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Topics - RadioRay

Tactical Corner / Amplifier for QRP Rigs
April 19, 2013, 08:49:05 pm
By definition, in CW (Morse code) , hams refer to running 5 Watts or less as 'operating QRP'.  I love running low power and Gil and I have a regular sked from Virginia to Florida.  He has run as low as .100 Watt (100 milliWatts), but usually runs 3.5 to ten Watts, depending upon what rig he decides to use that day.

However, there ARE times when it's handy to have a station running some power, like when the fellow you have a sked with , lives in a city, possibly in an apartment, and local electrical noise is high, so it HELPS him if he can have a more powerful signal to receive through the noise.  The great thing though is tht you do NOT need to buy a BIG rig for power and then use your great QRP rigs onyl when it's easy.  I just built a 140 Watt amplifier, from kitted components bought from Communications Concepts Inc.  This is not a kit, in that you do not have detailed instructions.  There is a quick 'cheat sheet' and the manufacturers' application notes to build it by.  However, I just fired it up on ONLY 20 meters tonight and yes -  it is absolutely working! Listening on internet web receiver, I gain roughly two to 2  1/2 S-units on a distant receiver.  That makes a huge difference when there is noise.  I plan to make the other output filter modules for other bands and then put it all into a metal box for easy use.  However, this means that my QRP rigs, with their fine receivers and etc. now become my 'Big Rig'!  It's THRIFTY too!

>de RadioRay ..._ ._
NEWS 15APR13 // 2:50pm eastern

I just got the news that two bombs exploded at the Boston marathon.  That part you can get in more detail on the news.  The aspect you might consider is that when this happened, the government shut down cellphone service in an effort to prevent further explosions, in case the bombers were using cell phones for command detonation of more devices. 

So - cellphones are -once again - not your best bet for emergency communications for this and many other reasons.

>de RadioRay

Gil & I were designing this water tight, shoulder operated QRP rig with built-in magnetic-loop antenna, stabilizing forward hand-grip/tuning knob, key in the pistol grip, day/night frequency display (hooded), Quick change/Hi-Capacity battery pack and 'ground spike'.  The rig has an -auto-keyer in it, capable of sending DITS & DAHS as fast as you can pull the trigger. However, recent legislation has made it highly UNlikely that it will ever go into production. 

What A Shame - -

de RadioRay ..._ ._
I recently purchased a 'dongle' on E-Bay, iriginally designed for watching digital TV and such.  I don't have any use for that, but I bought it because the thing can be used with FREEware as a VHF through micro-wave, multi-mode  radio receiver!  The RTL dongle cost me about $17 and the software is "  SDR#  ".  Right out of the box, it displays up to 2 MHz of spectrum, you tune with the mouse and it's great for seeing all thos weird signal out there.  Next I ordered a converter so that I could receive HF frequencies from 'ham-it-up  company.  They had dongles and the converter. 

WOW!  Please, rather than asking me about this, just go to You Tube and search "  RTL SDR dongle  " and watch the videos.

For those who have never used an SDR, it will blow your mind about 'tuning the dial'.

>de RadioRay ..._ ._
General Discussion / Speaking of Disasters . . .
February 16, 2013, 09:43:32 am
For those who tell you that alternate communications methods for disaster preparedness is silly or paranoid, consider this...

Yesterday, Gil and I were using highly portable HF radio transceivers slightly larger than a paperback book, to hold a conversation in Morse code while over 800 miles apart and the topic of this discussion was . . . . . //waaaaaait for it . . . .//  the damage , injuries and disruption of infrastructure as a result of the recent meteor strike(s) in south eastern Russia.  Now, if that is not a page out of an apocolyptic novel, I do not know what is. I mean - a METEOR STRIKE?  What do you figure the ODDS of THAT happening?


Folks - we're 'there'.  IT's game ON, because even the most improbable things can and are happening. Having a 'hobby/mania' like ham radio gives you the skills and hardware for use as a serious TOOL when things go BOING!   Have FUN on the radio, but remember to make it relevant to actual USE during a disruption of commercial infrastructure, such as loss of power, loss of internet, loss of (GASP!) cellphones . . . Anyone who tries to tell you that 'That can't happen' is trying to sell you something - and THAT 'something' is widely available in any barnyard by the shovelfull.

