A Fully Functioning Zumspot; Chinese Radios, and my seemingly unpopular opinion

Listen… We’ve all said some things we regret… I mean, I don’t necessarily regret saying that DMR Sucks, I think I just over reacted at the time because I couldn’t get my Zumspot working. Well, that’s all changed now! Now, this was actually a few months ago now due to the fact that I’ve pretty much been dead (according to my WordPress lack of activity that is) this last few months, but I’ll explain what the issue is for those with Chinese DMR Radio’s such as myself..

For starters, I have truly become a firm believer as of late that buying the cheap, off brand variety of something really isn’t worth it. Sure, it’s cheap right now, and you may not be able to swing buying the quality thing that you want right at this very moment. WAIT. Especially where it comes to technology. Pinch those pennies for a little bit, and just buy the quality item once. I learned this lesson hard with my phone(s) in the last couple of years. I used my iPhone 6 Trade in to get a Moto Z Force. That was supposed to be the top of the line Motorola Phone, if not the top end Android phone when it launched. It was supposed to be the best for any developer, our just someone who wanted better speakers, or a full, optical zoom camera or what have you. With all the cool “mods” that made the phone an awesome modular platform – fun fact, this was one of those many posts that died in draft land – but, a year and a half, three replacements, and a doggedly slow speed being the last straw, I rejoined Apple Land. But I digress… Chinese Radios! They’re still here despite the recent FCC scolding about them not being Part 97 compliant, and people were buying them in bulk for business, preprogrammed on a variety of frequencies, having no clue what they were interfering with. Not only are they still here, they’re still popular. And, to express a seemingly controversial, and unpopular opinion? Good.

It may seem as if I’m contradicting myself here with this, but I guarantee you that it serves a purpose. As a college freshman having just got my ticket, I had pennies to spend on radios compared to what I needed to have for something decent. A Yaesu VX-8 was kind of a pipe dream, and I wasn’t entirely convinced that I would be on enough to make the $400 worth it. So, at the first ham fest I went to in Rochester, NY, over the July 4th weekend, I picked myself up my first radio, the Baofeng UV-5R. And when I bought mine, it was right when the craze was starting to really take off. The radio cost me $70 with the programming cable, an extra battery, speaker mic, and desktop charger, which I thought was pretty cool! I was a broke, going into college kid, and was able to get on the air. My dad gave me an Alinco DR-110 to put in the car, we installed it right where the Tape deck was with very little trouble. It actually seemed like my Malibu was built to have a radio in it somewhere. Not two months later, at another local hamfest, did I have an issue that broke my Baofeng though. I went to unplug the speaker mic, and the audio connection was stuck. I could transmit, but I just couldn’t hear anything unless I had something plugged into the speaker slot. I was able to get it exchanged under warranty, but knew that those radios were not meant to last. I could go into the details of how I sold a few things to buy a radio that was a steal of a deal, to sell that to buy another one, to then sell that to eventually purchase the Kenwood D-74 that I now use, but that’s a story for another time. I’m here to talk about hotspots, and Chinese digital radios.

