Category Archives: Amateur Radio

Non-Radio – Trip Around Lake Superior

Nipigon River Bridge Ontario, close to the halfway point of our trip

Back less than 24 hours from a Lake Superior Circle Trip – actually completing the Canadian parts we have never done. This is post is pretty much non-radio (spoiler alert) other than seeing what the October 2021 USA->Canadian and Canadian->USA Border crossings would involve for a contemplated future radio trip.

I’ll pick up at Sault Ste Marie (said “Soo-Saint-Marie” … well mostly said that way) on the Michigan (USA) side where I was careful to fill the gas tank, as USA fuel is about 60% the cost of Canadian fuel. When you drive to Canada there is a long double bridge over the locks that the current car toll was $4.00 US. https://infogalactic.com/info/Sault_Ste._Marie_International_Bridge The lady who took our toll seemed to be amused by us – we sensed she thought we would be send back.

There was no other cars going our way or coming back from Canada on this massive 2.8 miles (4.5 km) bridge. I saw a sole person below running with their dog, as otherwise we would have been able to say we saw not a single person in the border area.

At the Ontario end the Immigration/Customs Canada complex has about eight lanes, of which only two were open when we arrived. Ahead of us were three cars and a single semi.

We had prepared for the crossing with:
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What Big Ears you have! – Being Heard – the All-FlexRadio (AFR) Station

I mentioned the great reports I was receiving with the AFR station (All-FlexRadio), and as being heard is the the easy part of making QSO’s, it seemed a good time to talk about the “Ears” of the AFR station.

There are two parts of most aspects of reception – hearing the raw signals and having a method to reduce the signal to a particular station which you want to make a QSO.

Across the panadaper SSB signal traces crowd the screen.  Use of the various signal processing settings mitigates some of the crowd, but there remains a lot of signals to pick through.

Think of this like going to a crowded party where everyone is talking.  There are so many simultaneous conversations that one has to concentrate and focus to pick out just one.  A hard of hearing person may hear only a fraction of the conversations, and because of their lower ability to hear also misses much of the general “conversation buzz” that good ears need to work to pick through.

The AFR station is good ears for sure.  And I need to carefully use the software tools and my own hearing processing to pick out stations.  The challenge is to focus in on just one station.

FlexRadio has a number of videos on how to manipulate SmartSDR to achieve optimal QSO rates.  As fair warning, if you want to simulate the deafness of legacy radios you will need to work harder at tweaking settings in SmartSDR.  Conversely if you want to have run rate with the leaders in the pack, your SmartSDR settings will be less intrusive.

One obvious factor in this listening part of the equation, is the great performance of the Tennadyne T-12 Log Periodic Antenna.

I can hear you now!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Hearing and Being Heard – the All-FlexRadio (AFR) Station

I have been running the All-FlexRadio (AFR) setup on phone (SSB) with the new T-12 Log Periodic, and very pleased with the balance between Reception (RX) and Transmission (TX)!

Audio to Radio Frequency Chain of the AFR setup (All-FlexRadio) is:

  • Sure SM5B Microphone
  • Behringer Audio Amp
  • Flex-6700 with SmartSDR Software
  • Flex-PGXL Amp
  • Flex-TGXL Tuner
  • AS302N Lightning Arrestor
  • Tennadyne T-12 Antenna at 76ft

All cables are hardline, Belden 9913F7 (drops) or LMR400 (jumpers).

Presently I don’t have the rotator wired at the tower base and shack ends, so the Log Periodic has been stationary. The connectors I needed to repurchase as I put them someplace so very safe when first ordered that they haven’t been found since, just arrived.

Rather enjoying reports when running barefoot of “I have you K9ZW 5-9 plus 15” and then turning on the “heater” but loafing at 500 watts, to receive 5-9 plus 30 reports!

Happy camper here!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Running a Comprehensively FlexRadio System – September 2021

It has taken quite a while to assemble an all-FlexRadio setup.

FlexRadio took longer than expected to introduce the Amplifier (PGXL) and Tuner (TGXL) components. To FlexRadio’s credit the general releases were held until the units were sorted out to some pretty exacting standards, and just like the radios the PGXL & TGXL continue to be worked on for improvements.

Here is my basic system at the Home-QTH:

Flex-6700 — PGXL Amp — TGXL Tuner — Antennas

At the Home-QTH Antenna 1 is a Zero-Five Flagpole Vertical and Antenna 2 is a T-12 12 element Log Periodic

Here is my basic system at the Island-QTH:

Flex-6700 — PGXL Amp — TGXL Tuner — PowerMaster SWR Meter — Antennas

At the Island-QTH Antenna 1 is a Zero-Five Flagpole Vertical

For reference the Work-QTH setup is:

Flex-6600M — Vertical Antenna

In all cases an Array Solutions AS302 arrestor is in-line before the antenna.

Main software is SmartSDR (Windows) either by LAN or WAN using SmartLink.  I do have SmartSDR (iOS) and SmartSDR (Maestro) to fall back on, but mostly am using the Windows version.  (Also have DogparkSDR available on my MacOS machines.)

For a while I am going to run everything in this simple configuration.  Actually rather frustrated with myself in the implementation of antenna switches and various additional sensor/software packages.

The Home-QTH and Work-QTH are able to be kept on standby 24/7, but island infrastructure being unreliable leaves the Island-QTH able to be up only when someone is in attendance.

73

Steve
K9ZW

How NOT to handle Volunteers

The XYL is always a problem solver and for years has quietly assisted with a charity to support higher education, at times serving as an organization’s officer.

She described to me how a newer officer she has been mentoring lost sight of the basics that a volunteer’s affinity with the organization they serve is more emotional and conditional than the relationship employees have with their employer.  Treating the volunteers as employees is not going down well.

Her “apprentice” also publicly forgot that when you need to criticize a volunteer you do so personally and privately, rather than in a broadcast email.  Serious bad bedside manner when handling volunteer’s critiques via group emails.  Bad stuff.

A lot in this case has to do with attitude.

The “apprentice officer” has a newly inked “adult executive MBA” from a tertiary school, and may not realize that those she is treating poorly are every bit as well educated, and have the added credentials of being schooled in handling volunteers the real world.

Having an MBA myself I have seen a lot of new MBAs let their diploma and the coveted extra letters on their business card really mess up their relationships with others, especially volunteers.

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Hard not to be excited about the new Tennadyne T-12Log Periodic Antenna

Tennadyne T-12 Antenna up at 76 ft on Skyneedle at K9ZW Main QTH

The Tennadyne T-12 is up at about 76 ft (23m) but I don’t have the rotator controller set up yet, so it is essential fixed.

Yet the performance already has me enthused!

First day running FT8 in the background (I was pretty busy, so I missed a lot of DX opportunities) netting a bunch of DX – over 40 DXCC entities in 165 QSOs!

In no particular order:

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