Sunday 11 November 2012

If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.


1-4 Boys in uniform2

Annie Baillargeon


Tony Rusk

My father-in-law Noel, above, fought in the Royal Newfoundland regiment as a commando during the North Africa campaign and at Monte Cassino in Italy.



My nephew Tony Rusk, on his return from Afghanistan.







Tholthorpe-Marcel in Trafalgar Square

Above is my father on leave in London at Trafalgar Square sometime around 1943. He was in the Royal Canadian Air Force based at Tholthorpe near York. He was an air traffic controller for the duration of the war and boarded with a farm family. All four of the Baillargeon brothers returned home to Tecumseh Ontario after the war.


Wednesday 24 October 2012

Band Conditions and DX

My apologies for not posting of late. Just too much going on but I do manage to get down to the shack late in the evenings. This has always been my favourite time to hunt DX. I’m a casual DXer and I don’t do contests. My work schedule allows for late nights and early morning operating times. I follow, and operate digital and JT65-HF exclusively. I keep power levels below 20 watts and 99% of the time keep it at 10 watts out using my FT-950. I’ve done this even during the lowest parts of the 11 year sun cycle and still managed to work lots of rare and obscure stations. Often when the band seemed dead, out pops a rare South Pacific station and I snag them on the first call.

IMG_1580Just yesterday I worked Tanzania, 5H3NP, Noel, at 0400Z on 20m psk31 running all of 15 watts. Noel had a good clear signal and he told me he’s on every night at the same time. I did hear him the previous evening but he was working Europeans and Russian stations in a pile up.



d2qrA couple of days ago, on 10 meters Serg, D2QR was on from Angola; again a nice strong signal and worked him on his first CQ call. The call looked familiar and checked my log and sure enough I had worked Serg in 2004 on 20 meters.

Earlier at 0445Z I worked Metin in Istanbul Turkey on 20m psk31. I noticed that I worked the Turkish and Tanzanian just after their sunrise times. I monitor this by reception reports displayed by PSKReporter maps and can watch the grey line creep along the countries that I’ve just worked. It’s a great DXer’s tool. It’s integrated into the current version of Digital Master 780.

Conditions have been really very good lately and urge you to get on the bands and work some of the rarer low power stations currently easy pickings during the late night hours on 20 meters and daytime DX on the busy 10 meter band.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Draconid Meteor Shower And Incoming CME

This just arrived from

DRACONID METEOR WATCH: Earth is about to pass through a stream of debris from comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, source of the annual Draconid meteor shower.  Last year, Europeans witnessed a faint but furious outburst of 600 meteors per hour when the shower peaked.  No such display is expected this year, but the Draconids are notoriously unpredictable.  Northern-hemisphere sky watchers should be alert for slow-moving meteors emerging from the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon (not far from the North Star) on Sunday night, Oct 7th, through Monday morning Oct. 8th. Check for more information and updates.

INCOMING CME:  A coronal mass ejection (CME) is heading for Earth.  The incoming cloud is expected to deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetosphere on October 8th, possibly sparking auroras at high latitudes.

EARTH-DIRECTED CME: Magnetic fields near sunspot AR1582 slowly erupted on Oct 5th sparking a B7-class solar flare and hurling a CME toward Earth. The Solar and Heliosphere Observatory (SOHO) captured this image of the expanding cloud:

Friday 5 October 2012

Fall and Puppy Linux In The Shack

© Bob Baillargeon Siberian Crab Apples-9870

Fall is a busy time out in the country where I live. It’s a time of getting gardens and lawn ready for winter. Other chores at the VE3MPG qth is getting the snow implements ready for the winter snow storms – getting the cutting deck off of the Kubota diesel and attaching the plow or blower onto the front, changing the oil and filter, attaching chains and 50lb weights to the back wheels for traction in the deepest snow. Some of our firewood has been delivered – nice hard maple and it’s all stacked nicely in our woodshed. I keep a good supply in the enclosed back porch and once every few weeks it’s replenished from the main supply in the woodshed. There are two airtight wood stoves here – one on the main floor and a large one in the basement. It keeps us cozy all winter, along with our geothermal heat pump.

© Bob Baillargeon Siberian Crab Apples-9852Other fall duties are using up or freezing fresh vegetables from our organic garden. It’s jelly time too and as you can see from the picture above it is a very nice batch this year. I have a Siberian crab apple tree and this year it was packed with fruit so there will be enough jelly till next year. We try to consume foods grown with a few kilometres of our home – organic honey, organic pork, beef and chicken from the neighbouring farms.

