Monthly Archives: May 2017

PowerPoles can really suck – why not CliffCon Power Connectors instead?

Who has not had a Powerpole disconnect inadvertently?

If you notice high end gear eschews Powerpoles for high performance positive-interface connectors.

The military ones are pretty pricey and hard to source.

Following the leadership of high end radios like the Hilberling PT-8000A, I’ve instead brought in a supply of Cliff CliffCon Power Connectors, and will be slowly implementing them in my shack.

Here is what they look like:

CliffCon Connectors – “Blue” Four-Pole Series

 

UK Website

http://www.cliffuk.co.uk/products/cliffcon/pole4.htm

USA Website

http://www.cliffinc.com/products/cliffcon/pole4.htm

A PDF datasheet

http://www.cliffuk.co.uk/products/cliffcon/cliffcon.pdf

Additional information from my order:

 

Stock No: Manufacturer Part No: UOM: Quantity: Price: Extended Price:
23T0887 FCR2068 Each 1
Customer Part Number:
Description: SOCKET, 4POLE, 4PC/S/LV, LOW VOLTAGE; Product Range:Cliffcon Series; Gender:Receptacle; Voltage Rating:120V; Current Rating:20A; Connector Mounting:Panel Mount; Contact Termination Type:Through Hole; SVHC:No SVHC (17-Dec-2015);

 

Stock No: Manufacturer Part No: UOM: Quantity: Price: Extended Price:
23T0883 FCR2066 Each 1
Customer Part Number:
Description: PLUG, 4POLE, 4PC/P/LV, LOW VOLTAGE; Product Range:Cliffcon Series; Gender:Plug; Voltage Rating:120V; Current Rating:20A; Connector Mounting:Cable Mount; Contact Termination Type:Clamp; SVHC:No SVHC (17-Dec-2015); Colour:Blue; Contact

 

Stock No: Manufacturer Part No: UOM: Quantity: Price: Extended Price:
23T0884 FCR20663 Each 1
Customer Part Number:
Description: PLUG, 4POLE, R/A, 4PC/P90/LV, LV; Product Range:Cliffcon Series; Gender:Plug; Voltage Rating:120V; Current Rating:20A; Connector Mounting:Cable Mount; Contact Termination Type:Clamp; SVHC:No SVHC (17-Dec-2015); Colour:Blue; Contact

Okay in comparison they are a bit spendy compared to Powerpoles, but they are positive-interface and will not pull out shutting your station down.  They are also vibration resistant making the selection for field use even more appropriate.  They have redundancy (four wire) which in the interest of standardization within my equipment I will keep to a set pattern.

Yet they allow disconnection quickly.

More on this over the next few months as they are put to use.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Memorial Day Respects

As a young soldier being sent from Germany to Verdun France as a unit representative, I had never before felt such a humbling experience as when paying respect in a military cemetery that seemed to go on for ever.

Memorial Day is about our respect and veneration of those who gave all, paying that penultimate price, so that we might have the world we have.

My heartfelt thanks to those who perished in service, and may I somehow measure up to the vision of the legacy they earned for us.

73

Steve
K9ZW

SteppIR CrankIR Antenna mast adapter

While waiting for concrete work for the K9ZW-Island QTH antennas, I’ve been using a SteppIR CrankIR antenna.

Typically have used the loudspeaker stand I acquired from SteppIR when I bought the antenna, enhanced with weights to keep the antenna up in wind.

Conditions change so rapidly on the Island that usual the CrankIR is tipped over a couple times during a weekend. I’ve also watched a deer snag the radial pulling it over.

In the middle of stormy weather or during the night when deer are moving isn’t the most fun time to play with antennas. Something had to give.

The property’s previous owner had satellite internet gear on a short mast set in concrete

Cleared the old gear and hmmm…how to fit the CrankIR onto the oversized mast?

the 2 inch OD is too large for the CrankIR and suggestions of hose-clamping a smaller mast to the side or using PVC pipe to make an adapter sounded like temporary makeshift half-solutions.

The mast hade been filled with concrete so that wouldn’t work..

