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Monday, 28 May 2018

Forays into DMR and the Bowburn Rally

I attended the DADARS rally in Bowburn yesterday and, despite some unforeseen roadworks on the A1(M), I found the event venue with no problem and quickly concluded, due to the antennas on the top of the building, that the club hosting the rally was based there.

Now I have a sort of tradition of buying a new radio at rallies, with me buying the GT-5 at the National Hamfest one year, and buying my QYT KT-8900D from the Blackpool rally last year I carried on that tradition by picking up the latest Chinese offering for DMR, the AnyTone AT-D868UV, a 6 watts claimed dual-band HT that can also do FM as well as DMR.

My own opinion of the audio quality of DMR has not been as favourable as that of System Fusion by Yaesu, however, for reasons I need not explain, it is the only other digital voice system I will use, I won't use D-STAR at this time, again I need not explain why.

DMR coverage in my area is, for lack of a better word, poor, but that's not to say I cannot use it, and with these dual-band radios now coming out I am pretty sure that there will be 2-meter repeaters with DMR functionality coming on air at some point, though here in the North East of England the favoured digital voice system is in fact System Fusion, for which I already have the radio for.

I am awaiting confirmation of my DMR ID and have found a codeplug that has all repeaters in the UK in it as well as a few other things that would be of use in this radio, the codeplug has been written along with the system issued DMR ID, the codeplug was supplied free of charge by Moonraker, the software was elsewhere on the Internet, the radio itself was supplied by Mirfield Electronics and I got a business card off them so I could contact them should I have any issues at all, fortunately no issues yet.

The radio keys up fine, though to actually test the DMR side I'd need something that can decode DMR, my RTL-SDRs should do this no problem, also another station with DMR equipment should be fine to give me an idea of how this radio performs on DMR a bit more fairly than an RTL-SDR

Going back to the rally, it was not too big and they did have bacon rolls (which I did have one despite having a McDonald's breakfast that morning), it was also good weather so the drive to and from the rally was in an air conditioned car, complete with a short QSO with Chris G4FZN once I got back into GB3IR's range, which I noticed was definitely a couple of S points down just as the A1 goes over the Tees, my handsfree performed well as long as I was speaking at the microphone, or at least the report I got from Chris was along those lines, I mostly monitored GB3CD until I was just past Darlington on the way back, on the way out I switched to S22 (for the talk in though it didn't seem to be in operation) once out of GB3IR's range (with the control panel for the FTM-400XDE in the centre of the car dash this was achieved easy.  The rally came up in my QSO with Chris and I was surprised he was not there, however he obviously had other things to do that day.

The rally was worth the visit, not too busy and had a raffle and tombola, I didn't win anything but there's always the National Hamfest in September, but that's another story entirely, plenty of stalls at the rally, and plenty of radio gear up for grabs, I had a choice between a Bluetooth microphone for my KT-8900D or the DMR, I chose the DMR in the end as in the shack I don't really need a Bluetooth microphone.

Now time to play with the DMR, see what it can do (and if it is a "Motorola killer", I have heard plenty of DMR users are set in their ways and use Motorola MotoTRBO equipment)

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday, 26 May 2018

2 years since I was betrayed

So as you know today marks 2 years since I was in Staines visiting Martin Lynch & Sons to purchase my Yaesu FTM-400XDE however as you will recall I was betrayed by Chance Callahan KD0MXN before making it to the showroom, and as you know he thinks he is innocent of wrong doing and I am the guilty party despite his behaviour which is unacceptable in the Amateur radio community.

After my last post about his irresponsible actions, poor and potentially illegal and dangerous advice to a newly qualified Amateur on Reddit, and his subsequent gloating about it on ##hamradio on freenode, little has been heard from him, perhaps President Trump sent FCC heavies around and took out his station once and for all? Sadly unlikely, as the FCC have done absolutely nothing despite the information they got off me, though the FCC do answer to the US Federal Government.

