NJ-QRP Meeting Summary

Saturday, January 27

What a great meeting we had! Sure is nice now being back on a regular schedule so that guys know when we'll have the meetings and can plan in advance on showing up.

It nice and comfy there at the Red Cross Center conference room  in Princeton, and we had about 20 QRPers show up. Dave Gwillam KB2TQX and his lovely Daughter Christine and boyfriend drove down again all the way from Long Island and even joined the half-dozen of those who also made it to the breakfast at Denny's Restaurant before the meeting!

We had a couple of QRPers show up to our NJQRP meeting for the first time. One was Tom KD3DI - welcome! The other was not really a first-time attendee, but one of the original NJQRP gang from many years ago: Bill Creekmore, W2DP. Bill had been away from ham radio for some time and is now really excited about coming back to the hobby - great to see you again Bill!

The big news at the meeting was our announcement of this year's Atlanticon Kit. N2APB and N2CX went through a good description and partial demo of the Remote On-Off Keyer, called the ROOKEY and how a fun contest will be conducted on Saturday night festivities at Atlanticon. A detailed description of the ROOKEY kit will be posted later today for all to see, as well as additional details on the upcoming Atlanticon QRP weekend that is scheduled for March 30-31 in Timonium, Maryland. (See http://www.njqrp.org/atlanticon for all the details, discounted room price availability, etc.) And a great indicator was that nearly everyone in attendance at the NJQRP meeting this time is planning on attending Atlanticon! We even accepted a good number of $10 registrations for the event ... and don't forget that the Atlanticon Kit is provided to everyone attending Atlanticon.

N2APB showed a couple other goodies that he brought along for this month's show 'n tell. One was a very cool little aluminum box for his AT Sprint 3A kit being built up. KD1JV had conveniently designed the PCB for this small transceiver to fit into the popular Altoids mint tin enclosure, but I wanted something more durable for the project, so I ordered on of Doug Hauff's W6AME "AA-1 Altoids Alternative" enclosure gems and really like what I got. As W6AME writes ... "Pull your nice rig/accessory out of that flimsy Altoids tin & plug it into a super durable, high-quality CNC hogout enclosure! Made from 6061-T6 Aircraft Grade aluminum, the AA-1 has a top cover easily rotated open or removed entirely in seconds. The AA-1 is naked and undrilled, ready for your application. Slightly taller and with tighter corner radii than the Altoids tin, the AA-1 will hold anything an Altoids tin will hold & more." The box can be purchased for $24 online at http://www.americanmorse.com/aa1.htm.

Speaking of the ATS-3A transceiver kit ... Dave KB2TQX mentioned how he is about 3/4 through construction of his, and Ted W2TAG is currently having some trouble in going through the test of his. So that's at least three of us in the club who are building the neat little transceiver from KD1JV ( http://kd1jv.qrpradio.com/) ... feel free to contact us if you are also building up yours.

The other goodie that N2APB showed was a new find of a great padded lambskin carrying bag for the Micro908 instrument. This this is really soft and beautiful, and it holds the Micro908 like a hand-in-glove, with a companion-sized pocket for manual and accessory cables, connectors, etc. A photo is present on the NJQRP Resource page. We bought several hundred of them directly from the supplier and Micro908 owners can purchase the carrying bag from us for $17 at the Micro908 web page (http://www.amqrp.org/kits/micro908/bag.)

George also told everyone about an inexpensive USB-to-RS232 adapter available from Parallax, Inc (http://www.parallax.com/detail.asp?product_id=28030) that allows him to connect to his Micro908 when using a computer that has only a USB port (i.e., no RS232 serial port.) Lots of people had been looking for such an adapter in the past to use in control of their serial projects, but few suitable ones worked. This one works fine.

