(Frequently Asked Questions)
At what speed do you normally operate?
Where can I find more information about (insert topic here)?
Do you answer your eMail?
What do you think of the narrow CW filters for your TS-570D?
I have limited space for antennas. What do you recommend?
What do you think of (insert name of QRP rig here)?
Which QRP kit (rig) do you recommend?
Do you have a diagram of your homebrew rig (tuner, swr meter, etc.)?
What's the best way to learn CW (or increase my copying speed)?
Are all the contacts mentioned in your propagation comments made with QRP?
Why do I see ads on some of your pages, yet you say you do not have any ads?
Will electronic QSL'S kill the QSL card?
Which logging program do you use?
MORE Q & A'S TO COME! So check back from time to time if you have a question for me. It may be answered here. If not, as always, feel free to Email me with your question.
Q: At what speed do you normally operate CW?
A: Thanks to new ham friend Tom NT4TC for asking this. For no particular reason I call CQ at 18 WPM most of the time. It's very comfortable for me and seemingly for a lot of people I work. When I answer a CQ, I try to match their speed anywhere in the range of 15 to 25 or so WPM. In contesting I go with the flow at whatever speed they want to play the game. I get a kick out of answering the real speed demons at their own 40-45 WPM. Let me add that most of the time I use a Begali Magnetic Classic paddle with the KX3 built-in keyer. Occasionally I use a Vibroplex Lightning Bug or a Begali Blade straight key. I never use any kind of keyboard or computer keying. I do use the KX3 memory to call CQ if I know I'm going to be calling a lot of CQs in a parkpedition or something like that.
Q: Where can I find more information about (insert topic here)?
A: I can find information about virtually any topic imaginable, ham-radio related or not, by using the wonderful Microsoft Bing Search. Just type the topic into the search form at http://www.bing.com/ and you'll find more about your topic than you wanted to know.
Q: Do you answer your eMail?
A: I answer every legitimate piece of eMail I get. If I feel something requires an immediate answer, I'll answer it as soon as I read it. Otherwise I will generally answer it within a day or two depending on my workload here at the time. If you've sent me an eMail and didn't receive an answer within a few days, there are several possible reasons. 1 - your eMail to me got lost in cyberspace. 2 - my response to you got lost in cyberspace. 3 - this is the most likely reason. Your eMail had an incorrect return eMail address. I routinely will answer an eMail and have it bounce back to me saying it couldn't be delivered because the user doesn't exist on their server or various other error messages. 4 - my friend Chuck, W8LQ points out that very old browsers may not interpret the mailto's on my pages correctly, and your eMail to me may bounce. This should only happen very rarely as over 95% of my visitors do use newer browsers. To enjoy everything on the internet these days, you really should be using the latest version of your browser, whether it be the World's most popular browser, Internet Explorer or any other browser. If you must use an older browser and the mailto's don't work just type my address into your eMail program -
To avoid these problems, please do the following. 1 - be sure your return eMail address is correct. 2 - include your call letters (if you have any) in the body of the eMail. Then if my mail to you bounces, I can check QRZ or other ham callsign servers to try to figure out your correct eMail address or perhaps use an alternate one. 3 - if you don't have a call, please include your full name and location in the eMail, then I can check Yahoo or other eMail directories to try to find a correct address for you. 4 - upgrade your browser and eMail program to the latest version.
The bottom line is - if I received an eMail from you, it has been answered, even if only to say thanks. If you didn't receive an answer, it's not because I ignored you.
Q: What do you think of the narrow CW filters for your TS-570D?
A: I don't have the filters here because I can't afford them. I've been copying CW under all conditions and at all speeds up to 60 WPM on and off for almost 40 years, and I find my brain serves as a good enough filter when combined with the DSP audio filters in the 570. Without the IF filters, I do notice some desensitizing from strong adjacent signals, but I don't find this to be that much of a problem, again because of my long experience in digging weak CW signals out of all kinds of noise. If you're new to CW and plan to do a lot of operating in crowded band conditions (contests, DXing, etc.), I'm sure the filters would be a big help if you want to spend the extra money to get them. As to which filter to get, that's hard to say. I would think the 500 Hz filter would be adequate for most situations, and anything narrower would be overkill in most cases. Keep in mind the narrower the filter, the easier it is to tune right over a station as you scan the bands.
