Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Firstly, I have had the PMR446 gateway off air because the rig was showing some terrible power readings at the antenna socket leading me to suspect something has blown somewhere, though the radio is still transmitting, I intend to try and find a suitable replacement in the new year.
Mobile CB may once again become a possibility for me without having to do the scooter install (though I still plan to progress with that at some stage when I can find time to do so), as I am looking into getting a car in the new year, a cheap and used car that I'd not mind drilling a hole in the roof to install the antenna on a permanent basis, I already have the antenna and the rig (my Midland 78+ Multi B, there is NO WAY I am permanently installing my President Grant 2 in the car, that can be put on the antenna if I am parked on a hill doing some DX on SSB) yet not the antenna mount and a suitable coax lead with the correct plug for the mount, I may also need a PL259 to SO239 right-angle adaptor should space be tight, other bits I will need are a switch to isolate the rig, a Bosch type automotive relay to ensure the circuit is only switched on with the ignition, possibly a fuse though there is already one on the rig's power line on the live side which is pretty standard anyway, and an extension speaker though I could cobble one of those together out of some bits I have lying about which should save money there.
Planning will come when I actually have the car because all cars are different, planning has to be done so that the rig and microphone are not going to interfere with operation of the car and are not in an airbag deployment area, and that the power and antenna cables can be routed in such a way as they make it to their respective sources.
So to sum up, I should be able to get on the air on the road on CB, and have to do some repair work to the PMR446 gateway, hopefully there will be no difficulties there.
73 de 26CT730
Saturday, 22 November 2014
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
Saturday, 15 November 2014
The choke was a little bit of a difficulty to find a former for to begin with but I simply cut the handle off a cheap toilet plunger (no great loss as I can replace it).
The antenna needs to be adjusted for SWR, I face two problems here, one of which is that I do not have an SWR meter that I can use on PMR446, my decent SWR meter only covers up to 200MHz, so I need to get a new SWR meter, secondly is that I need to be able to connect the antenna to a radio and a feedline, the feedline is not a major issue as I have an RG213 feedline for my portable CB work anyway, a radio is as the feedline is terminated with a PL259, fitting the antenna socket kit on my Intek MT-5050 will not work without an adaptor as this is an SMA type connector, the modded Binatone Action 950 as you know has a BNC socket so again needs an adaptor, and my Wouxun, though not strictly legal on PMR446 also has an SMA socket so again requires an adaptor, though I need an adaptor for the Wouxun to use the j-pole I made at the club the other night.
The ultimate idea of using this bazooka antenna is to improve range of the PMR446 gateway, the gateway radio is currently using the antenna fitted to it and is attached to the window with suction hooks to give it some height in the Catterick and Northallerton direction (it has NEVER reached Northallerton and been usable there, but as the A1 is in range, only just, then a better antenna is called for as the A1 is a major through route in the area and good coverage there would be a bonus, as the Intek DRS-5070 is not fitted with an antenna socket out of the box then this needs to be done, the BNC sockets are generally cheap to obtain (the same time I used for my SDR enclosure should suffice with the outer connected to a ground in the radio (negative side of battery box)
I'll update this when the antenna has gone on the pole and been checked out for SWR.
73 de 26CT730
Friday, 14 November 2014
Fortunately we did not need to put them on a radio and ask one of the licensed members to test them, instead Chris G4FZN, the repeater keeper for GB3IR, brought with him an antenna analyser allowing us to test to see if our completed antennas were working fine without the need to connect them to a transmitter, mine was pretty good for a first attempt (bearing in mind all my previous antenna projects have been for 11-meters or the Delboy online RX-only 446 dipole and the last working one on transmit was my T2LT for CB, bear in mind I am also putting together a 446 bazooka antenna to the design of 26CTX965 and have not finished it yet).
This now means I have an antenna for the 2-meter band I can actually use once I am licensed, I see no harm in using it for RX-only applications in the mean time but I'd really like to test it out on transmit, the good thing is that my decent SWR meter works between 3 and 200MHz so covers pretty much everything I would be using apart from PMR446, which I will deal with later on, I shouldn't need to adjust the SWR but I will check it out either way.
Also there was mention of when I do my exam for my foundation, nothing is set in stone, a date will be decided later, in the mean time I have to do more training on Tuesday night.
Next club meeting is the 27th, though I am supposed to be doing forklift training that week I should still be able to make it to the club that evening.
73 de 26CT730
Tuesday, 11 November 2014
Sunday, 2 November 2014
Posting this on my phone as the home QTH has no Internet connectivity since Friday morning, which has resulted in no PMR446 gateway in Richmond, unfortunately this is BT's issue as opposed to mine.
I found a second nut and machine screw today while tidying up, needless to say this allowed me to drill a second hole and fasten the USB port to the tin lid properly, I removed the SDR to drill the hole as I did not want to damage it, it was returned to the tin when the second screw was tightened.
The SDR is currently tuned to GB3IR, the local 2m repeater, the antenna is a 2/70 antenna so fine for this use, performance appears to be good, the next stage will be sealant around any holes to prevent leaks, then some vegetable oil for coolant as far as I dare fill the can, as per the information on SDR for Mariners, and a final bead of silicone sealant on the outside of the lid to be absolutely sure.
This has been a slow project but it is almost there, a scanner antenna will be next for this, hopefully I can see what this cheap SDR, when surrounded by metal and immersed in oil, can really do.
73 de 26CT730
PS, I hope to have Internet restored and the gateway operational soon
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
A connecting lead for the antenna socket on the stick was sourced from the magnetic mount stick antenna that was supplied with the RTL-SDR stick, it was simply a small amount cut from the lead with the MCX connector intact, the cut off end was simply prepped and soldered to the appropriate points on the BNC connector, with the excess trimmed off, continuity was checked before the lead was connected to the stick.
