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A few words from Rob K9RST…

(March 6)  Well, I finally dusted off the rig and worked the ARRL WW SSB contest this weekend.  It was great to hear 15 meters open up.  First, though, I had to find my microphone!  Seems that my grandchildren have taken a fancy to my microphone – they use it for pretend stage singing.  Although I have to admit, I am amazed how the three year old figured out that it is something you talk into.  I caught him standing on my  desk chair by the rig and hanging onto the microphone talking away.  Maybe he was imitating me?  Anyway, it was a riot, until I needed to find the microphone (he also unplugged it and ran off with it.  I found it in the toy box.)  So, back to the contest.  I knew I wasn’t going to be very competitive…just would be able to get on and do a couple of little runs throughout the weekend.  I started on 40 meters very early Saturday morning and to my amazement, I found a bunch of folks to work.  I worked most of Caribbean in about 30 minutes.  I had to run out and came back later that morning and found 15 meters alive to South America and later to Europe.  If I could hear them, I could work them.  Well, that is something new….haven’t had that experience in a while!  So, while I didn’t set any land speed contesting records, I did have a great time getting back on the air and demonstrating to myself that ole station still works fine.  Oh, I do have a nagging tower issue that I will have to address when I can get back on the roof.  The rotor jams about 90 degrees?

Meanwhile, to keep life interesting, I had to reformat my laptop’s hard drive.  I have had nothing but trouble with it for the past few months and have tried everything, save sending it out.  I have had  IT engineers from McAfee India all over the machine for weeks, and they couldn’t get it to work.  So, I did the dangerous thing. First, I saved all of my files, which are mostly ham files, and then I got the recovery disks out from the file cabinet.  I pushed the disc in with some fear and followed the loading instructions.  Well, it didn’t take long to erase the entire drive and is now in the process of rebuilding hard drive.  We will let you know how it goes, but all of this is a preamble to what Mark Klocksin is going to talk about at the next Club meeting—managing your PC.  I had 50,000 little ham applications (WinLink, APRS, Packet, PSK, logging software…you name it…) on my laptop and I am sure many of them were conflicting with one another.  I am hoping that by starting over, I can more carefully rebuild the drive so that it will work more effectively.  Unfortunately, I will be missing Mark’s talk…so I hope someone take notes!!

I had such good intentions of writing one of these Blogs every month.  Then we went to Yuma for Holidays and time simply got the best of me. Fact is, I have been in one of those end-of-the-year funks that catch us all between closing out the records from one year and starting a new business year. There are countless chores to complete.  Plus, I had the pleasure of working on the final touches for our Winter Banquet, which demands much more detail work as you get closer to the date.  Once again, we had a very successful event.  84 people attended and a good time was had by all.  Our Speaker, Steve Jajkowski, really did keep us all on engaged as he described the history of commercial television in Chicago.  It was much more complex and dynamic story than I would have thought.  He came with power point slides showing some of the key players and some of the local celebs, many of whom built their broadcast careers here. We found out that even our own Trudy Kaplan (Jordan’s wife) has her career start with Channel 3 as an on air personality!


Repeaters. Bears repeating!

Meanwhile, the club has been blessed with a couple of really terrific volunteers, who have been diligently working to improve our two meter machine. Warren Pugh, Dave Hewitt, Ron Harroff, Don Whiteman, Mark Klocksin, Ed Burckart, Mike Swiatkowski are just a few who come to mind.  For the past month, we have been up and down that tower trying our best to make incremental improvements to the 2 meter repeater. As I write, we have deployed only the two meter machine in the space, so that we can isolate some of the technical issues.  As you may recall, Techny, which used to be our home for about 10 years, is basically a brick tower with steel girders supporting the structure.  Our antennas and equipment are indoors, which is an advantage, but this also presents challenges. One floor below us is a complex cell tower site….they have those familiar rectangular antennas mounted in front of each window.  Since we are upstairs, separated by a thick concrete floor from the cell boys, we don’t see too much interference (we think)…but we may have been trying to put to many of our own services up there and that is where we needed to sort out our equipment.  For the moment, the 220 Mhz repeater is down, the APRS/Digi and BBS are also down.  As we refine our work, we will slowly bring these services back on line.


Historic Snow Day

I am sure most of you are aware that we got hit with a sizeable snow storm event this week (Feburary 2, 2011).  I shoveled three driveways myself and have the back pains to prove it.  One of the great, fun things (if you can call it that) that comes with these storms is that you are forced to be home with your radios (and your wife!).  I spent some quality time on my scanner listening to the various police and fire responders who had to work the event (actually, my wife sat alongside as we listened to the various reports of accidents and stranded motorists.)  I was thrilled to discover a web site that lists every single frequency listed to anyone in the Chicago area (I am not a scanner fanatic…so pardon my naïve enthusiasm.) is not a site for the casual user.  They list hundreds of frequencies that you can monitor over their internet site, and, if you choose you can find the frequencies of interest to you and program them into your own radio, which is what I did.  I never did turn on TV last night.  It was a radio night.  I also monitored some of the ARES nets in Wisconsin and Indiana and got all excited about buying a HF amplifier. Frankly, this may be the only reason for me to even think of owning an amplifier.  During times of real emergencies, it would be good to be able to effectively get a signal out on 80 or 40 meters.  Sometimes it takes events like these to bring you back to your senses and give you the time to reflect on the things that are truly important in life.

See you on the bands.


Murphy Showed Up

Murphy stopped by with his entire family and settle in at my ham radio shack …

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Blame it on Wallmart, Part II

A week later, I ordered the parts I needed to fix my computer monitor. I ordered a few more than I needed because the shipping cost was a flat rate of $13. I also ordered more connectors than I needed because, well, why spend $13 shipping a $2 capacitor? So, some of the parts arrived …

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Parts? What parts?

This isn’t what I had in mind for this month…I will still write up a blog on my experiences in Washington, DC to visit the Marine Corp marathon to see how they handle their ham communications…but on my way to the blog this month, this happened:

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Marathon Prep

Rob prep’s for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

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NSRC Serves the Evanston Century

Over the weekend of September 12, many of your fellow club members spent a fine day in the outdoor air helping 2200 avid bicyclists challenge themselves for the annual Evanston Century. It was another amazing event …

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