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Sunday 11 December 2016

Amateur satellite

After watching a segment of episode 12 of TX Factor about operating through satellites I thought I would give this a go myself as all I need to do this is a suitable dual-band HT, as all mine are Chinese one would think they wouldn't be suited, as they can do what the offerings from the big names can do then they are fine for the purpose.

The satellite I am interested in, and as noted on the TX Factor episode referred to above, is SO-50, as it has an FM transponder, with uplink on 2-metres and downlink on 70cm, as it would be massively impractical to use the -600kHz split on a satellite due to the size of the cavity filters used at 2-meter repeater sites that achieve this so the signal goes up on 2-metres and comes back down on 70cm, but it isn't that straightforward as the Doppler effect has to be compensated for, programming the HT with the frequencies for the satellite beforehand will save you trouble here, the frequencies for SO-50 and other Amateur satellites are available on the Internet.

Knowing when the satellite is to pass is another thing you need to know, I have already gone ahead and downloaded two pieces of software for this purpose, on my Android phone I have AmsatDroid Free, and for my laptop I have Orbitron, the latter software being mentioned in the same TX Factor episode noted above, and this runs fine on Windows 10, so now I know where SO-50 is at any given time the next bit requires I be able to transmit from my HT through the satellite and my HT's rubber duck antenna simply will not do, for this a Yagi is the best antenna to use, but it needs to be of a design that will work on both bands, the most popular antenna appears to be the "Arrow" antenna, the original of which is actually made from arrows for the antenna elements, and because we're doing cross-band operation we also need a diplexer (this is correct, it is not "duplexer"), which from what I can tell is simply two passband filters, one high-pass for 70cm and one low-pass for 2-metres.

The Arrow antennas are not cheap, so in the spirit of Amateur radio it makes perfect sense to build one using bits from the junk box, and from a DIY store (B & Q in my case as it is the closest one to the home QTH), and I like to build rather than buy antennas where I can to save money, and considering that one may simply use their arm to move the antenna with the satellite it needs to be lightweight, wood for the boom would work well here, but if you do use wood it should be varnished to protect it should you be out on that hilltop and the heavens open, waterproofing the coax connections is also advised.

Once you have all the information regarding your chosen satellite, an antenna, a programmed HT, go out and make some contacts, but be aware that satellite QSOs through SO-50 are similar to contesting, usually callsign, location (locator square) and signal reports as the satellite passes for a short duration and is often very busy, listening before keying up is well advised, as is the use of headphones so you can hear the satellite better, also run the radio with an open squelch.

As a foundation license holder I am restricted to 10 watts, as is anyone with a foundation licence, antenna gain may push your actual radiated power beyond this level so dropping the radio to a lower power setting may keep the foundation licencee within their power limits and still legally use the satellite, gain and other such factors are beyond the scope of this blog, and from what I understand SO-50 doesn't need more than 10 watts anyway into it and by the time the signal gets there it probably falls well below that.

Having a second person on hand to assist with the operation may also be a good thing, as they are not transmitting they do not need to be licensed, adding a second pair of headphones for the assistant to help with logging may be a good thing too, the assistant can also help position the antenna leaving you free to carry out the QSOs.

And finally, building the antenna simply requires a search on Google as there is a lot of information on the subject and many designs are available, and you could further this and build the diplexer as commercial ones are about £30+ depending on where you go, and you get the pleasure of building the entire thing yourself if you do, and save money.

I look forward to working some stations through a satellite very soon, just got to get the festive season out of the way first.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 27 November 2016

Channel 5's 'Nightmare Neighbour Next Door' programme, 27/10/16... follow up 2... bad news

The bad news is that Ofcom, despite receiving 52 complaints about the programme which I suspect now that all of them relate to the offending segment relating to an Amateur radio operator, have decided not to investigate as per information I gathered from broadcast bulletin #317.

Apparently this did not raise issues warranting investigation but yet it was assessed, if this is so then what are the people at Ofcom smoking? 52 complaints is going to set a lot of alarm bells ringing straight away.

This is a massive blow to Amateur radio and the content in the programme was terribly misleading, and as a result could mean that Amateur radio operators across the UK could now suffer simply by erecting an antenna, even with the right planning permission to do so.

Ofcom have a duty to ensure that misleading content is not broadcast by setting strict rules for broadcasters (which it has done) and if it is it is duty bound to investigate if sufficient complaints are received, 1 complaint would not warrant an investigation as one complaint could be someone being offended by something that clearly is not offensive to everyone else, but 52 complaints, that warrants investigation, and as Ofcom also issue Amateur radio licences then I would imagine that they would want to protect that side of things.

Why ignore 52 complaints, would it take twice as many complaints? 10 times as many? 100 times as many? 1000 times as many, or for every single Amateur radio licence holder to complain before Ofcom investigates? Seriously, this cannot be ignored, misrepresentation of the hobby is damaging to it, Amateur radio is often where radio innovations come from, destroy the hobby and any progress in radio communications can be kissed goodbye.

As I am proud to be an Amateur radio operator I am outraged that Ofcom have just sat back and done nothing, if it's all to do with political correctness, racism, sex and nudity and bad language before 9pm, or a broadcaster breaching the conditions of their license they are quick to act, but with this they have ignored it, it occurred on Channel 5 for goodness sake, which is part of their remit

I can safely say I am very angry about this.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 13 November 2016

Possible solution to my antenna problems

Now as you are most probably aware by now, operating from home is difficult for me because of the antenna arrangements, at the moment the 2-meter antenna for home is the old one from my car stuck on top of a biscuit tin (and it doesn't work brilliantly), for 70cm it's the same antenna but I rarely work 70cm and stand no chance with an indoor antenna anyway, and 11-meters (that's CB radio to the not-so technically minded) makes use of an Excalibur loft antenna into an ATU specifically for that band as otherwise I have SWR readings in excess of 10:1 but this could also be the dodgy PL259 on the other end of the coax feeding the antenna but time has not been on my side to get into the loft.

I have a CRT SS9900 as you know, which has seen nil use since removed from my old car last year, it has had it's 2 fuseholders reinstated and powers up fine from an ATX PSU (as I don't have any other PSU for it and the one powering my CB and 2-meter gear is rated at 7A whereas the current draw of the SS9900 is higher than that at full power, this radio is not connected to an antenna and for the sake of legality is in "HF mode" so I can use 10-meters if I choose.

An antenna to operate 10-meters is needed, a CB antenna could be used and cut down here as some of these are cheap, however as I plan to only operate 10-meters from home for the main a different approach is needed where I don't have to mess about in the loft as it's full of dust and nasty fibreglass insulation and put up and remove temporary antennas.

Enter the magnetic loop

The magnetic loop antenna is not obviously an antenna to the untrained eye, it has a smaller "Faraday loop" to couple it and a variable capacitor of sorts to tune it, usually a large one as when transmitting even at QRP the capacitor can and will exhibit high voltages, they are narrow banded and the rating of the tuning capacitor gives the range of what the loop should operate at, my interest is one that can potentially operate between 40-meters and 10-meters as I do plan to upgrade my shack for other HF bands as and when I can, probably with a second-hand HF rig with the power wound down to at most what I am able to use.

Commercially built magnetic loop antennas are very expensive to buy, about the cost of a radio in some cases, the vast majority of operators build these themselves at a fraction of the cost of a commercial one, usually sourcing materials to build the loop itself is generally easy as they can be made of copper tube (preferably painted to disguise it and protect it from copper thieves) which is available from either auto parts suppliers as brake lines or DIY stores as water pipes, refrigeration line would work too, though most suggest diameter of the tube is important, I won't go into this in depth as it's beyond the scope of this blog and there's plenty of information on the internet.

It is the capacitor to build one that is the difficulty to obtain, you could build this yourself or you could find the appropriate capacitor on the Internet, important is that it needs to handle very high voltages without flash over, as running at even a few watts creates very high voltages in the capacitor, also a remote tuning arrangement should be built here to tune the antenna to your operating frequency, again all this is outside the scope of this blog and Google can be helpful here.

One of the pros of these antennas is the amount of interference received on the bands is very very low if not nil, quite useful in the modern age as modern electronic devices generate more and more interference which blights the Amateur HF operator to no end, the other pro is that it is a small antenna compared to other HF antennas which normally result in complaints by people who have no understanding of the hobby.

I plan to put one of these antennas together and put it outside in a very discreet manner, to get it connected I require a jumper through the window, Comet Antennas make these and they are sold by Nevada Radio for a reasonable price, and I have plenty of self-amalgamating tape left, I'm still on the first roll, so waterproofing the plugs is not a problem.

Another reason I want to go onto HF is to operate CW, as I am planning on learning morse code again when I have time to sit and do it, for me to do it on 10-meters I'd need an Anytone AT-5555 or one of it's many variants as the CRT-SS9900 (Anytone AT-6666) does not have CW on it, but that's something for another day

I'll update this in due course.

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 5 November 2016

radio mic to computer... follow up 4

So I finally completed the radio mic to computer adaptor today, I have filled the computer side hole with Sugru, fixed the Teensy board inside also using the Sugru and filled a small hole next to the mic socket, popped the lid on, plugged in the TTI CB mic and it worked a treat.

