The Observations of an Urban Ham

Welcome to my web page. My name is Jose B. Rivera and I am Amateur Radio Operator licensed as call sign N2LRB. I have been a ham since 1991. Being an Amateur Radio Operator is great fun. And best of all you get to meet and speak to the most wonderful people in all the world.

Ok, what is there to see on this site? If you look to your left you will see links to articles I have written. The more recent ones are below this text. The navigation section on the left also has links to local repeater websites, great ham organization and individual ham websites/blogs. Below that are events you may be interested in attending. Toward the top of all our pages is another navigation bar and one of the links is my photo pages. In my photos section of the site you will see my exploits with different antenna throughout the years and what I have had to do to get and stay on the air. New York City is not an easy place to work HF, but it can be done. Let me know what you think.


January 7, 2017 - Lately I have been very excited and happy to use my SDRPlay receivers. I say receivers because I asked for and received another one for Christmas. I want to be able to use one for VHF/UHF and the other for HF. The units are not expensive, about $125 when they are on sale and $150 when they are not. They can be gotten from Ham Radio Outlet and received the very next day.

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Easy Come..Easy Go

My Flex 6300 as is arrives out of the boxDecember 13, 2016. Its a funny thing about Amateur Radio. One day you totally love that radio and the next day you’ve shipped it off in a trade for a better one.  That is exactly what I did with my Icom-7300 and my Flex Radio 1500. The people at Flex Radio made a trade up offer on Facebook. The great thing about this offer is that you could trade in any radio you have for a Flex Radio.  There was also some money involved, well unless you traded in a very expensive radio.

So I spoke to Matt on the Flex Live Chat and he gave me some basic information about how much Flex would give me for my IC-7300 (it was a very good offer) and how much money to make up the cost of the used (pre-owned) Flex 6300.

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IC-7300 SDR Greatness!

June 18, 2016 - It is a funny how one can become enamored by a radio, going from not liking it to loving it. This is what happened to me with the Icom IC-7300. When I first heard about the radio there was not much information given about it. All one saw were photos and the bands it worked. And I have grown immune to company ads which tell how great a radio is.  Besides, I was busy buying my IC-9100. Some time last month I thought to sell all of my HF radios, except for the new IC9100 and then use my KX3 as a base station at home.

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The IC-9100

May 11, 2016 - After much toil and trouble obtaining the Icom IC-9100 from UPS I finally had the rig in hand. I walked the 35 lbs box home using my hand truck. And I heft the heavy load up a few flights of stairs to my apartment.  It was happy that the delivery ordeal was over. Once home, made an unboxing video while opening the boxs (box within a box). I do this so that others can enjoy the unboxing and to hopefully protect against some unseen damage which may have occurred. That way the ham radio dealer can see that the product arrived damaged or broken.

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Icom IC-9100 Troubled Deliveries

May 11, 2016. I recently purchased an Icom IC-9100 for use on 2 meters and on 70cm SSB. I will use the radio on FM, but I highly prefer the SSB mode on all my bands, HF, VHF and UHF. Lately it seems that any radio I purchase in May becomes an exercise in frustration. Last year, I purchased my Elecraft KX3 radio and wouldn’t you know it. The City of New York chose to fix a pipe in front of my building and close off the whole street! blocking any UPS deliveries. I thought UPS would return the radio!

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Magnetic Loop Antennas

April 10, 2016 - For the post few weekends I have been teaching myself and creating Magnetic Loop Antennas.  I started thinking about magloops as they are called when looking for an alternative to tall, lengthy verticals for both indoor and mostly outdoor use. I figure that a magloop might be a less imposing an antenna, given it’s short vertical height, than a quarter wave vertical. Especially when out in public spaces, like Central Park.

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February 21, 2016 - Earlier this month I purchased and received the Elecraft KXPA100 Amplifier Kit. The kits cost less because one has to put it together. This was a little scary, but I decided that I could at least try to build the unit and hope that I did not break it in doing so. The unit came in one big box with smaller boxes inside of it.

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Getting Ready for Next Spring

December 27, 2015 - The weather is about to get pretty cold which makes using my radio(s) out of door a bad proposition. Though I might try going to Central Park one of these cold winter’s days. Meanwhile this is a great time to plan for next year’s out of door outings. To build go boxes so that all I have to do is add equipment to the go box, put it on a wagon and wheel it to my locations.

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QRP Blues

August 10, 2015 - It has not been a few months (since May 15th) that I have been using my Elecraft KX3 both at home in my ham shack and out in the field. My initial attempts at making contacts with the radio were very encouraging. I made at least one contact each time I tried. I attribute this to good band conditions. But even with good band conditions, some loud/strong stations did not hear me.

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My Elecraft KX3!

My KX3 radioMay 26, 2015 - A few days after purchasing Yaesu FT-897D in November, I fell in love with the Elecraft KX3.  I have been seeing it around for the past few years and did not like it’s QRP features at first. But every time I saw the radio, it put me more and more under its spell. I decided that it would be my next radio. But it took awhile for me to pull the trigger on the purchase.

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Going Digital

May 26, 2015 - This past April I took the plunge and tried my hand at working some of the digital modes on HF and VHF.  But first I had to purchase an external sound card like device that would work with one of my HF radios.  I found that the SignLink USB the best priced option. When ordering the device on the phone I found that the pin set up would be the same for all of my Yaesu Radios, my FT-950, FT-857D, FT-897D.  So I could use it with either. I only purchased one cable so I will have to move that cable from rig to rig if I want to use one of the other radios.

