February 29, 2012

Sometimes its fun to finish last...

In the US we pride ourselves on our ability to compete and we admire those that achieve and finish in first place.  There are times when it is great fun to finish last.  Last night we received a SKED request for a ham who needed only one more contact to finish the ARRL Triple Play Award (TPA).  He had acquired 149 contacts (50 digital + 50 phone + 49 CW) and needed only 1 final CW contact with a New Jersey station to finish the award requirements.

We were really excited to have an opportunity to help complete the award.  Triple Play is a wonderful and challenging amateur radio award.  We completed TPA some time ago earning #464.  The final few contacts can be quite difficult to secure.  So the prospecting of being the final contact made this SKED extra important.  We were determined to do whatever it took to make the contact.

We arranged a time and met on K3UK's SKED site and agreed to move to 40m.  A few station adjustments were required since our station had been off the air for a couple of weeks.  Once the station was functioning properly, the contact was easily made and logged.  2012 sun spots giving an assist.

The ham filed for his TPA award today on Feb. 29, 2012 which is of course Leap Year Day which adds an unusual twist.

Sometimes it is fun to finish last.... especially when helping a fellow ham complete a final contact for a challenging award.  We look forward to helping other hams earn their awards and paying it forward.

By Michael Maher (NJ2X)

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February 27, 2012

February 23, 2012

KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - Step 6: Mixer and VXO Local Oscillator

This is the 9th article in our series on building the KN-Q7A Single Band 40m SSB Transceiver Kit. In our prior article, we completed the IF Crystal Filter.
In this article we proceed with building Step 6: Mixer and VXO Local Oscillator.  VXO is the abreviation of Variable crystal oscillator.
We followed the instructions and installed the parts without incident.  We installed the 15.550 Mhz VXO crystal.  We also have a 15.418 VXO crystal which we intend to save and experiment with another day.
KN-Q7A build through Step 6: Mixer and VXO Local Oscillator
We touched pin 1 of the NE602A with an antenna cable tip as suggested by the instructions and detected band noises.

Lessons Learned
  • Our good old PanaVise 301 holds the circuit board securely making component placement and soldering very easy.
  • The instructions indicate touching pin 1 of the integrated circuit.  Beginners may find that locating pin 1 is a little confusing without a graphic.
  • We were unable to detect the VXO frequency change on our general coverage receiver on 7.280 ~ 7.300 Mhz.  We were picking up some weak stations and environmental noise on our general coverage receiver (TH-F6A) that perhaps interfered.  The instructions were not specific about where to tune or how to detect the VXO frequency change.  Hopefully our test result is a false positive indication of a problem.  We will proceed to the next step to confirm.
In the next installment the fun continues as we proceed with building Step 7: RX Front End and having a working receiver.

February 22, 2012

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz Birthday

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was born this day February 22, 1857.  Hertz was a physicist who clarified and expanded the electromagnetic theory of light that had been put forth by Maxwell.  He was the first to conclusively prove the existence of electromagnetic waves by engineering instruments to transmit and receive radio pulses using experimental procedures that ruled out all other known wireless phenomena.

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz

February 21, 2012

What is engineering?

Q) What is engineering?

A) There are many definitions of engineering:

- Engineering is the purposeful use of science.  - Steve Centuria, MIT

- Engineering is the practical application of science and math to solve problems.

- Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes.

- Engineering is the application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as
the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.

- Eningeering is the creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property. - American Engineers' Council for Professional Development

February 20, 2012

February 19, 2012

KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - Step 5: IF Crystal Filter

This is the 8th article in our series on building the KN-Q7A Single Band 40m SSB Transceiver Kit. In our prior article, we completed the receive intermediate-frequency (IF) amplifier.   The IF amplifier section amplifies signals after they have been converted to the fixed intermediate-frequency value by the frequency converter.

In this article we proceed with building Step 5: IF Crystal Filter.  This section provide post IF amplifier filtering of the received signal.  The filter circuit consists of a network of 6 crystals and 7 capacitors along with 2 relays.

We followed the instructions and installed the parts without incident.