The stick was then tested with just the antenna socket, I installed the SDR# software to do this, it worked as it should have done, the stick was then connected to the USB socket inside the tin lid and the tin closed up, it still works, the NA-771 antenna is not tuned for everything the RTL-SDR is capable of tuning to, but it seemed to work OK in the broadcast band, it of course worked fine in the 2-meter band and on PMR446 (PMR446 frequencies fall into the 70cm band in the US so to be expected). I tried it on 11-meters including on 27.555 MHz, but no luck, partly due to being indoors and partly due to being the wrong antenna for the band, a final test was to see if broadcast reception was eliminated while inside the tin, it was.
The last stage of this project is to fasten the USB connector down properly with one final screw, silicone seal the inside of the tin to be sure that no leaks can occur, fill it with oil after the silicone sealant has cured, and immerse the operating RTL-SDR into it, the reason I want it operating while I do this is to ensure that the stick continues to work while immersed in oil, SDR for mariners claims that it does.
It has taken me a bit of time but I finally have got the tin fitted out.
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 26 October 2014
Thursday, 23 October 2014
I am renting a car on Saturday afternoon for a few days (until Tuesday afternoon), this is primarily for me to get somewhere I need to be on Monday afternoon without taking the train, however it has another plus point, getting to a nice high point for a spot of DXing.
My initial plan in August was to go to Tan Hill and do some DXing there, this fell through as I could not find any time to get up there and I was late finishing the T2LT and finding a suitable pole for it, this is now remedied, and I could go to Tan Hill or Emley Moor, the latter being home to a famous broadcast transmitting station, but I'll see which would be best, Sutton Bank on the A170 is another option but the only car park is owned by the North Yorkshire Moors National Park Authority so only useable with a magmount and tank whip, and I don't have the latter and cannot put a magmount onto a rental car as it may damage it, Tan Hill is closer however.
The radio (the President Grant 2) will be powered by my sealed lead-acid battery and not from the car's cigarette lighter to avoid damage and running the car's battery flat, the only antenna I have available is the T2LT, this will happen assuming the weather is better than it has been of late.
If I can do this I will be on air most of the day, and I hope to catch you on air that day if conditions permit.
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 19 October 2014
The S780, when operating in digital mode, appears to be compliant with dPMR standards, using FDMA, 4-level FSK modulation, and in essence works like a mobile telephone but minus the infrastructure so no loss of coverage, it is seemingly compatible with dPMR446 but with a minimum TX power of 1 watt it wouldn't be legal and it isn't type approved for dPMR446, it does analogue transmissions as well.
The S780 appears to be able to send text messages, like SMS but peer to peer rather than through infrastructure, in common with other digital radios like this it can talk directly to another radio without transmitting to them all, it also offers encryption, though this is limited to voice, the text messages can be decoded by anyone listening if sent to all radios in range.
Looking at pictures of the radio the connection does not appear to be Kenwood, as is the case with other Chinese radios such as those by Wouxun and Baofeng for example, it instead appears to be 2-pin Motorola, thus immediately ruling out compatibility with my existing Wouxun accessories, which is a pain as when I do buy one of these radios I will have to order it with a USB lead to actually program it to work on the right frequencies.
So if finances permit a digital radio may join all my analogue gear, and given the quality of Chinese radios now I think it would be worth it.
73 de 26CT730
Friday, 17 October 2014
The founders of the club brought in a rig that could do HF, VHF, and UHF, but for the purposes of the club it was on 40-meters, and as the club did not have a call sign only those that were licensed could actually use it, the antenna was a G5RV, which I didn't see as it was dark outside, connected into a tuner and then into the rig.
I had a discussion about the foundation training and useful resources with the tutor, some of which I will have a look at tonight when things settle down.
Despite not having the same mishap as last week I still arrived earlier than I expected to, but because there is resurfacing works overnight at my road-end I didn't want to risk being stuck so had to leave the house earlier than normal.
It wasn't a busy night last night unlike most nights but we had two newcomers, also unlicensed like myself, bringing the total of those that would be doing the foundation up to about 5 or 6.
Next club meeting is in two weeks time, I need to get some airtime hours on 11-meters and PMR446 logged in the mean time and also a bit more revision on the old Foundation license, as my course starts on the 4th November.
73 de 26CT730
Thursday, 2 October 2014
I arrived there a shade earlier than expected tonight owing to some unforeseen and unfortunate issues earlier in the day, but it was still a good night, with the licensed members trying out the neighbouring club's repeater which was connected up to a dummy load to keep it all above board, and it was a very clever looking piece of kit but I did not have a closer look.
So, next meeting is in 2 weeks, and I also hope to begin my training in November, so forwards we go.
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 21 September 2014
- Carry my antenna pole in a backpack, attaching it to my scooter doesn't work as well as I'd like
- Invest in a bigger backpack, and a pop-up tent that will fit it, the scooter's cover did work to keep some of the weather off but not all
- Take some warm clothing and and some food and drink with me so I can stay on the air for some hours longer without the need to return home after 2 hours, I have a 7,2Ah battery that should last a while depending on how much transmission takes place
- Possibly locate other high places that are accessible by road and are close by, and, of course, not liable to cause any interference to other radio users
Saturday, 20 September 2014
The T2LT had tuned down fine so perhaps conditions were not favourable for me this time, if the weather is good I might give it another go next weekend, and perhaps work out a shelter that's somewhat better than my scooter's cover.
73 de 26CT730
Thursday, 18 September 2014
The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly and a lot of Amateurs from the wider area including GB3IR's keeper were present, the club had no planned on-air activities tonight, given that this was a new club and they want to get it established, and also make it a member-oriented club.
So, I will be attending again in two weeks
73 de 26CT730
The aims and objective of the club and it's founders is to get as many people involved in Amateur radio as possible, given this age of social media and mobile phones, and happily for me they are going to offer at least Foundation and Intermediate training, although I do enjoy what I do on 11-meters and PMR446, I know I can do so much more with radio, listening to GB3IR is one thing but being able to use it will be another.
I look forward to being at this new radio club tonight and I will be reporting back with how it went later on.
