Thursday, June 25, 2009

KF7DFP my callsign! I got my ticket!


UPDATE-- 9/15/09 Saddly all the gear you see here with the exception of one HT was completely destroyed in the house fire in article above.   Fire destroys everything.  Everything burns or melts.. it amazes me what did.  The metal ant. tuner on the left melted on each side.   The HF rigs, o-scopes, and everything else were destroyed as you can see from above photos.   At present I have my VX-7R and I'm lucky for that.. very me 6m/2m/220/440 coverage and general coverage recive.  My ICOM T8A also survived because it was in one of two bags I grabbed.. We only had about 20sec waking up from a dead sleep to figure out what to grab.. my camera gear was right there..but I had to chose to get us out first of course and only saved my laptop and my VX-7 because I did not know if anyone had called 911 first.   MY ID was later found in my burned up wallet.   All my camera gear was ready to go.. had I not been woken up like that.. I'd have been able to throw it out the window very easy..with my wallet and important stuff all in a bag as well.   I have been disaster-preparied since going through a typhoon and earthquackes before.    Yet in a hosue have so little time waking up to it that often nothing is saved and nothing survives.  Incredibly one HT works having been found under the table shown here.   All other equpment was destroyed.   Mike, WB7QXU was very helpful in giving me time to pay back the 110 dollars I owe him for an antania that I may not be able to get back.   Virtually nothing survived, so my advice to people is PREVENTION. Check your butt cans.. keep your yard from being a fire hazard and get insurence on your vallubes.   Fire boxes and fire safes may cost money but from my experence and the advice of Dan.. our local fire chefe..they are useless.   Only very expencive high end safe's offer the kind of protection from fires like the one that claimed our home.   The safest place in that house was the fridge.. my important documents should have been in the back of the fridge in a sealed ammo box or something and they may well have been unscaved.. especially those army surplus boxes that are watertight.   Just some advice.   You don't know what you have or really appricate it until it's gone and you realize how difficult or impossible it is to replace it.    We are on a very low income and much of this gear was donated to me from friends.   I have chronic pancretitus and am on pain management therefor I've had to be on dissability since I got it five years ago.  I like to work and absolutely miss it.    However.. my painful condition flares up way too often for me to get a job.. not to mention the fact that I'm on pain meds that make it nearly impossible to get hired.   It's a difficult trap.. I appricate anyone who understands and does not view me as some kind of jerk living on wellfare.   I used to work hard and long hours every day.   When you get a dibilitating painful disease there's not much else you can turn too.   Often I'm unable to walk even a couple of blocks without sitting down and am currently working with my doctors trying to get a powerchair.   I want to thank Mike and anyone else who has shown compassion.. as well as Jeff WA7MLH for his understanding because he left allot of his stuff at my place.  

I humbly ask if anybody out there has any ham radio gear or photographic gear they would like to donate to me to please e-mail me.   I wish to thank family and friends for the donations of basics like furniture and other items.   It's amazing how much you lose in a disaster like this.    If you have any surplus gear for a new ham trying to get re-started or photographic gear and wish to help the e-mail address is

--end of update post fire

After waiting almost exactly 20 years another life-long dream has been realized when I passed the test and earned my Technician class Amateur license on the 6th of May 2009. My license then came in the mail less then 2 weeks later! My first contact's name was Hue, KF7LN on one of his local repeaters. Repeaters are used by amateurs to communicate with each other and by businesses (on other frequencies) to do the same across longer distances and or with lower power radios. Finally, I am now a fully licensed ham radio operator with all VHF/UHF privileges, 10m (28.3-28.5 phone (voice) and CW (Morse code) privileges on 10, 15, 40 and 80meter bands. I have been very humbled by the local ham community here in The Dalles and how nice they have been. Because I'm on such a low budget, I've been given a number of items I could never have fit into my budget like a brand new dual band antenna for my roof from WB7QXU to most importantly a large number of radio and radio-related gear from Jeff, my long term mentor in electronics who also provided transportation to the Seaside ham fest where I passed my exam. I did study and learned the Morse code, although I only made it to about 5wpm at my best. That would have been enough to pass if it was still required. Now I have a serious interest in learning it more and getting fast enough to chat around the world with this international language on HF.

My station just before I installed the Icom 2720 dual band mobile radio that K7RKH gave me! People in the Ham community have been very supportive and even give gear to other hams. It's like having a whole bunch of instant friends you can almost certainly trust. Bad things about people like people who steal radios and such go arround really fast in radio.. so they don't last long! Unilke the highly restricted CB schene (11m). I've been on the CB and other license free bands for a long time, but they are nothing compared to ham radio and the quality of people you meet in ham radio. I could write a book about ham radio here, but it's not my intention to do anymore then show people how easy it can be to become both an asset to your community in an emergency and have a great and exiting hobby at the same time. The one thing I should stress more then anything else, is the difference between ham radio and CB or other walk talkie bands like FRS. Because you have to pass an exam about radio and electronics which takes some serious dedication the people who are just on there to here themselves talk or talk trashy almost never get on and if they do, they don't last long as ham radio operators have a strict code of polite operation. Ham radio can be a door to having friends, building awesome stuff, accomplishing goals, and using communications equipment connecting with hams all over the world as well as doing many other things on your own such as operating radio beacons for science.

