THE KY6R “TOP 3” LISTS OF 2019: Ham Radio Rigs

The Elecraft KX-3 is one of my favorite rigs of all time

I “re-purchased” a KX-3 and it has easily already given me my money’s worth in fun. Its a great nod to the 10 years I owned and loved my K3 – which I used to snag the very toughest and most rare DX towards DXCC Honor Roll. But this is 2019 – not 2016 and before, so the KX-3 gets top billing. The Free Range QRP CW DX 300 pursuit is what makes the KX-3 the winner this year. The Bend Thanksgiving Spy Radio trip at Thanksgiving really put the icing on the radio cake for me – what great fun – just goofing around.

The National SW-3 love affair started in 2018, but went full bloom in 2019

The SW-3 on its own is a winner, but because I was able to listen to KPIG AM 1510 for most of 2019 – that just sealed the deal. Sadly, KPIG AM 1510 is off the air – but luckily KPIG is still on the internet and streaming their fine Pork Platter of Americana . . . but man, every Sunday I listened to a show that was awesome and heard through the SW-3 it was heaven.

Tied for third place – IC-7300 and Collins 75A4

The Collins 75A4 is the best looking Ham Radio ever – and it performs well even today

Some days I want the latest SDR and DSP technologies, but other times, the old analog technology, sound and ergonomics of a tube rig is supreme. The National SW-3 is the “spartan” hero, and the Collins 75A4 is the full on – advanced technology example that just rules. The IC-7300 still blows me away as far as value goes – no Ham Radio has ever offered such bang for the buck.

The QRP Lifestyle

Redwood Tree at Diablo Market in Lafayette, California

I’ve had the Gold Dust Twins listed for sale for several weeks, and at first I tried to sell everything as a package deal. I did receive two offers, but they ended up not being serious. I guess there are a lot of “lookie loos”.

The best looking Ham Radio gear ever

I changed the ad to be a “parting out” ad and then I received a ton of interest, and in every piece. That turned out to be the “turning point” of this story.

Santa ist und Der Haus

The deal I finally made was to sell the KWS-1, TR Switch and Speaker. That then made me realize I could still keep the Receiver, and build a small switch to use the speaker I use with the National SW-3 with the 75A4.

Having a couple vintage receivers and my fabulous KX-3 and IC-7300 just feels right and fits right. Bingo!

Sure enough, after rebuilding the equipment bench and placing the 75A4, I still had enough room for my oscilloscope, signal generator, Simpson VOM and bench power supply. I also now get a nice soldering area where I can listen to the SW-3, 75A4 or KX-3 (or even my Spy Radio) while building kits or playing with Raspberry Pi or Arduino.

Shack building is an underrated aspect of Ham Radio. Call it Ham Radio “Feng Sui”?

I’ve been learning more and more that things rarely go in life exactly as you plan, but pay attention and be a little flexible – things might turn out way better than you initially imaged.

I can now sail into 2019 with the next chapter of Ham Radio in hand. I’ve always, always, always been much more of an SWL than a transmitter. I also love to tinker.

Now my station reflects my interest better, and the main reason all of this came to be is that my house and my shack are small, so I have to be creative with the space I have. George Carlin had a hilarious piece on “stuff”, but no, I’m past those days where if you accumulate too much stuff you buy a bigger house!

I guess you can say I’m living the QRP Lifestyle.

Santa Klaus ist Und Der Haus!

Santa with Morse Express Christmas Key 2019 and “friends” . . . . 

Things are getting downright festivus in the KY6R shack this weekend. We had a superb Thanksgiving week in Bend, Oregon, but now we are getting ready for the main Santa Klaus event here in Orinda.




I Heart CCPA

Last July I started building a Data Catalog and React based front end app called the Data Discoverer. The app features a Data Catalog search and update and also has a business rules table query and update panel.

The Data Catalog part was a “known” – and I used it to “annotate” (document) more than 1000 database tables and a subset of quite a few files that are part of our business processes.

The one thing that was an “unknown” was what CCPA would mean (exactly) as far as what we would have to implement in our systems – and by the Engineering department. I sat through countless meetings with lawyers – both internal and external to our company. The California Attorney General finally released some details in late August – and Governor Newsom signed the bill into law mid October. The start date of the law is January 1, 2020 – so you can only imagine how all of the Data Driven companies are scrambling right now to prepare for this new law.

The business rule table that I designed was a very general purpose table – and it was meant to be something that could work for any “data protection” regulation. It still has merit, but we finally just got some serious details on what Engineering will have to do – and my joke is that CCPA is like Divorce – its not as bad as you feared or as good as you had hoped.

All kidding aside – CCPA adds some real serious protection to all Californians – and was instigated partly because of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica fiasco – where our Democracy was hacked – and also due to all of the other serious data breaches – Equifax, Wells Fargo and others – sadly – there are too many to list.

