Amateur Radio Station
Amateur Radio Station


Highlights and other notables about my amateur radio activities.
January 5, 2020: Getting a new Vanity Callsign

The grass is greener on the other side of the fence. So when I saw that the AE0S callsign came up for grabs I went for it. It's attractive because it's a group A call sign, tiny bit less weight on phone and morse, maybe better than the "TET" that often gets confused on HF and easier to say on FM. But mostly because the grass was greener.

Having gone through a callsign change before one would think I'd knew the in and outs. Well again I was fortunate to get an uncontested callsign on my first try. I primarily thank AE7Q for that. It's a really invaluable tool for getting vanity callsigns. The weird thing was that the daily data files that 3rd party callsign lookup sites consume only had my K0TET cancellation but not the new callsign assignment. The official ULS did have my new assigned callsign. It took two and a half days for the data files with my new calls to be published and trickled to the 3rd party sites. Something to keep in mind that these sites are not official and will contain at least some incorrect data.

With the new callsign comes the chore of updating everything. My recommendation is to ignore all the web sites for a week or so in order for them to catch up. Hey, it's amateur radio. Nothing is dependent on the internet beside getting your FCC license. So go on the air and confuse people.

Here is a summary of some services and how a callsign change is handled:

  • 3905 Century Club Bureau
    Email the 3905 Century Club Bureau and let them know of your callsign change. Then mention to NCS that you're GIB under the old call until your new call shows up.
  • ARRL Incoming Bureau
    Ask your specific bureau via email what needs to be done. Since my bureau has different sorters for "K" and "S" I need to purchase separate credits for my new call.
  • ARRL Member Website
    Change the username at the account settings page.
  • ARRL Logbook of the World (LotW)
    Per instructions at their FAQ use the TQSL program and go to "Callsign Certificate" -> "Request a new Callsign Certificate" and choose "My new personal callsign (I have a Callsign Certificate for my former callsign)". Fill out the required fields and sign with your old callsign certificate.
  • ARRL Volunteer Examiner (VE)
    If you are a ARRL volunteer examiner you may continue using the ARRL VE badge with the old call sign. However, in that case you must carry a copy of your FCC license with the new call sign. Sign all forms with the new call sign. You can request a replacement badge for a fee. See the section under "Vanity Call Signs" of the VE Manual for details.
  • EchoLink
    Echo link will send you an email stating that the call sign change has been detected and your registration has been automatically transferred to the new call sign. Sign in with your new call sign and the old password. You do need to change the call sign in the EchoLink software.
  • eHam
    Change the username at the account settings page.
  • HamQTH
    So far I was unable to claim the new callsign.
    Change the call sign at the Your account" -> "Utilities (options)" page. Use your new callsign and old password to sign in
  • RemoteHams
    Upload your new official FCC license to the "MyAccount" -> "License Verification" page and post a request in the "General Support" forum to have your callsign updated. In order to upload the license you need to convert the pdf to an image. I did this by printing the pdf to a new first page only pdf. Now that new pdf can be exported as a jpg. Reducing the jpg to 20% seems sufficient.
  • Skeddr
    Click on top right icon, choose "Edit Profile" and update callsign
  • QRZ
    For USA hams this should happen automatic. For others go the QRZ Customer Support Center and sign in with your old callsign and password and use the "Callsign change" link to update the call sign. A request through via the "Contact QRZ support..." link at the QRZ Support site was needed to fix things up for me.
    Go to the "Account" page and click "RENAME" on "Main call"

February 27, 2018: MSK144 Ground Wave Scatter

This morning I saw some traffic including local on the 6m band (PSK Reporter). Being very excited I wanted to check it out. Switched to MSK144, the mode people were using, and started listening. I heard the local station N0AN having a QSO. I decided to call CQ since he didn't call CQ after his QSO. At the end of the exchange I sent him the non traditional "FIRST MSK144" message. He responded with his phone number and so we ended up chatting for quite a while. I got some very good tips about operating MSK144:

