Sunday, January 29, 2012

Molly & Nesja practice their cones course.

Molly and her Norwegian Fjord mare Nesja did a lot of riding and practicing in 2011. This was some video taken in the fall to show off all her hard work. She's 7 years old when this was taken.

Molly Camping at Nakusp Hot Springs 2011

Molly took most of this footage from our camping trip to Nakusp Hot Springs last summer (2011). She loves camping and her crazy level of energy is obvious throughout the shaky footage.


Dad on TV at the BC Senior Games 2011

Both my parents are horse people and long time breeders, competitors, trainers, judges, evaluators, and owners of Norwegian Fjord horses.

This past summer they competed in the senior games for the first time and dad got his mug on TV as part of the events coverage.

I've been ripping together video from last year this weekend on my new copy of Vegas Pro 11 from Sony software. This is the first of a couple videos that I've uploaded to my YouTube account in the last 24 hours.

An Antenna and Tuner. The HF Rig is Complete.

With the addition of the Kenwood radio and power supply the quest for an antenna and tuner sent me on another adventure of research, talking to elmers, and of course the Internet.

After 2 or 3 attempts I finally won an eBay auction for a MFJ-948 antenna tuner. I had been bidding on actual Kenwood tuners hoping to match my radio but bidders were paying outragous amounts for 20 year old gear and frankly I don't have that kind of budget right now. This MFJ unit is an older manual tuner and the price was right. My understanding from research is that the older units with the beige/cream colored face (like this one), are better built and more sturdy than the newer ones? Time will tell on that theory.

With the advice of Gary VA7EIY I went looking at G5RV and Windom antennas since my criteria were it needed to be inexpensive, as multi-band as possible, and quick to setup in the dead of winter when all I really had was frozen ground and trees with nice bare branches.

The standard G5RV is 102' long and I have just the perfect spot to string it up. It needs to be up only 30+' in the air and operates on 10m - 80m with a tuner. Looking online everywhere I settled on the W8AMZ G5RV, it was a little more money than the others but the quality of the materials and construction seemed leaps and bounds better than most other ones I looked at. The difference in price was only $15-$20 so that seemed like it was really worth it.

All told I'm into a full HF rig consisting of a Kenwood 300watt transceiver, 30amp power supply, antenna tuner, G5RV antenna, and RG8 coax feedline for $400.00. Not bad.

I'm saving most of my cash for a winter holiday so this is the quick step that will get me on the air and come spring when the vacation is over, the ground is thawed, and the bank account is topped back up I'll invest in a better, newer HF rig and this one can be my backup or field day equipment.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My First HF Radio

It's not a surprise that after a month of research and a previous blog post dedicated to my thoughts regarding purchasing my first rig, that I would ignore everything and purchase something on an impulse.

To be fair, I did so some research for a few days, read some reviews online, and consulted with a couple of "elmers" before my impulse purchase, but it was a deal worth pursuing.

I'm currently a member of two local ham clubs, one is in my immediate area, and the other is north from my home about an hours drive away. The club to the north is the one who hosted the license class that I took this fall and while it's a bit of a drive, these are the guys who taught me and helped me get my license, they are also the club that included a years club membership as part of the course.

It came up in the club that an older (30 yrs roughly) HF transceiver (Kenwood TS-120) and power supply (Kenwood AT-30) were coming up for silent auction at the next club meeting. Due to the age of the gear there wasn't a tone of interest, so I had a chance to get my first radio for a few hundred dollars. Everything worked and if you have to start learning and operating, you might as well start somewhere. I'm researching antenna's and antenna tuners now and hopefully I'll be on the HF bands within the next month.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

VA7AEJ joins Echolink

Welcome to EchoLink! Your callsign (VA7AEJ) was recently validated. Your EchoLink Node Number is 663980.
And it's with that email confirmation that I joined another part of the ham radio universe. I downloaded the software for Windows 64bit and the app for Android. Within minutes I was connecting to nodes and conferences and listening to QSO's. I didn't have a headset and mic connected to my PC yet so I just listened, but the best conversation I heard was a conference from Ireland where two Irish gentlemen were chatting with an American trucker while he was driving down the road. This is just so cool, I'm sitting at my computer in Canada, listening to two guys from Ireland talking on their radios with a third guy in the US driving down the highway operating on his mobile rig. It was just this seamless combination of amateur radio, VHF repeaters, VOIP, software, and the Internet.

