From KD2CJR/R to K2ET/R: The brief history

June 2015 was the first VHF contest that I took place in… in fact it was pretty much the first contest outside of one CQWW, and a handful of Field Day events that I had participated in – while that was a mere 4 years ago, a lot has changed in that time. I had minimal equipment, an Icom IC-7100 as my main rig (still is) to get me through 6m, 2m, and 70cm, with a Yaesu VX-7 HT that I had recently added to replace my Baofeng filling in for 220. I was in college still, didn’t really have any disposable income to part with for any of my hobbies – not that I have a ton now, but knowing a deal, and how to buy and sell is something that has come over time too.

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This was the first iteration of the rover – I utilized bungee cords with fiberglass masts off of the front grill of my Jeep, and a pair of 2m and 70cm Moxon Antennas I had been using for the last year in my dorm, and had just setup in my new apartment. Using the top of the mast and a nearby tree, I strung a 6m dipole, but having not tested it beforehand, I noticed that the SWR was through the roof, I tweaked it a little to get it down to a reasonable point. The 2015 contest really just became a little day and a half road trip from Niagara Falls, to Erie PA, as I didn’t really plot much of a course other than the next grid. As evidenced by the photo here I had no clue what I was doing, this was in Whirlpool Park on the Niagara Escarpment – loads of trees in the way, worked maybe four stations? I made maybe two dozen contacts in the entirety of the contest, and completely forgot to even submit a log as I paper and pen logged, and missed the deadline. While I didn’t really put any of the time or effort into this, it just gave me the itch to try this again with a little effort.

June 2016 unfortunately didn’t yield much better results, however the setup didn’t really change, the effort however did. I hit three grids, and actually put in some operating time… well kind of. I was still using my Moxon for 2m/432, and a dipole for 6, but I also had a vertical on the front of my Jeep at the time, and with the right opening that helped pickup some unique grids! For 223, I was still utilizing a Yaesu HT, but my mobile antenna at least supported 220, so I had a bit more gain. In this contest I also had the advantage of having picked up a hitch mast holder, and while I didn’t have it setup in a way I could leave it up while moving, meaning at least 20 mins of setup time a stop, I at least wasn’t using bungee cords, and scuffing up the grill on the front of my Wrangler! For this contest, given it was only my second go around, I took those 2100 points with stride. For such a small setup, I didn’t think that was half bad for a new Limited Rover!

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June 2017 was a little better – having been in our apartment for a little while I decided that our storage compartment could hold a 14 element 2m beam easily…. well… I drastically underestimated how large a 14 element beam was… the package alone would barely fit in the doorway. I did find a way to disassemble it just enough to get it in and out of the door for testing, but the tear down and setup of that at each stop was a bit much. I did it anyways, but as soon as the wind picked up, my dipole for 6m broke from catching on the 2m when it took a gust, I just called it a contest then. I was also roving with a broken rear window at the time due to needing to change a hinge at the top and having it shatter in my hands while trying to fix it.

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June 2017 actually wasn’t half bad either, and while I did do the Grid Blitz with my club, for some reason I thought I may have a chance to place well within the Limited Rover category, so I submitted all of those contacts as a Check Log, so they did not go towards my score, but served as contact verification for my club members as we utilized additional bands. Looking back this was a huge mistake, and I probably could have wound up with a half way decent score. I was looking at this as improvement though, I more than tripled my score in 2017, ending up at 6,408 in the limited rover category. The coolest part of this contest though was the 6m contact that I made – way out to DM32 on that little dipole! This would be my last contest as KD2CJR – in December of 2017 I was granted the Vanity Call, K2ET.

Fun fact: my drivers side door also broke during this contest – when I arrived to FN03, and decided that it was too windy to try to balance the 2m antenna to put it up, I hadn’t fully closed the door. A wind gust caught the door and blew it so hard, the strap that kept it from flying a full 180 degrees open snapped, and the door banged into the front fender..

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Moving into 2018 I wanted to push this effort and expand, I now have a half of an idea of how to go about all this…. but… I was now having car troubles. I figured it still had a bit of time in it, but little did I know that this would be my last contest in the old Wrangler. In 2018 I participated in my first January contest. Borrowing a microwave setup for 2304, and 5g, not wanting to fumble with that 14 element beam again… especially in a WNY Winter… so I went back to the moxon for 2m/432, and had built one up for 223 as well.

