Quick Update

October 2, 2016

Hello from Northwest Wyoming where it’s trying to snow outside (not sticking…yet) as I type this. Watching some football (Chief’s getting clobbered by the Steelers) with time to kill this evening. I’ve been wanting to post an update for awhile, but blogging is pretty much at the bottom of my priority list right now. So let me touch on several topics and I may elaborate more on my other blog here when I have the time.

FAQ 1 – Emails:

Unless I’ve been active on VHF/UHF signal (rare anymore) modes or contests I’m not paying much attention to my ham email account. Mid-August was the last time I even looked at hobby emails till today. I have just quickly looked over a few from the last several weeks and see a few things I can touch on in FAQ format. Beyond that I just did a select all and killed off 700+ messages as I don’t have the time nor desire to sort through all that. Those that need to contact me in an emergency have my current contact info (cell, VOIP #s, satphone, work emails).

Please don’t take it personally if you emailed and I did not get back to you. I simply don’t have the time for the hobby stuff anymore. Heck I do well to keep up with my day-job inbox, grin.


FAQ 2 – Is any of your stuff on the air or coming back?

I see there are folks guessing/hoping that my Dry Ridge-Jonesville stuff is coming back. Let me put that to rest….it isn’t happening. I wouldn’t have the time to put it back on the air even if I wanted to.

Work and play has me between KY and the ID/WY, LA, NH, and S. Korea areas a lot lately. You could say I’m a tad bi-coastal right now LOL. I’m lucky if I’m home in Kentucky 7-10 days a month. Needless to say my limited Kentucky “home time” is focused on other priorities than ham radio.

For clarity ALL WA4ZKO systems at the old Dry Ridge site are off the air permanently. All three racks were taken down in phases during late July into August. Some of the commercial gear was moved to a site in western Virginia, the other two racks are in long term storage in Louisiana. Rest of the gear has either been sold off or put to other uses.

The old tower site is about one third dismantled right now. When my schedule, weather, and “at home” time cooperate the tower will be taken down this Fall or next Spring and put into storage. If any of that gear ever returns to the airwaves it will most likely be after I retire to either LA or WY, the later looking the most likely.


FAQ 3 – What Remains?

Just two K4KPN group systems remain on the air in Kentucky. K4KPN-10 and K4KPN-1 remain for now.

The K4KPN-10 HF Robust Packet I-Gate/Digi package was converted from laptop to Fit-PC2 format and installed in just 2U of space at a client’s site where we ran some RP APRS tests last Fall with nice results. I already had DSL and telco there for other gear so the only challenge was getting creative in packing a radio, PSU, TNC, ATU, CAT controls, and PSU into 2U of space.

Currently K4KPN-10 is limited to about 20w peak from a low profile antenna due to interference with other equipment at the site if I run full power on 10 MHz. When time and weather allows I may put it on a better (higher) antenna which should allow for more transmit power.

Since the Roanoke VA I-gate/digi went away we figured NKY was the best place and use for it as this region needs an I-gate. It is low maintenance for me and meets some real needs for myself and others. I can keep an ear on it from afar and have full remote access/control over that gear there including the ability to kill power to the radio if anything starts acting up. Unlike when it was at my home, it is now a full 2-way (R-I-R) I-gate. Usually on 30m RP APRS, but we may have it on 17 or 40 meters at times.

The QRM clean-up project at the site brought the noise floor way down and K4KPN-10 now hears very well. It favors off to the northwest around north to the northeast due to antenna orientation. I’ve tagged it QRP mobile from ID/WY on both 30 and 17 meters and it frequently hears 6-land mobiles. If propagation is halfway decent it hears the Swiss and Italian I-gates regularly. It is well positioned to provide coverage of the NE and SE USA and was observed doing an excellent job for Carl (KB1EJH) during his trip up into Maine last month.

The K4KPN-1 portable mini-node/BBS remains available on a 9.6k frequency and telnet. It is QRP off an indoor antenna (mag mount on filing cabinet, LOL) at my home office in northern Williamstown. It’s just there, nothing serious, no bulletin feeds, just some occasional local p-mail use. More on that in a later blog as there is discussion of taking it off the air and just keeping it in storage.

Two other K4KPN systems are not on the air, but available if things really hit the fan. The K4KPN portable UHF repeater and VHF-Hi/UHF Crossband repeater package are in storage at Williamstown along with the UHF radio cache. I recommend the locals keep the 441 pair programmed in your gear in case we deploy the portable repeater for something.


FAQ 4 – What about a 2M APRS/I-Gate?

Sorry but the WA4ZKO-15 APRS digi and the WA4ZKO-2 APRS I-Gate are off the air permanently.  There’s no room for another radio in the K4KPN-10 rack and I have neither the interest or time to maintain any more ham gear at a 2nd site.

If CVFD gets a new firehouse it will be at a better location and we plan to put a decent tower there. That will open up some options for gear there where Lonnie can keep a close eye on it. Considering the county’s fiscal situation (on-going jail mess, etc) I suspect a new firehouse is not going to happen anytime in the near future. The JFD site has a lot of powerline noise on 2 meter and would require extensive (expensive) filtering to allow a digi and the city repeater to coexist well on a tower that small.

For now Brian AG4BC has a temporary digi up in Owenton. I say “for now” since the last I talked with him he was planning to retire soon and was planning to move out of the area. Sound familiar? LOL


FAQ 5 – You didn’t give notice? What happened?

