Hooray For Kitbuilding

I’ve had some conversations with other hams recently, and decided that now is the time to get fully involved in APRS.  On Sunday evening I ordered a new Yaesu FT-2800 2m radio as well as the TNC-X kit with the USB option.  The TNC-X comes as a kit which you assemble, though you can also purchase an assembled and tested unit from John.  Since I used to love building electronics kits from Heathkit “back in the day,” I decided I’d save the cash and put it together myself.  The radio should arrive tomorrow, and the TNC-X is sitting on my desk at work right now – I’m debating taking up some space in one of the labs downstairs to start putting it together tonight :>

Once assembled, and combined with the radio and an old magmount antenna I already have, I hope to have a full time APRS station running at home.  Which will be nice, since right now half of my TS-2000 is being used for APRS, so not only can I free that up for other uses but I can shut it off at night when I’m done with it.  Probably sometime in the spring I’ll look at either getting a better antenna for APRS, or just a better mount for the antenna I already have (the magmount will have to come off of the grill some time…)

Morse Madness

So I missed a post for yesterday.  I’ll try to do two tonight instead of just one :>

One thing is for certain, with the latest round of bitching that’s gone on in my radio club’s mailing list – proof of proficiency in understanding Morse Code has absolutely nothing to do with common sense, etiquitte or manners.  If you’re privy to the mails on the list, I’m sure you understand what I mean.  If not, ask me in a couple years.  Maybe by then I’ll be in a mood to chuckle about it – right now, all I can do is hang my head in shame that the likes of this guy are around.

One More Year

Well, our radio club’s elections were this evening (actually Wednesday evening, since I’m writing this in the wee hours of Thursday morning).  Stephanie was uncontested as treasurer, and Keith uncontested as secretary.  For president we had two Davids – N0YMV and W0SNJ, and vice president was Mark N2KIV and myself.  The results came in, and N0YMV is our new president as of January and I’m remaining as vice pres.  Should be fun and interesting – I’ve been in this position for two years now (man, it doesn’t feel like it was that long) and I’ve enjoyed it, though there’s been a few times I was ready to throw in the towel.  But that comes with any organization I think, no matter what the topic – get more than a couple people involved, and politics can take over and ruin the whole thing, if you let it.

So we’ll see what the new year brings.  There’s a lot of things we both would like to do, and some of them I think are on their way to happening already.  One other good thing is that David is a new mind to the board, so I’m hoping for some new ideas as well.  Either way, there’s now a chance for the entire executive board to be in the same vehicle at the same time, which has to violate some law somewhere I’m sure.

Pine Barrens Express 2006

Well, yesterday was a lot of fun. David N0YMV and myself left my house around 11ish, and headed down to the NJ Pine Barrens for the Pine Barrens Express Road Rally. For those that don’t know, a road rally is where the drivers have a course defined for them (a series of instructions consisting of speed, distance and what turns to make at intersections or other road information instructions, but *no map*) and have to complete the course in a certain amount of time. They leave the start point about one minute apart, and they’re timed at various checkpoints along the way. There’s also a dinner break in the middle, since the event starts around 14:30 and didn’t finish until about 22:00. David and I went down to volunteer for communications during the event, and there’s quite a bit to do – plus, you become one of the members of the checkpoint crew, watching as these vehicles go by and grabbing their time and car number to write on the list. It’s usually a lot of fun, and this year was no exception.

Edit 20061119 @ 2024UTC: Uploaded the whopping two photos I took to the gallery – find them here.

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For the last couple days, I kept trying to think of something insightful to put here.  Maybe just something quirky.  Or funny.  Or more likely than not boring.  And I couldn’t come up with any of those.  Still can’t really 😛

Last night our club had its first simplex net.  Most of the nets we have (three per month, on the Wednesdays when we don’t have a meeting) are run on repeaters – so everyone just needs to be able to get into the repeater, and they can join the net.  To liven things up, there’s one on our 2m repeater, one on our 440MHz repeater, and one on the state office of emergency management 220MHz repeater.  Since this month had 5 Wednesdays, we did one on simplex (direct person-to-person, instead of through a repeater).  Worked fairly well, was only one participant that I couldn’t hear during the net, and I don’t think I was the only one to not hear him.  Nobody complained about my signal – but with an outdoor antenna now, and running 100W into it, I doubted that anyone would complain :>

I’m pretty sure we’re going out on Sunday, and there’s a part of me that swears we had something to do on Saturday, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it was.  So either I’ll remember on Saturday, or we’ll find something else to do.  There’s a handful of little things around the house that could be done, and with the school year approaching it’ll be good to do them soon or they might sit until next summer (or at least the next break we both get).  Oh yeah, Monday is a holiday too, so there’s an extra day in there… now I’ll really have to think of things to get in trouble doing.

Look Ma, No SWRs!

Went down to Delaware yesterday afternoon to fuel two of my habits – one being served by Ham Radio Outlet, and the other by a store next door that sells things by the carton cheaper than in NJ or PA.  Of course, we got there at 16:28, two minutes before they closed, but I wasn’t really there to browse; I had a mission.  Asked for a soldered type N connector, but they’ve been out of them for four months.  Okay, how about a SWR meter that does 2m/440?  He asked how low in frequency I wanted it, and I admitted I’d like it to go to HF.  That one is $200.  Okay, how about just 2m/440?  That one’s $79.95.  So I bought the less expensive SX40C, made by Diamond (who coincidentally made my antenna as well).  Last question was about standoffs for mounting my antenna mast on the house.  Right now, I drove a good 2.5′ of it into the ground, and bolted it around 5′ from the ground, but I’d like another standoff near the top of the house so I could make it taller too – only problem is, the gutter sticks out more than the 4″ that the current standoff gives.  But, they didn’t have any of those either, so I’ll have to check the home improvement and hardware stores in the area I guess.

