Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Linux Ham Update

Well, I have Xubuntu running and I finally got fldigi configured with my Signalink USB. It was pretty painless but it seems that I had to have fldigi shutdown when I inserted the USB cable or it wouldn't recognize it. I was glad to see that it's even easier than Windows. No drivers or anything to install. Just plug it in and rock n roll! If you want to confirm that it's working tail the log to see it show up. Try this from a terminal window:

sudo tail -f /var/log/messages

If you're not familiar with this command, tail will show you the end or tail of a file. The -f parameter tells it to follow the log meaning it will change on the screen as the file changes. This is how you can watch the log changing in real time. The log we're watching is /var/log/messages. When you plug the Signalink in the log should look something like this:

usb 3-2: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 11
usb 3-2: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
input: Burr-Brown from TI USB Audio CODEC as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1a.0/usb3/3-2/3-2:1.3/input/input12
generic-usb 0003:08BB:2904.0002: input,hidraw0: USB HID v1.00 Device [Burr-Brown from TI USB Audio CODEC ] on usb-0000:00:1a.0-2/input3

I've trimmed some unnecessary data for brevity, namely the timestamp.

Your fldigi soundcard configuration should look like this.
fldigi soundcard config

Still trying to make my first Linux-based QSO but my battery is low. It's also my anniversary so I suppose I should stop playing and start getting ready for a night out. At least I know I'm receiving. :-)

fldigi waterfall

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Radio Linux

I've been wanting to gain more exposure with Linux for several years now. About 5 years ago I ran my in-house web server on Redhat but after taking it offline and switching to a host provider I've done very little with Linux. I got a new laptop earlier this year and wanted to try it out since I had some good horsepower but no matter which distro I tried I couldn't get any of the LiveCDs to work. I wanted to go down this road because I wasn't sure which distro I'd like.

I was inspired once again after picking up the January issue of Linux Journal which had several nice articles about Linux and amateur radio. My hard drive is full of various distros and once again I couldn't get any of them to work. I finally reached a small level of success by doing a USB drive install. It seems that Linux doesn't like my CD drive.

With the taste of victory in my mouth I decided to make a change. Unfortunately the only USB drive I had available was a 1GB drive which meant I couldn't use persistence. OfficeMax had their SanDisk Cruzer drives on sale so I picked up a 8GB, ran home, and quickly did a Xubuntu 9.10 install. My history stayed true and wouldn't you know it didn't work. For whatever reason the Cruzer doesn't show up as a valid boot device. To say I was hacked is an understatement. I still have no idea why the Memorex shows up fine but the SanDisk doesn't.

It was suggested to me that the drivers might not be working from the LiveCD but a full install to the hard drive should work. I downloaded the latest Ubuntu 9.10 ISO and tried it. Of course it didn't work. Why should I have expected it to? I decided to go with what worked. I popped the Memorex in, rebooted, and did a full install to the hard drive. Which reminds me. I picked up a 40GB hard drive from CompUSA for $25. It's a small investment to run a dedicated Linux install while I try to overcome the pain I've experienced.

After long last the install worked and I'm making this post from a clean Xubuntu 9.10 install on my new hard drive. I'm finally happy.

Well, this is a much longer post than I'd anticipated so I'll sign off for now. Time to start downloading some amateur radio software!!

Linux Penguin

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mall Watch

Every year our ARES group holds Mall Watch. We drive around the parking lot of one of the local malls and provide security with extra eyes. Sometimes we help watch exits for suspected shoplifters. Sometimes we call for a jump when a car won't start. Sometimes we twiddle our thumbs. Whatever the case, from Black Friday to Christmas we patrol the lot over the weekend to provide some additional safety for shoppers.

Tonight I decided to leave the TinyTrak on. This covers a period of 3 hours and roughly 9 miles. This is what Mall Watch looks like. :-)

Mall Watch Track

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

T-Minus 5 and Holding

Well, I've decided to put the TinyTrak project on hold. I have the case cut out and some wire leads soldered in place but I just don't have the time to get it finished before my trip. There's no way in Hades it'll happen. So I'll just make do with the first kit I built and hope to get back to version 2.0 sometime in December.

It was a valiant effort but there's just too much going on right now. :-(

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Latest Goodies

Today I picked up the makings of my future battery bank. I got four CS3 HRL12390 batteries rated at about 108AH. These batteries retail for about $250 and I scored an excellent deal and paid a fraction of that. My initial calculations show that I should be able to get about 5 days out of these operating 24 hours a day. I know I won't be operating anywhere near that so I'm willing to bet I could last about 2 weeks.

