Island Upgrades to Omni VII, Orion II, FT-2000 and Flex-5000a

Today after a two and half hour drive and a 40 minute ferry ride I set foot, or more exactly set my wheels, on Washington Island WI-001L, on my way to George W9EVT’s ham shack to install firmware updates on several radios and set up his Flex-5000a radio after he had received a new computer. My youngest Victor KC9NWB was riding shotgun on the trip.

Greengate Farm, Susan & George Ulm’s QTH, was not my only island destination. My official main purpose on the Island was to assist the Island Historical Society with evaluation and decision-making concerning the Thorstein Veblen cottage restoration project.

The cottage restoration will start in earnest in 2010, with the present priority to watertight the building and insure its safety overwinter. My firm has offered some assistance with materials for the project and I have been more than happy to donate my personal time to our Island friends who are undertaking this historic renovation.

I’m especially happy that allows me time to visit George’s shack, and in this case on this trip to do upgrades on several of his radios. George also had received a specially built PC to run his Flex-5000 and he needed it set up.

The first upgrade was to the Orion II with a full firmware update. This involves installing software I had brought to the island on a thumb drive onto a local PC, connected to the Orion with a serial cable, restarting the radio holding a specific key, and running the specialty upgrade software.

In the case of the Orion, with its massive number of settings, this upgrade takes several minutes. As it was the first time I had done in Orion update, I was a bit concerned at the length of time it took to load the new firmware. I really should’ve worried the system seems to work well and once the Orion was restarted all look to be well.

Upgrading the Omni was just as easy, but much quicker due to its smaller settings table. A similar process, cabling the radio up, restarting the radio holding a specific key, and running the special Omni update software. Again the update went smoothly.

Now came the challenge, the FT- 2000 radio. First step in updating a 2000 is to turn the radio upside down and locate a slider switch inside the radio through a small hole usually covered by the right rear foot. This switch is a problem as it is very very small and once you put your screwdriver in it is hard to see the switch. The 2000 also requires to be cabled to the PC for an update to install.

It couldn’t be that simple… no, it wasn’t as I discovered FT-2000 needed a different cable than the Orion or the Omni. A “Gender Problem” — the gender pin out was the opposite of what was expected. I guess I should look closer at the on-screen computer manual, rather than relying on the text calling out in nine pin serial port, before I came to Island.

So in the end the 2000 could not be upgraded, but would you think that putting that small switch back to its normal position could possibly be harder than finding it the first time? Absolutely, it was a time-consuming task to relocate this tiny switch and reset the radio.

In the end the software was left loaded ready for the correct cable to update the 2000, and a correct cable was ordered from a off-island supply house before I left for the day. I’m hoping that George can handle finishing the 2000 update on his own when the cable arrives.

Next was the Flex — and it’s new special PC. Everything was there, it just needed cabling up and the software setup with its final configurations.

The special PC arrived with all the usual Flex software preinstalled including PowerSDR, but it needed to be configured for this specific radio it was hooked to. It only took a few moments to get the software running and the flex on the air. However the first time George powered everything down for some reason the settings were lost. I found this on my return from the Veblen cottage, and I’m very glad that George and I split the day into two sessions to catch an error like this. Somewhere in the middle I found time to to squeeze in a visit to the island gunsmith and to visit with a friend who is a builder & Realtor on the island.

Again a few minutes of redoing the settings to match settings that have worked satisfactorily at my QTH put everything into fine form. With a large monitor, the fantastic antennas, the beautiful location for propagation, and the special PC George now has one very fine Flex-5000 setup. I do need to thank Harry W9BR for some phone assistance when I needed advice. To confirm the Flex-5000 was running right I of course had to quickly work several DX stations, mostly using the Washington Island DX Club WI9DX call sign.

So three of the four radios were put into fine form, the fourth prepared for its new cable to allow installation of the final firmware update, and George is back on the air with his Flex-5000. There was enough time to spare to socialize, walk part of the farm — actually a very small part of the farm — and before the last outgoing ferry for the day. Of course we were recipients of Susan’s lunch & hospitality, for which we offer our thanks!

It was a lovely ride back, breaking into rain only for the last 15-20 miles. Victor KC9NWB and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the world-famous Al Johnson’s restaurant on the way back.



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