Jeff Bridges said it best…

“Elementry physics, a beam of energy can always be diverted. Are we there yet mommy?” –Flynn, from the movie “Tron”

That’s about how I feel right now. Turns out the March of Dimes walk I was supposed to do communications for wasn’t on Saturday, it was on Sunday. So I woke up at the ass-crack of dawn on Saturday for nothing. After driving over there, not finding anyone, calling Kip on the radio a few times and hearing nothing, and then coming home, I was now awake enough (and it was around 8am) that there was no way I’d be able to go back to sleep and get the rest I didn’t get overnight. So I hung out in the apartment a little bit, and then heard Dan calling Paul on the repeater. After Paul didn’t answer, he called me. Turns out he was on his way to the club shack to climb the tower and get the rotator off the one mast, and Paul was supposed to meet him there. I talked with Steph for a bit, figured out our plans for the day, and then headed over there to join them. Good thing I did, since Paul never showed up (we didn’t hear from him to find out what happened). Got the rotator down, and then I headed home, and Steph and I went down to South Jersey to return the scale she bought. After a little driving around behind the store, we ended up in the pines, and by this point I was in a bit of a bad mood. Tired, cranky, and just alltogether not feeling very sociable. Stephanie talked me into staying in the pines for a bit and doing some four wheeling, and I did. And I started to feel better. Funny how that place can just turn my mood around.

After hitting a couple trails, and getting back out to the highway, we came home and had dinner. I went to bed a little after 22:00 since now I knew I had to get up early, and had already nixed a lot of sleep I could’ve had Friday night.

Sunday I woke up and went to the park again. This time there were people around too :> I hung out and helped Gary and Gerry setup a portable HF station idea they’d had, and it worked very well. Then I got assigned to a location on the walk, Checkpoint 3. It was kinda neat, for one thing talking simplex with everyone, and being in a completely directed net (Even if I could see the other person from my location, I had to communicate with them through net control, not directly to them). My only problem came around the same time the walkers starting coming through my area (which was the last checkpoint on the walk), and that is the fact that there were no bathrooms near this checkpoint. I heard someone at CP1 say they were packing up, so I called control and asked if someone might come over to relieve me for a few minutes. CP1 called in and said he could do it, and then control gave the go-ahead. A rather painful 5 minutes later and Joe showed up, and even let me borrow his truck so I could get there faster (not bad for someone I’ve never met before). After the trip out and back, Joe and I manned CP3 until there were no walkers left, and then we headed back to control. Helped pack up there, and then stood around for I’d say an hour chatting, about 7 of us in a circle. It was nice, in some cases to put a face to the name, and to meet some people that I hadn’t heard on the air before then.

I took a nice hour-long nap yesterday afternoon at one point, and ended up staying up until 00:00 to watch a show on Comedy Central. Oh well, so much for getting up early on Monday, time to set the alarm for 9 again so I can get some sleep. Now I’m just about ready to head in; doesn’t look like much happened over the weekend, just a few people whose accounts were closed and now they’re noticing that they can’t login. That could be interesting.

That’s more like it

Heh, been 10 days since a post. Guess I’m back to normal :>

So, what happened. Well, we had the break-in as mentioned, and I got it cleaned up pretty much by Monday night. Stayed home on Tuesday, and ended up taking Friday as well since with the interviews we’ve been doing I hadn’t had a chance to catch up on sleep yet.

Last weekend, on Saturday I met up with Dan Marlow (K2QM) at the club station and we diagnosed a problem with the antenna rotator on one of the towers. Seems the sweeping arm on the potentiometer which should send a signal back to the indicator (so you know where the antenna’s pointing without going outside with a compass) isn’t contacting the resistor. Okay, so we need to take the rotator down and crack it open. After a little demonstration of HF (15 meters, chatted with folks in Israel, Russia and Italy) we headed out. Sunday I met Dan at the station again, and he climbed the tower to get some measurements and such. We devised a plate we can use to hold the mast in place while we take the rotator out of the tower, and discussed some options. Seems he knows of someone who refurbishes these things, and will send out a refurbished unit to us (only one trip up the tower, swap it out and be done!) and then we send our unit back to him. Might be a better idea to do anyway, so that 1) there’s less trips up there required, 2) We have a working unit faster, and 3) We don’t fix ours, put it back up and two weeks later find something else wrong with it.

