Category Archives: K9ZW Shack

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

When Something is just built Right! – The Superior Foot Switch from RadioSport

Some station accessories are so simple, yet so hard to get right.

One is the PTT (Push to Talk) Foot Switch. Almost every shack ends up with either on of the ubiquitous commodity grade Foot Switches or a home brew Foot Switch often made with the switch unit from a machine tool on homemade cabling.

The commodity switches work, but not always, they are not built all that badly but they are not lifetime products, and as many have several cables you often see one of the cables bundled up with a tie wrap laying next to the switch.

The home brew often use the same superior actual foot switch that is often seen in machine shops. Yet often it is cabled with a audio RCA cable that perhaps has a knot and a grommet for strain relief and ends up breaking down over time.

RadioSport has a better mousetrap – their PTT-FS-RCA is truly a better grade of a common item.

Here is what the unit looks like when it arrives. Nicely packaged in a ziplock which perhaps can be reused when moving your station.

Unit bagged as arrived

Unit bagged as arrived

Here is the unit out of the bag – the in-the-hand feel already shows off its quality.

Sans Bag (which is even a reusable bag!)

Sans Bag (which is even a reusable bag!)

I’ve bought this sort of switch (NOS) off eBay, but not in powder coat finished like the RadioSport unit.

Side View

Side View

Never seems possible for use regular folk to get this quality of strain relief, and as the actual cable is a custom product produced for RadioSport we’re not going to find this grade of reinforced cable to use.

Excellent Strain Relief on Top Quality Cable

Excellent Strain Relief on Top Quality Cable

Terminating the cable is a high grade RCA in gold plate. No hamfest 25-cent bulk in the bins connector, but perhaps the highest grade RCA I’ve seen in a long time.

Gold Plated High Quality Connector

Gold Plated High Quality Connector

Completing the unit is anti-skid pad made of a very grippy polymer. Combined with the noticeable weight this Foot Switch will tend to stay put compared to the feather weight commodity brands.

Industrial Grae anti-slip pad on bottom

Industrial Grade anti-slip pad on bottom

All this at a price point that is affordable, though in interest of full disclosure it is about $20 or so more than the commodity brands.  There a similar high quality adapters for radios requiring different connectors.

Here is Radiosport’s own write up:

At last a quality Foot PTT Switch you can rely on.

This rugged industrial grade all metal PTT Foot Switch is just what you’ve been looking for for that DX or Contest or Net Control Station.

This rugged item is truely intended for industrial manufacturing floor use and the construction is there to support this sort of heavy-duty use. I call it the “SuperDuty*” of Foot Switches. Powder coated finish, rubber non-slip pedal and foam rubber cushion on the botton to prevent wandering under your operating position.

Links – RadioSport http://www.arlancommunications.com/products/amateurRadio/radioSport/ptt.asp and FlexRadio Systems http://cart.flexradio.com/Radiosport-PTT-Footswitch-with-RCA-plug_p_953.html

A lifetime quality PTT Foot Switch at an affordable price! Who can ask for more?

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Planning incorporating the Game Changer technologies of the Flex-6000, Maestro and SmartSDR

From a thread I started at the FlexRadio Systems Community:

It is really interesting what the Flex-6000, Maestro and LAN (and eventually WAN) versions of SmartSDR do to allow for significant differences in station design.

As I’ve mentioned I’ve been putting together the design and gear for a second summer home QTH that happens to be out on an Island.

Initially the concept was to put a heated ham shack space in the end of the new garage/workshop project.  Several generations of drawings and three sets of proper architectural renderings & plans (part of the packet eventually to pull the permit and for the builders).

The Maestro led to a rethink where the main operating point could be separate from the radio room, and the result was thoughts moved to the idea of to place all the radios in the main house’s lower level utility room (a room basically blasted out of bedrock and concrete lined) and my where the Maestro & Laptop set operating point to a desk in the main living space.  The lower area would get the non-Flex gear and might be where I would contest from.

That seemed a decent idea and drawings showing the numerous feedlines, other wiring to a multi-antenna layout were completed.

Enter the potential to seamlessly use the 4O3A Antenna Genius for 8×2 remote switching and the 4O3A Station Genius to automate a couple loose ends and there suddenly is no reason to bring all the feedlines to the main house – rather a star configuration for HF TX/RX antennas to a Shed – a true “Ham Shack” – would reduce the feedlines to two HF, one VHF and a special 72 Ohm set of lines for the Reversible Beverage On Ground RX-only Antennas.

