Category Archives: K9ZW Just Rambled

Okay, FT8 is a notch above watching paint dry after all…

After sorting Windows 10 update induced DAX troubles I ran the home station running FT8 QSOs for a bit.

Not the best use for a 4K 40 inch monitor and a Flex-6700

Not super exciting but was a way to make QSOs while doing other shack chores.

Without the computer helping facilitate FT8 QSOs the reality is my QSO count for this period of time would be exactly Zero.

In several instances their was nothing to be seen on the waterfall but WJST-X pulled out minimalistic QSOs from the seemingly empty ether.

I cant help thinking FT8 isn’t much more than what happens when one fax machine negotiates a connection with another fax machine, excepting of course that FT8 does it on the air.

Heard that MacLoggerDX will have FT8 integration in the next release which could mean that I could run FT8 QSOs while I’m doing other work on my iMac at home.

I’ll also take a look at how to run QSOs from my work PC.  Might be a way to log more QSOs by doing someth8ng with some of those dead moments during the day.

Can sure say the radio gear isn’t exactly overtasked doing FT8.

Almost bordering on embarrassing the level of investment behind my FT8 efforts.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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A bit of FT8 – first runs

At my Island QTH I set up a Flex-6700 to run FT8 and ran about 30 QSOs.

My first FT8 QSO was W3BZT

My first FT8 DX QSO was F1RUK

Wasn’t exactly wowed by the experience.

Software setup was fiddly. Like really fiddly.

In many ways the GUI was a 1980’s dial-up modem connection sort of thing, and the experience was somewhat the same as dialing into a BBS to do an email exchange & run routine.

Seemed my operator’s input was pretty much limited to confirming completed QSOs for logging and then re-enabling TX.

I’m not quite certain whether the experience was productive or not.

In the past I’ve always held back making my mind up until I have a couple hundred QSOs in a new digital mode.

I’ll wait until the same couple hundred QSO point to solidify my thoughts on FT8.

But again I can relate it sure wasn’t “Wowzy, how did I miss out doing FT8 until now” as my response to the first 30 QSOs.

73

Steve
K9ZW

New Main QTH – Ponderings

New QTH has space but also has its challenges.

The site is seventeen acres, though largely wooded making antenna placement difficult. With the leaves down I am spending much time outside evaluating potential antenna and tower locations.

The property has extensive groomed trails where the previous owner loved to ride his grandchildren about on his golf cart.

Here is are some typical scenes – meandering small streams and trails with mature woods that need some catch-up attention:

 

The property has many streams and roads.

An example of the roads. Most are further covered with canopy.

 

I’ve decided to locate my radio room in an outbuilding.  Originally a pole-building a 14 ft x 30 ft shop had been basically built inside the pole building.  In the next picture anything with a yellow highlight is what I am adding, as I am moving the “Rough Workshop” to newly constructed 18 ft x 22 ft work space, and adding a new 12 ft  x 10 ft closet & toilet for the original work space, now radio room.

I did a sketch for the XYL (and no we don’t have a mini van or mini cooper or tiny tractors, but that was what was available in the modeling software):

 

iPad Sketch – the Yellow is new happenings

 

Here is a quick shot of the 14 x 30 radio room at the start of remodeling:

Future Radio Room (notice the Flex-6600M and PGXL under the bench – in boxes, alas…)

 

And here is an early shot of the partition wall for the new Rough Work Shop:

Building the new Rough Shop Area where sawdust won’t be such an issue.

On the plus side the new radio room has both 120v and 240v power, natural gas heat, air conditioned, seasonal water, phone and internet.  It is about 200 ft from the main house.

On the downside the insurance company made me remove the woodburner when I bought the property, the water is seasonal which means the pipes will freeze if not blown out for winter, and the only way to put a toilet in was to install a combustion toilet.

I’m working on a layout of the inside, as I would prefer to leave doors and windows as they are if possible.

I’m expecting to also use the Radio Room for some of my other hobbies.  Expect there will be some instrument repairs, electronic kit building, and possibly some general tinkering in its future.

Because I need ready access to water and drainage, and more controlled temperatures, my Kombucha Brewing will end up in the main house.  Finished bottles along with brewskis will of course be a staple offering in the new Radio Room.

Also in the main house will a remote operating station in my office – though as the two buildings are on the same LAN it isn’t really all that remote is it?