So, my desk mic then had a 4 pin plug fitted to the Uniden CB wiring standard and was plugged in, audio was good, though using this mic overdriven the pre-amp so it needs to remain bypassed unless a different mic is connected, I had to adjust the volume of the pre-amp on the desk mic as well as the tone, this is now done but may need adjusting again later, as it is Uniden wired it will also work with a CB radio to this standard, my TTI TCB-550 would work wonders for this.

I got a reply from another station when I did the test on GB3IR to see what the audio was like to another person, it was reported to be fine, all that remains is to get this thing aired on Echolink and see what it is like.

So a big thanks go out to KK4JDO for such a wonderful idea and I hope to work him on Echolink with it.

73 de M6RSQ

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Channel 5's 'Nightmare Neighbour Next Door' programme, 27/10/16... follow up

I have had a quick look on Ofcom's website to find out how many complaints "Nightmare Neighbour" received, as of today the programme received 39 complaints to Ofcom, however as the programme featured other segments alongside that featuring M0PAM those could have easily attracted complaints, however I have a gut feeling that the majority of those complaints were relating to the part about M0PAM and his battles with his awful neighbours regarding a harmless HF beam antenna.

As Ofcom have to assess all 39 complaints against the broadcasting code it may come to nought, also 39 complaints is a bit worrying, I was expecting a higher count as I know many many Amateur operators are outraged, and the RSGB at time of writing still have not heard from Channel 5.

I'll keep you posted on this as events unfold.

73 de M6RSQ

EDIT: I have subsequently discovered a further 12 complaints were received about the programme, this warrants Ofcom to investigate, alarm bells should ring here.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

radio mic to computer... follow up 3

So the Teensy board arrived today, to begin with it was connected to my laptop, checked to ensure it was the real deal as the eBay listing claimed, it was, the loader programme detected it fine when the button was pressed, the Arduino code was copied from the source, put into the Arduino IDE, compiled, and transferred to the Teensy board. which then changed to be detected as a keyboard, plugging it into the shack computer after wiring the mic TX line to the board showed the Teensy as sending the plus character, fine as Echolink accepts that as a PTT option.

This means the microphone now functions near identical to that it would if plugged into a real radio, push the PTT, the TX goes high, the mic connects to the audio and the transmitter activates, or in this case Echolink, releasing the PTT will send another plus character and put Echolink into receive mode.

This now means that instead of pressing the spacebar which is awkward at best Echolink will work simply by me doing what I would do with a radio, picking up the mic and pressing PTT, audio is good, except with the preamp inline using the TTI mic, not sure about other mics as I don't have any that will fit to test and my desk mic has a 6-pin plug on it and as I have failed to find the plug I need then I may have to go to Maplin and buy a replacement, which I could of done when I bought the parts for my groundplane antenna for 2-metres and various other projects (one of which being the plug for the Realistic scanner, the fuses for it and another SO239 for use as the connector when I build a magnetic loop, and some snips that I forgot last time,

I hope to get on Echolink a little more often with this microphone but would like an audio report from a local station first hence why I am connecting via GB3IR first.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 30 October 2016

Channel 5's 'Nightmare Neighbour Next Door' programme, 27/10/16

The programme broadcast on Channel 5 noted above I decided to watch as it featured an Amateur radio operator who has been in the hobby for 60 years, currently holding a full licence with the callsign M0PAM, the programme depicted his struggles with his neighbours after erecting an antenna.

The programme highlighted more negativity, particularly towards the Amateur radio operator from 2 particular neighbours, one immediately next door and one who was "the voice of the residents" but in my view was a stuck up pompous old woman with nothing better to do than make an innocent person's life a living hell (if she reads this she can whinge all she wants, I am on the side of the Amateur radio operator and feel that an injustice was done).

So, the usual claim of TVI was cited and the programme said Ofcom were called, the Amateur operator said Ofcom engineers did tests and found nothing to cause interference to television was being produced by the equipment, of course Amateur operators will do their best to keep interference down to a minimum, that's why filters are fitted if they need to be, a second claim was cases of cancer as a result of the antenna in use, I feel and believe that the chances of getting cancer from that antenna are nil, compared to that of holding a mobile phone to your head.

The programme ended with M0PAM being forced to remove his antenna after the council planning department refused permission, those who had made his life terrible for years had won by default, all this from a lack of understanding of a very enjoyable hobby, and something this particular operator had invested in heavily, his shack has more expensive gear than mine, he was shown afterwards screwing a mobile antenna into a mount on the rear of his car, and afterwards shown operating again in his shack, possibly he had run a coax to his car, best part was is that it showed he was not going to give up his hobby because of obnoxious neighbours who don't understand the hobby and had no willingness to learn about the positives.

I do not like to see fellow amateur operators be treated badly, unfortunately it is thanks to Channel 5 where I am now fearful for people questioning what is outside my flat as I intend to start operating HF (at least 10 metres to begin with as I have no other HF gear)  with the construction of a magnetic loop, and I cannot say it is for Amateur radio, and get a better antenna for 2-meters in the form of a groundplane antenna which I have built today which again I cannot say is for Amateur radio, thank you very much Channel 5, you've made the lives of hundreds of Amateur radio operators more difficult, expect the wrath of Ofcom yourselves, many Amateur operators will be complaining to them.

Needless to say the RSGB were NOT invited to collaborate with Channel 5 on production of this programme and have been in contact with Channel 5 and at time of writing are awaiting a response, the full information on the RSGB statement is available here.

Having seen the plight of M0PAM, how many more operators are suffering at the hands of their neighbours? It is very very worrying, what I have always emphasised is that Amateur radio can be relied on when everything else stops working in times of disaster or other national emergencies.

If you are looking to get into the hobby and have watched this programme, please do not fear, it is a wonderful hobby, get yourself down to your local club, you'll find Amateur radio operators to be a friendly bunch and a lot will have had some kind of a dispute with the neighbours at some point in time.

As for Channel 5 and the two women featured in the programme doing all they could to get M0PAM off the air, you all should be ashamed of yourselves, let him enjoy his hobby in peace.

73 de M6RSQ
(proud to be an Amateur radio operator since March 2015)

radio mic to computer... follow up 2

Again I come back to the radio mic to PC project, after much Google searching I could not find any other way to get the PTT to key Echolink so instead opted to use a Teensy 2.0 like the American station that did this and use his idea, which may be minus the red LED for now as I've not got one spare that might be usuable.

I was hoping to test the microphone as it is on air last night on GB3IR but no one returned, as the audio coming back from Echolink seems to be relatively fine as long as the mic isn't too close, I may also modify the desk mic as well, though I simply need to put a 4-pin plug on that.

I have ordered the Teensy 2.0, and the American station KK4JDO posted the code he used onto his own blog so I can pick it up from there, it just leaves me to run one wire from the "TX" pin to the Teensy board as well as a ground wire, and set the board to run as keyboard, this should then key Echolink when I press the PTT button, the Teensy 2.0 runs from the USB so I don't need to run out any more power wires.

Once that's all done and tested all it leaves is to fill the computer side hole with black Sugru as I made the hole bigger than what I wanted (oops).

More to come

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 29 October 2016

Realistic PRO-53 Patrolman scanning receiver

I came into possession of a Realistic PRO-53 scanning receiver on Thursday evening, looks in reasonably good condition and works fine, it is a bit old mind and it needs crystals to set what it can pick up, inside there are 8 sockets (on this they are all occupied), and 8 matching switches to switch between VHF Low, VHF High and UHF.

This example covers from 68-88MHz, 144-174MHz, and 430-490MHz, it could be made to pick up PMR446 as a modern example (which did not exist in the 1980s when this thing was made), but possibly not on frequency, 2-metres and the VHF marine band are other options as well as 4 metres, this all depends on what crystals are plugged into it, looking at a manual for the American market version the IF is 10.7MHz and the crystals resonate on the 3rd overtone to get the frequency you want, the ones fitted currently are marked with the 3rd overtone frequency, the crystals are HC25/U.

I did a short range test with my Pofung GT-5 on low power on 145.400 and it seems to receive fine at such a short range, as it's highly unlikely I'll find a crystal with the correct 3rd overtone for GB3IR's output, I may not be able to use it to monitor the repeater, it appears to have 145.600 as a frequency which I believe is RV48 repeater output, it has the input for RV48 as well, neither of which are of use in this area as no repeater nearby operates on RV48.

This one has some simplex channels in it and some VHF marine channels as well, though all it takes is a crystal swap to change these, though actually finding crystals for it is proving a little tricky with it being an old unit.

When I came into possession of this radio the mains plug was to an older pre-1984 version of BS1363 and was improperly fused, I went to Maplin to get a new plug and fuse yesterday, I was also about looking to bring the antenna connector to a modern standard but was not sure of the impedance of the unit, so scrapped the idea for the time being, the socket is the same as some pre-Fakra car radio antennas, and I was hoping to swap it for a BNC instead as that should fit with no modification, though it has an internal antenna that works just as well.

As a tinkerer and a huge fan of older technology I think this makes the perfect addition to my shack, and is also the oldest piece of radio gear I own, and I hope to have fun seeing what I can make the radio do, the only downside is that it is an FM receiver rather than multimode receive, but that's OK.

I'll keep you posted on this

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Thursday 27 October 2016

Another Baofeng DMR?

