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Sunday, November 29, 2009

No Smoke, but stars, an HW-8, and one (dead) Cinghiale!

No podcast today -- we were out in the country. As you can see from the picture above, the question of just how big the Sabina wild boars really are has been answered. The one pictured above was shot today very close to our country place (neither Billy nor Maria did the shooting!) The hunters tell us that this one was considered a big one. As you can see, it is about the size of Billy.

I had the telescope out this weekend -- we were looking at the moon, Jupiter, Mars, and the Orion nebula. Also watched a satellite going over shortly before dawn. And one meteor.

I was on the air a bit, on the CQ WW DX contest. Worked about six stations. Was on 40, 20, and 15 with the HW-8.

I will try to get SS 119 out as soon as I can. I hope all you turkey eaters had a good holiday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Electronics Animations

Oh man, this the kind of thing that makes my hand-drawn diagrams seem even more inadequate. If this is the new standard, I'm in trouble! Jim, K9JM, sent this to us. Thanks Jim.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

50 stations receive my 20 mW DSB Ubuntu WSPR signals

In less than a week of intermittent WSPR operations with the new Ubuntu WSPR 2.0, 50 stations have received my awesome 20 mW Double Sideband HB WSPR signal. (Am I still the only station in the world running WSPR DSB?) 49 of the stations have been in Europe. The only across-the-pond report comes from W1XP. Only once was my signal above the noise level -- that was with a neighbor, Andrea, IW0HK. Above you can see the screenshot of his reception of my signal.

You Linux-masters out there might be able to help me with a couple of things: WSPR 2.0 seems to stop running if I leave it alone for a few hours (maybe it opposes un-attended beacon operations!) And I also have what I think is an un-related problem: The computer (a Tecra 8100) goes into some sort of deep sleep mode (a coma really) if I leave it alone for a few more hours. I've tried playing with all the Ubuntu power managment and screen-save settings. And I've gone back into the bios and the set-up section on the computer to change the sleep modes, etc. No luck.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers! We will be having turkey with all the fixings here in Rome today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Harry Gets His Own Domain

You know a guy has made a real impact when all you need is his first name. Harry, SM0VPO aka G4VVJ is in that category. His web site has been a source of circuits, ideas, and inspiration for many years now. For his 2009 birthday, he got his own domain. Visit the site: http://www.sm0vpo.com

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Top Band at Age 12 and 1/4!

Gil sent me a link to the wonderful site of W8JI. The OM got his start by removing plates from the tuning cap of an All-American 5 broadcast receiver. Heart warming stuff for knack victims. Be sure to visit his Boatanchor page -- check out his DX-60. Doesn't that rig look a little bit TOO good? Are those regulation knobs? Or have they been juiced up a bit? (Mine don't sparkle quite so much.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Industrial Revolution 2" Tinkering Gets Respectable

Bruce, KK0S, alerted me to this wonderful article in the Wall Street Journal. I liked the line about the "hackerspaces" being "like gyms, but with people milling iron, not pumping it."

Check it out:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

WSPRing with Ubuntu

Wow, the radio gods are are really helping me lately! Soon after receiving my new Ubuntu laptop, Joe Taylor, K1JT, released the first Linux version of his amazing WSPR program. And he wrote it for the version of Linux that I am using: Ubuntu!
Not only that, the new version includes a feature that I was most in need of: the capability of handling compound call signs. No longer am I signing on from Rome as N2CQR -- now the all-important I0/ is also displayed (see the above map). I had very little trouble getting Ubuntu WSPR running on my machine (and as you all know, I am a real Linux klutz). The new program also allows for periodic CW identification. Very cool. Here something I noticed: WSPR requires the computer clock to be accurately calibrated. With my old Windows machine I had to periodically tweak the clock using an on-line GMT clock. But when I went to check the accuracy of the clock in the Ubuntu machine, it was EXACTLY right. To the second. I wonder if Ubuntu Linux has a feature that automatically synchs the computer clock with GMT.
Here is what Joe says about the new software:

WSPR 2.0 is now available for download from the WSJT Home Page, http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/
Click on WSPR in the left margin, then on the appropriate WSPR 2.0 link for your operating system. Installable binary packages are provided for Windows and for recent Debian-based 32-bit Linux systems. A recommended Linux distribution is Ubuntu 9.04.

Version 2.0 of WSPR introduces a number of new program features, including the following:

- User-friendly setup screen with drop-down selection of audio devices and CAT parameters
- Support for compound callsigns
- Fine adjustment of fractional time for transmitting
- Optional CW identification
- Tools for frequency calibration and automated frequency corrections for your radio
- A Tune button
- Direct on-line access to the WSPR 2.0 User's guide, WSPRnet, and the WSJT Home Page

Full details are presented in the all-new User's Guide, which is a "must read" if you want to use the new features. The manual includes a Troubleshooting guide. Click http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/WSPR_2.0_User.pdf to read the manual.

