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Friday 27 April 2018

Shack tidy up finally complete

I have completed the shack tidy up, removing what was pulled out of cupboards during the boiler and meter works earlier in the year, this means I can look at finally getting a bigger desk.

The operating position and HT charging position have not changed, though the latter will probably be changed when I get a bigger desk in the shack, there is also room for adding storage for things like components and connectors, but for now it's just one desk, a set of shelves and indoor antennas.

If I can in the future I hope to get an outdoor antenna, at least for 2 and 70 operation, a larger antenna would be very hard to justify unless I can come up with something creative for HF.

I am pleased that my shack is back to just that, the shack.

Next radio job is to get the FTM-400 back in the car, this should be hopefully be by July if all goes well.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Sunday 22 April 2018

Chance Callahan KD0MXN is at it again...

and this time he is suggesting obnoxious and potentially illegal activities to a newly licensed Amateur from the USA on Reddit, with claims ##hamradio on freenode assisted him (which is unlikely as I am pretty sure their responses were not serious in any way shape or form.

basically he suggests this newly licensed operator wipes out 2.4GHz with 50 watts of white noise thus ensuring no one with a WiFi device can connect to the internet, for one that is certainly illegal, as Amateur radio is operated on a basis where it must not cause interference in pretty much any country, and that kind of activity is for all intents and purposes a Denial of Service attack, also illegal.

his comments on Reddit can be found here, and also, as he suggested modifying a microwave rated at 1.2kW into a transmitter his actions can be seen as irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

Why he is STILL in our hobby one will never know but it needs to stop and the FCC have to do something now, if he was British and held a UK callsign Ofcom would have already dealt with it by now, but sadly this is not the case and us genuinely decent Amateur radio operators who enjoy the hobby and want to welcome newcomers have to deal with him.

Fortunately as he is still a technician class and not general class yet I won't hear him on anything below the phone section of 10-meters, personally I'd rather not deal with it.

I honestly hope his local Sheriff's department is still keeping an eye on him and his radio transmissions both on the Amateur service and CAP because quite frankly this flouting of rules and regulations and irresponsible behaviour has gone on too long.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Edit: 22/4/18 @ 13:58 BST: This is the whole thread on reddit, in which you can see all the posts, including, if it has not been deleted yet, Callahan's gross irresponsibility

Edit: 23/4/18 @12:32 BST: I have also discovered that, despite not updating his licence details which he should have done as part of adhering to Part 97 of the FCC rules, he has since moved to Washington DC, the capital of the United States, this makes his behaviour more serious simply because Washington DC is home to the White House, The Pentagon and other important US Government establishments including the FCC Headquarters which means he will be caught much faster with his infringements of Part 97, does he really want to behave the way he does in the vicinity of those buildings? I should think not but he does.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Handheld CB tests

I thought now would be a good time to test out both my handheld CBs ahead of time, the Midland 42 held charge nicely and transmits in both power settings no problem whatsoever, the radio with the power problem is, of course, the Intek H-520 Plus.

Firstly when I found the Intek it was pretty much dead, connecting the charger was the only way to get it working, removing the charger and keying up at 4 watts immediately after plugging the charger in resulted in the inevitable low battery alert and the TX cut out, same at 1 watt, however it lasted about a minute longer at 100mW, to be expected as the batteries were very low charge and are well due a replacement, and I suspect the charger supplied with the radio is absolutely dire and once I replace the batteries I will be charging them out of the radio with a charger rather than in the radio, I initially was going to swap the batteries out with Eneloop batteries however after doing some digging I found 7DayShop do 2900mAh AA batteries for a good price (Eneloop batteries only go up to 2500mAh, same as the Energizer batteries already in the radio), the good thing is that both radios key up fine.

The Grant II is subject to tests next and these handhelds will be used as part of those tests as well, for both AM and FM modulation, for SSB I will have to tune my RTL-SDR to the appropriate frequency I use to do the test as my handheld CBs can only demodulate AM and FM, however I am satisfied the CB HTs are both working as they ought to be.

These tests are required as a prerequisite of setting up internal comms for myself and guest(s) at the National Hamfest, once the H-520 batteries are replaced then I can focus on running more tests.

73 de 26CT730/2E0EIJ

Tuesday 17 April 2018

reworking shack and portable power arrangements

my current shack power arrangements are for the most part ring terminals to binding posts, a recipe for disaster, especially for radios with no reverse polarity protection (which none of my radios have last I checked), and up until now portable ops has been direct to a battery of sorts, again a recipe for disaster should the wires go in the wrong place.

So, with me looking into the power arrangements I can use at the National Hamfest this year, that is of course solar and battery then I came up with the solution pretty quicky, Anderson Powerpole connectors.