There is also the likelihood that since relocating to Washington DC he is treading very carefully as he knows that he is in the wrong, though that would not explain his bad behaviour on reddit recently, however the only conclusive proof I can get is if I record on-air abuse, the FCC would have to act then, the evidence would be there.

I still pray though that I will never have to deal with him on air as I don't want to deal with him on air, no one does and there is no place for him and his atrocious behaviour in the hobby.

I have a YouTube video in the pipeline that sort of goes over this as well, it was filmed today and should be online in the next few days and will appear here

73 de 2E0EIJ

Update: 30th May 2018: The video alluded to above is now on YouTube, it is also available below.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

FTM-400XDE is now operational

The FTM-400XDE is now in the car and operating, the antenna on the roof has been moved a little way forward and closer to the broadcast band aerial to at least make sure it's as close to central on the roof as possible, the SWR is reasonably low on both 2-meters and 70cm, slightly higher on 70cm though but still within acceptable limits.

Not sure yet on the TX audio from the handsfree mic which has been fitted to the rear of the control unit, as I am yet to have any kind of audio report, the APRS beaconing does work as expected and if I do have the beacon on it should appear on if you wish to follow the link on the right of this blog on the desktop site (on the mobile version it's here for convenience).

The radio has not put any stress onto the car's electrics at all and the power feed is connected, via fuse, to the battery using an M8 ring terminal crimped to the cable, this allows the red cover that goes over the positive side to still fit on, the cable is tied out the way with cable ties to prevent it getting anywhere near the engine.

As this car is drive-by-wire which means that the throttle utilises electronics instead of a Bowden cable to connect to the pedal this introduced another point in which RFI could pose a potential danger, however having done some small tests I have found the throttle still operates when the radio operates at full TX power, perhaps the car body is screening the throttle components from the RFI effectively.

I removed the Baofeng UV-5RC Plus after I completed the job, it has been returned to standby/spare HT duties, this also freed up my speaker mic, and with the FTM-400 now in the car I have to say the audio is vastly improved, I don't think much of the audio on Baofeng radios but they do what they do, sadly as they're all HTs they are not really suited to in car use.

The FTM-400 has not been reconfigured in any way, and still shows the battery voltage on screen, and this brings me onto my final observation, the battery in the car now remained stable at 12.5V on RX with the ignition on the 'accessory' position (which runs the stereo and cigarette lighter with the engine and all other ancillaries off), where is it would drop to 12V and perhaps a little further towards 11 than I'd like on the battery fitted to the old car.

The only thing left to do is get on the air really.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

recommissioning the FTM-400XDE

As you know well by now I replaced my car earlier in the year with a newer and surprisingly low mileage model of the same car I had before, however as it has stood it has been some time until the FTM-400XDE could be reinstalled, and it culminates today, as over the course of the last few weeks I've slowly put parts of it into the car, the control head is now in the car along with the handsfree microphone, however there is one outstanding job to do and that job is the power supply.

This time I am going to do a better job, I have gone for a fuse holder at the battery with a fuse rated the same as those fitted to the radio's own power lead, 15 amp.

The battery on this car is the factory supplied battery though nearly 5 years old is still working well, I also noticed when inspecting the battery that there is a flanged nut on the positive side where the loom from the engine fusebox connects to the battery, the post looks to be M8 and I have ring terminals of this size to hand, heatshrink will also be used.

The fuse at the engine bay allows the circuit to be isolated and left in place, and if a jumpstart is required the fuse can be pulled out to isolate the radio and protect it from damage in this event.

The power wire otherwise will follow the same routing as it did on the previous car, through a grommet behind the instrument panel, which on the engine side is next to the brake servo.

I'm also going to remove the Baofeng UV-5RC Plus at the same time, and on the tuning stage position the antenna a little better.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday, 19 May 2018

National Hamfest 2018 - Their website is online....

