Shack PC Up and Running

After the fire last Sunday, I did some testing, and found a good hunk of my 10-year old PC was gone.  The cost to repair was going to be significant, and I’d be left with the guts of an old PC.  I decided to replace the PC with a business-class small form factor machine.  Much faster CPU, more RAM, a faster SSD, and much smaller/quieter is the good news.  Bad news is that any new PC requires lots of software updates and configuration.

Yesterday I spent about four hours to get the PC up and running with all the required updates and drivers.  This morning I started working on the ham applications; HRD, tQSL, WSJT-X, and JTAlert.  About four hours later I had my first FT-8 QSO in the log book and uploaded to LotW.

Now I need to get all my tools loaded for Frequency Measurement Tests, and a few other ham related toys.

Posted in Computers, LotW, WSJT-X | Leave a comment

“Emergency! There is smoke in the basement”

So I have a rule about keeping all my WB4SON Blog comments about radio.  Keeps me on topic and away from controversial subjects, which is a good thing.  In the very sad news department, my constant companion Lily, our 14-year old English Springer Spaniel, departed the world just before noon today.  I wanted to write something about her, as I was thinking of the number of cold nights she would be curled up warming my feet as I sat in front of my radio in the basement.  But it just didn’t seem right.  So I had no plan to write anything.

About 10 weeks ago, I had developed a minor medical issue that made it quite difficult to get up/down the basement stairs, and in mid June we became aware that Lily was terminally ill.  These things pretty much kept me off the air.  After an unbelievably fantastic final month (lots of walks, trips to her favorite places, huge quantities of bacon, etc.)  Lily let us know yesterday that it was her time, and we made arrangements for her this morning.

After returning from the Vet, a friend contacted me to help him check out his new antenna, so I turned on my radio gear and verified his antenna was working.  But, as was my practice, I left the radio and computer on, figuring I would come downstairs later today — a distraction from missing Lily.

At about 3:15 today, our Nest Smoke Alarms blared into alert: “Emergency, emergency, there is smoke in the basement”.  Knowing the radio was on, I had my daughter grab the fire extinguisher, and we headed downstairs (after being sure there wasn’t a blazing fire at the bottom of the steps).  The smell of burning electronics was quite strong, and as we entered the radio room, we could see a column of thick, black smoke rising from the top mounted PC fan — the computer was literally on fire.  I snatched cables off it, and we could see flames shooting out the back of the DVD burner, which was at the top of the tower.  After getting the computer outside, I pulled the DVD burner out, and eventually the flame died out.  With the exception of that drive and some cables that were burned by the flame, the rest of the computer may well be OK — time will tell.

I can only think that our dog Lily wanted to be sure that I wasn’t distracted by my radio and would be thinking of nothing but her today.  So it goes.

Flames were shooting out the back of this BlueRay writer. Note all the burned plastic. Drive was not in use at the time.

Posted in Computers, From the OM | 2 Comments

Thank you Baker Island Team!

It’s been a hectic couple of months here in WB4SON land, and my operating time has been severely curtailed.  But it pained me to think that I was about to miss an opportunity for a ATNO with the KH1/KH7Z DXpedition.  I usually wait toward the end of the DXpedition to let the crowds die down a bit, but I had read conditions were so severe that they would be wrapping up a day early.  So I went downstairs yesterday right around sunset to try my luck.

I did hear Baker Island on 14.023 CW, but faintly, around S2-3.  However they didn’t appear to be real busy, calling CQ often.  So I gave a half-hearted try, and was greeted with a “WB4?”.  Clearly staffed by an A1 CW Op, their skill allowed me a quick contact.

Thanks guys!

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How much gas for a Field Day using a Honda EU2000i

My club borrowed my EU2000i generator for Field Day.  It gave me a chance to try out my new extended run tank (based on a 20L NATO gas can, with a custom cap for the generator, some J30R10 submersible fuel line, and a NATO fuel draw adapter).  Each generator ran two stations (CW and GOTA, plus SSB and VHF).  My generator consumed 2.3 gallons of gas for 27 hours of run time.  Not bad at all.  Driving up to Field Day, for the first time ever, I wasn’t able to hear generator noise at all.  I heard people a half mile away mowing their yard, birds chirping, etc, but no generator whine.

Next time I can cut down on weight by using a smaller 10L tank, and still have a gallon left over.

Posted in ECOMM | Leave a comment

Field Day 2018 Satellite Passes

I’ve put together my list of candidate orbits that are happening during daylight hours for Field Day 2018.  Orbits in green are pretty optimal.  Orbits in yellow are lower (and hence further away, or in darkness).

Satellite Passes FD 2018

Posted in AMSAT, AO-7, AO-73, AO-85, AO-91, CAS-4B, FO-29, From the OM, Satellite, SO-50, XW-2A, XW-2B, XW-2C, XW-2D, XW-2F | Leave a comment

QSO #9,000 in LotW

Silly, I suppose, but I note almost every accomplishment.  I’m happy to say that today I worked Ron, K4AKK, from Savannah, TN on 15-Meter FT-8.  He found his way into my LotW database as Contact #9,000 (since I started back on the air in Feb of 2011).  So that’s a pretty good clip, about 1,250 Qs a year.

I’m also impressed with the participation rate in LotW as that is a 68% confirmation rate.  Many of those are DX stations too.  Thank you ARRL for LotW, and for those that keep it running!

Posted in ARRL, FT8, LotW, Operating | Leave a comment

Still duking it out for the International Grid Chase

After investing most of April and May’s on-air time to the class I was teaching and the coming of spring (and all the household things that entails), I sort of dropped off the grid chase.  I have been able to get on for the past week or so, and have managed to crawl my way back to 3rd place.  But I’m sure it will be short lived.  Lots of my buds are hard at work on this too.

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Solar Cycle 25 Beginning?

Current solar cycle 24 is declining more quickly than forecast.  Will the solar minimum last longer, or does this signal that Cycle 25 is about to begin?

Some helioscientists are saying that early signs of Solar Cycle 25 are already beginning to appear.  And they are hoping the cycle will be underway by 2020.

Time will tell!

Posted in Solar Cycles | Leave a comment

Six Meters is Rocking

Each day that I have some time to be on the air, I start by listening to 6-meters for a few minutes.  This month, almost every time I do that, I wind up making a few contacts during a short opening.  This morning was a bit different.  The opening has been going on for more than an hour, and is covering all the mid-states from TX to IA and East.

Posted in 6-Meters, FT8 | Leave a comment

Happy 6000+ LotW confirmations!

Back on Jan 19, I was sitting at 5,000 LotW confirmations.  Today, with the addition of a couple of confirmations from QSOs with Iceland back in 2014, I bumped up to 6,001 confirmed in LotW.

Thanks to Odinn Thor (I LOVE that name), TF2MSN, for the confirmations.  Here’s to 7,000!

Confirmations of older QSOs are always an unexpected bonus on the day.  These put my DXCC Challenge up to 1,314.  It’s going to be a long, slow crawl up to 1,500.

Posted in DX, From the OM, LotW | Leave a comment