Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hamfinder 1.2 released!

I've recently done yet another significant upgrade to Ham Finder, and I thought I'd let you all in as to what's changed with the latest version, and give you a sneak peak as to what will be changing soon.

The biggest difference with the newest build is that I've started to work on the Log Book to make it more user friendly. It still has some work to be done, but it's definitely a step in the right direction compared to what it used to be.  The input dialog is still the same, just the user's call sign, frequency you made the contact, and a field for what you entered. Now compared to previous versions, you can actually see all of the fields entered. Also, there is now a tab selection mode, which will easily allow you to switch between the location and logbook, and any future mode which may exist.

Future versions will continue to improve on this. One of the features I'm working on right now will allow for user customization, including selecting which columns will appear, and in which order. In addition, the app will be better formatted for Tablets, as things are right now, it looks poor on a 7 inch tablet, and even worse on a 10 inch tablet. There was a major redesign in the code to allow for making a tablet version of the app easier.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ham Finder 1.1 release!

I am excited to announce the release of Ham Finder 1.1. There's a lot of goodies in this new build, and I hope you'll find them as useful as I have!

The biggest new feature is the ability to buy add on products. For right now, there are just two available products, but I hope to have many of them available soon. The two ones now are a general upgrade to remove ads, and a complete offline database of all US counties. With the offline database, you can figure out what county you are in even without an internet connection!

There are also a lot of little features in this build, like improved Holo support, better popups, cleaner displays, and overall better performance. I really hope this will make an improvement in the lives of those who purchase it!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ham Finder 1.0 release!

For the last few months, I've been working on a project, which I just released to the world today. I haven't wanted to say much about it until I managed to get it released, but as it's now out there, I figured I'd let it go!

The project is named Ham Finder. Essentially, it's aim is to be the ultimate tool to assist the mobile amateur radio operator. I have a whole bunch of things planned for it, but the tool itself is simple, and for the moment, focused on the US. That isn't to say that it won't work outside of the US, but functionality will be somewhat limited outside of the US for now.

Here's an example output of the tool. For the purpose of testing this, I spoofed the location to the White House. It shows the lat/long, grid square, county, and more.

For another example, see this view from Arlington. Note that it also gives the DXCC, the prefix (K4), and other relevant information.

For the future, as mentioned, I have quite a few planned upgrades. There isn't a whole lot that I'll commit to at this moment, but I will promise that shortly the capability will exist to get the data offline, and remove ads, for a small price. In addition, I'm hoping to improve the logging system considerable, and export to ADIF, and possible other formats as well.

If you could be kind and give me feedback on this app, I'd love to hear from you! I really am hoping to make this an awesome program, and I appreciate all of the help in knowing where to take it!


Friday, November 22, 2013

ARRL Sweepstakes

This past weekend, I participated in the ARRL Sweepstakes. Just thought I'd share my results.

  • 45/50 states worked, including all required for WAS!
  • 59/83 ARRL sections worked
  • 120 QSOs
  • 14400 points
With only spending a few hours, I was able to do pretty well. I managed to get the states I needed for Worked All States (WAS), and picked up quite a few new band/states to boot. All in all, it was a pretty successful adventure, and a fun time! As of yet, I haven't achieved WAS yet, but I'm just waiting on a few last states that I picked up during the contest. Hopefully it'll work out soon!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Communicating when the Worst Happens

I've been told the two key things to manage in the event of a disaster are communications and logistics. Ham Radio Operators are very well practiced in the Communications site, and in fact, often run the communications systems for public events, as a practice for when it is required for a real emergency. Thus, with your Amateur Radio License, you can help out with such events in a very real way, assisting to save lives!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Preparing for a Lack of Phones

In today's busy world, in constant communication, it seems like cell phones are available everywhere. The truth is, they are highly available, but they do have their issues, whether climbing mountains, major disasters, or traveling to remote areas, there will be a time where you don't have constant communications with the world through phones and cell phones. What do you do then?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Figuring out the Master Band Plan

Now that I've started to go digital, one of the key things is to figure out the digital band plan. I have plans to eventually do something really neat with this, but here's a rough idea of what the band plan is for Digital modes. I'm going to focus on 20m, as most of them are similar to it, and include the links for the other information.