The big challenge is figuring out antenna and tower locations.  The most open spots would be in conflict with aesthetics and utility.  The largest open  space had been an orchard which I had help plant 40 years ago, and will be replanted.  I’ve picked out two areas where I could thin the woods enough to create the space needed, and not be too far from the radio room.

Thought you might like to see what is happening.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Can I get into FT8?

Can I get into FT8?  Technically for sure, but as an intellectual engagement I’m stuck in a quandary.

It is not that I lack the gear or the experience to run another digital mode – I’ve tons of contacts on PSK31/PSK63, Hellschreiber, and most of that wave of modes including Throb.  Then I played with some Olivia/Contessa type modes.  I’ve only dabbled with the semi-automated modes which include FT8.

In the day I even completed the ARRL’s online classes for digital, and ever took first place in one obscure digital contest – most likely because I was the only one who read the rules realizing that the multipliers were too generous compared to pure raw numbers of QSOs.

A lot of my digital radio time was through necessity.  While my voice is not a “radio voice” it would travel through the house if I went on the air SSB once our young children were put to bed, the majority of the time I had available for radio was late after the bands shut down for SBB, and I didn’t have very good antennas available – so digital was my solution.  I even bought a “no-click keyboard” keep from disturbing the house when I was operating, as I’d learned our small children would grasp at the noise as an excuse from their evening routines and sleep.

But over time the kids got older – they became the evening/night noise makers keep us from our sleep!  The bands became marginally better.  And I invested in a tower and decent antennas.  Oh, and I figure out how to use the equipment & later software better so my voice worked as a “radio voice.”

And I found I preferred talking over typing.  Actually more accurately I found I could do a voice QSO at the same time as doing emails or other typing.

When I started working PSK it was hand-typing everything.  Avoided Macros and used the typing as a way to keep my keyboard skills up.  I even ran some PSK63 events hand typing, but started using Macros to run faster versions of PSK and because I wasn’t all that satisfied with my PSK QSOs.

It is hard to get your personality to come over typing.

I started running more Hellschreiber largely because I thought the mode was cool & retro, and different enough to be interesting.  Not the best mode to run though as unless there is a published event few hams monitor for a Hellschreiber CQ.

Staring into the increasingly automated modes didn’t last long for me.

While I was technically fascinated the QSO’s became more about Macro’s, computer clock timing, and then even character limited.  FT8 is of course just a flavor in the continuum.

While I have a Twitter account I never spend any time on Twitter, though I do let announcements of my radio postings “tweet” automatically.  Have to admit that part of the account is to “control” the user name that matches my call sign.  A good hacker or any other technical glitch could end that of course.

So back to FT8 – while I have had the software up and running, done a few QSOs and figured out how to get all the software I’d like to run playing well with each other, I didn’t get “the buzz.”

Letting the machine manage a series of FT8 contacts feeling like pushing the graph command back in Lotus 1-2-3 days – the “gee-wiz” fades to a “meh” after a few repetitions.

Wonder if I am alone on this or if I’m just missing something?

Thinking I will set everything up to run FT8 again and maybe set a quick goal of an FT8 WAS (Work All States) or take a stab at a  FT8 DXCC to see if I’ve stopped running FT8 too quickly and before the “bug sets in?”

Or I may find that already know the answer – that I need to do QSOs on modes where more personality is shared.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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K9ZW Station Evolution – The Direction K9ZW is Heading

That questions would come my way on what I was doing after hams read the extensive list of excess equipment I’m selling off was expected.  That the questions would start within hours of posting the list of gear for sale wasn’t expected though!

Both my Home QTH and Island QTH stations are becoming FlexRadio focused.  I’ve not used the backup radios (TenTecs) in a long time, and have rarely used the vintage stations.

I’m also actually in the final stages of completing a third station at my workplace, and of course with the Home QTH house move the Home QTH Station is at the starting stages of being redesigned & rebuilt at the new location.

Going forward, each of the three stations will have a Flex-6000 and a local computer.

Presently I have four Flex-6000s – two 6700s, a 6600M and a 6300.  Work QTH will get the 6300 and must likely each of the other stations will get a 6700.  The 6600M will be a hot-swap backup radio, and will fill much of need for a transportable HF rig.

Island and Home QTH’s will have FlexRadio PowerGenius XL amplifiers, AntennaGenius antenna switches, RotorGenius rotor control of AlphaSpid Rotators, Studio-Grade Microphones with Behringer amps, Radiosport Headsets, and roughly similar antenna arrays.

The Work QTH station is not getting an amp and will be limited to a HF vertical antenna only.

