Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 Battleship Iowa Field Day AAR

GROAN.....Well, Field Day is over for another year, and as far as we know, this was the first time the Iowa has ever been on-the-air for Field Day.

Friday was "Set Up Day", and was sunny, hot, and very humid. After 15~20 minutes of working outside we were soaked, and needed to find some shade and have a cold drink.

My buddy Doug came over about 1100, and we loaded the tower and 2 Meter Yagi in the back of his pick-up, and then loaded the two tubs containing most of the gear, and a large soft bag with the rest, in my Jeep.

Camera and laptops went in the front with me, and then my son came by and loaded up the table and chairs and cooler in his Xterra.

SO, off to the ship!

We were able to park close to the front brow, which helped a bit, and we lugged all the gear up the ramp, and one ladder, to the O1 level, portside, just aft of Turret #2, on "The Admiral's Veranda". The starboard side of the ship has the hatch to the Captain's In-Port cabin in this location.

This area is typically used for special events, like the Turret #2 memorial shown above, and is off the tour route, although the tour route runs forward and aft of it, so we had plenty of foot traffic going past wondering what we were doing. Once in a while someboy would stop and say "Oh, that's right, it's Field Day weekend", and we stop work and talk to them. 

We got the antenna assembled and stood it up, aligning the base to True North. Two years ago when we set up for JOTA I tried using my compass for this, and found out there's just a bit too much steel in the area for my little compass to work properly! Turns out the Main Channel in the harbor runs due North/South, so I just got the base of the tower as parallel to the channel as I could.

That was about it for Friday. After lugging all the gear up and putting it together (it takes me about two hours to assemble and align everything) we were soaked, thirsty, hungry, and tired, so we headed home.

I got there about 0830 Saturday morning, and set up the table, and snaked the cables over to the gear:

The Security guys went in the Captain's cabin for us, opened a port hole, and ran our extension cord through it so we'd have power, and I ran some calibration tests with antenna controller to make sure everything was working:

By this time (1100 Local, 1800 UTC) Field Day had started, but since there wasn't going to be a satellite pass for an hour or so, I went down to the Comm Center to see how things were going.

Here's my buddy Doug explaining the logging procedure for the 'phone station to one of our BIARA member who came down to operate:

And Tom and "Doug the Younger" getting in to the swing of things at the CW station:

Things seemed great in the Comm Center so my son and I went back up to the Satellite Station, where it had started to sprinkle, sending us into panic mode:

We scrambled around to get a tarp (Thanks, OPS Guys!) and a pop-up cover (Thanks, Sue!), and by the time we marginally "weatherproofed", we'd missed the pass of AO-73.

Oh, least we were ready for the next pass......:

We made some passes, found some problems I'll describe later, enjoyed the cool, cloudy (but damp!) weather, and shut everything down so we could exit the ship about 2045.

Grabbed a burger on the way home, and hit the rack.

Got back on the Ship about 0845 Sunday morning. It was going to be another hot, muggy day.

Meanwhile, back in the Comm Center on Sunday morning, the CW guys are going great guns:

And "Doug the Younger" and his son have taken over for "Doug the Elder" who's out attending to some ship interface business:

One of the "nice" things about operating the satellite station is that you have gaps between the satellites going over where you can talk to the public as they wander past, so we set up a second table with a bunch of hand outs provided by the ARRL:

One of the "bad" things about operating the satellite station is that you don't have a lot of time to correct equipment problems you discover when a satellite is going over. We made ZERO contacts on AO-7 this year due to there being a problem with the "Doppler.sqf" file that SatPC32 (my tracking and control program) uses to make the Doppler correction and tune the transmitter and receiver to the correct frequencies.

Normally, when a satellite comes up over the horizon, SatPC32 will move the antennas to the correct heading, and tune the radio to the middle of the transponder passband. On the FO-29 satellite this works perfectly. The satellite comes up, I tune to an open frequency in the upper half of the band (the lower half is reserved for CW), transmit my callsign, hear my own voice coming back from the satellite with a slight delay, and proceed to make contacts.

With AO-7 though, I've had to manually change the transmit frequency until I hear myself on the downlink. I never bothered to make a note of which way I had to tune (D'OH!), or if it was a consistent error (Double D'OH!) until this year, as I didn't know what was causing the offset.

This year, since the satellite was pretty weak, I spent some time experimenting, and found the problem due to some modifications I had to make last week to add a new satellite.