As the validation email said "welcome to EchoLink".

Friday, January 06, 2012

Ham Nation Episode 30: DIY Magic of Amateur Radio

Hosts: Bob Heil (K9EID), Gordon West (WB6NOA), and George Thomas (W5JDX)
  • New AARL video called DIY Magic of Amateur Radio is premiered
  • DIY hams
  • Noise limiting
  • D-STAR contest winners
  • How to properly solder a PL-259 connector
  • Chat Q&A
  • and more.
Guest: Cheryl Lasek (K9BIK)

Download or subscribe to this show at

We invite you to read, add to, and amend our show notes at

Thanks to Joe Walsh who wrote and plays the Ham Nation theme.

Thanks to Cachefly for the bandwidth for this show.

Amateur Radio Newsline #1795


Released January 6, 2012


This Weeks Newscast Anchored By Jim Damron, N8TMW










And much more...

Get the latest ARNewsline episode by subscribing to the podcast rss feed. 
To listen to the Podcast now provided by Kevin Trotman, N5PRE, you need iTunes, iPodder,  or iPodderX. Connect using Podcast software (not your web browser) click on this link:


10 Things Your IT Guy Wants You to Know

10 Things Your IT Guy Wants You to Know

by Jeremy L. Gaddis on May 31, 2009

1. If you come to me to ask technical questions, please don’t argue when you don’t like my answer. If you think you know more about what you’re asking than I do, then why even ask? On that same note, if I am arguing with you, it’s because I’m certain that I am correct; otherwise I’d just tell you “I don’t know” or perhaps point you somewhere that you could look it up. We don’t argue just for the sake of arguing.

2. When you start a conversation by insulting yourself (e.g. “I’m such an idiot”), you will not make me laugh or feel sorry for you; all you will succeed in doing is reminding me that yes, you are, indeed, an idiot, and that I’m going to hate having to talk to you. Trust me, you don’t want to start out this way.

3. We’re okay with you making mistakes; fixing them is part of our job. We are NOT, however, okay with you lying to us about a mistake that you made. It just makes it that much harder to resolve and thus makes our job more difficult. Be honest and we’ll get the problem fixed and both of us can continue on with our business. Lying to us and, therefore, costing us twice as much of our time will not win you any brownie points with IT.

4. There is no magic “Fix it” button. Everything takes some amount of work to fix, and not everything is worth fixing or — gasp! — even possible to fix. If I tell you that you’re going to have to re-do a document that you accidentally deleted two months ago, please don’t get mad at ME. I’m not ignoring your problem and it’s not that I don’t like you, we just can’t always fix everything.

5. Not everything you ask us to do is “urgent”. In fact, by marking things as “urgent” every time, you’ll almost certainly ensure that we treat none of it as a priority.

6. You are not the only one who needs help, and you usually don’t have the most urgent issue. Give us some time to get to your problem; it will get fixed.

7. E-mailing us several times about the same issue is not only unnecessary, it’s highly annoying as well. We record issues in a database so that we don’t lose track of them (remember how we ask that you create a ticket? That’s why.) We will typically respond as soon as we have a useful update to make. If your problem is urgent, please do let us know (but see number five).

8. Yes, we prefer e-mail over phone calls. It has nothing to do with being friendly or anti-social, it’s about efficiency. It is much faster and easier for us to list out a set of questions that we need answers to than it is for us to call and ask you them one by one. You can find the answers at your leisure and, while we’re waiting, we can work on other problems.