73 de 26CT730
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
With the new pole having arrived I strapped it to my scooter, packed up my Grant 2, my most decent SWR meter, my multimeter should I need to investigate any shorts, the dummy load in case I needed to check for any issues with the radio, which I did not need.
Monday, 15 September 2014
So, now to see if it works and the antenna tunes down.
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 14 September 2014
I certainly look forward to seeing the faces behind of some of GB3IR's voices and taking my first steps to my Amateur radio license, so a busy week for me is ahead as I have a lot on as well as the Amateur radio club starting this week.
73 de 26CT730
Saturday, 13 September 2014
Thursday, 11 September 2014
The tuning will be done using my President Grant 2 off either the battery pack or the scooter battery, as I don't plan any proper QSOs, I will simply erect the pole and antenna, and either prop or fasten it to a fence post, I will find some velcro straps to allow a temporary fix to the pole, and a small cable tie to loop the top section for tuning, all I have to to is adjust this loop.
I intend to use the most reliable of my 3 SWR meters for this, the meter in the Grant 2 may not be accurate but will be on to see just how accurate the onboard meter of the Grant 2 actually is, also out in the open the antenna should receive across all channels, and also all modes now we have multimode CB, I look forward to finally seeing if my third antenna attempts (I made a dipole a few years ago out of a piece of coax (but forgot the choke), the coax being used later for the ill-fated inverted-V, the T2LT uses one component used in the ill-fated inverted-V, half of the choke core, it was integrated rather than detachable.
I have confidence this antenna will work well, but I have sufficient coax to make another should the need arise.
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 7 September 2014
Sunday, 17 August 2014
So, about a month or so to wait, and I'll be able to begin my journey to licensed amateur, it's been a few years in the making but it might well be happening very soon, also it will allow me to meet new people who share a common interest.
So let's see what happens
73 de 26CT730
Tuesday, 12 August 2014
Thursday, 7 August 2014
Sunday, 3 August 2014
The batteries will be going in the unit shortly so tests can begin to make sure it will handle various loads, specifically CB radios and, for power cuts at home, phone chargers, also to see what voltage these particular batteries really show on the output (they are Maplin 2400mAh rechargables), some batteries may show 1.25 V at the terminals, that's about 12.5V for 10 batteries, some may show 1.3 at a full charge but this could be very rare (it would give 13V). During the tests a basic multimeter is to be wired across the terninals to check voltage.
So I shall get on with that and report back later
73 de 26CT730
Saturday, 2 August 2014
The batteries themselves, currently, are Maplin 2400 mAh rechargables, at around 1.2V per cell to get the required 12V, I suspect combined capacity is 24Ah, based on my theory that there's 10 of them, and 10x 2.4Ah is 24Ah (2400mAh being 2.4Ah).
A voltmeter will be integrated into the design later to ensure there is sufficient charge in the batteries at all times, nothing worse than running out of power mid-QSO.
So, I have another 6 batteries to charge and my charger only takes 4 at a time, so I best go do that and I'll post and an update later on
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 27 July 2014
Also this coming weekend if I get paid I may get the parts I need to build at least one battery box and a replacement fuse for the longer of the cigarette lighter cords to accommodate the Grant 2 (the fuse in the plug is lower than the one in the Grant 2's lead and would blow with the Grant 2 at transmit under normal conditions, thus needs to be about 10A, the fuse on the Grant 2 is 6A, and current draw should not exceed 3A, the 10A fuse allows the lead to work with higher radios.
The shack computer had to have an OS reinstall after an issue occurred preventing a few programmes working properly, all resolved but yet to reinstall the RTL-SDR software, also I am yet to do the oil cooling for the SDR stick
That is all up to date and another post should be on it's way sometime soon :)
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 20 July 2014
On doing a Google search for "PL259 plugs and Sugru" it turns out that there is no record of anyone doing this which means either one of two things, I am the first person in the world to watertight the cable entry of a PL259 plug with Sugru or others have before me and not really made it public
The RG58 I used is reasonably good quality, it has good braid coverage and a good dielectric, I just now need to measure from the choke to the point in which I will be cutting off the braid, I then need to measure from that point to what will be the top of the antenna (so 8.5ft and another 9ft respectively as per 26CTX104's YouTube video, the 9ft top section allows for some tuning down, folded over and not cut as the VSWR may vary from location to location)
So I look forward to getting the next bit done, then perhaps this antenna will be up and I'll be on air soon :)
73 de 26CT730
So I thought to myself "what do I already have that I could use?" after carefully measuring the diameter of various round objects (cocoa tin, golden syrup tin, fizzy drink bottle, cider bottle and empty marshmallow fluff tub) I then remembered that I still had the two pieces of tube I used for the choke on the ill-fated inverted-V dipole I was intending to use in the loft but for many reasons didn't, I measured this, bingo, 4" diamater, a quarter of an inch shy of 26CTX104's findings but should be fine if the turns are the same (around about 5, I've seen 5 turns on 4" former reported to work fine).
So, I intend to begin today by running out a short length of the coax I have, which is 100m of RG58 which I bought partly to do this, today, winding the choke, fitting a PL259 on the other end, sealing the plug up with some Sugru where the coax leaves it to stop water ingress (I have heatshrink but of the wrong diameter for the PL259), it will take around 24 hours for the Sugru to fully cure and I don't know if any operators have used it on their PL259s, perhaps this is a first, but perhaps not.
So, I'll let you know how I get on, also just need a fibreglass pole and some means to fasten the antenna to it, and I should be on the air very soon.
73 de 26CT730
Friday, 18 July 2014
The reason I think back to this particular rig is because it, like my President Grant 2, is a Uniden product, and since getting the Grant 2 I've been thinking about picking up an Audioline 341 for nostalgic reasons, might check out local car boot sales and see if there are any of these rigs about, I know there's a few on eBay now and again, of course I'm not going to buy one immediately after purchase of the Grant 2, though I have a Uniden wired mic spare from my TTI TCB-550 because I don't use that rig, I'm not totally sure it would work with the Audioline 341, it might, it might not, so I may be better making sure it comes with a mic and power lead.
