Category Archives: K9ZW Just Rambled

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

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

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

US Islands Awards Program’s “One-Day Getaway” – Saturday, May 9, 2015

Don’t miss this:

 http://www.usislands.org/USI-1DG-PressRelease.pdf

Contact: Jay Chamberlain, NS4J US Islands Awards Manager ns4j@usislands.org

For Immediate Release

Hams Hit the Water for the new US Islands Awards Program’s “One-Day Getaway” – Saturday, May 9, 2015

February 19, 2015

Fans of portable ham radio are encouraged to grab their equipment and head for the water as part of the new “One-Day Getaway,” sponsored by the US Islands awards program. The annual event will make its debut on Saturday, May 9, 2015, from 0000 UTC through 2359 UTC (Friday evening to Saturday evening in the continental US).

Founded in 1994, US Islands promotes portable ham radio operations from islands found in all bodies of water: lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and coastal islands in US territorial waters. The One-Day Getaway is an on-air activity, not a contest: no scores are tallied and no prizes are awarded. Participation from all radio amateurs, regardless of experience level, is encouraged.

“US Islands is a great way to go on a mini-DXpedition without spending a lot of money,” said US Islands Awards Manager Jay Chamberlain, NS4J. “Discovering islands in your own back yard and setting up a station outdoors is always a good time. If hams have only operated outdoors during Field Day, we offer another route to get outside and enjoy portable ham radio in a different way.”

Contacts can be made with any station; US Islands offers achievement awards for both island activators and island chasers, including a certificate for your first US Islands activation.

While there are over 2,800 islands on the US Islands list, there are more than 17,000 islands within the United States. Participants can use Google Earth to locate new islands and be the first to operate ham radio from that location! Complete information on the US Islands Program, a how-to guide for One-Day Getaway participants and a list of currently qualified islands is available at http://www.usislands.org.

#####

 

 

Working on doing an activation myself for the event! Details to follow!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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The eHam SDR Forum Troll-Fest – How Moderator Failure Leads to a Useless Forum

A recent visit to the eHam SDR Forum again confirms that eHam is effectively being run by trolls. The moderators are at best AWOL, and often defend the open trolling. What a failure.

I’ve written about the eHam Moderator Failure for years:

2013 – EHAM SHOULD BE ASHAMED HAVING BECOME THE SDR TROLL-FEST OF AMATEUR RADIOLink

2011 – WHY I SKIP THE EHAM FORUMSLink

2008 – EHAM – HAM COMMUNITY CROSS SECTION OR HAM HOBO-LAND?Link

With a seven year effort to ask the Moderators at eHam to clean up their mess to no response, and even having these faux-moderators take me to task for complaining, it is crystal clear – eHam likes & supports Trolls.

eHam Troll Fest in Action

eHam Troll Fest in Action

Suppose in the eHam rational anything that increases page views – aka “hits” chargeable to advertisers – is a good thing.

Or perhaps the Trolls are nothing more than pseudonyms of the eHam Moderators?

Nothing else seems to make sense.

Regardless of the eHam rational, they are failing the amateur radio community by allowing their pet pack of Trolls to run off anyone who doesn’t agree with their non-user ultra-negative falsehoods-based Trolling.

This makes the Moderators “Assistant Trolls” if not actually qualifying them as Trolls themselves, and shame on them.

To so many of us who actually spend some coin enjoying this hobby eHam has lost relevance because of their Troll-Enablement moderation. I guess that is why I look at eHam but once in a great while, and usually leave disappointed.

A word to the advertisers at eHam, while I do buy your products I will never click on a eHam ad. This is my quiet simple protest of the foulness eHam supports.  No advertisers will earn my dollars through an eHam ad, ever.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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SmartSDR v1.4 Available Now from FlexRadio Systems – Or How I Downloaded New Radios Tonight

Today FlexRadio Systems launched the long await LAN enabled SmartSDR v1.40

Here is my iMac running Parallels 9 with Windows 7.1 doing my first LAN enabled QSOs:

Working DX from my home office desk!  Radio is 120 ft away in the former wine cellar.

Working DX from my home office desk! Radio is 120 ft away in the former wine cellar.

More later – too much fun playing with the radio right now!! (BTW it happened to be the Flex-6300 I had in the operating slot in the shack.

FlexRadio Systems is pleased to announce the availability of SmartSDR v1.4.   SmartSDR v1.4 represents several months of intensive work on both new and existing features by our software team.  SmartSDR v1.4 is for all FLEX-6000 Signature Series radios.  Key features of v1.4 include:

LAN Remote: SmartSDR for Windows can now be operationally “decoupled” from the radio hardware by providing the ability to play slice receiver audio through the default PC speakers and use the default PC microphone to make phone QSOs. This new feature streams compressed audio over the IP connection between the radio and the SmartSDR client on the PC, eliminating the need for the speakers and microphone to be directly connected to the radio hardware. In order to provide diagnostic capabilities for the LAN Remote feature there are two new features. The Network Quality Monitor and Audio Streaming Monitor provide a visual indication of a network’s link capability to adequately stream audio to the PC, which is essential when using a wireless link between the client PC and the radio hardware.

via SmartSDR v1.4 Available Now | FlexRadio Systems Community.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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