Archive for Uncategorized

CQ Ham Radio, this is Bytemarks Cafe!

Jun 6 2012

Burt Lum and Ryan Ozawa are both well-known among the technology community, and among geeks in general, here in Hawaii. Among other things, on Wednesday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. on 89.3 MHz (HPR-2), they can be heard on the Hawaii Public Radio talk show Bytemarks Cafe, which talks about all things tech. They’ve been doing it for several years now, so these guys do know their way around a radio station (or at least around a mic).

Now, you might be hearing them on 146.88 MHz and other frequencies as well. Today, both Burt and Ryan passed their Technician class exams, and in a couple of weeks they’ll have callsigns of their own. That the ham radio community now has the two alpha geeks (and the best tech evangelists) in Hawaii speaks volumes. Listen to their show so you know their voices. Then keep an ear out for them on our bands, and give them a warm welcome!

Update 6/10/12: One thing about Ryan – he also maintains a lot of Hawaii-related sites, tops among them his Hawaii Blog. In keeping with that, he’s started Hawaii Ham. Thanks, Ryan, for the shout-out. Perhaps you’ll be keeping things more up-to-date than I have been. 🙂

Update 6/12/12: They’re both official now – Burt is WH6DZJ, Ryan is WH6DZK. (Of course, those calls may be subject to change later on.)

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I should have kept my big mouth shut.

Oct 19 2011

Since getting on HF, I’ve dabbled a bit in contesting. Not seriously, of course. There’s only so much I can do on 100 watts and with only a 20 meter antenna. But I try to work the stations I can by tuning up and down the band, and send in my Cabrillo file afterward to get credit.

This past August was the first time I participated in the Hawaii QSO Party. That weekend on Saturday, I paid the QTH of Randy KH6IB a visit, where members of the Emergency Amateur Radio Club were hanging out for the next band opening. I got on the mic for a little while and worked a few stations for KH6CE, so I got credit as an operator. Then once conditions started improving, I headed back home, fired up fldigi, and got ready to work some stations that afternoon. As you probably know, I’m a big fan of PSK31, and have made most of my contacts that way.  And the HQP is one of the relatively rare contests that not only allow PSK31, but actively encourage it by giving you triple the QSO points.

All told, I got 13 PSK31 contacts and 4 SSB contacts, 688 points total. Of course, I didn’t believe that I would win anything with that measly amount. The stereotypical contester puts out a kilowatt of power so just about anyone around the world can hear him. So was I surprised when Joe AH0A gave me this at the last meeting:

3rd place certificate for Honolulu County

Yep, third place in Honolulu County for single operator low power (less than 150 W). The first place op had around 17,000 points, and the second place op had 2,000 points. So I was about two orders of magnitude below them. Still, third place is third place.

In a way, though, I’m kicking myself a bit about those four SSB contacts so I could get the multipliers for Kauai and Ford Island. Without them I would have lost just four QSO points and two multipliers, leaving me with 546 points. That still would have been the best performance on PSK31 statewide. D’oh!

Still, I had a lot of fun at the HQP. Any contest that allows PSK gets a gold star in my book. Next year at the Hawaii QSO Party, I think I’ll keep my big mouth shut and let my fingers do the talking. 🙂

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Five hams to activate Kalawao County on DX-pedition

Aug 25 2011

It’s hard to get there. There’s a very small airport, and the only other way in by land is a mule trail down sheer sea cliffs. Access to the peninsula, strictly controlled by the Hawaii Department of Health, is possible only via invitation, special arrangement, or by organized tour. It’s also one of the hardest places to reach by radio waves. But five amateur radio operators from Honolulu plan, for a weekend at least, to put Kalawao County on the map.

Kalawao County, Hawaii, home to the former Hansen’s disease settlement on Kalaupapa, is one of the smallest counties in the United States, both by population and by land area – according to the 2010 census, only 90 people live on the 13 square miles on the northern tip of Molokai. There are only eleven patients left in the settlement and about 25 staff members living there as well. The small population also makes the county one of the most sought-after spots in the United States. Until very recently there were no hams in Kalawao County (two new Technicians passed their exam about a month ago), and there have been no hams capable of doing HF (shortwave) communications since the 1960s.

