Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mini-32-A now complete

This is just a quick note on a Sunday morning. I've finishing up a white paper for a project at work that is due tomorrow. Thoughts of the scramble the night before a term paper is due have come to mind more than once. (And like those preverbal term papers, I drug my feet on this one for a bit, too, so the fact I'm in here on a Sunday morning is a problem that is largely self-inflicted.)
Anyway, I thought it might be good to close up the business with this Mosley beam. Reviewing, the sequence of events went something like this:
  • I decided it was time to try getting a lightweight beam again.
  • After a bunch of agonizing, I finally decided on the Mosley Mini-32-A. I had a special order for this antenna, specifying that no piece be longer than 48 inches (so it would pack easily in my golf bag). Gary at Mosley said that could be done. My order was put in the queue. Life is good.
  • The antenna arrived in mid-July, but I didn't have time to look at it closely until later.
  • Only when finally trying to pack the antenna did I realize that a couple of the pieces were much longer than 48 inches!
  • I called Mosley on Monday and notified them of the problem.
  • Mosley stepped up on Tuesday and said that the new pieces would be fabricated and shipped out right away.

Those pieces arrived on Thursday. Mosley FedEx-ex the new pieces so I'd have them immediately. Again, a company's customer service is best measured by how they react when things go wrong. Mosley's response to this problem was exemplary. I couldn't be more pleased.

Friday, August 24, 2007

VP2M DXpedition video (abbreviated)

I have posted an abbreviated version of the Montserrat DXpedition video to YouTube. Enjoy.
Part I:

Part II:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What makes a good blog?

For somebody who said he wasn't going to blog for a while, I'm sure blogging a lot! {sigh} Jeff over at Long Delayed Echos dropped a post Mo Better Bloggin' asking "what does it take to make a good blog?" This didn't start with Jeff. AD7MI kicked it off and several others have chimed in. This is now an excellent thread leading through several blogs.
I have asked myself how to improve what I deliver but find the problem vexing. In engineering terms, blogging is often "open loop." I write stuff and people read it an hour, day, week, month, or even a year later. I don't know if those folks enjoyed it, thought it was a waste of time, or somewhere in-between. Feedback is good but under the best of circumstances only a small fraction of those who read will respond whether it is to a local newspaper, national magazine, or blog. So, in the absence of direct feedback, I take some direction by noticing what engages me.
Jeff follows 150 blogs according to a recent post. I follow fewer than 30 (though that number has been steadily growing). Some site are little more than announcements for DX. Others are very personal expositions. Obviously the more personal works inspire.
I followed K2DBK's trip to the Cayman Islands. I cringed reading about his antenna troubles, first concerned that he didn't have as much fun as he should have had, and then a pang guilt that I may have given him bad advice about radials for his Buddistick. I've still got a to do item to verify some of my Buddistick configurations and measurements.
Steven Weinert (K9ZW) writes With Varying Frequency and has been very active both on the bands and with his blog. We met in Dayton this year, finally conversing in person after so many correspondences electronically. Maybe that is the sign of a good blog: I really wanted to meet Steve!
Soldersmoke podcasts break up those long drives. I learned of the loss of Mike (KL7R) while on Montserrat. I felt like I lost a friend even though we had never met.
Other posts like Harry Potter Ruined my Marriage from K9JY's blog and KA3DRR's blog talking about Radio Dawg having a few tooth troubles remind me that we are people with lives and families, pets, hopes and dreams.
Close friends in the area blog, too, including Greg NE1OB's Sporatic Reflections, and now Rich AB1HD's Nerd on Call. Rich is just getting started but Greg has been at it for a while. Though Greg doesn't post often, he seems to spot the best stuff and talk about it. I know whenever a new post appears it will be something interesting. One of his last posts was about "throw bags" that aborists use to get lines over trees. That post cost me about $50! The blisters on my hands from practicing with these throw bags still haven't healed. What fun!
What I write here in my blog is focused on a particular topic: traveling with your radio. I do wander off-topic occasionally (as I'm doing tonight), but always circle back around. As with other blogs, I hope the distractions add and not diminish the value here.
I began rethinking the format, content, and commitment to this blog sometime in July. The problem I'm having now is understanding the advantages, and limits, imposed by this medium. Blogging seems like a good way to express brief ideas in staccato succession, but it is not particularly well suited to long discussions or the presentation of detailed technical information. For that, a white paper or even a book may be a better alternative. I will be eventually backing off this level of blogging so I can pursue some deeper ways to communicate.