At the highest level is the FCC rules:

14.000-14.150 MHz- Digital Modes (CW included)
14.150-14.350 MHz- Analog Modes (SSB included)

The next level seems to be the ARRL band plans, which are actually quite complete for VHF+, but seem to lack a bit in the details for HF bands:

20 Meters (14.0-14.35 MHz)

14.070-14.095 RTTY
14.095-14.0995 Packet
14.100 NCDXF Beacons
14.1005-14.112 Packet
14.230 SSTV
14.286 AM calling frequency

The next level down is CIARC, which provides some really good detailed information on digital modes, but is still a bit lacking.


Mode Specific Dial Freq Center Freq Offset
PSK31
14.07 14.07015
Olivia Olivia 16/500 14.073.65 14.0744 750
Olivia Olivia 32/1000 14.1055 14.1065 1000
JT65
14.076

Olivia Olivia 16/500 14.07765 14.0784
Olivia Olivia 32/1000 14.1055 14.1065
Olivia Olivia 32/1000 14.1065 14.1075

The ultimate band plan seems to be bandplan.com, but this has a bit too much detail, including nets, etc.

I'm going to put together a master band plan, that includes everything I can find, and piece it together here. Hopefully it will be of some use to the community out there!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Working JT9/JT65

In my working with digital modes, I have started with JT9/JT65. I've found them to be rather relaxing modes, you can easily do something else while you are talking, and just get back to the conversation every two minutes. I'm hoping to give a bit of an idea of how these two modes work, and what should be done to improve communications on the subject.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mobile setup

One of the things I noticed early on about 2m is that the majority of the people using it seem to be traveling when they are using it, except for things like nets. After a while, I started to wonder how I could get involved with the same thing. Eventually, I got my set up figured out, and let me explain it here, along with some of my future goals in the matter.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Digital Leap

I've been slowly noticing more and more my limitations of being able to get those rare DX stations attention, and noticing RFI issues. I was convinced to give digital amateur radio a shot recently, and had a good collection of notes from my efforts to go digital.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

HackRf

Today's blog post is a short one, about an upcoming Kickstarter project called HackRf. This is a Software Defined Radio that supports a huge bandwidth. The power is rather limited, however. It could be a lot of fun to pick up one of these devices, as they could support virtually every amateur radio band from the very high to the very low frequencies, and I sure have a lot of bands I'm missing. It would also be a fun way to take the radio on the road for those times when I'm on a business trip.

For me, the biggest problem to purchasing such a device is the the fact that the transmit power is rather limited, only in the milliwatts. Still, there's a lot that could be done at that power, and even more if you could come up with an amplifier. For the price, $300, it's a bargin, however, it's a bit outside of my budget, and thus I won't be supporting the project. Still, I hope they have a lot of success, it seems like a fantastic project!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Complete Morse Code Set

I've been searching around for this on the internet, and haven't found it yet. Thus, I decided it would make a good blog entry. Here is the complete International Morse Code alphabet, including many special symbols rarely used. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What Everyone Should Know About Emergency Communications

At some point in time, there will be an emergency occurring on a large area, which will affect your ability to communicate with the outside world.We should be prepared, both hams and non-hams, to deal with the worst when it happens. I've been working on a series of blog posts about emergency communication from the perspective of a non-ham, working my way up to ham radio. This is the first such article.

An often overlooked question in dealing with an emergency is how do you know what the weather is going to be, get the news, and other such things, if you have no power? Furthermore, how can you do your part to not contribute to a loss of communications, and even better, how can you help contribute to getting such communications back online? These and more I will cover over the coming weeks, but for now, let's start with a few simple things you can do.