9. We may, at times, seem blunt and rude. It’s not that we mean to, we just don’t have the time to sugar coat things for you. We assume that we are both adults and can handle the reality of a problem. If you did something wrong, don’t be surprised when we tell you. We don’t care that it was a mistake because, honestly, it makes no difference to us. Please don’t take it personal, we just don’t want it to happen again.

10. Finally, yes, I can read your e-mail, yes, I can see what web pages you look at while you’re at work, yes, I can access every file on your work computer, and yes, I can tell if you are chatting with people on instant messenger (and can read what you’re typing, as well). But no, we don’t do it. It’s highly unethical and, perhaps more importantly, you really aren’t that interesting. Unless I am instructed to specifically monitor or investigate your actions, I don’t do it. There really are much more interesting things on the Internet than you.

I hope this didn’t come off the wrong way because, even as much as us IT guys refer to “users” as “lusers”, we do like (most of) you. Just like you, we’re here to do a job and we try to do it the best that we can. It’s easiest to do that if we all work together, stop pointing fingers, and give other people the space that we would like to get as well. If we can do that more often than not, things will go well and work out for all of us.

P.S. IT guys are easily bribed with food and/or beer (personally, I prefer the latter). That’s a sure way to get your problems moved to the top of the list. *grin*

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Shopping For Your First HF Rig

As a new amateur radio operator (and like many others) I ran out and bought a handheld (ht) first. This was an easy first purchase and getting going on 2m and/or 70cm is the quick fix that many like to engage in.

A new ham operators first real decision though is purchasing your first HF rig. This can be a daunting task considering the vast amount of choices on the market today.

All these questions seem to roll around in my head;
  • Should I buy new gear or used?
  • Should I buy a base station or portable or mobile rig?
  • And in my case since I'm a uber-geek... should I buy solid state, or software defined?
I've read a LOT of forums and talked to many people and every one has differing opinions on all of these subjects, here's some of the responses that I've found insiteful.
  • New operators should buy new gear whenever possible. At least at the very beginning. It takes experience to purchase and operate ham radio equipment and without that experience how do you know if used equipment is any good, or if it's working properly, or even how to interconnect all the pieces correctly. Your ham radio license course and exam focused a lot on what you shouldn't or can't do on the air waves. How do you know that your used equipment isn't generating spurious emissions?
  • Your first rig should be an "All Band" base station rig for the most flexibility and overall experience. All band radios would be HF, VHF, and UHF typically. While this type of radio might not have the highest specifications related to performance or features, it's a great starting point and it can be affordable. As well once you upgrade to something better it's still very useful to you even if you just use it for VHF or UHF.
  • Some suggest an "All Band Portable" rig like the Icom IC-7000, or Yaesu FT-897D. As seen below these radios are HF, VHF, and UHF, and they are also very compact for mobile and portable use. With options like snap on battery packs, snap on power supplies, and bolt on antenna tuners, these are perfect for a small home base station, but they are also something you can toss in a backpack. Mobile mounts are available for installation in a vehicle as well. Priced from $1000 - $1300 bucks they're very affordable to start with, and extremely flexible once you upgrade to something larger. What could start as a home base station for you, can later be a very handy camping portable or vehicle mounted radio.
Icom IC-7000 ($1300) All band portable radio

