Category Archives: K9ZW Shack

Adding Ethernet Lightning Protection to the K9ZW Shack

Adding Ethernet Lightning Protection to the K9ZW Shack

 

Based largely on FlexRadio System Community web posts and an a web-article by Al NN4ZZ (http://www.nn4zz.com/FLEX6700.htm#Ethernet_Lightning_Protection) I’ve added an Ethernet FiberOptic Isolation for my hardwired Flex-6700 at the home QTH.  The Island QTH is on a WiFi extender so it is using that wireless break in cabling to achieve the same benefits, though I do expect to use FiberOptic Ethernet from the main station to the tower service shed for remote operation of equipment at the tower base.

The whole idea with isolation is to reduce the vulnerability of the on-board Flex-6700’s Ethernet adapter to stray static or electrical charge energizing a CAT6e cable, and as an added benefit decreasing the possibility of that cable picking up any stray RF or somehow coupling.

Basically there are three parts, an Ethernet Cable to Fiber box, a Fiber cable, and a second Fiber to Ethernet Cable box at the other end of the Fiber.

Ethernet CAT6e Cable to Fiber Isolation Setup

Ethernet CAT6e Cable to Fiber Isolation Setup

There are lots of sources for the gear to make the jump, and I selected an eBay vendor recommended to me for the Ethernet CAT6e to Fiber full duplex interfaces. With the variety I selected you need a properly configured pair (one an “A” and the other a “B”) to work.

Cables I picked from Amazon, as the original eBay cable vendor never delivered the cables ordered, which is okay (except they charged me) as I made a mistake ordering Siamese-Paired Fiber Cables which fits a different type of gear. What I needed was single cables.

I picked http://www.ebay.com/itm/151827507443 which is a matched A & B pair “10/100Mbps Ethernet to Single mode Fiber Optic Media Converter Transceiver- 25KM” set.

The cables are https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E6OMK68 “Gino brand, 2 Pcs Simplex Single Mode SC to SC Male Fiber Optic Patch Jump Cable Yellow 2M” cables.  You only need one cable per pair of Ethernet to Single mode Fiber Optic Media Converter Transceivers.

(I bought two cables and two pairs of transceivers, as I usually buy a second set of components for projects like this as backups).  One setup cost me $45.50 (or $91.00 if you consider the spare set as true backups).

Seems a very low cost to do both the RFI mitigation and EMP/ESD protection adding Fiber gives.

There are a lot of other vendors and possible components. Though I have NOT been able to find one, I have wondered if a dedicated all-in-one isolation unit exists?  Maybe one of our hobby’s network gurus knows?

[EDIT – as a reader reminded medon’t forget to protect the power supply inputs to the radio end of the transceiver pair, as it presents a way to energize the cable CAT6e jumper that plugs into your radio!  I have small items like this somewhat protected by a small UPS and further by a protected power strip, but maybe that isn’t even enough?   Thanks David for the reminder!]

73

Steve
K9ZW

Bluster Antenna Buster

Wisconsin is know for aggressive March weather, and this year has been exceptional in weather extremes.

This week we had nearly three days of high winds, with area airports reporting 70 mph winds. Our local recording equipment appears to have been broken by the wind as it showed 1 mph winds when the actual weather was throwing semi truck trailer rigs on their sides.

These same winds did some damage to my Tennadyne T-8 LPDA by bending an element which had previously been temporarily repaired and knocking another element down.

Wounded T-8 Antenna

Wounded T-8 Antenna

This particular T-8 has withstood a huge amount of weather over a twenty plus year exposure. (I acquired it about 15 years ago second hand).

So now the decision is whether to patch it up for now with the idea of doing an antenna overhaul in warmer weather, check how it tunes to possibly just live with it as is until warm weather is here, or do an upgrade/replacement?

How much damage has time, wind and the lightning issue actually caused?

How long do I want to have the tower down-&-over putting me off the air?

Bounced some ideas off a friend Vern K9EME who helps with my station, my buddy George W9EVT who lives near my other QTH on Washington Island and who takes the time to explain what has worked well for his station, and then Rog WB8NDC owner of Tennadyne.

In the end I’ve ordered a brand new T-8 with new choke coil, and a hardware upgrade kit for the this damaged T-8.

Should be here in a few days, and I will assemble & swap the antenna on the tower, then rebuild the damaged one this summer.

