All I Know³
Information, transmission, modulation, and noise – 3rd Edition

Field Day 2010

ARRL FIELD DAYThis weekend is ham radio’s Field Day. It’s when radio amateurs set up their equipment outdoors and off the power grid and try to contact as many other hams as they can. It’s a contest. There are rules and points. No prizes, tho. Just bragging rights.

And, as usual, I’m not prepared. I’m a “casual” amateur radio operator, AG6RF.

I’ll probably put the mobile rig into the van  and head out somewhere later today or tomorrow. It can be fun, like fishing when the fish are biting. Or, depending on the electromagnetic weather and the ionosphere, a complete bust.

So we’ll see. Someday I hope to be more prepared, with a real location, maybe a tent, and a portable antenna tower I can put up and run a long wire antenna. And a portable car battery or maybe some solar panels. And lunch.

Anyway, Field Day runs from 11am PDT today, Saturday, to 2pm Sunday. I’d better get moving.


Update: I never did get it together. I didn’t have much time during the weekend, but I did manage to make 3 or 4 contacts, mostly north to WA and south to San Diego. Propagation was poor and the noise level was high. Well, maybe next year…

Linux and Ham Radio

Linux Journal

The January 2010 issue of Linux Journal is devoted to Ham Radio!


There’s a lot of software out there for amateur radio applications. But up to now most of it has been for Windows PCs. Which is strange, because amateur radio is really about doing things yourself, outside the box. For which Linux and the whole Open Source movement seems a natural. In fact, the lead article in the January issue of Linux Journal calls amateur radio the “first open source project”.


I just hope more ham radio software migrates over to Linux. I hate seeing some really exciting ham radio apps offered Windows-only. More and more apps are appearing for the Mac, which also seems more natural than Windows.


For example there are some really good apps for learning and exercising Morse Code. But most of the best are still on the PC/Windows. So I have to keep one system around with Win/XP just to run those apps. This is silly. I bet if the apps were written in Java they could run on any system.


Lets see more Linux apps out there.

Spotless Sun

Sun Spots - NY Times

 Even the NY Times is worried about the lack of sunspots. Seems we’ve been at the minimum of the 11-year cycle for an awfully long time by now. See >NYTimes article.

Lack of sunspots means no solar flux means lack of reflectivity in the Earth’s ionosphere means limited skip-wave propagation of radio waves in the 3 to 30 MHz range, which explains why the best I can do with my ham radio set is reach Texas, but not Japan.

We had a false hope that things were turning positive a few weeks ago when a lonely sun spot appeared. But it quickly disappeared.

We’re still waiting. Meantime, today’s NYT online article has a neat graphic: (click on image to enlarge)

Sun Spots - NY Times

(My) Field Day – 2

Well, I wasn’t as successful today as yesterday. Field Day started yesterday at 11am, and continued until 2pm today (2100 UTC). Unfortunately for my Field Day activities, it being a Sunday, I didn’t get out of bed until almost 10am. So by the time I packed up the van and made my way up to Sequoia arena in the Oakland hills, it was after noon. And very very hot.

But when I got there they were nearly done packing up. Missed the whole thing (even tho there were almost 2 hours left). But got to talk to some of the people at the Oakland radio club. They had had stations operating in every mode including some digital modes. Should have been there.

Still, it was too hot for me and I headed right over to the much cooler Bay shoreline at »Point Emery (at the foot of Ashby Avenue in Berkeley), and managed to make a few more 20m contacts before the event ended (and while watching some windsurfers in a stiff wind).

All said, AG6RF made 38 contacts over a total of maybe 4 hours. 5 were on 40m, the rest on 20m. That’s not too bad, considering I’m not into contesting. I’m just waiting for the sunspots to return so I can make some long distance (DX) contacts to Europe and Japan. It has been a couple of years now since I made a DX contact. They say we’re at the bottom of the 11-year cycle. So things SHOULD be getting better.

Still, it was a great geeky weekend.

By the way, THIS is what it’s all about

It was produced for last year’s Field Day.

(My) Field Day – 1


Today I drove out to Pt Reyes to spend a few hours making contacts as part of Field Day. Unfortunately I had only a few hours to spend, but it was an absolutely beautiful day and even tho it takes an hour and a half to get there from Oakland, it was worth it.

I took hamstick antennas for 20 and 40 meters, and arrived at my favorite spot, above Pierce Ranch up on a ridge with a 180 degree view of the Pacific.

It’s a perfect spot. No noise and usually great reception and propagation, especially north/south. And I made about 20 contacts on 20 meters, answering stations calling CQ Field Day. Covered places from Alaska to Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, with a couple of Texas and Colorado stations. Clearly the propagation was running north/south.

spot_2.jpgLater I moved down towards the shoreline beach at North Beach, and switched to 40 meters. What surprised me was the number of stations that commented on the strength of my signal .. they were amazed I was running just a (stationary) mobile rig (Icom 706IIg and a hamstick). Just goes to show that when the ionosphere is with you, you can do very well.

All in all, I made about 30 contacts.  Which is pretty good for casual contesting in just a couple of hours. And I was able to prove that my equipment was still working after almost a year of inactivity.

Tomorrow I’ll join up with the Oakland radio club up in the Oakland hills and see what they’re up to.

While driving back home I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly high the background radio noise is at home compared to the near perfect conditions out at Pt Reyes.  So frustrating.

Field Day!

Field Day

AG6RF has never really participated in a Ham Radio Field Day. Never officially. But this weekend I just might. The local Oakland amateur radio club will be setting up and operating a field station (battery powered) at the Sequoia horse arena up in the Oakland hills, near the Chabot Space and Science Museum.

Field Day actually runs from Saturday 11am Pacific Time thru Sunday 2pm. Amateur radio operators all over the country are encouraged to operate off the grid and make as many contacts with other hams as they can. It’s actually a contest, with complex rules for making contacts and garnering points. I never join contests, but I do like to make contacts. So Saturday I just might take the van, radio, and a few antennas out to Pt Reyes for a few hours, and then join the Oakland club at Sequoia on Sunday.

There’s more information about Field  Day on the ARRL website.


Richard Friedman lives in Oakland, CA, is a freelance tech writer/editor, web designer, photographer, is a Director of Other Minds, wrote his first computer program in 1962 for the IBM 650. It played dice. He is also a ham radio (AG6RF) operator, and he also takes a lot of photographs, composes music, and does a weekly radio program on KALW called Music From Other Minds.
He is not Kinky.

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