Here’s The Chawed Rag for April 2023. We’ve got Earth and Space Weather, a foxhunt milestone, 6 Meters, HamClock, a new RWK learning series, expanding your POTA antenna to 40M, time sync for portable FT-8, group foxhunt fun, and so much more. Hope you enjoy! – KD4C
Spring has definitely sprung here in beautiful downtown Richardson, and it seems like we are having weekly severe weather events (and seems like always on Thursday nights). If you listen to the RWK Repeater during weather, you might hear SKYWARN Nets – this is trained hams doing severe weather spotting in the Richardson area, to aid the City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Fort Worth/Dallas NWS Office. We are primarily looking for weather that can cause damage to people or property – hail, damaging winds, and tornados or the makings of tornados. If you hear a SKYWARN net (you can tell by the short same note “beep beep” tone when the 147.12 repeater is “net” mode), you are welcome to listen. And if you observe damaging weather in the Richardson area, you can report it to the net (please listen closely to the Net Control Station – they will always announce what weather reports they are interested in receiving), but if you don’t have anything to report, then please standby and listen. If you are interested in weather, you are encouraged to get training from the NWS as a Weather Spotter. If you want to join our SKYWARN/RACES program here in Richardson, visit the RACES page and read the qualifications and requirements, then let us know.
I mentioned last month that Fox#1 was 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). Still, 2000 finds is a lot of finds, and I’m happy to announce that Brian WB8QZM has put Fox#1 over the 2000 finds mark. Congratulations Brian, and thanks for being such a dedicated Foxhunter. We’re now on the way towards 3000!
Your ever-vigilant Board of Directors has started discussing Field Day 2023 (Field Day is always the last full weekend in June). Our initial position is that we will do something similar to the past few years – operate Class 3F out of the Richardson EOC. That has worked out well for us and people have seemed to enjoy it, so why mess up a good thing! If you’re new to Field Day, it is arguably Ham Radio’s biggest on-the-air event, with more than 40,000 participants in the US – the bands are always packed. It’s always a great way to experience the HF bands if you’re a Technician or if you don’t have a home station. Mark your calendar now!
Also new to the calendar this month is “QRV Tech” – a new RWK educational series, starting on May 18th. I’ve always wanted to add something a bit more technical to the RWK calendar – something that probably wouldn’t appeal to a full General Meeting audience – and has the potential of being “hands-on” or a build project. Luckily I’ve
twisted the arm of convinced Shawn KI5PXG to organize and lead the series, and I’m excited to finally reveal it to the RWK masses! Read more below!
Finally, if you are an ARRL Member (and I hope that you are), they are facing some potential dues increases (as a reminder, ARRL Dues have not increased in many years) to account for cost increases, especially in postage and print/paper. They are conducting a member survey throughout the month of May – you must be a current ARRL member and you must log in to the ARRL website to participate. Among the things being discussed is separating ARRL dues from the QST subscription. I personally think that is a horrible idea but you may have a different opinion! As I have mentioned previously, the cost of ARRL Membership (while significant) is on par with the cost of the other major Ham Radio magazine (CQ), and in addition to QST you get all the other member benefits, all while supporting the national organization. I can probably withstand a dues increase as long as the ARRL is also taking steps to run itself more efficiently (which is also needed). At any rate, if you’re an ARRL member, please watch for the survey invite and make your opinion known!
Thanks for being a RWK Member! – 73 de KD4C (feedback: email@example.com)
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.
Check ARRL Club and Weekly
This Month’s Chawed Rag Features
Spring Solar Excitement and Anticipated 6 Meters Openings
By Chip Coker KD4C
Well April has certainly been an interesting month for Solar events! Our normal (of late) fantastic propagation from the build-up to Cycle 25 has been interrupted by at least 2 CME events – one was at least a G4 level – that have really played havoc with the HF bands. We forget, but these are normal occurrences with heightened solar cycles.
