Archive for December, 2009

Time Flies — It’s “next week” already. 222 Tuesday *ON* tonight.

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

    Several things to talk about today.   Immediate one is 222 Tuesday, which is *ON* every Tuesday night.    General 222.100 SSB/CW and 223.500 FM simplex activity night for the entire USA.   Get on in the evening hours, call CQ, swing beams around if you have them.   Do what you can, when you can, to make this great band more active.   
    I will be adding more to this post as the day goes along.   For now, it’s 7:10am central time and I at least wanted to get the basic 222 Tuesday announcement up.

    I will say that the Jan issue of QST (got mine yesterday) has more V/UHF articles of interest than I normally see.    Page 48 has a positive review of the Jetstream JT220M 222 MHz FM transceiver.   This is the first review of a 222 rig since Nov. 2003.   Page 44 has an article about how to build a 2 meter Log Periodic Dipole Array.   (NOTE:  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend building this antenna — not if you want really good DX performance.   But it is very positive to get Joe Q. QST reader thinking about the horizontal side of 144) 
    Page 79 of the Jan QST has an article by KX9X Sean, ARRL’s Contest Branch Manager.   It’s a nice full-page article on FM Contesting.   The MRAC FM Simplex Contest is mentioned in the 3rd column.   MRAC guys, spread the word, I’m sure you’ll be proud of this nationwide publicity.   
     On Page 81 is the full write-up about the 2009 ARRL UHF Contest.   Our friend from Chicago K9JK John wrote the article and describes a very positive trend in log submissions and rover activity.   We had A LOT to do with that, right here in the Midwest/Great lakes.
     Finally, on Page 86, is W3ZZ Gene’s monthly “The World Above 50 MHz” article.   The Central States VHF Society’s annual conference gets prominent mention.   If you follow this website closely, you know I’m a CSVHF member, and I recommend you join.   (www.csvhfs.org)  The two conferences I’ve been to (Minneapolis 2006 and Elk Grove Village, IL 2009) were great events.   Talking 200 or so V/UHF’ers from all across the country.   Many interesting technical presentations.    Antenna range, Rovermobiles on display, great nightly fellowship in hospitality suites, fun banquet with awards and door prizes on Sat. night.   The conference in 2010 is in Bridgeton, MO, on St. Louis’ NW side.    Info is up at the CSVHFS website.

146.43 FM Net Has 12 check-ins

Friday, December 18th, 2009

   Nice friendly net tonight.   Guys kept dropping in and ragchewing continues at 0245Z/8:45pm central.   We encourage ragchewing after the net.    Tonight we heard from:
   KM4G  Germantown;  N9YCN  St. Francis;  KD9LEH  Milwaukee;  N9NFB  Waukesha;  K9FI  Brookfield;  KX9M  Bill;  KC9PQF  West Allis;  KC9NZR/M  Washington Co.;  W9IPR  Cedarburg;  K9BKJ  Greenfield.   Had a few guys who were farther than 50-60 miles out and they were K9OA Clark, in Madison and N9JKX Dan, in Algoma.  
    This was the last 146.43 FM net for 2009.   That’s because the next two Thursdays are Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.   Weather permitting, we’ll be back at 8pm on January 7, 2010.

    Here’s a heartfelt “thank you” to all our FM check-ins the past year and a half.   I’m sure we’re over 100-150 different calls, in the past 18 months.   And you fellows who are on board most of the time, thanks for being the foundation.   Also want to thank KC9KPV Randy for picking up net control when I’m unable.

WB9LYH Has 24 check-ins on a 12 degree night. I manage 16 with terrible prop.

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

    WB9LYH is looking north, which means he’s about done (at 0220Z).   He just got thru with VE3KRP in EN58.
    He heard from W8RCM EN72;  KB8Q and N8WNA EN82;  WD9DSN and N9HZ EN71;  N8JDO EN62;  W9YZU and KB9WZJ EM69;  KB9RDS EM79;  KC9BQA EN63;  W9GA EN53;  KA0OKM and N0RWR EN42;  N0IRS EM29;  N0WJY EN10;  N0PB EM39;  WB0YWW EN22;  N9KOR EN44;  WV9E EN43;  K0SIX EN35;  K0KP EN36;  WB0DBQ EN46;  VE3KRP EN58 .   It’s nearly 8:30pm, and LYH has just found KC0EOC in EM48.   

