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Sunday, 9 August 2020

The radio camper project

 With the whole COVID-19 situation of the past few months I have had time to think about other projects, the igate being one of them, however I have a bigger project in the pipeline for a couple of years now.

So what would be nice is if I can go /p and have all the conveniences of my home rather than operate from the car, the solution here is a campervan.

I am after something a little specific and have been looking to base this off a Ford Transit T350 LWB (or XLWB if I can get one in good order at the right price), rather than buy a ready made camper I want a blank canvas so I can make it mine, the other reason I chose the Transit is because it is the go to van in the UK, having driven one in tipper variant and also having driven a similarly configured Iveco Daily and a large Mercedes-Benz Sprinter I have also been able to conclude that the vehicles have their own quirks, the clutch on both the Daily and the Sprinter are both too heavy for my liking, the handbrake lever is far too low for me on the Sprinter, and the Transit is the closest thing to car-like performance and handling without me going for smaller, and thus impractical VW Transporter, Vauxhall Vivaro, Peugeot Expert (and its Citroen sibling), or even as small as the VW Caddy, Vauxhall Combo and the Ford Transit Connect.

The majority of Transit vans I have seen for sale all tend to have a bulkhead between the drivers cab and rear section, except in the case of crew cabs and mess vans which have that bulkhead further back, usually that's removable and not a part of the vehicle fabric.

Cab radios will be the Team Roadcom-FS for CB and it was planned the Yaesu FTM-100DE be an option for 2/70 but that has since been discontinued and the Yaesu FTM-300DE will make a suitable replacement choice, antennas for these will be fitted ahead of conversion work, on the minibus variant of the generation of Transit I am looking at Ford fitted a tachograph into a 2x single DIN mount above the stereo that would replace a tray normally fitted to the panel van, which would be where the CB would go as the part is readily available

Lighting in the accommodation area would be run from 12 volts to allow me to see without having to run a generator, though I will make provisions to plug in a generator or campsite hookup if the vehicle I buy does not have this, the same 12 volt supply will be designed with running radio gear in mind so a beefy leisure battery, or two very identical ones run in parallel to give high current, will be needed, so along with usual camper electrics a radio capable of a reasonable amount of power can draw off the same supply, though I am looking into solar panels as an option, a light will be provided above the accommodation door and in the footwell that will come on with the door open.

For the vehicle to be classed as a camper then there needs to be a bed, a table some seating and cooking facilities as well as storage, though I will be fitting some cupboards I also intend to use the space above the cab as one as well, a water tank also needs to be installed, as well as a waste water tank, and a supply of gas to cook with and make tea, a fridge to keep milk also will be needed and for those cold winters a heater as well. it also needs at least one window in the rear, mess vans usually have two, one in the sliding door and one immediately opposite on the driver's side. as well as the mandatory table, which is one reason I am looking at crew cab and mess van type vehicles, so I don't have to cut holes in the vehicle fabric for windows

Externally there will, of course, be CB and 2/70 antennas on the roof, as well as all the needed vents and a mains inlet, also there would need to be an inlet on the side to take an antenna feedline without me needing to leave a window or door open, I also want to sign write the vehicle with my Amateur radio callsign using the logo from my YouTube channel, as well as information on my YouTube channel, to help promote it, and the vehicle will ultimately feature heavily in the channel's videos, and when safe I can do meet-and-greets with it for all those that watch my channel.

For storage of gas and other essentials I plan to build a storage area around the back doors of the van, separated internally from the main accommodation area, with the LPG warning on the door of course, and a finishing touch externally will be a 'GB' sticker for driving abroad as I'd like to be able to travel to Germany for a very well-known Amateur radio event and not have to sleep in a hotel.

I also hope to use this vehicle for club activities with the Colburn & Richmondshire District Amateur Radio Society.

