Monday, November 30, 2009

Disclaimers and Disavowals

Recently W4KAZ felt compelled to issue a disclaimer on his blog disavowing any and all connection to the Fi-Ni Report. Apparently the rumor, accusations and innuendo attributing the Fi-Ni Report to him became too much to bear. We understand. One man can only withstand so much slander.

The Lost Island DX Society and the Fi-Ni Report are happy to affirm the innocence of W4KAZ and clear him of all blame. W4KAZ is acquainted with lots of LIDS, but aren't we all?

While we are at it, we'll take the opportunity to clear up some other rumors regarding the LIDS and the Fi-Ni Report:

1. The Lost Island DX Society is not a powerful, super secret society of Big Guns who REALLY run things in the DX and contesting world much like the Masons and the Knights Templar run the rest of the world. While membership in the LIDS is strictly controlled (you just have to ask to join, that's all) that hardly makes it exclusive. Most members of LIDS keep quiet about it out of shame and good sense, KA3DRR excepted. We are reminded of Groucho Marx's comment that he'd never join a club that would have him as a member. Most hams feel the same way about the LIDS.

That being said, the LIDS' occasional foray into the nation's capital to lobby the powers that be or their periodic DX conventions in Las Vegas might be seen as gatherings of power and influence. We'll do nothing to dissuade that impression as it helps us write off our liquor tab and gambling losses as legitimate business expenses.

If curiosity about the membership of the Lost Island DX Society ever gets the best of you, next time you hear a Big Gun station on the air, just ask him/her "Are you one of them LIDS?" Their answer should remove any doubts.

2. The LIDS and the Fi-Ni Report disavow any connection, influence, or cooperation with the following:
a. The sunspot cycle (we leave that to the Palos Verdes Sundancers)
b. QST, CQ magazine and Wayne Green
c. The M/S rule change for CQ WPX
d. The Kennedy assassination
e. The approval of 7O1YGF for DXCC credit
As stated in our profile, the Fi-Ni Report aspires to the journalistic standards set by The Weekly World News. For those unfamiliar with this paragon of supermarket tabloid journalism, it is printed on the finest birdcage liner and fish wrapping paper available. It has been an invaluable resource for housetraining puppies since its inception. We have limited the Fi-Ni Report to electronic form in an effort to prevent the useless slaughter of trees to give physical form to the useless slaughter of "news" that we create.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

LIDS Sweepstakes

Sunday night brought down the curtain on another year of November madness. No, not Black Friday, that's still to come - Sweepstakes. This year's phone Sweepstakes was certainly a fun ride and it looks like many records will be broken.

All, however, was not easy going. The Lost Island DX Society's resident phone expert, Rusty Key, suffered a severe burn to his tongue Saturday morning while having his morning coffee. As a result, Rusty's speech was severely impaired. Of course, he had not previously prepared the wav files for his voice keyer, so Rusty was forced to spend the weekend calling ,"Theee Coooo Thweeeeppp Thaaaks, Theee Coooo Thweeeppp Thaaaks." That made getting a run going very difficult, which forced Rusty to spend most of the contest in search-and-pounce mode.

But even that was an exercise in frustration. Many (most?) ops had trouble translating exchanges like "Numma Freee Freee Thiickks Bwaah-wo" which resulted in lots of requests for repeats. It appears that some Sweepstakes operators have a cruel streak in them as some of the repeated requests for repeats were accompanied by audible snickers.

This obviously made for a difficult contest. That frustration was the likely source of Rusty's mistake on Sunday when, while trying to swing the beam between NWT and VI for the multipliers, he went past the rotor stops and destroyed the rotor. Rusty's beam is now orientated perfectly for working HC8 next weekend, but probably no where else.

