Friday, October 30, 2009

What is Amateur Radio?

Not long ago, I added a feature to my Facebook page that automatically posted these blog updates there. While many of my friends know that amateur radio is a hobby for me, I do get asked "so exactly what does that mean?" fairly often. Although there are a number of sites that explain it, Julian, G4ILO, wrote up what I think is a terrific primer on the subject that I hope will help some of you get an answer to that question. Here's a link to his site:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Remembering the C6APR team

In case you haven't already heard, four of the operators of the C6APR station were tragically killed this week in a plane crash on their way to the station. Ward Silver, N0AX posted the following message to the CQ-CONTEST reflector, which I'm going to reprint here.

There have been several suggestions for on-the-air actions to remember the four ops lost on their way to C6APR yesterday. Perhaps a moment of radio silence - at the beginning of the contest or perhaps around the time of their flight. Or look back in your log to find the time of your most recent contact with them and take that moment out then. Maybe call C6APR at some appropriate time and wait for their signal. Putting a C6APR QSO in your log with a zone of 00 is another idea - I know that K7RA used show up in logs from the Pac NW for years after Homer's untimely demise. Whatever seems appropriate to you, take some time out during the contest to not only remember the team, but to appreciate the other competitors. Let's try to treat each other with a little extra respect this coming weekend as we've all just been reminded of how quickly a log can close.

73, Ward N0AX

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More DX during the solar minimum

Despite the poor propagation conditions occurring during the current solar minimum (which I, and practically every other ham has written about ad nauseam), I continue to make some good, and sometimes outstanding DX contacts. A couple of weeks ago, I had a CW contact with Richard, 9M2CNC in West Malaysia on 20m at around 8pm local time. While I'd worked West Malaysia before (in fact with Richard as well, then operating as 9M2/G4ZFE during an RTTY contest), that was the first CW contact that I had with that DXCC entity. I'm happy to say that the contact has been confirmed via Logbook of the World already.

Yesterday afternoon, I was working from home and took and saw a spot for Bill, E51NOU on 17m CW. The interesting thing was that it was the middle of the afternoon (not normally a good time for propagation to that part of the world), but I was easily able to make the contact.

Best of all, early this afternoon, I saw some spots for Wim, XU7TZG in Cambodia on 20m phone. The time was around 1PM local time, which means it was around midnight in Cambodia, late for this type of contact. I tuned to the frequency and was surprised to hear Wim working a (surprisingly small) pileup. I needed a contact with Cambodia as an "all-time new one" for DXCC purposes, so I figured that I might as well try to call him. Wim slowly worked the pile down (presumably getting the stronger stations out of the way), and after 30 minutes or so, I was very pleased him respond to my call, and the contact was completed.

All three of the contacts I've just discussed were made under fairly poor solar conditions. The solar conditions when I worked Wim in Cambodia were about as bad as you can get. The solar flux number was 69, which I believe is the minimum value possible (I'll have to go read up and see why it doesn't go to zero) and there were no sunspots at all. Both of those values indicate poor propagation. Fortunately, like the
urban legend (check out that link, it's a good explanation of that legend) that says that it's aerodynamically impossible for bees to fly, radio waves don't bother to listen to scientists nor do they study physics.

As I've said before: Stop complaining about how poor the conditions are. Turn on your radio. Listen around and if you don't hear anything, call CQ. You might be surprised at the kind of wonderful contacts you can make.