Thursday, November 28, 2013

November SSB Sweepstakes Wrap Up

I don't do a lot of contesting, but one I regularly try to do is the ARRL November Sweepstakes.  It's basically a contest to see how may American and Canadian stations you can contact - like Field Day, and if you get everything it's a clean sweep.

Here's how I did this year...

still need Hawaii for my Worked All States - but everything I do is with a long wire antenna 3-5 feet off the ground - basically a NVIS antenna.  It's works - for me it's the fun of ham radio - never know what you can work.  Still it was need to work most of the continent.

Friday, September 6, 2013

RaspberryPi and DVAP

Finally (and I mean finally - I've had a few sitting in the shack for over 10 months - and haven't done anything with them)...So I had some time and started to tackle RaspberryPi and the DVAP.

First off, thanks to G4KLX (Jonathan Naylor) for the hard part of the software (pcrepeatercontroller and ircddbgateway).  This let's you get on the D-Plus and D-Extra systems.

Secondly, thanks to GW6WTK (Brian Wiegold) for the klxupdate software (if you take the easy route).

You really should try the hard "learning" way to install this stuff....
1.) Download the latest Raspbian image from
2.) Sign up to the following Yahoo groups (ircddbgateway and pcrepeatercontroller) and download the latest "Repeater" and "ircddbgateway" software from Johnathan Naylor
3.) sudo apt-get install wx2.8-headers wx-common libwxgtk2.8-0 libwxgtk2.8-dev libwxbase2.8-0 libwxbase2.8-dev portaudio19-dev libportaudio2 build-essential libusb-dev g++ libusb-1.0-0
4.) Unzip and compile both those pieces of software - warning takes about 6 hours or longer to do on the Raspberry Pi
5.) StartX and execute "/usr/local/bin/ircddbgateway -gui" and "/usr/local/bin/dvapnode -gui"

But if you want the Easy Way....
1.) Go
2.) Download - (and unzip with 7zip)
3.) If you are on Windows, use the to write the image to a 4GB or larger class 10 SD card
4.) Write the image to the card
5.) Insert and reboot the pi, and you're in business (just configure the software with your callsign, etc)
6.) Run klxupdate to make sure the software is up-to-date

Why jump through all these hoops?  Well the XReflectors really are neat, but unfortunately Robin Cutshaw, is too busy playing with Google Glass to fix his software to work those systems - in-fact, he's intentionally made it harder to do with his software and crippled it (unless you use version 1.02 of his DVAPTool software).

Monday, August 26, 2013

DVAP and the XReflectors

Well it's been a pretty short time with the DVAP....a couple of notes for others....

Normally, I use our local gateway (W8HHF B) and connect to reflectors and repeaters around the world.  Works great.  However, you kind of subject users that also scan/use that system to also have to listen to whatever you've connected to.  Sometimes the reflectors can get pretty chatty about some technical topics - and some hams don't really care for that.

On Tuesday's there is a "Raspberry Pi" net (on X-Reflector 021B at 0300 GMT) that talks about using your DVAP on a Raspberry Pi to create a portable Hotspot.  Since I've started doing some of this I wanted to see what everybody else is doing.

A few weeks ago, I purchased a DVAP (2 meter) to allow me to use the HT from around the neighborhood so I can connect to various reflectors, etc around the world so I can listen and communicate with others just using the Icom ID-51.

If you use the regular D-Plus reflectors and repeaters, then the Robin Cutshaw (AA4RC) DVAPTool works just fine and the DVAP works using 10 milli-watts out to about 3/4 of a mile from my house.

Now here's the problem, if you want to connect to any of the X-Reflectors (Experimental Reflectors)...and you really should - great stuff on those systems.  Anyway, I went to connect to XREF021 port B using the DVAP Tool 1.04 (the latest version at the time) and nothing!  I must be entering something incorrect...."XRF021BL" - connect to X-Reflector 021 port B with the Link command.  Still nothing!

