May 22, 2022

WP4RQP Digital QSL Card


I received this beautiful digital QSL card today from Jonnathan, WP4RQP in Puerto Rico.  Thank you for the QSO Jonnathan.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

April 19, 2022

Digital QSL card from W5DMA

I received a really nice electronic QSL card today from Jovan, W5DMA in Colorado.  The card features a beautiful photo of the Rockies.

W5DMA Digital QSL Card


Good DX and 73, NJ2X

April 14, 2022

Completed 20m ARRL DXCC Award

A big THANK YOU to Guille (OA4DVG in Lima, Peru) for being my 100th confirmed LoTW contact on 20m toward the DX Century Club award.  I am delighted to have earned the ARRL 20m DXCC Award after many years of being active on the air.


Flag of Peru

This contact brings my total number of band-entity LoTW confirmed contacts to 590.  It is a long journey toward the DXCC Challenge award.  The challenge award requires working and confirming at least 1,000 DXCC band-entities on any Amateur bands, 160 through 6 meters (except 60 meters).

Good DX and 73, NJ2X 

April 11, 2022

Completed 15m ARRL DXCC Award

A big THANK YOU to Eric (FK8HM in Noumea City, New Caledonia) for being my 100th confirmed LoTW contact on 15m toward the DX Century Club award.  I am delighted to have earned the ARRL 15m DXCC Award after many years of being active on the air.

This contact brings my total number of band-entity LoTW confirmed contacts to 599.  It is a long journey toward the DXCC Challenge award.  The challenge award requires working and confirming at least 1,000 DXCC band-entities on any Amateur bands, 160 through 6 meters (except 60 meters).

Flag of New Caledonia


Good DX and 73, NJ2X

March 25, 2022

ClearNode Tip #3: DTMF Commands

The ClearNode FM Hotspot for AllStarLink and EchoLink can be handily linked to other nodes via the ClearNode mobile phone app (iPhone or Android).  The mobile phone app is easy and convenient to use to look up nodes and connect.
Kenwood TH-F6A Triband Amateur Radio Transceiver

AllStarLink supports DTMF commands that allow you to control your node using only your radio.  It is good to know how to use these commands.  A few possible use cases:
  • Your mobile phone is charging, upgrading, or is otherwise unavailable.
  • You want to share your node with a friend, family member, or neighbor and don't want to share your mobile app credentials.
  • You are communicating via radio through another node and want to control it via DTMF tones.

AllStarLink Node DTMF Nodes
To use these commands, first press and hold your radio's PTT while entering the command through the radio's keypad and then releasing the PTT.

*1node - Link Disconnect
*2node - Link Connect (Monitor Only)
*3node - Link Connect

*70 - Link Status (Locally connected nodes)
*71 - Disconnect Permanently Connected Links
*73 - Permanently Connect Links
*75 - Full Status (Avoid using if you are connected to a AllStarLink hub)
*76 - Disconnect ALL Links
*77 - Reconnect Links (Disconnected by command above)
*81 - Say Time of Day (local)
*980 - Say App_rpt Version


Dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF) was developed by Bell System. DTMF was introduced for public use on Nov. 18, 1963. It is known by the trademark Touch-Tone.


Good DX and 73, NJ2X




March 23, 2022

ClearNode Tip #2: Antenna Upgrade

The ClearNode comes with a stubby antenna.  The stubby has the advantage of having a low-profile.  It has the disadvantages of being a compromise antenna - reduced efficiency, lower gain, and potentially some portion of the signal being reflected back into the transceiver.

You can improve your antenna gain and efficiency by swapping the stubby antenna for a larger 440m SMA vertical antenna.  I happened to have a SMA 2m/440m dual band rubber duck antenna in a drawer, so it was a easy no-cost upgrade for my ClearNode.

ClearNode with SMA 2m/440 dual-band rubber duck antenna
ClearNode on the bench with a SMA 2m/440Mhz dual band rubber duck

Upgrading my ClearNode antenna provided excellent coverage in my home, yard, and neighborhood with full quieting and crisp clean audio.  I was surprised to find that I can even reach my node with an HT transmitting with 1w from 1 mile away.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X


March 22, 2022

Completed ARRL 80M Worked All States Award

I completed the ARRL 80M Worked All States Award tonight with a FT8 contact with Chris, KI1P in the great State of Vermont.  A big THANK YOU to Chris for an outstanding job with his excellent station.  I had been searching for VT on 80m for quite some time, so it was downright thrilling to make contact with the Green Mountain State and the leading producer of maple syrup.

Vermont State Flag

Next challenge is to complete 5-Band WAS (just three states to go).

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

March 21, 2022

Confirmed 8 out of 8 Connecticut County Contacts

I have been slowly accumulating United States County contacts toward the QRZ.com United States Counties Award.  This is a rather ambitious award (at least for me) as there are 3007 US Counties.  It certainly takes patience to work and confirm contacts with them all.  As with any challenging journey, it is important to stop and smell the roses when they appear.

I recently confirmed my last Connecticut County (8 out of 8) with a 10m FT8 contact with KG5TA (Gregory) located in Windham County, CT.  That brings my total number of States completed toward the United States Counties Award to four.  Just 46 more US States to go! :-)

State flag of Connecticut

Are you collecting US County contacts?  If yes, what is your strategy?  Do you happen to know someone who has successfully completed this award?  How did they go about it?  Please leave a comment.  Would love to hear from you.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

March 20, 2022

ClearNode Tip #1: NOAA warnings

Your ClearNode unit comes complete with software capable of receiving and announcing NOAA warnings for your local County area on your local node.  AutoSky is a Skywarn program designed to work with Allstar.  AutoSky automatically generates simple NOAA voice alerts such as, "tornado watch", "flood warning", and "severe thunderstorm warning" at the drop of transmissions.  It is capable of alert messages that would be encountered in a Skywarn system.

