Practicing CW / Morse Code by Listening to Real Stations

I’ve come to the realization that it is much more interesting to practice CW by listening to real live stations. Lately I have been tuning around the bands to find a QSO or station that is transmitting somewhere near what I think I can copy. Often times I am not able to copy very much but ever once and a while I realize that I have written down a small word (or two) and maybe even a callsign or name.

Tonight while surfing 40m, I came across W1AW’s slow code practice session. This was great. I was actually able to copy multiple sentences. It was much more fun than using a practice application that spits out random strings.

If you are interested, I’ve posted the current W1AW operating schedule. You can find the original (and updates) on the ARRL website.

Pacific Mtn Cent East UTC Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri
6 am 7 am 8 am 9 am 1400z Fast Code Slow Code Fast Code Slow Code
7 – 9 am
10 am -12:45 pm
8 – 10 am
11 am -1:45 pm
9 – 11 am
Noon – 2:45 pm
10 am – Noon
1 – 3:45 pm
1500z to 1700z

1800z to 2045z

Visiting Operator Time
1 pm 2 pm 3 pm 4 pm 2100z Fast Code Slow Code Fast Code Slow Code Fast Code
2 pm 3 pm 4 pm 5 pm 2200z Code Bulletin
3 pm 4 pm 5 pm 6 pm 2300z Digital Bulletin
4 pm 5 pm 6 pm 7 pm 0000z Slow Code Fast Code Slow Code Fast Code Slow Code
5 pm 6 pm 7 pm 8 pm 0100z Code Bulletin
6 pm 7 pm 8 pm 9 pm 0200z Digital Bulletin
6:45 pm 7:45 pm 8:45 pm 9:45 pm 0245z Voice Bulletin
7 pm 8 pm 9 pm 10 pm 0300z Fast Code Slow Code Fast Code Slow Code Fast Code
8 pm 9 pm 10 pm 11 pm 0400z Code Bulletin

I think I am making some respectable progress. It’s hard to find time with two kids and a full-time job but a few minutes of practice here and there really does pay off.

73 for now!

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Welcome to 2016 – My Ham Goals For The Year

Happy New Year!

Now that 2015 has come to a close and we have a whole new year ahead of us, I’ve decided to set some ham radio goals for the year. I am probably being overly ambitious but if I can get few items checked off I will be happy.

Here are the goals I have set for 2016. They aren’t in any particular order.

  • Continue practicing CW on a daily basis
  • Make my first CW contact by mid February
  • Make lots of HF contacts (CW, SSB, Digital)
  • Study for, and achieve Advanced Certification
  • Acquire a new tower, hf beam, rotor (and get them installed)
  • Purchase and install new Yaesu System Fusion compatible radio (our club now has three YSF repeaters)
  • Purchase and build a kit radio of some sort
  • Become more involved in the technical side of our radio club operations

What are your ham radio goals for 2016? Feel free to comment and let me know. I will also post updates throughout the year when I manage to accomplish some of these.

73 for now!


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Re-Learning Morse Code

Back when I first got licensed (Canadian Basic) you only had privileges on bands above 30 MHz. If you wanted to get on HF you had to learn and pass a Morse Code test. There were actually two tests, one at 5 wpm and a one at 12 wpm. I was able to successfully pass the 5 wpm test, and if I recall correctly it allowed access to some HF bands but not all. Unfortunately I never did master the 12 wpm test. I have now decided that it’s high time to get back into it and re-learn Morse Code.

One might wonder why I would do such a thing in this day and age. First off, it’s becoming somewhat of a lost art. Most of the younger hams that I know have zero interest in Morse Code / CW and the older guys are slowly and surely becoming silent keys. I like the thought of taking the hobby back to it’s roots. Have you ever listened to the lower edge of any band when it seems dead? If not, you should take a trip down. You’ll be surprised at what you can hear on CW when phone seems to be completely silent. That is the second, and main, reason why I want to re-learn code.

In my search for tools to help me re-learn Morse Code, I stumbled upon a piece of software called Just Learn Morse Code by  LB3KB. The latest version is 1.23 and was released back in 2006. However, it still works very well. I am currently running it on two different Windows 10 machines without issue. It uses both Koch’s method and Farnsworth timing to teach and it is very flexible. You can choose random characters (your choice of how many), you can load text files to practice from, it will teach you basic words, and you can also have it spit out Q codes and common abbreviations used in real QSOs.

