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Building Things – QRP Gear: Dummy Load, Antenna Tuner and QRPometer 2 - July - 2012

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Built, QRP.
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As part of my interest in QRP low power work & gear, I’ve been putting together a few kits as I assemble a viable QRP station.

First to dust off the soldering iron, a simple Dummy Load kit was tackled a couple weeks ago. Took me more than ten minutes, but then I had to find & set up my gear too!

Hendricks QRP Dummy Load

Hendricks QRP Dummy Load

Hendricks 10 Watt (DC-150MHz) 50 Ohm Dummy Load/Power Meter kit Link: http://www.qrpkits.com/dummyload.html

Next put together was a Summits On The Air (SOTA) style antenna tuner kit. Technically this one isn’t quite done, as I have the back-of-case label to sort out. I want to confirm the antenna lengths & setting for various frequencies myself before doing a label.

Hendricks SOTA Antenna Tuner

Hendricks SOTA Antenna Tuner

Hendricks 40m – 15m SOTA Halfwave Tuner Link: http://www.qrpkits.com/sota.html

This weekend I snuck a bit of time and put together what looked to be a harder kit, but turned out to be pretty straight forward. The QRPometer is a SWR Meter kits designed for QRP use. I want to reconfim my calibration one more time, then there a few final steps beofre it is fully mechanically assembled. Thinking of upgrading my kit to use BNC connectors rather than the supplied RCA ones before the final bolting together.

QRPometer

QRPometer

QRPometer Link: http://www.wa0itp.com/qrpom.html

Next up is a Small Wonder Labs Retro-75 and Retro-Helper VFO kit.

I gave away my QRPme setup (Two-Tun Tuna & Sudden Storm) but have another set unbuilt, so those may follow.  Already complete is a Small Wonder Labs Rockmite in a MityBox enclosure.  I’m not happy yet with the American Morse key I put together and I have to knock it down and get agressive on lapping the paddles for clearance.

Slowly coming together, and will eventually be a complete multi-ability QRP Station in a Cigarbox for grab-n-go QRP fun!

73

Steve K9ZW

Why did Dayton 2012 have so many Vaporware Phantom New Product Offerings? 15 - June - 2012

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, K9ZW Built, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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Why did Dayton 2012 have so many Vaporware Phantom New Product Offerings?

  • Kenwood had a stage-prop mock-up of what their new FS-990S should look like, but no actual radio, specifications or even pricing. They do have Photoshop created adds in the radio magazines and have been hinting at new “executive class transceiver” for a couple years.
  • Alpha didn’t even had their mock-up of what their new Alpha-4040 Automatic Antenna Tuner would look like when Dayton 2012 opened its doors, though fairly complete hardware models did arrive later during the show. Software apparently isn’t ready, so an operating product wasn’t ready. Alpha had been avoiding pinning down delivery dates for this tuner, but has had a pre-order list taking system up since November 2011.
  • The third is more a pre-announcement and advanced showing, as the product was not announced until Dayton. Flex-Radio had hardware prototypes and panadapter software simulations running of the Alpha Stage hardware & software for their new Flex-6500, Flex-6700R and Flex-6700 series. In all fairness there was no expectation of anything more – just a preview from Flex-Radio on where their next product was going.

What is all this about?

In the case of Kenwood one can only guess. They have hinted for at least five years that they had this class of radio coming out. I listened to the salesman at Dayton who said this new model will be “almost as good” as the other top end rigs out there, but “for a better [lower] price!” Whoopee, I can take out a home equity loan to have a runner up in performance but shave a few bucks off the dollars needed. Can’t say this inspires me in any way.

Alpha seems to mean well and may end up with a great product. The early announcement of a not yet ready product seems to be to create a buzz and do some positioning in the marketplace. I know I didn’t buy a new tuner awaiting this new Alpha – though it is again supposed to be pricey it offered the potential of being the last tuner a ham might ever need to buy. Credit has to be given to not pushing product out before it is ready, though Alpha should have had a better handle on its development time.

Flex-Radio intended to “drop the big one” on amateur radio with a “game changer” and never promised more than a chance to preorder a new radio when production starts in six-eight months (or so). They needed to gauge the support for bringing this technology to the amateur market, and I would guess took away a lot of potential buyers for other premium rigs at Dayton with their deposit for a production slot strategy. They never promised anything but announcements and really delivered more with some prototypes and illustrations of what the software might look like.

