Welcome to the world of AMATEUR RADIO!

Amateur (ham) radio is a fine hobby.  It is enjoyed by all ages and varieties of people.  In its most simple form, the hobby allows a citizen to talk to other hams using his own personal radio.  The range can be short or long, depending on the frequency employed, considering the season, time of day and other exotics such as the 11-year SUNSPOT CYCLE.  You can use voice, International Morse code, slow or fast (like a common TV) television, as well as other modes to communicate with other hobbyists.  Many use their home computers as accessories as well.

  • See more information on what HAM RADIO is all about here. <--(Click on the link...)
  • See this second link SAY HELLO! for a short movie. <--(Click on the link...)

    My QSL cards

    First (below) is my ORIGINAL QSL card; I was a teenager, back on the farm near Benson, Minnesota. I was about 18 years old at the time that this picture was taken. I must explain that a QSL CARD is simply a confirmation for an on-the-air contact that was pleasing to the point that a card such as this could be offered as an added THANK YOU for the experience.



    This is my LATEST QSL card; This is a completely home-made design. (Many "layers" and so on, using Photoshop.)




    The Cormac Propadex - Current Ionospheric Conditions:

  • Propadex is updated four times per hour
  • Eight hours of history is shown on the graph.
  • When the Propadex is high, it means the F2 maximum useable frequency is higher than average for this time of day.

    Technical Details on Propadex:

  • The Cormac Propadex is based entirely on the latest government reports for f0F2. This is the maximum useable frequency for the F2 ionosphere layer. Some government stations are updating this value 4 to 6 times per hour.
  • The Propadex value is the DIFFERENCE between the latest reported f0F2 value and the 60 day average FOR THIS SAME TIME OF DAY.
  • For example, if the Propadex shows as +110 at time 1700 Z, it means means the government monitoring station is reporting a maximum usable frequency 1.10 MHz higher than the 60 day average for this exact same time of day.
  • Currently, we are obtaining data from the U.S. Air Force Radio Solar Telescope Network (RSTN) site in San Vito, Italy. We have found this site to be one of the most reliable with timely data.



    A recent construction project involved using a Raspberry PI computer to control my ANAN-100 SDR (Software defined radio); -This as opposed to having to use my HP-MINI to run the ANAN-100 radio. This is actually my SECOND VERSION of this project, so I have added several features that expand and enhance the abilities and functions of the standard units.

  • For more information and pictures, see THIS LINK .

    http://s3com.net/pihpsdr-v2/pisdr-v2.html



    The above is a picture of my MAIN ham radio station. It is located in our home's ground-level family room, where my Mac computer desk is located. The devices at the left are an Alnico DM-330MV power supply and a Flex-600, which is now GONE! (The Flex-6500 is now GONE!)

    To the right of the power supply is an ANAN-100 SDR (software defined radio). To the right of the ANAN-100 is the Kenwood TS-590, a super-FINE radio!

    The two screens on the shelf are actually 27" iMac computers; The left one is my "main iMac," and is running Mac OS-X 10.11.3, the latest version. The iMac on the right is also a 27" computer that is shown running Windows 7 at the moment. (Windows is needed to run the ham radios.) This iMac also runs OS-X 10.11.3 as it's "native" operating system. My iMacs can all run Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Linux. (-All at the SAME TIME, I will add!)

    (Above) This is a better OVERALL view of the newly constructed operating desk. To the left, is the Flex-5000a, an SDR. To it's left, there are power supplies, a MFJ-868 "giant SWR-Peak-power" meter, an Icom IC-2200H 2-meter radio, etc. (The IC-2200H, Flex-5000a and the Flex-6500 are now GONE!)



    - An UPDATED view of the equipment on the left pedestal of the desk; The larger unit is an Ameritron ALS-600 solid state (no tune) RF amplifier. To the left of the ALS-600 is an LDG AT-1000 Pro-II auto-tuner (ATU), which feeds either my 75 meter loop (my FAVE!) or a 75 meter dipole, both of which are at about 35 feet height. Above the ATU is a second MFJ peak-reading RF power/SWR meter. The radio to the right of the ALS-600 amplifier is an Icom IC-2720.

    To the right (under the shelf is an Alnico DM-330MV DC power supply, and the next item on the right is another MFJ 868 peak power meter.

    (Above) An overall view of my "main desk" in the family room. The ham radios are under the two iMac computers. The 24 inch DELL monitor is now in my basement shop.

