January E&C (or, Geekfest at the Peppermill)

Being such a long time since our last breakfast get-together, W8NF and I decided it was time for another gathering of the Portland Eggs & Coffee. The call went out far and wide, via the pQRP reflector and the ARRL Oregon section website. This time we had a great turnout, a total of seven participants: Carl WS7L, Dave W8NF, Dan KK7DS, Stewart KE7LKW & Cathy KE7QBI (who made the drive from White Salmon!), Paul (sorry, somehow I missed your callsign in my notes), and me.

January 2009 E&C - KK7DS demonstrates D-RATS
KK7DS demos D-RATS

The E&C commenced with a leisurely breakfast meal and chat as folks trickled in. I brought along my new iPhone, so I managed to snap a few photos with my new toy. Although the meeting was called together under the auspices of the pQRP club, the topic often wandered off into other areas of ham radio. I invited Dan KK7DS to come along and give a quick demonstration of his D-RATS cross-platform software, which provides messaging, traffic handling, mapping, and file transfer capability across a D-STAR link. Not the traditional fare for a QRP meeting, but I'm really glad I was able to convince Dan to come along to the meeting to show off the capability of his software and give a lot of us our first introduction to D-STAR. I hope that he will continue to come back to our future E&C get-togethers, as I enjoy hearing about many diverse aspects of our hobby.

January 2009 E&C - fldigi on NT7S netbook
NT7S Digi Station

Since we were on a computer kick, I dragged out my Asus eeePC netbook so I could show off my new portable digimode setup. I've had the eeePC for a little while, and liked it OK, but I could never get fldigi to work properly on the stock Xandros OS distribution. The sound card input worked fine, but there was a horrible popping that would occur on the output which rendered the netbook useless for digimode transmission. So I just tucked the eeePC away and only took it out on occasions where I needed a very small and portable way to access the Internet. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a modified Ubuntu distribution customized for the eeePC that goes by the whimsical name of Easy Peasy. I'm already an Ubuntu fan, so it took no arm-twisting to get me to try this new distribution. The bottom line is that it works a whole lot better than the Xandros distro that comes with the eeePC, and better yet, the sound card drivers work perfectly. The newest version of fldigi (3.1 at this time) was able to run with absolutely no problems once I resolved the necessary dependencies. Couple this netbook with a Yaesu FT-817NB, a homebrew rig interface, and an EFHWA, and you have a complete portable QRP digimode station.

Stewart KE7LKW brought up the subject of local QRP nets, both CW and SSB. He participates in the local Monday night pQRP net (where most of the participants are our Washingtonian neighbors) but was curious if he was missing any from the Portland area. I tend to shy away from CW nets, since my code is only comfortable at about 15 WPM (I don't even have a set of paddles, just straight keys). So I didn't have any suggestions for him. Carl WS7L mentioned the local Oregon Section Net, which is on 3569 kHz daily at 1830 and 2200 local. Other than that, no one seemed to know of anything, so perhaps this is an opportunity for a future activity, especially the possibility of trying a QRP SSB net.

January 2009 E&C - W8NF Prototype LogiKlipper
LogiKlipper Proto
January 2009 E&C - W8NF Prototype LogiKlipper
LogiKlipper Guts

The final show-and-tell item was the prototype of the upcoming LogiKlipper SSB speech processor by Dave W8NF. He explained to us the theory of operation, then cracked open the top of the case so we could have a peek inside. The prototype consists of a variety of circuit boards stacked on top of each other. At the very bottom (you can barely see it in the photos below) is a printed circuit board (which is control circuitry if I remember correctly). The rest of the functional blocks are on other individual Manhattan constructed circuit boards. Dave is fairly new at Manhattan construction, and he was able to nicely demonstrate the evolution and improvement in his build methods over the various boards. All of them were very well-built and a wonder to behold, but you could see how there was incremental improvements in the confidence of the layout of each board. Unfortunately, time ran out before we were able to have a live demo of the LogiKlipper, but I hope to be able to link to some enlightening videos soon.

January 2009 E&C - W8NF Prototype LogiKlipper
LogiKlipper Up Close

I believe that I can speak for everyone in saying that we had an enjoyable time. It seems like the 2+ hours went way too quick, as I could easily have stayed longer shootin' the bull with the other folks. We're going to have to do this a bit more often in the future, and perhaps try to branch out with some building activities some time. I don't know if the locals will be interested in it, but maybe we can try our hand at a simple group build sometime this year. I've finally got my garage organized, and that might be a great place to set up some card tables and soldering irons for the build. If you happen to be in the Portland area this sounds interesting, shoot me an e-mail or a Tweet!

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