Tonight I played in my first Spartan Sprint in quite some time, and it was a great night for it. I just yesterday finished adding an in-ground mounting hole for my 20-ft telescoping fiberglass pole that I plan to erect temporarily as a support for my Norcal Doublet antenna. My half-size G5RV mounted along the side of the house just wasn’t cutting it, and the wind took it down the other day anyway, so it was time for something new.

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I finally finished the Survivor. Truthfully, I thought I finished it over two weeks ago, but I didn’t take it to the field with me for QRP to the Field this year like I planned because, well, my plans changed. I still went out for QRPTTF, though, which is what counts. I picked up the Survivor again when I got back, ostensibly to make sure it was all ready for use. And it’s a good thing I did–it was definitely not working right.

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In a previous post I told you about my purchase of the Survivor 75-meter SSB/CW rig from Hendricks QRP Kits. I’m taking a “build a little, test a little” approach to building this kit, having a great time and learning a bunch of stuff. I’ve been making some notes and adding them to my site. If you’re interested, here’s the main page for those notes. So far I’ve built up the voltage regulation, VFO, BFO, TX/RX switching, tune mode oscillator, and the balanced modulator. My goal is to have this thing completed and ready for QRP to the Field on April 27th. If this is the kind of thing that interests you, check back every few days for updates.

So, it’s been quite a while since I did any significant electronics construction. The reason is probably that it’s been a while since a new kit has come along that interested me enough to want to build it. Sure, there are plenty of ham radio kits out there, but I’ve built plenty of CW transceivers and really don’t feel like I need another one. But when Doug, KI6DS announced a new SSB/CW transceiver kit over at QrpKits.com earlier this year, my interest peaked. Dubbed the “Survivor,” it’s a fairly compact but usable rig for the trail. I decided to take the plunge and placed my order, and I’ve just begun the building process. I’m documenting the build as I go, trying to learn a few things about its design along the way. You can follow along if you’re interested:

Building the Survivor

I’ll be adding to the content as I get farther along on the build. Comments and corrections are always welcome!

Slewing Window

I’ve just updated my Digital Setting Circles ASCOM driver, adding a few additional alignment stars in southern constellations at the request of a southern hemisphere user. I added stars in the constellations Carina, Crux, and Grus. Go to my ASCOM driver page and download the new version (1.0.8.0) there.

And an additional note to you southern hemisphere users: if you’re looking for the star Achernar, it’s actually with the constellation Phoenix in my alignment star constellations. Sorry for the confusion.

If you’re an ARRL member, you probably know that their flagship publication, QST, is now available in a digital edition. It’s good to see that the ARRL has followed many other publications down this path. I already receive digital editions of Sky & Telescope and American Rifleman magazines. What these other magazines allow me to do that QST does not, however, is save the digital edition to my computer as a PDF file so I can view it offline. It’s possible to overcome that limitation with a little work, however.

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Audacity Recording

This is a tip that I’ve been meaning to share with you for a while. I consider myself pretty computer-savvy, but I didn’t even know about it until my guitar teacher showed me a few years ago.

Every so often I decide to hunt down a new song to learn to play on my guitar. Yesterday it was “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan–I heard it on the radio and thought to myself that it might be a good one to learn to play. Since I’m a sheet-music kinda guy, I found an arrangement on SheetMusicDirect. I always like to have a recording, too, but it wasn’t in my collection.

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SkySafari opening screen

I’d been hearing lately about some astronomy software for the iPhone/iPad called SkySafari (made by Southern Stars), but not owning either one of those devices myself, I hadn’t really bothered to look into it at all. That all changed when I came across an ad for SkySafari in Sky and Telescope magazine that showed that an Android version was available. Now I became much more interested to see what the fuss was about, so I dropped $14.99 in the Google Play store for the Plus version so I could try it out on my HTC Incredible phone as well as my rooted Barnes and Noble Nook Color. Mostly, I wanted to see if SkySafari would connect to my digital setting circles box via bluetooth. Initial impressions are very good.

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telescope with solar filter attached

I didn’t find out about last Sunday’s solar eclipse until just a few days prior, and I didn’t have any equipment that I could use to safely view the eclipse. Not wanting to resort to the pinhole projection method for viewing the eclipse, I consulted my 40-year-old copy of Sam Brown’s classic (and extremely informative) book All About Telescopes for some other ideas. The book showed a design that would fit over the front of my 8″ Newtonian telescope, stopping the aperture down to 2″ and using a lens from a welding helmet to knock down the sun’s intensity to a manageable level. All I needed was the welding lens.

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