HF is generally for long distance communications. From about 600kc BELOW the AM broadcast band to about 30Mhz very long distance Communications becomes possible on a regular basis at certain times in certain bands. A "band" is just a frequency map. Your AM "band" radio tunes from 0.500Mhz to about 1.7Mhz while FM tunes much wider and at a higher frequencies about 88 to 108Mhz. AM and FM just refers to the mode of transmission, not the frequency. An FM broadcast could happen in the "AM" band but it's bandwidth would be too wide and not very practical for that frequency. AM and FM modes are just two of a half dozen modes commonly used to modulate radios. CW or Morse code, is still one of the most common means of communication over long distances as it is very reliable. When Jeff WA7MLH and I wanted to find a band that Aircraft operate on several HF and VHF bands. There is an in-between band called 6m (50Mhz) which offers the best of both worlds! And then there is 2m and 2m SSB for long distance comes and 2m, (144Mhz)FM, 220 and 440Mhz for more local communications with occasional skip happening during certain times. Put simply, ham radio does take some serious study to earn the license, however.. once you get your license it can be a door to all kinds of people, places, and things that you may not otherwise be able to achieve. Becoming a ham radio operator is not like joining a chat-room on line or texting your friends on a cellphone. It's a way to make friends and learn a great deal, as well as participate in radio communications in general. Ham radio licensees participate in relief efforts and help with communities and other things during emergencies and even aid in search and rescue sometimes. It's just allot of fun to talk to someone on a radio you repaired, refurbished, or an antenna you built yourself. Or maybe if you have a big budget (unlike myself) you can get on a radio you built entirely yourself! For me, it's a way of meeting people and personal achievement. I've always been into electronics in some way, and with ham privileges I can do allot more and have far more fun. For information about amateur radio be sure to check out the ARRL website. Just Google ARRL or Amateur radio to find it. There are plenty of books, study guides, and the test questions, tests session times and places and details can be found on line.

I don't have a 2m rig that can generate PL tones other then HTs. (Handy talkies) so these two make up two main local repeaters. The Quenching and Realistic HTX-404 which is connected to my homemade 3 element yagi. The PL tone is required for most US repeaters now. Which means my old 1980 era 2m base/mobile rig shown above the HF rig (the top large radio) cannot talk into the repeaters. So I made do by getting myself an external microphone and hooking up the little 4 watt HT to a large dual band antenna. I made all my own SMA to BNC or PL-259 connectors myself being on a low budget I also had to eliminate the battery on this HT so I could run it on AC. It required an odd voltage of about 8 volts. 9 would have been too high, so I finally found that an old video camera power supply of mine worked very well and plugged it in. The Quenching now is my main repeater talking radio while the large rigs are for simplex (radio to radio) and can put out 25watts. The HF rig can put out 100W in all bands on all modes but she's getting old and I'm worried about the band selector. I go between 40 and 10m since I have not yet got a good 80m ant. setup. The wire will have to be more then 66 feet on each side! That means I need my entire yard and more for the antenna.

This is my HF antenna tuner for working DX on 10meters SSB/AM and CW on the other HF bands as well. I don't have any antenna switches yet so I have to switch cables allot, homemade dipoles makeup my HF antennas. I have one outside for 40m that is only about 5 feet off the ground. Despite it being less then 33 feet long on each end (a total of about 65 feet of wire--you do need some room for these kinds of antennas) it tunes well to 40meters with my homebrew ant. tuner. It's a simple system. I gutted this old linear amp so that just the capacitors and variable coil are there. Two PL259 connectors in the back lead in and out. It's done all with coax for maximum efficiency. A simple circuit but it took a while to put together and get right. Antenna tuners and a good SWR meter is very important to any HF station.

As is a power supply. I got this nice little number with a heat sink in the back (the device just behind the red box which is a makeshift 10min timer--hams must ID every 10 mines during conversations--) this was before I put it into a box. I had problems with RF noise and it was in danger of being damaged by something falling on its sensitive circuit boards which could cause immediate catastrophic damage. Since these things sell for about $300 new, and not much less used.. this is something to protect. A 12VDC valuable power supply that can handle 40amps. That's enough to run a couple of 200W radios. Since it's switching and smart, it has overload protection which is VERY important. I've blown too many power supplies and fuses I could not replace quickly because of a simple short which could happen at any time in your station. If your power supply does not have overload protection, fuses are an absolute must. Even still, fuse should exist on both ends of the power supply from each radio to the supply and from the supply to the wall outlet.

