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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WSPRing Across the Mighty Atlantic

You have to look carefully, but in the picture above you can see a little green line stretching from Rome to Maine. That's my 20 milliwatt WSPR signal crossing the Atlantic. W1CDO's receiver picked me up at 0452 UTC yesterday.

Date Call

by loc km mi
2009-04-29 4:52 N2CQR

0.020 W1CDO FN43ou 6541 4064

The day/night terminator was in the mid-Atlantic at that time, so I think I had a bit of a tailwind from the gray line! But still, not bad for 20 mw in Maunder Minimum II. K1JT's software and W1CDO's receive system did the heavy lifting. Antenna here is just an end-fed wire among the buildings of central Rome.

Goats Go QRP to the Field!

Another great video from Steve and the goats.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Flea at MIT

Nick LaPointe sent along this nice virtual tour of the famous flea market (it includes four videos):

Nick also points us to the very interesting web site of Stephanie Maksylewich (VA3UXB): http://planetstephanie.net/

Thanks Nick!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

SolderSmoke 106 Podcast


In SolderSmoke 106:

Sicily, Mt. Etna, The Godfather
DSB success on WSPR
Am I the lowest power WSPR station in the world?
Diode Ring Mixers
SolderSmoke: The Book
SolderSmoke: The Cologne?
And now, a word from our sponsor: Genesis Radio

Our first sponsor: GenesisRadio

SolderSmoke is very pleased to have GenesisRadio of Australia as our first sponsor. Check out their site: http://www.genesisradio.com.au/G40/index.html

My very ugly DSB QRPP WSPR Rig

As described in SolderSmoke 106. My beacon box is the vertical aluminum box. The junk box AF Amp lies on the shelf. Like they used to say, "It's ugly, but it gets you there."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Eldon's awesome 9V QRSS rig

Amazing! That's the whole rig, keyer chip included! And those red wires you see coming off the end -- that's the loop antenna. Here is Eldon's description of this rig:

For now, even thou it worked, I have abandoned the Water Tank QRSS Encoder, for a more traditional ID Keyer (K-ID2), and I have been busy rebuilding my 9 Volt Battery QRSS transmitter.

For my first approach, I wanted to use the Manhattan style of construction using mostly SMDs. The Oscillator was very successful even thou there were NO actual Manhattan Islands use, the components are just tacked-soldered together - I guess it would have to be called the "Ugly SMD Style".

Photos of Rev-0 are available on my web site;

Setting the frequency was tough, as the some initial installed component's had to be replaced to get it to oscillate and adjustable within the 100Hz QRSS band. The "Ugly SMD Style" of construction is possible, but circuit changes are difficult. I decided to etch a HB circuit board to provide for a more physically stable "component selection breadboard", where SMDs part values could be easily tried, by just pressing them down in place (which BTW works very well). I then decided to expand the etched board to include space for the K-ID2 Keyer - with the goal of direct QRSS modulation with very few additional components.

This all worked so well, that I constructed another for a final form. Note: the second transistor in the photos is a 78L05 voltage regulator, which is used to help with long term oscillator stabilization, and used to reduce the power requirement and provide battery longevity.

The final QRSS Beacon uses a SMD 2N3904 for the oscillator and is now transmitting 1.5mW into a 18 inch loop antenna, currently only my grabber shows the results. But - My plan is to build this Beacon into the center insulator of a 30m Dipole and then start looking for QRSS Grabber DX. The battery should last several days at this very low power.

My goal is: to achieve long distance, with a very physically-small transmitter, small part count, and with extremely low power.

It will take me several days to construct and install the dipole antenna, until then you can see this Beacon sending "WA0UWH" on the Seattle Grabber:


73's - Eldon - WA0UWH

On to the Canary Islands

Got up this morning, walked into the shack and saw on my computer screen a thin green line from Rome to the Canary Islands. I knew that my little WSPR station had reached out to new territory, and had established a new distance record (for me). Life is good!
As I've been doing, I decided to see who was at the other end of that line. It was Luis, EA8AY (pictured above). Luis's station picked up my 18 milliwatt signal at 2106 UTC on April 24. The distance was 1871 miles (3011 kilometers). I was 23 db below the noise.
Luis has a very nice web page: http://www.ea8ay.com/index.html (Warning: This site will likely cause feelings of extreme jealousy: Luis is living in a fantastic location, with a beautiful family AND he is the owner of an Argonaut 509!)
On his site, Luis has a nice video that will give you a sense of what WSPR is like:

wspr with 100 mw from luis on Vimeo.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Crossing a small bit of the pond...

