Click here for the Ban PLT website.

Friday 30 March 2018

Arrival of the parts ordered so far

This week I took delivery of the USB hub, the in-car power supply for the same hub, a cheap Android tablet (turns out that is what I had ordered but that doesn't matter as previously mentioned as I needed a replacement for my Huawei MediaPad T1 which this does to the letter and takes 2 SIM cards for mobile use, though my 3 UK SIM is in it for the moment as it's a mobile data SIM anyway and rarely gets use however it will be transferred to EE in due course and the 3 SIM put into the secondary SIM slot) and of course the straight ISO to ISO loom for attaching the relay to and retaining the car's original wiring as it is (and as it has the speaker side too then this allows me to add rear speakers to the car at a later date if I choose).

So this leaves outstanding the power wiring to the radio from the battery via the relay, and the assembly of the enclosure in the rear and finally fitment of the radio the front of which has been test fitted above the stereo and it fits fine even with the mic above it.

The electrical side is still being worked out for fuse ratings, as I learned auto fuses at least will blow at least at twice the current rating specified on them and pretty quickly, a blow rating if you like, (I once blew a 30A fuse in my first car not long after getting it by trying to clear snow off the windscreen with the wipers and that blew pretty fast and I still have that fuse lying around), initially it was to be a midi fuse but I have to compromise between what I expect and what the max rating of the wire would be, as the wire is 50A rated the smallest I can go is 25A (if it exists).

I expect the loom to arrive before the weekend all being well.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Cooling for the new installation

One of the main issues I wanted to solve for enclosing the radio was cooling, for this I had decided on 80mm PC case fans, which are widely available and in my case as I have pulled many a PC apart over the years free of charge subject to testing.

So, a short while ago I dug out two such fans, one was removed from the remains of a computer power supply that went pop some years ago, the other from a chassis which I don't think I'll ever reuse, the latter seems to spin a bit faster than the former but this is not a major problem.

One thing I alluded to was that I would set the fans up so colder air would be brought in and hot air removed, these fans don't work if wired up backwards however on them are arrows indicating the direction of rotation and the airflow so can be fitted either way, I also found two grilles, one silver coloured off the power supply I alluded to and one gold coloured off an old computer case which I use as a groundplane for indoor 10-metre use on a CB antenna (the grille was removed before the case was put to that use).

The fan on the radio itself will always start when the radio is keyed up, I noticed this a lot when operating APRS, however I want these vent fans to start if the temperature is above a certain point though not too high, enough to keep the radio cool and a decent airflow around it, I plan to keep the radio as close to the two fans as possible, these will be mounted into the top of the enclosure, the main use for the enclosure is to protect the radio and allow for extra sockets for 12-volt accessories such as the mini fridge or a compressor.

Construction on the enclosure begins this weekend and the relay is also due to be fitted to the car then as the loom required is on its way (I can repin it if the pinout does not match my car (that is not straight through) which I will test with a multimeter), this will give me a good opportunity to test the relay to ensure it works and also find a suitable place to mount it, the relay is rated to 40A and I don't think that a couple of fans and a temperature control unit will add much more on top of the 35A I have calculated maximum for the current draw (though I chose 50A cable to do the job so the only real failure point is the relay.

Given my house move I am amazed I could still find these old fans lying about, and the grilles for that matter, to be honest I don't mind which colour each one is, just that they be there to protect people from putting their fingers onto an operating fan.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Monday 26 March 2018

Starting the reinstall... the beginning...

So today I have placed an order for 3 items on Amazon, an ISO male to female adaptor to sit between the car's existing stereo and harness to allow me to connect the relay coil to the +12V accessory supply to allow ignition switch control of the radio and the other accessories in the boot, a 7-port USB hub identical to the one connected to my shack computer (as I've never had a problem with it save for trying to use it with a Raspberry Pi) and a PSU that should work to power this hub with some overhead as I don't know how much current the SCU-20 would pull though I don't think it will be a lot as it's a Prolific, these all should be here in time for the tablet arriving with a bit of luck.

On Saturday I plan to go out to get some MDF to build the housing as well as some suitable carpet, a battery drill with enough torque and some hole saws for the fan holes and as I plan to use 80mm fans and grilles I already have lying around some suitable mounting hardware, I plan to have the fan setup so one extracts the hot air and one brings in the cooler air to keep the radio cool, along with the radio's own fan, the holes the cables will pass through to get to the front of the car will probably be plugged with black Sugru as it is very easy to get out, I chose MDF as it appears most subwoofer boxes fitted to cars by boy racers tends to be made of it, I may also order the thermostatic control and power distribution box on Saturday as well.