First of all, let's talk about cell phones. First of all, if you think there might be an emergency coming up, charge your cell phones, and leave them on the charger. This is great for those instances that you can tell are coming for days (Hurricanes, for instance). But what if you don't have days? Make sure you have the ability to charge your phone from your car. This will allow you to charge even if you lose power, which could be vitally important.

Speaking of cell phones, how should you use them during an emergency? The FCC has issued a set of guidelines to help facilitate communications during an emergency. They apply primarily to cell phones and other wireless communication, secondarily to traditional phone lines, and only to a minimal extent to internet communications. Essentially, the idea is to keep phone calls short, use text messaging where you can, and please don't be doing high bandwidth activities! It is extremely common to jam the phone lines in an emergency. In other words, if there's a serious event going on, send a text to mom to tell her everything's alright, but don't sit and talk with her then for an hour!

Okay, so you've managed that, now what? The next most important thing is to know what's going on in the world, even if the power goes out. There are 3 types of broadcasts that will help you to figure this out. Any of these you choose to get should be able to be powered with batteries, and it's even better if you can charge them while you use them. I'll show an example of that later.

The easiest for most people is broadcast radio. If nothing else, you can use your car radio, but far better than that would be to have one inside, that is easily portable. Another easy one is a National Weather Service radio. These are rather inexpensive, and will allow you to get weather alerts. I bought one on Amazon for about $40 that has a stand that will charge it while it's in use. There's even one that will cover AM/FM radio as well, and charge your cell phones! This could easily be carried around as needed as well. I should note, these will only work if you are in an area covered by NWS. I talk on my blog about how to extend coverage. The last is television, take a look at battery powered TVs.

In future posts, I'll continue the topic of emergency communications, at every level I know about, but for now, these simple tips can help you be prepared for the next emergency that comes your way!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Most Popular US Amateur Radio Call Sign Prefixes

I was playing around with the FCC database of amateur radio call signs, and decided to do something fun, yet interesting. I counted a list of all of the prefixes for every amateur radio call sign currently in use. This list has active call signs filtered, and is the data from August 14, 2013. This list makes no attempt to find out if any of these people are actually active. The main purpose of this list is to help identify difficult prefixes, for use in the CQ WPX award. In addition, this list could could be used to help one find an empty prefix for a cool looking Vanity Call Sign, but that's not quite the intent. There are a total of 884 US prefixes in use right now, pretty amazing actually.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Status of learning Morse Code

So,  I thought you all might like to see what my CW practice is like. Rather than just give you a bunch of boring statistics, numbers, etc, I thought I'd have fun, and post this transcription. The first part is a partial transcription of a W1AW broadcast from Aug 18, and the other is a QSO I had with a club member tonight (Only what I heard, of course). I think the W1AW broadcast was either 13 or 10 WPM, from 09/12 QST
 page 77, will edit the post when I figure it out. The conversation was about 12 WPM as well. I figured that as this is my 73rd blog post, I'd do something a bit fun. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

IC-735 VOX woes...

I really have enjoyed my Icom IC-735. I really believe it is the best radio that I could buy at the time I bought it, and a fantastic buy for the money I spend. However, I've run in to my first problem with it, and I'm hoping by posting the details, someone out there can point me in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Preparing to operate CW

So, I'm getting really close to trying to operate on the air live. I still need a bit more practice, but hey, who doesn't? I'm on lesson 28/40 on LCWO, but I have done fairly well with Morse Runner, and copying whole sentances, and other fun stuff like that. So, here's how I'm going to do it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Connecting your radio to a computer

On Field Day, I had a wonderful logging system from my club, where we didn't even have to type in the frequency. We were simply allowed to concentrate on making the contact, the computer automatically knew what frequency we were on! This was really neat, and I wondered, how can I make this happen at my home?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

GOTA- What to do before Field Day

I anticipate this to be the last of my 3 part series on how to run an effective GOTA station for Field Day. I certainly have learned a lot in putting this together, and I hope you all have benefited as well. For the final part, I wish to talk about things you should do well before Field Day to make the GOTA station effective.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

So, you can understand Morse code, now what?