Jan 18 - 4.jpg I had picked up a 902/903 radio back in September from a club member, and had a small beam to work that with, and was borrowing an Icom ID1 for 1296 that I merely used a mag mount for.

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I thought that this was a pretty tidy setup, and something that I could carry over to any vehicle, I glued a piece of shelving to a bin lid, and was able to secure the control heads and any external speakers to this. Any full sized radios would go below the control heads, and this left room for a laptop, and paper and pen… as well as a coffee. The back of a car can be a little cramped, but with no back seat, there’s pleny of room to sprawl out, and make it work. This was my first contest Digitally logging as well, and while I did not have any issues with the software, I did have some battery issues – and just for sheer entertainment value, since it was such a sunny contest which is a complete oddity for WNY, I ran the laptop via a Solar Trickle Charge.Jan 18 - 3.jpg

While I didn’t quite put the effort into setup that I would have liked, I did however commit the operating time. I wound up scoring over 34k points in this contest which I was incredibly happy with, and remains my best score to date of any VHF contest!

The old Wrangler frame was to a point where it probably shouldn’t be driven anymore by May (still for sale if anybody is interested!), which was awful come June. Luckily, I was able to borrow a vehicle to still get on for the contest (thanks to my dad, N2OA)! Now this was by far the most pieced together iteration of the rover to date as I had absolutely no clue what I was doing here, and knew nothing was going to be a fixture by any means, and building something specific made no sense as I had no clue what the car situation was going to be. This was one of those, grab what I can, and throw it on the air times.

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This started off with a nice 6m Moxon on the top of the mast, and while I had the larger 2m antenna, that was just a bear to haul, especially when you’re trying not to scuff up the vehicle you’re borrowing! So it was over to Moxon’s for 2m/440, and 223, and running beams for 902, and 1296, but also using a mag mount as backup. Sadly the 6m Moxon just didn’t have the integrity utilizing smaller PVC to make it light, so it was back to the 6m Dipole pretty quickly… which then started to give me troubles, and I wound up just giving up on 6m entirely.

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I somehow (absolutely no clue how) was able to eek out a score over 21,000 with the monstrosity that was solidly held together by gorilla tape, and sheer will… though as you can see below the desktop style setup carried over nicely here, too! For more on this contest, click here: It’s Over, Rover – a Detailed Summary of the June VHF Contest 2018 from K2ET/R

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This year, 2019, I was in the middle of moving, and didn’t have much of a desire to get on for the contest in January, but a fellow club member encouraged that I should get on to push the club effort since it’s our 70th Anniversary. With a new car, and no plans I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do. The same club member that lent me the 2304 and 5g setup offered to build up a roof rack, and lend me a rotor, and Log Periodic Antenna to cover from 2m-1296, all I had to do was figure out 6m, throw the 902 antenna up there for additional gain, and I was set! I said I’m in! So, as soon as that was constructed, I drilled out the holes to feed U-bolts through to fix this to the luggage rack of my new vehicle (2014 Jeep Patriot – purchased with roving in mind!), and we were set!

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Since he built this up for me, I figured I should definitely put in the effort to try and maximize my score for the good of the club! Mother nature had a slightly different idea. Western NY was under a travel ban for the entirety of the contest… did that stop me? No.

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Did it prevent me from attending our little Eastern Grid Blitz? Yes. But that’s okay, I found a few nice spots in the local two grids to hammer out contacts, and truly only activated three grids, but I did attend our Western Grid Blitz eeking in a fourth. After some logging hiccups with utilizing Roverlog on a different computer than normal, and log checking reports with this, I wound up with a score just over 21k. A 13k point drop from the previous January, but I’ll just blame my eternal 6m problems, and mother nature for that one… and somehow my log switching over to manual time keeping instead of automatic. For more on this past January Contest, click here: January VHF 2019: Day 2 and Summary

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While I had big plans for this June, it seemed like stuff just kept getting in the way.. I won’t go into too much detail about the June contest, as you can read about it here June VHF 2019: Poor Score, Fun Run, but the setup used in January was broken out again, and this time I utilized a 3-element beam for 6m. This was a huge advantage compared to previous years, the beam actually has gain, and… well.. it didn’t malfunction! What this past June did show me is that it’s time to upgrade the Coax. I’ve been using RG-8X everywhere, and while that’s okay on 6m, for the other bands it’s time to start feeding it with something like LMR-400, especially if I’m planning on getting into the microwave bands a little more.

