable
(6) connect the iPortable’s powerpole connection to the junction box in the back of the vehicle

… then I am ready to go. The iPortable box rests nicely on the vehicle’s tailgate, next to the laptop. All at about lawn chair height. Not only can I use this setup to send email via HF, but I can also use it for causal National Parks On The Air contacts as well.

What’s left to do:
(1) Constant cooling fan modification for both IC-706s (see AD5X’s article)
(2) An extended control cable for the Tarheel screwdriver antenna. This will allow me to further remote away from the vehicle, but still use the antenna.
(3) A length of antenna feedline for remoting.
(4) A length of powerpole-ready powerline to attach to either the travel trailer battery or directly to the spare vehicle battery… again for remoting away from the vehicle.
(5) I have a set of Heil headsets that worked with my IC-7000. I think if I get the AD-1ICM, I should be able to use them with the 706.
(6) A Heil HS-2 hand PTT switch to use with the headset.

The Day The Computer Died

I have been using small footprint computers in ham shack for a while. It started with the Dell Zino. Always a bit under powered, but enough to get the hamming done. The latest computer driving everything was one of those barebones models that was the size of a shoe box. The first sign of decline was when the fan kept getting louder and LOUDER. The the drive (500GBs of SATA) then decided to give up the ghost.

An immediate lesson learned… back up my log. I have been good at uploading my logs (almost daily, when on the air) to LOTW, QRZ.com, and eQSL. But I would only export that days contacts, consistently replacing the previous days exported log.

I choose not to abandon the small footprint computer and went back to the Shuttle. Newegg.org was my one stop shopping:

The case and motherboard: Shuttle XH81 Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 / Pentium / Celeron 65W Intel H81 1 x HDMI Barebone system
– small form factor, fits neatly underneath monitor.
– 2x RS-232 connections on the back. Perfect for connecting to the Elecraft amp and tuner.
– Plenty of USB connections

Intel Core i7-4770S Haswell Quad-Core 3.1 GHz LGA 1150 65W BX80646I74770S Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics
– not the fastest, but fast enough.
– comes with a super quiet fan.

Transcend JetRam 8GB 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Laptop Memory Model JM1600KSH-8G
– I got two DIMMs to keep things moving… 16GBs = snappy!

SAMSUNG 850 EVO 2.5″ 250GB SATA III 3-D Vertical Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) MZ-75E250B/AM
– Good bye disk, hello solid state. Faster. Silent.

The actual build was plug and play. The Shuttle line has come a long way since my last experience with their product. I think these specific computers are designed to operate older types of technology (hint…. 2x RS-232 connections?) which works great with most amateur radio needs.

The next step was loading the OS. LiLi USB Creator is my go to solution for installing linux when I don’t have an optical drive (which is more often the case). This allows you to load the OS through booting directly from the USB stick.

The linux flavor of the day: Mint with the MATE edition. I was an Ubuntu man until Unity. Then made the jump to Mint. The OS loaded without issue and I was off and running.

Amazingly enough, I was able to install TQSL-2.2. In the past, I have been able to install TQSL from the Software Manager. But this has been an older version of TQSL. The newer versions ALWAYS gave my problems with dependency issues during attempted installs. I stayed with it this time and finally got it working. Phew!

The install of fldigi went smoothe, but configuring it to work with my Elecraft K3 was giving me fits. In my past setup, I’ve always used hamlib for rig control and the trick was just finding which USB number was being used for my USB Microham III. But this time, the USB Microham III was identified by name as a choice. Great! But it didn’t initialize. I tried USB0 (…. nothing), combed over the results of lsusb…. not… working. After some intense Googling, I ran across a command I had never seen before:

sudo adduser [username] dialout

Dialout!? Who knew? But that did the trick.

Now, here is something funny. We all have our junk boxes. As hams, we are pack rats. We hang on to stuff that has no current use, but may someday. I had a box RS-232 cables. When Fall Cleaning swept through the ham shack, I looked at the RS-232 cables. I am really going to need 15 RS-232 cables ranging in length between two and 15 feet? The box headed to the dump.

Now, with my growing K-Line, I can use Elecraft software (linux versions available) to monitor data from the amp and tuner. But the connections are serial. SERIAL. I turned the ham shack upside down and not an RS-232 cable to be found. I really don’t want to have to actually go out and BUY a serial cable.

