What’s Going On In The Shack

The big news, we finally completed some antenna maintenance. A few years back I hung a dipole up in the trees on the north side of the house. The weather took its toll. The line holding the center point had disintegrated, dropping the middle about ten feet. The east leg also lost its anchor and was resting on some branches. A sad situation.

This time I used heavy support line on all three support points. I also used my CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher, which worked great as always. I need to some finishing work, but I hope the antenna is good for at least the next six months.

What I will try to do, if I get the time and the weather cooperates, is place pulleys up in the trees I normally use to secure the ends of the dipole. I am also going to try to put up a 260 feet dipole and see if I can mess around with 160M… of which I really have had little experience with.

Progress is being made with the Morse code. I have written before about my winding path in learning the code. I had a good time this past summer on our camping trip making Morse contacts from the mobile (while parked) and using a J-45 leg key.

J-45 leg key

In the shack I have been making my way through the different levels of the SKCC (Straight Key Century Club). I had joined the organization way back in 2007, not to long after SKCC was established, but had not done too much with it. When I finally embraced the idea of using a straight key, I used my SKCC membership number to gain experience by taking part in QSOs with other SKCC folks (you almost always hear the CQ SKCC on the CW subbands). I would exchange numbers but never tried to work through the membership levels (Centurion, Tribune, and Senator). I did not want to spend a lot of time messing with extra logs or any type of additional paperwork. Then I discovered the SKCC Logger, a custom designed piece of software that will take your existing logfile and process the log for the appropriate data needed to submit for climbing through the ranks.

Although I am not able to get on the air everyday, I try to get on five days out of the week and log three or four Morse contacts. Before I get on air, I put in about ten to fifteen minutes practicing receiving and sending. My end goal is to reach a proficiency level of 20 words per minute. And I define “proficient” as being able to hand copy text without error for one minute. I need to take a look at ARRL’s Qualifying Runs and see when I can see where I am at.

To take the new dipole for a spin, I spent part of the last two weekends participating in OMISS nets. OMISS is a worked all states net. Last weekend was the 40M net, this weekend I tried 80M. I had not participated in a net since early 2020. The net controllers and participants are always great. Last night on 80M I ended up having a ton of contacts with some great reports, convincing me that the new dipole is doing the job.

News from the shack

     I have had my Elecraft K3 for almost ten years. But I have been remiss at keeping my firmware updated. As part of my effort to square away the shack, I updated the K3 and KAT500 tuner. Elecraft supplies the utility application, which includes a nearly effortless linux version. The K3 update took place through my microHAM USB Interface III connection between my shack computer and the rig; although I had to shutdown fldigi first to allow the utility app to have full access to the USB connection.
     The KAT500 is connected through a 3.5mm stereo connection on the back panel. This took me by surprise, as I would have expected a RS-232 serial connection. The cable for this job is the KXUSB. 3.5mm plug at one end and USB into the computer at the other. The Elecraft utility for the KAT500 worked just as seamlessly.
     The KPA500 requires a serial connection to update the firmware. At first I looked around for a RS-232 serial cable. For years I had a tub full of serial and parallel cables, sitting and gathering dust. Apparently I got rid of the tub and didn’t even keep one. Then I realized I could just use one of the serial to USB connectors I have, which worked great. Updating the KPA500 went as smoothly as the tuner and rig.
     To exercise the rig and the newly organized shack, I have been trying to get on the air. The first way I have tried to do this is through checking into the OMISS Net. I joined OMISS a few years back, but hadn’t checked into a net in a long while. It has been fun making contacts on their 80m, 40m, and 20m nets. With the large number and geographically distributed net participants, it gives me a great idea on how my antenna is performing as well as how propagation is impacted by frequency and time of day‚Ķ as well as the fickle whims of the HF gods.
     The other opportunity to get on the air has been the Kansas Weather Net. They meet twice a day on 80m: 0700 and 1700 local time. Its a directed net that runs off a set list, but they allow all comers at the end. It is good practice passing a message and allows me to check my equipment for 80m. I’ve made up a “cheat sheet” that gives me the blanks to fill in for my own weather report as well as tracking those participating in the net.
     Participation in the weather net also serves as a reminder that I need to repair/replace my Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station. My dream of using Xastir to run an APRS, including weather data, seems possible – although setup will include many hoops to jump through. At a minimum, I want to be able to pull all my weather report data from my station. Right now, that is not possible.
     Part of the shack cleanup has been offering up unused equipment for sale. So far I have been able to hand off a pair of Bencher paddles, an MFJ combo of a code oscillator, Morse pocket tutor, and set of Skilman Morse training CDs. I’ve also parted with some kits that I didn’t think I’d ever actually build. There is more to part with and I need to keep the pace. It may help fund a replacement Vantage Pro2.

Notes from the shack

Over winter break I have been putting in a lot of time behind the radio. Here’s the wrap up:

First – more DX. In general, this is a good time of year to catch hams behind their rigs. Some contacts that I am particularly proud of:

4U1WB, The World Bank in Washington D.C.
ZD7DL, St Helena Island
WH6S, Kauai
C5YK, The Gambia
9H5BZ, Malta
MI5AFK, Northern Ireland
FG5GP, the island of Guadeloupe
ZS6TVB, South Africa
EA8DAZ, Canary Islands
VP2ETE, Anguilla

Second – working a lot of DX. There is the 90th anniversary of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) special event activations. Plenty of good DX participating in this and working multiple bands.

Cuba
Bermuda
Finland
Germany
Aruba
Venezuela
Jamaica
Ireland
Italy
Slovenia
Brazil

Third – working Santa (aka AA4EE) on Christmas Eve. The girls really enjoyed telling Santa what they wanted. Thank you Santa!

Four – joining the OMISS and the 3905 Century Club nets. I am not sure if I fully understand these nets. I get the convenience in pursuing Worked All States awards. That makes sense. However each club also has an additional bevy of other types of awards. The actual contacts during the nets seem a bit unfulfilling. But I may not yet fully understand these nets. I need to thoroughly read all the literature.

Five – Log of the World: I have uploaded the vast majority of my logs. I mentioned before about uploading my YI9MI logs. I also went back and uploaded my log from KD7PJQ back in Virginia. The logs from Korea (HL2/AD7MI and HL9MI) are now uploaded. All my logs using AD7MI have been uploaded.