Category Archives: Commercial Radio

First week of May

First week of may, and ain’t got much to say!

JT65JT9No build projects progressing, not much time OTA, none actually, but I have managed to get some reading in. I picked up a copy of one of the new ARRL books Work The World With JT65 and JT9.

Not bad, a short read, though I must admit, I don’t really see myself using the TJx mode any time soon. It looks like its pretty much a contesting mode. I’m not much interested in contesting until I get more of a station built up, and even then… I dunno.

HighSpeedMultiMediaWith some luck the UPS guy will bring me the also new ARRL book High Speed Multimedia for Amateur Radio book today. I still don’t have a TNC or HF radio up and running, but I do have some spare/old 802.11 units lying around… hmmmmmm…

There could be a project with HSMM on the horizon.

RTTY-PSK32I also have a copy of RTTY/PSK31 for Radio Amateurs 2nd Edition on the way which I think will see more action in the near future than anything else. I have a USB/Serial cable and enough toroids and cabling that I might fourgo the TNC a little longer and build an interface myself just to see if I can get it up and running.

The down side is that I will still only be running whatever digital mode on 2 meter FM rather than SSB, but that will get resolved at a later date.

ARRL-VEC VEIn other news, there is another VE session tomorrow (Saturday, May 7, 2016 08:00-10:00) at the Saratoga Fire Station. This session will be my 30th VE session!

Also this month, Maker Faire is here in San Mateo and I will be working both the morning and afternoon VE sessions at the faire. More info is available on the SF Bay Area Maker Faire VE Session website.

One last thing. I’m not going to post it yet, but since we have been planning on relocating, I worked up a new QSL card to reflect the new location. Once we are confirmed with a new QTH and Grid Location I will post a preview of the new card. Speaking of which, if you would like a QSL from my current QTH email me with your address and I will send one out right away.

Oh, one more thing… I am back to studying for my RADAR add-on to my commercial license.

I guess I have been doing stuff.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

2015 Wrap Up

20150222_143627As 2015 comes to a close I just wanted to post a quick Happy Holidays and a note on how much got done this year.

From working on a lot of radio projects on the bench, hanging out with the Bay Area Radio Builders Club, and being privileged to be a Volunteer Examiner at 20  amateur radio exam sessions it has all been a lot of fun and very rewarding.

This month I haven’t posted anything because I have been very busy with the day job, home stuff, and planning for next year. Not to mention the holiday season.

I have several major non-radio projects coming up first and second quarter of 2016 and with any luck a move in Q3 so there will mostly be band noise here on the site in the coming months. I will try to get some radio work in here and there, but it will be sporadic.

If you are interested, I do have several other sites I maintain:

FlyBoyJon is my personal aviation pursuits and other interests. There will be mostly be personal stuff here in the coming months.

Wanzer.org is our families burgeoning homesteading site. Here is where I will be posting most frequently as we prepare for the coming relocation.

KK6GXG is my Amateur and Commercial radio site. As you already know. 🙂

Vintage Aero Works is my business website which at present is in the very early stages of development (as is my business).

Ham-U is dedicated to helping people to get there Amateur Radio license and is also in the very early stages of development.

That’s about all for now.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

Antennas & More

20150507_192446Today was a good antenna day. I finally got the PVC cover on the 40 meter helically-wound antenna I started back in April. I have been using the antenna without the cover as a test antenna next to the bench but it’s time to get it up on the roofline for some actual use.

By “actual use” I am referring to the Beach 40 project that is back in motion now that I have a VXO that pulls more than 1.8 kHz of selectivity. Yay 148 kHz selectivity! Now all I need to do is get the Tx/Rx switching working for the transceiver to be operational.

20140430_131323Another antenna project completed today is the 2 meter twin-lead J-Pole. This one was also waiting for a PVC cover so it could be mounted on a pole. The original design was intended as a portable antenna but the twin-lead J-Pole on any frequency above 50 MHz lends itself well to mounted vertical use, it just needs a housing to keep it in the vertical position.

This little antenna works really well. On numerous occasions I have been unable to ping the local repeaters with my HT with the stock or aftermarket antennas for handhelds. If I attach the twin-lead J-Pole I can actually get out and participate in the nets. With this antenna up in the air at roofline I should have no problems working any of the local repeaters including the packet and Winlink towers.