Q: I have limited space for antennas. What do you recommend?
A: Because of the huge number of variables involved and the infinite varieties of 'limited space', I can't answer this directly. The best I can do is to say analyze your space and figure out what can fit into it. If you're interested in 20M or higher, a full size dipole can generally be squeezed into most limited space situations although you may have to fold the ends at an angle. Just keep the central portion of the dipole as straight and high as possible. For 160-30M a full size dipole may not fit, so I'd suggest an end fed wire. get it as high as possible and as long as possible in the space you have available. Then end feed it through a good antenna tuner. See here, here, or here for more info and thoughts on antennas for limited space plus a diagram of a simple but effective antenna tuner.
Q: What do you think of (insert name of QRP rig here)?
A: This is hard for me to answer because my only experience with rigs has been my home-designed and built gear, my Kenwoods TS-570D & TS-480SAT which aren't really QRP rigs although I use them as one, and the Elecraft KX3, K2, and KX-1 rigs, or brief periods of using the QRP Plus, SG-2020, and a couple other rigs. It is my personal opinion that to get the best results from QRP (or QRO for that matter), you must use a rig with as many bells and whistles as possible on it. At least for me, the little QRP rigs are in many cases hard to use because a single control may serve several purposes whereas the bigger rigs have a separate control for each purpose. Of the rigs I have used, the KX3 by far has turned out to be the very easiest to use, followed closely by the K2. The front panels have every function that I use regularly right at my fingertips while those functions used only occasionally are available via a menu system. Because of the extensive DSP filtering the KX3 is also the best receiver I have ever used, followed closely by the K2. I would highly recommend the KX3 to anyone who is serious about operating CW/QRP. I haven't used the K3, but it should be pretty much the same in a larger package than the KX3.
Here's a review I wrote of one of the rigs I mentioned above - the SG-2020, and a review of the fabulous KX3 is here
Q: Which QRP kit (rig) do you recommend?
A: This answer has changed as I've gotten new rigs. Right now I would definitely recommend the Elecraft KX3 as the top of the line QRP rig. It is easy to build (if you wish it in kit form), it has a superb receiver to dig out weak QRP signals, and the controls are the easiest to use of any rig I've tried here. If you decide on it, definitely get the optional roofing filters and the antenna auto-tuner. A close second to the KX3 would be the K2. It's pretty much the same performance-wise as the KX3, but I find the display more informative and the controls more logically arranged on the KX3. Also the KX3 makes an excellent portable rig with its small size. Both the KX3 and K2 might be out of your price range. If budget is a consideration, or for other reasons you don't want a KX3 or K2, then you should make an extensive study of all rigs available with your personal factors in mind. A good starting place is my QRP rigs page. Decide what you want, and make up a chart of which rig has the features you want, fits your price range, etc. Then keep narrowing down the list till you get down to the one rig that you want. At that point is a good time to try to find someone who uses that rig and get their opinion of it. Good luck.
Q: Do you have a diagram of your homebrew rig (tuner, swr meter, etc.)?
A: My tuner is described several places on my website - here - here - here. If after reading those pages you still have questions about the tuner, email me. Other than that, the only diagrams that exist for any of my homebrew gear are in my head, and not down on paper. Sorry. I don't copy other circuits for my homebrew efforts, but take design elements from many different sources and combine them into what I want.
Q: What's the best way to learn CW (or increase my copying speed)?
A: I learned my Morse code way back in the early 1960's, and don't really specifically remember just how I did it. As far as increasing your copying speed, the very best way is to find someone sending good quality Morse at a speed a few WPM faster than you can copy solidly. Practice copying at that speed until you can copy solidly, then move on to a slightly higher speed. Nowadays there are many good software programs geared toward Morse code teaching and practice. Check my CW Information Links and/or my Software Links. In my opinion 'Just Learn Morse Code' is the current best of the bunch. However, everyone's learning procedure is different, so try different programs till you find one that is right for you.
Q: Are all the contacts mentioned on the web site made with QRP?
A: Simple answer: Yes. More detailed info: EVERYTHING mentioned on this web site was done with a power of 5 watts (or less) output from a homebrew transmitter, Kenwood TS-570D, Kenwood TS-480SAT, Elecraft K2, Elecraft KX-1, QRP+, or KX3 transceiver into one of the following antennas: A random wire mostly in my attic for 160 through 30M. A 20M flat top inverted vee dipole in my attic. A 15M vertical dipole mounted on the side of my house which is also used for 17 and 12M. A 10M sloping dipole mounted on my porch roof. A ground mounted vertical on the side of my house which was replaced by the 15M vertical dipole. A 6M attic rotatable dipole.