I got into WSPR because I wanted to one day walk into my shack and be greeted by a Google map with big long lines showing my milliwatt signal stretching bravely across various oceans. That hasn't really happened yet, but I got a taste of it this morning courtesy of OY3JE's WSPR station. Jan lives in the Faroe islands, about 1600 miles from me. Last night at around 2300 UTC my 18 mw WSPR signal made it to Jan's location. I was 29 db below the noise. Thanks Jan!
(The images above and below are of Jan's locations in the Faroe islands (from his site).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

WSPRing along at 27 db below the noise....

WSPR is fun. I haven't crossed any ponds yet, but the real- time displays of the reception reports are very addictive:
Be sure to click on the map display also.

I was intrigued by the Signal to Noise ratio column, and wondered what the reference bandwidth for the noise was. K1JT's pages show the reference bandwidth is 2500 Hz, and that WSPR can decode signals that are as much as 27 db below that noise.

That's great. I guess I don't have to worry about the lower sideband of my 30 mw signal causing anyone any trouble. It will be very far down in the noise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Are Diode Ring Mixers Fundamentally Different?

Joop, PE1CQP, and I have been discussing mixer circuits, especially the ever-popular diode ring.
Here is my latest e-mail to Joop. The RSGB diagram for the ring diode mixer appears above.

Joop: I think the way the diode ring mixer works is very different from the way a two diode singly balanced mixer functions. The effect, of course, is the same. But the polarity reversing element introduced by the ring configuration -- it seems to me -- makes this a very different circuit.

Attached is the RSGB Handbook diagram I mentioned. I like it, because you can really SEE how the actions of the diode ring produce the sum and difference freqs (you have to keep Fourier in mind, and imagine the results of filtering).

The two diode circuit simply "chops" the input signal at the rate of the LO. And it would even work in a non-switching mode -- you could, for example, use FETs instead of the diodes and bias them to operate in the non-linear portion of their curves, right? This makes me think that the diode ring mixer circuits (aka "polarity switching mixers" or "commutating mixers") are very different.

73 Bill

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Balloon! Project Blue Horizon Reaches Mid-Atlantic

Wow, that's an exciting track. The intrepid radio amateurs at Cornell University have a balloon up over the mid-Atlantic. It is approaching my old stomping grounds in the Azores. Beacons are onboard and reports are requested. Here are some more details:

Balloon Launch - Assist in Tracking

The NS3 group of Cornell University engineering graduate students will launch PBH-9 (Project Blue Horizon) from Lockheed Martin in Owego NY on Sunday evening, 19 Apr 09, at approximately 21:00 EDT (Monday, 20 Apr 09, 01:00UT)

This ARHAB flight (Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning) will ascend and then float for up to 50-hours while drifting to the east.

The payload will include a KC2TUA-8 144.390 APRS beacon
(track via (http://findu.com/cgi-bin/find.cgi?call=KC2TUA-8)
and HF CW position report and telemetry downlinks on 7.104MHz and 10.148MHz.

The NS3 PBH-9 team requests distant ground stations receive and report HF telemetry via N2XE@arrl.net including reception UT date and time.

Distant receiving stations are welcome to also submit HF
reception reports to W0RPK@amsat.org for the ARHAB <50mhz href="http://showcase.netins.net/web/wallio/ARHABrecords.htm" target="_blank">http://showcase.netins.net/web/wallio/ARHABrecords.htm.

Additional PBH-9 information including HF telemetry transmit schedule and format is available via

Flight updates are available from the NS3 PBH-9 team
via http://twitter.com/pbh3.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

WSPR Double Sideband Success!

Oh, how sweet it is. Today I finally got my WSPR station working. Before departing for Sicily, I installed a diode ring mixer (supplied by Jim, AL7RV) between my MEPT oscillator and my two stage 50 mw power amplifier. I thought I might have enough audio coming out of my sound card to modulate the transmitter, but I soon found out that I needed more AF. Lazy after a week on the road in sunny and snowy Sicily, I reached into the junkbox and pulled out the guts of an old computer speaker amplifier. Some really ugly jerry-rigging ensued. The amp is now sitting near the TX, powered by its own 9V battery. Looks like I'm getting about 25 mw out, but that's from both sidebands. So I'm guessing I'm at around 10 mw.

