New Callsign… WG3K

In 1997 I received my first amateur radio license.  The FCC granted me KF4OTN back then and exercised it the best I could.  Fast forward to my move to Virginia and I decided to drop the “KF” in favor of “W” (it cut down on the time to transmit the callsign on RTTY).  Now that I’m in Maryland, and an Extra, I decided it was the right time to change my callsign, perhaps for the last time.

As of 3:39 AM this morning I am now WG3K.  It’s a mouthful but sounds nice on CW.  Here’s hoping I don’t butcher it too badly for the next few days.

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A non-contester’s results of the IARU HF Championship

Unless you were asleep at the dial you probably heard a lot of yelling, begging, and contacts being made on the HF bands yesterday.  From 1200Z yesterday to 1200Z today stations were on the air doing what contest stations do – making contacts.  Ahh, yes, it was the weekend for the IARU HF Championship.

I hadn’t planned on participating until I started seeing some islands starting to be advertised on the spotting networks.  Since I’m still chasing the islands I immediately seized the opportunity and started making contacts.  80m was also open to Europe in the overnight hours (particularly after 0400Z) so I was able to pick up a few countries there as well.

Here’s some of the places I put in the log during the contest:

  • Aland Islands, 20m CW
  • Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, 15m SSB
  • Isle of Man, 20m CW and 40m CW
  • Faeroe Islands, 40m CW
  • Aruba, 80m CW and 40m CW
  • Germany, 80m CW
  • Canada, 15m CW and 80m CW
  • South Cook Islands, 20m CW
  • Portugal, 80m CW

Most, if not all, of these contacts were either new countries, new bands, or new modes.  That brings my current DXCC count to:

  • SSB – 118
  • CW – 65
  • Data – 106
  • Overall – 165

Looks like I will be competing in the upcoming Maryland QSO Party and helping out with the ARRL Rookie Roundup – RTTY, both as K3CAL.  Those contests should be a lot of fun!

Oh, and a checklog has been submitted to the ARRL.

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Sked and QSL from GM3YOR

GM3YOR QSL Card

QSL card and envelop received from GM3YOR.

While looking over my DXCC statistics I noticed that my log didn’t match the DX station’s log as uploaded to Clublog.  I double checked my log and it looked like a good QSO but upon checking with the DX station it was determined that I had not, in fact, made it successfully into his log.  But in grand amateur radio fashion he offered to set up a sked with me for the following afternoon so we could work and I could get Scotland on CW in my logs.

I had never had a scheduled QSO with someone I didn’t know and was a little uncertain if it would actually happen.  We had agreed to a frequency on 20m and I was monitoring it ten minutes before the appointed time.  Unfortunately for the both of us, the previous day I had removed my trusty J-38 key from service and replaced it with a set of Vibroplex paddles.  Since I hadn’t actually used the paddles in years my fist left something to be desired.  It was amazing that Andrew could actually tell what I was saying in the first place!

A few minutes early I started calling him but didn’t hear a response.  A few minutes later, right on time, I heard a strong signal calling me.  VOACAP had certainly predicted the propagation correctly as his signal was registering 40 dB on my signal meter.  After a quick contact on 20m we decided to meet on 30m to give that band a try.  While not as strong, we were able to make contact there as well adding a new band for Scotland for me.

I was quite pleased with making this contact but even more so when, after only a few days, I received the above envelope and card in the mail.  A fast QSL with a nice card!  Andrew certainly exhibits really good amateur radio values.  Thanks Andrew!

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DXCC Entity # 153 – Asiatic Russia

Taking immediate advantage of my new Extra Class privileges, last night I picked up a new DXCC entity – Asiatic Russia.  This one has been difficult for me.  I worked the entity back in 2002 but couldn’t get a confirmation.  Since then I’ve heard them but never been able to work them.  That all changed last night.

As I’ve always said, you work the contests because that’s where the DX will be.  I’m not sure what contest is going on this weekend but it has brought out the DX.  I heard, and then worked, RG0A on 14008.6 kHz.  He was a good 559 on this side of the pond and received a similar report.  This morning I pleasantly found a QSL waiting for me on LoTW from him.  Nice!

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Adding 1.75 MHz of bandwidth to my HF operating portfolio

W4OTN's Extra Class CSCENo more tests for me.  I’m done.

Last year I was one of the CARA members asking for an Extra Class class.  I was really happy when Shawn, N3AE, agreed to teach the class and we started on a three-month class meeting every Tuesday night for three (or more) hours.  After the class, after two weeks of taking practice exams online (and failing most), and after reading back through the material that I was having troubles with, I took my exam yesterday.

I was nervous.  I really wanted to do well as I had invested quite a bit of time and energy into the process of learning this stuff.  I also wanted that extra bandwidth to find those sneaky DX operators that hide there.

Ed, KC3AEN, with Steve, N3IPN, picked me up on Saturday morning and we made our way to Davidsonville for our test.  We had all been in the class and hoped we were ready.  We had pre-registered (#s 2, 3, and 4) so we didn’t have to wait long to get started.  I was pleasantly surprised that most of the questions were familiar and that the others appeared to be ones that I could figure out.  After a couple of hours all three of us walked out with our Extra Class CSCEs!  Another gentleman who was in our class, I don’t remember his name or callsign, also took his Extra exam and passed.  That’s 4 for 4 from the class!  Add two more that took their tests early and that’s about half the class that has passed the exam!