Maybe we'll go for the next 50 years without any 'disaster' - but that's not likely AAAAND maybe those politicians will take excellent care of us if there IS a disaster.  However, you might consider asking the people of Staten Island about how well they were taken care of ???    >:(  >:(  >:(   

Yeah - I thought so -    ::)

I can remember a decade and a half ago, the non-event of Y2K was most Americans' first encounter with a disaster centered  'what if?' thinking and planning in large numbers - at least since the H-bomb scares. Suddenly even late thirties hippie chicks were soliciting the thoughts of 'survivalists' in their planning. 
:-* :-* :-* :-* :-*  8)  :-* :-* :-* :-* :-*   //It was a good time in my life...   ;)   //

Ten years after that, it was 9/11, planes flying into buildings, anthrax in the mail, talk of duck tape and plastic to turn our houses into HEPA filtered/overpressure protection chambers (or asphixiation chambers, if you did what FEMA said and had simply sealed everything in plastic with NO filtered air in or 'used' air out . . . ) and now meteor strikes, like in some Hollyweird movie.

So - it's been done in real life and it's here on this site: hams discussing meteor strikes which resulted in over a thousand injured.  (Note: the meteor did the injury, not the ham contact - we actually injured nobody...)

I remember the words of a long distance sailor who made certain that sailors who read his book were prepared for eventual capsize (it WILL happen) because just about every other page there was this note:

"Think Inverted!"

I would offer YOU the same advice, but about society and it's niceties in general.


>de RadioRay ..._ ._
General Discussion / Just for Fun
February 08, 2013, 08:49:44 am
Once bitten, your knowledge of Morse Code will show itself in the strangest ways. Birds chirping, seem to be sending messages. Rain drops sound like a thousand conversations in Morse and those silly movies where they pretend to be sending Morse, but are not - or are sending something entirely different... fun. . .  and then there is hidden Morse in architecture -

This left me laughing for several minutes. My dog would only tilt her head and wonder at my outbursts . . .

de RadioRay ..._ ._
Technical Corner / Here's a Power Source . . . (ha ha)
February 07, 2013, 01:35:08 pm
Just when I think that I've seen just about every approach to QRP radio . . .


de RadioRay ..._ ._
I often monitor the Maritime Mobile Service Network on 14300USB.  Today, there were several sailors - not unusual - except these were not enjoying the latest drink in the Caribbean, they were in the SOUTH Atlantic, including "Jeanne/KC2IOV. She is SOLO skipper of s/v Nereida SOLO , non-stop around the world on her sailboat.  Current position is between Cape Horn and the Cape of Good hope.  Picture yourself being halfway between the extreme southern tip of South America and South Africa on a boat alone - by choice.  She had to adjust her goals from a previous attempt at non-stop, solo circumnavigation when her boat/home was knocked down WEST of Cape Horn, causing extensive damage, then had to sail into the south Atlantic ANYWAY to Ushuaia, Argentina for anything even remotely like a repair. I'm telling you, she must be tougher than woodpecker lips!

>>>=====> I plan to listen tomorrow. I also heard her on an inter-boat radio sked in the marine bands.

How was YOUR commute today?   ha ha  I've had some really lousy drives in Los Angeles or D.C. area, but was never rolled over by monster waves like she was . . . It's a BIG world out there and radio helps us to learn more.  Now that I'm limited to being an arm-chair sailor, this is a REAL thrill for me.

>de RadioRay ..._ ._
Morse Code / CW / SSB Effectiveness
January 24, 2013, 02:28:31 pm
Gil & I have been enjoying daily contact on CW, with his PAR wire antenna to my simple 'halfsquare' wire beam or dipole.  Power levels with Gil now range from 10 Watts down to a half a Watt on CW, using such 'monster' rigs as the RockMite or the DC-20B kits. We make contact daily, usually chat for a half hour, then sign-off.  This is using simple , wire antennas on battery powered rigs and only a few times have we decided that conditions were too noisy to ENJOY the contact, but we were able to explain this ove the radio and then sign-off. 

In short:  CW on HF frequencies at "QRP" power levels, using highly portable equipment is entirely practical for basic communication and message delivery on a repeatable basis.