Well come to find out that you have to use version 1.02 of the DVAPTool because Robin Cutshaw decided to hard code the DNS/IP Address entries into his software.  What a "jerk" move by him.  Totally not what ham radio is about.  Not cool, dude!  Not cool at all!  He did this totally as a self-serving move to promote his own D-Plus repeater software instead of some of the other Experimental software.

Well in order to fix this, you have to use version DVAPTool version 1.02 and add the following entries into your /etc/hosts file (using a Mac).

#FREE STAR* callsign server redirect

The above works (as shown below), but it's something you have to be aware of.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

HF Bands still stink today!!!

A couple of stations on 20 meters but not much. The band isn't in good shape for some reason this weekend. Too bad - rarely do I get a chance for some relaxing time in front of the radio.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Anderson Powerpoles - I Love Them!

I can't remember where I first stumbled upon Anderson may have been TMRA's own KC8TVW a few years ago, but regardless every ham and hobbiest should/could find them useful.

Here's some I found within 30 seconds in my shack while fixing my R/C buggy.  I love them!!!!  They are my preference to soldering also!

Don't forget the crimper tool and to fuse those connections!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Glass City Maraton - SAG Wagon APRS Traffic

Just a little debrief for the April 28, 2013 Glass City Marathon - (a little late, but better late than never.)

In previous years at the Glass City Marathon (Toledo, OH) I've worked the water stops, but this year I was given a SAG Wagon assignment as part of Lucas County ARES role in the event.  If you've wanted to use those radios for things other than collecting dust, and help others in your area in times of need, consider checking out the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).  It's a great way to get out of the shack and have some fun at the same time.

Anyway, Rick Sharpe (K8RKS) does an excellent job in being net control for the event and also getting ARES volunteers.  I've done it every year since I've started doing it.  It's just a fun event - rain or shine, or snow - yes it's snowed, but luckily it doesn't stick!

This year I had an excellent volunteer driver and have to say he did a great job and knew the roads like the back of his hand.  I couldn't have done it without him.

This year I was testing APRS as a positioning beacon in the SAG (Support and Gear) wagon.  Net control couldn't use the data, but I wanted to test out coverage on the course for next year.  I think it would be an excellent resource for net control so it can reduce the voice radio traffic and net control can put us to use quickly just by looking at a map and place us accordingly.

Here's my position reports - which I have the Yaesu FTM-350R set to "smart beacon" our position when speeds or directions change.  Click the picture for a larger version.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Missed Gordo's ATV

The group decided to leave a little earlier than normal so I missed Gordon West's (WB6NOA) ATV presentation - only got a snippet.

This year was the first year that I felt like I could have spent another day at Dayton.

I spent more time in the forums than normal because a lot of the topics interested me - and a lot of the vendors were actually sold out of products so I had to order them.

Maybe that's good for the hobby and were gaining more members.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Driving from the passenger seat

10 meters is open. A little action running 50 watts from the Yaesu FT-857 into an Icom AH-4 antenna tuner into a 106" whip on the mobile.

Hanging out on 20 and 40 meters

We're up in Sandusky at Cedar Point for the weekend (that's what Amy wanted to do for Mother's Day).

The dog and I took a little break and are relaxing listening to 20 and 40 meters using the truck's vertical. Works pretty well. A little chilly though so enter the campfire. 73

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

ISS Audio

It's rare now-a-days that I get a change to listen to the ISS astronauts make a contact with ground stations.  Today there was a school contact with a school in Gary, Indiana.  I figured that was easily listenable - so I ran out to the car and turned on the mobile radio (I didn't feel like listening to the Echolink node).  Plus it gave me a quick break from work.

Here's a link to a couple of minutes of audio (m4a audio file) recorded using the iPhone.  I had the radio's squelch open most of the time - so excuse that - but sometime you have to do that to make sure you can hear the ISS fading away and switch frequencies due to the doppler effect.

73 - Zack

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Too Late

Um. Thanks for the late warning on this one. It already breached Wood county before NWS issued the warning!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Reaching Stick in Space

Was reading a news article about a couple of "hams" going up on a russion spacecraft today to the ISS and figured I'd watch the "blast-off" since I've never really tuned into a Russion launch before.  They look pretty smashed together in the capsule, but I even noticed they have "reaching sticks" (for you Simpson's fans) to press the buttons during different phases of lift off.

