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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