Friday, 25 November 2016


I know I am late to the game on this but I have just discovered Podcasts.  I was going on a trip and wanted something to listen to on the plane just in case my flight had no TV/movies available.  My iPhone has a podcast player so while I was at home on wifi I went in and started to do some searching for Ham Radio.  I found a few different sources on various topics so I downloaded a bunch to my phone as well as one that I knew was good that was not ham radio related.  The first leg of the trip was a very short (Ottawa to Toronto) 50 minutes so I just listened to a podcast.  I enjoyed it very much and proceeded to listen for the duration of my 7+ hours of travel.  I did the same on the return trip as I was totally hooked.  Not all podcasts are created equal, for sure, and some I listened to, although possibly full of interesting information, were difficult to listen to as the presenters were seemingly unprepared or simply just not very good at presenting.  

There are two main types of Ham Radio podcasts I found.  One type has the presenter speak on a number of topics.  These were OK but lacked the breadth of knowledge and experiences that come with the second type of Amateur radio podcasts I found which is in the format of presenters interviewing guests.  This format, depending on the guest, is far more informative and captivating.  Listening to these podcasts made my travel time pass by quickly and painlessly.  The first podcast I got hooked onto is the QSO Radio Show.  This Podcast is not only a podcast but is also a short wave broadcast.  The program is hosted by Ted Randall (WB8PUM) and co-host David Klimkowski (KG4WXW).  Ted is a broadcaster/engineer by profession so the program is very professional and quite informative.  The guests interviewed ranged from manufacturers of Ham Radio equipment, ARRL Engineers, the CQ magazine Editor and many more.  There are advertisements at various points throughout the podcast from his show sponsors which is to be expected.  The podcasts are usually about 2 hours in length.  

Another enjoyable podcast I found was the QSO Today podcast hosted and prepared by Eric Guth (4Z1UG).  What he does is choose a notable amateur operator as a guest and then proceed to ask them a host of questions, generally the same from show to show.  The carefully chosen questions evoke great discussion and result in 90% of the talk being provided by the guest.  The topics discussed are quite varied and the guests come from far and wide.  The audio quality from the guests is sometimes not the best as Skype is used and the surroundings at the guest's location of the line cannot be controlled.  This is soon forgotten once the discussion begins and I am enveloped by the content.  This is by far my favourite ham radio podcast.

Another type of podcast is the deep technical "work bench" type discussions found in podcasts like Ham Radio 360.  Some of their podcasts are the "work bench" style while others are more guest discussion based.  Both are very informative and some are multiple hours long.  These are great for gaining insight into how various things work such as Oscilloscopes but at an in-depth level.

Another, less time involving but equally valuable, type of podcast is the short "Quote of the Day" or QOTD podcasts provided by The Morse Resource and Steve Conklin (AI4QR) that are sent in Morse code at various speeds,  The actual quotations are provided courtesy of The Quotations Page.   The podcasts last a few minutes and are great for working at improving your Morse receive skills. 

I am so glad to have found podcasts albeit years after they have become popular.  I also listen to some non-ham radio related podcasts and there are thousands out there to choose from.  You can subscribe to them as well which means that you always have the latest podcasts ready to download.  Make sure your player settings are such that you only download these shows when you are connected to wifi.  Do yourself a favour.  If you haven't checked out this medium, have a listen with your favourite podcast player or even just from your PC.  You won't be disappointed.