I'll say one thing, too. These puppies are heavy! They weigh in at just under 73 lbs ea. Here's the manufacturer's description:

HRL 12390W is specially designed for high efficient discharge application. Its characteristics are high energy density, small footprint and high discharge efficiency. It can be used for more than 260 cycles at 100% discharge in cycle service, up to 10 years in standby service.

I probably won't be able to get started on the bank project until after Thanksgiving but I'm at least happy to have the batteries sitting in the garage.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Well, progress on the new TinyTrak has pretty much stalled out. I'm having to re-work the case design and I've been busy working on other things. We'll see what happens this weekend.

Tomorrow kicks of tower weekend. We have a member in our club that's not doing well health-wise and he's asked for help getting his two towers down. We've got a small party getting together to take care of that for him this weekend and I figure we'll do a tower each day. Shouldn't be too bad but you never know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Ok, tonight has been frustrating. It seems I got a little turned around with my serial soldering and I put my power leads in the wrong places. The bad thing is that I had to really test my contortionist skills and fine motor skills while soldering in an incredibly tight area without melting other wiring. Well, I got it resoldered just fine though it took some precious time.

Now on to the grand finale. After getting it put back together I went for the 2nd power test of the evening. Who let the smoke out? It would appear that if you accidentally solder one of your diodes directly to your power lead you exceed the diode's ability to retain its smoke.

So I guess I'll be calling Radio Shack tomorrow to see if they actually stock the 1N4148 diodes or if they're online only. I really hate to wait any longer. This is taking much longer than I'd hoped. :-/

Sunday, October 25, 2009

TinyTrak Version 2 Pt 2

I have all of the components in place that are directly on the board. I have the LEDs mounted (temporarily) in the case. Unfortunately I don't have #20 hookup wire so I'll have to get some tomorrow to finish. I'll use #18 for power but the LEDs and various switches should be fine with #20.

I'm a little bummed that I didn't get it done tonight but it's not a big deal. At least I got to melt a little solder. :-)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

TinyTrak Version 2

I got the new TT3 on Thursday and I've spent the past few days laying out my next design and getting or scavenging the components I'll need. I'm taking my time with this one to make sure I've got a robust and clean implementation. I've been doing some local testing to verify my theories and so far I'm on the right track. I spent today getting the case ready and I hope to start final assembly and testing tomorrow.

I also have to say that I'm impressed with the GPS2. It locks on very quickly. It's certainly faster than the eTrex at signal acquisition. I do wish it had a slightly longer cable. At 6' it just barely reaches where I have my current TT3. This should change once I implement the next version but even another foot would be nice.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More Traking

Well, the mind is flooded with mods and other build changes I want to employ with the TinyTrak3 so I've ordered another one. Byon just sent me the shipping notice so I should have it tomorrow. I still need to make some drawings and circuit layouts so I don't leave anything out so it might take me a little longer. Hopefully I'll be able to build it out with parts I have laying around aside from the case.

I also ordered the GPS2. I think I'm ready to go to a more "permanent" GPS solution instead of using my eTrex. Besides, I'm tired of changing out AAs. Stay tuned for more updates.

Monday, October 19, 2009

TinyTrak: The Ugly Mod

When I say ugly, I mean ugly. I'm even embarrassed to post pics. Ok, so here's the problem. Once again I faced the challenge of dual-use. At the moment I have my eTrex Legend feeding the TinyTrak. However, rather than continuing to eat up AA batteries I want to replace it with a standard 5V hockey-puck GPS. However, I want to retain the ability to use the Legend or even my 60CSx. My fear is that if I did a solder blob at J7 that feeding 5V to the GPS might smoke it if it's not expecting it. I haven't looked at the Garmin pin-outs to see if they can take 5V on pin 4. What to do?

Well, ingenuity struck again and I decided to solder a common dual-pin jumper to the pads so I could add the jumper when I needed to have 5V powering the GPS or remove it otherwise. Unfortunately the solder pads are very close together. Oh well, no worries with my expert soldering skills. I quickly knocked the mod out, tested it, and went to put the case back on. That's when I realized my fatal design flaw. The pins were too tall and the case didn't fit. That's when I caused my real fatal error. While trying to jimmy the jumper block I popped it off when one of the solder pads came free. Crap! Let's say the wife had to come out to see what was going on.