With my finances starting to improve and my new job paying a good salary and my final pay from my previous job being higher than expected (holidays and such) then I am already on the road to the van and know if I shop around and take a torch I can get the right van at the right price, I learned a big lesson from the disaster of the 106 so I shall take my handy torch and look for the dreaded rust in every single place it could be on the vehicle and in the future I could well be making a post from that vehicle and you guys and my twitter and YouTube followers will get to see this every step of the way from buying the van through the entire fit out as the perfect mobile portable shack.

73 de M0WNU/26CT730

Friday, 7 August 2020

Attempting to receive the AO-92 satellite on a tape measure Yagi antenna

 Last night I went outside with my tape measure antenna and attempted to receive the 2-meter downlink of the AO-92 amateur radio satellite, was I successful? have a look in the video attached and find out.

73 de M0WNU

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Work on the future Catterick Garrison igate underway

I have been working on getting the radio hardware working for the future APRS igate that I intend to run from the home QTH, the radio is my Leixen VV-898 as it's sat doing little, the rest is done via a Raspberry Pi with a keying circuit and a USB sound card.

The setup is currently into a dummy load and is powered from my bench power supply for the radio and the Pi is running off my phone charger.

The next jobs to do for this is to get the shelves in the shed and to get the antenna built (which I plan to make resonant on 144.800), then of course batteries and solar panels to get power to the shed.

So far the tests show promise, the transmissions are received by my Yaesu FT2D and it is used to test receive on the igate which seems fine.

I have two You Tube videos on the subject and they are attached below.

73 de M0WNU

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

POCSAG from the Jumbospot

I finally got round to setting up an account with the DAPNET, which means my Jumbospot can now transmit POCSAG pager transmissions, I put the NooElec NESDR SMArt on my tablet and on the standardised pager frequency in the Amateur 70cm band and indeed the hotspot is genuinely transmitting.

I hope to try and get hold of a compatible pager and use this to its full potential, because it's retro tech and works well for what it is, and this service being part of the Amateur radio service is perfectly legal to decode, unlike commercial pager systems.

The hotspot is working as follows, when it is idle, the POCSAG transmissions can take place on the worldwide spot frequency of 439.9875MHz (or whatever frequency is set up for paging, though this one is the standard in most of the world), once the hotspot has done this is switches back to the hotspot frequency (in my case I use 438.800 as in the UK bandplan this is set aside for personal hotspots, though your country my differ), while a digital voice transmission is in progress or the hotspot is receiving a digital voice transmission it will not transmit any further POCSAG until the hotspot has returned to its standby state.

If you want to use the DAPNET yourself you need to go onto, open a ticket to create an account (you will need to also submit your licence document as proof you are an Amateur radio operator), then you will need to open a ticket to register a transmitter, which will give you the auth code to put into the POCSAG settings on your hotspot, this does work with most Pi-Star based hotspots but not sure about others.

If you have a pager you'll need to obtain a RIC, open another ticket to do this.

I have Josh KI6NAZ from Ham Radio Crash Course to thank for me actually getting registered with DAPNET, one of his previous livestreams featured a pager in it (though the subject was the NanoVNA) and he has a video on the pager subject as well which is what motivated me to finally get on and do it, and though his channel is an American channel I highly recommend you check him out no matter where in the world you are.

there's more to come on this subject so do watch this space

73 de M0WNU/26CT730

Sunday, 28 June 2020

The current-model Thunderpole T-800 CB radio's odd country selections

I discovered that the country standard selection in the current model Thunderpole T-800 was a bit obscure, which I alluded to in my last post, the radio is still a good radio it just seems to come with a bizarre set of country standards including one that overlaps in the CW and data parts of the 10-meter band, and transmitting there is going to upset every Amateur and of course the authorities of the country where the transmission originates if this can be determined.

So I put a video up onto the channel showing exactly this and it's also attached below for you to go straight to.

I do like these Thunderpole badged CB radios, the T-2000 is one I hope to get in the future, and I know there are still a lot of the original radio, the T-1000, still out there, if you're a starter the T-800 is the most simple radio you can buy, currently £60 with free delivery from Thunderpole, if you need an antenna and mount then you can get it in a pack for between £85 and £95 depending on what mount and antenna you choose.