At this time of year there’s often a lull too, where I find a few hours to try new software in the shack. I had an old 2004 vintage HP Pentium 4 computer sitting around. A few months ago I was reading about a very efficient Linux distro called Puppy Linux. This distro loads into memory, either from a CD or a thumb drive. On this antiquated HP machine software starts instantaneously because it all runs in fast memory instead of from a hard drive. Puppy runs much faster than Ubuntu or Windows on the same hardware. One of the Puppy distros that I discovered is a customized version by the group.

Their Puppy DXpedition Disk includes many Linux amateur radio programs. Included are three logging programs, Fldigi for digital and PSKmail, satellite tracking, APRS software and many others.DxpeditionDisk

There’s an excellent set of instructions included there on one of the links.

There’s also Puppy Linux Server CD available on the site – it sets up a psk mail server running in ram and is a little larger distro than the DXpedition Disk distro. It includes everything for setting up a PSK mail server and a few other enhancements of interest to the Linux knowledgeable amateur.


This is the distro that I use in the shack – I installed it to a small hard disk and the system boots in about 10 seconds and runs from ram. I have 2 gigabytes of ram installed but it will run in a lot less. I’ll eventually have my FT-100 connected and running using psk mail on 30 meters. That’s a future blog posting coming up later this year. Puppy Linux is very easy to use and it will automatically recognize most hardware in your PC. It even included drivers for my old Realtek wireless card and configured itself to connect to my wireless internet network – easy peasy! I’ve been playing with variations of Unix/Linux since the early 1990s and this is one of the easiest flavours of Linux to learn on and play with. If you burn a CD/DVD of Puppy leave the disk open instead of finalizing the disk after burning the software image. That way you can add/configure new software and updates to your Puppy CD or thumb drive.

I do hope that you’ve enjoyed this blog posting. For you photography enthusiasts the photos at the top of the jelly and crab apples were taken with a Canon 10D SLR in RAW format and post processed in Adobe Lightroom. They were all shot with available light at 100iso at 6.3 megapixels.

Here are a couple of links of interest for today:

dwbannerDistro Watch – the ultimate repository of Linux distributions



Ontario High Points for SOTA hams in Ontario

Friday 28 September 2012

New Feature On The Blog

Ham radio is all about learning new things and keeping abreast of new developments in our hobby and in general. Broadening our knowledge base keeps the old mind active.

A new feature I’ve been wanting to implement on this blog is a Link Of The Day. Some days it will be included along with what I’m writing about or it will be a stand alone article that I find interesting, either about amateur radio, computers, science or a good old fashioned WTF type link. More often than not there will be at least two links that I find interesting and hope that you do too.

I hope you all find this new feature as interesting as I do.

Remember, you read it here first! – Bob VE3MPG

Links of the day:


Tin Foil Hats Actually Make it Easier for the Government to Track Your Thoughts







3D Sun for the iPhone 








Thursday 27 September 2012

10 Meters = Gud DX

10 meters is proving to be a fertile band for some good DX. I rarely use more than 20 watts here at VE3MPG. My preferred mode is digital; today I was monitoring 10 meters while getting some odd jobs done around the house and in the garage.

The great conditions on 10 remind me when I finally got my voice privileges way back in the early 1980s. After six months or a year, I can’t accurately remember I took my logs in to the Department of Communication here in Ottawa. The inspector had a look to see how active I had been on CW and stamped my log and gave me voice privileges on 160 and 10 meters. Ten in those days was very active and I installed a mono-band yagi on my roof up about 40 feet. Wall to wall signals and my TS-520 buzzed the ionosphere for many pleasurable hours working DX.

Back to today – my first contact was ZB3R in Gibraltar. I had worked Stephen a couple of weeks ago on 15 meters. Great signal and got him on the first call – power out about 15 watts to my Cushcraft R6000.zb3r_StephenStephen uses an FT-950 and you can see how professional his station looks. Have a look at his QRZ profile for more pictures of Gibraltar itself and more about Stephen’s station.

The second DX contact today was ZL4AD, Brian in New Zealand; again with 15 watts out and an honest 599 report from Brian. I’m using the latest Beta version of Ham Radio Deluxe for digital contacts and logging.

Now if the conditions continue into the weekend that would be great.

Thursday 20 September 2012

St. Louis Vertical Part 3, Conclusion

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3593

This is part three, the conclusion of the construction of the St. Louis vertical.