I tried in vain to do a repair. I pulled out the magnifying lamp and a fine Xacto knife and started scraping away at the trace for the pad I pulled. That's when I realized it's a very short trace and only went to the pin on the IC. Brilliance struck again when I figured I could just make an ugly fix with a wire jumper. I took a piece of wire lead from a resistor and solder that first to the good pad and then to the jumper block. My does this look like the worst repair I've ever done but it works. It may be ugly but I still have 5V when jumpered.

I doubt I'll go back to clean it up later. I figure I'll use it like this until I smoke it (and hopefully not anything else) before I do it right. Of course I'm not sure what "right" is going to be now.

This is the ugliness jumpered for 5V to the GPS.

See? I'm not lying. :-)

And here it is unjumpered for no voltage on pin 4

And finally, wrapped up in the case (which now closes properly again)...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

JOTA Update

Well, today was the Scouts Jamboree On The Air. A couple of us arrived at around 7:30am to get ready for the Scouts at 8:30. Of course, they were early and we had 15 or so Scouts before 8. No big deal. It actually worked out well, I think. They pitched in and got hands-on training in assembling and erecting antennas.

I'd say we had an easy 40-50 Scouts (including Cubs, Weebelos, and Girl Scouts) throughout the day. I was disappointed that the media didn't show up but I guess you can't have everything. We ended up with three stations (2 voice 1 digital). I was running the digital station and unfortunately the G5RV I put up didn't work at all for me. I had problems using the same antenna at Field Day so I've decided this isn't the antenna for me. I ended up building a 80M off-center fed dipole on-site and tuned it up on 20M. It worked great and in no time I picked up Canada and Mexico.

The highlight of the day for me was seeing the excitement on the face of a 6-year-old Tiger as he made his first PSK contact with a very patient Canadian station. Hats off to Colin for being willing to wait for some slow typing as he asked several questions.

Looking forward to next year!

Friday, October 9, 2009

TinyTrak R8 Mod

Well, I ran into a bit of difficulty this afternoon when I tried to use my new TinyTrak with my FT-60. As it turns out the cable that I use with my Piccon also works with the TinyTrak. I was excited to be able to use the HT instead of carrying my spare FT-8800 around in the truck. Unfortunately the TT3 wouldn't key the radio.

I just chalked it up to some misconfiguration between the radio and the device. I read through the manual while waiting to get my hair cut and didn't see anything out of the ordinary. No funky menu settings I may have missed other than disabling Rx Sleep.

When I got home I checked the Byonics site and looked up the cable again to confirm that it should work. That's when I saw the problem. With the cable for the mobile I had to leave R8 out of the circuit. In the description for the HT cable it says that R8 has to be IN the circuit.

Byon actually addresses this scenario and describes adding R8 to your cables. Well, that's all well and good if you're building your own, but I was using one of his. So what could I do? Well, the lightbulb went on and I used the same solution I've used for other kits where I needed removable components...I added a single in-line package (SIP) socket where R8 goes.

Now if I'm using the HT I insert R8. If I'm using the mobile I remove it. This is what it looks like configured for the HT. I had to bend the resistor leads a little and lean it over the pots to get the top of the case to fit but there's plenty of room now. I tested it and it works great.

I'm pretty happy with myself and the mod. :-) See ya on APRS!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

APRS Goodness

After much consternation I finally jumped in to the APRS world. I have a Yaesu FT-8800 in a mobile go-box that I figured I could use to put my signal on the air. I also realized I have a Garmin eTrex Vista that I'd been planning on getting rid of but I could use it for the project as well. So $50 later I had a Byonics TinyTrak3+ in my mailbox.

The instructions say it should take about an hour to build. Took me about 2 hours but I spent a lot of time fiddling with the camera.

It's aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!! ;D

I remembered I had some power stuff from my General class and I could use an alternate power connection. The pic quality sucks but you can see that the end LEDs are on.

OMG I can't stop! Once I had power I had to make sure I could read and write to it.