Another very cool find on Parallax is a mini keyboard with a standard PS2 connector ... great for use with the Micro908, since we no longer have the Dauphin keyboards available. This one from Parallax is so much better, thinner and sleeker, and for the same low price of about $20. http://www.parallax.com/detail.asp?product_id=32351 (The keyboardd George received was nicer than the one pictured on the site ... thinner, shiny aluminum.)

N2CX showed us a cool little battery-powered amplified dual speaker assembly found at Walgreen's and the Five Below store. With a standard 1/8" plug on the end, it's great for a portable speaker on the QRP rig ... not great fidelity with those tiny speakers, but works pretty well for CW when you need to have generally audible reception.

Dave KB2TQX brought along drinks for everyone (thanks!) and described some of his recent finds. One was a book from MFJ Press called "Practical RF Design", by Doug DeMaw. This book looked very informative with lots of circuits and description of operation, yet in typical De Maw fashion being really easy to understand and usable on the bench. It struck me as being a simpler version of the very popular "Experimental Methods in RF Design" by Hayward, Campbell and Larkin. The book can be purchased online for $19.95 from MFJ by going to http://www.mfjenterprises.com/products.php?prodid=MFJ-3507. Mine is currently on order!

Dave also shared a great find of his concerning LTSpice which is a free download from http://www.linear.com/designtools/softwareRegistration.jsp and there is an active Yahoo group for it at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/LTspice . It uses a capacitor model for fast simulation of quartz crystals. He found it a bit fiddly to hand calculate the motional inductance and capacitance values, so he wrote a small utility to do the calculations. This led to a more general resonant LCR calculator. We have them posted now in a new NJQRP web page called "NJQRP Resources", on a link from our home page or directly at http://www.njqrp.org/resources/index.php.

Offline, KB2TQX also described a number of topics with me that included USB interface kits, TTL-to-RS232 interfaces, tri-color LEDS and the nifty little microcontroller from TI called the MPS430, which has lots of easy and inexpensive uses for us QRPers hams. All these references can also be found on the NJQRP Resource page

Gerry N2GJ and Ted W2TAG reported that the Delaware Valley Radio Association (DVRA) is holding ham tests at 12 noon on Saturday, February 24, 2007 at the Pennington branch of the Mercer County Library, 245 Pennington-Titusville Rd., Pennington, NJ (609) 737-2610. For more information, contact Don Wright aa2f@arrl.net 609.737.1720.  See a separate posting on the NJQRP reflector for more details.

Gary K2GW told us about the 3rd annual Boy Scout Radio Merit Badge Day at Sarnoff Labs, where 49 scouts got their merit badge. Dave N0YMV is teaching a dozen or so kids the Tech class stuff at the local EOC. Gary described how he developed a new Boy Scout Radio Merit Badge Web site to assist Boy Scouts in meeting the Radio Merit Badge requirements, also providing free instructional materials for Radio Merit Badge counselors. According to Gary, "The best way to learn about radio is by doing, but this site will help you learn a bit beforehand, so you can get on the air even faster! And you'll be able to pass your requirements easily when you do meet with your counselor." Gary's 30 years of experience as a Radio Merit Badge Counselor for a few hundred Scouts is the foundation of this Web site. You can see the nice write-up on the ARRL web page (http://www.arrl.org/news/features/2007/01/26/1/?nc=1) and the full description of the program on Gary's web site at http://k2gw.tripod.com/radiomeritbadge/.

Lenny W2BVH reports that the antenna rotator he overviewed for us a couple meetings ago is now fully installed and operational. Would love to get a couple photos of this Lenny! He put the 12' pipe through his attic roof and the rotator is on the attic floor, and he has a 12-element 2m antenna that worked quite well during last weekend's contest. There is also an article almost like his in "QST" this month. Schedule 80 aluminum pipe and mostly cheap Home Depot parts. He says it's completely waterproof, with neoprene adapters, etc. Worked out really well, but was a lot of work.

