Saturday, May 23, 2009

Long Overdue Update

Well, I guess it's been long enough since my last entry that I can post again. About six months ago I started having receive issues with my 718 and I haven't been on HF much. A few weeks ago the family took a trip down to Lakeland (near Tampa) and on the way back I decided to stop at AES in Orlando. I left with a used IC-7000.

I really like the size and feature set of the 7000. It makes it a great base station that can go mobile if necessary. It works great with my existing LDG Z-11 Pro tuner and I've been having a great time being back on the air.

When I got the 7000 it was time to try the digital modes again. Unfortunately my RigBlaster Plug & Play seems to be a piece of crap. I've had problems before and they reared their head again. I called WMR and got a bunch of attitude from Ed who seemed more set on making me feel like a moron rather than helping me get the unit working. With no help from Ed but assistance from the Ham Radio Deluxe forum I got the stuff working. I even had a ham from OK call me on his own to make sure I'd gotten it working. I can't say the same for WMR.

Once I got the Plug & Pray working again I started having fun. I've made DX contacts in Russia, Cuba, Canada, St. Croix, Germany, Mexico, and others. I also got to try out Olivia which I've been wanting to do. Unfortunately the POS P&P quit working again. I refuse to call WMR and decided instead to throw it in the junk box. I now (as of yesterday) own a Tigertronics SignaLink USB. It was a breeze to setup and I was on the air again without any trouble.

I also finally got my tri-band dipole about 10' higher. I don't know that it'll help much but I've made more DX contacts since I did it. Higher's better, right?

In addition to raising the dipole, I replaced the Hustler vertical with a simple random wire. I have it running through the trees and ending at a push-up mast keeping it at about 25-30'. I also had to replace my DIY copper j-pole so I now have a Diamond X200A on the chimney. I got great signal reports on 5W simplex so I'm quite happy with it.

Starting in June (the 6th to be exact) I'll be venturing into the instructor role. I've agreed to teach a General upgrade course for our local club. I'm looking forward to it. I think we have about 7 students signed up right now. It'll run through Aug 15 (skipping Field Day and Independence Day) with a test session on the 22nd. Hopefully we'll have 7 new Generals come August.

Today we scoped out our Field Day site. We ran into difficulty getting a city park. We couldn't get permission to put anything in the trees as we've done in the past and we couldn't use push-up masts because we couldn't have any guy lines. We found a state park willing to work with us and met with one of the Rangers today. We'll be at Little Talbot Island State Park though more specifically the Ft. George River inlet parking. It'll be the first time that we'll have a location where can actually camp and operate the full 24-hour period. It'll provide some unique operating and setup challenges but that's the beauty of Field Day.

This Field Day should be pretty good. We have some equipment that was donated by the family of a SK to help our Jr. ARES members. That's going to be used as our GOTA station. We also have other counties (including one in GA) that plan on visiting us to see what we're doing in Duval County. I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully my students will take the opportunity to get on HF.

Well, that about sums up what's been going on. I'll try to be better about making updates.