What makes a good blog? Tell a story. Give something of yourself. People are drawn to honesty. Share your successes and your failures. Don't try to write for the ages; write for the moment with care. Understand the medium and your audience. I'm violating both those last tenants with this post as it is both too long (violating the best practices of the medium) and is off-topic (not strictly for a ham radio audience). I guess I should add that you should know when to break the rules.

I've had private discussions with some who read this blog about the general state of blogging in the ham radio community. This is so new that the vast majority in the hobby have never heard of it. We, who are here first, have a chance to be the standard setters. That's a little scary... and exciting. It will be interesting to see how this medium develops over the new few years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Picture from the IOTA Contest in July

Here I am in the RSGB IOTA contest, sweaty, tired, and taking my own picture at arm's length with my iPhone. This picture was before the thunderstorm rolled through. I am not making many contacts yet and I am not happy. The enclosure in the lower left kept the sun off of me. You can see the solar panel and Buddipole in the background. Boston Harbor and the menacing clouds appear in the background of the image on the right. That is a 33-foot pole with a 40m vertical wire hanging from it. You can see lots of other cool pictures on the RSGB IOTA Contest list of submitted logs page.

TW2010 company response and vertical thinking

I wrote to the TW Antenna people last week looking for some basic information about the antenna. When I didn't get a response to the web form, I dropped an email message to them a few days later. The company got back to me late last night. Here is my questions followed by their response.

Very interesting. Looks like a nicer execution of the Force-12 Sigma-5 design. Does the antenna and base all fit in the travel bag? How much current does the electronics draw? (The Sigma-5 draws about 100mA to energize the relays.) If the unit is unpowered, does it "default" to the 20m band? Thank you for your time. -- Scott (NE1RD)

TW Antennas replies:

Hi Scott,

Sorry for the belated reply. We've undergone a move and a hamfest, and are just now getting caught back up to speed. It's been a mess trying to get our communications infrastructure back up since the move.

We designed the travel bag to carry everything related to the antenna (controller, cables, stand, etc).

The electronics draw about 200mA, as it has a microprocessor and LED's in addition to the relays.

Yes, the switching array will default to 20m when un-powered.
NOTE: It was suggested to us that latching relays could be used so the antenna remains on a band until it is specifically switched to another. Also, current consumption would drop on average, as the relays would not have to stay energized all the time. We're currently looking into this option as a possibility for the future.

Thanks for your interest and kind words. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

TW Antennas

As Jeff (KE9V) pointed out in his post Little Store Bought Antennas this is still quite an expensive antenna. And, it is true as Jeff says that "shortened" antennas are a compromise, but perhaps not as much as one might think. Vertical dipole antennas are very effective and generally have good low radiation angle patterns which is great for DX. Switched Vertical Dipole Antennas (SVDAs) have been used on many lightweight DXpeditions with great success. They require no radial system and can be made fairly resilient to the wind and elements as evidenced by their record of service on DXpeditions like VP8GEO, VP8THU and many others.
The "shortened" part of this is accomplished by adding a capacity hat to both ends of the antenna and then applying a matching stub to null out that capacitive reactance. (The stub may actually be rolled up into a coil so it fits in the box, but you get the idea.) The book The Short Vertcal Antenna and Ground Radial (Jerry Sevick, W2FMI) discusses this idea extensively and found even very short antennas that have been properly designed can perform admirably.
My intention is to do computer modeling on all these antennas by the end of the year, but my crude back-of-the-envelope thinking goes like this: in a regular 1/2-wave center-fed most of the radiation comes from the middle 1/3 of the antenna. This is the high-current area. As we move outward towards the antenna's end current drops and voltage increases until we find very little signal being radiated at all. A Droopy dipole (a dipole hung such that some length near the ends is allowed to droop towards the ground) perform about as well as their flat-top cousins because there isn't much going on at the far end of the antenna.
The shortened vertical just rolls up that droopy part into a capacity hat. The length of antenna that is doing the vast majority of the work is still there. Further, though the radiation resistance (the part that does the good work for us) is lower in a shorter antenna, you can make up for some of this by making the radiator larger. Instead of using a wire 1/8-inch in size as you might on a dipole, the radiator for one of these verticals is one-inch in diameter. Even if the radiation resistance is only 25 ohms, a 2:1 transformer gives you a great match.
In these multiband antennas like the Force-12 Sigma-5 or new TW-2010 you still have loading coils for most bands which will reduce the efficiency. But, the other thing I'm interested in is weight, size, and versatility. Five single band antennas requires 5 runs of coax. A multiband antenna covering 5 bands requires one run of coax. I care about weight and size. It isn't just the antenna; you must also account for all the components that antenna system demands.
I erect a 40m full-sized vertical with two (or more) elevated radials as part of my antenna compliment. This antenna is also very good on 15m. If I can use a second story balcony, I am able to use a simple 20 foot fishing pole to hold this up. It is cheap, light, and very effective! I also erect a full-sized vertical for 80m suspended from a 33-foot mast. At this point in the solar cycle, antennas for 30m, 20m, and 17m give you pretty good coverage for bands that are likely to be open. Those can easily be done with fishing poles if you wish to have 1/4 verticals.
But, if you want to have vertical dipoles with an elevated feed point antenna systems like the Buddipole, Force-12 Sigma-5, and TW2010 provide a small, robust package for these antenna designs. And, when the Sun starts giving us spots again, the ability to have five bands on one piece of coax starts looking very attractive to me. $700 attractive? I'm not sure. That I need to think about. {grin}