As I intend, for portable ops, to buy the SOTABEAMS Fuser 6 which uses these on the input and outputs I figured now is the time to switch to them, that way I reduce the risk of any damage to my gear and the convenience of disconnecting both poles at the same time, and as my mini fridge, which I repaired yesterday due to a failed switch, is also going to the National Hamfest this will have its DC cord fitted with Anderson Powerpole connectors as well, it comes as standard with a universal type automotive plug however this will be retained, also fitted with matching Anderson Powerpole connectors to reconnect the plug to keep it suited to in-car use.

My amateur radio gear and mini fridge aren't the only things subject to this change, my CB gear, or at least the CB gear I intend to use, will also have the connectors fitted for pretty much the same reason, in particular my Grant II as it is the most expensive and only type approved SSB radio for CB that I actually possess and naturally I want to protect it and also this will be useful as it will be used for two-way communications for my guest(s) at the National Hamfest so they can experience the enjoyment and practicality of radio without needing a licence, and if I fancy doing some DX on 11-metres SSB too but I might actually stick to 10-metres if the band conditions are decent.

As my previous job involved working with crimp-on connectors I have come to see this method as the most reliable (though Anderson Powerpole connectors can be soldered) I intend to buy a crimp tool for them for what I hope is a very reliable and long-lasting connection, all this can easily come from SOTABEAMS at the same time as the Fuser-6 then I can actually test the unit out after assembly.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday 14 April 2018

National Hamfest 2018 shopping list

I have been out to Go Outdoors today to make a shopping list of the things I may well need for the National Hamfest and have picked a tent, which they actually had on display and the best bit I discovered is that it had a cable entry which I can use to bring in the coaxial and power cables for the portable station (assuming I have a solar charging system operating, I have also selected a camping stove (though this is subject to change) for cooking and those all important cups of tea and a table for the operating position within the tent, though the tent is set in stone the operating position table isn't as I will probably be taking a tape measure to check the size of table I can actually get in the front of the tent as the more working space I have the better it will be for me.

The cable entry on the tent, as if you're looking from the front of it, is on the right hand side, this means antennas would have to be on the right, that is the car is parked on the right hand side of the pitch for the mast stand and space in front or behind the car for the rest, my lowest band of interest until I get an FT-817 or FT-991A will always be 10-metres (I don't count 11-metres as that is CB though I'm using that as a two-way communication between me and guests anyway), this would also apply for any power generation, for instance solar panels and battery boxes as solar panels need to be outside to work and batteries can't be kept inside a tent, the same sort of thing applies to generators though for practicality a solar panel will work much better alongside a charge controller and battery, I shouldn't need mains power.

I also have to look on the Internet for suitable hardware for mounting antennas, my current telescopic fibreglass mast has a couple of the top sections removed from it as these were damaged, shortening it to about 7-8 metres. a replacement can be sourced online though this shorter one should be fine for the T2LT for CB though I want to buy a new one (from SOTAbeams, who usually attend the Hamfest anyway) and guying kits for both (though my shorter one will be in a drive on mast stand it still should be guyed as it will be up overnight both nights.

Of course things will change as time moves closer to the National Hamfest 2018

73 de 2E0EIJ

Friday 13 April 2018

Preparing for National Hamfest 2018

It may be a long way off yet but I intend to camp at the National Hamfest for both days of the event, a weekend of camping I've not had chance to do for some time, I start by looking on the website of Go Outdoors for a tent, the forms for the National Hamfest camping are not online for this year just yet and the best part is that as my current car does not face an MOT literally 2 weeks before the event it is already cleared for the trip.

So of course I need a tent, a large one with room for a table and a couple of chairs alongside the sleeping accommodation, the table will need to accommodate cooking and radio gear, antenna arrangements will probably be a drive-on mast stand and a fibreglass mast for HF antennas and 2-metres should be on my homebrew groundplane or the car's roof antenna depending on how I arrange the pitch.

Internet will be provided by the mobile networks, electricity will be battery or generator based depending on what I can get in time, my radios all work of 12-volt DC as does my mini-fridge, though I do need to be able to boil water (I like my cups of tea) but a gas stove and camping kettle solves that.

Lighting can be done off batteries, as most camping lights are LED based nowadays and pretty efficient.

As I plan to include a CB station as well as 10-metres (I'd need a second antenna for 10) I plan to replace the batteries in my CB HTs for the basis of staying in contact with whoever I take with me (be at most 2 guests though if I did invite 2 guests one of them would have to travel by train and I'd have to collect them from Newark railway station), I planned to use eneloop batteries in this case as they tend to be the best and long lasting rechargeable batteries one can buy (my CB HTs run off Alkaline batteries as well), this works also so that my non-licensed guests can still use the radio (I would use PMR446 but 500mW is no fun and the signal would probably propagate better into the hall on CB and I don't want my guests to not be able to take some kind of part in radio and maybe even get interested enough to buy the book and get their M6 call (though that has proven to be a tall order), this means I do need to test the T2LT to make sure it has suffered no damage in the time I have moved house, I can do that over the weekend if I have any spare time.