Military/'spook' transceivers with Morse power levels of 5 Watts (PRC-64) up to 15-20 Watts (PRC-74, GRC-109) were used as lifelines, usually from 'denied areas' to home stations hundreds and even thousands of miles away.  This being the case, we as hams can CERTAINLY do this for basic disaster reporting & etc.  I would HIGHLY encourage everyone to get on the air in Morse, enjoy your time doing it and 'own your skills'.
SSB has been fun at lower than usual power levels also, though not nearly as effective.  Occasionally, Gil & I will slide up into the voice portion of the bands and chat in voice. This has been at 14 Watts and most recently 10 Watts.  Voice requires MUCH more power than CW, for the same reliability over a given radio path. It's fun to use voice occasionally, but when you go from essentially 99.9% copy in CW down to fadng and noisy voice at the same power level, you DO notice the difference - immediately!  We've often decidede to return to CW so that we could more easily continue the conversation.  We have NEVER asked the other station to switch TO voice because CW was not getting through.

If you do not have commercial infrastructure, it's MUCH easier to keep a small battery powered rig operating, than the large power hungry transceiver.  The idea that you can just turn down your big rig to save power is not really that effective - though it helps.  You see, you'll do more listening than anything else, at 100% receive duty cycle.  Therefore, your RECEIVE current is what eats most of your power.  A QRP rig generally draws very LITTLE receive current and in Morse, your average 'duty cycle' during transmit is 25-50%, depending upon how you send: very energy efficient.

If you're thinking that 'Oh, my code is not good enough for that.' : remember that Gil had NO code when he started this, not very long ago.  Now he truly 'Owns' his skills'.  If you have ANY code - that's a great place to (re)start!

Go Forth & Conquer!

de RadioRay ..._ ._
General Discussion / Coffee Shop - Part II //
December 11, 2012, 04:47:30 pm
After MUCH head scratching and etc. I discovered why signals from Gil were quite readable but not as strong as they probably should be.  More importantly, my signals to him were not at all strong.  Using analysis software - and Kentucky Windage- it was determined that my 130 foot doublet antenna makes a big null right on his location and the take-off angle is too high for the prefered path, forcing us to a lower band, higher absorption and noise.  We were making useful contacts - no question - and it was quite impressively functional considering the use of expedient antennas and powers as low as 200mW..  HOWEVER - I didn't want to settle for "functional" and so designed a wire beam of a type I used a long time ago with manpack sets: the Half Square antenna. (GOOGLE)

In about two hours, I put in a quick and dirty Half Square pointed toward Gil, expecting him to be at home with his best antenna at the ready.  At the appointed time I heard his signal, switched between antennas and sure enough, about one S-unit improvement, little or no fading, while on my 'regular' antenna, he was down one S-unit with deep fades and increased noise. THEN he taps to me that he's not home running 14 Watts into his PAR EndFed, properly installed, but instead he's at the coffee shop using a BuddiStick, wedged-in among chairs, tables and frightened housewives...   ::)   using his K1 at 5 Watts. So - his signal ranged from S3 to S5 on the first test, S4 to S7 on the second about 45 minutes later. I recorded the audio and have sent it to him.

:o  ! The RF noise in an urban cyber cafe' must be tremendous !       :o

Be Warned!!!  JUST when you THOUGHT that it was safe to go enjoy a fine cup of coffee , served by a shapely 20 year old barrista...

some guy sets-up a 'coffee clandestine' radio station and begins to radiate mystery signals into the ether to who-knows-whom???   ha ha

de RadioRay ..._ ._

General Discussion / TEOTWAWKI Radio - Your Expectations?
December 10, 2012, 02:24:58 pm
Assuming the loss of commercial infrastructure, with internet being first on the list, what are your expectations and 'wants' from the use of ham radio and radio in general?

Local Information:  For me, the first use of radio is for information from farther than I can personally see. This begins with 2 meter radio for local information.  However, my use of 2 meters is very limited because in this area, it's barely used at all.

National Information: The simplest form of mind control is to control what goes INTO the mind. By now, you've probably at least strongly suspected that The Mass Media is a very shallow and glitzy control mechanism for the generally dumbed-down public. As a people, we know more about "Desperate Housewives" and the NFL (the National Felons Legion)than we do about the noose that national and global politicians are cinching ever more tightly around our few remaining freedoms. We've been conditioned to think in sound bites and 'go with' whoever spliced together the best 5 - 10 second infomercial foisted upon us as news reporting, rather than requiring actual indepth reporting within an historical context.  As an example: most of our population wanted to go to war against Iraq as 'payback for 9/11' even though Iraq had nothing to do with it.  Now the public wants to turn Iran into a 'glass parking lot' because the TV says so, though most Americans can't find Iran on a map and don't know a thing about the Persians who have lived there for more than three thousand years.