    A view of the ham computer on the computer in the above image; All three SDR's are running at the same time, as can be seen on the 27" iMac's display. I have to switch the antenna to one at a time, so only the Flex-6500 is attached to an antenna at this moment. By using the same power supply, antenna and speaker units, I am able to easily compare all of the four radios. (Update: The Flex-5000a is gone as of 10-17-2013.)





    My MAIN radio desk

    My main radios include a Kenwood TS-590 and an ANAN-100. My RECENTLY PAST main radios also included a Flex-6500, and two Flex-5000a radios , etc. The four units that I had on-line in our family room were all great radios; -I am now down to the ANAN-100 and the TS-590 in the family room operating position. (I have a second TS-590 and an IC-7000 in the basement shop operating position.

    A software defined radio (SDR) is a lot more fun to operate than the Kenwood TS-590, of course. -The TS-590 is a surprisingly STRONG contender!!! This is an easy to operate, VERY good radio! -The only thing is, the TS-590 is "blind!" (One gets spoiled by enjoying the VISUAL abilities that an SDR offers.) (Note: See below for a resolution to the "blindness" limitation of the TS-590 radio...)

    As I mentioned, the above radios are located in the family room, which is my main radio operations location. -The family room is on the main deck of our house. As a result of this location, I am able to look (outside) to the North and to the South, for a much nicer on-the-air experience, compared to my basement-shop. (I also have HF radios in my basement shop; Continue on, for more info on "studio 'B' in the basement.")





    MY INFORMAL RADIO COMPARISON TEST . . .

    In my informal testing of a collection of four radios, the TS-590 sometimes WON the test of comparison several times! -Even when it it did not "win," the TS-590 was never far behind the other three. (!!) During my informal tests, I was surprised that the "little piss-ant TS-590" did as well as it had! More on this later, perhaps... Initially, I felt almost disappointed that the '590 did as well as it had, considering the cost of the units that I was comparing! -The TS-590 seemed to work "better than what could be logically expected," in other words! -Good radio for the cost, plus it has great ergonomics, is easy-to-use, and so on!

    For my testing, I was using COMMON (switched) ANTENNAS and THE SAME (multiple input) SPEAKER SYSTEM and POWER SUPPLY for all four radios.

    I allowed each of the radio's antenna tuners to achieve a good match to the antenna that was being used at the moment, so that the "testing" was as fair and equal as possible. I then would use coaxial antenna switching to select the different radios. This allowed me to "instantly" (quickly) switch between the four radios.

    My informal test log spanned several months, on the three bands mentioned. I also tried the FOUR radios at various times of the day, with and without QRN, QRM, etc. The radios that I compared "in real-world conditions" were as follows:

    • Kenwood TS-590
    • Flex-6500
    • Flex-5000a
    • ANAN-100

    As I mentioned, all of my tests were very unscientific; -I was simply noting which radio was able to give me an output THAT I COULD HEAR AND UNDERSTAND. In all cases, I was looking for weak signals, with obvious consideration for co-channel QRM, local noise, etc. ("Real world" needs, in other words.)

    I was trying to be as "real world" as possible. -All of the finest laboratory setups and measurements go out the window, when we screw all of these fine results up by (gasp..!) ATTACHING AN ACTUAL ANTENNA TO THE RADIO!

    The radio-test-sites are good for some points, no doubt. But one has to keep in mind the extreme "ARTIFICIAL ISOLATION" that a well equipped test bench offers; -As a result, this genuinely is an artificial world. -Hook an antenna to the radios and measured things such as the noise floor, etc. go right out the window. Really!

    (Really!!!)

    My testing of the four very fine radios was on 75, 20 and 17 meters, and was strictly "by the ear," seeing how well I was able to hear weak signals, through QRM, QRN, QSB and so on. (Again, "real world" over a period of months!)

    I tried to level the playing field as much as I could with my testing, addressing the following main points to define my methodology; -Beyond this, the radios had to stand on their own merits:

    • All four radios were compared on the same antenna, switching between them for quick evaluation/comparison
    • All had the same speaker systems, using multi-inputs on Bose speakers
    • All radios were tuned with the built-in antenna tuners as needed/equipped
    • (The ANAN-100 has no ATU, so I used an outboard MFJ-993 tuner)
    • I used the radios on different bands, times, and conditions
    • Antenna switches allowed selecting the different radios very quickly

    I had the collection on the main operating desk for several months! As a result, I was able to do ongoing casual comparisons between all four of the radios as the conditions, time of day and dates changed. I used the radios in all sorts of real-world operating conditions, except for contesting. (I am NOT a contester.) As a result of my setup, I was very easily able to QUICKLY cycle between radios and sense the results very quickly and very easily.

