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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

15 to 40 Meter Alpha Loop Jr & Tripod

I received my Alpha Loop Jr. today. Unpacking it, first thing which came to mind was: "solid but light!". The bag already was great, the aluminum used is thick and the list goes on...

It was a breeze to put it together immediately and I had a listen with it indoors, but really need to get out of the house for a real test. Just a shame that it's just below 32F and that it was already dark when I got home... not quite my cup of tea when it's like that. Will have to wait until the weekend for the monthly RaDAR meet up on Saturday morning!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

article from GoVerticalUSA arrived defective

I ordered the following article from GoVerticalUSA via their eBay store "jbaran33":

The portable crank tower was delivered today and I am deeply disappointed as I paid $500 for an article which is clearly defective, structural integrity is clearly breached. It was advertised as "IN NICE USED CONDITION", which it obviously is not, two of the 4 stability arms are bent/ broken and thus dangerous.

I initiated eBay complaint. Seller answered in under 12 hours, stating that damage must have occurred in transport. They stated that they will submit claim under the FedEx transport insurance.

I will keep you posted.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A fun morning and lessons learned.

For the first Saturday of this month, for the regular RaDAR on air meetup from 1600-1800h UTC, I decided to activate Little Rock's only SOTA mountain, Shinall Mountain (W5A/OA-015), in the hope that it would result in plenty contacts due to it's high location.

I had read the cautionary words of the mountains prior activator as listed on the SOTA website, warning about the significant RF noise level, but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway. Temperature was around freezing and wind chill at top of mountain gnawed at me as well... You will notice hat and thick jacket in picture :)

Plans were to erect at least my 10m vertical wire with a Spiderpole, or maybe even my dipole, but I never got that far. Why a 10m vertical? Until now my success in making contacts with my whip in flat land were minimal at best, so I considered it as my last option.

How does the saying go? Doing the same thing time and time again and expecting a different outcome, is a sign of madness? Well, I once again tried to erect my pole with guy wires, but trying this in a relatively dense Arkansan forest with rocky ground, hindering guy stakes from entering the ground for even a few inches, is no easy one man task - and especially daunting when aiming for rapid redeployment as needed for a RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) station. So I tried my pole setup once again and finally gave up on it after 50 minutes. Guy wires and antenna wire were hopelessly tangled, what a mess! If you can't insert a stake into the ground (since the ground is so hard from many rocks) as Greg N4KGL does (he gave us the link on the RaDAR Google+ forum), to initially stabilize the pole while one is placing the guys, then the pole keeps tilting and falling over when you don't have a second pair of hands to hold the pole in place... 

After that experience, around 1650Z, I was finally done with untangling wire from guy ropes. Only option I had left was to use my whip antenna, which in the past yielded practically no contacts when trying it in flat land. So I went to the HFPack 20m calling frequency, did not hear any stations after listening for a while and then began calling CQ. Calling CQ for about 3 minutes or so, when an OM came on and politely said that frequency was in use and I might like to change to 14388, since another HAM calling CQ RaDAR was down there. So I QSY to 14388 and heard some HAMs which seemed to be running a net, but I heard no mention of CQ RaDAR. After listening for a minute, I changed to the alternate HFPack 20m calling frequency and put out my CQ for several minutes, but no replies heard. So I went back to 14388 and I heard Greg N4KGL, what a pleasant surprise! RaDAR to RaDAR :)  We managed a QSO, but QRN from the numerous transmission towers on my mountain was just an enormously limiting factor, so I regretted to have had to wrap up the QSO quickly.
Went back to 20m HFPack QSY freq, but heard no one.

So went up to 17m and heard a fellow HFPacker calling CQ from Jamaica! Did not think I'd be able to catch him on 30W SSB into a whip, but I caught him with my 3rd QSO call! It was Lester W8YCM/6Y5 from Jamaica! My first Jamaican contact :)  He then encouraged me heavily to stick around to make more QSOs, but I was freezing, QRN was significant and XYL was waiting for me to return soon for lunch since noon hour had passed... He helped me along to make another 2 QSOs, thank you Les! One from the mountain top and one after I drove down a little (upon his suggestion), boy did that decrease QRN! But still, reception reports on my signal from others that he could hear, but I was unable to hear, baffled us both. 

My setup:
Barrett 2090, 30W, Arlan Communications Radiosport headset kept my ears nice and warm (!), whip, counterpoise with length as gleaned from an HFPackers website, have to look up his link again, pre- amplifier turned off (because I had expected the QRN on the mountain top). Will have it switched on in the future, which should help my receive. Les suggested a different counterpoise length, will catch up with him in a separate email...

So, a fun freezing morning! Rekindled my interest in just working with my whip! However guess that I will go and get the AlexLoop sometime very soon...

73 de Marcus NX5MK

PS: I am using the following counterpoise lengths, as written up by K0EMT:

Friday, January 3, 2014

Radishworks MissionManager, a tool for EmComm nets

The Radishworks MissionManager is worth more than just one look, I believe it deserves detailed attention by all Amateur Radio Emergency Communication, EmComm, Auxilliary Radio Communications, ARES, RACES, MARS, net managers, NCS personnel and radio net members.

Quote: "The ultimate mission and personnel situational awareness tool... Written by people who have years of experience running real missions and managing emergency personnel... Used for - Hurricane Sandy, 2013 Floods in CO and NM, 2013 US Tornados, 2013 Wildfires in CA and other states, Philippines Response, and more..."

I played with it tonight while watching a movie, it has an intuitive GUI, it is customizable for radio communication nets, giving the possibility to not only document traffic, check ins, personnel roster and other resources. No, it also allows for automated team activation via SMS or emails for example. There is your telephone tree taken care of, neat! Want to have a map showing location of all net members? It has that as well. I looked at net reports from various nets and it seems MissionManager really has something to offer.

I am now in the process of customizing it for the AHDNN Net, so that it may handle Net activation reports.

73 de Marcus NX5MK