In manually adding the information for AO-73, I realized that the "Doppler.sqf" file is where the "base" frequencies are stored that the program applies the Doppler correction to, and then sends the commands to the radio to tune to the correct frequencies.

Somehow, the base frequency entries in the "Doppler.sqf" file for the AO-7 transponder were wrong. They were wrong by exactly 4kHz, and low in frequency, matching the numbers I wrote down as I experimented with radio.

BY the time I edited the file, which requires you to close the program and restart it, AO-7 had gone below the horizon on it's last pass I would be able to use for Field Day this year. I'll set the station up here at home and use it on a regular basis once I get a longer mast to get the antennas above the roof.

The other "problem" we had this year was due to the location on the ship we were directed to use. We only had a clear view of the sky on one side of the ship, which resulted in losing satellites once they dropped below a certain elevation to the West of us.

I was going along great on FO-29, and all of a sudden the receiver got very quiet, with not only all the active signals disappearing, but also transponder noise floor dropping to zero.

I stuck my head out of the pop-up, and found a situation almost identical to this:

It's just a bit hard to hear anything through all that steel! That's my son to the right in the photo.

When we set up for the BSA JOTA event, we were on the portside fantail, and had a pretty clear view of the sky. Since there was a major private event back there Saturday night, the area was closed off. The other area we  had requested was forward, beyond the area where our visitors are usually allowed, but that area was in use Friday night, so we couldn't set up there Friday afternoon.

There were only two usable passes of one satellite, AO-73, Sunday morning, one about 5* above the horizon, and the other that started about 8 minutes before the end of Field Day.

I decided it wasn't worth the effort, as we'd proven on Saturday the 5* passes in that direction were not feasible due to all the cranes and stacked containers on the other side of the channel, and since I'd missed the only other pass of AO-73 on Saturday due to having some high-level visitors, and I'd had trouble using AO-73 the previous week at home, I started an early tear down of the station, and helped the guys in the Comm Center by logging for them.

Sunday was also another hot, sunny, muggy day, so I took my time and didn't rush things.

So, the final tally for the Satellite Station was 12 contacts on FO-29, one on the SO-50 FM satellite, and two terrestrial 2 Meter contacts, one in South Orange County, and one in San Diego County in the Twentynine Palms area.

The 'phone guys did almost 600 contacts, and the CW guys did almost 300. I haven't finished merging the logs and adding up the bonus points yet, so I'm not sure how we did in comparison to the other entries in the 2D class.

I won't be running satellites aboard next year as we decided the cost/effort/benefit ratio just doesn't wash. I typically would go back to the Field Day site at 0430 on Sunday to get ready for the 0500~0730 satellite passes, and always doubled my score from the previous day, but we couldn't get back on the ship until 0800 Sunday morning. Plus, I had the "sky blockage" issue this year, so for 2016 I'll, run the 6 Meter/VHF/UHF station from the same location using some stacked omnidirectional antennas mounted at the rail, and possibly some amplifiers to make myself heard.

So, a big thanks to to the Security and Operations people on the Iowa who helped us make this happen, and guided us in learning the ropes to running a "mini event" like this.

"Semper Gumby", guys and gals, and carry on!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Field Day......

I was going to post something, but I'm too beat.

More tomorrow after I get back home....if I'm able to move!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Simulated Firing of Iowa's Turret #1, Gun #2

Several weeks ago the Iowa hosted a very special event for the SEAL-NSW Family Foundation.

One of the things they did was crank up the barrel of the #2 gun in the #1 turret, and insert some type of "Pyrotechnic Device" in the gun.

Well, I ran across this on YouTube......

Enjoy the fireworks!

Last Field Day Preps Are Done

The satellite antennas and tower were taken down to the Iowa this afternoon, and were assembled and ready to go or Field Day.

We'll have a table and pop-up, and I'm taking my two folding camping chairs and a large cooler full of ice, sodas, water, and "sports drinks" to keep hydrated with.

We were pretty much cooked by the time we had things done, as there's NO breeze on that side and elevation on the ship, so it might be a bit brutal on Saturday, as we'll be in full sun until about 1600 when the Sun is far enough West to "set" behind the superstructure.

And I'm taking my "real" camera tomorrow so I'll have something better than cellphone pix to submit to the AMSAT Journal and QST!

And of course, you'll see them here first......

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Busy, Busy Day

Spent the day running around the ship, and looking at the places the Ops and Security folks agreed to allow me to mount my satellite antennas for Field Day.