This is where listening to shortwave radio comes in: 

#1 : Every broadcaster has an agenda, but by being able to listen to many, entirely different points of view on the news about our nation and the world via the foreign media, you're much more likley to be able to decide what is REALLY happening by reading between the lines.  I learn more about international and national crop failures, monetary policies and their effects from INTERNATIONAL broadcasters, than I ever do from the talking heads and 'press-titutes' of the domestic media.  It also helps in gaining more of a world view to understand that we've been lied to on may occasions and on most topics. Listening to the same topics via Radio Japan, Red Line frm the Voice of Russia, Deutche Welle (Germany)  and etc. makes for interesting 'information fusion sessions' with friends.

#2 : Being an old Cold Warrior, I never forget the use of shortwave radio to reach the millions who lived under Soviet occupation behind the Iron Curtain. Despite the power of the massive central State, millions listened to the outside world via UNTRACEABLE shortwave radio.  The internet is a wonderful tool that I believe is as pivotal as the invention of the printing press,. However, the internet IS a government system at it's core and by it's very nature, designed to be a tracing & collating mechanism.  Shortwave radio however, flows across borders and listeners can be very anon.  This might prove to be very handy later.

#3 : HF ham radio is a great way to communicate across an entire region - like in State and also across a continent, even internationally.  In talking with hams in the areas struck by post tropical cyclone Sandy, it was soon evident that the news media did NOT meantion many of the politically embarassing things which these real people on the ground were first hand witnesses to.   The direct conversations about power, water and domestic services being disrupted, looters being coddled, while homeowners were identified then charged with 'crimes' because because of their being seen on TV footage of them bearing bats, bows and pipes for the better pat of a month, when entire sections of the city just a 1/4 mile away were lit-up like - welllll like BROADWAY, was a clear indication of many things - none of them good.

So - there's a start. Let's get a discussion going about what YOU want, need or aspire to in radio and maybe a little bit about how you plan to do it.

de RadioRay ..._ ._

Morse Code / So You Think That The Band Is Dead?
December 10, 2012, 09:19:37 am
Last Night I had a little trouble sleeping so I decided to call 'CQ' around the center of the 30 meter band on the 'big' rig at 75 Watts.  European stations were finally fading away so that I culd listen 'out there' for the more distant stations, and hopefully to make contact with some fellow hams who are not '599 73 SK' type of operators. My antenna is a 130 foot wire doublet at a bit over 40 feet in the air and fed with ladder line, running roughly NNE/SSW. For those who do not regularly operate thirty, it's a treasure trove of interesting stations, particularly during the off hours when non-US hams can get on the air an not be mobbed. Having operated from overseas many years ago, I remember how it was to be mobbed by rude paper chasers, while I trying to hold a conversation with a friend back in the U.S.  This was in the pre-internet days, so being able to talk with 'home' real-time was a treat!

Last night was one of those memorable nights. We've all had them - or should! The band sounded dead, yet I knew that is not the case, because 'utility' stations in Germany and elsewhere were quite readable on adjacent frequencies.  Besides, the middle bands are usually open to somewhere. With a little bit of calling 'CQ', I had two different South African stations give me a call. A distance of over 8047.6 miles! What a delight to actually have more than a bit of time in a QSO with such an interesting couple of fellows in an exotic place such as the former RSA!  I must say that their code was good, steady and well sent and neither of us required a mega-station to communicate.

The next contact was on the late night/early morning forty meter band with my heavily modified Wilderness Sierra Mk.4 (shown elsewhere). at the BONE CRUSHING POWER of between 2 to 3  Watts. This led to a nice, hour long chat with a fellow named Glen out in Kingman , Az. A distance of 2086.6 miles.  Glen is good on the key, so I was able to 'slide the weight back' on my old Vibroplex original 'bug'  to do a LOT of talking at a brisk but not fast speed ( ~ 28 - 30 WPM ). This allowed an hour of real conversation on a wide range of topics.

