Monday, July 16, 2018


I'll just leave this here... (No corners will be cut!)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Watch this space...

Hey guys!  Just wanted to pop in and give you a little update - we've moved out of the oppressive, anti-ham regime in Wylie to Rowlett, TX, just a few miles South.  I'll have lots of fun stuff to share regarding ham radio soon but lets kick off the reboot of my blog with some pictures!

Our new house's lot is not a bit bigger than the old house, but this one has a POOL!  We've already spent a ton of time out there and we're really looking forward to having a back yard oasis.  When we got the house, the grass in back was insanely long... (pardon the vertical video)

But once I got it all mowed, it looked really good!  

So much better.

As for radio stuff, Rowlett is not the best locale as they limit towers to 40 feet without special permitting but they do allow anything less than 2 meters in diameter to go up without a permit at all, so the plan in the near term is to put the Gap Titan DX back up and then start looking at bringing the hex beam back into action.
As you can see, there's still a lot of room to work for verticals and even a tower near the house.  So that gives you an idea of where we are right now.  I'm looking forward to getting back on the air soon, and I'll be bouncing around on HF with a magnetic loop in the shack for now.  Once I start getting unpacked up there, I'll be back with a new shack tour and more!  Thanks for hanging in and WATCH THIS SPACE FOR MORE!


Monday, September 25, 2017

Elecraft discontinues the K1 (and KX1?)

I've been out of the QRP loop for a while as my operating has waned in the last year or so but happened to run across an article on the blog of K4SWL,  His post includes a note from Wayne, N6KR, on the fate of the K1:
We should have made a formal announcement here. Yes, we discontinued it because certain parts are hard to come by now, making it no longer cost effective for us to manufacture.
It was a great product for us, and I used mine for years, taking it on many trips. I thought of it as a “Sierra on Steroids” at the time (referring to an earlier design I did for the NorCal QRP Club). But we’ve moved on to more versatile field radios, including the KX2 and KX3.
This news meets me with mixed feelings.  The K1 is the radio that started Elecraft - well technically it existed before Elecraft even.  To see it go certainly strengthens the signals we've been seeing from Elecraft for several years now, since the introduction of the K3.  I certainly hope that they continue to offer piece-part kits as long as it is possible. 

However, I will admit, I am no raving fan of the K1 as a radio - I have built one and I did not find it to perform very well with a fairly drifty VFO and weak filtering.  For the price, it is too much toy and not enough radio.  Still, it was one of the first kits many hams have had the pleasure of putting on the air so I can see the draw. 

Now Tom's blog noted that the KX1 was also on the chopping block but I did not see any evidence of this on Elecraft's site, as they are still selling the KX1 from stock, but I have not gone in and researched if there was further discussion in the thread Wayne posted on.  In my opinion, the KX1 is far superior in performance and operation to the K1 and it would be a shame to see it go from the list of offerings. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

More Amazon Prime Day deals

With Prime Day live now on Amazon, there's a couple deals for Baofeng radios available now:

And this one will be available at 9:54 AM Central time:

There's tons of other deals that may be helpful for hams but these are the only transceivers for sale that I know of. If I find something else, I'll be sure to post it!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Amazon Prime Day is on now!

Amazon is doing its yearly "Prime Day" aka black Friday for Amazon.  They have a number of deals lined up for your favorite Chinese VHF/UHF transceivers popping up over the next 24 hours so be sure to jump on!  Use my referral link to help me continue bringing quality content to the blog!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Contemplating Remote Ops

Well, it's been quite a while since my last post, and unfortunately there's not much good news to report.  The city council decision to deny my request for ANY antenna has stood and I think I've given up pursuing any kind of external antenna at the current QTH.  We love our house and it will suck to move again but luckily with the way the market is, we still stand to make a fair bit when we do sell.  That said, we'll still be stuck here for another year until we can avoid capital gains taxes from selling.  All the better, values will continue to rise so that helps ease the pain some.

I have been able to do some operating in the meantime.  N3BBQ lent me his MFJ magnetic loop antenna and I've had that in the attic for a few months.  When it works, it works pretty well, and I've had several QSOs on it but nothing spectacular by any means.  Most of the time when I turn the radio on and tune around, either the noise level is too high to bother or I just don't hear a thing so my motivation to actually get on has been quite low.

I did toy with the idea of remote operation and actually setup RFCforb with KG6EYC out in CA and made a few contacts using his station.  It worked surprisingly well but I don't want to tie up his station and it was quite clunky to operate from macOS which is my preferred OS for my radio stuff.

