Monday, October 22, 2012

Amateur Radio Kit Roundup - OLD Lil' Squall Transceiver Lil' Squall Transceiver
If you came here looking for, this is the old page.  It's possible that your cache has not updated.  Click here for the new version

Kit building appears to be on the rise again.  With so many people talking about it on the club's repeater lately I decided to put together a good list of sources for kits that are currently available.  Many of these are for QRP operation, but a few are full-featured professional transceivers (Elecraft, DZ).  On the beginners side there are a few sources that stand out:  Hendricks has a great assortment of kits, including some SSB QRP equipment.  QRPme offers the inexpensive, easy-to-build tuna-can products, and I would like to make special mention of the Four State QRP Group NS-40 which has the coils etched right into the PC board!  What a great idea!  I've covered trasmitters, transceivers, and some receivers here.  Some accessories are mentioned in the source descriptions.

Revised 7/19/2012  Changes in Hendricks QRP Kits, YouKits, Genesis Radio, Tony Parks, and removed the coming soon designation on Heathkit.  I didn't check ALL of the prices, so don't hold me to total accuracy in that department.

Revised 10/22/2012  Changes in Hendricks, YouKits, Tony Parks, Small Wonder Labs, Wilderness Radio, and Four State QRP Group.  Removed Heathkit, Added HSC.

Enjoy, and feel free to email me any corrections, or additions.--Neil W2NDG 

-Hendricks QRP Kits
  • BitX20A/17A SSB Transceiver.  The BitX20A and BitX17A are complete SSB kits with board, all parts, digital display and custom powder coated and punched case that is based on the BitX20 that was designed by Ashlan Farhan.  Output is about 10 Watts.  $180.00 + S&H

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Links for LIMARC meeting

Here are the links for the LIMARC presentation SOFTWARE DEFINED RADIO ON A SHOESTRING

Software Defined Radio on a Shoestring.
September 12th 2012

Soft66 products are available at:
Use with HD-SDR, or WinRAD

RTL SDR info:
                Search eBay for RTL SDR and make sure that the dongle has these two chips:     
                                RTL2832U + E4000
Install Instructions are at:
HF Converter:  eBay search:  RTL2832U converter
PAL Converter: Radio Shack 278-261



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Please stand by...

Have you ever had one of those days?  Something that I refer to as The Shidas Touch.  Wherein everything you touch turns to feces.  I successfully managed to break my iPhone, Dell laptop, and a Garmin Nuvi 250 all in the course of about 12 hours.  None of my radio equipment seems to have been affected by the condition, with my Icom dual-bander actually seeming to repair itself recently.  The iPhone was an easy fix.  Just a tethered reboot did the trick.  I seem to always go one step too far when playing with things on my jailbroken Sprint iPhone 4.  The Garmin was actually already broken, but I did manage to break it further.  The person who borrowed this from my YL must have been trying to delete his history from the thing before he returned it, and managed to delete all of the maps in the process.  Some research, and a few trial-and-errors brought the device back, and now is actually working better than before, but in the process I was pretty sure I had bricked the thing, and shoved it aside in favor of salvaging part of a good night's sleep.  The Dell, however, is a sad story.

I bring this up, because it is this same Dell laptop that was the processing muscle behind my testing of the

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Is the Baofeng UV-3R Mark II really modifiable to 220 Mhz?

Baofeng UV-3R Mark II
The answer is yes, and no.  Using the software utility available here you can stretch the coverage of your UV-3R Mark II.  This only works on the Mark II (dual watch display) and the new Plus model.  There are two options for changing the coverage.  You can stretch up from VHF or down from UHF.  Only the UHF option seems to work.  Now, before you run off and do this, let me pass

Monday, June 04, 2012

Soft66LC4 SDR - initial impressions

I received a Soft66LC4 SDR receiver for evaluation. The review of this radio will be in 3 parts, initial impressions, usage test, and full technical test. Here are my initial impressions.

