Monthly Archives: April 2022

Upgrading SDRs in Perspective (with Pro-Tips)

Writing this late the week FlexRadio rolled out a new version of SmartSDR v 3.3.29 and some radios had problems completing the update.

Per Facebook and Flex Community postings the internal SD Cards in a limited amount of mostly older original series radios (6300/6500/6700) are vulnerable to fatal corruption.

The solution is a replacement SD Card from FlexRadio, which they can either send to the operator or the radio can be sent in for an SD Card replacement.

As usual the posts about the small percentage that develop this temporary problem are emotional. Bluntly some folks are “drama queens” or worse.  Their core need and problems are exactly the same though from reading of their woes the certainly have personalized the problem.

About these SD Cards:, first a FlexRadio discussion about SD Cards:

Personally, I have had a SD Card fail in one of my radios. This one failed in Alpha Team testing, so it wasn’t at the same time other groups of radios had problems.

A bit of background, while a robust technology SD Cards are designed to be read and wrote to, over and over. The SD Card market offers a lot of claims about performance and durability not always achieved in field use.

So as a part of upgrading there is a bit of Stress Test through all the upgrade manipulations that can identify iffy SD cards, and some SD cards simply will fail.

Inconvenient but not horribly catastrophic – if the SD card fails you open a Help Desk ticket and FlexRadio sorts you out a fresh SD Card.

Your radio usually will be inoperable until the new card is installed, but it is NOT permanently bricked as many hand wringers lament.

Some lament why doesn’t FlexRadio offer an image that could be downloaded so the operator could roll-their-own new SD Card?

FlexRadio Systems is all about their customer’s experience, and their served customer base includes hams who understand every nuance of the radio’s design, have the techniques to deal with every level of repair – a the way through to – customers who on their own shouldn’t be inside the radio.

The image files appear not to be one-size-fit-all, and have evolutionary differences. I am uncertain if they are the same across all the world wide market of FlexRadio.

FlexRadio is using high grade SD Cards selected to best perform in their radios. While the SD Cards you buy from Amazon or other vendors could be the same, they also might not be at all the same.

So FlexRadio has kept the variables to a minimum by being the image-loaded SD Card supplier for the radios.

Not working for FlexRadio I am not privy to how big is the SD Card matrix they work with. The impression I have gained is that there are a lot of considerations for what version SD Card image is the right one for your particular radio.

My theory on why SD Card problems show up despite a huge testing processes is simple – there are radios which had SD Cards out in the general user population, where the test team with all their upgrade/downgrade/test processes largely have weeded out the suspect SD Cards long ago.

I think that is what happened to the SD Card I lost.

So in summary, if your SD card breaks during an upgrade:

  • Open a FlexRadio Help Desk Ticket
  • When you new SD Card arrives, install it
  • Then you will be able to complete your upgrade process.

Additionally (or Pro-Tips learned the hard way):

  • When an update comes out, unless you want to be bleeding-edge up to date, consider letting others “break trail” and wait a few days.
  • Never Ever – REPEAT NEVER EVER – even think of updating right before (or during) a contest you are participating in, or if you are about to do some important operating like a special DX chase or a shack tour.
  • Think about when in the week you want to run your updates – I try to do them late Sunday or on Monday, just in case.
  • If your budget allows, consider having a second radio (Flex-6300s are at a nice price point secondhand).  Some hams have a full set of duplicate gear so they can plug-n-play if anything goes down, though that strategy requires deep pockets.

Hoping your updates may always be successful and easy!

 

73

Steve
K9ZW

Tubes and Spare Tubes – Collins Edition

As my two Collins S-Line stations received tremendous amounts of TLC at the hands of Chuck W9KR, the vacuum tubes were checked with any out of specification replaced.

I am planning to buy at least one complete backup set as reserves.

Tubes are not “forever” items, and a ham would not even have a chance of a quick repair if you didn’t have spares on hand.

One of decisions is to what depth should I put in spares?  Would one comprehensive set between the two stations be sufficient?  Or one comeplete set PER station?  Or greater depth of all or perhaps just certain tubes?

Be careful about how your suppliers ship your tubes. One box ordered looked like it was place-kicked at the USPS perhaps in an afterhours soccer match! Amazingly the tubes all survived and tested okay.

