Spring Antenna Service 28 - April - 2013Posted by k9zw in A Good Read series, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, K9ZW Shack.
Tags: Diversity Reception, slipp-not, Tennadyne, Tennadyne Anntennas
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This winter and early spring have not been kind to outdoor equipment.
This weekend finally the weather broke and it has been nice enough to spend some time on the antennas.
Original plan was to do a lower, inspect, service & repair in a few weeks, but some obvious impact from exceptionally high winds has made it prudent to start now.
The two log periodics are on the same mast, and winds have tweaked the larger (T-8 10-20m) about 5-10 degrees from the upper smaller (T-28 1.3ghz-6m) most likely by slipping the larger boom.
My T-8 predates the “Slipp-Not” brackets that Tennadyne offers and a set will be on order (I make pick it up at Dayton). This should reduce the chance of one antenna slipping in relation to the other. Beam Width coverage is wide enough the little tweak is more an offense to me than it is to performance, so it may wait until the next lowering.
My Tri-Ex/Tasjian Tower has feedline stand-offs that I user large UV resistant o-rings as the cable retainers in the forked ends of the stand-offs.
Wind and time took out the second from top o-ring and the wild winds caused the feedline to be hooked about the clamp. It is amazing to think how wild of wilds would be needed to raise that much triple-coax-feedlines-plus-rotor cable around enough to whip it about – must have been a monster wind.
The cable is not hugely at risk, but it would be better to get it back in place. Again I will have to decide if I deal with it now or in a few weeks.
When the tower is lowered and tilted over I use a set of scaffold I bought from work – a handful of rings from a manufacturer long out of business that don’t connect with any other brand (not that you should). Useless for work but just what I needed and makes an ultra safe work platform.
WHen it comes down next the coax seals will all be inspected and renewed as needed, each cable gets a visual and wipe down, plus gets a check with the TDR for any electrical problems.
I have upgraded lightning protection that will get installed.
A decision to be made is whether to swap out the rotor (a Ham-IV) for a freshly overhauled Ham-IV or whether to leave well enough alone. Plan was to swap in the fresh overhaul and then have the long serving unit overhauled as the spare.
Decisions will hing on whether I can disengage the displaced cables for now (I lower the mast but haven’t tipped it over yet) or whether I need to hand crank the tip-over now.
It is also time to get the buried feedline in to do a second HF antenna on most bands. Originally I was going to make the vertical just another setting on the remote antenna switch, but I am now thinking it should be on the second feedline to the shack so two can be used at the same time. The Flex-5000A could use the dual antennas now and the Flex-6700 will take the diversity capability to a new level if I get my antennas sorted out correctly.
At least it is warmer out once I figure out the plan!
Station Design and Documentation Tools – Scapple & Scrivener 26 - April - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, K9ZW Shack, K9ZW Uses.
Tags: K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, Scapple, Scrivener
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Documenting an amateur radio station is very easy when you have one radio running barefoot (no amp or other gear), yet gets very complex quickly with each additional radio/operating station or accessory exponentially adding complexity to the documentation effort.
I am experimenting with using two writer’s tools to plan and document my station:
Scrivener – a multi-file cross-file editor and project writing system.
Scrivener Link: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php
Scapple – a freeform graphical relationship editor.
Scapple Link: http://literatureandlatte.com/scapple.php
Both are by the British firm “Literature and Latte” and are truly much more powerful than needed for this task, but as I use them for other writing tasks it only makes sense to keep using them.
Literature and Latte Link: http://literatureandlatte.com/
These tools can be configured so very many ways, but what I am doing in Scrivener is putting every piece of hardware and software information I can gather, including my individual settings, into Scrivener “Characters” which can be grouped into operating positions (and reused where appropriate when shared or duplicated).
I’m dumping in spec sheets, operating & technical manuals, receipts, crib notes – basically everything I can gather to do with an item. Scrivener considers that my “research” and acts like a database/filing system for all that data.
Then the mission critical is brought up into the actual station notes as Chapters & other divisions.
The Scrivener file is a type of archive that can be accessed in various ways, and is inclusive of all the research as well as the product documents.
The Station Notes export document is a flater document distilled down to what I’ve included as actual station notes.
Sounds more complex than it is, and I will do research data entry item by item over a period of time.
Did I mention you can incorporate pdfs and media files in both the research and the product document?
Awesome tool really intended for script writing, novel writing, and other complex major work projects. I’ve just coopted it to adapt to a technical hobby use.
Scrapple comes into play as the tool to make up the connectivity and other relationship drawings to outline the Station Notes. I know I could do these sketches on CAD software, but this is slick and easy, and rolls seamlessly into my Scrivener work. Presently Scrapple is OS-X only, which is fine for my use, but leaves me looking for a similar resource for the Windows Based Scrivener work I do for work.
