Cord Cutting – Why Haven’t You, what are your options?

If you’re getting some amazing bundle deal, having cable or satellite makes sense I guess, but in the golden age of streaming where you have options that cost as little as $20/mo, and you can pick your channels, why would you still have cable? There are thousands of channels out there, but think about it, how many of them do you actually watch? And moreover, how often are you still using your cable box in reality? A few months ago, I discontinued receiving Cable TV, and realized a few things:

  1. It was never being used. I was so excited when that cable box arrived, all the channels we’d now get… and after 2 months, it hand been turned on to watch the 30 min looping news channel. The fact of the matter is that with busy schedules, and without the ability to DVR shows, it was being utilized maybe twice a week for something other than the local news.
  2. Cable Companies lie. By removing TV from my account, I was supposed to be saving right around $25/month, when in reality, I was saving $5, and now had to buy my own router… not that the last part was a problem.
  3. No longer having Cable TV coming in improved the consistency of my internet speed. Given, this could be a coincidence given that they were making infrastructure improvements at the same time, but I would hazard a guess that it wasn’t the only thing that contributed to that. There are no longer two carriers along that incoming line being put through a splitter, it’s now a single signal for internet alone.

Upon canceling cable however this pushed me to a new device, a Tivo Bolt. The $200 device doesn’t come with a hefty price tag, however the $15/mo subscription fee (or the fee a little over $500 for lifetime) makes you think sometimes that you may have just been better off keeping cable. The device, however, is well worth the cost. Not only does it allow you to DVR your shows (we still have an amplified antenna and get a dozen or so channels OTA), but you can also stream your recordings to your smartphone (iOS and Android both), but when you search for something to record, it will search the built in apps, and tell you what streaming services it is available on for you to watch from, or differentiate between streaming vs buying in the case of Amazon and Vudu. Yes, this device also works with cable via the renting of a cable card from your provider if cable is still your thing. This device is perfect for the cord cutter though, allowing you to work between apps with no problem. It also features Pandora Radio, and YouTube, but no Spotify.

With all of the various TV Streaming services out there though, it can get a dicey. The concept of being solely reliant on an ISP to be able to watch TV can give cause for hesitation for sure. The foolproof way to have everything the way you want it though, would be to switch over to one, and cut the cord. With TV Providers such as DirecTV, Dish Network, Spectrum, XFinity, and others getting upwards of $80/mo for basic TV access, and then having to pay a surcharge, or additional fee for access to your local channels, it’s obscene! We don’t need TV that badly that it’s worth paying those fees! There are other options out there from places such as Sling TV (a-la-carte options), PS Vue, YouTube TV, as a few examples. Most of which allow you to access everything from any device you’d like. You even have the option of managing from your phone, and, “casting” to your TV. Now the major providers are getting into this market as well, there’s the DirecTV Now, and Spectrum Choice as a couple examples as well, where the package for TV is $35/mo, and $21.99/mo respectively. The major providers are realizing that less and less people actually want over 1000 channels with nothing on them.

In short, to you, I’d highly recommend cutting that cord, switching over to a $20-$35 streaming TV service, getting a DVR, and an OTA antenna if you don’t want to be reliant on streaming for even the local channels. With that you’ll get all your local, big network channels without a crazy fee, and then your cable ones are a fraction of the cost, and you get what you want. If you don’t care so much about being reliant on an ISP for even the local channels, most of the streaming services offer those as well, in fact working with the local areas is why it takes a little while for the services to roll out in different areas. Just so you know, most of the streaming providers also offer DVR capability as well, so you can really skip the Set Top Box if you want.