"On the right track" I took this just before we left for Portland and got married. I got my marriage license and then told my wife "there's no reason why I can't get my ham license finally now as well". And so I did. Studying for about 6months or so. I recommend long study to insure you pass. I watched people fail, you don't want to fail. What's the use of going to the somewhat rare tests done by volunteers if you are not ready to pass!? Study long and hard, know the question pool and you will score in the 90s+ I missed one question, and to this day I don't know which one it was. Funny thing is, I failed my driver's license exam by 1 question. I could have missed as many as 6. It may well have just been me being nervous having waited 20 years for this and marking the wrong spot as I recall remembering each question because I studied the entire pool on my computer with my wife's help.

"On the right track" I took this just before we left for Portland and got married. I got my marriage license and then told my wife "there's no reason why I can't get my ham license finally now as well". And so I did. Studying for about 6months or so. I recommend long study to insure you pass. I watched people fail, you don't want to fail. What's the use of going to the somewhat rare tests done by volunteers if you are not ready to pass!? Study long and hard, know the question pool and you will score in the 90s+ I missed one question, and to this day I don't know which one it was. Funny thing is, I failed my driver's license exam by 1 question. I could have missed as many as 6. It may well have just been me being nervous having waited 20 years for this and marking the wrong spot as I recall remembering each question because I studied the entire pool on my computer with my wife's help.

Yaesu and Icom make some of the best radio gear. Period. This $12,000+ rig is complete with a spectrum analyzer and a mapping computer system that covers every common and even not so commonly useful frequency imaginable. Airplanes are sometimes outfitted with radios made by Icom in other countries that have been modified to operate on the HF aircraft bands. If you want to listen, San Francisco tower is on USB 5550-5554.8 or so.

Yaesu and Icom make very good radios. I was so broke, I bought one radio for about $150 and I got really lucky. A used Icom T8A. There was a line of guys planning to buy it so I was lucky to pass my test quick and then hit the hamfest early. Free stuff comes later, getting there early is realy important for the best used gear. The T8A came as a tri-band 6m/2m/440 but I took it apart and modified it so that it also operates on the 222Mhz amature band, I just have to switch antanias. It was a really good deal and a great find. I could not have asked for a better time to pass my
From antania's to batteries people sell commercial and homebrew gear. Unfortunately I was so engaged by the fest and gear --just looking-- that I forgot about my camera! Something I don't do very often.

ALL THIS STUFF I can feel this way only at two kinds of places, a ham radio fest.. or a large camera store with used gear or a camera gear fest something I have not yet gonto yet but hope too! I took a few shots to get some ideas for homebew antnias. Guys make money making antanias. I have made some really good dipoles as my 11m dipole (now converted to 10m) with my ant. tuner)

In the end, this was the most important thing I took away from Seaside. My ham radio licence. I am going to frame it just as soon as I have the money to buy some new frames. As you can see, photography is never far away.. and is not far off from my mind. Just before we left for the ham fest I got some of the best spider pictures of this year with my Nikon and a homemade macro setup.

This is a crab spider, and it's a male. This one was in a great spot. I shot him with my Nikon D40 and a 200mm zoom lens with a home made dioper. I took these the day before my exam day outside just waiting. I found two of these males in different spots and got a number of shots I thought were worth posting.

I did not shoot this with a macro lighting system either. Unilke many of my direct lighted shots, this spider was shot with a high power above camera flash. I got high brightness for F30 operation by holding my finger over the flashe's light sensor.

I used the same setup here, all of the black crab spiders I've found arround here have been males, leading me to think that there is a serious color difference

Crab spider on leaf.. it's great to get them in natural shots! I got lucky this day, early morning or late afternoon is usualy a good time.

The SPIT BUG --uncovered

I was hunting for spiders with my Canon 10D SLR and my macro flash extension tube setup. I came upon a couple of really cool sights. First I saw spit bugs, lots of them... and then found one that was actually in the process of making it's spit cocoon! I did not have to wipe this guy off. I actually found it like this making for a really cool shot since I did not want to risk harming the fragile insect by scraping away it's spit cocoon.

A rare look at the world of the spittle bug. Usually totally covered, this one probubly moved or was in some stage of life change to be out in the open momenarily.

I got several angles but my movements scared it into making even more spittle.

Finally it ended up coverd up quick. I got lucky finding this shot!

This common hunting spider spins a sack and catches insets by feel like the sack spider. This female had a huge abdomen, she was almost certainly ready to lay eggs. I caught her by hand on my wall.

And this guy put on a show! Watch the palps just below the eyes! It seemed to have seen it's reflection in my camera lens and that's probably why it was displaying to me, it did this for several minuets.

And one more shot as it moved it's palps up and down. Probably an intimidation strategy.

And he just kept going!

This is a tiny Zebra spider. A jumping spider, out in the sun shot with my Canon 10D. This spider could fit on my smallest fingernail twice.

This is why they call it the Zebra spider. You can clearly see the markings in these shots.

So no, I have not forgotten photography or spiders! Finding things to do being disabled is very important. Watching TV all day is no fun after a while. So I found in photography and in Ham radio new worlds to explore and hopes for my future.