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K9ZW Home Station Redesign Project 22 - September - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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After a fabulous weekend out at the Chicago W9DXCC event, I’ve knuckled down to get my operating area redesigned. With new gear unopened in the box, some dating back to the Dayton Hamvention in 2012 and 2013, it is overdue.

First I am whittling down the gear I will keep “Action Ready,” making a list and populating the list with known sizing, weight and access needs. Here is the list as I am working on it:

K9ZW Home Station.pdf

I’ve measured the target area and existing bench work. Howard KY6LA corresponded about the ham radio adaption of the FleXy audiophile rack system he has been using, which will be the model for my under-desk and bench-top additional shelves.

In concept the station design is three radios selectable via Julius W2IHY switch gear. Radio 1 is the Flex-6700, Radio 2 the Flex-5000A and Radio 3 a TenTec Jupiter. I am ignoring the Collins S-Line station as it is pretty well self-contained and takes up too much room to co-locate with the other radios.

In addition to the list room needs to be found for basic VHF/UHF operations. Still thinking about this, as I am almost never on VHF/UHF.

Those who have followed my station development might recall that my operating position is one end of a small room originally intended to be our wine cellar. It isn’t time yet to move the station as two of the boys are staying with us while they attend university classes, so we still have a pretty full house and driveway.

Also I think I can reasonably expect to be able to remote at least the Flex-6700 if limited to within the coverage of our router, perhaps by Dayton 2015. So at that time I may well do more operating from my correspondence desk in the library area of our house than continue to hide out in the wine cellar!

Next step is to do some rough CAD sketching to fit & locate everything before I build the FleXy shelf units. Going to try for sketches by the end of the week.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Rocky Ridge Farm on Washington Island, WI – Third Radio Activation 13 - September - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Operations, US Islands.
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This weekend is my third working the CrankIR and the Flex-6300 from Rocky Ridge Farm on Washington Island.

Getting past the  learning curve.

Was too chilly to comfortably operate outside, so set up the radio inside one the kitchen table.

K9ZW at Rocky Ridge

K9ZW at Rocky Ridge

 

Easy DX this time and I’ve figured out the band change process pretty well.  Worked on 10m, 12m, 15m, 17m, 20m, and 40m.

Great fun!

 

73

Steve
K9ZW

Rocky Ridge Farm on Washington Island, WI – First Radio Activation 1 - September - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, K9ZW, K9ZW Operations, US Islands.
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Even though we have leased the farm for months, I first got around to setting up a portable station this weekend.  Usually when I am on Washington Island I have the luxury of guest operating from George W9EVT’s mega-shack, and even in this attempt George W9EVT saved the day helping me get on the air.

Equipment used was:

  • SteppIR CrankIR antenna with radial and 80m kits
  • FlexRadio System Flex-6300 transceiver
  • A Toshiba Laptop running Win7-Pro I borrowed from work
  • Power supply from my spares shelf
  • Cisco gigabit router
  • cables and power cords/distribution from my spares

This was our first use of the CrankIR and the Flex-6300, so we had a bit of a learning curve.  It was also a fresh install of SmartSDR, SmartCAT, DAX, and fldigi on the Toshiba which all had to be configured.

 

The SteppIR CrankIR Antenna

The SteppIR CrankIR Antenna


The working end

The working end


The Wires side of things

The Wires side of things


Logging on Cardboard

Logging on Cardboard


CrankIR Main Unit up close

CrankIR Main Unit up close


Rocky Ridge Farm Activated

Rocky Ridge Farm Activated

 

 

W9EVT saved the day...

W9EVT saved the day…

Pictures cannot convey the experience of doing a first time setup of the CrankIR – an easy task once you’ve done it, but a dickens the first time.  Winston KC9FVR helped the first setup and I don’t think I could have done it first time without my son’s participation.

I quickly discovered I had no audio out – I forgot to bring a headset or speakers, and ten Flex-6300 does not have an internal speaker, so my initial efforts were digital mode.

No joy there as my signal apparently wasn’t readable on PSK31 and without audio out the portable stup wasn’t going anywhere.

So the next day, hat in hand, I borrowed a headset from George W9EVT and switched to SSB.

Fairly quickly I was able to work a good number of stations on 20m and 15m phone, including several DX stations.

Found that the software juggling on the laptop was a pain, and ended up doing all the logging on the cardboard tabletop cover I used to have a mouse-ready surface.  Later I entered the QSOs into eQSL and I’ll import the adi log file into my main log later.