Following guidance from Gene, W3PM (whose FB SSB rig inspired this effort), I set my oscillator at 10138700. That puts the upper sideband in the middle of the WSPR band.

Here's my first set of reports:

Reported Distance
Date Call

km mi
2009-04-19 18:32 N2CQR

1353 841
2009-04-19 18:32 N2CQR

1343 835
2009-04-19 18:30 N2CQR

1353 841
2009-04-19 18:26 N2CQR

977 607
2009-04-19 18:26 N2CQR

1519 944
2009-04-19 18:26 N2CQR

1343 835
2009-04-19 18:24 N2CQR

1343 835
2009-04-19 14:24 N2CQR

1601 995

Hey, is this a first? Has anyone else run WSPR DSB?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sicily, Mt. Etna... and The Godfather

Here's some Italy travelogue, well, actually Sicily travelogue. Above, our two heroes are seen with the Etna volcano in the background. Etna is Europe's largest active volcano. It was spitting out lava while we were there. The top is currently at about 10,800 feet (3300 meters). (It varies!) We went up to the 8200 feet (2480 meters) level (via cable car). Here is what it looked like from there:
It was COLD up there. We didn't stay long. Within 90 minutes of this picture being taken, the kids were back at sea level, and in the pool at 80F.

Here is a GoogleEarth View. The yellow marker shows the place at which we took the picture of us in the snow. (The Google shots were from May/June 2006).

Those of you who are fans of The Godfather movie will remember this scene:
Well, here we are, in the same place (but without the shotguns):

Francis Ford Coppola filmed most of the Sicilian scenes not in Western Sicily (where the village of Corleone really is) but in the East, near the beach resort of Taormina, in the village of Savoca. The Bar Vitelli is where Michael Corleone met Apollonia's father. Savoca also has the church where Michael and Apollonia began their brief and unfortunately explosive marriage.

We really liked Sicily. It is a beautiful place, rich in history, and with really nice people.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In Sicily

No posts to blog this week -- we are in Sicily, near the Etna volcano.
Beautiful place. Will talk about this in next podcast. 73

Saturday, April 11, 2009

SolderSmoke Podcast #105

On #105: 


Italy Earthquake
SBL-1 Blues
Clockwork minimalism
QST articles (design, HBR RX)
Spring SPRAT
Blog stuff
ECHO-QSO with Mike, WA6ARA

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Parachutes and QRSS

Kevin, AA7YQ, has made innovative use of a parachute. You are right Kevin, this must be a first:

Howdy Bill,
It’s Kevin here in Montana, the ex-Smokejumper. I’ve been meaning to write again. Thanks for the nice comment on SS #100 I got a kick out of it. Anyhow, just thought I’d drop you a note to let you know I finally had a weekend to design and build up a QRSS beacon. I used a Cypress PSoC CY24123A uC to function as the Crystal Oscillator, and keyer. The final is two paralleled BS-170 MOSFETs running in Class-E mode to give me about 560mW out with a 7.5volt Lantern battery as my supply, total system power efficiency is about 63%(RFout over DC in), I’m sure this could be significantly improved, but good enough for now. After several hours of tweaking the capacitor values I finally got the oscillator to fall into the 100Hz window. That was MUCH harder than I had anticipated. With the original version I switched the PA on and off for true QRSS 3 CW, but found this made a significant frequency drift problem. So I added a couple parts and modified the PSoC code a bit, now its running CWFSK, switching about 1.1pF on and off one leg of the XTAL, shifting the frequency about 10Hz and much more stable.

My first tests were with the board sitting on the bench under the desk lamp. This caused all kinds of drift problems. I then put the beacon in a Tupperware container and placed it inside a soft case cooler. I was looking around the shack for a blanket or something to further improve the insulation, when low and behold sitting in a garbage sack… was a condemned FS-14 parachute (equivalent to the SF-10A) that I was planning using for something useful. So I wrapped the chute around the cooler and stuffed it all back in the garbage sack. Surprisingly, temperature stabilization was achieved, beyond my expectations.

