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Wednesday 28 November 2018

RT87 on order

With the last post covering the Retevis RT87, a radio that received positive review from Lewis M3HHY, I have ordered one from Amazon, and will be making a video putting the radio through its paces, and also doing a power measurement before going out with it (the radio's specs from the official Retevis website specify that it should be able to produce up to 5 watts on high power, and a watt on low power, though it does not specify if this applies to both bands or just VHF (I've found UHF to be lower in most cases on pretty much every HT I've tested), this will start a trend on that every radio (save for network radios) I review or feature will be put through a power test as part of the video, though at present I only have a dummy load that can take up to 50 watts all bands, and a salt water dummy load that may not take a lot at all.

I won't be testing the IP67 rating, someone probably has already done so and I would rather not risk destroying a brand new radio, might be on YouTube somewhere, range and front-end test from the racecourse in Richmond will certainly take place (my VV-898 and KT-8900D both had problems with pagers here though the latter less so, no doubt my Baofengs do as well, my Wouxun and AnyTone may get away lightly but I don't know and will probably test them too if time permits), and although other videos on other YouTube channels cover it I'll briefly go over the programming of the radio using the supplied data cable, and also I will include a link to the Amazon page where I ordered the radio from in the YouTube description.

It may take a few days for the video to get onto YouTube as I do have to work and obviously the hilltop test at the racecourse will be weather dependent also, I can start the unboxing and programming parts first then get the rest filmed and then the whole video put together in a timely fashion.

I will update this when I get my hands on the radio.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday 24 November 2018

Retevis RT87: my next HT?

Now I wouldn't normally rush out to buy a radio based on a YouTube review however in this case I am tempted to after two very positive videos surrounding the Retevis RT87 by Lewis M3HHY on his 'Ringway Manchester' channel, which I watched in reverse order, the second video he did was a test on top of a local to him high spot called Werneth Low, where apparently high power transmission stations were present that should flatten the front end of any Chinese radio, particularly Baofeng radios, or even the Leixen VV-898 which I know to be terrible for this, however the video showed Lewis operating happily from the area working stations in Oldham and Stretford and other locations as well as two local repeaters, the first video being the unboxing and describing of the radio.

I found the radio on Amazon for £54 plus shipping with the data cable, the cable is needed as this radio is IP67 rated and uses a pogo-pin arrangement to make the connections (the pins are on the accessory, contacts are on the radio under a waterproof cap, my network radio has a similar connector but I believe it is not IP67 rated), otherwise I'd be spending hours programming a radio like this by hand.

So I certainly will order this radio, and put it through its paces, for £54 plus a programming cable you certainly cannot go wrong.

Probably does not work with Chirp yet so I'd have to install the Retevis software on my shack computer, it's not much different to Chirp and looks simple and easy to use compared to most Chinese radio programming software.

I'll keep you informed

73 de 2E0EIJ

Wednesday 21 November 2018

SWR concerns

Running a mobile station the biggest issue is the environment in which it is set up, that is a moving vehicle which is subject to all manner of rattles and bumps as you're driving along, and also anything overhead that may catch on the antenna and damage it, as well as feeding the coax from a magmount through a vehicle door or boot lid or tailgate (the latter of the three in my case), where the cable may get squashed and this can potentially change its characteristic impedance (which for 2-way radio purposes is 50 Ohms), so it is wise, especially if you have a "big three" radio, to check the SWR from time to time, this was the first time I'd checked it since installing the rig and antenna into the current car.

The SWR on 2-meters was acceptable, even at the full 50 watts the radio could do, the SWR on 70cm simplex however was unacceptable, though when I checked the SWR at the frequency used for the Jumbospot (which I occasionally have in the car) it was acceptable at all three power levels, I since adjusted the antenna and got the SWR on 70cm down to 1.7:1, still some loss present, and as the radio is being fed with RG58 anyway I expect loss on the line anyway at those frequencies, the only cable I have similar in size to RG58 is RG8 mini which has a foam dielectric and would be crushed in the tailgate and would create a new problem so I'd need to find coax that is less lossy at 70cm and wouldn't simply be squashed by the tailgate. a tall order but worth it to get the message across.

I plan to do a second SWR check in a week as I do a lot of driving and things may change, though they shouldn't as long as I avoid any really low branches or multi-storey car parks.