With the DM-5R now being confirmed as a real radio and examples of it out there in the wild and a US$10 upgrade to make it work with Tier 2, it seems Baofeng may be releasing another DMR that will work with Tier 2 out of the box, the DMR-82UV, again dual-band, based on a UV-82, which in turn forms the basis of the GT-5.

Again this information was found on Delboy's radio blog and he had found it in turn on an external site that he had to translate from Google, the site showed a picture of a pair of these HTs, showing a vastly different display to the rest of the Baofeng range, though to me it looks much the same as a stock UV-82, though a stock UV-82 has the UV-5R display in it.

Price? Well early reports suggest less than €100, this is from Delboy's source, this one seems like a more viable alternative than the DM-5R but I would consider buying both to see how they fair, all Baofeng HTs are generally cheap, and both these are likely to get you onto DMR for sub-£100, however I still maintain the best one to go for is the well established TYT MD-380 (or the newer MD-390), though it is 70cm only whereas the Baofeng HTs are dual-band though I do not know if any DMR activity takes place on 2-metres here in the UK, though these HTs can do FM as well so all is not lost.

I suspect that as time progresses with Baofeng DMRs is that they will become popular with those wanting to use DMR and cheaply, I maintain my position as being more of a fan of System Fusion as it sounds better, is less of a hassle to set up for both repeater and station side, and it coexists with FM much better due to the AMS on the current available radios for it (all Yaesu of course but maybe one day a radio will come along by someone else that works with it), though I do want to play a little with DMR to see what's what with it, I still maintain an aversion to D-STAR to keep out of the way of Chance Callahan KD0MXN until the FCC do something about his many breaches of Part 97 of which they are aware of.

Well on this latest development from Baofeng I will let it play much like I let the DM-5R saga run it's course and I will post any notable updates

73 de M6RSQ

Tuesday 25 October 2016

radio mic to computer... follow up 1

So yesterday I wrote about interfacing a radio mic, specifically the microphone supplied with the TTI TCB-550 (Model number AMC-5011), as I'd wired the inteface with Uniden wiring the mic remained unmodified and would work as normal with a CB radio.

I removed the grey cables used for the test set, and built the unit into the box, the mic in at one end (any Uniden wired mic will plug in here, Cybernet wired ones won't, the connector is identical, just the pins used differ), inside the ground connects to the pre-amplifier board, the audio connects to two points, the pre-amp or a switch to bypass it, the TTI mic sounds better with the pre-amp bypassed as it turns out but it is there should other impedance mics need it, the TTI AMC-5011 is 1kΩ)

Output to the computer is renewed, in the shape of a stereo phono to TRS with the phono ends cut off and the tip wired to the switch common and the sleeve wired to the pre-amp ground, a red wire connects the pre-amp output to the switch, a small toggle switch that is mounted to the side of the box.

Tests on Echolink showed promise with the pre-amp out of circuit for the TTI CB mic, in circuit the audio was bad, suggesting pre-amp with this mic is not really needed, my next test will be a live on-air test on Echolink, preferably through GB3IR but at time of writing it is not currently connected to the Echolink system.

There is still the matter of keying up Echolink when I actually press the PTT, of course this is a job I'll have to deal with another day, the pre-amp board is also temporarily fixed in with hot melt glue, this will be renewed with nuts, washers, and bolts when the PTT control circuit gets added and the unit can then work as I would like, a real radio mic on an Amateur radio linking system, I know there is no RF involved at my end but in the shack making calls to another station using a computer mic is just awful.

73 de M6RSQ

Monday 24 October 2016

Interfacing radio mic to computer

Having called at Maplin Electronics today to pick up an IC and a battery for a kit my Intermediate tutor had given me to build (the kit was missing the IC which I believe to be a PLL IC), I also bought another Velleman kit, a mono pre-amplifier, and a 4-pin CB mic connector of the type found on the radio.

I built both kits this afternoon, the kit given to me by my Intermediate tutor worked first time with the replacement IC, the second kit, the pre-amp, also worked first time but required 12V DC in order to work so I connected it to my bench supply used for my radios, first was power up and connect to computer, seemed fine, next was connect a CB hand mic, for this I used the stock microphone from the TTI TCB-550, the only 4-pin CB mic I had that is wired for Uniden CBs (though TTI is not Uniden), for testing purposes all the connections were made with terminal blocks connected over the board's connector pins with the wires attached.

The test setup consisted of the TCB-550's microphone, virtually unused since I bought the radio it came with, connected to a long grey cable, though shielded I suspect was picking up noise and the wires contained inside are very thin so probably not ideal for this, a red and black wire for power, and the line-in lead salvaged from the remains of what was the PMR446 FRN gateway that I no longer operate since getting my license, connected to the mic port on the front of the computer.

Initial tests were noisy, possibly owing to how the test rig was set up, and maybe also because the tip and ring in the computer end are shorted together though I cannot be sure if this is a cause yet, especially considering the onboard sound card of the computer is Realtek HD audio, which is capable of reassigning the ports, plug something in and it lets you pick what it is.

As the machine is equipped with an older C-Media soundcard I will use this on tests tomorrow if possible and I have time.

The only outstanding matter is getting the mic to key Echolink when the PTT is pressed, I cannot do this by connecting the TX/RX from the mic up to the computer, they would need to be able to send a signal to Echolink and from what I understand the only way for a PC user to key Echolink is via the keyboard, only radios when in sysop mode can do so with other hardware.

I have seen an American operator use a Teensy 2.0 dev board to do this and the circuit looks simple enough, trouble is that dev board is hard to find in the UK as I have only found the larger version of the same board, though it can emulate a keyboard and thus code can be written for it to press the spacebar when the PTT is pressed and obviously send the keypress again when the PTT is released, this could be an option unless I find another one in the mean time, but for now I have to remember to press the spacebar.

As I had an enclosure that I was going to initially use for building the electronics for a "whistling dipole" for DF, I made the decision to use it for this, the mic connector will be fitted to one end of the box, the connection out to the computer at the other end, I also thought that I should add a switch to take the pre-amp out of circuit for microphones that don't require it, most powered desk mics for instance have their own pre-amp and should theoretically work fine.

I have, for ease of using the TTI TCB-550's mic done the wiring side on this for Uniden CB mics, so the microphone from the TCB-550 should still work as intended with the radio, I have a pre-amplified desk mic that I originally bought to use with my Moonraker FA5000 as I felt the stock hand mic supplied with it was utter rubbish, this was originally fitted with a 4-pin plug but this was then replaced with a 6-pin plug, as I originally used the TCB-550 as a CB gateway for the Free Radio Network on a part-time basis, I should have a spare 4-pin plug somewhere to allow this mic to be used with the "adaptor", of course I'll have to put a multimeter onto the wiring of the desk mic to find out which pin on it does what..

I will post more on this as it develops.

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 15 October 2016

Baofeng DM-5R, evidence beginning to circulate around the Internet suggesting it is a real radio

Having had a search across the Internet to try and get to the bottom of the whole DM-5R saga I have found information across the Internet suggesting it exists, a Dutch Amateur operator put up an unboxing video on to YouTube and a British person had ordered one to find out if it was indeed real or not, something I will be following up in the next few days.

It is beginning to look like it in fact does exist and Baofeng have made it, however I don't feel foolish for dismissing its existence because it looks so much like a UV-5R to be believable, most DMRs have a larger display, not the sort seen on the UV-5R, the radio is not of much use to me until of course it supports Tier 2, sure I could use analogue but I would be better off just buying another HT, which I did anyway with the GT-5 to replace my UV-5RC Plus, happily as the DM-5R is so much similar to the UV-5R I can theoretically use my battery eliminator on it and swap the battery to the UV-5RC Plus, I plan only to order this radio when the firmware is modified to support Tier 2, this could be a while.

So, it looks to me like this radio may well be real after all.

73 de M6RSQ

Update: YouTube user 'Ringway Manchester' has got hold of this radio, he has done an unboxing and also gone through the radio's menus, there are DMR related items in the menus, I am satisfied this radio exists, thus closing the saga of the Baofeng DM-5R, I will wait for the firmware to support Tier 2 before placing an order, as it is not really much use to me as Tier 1


On Thursday at the Amateur radio club I found out a little more about repeaters, with some emphasis on GB3IR as it was the keeper of this repeater giving the talk.

I found out the purpose of the cavity filters, though I knew already they had some role in allowing the transmitter and receiver to happily operate 600kHz apart, a bit about the repeater logic, in this case from GB3IR mk1, which was the demo repeater for this presentation, GB3IR mk2 was also there though this was not shown and I believe does not transmit, other bits of equipment shown was a cavity filter, which is quite large, and a circulator, which I believe there is one fitted to the current GB3IR,

The logic was also demonstrated to allow the repeater to be shut down remotely, the codes to do this were changed on the logic for obvious reasons, though it was also mentioned that a requirement was that the repeater can be shut down physically as well.

A bit of history in how GB3IR came to be was also explained, as at the time of it's conception as an idea GB3HG had been running for some time and GB3CD had just gone on air, the repeater was unique at the time in having connection to both IRLP and Echolink, CD has since got Echolink and WIRES-X as time and technology moved forward, HG remains unconnected to Echolink and IRLP at this time.

