Friday 30 April 2010

St. Louis Vertical Part 1 - Prep

© VE3MPG_ST. Louis Vertical-3 The St. Louis Vertical portable antenna has been talked about and modified over the years. It’s a very portable antenna solution for Field Day or QRP enthusiasts. It’s easy to build and modify and covers 40 meters to 10 meters with the use of a tuner. Radials are a must with this type of antenna. I use a Shakespeare Wonderpole, a collapsible fishing pole. Fully extended it’s 20 feet long and collapses to 45 inches for storage and transport.

Years ago I purchased a good amount of Radio Shack twin lead for this project and like any good ham I’m finally getting around to building a St. Louis vertical for use at Field Day and with the Ottawa Valley QRP Society group outings.

© VE3MPG_ST. Louis Vertical-1 © VE3MPG_ST. Louis Vertical-2 The first preparation that must be done on the Wonderpole is the removal of the two clips midway up on the first section. These two brass clips are used to hold a fishing reel. The reason for removing these two clips is to assure that the twinlead once wound on the lower section is flat against the bottom section when you wind it on. It’s more esthetics and it makes it easier to wind without the bumps of the clips underneath the twinlead.

© VE3MPG_ST. Louis Vertical-4

I used a Dremel tool with a cutting disk attached to cut through the clips. I still have to smooth down the plastic adhesive used to attach the clips with a small grinding tool attachment on the Dremel.

For the last while I’ve been thinking quite hard to determine a good way to wind the twinlead onto the bottom section so it stays in place. In part 2 of this series I’ll show you a novel method that I devised to accomplish this – it’s weatherproof too.

A71EM in Quatar Have been listening to 17m psk this afternoon and just finished working A71EM in Qatar with 40 watts on the R6000 vertical. 17 is a fine band with some great DX and quiet band conditions – opportune for working DX. It seems to be open early morning till sundown here near Ottawa – always with some exotic stations waiting to be worked.

Here’s a link from the American QRP Club describing the St. Louis Vertical:

AMQRP.ORG St. Louis Vertical

Tuesday 27 April 2010

April 27, 1791: Samuel F.B. Morse

Samuel F.B. Morse

Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the Morse Code was born on this day, April 2tth 1791. His invention was patented in 1837, and he gave the first public exhibition of his device to scientists the following year.

Read More

Sunday 25 April 2010

QRPTTF A Success And Great Social Event


The QRPTTF event yesterday at Hampton Park in Ottawa, was a great success. The bands were in terrible shape and lots of electrical noise pollution on most of the bands. Turns out it was more of a social event interspersed with working a few stations. The weather was great – not too warm with a light breeze. Many locals and dog walkers stopped by to investigate what we were doing and most had heard about amateur radio. Here are a few pictures of the ops and stations and some of the visitors. Forgive me if I miss your name and call.

© VE3MPG_QRPTTF-1-2© VE3MPG_QRPTTF-1-3 © VE3MPG_QRPTTF-1-5 © VE3MPG_QRPTTF-1-6© VE3MPG_QRPTTF-1 © VE3MPG_QRPTTF-2© VE3MPG_QRPTTF-7 A great time operating QRP in the park. Michael provided hot coffee and mini muffins – the kind where you can’t eat just one. The Ottawa Valley QRP Society members are a great bunch and I hope there are more in-the-field type QRP events this year.

Thursday 22 April 2010

QRP To The Field (QRPTTF) 2010 This Saturday

The Ottawa Valley QRP Society takes to the field this Saturday April 24th. The Ottawa location will be at Hampton Park, near the Island Park exit westbound from the Queensway. Start time is 11am EST and it’s a CW QRP (5 watts or less) only exercise. I’ll be joining them in some capacity. I have my FT-817 station almost ready to go with just wiring up a pix_ab9ca_dave_6[1]CW key left to do. I also have to cut a 40 meter radial for my Buddistick. I have the Buddistick tuned for 20 and 40 meters. I take along my MFJ antenna analyzer just to be sure all is good for the final section on my FT-817. Power will be from an 18AH gel cell and a spare full size 12v deep cycle wet cell battery. I haven’t operated the 817 on cw and don’t have any filters installed yet. Still a few things to get ready but it should be an interesting day. For suggested operating frequencies see the QRP To The Field web site.
QRP To The Field (QRPTTF) site