Yaesu FT-897D ($1000) All band portable radio

  • Buy what's available from an Elmer, that comes with some training. This was a suggestion that I read that came with the following explanation. New or used, big or small, if you have a local club member, or friend, or family member (someone you can trust) who's willing to sell you an HF rig at a reasonable price and is willing to help you set it up, and better yet willing to sit with you and help you on it's operation this can be worth it's weight in gold. Obviously there is a lot of "if's" and "maybe's" in this suggestion but I see the point. I personally have a family friend with an all band transceiver, with a matching power supply and a matching antenna tuner willing to sell it all for $1000. I've looked online and this is a good deal and he might get $300 bucks more if he broke up the set and sold it all online or in a swap, but he's willing to sell it to me at a bit of a discount and in a nice "ready to go" bundle. On top of that, he's willing to be my "Elmer" and come and help me set it all up, mentor me on it's operation, and be there as an ongoing person I can call or email with questions. This could work out very well for you "if" everything works out as promised. In my case it wasn't exactly the rig I thought I was looking for, it's a bit older than I thought I might want, and it's a pretty complex rig, my learning curve might be more than I intended to undertake. But it's an incredible tempting offer.  
Yaesu FT-847 (circa 1998 - 2005) HF, VHF/UHF and satellite.

Normally, and for most people, I would assume that one of the four options above would be a great HF starting point for any new ham, but I didn't mention that I'm also a hardcore geek. I'm a Systems Administrator by profession and I've been working with computers for 20+ years. The moment I started researching amateur radio equipment I stumbled on software defined radios as an alternative to the traditional solid state style of radio I was smitten with the possibilities.

A software-defined radio system, or SDR, is a radio communication system where components that have been typically implemented in solid state or tube based transceiver (e.g. mixers, filters, amplifiers, modulators/demodulators, detectors, etc.) are instead implemented by means of software on a personal computer or embedded computing devices. While the concept of SDR is not new, the rapidly evolving capabilities of digital electronics are seeing a boom in SDR technology.

A modern SDR system (like those from FlexRadio Systems) consists of a high-end personal computer or laptop connected via USB or Fire-wire to a Flex Radio "black box" type of transceiver.  The key connections on any radio transceiver like microphone, antenna, DC power, morse key, etc are still present on the "black box" but what missing when you see one (see below) is the miriad of dials, buttons, switches, and displays found on a traditional amateur radio.
Flex-1500 (entry level $650) USB connected SDR

Flex-3000 (mid level $1500) Firewire connected SDR
All the buttons, switches, and display of the radio interface are generated in software running on your computer. Pair up your SDR radio with a modern fast computer and a big widescreen LCD monitor and your ham shack looks like the flight controls at NASA.

Sample screenshot of the Flex SDR software. This is point and click control for your radio
In a SDR system significant amounts of signal processing are handed over to the CPU of your computer, rather than being done in special-purpose hardware built into the radio.  This keeps the electronics in the radio compact and dedicated to the essential features of a transmitter and receiver.
  • SDR technology gives you a radio which can receive and transmit widely different radio protocols based solely on the software used.
  • Upgrading your SDR software can improve the operation of the radio extending it's lifetime and effectiveness with emerging technologies.
  • Upgrading your software also add's new features and filters to your radio (most of the time for free).
  • Customize the look and feel (and even the position of buttons etc) by changing to different "skins" for your SDR software. 
 9min video of a Flex SDR in operation

There are some downsides to any new ham operator starting off with a SDR type radio.
  • First off how many people in your local club are going to able to help you operate an SDR system when you have little or no knowledge yourself? In a smaller club chances are the average age of an Elmer might be retirement. These men and women are a wealth of information at your disposal, but your bringing a 2013 electric sports car to a retro muscle car mechanic.  Many hams are smart computer owners and operators, but you'd be smart to make sure that some support exists locally before biting off more than you can chew.
  • Essential skills. Operating an SDR system provides lots of automatic and behind the scenes assistance in the software for tuning in that elusive signal. If you had the do the same work on a traditional rig you would be expected to know a bit more, and understand more about it's physical operation. Operating a traditional radio is like learning the ropes, maybe it's something you need to do to earn your respect and critical knowledge within the ham community. After a year or two, then maybe SDR would be a next step for someone geeky enough to venture ahead.
  • Performance. I read reviews from amateur radio enthusiasts buying software defined radios and complaining about delay and lag, and overall performance from the system. When you purchase an SDR your computer is an essential part of the system, you can't attach it to a netbook, or sub $500 laptop, or 3 year old PC and expect it to rock your world. You should invest in a rock solid and lighting fast new (or almost new) PC to pair up with your SDR. The majority of the SDR processing is done by the computer, that means when operating the radio the computer should be dedicated to that task alone, with no shortcuts like running other apps or downloading of the internet in the background.
As I mentioned before I'm an uber geek. SDR does not intimidate me, and I have a new quad core 64bit Win7 system ready to dedicate to the job, but I still worry about the actual operation and about learning the right way carve out a signal and apply filters etc.