So, I'm not going to bore you with all the technical details on repeaters, it is quite a big topic.

And on the subject of repeaters I monitor GB3IR most of the time, if I am on and I hear you I'll reply if I can, if I am /m be aware that I have not got a handsfree mic yet so may not reply quickly if traffic conditions do not permit.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 9 October 2016

System Fusion net

So earlier in the week I had been invited to take part in a System Fusion net on 2-metres, needless to say I obliged without any thought, 5 of us in all and members of the club, we're on for about an hour at most.

As I have my FTM-400XDE configured to show volts instead of the clock as my car has a clock built into the stereo, I kept an eye on the battery to ensure it didn't drop below 12 volts DC, happily it did not do so and I started the car twice for 10 minutes each time to ensure that the battery kept charged, I had my jump starter in the boot just in case.

This has set my best distance for simplex on C4FM to 17 miles, not sure how well this would have been on FM but we all heard each other no problem, we hope to repeat this next week if possible.

My thought is that I have invested in System Fusion I may as well use it, the audio is brilliant for a digital mode (I've heard DMR audio and it doesn't sound that good), it sends your callsign and distance to the other stations (assuming your GPS is on or lat/long is set properly in the radio), and of course with the WIRES-X, which I have used briefly on GB3CD, you can speak to stations all over the world, I highly recommend it to anyone in Amateur radio, it does mean buying Yaesu equipment but it is worth the investment and I'd certainly like to see more people use it, especially in my local area.

This is the first time I have been involved in a net on System Fusion, my first and previous contact was over WIRES-X via GB3CD, currently offline at time of writing, though the repeater itself is still C4FM last I checked.

Anyway, it is close to my bedtime at time of writing so I'll bid you all farewell for now

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 2 October 2016

The saga of the "non-existent" Baofeng DM-5R continues

Indeed it does, it is still advertised for sale on Radioddity, and the price has gone down to US$69.99 at time of writing and there are now "photos" of not only the radio but the contents of the box, and the radio is advertised as being only compliant with DMR Tier 1 rather than both Teir 1 and 2 as before.

I am beginning to think Radioddity are trying their hardest to convince people that this radio is real and to part with money, I have seen no evidence on other websites or YouTube that it exists, the most I found was a video of someone here in the UK finding the radio on QRZ Now and also believing it to be fake, until I see a working example in the hands of the Amateur radio community and they are not affiliated with Radioddity or QRZ Now then I will be satisfied that the radio exists, I don't imagine Baofeng would ever build a DMR into the same case as a UV-5R, and I know Wouxun have released a DMR, but I still stand by what I said about if you want a cheap DMR at this time, buy the TYT MD-380, and although I like System Fusion over the other digital systems I don't mind playing with the others (except D-STAR due to its use by Chance Callahan KD0MXN until of course the FCC revoke his licence for his many breaches of part 97) just to see how they fair over System Fusion, though I have already heard audio from both DMR and System Fusion and consider Fusion to sound better,

Anyway, I also stand by that if the radio is real there will be one in my shack, once they support Teir 2 as it would not really be good otherwise for a Teir 1 only radio when the competition already support Teir 2 along with the Motorola gear that DMR is compatible with (it's essentially MOTOTRBO).

Curiously, Baofeng is NOT listed as a manufacturer on the DMR Association website either, further making me believe the radio is fake.

73 de M6RSQ

APRS with Baofeng UV-5R, follow up

Now that I have got an ideal replacement for my Baofeng UV-5RC Plus since the battery keeps falling off it, in the form of the Pofung GT-5, I can now make progress on the UV-5R APRS project I am working on.

So, the only Bluetooth TNC I can find is the Mobilinkd TNC2 from across the pond, this would consist of the unit itself and a short jumper cable to connect it to the UV-5RC Plus, I intend to use my Samsung Galaxy S4 with APRSDroid for this as before, as there should be no audio issue over the Bluetooth like the direct connection to the radio as I previously attempted.

Already having APRS in the car I of course want to expand on where I can use it, having a UV-5R and this unit in a backpack and the spare phone (which won't be connected to the mobile network as I would not need this except for Google Maps) would work well, I sometimes walk places and sometimes have a HT with me, I don't always use the car.

Prior to this I'd need to reprogram the UV-5RC Plus to only operate on 144.800, not a difficult thing to do with CHIRP, as far as I can tell it's just a case of programming it into one of the memories and disabling the menu and a few other things.

This should be the next thing on my list, though I may also need a ferrite, as apparently some Baofeng radios have an issue where if RF gets into the mic line it can latch the PTT, which I suspect my UV-5RC Plus may have, but I can obtain ferrites locally

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 1 October 2016

National Hamfest 2016... post Hamfest

So the National Hamfest is done for another year, and I did not come back empty handed, to replace my Baofeng UV-5RC Plus (as the battery keeps falling off it and for that reason I'm converting it to be used as an APRS radio as I can simply strap the battery on with a rubber band and deactivate the keypad) I picked up another Baofeng, this time a Pofung (Baofeng's newer name) GT-5, a radio that has a unique feature, two PTT buttons, one for each frequency/preset displayed), the RSGB Radio Communications Handbook for £20 with a free backpack, the last one they had too, a free cap off Yaesu (who were in attendance and me being me forgot to ask them about any upcoming improvements to System Fusion, and a LED badge (with blue LEDs) that I programmed with my callsign initially by hand, but since returning home I've managed to program it using the computer so it shows my callsign and name.

The GT-5 radio had charge in it out of the box, it did also come with a 2-pin EU plug rather than a 3-pin UK charger plug but there was an adaptor provided to allow it to plug in, though I've not connected the charger up.

What I did note is that the ARRL (the American Amateur radio organisation) were there, their membership was £60 for one year, and being an American organisation I'd have had to pay that out in one go if I were to join them, trouble is is that Chance Callahan KD0MXN is a member of ARRL and thus receives their QST magazine, which I suspect they publish a list of new joining members in much like RSGB do in RadCom, and if my callsign appeared in there then he would again accuse me of stalking owing to his delusional beliefs about me and possibly attempt to have me ousted from the hobby as soon as possible, it is for this reason and the £60 fee that put me off signing up for a membership of the ARRL, though I may consider it if the FCC finally revoke KD0MXN once and for all after my reports to them earlier this year and several reports to them since then.

Also in attendance were Ofcom, much to my surprise, I decided not to bother them and keep out of their way, perhaps they wanted to advise on their new licencing portal, which I am not a big fan of but find it works OK.

The traders present were otherwise consistent with last year, the GT-5 was purchased from Moonraker as they had them and several other Baofeng radios (including the Intek brand one that can do 8 watts) for a reduced price, I picked the GT-5 as it seemed rugged over the GT-3 and most other UV-5R derivatives.

So, what else to report? Nothing really, another great Hamfest and I plan to do it again next year, perhaps with a little more money to spend

73 de M6RSQ

Wednesday 28 September 2016


Well, the possibly fictitious Baofeng DM-5R apparently has a problem...

Delboy has reported on his radio blog that customers who have ordered this radio have received an email saying the supplied firmware has a bug that makes upgrading it for Tier II (which I believe is needed for DMR repeaters) may brick the radio requiring it be sent back to Baofeng for repair.

They offer the option for the customer to wait until the firmware bug has been ironed out, as well as the option to receive the radio as-is and cancel the order, needless to say I have not ordered it as I don't trust I'll get a radio as it just looks far too much like a standard UV-5R just with all the buttons coloured black except the side button above the PTT.

Sooo... I'm still not convinced it is a real radio, and Radioddity aren't convincing me either, again if it is real it will be on my YouTube and also the video will be here, I will be keeping a very close eye on this, new radios coming to the market often pass me by but this one stuck out like a sore thumb, probably because it's reportedly DMR, but also because there is the possibility it isn't real.

Maybe I'll be proven wrong in the next month or two, maybe I'll be proven right.

73 de M6RSQ

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Baofeng DM-5R, the plot thickens

The price of the supposed Baofeng DM-5R has gone up in the last few days at Radioddity according to Delboy's Radio Blog  since "launch" to around the US$90 mark ($89.99 in fact), still cheaper than the well established TYT UHF DMR handheld that is known to exist.

This still does not make me believe the radio is real though, until I see a working model online, even in the hands of Simon The Wizard or Dave M0OGY as the both of them I regard with anything to do with radios, I also have regard for Delboy as he is an active member of a lot of radio forums.

Once I know the radio to be real I should have one in the shack, and then upgraded for Tier 2 so it would work with DMR repeaters (none in my locale though because of complicated reasons) as well as properly registered for use on the DMR systems, though my initial tests will probably be into a dummy load with an RTL-SDR doing the RX and decode.

73 de M6RSQ

UPDATE: At the time of writing this they are, ironically, out of stock, perhaps they are out of stock because the product does not exist? Who knows? In the next week or so we'll find out.

Sunday 25 September 2016

DMR Baofeng? Surely not...

I have learned from Delboy's Radio Blog that there may be a DMR Baofeng, that looks suspiciously like a photoshopped UV-5R, may be about to be released, Delboy found this on QRZ Now, and seemed to not be convinced it was real, and to be honest nor am I, even after seeing an alleged instruction manual and programming software for the radio from QRZ Now.

