Introduction

Featured

Welcome to KB1YSQ.com, home of Geoff Maciolek, an amateur radio operator in central Maine.

Breif History

  • Tested 2012-10-06 (Technician, General)
  • Licensed 2012-10-12 (General)

Interests

I’m just starting out in the world of radio, but I have an interest in digital modes, and software-defined radio.  I like complex multi-band DSP-based transceivers, as well as glow bugs and similar simpler systems.

I have a wide range of other interests besides ham radio, including computer systems (Linux, Windows, and more), photography, abstract music, and more.

Portable!

I recently got an FT-817ND – a great portable low-power (QRP) radio that supports HF, VHF, and UHF.  I coupled this with a buddistick antenna, and in my first ‘fully portable’ outdoor operation on HF, I made a contact!  With 2.5 watts or so, I communicated (in a text mode) with someone in the Canary Islands, from Maine!  This was quite exciting – all of the equipment I used to do this – computer included – fits in a box a bit bigger than a standard briefcase!

First Contact

I’ve made my first HF contact, today.  A few days ago, on SSB (voice) – I had an ‘almost-contact’ with Chuck (KD8STF) in Northern Ohio, but he wasn’t quite able to copy my sign, so no go.

But today, on 20 meters at about 1800 UTC, using BPSK31 (a digital mode) – I was able to contact George (KA2QYA), in Williamsville, NY.  I forgot all of most of the standard ham shorthand in the moment, but it was quite exciting.  Without using the internet, I was able to “chat” with someone 470 miles away.  It feels great!  Thanks, George, for bearing with me.

Other, general news and progress?  From what I can tell, my radio has a fairly common problem with its antenna tuner.  With some luck, the replacement parts I’ve ordered (a few capacitors and diodes) will work out.  That should help me to be able to get on a few more bands, and I’m quite excited.

It was rather frustrating to make a trip to Radio Shack to try to buy an 82pf capacitor and fail miserably.  I don’t think there are actually any decent parts stores closer to me than You-Do-It,  which is a 3 1/2 hour drive.  I do like the store, but not that much.  This is of course just a symptom of the modern “disposable-everything” society.  I can’t blame  everything on the disposable world; the changes in how technology works are an aspect of this as well, but I think that we could have done a better job on making stuff repairable.  Alas.

I suppose that “dangit, modern stuff is too hard to repair” attitude is part of why people start to collect “boat anchors.”  Fortunately, I don’t have the space or energy to start collecting giant antique vacuum-tube radios.  At least, not yet.

New stuff, and the M.I.T. Flea

My Icom IC-736 has arrived!  I’ve been doing listening over the past few days, and aside from some attempts at tuning to a horrible quasi-dipole I threw out my window (and one or two ill-advised, barely-reasonable SWR CQs) I haven’t done any real transmitting.

What I *have* done, however, is listening, and a little bit of homebrewing.  It was wonderfully gratifying take this:

  • Parts of an old alarm system ‘brain’
  • A 1994 Microsoft Serial Mouse
  • 1970s Lead-acid charge controller
  • Some ‘bargain drawer’ stuff from a Radio Shack I visited in 2005 that was shrinking their parts department

And turn it into:

  • Serial-to-CI-V. (controlling my rig’s front pane from my PC, more or less)
  • Serial-to-PTT (What I need to ‘send’ from my digital modes)

I’ve even got an audio interface running, and managed to decode some PSK31.

I’ve had a bit less luck with my Baofeng UV-5R handheld.  Not a ton of fun to program w/o the cable.  (I have one on the way, but it’s not here yet).  That being said, I’ve managed to chirp at, and listen in on a local repeaters, and one in the Boston area when I was visiting, but I haven’t gotten any replies.  (I’ll be testing this later against my RTL-SDR to see if I’m actually transmitting audio).

Now – Boston area?  Indeed!  I was down, visiting some friends of mine, and was lucky enough to be in the area of the last M.I.T. flea of the season.  Wow.  that was well worth the $4 admission price just to experience.  I do regret not coming home with some of the stuff, but I bought some cables, and some copper & aluminum wire at a decent price.  I could have used some SO-239 connectors, but for some reason I didn’t buy any out of the endless piles of them.

With some luck, my Ultimax-100 antenna will be arriving today, and while I don’t think I’ll have time to set it up, I might be able to do so tomorrow.  We’ll see!