But all was not lost. Even with a broken rotor, Rusty managed to work all the sections for the treasured Clean Sweep. Overjoyed at his achievement, Rusty couldn't suppress himself from keying up the LIDS repeater and announcing, "Tweepp, Tweepp, I gahed a keen tweepp!" Congratulations, Rusty.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Minutes of the October LIDS Meeting

The regular monthly meeting of the Lost Island DX Society was held in the back room of the usual watering hold, The Plugit Inn, on October 30, 2009. The meeting was called to order at 6:32 PM by newly elected President Randy.

President Randy welcomed all members and guests and commended some of them for getting in the spirit of things and wearing their Halloween costumes to the meeting, even if it was a day early. As the confused members looked around the room, President Randy realized from the uncomfortable silence that no one actually had worn a Halloween costume to the meeting. Couture has never been a strong suit of the LIDS.

The first order of business was to get drink orders in for all present. Rusty Key ordered his usual Guinness on tap, knowing full well the Plugit Inn does not carry Guinness on tap, and was once again met with a hail of spitballs and detritus. A semblance of order returned to the meeting afterwards.

President Randy announced that after giving careful consideration to the matter and discussing it with the Executive Bored of LIDS, beginning in January, the monthly LIDS meeting will begin at 7:00PM rather than the usual 6:30PM start time.

Several members immediately jumped up to express their dissatisfaction with the new start time. Among the arguments made against changing the start time were:
- If it ain't broke, why fix it?
- A later start time will discourage folks from coming to the meeting, reducing Society participation
- Some folks won't get the word and will show up at 6:30, not find anybody around and leave
- The 6:30 start time is traditional and you shouldn't mess with tradition
- Changing the start time means that we can't compare future meetings to past ones, so all the old meeting minutes will be useless

After listening to the complainers grouse for about ten minutes, a group of supporters for the meeting change chimed in and began to defend the idea of moving the meeting time. The pro-time change arguments included:
- A later start time will allow folks who work later to be able to make it to the meeting on time, which might increase meeting attendance
- Since Happy Hour at the Plugit Inn starts at 7:00, all the 807's will be Happy Hour priced instead of having to pay full price for the first one
- Half of the crowd shows up late anyhow, so a 7:00PM start time might mean everybody will be on time and there won't be so many interruptions from the late arrivals
- A later start time will likely attract new members who could never make the old start time

One old timer claimed that the meetings used to start at 7:00PM years ago, but got changed sometime back in the late sixties. Or maybe it was the seventies. Either way, he blamed the change on the AR-double L (sic).

Several of the cooler heads in the room opined that ultimately the meeting start time would make no difference in how many people showed up to a LIDS meeting, but if the price of beer kept going up, no matter what time the meeting started, fewer would show up. There was muted general agreement on the latter.

One armchair lawyer expressed the opinion that just because the meeting officially starts at 7:00PM that does not prevent individual LIDS from gathering at 6:30PM and enjoying a cold 807 before the official start of the meeting at 7:00PM. A second armchair lawyer objected to the interpretation of the first armchair lawyer, claiming that a pre-meeting gathering of LIDS was in fact a de-facto meeting, if enough LIDS showed up, and hence there was potential that society business could be conducted at this de-facto meeting outside the view of the general membership, thus any pre-meeting gathering was expressly prohibited.

Another armchair lawyer chimed in that he thought that was excessively harsh and, surely, we could trust our fellow LIDS to gather outside of an official meeting and not create mischief. Several mumblers about the room commented about "certain" members lacking moral fiber and the need for rules that could be strictly enforced. When confronted about whom the "certain" members might be, the mumblers said they didn't know of any personally, but had heard rumors of their existence.

Rusty Key spoke up and suggested that the meetings be moved to Wednesdays.

At this point in the discussion, the general membership was about half way through the second round of 807s and logic and pronunciation were being compromised. President Randy managed to get the crowd's attention by whispering that there had just been a cluster spot for a P5 station on 20m. Once he had the crowd's attention, he stated that he and the Executive Bored had already made the decision to change the meeting start time and that was that. He hoped all the loyal membership would continue to come to the meetings, but understood if some found the new start time did not fit their schedules.

