Amateur radio: ARRL DX contest

This post is rather belated, but I thought I would finally write about the ARRL International DX Phone Contest, the weekend of March 4th.  Basically, as a U.S. mainland station the goal was to contact as many people outside the U.S. mainland in as many countries as possible, and for non-mainland the goal was to contact as many people as possible in the lower 48 states. Continue reading


Video blog episode 009

For this episode, I shot about 2 hours of video of me casually working the 20-meter band on a Saturday with a contest and two state QSO parties in progress, editing the video down to under 30 minutes.  I comment on what I’m hearing, make a few domestic QSOs, one QSO with France, and unsuccessfully work Italy.  All with 80 watts into a homebrew magnetic loop antenna.  Enjoy!

Video blog episode 007

I’m still working on the second part of the 6-meter Yagi video series, so I decided to show an example of trans-Pacific AM broadcast band reception using the RTL-SDR based AM BCB receiver detailed in Episode 006.  This was from an SDR recording on the morning of September 21st, 2016 and was a pretty good session.  Unfortunately, the audio was rather uneven because I was trying for the first time to “internally” record my laptop screen instead of shooting with the video camera.  That part worked great, but the audio didn’t go quite as well.  Still, this gives a nice flavor for what I have been able to from Arizona with the RTL-SDR based AM BCB receiver, and the Conti Superloop antenna featured in earlier videos.

Amateur radio: North American QSO Party, SSB

I’ve been spending a lot of time coming up with a good way of motorizing the tuning shaft of the vacuum variable capacitor, and make the whole assembly modular so I can move it from one loop antenna to another to optimize a particular band.  I only ended up using one antenna during the 12-hour NA QSO Party on Saturday, but it generally went pretty well. Continue reading

Video blog episode 006

Forgot to put this up earlier, but Episode 006 of my Arizona Signal Watcher video blog is up.  This one is a brief “tour” of the RTL-SDR based receiver that I use for AM broadcast band DXing.  If you think you need to spend several hundred dollars to do well on the AM BCB, you might want to have a look.  A $20 RTL-SDR, plus a $45 upconverter, and maybe some amplification (depending on your antenna), and you may do as well as possible considering the crowding on the band and other issues.

Video blog episode 005

Now that I’ve been working on ham radio antennas, I have a couple of projects for the video blog. The first one is a 6-meter 4-element Yagi. It is designed to be semi-portable, and for me this is particularly important because it’s not practical for me to leave up an antenna for any significant length of time. Perhaps impudently, I am posting this introduction and design video before I actually have the antenna on the air! However, I have tested the antenna itself (sans 1:1 balun) with a VNA and it seems to behave more or less as expected.
I spend a lot of time talking about various design parameters and the actual modeling procedure, so this may seem a little dry if you’ve done this before. But, I try to keep my speech pace relatively slow on these videos, so there’s always the 1.25x and 1.5x speed options on YouTube.  Part II will detail the construction process, and Part III will show testing and hopefully actual on-air performance.