Showing posts from October, 2011

Part 97, do I really need to read it?

FCC rules governing the amateur radio service are documented in Part 97.  Americans interested in becoming hams are faced with an important decision when studying for the exam, "should I read FCC Part 97 rules (or not)?".  It is of course completely feasible to pass any of the FCC tests without having read the Party 97 rules.  This is due to the fact that the exam question pool is freely available and one could simply memorize the answers.

However, we would argue that reading FCC Part 97 rules is a necessary step in the journey to becoming an American Ham.  That is because we all have a responsibility to operate our stations within the legal boundaries and to teach and help others to do the same.  Additionally, reading Part 97 will also help you pass the FCC amateur radio exams.  Knowing the law of the land is part of being a good citizen of this great country.

FCC Part 97 rules are readily available from the FCC and ARRL.  So regardless if you are studying to become a ham, …

Super ham shack KA1DMZ

Sit back, relax, and enjoy a tour of KA1DMZ'super ham shack.  Wonderful equipment and installation with both vintage and contemporary rigs.  Enjoy!

Antenna Love

Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married.
The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent.
Since they were a perfect match, soon they generated harmonics.
Wrapped the harmonics in dipoles.
But later the harmonics turned out to be parasitic elements.
The true story -- she was a tri-bander and he felt trapped, so they went on separate beam headings


If you can read this Thank a teacher

If you can read this -.-. --.- -.-. --.- -.-. --.-  Thank a ham

10 SKED Tips for Hams

The term "sked" is shortened version of the word schedule. It can refer to a flight schedule, a baseball schedule, or any other type of schedule.  In the context of amateur radio, the term refers to a QSO schedule which is a date, time, frequency, and mode that two operators will meet to make a contact. The amateur radio sked is an extremely useful and productive way to acquire challenging or rare DX contacts. We would like to share of few tips about skeds that we have learned over the years to make the overall experience more enjoyable.

1) If possible, use instant messaging during a sked to help coordinate the contact. For example, if at the appointed time, the frequency is busy then it is simple matter to arrange a new frequency via instant messaging.  Email can suffice; through, it is asynchronous and a bit more tedious than instant messaging.

2) Call the station directly when starting a sked.  Avoid calling using a general call to the band (CQ, CQ, CQ). This makes the sk…

Flying With An HT

In this day and age of increased airport security and frequently changing TSA rules,  many hams are understandably unsure if they are permitted to travel with their amateur radio transceiver / HT when flying.  We have travelled by air with our trusty Kenwood TH-F6A HT domestically and internationally many times without issue.  However, we did so only after researching the topic thoroughly to avoid problems.  The bottom line is: educate yourself, travel smart, and enjoy travelling with your radio.

There are several considerations regarding travelling with an amateur radio or HT. 

Consideration #1) Follow the FCC part 97.11 rules related to stations aboard aircraft.
Part 97 : Sec. 97.11 Stations aboard ships or aircraft. (a) The installation and operation of an amateur station on a ship or aircraft must be approved by the master of the ship or pilot in command of the aircraft.
(b) The station must be separate from and independent of all other radio apparatus installed on the ship or air…

IF Shift Magic

One of our favorite controls on our Kenwood TS-480SAT HF transceiver is the Intermediate Frequency Shift (IF Shift).  With a simple turn of the IF Shift knob it is possible to reduce interference from an adjacent frequency without changing the center frequency.  IF Shift is effective at improving signals with voice (SSB), CW, and digital modes.  It does not improve AM or FM signals.

The IF shift is also useful to shift the tone of a voice (SSB) contact by cutting or boosting audio frequencies in the high or low end.  This little magic trick sometimes makes the difference between copy and no-copy for signals buried in the noise.  IF Shift is useful on radios with and without DSP.

Combining IF shift and selecting a specific IF filter center frequency and IF filter bandwidth is amazingly effective with CW and digital modes.  If you are unfamiliar with exploiting IF Shift on your rig, do give it a try with noisy signals.

Also try playing around with the various filters and IF Shift on you…

Operating Far Afield

Our first love has always been the great outdoors.  We enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, photography, camping, and a miriad of other outdoor activities.  As the saying goes, a bad day in the field is better than any day in the office.