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2 Meter Whip Dipole Antenna

The 2 meter stainless steel whip dipole out of my windowFebruary 8, 2015 - My quest to make a reliable 2 Meter dipole antenna for use on 144.200mhz on single sideband took a few month. I purchased wire versions of a two meter dipole from Falcon Antenna on Amazon in May of 2014. The antennas are come with a center connector piece which has an SO-239. At first this antenna seemed too long, so I shorten it, but then mended the pieces back together.

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January 2015 VHF Contest

Me, sitting by my computer/ham shack.January 24, 2015 - East Harlem, NY.  I prepared my 2 meter and 70cm loop antennas for use during today’s VHF contest. Both are tuned to Single Side Band. And no I don’t do FM during this type of contest, but am willing to do AM as it reminds me of my Citizen’s Band radio days.

I counted down the time until 1900 UTC and then got to working the 2 meter band. I had already been talking to N2FKF before the appointed hour and so I made an official contact with him and a few others.

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Limitations of Going Stealth

Hidden wire underneath roof wall cover. October 10, 2014 - Having to go stealth is a positive thing in that you did not give up trying to get on the air. Like a muscle, coming up with ways to be on the airwaves, improve one’s signal all while going undetected, strengthens one’s knowledge and ability to stay on the air.  But going stealth is a compromise. A compromise that might slightly or severely limited your ability to ‘get out’. Here are some of the limitations you might have to accept until you buy your own parcel of land.

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The Hows & Whys of Stealth Radio

Photo of Browning BR-28 12-10 Meter AntennaWhy Go Stealth? April 12, 2014 - There are many reasons to go stealth: You Have No Choice due to restrictions where you live
You Choose To Work Under Cover To Avoid Others Knowing you are a ham and its associated possible problems
Its Fun Yo Get Away Without Them Knowing

Even though restrictions are a pain it can be fun! It’s fun and rewarding to operating without ‘them’ knowing. A real ham never gives up and preservers. Besides why allow a non-technical person keep you from enjoying the rewards of your hard earned Federally Licensed radio privileges? Seem unfair doesn’t it. Yet there is a national interest in having an Amateur Radio community that can provided communications during an emergency.

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Building a Tri-Band Dipole

Antenna Equipment PartJune 18, 2013 - This is a short article of my building a tri-band dipole in March of 2007. After trying out a dipole on 20 meters I decided to construct a tri-band dipole made up of three dipole into a single feed line. I wanted the dipole to work on 20, 17 and 6 meters. I purchased the following items.

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VHF UHF Radio Go Bag

May 8, 2013 - After my initial test using a Pelican 1440 case as a VHF/UHF Radio Go Box, I began looking for an alternate way to transport my radio equipment. The Pelican case is strong and sturdy, but its small wheels and New York City sidewalks caused too much vibration, jostling to my radio equipment. I began to think that anything with wheels out of the question. The only alternative left (other than taking a NYC Taxi) was to carry my equipment, either on my back (backpack) or on my side (strong bag or container).

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VHF UHF Radio Go Box Part II

May 5, 2013.  The weather was brisk and cold and I was the radio communicator for the 5 Boro Bike Tour. It was time to officially field test my VHF/UHF Radio Go Box. I prepared the night before by gathering all the equipment needed for the event. Mentally checking off the equipment as I assessed its being needed for communications for the Bike Tour. I also tried to eliminated items that would have been nice to have, but which would have added weight to the Go Box.

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VHF UHF Radio Go Box Part I

April 26, 2013 - After putting an HF Radio Go Box utilizing a Pelican 1440NF case, I decided to create a VHF/UHF version. I figured that this new VHF/UHF version would be easier to build and a lot easier to use. But the go box was slightly harder to create and using it had its own set of problems.

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HF Radio Go Box Part I

April 7, 2013 The Radio Go Box bug hit me this month and I decided to put an HF version together. A Go Box is a complete, self-sustained radio station in a box. In this case, it is for Amateur Radio. I had a few considerations going into this projects.

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2 Meter Sideband

857D Screen showing 2 meter SSB FrequencyAugust 23, 2012 - East Harlem, NY - Recently I decided to check in on any possible 2 meter sideband activity using my Yaesu FT-857D multi-band multi-mode radio. I was surprised to not only find some activity, but a lot of activity. Well, more than there use to be anyway. Every thought of trying out 2 meter sideband? If so, keep reading to learn just a little more of what it is all about.

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Problem With Field Day

August 22, 2012 - East Harlem, NY - For decades amateur radio operators have held a yearly Field Day where they take their radios out of their homes or cars and operate them out in the field, either on or off the electrical grid. Some hams get together as groups of individuals, but most work through a radio club. But Field Day has one major flaw when it comes to the public.

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Going Portable

Portable in Central ParkAugust 18, 2012 - East Harlem, New York. Lately the portable bug has hit me hard. Just the thought of taking some of my radio equipment out for a ‘walk’ gets me excited. I guess that the challenge of working off the grid and actually making contacts on the air gets me all excited. Part of this magic time is thinking through what equipment to take and where to take it.

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Echolink Is Not Radio

imageNovember 5, 2010 - In late 2005 I returned to Amateur Radio after a 9 year absence. I found that the radio equipment has gotten better and grown smaller. HTs packed more features in a smaller package and the cost had not gone up too much.  But I also came across the concept of Echolink.

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