Category Archives: K9ZW Uses

Adding a 4o3a SSC XL Station Genius to the K9ZW Shack

Working with an evolving slightly complex station, AND wanting to using the LAN-Remote features of SmartSDR V1.4 with the Flex-6700 requires some planning – plus some electronics help!

Not point in reinventing the wheel when really sharp mins have created just the missing pieces to integrate my station.

Enter the 4o3a SSC XL Station Genius

4o3a SSC XL Station Genius - overview

4o3a SSC XL Station Genius – overview

The SSC XL allows control of Antennas, band-pass filters, 4-square antenna systems, beam stacks, beverages, Six Packs, rotators, RS-232 devices and more, per the website information.

4o3a SSC XL Station Genius - Front

4o3a SSC XL Station Genius – Front

Force12 expands further saying it is easier to say what you cannot control.

The main unit seems to have enough connectors to hook up to about anything:

403a SSC XL - Rear Panel

403a SSC XL – Rear Panel

An outboard Relay Board called the SCC-OM controls the various devices:

403a SSC XL - Remote Module

403a SSC XL – Remote Module

Mine just arrived and I am digesting the the manual as I get ready to implement.  As a plus the device is said to be FlexRadio System Maestro ready!

LINK:  http://www.4o3a.com/index.php/products/station-automation/ssc-xl

LINK – USA Distributor Force12: http://www.force12inc.com/products/station-genius-ssc-xl-by-4o3a.html

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Adjusting Gear and Forward Thoughts at K9ZW

Added a couple bits of kit – picked up a Flex-6300 from a ham who tried it and didn’t really take to a computer driven rig. Worked out for both of us as I avoided the backlog so I could get another Flex-6000 series radio to use up north on weekends, and he can change to a rig he is comfortable with.

It is worth commenting that there are some basic truisms about equipment that include the absolute that “Not every ham has the same style, interests and goals, so by definition no one radio will be the perfect rig for every ham.” “Horses for Courses” as they say.

In working on my Collins Vintage S-Line Station it has become pretty obvious than an antenna coupler/tuner would be an advantage if I wanted to be able to switch-in the S-Line station with my present antenna setup. I found a British Decca/K.W. 107 SuperMatch that will do the job while blending in with the S-Line gear form-factor.

The S-Line Station has been 18 months or more in the assembly, so it is time to get it on the air! This should do it.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Summer 2014 K9ZW Shack Upgrades

Have a bunch of things in the works – swapping rotors for an AlphaSpid unit and a major home shack computer upgrade (details in a later post). Bought a copy of the latest Ham Radio Deluxe to try out.

For the remote station intended for Washington Island use, a SteppIR CrankIR antenna with 80m kit will be put in use, and have acquired a Flex Radio Systems Flex-6300. Initially I’ll push the old shack computer into service there, but have another box that I’d like to put into use there.

Slow evolution, but very positive improvements!

73

Steve
K9ZW

Boomset Upgrade – Arlan RadioSport RS60CF Headset

RadioSport RS60CF Headset

RadioSport RS60CF Headset

One item I noticed at the Dayton Hamvention but was unable to buy there was the Arlan Communications RadioSport RS60CF Headset and related listen only headphones.

Several manufacturers were using the listen only version to demonstrate their radios.

I’d also recently read Stu K6TU’s account of how much he liked his new RS60CF.

Alas a search of the Hara from end to end didn’t find anyone selling the RadioSport headsets.

But they are featured on line:

http://www.arlancommunications.com/products/amateurRadio/radioSport/RS60CF.asp

These are in the same price range as a moderate to good basic aviation boomset, putting a a setup in the $350 price range.

Initial impression out of the box is these are above expectations and hugely comfortable.

I’ll post a report after I get some hours in using the RS60CFs.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Station Design and Documentation Tools – Scapple & Scrivener

Documenting an amateur radio station is very easy when you have one radio running barefoot (no amp or other gear), yet gets very complex quickly with each additional radio/operating station or accessory exponentially adding complexity to the documentation effort.

I am experimenting with using two writer’s tools to plan and document my station:

Scrivener_ArrangingWordsSmall

Scrivener – a multi-file cross-file editor and project writing system.
Scrivener Link:   http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

and

showcase-scapple_header

Scapple – a freeform graphical relationship editor.
Scapple Link: http://literatureandlatte.com/scapple.php

Both are by the British firm “Literature and Latte” and are truly much more powerful than needed for this task, but as I use them for other writing tasks it only makes sense to keep using them.

Literature and Latte Logo

Literature and Latte Link:  http://literatureandlatte.com/

These tools can be configured so very many ways, but what I am doing in Scrivener is putting every piece of hardware and software information I can gather, including my individual settings, into Scrivener “Characters” which can be grouped into operating positions (and reused where appropriate when shared or duplicated).