Two years ago at the Dayton Hamfest, at the Connect Systems booth, I decided, hey, why not. They were selling BFDX DMR handheld radios that they’ve branded the CS-580. If they’ll brand it, it has to be a halfway decent product, and for $110 with the programming cable, I went for it. As far as build quality goes, I cannot complain about this product, it’s a sturdy radio for sure, in fact it reminds me a lot of a Yaesu in the way of how it feels, but without the price tag. That same year I received a DV Mega, that I had just gotten working not two weeks before we left for the hamfest, but since I didn’t have anything in the way of a case, portable display, or battery, I decided to leave it at home. As soon as I got back from the hamfest though, I decided that I was going to give it a shot. I plugged in the hotspot, but there was no TX/RX at all. I tried everything I knew of, but that was that. I called HRO, and they sent it away for repair… and… well, they still have it actually. And, since there’s little to no DMR coverage in our area, away the radio went until I could get my hands on another hotspot to play with it again. This year was that year, the year of the Zumspot! I’m a huge fan of this Hotspot, you cannot get much more plug and play than it is – I was on Fusion immediately, XRF D-Star Reflectors, but the others took some time… someone forgot to change their call sign in the gateway registry, so anything in the D-Plus network took some time to finally get fixed, but that has nothing to do with the hotspot, and was complete operator error. DMR on the other had, that was the tricky one. Why? Well, because of my Chinese radio. They transmit slightly off frequency, so in the settings you have to adjust the sensitivity +/- .400 MHz. I researched this for days, over the span of weeks, I racked my brain around for ever, only to eventually find this fact on a very similar blog post to this one, buried at the bottom of a long rant… kind of like you just did. All in all, after a few months of using it, hopping on a few DMR nets, one during pumpkin patrol even – which was very informative about how NY is one of very few states to partake in this activity, and many operators have no clue what this is – I can say with certainty that I now have a new appreciation for the mode, and that saying that it sucks is a bit of an overstatement. It’s fine, in fact I think that the UI allows more functionality than Fusion does at the moment, but when it comes to the tech, it doesn’t win over D-Star. I’ll keep it as my second favorite for the moment.

Sorry Fusion, you just took a demotion to something that I have to use a Chinese radio for.

Oh, and lastly, to wrap up the Chinese radios discussion, everybody has an opinion on them, but here’s my two cents. Sure, the cheap radios aren’t the greatest, but they’re a means to spark interest. For me, getting that radio and getting on the air was probably one of the most important moments in radio for me. I wanted something so I could hop right on, and I didn’t make much money teaching swim lessons to kids, and lifeguarding. I was also trying to save money for books for my first semester of college. What was available to me? An old, mobile, or HT that may not have even had a tone board, making it useless for local repeaters, and that I’d likely have to repair to get on, or the Baofeng. I chose the latter. While I still have my replacement one for the first one I bought, it’s not my primary radio anymore, I stated above how much I like the D-74, but had I not been able to get on the air for an affordable price, and eventually work my way to something much more functional, and reasonable, I don’t know that I ever would be sitting here now discussing all of this cool stuff, or going from Tech to Extra in a year and a half, and now considering trying to go for licenses from other countries even (yes, I’d like to take a shot at getting a VE3 this summer, since I can technically only operate under the basic privileges anyways). They’re not ideal, and if someone can afford something better they should definitely not buy the Chinese radio, but get one, play around with it, and then pinch the pennies for something better.

January VHF Contest Prep – 2019

Hi Everyone! So my grand plan of writing frequently hasn’t quite panned out as I had posted about – I still have a quite a few posts canned for publishing, I just need to read them over so I don’t sound like a complete dimwit… with that being said, it’s not really in the cards to get to those at the moment, but I thought I would make a quick post about how contest prep has been going!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a fellow club member assist me with the construction of a luggage rack mount for antennas, in addition I’ll be borrowing a couple antennas, and utilizing a few home built ones as well.. The goal of this? To cut setup time to virtually nothing but getting out of the car to add a few feet to the masts to give more height. This will definitely aid in the addition of more grids this year. In the past two years that I have really gotten into the rover form of contesting, or just contesting in general, I’ve done a few modifications here and there to make operating easier, but overall, I haven’t contributed much to aid my setup times, which would seriously help with the ability to add some more grids. I always go out with the plan of operating from four grids, but usually something happens, and I’m stuck operating only two or three if I’m lucky. This year, I’ll be shooting for five to six, but I’ll be happy if I can at least circle my four. The plan will be to operate three or so hours in a grid, and move on.

