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What’s in Your Log? Looking over the fairly recent eQSL confirmed entries 30 - April - 2012

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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Thought I’d pull a list of the last handful of QSO’s and look over the countries confirmed in the eQSL system. It is a much easier data-set to pull than to analyze the whole log segment for the last few months.

K9ZW recent log from eQSL (members only subset) In alphabetical order:

  1. ARGENTINA
  2. ARUBA
  3. AUSTRIA
  4. AZORES
  5. BALEARIC ISL.
  6. BELIZE
  7. BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
  8. BRAZIL
  9. CANADA
  10. CANARY ISL.
  11. CHILE
  12. COSTA RICA
  13. CROATIA
  14. CUBA
  15. CZECH REP.
  16. DENMARK
  17. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
  18. ECUADOR
  19. EL SALVADOR
  20. ENGLAND
  21. FAROE ISL.
  22. FRANCE
  23. GREENLAND
  24. GUATEMALA
  25. GUERNSEY (BAILIWICK OF)
  26. GUYANA
  27. HONDURAS
  28. HUNGARY
  29. IRELAND
  30. ITALY
  31. JAMAICA
  32. JAPAN
  33. JERSEY (CHANNEL ISL.)
  34. MALPELO ISL.
  35. MARTINIQUE
  36. MOLDOVA
  37. MOROCCO
  38. NETHERLANDS
  39. PANAMA
  40. POLAND
  41. PORTUGAL
  42. PUERTO RICO
  43. ROMANIA
  44. RUSSIA (EUROPEAN)
  45. SCOTLAND
  46. SLOVENIA
  47. SOUTH KOREA
  48. SPAIN
  49. ST. BARTHELEMY
  50. SURINAME
  51. SWEDEN
  52. SWITZERLAND
  53. TANZANIA
  54. THAILAND
  55. TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
  56. UKRAINE
  57. URUGUAY
  58. USA
  59. VENEZUELA
  60. VIRGIN ISL.
  61. WALES

73

Steve
K9ZW

QRZ.com releases an Android QRZ Look-Up App 28 - April - 2012

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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The good folk at QRZ.com ( http://www.qrz.com ) have released an Android Application that does QRZ.com database call-sign look-ups.

Link is:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.qrz.database.callsign

I’ve tried it and it works nicely, but be forewarned the Application is financed by showing Ads.

Wouldn’t be bad if they were Amateur Radio ads like the QRZ.com site has, as they are complete rubbish ads pulled from the Google Ad pool.

The announcement and discussion thread at QRZ.com is at: http://forums.qrz.com/showthread.php?t=343952

73

Steve
K9ZW

Hilberling PT-8000 News – Its Official the USA Model is Launching at Dayton 2012 27 - April - 2012

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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Hilberling PT-8000 News

Simply “See you at Dayton 2012!”

The PT-8000 Brouchure (as a pdf): PT-8000 Prospect.pdf

The Announcement (as a pdf): PhotoLetterHilberling.pdf

Marcus WV4Y of Hilberling USA will have USA Models at Dayton 2012. He expects to have a number of units there, unless they are sold upfront before Dayton. Price is just shy of the $20K point, with the Euro-Dollar exchange rate playing an unfavorable role in pushing the price into the professional communications gear area.

Makes sense given what the PT-8000 represents – top notch professional communications technology brought to the Amateur Radio world.

Unlikely I will personally buy one this season, as my warchest for new radio things needs to grow a decimal place to higher side. Now if I could figure a way to make a PT-8000 a tax deduction…..

Certainly could see one down the road, perhaps as part of moving my operating desk into the main part of of our house, rather than tucked away at one end of the intended wine cellar.

Marcus WV4Y’s email is: HillberlingUSA@Gmail.com

73

Steve
K9ZW

Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh My! – Serial Ports in the Complex Ham Software Setup 24 - April - 2012

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Learned, K9ZW Uses.
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I’ve been amazed, and deeply frustrated, at the complexity of a full software defined radio software suite setup. I expect mine is tad bit more complex than some, but nothing extraordinary.

Behind the scenes two vital software utilities have to be fully fired up – VAC (Virtual Audio Cables) which manages audio connections “in the black box,” and a Serial Port Manager (I use VSP Manager which is further managed by DDUtil) which manages “Pairings” of virtual serial port assignments.

It is at the DDUTIL level that complexity is the greatest.

VAC – Virtual Audio Cables

Ok, inside your computer you don’t have the ability to “patch” audio to the various programs like you would if each “piece” of the Audio Chain were a separate physical component.  Unlike putting together a stereo rack where you can cable the tuner to the amp, the CD player to the Amp, the CDRom Burner to perhaps all, and those legacy Turntable & Tape Decks to the amp – or in cases where the tuner  acts as the “hub” they get hard cabled there… in the SDR software suite software has to patch the audio to where it needs to flow or return.

Eugene Muzychenko has created the needed software, his product being what 99% of radio amateurs working with this problem use.