I might disappear for a few days. I have a deadline at work and the Lowell Spinners begin a long home-stand. After that, it will be time to get serious about V4 planning!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mosley steps up

Gary from Mosley Electronics called this morning and left a message. I will need to return two reflector loading sections and the 10 inch by 3/4 inch piece that attaches to the boom. The replacement sections and new aluminum piece will be 48 inches or less in length will be shipped out today. Hooray!
This is very good. Not that there was a mistake, of course. No, that was bad. The good part is this: mistakes happen and the measure of a company's customer service is determined by what happens next. In this case, I made the call, they located the paperwork for my order, determined that there was a problem, and promised that the person best able to solve it would contact me with a resolution. In under 24 hours I was called back, they had a solution, and they committed to getting the new parts shipped to me ASAP. This all happened in about one business day. I like that.
For what it is worth, I recommend Mosley Electronics for their antennas and customer service.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mosley notified of the problem

I just got off the phone with Mosley and told them of the problem with the lengths of the reflector pieces. The gentleman found my order, read the notes to cut the antenna down to 48 inch pieces. They will pass the word along to Gary, who designed the Mini-32-A, and see what can be done. They'll call me back when they've got an answer. Hopefully, they'll figure this out and get me replacement parts in time to test them for the St. Kitts trip.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The simpliest tool: a ruler

I made a post in early March In search of the featherweight tribander. I ordered a Mosley Mini-32-A in March with a special request that they make it to break down into 48-inch pieces. Because of this special request, I waited nearly four months for it to arrive and paid another $75 for labor to accomplish the alterations.
I had worried about things like Will it arrive in time for my trip?, How will I erect it on the island?, and Will it perform well enough to justify the weight? The last thing I was worried about was Is it really only 48-inches when disassembled? I didn't check that until this morning. OOPS. It isn't. Oh for goodness sake! I was so worried about checking out the antenna performance with fancy meters and on-air tests that I neglected to use the most simple and important tool: a ruler to see if the darn thing will fit in the case. Sheesh.
The reflector pieces that attach to the boom are both 52.5 inches long with no obvious way to make it shorter. I both angry with myself for waiting so long to verify the antenna dimensions, and a little bemused that nothing is easy with antenna makers! I will call Mosley in the morning and explain the situation. I hope that they will offer to send me a new set of pieces that do fulfill the 48-inch requirement. Otherwise, it doesn't go to St. Kitts. Of course, if they do send new pieces, they will have to be tested and run through the paces as I did with the antenna yesterday in the North American QSO Party. Speaking of which, here's how I did:

Band QSOs Mults
160: 0 0
80: 50 22
40: 149 31
20: 61 26
15: 1 1
10: 0 0
Total: 261 80 Total Score = 20,880

As always, claimed score is just that: my claim. The contest sponsor (The National Contest Journal) will compute my score after deducting all my miscues from the log.
I used this contest to put the new beam through its paces. The antenna assembled quickly and was upon the 20-foot mast and guyed in about 45 minutes. I also have a G5RV hidden in the trees so I could alternate between the two antennas to do A/B comparisons. I was surprised to find that the G5RV at 60+ feet with its arms in a flat-top configuration outperformed the beam most of the time. There are several reasons for this (though I am still working this out in my head). Here's my thinking:
  1. The beam was only at 20 feet - The G5RV was up about a half wavelength on 20m; the beam is obviously very low for that band. I don't know what that did to the takeoff angle of the beam.

