Amazing Six Months!

I’ve hit an amazing Six month “Sprint” in my life. Working at Credit Karma has proven to be the absolute best work experience I’ve had in my 36 year career. I have built the companies first Enterprise Data Dictionary, which included the data model, Python meta data generators from all sources, and after learning React.js with Redux and Material.ui, I’ve developed the first web app in a suite of very high profile (internal) web apps. All while learning several Google Cloud technologies (I used to use AWS for this sort of thing). Throw in the odd Google SEO app that I wrote that bailed part of the marketing team out.

In parallel, I’ve learned more than I ever could have imagined in the Maker space, and built the URAT Raspberry Pi Zero W based universal remote antenna tuner. Coding Python at work during the day and C at night. And I’m only a second rate C hack, but I must say, I kicked some major ass and ended up featured in several Maker web sites.

I designed and built the Mod Bob lowband antenna and the two element 20M yagi and then gave my “inaugural” presentations on both at EBARC meetings.

I sold my car and committed to cycling everywhere as my form of transportation.

I rebuilt a major portion of my ham shack and built a small Maker space with my first signal generator and oscilloscope. I helped a couple makers with their projects and they proclaimed “I need to get into ham radio” after seeing the shack.

I travelled to my first Dayton Hamvention where VK0EK received the very highly coveted and esteemed DXPedition of the Year award.

VK0EK won the DX Coffee “Best Communication” award, which was fashioned after the TX5K Clipperton DXpedition where I forged a form of near real time “micro-blogging” that I took to it’s logical conclusion with VK0EK.

I learned that TX5K is the world record holder for QSO’s per hour or minute for any DXpedition, and that is kudos to my German brothers in the Bavarian Contest Club.

My younger son was accepted into UC Santa Cruz after completing his first two years at DVC, a wonderful Community College.

I got my neighbors to join CERT and a few are mildly interested in Ham Radio.

Just before I started at Credit Karma I completely redesigned and rebuilt my landscaping. It turned out great.

The only thing I didn’t do that I wanted to do was lose some serious weight.

Is there an app for that?

My Favorite DX-pedition Video – VK0EK

I just received and viewed the VK0EK video. It is far and away my favorite expedition video ever. It has enough of what you normally get with a DX-pedition video, but the tour of the majestic beauty with all of its geography, flora and fauna (and weather) makes it my favorite easily and by a country mile.

The video footage, photographs, diagrams, narration and background music are all superb.

October QST “DX Issue” Cover

This year’s ARRL QST edition does not feature a team, but instead, its an antenna farm. I have been very curious about this since VK0EK was immortalized on last years DX Edition, and was also on the cover of the DXCC Yearbook.

For me, DXCC has become quite boring, but with the maker and ongoing antenna work, I am always engaged and happy – even if its just calling ZS on the LP or SP on 40M with an antenna I designed and built, or working a new one on 160M.

I’ve written about what I think the future of DXing and DXCC might be – but when it comes down to it – I live in the day and enjoy each day as best I can regardless of DXCC or awards chasing is concerned. In fact, I only have 4600 QSO’s in my log – going back to 1973! I am 95% SWLer – I do turn the radio on every day and listen no matter what. I tune around and check propagation by seeing if I can hear something that is spotted.

This summer a whole new world has opened up – and now that I have even experimented with Maker Meets Ham projects as they relate to antennas and DX-ing is concerned, I’m in it for the long haul.

The Best Two Antennas I Have Ever Had

For all low bands, 160-30M, my own designed “Modified Bobtail” is a very clear winner. I’ve blogged extensively about this antenna, and the best antenna tuner for this antenna – and my favorite antenna tuner of all time is the Palstar BT1500A. Every feature, knob and button is useful and perfect for the Mod Bob.

The best yagi antenna I have ever had was the N6BT DXU-32. It is also a real masterpiece, with 2 elements on 40 and 3 on 20M, you can easily make DXCC Honor Roll in 10 years or less with this bad boy.

If I had this antenna when I started my DXCC chase, I would have made Top of Honor Roll in 15 years and VK0EK, Heard Island would have been my last one. Bouvet – 3Y0E and Glorioso – FT5GA were activated and I missed both. The reason? My antenna. I don’t have the best QTH for antennas, but I did hear 3Y0E but never heard FT5GA with my antennas – which was a single vertical for the low bands and  20M moxon only up 30′.

Which leads me to tower – even with the N6BT DXU-32 only up 50′ on the amazing military mast system AB-577, I worked anything and was first in many pileups (with my ACOM 1500 amp – which I still love even though I replaced it with the equally fantastic SPE Expert 1.3K FA).





ZS3D and ZS6CCY on Mod Bob – 40M

Dani, ZS3D and ZS6CCY were 59 on the Mod Bob tuned for 40M, so I have just confirmed that its as good or better than the broadside direction on the DX Engineering DV-40-P. I broke through small pileups and was first in in both cases.

What was especially cool was that this was during a major solar storm – with a radio blackout in progress. I am very confident that taking down the 40M array won’t affect me working 3Y0Z at all. SO – in the next couple weeks, my latest antenna “escapade” will be done.

Mod-Bob vs. DX Engineering DV-40-P

My DX Engineering DV-40-P 40M phased array just gave up the ghost (SWR went high and there is no directionality), and while its most likely a gopher who has chewed on a wire, the two elements are really too close to the Mod Bob. It is possible (but much less likely) that transmitting on the Mod-Bob has fried a component in the DV-40-P. 

Since one of the two 40M elements is less than 10′ away from the Mod Bob its in the near field of the Mod Bob which means it no doubt distorts the patterns of both antennas, which makes both less effective than what the models say.

The broadsided direction of the Mod Bob right now is E-W, pretty much 90 and 270 degrees.

That’s great for ZS, but the broadsided direction for Bouvet is 130 degree-ish, and the 40M broadsided direction is perfectly aligned for Bouvet.

The plots in the DX Engineering DV-40-P manual show that both the broadsided pattern is not as good as the Mod-Bob on 40M, and that its also 1 dB less gain wise. What is really interesting is that the Mod-Bob is only 1 dB down from the DV-40-P’s end fire direction (Mod-Bob in broadside):

In fact, if I move two of the Mod Bob’s elements – which means they replace the 40M vertical elements, I pick up 1 dB and get a better pattern and direction for Bouvet.

The Mod-Bob has become the only antenna that I use much any more, and its very easy to maintain. My only DX hope these days is working the last 13 on 160M and Bouvet, and since 40 and 30M could be the “godsends” for the West Coast, the Mod Bob has become even more important than my 40M array – which I have really loved.

I am quite confident that I will work them on at least two of the low bands, and also on 20M with my 2 element 20M home brewed yagi.

I think I know what I’ll be doing one of these weekends soon. I have to take down the 40M array and move two Mod Bob elements. Doing this will knock out my great ZS LP path, but Bouvet is the only game in town for me now. On 160M the Mod Bob pattern is omni directional, and on 80M there is the same pattern as the DV-40-P, so the little that I give up taking down the 40M array means I gain so much more with moving the two Mod Bob elements.

Dilemma solved.

Field Strength Meter

I’m going to use this new old stock Simpson panel meter for a field strength meter. I’m thinking of making it Arduino or Raspberry Pi based so it can be made wireless – have the sensing circuit out in the yard and it sends data and have the meter in the shack. Kind of a weird digital – analog mash up.

There are many circuits out there that are either analog or digital, so this could be a lot of fun.