Although I have operated with more than 5 watts in the past (before 1990), everything on the web site refers only to my QRP operations since 1990 plus some QSO's I made with QRP before 1990.
Q: Why do I see ads on some of your pages, yet you say you do not have any ads?
A: You must be referring to the poll results page, counter pages, or perhaps the search results page. Those pages do not belong to me, but to the service providers themselves, and they are the ones providing the ads and the ones receiving the compensation for the ads. I have always provided this web site as a public service, and always will continue to do so. I get no financial compensation whatsoever from it, nor do I expect any. If ads do offend you, then I suggest you get some sort of an ad blocker add-on for your browser. Try a Bing search for ad blockers.
Q: Will electronic QSL'S kill the QSL card?
A: This is how I answered Joel KA1FQN, who was one of those asking the question. The figures are from 2009. You can update them with the current postal rates if you wish. They change too often for me to take time to do it.
I don't think electronic QSL's will kill the regular QSL card. The US Postal Service is already murdering the regular QSL card with its excessive cost to send a card. If you send one at 27 cents it is likely to be mangled or overprinted with postal markings. So to get a card through in good shape you have to put it in an envelope and use 42 cents to send it. The ham you are sending it to is probably not going to answer it because he can't afford it, so you've got to enclose an SASE to be fairly sure of getting his card. That's another 42 cents.
Let's add it up now. Cost of your card: say 3 cents + Two envelopes: say 2 cents + Postage to send it: 42 cents + Postage for SASE: 42 cents = at least 89 cents to try to get a card from someone. You may still not get his card. And that's only for a domestic card. I won't even go into a DX card cost. Of course the bureaus help reduce the cost in the case of DX cards, but still....
With electronic cards, the cost is virtually nothing.
Now, I love traditional cards, and I hope they never disappear entirely, but I'm afraid they will. I'm not a rich person, nor are many hams. We can't afford to send as many regular cards as we used to do. I still answer all cards received here, and will continue to do so, whether or not an SASE is enclosed. With no SASE though, I have to send just the plain card at the 27 cent rate.
It's too bad the ARRL or some other organization doesn't set up a domestic QSL bureau for all hams. That would certainly extend the life of regular cards as the cost would be affordable. It's also too bad the US QSL Bureau that was set up independently of ARRL a few years ago failed because of abuse from its users. Of course some clubs have domestic QSL bureaus, but only for their members.
That's my assessment of the situation.
Q: Which logging program do you use?
A: Preface: I now use Microsoft Excel 2019 for my logging, but the info below is still good otherwise.
KE4HBE, among several other hams have asked me this. In the past I tried several available logging programs and found shortcomings in each and every one of them for my particular logging needs. Therefore I created my own using Microsoft Access 97 (now upgraded to Access 2010) for my logging. It is so flexible that once you have input the log data you can do ANYTHING with it. Paul asked specifically about sorting QSO's by prefix for the WPX award. That's a piece of cake with Access. All that needs to be done is to design a Query using Access' Design view or writing the SQL statements yourself. As a silly example I can tell you quickly with a query how many QSO's with hams named John I've had on a Sunday on 40M while I was running 5 watts or less. Let me do that now and I'll tell you just how short a time it took. I'm back after just 90 seconds to tell you the answer is 111 QSO's. I also use Microsoft Excel to do some operations on my log that (to me) seem more easily done than in Access. Just copy the data from Access to Excel and perform the operation to find what you need. If you're unhappy with the current logging programs, I'd suggest using Access/Excel and designing your own logging program. That way it will do what YOU want it to do, not what someone else thinks you want it to do.
If you don't feel up to doing that, the only way to find out which logging program is best for you is to go to my software links and download and try any of the many logging programs listed there. The links may be somewhat dated now, and if you don't see anything there, do a Bing (http://www.bing.com/) search for something like "ham radio logging software" and that wonderful search engine will turn up a multitude of such programs. Enter a bunch of sample or actual QSO's into each one, and play with it till you find one that comes as close as possible to satisfying your particular needs.