Saturday, October 21, 2017

I just can't believe the weather we are getting for it being half way through October. The temperature today was 22C with clear skies and just a gentle breeze off the lake. This is a great time to grab the KX3 and head out for some portable op's. I check the contest calendar to see what was happening in the way of CW contests. I found the NYQSO party and Worked all Germany (WAG) contest were going to be in full swing the same time I was out. I checked to see what the contest report was supposed to be, contesters can add lots of contacts to a portable op. I set up beside the lake (Lake Ontario) with a nice breeze and in the shade as the sun was out and I did not want to overheat. I made 20m my band of choice and it so happens that it was alive with WAG contesters. The band was in great shape and lots of German stations looking for DX stations to fill their log! I was using my Elecraft KX3 at 10 watts and my Chameleon mag loop antenna. I was set up in 10 minutes and on the air searching the band for contacts. I was on the air for about an hour and had the following contacts:
DF0DW           WAG contest
IQ1GE             DX calling CQ
DJ0SP              WAG contest
DL5HIA           WAG contest
DF8AA            WAG contest
W2RR              NYQSO party
DJ6OZ             WAG contest
DL0DA            WAG contest

As you can see the WAG contest dominated the bands and it turned out the NYQSO party participants were just not making it over the German WAG contesters. I did not include the signal reports in the above list as it was a contest so the standard 599 was sent. I knew I was no were close to 599 as the German stations asked on more than one occasion for a repeat.





Sunday, October 15, 2017

Going about it the hard way.....WHY??

Last evening I finally had some time to get on the PC and check out what fellow ham radio bloggers were up too. For the past month I have been working every day and only having time to "fast read" a post and drop a short comment. While surfing the blog sphere last evening I came across KG3V's blog, the subject of the blog caught my attention "Updating FTDX-3000 Firmware. Below is a link to what I only could call an "adventure".
https://kg3v.com/2017/10/14/updating-ftdx-3000-firmware/

In the post Tom does a great job explaining how he went about the firmware upgrade and some issues he ran into. Tom also goes over the enhancements this firmware will forward to his FTDX-3000. It's fantastic how far we have come in radio, in the past if you wanted the upgrades it meant selling what you had and purchasing the new and improved version. Today's modern rigs can chat either over the internet or with pre-downloaded thumb drives and magic is worked within the rig to either over come an issue, enhance what is already there or add something new! Having said that I just can't understand what the issue is with the process of the upgrade. It's just not ham radio with our Nikon cameras to upgrade the firmware it's...hold this while pushing that....make sure you don't do this while doing that....and on and on and on. Resources are used writing the rigs new firmware upgrade, time and money is put into it and it's to make the product better for the end user. If this is the case why the %&^* not make the process for the end user easy peasy!!
Having said the above and let me preface this with "I am not going to say what I am about to say just because I am a fan of Elecraft but if the shoe fits......" To upgrade my K3 or KX3 Elecraft has provided via their website a program that sits on your desktop, one of it's functions is for firmware upgrades. The process is as follows:
1. Double click on desktop icon.
2. Click on Firmware tab.
3. Click on "Check versions now"
4. Below you will then see the firmware that is installed in your rig and new firmware that is available for your rig. You then click on "Send all new firmware to K3 or KX3.
Your rig will start to click, there will be "stuff" flashing on the rigs screen, sometimes even clicking noises from the rig and then your rig's screen returns to normal and your done. I have owned Kenwood, Icom and Yeasu rigs and never has it been this easy and my question is WHY NOT!!! Now having said the above it is true I have not owned one of the above rigs for some time now so do comment if the process has changed...but is sure does not seem it has for the FTDX-3000 model rig!
OK I'm off my soapbox now....:))