However at time of posting I still cannot book the camping as there is no form available on their website and I suspect it will have to be done through their shop which opens on the 1st July, a major inconvenience but I can still get camping gear and book the hamfest dates off work.

I know there are supposed to be two camping choices though for any guests one is better than the other and the walk to the hamfest event hall will do me the world of good anyway, as long as it's sunny that weekend (as it has been every other time I have visited the National Hamfest) I don't mind.

Of course with payday just around the corner I can start to think about buying what I need, though I shall hold off until after the beginning of June which allows time for my biggest bills to come out and I can see what I have left or whether I wait until July (which is cutting it fine)

The other matter of course is getting all my feeders repaired so I can operate from the hamfest site, I hope to do that in the coming weeks, my old home QTH CB antenna feed, which had a damaged plug on one end which may have contributed to it never working as it ought to have, is the first on my list to do as it is the longest of the cables I have, I plan to fit crimp-on plugs as these may perform much better than the solder-on plugs I have used in the past and when I have done all the feeders I should be less likely to go off air at the hamfest site should a plug fail.

Just have to get things all in order for the National Hamfest weekend.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

getting people interested in radio

Having noticed not many new people entering the hobby I have decided to try and get people interested in the hobby, and to this end I am building a WordPress site that should be of help to beginners and newbies, I will also be doing a series of videos on the subject for my YouTube channel in the coming weeks.

I see radio as a very useful resource where other methods of communication may not work, for example in the middle of nowhere mobile phone coverage may be next to zero, with a few CB radios between people in these remote and rural communities then people can be kept in contact and perhaps make contact with people in towns and cities if the conditions allow.

I am not totally convinced I will be successful here but I will at least give it a go.

73 de 2E0EIJ/26CT730

Monday, 14 May 2018

Power supplies for radios, a cheaper alternative?

I have been for a while looking to replace the existing shack power supply arrangements with something that utilises Anderson Powerpole connectors, and can distribute that power from one supply, a suitable supply from a radio equipment supplier would at least come to just shy of £80-£100, but there may be a cheaper option.

YouTube user "fredintheshed" purchased a cheap 40A PSU from eBay that could do the job and he used it to run the CRT 6900N (which in actuality is the AnyTone AT5555 with blue readouts) with very little problems, apart from one obvious one, safety, because this type of PSU has exposed screw terminals for mains in and 12-volt out.

This supply can output at 13.8v DC with no real problem, it simply requires an adjustment of a potentiometer next to the terminals preferably while a voltmeter is in circuit, though most CB and Amateur equipment will take 14 volts happily as car alternators usually output here.

The cost, less than £20 shipped, however to get this thing working you really need to follow electrical safety rules, connect this unit to earth (that is power it with 3-core cable), a fuse inline on the live side would not hurt either, ensure the exposed live terminals are covered or the whole unit is enclosed so it cannot be touched, and use cable rated for or even above what you expect to draw to reduce fire hazard, the wire gauge rule also applies for the DC out.

Another little tip is to fit an ammeter to the DC output so you can be aware of how much current you are drawing, a linear amplifier (if you're duly licensed and it does not exceed your allowed power output) could potentially pull a lot of current, as could a radio alone depending on it's TX output power, a CB on the other hand, due to the fact it wouldn't exceed 4 watts ERP (and 12 watts PEP on SSB) would pull such a small amount of current it wouldn't put a lot of load on the supply, a voltmeter would also be handy to make sure the voltage output is stable.

Fred's video on YouTube also showed the units to be RF clean (at least on 27MHz as from what I can tell he is not licensed) which surprises me considering most Chinese imports tend to generate more RF pollution than they ought to (the only thing worse is PLT units), though this test was done by disconnecting the antenna from the radio.

Should you buy one of these? Ideally only if you're competent at electrical wiring (though if in doubt always seek the advice of an electrician), I plan to get one of these myself and see if it powers my CRT SS9900 better than the computer PSU I am forced to use for it.