The Wiki Page on VAC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_Audio_Cable

Eugene Muzychenko’s VAC page: http://software.muzychenko.net/eng/vac.htm

VAC is audiophile grade software, with oodles of configuration selections that arguably are best left alone or setup in known working configuration for our purposes.

Please note that the free demo version of VAC is unsuitable for anything other than setting up basic configurations.  Do not use it on the air as the Demo Message will raise havoc.  VAC is a 22 Euro or USD $30 investment that being rather unique should be planned as part of your setup costs to do complex SDR.  Actually you can buy VAC from the developer for $25.20 to $50.50 depending on the level of support you want.  He also has a number of resellers.

One reseller has a nice page explaining what this VAC thing is all about:  http://www.fox-magic.com/vac.php

In my case I have only one pair of VAC Cables setup, though technically I would benefit from a second set connected to the RX2 (technically third receiver) in the Flex-5000A.

VSP Manager

K5FR is the person behind the next two parts of the puzzle.  VSP Manager creates pairs of virtual serial ports.

VSP Manager is available on request from K5FR for non-commercial use.  Details are at:  http://k5fr.com/ddutilwiki/index.php?title=VSP_Manager

There are alternatives to VSP Manager, and various technical reasons bantered about why this or that Virtual Serial Port is better.

Working well and being highly compatible with the real gatekeeper – DDUtil – is reason enough for me to stick with VSP Manager.

DDUtil

Now we get to the “switchboard, Router & patch panel” hub of the whole setup.

DDUtil by K5FR is found at:  http://k5fr.com/DDUtil.htm and http://k5fr.com/ddutilwiki/index.php?title=Main_Page

In Steve K5FR’s own words:

…..DDUtil, which is short for Data Decoder UtilityDDUtil was designed to enhance the operating experience for Flex Radio users by providing advanced connectivity to peripheral equipment and Radio Control Programs (RCPs) not before available.

DDUtil provides the automation required to decode and present transmit frequency data to select frequency sensitive devices such as linear amplifiers, antenna controllers (SteppIR), antenna tuners, antenna band switchers, etc. DDUtil may be used in a stand-alone mode or with up to four (5) Radio Control Programs(RCPs) running simultaneously.

DDUtil automatically senses when a RCP is trying to communicate with PowerSDR and modifies it’s mode of operation accordingly.

AnXMLfile is used to provide the reference data needed for the BCDoutput data. A sample file is included with the distribution files to serve as a guide. This file may be created from scratch or modified from the sample provided and then saved with an appropriate user name. All file modification may be accomplished within the program or may be done in any XML file editor of the users choice. But, unless the user is familiar with XML file editing it is recommended that XML file modification be confined to DDUtil until proficiency is obtained. Please note that this file requires a specific format see the BCD Data File Format topic in Setup / Other Topics for details.

The initial release is designed for the Flex family of radios including the SDR-1000, Flex-5000, Flex-3000 and Flex-1500 series…..

The DDUtil Block Chart perhaps explains it best:  DDUtil Flow Chart  (also at http://k5fr.com/ddutilwiki/images/DDUtilFlow.pdf )

Setting up DDUtil is a bit of a fiddle unless you make time to read the Wiki and the excellent articles at the Flex-Radio Knowledge-Base.  I would roughly estimate that the time I didn’t invest reading first cost me 4 to 5 times as much time fiddling & fixing later.

The Enemies of SDR Software – Latency and Conflicts

First of the two big enemies of “Radio in Computer” seem to be Latency – the delays introduced by hardware & software in audio streams, program functions, program-to-program data transfer, or between the SDR hardware (the “physical radio”) and the Computer (the “Software Radio”).

Tweaking in software design and optimizing components can make a huge reduction in induced Latency.

I’ve fought issues with software not in the SDR suite of programs dragging my system down – an early version of TeamViewer and various software update nag-ware programs have been the worse.  Adobe products and some Anti-Virus packages can be a problem as well.  Flex-Radio includes in its PowerSDR and Flex-Radio software a program simply called “Flex-Radio” which can be used to closely monitor system Latency.  The software will help you configure the software to optimize given your computer’s measured latency.

The second bugabo is the Conflicts can occur and are such a devil to sort out.  Things like various software fighting to access the same Serial Port, creating more than one Serial Port assigned the same number, fights between port assignments with expansion software, programs that are “just crabby” and don’t play well with others….  The list is fairly long and sticking with known compatible combinations can help you get up and running easily.

If you are like me and want to fiddle with other software while running the station – a browser, an editor to make notes, a call book lookup program, some space weather, weather, and time programs…. well it can be a fiddle sorting things out.  Several browsers seem to “bloat” while running the SDR suite and specially Safari for Windows seems to hog system resources upsetting the rest of the system.

I’m looking into replacing the several year old Dell Windows-XP dual core machine I am using with a new Windows-7 Multi-Core machine with its greater capabilities.  One of my Dayton 2012 goals was to talk with Neal K3NC  the PowerSDR Computer guru at the Flex-Radio booth, though Neal has had to take a pass for Dayton this year for health reasons.

How do you get enough physical ports to plug in all your stuff?