This year, so long as all plans stay as they are now, I’m planning on participating in my first September VHF contest as well. I know activity tends to be a little less (based upon research of past logs), but with all functioning well, and assuming I don’t lose much operating time in this one, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of score I can post, and if I can find spots in some unique (at least to me) grids to activate..

2020 will mark 5 years of doing this, and I’m planning on doing a few little different things to change this up, stay tuned!

June VHF 2019: Poor Score, Fun Run

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June VHF 2019 wasn’t quite what I was hoping for out of the contest. I was looking to go bigger than the last couple of years, and hoping to break the 25,000 point barrier I’ve kind of made for myself over the last couple of contests. While that didn’t happen, I really can’t complain about the overall score. I was away for work the entire week before, so I didn’t quite get to put in the prep time that I was hoping to, however the new 6m antenna was put together, a full 3 element beam, that I would just bring the elements in for driving, and I could have them pulled out in about 5 mins after arriving on site. This was assembled, and on the rover rack set to go! I had more issues finding the U-Bolts to connect the rack to the luggage rack – off to the hardware store I went!

I was unable to attend our club’s Rover Grid Blitz Lunch on Sunday, however a few of us did hit an Eastern Grid Line in the first hours of the contest, which helped a little. I’ve never activated FN22 and FN23 before so this was a great opportunity to scope out the area a bit, as I’m hoping to make some big plans for next year’s June contest!

We found a nice little spot out of the way, did our quick exchanges, and parted ways – even the two hours we were there felt like an eternity though, in between bands I’d switch my main rig over to 6m, and right off the bat we had a clear opening south, so I was getting a little antsy, but we’re in it for the club, and for fun, so while I was waiting I’d throw a call out on 6 using low power since my antenna elements were still in from the drive, and the antenna wasn’t in tune. Within the first hour of the contest I nabbed a handful of 6m contacts.

Once we completed our little roundup, I moved up to a hill in FN23, however the band seemed to have quieted down a little bit. I hammered out maybe a half dozen contacts in unique grids, tried to sked a few out toward club members, however nothing was happening, the spot just didn’t have coverage in the direction I needed, so I hit the road.

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Unfortunately the bad part about activating out there first is that I burn some of the best on air time getting back to my home grid. Around 7:30 pm I’m on location in FN02, and finally back on the air, and that’s a great thing, because 6m is just starting to liven up with activity… on voice no less! I hammer out a few quick Q’s, but then my SWR jumps, radio power cycles, all the good stuff you expect from me and 6m during a contest. The new 3 element beam, that I tested weeks before the contest is giving me trouble? Come on! Well, I fiddle around with the power levels, and notice that it doesn’t really give me issues at 50w, so I just turn the power down and keep calling (not the brightest move in the world), I’m being too impatient to actually think this through given the amount of time I killed driving. The wind blows the right way, and the audio peaks. Strange… I start actually mulling this over, and climb up on the roof to look at the antenna, and in less time than it took me to actually hoist myself up there, I notice that the connector is loose. Go figure! It’s a simple fix!

6m gets all squared away, and I’m back on the air! I work the bands with some people, and make a few more contacts, but I really end my night at about 24 contacts outside of our little grid blitz – one of which was an impressive South Western Michigan on 2m Digital!

The following morning I head out to FN12, my site out there has a pretty clear shot in all directions, if anything I at least have the height on my side. This is where I notice a wide array of activity on 2m digital in the morning. I make some contacts there, move over to 6m, and pull some voice contacts out, but the band just isn’t as open in the morning, so I make a bunch of contacts with some of the local contingent, running the bands, and pack it up for a family commitment for the early afternoon..

I tried to get on the air in FN13 afterwards, trying out a new spot that isn’t as far of a haul as my usual FN13 location (usually I’ll start my morning way out in FN13), but the spot yields not much else other than wasted time on my part. I did attempt to move somewhere with higher elevation, but no positive results. I wind up with maybe 10 Q’s in a matter of two to three hours operating out there, the location was good in theory, having a decent shot to the East (in one location) or West (in the other), but wasn’t very productive.