The beacon is running good now, nice and stable. I’m fairly certain, that in the history of mankind, no one has ever used a parachute to improve the temperature drift characteristics of a QRSS beacon. Anyhow, I plan on having it fired up quite a bit, so that my antenna is actually put to some good use. It seems I rarely get a chance for one to one contacts anymore. Most of my free time is spent designing and building the radios I never use. Ha. I guess the design and building is the real fun for me.

Anyhow, I’ll talk to you later. 73s Kevin, AA7YQ

PS the Beacon is sending “AA7YQ” followed by a several second pause. It’s showing up on the K6HX grabber between 10.140050 and 10.140060.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

2N35s, 1955... and some inspiration from AA1TJ

From Michael, AA1TJ:

Bill, I was re-reading Ade, W0RSP's "History of QRP" last night; especially that last chapter on transistor rigs. It dawned on me that the two 2N35 transistors that I'm presently using in my 40m transmitter were built two months before Bob, W7UUZ's famous, maiden transistor QRP contacts in August of 1955. While we can't go back and beat Lindbergh's first solo crossing of the Atlantic, for example, a fellow could re-live some of the excitement by building a replica of The Spirit of St. Louis and taking it up for a spin. If anything, it gives one a better appreciation of the hurdles those early trailblazers had to leap.

That's Michael's 2N35 rig pictured above. For more details see:

Michael also put a really great message on QRP-L earlier this week. I hope he reprints that on his blog.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

SolderSmoke: On Sale on Thai Beaches!

An interesting e-mail from Thailand arrived this week. Excerpts:

Hi Bill Now for the full story

Life was so uncomplicated and peaceful before soldersmoke!

Last October I was lying on the beach in Pattaya City Thailand. I was just lying there enjoying a cold rice beer watching the various peddlers trudging along the sand. I wasn't bothering anyone and thought I was enjoying my retired life style. (Little did I know what was about to happen). Casually the wife reminded me there was a Ham club meeting in about three hours, I should hold off on another beer. Ok, I'll manage till later.

Pattaya Thailand has a great little Ham Radio club with locals from all parts of the world enjoying the one universal hobby without boundaries.

We showed up at the meeting on time and found a nice corner table. ( now the plug for the club - the meetings are the Friday after the first Sunday of every month and are held at Jimbos Bar). After about an half a beer a friend from England wandered over and sat next to me. He produced a CD from his pocket and said is was SolderSmoke, would I like to buy a copy for 100Baht. (approx. 3.00US) . As with most normal people, my first question was, what is soldersmoke? This was my first big mistake. I should have said not interested and looked for other friends that were arriving. But, no, I had to ask what was SolderSmoke.

My friend tried to explain, but feel short of being able to fully relay the meaning of the word SolderSmoke. If I remember correctly there were episodes 1 thru 80 something. I took the CD back to my house. and the next day spent over 5 hours glued to the CD player. My world was beginning to crumble.

I listened to more episodes. and started to think in terms of QRSS, QRPp, long wires etc. This new terminology was fascinating. I grew up in Idaho and was first licensed in 1963. I still have my first rigs that consisted of a Hammarlund HQ-100 and a Knight Kit T-60. I apparently had the knack at age 13 or so, but didn't know what it was called then. hi hi

In a couple of SolderSmoke episodes there was mention of a Drake 2B, a great receiver in all respects. I found myself wanting one (I sure didn't need one), and looking every where. I bought one in great condition with the original for sale tag still on it. It even had the crystal calibrator installed.

Now my vocabulary has expanded to whisperers, grabbers, mickums, reggies, knights of the realm and other terms before unknown to my vocabulary. Fessenden was a terrific individual although I'd never heard the name before episode 90 something. I started to build a QRSS beacon. I am in constant contact with Michael Rainey , AA1TJ. He is a great guy and has helped with a lot of questions.

For the first time in several years I am involved with something I enjoy. This is really fun I said to myself after fabricating a one transistor transmitter patterned after the discontinued ONER. 0-Yes let's not forget Mr. Doug Demaw, I bought the QRP notebook and Solid State Design (I didn't tell the XYL how much this book cost).