Three cheers for Joe Taylor!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Radio, Douglas MacArthur, and staying young at heart

Art, KG6ZWD, sent this along. General MacArthur kept this poem displayed above his desk in Manila, and frequently quoted from it during his time in Tokyo. The radio part comes near the end.


By Samuel Ullman

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An amazing radio history book - FREE!

Robert, WP4PQV, sent us some links to a treasure trove of U.S. Navy electronics publications that have been placed on-line. My initial perusal of the collection took me to History of Communications in the U.S. Navy by Capt. Howeth. Here is one gem from this amazing book:

Emperor Tiberius ruled Rome from the island of Capri for 10 years, around 37 A.D., transmitting his orders by means of the heliograph.
3 This indicates that the Romans, at this time, used some form of telegraphic code in the transmission of information.

Here is the link:

The 1946 Navy Manual "Introduction to Radio Equipment" (and links to other books) can be found here:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"From Atoms to Amperes" by F.A. Wilson

From Atoms to Amperes by F. A. Wilson
Published in 1989, Bernard Babani Publishing LTD (London, The Grampians, Shepherds Bush Road, London, W6 7NF)

I love this book. Mine is now held together by duct tape and crazy glue. Doug, WB5TKI, reports spotting a copy on sale on Amazon for $50 (go for it!). Here is a question for our British readers: Who is F.A. Wilson? There is almost nothing about him on the web, other than references to this and other similarly brilliant technical books. He was writing in the 1980s and 90s. What a great knack he has for explaining this stuff.
First sentence:
We are not physicists whose mission in life is to dig deeply into the mysteries of the universe but people wishing to know something about what makes electricity tick.

Explains in crystal clear terms the absolute fundamentals behind electricity and electronics. Really helps you to discover and understand the subject, perhaps for the first time ever.

Have you ever:

• Wondered about the true link between electricity and magnetism? • Felt you could never understand the work of Einstein, Newton, Boltzmann, Planck and other early scientists? • Just accepted that an electron is like a little black ball? • Got mixed up with e.m.f. and p.d. ? • Thought the idea of holes in semiconductors is a bit much?

Then Help is at hand with this inexpensive book, in as simple a way as possible and without too much complex mathmematics and formulae.

Monday, November 16, 2009


You can barely see George, W9EVT, down there in the back! And this is only one portion of his shack. Jeff, KO7M, alerted us to this masterpiece of radio architecture. Many more pictures here:


John, VK3AJG, sent us info on his new portable 80 meter DSB transceiver. Very nice. A welcome change from the usual NE602-based rigs. Double-A battery power and the use of a ceramic resonator are other nice features of this rig. GO DSB!
Details here: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~jgprice/80M-DSB.html

Sunday, November 15, 2009

SolderSmoke Podcast #118


In SolderSmoke 118:

15 November 2009

Trip to the North of Italy -- All the way to Trieste!

Playing with PSK-31 -- Shortwave Watching
I0/N2CQR wins CQ WW DX! (QRP, HB, DSB category)
New England Code Talker
Monitoring Apollo 11
Adventures in Surface Mount Soldering with Softrock 40

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend Sale: Save 15% on "SolderSmoke -- The Book"

Just enter XMAS15 when asked for a promotion code. Valid through November 15. Save 15%

For shipping from a printer in the U.S. (probably better for N. American buyers) Click here: SolderSmoke USA Version

For shipping from a printer in the UK, Spain, or the USA (probably better for UK and other European buyers)
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Final Report from the Maine Code Talker/160 QRP Rexpedition

Rex, W1REX, has a really nice article on this week's historic QRP expedition to the Maine coast. As you have read in this space, Michael, AA1TJ, challenged the mighty Atlantic with nothing more than the 15 milliwatts generated by his own voice. No joy this time, but we are sure that Michael will soon experience the same thrill felt by Marconi when that first, faint S was heard on the other side. Seab, AA1MY, overcame serious kite problems and fulfilled a long-held QRP ambition by working across the pond on 160 meters with less than 5 Watts. Congrats Seab! Congratulations to all the Rexpedition team members. It has been really fun to follow your adventure.

Read all about it here: (The link to the Rexpedition article is near the top of the page, but don't miss the wonderful kits that Rex is offering further below!)


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ham Monitored Apollo 11 Lunar Transmissions

July 1969. OM Larry Baysinger built a corner reflector (design sketch above) and used it to receive -- direct from the lunar surface -- the transmissions of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. He appears to have been the only amateur in the world to have done this. Knack to the Max! Well done Larry! Very cool.
More details (including recordings) here:

Spy Radio: "The Looking Glass War"

Dave in Ireland alerted me to some interesting radio content in the John LeCarre spy novel "The Looking Glass War." (I think presenting this excerpt is allowable under "fair use.") Dave reports that the radio they are working on is the one pictured above. It is a British B2, SOE Type 3. The instructor obviously has the Knack, but the student seems a bit shaky.

