AA8IA Amateur Radio

BLEXBot – webmeup.com

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Ok, this has absolutely nothing to do with amateur radio. However, I wanted to post anyway.

If you have noticed a significant increase in site crawling / resource usage / weblog file growth on your website, you might want to check and see if the webmeup.com (BLEXBot) crawler is the cause.

The IP addresses I’ve seen this crawler use since July 2013 are listed below.

From the following SingleHop netblocks:

From the following specific IP addresses:

Written by Mike

August 9th, 2013 at 11:35 am

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Crucial m4 SSDs — Breathing new life into my new laptop

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I bought a Dell Inspiron 17R (5720) in July 2012. It came with a 1 TB 5400 RPM drive. Despite having a 3rd gen Intel i7 and 7 GB of memory, and despite having removed all of the bloat that OEMs ship on their systems, this laptop was running dog-ass slow. It all boiled down to the 5400 SATA II drive being a total sloth. Why in the world would Dell ship 5400 RPM SATA II drives in this day and age — especially when the laptop supports SATA III? Most likely for reliability, but quite possibly because they are sitting on a huge abundance of 5400 RPM stock.

At any rate, I finally got tired of it and decided to go the SSD (Solid State Drive) route. I ordered a Crucial m4 mSATA 32 GB drive and a Crucial m4 256 GB drive. This laptop only supports one regular sized drive but has an mSATA slot. I figured I would first test the Intel SRT technology by installing the mSATA drive and using it in caching mode as an SRT. Installing it was a breeze. After the first bootup, I noticed a significant improvement in responsiveness as well as bootup speed. Definitely worth the price just to get a cheap mSATA (running at SATA II speeds) since I would get to continue using my 1 TB drive without doing anything.

However, the novelty quickly wore off since I had a 256 GB SATA III SSD in hand. I backed up the contents on my 1 TB HDD (which only came to about 100 GB total — I don’t store a lot of huge files). I then swapped out the HDD for the crucial m4 256 GB SATA and performed an image restore onto it.

I fired up the laptop, and it took 12 seconds for the desktop to appear, and at about 16 seconds all of the various startup programs were up and running. Subsequent shutdowns / reboots result in about a 12 second time from pushing the power button to having a fully operational desktop with all startup apps running. Very impressive.

Since I no longer needed the 32 GB mSATA for caching, I disabled SRT and repurposed the mSATA SSD for Ubuntu 12.10. Installation was lightning fast. I used EasyBCD to modify the Windows boot manager to add Ubuntu as a boot option during startup. When I boot up Ubuntu, it takes 8 seconds from the time I push the power button to the time the Ubuntu desktop comes up and the wireless connection shows as enabled. 8 F’ING SECONDS!

I’ll never go back to using standard hard drives in a laptop or any other non-server platform. SSDs are fairly cheap these days (It was about $230 for both of the ones I bought) and are extremely reliable. Even if I had to buy a new one every six months, I’d do it — the increase in productivity is significant. The increased joy in using a computer makes it worth it alone. Outlook 2010 (another behemoth) takes about 2 seconds to launch and start collecting mail. That’s just insane.

Written by Mike

February 11th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

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DXCC Status

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The DXCC entities are becoming harder to pick off now. I’m currently using a 10/20/40/80m parallel inverted-V up about 40′ and a 10/20/40m dipole up at an average height of 25′. The shorter dipole is better oriented for DXing across Europe. The inverted V doesn’t seem to perform better in any direction. As the solar cycle peaks/declines, there are going to be less opportunities to work DX easily on the high bands. I really need to put some time and effort into getting what I can while I can.

I missed many of the DXpeditions this year altogether. Half of the year I was dormant, and the last three months I guess I’ve been lazy. I should have been able to work 4-5 ATNOs from DXpeditions but for the fact that I just didn’t spend enough [or any] time trying.

My current DXCC count worked is 178, with 166 confirmed either via LOTW or via a QSL card. This really isn’t any sort of accomplishment. I’ve only barely worked more than half of the current DXCCs, and that’s by having operated in many DX contests (CW, SSB, RTTY) over the past two years. So I definitely need to step up and figure out a new strategy.

Along with picking off new DXCCs, I’ve been attempting to increase band/mode slots for DXCC entities that I’ve already worked.

I have a stack of about 150 cards that need to be shipped out to the Bureau sometime. I’ve been sitting on them for a month, and I know the DX who have sent me cards would really like to receive a confirmation from me before any of us die of old age.