Adjustment of the antenna was difficult as the adjustment points had all seized, however a squirt of WD-40 soon sorted that, the grub screws holding the antenna together were easy to get out with an allen key though, all good in that regard, and with a better SWR at 70cm I feel confident that I won't destroy the finals in a £500+ radio that would certainly be out of warranty by now and the finals would not be covered by that regardless as no manufacturer honours the replacement of the finals, however if the final power transistors are of a common type and are through hole I see no reason why I could not replace these myself however the FTM-400XDE is a modern rig and has a lot of surface mount components so chances are I'd have to send it to the pros to be fixed as I cannot solder surface mount, hence why it is critical I don't blow the finals.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Tuesday 20 November 2018

YouTube video editing facilities now in shack

The facilities are essentially my former web server which has more RAM and two independent CPUs and different video editing software over my personal desktop computer, this should make my YouTube videos better than what they are now in some regards (cameras remain the same at present), I have not got one in the can at the moment but plan to get something up soon.

I also have moved my audio mixing desk into the shack and plan to use it with the video editing, ideal for recording and inserting audio into videos, I won't be connecting this to a radio, another plan was podcasting, however since discovery of the ICQ Amateur/Ham radio podcast I may have to come up with something unique, I have a few ideas however whether this comes to anything remains to be seen, given I am busy at present with work so no time to play radio really either.

The same machine has enough grunt to run RTL-SDR related software without complaining though I have not fully tested it yet and the antenna feed might be longer than I'd like unless fed with RG213 which would negate losses at the frequencies the RTL-SDR would operate, as I may want to include RTL-SDR feeds in videos.

I have tested the setup and found an audio abnormality on the sound card I fitted, I swapped the audio input and output between the fitted sound card and my Creative SoundBlaster Live 24 USB, noise gone, the video processing has not been tested as yet but will be tested as part of processing the first video, the camcorder simply connects as a USB drive as per other machines.

The software running on the machine for video processing is Kdenlive rather than Openshot (which I had on my desktop), so hopefully this will be a big improvement in the quality of my videos.

As you will know I purchased my first Network Radio at the 2018 National Hamfest, I have planned to do a review on it for some time but this has not happened, with my shack now somewhat organised I should be able to get this one, I have not transmitted on the Network Radio yet either apart from tests, so I hope to get the review made and up now I have new editing facilities for my videos.

I also hope as a result of this I can now have more content to YouTube not only on my Amateur radio channel, which applies here, but also my electronics channel, my cars channel and my Internet videos channel.

Keep an eye out on my YouTube channel for my Network Radio review (Radio-Tone RT3) and more videos from my part of our wonderful hobby, and keep an eye out for me at rallies, I may be at Spennymoor this year depending on circumstances and plan to start next year's rally season either at Blackpool or Ripon, whichever comes first and hope to get videos of these rallies up on my channel too, and if you see me at any of them do say hi, and hopefully by Hamfest 2019 I should be an M0 (I will update the blog and YouTube channel on how I do), wish me luck :)

73 de 2E0EIJ

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Full licence possibilty

An opportunity has arisen in the form of the Bath-based Advanced learning course run by Steve Hartley G0FUW, I have already emailed Steve and he has send me the form to send off to him to enrol on the course, with a refundable (if passed) £40 deposit to secure a place.

I want to pass the full examination before the syllabus changes, with this course I have to arrange my own examination at an exam centre of my choosing, naturally this would be the Colburn (Hudswell) club though I may have to go to Bishop Auckland or Ripon depending on situation at the time.

I have read the book already however will need to re-read it again and possibly the Foundation and Intermediate books just to keep me up to speed on the earlier and lower tiers of licence.

I have a few incentives to go for the full apart from the sense of satisfaction I will get from doing so, as I want to run a self-contained APRS receive only igate from my home QTH and under my current licence I must be at home to run it, initially using a Raspberry Pi and an RTL-SDR with a battery and solar charging, and NoVs for this can only be done on a full licence, mainly to fill-in for MB7USD as that does not seem to be working all the time and thus those that use APRS in the area may not be able to get into the APRS-IS.  I also want to be able to help others to get into the hobby and with my intermediate I am very limited in what I can do in that regard.  Another thing I would like to do is run special events stations which I could not otherwise do without a full licence, again to help promote the hobby.