Let's face it though, I also like the idea of a radio with tons of tactile buttons and the big dials.

What did I purchase for my first rig? Well you'll have to wait and see. I haven't been able to decide, frankly I'm overwhelmed with the choices. Right now I'm saving for a holiday and that's my financial priority. In a few months it will be an entirely different story, it will be spring and I'll be eager to climb on the roof and put up antennas, or install a tower, or shoot some wire into the nearby tree's. I'll be ready for HF and then it's the time to decide what my first rig will be.

50 Rules for Dads of Daughters {by Michael Mitchell}

I want to pay credit where it's due. I found this list on the web at the following link It appears to be the creation of Michael Mitchell and it sounds like it was a repost of the original list found somewhere on Michael's own site Either way it's a great list and I wanted to have a copy for myself so I'm reposting it here.

 1. Love her mom. Treat her mother with respect, honor, and a big heaping spoonful of public displays of affection. When she grows up, the odds are good she’ll fall in love with and marry someone who treats her much like you treated her mother. Good or bad, that’s just the way it is. I’d prefer good.

2. Always be there. Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Hang out together for no other reason than just to be in each other’s presence. Be genuinely interested in the things that interest her. She needs her dad to be involved in her life at every stage. Don’t just sit idly by while she add years to her… add life to her years.

3. Save the day. She’ll grow up looking for a hero. It might as well be you. She’ll need you to come through for her over and over again throughout her life. Rise to the occasion. Red cape and blue tights optional.

4. Savor every moment you have together. Today she’s crawling around the house in diapers, tomorrow you’re handing her the keys to the car, and before you know it, you’re walking her down the aisle. Some day soon, hanging out with her old man won’t be the bees knees anymore. Life happens pretty fast. You better cherish it while you can.

5. Pray for her. Regularly. Passionately. Continually.

6. Buy her a glove and teach her to throw a baseball. Make her proud to throw like a girl… a girl with a wicked slider.

7. She will fight with her mother. Choose sides wisely.

8. Go ahead. Buy her those pearls.

9. Of course you look silly playing peek-a-boo. You should play anyway.

10. Enjoy the wonder of bath time.

11. There will come a day when she asks for a puppy. Don’t over think it. At least one time in her life, just say, “Yes.”

12. It’s never too early to start teaching her about money. She will still probably suck you dry as a teenager… and on her wedding day.

13. Make pancakes in the shape of her age for breakfast on her birthday. In a pinch, donuts with pink sprinkles and a candle will suffice.

14. Buy her a pair of Chucks as soon as she starts walking. She won’t always want to wear matching shoes with her old man.

15. Dance with her. Start when she’s a little girl or even when she’s a baby. Don’t wait ‘til her wedding day.

16. Take her fishing. She will probably squirm more than the worm on your hook. That’s OK.

17. Learn to say no. She may pitch a fit today, but someday you’ll both be glad you stuck to your guns.

18. Tell her she’s beautiful. Say it over and over again. Someday an animated movie or “beauty” magazine will try to convince her otherwise.

19. Teach her to change a flat. A tire without air need not be a major panic inducing event in her life. She’ll still call you crying the first time it happens.

20. Take her camping. Immerse her in the great outdoors. Watch her eyes fill with wonder the first time she sees the beauty of wide open spaces. Leave the iPod at home.