----- The Looking Glass War: -----

(Fred Leiser is the agent, Johnson is the radio expert who is also mentioned to be Ham op)

'You know the set then?' Johnson asked.
'The B2.'
'OK. Official title, Type three, Mark two: runs on AC or a six-volt car battery, but you'll be using the mains, right? They've queried the current where you're going and it's AC. Your mains consumption with this set is fifty-seven watts on transmit and twenty-five on receive. So if you do end up somewhere and they've only got DC, you're going to have to borrow a battery, right?'
Leiser did not laugh.
'Your mains lead is provided with adaptors for all continental sockets.'
'I know.'
Leiser watched Johnson prepare the set for operation. First he linked the transmitter and receiver to the power pack by means of six-pin plugs, adjusting the twin claws on the terminals; having plugged in the set and turned it on, he joined the miniature Morse key to the transmitter and the earphones to the receiver.
'That's a smaller key than we had in the war,' Leiser objected. 'I tried it last night. My fingers kept slipping.'
Johnson shook his head.
'Sorry, Fred; same size.' He winked. 'Perhaps your finger's grown.'
'All right, come on.'
Now he extracted from the spares box, a coil of multi-stranded wire, plastic covered, attaching one end to the aerial terminals. 'Most of your crystals will be around the three megacycle mark, so you may not have to change your coil - get a nice stretch on your aerial and you'll be a hundred per cent Fred; specially at night. Now watch the tuning. You've connected up your aerial, earth, key headphones and power pack. Look at your signal plan and see what frequency you're on; dish out the corresponding crystal, right?' He held up a small capsule of black Bakelite, guided the pins into the double socket - 'Shoving the male ends into the doodahs, like so. All right so far, Fred? Not hurrying you, am I?'
'I'm watching. Don't keep asking.'
'Now turn the crystal selector dial to "fundamental all crystals", and adjust your wave band to match your frequency. If you're on three and a half megs you want the wave-band knob on three to four, like so. Now insert your plug-in coil either way round, Fred; you've got a nice overlap there.'
Leiser's head was supported in his hand as he tried desperately to remember the sequence of movements which once had come so naturally to him. Johnson proceeded with the method of a man born to his trade. His voice was soft and easy, very patient, his hands moving instinctively from one dial to another with perfect familiarity. All the time the monologue continued:
'TRS switch on T for tune'; put your anode tuning and aerial matching on ten; now you can switch on your power pack, right?' he pointed to the meter window. 'You should get the three hundred reading, nearly enough, Fred. Now I'm ready to have a go: I shove my meter selector on three and twiddle the PA tuning till I get maximum meter reading; now I put her on six ----'
'What's PA?'
'Power Amplifier, Fred: didn't you know that?'
'Go on.'
'Now I move the anode tuning knob till I get my minimum value - here you are! She's a hundred with the knob on two, right? Now push your TRS over to S - S for send, Fred - and you're ready to tune the aerial. Here - press the key. That's right, see? You get a bigger reading because you're putting power into the aerial, follow it?'
Silently he performed the brief ritual of tuning the aerial until the meter obediently dipped to the final reading.
'And Bob's your uncle!' he declared triumphantly.
'Now it's Fred's turn...'

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

AA1TJ Code Talker on the Maine Coast

Apparently no voice-powered transatlantic joy yet, but we all know it is just a matter of time. And I think this will be something completely new in radio history! Great try guys! Keep at it!

From W1REX last night:

We started about 8:45 am this morning, because AA1TJ was too excited to
wait any longer! He shouted into his #2 can for a couple of hours until
I thought he was going to burst a vessel....and I'm not talking about
one of the many passing by out on the ocean. We thought that we had a
2-way QSO a couple of times but the returns were simple lost in the
noise. Michael ran out of steam....or breath...and none of us old-timers
could cut the mustard..or soup...or whatever was in the can.

Seab, AA1MY, launched the kite last night prepping for an attempt at a
160m record. He intended to operate on 1.811 and cross 'the pond' with a
minuscule signal but the bridle broke on the kite and it sailed away....
It could be on the other side of the pond for all we know, as it was
never seen again. He launched a back-up kit tonight and had it up there
into the lower stratus-sphere but needed just a little more height as
there was still some antenna wire on the ground...but alas, the wind
came to an abrupt stop and the flying kite came to an abrupt just a
short time later.

So to sum up todays results: ZILCH!