In addition, instead of hoping I’m typing the correct call in the dark, I’ve been able to get Roverlog, the software that I have been using on my tiny ASUS Transformer for the last four contests, running within my MacBook!! Meaning that nice illuminated keyboard will be at my disposal finally! In addition to that, I will be running WSJT-X for digital mode operation from the rover… assuming that the rig interface is still functioning well. That is something that I have been unable to test yet, as we’re in the middle of a move, and all the radios just were packed up as I got everything working well.

With any hope, so long as all is functioning properly, and I’m on the air on schedule, I think that this is on pace to be the best score yet in a contest for me, and if not, we’ll see what can be learned from this moving into June. Usually I’m scrambling the day before, but I think at this point I can officially say that even with this being near the bottom of the totem pole as far as current priorities, I’ve put more planning into this than previous years, and I’m incredibly grateful for the big save I’m receiving for getting antennas properly mounted for roving this year. As long as the remainder of this move goes according to plan, we’ll be right on track for the remainder of the contest planning, and ready when it’s go time!

Guess Who’s Back!?

Wow, that was a whirlwind few months… I haven’t posted since July!? Okay – time to change that! What’s changed since July? Well a few things:

1) Apple has revamped a ton of devices, and I’ve been gawking – some dummy not only went back to an iPhone three months before they announced new stuff, but also bought a new iPad a week and a half before they released them

2) I have a new car to design around for the January VHF Contest (if you have setup ideas for a Jeep Patriot, let me know!)

3) I’ve finally gotten DMR functional on my Zumspot

4) Alexa is everywhere

5) I think I’ve finally realized just how ADD I am… more on that below!

Before I went dark for a few months, I had 5 posts canned, and 90% written, just not reviewed and scheduled to post. We’ll get to DMR first, likely tomorrow, after this little catch up post, but each one of these bullet-points will be something that I’m going to touch on over the next couple of weeks. When I last was posting, this was an almost daily blog – we’re going to have to bump that to weekly due to time issues.

For the next week, I’ll be moving into consumer electronics, specifically Smart TV’s, Set Top Boxes (not a term you’ve heard in a while, eh? But it means something different now!), Game Consoles, and other things that the everyday user wants.

Following that I’m going to briefly discuss Alexa, and smart assistants – this could be a part of consumer electronics, but the fact of the matter is that this has branched off into its own platform entirely. Amazon has literally been giving away the devices to get one of these things in your home, and it’s amazing the support of devices out there.

Then we’ll be getting into January, and the VHF contest is a big one for the club I compete with, so I’ll need to rethink the entire rover setup following the purchase of a new car! With any hope there will be some progress by that point, and I’ll have something to post.

 

 

Handheld Gaming – What happened?

Who remembers the Gameboy, the PSP, and the… well I guess we don’t have to ask who remembers the Nintendo DS, because it’s still around, and still has decent sales, but still who remembers having a Gameboy and being one of the cool kids? Then the PSP came around, and it was like having full console games in your pocket, and having the ability to store Music, and watch Movies, and have it all right there! Well, admittedly, we don’t have to ask what happened to make this device no longer popular. The advent of the smartphone, and development of games for 100% touch screen inputs, as well as all of the major game developers decided that this was going to be the future of portable gaming, so why not? When Apple released the iPad, and kickstarted the consumer tablet market, it was easy enough to take these games that had been developed for 3.5″ and 4″ screens, smooth the graphics, and blow them up to a 9.7″ screen, and voila! They could sell another copy of the same game! The graphic quality on these games has always been pretty great, however the story lines, and lack of advancement of previously successful franchises such as Doom, Halo, or Call of Duty onto these platforms, and lack of porting of popular MMORPG’s, and lack of processing power and control customization has always been something that would make hardcore gamers shy away from them.

