Promoting Amateur Radio

Last year I received approval for a 1×1 call sign to operate as, K6B to operate a special events station to celebrate 40 years of “contesting excellence” at the Northern California Contest Club. I also used this call sign for the California QSO Party in the beginning of October.

In 2009 on the QRZ Forums, I started a topic, ‘Putting a special events station on the air‘ which would help celebrate 40 years of “rapid transit” in the bay area. Of course, with many topic on QRZ it was met with very mixed reactions. My intentions were NOT to promote BART, as I am employed with, rather to celebrate the 40 years of service. In my opinion FCC Part 97.113 is a bit gray when it comes to this, so I have emailed an individual more experienced than myself to provide clarification.

I am piggybacking this potential operation with that of a proposed club station at BART. I know there are current and  former employees who are licensed amateurs, but I have no idea if this proposal has even been attempted in some 39 years of BART. From comments I gather, there are many amateurs who are into railspotting (rail-fanning, trainspotting, whatever you call it). I would think a club station could go very far in promoting the hobby.

While I have not moved forward on either of these plans, I am working on a proposal and looking for names on who to contact at BART to proceed with either or both of these. I have also started researching call signs for a club station and have a few in mind. While a physical station would not be used initially, we could use the call sign for possible events through out the year. One great example, Field Day, which is always a GOTA sort of event for non-hams. Hopefully I can move forward with these plans in the coming months.

Mobile Scam

I wish I would have done a bit more homework before I plunked down my hard earned cash, after 2 years of very average service from Verizon. I made a common mistake, I bought the “latest and greatest” that being the Droid X. To date, this mobile phone, in my opinion has not lived up to the hype it’s received. Then again, I have not had much luck with AT&T or Sprint either when I was locked into their agreements. It could be the area we live in when it comes to the actual service. As it stands right now, I rarely get the ‘3G’ icon on my mobile phone at home, which is accompanied by a bar or bar and a half on a good day.

I went in to the local Verizon store last week to price a bottom of the line mobile phone. Not a smart phone. Not a hand held computer, just a phone that does what a phone should, make phone calls. Unfortunately, the sales associate stated the obvious, which I knew, I was not eligible for an upgrade until July, 2012. Verizon wanted $289.99 for a base model phone when purchased separate from an upgrade or 2-year service.

On the recommendation, from the associate, “I would buy a mobile phone off EBay and bring it in. We can activate and move your data for you.” So that day I went home, won an EBay action for a Blackberry 8330 Curve for $10 plus $5.99 shipping and handling. Couldn’t beat $15.99 for a mobile device that I actually enjoyed using before it met its end by hitting a wall.

I received the new (used) Blackberry yesterday and go to Verizon. They proceed to tell me they cannot activate the phone because there is a claim against it (active ESN). This means the mobile device was either lost or stolen, but regardless the pending claim prevents Verizon from doing anything with it. So in reality I was sold a brick.

I have sent 2 emails in two days to the EBay seller, All Tech Wholesale. They claim “30 day money back, seller pays return shipping.” I expect, not hope, but expect this is the case and they replace my brick with another used Blackberry 8330 Curve that does not have the same problem without changing the total sale price of $15.99.

Am I expecting too much? Yeah, probably especially these days when there is no such thing as customer service, especially when it comes to mobile carriers. I say this because, unlike my wife, I won’t push and make demands. Maybe that helped her get a new Droid X after having ongoing issues with her Storm. The only help Verizon would provide me was either a soft or hard reset. No mention ever made to replace the phone. Guess it would have been beneficial for me to pay the extra money, get the insurance plan and the literally break the phone in order to get a new one.

CQWW WPX Planning

It’s never too early to start looking ahead to an upcoming contest. Much like the CQWW WPX CW Contest last year I am looking forward to the 2011 contest at the end of May. In 2010 I initially I set a goal, but later revised it after the May, 2010 NCCC Meeting which mathematically made one million points possible, even from my small station.

This year, I am considering nothing less than 1 million points. Achievable? I believe it is, but unlike last year I need to spend much more time working 40/80M than working QSOs on 15/20M. I knew this going in last year, but decided not to operate the contest in this manner. Needless to say, I missed my goal by a considerable amount, butI had have fun and still took a positive experience away from WPX.

We are still 30 days out, but I have started breaking down the contest by the numbers and looking at how I will attack this 5 band contest in order to achieve my 1 million points. Until the uptick in solar numbers, 20M had been my “money band” regardless of contest. But recently I have seen 10M and 15M producing better numbers than 20M did. Unfortunately for WPX the big points are on the low bands and 40/80M are not my best bands.

