APRS Madness Part 1

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2016-05-15 13.56.21 - Copy

So this week I took the plunge and picked up a Yaesu FT1XD Handheld. This is one of the new Yaesu HTs that supports C4FM Digital (ie: Yaesu SystemFusion). Since we now have two SystemFusion repeaters here in Fargo (WØHSC at NDSU and WØJPJ in Moorhead) I thought it was worth picking up and trying out. I may do a full review later, but right now I’m still trying to get familiar with the radio.

One additional feature it has that I haven’t had in previous radios is APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System).  APRS is a single frequency (144.390 MHz here in North America) that gives the mobile ham a place to monitor Announcements, Bulletins, Messages, Alerts, Weather, etc. It also takes location coordinates (if equipped with a GPS) and can map out stations across the web, such as aprs.fi. My Icom ID-880H supports DPRS (which is kinda the same thing but with D-STAR) but I’ve never had any luck with it. There’s a lot more to APRS than what I just described. If you’re interested check out APRS.org for more info.

So wanting to get my hands on APRS, I got it setup on my HT yesterday. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere, because for some reason there isn’t a single APRS reporting station (either iGate or Digipeater) in the Fargo area. APRS is only useful if there are stations receiving or transmitting info. The main thing I was trying to do was to get my coordinates onto aprsi.fi, and for You can guess where that got me thinking next.


Merry New Year 2016!

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Merry New Year!
Merry New Year! (a Trading Place reference if you don’t mind)

I’m good at many things. Updating this blog is apparently not one of them. I’ll be honest… I’m just flat out astonished 2015 is already over, and that I didn’t get a single blog post in. But since I’m at it, I guess I could use the excuse New Years post to do a 2015 recap.

  • Work. Lots of it. I had so many projects this year to go into detail, but I was kept very busy with various projects. Two new transmitters, two new FM translators, a brand new station, and new automation our Wahpeton station.
  • My parents sold their house and built a new one, so many weekends in 2015 were spent helping them move.
  • Once again this year I made it Moodance Jam with my rock stations. Always a great time!
  • I picked up another SBE Certification… I became a Certified Broadcast Networking Technologist in June by taking the exam in Minneapolis. And took a detour to Rochester, MN and Iowa in the process.
  • I didn’t make it to NAB, but I did make it down to Las Vegas in October with my family.
  • And I did get to play Ham Radio this year. I started delving into HSMM this year, something I hope to blog some more about later.

As far as 2016 goes… well… I’m want to do everything I didn’t do in 2015… ha! Not exactly, but 2015 got wickedly crazy. NAB is on the bucket list for 2016, as well as a real vacation., and some new projects that I can’t talk about just yet.

So in the words of Eddie Murphy, Merry New Year everyone. Enjoy 2016.

2015: Let the shenanigans continue!

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downloadHappy New Year, all! As per tradition (well this will be the third time, so I guess it’s a tradition now!), I feel the need to do a “in-reflection” bit on 2014 and what I’m working on for 2015.

2014 for me didn’t really have any huge milestones. I checked off a whole bunch of them in 2012 and 2013 so I guess that didn’t leave me much room in 2014. Not to say I didn’t do anything exciting, but just nothing that proved to be a huge life milestone.


My latest obsession: AM Stereo

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Why, yes, I DO love that AM Stereo light!
Why, yes, I DO love that AM Stereo light!

Anyone who reads my blog (or my Twitter feed, for that matter), knows that I sometimes like to obsess over certain things for a period of time. My latest obsession: AM Stereo.

Now any radio engineer or radio geek whose been around the block for awhile knows what I’m talking about. Those of you who belong to the younger generation… say, my age, are probably looking for an explanation about now.

First, let me give you the back story here. I’m a 90’s kid. I was born in 1990 (never mind that I was conceived in the 80’s but we won’t go there). Ask any 90’s kid about their thoughts on AM and they’ll tell you it’s a bad sounding mono radio signal that old people talk on (you’ve gotta remember, the FM revolution had already taken place by this time). In fact, I remember driving around with my grandpa in Minot, ND around 1997-ish (who at the time was a radio engineer himself) and he had an AM station on (presumably his) that was playing music. And I was blown away you could do that. Every other AM station in Fargo had already become either a news/talk or a sports/talk, so I assumed that’s all that was ever on there. I was 7 or 8 at the time so that was a fairly reasonable assumption. There may have been one music AM in Fargo at the point, but I really don’t remember. And radio has always fascinated me, even at that age… even before I even considered working in radio myself, I was always interested in how the technology worked.

Now, fast forward to about two years ago. I was working for the radio group I work for now, but I wasn’t technically part of the engineering staff at that point. One day I was BS’ing with one of part-time engineers (whose job, coincidentally, I ended up taking when he left a few months later) about our AM station in Fargo, KQWB 1660. And he was telling me it could do AM Stereo but we had it turned off for some reason.

Hang on a second… you can do Stereo on AM?


It’s been far too long…

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Holy crap, has it seriously been 5 months since I’ve updated my blog? At least better do an update with what I’ve been up to since my last post.


The STL Relay point on top of the Larsen Building in Downtown Yakima, WA

First off, my job has kept me quite busy. Since my last post I’ve flown out to visit our sister stations in Tri-Cities, WA (Kennewick/Richland/Pasco) and Yakima, WA, the most recent trip just this last week. They have very nice facilities out there and fantastic stations to go along with it. And as much as I hate flying I do enjoy going out there to visit them.


WAS Progress: 5 to go!

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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!

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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.


Worked All States progress

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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

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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.