Tuesday found me limping Stephanie’s car up to my folks place to do a brake job. Should’ve only been a 4-6 hour operation, including breaks and goofing off, but turned instead into an 8 hour ordeal which was mostly spent trying to get the damned rotors off the hubs. They’d rusted and siezed onto the hub, and I ended up using liberal amounts of WD40 and a gear puller (!) to get them off, when everyone I consulted agreed that “once the caliper is out of the way, them things oughta just slide right off the hub.” Riiiight.

On Wednesday we had our first (at least in recent history) DVRA club net, which went well. Only a few stations checked in, and I’m not too sure about the idea. It’s a great idea to get people on the repeater, but I have a feeling that a “directed net” isn’t the way to go to foster any kind of ragchew. Maybe it’s just because I’ve listened to the PepperNet so much (which is done “in the round”) so I’m more used to that kind of thing, but I see a directed net as more useful for traffic handling, emergency communications, etc… not quite so much for “So, what’d you do today?” Perhaps I’ll bring that up either at the next net, or meeting (or on the email list).

This Saturday is the March of Dimes walk in Mercer County Park, I’ll be one of the operators there. Kinda sucks that I have to be there by 0730, but I’ll get to sleep in on Sunday all I want just about (plus our evening plans for Saturday got cancelled, so I can always nap in the afternoon – You’re never too old for a midday nap :> ). Sunday my in-laws are coming up for dinner, I don’t remember now what we’re having. Just that my bid went in for BBQ ribs :>

Monday will be the state ARES/RACES net, and this time I’m probably going to head to the NJ State EOC (located at the state police HQ on the other side of town from me). I figure once I’ve checked each of the various EOCs in the area, then either I can float between them every month or pick one and stick there, depending on how things go. So next month will be the Red Cross right in Princeton (meaning I stay at work late instead of going home before the net). Then Tuesday night is the county ARES/RACES net on the local repeater, which I can throw my callsign in on the HT from out front, unless I want to say more than hello.

Good enough for now I guess. Waiting for a RAID to rebuild, and looking around for what else I can get into on a Friday afternoon.

…but does it go to 11?

It’s late, I’m tired, the apartment stinks of homemade pickles, and I’m about to go to bed. Okay, *I* think it stinks anyway 😛

Stopped by Gary’s house, and we checked the radio. Highest SWR was 1.6:1, not bad at all. Perfect? No, but not worth my time to tune it right now. I’m not going for weak-signal or DX work on this, mostly hitting repeaters and the occasional simplex chat.

Ahh well, time to indulge one of my bad habits and go to bed.

Posted in Ham /

Are You Feeling Okay?

Yes, three days in a row. I must be ill.

Woke up this morning and did my normal website scan, and when I looked up my callsign to see if the vanity call I applied for had gone through, I found that my callsign was cancelled. Slight panic. Then I see that the other application attached to it was passed. Oh, okay, that’s much better. So my callsign is now the much easier to remember W2SRH. At least easy for me. Well, it’ll be easy once I remember that I’m not KC2MSJ anymore. Now it’s just a matter of talking to the people who already know me by the other call, and them hearing the new one attached to my name, before I stop confusing people other than myself :>

Let’s see, what else is new… Well, Steph found out that because she only has 3 credits left for her MAT degree, they automatically denied her financial aid for the summer session. Argh! There’s nothing left that she needs to take, and the way they work out the semesters it would be impossible for her to have had 5 credits left for this summer. The good news is that she found a Spanish class that’s available, and might be able to take that to bring the credits up to where fin. aid will be happy, and it will give her a refresher on the language since it’s been awhile since she spoke it often. Ahh, college bureaucracy, I’d almost forgotten how asinine it was.