Speaking of which, I want to get into digital modes once I get the antennas up in the air. I’m not quite up to building a TNC from scratch so I need to save up a hundred and fifty bucks to get digital rolling. Soon…

20151111_145644The other antenna project today was a new-start. When the 2 and 40 meter antennas go up I also plan on attaching a 70 cm half-wave vertical with counterpoise. This one is an experiment. I originally planned on building a 70 cm full-wave twin-lead J-Pole, and I likely still will, but I wanted to see if I could make a vertical with counterpoise that works well. I may even mod this one into a full-wave vertical with half-wave counterpoise radials. Dunno. Like I said, this is an experiment.

Another near-term antenna project, as-of-yet not started, is an aviation band twin-lead J-Pole set up like the 2 meter one. Being a pilot and mechanic, at some point I would like to have either a hangar at a local airport or a small strip at home to work on restorations, so it would make sense to have an AvBand radio in the shop. I have a Vertex Standard (Yaesu) HT for aviation VHF, it just needs an external antenna. I also have a few old radios salvaged from aircraft that would never make it back into an aircraft, but may be suitable for base station operations.

I have a number of other antenna experiment/projects in various configurations, in particular 2 m and 70 cm yagi and/or helical beam antennas suitable for satellite and moon bounce communication. But these are for the future. I also want to build some highly directional antennas for radio orienteering and high-gain narrow-beam antennas for really low power communications.

As for the “More” in the title, once I finish the 40 m transceiver I plan on building a 20 and 10 meter versions. I also have an idea for simple low power beacon transmitters I want to play with. I also want to get set up for QRSS, WSPR, and APRS.

Lots to do. One step at a time.

Till next time, 73,
~Jon KK6GXG

Commercial Element 3

Well it took almost a month to get to it, but today I took and passed the Element 3 exam. I may now exercise the privileges of a General Radiotelephone Operators License, well at least for 90 days or until the FCC processes my application and issues me a call sign.

Not much else to report right now, but I wanted to post this right away. After my commercial call sign is issued I will start moving forward with Element 8 study for my RADAR endorsement.

Until next time,
~Jon KK6GXG/commercial license pending

ETA Commercial license no longer pending 😉 PG00049804

Commercial Element 1

fcc-seal_rgb_emboss-largeOne Commercial Element done!

I completed Element on of the commercial radio exams on Tuesday. If I sent in an application to the FCC this would qualify me for a Marine Radio Operator Permit. Since that is not a needed step for my goals I am holding on to the exam result sheet so I can turn it in with my Element 3 results after I take it and applying for the General Radio Operator Licence.  I should be ready for E3 in less than two weeks, maybe even next week. It all comes down to how much study I can get in.

Things are really busy at the day-job right now but my motivation is back up after doing well on Element 1, so I want to ride that wave as it were for as long as I can.  Once I finish E3 I plan on filing for the GROL and after that shows up in the database I will add the E8 exam and file for the RADAR rating.

The only other thing going on right now in radio for me is participation in ham radio license exam sessions as a VE (Volunteer Examiner.) Yesterday was my 13th session this year. I am hoping to pick up 6 extra sessions outside the normal 2 a month I have been doing since April when I started with the Silicon Valley VE group. I would like to complete 24 sessions this year.

That’s all for now, 73,

~Jon KK6GXG

 

2 Months? Really?

Yes, indeed it has been a long time since my last post.

No excuses, I have been distract by all sorts of things, mostly work though. As of yet I have not taken any of my commercial radio tests.

ARRL-VEC VEJust about the only thing I have managed to keep up with in radio is my regular attendance at the VE sessions. I am now up to 12 for the year with another one coming up next Saturday. This is one of those commitments that just takes precedence for me. It’s less than 4 hours, usually 3, two times a month. I can find time for this.

Tomorrow marks a shift in workload and a re-commitment to getting my commercial tests done. It looks like I will take them one at a time so I can focus more clearly on the task at hand rather than trying to shotgun them all at once.

fcc-seal_rgb_emboss-largeIt has been about 2 months since I was ready to take the Element 1 test so I need a few days to get back up to snuff on the material but I believe I can get back to consistently passing practice tests before the end of the week. This means I should be ready for a Friday or Monday test (other commitments on Saturday and Sunday).

Once E1 is out of the way I will cram on E3 and try to knock that one out of the park by October 2nd giving me 2 weeks to get it together for that test. As for Element 8, I will make plans for that once I am done with E3 and have been assigned a call for my GROL. It will just need to be an add-on.

Commercial Radio Exams

fcc-seal_rgb_emboss-largeIn the continuing saga of studying for my commercial radio license exams I spent much of the long weekend reviewing, quizzing, and taking practice tests.

