summery days …

I’ve heard about this one mode before – a couple of local hams do sailing on our big lake and make a run way up north now and then.  They use HF (mostly 80m I hear) to check in and get updates to the weather, pass traffic etc.  VE4DXR and VE4ESX both utilize the bands to stay in contact with folks ‘back home’.  Leor was using some mode that I had not really heard of before – winlink.  It’s a messaging system that can utilize different mediums to exchange messages with other hams – be it HF, VHF or regular internet technologies.  The interesting thing on this is that the winlink system has grown to be more of a fault-tolerant, redundant, multi-mode communications hub for store/forward of traffic.  Seems it also has it’s place in the ham emergency communications arena, widely used as a backup communications mode for a number of emergency and relief agencies.  So, timeliness, another local ham VE4UA had been running his local packet bbs system (since the days of yore) and it was really not getting any usage from what Werner was indicating, so he was thinking of re-purposing the gear to be something more useful.  Others got wind of the information and mentioned about setting up a WinLink system for EMCOMM – so he decided to repurpose his gear for that local mode, and was looking for some trials.  Me, not being active on packet (since the days of yore as well), decided to take my trusty Yaesu FT1500 mobile and MFJ 1278 and the cable I got provisioned to me by another local ham (VE4VR) to set out and try this new mode.  Within the hour I was able to get software downloaded onto my trusty core2 dual processor machine running win10 (another gift from VE4VR) – (which by the way HAS A DB9 SERIAL PLUG! yes!) – got the registration completed and offered the winlink team a donation for their fine work they do, hooked everything all up and away I go — the current meter on the power supply goes to  8amps with the 50watt output of my radio – hooked up to my dual stacked 5/8 on top of the house and I get a FULL SCALE reply back from Werner’s system.  Soon enough, I figure out the software and send/receive messages galore on packet winlink.  Interesting.  I’ll have to try scaling back the power a bit – we might have a better RF connectivity  than I had anticipated.  Looking around a bit at the winlink system, there’s no real HF gateways in the RF dead spot of the prairies – maybe there is opportunity for a local group to establish an EMCOMM HF gateway and serve the locals sailing up north and beyond! hint hint …

Seems our national news picked up on a story emanating out of the east coast – where it appears someone decided to slice up a couple of strands of fiber-optic cable servicing the WHOLE REGION.  Hmmm – so much for redundancy there!  The word was that most forms of communications were cut – cell, internet, etc.  So the local ham groups had been put on alert for setting out to provide emergency traffic passing.  Although the service was restored fairly quickly, it did highlight some pressing issues that need to be reviewed.  The local news of the area:

and our local news a little ways back:

Interesting that there was only FM discussion, no HF discussion – but, there you have it.

It’s summer time and is great to be out on my  bike again – the XYL and I took a ride out to the local park and enjoyed the ride and the relaxation of the park.  While on the way I happen to spy a few antennas here and there, so thought I’d add a little item on ‘spot-the-antenna’ … whom are these:

which one(s) are our ham antennas 🙂
this one is an easy one – on the way to the park
no idea whose this may be – but there are other hams on the street I know of…

seems I keep looking up when riding around, trying to see who has what kind of gear in the air.

Some other cool things are happening with the ham geekdom these days.  Expansion and refinement of our local high-speed network VA4WAN has progressed a bit further.  The guys spent a fair amount of time organizing and then spending the ENTIRE DAY on top of the building in what must have been the hottest day of the year!  Contrast that with the coldest day of the year here:

More work done on the networking (hardware wise) and cleaning up the connections.  Fiber connection will be replacing the current copper connection to our friendly ham provider, who continues to offer us his inter-bits!  An addition of another camera on the south, and hopefully some more 3GHz gear running will help smoother the connectivity out a bit.

Our Dugald road site connection is also in operation – after a slight downtime at the interim site at 60C due to power issues.  (So, now i have a small project to take the thermometer William donated and hook it up to a pi to start registering what the temps are in that enclosure a bit more.  More to come on that later.  With the inter-bits back on-line at Dugald road, I reconfigured the IRLP machine to be a new node to replace the old venerable VE4WRS system.  Thanks to Walter VE4VB for the use of his repeater (VE4CNR) to host this system.  It is currently connected, but we need to pay it a visit to get the one-way audio corrected – I’m sure it will only be a few minutes to figure it out – or we have some bad hardware to replace on the computer system.  Either way, having a reliable repeater with our ham connectivity will be great.