Waiting to hear from Gary to see if I can swing by and use his SWR meter on the mobile rig this afternoon. Another guy had mailed me and was going to swing by yesterday morning to let me borrow his, but I was in meetings all morning and missed him. If it comes down to it I can always wait until the club meeting next week, and just ask someone to bring their meter with them. Hell, it’s light enough out late enough that I’ll still be able to check everything out, and maybe even fix it if there’s a major problem, at 1900. As long as it’s raining, can’t be working on the antenna while it’s nice weather.

Oh, one last thing. Heard this strange noise as I was driving in, and when I got to work I checked the antenna (sounded like it was bouncing off of trees or something). Turns out that the part that has the set screws to hold the antenna onto the NMO base is loose. So I’ll have to whip out the toolbox at some point today to secure that a bit better. Not a terrible deal, but again makes me glad I haven’t cranked the power up to 11 yet.

Spirit of Radio

Invisible airwaves, crackle with life / Bright antenna bristle with the energy / Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength / Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free — Rush, “Spirit of Radio”

Quite a few things happened recently. Maybe I should start posting here more often instead of doing rehashes of the last few days every time I come on. That *would* make more sense. But then when have I ever made sense? :>

Let’s see… last Monday, I went up to the Mercer County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and handed in my paperwork to join the local ARES/RACES group. It’s a group of hams that have interest in emergency communications, and should something happen we may be called in to supplement the ’emcomm’ systems already in place, such as the state’s 800MHz trunked radio system. The group meets at either the EOC, or the county Red Cross station, and the statewide net takes place that same evening. This is where each county in the state checks in to make sure their radios are functioning properly, etc. I personally think that more traffic handling should go on, instead of just “checking in”, as it would give the operators a chance to pass traffic as one would in an emergency, but that’s just my opinion. Perhaps there’s reasons for doing things they way they do (such as time constraints), I’ll have to ask around I guess.

This past weekend, Stephanie did a craft show down in West Deptford (where we used to live), and my father and I drove down to HRO. I talked with Bob again, and told him the radio I wanted (the Yaesu FT-7800R) but that I wasn’t sure about antennas. He steered me towards a Radiall/Larsen dual-band antenna that doesn’t sit too high off the truck (my one main concern right now), and a magnetic mount base for it (until I drill “the hole” sometime this summer). Figured out a mounting location Saturday afternoon, mounted it in the truck Saturday evening, and routed the antenna and power connections Sunday. Now, if you’re in the area, you know we had some pretty lousy weather on Sunday; lots of rain, some thunder, the works. If you’re at all into radio, you also know that there’s an old adage, “An antenna put up in good weather never works right.” Meaning more that the antenna will always require a repair when the weather is lousy. Well, the fact that I installed the radio almost in the dark, and routed the power and antenna connections in the rain, this sucker should work forever and never have any issues :>

I’m running low power on it right now (5W), only because I routed the antenna a little strangely (had some leftover wire, and wrapped it back onto itself once to take up the slack) and don’t want to find out after dumping the full 50W into it that it’s reflecting too much back at the transmitter and blows it up. But even at 5W, it works great. I can hear every repeater that I had programmed in the handheld, and then some; I can actually hear people on simplex now and then as I travel; and I can make both of the immediately local repeaters with no trouble. What do I think? I love it!

I’ve chatted with a few new people recently; Stan (KC2JRJ) helped me with testing the rig when I got it online Sunday, and I’ve talked with him a few times since then as well. Bob (AF2Q) and I chatted this morning on my way in to work. Good thing QSL cards aren’t usually exchanged for FM repeater operations, I’d already have a backlog of cards to start mailing.

Oh well, until next time I guess. Club meeting is next week, and I may meet up with Gary (K2GW) before then to borrow his SWR meter and check everything out on the rig. Depends on his schedule, he said he might be available today through Friday, so I’ll probably drop him and email and ask him to pick a time.