So perhaps sometime in the future my Moonraker FA5000, my TTI TCB-550, my Midland Alan 78 Plus Multi B, my Intek H-520, my Midland Alan 42 Multi and, of course, my President Grant 2, will be joined by an Audioline 341, it may be a 27/81 rig but it was the first rig I used, albeit very briefly after the owner decided to mess with it without knowing what he was doing, if I get a working one you may hear me on the UK40 with it, though of course I'll be testing it into a dummy load and looking at it's emissions on my RTL-SDR.
73 de 26CT730
Thursday, 17 July 2014
It took a little longer to get uploaded to YouTube than I thought, it's not meant to be a serious review as the radio has been out for a while now and it has been reviewed by others, this video is mainly my views on it out of the box.
Another video will be done when I get the radio on air
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
Monday, 14 July 2014
Firstly, it is bigger than I initially thought it was, probably car stereo sized if anything, secondly it has a solid feel, like it's been well put together, which I would expect from a Uniden product (the Grant 2 is made by Uniden for President, some have said it looks a lot like a Uniden Bearcat rig from the US, however it appears the Uniden Bearcat rigs are made in China, the Grant 2 is made in Vietnam).
I received the radio in EU mode so I had to set it up to UK mode, in order to do this you have to turn off the radio, press "F", turn on the radio, and select the UK ("U" on the display), press "F" to save it, turn off, and back on, now if you press "AM/FM/USB/LSB" you get the UK40 along with the new modes on midband, on existing equipment if you want AM you have to set the rig to think it's in Spain, I did this with my Midland 42 over the weekend.
The power lead had, as predicted, bare wires on both leads so I plan to rectify that soon, the rig puts out the expected power on all modes, I tested this with my combo SWR and power meter, I also examined the audio quality of the radio's transmissions on my RTL-SDR while it was on the dummy load, AM and SSB sounded pretty good, though bear in mind that I have never had an SSB rig before, FM was a little quiet but that's ok
Now to test receive, get an antenna on it soon and I'll let you know.
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 13 July 2014
With the imminent arrival of the President Grant 2 (this will be tomorrow all being well) the shack desk was in need of a little bit of a clear up, it wasn’t bad but there were things on there that really weren’t needed to be there as I was not using them such as tubes of solder, knife, veroboard track cutting tool, some screws, a hopeless coax stripper (I need a new one) and a roll of electrical tape, as well as my second of my two portable power leads, I decided to leave my Midland Alan 78 Plus Multi B on the desk just in case I may need it on for whatever reason.
I will be recording a “first look” video of the President Grant 2, like I mentioned in previous posts (though I didn’t mention this on the Tan Hill video, but it’s good my YouTube account is getting some use again), on-air tests will come later when I build a T2LT or get a car, whichever comes first(I of course I still cannot install my Sirio GPE 27 5/8 wave as I live in a rented flat and it isn’t a very portable antenna)
So hopefully about 7pm-ish tomorrow my President Grant 2 will be here, a review video should be on here and YouTube by about 9pm at the very latest.
73 de 26CT730
Saturday, 12 July 2014
I took a ride up to Tan Hill today to evaluate how good a DX spot it really is, for PMR446 use I’d still advise on an external antenna mounted as high as possible, for CB a proper antenna would be beneficial, though I had stations incoming on a handheld, in this case the Midland Alan 42 Multi, notably some foreign stations on channel 8 midblock using AM. I did have a brief flick around on FM and also on 27/81 but AM appears to show more promise, SSB may also be very promising when I can finally give it a go, which may well be at Tan Hill.
I took some video footage on my phone and while I type this I am awaiting it to process before I upload it to YouTube, a later post will be that very video, which includes my very first call on AM, although because I was using a handheld I doubt anyone was able to hear me but with radio you just never know.
All I am left to do is sort out a shelter, build a T2LT and some suitable battery packs, acquire a pole to mount my antenna to, and hopefully I can get back to Tan Hill and keep DXing, I’d like to be up there in August on a Sunday.
So, a video is to come later one when it is finally uploaded to YouTube, and on Monday the President Grant 2 should be here on my desk.
73 de 26CT730
Friday, 11 July 2014
My new President Grant 2 is due to arrive on Monday, as I’ll be out most of that day I have made alternative arrangements for it’s delivery, it will be arriving with a couple of PL259 plugs and 100 meters of RG-58 coax, a lot of this will be used for the construction of a T2LT antenna.
As luck will have it, the courier company responsible for delivering the shack computer’s new motherboard, CPU and RAM will also be delivering the Grant 2, so they should not struggle to find my address.
The first thing I will be doing when I get the package is bringing the radio, in it’s box, into the shack, I will have to clear a few things off the desk first but that is no hard feat.
Now I have a whole weekend of something to look forward to :)
73 de 26CT730
In just a few days time the President Grant 2 will be the latest radio in my shack. The Grant 2 seems to be the most popular radio for the new legal modes, though in export it can only do frequencies ending 0 or 5.
So, watch this space, my own first look at what is my very first President radio, though not my first Uniden as that was an old Audioline 341 that I borrowed in the early 2000s (who's owner messed with all the adjustments inside in front of me, that same indvidual probably thinks SSB is still illegal), will be on here soon
73 de 26CT730
Wednesday, 9 July 2014
I have taken the time to install Windows Live Writer on the shack computer now it is running fine, this will allow me to post to the blog without having to actually log in to Blogger, however I may still do that when I am not at this computer, for example I am at my laptop.
All appears to be working well, as noted in my earlier post. the ShackCam is also under test again to ensure that it works fine with this computer so it will be running overnight for a little while, so you may see the shack but not me in it, though I am at time of posting given the title of this post
So, perhaps now I will be in the shack a bit more, I left the Internet chat rooms that were causing me some serious issues with my health, the time may as well be put to better use.
