Category Archives: Amateur Radio

Dayton Hamvention – R.I.P. ?

I recently posted in a discussion at the FlexRadio System community my thoughts, which I will share here. Reports are that attendance is off and importantly those hams who spend significant dollars are doing other events rather than Dayton.

The DARA or the HARA appear to have posted a sketch of what the updated HARA Center might someday look like, but that doesn’t correct the rest of the city.

Here is what I posted:

 

The “laws of the market place” are taking care of the Dayton as a hell-hole problem.

I planned Dayton 2015 as a favor to a dear friend and to visit relatives near Dayton, but had to cancel for “Eldercare” reasons a few days before – and couldn’t be happier!

For 2016 I’m planning one of the other events – debating between Hamcation and Ham-Com.

I have no intention of paying over the odds to stay in one of Dayton’s flea-bitten hotels.

I have no intention in dining out in Dayton where armed guards often are needed as bouncers.

I have no intention parking 20 minutes away in Dayton’s otherwise abandoned parking lot.

I have no intention spending the days in Dayton’s so-call exhibition center that isn’t fit for showing livestock.

Maybe People will change my mind, but Dayton as a destination is not someplace I’d regularly go unless I was being paid to do so.

Just a couple hours west to Indy would be an awesome move – the trade shows I’ve attended there were matched with enough quality to be a consideration.

A person has only so much time, so much money, and so much luck – Dayton doesn’t seem to be a decent return on the time, the money and the risks of hanging out in a dying example of urban decay simply are not worth it.

A recent article in the Economist talked about the issues of dying/shrinking cities, and to paraphrase said there is no reason to give CPR to road kill.  Tear it down and return it to nature.  The Hara and Dayton are doomed.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Adding a 4o3a SSC XL Station Genius to the K9ZW Shack

Working with an evolving slightly complex station, AND wanting to using the LAN-Remote features of SmartSDR V1.4 with the Flex-6700 requires some planning – plus some electronics help!

Not point in reinventing the wheel when really sharp mins have created just the missing pieces to integrate my station.

Enter the 4o3a SSC XL Station Genius

4o3a SSC XL Station Genius - overview

4o3a SSC XL Station Genius – overview

The SSC XL allows control of Antennas, band-pass filters, 4-square antenna systems, beam stacks, beverages, Six Packs, rotators, RS-232 devices and more, per the website information.

4o3a SSC XL Station Genius - Front

4o3a SSC XL Station Genius – Front

Force12 expands further saying it is easier to say what you cannot control.

The main unit seems to have enough connectors to hook up to about anything:

403a SSC XL - Rear Panel

403a SSC XL – Rear Panel

An outboard Relay Board called the SCC-OM controls the various devices:

403a SSC XL - Remote Module

403a SSC XL – Remote Module

Mine just arrived and I am digesting the the manual as I get ready to implement.  As a plus the device is said to be FlexRadio System Maestro ready!

LINK:  http://www.4o3a.com/index.php/products/station-automation/ssc-xl

LINK – USA Distributor Force12: http://www.force12inc.com/products/station-genius-ssc-xl-by-4o3a.html

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Using a High Performance Radio – Operating the Hilberling PT-8000A Transceiverl

Hilberling PT-8000A with George W9EVT

Hilberling PT-8000A with George W9EVT

Using a High Performance Radio – Operating the Hilberling PT-8000A Transceiver

This last week I finally had the opportunity to use the top-notch Hilberling PT-8000A Transceiver with an amp & antenna farm worthy of the radio.

As QST readers may recollect, the ARRL recently tested & reviewed the Hilberling PT-8000A – actually they tested and review exactly this particular PT-8000A as we acquired it from them after their testing.

The Hilberling PT-8000A Transceiver is much like a new high-end AC Cobra sports car – a classic format product fine-tuned to as close to perfection as the manufacturer can engineer, executed with near-jewelry precision & finish. The PT-8000A is absolutely a work of art in a classic style.

How is it in use? I really enjoyed knocking out DX QSOs with the radio behind George’s antennas and amp. There are some quirks, many with have to do with my operator-error failure to read and understand the manual. In terms of the manual and how the radio is designed, this is a very much bespoke radio meeting the design criteria Mr Hilberling set, even if the function strays from typical operations.

Hooking up the amp requires building a cable from the serial port type connector (use the HF PTT pair of pins, which is different from the trigger for a VHF Amp where the VHF PTT and a Ground work) to the Alpha 9500’s RCA connector. The first one I built this winter was too fragile and had failed, so this time I used a breakout board. I also soldered up a cable so George W9EVT would have a backup on hand. Personally at this price point an adaptor like what TenTec provided with the Pegasus Transceiver should have been included where the various functions were brought out to industry standard connectors. Not everyone has a lab grade workspace to build cables like the factory does.

