A new paddle on the block

After the sad closing down of Palm Radio products, makers of the wonderful miniature CW paddles so many portable operators use, CWops member Peter GM0EUL has set out to make something similar. The UMPP-1 is currently in a beta phase, and one condition of buying it is giving feedback on usability and ergonomics. So I went ahead and ordered one, and here are my thoughts on it.

First impressions are that the packaging has been carefully thought about – the paddle comes in an ‘Altoid’ type tin, with foam insert cut to hold the paddle and small hex wrench for adjusting the contact grub screws. Very nicely presented.

The paddle itself is very small, shown here with a UK 1p coin for scale. For two-handed operation it’s easy enough to hold, but you can only hold it from the sides due to the moving parts – a magnet in the base would be very handy as then it could be stuck to the tin or the radio. I can picture it slipping out of the hands on a cold wet mountain top! Using it on a desk, it still has to be held by the sides, as putting any pressure from above interferes with the paddles.
The inner workings are quite exposed, though – the contacts are made from copper foil and may not like seaside air, and I’m also wondering how long it’ll be before some random bit of swarf gets stuck to the magnets.

The paddle action is quite nice; initially I found the travel a bit long but a quick adjustment of the grub screws sorted that out. It didn’t come with a connecting lead, so I had to go out to the car and grab my audio cable to connect it up. Once wired up to the KX3, a half hour session giving some points away on a 40m contest wasn’t too tiring in use, once I’d got my grip sorted it was just like using my Palm Pico (which I operate two-handed).

All in all a nice project, and with a few small changes it’d be a good companion for portable ops like SOTA. It plays nice with the internal keyers in my Elecraft KX3, Yaesu FT-817 and Xiegu X5105.

Do bear in mind that this paddle’s current status is a beta test; future versions may have changes made. When I shared my initial thoughts with Peter, he has since sent me a top cover, which can be attached with a couple of drops of superglue. This allows the paddle to be held down from above, and improves the protection of the inner workings somewhat. Here it is sat next to my Palm Pico.

 

More information can be found on Peter’s website at https://www.umpp-cw.com

Essex CW ARC Bootcamp and Convention

Dean (G4WQI) has contacted us to let us know that Essex CW ARC are planning a Bootcamp and Convention on 19th October 2019.

“Places for the bootcamp and convention to be held in Witham Essex are filling up. If you have interest in attending this years event and to avoid disappointment, contact Andy G0IBN at g0ibn1@yahoo.com”

Essex CW ARC are a great bunch of guys and this should be an excellent event for new, intermediate and more experienced fists…book now!

Click here for more info from EssexCW…

Morserino32

A brief look at the Morserino32

I saw this intriguing new kit mentioned by someone on Twitter, and decided to take a closer look.
So a quick email to Wili OE1WKL in Austria, and one affordable PayPal payment later, I was waiting and within a week a small package arrived.
The kit comes as a couple of boards with SMD components pre-populated, all I had to do was solder on the speaker, connectors, and controls. A small LiPo battery was sourced from a toy helicopter I no longer used; the total assembly took less than an hour from start to finish, following the excellent build instructions downloaded from the internet.
So, what does it do then? Well, first off you get a 5 to 50wpm keyer that connects to a radio. The morserino also has audio in and can act as a decoder; audio out so it can be used on iCW or similar internet based morse chat systems. A separate headphones socket so it can be used for quiet practice. You can use your own single or dual-lever paddles, or use the supplied capacitive touch paddles (which I find I quite like, having made a couple of QSOs on air using them).
But the fun doesn’t stop there; also built in are some learning modes too, such as a Koch trainer, random groups, Q codes, common words, and a fun ‘echo’ game where the keyed sends you something and you have to send it back (this can also have a RUFZ-like setting where it gets faster or slower depending on your errors).
Oh and a couple more surprises; it has built-in wifi and you can update the firmware or upload your own text files to it using nothing more than a simple web browser – no more ‘windows only’ or hunting for obscure drivers nonsense, this is pure cross-platform genius.
And the final surprise – if you’re with (or near) someone else who has one of these, you can have an over-the-air QSO with them. Wait, what? Yes – there’s even a built-in transceiver which uses LoRa (long range WiFi in the ISM band). I’ve put a few CQ’s out, but no replies yet…

In summary, a great kit to build and use, and support is excellent with an online user group. It’s well worth a look; check out Willi’s page at http://www.morserino.info/morserino-32.html

Chris, G0JPS Lid #156

CW Communicator

Gerry  (G3MS) contacted @lids_cw to tell us about CWCOM; simple to use software for sending and receiving morse code over the internet using the keyboard, mouse, or externally connected straight key or paddle key.

