I’ve been busy…sort of

Well the K2 spent some time with Don W3FPR getting a once over. Don tuned everything up including my filters, upgraded the amp with a new version control chip and assorted parts, and replaced some failed diodes in the SWR meter circuit.  He did a most excellent bang up job I must say!  Thanks Don!

So tonight I got on the air, which is something I have not had time to do since the middle of March. I was tuning around amazed that I could still copy CWlusitania, worked a special station N2L out of NY commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania,  then worked a few SKCC guys for numbers, checked into the NAQCC Great Lakes QRS Net on 7117 at 5w, and heard a LOT of hams talking about the big event coming next week.  A good couple of hours on the air but my lawn still needs mowed…maybe tomorrow.

I regretfully will be unable to attend The Big Event next week in Dayton Ohio…a little thing called The Hamvention.  If you can go to Dayton, go.  It’s the most fun a ham can have, you will see things that you have only dreamed about…and the bratwurst are to actually die for…I usually get terminal heartburn…but I can’t say no to a Hamfest Bratwurst.

I know it’s been awhile, I’l try to make time to post more often.  Enjoy the summer!

73 de KB9BVN

Happy Birthday USMC!

Today is the 239th Anniversary of the United States Marine Corps.  Those fun loving leathernecks have been protecting us and serving their nation for a long long time. Semper Fi to the USMC!

On another note, tomorrow is Veteran’s Day in the United States.  On the 11th Hour, of the 11th Day, of the 11th month in 1918 the armistice to end WWI was put into place. I would like to thank all military veterans for their service and sacrifice, especially my dad, William Murrey (US Army Retired), my son Jason Murrey (Sgt. USMC), my brother Randy Murrey (US Army), my Uncle Ed Murrey (US Army Retired, USMC), Uncle Keith Ridenour (US Army), Uncle Larry Hill (US Army), my cousins Kellie Ridenour (Navy), Dave Bitler (Navy), Jason Fitzpatrick (USAF Ret), Joshua Hayman (USAF), James Murrey (US Army), and Floyd Ridenour (USAF), my nephew Matt Ritter (USMC) and my friends Mark King (USMC), Richard King (USMC), and Danny Lane (US Army). If I have missed anyone, it was totally unintentional, and I ask that you please excuse me.

The American Legion Amateur Radio Club will also be hosting special events on 11/11/2014 to commemorate the day and to pay tribute to our Veterans.



SDR and Raspberry Pi

I was watching the Twitter feed this morning and saw the news about a new Software Defined Radio that runs on the Raspberry Pi mini Linux computer.


Mini Linux Computer – RaspberryPi

I have had some growing interest in using this little computer for some amateur radio applications, but not being a programmer or a Linux guru, I have been a bit hesitant to get too far behind the eight ball with it.

The tweet was from @rtlsdrblog and it had this link to a SDR radio you can play with using your Raspberry Pi computer and a RTL-SDR dongle.  The link is here for your inspection.  New Raspberry Pi Image With RTL-SDR drivers and GNU radio built in.

Here is a Pi based receiver you can use over the web:  http://n5dux.2y.net/

Learn about dongles for  SDR here: http://www.rtl-sdr.com/buy-rtl-sdr-dvb-t-dongles/

I have not tried this myself yet, but the article on the blog listed above is very interesting.  Have fun and good luck!

73 de KB9BVN

Joy of QRP

Call it MoJo, call it magic, call it QRP…I came home tonight, a little weary from my first day back to work after a week long vacation that was totally perfect and wonderful, and I decided to fire up the Elecraft K2 and do a little CW.

My station is a QRP station, partly because I like the challenge of QRP and partly because I don’t really have much choice. My antenna is a 40m half wave dipole in the attic of my home. A compromise antenna at best, and it’s been up there for about vibrokeyer_deluxe16 years now.

The K2 is set up for 5 watts of output to that mystical dipole, and I am using a Vibroplex Vibrokeyer that was made the same year I was born…over 50 years ago (time flies when you’re having fun).

I started out on 40m and worked one of the W1AW/4 stations, which is participating in the ARRL Centennial celebration, spun up to 30m and worked another one, this time is was W1AW/0 in Missouri…feeling pretty smug, I tuned up 20m on the dipole, and let me tell you, it’s no easy feat getting a 40m halfwave to work on 20m at all…it takes all the knobs and doohickeys my Ten Tec antenna tuner can muster up.