Unfortunately when I ordered the unit I forgot to order the interface cable to connect to my radio. Good thing I can make my own. Unfortunately I learned a hard lesson today. PS/2 cables are a pain in the butt to modify. First I learned that only 3 conductors are used. Second I learned that they didn't go to the pins I needed. With this gotcha I couldn't really make the simple cable I wanted to. I also found that if you cut the outer shell off with a Dremel you'll discover that they fill the pin area with plastic. >:( I used a butane soldering iron as a torch to melt the plastic so I could dig it out and access the pins to wire it was I needed. Once that was done I was off and running.

I got the mouse cable wired to the pins I needed to and then made a quick run to Radio Shack to buy an audio cable. That got cut in half and the raw end went to my new serial connector. Then I wired in the PowerPoles with 18# red/black zip line. Finally I heat-shrinked what I could as best I could to act as some strain relief. Unfortunately with so many cables coming out of the serial connector I can't put it in a housing. My other problem is the mini DIN. I put it back in one of the molded shells I cut and electric taped/heat shrunk it to give it some strength. It didn't work. It pulled out when I tried to remove it from the radio. I'll have to figure something else out.

Raw Serial Connections

Wrapped Serial Connections

Radio Connections

After tweaking my configuration I was able to test everything together. To my delight not only did it all work but I didn't smoke my radio either. Within about 10-15 minutes one of the guys was calling me on the air because he'd seen me pop up on APRS. I also used to confirm that I was showing up. I'm a happy camper.

I'm really looking forward to finding some cool uses for this. Eventually I see myself getting the more capable TinyTrak4 but this is a great way to get into APRS on the cheap.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Awesome Exam Day!!

I couldn't be happier with the results of today's exam session. Three of my students were unlicensed (even though this was a General class) and now they have their Technician license. Four students (including one of the unlicensed ones) picked up their General. Three had already taken the upgrade and passed. Even our club president decided to upgrade and he's now an Amateur Extra.

I guess I have to pat myself on the back a little. I had ten students total test throughout the course period and everyone that tested passed. I must be a pretty good instructor. :-D

Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Day!

Well, tomorrow is the big day. Last weekend I wrapped up the General upgrade course I was teaching with a 2.5 hour review. Talking to everybody I think they're all feeling pretty good about passing. Some of the students have already upgraded so that's cool.

Tomorrow is the exam session. I have 8 students taking tests ranging from Tech to Extra. I feel confident we'll have a 100% pass rate. We'll see if I'm right.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

NBEMS Testing

Well, I finally had the chance to play around with NBEMS using fldigi and flarq. It seems like there's some promise but it wasn't without its challenges. It seems much better suited to SSB than FM. We ended up splattering all over a simplex QSO 1K away that we didn't know about. They were cool about it and actually let us test some more to see how much bandwidth we were taking up.


We started off using it with fldigi set to PSK-31 and this proved entirely too slow for transferring files. We gave up long before we transferred more than 2% of a 35K file because it was taking too long. Unfortunately when we tried changing modes to MT63 flarq on my end quit talking with fldigi. I still haven't been able to get it working.

In the image above the large window is fldigi. The blob of red is the image I was trying to transfer. The small window is flarq.

After talking with one of the guys with WPANBEMS he told me they had similar challenges during their testing. Now they skip flarq and just use fldigi and wrap. Still need to do some testing with it but in my solo run it seems to work. Hopefully I'll have an update on this again soon.

Friday, July 31, 2009

More Digital Fun

Well, I finally got around to playing with FLDIGI again. I hadn't been able to get it to work with the IC-7000 but I tinkered enough tonight and got the rig control working. I still need to tweak the macros and figure out a few things but it seems to be pretty slick. Now that I have it working I'm one step closer to getting the NBEMS stuff going.


I really want to see about using this on a Linux-based netbook so I was pleased to finally get it working. Hopefully I'll have the chance to get it all setup and configured this weekend. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Birthday w00t!

Ok, for those of you not in the know, "w00t!" is a good expression. A couple of days ago my bestest brother (never thought I'd ever say that :-) ) surprised me with a package in the mail. When I looked at the label I saw it was from Powerwerx. Backing up a bit we've been working out or communications abilities between our locations using various digital modes. I'd operated during Field Day on battery power and hadn't re-charged a week or so later. Well, when we tried to play the battery was too pooped to party. He asked if I had anything to monitor the voltage and I said I wanted to get a good gadget but just kept using the multimeter and hadn't checked it lately.

Coming back to the present time I opened the box and found a Whattmeter. I said, "w00t!" This thing is pretty slick. It gives you current and average amperage/voltage along with power consumption. Now I can compare the amperage my radio is drawing with what the manual states. I'll be able to use this data to make more accurate power plans.