The ARRL benched test this radio and then had it at the W1AW shack for a period. Not certain if they fiddled, but we did spend a fair bit of time chasing down gremlins that were actually extreme user settings. We have an upcoming coaching session with Hilberling-USA to complete the normalization process of returning the trimmer pots, and soft settings to normal ranges.

It is easy to overdrive the Alpha causing all sorts of issues unless the gain is carefully kept down. We added toroids to some of the cables which benefited some issues, as the W9EVT shack is complex enough to induce problems normally never seen in an average ham’s shack.

Once the user gets accustomed to the Main/Sub windows and the summoning of an appropriate Softkey Menu running the radio is a smooth. While I personally prefer every command to always be in exactly the same place, the number of button pushes can vary based on whether the appropriate Softkey Menu needs to be fist called up, or if it is already active. This is nothing unique to the PT-8000A, rather a personal preference that comes from my operating style.

The weighted VFO knob is silky, and while high-end old school the controls are positive. Band changes are quick and I developed a rapid drill to switch bands/antennas, retune and return to QRO operations quickly.

The split operation is easy, though at first I was going about it a complex way that was solidly based on my missing a bit of information that was in the manual if I had only paid more attention when reading the directions. Received numerous complements on the audio, but every now and then someone would complain saying I was distorted. Checking each time I would find I had run the power up enough to cause splatter, and simply backing down a couple hundred watts would do the trick.

Calling into pileups it was awesome to mostly a one call and then picked up by the DX station sort of operation.

Contrasting the PT-8000A with the Icom IC-7800 next to it was interesting. The Icom is a less “edgy” radio, perhaps easier to set up, but hands down the Hilberling was able to distinguish itself by digging DX out from deeper in the noise, and there is no arguing with its TX being a pileup-breaker. Where the Icom appeals is with the native output to a monitor for a Panadapter view and the comfort level of familiarity. Eclipsing both is a well set up Flex-6700, but until the Maestro FlexRadio Systems add-on is fully released the difference between a Faceplate w/Knobs Transceiver and a Computer with Mouse Transceiver favors the Hilberling/Icom ergonomics for many radio amateurs.

I’m comfortable either way, and found the Hilberling a relaxing experience to run DX with – basically using it was a lot of fun, and that is what radio is all about.

Some hams question whether the price tag is too high, and I’m sticking my head out and saying it is not only fine, but appropriate for the build quality. It doesn’t pretend to be an everyman’s radio any more than the AC Cobra we started the article discussing pretends to be everyman’s car.

Just like driving a sports car won’t make sense to someone who values low investment costs, fuel economy, and low running costs as their main auto ownership goals, a radio like this belongs in a shack where raw performance and appreciation of build quality comes before economics.

Interestingly several Hilberling owners as said to own several PT-8000A Transceiver each, presumably in the various faceplate colors.

All in all and excellent radio that was a huge blast to work behind now that I’ve had a chance to do so in a first class station!

Of course YMMV.

73

Steve
K9ZW

May 2015 Operation from Washington Island WI-001L – Trying for DXCC in one session

For a good part of last week I was on Washington Island, Wisconsin – US Island WI-001L – operating from my friend George W9EVT’s shack.

I had informally set myself a DXCC in a visit goal.  Despite poor weather I didn’t come too far short.

The first 16 QSOs I used George W9EVT’s Icom IC-7800 and then for the remaining 174 QSOs moved over to the Hilberling PT-8000A Transceiver.

Here is the country list for the visit:

  1. Aruba
  2. Andorra
  3. Austria
  4. Azores
  5. Argentina
  6. Algeria
  7. Balearic Islands
  8. Bahamas
  9. Bahrain
  10. Bonaire
  11. Brazil
  12. Belarus
  13. Belgium
  14. Bulgaria
  15. Bosnia-Herzegovina
  16. Croatia
  17. Chile
  18. Cuba
  19. Canada
  20. Canary Islands
  21. Cayman Islands
  22. Crete
  23. Denmark
  24. England
  25. Estonia
  26. Falkland Islands
  27. France
  28. Georgia
  29. Greece
  30. Germany
  31. Guinea
  32. Guayana
  33. Grenada
  34. Hawaii
  35. Hungary
  36. India
  37. Iceland
  38. Israel
  39. Ireland
  40. Italy
  41. Kyrgyzstan
  42. Kuwait
  43. Kenya
  44. Latvia
  45. Liberia
  46. Lithuania
  47. Lebanon
  48. Luxembourg
  49. Macedonia
  50. Malta
  51. Netherlands
  52. New Zealand
  53. Norway
  54. Northern Ireland
  55. Oman
  56. Portugal
  57. Panama
  58. Paraguay
  59. Philippines
  60. Poland
  61. Qatar
  62. Romania
  63. Russia – Asiatic
  64. Russia – European
  65. Sardinia
  66. Saudi Arabia
  67. Spain
  68. South Cook Islands
  69. St. Martin
  70. St. Barthelemy
  71. St. Lucia
  72. San Marino
  73. Slovenia
  74. Slovak Republic
  75. Switzerland
  76. Svalbard
  77. Scotland
  78. Sweden
  79. Turkey
  80. United Arab Emirates
  81. Uruguay
  82. Ukraine
  83. USA
  84. Wales

