Ham Radio Outlet – Oakland, CA – Buyer Beware

I had a chance to visit the rustic style ham radio outlet store. Lots of pegboard but the radios on display are all working.

Too bad they are more like Ham Rip Off as they tried to overcharge me $5 on one item I caught while they rang it up but missed the other item until I got home. Sorry no refund. Be careful and double check all items and pricing before paying.  Not sure why the do that to “tourist” hams but not even sure why they don’t acknowledge that they overcharged. I am sure the ham radio industry is suffering due to the Chinese syndrome but if you offer a high level of service, competitive pricing and fair trade practices then you will prosper. If you try to make it up trying to over charge on any item over $20 by $5 to earn an extra 25% revenue (actually pure profit) then you will wither away and sales will go to the ham radio store the next state over that offers fast and cheap delivery.

Why the sad face…its only $5 you ask? well if you got over charged at McDonalds you would demand that the whole order be free. If you got over charged on a box of cereal at Safeway the scanning code of ethics says its free. But hobbyists get most annoyed when they feel cheated from their hobby store. So why should HRO feel that they can get away with it?

As I made my way back to the city, I was chatting up on the local repeater and I mentioned I was at HRO and Marine West and the guy said “i avoid those guys like the plague and just buy from MTC”. MTC? yeah they are the ham store that is out of state. Sad news for a local ham shop that serves a population of 4-5 million residents in the bay area cannot garner a “good guys” from the local hams.

It is not just ham radio but other retailers. Take good notice of those that are growing and you will understand why others are shrinking.

hro oakland (1) hro oakland (2) hro oakland (3) hro oakland (4) hro oakland (5) hro oakland (6)

PackTenna Golden Horseshoe NVIS Antenna (End fed Marconi Variant)

There has been some discussion lately on how to communicate with other ARES groups in the Golden Horseshoe area of Southern Ontario. The farthest cities out are in the 100-200 mile range and there is a need to communicate when the local repeater does not provide that coverage.


The military has known about NVIS for years and has used it for tactical communications. The preppers have also embraced the idea for bunker to bunker communications.

Propnvis50s bunker

I wanted to try something very quickly but didn’t want to bother with the effort of trying to find 2 end points for the dipole legs and thought hmmmmm why wouldn’t an italian Marconi variant of the end fend vertical work?


I took advantage of an opportunity to visit a friend and it would be a wonderful drive as the colors are changing here in Ontario. Radio Playtime


I took a look in my antenna box and pulled out a 20 foot crappie pole, a large stake, some Velcro tie straps, the PackTenna 9:1 balun with the 29′ wire length, some orange guy ropes and niteeze carabiners, my milspec 25′ bnc coax and my FT857D Tactical Carrier with a couple of LIPO batteries.


As I drove up I had an eye out for a suitable park side spot to set up and run a few tests.

Its a fast deployment and can be done in about 10 minutes

Pull out the fishing pole to about 16 feet and affix the wire with some velcro ties. Position the guy ropes at the 12 foot level.

Place the large stake into the ground,  velcro tie the pole and just before that position a loose guy wire

Quickly run around and affix the other two guys and walk around tightening them as need.

Attache the end fed wire to the Packtenna balun , roll out the coax to the radio at the picnic table

Place the top wire parallel to ground and affix to the local tree or light pole

Tune around 40m looking for a net to check into like ONTARS or make a quick CQ

Check SWR and ensure radio is at about 20W and go go go make some contacts

Tear down is just as simple.

I need to run some further experiments with this antenna but the initial tests is very promising. Band conditions were not the greatest but tuning around the cw portion I could hear some local VE3s and K2, and W3s.

The ECARS net did give me a sense of better signals from those in the NVIS range than those outside of it.

Further tests are needed with more time to collect the big data elements. With the New York QSO party this weekend the stations are in the NVIS range and could prove to be a good test.