Posted in Ham /


Doesn’t it just figure that I get into ham radio, where I could use an HT (handie-talkie, don’t ask why walkie-talkie isn’t used) or a moderate station in the truck to talk to various people through repeaters and such while driving in the car, *after* I move up closer to work and don’t have an hour long commute anymore? Ahh well…

On the way in today, called up the repeater that’s closer to work since I know I can reach that one all the way in from my house, and got an answer back from someone I’ve never met. This is what it’s all about :> We chatted about various things (the old drive-in theater in Palmyra that used to have flea markets every weekend in the summer, that the racetrack in Cherry Hill is being torn down and condos put in its place, computer shows, computers in general) from about 2 minutes away from my apartment all the way until I hit the back doors at work. Nice way to pass the time while in the car.

One of the things I constantly hear, for example on Slashdot anytime ham radio and BPL (broadband over power lines) are mentioned in the same line, is the words, “Why not just use a cell phone, they work all over too.” Well, during normal circumstances, you’re right, a cell phone works just fine. However, there’s a couple reasons why this is completely different:

1) In a time of emergency, cell phone towers rely on two things. Electricity, and a hardline for communication transfer. Even if you call from one phone to another, it still has to go to the tower, out to a computer somewhere, back to the tower (maybe even the same one) and then to the other phone. A radio system goes from one radio directly to another one (or perhaps to a repeater which rebroadcasts the signal) and will work even if there’s no electricity. My only radio right now runs off a 7.2V LiIon battery, could be charged from my truck if I wanted. The rig I’ll have in the truck runs off of 12V, and doesn’t require any mains power. Furthermore, many home rigs run on 12V as well, partly because that’s what’s needed to power the electronics inside and partly because they can be removed from a house, put on a table in the middle of a field, and hooked up to a car battery to operate. Doubt you’re going to keep any kind of cell phone infrastructure running on batteries for very long.

2) Ham operators tend to follow a bit of order if something goes wrong. If I’m near a disaster area, and I can get my signal out to somewhere else, there’s ways of going about sending that information back and forth through the airwaves that keeps things moving in an orderly fashion. However, if something happens near any area, many times you’ll find that cell phones don’t work anymore. Why? Because everyone opens their phone and hits “send” at the same time. The towers quickly become overloaded with anything from emergency phone calls to “Oh my God, Betty, you wouldn’t believe what I just saw… Macy’s is having a sale!” The landlines tend to get jammed up just as much, and now traffic that could mean life or death to many people can’t get through. This is why sometimes in emergencies you’ll find that your phone doesn’t work at all, not even a dialtone. It’s not because something happened to the lines connecting you, it’s so the emergency traffic can get through!

3) Lastly, and the most important during times such as this morning on my way in to work, how else would I have had a conversation with someone I’ve never met? Sure, I could open my cell phone and dial a random number, but chances are more likely than not the person I called would not appreciate the interruption. I could’ve given this guy my phone number, and we could chat tomorrow at the same time on our ways through the traffic, but maybe tomorrow he’s not available? So someone else might answer my call on the air instead. Once you get into the HF bands, where radio signals travel great distances with very little effort, you could chat with someone in England, South Africa, Brazil… would you just randomly call a number in another country in hopes that someone will answer it? Not exactly.

So yes, while during “normal times”, ham radio might not have as much power as something like internet communications or cell phones/landlines, it certainly does have its benefits. And if an emergency comes to this area, I’d leave my cell phone at home before I’d leave my radio anywhere. I *know* I can reach someone on the radio, and that’s more valuable than any number of cell phones to me.

Posted in Ham /

First Contact

Well, I’ve been on the air a few times since the last entry. Monday morning as I went out for a morning smoke I jumped in on a conversation between to gentlemen, one of whom is in the same club as me (DVRA) and heard that I was coming in clearly on the repeater. Not bad for a handheld radio! After heading inside though, my signal dropped off almost into the noise level, so I cut it short and finished my morning routines.