KN-Q7A build through Step 5:  IF Crystal Filter

Lessons Learned
  • Having your parts sorted in a muffin tray or something similar really makes it easy to locate the correct parts quickly.
  • Orient the crystals and capacitors the same way for a more pleasing appearance.
In the next installment the fun continues as we proceed with building Step 6: Mixer and VXO Local Oscillator.

Other related articles on NJ2X.COM:

February 18, 2012

FCC Blocking Telemarketers and Robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced that they will be taking action against annoying telemarketer "robocalls" or computer driven calls to residential phones.

We recently had the pleasure of experiencing what life is like when off of on the do-not-call registry.  It was a real eye-opener and resulted in a barrage of telemarketer calls at all hours including robocalls.  The robocalls would often repeatedly call again and again throughout the day.

Under the new rules, telemarketers must first obtain written consent from consumers before calling or sending text messages even if they are not on the do-not-call registry.  All robocalls will also be required to include an automated opt-out option to allow consumers to notify telemarketers that they no longer want to receive calls.

What we find amazing is that telemarketers invest so much effort in telemarketing when it is so universally hated.  What other business or charity succeeds by annoying its customers or donors?  In our house, a call from a telemarketer becomes an automatic entry into our do-not-buy-or-donate-list.  We are forced to conclude that there must be a significant number of people that are open to telemarketers to make it worth while.  Who are these people anyway?


February 17, 2012

Russian WW PSK Contest

The Russian WW PSK Contest from 21.00 UTC on Friday 17th February till 21:00 UTC on Saturday 18th February, 2012.

Types of modulation: BPSK31, 63, 125. The output power should not exceed 10 watts on 160 meters and 100 watts on other bands. Only one transmitted signal is permitted at any time. Bands: 160 m, 80 m, 40 m, 20 m, 15 m, 10 m.

Categories: SOAB, SOSB, MOAB. The Russian participants should send RST(Q) plus 2-letter abbreviation of Russian Area (oblast) Code (example for Moscow region – 599 MA). Foreign participants should send RST(Q) plus QSO number, starting 001 (example - 599 001). The numeration on bands is current. General call - "CQ RUTEST". The repeated contacts are permitted on different bands and different modes providing that a contact will be made not earlier than in 3 minutes.

The contest awards will receive all beginners of PSK-contesting. The plaque will be raffled for the thousandth participant of the contest... We invite all radio amateurs all over the world to take part in Russian WW PSK - 2012 and represent both themselves and their countries in air adequately.

Read more about the rules of the contest at: http://www.epc-ru.ru/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=562&Itemid=192

February 16, 2012

New Jersey QSO Party - July 28/29, 2012

Mark your operating calendar!  The New Jersey QSO Party will be back on the air July 28 and 29, 2012.  This is great news for New Jersey hams since it a great event.  2011 sadly marked the first time in memory that there wasn't a New Jersey QSO Party event. 

A big thank you to the Burlington County Radio Club for sponsoring the NJ QSO Party and bringing the event back.

The objectives for the New Jersey QSO Party are:
  • Contact as many NJ amateurs in as many NJ counties as possible. 
  • NJ stations contact as many Amateurs in the US, Canada and the world as possible.
For more information be sure to consult with the New Jersey QSO Party Rules.  Please spread the word about this wonderful event.

February 14, 2012

Windows 7 Is A Great Teacher

Here we go again....

We recently spent the better part of a weekend struggling with Windows 7 / PC / hard disk issues.  There are few things we enjoy less than having to invest our precious time digging into esoterica to remedy PC issues.  However, this is a well established pattern of modern life.

Millions of computer owners go through similar experiences every few years if lucky or every few months if less lucky.  Each time we get to learn (or re-learn) about things like:
  • sfc /scannow
  • scandisk
  • defragmenting
  • restore points
  • backups
  • system file repair
  • tools for analyzing, cleaning, and repairing issues
  • setup diagnostics
  • warranties
  • calling the manufacture for support
  • ...
It is amazing it all works (most of the time).  What is equally amazing is the tremendous amount of trivia, advice, and often misleading information available on the Internet regarding Windows 7 OS and correcting the miriad of problems that can occur.
At this point we have worked through the layers of issues down to the root cause (hard disk failure) and we are now on the track toward resolution.  We are left with a sense of having wasted far too much time on it all.  This is the real price of living in a connected on-line world.