  • 15 second transmit/receive windows
    WSJT-X was still set to 30 seconds. But it should be set to "T/R 15 s"
  • Frequency tolerance of 200
    WSJT-X was still set to 20 but my computer can handle much better than that. The green "Receiving ##%" status bar on the bottom left helps to determine how high the "F Tol" and decoding depth settings can be set. Suggested settings are "Decode -> Deep" and "F Tol 200".
  • TX even/1st toward East and odd/2nd toward west
    This is a convention to follow. Also operate at the same time sequence as other local station, because while you transmit the other station's receiver will be overloaded. Same applies to you, you won't receive anything but the other local station.
  • Noise blanker is OK
    There is no issue with using the noise blanker aggressively
  • Run full power
    I was transmitting at about 30W. Unlike with other data modes here you're better off transmitting with as much power you have available. 100W apparently is considered low power.
  • Ping Jockey
    Monitor and schedule QSOs with Ping Jockey. It's a very useful real time chat for MSK144.
  • Activity is in the mornings
    Best time for QSOs are in the mornings (5/6am). That's when it's most likely that meteors and hams hang around.
  • Read the manual
    Tip from me, it's pretty good. WSJT-X Manual
  • Antenna
    My dipole is probably the worst antenna except for a dummy load but I might be able to talk to some of the better stations.

February 11, 2018: SEA 1625 Antenna Tuner

I came across the SEA 1625 automatic antenna tuner for a really good price on ebay. The seller mentioned that it's in good working condition but nothing more for the auction. I tried finding some information on the Internet about it but no luck. So I inquired with about the tuner. I got the really helpful and quick answer back:

The 1625 was a slave tuner, made to operate only with the model 225 SSB radio. All of its detection, processing, and memory are performed inside the 225 radio, and the tuner operates off of serial commands from the radio that are series-parallel converted in the tuner to drive the element relays.
If you don't have a 225 series of SSB radio, the tuner is useless. If you do have a 225, the manual is highly recommended.

SEA 1625 Tuner

I forwarded the response to the ebay seller so that they have an idea of what they are selling. But of course the seller didn't care and instead was irritated by me contacting them. Other people have started a bidding war. I hope they know what they are getting because it's not an small ammount of money anymore.

This whole thing brings me to the fact that used amateur radio equipment is overpriced and lots of people seem to take advantage of that and sell untested and questionable equipment for hight prices. It's probably a very profitable business for them. And yes, that includes licensed amateur radio guys that could easily test the equipment.

January 21, 2018: Winter tinkering

Ad-hoc antennas don't quite work in the middle of the winter here in Iowa. Having the sliding patio door open to run the coax is just not advisable with some of the temperatures we had. So I've been quite inactive on HF. I also came to the conclusion that I need to drill a hole into the wall if I want to operate year round.

So some plans will be coming up on a bit more permanent station installation. I really don't have a clue yet what that means in regards to antennas.

I did stay active in the hobby tinkering with the aprs igate and an arduino tnc for transmitting aprs packages. I also installed a permanent HF stick antenna mount on my vehicle. More to come on that later, after I had some experience using it.

September 1, 2017: New callsign
Having passed the extra class test I started looking at vanity calls. The major was to get a call sign that I could easily say without misunderstandings. Another aspect was the cw weight as I'm hoping to learn morse code and get to operate cw sometime. Getting a 1x2 or 2x1 call sign is quite hard. Surprisingly the 1x3 callsign that I adopted (K0TET) is quite low in cw weight and tango-echo-tango rolls quite nicely off the tongue. Hopefully this call sign works out. You can't really test callsigns on the air until you get it (i.e. I probably shouldn't ID with a fake call sign).
August 20, 2017: Net control

With the upcoming eclipse the scheduled net control operator was out of town and nobody else has volunteered to run the local net on the 2m repeater. I took the opportunity to try my hand with it, called out if we had a net control and if not volunteered myself.

The tricky parts for me was to log everybody's call sign as I haven't really burned any of them into my brain. The other thing is that I'm way to much on HF and am used to the international radiotelephony alphabet. On top of that I wasn't expecting 13 check ins.

Running the net turned out not to difficult since I could follow the published script and read of some of the upcoming events. Hardest part would have been accepting formal traffic like an ARRL radiogramm and routing it appropriately. Luckily there was no formal traffic.

I enjoyed having had this experience. The next thing I'll have to do sometime is to send send an radiogram to somebody but I haven't figured out to whom. I did receive a radiogram already after I passed my technician and general tests while I checked into the net of the neighbouring town. That was a surprise and pretty awesome.

