Sunday, October 17, 2010

Online Mapping Tools

The other day I was looking at NVIS antennas and wondered what sort of coverage I might get from my location. Basically I wanted to see a circle drawn around my town with a radius of around 300 miles. The solution was at the Free Map Tools website. Specifically the Radius Around A Map Point page.

In addition to solving my immediate problem there are all sorts of other potentially useful things there. Give it a look.



Thursday, September 30, 2010

Simulated Emergency Test - 2010

This Saturday, October 2nd, is the 2010 Simulated Emergency Test or SET. If you are an ARES member I hope that you're planning to participate in some form or another. This helps to keep us ready for the day when a large scale disaster strikes and we have no instant messaging, no tweets, no Facebook, no cell phones.

Here in Springfield, Illinois where I live we have a new opportunity for the first time in many years. This will be the first activation of the new RACES station at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. The station isn't fully operational yet as equipment has just started arriving but we do have some HF capability along with local VHF/UHF comms. We're bringing in all three operating teams to do some training and a little building and configuration along the way.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Illinois Sideband Net

Traffic handling is a dying art that we really should save. It's hard to think of sending a message through the National Traffic System when we have cell phones, email, and even shudder, the plain old telephone system. But when the chips are down, and one day they will inevitably be down, at least some commercial infrastructure will fail. Amateur Radio and the NTS will still work--if we remember how to use it.

The Illinois Sideband Net meets every day at 6:00pm local time. The frequency is 3.905 MHz SSB. There isn't typically much if any traffic to pass. The beauty of checking in every day or at least once a week is that you know your antennas are still up, the radio and power supply works, and you remember how to use it all. If you are a Ham living in Illinois please stop by some evening for a visit.

You can read up on working within a traffic net on the ARRL web site.


Tim, N9PUZ

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Peoria Superfest

Two major events today. First, it was my wife Teri K9TLM and my 28th wedding anniversary. Life just keeps getting better. Second, this is the weekend of the Peoria Superfest which we have attended for many of those 28 years.

This is a long running central Illinois hamfest. This year the weather was against them. A fairly severe rain storm just before lunch time kind of killed off the flea market business. An awful lot of people packed up and headed home early. Too bad, the weather was beautiful later in the afternoon.

It was good to see old friends and put faces with newer ones. Most notable was a face to face meeting  with James K8JHR from Wyoming, MI. We've talked on the radio several times and had many email discussions but meeting up at big events like Dayton has eluded us.

On the way home Teri and had dinner with friends Bob K9KGO and Dorothy KB9WAN at a neat little place in Mason City, IL named Jack and Jo's. Excellent food. I highly recommend the Cajun Pasta but I can't recall ever having a bad meal there.

Hope you had a good Saturday as well.



Friday, September 10, 2010

Jim Dunn K9CNP (SK)

September 9th was a sad day. My long time friend Jim Dunn K9CNP passed away. Writing about Jim deserves more of a book than a blog post but I want to hit a few of the highlights.

I first met Jim in 1977. He was an instructor in my Novice licensing class taught by the Sangamon Valley Radio Club. He became one of my Elmers and we've remained close friends ever since.

Jim was a Broadcast Engineer. He maintained many of the area AM & FM radio stations. A few years after we first met he took a position as Chief Engineer for the radio station at the University where I worked. There were many memorable lunch time discussions and a work related projects that I enjoyed very much. You never worked with Jim on anything without coming away having learned something.

Jim was very active in Amateur Radio to the end. He was a Volunteer Examiner for years, The ARES Illinois Section Traffic Manager, and the ARES Emergency Coordinator for Sangamon County. Jim also co-founded our local Sangamon/Menard County ARES group.

In his spare time Jim liked to travel, operate outdoors, and camp. He also built beautiful Native American style flutes.

Jim K9CNP doing what he loved.
20 Meter CW 2010 ARRL Field Day

I can't yet imagine how much we will all miss Jim. He will never be forgotten.

The wind is in the buffalo. (Jim will understand this)



Saturday, August 21, 2010

North American QSO Party - SSB

Today was the NAQP - SSB Contest. Originally I wasn't sure if I could participate at all but it turns out I worked the contest for a couple of hours. The bands weren't great. I only operated on 40 and 20 Meters because my antenna decided it wasn't going to load on 15 Meters and by evening 75 Meters was horribly noisy here. I made 39 contacts with only 9 multipliers total.