Washington Island Mann’s Mercantile is a fabulous hardware store as well.  So knowing that no excuse to go to a hardware store should be passed up, it was to the plumbing isles for a solution.

Mast adapter for my SteppIR CrankIR antenna

Working excellent and will come inside with the antenna when we leave. Too heavy for portable use though.

Some people have asked how we travel the six miles of water, and here is a picture going around of one of the ferries. I think Lauren Gordon took it and Susan Ulm cleaned it up.

Washington Island Ferry complete with Rainbow.

73

Steve

K9ZW

Reflections on Hamvention 2017 by K9ZW

Reflections on Hamvention 2017 by K9ZW

I wanted to wait a week before doing an accounting of my 2017 Hamvention experiences. Needed that long for the wasp sting I somehow got, the impact of the hot weather, the soreness from the long drive and all the mud on my car to all become just memories.

First I cannot overstate how little I miss the nasty old Hara. Though I knew where things were and like an old pair of shoes, there was a certain comfort in familiarity the place simply sucked.

Xenia Fairgrounds is a nicer than typical small town multi-purpose fairgrounds. I happen to love small town America, and personally value the “Norman Rockwell” characteristics of real America.  I’d never been to Xenia but I’ve been a hundred places like Xenia.

This year I traveled with my wife Alison KC9MPL and with friend & neighbor the venerable George Ulm W9EVT. George’s wife Susan had to cancel on short notice as their dog needed special care which was going to go better if one of them stayed back at their farm.

We stayed in a new complex in Miamisburg, Ohio, at the Hilton Garden Hotel that also hosted the FlexRadio System Banquets. The hotel was four years old and basically a better grade traveler’s hotel.  Rates were typical and the surrounding amenities were awesome.  George said he had a couple small problems with his room, but ours was flawless.  The staff was super helpful.

We arrived in time to make the FlexRadio Systems Contester/DXer Banquet on Thursday evening, where the new Flex-6400, Flex-6600, Flex-6400M and Flex-6600M were launched. Very good banquet with lots of news, and with lots of people to talk to.  I was a bit road-weary and did not do my best at talking to all the people I had wanted to meet up with.  Did have a great chat with AB5ED Abed, who is a longtime FRS software engineer.  Abed impressed me asking after my son Winston KC9FVR as they had met at a FRS banquet five years prior.

Friday morning after breakfast in the hotel we set off for Xenia, aiming for the main parking. Unfortunately we were a long time in traffic, due to what we later found out was a traffic accident.  We’d dropped Alison off at the K & G Bicycle Shop where she went off on her own to rent a bike and do the area trails.

Parking went smooth once the accident was cleared (hopefully nobody was hurt) and a fellow with a golf cart came over to help George W9EVT to the Scooter Tent. At 86 years of age George will out lift, carry and outwalk younger hams, but unfortunately not for all day anymore.  So George starts the day using the Scooter to get to the end of a row or to a building/tent and then walks the area, but by lunchtime he needs to ride the Scooter more.  The Scootermobile people are super nice and took care of George.

Now inside the gates we faced having to learn the new layout. I had of course left in the car my annotated “must see” map of exhibitors I wanted to catch up with.  Some things seem to never change when it comes to self-inflicted chaos.

Finding our way into the tents we had a really good long talk with the new owner of TenTec and Alpha Amplifiers. Owner/President Mike N8WFF is a US Navy veteran and we had a really great talk about his plans for the companies.  Talk about a rescue, as both Alpha Amplifiers and TenTec were on their way to disappear having a “can do” fellow like Mike N8WFF pick up the pieces is inspiring.  We did leave with the impression that if Mike N8WFF were to team up with a partner who was marketing & sales orientated the recovery would be quicker.  But that is arm chair quarterbacking at best. BTW the Alpha 4040 Mike says will be finished this year.  Yeah!

On the tents, they were too tight for supersized hams, scooters and people carrying ham sized gear. Hoping the spacing is improved for 2018.