Cheers and thanks,
de Scott ve3vvf

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Tower Up

My last post described my bat dilemma.  Since then the bat guy did his thing by sealing up all the openings in my soffit/roof line/windows with clear caulking and installing an exit tube for the bats to leave but not re-enter.  A few weeks later I was at home during a weekday working on the TV tower I was planning to put up for my 2M antenna, a TV antenna and as an anchor point for my fan dipole for HF.  I got it used for $50 and was quite pleased with that.  I had taken the rust off one of the sections and had painted all 4 sections.  I had 3 sections connected as that would take me up to the 2nd floor facia so I could attach it to the house.  I was trying to figure out how to get it up there on my own when I don't even own an extension ladder and my metal roof is extremely slippery.  Just then bat guy showed up to remove the bat tube and touch up the caulking.  He said to put the 4th section on and he'd help me walk the tower up.  I said 4 sections is extremely heavy but he insisted.  He went about his business with the house while I attached the top section to the tower on the ground.  When he was ready I said "Are you sure?  It's very heavy!".  He said "I work with 40 ' ladders all the time.  It'll be no problem."  I said Ok and got to the base to hold it in place.  He picked up the tower at the top section and walked it up.  I could see in his face that it was heavier than he expected but he powered through and got it up.  I was super pleased.  Then he put his ladder up to the facia and attached one of the brackets and the U-bolts finger tight.  This held the tower in place and I took care of the rest of the tightening and adding the second bracket.  I could not have been happier.

Now that I had my tower up and bolted to the house I had to think of how I would get the antennas installed.   I had gone up to the top of the tower and it was quite high but the height is not what worried me.  What worried me was the unsteadiness of the tower.  The problem with a used tower is that the bolt holes where the sections join get stretched over time so the tower is not as rigid as it should be.  I could stand on the ground and move the tower with my hands even though it was anchored and bolted to the facia.  I needed more support.  After speaking with another, more experienced, ham, VA3RDC, I knew what I needed to do to support the tower.  I got three 32" pieces of angle steel from Home Depot and lag bolted one to the wall of the house as an anchor.  Then I U-bolted the other 2 pieces to either side tower legs and attached the end of each of them to the anchor piece.  The tower was now rock solid.  Time to install the antennas.

I had the mounting pole (EMT) with 2 antennas on it and my plan had been to raise it up and install it as one unit.  I had the TV antenna pointed the correct directions (2 bays) and I had my 2M 5-element beam pointed, hopefully, to the repeater in the city 70km away.  This pole didn't seem too heavy on the ground until you try and raise it over your head as I would have to do to insert it into the top of the tower.  This was going to be a challenge.  I got my harness and climbed to the top to test how this was going to work as I would need 2 free hands to install this pole.  Figuring I had no other choice I contacted a local power pole company that has bucket trucks.  Since it was a Sunday I left them a message on their website.  Thinking about the task at hand some more I realized that I really just needed to take the antennas off the pole and attach them afterwards.  I did this and the pole installation was super easy.  I installed it with just 2 feet showing above the top of the tower.  I then raised up the TV antenna and installed it which was pretty easy since it attaches with wingnuts and the brackets are easily hooked in place with 1 hand.  We tested the reception with the TV and made some final adjustments on the pointing of it.   I then raised the pole another few feet so I could install my 2M beam.  Again installation was quite easy with wingnuts and clamps easily manipulated with one hand.  I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't be able to key the repeater from this far away with only 50W but when I tested it the repeater came to life on the first try.  I guess my compass pointing was pretty good.  From 70km away it doesn't take much of a move of the antenna to be off target.

Now all that's left is to install the pulley on the tower where I'm going to feed the rope for one end of my fan dipole from.  I may, now that I have the real estate, try an inverted L or something like that for 80M or 160M.  It's time to get that done now before it gets too cold.

Cheers es 72

Tuesday, 30 August 2016


I have lived in the country for years and it is my first choice because of the peace and quiet as well as the plethora of birds and other wildlife.  This new old home I'm living in now, however, has provided my first experience with bats.  I mean, I have always enjoyed watching the bats fly around at dusk gobbling up mosquitos but I have never had to deal with bats actually in my living space.  On 2 occasions in the same week we had a bat in our main floor bathroom.  After some research and a visit from a local bat removal company it turns out that the bats that were in my attic can make their way down the inside of the walls during the hot weather finding themselves in the basement...not by choice.  Once in the cellar they find any opening they can to escape.  A 3/4 inch hole was all they needed to get into the bathroom.  The question now is how to get them out of my attic?  

