Category Archives: Volunteerism

The Move Is Done

Well, sort of…

We are here in Klamath Falls, Oregon now. We started the move July 1st and I was making runs all July. The old place was officially vacated July 31st. August was the slow unpacking of boxes and the beginning of several furniture building projects. I have built 6 bookcases; 2 of them 40 inches tall, the other 4, 70 inches tall.

I still have a number of things to build like the DVD cabinets that will hold our 1000ish movies and TV shows. I also have a lot of storage containers to build, think apothecaries drawers. Lot’s and lot’s of them.

You can see why I haven’t posted in a while. I have made some upgrades to the shack, well the mobile, the shack is looking rather minuscule right now.

I have absolutely no bench space for shop stuff or electronics. The station is occupying a puny 1 sq.ft. space across 2 shelves, but, I actually have an HF antenna outside! The MFJ-1982LP endfed is up. The feed point is about 15 feet up on the mast my 2m roll-up J-Pole is attached to and the rest of the antenna is supported by 2 31 foot Jackite poles and 20 feet up into the Ponderosa Pine in our front yard.

So far 80 and 40 meters have been kind. The net controls have had to work me pretty hard, but I have been getting through. I have been heard as far away as Victoria BC Canada, La Jolla California, Somewhere in Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. Not bad for 5 watts.

The power on the base, my Yaesu FT-817ND, needs a boost now that I am putting together a local NTS Net. I need to make the Local to Section hop on HF more reliably and not make control work so hard. The local net will be on one of the club repeaters.

I have also moved forward by getting involved with a local active club, the Klamath Basin Amateur Radio Association. I have already done two events and a VE session with the club since we got up here. Also in the mix is getting started with the Klamath County CERT program.  There is some early work on getting an ARES/RACES group together. All kinds of fun going on.

Once we got up here I started work on the mobile. The Baofeng UV-5RE+ was not cutting it on 2 meters. I upgraded from 5 watts with a crappy little antenna to 25 watts with a QYT KT-9800D dual band mobile radio and an ANLI DC-124H TriBand antenna.  Much better performance. Also in the mobile, I installed a Uniden BEARCAT 980SSB Single Sideband CB and a Midland MXT400 GMRS radio. There is hardly any CB traffic up here, but surprisingly, there is quite a bit of GMRS traffic.

For a 2 meter base, I have been using one of the 5 watt handhelds attached to the homebrew 2 meter twin-lead J-Pole I built a while back. Now that I am getting hooked up with CERT, I think I should pull the J-Pole out of the PVC and use it as a portable roll-up. I also need a little more juice for poor weather conditions so a 2 meter base upgrade was in order. Another QYT KT-9800D mobile radio and a Diamond X50A dual-band base antenna should work nicely for VHF/UHF. Those will be incorporated into the station by the end of the week.

As for the HF side of the station… I need to poke around for something around 100 watts, which will require an antenna upgrade too. The MFJ-1982LP is only rated to 30 watts. As long as I keep the power down I should be able to use it for a while. That will still give me a 6 db power gain over the 5 watts I am pushing now. Anything should help. The section nets are on 80 and 40 meters so I will need an antenna that covers at least 10-80 meters. 100 watts should be more than enough for my needs.

Oh, one other thing, I finally got my Skywarn ID number, now I need to find a net for Skywarn. I haven’t found anything in southeastern Oregon yet. I’ll keep looking.

Anyway, that’s the status update for now. Look for an NTS page to be added to the site soon.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

In the works

Mid May, two months since the last post. What have I been up to?

Of course, I have been doing the regular VE sessions, but other than that… Packing. Lots of packing. We have been planning on relocating for several years now but time has finally arrived that we are moving forward pun intended.

We don’t want to move in the winter and we don’t want to wait another year so… we are gearing up for a move sometime soon. One of the best ways to get ready is to start filtering through all of the stuff that has accumulated over the last 21 years we have been here.

As we shed truck-loads of stuff we just don’t need to Savers and Goodwill, we have been packing up the things we can do without for a few months. Having a bunch of other stuff on the brain, the ham shack, or most of it anyway, was one of the first things to get boxed. So for now, no electronics lab. Nearly all of my test equipment is boxed up. We are up to 40 boxes, filtering and packing more every day.

Lest you think I’m ignoring radio, I have been gearing up to be more active in ARES, RACES, NTS, Skywarn, and CERT by taking a lot of FEMA/DHS classes that are prereqs for various organizations. I am also scheduled to take a BLS class in two weeks which includes CPR, AES and more. I want to add a variety of EmComm instruction to my growing list of classes offered in the near future so I am ticking down the long list of prereqs and associated training.

