Resolutions 2009

I believe this is the third of fourth year I have posted resolutions for the upcoming year. Interesting to back in time and see what I was able to resolve and those that just did not happen. I fear looking at what I wrote for 2008 because I know I was not successful on some of them, unlike 2007.

So let’s look at Resolutions 2008 that were posted a year ago today. It seems I did carry a few over from 2007,m such as working out with the Bowflex we own. Again, I started and stopped numerous times and really did not get into any workout regime. So this remains on my list, especially after talking to my doctor when I got my physical in November. He told me the BMI was 29, which is technically 1 point away from the “obese” category. Although I don’t look obese or fat, but as I get older it will only be more difficult to keep weight off. So working out is still on the list.

I was able to keep off the carbonated drinks…soft drinks, energy drink, not beer. I probably drank more beer because of passing on sodas. This will be easy to keep. The ’68 Cougar is still on block and has not moved now for almost 3 years. Couple the time factor with the investment in order to work on the Cougar and the car remains untouched. I did do some work on it, started removing the chrome and taillights in order to trailer it to a body shop. This will really depend on any extra income I want to throw at the Cougar. As I tell my 3 year old son, “the car will be ready when you can drive.” That gives me 13 years to work on it. LOL!

Finally, one ’08 resolution I was successful at, learning CW. Sure I might be a 5 WPM operator, which is really slow when in the HF bands, but I do know all the letters, numbers and pro-signs, which means a lot to me. Hell, my son even learned two letters and he is 3 years old. He knows ‘D’ and ‘E’. I have made a number of CW contacts and worked in one CW contest. So mark this as resolved, but it will forever be a learning process in order to increase the speed.

As for Urban Terror, I retired from any form of online gaming and support. I retired Urban Radio, shoutcasting and Just Push Play. I can cite any reason, from no free time, to lack of desire to no reward from the community (outside a few die hard supports, whom I thank). Retiring from this was the best thing I did in the past 10 years. I still find it hard to believe I wasted so many years and energy on this project. There were many good times, prior to that past 18 months or so leading up to my retirement, but after that period it was no longer enjoyable. Thus, my decision. I deleted any reference to the game, all IRC channels, had someone remove all my account details. I am done, never to return.

As we are hours away from 2009 let’s look at what we can resolve. First off I want to put more time into ham radio. This has really become an enjoyable hobby, now that I have learned CW. I want to become more involved in contesting from N6RO as part of the NCCC [Northern California Contest Club]. He is the local “big gun” station in Oakley and usually has hams working many of the contests. My first opportunity comes up January 3-4 in the ARRL RTTY Roundup.

While this might not sound like a resolution, I feel it is important in my son’s growing up. The family needs to get organized, get time off and get down to my parent’s house in San Diego County (Poway). My parents are not getting any younger and have had the free time to drive up to NoCal, but the 2-day trip really ends up taking a toll on them, as well as staying in a hotel because there is not enough room in our house. So hopefully I can load up my wife and son and get to SoCal.

I also want to spend more quality time with the family. That past year, after finishing training at work my schedule was a mixed bag of start times and days off. Now I have a set schedule with set days off and actually get home when it is still light out. Things have become a bit better, being able to see my son and wife and eat dinner together. Now that my son is 3 years old, it is becoming easier to keep him entertained and interested in new hobbies. I also want to spend more time with my wife when I am off. Sure radios and the Cougar are great hobbies, but it’s not the same when you have a family who loves you and depends on you. So I resolve to be the best husband and father I can in order to foster open communication and relationship.

Outside of those resolutions I look forward to the new year. Everyone have a safe New Years Eve if you are planning on going out. Thanks for the continued support here on T6F. I look forward to 2009.

Serious About Contesting?

Like the many facets that make up ham radio, not everyone has the same likes and dislikes. Many don’t like CW, others will working nothing else. Some enjoy contesting, others despise it because it chokes up the bands during the weekend. For me, everything is still new, it’s a learning experience. I do believe I have found a niche working the digital modes, including CW (the most basic of digital modes) to PSK31, RTTY and even Olivia. I even have about 40 SSB QSOs, thanks to the RAC Winter Contest.

Today I joined the Northern California Contesting Club (NCCC), one of, if not the biggest out west. Look at the results of any major contest and you will see NCCC near the top. The same can be said about some of the big gun stations inside NCCC, for example, the one I am close to, N6RO aka “Radio Oakley.”

I am looking forward to hopefully participating in my first full contest during Junary 5-6, working the ARRL RTTY Roundup. I have worked RTTY over the past month from the OKDX Contest to QSOs on 20m through 40m. I was at the NCCC practice session last week and got a look at the contesting software (Wintest) and downloaded it myself for my personal use.

The contest starts on Saturday, January 3 at 18Z (10:00) and runs until Sunday, January 4 at 2359z (15:59). Of course my work schedule takes priority, but I will try to get Sunday off from work in order to play for a majority of the contest both at N6RO and home working from my call, W6ONV.

I look forward to the contest, the challenge and the pursuit for DX. My station is a far cry from some of the big stations out there, but for me, it is not about winning, but about participating and having a good time. No reason to limit myself and not try something new. Will report back after the contest has concluded.

A Visit to N6RO…Again!