Boot failure ending with initramfs prompt

mount: mounting /dev on /root/dev failed: No such file or directory
mount: mounting /proc on /root/proc failed: No such file or directory
Target filesystem doesn’t have /sbin/init.
No init found. Try passing init=bootarg.

BusyBox v1.18.5 (Ubuntu 1:1.18.5-1ubuntu4) built-in shell (ash)
Enter ‘help’ for a list of built-in commands.

This has happen on my Dell laptop much more than I’d like:


mount: mounting /dev on /root/dev failed: No such file or directory
mount: mounting /proc on /root/proc failed: No such file or directory
Target filesystem doesn’t have /sbin/init.
No init found. Try passing init=bootarg.

BusyBox v1.18.5 (Ubuntu 1:1.18.5-1ubuntu4) built-in shell (ash)
Enter ‘help’ for a list of built-in commands.

Ham Radio Deluxe vs fldigi

I’ve recently re-established my station here in Kansas. The majority of all the components of my station I was using previously in Korea: Elecraft K3 rig, a Dell Zino PC, using the MicroHam USB III as an interface between the radio and computer. The Dell Zino PC is configured for dual-boot: Windows 7 and Ubuntu. Last year I spent a good deal of time configuring fldigi, under Ubuntu, to fulfill the majority of my amateur radio automation requirements (rig control, logging, digital modes). After a bit of trial and error, I had fldigi working quite well.

Once I was back here in Kansas, I had a problem configuring the K3 – CW, as a mode, wasn’t working. Figuring I had messed up a setting, I reset the K3… which ended up not being the smartest move. Up to this point, I had never updated the K3’s firmware or backed up the settings. I (incorrectly) believed that Elecraft’s configuration software was for Windows only. An email to Elecraft generated a quick response with a copy of the software configuration file for my specific rig.

Weeks past as I avoided getting the hamshack into proper order. The hamshack became the default location for stashing half unpacked boxes. Once I finally made serious progress in sorting through and organizing everything, I was able to get to the K3 and PC. I booted up Windows 7, connected the PC to the K3, updated the firmware, and reloaded the original factory software settings. Things were looking up.

I decided to see if Ham Radio Deluxe under Windows 7 was easier to use than fldigi. I updated Ham Radio Deluxe to the current version and then attempted to get the MicroHam USB III to work. Frankly it was a pretty kludgey process. An additional program had to be installed to create a virtual com port in order to allow the MicroHam USB III to work. Configuring the soundcard, resident in the USB III, was also not very successful. Then I tried Ham Radio Deluxe, which had been my software of choice a little over a year ago. Bottom line, I was not pleased with Ham Radio Deluxe and decided to switch back to fldigi.

Booting into Ubuntu, fldigi worked from the get go…. rig control, log, and digital modes. For now, I’ll be sticking with Ubuntu and fldigi.

NOTE: Here is a list of settings that I use:

Fldigi config:
Rig control
– RigCAT
– /dev/tty/USB0
– Baud rate: 38400
– Toggle DTR for PTT

Ubuntu Sound Preferences
– Hardware: USB Audio CODEC, Analog Stereo Duplex
– Input: Internal Audio Analog Stereo [this confuses me, because I would expect the input would be associated with the USB Audio device (aka the Microham)
– Output: USB Audio CODEC Analog Stereo
– Application: No application

Ham radio and my year in Korea

Here is a a re-cap of my amateur radio activities during my past twelve months in Korea:

(1) DX – I enjoyed working a good bit of DX, enjoying most QSOs with stateside contacts as well as Pacific exotics. The greatest limitation I had was my operation location and resulting inability to ideally situate an HF antenna. Living in the barracks (the ultimate in CC&R) restricted any type of permanent antenna installation, further limiting my options. I solely used a Buddipole (which after many additional accessory purchases, became two Buddipoles). Despite the antennas being positioned next to a three story building, I was able to make contacts to North America, South America, Europe, and even Africa. I credit this to improved band conditions over the past months and also the Buddipole… it’s a keeper.