Once all of the on-order parts are delivered then the work can begin to connect it all up to power, I still have yet to order an in-car tablet mount however I'm holding off until the tablet arrives and I get it configured on the bench then I have less work to do on the car side, also I'll be labelling the ports with the P-Touch should I need to disconnect anything as Prolific USB to Serial cables tend to like to stay in the port they were installed in.

As I will need a keyboard for this setup I've settled on the Logitech K400 as this has a laptop type track pad built into it, and uses one dongle and thus one USB port, obviously the keyboard will be removed when not needed or stowed out of the way, and having purchased a lot of Logitech products in the past I can safely say that I have made a good choice.

The issue of extending the FTM-400XDE's mic and display leads also is not completely solved though I simply plan to run the cabling under the rear seats back to the front of the car where the dispay and mic will be installed, I do need to order the cabling to do this, I have already got the information needed to remove the seat base in the back of the car from the Haynes manual

So with some of the bits ordered and a few more things planned for this week I will leave it at that for now and update when things start moving forward.

73 de 2E0EIJ

a possible solution to my handsfree mic problem and other problems potentially solved

My handsfree mic was previously mounted above the driver's seat of my old car by means of the bolt attaching the driver's sun visor to the car's roof, this position has proven unsuitable in the new car, however I may have found an interesting solution.

The original fixing bracket for the Yaesu FTM-400XDE remote head is fitted to the rear of it with a screw, this had me thinking "would I be able to mount the microphone to this instead?" and after a trial fit tonight I found out that I could. obviously it's not quite ready for the car yet as I still need to build the enclosure where I intend to have power from the car's battery go to for the radio and a couple of extra 12-volt outlets, plus cooling fans as I want to put the FTM-400's main unit inside out of harm's way, a couple of large PC case fans will be used for this.

The main power feed obviously needs to be fed down the entire driver's side of the car to the boot, obviously being fed from the relay as I described so it would only operate with the ignition turned on, to this end as I can't find any reference on any other source I've had to turn to the C1 owner's club (the Citroen C1 is essentially a Toyota Aygo with different badges and a different front and rear end), as I already know how to run power from the engine bay to the cabin this isn't an issue, it's running the feed back from the relay to the boot, in this car there will be less clutter behind the stereo and I can simply connect the two power wires to the relay and find a suitable place to tuck the relay behind the stereo, after which I can work on running a suitably high current capacity thin-wall automotive grade cable to the boot to supply radio, fans (and control thermostat) and sockets for accessories, all fuse protected.

The only problem to still solve is running the antenna's coax into the car inside the trim panel in the rear without risk of it interfering with airbag operation, though I'm hopeful I can do this somehow without upsetting the airbag.

I'll update on this when I actually make progress

73 de 2E0EIJ

Sunday 25 March 2018

new tablet on order

Assuming all has gone to plan the tablet I intend to use with my APRS in-car setup, once the radio finally gets into the car (with the so-called "Beast from the east" returning recently again preventing any in-car work), has been ordered, hopefully the Chinese one I alluded to assuming I placed the order correctly, if not it's no big loss as I also need a replacement for the Huawei MediaPad T1 anyway and that would be good.

Once this arrives I can set up APRSIS32 and the Yaesu data cable to ensure it all works as it should, if the radio is still not in the car by this time I can power it off my jump starter to make the adjustments needed for it to talk to APRSIS32 on the tablet.

I did note the tablet I ordered only came with a US 2-pin charger, I have run one of these off a British 230V supply before with no harm to it as these chargers, though fitted with a US plug configuration, still operate at 230V AC as they tend to be switched mode chargers designed to take a wide range of voltages.

I'll pop a video on YouTube when I get the time after it arrives, given it will be used for Amateur radio, APRS, logging for contests and possibly EchoLink, the tablet does have an external mic and this should suffice though I'd not use it for Echolink in the car as it would work mostly for contest logging (while parked up) and APRS map display.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Monday 12 March 2018

APRS map display on tablet... another revisit

So about a year or so ago I got my now lost Huawei MediaPad T1 4G to display APRS data from my Yaesu FTM-400XDE on a map, this was done with a different app rather than APRSDroid as this at the time of the test did not work (I don't know if this has changed), utilising nothing more than the data cable the radio came with to connect the two (via means of a USB-OTG adaptor), once this tablet went missing when it did I decided to replace it with a Windows tablet, my specification was very specific in one that had to have 2 full USB ports, though a cheap hub can be added, which is why the Linx 1010 was chosen, however there are other cheap Chinese tablets out there that meet the specification and run a proper Windows 10 (and can dual-boot Android in some models though this sounds more like a gimmick).