  2. The beam was only "generally" pointed - Sure, the beam gives you some gain in the direction it is pointed, but as you move off to the side, the gain drops. I had it pointed WSW (or so I thought), but I wasn't all that careful. There were a couple of times that the beam was stronger than the G5RV during the contest. The two stations I remember talking with where the beam beat the dipole were both in the American Southwest (Arizona and Southern California). So, they were both very far away and in the direction I was generally pointing (maybe I had the antenna pointed too far South?)

  3. Maybe the beam takeoff angle was too low for a domestic contest - Maybe the beam's takeoff angle was too low for close-in contacts. When I'm on St. Kitts the beam width will allow me to point generally to Europe or North America and the low takeoff angle will work better with everybody I'm interested in far away.

  4. Maybe the beam takeoff angle was too high - Maybe it is just nuts to expect the beam to perform well if it is mounted so low. It is time to play with the antenna modeling programs.

As you might discern from the above, I have as many questions after yesterday's experiments as I had before them. The AntennaSmith showed good curves on the three bands. The antenna seems mechanically solid. It is about 8.5 pounds assembled (less mount) which is about what I expected. But, the performance was puzzling.

Finally, with all this antenna talk I've nearly forgotten to mention the other thing that got a shake-out yesterday: my backside. {grin} I attended Contesting University at Dayton this year and one of the points that was made repeatedly was if you want to win you have to keep your butt in the chair! I did just that yesterday. It was a 10 hour contest and I was in the chair all but maybe 10 minutes of it. (I refuse to do the waste dump in the bucket. I'm committed, but I have limits!) There is no way that I'm going to stay in the chair for all 48 hours of CQ WW, but I found working this 10-hour shift to be easier than I expected. And, as shown above, I was rewarded with my best score ever for this contest. So, though I obsess about all this equipment in this blog, it is important to remember that the most important component to your DXpedition is you and the commitment you bring. Just two months to go. I can't wait!

Friday, August 17, 2007

QSL card pondering

I received a message today from UX5UO QSL printers today. They had spotted the DX bulletin announcement of the V4 DXpedition and sent an offer to print QSL cards for the trip. I have done all of my recent printing with QSLworks but the card produced for the Montserrat trip was a little disappointing. Chris (W6HFP) had his wife Inese, a very talented graphics artist, design the card but the printing was muddy with poor registration. Since I had pushed for QSLworks with the team, I had some amount of egg on my face because of it. So, though I'm not necessarily jumping ship from QSLworks, I am now considering other vendors.
I try to have the outline of the design for my card in place before the trip begins. That way I'm sure to get the photos of the right stuff. I would be frustrating to realize once you returned home that the perfect picture for your QSL card was the one you neglected to take!
I have also spent some time thinking about operating before and after the contest. I had lots of fun offering QSOs on the WARC bands while on Montserrat. Our thinking for that trip was contesters probably hand out lots of QSOs on 10-15-20-40m, but people still need even common islands on the WARC bands. Our thinking was rewarded with lots of big pile-ups and many thank-yous from hams for the new band. I think I'll try that again on St. Kitts. So, look for me on 17m and maybe even 12m at the top of the hour. I'll see if folks need NA-104 on the WARC bands, too.

Finally, speaking of artwork, I submitted my design for the DX Reference Wiki site. They have a logo design contest open until 31 October. This new site, mentioned on KE9V's site yesterday, is worth a look. And, perhaps in November, it will sport my new logo! {grin}

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Better late than never

In a recent blog entry I was unhappy with my poor performance planning the St. Kitts trip. One of the things I had botched was getting notifications out to the various publications that I would be on NA-104 for the CQ WW DX contest. I emailed out notices on 9 August and they have filtered out to the following places:
  • Radio Society of Great Britian - the RSGB IOTA site shows the activation.
  • National Contest Journal - the National Contest Journal shows it on the NG3K DX Contest Activities Announcements page
  • DX-IS - A new site DX-IS News has an entry with my announcement. This new site looks interesting. Keep an eye on it!
  • - The Ohio/Penn DX Bulletin was dropped on to the news group This bulletin is echoed in many places.
  • VA3RJ's Islands Castles & Portable Operations - web site picked up the announcement.
  • I1-21171's blog - had an entry in his blog where he picked up the logo and translated the announcement into Italian (at least I think it is Italian!). That's very nice! I appreciate this extra effort!