I’m rather sure that without the storms and lightening, that 100 DXCC entities wouldn’t have been much more work.

In addition to the DX, I also worked a “Clean Sweep” on the Ham Nation special event and a handful of special event stations that caught my interest.

I did fudge and organize one sked – I had called and arranged to work my good friend Paul AE5JU as my final QSO for the visit.  Nothing finer to “close the logs” with working a good friend about 1000 miles away!

While I only added two DXCC entities to my all time list, the exercise was a lot of fun for both myself and George W9EVT.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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First look at the Flexradio Maestro at Dayton Hamvention 2015 – YouTube

I would really like to be able to credit this video, but no call sign anywhere.

Like to YouTube video of the Maestro: First look at the Flexradio Maestro at Dayton Hamvention 2015 – YouTube.

Also a photo of Howard KY6LA holding a unit:

KY6LA with a FRS Maestro Prototype

KY6LA with a FRS Maestro Prototype

And a concept for station design by Beppe IK3VIG:

IK3VIG's Maestro Station Concept

IK3VIG’s Maestro Station Concept

A link to the FRS Maestro Page:  http://www.flexradio.com/amateur-products/flex-6000-signature-series/maestro/

(Please follow the link there for the latest pdf specification sheet on the Maestro).

Here is another shot courtesy of Jeff KE9V:

FRS Maestro - photo by Jeff KE9V

FRS Maestro – photo by Jeff KE9V

I have mine on order.  Will be VERY useful the way I operate.

73

Steve
K9ZW

What we will see at Dayton 2015?

Hard to imagine that Dayton Hamvention 20115 is just over a week away!

Planning to take in the Collins Collectors Association Dinner on Friday Evening and the FlexRadio Systems Banquet on Saturday evening.

Of huge interest is what new thing(s) will Hamvention 2015 bring?

The first generation of Touch-Screen HT’s is here, adding soft-key functionality to the HT format.  If having your HT act like your Smartphone is you bag, you will love these new HTs.

More Touch-Screen & large enhanced display Mobile radios are also announced.  Several look very fine indeed in early ad copy, and could look very nice in a modern vehicle compared to the graft-in industrial-appliance look & feel of many radios now.

There a a raft of new exciting small-SDR receivers and transceivers, many at low enough price points that most anyone can join the SDR game.

Though there is no announcement and as usual FlexRadio Systems’ information release discipline impressively has not put legs to any buzz yet, I am expecting to at a minimum a major point release of SmartSDR even though the 1.4.x release is still only weeks old, and I’ll go on a limb to predict at least a public beta of the functionality of SmartSDR 2.0.x if not a release.  This will be the long awaited WAN-enabled version that lets scenarios like working from my home station from my office desk miles away become routine rather than technically advanced.  I am also predicting a QRP/low-power single slice radio either positioned between the last production PowerSDR radio the Flex-1500 and the current value leader SmartSDR Flex-6300, or as a replacement to the Flex-1500.  We may see significant either third party produced or FlexRadio System marketed additional software options and/or hardware options.  Wondering if a native-OS-X version of SmartSDR might be at least shown?

The mainstream radio producers will continue to push evolutionary improvements of what is largely their present platforms, but don’t be surprised if at least one or more either show or are talking about a new SDR version.

Hoping that some of the rumored shack-integration developments are seen in real products.

Unanswered is whether the recently corporately reconfigured RF Concepts Alpha & TenTec ownership will be ready to offer new radios and the long overdue Alpha 4040 Autotuner?  The recent ownership change may push off expected launches, or again may not?  We will have to wait to see.

The market for high-end designer CW Keys seems prime for some new product launches.  With some of the consolidation with Bencher folded into Vibroplex, perhaps they will have new models to show – maybe even a new premium line product?

The strong dollar may bring in some more of the excellent Euro_Gear we read about but seldom see.

More thoughts will be posted over the run up to my travels to Dayton.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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