CW Helpful Links

Originally posted on The Oakville Amateur Radio Club Blog:

In anticipation of tonight’s meeting of the Oakville Amateur Radio Club  (at Glenn Abbey High School off Third Line) where Todd, VE3LMM, is going to offer a presentation on how to learn Morse Code (CW), here’s a list of some helpful resources:ab81_35

The International Morse Code – here it is in plain language.

Morse Code Translator – type in your message and the software bangs out the CW.

Morse Code Trainer – this will get you started.

Learn Morse in One Minute – that’s the claim.mercury

Practice on your IPhone – wonder who you’ll reach?

PA3BWK’s CW links – tons of CW info

W1AW’s CW schedule – learn off the air

Morse Runner - a very realistic contest simulator

PileUp Runner – hear what it’s like to be the DX

Straight Key Century Club – get on the air with a straight key or bugSimplex_Pro

Vibroplex – the “bug” people

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BIG QRP Contest This Weekend

This weekend Oct. 11-12 from 1200Z Saturday to 2359z Sunday will see the bands alive with QRP (5 Watts or less) signals as this is the Fall QSO Party for the QRP Amateur Radio International club.images

This 36-hour CW only event features all-band, single-band, low-bands only or high-bands only categories at 5 Watts or more (one point per Q); 1 to 5 (7 points per Q); 250mW to 1 Watt (10 points per Q); 55 mW to 250 mW (15 points per Q) and 55 mW or less (20 points per Q).

So let’s say you’re like everybody else. You’ve got a 40 meter dipole or maybe a small 20-15-10 beam. You live in or near a city so you’re antenna farm is modest.images-2

Try running 4.9 Watts into your antennas and listen on 7030 or 7040 and I guarantee you’ll work at least a couple of guys. Same thing on 14060 or 21060 or maybe even 28060.

Now if you can, try running one Watt on the 40 and 20 meter frequencies. I’ve got a NorCal 40 that I’ve cut the power back to 1 Watt and I’ve worked lots of guys just using the loaded 40-meter dipole extensions on my Hy-Gain Explorer beam. My Butternut vertical works just about as well if conditions are good.QQ_Summer_2014_Cover_264

For the exchange ARCI members send RST, State/Prov./Country and ARCI #. I’m # 14498 :)

For non-members the exchange is RST, State/Prov./Country, Power Out.

Here’s what I am going to do. I’m going to run the NorCal 40 on 40 and < 1 Watt and I’m going to pre-program my memory keyer and run the rig into an amplified speaker so I can be doing other things around the shack when nobody is around.

Depending on conditions I might run my NorCal 20 on 20 at < 5 Watts as it has an amplified speaker and memory keyer built in :)image

Both of these are sweet rigs. I’d be quite happy running either one of them full-time on CW as their receivers are fabulous. Considering you can pickup a NorCal 20 for around $60 used or buy a NorCal 40 and build it yourself, this is a cheap way to get into CW contesting.

QRP operating is a whole lot more than just operating with 5 Watts or less.

The Four Days In May event which takes place in Dayton, Ohio on the same week as the massive Hamvention is a gathering of dedicated operators, designers and builders who are continually seeking ways of doing more with less…often a lot less.

I like QRP contesting a lot.F1500_new_FV-1

Running the Flex 1500 especially on CW during major contests is great fun and I usually work several hundred stations during the 48-hour contests. Sure I do run 100 Watts when conditions collapse and back in the day I used to run 800 watts out and it’s all fun. But there’s something about QRP.

Join the QRP ARCI and you’ll get the very excellent QRP Quarterly. Some of the articles are inspirational as the articles range from low-noise design of very complicated circuits to how to build rigs with just a handful of parts. Very neat.

Hope to see you this weekend.

Next OARC Meeting Oct. 14

Our next meeting of OARC is happening on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 7 pm at Abbey Park High School (east off Third Line, south of Upper Middle Rd.) and features our own Todd, VE3LMM who is going to talk about “Learning CW in the 21st Century.PPII6

Todd’s talk couldn’t come at better time as we are now talking names and money ($70 Canadian all in) to get involved in the club’s Build-A-Rig project.

We’re going to build a CRK-10a 40-meter CW transceiver that runs 3 watts and is xtal-controlled. This pocket-sized rig is essentially an enhanced RockMite with a built-in keyer and single memory for sending CQ CQ CQ and your call sign three times. Pretty cool.crk10a_front

This is a rig that can work off a gel-cell for days (likely weeks) on one charge and only crk10a_frontneeds a 40-meter antenna, ear bugs and paddles to be on the air. Since it comes with its own aluminum case, it’s pretty much indestructible. The CW coming from this direct-conversion rig is as clear as a bell and with some built-in filtering it’s pretty much listening to one frequency at a time.