I guess this is me just writing more about my nostalgia for the PSP, and classic portable gaming – I owned two PSP systems, and a little over a year ago, bought the PS Vita, which was the successor the the PSP, and still play it often. When you look at the quality of today’s mobile games industry though, what do you see? Sure, there are a few games that have story to them, such as Infinity Blade, or NOVA, and we even saw one Mass Effect game for mobile too! But compare any of that to the Resistance Fall of Man story and game play style, or the Call of Duty play style, Killzone, Borderlands, Little Big Planet, the list goes on, you just don’t see quite the same style, and it’s difficult to because the devices we’re using simply aren’t designed for games. Being able to play games on them the way we do is just a bonus. Nintendo, however, believes that the tablet market is the future of gaming, so much so that their last two systems have been tablet centric. The Wii U wasn’t the best seller, but it paved the way for the Switch, the tablet based machine that you simply dock to play on the TV, or slip the controllers on the sides. Is this the wave of the future? Will the next Playstation, or Xbox be tablet based? Nintendo has never really had high end focus on GPU and CPU speeds like Microsoft and Sony have, they’ve always gone for the family friendly gaming experiences.

Personally, I miss the classic handheld consoles, but if Sony or Microsoft were to go the way of Nintendo, and design a quality console that is portability focused, I’d give it a shot. I remember waiting and waiting for Microsoft to announce a handheld like the PSP and it never happening, and I’ve owned at least one iteration of every Sony portable. I think that the market still wants it, the Vita, while it’s mainly considered a dead console in the US, it is still very popular in Japan, and if a quality product is provided, and it is marketed properly, we could see a resurgence in the portable market.

Fermented/Preserved Foods – What I’ve done, and what’s next

When you think of fermentation, what’s the first thing that you think of? Do you think of traditional beverages such as Beer and Wine, or distilled beverages like Whiskey or Vodka? Or do you gravitate towards foods, and think more along the lines of Sauerkraut or Kimchi? Preserved foods? The process of fermenting is kind of crazy, we use microbial life that wants to help us, and boost our immune systems to take our food and beverage, and preserve it to keep out the other microbial life that wants to kill us. We’re the battleground for a microbial war!!! There of course are the other methods of curing, such as jerky, or canning things to make pickles, or spiced peaches… but I’m talking about Fermenting! Activating yeasts/bacteria that are naturally occurring, or added to a product to create something entirely different!

About two years ago I started making fermented beverages for the first time. I started with an attempt at making a non-alcoholic ginger beer actually, as I wanted to make a homemade, carbonated beverage, without the alcohol content. The first batch came out okay actually, however at this point in time I wan’t utilizing an airlock to let off the pressure, and had to,”burp” the container a few times a day to let off the pressure. If you don’t do this, you’re going to have a mess on your hands as things will get a wee explosive. This was an okay process, however I did forget one day, and all of the bent in portions of the 3L jug I used decided to push out due to pressure. The end product was okay, a little lacking in ginger, but pretty tasty! After this attempt, I bought an airlock, and tried it again, and it worked quite well! From there, I thought it would be a good time to try brewing beer! Why not? At this point I’ve gotten a basic understanding of the fermentation process down, lets go for it! I was reading recipes, and just had no clue what the terms were, “mash,” “sparge,” wait… why is it just saying @30 mins? What am I doing at 30 mins? 30 mins into what? And you can read the full directions, but unless you get yourself a little background on the process, you can get a little lost, even in a fairly basic process. So, I continued to do my reading, finally understood that a mash was just your ingredients holding at a certain temperature for a duration of time – fundamentally it’s the exact same concept as steeping tea. You keep the leaves, or grain in this case, submerged in hot water until a desired flavor is achieved, a sparge was running water through your grain after the mash (which isn’t even a necessary step if you’re extract brewing), and then the boil is when you bring your wort up to a boil for a duration of time, and add your hops and other desired flavors. Man, why did I think it was complicated? First batch was mediocre at best. Actually the first batch I made molded because I added my yeast when the wort was still too hot, and killed it, but the second batch was not great. Was a good beer to cook with because all of the flavors transferred nicely to foods, it just wasn’t the greatest drinking beer.