Five amateur radio operators are now in Kalaupapa preparing to work other stations around the United States and abroad as part of the Hawaii QSO Party this weekend. (QSO is amateur radio speak for a two-way radio contact.) These operators are Joe Speroni (AH0A), Jim Yuen (WH6GS), Bev Yuen (AH6NF), Kimo Chun (KH7U), and Ron Hashiro (AH6RH).

For more information on the Kalawao County DX-pedition, visit Ron Hashiro’s page.

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A chance encouter on the airwaves in PDX

Jul 20 2011

Portland, Oregon, has been my second hometown for many years. More recently, it’s become my favorite vacation spot. Even more so since there’s a Ham Radio Outlet located there. I bought both of my base station rigs there – my FT-7800 in 2007, and my FT-857D in July 2010, and whenever I’m in town I pay them a visit.

Still, I find that, what with all the other things I do on vacation, sometimes I hardly touch the HT. Today is my last day in Portland for this trip, so I decided just to check out the bands on the HT. While scanning up and down the 2 meter band I happened across 146.70 (pl 100), and caught the tail end of a “YL net.” YL, in ham speak, means woman (“young lady”).

Yes, I know, I’m no YL, but when I heard two OMs (“old men”) check in, I figured it would be OK for this OM to check in. (In ham speak, men are always old regardless of age, and women are forever young.) So I called, “whiskey hotel seven golf golf, portable whiskey seven.”

I must have caught net control off guard since she asked for my call again. Maybe she was wondering why a 7 station is signing portable W7. I did get a nice warm welcome once I said that I was visiting from Hawaii.

Anyway, it was nice to be able to use the radio on vacation. I really should make it a habit to use it more often when I’m out and about on the mainland. Maybe next trip.

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Bill Orenstein, KH6QX (SK)

Apr 1 2011

I was saddened to hear this morning of the recent passing of Bill Orenstein, KH6QX, after a long illness. Bill was a longtime member of the Emergency Amateur Radio Club and a regular participant in the nightly nets, and came to Hawaii after a long and storied career in broadcast audio engineering. He was one of the night owls on the 146.88 repeater, and I remember hearing him and Ed Watts KA6WVO (SK) in ragchew in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve always kept my radio off at night every since (my shack is in my bedroom – I do need to sleep).

You can read more on Bill’s career in his profile in the July 2007 issue of the EARC’s Wireless Dispatch.

We’ll miss you, King Henry Six Queen X-Ray. RIP.

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A QSO a day keeps the doctor away?

Mar 5 2011

On the Internet, you’ll find many examples of people trying to do something every day over the course of the 365 days in a year. Probably the most common is to take a picture every day for 365 days, or to write a blog post every day over a year.

How about having a QSO (radio contact) with at least one person over 365 days? One ham in the UK (also named Keith, by the way), is attempting to do just that, by any means necessary. Good luck to you, Keith!

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Pardon the dust…

Feb 18 2011

Now that I’m actually populating this blog after so long, I figured it was time for a facelift. Unfortunately, the scars are still showing. Will continue playing with the CSS and graphics over the next week or so. Apologies if you go blind.

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Lotsa catching up to do…

Feb 15 2011

I can’t believe that it’s been almost two three years since I last put an entry here. When I first put this site up I intended for it to be a chronicle of my growth as a ham. But then, life happened. I guess I have a lot of catching up to do, I guess.

A short summary of what’s transpired in my ham radio career over the last two three years:

I’m an Extra now. Almost a year to the day since my last entry, I became a General. Then in October 2010 I passed the exam and became an Extra. so now I have an all-access pass to the ham bands. I also got VE credentials earlier this  year. However, despite being HF-authorized for almost two years, it took a while for me to get my station up and running, which brings me to the next point…

I now have HF capability and have made a few contacts. I got my Yaesu FT-857D on my last trip to Oregon…thanks to the folks at Ham Radio Outlet in Portland for shipping it to me and saving me space in my luggage. Alex (KH7CX) lent me a homebrew wire dipole double bazooka that I had used to listen a few times. However, I still needed a key ingredient – the tuner. Blowing out the finals on my 857 would have been a bad thing. I finally got my hands on an LDG YT-100. Up went the dipole, lying flat on the roof. Hooked up the tuner…it works with push-button simplicity. Then I called CQ — nothing. Called again — nothing still.