But of course you need to know CW to use this rig. That’s where Todd’s presentation will come in handy. Todd is going to talk about how he is learning CW and what apps are available out there to help you get started.

One nice thing about the CRK-10a project is there are lots of guys on 40 meters day and night who are sending really sloooowly so copying isn’t much of an issue.soldering_iron

If you want to get involved in this project just let me know or better still show up on Oct. 14 at the club meeting.Pearl01

Future topics will include a night learning how to use the password system OnePassword thanks to past president Rod, RHF.

John, BL, is going to conduct a technical night where we’ll review what’s been happening at the club’s repeater site when it comes to FM, D-Star and MESH setups.

I’m going to do one session on how to get involved in contesting with special focus on the smaller easier and more fun-oriented contests including mid-week 60-minute CW sprints and casual state and country QSO parties using digital, CW and SSB modes.

Of course we’re going to have a Field Day organizing night early in the new year plus the meeting in May where we finalize the Field Day plans. If I missed anything please let me know.

If anyone has any other ideas for a meeting topic, please let me know as the seasonal agenda isn’t filled just yet.

(This post also appears – more or less – on the VE3HB blog of the Oakville Amateur Radio Club.)

OK I Renewed

I attended the Hamilton ARC flea market on Saturday which was disappointing from the point of view of the lack of vendors and attendees.

I arrived half an hour early only to find few folks there and no lineups.

Boy I can remember, not so long ago, when I would arrive at a flea market there would be 200 guys ahead of me.

Anyway with not much to buy I spent my money on a RAC renewal.

I was feeling pretty good about that right up until today when I started to look around the RAC old and new websites. Signing in was okay and I downloaded the newest version of The Canadian Amateur and was disappointed to see the amount of RAC-related information.

Having said that it was interesting to see how much more forthcoming the RAC gurus are becoming. I see they’re finally admitting that membership is stuck at the mid 4,000.

This means either less than 10 per cent of licensed Canadian hams are members if we actually have 40,000 licensed hams registered with Industry Canada.

However if there are only 8,000 maybe 12,000 tops when it comes to active (breathing) licensed Canadian hams then 4,000 members makes sense if you’re running an organization which can’t figure out how to run a membership campaign or deal with volunteers who get turfed out or quit a lot.

Then I went over to the ARES page because apparently we can now get an ARES identification card but the explanation on how to go about it ran over 1500 words. On a website this is the equivalent of posting all of War and Peace. Can we not find somebody who understands that a sales form should use about 15 words, a couple of hot buttons to place an order and a PayPal link?

RAC over the last few years has managed to seriously piss off some of their most vocal supporters/critics. Too bad because Canadian Amateur Radio operators need a strong national voice.

Maybe I’m just overly optimistic.

RAC Renewal

I got my RAC renewal notice in via email today.

So now the big question: Do I renew?

If I don’t, then as far as I’m concerned I don’t have much right to be critical.

If I do renew do I wish to keep commenting on what’s an obviously fractured and failing organization?

Your thoughts appreciated.

Now What?

The news from yesterday created quite an amount of consternation.

So now what?

Talking is good. Rumours are not. Back room squabbling and character assassination is not the way forward.

It was Edmond Burke (1729-1797) who said “evil prevails when good men fail to act.”

RAC has never been the most transparent, egalitarian or active organizations but recent events will provide an opportunity for RAC to step up and take the higher road of fraternity and liberty and equality.

We’ll see what happens now.

Section Manager – GTA Quits

It appears that George Duffield, VE3WKJ, has quit his RAC appointed position as Section Manager – GTA following a dispute over the formation of ARES groups in Halton Region.

If true, this resignation is unfortunate, unnecessary and (at least in my opinion) definitely unwanted.

I’ve met George Duffield on several occasions and I’ve found him to be forthright, honest and devoted to the betterment of Amateur Radio and ARES in the GTA. His resignation leaves a large hole in an already struggling ARES organization here in Ontario.

The issue that is at the heart of this resignation may well have been the result of the formation of the Oakville ARES team which took place earlier this year.

The Oakville club, of which I am a director, has struggled for years with low attendance and difficulty finding affordable meeting places. In last couple of years, the current board of directors worked rather diligently (not me but them) to balance the books, attract new members and start new projects.

Their work has resulted in the OARC now meeting monthly in a Halton School Board room. Plus the books are balanced, our club insurance paid and new members are joining. We’re going to have a QRP CW transceiver build-a-thon in the new year and our D-Star repeater is up and running and our MESH system is in the works. Plus older members are returning.

This is all good stuff.

One of the more ambitious projects was to reform the Oakville ARES group as last year a couple of our regular members formed a new group in Milton called SHARES devoted to public service work in north Halton. We wished them well but missed their service as Oakville ARES members.

