Category Archives: K9ZW Shack

FlexRadio Systems 4o3a Power Genius XL Amplifier – in transit and anticipation….

Good News:  FlexRadio Systems has let me know that my amp is among those shipped by 4o3a.

Not So Good News:  International Shipping Gremlins have slowed down the transit.

Having personally had my international shipments “lost” I have sympathy.  Life isn’t fun when the container with one’s entire household belongings took Eight-Months to make a transit promised at less than 20-Days!  That case a longshoreman’s strike left it on the dock, missing its boat, the replacement boat was refused a St Lawrence Seaway permit (drought) so hovered offshore for an additional month until a berth was secured, and then unexpected cross continent land transport had to arranged.  Of did I mention the stress of having everything held in limbo for a half-year put the shipping broker out of business, and an additional broker had to be found for inbound clearance… and on finding much damage it was found that the now defunct original shipper had not bought the all-perils insurance we contracted for, leaving all the damage uninsured.

Or another car I was importing being held up in bond at the port of entry because the German seller had put in the trunk a 10-liter jug of the special oil recommended for the car.  The oil was not on the manifest and the seller had used about a 1/2 liter topping the car’s crankcase before shipping.  At $65/day for two months of bonded storage at the dock, paying for testing of the oil in the jug and all the extra broker fees to to plead my case, this gesture the seller made cost me roughly $5,700.00 in unexpected and unavoidable fees.  And yes, the option of shipping the oil back would have been nearly as costly on its own, and the car would have still racked up bonded storage fees until everyone was happy…..

Or how about the unexpected two-month delay on another car I’d contacted to be brought from Toronto – while it didn’t cost me extra, it was annoying when I could fry & drive it back in a weekend, but circumstances didn’t let me go.  Nothing more than the gears of “the system” turning slowly, with a bit of “work to rule” officialdom in the mix.

Yes, FRS has my sympathy on international shipment delays.

If the starts aline the Power Genius XL should be here before Christmas.  Fingers crossed.

More when the Amp shows.

73

Steve K9ZW

Steve

 

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FlexRadio Systems 4o3a Power Genius XL Amplifier – on the way

FlexRadio Systems extended an opportunity to acquire the first of the Power Genius XL amps I’d ordered as a “Beta Team” participant.

I’d done a similar program when the Flex-6700 launched.  I believe in that Beta Program I was in the first handful of non-company/non-alpha-team to get a radio (that radio is serial number 11 and runs my main QTH station, usually powered on for months at a time.)

Quick disclaimer FRS is still working on parts of the product package for the new Amp, so while I will receive production hardware, the configuration and software parts are not in the final general release form. This again parallels the Flex-6700 program.

In my case the new PG XL Amp will displace an Alpha-9500, which I’m planning to retain for the moment.  Eventually I’ll need to thin the reserve gear as I won’t retain all the now spare amps – expecting the Expert 1KW will be the first to go.

I took a pass on taking my second PG XL Amp early, as my Washington Island QTH’s station is hardly used during the winter months due to logistics and weather.  That way I freed up another spot for another early adopter (Beta Team participant) rather than storing the second amp until spring.

Both QTHs have 4o3a Antenna Genius antenna switches ready to implement and I’ve been fiddling around with a 4o3a Station Genius as well, though updates to the Antenna Genius seem to make it redundant.

More when the Amp shows.

73

Steve K9ZW

Steve

 

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

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