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I decide to head back towards my QTH, as my usual stop in FN03 is on the way, this always has positive results, and did not disappoint – with a band opening on 6 again, and the locals out in force, I quickly gather up around 50 QSO’s in the same amount of time where I could barely eek out 10 in the last place. Stations were picking me up on 223, finishing a Q with another station, and then we’d work a few bands, just the way it should be, THEN! I start to have RF issues again… as always, without fail. It’s always near the end. And at this point I’m just exhausted from all of the driving I’ve done over the last two days, I still haven’t recovered from my week long training before, and after about 20 mins of fiddling with connectors, cable, antennas, RF decks, switches, inverters, you name it, I decide that’s enough. I pack it up, and head out. On the way home, I pull over at the grid line, break out the HT’s, put out a call for those that didn’t work me in my home grid when I roved in it the prior day, and called it a night.

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For the lack of effort that I actually was able to put in, I really cannot complain with my score of 17,650. It was a ball to work so far West on 2m, even if it was just FT8. The 6m opening led to a lot of Southern contacts on both voice, and FT8. It was nowhere near where I wanted to be, around 4000 points shy of my January score (after log checking), though I put considerably more effort into January. I could complain about all of the people that are just hovering on the 50.313 and running so many FT8 contacts when the band is perfectly open, but I do understand when it’s so sporadic, and you know that you’ll be able to make that digital contact. Moving into next June I’m planning on doing a 7 grid run, and adding the gear I was unable to for this year. If it weren’t for the January weather that we have around here I would probably attempt that run then, but while camping out in the -10 degree weather does sound fun, it becomes very difficult to keep a battery charged in those temps.

January Log Check Reports

While the full line results aren’t published yet, it appears as though the January contest log checking records are available. While I was nervous about losing points due to potential logging issues, it wasn’t necessarily as bad as I thought it was going to be. I lost right around 1000 points, winding up at 22,800 as my final score, my listed claimed score being slightly less that I had jotted down in my notes. Surprisingly, this wasn’t due to any timestamp issues, or incorrect call inputs, but do the duplication. Probably a matter of my forgetting to clear the ‘call’ field of roverlog when logging a new contact, or forgetting to change the band that I was operating on – the latter seeming more likely. In any case, this leads me to question whether I should be trying to change my logging software up, or just attempt to pay more attention moving into June.

I thoroughly enjoyed the set up that I had running, I was running RoverLog off of my MacBook in Wine, and WSJT-X for digital modes. Didn’t have any issues with speed, or power – running out of juice an an inopportune time was kind of my fear running this computer as I only ran short spurts of charging between setup points due to the inverter(s) used being so heavy in RF noise, at times producing an S9. The previous two in one that I had been running in the last couple contests allowed for micro USB power, which allowed me to charge much easier on the go, and additionally utilize rather large portable battery packs to keep it boosted when it seemed like power may be getting low. The issue with that device, was just how small it was. Running a full version of Windows on a 10″ screen with a non-illuminating keyboard was a little difficult, especially when it began to get dark. Running Logging software, as well as attempting to operate FT-8 or my quick attempt at MSK-144 is just too difficult on a screen so small. Not to mention the fact that it’s running Windows 8.1 – should really at least upgrade that to Windows 7… yes, I did say that correctly.

In any case, something to definitely look at moving into the June contest, I know the issue was purely operator error, and therefore it gives me something to correct, and work towards! One of my complaints about RoverLog is that while it does flag duplicates, it merely highlights the text and moves on. A likely alternative I may consider is operating the ASUS for Logging, with either RoverLog, N3FJP, or N1MM, and also running the Mac for Digital – as digital is something I do not utilize until it gets later, I can detach the physical keyboard of the ASUS, and use the touchscreen for easier input. Too many ideas, too little time. Trial and error over the next few contests will be key… that is until I decide to try something completely different next year!

It’s almost Dayton time!