73 de M0WNU/26CT730

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Thunderpole T-800 now here

This morning I took delivery, then filmed the unboxing video, of the Thunderpole T-800, the current model in production that uses the same chassis as the PNI Escort HP-8000 series, the only differences between those radios and the T-800 are the T-800 having a better mic, an RF gain control, and a channel 9 position on the switch closest to the display, the PNI Escort HP-8000 series have an adjustable auto-squelch, and a lock position on that switch, otherwise they're identical, except the PNI Escort HP8024 which has the 24V regulator position populated and the HP8001L which has a Kenwood style accessory jack above the volume control.

The radio feels light but well built, and it is supplied as standard on the UK channels, though the banding in the radio does not match the chart in the book.

On the display if the radio shows -U it is the UK+CEPT all in FM, at 4 watts, selectable on the AM/FM switch, if it shows CE it is the CEPT band only, not tested this to be AM/FM yet but will investigate, now here comes the complicated bit,

-d on the display is the EU channels in AM/FM at 4 watts, -P is Polish offset (0 rather than 5 ending), -g is all 80 channels approved for use in Germany, but there are other modes as well and these do not appear to be legal anywhere yet the radio can transmit on them (I have tested this into a dummy load) and will be putting a video out on that in the next few days showing these unusual standards and which ones (pretty much all of them aside from the ones I have mentioned above) that you really must not select and use.

I hope to get an on-air test and a car-to-car test done on this radio too as that is something I've never done before, but in the mean time the video I filmed is available below

73 de M0WNU/26CT730

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Upcoming attractions to the YouTube channel

So the YouTube channel is beginning to prove popular meaning I need to put more content up, so I am planning the next lot of upcoming attractions.

I plan to take a look at the Thunderpole T-800 CB radio (after being told by Ben of channel 'RustySkull Productions' that the RF gain on these sets works in FM now, after seeing videos of them, particularly on 'UK CB Radio Servicing' showing that the RF gain does not work in FM, and pictures on Thunderpole's website clearly showing what is the same board as the PNI Escort HP8000 series (which are actually cheaper radios) which also featured on that channel.  With the T-800 I hope to speak to someone I know who has a car and be willing to help me do a car-to-car test from my home QTH to Wetherby Services on the A1(M)

The next one I hope to do is a look at the PNI Escort HP62, which is effectively a handheld CB with a car kit but no battery box, and it comes with the PNI Extra 48 antenna, which I already have and will look at later on anyway as it is a mobile antenna but would need some adjustment to work on 27/81.

I hope to get on air a bit more as well, though I will miss the annual celebration of legal AM and SSB on CB again this year as I will be working I will use whatever days off I have to get on air from better high ground.

With the COVID-19 situation a lot of rallies were cancelled, the most notable for me was Blackpool which was to feature on the channel (I made up the titlecards for the video well in advance and still have those) however as the situation unfolded I made the decision not to go anyway, however at time of writing as far as I can tell the National Hamfest is still going ahead, with the UK government lowering the threat level of the virus this may make it likely that this event will still go ahead, and of course make it to YouTube (and perhaps I'll be able to meet other radio YouTubers there too and we could cross-promote but time will tell), I will keep a watch on this situation as well.

Hopefully if things work out well for me I may be able to get some HF gear in the shack at last as I still have not got any and would like to get on air and may be able to hide a wire in the nearby trees outside.

I also am hoping to still put on an igate, and add video of me setting this up on YouTube as well though this was something else I had to postpone due to COVID-19 but should soon be able to go out and buy wood to make shelves for my shed to install the equipment on, and though I have a radio to use for it I am yet to get any kind of controller arranged and cannot get an NoV until I know it all works fine on a bench into a dummy load.

There is more to come that I have not planned, I do sometimes add the odd spur of the moment video too as there are sometimes some interesting things on the air too that are worth recording and sharing on YouTube.

Don't forget if you're not already subscribed pop over to the channel and hit the button and ring the bell, I don't have a set frequency, I upload when I can.

73 de M0WNU/26CT730