VR vs AR – Gamers, Enterprise, and Enterprising Gamers

I’m going to preface this by saying that I love VR. There’s something about video games that you can just get absolutely lost in such as Farpoint, or that singular Battlefront mission where every geek like me can live their dream of being an X-Wing pilot for about 20 mins that’s just absolutely amazing. Video Games, Movies, we all have out little escapes that we like that we can access right from the comfort of our own home. Then we have AR, Augmented Reality, which is a little more dicey, but it’s still really neat. Sadly the best experience that we have with AR it seems (for the moment at least) is still Pokemon Go. I would expect more over the next few years as it has only been a year since companies like Apple announced DevKits for AR.

But both of these technologies have way more to offer than gaming, could you imagine being an assembly line employee, wearing your MS Hololens, or Google Glass, and seeing exactly where, and how your part has to be assembled, step by step, with a holographic outline? Well, you don’t really have to imagine too much as the technology is already in play… at lease software wise. Boeing (in the previously linked article) is toying around with it a little bit, but the fact of the matter is that the data usage is astronomical using networked machines, needing quite a capable wireless access system, not to mention the computing power required. Sure, use within the manufacturing industry is going to be a lot less intensive than gaming, you’re not rendering full 3D, 360 degree worlds (180 at a time, but the other 180 has to be rendered as you move), NPC’s, and whatever else is needed for the particular game, however you will have to render a part, instructions, and likely text displays as well, which isn’t going to be a small task still. What I think of is the potential when it comes to training – you still have someone shadowing to demonstrate company process, tricks of the trade, etc., however with AR glasses, or even just utilizing an AR application on a phone or tablet, you’re able to be 100% walked through, with step by step instructions in front of your face, which should alleviate any question of the actual assembly process exponentially.

I think the real test for this technology is going to be the gaming world though, as a lot of things are. If you can win over the gamers with a solid design, reasonable price, and a peak performance, you’ll be able to win over most anybody else as the gaming community tends to be very meticulous when it comes to new computer technology, and perfection within it. AR maybe not as much – when the calibration of the Z axis within AR begins to finally remain in a stable location, and not continually drift, I think that’s when it will become fully accepted as a daily piece of technology, but until then, there’s still some work to do. When it comes to VR, I believe that technology will never fully get past gaming and entertainment. Sure, training videos could be a good idea with this, but AR is really where enterprise will thrive, VR is too disconnected. In the world that we live in today, eternally connected to one another, for someone to be able to put on a headset and be in their own separate world, it’s not personal enough. We interact day to day, minute to minute, either over the phone, or face to face – whether it be IRL, or via Skype, Lync, WebEx or what have you. We will use VR for our immersive escapes, or for photos, or videos of prior vacations we took, but never any more.

What do you think? Is AR the wave of the future for enterprise, or is that a technology that is going to lay down where it is too?

Is Physical Media Dead?

In the summer of 2009, I decided to undertake the task of importing every CD that I, my parents, and other relatives owned into my iTunes Library. The end goal, that I am just getting around to finally, was building out a media server to have access to that data from anywhere and so I could download to my device, or stream remotely. Pandora was around at this point, and was quite popular too! But the issue with Pandora was that it was just internet radio. Sure, there was a TON of music accessible via it, however, you couldn’t just listen to a song. Along came Spotify. Suddenly any song you wanted, any time, anywhere, all you had to do was search, and as long as you were playing from a computer, you could stream almost any song – well… except for Taylor Swift that is.

While I never have been all about absolutely needing a copy of the physical album, I am one of those people who believes that you should purchase the music to be able to call it yours. If all you do is stream, and yes, I know you can download the music locally from these streaming services, but if you forget to pay your bill for the service, your music is gone. At least if your buy the music it’s yours. Being able to backup on physical medium is huge too, I know I said that I’m not all about needing to purchase the physical album, but being able to burn a copy of the disc as a backup is a must! *keep in mind the concept of 321 with regards to backups*

With the exception of the resurgence of vinyl, and the novelty of the Polaroid Picture, digital, and streaming have all but taken over the modern media industry as a whole. Remember when Netflix was a mail order DVD rental company that was a threat to Blockbuster? Now we associate the name with streaming media and have seemingly all but forgotten about the times of having to wait 3-5 days for your new movie to arrive in the mail, and being charged for losing the disc, but finding it a year later. Netflix is now working to make the cable industry go the way of Blockbuster – personally I say good riddance.