Mother Nature ended my activation early as it started to rain and the winds started whipping.  Knocking everything down went smoothly and with Labor Day still windy & rainy, further Rocky Ridge Farm activation will wait for another day.

Of course I have updated my gear checklist to include headphones and speakers for the next activation.

73

Steve

K9ZW

Alpha 4040 Tuner someday soon? Alpha 9500 Amp now. 22 - August - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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With Ten-Tec and Alpha/RF Concepts merged some good things are happening.

Some of the Amps and Radios have really aggressive sale pricing. Example the Alpha-9500 Amp which had been raised this year to $8,750 is available for $6,995 – a combination of a $755 drop in list price and another $1,000 off in sale pricing. In my case they threw in the plug (usually another $50) and shipping was an affordable $125 for a net $7,120 vs. what would have been $8,925+ before the merger and the summer mega sale.

Amp pricing is also being affected by the pricing jostling between the different manufacturers, and Alpha as a similar hot deal on their manual tune model.

The Ten-Tec radios are also aggressively priced for the sale. Tempting to pick one up as a backup radio…

I’ve read where some hams are worrying that the Alpha Amps might become orphans – a valid consideration if the new merged company gave signs of anything other than success. Right now many of their products went from in-stock/overstocked to short backorder which means they don’t have to move the inventory, their sales are up, and enough of us are ordering to make forward sales positive.

The best news is that the Alpha 4040 Tuner project seems to have been given new life, with announcements that the design is stable, testing (including abusive high power switching testing) has gone well, the form factor has been reduced and stabilized and the processor upgraded. No delivery date yet or confirmation of meeting the price target either, though this latest communication sure is more transparent and encouraging than the silence or limited communications during the long wait.

Good stuff happening.

73

Steve

K9ZW

Dayton 2014 – a recap of K9ZW’s Hamvention 19 - May - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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Dayton Hamvention 2014 was interesting, though less profound that past years.

First products and exhibits:

  • An awful lot had nothing new to show.  Nada, boring nothing that I couldn’t read about on the internet.
  • Same no reason to be here applied to pricing – almost every vendor has figured out they can increase sales by offering “Dayton Hamvention Pricing” on-line.  Many include free shipping and it is sometimes the case that the sales tax due is less if dropped shipped.
  • Still plenty of “vaporware” with prototype products being shown year after year with no real product to sell.  One questions how many years hams will show up at Dayton with cash in their pocket to buy antenna auto-tuners that never go into production (Alpha is not the only vaporware tuner, where is that long promised Kessler AT-AUTO-II updated unit? [EDIT:  as Don Kessler pointed out he was showing a new remote tuner at Dayton 2014 - more on this to follow]) or amps/transceivers/antennas that are “almost there” but have no ship date?
  • Dayton remains a place where the one-man-band is on equal footing with the robust corporations and mega-corps.  Unfortunately many interesting product offerings are “one heart attack” away from being unsupported/out-of-business.  Not a terrible thing if one is buying a couple hundred dollar unique product but a real concern if one is considering investing thousands in piece of gear that might be orphaned by the smallest of issues.  Ditto on products by companies where the sole proprietor is elderly and hasn’t worked outa  succession plan.  If you ask there are some surprises where small firms have this wired, bit most don’t.

Let’s talk about Dayton itself:

  •  Less Road Construction at Dayton – sees that some of the “forever projects” have finally finished, though downtown is still a mess.
  • The Hara still sucks.  Same holes in the pavement, leaks in the roof, and grubby nature.  Being cool this year odor was down.
  • More restaurants have been built nearby, which opens up opportunities.
  • Staff seemed happier.  People are people, and the ones I dealt with this year were plainly nice folk.
  • The affiliated hotels suck.  Tales of no hot water at one hotel, heat stuck on full blast at part of ours, messed up reservations and catering (one banquet I attended the hotel staff for the second year running couldn’t manage to open up the cash bar having forgotten criticals like ice, cups, mixers…. or change..) from hell.
  • The interstate getting there was hammered, under construction, overcrowded and not much fun driving.