I've been working on Morse Code, and I'm starting to make some good progress. I'm about half way through the character set, and most of the time it's easier to learn the next character than the last one. I'm even starting to notice that the 20 character, 10 word speed sometimes seems slow, and I'm almost though the alphabet. I'm starting to see a date where I learn Morse Code completely, and I've been asking myself, then what? I've been collecting information from my club and others, and wanted to share it all with you.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Teaching how to use the GOTA station

One of the things that I saw countless times was people sitting in front of the GOTA station, and choking. There is the common example of a kid sitting and just not knowing when to make a contact, or tuning the dial on the slowest knob endlessly, hoping to find someone to talk to. I've seen people respond to a CQ by saying CQ themselves. Bottom line is, how can we improve the quality of contacts for the GOTA station, so they have fun, make contacts, and a line can move through efficiently?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

IARU HF Championship

This past weekend I stumbled upon something that ended up being quite a bit of fun on the air. Specifically, I ran in to the IARU HF Championship. The championship is an unusual contest, because it is world wide. This is in fact the very first time that I've ran in to a world wide contest, and it was fantastic for increasing the countries I've worked.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thoughts on Running an Effective Get On The Air (GOTA) Station for Field Day Part 1

This year was the first year that I ever participated in a Field Day. It was a lot of fun. I spent a fair bit of time around the GOTA station, and I had a lot of thoughts as to how it could be run better. This is still a work in progress, and I would love to have your feedback, but here's the start of a plan, and  a discussion, that I've started to have with my club, and I would love to have from you all. This is a rather lengthy subject, so I'm going to divide it in to parts, to allow it to be run a bit smoother.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

13 Colonies Log

I had fun the week of the 4th of July working the 13 colony stations. I was able to work them all, and just wanted to post my log book for the world to see. Thanks to those putting on the special event, it was really fun to work them all!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to listen to the NWS from a Marginal Area

I set up an HF antenna at a scout camp recently, and had one of the camp staff ask me how to improve his NWS system. I didn't have the answers then, but with a bit of work, I was able to come up with the answers (Internet research helps a ton!) I'm going to assume with this that you have the proper cable, and radio, but just can't make it work, and need a bit of help to make it work properly, because that was how their station was set up. All in all, this exercise helped to sell me on the benefits of Yagi antennas, and learn a thing or two about mounting to a roof.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

LARG Field Day 2013

Here's just a few of my many photos for Field Day 2013 with the Loudoun Amateur Radio Group (LARG, K4LRG).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Maritin Mobile

Have you ever wanted to be a Maritime Mobile station, but didn't have a boat? Or Perhaps you live far away from the nearest beach? Or maybe you just don't have the time. Well, one ham has the device for you!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Funny search terms to finding this blog

I've been keeping track of some of the funny search terms used to find this blog, and I thought I'd share. Most of them make at least some kind of sense, I'm really not sure how the last one ended up coming here. Anyways, without further ado

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Favorite Memories of Field Day

I've just concluded my first ever field day participation. I made about 40 contacts on the GOTA club station, maybe 10-15 on the VHF, and 39 on my home station. I just want to share a few of my favorite moments from the whole process. I'm going to try and not give a blow by blow, but just focus on these key moments.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Current Ham Radio Goodies Wishlist

Today is the start of Field Day. Get out and find a place to participate! Seriously, it will be awesome!