73 de 26CT730
Firstly the boot loader on the hard disk failed to work as it should have, rendering it useless, so I reinstalled Windows 7, however once I had Windows 7 and the network card drivers installed I went to open Internet Explorer to download Google Chrome, which is perfectly normal, however something went wrong and the system ended up infected with what appeared to be ransomware (along the lines of your system is locked until you pay a £100 fine for looking at things you should not be), it was easily determined that it was ransomware by virtue of atrocious grammar used in the "warning", and incorrect naming of certain organisations, as well as the fact that my other windows systems were not suffering the same issue.
Solution, reformat the hard drive and let the swines that caused the infection just be £100 out of pocket, however this time I decided to err on the side of caution and not open Internet Explorer, and won't be doing so ever again on any system that has been freshly installed, I also have since disabled Internet Explorer.
After that, I installed the FRN client, some logging software, and all that is needed for the RTL-SDR to function as it should, I have yet to install the programming software for my Wouxun KG-UVD1P but will be doing this after dinner.
The old motherboard may be donated to my work as I no longer have a use for it, and it will just be taking up space otherwise, the new board is in fact smaller than the old one surprisingly, I also got a sticker with the CPU which I attached to the front of the case
All in all a hectic few hours to get the system operational but I got there in the end, perhaps next will be the President Grant 2
73 de 26CT730
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Sadly however the conversion board for the hard disk has not surfaced, in fact it has not been marked as dispatched, so what I will have to end up doing is using a spare drive I have lying around that is unreliable until the part I need arrives, it does have a suitable version of Windows 7 on it but as the drive is starting to fail (though it does appear to boot) I have little faith in it working properly, it will be fine a stop-gap until the adaptor for the more reliable drive already in the system arrives
Edit: 9:20pm: Maplin have just marked the adaptor to convert the existing Western Digital WD800BB hard disk to work with the SATA ports on the new motherboard as despatched, it will be arriving via normal post and should be small enough to fit through my letterbox so I do not need to be home, if it arrives tomorrow (unlikely but it is possible they sent it but did not mark it as despatched until later) then I will be good, however I suspect it will not arrive here until Thursday or Friday, the computer rebuild will continue as planned regardless of the arrival of the part, the other hard drive being used as a stop-gap.
Judging by the state of my health, I may not be making it out tomorrow either unless I absolutely have to, but with the parts arriving then I won't go mad and will have a better computer in the shack and be able to spend my time there, though I may be fit to leave the house, I also hope that I am not waiting around for the delivery because that is something I seriously dislike.
What will happen is something like as follows
- Prior to the parts arriving the PMR446 gateway will be shut down and removed, it is on top of the shack computer and it's previous case, the radio will remain in situ, the empty case will also be removed and the shack computer will be unplugged and disassembled.
- The entire existing innards of the shack computer except the power supply, DVD drive, and hard drive will be removed from the computer and an assessment of the inside of the case made, original RAM from the shack computer will be removed from the original motherboard and set aside for the PMR446 gateway computer as it would act as a suitable replacement, the CMI8738 sound card from the shack computer will be retained
- The shack computer will then be rebuilt, put into place before the other systems, and configured headless, due to a lack of optical drive (it's incompatible with the new board without the same £12 adaptor the hard drive is due) the drivers will be moved to a flash drive and installed from it.
- Once configured the empty case will be placed on top of it, following this the RAM from the old board will be installed in the PMR446 gateway computer, hopefully improving performance.
Next to come will be the President Grant 2 all being well (as well as all the things I need for my DXpedition to Tan Hill).
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 6 July 2014
DXpedition preparations, parts list and rough measurements for T2LT antenna, and a possible cheap and light power supply
Another thing I found while watching UKCBTV's videos was his excellent idea of a portable power supply, which uses 10 1.2v rechargeable batteries, which range in capacities up to 2500mAh, that would be roughly 25Ah at 12v DC, so something I may cobble together, as well as get hold of a decent battery charger plus some new batteries, he also fitted a volt meter, a good idea to ensure voltage is stable and a cigarette lighter line socket, the battery box and cigarette lighter line socket can be sourced from Maplin Electronics, the voltmeter appears to be an eBay purchase. This idea was compared to the Midland 77-805 Portapak CB radio, which had a battery box with it, handhelds are another option but the battery life in most is usually pretty dire and the rubber duck antenna is usually hopeless.
The current draw for my Midland Alan 78+ Multi B is around 1.1A on TX, presumably at full modulation, the 42 handheld (which includes a car adaptor) is slightly shy of 1A on TX, the President Grant 2 is 3A on TX with modulation. my Moonraker FA5000, which I now hardly use, I do not know the current draw for as I've lost the manual.
So if I can get the T2LT antenna built and tested in the next couple of weeks, I can focus on a suitable power supply, the battery pack idea above from UKCBTV sounds ideal and is cheaper and lighter than the car jump starter I was originally going to use and will get me started, a telescopic fibreglass mast, and, importantly, a shelter, a collapsible tent may suffice, and a means to carry it all on my back while riding my scooter (I don't have a car yet) then I'm all good to go, and can get on the air portable at Tan Hill hopefully come August time, if you're on air the day I am up there then we may hear each other on air that day, I'll be using the usual callsign
So, progress in the right direction, power lead, a possible electrical supply, and the measurements for the T2LT written down.
73 de 26CT730
Saturday, 5 July 2014
The reason I chose the President Grant 2 is several reasons, it is the first legal rig that allows you to switch between the new modes in the UK band (this is a recent update to the firmware in the radio), the radio is fitted with a power socket on the rear that the power lead plugs in to, this is similar to my Moonraker FA5000, a rig I hardly use now.
The President Grant 2 is easy to open up to export mode, inside there's a white wire and a jumper block, simply snip the wire and move the jumper, at the loss of your warranty and and your own risk, you also would lose the UK setting but you can get this back by moving the jumper back to it's original position.
It support's President's Liberty wireless microphone, a great idea that no one really thought of in the past, means you are not tied to sitting in the shack or your /p station, you can take a wander if you like, up to 100 meters I think it is, much like a DECT phone or a bluetooth headset.
Another nice feature of the rig is a choice of two backlight colours, orange and green, which also includes a dimmer so you're not blinding youself with a bright backlight at night.