Is gaming on its way there too? Looking at the current (and even into the previous) console generations, we have in increased presence of media within the console specific stores. Playstation offers PS Plus members a few free games a month, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Microsoft has a similar offer with Xbox. In addition, they offer insane discounts for purchasing their games, rotating through different ones each month. They’re trying to put out the GameStop’s, of this world, and trying to take everything direct. Their end goal is to make everyone purchase a new copy of their game, no used copies, no rentals, no borrowing from a friend, no giving a friend an old copy, everyone must purchase their own if they are to play.

How about the concept of actually owning software, is that a memory too? A few days ago I wrote an article about the Adobe Creative Cloud suites, and why I believe that for the particular cost if it, it’s a much better value proposition over time than simply buying a license for a singular program. For $10.99/mo, which works out to be $131.88/yr, you always have an up to date copy of (assuming you get the photography package) both Photoshop, and Lightroom. Now that’s a pretty sweet deal given that the average user who previously just wanted a copy of the program would be looking at paying around $600-800 for a single program. Sometimes the subscription based access does pay off. But that’s the way things are going, even Microsoft Office is available as a $10/mo subscription, or $8.25/mo if you commit to an annual subscription.

We can still go out and buy physical media of course, I doubt it will ever completely go away, there will always be some form of it out there, for the holdouts that just won’t give up their disc drive (like me), but its prominence, as well as its prior dominance is now a dream growing ever more distant day to day.

How many of you still use physical media?

 

Mmmm… Pi….

If you’ve talked to me at all about computers, you know that I love these things. Or if you read my previous post about DV hotspots in Amateur Radio, you must have noticed that I mentioned a device called a Raspberry Pi. In the post I discussed the Pi Zero briefly. Today I just want to quickly go over what a Raspberry Pi is, and why you should have at least one if you want to play around with any technological concepts.

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Pictured on the left is a model B+ of the original Raspberry Pi board, and on the right is the more recent Raspberry Pi 3 B board.

The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer. It has a handful of ports – 4 USB, 1 Ethernet, 3.5mm Stereo, HDMI, Micro USB (for power), Micro SD card slot for storage, 2 ribbon cable slots on the board (1 for camera, and 1 for a display), as well as a 20 pin GPIO.  They upgrade the memory on them between releases, and the Pi 3 is a lot more powerful than the original Pi was for sure, in addition they now have built in WiFi and Bluetooth where as before you had to get a USB device to have the capability. In addition, via the ribbon cable port you are able to convert it into the functioning touchscreen computer below.

What purpose does this serve really though? Why should you want one of these? There are a few things that can be done with these for sure – I have primarily used them in radio applications for running hotspots, and logging, however I am in the process of building a media server off of one as well (been a long process, just need to pull the trigger on some storage, and it’s ready), which will allow me to have the entirety of my music, photos, and movies stored on it, and will make it accessible from anywhere. Pretty neat, right? All off of a board that’s the size of a credit card. You can tie them in for home automation, security systems via the camera port, media center boxes, and any hardware tinkering you want to do, you can fiddle around with the GPIO – check out the people that have built robots and drones with these, they’re really cool. They’re a sandbox for technological play – pretty much any concept that you have you can probably fill in with one of these.

In addition to the Pi, there is the Pi Zero that I mentioned in a prior post. That is a board only slightly larger than the size of a stick of gum. It has 2 micro USB ports, one micro HDMI, a ribbon cable port for a camera, and an SD card slot. That is it. I don’t have any photos, but you can check them out here. This I haven’t really played around with too much, but it’s a slimmed down, bare bones version of the Pi, meant for you to be able to play around with for single uses.

iOS, Android, does it really matter?

