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Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Thunderpole T-3000 is winging its way to my shack

Today was my payday, and factoring in that I have a bit of extra cash left over from my salary I placed an order for a Thunderpole T-3000 CB radio, which so far I have heard good reports about, this radio has already been looked at by RustySkull Productions on YouTube and Lewis M3HHY from channel "RingwayManchester" has looked at the radio this is a rebadge of, the Nanfone CB-689, and tested with another station radio to radio, the other station having the T-3000, was found to work well.

I plan to use this radio as my main mobile CB, even though it does not have SSB which I only really use parked up because adjusting the RIT (or clarifier as it's called on CBs) while mobile is a pain and with SSB you sometimes have to concentrate on the incoming audio which is certainly not ideal while driving, as this radio is so slimline it can fit any modern car with ease either into a DIN sized space or fixed to the dash with a bracket in the normal way.

The unit I ordered is an ex display unit, what that means is that Thunderpole have had it out of the box and had it on display, though they will have tested all accessories to ensure they function, particularly the microphone, which although has an LED in it, or at least a position for one, no LED lights up on transmit, this is because an optional Bluetooth mic is available for the Nanfone unit and would work with this as well, by virtue of the Kenwood HT type connector on the front (as I have a speaker mic and some headsets from Baofeng radios that fit I may test these too.

Naturally I will be doing a video with this radio, power tests (4 watts of course), how it looks and feels, ease of use and hopefully if there are any stations on that day a radio report.

I plan to mount this radio in the car, and ultimately keep my Grant II for portable work on 11-meters SSB, the antenna on the car at the moment for 11-meters is in fact my Orbitor/Tornado Stinger antenna that during the summer my XYL painted white and her and I converted into the antenna we dubbed the 'spider antenna', the magmount is an older version of the Sirio magmount I have in use for my 2/70 antenna, except this older one had near destroyed cable so I had to rewire it using coax from a snail mount I was not using, I will later on be replacing the rear antenna with something similar to the antenna I loaned, I'll have to see if GB Communications sell one of these because I then don't have to travel far and can swap the antennas over immediately, provided I remember an SWR meter because the T-3000 does not have one installed.

I certainly am eager to receive one of the most unique CB radios made today to fit into the most unique Toyota Aygo of them all, not because I've fitted radio equipment in it but because it did a journey from my home QTH to well into Bavaria and back and did not seem bothered, so a unique design of CB radio should complement it nicely.

There is a Sci-Fi connection with the naming scheme of the Thunderpole T-series CB radios, I've spotted it, can you spot it too?

I have started monitoring and calling out on 19 due to the appearance of a Ford Fiesta, a Volkswagen Bora and a pick up truck all equipped with Orbitor style antennas, so I know people are out there using the CB, and I'm pretty sure the drivers of these vehicles have seen the antennas on my car too, and I saw a video on YouTube where a CB operator drives to work on the motorway, gets passed by an HGV and the driver of the HGV calls out after seeing the antenna on the car of the operator that's filming, I suspect he's using a President Grant II in that video, no idea what the trucker was using though.

Hope to catch you on the CB and also don't forget as I'm a licenced Amateur radio operator I can be found on local repeaters in my area and sometimes the calling channel on 2-meters.

73 de M0WNU/26CT730 (or you can just call me the red squirrel on the CB if you like)

Sunday, 19 January 2020

In car APRS map install almost complete

I have fitted the tablet mount in the car, unfortunately by using self-tapping screws into a piece of trim panel on the passenger side, and have tested to find the best position for the tablet so it does not interfere with the operation of the controls, it does block access to the stereo at the moment however this is a minor inconvenience.

The wiring has tested out in a temporary location and RF from the radio does not appear to interfere with the operation of the USB port thus allowing the mobile phone to remain tethered to the tablet over USB, the last job to do is tidy up the cabling by means of cable ties, keeping the radio cable away from anything else of course, the USB cable for the phone will run out loose from the hub as it will be reused in the charger as well for when the tablet is not in the car (for instance when I am at work and I require to charge the phone, the USB hub cannot deliver enough current for a fast charge), the hub was not powered externally during the mount install tests, the Bluetooth GPS unit, which got a lock relatively quickly, was though I suspect the connector does not quite fit the socket on the unit which results in poor to intermittent connection.