I am keeping my eyes open for the camping forms as well so I can get the camping booked for both days at the National Hamfest as I want that to be done as soon as possible.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Hack Green WebSDR

Last night I started using the Hack Green WebSDR so I could listen to HF on a more regular basis without a huge antenna and without going to the club, the main HF SDR at Hack Green covers from top band (160-metres) to 17-metres, though I see most activity falls on 40-metres given not many people will have the real estate for an antenna suited to top band, and during the hours of darkness more stations come in, particularly from stateside.

Hack Green also has a WebSDR for UHF/VHF and as low as 10-metres here though there is little activity on 10-metres at present, and any of the UHF (which is 70cm) transmissions received at Hack Green would be local to it.

I would recommend using the HF WebSDR at Hack Green, great way to listen so you can get an idea of how to work the HF frequencies before doing so, one of the reasons I am doing this.

Hopefully I can get the mag loop build and get on HF relatively soon and maybe I will be heard at Hack Green

73 de 2E0EIJ

Monday 9 April 2018

looking to operate HF away from the club

Since I became licensed my HF operating has been pretty much limited to the local club though I've still not operated the HF set, last time I had the opportunity was during a contest on 80-metres and I was not feeling 100% at the time but had made an effort to go to the club, at home I do have the equipment for 10-metres (and since yesterday the kit to make up a CW transceiver for 40-metres but no antenna) however 10-metres isn't active, I also have access to 11-metres should I want to operate there from time to time.

So, my second rally purchase from Ripon was the variable capacitor which I've had to clean the contacts on, testing it with my multimeter was not reliable as the contacts were dirty, I've not removed the knob yet.

The variable capacitor is a vital component in the magnetic loop I wish to build as it allows it to be tuned to the frequency in use, and of course I need to build the loop which requires copper pipe as wire would be bad for this.

I would also need a radio to connect to the other end, and this gave me an idea, save up enough money in time for the National Hamfest and get a Yaesu FT-817ND as these will be coming down in price as the replacement, the FT-818, is now available, 5 watts is fine into a magnetic loop as even at that level there is high voltages present on the capacitor though this one is rated to 3500 volts but that doesn't mean it will safely operate without flashover well below that.

I also have for some time been wanting to properly use CW, operating using Morse code is certainly, in my opinion, a dying art, and though I didn't end up buying a key for the Pixie kit I bought at Ripon I hope to get one in Blackpool, after all CW shouldn't die out, and because I like building things rather than buying them I'll buy a second Pixie kit because they are so cheap.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Sunday 8 April 2018

Post-Ripon rally

As you are aware I attended the Ripon rally for the first time this year, and there were bacon sandwiches on offer too, can't say no to that and a cup of tea, and I did not return home empty handed.

I purchased a second air-spaced variable capacitor, as I hope to get my magloop project off the ground in the next few months between now and the National Hamfest, this one is much larger than my previous one and has the capacitance and voltage ratings on the chassis, it even came with a knob fitted, great but I would prefer to remove the knob and fit a stepper motor and gearbox to do the tuning remotely (my hand would probably introduce stray capacitance), I also picked up a Pixie QRP kit that came with an enclosure for me to put together and play with, though I didn't get a Morse key.

As this rally is a small rally I spent only 2 hours there, I did see a bargain price on a Yaesu FT-817 but it needed a new battery so not quite the bargain I'd have liked so I passed it by, it was less than £300 and if the battery was in good order I'd have snapped it up straight away, plenty of Baofengs being sold as usual and an Anytone DMR radio, though at present DMR isn't a big interest to me.

I also put a £1 donation towards GB3HG as the keeper was present with the York Radio Club, as it is well deserved and will help keep HG running for I hope many years, though I completely forgot to speak to Arthur G8IMZ about when they expect System Fusion to come into service after they received the unit from Lamco in December, though obviously a repeater swap isn't straight forward.

I am now going back over the research for magnetic loops and hope to have a working one in a few weeks once I can get some copper pipe, and the seller of the capacitor did tell me one very useful piece of advice, don't use compression fittings.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday 7 April 2018

Antenna now on car

The next part of the reinstall is putting the antenna onto the car, the coax is fed in via the tailgate this time rather than the rear passenger door, this is down to the eventual final location of the antenna cabling and the radio.