Yesterday on my way to the truck, I called out again and another club member answered me. We chatted for a few minutes as he headed into work, and he suggested I look around hamfests for a used Icom IC-706 for home use (which covers the HF bands, and down to 2 meters, so I could still use it at home to hit repeaters and such). Later on, I heard Gary talking with another ham (Dave) and he mentioned going to the Mercer County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and that there was a drill going on that was kinda interesting. Since I was in my office, I walked outside and thought, “Well, maybe he’s still got his radio on, and maybe I can hit that repeater from here,” so I called to Gary, and he answered. Ended up driving over there and spending an hour around the EOC, even got a tour of the county 911 dispatch center. Met a few new people there, as well as met Dave face-to-face, and we ended up standing outside for almost an hour chatting about radio ideas, mounting in vehicles, and various other things. Then last night as the Mercer County ARES/RACES net was going on, I heard Gary mention that he had a couple visitors to the EOC, including Dave and me (he even remembered my call, not bad since I only talked to him once so far), so I decided to check in to the net. Again I was heard clearly over the noise (though I was outside to make sure). This morning on my way to work, Glenn called me back again as he’d seen an Icom rig for sale in the area and wanted to let me know about it.

I’m sure at some point, the local chatter on repeaters and such will not be as exciting, but more of a routine that I do regularly, but I have to admit that yesterday morning, throwing my callsign out over the air and not knowing what would happen next, my hands were shaking a little. Funny since I used to work in radio for a short while, but at least then you don’t get instant feedback from your listeners since they can’t transmit back to you. But, once I upgrade my license and start off on the HF bands, I’m sure that feeling will return. Kinda like fishing, you throw your callsign out there and don’t quite know where it’s going to end up, or who is going to respond. Only instead of it being someone within 50 miles of the repeater, it could be someone on the other side of the planet.

Now that’s cool.

Posted in Ham /


Well, I woke up this morning (Saturday, it’s Sunday now because I can’t sleep) and hit “refresh” on my web browser again, looking in vain to see if there was a new name on top of the FCC’s list of licensees in my zip code.

And there was my name on top :>

So doesn’t it just figure, that I get my license when I’m up at my parents, without a list of repeaters, 20 miles from the nearest Echolink I could hook up to and transmit down where I live, and with nobody around here to talk to? Ahh well, Steph and I already decided we’d head back home somewhat early tomorrow (like 5ish, which is early for us) so maybe I’ll catch some people on the local repeaters on my way home. Will have to fire up the scanner and see how well I can reach the repeaters from the apartment with just a hand-held, at least until April when I can go pick up my mobile rig.

Posted in Ham /


As they say in the ship building business, anyway.

I’ve turned off comments on the website. Not like anyone was commenting anyway, it was all junk from spammers trying to hawk their wares (warez?), none of which I really need (left to the imagination of the reader). So they’re off.

In other news, I took my ham exam this past weekend, and passed it. So within a few days from now (hopefully, others have told me it took a few weeks) I should be seeing my call sign on the FCC’s database, and I can start pushing that ‘PTT’ button on my radio. Probably going back down to HRO sometime around the 3rd of April to pick up the mobile rig to go in the truck, and then likely spending the 4th on installing it :>

We’ve Got One!

So last weekend Steph and I went down to HRO and I talked with one of the gentlemen there about the Icom IC-T7H that I’d been looking at. He said that while that is a good radio, he thinks I might be happier with the Yaesu VX-5R for a few reasons. For one, it also has 6m capabilities, though there’s no 6m repeaters around here so I probably won’t use it much. It also has a much longer battery life, and one of the semi-important features I like is that it’s manufactured to military specs. The entire body of the radio is solid metal! While the whole thing fits in the palm of my hand, it weighs a good amount. Kinda refreshing from the tiny plastic electronics I’m used to seeing.

So, I bought one (it was only about $40 more than I planned on spending). I’ve already got all the local repeaters programmed in, as well as the local police and fire frequencies which are fun to listen to. Now I just have to wait until I take my test, and then see my license posted in the FCC’s database, before I can push the little “PTT” button on the side. Now *this* is a true test of one’s willpower :>

Posted in Ham /