Hopefully things will settle down to their normal, excited levels soon, where we still can enjoy worldwide propagation on a (mostly) daily basis on the high bands! If you’re interested in this kind of thing, I urge you to watch Dr. Tamitha Skov (the Space Weather Woman) on YouTube.
Also, it’s about time for the “Magic Band” to take off for Spring 2023. We’ve had at least 2 early previews of 6 Meter openings so far, but May is usually when 6 Meters starts getting interesting and the opportunities for DX or chasing WAS or grid squares start appearing. So dust off the 6 Meter part of your HF radio, and check out and spruce up your 6 Meter antenna(s) and start checking PSK reporter (or your alert service of choice) for daily 6 Meter openings. It’s Magic!
If you need a refresher on 6 Meters, let me remind you that Jim Wilson K5ND spoke to the club a year ago. He has some tips for 6 Meters and you should (re)watch it. He even has a free book on the subject (Capturing the Magic of Six Meters) that you should read.
HamClock – A Shack’s Best Friend
By Chip Coker KD4C
What if I told you that there was once a big wall-mounted device (called a GeoChron) that cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, and that many hams coveted it as the ultimate shack accessory. And what if I told you that said GeoChron gave you an up-to-date DX map of the world and showed light/dark areas, sun position, and grey line, and was the first thing a non-ham noticed when walking into a ham’s shack for the first time, getting “oohs and aahs”. Now, what if I told you that, instead of having to buy a big expensive gadget, all that capability and much much more is now available in a single piece of software, and that software is FREE and runs on a Raspberry Pi. So now for $15 (Raspberry Pi Zero) and a bring-your-own HDTV or computer monitor, you can have the ultimate shack accessory!
This software is packed with so many helpful features that I’m going to have a hard time describing them all here. First, in addition to a Local or UTC clock, it’s a real-time Map of the World, that shows sunlight position and illumination, and the current position of the “grey line”. Second, it displays information about your selected “DX” station, including position, grid square, short path and long path range and rotor bearing, current weather, and time. Third, it has helpful “widgets” for propagation (SFI, Sunspots, Planetary K, DRAP, Sun imaging – pretty much any propagation related statistic. Fourth, it can monitor and display live spots from the DX cluster and POTA and your spots from PSK Reporter. Fifth, it has built-in orbital predictions to show when your favorite ham satellites are going to be overhead. Plus, you can view and control the entire display in a web browser on your network (if you have the big image on a wall HDTV). Oh and did I mention that the software has a full API so you can control it from other software (more on this later)? Now I’m exhausted from trying to describe the features, and I’m sure I missed some.
Now surely by now you’re asking “how can I get such a thing?” Well, the hardest part is getting your hands on a Raspberry Pi. A Raspberry Pi Zero will work just fine, and they have been available every other week at MicroCenter – You will have to be diligent and check the website. You will also need a MicroSD card (also available at MicroCenter). The process is fairly simple, even if you’ve never done much with a Raspberry Pi: 1) Install Raspberry Pi OS with a desktop (there are a bunch of YouTubes on how to do this), and 2) go to the HamClock page, select the “Desktop” tab, and follow the easy instructions. The User Guide is fully documented so you can figure out all the things that you can configure and click on!
Because this is Linux, I will warn you now that it’s not the usual Microsoft “double click the installer” app – there are some “command line” instructions (I think a total of 4). Do not let this scare you off! The result is worth it to have this on your shack wall. I recommend that you just run it “full screen” and just use the built-in HDMI out of the Pi (you might need an adapter) and just pump the display into a wall-mounted HDTV or a spare computer monitor with an HDMI input. But you can also just stick the Pi under the desk and run it in a browser window, through a VNC session, or on a small dedicated display.
Oh, and I mentioned a fully scriptable interface. After a small mention and prompting from me, Josh N4NZ created a small NodeRed flow to take the “double-click” station from WSJT-X, harvest the Grid Square, and send it to HamClock. So now when you click on a station calling CQ on FT-8, the HamClock map will then set the DX on the display and you will see the path, range and bearing, etc. That’s both cool and helpful. This part is a little more involved than the basic install, but if you understood the previous sentences in this paragraph, talk to one of us after you get HamClock up and running!