    Of the four radios, the Flex-5000a was the "looser," but not at all by a dramatic margin! In a few rare cases, the TS-590 actually matched or edged out the newer technology radios, the ANAN-100 and the Flex-6500!

    The comparison between these four VERY FINE radios is why I had referred the TS-590 as the "piss-ant" radio... -This, because the TS-590 "had NO RIGHT" to best the other radios, due to it's much lower cost! In all tests, the TS-590 and all others won out when the alternate radio was the Flex-5000a, maybe not all that surprising, as the '5000a is a first-generation SDR.

    Just to remind, the Flex-5000 is an extremely good quality radio, but it is an earlier category of SDR! But I must again stress that I was surprised and almost dismayed that the TS-590 did as well as it did! (Bottom line: The '590 "did better than it should have.")

    The newer generation (DDC, DUC) SDR radios were fairly equal. (These are the Flex-6500 and the ANAN-100 radios.) In sheer SENSITIVITY, the ANAN-100 may have had the edge at times (varying conditions, atmospherics, etc., etc.) and at other times, the Flex-6500 won my informal "by the ear" comparison. -Again, the TS-590 was fighting for top place, and it even WON a few rounds! I do feel that the Flex-6500 handled the QRN better than the ANAN-100 radio.

    I have now sold both of my Flex-5000a radios. And, my Flex-6500 was returned to the factory for a full refund, for which I am thankful and pleased. (THANK YOU, Flex-Radio!!) The Flex-6500 has the "best feeling" hardware of the SDR units. (As an example, the ATU in the '6500 was the absolute best, in that it was fast and efficient. It also had a genuinely NICE "sound of quality" as it matched the antenna's load, as an example!!) It was ONLY the software that the Flex-6500 had available that was the show-stopper for ME. I have noticed that the software has progressed more and more, so it is entirely possible that the Flex-6500 would be in the "most coveted" position in my informal pick! (Maybe I gave up my Flex-6500 too quickly..??!!) The software was a problem for me, but the app that runs the Flex-6500 has been upgraded quicker than the road-map had outlined! (Ratz.)

    There is an informal ANAN-NET on 20 meters each Sunday: The net meets on or about 14.340 Mhz at 12:30 Central time, which is 1730Z or 1830Z depending if we are on daylight savings time or not. I will usually have my ANAN-100 radio viewable on line here: http://www.livestream.com/k0jta -Once you open this web site, you will be able to see and hear what I see and hear! There is a short commercial that you will have to endure when you first get the Livestream web site loaded. There is also a time delay, so it will not be live. Please do join into the ANAN-NET!!

    I made up an antenna switching box to allow the antennas (75 meter loop and 75/40 meter dipole) to be remotely switched via a USB connection to the computer, an iMac that is running Windows 7 so I can run the radios. I used to feed the two loop antennas with about 55 to 60 feet of 450 Ohm ladder (window!) line. The Icom AH-4 is mounted on the wall inside my garage. About ten feet of RG-8 coax seperate the radio from the AH-4 tuner. I still have the AH-4 in place, but it is not being used at this time.

    I SOMETIMES have my radio(s) viewable on line here: http://www.livestream.com/k0jta -Using this, one can see and hear what the SDR radio "sees and hears." When you first go to this web page, you may have to endure a short commercial; Once this is done, you can watch and listen to the presentation for as long as you'd like. (I am using the FREE version; The paid versions do not have the commercial, as I understand.) Go to Livestream.com for hints on how to do some "streaming" yourself!

    If you would like to see YOUR SIGNALS via livestreaming from my site in South-Eastern Minnesota, email me with your needs; -If at all possible, I will run the LIVESTREAM app for you, if I am able.





    More on the Kenwood TS-590 radio. This has been a very PLEASING radio, even though I am "spoiled" by my "SDR" radios over the years. It is an extremely good value for the dollar!! (I do not think one can buy a better radio at TWICE the price.) Operationally, it is super-easy to run. The added features such as the very extensive VOICE PROMPTS (of even the extensive MENUS and their SETTINGS!) and so on, are like more and MORE "icing on the cake!" (And even MORE icing, when one realizes the ability to run the radio REMOTELY is part of the included package!)

    -The list goes on and on. ((REALLY!!))

