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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's resolution

So I was able to fulfill 4 out of my 7 aims for Amateur Radio during 2013:

- I passed the Extra exam
- built a portable NVIS antenna
- expanded my portable solar and hand crank power solution
- installed and successfully used my mobile HF/ VHF/ UHF solution

But was unable to:
- go hiking/ operate portable at least 1x/ month (a devastating apartment building fire necessitating an emergncy move, passing a board exam, on call duties, did not make it easy..., valid excuses? I fear it will have to suffice)
- get proficient at CW @ 20 wpm (learning for my board exam and setting up a new program at my institution occupied my learning resources)
- organize jamboree on the air for the local boy scouts (regrettably the Little Rock Boy Scouts jamboree fell right into the time of my board exam... But interest was stirred by the Boy Scouts sufficiently, that they contacted a local club for other HAMs to aid them, so in essence, mission accomplished!)

So what's in store for 2014?

- CW @ 20 wpm
- operate /p at least once a month
- build a CERT group arranged around our local fire station (see my 2013 SET report)
- continue building RaDAR and AHDNN

I will thus stay busy. ...and you?

Happy New Year!

73 de Marcus NX5MK

Sunday, December 15, 2013

All emergencies in Arkansas are local? Not!

History has taught us time and time again that the unexpected happens. But, it has also taught us that not everything is unexpected. Often it is ignorance which leads to false assumptions prior to an incident, resulting in inadequate preparedness. Other times it's...

If you look at weather related incidents, for example on these websites:
you will immediately notice that many incidents and emergencies every year are of grand proportions, certainly not local - that's for sure!

So you think we here in Arkansas may have a few tornadoes or some thunderstorms wreaking havoc - locally. Correct! But, there's more. See the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management website:

The NEXT BIG ONE is a matter of WHEN, NOT IF.

So you as an Amateur Radio operator want to rely on VHF voice comms and repeaters? As the history pages cited above show us clearly: to fail to learn from history, is to learn to fail during the next big one.

Chances are nearly 50% in the next 50 years. If the lottery had odds that high, we'd all play!

So what can YOU do while having fun with our hobby? Get your General class licence, it's easy! ...and then get yourself an HF transceiver, load the free NBEMS software suite with FLDIGI and get on the air. Grow as an individual and as a communicator. Do VHF Digital on simplex and voice and digital on HF.

Join the Razorback Net for HF voice and check into the Arkansas NBEMS Net for HF digital. Join a local ARES group. If they are non existent in your area or do not follow the ARES EC Manual in their words and actions, e.g. they offer no training in the various communications methods, then join SATERN, join the Red Cross, join MARS or found a CERT group - your local fire fighters will love you for it. Learn to be a Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR) operator. This hobby of ours is great and your kids will love it too.

Any questions? Just ask. I have great Elmer's and would be more than happy to help you too. 


by Paul M. Segal, W9EEA (1928)

The Radio Amateur is:

CONSIDERATE..... never knowingly operating in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

LOYAL..... offering loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs and the American Radio Relay League, through which Amateur Radio in the United States is represented nationally and internationally.

PROGRESSIVE..... with knowledge abreast of science, a well built and efficient station, and operation beyond reproach.

FRIENDLY..... with slow and patient operation when requested, friendly advice and counsel to the beginner, kindly assistance, co-operation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the hallmarks of the amateur spirit.

BALANCED..... Radio is an advocation, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

PATRIOTIC..... with station and skill always ready for service to country and community.

73 de Marcus NX5MK

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Little Rock Fire Station 16 CERT initiative

Are you interested in supporting your family, neighbors, local community and fire fighters? Do you live close to Little Rock Fire Station 16 located at:

11000 Southridge
Little Rock, AR 72212

Are you an Amateur Radio or Citizen band operator or do you know one who is your neighbor? Do you want to offer other skills and enthusiasm or are interested to learn about how to help yourself and your family? Do you know how you would contact your fire station if the phone nets were down for any reason? Reply to my post, let's talk about it and join in!

Friday, December 13, 2013

"tactical" communications - a misnomer - and inaccurate

Some Amateur Radio operators just love to use the term "tactical communications". What is that supposed to imply? Let's look at the definition in Marriam Webster's Dictionary:

or better yet:

Do we as Amateur Radio operators really want to go that way? Would "local voice communications" not be more accurate in what "tactical communications" is supposed to convey? Would this not show how professional we can be even though we are "amateurs"? Do we really need military terminology? Do we really want to be perceived in such a way?

I say no.

What's even worse, the implied sole description of "local voice communications" is only a (small) part of what "tactical communications" are.

Friday, November 15, 2013

RaDAR Contest QTH No. 2 I went on to my QTH No. 2.

I packed up my gear as detailed in my prior post, drove by car to the car park as detailed on the map and went on my 1+ km walk to QTH No. 2, which I actually overshot, since I did not read my map properly and do not have a dedicated GPS unit. I left most of my gear for QTH No. 1 in the car and just went with transceiver and a 10m long wire, in the hope to find a suitable tree to swing my wire into. That - as always - needed a lot of time... and the angle of the wire was likely around 30 degrees, certainly not what I had hoped for.

On my walk to QTH No. 2 I had gone with my whip attached to have a listen for where I might encounter traffic. I did hear some RaDAR (!) conversation on 20m, but the conversation was without any breaks, so no chance for me to throw my call sign in.

I then arrived at QTH No. 2 and launched the wire and went on hunting, called CQ multiple times on all HFPack bands (except for interrupting the above conversation) between 10m and 40m (except WARC), but no takers.