I also have cards ready to go for the 12 entities that I need confirmed. What’s holding me back? It’s this whole thing with green stamps, IRCs, postal authorities that cannot be trusted, etc. I’ve pretty much decided that working the DXCC is far less of a battle than confirming the DXCC at this point. I’ve got nested envelopes, plenty of air mail stamps, plenty of 1 dollar bills and IRCs. I probably would have sent all of these out if I could write worth a damned. But my penmanship is worse than a doctor’s. If I were to write out the envelopes, they would stand a good chance of not being delivered because nobody can read what the hell they say. I have a printer, and a damned good one at that, but it’s a royal nightmare trying to get TO/Return addresses printed on them properly. Considering that I really only have about 40 cards that I’d like to send out for confirmations (ATNO or additional band/modes), I probably ought to type them in manually in OpenOffice and print them off one by one.

At any rate, this is a sort of depressing moment for me as I realize that I’m likely not going to increase my DXCC count very much over the next year without improving both my antenna system and my technique.

Written by Mike

October 8th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Posted in DX,LOTW,Posts,QSLs

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5R8IC Confirmed via LOTW

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This past weekend I logged into my Logbook of the World account and see that Eric 5R8IC has uploaded logs from [apparently] the past year to LOTW. I’ve now got a confirmation for Madagascar!

Written by Mike

October 8th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Posted in DX,LOTW

Ole Sol Pulled the Plug

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10/12/15m propagation had been pretty nice the past few weeks. I worked a lot of DX during the CQWW DX RTTY contest as well as during various idle times over the past few weeks. This past weekend was the California QSO Party, and 10m to California was great [although there wasn’t much of anything heard outside the US this weekend on 10m]. Today the conditions are extremely poor. It’s like a switch was turned off. Bummer. It’s probably all for the better though — I was becoming very spoiled, having been able to work 10m DX daily for a few weeks in a row.

Now it’s time to actually learn some tricks for DXing with a poor antenna system when the sunspots are low.

Written by Mike

October 8th, 2012 at 1:04 pm

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LOTW vs eQSL – The argument continues


Recent posts on QRZ.Com and on some blogs shows that there are many people who are still arguing the merits of both LOTW and eQSL. I suspect this argument will go on for eons, or at least another decade.

Before exploring the argument any further, one must acknowledge there are a number of ARRL detractors out there that would not support the ARRL or use an ARRL service if their life depended upon it, no matter how good / useful the service may be to them. They might not come out and tell you that directly, or tell you the reason for it, but it’s obvious in many cases that there is a bias by many against the ARRL.

On the other side of the coin, there are certainly those hams who are such staunch supporters of the ARRL that they would feel they were betraying a family member if they used eQSL or who would insist that LOTW was better than any eQSL service even if LOTW was total garbage.

After you weed out the ARRL detractors as well as those who feel they must defend/support the ARRL at all cost, you can then move on to explore some points of contention amongst those who are otherwise open to using any electronic QSL service as long as it works for them.

  • Authentication
  • This is a multistep process regardless of which service you are using. But there are more steps involved [and some of them are quite controversial and can be more difficult to complete] if you are signing up for LOTW.

    EQSL: Anybody can sign up [for free!] to use eQSL, with our without verifying their identity. This is because eQSL was initially designed to exchange QSLs, not to compete for awards. However, eQSL does offer an awards program. If one wants to participate in their awards programs, they must follow the process to verify their identity. This is done using one of three methods.

    1. Have eQSL send an “authentication code” to your postal address on file with the FCC or RAC (for US and Canadian hams respectively). When you receive the postcard from eQSL, you’ll log into eQSL online and enter the authentication provided on the postcard into the eQSL system.
    2. Provide eQSL with a scanned copy of your signed [by you] amateur radio license that was issued by the appropriate authority in your country. This scanned license is uploaded electronically to eQSL. There is no need to send anything via postal mail. Once the documents are received by eQSL, they will decide whether or not the information is adequate and will designate your account as [Authenticity Guaranteed] or not.
    3. Additionally, it appears that eQSL also is able to authenticate your identity by checking to see if you have been certified already by the ARRL Logbook of the World program.

    LOTW: Anybody can sign up [for free!] to LOTW as well. But given that the LOTW system is designed specifically for awards tracking, all users must be authenticated before they use the system. Like eQSL, you must verify your identity. This can be done via one of the following methods:

    1. Have LOTW send you a postcard to the postal address listed on your license in the FCC database. Because this option relies upon data in the FCC database, this option is only available for U.S. hams. Once you receive the postcard, you would log into LOTW online and enter in the code provided on the postcard.
    2. Non-US hams must send a copy of their amateur license plus an additional form of authentication, such as a copy of their drivers license, passport, a utility bill, or any other document that LOTW has indicated as an acceptable document for authentication purposes. Unlike eQSL, LOTW requires that this process be done via postal mail only. Once LOTW receives the information, they will determine if the supplied documents provide adequate authentication of your identity.
    3. You’ll have to install a program called TrustedQSL (TQSL for short), which is used to generate a certificate signing request (CSR), install the actual certificate that LOTW then provides you, and manage your certificates and your station locations as well as to sign your QSOs before you upload them to LOTW.