     We had lots of guys in the www.on4kst.com chat tonight.   Gary KB0HH in EM06, far NW OK was looking for contacts and last I saw, he was making progress with WB0YWW and N0PB.   That’s great to see.   Several guys were scouting around 144.230, and KB9WZJ was very eager from the Indy area, after having been off 144 for 3 years.  

     It’s 8:30, time to do the 144.250 net.  
     The very early call is that both WB9LYH and I will be *ON* next week, Wed. Dec. 23rd.   I’ll try to confirm with him in person.

     I pulled the plug on the 144.250 net after an hour and a half.   Kept hearing from whisper-quiet guys.   I do appreciate their efforts.   I had:  W9KHH and K9KWH EN63;  KC9KPV, W9GA, WB9TFH, KC9NZR, K9FI and KA9AAB all EN53;  N9HZ EN71;  N8UIC and N8JDO EN62;  N0PB EM39;  WV9E  EN43;   N9JKX EN64;  N8WNA EN82 and closed with KB9WZJ EM69.    The local guys sounded good.    Guys like N8WNA were the lightest I’ve ever heard them.  
    I am noticing a pattern the past month or so.   I enjoy monitoring WB9LYH while he calls the 144.240 net.   I try to hear everyone he’s hearing, but I probably get about 2/3 of them.   Around 0100-0200, I hear many guys he’s working at S1-S3 levels, even with their beams pointed at Mark and not at me.   By 0300 or so when I work those guys direct, they’re always weaker than they were an hour or two ago.   Must be a winter thing.   It’s interesting to observe.

Wed. 144.240 and 144.250 nets are *ON*

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

    Final call that the 144 nets are *ON* tonight.   WB9LYH comes on 144.240 at 0100Z and starts out looking east into MI.   WB9LYH is located in EN54cl, or smack in the middle of WI.   Mark slowly rotates his stacked 17B2’s clockwise, calling CQ frequently and picking up check-ins from MI, OH, IN, IL, MO, IA, KS, NE, MN and sometimes VE3-land.   Of course, we’re always optimistic about DX beyond those states.     We usually have a SD station or three trying, and would love to hear from any ND stations.   Or outstate MN. 

    We also encourage our check-ins to slide down to 144.230 or lower and try working each other directly.   Or feel free to swing your beams away from WI, and see who’s in the other direction.   With steady progress, we can make this happen and make Wed. night one where dozens of VHF’ers get on the air.    Us net controls can only do so much.   It’s you check-ins that really determine how wide an area we cover.   Nothing would please Mark and myself as much as eventually making Wed. night on 2 meter SSB active across the eastern 2/3rds of the USA.    It’s totally possible, but it does take some effort.   Spread the word and look away from WI with those beams, once you know net control is past you. 

     You guys know about the www.on4kst.com chat by now.   Plenty use it, some won’t.   The reason I promote it is because upon entering the room, you see a roster of all the callsigns and grid squares on the right.   So you know who’s out there.   Also, I can hear everything WB9LYH is doing, so I post who he’s working in real-time.   Gives you a sense of who’s on and how the band is.   Finally, if you are inclined to slide down and work other check-ins, you can use the chat yourself to coordinate contacts.   7 simple steps to sign up for the 144/432 MHz chat room are at http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1072   This is the same chat hundreds of 6m and 160m guys have been using for some years now. 

     I come up on 144.250 at 0230Z with the Badger Contesters net.   All are welcome.   I start out chatting to my south with a fairly regular group of Milwaukee/Chicago check-ins.   After we gab a while, I then swing my beam clockwise, going SW, W, NW, N, NE, E, SE.   I typically don’t get to the eastern time zone until after 10-10:15pm their time.    It may turn out that I’ll change that in 2010 — we’ll see.  

     
      It looks like the 146.43 FM net tomorrow night at 0200Z is *ON*.

