Mercator Maps–the Ugly Truth

Mercator Map Puzzle

 

My geography teacher in High School was a complete bore, but I listened anyway!  Most of the kids didn’t.  I still got my “A”, but not because of the excellent teaching.  I’ve always been a bit of a geography nut, but then my wife would probably add that I’m generally nuts about lots of things–or just plain nuts.

I’ve always found our world, and the people in it (and everything/everyone outside our world, too), to be very interesting and worth study.  But that’s just me, right?

I really enjoyed this little puzzle that challenges you to place the countries colored red into their correct spots, turning them green.  While you are doing this, however, you are actually learning more than your geography probably tried to teach you in a week of trying.

You see, it’s really tough to project a sphere on a flat surface.  Oh, you can do it, but it comes out pretty ugly.  Your face, for example, would be mostly unrecognizable if we projected it on a flat surface (such as if you fell face first off the Empire State building onto a sidewalk, but then I digress…).

The main take-away is that most of us look at the world on a flat surface, and land masses are badly distorted in size as you move them away from the middle-center of the map–in this case, around Ecuador.  Even if you don’t play the game (try to beat me: 1 minute, 36 seconds), grab Greenland and move it around.  Big ol’ continent huh?  Let’s see how big you look now, parked next to Brazil!!  Oh wait, you can’t grab Greenland just yet.  It’s hiding somewhere as a smaller outline.  There, that’s your one hint, so I’m giving you a handicap towards beating my time.  But really, try grabbing any small red outline near the equator, and drag it out towards the poles.  Gets really big, eh?

So what’s the Ham Radio tie-in here?  Not a whole lot, except that as hams on HF, we often look at flat maps, when we ought to be thinking more of the semi-spherical world with its interesting signal propagation and what-not.  Oh, and this puzzle was linked from one of the guys on our W7DXX.com remote-controlled superstantion email group.  There, there’s your ham tie-in.  Enjoy the game, and just try and beat me, if you dare!

 

DXMaps.com: Where is Everybody?

Where is Everybody?
Where is Everybody?

We all ask ourselves that question now and then when we turn on our radios.  I took this snapshot of 40 meters early Sunday evening, May 8th, at 6:30 PM local time or 0130 UTC.  You can see lots of activity within the US, and between primarily the US and Europe, as well as Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America.  Even if you are not a big DX’er, or even a General class ham, this should be interesting to you.

Looking in the upper left portion of the web page (you can click on the map to go to the real website), you’ll find your navigation buttons to click.  Select HF or VHF+ bands, then select an individual band.  You can also add in the sun’s greyline, to help illustrate the interesting effects the sun has on many of our bands.  Looking at certain times of the day, you can also start to see how busy 40 meters can be in the early evening, and how it often dies out late at night local time.  80 and 160 meters will appear to be dead during our local daytime, but look at how busy they get when the sun goes down!  When you look at 160, you’ll also have to remember that it’s pretty lightly-populated compared to 80, because of the large antenna sizes it needs (think 260 feet long for a dipole, or a 130 tall vertical monopole!).

Another thing to use this map for is to look for openings in 10 and 12 meters, as well as 6 meters.  We are entering the spring and summer months when, even during sunspot minimums, we get openings on 6 meters, with more activity on 10 and 12.  If you are a Tech class ham, 10 and 6 meters should be very interesting to you, because you have operating privileges there.  I was surprised to see hams recording QSO’s on 6 meters today, even after dark in their local areas!  6 meters is the magic band–it opens suddenly and acts like a regular HF band, giving world-wide contacts, then shuts suddenly, often to open again between two areas.  One day a few years back, somebody on the N6NFI repeater (145.23 MHz in Palo Alto–a busy repeater) called out that 6 meters was open to the Midwest.  I was in my Camry at the time (RIP–died in a rear-ender in 2014 on HWY 85).  It was my HF through UHF mobile ham station at the time.  I dialed up 6 meters on my FT-857, pushed the rocker switch on the dash to shorten my Lil’ Tarheel HP screwdriver antenna to 50.125 MHz, and listened to a bunch of signals coming in like 20 meters during a contest!  I only had about 10 minutes until I got to work, but I easily contacted three stations in a row in New Mexico.  All were 59+, very strong.  And then, after about 30 minutes, the band was quiet again!  Lots of fun, though.  It’s a bit like a fisherman calling out to his friends that the fish were biting like crazy!  We all dipped our hooks in, and started pulling out big, fat ones.  Then the school swam away, but we felt victorious for having been there!