The Whattmeter is small, too. It also came with Anderson Powerpoles so it was installed in seconds. So big birthday thanks to my big bwudder.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

NVIS Update

I finished the HF NVIS antenna last week and used it to check in to the North Florida Phone Net on 3950. My friend Bill was running the net that night and the first thing he did was tell me how good my signal was. I was very happy to hear that. Here's a little rundown of how I put the antenna together. The design is based on the AS-2259 military antenna and can be found here.

The 15' mast is made of 3 5' pieces of 1.5" schedule 40 PVC. I used an end cap for the antenna connection. The hardware is brass for conductivity. Here's the cap before assembly.


Holes are drilled. The S0-239 needs a 7/8" hole. The other holes are sized for #6 screws.


The original plans called for the head to be cut off a #6 screw with the end inserted into the center conductor of the SO-239. I don't see how this is possible as there's no way I see it fitting. I scaled down to a #4 and it fit fine. Here is the assembled cap.


I used a 2' piece of 3/4" rebar to stabilize the mast bottom and keep it from kicking out. Here it is with the bottom section in place and the other two on the ground. I originally started with #18 stranded copper wire but it proved to be horrendous to work with. It knotted, kinked, and twisted to the point of being unusable, at least for this project. I have since switched to #14 insulated stranded which seems to be working much better. Each side of the antenna has two wire runs of 38' and 25'. These terminate at dogbone insulators but you could just as easily use some PVC if you have it laying around.


My feedline is RG-8X and it enters the bottom of the mast through a 3/4" hole and travels up to the SO-239 in the cap.


There was (imho) a design flaw that presented itself early on as I started to raise the mast. The PVC couplers used to join the mast sections didn't provide nearly enough support or rigidity. As the mast went up is leaned and swayed every which way until the top section finally fell off. I panicked since it was the holiday weekend but I managed to slip into Ace Hardware before the closed. I switched to threaded couplers and they provide a great deal more support. Keep in mind that nothing is permanently attached. I didn't glue any of the parts together. I may in the future but for the moment things seem to be fine without it.


After the first night on the air what I thought to be another major design flaw proved to be true. I awoke to find the antenna leaning severely and thought that the stakes holding the legs out had come loose. Instead I found that the center conductor and screw had broken off. I never really understood the logic behind putting so much stress on the connector. I came up with my own design mod and it seems to be better and stronger. I drilled a hold in the side of the cap where I ran a 1" #6 brass machine screw. I then used about a 4" piece of #12 solid wire that I soldered between the center conductor (using a new connector) and the new screw. Now the heavier screw can take the stress without straining the connector itself.


This is what the latest mod looks like with the legs attached.


You may have noticed that I also decided to paint the mast so it blends in better than the stark white PVC. I used Krylon's Fusion Camo paint. It's supposed to bond to plastic without primer but it seems to scratch off the PVC very easily. Time will tell how well it really holds up.

Here is the finished antenna after the mods and paint job.


And finally the cap and legs.


It's been a fun project. My next goal is to model the antenna. Stay tuned for that.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Weekend

Happy 4th of July!! Drat, it was yesterday already. :-/

Since I had Friday off for the July 4th weekend I started working on a new antenna project. I'm building a HF NVIS antenna. I battled some weak structural integrity on the PVC mast due to the couplers not holding enough. I made it back by Ace Hardware just before they closed and got threaded couplers instead. They seem to add enough rigidity to keep it fairly stiff. It will still definitely have to be guyed.

I also made the mistake of using some 18-ga bare stranded wire from Home Depot. I thought it would work well but instead I ended up with a horrible rat's nest of wire that I'm tempted to just throw in the trash. The stuff knots, twists, and kinks horribly. I replaced the four runs with my 14-ga jacketed and it works much better.

I ran out of time today to get it on the air so hopefully I'll have an update tomorrow.

Right now I'm in the middle of my first digital contest. I'm participating in the 070 club's 40M Firecracker Sprint. Due to late birthday festivities I missed the first 1.5 hrs and I'm giving the rig a break to cool down a little now. The temp gauge looks fine but my output power is being reduced so I felt it prudent to let it breath a little.