Good Equipment Advice Directed Toward Newcomers

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

      It’s noon Monday (this post was originally made back in Dec of 2009) and I’ve just updated this post with a few good links.   This post is about getting new guys to think about better antennas and coax, so they can fully take advantage of the DX potential that’s possible on V/UHF.   In short, if you want to stick with your ground plane and RG-8X, you will continue to enjoy the reliable communications that repeaters provide.    On the other hand, if you want to start working guys 200-300 miles on direct paths, using USB mode on bands like 50, 144, 222 and 432 MHz, then please read on.  

  I get new folks visiting here all the time, so let’s clear something up, before we go any farther.   All of the activity I’m talking about below uses USB mode (except for the 146.43 FM net on Thursdays).   All of the USB activity uses horizontally-polarized antennas, which is the norm with 90-95% of us DX’ers.   You can certainly get your toes wet using your existing vertical antenna, but your range will be limited because you lose 20 db of signal with cross-polarization.  
    If you really get the urge to move forward on 6m, 2m, 1.25m, 70cm … you want horizontally polarized antennas to take advantage of the true potential.    The 200, 300 mile contacts are taking place with guys who have at least medium-sized beams pointed at each other.   Those 200-300 mile Q’s occur under flat conditions.   With occasional band enhancement, you will get some contacts in the 300-800 mile range.   It’s not common, but not nearly as rare as guys think.   It also helps to have a clear horizon.   You do not need to have these antennas up 60-100′, if you have a decent horizon.   But it’s always best to have your V/UHF antennas up as high as you can safely go.  If you absolutely cannot do a yagi, then consider a horizontal loop, or stack a pair for a 3db gain.   Horizontal loops can be surprisingly effective.    They also are a great complement to a beam because you hear things with the omnis that you may not hear off the side of a yagi. 

     You will notice I talk about antennas often, and rigs very seldom.   The antennas are WAY more important on weak-signal V/UHF than the rig.   I occasionally hear from guys who want to buy the Dominator 2000 or the DX-King 8000, or whatever.   They all want to know what the right rig is.   Then they say they will use a ground plane on the rooftop.   I just smile, as I stifle an urge to laugh.   The guys who won’t do decent antennas are the guys who will lose interest in weak-signal V/UHF.   

      I’ll say this again:   Concentrate on the most antenna you can put up, if you want optimum performance.  Don’t bother spending big bucks on a rig, and then attach a 5 or 10 cent antenna to it.   You may as well stick with an H/T and a rubber duck.   Antennas, antennas, antennas.     You would be far better off putting $1000 of antennas mated to a used $200-300 rig than the other way around.   You probably won’t believe me on this, and that’s fine, it’s a free country.   I simply want you to get the maximum enjoyment out of weak-signal V/UHF.   To do this, you want to work some DX occasionally.   Or perform well in the contests.   To achieve those goals, get the best antennas you can up as high as (safely) possible.

      If you have homebrewer in you, here’s a great way to save big $$ on antennas.    Check out this link http://www.wa5vjb.com/yagi-pdf/cheapyagi.pdf
      If you can follow the detailed plans, you will end up with modest yagis that work well.    Guys I know have made these antennas and have been very pleased.   I am not a homebrewer so don’t ask me for further details.   I’m just saying that these WA5VJB Cheap Yagis are proven performers, if you can homebrew.   They would also make a great project for a club to work on over the winter.   Then come springtime, you can put ’em up and hear what you’ve been missing.  

     A final thing to consider is your coax or feedline.   To make these 200, 300 mile contacts, you want every last db you can get.   A few db may be the difference between no signal and good copy (with headphones) in the S1 range.   You don’t want to wimp out on coax.   Here are a few links that show the loss characteristics with various coaxes.   http://www.therfc.com/attenrat.htm   or try   http://www.ocarc.ca/coax.htm     I found these links by Googling “coaxial cable loss chart”.
     Some will say that it’s not worth getting concerned about a few db’s.   I’d say that any way you can improve your system by at least 1 or 1.5 db, you will notice an difference with marginal signals on weak-signal V/UHF.  You start gaining a few db’s with a better yagi, plus a few db’s with better coax, use a good preamp, quality headphones… it adds up quickly.    
     Main point is that while cheap coax may be just fine on HF, it will seriously degrade your signal on VHF/UHF, especially as you get on 144 and above.  If you’re going to the trouble of putting up good antennas, then don’t throw away your signal with cheap coax.   If you have coax runs of 70-100′, you want to be at least in the 9913 or LMR-400 range, especially above 2 meters.   If you have a run of more than 100′, then LMR-400 or perhaps even hardline is necessary.