I’ve re-programmed my DMR radio again – trying out another local DMR system – seems there’s some growth in them thar’ hills – William was able to setup a 2.3 system to give to Shaun to get his system on the air and we got the DNS registered to have it updated as well, so will keep an eye on that front.

Seems I have more uses for radio than I have cable for – so I’m in search for some decent RG213 or 9913 or LMR type of cable.  Looking at the shack, I currently have 6 radios in constant operation!  and of course I want to put more on-line too – so – more cable is in the works.  If you know of a source, drop me a line — i’m good @ RAC.

Enough for now – time to get on with the day and have some more summery fun.

73, Dan ve4drk


and another contest … CANADA 150!

With the Canada 150 birthday coming up, there was the usual Canada Day contest to be had.  Having just got back in time to check a few things out I set out to make a few contacts and see how well we can do this year.

Starting out I make the usual first contact with our local power station (Ed ve4ear running the ve4rac station).  He is only a couple of km from me and it’s not difficult to find him in the bands.  I was glad to make a few runs and have some others contact me as I was able to make a VE8 as he replied to my calls!  I was also glad to make all the provinces, but was not able to make anything in YT or NU.  There were some weak stations that I could just not pull out – I was running with both a vertical (R5) and a wire antenna (Alpha-Delta DX LB+).  With the changes in our back yard over the last while, the 160m portion of that antenna is now not resonant – so was not able to reset it in time, so no real 160 contacts (except for our local power station).

Was glad to make a few local contacts and I was surprised how many Saskatchewan (SK) contacts I made – must have been some interesting propagation.  I was only able to make a few contacts on 40 before I found out my relatively newly installed smoke detector is very sensitive to RF and did NOT like 100watts coming out of my antennas – even though they are a ways away — so not sure about that!  I guess they don’t make them like they used to.  Me thinks there needs to be some filtering on the power lines heading into it.

So, having worked a number of hours hoping for a big break in propagation (ha) .. I have the following score:

ah well …

The one thing I did notice in the last while, was that when I picked up a used home-brew 6m 3-element beam from some of the guys (it’s a hand-me-down), it made a significant difference to the operation on that band.  So much so, that I think I have to now try out the tri-band that’s been sitting in the basement for some time — just to see.   I have no means of permanently mounting it at this point, but will be interesting to see how it performs.  Another contest down.

73, Dan ve4drk

Play time with more gear :-)

A few more week and some more interesting things to work with over the last while.  The local ham-space held it’s twice-annual flea market – I manned the membership table of the local MRS group – will be my last as I transfer membership duties to another ham – been fun.  I was able to find a used antenna from a local ham – seems I need to do some work on this GAP Challenger vertical as there’s some damage to it.

We’ve been fortunate enough to find some decent deals on some used RF gear to help with our project, so I have to get some to try them out.

A nice Ubiquity Bullet2HP unit (or two), a few RouterBoard with built-in 2GHz RF unit, a nice Ubiquity M3 3GHz unit.

RFgear RFgear2

… and more to come — some of these units have some rather nice features to visualize spectrum usage – will be interesting.

Another fun item was a recent tower-destruction resulted in a small piece of hardline being offered up – I put my hand-held next to it to give some form of context — this is hard stuff …

hard-line anyone?
hard-line anyone?

this was some form of commercial broadcasting … would have been interesting to see 400′ of that tower coming down!

Another fun thing to work on is to resurrect the ol’ TNC and put it into good use.  A friend put up a dual-channel radio on 145.01 and I am putting together this little unit to get “back” on the air on AFSK 🙂  brings back memories:

TNC anyone?
TNC anyone?

why not provide a separate back-up to our 2.3 GHz unit (10Mbps) with a 1200bps 145MHz unit … will be interesting to see in operation.  Next will be 9600FSK data-radios 🙂

73, Dan ve4drk



NAQP & new capacitance hat!

Well — I did try out the NAQP SSB this weekend — the bands were terrible … looking at the solarham site, it did show RED … solar winds were well over 400 and the conditions did show that … the only band that was partly open was 20m .. 15 and above really didn’t exist .. 40 was ok later in the evening .. i put in about 5 hours .. and i only made about 50+ contacts .. I will submit my logs to assist those that need them.

