WAS Progress: 5 to go!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, the blog, so thought I would quick do an update on my Worked All States progress.

Last time around, I had 31 states down with 19 more to go. Since then, I have added 14 more to the count. The Iowa and Vermont contacts I mentioned last time around did get confirmed, and I have since made contacts with Maine, my own state of North Dakota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Indiana, South Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Alabama, and Colorado.

That just leaves me with 5 states: Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Oklahoma and Kansas shouldn’t be too hard to snag, but Minnesota and South Dakota will be pretty difficult due to their close proximity to Fargo.

So the race is on! Conditions on the air have been horrible the last few weeks so I haven’t made all that much progress, but I have recently delved into PSK and RTTY (which I’ll take about in another post soon), and that has helped some.

I will continue to update my WAS progress… and if you’re a ham in OK or KS reading and want to help me get those two states, please let me know!

Antenna Tuning Goodness!

IMG_0045Now that Spring has FINALLY arrived, it’s time for me to get some of my outdoor projects done at home. One of those was doing some major tweaks to my MFJ-1622 antenna. I discovered over the winter that my balcony is not all that accessible when it’s cold out, due to issues with the door, so I was more or less stuck with whatever setting I left my antenna at in the fall. That particular setting did well on 10m and 15m, but not so great on 20m or 40m. So in an effort to avoid that problem again, I decided to find the sweet spot.

I’ve talked about this antenna before, but the MFJ-1622 is a balcony mount antenna with a coil tap that shorts out for “lengths” and the SWR adjusts accordingly. Now in theory, you would move the coil every time you switch bands, and I try to do that as much as possible. But given the winter situation, I need to find a setting that’s tunable on all bands. So I found a warm day a few weeks ago, dug out the MFJ-266 analyzer, and got to work. Continue reading

Worked All States progress

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here, so I thought I would do a quick update on one thing that’s been consuming my time lately: the Worked All States award. The premise of the award is simple: make a contact in all 50 states. And since I’m a relatively new ham, I figured this would be a pretty good piece of wallpaper to start working on.

I decided to start focusing on this the 2nd or 3rd week of January, right before the North America QSO Party. Going in, I already had Mississippi, Florida, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. During the NAQP, I was able to knock out 13 more states, including Alaska. Since then, I’ve been diligently trying to get more states crossed off the list, mainly working the W1AW portable stations. That have helped me knock out 6 more states.

This last weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to participate in the CQ WW WPX contest to help knock out a few more states. In the 48 hours, only made 102 contacts, but I knocked out 3 more states, including Hawaii, with a few more yet to confirm. I also got a lot of great DX stations that weekend… conditions were great, so I was able to add a few more countries to my list.

So, as of right now, I sit at 31 states. I have two more W1AW contacts that should get confirmed next week (Iowa and Vermont), and two other contacts I hope can get confirmed soon (New Jersey and Oklahoma). That would bring the count to 35.

So what do I have left? Well, 15 states of course. The hardest ones being in the midwest close to me. I blame that on the fact I’ve been trying on 10m, 15m, and 20m, which are not great for close by states. This weekend is the Missouri QSO party, so I should be able to get Missouri in the log this weekend.Then the weekend of Easter is both the Michigan QSO party and the North Dakota QSO party (which I will be participating in!), so I should be able to make more progress later on this month.

I will continue to update my progress on my WAS, and hopefully I can start posting a little more on here from now on.

The Great Software Debacle

System RequirementIf you’ve been watching my twitter feed over the last few months, then you maybe have noticed that I have been doing an obscene amount of Windows installs.

It started as an on-going problem with my main tower, where I kept losing my solid state OS drive. After re installing Windows after 3 or 4 crashes, I finally replaced the SSD with a regular Hard Drive at the end of September and haven’t had an issue since. Then last month, my Windows PC that I have at my Ham Radio desk lost a hard drive, warranting a new drive and a Windows re-install. If that weren’t enough, my computer at work puked BOTH hard drives within 10 minutes of each other two weeks ago (I’m attributing this to a SATA bus problem, as the odds of two drives going at once naturally is very slim).