If there is interest, I can post some samples of the various levels of work to share.
Maybe using these tools (which are the huge total of $60.00 worth of software, which is amazingly inexpensive for their power & utility) is like taking something like a Ferrari to the supermarket. Yet it is nice to know the product of the exercise will easily meet and exceed every foreseeable Station Notes use.
As a spoiler I do have point out YMMV, as I had already invested the time to learn the basics of Scrivener – without this time spent I would have an extra hour or two of learning curve.
K9ZW Computers in the Shack 17 - February - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, K9ZW Shack.
Tags: Begali CW Machine, fldigi, Flex-5000, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, MacLoggerDX, MixW, OS-X, PowerSDR, SmartSDR, Windows
Boy do I have a mess in the shack – several computers not very well coordinated due to a split vision and having been acquired over too much time.
My Flex-5000A with PowerSDR runs on a 4-5 year old Dell tower that really isn’t adequate. Some of my peeves with PowerSDR can be lain at the feet of a marginal computer. Dual core Windows-XP box with not really that much going for it, the highlight is having dual screens and the requisite Firewire port.
Elsewhere in the house I do all writing, and all my “home work” from work, on an early Aluminum MacBook. This is the smallest & slowest MacBook but is running the latest Mountain Lion.
For portable operations I retired a now defunct IBM Thinkpad and replaced it with a decent Windows XP-Pro larger Thinkpad. Nothing fancy but when a decent battery was added it is close to a portable version of the Dell Tower.
Retired, but lingering around are a MacMini (early series) that my youngest bloated the hard disk gaming and won’t run. Have been meaning to see if I can coax the machine back to life, at least enough to rescue pictures.
An older G5 iMac is around too – it was one that the power supply had the counterfeit capacitor issue, fixed under “quiet recall” and hasn’t really been used since.
Then my newest computer is running on my project’s desk – a Raspberry Pi. A neat little ARM based Linux computer, it has been running as a “burn-in” on the desk.
There are enough parts and licenses to put together a few wobbly generic PC’s with either Linux installs or using one of the Window’s Licenses if Microsoft will issue a key for replacement hardware.
Looking forward my wants and needs are:
- Running PowerSDR for the Flex-5000A (Windows)
- Running SmartSDR for the upcoming Flex-6000 (Windows)
- Running EZNEC Antenna Modeling (Windows)
- Running N4PY for the TenTec Pegasus and Jupiter (Windows)
- Running MixW, JT65HF, DDUTIL, PowerMaster and similar station accessory programs (Windows)
- Running the Bengali CW Software (Windows)
- Running fldigi and related programs (Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux)
- Running MacLoggerDX (Mac OSX)
- Running CocoaModem (Mac OSX)
- Running cocoaNEC (Mac OSX)
- Running Sibelius Music Software (Windows or Max OSX)
- Running Noteworthy Composer (Windows)
- Running Scrivener (Complex Document Editing) Software (Windows or Mac OSX)
- Full Word Processing Software – needs to exchange files with MS Word (Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux)
- Full Spreadsheet Software – needs to exchange files with MS Excel (Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux)
- Full Presentation Software – needs to exchange files with MS Powerpoint (Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux)
- Service my iPod – (Windows or Mac OSX)
- Downloading and Organizing my Photos (prefer Mac OSX)
Then after that I get into things I do occasionally, rather than regularly.
Really looks like two avenues of choice – an Apple iMac or MacPro with Bootcamp or Parallels to run Windows, or two separate machines with one Windows and one OSX basis (also perhaps running Bootcamp or Parallels as well.)
The new iMac really is a looker – and my Apple experience is much more positive than my Windows experience.
But then there are the Flex-5000A’s PowerSDR and Firewire needs.
Presently I am leaning to upgrading the shack’s Dell with a roll-you-own Windows-7 box AND replace the MacBook with an iMac running Parallels/Win-7.
The MacPro is pricy enough that it is not really justifiable for home use, but wow it would be sweet.
How would you set this up?
What will your Amateur Radio Legacy be? 11 - January - 2013Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled, K9ZW Shack.
Tags: K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled
What will your Amateur Radio Legacy be?
Recently a local ham passed, one who had put in numerous hours on the Emcomm front. To be transparent he was not someone I shared much contact with and he was quite clear he didn’t much like me. So be it, and I don’t want to discuss his foibles, but rather his passing made it painfully obvious the community as a whole assigns little to no value/recognition to his services in Emcomm.
In his obit there is the single mention “He was a member of ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services)…” and nothing else. No mention of the years of Emcomm service, his call sign or anything else.
His obit links to on-line condolences where none of the other Emcomm team members, leadership nor any other radio amateur left any tribute. So even among our own ranks what time & effort he spent at Emcomm apparently didn’t matter.