Another, increasingly popular, fermented beverage is actually derived from tea, Kombucha. I have had very little success in making it, but am in the process of trying again as I enjoy this drink, but it’s quite expensive to buy, ranging from $3-7 for a single serving. The process is fairly straight forward, take a colony of yeast, and healthy bacteria – called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), and place it in with a pH balanced sweet tea, and let it sit around 70 degrees or so. The pH is balanced by the addition of vinegar, and sugar to the tea, making an ideal environment for the SCOBY to work on fermenting the tea. Now, because this beverage is fermented, it can leave a very small trace of alcohol – usually no higher than 0.5% on the high end – meaning that anybody that has a sensitivity or allergy to alcohol in any form should probably refrain from consumption, however the concentration is small enough that there is nothing to worry about for the average person. One of the major manufacturers of retail kombucha faced a lawsuit in regards to alcohol content. The hardest part about this is that once it’s put together, it’s a waiting game, there’s nothing you can do to it to help it from turning, you just need to hope that it was done right in the first place.

While I am attempting another batch of Kombucha at the moment, I also am working on a small batch of Sauerkraut at the same time! That’s one of the cool things about fermenting, and preserving, it only takes up a little bit of space, and is minimal overall work!

“Does this insurance cover stupidity?”

If you read my post about smartwatches, and noticed that I really liked my Samsung Gear Fit 2, and had no intentions of getting rid of it anytime soon, you’ll get a chuckle out of this. On the Saturday preceding the holiday weekend, I was enjoying a day at the lake with my family, and decided that I wanted to go swimming off the boat (you already know where this is going), so I threw a life-jacket on, made sure my pockets were empty, and decided to leave my watch on, because hey, I went water skiing with it last year, how could a simple dive off the boat be worse than hitting the water straight on at 25mph? Well, I jumped in, and there it went… right to the bottom of Seneca Lake. When I purchased that fitness tracker/watch last January, however, I purchased the 2 year replacement plan on it, because I know that I can be accident prone – gotta love Best Buy! When I was at the register, I asked, “Does this insurance plan cover stupidity? The odds are that I’m going to do something majorly stupid if it breaks this.” And the cashier said, “oh yeah, it’ll cover anything!” Well… some dummy forgot to read the fine print about needing to bring in at least some piece of the device that broke in order to be able to cash in on that insurance plan. The day after I lost it, I went into Best Buy with my receipt, and the box, and told them the story of the 47 8×10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows (forgive my Alice’s Restaurant), and while they got a chuckle, they said that they couldn’t do anything about it.

Now, I am back to the old school, analog watch, and you know what? I’ve actually missed that to some extent. As you can tell, I enjoy tech and all, but I don’t always need to be connected to everything, in fact, I prefer to not be from time to time..

Pitfalls of Blogs – What’s coming down the pipe

Ah, and we’re back to the old pitfall of blog posting – being busy with other things, and having places you want to go tend to take over, and the posts fall behind. In a week or so I will hopefully be back at it though! More gadgets, events, and more to discuss!

For those in the Greater Rochester/Buffalo Area, keep in mind that the Batavia Hamfest is coming up on Saturday, July 21st, held at the Alexander Fire Hall from 6am to Noon!

Smartwatches – 4 years, 3 devices, 1 verdict

When it comes to wearables, everyone seems to have their own flavor of the day. It seems like every major phone manufacturer has at least dipped their toes in the wearable market based on the saturation of them out there. Sure, Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, Fit Bit (insert model), and Garmin Vivofit are the most popular brands, but they’re not the only ones. There are tons of knockoff, cheaply made, somewhat effective wearables out there, and sure, if you just want to see if you’d even wear it, get one of those $15 ones at Dollar General and give it a run! Or pick yourself up the $60 Fit Bit if all you want is the activity tracker. They all have their purpose, and each watch has their own niche. These are the three that I have used, and the verdict that I draw from them. They all served a similar purpose, however they all did it in pretty different ways, and had numerous different interface concepts, so this truly will come down to personal preference.