For now the cable as it stands is routed to the front of the car, the radio at the other end is the Baofeng UV-5RC Plus with a speaker mic, this was done as a need to be able to use S22 tomorrow for the Ripon rally assuming they have a talk-in station as mentioned on the Ripon radio club website for the event, SWR is near enough perfect match on 2-metres (never be truly perfect but the needle doesn't really move anything majorly noticeable), on 70cm the needle does move though again not too much and not to dangerous levels (the radio is about limited to 4/5 watts by design and the SWR will be rechecked when the FTM-400XDE gets installed due to it being capable of 50 watts).

the antenna and magmount are the same as used on the old car and positioned in exactly the same place near enough, as the radio is impractical I aim to get the FTM-400 recommissioned within the next couple of weeks, which will wholly depend on what I can find at the Ripon rally to assist in that regard, if not it will be back to the Internet.

Progress is being made, albeit slowly, I also have the boards to use for the installation of the FTM-400 in a safe place (this will be worked on during the week) and hopefully I will have a good idea of what's what pretty soon.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Friday 6 April 2018

Preparing for the Ripon rally

On Sunday the Ripon rally takes place, I have missed this every year since I have been licensed but not this time.

Firstly, having a newer and more reliable car has helped to make sure it can happen, secondly I'm not double booked, so I can go and see what bargains I can find, as it's a local rally not one of the big ones then none of the big names will be there, though I am hoping that York Repeater Group will be there as I want to chat to them about GB3HG and when it is likely to go over to System Fusion (my radio will probably be in the car by the time the repeater does change over), though if not I'm sure there are other times I can speak to them.

Someone I know did express an interest in going to the rally due to the abundance of electronic components often sold at these events, they're after LEDs yet with no understanding of how to connect them (fortunately for them I do know how to connect them and also know sufficient about parallel and series circuits), and with the demise of Maplin Electronics I now have to rely on rallies if I want components and connectors straight off a shelf, buy in bulk at the rallies to use up over a period of time, though I can still get components online from hobby suppliers I do often like that face to face contact with the seller if they know the components, rare but did sometimes happen at Maplin, which I expect from fellow Amateurs, I like to build rather than buy where possible.

Hopefully a good day will be had, as long as I don't spend a fortune (you never know at a rally).

73 de 2E0EIJ

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Network radio... a glorified Android phone made to look like a transceiver, gimmick or not?

Today I became aware of a device called the Inrico TM-7, a so-called network radio being sold by Martin Lynch & Sons, which in essence is a dual-SIM Android phone that can be made to work with both TeamSpeak and Zello, and also Echolink if you are duly-licensed of course, but I have one question, why?

First off I can see a somewhat practical use for this in an environment for the Amateur where antennas are impossible to erect, though this thing is touted as a mobile rig and does plug into a car cigar socket, but most hams who want Echolink usually use a computer or phone so all this is doing is adding a hand mic to the mobile Echolink app (which probably can be done anyway without having to buy this).

I became aware of this radio via Twitter on a post from Martin Lynch & Sons, not the usual sources of new radio news, though this thing has been sold by the Chinese for some time (being dual-SIM is a giveaway of its Chinese origins as many mobile devices sold there are configured this way).

I think this "radio" is a bit of a gimmick and I think I should give it a review to see if my mind is changed, of course I would have to buy it if I am to do so.

From what I understand, this device works on WiFi as well as the mobile networks so should require little to get it working at home, it also has GPS so you could, in theory, add APRS functionality to it as well using the well-known and popular APRSDroid app (remember this "radio" is an Android device).

Upon doing further digging it does not appear that the TM-7 is the first of its kind either, there are others as well, the point in these I still feel is a bit of a gimmick but testing these out is probably worth it.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Installation has begun

The loom I require for the relay to be fitted to (to preserve the original wiring on the car as it is) arrived over the weekend and this afternoon, as I had some free time owing to things that I shall not get into for various reasons, I fitted the relay and connected the loom once I identified where on the loom for the stereo the 12V switched feed was, once identified the relay was reconnected using the wires I previously fitted to it and two Scotch Lock connectors (as this is a low current application I don't mind so much using these), though initially it failed to work because the Scotch Lock connectors had failed to bite into the insulation of the wires as they should have, a quick trip back up to the house and a pair of pliers later the problem was solved, and everything that needed plugging back in was plugged back in and tested (and nothing missed because I was not being harassed by KD0MXN over the Internet as has happened in the past when I've installed equipment in the car before).

Outstanding to complete this install is a power feed of 84/0.3 thin wall wire, the extension wiring to separate the control and mic over a further distance than otherwise and of course the boot side enclosure and accessories that will be fitted there, having already test fitted the control head (with the handsfree mic attached to the rear of the bracket) and knowing it fits OK where I want it to go I can build around it though the radio's display does not get put in place properly until the rest of it is done.

I still have not quite worked out where the extension speaker will be going but this should not be a major issue to work out, all that requires is the speaker be where I can hear it, not be in the way of an airbag, and conveniently bolted down using existing hardware.

Hopefully come next payday I will have enough to order some more bits, specifically the electrical stuff.

73 de 2E0EIJ