Whether it takes a bit to get parts won’t matter, and I can take the time to do a complete tear-down rather than just a patch.

Will need to decide what to do with the renovated T-8? Might store it as a spare, could take it to the Island QTH, might put it up at my work compound as a tower is going up there for a club repeater that could be configured to take a rotator and beam, or I could sell it onwards once restored.

I have some sheet metal fabrication to do as well from the storm. The custom anti-climb panels were blown off and beaten up. They really should have been redone for color coordination reasons when we had the house painted a year back, so no huge loss.

Always things to do!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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

Projects at the K9ZW South QTH – New AlfaSpid Rotor

It is maintenance time at my home QTH. Fixing storm damage, wear and tear, doing preventative maintenance and replacing broken things.

I’ve had some serious help from Vern K9EME in the work. Actually too often it must be admitted I was watching as Vern K9EME took care of the work.

A high energy strike nearby (I think it was when a nearby streetlight was “smoked” by lightning) had finished off an increasingly unreliable rotor, taken out the half-sloper, and I had some damage occur at the same time to the larger Log Periodic antenna, with one element suddenly impossibly drooping.

Fixing the half-sloper was easy. The solder from the main wire to the connector was gone – simply burnt away, and soldering things back together and inspecting took care of that problem.

Swapping out the rotor, an old Ham-IV for a new AlfaSpid RAK was a real challenge.

This tower is a Tri-Ex LM354 and is a motorized crank-down with manual tip-over.

Here is the new rotor going into place:

AlfaSpid RAK replaces Ham-IV

AlfaSpid RAK replaces Ham-IV

 

The AlfaSpid RAK rotors I have all came from Alfaradio.ca in Edmonton Canada. The units are built in Poland, are a very different design than the typical small ham radio rotors, are unfortunately a bit pricey but offer great precision, high reliability, better capabilities and more precision.

Here is a bit closer what it looks like:

 

The AlfaSpid RAK up close

The AlfaSpid RAK up close

 

It was challenging work to get everything sorted and K9EME’s experience made all the difference.

As there was very heavy duty eight-wire rotor cable in place, we wired the four-wire AlfaSpid with double wires on the sensor connections.

After verifying everything with a multi-meter we photo-documented how we wired it:

Photo-Documentation is a Good Thing!  RAK wiring up close

Photo-Documentation is a Good Thing! RAK wiring up close

Cannot tell you how useful pictures are when years later something needs fixing or replacement.

Getting the Greenheron controller operating with the AlfaSpid didn’t go well, and I called Jeff at Greenheron who quickly help me figure out the protective TranZorb diodes had been fused along the way. A quick temporary fix and all was well and replacement diodes were ordered online.

The Tennadyne T-8 is actually missing a bit of the square boom at the lower longest element. I have a call into Tennadyne for the spares, but it is hunting season in Michigan and Wisconsin, and I got the answering machine,

I have a concept for a repair that should stand up for now. More in another post.

I’ll spare sharing the inspection and PM, but when you have a tower down and over it is a good time to do a full service.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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When is it too much Monitor for a Shack?

Okay I’m going to admit I may have hit “More is Less” in monitor size.

Swapped the AMD Raedon video card my machine came with, and which was a DOG with all sorts of driver errors, for a NVidia card Winston KC9FVR helped me pick out.  Okay it is a “EVGA GeForce GTX 970 4GB SC GAMING ACX 2.0 Graphics Card 04G-P4-2974-KR” for those of you into that sort of detail.

Pulling the two 22 in monitors and putting in a “Seiki SE42UM 4K Ultra HD LED TV/Monitor” took hardly anytime at all.

Now why Windows 10 would default to a 300% item size, making the screen act like a Jumbotron with 5/8inch high text, well who knows?

Taming the hummingbird sized mouse pointer and other quirks took a couple minutes.

The result:

Flex SmartSDR - Hig Screen Version.

Flex SmartSDR – Big Screen Version

Not so smart…yes there is four times as much screen space, but a lot of the additional is so high above the desk that I’ll end up with a creak in my neck!

I think there might even be different weather up there at the top of the screen!

The screen definitely needs to come down lower.

The amount of real estate showing is impressive.

I’m glad I kept the two other monitors incase I decide to revert back and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I actually bought two of these monster monitors to run side-by-side!!   Guess one can go to the Island QTH.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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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