There are other features as well on the rig but I'll do a full write up when I actually get hold of one, hopefully in a couple of weeks all being well
My shack computer has had a new motherboard, RAM, and CPU ordered for it, this would help with performance with regards to SDR use, there are incompatibility issues with the hard disk, optical drive, and existing graphics card, the hard drive has had an adaptor ordered for it to allow it to continue to work, the optical drive will be rectified later as it's not important at this time, the power supply should be sufficient for the new board, the only card that will be fitted is to be the CMI8738 sound card that the machine already has and that is compatible with the board.
Performance with SDR# has been dire with the RTL-SDR operating, the FRN client does work... just, the shackcam feed isn't really reliable on the machine (it's controlled by it both hardware and software, though I intend to replace this with a network camera,, which will make it software and link), and with plans to do the Amateur radio foundation exam as well I want the machine to reliably handle the Echolink software. Another radio software installed on the machine is Zello, this runs reasonably OK but I tend not to use it as I use it on my phone more than I do on the computer.
Programming my Wouxun KG-UVD1P has proven unreliable with this machine, upgrading the internal hardware may be sufficient to remedy this (the official software, that is practically incomprehensible, works fine, the easier KG-UV commander doesn't read the radio properly, though it could be a bug with the software rather than the computer).
I should be taking delivery of the motherboard and it's ancillaries by Wednesday at the latest, for fitting that evening, which will take out the 446 gateway for a couple of hours but this is no real issue, the RAM on the existing board, if compatible, will be used in the 446 gateway computer to hopefully try and improve things, the GPU in that machine will also be swapped out with the one in the shack computer as I feel the one currently fitted to it is wasted in it and would be useful in another installation.
So, a better shack computer and maybe, just maybe, a President Grant 2 will be sitting on my shack desk soon, but we will see :)
73 de 26CT730
Thursday, 3 July 2014
The next job I have to do is drill two holes in the lid, one to accommodate the USB connector (which turned out to be a little smaller than I initially thought) and the BNC connector, these will be sealed up with silicone sealant to stop oil escaping through the connectors, the RTL-SDR stick will then be placed inside the can, connected to USB and antenna first, then the can will be filled with oil as far as possible, the lid fitted, and the edges sealed up to prevent leaks.
As I plan to upgrade the motherboard in the machine to a more recent model the shack computer will be used, the board swap will mean a port change and reinstallation the drivers for the stick, this is not a problem for me, I have at least 3 compatible antennas for this new setup, or 4 depending on how you look at it, these are my Nagoya NA-771 2/70 antenna, 2 Intek KA-520 antennas (one is a bit bent but I think it works), and the stock antenna of the Midland 42 (I do not know the manufacturer's designation for it).
The RTL-SDR should run cooler after this and should not drift or require the offset to be changed, also reception without an antenna should be either heavily reduced or eliminated.
so, I can start to get this thing built and will try and order the parts to upgrade the shack computer this weekend, which I have already chosen.
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 29 June 2014
Update: Listening to GB3IR, the 2m repeater in Richmond, this evening (I obviously cannot transmit as I don't hold an Amateur license yet) the Amateurs that were on air have mentioned Tan Hill so they actually have used it themselves for HF work, so I am not the first nor am I the last.
The pub itself stands at 1732ft ASL, so the location is pretty much perfect for radio, especially DXing on both 27MHz and 446MHz (I may give the latter a go as well depending on how much charge is in my radios, though I can charge them up prior to the event and take spare batteries, but my aim is to try on 27MHz, as it is sat around spare and it the better of the three mobile rigs I own I will use the Midland 78+ Multi B (the TTI TCB550 is on gateway duties so won't be removed and the Moonraker FA5000 has an awful s-meter and cannot do AM, as AM is now legal and my Midland 78 Plus is type approved for use in the EU as far as I can tell it is legal to use on AM here, for the full 4-watt output on AM, it is required to put the radio into the setting for Spanish channels as these use 26.965-27.405 AM and FM at 4 watts.
My new Sony headphones and my converter will also be going with me, just for those stations I may not hear easily, laptop, maybe, though a notepad would allow me to write down callsigns, I simply need to pick up a portable power supply (a battery and volt meter may be sufficient as a temporary measure until I can get something better), a telescopic or collapsible pole, and an antenna, preferably of the T2LT type.
I may also look into picking up a President Grant II CB radio, as I hear these are very good indeed, and I've wanted a President CB radio for a while now, but until then I will just use my Midland 78+ Multi B.
One thing that I intend to do is take an SWR meter, my good quality Zetagi combo SWR and power meter will be ideal for this role, my cheaper two aren't brilliant, one has a needle that is not as precise as it should be and the other sometimes likes to stick, one of these is connected to my home antenna system for the CB gateway as the radio is also connected to it and I need to monitor if the tuner is working as it should be on occasions.
on PMR446 the antenna will be screwed into the radio, so no meters, coax, or anything else.
If I take the computer I may take the RTL-SDR and use it with another antenna, provided I don't overload it with my own transmissions.
So, I'll post an update as and when this DXpedition takes place, Tan Hill is there, I might as well use it for radio.
73 de 26CT730
Saturday, 28 June 2014
So, the next option is to replace the motherboard with a new one, not what I wanted to do but I appear to have little choice in the matter, lets hope the old motherboard actually comes out, if not I have another case I can use, if it works as it should I should have a better shack computer sometime soon.
73 de 26CT730
Overclocking is a process to make a chip, in this case a computer's CPU, run at a higher speed than it should, the idea is to get more performance out of a chip, sadly though this causes a heat increase and can risk damage to the component, and manufacturers never accept warranty claims through damage caused by overclocking.
I hope I can get the CPU to run at a stable speed and the machine performs better, I'll let you know
73 de 26CT730
Friday, 27 June 2014
I have been reading on the varied success and lack of it by various people on some radio forums I frequent now it is legal day, and I am somewhat pleased with the turnout however sadly I could not join them due to lack of an external antenna (my loft antenna only can do a couple of miles and AM would probably have broken through on neighbour's equipment in such close proximity).