Activity for the Week of Dec. 14-18th

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

    I’ve made several updates this weekend, scroll down if you’re interested. 

    As far as I know, everything is *ON* this week.  
                  222 Tuesday is always *ON* because it’s for everyone/everywhere.    

    WB9LYH and I both expect to be on our 144 SSB nets Wed. night.   WB9LYH is on 144.240 at 0100Z.   His QTH is EN54cl, middle of WI.   He starts out looking east into MI and VE-land at 0100Z, and then swings slowly clockwise, calling CQ often and gathering check-ins from a wide, wide area.   Probably looks SE about 0110-15, S about 0120-30, SW about 0130-45, W about 0150-0200 and N about 0210-30.   All times approximate +/- depending on activity.  
Please consider using the 144-432 MHz chat at www.on4kst.com to better keep track of what all is going on.   I’m in there, updating in real-time, during the 144.240 net.  

     I am on 144.250 from EN63ao, or 40 miles north of Milwaukee, starting at 0230Z.   I start out looking south, and  say hello to our core group of MKE/CHI check-ins.   I then swing clockwise a full 360.   I typically don’t look toward the eastern time zone until after 0300Z.   I may change this policy in 2010; we’ll see. 

     I expect to be on 146.43 FM simplex at 0200Z on Thursday night, as usual.    Unlike the SSB nets, I am only omni-directional here.   If you have a vertical beam for FM work, point it toward me.   Sometimes we get some surprises with the 146.43 net, and because I enjoy DX, I listen hard for weak ones.  

     Because things can always change due to weather, equipment problems, it’s a good idea to check the website prior to any net.   Allour Wed/Thur nets get announced here, yea or nay.  

    For other regional activity, please read on.   Please support these nets as time permits. 

     SUNDAYS:   Every Sunday, we have multiple things going on.  
     K9TMS Tom calls a 144.250 SSB net from the far N side of Chicago at 0100Z every Sunday.
     NLRS (www.nlrs.org) has active nets on at least 6 and 2 meters Sunday nights.   Both net controls have good stations and enjoy hearing from everybody.   K0SIX Vince is on 50.175 at 0230Z, from EN35, about an hour north of the Twin Cities.   KA0PQW Matt is on 144.260 at 0300Z, from EN33, far southern Minnesota.  
     K8NFT Bob calls a 144.155 net from EN62, SW Lower MI, and this one starts at 0230Z.

      MONDAYS:   You have both 144 and 432 MHz activity.   N0PB Phil calls a wide-coverage net from EM39, North-Central MO.   Starts at 0145Z with a Big Wheel omni-directional antenna.   Then switches over to a horizontal yagi at 0200, looking S, then E, then N, then W, and back to S by about 0300Z. 
      N4PZ Steve hosts 432.100 (SSB) activity, starting at 0200Z.   He’s in north-central ILL, EN52gb, a bit west of Rockford.   Big 432 station, gets out a long ways.   Beams are very sharp on 432, so be patient if you’re inexperienced.   You might think nothing’s going on and then N4PZ will come up to S9 out of nowhere.   N4PZ has been stirring up 10-15 guys most nights, so be aware of this 432 activity.   Some of the participants will QSY up to 432.110 to try and work each other.

      THURSDAYS:   N9JBW John calls the Q5 net from EN61, South side of Chicago, on 144.220 at 0100Z.   Nice station and good participation with this net.   John would be pleased to hear from you — he encourages all to say hello. 

      That’s everything I can think of within several hundred miles of WI.   If there’s activity I missed, let me know.