The big exhibition sheds are multipurpose agricultural type metal buildings on concrete slabs. If you live in a Midwestern small town like I do, you’ve been in these sorts of buildings for everything from seeing the FFA (Future Farmers of America) Animal Judging at county fair time, to Craft Beer Brewing events to quilting shows… and everything in between. The lack of Air Conditioning was a bit ugly on Friday, with outside temperatures perhaps getting into the 90’s.  In fairness we’d had bring some outside plants in the house when we left due to frost warnings, so some of temperature complaint was my not being accustomed yet to warm weather this year.

Visited FlexRadio Systems, DX Engineering, Icom, Arlan Communications (RadioSport), RadioWavz, Array Solutions, Amsat, and dozens more that I had marked in my program as “must see.” Spent some time talking with Ranko 4o3a and other celebrity vendors.

It was hot enough that the Beer Garden was of more interest than eating. There was a Steel Drummer playing and an endless choice of foods vendors. Of course huge rain storm had to move in, so we retreated to the sheds. In the end we waited to have a late lunch in the hipster village of Yellow Springs, as Alison had put in their hiding from the rain & lightning while bicycling.  The area trails are really excellent she reports, having done about 40 miles in her casual ride.

While our exit from the fairgrounds had been smooth and quick, I hadn’t let myself get caught in the wrong lane leaving Xenia requiring a 2-3 mile backtrack as a result, nonetheless our ride back to the hotel was quick if very wet.

Friday evening we dressed up and took in the Collins Collectors Association Banquet held at the Miami Valley Country Club. The country club is about 4 miles south of the old remote parking at the former Salem Mall and is a wonderful retro-swank old style club.  At the table I was sat next to Mike March K4QU of Morse key making renown.  He does some keys in conjunction with a master engraver, and once she is done these are fantastic works of art that also rock for sending code.  https://sites.google.com/site/marchmagneticpaddles/ is his website.

Saturday saw George W9EVT and myself off to the show early, meeting with my cousin Dale N6JSX for a final morning of looking around. Heavy rains dampened out enthusiasm and we headed back to the hotel early than planned.  Alison spent the day touring with Dale’s wife Becky N9KUV.

George W9EVT bowed out for our third banquet of Hamvention 2017, the general audience targeted FlexRadio System Banquet. This was an excellent event as Mac W4AX did an outstanding presentation on use of the USB control from your Flex-6000 to automate your station – https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/flexradio-usb-configuration-possibilities has some of his charts.  Basically a Flex-6000 has a programmable interface by USB that can control about every aspect of your station, right down to an “On the Air” sign!

We had a really good chat with fellow NEWDXA member Jerry K9USN. Again I think I missed talking to quite a few people I had intended to catch up with, but that happens when your XYL’s feelings need to be taken into consideration.

Very early Sunday we hit the road, and dove first home, then with another of my sons Victor KC9NWB drove George W9EVT the last 115 miles up to the ferry that takes him to his Island.

Was Hamvention 2017 better for all the changes? Resoundingly YES.

Was it all worked out and perfect? No but it wasn’t bad either.

The swap mart got all muddy – that isn’t bad compared to sewage volcanos bubbling up in the swap meet area like at the Hara. The exhibition sheds were hot – but they were despite claims of A/C at the Hara. The beer garden was outside compared to the ice cold bar room at the Hara, but also it was possible to get a beer instantly compared to the Hara 20 minutes in line.

Different Hamvention – some stuff better, some stuff worse, and all things Ham!

What are our 2018 plans? Undecided, but not for Hamvention reasons, but because of other travel opportunity reasons.

Glad we went, good time had by all and a tip of the hat to the DARA team for making a difficult transition work out.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Adding Ethernet Lightning Protection to the K9ZW Shack

Adding Ethernet Lightning Protection to the K9ZW Shack

 

Based largely on FlexRadio System Community web posts and an a web-article by Al NN4ZZ (http://www.nn4zz.com/FLEX6700.htm#Ethernet_Lightning_Protection) I’ve added an Ethernet FiberOptic Isolation for my hardwired Flex-6700 at the home QTH.  The Island QTH is on a WiFi extender so it is using that wireless break in cabling to achieve the same benefits, though I do expect to use FiberOptic Ethernet from the main station to the tower service shed for remote operation of equipment at the tower base.