That time of the year is almost here… Dayton! Time to be a kid in a candy store! This year I don’t have a whole lot on my list, although the last two years I have not so that’s not much of a change. Usually it’s one of those things where I don’t realize I need it until about a week after the Hamfest, or in most cases until… well… I need it. This year I have three objectives:

1) Attending more Seminars: I try to make this my goal every year, but I usually get lost in the abyss that is the flea market, or sucked into wandering Mendlesons or one of the other outlets with clearance goods that I probably don’t need, but wind up finding myself looking at anyways. Not this year! Thanks to the release of the new app, I’ve been able to go through and find some of the ones that I’m interested in attending beforehand more conveniently, allowing me to go in with more of a plan than normal. I’m planning on attending Five, however the likelihood of attending more than two or three is slim as I’ll likely get distracted somewhere else.

2) Better outfit for Rover operation: January, and June VHF Contests are my primary operation times – sure, I could play around anytime really, however I have really enjoyed my time getting to work with my local clubs and getting on the air, and racking up the contacts! These two contests I dedicate the weekend to, and enjoy every minute of it! So long as I don’t decide to make additional plans, I may even pickup the September contest this year, which would be a new one for me. We’ll see how everything shakes out though. Finding some microwave transverters and adding some more bands would be nice, however I am content with running 6 band in June. I’m really looking for anything that may help with organization of the radios, and comfort while operating. I had so much help this past January with getting the rover fast, it’s time to get the rover a little more practical than the desk setup that takes 20 mins to batten down between stops.

3) Base Station Activation: Having moved into a new house in the last few months, I have had very little time to operate from home. With that being said I have still had some, and currently just have a wire dipole thrown up in the back yard for the moment. I would like to change that, even if it’s just a vertical for the time being, really just something else that’s a little more out of the way during the summer. Currently, the way the dipole is strung, RFI tends to kill the network when I’m on the air… which when you’re running smart bulbs and such can become a little problematic.

Lets see if holding to those goals can actually happen, and I hope that everyone who attends enjoys themselves! I may have some content while down there, but if not, look for new posts after!

FT4: It’s exactly like FT8… But faster!

I know for a fact that I’m not the only one out there that just isn’t crazy about FT8, but I’ve used it. It’s fine. It’s a digital mode. Sure, it’s great for weak signal, and times where general propagation is in the doldrums, but I don’t see the general appeal – that’s fine if it’s your thing, but it just isn’t mine. With that being said, with the introduction of the FT4 beta, of course I’ll get on! It’s a new mode, feedback is likely appreciated, and… well… it’s new! Reaction? It’s a nice, quick mode, each exchange is right around 6 seconds, so your full QSO is under a minute! I see this being very beneficial, and I’m excited for the full release! Yes, I know I said that I’m not crazy about the mode, I do use it still as there is a TON of activity on it. And in addition to that, I see the increased activity generally that it has produced for the hobby as a whole, and that is a huge plus!

Moving into installing the beta of the software was a breeze, since I was setup for FT8 already the configurations from the prior version of WSJT-X on my computer simply imported to the release installed (as it would if you updated the software. The only issue that I came across was with the frequency configurations… they were non-existent within the application. I happened to stumble upon them in an FT8 Users Facebook group I belong to. This meant that changing frequencies had to be done with… *gasp* a knob on the radio, not just the software! Sure, I could setup rig control for my 7100 or something, but unless I’m working digitally, the computer is often off/in hibernation, and I paper log, and I’ll add to LOTW afterwards. This is actually a running joke in my family and with a local group – I’m one of the youngest, active people in the group, but have a personal aversion to SDR’s like the Flex simply because, well, they don’t have a control head with knobs and buttons, they require a computer to function (yes, I know there is an add-on control head and such, but it’s an add-on! Come on, man!)

Actual exchange of FT4? Well, you’ve used FT8, right? It’s the exact same. CQ with Grid, Signal Report, Received, 73, Done. Quick, to the point, and you’re back to CQ-ing. For a contest, FT4 is drastically going to increase QSO rate. Still not as fast as a voice exchange is going to be, but it’s getting there (FT2 in the future? Does Yaesu have a patent on that name and would they give Joe Taylor a hard time with it?) and I can see this being huge when the band is so-so on 6m, as it still fully embraces the weak signal mode that FT8 is… just faster!