The radio is like a UV-5R in pretty much every way, except for the DMR side, it is dual-band, 5 watts, and cheap, if this radio truly exists I would consider it as I've found the normal UV-5R to be a decent radio (I have a UV-5RC Plus which is essentially a UV-5R in a different exterior), though a dual-band DMR radio isn't a lot of use in the UK as I understand all DMR activity is on 70cm, it is reportedly able to transmit analogue FM so it isn't a total loss.

The price, about £50ish but don't quote me on that, that also came from external sources.

If you want a DMR for cheap, that actually exists, then the TYT Hytera clone is the best you're going to get, though if this Baofeng radio is real, how long before Baofeng pull off something that works on D-STAR and possibly even System Fusion? Probably never but I'm sure Baofeng are aware their main market share in the west is Amateur radio operators, I've only ever once seen Baofeng radios being used outside the Amateur radio and hobby radio world, these were BF-888s owned by a karting track in Middlesbrough.

If this radio is real, expect me to get hold of one as soon as they hit UK soil and there will be a video on YouTube (and of course here) as soon as the whole DMR side is working as it is not a case of buying it, charging it up, and pressing the button.

On closing, I will be at the Hamfest this Saturday, looking for cheap radio bargains and also probably having a chat with the representatives from Yaesu to find out if there is anything new coming to System Fusion in the foreseeable future, and also, as the release date in the US for this mystery Baofeng is tomorrow, perhaps I may find it, but maybe not as it may not be real and someone out there is incredibly bored

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 17 September 2016

ShackCam progress

As you will know I am working on building a dedicated camera for the ShackCam out of a Raspberry Pi Zero, the current incarnation of the Pi Camera (I have the original Pi Camera which I am reserving for another project anyway), and a £1 dummy CCTV camera which has been gutted (with it simply being an LED, some wires, and a switch).

The initial idea for this was to use Raspbian and Motion to run the camera, sending the stream out to the programme on the shack computer that I used previously with the Dazzle and the JVC Everio camcorder, however I found a suitable operating system for the Pi that will allow me to dispense with the complicated setup procedure, motionEyeOS.

For the Raspberry Pi this has a unique feature called Fast Network Cam, with it I can stream the camera output to the shack computer over the existing WiFi network with minimal setup, naturally I will set this up before the ShackCam goes into it's final place so I can see an output while I move the camera about and see where it is best being positioned to get the best view of the shack.

I've also made some changes to the web page the image is displayed on, firstly a Copyright notice that had gone missing during a previous edit some time ago was reinstated, secondly the "about" page was linked to as the hyperlink went missing at some point in time, this is set to open a new tab, tested to work in Chrome (computer, tablet and phone versions) and Microsoft Edge (computer and phone version) though in the computer version of Edge the link to the about page is not very visible due to the blue background I chose for the page until after you open it, but I doubt many people are actually using Edge anyway so I won't bother to fix it, as I cannot test on other browsers I can't guarantee the page will work as intended, but as long as the browser can handle HTML properly you should be fine.

I was also thinking about putting on a mobile ShackCam as well for those occasions I am working portable but of course that would depend on me getting suitable 3G coverage at portable locations, the Everio would not last more than 90 minutes doing this and I'd need a machine I could run off a battery for a long time, the Raspberry Pi's energy usage makes this a suitable candidate again with a Pi Camera and the above OS if possible, worth looking at, this will be added to the ShackCam page if I go ahead with it, I may pick up a 3G or 4G compatible router for this and utilise the Pi3's onboard WiFi again if I decide to go ahead with it, though as the year is progressing I may not do any portable operating for a while.

The improved home ShackCam should be operational sometime next month after the National Hamfest.

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Sunday 4 September 2016

A bit of radio activity this afternoon

I took a drive up to my usual radio playground at the top of the hill, my intent was some more System Fusion activity and another go on WIRES-X, sadly this did not work in my favour as no one answered my simplex or repeater calls on System Fusion nor did I get to play with WIRES-X as it was down on GB3CD and the second nearest WIRES-X node is in Middlesbrough and I’m unable to hit it from my location on 5 watts.

I made the spur of the moment decision to drive to Tan Hill, of course avoiding all the sheep that like to casually walk into the road without a care in the world, I approached it from the other side after going across the A66 and back down, I could hear GB3AS in Carlisle from Tan Hill no problem but I could not get into it with my 5 watts, I tried more calls simplex on 2-metres both digital and FM but no luck, guess today was not as lucky as last time I went out to play radio, hopefully WIRES-X will be working again on GB3CD soon.

Before I set off I reprogrammed my HTs a little, clearing out repeaters I’d not likely use anytime soon, currently programmed are all my local repeaters and GB3LM in time for the Hamfest as I should be able to hit that with a HT at 5 watts from the Newark showground as it is situated on the roof of Lincoln Cathedral, this repeater is a System Fusion repeater and as I have the corresponding radio I should be able to use it in both modes while I drive down but once at Newark I’ll obviously switch to analogue-only operation as I’ll be wanting to look around the hamfest, but I understand that due to it’s location it does not have WIRES-X like GB3CD, it’s 70cm sister, GB3LS, does have IRLP and Echolink but may not work from Newark.

Hopefully when I next play radio from a hill I’ll have more luck, I suspect I’ll need to get my CRT SS9900 working to do some 10-metre operating as I’ve yet to operate on that band since buying the radio, or even think about buying a 2-metre SSB set at the Hamfest for the right price, and make up a beam antenna.


73 de M6RSQ

Mobile set up tidy up

Ahead of the journey to the Hamfest later this month, I took the time to make my mobile set up look much tidier, to do this I bought cable tie mounts from Wilko, where as it turned out I could buy more of them for cheaper than I could get them from Halfords and also in black which I wanted as they'd not stick out so much, I picked up some cable ties from Wilko as well, two sizes, 100mm to mount the control cable between the FTM-400's main unit and control head, and 200mm for the coax from the antenna.

I have already sorted out the control cable for the rig, the cable now runs along the dashboard close to the windscreen, located to clear the heater vent for the windscreen, initially this was tucked in the gap between the windscreen and the dashboard but this would sometimes come out and foul the passenger airbag, a situation I wish to avoid.

I have yet to do the coax as it was getting dark and it was raining when I did the control cable so this will be done another day ahead of the journey to the Hamfest.

I also took the time to reattach the mic clip, which is fixed down with a "no more nails" sticky pad rather than screws as I do not want to do that right now, I'm not sure if it's held overnight however but I'll find out when I go out again, the previous sticky pad was not trimmed down, I replaced it with one I had trimmed down, which actually looks tidier.

So, just the coax to sort and it'll look great.

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 3 September 2016

ShackCam improvements

As you are aware, I have a shack cam which currently is offline due to no video hardware being connected, until my windows were replaced this was my JVC Everio camcorder connected to a Dazzle USB capture device, this worked ok as a stop gap but a problem was ongoing with the video connection at the Dazzle end, one of the connectors was not making connection properly and was flaky.

So, what to do, reinstating the Dazzle was an idea but this device has a strange interlacing effect which sometimes was apparent whenever I got up out of my chair and moved past the camera, so instead I look at something a little bit smaller and also on the network and a dedicated device, the Raspberry Pi and the Pi camera, as well as a dummy CCTV camera, the pound shop sell small dummy CCTV cameras and at time of writing the Raspberry Pi Zero, of which I already own one, now has a camera connector on the board, this happened after I bought mine so will need to buy a second one at the same time as the camera, also the Pi Zero has very little in the way of current consumption, and adding WiFi to it would make life easier as the Pi Zero has no Ethernet at all and should still keep current draw low.

This setup should work with the software I use on my shack computer to run the feed, which is currently running at boot and not sending images as it has no video source at this time, effectively I plan to make a custom IP camera using mostly off the shelf parts rather than spending a lot of money on an off the shelf IP camera, all I need is a camera, no fancy features, and as I have a light in the shack at night I do not need a camera equipped with Infrared.

Hopefully I will get the new and improved ShackCam online very soon, this might happen after the Hamfest though but we'll see, I have kept the link up to the ShackCam page over this time but of course with it not sending imagery out the most you will see is a "no device" warning.

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Wednesday 31 August 2016

National Hamfest 2016 - The car gets the all-clear to travel to Newark

Today was the day I submitted my current car for MOT (after removing the antenna and disconnecting the Yaesu FTM-400XDE from the power and taking the control head off the windscreen), and it passed with a clean bill of health, just one advisory but that I will keep an eye on, so it is all clear to travel for the second time to Newark.

Last year I had only just got the car (only a couple of weeks prior to the Hamfest), and I had no Amateur radio equipment installed, most I had was my handies, now I have the Yaesu FTM-400XDE installed I may be able to use the talk in in the Newark area, I believe this should be on S22 as normal if they have one, but I can find out later.

So with no other issues I should be at the Hamfest on the 1st October.

