Here’s The Chawed Rag for March 2023. We’ve got some fun past and future events, an upcoming foxhunting milestone, a new Digital Voice mode for HF, an improvement for a Wolf River Coil, upcoming events, Bits & Bytes, and so much more. Hope you enjoy! – KD4C
As I type this, the HF bands are alive, DXpeditions are active, 6 Meters has been open several times, and 10 Meters is open most days to the early evening. Cycle 25 seems firmly in the upswing and early signs are that it might be better than average. So time to get those antenna projects in work!
Our Spring POTA Event was fun! We had 20 people and probably too many stations on the air, but we got some new hams behind the microphone and quite a few domestic and DX contacts with our simple park antennas. And you can do the same thing at home too!
As far as upcoming RWK Ham Activities, next up in April, we will be doing a group/team foxhunt again. It will be a bit more organized than the one last year, but hopefully just as fun and educational. If you’ve been wanting to get on the foxhunt train, then this will be a great time to learn how the experienced people do it.
I noticed the other day that Fox#1 is approaching 2000 log entries (actually it’s quite a bit more than that, since we didn’t count the entries when we had paper logs). And this number doesn’t include Wheatley. But still, 2000 finds is a lot of finds, and we should do something to celebrate the 2000th find (at least in the log system)! It should happen in the next couple of weeks. Wonder who it will be?
Ever needed a balun? If you’ve built any antennas, you probably did. Did you know that they are easy to build and that you can save a bunch of $ over buying prebuilt? Our friend John Portune W6NBC (of the slot antenna fame) will show us just how easy it is to select the parts and build your own at the April RWK General Meeting! I hope to see you there.
BTW, I’m still on a quest to get those unused DMR radios (from the 2019 hotspot era) back on the air on the K5RWK DMR repeater. I think we’ve gotten another four people with unused radios back on the DMR repeater to date. I know there are more of you out there, so dig those radios out of the drawer and get with me at an upcoming RWK Hungry Hams Lunch and I’ll try to help.
And speaking of showing how to do things, in addition to the Team Foxhunt in April, we’ve got some other fun educational things in the planning stage. Please stay tuned to this channel!
Thanks for being a RWK Member! – 73 de KD4C (feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please share any interesting ham-related stuff you’ve seen or have been doing. Doesn’t matter how raw or badly written, we’ll make you look good and help you show off what you’ve been doing – see the right column for details. With over 300 members, if everyone in the klub sent just one contribution to the Chawed Rag each year, we would have plenty of content for each issue.
This Month’s Chawed Rag Features
Team Foxhunting Event Coming In April
By Chip Coker KD4C
Our Group Foxhunt last April was a big hit, and got several new people into the foxhunting habit. This year, we want to repeat the activity but make some improvements. This year we’re going to break into teams and have a friendly competition. Teams will consist of at least one experienced hunter and also inexperienced/new prospective hunters. We will be hunting and teaching at the same time!
This will probably happen after the April Hungry Hams breakfast (3rd Saturday), weather-permitting, of course! So mark your calendars and dust off your foxhunting equipment.
If you need a refresher on Foxhunting (shameless plug), I spoke to the Metrocrest Amateur Radio Society (MARS) in Carrollton in January on “Getting Started with Foxhunting”. You can watch it here:
FreeDV – There’s A New HF Mode In Town
By Chip Coker KD4C
We’ve had Digital Voice modes on VHF for years, as well as other digital modes on HF that are very popular (FT-8/4, PSK, even RTTY). We’ve had Digital Broadcast TV since 2009 and digital satellite radio in cars since before that. But until now, we’ve still not managed to have wide success in bringing Digital Voice to the HF bands. Oh sure there were some pet projects a dozen or so years ago, but these were clunky and largely went overlooked by the masses.
Well the time might have finally come that we have a new Digital Voice mode on the HF bands – FreeDV is a low-bit-rate digital voice mode for HF radio. Initially developed by David Rowe, VK5DGR, an international team of radio amateurs are now working together on the project. The “free” in FreeDV is because it is open-source software (released under the GNU Lesser Public License (LPGL) version 2.1). The modems and Codec 2 speech codec used in FreeDV are also open source. That means that you can use it, tinker with it, and incorporate it into your projects. That also means that vendors can incorporate the software into their products, so there is hope of HF Transceivers in the future that incorporate FreeDV as a mode right next to (analog) SSB.
I won’t go into the details of the modulation (and I’m not sure I understand it – it involves 16 QPSK carriers), but suffice to say that (like other Digital Voice modes) it’s designed to take the full range of your voice, throw out the parts that don’t matter, and encode the rest into a low data-rate stream that can be sent in the space of a normal SSB channel. There are multiple “modes” with different sampling – all the way from narrow (for bad conditions) to wide (almost FM quality for good conditions). And as with other DV modes, there’s very little noise – you either hear the audio cleanly or you don’t. Here’s an example of what the FreeDV waveform looks like in the FreeDV software:
If you have a modern HF rig that has a built-in sound card interface (that you are probably already using for FT-8/4), then you have what you need for FreeDV. The FreeDV software will run on the same computer that you are using for WSJT-X (there are downloads for Windows/MacOS/Linux). If you are already on the HF data modes, this should take about 5 minutes to set up.