Monday, September 18, 2017

Digital magazines

Still in the bag
The last time I renewed my QST magazine subscription not only did I get my monthly print addition of QST but I would receive an email about a week or so before the print copy arrived informing my digital copy was waiting for me to download and view. I will admit I was one of those ham's that just wanted to feel the pages, hold an actual copy and ear a page to come back to it later. I had some spare money in my Paypal account and I decided to once again subscribe to CQ magazine but this time I decided to only go with their digital version of the magazine. In the past I had big issues with the delivery of the magazine so I wanted to avoid this again. It was the reason I cancelled my CQ subscription some years ago. As the CQ issues started to arrived I was forced to get used to reading the subscription on line. I found out over time the best method of delivery for me was on my Apple iPad pro. For me it worked seamlessly and to be honest it was the viewing of the occasional QST on my PC that frustrated me with the digital age of magazines. As I read my paper copy of QST each month ignoring the email about a digital copy waiting for me in my inbox! Those at the ARRL who publish the QST magazine are very clever in that they tease you with tidbits "you can view more content in the digital version" "Here is a video of the review that can be viewed in the digital version" I began now and then to download QST's digital version to my iPad pro (once I downloaded the app) After a very short time I was hooked on the digital version. Now the print copy stays on my night stand and sometimes a month goes past and it does not even get removed from the shipping plastic. Why not just subscribe to the QST digital version you ask??  I have now as I found in their FAQ how to unsubscribe from the print version. There is no savings to the member for doing this but I am told that the money saved QST puts that to good use. I have no issue with this and am happy to my this "donation" to the ARRL.
For those of you where like me and have not as of yet jumped into the digital magazine world I will say it's a very interactive way of reading. CQ uses a program called Zinio to view their magazine and QST uses Pagesuite It may just be me but I find Pagesuite easier to use, nice graphics and well laid out and I hope one day CQ will start to use them as well as Zinio.
Some of the advantages I find with having a digital copy are:

  • Ability to view videos (QST often has product reviews and a video to along with it)
  • Web links that can take you to more content. 
  • Ability to enlarge the print which is good for me. 
Some of the disadvantages:
  • You can't just roll up the tablet or PC under your arm and take it with you. 
  • To download a new addition the internet is needed. 
  • To take full advantage of the digital copy again the internet is needed. 
For me I find the Apple iPad pro does an amazing job as I am sure any other tablet would but I am  an Apple fan. As for carrying around my iPad I use the Otterbox product to protect it. The way I look at it if you are going to spend good money on a tablet or phone at least spend 1/4 of the price on something that is going to keep it safe. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Station comfort and ergonomics

 
My setup now with one monitor on a swivel arm to the right
In this month’s QST I found an article that sparked my interest entitled “Comfort design for your station” This is an area I feel that gets looked over when setting up a station. Most of the time I find we lean more towards how the setup looks as to the ergonomics of the setup. I am very guilty of falling into the trap of setting up a station making sure it looks very pleasing to the eye. After a contest or two and having to sit down at the radio for over 6 hour or more at a time I become very aware that it’s all about ergonomics first and looks later.  These days setting up a station most of the time does not just mean a radio but it can include a computer monitor, Laptop and various bits and pieces.  Some of the mistakes I made:
Rig and monitor up to high
  1. I had selves on the desk and I decided to put the monitor on one of the shelves, it looked very cool but over time I found the slight angle my head was on looking up (just slightly) became a chiropractic issue! I then decided to purchase a moveable arm for the monitor so I could adjust it to any position and this proved to be a great investment. 
  2. Since the radio is the most expensive item I had it front and center on the desk. For me over time I found having my arm extended in front of me was not very comfortable. It may sound strange but the best position for me is having the radio off to my left or right side. My right arm keeps its natural bend as I tune and adjust the radio. 
    Monitors on swivel arms
  3. Sideview of swivel arms
  4. I’m not sure about Icom, Kenwood or Yeasu but Elecraft has only 2 heights for the rig……either flat on the desk or with tilt stand (K3) or legs (KX3).  For me both are just not comfortable. I wish they would incorporate adjustable legs for custom heights. I did purchase the Elecraft K-pod which fixed this height issue but that was not the sole reason for the K-pod purchase. 
In closing there is one radio desk setup that I have seen now and then on the internet and thought for me it would be the best and I say "thought" because it only looks comfortable in the picture and until I was to try it I would not know for sure. It involves mounting the rig right into the desktop and almost having it flush with the desktop. Below are some pictures of this and if you have done this or tried it please post your comments about this setup.