I even had a couple of thanks for the “rare ve4” section being in the contest!

Funny though — the only ve4 I heard was Ed VE4YU – he was S&P so I couldn’t work him.  I made a ve7 and a ve3 contact and that’s about it for the CDN side of things – the rest were US based contacts.

But — my antenna may be better now that it has a better looking capacitance hat on it ! 🙂   My XYL calls them lemon-drops!

73, Dan ve4drk


Local Antenna policy

Industry Canada administers the spectrum in Canada as well as it’s licensing and restrictions on various apparatus.

Recently, a group of municipalities had their get-together and one topic was the consultation process that Industry Canada wants the municipalities to provide clear guidance on what is locally acceptable.  Naturally, IC will have final say, but this guidance holds weight and will be just that – a guide —

For us hams, there is only one small paragraph which is applicable … and it is:


So, keep it in the back, don’t intrude on your neighbour, don’t make it go ‘blink’, and keep it under 70′.  Well, that is not too bad .. 70′ is reasonable within the city limits and does a decent job for most hams.

Actual reference:

City of Winnipeg Antenna Systems Policy

Industry Canada Amateur Radio Publications

73, Dan ve4drk

Antenna changes

I’ve been puttin’ this off for a bit .. getting my 2.3GHz high speed network connection functional.  I finally took down the alpha-delta fan dipole and the g5rv and the mount is down from the house.

New mount was fun to get up .. barely .. now I’m tired and have to put the fan dipole on the mount pole to have it erected on the mount on the house … that will have to be day 2. … maybe tomorrow … maybe not – depending how I feel.  Climbing ladders up and down just isn’t my cup of tea anymore.

So, when I mount this antenna up and give it a go, should be much better being much higher in the air 🙂  here’s hoping.

73, Dan ve4drk

Antennas, antennas, antennas

One of the things I enjoy again is meeting up with other local hams at the Saturday morning coffee “meeting” at the McD in St. James.  There’s quite a breadth of knowledge and experience there to gab with.  I was also able to hand-in my worked-all-winnipeg (WAW) aware to Dick at the coffee meeting.  Pretty good, I had my 25 contacts on 2m, 70cm, 80m and 20m.  I don’t normally hear locals on the 40m nor 15m bands – at least from what I’ve been seeing.

I’m currently looking for different antenna solutions to put into effect once the weather is a bit milder.  I was discussing the G5RV option and another mentioned ON4UN’s Low-Band DXing book at the library.  Well, I’ve already taken out the ARRL antenna handbook and have reviewed it last month or so, so now I have this other book to review for new insights.  I really enjoy the theory behind the antenna design as it gives great ideas as to how else one can adjust the antenna for the area/usage.

And I now temporarily have an upconverter to confirm working properly with the SDR packages.  This little guy brings the ham bands up 100MHz so the USB SDR dongle has a chance of seeing the frequencies … will be interesting to see how well it works.  It’s currently not working for my son, so if it won’t work for me, back it goes .. but we will see.

And back we go .. another Sunday under the belt …

73, Dan ve4drk

Keep on listening …

I’ve had a little bit of luck on 10m in the last few days.  I’ve heard a number of stations and was able to work a few.  While they come across as weaker reception for me, most are able to work me.  Best I had was a new contact in Mexico with an S7 reported back – for me on my vertical that’s pretty good.

I started looking around at other options, and reviewed some information in the Antenna books I have.  Pre-builts are not that expensive it seems – such as the G5RV and it’s variants, and even some other verticals like S9 etc.  Some people even sell the telescoping poles which may be of interest at some point – will see which way I lean.

On another front, the local radio group held a meet-up on 652 for those interested in getting their Worked All Winnipeg (WAW) award.  Work 25 local stations direct and get confirmation — so, while I already logged my entries back in the early 90’s, I never did submit them – so I will have to make sure I submit my new entries now.  For those interested, here’s the link:

I’m very interested in the Canada Winter Contest starting up this Friday – link here:   Will be great to test out changes to the antenna.

Hope everyone has a great Christmas and enjoys the season –

73, Dan, ve4drk