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Friday, June 27, 2008

Over the Alps with 5 Milliwatts and Solar Power

Yesterday morning the lower portion of the 30 meter QRSS band was dominated by three Italian stations: Near the bottom of ON5EX's grabber screen was the very clear and FB CW of Fabio, IK0IXI. Fabio runs about 50 milliwatts to a Windom and operates from Civitavecchia, a beautiful coastal town about 20 miles from Rome. Here you can take a look at his rig, and his schematic: A bit further up were the droopy dashes of yours truly, 200 mw (QRO!) to my all-purpose end-fed wire. And a bit further up from me was the very interesting signal of Paolo, IZ1KXQ. Paolo runs 5 milliwatts from a super-simple solar powered rig (see above) that resides on the roof of his house. It puts out a distinctive square wave sig.

IKoIXI's crystal is in an oven and is temperature stabilized. He stays on the same freq all day. We've found that my signal seems to drift down in freq during the course of the day, as Rome heats up. It moves about 15 hz down from early morning to afternoon. IZ1KXQ's rig is more exposed to the heat, and seems to move quite a bit more, and his sig moves UP in freq. I think this drifting adds to the QRSS fun.
FB Paolo! FB Fabio!

Here is IZ1KXQ's schematic:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Crossing the Pond on 200 milliwatts QRSS

As you can probably tell, I was really pleased to get my little QRSS station in operation. But then came some icing on the cake: Vernon, VE1VDM, sent a screen shot (above) that showed the unmistakable traces of my somewhat chirpy signal. Look around 10140020 Hz . See those kind of droopy dashes? They're mine! (Johan, ON5EX, called them "Italian tears.") Hooray! Crossing the pond on 200 milliwatts!

Of course, this is no big deal in the QRSS world. 200 milliwatts is decidedly QRO for these fellows. I feel some pressure to reduce power. I also feel the urge to clean up the chirp, but then again, the Italian tears make spotting the signal easier.

For a great explanation of how QRSS allows you to pull signals out of the noise see ON7YD's excellent article:

The online "grabbers" add a very interesting dimension to this. You can watch the band from stations around the world simultaneously. Take a look at I2NDT's grabber compendium:

Here's something else that I found really cool: I can watch the grabbers on my Blackberry! So, the other day, with my beacon on, as I made my way through central Rome on the 63 bus, I pulled out the Blackberry and opened ON5EX's grabber page. There I could see my droopy dashes at 10140020. Now I've got my eye on the grabber of Laurence, 9V1LF, in Singapore; I hope to put some Italian tears on his screen soon.

Guys, this real "essence of QRP" stuff. I'm reading Ade Weiss's book on the history of QRP, and I often find myself thinking that The Old Man and the QRPers of yesteryear would very much approve of QRSS.

It may seem complicated, but it is not. The transmit systems are just milliwatt crystal-controlled transmitters and some sort of keyer (mine is from K1EL). For receive, all you need is a cable from your receiver to your soundcard, and some free software.

We need more QRSS activity from the States. When will AA1TJ put one of those Zener Diode rigs on 10140030?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

QRSS Success -- Signals Visible in Online Grabbers

Shortly after recording SolderSmoke 86 (in which I shared my tale of QRSS woe), I solved my calibration problem. IK3NWX has a CW beacon on 10141800 Hz. I fired up the Spectran soundcard program, and put the output of my Drake 2-B into the line in connector. With the 2B's bandpass wide, I tuned NWX's beacon to the top of the display. I then adjusted the trimmer cap on my oscillator to put me 1750 Hz below NWX. Eccolo! That put me in the 100Hz wide QRSS band. Almost immediately I could "see myself" on some of the on-line "grabbers." Vic, G3GKI, sent a screen shot (above) You can see some chirp on my signal. I might fix that, but I might leave it as is to make the signal more easily recognizable.

Eddie, G3ZJO, also sent a screen shot. I think this one is from an online grabber located in Northern Italy. You can see Eddie's far more sophisticated signal higher up in the display. My more rudimentary effort appears below. You can make out my call.

The online grabbers are a real hoot. My favorite is that of Johan, ON5EX. Check it out and see if you can see my 200 milliwatts reaching out across Europe. look for me around 10140020. Johan's page updates every minute or so:

Sunday, June 22, 2008


June 22, 2008

Maritime Mobile on Lake Bracciano.
Jean Shepherd loses girlfriend due to THE KNACK.
30 Meter transmitter self-constructs (almost).
QRSS Woes.
Do CW signals have sidebands?
Freq Counter down for the count.
Dial Parallax: Drake 2B jumps 3 kc from eyeball to eyeball.
Radio Shack: Count your blessings!
Nice wire from old computers.
Good luck on Field Day.
Frank on analog scopes,
PE1OIT on si570 chips,
KG4ENB on 179 kc LOWFERS,
M0NJP on how XYL's can deal with THE KNACK,
K7JM on SolderSnow,
W8OAJ SolderSmoke as Knack Therapy,
Jonathan 7J1AWL "from commuter train in Tokyo"

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jason, the Argonauts, and QRP

You don't often find beauty in software read-me files, but I found some in those of I2PHD and IK2CZL. Take a look at this. It is from the read-me file for a Slow Speed CW program:
ARGO -- A QRSS Viewer by I2PHD & IK2CZL

Argo is program for viewing QRSS signals, i.e. very
slow CW, or DFCW signals, i.e. slow CW where dots and
dashes are of the same length, but offset in frequency
by a few Hertz, or even a fraction of an Hertz.