Fortunately, Ron (AH6RH) and Rick (KH6OM) helped me break in the new HF rig by helping me make an HF contact on 20 meters. True, it was within a two-mile radius as the crow flies, but an HF contact is an HF contact, and at least I knew the antenna worked. Little did I know that I would multiply that distance by a thousand, then several thousand, a couple of weeks later…more on that in my next entry.

I’m still active in the EARC. Still a net control station on Tuesday nights (check in and say hi if you get the chance).

I hope now that I’ll have a lot more to write about in the months to come. It’s been a great journey so far, and I hope to continue it. So, come along and join me…again…

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It’s my first time. Be gentle.

Feb 27 2008

The Emergency Amateur Radio Club net has become one of my favorite on-air hangouts, ever since a couple of days since I got my call sign. For a while, I’ve wondered what it would be like to actually do the net as net control.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. And that teacher was none other than KH6DAD. Rich was wonderful about easing me and the other NCS trainees into the job. From just shadowing the NCSs, writing down callsigns as they would, to finally having a chance to read the preamble and closing under an NCS’s supervision.

But then came the big step…doing the net solo. Rich was kind enough to give me a call on the landline about 45 minutes prior for a pre-flight briefing. Still, there I was on Tuesday, at 7:20, sitting next to my radio, and wondering, what in the world am I getting myself into? I had a few concerns in my mind…like, what if I have a visitor with lots of QRM in the background, who checks in non-phonetically, and I can’t copy the callsign? I’m pretty sure I knew what to do, but listening to someone doing the net is a lot different from actually taking the driver’s seat. It felt like being at the starting line of my first marathon all over again. 

Fortunately, a pre-net QSO with Edward, NH6WI, eased my nerves somewhat. And at 7:30 straight down, I keyed the mike and spoke:

Aloha! This is Whiskey Hotel Seven Golf Golf, calling the Emergency Amateur Radio Club Net. My name is Keith, and I will be your net control station for this evening… 

I need not have worried. After that, it was a blur. Everything just flowed. It was like an out-of-body experience…almost as if my body, hands, and mouth were doing the net on autopilot, drawing on seven months’ worth of audio memory, and my brain was just watching, as if it were just another nightly net.

In general the reviews for my debut were good. The most common comment I heard as I was going down the list was that it was like I had done this for years. Well, obviously not for years, as I’ve only had my ticket for less than a year. But I do admit, it did feel familiar.

And it was a pretty good crowd for a Tuesday night. 16 check-ins for a 25 minute net.

Pretty soon I’ll find a place in the NCS rotation, and then my real learning will begin…a ham radio Padawan taking a big step on the journey to being a Jedi master…  🙂

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Busy time in my ham life

Feb 1 2008

Wow, lots of things have happened in my ham radio life in the past few weeks. Here are just a few:

1.  Finally got to do my first public service event as a ham, doing the communications at the Nuuanu aid station for the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team’s HURT 100 Mile Race. (It’s gotta be a race that I wouldn’t dream of doing as a participant.) Old technology met new this year as, in addition to the radio, we had laptops with wireless broadband and the ability to e-mail results to the finish line in Makiki. I had a more experienced ham, NH7WL, helping me get comfortable in the role. It was pretty quiet (and pretty wet), but I had a lot of fun. Would definitely do it again.

2. Attended the EARC meeting on the 24th; was intrigued with Chuck (NH7XL)’s demonstration of PSK31 and what can be transmitted using a computer and the HF bands. Definitely something to look forward to once I get my General. I’m still studying when I can…maybe by my one-year anniversary.  Unfortunately for Chuck, he had trouble competing with NH7QH and his ham gear. Hams can’t resist bargains.

3. In other news: I finally got the chance to finish the independent study for the ICS 100 course and passed the exam, so now I have a nice looking certificate from FEMA to show for my efforts. I also signed up for the ARRL Emergency Comm Level 1 course.

The “mentor” they assigned me (N1LL) lives in Indiana, in what looks like a pretty farm community in the Midwest according to Google Earth. Definitely different from Hawaii. In his welcome e-mail, he told me:

You’re the first student I’ve had from Hawaii. Would love to be there now – about 12 degrees right now and just starting to snow (6-8 inches expected tonight). You know what I’ll be doing come morning – or sooner if the wife gets called in.

Like I said, way different from Hawaii. But emergencies happen anywhere.

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