Learn How to Use An Oscilloscope with RWK!
By Chip Coker KD4C
It started with a semi-random question at a recent RWK Meeting “How do you use an Oscilloscope for Ham Radio?“. We had a donated scope that RWK was giving away, and some members don’t know how to use such a useful piece of Test Equipment. So we’re here to help!
Shawn KI5PXG is kicking off an new Education Series for RWK – We’re calling it “QRV Tech” (h/t to Don KG5CK). It will be (mostly) monthly, usually on the third week of the month (check the calendar). We will start out on Zoom but we have plans to get together in person when there is a “build” type project.
The goal for the QRV Tech series is primarily education – teaching something new to those that are interested – but we plan on building things too (as part of the learning). We realize that not everyone will be interested in each subject (which is why we’re not making them presentations for General Meetings) – we’re aiming for 10-20 people or so each session.
Our topics will range from test equipment to microcontrollers to SDRs to antennas. After the scope tutorial in May, the next event is a planned Balun build as part of Field Day (you were paying attention to John Portune W6NBC at the April Meeting, weren’t you?). This series is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m grateful to Shawn for taking it on and leading it. We both hope that you enjoy and learn! QRV Tech?
(If you have a suggestion of something that you’d like us to cover, please let Shawn or me know)
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 assemble some informal teams to get those tasks done.
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 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.
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!
Add 40M to your Cheap POTA Vertical
by Bob Hill KG5WRY
In a previous article I wrote about a low cost quick deploy portable antenna (in the February 2023 Chawed Rag). I described building the telescoping 16.5 foot vertical antenna and the ground spike mount. The antenna works great on bands 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meters. This is great for daytime radio, but I wanted to play radio at night which means 40 meters. What I needed was a base loading coil to tune the antenna into the 40 meter region.
Taking a guess, I choose to load a 10 foot vertical antenna for 7.2 MHz, with a 2 inch (outer diameter of 1.75 inch PVC) diameter coil. The website “66pacific.com” has useful calculators for Hams. I used the “Coil-Shortened Vertical Antenna Calculator”to find the inductance needed to load the antenna. The calculated value came to around 10 uH of inductance.
Next I used the “Coil Inductance Calculator” from 66pacific to determine the number of turns of wire to achieve 10 uH inductance. I used a length of 1 inch for the the coil form and 2 inches for the diameter of the form. I walked in the number of turns needed until I got close to 10 uH of inductance. This turned out to be 14 turns of wire.
For the construction of the coil, I used 1-3/4 “ ID PVC and 12 gauge magnet wire. Each end of the coil was capped with a PVC cap. Each cap has a 3/8”x24 bolt for connection. To find the center of the PVC cap, I printed out a center-finder tool (see photo). The coil was wound on the PVC pipe and the ends captured between stainless steel washers (see picture). A 3/8” x 24 coupler is added to one end of the coil to accept the antenna. The SWR plot of the antenna is good enough to get the antenna on the air. With this coil, I am now ready to run “Late Shift” POTA.
How To Sync Your PC Time For POTA Operation
by Chip Coker KD4C
We’ve all seen how easy it is to set up and operate out in the field using the low cost quick deploy portable antenna and using battery power and portable radios. But that only gets you SSB and CW. What if the bands aren’t great and you want to work FT-8? You’ll need a PC, but more importantly, you’ll need a PC with accurate time!
FT-8 works on synchronized transmission cycles – some stations transmit in the first 13 seconds (of the minute) and another set replies from seconds 15-28. Then the cycle repeats. One of the benefits of the mode is the knowledge of when stations will be transmitting. All this requires an accurate clock (and given that the WSJT-X software runs on the computer), that means that the computer clock must be accurate. Just how accurate, you ask? According to the mode specs, you need to be within =/- 500 milliseconds of standard time (1/2 second). Sometimes that can be tough to achieve with a computer that been connected to the internet recently. GPS to the rescue!