73 de M6RSQ

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Results of the Bank Holiday of radio

As mentioned in my previous post I decided to play with System Fusion and WIRES-X, with some success, I initially positioned myself close to the repeater closest to the home QTH, GB3CD, and managed to make contact with a station over near Chester, which was nice but I was hoping to make contacts in the US but I run out of time, I was also hoping for simplex contacts and through the repeater with WIRES-X disconnected, but I can try again another time, as I managed to be able to open the WIRES-X on GB3CD from my usual radio playground near the home QTH I now don't have to drive for miles to play with it all being well, and I found a couple of American nodes of interest on the WIRES-X website but one of them was offline on Sunday but I can try again

Bank Holiday Monday I decided to see if I could expand mobile RF based APRS beyond my Yaesu FTM-400XDE, so I cobbled together a cable out of the speaker mic supplied with my Wouxun as it was hopeless audio wise for Amateur radio, a piece of cable I had lying about, and a suitable connector obtained from Maplin the same day, the results of this endeavour are on YouTube and attached below to this post, this has inspired me to pick up a Bluetooth TNC to make it permanent, along with another Baofeng handheld as I still wish to keep two HTs available for voice just in case one day my significant other gets her Amateur radio licence too,

So, Yesterday's endeavours are below, I'll leave you to watch

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 28 August 2016

Bank Holiday weekend of radio

So, the final Bank holiday weekend of the year before Christmas, a good excuse to do radio, my interest is System Fusion,WIRES-X, IRLP and Echolink so I am more than likely going to be found on 2 metres and 70cm, naturally I will start with WIRES-X and pick up from last week, and see how that goes, later progress to IRLP and Echolink on GB3IR, WIRES-X will be on GB3CD unless there are other close nodes nearby which I can find out on Yaesu's WIRES-X website

IRLP is something that I have just started to use, I tried during a quiet time on the repeater the other night to connect to British repeaters on the system for the time being, I will branch out to American and Canadian nodes later on, my first attempt resulted in no contact on the first one I tried and the second one did not work, so worth a try later on.

Right, it is time for me to have a coffee and prepare for going out, I'll be monitoring GB3IR while I have my coffee so you can give me a shout if you so wish as long as you are licensed

73 de M6RSQ

Monday 22 August 2016


Yesterday I had a go with WIRES-X, the Internet linking system that goes with Yaesu's System Fusion, with limited success, I was only really able to get it to work as I'd like closer to GB3CD, which meant a bit of a drive to position myself close to it (as I am limited to 5 watts on the radio at present).

I managed to get into the WIRES-X system no problem once I was close enough, and have a look at some of the rooms, but no one came back to me, however it did disconnect mid-way though using it so I decided at this point to drive home and put some calls out on the repeater as normal to see if anyone else in the area was on with System Fusion, no replies, my final call was FM but I had not realised this until I glanced at the display of the radio mid transmission, I intend to give WIRES-X another go and also see if I can suggest that someone puts a node on down here, of course on 2-metres because I have discovered that repeaters and gateways on 70cm are impossible to put on air in the area around my home QTH.

I look forward to having a QSO with you on WIRES-X soon, should also be a perfect way to get my inaugural System Fusion QSO as this has not happened no matter how much I have tried.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 10 July 2016

End of blog silence

With the issues surrounding Chance Callahan KD0MXN now in the hands of the FCC and also his Internet Service Provider, I have decided to end my blog silence and post updates, I have monitored the local repeater almost near constant, and so far no connections incoming from KD0MXN, I'd only know about these from Echolink, if he connected via a local to him IRLP node it would not be easy to identify him until he transmits.

So, with that issue now out of my hands for the moment I have took the time to prepare to go to the National Hamfest in September/October (It will be the Saturday, which is the 1st October this year), you may remember from last year that I almost never made it due to car problems, my current car is due to undergo it's MOT at least two weeks before but will be done sooner than that all being well, and it should pass with flying colours or at least one advisory, it recently had potential failures in the shape of two wheel bearings and a badly rusted and improperly (temporary fix by me using piece of copper wire) attached exhaust replaced so that should make it clear for it's next MOT, though it will be given a check over before it is submitted to test to ensure any repairs needed are carried out before it is tested and I then end up in a situation where I may not make it to the Hamfest.

I have not had much success with System Fusion despite using this mode when in range of GB3CD, however as there are apparently 4 other club members so equipped with System Fusion equipment it is starting to take hold, however all my activity with System Fusion is done mobile, a good way to use it would be while I travel to the National Hamfest in September assuming there are compatible repeaters along the way, or I get onto a simplex call with someone else with a System Fusion radio, also if I head north to Newcastle or that sort of area, there is not only GB3CD while I am this side of Durham, but also GB3TW when I get closer to Gateshead, another idea is to try calling on the DV calling channel as System Fusion falls under DV

Having also noticed that IRLP is getting more use on the local repeater I am thinking about trying it myself, first with British nodes then onto American and Canadian nodes, and with my System Fusion interest I also want to try WIRES-X and see what that's all about.

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 4 June 2016

Blog silence for a while

With the ongoing issues with Chance Callahan KD0MXN and the necessity to get those issues resolved I will be maintaining a blog silence while this is ongoing, however I will not maintain a radio silence on Amateur and CB radio, my transmissions will continue until such times as it turns out that Callahan surfaces on the air.

I am mostly found on 2-metres at present, usually repeaters and will generally respond to any calls if I am listening to a particular frequency or repeater.

Once my silence ends I will post an update

Any transmissions from KD0MXN that I hear WILL be logged for the benefit of the FCC

73 de M6RSQ

Friday 3 June 2016

Yaesu FTM-400XDE, a week on... almost

Though before I go onto the Yaesu FTM-400XDE I bring some worrying news, this is that Chance Callahan KD0MXN has continued his barrage of attacks against me, and the whole situation with him is getting considerably worse, to the degree I may want to just give up on Amateur radio, which is a hobby I enjoy, I am currently looking to take action against him.

So, the Yaesu FTM-400XDE, a good radio, and now I've had a good few days to use it I've got a little used to it, but yet still to get my inaugural System Fusion QSO, which I might get over the weekend.

Having it in the car means I can use APRS, I have had the beacon on and know it is working, the nearest digipeater MB7USD does not appear to be operating, I may have to check this out with the keeper of the digipeater but at present it does not pose a major issue as on top of the hill other digipeaters are available.

Getting into GB3IR in the locality naturally isn't a problem, the big test will come when I take the radio further afield, say Darlington or Northallerton, on my old antenna IR was barely there, dropping out now and again along Northallerton High Street, on the new antenna I cannot see this to be a major problem, Darlington was another area where I could not hear IR properly, with exception at Morton Park as the signal was relatively good and it appears to be slightly uphill from Darlington centre. this again may change on the new antenna, helpful when I can legally use the full 50 watts of the radio, at the moment I can only use 5 (there is no 10 watt setting which is a little annoying).

Without being able to use System Fusion I've also not been able to use WIRES-X, Yaesu's Internet connection system that connects nodes everywhere and uses the digital side of the radios to handle node and room selection, though DTMF is available for analogue much like on Echolink and IRLP nodes, so yet another thing on the radio to play with

The radio, as installed in the car, is set to AMS, which switches between FM and the digital modes, either "DN" or "VW", a "DW" appears on using WIRES-X from what I have observed, though that may be the seek signal

I must now depart as at time of writing I need to go out, and I'll let you know how things fair

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 29 May 2016

Yaesu FTM-400XDE - first run on car antenna

Well it wasn't really a proportionate test as the bands and repeaters were not as active as I'd have liked, though there were some QSOs going on I felt best that I not interrupt and put out calls on repeaters that were otherwise clear.

At my usual testing ground for all things radio at the top of the hill, access to GB3CD in the radio's "DN" mode (ie C4FM) was possible, though at the end of the second check the repeater switched to FM on transmit, thus putting the radio back into FM as well as the AMS was turned on, GB3CD appeared to also end-stop the meter on the display, indicating a good signal from it.  GB3IR was obviously going to work fine, I got a report that the audio was fine, though simplex would work better here.  GB3HG was busy, and was also good signal to me.

A few simplex QSOs, as I mentioned above, were going on, so I took this time to use that as a good reference for receive, the antenna pulling the signals in well, none of them into the red part of the s-meter but still very good signals.

Also, the APRS side was on and it was receiving with no issue whatsoever, I did not have my beacon on for the reason that I was not testing that side out and would prefer to be /m while doing so.

All this leaves now is the rig be installed in the car via a relay to protect the battery from being drained should I forget to shut the radio off, it also acts as a prompt that I can only use the radio with the key in the ignition, the relay I have chosen is a standard Bosch automotive relay that omits pin 87a as this would not be needed, the coil supply has already been assembled to the relay and this will be tapped from an IGN switched source, I was thinking the loom for my Parrot handsfree or even the stereo itself, though the latter is more difficult to repair, but either way it will switch the rig off with the ignition.

so far so good

73 de M6RSQ

Thursday 26 May 2016

System Fusion - follow up

So, today I made the trip all the way to Martin Lynch & Sons in Staines, and saw for myself what a wonderful showroom they have, and picked up the Yaesu FTM-400XDE, along with a Sirio magmount and a Diamond antenna (I forget the models of these without going out to the car, I had to stop at a services on the A1 in Peterborough as I am far too tired to drive at time of writing but should be back at the home QTH tomorrow afternoon.

This means I have not been able to play with the System Fusion side of things, what it does mean is that on my way home tomorrow morning I can pick up a micro SD card and somehow attempt to programme the rig when I get home.