David N0YMV finally took the plunge and took the ham exams ... he's now an Extra Class in Waiting! He said the extra exam was actually a bit easier that the general exam, in that it concentrated more on the technology and theory material that he was comfortable with. Nice going David.

David also talked about working safely around high voltage equipment. Then Gary K2GW mentioned he accidentally shorted his Omega wrist watch across the 12v battery in his lawnmower and got a good burn. Ouch!

Gerry N2GJ described how he was surprised to work LU7US last weekend at K3EOD in the VHF/UHF contest. He suspects the unusual contact was perhaps via moon bounce or from meteor scatter while using the WSJT set-up. (WSJT is a computer program for VHF/UHF communication using state of the art digital techniques. It can decode fraction-of-a-second signals reflected from ionized meteor trails, as well as steady signals more than 10 dB weaker than those required for conventional CW. One of its operating modes is particularly well optimized for amateur EME (Earth-Moon-Earth) communications. WSJT is open source software and is licensed under the GNU General Public License. See full details at http://pulsar.princeton.edu/~joe/K1JT/)

John NU3E described and showed video of the "Polar Bear January Full Moon" outdoor operation that he participated in at the Delaware River Water Gap on the NJ side at the Mohegan Outdoor Center, operated by the Appalachian Mountain club. Glenn Johnstone NK1M has a high-def video camera and filmed the weekend, and photos are on the laptop there. Martin VA3SIE from Ottawa and his wife Fariba is working on her license. Mark N7UN is a great backpacker, he hikes very fast up hills! Cabin sleeps 19. Not exactly "roughing it!" but a great adventure. They only use the cabin for the January event.

Dave WA2DJN described some antenna experiments he's trying. He is going to try PSK31 because of antenna restrictions where he lives. He thinks low power and a 20M antenna might work.

Mario N2AK is participating in Classic Exchange an event that runs all day Sunday (today) starting at 9am. The exchange is who you are, RST, state and equipment. Winner is the guy who makes the most contacts, using the OLDEST equipment. You can heat your house with the radios in winter!

Bob N2LO described his Sky Buddy and a 6L6 transmitter. He plugs a DDS synthesizer into it to drive it. Everything about the station is new except for those two things.

Richard WB2ZKW talked about some things he ran into using a Down East transverter with a Collins KWM-2 as the base rig. He talked about the challenged experienced with CW offset on the radio. There is about 1.7 KHz from zero beat, so you are not on the same frequency as the guy you are talking to. He uses a different schematic capture program he bought a long time ago. He's going to write this up in an article once he's done. He described the use of phenolic on band switches on Kenwood TS-820, which ultimately was a poor design that didn't hold up. The Collins, despite its limitations, is much better quality.

We're trying to find a chairperson for the QRP contest we sponsor. Contact N2APB or Ken Newman N2CQ (who had to back out), if you have questions or want to volunteer. It's pretty low profile "job." Give it some thought.

Okay, that's about it. As you can see we had some great discussions and interaction at this meeting. Pretty typical of each meeting, actually, so if you are looking for some great discussion with friends of similar interests as yours on topics ranging from homebrew construction to operating in the field, this is really a good place to be.

See you at our next meeting on February 24th.  What better place to get yourself all rev'd up for the QRP happening the next weekend!

73, George N2APB
        & Joe N2CX

PS: Thanks to Gerry Jurrens, N2GJ for once again taking notes during the meeting. Quite helpful for all of us.

PPS: Attendees at the January meeting included ... Bob N2LO, Lenny W2BVH, Ted W2TAG, Bob KB3JCM, Gerry N2GJ, Gary K2GW, Tom KD3DI, Mario N2AK, David N0YMV, Jim K2SZ, Dave WA2DJN, Richard WB2ZKW, Joe N2CX, George N2APB, Bill W2DP, Tom KV2ODK, Dave KB2TQX, John NU3E, Frank FK2YD and Denis AB2PD.

Last Modified: February 2, 2007