A stand is of course needed still and I looked at a seat-runner mounted stand that simply bolts to the vehicle's seat runner using the existing bolt, as my current car has the same internal dimensions as my previous car the design should not change, though a USB extension of suitable length will be needed to run from the boot after I have completed the installation of the radio.

The alternative to the Linx 1010 I have looked at is a bigger tablet at 12" (the 1010 is, as you guessed, 10"), this may well be ideal to run Minos during contests from the car, a wireless keyboard with inbuilt trackpad would work here, Logitech make these and they use an adaptor that pops into a USB port and is left there.

Like the 1010 this Chinese tablet does not have onboard mobile data connectivity, therefore either a USB dongle or WiFi tethering on my phone would be needed (though the latter is bad for running the battery down I may look into EE's in-car WiFi (as I am an EE customer) for this as EE works literally everywhere (as do MVNOs carried on EE's network), doesn't have to have a large amount of data though as APRS doesn't tend to use much in the way of data when sending to the Internet but its map downloads may use more though if this is the case my home WiFi can be used for this.

As I understand it, the APRSIS32 software can take RF packets and put them onto the IS, in other words works as an igate, for a 2-way igate I believe you require an NoV, the domain of full licence holders in the UK, for RF to IS, RX only (which is all you can do with this setup), I have not seen a requirement for an NoV as you're not transmitting other people's packets to RF.

I would like this setup working as soon as possible, but this means I would need a tablet and mount, a data connection though my phone is more than capable of supplying Internet (and disables itself automatically should the limit be reached), and of course the radio, which is currently sat in my living room waiting to be installed into the car, too wet to start today and I need a specific gauge of wire to feed the boot power supply to ensure there is plenty of overhead current wise for the radio and any other items.

Naturally the tablet will be removed from the car to deter theft of the device, just need this weather to clear and I can start the in-boot fittings for installing the radio in to, as soon as the tablet can be ordered it will be ordered and set up on the bench before being put in place.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Wednesday 7 March 2018

A bit of a snag

I have measured the boot appropriately for the radio installation to take place, it looks like I am all set to commence the installation however a potential snag has been thrown up, and this relates to the gap in which I would have liked to run at least the coax through to get it to the boot.

In this first picture you can see the gap I intend, or at least intended, to use, however you may notice something next to the rear passenger door that has indeed put a spanner in the works here, and it goees back to the same scenario I had relating to removal (or inability to remove) the A pilar trim

Yes, that you can see there is the word "Airbag", this means I cannot run the coax behind that panel as I would have liked to as I do not know how close that gap is to the airbag, there is one on the other side as well however the wiring running through it is for the rear demister and the wiper motor, so it could still be some distance from the airbag, as it is well known airbags do deploy with considerable force and the risk of this is not something I would feel comfortable in taking for the benefits of myself and my passengers at any given time, however with the measurements I have taken the FTM-400 will still be located in the boot.

While I was down there I had the stereo out (on the AB10 Aygo (as well as its inferior Peugeot and Citroen siblings) this is a case of removing the blower control knob and unscrewing a screw and using patience and care to pull the panel holding the stereo, along with the hazard switch, rear demist switch and A/C switch if fitted out of the dashboard), I did this so as to install my virtual CD changer box (as the stereo is identical to my previous car), this told me that the wiring to the stereo was, to my surprise, ISO (so an ISO to ISO jumper can be installed for the power relay to tap off the +12v switched line and the ground) rather than the expected Fakra to ISO adaptor given that many of these later cars came with a Bluetooth stereo as an option that uses Fakra connectors, I did spot a pair of extra relays and an unused connector behind there that were not present on my previous car, I figured the relays must be related to the front fog lights (and perhaps the running lights though these don't power on until the engine is running), the unused connector I have not ascertained what it may be for and don't intend to touch it, this does not mean there is no room for my power control relay (which is a Bosch type relay for all intents and purposes), so a search for ISO male to female jumper for the power side only is in order.