Otherwise everything is working, the tablet is displaying whatever the radio receives, the position from GPS and anything on the APRS-IS that is out of radio range, so all set for the off to Blackpool in April

73 de M0WNU

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Addition to the in car APRS mapping setup planned

With me hoping to fit the mount for the tablet into the car on Sunday, attention has turned to how I would be able to type anything into the tablet while it is in the mount and off the keyboard dock, I decided a wireless keyboard with trackpad for this and as I've had good results with Logitech products in the past (I have a keyboard but lost the unifying receiver for it) I chose their K400, which we actually use at my work on one of the non-till computers (and it gets dropped on the floor sometimes), as this incorporates a trackpad it means I can still have the option of a mouse or a touchscreen, with APRSISCE/32 a mouse is needed due to the fact it is a desktop application not optimised for a touch screen.

The keyboard is of a decent size so it will fit in the glovebox or the space under the seat when not in use and the dongle can stay plugged into the USB hub which I plan to cable tie to the arm of the tablet holder, given how the setup is configured there would only be one spare USB port after this though this is not an issue as I'd only really use that for flash drives (the tablet does have a micro SD card slot onboard).

Unfortunately with pay day being some time away this will have to wait until then, however I hope to have the setup working ahead of the Blackpool rally so it can be used then not only filling in for where my FTM-400XDE cannot reach an igate or digipeater, but also gating others packets as well as the setup is able to do that.

Going onto the subject of igates, Coastal Chipworks, the company behind the TNC boards for the Raspberry Pi, have since ceased trading, which I discovered yesterday, so I am now having to look into an alternative method to get the Raspberry Pi to work as a two-way igate for this area, I shall keep you posted on my progress with that project.

73 de M0WNU

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Testing the in-car APRS map display with USB hub on tablet

Today I had to do a run out to a local branch of discount supermarket Lidl, and thought it was a good opportunity to test out the map setup using a USB hub on the tablet, however some issues came to light during this before and after leaving the house.

The first issue was APRSISCE/32 causing the WiFi adaptor in the tablet to lock up under load, meaning my phone is tethered using a USB cable (Bluetooth was tested and found to be unacceptably slow, and RF from the radio, with the cables in a certain place, would cause the USB to drop and reconnect, which would cause the tethering to switch off in the phone, the USB cable feeding the hub itself was too long anyway and I've found a shorter one in which I have fitted a clip on ferrite to to see if that helps.

The other issue was the COM port allocation for the FTM-400XDE's supplied data cable, this conflicted with a Bluetooth serial port so the number was changed over to one that was not in use, this did involve disconnecting and reconnecting the plug, and to identify the USB port in which the data cable is to always be plugged in it was outlined with blue permanent marker, the phone used one of the other ports, this allows fitting of a wireless keyboard later on

The USB hub is powered from an in-car power lead with variable voltage set at 5 volts, though the computer and hub will only dictate a maximum of 500mA current per port (the data cable won't get close to that but the phone will).

The Bluetooth GPS box, though currently not fitted to the windscreen as it was previously, worked fine stuck to the top of the dash with the blu-tack already on it and unusually got sufficient satellites from cold start which certainly impressed me.

There is still a little bit of testing to do, using the cable that I put a ferrite bead onto, and then there will be the fitting of the mount in the car which has yet to be done though if the weather is not bad I can look into it on Sunday, but to be honest I'm not holding my breath, it is the UK and winter after all.

I hope to have this working ahead of the Blackpool rally in April.

73 de M0WNU

Attendance at the Blackpool rally and National Hamfest 2020 to hopefully go ahead

This year after booking the dates off early I got approval from the area manager, this means I can now attend the National Hamfest at the end of September and also the Blackpool rally in April as intended, the Ripon rally has not had a date announced yet so I cannot confirm if I am able to attend that until at least the week before it.

This brings me on to what happened last year, I missed the Hamfest as I booked it too late and could not get the days off approved, and on my run down to the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool I was run off a slip road by a very aggressive driver of a Mini, the former certainly cannot happen unless I have issues with the car, and the latter won't happen as the chances of me encountering that Mini driver at Lancaster (Forton) Services again will be nil.

Both events will be filmed for the YouTube Channel, and for Hamfest 2020 I will be camping and hopefully operating radio, maybe by the latter my XYL will be here too and will also be able to attend and camp at Hamfest 2020, and I'll remember the can opener and have a better tent and possibly better cooking stove too.