All wasn't bad though. I had a great time and given condtions I was especially pleased with 39 countacts as I was running 5W QRP with the Flex 1500 SDR. Even with my 5W the other stations only asked for repeats a half dozen times or so. Sometimes I think running QRP is only a problem when the other station knows that you are QRP ;-)



Sunday, July 25, 2010

First Flex 1500 DX

This afternoon I had a chance to play with filters, read about various settings in PowerSDR, etc. I was tuning around 20 Meters looking for some adjacent signals to play with filters. I came across CO0LC running a string of callers from his Cuban station.

I figured "what the heck" and tossed out my call. After my first call he said "the Papa Uniform Zulu station please?" I gave my call again, we exchanged reports, etc.

Okay, so Cuba to Central Illinois isn't exactly a rare contact. But it is 1,328 miles with 5 Watts and my inverted V... on SSB no less! I'm a happy camper.



Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's All About Horsepower

The Flex 1500 continues to be a lot of fun. Today I confirmed that my regular ham shack computer, a 2GHz Pentium 4 with 1.25 GB of RAM isn't enough to make things run smoothly. As an experiment I switched to a Dell laptop with a dual core Centrino processor at 1.8 GHz. All the drop outs and occasional screen freezing is gone now.

This testing was all done with PowerSDR 2.0.5. Now that those problems are cleared up I'll try PowerSDR 2.0.6 and the new firmware if the thunder ever goes away so I can bring the ham shack back on line.



Thursday, July 22, 2010

Flex 1500 QRP Radio

Well, a new radio has arrived here at ARS N9PUZ. I've been keeping an eye on the Software Defined Radio technology for a while and this year I decided to take the plunge and pre-ordered a Flex 1500 at the Dayton Hamvention. The BBT ("Big Brown Truck") brought the small package yesterday.

The Flex 1500 is a QRP (5 Watt) version of some of Flex Radio's bigger offerings. There isn't too much in the way of hardware as the bulk of the heavy lifting is done by a high powered digital signal processor ("DSP") and a largely open source piece of software called PowerSDR.

The photo above shows the Flex 1500 perched atop my Mirage MP1 SWR/Watt Meter. I don't think I'll be needing the 2kW range for this one!

The radio itself may be small but that doesn't mean you won't end up with a rats nest of cables. Here you can see the USB cable, headphones, microphone, and key plugged in and ready for action.

Above is a shot of PowerSDR along with my CW keyboard program. Other than powering it on and off, everything about the radio is controlled through the software. Modulation, demodulation, filtering, band changes are all done in software.

That's it for now. I haven't had a lot of time to learn and play yet but I'm pretty sure it's gonna be a lot of fun!



Sunday, June 27, 2010

2010 Field Day Report

Hot. Humid. Lots of fun!

Last winter Dennis WD9EEK approached me about doing a smaller ARRL Field Day operation than usual and heading to Jim Edgar Panther Creek Wildlife Area in central Illinois. We decided to move forward with that plan and invited a few friends to join us. The weather forecast included thunderstorms, temperatures in the mid 90's, and high humidity with a heat index over 100 degrees. A couple of people thought wiser of it and didn't come out but the four of us that did had a good time in spite of the weather. Here are a couple of photos I thought I'd share.

Our emphasis was on fun and although we each operated as individual entries I think there were around 500 Q's between us.

WD9EEK above was the instigator and handled reservations at the sight. Just before dusk on Saturday he was still making 20 Meter phone contacts.

Bob KC9HGW operated mostly 20 and 40 Meter cw with his Icom Pro 3.

No picture of yours truly. I'm the man behind the camera. This photo shows my IC-7200 and laptop running N3FJP's Field Day Logger.

Jim K9CNP was one of my Elmers when I was first licensed in 1977. He never bothered to get the "big rig", a Yaesu FT-857D out of the car. When he first got to the site Jim decided to try out his new 4 Watt Ten-Tec R4020 QRP rig with a 20 Meter Par Electronics end fed antenna supported by a crappie pole. 5 hours later when he headed home he and the R4020 had worked 36 states on 20 Meters CW! Below is a photo of Jim's killer station...

That's it for now. I've got everything unpacked and enjoyed a nice shower. I think a nap is in order!



Thursday, June 24, 2010

ARRL Field Day 2010

Well, it's Field Day time once again. I could look at a calendar to tell that but there's an easier way here in central Illinois. We had a gorgeous spring season with cool evenings and mild, sunny days. The past few weeks though it gets hotter every day and we have thunderstorms and heat indices in the 100+ F range. With weather like that it just has to be time for Field Day.