Those of you that are new might wonder about all those squares (rectangles, actually).  They are called, oddly enough, grid squares.  They are 1 degree latitude by 2 degrees longitude in size, and help hams working VHF or satellites to get a rough idea of where someone they are talking to is located.  You might hear this on 6 meters during an opening, or on almost any satellite QSO.  If you live near me, you are in CM97.  In Hollister, you are CM96.  If you aren’t sure, check your callsign on QRZ.com and see that it has already been assigned to you, based on the address you gave when you first got your license.

Have fun with DXMaps,com, even if you are not active on HF–yet!

 

Tech Night

The first Wednesday of each month, the MHARS 9 PM net holds a “Tech Night” to discuss ham related technical questions. This month we discussed power supplies and the pros and cons of linear or analog power supplies, as well as switching power supplies and the issues that can arise when using them. See our recent post on switching power supplies. Other topics covered were batteries and rapid voltage drops of a Li-On battery, and a host of other topics. Stop by with your questions and somebody will certainly have an answer, an opinion, or know where to find the answer. Be sure to join us on June 1st for the next Tech Night!

Switching Power Supplies

imagesWe need more power! Switching power supplies have been around for some time now. There are many options, features, and price ranges. Some have various power tap options, like CLA outlets, power poles, banana plugs, and basic screw posts. Other features may include meters, or voltage adjustment abilities. Since these are specifically marketed for amateur radios, many have RF filtering to help keep from impeding on your radio session. Some, not so much…

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Real Hams Drill Holes

radio-car1You all know “that guy” – The one with the UHF/VHF antenna (or antennas) stuck to the roof or trunk lid and wires trailing off to the side that go through a trunk, door, or window gap. The antenna maintains its death grip on the outside of the vehicle with the mysterious forces of magnetism, via a lip or edge clamp, or something that bolts to your roof rack. You wash your own car and drive a couple extra blocks to avoid parking garages. It’s all for the better you tell yourself. It is also why your significant other won’t let you touch their car.

I was “that guy”.  I also remember when I knew that it was time to no longer be “that guy”.

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Magnetic Microphone Mount

no_clipOne thing that seems to make amateur radio folks more squeamish than finding a bag of frogs under their bed is the subject of drilling holes in their vehicle. Drilling holes to mount radios. Drilling holes to mount antennas. Drilling holes to mount a microphone somewhere on the dash. Some of you drill holes for microphone clips, or purchase alternatives that clip onto an air vent, and some of you simply toss the microphone in a cup holder. Today, I am going to share my solution for making a magnetic microphone mount that does not require holes in your dashboard.

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Btech 2501 + 220

UV-2501+220 (2)The word of the day is BTech 2501+220. Okay, maybe that is 2 or more words. Several local hams purchased these from Amazon, on sale, for about $100. The results were a bit of a mixed bag. At the heart of it is essentially a UV-5R or UV-B5, with the added band of 220Mhz, in a mobile friendly package, with 25 watts. You can read some some great information at Miklor, so there is no reason to reinvent the wheel here. It is a dual watch radio, with the typical awkward menu system typical of these radios. But once you have programmed a memory location a few times, it goes fairly quickly. And as is also typical, it is easier if you use either software from the BTech web site, or Chirp.

The “mixed bag” experience primarily deals with the transmit audio being fairly muddy, muffled, and dull. One cure is:

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