By now it was 1754Z so I thought to give the RaDAR stations on 14.3425 MHz another try - and yes - they were about to wrap up and I threw my call in :)    KM4V/M on the road and just arriving at Atlanta, GA. He then referred me to N0OY who was also on frequency - another RaDAR/PM HAM!

So 5 minutes before the end of the contest, I had my 3rd and 4th contact for the contest, these now with 30W.

Thinking back on my /PM outings, I always needed a lot of time setting up a long wire antenna if I did not make a contact via my whip. Going forwards, what antenna setup will I migrate to? I love my half wave dipole, but for the 10m pole I need a lot of space (and time) for the guy ropes. Will the Alexloop do the trick for me, given that Greg N4KGL has such good results with it (on CW...), or shall I invest in a 21 foot tripod  or else?

RaDAR sure challenges the operator in the fast QTH changes with (too much?) time lost in more "traditional" antenna set ups like dipoles.

73 de Marcus NX5MK

...and yes - I did send an APRS beacon.

Arkansas Simulated Emergency Test (SET) 2013

The 2013 Arkansas Simulated Emergency Test (SET) was held on November 2, 2013, from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM.

Having received the kind permission of Assistant Fire Chief Coney, Captain Hensley and the Fire Station 16 Team approximately 2 months prior to the event, I set up my gear at my local Fire Station 16 around 08:45h. Minor challenge were overhead power lines at one side of the property.

Knowing this and given that the SET simulated communications blackout throughout Arkansas secondary to Ice Storm, I brought along a dozen electric fence posts (approx.  2.5 feet long), which I stuck under the trees with orientation as outlined in aerial photo and upon which I erected a low half-wave dipole antenna (AT-1743).
From this I ran my coax to the front door of the Fire Station, but set up just short of it, since the weather was so nice, although my coax would have easily extended inside the building. Overall set-up time: approximately 15 minutes. To this I connected my HF transceiver as detailed and ran on battery power with 10W output throughout the 2 hour SET (signal report of 55 by NCS, receive of all net stations was 59).
Additionally I set up my hand held 2m transceiver (5W) and monitored the local repeater output frequency, as well as the repeater input frequency and the National 2m Calling Frequency 146.520.

Check-in into HF and VHF nets was successfully completed. The overall length of the SET regrettably did not allow passing of any "test messages" from my station. I conclude that a half wave dipole antenna on the 80m band, suspended on electric fence posts at an elevation of just under 3 feet, is a viable Rapid Deployment Amateur Radar (RaDAR) EmComm setup for voice communications (at least in dry weather). It remains to be seen how this setup would fare in a real ice storm.

Given the scenario for this SET of an ice storm with total loss of communications and vehicular transportation, it seems to make sense for Amateur Radio operators to volunteer their services to their local fire station or other agency and to build up a working relationship. For me, it made sense to get into contact with Fire Station 16, since I live just a short walk away - excellent given the scenario of the SET. I intend to build on this initial encounter and return monthly to my local fire station to check in to the Arkansas Razorback HF Voice Net.

I thank Assistant Fire Chief Coney, Captain Hensley and the entire Fire Station 16 Team for allowing me to participate from their property! I consider this the beginning of a successful "CERT" partnership and hope that other local HAMs will be able to join in in the future.

73 de Marcus NX5MK


Update Nov 26, 2013:

Have you seen this report?

Letters: "Localization of Response," CERT on Long Island
Our deployment protocol for an event is based on the member's proximity to a key location (fire house, police station, EOC, et cetera). On an as-needed basis, each member will cover the location closest to their QTH -- usually less than one mile away. Only the EC and AEC's operate net control from the EOC. We don't want amateur operators driving around in hazardous conditions.

Seems like a common sense approach - and was the model for initiating the CERT AuxComm initiative detailed above.

73 de Marcus NX5MK

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How I keep my Genasun GV5 safe when backpacking

In this post I will show one aspect of my portable solar solution, namely how I keep my Genasun GV5 safe when backpacking, going portable, going /PM.

I chose the Genasun GV5 since it does NOT discharge my battery at night, has a small form factor and is an MPPT controller:

I have it hooked up to a Powerfilm Solar rollable panel:,6580
since they are waterproof and I happened to land a good deal when I bought it. But even with "standard" prices, they are highly competitive.

This is all connected to a A123 Energy Solutions Nanophosphate 12V battery. I chose it for it's weight, integrated charge controller and for it's cycle life (compare carefully to other Li chemistries, there ARE differences):

One thing though: the connections of the Genasun GV-5 to the rest are a little tricky, since it's connections only really lend themselves for a fixed installation. 

Thus, I made myself a little box (out of a sturdy but flexible plastic food container) with bananaplug sockets (I prefer them over Anderson Powerpoles, but that's another story and one man's meat is another man;s poison...), so I keep the GV5 somewhat protected in the box and have fast connect/ disconnect to panel and battery. 

73 de Marcus NX5MK

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What is the difference between a RaDAR and a SOTA station?

...the difference between RaDAR and SOTA. The summit is the operations destination of the SOTA operator. The journey to the summit (including, and back) is the operations focus of the RaDAR operator. For every five QSO's, the RaDAR operator is required to move (on the move QSO's are allowed as long as the five QSO rule is valid)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

new call sign - new blog

So this is my new blog, the blog for Amateur Radio callsign NX5MK, recently upgraded to Extra class, prior callsign KD0JKM.

You can find my prior blog here:

New posts coming soon - thank you for your visit!

73 de Marcus NX5MK