January 18, 2012

Ab Absurdo - Robbing Paul

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
-- George Bernard Shaw

January 17, 2012

KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - Opening The Package

This is the 2nd article in a series on building the KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit.  We were very excited to see the kit arrive in the mail.  The kit was packaged in a padded envelope.  The outside of the package had various stamps and customs declarations.
We were so excited to receive this in the mail we forgot to take a picture BEFORE opening it.
Inside the mailer were the microphone and a very durable metal project box.  The box itself will become the housing for the transceiver kit.  All the components and the circuit board were stored safetly inside the project box.  We are impressed with this packaging design since it reduces the possibility of damage to delicate parts.

We used a screw driver to remove four screws securing a metal plate to the end of the box and found the circuit board, compontents, screws, and faceplates predrilled and silkscreened.  Everthing was neatly and efficiently packed.

A single page overview of the kit was included in the package as well.  This sheet provided current information and instructions on how to download the kit manual.  We followed the link and downloaded and printed the 25 page manual, a template, and parts list.  Some people are opposed to reading manuals.  We would not recommend such an approach for a kit with over 200 components! 

We spent some time in a comfortable chair and carefully read all the material in preparation.  The manual seemed thorough enough and included step-by-step instructions, pictures, as well as theory of operation.  The kit is built in stages and includes function tests at the end of each stage.  We really appreciate this approach and it also helps with understanding how the stages work together to form the transceiver.

In our next installment, we begin construction with KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - Step 1: Power Supply Circuit .

Other related articles on NJ2X.COM:

© 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.

January 15, 2012

Ayn Rand - The Property Status of Airwaves

We recently re-read an essay by Ayn Rand called, "The Property Status of Airwaves" which she originally published in April of 1964.  It also appeared in Ayn Rand's book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.  It is a thought provoking piece and worth hunting down a copy of the book to read.

In her essay, Rand argues that the radio spectrum are not "public" property as it is treated today but rather property that should be returned to private ownership as with any other scarce resource (mineral deposits, oil fields, ...).  Property rights form the basis of all other rights.

Ayn Rand
Rand points out that the government incorrectly claimed ownership of the airwaves at the dawn of radio thereby nationalizing the resource and simultaneously introducing several problems.  Among these are the distortionary effects of wielding power in the undefinable "public interest". 

Public interest is inevitably used to justify government actions including censorship in conflict with the 1st amendment of the constitution.  Additionally, government bureaucrats are imperfect people and subject to influence and corruption.  Public interest therefore becomes discretionary power which people and corporations seek to influence in order to gain special favors (e.g. protect against more capable competitors).

Rand offers a solution to these problems:
  • Return government to its role of enforcing private property rights and get out of the business of ownership, regulation, and dictating "public interest" with respect to the radio spectrum.
  • Return the radio spectrum to private ownership by auction off the spectrum to the highest bidder (i.e. ownership not licenses).
  • Allow the free market to maximize the utility of the radio spectrum. 
Our copy of "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" was first published in 1967 and includes many interesting essays by Ayn Rand and other authors like Alan Greenspan.  Winter is our favorite time of the year for indoor activities like amateur radio, building electronics, and reading.  If you enjoy ideas that challenge your own thinking then definately give this book a read.

January 14, 2012

KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - New Arrival

We recently ordered a new 40m single sideband (SSB) transceiver kit for the purpose of being the focus of our bench time in the shop this winter.  The kit is the KN-Q7A single band SSB transceiver by Adam Rong, BD6CR/4. 

KN-Q7A Kit

Adam launched his new website CRKits in December 2011.  The website includes complete documentation and pricing information.  The current price for the kit is $115 plus $25 shipping to the US.  Kits can be purchased from Adam directly or through distributors.

We had been considering various kits over the last few months.  We decided on this kit for several reasons:
  • Low cost
  • Compact for portable use (153 mm x 97 mm x 40 mm)
  • Discrete through the hole parts (except for 1 surface mount part)
  • Manual well thought out
  • 40m SSB phone operation
  • 10 Watts
  • Nice looking finished product
  • Challenging kit with a healthy parts count (200)
  • Positive comments posted various places on the Internet
The one downside is the lack of an automatic gain control (AGC) in the design.  This limits the use of the radio to an external speaker.  Our preference would be headphones; however, audio transients without a AGC through headphones could result in hearing damage.  We decided we could live without the AGC given the other desirable attributes of the transceiver.

Now that the kit has arrived we are eager to start the project.  We plan to write a series of articles for NJ2X.COM reporting our progress and sharing our lessons learned as we bring the radio to life.  Next we dive into the project by opening the package and reviewing the contents.

© 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.

January 13, 2012

9th UK DX RTTY Contest 2012

The 9th UK DX RTTY Contest 2012 (UK-DX-RTTY) will start time at 12:00 UTC on Saturday 14.01.2012.  Ending time at 12:00 UTC on Sunday 15.01.2012.

The rules and other information can be found at http://www.ukdx.srars.org/ website.

January 11, 2012

Powerful DX Hunting Accessories - Your Ears

Your most power DX hunting accessories are your ears.  Your ears can provide you with a great deal of information about the signal itself (beyond the message being transmitted).  With practice a DX'er can learn to identify mode, location, distance, propagation, tuning, and many other useful bits of information by simply listening.  Amazingly, your ears and brain are also powerful filters.