Device 1

In July, 2014, which was still in the earlier phase of the smartwatch craze, I purchased a smartwatch from a kickstarter company, Pebble, and to this day regret getting rid of it somewhat. At the time I was running a Moto Droid that was a few years old (due to shattering my iPhone 5, and not having the means to replace it at the time), and with Android, the Pebble Smartwatch was fully functional, and amazingly affordable. It had an e-ink display, which lended quite well to battery life, it would go up to 8 days on a single charge typically. Sure, it didn’t have all of the functionality that the modern watches do with heart rate sensors, and activity tracking, however you could pause, and play music, view your notifications, and even utilize the buttons as a keypad, and reply to text messages! When I went back to iOS however, the functionality dwindled down to being able to pause and play music, as well as viewing notifications. Well in April, 2015, Apple unveiled something pretty cool that I had my eye on, the Apple Watch, and I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off it now that I was back on iOS for a phone. Given that I purchased the watch for $200, being able to sell it for $150 after getting a year and a half of use out of it was a pretty great deal, so I did that, pooled that $150 with some other random cash I had been saving, marched myself to best buy, and purchased an Apple Watch.

Device 2

Do you run iOS? How about OS X? Well, then you chose right if you picked an Apple Watch as your wearable, just as I did after shedding my Pebble Steel. The Apple Watch from the moment I took it out of the box was pretty awesome, their pairing sequence was scanning some weird, flashy looking code, connecting via bluetooth, and then it was good to go. The app support was much higher than that of the Pebble that I owned before it, and rightly so, given the OLED display, touch interface, WiFi connectivity, and the fact that Apple clamps down on app developers that are trying to produce for the device, and makes sure that it’s legit. This thing even has Instagram on it, if you want to scroll that on the 38mm or 42mm display. It allows full functionality with your phone, from replying to texts via handwriting recognition, voice recognition, or canned replies, taking phone calls, storing music, and more! The workout features on the series 1 that I had left much to be desired, however they were steadily improving upon those, and I did notices a pretty substantial improvement with the implementation of WatchOS2. BUT! The caveat is that it only works with devices running iOS, which leads me to how I wound up with my third, and current, device. With Apple not really releasing anything new, and having “gotten rid” of the home button with the iPhone 7, I thought that it might be time to try something new. I was crazy about the concept of the Moto Z, and the modular platform smartphone, so I traded in my steadily decaying iPhone 6, and picked one of those up. The only issue after purchase (that I found out someone had discovered a work around to a little further down the line) was that my watch no longer worked! I wiped it, and attempted to pair it with the new phone, and while the bluetooth would pair, nothing would work. Had I not wiped it, I would have been able to at least use it as a sleek looking watch, however, I did, and the deed was done, so I decided, why not trade this puppy in, and try out another type of smartwatch designed to run on my fancy new Android Phone… that would only last a little more than a year with three replacements.

Device 3

Do you want an activity tracker that has just a few more little features built into it than the standard Fit Bit? How about something that runs well with Android? You want music storage, canned text replies, emoticon responses, GPS Tracking, emergency calling? Well than the Samsung Gear Fit is a great way to go. The Samsung Gear Fit 2, which I’ve been using it for a little over a year and a half now is a pretty great device. Admittedly I’ve been spending the whole last year and a half waiting for the surprise of having my wrist explode, but so far so good! It has great fundamental activity tracking features built into it, I get pretty heavy into biking from time to time, and having the built in GPS for tracking my route, as well as the ability to hold a button and tap for an emergency call is pretty essential. In addition, it offers standard workouts such as running, treadmill, weights, rowing, and an other workout functionality if you’re doing a few things and just want it to keep tracking you all through it. These are admittedly all features that the Apple Watch had, and didn’t seem new to me, however given that the Gear Fit was designed to be a fitness tracker, I did find them to be much more accurate, and useful even indoors. During the initial couple of months I used the device, I found the S-Health App quite cool, especially with its integration of measurements of water, and coffee intake right from the watch screen. I used them religiously for about a month, and suddenly realized its not worth it. I’m sure there are people out there that find that stuff quite important, but it’s not high on my priority list. For the price of this little device, you really can’t go wrong for how much of a punch it packs, however given that I’m now back on iOS, it’s only slightly more useful than my Pebble was, and that’s simply due to the difference in the Watch’s OS, and design.