I terminated each end of the twin lead by melting a small hole in between each conductor, large enough to fit a zip tie through and pulled in nice and tight. Then I stripped off insulation from each conductor and soldered them together – did this at each end of the twin lead coil. The bottom shorted conductor is kept bare and I use a good quality alligator clip to attach my coax center conductor. The orange wire is attached to a 17 1/2 foot counterpoise as seen below.

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3585

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3587

Here you can see the bright orange stake that I use in the field, along with the bright orange counterpoise so nobody trips over any of this stuff while operating portable.

Using alligator clips allows the use of multiple sized counterpoises to increase the efficiency of the St. Louis vertical while in use.

I carry a second stake with a 40 foot counterpoise. In this configuration the antenna resonates around 6.5Mhz. In a future version of this antenna I’ll add fewer turns of twin lead so it resonates close to 20 meters. I use an LDG tuner, the QRP Z11 along with my FT-817 and the tuner handles this antenna quite nicely.

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3588

The photo above shows the upper terminated connection with a male/female connector to attach the radiating element that extends to the tip of the Wonderpole. It provides an easy disconnect point for the radiating element.

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3595


These male/female connectors are available at most hardware stores that carry electrical supplies. I use heat shrink tubing to give all the connections a professional look and I think it extends the life of the antenna components. It doesn’t take long to add that extra finishing touch.






The antenna is staked on a ground spike used for beach umbrellas. It is a discontinued item that was available at Lee Valley Tools here in Ottawa. I attach a one inch wooden dowel about 3 – 4 feet long and to that I attach the St. Louis Vertical with large plastic zip ties. At the end of my session I just snip the zip ties off. The zip ties get the Wonderpole nice and snug against the non-reactive wooden dowel and if need be I can hammer some of the extra length of the wooden dowel into the ground for greater stability during windy conditions. I sharpened the end of the dowel for ease of insertion.




© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3589

Here’s the St. Louis Vertical fully extended at the edge of my patio. This antenna is a great portable addition to operating in the field and it sets up in less than five minutes. My first contact was on 15 meters using 2 watts on PSK31 to a station in Slovenia with a 599 signal report.

Please let me know if you have any questions of the construction details.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

St. Louis Vertical Part 2 of 3

This article is part 2 of the construction of the St. Louis Vertical – a continuation of part 1 that I published a couple of years ago. You can head over to part 1 of the construction article here.

Continuing from grinding down the Wonderpole clips I further grind them down with the Dremel tool so they are flush with the tube; this will allow the twin lead to lay flat along the body and also allow the adhesive to better cover the tubular shape of the Wonderpole.

© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3556

The next step caused me to think very carefully on how to wrap the twin-lead onto the Wonderpole. I had read on various sites describing how hard this was going to be. Some described it as a two man operation to ensure that the twin-lead was wrapped tightly around the pole. Hmmm, this was going to be a problem unless I figured an easy method to accomplish this task. Of course thinking about these last two years I finally came up with a solution. Enter some 3M Indoor/Outdoor carpet tape. Man this stuff was sticky but I think it would hold and as it turned out was an elegant solution. © Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3557

The trick was to apply the tape every inch or so, keeping the backing on until I reached the next inch while turning, by hand, the twin-lead. This was hard work and each time I stopped to rest my aching hands I attached a zip tie to hold the stiff twin-lead in place. Eventually I surmised that additional tape was needed so I eventually covered the entire length of the pole as I wound the twin-lead. © Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3565

There was still a problem – the stiff twin-lead was pulling away despite the extreme stickiness of the 3M tape. Thinking quickly now as I was at least two hours into winding this twin-lead on the pole. I went to my workbench in the garage where I do the occasional refinishing work on antiques. I use a Black & Decker heat gun to lift old paint from projects I’m working on. I figured if I heated the twin-lead sufficiently it would take on the cylindrical shape of the pole – an it did – it worked great, though I kept the zip ties on just in case.


You can see my progress in the photo below. The white tape backing is removed to expose the sticky backside of the tape; and you can see the zip tie in place while I rest my hands for awhile.© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3561© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3560

I had a good supply of RCA twin-lead that I had purchased about 10 years ago at Princess Auto, a surplus type store located across Canada. Of course halfway through construction I had neglected to figure out how much of the 50 foot length of twin-lead I needed. A quick calculation of number of turn per inch showed that I would have almost five feet left over. That horseshoe was working overtime now…with this important information in hand I continued winding until I reached the end of the pole. I still have a 50 foot length and a 100 foot length set aside for other projects using twin-lead.
© Bob Baillargeon St. Louis Vertical-3564





The picture at the left shows detail of the zip tie and the double sided tape exposed for winding. Every few inches I would fire up the heat gun to meld the twin-lead to the pole shape.