21. Let her hold the wheel. She will always remember when daddy let her drive.

22. She’s as smart as any boy. Make sure she knows that.

23. When she learns to give kisses, she will want to plant them all over your face. Encourage this practice.

24. Knowing how to eat sunflower seeds correctly will not help her get into a good college. Teach her anyway.

25. Letting her ride on your shoulders is pure magic. Do it now while you have a strong back and she’s still tiny.

26. It is in her nature to make music. It’s up to you to introduce her to the joy of socks on a wooden floor.

27. If there’s a splash park near your home, take her there often. She will be drawn to the water like a duck to a puddle.

28. She will eagerly await your return home from work in the evenings. Don’t be late.

29. If her mom enrolls her in swim lessons, make sure you get in the pool too. Don’t be intimidated if there are no other dads there. It’s their loss.

30. Never miss her birthday. In ten years she won’t remember the present you gave her. She will remember if you weren’t there.

31. Teach her to roller skate. Watch her confidence soar.

32. Let her roll around in the grass. It’s good for her soul. It’s not bad for yours either.

33. Take her swimsuit shopping. Don’t be afraid to veto some of her choices, but resist the urge to buy her full-body beach pajamas.

34. Somewhere between the time she turns three and her sixth birthday, the odds are good that she will ask you to marry her. Let her down gently.

35. She’ll probably want to crawl in bed with you after a nightmare. This is a good thing.

36. Few things in life are more comforting to a crying little girl than her father’s hand. Never forget this.

37. Introduce her to the swings at your local park. She’ll squeal for you to push her higher and faster. Her definition of “higher and faster” is probably not the same as yours. Keep that in mind.

38. When she’s a bit older, your definition of higher and faster will be a lot closer to hers. When that day comes, go ahead… give it all you’ve got.

39. Holding her upside down by the legs while she giggles and screams uncontrollably is great for your biceps. WARNING: She has no concept of muscle fatigue.

40. She might ask you to buy her a pony on her birthday. Unless you live on a farm, do not buy her a pony on her birthday. It’s OK to rent one though.

41. Take it easy on the presents for her birthday and Christmas. Instead, give her the gift of experiences you can share together.

42. Let her know she can always come home. No matter what.

43. Remember, just like a butterfly, she too will spread her wings and fly some day. Enjoy her caterpillar years.

44. Write her a handwritten letter every year on her birthday. Give them to her when she goes off to college, becomes a mother herself, or when you think she needs them most.

45. Learn to trust her. Gradually give her more freedom as she gets older. She will rise to the expectations you set for her.

46. When in doubt, trust your heart. She already does.

47. When your teenage daughter is upset, learning when to engage and when to back off will add years to YOUR life. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

48. Ice cream covers over a multitude of sins. Know her favorite flavor.

49. This day is coming soon. There’s nothing you can do to be ready for it. The sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be.

50. Today she’s walking down the driveway to get on the school bus. Tomorrow she’s going off to college. Don’t blink.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Are You New To 2m?

Are you a new ham radio operator like me? 

I've been talking to a few people and the same analogy keeps coming up.

"Taking your first ham radio course and license exam is like going to college to learn to drive. You learn a lot about cars, you learn about engines, and electronics, you learn about physics and the science of motion, etc. At the end you take a long scary exam. You pass and someone gives you your license and you get into your first car and have no idea how to drive it?"

The point being made is that in an amateur radio course you learn lots about antenna theory, electronics, amps and receivers, propagation, etc. But very little time is spent telling you HOW to operate a ham radio, how to do something as simple as key the mic and talk.

Here is a new YouTube video from Tyler, N7TFP, showing us how to make our first contact using a local 2 meter VHF repeater.

I've watched a couple of Ryan's videos before, he does a fantastic job.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Another holiday nears completion

It's been a fast holiday. With almost two weeks off, it went by so quickly. Tonight is the last evening before going back to work. Best wishes and happy new year to everyone we hosted or visited with over the holidays.