(2) EchoIRLP node – I brought my embedded EchoIRLP node to Korea and interfaced it with a Kenwood VHF/UHF rig. Again, with my poor location and inability, I could not have an antenna installed outdoors. Instead, I kept the Kenwood rig at its minimum wattage setting and used a roll-up J-Pole made from ladder line. With my HT also set on minimum power, I was able to make effective use of the EchoIRLP node. My primary contacts via the node were with the XYL back in Kansas. She has a mobile VHF rig, to include APRS. I could check to see when she was on the road for her morning or afternoon commutes, connect through my EchoIRLP node here in Korea to our EchoIRLP node back in Kansas. With the XYL’s rig set to the frequency of the Kansas node, I could frequently ride along with the XYL and harmonics as they moved about. Additionally, the Echolink capability of the embedded node allowed me to regularly talk to my dad, KD6EUG, while he connected to my node via an app on his cell phone. Another great enjoyment was the ability to monitor the different IRLP reflectors and sometimes participate in ongoing nets. I am sold on the flexability of the embedded EchoIRLP node and will take it with me again when I get deployed for a long duration.

(3) D-STAR – starting with a D-STAR Dongle, I moved to a DV Access Point and got an ICOM D-STAR HT. I enjoyed playing with D-STAR and the ease of having the Access Point as well as the IC-92AD (http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/ht/5092.html) made using D-STAR pretty straight forward. There is no aruging that the audio quality for D-STARS is poor. The complicated nature of setting up a rig at home for the XYL would also make D-STAR a poor choice to replace the EchoIRLP node. However, I enjoyed having the flexibility of having the ability of getting on D-STAR.

(4) Linux – all my radio operations here were supported by using the Ubuntu distrobution of Linux. After toying with CQRlog, I have settled on fldigi as my primary interface to my HF rig.

(5) APRS – although my APRS operations here were limited to the internet (Korea has virtually no APRS traffic), I used xastir (www.xastir.org) to show where my operating location was and also advertised my EchoIRLP node.

(6) WX station – never happen. I could not find a good location to place the collector, so it is still in the box. More importantly, wgoohat I didn’t get the opportunity to learn was how to interface a weather station to the APRS application xastir.

(7) Stars & Stripes article – I was able to discuss my amateur radio experiences with a reporter from Stars & Stripes.

D-Star, DV Dongle, and Ubuntu

Yet again, more success with Ubuntu and ham radio. I purchased a D-Star DV Dongle earlier this year and never had much time to play with it. I do not own an actual D-Star radio and the only time I have really ever seen D-Stars in action was at this year’s Hamvention. I am a fan of Echolink and IRLP – the DV Dongle seemed like a good way to dip my toe in the D-Stars pool without a big cash investment. Additionally, I haven’t been living near any existing D-Star repeaters (either back in Kansas or here in Korea).

Installing the DV Dongle on the hamputer went smoothly. Great instructions are located here or here. For support, there is a Yahoo Group which is active and brings quick response in troubleshooting problems.

Once I had the DV Dongle up and running, NJ6N has a webpage that provides a live look at who is active on which D-Star repeaters and reflectors.

There are plenty of resources out there, which could indicate the growing popularity of D-Stars.

If you are interested in having a D-Stars QSO, let me know.

For the record…

Here are details for my Ubuntu hamputer installation:

(1) Install the 32-bit version of Ubuntu 10.04DO NOT INSTALL THE 64-BIT VERSION!
(2) Run Update Manager and reboot
(3) From the terminal sudo apt-get install: libssl-dev, libhamlib2 and libhsmlin-utild
(4) Download CQRLOG (my version was cqrlog_0.9.6_install.tar.gz)
(5) Extract file and you get cqrlog_install.sh – run the script in the terminal
(6) After the install is complete, you should be able to start and run CQRLOG
(7) Now you need Fldigi… this takes a bit more work to get the latest version
(8) From the Synaptic Package Manager, install: g++, libfltk1.1, and libfltk1.1-dev
(9) Find via Google (or use the supplied links), download, extract, configure, make and install: libsamplerate-0.1.7.tar.gz, pa_snapshot.tgz (v19), libpng-1.2.9beta11, and hamlib-1.2.7
(10) Then download fldigi-3.20.29, configure, make, and install
(11) That is it – everything should be good to go.
(12) For bonus points, download and install Flrig

For more on CQRLOG – listen to Episode 47: CQRLOG Revisited of Linux in the Ham Shack… the best (and only) amateur radio/linux podcast out there.