The other part of CCPA that is worth loving it for is that for the first time in my almost 40 year career – we will have laws that very seriously force companies to better manage data. Things were not so bad “before cloud computing” – but around 2010 – with Hadoop and Cloud computing emerging – disk became so cheap that companies piled data in the cloud. Disciplines like Data Science couldn’t get enough – and “Marcomm” (marketing communications) went nuts with Personalization and Email and Pop up Advertising. Its so bad – I can’t have the ringer on my phone on – and I spend a good hour each week deleting spam call messages on my phone. My web browser encounters so many pop up ads that the screen is now masked half way down – making even the Internet experience annoying.

The phrase “Data is the New Oil” is quite true – even as trite as that may seem. CCPA is a very serious new regulation – and only the ignorant will be against it – or perhaps the nefarious players that take your data and sell it without you knowing it – which is rampant these days – and which is about to be “disrupted”.

Here’s to 2020 and here’s to CCPA!

The KY6R “Top 3” Lists of 2019: Music

Steve Gunn’s “The Unseen in Between” – my favorite album of 2019

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Colorado – my second fave of 2019

Henry Chadwick – a new artist for me – and WOW – he is pretty amazing – watch for him (He is a local – Santa Cruz – +1 for that)

I found out about most of my favorite new music through what seems like the last great radio station on the planet – KPIG. However, KCRW out of Los Angeles is also amazing – its just harder to find decent radio stations anymore. Luckily, musicians are still finding ways to release great music.


Fall into Winter

There are still trees with Fall Color

It was very interesting on Monday, when we left Bend Oregon with snow covered roads and fairly deep snow up to a foot in some places.

We saw snow all the way to Lake Shasta, and highway 97 between Klamath Lake, Oregon and Weed, California was much better defined with snow and bright sunshine. During the summer it just doesn’t stand out as much.

When we got home the trees still have their Fall color, and we realized how lush it is in our neighborhood. It was almost disorienting to have lived a week acclimating to snow and winter and then “Falling Back” into Autumn.

We feel blessed to live near the big city but in a real rural oasis just 20 miles east of San Francisco.

KY6R “Spy Radio Project” – an Update

A Larger Equipment Case . . . 

. . . with a perfect trap door for a Morse Code Key

I have received the 4 States QRP “Bayou Jumper” and add on “Souper Upper” kits. I also have the QRPGuys EFHW antenna tuner kit and the last piece of the puzzle:

QRPKits Amplified Field Strength Meter

and the schematic – a simple yet effective circuit

We got back from Bend on Monday, so Tuesday night after work I played around with a passive Field Strength metering circuit, and was trying a couple Simpson meters that I have purchased. The passive circuit does drive a DC Microamp meter to about 20 microamps full scale – but that is with a 100 watt rig. With 5 watts the deflection is not enough, and while I could play with the circuit more, I decided on going with the powered and amplified circuit – it will be more accurate and drive the meter better and more consistently. It will be easy to create 3 volts from the 12 volt supply that powers the rig – and also use a meter instead of a LED to show power out.

There is one big meter that I would love to use:

0 – 5 mA Simpson meter (actual meter looks new – photo is crummy)

The powered circuit means all I will have to do is either just use R2 to set the sensitivity of the meter (5 watts will be full scale – or a 5) – and if I need to – I might have to add a resistor in series if this circuit and the meter I use is too sensitive. From my experiments I think one of the meters I have will work just fine. As much as I love the big meter with markings 0 – 5 (just a perfect scale), I expect that I will have to use a smaller meter – there is only so much “real estate” with the boxes that I have to chose from.

This meter might win out over the Simpson because of its size – but it has a nice “period look” to it anyway

KY6R Spy Radio Block Diagram

One of the things that I will have to do is order a new black face plate from Tap Plastics. They will take a sheet of black acrylic and use my direction to drill holes in it. I have a “template” for the Bayou Jumper – which is its face plate – but because I will need to add holes for the FSM Meter and Souper Upper Filter switch and Fine Tune controls – plus the EFHW tuner control – the full circuit has extended the Bayou Jumper to something pretty heavily modified. It is all modular though – and with the old oak case with its nice leather handle and Morse Code Key “cubby hole”, I will have something that looks more “of the period” than the Bayou Jumper kits suggestion to use a wooden carrying case from Hobby Lobby. They are “cute” – but I want something that looks a bit more the part.

Bayou Jumper in a “Hobby Lobby” wooden box – cute but too clean for what I want

If I am really lucky – I will be able to use some of the controls that came with the old test equipment boxes that I have. If not – that’s OK, I have everything I need to make something work and to make it look really great. Because of the extra controls I need a bigger box anyway – and the one’s I have are big enough to accommodate them.

I will use the knobs from the test equipment and old binding posts for the wire antenna – so every detail will be as “oldie worldie” as possible. I have the perfect WWII British Morse Code Key – it has black bakelite and will fit perfectly in the trap door compartment.  I won’t mount a key on top of the box – but will use the external “period piece” key instead.

One thing I have which is ultra cool is a set of FT-243 crystal packages that adapt new crystals to the old holder-packages. This means the crystal socket for the Bayou Jumper holds the FT-243 crystals – which means it really will look quite authentic – especially with the old oak equipment case, the old knobs – and who knows – maybe even some of the other parts from these Leeds and Northrup test gear boxes.