I have yet to figure out how best to run the power feed from the relay to the boot, the battery to the relay is the easier of the runs to do as this can go through an existing grommet in the bulkhead, just from the relay to the boot I need to solve,under the carpet preferably, the ignition switching is indeed needed as I do not want to leave the radio on and drain the battery as car batteries never take kindly to being run completely dead, this is also true as I plan to have 12-volt outlets in the same place that can be used for useful accessories such as a compressor, mini-fridge or a small inverter for 240v operation, this may mean the radio may have to be mounted inside the box and therefore it will require designing with fans inside, 12-volt fans for computers do work in this environment though at 14V (alternator output) will spin a little faster however these won't be permanently powered on as a thermostat will control these (most thermostats can be set up for cooling operation and 12-volt thermostats are available), though there is a fan on the rear of the FTM-400's main unit this would be useless if the surrounding air was hot.

So with the snag above that I alluded to it could well be partly back to the drawing board.

73 de 2E0EIJ

The summer of radio may be looking up after all

Indeed as I have managed to pull myself out of the predicament I was in and also have changed my car to a newer more reliable one (of the same make and model as I had before if you see an earlier post) I now find myself in a potential position to get on the air during the summer away from home again, though this is dependent on a few factors which I shall go into.

First and foremost is I still do not have a tent, though can acquire one from Go Outdoors for a decent price that meets the requirements, as well as a few other things required if I know where to look, of course that research has been ongoing since I scrapped plans to go camping at the National Hamfest last year, which I intend to do this year, which is less in doubt given the car I have now is not due an MOT until November, 2 months clear of the National Hamfest.

Other radio related things aside from operating /p from Tan Hill, Roseberry Topping (if possible) and at the National Hamfest with camping there is the year's rallies aside from the Hamfest itself, the Blackpool rally at the Norbreck Castle Hotel is on the 29th April and the Ripon rally on the 8th (which I always keep missing for some reason, then of course there is the National Hamfest and finally the Bishop Auckland rally at Spennymoor, I missed the latter last year due to having forked out for car repairs and not getting paid in time for the rally.

Of course I want my summer to be full of as much radio activity as I possibly can have, though at the same time balancing my other commitments.

First things first of course is to get the FTM-400XDE back in the car, though this time into the boot out of the way which should keep all wiring to a minimum, I also decided to add some 12-volt cigar lighter sockets to the boot as well to run other 12-volt equipment and have a 40A feed from the battery to the boot as well as a fusebox with a max rating of 50A (though the circuit will be protected to 40A), which should cover the demands of the radio and the sockets, these may be switched using the same switching relay as the radio (which I have since clearly labelled to ensure the terminal wires, if replaced, are not connected backwards as the relay I have has a diode across the coil), the relay is 40A rated.

With that as it is a sunny day I shall get the car washed and report back later after I've taken measurements of the boot.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Monday 5 March 2018

PMR446 changes (good ones) from 21st March

Having been searching the Internet this afternoon for the instructions to disassemble my Sirio magmount (which I did find on Charlie Tango as I remembered they were there) I was distracted by some interesting news from Delboy which he referenced on the Charlie Tango forum, digging deeper, by following a link to his blog, he revealed that on the 21st of this month PMR446 becomes 16 channels rather than 8, it makes sense in cities where the band can get quite congested but here in this part of North Yorkshire is not that busy.

Though I don't use PMR446 as much as I used to owing to spending more time on 2-metres, I still think 16 channels is a sensible solution, though again I stand by that in small towns it doesn't get used all that often.

Obviously the same technical requirements remain, 500mW ERP, hand portable, and existing equipment would clearly still be approved for use for the life of the product provided it's not modified, I've yet to see many radios on the market or announced that would work on all 16 channels out of the box, though I suspect most people will just buy and programme Baofeng BF-888s for PMR446, something which I advise against doing, as these radios are meant for licensed use only (usually the 70cm band for duly-licensed Amateurs).

Though I most likely won't be on PMR446 on this historic day, I may have a listen if I have time on that day to see if anything changes (though here in this part of North Yorkshire this could be unlikely)

On another note there is supposed to be a CB net in June to celebrate the anniversary of the UK getting AM and SSB on 11-metres, I have failed to take part in it thus far but should be able to this year, new car, no clutch problems (one hopes).

73 de 2E0EIJ/26CT730

Sunday 4 March 2018

New car

As I alluded to previously, I have since replaced my car, same model except for some noticeable differences, externally it's running lights, different grille, and rear tinted windows (which makes the tailgate look completely black), internally there are airbags from the A pillar, which are curtain airbags and deploy right where I want my handsfree mic to go, a rev counter thus preventing my FTM-400 display from being installed in the same place as before, along with the airbag issue outlined above, and a parcel shelf in the boot so the contents cannot be seen from outside.

