Monday, August 24, 2009


While listening to PSK31 today, I observed a signal on the waterfall which I had figured was Olivia just up the band a bit. So, I closed out my PSK31 software and fired up DM780 and was soon copying a callsign sending CQ. That station happened to be VE7NBQ, Peter. I was brand new to this mode and after stumbling a bit, was able to throw my callsign out using Olivia 500/16.

To my surprise (kinda) Peter came back to my callsign and the QSO began. After getting the usual formal information out of the way, I explained to Peter that I was new to this mode. Peter and I had a great conversation regarding Olivia operating including some helpful hints on websites and frequencies. Furthermore, we went on to try Olivia 250/8 and 1000/32. I got a good feel for those modes but our conversation was for the most part using 500/16.

Now, as any good ham should do AFTER making the first contact, I need to read the instructions with DM780 and learned how to actually use the software for Olivia. I have mentioned about working new modes and this is one that I will be looking forward to operating again. Olivia anyone?

PODXS 070 1000th Member Tribute Contest

Recently, the PODXS 070 Club celebrated it's 1000th member. One of the main attractions for me is that the 070 club is active but also free! It's a digital club focusing on PSK operating. I am honored to be their 889th member. Now, this is not a sign up for free and get your certificate immediately type of club, however it's very simple to join the ranks. You actually have to operate PSK and show that you have worked stations using that mode. You also need to submit proof of a PSK contact by sending along a scanned copy of a QSL confirmation. But again, simple. Especially to those who are already using computers to do cool stuff like PSK.

I don't get on PSK as often as I should as I tend to spread my operating activities around the "mode globe". I will operate in "spurts" doing CW, PSK31, RTTY, SSTV and maybe throw a mode in that's new to me like Olivia or Hell (SSB can be hell for me sometimes, too). But when they have contests, I will always try to support the club by getting on the air if my schedule allows. I may not submit a log due to my work schedule and time constraints but I will be there handing out contacts when I can.

I was not able to work the 1000th member but I did work several over this last weekend (32 contacts to be exact). What I like about PSK is the low power perspective. You can work the world on 25 watts or less. It's a great weak signal mode (assuming you have your software configured right). There are several free programs available that support the digital modes so if you have a computer and the ability to hook it to your radio, you can be operating in no time.

One of the things that make me laugh to myself is when I hear on 14.070 or so, someone starting their computer and it transmits across the airwaves the Windows start-up song. Or, you can often hear that annoying Windows error "clunk" when someone tries to multitask and open something that gets them the fatal error sound while sending PSK. And you can even tell when someone's computer is taxing their Ram memory from the sound it makes as the PSK tone skips a beat or two during transmission. How do I recognize these sounds? Yep, been there, done that and have the t-shirt.

I am hand logging most of my contacts as I am using an older version of PSK31 software that I just darn like (photo above). I like using WinPSKse due to it's ability to copy two signals easily and the ease of monitoring and switching between multiple waterfall signals. Yes I know, there is other software out there that can do the same thing but I just like how this plays. I do have Digital Master 780 downloaded and installed for those "other" modes. I had some bad experiences with Digipan sending random crap stuff when using multiple macro's so gave that up. I also did not like it's weak signal decoding abilities. Again, my personal preference and take on it and I'm not trying to start a Ford vs Chevy debate.

But in getting back to the 070 contest, it was a great milestone for the club and even though it's unlikely that all 1000 members are active, it says a lot for the organization. Run by volunteers, who not only promote ham radio but promote a great mode of communication. A day when a dollar does not go far anymore, it's unbelievable the dedication of those behind the scenes of this club that make it so successful. Congratulations on the 1000 members strong and for all that you do to support such a fun mode of communication. If you have not tried PSK31, give it a try. Experience the many callsigns that you can find across the "waterfall".

Saturday, August 22, 2009


So, I decided to participate a bit in the Ohio QSO Party this weekend. Sad part being, the bands were poor for me as a result of the increased solar wind I'm sure. I did not start hearing Ohio stations until pretty late in the morning. Most of them were busy on 40 meters as seen on the cluster. I stuck to the only band that had activity for me, 20 meters.