In a somewhat side related area, I also recently acquired my Remote Pilot certificate with Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems rating. Basically, a commercial UAV pilots license in addition to my commercial airplane pilot certificate. This will allow me to do aerial photography and inspections for pay with a UAV/UAS. And what might I be taking pictures of and inspecting, radio towers???? Possibly.

Anywho, I wanted to post an update so you didn’t think I had abandon radio or the site. I just don’t have a lot to post about other than classes and ratings. I will be doing a mobile install of my FT-817 with a quad-band antenna sometime soon so I will plan on posting about that soon. I may also be posting some short subject videos in the near future as well.

Til next time, 73
~Jon KK6GXG

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from KK6GXG!

It’s been a long year. Some plans played out, others didn’t. In the end, the things that did play out were long time goals. Those that didn’t pan out where short term and are still in the mix for future completion.

On the plus side, I did manage to get a bunch of VE sessions into the schedule this year. 27 so far with one more next Saturday for a year total of 28 sessions. That makes a grand total of 46 since I started as a VE.

Another plus was finally building a crystal set. It’s one of those things lots of people build as kids and most builder hams have done them as well. I hadn’t until now. It worked out well and I could hear several stations. In the future, I plan on building different variations and working on fine tuning them.

2017 promises to be an interesting year filled with many new builds, completion of some projects, and a lot of operating.

In the meantime…

Happy Holidays to All

~Jon KK6GXG

 

July? Has it really been that long?

Wow, yes it has in fact been that long.

20151104_161606From a building stand point… nothing new has been going on. I am still working on the Beach 40 and the Bitx 20. The Beach 40 still needs the audio section rebuilt and the Bitx20 needs some troubleshooting . I don’t have the facilities to put up a 20 or 40 meter antenna and since both radios are QRP(p), a good antenna is vital to making any contacts.

20151121_072647From an operators perspective… ya, nothing going on there ether. I need to pull down my Frankenstein/Hill Billy mast because we are having our building painted soon. I have plans for a simpler replacement that should work out fine. I’ll post about that if and or when that happens.

From an experimenters view point…  I have been kind of busy lately. Many of the newer radio projects I have been looking at use micro-controllers and embedded Linux systems. All of which I am totally fine with. There are so many other applications besides radio that I can employ these technologies. The only impediment is getting some play time in with these technologies and getting familiar with there capabilities, use, and programming.

arduinoEarlier this year I picked up some Arduino hardware. I haven’t had much time to work with it yet as the Day Job has been keeping me hopping as well as a lot of stuff in the personal life, nothing bad, just a lot of changes and preparations.

Many projects are done with the Arduino and various shields. Some require a little more direction in the form of an embedded system with a true OS. Enter Raspberry Pi and Raspbian.

rpi3bLast week I added a RPi 3B to the hardware pile and began working with it. Along with the Pi I picked up a copy of Exploring Raspberry Pi: Interfacing to the real world with embedded Linux From Wiley written by Derek Molloy.

Linux doesn’t worry me at all. Many moons ago I was a Solaris 7/8 admin as well as a RedHat 7 admin. The problem is that well over a decade has gone by since I actively worked on those systems. I have been in a Windows only environment for so long my Unix brain has turned to mush. So now I’m re-learning the Unix command line and re-acquainting myself with the Linux directory structure along with some all new unique elements of embedded systems and the Raspbian OS in particular.

With all of the projects piling up and now adding a lot of general computer stuff to the pile, Arduino Sketches, Python, C/C++, and picking up where I left off with Perl, it almost feels like I should go back to school and get credit for all of this work. I could pick up a CS degree with everything on my “tech to learn” plate right now. Add in all of the projects and an engineering degree (EE or ME) isn’t far behind. Thoughts for another time.

Radio specific plans are to read and build along with Crystal Sets to Sideband by Frank W. Harris W0IYE, and then get back to Experimental Methods in RF Design and do the same. I don’t expect to do a lot of operating other than 2 meter until we have the facilities to put up a real antenna, and there is no solid timeline for that.

Life outside radio has taken all of my time lately and I am just now slowly getting back to things. Most of it is general electronics/computer experimentation and adding to the knowledge pool right now.

So in conclusion, no I haven’t been busy, I’ve been too busy.

:-/

hamverseryP.S. Today’s post is brought to you by Hamversary. On this day in 2013 I received my license grant about a week after I walked into the Saratoga Fire Station a non-ham. Since then I have worked my way up to Extra Class, begun teaching license preparation classes to prospective hams, and I have been a Volunteer Examiner for 42 exam sessions, most of them at the Saratoga Fire Station.