I am looking for advice on storing spare tubes, especially as some become rather rare and expensive. Any time-proven methods?

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Hamshack Hotline – VoIP for Hams

Well really just a dedicated amateur radio VoIP system.

https://hamshackhotline.com

EDIT 26APR22 – Check out the Wiki at Hamshack Hotline, as many of the questions I’m being asked are covered in detail at their Wiki.

Set mine up April 2022, and I am now 610-000-0781 as Steve K9ZW in the Hamshack Hotline Directory.

I scrounged a Cisco SPA303 of eBay for the purpose.

The Hamshack Hotline Website is a wealth of information on the project

Bought off eBay my phone had been previously provisioned by appeared unused

Okay – easy-peasy setup (there is a video https://youtu.be/-XRUnnjTugQ )

By using one of the “supported phones” I could use their ready-to-go script to make it super easy.

The steps:

Continue reading

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Slowly building one’s Logbook

K9ZW LoTW April 2022

It takes a while to build up the QSOs and QSLs in one’s logs.  Seems that of the QSOs I upload to LoTW about 58% end up being confirmed by other LoTW users, becoming LoTW-Qualified QSOs.

I’m understanding that percentage is a fairly typical result.

At my present weekly QSO rate, I am expecting to cross the 40-thousand QSO mark later in August 2022.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Loaner/Starter Radios and a Tip How Not to Get Them Back if Desired

A few posts back I postulated:

“In another post down the road I will lay out my ideas behind having loaner/starter radios to help people out. I also learned a pretty good trick how to make sure a radio basically loaned out never comes back, if that is a goal. I’ll touch on that later as well.”

and I touched on the end effect:

Net effect for me is an expense absorbed long ago continues to provide a series of hams operating opportunities, bringing ham-joy into their lives. What could be better than that?

For years I have bought several small simple transceivers, sometimes new overstock and sometimes quality gear to be repaired.

My buys have included Icom IC-718, TenTec Paragon II/Delta/Jupiter, SGC SG-2000/2020 and similar transceivers.

My idea was to put together simple stations to pass them on. Sometimes sold onwards, a few times I traded them, and but mostly the stations were loaned or gifted to aspiring hams.

What better way to get someone involved in our hobby as to help get them on the air.

Radio Stations loaned out are expected to be returned, but weirdly I have had a couple Gifted-Stations come back when their operators acquired new gear.

I got one of the gift station recipients to explain why they would give the station back, rather than their passing in forward to another ham, trading it off, or selling it.

It seems I left in place unspoken emotional ties that they felt a need to honor and that the station remained a “loaner” in their eyes even though received as a gift.

Another wise new ham then offered up the observation that people lose this sort for silent-strings feeling if they actually own gear.  That unless gear sold was sold on with an expectation of being bought back, that they felt liberty to do what they pleased with what they bought.

Simply making the “recipient” into an “owner” by having them pay a small amount seems to be the ticket to keeping the gifted gear from coming back.

While non-binding perhaps asking them to be similarly kind in passing the station forward to another ham might help reduce the feeling that the recipient needed to return the gear.

The two small stations I am very slowly working on getting ready for a new to the hobby ham’s use will be sold for say $50 each, so I can see if this payment exchange breaks the boomerang-effect.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Will the New USA Audio Tube Initiative spill over to Ham Radio?

There are some good things happening in the world of top-notch Audiophile Vacuum Tubes:

Exclusive: Western Electric confirms plans to tackle the tube crisis with its Georgia factory

Basically their 300B production will be expanded to include 6L6, EL34, 6V6, EL84, 12AX7 and other audiophile grade tubes.

Presently their production is considered “Ultra-Premium” and is priced accordingly to the level of TLC and technical perfection Western Electric brings to the vacuum tube game.

Western Electric is actually a new company that picked up the heritage and licensing of the original.

Here is a link to the website for the plant:

https://www.westernelectric.com/rossville-works

And a link about the audio tubes they are successful in producing:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/300B

In the RF world it may not be possible to support an Ultra-Premium product and pricing, but there is room for a high quality.

Could the growth in range eventually include radio vacuum tubes?

Would sure be nice!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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