C.W. Guy (French pronunciation ) announced that all loyal and steadfast LIDS should arrive anytime they wanted before 7:00PM and keep their butts in the chair until the meeting ended. There was general agreement on his point, but some question on the practicality of it, as by now the third round of 807s had arrived and the lease on the first two was expiring for many.

Having settled, more or less, the issue of meeting starting time, the Society moved on to other business. By this point in the evening, the fourth round of 807s had arrived, so details are pretty vague. There was something about some contests. Maybe some DX. I dunno.

Respectfully Submitted
Cousin QRM

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shack Security for Big Guns

Last weekend, Mach Cuesew went to his Secret RF Lair to continue preparations for dominating the Xtreme Contesting category in the upcoming CQWW CW contest. Upon arriving, Macho noticed things in the shack looked disturbed. He immediately called his fellow Xtreme contester, Leche Dinero to inquire if he had been by the Secret RF Lair. Leche denied coming anywhere near the Secret RF Lair, as he had been busy in the ring practicing his Flying Leap off of the top rope move all week.

Macho said no equipment had been stolen or damaged, but it appears a spate of spurious cluster spots had been made from his computer over the last week. Even more confusing, it appears that some of the spots were actually legitimate, leading credence to either the blind-squirrel theory or the 1000-monkeys-in-a-room-with-a-1000-typewriters theory. Since the Secret RF Lair has only two keyboards, we favor the former theory. Either way, the security of the Secret RF Lair had been breached. Considering that the security consisted of a rusty latch with padlock that closed but didn't lock, this was not a tremendous surprise.

Macho Cuesew decided it was time to implement serious security to protect the shack of the future Xtreme Contesting Champion. Macho called up Dr. DX's Lab of Mad Sciencery for help. The good doctor was not in, but his able assistant Algor was happy to help out. Algor brought over Dr. DX's highest tech electronic lock and installed it on the door leading to the Secret RF Lair. The new lock is voice activated. There is a microphone mounted beside the door that looks a lot like the head of a D-104. To gain access, you step up to the microphone and shout "59-59-59" quickly. However, it's not that simple. The electronics are tuned to recognize only true Big Gun operators (like Macho and Leche) so the access code will really sound more like "FiNiFiNiFiNi". If you've never run a pileup in a big DX contest, you'll never be able to duplicate the sound. After installing the new lock, Algor pointed out that the lock operates off of wind power from the person yelling into the microphone, thus making the new lock very green friendly. This, of course, ignores the carbon dioxide exhaled and halitosis of the speaker.

With the Secret RF Lair newly secured, Macho Cuesew is continuing preparations for his first official championship in Xtreme Contesting. Dr. DX's FiNi Lock will be available to other Big Guns after the first of the year. In addition to securing a Big Gun shack from vandals and thieves, the FiNi Lock is also useful from keeping pesky CQWW Inspectors out during contests.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Kind of Code Talker

I don't think this is the same as the Navajo code talkers.

Contest Season 2009 Mid-point

How's your contest season going?

This is the saddle of fall activity; CQWW SSB and CW SS are behind us, SSB SS and CQWW CW are just ahead. Then there is the holiday flurry of ARRL 160m, ARRL 10m and the Stew Perry before we collapse into the end of the year. Oh yeah, we gotta stay awake or wake up long enough for Straight Key Night. (No, it's not a CONTEST, but as an operating activity, it serves to keep us humble to once a year pull out the J-38 and make an unmitigated abomination of Mr. Morse's code by trying to send something other than 5NN)

Our CQ SSB effort wasn't too awfully different from Dash's. But Cousin QRM usually finds Gummi Bears when he shakes the rig rather than pretzels. It's funny how for months we've bemoaned the lack of sunspots and poor conditions only to find 15m hopping during the world's biggest DX contest. Years ago someone once told me that a dead band was composed of thousands of operators listening for the band to open. Or maybe we just got lucky. Macho Cuesew and Leche Dinero are still trying to steal enough network bandwidth to get their worldwide network of remote receivers to work properly. Maybe by the CW contest.