There are several inexpensive GPS devices that have USB ports. With the proper software, these devices can be used not only to accurately detect your position, but to set your computer’s clock (much more accurately than is needed for FT-8). The picture above shows such a device that I’ve used to set a laptop clock within just a few seconds. There are several sync programs available but the one that I used is BktTimeSync (shown below). It’s free and available here: https://www.maniaradio.it/en/bkttimesync.html
Just install the software and connect the GPS “dongle”. The driver for the GPS should install automatically, after which the GPS device will show up as a “COMx” port (you can open Device Manager if you don’t know which port number). Once you select the correct COM port in the software and select “connect”, the clock should update in less than a minute (check the status messages in the software). Now you’re ready for portable FT-8!
Upcoming Ham Radio Events
These ham radio related events are coming up soon.
Dayton Hamvention – May 19-21
The premiere Hamfest experience! Greene County Fair and Expo Center in Xenia, Ohio. Every ham should go at least once. 32,000+ Hams can’t be wrong.
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
On the recent RWK Group Foxhunt, Al Alexander KN5EEE spotted the fox while a passenger in the car driving by at speed. Brian WB8QZM submits the following pic:
“Eagle-eyed Al Alexander, KN5EEE, after spotting Wheatley the fox from a fast-moving fox mobile with his four-person hunting party Saturday, April 22. Wheatley was located next to Palisades on the southbound Highway 75 service road. Soon after, Al was also the first to spot a building sign matching the clue posted by the Fox1 fox master on the RWK Foxhunt Log. With Al along, who needs a radio to find those wily foxes?”
This also is an example why hunting as a team allows for safe driving while also keeping a lookout for the foxes and leaving more time for brunch. (Pic: Brian WB8QZM)
Ham Radio Bits & Bytes
Packaging a Balun
Okay, so after seeing John Portune W6NBC’s presentation about easy balun winding at the April RWK meeting, you’re thinking “How do I package it?” Well, here’s a simple scheme that works with simple materials available from your favorite builder’s supply store. Ignore his discussion of the previous balun’s failures and just replicate his packaging. Easy and will work well!
How Many Radials Do I Need For A Vertical?
I’ve heard this question (in some form) over and over. There are two answers, depending on whether the vertical is elevated or ground-mounted. If it’s elevated, you need at least 4 tuned radials spaced however you can arrange them. If the vertical is ground-mounted, then 8-16 short radials are good enough – spread them out as space allows around the antenna, but don’t be concerned that they are even in all directions. Here’s a short video from our friend Callum M0MCX explaining his thoughts on radials for the DX Commander:
HF Chat with VarAC
This just in from Danny K5CG: “If you might be interested in an easy to use HF chat QSO application, check out VarAC. It uses the VARA HF modem (or VARA FM) in a channelized fashion to chat on HF. If you already have VARA HF setup for Winlink it will take you all of 10 minutes to get on the air and answer some CQ calls. It only supports 500Hz channels so you can use the free version of VARA HF.”
Check 14.105MHz for activity and have a look at https://www.varac-hamradio.com for more information and to download the software.
Here is a good video that gives an overview.”
Last Month’s Program
Last Month we had “Making Ferrite Toroid Baluns for Dummies” with our friend John Portune W6NBC. Few hams know how to select a toroid and know how many turns on it to make a 1:1, 4:1 or 9:1 balun. The radio books are only confusing. John will present the 3 simple steps using very little math and a free on-line calculator. There is no mystery here.
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.
Ron Dang KI5ZQB
Faisal Reza N5TXD
Nayab Warach KI5YBE
Luca Thompson KI5ZEX
Yisroel Norman KJ5AWL
RWK Membership – 333 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 also 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 email@example.com
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.