So, when I make it home tomorrow I shall let you all know how I get on with it

and those new to Amateur radio or the hobby as a whole, don't let my previous post put you off, those people are a small minority and the rest of us are all very helpful and friendly and would love to hear more voices on the air

73 de M6RSQ

The not so nice people in the radio hobby

The vast majority of those in the hobby, licensed or not, that I have ever spoken to have always been nice to me and treated me with the utmost respect I come to expect from those in the hobby, sadly there are some that are not as nice, I've seen snippets of this on YouTube of how not to behave on the air, but there is always one licensed Amateur radio operator that stands out from even those, Chance Callahan KD0MXN, this is a young man that for years has held an ongoing grudge against myself and when I got my foundation license last year I thought maybe he would show some respect for me, alas this was not the case.

I would advise people to use caution if they ever encounter this callsign on the air, this young man is not a nice person at all and since 2008 had gone out of his way to make my life utter hell, and has told countless lies about me, why would a fellow Amateur radio operator do this? who knows, it comes as a sad day, and this is the day I actually got myself a new rig and mobile whip too, so it should have been a very good day but alas not to be, ruined by a fellow amateur operator who holds a grudge and claims a "restraining order" has been issued against me by someone, which I know not to be true as I have never been in a court room in my life, and that I allegedly almost drove someone to suicide, both these claims have no evidence and no grounds.

He also claimed in the past I gave his address out, all US callsigns automatically go onto, therefore it is public domain, just like the contents of the RSGB callbook here in the UK, though I forget if that lists calls and addresses.

Hopefully something good will come out of this, but we will see

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 21 May 2016

System Fusion

As you may have worked out from some of my previous posts I am interested in making the step to System Fusion (Yaesu's C4FM digital voice system), and have had my eye on the Yaesu mobile rigs capable of this for some time, notably the FTM-100DE and it's more expensive sibling the FTM-400DE (now the FTM-400XDE), along with this as I plan to use the radio mobile no matter which one I get I will replace the mobile antenna with one of a better design, the current one, though fine for TX on 2m/70cm is not brilliant and was only meant as a stop-gap for my previous car until I could get a larger antenna, it's quality is showing with the Baofeng on the other end though it still transmits fine but I really don't want this for System Fusion,

So, a trip to an Amateur radio store is in order, but my current car has already thrown a spanner in the works by virtue of a damaged tyre that I have to get fixed, though I am already on to sorting that out and it should be done by Tuesday (with a swap of the spare to the opposite wheel) thus enabling me to go to the Amateur radio store of choice and see what they can do for me (if I can pay off the cost of the rig over a period of a few months I will be able to take one home with an antenna and an external speaker).

Not only am I interested in operating on C4FM with one of these rigs I am also interested in APRS as these rigs feature it, though from what I currently understand (though I could be wrong) is that the APRS does not transmit and allow voice transmission at the same time on the FTM-100DE meaning I would need the more expensive FTM-400XDE to do this as I'd like to keep up with the APRS side which I've not had chance to use for a while.

Anyway, I shall let you know how I get on and if I become the owner of one of the above mentioned Yaesu rigs, once it's in the car I should then be heard on System Fusion, there are at least 3 other club members so equipped for it, I might just be joining them soon

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 15 May 2016

Shack computer upgraded to Windows 10

Before I get onto the post proper I better mention that despite my earlier post I had not got the Sirio GPE 5/8 antenna up and put on the air today as time ran out due to me looking for a missing washer and some tools and time running out as I did this, and the fact I may need a second pair of hands to help

So, the shack computer, starting out on Windows XP when it first went in, then a move to Windows 7 once Windows XP went EOL, and now it has gone on to Windows 10, which despite my worries actually runs OK, so far tested with it is Echolink, the software side of the shackcam runs but obviously with no video device it cannot display an image, that's a part of the shack refit to come.

Though it runs Windows 10 fine I plan to replace the CPU with a much better one than is currently fitted as the current one I believe is single-core and maxed out a lot on Windows 7, but it seems OK on Windows 10.

This also played havoc with my printer drivers as the printer exhibited symptoms that it had with my laptop, this is a driver issue and this was two fixes I needed to make for Windows 10, the other relating to Prolific PL2303 drivers (as these are very fussy about certain cables which may use "fake" PL2303 chips), of course Cortana is turned off as far as it can go.

So, outstanding to test on the shack computer are CHIRP, which I use for radio programming (though it showed issued with my Wouxun KG-UVD1P), logging software for Amateur use (I have a separate program for 11-metres which I have run briefly), the software TNC and some of the APRS related software, and the RTL-SDR software, any further issues can be addressed with a trip to PC World or Maplin for a new CPU and extra RAM

The machine still sees both sound cards so is good to go for anything else

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Sirio GPE 5/8 CB antenna

I have owned, for a number of years, a Sirio GPE 5/8 CB antenna that has sat unused since I bought it, today's plan is to see if I can install it on my temporary base with the antenna guyed on the base, then compare its performance with that of the T2LT, there will be a massive difference if both antennas were able to be mounted at the same height but in this instance the height at which the GPE 5/8 can be mounted is at the very top of the mast and would not be as high as the T2LT's radiating part, as the metal mast is replaceable should the worst happen (ie it bends under the antenna's weight upon install) this is not a huge loss as I can simply go to B & Q and replace it

with this antenna safety is higher priority as it is heavier than my T2LT and will be mounted lower down, both from a radio and physical point, the antenna is lower down the mast therefore exposure to RF is higher for anyone nearby, the coax may pose a trip hazard but I will try and raise this up should the antenna be successfully erected on the temporary base.

If this proves to be a success then I will attempt to get a few QSOs on it and will post later the outcome whatever happens

73 de 26CT730

Sunday 8 May 2016

Temporary antenna setup success

So, after all the planning the temporary antenna setup was a success, and today I was able to verify that my T2LT was indeed working and getting out fine, however I felt the mast would have been better guyed, as it is a temporary setup the guys would have to be removed each time the antenna was to come down, this is the next thing to work on.

So, the T2LT was confirmed working on UK19 after I got confirmation after doing the traditional "one nine for a rig check" on CB, I then turned my attention to EU27 USB to place calls, both before and after I went outside with the rig, however the band was completely dead, but at least I know my T2LT is working great, with the SWR on the antenna in the range of 1.5 on the meter or below this, making my life simple, the whole setup was removed within about 10 minutes and reduced back to component parts, the base and aluminium mast stay in a shed out the way as this part is the heaviest and transporting it up the stairs is a no-no, the rest of the antenna is in the flat, this being the T2LT itself, the fibreglass mast, and all the needed mounting hardware, which in this case was a bungee cord and some cable ties, but the news that it had indeed worked has made my day and the T2LT is ready for test number two, involving someone sitting in my "shack" operating the CB (again the Grant II) while I drive around with another CB with a reliable S-meter in the car (I can use either my Midland 42 Multi, Midland 78 Plus Multi B, or my Intek H-520 Plus as these all have reliable s-meters, the Moonraker FA5000 does not have a reliable s-meter at all and the TTI TCB-550 has no S-meter.

So, I finally know the T2LT works, but was not able to find out just how good it was working, I will update this in due course

73 de 26CT730

Saturday 7 May 2016

temporary antenna follow up

So, I have had to travel all the way to Bishop Auckland today in order to obtain a parasol base for temporary mounting of my fibreglass mast (which may fit in the base but may not which is why I bought an extra mast), the base in question is made of 25kg of cement, and is supplied with 4 castor type wheels fitted with brakes, and assembling this thing was a case of screw in the centre and fit the castors to slide in mounts on the underside.

Other accessories I needed was two crimp-on BNC plugs which I have already fitted to a piece of coax thin enough to get through the window in case it gets a bit nippy outside and I want to shut the window, a 10-metre RG58 lead already fitted with PL259 plugs and supplied with SO239 to BNC, SO239 to SMA and SO239 to N-type though I cannot see why I'd need an N-type connector right now, I obtained these all from Maplin Electronics at Teesside Park along with a hex crimp tool for the connectors (though my work has one of these I'd rather have one myself anyway as I intend to move on to crimp on PL259s as the other solder-on type are a pain to work with and more often than not it's a waste of time to solder the braid, I've found both to work find and never have gone off the air.

Testing the newly assembled thin jumper lead with BNCs required adaptors and my trusty 50-watt rated dummy load, which today for the first time completely failed due to a dry joint on the SO239, a bit of solder later and it works again, the cable was tested on both amateur frequencies (specifically 2 meters and 70cm) and CB, it seems to cause the SWR to rise a little but to be honest there is not much in it when used on CB, on 2-metres the SWR needle does not move, and on 70cm it moves as much as it does on 27MHz so a slight mismatch but I can live with it until I can think of a better way to run a coax through a double-glazed window,

The fibreglass mast and T2LT have not been erected and this may take place tomorrow as it is starting to get late now and of course I want to get dinner, in the mean time I may reconnect my 2-meter dipole to the Leixen and see if anyone is on the repeater, if I have one I may dig out a higher current PSU and see if running my CRT SS9900 will cause any issues, if not I should be good to go

73 de M6RSQ/26CT730

Thursday 5 May 2016

T2LT revisited

I've been on an antenna theme recently, what with both a Slim Jim and a 2-meter dipole written about (the latter being made, the former an idea I can put to some use), and I continue with a favourite CB antenna of mine, the T2LT, the person who made the original video showing how to build this antenna, Gary 26CTX104, remade the video into a two-parter where he went into a little more detail and built another T2LT, it turns out the video was published well over a year ago and I'd not done a lot of CB at that point and was just starting out on Amateur radio, but CB is a bit of fun now and again but some good contacts can be made on 11 meters depending on the solar cycle amongst other things.

