Sunday, March 26, 2017

One Last Push to MOQSO 2017!

What a busy weekend.  A busy ham weekend getting ready for the MOQSO party next weekend.  In the past 72 hours, I've made antennas, antenna supports, purchased connectors and coax, terminated coax, programmed radios, recorded CQ's for N1MM, dropped larger equipment off at Justin's house, packed, re-packed, programmed a Raspberry Pi...what else???

Still on the to do list, create laminated county/state/providence cheat sheets, mow the grass, pick up items at the coax cable store during my lunch hour, pack my clothes, rain gear and everything else!  I'm tired and we haven't even setup yet!

One of the things this year that is really going to help is having a central wireless hub for us to share N1MM info through.  During the IL QSO party, we had a wireless access point, but it had small 3db gain antennas on it and didn't really make the grade, so ove the past month I decided to build my own robust wireless system, and it's finally done.

I fit a Raspberry Pi in the enclosure to grab all the network packets in case we have a total failure, we can still re-create the log from the packet capture.  When the Pi boots up, it automatically starts a log file with the date/time and captures UDP packets from N1MM.  We configure N1MM to push all our packets to this Pi during the contest and it captures and logs them.  It's really slick as a backup tool.

In the future, we will probably use the same setup, but look towards a MikroTik outdoor system to really boost our range.  Since we have ham licenses, we can use higher power devices, which MikroTik provides, at a really cheap price!

Getting ready for something like this means lots of lists.  Below is one of the many lists I have to ensure I have everything accounted for.  Not only does this list live on-line, it's on my rolling whiteboard in my basement.

Here is the latest picture of what is packed so far.  5 large totes round out all the equipment going with me.  I've already taken a load of bigger stuff to Justin's to put in the trailer so I don't have to haul it.

Compared to last MOQSO party in 2016, this is a lot less stuff to pack, which I must say we've come a long way in a year as a contesting group.  We've really streamlined our process of putting up antennas, getting coax run and setting up a station.  This year we'll have almost a day and half of setting up.  Last year we had a 1/2 day, which we didn't get everything setup until Sat morning when the contest started.  The goal this year is to have everything setup and working (with wireless tested) by Friday at 6pm.  This way we can relax on Friday night and not stress at the start of the contest.

We are going to try some UHF/VHF this year and see if we can drum up some contacts via simplex, but try and gain interest on the local repeaters.  I have an Elk Mountain Log Yagi that we are going to put up and shoot towards the Kirskville repeater, which has a wide area coverage.  From our location, we are only 17.5 miles from the K-ville repeater.  I built a PVC antenna mast that we will anchor down to the top of the trailer that is rotatable so that should give us around 20ft of height over the trees pointing towards the repeater.

I also created a spreadsheet with all the local repeaters and road trip repeaters for our group to program their radios so we are all on the same repeaters heading up and back home.  We are all leaving at different times, so we might be able to catch each other on the way up within the repeater system.  Same with the trip home, some might leave early, so if we run into trouble, we'll know how to get a hold of each other.

This year, I've taken quite a bit of video of the setup, prep and packing, as the goal of this event is to document all the major steps I take and also why I'm taking equipment and how am I organizing it.  I figure someone else out there might find it interesting on how much work and effort goes into planning something like this.  I also recorded a video of me recording my CQ's scripts for N1MM, which I'll release with the QSO party video.  The MOQSO video is going to be massive, with lots of footage, so it might be released as part 1 and part 2.  CJ who is coming down from Chicago has a drone so, unless it's too windy, expect some really cool drone shots!!!!

Next update will be after the QSO party, or if I find some time between now and then, I'll give another update!  We'll be running as W0W on Putman, Sullivan and Adair counties the whole weekend.  We'll have guys running CW and SSB on 40m the whole contest while others work digital and search and pounce.  Work us if you can!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

All about APRS

Want to know more about APRS?  Check out these two podcasts.  After taking a trip for work, I loaded these two on my phone and listened while I traveled.  3 hours later, I knew a ton more about APRS than I did before I started.  Some things about APRS I thought were correct were not correct and some I didn't even know existed.

If you ever looked at APRS documentation on the internet, you know it's a nightmare.  There isn't a single source of info, how it works or even how it's useful, but if you listen to these two podcasts before setting up an APRS rig, you'll have such an easier time than I did fighting with issues.

APRS Part 1

APRS Part 2 - Q&A