Category Archives: K9ZW Operations

When North is not North – Deferred Maintenance has a Price

Spring at my home QTH brought some real weather extremes, including a few very high wind events.  If I know about forecasts for mega-winds in advance I will retract my tower and point the pair of Log Periodic (LPDA) Antennas into the expected direction the wind is forecast to arrive from.

But a couple times I wasn’t around or arrival of major winds wasn’t forecast, and things had to take the brunt as they are.

LPDA antennas typically have two square booms spaced apart electrically, each with half of the elements on them.  This is a fair bit of a wind-catcher compared to a typical beam where one round boom does duty.

On my heady-duty version of the Tri-Ex LM-354 tower are a Tennadyne T-8 10-20m LPDA and a T-28 6m-1.3gHz LPDA.  Book Wind Areas are 8 sqft and 3sqft, for a total if some off-center allowance is given for the chokes of approximately 12 square foot of Wind Area.   The tower in standard form is rated for 26 square feet of Wind Area using the standard design and the current heavy-duty is rated for 52 sqft, so nothing about the antenna loadings themselves being pushed hard there.

Tri-Ex/Tashjian: http://www.tashtowers.com/crank-up-towers.php

Tennadyne:  http://www.tennadyne.com/specs&prices.htm

I’d retrofitted the T-8 with SlippNott high strength attachments back in 2013 – https://k9zw.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/installing-slippnott-upgrades-at-k9zw/  which included an added fitment at the rotor to secure the mast.

The winds had slightly pushed the T-28 from its alignment with the T-8 and rotation is now indicating about 95 degrees further clockwise than actual.

There is a chance something electrical is messed up, as the same high winds did pull all feed lines and rotor cable from the standoffs.  Apparently the breakable restraints either died with UV, Cold and Age, or the winds were strong enough to peel the lines free.

Otherwise either the rotor has broken free or something has slipped.

Of course it is raining, the ground soggy, cold and the scaffold I usually use for service one the tower is down and tipped over just happens to be 130 miles (including six important water miles) away ay the Island QTH.

I have a freshly rebuilt Ham-IV rotor which would be an easy swap if it is a rotor issue, or this might be the time to put in the AlfaSpid RAK Rotor I’d bought at Dayton-2014 but hadn’t yet installed.  Being a bit lazy about replacing things that are working okay, I’d changed my mind and I’d intended the AlfaSpid to go to the Island QTH.  So if I use it I will need to buy another.

Usually every Autumn the Tower gets lowered and tipped over, and a full PM (Preventive Maintenance) completed.  Because of the acquisition of the Island QTH and a heavy work load this PM got skipped in 2014 and 2015.  My bad, to say the least.

So now I get to pull the PM with an extra Troubleshooting Task.  Want to bet I made something worse by skipping the PM?

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Island QTH Flex-6300 Station – New Pc

Portable 6300 – Computer: HP EliteDesk 705-G1 Mini Desktop

As I put together the core components for a ruggedized Flex-6300 I wanted to select a computer to use when the radio was not out with a laptop.

Just brought in a HP EliteDesk 705-G1 Mini Desktop, AMD A8-7600B 2.2GHz Quad-Core, 8GB DDR3, 256GB Solid State Drive, 802.11n, Win7Pro 64-Bit.

One of my sons, Winston KC9FVR helped with a comprehensive updating and upgrading process to Win10Pro and pre-installed my usual suit of software. I needed a DisplayPort++ to HDMI adapter, which I let him scroung for me, and all is good.

Swapped it for the PC-on-a-stick/NUC I’d been using with the 6300 and a few minutes to configure and do final updates was all that was needed before being QSO-ready!

Slick if slightly heavy 7-1/4 x 7-1/4 inch footprint is very desk friendly. As I had a waterproof keyboard I was happy with, along with a mouse and a 22 inch dual use screen (TV/Monitor) I left the rest in place.