As for Blackpool, I will be operating 2-meters and 70cm there, including from the top of the world famous Blackpool Tower with my Yaesu FT2D and perhaps my AnyTone AT-D868UV as that seems to have a robust front end unlike my many Baofeng radios.

I'll update as this all progresses and I'd like to extend thanks to my Area Manager for allowing this to happen.

73 de M0WNU

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Anderson Powerpole connectors, why they are a good idea

I did a YouTube video yesterday on why Anderson Powerpole connectors are a good idea, if you recall in June 2018 I escaped destroying my President Grant II by virtue of the fact that a protection diode was across the power connector and this blew the fuse and the radio was fine once that fuse was changed.

That radio actually has a cigar lighter plug on it as opposed to Powerpoles, I will be changing it later when I can get more of them, but the lesson learned was that I should always fit them to radios from the get-go, even my crude homemade bias-tee for QO-100 reception is equipped as such or at least will be if it is not already.

The video is here or it is attached below.

I strongly advise that if you don't use Anderson Powerpole already please start before you make a very expensive mistake, even if you solely operate 11-meters you should get your radio fitted as such.

73 de M0WNU/26CT730

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Mandating the installation & use of CB radio in British & Northern Irish registered motor vehicles...

... A proposal to HM Government

After seeing the chaos that ensues over the Christmas period 2 years in a row, and in 2018 being a victim of car park rage at the hands of a driver of a brown Fiat 500, that same day being cut off at the exit to the same car park by an off duty taxi registered with Hambleton District Council I wanted to push through 2019 for this to happen but due to other commitments I did not, and then came the road rage incident that took place at Lancaster services on my way to the Blackpool rally, which could have also been avoided had this came to pass.

These incidents were all down to lack of communication between drivers, I chose CB radio as the service for this proposal as it has a reasonable range, 80 channels available (though removing 9, 14 and 19 on both blocks of 40 for their official uses this would actually be 74 but still more than the 8-16 PMR446 channels), the antenna would be able to be sited outside the car on its roof which due to the fixed antenna restriction of PMR446 cannot be done, and the vast majority of CB sets available are made with mobile use in mind as they can run of 12 volts, the car battery voltage (this is in reality around 13.8 volts up to 14.2 volts with the engine running), and can be plugged into a cigarette lighter socket for convenience.

The idea is that all motorists monitor UK channel 19, this will allow them to call other motorists and move to another channel of their choosing, alert other motorists of hold-ups, roadworks, accidents and police speed traps, the highways departments that maintain the trunk roads and motorways to do the same to inform motorists well ahead of time of any issues, and service areas on the motorways to advertise themselves on channel 19 to let the motorists know they are there and that they should pull in if they need to.

Part of this proposal mandates that CB installations are to be tested for function similar to the vehicle's MOT, the difference being that the CB set be tested yearly, the similarity being that a fail would mean the vehicle cannot be driven on a public road except to and from a place for repair and retest of the CB set, changing the set would not require a test until the testing date is due, this is so vehicle owners can change the CB radio to a different unit if they so desire, like an MOT the CB function test applies to it at the time the test is carried out.

CB sets that can be integrated into the vehicle in some way are permitted provided they meet Ofcom's list of type approvals, they may need to be temporarily removed to be tested to check things like the fuse, power and antenna connections, there is a radio sold by Chinese manufacturer Nanfone, though I have yet to find a site that sells single units rather than bulk loads of 200 minimum, I know this product is a real product as Lewis M3HHY did a video on YouTube about it and will be posting another one at some stage as he now has a CB antenna, this radio paired with an antenna that looks like a stock car antenna would be suited to those that do not want their car to look different to what it does, though modern cars have stereos made that are shaped to fit the dash rather than the older DIN space, though it is still possible to fit a CB radio to a modern car without any major issue.

Full details of this can be found at the mini-site I am running here which includes more or less the above, and a guide to equipment that can and cannot be used and a link to an Of com guidance document regarding CB radio, I also have an hour long YouTube video on my radio channel here and it is also below should you not want to view it on YouTube

Let's make this proposal reality and persuade HM Government to make this law, I for one think it is an excellent idea

73 de M0WNU/26CT730

Belated happy new year.

With me having the flu over the new year period I did not get round to wishing all my regular readers a happy new year,  so I am doing so now.

I hope to be more active with radio both Amateur and 11-meters/CB and I hope to work many of you on the air this year

73 de M0WNU/26CT730