146.43 FM Net Report from Thursday

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

    We heard from 6 VHF’ers on Thursday, on a frigid night.
    They were all local.
    KC9NZR   Rich   West Bend
    KM4G       Marv   Germantown
    KC9QNH    Fred  Kewaskum
    WB9WHO  Tom   Milwaukee
    WB9TFH    Gil    West Allis
    W9GA       Ken    Colgate
   
     Everyone’s signal was pretty good, compared to their typical strength.   
     KC9QNH is new to hamming, and he was 60 over, full scale here, on an admittedly short path.   Still, Fred had a very nice signal.   Learned later he was using either 5 or 10 watts.   Great to hear him on simplex.  
     Even though this net has had fewer check-ins for several weeks, we keep getting new ones on board, which is a great feeling.   The whole reason why I promote these nets so heavily via email (you guys really have no idea, LOL) is so that we get a variety of hams at least thinking about V/UHF.    If we can get dozens of new guys on over time, then we’ve done something very special.   Another thing is that most nights, the bands are still too quiet.   So it’s very important to have good activity at least a few times a week, so that anyone who is new won’t immediately lose interest.  

      I know we have a holiday lull coming up.   Don’t mistake that for these nets fading away.   OH NO.  🙂   We have way too much momentum to let up now.   2010 is going to build on what we’ve done since summer of 2008.   I will be using the quiet time during the holidays to  update the website with longer-term goals and to take pleasure in what we’ve already accomplished.   I hope you check back often and if you have ideas of your own, please share them using the “comment” feature.   Or email me.

222 Tuesdays Are Making Progress

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

    Actually have a couple of things here.    I’ve not been around on Tuesdays, but I am hearing some good things.   If we keep this going during winter, it will really pay off come springtime.    I know the following areas have come alive on SSB:    N FLA, TX/OK, and also the MI/OH/KY/VA/PA region.  

    KB9Q distributes a weekly newsletter every Friday via email to several hundred hams in/near S WI.   This week, Sherm mentioned that he worked both SSB and FM Q’s during 222 Tuesdays.    That will help raise awareness. 
    I also got a nice email from K5VH in EM00, Central TX.   He reported 7 fellows got on 222 from TX/OK last Tuesday.  Besides K5VHF, there was also W3XO/5 EM00;  W5UWB EM17;  W5LUA EM13;  WA5VJB EM12;  K5SW EM25 and W5IFS EM10.   That’s a nice wide territory they covered.   K5VH reported that conditions were only fair, but the interest in 222 Tuesdays is growing.   Good to hear. 

    222 Tuesday is ON every Tuesday.    It’s not a net, nor is there a specific area to focus on.   It’s a general activity night, from roughly 0100-0400Z.   It’s for everyone, everywhere.   Get on/near 222.100 SSB/CW and call CQ.   Swing beams in various directions.   If you have FM-only gear on 1.25m, then try out some simplex.   See how far your station gets out.   Call CQ on/near 223.500 FM and see what happens.    Spread the word, either among your weak-signal friends or on the 223/224 machines.

WB9LYH Had a Nice Net After All 146.43 FM tonight is ON at 8pm/0200Z

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

    Email came in last night from WB9LYH:
“Todd,    Tough conditions but 11 contacts.   The wind dropped for a while.  
    Contacts were:   N8JDO EN62;  W9YZU EM69;  K9SD EM48;  W0ANH EN47;  N0RWR and KA0OKM EN42;  K0SIX EN35;  N0DQS EN22;  KB9WZJ EM69;  VE3KRP EN58;  and K9KHW EN63. 
    Conditions were still very bad wind and weather wise to the east. 

    73, Mark  (WB9LYH) 

     My comments —   A dying blizzard and WB9LYH still managed to hear from 9 grids, 6 states and 1 Canadian Province.   Good job, one and all!  
     No way I was opping last night.   I won’t put my H-frame with 7 different beams thru that sort of twisting when the wind’s 25-35 mph.   I just point it into the wind, close up the shed and come back when the weather’s better.  

   

     The 146.43 FM net is ON at the usual time — 8pm or 0200Z.   I’m omni there, so no beam turning.

WB9LYH May Try 144.240 @ 0100/7pm central

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

    Got email from WB9LYH a little bit ago. 
“Todd,
  The antenna is loading despite the weather.   I will give it a try unless the wind causes a problem.
  Mark”

     So listen on 144.240 @7pm for WB9LYH in EN54cl, middle of WI.  
     I know I’m off tonight, so give Mark some business.  

     I see no weather problem for the 146.43 FM simplex net tomorrow night.   Expect to be on.