This year I'll be operating from Jim Edgar State Wildlife Area near Ashland, IL. Dennis WD9EEK and Bob KC9HGW will be there as well. Hope to work you this year!



Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Old Standards

Browsing through the articles section on eHam I came across a nice article on building a mono-band dipole antenna. There is a lot to be said for the dipole. In particular they work and work pretty darned well. I imagine that most Hams built one at some point in their radio careers. A lot of us continue to use them with great success today. Check it out...

Your First HF Dipole 



Thursday, April 29, 2010

What's In A Grid Square?

A lot of times you'll hear references to "grid squares" or more specifically "Maidenhead Grid Squares". You see 'em on, read about them in contest reports, and see where some contests especially for ATV, VHF, or UHF use them instead of States or Counties.

Here are a few links that will lead you to more than you ever wanted to know:

ARRL Web Page on Grid Squares

One of the more interesting sites I recently saw mentioned on the LinuxHam mailing list is the Ham Radio Maidenhead Grid Square Locator Map. You can put in a call sign, grid quare, or a street address and it will use Google Maps and data to give you all sorts of location information. Here's a sample of what you get when you enter the call sign W1AW, the station at ARRL headquarters:

Whether you're into VHF/UHF contesting or are just curious where your local hams are at these resources provide some interesting information in an easy to use format.

73, Tim N9PUZ

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's Lincoln Trail Hike Time!

Next week, Saturday April 24th is the 2010 Boy Scouts of America Lincoln Trail Hike. Each year Central Illinois Hams provide phone and APRS support. The screen capture below is from You can see myself and Bob KC9HGW (EPA2) testing out trackers and radios in the Springfield, IL area.

73, Tim N9PUZ

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ozarkcon 2010

Last weekend my wife Teri K9TLM and I went to Branson, MO to attend our first ever Ozarkcon put on by the 4 State QRP Group. It was fantastic as was the weather.

Saturday included several informative seminars. In this photo Dave Gauding NF0R describes a small loop he built from a bicycle rim.

Ozarkcon also featured several opportunities for kit building. Here, Paul N9PCS works on a keyer.

Creativity was unbounded. This building entry in the "Whacky Key" category featured a key carved from a potato and a carrot. Vegatarian CW anyone?

Of course there was serious work at Ozarkcon too. Here, Dave NM0S plays along with the nightly Bluegrass concert. Musicians came from Ozarkcon attendees as well as locals who just dropped in to jam.

All in all this is a laid back, highly recommended event. Schedules permitting I plan to go back in 2011. Hope to see you there!

73, Tim N9PUZ

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Springfield Road Runners 1/2 Marathon

This year members of the Sangamon Valley Radio Club and Springfield's Community Emergency Response Team - C.E.R.T joined forces to support the Springfield Road Runners 1/2 Marathon.

There were 1,050 runners from around the Midwest that participated under cloudy skies and fortunately just a few minutes of rain. In this photo a group of runners goes through a water stop in Washington Park.

We utilized the local K9CZ 440.400 MHz UHF repeater as well as APRS to keep in touch with radio operators around the course. A UI-View APRS station was used to track medical vehicles and two pace vehicles. One was at the front ahead of the first runners, a second followed behind the last runners. This allowed race officials to observe the race as it progressed in addition to listening to voice communications.

You can see an UI-View APRS display and a VHF/UHF "go kit:" with radios, power supply, etc.

The trailer was provided by C.E.R.T. which is sponsored by the City of Springfield Fire Department.

The lead vehicle in the marathon was an Illinois State Police cruiser. Steve K9WAV and his son Ben KC9KNL are installing an APRS tracker system in the squad car at around 6:30AM.

SVRC volunteers were everywhere. Here Claudia N9HHE watches as a group of runners approaches the intersection she was watching.

Of course no matter how smoothly an event comes off there is always room for improvement. Here Bob KC9HGW and Steve K9WAV discuss the event and brain storm ways to improve support for 2011.

73, Tim N9PUZ

Thursday, April 01, 2010

We've Been Disrespected!

Earlier today I installed a copy of Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Express. I mostly use an older version of that toolset but I needed to make a small change to a program that someone wrote in VB 2008. I was looking through the help files to look at the correct syntax for something and I ran across this little gem in the MSDN Library:
People express themselves using a language that has many words. Computers use a simple language that consists of only 1s and 0s, with a 1 meaning "on" and a 0 meaning "off." Trying to talk to a computer in its own language would be like trying to talk to your friends by using Morse code—it can be done, but why would you?
Unbelievable! I plan to send Microsoft a note about this. Surely if those people on TV who say "make my computer so it doesn't crash" can get an entire new version of Windows created just for them Microsoft will move quickly to correct this horrible statement.