So, even a modest station of less than 100 Watts, attached a basic doublet/dipole antenna hung in the trees often yeilds the ability to talk with other hams all the way across the Atlantic ocean before their breakfast is ready in the southern hemisphere. Then QRP to a great CW man two thousand miles away who is also a radio insomniac! Contrairy to what those glossy magazines and web adverts say, you do NOT require a mega-station, huge linear amplifier and a sound-studio voice equalized for 'Hi-Fi SSB' (what a silly idea!) .  A good receiver, a few Watts on transmit and an old Morse key will do the job nicely.

73 de RadioRay ..._ ._

Technical Corner / On My Bench Right Now
November 21, 2012, 05:40:15 pm
Back before Y2K (remember that?)  I built an excellent kit transceiver called the Wilderness Sierra.  It's a multi-band QRP CW transceiver with a superb receiver and puts out about two Watts on transmit.  I carried it around in the Rockiy Mountains and made contacts all over.  It eventually went into my storage and stayed in a box for about ten years.  I pulled it out earlier this year and it still works and does it very WELL!. My only complaint was that the tuning range was limited to about 150 kHz of any particular band.  Fine for CW, but I also wanted to use it for general coverage. Back when this was designed, VFOs were set at low frewuency - usually in the 2 to 3 MHz range and 'mixed' by heterodyne up to your operational frequency. That was because low frequency VFOs were much more stable than high.  This does however, limit the tuning range. 

Entern the 21st century.  We can buy an inespensive Direst Digital Synthesis (DDS) VFO for about $50-75.  The DDS VFO is super stable, accurate and covers from a few Hz to about 50 MHz or higher, depending upon the version.  I built one a few months ago and have been doing exeriments with it (No small animal s were harmed during these experiments...  :P  )  This last week, I grafted this DDS VFO into the QRP rig and it works!  Now I am modifying the front panel it add the DDS VFO into the Wilderness Sierra to get it operating inside of the enclosure.   Later, I will likely add a 10-20 Watt amplifier to the rig so that I can have a nice, portable rig for home and away. Because I am not as 'trail friendly' as I used to be, manpacking anything through 12,000 foot mountain passes is not likely in my future, so building this into a small pelican type case for portable operations is the design goal, once the design ti stable and tested.

That's 'what's cookin' at my bench - you?


>de RadioRay ..._ ._
Those who are familiar with the Peltier effect, know that you can use power into it to produce a temperature difference betweentwo sides ofa single device OR induce a temperature differene to produce electricity, at fairly hefty current.  Well, here is a mini-ducted fan camp stove that is VERY efficient on fuel AND recharges USB devices.  I have never used this unit, but have worked with Peltier devices before for heating/cooling of metalic plates.

I can imagine a coffee shop on Stattan Island using Hurricane debris & these for hot java/soup while recharging phones without infrastructure.

>de RadioRay ..._ ._
It never ceases to amaze me, the reactions of people to the idea of prepping.  I was wading through a media-hyped Prepper story on Yahoo (I know - whyyyy bother???) and the number of dolts who criticise having basic preps like water, food and firearms, in light of the ongoing tragedy in Nj/Ny is simply amazing.   It broke down into a few catagories:

How stupid - what if a giant meteor came down on your house, how would this help?

How stupid - what are the odds of your ever needing water and food?

How stupid - I'll come there with my "gun" and kill you and take your food.

How stupid - the government will come there with black helicopers and take your food.

How smart - I need to do more of that.

New Jersey and New York are still in the news, with all that entails and this is the general response?  It simply amazes me how ignorant people can be.  A disaster might just be a 'correction' in the gene pool.

Your Thoughts?

de RadioRay ..._ ._

Ps. Somewhere, there's a cow looking at the pasture gate -vs- the door to the slaughter house and wondering . . .
The news story is good, it's dated - being frm Katrina, but the actual audio during the last half of the video  is a lesson all by it self.