The Soft66LC4 is the newest SDR receiver from Kazunori Miura JA7TDO. There have been several revisions of this inexpensive SDR over the last couple of years. The evaluation unit came in about a week from Japan in a plain envelope with no documentation or software. You are expected to refer back to JA7DTO's website for help. Although the setup is a bit complicated, it wasn't too bad for me since I deal with a lot of control software that

Thursday, May 31, 2012

His and Hers

I haven't posted so much lately. Sinus issues have kept me from really spending the time on anything other than work and the necessities of life. There are some great goings-on here on Long Island though. My lovely and amazing fiance had been studying for her Technician license for the last month or so. Armed with a notebook, access to the practice tests, and Gordon West's book, she finally took and passed the exam this past Saturday. Now we just need the callsign.  A friend of ours once told us that there are two types of Ham Radio spouses.  Ones that embrace the hobby, maybe not to the fullest, but will attend picnics and events, and there are the ones that run screaming from it.  I have been blessed with a fiance who fell in love with the Ham Radio community, and the people we have met through it.  I'm not sure that I'll ever come home to find her staring at Smith Charts, but I think she and I might get to fight over the soldering iron a bit.

Well, anyway, on to the Baofengs you see here.  She sort-of owed me a birthday gift for awhile, and I thought she needed a congratulatory gift for passing the exam, so we ordered his-n-hers Baofeng UV-3R Mark IIs.  I know quite a few hams that have purchased these little gems and most are quite pleased.  Now, I understand that I cannot expect the performance of a $300 Kenwood, or other similar HTs, but the value is quite amazing.  Here in the NY Metro area, a small 2 watt HT is not a bad thing to have.

As I do with practically everything I own, I have started the process of learning all I can about getting the most out of these little radios.  I will post the results as I experiment.  So far so good though.  Stay tuned, more to follow.

--Neil W2NDG

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


While letting Alec have a bit more driving practice last weekend, we explored some of the North Shore here in the Oyster Bay area. We found a few nice places worth going back to, but one of the most interesting was the Shu Swamp Preserve. Alec and I hiked the northern part of the preserve which had a large observation deck for watching waterfowl and a nice boardwalk section through the swamp. The skunk cabbage was in full glory, very healthy from the mild winter. I found dogtooth violet, solomon's seal, wild oats, and what at first I thought were the leaves of pink lady's slipper. On closer examination I recognized the leaves as ramps, or wild leeks. Pulling one out of the shallow topsoil and leaf litter confirmed my suspicions as the distinctive earthy onion-garlic smell captured our attention. Now, a good rule of foraging is to never obliterate an area of a particular plant. After walking a little farther it became apparent that there were thousands of these gems. We pulled about a dozen in all and headed back to the car.I washed them later that night and stored them in the fridge. The next evening I carefully chopped the heads and sautéed in a bit of olive oil, the I added some broccoli and about half a pound of chicken, cut thin. I let this toss around for about 10 minutes, and then added some fresh pepper, and the tops of the ramps, finely chopped. They have a great garlic flavor, but more delicate. I need more now. The season is short, so grab while you can.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Skype Warning

I received two disturbing emails early Friday morning.

The first one from Skype:

And the next one from PayPal:

Since I am not a premium Skype user, there is no live support.  I started the process

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

2012 World Radio TV Handbook Available

WRTH 2012
With the demise of Passport to Worldband Radio a couple of years ago, There are two definitive books for the shortwave hobby remaining.  The one most recognized is the World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH).  The 2012 edition is available over at for $22.63.  Also, although I've never owned one, many people also swear by the Klingenfuss guides.  The 2012 edition of the Shortwave Guide is also available now over at Universal Radio.  If anyone is familiar with the Klingenfuss guides, please leave me a comment.  Thanks!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Taking the step

Through some of my recent posts you might have found out that I have been listening to shortwave radio since I was a kid.  The first ham radio operator that I knew was my uncle Win (Irwin), W1PVC from Norwalk, CT.  Uncle Win was an engineer, and had a nice shack in the basement of his house.  I think he had most of his old equipment displayed around on various shelves, but used a Hallicrafters transceiver.  I've looked through photos of Hallicrafters equipment, and I'm pretty sure it was a Cyclone III.  He knew of my interest in shortwave and always tried to encourage me to study for my ham license.