Finally if you do buy one of these, be aware there is a cooling fan on top of the unit, if you enclose the unit it is vital that you do not obstruct the airflow to the fan for obvious reasons.

All in all these supplies seem good value for money, so I think for me that is worth an investigation.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Thursday, 10 May 2018

T2LT test failue... but not the T2LT itself

No, this failure is down to some previously unknown damage to my fibreglass mast, a crack is present in another section though this time close to the bottom so I cannot simply remove it and carry on regardless, the crack is a good few cm running up the section.

Repairing fibreglass is a very difficult job and probably harder with a mast so I am forced to render the existing pole scrap unless I can find some other purpose for it, this leaves me with the only option but to replace it, SOTABeams sell these masts at the size I have now (when it was undamaged) for £35 though at time of writing they were out of stock.

I did try hanging the T2LT from a tree as well but this did not work as I could not reach in to climb up the tree safely so it was not to be.

The antenna does appear to receive, however I have no means at present to test the transmit to ensure it did not suffer damage during the house move, though as the driven portion is effectively the centre of the coax (the exposed dielectric with the centre conductor inside) then unless it has somehow broken at the join (unlikely) I see no reason why it would be unable to transmit, however I will have to wait until both payday and when SOTABeams have the masts in stock.

Hopefully I can get the mast replaced in time for the Big Multimode Nets in June, which I should as I do know SOTABeams will have 10m masts in stock by the end of May all being well.

73 de 2E0EIJ/26CT730

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Still not totally convinced by network radios

I have been having a look at network radios again, essentially these things are Android phones built to look like a mobile radio or HT, I still think they're a bit of a gimmick but as I alluded to previously they may have a purpose.

Naturally to actually convince me if these radios are any good I'd want to do my own review and run one to see how it fairs, I've watched some further videos on the subject on YouTube channel "Ringway Manchester" but to be honest a test of one of these radios (they're starting to pop up on a couple of well known radio suppliers in the UK now) is in order. all of which I intend to put on YouTube myself with my own opinion, I already have an account on Zello (well I have two) and the IRN, and can run Echolink as well on one of these.

Of course to do the review I have to buy one, as the old saying goes you have to spend money to make money, or in this case spend money to make a review (my YouTube channel isn't monetised and I make no money from my videos), and normally I don't leave my YouTube videos open to comments due to a history of abuse of this on my videos but I could well make an exception on this one as thoughts are welcome as I know there is some people for and some people against, whereas I am in between and undecided as far as these are concerned.

As soon as I can get hold of one I'll start my videos on the subject.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Monday, 7 May 2018

The trusted T2LT antenna for 11-meters, how does it perform over a commercial antenna?

Well to find this out YouTube user "Amateur and 11m radio Tim" (sorry Tim I don't know your callsigns yet) rigged up a commercial antenna, a Sirio 4000, and a T2LT, needless to say those results were impressive.

I have built the T2LT myself as you know, and I know it works as I have got out on it and it pulls in a lot of stations though last time I had it out the conditions left a lot to be desired, however for 11-meters it is the most practical antenna you can get, it can be hung from trees or fibreglass masts and it gets you on the air, how much power it can handle is a different matter entirely as I have never actually tested this and there is no legal way to do that, however the T2LT gets its next outing at the end of June.

Going back to Tim's video, it is here so you can make your own decision on whether for portable 11-meter operation a T2LT or a commercial antenna is the right choice for you.

73 de 26CT730

Sunday, 6 May 2018

magnetic loops again... or at least the capacitor part of them

This is an interesting one as I went into the pound shop today to get drinks (they're on any 3 for £1 right now), and after spotting two distinct size of cans, the "energy drink" size (though they had some with non-energy drinks in them) and the usual size cans I remembered what had been done by Alex PY1AHD, the creator of the AlexLoop WalkHam (of which I can't afford right now), it is interesting how something not entirely related to radio can bring you back to radio.