SHARES it appears subsequently asked George Dufflield to be made part of the ARES organization in the GTA and despite there being no incorporated club to support it (an ARES requirement I believe) George appears to have given his go ahead.

Now back here in Oakville, the Oakville ARC decided to resuscitate its ARES group and appointed an emergency coordinator (EC) and asked for official ARES recognition.

For whatever reason the GTA section emergency coordinator who approves the appointment of local ECs wasn’t as forthcoming in approving the Oakville ARES group as we in Oakville would have liked and we appealed to George Duffield.

Months went by. Emails were sent and read and more emails were sent. George Duffield and members of the board of Oakville ARC met in person to discussion our intention (which was to form our own ARES group within the Oakville). In time, our EC and the Oakville ARES group were approved and we got to work here in Oakville.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the end of the issue. Seems there was some dissension which ended with George Duffield removing the SHARES group from the GTA ARES organization. The SHARES EC George Davis was likewise removed from his position and also from the position of District Emergency Coordinator of Halton where it was to have been his job of coordinating the restructuring of the Milton, Georgetown, Oakville and Burlington ARES groups.

This is a great loss as George Davis has extensive experience as an ARES member and group leader and no one can question his dedication to public service work.

So why is this Oakville ARC and Oakville ARES’s issue?

From what I’ve been told there are some rumours floating about that SHARES was formed after some members of the Oakville club were thrown out.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Oakville ARC has never in my living memory voted out a dues paying member or refused membership dues from any candidate for membership.

It’s entirely possible that some former members may not have received an invitation to the 2014-2015 annual general meeting as you had to have paid your dues for the past year to be on the membership list.

Also, it’s not the executive’s responsibility to ensure you’ve paid your dues. And, nobody is preventing anyone from mailing in their dues and having their say and casting their vote at business sessions. To think otherwise would be at the very least delusional and at worst convenient if someone wished to create an issue where none exists.

We were looking forward to working with SHARES as we know so many of its members on a personal basis. That isn’t likely to happen now. That’s not to say something couldn’t be worked out as we should all be working for the good of Amateur Radio and not just our own purulent objectives.

To have this factious conclusion and the resignation of our Section Manager is unfortunate in the extreme and does no good for anyone involved.

This is a bad day for Amateur Radio in the GTA.

One Watt Wonder

Thanks to Dave, W3NP, who copied my NorCal 40 which I’ve tuned down to one watt out on 7040 kHz this afternoon.

Dave’s got a great home page at W3NP where there are a couple of FB photos of his vintage equipment and checkout his collection of photos of his stations from the past.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then checkout this shot of my station :) Oh my how times have changed. I couldn’t afford his electric bill!

imageDave and I exchanged SKCC numbers and I was using a straight key for the first time in a couple of decades and it was great fun.

The NorCal 40 in my photo is the blue box. It runs a watt and half to two watts full out but it seems pretty good tuned down to run just one watt as determined by the WM-2 watt. The antenna is a loaded 40-meter dipole which is part of the Hy-Gain Explorer beam at 16 meters.

The Oakvillle Amateur Radio Club is going to build the CRK-10a QRP CW transceiver later this fall and we’ll be xtal controlled likely on 7030. It will be our local club QSO frequency HI.

CW – QRP – Kits – Contests

The Oakville Amateur Radio Club has a new kit project underway. Following our very successful annual general meeting it was decided to go a group build later this year of the CRK-10A which is a Chinese version of an enhanced RockMite rig.CRK10A

Xtal controlled on 40 meters this three-watt rig has a built-in keyer and one memory which can send CQ and your call sign. Pretty neat for a rig that can fit in a shirt pocket.

The aluminum case and no controls (I mean it!) make this an ideal trail rig or transceiver to use on a single frequency where your fellow club members hang out (mainly because they can’t QSY).peanut-power-pete

If you’re in the GTA and would like to participate the cost of entry is a club membership in the OARC ($25) and the cost of the rig ($55 …yes you read that right plus shipping). I’m taking names right now and we’ll pick a date for the build (likely a Saturday morning) later this year or early next. (Contact ve3hg@cogeco.ca)

So to improve your CW you should get on the air. I just joined the Straight Key Century SKeyClub and I hope to participate in the North Georgia QRP Club’s Peanut Power QRP Sprinton Sunday, Sept. 28 from 2000z to 2200z.

As you might guess, the Straight Key Century Club rules state you must use a straight key or bug so I’ve dusted off my Nye straight keys and got two of my Vibroplex bugs original_deluxeworking (at around 18 wpm sending with spacing to come out around 10-12 wpm on air) and I’m set to go using the NorCal 40 which I’ve tuned down to one watt out. Not sure how this is going to work but I worked W1AW/4 last night at a watt and half without issue.

Let’s get on the air guys and get that old CW polished up :)