I finally got it locked in at a SWR of 1.3:1 on 14020 and I could hear LZ1WR calling CQ over and over and getting no response.  NONE.  He was LOUD.  So I fired off my call sign and waited…nothing…then I shot it off again and Todor Papzov from Portugal came back to me, gave me a 599 signal report and waited on me to answer him.  I was in shock!  I sent him a well deserved 599 RST as well and we chatted for about a minute and said 73.  QRP, it has the ability to make you want to stay on the radio all night long.  When the propagation is working with you, there is no quitting!  Anyway…I enjoy QRP, and this might explain why.

73 de KB9BVN

Dayton Hamvention 2014

I had not been to the hamfest in Dayton since 2004, so it’s been ten years.  I have to admit that I was not all that excited about going, but as the time to leave grew near, I was once again looking forward to the trip and a day in the Hamvention.  This was the first time my son Andrew, N9AWM, had been to Dayton, and I was going with him.  Like I said it has been ten years since my last visit, and I was looking forward to digging in the boneyard for buried treasure.

What’s a boneyard?  THE Boneyard at Dayton is the acres and acres of flea market space in the parking lot of Hara Arena.  Used and abused, new and old, pieces and parts of everything imaginable for radio, amateur TV, communications of any kind, can be found here.  Of course there are also several hundred commercial vendors in the arena and adjoining convention halls.  Free hats, free bumper stickers, trinkets of all kinds to be had.

We left Indy at about 7:20AM and headed east on I-70…finding out the hard way that at least half of the trip was to be under construction, so the journey was slow, tedious, and somewhat dangerous.  We did arrive at the Salem Mall at about 9:30AM.  Once there we bought a $6 bus pass and rode the shuttle bus to the arena, about  5 minute ride.

Ten years ago the Salem Mall was a real live shopping mall.  In 2014 it’s a boarded up, abandoned derelict building, much like a lot of the commercial property in this part of town. That did not seem to scare off the hams though.  The buses were being run by the Dayton Rapid Transit Authority, and they did a fantastic job.  Since the arena has NO, as in NONE, public parking on the property during hamfest, the park and ride deal can not be beat.

We walked right in the arena and plopped down our $25 each for a ticket, stepped over to the Boy Scout booth and gave them $5 to laminate the ticket and mount it on a souvenir lanyard. That was $4 for the lanyard and $1 for the scouts.  Now we have a nice keepsake from the trip.  From there we went to the prize booth at the entrance of the grand hall, and entered our tickets in the gigantic barrel in hopes of winning an hourly prize, or even the grand prize to be drawn on Sunday.

Now, let me say this.  It’s very easy to run down the Dayton hamfest.  DARA puts on a great show with the Hamvention every year but let’s face facts.  The venue has seen better days, and the part of town it is in has seen better days.  I would like to see this event moved to a newer location.  That has been said every year for the last 25 years or so.

This event was the 63rd running of the Dayton Hamvention, it has long historic roots in the area and it is legendary to ham radio operators ALL OVER THE WORLD.  People come to Dayton for the hamfest from all corners of the globe.  Asian, European, African, South American, North American, Australian, and any other kind of ham radio operator you can imagine can be found in Dayton.  It’s a BIG deal to the people that enjoy and love this hobby.  It should go on indefinitely…but it needs to find a new home.

The facilities at Hara Arena are decrepit.  They are dangerous. They are filthy. Sanitation problems there are legendary. It’s been getting progressively worse every year and it is plain to see that whomever owns the place and has the responsibility for the upkeep, is not interested in investing any money to keep it up.  It needs to move.  I don’t advocate the moving of the hamfest outside of Dayton, providing Dayton has a place to hold it that is not in the disgusting conditions of Hara Arena, but they need to stop holding it at Hara.

Andrew and I spent about 7 hours walking around and looking at the gear on display, bought a few small things, saw no really outstanding prices on anything, and enjoyed a world famous Dayton Hamfest Bratwurst.  We ran into a lot of friends, and the social aspect of any hamfest usually turns out to be my favorite thing anyway.  If you have never been to the Dayton Hamfest, then you owe it to yourself to see it at least one time.

