New call: PA8E

PA8E

PA8E Kent PaddleAfter eight years I applied for a new call: PA8E. For some time I was in doubt about my old call. PA1JIM doesn’t key well in CW. It’s too long and I didn’t like the combination 1-J. A few weeks ago one of my HAM-buddies, Gerald PA9G changed his call from PE1PQW to PA9G. A while back I did played with the idea to change my call but with the call-change of Gerald this came back to life. But then the big question: what new call should I apply for?
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Hard work pays off: CW training

PA1JIM CW training progressAt least half an hour a day: CW training at lcwo.net. It pays off. This evening I’m a little less tired then other nights and I started my daily Morse code training. I did not had my regular dips in the first training session of two minutes. To my own surprise I hit a 82% score in the first run! I could not believe my eyes! First score in the 80’s! And it was not a one day fly, the next three were in the 80 percent!

Just as I was thinking I will never learn this, no matter how many CW training I do. Day in, day out of scores around 60 or maybe 70 percent correct. Still working to three scores of 90 percent in one practice session. When I reach that, I will switch over to the numbers. And when I got three hits of 90% or higher I will train letters and numbers combined. I’m still a long way from home. On my to-do list also are the pro-signs. But when we will reach that bridge we will cross it.
After today I got back my motivation to go on with this CW training!
2016-01-21 21_24_35-LCWO.net - Learn CW Online

K3NG’s Arduino CW Keyer 2nd attempt

After a second test resulting in a working display yesterday evening, my 2nd attempt to get a breadboard version of K3NG’s Arduino CW keyer up and running turns out to be a success!
This morning I soldered a female mini-jack and a speaker to the Arduino Nano and set the right pins in the Arduino IDE. After a upload/reboot the keyer came up and it works perfectly!
I really like this Arduino stuff. It is simple to figure out and the fact that it is open source (software as well as hardware) makes things easy and quick to work with. Hats off to the author of the keyer code: K3NG Radio Artisan.

I still have to try connect the keyer to a rig. The fact that you can use one paddle to key multiple rigs, I think is ideal. That way I never have to unplug my paddle from the TS-590 and plug it in the Elecraft K1 or the other way around. You can even connect as much as eight rigs! I don’t think a Arduino Nano has enough connections for it, but the software can do it.
Actually I think I will buy a Arduino Uno for this project so I have enough connections for all kind of options to activate. As controller I considering a rotary encoder. A separate power supply is needed too as you can see the display dimmed when the speaker makes sound.
And then the hardest part; find and build the whole thing in a nice case!

Morse code practice update: slowly but surely stats going up

Training morse code groupcode lettersSlowly the Morse code practice begins to bear fruit. I picked up where I left of in August of 2015 and changed my training speed at lcwo.net from 15 wpm with effective speed of 10 wpm to a speed of 13 wpm with a effective speed of 13 wpm. I did reach a level where I was able to copy most of the characters at 15 wpm but I could not follow a QSO because I lost track after about 3 characters. I decided I need to get up the effective speed which I did in December 2015.

So far I only practiced copying Morse code. I really did not do much about sending it. I do hear people say sending Morse code is easy. I did try it sometime on the bands but find it pretty tricky. Especially the pinching technique you can use with a paddle. In my other project (Arduino keyer) I will create a good training device. Hopefully this combination will be sufficient to pass my Morse code exam on the 18th of June!
I received confirmation from Lode ON6KL for my participation at the Morse code exam. So it is official now.
I noticed the learning curve of learning Morse code is jerky. One day I really add some new high’s and the next day can be so horrible I think I will never make it. Of course there is time enough so everything will be fine, but especially on those ‘down’ days it is really hard to find the motivation to stay practicing for an hour. I realized it has something to do with concentration. My mind let’s true other thoughts and then I lose track of the sounds. I can pick out three or four letters at the time and then they all sound the same and irritate my ears.
Luckily I know from earlier attempts it is getting better over time. The problem now is I am a little impatient and want results quicker 😉

More Morse code practice

kent Morse paddleHope you all had a very pleasant Christmas! Just before the holiday started I’ve made up my mind: I’ll attend for the Morse code exam in Belgium on 28th of June 2016! After reading the announcement on HamNieuws (Dutch) I was convinced this is the right motivator to finally get my code up to speed.
Since dropping the Morse code requirement in The Netherlands it is not possible to take exams in Morse code anymore. Which is a bit weird since in some European countries (i.e. France, Luxembourg) it is still required to have passed your Morse code exam to operate CW on the HF-bands. The only way to get the official note “CW included” on your license (or registration as it’s called these days) is to follow the “Belgium route”. There are still Morse code exams in Belgium. And because Belgium and The Netherlands both have implemented CEPT recommendations TR61/01 & 02, a valid pass of a Morse exam in Belgium is also valid in The Netherlands. So if you send your Belgium certificate to Agentschap Telecom (the Dutch FCC) they will (or have to) update your license with the note “CW included”.
It’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s the only way at this moment.

So I’ve picked up Morse code training at lcwo.net again. Every night one hour of studying. Also I listen to code created with text2cw on my daily commute. I still need to create something to practice my tapping skills. Thinking of building K3NG’s Arduino CW Keyer. I understand from the web-page I can build this keyer with LCD-display and be able to see what I tap. There must be a Arduino Nano laying around and a 2×16 LCD-display is in my junk-box. I’ll try something on a breadboard first. Will post here on any progress!

Best wishes for 2016!

K6XX Zero Beat Indicator

Elecraft logoMy Elecraft K1 is a need little rig. One thing I think it missed was a zero beat indicator. K6XX designed just that. Christmas holiday is the perfect period for a little home brewing, so I warmed up the solder iron.
After a hour or so the kit was finished. My first attempt with SMD’s. I’m not disappointed with the result. The test drive isn’t successful yet. All though I’ve seen the led blinking, I can’t get it to work. The SMD variable resistor feels weird (no resistance when adjusting) so I think maybe I damaged it. In the manual there is a piece with voltage points. I hope I can find some time to check all points and figure out what is going wrong.

CQ WW CW contest

Yes, my first CW-contest! This weekend I participated in the last big world wide contest of 2013 and in CW-modus none the less. OK I admit, my CW-skills are not yet at 25-30wpm so I had to rely on CW-skimmer for a lot of contacts. But it was the best CW-training I ever did! At the end of the weekend I started to copy calls at over 30 wpm.

I didn’t worked new countries this contest, but had great fun. Propagation was still good. Especially on 10 meters I made great contacts (even with New Zealand)! For this time of year I think that’s cool. I wonder how many months we can enjoy these good propagation at the top of the sun cycle.

Ending on Sunday night with 300 Q’s in the log and deep respect for my fellow amateurs who copy my call so quickly and error-less.
It was a great experience and I’m entering more CW-contests in the future. Maybe soon without CW-skimmer 🙂