Category Archives: K9ZW Operations

SteppIR CrankIR Antenna mast adapter

While waiting for concrete work for the K9ZW-Island QTH antennas, I’ve been using a SteppIR CrankIR antenna.

Typically have used the loudspeaker stand I acquired from SteppIR when I bought the antenna, enhanced with weights to keep the antenna up in wind.

Conditions change so rapidly on the Island that usual the CrankIR is tipped over a couple times during a weekend. I’ve also watched a deer snag the radial pulling it over.

In the middle of stormy weather or during the night when deer are moving isn’t the most fun time to play with antennas. Something had to give.

The property’s previous owner had satellite internet gear on a short mast set in concrete

Cleared the old gear and hmmm…how to fit the CrankIR onto the oversized mast?

the 2 inch OD is too large for the CrankIR and suggestions of hose-clamping a smaller mast to the side or using PVC pipe to make an adapter sounded like temporary makeshift half-solutions.

The mast hade been filled with concrete so that wouldn’t work..

Washington Island Mann’s Mercantile is a fabulous hardware store as well.  So knowing that no excuse to go to a hardware store should be passed up, it was to the plumbing isles for a solution.

Mast adapter for my SteppIR CrankIR antenna

Working excellent and will come inside with the antenna when we leave. Too heavy for portable use though.

Some people have asked how we travel the six miles of water, and here is a picture going around of one of the ferries. I think Lauren Gordon took it and Susan Ulm cleaned it up.

Washington Island Ferry complete with Rainbow.

73

Steve

K9ZW

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Quick Flex and Stretch – Update and Testing the Flex-6700

My station (home) needed updates installed, as a series of life-events have limited my operating time over the last few weeks.

Quick and easy upgrade of SmartSDR to 1.10.16 followed by a brief on-air test mini-session.

A very kind 5/9+25dB from Masa JE1LET was rewarding after the upgrade. His startion was rocking into here as well.

Next was Chuck 8P9AL (KG9N) who turns out to be the brother-in-law of a well respected local insurance agent, Steve Ford.

Then caught Silas KL3ZJ from North Pole, Alaska. He has one nice QRZ page sharing pictures of his handsome young family and Alaska paradise. Great QSO too.

Here is a quick rundown of the current version of my home QTH station, microphone to antenna:

Microphone – Shure SM5B boom mounted
External Audio Processing/Phantom Power – Behringer
Transceiver – Flex-6700 running SmartSDR v 1.10.16
Amp – Alpha-9500
Metering – Alpha-4510
Tuner – Palstar AT-Auto (used in bypass today)
RF Switching – Array Solutions RatPAK-6N
Antenna – Tennadyne T-8 log periodic

Supporting gear:

Computer – i7 DXer’s Dream Machine by Neal Campbell
Running Software – K9DUR DDUTIL, FlexRadio Systems CAT & DAX, Hamradio Deluxe
Rotor – AlfaSpid RAK
Headset – Radiosport RS60CF
Foot PTT – Radiosport

Remoting Hardware/Software:

FlexRadio Systems Maestro
Pair of Raspberry PI set up Chris K6OZY style
SmartSDR for iOS on an iPhone 6-plus and iPad Air
DogparkSDR on a i7 iMac

Simple but effective station. Has great ears and can also reach out with a good signal.

While I’ve been typing on the iPad I’ve been running QSOs on the iPhone, though I forgot to charge my phone and am going to have to either tether the phone on a charger or shut down SmartSDR for iOS.

73

Steve
K9ZW

K9ZW Washington Island Operating Gear

The Island setup is evolving and when not in the radio room will be based on a Maestro with a Touch Screen ToughBook.

Here is a quick shot of what I am working on for the Washington Island – Wisconsin QTH’s portable operating position.

This is what I will be able to operate from (adding a headset & PTT in many cases) from anywhere I connect with my wireless system there.

Paired with the Maestro is a Touchscreen Toughbook laptop to do logging and other site-mobility chores. They will be wireless to the new Flex-6700.

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

ToughBooks are available refurbished under $300 with licensed operating system from Toughbook Tech.

Built strong enough to be a aircraft wheel-chock!

Ruggedized touchscreen does better with the stylus than finger jabs, which is a contrast to the Maestro touch screen sensitivity.

For activation of smaller islands the Maestro & Flex-6700 will stay behind, with the Flex-6300 then being paired with the Toughbook via SmartSDR for Windows.

For antennas I have several choices there. Typically I have been using a SteppIR CrankIR with the Flex-6300 for island activations other than the main island. I have several other portable antenna options.

Depends on what Island access I’m allowed (full setup on the activated Island or using one of the US Island Programs alternative rules when not allowed to completely disembark. http://www.usislands.org I think is the URL.)

On Washington Island itself I have a proper antenna farm in the works. As I am rethinking this whole setup you’re invited to follow along as I rework plans.

Still to come is a mobilization preparation of the Flex-6300 to keep everything needed together and protect it from some level of adverse weather while out on the smaller islands.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Tunneling a VPN for Maestro

The present release series of SmartSDR in all favors (for Windows, for Meastro, for Server) have local area network connections implemented, but that everything on the same LAN is limiting.

I’ve long wanted to be able to run my home station from my office as often DX opportunities happen only when I need to be on site working.

FlexRadio System has announced that the LAN barrier will be broken with version 2.0, and that is a ways out.

Chris K6OZY has kindly prepared a couple YouTube Videos and notes on how to use SoftEther VPN with two Raspberry Pi units to create a VPN server and a VPN bridge unit.

There are other ways to do a suitable VPN but this has advantages worth considering.  Read the FlexRadio Systems Threads on the topic to look through those.

Amazon sourcing for the hardware:

Pair of Raspberry Pi Kits

Pair of Raspberry Pi Kits

 

Kits Guts

Kits Guts

With help from son Winston KC9FVR to fit the error I made, the server and the bridge were set up.  Took us two evenings mainly because I wanted to do a fair bit myself rather than letting “Mr Geek” KC9FVR do everything.

Results are fabulously fun!!

Home Radio shows in Remote Finder

Home Radio shows in Remote Finder

 

Connected Remote Maestro running QSOs

Connected Remote Maestro running QSOs

 

Maestro Remote with VPN Bridge

Maestro Remote with VPN Bridge

What more is there to say?  Ran QSOs until KC9FVR reminded me he wanted to head off to sign up for his next classes on some on-line University system,

Downing everything has not been a problem, but we will clone the SD Cards for both the Server and the Bridge next.

Catch you on the air!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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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