So the phantom gear at Dayton 2012 would seem to be each a unique case – Kenwood struggling to find its market and simply not having a ready product – Alpha having good intentions buy not having development far enough along to match real product to marketing’s promise – and Flex-Radio who only promised they would have an announcement only to actually have much more to show.

73

Steve
K9ZW

PC to PCB in under 30 minutes – Quick ‘n Easy PCB Fabrication 9 - December - 2011

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Built.
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After being shown some PCBs made with these methods, I did some quick research to find web references.

I’ll be running a few boards later this month – so let’s compare notes!

With the explosion of the hobbyist microcontroller scene the past few years, PCB fab houses have sprung up left right and centre. At these wonderous places, you can get professional quality PCBs fabricated for your every desires for reasonable costs. They can range from very low cost and looooong lead times, to acceptable prices (~$50-$100) for low volume runs (‘protoype’ services). At the larger end of the scale, you can panelise your design and get even better value per PCB…

via PC to PCB in under 30 minutes – Quick ‘n Easy PCB Fabrication | Make, Hack, Void.

Another great tutorial http://hackaday.com/2008/07/28/how-to-etch-a-single-sided-pcb/

73

Steve
K9ZW

High-Low Tech – Programming an ATtiny w/ Arduino 16 - October - 2011

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW Built.
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ATtiny Pinout

ATtiny Pinout

One of the issues with working with Arduinos is the $20-40 cost for a full board when included in your project.

Certain levels of code sketches can be run on a single chip replacement, the ATtiny45/85 chips.

I bought 10 of the larger memory version ATtiny85 chips for $16.00 from Newark with 50 electrolyte capacitors for another $3.00 or so.

MIT’s High-Low Technology has a tutorial:

Programming an ATtiny w/ Arduino

This tutorial shows you how to program an ATtiny45 or ATtiny85 microcontroller using the Arduino software and hardware. The ATtiny45 and ATtiny85 are small (8-leg), cheap ($2-3) microcontrollers that are convenient for running simple programs. They are almost identical, except that the ATtiny85 has twice the memory of the ATtiny45 and can therefore hold more complex programs. We like to use both of them with paper circuits and other craft electronics. To program them, we’ll use a port of the Arduino core libraries created by Alessandro Saporetti and slightly modified by HLT.

via High-Low Tech – Programming an ATtiny w/ Arduino.

More when I get a chance to try this all out!
73

Steve
K9ZW

Laser Engraved, Wax Filled, High Contrast Panels for Electronics Projects | RedToRope 12 - April - 2011

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Built, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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This looks promising:

Laser Engraved, Wax Filled, High Contrast Panels for Electronics Projects

Posted on February 16th, 2011 by James

This technique for creating high contrast panels for electronics projects and prototypes using a laser cutter gives great results using cheap and easy to find materials. It’s really useful as an alternative or substitute for more expensive and harder to find laser engravable laminates like SureLase.

The product we use at work for laser engraved signs on products we ship, SureLase, gives great results, is super easy to use and available in a large range of colours. Its downside for non-commercial users is its price and the fact that you have to buy a large 1 x 1.5m sheet. It’s also not as versatile as a plain piece of 3mm acrylic, you can’t make other parts out of it since that’d be a waste.

Here are some photos of some items made with a different method, achieving similar results and using just 3mm white acrylic and a black wax crayon. It’s easy, fast (though not as fast as SureLase) and looks dead smart.

Example electronics project facia, missing the pot and switch to finish it off:

via Laser Engraved, Wax Filled, High Contrast Panels for Electronics Projects | RedToRope.

Will need to give it a trial on an upcoming build!

73

Steve
K9ZW

K9ZW Latest Build Project – Bulbdial Clock Kit 26 - February - 2011

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Built, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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The Bulbdial Clock kit is based on an original design concept from IronicSans.com and developed at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. It works like an indoor sundial, but with three shadows of different length. You tell the time just like you do on a normal clock, by reading the positions of the hour, minute, and second hands.

LINK URL Bulbdial Clock Kits.

Bulbdial clock with tortoiseshell acrylic case.

These kits fascinate me, and I now have one queued up for the next project to build.

Should be fun!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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