I’m dumping in spec sheets, operating & technical manuals, receipts, crib notes – basically everything I can gather to do with an item.  Scrivener considers that my “research” and acts like a database/filing system for all that data.

Then the mission critical is brought up into the actual station notes as Chapters & other divisions.

The Scrivener file is a type of archive that can be accessed in various ways, and is inclusive of all the research as well as the product documents.

The Station Notes export document is a flater document distilled down to what I’ve included as actual station notes.

Sounds more complex than it is, and I will do research data entry item by item over a period of time.

Did I mention you can incorporate pdfs and media files in both the research and the product document?

Awesome tool really intended for script writing, novel writing, and other complex major work projects.  I’ve just coopted it to adapt to a technical hobby use.

Scrapple comes into play as the tool to make up the connectivity and other relationship drawings to outline the Station Notes.  I know I could do these sketches on CAD software, but this is slick and easy, and rolls seamlessly into my Scrivener work.  Presently Scrapple is OS-X only, which is fine for my use, but leaves me looking for a similar resource for the Windows Based Scrivener work I do for work.

If there is interest, I can post some samples of the various levels of work to share.

Maybe using these tools (which are the huge total of $60.00 worth of software, which is amazingly inexpensive for their power & utility) is like taking something like a Ferrari to the supermarket.  Yet it is nice to know the product of the exercise will easily meet and exceed every foreseeable Station Notes use.

As a spoiler I do have point out YMMV, as I had already invested the time to learn the basics of Scrivener – without this time spent I would have an extra hour or two of learning curve.

73

Steve

K9ZW

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Just the Contact, Nothing More – JT65 Mode QSOs

There are a good many people having a stab at running JT65 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JT65#JT65 )

The mode is interesting as it is much about very precise timekeeping as anything. By very carefully syncing the transmitter and receivers software the receiver can complete reception below any normal communication mode.

It sort of reminds me of when I was once asked to be part of a team watching a particular window in a particular apartment building to see if the light was on at a certain time. In the midst of all the noise (all the lights going on & off in the hundreds of windows) that one particular window would be lit up at exactly a certain instance apparently meant something – afraid we were never told exactly what, but it much have been important!

Through timing a sequencing JT65 is hundreds of “little windows” that the software checks in a certain sequence at very specific times. That binary is parsed into a 13 character message from some 47 seconds churning!

I’d originally said I wouldn’t write about JT65 until I had logged 100 JT65 QSOs. Well I am not quite there but I think my thoughts have jelled.

JT65 is a QSO distilled down to nearly the least amount of data to transfer in meeting the most basic requirements for a QSO. Remember a QSO has a certain form – exchange of reports, call signs and such – you can find more on that at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contact_(amateur_radio)

Ragchewing is simply not going to happen in a JT65 QSO – there is so little data being moved that conversation gives way to just the contact requirements of a QSO.

JT65HF Main Screen (from Users Manual)

JT65HF Main Screen (from Users Manual)

So what is JT65 good for? Well it does qualify as a QSO you can log and count for awards. It does work when conditions are very sour making even CW a task. It brings a challenge of very accurate clock timekeeping to the ham shack. I’ve found it works a charm as a semi automatic QSO process when doing other shack tasks that would make many modes difficult. It is a pretty fear-free way to try digital communications.

Using JT65HF Software a QSO is pretty well defined. Call CQ, Answer CQ Call, Send Report, Acknowledge and Return Report, RR Confirm and an optional 73. Each 13 character and the wait to decode takes about 48-50 seconds, and the next person doesn’t transmit until on the start of the next minute. A full JT65HF QSO is something like a 6 minute undertaking to exchange only the basics.

Yet what other mode can I work across the USA on 160m at less than 20 watts input (and my 160m antenna is most certainly a negative gain antenna) in awful conditions? Even interesting modes like Throb and Olivia are surpassed for rough condition basic QSO contacts by JT65HF.

Do I “like” JT65HF? When conditions are tough it does meet my needs to just reach out and confirm that I can make a contact. While it doesn’t warm up to my interest to learn about my fellow ham, understand his “operating conditions” and hopefully leave a favorable & friendly impression, it does work when almost nothing else does.

I’m impressed by the technology and cleverness of the mode.

It is also nice to have a communication alternative that is sort of mindlessly “point-and-shoot” and nearing QRP levels.

It is obvious the capabilities of JT65 have kept it alive on terrestrial HF bands for several years now. While it never will displace full conversational digital modes, it is neat and has its place.

I can see having the software on the machine and running some periodically. By the way, you get the JT65HF version of a pile-up as a Wisconsin Station on 160m. Apparently not too many fellow Packer Fans run JT65HF regularly. Here is a manual for JT65HF http://openhpsdr.org/wiki/images/0/0c/Jt65-hf-setup.pdf

Catch you on the air, broadcasting exactly on the top on the minute in JT65HF!!

All best and 73

Steve
K9ZW

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