As the present Vintage Collins Stations are simply are not being used, they are on the block.  When both sell I will be looking to replace them with a single “very mint” station of a TBD configuration.  Basically I don’t have shack space for gear I can’t make time more than a few times each year to operate.

The TenTec units once were my mainstay, as they have excellent RX and decent TX, are light and robust.  But unused since buying the Flex-6000 transceivers, again how many extra radios can a guy have?

The Alpha-9500s are being replaced with FlexRadio PowerGenius XLs.  The Alphas are awesome amps by any measure, and I’m not 100% certain I should even be letting them go – especially as they are in short supply at the moment.  But again I don’t have the room to store them.

I’ve really enjoyed the PowerGenius XL I have had since being able to buy one as an Alpha Tester very early in the production.  I have a second PGXL I ordered I deferred delivery to let somebody else have an Alpha Tester opportunity, though I hope to get that unit this Spring.  Eventually I expect to order a backup third PGXL at some stage.

So I’m standardizing equipment between QTHs, rationalizing any extras, and cutting back the excess.

End result is to spend more time on the air of course!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Excess Gear for Sale – November 2018

I’ve not been very good about getting rid of excess gear, and I’m overdue clearing several excess rigs & bits from my shack.  This gear really should find a new home:

  • TenTec 1253 Shortwave Receiver – Built from Kit by an SK, looks unused – $75 plus shipping
  • QRO King 6 meter full Kilowatt Amp built on a Heath SB221.  I lack the room for this outstanding amp in the shack.  – $1200 plus shipping.
  • ATS 909 SW Receiver – Like New – $150 plus shipping
  • W2IHY 8 Band Audio Equalizer/Noise Gate and EQplus set with Ten-Tec Cables – $600 plus shipping
  • W2IHY 8 Band Audio Equalizer/Noise Gate and EQplus set with Flex-6000/Yaesu Cables – $600 plus shipping
  • TWO NEW 4o3a Antenna Genius 8×2 Antenna Switches, SO-239 connectors.  I had ordered N-Connectors and the replacements arrived before I used these in the field. $650/each plus shipping (I’ll pick up shipping if someone takes both of these).
  • TenTec Pegasus Transceiver – Excellent NOS Like New Condition – Purchased as NOS and only Tested on air – original box, manuals and disks. Includes a 302 remote tuning pod. (This Pegasus does not have the internal AT, but is like new) $500 plus shipping [Had been retained as a Back-up]
  • TenTec Jupiter, original version but black case, updated firmware, includes an uninstalled Internal Antenna Tuner kit, $700 plus shipping
  • TenTec Jupiter, original version grey case, with factory installed Internal Antenna Tuner, $700 plus shipping
  • TenTec Jupiter original version grey case, no Antenna Tuner, $500 plus shipping
  • Alpha-9500 Amplifier, second version, low hours, has been retained as my back-up Alpha-9500, picked up or price plus shipping $5800
  • Alpha-9500 Amplifier, second version, also low hours, has used as a back-up to a FlexRadio PowerGenius, picked up or price plus shipping $5800
  • Collins KWM-2A station, including 30L-1 Amplifier, 312B-5 Remote VFO, Collins Power Supply, second Collins portable power supply (the one that goes on the back of the KWM-2A, and D-104 microphone, with interconnect cables  – this is my Island QTH Collins station – $2200 plus shipping
  • Collins S-Line station, including 75S-1, 32S-1 ( the receiver/transmitter pair), 30L-1 Amplifier, 312B-4 Remote VFO, Collins Power Supply, Digital VFO (uninstalled, see ads in Electric Radio magazine), Speech Processor (uninstalled), and Collins SM-1 microphone with interconnect cables  – this is my home QTH Collins station, unused since gathered from known working components – $2200 plus shipping
  • Palstar AT-Auto Antenna Tuner – unmolested original, modest hours, updated firmware, $800 plus shipping
  • Palstar Kessler AT-Auto Antenna Tuner, withe most Kessler mods installed by Kessler, unused since upgrade, $900 plus shipping
  • Murch UT-2000 Antenna Tuner(s) – I may have two of these in storage, but for sure have one left.  Working except usually meter problems.  $250 each plus shipping, or $500 for the pair shipped.

Contact me for more details. You can find lots of information on these tuners & radios, including photos, at eHam, the manufacturer’s websites and by google.

I’ll leave these posted here for a couple weeks or so before putting out eHam & QTH ads.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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