The whole idea with isolation is to reduce the vulnerability of the on-board Flex-6700’s Ethernet adapter to stray static or electrical charge energizing a CAT6e cable, and as an added benefit decreasing the possibility of that cable picking up any stray RF or somehow coupling.

Basically there are three parts, an Ethernet Cable to Fiber box, a Fiber cable, and a second Fiber to Ethernet Cable box at the other end of the Fiber.

Ethernet CAT6e Cable to Fiber Isolation Setup

Ethernet CAT6e Cable to Fiber Isolation Setup

There are lots of sources for the gear to make the jump, and I selected an eBay vendor recommended to me for the Ethernet CAT6e to Fiber full duplex interfaces. With the variety I selected you need a properly configured pair (one an “A” and the other a “B”) to work.

Cables I picked from Amazon, as the original eBay cable vendor never delivered the cables ordered, which is okay (except they charged me) as I made a mistake ordering Siamese-Paired Fiber Cables which fits a different type of gear. What I needed was single cables.

I picked http://www.ebay.com/itm/151827507443 which is a matched A & B pair “10/100Mbps Ethernet to Single mode Fiber Optic Media Converter Transceiver- 25KM” set.

The cables are https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E6OMK68 “Gino brand, 2 Pcs Simplex Single Mode SC to SC Male Fiber Optic Patch Jump Cable Yellow 2M” cables.  You only need one cable per pair of Ethernet to Single mode Fiber Optic Media Converter Transceivers.

(I bought two cables and two pairs of transceivers, as I usually buy a second set of components for projects like this as backups).  One setup cost me $45.50 (or $91.00 if you consider the spare set as true backups).

Seems a very low cost to do both the RFI mitigation and EMP/ESD protection adding Fiber gives.

There are a lot of other vendors and possible components. Though I have NOT been able to find one, I have wondered if a dedicated all-in-one isolation unit exists?  Maybe one of our hobby’s network gurus knows?

[EDIT – as a reader reminded medon’t forget to protect the power supply inputs to the radio end of the transceiver pair, as it presents a way to energize the cable CAT6e jumper that plugs into your radio!  I have small items like this somewhat protected by a small UPS and further by a protected power strip, but maybe that isn’t even enough?   Thanks David for the reminder!]

73

Steve
K9ZW

Evolution to the Flex-6400/6600 and Revolution to the Flex M-models – why we should expect innovation

Perhaps some of us have missed how important new models are to an organization, as the new products predictably will not only incorporate enhancements that may better fit end client expectations but as importantly they will hone & optimize production.

The production per unit advantages are important to capture both to enhance revenues, but as critically to avoid non-value-added production costs (waste) that increases vulnerability to more efficiently produced competition.

This is more true when the new products replace existing production rather than expand the product line produced.

I’d argue the Flex-6400 and Flex-6600 are updates to leverage everything FRS has learned and cost optimize for both production cost and marketplace sell price reasons.

Further the M-models (Flex-6440M and Flex-6600M) are the true product line expansion models, as they leverage the Maestro product through update & integration with the otherwise needed new 6400 and 6600.  The M-models brilliantly expand product line appeal at a much lower cost (or resource drain) than a completely new product would have used.

In the transformation to a software defined company the hardware still must be state of the art in effectiveness on both performance and cost-value.

Remembering that there are industrial dynamics that simply require an effective producer to innovate or risk being replaced in the marketplace by more effective competitors we cannot be “High-Tech Luddites” expecting innovation to stagnate because we imagine we can artificially maintain marketplace supremacy for our purchase through stagnation.

Kudos to FRS for redesigning a few models to better fit the marketplace’s needs and improve margin on a unit production cost basis.

And more kudos due for combining developed products with enough enhancement to carve out new marketplace positions with what arguably are largely already amoritized product development costs in the merged products.

Hope I haven’t bored too many of you as I wanted to wait until the usual emotional stuff started to settle before explaining why FRS needed to innovate core models, and how brilliant the M-models are from the product expansion aspects.

73

Steve
K9ZW