I have learned so much in so many ways in this short period of time. Thank you Amateur Radio.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG 

Back from Maker Faire Bay Area 2016

MF16_BA_180x150Just got home from Maker Faire SF Bay Area. Pulled a double shift at the Ham Exam booth. 8am to 6pm and I only managed about 20 minutes away from the booth and about 15 minutes off my feet. This is not a complaint, I’m just saying…

I had a great time. We had 14 candidates throughout the day, so we did get a lot of STS time (Shoot-the-stuff) but we managed to stay busy most of the time.

Lots of chatting about VE stuff in the morning along with a generous helping of radio stuff mixed in. Mostly radio stuff in the afternoon. I even had a visit from a friend scoping out the faire.

ARRL

That’s all for the moment, but I do have a project coming up this week, a TNC to connect a radio to a computer for use with digital modes. More to come…

73,
~Jon KK6GXG

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

First week of April

Here we are, the first week of April. What has KK6GXG been up to since posting last month. Not a whole lot.

ARRL-VEC VEOne significant note, I have surpassed the 25 session count as a Volunteer Examiner! I am now up to 27 sessions. Yesterday (4/4) was also my 1 year anniversary with the Silicon Valley VE Group. I have been a VE since December 2014, but I didn’t begin working sessions until April 2015.

Working the sessions as an examiner is something I enjoy a great deal and I am always excited to see who shows up to the sessions. It is such a diverse group of people coming together in a common interest. Amateur Radio is all about diversity, and sharing common interests often regardless of  geopolitical boundaries.

I love to see youngsters at sessions pursuing their ham radio licenses, especially young ladies. While there are a lot of women in radio of all ages, it’s nice to see girls getting into radio at a young age. Radio is a place that tends to level all socioeconomic and cultural playing fields. A fellow ham is a fellow ham, period.

A couple of things have been nagging at the back of my head as of late. One is to get back to homebrew projects; get that 40 meter DSB finished and on the air. Another is to get back to studying CW, and of course build transceivers for more bands. Lastly, for now, is to get involved more.

With our QTH situation in flux for the next 6 months, it makes more sense to be involved in something less geographically ridged and that doesn’t require operating capabilities I don’t have right now or can’t build quickly and inexpensively.

This points to something administrative rather than operational. One place I would like to be more involved is with the VEC. I love being a VE, but I would like to be more involved with the process. I have no idea how I could be of service to the VEC, but I would like to.

Another thing I want to do before we change QTH is get back to the Bay Area Builders Club monthly meetings. Fortunately this one is just a matter of making the time to get over to the meeting. See you guys on Sunday 😉

KK6GXG-MakingWavesNo concrete plans, just some aspirations. For the moment that’s all I can muster. Life and the Day Job have been at the forefront but no playtime makes for cranky-pants, so I need to figure out a way to make some time. This post is one attempt at making some time.

Til next time… 73.
~Jon KK6GXG

Another month gone by

foto001mdOkay, it’s now March 11th, and I have done just about NOTHING radio related except attending VE testing sessions since what, December?

Not entirely true I suppose. I pulled down the 70cm and 40m antennas from the Hillbilly mast rig, and I have done some poking around at the 40m DSB project, though I haven’t done any real work on it.  Also the VE sessions have been a saving grace in many ways. One, I am still “participating” in the community. Two, we have been engaging is some interesting discussions in the back of the room while waiting for exams to grade. Three, I did reach a milestone in so much as I sat my 25th session this last Saturday. That at least, is something I can honestly say I am proud of.

There are so many projects I want to get going on, I just can’t justify the time right now.  The family is working towards a relocation up to northwest 7 land, and I am really looking forward to the move. There is just so much swinging in the breeze right now, making any plans or starting any projects is just not a good idea.

We are heading up north in May to look at some property. We are hoping that this trip will provide a target for relocating by the end of September at which point, all hell’s gonna break loose and I’m going to be a very busy man.

I have no idea what I will be able to do radio-wise between now and then. I do know I am itching to do something though. I will just have to see what opportunities present themselves in the meantime.

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

The Future of Amateur Radio

children are the futureGoing through Yahoo group posts this morning I came across something on the Ham Instructors group that caught my attention, a discussion on the demographics of new hams and whether or not the focus for recruiting should continue to be centered on the idea that children are the future of ham radio.

Many hams, maybe even most hams, share a basic story line. They got interested in radio as a pre-teen or teen, usually exposed to radio by family, friends, or social event. Most drift away from radio as they go through various stages of life when they are swamped with the normal stuff life tends to throw at us all, school, marriage, having kids, career, the usual. Later on as things settle down radio creeps back into their life. Some manage to get licensed during that early exposure, some end up waiting several decades before getting a ticket.