We'll be on the portside O1 level, using what's called "The Admiral's Veranda".

I have a completely clear view to the North, East, and South, with the West pretty much blocked by the superstructure and turret #2.

BUT......I plotted all of the satellite passes from 1800UTC Saturday when Field Day starts, till 1800 UTC when it ends, and NONE of the passes will be to the West far enough to be blocked.

And since there's an office area on the other side of the portholes, they'll open a porthole for me to run my extension cord through, saving me the trouble of lugging my generator, drip containment pan, fuel, and fire extinguishers aboard.

Then after I dropped off the Field Day signs to one of the members of the other radio club, and checked my mail, I came home and finished designing a simple step-start/inrush protector for a friend on the Celica Supra forum. He's got a turbocharged Toyota 1UZ 4.0 liter V8 in his Mark-II Supra, and is using a set of Taurus electric fans to pull air through his custom aluminum radiator.

The problem is on high-sped the fans draw 70 Amps on start-up, and clobber his electrical system. So, a series resistor that limits the current to about 20 Amps, and gets shorted out after 2 seconds, shoild do the job.

Thursday is take the whole satellite station apart, and put everything back in the storage boxes, and wait for Friday when we move it all down to the Iowa and at least put the antennas back together and align them.

And I finally got to check out my new headset/boom mic!

I got the "Deluxe" upgrade kit that included gel ear pads with cotton cover "socks", and a nice, big soft, fuzzy head band.

These things look identical to the David Clark H10-30 aviation headsets I have, but have "standard" plugs on them instead of the Aviation-type plugs, and are about half the price.

They sound great, seal out 99% of the background noise, have great transmit audio, and are extremely comfortable.

And I'm hitting the rack!

See you all later........

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Yes, I'm Messing With The Layout

I got kind of tired of the orange and brown, so I picked another canned theme, and tweaked it a bit.

If it displays weirdly on your PC, PLEASE LET ME KNOW, and I'll try and make it more compatible to more readers.

I have a 24" wide-screen monitor, but a lot of you may not, so what looks "good" to me might look really bad to you.....

Happy Father's Day!

To all my fellow Dads out there....

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Satellite Station On-The-Air and Working

Got the cross-boom mounted through the elevation rotor, mounted the preamps and antennas, connected all the cables, and walked the tower up.

And I had it all finished 30 minutes after the last satellite passes (of the satellites I normally use) of the day.


So, I decided to give SO-50, an FM satellite, a try, and I talked to one of my friends in Arizona.

The next satellite I wanted to try was AO-73, aka "FUNCube-1", which is one of the reasons the SDR USB "dongles" got popular. I'd heard the earlier pass, but I'd never made the correct changes to my tracking and control program to use it, so while I was able to hear the downlink, it was so late in the pass I was able to manually juggle the radio knobs fast enough to make any contacts through it.

And on the next pass, it was too low to the east, and almost behind my garage, so no joy there, either.

I did manage to copy a lot of packet radio traffic from the Space Station tonight, but they probably won't be active on Field Day.

Oh, well.......I have about 4 hours on Sunday to do some further testing before we have to leave to go to the Father's Day festivities on the Iowa.

This is Why I Missed a Day a Couple of Weeks Ago!

Since it's been announced, the show they were filming down at the ship was "American Ninja Warrior".

I don't watch this type of show because I'm not interested in it, but plenty of people do.

It was a MAJOR production for us, and parking was a mess.

Getting on and off the ship wasn't fun, either!

Thanks to "Big Stick Ops" for the picture! He was brave enough to go aboard that week, while us timid radio guys stayed home....

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Field Day Preps and Father's Day

As I told my wife this afternoon, "I'm in Field Day Mode".

Reserved the trailer this morning, and got my laptop out and spent the afternoon updating all the software on it that needed updating.

I didn't do that last year, and wasted a couple of hours updating it "enough" that Windoze would quit squawking.

I also didn't set up all the equipment in the back yard, and test it, last year, so all the tales of woe I had were brought on myself by me. I had taken incompatible equipment (rotator motors didn't match the control box), left things at home because I'd taken them out of the "Field Day" equipment boxes that I thought were all properly packed, and other errors caused by not doing a trial run before declaring the equipment good-to-go.

That's NOT going to happen this year, as I'll be operating my satellite station on the Iowa, and if that operation doesn't go smooth. I'll have a serious amount of egg on my face, and our Amateur Radio Association will look kind of stoopid!