The name Argo is taken from that mythical ship which,
with the Argonauts on board, headed to Colchis,
in the quest for the Golden Fleece, much like the LF
Hams are in search of that fraction of dB of S/N which
will allow them to make that elusive QSO.


Here is where you can get the Argo software.
Free! And lots of other good programs
(check out Spectran):

Bravo Alberto! Grazie!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I blame Hans Summers for this. His articles in SPRAT on very slow speed, very low power CW on 30 meters have caused me to develop a new set of Knack symptoms. I now listen intently to CW that is so slow that by the time I get to the end of a letter, I've forgotten if it started with a dit or a dah. I've become intimately familiar with the refresh rates of strange web sites known as "Grabbers" (I'd never heard of them before. See above for a sample.) And for the first time in my life as a radio amateur, using crystal control is no guarantee that I'm "in the band."

My 30 meter QRSs 200 mw "MEPT" beacon is on the air, but no one has heard me yet. This is almost certainly due to the fact that I'm probably outside the QRSs "band." This band is only 100 HERTZ wide! I'm using a 10.140 Mhz crystal, but the circuit values of my oscillator could easily put me out of that band. And Murphy struck: Just days before I started all this, my frequency counter died. My trusty Drake 2B is of little help in measuring frequency to this accuracy: The dial increments are 10 KILOhertz! And the 2B suffers from a problem totally unfamiliar to those who have grown up with glowing numerals: DIAL PARALAX! (It sounds like Knack-related disease, doesn't it? "I'm sorry m'am, your son Dilbert also has a bad case of DIAL PARALAX!!!")

Wish me luck. Don't blame me if you succumb to QRSs madness. Remember: it is all Hans Summers' fault.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Mama mia! Now that's an antenna! Put your HW-8 on that one and you'd be in business!
Here are some more shots of the Woodpecker antenna complex:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Jean Shepherd: KNACK VICTIM!

Guys, stop what you are doing. Put down that soldering iron, or that cold Miller High Life ("the champagne of bottled beer") and click on the link below. You will be transported back to 1965, and will hear master story-teller Jean Shepherd (K2ORS) describing his teenage case of The Knack. He discusses his efforts to build a Heising modulated transmitter for 160 meters. He had trouble getting it working, and became obsessed with the problem, obsessed to the point that a girl he was dating concluded that there was "something wrong with him" and that his mother "should take him to a doctor."

This one is REALLY good. It takes him a few minutes to get to the radio stuff, but it is worth the wait. More to follow. EXCELSIOR! FLICK LIVES!

SolderSmoke 85: Special QSO with WA6ARA

June 8, 2008 

Echo-QSO with WA6ARA!

Phoenix lands on Mars.
Beacon operations.
Adrian Weiss, W0RSP. FB QRP Author.
Need correspondent for Flea at MIT.
Understanding balanced modulators.
Dan's accident (Dan's Small Parts).
Hendricks Cap Kit.

"Hot Iron" Journal of The Constructor's Club
The Woodpecker.
MAILBAG (Return of the GONG!):

KC0PEI on "IP Telepathy"

Mark Z on a crank-up Pocket Pixie.

Ramakrishnan in Singapore.
Niels PE1OIT on Robert E. Pease.
Jerry NR5A: Cursed with Beacon Madness.
Echolink QSO with Mike, WA6ARA.

Download the SolderSmoke Podcast at

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The I-QRP Club Magazine

The Italian QRP Club (I-QRP) has a very nice quarterly bulletin. They have recently started to present a good portion of the articles in both Italian and English. The May 2008 edition is very FB, with many good articles, including one on impedance matching with broadband transformers.
Thanks to the I-QRP Club for making this available to hams around the world!

Here's the link:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Beacon Rig I0/N2CQR 28.240 MHz 1 Watt

Just a few shots of my new beacon rig. The first shows the Beacon Box on the shelf above the HW-8, attached to the battery. I've been running the beacon on solar power, using my two Volkswagen panels.

Here's a look under the hood: The larger board is a crystal controlled 1 watt transmitter (Dour DeMaw's ("Lil' Slugger"). The smaller board is K1EL's amazing keyer. I've left space for a 30 meter QRPp QRSS transmitter.

Finally, here is the "Sideswiper" aka "Cootie Keyer" I threw together in order to get my beacon message into the keyer. I discovered that I need a lot of practice on horizontal CW!
Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column