In my opinion, providing the young an opportunity to catch the radio bug is the best bet. They may never actually get an amateur radio license and their attention may turn down many different paths. But the likelyhood of that exposure being beneficial to the amateur radio community down the road in some other form is immense. They would at least have some understanding and appreciation for amateur radio and its benefits to the community at large.

While I think the positions presented in the Yahoo group and associated blog posts K0NR and KB6NU are certainly worth looking into in greater depth, I think there is a more pressing matter that may affect the future of amateur radio.

Why is amateur radio experiencing a huge upswing? Basic statistics show the upswing began in 2008 shortly after the FCC dropped the code requirement for all amateur licenses. Wheather or not that decision was good for the service I will leave alone for now.

My ham path followed a derivation the one I described above. I got interested in radio as a teen back in the 80s but didn’t get my license until I was 46, only in part because of the code requirement. My reasons for finally getting my license were centered on personal emergency preparedness, serving the community, and to have fun experimenting and building RF electronics.

As a Volunteer Examiner I participate in license exam sessions and it seems that the predominant reasons for taking the license exams generally follow along with the age ranges:

Retirees & Pre-retirees are either upgrading an existing  license, had a licence but it expired and are getting back into the hobby, or always wanted to but hadn’t gotten around to it till now. Or you could say, the story we are so familiar with.

20s & 30s seem to be engineering students or engineers, Makers who have projects that require a license, or preppers.

Teens and under seem to either be in a social program like a school club or scouting. A few come from dedicated ham families.

Pretty much what you might expect, but there are a couple that might have an effect on the ham future landscape. Two categories that could pose concern.

I’ll start with Makers. By in large these are folks who embody the early spirit of amateur radio, they like to build stuff. While they bring to the table that early spirit of radio, how many of them participate in the radio community? Are they here because of one project they might need to be licensed for, or are they going to keep renewing their license and play radio alongside other Maker pursuits? Either way, I am glad they are here now. They do indeed advance the science and art of radio. Down the road however the passing interest MakerHam may drop the Ham part altogether.

The other group is of particular interest, preppers. My hats off to them if they actually get licensed, many more don’t. It is common practice for prepper groups to buy cheap Chinese ham-band radios and use them regularly on FRS/GMRS radio frequencies which is illegal, at least when it is not an emergency, but they are much less likely to get busted for that than using amateur frequencies without a callsign.

One thing to consider is the term prepper. There is a massive range of people who consider themselves preppers that covers the entire spectrum from keeping some extra food and water along with a flashlight, first aid kit, and blanket, something we all should have at a minimum by the way, to the massive underground hords and compounds guarded by paramilitary groups.

Another consideration is, do they further the science and art? Do they participate? If so, welcome aboard.

I mention these two groups of people not to place judgement, but rather to ask if they are a part of the ham community. The reason for asking is, what happens if they don’t renew their licenses? There was concern that the ham community was dwindling away, leading to a loss of tribal knowledge. What happens when non-invested license holders don’t see the benefit of keeping an unused license? Or just forget about it?

Amateure radio has been experiencing an unprecidented growth spurt over the last 8 years. We still have two years to go before the early no-code era hams begin to cycle for renewal. I would imagine the first few years after the start of the second ten-year cycle won’t see much of an effect either way, but what happens in 2020? Will we start to see a roll-off?

In general, we seem to be more focused on recruiting rather than retention. Back in the day, the code requirement acted as a filter. People with only a casual interest in amateur radio were less likely to pursue it. While it worked fairly well as such, it also filtered out people interested in radio, just not cw. Now we have no filter at all. The only impediment to getting licensed is $15 and some time studying the relatively small question pool. You can be a Technician class licensee in short order.

In life, most things are more valuable when you have to pay for them, monetarily or by blood, sweat, and tears. Personal commitment to seeing it through establishes the value. This basic principle would indicate that removal of the code requirement and as some would say, lowering the bar on the knowledge test, the sweat equity has been removed or at least lessened thereby the value, at least the perceived value for the licensee.

So now we have several issues to contend with; keeping the number of licensees up, ensuring that they keep their licenses renewed, and keeping some level of commitment to the hobby and community at large.

Frankly, I have no idea how to accomplish any of these. I don’t think we have enough data. Too many things have changed in the hobby in the last decade and we still don’t have any results from what I think may be the most impacting factor, the dropping of the code requirement. In all honesty, I doubt if we can even begin to answer these questions until 2020 and the effects can be quantified.

In the meantime, we should continue to do as we have always done, inspire and encourage the youth, at any age. Encourage fellowship among the community, Elmer whenever possible, maintain the highest personal standards, and reach out and engage the radio community and the general community at large.

The Amateur Radio preservation mantra,
“Engage, Inspire, Encourage, Educate, Participate”

~Jon KK6GXG