I faced this right away.  Most new machine have at best one or two serial ports.  Hardly enough to run a serial cable to each of the station components.  Presently I have serial cables to:

  • An SPE Expert 1KW Amp
  • A Palstar AT-Auto Antenna Tuner
  • A Begali CW Machine
  • A Green Heron RT-20 Rotor Control
  • An Array Solutions PowerMaster Watt & SWR Meter

And I want to reserve future ports for:

  • A computer controllable remote antenna switch
  • Power Control Hardware for the Flex-5000A Unit

So how does one hook up seven serial cables to a machine that came set up for two?

I bought a Serial Port Expansion Module that had formerly been used as part of a commercial Point-of-Sale setup.  This added eight assignable ports easily and with high reliability.

Word of warning, one has to again read the directions in assigning port numbers to the expansion unit so they neither conflict with existing port assignments or overlap your VSP Manager assignments.  Some of your software may require specific restrictions on post assignments you need to work around as well.

More esoteric deep in your machine USB and Serial ports can interact as well. Consider this an advanced subject!

What do you get for all this?

What do you get for braving all the “Lions and Tigers and Bears” of doing a full SDR software suite?  As it is easy to chronicle the woes of getting (and keeping) the software running, one forgets that their is some real joy to be gained in doing all this.

What you end up with is:

A DX Chasing “Machine” that has integrated rotor, amp, tuner and wattmeter displays & controls.  In my case the SPE Expert 1KW Amp, Palstar AT-Auto Antenna Tuner, Array Solutions PowerMaster SWR Meter and Green Heron RT-20 rotor controller are all integrated.

Quick switch between a QRO SSB setup to a digital mode station running JT65-HF or fldigi(Win) seamlessly.

Integrated logging (though I do have to manually add into my master log adi logs from auxiliary programs).

Receive performance rivaling top shelf dedicated monitoring receivers costing more than my entire station investment.

An “If you can Hear it, You CAN work it” capability – for a simple station I catch a lot on the air even when other area hams say the “bands are dead.”

What’s Next?

Other than the likely computer system update, the biggest forward change I see is to replace the Array Solutions RatPAK remote antenna switch with a configuration that can be controlled by the software.  I can either reconfigure feed lines to cover 160m-10m without an external antenna switch, or find a remote switch that can interface.  Looks like a Dayton 2012 “to do list” item to figure out what remote switch would work.

Through using the DDUtil suite I have learned that under certain circumstances my Flex-5000A’s power supply is underperforming, and that is on the upgrade list.

Remoting everything is up there.  Likely to wait until the Computer Update is done, this involves a small hardware hack of the Flex-5000A itself to allow remote power switch control.

Making use of a multi-antenna “diversity” listening configuration – as mentioned if I can hear the DX station I can usually work them, so further improving the stations “ears” only makes sense.  Power SDR has built-in features that I haven’t even begun to exploit when it comes to using the RX2 receiver and multiple antenna configurations.

All in all a lot of fun, easy to set up if you bite off small chunks at a time and read the instructions, and well worth the effort in results.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Dayton 2012 – Hat in the Ring…. 20 - April - 2012

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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I’ve set aside my worries and tossed my hat in the ring for Dayton 2012.

Concerns about Dayton as place had to be handled – pondering reminded me that there is more than one way to do Dayton, and having bookings a ways outside of Dayton should buffer us from much of the rough edges.

Yes, Dayton 2012 is booked. Hamvention Tickets & Bus Passes are in hand, reservations made for somewhere to bunk, and have booked the DX Dinner Banquet and the Flex-Radio Banquet.

Traveling with will be George W9EVT from Washington Island and one of my sons, Winston KC9FVR.

Planning is moving along with a few “eyeball QSOs” scheduled with relatives and friends.

Even have the iPass reloaded for road tolls already!

Short shopping list this year – while I’d love a new Hiberling PT-8000 Transceiver the weak USA dollar rate makes this radio one I need to save longer for…. someday….

More interested in some more QRP gear, possibly the new Alpha tuner (though it too is a bit of budget challenge in a down economy) and anything unique.

More on my plans as teh date gets closer.

73

Steve
K9ZW

K9YA Telegraph 9 - April - 2012

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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Each month I enjoy reading the on-line pdf K9YA Telegraph.

While not full of timely news – this not anothe “Newsline” – it is full of numerous historic and human interest amateur radio of the most wholesome types!

K9YA Telegraph

The Good News About Amateur Radio

It’s Free, It’s Fun, It’s All About Ham Radio

The K9YA Telegraph is a free, monthly, general interest amateur radio publication read by hams in more than 100 countries.

The K9YA Telegraph contains the stories and features most wanted by our subscribers because it is written by our subscribers. An e-Zine, it is delivered monthly as a full-color PDF file.

If you’re in the mood for Morse, hankering for history, gluttonous for gear, ravished for a review, needing nostalgia, or just plain famished for fun, you’ll find it in the K9YA Telegraph.

Link URL: K9YA Telegraph.

Hope you enjoy the K9YA Telehraph too!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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