I am quite confident that I can take the Element 1 (E1) exam at any time. Passing the E1 exam by itself qualifies you for the MROP or Marine Radio Operator Permit (MP).

With all of the practice tests I am averaging in the high 90s for at least the last 10 consecutive tests. E1 is a short test of only 24 questions from a pool of 144 covering rules and regulations, communications procedures, equipment operations, and marine radio frequencies.

While the name of the license and topics favor maritime activities it is also an aviation radio license. For pilots who regularly fly oceanic routs, or off shore and coastal operations, knowing marine communications and being licensed to operate on those frequencies is important.

Along with E1, E3 is also required for the GROL or General Radiotelephone Operators License (PG). I am studying E3 now, 100 questions from a pool of 600. This is the license the FCC requires for anyone working on marine or aviation radios. The FAA and Coast Guard have additional requirements for their respective services, but this is the starting point. There are also separate requirements for the radiotelegraph (T1) license (E6 100/600), the GMDSS Global Maritime Distress & Safety System (DO, RG, DM) licenses, and the RADAR endorsement (E8 50/300).

717549main_ED11-0184-16-cropped2Once I have completed my GROL license I plan on adding the RADAR endorsement by taking the E8 exam which is specifically for RADAR operations and maintenance. Radar is used in many application on aircraft such as collision avoidance, weather avoidance, and ground proximity systems so this is a useful endorsement for an A&P mechanic with an interest in working on aviation radio systems and avionics.

As a ham I am also interested in working for my Radiotelegraph Operators license. I signed up for a class on CW (Continuous Wave or Morse Code) for January/February 2016. If I do reasonably well with learning the code I will need to get my copy speed up to 16 code groups and 20 words per minute to pass the two FCC Telegraphy Code tests and study for the E6 written, another 100 question exam from a pool of 612 questions. No real need for getting this license, but it would be a nice feather in my cap.

The remaining commercial licenses center on the GMDSS requirements for operators and maintainers in the maritime services. Since I don’t see myself being shipboard any time soon I’m not too concerned with this license.

It’s been a while since the FCC dropped the requirements for land base and mobile stations or service technicians in those services to be licensed. With the prodigious growth of wireless technologies it would be nearly impossible for them to manage all of the licensing needs of industry. There would have to be an system not unlike a national Department of Motor Vehicles but for wireless devices, operators and techs. A massive system in place to manage the licensing and testing of everyone who works on or with wireless equipment.

Just sitting here at my desk typing this post I  have 7 wireless devices within 10 feet of me, my laptop, my wife’s lap top with a dongle for another device, my phone, a printer, a tablet, and a router connecting them all. Our society is crammed full of wireless devices all around us. Just think about all of the devices you run across in a day that use wireless technologies. Even the gas pumps use wireless technology to connect to the controller in the stations office, just look for the little antenna on top of the pump pedestal.

Our world is a wireless world. Just some food for thought. For me, it’s back to study time.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

Not As Planned

Well, it’s the 30th of June and there are a few things that didn’t go as planned.

First and foremost, the Beach 40 is still not ready for prime time. The AF amp is still lagging on power-down and I still haven’t checked the PA. Needless to say, the 40 did not make it on Field Day.

Which leads me to the second no-go for the month, Field Day. Not only didn’t the radio make it on-air for FD, nether did I, on any band or mode.

The day job has been keeping me hopping this month and all my free time has been going to studying for my commercial radio license.  I have been running through Elements 1, 3, & 8 heavily for the last couple weeks. The header for this post is my desk piled up with 30 practice tests, 10 for each element.

My general rule for taking FAA/FCC exams is that when I can take 10 practice tests in a row at 85% or better I’m ready to go for the rel thing. As for Element 1, I am up to 10 in a row at 98% average across the last 10.

Now I am working Element 3 at full speed ahead. The plan is to take the Elements 1 & 3 exams some time over the next 2 weeks. While I’m not pushing it, I want to wrap Element 8 by the end of the month.  3 is the “big one” out of the three with 100 questions from a pool of 600 so it will take the most time to study for.

That’s all for now. Time to get back to the studying.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

Solder-less Progress

Some good stuff got done this week even though I didn’t melt much solder.

I had an amateur radio testing session on Saturday. It was a busy day with lots of new hams passing there Technician, some going on to pass the General exam, and even an Extra! We also had several upgrades to General and Extra.

For me the session was also a good learning experience as a VE because I had the opportunity to get some training in another job with the group.

We basically have three jobs split among the VEs present at any given session; two administrative jobs, and a panel of test examiners.  I have been participating as an examiner for the last several months. Today I received some training for the administrative side of things.