I was so busy to do a rapid deployment RADAR style I forgot to take some pics


Packtenna in the Wild

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Packtenna in the Wild

Thanks to George at Packtenna for a development kit to try out

I am very pleased with the performance of the the 3 baluns I made and my operations on 20m and above

The approach to get as much wire in the air helps make more contacts because its a 20m dipole at full length of 32 feet not a shorter antenna

I have the shorter antennas and they all serve a purpose but if I can get a dipole up then my antenna is more efficient

I have to make my baluns protected with a full heat shrink but i am very pleased with the performance

The standard T-200 toroid is NOT the best choice it seems and with my focus on 20m and up operation the -63 mix is better

Check out Packtenna.com

In this demo its just a silly 20m dipole but the brilliance is in the balun and the pcb board

the excellent and well designed 1:1 balun
My tripod and mast system gets it up quickly and efficiently


Nite EZe and orange paracord is a blessing
Get orange paracord. The black stuff just means that you will walk into it unless you are trying to be covert
Bingo the match is spot on…just follow the instructions and measure twice and cut once

Ozzipole Antenna Build Out – DIY

Ozzipole Antenna Build Out – DIY

The lads down under came up with the Kangaroo version of a Buddipole with a interesting design twist. These guys down under never sleep when it comes to creativity in the world of antennas

Naturally, as an antenna experimenter I just HAD to build this vegamite version

Here is the canuck version and it took a few iterations in the waterfall design methodology to get it right. I did not implement the 40m or 80m windings as these short antennas are too inefficient to make reliable QS0s at QRP levels

This is my version. I chose to use binding posts for the center mount as i may use this mount for other antennas. I treat all these antenna designs as lego blocks that can be mixed and matched with other antenna design components.

I chose a BNC jack as that is what my Buddipole and Packtenna baluns use

I did find I had to adjust the whip lengths for best swr as my PAC-12 and Buddipole  whips are 72″ and the ozi design uses 36 inch lengths. At first I was dumbfounded as the swr was several MHZ below each tap setting and after several WTF moments and checking the connections again I just figured I needed to shorten the whip length.

I looked at the end results and it then hit me that the whip length on the oz- design had to be shorter and a quick check of the manual confirmed that.

I designed the ozi pole to have 3/8-24 threaded antenna connections so that I could use the whips I had on hand.

Its a great antenna and after finding the sweet spot I was able to make some quick contacts into Europe and South America and yeah several K6, N3 and K5s

The antenna is a keeper and sits in the Buddipole, Pac-12 and Packtenna hall of fame

The whip element i used was 48″ with radio shack whip
attached to my MSR mast with custom mount
I chose to use a binding post approach for antenna connections in case i decided to toss the antenna. The antenna passed the ve3ips tests
I love hardware stores and the center mount is available in your electrical section
A 8 foot antenna is a joke on 40m so i did not make these winding’s with a focus on 20m and up
Nirvana is achieved right out of the box for the 20m qrp cw calling frequency….qrz??
Once I got a baseline swr it took 3 minutes to nail it down and blip out a CQ on the qrp cw channel.
I have pdf versions of the ozzipole antenna available if you wish to build one as the kits have gone qrt…just email me for a copy
I had a good go with this antenna pushing out 20watts on the yaesu 857d making easy contacts on 20m and 10m
I had a super kerchunk into the clubs 6m repeater once I took the pocket tape measure to get the 54″ figured out but my antenna analyzer is not 6m equipped
The Yaesu 857D is the standard for operations beyond the 5w qrp. Let’s call it MQRP for medium power QRP at 20 watts
Nicely done John;  I like the adaptation to suit locally available bit and pieces.   The inventive spirit of Amateur Radio is still alive!


Yaesu Serial Number and Date of Manufacturing Decoder

How to decode Yaesu serial numbers and  know exactly when your Yaesu radio was manufactured

serial number of 9J271567
Position 1 = year made
Position 2 = month made

C = January

D = February

E = March

F = April

G = May

H = June

I = July

J = August

K = September

L = October

M = November

N = December

Position 3 and 4 = lot number(s)
Position 5 to 8 sequence in that lot

Position 1: last digit of the year in which the radio was produced
Position 2: Determine the position of the letter in the alphabet (C=3,D=4,E=5, etc)
then subtract 2.
The result gives the month in which the radio was manufactured.
Note that the letters will range from C (January) through N (December).
Thus, my FT-817 radio with a serial number of 9J271567 would have been manufactured in 2009 (9), during the month of August (J, August is the 8th month),  was part of lot 27, and was the 1567th radio in that lot.