 

image

The no-fan design is appreciated and operating from such an RF quiet island I was working DX barefoot via the SteppIR CrankIR which was set up to “eyeball tuning standards” as I’d moved so much other gear up and down that I didn’t fancy too many adjusting trips.

http://www.amazon.com/HP-EliteDesk-Desktop-A8-7600B-Quad-Core/dp/B01DJQW8KQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1460943509&sr=8-1&keywords=HP+EliteDesk+705-G1+Mini+Desktop%2C+AMD+A8-7600B+2.2GHz+Quad-Core%2C+8GB+DDR3%2C+256GB+Solid+State+Drive%2C+802.11n%2C+Win7Pro+64-Bit

Nice little PC that seems to do the job!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Upgraded Amp Installed – Alpha-9500

Finally, i mean FINALLY, got around to putting the Alpha-9500 Amp I bought during one of their specials summer of 2014 online.

The amp and transformer boxes had sat unopened for 15 months.  Seems every time I thought to put the Amp online I was more interested in just getting on the air.

I’ve wanted to pull the Expert 1KW amp out to move it to my Northern QTH on Washington Island, and the “blah” band conditions tonight seemed to offer a perfect opportunity to get the Alpha unboxed and in operation.

Putting the amp together was easy, and the quality of the build shows well.  Both in case any troubleshooting and because of the Amp’s size, for now it is on my main operating bench.

I’m spoken with a friend who builds furniture about doing a shelf unit once I decide what goes where.

Adjusting DDUTIL to control the Alpha was easy and it works slick.  Biggest deal I had was I had asked for the wrong 240v plug type, and had to change it out.

Everything ran well from the get-go, and I banged out a couple QSOs with great reports.  Really like the way it tracks bands and does nudge-tuning to adjust as one QSYs.

One thing I did lose in the change, is the Expert being solid state is an “instant on” amp, where the Alpha has a countdown as it warms up the tube.

And the best part of all is despite the reticence to miss out on-the-air time that led to the Alpha being left in the box while I kept operating, the downtime was trivial.  Should have done it months ago!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Adding a BIG Microphone – Shure SM5-B in the Shack

One the issues I face as an a phone operator is I have a naturally deep bass voice that doesn’t play all that well on the radio for DX or Contesting.  So I’ve been working to help that Broadcaster’s/Ragchewer’s voice into something that works better in the pile-up.

Through Bob K5JIL I was able to obtain the “Unobtanium” – an exceptional Shure SM5-B microphone.  These out of production microphones are prized by professionals and are often priced out of the ham radio operator’s budget, if they come up second hand at all.

Following Bob K5JIL’s very helpful instructions I picked a NOS Behringer Mixer/Amp to interface the Shure SM5-B to my Flex-6700.  My son Winston KC9FVR was super helpful digging out patch cables to get this all working.

The results have been exceptional!   During the mid-November ARRL SSB Sweepstakes I had numerous stations break from the pattern of exchanging reports to comment on the excellent audio.  A session working George W9EVT in fairly lousy band conditions helped tweak a DX configuration that seems to be doing the trick!

I know that it isn’t in every ham’s budget to do a microphone & mixer like this, and I am truly grateful to have the privilege of good gear to help in my efforts in the amateur radio hobby.

Winston KC9FVR also helped figure out the cables needed to put the Wohler AMP1A-LP speaker on line, which is really nice.  I typically wear a boomset, but with the quality speaker as an option it is a lot more “sociable” in the shack when anyone else is in the shack (a small room originally intended as a wine cellar.)

I have figured out the expensive part of the better microphone and speaker though, I already want to duplicate the setup at the Northern QTH on Washington Island!