I have been putting off the testing on the Beach 40 until I get the last few details finished on the audio and RF amps as well as the LP filter. This week I am playing beginning of the month catch-up with the day job so time is short.

Also tied to everything else is the change over from Windows to Linux. I have deleted the Win partition on the laptop and am now running full on Linux. I am loosing two programs I liked but just couldn’t get them to work with Linux native or emulated and I don’t want to run virtual machines. I still have all of the data, and I do have a Windows 7 laptop in the shop I basically only use for the web browser.

The programs I am loosing are Quicken and Business Plan Pro. BPP will just go away. I exported all of the business plans I have put together over the last decade to .doc files which I can access through OpenOffice. I can use the previous plans to build new ones as needed in document formats.

Quicken is the one giving me headaches. Supposedly you can export the data to a file for import to Skrooge. No joy. After several exports and several hours I made the contagious/stupid decision to just go back and reenter all the data for this year.  It sounds a lot worse than it is. I will just do one month at a time and by the end of this month I should be all caught up. Not to mention very familiar with the new software.

I have found replacements or versions that will run on Linux or in emulation for all of my radio software an in fact found some new stuff that looks mighty interesting. Big plus here.

Along with the radio specific software, I found gEDA Schematic Editor. WOOT! It took a little getting used to the interface and component placement, but I like the results a lot. I have been redrawing the schematics I originally did on schematics.com for the Beach 40 and think they look much better. I will be posting them soon to the build page. A good thing too because there are some errors on those schematics. Ooops!

One last update before I go, I was working on test prep for my commercial radio license a while ago but got sidetracked by all of the build projects and the day job. One of my goals for second/third quarter is to take my commercial radio exams, at least two of the three anyway, and get my commercial license. So I will be committing some of my limited time to that endevor over the next few weeks. The build will continue, I still hope to have the Beach 40 up by Field Day, but I need to budget more time to the Day Job/Future Day Job.

Anyway, I have 0.5TB of files syncing with Google Drive and a pile of accounting stuff that needs to find a new home in Skrooge so that’s it for today.

Until next time, 73,
~Jon KK6GXG

Radio Goals

I tend to view “goals” as an intermediary point, even a starting point in many cases. They are rarely endpoints, and when they are it’s usually only an end in an administrative sense, like earning my Amateur Extra license. Administratively I reached an endpoint because it is the highest level in the Amateur Service, but in reality it’s a beginning. There is so much to learn that requires I earn the license first.

My current goals in radio are much the same. They are the getting-to-the-starting-line kinds of goals. I started studying for my commercial radio license shortly after I earned my amateur Technician class license. Well, that is to say I bought the study guide and began reading it. I also purchased some test prep software. While I have been poking at it off and on, I hadn’t made any serious efforts to study until this week.

Earning the GROL (General Radio Operators License) has been a goal since I started studying for my Technician, I just hadn’t set a hard date for it. I am still refining the hard date, but it will be this year before the end of June. I also have a goal to get the RADAR endorsement added to the GROL license, this year.

Another goal is to get on-the-air using CW (Morse Code) at 10-15 wpm (words per minute) by the end of the year. This is most definitely a starting point. It is the lead in to getting my commercial Radiotelegraph license.

GROL and RADAR are personal goals that also have a pragmatic side. With these licenses I am authorized to work on most marine and aviation radios and RADAR. This includes mobile (in the craft) and land based comm, RADAR, and navigation radios. A big boon for the aviation pilot/mechanic/instructor. This also opens up some doors in the commercial and government radio services.

Learning CW is purely personal. The CW requirement for an amatuer radio licenses went away entirely in 2007 but it was one of the factors that kept me away from ham for 30 years. Now that it is gone from amateur radio requirements my only way to concor that obstacle is to learn it, practice it, become proficient in it, and get the only class of license that still requires it; a commercial Radiotelegraph license.

The Radiotelegraph license process has four components, two written test elements, one of which I will have already passed with my GROL, and two code test elements. The code tests are 16 code groups per minute, and 20 wpm at 100% copy accuracy.

Like some other commercial licenses there used to be different classes of license, now there is only one radiotelegraph license and this consolidation happened relatively recently. I want to be sure and do this before the class goes away altogether; so my goal for this license is to take the code exam elements before the end of summer 2016. This should give me plenty of time to build speed and proficiency.

Fortunately the amateure radio service has lots of room for code practice and plenty of cw hams to keep practicing and improving the skill. I am looking forward to learning the code well enough to get on the air soon!

73,
~Jon KK6GXG