So as you know my plan is to put the main unit of the FTM-400 in the boot, I noticed that a change in the tailgate electrical arrangement (this being the rear demister is a different design) means only one cable is feeding it, on the passenger side of the car if viewed from inside the tailgate when open, the space on the other side is vacant and if there are no airbags behind there I will use this to run cables in and out unless I can get them behind the boot carpet without doing this, the antenna should thus enter the boot instead of through the right passenger door, and drop down to where the radio ultimately will be placed, perhaps even through the hole I alluded to, and would be a shorter run as the magmount cable is RG58 and is not brilliant on UHF but good on VHF and I can simply cut out excess wiring from the magmount and rewire it as there are instructions to do this online and I've had a lot of time to study them.

Power arrangements can either be the battery as before or a split-charge circuit, but due to the expense of the latter direct to battery may be my only option, however I need to be able to switch the radio on and off from the ignition key as I am not aware of a security code feature on the Yaesu FTM-400XDE, though it might be worth looking into.

As the box will be in the boot the main aim then is to run the data and mic leads to the main unit using an extension, the Yaesu ones are woefully expensive for what they actually are so I looked into using a generic RJ-12 and RJ-9 extension for the display and mic respectively (these are as far as I can tell the correct extensions though more research will be done), extending the extension speaker can be done with a suitably long "aux" cable as the current setup (though disconnected as the car has actually been replaced) has a coupler in line (stereo as the FTM-400 expects a stereo connection and the supplied adaptor is plugged into the opposite side and the speaker plugged into that), the speaker I use, a Nokia HFS-12, has 1.5 metres of cable, the coupler adds 45mm and the Yaesu stereo to mono adaptor adds another 45mm or so bringing that up to 1.59m total, I currently have a 1 metre cable for it though may have to see if I have something longer before spending money, the speaker will be located near the driver's seat, the control for the hands-free mic will again be on the gear stick, though it's a different design it still has a metal bar under the gaiter, and the rubber loop should still get round, though I can check the design of the gear stick and see if this is practical, if not then some creative thinking is in order.

I subsequently discovered that the throttle on this car is of a drive by wire type, on the previous car, with the same engine, the setup was the traditional Bowden cable between the pedal and throttle body, this has me mildly concerned from an RF standpoint and additional tests will be performed once installation and tuning is complete, this seems to be on versions of this car with traction control and electronic stability control, though it could also be seen as a requirement of Euro 5 and later emissions standards.

To actually mount the radio body I was thinking I could use some of my (not adequate) carpentry skills and make a box to mount the radio on to, covered in carpet to match the rest of the boot of course, and easy to lift out should I need access to the all important spare wheel (again I have a full-sized spare wheel), doesn't need to be big but does need to fit in the boot, I was not planning on screwing it to the parcel shelf as I do need to be able to remove the parcel shelf and that would devalue the car, essentially I need to take measurements of the boot on the drivers side (given it is this side that I plan to use), with those measurements I can then go to a timber suppliers and get the wood then find a close approximation of the boot carpet from a carpet shop's remnants shelves, the other mounting idea would be to put the radio inside a box but this would need a temperature controlled fan to extract hot air out to prevent the radio overheating, and would make access to the data port harder, my aim is always to get the installation tidier than it was in my previous car.

With the recent heavy snowfall I don't plan to start any work immediately, this is down to the fact the outdoor temperatures are below freezing or feel this for the most part and I don't have a garage with a heater, rather than the actual snow itself, also the car's exterior will need cleaning after the snow has melted before the magmount can go on the roof.

With all the parts of the radio ready to go, all I require are some wooden boards, though one may suffice depending on size available, some carpet of similar colour and type to the boot carpet, some suitably sized bolts with nuts and washers to put through the radio bracket (though I could use self-tapping screws for this though bolts may hold it better), a new drill, a jigsaw as I could easily have to cut the wood to fit around the wheel arch inside the car but may be able to get away with not doing that if I make this the size of the wheel arch itself, but this decision will be made when the measurements of the boot dimensions take place, and hardware to attach the parts together, when complete the radio is not fastened to any panel within the car (except the negative side of the radio power lead which will connect to a chassis ground), the only other things that are outstanding are the extensions for the control head, microphone (though I will be using the handsfree mic rather than the hand mic) and external speaker.

Hopefully I can get on with this work soon, maybe with some assistance from club members as well, but of course it remains very weather dependent.

73 de 2E0EIJ