All in all I’ll just say this, that QSO rate is a huge increase from FT8, over twice as fast, and I believe that this is going to be the next big thing with contesting, much the same way FT8 has been, and especially so in the VHF/UHF realm. Whenever the stable release in planned for I’m sure it’s going to take off much the same way it’s predecessor has, and while I’m not crazy about this being such a predominant mode now, I do think that the activity that it has attracted, and the increase that it seems to have sparked in the last year is fantastic. Let’s see what the future holds!

Apple AirPods – Feature Packed, but not really designed for activity

I’ve only owned my AirPods for a short time, but I’m already a huge fan.. I stated before that I was using a cheap Chinese knockoff brand of headphones, and was thoroughly impressed! I still think that they are the only knockoff type product that I would even recommend, but after about six months of serious usage I was beginning to notice some issues with them. For $40, I’ll admit, 6 months was a lot longer than I thought they’d last. The battery was no longer going the full three hours it once did, especially when taking phone calls, and they would randomly connect and disconnect when being stored in my pocket and moving around, and additionally I was beginning to notice some connectivity issues that I didn’t have before. I originally bought them not for the price or quality, but in reality to see how much I would actually use them, and if eventually purchasing the $150 Apple Branded device was even going to be worthwhile. Well, I guess if anything this really brought to light how much content I intake via earphones. I listen to somewhere between 12 and 18 hours of Podcasts a week, as well as Music as I’m accomplishing tasks at Work and at Home. As the battery was starting to wear on the other device, I figured that this was as good of a time as any to try out the new generation of Apple AirPods.

The first thing I thought when I put them in? Wow. This look goofy… but they sound incredible… if only they fit just a little better. I shouldn’t knock the look though, that stem adds a serious hardware advantage that other varieties just don’t have, it allows for more to be crammed in there, and if it weren’t for that space, the H1 Chipset that allows the “Hey Siri,” feature that is more handy than I ever thought it would be on a set of headphones, wouldn’t be there. The double tap controls are programmable via Bluetooth, and can be set to Summon Siri, Play/Pause, Skip Song (or Fast Forward Podcasts), or Go Back. In addition being able to setup Automatic Ear Detection (default on) is handy if you’d like to have it automatically pause when you remove one of the pods. Lastly, you can configure which AirPod the microphone is set to, or have it set to automatically select one. I’ve left most of the controls where they were preset when I pulled them out of the box, my left ear tap is pause, and right ear tap is skip, though asking Siri to skip or rewind is the more common thing I do anyways.

Within 48 hours of using these though I noticed a severe accumulation of pocket lint/dust within the case, which isn’t the end of the world. Pairing them couldn’t be more simple, unlock your phone, ensure Bluetooth is on, and open the case. The rest is automatic! While I’ve been on a longer stretch of days where I really like to have audio going while I’m working I haven’t truly tested how long it’d take to kill the batteries completely, in my time so far I haven’t been able to get the case down below 75% by the end of a 10 hour day. The headphones themselves I put below 80%, as I’ll have to pull them out to talk or perform particular tasks, so they go right in the case, and in that matter of 20 mins (maybe), they’re back to fully charged!

The quality sounds just like the Apple Wired Headphones… maybe even slightly better, which thoroughly impressed me. Losing some quality via bluetooth is pretty much expected as far as I’m concerned, but there is no loss that I can hear. Even with bass heavy music, an area that I have always found Bluetooth audio to be somewhere around the level of listening through a tin can, that just isn’t the case. It is impeccable sounding.

The fit is something I’m not too crazy about, but at the same time I’m not really concerned. They fit exactly like the wired headset does, but with that being said, they stay in a bit better as you don’t have the wire to knock around… with that being said you don’t have the wire to catch them if they slide out. There are numerous little slip over covers, and hooks to go around an help these grip to your ears, something I now have on order and should be seeing tomorrow. For me, part of the beauty of wireless headphones is when you’re working out, or are just plain out and about and you don’t necessarily want to have your phone right nearby. The reason I went with these over the Galaxy Buds, or Bose (which are in the same price wheelhouse) is due to the capabilities that these offer – customization of the touch controls, as well as full voice control are something that this really offers that nobody else does.

The case, as I mentioned before, seems to get ‘gunked’ up pretty quickly, so finding a case… for the case… ??? … seems like it may be a good idea.