So, as you will know I already have a T2LT antenna built, and have tried it out but using only 4 watts into it (perhaps less on battery powered rigs as these radios are designed to run on 13.8V DC whereas my sealed battery is about 12 volts and a pack of AA batteries don't deliver much for long, handhelds are not counted here) though conditions were not favourable for me

So, the plan is this, get the antenna up on my fibreglass mast, inserted into a parasol base or attached to a secondary mast (no more than 1.5 meters) that will fit a parasol base (this avoids planning constraints as the antenna can be removed with relative ease), run a feeder to my "shack", plug the Grant II into it with my good SWR meter for CB in line (I have 3 CB meters and one VHF/UHF meter) and check to see how well it is tuned up, and try and make some CB QSOs (using my CT call if it is still valid which it should be), naturally I will be carrying out some other tests, I just need a volunteer to sit in the "shack" to transmit, as it's CB and anyone can use it without needing a license, for that test the CB magmount will go on my current car connected to the car adaptor of one of my handhelds, the Intek H-520 would be ideal for this as it has a large readable S-meter over the Midland Alan 42 Multi, though both have an S-meter.

So, I am keen to give this a go so Saturday will be a shopping day for some bits

73 de 26CT730

Monday 2 May 2016

2-meter dipole revisited

Yesterday I dug out my homebrew dipole for 2-meters, and the dipole centre I bought from the Blackpool Rally and reassembled the dipole onto it, this was then hung up but the SWR was reading high, between 2 and 3 on the meter with the radio (the Leixen VV-898) at 10 watts, not good, moving it seems to have brought the SWR back down to the 1.7 it was at, still not brilliant but at least it's below dangerous levels for now, I suspect it's being affected by objects indoors and is best placed outdoors however the centre is not waterproofed and I have no means to hang it outdoors yet, my plan is to waterproof the centre with self amalgamating tape (another yet used Blackpool purchase) and put it onto my fibreglass mast and see what it can really do, the mast won't be extended to full-height as it is in need of TLC but it still has sufficient height to get out, this will give me a much more reliable SWR reading.

For the fibreglass mast to work as intended it needs to be fitted into a base, a parasol base from a DIY store should suffice here, I do need to make sure this tuning is done before I tape up the centre in case I need to do any more work so a dry day for the first run, if we even have a summer this year, would be good, and I could potentially put a Slim Jim on here later and save the dipole for other work, I could also put a lightweight Yagi on here, as I still wish to operate CB (my Grant II is in the shack for this very reason) I can put my T2LT on here, assuming it still works which it should do, on 2-meters I should be able to get out much further on the dipole so more simplex calls should be possible, I have no antenna for 10 meters despite having the rig for the job which may be the next antenna I work on, and with the mast on a parasol base it makes it temporary therefore should get around planning permissions, so let's see what I can get away with antenna wise.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 1 May 2016

Slim Jim antenna revisited

As you may be aware, I built a Slim Jim antenna for 2 meters at the club sometime over a year ago but left it on the floor in my hallway for some time so I think it suffered damage and put the SWR above safe levels, upon suggestions from two other club members I intend to build another Slim Jim, after finding some instructions on the Internet, out of 450 Ohm ladder line, with the antenna enclosed in conduit either in a dark colour or painted in wood stain to blend in with my windows(the new windows are a dark wood effect outside) as the intention is this antenna is put outside, I've seen instructions that suggest to use a clip-on ferrite to stop common-mode currents but I may use the tried and tested choke approach instead.

I plan to get the feeder for this antenna into the flat by using a short piece of thin coax through the window so it will still shut, and running a short length of RG213 inside to keep the losses down, rig wise at the moment will be my Leixen VV-898 until I obviously get something that can do SSB as well, at the moment my rig purchasing priority is for the Yaesu FTM-100DE for the car and a replacement 2/70 antenna as the small one I currently have isn't brilliant and I'd rather have something improved for System Fusion, though I might try this out on the Slim Jim before it goes in the car assuming I get this antenna built and up before the rig is ordered (or bought from the Hamfest in September)

Before I do this I need to make sure my "shack" is in order again which I can spend tomorrow doing as it's a Bank Holiday, then I'll move on to getting hold of the parts I need

73 de M6RSQ

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Temporary mobile setup

I have a temporary mobile setup for 2m/70cm in the car, although it's also impractical, so probably use it for repeaters, this consists of my Baofeng UV-5RC Plus, the battery eliminator I picked up from Blackpool on Sunday and the speaker mic I also picked up from Blackpool, the drawback is this setup can only produce 5 watts on 2 meters, maybe slightly less if antenna feedline losses are accounted for, the antenna does not look out of place on my current car and is roughly central on the roof.

I appear able to get into GB3IR from Northallerton using this setup but I have had no reports on how well this is working.

This setup is only temporary until I get the Yaesu FTM-100DE, though again restricted to 5 watts until I pass my intermediate, it is impractical as changing repeater or frequency can only be done at the handheld itself but it makes the best of a difficult situation, I could easily fit a cigarette lighter plug to the VV-898 but this cannot be permanently mounted in the car, the Baofeng handheld can clip on to something using its belt clip, I  can look at the options for the VV-898 another day though it needs reprogramming as it is used as a home rig.

I am happy to have a mobile setup even if it is just a stop gap

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 10 April 2016

Blackpool Rally - post rally

As mentioned in my previous post I visited the Blackpool rally today at the Norbreck Castle Hotel, some changes from last time were I was able to park the car immediately in the main car park, I was also informed about bacon sandwiches on sale in the rally and me being a fan of the bacon sandwich soon sniffed these out and had a cup of tea with one, then onto the rally itself, the usual junk stalls, some of the well known traders, and, of course, the local clubs of the north west of England, and yet again I did not speak to any of them to find out what they were doing in the world of Amateur radio.

I did not leave the rally empty handed either, this time I left with two rolls of self-amalgamating tape as I've been meaning to get some for quite some time, a wire dipole centre, a speaker-mic for my handhelds, and a battery eliminator for my Baofeng UV-5RC Plus so I can use it in the car (the antenna is on the car roof at the moment).

So, next year, a preliminary date is the 9th April so yes I am going

73 de M6RSQ

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Blackpool rally 2016 - pre-rally post

First post since November! My goodness I am behind, lol

Now, as you may or may not recall, I visited the NARSA rally at the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool last year, though it took an absolute age to get the car parked, so I intend to go much earlier as I am definitely visiting again, and I can also add extra rallies to my diary this year, Ripon at the end of April, the Hamfest in September at Newark (subject to my current car passing it's MOT), and finally the Bishop Auckland rally in December, but for now my focus is on Blackpool.

Having looked on the website for the Blackpool Rally already it looks like it will be much the same last year, I didn't get to talk to any of the local club members myself last time so I might do that this time and see what goes on on the other side of the hills.

I might see if I can pick up a decent rig for a bargain price, or failing that some antenna building components, either way I can get a lot of this stuff dirt cheap of stalls at rallies, also I am still intending to get a Yaesu FTM100DE but unless I can get one on a good finance deal then it will have to wait.

Hopefully I won't have a repeat of last year, that being stuck circling the car park for anything up to an hour, my plan is to get there early and maybe just stick my 2-meter magmount on the roof of the car on one of my handies, whether I tx or not is another matter, I might just listen to save the battery on the handheld as I lack a battery eliminator.

Last year I came out of the Blackpool rally with a free Baofeng BF-888 and the Intermediate Licence study book, perhaps this time I'll come out with more than just things from the RSGB.

In other news, with my window fitting taking place last month I had to completely disassemble my "shack" so the windows could be done, and I have only just got it back together, this does not include the ShackCam as I intend to find another camera for this and free up my JVC camcorder for other uses, so that might be offline for a while, other changes include all the programming leads for the radios are connected to the computer, along with the USB Serial port, they seem to coexist fine, the Midland BaseCamp446 is currently not back in place as I don't require it at this time, the chargers for the PMR446 and handheld CBs are also not plugged in for the moment, this will take place later as and when I need these. the home made extension speaker (merely a shower radio housing with only the speaker intact) is not in place either and will be sorted later, the President Grant II and the Leixen VV-898 both made it back in and both power on fine though I am not able to test the TX on them as I have not hooked up a dummy load or antenna to either radio, the window fitting also forced me to move the (extremely drifty) receiver I have in the kitchen window, although this has been put back into place now.

Obviously I've not done anything mobile since I was forced to scrap my old car as I've not found time to figure out how to fit a working rig to my current car that would not involve drilling holes everywhere, something I can do with the Yaesu FTM100DE as it has a detachable faceplate and the main unit can sit under the driver or passenger seat with the display on the dashboard, though I believe the microphone is connected to the main unit which obviously restricts where this can go.

As I'm all out of things to post, for now, the next update should be after the Blackpool rally

73 de M6RSQ