Then may particular interests/purchases:

  • AlphaSpid RAK purchased from Alpha Radios in Alberta will be replacing my Ham-IV.  This looks to be the easiest high-resolution replacement.  Once the unit arrives I will schedule a lower lowering to do the rotator swap.  The Green Heron controller I have should work for the AlphaSpid with a few internal jumper changes inside the controller.
  • Green Heron will be doing the station integration for my ArraySolutions RatPAK-N remote antenna switch.  This is a left over Dayton 2013 project that I arranged to pick up a few bits for as I finish it up.
  • W2IHY station selector system needs finishing off, again a Dayton 2013 purchased project I didn’t make time to complete.  Got my questions answered at the W2IHY booth, so my excuses have to end…
  • qslradio supplied the rig runners and power pole connectors for Rocky Ridge Farm Station.
  • Spoke with Mr Hilberling, and while it would be a budget buster right now I do hope to have one of his radios with amp in the next year or so.
  • Spoke with Jay at ArraySolutions and I sure am interested in the VNA gear.  Maybe this winter, I will get one to learn about it.
  • Spoke with several of the team at Alpha Amplifiers and they have no idea when I could buy a  combination package of an Alpha-4040 Automatic Antenna Tuner and Alpha-9500 Automatic Amplifier.  I decided not to buy an amplifier even with the nice show special being offered.

Banquets I attended:

  • Friday Night – the Collins Collectors Association 80th Anniversary Banquet.  Met some really great people but this is the one where the registration was very slow, the bar wasn’t ready nor stocked, and the presentation & drawing prizes were extremely introspective to the hardcore Collins collector.  I actually cut out to take a phone call (son Tom KC9JGD relocated that day to near Rapid City SD) and decided to not return.  This group faces some challenges as its membership ages which I don’t have a solution to suggest.
  • Saturday Night – The Flex Radio Systems annual Dayton Hamvention Update Banquet was a pleasant contrast with quick & slick registration, dual stocked cash bars ready to serve and a lot of information about where FRS is going.  Only think I think the FRS folk missed is dishing out to each dinner attendee some special swag – pens/hats/pads/pins.  Fairly lame door prize drawing for a couple hats, two oversized re-discover radio button/signs, a flex control and a Flex-1500. Seemed like nine or ten items was not enough for nearly 190 attendees.  Not enough to build a buzz in the crowd.  Otherwise a nice banquet.

Family Matters:

  • Riding with me to Dayton were my friend George W9EVT from Washington Island and my cousin Bill KC9YBL.  Made for a truck full of Extra Class Hams.
  • Living in the area we met with cousin  Kuby N6JSX (Dale to me) and his wife Becky N9KUV.
  • We meet with more family in Ohio, Chicago and Wisconsin.  Good time had by all!

Again I wonder about Hamvention 2015 – should I attend or is next year the one to try Hamcation or Hamcon instead?

It wasn’t for the ease of seeing family and the control of driving, the answer could be pretty easy to go to one of the other shows.

I’ll have to do some pondering and decide….

 

73

Steve
K9ZW

What we saw new at Dayton 2014! 17 - May - 2014

Posted by k9zw in Amateur Radio, Dayton Hamvention, Flex-6000, FlexRadio Systems, Hamvention, K9ZW, K9ZW Just Rambled.
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Following up on my predictions of “What will we see new at Dayton 2014?” here are some notes:

  • A merged Alpha Amplifier/Ten-Tec potentially offering positive news on the long overdue Alpha-4040 Antenna Tuner – no date yet on the 4040 as at least one more major revise is in the works for the prototypes.  Closer but no cigar.
  • Several new evolutionary radios from Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu with continuing emphasis on attractors like D-Star, Remoting, Emcom, integrated GPS/Bluetooth and Contesting. – yup, lots, with the IC-7800 Upgrade of special interest as it is net plug and play.
  • The brand new Flex Radio Systems Flex-6300 transceiver offering much of what the Signature Series is about at a mass market price point, along with the end of April SmartSDR v1.2.1 which added the awaited Waterfall/Panafall with many other features. There may be a remote possibility of a further SmartSDR update at Dayton. – off to the FRS dinner tonight and hope to have news afterwards.
  • We should get a first look at the HPA-8000A 1kW Solid State Amplifier rounding out the high performance PT-8000A Transceiver desktop. – they had a single amp in the booth with USA hams likely to get a supply in later 2014 due to FCC approval lead time.
  • Several Antenna Manufacturers have announced new models, with several interesting LPDA (Log Periodic) offerings tailored to meet the new Flex Radio Systems Signature Series radio requirements.
  • Connectivity Galore with Bluetooth, In-Shack and Remote connectivity options of every type and style. Expecting to see everything from ZigBee Modules you can solder into your project to desktop setups you can use to remotely operate one of the rent-by-hour stations.

I am sure there will be much more, and hopefully a few surprise product launches too! See you there!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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