I think with the advent of the internet buy/sell marketplaces, we’re able to enjoy best pricing now on a daily basis instead of having to wait on a local hamfest to score our best deals. I also think the hamfest is the best way to have face to face social interactions with each other, so I don’t think they are going to go away.  In the old west the fur traders and mountain men used to have things called “Rendezvous” – a time and place where they would all meet up to trade wares, swap stories, and interact with each other…sounds a lot like a tailgater hamfest to me.  If anything is to save or keep the hamfests alive, I think the social aspect is going to be the saving grace.

Overall I enjoyed my 2014 trip to Dayton, right now I’m pretty sure I won’t go in 2015 but you never know…every May seems to bring a renewed interest, but I do wish DARA would find a better place to have it. $25 is all I am willing to spend on a hamfest at a dump like Hara Arena…move it to a nice facility and you could double your price.

73 de KB9BVN

Field Day !!

I just got my May 2014 issue of QST, and noticed that the ARRL Field Day preparations are now underway!  Visit the ARRL website page at http://www.arrl.org/field-day to get the low down on Field Day 2014.

If you have been a ham for more than a year and have never attended a Field Day operation you are missing out on one the best events of the year.  Field Day is the weekend when hams take to the field and try out new antenna idea, new transceiver configurations, and great new Field Day food concoctions.

Field Day is where a lot of lifelong friendships are formed, and memories are made that last forever.  My plans this year will be to work Field Day with my son and a couple of friends from his camping trailer. We’re not decided yet as to where in Indiana we will be setup but I can promise you we will be comfortable.

In the past I have enjoyed Field Day from my backyard, a fellow amateur’s back yard, state parks, public camping grounds, and in all kinds of weather.  Smoldering heat, smothering humidity, chiggers, ants, ticks, thunderstorms, torrential rain, and the occasional wild animal invasion…so this year the comfort of an air conditioned camper will be a welcome change.  Where will you be?

New Hams – Welcome to the Hobby!

Bear Cub Alex works a station in New York from WD9BSA

Bear Cub Alex works a station in New York from WD9BSA

For the last year or so I have been involved with the WD9BSA Scouting Amateur Radio Group. We have successfully installed a fantastic UHF/VHF/HF station at one of the local Boy Scout camps and we have been holding open houses one weekend a month to expose the boys to the fun of Amateur Radio.  In addition to the open houses, we have formed a VE testing group that is affiliated with the Laurel VEC and we now offer FREE testing four times a year at the Crossroads of America Council HQ in Indianapolis.  I am happy to report that our testing sessions have been well attended and we have seen numerous scouts and scouters earn their license.  If you get a chance to expand the awesomeness that is Amateur Radio, your local scout troop might just be the best place to start.  Good luck!

Homebrewing…it’s all good fun!

This past weekend was the Ft. Wayne hamfest.  Ft. Wayne is almost three hours from my home in Central Indiana.  So my son Andrew N9AWM, and I, decided we’d drive up and check out the HF gear for sale since he just upgraded to Extra and is in the process of putting an HF station in his home.  Saturday came, and at OH DARK THIRTY we decided that instead of spending six hours driving up and back, we’d have more fun building something.  Andrew had recently moved his UHF/VHF radio gear into his home office and was in need of a good dual band antenna for it.  We decided to build the Open Stub Dual Band J-Pole design made popular by Arrow.

We Googled the subject for about an hour and decided on a couple different methods, there is no use in reinventing the wheel, right?  What we ended up with was a very nice dual band antenna made of stainless steel parts…weighing a ton, but with SWR 1:1 every place we needed to use it.  I think he had about $18 in parts and we crafted it the confines of my garage full of stuff using odds and ends of tools and methods made famous by cavemen.

If you need a good dual band UHF/VHF antenna, we recommend this design.  It’s simple to build, you get to use real nuts and bolts, and sometimes you even get to fire up Mr. Blowtorch…my favorite tool.

Listen for N9AWM on several IRLP nets and the local Indy repeaters.  This weekend I am making one of these for my use!

73 de KB9BVN

New Extra in the Family!

This past Saturday was the local WD9BSA VE Team testing session, of which I am a proud member and Team Leader.  My son Andrew had been studying for the last several weeks to take his Extra Class Amateur Radio exam, and decided to come on down and take the test.  Since he is my son, I naturally excused myself from the test session and our other able bodied VEs took over and ran it.  Many thanks to Randy KA7BSA for being the Team Leader, Dave N9EZW, Stephen AF9SE, Jeff N9IZ, and Rick N9VDX for assisting with the test session.  All in all we tested four hams this weekend and I am proud to say they all passed their exams.  We had one upgrade from General Class to Extra Class, two made it from Technician Class to General Class, and one of our Boy Scouts came in and passed his first exam to become a Technician Class Amateur Radio Operator!  What a great weekend!