All in all I really am fond of these, however the issue of the fit, which can hopefully be solved with silicone tips is kind of keeping me on edge about actually hanging on to these – the Apple 14 day return policy is something I’ve never had to use, but if these little covers don’t do the trick, I may have to. Last thing I want is these pricey little things slipping out of my ears somewhere along a 60 mile bike route.

Anybody else have any experience with these? Any tips or tricks to keeping them in? The next best thing would likely be the Powerbeats Pro, they’re the same specs as the AirPods 2, however with the Beats logo, and are $100 more, which is not something I’m feeling like shelling over money for.

FTM-400 vs. ID-5100 – A couple of months side by side

After finally getting some time to use the FTM-400 along side the ID-5100, I thought it was time to contrast the two. I believe that (after looking around and doing some research) these are probably the best mobiles on the market at the moment – the offer digital capabilities – the open standard of D-Star vs. the proprietary System Fusion, APRS/DPRS respectively, on top of just being solid sounding FM rigs that would make any everyday user happy. There are a few points that I would like to put down for each rig however, as they both do have their quirks that make each one something that different people may want to consider.

Pros – Yaesu FTM-400

  • Color TFT display makes reading in the sunlight much, and is easier on the eyes at night
  • Menus are probably the most straightforward of a Yaesu radio I’ve ever used
  • Full APRS Functionality
  • Relatively simple navigation in DX mode
  • YSF Compatible
  • Sturdy built
  • Decent Microphone Controls
  • Temperature Swings do not seem to affect the display

I’m actually hard pressed to find what I would deem a con about this radio. While I said that the Menus are the most straightforward of a Yaesu I’ve ever used, while that is a compliment to the relative simplicity of the rig, there are a few quirks that I’m not too crazy about – remembering that tone control is in “signaling” and not a separate tone control menu. Again, this isn’t a big deal, it’s just an odd thing to remember, but I’m sure anyone can get the hang of this eventually.

To draw a comparison of this radio to the Icom ID-5100, I actually think that overall the FTM-400 is a just a better radio. The ID-5100 offers D-Star which is a much more capable, narrower bandwidth mode that offers much more flexibility in your radio options. The menu simplicity, near repeater functionality, etc. make the functions of the ID-5100 far superior to that of the FTM-400. With that said though, the display, and the overall build quality of the FTM-400 is what pushes it ahead.

Pros – Icom ID-5100

  • Black and White display is less distracting while driving
  • Simplicity of menu navigation – almost the exact same going from an IC-7100, to an ID-5100, to an ID-51A, or an ID-31A. I would liken Icom’s line to the Apple of Ham Radio, when you pick up any other iPhone, you’re going to have an almost exact same experience between devices, the same goes for the Icom line of D-Star ready radios.
  • D-Star ready
  • DPRS – while not the same as APRS in the slightest when it comes to the beaconing and messaging features, if you’re an exclusive, or predominantly D-Star user, this is a very nice feature

However I have a few cons with the ID-5100:

  • Display difficult to read in sunlight – full brightness helps, but still just difficult compared to most mobiles
  • Display now displays grid marks after having been left in the car through a WNY Winter (while admittedly I did not receive the FMT-400, and we’ll have to see what another winter does to it)
  • Speaker is quiet on digital – this is more of a comment on the mode though, as DMR and Fusion do not seem to have the same Audio Level issues

All in all they’re both great radios for a similar price point, the ID-5100 is a bit cheaper, however they’re within $75-100 of each other depending on rebates and sales you may catch. If you want something D-Star ready, trust me, you can live with the shortcomings of the display, because the rest of the radio capabilities far out match that of the FTM-400, however if D-Star isn’t the top of your priorities when looking, and you really just want a quality radio with a small form factor that will give you many options to nicely mount in your car, the FTM-400 is the way to go.

June Contest Planning Underway!

Admittedly I don’t plan on tweaking as much as planned at this moment – I will definitively be running 50-1296 mhz at the moment. Definitely going to keep eyes open for transverters, and amplifiers in Dayton, no matter what I think at this moment it’s safe to say that it’s going to at least be that that spread at the moment. 6m will finally have a reliable antenna – I have one on order from a recently dissolved contest station that is a 3 element beam with collapsing elements… this was actually something I was planning on building during the upcoming months, however someone offered one up, and the price was right, so how could I not turn it down? This is a huge time saver for someone who’s free time is few and far between during most of the year, and hopefully alone should pick up the slack that I had in the last half dozen contests – a solid 6m opening puts crazy amounts of mults out there that just cannot be missed.