    Steps #2 and #3 are by far the most difficult / time-consuming / confusing steps for people to complete and get used to. The biggest gripes about LOTW stem from these steps. However, it is my personal opinion that these steps are manageable and reasonable for the vast majority of people attempting to use LOTW and that the numbers of hams not able to complete this process for legitimate reasons are the minority. There is plenty of help available — via the LOTW help system and via various message boards where other hams will often help you out if you ask.

    I’ll be the first one to admit that if I were from Timbuktu [Mali, DXCC #422], I’d hate to have to go through the process of authenticating myself for participation in the LOTW service. I’d be MFing the ARRL up and down, left and right. But I’d jump through the hoops — I’d go through the trouble — I’d make the effort. It would benefit me and it would benefit my fellow hams who were wanting to confirm me before they died of old age or went bankrupt. If, logistically speaking, it could be done, I’d do it.

    This whole process is meant to provide a greater degree of confidence that the LOTW accountholder is indeed who they say they are and that the QSOs that they are uploading are indeed QSOs that they have generated. Somebody would have to steal both your LOTW site login credentials as well as your complete certificate in order to be able to submit QSOs under your callsign. Whereas with other electronic QSL services all they would need to steal are your site login credentials.

  • QSO Matching
    1. eQSL: In the eQSL system, a person can upload a QSO that they claim to have had with you. As soon as they upload it, it shows up in your Inbox in eQSL. You have the opportunity to confirm the QSO or deny the QSO — even if the QSO never happened.
    2. LOTW: In the LOTW system, if a person uploads a QSO that they claim to have had with you, neither you or they will see any reference to the QSO until you have uploaded a matching QSO with them. Neither you or the other party are given any opportunity to see a QSO that has uploaded unless you’ve uploaded a matching QSO that confirms that the two of you worked.

    I feel there is an important distinction being made here. Why? Hams aren’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. Many are lazy. Many are unethical. Many do not have a strong will. If presented with temptation, some people will taste the forbidden fruit.

    Sure, it is possible for this same thing to happen when paper QSLing as well. But I’d think it is much less likely to happen given the additional effort that has to go into it, not to mention the likelihood that a rare DX station or other entity would confirm your paper QSL with one of their own.

    And yes, I do understand that an invalid QSO could be uploaded referencing an invalid QSO with absolutely no intent by the uploader to cheat. Easy to do. Your log shows a QSO on 20m because you accidentally logged the wrong band, mode or date. Or you typed in the callsign incorrectly, thus uploading a QSO for AA7IA instead of AA8IA. All quite innocent no doubt.

    But, the fact that the LOTW method of QSL confirmation is blind is a huge plus for me. I appreciate the fact that I can’t see a QSO that someone else claims to have had with me unless I upload a matching QSO. It keeps me honest and avoids the temptation if i am weak in that regard [which I am not], and it keeps the other side honest to the extent that it doesn’t present the temptation to them.

    Although I’m not serious about chasing awards, I would never want to give anybody a free ride by confirming a QSO that didn’t happen. Whether or not I put in large amounts of time and effort, the fact remains that I have a small station. Many DX QSOs that I have made required a lot of effort on my part. I’d feel shortchanged if I knew for a fact that somebody else was claiming a QSO that didn’t happen.

  • Online Exchange of QSL Cards
  • eQSL wins this one hands down. LOTW is not an electronic QSL card exchange. It is there for tracking their supported awards and providing credit for those — nothing more. On the other hand, eQSL allows each user to upload their own QSL card images, which they can scan in from paper, save as an image and upload to eQSL or they can create using tools that eQSL provides. For people who simply like to exchange QSLs, this is very nice and definitely worth the price of admission.

    I myself do not care if I ever see a QSL card. Sure, I’ve received some nice ones and appreciate the time that others have spent in designing theirs and sending them to me, but I don’t get all excited about an actual QSL card image. All I am really interested in is QSO confirmations. That’s just me. I’m glad eQSL is available for those who want to have an additional way to exchange actual QSL cards.

