Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A New Springfield Area Digipeater

Last night my new packet radio digipeater went live at its permanent home. I've wanted to expand the footprint covered by the N9PUZ-10 VHF Winlink 2000 Gateway and Al N9MAF was kind enough to offer rack space and an antenna site at his VHF and UHF repeater location.

N9PUZ-3 has an antenna at about 95 feet AGL. Power is 30 Watts and operation is controlled by a Kantronics KPC-3+ TNC. The system has an alias of SPI and is located about 14 miles south of Springfield.

For those not familiar with conventional packet radio there is a tutorial by WB9LOZ. Packet radio is used as the underlying communication system for the VHF portion of the Winlink 2000 system.

Monday, August 11, 2008


This past weekend Ralph K9ZO hosted a little bash for the Society of Midwest Contesters. SMC is a contesting club located in the "Black Hole" of locations--the center of the United States.

"ZOfest", as it was called was probably the best club meeting I've ever attended. There was of course the obligatory business meeting where the club's performance in contests over the past few years was discussed along with super secret, "if I told you, I'd have to kill you" plans for the years ahead. There were also some first rate presentations by various members on topics that included:
  • What goes on "off air" before, during, and after a DXpedition
  • Antenna Modeling
  • Old radio collecting and restoration
  • "Turn-key" vs. "carry it all yourself" DXpedition contesting
  • Test equipment and troubleshooting your station
Oh, and there was lots and lots of great food, drink, and the camaraderie that makes Amateur Radio such an incredible hobby.

Every group should have an event like this periodically. It'll keep your spirits up during the bottom of the solar cycle and you'll just plain have a bunch of fun!



Saturday, May 31, 2008

ARES and Skywarn Participation

Last night a couple of major storm cells moved through Central Illinois and in particular Springfield where we live. Our local ARES group, the Capitol Area Amateur Radio Emergency Response Team (CAARERT), activated a weather net.

I imagine we are like a lot of groups. People show up for training, etc. but frequently the regular monthly nets are poorly attended. People have lots to do and giving up free time for routine stuff is difficult. However, when the real deal happens folks turn out. Last night without any fuss there were nearly 30 people on frequency ready to go out to spotter locations, work with the National Weather Service, etc.

Congrats to all!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gasoline and Ham Radio

In a May 23, 2008 poll the ARRL asked " Have rising fuel prices reduced your willingness to travel to hamfests?". These polls are not supposed to be scientific, they are just for fun but when I looked at the poll on May 27th a surprising number of people, over 57%, said yes, gas prices had effected their willingness to travel to hamfests.

Since I just returned from the Dayton Hamvention and FDIM I thought about that a little. Here's my thinking...

From my house to Dayton is about 640 miles. If I drove a vehicle that got only 15mpg on the highway then at $3.50 per gallon my fuel would have cost about $150. The same trip at $4.50 per gallon would have used $192 in fuel, an increase of $42.

Our vehicle gets considerably better mileage than 15mpg and I'm not saying the extra $42 above is a non-trivial amount. However, I have to believe that if the $42 were a deal breaker you maybe shouldn't have been going on a big trip anyway. Also consider that that is for one person. If two, three, or four people are traveling together then the cost per person could drop to a difference of only about $10.



Hope Springs...

I wouldn't exactly say the bottom of the present solar cycle is over yet but some of my recent operating does give hope. Over the past Memorial Day weekend I was able to work quite a few lower power stations on the East Coast, West Coast, Southwest, etc. Happy days may not be exactly here yet but I do think they are returning.

I made two prized contacts this weekend, both on 14.3425 MHz. First was Budd W3FF who I've worked many times but this weekend I finally worked him while he was mobile on his recumbent tricycle in Redding, CA. Second was Steve N0TU. Steve was operating portable from Mt. Herman in Colorado. He frequently backpacks along with his goats Rooster and Peanut.

How do you find these crazy operators? Check out the HFpack group. On any given day, especially weekends, you'll find a bunch of them monitoring one of the HFpack Calling Frequencies, primarily at 14.3425 MHz these days and 18.1575 MHz when the sun spots improve a bit.

I hope to catch you on the air one day soon.



Monday, May 05, 2008

Byonics TinyTrak 4 TNC

A month or so ago I was shopping for a small TNC that I could use to build an APRS "tracker" system. We frequently use them around here when we support public service events, Red Cross Activities, etc. I ended up getting a Byonics Tiny Trak 4 because in addition to having the tracker features it is also a complete KISS mode TNC which makes regular two-way packet radio communications possible as well.

In addition to other activities I operate N9PUZ-10, a VHF Winlink 2000 gateway. This morning I tested the TT4 in full TNC mode and am happy to report it works quite well with Winlink using the Packlink MP program and AGW Packet Engine. If you're looking for an affordable, portable TNC that can be used in a variety of applications the TinyTrak 4 is worth evaluating.


Tim, N9PUZ

Old Time Hamfests

This past Sunday Jimmie WX9DX and Bill K9KKL sponsored a small old time hamfest at Lake Springfield's Center Park (Springfield, IL.) We had a great time looking over everyone's treasures, and sitting and swapping stories about goofs we've all pulled at one time or another, tales of working that rare DX, or things we could do to improve our EMCOMM support.

Noon time featured a huge potluck meal with plenty of fried chicken, baked beans, and deserts. Certainly much better than the typical hamfest faire of hot dogs and chips.

If you need a good low stress, local activity for your group or club I highly encourage you to try a small, old time hamfest at the park. It'll remind you of all that's good about Amateur Radio.

Tim, N9PUZ