The other thing I'd be able to do is run up to 400 watts on most bands (the UK limit without an NoV is 400 watts), and most modern rigs are capable of up to 100 watts on HF (sometimes a bit more depending on the radio) though power is not everything as successful contacts can be made on some bands with as little as a few watts sometimes milliwatts under good conditions.

And finally I will then be able to operate in other countries and also /MM (maritime mobile), the latter with permission of course, though the likelihood I'll operate /MM is low.

My journey to the full licence should hopefully start soon and in a few months I hope to have achieved what I set out to do, I will keep you all posted on how things are going.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday 10 November 2018

Equipment plans

As you know, aside from 10-meters, I lack any suitable equipment for use on HF, however I have been saving up what I can to get some HF equipment, antennas are no issue as I will build these as this is significantly cheaper and I plan to experiment with magnetic loops on HF and use wire antennas when portable so no point buying antennas (and Marconi would spin in his grave if I did).

The equipment in mind is all Yaesu equipment, their new FT-818 or their FT-991A, depending on what I save, the latter does have an onboard ATU and higher power output, the FT-818 has a battery onboard and no ATU and outputs 6 watts, I made my first 80-meter QSO from the club last meeting under the club callsign thus allowing me to use the 100 watts the radio was putting out legally, and most HF activity under my own callsign is generally restricted to 10-meters as I only have a radio for that band though at present no antenna.

I have little to no experience operating HF other than on 11-meters where different procedures apply as it is the Citizens' Band, though SSB is available my inexperience tuning an SSB frequency does show which is why I want to get into operating HF as soon as I can do so to gain that experience, after all Amateur radio is all about learning and learning to operate on HF properly is certainly something I intend to do, for starters I will be listening to Hack Green again and using that to start learning to tune SSB, as I can plug my shack headphones into my shack computer, that way once I have a knack for it I will be able to do it and also at the meeting after next at the club I shall practice my tuning on the club rig, not sure which bands aside from 20, 40 and 80-meters are covered by the club rig or its reserve, however once I know that information it will allow me to have a good tune around during club nights and practice for when I have HF gear.

Whether I get a 991A or 818 does not matter overly much, as I plan to do some portable ops during the summer and also operate from the National Hamfest every year, if I get an 818 I will probably need an amp unless I want to do true QRP say from the hills (SOTA activations for example), but this is a post for another day.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Monday 5 November 2018

UK legal CB is 37 years old

2nd November 1981, 5 months before I was born, CB radio was legalised in the UK, though not how the people wanted it, however it remains alive and well, though not as utilised as it once was as most of the idiots in modern society all lurk on social media, that said CB use has picked up a little with AM and SSB modes being legalised a few years ago.

A "big net" was held on Friday, which due to work commitments and no CB equipment in the car at this time I was not able to take part in, it doesn't matter to me that I have my Amateur radio licence, it all started for me on 11-meters and to a point PMR446 as well but that is another story, apparently the turnout on UK channel 37 was pretty good, I was planning to go to Sutton Bank near Thirsk to take part in this (after my success at Tan Hill during Activate All Counties I wanted to try something different and I know Sutton Bank is a good spot for radio) and use the President Grant II as the radio, but as I mentioned work stopped me doing this.

So, how to partake next year on Channel 38? My idea was one I had with my previous car, as my current car is identical in almost every way my plan was to fit the cycle carrier I had installed on my previous car and mount a CB antenna (and possibly a counterpoise) to the carrier using an off-the-shelf mirror bar mount, however I am looking into doing something similar for 10-meters so I can operate on 10 mobile, so I'd need an antenna that could cover both with minimal adjustments, the first step of course is to fit the carrier which I will have to do on a good day, the carrier is a Westfalia monoflex designed specifically for the Toyota Aygo AB10 and its two Groupe PSA sister cars, my idea was to fit a large CB antenna to it, and later a full HF antenna, this would allow me to use CB and 10-meters on the road and I'd be able to participate in nets like the big net that celebrates the anniversary of CB radio being legalised

as I am working to save money for the future and get an HF rig as well as something nice for someone special to me (the future XYL of course), I should see my "antenna and cycle carrier" idea becomea reality in the coming months, how it will work with a bicycle on the carrier remains to be seen as I will be testing that too.

73 de 26CT730/2E0EIJ