I've always been taught that addictions are bad things. I am in serious trouble now. I am thoroughly and completely addicted to SolderSmoke. I get impatient and unpredictable when the podcasts are a little late being posted on the internet. It's just like getting your fix for the week. Yes, fix for the week because it doesn't last the full two weeks. hi hi

I guess this is a non e-cursing thank you kind of Email. SolderSmoke has ruined my life, but my new life is much better with it.

Hope this epistle hasn't bored you to much. Your providing a great focal point for fellow knack victims.

Only thing left to say Bill, is KEEP ON SMOKIN!

Thanks for SolderSmoke

73 de
Stephen (Himself) (seems like everyone has a nickname)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More Seismic Action

Two more fairly strong jolts today, both from the same region NE of here. The 4.9 was very noticeable at 11:25 am local time, and the 5.6 really shook the apartment at 19:47 local.
The USGS site is really very useful and up-to-date. Lots of data. For example, we learned that the compression wave from the 5.6 jolt took about 15 seconds to reach Rome. The people up in Abruzzo are really suffering and each one of these aftershocks makes things worse for them.

y/m/d h:m:s
MAP 5.6 2009/04/07 17:47:38 42.349 13.405 13.1 CENTRAL ITALY
MAP 4.5 2009/04/07 17:32:53 32.984 47.833 10.0 IRAN-IRAQ BORDER REGION
MAP 5.0 2009/04/07 15:18:41 37.620 -17.441 8.3 AZORES-CAPE ST. VINCENT RIDGE
MAP 4.7 2009/04/07 14:50:02 46.099 151.609 58.1 KURIL ISLANDS
MAP 2.9 2009/04/07 14:46:42 33.883 -116.872 14.4 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
MAP 4.5 2009/04/07 14:20:10 -7.970 122.916 236.7 FLORES SEA
MAP 5.1 2009/04/07 13:29:48 -6.976 129.425 69.7 BANDA SEA
MAP 2.9 2009/04/07 13:10:43 19.256 -65.076 63.6 VIRGIN ISLANDS REGION
MAP 2.9 2009/04/07 10:08:55 32.209 -116.626 0.0 BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO
MAP 4.9 2009/04/07 09:26:31 42.336 13.360 10.0 CENTRAL ITALY

Monday, April 6, 2009

Earthquake Hits Central Italy

A 6.3 earthquake woke us up last night. Rome was shaking quite a bit. Looks like the epicenter was up in Abruzzo, near L'Aquila. News reports indicate that buildings have collapsed and people have been killed up there.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Deep Solar Minimum

Farhan alerted us to this. From the NASA website:

April 1, 2009:
The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower.
2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots observed on 266 of the year's 366 days (73%). To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days: plot. Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008.
Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year's 90 days (87%).
It adds up to one inescapable conclusion: "We're experiencing a very deep solar minimum," says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
"This is the quietest sun we've seen in almost a century," agrees sunspot expert David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
For the rest of the article:

The Siren Song of WSPR...WSPR DSB?

Man, that's the kind of map that I want to find on the screen when I walk into the shack in the morning. Or maybe on my Blackberry at lunchtime. Above you can see the WSPR spots for Jeff, KO7M. You can see Jerry, NR5A, in there, proudly representing South Dakota. Buried under the Northeast calls is K1JT, the only Nobel Prize winner in the group.
This morning I downloaded K1JT's WSPR program and was very pleased to find that it runs nicely on this old, rickety Windows 2000 machine. (I pushed the envelope a bit and tried to get it to run on my recently revived Toshiba Satellite Pro 400CS, but it didn't seem to like Windows 3.1. ) I have on the workbench the plans for W3PM's bare bones WSPR transceiver and the WSPR care package sent over by Jim AL7RV.
Here is my plan: Make W3PM's rig even simpler. TX only (at first) and Double Sideband. Maybe I'll just put an SBL-1 mixer between the oscillator and the RF amp in my current Visual MEPT transmitter. (I'll make it switchable so that I can go back to our beloved visual mode whenever I want.) Then add W3PM's audio amplifiers between line out on the sound card and the audio input port on the SBL-1.
What do you guys think? WSPR DSB? The other sideband should fall FAR outside the band, and it will almost certainly be completely down in the noise for anyone not running ARGO or SPECTRAN-like software.
Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column