The software was originally written for Windows 95, but still relevant and used today on all versions of Windows, including W10 (it can also be made to work on LINUX and MAC machines - see below).

There are quite a lot of settings to 'tweak' but the basics should work out of the box.

It was written by an Australian Radio Ham,  VK1EME, John Samin, but he has discontinued servicing his website, and with his knowledge, Gerry has written a blogsite to help people to download, install, and set up the program. Check out all the details at:

https://morsepower.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

All instructions are in an easy to follow, step by step format, with some pics to help along the way.... there are a couple of links to get the program from download sites on the blog pages. For LINUX and MAC users there are separate pages with step by step instructions on how to get CWCOM working on those platforms.

The program is used by many Radio Hams, around the world, and some Australian Post Office Telegraphists that used to man the overland Telegram system there. There is no requirement to "sign in"... no log in, no password, no registration. The only "hardware" you need is a key and a computer (a USB to serial converter or mouse adapter,  see blog page for instructions to make, if using a laptop).

Skill levels from beginner to experience are ALL welcome. ... learners should not be frightened off just because they hear some "fast" morse... they are just as welcome, as the "old hands"!!!.

There is the opportunity for groups to choose their own channel ( frequency) for group practice sessions, so it would be ideal for Radio Ham Clubs to extend "out of hours" practice when members are at home. Similarly, it is an excellent program for those radio hams, who, for whatever reason, have problems with local planning laws, regarding antennas... or for those who live in "sheltered" accommodation, where radio equipment is not allowed.

Gerry, an ex Royal Navy Wireless Telegraphist from 1960, is usually to be found on channel 1000 ( default channel) from about 14:00 G.M.T until about 22:00 G.M.T. and is able to help new users or learners to get the best out of the program settings... or just to have a ragchew session.

Operating protocol is the same as CW operation on the ham bands.

****

[Michael G0POT] I’ve loaded the CW Communicator and I have to say it is very quick and simple to set up. You can use your keyboard as a key but are limited to about 10wpm I think. I had a USB to serial converter  so bought a 9 pin D-socket and a 3.5mm stereo socket to create an adaptor to plug in a paddle and have been using that (much nicer sending with a paddle or a straight key). Once connected you are presented with a simple QSO screen and you will hear (and see in text) and the CW sent and received. CWCOM has lots of potential for training, either one to one or as a class setting. My only issue with it so far has been getting a consistent sending experience but I thinks its just a matter of playing with the settings

The main window with controls. The sub-window is a view of who else is on which 'channel'.

Our thanks to Gerry for sharing this Internet CW communicator.

 

Hereford Morse Boot Camp

Rich (G4FAD) and Chris (G0JPS) wrote to tell us:

A Morse Bootcamp is being held in the Herefordshire Amateur Radio Society’s clubhouse near Leominster in North Herefordshire on the 4th of May, loosely under the club’s umbrella.

We aim to run 3 different groups of sending and receiving between 8 wpm to 20 plus words a minute. We will be demonstrating different keys how to adjust and send with them and how to improve head copy and to generally have a good Morse day.
We want it to be fun as well.

Rich (G4FAD) is joined by Andy (G0IBN) who has run several very successful Bootcamps in the East of the country. Sandy (G0VQW) and Bob (G3IXZ).

It will cost £10 for the day; tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided but please bring a packed lunch. Please contact Rich via email (see his QRZ.com page) if you want to join the event or simply want more information.

Location: Herefordshire Amateur Radio Society’s clubhouse near Leominster in North Herefordshire.
Date: 04-May-2019
Time: 08:30 to 16:30 (local)

…as a side note, I’m just sat here listening to some wonderful CW being sent on a bug (I assume as the Op has just reported his weight coming loose and his CW slowing down). It was Sandy, G0VQW who will be helping to run the event. Judging by his sending you should be in for some good training and CW.

Michael (G0POT)

How to cross the Gap of Suck

2019 has started and, at this time of the year, for some reason, we are often inspired to make changes to our lives and tick off some of those bucket list items. So if your resolutions for this year include learning or improving your CW how will this year be different than last year, or the year before that?