NOAA Logo

This feature is easy to setup on the ClearNode unit using the ClearNode mobile application available on both iPhone and Android.  Steps to enable AutoSky:
  1. Lauch the ClearNode app on your mobile phone.  Note both the mobile device and your ClearNode node must be communicating with the Internet.
  2. Select your node
  3. Scroll down to "Node setup" and select "AllStar Setup"
  4. Scroll down to "Weather Options"
  5. Confirm your correct zip code is listed next to "Zip for weather"
  6. Confirm your correct NWS County Code is listed next to "NWS County Code"
  7. Move the slider to the right (green) for the option, "Enable AutoSky at book"
  8. A "Node Setup" popup will appear that can be used to save and restart your node
  9. Go to the MOde Details menu and select TimedEvents
  10. Enable “AutoSky Check Advisories"
  11. Save to commit this change

To test the AutoSky configuration, monitor the ClearNode via radio and listen for a computer voice give an update regarding weather advisories.  A notice will be given based on the "Play AutoSky every (ms)" setting. The default is set to 30 minutes.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X


March 17, 2022

ClearNode Allstar Link and Echolink hotspot node is on the air

My ClearNode AllStarLink/EchoLink (FM hotspot) simplex node arrived today from Node-Ventures.  Fun!  

For those unfamiliar with AllStarLink, a node is a computer that connects to the AllStarLink network.  A node is often interfaced with an amateur radio and is connected to the internet. Radios can range in size from a repeater to a low power radio integrated into a node (as is the case with the ClearNode).  A node enables the owner to connect to other nodes in the AllStarLink network.

It was super easy to setup and get on the air.  My ClearNode unit came preconfigured so there wasn't much to do other than attach the 440Mhz band antenna and power it up.  I really like the durable case and overall simplicity of the design.



The ClearNode puts out about 500mW and comes with a stubby antenna.  I considered using the stock antenna though I was concerned that it may limit my ability to connect when operating from the backyard with my HT.  I decided to repurpose an unused dual-band rubber duck SMA antenna I had in a drawer to enjoy a bit more gain and extended range.

Testing NJ2X's Clearnode Allstar / Echolink node
 
The ClearNode worked great with both AllStarLink and EchoLink.  I was able to link with repeater nodes all over the world easily using the ClearNode iPhome app.  The software worked flawlessly and offers a ton of configuration options for those that love to experiment.  Node-Ventures have also done an excellent job those who want a simple plug-and-play node.  Kudos!

EchoLink icon

AllStarLink logo
I talked to several hams on various repeaters and then checked-in on the Puget Sound Repeater Group's Nine O’clock Net on WW7PSR in Seattle, Washington.

Coverage around the house was strong with full quieting while using my dual-band HT set to low-power (1W).  This coming weekend I plan to do further testing around the house and outdoor coverage with my HT.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X


February 25, 2022

1000 Counties confirmed on QRZ.com

Thanks to Doug, W5VAX in Bryan, OK for confirming my1000th US County on QRZ.com today.  I am now 33% complete.  Only 2,007 US Counties yet to confirm.  :-)

I reached 800 Counties Confirmed on qrz.com on July 17, 2021.  I have noticed that that rate of QSO's with new Counties is growing slower.  My hypothesis is that the first thousand US County contacts were in places with generally a higher density of active hams.

I have also noticed a fair number of my contacts don't upload their QSO data to qrz.com.  That is a pity as it makes it much more difficult to complete awards.  Hoping more hams join in the fun.

Not sure I will ever complete contacts with all US Counties.  It sure is fun trying.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X


WSJT-X Tip #2: Call 1st

QSO's using FT8 are often fast and furious.  When conditions are favorable it is easy to end up in a pileup situation with many stations calling you at once.  WSJT-X includes a helpful feature that enables the software to automatically respond to the first decoded responder to your CQ.  Just check the box labelled, "Call 1st".

This is very helpful to keep up with the pace of QSO's.  It is not intended to be a substitute for an operator actively controlling their station.




Good DX and 73, NJ2X


Related articles:
© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

February 21, 2022

Yard Sale Radios

On occasion, I will pick up a cheap radio for sale at a yard sale.  When I say cheap, I mean something like one dollar US.  Sometimes, a radio will even be in a box marked "free".  Typically, the radio comes without an owner's manual, batteries, or any kind of indication that it works or not.  Sellers are just happy to unload their stuff.

One of the nice things about buying these pigs-in-a-poke radios is that more often than not, they are fully functional.  The trouble is usually that the former owner misplaced the manual and has no idea how to make the radio work.  The other possibility is that the owner originally bought the radio a pair of radio and lost one of the units.

Having knowledge of radios, a couple of batteries, and willingness to search the Internet for a manual will often turn $1 into a working radio in a few minutes.

Here is an example of a radio (Audiovox GRMS-1353 with NOAA) I picked up at a yard sale for $1 that works perfectly.  I found the Adiovox GRMS-1353 Owner's Manual on-line and had the radio pulling in NOAA within a few minutes.

Audiovox GMRS-1535

Most of the time, these yard-sale finds are NOAA, FRS, GMRS, or CB radios.  Occasionally, a vintage 2m HT will appear in yard sales though at a higher cost.  Happy hunting for your next radio bargain,

Good DX and 73, NJ2X