As a result, I don't have time for a full blog post, but I will post a wish list of things that I have been considering getting. I'm including them roughly in the order that I think I'll actually get them. Just for those who want to thank me for all of the wonderful help I have given them to getting started with Ham Radio;-)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Field Day 2013 Invitation



http://www.arrl.org/files/file/Field-Day/2013/2013FieldDayLogoWeb.jpgYou are hereby invited to participate with the Loudoun Amateur Radio Group’s 2013 Field Day. Activities will include learning about radios, talking to people over the radio across the world. Many requirements for the Radio Merit Badge can be passed off as well. You do not need an amateur radio license to participate in this event!

ARRL Field Day is the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada. On the fourth weekend of June of each year, more than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations.

Why: Field Day tests the ability to set up an emergency communication station anywhere in the country. Amateur Radio Operators are often the only people able to communicate in the event of a major disaster, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, etc. They also can communicate from remote locations.

Date- Saturday, June 22
Time- 2:00 P.M. and later

Location: Westerman Farm (W5ODJ)
38668 Sierra Lane
Lovettsville, VA 20180

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Field Day ARRL Section Cheat Sheet



Here's another cheat sheet from John K3US, for use in Field Day. Of course, you don't have to have a call sign from the region you operate (I operate in Virginia, KD7UIY, which would be a West Coast callsign), but it can still help plenty.

           *******  Sections Lookup Cheatsheet******
Step 1. find the number in the call    2. zip to the right place on cheat sheet!
        3. listen and log their report.     4. Convert long section  name to abbrev.   5. Log it!
Section Abbrev lookup    ARRL section list is at http://www.arrl.org/section-abbreviations
Call Number
If in doubt or you get flustrated as to the abbrev, just write down exactly what they said  and move on to the next contact !   write, call, exchange, time
“Grabbing their info” is good enough for the log.
11111111
1111111111111111111111     LONG
ABBREV
1111111111111111
1
Connecticut
CT
1
Eastern Mass (or Massachusetts)
EMA
Maine
ME
New Hampshire
NH
Rhode Island
RI
Vermont
VT

Western Mass  (or Massachusetts)
WMA

VE2,VA2
Maritime  (Canada)
MAR
VE2,VA2
VO1
Newfoundland  - Labrador  (Canada)
NL
VO1
22222222
2222222222222222222222222222222 
22222222222222
2222222222222222
2
Eastern New York
ENY
2
New York - Long Island
NLI
Northern New Jersey
NNJ
Northern New York
NNY
Southern New Joisey
SNJ
Western New York
WNY
VE2,VA2
Quebec   (Key-Beck)     (Canada)
QC
VE2,VA2
VY2
Maritime                        (Canada)
MAR
VY2
KP2
Virgin Islands
VI
KP2
33333333
3333333333333333333333333333333
33333333333333
3333333333333333
3
Delaware
DE
3
Eastern Pennsylvania
EPA
Western PA
WPA
Maryland – DC   (they are combined)
MDC
VE3,VA3
 Greater Toronto Area,      (Canada)
GTA
New sections! VE3,VA3
VE3,VA3
 Ontario East,                     (Canada)
ONE
New sections! VE3,VA3
VE3,VA3
Ontario North,                  (Canada)
ONN
New sections! VE3,VA3
VE3,VA3
Ontario South,                  (Canada)
ONS
New sections! VE3,VA3  
44444444
4444444444444444444444444444444
44444444444444
444444444444444

4

Alabama
AL

4
Georgia
GA
Kentucky
KY
North Carolina
NC
North Florida
NFL
South Carolina
SC
South Florida
SFL
Tennessee
TN
Virginia
VA
444444444
West Central Florida
WCF
44444444444444444444
KP3,KP4
Puerto Rico
PR
KP3,KP4, WP3, WP4
VE4,VA4
Manitoba,                     (Canada)
MB
VE4,VA4