The good news is, when I got home and installed the SWR meter, I checked the antenna and have barely any reflected power, even when pushing out 100W on 2m or 440MHz.  So I guess that N connector adapter I used which I didn’t like very much is doing a good enough job.  Oh, and I’ll see if I can get some more photos uploaded today, since I haven’t been doing that much and we have a lot more done in the house now :>

One-Click Easyness

So Stephanie wanted to setup some new stuff on her site for her school.  Hey, now that I’m not hosting stuff on my desktop PC anymore, this should be simple.  And boy was it.  Create a new domain, install WordPress on it, and just now created another domain and will setup a calendar there.  As Cartman might say, “that was hella easy.”

Yesterday in general, however, was not.  Stephanie ran out to a couple teacher stores, and I decided to try to tackle some of the yard work.  Succeeded in taking down a few of the small trees that had taken root in various places where they shouldn’t be, including the one semi-large one in front of the gas meter.  I’ll have to call the gas company to figure out how we’re going to get that one out – its roots could be close to the pipe, and I don’t want to chance it since it’s on the “hot side” of the shutoff valve.  Not worth the whoops.  Got most of the ivy from the front of the house out, but not all of it yet.  That shit is massively entangled in there, and not coming out easily.  Started digging cylindrical holes in the ground around it, and then pulling up bits and shaking off the dirt from the roots.  If I’d started that way, I might have got all of it done instead of how I was pulling it out.  Oh well.  When Stephanie got home, we got all the stuff into trash bags and cans, and ready for Tuesday’s pickup.  And some time this week, she might try to finish getting the ivy out.  We seem to have killed the most of the spiders, and I even dug out the tree stump that was in the ground there.

As for now, I think I’m going to plug this in to charge, and go setup the Buddipole in the back yard.  Time to get on the air methinks – especially since I haven’t done that since we moved here yet :>

We’re Afloat (not)

Stephanie stopped by the house, for the first time since the flooding in our area started, and everything is fine.  Little bit of standing water in a couple of the drains around the basement, but nothing really wet at all.  Most excellent.  Power and water are working fine too.

Speaking of the floods, I spent most of yesterday at the Mercer County Emergency Operations Center (EOC).  We weren’t really needed for anything, but were there to make sure it was known that we’re ready should something go wrong, and I did help with a few communications events here and there – fixing one of the police band radios, and locating a few EMTs on their way down from another county to make sure they knew where to go for staging.  Was strange to have a mic in front of me, and not use my call sign, but instead things like “Strike team Juliet, Mercer EOC”.  Might go back there tonight for another shift, depending on how Stephanie feels – if she’s still working at the house, I’ll go to the house, otherwise I’ll probably head back to the EOC.

CQ Field Day, CQ Field Day

Worked on the house for a few hours, and traced out a lot of the circuits that either weren’t labeled, or I found later were labeled incorrectly or just not fully (ie, one marked “Sump Pump” which branches off to who-knows-where before that).  Figured out how I’m going to attack the basement lights so they’re all on one circuit, and all switched by the switch at the top of the stairs already instead of walking around to turn them all on.  Wrapped all that up around 2300, and headed to the club shack.

Once there, I had a look around – man, did some people do some serious cleaning up there!  There’s room for three stations comfortably, and a fourth could fit in there too.  Had one on 80m phone, one was on 40m CW and one on 20m PSK31.  Shortly after I arrived, Dan K2QM got up and offered me the 40m station, so I moved it over to the SSB portion of the band and went to town.  I didn’t figure out how many contacts I got, but at around 0455 I had wrapped up the 100th contact on 40 phone.  I’d figured I’d stop when I got there, or 5am, whichever came first – and I was happy the 100 contacts came first :>  Lots of fun this year, unlike last year when I ended up sitting around with nothing to do a lot of the time.  Figures, we have less stations operating now than last year, but nobody was waiting around for me to get off the air this time so it’s not like I kept someone from operating.

Oh well.. off to sleep, and then back to the house in the afternoon to hopefully get started on (and finish up some of) the wiring.

One down…

Well, ran the lawnmower and string trimmer for the first time yesterday evening.  Did all of the front yard, and it came out nice.  Only problem was I didn’t have time to do the back, but since that’s behind a fence and people can’t see it I was less concerned.  At least nobody will complain about the front looking bad :>  Mower works very well, and the trimmer does too once it gets started.  My only issue today is that my hands hurt from holding the handle, and the arms are a little sore.  Hey, maybe I’ll finally lose some weight doing yardwork…

In other news, ARRL Field Day is this weekend, and our plan was to setup in Mercer County Park.  Unfortunately, the weather may not cooperate – currently calling for an 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms all weekend, with a total rainfall between 3 and 6 inches.  So we’re going to setup at the club shack, and run a smaller Field Day operation there.  Also planning on setting up at the Mercer County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and I’m trying to get in touch with N2HX about opening up the State EOC for a little bit too.  So if you’ve got a shortwave radio, tune around 20m (14MHz) and give a listen for Whiskey Two Zulu Quebec, Whiskey Two Mike Echo Romeo, and maybe November Juliet Two Echo Mike (though the latter two will probably only be on 80m, 3.5-4MHz)