We’re 11 years into the modern smartphone era that was launched, in my opinion, by Apple’s release of the first iPhone in 2007, and the marketplace has changed drastically in that time. 2007 was a land of flip phones, and tactile keyboards. Blackberry was the prominent all in one device, having released their first device in 1999. While Blackberry is still gasping for air, sort of in the mix with the modern smartphone market, Apple’s release of the first iPhone was a game changer for the entire mobile industry, and it really has never been the same since. Have you actually tried to look for a phone with a real keyboard lately? Blackberry is still in that market, but that’s about it.

I got my first iOS device, which was consequently my first smartphone in 2009, it was an iPhone 3g. That 3.5″ display was HUGE! To paraphrase Steve Jobs, there was never any reason to go to a larger display. Then came the 4, yep, 3.5″ display as well! Then… THEN we had the 5, now that was it, a 4″ display? An additional row of apps on the bottom? Wow! Where was the huge display our whole lives? Then came the 6, 7, and 8, all having 5″ displays (4.7″ if you want to get real technical). We could get into the rise of the Phablets, and the Plus models, and now the 10 (or X) with it’s bezel-less 5.8″ display, which allows it to truly be the same size as the iPhone 8.

Last year however, I switched over to Android for a little bit. I picked up a Moto Z Force, and for the first year, it was a fantastic phone. Who doesn’t love the idea of the modular phone? Wireless Charging/Extended batteries on any phone, High Quality audio from a speaker that is directly attached to the phone itself, not bluetooth, and no clunky wires, a full optical zoom camera, or even a 70″ projector screen, those are just some of the additional features. It is a pretty great platform that allows you to customize your device to do whatever it is that you want. Sure, I had played with Android some before it, and it really is a great OS, but I have one real complaint with it, and that is the updates are all carrier and manufacturer controlled. Motorola and Samsung being the worst offenders with updates, and AT&T always being right behind Samsung. Motorola and Samsung both produce hardware that should be able to match the specs required for at least two additional generations of OS, but when they don’t let you update, that’s a problem. Not to mention at the point where android O was released, my battery was already starting to falter.

I went back to Apple after a year and a half because I knew the quality. Every iPhone I had, if it survived me at least, lasted a minimum of 2 years – my 6 lasting 3 years and change holds the record. The OS Support is top notch, lasting a minimum of 3 OS releases, which coincidentally will likely be 3 phone releases as well. In addition, I’m not a developer. And as much as I love technology, and will pull everything apart, make repairs, build it into my everyday life, I don’t need to be able to mess with system BIOS. Most importantly, if I pick up someone else’s phone to show them something, I know exactly what everything does, how to work it, what the settings menu should show, how to reset it if something goes wrong – I don’t need to learn what the device does, the surface of the device looks the same on every single device. In addition though, every other device I use is Apple, and the majority of the people that I know have iPhone’s, and iMessage is much more reliable than SMS – multiple text messages to people that didn’t go through for 3 days or so.

But, I digress, in looking at the two OS’ objectively however, does it really matter which one you choose? I will be the first one to tell you that I think both Android, and iOS are fantastic OS’, and they have both earned their place in being the predominant things that we run our everyday lives off of – I am on my phone for work a lot, between calls, texts, and emails, and then when I’m out of work, I’m on it again a lot for personal use – more calls, texts, and emails, but also social media, GPS, photos, games, etc. They both have definite perks, and they both have a purpose for sure. What are the differences? If you’re dropping $800 to $1200 on a phone, you want what is going to best fit your needs. Below is my opinion of which OS fits what type of person best.

iOS: Perfect for the Student, or average person who needs their phone for work. It is the perfect Day-to-Day device that you want to just work. You can take it out of the box, and with after punching in your info, you’re ready to roll. Apple’s built in applications for Calendar, Mail, and Web Browsing are perfectly fine, in fact a lot of companies – if they’re not requiring you to download another mail client that is, support the native Apple client. With quite a lot of the native applications, you can’t remove them, so if you decide that you want to go with a 3rd party developer app over the Apple client, then you’re going to have to make yourself a little useless folder to file those applications in and forget about.

