Vienna Wireless Winterfest 2020

As per tradition, we reserved a LARG table at WinterFest!

Table D3, right at room entrance, and a very good spot!

Feel free to bring your stuff, er, treasures. And if you have any big items or large loads, please let me know early, JIC?

As usual, you will want to label and oversee your stuff, although you can often share with other LARGies.

Please advise, and Thanks!

—– Forwarded Message —–
Subject: Early Registration for Clubs at Winterfest 2020

The Vienna Wireless Society (VWS) hamfest, celebrating our 44th year, will once again be held in the Gym at the Annandale Campus of the Northern Virginia Community College on Sunday, March 29, 2020. We hope your Club will again participate in our hamfest.

Early registration is now open! You can register on line here.

If you wish to snag the same table(s) as last year, and if don’t remember your 2019 table location, you can view last year’s table layout here. Please be aware that we will open general vendor registration on December 1st, so I am hoping that you will lock down table(s) before general registration opens.

Table rental prices remain the same as last year. Early bird registration price is $20 per table plus $10 per vendor attendance pass. Early bird registration closes on January 31, 2020. Starting February 1st, 2020, the table rental fee is $25.00. The indoor venue opens at 8:00 a.m.; vendors can enter for last-minute setup at 6:30 am. Of course you will also set up on Saturday, March 28th in the afternoon.

We are expanding Winterfest this year. Besides our radio license testing program, VWS is sponsoring special educational programs on Emergency Communications during Winterfest 2020. This addition will bring a new focus to our hamfest, and hopefully attract a new group of participants. Attendance last year was 500 attendees. We have increased our advertisement effort, which began in June and combined with our special educational programs, we expect to increase over last year’s record-breaking attendance level.

More details can be found here.

LARG Thursday Night HF Net


Tonight from 20:00-20:20 local time on 3.675Mhz and 3.818Mhz we conducted a directed net. Those that checked in:

  • W5ODJ, John (NCS), Lovettsville
  • K3WD, Bill, Lovettsville
  • KE4S, Dave, Leesburg

The band conditions were excellent and signals were strong and clear. Bill did some antenna testing while we gave signal reports. With so few checking in the net was quite brief.

Have a great weekend!


John, W5ODJ

LARG Thursday Night HF Net

I opened the net tonight at 20:00 local time. The only checkins were K3WD and W5ODJ (NCS) on both 3.675 and 28.405 Mhz. We had a nice chat about the weather overhead and wondered where everyone was. The entire 80 meter band was mostly empty. I also called on 10 meters but got no takers there. Everyone have a great rest of the week and weekend. Catch you next week sometime.

LARG Wednesday Night 6-Meter Net

We meet every Wednesday evening from 8:00 PM to 8:30 PM on 6 meters SSB: on or about 50.130 MHz. Tonight’s net was short with only W2YE and W5ODJ checking in to test our gear. Both of us had been doing antenna repair and found things working just fine. Signals were the strongest I’ve heard on the band in a while.



LARG 80 / 40M Digital Watering Hole.

I called the net tonight starting at 8:30pm local time. W0MPM joined me and we had a nice chat on Olivia 800/5 tonight.

We meet every Sunday evening from 19:30 to 20:00 local time. During winter (Standard Time: Nov-Mar) 3.58275 MHz. and in summer (Daylight Savings Time: Mar-Nov) 7.07325 MHz.

The default mode for this net is Olivia 500/8. If the preferred frequency is in use we will call the net on the nearest clear spectrum available. If you don’t see us on the normal frequency look up or down a little.

When I am net control I listen on both local repeaters (146.7R and 145.31R). If you are having any difficulty call us on the repeater and we’ll do our best to help you get on the air for the net.

Everyone is welcome to join us and we hope to see you on the digital net.


de W5ODJ/John

SteppIR back in commission.

About 4 weeks ago I had an error on my SteppIR controller indicating that something was wrong managing the tape(s) in the element housings of my SteppIR antenna. After some troubleshooting on the ground looking up I decided it was time to take the tower down for some maintenance to see what was the matter.

Tower #2 down for maintenance.

It takes me about 10 minutes to get my tower and antenna on the ground where I can work on it. There are two electric worm drives that allow me to put it on the ground as indicated above. I didn’t get to work on it the night I brought it down but did go out there the next day to see what I could find.

In the past it’s been wiring that caused controller errors (of my own making). There are 16 wires that run the 4 step motors that control the elements. When I bought the antenna many years ago it was one of the first models they offered. They really hadn’t had the years of experience required to work outcome of the kinks that show up with years of operation of a product like this. Because of this, some of the cables, connectors and methods used were really not up for being outdoors for years in all kinds of weather, temperatures and sunshine.

Having said that, I’ve not had much trouble with the antenna in spite of all of it’s moving parts. The only other time I had an issue was when a plastic cog broke inside the motor housing (EHU) on the driven element.

Ironically, that’s how tower #2 was born. The driven element when the antenna was located on tower #1 required the use of a crane to repair. After struggling with the decision on how to manage this antenna into my future I decided it needed to be on a different structure; one that I could manage for years to come. That decision has really paid off allowing me to properly maintain this antenna over time. Much more planning, working with the county, permits, designing, drawings, etc. I built tower #2 that you see here.