Linux is finally in the Ham Shack

Back in February I talked about my plans to piece together a portable station based around the iPORTABLE enclosures, an IC-7000, and a Dell Zino HD computer. In one iPORTABLE I installed an LDG AT-200pro and the IC-7000. The other iPORTABLE contains an Alinco DM-330MV power supply and the Dell Zino.

The iPORTABLE enclosures keep everything contained and compact. I’ve set them up, one stacked upon the other on my desk near the window in my quarters here in Korea… which makes it easy to connect to the antenna feedline.

When I recently received my Buddipole and subsequently got on the air, I looked to an Ubuntu solution for managing my log, digital modes, as well as rig control. Fldigi, by itself, was great for digital modes… but was difficult to get working with my Dell Zino’s sound card and my West Mountain Radio’s (not so) Plug & Play RIGBlaster. Using Grig for rig control was unsatisfying. Logging with Xlog worked, but it wasn’t integrated with either rig control or Fldigi. I was looking for a similar experience that I got from Ham Radio Deluxe.

Many of the Linux crowd bash Ham Radio Deluxe – and I am not fully sure why. First off – it is free… doesn’t cost a dime. The two primary gripes are that HRD doesn’t offer a linux version and that the overall software package is bloated. I’ll be the first to say that I used HRD for quite a while and found all its features quite useful. The integration of its digital modes software package with HRD made HRD that much better. I used HRD as my primary logging/digital modes suite when I was operating from Iraq and the software never let me down.

That being said… I still wanted to find the Linux solution, if for no other reason than to just do it. I tried shackbox. shackbox was on the right path, but installation was a bit wonky and then the developer stopped supporting it. Linux In The Ham Shack taunted me with the elusive vision of a amateur radio station seamlessly powered by Linux. Using WINE to run HRD under Ubuntu seemed ridiculous… using WINE, to me, seems to defeat the purpose of having Linux.

Fldigi has long been a linux ham radio star. Featured in the January 2010 issue of Linux Journal, it is a favorite. But for me, it wasn’t a replacement for HRD. It lacked full rig control and the logging was pretty basic. CQRLOG offered a solution. It claimed to integrate Fldigi and provide top-notch logging along with rig control. Was this the solution I was looking for?

For hardware, I selected the Dell Zino HD. It has a small form factor – just fitting into one of the two shelves in the iPORTABLE enclosure. The computer ended up being easy to configure as a dual boot – Windows 7 and Ubuntu. I tried using Fldigi, but kept running into problems. Thinking it was a problem with the Zino’s soundcard, I ordered one of those USB stick soundcards from Startech.com… which I got and stuck in the drawer, still in its blister-pak.

The arrival of the Buddipole spurred a renewed sense of urgency to achieve a Linux-ham solution. I tried to install CQRLOG… it looked like it installed fine but when it I tried to start it – nothing happen. Caught between a decision to get on the air and participate in CQ WW DX Contest or dork around with Linux, I defaulted to using Windows 7 and HRD.

Now that the big contest is over – I decided to tackle this issue of ham and linux. The problem, as I’d left it, was that CQRLOG wasn’t working and I had a questionable soundcard. After researching, Googling, peeking, and poking I figured out that the problem was that CQRLOG does not play well with 64-bit distributions of Ubuntu. I reinstalled Ubuntu using a 32-bit distribution, installed all the required libraries, configured, make’d, sudo’ed make install…. and then…. it WORKED! After more tweaking with the rig control, Fldigi worked along side CQRLOG. Flrig as well – which is a great rig control app.

The final nail in the coffin for Windows and HRD was when I exported my log and then imported into CQRLOG… without issue. Now I am truly Spinning and Grinning in a 100% Linux Nirvana.

On a radio safari

Today was a real adventure on the airwaves. I only made 12 contacts, but there were a few that are quite memorable. My location here in South Korea affords me the ability to make contact with exotic locations even with my modest Buddipole antenna. The first contact wasn’t actually a contact – tuning around 20M, I stumbled across 9W6HLM and 9W6BOB operating from Borneo (yes, 9W6BOB is Borneo Bob… how cool is that?). Both stations were on the air, leisurely trolling for contacts… although they couldn’t hear me. I was able to hear them work Denis, WA5TYJ, in New Mexico. Fortunately, the noise level for me was very low and I could just hear Denis.

