Category Archives: Amateur Radio

Amateur Extra licensed as KB9CZ

The Best Made Plans …

Sometimes the stars don’t align in the correct manner and regardless of what your meticulously prepared plans, just doesn’t turn out as expected.

As a amateur radio ham I am (or at least want to) participate in the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by operating portable in an official park.  There are several hundred of these locations.  The objective is to contact as many other hams as possible.  When you are operating in a park, then you are an activator.

The Chicago Portage is an affiliated area in this event, and it’s an easy drive from downtown.  I’ve been there dozens of times as it is an integral part of the I&M Canal and the history of Chicago.  Marquette and Joliet first traveled through this area in the late 1600’s.

So, I pack up my radio, antenna and other equipment and head out.  Setting up my Buddistick antenna was time consuming, even though I had a very good antenna analyzer to help.  I tried setting after setting, which on this antenna involves moving a clip on a coil of wire, up one turn, down another, etc. to get the perfect adjustment.

Finally, I’ve got it.

Antenna set and ready to go after a long period of adjustment.
Antenna set and ready to go after a long period of adjustment.
Needed: 13.6v and 100 amps.
Ready to jump start. I’m in the outhouse waiting.

Next I attach my radio to the antenna and hit the power on switch.  Nothing happens!  After a short while I realize that I left the headlights on in the car.  To power the radio I have to put the ignition in the ACC position, but that also leave accessories on. I remembered the AC and courtesy lights, but the headlamps!!!

OK, so I’m dead in the water.  No transmitting, no AC, no starting the car.  Thanks to AAA they were there in under 30 minutes.  We jumped and figured it best to just pack up and leave.  I’ll get this park activated or else, but next time I’m using an alternative battery source.

Raspberry Pi


I like Raspberry Pi.  Right now I’m not talking about the Linzer Torte variety, but the single, credit card sized computer running a version of Linux.

Why Pi?

My interest was piqued by an article in the  American Radio Relay League’s QST— the magazine for amateur radio enthusiasts.  I’ve been suffering from poor hearing for several years now, so my ability to copy Morse Code is severely impaired.  Our location in downtown Chicago and no place to erect an antenna limits what I can do with a radio.  As a result I’m pretty much limited by either operating portable in a park or using a number of digital technologies that are only possible with computer control.

Raspberry Pi is a Real Computer

This credit card sized computer is the brainchild of The Raspberry Pi Organization in the United Kingdom.  It runs the Linux operating system, which means plenty of options and programming resources are available.

Board for the Raspberry Pi computer, Model 2.
Board for the Raspberry Pi computer, Model 2.

Notice 4 USB ports, Ethernet, HDMI, and interface options.  I won’t bore you with the details but only say this is one “fun” device for a technology hobbyist like myself.  I’m looking forward to learning about the Raspberry Pi this Winter.

National Parks on the Air – NPOTA

I’ve been a licensed amateur radio operator (KB9CZ) for many years, but for the last 20 years have been inactive except for a few occasional times using a small hand held radio for local contacts.  I’d like to get back in the hobby but the interference at our condo pretty much eliminates that option.  The solution may be a portable location, i.e. operating at a temporary site where conditions are more favorable.  I did it once at my son’s home in Douglasville, GA.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the national trade association for hams like myself.  They sponsor a number of contests where operators try to make contacts under certain controlled conditions such as a particular time period, frequency of transmission, location, etc.  Beginning January 1, 2016 there is a one-year contest to celebrate the National Park Service.  Operators will set up at one or more designated National Park locations and other hams will try to contact as many locations possible.

I think I’ve now got the incentive to construct a portable station that can be set up in a park or forest preserve.  One of the National Parks locations is the Marquette and Joliet portage park just west of theCity — a location I’ve been to many times in my I&M Canal explorations.

More to follow …