Friday, April 23, 2010

Fiddling with the QS1R

I'm working with the Quicksilver QS1R receiver, a little SDR box that samples the spectrum from 10 kHz to 60 MHz. The hardware seems good, but most of the action for the user is in the "S" part of SDR -- i.e., the software. Take a look at 20 meters in the afternoon - with all possible windows open. (To be fair, you don't need twin monitors -- 3840 x 1080 pixels -- to use this radio!) CPU demand is 6% on my 4 core, 8 thread system, Windows 7 (64 bit). Click for higher rez.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Perfect Cartoon

XKCD of course: here.

A new rig

AA6E just acquired a new small rig, a Yaesu FT-897D. Small on the outside (size), but big on the inside (features) -- like Dr. Who's Tardis. This is the first Yaesu HF (+ VHF/UHF) transceiver I have used since the days of the sainted FT-101.

A limitation of all compact rigs with sophisticated operating modes is the very limited user interface (knobs and buttons) through which you have to configure the equipment. We have a smallish LCD screen, 14 buttons, and 4 knobs -- and something like 100 parameters that can be set.

I am climbing the learning curve now. So far, it appears that the "information design" is fairly rational and easy to deal with, conquering new features one at a time. It will take a while to know the rig thoroughly. I'm only afraid I'll forget faster than I'll learn - especially since this is meant as a secondary rig for me.

People complain about the complexity of the Ten-Tec Orion, which is my main transceiver. They have a point, but navigation through the menus is much easier. With the Orion, the big concerns IMO have to do with setting up the flexible AGC system, IF DSP parameters, etc. (Not to mention finding and loading the firmware version that works best for your own operating style!) "Fortunately" the 897 has much less to offer in terms of advanced issues like these...

Getting on the air? I tried for a while without success. I was transmitting at 18 MHz into my 80 m dipole -- not a good strategy. Switching in the SteppIR, I made quick contacts with HA8, F5 and Texas for good measure. Nice reports.

Note to self: Improve antenna switching system!


Amateur Radio in German is "Amateurfunk". That sounds pretty funny to an American ear, since "funk" is a highly-charged word with several meanings, none of them suggesting a radio hobby!

Somehow, through the Internet, I came across the word "der Funke" meaning "spark". And the clouds parted. Radio as spark. That was certainly its origin in the late 1800's. Amateur Spark is a nice thought, now rather anachronistic, but saying something about what makes ham radio what it is.

And where did "radio" come from? Wikipedia to the rescue:
The prefix radio- in the sense of wireless transmission, was first recorded in the word radioconductor, coined by the French physicist Édouard Branly in 1897 and based on the verb to radiate (in Latin "radius" means "spoke of a wheel, beam of light, ray"). "Radio" as a noun is said to have been coined by the advertising expert Waldo Warren (White 1944). This word also appears in a 1907 article by Lee De Forest, was adopted by the United States Navy in 1912 and became common by the time of the first commercial broadcasts in the United States in the 1920s.
I think I like "Funk" better...

Note added: Here's what set off my spiel today, an Economist article quoted by Andrew Sullivan here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's alive!

The brand new long-in-coming ARRL website is up! It is at, naturally.

I had a tiny role in preparing some of the pages. Hopefully you will not see my fingerprints anywhere.

It has been a very ambitious project. Like war plans, we will see if the site survives contact with the enemy. (= users!)

It looks pretty good to me, and we can only expect it to improve.