The only part that’s still a little clunky is that you use the computer for audio – you listen to the received audio on your computer speakers (instead of your radio speaker) and you speak your audio into the computer microphone (instead of the radio microphone). If that’s too clunky for you, someone is already making a stand-alone box that does all the FreeDV parts and accepts a microphone and speaker. If you have an SDR, there is already a plug-in for the popular SDR software packages, so you can start eavesdropping today! There is also an add-in for the FlexRadio package.
Who do you talk to? Well there are already some established net schedules for FreeDV, and calling/monitoring frequencies have been established for each band. There is also a spotting network for FreeDV and PSKreporter supports FreeDV as a reporting option.
I’m betting that, after some false starts in the past, Digital Voice finally takes hold on HF. It will make listening to atmospheric noise crashes a thing of the past, and might make 75 Meters tolerable again. It’s easy and “free” to get started and try it out. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
To find out more on FreeDV: https://freedv.org/
Here’s a brief install and brief operation overview:
Spring POTA Event for Techs and HF Beginners
By Chip Coker KD4C
RWK POTA events have been fairly popular, and recently someone suggested that we have a POTA event focused on getting Technicians and those that are HF-challenged at home on the air. So that’s what we did on March 17th. It was a bit cold to start but turned out to be an excellent day. We had 5 (maybe 6) stations on the air at various points – that was probably too many since everyone wanted to be on 10 Meters! We had 20 RWK Members that operated, including three members that had been licensed less than 2 weeks. One brand new technician (who was tested by the RWK VE Team 5 days earlier at the March RWK General Meeting), made his first contact ever as a ham on 10M at the park!
Thanks to everyone that brought equipment as well as the members that participated! We will be having another POTA event soon.
Are You An Older RWK Member That Needs Help With Antenna Work?
It’s finally spring, and for most of us that means time to repair or improve our antennas. But that can be a challenge for some of our older members that don’t have the ability to climb or get on the roof like they once could. If this is you, we would like to help.
We will be soliciting people that have specific projects that need to be done, and we will attempt to put together some informal teams to get those tasks done (let us know if you want to help).
Here’s what you need to do: You need to assemble all the parts of the project. If you need coax replaced, you need to have the new coax already tested and terminated. If you need an antenna repaired, you need to have all the tools and parts (or a replacement) ready to go as well as anything needed to climb (ladder, etc.). The team cannot be “go-fers” to get parts at the last minute.
We will try to find 1-2 people that can serve as your “hands on the roof”. Due to work schedules, this will probably be on the weekend, but too early to tell. And depending on the demand it might be a few weeks to get to your project.
So get your project organized, get to HRO and buy whatever parts you need, and we’ll help you make it happen, so you can get on the air this Spring!
Improving the Wolf River Coil
by Mike Jahrig KG5P
I bought a 40-10 meter Wolf River Coil vertical antenna at the last Ham-Com about 3 years ago. I have forgotten what I paid for it, but it was less than the current price of $130. To be truthful, I have been very disappointed with this antenna. The tuning mechanism is a cheap stainless steel spring clip mounted inside a 2-inch slice of PVC pipe. You are supposed to tune it by sliding the little clip up and down the coil windings, hoping you can find a low SWR somewhere. If you are lucky and succeed, don’t sneeze! If you do and measure again, you will find the SWR is now above 11:1. Don’t get me started on the flimsy tripod. When you sneeze, it will be lying on the ground.
Bob Hill KG5WRY, wrote about a low cost quick deploy portable antenna in the February 2023 Chawed Rag. So I decided to cannibalize the aforementioned Wolf River Coil vertical and see what I had in my junk box plus whatever I could scrounge up to improve this nightmare.
Upcoming Ham Radio Events
These ham radio related events are coming up soon.
Belton Spring Ham Expo – Sat Apr 15th 7am-1pm
Belton in spring is probably the highlight of our DFW hamfest season. Get there early to find the big bargains.
Texas State Parks on the Air – Sat-Sun Apr 15-16th
Those not going to Belton should pack up and get out to a park for the biggest POTA event in Texas. https://www.tspota.org/
DFW Ham Expo – Sat June 3rd 9am-3pm
At Vista Mall – Lewisville TX. Dallas – Fort Worth – Denton’s Newest Hamfest is back for a second year. Join us in Lewisville on June 3rd 2023. Lots of tables + outside tailgate area + great prizes. We’ll see ya there! https://www.dfwhamexpo.com/
Chawed Rag Pic of the Month
So recently I was watching CBS11 late news and they were celebrating their “partnership” with the NWS for the recent Weather Spotting session in Garland (some of you may have remembered me beating the drum about it 🙂 ). CBS11 showed some crowd footage and Buddy KF5LJD and his wife Latreece were in the audience. We have a new TV star as an RWK member!