Android: Perfect for someone who wants to fiddle a little bit. While the same built in applications mentioned for iOS are built in to android as well, they are no where near as refined… that is depending on what phone you get. Android allows users more options for configuration when it comes to applications, allowing you to delete pretty much everything that comes on it, and replace it with an alternative Google app, or any 3rd party. Motorola, for example, builds mostly Google apps into their release of the OS. Your browser is Chrome, mail is Gmail, maps is Google Maps. Samsung uses Google Maps, however everything else is a proprietary Samsung app when you pull it out of the box. To use the native Google applications you have to go out and install them. They thrive on the customization aspect, while locking everything down.

In summary, I’ll tell you the same thing I have told everyone at this point – if you want something that’ll be good to go right out of the box, something that will have a few years of support, and will always be to the OS manufacturer’s specs, go with the iPhone. If you want to fiddle a little bit, want to play with basic app development, or even just want a blank slate to build it out how you want it, I’d suggest an Android device. If you do side with the Android device, I would suggest the Pixel outright. It is made by Google, runs virtually native Android, and will likely have the longest product life of any of the devices because of it.

Adobe Creative Cloud – Perks to Cloud Computing

What? You thought this was all about radio? Pfft… there’s more to talk about than that! Come on! Give me a break!

Ever since high school I have been a Photoshop junkie. During a photography class I learned some of the fundamentals, and worked on my own to learn the ins and outs more as time went on. I would spend every spare minute that I had in one of the photo labs or art rooms. Being a student, I had access to the software at a discounted rate, therefore I of course had a copy of that, and as time went on, I got into InDesign for working with layouts, and then Premiere Elements for some video editing – which never went far… couldn’t get past the sound of my voice.

The modern version of these programs is quite different from the days of merely purchasing a copy of the software, and getting keys for your PC’s you plan on running it on. It’s a nice, cheaper (upfront at least) solution to allow anyone to have this software package, as well as being the new trend with software to go “cloud based.” The “Creative Cloud,” is a subscription based service that is based upon what types of tasks you would like to do, there is one for Photo, and a separate one for Video. At the price of $10.99 a month, it’s pretty affordable. The basic functions of Photoshop haven’t really changed any in the last 8 years or so, all your tools and basic editing functions remain the same. What you’re looking at, and what does make this worth considering, is focused suites of software, instead of individual programs that involve you doling out hundreds of dollars a piece, when for $10.99 a month (year commitment – be sure to at least skim the terms and conditions to catch that one) you can have multiple programs. On top of that, you always have the most up to date version, as opposed to having to spend $600 every three years for a new program, at which point you may be a few versions behind, you’re spending between $300-$400 in that same amount of time, and you always are going to have the most recent. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

Yes, you still have the full version of the software. In fact the software is still run locally even, you have to take the time to download and install it, just like you would anything else, and that definitely takes some time.

Sure, not all of us like the monthly cost, though that’s the way of the modern world it seems, we aren’t asking about total cost of something, we’re simply asking how much per month it is going to cost, and if there is a way to finance it. With that being said though, looking at this from a cost perspective, it definitely pays to go monthly. Having the most up to date versions, any security patches if you’re using the Adobe Cloud Storage platform, and most importantly, if your computer completely dies on you, all you do is login to your Adobe CC account, and re-download it. No monkeying around with finding license keys you lost a year ago, contacting them, verifying the purchase was valid, and MAYBE getting a copy on your new device. As someone who always wants to have the software disc on hand, this here is a cloud software package that I’ll cave for.

What’s Next? – How about a little digital talk?

