Thursday, 29 December 2011

New Toy

Well I hope Santa was as good to you all as he was to me!  One of the new toys I picked up over the holiday, used for $20, is a MFJ-16010 long wire tuner.  I've been after one of these for quite some time.

This tuner is a variable L-network random wire antenna tuner and is designed to match the low output impedance of your transmitter to the high impedance of a random wire (or vice versa). It will match almost any random length of wire to any transmitter from 160 thru 10 meters. The transmitter may have an output RF power up to 200 watts.

Now the fun starts - experimenting with it, after all they do say winter is the best time to work on your antennas!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

VA3QV.......not so elusive!

Got him!!!  After searching for Bob-VA3QV for the past three or four contests with no luck at all, I can finally report that he was found skulking around 7.080 at 1657Z........and he's now in the log!!

The RAC Winter Contest is now over, and rigs and power supplies are starting to cool down after a frantic 24 hours of go-go-go.  It was a good contest, I had a great time, and managed to work all provinces and territories except Yukon and New Brunswick.  Yukon is hardly ever heard, but the absence of any VE9's really surprised me.

The contest started with a noise floor around S8 which continued until 2045Z when it fell to S3.  No idea what was causing it, and as nothing was turned off at 2045Z in my house, I can only assume that it was something next door.

As you can see from the Solar Data Banner on the left, the SFI and other numbers were not the best on the 17th December.  We've all seen a lot worse of course, but after the past few months of great DXing, it's hard to see it sink back to these levels again.

I had a couple of good catches today (besides Bob!).  Osvaldo-LU2QC in Argentina, Norman-V31NB in Belize, and Bob-G3ORY in the UK.  All three of these stations were calling "CQ RAC Contest", it's nice to see other countries taking part in the Winter Contest.

All in all I'm very pleased with my new 40m OCF Dipole.  It works extremely well, even to the point of tuning up on 80m and allowing me to make contacts in Newfoundland and BC.  I took the design from the Buxcom website.  For more information on this antenna, and others like it, click HERE.

Hope to see everyone back on the bands for the NA QSO Party on January 21 and 22.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

ARES Intergalactic Leadership

Over the past year or two I have written, rather infrequently, about RAC, and most of it has not been very complementary. I make no secret of my hate for those unelected individuals who have driven RAC into the ground, nor do I have any time for those unelected and appointed “Empire Builders” and “Control Freaks” who have been trying to turn the ARES organization into a clone of the Canadian Army Communications Branch.

So tonight I thought that rather sit here and bitch about what is going on in RAC ARES, I would give some constructive ideas, and see if anyone pays attention.

I have said many times before that ARES in Canada needs to be completely revamped if it is to survive. Is that a hard job? No, it can be accomplished in about 18 months if the powers that be really want to.

How to do it.....

For a start the VPFS should begin by sending a letter to each authorized ARES group, and ask for an annual report on everything they have done in the past 12 months. This would include meetings, deployments, training, other activities etc. Groups who fail to do this should be told that they would no longer be a recognised ARES group and lose the right to use "ARES" name.

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re not holding regular ARES meetings, if you’re not conducting regular, and ongoing training, or if you do not practice deploying to the field on a very regular basis, you’re not much of an ARES group anyway.

A basic and simple ARES course needs to be put together and made mandatory for all ARES members. RAC needs to provide a formal certificate that EC’s can present to their members, when they have completed this course. The course needs to have the following subjects covered:

a. What is ARES?
b. Personal Safety.
c. NTS training.
d. How we deploy.
e. Portable antennas.
f. Personal readiness.
g. Operator and logger duties.
h. NVIS antennas.
i. Digital operations.

Remember, this is a basic course, designed to get an operator up to speed so that they can fill a position in the team. We’re not looking for professional high speed CW Ops, but we are looking for a competent operator, who with some more “on the job training” will be an asset to their team.

The VPFS needs to then look at the current RAC rules on how an EC is appointed. According to RAC an EC is appointed for a period of two years, but can be extended for a further two year period. This has not been enforced and currently I know of at least two EC's who have been in place for over 12 years. The two year term for an EC should be rigidly enforced. The same goes for the DEC's as well. Too many of them have been around for far too long. This is not a way of attracting new members. New membership means new blood and new blood means new ideas and an invigorated organisation which is what we need.

The VPFS needs to highly encourage participation in both summer and winter field days, these are outstanding training opportunities that are under utilized by many groups. How many groups only train in the warm months?  Do we only expect to get called out when we can wear shorts and t-shirts?

Participation in both District and Provincial SET's should be mandatory, and Groups should be strongly encouraged to undertake monthly refresher training.  And how many groups never send in a monthly activity report that should be sent to the SEC?

An advanced course for DEC's and EC's needs to be developed.....keeping in mind that these guys are volunteers and not professional radio operators. They need to have family time as well! A well supported, well laid out resource website that is kept up-to-date is desperately needed.