Some comments regarding this very fun contest:

Kudos to Jim, K8MR, for getting the information out regarding the website crap.

The INCORRECT website:

Followed by the CORRECT website:

I knew that I would have a challenge with my callsign if I parked and called CQ. I followed the lead of many others who sign their call with a /state. What this does is, when I sign my call as KL8DX/AK, this helps identify me for those who are not paying attention as being in Alaska. Mind you, the "KL" says that I'm in Alaska but what throws people off is the "8" in my callsign. And as I expected, I had stations calling me who were NOT in Ohio. I would ignore them at first and if they kept calling I would acknowledge them. If they were not in Ohio, I would just continue on, not logging them and ask for Ohio stations only. Not sure if those who called me anyhow thought the /AK was a county or what?

Lots more CW activity than SSB activity! I did not expect to hear much on SSB due to the band conditions but CW was the way to run. I was able to pick up a few mobile stations as often, it's the mobiles who make the multiplier count and make sweeps possible.

On the mobile's, many in the QSO parties have a great habit of signing their call followed by the county they are in. In my opinion, this is a must! I actually sat and listened to a mobile station working the OHQP that was just signing /M. Problem was, do I call or don't I? I had no clue what county he was in so I did not want to create a dupe. And then if he had a long dry spell not working anyone, I just wasted my time sitting there waiting to be enlightened. A few times I just moved on in hopes I was not passing up a multiplier.

The cool part of working the mobiles is I worked W8CAR/M whom I know personally. I was able to give W8CAR my QSO #49 for one of our contacts. For those who don't know (don't admit it if that is the case), Alaska is the 49th state. Okay, so it was cool to me.

And then there was the mobile that just signed their callsign (no /M)! I knew well enough that there was a 99% chance that this ham was mobile just from previous QSO parties. But for the rest of the world, someone may not know and pass that station up if hearing them later on, assuming it will be a dupe.

All in all, this was a lot off fun but wished the band conditions were better. I would love to give this contest my all, working the entire 12 hours and making contacts on a few bands. As luck would have it, the bands sucked and I was not able to even break 100 QSO's!!

I try to get on for all the state QSO parties but since I was born and raised in Ohio, this one has a special place on my contest list. It's a chance to work familiar callsigns, friends, and just maybe help a few buckeye's with a multiplier. And to top it all off, I did manage to work my old county or residence, Ottawa. Hats off to W8IDM for passing that one along to me. Another highlight was working the young contester himself, Cal K0DXC. I managed to work him on both modes. He has a very bright contesting future ahead of him. And another fun highlight was having Allen, KL5DX working Ohio stations. It just happened to work once that we were both calling the same Ohio station. Kinda funny as he did ask for a few repeats before sorting it all out as I did not catch at first the KL5DX was also calling the same time I was.

Even though it appeared most of the activitiy for this QSO party was way out of my reach (40 & 80 meters) I still had fun for the few short hours I chased stations. I managed just over half of the counties, 45 total. Maybe next year the propagation will be better. But if not, your friend in AK will be listening and calling those 8land stations from Ohio every chance I get!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I got up this morning and decided to operate a mode that I have not done much with, SSTV (Slow Scan Television). Seemed to be lots of activity on 20 meters but the band was up and down. Most of the SSTV stuff hangs out at 14.230 (just listen for the annoying sound as you can't miss it. Almost sounds like a weather satellite) and everyone seems to send there. When the band is open, it can be fun but many stations are sharing the same frequency. Kinda sucks when you are receiving a signal from a station who is not real strong and a stronger station comes in and takes over the picture. But, it's fun none the less.

