Saturday, March 28, 2020

Welcome to my new Ham Radio Blog!

It's been a while since I put together a new blog. I forgot completely that I even HAD a Blogger account, and had to tell it to use the "new" Blogger. Then I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new domain, and let Google handle it. That way it doesn't impact my heavy-lifting domains on my private hosting. Besides, in this day of hackers and spammers and such, diversification of site hosting may be a good idea. If I don't like it, I'll move it later.

So what's this blog going to be for? Well, I've been posting most of my ham radio chatter in one of two places: On my MeWe profile, and on my biography page. It's practically impossible to easily link someone to a MeWe post, and the QRZ page is all or nothing. So I need a blog for my radio stuff, and I wanted it reasonably easy to find. Hence, a Blogger blog and a custom domain with my callsign.

Of course, I couldn't just use ng3p.blogspot, etc. Someone else had that domain. So I had to go with gwen-ng3p, etc. But that's starting to get too busy. So I let Google sell me Works for me.

I'll copy over some of my posts from MeWe, along with the pictures I took for it, and will start posting dedicated blog posts here when I work on various projects. When I make Youtube videos, I'll link them here, but don't hold your breath for them, my house is a mess and I don't like to show it off. Besides, I'm not the most photogenic person in the world, and don't like to fuss about it. But pictures of projects, radios, field ops, sure. I'll have lots of those.

So, welcome to my little slice of the Interwebz, and my "virtual ham shack".

Just a quick note about my actual non-virtual shack.  It's currently a 7' tall "bread rack" -- a set of wire shelves -- next to my powered recliner. My PC is at the bottom, then a shelf with my power supply, a USB hub, and the things I need to reach most, then a shelf with my old Icom IC-746 Pro (currently being used primarily for 2m repeater use), then two shelves of various books, keyboards, mice, and other gear, and atop the whole mess, 3 large, flat "Really Useful Boxes" with the bulk of my slide rule collection in them. My main radio is currently my Elecraft KX3/PX3, on a RAM mount swung out a bit from the wire rack, with the KXPA100 amp on a separate shelf near the window. I have an extendible boom for my main PC microphone, a Zoom H4n stereo mike with USB interface. That connects through my PC, which runs VB-Audio's Voicemeeter virtual mixer, then to a Starlink USB sound dongle that connects to the KX3. Another cable connects the I/Q output from the PX3 to a spare mike input, so I can run the waterfall from WinK3Suite on my PC.

The powered recliner is where I do just about everything, from writing this blog to operating phone and CW. The chair sits atop an "Armchair Mount" with a swing arm for my monitor, so it's over my knees at a convenient height. The keyboard is wireless and on my lap. The mouse is a Logitech trackball. The chair I bought has a small table built into the right arm, that can fold away when not in use. It bears my trackball and my W1SFR "Torsion Bar Cootie Paddle" key. Even though the KX3 is mounted so I can get to it on a RAM mount, it's canted too far to the right so I have to crane my neck to operate. So I have everything running through WinK3Suite right on my screen to avoid neck strain.

I've got two main antennas currently. The main wire is a full-size W3EDP end-fed wire, run off a 4:1 balun. It works excellently on all bands except 160, where it runs so-so, tuning through the KXPA100's internal tuner. The second antenna is a Comet CHA-250b vertical up about 30 feet behind the house, attached to a GAP tilt-over mount with a Channel Master telescoping mast, which is secured to the wall of the mudroom with a wall mount, just to give it a little extra support. If I shove the antenna up higher, I have guy lines already set to be attached to screw-down anchors, but it hasn't needed it yet. I have one guy rope attached to the west side of the mast and tied to a convenient post, in case of a strong gust out of the west. It is resonant on all bands and doesn't really require tuning. The vertical has a beefy transformer on it already tuned so the antenna doesn't need external tuning.

I have that antenna on a 3-way switch, so I can feed it from my KX3/KXPA100, my ZachTek 6-band WSPR beacon, or from my Midnight Design Solutions "Phaser" FT8/JS8 dedicated transceiver. The Phaser is connected to an Acer 11" Chromebook, flashed over to GalliumOS Linux. It works VERY nicely, and was a fun build project! I'll post my MeWe article about it on this blog soon.

This whole arrangement makes me feel like a roach inside a stereo sometimes, but it's actually quite convenient and comfortable to run. I'll go into more detail on each section over time.

Stay tuned, and I hope you enjoy my blatherings!

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