After almost three hours I had completed the toughest part of constructing a St. Louis Vertical and took a good rest before continuing this homebrew antenna.

Part 3 to follow tomorrow.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Sean Smith, KG4WSS, Killed in Consulate Attack

From the ARRL this afternoon -


KG4WSSSean P. Smith, KG4WSS, of Falls Church, Virginia, was killed when the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked on September 11. He was 34. Smith was one of four Americans, including Chris Stevens -- the US Ambassador to Libya -- who was killed in the attack.

Smith is survived by his wife, Heather, and two young children, Samantha and Nathan. “They will grow up being proud of the service their father gave to our country, service that took him from Pretoria to Baghdad, and finally to Benghazi,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement.

Read the entire story here at the ARRL website.

Chilicon 2012–A Resounding Success

The annual Chilicon put on by the Ottawa Valley QRP group turned out to be a resounding success despite torrential rainfall on Friday night. This didn’t dampen those hardy campers from fulfilling a superb fun filled weekend at the Rideau River Park along the beautiful Rideau River near Kemptville.

I operated by small portable station, an FT-817, my NUE-PSK digital qrp modem, and my experimental version 0.06 St. Louis vertical (construction article coming up in my next posting here). Didn’t get as much operating done due to the nature of amateur radio ops being out in the wild. Most of the day encompassed walking around to various sites rag chewing with the various operators and admiring the ingenuity of their portable setups. There was some very nice equipment and innovative antennas and Mike’s (VE3WMB) homebrewed magnetic loop gave me a few ideas for one of my own. I managed to work a station in Slovenia with 2 watts out to my St. Louis Vertical, so it’s doing a very good job of getting out for a hastily constructed portable antenna.

I met some old friends at Chilicon this year as well as many new faces and I do hope that next year’s Chillycon (renamed due to lack of actual chili, but aptly re-badged to reflect the frigid night temperatures endured by the hardy group this year and last.)

Here are a few photos that I managed to take in between operating and chatting with the QRP members.

© Bob Baillargeon OV-QRP Weekend-0869

Eric VA3AMX with K2


Graham VE3GTC 817 stand

Michael VE3WMB

Michel and his Flex1500

pat VE3EUR



An excellent weekend despite rain on Friday and a little on Saturday. The weekend culminated with some very large excellent pizzas from a local restaurant in Kemptville.

Conspicuous by his absence was Martin VA3SIE who had to work and we’re hoping to see him next year. Martin, there was an excellent cache of single malt scotches at one of the campsites if that’s any enticement for attending next year’s “Chillycon”.

The OV-QRP Yahoo group can be found here for more details on this year’s Chilicon.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Lest We Forget

© Bob Baillargeon WTC Mem_sm

“Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light falls, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” - James Baldwin

Saturday 8 September 2012

How I Mounted the NØSA TIP1 Mini Paddle

Mounting the mini paddle got me to thinking – it had to be light weight but not too light weight that the paddle would slip about while in use. The mount also had to be at a comfortable height to work just right with my large hands. I also wanted it to be uniquely Canadian.

Usually with projects like this I need a few weeks to let the solution come to fruition. I came up with a unique idea – use a hockey puck; it’s cheap, has some weight to it and it’s Canadian, eh? It fits into my ‘go’ kit quite nicely and it’s durable. A visit to Lee Valley Tools here in Ottawa provided the pucks and some high friction adhesive discs for a very reasonable price – a dollar for the pucks and just a few dollars for a bag full of discs. The pucks aren’t quite kosher Canadian, being manufactured in Slovakia now, but they are ‘regulation’ size. As you can see the adhesive discs fit perfectly on the puck and prevents slippage on just about any surface.© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3537© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3538

© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3532

© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3535


© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3549

And finally a last picture of the FT-817 propped up with the $2 iPad adjustable stand from my previous article of a few days ago. Also note the front antenna connector is terminated with a 50ohm resistor left over from my network installation days. This is to protect the finals in the event that I forget to switch the antenna from front to the rear antenna port.

© Bob Baillargeon 2012-3553

All photos for this article were taken with the Canon G10 in RAW format and post-processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for colour adjustments and cropping. Irfanview was then used for reducing the photo size and sharpening for efficient use on this blog. This will be the topic for a future article.