I'm not getting anywhere near my goal of 100 contacts but it's still fun. If I get 40 I'll call it a success. It took me a few QSOs to get the contest macros worked out. I can still do a little tweaking but so far I'm not doing to bad I guess.

Well, I'm going to give it another shot. Wish me luck! :-P

Friday, July 3, 2009

Field Day Follow-Up

Well, I'm finally stopping to take a breath and can give my after action report on Field Day. The first joint exercise between Duval County ARES and the Beaches Amateur Radio Society (BARS) was a resounding success. Our estimates (not everybody signed the roster) have us at about 60 visitors. I'm still tallying the logs but it looks we have about 300 contacts. Not bad for some leisurely operating.

I really was surprised by the number of people that came out. We had the largest waterspout (later deemed a tornado) on Friday night and the temps were in the mid to high 90s on Saturday. It didn't seem to keep the people away though. Fortunately we'd also fogged several times and that kept the bugs at bay.

We operated as K4D and were 5A. The plan was to operate 160, 80, 40, 20, and 15. I was assigned 15M but I was so busy running around that I didn't really operate there much. By the time I could sit down nothing was happening so I moved to 20. Here are some of the guys setting up the "true" 20M station's rotating dipole.


We ran a variety of antennas in addition to the rotating dipole. We had a couple of wire dipoles that had been built by the Jr ARES youth during their meetings. We also used a G5RV from the UASI grant money, and below are some of the BARS members assembling their June meeting project, a 20M Moxon antenna.


We started serving dinner at about 5 and everyone had a good time. The Red Cross brought out ice and drinks and others brought out various picnic items. This sort of gives you an idea what type of crowd we had. We certainly didn't expect to have a parking problem. :-)



With everything that was going on it was time to get some media coverage. I had contacted our local CBS/Fox affiliate and they came out just before dinner and stayed for a couple of hours. During the time they did some live interviews, shot video for later broadcasts, and even did a live feed. Throughout the weekend they aired three stories about the event. We couldn't have asked for better exposure and publicity.


I finally got to start operating around 4:30 Sunday morning. It was the first chance I'd had to really do anything other than run around. Of course I did take a little nap from 1 to 4:30. The bands were open and 40M was really hopping. I was only interested in working digital and knocked out 57 PSK31 contacts in the short time I had. I enjoyed a nice sunrise while the bits were flying.


We've really set the bar high for next year but I already have ideas bouncing around in my head. Can't wait for 2010!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Field Day Around the Corner

I realized I haven't posted a pic of the new IC-7000 since I added it to the shack. Sorry about that. Here you go.


I know I've said it before but I'm really digging the SignaLink and 7000 paired together. Unfortunately there's been a lot going on and I haven't been able to spend much time on the air lately. I'll have to make up for it this weekend.

Ok, so on to the preps for this weekend. Earlier this year, the family of Donald C. Clifford, K8JZK (SK), donated their father's radio equipment to ARES to give the Jr ARES members a kickstart. As a way of saying "Thank you!" to the Clifford family, the TS-520S they donated will be our Get On The Air station. We thought it was fitting to use it to help introduce people to the world of amateur radio.

The radio has been off the air for about 7 years so we're treating it gently. I've currently got it running off a variac to bring it back to life slowly and hopefully avoid blowing any capacitors or other components. She's been going fine all day and I've got her up to 60V. We'll let her cook overnight and then bump up to 80V first thing in the morning. I figure that by this time tomorrow she'll be up to full power. Here she is. Beauty, ain't she?


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Field Day Preps & Other Stuff

We've finally gotten our Field Day location set in stone for 2009 and it's looking to make for a wonderful event. My church has graciously allowed us to use their Marshside campus. It's 24 beautifully wooded acres with plenty of camping area and gorgeous trees.

At the next ARES meeting we're hoping to have a couple of new antenna projects to work on for Field Day. So far the high vote getters are a 3/4" hardline antenna for 40M and a Moxon antenna at 20M or higher (due to size). I'm really excited about what Field Day has in store for us this year.

My General upgrade course continues to progress. This past weekend we covered the exciting topic of Rules & Regulations along with a little math refresher and some formulas. This week we'll be diving into simple circuits, resistors, inductors, and capacitors. I've got a couple of breadboards so hopefully seeing the circuits for real will help solidify the concepts.

We had a walk-in visitor for the last class and she seems to be very interested in amateur radio. Hopefully she'll be back on Saturday.