Back to my problem. After some troubleshooting I figured out what was wrong. With all the elements supposed to be in the retracted position one of the tubes had something in it rattling. What could that be?

One of the tapes was broken. The other was bent. After further troubleshooting I realized that the rewinding mechanism the tapes use failed on one of the tapes causing excess tape to be unreeled inside the EHU housing. It appeared the step motor bent the tapes essentially destroying them both.

I had to leave for business then vacation but before I left I ordered replacement tapes from SteppIR along with some other small things like gaskets that I could replace once I got into my project. They shipped the stuff to me when I was out of town. It was waiting for me upon my arrival home.

While I was gone I decided that I was going to do what I’ve been wanting to do for some time and that was to rewire all the EHUs with better control cable without any breaks all the way to the base of the tower where it is interfaced with a controller. That work took a few days. I had to pull off every motor, take down all of the old cable, rewire the motors and put everything back in place.

To rewire the motors I bought 500 feet of 4-wire control cable from DX Engineering. I would end up using all but about 50 feet of that. Once you run the cable up the tower and out to the motors it’s about 80-ish feet of cable.

All of that cable comes into a new enclosure I decided to also build. The enclosure is from Home Depot, the cable glands from EBay. The device on the inside is one of the original SteppIR doo-dads used to eliminate line noise and provide a path to ground (voltage suppressor). I’ve never like that it was outside cabled with inside-grade cable. So I put the whole shooting match on the inside of an enclosure out of reach of the sun and weather.

Re-terminated all 16 wires to each of the 4 step motors. Hopefully this new wiring will eliminate any outdoor mess that tends to follow these cables (corrosion and the like).

After wiring everything back up I brought the controller out to do a test run. Much to my surprise, I got the wiring correct on the first run and everything tested out perfectly. Sweet!

Since the tower was down I took the opportunity to grease all the trust bearings (there are 3 of them), cold galvanize any minor rust I could find, use Fluid Film on fittings that tend to rust and then waxed the skids on the tower sections.

I used the worm drives to bring the tower back to it’s upright position, fastened all of the bolts back in place and finished dressing the cable down to the base of the tower while lifting the tower into it’s fullest up position.

Tower #2 in foreground back in operation. Tower #1 in background. Dipole for 160, 80 and 40 meters on poles.

I cleaned and dressed the chain for the primary motor and tested the up and down movement of the tower to be perfect. I was back in action!

The antenna is really amazing to operate. I’m glad to have this project done before things get really cold. I’ll be using this antenna a lot this winter. After the repairs I’ve been able to make contacts all over the world in all different modes.

I did the work all myself. The parts from SteppIR were $110 and the cable from DX was $166. I bought this antenna on January 23, 2008, almost 12 years ago. Many people tell me that the maintenance of this antenna is too much to bear and keeps them from owning one. I beg to differ.

What a wonderful piece of kit this antenna has been. I’ve enjoyed every bit about it. From the original purchase, construction and lifting on to my first tower and then on to its final place on tower #2 it has been a joy to use.

A proper skyline from my QTH.

I hope to see you on the air soon.



LARG Tuesday Night CW Net October 15, 2019.

We had a good CW slow-speed net tonight on 80 meters. Attendees were:

  • K3WD, Bill
  • K79N, Chris
  • W5ODJ, John (NCS)

These guys tolerated my slowness again this week. But happy to report my slowness was 100% hand generated. And they were, apparently, still able to copy me. Miracles do happen.

The band was in excellent shape tonight. Signals were strong and clear.

Hope to see you on one of the CW nets in the future. Trust me, if I can do it you can too.



LARG Monday Night 220 MHz Net Report

As you likely know we meet on Monday evenings on the Frederick K3MAD 224.200 repeater (123 hz PL) for a 30 minute net. I am happy to report this Monday was my first check-in to this net. I finally got my HT working as it should on this frequency. It worked surprisingly well.

Those who checked in:

  • K2BFY, Henry (NCS)
  • W5ODJ, John

I’m glad I checked my HT. My battery is “swollen” so I need to repair that.

Thanks for running the net Henry!



LARG 40M Digital Watering Hole

There was a very informal digital net tonight on 40 meters at 7.07325 Mhz. Myself, W5ODJ, and John, W0MPM, had a nice chat on a very quiet band tonight. We started a little late at 19:33 local time and ended about 20:05.

John was loud and clear at my QTH with a SNR at or above 25dB the entire conversation with 100% copy.

Hope to see you on a digital net soon.



Tuesday night CW Net

Every Tuesday evening from 8:00 PM to 8:30 PM we get together on ±3.545 MHz for a local CW net.

We always say “All are welcomed and the net will slow to the most comfortable speed of all operators”. Well, guess who that was tonight? That’s right, me! My CW blows but I keep working at it!

And … I took up NCS duties because no one else called the net. Silly me.

In spite of my poor CW skills I was able to hold the net and copy 90% of what was said tonight. Normally I use my computer to help me but it busted tonight too so I was running solo for most of this. My hand keying is not too great but I managed. Hopefully others understood what I was trying to say.

My lack of skill didn’t keep the net from happening. These folks checked in tonight:

  • KE4S, Dave
  • K3WD, Bill
  • KT9N, Chris
  • W5ODJ, John (NCS)

Y’all have a great week!