QRP From The Field

QST magazine recently did a review on the new Ten Tec Argonaut which is a 5-watt QRP rig that can be had with a 100-watt matching external amplifier. The reviewer did most of his testing at 100 watts and then expressed great surprise when he could actually work some DX at QRP levels.

Astonishing IMHO.

You see in any decent 48-hour CW contest I work hundreds of DX contacts running the FlexRadio 1500 at 5 watts into either my modest Hy-Gain Explorer at 16 meters or a Butternut vertical (80-10) or a G5RV-JR or other various dipoles and end-feed wires.

When 10 and 15 meters open I can do the same thing on SSB.300x225xP8110001-300x225.jpg.pagespeed.ic.hHfLAxrRY7

But QRP operation can open a whole new world to you as well.

Here’s a link to Martin VA3SIE’s excellent adventure running QRP during the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.

The Hunt has multipliers for home-brew equipment, for operating near water (I’m not kidding.) and operating portable. (That’s him in the photo.)

I wished I had known about the contest as I’m within walking distance of the north shore of Lake Ontario and there are a bunch of parks with trees that I could have used.

One tip: Ambient noise is often an issue when operating outdoors. If you’ve got noise cancelling headphones or earbuds that make a good seal in the ears will be very helpful.

Also I use a Par end-feed antenna that requires only one end high in a tree and is terminated in connection to a short run of RG-58 coax. Martin’s antenna setup will work better but requires more setup.

When operating in a public place I’d suggest finding a picnic table that’s a little out of the way and make certain the antenna is well out of the way and the feedline isn’t dangling in such a way as to provoke comment or complaint.

I’ve got an 8-amp 12-volt gel cell which will power a 5-watt rig for days and days. My entire QRP station (Ten Tec R-4020, Elecraft QRP autotuner, paddles, Par antenna and feedline plus roll of twine and the battery) fits into a small handyman’s tool bag.


Yum Yum Raspberry Pi

After purchasing a $35 Raspberry Pi computer to run my D-Star DVAP (and thus DSCF1185eliminating the need to use one of the regular computers here at VE3HG) I am always interested in other Raspberry Pi applications.

Here’s a neat one called How To Turn a Raspberry Pi into a Google Cloud Print Server. 

BTW thanks to Rod, VE3RHF, for not only programming the Raspberry Pi (see the SD card plugged into the left side of the mini computer) but for adding two spiffy looking cases.

I only had the standard cases but Rod knew I’d get around to publishing this photo so he upgraded the boxes. Thanks Rod.

I’ve been running the Raspberry Pi and DVAP dongle powered by a cellphone charger into the mini computer which has an Internet cable plugged into it and into my Internet hub.

Next goal is to find a wireless USB dongle so I can get rid of the cable and by adding a battery I could have a portable D-Star connection wherever there’s WiFi.

How To Get Ready For Contest Season

Yes ladies and gentlemen, it’s contest season starting next month.

So how do you prepare to be a contester?

Number one issue is getting the time off to contest. At the VE3HQ/VE3HEN QTH it’s a negotiation. We fire up our computer calendars and using WA7BNM’s Contest Calendar we mark down the A-level contests (such as the ARRL DX and CQ WW on CW, SSB and RTTY along with the California and Florida QSO Parties) and the nice to get on B-level contests (like the WAE’s and the Scandinavia Activity Contest and usually the Russian DX contest) and then the C-level contests which is just about anything else if we don’t have something better planned.

The A-level contests are non-negiotable. If we agree on these dates then they don’t get changed. Don’t get buried or married on these dates. If it’s a B-level or less, I’ll be there (at least part time). C-level and you can count me in for bowling or whatever.

Okay so now we’ve got the time nailed down.DSCF1197

Next step to do now is check your antenna and coax systems. I did and it lead me to running a new 100′ run above ground (and through a tree – see photo) of LMR-400 to the tower to connect just the Hy-Gain Explorer leaving an existing run of buried LMR-400 connected to the five-position remote switch.

I also readjusted the Butternut vertical so it loads on the low end of 80 in the CW portion and put up a G5RV-JR as a WARC band and general dipole to add to the antenna farm. BTW check all your connections with vice-grips and give every PL-259 a tightening twist. You might be surprised how some manage to loosen up over time.DSCF1190

Next thing I did was make certain all my software was up to date and working perfectly. I also checked the rig and tuner and external watt meter to make certain all the cables were tight.

The big rig in the photo is a Drake R-8 receiver. The actual rig is the little box, a FlexRadio 1500, that is sitting on the LDG Pro II autotuner and the QRP watt meter. The little gray box to behind the March Paddles is an Idiom Press memory keyer.

Then I did an on-air test last weekend using the 10-hour NAQP CW contest as a final check on all my work. Pleased to say I did 200 QSOs at QRP power (5 watts) and worked everyone I could hear including some stations on 80 meters which is a tough band for me with dipoles that are too low to radiate properly and verticals that on 80 just don’t radiate enough 🙂

Last rule to get ready for any contest is change NOTHING 24 hours before the contest. Friday night is not the right time to upgrade software or make any hardware changes. Trust me on this rule as I’ve broken it too many times and wasted the early hours of too many contests fixing stuff I should never have touched in the first place.

BTW all this outside maintenance can be done in mid-January as well but it’s a bigger challenge to do and do right.