Sweepstakes is always a blast, even if the cw event serves to re-enforce our humbleness even more than SKN. Cousin QRM keeps trying for that elusive sweep, and Lord knows he needs the broom to clear off the cracker crumbs from the shack table. Rusty Key pointed out that if all the LIDS lived close enough, we could enter the club category and whup all them other big contest clubs, east and west. But our wide flung membership only fits within the 'circle' that is Mother Earth. (So far, none of the astronaut-hams have expressed an interest in being one of the LIDS, but we welcome inquires.)

So this last 'free' weekend of the year will be devoted to repairing antennas and raking leaves around Dr. DX's Lab of Mad Sciencery. Get the voice keyer files recorded and polish the D-104. Polish the beam with Dr. DX's Antenna Wax, and chill the Beveridges. The rest of the year, and contest season, are coming fast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Homebrew kW for the Big Guns

DIY, or homebrew is one of the most active and popular areas of the amateur radio hobby, particularly among the QRP crowd.. They have been designing, building and sharing circuits for the flea power fanatics for a very long time. In fact, approximately half of the all the Altoids sold in the US have the candies thrown away just for the tins to house a Powermite or other QRP rig.

Well it's time the Big Gun QRO crowd join the fun. The next edition of QRM!, the official journal of the Lost Island DX Society (LIDS) will feature an article on a homebrew kW amplifier. But this amp doesn't depend on a big fire bottle 3-500 to make it's heat, or even a ceramic 4CX800. This is a solid state kW.

There are several solid state kW amps on the market, but they all use fancy high power transistors, which carry comparable price tags. The price of a replacement set of finals for some of these amps is worth as much as your car. Well, that is, it's worth as much as MY car. YMMV, but the ole' Gremlin still gets around pretty good.

This exciting new high power amp design uses a power device that is dirt cheap and readily available - the 2N2222, the cockroach of solid state devices. The lowly 2N2222 is the unappreciated ugly step-sister with the hairlip of the transistor family.

By itself, the 2N2222 is only capable of generating 1W of power, but put 1,000 of them in a cascode/cascade design and you've got a full gallon of RF ready to pump into the ether. But a 1,000 transistors sounds awfully expensive, doesn't it? 2N2222's are dirt cheap. 1,000 of them will run you $435 from Digi-Key. That's less than fifty-cents a watt - a bargain compared to hollow-state technology.

There is another advantage of running a massive number of solid-state devices compared to tubes or high-powered transistors - redundancy. I like to call it putting all your eggs in one basket conundrum. With a big tube amp, you might have one, two, three, or even four tubes to generate that kW. If you pop a tube, you lose, at best case a quarter of your output power. Worst case, you're back to fighting it out with the QRP, excuse me, low power crowd running a 100W. Then you've got the big expense of buying replacement tubes. Ouch! See the comment above about the price of power devices and cars.

With this new homebrew kW design you have 1,000 transistors. So what if you lose 10, 20, even 50 of them? That drops you from a kW to 950W. That's less than 0.25 dB loss. And the replacement cost is less than a week's worth of Starbuck's.

Tube amps require high voltage power supplies, typically 2kV or more. You've got to be careful around that kind of voltage, lest you end up flying across the room from an errant screwdriver. It might be fun the first time or two, but after a while the twitches become annoying.

With 2N2222's you can build this amp to run off of 12V, a nice safe voltage. And the beefy 800A power supply can be used for spot welding in a pinch as well. Dual use technology - yet another advantage to this design.

It's tough to sandwich 1,000 transistors into an Altoids tin, even if you use surface mount. But we've found a source for a special breadbox size Altoids tin that's just perfect to hold a kilo of 2N2222's. (See photo at the top of the page)

The next issue of QRM! will be available as soon as the printer finishes the that batch of contest certificates for the World Wide LIDS QSO Party. If you're not a LIDS member, but would like a copy of the new issue of QRM! with the new amp design in it – just ask one of the local LIDS to borrow their copy!