Another site Weekly DX-Calendar by DH9SB had an entry for my Montserrat trip but not this one. I'll send a note to them this afternoon. There was also a note on the LoTW list by DXCC entity by HB9BZA that I had signed up for Logbook of the World for my V4 call. This is also an interesting site!

I've probably missed a few, but you get the idea. Though my announcements were sent very late, some have picked up on them and these postings will breed others as they get picked up by other sites. The utility of getting the word out isn't just so people look for you on the air, it also helps them find your QSL route and the dates of operation. If people see that you were only there one week in, say, October. They will hopefully not send you a card for a purported contact in July! So, today's lesson is: better late than never.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


As mentioned on the the blog DX World of Ham Radio the path of the latest storms track directly over my favorite spots in the Caribbean. This paints a bleak picture and, selfishly, I am glad I'm not in its path.

Hurricane season
officially extends through November, a month past our planned stay, and it goes without saying that a significant tropical storm or hurricane would be a serious problem for our trip! Of course, there is little that can be done in the case of a significant storm once you are on-island. But, in the case where a storm is heading there in those days just prior to departure we would have choices to make. I've always advocated safety first. There are few things worth risking your life and a family vacation can hardly be one of them. If the forecast above were for our planned week on the island, we'd be making alternate plans. Period.
The BUMS had a similar problem early this year. While we were not visiting Montserrat during hurricane season, the island's volcano had become quite active during the weeks leading up to our trip. We had make very deliberate plans should the volcano erupt, or even hint that it might erupt. Luckily, the volcano calmed and our visit was a happy one without incident. We were wary, vigilant, and alert. Nothing more. Nothing less. Our prudence didn't diminish anyone's fun.
I grew up in the midwest and had a brush or two with tornados. I've lived in Massachusetts for a quarter century. During that time a hurricane and Nor'easter have wandered by a few times. I've got a great deal of respect for Mother Nature. By the way, if she's reading this blog: Please don't screw up my trip! {grin}

Facebook revisited

Steve Weinert (K9ZW) said:

It seems you have to join to even see your pages - perhaps you could post screen shots to show those less inclined to register before looking what your pages look like?

Here is a partial snapshot from the Facebook site. The site provides lots of customization including the inclusion of add-on applications like "Where I've Been", a world map that allows you to click/select places you been, or wish to visit.

You can put up as much or little information as you like. I'm open on some things and reticent on others. That's OK, in my view. Sites like this can be a tremendous time-sync/time-wasting-exercise. Of course, so can obsessing about your QRZ entry. My suggestion was to consider these other sites as a place to say a little more about yourself in a structured way.
I've noticed the average age of the typical user on Facebook is about 1/3 of mine. It is very popular with the High School and College crowd. But, they appear to let old geezers like me in, too. If they'll let me in, they'll let anybody in! {grin}

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mosley tested, shirts ordered

I assembled the Mosley beam tonight. It went together easily and tuned up nicely on 20m, 15m, and 10m. It is a little heavier than I had thought it might be, heavier than would comfortably sit on a Buddipole tripod and mast. I'll need to figure out how I'll hoist this new antenna in the air long before leaving for St. Kitts.
The final assembly called for holes to be drilled in the elements and screws inserted to finalize the element lengths. Upon further consideration, I'm not going to do this. Since I am not erecting the antenna permanently it might be better to simply put a turn or two of tape around the elements to hold them in place. There is sufficient overlap between the aluminum tubes that tape should hold it securely for the seven days we are on the island. I'll verify that this is sufficient this weekend when I use the antenna in the North American QSO Party contest.
By the way, the quick check of the beam tonight was done with the AntennaSmith. I continue to be impressed with this unit and amazed as to how much time it is saving me.