Amateur radio and the pursuit of the great outdoors make a wonderful combination.  At its most basic level, all it takes to combine the two is to bring a radio with you when you head out the door.  The current crop of HT's (Handy Talkie) are amazingly lightweight and portable as compared with the "bricks" or man-packs of earlier generations.  Contemporary HT's are easily slipped into a jacket, vest pocket, or onto a belt without adding bulk or much weight.

The big advantage of an HT is that it is a completely self-contained hand-held station with a mic, speaker, receiver, transmitter, and antenna.  Most commercial HT's operate in the VHF (2m / 6m) and UHF (220Mhz and 440Mhz) range.  Though there are HT's available covering HF (10m …

Amazing SWL shack NL6777

Here is a remarkable video of a Dutch shortwave listener's shack (Eric NL6777).  Eric lives in Breda, NL and has one of the finest listening posts we have ever seen.  Excellent gear, thoughtful layout, and professional installation.

Scouts to Take to the Airwaves for the 54th Jamboree On the Air

Each year, more than 500,000 Scouts in more than 100 countries take to the airwaves on the third full weekend in October -- and this year will be no different. The Jamboree On The Air (JOTA) is a Scouting and Amateur Radio event sponsored by the World Scout Bureau of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. JOTA is an annual event where Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from all over the world speak to each other via Amateur Radio.

Since 1958 -- when the first Jamboree on the Air was held -- millions of Scouts have met through this event.  Many contacts made during JOTA have resulted in pen pals and links between Scout troops that have lasted many years. The radio stations are operated by radio amateurs, and many Scouts and leaders hold licenses and have their own stations. The majority of JOTA Scouts participate through stations operated by local radio clubs and individual hams.

Be sure to support scouting and the JOTA special event.  Scouting is an excellent endeavour for…

Hunting LoTW Stations

The advantages of the Log Book of the World (LoTW) were apparent to us immediately when we first learned about the system.  The promise of matching QSL's (a confirmation of communication between two hams) instantly instead of waiting months or even years for paper QSL's is compelling by itself.  Automating QSL administration with electronic logging meant more time operating and less on paperwork.  Avoiding the cost of postage and printing paper QSL's meant more money for other things in the shack.  From our view the LoTW promised an all around win-win-win.

The challenges of the LoTW became apparent only after having adopted the system.  The primary challenge is to find contacts that also participate in the LoTW.  Fortunately, the ranks of LoTW users continue to grow every day making it easier and easier to find and make contacts and LoTW QSL's.

Our approach in the beginning was a shotgun method - making contacts without concern if the station was a LoTW user or not.  A…

Amateur radio e-reading - the future is here now

The future is here now with respect to e-readers and the availability of excellent amateur radio related content (books, magazines, articles, ...).  We own two Sony e-readers in our house.  They are a pleasure to use and make wonderful travel companions since they allow you to bring a great deal of reading material in a lightweight, convenient, and portable package.

The e-readers are more enjoyable to use for reading digital material than a PC.  There is something about the backlighting on a PC that puts more strain on the eyes when reading.  The Sony e-reader screen uses "e-ink" which is not backlit and is very easy on the eyes and is akin to reading from paper.  E-reader users have remarked that they often forget they are reading from an electronic device and may even reach to turn the page as they would with a paper bound book.  The new Kindle Fire is quite popular also.

Content for the general public has been available for years already in the form of books, magazines, e…

Joe Walsh WB6ACU

We find it interesting to learn about famous hams.  In this post we feature Joe Walsh WB6ACU who has been a ham since 1961 and more famously a member of The Eagles and a prolific recording artist.  Joe holds an FCC Amateur Extra Class license.  As a recording artist, Joe included CW messages in his albums (songs: "Register and Vote", "Register and Vote for Me").

WB6ACU pictured at his station - love that vintage gear!

A short piece on YouTube with Joe talking about ham radio.

Bob Heil's Ham Nation 1: with guest Joe Walsh, WB6ACU 

Ham Nation is an excellent program and highly recommended.  Kudos to Bob Heil (K9EID).