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amateur radio

License history

First licensed as a Technician in 1979. Upgraded to General in 1983. After several years with little activity, I sat for the Extra class test at HamCom in Arlington in 2003 and passed it on the first attempt. I decided not to apply for a new call sign, though.

General station notes

My QTH is in Northwest Houston, TX. We live in a deed-restricted community (who doesn't), so an antenna farm is out of the question. The station equipment occupies a portion of my home office. I also have a computer network and the home entertainment center set up in the same area.

Antennas

With the deed restrictions, stealth antennas are favored. I currently have a G5RV jr on the back side of the house, a 40 meter bazooka in the back yard, a 15 meter dipole in the attic, and a Ringo Ranger dual band vertical in the attic. I plan to put up an 80 meter antenna for NVIS and a long wire antenna for 160.

I plan on trying some of the loop designs in 2007, as well as a vertical if I can find one used at a hamfest.

Mobile station

We bought a new Toyota RAV 4 in May of 2011 - the first new vehicle we have bought in over 10 years. Of course, one of the first things I wanted to add was some radio gear. I've had the IC-7000 for several years. I had a temporary setup that worked in the old vehicle, but the radio spent much of the time on the bench gathering dust between trips.

Now the radio gets much better utilization, especially since we are travelling quite a bit during retirement. I couldn't find much acceptable HF installation information on this vehicle, but I did find a suggestion on one of the Jeep forums and adapted it to the RAV 4. I also found a similar installation on the RAV 4 forum. My installation is documented here. There is a PDF version available for download.

Station equipment station

This is the station before I went on a general upgrade program during 2006. HF transceivers in the photo include a Kenwood TS-520SE and an Icom 703. An FT-290 and amplifier are also visible in the photo.

The current station includes the following:

Interests

I tried packet on 2 meters for a short time. Insufficient time and poor antennas at my former QTH led to shelving this project. I may give this mode another try if time permits. For now, I am working on getting my code speed back up and have been working with some of the weak-signal sound card digital modes. PSK-31 and PSK-63 are pretty amazing.

I am also working with Linux. This OS has come a long way since the early command-line only interface. With a full graphical user interface that rivals anything I have seen on that other OS and extensive amateur radio support, I believe it is a viable option for low cost, reliable, and versatile amateur radio computer support.

I've been spending quite a bit more time on this lately (2009-2010). I'm almost completely off Windows. I'd be away from it completely, but there are a couple of applications that I have been unable to get to work on wine. Also, I've got a couple of database applications that are part of my Projects efforts that I can't get away from. Parts and Vendors is very much a part of my design efforts, and so far, no Linux app has surfaced. I'd love to write a clone for Linux, but the time simply isn't there.

Activities

I am a member of Northwest Amateur Radio Society (NARS). The club sponsors a 2-meter repeater on 146.66 and participates in many public service events through the year. I am the club webmaster

Though I was not too active through the mid-90s, I maintained my license and membership in the ARRL. I do not always agree with their position on every issue but I firmly believe that a strong voice is essential to retain access to the radio spectrum. Individual dissenting voices do not carry much weight when making decisions about who gets the privilege of using our spectrum resources. Collectively, we have a voice that cannot be silenced. Further thoughts on recent developments are here.

Silent Key Tribute

One of the very first hams I talked to when I first got on the air was Bill Wahlen, N5AGE. He was part of an informal evening ragchew group on 2 meters. The group members were all located within 15 miles of each other, so 2 meter simplex was the order of the day. In 2000, I learned that Bill gave his life trying to save fellow workers during a storm in Indonesia. Here is part of a QSO I recorded during one of the ragchews.

APRS

One of the N5BIA projects involves APRS. I'm not ready to post the details, at least not until I conduct a few experiments to see if my idea is practical and useful. Until then, you can track my meanderings...