Now it may be the individual (only his church and his insurance agent, signing as his agency, left condolences) or it may be the Emcomm role. Even in our section emailed newsletter he didn’t receive more than a passing mention of having become an SK.
So even the very leadership he served under for years didn’t break stride to acknowledge the Emcomm contribution.
I would like to think it was less a personality thing (I mean he DID volunteer and serve) than the harsh reality that outside of an actual emergency Emcomm doesn’t matter to many people – I’ve even had members of the public tell me they thing Emcomm folk are “odd.” Seems some of the public considers Emcomm to be the “crazy Uncle who lives in the attic” sort of misfits.
The Emcomm issue aside, one must ask “do we actually leave any legacy behind us in Amateur Radio?” Does it matter or is it just an idle pursuit?
On the “Cup Half Full” take on legacy this particular ham may not have left as much of legacy as some, and perhaps much less than the legacy you will personally leave behind you.
What can we leave behind?
Years ago I was told that pure volunteerism should always be for your own personal satisfaction, as when you die your volunteering ends. Sure sometimes a project or building gets named after a major volunteer, but only in the absence of a major donor being given the honor. And have any of seen a public building named with an SK’s call sign? I’ve never heard of the ABxCDE Building!
So if you volunteer, do it for the joy of the service you are providing and realize it is a good deed that covers the immediate needs but provides little for the legacy past your volunteer hours.
What are the things that matter then?
Some examples of durable legacy are:
- Disciples (not in the religious way though)
Invention is a legacy through clever developments which advance the art. We think of the G5RV Antenna while we don’t usually even know who G5RV was.
Disciples are the legacy of followers – those we inspired – that remain when we are past. If you have been an active Mentor or Instructor they may number in the dozens or more. This is the “legacy through people” opportunity.
Creation is perhaps much the same an Inventions, but expands to include the constructors of fine & popular gear. Martin Jue will leave behind him the MFJ portfolio of products and business, many which were added to MFJ rather than developed there. Yet somehow Martin and his team have created something more than the simple sum of the parts.
Incorporation is the legacy of organization where the organization has a life of its own. An example is how Percy Maxim left us the ARRL.
So what sort of Amateur Radio legacy interests you in leaving behind?
Collins S-Line Station Update – Making Space 16 - November - 2012Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Shack.
Tags: Collins S-Line Station, K9ZW, K9ZW Shack
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With my present shack stacked on a single 30 inch wide assembly table, and boxed in by two big storage units, I’m struggling to find space to set up the Collins S-Line station.
My station is tucked in the end of a room originally intended to be a wine cellar/storage area. A bit grandious of a feature for an otherwise normal walk-out ranch.
Here is a rough sketch:
The area is confined by large storage units, the positions of the doors, windows and an electrical sub-panel that has to be kept clear of obstruction by fire code.
Obviously if you look at my station photographs there is only enough room for what I have set up at any one time (the Alpha 78 is presently in storage having been replaced with an Expert SPE 1KW and the Palstar AT4K is stored while I use a Palstar AT-Auto antenna tunner):
SO here is the direction I am heading – where the present gear (and a future Flex-6000 series radio) go into a rack where the smaller storage units was, and a two tier station goes heind me wher ethe larger storage unit was.
Roughly something like this:
Obviously I need some family cooperation to move the two storage units somewhere else in the house. Sensitive negotiations are underway !
Shack RF – The Unwelcomed Return 21 - October - 2012Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Shack.
Tags: K9ZW, K9ZW Operations, K9ZW Shack
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Many of us have experienced the mischief of RF in the Shack. Computers that freeze or act badly, distortion on our audio, shack components that lock up or other RF induced issues if we’re only have a bit of problem. RF nipping or burning fingers, electrical things damaged or burt cables if it is really bad.
Stray RF in the shack is also considered not good from the health angle, as RF exposure is never a good thing.
Some of the causes can be loose connectors, lose of grounding, component or cable failure, cable interaction, overload, or other harder to identify issues.
Currently I’m experiencing some RF operational problems, mostly centered on certain 20m frequencies.
They started when I switched to the Palstar AT-Auto Antenna Tuner and SPE Expert Amplifier.
So first order of business will be to swap each of those out to see if it goes away.
Since it is specific frequency areas, I’ll be looking at the cables, including cable lengths next. Also how they all ended up physically.
I’ll be double checking by grounding system.
Sometimes the physical proximity of shack components (stacking or what is side by side) can cause some issues, so I’ll look at that.
If I am still facing issues then, I’ll decide if it is ferrite beads on all the computer cables next.
Of course I can minimize operations at the 20m frequencies that are acting up and continue to leave the issue for another day. With the rare exceptional Autumn weather calling for outside work, afraid it will be left for another day.