The next two contacts were with JA’s – a completely unremarkable accomplishment from the QTH here in HL-land. However, they were made using my newly basedlined Linux Ubuntu hamputer using CQRLOG, Fldigi, and Flrig. Again, an unremarkable accomplishment on the face of it… until you hear about my trials and tribulations of getting it working.

Then I worked ZS6CCY, a South African station, on 20M phone! That was pretty exciting. I switched to Fldigi to give PSK31 a try and was able to work a few Russian stations. Then booming down the waterfall came Kim, HL2DYS. I had yet to work another station here in South Korea… but I had to be patient. Kim was working the South Pacific and Europe. When there was a hole, a jumped in and we had a great QSO. Hopefully I will be able to meet Kim soon for an eyeball QSO.

There was a major JA phone contest underway, so I decided to head up to 17M and see if I could scare up another phone contact. While spinning and grinning I fell upon V73RS… Rob on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Wow!! He was just above the noise level and I was his first contact before the spotters got him and the pile-up hit. Rob stuck with me, which is saying something. First – because my callsign here is HL2/AD7MI…. which is horrendously difficult to pass across less than desirable band conditions. Second – Rob wanted the name of my city, which is Uijeongbu (I spell: Uniform India Juliet Echo Oscar November Golf Bravo Uniform). It is quite a mouthful. The pileup kept building, but Rob stayed with the QSO and told me he was there on Kwajalein and that I should look for him on 10M, as conditions generally more favorable for a 2-way exchange.

Back to 20M where I worked another Russian station. Then I snagged JT1DN, a station for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It is hard to get more exotic than Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia is not actually far from Korea, but it was my first contact ever with the country and I won’t soon forget it.

Maintaining the exotic theme – my next contact was with YC9ETJ – Bali Island, Indonesia. Agung had quite a pile up and I was glad to get picked up by him.

Sunset and the grayline approached and I was successful in working Poland and Norway. All in all – I was quite excited with the contacts for the day.

Sunday Snowy Sunday

Lots of snow here on the eastern edge of Kansas. We got a good dump of slush on Friday but with the temp too high none of it stuck. Then Saturday afternoon the temp dropped below 32d F and decided to stay around 29d F. Saturday night the snow started coming down and has not stopped since.
The snow has been a big hit with Sarah:

My trusty Toyota Tundra (no recalls yet… keeping my fingers crossed) is wearing a nice, thick coat of snowy goodness:

I’ve rekindled my interest in EchoLink and now have a full blown EchoIRLP node (EchoLink Node #496698 and IRLP Node #3370) and am using a TM-D710A to run the node as well as my APRS weather station. What I have been enjoying most so far about IRLP is the ability to tweak and play with the linux software via a (or multiple) terminal session(s). It is helping me improve my linux skills.

Speaking of linux, I have been piecing together my iPORTABLE-mounted station. Each box comfortably fits two components. Box #1 has an IC-7000 and an LDG AT-200pro tuner. Box #2 has a Dell Zino HD and an Alinco DM-330MV power supply. Box #3 will have an embedded EchoIRLP node and a TM-D710A. Box#1 and #2 are already assembled and it makes for a nice, portable working station. Back to linux… it has long been a desire of mine to switch as much of my computing to Ubuntu as possible. Currently the Dell Zino has a dual boot configuration of Vista (which was already installed) and Ubuntu 9.10. I have been trying to put together a nice amateur radio software collection on the Zino and have had mixed results. For rig control, it is hard to beat the Windows program Ham Radio Deluxe. The closest linux version I’ve been able to find is an application called Grig. Not quite what I want to take advantage of all the bells and whistles that the IC-7000 has. I’ve been listening to the excellent podcast Linux in the Ham Shack for recommendations (episode #13 is dedicated to rig control), perusing the January 2010 issue of Linux Journal (the issue is dedicated to Amateur Radio and Linux), and am also looking at shackbox, which is a linux distribution designed with amateur radio in mind. I think I am going to give shackbox a try and see how it goes.

… all of this on a snowy Sunday.

If you get a chance, connect to my EchoIRLP node (EchoLink Node #496698 and IRLP Node #3370) and say hello. You’ll help me procrastinate in finishing my paper on the Army Amateur Radio System.