Let me tap into an excellent summary of learning that, weirdly, comes from the world of Banjos (banjohangout.org, The Immutable Laws of Brainjo: Episode 31). It’s called “How to cross the gap of suck” because, like all things in life, when we start doing them ‘everyone sucks at first’. If we love something enough (or are young enough) we don’t let that put us off but for many, getting over that steep learning curve after the initial romance has worn off can be a struggle and our development grinds to a halt.

Much of what follows is verbatim from Josh Turknett’s banjo article but with amendments to make it specific to learning CW?

Here are his ‘5 key strategies for making it across the gap of suck’:

1. Break it down

Break the learning process into the smallest possible bits you can practice.

Beyond being the best way to build efficient and effective neural sub-circuits, there are also tremendous psychological advantages to breaking big goals into bite-sized bits.
Struggling to differentiate between S, H and 5 or P, J and 1? Spend time listening to and sending just the few characters that you are struggling with rather than whole chunks of different characters.
 Not only is dividing and conquering the most effective approach to learning, but it’s also the one that comes with most rewards.

The single greatest motivating factor is progress, and the more opportunities you create for demonstrating progress, the more likely you are to soldier on.

2. Embrace the struggle

It’s natural to equate “struggle” with “pain,” and natural then to see your early struggles as painful. A bitter pill you must swallow. A necessary evil.


Another option is to reconfigure your thoughts about the struggle entirely.

If you don’t have to expend much effort to get somewhere, then getting there isn’t nearly as gratifying. It’s the struggle to get there that gives our ultimate success its meaning.

The very best learners look forward to the struggle. Struggle doesn’t equate to pain. Struggle equates to progress” and after every half-arsed CW QSO full of mistakes, once you stop blushing, you will feel like a CW god!

3. Set Process-oriented goals

OK, you could set a goal like “I want to be having conversational QSOs at 35wpm in 6 months.“
That seems reasonable enough. But there’s a problem with an outcome-oriented goal like that.

It depends on some factors that you can’t influence.
There’s no way to know or predict whether certain goals are within the realm of feasibility.


Why would this be a problem? Because if you do everything right in your effort to achieve that goal but fall short, you’ll come away feeling discouraged. 
On the other hand, the variable you can influence is your process. You can control whether or not you achieve a process-oriented goal, such as “I’m going to practice for 15 minutes every evening” or “I’m going to learn to send one new character a day.

These factors do influence the final outcome, and whether you adhere to them is entirely within your control.” 

4. Don’t play the comparison game (unless it’s to yourself)

As you start to learn and listen to other operators on the air (especially during contests) it’s human nature to compare ourselves to others to see how we stack up. 

Avoid that trap, because nothing good ever comes from it. 

When you’re in the Gap of Suck, almost everyone is better than you. It’s just statistics.
But, remember 2 things:

1. Everyone had to cross the Gap of Suck.

2. No matter how “good” you get, there will always be those you look up to. 


If you get in the habit of playing the comparison game, then get used to a life of disappointment. Because no matter how good you become, there will always be those operators out there who are faster, or can fill in their tax return while having a QSO or use a mechanical bug. 


Instead of thinking how much you suck compared to these guys use them as sources of inspiration. Let them show you what’s possible if you stick with this CW thing, if you make it across the Gap of Suck. 


Remember, there is no good or bad, only where you are on the ‘Timeline of Mastery’. Those Operators who are further along give you a glimpse of your future. 

5. Look backwards, not forwards

We humans adapt quickly to the new status quo. All in all, it serves us well. But that means it can be easy to forget how far we’ve come.

As mentioned earlier, there is no good or bad, only where you are on the Timeline. At any moment in time, there’s what’s ahead of you, and what’s behind you.  


Combine our tendency to always look forwards towards where we’d like to be, rather than backwards at where we’ve come from, with how rapidly we adapt to any new normal, and it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re not making progress.


Remember that every new character you’ve learned to decode, from your first few letters to picking out P, J and 1 with >80% accuracy, once felt really hard. Regardless of where you are, there are almost certainly other operators learning CW who’d like to trade places with you. To them, you are their future.


When assessing progress, the proper metric is not how far you have left go (which is infinite), but how far you have come. 

Talk to almost any competent Fist and they’ll tell you that there will always be more that you’d like to do, that this journey never ends, and that every position on the timeline of learning is relative.

There is no finish line, only this moment in time, framed by where you’ve been, and where you’re going.