The job involves many cases of clear caulking and the sealing of every nook and Gap all around the roof and windows.  This includes the ridge of the metal roof and all the soffit gaps.  This is a job that, in my case, will take all day.  What the company also does is install exit tubes where the bats have been entering and exiting.  This will allow the bats to get out but not back in.  The tubes stay in place for a couple of weeks to ensure all the bats are out.  Then the tubes are removed and the final holes sealed up.  The Little Brown Bat is suffering a serious decline as a result of white nose syndrome.  This is the main reason for this method of extraction which doesn't kill any of the bats. 

Once the house is sealed up you need to ensure that it remains sealed year after year as the bats are imprinted on the house and will always attempt to return to it to live.  I would prefer they did not.  The company doing this job is a general critter removal company but they specialize in bat removal and have over 18 years experience doing so.  I'll be happy to have this completed today so I can properly lag my TV tower to the attic wall when I install it in a couple of weeks.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Hallicrafters S-38

I was out combing some of the area's antique shops with my better half on Sunday looking for anything BUT ham radio related items when I stumbled upon a boat anchor.  As soon as I saw the name Hallicrafters I got all excited.  I didn't know what the S-38 was but I knew that at the price of $15 it was worth a gamble.

I have looked it up and found a lot of information on restoring that radio.  I'm excited to be working with tubes again.  I learned them when I was in Radio Technician training in the military but never actually used it in practice.  This will also be my first boat anchor if you don't count the HW-8 I started out on many years ago.  I am very excited to start this winter project...get that soldering iron going.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Make the time

Wow I haven't posted since February!  That's what happens when you decide to move.    Packing and removing antennas and all that sort of thing really puts a dent in your operating time.  We have moved to a larger place about 20 minutes away from our old place.  This is a good thing.  The place is larger and closer to my pipe band practices.  It also means that my shack is on the second floor now instead of the basement.  I'm looking forward to that for sure.  I don't have anything set up in the shack just yet because there are so many other "house" things we have been busy at.  Minor renovations and painting seem to take a lot of my spare time lately...that and pipe band.  I do have a TV tower coming next week so that will be a start allowing me to get my VHF antenna up as well as a place to string my wire fan dipole from.  I hope I will be able to hit the VE3ORF repeater from my place with just 50W.

There's no rush on the tower work, of course, because as with most hams I'll likely leave that tower work to November when I'll need to wear gloves.  There's so much to do in a "new" house.  It's 100+ yrs old so it's not new...just new to me.  You always want to make a place your own and our place is no exception.  We have just under 2 acres and in the very center of the back yard is a monster weeping willow.  I may use it to anchor one end of my wire antenna however I'll likely need to use a pulley and counter weight system because I'll bet it will sway in the wind substantially.

I'm looking forward to getting my first contacts from the new QTH so I really should get going on it. I think the best plan is to take a week off in October and get it all sorted out.  As I've learned over the years, it's not about finding time for this's about MAKING time for this hobby.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Thumbs Up for QRP

I was reading recently about some old military radios that only put 5w out but the radios were huge.  It got me thinking about QRP and its operators.  The great thing about this hobby is that even within a sub group such as QRP there are further subdivisions.  There are the backpack/outdoor operators operating Altoids tin radios from a 9v battery and boat anchor enthusiasts whose tubes keep the shack comfortably warm.  One is low power as in not a lot of power consumed and the other is low power out of a rather large army radio using quite a bit of power in the process.  Technology has come a long way from the invention of the tube to the invention of the transistor and then as the years passed there has been the packing of these transistors into chips.  Now we are at the point, with Software-Defined Radio, where micro processors do almost all of the work that hardware used to do.  Add to all this the digital modes that have been designed to use very low power and operate almost in the noise floor.  Whether it's old, newer or newest or somewhere in between, QRPers love a challenge.  We are always looking for the most efficient battery or best gain antenna or the most portable set up all in an effort to compensate for the low power being transmitted.  I think it really fosters the Marconi in all of us as we try this or that to get the best results in an effort to get the most out of the least.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Nice Website for Crypto Geeks

I stumbled upon a website recently that I found extremely intriguing.  It is an online or virtual museum of Cryptographic equipment over the years.  The museum is based in the Netherlands and contains a large number of physical examples of crypto gear.  These are accompanied by in depth explanations of history and use among other things.  I have only had a short time so far to browse the site but there is much to see.  Although the museum is just on the web, they have had exhibits or their collection displayed over the years for the public to see.