           *******  Sections Lookup Cheatsheet******
Step 1. find the number in the call    2. zip to the right place on cheat sheet!
        3. listen and log their report.     4. Convert long section  name to abbrev.   5. Log it!
Call Number
If in doubt or you get flustrated as to the abbrev, just write down exactly what they said  and move on to the next contact !   write, call, exchange, time
“Grabbing their info” is good enough for the log.
55555555
555555555555555555555        LONG
Abbrev.   55555
5555555555555555

5
Arkansas
AR

5
Louisiana
LA
Mississippi
MS
New Mexico
NM
North Texas
NTX
Oklahoma
OK
South Texas
STX
55555555
West Texas
WTX
55555555555555555555
VE5,VA5
            (Canada)       Saskatchewan
SK
VE5,VA5
66666666
6666666666666666666666666666666
6666666666
66666666666666666666

6
East Bay
EB

6
Los Angeles
LAX
Orange
ORG
Santa Barbara
SB
Santa Clara Valley
SCV
San Diego
SDG
San Francisco
SF
San Jose
SJ
San Joaquin Valley
SJV
66666666
Sacramento Valley
SV

KH6
Pacific 
PAC
KH6, WH6, AH6  _H#
VE6,VA6
                (Canada)              Alberta
AB
VE6,VA6
77777777
7777777777777777777777777777777
7777777777
7777777777777777

7
Arizona
AZ

7
Eastern Washington
EWA
Idaho
ID
Montana
MT
Nevada
NV
Oregon
OR
Utah
UT
Western Washington
WWA
77777777
Wyoming
WY
7777777777777777
KL7
Alaska   also WL, AL, KL with any #
AK
KL7, AL7, WL7,  _L#
VE7,VA7
    (Canada)        British Columbia
BC
VE7, VA7
88888888
8888888888888888888888888888888
8888888888
8888888888888888
8
Michigan
MI
8
Ohio
OH
West Virginia
WV
VE8
Northwest Territories,  (Canada)
NT
VE8



               *******  Sections Lookup Cheatsheet******
Step 1. find the number in the call    2. zip to the right place on cheat sheet!
        3. listen and log their report.     4. Convert long section  name to abbrev.   5. Log it!
Call Number
If in doubt or you get flustrated as to the abbrev, just write down exactly what they said  and move on to the next contact !   write, call, exchange, time
“Grabbing their info” is good enough for the log.
99999999
9999999999999999999999999999999
9999999999
9999999999999999
9
Indiana
IN
9
Illinois
IL
Wisconsin
WI
VE9
Maritime,     (Canada)
MAR
9999999999999999
00000000
0000000000000000000000000000000
0000000000
0000000000000000

0
Colorado
CO

0
Iowa
IA
Kansas
KS
Minnesota
MN
Missouri
MO
North Dakota
ND
Nebraska
NE
South Dakota
SD
0000000000
0000000000000000000000000000000
0000000000
0000000000000000

ODDBALL SECTION ABBREVS

__L#
Alaska, second letter of call sign is L    KL7, KL5, AL1, WL2 are examples
AK
KL or AL or NL or WL + any number
CFS
the state of confusion
CFS
we don’t go there!
GTA
Greater Toronto Area, Canada
GTA
VE3, VA3
MAR
Maritime
MAR
VE1
NB
New Brunswick, Canada
NB
VE9
NL
Newfoundland or Labrador, Canada
NL
VO1
NT
Northern Territories, Canada
NT
VE8, VY1
__H#
second letter of call sign is  H
Pacific,  mostly Hawaii but also some other Pacific Islands
PAC
KH#, AH#, WH#, NH#
PEI
Prince Edward Island
PEI
VY2
PR
Puerto Rico
PR
KP4, NP4, WP4
VI
Virgin Islands
VI
KP2, NP2, WP2
USA
prefixes:      http://www.ac6v.com/prefixes.htm#

note:
Canada     -  many different Special Event prefixes are used in Canada so you might hear one of these:   CF-CK,  CY,  VA-VG,   VO   VX   VY   XJ-XO

Mexico
XE followed by any number