    Just look at the heavy die-cast frame in the TS-590 in the image above! There are two large, slow-turning cooling fans, as one can see. The standard ATU (auto-antenna tuner) is on the right; This tuner does a fantastic job, and is FAST and very QUIET.

    -The rear panel is also part of the unit's die-cast frame.

    -The above image shows the free software that is supplied by Kenwood. This software can even turn the TS-590 radio ON and OFF remotely. (!!)



    Newest toy: The Elecraft KX3! It is a 12 watt all-band radio, that has built-in rechargeable batteries and ATU (automatic antenna tuner). -It works well. It is an SDR (Software Defined Radio) design, which is what drew me to this unit; As such, it has the I/Q (incidence and quadrature) outputs! With this, it is my HOPE to be able to run an application, which will show me the panoramic frequency display, as well as a lot more!

    UPDATE: The KX3 is now gone. Just too many small "issues" with the radio. It did work, no doubt! But the operational issues of the design and the ergonomic design left me thinking over and over again that it just was not a good enough design for me. Operationally, it had to many "good enough" features and functions that I found troubling. It had to go.





    How To Get Started In Amateur Radio

    Getting started in Amateur Radio has never been easier!  You can usually find a ham radio class in your area sponsored by friendly volunteers who will help you learn the "ropes."

    Entry-Level ham licence...

    The Technician Class license NO LONGER REQUIRES A MORSE CODE EXAMINATION, and gives you all ham radio privileges above 30 Megahertz. You'll pass a relatively easy exam on radio operating practices, FCC rules and basic electrical theory. Technician Class operating privileges include FM voice, digital packet, satellite, television, single-sideband voice and several other interesting modes.  You can make international radio contacts via satellites, using relatively simple equipment. The TECHNICIAN PLUS class of licence no longer requires a five word-per-minute code proficiency, and offers some limited HF (high frequency) priveledges, I believe.

    Other levels of ham licenses...

    Other classes of licenses offer HF (high frequency) bands of frequencies; The GENERAL and the EXTRA class licenses offer similar bands, but the Extra has exclusive rights to segments of some of the HF ham bands.

    Where Do I Start?

    he American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and others publish ham radio license study guides to help you learn the things you'll need to pass your exam and have fun with Amateur Radio. ARRL can also assist you in finding ham operators in your area who'd like to help you get started.

    Radio Shack Stores also sell a very good reference book, NOW YOU'RE TALKING.  This is a complete study guide for the Novice, Tech and Tech-Plus exams.  (The book is published by the ARRL.)

    The ARRL Educational Activities Department (EAD) distributes a "Prospective Ham Package" that is sent at no cost to you.  The material describes Amateur Radio, popular ARRL study guides, and includes a list of your local ham radio clubs, ham radio classes and volunteer examiners in your area.  Contact the ARRL for a "Prospective Ham Package", today!:

    TOLL-FREE -- 1-800-32-NEW HAM (our New Prospect "Hot Line")

    mail -- ARRL EAD, 225 Main St, Newington CT 06111

    phone -- (203) 666-1541

    fax -- (203) 665-7531

    e-mail -- pbudnik@arrl.org

    (Make sure to include a specific request for the "Prospective Ham Package" and include your postal address because there is too much material to send via e-mail or fax.)






    Radio-GEEK stuff...

  • Near-Real-Time MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) Map map here. (It is updated every five minutes.) Here, you will see a recent high-resolution map of Maximum Usable Frequencies (MUFs) for 3,000 kilometer radio signal paths. It is also a map showing the current location of the auroral ovals, the sunrise/sunset terminator and the regions of the world where the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon (which estimates the gray-line corridor where HF propagation is usually enhanced). <--(Click on the link...)

    Easy to make: CATV connectors for ham radio use!

    Here is an easy-to-make adapter, for using inexpensive (free, mostly!) CATV cable for ham use. (I used common copper-pipe fittings, etc.)

  • My home made CATV connector instructions . <--(Click on the link...)

    Icom IC-746 radio modifications

    Here are a couple of modifications (which I developed) to enhance the popular IC-746 radio... One increases the "too low" mic gain of the radio, and the second one allows the cooling fan to run at a very slow (QUIET!) speed whenever the radio is turned on, but still allows the higher speed, as needed.

  • The modifications are also listed on the Mods.dk web site. -This is an extensive collection of modifications for all kinds of communications equipment! <--(Click on the link...)

  • See the same modifications here on my web site. <--(Click on the link...)