Not all crypto gear is radio related, of course, but I know there are many amateur radio enthusiasts who are interested in this sort of thing.  I hope some of you find this site interesting.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Antenna Project

I often talk about operating in the field again.  I used to do it quite a bit.  I loved setting up in a park at a picnic table whether it be winter or summer.  It was a great way to spend an evening or afternoon.  I also used to go camping and set up an antenna for the weekend operating at will.  It was lots of fun.  Before we know it priorities change, hobbies change and we sometimes find that we can no longer "find" the time to do the fun things we used to do.  One needs to "make" time for these things and stop making excuses.  I spend a lot of time in the summer going to Highland Games or pipe band practice and I really enjoy it but as a result playing radio has taken a back seat.  This summer I vow to operate outdoors even if it's in my own back yard.  It's not like it takes a lot of time out of the day.  An hour on Sunday mornings or in the early evening shouldn't be hard to set aside.

I think what I will do as an operating position is to try the vertical buddipole style of antenna suspended from a rope in a tree.  Two Hamstick-style antennas and the appropriate bracket is all that's required and I can leave it up if I operate on the back patio.  Here is a good page showing the set up and some results achieved by W3ATT.  I will start with one band, say 20M, and perhaps 30M 17 or 12 as I like those very much...maybe 40M.  I can't decide but either way I look forward to trying it as soon as the snow starts to melt.

Cheers es 72 de Scott ve3vvf

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Knock Out Season

This winter season I decided to compete in local solo piping competitions called Knock Outs.  There have been two so far and in the 40+ category I have come first place both times...okay, I was the only 40+ competitor.  :o)  The first event which was held in November I had to play a Slow Air followed by a 4-parted 6/8 march.  I chose the tunes "Fair Jean" followed by "George Beley".  I practiced a lot and was nervous playing in front of my peers as well as some pretty advanced players.  luckily I got to go first so I got it over with.  My play went well and I didn't make any note errors.  Technique is the big challenge for beginning pipers as well as timing.  Steady blowing is always a concern at my level as well.  Had there been other 40+ pipers in the event and I had come last it would not have mattered as it's not about the placing so much as it is about the experience and the score sheet you get from the judge afterwards.  The score sheets are very detailed and, from the good judges, very constructive.  When you practice tunes over and over you know what your weak areas are so the score sheets usually don't contain too many surprises but every judge is different and they have different things they notice in any given tune.  I was pleased with my first Knock Out experience.

The second Knock Out for 40+ was held on January 9th and I was to play a 4-parted 2/4 march.  I chose the "Haughs of Cromdale".  I was a bit rusty as I was away on vacation over the Christmas break and had very little opportunity to practice.  I had just 1 week to knock the rust off the tune.  Again, I didn't make any glaring errors but I know I could have played better.  Nerves get to you when playing in front of people.  I finished first again as I was the only 40+ competitor.  It's a bit of a hollow victory but it's all about getting experience playing under pressure.

The finals for the Knock Outs are in March and I have to play a Medley.  I have chosen "Jack's Welcome Home", "Skye Boat Song" and "Lochanside".  I am looking forward to it however the audience will be about 4 times as large at least.  The nerves will be running high that evening but with no other 40+ competitors who have qualified I just need to get through the Medley without being disqualified.  Fingers crossed on that.

Here is a link to the brief write up about the Knock Out on the PPBSO website including a photo of the top 6 B grade pipers from the January Knock Out and myself on the right.