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Saturday, November 21, 2010


Denis AD2DA, Jim KB1JXB, Joe Fisher KC2TN, Dave WA2DJN, Curt WA2JSG, Rich WA2NSA, Jim K2SZ, Ron KC2WQW, Jack KB3OXW, James N2ADR, John KE3S, Ray K2ULR, Nick K2JMK, Al WA1CZG, Mark G7LTT, Joe KC2VGL, Samuel KF3G, Don, Dan the SWLer, Joe N2CX and George N2APB.

Meeting notes:

Our first meeting at the new place in Brooklawn yesterday was a resounding success! More than 20 guys showed up at the community center – a very spacious hall with numerous tables and chairs. We arranged a bunch of tables in a big circle so everyone could have a good view of everyone else during the discussions, and we set up our various demos on tables near a window with an antenna leading out and up to a 30-foot tree ... Just right for making some contacts with a couple of the rigs we had set up there.

Samuel KF3G was kind enough to provide a brief recap of the activities that took place during the meeting ...

"I arrived at the 20th November 2010 meeting of the NJQRP club around 10.05 EST (14.00 UTC) to find 20 individuals sitting in an 'O' formation of tables. George, N2APB, was in the process of explaining Software Defined Radio, SDR, in general, previous SDR receiver kits, and the current 'Rx II Ensemble' receiver kit - which was available at the meeting for $60. Also shown and explained was the QRP SDR Cube transceiver. There were various interesting questions and informative answers by the attendees and George.

George continued, explaining toroids - showing how to identify them and their differences; and, demonstrated how to wind a toroidal coil. The 'Rx II Ensemble' receiver kit has over a dozen such toroid coils and transformers.

Also mentioned was - for those who may need assistance in constructing the receiver kit - a morning session lab time, with tools - soldering irons, PCB holders, etc. made available, will be held at the College of New Jersey's Engineering Lab in Armstrong Hall; and, that the kit building will also continue at the December NJQRP meeting, in Brooklawn, NJ. Supporting and up to the minute information can be found on the NJQRP 'Next NJQRP Club Meeting' web page.

The meeting lasted beyond noon, with a few amateurs operators and a non-Amateur radio operator remaining to 14.45 EST (19.45 UTC) with the amateurs explaining the hobby and answering any questions.

A very rewarding meeting."

Indeed, I think it was rewarding for everyone in attendance. We had some new members join us: Jim KB1JXB, Rich WA2NSA, Dan Phelan, and James Ahlstrom N2ADR.

Mark G7LTT briefly discussed his NJQRP Frequency Counter project, and resurrected N2CX's counter to prove that the project indeed still worked. (We'll likely be putting this kit together again for club members.)

James N2ADR briefly described his software defined radio, taking the signal off the antenna, filtering it, digitizing it and then demodulating and displaying the signals on a Linux computer using the increasingly popular QUISK program that he developed. James' work has been published in QEX and his latest software radio project was demonstrated up at the TAPR Digital Communications Convention in Vancouver, WA. N2APB happens to be replicating this project at the moment and will be bringing it along to the next NJQRP meeting.

Dave WA2DJN brought along a bunch of items for giveaway, and he described some of the tools and projects that he is helping to sell off for the estate of our dear W2GUM-SK.

N2CX showed off his Micro908 "reflectometer breadboard" that he made to develop and test the REFL project for that antenna analyzer.

N2APB brought along his latest product: the SDR Cube Transceiver , as developed with design partner Juha Niinikoski OH2NLT over in Finland. This "software defined radio" was set up for 20m with speakers, battery and paddles and an antenna thrown out the window over to a tree. Lots of interest in what was "under the hood" when the cover was removed. There was also some interest in the small-but-nifty ATU being used to tune the antenna: Elecraft T1 ... A very handy device for portable operation.

As mentioned already, we had some pretty good discussion of the Group Build project, the Ensemble RX-II All-Band HF Receiver, and N2APB had an earlier version Softrock receiver set up and coupled with with his laptop running Rocky software. Lots of stations were heard and we illustrated the principles of operation for the Softrock radios. 18 of the 20 Ensemble Kits were sold, so we think that the project is off to a rousing start. We'll be having our next session in three weeks (Dec 11) at the Engineering Building at the College of NJ ... Just the right spot to start soldering things and/or to get some help for the assembly that has been started. More details on this December Workshop session, as well as the next meeting to be held on Dec 18 there again in Brooklawn.

Also in the vein of discussing the Ensemble receiver group project, we drilled into a common challenge that guys have in getting going with Softrocks ... The need for a moderately-decent sound card (a sampling rate of at least 48 kHz) with a stereo mic input port. Most laptops (and even some desktop computers) these days only have a mono audio input, which is not suitable for demodulating the I/Q "quadrature" audio signals coming from the Softrocks. So one normally just needs to get an "external sound card" that connects to the laptop/PC over the USB port. Researching the topic a little shows three fairly inexpensive solutions that are available by mail order:

* Andrea-USB-SA -- $59


* Muse Pocket LT -- $35

N2CX and N2APB are trying these out and will report back on if, and how well, they work for us with the Ensemble project.

It was particularly enjoyable meeting the new guys and seeing our regular friends yesterday. It was quite a day - a four hour meeting(!), as we did not have to vacate at precisely 12 Noon as in the old meeting place, and everyone was just hanging out and chatting ardently while huddled over one project or another. Some of us had breakfast at the Metro Dinner before going to the meeting, and then some others even went back there for a late lunch and continued discussions after the meeting.

So see you at the December Workshop session on Dec 11th, where we'll be getting some major headway in getting your Ensemble radios built up. And remember that you don't have to have this kit to attend the workshop - lots can be learned, and lots of fun can be had just by looking over someone's shoulder.

And then see you at our next regular NJQRP club meeting on Dec 18th there at the Brooklawn Community Center!


George, N2APB and Joe, N2CX

Last updated: December 1, 2010