I've finally got back on the air in the HF bands. After over 6 months of not having my radio reach any further than the local 2 meter repeaters (maybe 20mi away max), I finally have an antenna that lets me talk outside the state.
I bought a used Bilal Isotron 40 meter antenna from W6KIP off eham.net. I received the antenna after over a week-and-a-half long trek through the incredibly slow USPS shipping machine. That was on Friday, February 3. I assembled it and began thinking exactly how I wanted to mount it. I finally decided to mount the short "mast" (if you'd call it that) on one of the 3 vent pipes on the roof. I'll post a picture of it soon.
Part of my reason for using Isotron was the small size (only 22" wide). Looking at the antenna, you wouldn't even know it was an antenna, it looks more like a weather vane or birdfeeder. Being on campus, I didn't really want a very conspicuous antenna if I could help it. I haven't quite finished fine tuning the antenna, but I can do that as soon as I get my hands on one of the local ham's antenna analyzer.
I haven't made any contacts on it tonight due to an overwhelming amount of static on the 40-meter band. I've listened to a couple of nets, one on 7.2335 said that this is the worst noise they've had all month - what luck!
Update: Well, it turns out the noise isn't just on the band, although that particular night was particularly bad. It seems that the high level of noise (aka static) that I'm receiving is due to a local area thing.
Most likely due to the power lines nearby. If I can pinpoint the source of the interference, the power company is obligated to resolve the harmful interference.
Update #2: It turns out it must be the power lines, I was able to go to the front of campus, shove the antenna in the ground and it received beautifully (for an antenna shoved in the dirt). Now, to find that pesky power line pole.
Update #3: Wow. So I called the power company and, not surprisingly, the service rep didn't have a clue what I was talking about. She tried to tell me that the power company has "the right of way" and that I just had to accept the interference. As politely as I could, I told her I didn't and that it was the power company's responsability to at least investigate the interference. She asked what kinda of amateur radio antenna I had, as if it mattered. She asked if any of my neighbors were experiencing problems on their radio. (wtf?) I told her I'd like to hear back from someone that understands about radio interference and what causes RFI on power lines. We'll see...
Update #4: The power company did send a guy out today. He called before he visited. I told him I'd be in class. After explaining the issue to him, he said he knew where my apartment was, and that if it's the powerlines I described to him, they belong to the university, and not Swepco. I had to get to class, but he said he'd leave me a note on my door. He came out, and it wasn't their powerlines. (I'm pretty sure he was right about the university being in control of the lines in question...) Now, to find the person in charge of the campus powerlines and go about getting them fixed in a way that won't get me evicted.