>de RadioRay ..._ ._

I've had a yen for survival skills since I was a very young boy.  I've seen the perception of basic 'survival skills' change from being strictly for military and professional woodsmen to 1970-90's 'survivalism' and finally to 'prepping'.  As our society had been dumbed-down into an ever more specialized and insect like collection of worker-bees, supporting the ruling class of the hive, we've had even the most basic of self reliance skills and instincts bred out of us, riddiculed on TV & movies and have a media which shows virtually anyone with even a few weeks of food, sanitation and water purification as some sort of 'red neck', stupid, slothful, indolent, moron who beats his wife three times daily whether shes 'needs' it or not.

Much of the gentrified northeast uber-urbanite Mecca is under water in some areas, homes burned to the ground in others & looting, while the media only lightly reports it and etc.  Many urbanites have the latest smart phones, designer shoes and illegal Big Gulp sodas (har!) , yet do not have any food in their high rise apartments - and who would, with so many top restaurants to be seen in ?  No water - "Well, that's what we pay the building 'Super' for . . ." .  However, this is changing and quickly! Prepping may not seem as nutty as it seemed last week.  OK - so lessons learned?

It's a rough situation, but fairly light compared to what COULD happen in a national emergency, where help is not a few miles inland.  I am noticing more people mentioning that 'over the protests of my wife/husband, I put away supplies 'for a rainy day' and now they are grateful.'  Or 'So, who's making fun of preppers now?'.  Hopefully, all those people in some wretched situations will serve as a wake-up call that NO - we're not some 'special generation' of people who magically do not need to take care of themselves.  Those who tell us that we should let the government take care of us are nothing more than 'Human Ranchers' trying to keep the cattle (us) doscile and dependent upon THEM until they decide it's time for the drive to market & slaughter.

We have emergency brakes on our cars & insurance - "just in case" , so let's think ahead a bit and put a bit of food away, heirloom seeds for BEFORE the food runs out, alternate water sources and purification and a way to defend our 'things' and families when the usual suspects decide that stealing is still more fun than learning to work for their daily bread. Be a lunatic - learn basic first aid and keep a kit handy. Maybe even become 'one of those radio nuts', so that you have national comms in something the size of a paper back book - and NO commercial infrastructure required.

Remember: If this were an EMP, or a viral outbreak - the NATION would be shut-down, not just a portion of north eastern cities. That would mean that there will be no help.  Become involved locally , preferably with your local emergency responders and disaster management teams. Ham radio is one way, CERT is another and there may be even more ways.  Once they know and trust you, then you have a say in how YOUR community and family will be taken care of in a disaster.  The feral government does not give you that option: they take care of politicians first.

Anyone ELSE reading about succesful prepping helping during this weather emergency & changing attitudes about prepping & etc. post-Sandy?

Your Thoughts?

Wake-Up America -

>de RadioRay ..._ ._

General Discussion / Hurricane Sandy
October 26, 2012, 08:16:36 am
What looked like yet another hurricane that was going to arc out to sea is increasingly predicted to enter the coast north of us, perdictions have it breaching the coast between Maryland and Pennsylvania (all open to change), putting our home in Virginia into the western semi-circle of slightly lower winds, but this hurricane is on a track that could easily knock-out commercial infrastructure for many people. Here, I've been charging batteries, retrieving equipment from a tin shed for safer storage and filling water containers. QRP radio is no problem, because the basic radios operate for a week of sjeds from AA cells and the big batteries are recharged via folding, portable 'expedition' solar panels (  and a few mil-surplus , folding panels. Entertainment/news radios are the plastic, hand-crank jobs, one with a built-in light.

>>>=====>  This is a fine illustration of why skeds arranged by internet are no better than selling our radios and using only internet.  A regular - hopefully daily- quick check is great, even if it's just to check-in.  The next is having a regular net that you check-in with, like the MMSN on 14300USB, or some of the CW nets like the waterway CW net or some of the traffic handling CW nets (which are likely my next move).

If we're not doing it NOW, we'll likely not be doing it 'then'.

I am curious what others in the storm track are doing?

73 de RadioRay ..._ ._
Morse Code / I Have Sinned!
October 19, 2012, 07:06:42 am
I bought a microphone...  I am sooooo ashamed.  :'(

de RadioRay ..._ ._
General Discussion / Do YOU Have A Plan?
October 11, 2012, 11:29:09 pm
... and is it better than THIS one?

Just askin'

:)  ;)  :D  ;D  :o  ::)
de RadioRay ..._ ._

Ps.  I saw his "plan" and just HAD to share it.  Dilbert lives in the real world...