Monthly Archives: September 2012

Autumn Colors – It’s Antenna Time!

As the trees start taking on the magic yellow, reds, orange and golden hues of Autumn Color, an amateur radio enthusiast’s thoughts naturally touch on the common sense of doing antenna work before the autumn leaves are gone.  Once exchanged for the cold snows of winter antenna work is an “as needed” task rather than an enjoyable pastime.

Here I will lower the tower, tilt it over and look everything over well.  This year I am planning to open up connections and renew the waterproofing of each join.  I also need to decide whether I should swap rotors out.  The present rotor is doing ok, mostly.  It was used and unknown when I acquired it, and on a few occasions it has shown a small dead spot about 120 degrees where response to the next move required a slight clockwise/counterclockwise wiggle.  I am uncertain if this wasn’t actually a rotor cable splice issue, as after opening & renew the waterproofing at te tower base the condition has never reoccured.

I do have a C.A.T.S. Rotor Service rebuilt identical unit I’ve had as a reserve for a couple years, as my usual station idea is to have a “functional spare” of critical items read to go.

This is why I have a rebuilt rotor on hand, why there are two feedlines, two rotor cables and two remote switch control cables in the chase from the shack to my tower.  While I do not have exact identical replacement radio gear, I do have “functional spares” that would keep me on the air in most contingencies.

Last year I decided to put off the swap another year.   In fact I put off the tower service, only greasing the cables and tower itself, skipping the tip-over phase do to poor weather on the days I had open to do service.   Now I’ll have to decide again whether to leave or to replace a working rotor when I have the tower down.

I’ve also had a 80-6m GAP Titan DX Vertical basically in storage in the edge of the woods.  I put it out there seven years ago and have had the feedline coiled and ready for the last four.  I think I’ve even had the DX Engineering tilt-over base I won at Dayton on the shelf for three years now!  Alison KC9MPL doesn’t want the GAP Titian DX to be an eyesore, so I have to either locate it in the edge of the woods or switch to a “Plan-B” option.  The Autumn Color tells me again I need to resolve the plan & execute, or await the spring thaws to do it then.

As an option I’ve been thinking of a Flag Pole Antenna which would allow it to be positioned in the front yard as a point-of-pride and reduce potential for coupling with the tower.

Then when one is joining the ranks of “empty nesters” next summer, do I hold until the XYL has reached clarity on her input into our housing plans for the next ten years?

In the shack I am similarly working through some space redesign.  I am thinking of staying the former wine cellar but moving other things out to given me space for the vintage station, a projects station and a rack to hold SDR & long-term radio gear.

I best not let that thinking get in way of doing the needed outside work unless I want to stand in snow doing service and repairs.

Autumn Leaves….



Time to Improve the ARRL Books – No More Expensive “B&W Newsprint” Books in a Multimedia World please.

While there is some good movement in the ARRL editorial and production standards, the league persists in trying to market black & white, often on cheap paper, books that look like relics from the 1950’s.

Or they are magazine thin, refer you to online material to see the color charts/pictures and are basically useless.

Printing on rough paper that looks and feels cheap makes the books a hard sell.

It is time to update the style, format, quality and editing of these books to bring them up to scratch.

Some of the fiction resold by the ARRL appears to be print-on-demand ( type publications that look great compared to the flagship publications in the offering.

Content editing would also benefit from a younger approach to style and form.

Looking at the latest RSGB books the ARRL resells wouldn’t be a bad idea in planning improvements.

Let’s be clear, the ARRL book offering is one a very few available for radio amateurs and arguably the content is the same whether the delivery has curb appeal or not.  Just seems a shame not hold a higher standard in an effort to put pride in ownership back into these books.



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Trips to Washington Island, Heath SS9000, Flex-Radio PowerSDR 2.4.4 and Death’s Door Pig Roast

Last weekend was a quick run to Washington Island Wisconsin (WI-001L) to pick up George W9EVT for the W9DXCC event.  Spent a little bit of time with John K9IY who retired to the island a few years ago and I had managed to somehow not meet.

This weekend we ran up to catch the Death’s Door Spirits Juniper Harvest & Pig Roast

Death's Door Spirits Juniper Harvest

Death’s Door Spirits Juniper Harvest

We also caught up with numerous friends, spent a little “Red Cup” coffer shop time, and kicked back.

Red Cup Coffee House

Red Cup Coffee House

The Red Cup has switch provisioners to AnoDyne Coffee from Milwaukee – We can recommend their coffee, having had is served to us on the mainland several time prior, and bulk purchased it for our machines at home.

AnoDyne Coffee

AnoDyne Coffee

Spending some time with Susan and George W9EVT Ulm I also updated George’s Flex-5000A to the latest PowerSDR 2.4.4 and did other minor repairs/tweaks. Great to see them! I made but a single QSO being too busy visiting and being outside – Mark M0ZMX on the Isle of Grain (really not an island, but sounds cool) was 59+1- into the island on the Flex.

George has asked me to check out an unusual Heath radio – and SS9000 and PS9000 Power Supply. He has several and I am to give this backup a workout while sorting out a minor glitch. Here is a shot of this last ever Heath series transceiver from the period ad:

Heath SS9000 Transceiver

Heath SS9000 Transceiver

All in all a great time and truly this island is “North of the Tension Line!”



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Rounding Out the Collins S-Line Station – Found a 30L-1 Amp

Thanks to Gary K8BKB my Collins S-Line vintage station is gaining an amplifier.  Gary had a spare 30L-1 of a similar vintage and style as the rest of the station, so it seemed a natural.