Can't wait to get back on PSK-31!


Other related articles on NJ2X.COM:

February 13, 2012

Famous Quotation: How to do it

Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it. -- Theodore Roosevelt

February 12, 2012

KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - Step 4: RX IF Amplifier

This is the 7th article in our series on building the KN-Q7A Single Band 40m SSB Transceiver Kit. In our prior article, we completed the Detector / Double Sided Band Modulator. In this article we proceed with building step 4: RX IF Amplifier.

We followed the instructions and installed the parts without incident. 

KN-Q7A build through Step 4: RX IF Amplifier
The function test involved confirming that audio increases or decreases relative to changing the potentiometer.  We were very pleased that the test passed the first time.

Lessons Learned
  • Confirm the potentiometer is the correct one before soldering.  The two potentiometers in the kit look similar and are different.
  • The MC1350 integrated circuit does not have a notch.  Instead it has a dot identifying pin 1.  Orient the chip on the board so that the dot is closest to the notch demark on the board.  Would be helpful to inexperienced builders to have this explained in the instructions.
In the next installment the fun continues as we proceed with building Step 5: IF Crystal Filter.

Other related articles on NJ2X.COM:

February 11, 2012

What is the schematic symbol for a ferrite bead?

This is a ferrite bead.

through-the-hole ferrite bead
Ferrite Bead - through the hole variety

So what is the schematic symbol for a ferrite bead?

According to the IEEE 315 standard for Graphic Symbols for Electrical and Electronics Diagrams, the ferrite bead schematic symbol is:

IEEE 315 Ferrite Bead Schematic Symbol

Additionally, there are several other ways commonly used to denote a ferrite bead on a schematic:
Ferrite Bead
Ferrite Bead
Ferrite Bead

Ferrite Bead

Good DX and 73,


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Special Event: Thomas Edison's Birthday

The West Essex Amateur Radio Club (W2EF) will be commemorating Thomas Edison's Birthday on Feb 11, 2012 from Caldwell, New Jersey.

February 10, 2012

Book Review: The Road Home by Andrew Baze

The Road Home by Andrew Baze
200 pages, Max Publications, 2011

The Road Home is story about surviving a disaster when all else fails (e.g. telephone / mobile phones, police, fire, roads, water supply, gasoline, power, stores, ...).  It is an engaging page turner suitable for pre-teen, young adults, and adults alike.  The story centers around a family's fight for survival during a major natural disaster.  Woven into the story are examples of how emergency preparation and self-sufficiency pay off when the unexpected happens. 

The story also illustrates the importance of a strong family when dealing with adversity.  Amateur radio plays an important role in helping through the disaster by being a life saving communications tool.  The story also reminds us of what can happen to those that do not prepare or have a survival mindset.

The action packed story will likely connect with young adults and make an impression about preparedness.  The characters are normal people and easy to relate to.  This book would be a great introduction read prior to a family discussion of how to prepare for possible emergencies scenarios.

The book comes with a "bonus content" section with 50 disaster preparedness and emergency communications tips.  This is really excellent material to help think about how to better prepare in your own family.  The book is available in both print and Kindle editions.

The Road Home was a very enjoyable read and we highly recommend it.  Two thumbs up.


February 9, 2012

Ab Absurdo - HOA Friendly Low Profile Antennas

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2012. 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 8, 2012

KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - Step 3: Detector / Double Sided Band Modulator

This is the 6th article in our series on building the KN-Q7A Single Band 40m SSB Transceiver Kit.   In our prior article, we completed Step 2: the audio amplifier.  In this article we proceed with building step 3: Detector / Double Sided Band Modulator.

We followed the instructions and installed the parts.  Again, we would prefer a checklist of parts instead of working from the picture to figure out which parts to install.