Field day is but a week and a half away at this point, and my radio is setup as one of the main stations, and as I live in a smaller apartment space, setting up, and breaking down is a process the way I have everything wound up, so I will not be on the air for another couple of weeks… from home at least, I always have the mobile. And I guess I should specify on the air for sideband – I do operate the currently dominant digital protocols as well, so I’ll be on D-Star, Fusion, and DMR.

On the note of digital, why don’t we discuss a little device that has become the be-all, end-all of digital hotspots, the ZumSpot. For those of you that don’t know, the digital protocols that most all major radio manufacturers produce at least one radio for now are pretty reliant on the internet when it comes to their extended features. Sure, you can talk D-Star, or DMR simplex, and you can use the repeaters locally if there are other people in your area with the ability to use them, but where’s the fun in that? With the infrastructure that’s out there, we can talk all around the world!

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I picked one of these little guys up in Dayton this year. It’s a small, single band (70cm) MMDVM (Multi-Mode Digital Voice Modem) board that you use in conjunction with a raspberry pi computer. It attaches right to the GPIO, you screw on an antenna to the SMA connector, and after setup of the software, you’re good to go! They’re powered simply via the Pi through the GPIO, so you have no additional power concerns. In the above photo I am powering it through a PowerFilm Solar phone charger. With this battery bank at a 50% charge or so when I plugged it in, I had around 7 hours of usage of the ZumSpot, only about 30 minutes of talk time, however the remainder was receive time. You can purchase it as a kit for $129.95 from HRO, that includes the hotspot, a raspberry pi zero, and a small SMA rubber duck antenna to attach to the board. I will warn you that this doesn’t come with a case, there is a case available for purchase, it’s a real pain to put together, but it works for sure, and I would highly recommend putting something on it so you don’t just have open circuit boards laying around.

It is the most all inclusive hotspot produced to date, it covers the big 3, as well as P25, and NXDN, with support for running cross modes if you can figure out how to set it up. I am no expert. By any means. It took me close to 12 hours of playing around with this to realize that when I changed my call, I never reconfigured by D-Star registration correctly. That was in December, it’s now May at this point – just goes to show how little I use the D-Plus reflectors. After I finally get all of this configured it works perfectly. I have been using it on and off, bringing it with me tethered to a cell phone for internet service, linked to the DCS006B reflector.

I’m not going to go through the details of setup here, I may make another post about that, however it’s straight forward. If you have any interest in these modes, this is one of the cheapest ways to get into it. If you feel like putting together a repeater to play with the mode, go for it, but if you just want something small, cheap, not needing tons of equipment that’s going to require a second mortgage to get running, you can get one of these boards, and the entry level radio for one of the modes – I’d suggest the Icom ID-31 for D-Star, the Yaesu FT-70 for Fusion, and the TYT MD-380 for DMR (only because of the users groups and assistance that can be given), and still get out for under $400 – especially if you catch the radio’s when there is a manufacturer rebate.

Definitely something I would recommend to anybody that is looking to play with digital voice modes locally as it is such a simple way to get in to it.

It’s Over, Rover – a Detailed Summary of the June VHF Contest 2018 from K2ET/R

Needless to say, I am probably quite the amateur amateur out there. Sure, I’ve been licensed 6 year, and I enjoy Ham Radio Contesting quite a lot, but I never seem to be the slightest bit prepared, and when I try to be, that’s when things go drastically wrong. This year, I was going to be ready. I was going to be prepared. I was going to get the car ready a full day in advance for my rover station to rack up the contacts, and place well, and bring back a whole load of points for the Rochester VHF Group. At least… that was my mindset last June. As time ticked down to the contest, things went south quick. In April the vehicle that I’ve had for the past [going on] four years, and the one that I’m used to loading out for the contests, decided to have a frame blowout, leaving me to have to rethink a few things for contest time. Thankfully I was able to borrow a similar vehicle from the fam, leading me to be able to retain my usual system, in fact making getting in and out of the vehicle for microwave contacts a little easier. However I did learn a few lessons this June that I should not have had to learn this way, and that should be been common sense things to know before heading out.