Collins 30L-1 Amp

Collins 30L-1 Amp

Still hoping by the end of September to be regularly on the air with this Vintage Collins S-Line station all running – 75S-1 Receiver, 32S-1 Transmitter,  30L-1 Amp, Speaker, Power Supplies and Station control.

Photos of the completed S-Line station will follow once it is all up.




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Flex-6700 Fantasies – “Dreaming What Might Be!” Series – Lessons Learned and Series Wrap Up

Returning from W9DXCC where I was able to attend FlexRadio’s Greg K5GJ’s presentation and chat with him at length as well, I would like to update my predictions:

  • Amateur Radio’s leading Edge will move hugely forward.  We’re at the cusp of a huge leap forward as FlexRadio brings to market what before only a few intrepid folks (like the TAPR folks) have been able to do.
  • This technology will be a huge hit with those willing to work the leading edge.  Expect to see a SmartSDR Client on a lot of busy people’s PCs for those lunch hour QSOs. 
  • Group/Remote Stations will allow more people to get on the air.  The easy options to shack/antenna restrictions will now include remote operation as a regular possibility.
  • I was wrong on much in way I predicted that Special rules or Special Classes will being needed when these radios appear in contests and QTH collection programs (IOTA/SOTA/DXCC).  The new technology won’t be much of an issue.  Reports are that when a transmitter location criteria is used it becomes easy to to incorporate the new technology into these programs.  I was seeing a problem that doesn’t really seem to be there (and has already largely been solved where is does appear.)
  • Someone will exploit these units, forcing some security demands on owners – but it will be pretty hard for hackers to exploit.  Basically if you are smart enough to get into them you’re already smart enough to make your own. Enough said.
  • While limited advances in small run offerings by other teams may come close, or perhaps equal/exceed the Flex-6000 Series in a few areas, it will be a long wait until there is a contender.  The catch-up game for contenders is huge and expensive. 
  • They will be a LOT of fun!  REALLY a lot of fun!  Imagination will only get you part way to what these radios will do.
  • Every ham who is computer/technology savvy will want one.
  • We will have some new jargon/language to deal with – examples below.

It is hard not to be pumped about this new series.

BTW I am not selling my Flex-5000A – it is too good of a radio to part with.

Some things learned from the W9DXCC Presentation.

New word for most hams – “Netcentric” reflects the connectivity by internet of this new gear.

Another new concept is “Radio Server” where your Signature-Series Flex-6000 could be thought of as a just another sort of server on your net.

“Super Browser” is the descriptive for the thin client software.

“Phase Noise Dynamic Range” will be the axis for measuring one Radio Server against another, as we see the developments focus on letting us hear well.

The amount of data going through one of these Radio Servers is stunning – where a clasic Multi-Conversion rig runs at roughly 96 ksps, and a Single-Conversion doubles that for 192 ksps, this new Direct-Sampling implimentation is zooming at 246,000 ksps (or 246 Msps).

Likewise the distortion of conversions which with Mutli-Conversion happens at 3 or 4 places, and with Single-Conversion halves, this new Direct-Sampling drops it to zero hardware points and single software point… well sort of as each technology typically has a few more points.

Signal to noise is the game – with Radio Servers offering a major step forward.

Also I am VERY humbled to realize that the Folks at FlexRadio have thought through much of what I have pondered upon, and years ago.  In conversation Greg K5JG was gracious enough to share some of the OB/OM (Organizational Behavior/Operational Management) philosophy they have implemented at FlexRadio Systems and pointed me at references where I could learn more about their successful management style.  The W9DXCC was also a flattering experience when I learned that people actually read & remember the content of these posts.  I am humbled and grateful.

Back to the this new world of Generation 3 SDR radios and the Flex-Radio 6×00 series – simply put “The possibilities are amazing!”





First post of this series Flex-6700 Fantasies – “Dreaming What Might Be!” Series

Planning in a few weeks to have another first hand look at the Flex-Radio Flex-6000 series radios at the W9DXCC Convention in Illinois.

Flex-Radio Flex-6000 Series

Flex-Radio Flex-6000 Series

……one can imagine, dream and scheme can’t one?

Reading the Flex-Radio literature, Insider newsletters and reflectors there is one massive amount of promise to this new radio an architecture!

I’d like to touch on a few items that have caught my eye, and what I imagine they might offer for the future of amateur radio.

Be absolutely certain I am speculating, I have no extra insight or sources (nor would I betray information given to me in confidence) and I am doing analysis based on what it out there.  I’m going to have fun speculating what might be.

Putting some guesses and construction to the pieces of information over the next few weeks, we’ll see if I guess right on anything announced at the W9DXCC or later when radios ship.

I’ll try to get a thought out every few days in the lead-up to the W9DXCC Convention and then an assessment in the week or so directly after the event.

I’ll link them to this “Flex-6700 Fantasies – “Dreaming What Might Be!” Series” starter and again in the wrap up.



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KE9V’s Cornbread Row Audio Ham Mystery Available (Briefly)

Jeff KE9V did a really neat audio ham radio novel “Cornbread Row” which is up & down in terms of availability.

He has reissued it and for a few weeks will have it for download.

Cornbread Road originally debuted on the 21st of June, 2010. Thirteen audio episodes released one week at a time – from the Summer solstice to the Autumnal equinox. And now, it’s back for a final run. Thirteen audio episodes, one released each week – from the solstice to the equinox. It’s a ham radio mystery unlike any other and if you didn’t catch it the first time around, this might be your final chance. **This archive will be deleted on September 29, 2012.**


No Idea why it needs to come down in a few weeks, but if you enjoy a good story grab it while you can!



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