Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Ham radio and the condo life

Ham radio from a city condo.......I have been doing it for close to 7 years now and it does have it's challenges. I have had great success with some cool world wide contacts. In Canada it's tough to get into the housing market right out of the gate so many younger ham's are getting their foot into the market with condo living. Then those ham's who are retiring and want to downsize are considering condo life as well. I am here to say that in condo life there is also ham radio!! 

Before we talk about the nuts and bolts of condo ham radio lets deal with some of the basics. I have always found it avoids condo board letters if you read and understand the rules and guidelines of your particular condo. Yes get used to it if you are going to move into a condo there are rules and expectations. What does this have to do with ham radio.........well if you are seen as a respectful owner (or renter) of the condo board, residents and property it can go a long way. For example most condo guidelines (nice condo word for RULES) do not allow "permanent antennas" on the balcony. This rule is yes for Amateur radio antennas but I believe the condo is concerned about the mini satellite dishes springing up or HD antennas. Just one of many challenges a condo radio op has to creatively deal with. In my case I have the MFJ 1788 mag loop and in my newest condo (6 months now) the antenna is portable and it not  "permanently" mounted on the balcony. In my humble opinion having a low key antenna is important. Having whip antennas extending over the balcony or wires making their way down the side of the building just invites a letter from you know who from the office of your know where!!  Like it or not we are all human and once this happens you have the microscope on you.....not a very nice situation to be in.
In a condo your fellow "condo-ites" are very close to you and that means RFI on your part but also on their part as well with all the unfiltered electronics on the market today. The positive outcome to this is you will become very knowledgeable on dealing with RFI. Oh and a word of advise.....I have read this in the past "go see your neighbor and suggest installing filters on their electronics" Up here in the land of snow and proverbial "thank you" we always say to apparently to everything......there is no thank you response from someone you are asking to tamper with their electronics. Rigs these days have excellent filtering and that are some accessories you can purchase to knock out the worst of offender.
Well that is enough for posts to follow I am going to look at RFI, power output and no as a condo dweller you are not a QPRer for life...........nothing wrong with that either!! What antennas I have had that work, some of the better modes (not just digi either)  to work and last but not least what happens if your in a situation were absolutely operating is possible, well I am here to say that you will still be able to get on the air in you condo on HF working DX!
Stay tuned.        


Monday, February 18, 2019

ARRL DX CW 2019 in the books

The setup
Well the ARRL DX CW has come and gone for 2019 and my effort was one of interest only. I knew I had non radio related things to do this weekend and we were out each evening. Actually the contest caught me by surprise as I usually plan ahead and make time. This week I was checking WA7BNM contest site and was shocked to see the contest was this weekend! This was the first real contest run for my new IC7610 rig. Now I am used to the Elecraft K3 but honestly the 7610 preformed for me just as good as my K3 did. I left the filter set at 250Hz and never had any issues when Kilo watt  contesters were side by side belting out their call. The waterfall  on the 7610 was par with my old Elecraft P3 also it was an added bonus that N1MM+ has a spectrum scope fed directly from the 7610. Having the two independent receivers was nice. When I found rare DX but there was a pileup I left one receiver there and checked in now and then. With the other receiver I would continue the search and pounce. I had been away from the 7610 for about 2 weeks regarding CW operating so I at times found I was slow to figure out how some functions were done.
As for the contest I was running 60 watts (not sure of reason for the 60 watt number) and my antenna is the MFJ 1788 mag loop. I am in a condo so it’s a balcony antenna about 180 feet up facing south east. The software was N1MM+ and MRP40 CW decoder for the super fast fisted contesters. On Sunday the winds for some reason really picked up and my MFJ loop was moving around the balcony. I shut the radio down and took it in I would rather save the antenna from damage than taking a chance on getting more contacts.
I made only 25 contact and a score of 1575 BUT my intention was not to blow the doors off  with a great score. Instead after I made contact with a station I would look them up on QRZ.COM and read about either the individual or the contest station. Over all the limited time I was in the contest I had a blast and was very please with the Icom 7610 and the ability of my balcony mounted Mag loop antenna.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A screen shot of the ARRL DX CW contest
I was on for a short time yesterday afternoon but we had a dinner date to go to in the evening so things were cut short. I stayed on 20m as it seemed to be producing very surprising results including a contact into Japan. I was shocked when I heard his call just come from out of no where! I gave him a call and he came right back to me and in about 5 minutes after he was spotted along with some other JA's the pileup was huge. It was just luck I was where I was at the time and made the contact with 60 watts and my MFJ 1788 loop.
I will see if the propagation gods are smiling down on me today as I give the contest another go this afternoon.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

FT8 on 20m this afternoon

I was able to find some spare time this afternoon and in true ham radio spirit I hauled out the MFJ mag loop set it up on the balcony and gave FT8 a go on 20m. Last week I finalized the setup of WSJT-X 2.0 and my rig the Icom 7610. Once all the settings are looked after running WSJT-X with the 7610 is a breeze. I was spotted all over the U.S. and Canada and even into Europe while on 20m. I did make 3 U.S contacts but only logged 2 as I at first did not have the setting in Reporting "Log Automatically" or "Prompt me to log QSO" Unfortunately my memory is not what I think it to be and  I lost the first contact by forgetting to log it. So it was then that I went to Settings-reporting and checked the box "Log automatically" I was excited to see my FT8 signal was heard in France, Spain and Portugal. Over all it was a very relaxing day on the radio!
I found this site that offers some great FT8 tips:

I did remove the tick from the "auto Seq" box as by doing this it did give me somewhat of a feeling of interaction with the QSO. This evening it's going to be a cup of Earl Grey tea and go over the WSJT-X 2.0 manual very closely and see what I can glean from it. Also search out some writeup's on the internet for more tips with this mode.