I enjoy my bureau drops as it's fun thumbing through the QSL cards to see the different designs and comments. The same applies for SSTV. Neat to see some of the photos that people send across the airwaves. Mine personally are all photos that I have taken or files I created. But it is not long before anyone doing SSTV begins to see a collection of photos in their history file. I save photos from my QSO's and I have a few saved that I copied, especially those that I thought were neat! Not a big deal when I can take a picture with my phone, attach it to a text message and send it across the globe faster than I can receive one across the ham bands.

I got started in SSTV by hanging out on the LOTW Sked Page and a VE station there was trying for WAS. I enjoy helping those who may need Alaska on any mode or band (assuming I can operate them) and since I do lots of digital stuff, it was easy to set up and get going (literally within 5 minutes including download time). Just another mode to operate and the QSO's even count toward WAS. But for now, I'm content being a weekend warrior so to speak. I will jump in from time to time sharing photos with other stations around the globe. I'm still a greenhorn when it comes to sending photos across the HF bands. There are many modes to enjoy with ham radio and there is something for everyone. Me, I like anything to do with ham radio, even SSB at times. Even when the bands are not picture perfect, there is still almost something to hear or see with the help of an antenna, radio and some free software. If you have not tried it, give SSTV a shot, or some other mode. It's fun to venture out of ones comfort zone for a bit of excitement. I think you get the picture, right?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sounds cool!

I'm not talking about our next weekend forecast but just some of those sounds you hear on the ham bands. For years I have thought that the sound of HF packet was cool! Being involved in several digital modes (a few I just copy and have yet to make any contacts on) HF packet is one I still enjoy just listening to. Back in the early to mid 90's, I would access HF gateways to packet bulletin boards and enjoy the 300 baud communication. I'm reminded of my enjoyment of this sound while tuning around in the SARTG RTTY contest a few minutes ago. I was up around 14.103 and I heard the sweet sound of HF packet. The last time I listened in, I copied a BBS system in Hawaii, but I was not decoding the sound today so I'm not sure where it was originating from. But either way, it was a great reminder of my pre-internet activities surfing the HF bands. I'm not sure how much HF packet activity there is today but I have and will always, enjoy the sound that has yet to be replaced by something as audibly soothing to me.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This state we're in!

Another of my rants is the fact that many seem to think that Alaska is another country (non-DXCC speaking of course). What brings this to mind is looking on eBay for "stuff". People shipping items Priority Mail and only to the lower 48! News flash, flat rate is the same to Alaska as it is anywhere else. See the USPS commercial?

Many people in Alaska are used to paying extra for shipping. Most everything up here costs 20% or more due to our shipping costs. Most of the stuff here arrives by sea but stuff also arrives by air. We don't have Fed Ex here at my QTH and we don't have UPS however, we can still get them. But at least for me, MAIL is the only way to shop. It's great to find people who will ship using USPS. There are no house numbers were I live, none. There is no postal delivery to my mailbox. I have to head to the post office to get my mail. Try to order stuff when you don't have a regular physical address. It can be challenging at times. Oh, and my post office winter hours are 10:30 am to 12:30 pm daily.

Sometimes I have to swallow hard when I'm quoted a shipping price but again, a part of living where we do I guess. I have shipped my Ameritron AL-1500 back to the factory for repair work (without the power supply) so yes, USPS can ship big things! There have been so many items I would have purchased from eBay but the poster refuses to ship to Alaska. Their loss as it only takes a short time before I find someone who will ship USPS. I have had some success sending emails to the listing station asking for them to ship USPS. But in case you did not get the memo, Alaska is part of the United States! I won't get on my rant about those who inflate their shipping prices to make that extra million a year.

Yes, I know there are horror stories about the postal service but there are also the same for Fed Ex and UPS. When you really don't have a choice, you have to take a chance. So if you're selling something, remember us hams in Alaska and that we like to spend money too! We are part of the United States even though we are a seperate DXCC country. Our stamps are your stamps and our dollars are your dollars. We give our stamp of approval to anyone who ships reasonably to Alaska.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

QST & CQ Stinks?!