Known though out as a “big gun” station, N6RO) or “Radio Oakley” is a very impressive station. I had been there once before after becoming a General and knew very little about HF or contesting. It was suggested by a friend, K6NA in San Diego to go say hi to the owner, Ken Keeler (N6RO). Ken was a great guy, gave me a tour of the towers/antennas and then the setup in the shack.

Last night I returned, nearly 2 years later with a mind full of new information and knowledge I have gained, but I am still far from being an expert on anything. I was invited by N6ML, who lives locally, as he and N6WM were going to take a practice run using Win-Test in the upcoming RTTY Roundup Contest in January. Just looking at my schedule, I won’t be able to transmit from N6RO), but will play RTTY from my shack when I get home from work.

The contest software was something new to me, I had not heard of Win-Test, but it surely had some great features for RTTY, CW and SSB, all of which was operated while I was there for some two hours. Like most PC based software nearly everything is keyboard generated, from macros to entering call signs and signal reports, but this would be the first time for using Wintest in a RTTY contest.

The station was a bit different than I remember it, gone were the Yaesu FT1000MPs, replaced with the newer Elecraft K3 rigs, which seemed to be doing an outstanding job. Not sure what will become of the old Yaesus, which were piled three high. Wonder if he has any use for these….guess I could ask, wouldn’t hurt, right? The K3 was an incredible rig from what I saw demonstrated, the ‘diversity’ mode was interesting as it allowed you to listen to two antenna’s simultaneously, one in each ear in order to receive the better signal.

As I said, while I was there, the RAC Winter Contest was in full swing, mainly on 80m and 160m, both of which (as well as 40m) were worked on SSB and CW. N6RO, operating as N6ML was doing well in the contest, which was to continue this morning as the sun was rising in the west.

I would like to think that some time soon I will have a good grasp on operating to participate in a multi/multi contest. I do believe the RTTY contest would be a simple contest to participate in from a station like N6RO, more so than CW or SSB, but that’s just my opinion.

Why should they care?

I have said this before, but forums don’t seem to have a place in ham radio sometimes. Don’t take this wrong, I do use the QRZ and eHam forums quite often, unfortunately there are some who come off knowing everything and think their way is the only or best way. Forums, like those at QRZ (I use them as an example) can be a real turn off to a new amateur. Sometimes the attitudes of others don’t come off as being very nice and the “I know all” opinions come forth. I can’t tell you how many times I have read, “Did you read the ARRL Handbook yet?”

Thankfully ham radio (for those interested) usually has something to offer everyone involved. Some amateurs like to build antennas, others like to chase DX, other like contesting or CW or whatever they find enjoyable, the list seems endless. Even now, some 18 months after being able to operate on HF I am still trying to figure out what I really enjoy about ham radio.

Early on I gave up on SSB, just based on my station, instead I decided to start out with some of the digital modes and selected PSK31. There was a learning curve, like there is with many things in amateur radio. I did my homework, read what I could find in the manuals and on the Internet and really have enjoyed the mode since I began.

Recently I have started playing around with Olivia, as well as RTTY and CW. I made my first CW and RTTY contacts during contests, while I was not serious about the contest, it was great fun seeing all the “CQ TEST” calls on the bands I worked. I used macros via AC Log 3 to send all my call sign and ‘5NN TU’ during the CQWW CW Contest at 25 WPM. Now I cannot send or receive at that speed, but why should any other operator care? They shouldn’t, yet some (not during the contest) feel otherwise.

I make no bones about CW, I did not take or pass a 5/13/20 WPM Element 1 exam. The exam was available when I first took my Technician test in 1995. Since that time the requirement was rescinded and an amateur license for HF use is easier to obtain. This does not sit well with some, who still feel it necessary to make their opinions on the fact known.

With that said, I have also been using MRP40, a CW decoder to help in my learning of CW. Again, some feel that practice is completely wrong and I should be reprimanded for even considering it. “If you need a computer to decode and then send it, you are using the wrong mode,” says one ham, while another states, “CW (Morse) should remain a manual mode, sent with a Morse key by hand and received by the human ear connected to brain, and written down on paper for hard copy.” Again, why does another ham I am in a QSO care how I choose to operate my station?

I have been learning and studying code since I passed my Extra Exam in January, I have used different aids in order to help me learn Morse code and be able to recognize all the letters, numbers and pros-igns we see used during a CW QSO. But while on air, I have trouble receiving at faster speeds. Again, get on the air and make QSOs seems to be the given answer when asked how to improve your copy. Well, I choose to use an aid in order to help me and my learning.

Just as a test I even used the keyboard function to send CW through AC Log 3 and while I did not make fact know during the QSO, the fact of HOW I was sending code never came up. Why should it? I recently talked a ham in Texas, who was a great guy, we talked via CW for nearly 45 minutes and not once did he ask about my sending or receiving of CW. We were two amateurs involved and a wonderful QSO.

Is CW the mode for me? I think it is because I have been able to hear and work many countries I would not normally be able to if I were transmitting on SSB. This fact alone has opened my eyes to the lure of CW for many old timers and new hams alike. Of course, there is always a percentage who will not want to work the mode. You know what? That is perfectly fine. One day my speed sending and receiving will improve where I will take the proverbial “training wheels” off and be able to work CW with only a key and the gray matter between my ears.