Lesson 1: No matter how closely you follow the design specs on building an antenna, ALWAYS test the SWR before you head out on the road.

Lesson 2: Even if you use it every week, your dipole may perform more poorly under improved conditions.

Lesson 3: Just because you think it’s going to perform the same, doesn’t mean that it is going to perform the same. June and January are two VERY DIFFERENT beasts.

Let me start with my setup. It’s not pretty. In fact, the last few years in being involved with this, I mildly pride myself on how ugly and cheap it is. A hitch mount mast holder, designed for Flag Pole Usage, Military Surplus Aluminum Mast, Moxon Design Wire Antennas in a PVC Enclosure for 2m, 220mhz, and 70cm, and LOTS of Gorilla Tape.

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In looking at this, remember these two things:

A) No antenna used cost more than $10, in fact, they could be built using items that you may have lying around the house

B) If anything, it’s proof that anybody, with the right motivation and effort in this hobby can get on the air, contest, and not do too badly.

C) I started participating in this contest my Junior Year of College. I was broke. Still not rolling in the dough, but I can at least swing the gas to rove without pulling in overtime two weeks before. That being said, even after spending $120 on a decent 14 el Cushcraft beam before last contest, I crushed it with contacts off this Moxon in the January contest, why bother going through all the effort of assembling and disassembling the antenna before stops if I can leave this little guy up the whole time, and STILL make the same amount of contacts?

I don’t own anything that goes above 1296 myself, however another local rover and fellow club member has been pushing to get more people on the microwaves, therefore he will lend us equipment before the contest starts to aid us in that effort… I’ll tell you, it’s sparked my interest! An SG Labs 2304 Transverter powered by a RadioShack battery, and Driven by a Baofeng UV-5RA, and a small, handheld parabolic dish for an antenna making contacts from Attica, NY into Canada!? Sign me up, doc!

The fact of this contest was that I was going to beat my January Score. I knew it going in. I built up an awesome 6m Moxon the week of the contest, sure, it was completely untested, but it was going to work! January I didn’t have anything for 6m, I couldn’t even get a dipole working, so I simply threw on a dummy load if I knew the contact was close enough, but I had over 100 contacts on the other bands, so I was set, convinced that this was going to work. Of course, knowing how Murphy’s Law always applies to things that I do, I decided to throw the 6m Dipole that I had strung in my attic, and used weekly for a local net, as well as for a little FT-8 Usage, into my car, just in case. I also had been using the 2m Moxon for years now, and that nice Cushcraft I bought last year was just too much of a hassle, and I wasn’t using my vehicle, so transporting it could be difficult, as I didn’t want to scratch up a vehicle that wasn’t mine… so I stuck with the Moxon.

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I get to my first location, grid FN02VU in Attica, and finally get setup, decide to check the SWR on 6 as it’s a new antenna, key up the radio… shuts. down. It’s a good thing I wasn’t transmitting with the sheer volume (both dB wise, and quantity) of expletives released at that moment. This is when I was questioning every fiber of my being. Why didn’t I test the moxon before I left? Better yet, why in the world did I place this PVC cement on the joints before I tested it!? This was likely the most stupid thing I have done in the 6 years I’ve been licensed. But prepared me decided to grab the dipole out of my attic, right? So I put that up, power is still turned down to about 2 watts. Tunes fine. Inch it up, 20 watts, fine, 30 watts, 2.8:1… oh… great… 40 watts? Radio shuts off. Which is a great feature in the Icom 7100 that it does that if too much power is reflected. Beats blowing up any day for sure. But where does this leave me? Only slightly better than January. Really Low Power on 6m. Who even knows if I’m actually resonating? Whatever. 6m isn’t open anyways, the contest started at 2pm, it’s now 4:15pm, and I’m not on the air yet, everything else is good, lets get it.