Verdict

As with a lot, the preference is purely subjective.. First of all, what device do you own? Are you an Android user, or an iOS user? What is your primary use for this device, activity tracking, or do you want major functionality? These are only three devices, and out of these devices, one has been purchased by a rival company, and discontinued, and two have undergone major updates. The Pebble, though acquired by Fit Bit and discontinued, added activity tracking features and many more aspects to it before it was discontinued, and is still available for purchase via Amazon. To me, for the price, they’re a perfect device. The Apple Watch is the way to go, if you’re running an iPhone that is. It’ll likely be what I switch back to when this Gear Fit dies out on me, simply because I’ve gone back to iOS, and may as well go all in again. The Gear Fit, if you’re looking for a sightly more functional activity tracker, is what I would recommend. It’s priced at the same point as the Fit Bit, however it does offer more functionality with an Android phone than the average activity tracker, and for $120, they’re priced to move!

Small Spaces, Small Antennas

I know a few hams that are in smaller apartment spaces, and let me start by saying, I fully sympathize. Out of the last three apartments that I’ve been in, I was lucky this time around, there is an attic crawlspace access panel that is easily accessible to me which allows for storage, and easy hanging of antennas. Before I was in apartments, I was in dorm rooms for a bit, and that was difficult. I made up a 2m/440 jpole to get on the air locally, it was matched using 300 ohm TV Twin Lead, and performed quite well. I’d simply tuck it in the corner of the room out of sight, and run a piece of coax to my mobile rig. In addition to that I had a 440 moxon antenna that I would place in the window. That would allow me to work clear into Toronto from Niagara Falls with no issue. I then built a 2m moxon that I would use for both 2m, and 440, as it had an SWR of less than 1.5:1 on 440. The 2m Moxon that I built in the dorms is still the antenna that I will take for my rover station from time to time… when I don’t quite feel like messing with the 14 element beam. (The rover redesign will be coming this year, and will be ready for January, stay tuned.) The moxon is a very small antenna, with quite a lot of gain, it’s a simple beam, with only two elements, a Driven, and a reflector, and when you’re limited on space is the way to go!

The two apartments I was in before the one I’m in now were not great at all. The first one was a two story townhouse rental, and while the space was great, it really didn’t lend well to putting any type of antenna out. I did, however, get creative with it.I started by putting a small stake into the ground, and clamped a 3/8 mount to that to get on HF, however that was pretty much laying on the ground, and I feared someone grabbing that while I was transmitting, so that came to an end quickly. After that, I would occasionally clamp some ham-sticks to the window for my HF usage, and strung a dipole antenna across the bedroom for 10m, however none of those were great solutions. Both are functional however. It was even worse though the following year. Basement level, concrete walled apartment. It was a pretty nice place, but absolutely no space for anything. On occasion I would setup a tripod, and my hitch mount for masts, run a feedline in though the window, and I would be able to try to get on 10m. I would run ham-sticks the same way, but that wound up similar to roving – always setting up and breaking down every time I wanted to get on the radio.