73, Tim N9PUZ

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Updating the Kantronics KPC-3 TNC

I've added some information on breathing some new life into older Kantronics KPC-3 TNCs. These are often available at bargain prices and you can make them very useful as digipeaters for APRS, etc.

Finally, the New Web Site

For quite some time now I've been meaning to move my web site and redo some things. That has finally happened to some extent. The site continues to be found at Hosting is provided by HAMS4U and I highly recommend them. They do a great job and obviously cater to Amateur Radio.

A few of the articles on the old site are missing. They will be back but contained outdated information, broken links, etc. that will get fixed in due time.

73, Tim N9PUZ

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Busy Spring...

2010 has certainly turned out to be a busy time. So much that I've done a really bad job of keeping up with the N9PUZ blog here. Hopefully this post will bring you up to date and I'll have to post more on projects as I go.

First off there was exciting EmComm news here in Illinois. The Governor and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency announced that RACES once again has a role here. Shortly after that announcement Brad Pioveson W9FX who is the State RACES Officer and Jim Pitchford N9LQF who is one of the two Assistant RACES Officers asked if I would help with station planning for the primary Amateur Radio station that will serve the State Emergency Operation Center.

Next up I was appointed to the ARES position of Illinois Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator for Digital Operations. This covers some of the same issues we're looking at on the RACES team but also encompasses what I hope will be some opportunities to help ARES groups in other counties use various digital communications technologies more effectively. At this point in the process I am in learning mode. I'm trying to find out what people are currently doing, what they would like to do, etc.

There are some fun things on the horizon as well. In a couple of weeks my wife Teri K9TLM and I are heading to Branson, MO for the 2010 Ozarkcon QRP Conference. We'll also be making our annual pilgrimage to Hamvention and FDIM in Dayton in May.

There are a couple of interesting projects in the works too. I'll save those for another post.

73, Tim N9PUZ

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wisconsin QSO Party

Today was the Wisconsin QSO Party. I didn't have a lot of time to play so I decided to stick to 40 Meters and operated QRP CW. Those multipliers really add up -- my 10 contacts netted me 320 points!

73, Tim N9PUZ

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Things Are Looking Up!

Today's main project was to switch out my network router and clean up some cabling. That involved reconfiguring a wireless LAN bridge between the office and the ham shack. Ultimately it went well but the wireless bridge is always a little cantankerous. Basically it doesn't like change but is a solid performer once you coerce it to change configuration.

There's good in everything though. Since I was in the shack area I fired up the radios and low and behold a couple of the locals on 146.430 were mentioning that signals were being heard on 10 Meters! Wow, It's been a long time since 10 was open. I took a little bit of a break and worked a few stations out East.

I really enjoy 10 Meters. The band was nice and quiet and a lot of stations were perfect copy even at S1 signal levels. Maybe happy days are here again!

73 -- Tim N9PUZ

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hardware Hacking and Radio Connections

In this a recent blog posting Dan KB6NU writes about hardware hacking. The more I think about it, how cool would it be if manufacturers like Elecraft or Ten-Tec would open source some or all of the software code for their radios so people could develop replacements or extensions?

I'm sure there are parts of that code they wouldn't want to let out but I still think it would be neat if they gave us an API so we could drop in our own filtering, control links, etc.

Speaking of radio control and modifications, the more I use my Icom IC-7200 the more I like it. A favorite feature is the built-in USB port that provides both rig control and access to the on-board audio-codec for digital modes. Once you install the drivers the USB port lets you use the sound card built in to the radio instead of the one in your PC. Makes a very nice single cable solution.

73 -- Tim N9PUZ

Monday, January 18, 2010

Where Does The Time Go?

Hmmm, 18 days without a post. What gives here?

It seems like since the holidays began I've been going non-stop although for the most part it's all been good stuff. The only Ham related item is that in December of 2009 I was elected to the Secretary position of the Sangamon Valley Radio Club here in Springfield, Illinois.

I hope to get back to some radio work and projects soon. Of course I'll be sharing those adventures here.

73 -- Tim, N9PUZ

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year and Welcome to 2010!

It was a busy December 2009 here. Lots of work and home projects that were necessary but largely uninteresting. I hope everyone's year ended on a good note and that 2010 will be good for you.

I just barely participated in ARRL Straight Key Night last night. Hope to make a few more contacts today.


Tim, N9PUZ