My thanks and acknowledgement to Josh Turknett, MD and his article “How to cross the gap of suck

Don’t forget to check out the ‘Your Stories‘ page to see how other people learn and what has worked for them and, because we’re all different, why not share what is working for you in case it can help a fellow Ham. Email articles to admin@lidscw.org.

LidSpotter – From the ground up

The Lidspotter has now been completely rebuilt from the ground up.
Some issues were noticed where spots got delayed, and reappeared a couple of hours after they should have been posted. This turned out to be a delay in the email part of the chain (Hamalert was doing the spotting, and emailing the spots to the script which formatted and posted out to the social media channels).
After the rebuild (and a bit of debugging), the spotter is now reading a direct feed from the RBN, so our spots now appear almost immediately, rather than the about-a-minute delay as was.
The other improvement is it now reads the Lids_CW member page to directly grab the callsign filter list, so any new members are automatically added to the list when Michael updates the site. Previously I had to notice a tweet, and edit two separate lists on different services; now it’s just a case of sit back and watch!

Oh, and the last bit of good news, Twitter are allowing us to post again!

73 and see you on the air
Chris, G0JPS

LidSpotter’s new lease of life

Twitter hasn’t been very nice lately; apart from the constant spamming of adverts all over the place, they have now also severely restricted the ability of bots and scripts to make automated posts, which broke the lidspotter. The program was still happily running, it just couldn’t post. A temporary fix was made (using a very shoddily coded web page), but the bandwidth of a £1.20 per month virtual server isn’t huge.

Enter Telegram. A free, secure messaging app that’s cross platform. I’ve been using it to communicate within a gaming clan for quite some time, and one of the channels we use is run as a news feed, which seemed ideal. So I got some setup details from the chap that made it, and created a LidSpotter version which runs smoothly and faster than twitter’s ever did (and we’ve discovered the alerts can even be made to appear on smart watches, too!). This feed can be found at t.me/LidSpotters

 

 

And now, Mastodon as well. I’d heard of it, but never really looked until Simon G0FCU mentioned it on twitter; so I had a chat with the admin of the mastodon.radio instance

and got permission to play – and, on the first attempt, it works! Just create a free account, and search for @LidSpotBot then follow it.

I’m sure there will be some snags along the way, Mastodon is a new open-source network and is still evolving, but it looks good.

Hope to see more members on there.

 

LidSpotter Revisited

When the LidSpotter died, I was dismayed to find I had lost access to the web facility which turned the Hamalert emails into tweets!
After some chasing around, and finding out that while other sites existed that performed the same service, they all needed to validate email addresses I had no access to.
In desperation, I asked a friend who's a bit of a linux guru. In true 'mate' tradition, he said he wasn't going to do it for me, then told me where I could get a basic, dirt cheap VPS (Virtual Private Server), and lent me a book - "Programming Perl" - and said I could work it out for myself.
So one cheap server, and a lot of googling later, I had 45 lines of script. The server accepts the incoming email from Hamalert, and sends it to the script which removes all the gibberish headers then tweets the spot that's left. The end result is I learned something,  and the spotter's working again, hooray!
Once again, apologies for the interruption to the service.
Chris G0JPS

Lids CW Spotter Bot – the product of an idle mind!

It all started with a tweet. Whilst idly tuning up and down the bands, I wondered if there was a way to know if any other LIDS were on air, and then the germ of an idea formed. So like a fool, I tweeted it...

The germ of an idea

Well, that was it. I was committed now (or should have been). Searching around for ways to pick up spots, I looked at the Reverse Beacon Network, DX clusters, and eventually found the very excellent HamAlert which does all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace for you. You give it a list of call-signs, it compares incoming spots from RBN, clusters, sotawatch and pskreporter. If a spot matches your criteria (in this case, a list of currently 270 call-signs) it can do several things with the information.

HamAlert

Getting the information onto twitter wasn't the easiest, but a web service was found which will turn emails into tweets. So the spots get formatted by HamAlert, sent by email to the WebApp which turns them into tweets, and the LidsCW Spotter is the result.

The only downside of the system as it stands, is the membership list of call-signs needs to be manually updated; no great shakes though as @lids_cw tweets every time a new member is added!

All in all, an interesting exercise, which seems to have produced a useful resource. And if it gets more LidsCW members firing dots and dashes at each other across the airwaves, well, that makes it all worthwhile.

Lids Spotter output

73, Chris G0JPS
#156