What happens with your QST or CQ magazine when it arrives? Mine does not sit on the counter very long as either myself or my wife will carry it into the oval office and lay it next to the throne on the bookstand. I can honestly say that I read about 99% of my magazines while participating in the ritual of bowl bonding. My wife hates it when QST puts a person on the front of their magazine and that person is looking toward the camera. She tells me that it feels like the person is looking at her while she is "busy" and she is always turning my magzines over. Kinda makes me laugh a bit since it is only a magazine.

So, how do you read your QST or CQ magazine? It's like an Oreo cookie I suppose, different people have different ways of reading their publications. I scan the front cover quick and if my eye catches any contest results and before I do anything, I will flip that those pages (don't you hate pages that don't have page numbers??). Knowing full well that this little station will never be hanging a plaque on the wall, I enjoy reading the comments and looking at the results. I am always interested to see how I place compared to other stations, especially those in Alaska. Since I am the waterboy of contest stations here in AK, it always makes me wonder what I could have worked if I only had higher and bigger antennas. One can dream, right?

Once I read through all the results and scan through the "QRM" I then find my way back to the front of the magazine. I then see what is featured in the magazine to see if there are any further must read immediately articles. My favorite sections are those dealing with DX'ing and contesting. I am one of those non-techie kinda hams so I will normally skip right over anything that has a circuit board and schematics. Not sure why I have no desire to build anything as I guess I just never had the proper influence or person to nudge me along. Maybe I just spend too much time operating?

If nothing else catches my eye, I then begin working from the front to back of the magazine looking for pictures of new equipment and anything that looks cool! My first breeze through the magazine is just that, a quick page through getting a feel for what I will digest (no pun intended) on my next trip to the library. I have to keep reminding myself that this publication must last a month so I need to take my time. I mean, what is a ham to do if he reads his entire magazine before the next issue arrives? You can only read the labels of so many hair spay cans and bathroom cleaners within reach of the ceramic circle. But like a good movie, it is sometimes a suprise when you re-read something and you find something you overlooked. But when I get to the point where I could transfer the magazine to the outhouse, I will even start to read through all the ham ads. This is my last desperate attempt to keep picking up the same magazine in hopes that the next issue will arrive. There are times, a month can feel like a lifetime and depending on your total seat time in a month, it can even feel longer!

My favorite of my two publications I receive is CQ magazine. Maybe because it appears to have less advertisements in it? QST seems to be mostly ads for the last 50% of the magazine and the first 10%. Sometimes I wished they would arrive in PDF form as I don't keep my old magazines like many hams do. I recycle them to the landfill. But, if they were in PDF, I would have to drag the laptop into the throne room to read my QST. If I have my laptop there it would not take long before I realized I can operate my equipment remotely from the bathroom! Hey, I no longer have to stop calling that new country when the urge arrives! The contest can continue and it counts because it's less than 50 miles away from my shack! The crapper trapper, I would never want to leave! Just think of the possiblities! But what's good for me is good for everyone else in the house, too. Not only would I not be in a hurry to vacate the family rest stop, nor would the rest of my group. Probably best to leave well enough alone. I have seen photos of people taking their magazines to foreign places, even underwater but I have never seen anyone being featured sitting on the crapper while reading the latest contest news and ironically, I would guess that most hams read them there more than any other location.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

NAQP Decision

I'm forced to make another stressful decision. Enjoy the great Alaskan outdoors or operate the NAQP CW Contest? Some of the decisions we make in life come with consequences but for this low profile interior Alaskan station, this was not a hard decision. I'm sure Alaska will be well represented, not as much as during a SSB contest but to my fellow CW nuts and contesting brothers and sisters, I wish you all the very best in your contesting quest. Me on the other hand, I will be enjoying the wilderness, extracting wild blueberries from the tundra and hopefully adding photos to the compact flash card in my camera as quickly as I would log contacts during any major contest. On the drive home from Fairbanks today, I saw the beginning color changes associated with fall! A grim reminder that although there are plenty of contests over the next several months that will keep my shack warm, summer is winding down and soon, just like the propagation during a high solar wind, it will be gone.