SO.....tomorrow morning all the stuff will be dragged out of the garage and gone through, sorted out, and checked. Saturday morning I'll start assembling the antennas, preamps and power leads, coaxial cables, and rotors. Generally takes me about two hours the first time, as I find my tools and the specific hardware used to hold it all together.

Sunday is Father's Day, so I'm going to have fun, and if the antenna system is put together, it only takes about 30 minutes to set up the radio and laptop, and I'll operate for a bit.

Sunday afternoon we're going down to the Iowa for "BBQ's and Brews", their Father's Day celebration.

That leaves Sunday through Tuesday as the shake-down run. Wednesday is "Grey Radio Day" on the Iowa for me, and Thursday is pick up the trailer and dismantle the station. Friday my son is coming over to help me load up, and then down to the ship, lug the equipment aboard, and set it up. We'll light it all off Friday for the smoke test, and then Field Day starts Saturday at 1100 local.

I really want to be ready for the first satellite to come over the horizon this year, unlike last year when I really didn't get operating until late Saturday afternoon!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Music Under The Guns" on the Battleship IOWA

Almost forgot to post this.

Last Saturday we had a "Volunteer Recruitment Fair" where prospective volunteers came and talked to representatives from all the various departments and groups to see if they'd like to join the crew and help with the ship.

I was sitting in for the leader of our "Gray Radio Group" who was on vacation, and met a lot of people who were definitely interested in joining the crew and working on the ship.

After the fair was over, my wife came down to the ship to join me for the "Music Under The Guns" program.

The Iowa runs several very low-cost ($10 or less per person) programs that include music, movies, and other events.

This month was music, and we had the tribute band "Fortunate Son"  playing for us from 1430 to 1700.

I've seen these guys before, and they're great. See them if you ever have the chance to do so. You'll really enjoy them!

And yes, they literally played "under the guns", with the stage set up just aft of Turret #3!

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Electric" V-8 Engine

Pretty clever...

It's one of those "What If...." scenarios where the thinking goes "What if I replaced the internal combustion mechanism (pistons driven by expanding gas) with something else that pushed the connecting rods down to turn the crankshaft?".

See for yourself.....

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rifle Ammo - - Then and Now

My 1000 rounds of 223 came in today, and I went and picked them up. I got a good deal on PMC from our friends at Bulk Ammo, and since the rifle/carbine class I'm taking on Sunday said to bring 100 rounds, and I know I'll be shooting this rifle a lot, I popped and bought the case.

As I was bringing it in from the car, I realized I still had a 50 Cal ammo can full of 30-06 surplus that I got a few weeks ago from the folks at Midway so I could properly feed my M1 Garand.


This is British surplus ammo specifically loaded for the M1 Garand, made in the late 1960's in Pakistan, and has gotten very good to excellent customer reviews on the Midway website.

The first lot I bought smelled really musty, just like the reviews have said, but this second lot doesn't stink at all. I'll probably buy more, as "MIL SPEC" M1 Ball ammo doesn't exactly grow on trees anymore, and it's good practice ammo.

I'll save my CMP Hornady ammo for those times when I really need accuracy. And yes, I'll compare the two at the range to see how much sight adjustment I need to do, and keep the info with the rifle.

Since my wife isn't as gunny as most of my readers, I thought she'd be interested in seeing how "front line" rifle ammunition has changed over the years. So, I plopped a couple of rounds of each down on the table, and took a few pix.

First, the 30-06. I remember my Dad telling me this stuff could shoot through two palm trees, and still take out a Japanese solder at 300+ yards.

Pretty impressive stuff. 174gr bullet, traveling at 2650 ft/sec, and producing around 2700 ft-lbs of muzzle energy.

Definitely hits hard!

Then I showed her a "typical" 556/223 round:

This particular PMC round has a 55gr bullet, loaded to produce about 3200 ft/sec, and delivering around 1250 ft-lbs of energy.

Here's the two side by side:

When she held the "Then and Now" rounds in her hand she was astounded at what our troops are carrying these days.

HEY!......I am NOT bad-mouthing the 5.56x45 round, so don't go there!

It is what it is, and our troops still have the 308 round for when things get really tough, but since this is the first time that I've ever put the two rounds side-by-side, I can now understand the furor that occurred when the M16 was first put into service.

And as much as I value my Garand, I know I'm going to really enjoy my M&P15.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Battleship Iowa Wefax Reception Update

For those that have asked about the problems I was having receiving weather fax transmissions using our Signalink and fldigi, I found the problem today, and "fixed" it.