  • Awards Exclusive to LOTW or eQSL
  • eQSL: As of this writing, eQSL supports tracking of and credit toward their own unique awards system (eAwards), which in many ways mimics various ARRL awards. Of course, these awards have nothing to do with the ARRL and credits only apply to the eQSL-specific awards. eQSL also supports various awards from the CQ Magazine awards system, such as CQ WPX, CQ WAZ, CQ USA-CA and CQ DX, as well as the DARC Contest Log (DCL).

    If you’re working towards one of these awards, eQSL may be the [only] way to go.

    LOTW: As of this writing, LOTW supports the ARRL DXCC, WAS and VUCC programs as well as CQ Magazines WPX award program.

    If you are one of those people [like myself] who prefer the ARRL awards, then this is the system to use. Just this month LOTW started supporting CQ WPX, which is an added bonus.

Written by Mike

July 5th, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Field Day 2012 – A Hit!


OK. So I worked FD from home as a class D station. Nothing new there. What was different is that I didn’t have a station set up at all prior to 1600z Saturday. We’ve been having a bit of work down here at the house, and as such all of my antennas were down. To add insult to injury, I didn’t have my Yaesu FT-950. (The 950 isn’t back in my hands yet)

I threw up a dipole, pulled my FT-100 out of storage and got computer control working. I had the capability to run QRP for as long as I wanted, or HP for a much shorter period of time, a battery / solar panel combination. The battery was already charged [via the solar panel]. I could have set up on my back porch and used paper logging. In my eyes, this would have been a bonafide portable operation and I could have gotten extra points per Q and been in a more favorable class, being able to work all stations. But, I wasn’t about to go through the extra hassle [and discomfort] to do this only to find out later that the ARRL didn’t agree with my “portable” operation. So I decided to go 1D instead. The upside, of course, is that I had all the creature comforts such as computer control/logging, central air, high def, etc.

I was on the air just shy of three hours total, in three sittings [twice on Saturday, once on Sunday]. I stopped at 100 Qs, well 101 Qs. Sunday is the normal family gathering day and we had some yardwork and normal summertime activities going on. On Saturday, I meant to start at 1800z but had taken a Vicodin about an hour before and [for the first time] got very sleepy. So I napped two hours before starting.

Because I hadn’t used the FT-100 in so long, it took some time to get used to the menu system again. But it worked just fine. I didn’t bother to check 10m. I may have worked a couple people on 15m, but I don’t remember. I worked 20m in the first setting. The second and third sittings I stayed on 40m. 40m was packed, all day and all night, both days. There was tons of activity.

I really hadn’t planned on working FD because I didn’t have the FT-950 and because I didn’t have any antenna up. It was at the last minute that I got motivated. Too bad. I could have easily bested any previous FD QSO tally. Despite the poor 10/15 propagation, it seemed as though there were many more stations on the air for FD this year.

I had a really enjoyable, relaxing time. No stress trying to get a particular number of QSOs. No worry about having an aching back and being nearly crippled for a day from having to sit in the chair for 18+ hours. It was a great experience this time around.

With that said, in retrospect I wish I would have put in at least 12 hours. I wish I would have played all of Saturday and into Sunday morning.

Incidentally — I think there are a number of douchebags out there falsely claiming 1E. Seriously, single op, one transmitter, from home, non-QRP, and they are going on generator power for 12-24 hours? I doubt it. The 1E class is BS because 99% of time you have to take the station at their word that they are actually using emergency power. I truly believe that most of the time they simply enter E class so they can work all stations and so they don’t have to compete against as many people. But I’m fairly certain most of em are sitting at home using AC power. Really, hams in general aren’t any more trustworthy than the average person — and the average person is rarely trustworthy these days.

If ya ask me, for home stations you shouldn’t get penalized by not being allowed to work other D stations. In my case, I set up everything at the last minute. Nothing about my setup was permanent, except that I used AC power. If i knew for sure that I could claim portable operation, I definitely would have ran QRP off the battery and logged by paper. As for setup, I did just what most do on FD (and what many don’t do on FD) — I set everything up from scratch. Also, there shouldn’t be an E class because people can’t be trusted enough to only claim it if they are using emergency power.

I’m done bitching. After all, you can’t change an unethical operator. All you can do is be legitimate yourself when you’re working a contest.

I had a fun. Hope to work some more folks next year.

Written by Mike

June 25th, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Contesting,Field Day,FT-100

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The FT-950 Lives!


My FT-950 lives, by no skill of my own. My buddy Jon fixed it. He’s a software engineer by day and [apparently] an electronics engineer by night. What a great friend!

It Lives!

Written by Mike

June 19th, 2012 at 12:29 am

Posted in FT-950,Posts

FT-950 Dead


If my lack of amateur radio activity in the past five months isn’t sign enough that there must be more important things in life than ham radio, my FT-950 is now dead.