The other issue I’m attempting to address is logging – I’m thoroughly concerned that due to time issues I was having within RoverLog, this will lead to some points lost in the January contest. I’m hoping to transition it over to N1MM or N3FJP run via Windows Emulator on my MacBook. Being an Apple user when it comes to radio software is a little tricky – there are applications out there for logging, some really good ones too, but they just aren’t designed for contesting, and the ones that are aren’t setup for VHF/UHF Contests. I’d really like to get my hands dirty on this front and begin to develop something for iOS/Android over the next year or so, but given that I have very VERY little programming experience (as in I gave up at “Hello World” with Java, and have made a Random Number Generator with Python), this is going to be an endeavor. The platforms are ripe for picking in this front, but that’s down the road for sure.

All in all though, I think due to the assist I was given by other local hams in getting something good to go, January (despite the weather) went as well as it could – and June will be the best contest yet, I can feel it now. Even if I don’t add any more bands, I’ll be on location, and on the air on time, the question is what grids and what locations are going to be the plan to hit? This is the million dollar question.

 

“Well what charger do you need!?”: Standards at an Awkward Time, and How much longer does Android have?

This was an encounter that made me realize what the state of the current landscape is. We have standards in computing – USB, WiFi, Bluetooth, but how many out there actually understand them? This exchange was specifically around USB ports. Someone needed to borrow a charger – and I’m a solid iOS/Mac user for everything, however I have devices that use other connectors, so I tend to keep an array in my backpack, specifically mini-USB, micro-USB, and USB-C, as they tend to be standard with my other devices. Someone asked if they could borrow an “Android Charger.”

I said, “What connector do you need?”

They responded, “The Android One.”

I was in the middle of something and couldn’t immediately break away, so I proceeded to ask, and we went back and forth for a few mins, other chimed in, but this led me to a realization of how many various consumer devices are using different connectors at the moment. And on top of that, how little people know about their devices in some cases. I understand that people just want a device that works, but shouldn’t people have a better understanding of just how it works? In school we all get the basic science of computers explained to us Hard Disk space, versus RAM, etc., but as time goes on things change, and we have to educate ourselves on those changes. It can be difficult to keep up sometimes, but if you want to use these devices, you should be able to sound some semblance of educated, or at least have a basic understanding of the question. Knowing what type of port your phone is should be a minimum, as when you go shopping for a new cable as we all have to do, you should know that you need a lightning connector, or a micro-USB.

While we’re moving towards the standardization of the USB-C port (keeping in mind different protocols from USB 3.1.2.3 or whatever it is, versus Thunderbolt 3 all working off that connector), with even Apple adding it to the latest generation of iPad Pro, and the MacBook having it for over a year now, this comes at kind of an awkward time in technology. The average life span of mobile devices, as apple pointed out in it’s last report, is longer than ever – therefore the transition over to a more standard connector on new devices is going to take a little more time than it would have in the past to actually get rolled out. For the time being, the most that anybody can do is just keep an eye on what’s going on with this, and as things move over, try to stay on top of it. Standards only become standards because people want them.

Sure, this whole exchange above led to an Android versus iOS debate as it always does, and as someone that has used both I have settled on iOS as my preferred mobile operating system – admittedly due to being committed to iTunes with purchases, and much preferring iMessage over any other messaging service. There are various applications where I can see Android being a much better alternative, but for me that’s not the case. This brings up a question based on Google’s history – How much longer do we really think Android will be around? This month Google is killing a bunch of applications, and launching a gaming service with ChromeOS in mind. All of its new hardware (short of the Pixel phones) are running versions of Chrome – could Android be among the services that Google is considering ending? The Chromecast is right up there with the Fire Stick, and Roku as far as affordable streaming devices, and has support for iOS as well. Its new Stadia service will be usable on a Chromecast Ultra.

What’s your opinion? Is Android on its way out now that they’ve gotten it to a refined point? Is Android what it once was, the space where the geeks could do what they please with the OS, or is it becoming as locked down as iOS with a different shell?