Monday, March 10, 2014

20 metre listening

Seems that 20 metres continues to be active with DX this evening.  Currently listening to OD5ZZ from Tripoli, Lebanon.  The band is much more quiet, but then again the weekend contest has no doubt ended.  UT7UJ is active from Kiev, Ukraine towards the upper end of the band.  It is sure nice to hear DX stations again on the bands after so much lack of propagation.  ZS3CX is on from South Africa, T88XT from Palau, VK4LJ from Australia, and ZL2BQ from New Zealand are all quite loud.

20 metre activity picking up

Managed to get enough of the shack cleared out that I could do some listening on 20 metres last evening.  I was pleasantly surprised how active the bands were, including well into the evening.  The contest weekends raise the question in my mind just how dead the bands are as opposed to just how "inactive" the bands are.  It seems that just about every contest weekend I can hear all sorts of DX but otherwise the bands have the appearance of being dead.

I listened to a number of Kuwait stations, New Zealand and mid-Atlantic stations working pile-ups.  After listening to one particular pileup for about an hour, there was momentary lull and I tossed my call sign out to 9K2WA using QRP (5 watts) on SSB and he came right back to me and gave me the obligatory 59 signal report.  (Yeah right...)  But he was about 20 over S9, so who knows how strong I really was on his end.

Monday, February 3, 2014

SWL tonight

Listening to AM broadcast band tonight and am hearing Canadian stations, quite strongly.  31 and 49 metre bands are quite active this evening as well.  Crisp and clear evenings can be fun listening.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fun with diodes...

Been playing around with crystal radios lately.  I have a loose coupled radio that consists of a pre-selector tuned circuit, a detector with a 1N34 germanium detector than can be switched out to allow external detectors to be used with the tuning circuits.  Lastly, I have a wave trap tuned circuit that can be used to null out strong adjacent signals that might otherwise swamp the desired signal.  These three modules are all built up in separate boxes and just placed near each other to couple together as strongly or weekly as desired by just varying the distance between them.

Now I am playing around with point contact semiconductors.  This one is galena though I have some iron pyrite I would like to try as well.

I have built a few "fox-hole" receivers using the old blue double edge razor blades and a pencil but never got a chance to play around with point contact rectifiers made from minerals until now.  Should be fun.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What do you get...

...when you combine a dog bumper launcher...

...with a 22 caliber blank cartridge loaded in the handle of this rather innocuous looking device?

Well...  Tie a bit of kite string around the bumper (the white bit on the end), make some big loops on the ground with the line, insert ear plugs, stand behind and well clear of the line, pull back the spring loaded plunger on the bottom and it's bye-bye-bumper...

I used it today to launch over my house (which has a 45 degree (12/12 pitch) metal roof) a belaying line so I could get up there and clean some moss off the skylights and inspect the seals.

The bumper flew about 200' in the air before the trailing line slowed it down and dropped it in the front yard.  You will get the neighbor's attention as the sound of a gun-shot rings through the neighborhood...  I live on some acreage out of the city limits, so no boys in blue arrived on my doorstep.  Guess I will fail the GSR test at the airport security checkpoint, eh?

I am not sure I can be very accurate with this thing to carefully place antenna lifting lines, but it certainly worked a treat for my get a line over the house to anchor to the pickup truck activity.

We of course had to turn a pack of golden retrievers loose to chase an untethered bumper which was a bit of a riot on a sunny Saturday in the northwest.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Time for a new antenna

I have been getting the itch to try out a horizontal loop antenna for some time now.  At the recent Salmoncon event, Eldon - WA0UWH put up a 40 metre vertical delta loop that we fed with 450 ohm ladder line.  The results were, in a word, amazing.  The top of the delta was at about 100' with the other two sides hanging downward and joined at the centre by the feed line.  Running Eldon's FT817 at 5 watts, if we could hear it, we could work it.

Wanting to duplicate these kinds of results at home, I am keen to try out a loop, but in my location, I am only able to obtain about 50 feet of elevation.  I am also interested in top band (160 metres) so a bigger loop is in order.  This will require about 514 feet of wire which works out to about 128.5 feet on a side.

Looking at my site, I have four candidate trees for supports that will provide the ability to build a corner-fed trap trapezoid loop.  The proposed site plot looks like this:

The building is oriented the long way north/south and with this orientation of the loop, I would feed it at the lower left (southwest) corner.  Each of the legs is at least 180' long, so there would be plenty of room for a 160 metre loop.  I wish I could get it up higher, but I guess that will have to wait for trees to grow.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Checking in...

Been a long time since I have been blogging at all.  Happy to say it is because I have been very busy with the new job and getting settled into a new routine.  I was out of work for 4 months after being laid off from Microsoft and am now back working with Dynon Avionics as a Senior Software Developer.  I am having fun and working on some interesting projects that allow me to exercise both my hardware and software skills.

I have been playing around with PSoC devices from Cypress (  Specifically I am playing with PSoC 1 devices.  We are using them in a number of our products and in my new role, I found it necessary to learn about these devices and effectively take on another microcontroller.  Pretty fun and I hope to incorporate some of these devices into some of my ham radio projects in the near future.  Stay tuned...