At some point, my father also decided that it was a good idea for me to get licensed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

February LIMARC column: Some thoughts on streaming radio and EchoLink

This is an article I wrote for the Long Island Mobile Amateur Radio Club for their February newsletter (e-log).

Last month I wrote about something not directly radio-related, but of interest to a lot of our members, especially after polling people as to what version of Windows they were still using.  This month I would like to spout off a bit about something a little more radio-related.  

To start, I think to keep some of this relevant, I must mention that I started out as a

Monday, January 23, 2012

Great deal on the Grundig G4000a at Amazon

Amazon is selling the aforementioned Grundig G4000a for $69.79
A great deal for this radio, which most people describe as having the best audio in its class.

Grundig G4000a at for $69.79

Streaming radio for the SWL

I recently wrote a piece for the Long Island Mobile Amateur Radio Club on streaming radio and where it fits into our hobby.  Although many die-hard SWLers consider streaming radio to be one of the technologies bringing a slow and painful death to the hobby, I have found that those of us who listen to the programs themselves seem to appreciate it.

If you are interested only with the thrill of the catch, then this is obviously not for you.  For those of you that may actually enjoy music from Africa No. 1 or Intellectual Factor from Radio Belarus, streaming is the best way to actually listen to the programs.  I use these examples because they are

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shortwave Primer

Panasonic RF-2200
I had a fellow Ham ask about Shortwave listening the other day, and I told him I would put together a collection of links and radio reviews.  A lot of this is my own opinion, but much of it from reading the sites listed below.  Enjoy!

I've been listening since I was a little kid.  My first radios were National Panasonic analog models, given to me by a family friend.  I have owned many of the legendary portables from the 70's and 80's including the Panasonic RF-2200, Sony ICF-6500W, Sony ICF-2010, and Sony ICF-SW7600GR.

Current inventory:  Radio Shack DX-160, Redsun RP-2000, Tecsun PL-390, Eton E100, Degen DE-1123, Degen DE-321, Sony ICF-SW20, Kchibo D96L, Bulova 885.  The first SW radio I ever bought (at age 15 I think) was given

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Windows Windows Windows! Which version of Windows should I be running?

This is an article I wrote for the Long Island Mobile Amateur Radio Club (LIMARC)

With an apology to our Macintosh folks, I want to talk about Windows today, since it is what most of our members are using.  At my pre-meeting last month, I asked how many people were still running Windows XP.  A majority of the room raised their hands.  I wanted to address the positives and negatives of the last three versions of Microsoft’s desktop operating system and make some recommendations for those of you who might be unsure of where to go from here.  An additional note:  If you are running anything older than Windows XP, You may be doing so due to the age of the hardware it is running on.  Anything older than XP at this point is not being updated or supported, and has numerous security holes.  

Windows XP arrived on the scene in 2002.  It is very similar to Windows 2000 underneath.  The interface was almost the same as Windows 2000, 98, 95, NT4, and ME, so most of us made the transition well.  Service pack 2 added more stability and some very important security features.  Service pack 3 added more of the same, and much improved support for wireless networking.  Today, the statistics are alarming (or, flattering depending on how you look at it).  32 percent of Windows users are still using XP, an operating system that is going on 10 years old!  At the enterprise level that number is actually higher.  XP was a great product for Microsoft, and the support has been great.  Today though, if you are still running it, there are issues that you need to be aware of.

First of all, Microsoft is still supporting XP, but at a minimum level.  There will be no more service packs.  Major security holes are being patched (if you run updates), but not for much longer.  Mainstream support for XP (hotfixes for problems other than major security holes) ended in 2009, and extended support will end in 2014.  One of the issues with security is also browser-related.  The newest version of Internet Explorer (9) will not run on XP.  I know many of you at this point are saying, “but Neil, I run Firefox (or Chrome or Safari, or even Opera)”.  Yes, and so do I, but as we all know, every now and then we encounter an IE-only page, and have to run IE, and besides: The newer versions of IE are actually not that bad now (8 and higher).  Really.  