What Alex has done, and is somewhat well known, is make a magnetic loop with a variable capacitor using two drinks cans of the normal size and two of the thinner size. with the two slimmer cans attached to a piece of PCB which in turn is mounted to a mechanism to allow movement by way of 2 syringes and a hose filled with water, the loop is made from coax and appears to be terminated using PL259s and SO239s, in turn to the top of the non-moving cans, his choice of cans were of a well known brand of cola, though other soft drinks cans should work the same, my theory is to try and replicate the capacitor and see if it works, though there is no mention of any insulator inside the cans to separate the "plates", it could quite simply be the air, but all of the parts are easy to obtain, cans are pennies, coax you could have lying around some spare (I don't as all of the coax I have that would be ideal is used as feedline already), or you can get it cut to length, PL259s and SO239s you could already have also, I have a few but have earmarked a square chassis mount SO239 for other use), blank PCBs are also affordable.

I have all the cans and have finished the drinks off, all I need to do is get started making the capacitor and see how it fairs, and importanlty if the capacitance is right for 12-10m as it is this portion of HF (including 11m) that I can use with the equipment I've got

73 de 2E0EIJ/26CT730

Thursday, 3 May 2018

The Big Multimode Nets 2018

With 4 years since we got legal AM and SSB in the UK on 11-meters many stations will be celebrating this anniversary on Wednesday 27th June, this will include myself from a very particular place, Tan Hill, home of a very famous pub (remember the Waitrose adverts at Christmas anyone? It's that pub), and that location is perfect for radio, this is also WX dependent though in June snow is not expected, but high winds can pose an issue as they have before when I took a rental car up there and could not open the door.

I've always wanted to operate radio from Tan Hill, I've done a little on 2-meters up there but with little success, 11-meters has been a band I've wanted to do from there for some time as I know, even on an HT with the correct conditions (see my YouTube channel for my pre DX-pedition evaluation) a lot can be received, one thing that is true with radio no matter what the band is that height is might.

Of course I couldn't go without filming it and putting it onto YouTube for all to see, which of course I shall do.

On the day I should be operating between 6 and 11pm (respecting the locals of course though it is isolated up there so the locals are 95% sheep and 5% people) as 26CT730 of course, hopefully on legal SSB subject to tests of my President Grant II which are due to be done anyway, after all this is a celebration of the legal CB modes, of course the conditions on 11-meters on the day will also serve as how many QSOs I can log not just the height.

Although this is a UK big net what I would really be pleased to do is work Roy 104CT011 in Corsica, as he has been on the list of 11-meter operators overseas I want to work for a number of years (other callsigns used by him are 104ET001 and 104DA101), but again conditions need to be favourable and he also needs to be listening to the frequencies.

My contacts will be logged as well so I know how many I have worked on legal power, I will get a logging system arranged as soon as possible.

Operating conditions will be the Grant II, stock mic, and T2LT antenna on the fibreglass mast in the drive on mast stand.

Looking forward to making some great contacts in my first participation of the Big Multimode Nets

73 de 26CT730

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

YouTube channel getting more new uploads

I have not uploaded anything to my YouTube channel for some time given all the events going on, such as the QTH move, the car issues I had and some other unforeseen issues I had at the beginning of this year, however with that all behind me I have now got the time to start again.

First and foremost I dug out my JVC Everio camcorder, and found it still works so it and my phone both play a part in the video recording, some videos have been uploaded at time of writing but there is more to come and I hope to do some filming at the National Hamfest later this year all being well as I do plan to attend.

I do intend to get more videos up so please do subscribe to my YouTube channel, you can find it here, at the time of writing the intro video was from when I had my foundation licence, I do plan to update this in the not too distant future all being well, I still have a busy life but with the chaos dying out I can focus on YouTube a bit more.

73 de 2E0EIJ