We inadvertently installed a 103 capacitor in a location intended for a 104 capacitor.  We discovered this when we found we were short 1 103 capacitor.  We corrected this easily by de-soldering with the aid of a solder sucker and then re-soldering the part in the correct position on the circuit board.

KN-Q7A completed through step 3: Detector / Double Sided Band Modulator
To test the circuit we used our TH-F6A HT which as a wide-band scanner covering HF to check for the presence of BFO leakage on the IF crystal's frequency.  The instructions were written for a test assuming an IF crystal frequency of 8.465 Mhz.  Our kit used a 8.192 Mhz IF crystal and we detected a tone on our TH-F6A on 8.195 USB.  The signal was the strongest when nearly touching the antenna tip to the IF crystal. 

We placed our Tektronix oscilloscope probes across the IF crystal and found a waveform measuring about the same 8.192 Mhz.

We also used our speaker and plug assembly build in the prior step to confirm the audio amplifier section was still functioning properly.  Perfecto!

Lessons Learned
  • Hold down the jumper wire using a tool during install since it will become too hot to touch with a finger when soldering.
  • We would prefer to see the instructions list out the specific parts to be installed rather than trying figure it out from a photo only.
  • Take extra care with the 103 and 104 capacitors since they are easily confused during installation.
  • When testing for BFO leakage, dial-in the same frequency as the IF crystal.
In the next installment the fun continues as we proceed with building Step 4: RX IF Amplifier .

Other related articles on NJ2X.COM:

February 7, 2012

February 5, 2012

KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - Step 2: Audio Amplifier

This is the 5th article in our series on building the KN-Q7A Single Band 40m SSB Transceiver Kit. In our prior article, we fabricated an Anderson Powerpole to 2.1mm Connector Pigtail to supply power to our kit through the jack. In this article we proceed with building step 2: audio amplifier.

We followed the step-by-step instructions for installing each component.  However, when we got to the capacitors and resistors, the instructions simply said, "solder the remaining capacitors and resistors; when finished, it will look like the photo".  Each component is marked on the circuit board which helped.  Using the circuit board and photo, we were able to figure out which parts to solder and the location.  We would have preferred a little more guidance.  In our opinion, it would have been helpful to provide a checklist identifying each part to be installed.  We did like having the picture as a guide though a larger photo would be helpful.
KN-Q7A circuit with the power supply and audio amplifier sections installed
The final activity for completing the audio amplifier is to test to confirm it is functioning.  We really like this approach since it gives the builder confidence that the build is progressing as it should.  It will also make it easier to identify and correct problems should they emerge during construction.

Testing the audio amplifier involves plugging a speaker into the speaker jack and confirming noise is heard from a speaker.  We rummaged through our junk box and found a small speaker previously salvaged from a laptop computer.  We also found a suitable cable with a miniture phono jack already soldered onto one end.  We quickly stripped the cable and soldered it to the miniature speaker as a testing aid.
Speaker soldered to speaker jack as a testing aid
We plugged the speaker into the jack and followed the test instructions to produce a clear noise from the speaker.  This confirmed that our audio amplifier was working.  Perfecto!

Lessons Learned
  • We would prefer to see the instructions list out the specific parts to be installed rather than trying figure it out from a photo only.
  • Powering up with the aid of 2.11 pigtail we made previously was a big help.
  • Building a simple speaker plug soldered to a speaker with junk box parts made testing quick and easy.
  • We really like the function test at the end of each step.
In the next installment we will proceed with building Step 3: Detector / Double Sided Band Modulator.

Other related articles on NJ2X.COM:

February 3, 2012

EPC WW DX Contest 2012 - Feb. 4, 2012

EPC WW DX Contest 2012 will be held from 12:00 UTC on Febraury 4, 2012 to 12:00 UTC until February 5, 2012 on the BPSK63 mode.
If you have any questions contact the Contest Secretary at http://www.epcwwdx.srars.org/index.php/contact.html

Special Event: Buddy Holly Memorial, 53rd

W5B will be commemorating the 53rd Anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly from Lubbock, TX.