Another great feature of this program is that you can show the output in real time or you can hide it so that you don’t cheat. You can also type the characters as they are being sent so and the program will score you on what you copied. Of course, you can also adjust the WPM speed and character speed if you so wish.

I am not affiliated with LB3KB or have anything to do with the software, other than being a user. I just wanted to say thanks for the great application. I’ve included some screenshots below to give you a peek at what the software looks like. I will post again later on once I make some more progress. I am currently copying fairly well, albeit at very low speeds, but I hope that should improve with lots more practice.

The splash screen

Just Learn Morse Code

The basic interface. Output at the top. Input (your copy) at the bottom. Click the characters on the right and see what happens.

Just Learn Morse Code

Example of the session results

Just Learn Morse Code

The menu where you can configure the source of the code the program will send.

Just Learn Morse Code

Best 73s for now!

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The 10-Megabyte Computer System

How times have changed…


The 10-Megabyte Computer


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K1N Navassa DXpedition Official DVD Trailer

I had a blast working K1N earlier this year and from this trailer it looks like the DXpedition team did also. Apparently the DVD is 44 minutes in length and the initial production run is around 1000 units.

I might have to get myself a copy of this video.

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I finally got my call plates!

It took me two attempts to get the paperwork right and 6 weeks of waiting but they are finally here!

Call Sign License Plates

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Lets pickle some beets

As you can probably tell from the title, this is a bit off topic for me. However, every year I like to make a few batches of pickled beets. This year, thanks to my in-laws, I got a nice big basket full of beets. Having the day off from work today, means that I had plenty of time to devote to this process.

After about 4 hours (give or take) of work, I ended up with 13 jars of yummy pickled beets. I use a very simple recipe that my wife’s mother passed along to me and it has turned out great each time. I’ve included this recipe below along with some pictures of the process.

20 Medium size red beets
2 1/2 cups vinegar
2 1/2 cups beet juice
1 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
10 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks

  1. Scrub beets and remove tops. Cook beets until tender. Drain and reserve beet juice. Remove skins and cut beets into chunks
  2. Combine vinegar, juice, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil. Remove spices. Add beet chunks and boil again. Pour into jars and seal.


Looks like a massacre

Looks like a massacre


Peeled and chunked up waiting for the sauce

Peeled and chunked up waiting for the sauce


Halfway done

Halfway done


The second batch waiting

The second batch waiting


All done

All done


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ICOM unveiled IC-7300 at Tokyo Ham Fair 2015

ICOM has unveiled the IC-7300 transceiver. It is an all mode (SSB / CW / RTTY / AM / FM), HF + 50Mhz radio that comes in the 3 models listed below.

IC-7300 – 100 W
IC-7300M – 50 W
IC-7300S – 10 W

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Cancelled – 2015 NSARA Picnic

Please be advised that due to circumstances beyond our control, The Greenwood Amateur Radio Club has been forced to withdraw its sponsorship of the NSARA Picnic this year. Could you please notify as many people as possible about the cancellation of this event.

We deeply regret this, and apologize for any inconvenience it has caused.

Thanks and 73
Al Penney

2015 NSARA Picnic

— I am not affiliated with the Greenwood ARC, but I am an NSARA member, so I wanted to pass this along —

The Greenwood Amateur Radio Club is pleased to host the 2015 NSARA Picnic!

The event will be held at the Clairmont Provincial Park, 1405 Hwy 1, Kingston, on Saturday, 22 August. The park is on the north side of Hwy 1, about midway between Kingston and Auburn. The picnic will start at 1000, and should wrap up in the late afternoon.

Activities will include a BBQ, CW copying competition, foxhunt, homebrew competition, and various demonstrations and other contests.

Those attending the picnic may be interested to learn that the Annapolis Valley Exhibition will be held August 17th-22nd. If anyone wants to make it a weekend holiday there is live entertainment featuring Dave Gunning August 20th, Platinum Blonde August 21st and George Canyon August 22nd. For more info on Valley EX check their Website:

So, let’s head down to the Valley that weekend and have a great time!

Questions may be directed to Al Penney, VO1NO, at (902) 847-0554.

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