Last night I put a couple of QSOs in the log from the Extra and Advanced portions of the bands.  I even ended up with a new DXCC entity in the books.  Looks like all the studying is already paying off.

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New Mid-Atlantic DMR CS700 codeplug available

I’ve started publishing a CS700 (and soon, CS800) codeplug for the Mid-Atlantic region DMR network.  The latest version (from 2015-05-05) fixes some of the scan issues from the previous version.

You can download this file from my Mid-Atlantic DMR page.

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An interesting way to deploy a DMR c-Bridge

I made an inquiry to Rayfield regarding their c-Bridge product that can be used to join several (up to 50) Motorola DMR (MOTOTRBO) repeaters together.  Here’s what I found out:

There is a software option that is $600 less than the hardware solution.  The software runs on CentOS 5 or 6 (I’m assuming RHEL would also work here).  I was able to quickly stand up an un-licensed version (doesn’t actually do anything) to test with in a VM on my laptop and I didn’t see any resource problems.

I suspect one could easily run this on a 1GB Linode for $10/mo and have really good availability.  The best part of using a hosted virtual machine for this type of system is that you can duplicate it (to have a hot backup elsewhere), geographically move it around (to counter physical disasters) and be afforded a great deal of availability if needed (of which you’ll want since this is a radio system you’re dealing with).  Plus it’s easy to increase the resources afforded to the VM if needed (as the system expands to allow more repeater connections).

I may be incorrect on my assumptions, and if anyone has tried it I’d really like to know, but I think this sounds like a good and cheaper way to deploy a c-bridge.

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Dipping my toe into the DMR pool

A few weeks ago I ventured down to Cary and to RARSfest to see some friends.  It was a good event and the weekend was nice and relaxing.  While at RARSfest I noticed many of my friends carrying DMR portables.  They told me to go talk to the NC PRN guys who had a booth there.  Well, fast forward to today and I now have a DMR radio sitting on my desk.

What I know so far…

Well…  I did a lot of reading to try to understand how the system is setup.  As I used to have to deal with trunking systems [in a previous life] I understand talkgroups and the problems with having too many available without the channels to support them all when you have simultaneous use.  DMR is no different.  Throughout the world I see many different thoughts on how to allocate the talkgroups to make many options for the users without completely killing the system.  Some groups do it well, others… well, I’m not sure how their systems can even work.

They systems in the Mid-Atlantic seem to do well.  I’d probably make some adjustments but overall they seem to run smoothly.  The repeaters seem to have “local” on one timeslot and everything else on another.  That keeps local open all the time for conversations.  This is in contrast to the NC PRN network which lumps local onto a timeslot with a bunch of “on-demand” talkgroups.  Their system-wide talkgroup, PRN, is kept on its own timeslot without interference.  Again, it’s all about priorities.

The system’s efficiency is at risk when you put too many users on too many talkgroups, especially when those talkgroups occupy timeslots on all the repeaters all the time.  Of course someone thought of this and created TAC-310; an on-demand talkgroup that most everyone (globally) has access to but doesn’t occupy a timeslot on a repeater unless it’s been activated there.  Makes sense, correct?  You can get off the calling channel and get over on a discrete channel that doesn’t utilize that many resources.  Unfortunately there is only one of these talkgroups.  Even on a system the size of NC PRN their get-off-of-PRN talkgroup is named ‘Southeast’ where the talkgroup has many more potential off-network users.  Still it’s all about priorities and fulfilling a certain mission.

CalDMR seems to have a good way of separating communications onto their timeslots.  I guess the hope is that you won’t have too many conversations at each level happening simultaneously.

One system I’ve been quite impressed with the Connecticut’s DMR ARES system.  Designed to facilitate intra-state communications, they have added ten tactical on-demand tactical channels to help spread out the load away from system-wide channels while supporting many simultaneous communications.  Still, I wonder about the load and whether or not the repeater congestion will be a problem.

Most of these networks are young and I suspect some shifting around will be required on all networks as well as an understanding of the priorities of the network by its users.

So where are you hanging out?

As for me, I’m listening to the North America calling channel as well as local on the Upper Marlboro and Charlotte Hall repeaters.  Feel free to give me a shout!

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The Radiobuster

The RadiobusterThe Radiobuster by Volney G. Mathison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great book that I happened to stumble upon. I’ve been looking for a book that talks about life as a commercial radio operator but have found few. This book approaches my expectations although I wish the author would have spoken more on the radio operation itself. Still this is an excellent book for anyone interested in the life of a commercial radio operator in the 1920s.

View all my reviews

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Confirmed DXCC Entity #149: South Cook Islands

E51JD QSL CardThursday was QSL bureau day (the day in which I receive cards from the bureau).  If that wasn’t exciting enough, I also received an envelope with a return address of “Rarotonga, Cook islands”!  Oh yeah, I finally got E51JD confirmed!  This is my 149th confirmed DXCC entity.

The stamp on the envelope was quite neat with a snail on it.  But it was what was inside the envelope, other than the card, that made this QSL special.

Front of a Cook Island coin Front of a Cook Island coin

 

 

 

The paper enclosed with the coin says:

The coin portrays TANGAROA,
Lord of the sea and one of the
Great deities of the Polynesian
race. In ancient times this god
was one of the principal gods of
Rarotonga and adjacent islands.
This coin was withdrawn from
circulation some months after it
was issued when it was realized
that it was the same size as a ten
cent coin used in slot machines.

Honestly, I’m just happy that my card was received at the distant end with an address that went something like (Pacific Islands via New Zealand).

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