This is not rocket science!! One of the biggest problems ARES has is the "over engineering" that goes on as people continue to build their empires. This too must stop. We need to stop being governed by committee, and we certainly do not need several layers of management above the local groups.

For Gods sake people, remember the KISS principle!!

ARES has a good role to play in their local communities, it also has a great role to play in the PR role for ham radio as a whole.  But if we continue to deploy untrained, or half trained, operators we will get no respect, and sooner, rather than later, our clients will stop using ARES and find another way to communicate.

If you agree with this, let Doug Mercer the VPFS know. His email is:   I’m sure he would be interested in your thoughts on ARES. If you don’t agree with my ideas, just spin the VFO and keep moving along.

Monday, 12 December 2011

ARRL 10m Contest

Another good weekend on the contesting scene is now behind us. This years ARRL 10m Contest was a pretty good time, with lots of activity on the band during the day.

I decided to do this contest strictly as an SSB QRP station, and I used my IC-703. The receiver on the 703 is pretty good, and basically if I could hear them, I could work them. It was amazing what I managed to work. The furthest east I managed to work was LZ5R in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The furthest south was LP1H in Cordoba, Argentina, and to the west I worked a pile of Californians.

By the time the band died here around 1700L on Sunday I had managed to work 100 stations with 43 multipliers, giving me a total of 8600 points. Not too sure how that will stack up to the rest of the entries, but I had fun doing it.

The lack of Canadian stations was noteworthy, and several DX stations commented on that fact. No idea why, except it may be have been due to Christmas shopping, and everyone was out buying their XYL an expensive gift… a new FT-950.

Behavior on the band was pretty good for the most part, but I did hear a couple of altercations over “who owns the frequency”…..some people just never learn it seems.

AND.....once again the ever elusive VA3QV managed to elude me on the bands, I even searched for him!!  I did hear however that he was out and about on his "chick magnet" scooter as the weather was so good.  Maybe this coming Friday night Bob, during the RAC Winter Contest.....up on 40m????

Thursday, 8 December 2011

RAC and the little Dutch Boy

It never ceases to amaze me, the garbage that is spewed from non-elected officials with grandiose sounding titles.  It seems that the lunatics are now running the asylum.  Has anyone read the RAC Bulletin - 2011-043E - issued on the 7th December?

Do these individuals who have made this decision, outlined in that RAC Bulletin, really think that this will stop the idiots and trouble makers from showing up at a disaster site?  Let's face it, anyone can buy a safety vest and buy the black letters to iron on "Emergency Communications" across the back.  Well pilgrims, here's a news flash: Nothing is ever going to stop that!  I'm sorry, but the real bottom line to this issue is all about who is in charge - it's a control issue, and it's about who can  build their empire first!

Of course I could be wrong, and this could simply be a case of "small penis syndrome", you know, the condition which compels some men to overcompensate their lack of manhood by trying to overachieve in other areas..........well pilgrims, it isn't working!

How about instead of empire building over who gets to wear what piece of ARES branded clothing, RAC officials should be working hard to develop a simple and basic ARES course that can be taught at the local level?  In fact you would think that would be a pretty high priority wouldn't you?  Apparently not.

How about having the RAC officials stop worrying about who is RAC affiliated and who is not.  ARES or EmComm, we're all out there doing the same job!  Do RAC officials really think that governments, at any level, will  worry about whether the person working the radio is affiliated to RAC or not?  Most of them don't know what RAC is, and more to the point they don't give a damn!

Let's stop kidding ourselves here, the RAC system is broke and is way beyond fixing.  The officials who run RAC are constantly complaining that they cannot get enough volunteers to run the organization.  I wonder why that is?  Could it be that everyone else has recognized the fact that RAC has tipped too far and is beyond saving and therefore won't waste their time with it, or could it be that they simply don't want to work with the current board?

RAC needs to put a stop to ARES groups that exist in name only, or local clubs that have an authorized ARES group and an appointed EC, but who hold no meetings or regular training, and who have no, or very few, trained ARES members to back them up.  I'm all for RAC sorting that mess out!  These are the groups and individuals who give ARES a bad rap!

Does RAC even know how many ARES groups are actually out there and have been authorized over the years?  Do they know which groups have never conducted training?  Which groups have never taken part in a SET?  How many never submitt a monthly report?  If not they should, but I think the truthful answer would be that they have no clue.

The story of RAC ARES is like that of the little Dutch boy sticking his finger in the hole in the dyke, and that is too little......too late.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Changes at Fort Henry

Most of the readers of this Blog will know that I spend many hours operating portable from the parking lot of Fort Henry.  It's the perfect site, low RF noise, the highest spot in the area, and a large open area for antennas.  It seems that this will change shortly.

Recently construction started on a new large Visitors Interpretive Center.  This is being built on the right hand side of the parking lot, as per the picture on the left. 

Last year the Fort started charging $5 to park in the lot, and tightly controlled access to and from it.  It will be interesting to see how all this pans out for the local hams, many of whom use this site as I do. 

Stay tuned, we may be looking for a new "secret site" in Kingston.