I finally got a replacement computer at work last Monday and spent most of that day at work trying to rebuild my computer to the state at which I once had it. That of course not only means documents (which I had backed up, thank God), but programs as well. Which really brought up a common question that all geeks seem to argue about: What programs should you install with a fresh install of Windows? Since i had to do it again today, I figured this would be a good time to share what I install every time I have a “fresh” computer. Continue reading

2014: Bring it!

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I always try to write a year in review post on the 1st of the year. This one is delayed in part because a lot of things happened this year (and because I finally got rid of my hangover about two hours ago). 2013 was quite the crazy and fun year, with a lot of great things that happened! Continue reading

Repairing Ancient Technology

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If there’s one thing you’ve learned about me, it’s that I like to pick up weird projects. This one isn’t so much weird, as it is… why?

As most of you probably know, radio stations do live broadcasts from area businesses. In the broadcast industry we call these “remotes”. Remotes are done with either some sort of internet device, or with an old-school Remote Pickup Unit. An RPU is essentially a one-way radio that transmits broadcast quality audio in the 150 MHz or 450 MHz range back to the studio. Since they only use 15W-40W of power, they work very much like a ham radio. In most major markets RPU’s are considered “ancient technology”… they’ve already moved away from RPU’s in favor of the other internet devices out there. In smaller markets like mine, RPU’s are commonplace and are still used all the time. Ancient, yes… but they’re still used.

IMG_0132Back at the end of October, I came across a Marti RPT-15 on eBay for a little over $125. It looked in good condition online, but the seller had no way of testing, which I believe scared off all the buyers. Except me, that is. Seeing as it is something I could use, and something that I have the gear to test out, I bought it.

When it arrived I immediately threw it on the bench and tested it out. It outputed the full 15W as it should, and overall the unit was in good condition. The only problem? It was setup for a frequency that my stations are not allowed to use. And unlike most modern two-way radios where you can just put in a frequency, this particular Marti unit uses frequency crystals, which basically means to change the operating frequency, I needed to order new crystals. The larger problem? Finding someone who still makes crystals!

Luckily, International Crystal Manufacturing in Oklahoma City still does, and they were able to make two crystal that would get my Marti to work on two frequencies my stations are authorized to use. They arrived right before Thanksgiving. I popped them in, did a little bit of tweaking, and I was right on frequency.

Now the main question I kept getting… what I am I going to do with this? To be honest, I have no idea. I have the feeling though it could come in handy if we run into a situation where one of our RPUs fails, we could use mine a backup. If nothing else, I got a little electronics tinkering in.

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License Plates

My current amateur radio plates

My current amateur radio plates

License plates have always fascinated me. Not sure why… I’ve always thought it’s been the letters and number combinations (much in the same why I’m fascinated by radio station call signs and highway numbers, but I digress).

I started collecting license plates when I was 8 or so. It started when my parents had dug out a few old plates they had from when they moved before I was born and couple from when I was very little. It was one 1980′s North Dakota plate, two sets of Wisconsin plates from 1988, and two sets of Minnesota plates from 1991 (a set of each are at my parent’s house… somewhere… Lord only knows where!).

Fast forward a year or two later, and a great aunt of mine caught on that I had an interest in license plates. After a family reunion, she mailed me a 1994 Montana plate and a 1988 Virginia plate. It was around that same time I came across a couple of old dealer plates from the Ford dealer in Minot, ND where the late Grandpa Duffy Bechtold worked. Those were stamped 1983 but had a 1984 sticker on it. Shortly after that, like anything a 9 or 10 year old is interested in, my interest in license plates faded for a while. Continue reading

2014 Ford Escape Ham Radio Setup

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I purchased a new car back in September. It’s a 2014 Ford Escape SE in black. I wasn’t planning on a new car until next year, but the stars aligned and I was able to make it happen.

So with any new car a ham gets, what must he do? Put a radio in it! As I did with the Taurus, I wanted to put a radio in the Escape without drilling any holes, and make it look a nice as possible… like the radio is supposed to be there. I know of so many people who put radios in their cars and it just looks awful. I’m one of those people that are super-concerned about what my car looks like (my Dad gave me that particular trait), so I wanted it to look professional clean.

Continue reading