Friday 31 August 2012

Take A Cool Stand

NUE-PSK modem stand1

A few months ago I happened to be at one of the local Dollar Stores. They do have some interesting end of line and overstock items for sale especially in their electrical and electronic aisles.

I have a NUE-PSK modem and compact keyboard combo for QRP portable ops with my trusty FT-817. It was always a pain propping the NUE-PSK modem at the correct angle for viewing the LCD screen until I found this iPad stand for the sum of $2CDN. It was a perfect fit for the modem and I could adjust the angle for best viewing.

I’ve seen these for sale on the internet for well over $20CDN so the Dollarama price is a steal. The stand is very well made – rubber coated steel so it is slip resistant and the locking knobs to a decent job of staying in position once locked. It’s a useful stand and can be used with a variety of QRP radios making it easy to see and adjust the various knobs from a comfortable angle.

© Bob Baillargeon-3249

© Bob Baillargeon-3255

© Bob Baillargeon-3258

© Bob Baillargeon-3262

You can see the detail close up to the right. Works great and I’ve got a couple of extra for future projects.

The NUE-PSK modem has been great for portable QRP operation. It is field upgradeable via a USB port and can be used in BPSK (PSK-31), QPSK, RTTY and CW. There are regular upgrades of new features and bug fixes from the NUE-PSK Digital modem website.

The modem and keyboard are powered from either and external 9V – 12V supply. A USB dongle is able to log call signs and QSOs so they can be transcribed to regular logs. The new Version 5 firmware adds a CW keyer to the modem. All in all it’s a nice portable package and frees you from lugging a heavy laptop to do digital modes in the field.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Hurricane Isaac, Amateurs Keeping Watch, WX Utilities

Earth Alerts ScrCap Aug28.12

By now you’ve all heard that Hurricane Isaac is following the path of Hurricane Katrina, the weather event that devastated New Orleans Louisiana and surrounding states in 2005. In subsequent years of weather watching and tracking these tropical storms I’ve used various web sites and utilities to keep abreast of these impending storms.

I use Earth Alerts to follow any and all disasters to befall mankind short of the Apocalypse. The program is all inclusive in that it tracks earthquakes, volcanoes, tropical storms, hurricanes, tsunamis and wildfires. It does it all. Here’s a screen shot of the program; click on it for a larger view.

Earth Alerts_pgm2
The program integrates nicely with Google Earth and provides for automatic download of weather overlays for Google Earth. Make sure you have the latest version of Google Earth installed. Earth Alerts can be downloaded free of charge from here. It requires some configuration but it’s very straightforward. There’s also a web based Earth Alerts available. It uses Google Earth generated maps for displaying disaster information.

The Weather Channel has an excellent graphics driven storm tracker and it’s one of my favourites too. Click here for the latest progress of Hurricane Isaac.

Weather Channel cap

In closing I want to remind all amateurs of the comms and relief efforts in progress on the amateur bands. The ARRL posted some updated information a few hours ago at this link:

Hams in Delta Division Prepare for Hurricane Isaac

And this is from the blog of K5JAW:

Hurricane Watch Net/ 14.325 (

The Mississippi Emergency Net will activate at 12:00 Noon

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CDST on Tuesday, August 28. This is a joint operation between the Magnolia Section Net and the Mississippi Section Phone Net. Daily operation will begin at 6:00 am and continue until 10:00 pm or later if activity warrants. The frequencies will be 7238 (day) and 3.862 (night). The shift between bands will be at the discretion of the Net Manager and/or NCS. This net will primarily handle Health-and-Welfare traffic and other issues related to Isaac. A moratorium on inbound H/W traffic may be declared if it is obviously impossible to deliver the traffic due to storm damage. 

The Delta Division ARES EMCOMM Net will activate at 12:00 Noon on Tuesday, August 28, on a 24 Hour basis. The frequencies will be 7.275 (day) and 3.890 (night). The shift between bands will be at the discretion of the Net Manager and/or NCS. This net will primarily handle Tactical Traffic. KM5EMA (MEMA) will be on this frequency beginning at 1:00 pm CDST. 

There may be periods on these Nets when there are relatively long period of silence. Please help to keep the Net frequency clear. If you wish to rag chew, please make arrangements and move off frequency. If a net frequency is in use by others tune either side to find the Hurricane Net operation.

That’s it for today.

Here We Are, Again

Here’s my first blog post in a good long while. I figured it was time to get things going again and this post will be about some current projects here at VE3MPG.

A station photo is in order now that the shack is clean and tidy (somewhat). This varies day to day, hour to hour.
 Bob Baillargeon VE3MPG-3278
 Bob Baillargeon VE3MPG-3271
I’m located in part of the basement called the “bunker” – 2 windows, one facing due south the other to the east so I get some nice sunlight most days even during the winter months. Power to the station is supplied by a dedicated 120V line and a second, share 120V line. Both have APC uninterruptible power supplies to condition and smooth the AC coming into the shack. In the event of low voltage or complete loss of power the APC units shut down the computers gracefully and a small utility lets me monitor line voltage and power interruptions. The APC units prevent power surges from reaching my equipment, but a good ground is necessary.

The next posting will be about Part II of the St. Louis Vertical article from April 2010. Hope to be completed with testing and construction in time for the annual Chilicon qrp outing at the Rideau River Campground on September 14th and 15th sponsored by the Ottawa Valley QRP Society.

That's it for now.