Category Archives: K9ZW Just Rambled

Adding a DX Engineering HEXXbeam Mk II

Had an opportunity to buy a DX Engineering HEXXbeam MkII from K0PJ, adding to my Hexbeam collection.

My thoughts were to carefully collapse the antenna and transport it collapsed to my Washington Island QTH.  Later I’ll run a bit of a shoot out between the SP7IDX and Radiowavz antennas.

I’ve included some of the wildlife at the QTH and a picture of the trenching (one is a future ham radio wire conduit):

One of the Gray Foxes

The HEXXbeam on a barrel.

Yard camera caught one of the five bucks that have been visiting.

A Sanhill Crane checks out one of the yard cameras

 

Trenching. Hitting bedrock eliminated my temporary antenna pole.

Notice the animals digging up the yard – raccoons are doing the most damage, the foxes dig for burrowing critters, and the Sandhills make tent-stake like holes everywhere.

The deer are opportunists grazing on wild apples and other deer treats.

In putting in the undergrounds the plumber hit bedrock only a few inches down.   One pipe is a sanitary drain for the sump pump and rainwater that really should have always have been there, and the second is a conduit for feedlines, control cables and the like for part of my ham station.

I think the near the house yard will drain much better as there was a bedrock ridge that restricted sub surface drainage that he excavated through.

The bedrock is why he couldn’t put in the 6×6 treated post at the end of the conduit run.  I had intended to mount a rotor and a short mast as an interim location for this HEXXbeam.

Looks like I will either end up with a concrete filled barrel as a base, or have a heavy steel tripod type base made up.

Even on the barrel, rotated by hand the HEXXbeam is doing really well.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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FlexRadio Systems SmartLink and SmartSDR v2.0

Well I have half of my gear moved to the newest FlexRadio Systems SmartLink and SmartSDR version 2.0

From the main hamshack my earlier Flex-6700 (a Limited Edition model, number #11) updated very quickly.   I had some trouble with the AT&T UVerse modem/router getting the Port Forwarding sorted out, as most UVerse modems don’t do UPnP that SmartLink needs.

Putting SmartSDR for Windows v2.0 on my main shack computer was a breeze.  Don’t forget to then update your DDUtil to the latest.

Updating the iPhone and iPad to SmartSDR for iOS version 2.0 was simple.  You have to remember to “restore” any in-app purchases (I use the DX Cluster, the Log Book and the band plans) before they will operate.

I was a bit stuck upgrading the first Maestro in isolation.  Once I realized it had to be connected to v2.0 radio I whipped out the Raspberry Pi VPN to make that initial connection.  Pretty neat to have control of my Flex-6700 from work!

The blue rectangle says “SmartLink” confirming WAN connection to the radio.

This coming weekend I hope to upgrade my second Flex-6700 and second Maestro on Washington Island, though I am a bit far off from keeping that station live 24/7 yet. My internet on the island is just adequate to run SmartLink, though I may need to do some tweaking control bandwidth.

Kudos to FlexRadio Systems for making this HUGE upgrade so simple and easy.

73

Steve
K9ZW

SmartSDR v2.0.xx and SmartLink around the corner

By the time you might read this, the long awaited SmartSDR v2 and the new SmartLink may have hit the street.

 

SmartLink first screen

The whole idea on SmartLink is to make most internet connections between a Flex-6000 radio-server and the remote user (PC, iPad/iPhone, Mac, or Maestro) as user friendly as possible.

And as for SmartSDR v2.0 the remote feature figures large, but is only one of a raft of new features including performance improvements for the Flex-6300 and Flex-6700 radio-servers to new GUI features including pop-out SmartSDR windows and a raft of other improvements.

SmartSDR for iOS and the SmartSDR for Maestro also pick up the main improvements as well as platform specific features.

Somehow I don’t think we will make it through the week without a launch.

73

Steve

K9ZW

Dodging the Bullet at the K9ZW Island QTH

Water on the Floor Basement at the K9ZW Island HomeFlooded Yard at K9ZW Island HomeAt our Island home several massive storms dropped over 3 inches of rain in a short period first flooding our yard, and then overwhelming our sump pump.

Photos:

  • First the yard 10 hours after the rain stopped (it is usually bone dry, and is 8-10 inches of soil over the rock) with over an inch of standing water.

Flooded Yard at K9ZW Island Home

  • Second is the basement with 2-1/2 inches of water on the floor.

 

Water on the Floor Basement at the K9ZW Island Home

What tipped us off was one of the Home Monitor systems we have – the simple one that calls on POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) with alerts – started calling with a Water Alarm.

The device is a “Control Products FreezeAlarm Homesitter Temperature, Water, Power Alarm HS-700” – link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002MUAIP8/

This $90 device saved the day by calling us repeatedly with alerts.  Estimates are that water could rise to about 18-24 inches in the basement before enough systems would get knocked out to set off our other monitors.  (We also have Canary devices for security and backup, but they cannot sense the water issue directly.)

With this much water that was a possibility of intervention didn’t happen right away – which is why the alarm worked so well!