Ham Radio Bits & Bytes
Put a 10 Meter Antenna In Your Attic
10 Meters is jumping for the (hopefully) next few years, thanks to Cycle 25. If you are a Tech or if you live in an HOA-restricted home or apartment (yes, apartment), you can easily put up a 10M antenna in your attic or patio. The antenna is small enough but will still work just fine. Our friend Callum M0MCX does the calculations for you.
Ham Radio Go Kit Challenge 2023
A few of us were busy having a POTA event and missed the Go Kit Challenge that DCARA sponsored on March 17th in Highland Village. K8MRD came up and videoed the event. You *might* recognize a few faces in the video…
The Recent 3Y0J DXpedition
Many of you tried (and probably failed) to work the long sought-after recent 3Y0J Bouvet Island DXpedition. I know there was lots of disappointment in the DX community, but maybe this teaser video will show just how stark the conditions were and to what extreme the team went to get equipment on shore and set up…
Last Month’s Program
Last Month we had “Choosing the Right Field Antenna” by Tom Witherspoon K4SWL. Tom runs QRPer.com, a website specifically devoted to field radio.
If you missed last month’s (or any previous) RWK General Meeting, you can always watch the video available from the RWK website.
You can always view the RWK Calendar to see our monthly events.
RWK New Members
We have several new members for the month, including some new hams that our VE Team tested recently. If you see them at RWK events or hear them on our repeaters, please say hello.
Paul Smith W0PDS
David Isaak N5PDR and his grandson Mitch Isaak KI5YNW
William Ruatta KI5IZD
Bob Bonner KI5ZSU
RWK Membership – 334 Active Members
To check your renewal date and Renew your RWK Membership, go to https://www.hamclubonline.com/ and select Pay Club Dues from the menu.
RWK Hats Are Back!
We have a new supply of the popular RWK Hats. They are available at any Hungry Hams lunch or you can order from the website and we will mail it to you!
The Klub has a few ham assets available for sale to Klub members at a deep discount. Please email email@example.com if interested. Have something to sell? Send a short description, photo, and offer price to us.
RWK holds at least one foxhunt every weekend and many weekends there are two foxes available to hunt. A monthly prize drawing is held for klub members that successfully find the fox.
You can always “watch” the hunt in real time by viewing the foxhunt logs:
To read more about foxhunts and learn some hunting tips, see our foxhunt page: https://www.k5rwk.org/foxhunt/
We always have a good group for our weekly Hungry Hams Lunches every Weds at noon at Sonny Bryan’s BBQ on Campbell at UTD. Why not join us?
Don’t forget about the Hungry Hams Monthly Breakfast every third Saturday at 8am at Southern Recipes Kitchen on Plano Parkway.
Share Your Activities In The Chawed Rag
The RWK is always looking for content to publish in The Chawed Rag. If you have an article, technical subject, project or fun story you would like to contribute, please submit it to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To submit an article to the Editor for consideration, please put your article into a single Word Document, or if that is not possible, collect all of your article’s components into a folder and create a zip archive of all of it. Then simply email the Word Doc or zip file to email@example.com.
Need to Renew Your ARRL Membership?
If you are joining the ARRL for the first time, the RWK is entitled to $15 of your ARRL dues, and if you renew your ARRL membership, the RWK is entitled to $5.
You now can just apply directly on the ARRL website (instead of filling on a paper form). When you apply (or renew), there will be a place on the application form for you to designate the Richardson Wireless Klub as your primary club. If you do that, then RWK gets the money that we are entitled to. (this change is effective June 1 2022) Web renewals with club is still in work at ARRL
Here’s the link to join/renew your ARRL Membership: https://home.arrl.org/action/Membership/Join-ARRL
Interested in Helping the Klub?
The Klub needs YOU! We are looking for members that want to help with the following:
- Website content updates
- Ham Activities (Field Day and Public Service events)
- New Ham Coordinator
- Foxhunt Data Administrator
Contact KD4C for more information.
Support RWK by Buying Stuff!
We are members of Kroger Community Rewards, so if you shop at Kroger, we can get $! Here is information on how to sign up.
The Chawed Rag
A monthly publication of the Richardson Wireless Klub, PO Box 830232, Richardson TX 75083. The Club Callsign is K5RWK.
Original content from this newsletter is Copyright 2023 by the Richardson Wireless Club and the bylined author(s). Content may be reused by other Amateur Radio organizations with appropriate credit, notification (to the Editor), and source linkage.
Contributions are welcome – please send material to firstname.lastname@example.org
President – Chip Coker KD4C
Vice-President – Bob Perkins W5RLP
Secretary – Josh Barfield N4NZ
Treasurer – Michael Masterson WT9V
Trustee – Andrew Koenig KE5GDB
Activities – Bob Hill KG5WRY
Public Service – Don Klick KG5CK
Education – Shawn Prestridge KI5PXG
Quartermaster – Jon Suehiro NN5T
Past President – Mark Beebe W5YF
Meetings of the Board of Directors are held monthly on the first Thursday of the month and are open to any member in good standing of the club. Please contact any club officer if you would like to attend.