The WD9BSA VE Team is part of the WD9BSA Ham Radio Group located at beautiful Camp Belzer Boy Scout Reservation on the east side of Indianapolis.  We are affiliated with the Laurel Volunteer Examination Coordinators and abide by their rules and the rules set forth by the Federal Communications Commission.

The WD9BSA radio station is opened one weekend a month for all scouts, scouters, and the public to enjoy.  See the website at WD9BSA for full details.

73 de KB9BVN


80 Years of Sweepstakes!

How did it get to be November already?  Here we are on the morning of the 80th ARRL CW Sweepstakes, again, and you can feel the HF bands slowly charging for the onslaught of CW operators from virtually all over the world, all striving to complete the “Clean Sweep” and rack up as many contacts as they possibly can in the 24 hours of permitted operating time.  The ARRL sweeps are an annual ritual for thousands of hams.

SS80 (1)I personally have never participated in the ARRL CW Sweepstakes, for some reason or another I always seem to be involved in other activities on this weekend.  This weekend is no different but all week I have been talking with my friend Ivin Flint W9ILF about running the Sweeps in QRP mode.  Ivin has been an avid QRP contester for at least the last ten years or so, maybe longer.  I can’t remember.  He has successfully won numerous state QRP contests, QRP sprints, and done very well in the national and international competitions from time to time.


This weekend he will be mounted in front of his Elecraft K2, Idiom Press Keyer, and favorite logging software to make another effort in challenging the ARRL CW Sweepstakes with his CW prowess.  His category will be  QRP – Single Operator and he will not be using spotting clusters, or CW skimmers to assist his QSO hunting. His power will be limited to 5 watts and he will be using wire antennas to make his assault on the HF bands later this afternoon.

W9ILF2009After much discussion this week, Ivin has related to me that he feels like the one biggest factor in doing well or extremely well in a contest like the ARRL CW Sweepstakes, is QSO rate.  Last year his rate was in the low 20’s per hour, meaning he made 20 some contacts per hour for the entire time he worked the event.   The other thing that Ivin pointed out was this event is global in scope and will have thousands of operators taking part, if you want to win or at least place very high in the standings you are going to need to keep your operating position, well, operating.  The ARRL rules say the Sweeps run for 30 hours, and of that 30 hour time frame you are permitted to work 24 of them.  Anytime you log out of the contest  you have to stay logged out for at least 30 minutes. This will require certain strategy to be employed if you want to make the best of your efforts.


Telegraph Key

Last year W9ILF had a QRP QSO rate of just a shade over 22 per hour, the winner of the category QRP Single Operator, had a QSO rate of just over 28 per hour.  Ivin was able to participate for 14 of the allowed 24 hours, the winner worked all 24 hours.  It’s a numbers game kids, and it is about survival and being able to sit there for hours, logging contact after contact after contact.

Although I won’t be able to play in this event this weekend, I wish W9ILF all the luck and all the sections he’ll need to make a great showing in the 80th Annual ARRL CW Sweepstakes.  Go Ivin Go!  If you are new to the ARRL CW Sweepstakes, you need to read the article called “An Enticement for Contesting Newbies” located on the eHam site, it is an invaluable tool for the new and inexperienced contester.  Operating Guides and full rules can be found here on the ARRL website.

 73 de KB9BVN

SWEEPSTAKES UPDATE!!!  (21:15 UTC, 3 NOV 2013)

I just spoke with Ivin on the telephone, and he just put his FINAL SECTION in the logbook for his very first ever CLEAN SWEEP!!!  That’s incredible!!  Ivin is still operating until the contest ends tonight at 10PM local, his efforts have been 100% QRP (5 watts) and his homemade antennas.  I now owe him a $4.00 lunch from Steak n Shake, as wagered with him last week.  Great job Ivin!!   A Clean Sweep means Ivin made contact with all 83  ARRL sections in the US and Canada during the contest period.  This is no small feat as it takes a lot of hams literally YEARS to accumulate that many different sections in the logbook. Nice job!