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
This cooling method hast two plus-points
- The liquid is not conductive and no damage to the stick should occur
- The can will act as a faraday cage, the SDR alone contains no metal screen and picks up everything in it's surrounding environment easily without an antenna (I tried this with a CB radio connected to a home brew dummy load in close proximity with the gain at 0, it picked it up with little problem), in a metal enclosure it should not pick up anything
Thursday, 19 June 2014
Those that have viewed the ShackCam won't have seen much of me in there as I've been finalising other things in my new better life after the unpleasantness at the hands of Internet psychopaths who have thankfully left me alone for two weeks now, but I will be on air more often very soon, and of course in the shack, and now the nicer weather has come around I might take to the hill and make the trip up to Bishop Auckland to do my Amateur radio exam in the next few weeks.
Don't worry, I don't just simply put the camera on without being in there, I will be in there.
73 de 26CT730
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
The regulations have specified 4 watts on both AM and FM, current multi-standard sets have both AM and FM modes of operation, the President Grant II is the ONLY current mobile radio on the market that meets the legal standard for SSB operation on the CEPT (midband) frequencies, pre-legalisation sets will still remain illegal, as will "export" radios, for use on these bands.
The UK only band with it's horrific offset will remain in use and FM only for the foreseeable future.
SSB operation is set at 12 Watts PEP
This is 30+ years in the making, with me not having a proper CB station as yet (my antenna is in the loft) using AM and SSB may cause massive problems to both me and my neighbours, using FM is fine, I also tend to use the antenna for the gateway, though I have transmitted by plugging the supplied mic into the gateway radio, though this has normally been for SWR adjustments so they don't really count, so my first legal AM and SSB call may not be for a while just yet.
The scooter CB project is taking shape, yesterday was it's first outing and run as a CB radio, the main problem I identified was QRM from the engine, possibly the ignition coil or sparkplug given the sound of the interference, the only other issue was difficulty pulling in the gateway from a distance but that could be down to the gateway itself, it could also be down to the testing on the radio's rubber-duck antenna, a full mobile antenna will be fitted in due course, I couldn't do a proper inaugural mobile call to the CB gateway, as by the time I was in range to actually here it others on the FRN came over but it was nice to hear the "k" and the morse code idents.
So, I'll be on air mobile soon, and CB radio operators all over the country (the serious ones at least) will be celebrating the introduction of AM and SSB CB radio on the 27th June, and with the band opening some I can imagine contacts to the US will be possible, we can legally talk to them but they may not legally be able to talk to us because of some rule the FCC impose, I for one look forward to it
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 15 June 2014
- The cable between the PTT button and the radio was cut before a join in the cable that has 4 cables coming out of it, the PTT wires were then closed and taped over,
- The cut section was then prepared to go into a new section between the mic jack of the radio and the mic plug on the headset
- A new connection was made, this was built using some spare wire I had lying about, two new 2.5mm connections, one plug, one socket, the PTT switch disconnecting the tip of the 2.5mm socket when not pressed, and reconnecting it when the button is pressed
Thursday, 12 June 2014
Firstly would be to place a loopback plug into the PTT button connector on the wiring for the helmet headset and waterproof this with Sugru.
Next, create a new adaptor using a 2.5mm plug for the radio and a 2.5mm socket for the existing plug on the headset connector cable, this adaptor would contain a new connection point for the handlebar PTT, all the wire joins will be sealed with heatshrink tubing to keep them as water tight as possible.
Once the above adaptor is made, test this with both the Midland and Intek to ensure compatibility, then further test to see if it can be left in situ for use with PMR446 radios, it should be the case that it can be, if not this modification is designed to be removed easily, as Sugru is simply silicone it should remove as easily as silicone sealant.
This will be done this coming weekend, in the mean time I will be testing the CB's audio quality using the earpieces, I can listen to the CB gateway for this.
more to come
73 de 26CT730
Wednesday, 11 June 2014
With the cable disconnected from the headset, the PTT functions normally, that is press to TX, release to RX, however, connect the headset to the radio, all is changed, the Midland 42 goes into TX with no power, and pressing the PTT applies the power, this does not occur on my Intek MT-5050, which is a PMR446 set, and running mic-only with the Midland 42 does not eliminate the issue.
The headset is getting a trial run today to see how it handles an actual trip on the road, I may connect the Midland 42, possibly speaker-only, and monitor traffic on the CB gateway channel.
I also intend to connect up the car adaptor temporarily in order to ascertain if the TX issue is eliminated with the earthing of the scooter, if so, then I won't need to modify the headset in any way, otherwise I'll need to modify it as such so that a second switch is needed in order to transmit.
I will report back later
73 de 26CT730
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
The headset came in two parts, the radio connection part with PTT switch, a Kenwood type also exists so I could simply replace this for the Kenwood type to use my Wouxun KG-UVD1P on the Amateur bands once licensed, and the headset itself which is two speakers and a microphone held in by velcro pads.
The connections are all quick to make and disconnect, the PTT uses a DC type connector to connect it to the headset, the headset itself connects using a mini-DIN connector (looks to be 6 pin), and at the radio end there are two plugs, 2.5mm mono for the microphone and 3.5mm stereo (though seemingly wired mono) for the speakers, these are not a combined plug however, they are separate plugs, but this does not cause any issues otherwise.
The earpieces will be fitted to my motorcycle helmet either this evening or later in the week, further progress will be made later on once I have ordered antenna parts and they have been delivered, but I can still do a test run with the headset inside my helmet and a radio with me, weather pending because radios don't like water very much and you know what the British weather is like
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 8 June 2014
Saturday, 7 June 2014
The first option is to use the Sirio GL27, this comes with a mirror bar mount and thus would mount onto the scooter's luggage rack, however this antenna is supplied with a cable that cannot be cut short thus making installation somewhat difficult without raising the antenna high up, not ideal as I cover my scooter every night and need an antenna that will fold out of the way.
