2017 year-end and post holiday wrap-up

2017 by far has been a banner year for me in Amateur Radio. Here are some of the highlights.

FlexRadio 

It's no secret that I'm 100% a FlexRadio fan. This is not without good reason. Ever since I learned about amateur radio I have dreamed about a radio with the capabilities that they have made a reality. As such I have spent a lot of time on their community forum and privately advising their users and prospective users about capabilities of the radio and ecosystem. I have also helped many users get on their radios remotely, not just with the new SmartLink capability in SmartSDR 2.0, but also with VPN access using Raspberry Pi. Flex decided to honor me with one of their customer awards which brings me immense pride, and has earned a prime spot in my shack.


Did I just use the word ecosystem? You typically hear that about Apple, Google and other companies that make computers and electronic gadgets. Well, in this case it is true about FlexRadio. They are really growing their operation and product line and forming an ecosystem by bringing in third party software and hardware. Developers are lining up to either add support or produce new products that utilize the platform. 

In particular, as a FlexRadio alpha tester, I have helped with testing and fine-tuning support for things like the spectrum scope feature in N1MM+ contest logger, testing new features for SmartSDR for iOS, and turning up the Power Genius XL 2kW amplifier. Additionally, 2017 saw the release of SmartSDR 2.0 which was a great leap forward. We are in good company here, and exciting times are ahead. 

There has not been much said by me about the amp, publicly as they are still in testing. However, the hard part is more or less done as they are gearing up for general availability so if you preordered one you should have it in your hands soon. 

Ranko, 4O3A and his team have done quite a remarkable job with the amplifier. Eric, Steve, Gerald and the entire team have also done a fantastic job with the SmartSDR software. And finally, Marcus, DL8MRE has also done great work with iOS integration. It will be a winner for sure. There are so many innovative things in this amp, and I know that Ranko's team has prepared this for extreme duty. Signal cleanliness, duty cycle, and just general fit and finish is excellent. The most exciting thing, however, is the tight integration with the Flex-6000 series, SmartSDR and Maestro. A single ethernet cable is all you need to control the amp, and apart from that it's just RF and power. It will even do T/R switching via the ethernet cable.

When you get yours, be sure to let me know how it performs! I'm hoping I can hear many of them on the air. 

Contesting and station improvements

If nobody knew that I existed in the contesting world, they sure do now! 2017 has been pretty exciting. To begin with, many station improvements have been made here. Additional antennas have gone up, including full SO2R capability. The SteppIR MonstIR has been repaired and placed back up on the tower. And as mentioned, the new amp has been put into place.

2017 saw me winning the North American plaque for the Worked All Europe SSB contest. This is a first for me as I've never won a North American plaque for anything. Hard work did pay off as well as some new techniques learned from some contest veterans. I have also gotten great advice from radiosport giants such as K3LR and KQ2M. In particular, propagation analysis using WSPR and WSJT has been invaluable. Now you know what I am on FT8 all the time! I am mapping out propagation here, to see if I can squeeze out any openings that may not appear on the surface. 

I also placed in the top 10, SOHP Assisted in CQWW SSB. This is a first for me in CQWW as I've never made the top 10. I credit my iron pants - aka planting your butt in the chair for as long as possible. More running is more QSOs, and that means more points. I still did not maximize where I should be, but that will happen in 2018 hopefully!

One final piece of un-sung gear that I added that I believe made a BIG difference - I added the BM800 boom mic, which I got from Amazon. It's a chinese design or something they copied but it works remarkably well. I am simply amazed by how good it is. It won't replace your golden microphone but it's good to rag chew.




Hamfests, events and speaking engagements

In 2018 I returned to Hamvention. This was the first year at the new venue, which was the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia, Ohio. It was really nice to return as I had missed going out and being immersed in ham radio. What I did not miss was the rickety old Hara Arena in Trotwood, which is now a relic of history.
Me at the hamvention gate in Xenia


Contest Dinner 2017

HamCom 2017 main floor

I also attended Hamcom, the biggest hamfest in Texas. Yes, I love Texas. I met up with many of my friends in the Lone Star State and we had a good time. I also met up with Emmett, W0QH of RadioWavz and operated the special event station. I also attended the 6 meter BBQ in Austin, TX. It was always on my list to attend, and I am glad I did. I got to meet up with many folks involved in VHF and HF DXing and contesting.

At the request of my friend Van, W2DLT, I got to speak at the Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club - FLARC. I had fun and I always enjoy speaking at clubs. If you want me to speak at your club and I'm in the area, contact me.

New friendships and partnerships

2017 was the year of greater cooperation with others. I teamed up with Andrea, K2EZ and we worked on a number of projects, including two successful rover sprints. She is amazing with the VHF/UHF rover operation, owning the record for activated grids AND winning the TWO ARRL VHF contests in 2017. Mega respect for Andrea! I am learning a lot from her. 



New DXCC and WAZ awards

In 2018 I am already off and running, and I obtained my DXCC on 160 meters, which makes 9 bands total. I also obtained DXCC in digital mode, thanks in large part to the new FT8 mode, as I am not a big fan of RTTY. I also FINALLY got my plaques for 5BDXCC and DXCC challenge, and started putting the outstanding contest plaques up on the wall. I worked hard for my achievements and it's time to show them!

All in all a great year! I am hoping 2018 is even better. I can already see it getting off to a GREAT start.

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