Interesting.  They also seem to take their time before pushing to buttons to make sure they are hitting the correct one...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

D Star Commands

I always seem to forget the D-Star X-Reflector Commands, so here's a quick list for me (or your to access) when you forget too!

You can get more information from

XReflector Commands
Spaces are the same are required under normal protocols.  Remember the control code goes in the last position when issuing commands.

Link =   "aaabbbcO"
    where aaa = "REF" - for reflector
    where bbb = "030" - for reflector number
    where c = "C" for the 2 meter port on the reflector
Unlink = "       X"
Info =   "       Z"
Echo = Not Implemented

The D-Plus System Commands remain the same

Link =   "aaabbbcL"
    where aaa = "REF" - for reflector
    where bbb = "030" - for reflector number
    where c = "C" for the 2 meter port on the reflector
Unlink = "       U"
Info =   "       I"
Echo =   "       E"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Told You...

Ah, got to love them....embarassingly wrong again!  Check out these two notices from the NWS...

Monday, March 4, 2013's happening already...

It's not that hard to get it happens every time with the National Weather Service in our area....first 6-9", then 3-6"....just wait, tomorrow it'll get revised a few more times and we'll get a dusting of snow.  Not really worth all the doom and gloom and panic!!!!  We have a rule in our house, if you don't know the answer, then don't say anything!  (From playing trivia at bars, we always walk out as champs!)

Big Storm

So the National Weather Service out of Cleveland, OH does the forcast for the Toledo, OH area.  They are typically pretty bad at forecasting what's about to come our way.  Detroit's radar system can't see over the ridge to their south, and the only other closest radar is out of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  There really is no good Doppler radar in Northwest Ohio.  Plus with Lake Erie acting as some type of Star Wars Death Star shield, the weather does some really weird things around.

Well again they were predicting 6-9" snowfall for a storm coming in tomorrow night.  So I hit various sites like "Weather Underground", "Accuweather", etc.  and found wonder the weather man is so wrong - his computer's broke!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ID-51 Short Review

It's been a couple days and I've been playing with the ID-51 WITHOUT reading the manual.  I'm familiar with D-Star so I know all the terminology, programming, etc. so it's not that hard to pick this unit up and get started.

I like testing products without reading the manual.  I'm a software developer and my feelings are...if you need a manual, then you're doing something wrong.  Think of your smartphone (iPhone, Android, etc).  You can give that to your 2-year old and they can pick it up and start using it right away.

The ID-51 is pretty close to that.  It's pretty easy to pick up and start using.  Here it is below sitting on my desk connected to reflector 30C.

Some people have reported "muffled" audio.  The ID-31 had this issue before a firmware update fixed that.  Some say this unit has muffled audio also.  So a couple of hints for TX Audio.  I changed my setting from the factory setting of "2" to a setting of "3".  I also turned down the Bass, and turned up the Treble and that seems to sound pretty good. 

Remember - with D-Star, the sound is encoded directly at the time of transmit and only data bits go across the air/wire.  So any sounds issues have to be fixed at the source before encoding, or at the destination during decoding (but most receiving users aren't going to touch their settings so it's up to the transmitting station).  Do some tests and play with what sounds good.

I wish the unit shipped with a programming cable and a microSD card.  It's kind of a pain to swap the SD card to/from the computer to get it programmed, but frankly, I haven't done that yet - all hands on programming - and so far it's pretty intuitive.  It's not necessary to get up and running, but would help.

More reviews and helpful hints to come.  Stay tuned.


Zack - N8ZAK

Friday, January 25, 2013

Moved the Blog

Moved the blog from my hosted CMS platform to Google's Blogger platform.  I've always been pretty happy with Blogger, but I hated the CMS platforms.  Not one, of them have ever got it right.  So I'm back.

This site will be dedicated to my ham radio adventures.