The shack is on a rolling radio bench with power supplies and some gear 7 inches off the floor, so the important stuff would begin to be damaged, as would the boiler and everything on the lowest storage shelves.

Plumber and Painter we are working with have the water issue resolved (both short term and also a long term solution figured out) and only my boxes of Hardline/Coax which you see got wet because we caught it this early.

I’ve just ordered another of the “Control Products FreezeAlarm Homesitter Temperature, Water, Power Alarm HS-700” to install at our main house.

Well worth it!

73

Steve
K9ZW

The Flexer’s Advantage Series: Do you See what I hear….

Do you see what I hear?   Strange question, or is it?

a real Flexer’s advantage is the superlative implementation of multiple highly flexible Panadapters letting an operator visually evaluate the band(s) before listening.

I typically use less than the eight Panadapter “Slices” the Flex-6700 allows, though I often use about five or six.

My preference is the Panafall configuration and my first two will be where I am working as “slice A for Active” works for me.  Then the next slices will be sized for an overview of the segment in each of the bands I am thinking of operating.

I do not tend to drop very many receivers unless I’m planning to pop back and forth between bands.  Rather my style is to instead change frequency on my first slice Panadapter and receiver treating the other Panadapters as sort of big spectrum scope.

what is very neat – the real advantage – is your style of setting up slices and receivers doesn’t have to be anything like mine.  Upcoming SmartSDR versions allow undocking of slices, potentially sharing the visuals in even more effective ways.

To be certain other radios have had Panadapters for many decades.  But it has been in the SDR software offerings where this useful tool has been taken to new levels.

It is easy to visually recognize a DX operation, especially if running split by the fainter DX – sometimes barely showing – being answered by massive calls.  In the SmartSDR for iOS Panadapter it is possible to map the DX cluster directly onto the Panafall.

Once you see it, it is simple enough to drop a slice receiver on the signal, set up split if appropriate, and see if you too can work the DX.

73

Steve
K9ZW

The Flexer’s Advantage Series: The Casual DXer Advantages of SmartSDR for iOS and SmartSDR via Maestro

The Casual DXer Advantages of SmartSDR for iOS and SmartSDR via Maestro

While some of us have the ability to block-off large chunks of time to be on the air, many of us have to grab our radio time when we can – usually while on the fly.

Sometimes being on the air involves multi-tasking – perhaps food prep while waiting for UPS to deliver and expecting a business call… hard to go down to the shack and ignore the world in situations like that.

Sometimes that slice of possible radio time means you don’t get enough outside time as you really want to be outside.

In winter sometimes it is nicer to stay in front of a fireplace if you can.

I’ve found a way to get a few QSOs in during these slots of time I just cannot go down to my main operating station in the shacks.

I’m saying the plural shacks, as at both my main home QTH and my Washington Island QTH 115 miles north I have a Flex-6700 station in the homes’ basement. Home I coopted what was intended to be a “wine cellar” room when we moved in as my main operating station location.  On the island there was a really nice workshop area in the semi-finished basement that was a natural for both a Flex-6700 and a Collins S-Line setup.

A long time ago George W9EVT recommended never putting your operating position more than 10-20 footsteps away from where you otherwise would be. W9EVT’s thought was you would be able to operate a lot more if it was convenient to your regular life.  I’ve kind of violated this recommendation at both QTHs by being 2-3 times further away.

So my problem is I could not allocate shack space at either QTH that is truly in the main living area.

This cut into my on-air time. In the case of the home QTH the cool wine cellar room simply is uncomfortable for much more than an hour.  The air is too chilly, plus it has bone chilling cold hard tile flooring, and in the end is too tucked out of the way. On the island the only time it is desirable to be in a basement is when it is super hot outside.  Otherwise I’d rather be in eth main area or outside (eventually I will have a Garage with workshop changing things).

Since both stations have a Flex-6700 there is an easy solution.

Go LAN-Remote. As long as the Flex-6700 and a remote client are on the same subnet block of internal IP addresses you can go wireless as far as your router will let you.

If I am going to be on the air for more than an hour or repeatedly in the same spot, setting up a Maestro is the way to go. Both QTHs have one, and a computer to use with the Maestro if wanted.

But if I am truly on the run, using SmartSDR for iOS on my iPhone 6plus or iPad Air is simply magic!

Example, earlier I had about 20 minutes I would be waiting for family before leaving for an appointment, and using the iPad I quickly grabbed several DX QSOs, including the Spanish African Enclaves (EA9) and the South Cook Islands (E51). Slick, quick and a blast!

I occasional use a Raspberry Pi powered VPN setup with a Maestro to extend off my home Flex-6700’s LAN to my office 3 miles away, but that hasn’t worked so well due to the dynamic office environment. Thought I might get quiet lunch hours in of operating, but if I am here people need decisions and the interruptions are too many.

So my recommendation if you are a Flex-6000 owner is to check out SmartSDR for iOS to increase your casual DXing time, and you will pick up more DX QSOs as a result.

73

Steve
K9ZW