Turns out there was a sample-rate mismatch between what Windows was using for the Signalink USB Audio Codec, and the settings in fldigi.

The settings Windows uses for "Recording" is normally something like 2 channel, 16-bit 44.1khz, the same as it uses for "CD Quality" audio playback, which makes sense since most consumers would want to record something that they could burn to CD and play.

After doing a Google session, and experimenting in fldigi by watching the signal "quality" in the waterfall display, I decided to switch to 2-channel, 16-bit, 48kHz, which Windows calls "DVD Quality".

This made the waterfall look much better as far as Signal-to-Noise ratio, but I still couldn't decode anything.

Somehow, I had it stuck in my mind that regardless of what Windows was using, the Signalink was using something else and passing the data directly to fldigi., that's not how it works.

As soon as I went into the "Modems" setting on fldigi, and set the rate to 48000, I started getting picture decoding, and now we're getting usable weather maps.

Why didn't I have this trouble here at my home station? Well, I'm not using a Signalink on my Flex Radio 5000.

Since the "radio" is running on the same PC that the fldigi software is, I don't need an additional hardware box to digitize the audio from the Flex, and feed it to the program. The audio stays in the digital domain from the "radio" directly to the program using a pair of Virtual Serial Ports, connected together with a Virtual Serial Cable.

And in setting up the two ports and their "cable", I set the bit rate to be the same, so "it just worked".

Just one of the pitfalls of having one foot in the Analog Domain, and the other in the Digital Domain, I guess!

And for those that have asked about why we weren't on for Museum Ships Weekend.....

Well, we had to cancel at the last minute. There was a major film project for an upcoming TV program that resulted in the ship being pretty much shutdown for that complete weekend, as well as the entire week following.

Parking was a major hassle as the parking lot was used for the filming of the event (the ship was basically a backdrop), and access to and from the ship was severely restricted.

We talked with the Museum Ships people, and they would have allowed  us to operate from shore, BUT...we had to be in sight of the ship to do it.

That would have meant operating "mobile" from on-street parking, or finding another lot in sight of the ship where we could overnight with a generator,

It would have been just too much hassle, so we requested the Museum Ships people remove us from the list.

It's kind of a bummer because we were going to use this as a "full-up" test for Field Day, but the welfare of the Iowa comes first, so we accepted it without any bad feelings. They've been so good to us, that we have absolutely no reason to complain about missing a weekend "playing radio"!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2014 Cameron Airshow

A buddy sent me the link, and there's some pretty neat stuff going on.

Some of it gives me a headache just watching it....

Friday, June 5, 2015

AR Type Rifle Magazine Recommendations?

WELL.....I "pulled the trigger" and bought an AR type rifle.

Specifically, I bought an S&W M&P15T.

This is very similar to my setpson's rifle that I shot a lot last July in Colorado, but has the (STOOOPID!) Kaliforniastan "Bullet Button" instead of a standard magazine release, a slightly heavier barrel, and some Picatinny rails with "flip up" iron sights in place of the forgrip.

Both my wife (who's pretty recoil-adverse) and myslef really enjoyed shooting her son's M&P15 while we were there. She was surprised how little recoil there was, and I was surprised how fast I could acquire, and hit, targets using the red dot sight on it.

I was ringing the steel no problem at 200 yards, which absolutely floored me.

This one comes with 3 snap-on handguards to use on the 90*, 180* and 270* positions so you won't chew your hands up on the rail in case you don't have any TactiCool stuff mounted on them.

I might put a weapon light on it, and will definitely get a Red Dot for it.

It comes with ONE 10-round magazine, and before I take the rifle class I signed up for, I'd like to get several more.

SO......being a complete "AR Rookie", what do you guys recommend? I've read that Magpul makes good magazines, and the guy at the gun shop said C Products also makes good ones, and to stay away from ThermoMold.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How'd I miss This? Grace Lee Whitney Passed Away May 1st

Holy smokes....Yeoman Rand is no longer with us!

I ran across this looking at some webpage, and went to the UPI page that had the article.

RIP, Grace.

More about here carreer here and here.

One of here first TV appearances was as "Carla" in the Outer Limtis episode titled "Contolled Experiment". Even watching that episode after "Star Trek" had beem on, I still didn't realize it was her until I watched the credits.

Meet Luna!

 Great name for our new pup, eh? She's camera shy, and "Red Eye Removal" doesn't work for dogs! She's two years old, p...