Speaking of software, most likely the next versions of MS Office are also for only Vista and above.  There will be many other applications that will not support XP in the near future.  One of the reasons is that software manufacturers will be starting to write software for the 64-bit versions of Windows only (since that is what most manufacturers are currently installing), and no one in the software industry wants to support the 64-bit version of XP (a major failure, in both sales and implementation).   More on 64-bit Windows later.

Hardware support for XP is starting to become a big problem too.  There are more and more computers coming out now that cannot be down-graded to XP.  To sum it up:  If you are still running XP it is time to consider moving up, but where to go?  Vista?  No-way! is the answer to the last question.  While Vista and 7 are similar in appearance and what is underneath, 7 is the better choice by a long-shot.  Why?  Well, let’s talk Vista a bit

Windows Vista arrived in 2007, after Microsoft had hyped the development version for 2 years (referred to as Longhorn internally).  Vista was not even close to what Microsoft had primed us for, and had several major shortcomings.  

For one, Vista seemed slow.  The speed issues were due to several problems.  There were problems with Vista’s networking components that made file-transfers extremely slow.  There were driver issues across the board, and the hardware requirements were so high that most systems dragged and complained under Vista.    

There were also bugs, and issues common with the first release of any operating system, but they seemed worse with all of the speed issues.  On top of all of these problems, Vista introduced a whole new Windows interface.  While this interface would not have seemed so bad if Vista had functioned better, for most of us it was just insult on top of injury.  After dealing with the issues in Vista the new interface seemed like change for the sake of change.  

Another major issue with Vista was the upgrade process.  XP and Vista are different enough that the upgrade is not a technically smooth process, and frequently left users with non-working or poorly working systems.  On top of that, Microsoft released so many different versions of Vista, that it was confusing as to which one you wanted to upgrade to.  

Microsoft at least realized the issues were hurting them, and set about correcting Vista.  Instead of changing Vista though, they released a whole new version of Windows.

Windows 7 arrived in 2009 and fixes most of the issues with Vista.  Better drivers, better networking, better security, and less versions to confuse us.  The upgrade problems have been both simplified and complicated now.  Simplified, because there is only one upgrade path to come from: Vista!  Complicated, because if you are coming from XP, there is no longer and upgrade for you.  You will need to back up your files and re-install from scratch.  Don’t be afraid though.  There are backup wizards on the install DVD to guide you through the process.  Just back up your files, and make sure you have the installation discs for any software you need to re-install.  If this idea overwhelms you, you can hire someone to do it for you.  You’ll pay for the software, and the time involved to install.

There is a common myth out there that Vista, with all of the service packs and updates is just as good as 7.  This is not so.  There is a huge difference with the overhead required to run the two.  7 has less than half the overhead at boot-time than Vista, and that’s with nothing added on!  Another myth is that you need even faster and newer hardware to run 7.  7 will pretty much run on anything that can run XP, as well XP was running, as long as it has at least 2 Gigs of memory (4 is ideal here), and was made after about 2006.  If your system is running Vista, 7 will run better!  

If your computer can handle more than 4 Gigs of ram (look it up), then use the 64-bit version of Windows 7.  32-bit Windows can only see up to 4 Gigs.  Many of us are afraid of the 64-bit versions of Windows and compatibility issues (after the XP-64 fiasco), but there are very few issues now, and no reason not to use the 64-bit version if you can take advantage of it.  If you do any video processing or work with very large images in Adobe-like applications, you will notice a difference in performance with 64-bit Windows and more than 4 Gigs of RAM.

So, to sum up, if you have XP, and it’s working, for you, it will continue to work, but you should consider moving up to Windows 7 soon or you may start to have compatibility issues with your aging software.  If you have Vista, there is no reason not to upgrade to 7 other than cost.  You won’t be sorry with the performance.  

As always, if you need assistance, drop me an email, or leave a comment over at one of my blogs.  73, and happy computing!