About Hampton Park, Ottawa

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Software In The Shack At VE3MPG

synergy-plus-server/client example Once in a while I come across some very unique software for use in my radio shack’s computers. Synergy+ is that software. It shares a common mouse and keyboard if you’re using several computers and operating systems. I use 3 systems in the shack – a kinda new Windows 7 Home Premium box, an older Pentium 4 running Windows XP Pro and sometimes my laptop gets included in the mix. Normally that would be a lot of wires and keyboards to have on the desk where real estate can become scarce. From my main computer display (Win7 – the server in Synergy+) I can access the screens of the other 2 systems by floating my mouse over to the right side of my main monitor and the mouse appears on my P4 system and my keyboard becomes part of the P4 system. I can configure Synergy+ so that the left side of the screen in the Win7 (server) system transfers my mouse pointer to the laptop display and my keyboard becomes the laptop input keyboard. Keyboard input goes to the same screen that your mouse cursor is on.

You might ask what is so special about this? It’s done over my home wireless network with absolutely no lag time and no KVM switch. The Synergy+ software can be made to run as a service on boot up so you can even log in to other computers at the login prompt. Now I only have one mouse and one keyboard available without all of the extra wires and separate connections to various monitors required of a KVM switch. It’s a bit tricky to set up initially but after a few minutes and reading the wiki at the Synergy+ site I was up and running. There’s also an excellent discussion group available.

Synergy+ works with different resolutions – my main box running Windows 7 runs at 1680 x 1050; the P4 at 1280 x 800 and the laptop at 1024 x 768. I can still use multiple monitors on my Win7 box too.

Synergy+ is available for Linux 32 and 64 bit and Windows 32 and 64 bit versions, and Mac OS X.

Here’s the link to the Synergy+ website - >>What is Synergy+?

Monday 12 April 2010

DX Is Out There Despite The Marginal Conditions

zl1pwd Last night or early this mornning to be more specific, just before turning in (04:53Z) I checked the bands – quiet'; until I saw a trace on the waterfall. It was ZL1PWD, Peter in New Zealand calling CQ. His signal was in and out but I decided to give a call anyway. We did manage a nice qso and Peter sent an email with a screen capture of the contact. Signals were in and out with heavy fades but there was DX rolling in. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard signals so late into the night on 20 meters. I did a quick check of the other bands but nothing above 20 meters. Earlier in the evening there had been a 6 meter opening but it was short and I missed it. Contact was made with the FT-950 with 20 watts to the Cushcraft R6000. I had a tune around 160 meters and there was a fair bit of activity and not much atmospheric noise. This is a great time of the year, during the spring equinox, for DX at odd times of the day or night.

From My Archives – Popular Radio March 1923 - Nikola Tesla


I have an almost complete archive of Popular Radio from 1923 to 1924 with some rare black and white photos of some famous radio pioneers. I’ll attempt to post a couple of archive photos every week.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

About That Blackout; Being Ready, Always

A few days prior to the recent power grid blackout we experienced here two days ago I had been meaning to get fresh gas for the gen set. A complete blackout brings you screaming back to reality – Be Ready and Be Prepared. This is the first blackout of the season and we usually have several out here in the country. It’s a fact of life when you live away from large cities like Ottawa.

I always stock up with gas every fall, add the appropriate gas stabilizer to my stock and mostly that’s it. I change the oil in the little Honda 2000i once a year or if it gets used during the summer months camping twice a year. I use a good quality synthetic oil, Mobil 1, and keep a couple of litres handy. generator-honda-2000i I keep a spare spark plug and clean the air filter regularly. It’s been running smoothly and without problems for 7 years now. I start it up every 3 weeks and let it run for 30 minutes and keep the gas tank topped up. I rotate the gas every spring, like I did 2 weeks ago. I dump the stabilized gas into my car and usually get new gas right away – lesson learned this time. I had to drive 15 Kms. to get gas for the generator when it should have been available and beside the generator.

I keep 2 deep cycle batteries topped up here too. One powers my sump pump and kicks in automatically during a blackout. I check the condition of the battery and keep distilled water on hand to top up the cells when needed. I also check each cell with a specific gravity wet meter just to make sure none of the cell have gone weak on me. The basement battery is kept on a trickle charge at all times and recharge is automatic when power resumes. The sump pump will run for approximately 17 hours on battery. I also have a direct connect to my generator at the pump location if run time is exceeded on the battery; I can connect the Honda generator outside on the back patio and run that with a fill up every 5 to 6 hours. The other deep cycle battery is kept in reserve or to run my ham shack. I also have 2 – 12v, 18amp/hr gel cells to run 2 meter gear or qrp (FT-817) hf. These get trickle charged every 30 days.