While that does shed favorable light on my SteppIR BigIR, I feel the problem is more radial related than anything else. Thankfully, CW [and RTTY] is the best mode for my station to operate, so while 40/80M is challenge, I could fair okay on those bands. I will look at adding some more 60′ radials and pray the sunspot Gods shine on us.

Looking at last year’s results I was somewhat surprised with what I achieved on 40M and considering how bad solar conditions were, I would think numbers in 2011 can only improve. I would also expect my rate to increase this year. Last year I planned a 25 rate for much of the contest, but was above a 32 rate for the first 7 hours of the contest.

This year my plan will look much like 2010, the difference is making sure I have the “BIC” time this year. Hopefully I can spend the maximum amount of time on the low bands and fill in the gaps during the daylight hours. Looking at the CQWW scores from last year 1 million might be difficult considering, running either low or high power given no single operator in 6-land scored 1 million. The best was Kc6X with 870,048 as a single operator (high power).

Part of my calculations include a 0.6 value for prefixes worked. This number is quite high early on, but dramatically falls off over the course of the contest the more QSOs you make. Last year at the end of the contest my prefix value was 0.48, well off the 0.6 value I used to calculate my goals.

Droid Doesn’t

Put a fork in my Motorola Droid X, I’m done! I lay partial blame on Verizon, since their wireless network in our area is terrible, their customer service lacks the “service” part, especially in store. Of course they won’t hesitate to call or text you when you are late on your bill now, will they? I don’t believe this smart phone lives up to it’s motto of “Droid Does” because in my case it doesn’t.

But I won’t leave Verizon shouldering all the blame, I must accept some of the responsibility because I did not spend enough time reading the negative comments from users when this phone was introduced at Verizon. Anyone can give accolades when it comes to a good product, but I don’t believe I bought a quality product in my Droid X.

First, I was coming from a Blackberry Curve, which met it fate when it hit a wall. Long story, don’t ask. Prior to that I had a Blackberry 8703e, which unfortunately slipped out of shirt pocket into the toilet back and was ruined. I guess I knew better, but I decided to move away from RIM and their Blackberry line. That was my first mistake.

The Droid X might be a good phone for those who use it to it’s full potential, but I don’t. Very few of the features are actually used. I finally downloaded music to the internal storage device, but even now I don’t listen to them, going with Pandora (streaming audio) on a regular basis. The 8 megapixel camera is nice, but the picture quality is not great. I think my son uses the camera more than I do. If I want to take pictures, then I will use my digital camera, not a phone.

It’s nice to have Internet access and a ability to turn the phone sideways, but problems arise. A majority of the time when I change how I view the phone, it will restart. The operating system must sense a problem and it shuts down and reboots. This happens 5-10 times a day! A day! Even attempt to use the touch screen to enter a phone number, a text message or a URL and the phone does it’s own thing.

There are also far to many applications that come pre-installed I don’t want on my phone and unfortunately you can’t completely delete these useless bloatware. I did look into “rooting” the Droid X, but I was not about to spend more time attempting to fix the phone illegally to get it work correctly. Nor should I have to run third party applications to stop unnecessary processes from running in the background.

My wife continues to say I should have taken it back months ago, when I bought it and traded it in for a new one. Guess this could teach me a lesson in actually buying the insurance, then I could literally break the phone and get a new one, no questions asked. In reality it could just be a lemon, it happens especially these days with technology moving as fast as it is.

At this point I won’t put any more effort into talking with Verizon or attempting to find a solution to my problem. I picked up a $10 Blackberry Curve yesterday off EBay, add $5.99 for shipping. You can’t beat a $15.99 smart phone that is a proven winner. I say proven because the Curve was a very good upgrade from the 8703 I had previously.

Sorry Motorola, guess it will take a few upgrades in the Droid X to see a better, more reliable product on the market. Chances are I won’t go back to a phone of this type in the future.

Progress Report: T6F

Progress! I have made some good headway in updating content here on the site. Thankfully I have found a treasure trove of great news from way back, we’re talking 1999-2001. I know many don’t give a rat’s ass about this news, which is archaic. But what is great is the fact I still have much of the content from The 6th Floor when I first brought it to the Internet.

Over the course of the last 3 days I have been busying updating links and images, moving news and adding categories and tags to all my posts. So while it doesn’t look like much has been accomplished (in the way of new news), quite a bit has been updated. I still find it rather hard to believe this I have what I liken to a diary since 1999. Sure much of the news I brought out early on was strictly game related and it was much that way until 2005!

Thankfully I am able to combine the old with the new and create a unique experience for anyone who visits. While I am not sure to what length I will go to when it comes to old content, posts will be included, I doubt many (if any) of the links included will even be valid.

So again, thanks to all those who stop by. I continue to post content, almost daily and for the most part I am back on track with the web site.