Saturday, June 21, 2008

The 2008 ARRL VHF QSO Party - Part II

In case you haven't read it already, you might want to check out Part I of this series of posts. Incidentally, if you receive this post via email or from a website other than my actual blog website, you may not be able to see the videos in this post or in the previous post. You can access them by visiting my blog website directly.

So there I was, back at the microphone at the 6m station for N2SE after taking a break for a while. The band was not in very good shape, though I seem to recall that at the time, I had the antenna pointed towards New England and was slowly but steadily making contacts. All of a sudden, the radio went dead. Worse, the laptop we were using for logging went dead. One of the advantages to using a laptop for logging, rather than a desktop computer, is that usually the battery in a laptop will keep the computer running should the power go out. However, for some reason, the battery in this laptop decided that it just plain didn't feel like working, so the laptop shut down. More about that later. The first order of business was to figure out what happened to the power. Peter, K1VDH went out to the generator and found that it had stopped, so he restarted it -- and then it stopped again. After checking for obvious problems (yes, there was gas, and in fact it had been filled less than an hour earlier), we realized that this probably wasn't going to be a quick fix. In the video here, you can see Peter, K1VDH and Mike, W2MLS (who owned the generator), trying to figure out what the problem was.

In the meantime, Matthew, K2NUD, who had organized the club effort, pulled an extension cord from the other generator into the pop-up camper where the 2m and 6m stations were located. That generator didn't have enough power to run everything in the camper (including the air conditioning) but it was enough to power the two radios and laptops. We figured that we could get back on the air on the smaller generator and operate while the other guys worked on the generator. Now that we had power again, all we had to do was the fire up the laptop and radio and get back on the air. Well, that was the plan.

For some reason, there was a problem with the license on the laptop and it failed to realize that it had been activated. (The laptop was running Windows Vista, and there have been some issues with the license activation being a little on the flakey side.) Matthew, K2NUD, and Rocky, KC2HRG, both worked for quite a while trying to get the laptop to behave itself without success. I should note that both Matthew and Rocky deal with this kind of thing as part of their "day jobs" routinely, but sometimes technology just does not want to cooperate. At this point, while Mike and Peter kept working on the generator, Rocky kept working on the laptop, and I did the only sensible thing left: I went to work at the barbecue. Matthew had brought up sirloin burgers and homemade hot dogs from a local butcher, and asked me to do the honors on the grill. (In Matthew's words: "A man has to know his limitations. I can't grill.")

After a break for dinner, it appeared that the big generator was once again up and running, the apparent problem being that something was rubbing on the clutch and was causing enough friction that the generator shut itself down to protect itself from damage. Peter used a little good old fashioned Yankee know-how and wedged a branch under the generator to make the rubbing (apparently) stop, and sure enough the generator once again seemed fine. Well, we thought it was fine. It turned out that the actual problem was that the gas cap was failing to allow air into the tank so after running for a while, a vacuum was created in the gas tank that was enough to keep the gas from flowing. The simple solution was to just loosen the gas tank cap a bunch. Problem solved.

Stay tuned for Part III.

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