The Honda of course will charge 12 volt batteries; on hand too are 2 – 100 watt solar panels and a portable 15 watt panel for charging things if the grid goes down for extended periods. The great ice storm of 1998 was such an event and I don’t wish it to be repeated ever. During winter blackouts heating can be a problem. My home has 2 airtight wood stoves – a large Elmira Stove Works airtight in the basement and a BisII airtight in the living room – that heats the first and second floors. I keep a good supply of seasoned hardwood for those occasions. When the power grid goes down in the country our water source is affected – we can’t pump water from wells without power. Spring water is stored in 5 gallon containers for drinking.

In conclusion one can never be prepared for all eventualities. Being well prepared is what to strive for. Keep drinking water and food on hand; don’t depend on your neighbours as they’re in the same situation you’ll find yourself in. Know you equipment and how to repair it. Keep records of run time on your gas powered generators and change oil, filters and spark plugs when required. Keep a stock of batteries for flashlights and radios. Keep candles and kerosene or naptha on hand for lanterns or oil lamps.

Be prepared before emergencies and for when the grid goes down.

A short note about last night’s thunderstorm in Ottawa – disconnect those antennas BEFORE the storm hits. Disconnect before going to work – the spring and summer storm season is upon us and who wants to toast or damage expensive radio gear? Take precautions. Have spare antennas on hand to get back on the air quickly after the storms have passed, especially if you are a member of ARES Emergency Measures Radio Group in the National Capital Area.

Emergency Measures Radio Group – Ottawa ARES

Deep Cycle Battery FAQ

RAC ARES Operations Training Manual

The Survival Podcast Forum

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Total 6 Hour Blackout Tonight – Eastern Ontario

The power just came back on a few minutes ago – it’s just after midnight April 6, 2010. Power was lost just after supper yesterday – around 6:30 pm in the Metcalfe, Vernon and Osgoode area of Eastern Ontario. No reason from Hydro One so far. Living in the country one is prepared for these events. I have a good Honda generator, battery backup on my sump pump and ample deep cycle batteries to keep some of the ham gear on the air. I was a bit low on gas so I headed out two hours into the blackout to get an extra 5 gallons. All was well in the VE3MPG household. Enough candle power to light the shack and living quarters and the Blackberries were fully charged earlier in the day. The RIM network was still functioning. The Honda 2000i used up just a little over a gallon of petrol during the 6 hours of non-alternating current on the mains. It’s been a great little gen set and made it through an even longer blackout several years ago – about 13 hours that time.

Below are photos of the big blackout of August 15, 2003, courtesy of NASA’s Earth Observatory. That afternoon I hurried to a Honda dealer to purchase the last generator on the shelf – a demo model – the City of Ottawa had purchased their entire inventory. More tomorrow.


Blackout Leaves American and Canadian Cities In The Dark

Monday 5 April 2010

I Guess I Don’t Have a Boat Anchor After All

Just finished reading KL7AJ’s write up on QRZ’s forums. Read on about how to restore a real boat anchor – Restoring Your Vintage Radio, by Bo Tanker.

“By the way, I should mention at this point that it seems a lot of the uninitiated refer to ANY amateur radio that happens to contain a tube or two a boat anchor. Excuse me, but a Yaesu FT-101 doesn’t even REMOTELY qualify as a boat anchor. It’s got a HANDLE on the thing, for crying out loud!”

“Here’s a test for whether your radio qualifies as a boat anchor. First, locate your nearest ocean or Great Lake. (If you live in Nebraska, this may be a bit of a trick in itself). Go down to the nearest dock on the shore of the aforementioned ocean or Great Lake. Find a big boat. Look for a big, rusty pointy object dangling from a chain somewhere on that big boat. Pick up that big rusty pointy object dangling from the chain. Record or otherwise document the grunting sounds you make when you pick up that big pointy rusty object. Or, alternatively, record the pain level in your back as you pick up that big pointy rusty object.”

”Now go home, pick up your radio, and compare your grunting and/or pain level with that experienced upon lifting the rusty pointy object dangling from the chain on the
big boat.”

“Is it comparable? If so, you might have a genuine boat anchor.”