August 13, 2017: North American QSO Party SSB

I participated in the North American QSO Party. It was a lot of fun. I mostly did search and pounce since the few times I called CQ didn't get me much results. The antenna setup was field day style with th2 20m hanging low between the house and a tree and the 40m being a inverted V with the clothesline antenna and the 35ft fibreglass military mast. I totalled 92 QSOs including Chile on 20m and Hawaii both on 20 and 40m.

Of course my call sign (KE0LMQ) was challenging as usual but worse off is my first name which is part of the exchange. I tried to spell it whenever possible but still I wonder how many people logged it incorrectly and how many QSOs will be disqualified because of it. Next phone contest I'll choose an easier name like Ed or Sam.

The contest wore me out quite a bit though so I skipped the RTTY Rookie Roundup. My wife did that contest but as usual with the Rookie Roundups it was not a very happening event. She did get a station in Hawaii as well though.

August 13, 2017: Amateur Extra

Yesterday my wife and I passed the Amateur Extra test. To celebrate we participated in the local club's fox hunt and attended the club potluck. It was tricky to get a signal of the fox at all but eventually we did hear the fox and found it fairly quickly.

Since I'm having trouble communicating my callsign KE0LMQ, Quebec is a hard one for me to pronounce and for some strange reason the Lima gets lost sometimes. After looking at available callsigns I decided to apply for K0TET with the hopes that my pronunciation of that call is better and it will be a good CW call sign. It turned out that this technician eligible callsign is has a lower cw weight that quite a few of the shorter amateur extra call signs.

Yes the next challenge is to learn cw.

June 25, 2017: ARRL Field Day

I was the Gota (GET On The Air) station chair. As a newly licensed ham I also got to make contacts myself with that station, although I had to wait till night as we had plenty of other people on the station. I made about 100 QSOs, mostly PSK31 since I was next to our phone station. Phone is more fun but also harder and slower than digital. On top of that it gets less points if you chase scores. I thought I was capped at a 100 QSOs but it's just that bonus points aren't awarded after that. No regrets thought, I needed to gets some sleep sometime.

Field Day was great. I got to experience the difficulties of running multiple station at close proximity, see the benefit of band pass filters, get some awesome dutch oven cooking, and get to camp with the family.

May 12, 2017: First Portable Operation

Over lunch hour I went to a local park to test out the new to me Yaesu FT-857D as a portable station on the 10 meter band. I set up a home made dipole vertically with the help of a kite pole and bicycle repair stand. My wife was at home on the Icom IC-7300 and a horizontal dipole.

First contact was on 29.600 Mhz, the FM simplex calling frequency. The strange thing was that after my wife was done talking there was another voice transmission. That happened several times and finally I heard a call sign and decided to talk directly with him. As it turned out I could hear that third station but, most likely because of antenna polarization, my wife didn't hear that station. It was pretty neat to hear another station on 10m since so far I haven't heard any activity on that band.

We played around a bit more on the band. Trying out different modes (AM, SSB) and see how low power we could go before loosing any quality with FM (about 5 watts). My lunch hour exploration barely made a dent into the jump start battery that I was using.

Portable station Portable antenna
April 30, 2017: Cook Islands

Today I heard 51 in a call sign that was calling CQ on 20m. I was wondering why he’s saying two numbers since our call sign format only allows for one number. Finally I realized that it’s not an US call sign. I made contact with that station in Cook Islands which is 6,000 miles from me. My distance record so far.

When I told my daughter about this she was extremely excited, especially since earlier today she build the 20m dipole I was using.

April 16, 2017: SSB Rookie Roundup

This was my first contest that I really participated. Before that I did answer a few CQs that were contesting and even submitted the contacts to MOQP and MSQP. Since my wife also just got her general class license we had to share our radio during the Rookie Roundup. The band had a lot of static and we had to work quite hard for our contacts. Luckily I got the last few minutes and caught up and passed her. She had 16 contacts and I got 20. Both of us made our first "international" contact with stations in Canada. My confirmed QSL with Alaska (2,600 miles) was pretty awesome, although it took a lot of patience to make it happen.

Rookie Roundup Certificate