Potential is there to further move the Flex-6000 itself and the Amp (though this would be simpler once the 4O3A Flex-Ready Amplifier launches) also to the Heated Shed, basically tethering back to operating desk by internet (Cat6e or Wireless)!

Certainly if we build a larger retirement home on the property the infrastructure increases, switching gear needed and all the headaches could be simply putting in a solid internet link between the retirement home and existing summer house and/or Ham Shack Shed.  The anticipated distance will be 1200-1600 feet, so internet can replace expensive ultra-low loss feedlines.

Very attractive compared to trenching into rock to lay heavy duty conduit for hundreds of feet.

It is simply boggling the differences in designs that are now possible, and the increases the next couple hardware and software launches will bring.

On another area the potential improvements in ergonomics may be huge.  I have one of those treadmill/desktop “walking desks” that I enjoy, but never got any radio time when at it.  That can change!  The contesters several ducks in a row counter with shelf above might metamorphose into a different configuration.

Truly a series of Game Changers!

73

Steve K9ZW

K9ZW Shacks Evolve – Proper Dummy Loads, Additional Metering, New Power Distribution, Specialized Headsets and more…

I knew that doing a new station build wasn’t for the faint of heart, and as usual I am loath to miss a chance for upgrading the home QTH station.

Here are a few of the recents adds:

Item                                                                       Home/Island

Alpha-9500 Amps                                                     X X
Rigrunner-4007U Metered Strips                         X X
4o3a Station Genius                                                 X
SP7IDX Hexbeam                                                         X
LMR-400DB Below Grade Feed                                X
LMR-400 Jumpers                                                       X
LMR-400UF Up Tower Feed                                     X
Polyphasers incl two custom multi-units                X
Collins DL-1 Dummy Load                                     X
Station Monitor                                                        X
Bengali Intrepid                                                       X
Alpha-4510                                                                X
Palstar AT-Auto w/Kessler Upgrades                     X
4o3a Antenna Genius Switches                            X X
Nueman BCM705 Microphone                                X
Shure SM5B Microphone                                     X
Behringer MX402A                                               X
Behringer MX602A                                                   X
Recording Grade Audio Shapers                        X X
Collins SM-2 Microphone                                        X
W7FG True Ladder Line Dipole                             X
Alpha-2000 Dummy Load                                  X
RadioSport RS22CR Classic                                   X
KD9SV BOG Beverage Amp & Switch                  X
WD1A Cable – BOG wire                                          X
K1FZ RBOG Reversible Beverage on Ground     X
Zero-Five Custom HD Flagpole Antennas       X X
CAT6eDB below grade control                               X
Radial Wire                                                             X X
Waters 334 Dummy Load                                        X
Helix 1/2 Prepared                                                    X
RG6DB for RBOG Feed                                            X
Tashjian TM-370 SkyNeedle                                   X
New Tower Base, Platform and Coax Arms         X
AlfaSpid Rotor                                                           X

On Order
Flex Maestro                                                            X X

There have also been massive deliveries of the needed connectors and other parts – whew!  I am sure glad I’ve not seen the costs all tallied in one spot – ouch!

All in all the order and assemble is fun other than the bills.  Now in spring the read work begins!

73

Steve
K9ZW

 

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Adding 4o3a Genius Gear to the Shack

Adding some very cool station automation gear to the shack – all from 4o3a in Montenegro.

4O3A MADE IN MONTENEGROThe 4o3a Station Genius is basically an ethernet addressable highly configurable shack multi-switch. Ranks 4o3a jokes that it WILL even do your coffee, and technically that is an affirmative!

For the moment the Station Genius is home shack only.

The each QTH has gotten a 4o3a Antenna Genius 8×2 ethernet addressable Antenna Switch. These switches are especially sweet when using a dual-SCU Flex-6700 in SO2R configuration.

4o3a has his Rotor Genius out, which will be next implementation. A not so secret bit of news is 4o3a is tightly collaborating with FlexRadio Systems and a RF Amp is somewhere in the works.

You can read a lot about Ranko 4o3a at his website http://www.4o3a.com

Force12 has been awesome in sourcing this great gear for the USA based ham. See http://www.force12inc.com/categories/4o3a-devices.html?sort=pricedesc for their listing of 4o3a devices.

 

FORCE12 LOGO

Did I mention the end goal is all this gear works with SmartSDR and hopefully with a Maestro soon afterwards?

Much more to follow!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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