Finally, if you have visited the St. Kitts DXpedition web site you will have noticed the graphic for the trip of the islands and sea turtle. I created this design (along with the 100 Pound DXpedition logo and the logo for the BUMS VP2M trip). I'm no artist, but I get by. {grin} I took a few minutes yesterday and designed T-shirts on Cafe Press for Sandy and me. I had created T-shirts for the VP2M crew, too. I believe this is a great team-building and excitement generating opportunity. The shirts give everybody in your group a common identity and give members a concrete, tangible, and visceral link to their upcoming adventure. The print on demand places like Cafe Press provide a very affordable way to create items specially for your trip. If you do organize a group trip (or even if it is a little family vacation) you might want to consider a little "teamwear".

Monday, August 13, 2007

RIGtalk USB to serial rig control interface on MacOS X

I just updated my home page with the following relating to RIGtalk drivers on the Macintosh:

West Mountain Radio has updated their web site with drivers for both PPC and Intel Macintosh computers. As of this writing, the drivers were located here. I very much appreciate the effort by West Mountain Radio and their staff, especially Del Schier, who drove this project to completion. This is just one more reason to like West Mountain Radio stuff.
I have tested my RIGtalk with my MacBook Pro and Icom IC-7000 using MacLoggerDX. It works well and I happily traded heavier RS232C converters for that stick-of-gum-sized RIGtalk device and cable. That's how you make your 100 pound weight limit!

Social network websites

I'm not sure how much hams are using the new social web sites like LinkedIn or Facebook but I've invested a little time and created entries in both. You can find my LinkedIn entry here and my Facebook entry here. Additionally, I've created an Elecraft owner group on Facebook. Thus far, there is only one member (me). Hmmm.
The LinkedIn stuff is more about work history than friendship but the Facebook site seems like a nice step up from the limited information you can put on QRZ. If you've not considered these sites before, take a look!

Sunday, August 12, 2007


The weekend passed quickly. I did not get a chance to assemble the new Mosley Mini-32-A beam. My goal is to get that assembled and tuned tomorrow night and use it next weekend in the North American QSO Party. I know the pieces fit together, but the instructions indicate that I need to drill holes in the elements once the proper lengths have been determined. That must be done prior to the St. Kitts trip and this week is as good as any other to get this task finished.
There wasn't sufficient time to complete the beam assembly but I did have a few minutes today to spend on another antenna. My Force 12 Sigma-5 antenna had been in storage since my local club's Field Day. I assembled it and put the AntennaSmith on it to be sure it was still in good tune. It was not. So, following the directions in the manual, I spread the coils for the 20m until it gave me a good match. The other bands (10-17m) were fine and needed no adjustment.
The other reason for disassembling the Sigma-5 was to get a glimpse at the controller board. I intend to make a computer model of the antenna and I wanted to see all the details for the matching circuitry.

An antenna similar to the Force 12 was recently released by TW Antennas called the TW2010 Traveler. A somewhat spirited discussion about this new offering erupted on the Yahoo Buddipole Users Group (BUG) forum. I threw in a few comments there, too. Here's what all the fuss is about.
The first thing to notice is that this antenna is very similar in shape to the Force-12 Sigma-5. Both the TW2010 and Sigma-5 are vertical dipoles for 10-12-15-17-20 meters, have control boxes in the center which contains relays for switching bands, break down small for travel, and have a remote control unit that allows you to do the band selection from your operating position 50 or 60 feet from the antenna. Both antennas handle about 1200 watts PEP SSB or about half that for CW. Both antennas claim high efficiencies and relatively low take-off angles.
The question some have raised is: can one of these antennas be efficient and effective? I can only say that the Force-12 Sigma-5 performed well on Georges Island (NA-148) during those operations and compared favorably with other antennas used. The new offering, the TW2010, is smaller, much smaller, than the Force-12 antenna. How will this affect efficiency and performance? That was at least some of the discussion in the BUG forum.
Another big difference between the Sigma-5 and TW2010 is the controller function. The Sigma-5 comes with a simple six position rotary switch for selecting the band. The switch is mounted on an L-shaped piece of plastic with the wires exposed. Pretty cheesy, really.
The TW2010 has a computerized unit that can connect to Icom or Yaesu radios and utilize the CAT interface to automatically band switch. Additionally, the controller cable is detachable with the TW2010 with molded connectors. (The control cable on the Sigma-5 is not easily detachable.) The cable arrangement is certainly nicer than that of the Sigma-5. The computerized controller may be overkill, but it is an interesting design decision.
The TW2010 also breaks down into smaller pieces than the Sigma-5 and requires no tools for assembly or disassembly. A manual is available for download off the TW Antennas web site which has the dimensions, assembly instructions, and other information.
I do have some questions about the antenna and have sent them off to the company. I've received no response yet. When I get those answers, I'll post what I learn here. Of course, should I never get an answer, that'll get posted, too. {grin}