So right now I've got to decide if I want to limit the majority of my operation to contests at N3BBQ (which are actually really good) or if I want to invest in the Remote Ham Radio infrastructure.  I've spoken with the guys at RHR a few times at Dayton and their system looks really neat.  The whole thing is based on the web so you can run the station from ANY operating system, and even the demo videos all show macOS, so that would be a good fit for me.

The system cost is not terrible at $99 per year plus a per-minute charge depending on the remote station you chose - beams and power cost more.  If you don't plan on doing contesting from the remote stations, the cost is pretty nominal, although its hard to estimate how much operating I'd do.  As a CW operator, I might have some difficulty enjoying operating without a real key.  The default way to send CW with RHR is by keyboard input in the web form.  I've tried this when I was practicing >40wpm with the QRQ guys but it really does not interest me very much.  There is a way to incorporate an entire "real radio" feel to the RHR experience though, with an Elecraft K3/0 mini.  The K3/0 even adds a local sidetone, RX audio and everything, just like you're sitting right at the remote radio.  This seems like a very viable option for me, aside from the $700 price tag for the K3/0.  Comparing to Elecraft's other offerings, such as the KX2, $700 seems a little steep for a faceplate and a USB controller.  That said, its the only way to get that tight connection to the radio operation.

So what do you guys think?  Should I spring for RHR and see how it goes?  I really wish they'd offer a monthly option so I didn't have to do a whole year at a time, I don't like that much commitment.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A long overdue post: State of the Station

I'm sure many of you have heard through the grapevine (Reddit and Twitter) that I am currently engaged in a battle for my antenna.

A bit of background:

We chose this property very carefully.  A lot not subject to the overlords of an HOA, large enough to support a modest antenna installation.  A tower.  A receive antenna.  It met every requirement.  I read the city ordinance and while it was not ideal, I felt it met my needs.

As you know, I put up my Gap Titan DX in June, which I believed to be within my legal rights to do.  It has now come to pass that the city, and my neighbors, do not share this belief.

A few weeks after I first put up my vertical, a city code enforcement officer came to visit and informed my wife that the antenna was in violation of city code and would have to be removed or risk fines.  The same day I went to city hall to discuss it with the city planner.  Ultimately he and his staff came to the conclusion that my vertical antenna was (by their definition) an Amateur Communications Tower and would be subject to the zoning ordinance.

OK.  I didn't agree with this ruling but I had intended to submit an application for a legit Tower at some point down the road, it just meant I would have to do that now rather than later.  I put together a proposal for a 45' tower with a tri-band yagi and my ground mounted vertical.  My intent was that I would be able to have one or the other or both installed.  You know, flexibility.

So that was my proposal.  I submitted it and sat back and waited for the comments to come in.  Naturally, on my birthday, I get a message from the city planner that the comments have passed the threshold to require a super majority vote by the city council to approve.  The comments from my neighbors were all predictable: what about my home values... what about safety... etc.  All baseless and irrelevant.  It upset me to some degree because I just don't know why everyone cares so much but I also knew the law was on my side.

It finally came time to have the first public hearing at the Planning and Zoning committee meeting.  I gave my spiel and answered a few benign questions.  Only two neighbors showed up to speak against me and they both sounded more crazy than anything, and luckily the committee saw that as well.  They passed a motion to recommend approval to the city council 6-1.  I was surprised!

Fast forward 2 weeks and it was the day before the city council meeting.  That evening someone posted on the neighborhood Facebook page that there was this meeting the next day that everyone should attend, "THIS COULD PASS!" Dread rose within me.  I wasn't so confident anymore.  I knew there was a risk that my neighbors would band together to fight me and it looked like it was happening.  Of course I could have planned ahead better and had some support from other hams in the city but it really didn't look like there would be much opposition after the sparse turnout at the P&Z meeting.

The next day, at the city council meeting, they showed up in droves.  I think at least 10 people.  Again, I gave my statement, this time much better prepared.  I addressed all of the questions I was asked at P&Z and the comments from the neighbors.  It didn't matter.  I needed 6/7 council members to support me; one of them was absent, and another one seemed to have a personal vendetta against me when she asked me if a falling tower could hurt someone in 90 mph winds, as if you'll be just standing around outside (or in your house for that matter) during a tornado.  Then neighbor after neighbor came to the stand and proceeded to raise ridiculous concerns about safety, one going as far as saying he was afraid my antenna would fall in his brand new pool over 100 feet away!  To make matters worse, I was given no opportunity to refute any of their complaints.  The council voted to deny my application 6-0.

I sent the city planner a note when we got home and asked what the path forward from there was.  He said I can go re-apply with something different, suggesting I ask my neighbors what they would allow, or sue.

I met with a lawyer yesterday.  More to come as things develop.