Monday, June 8, 2009

HF Update

I have to say that I've been having a ball since getting the new 7000 and ditching the RigBlaster. I'm knocking out DX contacts on PSK31 left and right. In just about a month spending only an hour or so at a time and operating sporadically throughout the week I've already racked up about 25 DXCC contacts. I highly recommend this setup.

This past weekend marked the first day of the General upgrade course I'm teaching for one of our local clubs. We had one couple traveling but I believe everybody else on the roster made it. We even had some that weren't on the list show up. Nobody fell asleep, walked out, or threw anything at me so I consider it a good class. :-) Next week probably won't be too exciting. Rules & regulations with a math review. Yuck. Oh well, I'll do my best to make it interesting. At the least I have some tips to share that will hopefully help them remember things like the band plan come test time.

Tomorrow I should know more about our Field Day location. Who would've thought we'd have such a hard time finding someplace to operate? I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my church will allow us to use our property. We have 22 acres of beautiful, wooded property that doesn't see much use. The trees are tall and spread out where we'd be operating and I think we could really get some great contacts with our antennas so high. The staff meets tomorrow so hopefully I'll know something by lunch.

Some of us did helped with the Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure. It's a 100K/100M bike ride. It took us through some parts of the local area I'd certainly never been through. It was an interesting experience but we definitely have some communications issues we need to work out with the ADA staff if we do this again next year.

I guess that's about it for now so I'll say 73. See you on the bands!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Long Overdue Update

Well, I guess it's been long enough since my last entry that I can post again. About six months ago I started having receive issues with my 718 and I haven't been on HF much. A few weeks ago the family took a trip down to Lakeland (near Tampa) and on the way back I decided to stop at AES in Orlando. I left with a used IC-7000.

I really like the size and feature set of the 7000. It makes it a great base station that can go mobile if necessary. It works great with my existing LDG Z-11 Pro tuner and I've been having a great time being back on the air.

When I got the 7000 it was time to try the digital modes again. Unfortunately my RigBlaster Plug & Play seems to be a piece of crap. I've had problems before and they reared their head again. I called WMR and got a bunch of attitude from Ed who seemed more set on making me feel like a moron rather than helping me get the unit working. With no help from Ed but assistance from the Ham Radio Deluxe forum I got the stuff working. I even had a ham from OK call me on his own to make sure I'd gotten it working. I can't say the same for WMR.

Once I got the Plug & Pray working again I started having fun. I've made DX contacts in Russia, Cuba, Canada, St. Croix, Germany, Mexico, and others. I also got to try out Olivia which I've been wanting to do. Unfortunately the POS P&P quit working again. I refuse to call WMR and decided instead to throw it in the junk box. I now (as of yesterday) own a Tigertronics SignaLink USB. It was a breeze to setup and I was on the air again without any trouble.

I also finally got my tri-band dipole about 10' higher. I don't know that it'll help much but I've made more DX contacts since I did it. Higher's better, right?

In addition to raising the dipole, I replaced the Hustler vertical with a simple random wire. I have it running through the trees and ending at a push-up mast keeping it at about 25-30'. I also had to replace my DIY copper j-pole so I now have a Diamond X200A on the chimney. I got great signal reports on 5W simplex so I'm quite happy with it.

Starting in June (the 6th to be exact) I'll be venturing into the instructor role. I've agreed to teach a General upgrade course for our local club. I'm looking forward to it. I think we have about 7 students signed up right now. It'll run through Aug 15 (skipping Field Day and Independence Day) with a test session on the 22nd. Hopefully we'll have 7 new Generals come August.

Today we scoped out our Field Day site. We ran into difficulty getting a city park. We couldn't get permission to put anything in the trees as we've done in the past and we couldn't use push-up masts because we couldn't have any guy lines. We found a state park willing to work with us and met with one of the Rangers today. We'll be at Little Talbot Island State Park though more specifically the Ft. George River inlet parking. It'll be the first time that we'll have a location where can actually camp and operate the full 24-hour period. It'll provide some unique operating and setup challenges but that's the beauty of Field Day.

This Field Day should be pretty good. We have some equipment that was donated by the family of a SK to help our Jr. ARES members. That's going to be used as our GOTA station. We also have other counties (including one in GA) that plan on visiting us to see what we're doing in Duval County. I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully my students will take the opportunity to get on HF.

Well, that about sums up what's been going on. I'll try to be better about making updates.