Another useful accessory is a pair of headphones.  Speakers are great when listening to broadcast stations though not as effective for DX'ing.  Headphones are superior to speakers for DX hunting.  Remember, you are searching for those weak stations down in the noise.   Over the ear headphones also isolate your ears from the ambient noise in the room and block out distractions.

One consideration is the use of headphone on gear lacking an automatic gain control (AGC).  A loud static crash or nearby powerful station while working a weak signal can cause a sudden increase in volume that could hurt your ears when using headphones on a rig without an AGC.  If you have a rig without AGC then speakers are safer for your ears.  Lets all preserve our hearing.

WWII Tanker Helmet with integrated headphones
Comfort is very important since you will likely spend a great deal of time wearing the headphones.  Headphone fatigue can creep in after an extended period of use.  Spending a few extra dollars on comfort is definately worth the investment.

You do not necessarily need headphones with a very high frequency range since DX'ers tend to dial-in a fairly narrow range of audio frequencies.  In our opinion comfort is more important than frequency response when it comes to headphones for DX'ing.

We have found that headphones with a heavier cable and a well constructed plug last longer than the el-cheapo ones.  From time-to-time we accidently put the headphone cable to the test by attempting to walk away from the station with the phones still on.  It is worth a few extra dollars to go for quality construction as long as durability doesn't interfere with comfort.

Put those ears to work with a comfortable pair of headphones and listen for those weak stations that the others miss.

By Michael Maher (NJ2X)

January 10, 2012

What is the BEST DX Mode?

If you enjoy chasing DX you can increase your DX contacts by using, "the BEST DX mode".  Which mode is that you ask?  The BEST DX mode is.... all of them.  Hams around the world enjoy running different modes.  This means that if you confine yourself to only one or two modes then you risk excluding some potentially great contacts.  Add as many modes as you can to your repertoire and increase the opportunities to work DX.

By Michael Maher (NJ2X)

January 8, 2012

Ham Radio University 2012 - January 8

Ham Radio University 2012
Our 13th annual event!

Sunday, January 8, 2012
Briarcliffe College
1055 Stewart Ave
Bethpage, NY 11714

Spreading Ham Radio Knowledge and Know How
"A day of education to share ideas, experiences, knowledge and fellowship among Amateur Radio operators"
NJ2X Note: Ham Radio University is a wonderful event providing excellent learning opportunities for all interesting in amateur radio.  Hope to see you there for an "eyeball QSO"!

January 6, 2012

Amateur Radio Kids Day - January 8, 2012

Kids Day is an on-air event to encourage young people (licensed or not) to have fun with Amateur Radio. It is designed to give on-the-air experience to youngsters and hopefully foster interest in getting a license of their own. It is also intended to give older hams a chance to share their station and love for Amateur Radio with their children.

The traditional exchange for kids day is: name, age, location, and favorite color. Be sure to work the same station again if an operator has changed.  To draw attention, call “CQ Kids Day.”

  • Sunday, January 8, 2012
  • Saturday, June 16, 2012

Kids Day always runs from 1800 UTC through 2359 UTC. Operate as much or as little as you like.

We have enjoyed operating on kids day in year's past.  It has always been a lot of fun.  99% of the contacts have been very positive.  The best contacts have been with hams who are patient and encouraging to the youngsters (a.k.a Potential Future Hams).

We have encountered one or two not-so-patient and not-so-encouraging contacts.  These hams seemed to have not been aware of the kids day event nor understood the intent.  If you belong to an amateur radio club or net please pass the word about this year's kids day event.

January 5, 2012

Canadian War Museum

We recently had the opportunity to spend an afternoon visiting the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.  This is one of the finest museums of its kind.  The museum has an incredible collection of artifacts, photographs, and armaments.  The presentation incorporates personal stories woven into a timeline of conflicts.  Walking through the museum, one cannot help but be moved.

One of the first things that caught our attention as we approached the museum entrance were the odd windows.  On closer study we recognized that the windows were arranged in the distinct pattern of dits and dahs representing a message in Morse code.  We will leave it to the reader to decode the two messages one in English and the other in French.

The Canadian War Museum

Related article:

January 2, 2012

Benjamin Franklin's Timeless Advice

Much of good old Ben Franklin's advice is as relevant today as it was in colonial times.  Consider this timeless gem. It is certainly better than most run-of-the-mill new year's resolutions.

Either write something worth reading or do
 something worth writing. -- Benjamin Franklin

So what will you do this year?

Benjamin Franklin

January 1, 2012

World's Most Powerful Transmitter?

Recently we were operating and enjoying making contacts around the world on our HF station running 100 Watts of power. Pondering the wonder of doing so much with so little got us thinking about the opposite of QRP - extreme station power. What is or was the highest power radio station in the world?

We did a little research and learned that the Bolshakovo transmitter near Bolshakovo, Russia is credited as the most powerful mediumwave broadcasting station. This station gave a 2,500,000 Watt world-wide voice to the Voice of Russia on mediumwave (1116 kHz and 1386 kHz). The transmitter fed special cage antennas.

Like many other hams, we became enamoured with radio while exploring shortwave and listening to exotic and distant stations like the Voice of Russia.

 Voice Of Russia Wikipedia