Hope to hear you on the air!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Dividing Up Gear between QTH’s – Second Look

Did the first update on my radio matrix splitting gear between home and the Island:

HF (Modern)
QTH          Main Rig       Knob Modern Rig   Amp (for Moderns)
Home        Flex-6700       TenTec Jupiter              Alpha 9500/QSO King 6m
Island        Flex-6300      TenTec Paragon II        Expert 1KW
HF (Vintage)
QTH          Vintage Rig           Amp for Vintage
Home        Collins KWM-2A            Collins 30L1
Island        Collins Full S-Line(1)    Collins 30L1
HF Antennas
QTH         Antenna 1           Antenna 2               RX HF          Vertical
Home      T-8 LPDA           W9INN 1/2 Sloper     Pixel Loop     TBD – 1
Island     Hexbeam   $$     W9INN 1/2 Sloper     n/a                 GAP Titan DX
VHF/UHF
QTH            Transceiver   Directional Antenna    Omni Antenna
Home          Yaesu 1800         T-28 LPDA              TBD – 1
Island          Yaesu 1900    #  TBD – 2                     N6JSX Copper J-Pole
TBD-1 – looking at a “flag pole vertical” which may cover both needs
TBD-2 – Initially not a priority
# – may have an Uliboard Interface added
$$ – island will have a W9INN Spacesaver 160-10m dipole as well.
(1) Full Collins S-Line setup consists of:  32S1 Transmitter, 75S1 Receiver, 312B-4 Station Monitor, 516F-1 Power Supply, 30L-1 RF Amp, N3ZI Digital VFO with Memories, Autek QF-1A Audio Filter, SM-2 Clone Mic, Collins Speaker
The Hexbeam is a SP7IDX Mark II HD that Waldi is building for me.
The Island feedline is on the way – between the shack and the tower I have enough 1/2inch Andrews Superflex hardline coming to do two separate runs.  Feedine will transition to DavisRF’s Buryflex for the vertical run (as the tower is a crank down, the hardline is not the right material for the whole feed), a combination which should bring the feedline losses quite low – adding in the vertical run up the tower and the jumper into the shack proper I calculate total system loss less than 1.5 dB loss for the entire feedline at HF and a loss just over 3 dB at VHF/UHF.    These losses are about half of what I have at the home QTH due to the very long feedline runs there.

Note the Island would also gain a Pixel Loop RX Antenna but only if I added a rig that would use it to do diversity reception.  The Flex-6300 cannot do this.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Dividing Up Gear between QTH’s

I’me starting to get a clearer idea of how to handle having to QTH’s

Presently I’m kind of leaning this way on my radio matrix

HF (Modern)
QTH          Main Rig       Knob Modern Rig   Amp (for Moderns)
Home        Flex-6700       TenTec Jupiter              Alpha 9500
Island        Flex-6300      TenTec Paragon II        Expert 1KW
HF (Vintage)
QTH          Vintage Rig           Amp for Vintage
Home        Collins KWM-2A       Alpha-78
Island        Collins Full S-Line    Collins 30L1
HF Antennas
QTH         Antenna 1           Antenna 2               RX HF          Vertical
Home      T-8 LPDA           W9INN 1/2 Sloper     Pixel Loop     TBD – 1
Island     Hexbeam            W9INN 1/2 Sloper     n/a                 GAP Titan DX
VHF/UHF
QTH            Transceiver   Directional Antenna    Omni Antenna
Home          Yaseu 1800         T-28 LPDA              TBD – 1
Island          Yaseu 1000        TBD – 2                     N6JSX Copper J-Pole
TBD-1 – looking at a “flag pole vertical” which may cover both needs
TBD-2 – Initially not a priority

Note the Island would also gain a Pixel Loop RX Antenna but only if I added a rig that would use it to do diversity reception.  The Flex-6300 cannot do this.

Of course there are a lot more things to set up for each QTH

A lot of choices are based on what I have on hand, and I haven’t listed my back-up gear for each QTH, or each go-kit’s gear.

Each QTH gets a Windows-7 PC and an iMac, and most likely a Linux GP Box that will double down as a Music Media Server (I feed my Sonos speakers at home with a headless Linux device already

I may have to build a dedicated box to control the tower at the Island remotely when off the Island, which then can pick up some other monitor-and-measure tasks

Hmmm….

73

Steve
K9ZW

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