Option number two is one of those electronic ground plane devices from 4x4cb.com, this is a plasic cylindrical device that an antenna with a 3/8 thread screws into the top of, and the coax cable screws into underneath, I can simply fit this inside the top box and the antenna screws into the mount on the outside of the top box with the cable exiting underneath.
After running the loading test the other week (and at the same time proving a man who likes to claim he knows everything about motorcycles and likes to call himself "Goliath" when that isn't even his real name as being completely and utterly wrong) I am free to move onto the commissioning of the scooter CB, it will be ideal as it means I'll be able to use the 27MHz Free Radio Network gateway in Richmond, and perhaps do proper range testing with it as I have not had that chance.
With a major cause of problems for me now out of the way my focus can return to radio and the like, I am currently monitoring my PMR446 gateway at the time of writing this, and feel quite relaxed compared to what I normally would, it even now means I have no contact with the above mentioned "Goliath" who claimed my scooter's alternator would struggle with the load of a CB radio.
So more airtime for me in the coming months, and maybe eventually in the next couple of years I can have a house with a garden big enough for my antennas, which I'd like.
73 de 26CT730
Thursday, 5 June 2014
Of course as I like to keep a copy should this become law I will need to take a printout of it.
So, we are almost there and we will have legally what the CB lobby in the late 70s and early 80s wanted, the American system or as close to it as possible, this is almost 33 years too late though, but at least someone somewhere decided that there was nothing wrong with AM and SSB.
73 de 26CT730
Monday, 26 May 2014
Today I purchased a pair of Sony MDR-V150 headphones, I have another pair of Sony headphones and have found them to work wonders, if you want good headphones, buy Sony headphones, of course plugging them into my radio resulted in there being one-side not working, not ideal if you want to use them with your radio, so here is what I did.
I used a piece of cable with a TS plug of the sort normally used to connect external speakers into rigs, the bare ends of the wire were soldered into a scrap of veroboard on which I fitted two resistors, originally at 10k Ohm but I reduced this to 1k Ohm as the 10k resistors made it such that I had to turn the volume on the rig and handhelds full up to hear anything when I tested it, I may use lower resistors but the 1k resistors are fine for the moment, the other side is a suitable socket for connecting any pair of headphones, even the earbud type, for this purpose it doesn't matter if the left and right are wired to either resistor the audio is mono from the rig and simply being split to both channels on the headphones, it's a fairly simple solution and cost me nothing as I had all the parts in stock already for at least one such adaptor, possibly two.
The scooter CB issue was approached today since the weather had dried up, QRM only appeared to be present when the starter motor was turning over, with the scooter's engine running QRM was not present, nor was it conducted through the cigarette lighter socket that I had fitted, and load on the scooter's generator was not an issue, even during transmit, this last issue was brought up with me some time ago when an idiot decided to tell me that I didn't know what I was doing and there was no way the generator would handle the load, as the Midland Alan 42 Multi is only a handheld it is designed to be quite energy efficient yet still work as well as a normal mobile rig, and the generator never once complained, even with the scooter's lights on, so an antenna and a motorcycle helmet headset are next on my list for that as of today.
So I am almost on air at home and mobile, and hopefully this week I can begin the journey to licensed amateur.
73 de 26CT730
Friday, 23 May 2014
The next day or two will be to get my shack in some kind of order so I can sit at the desk and use the radios in there, as well as reinstate the shack computer, this will be the computer currently in use for the CB gateway once a suitable USB to serial converter is sourced so I can use my damaged laptop for the CB gateway, I might be able to do this, as well as pick up a backpack suited to carrying my broken laptop, over this weekend, I may also pick up a ground-loop isolator for the PMR446 gateway as that has had ground loop issues for some time now and I've not found time to fix it.
Another objective to have by July is to pass my Amateur foundation exam, I will be sending an email to a local-ish amateur radio club that offers the training in the next week or two, I plan to fit this in on weekends.
I also will continue to investigate the possibility of CB radio on my scooter, I can order an antenna with artificial ground plane this weekend if funds are sufficient or alternatively just an EGP to screw in a normal antenna to, though I can still use PMR446 if CB is not an option.
The CB gateway has been put through a little bit of a test, as it's not been on air for some time, and it seems to still be transmitting and receiving within it's normal parameters, the only issue is my heating thermostat operating like a spark-gap therefore I cannot run the heating and the CB gateway at the same time, in the summer months it generally isn't an issue but in the winter months it may be, though the CB gateway is generally only on air when I am out.
And that is it really, just now leaves me to get on the air soon :)
73 de 26CT730
Sunday, 18 May 2014
I purchased a hudl this week, this is a £119 Android tablet sold exclusively by British supermarket chain Tesco, and is as near as makes no difference a stock device aside from a Tesco button on the bottom left of the screen.
The GRNClient app is not available in Google Play, you have to download the apk file, allow the device to install from unknown sources, and then you can install it.
Given that some of the example screens are in Italian on the website it comes from I'll post some English screen captures here from my Samsung Galaxy S4 as it is yet to have the GRN client installed at time of posting and this makes a perfect excuse to do so.
- Allow the phone or tablet to install from unknown sources, you do this by:
Ticking "Unknown sources"
and tapping "OK"
- Next you want to download the client, click here, the page will be in Italian so you can translate it if you wish, scroll to the bottom and you will find a QR code, if you have a barcode scanner on your device simply scan this, if not there are free barcode scanners on Google Play that you can use.
- Click the link the barcode scanner gives you, it will look like this, or you can simply press "open browser and it should download.
- The download will be in the notifications at the top of the device's screen, pull it down and tap the apk
And when it is done it will then give you the option to open the app like this
- With the app started you need to do some final things before it can work, you will be presented with this screen
If you tap "Settings", you will get something similar to the following
And that is it, now you can use your tablet or phone on the Free Radio Network like you would your shack computer, you may find that for best results you should plug in a headset.
Remember to test in the Test room first, use the messages option to send message to start the parrot if you need to.
73 de 26CT730