You probably started this thinking that I had a real solution, but I don’t… at least not for HF. In fact, I’m still going to tell you that your best bet is a small dipole or hamsticks strung outside, and if you’re not in a place where they’re okay with you leaving them out there, I would suggest pulling the rover setup situation – it’s good practice for if you ever want to get into that, but in addition, it really doesn’t take that long, as long as you have the ability to do it. For common repeater use, however, my solution is a little different. If you’re adamant on being able to just talk on repeaters, I suggest digital. Get yourself a small, DV hotspot – see Zumspot post – and get on digital voice! If the apartment is just in too big of a hole to get into any local coverage repeaters, you can link it up to your nearest digital repeater, and bam! You’re on the air! And better yet, if you’re in a yank to be able to chat all around the world, DV provides that with the linking functionality! Link to a repeater on the other side of the world, and have a conversation!It’s not the ideal solution, but it does get you on the air!

Field Day 2018 is here and gone – W2RCX Club Wrapup

It’s the largest contest of the year! The one with the most activity in North America at least. Though it being a contest isn’t what it’s all about. Field Day is meant to be an exercise in emergency preparation, and it’s a great exercise in communication, cooperation, and knowing what you can do in a pinch. In the last 4 years, we in Genesee County, NY have resurrected a club. While we have a small membership, we all meet the third Friday of each month and discuss amateur radio related events, and topics. Of course our meeting in June, which was a week before Field Day, was related to preparations we were making to ensure that we were ready to be on the air at 2pm kickoff of Amateur Radio’s biggest day in our neck of the woods.

Our station setup was at the Genesee Community College in Batavia, NY. Great vantage point for VHF/UHF communications (which never fully got on the air), as well as plenty of trees for us to run our dipoles, and couple of beams that we had. We operated as 3A, and we had our VHF station as well, in the night hours/wee hours of the morning, our transmitters went from utilizing all bands possible, to two of us being on the air, one running 40m CW, and myself running 80m Voice. At 2:30am, I was working my way through a pileup on 80m Voice, which is a little different for me. I don’t usually call CQ at night, I usually Search and Pounce, but with that being said I thought about how many other people out there are doing the same thing… somebody out there has to be the one calling!

Our setup was pretty much the same as last year, however working with the new location had a few perks – last year being our first as the “new” club, we were in search for a spot for a while, however we were able to use the Genesee County Fairgrounds, which worked great! Up until Saturday evening, when the racetrack nearby started up, and suddenly everyone had to slap on headphones. We had three motorhomes on site, two of which ran stations, one running an Icom IC-7100, and the other running a Yaesu FT-991. In addition, there were two large tents (one is on the other side of the GMC motorhome), one of which also had a 991 setup, and the other contained our VHF station running an Icom IC-9100. In the middle of the site (under the orange popup) was our little Honda generator which was more than enough to power all of the stations with no problem. For HF antennas we ran an 80m OCF, and a 40m Dipole, as well as a RadioWavz Scout, which is good on 10-40. For VHF, we ran a stack of Moxons for 6/2/220, and for 440/900 we had a few beams, however I won’t go into detail for those, as we never got VHF on the air beyond 6m.

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We were able to achieve a couple of bonuses, the first being contacts off of an alternative power source, which we were able to do using a solar charged battery. The second was by making a satellite contact, we were unable to get the initial contact on AO-92, however an hour after that attempt we were able to make a contact on AO-91 (video to come later, still needs to be taken off camera).

All in all we stepped up our game from last year, I haven’t compared our overall contact difference, but I believe that we were able to improve upon last year for sure. We had a few new licensees that we were able to get on the air with, and allow them to experience more than 10m on HF. In addition, though it was nothing like the VHF contest, we did have a small 6m opening to the South, and intermittently to the West, on Sunday morning, allowing us to work Kansas, Nebraska, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. I am a little bitter about how many stations simply flocked to 50.313, and solely used FT-8. With how open that band was – in and out, yes, but still open – there should have been more activity than there was.

We stepped up our game from last year, there are some improvements to be made going into next year in regards to station setup, software we want to run, etc., so I guess that means it’s time to start prepping for next year!