We want to thank EVERYBODY who kept an ear out for us today and hope you
have the time and patience to try it again tomorrow morning!!


We have more wire up on 20m and will attempt another across the pond QSO
starting at 8:00AM local time or 1300 Zulu. Mike has to pick up his wife
at the airport in NH so the attempt will terminate long about 9:30AM
local time. So we have another 90 minutes to try for the record and YOU
have another 90 minutes to be a part of it. Listen in at 14.055 MHz
starting at 1300 hours. Put your good ears on and listen sharp... Hope
you hear us AND we hope to hear you hearing us...

Seab will take another stab at the 160m record (MAINE weather
permitting) probably around 700AM local time 1200 Zulu. He is
heartbroken that his dead-cert kit took a powder and dashed his dream.
Little back-up kite and a sightly altered antenna farm hopefully will
come through for him. Give a listen over there on the other side of the

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

73 in the 70s

Mike, VK3XL, has been helping me track down the article that led to my traumatic failed teenage receiver-building project. He found this very interesting index for 73 Magazine articles. A quick look through the 1975-1978 period revealed several suspects, and hit me with a wave of nostalgia. What a great magazine 73 was! Sure, it was a bit wacky, but it had really wonderful technical content, at just the right level for truly amateur ham radio operators. Take your own walk down memory lane:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Transatlantic Team Heads to the Coast!

When it comes time to cross the pond, it seems only natural to head to the beach. That's what Marconi did (above we see his team struggling with a kite at Newfoundland). And that is what AA1TJ, W1REX, AA1MY and W1PID are doing today and tomorrow. Here is Michael's message to QRP-L describing the expedition. Good luck guys!

Some of the lads are heading over to the Maine seacoast on Monday
morning for what we're calling a "Rexpedition." W1REX was kind enough
to secure the use of his family's beachfront camp for us for a couple
of days. He explained the urgency to them, saying, "...a bunch of
radio-heads want to talk to Europe with the equivalent of a cellphone
with a dead battery."

Rex, Seab, AA1MY and Jim, W1PID, are going to arrive early on Monday
to begin putting up the antennas. I plan to show up in time for lunch;
hopefully after all the hard work is done. Seab wants to erect a pair
of half-wave phased verticals on 20m. I think the plan is to lift a
160m antenna using one of Seab's big kites.

Our hope is to cross the pond on both 160m QRP and with my
voice-powered 20m transmitter. The weather forecast looks great at
least through Tuesday. My "Code Talker" will be rockbound on
14.055MHz; same as last Thursday. We'll begin the voice-powered 20m CW
attempt the first thing on Tuesday morning (11/10/09). Again, the goal
is to span the Atlantic, but as always, I'll be very pleased to work
anyone that hears me.

By the way, last Thursday's voice-powered operation on 20m was a great
success. Altogether, I worked four stations and received one SWL
report. The best DX was W4FOA in Chickamauga, GA; a distance of
923miles. Tony reported that my 15mW signal was "an honest 579". W4OP
- located one hundred miles to the north of Tony - handed me the same
report and followed up with an amazing recording (you can hear it on
my website). Later in the day I received an email from AD5VC. Dana
reported that he clearly copied my callsign while listening on the LSU
club station (K5LSU) in Baton Rouge; a distance of 1375miles (nearly
half the distance between the Maine coast and London, England).

I thought these were remarkable results for 15mW into an endfed wire
at 35 feet. It makes next week's attempt from a saltwater QTH, coupled
with the low-angle of radiation with a spot of directional gain all
the more exciting.

So please keep us in mind come next Tuesday morning. I'm guessing Seab
will be operating 160m QRP on both Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Thank you,
Mike, AA1TJ

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Crossing the Pond... with the power of your voice

Michael Rainey, AA1TJ, has his eye on the North Atlantic. He's been thinking about maritime horns, and how far they could reach. He's built another kind of horn. I'm pretty sure that this one will soon take his voice and -- using ONLY the power of that voice -- send it across the mighty Atlantic. That's a pretty astonishing horn!

Yesterday Michael put a really nice message up on the QRP-L list. This is the kind of message that has earned him the title "Poet Laureate of QRP." Here is an excerpt:

I'm currently sitting at a desk on top of Vermont's highest mountain.
In the far distance I can see the Presidential mountain range of New
. Roughly twice as far away is the Atlantic Ocean. The other
night I spoke into a tin can, and the power of my voice carried a
message to the Maine seacoast where K1MPM heard me as clear as a bell.
I think this is absolutely magical. The present prospect of blowing
into a tiny horn and having this pittance of exhaled energy carry a
message back to England - when the bone shaking horn on the old Queen
couldn't carry to the horizon - is nearly beyond comprehension. I
know this is how everyone of us feels when we operate QRP.

Read the rest of Michael's message here:
Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column