OCRA Membership Meeting, July 9, 2018

Meeting Attendance: 28

Treasurer:

  • Club balance is still strong. Current membership is 79, with 24 requiring renewal.  The club has added 17 new members this year.
  • Field Day – Thanks to all who assisted, supported, and participated in the Field Day food preparation and delivery. The pre-paid approach for Saturday’s evening meal and Sunday’s breakfast was very successful.  For Saturday’s meal there were 44 pre-paid with 6 people paying at meal time.  Likewise, for Sunday’s breakfast there were 36 pre-paid with 4 people paying at meal time. The success of meal pre-pay may become a new payment model for future field day meals.
  • Overall, the club profited $174 from meals, which will be added to our club coffers.

Field Day (FD) Recap:

Dave (W4SAR) provided a comparisons of 2017-2018 point totals.  For 2017 the total point was 19,760.  For 2018, we had an estimated total of 21,635.  Dave should have final 2018 totals in the next several weeks.  Congratulations to all for the great work securing the additional points…and the fun had by all.

This year, the Digi mode was a good success.  Dan (KR4UB) mentioned that Digital radio mode success in amateur radio has been partly attributed to the work of Joe Taylor (K1JT), who developed the WSJT-X software.  Joe is a noble prizing winning physicist, who has focused the past two decades on weak signal communication.  Joe is the developer behind several popular digital protocols like FT8 and JT65.

General FD Observations:

  • Less interference on 40 and 15 SSB than years past.
  • Accessible stations in garage worked well for all.
  • N1MM network may require piloting the software and associated computers a few weeks prior to FD. This may help reduce complexity, however, much of the issues are not the result of the application.  Rather, the issues are more likely attributed to the Microsoft OS and configuration of personal computers. Other clubs purchase refurbished PCs for FD from NewEgg to reduce configuration mismatch.

Band Captain Comments:

  • 40/15 SSB propagation and noise on the bands most of Saturday. By Sunday morning the bands opened with much less noise.
  • CW worked well…3 stations covered all night. Better scheduling provided coverage through the morning hours.  Power was more stable this year over lasts.
  • 20 SSB – had similar propagation and noise issues like other SSB stations. The station ran on solar power directly or from batteries recharged by solar throughout the entire FD.
  • 80 SSB did not have as many operators as years past. Was difficult getting confirmation due to static on the receiver.
  • Digital was well covered and enjoyed throughout the event. However, next year more comfortable seating will be needed.
  • VHF was challenging, but the 5 element Yagi provided a noticeable return on the points.

FD Logistics

  • For the larger antennas, a dedicated spotter on point for ensuring safety should be available, with agreed upon standard communication and terms. Additionally, a tower safety demonstration and additional guide wires for support may reduce operational risk.
  • Replace the wood antenna support “walk up” with metal. This will reduce the likelihood of the wood splitting and causing the tower to fall and potential hurt people.
  • The scheduling spreadsheet helped ensure adequate coverage of stations throughout the event.

Should we plan to add a Sunday lunch? Please reply to this post with your suggestions. We would enjoy reading your ideas!

 

Design Advances Make Portable Operation Easier, More Fun

By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

Posted by Joel Dunn, KMNOU on behalf of Dan

I’ve just returned from the Dayton Hamvention. Dayton was a blast as usual, and if there’s one thing I took away from this year’s event it’s that portable operation is not only becoming more popular, but more sophisticated as well. In fact, it’s a virtuous circle. More sophisticated portable equipment is making portable operation more popular, which is spurring manufacturers to make more sophisticated equipment, which is making portable operation even more popular, and around we go.

This is perhaps most easily seen in the evolution of the Elecraft products. One of their first rigs was the K1, a small rig that was frequently toted out into the field, even though it wasn’t really designed for that purpose. It had a small form factor, but had a conventional front panel layout.

The next evolution was the KX1. This CW-only radio was designed specifically for field work. It originally only covered 40m and 80m, and had a very limited front panel, but its built-in battery pack and KXPD1 paddle made it a great choice for portable operators when it was introduced in 2004.

A big leap forward was made when they introduced the KX3 in 2012. This radio combined a bunch of features never before found in a portable rig. The KX3 features an SDR architecture and covers all modes, including (SSB, CW, Data, FM, AM); used the same full-sized LCD display as the K3; has advanced DSP features; and can be connected to a computer via USB for firmware upgrades and for use with other ham radio software. The KX3 is so full-featured that many operators use it as their main rig with a suitable linear amplifier.

At Dayton 2016, Elecraft took this concept even further and introduced the KX2. It’s about half the size of the KX3, but yet has almost all of the features of the KX3. There  was a tremendous amount of buzz over this radio at Dayton among portable operation aficionados. The base price of the KX2 is $750, and with options, will cost you about $1,000.

Of course, Elecraft isn’t the only company competing in this market. LNR Precision sells a radio called the LD-5, and at Dayton, they introduced the LD-11, which like the KX3 and KX2 features an SDR architecture and covers 160m – 6m. This radio goes for about $800, and has also proven to be popular among portable operators.

Dayton also had a number of exhibitors that supplied products other than radios to aid portable operation. There were several portable antenna manufacturers, including Buddipole (buddipole.com) and PackTenna (packtenna.com), and BiEnno Power (biennopower.com) was also there, showing off their new lithium-iron batteries,

While radios like the KX2 and LD-11, at relatively low prices, allow operators to easily get out into the field, portable operation would not be as popular as it is without organized activities. Programs like the Summits on the Air (SOTA, www.sota.org.ukna.sota.org) and the National Parks on the Air (NPOTA, npota.arrl.org) make portable operation even more fun. These programs do this by providing a structure in which operators can find one another and gain awards for operating. SOTA did not have a booth at Dayton, but NPOTA was a big part of the ARRL section there.

If you aren’t already a portable operator, you should give it a try! You don’t have to invest a bunch of money in a rig to just try it. KX1s have been had for less than $400, and simpler QRP rigs cost a lot less. Getting outside and operating in the fresh air is a lot of fun and could give you a whole new perspective on amateur radio.

Posted in QRP