Monthly Archives: September 2020

The Exact Radio that got me Started

What was your first radio experience?Found in a stack of slide carousels, presume nieces of my grandparents with the radio I listened to as a grade schooler.

When I heard foreign language shortwave broadcasts and a few times what I suppose were hams talking back and forth, my interests were piqued!

Radio disappeared about ten years later to my grandfather’s workshop, where it gave way to a transistor model.

Not certain the exact model, but it did make an impression on me when I was young.



Great Weather, working on the Station Build and running a bit of FT8

Weather is simply awesome. Wisconsin is always lovely as Fall settles in, and the weekend was really nice. Expecting solid week of this sort of weather as well!

Have been at the station building projects a good part of the weekend. Yesterday while it was a bit too cool outside which things warmed up, I worked on the Radio Racks.

Each radio rack is getting side panel to attach RigRunner, Router, Power Strip and other connectivity accessories. The main Flex-6700 based rack was the ficus, though panels were cut from phenolic resin based sign board for the Island Rack and Collin Rack. Other than a bit of woodworking and a few test-fitting of various pieces, the weather was too nice to lose much time on inside work.

I did try participating at the NEWDXA (Northeast Wisconsin DX Association) Zoom meeting, but I forgot my iPad in the main house and then had an unexpected visitor drop in, so I watch perhaps a quarter.

Outside work first included a fair bit of non-radio yard work and chores. Restoring a nice set of cedar lawn furniture a friend made for us some 20 years back, and replace a several pieces that weathering and usage had broken.

Then it was work on the main hexbeam. This is a RadioWavz Sentinel Barrett Hexbeam with Broadband Option that has been on the ground for several months after breaking a piece during assembly. Turns out that the original plastic ring wire guides had been upgraded to a heavy aluminum & stainless steel version, and I had been waiting for the upgrade parts. The parts came in okay, but as I had lost my crane slot to the crane suddenly being overbooked, I procrastinated.

That the biting gnats and biting deer flies made outside work in the woods really awful, my procrastination became prevarication. It didn’t help that it often very hot out.

With the fall weather the mosquitoes, gnats and deer flies are mus less a factor, and of course the weather is wonderful, so I’m back at it.

All the new wire guides are installed, but I found that a piece of one leg had been broken over summer. My wife had commented at one point that a young deer seemed caught up in the antenna one day, and I am wondering if that precipitated the broken part? Without some outside forces they leg pieces seem to robust to simply just break.

So I’ve contacted RadioWavz and also through careful measuring ordered up some other possible replacement parts just in case. RadioWavz new production uses a completely different leg design with solid leg elements, where my earlier model uses more conventional hollow leg elements.

One way or the other I should have replacement parts by midweek. I really want this antenna up very soon.

I need to made new half-sloper antenna spreaders, and will also focus on the tower bulkhead wiring while waiting for the fiberglass part. I’m budgeting two afternoons on the bulkhead, and one on final antenna preparation. If everything works out and a crane/operator is available I’m hopeful of having this big antenna running very soon.



FlexRadio 4o3a Tuner Genius XL is headed to production

FlexRadio Systems sent out an update on the Flex-TGXL (Tuner Genius XL) which initially will launch in two forms – a 1×3 matrix (one input and three antenna outputs) and very interestingly an unique SO2R version (two separate radio inputs, each matched to a specific single output).

Preliminary View of the Flex-PGXL Tuner

Those of us with Flex-TGXL pre-purchased as part of being an early adopter of the Flex-PGXL Amp, received a survey where we were asked which version we wanted, or if we would rather have an Antenna Genius switch. I’ve elected the SO2R version for my selections.

Some interesting preliminary information:

Range – 160 to 6 meters (continuous)
Interfaces – FlexRadio LAN, RS-232, CI-V, BCD, PTB (Pin-to-Band), or built-in Frequency Counter.
Matching Range – up to 10:1 SWR
Tuning Time – New Solution 2-12 seconds, Stored Memory Solution 20ms (!!)
Power Rating – 2000 watts at 100% ICAS Duty Cycle
Display – 7 inch touch screen
Power Requirements – 15-26 VDC @ 2 Amp, power supply included
Min/Max Tuning Power – 10 watt min, 200 watt max
Operation – Fully Automatic or Manually Tuned
Rough Dimensions – 12″ wide x 6″ high x 14″ deep (to be confirmed as the spec sheet is a bit confusing)
Weight – 15-1/2 Lbs
Connectivity – Requires a CAT5 cable to connect to your LAN for FlexRadio integration

Preliminary View of Flex-PGXL Tuner

Pricing has not been announced. Everything is a preliminary information release.

This Flex-TGXL is a 4o3a/FRS project and most likely will be built in Montenegro at 4o3a’s facilities.

I’m excited!




Hard getting more than 7 bands in an FT8 Session

Propagation has been different the last few days, and each day I have been able to work more bands than usual.

Typically I am getting QSOs on 160, 80, 40, 30, and 20 meters. The last three I’ve made FT8 QSOs on 17 meters, and today made a handful of SA QSOs on 15 meters which gives me a high band per session count of seven.

Using WSJT-X/SmartSDR for Windows via SmartLink (mostly) to my home Flex-6700 #1 using ZeroFive flagpole vertical antenna. For some QSOs on the shorter bands today I used WSJT-X/SmartSDR for Windows via LAN to my Flex-6600 to a Cushcraft vertical but found no difference in what bands I could see activity on.



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You have to have something to drink while running FT8

Running FT8 requires time and timing.  You need enough time to manage the flow as software QSOs unfold and you have to have great timing for your machine to keep your transmissions and decoding synced with other stations.

And then you get thirsty!

I know some operators quaff coffee and some chug beer, at the risk of becoming too excitable or bordering on a stupor.

But I’m in the fourth year of a healthier diet that excludes caffeine and alcohol.  The alcohol abstinence was a challenge after many decades brewing my own beer, hard cider, mead and wine, as I lost the makers-side which had become a bit of a hobby.

So what could I make and drink?

Kombucha is my choice.  Fermented tea where the process also consumes the majority of the caffeine and later in the process consumes most of the alcohol.

Here is a picture from this weekend – the dark are Elderberry flavored and the amber are ginger flavored.

A bottled batch of K9ZW Kombucha

A bottled batch of K9ZW Kombucha

So when you see me on FT8 you can figure the human element is fired with Kombucha rather than coffee or beer!




Six Bands of FT8 by Remote Background One Morning

K9ZW 15SEP20 six bands FT8 Log

Some morning the propagation is really different. On Sept 15th 2020 working FT8 on the second monitor from my work desk, I was able to catch QSOs on 160m, 80m 40m 30m, 20, and 17m. Usually I can find good contacts on a few bands, but not so often on six bands in a session.

It was nice to add to my 160m FT8 QSOs, as I have not spent much time on FT8 160m yet.

I found nothing to work on 15m, 12m and 10m – again that propagation issue!

Gear was my ZeroFive Flagpole Vertical Antenna, a Flex-6700 barefoot, and my trusty Dell Core i7 computer running SmartSDR for Windows and WSJT-X. Connectivity was via SmartLink as my radio is at home.

A sprinkling of DX in the run, Fiji being the most interesting.



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