I'm interested in the TW2010, but I haven't decided if the interest is just academic, or practical. I am very impressed with the performance of the Sigma-5 but it is bigger and bulkier than I had hoped it would be. The TW2010 looks like it might pack and travel better, but it is significantly smaller and may not perform as well. Oh, and the other thing: the TW2010 is $699 for the basic unit, nearly double the $379 for the Sigma-5. I'll need to get answers to my questions from TW Antennas, and do a bunch of antenna modeling before I take the plunge on this. Also, it would be interesting to compare computer models for both the Sigma-5 and TW2010, too. Now that I've had a glimpse inside the Sigma-5 and have the schematic for the TW2010, I should be able to create both models.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

You snooze, you lose

I have been very busy. That is a poor excuse for my complete lack of execution on the planning of the upcoming St. Kitts trip. I've tried to remedy some of that tonight but clearly my delays have been costly. As I like to say, "you snooze, you lose." I have certainly been asleep at the wheel! Anyway, here's what I managed to accomplish this evening:
  • Hotels - While the villa has been under contract for some time (and I just sent the final payment to the fellow a few days ago), the hotels for either end of the trip were not booked until tonight. Our itinerary is to fly from Boston to Miami, stay overnight in Miami, then take a very early flight to St. Kitts the next day. Our return trip also comes through Miami, arriving late, with our Boston flight early the next morning. We needed hotel rooms at the Miami airport for both ends of the trip. Done.

  • Boston hotel - Our flight to Miami leaves at 5:35 AM. Factoring in the roughly "two hours before flight" lead time and we're arriving at the airport in the middle of the night. We had intended to stay at a hotel at Logan (Boston's airport) the night before our flight as we had done for our St. Johns trip last year. But, I did not attempt to book that room until tonight and that may have cost me. For some reason, a room that cost $180 last year has doubled in price. Perhaps the Red Sox making their run for another World Series bid has hotels thinking rooms will be at a premium in October. Well, I'm not paying nearly $400 for a few hours extra sleep. We (I) tend to characterize prices in terms of equivalent ham radio equipment costs. In short, "that's a radio." So, forget it. Looks like a sleepless night.

  • Side trip planned - I enjoy the game of chess. I am a horrible, horrible player. I'm so bad, in fact, that I don't really enjoy playing the game with others as much as I enjoy reading about games, studying annotated games, and so on. Miami hosts the World Chess Hall of Fame, a place I'd been hoping to visit for some time. Sandy and I will take in the museum on our layover in Miami.

  • Announcements - This is the thing I am very late on. I should have sent out these announcements a couple of months ago. I have likely missed publishing deadlines on the major magazines. {sigh} Anyway, I've sent email to the ARRL, CQ Magazine, and World Radio, The Daily DX, and Announced DX Operations. I also created an entry on the RSGB IOTA web site. We'll see which, if any, actually appear. I often say that this blog highlights things I've done right and things I've done wrong. This is most definitely something I did wrong for this trip. Get those announcements out 3-4 months ahead of your operation to help ensure you make everybody's publishing deadlines!

  • Reserved the car - We only need the car for one day (to go to the museum), but I've got that booked.

  • Travel printouts made - I normally create nice folders with print outs of all reservations, electronic tickets, driving directions, and other information so we have all the information we need in one place. I now (finally) have this stuff printed and in the folder. I just need to make a copy for Sandy and I'm done.

Lots of the planning for a DXpedition falls into the category of "mundane" but that doesn't mean it isn't important. I waited to book a hotel and the price went up. I waited to send out my announcements and now I've likely missed publishing deadlines. These are stupid mistakes I should not be making at this point. But, that's why I'm writing this blog. It helps keep me focused and, perhaps, will help some of you get focused, too.

Finally, I actually took the new Mosely beam out of the box today (something else that's been sitting too long!). I will report my first impressions this weekend.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

RSGB IOTA Contest log submission system up

I have just submitted my log for the RSGB IOTA contest and completed the log activation. If you tried to do this earlier in the week and had problems (as I did), try it again. It is working fine now.