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I fire up the radios, and I’m good from 6 (on LP) to 5g. Setup the Voice Keyer on the 7100, and get on 144.215. Verify the frequency isn’t in use, and start calling CQ. Contacts slowly trickle in. I hear something come up in the band… a 4 call, and a 1 call. They were even oriented off the front of my antenna, they should have heard me, why weren’t they hearing me!? The freaking moxon. Why didn’t I opt for more gain!? Well, but in January I worked everyone just fine… because there weren’t any openings beyond FN01.

End the night around 10pm with 50 or so contacts. In the morning I get setup in FN13 with a clear view SW, perfect! I work other stations up to 2304 no problem, 6m is still shot, but I really don’t care at this point, I’m still working other local stations on 6 with no problem, but just as I’m packing up to meet up with our club to do our “Rover Blitz” Lunch, 6m opens WIDE! Calling and Calling and Calling… nothing. Just like when the initial antenna wouldn’t tune, I let out a line of cursing. I pack it up, and go to lunch. I logged about 32 contacts from there, again, stark-raving mad about how open 6m is, and I, yet again, have screwed myself over on the band.

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A total of 7 stations show up for lunch, now, we aren’t a large club.. We’re not racking up 100,000 points each from this grid circle, we aren’t coordinating with other stations to call us, we’re just a small group, some of us are even simply submitting check logs to give the actual rovers points, and their additional contacts aren’t even helping the club. We do our quick little grid circle after grabbing a bite to eat, a grand total of an hour, with every station loaded out from 6 to 1296. We get our points, and move on. From there, I move to FN03, stopping at GCC in Batavia. It has a fairly decent view to the east, making me able to work the fellow RVHFG members without any issues from 6 to 1296. Before I even get setup, I happen to catch another rover station just as he’s getting ready to pull out and hit a new grid, we quickly sked across the parking lot, running all bands, 6 to 5g. Once I finally figured out how to tune him in on 5g that is. From there I got myself up over 100 contacts (barely), but the high bands were dead because of how open 6 was. I worked the LIM group in FN12 on a couple bands, caught a few rovers, and a few locals, but that was it. I threw in the towel, broke my station down, and called it another June VHF Contest in the books.

While I didn’t get the 6m openings, or any of that 2m DX that opened up, I’ll gladly take my score just over 28,000. It’s my best June score yet, in fact the first year I roved I forgot to submit my log and wasn’t even bothered by it because of how few contacts there were, but the last two years with only 4k and 6k respectively, this is an immense change. It has also put me in a new category however, removing me from the Limited Rover category into the Classic Rover category by adding 222, 902, and 1296.

This June convinced me that it’s time to make some upgrades to antennas. I want to be able to catch that DX on 2m next time I hear it, no I’m not going to venture out of the LP category, I don’t want to amplify my station at all actually. More power out = needing more power locally to run it, and I’m simply running powerpoles from the car battery for this setup, and I kind of like it that way for now. Eventually I will be transitioning over to a solar powered station for this, but that is a few years down the line yet.

For now, it’s time to find a new vehicle, new antennas, and new bands.

Follow up: Upon writing, and discussion, the odds are the 6m issue was less of an SWR problem (though it was higher), and more of an issue of RF. I should have choked the antenna, and the whole problem could have been averted. Lessons learned for next time.

Intro – Who are you?

I haven’t written for a blog in a while so this may seem a little scattered. I am from Western NY, and have way too may hobbies and interests to be active with all of them at any one time, so they come and go in waves (those that can’t be combined at least) – not to mention the fact that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Being involved in so many different facets of entertainment, I thought that it would be entertaining to start writing about some of my interests to see what other people like to do that are involved in the same things, because as with everything, everybody has their own way. I hope to make this a well rounded page, with lots of discussion in the comments about anything, Photography (Digital, or Analog), Music, Gaming, Hunting, Fishing. Amateur Radio… Whatever!

 

Enjoy!