I hadn’t played radio for what seemed like ages. Yesterday I noticed there was a firmware update out for my FT-950. After reading what the firmware updates offered, I decided that a firmware update wouldn’t benefit me in the least. But, being the idiot I am, I downloaded the firmware and attempted to update anyway.

I checked my serial # (9M330040) and the current firmware version (11.541.12) and made note of the fact that the main / dsp firmware updates from 3/2012 were indeed applicable to my radio. So I attempted to follow the directions.

The instructions said to remove DC power from the radio, either by unplugging the power cable from the back or turning the power supply off and waiting a minute for the capacitors to discharge. For whatever reason I chose the latter option, when the former would have been better. Then the instructions said to slide the program switch dipswitch (PGM-SW) on the back to the right [program mode]. I did that. Then I was to provide DC power to the radio again, so I turned the power supply on.

At this point it was time to start the flashing procedure. However, when I fired up PEP app to write the update, I had a communications error. No problem I figured. I probably had the wrong comport settings. I knew the baud rate in the radio was set for 38400, or at least something higher than 9600, and that the instructions suggested that the baud rate should be 9600. Furthermore, I couldn’t remember what comport on the computer was connected to the radio. I figured that once I got the right information I’d be good to go.

Well, in an attempt to go into the radio and set the baud rate to 9600, I was supposed to remove DC power again [and wait for cap discharge] and then switch PGM-SW back to the left. Then fire up the radio. No joy. The radio didnt fire up. No matter what i do, I can’t get the radio to turn on.

Inline fuses are good. Voltage is good through the cable. I’ve heard stories of people bricking the radio by not doing the firmware updates correctly, and I’m familiar with bricking devices during updates. I’ve also heard other stories about diodes and other components blowing if one doesn’t remove DC power and allow for cap discharge prior to switching PGM-SW.

I can only guess that I failed to follow instructions and blew something out inside. I get absolutely no sign that the radio is receiving voltage to its internals. It’s as if it’s not even plugged in.

I’ll fiddle around with it a little more, but I’m not hopeful. I’ll probably have to send it out. Incidentally, I called Yaesu tech support, but the lady told me there were no techs around because they all went to Dayton and for me to call back on Monday. She apologized, and I said goodbye.

Looks like I’ll need to send it back. You know, just two or three months ago my niece was moving and was looking for some boxes, so I told her to take my double-box yaesu shipping box. What a dumb move. Now I don’t have a box to ship it out in. If I did, I’d package it up right now and send it to one of the repair centers who is on the AC0C list of repair centers that will perform his mode. I’d get the radio fixed and have the NS roofing filter installed at the same time.

But, my heart isn’t in it. Too much trouble for too little gain. I haven’t been playing radio. I don’t have any decent antennas up. In fact, I don’t have any HF antennas up. So what’s the use, right? I think I’m just going to the shelve the radio. It’ll probably sit there until I pass away one day, and then some schmuck will come by the house and offer my family 1/100th of what it is worth as the ultimate smack in the face rofl.

I don’t think anyone will hear me on HF for the rest of the year, at least. This must be a sign that there is something more important that I need to be doing.

Have fun folks!

Written by Mike

May 18th, 2012 at 10:42 am

Posted in FT-950,Posts

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End of 2011 Summary Post

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Christmas has come and gone. We had a great Christmas this year. It’s always great when the family gets together. I got a nice Christmas bonus from my employer, and I got an Amazon Kindle Fire from a friend / business client of mine for whom I maintain their mail system.

I haven’t worked any DX in a while. My inverted V is down right now. My winter hobby is scanner monitoring, and so I have a scanner antenna up on the mast. I still have my small dipole, but it doesn’t perform well enough for me to exert the effort trying to chase new DXCC entities with it. I really do need to get on though and try to work some of the DX that has been on.

I still have a batch of about 50 QSL cards that I need sent to the ARRL Outgoing Bureau. I also have about 20-25 QSL cards that I still need to fill out and send direct / via QSL Manager to various DX that I need DXCC confirmations for. I’m hoping I’ll get motivated to get these things taken care of by the end of the year. Hmm, that only gives me four days.

I’ve used OQRS to get confirmations for half a dozen DXpeditions. I haven’t received the actual cards for most of them yet, but I’ve received email confirmation that I’m in their log and will be getting a card.

I have worked 26 new DXCCs since October 2011, and at least half of them have already confirmed on Logbook of the World. Hopefully next year will be a productive year for working DX. I need to get above 200 DXCC confirmed.

Written by Mike

December 27th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

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