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


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?