Actually considerable notice was given. Active packet users had weeks of notice. All users that had used the voice or data systems in the prior 30 days were notified via email. Plenty of notice was given and some stuff was not turned off for a month or so. If you were not on or rarely used the systems then that’s on you. Not to be snarky, but I really don’t want to hear this complaint considering how many/often other systems are down (sometimes for months) without notice.


FAQ 6 – What happened? Was Chase’s death involved?

I know that many are sad at all the systems shutting down around the area (not just our stuff) over the last few years. No one in the group is mad or upset, life changes, it’s only a hobby, and decade after decade we never charged anyone a dime in dues.We ran our systems for free, well maintained, and provided high availability year after year for a quarter century.

Scaling way back or closing things down was discussed earlier in the year. Ultimately it was several factors, some new, some old, that factored into the decisions to shut things down. My work has me gone more than I’m home and that was one major factor. The slow fade away of our local user base and little to no interest from the “new hams” was the rest of it.

The sudden loss of a lifelong friend (Chase) caused us all to stop and rethink our life priorities as we recovered from that gut punch. I have a dear friend that has an approach to life that I’ve adopted:

Life is short, very short, don’t forget to live it. Be generous with your time, but never waste it as there are no refunds. Know when to walk away from lost causes.

Yes, the loss of Chase was a huge one both personally and for the public safety community back home. More than few times I’ve caught myself about to call or text him over some utility SCADA, grid power distribution, or public safety issue that I could use his thoughts on and realize he’s gone. We lost not only our fire chief, but a multi-talented man that knew SCADA tech and our local power grid inside out.

Life and job changes caused a slow erosion of the user base. We lost 3 to deaths and 4 more due to job/retirement relocations. As others have noted we have 4-5x the number of licensed hams in the area now yet good luck finding them on the air. From my travels I can tell this problem is not limited to back home, it is common everywhere I go now. Even the few ARES teams that actually had their acts together are now struggling with a lack of interest from new hams and attrition of the “old guard.”

Seems the hobby has declined to where DXing and Contesting are the only regular signs of life anymore. I don’t pretend to know the fix. I think a lot of it is “its the economy” as I know many hams that are working 2 jobs and know more than a few that are working 3 jobs just to make ends meet. As someone who is always on call, all plans are “soft” till the last minute, and regularly works 6 days a week running his own business….I can appreciate the lack of time for hobby stuff, grin.


FAQ 7 – KYPN Blog Content?

This KYPN blog will be deleted completely in the near future, probably after the first of the year during post-holiday  downtime on my calendar. I’m not going to maintain two blogs so my main blog here will be it. I suggest following/bookmarking it if interested. It will be more of a general blog with some APRS and VHF/UHF weak signal related content mixed in as time allows.

I will move some of the old KYPN blog material to it, but I’m not going to spend much time doing that and I have no idea when that will be done. Ham radio stuff is at the bottom of my to do list anymore, grin.


FAQ 8 – What bands/modes do you monitor now?

My “day job” work pretty much mandates that I carry a commercial P25 or DMR HT on UHF or 800 MHz. I usually keep 446.0250 PL 100.0 analog in all my UHF radios. I also scan 446.5000 NAC 293 (common P25 ham simplex freq) in my P25 gear.

As for DMR? Well talking over internet links doesn’t appeal to me so I usually just scan the Local 2 and 9 talkgroups along with the 446.0750 DMR simplex channel for any ham DMR needs.

HF?  I “tinker” on 30m Robust Packet APRS at times, but it’s sporadic at best. I use WA4ZKO-8 for most of my stand-alone mobile tracker needs. I carry HF-900 MHz gear in both vehicles, but the car is a lease. Since the car is a lease (no drilling holes, etc) I don’t run HF tracking in it like I do in the truck where I have a permanent HF installation that is more suited to in-motion use. WA4ZKO would be a terminal callsign, but good luck snagging me for a keyboard QSO that way.

I don’t carry my D72 APRS HT that much anymore. The VHF APRS network is a mess or MIA where I usually operate and carrying one “work” HT is usually all I want to carry daily. Shame Kenwood didn’t go with DMR in the new D74 HT, but oh well…..I’ll save that market analysis fail for another rant.

During the late Spring/Summer 6m eskip season I will often have 50.110 or 50.125 USB on in the truck. Till I retire and put the tower back up I doubt I’ll be doing anything more than portable/mobile operating. I do hope to get more portable operating in next year during the VHF/UHF contests and will try to blog some on that topic.


FAQ 9 – Are you still involved in ARES?

No, I resigned from ARES effective July 15th. I’m never around anymore and that is best suited to someone retired looking for something to do. To be blunt, ARES in most areas is “one foot in the grave” or “dead and buried” anyways. If I get back into AR EMCOMM it will probably be via MARS after I retire.

The sad state of ARES is a topic I could do several rants on. Those that know me well, already know where I stand.


FAQ 10 – Still a member of the ARRL?

No, I dropped my membership with the ARRL at the end of July. The NTS fiasco was the last nail in that coffin for me. I mean good lord they’re facing a lawsuit over that mess. Wow, just wow.

For years I’ve felt the ARRL was increasingly doing more harm than good for the hobby. The ARRL has become all about self-justification, internal agendas, hype vs results, and a very harmful “quantity versus quality” mentality has taken over.  The result is easy to see today in the sad, lazy, and increasingly dumbed down state of the hobby in the United States. I could do several blog postings on this topic alone.

I have better uses for that $50 a year.


Well that’s enough for now.