Category Archives: K9ZW

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

The Flexer’s Advantage Series: Do you See what I hear….

Do you see what I hear?   Strange question, or is it?

a real Flexer’s advantage is the superlative implementation of multiple highly flexible Panadapters letting an operator visually evaluate the band(s) before listening.

I typically use less than the eight Panadapter “Slices” the Flex-6700 allows, though I often use about five or six.

My preference is the Panafall configuration and my first two will be where I am working as “slice A for Active” works for me.  Then the next slices will be sized for an overview of the segment in each of the bands I am thinking of operating.

I do not tend to drop very many receivers unless I’m planning to pop back and forth between bands.  Rather my style is to instead change frequency on my first slice Panadapter and receiver treating the other Panadapters as sort of big spectrum scope.

what is very neat – the real advantage – is your style of setting up slices and receivers doesn’t have to be anything like mine.  Upcoming SmartSDR versions allow undocking of slices, potentially sharing the visuals in even more effective ways.

To be certain other radios have had Panadapters for many decades.  But it has been in the SDR software offerings where this useful tool has been taken to new levels.

It is easy to visually recognize a DX operation, especially if running split by the fainter DX – sometimes barely showing – being answered by massive calls.  In the SmartSDR for iOS Panadapter it is possible to map the DX cluster directly onto the Panafall.

Once you see it, it is simple enough to drop a slice receiver on the signal, set up split if appropriate, and see if you too can work the DX.

73

Steve
K9ZW

The Flexer’s Advantage Series: The Casual DXer Advantages of SmartSDR for iOS and SmartSDR via Maestro

The Casual DXer Advantages of SmartSDR for iOS and SmartSDR via Maestro

While some of us have the ability to block-off large chunks of time to be on the air, many of us have to grab our radio time when we can – usually while on the fly.

Sometimes being on the air involves multi-tasking – perhaps food prep while waiting for UPS to deliver and expecting a business call… hard to go down to the shack and ignore the world in situations like that.

Sometimes that slice of possible radio time means you don’t get enough outside time as you really want to be outside.

In winter sometimes it is nicer to stay in front of a fireplace if you can.

I’ve found a way to get a few QSOs in during these slots of time I just cannot go down to my main operating station in the shacks.

I’m saying the plural shacks, as at both my main home QTH and my Washington Island QTH 115 miles north I have a Flex-6700 station in the homes’ basement. Home I coopted what was intended to be a “wine cellar” room when we moved in as my main operating station location.  On the island there was a really nice workshop area in the semi-finished basement that was a natural for both a Flex-6700 and a Collins S-Line setup.

A long time ago George W9EVT recommended never putting your operating position more than 10-20 footsteps away from where you otherwise would be. W9EVT’s thought was you would be able to operate a lot more if it was convenient to your regular life.  I’ve kind of violated this recommendation at both QTHs by being 2-3 times further away.

So my problem is I could not allocate shack space at either QTH that is truly in the main living area.

This cut into my on-air time. In the case of the home QTH the cool wine cellar room simply is uncomfortable for much more than an hour.  The air is too chilly, plus it has bone chilling cold hard tile flooring, and in the end is too tucked out of the way. On the island the only time it is desirable to be in a basement is when it is super hot outside.  Otherwise I’d rather be in eth main area or outside (eventually I will have a Garage with workshop changing things).

Since both stations have a Flex-6700 there is an easy solution.

Go LAN-Remote. As long as the Flex-6700 and a remote client are on the same subnet block of internal IP addresses you can go wireless as far as your router will let you.

If I am going to be on the air for more than an hour or repeatedly in the same spot, setting up a Maestro is the way to go. Both QTHs have one, and a computer to use with the Maestro if wanted.

But if I am truly on the run, using SmartSDR for iOS on my iPhone 6plus or iPad Air is simply magic!

Example, earlier I had about 20 minutes I would be waiting for family before leaving for an appointment, and using the iPad I quickly grabbed several DX QSOs, including the Spanish African Enclaves (EA9) and the South Cook Islands (E51). Slick, quick and a blast!

I occasional use a Raspberry Pi powered VPN setup with a Maestro to extend off my home Flex-6700’s LAN to my office 3 miles away, but that hasn’t worked so well due to the dynamic office environment. Thought I might get quiet lunch hours in of operating, but if I am here people need decisions and the interruptions are too many.

So my recommendation if you are a Flex-6000 owner is to check out SmartSDR for iOS to increase your casual DXing time, and you will pick up more DX QSOs as a result.

73

Steve
K9ZW

One Face of Grant – There are few hobbies as inexpensive as Amateur Radio

There are few hobbies as inexpensive as Amateur Radio

Okay, fust let’s be clear – like every other hobby out there you can spend the earth in pursuit of hobby nirvana in Amateur Radio.
But you don’t have to!
Amateur radio can be about the most inexpensive hobby you can ever participate in!
Let’s do a quick roundup on what $$$ you need to get a start:
  • Study Material is available free on the internet.  You might even find a free Hamcram training session.
  • Initial Exam ranges from free with some test groups to $15.00 with others.  Let’s put down $15.00
  • An ultra basic NEW HT like the Baofeng UV-5R Gen 2 can be bought for $25.00 or less including shipping – so add $25.00
  • Repeater guide information can be looked up online (check your are Repeater Coordinator Website, and don’t waste your money on the printed to CD-Rom lists groups like the ARRL offer as that information is stale & unverified.) – so the information is Free
So for $50.00 you can be one the air!  Maybe after a couple hundred times on the air you might want a fancier radio or a high class license, but you can run a long long time on your first $50.00  One single “face of Grant” gets you started and off running!
You aren’t going to get started in Tennis, Fishing, Shooting, XC-skiiing, flying, polishing gemstones, playing saxophone, building a HiFi, going to the symphony, going to a rock concert or much else for just $50.00
It is fantastic that there basically is no major economic barrier to entry for Amateur Radio.
73
Steve
K9ZW

PowerPoles can really suck – why not CliffCon Power Connectors instead?

Who has not had a Powerpole disconnect inadvertently?

If you notice high end gear eschews Powerpoles for high performance positive-interface connectors.

The military ones are pretty pricey and hard to source.

Following the leadership of high end radios like the Hilberling PT-8000A, I’ve instead brought in a supply of Cliff CliffCon Power Connectors, and will be slowly implementing them in my shack.

Here is what they look like:

CliffCon Connectors – “Blue” Four-Pole Series

 

UK Website

http://www.cliffuk.co.uk/products/cliffcon/pole4.htm

USA Website

http://www.cliffinc.com/products/cliffcon/pole4.htm

A PDF datasheet

http://www.cliffuk.co.uk/products/cliffcon/cliffcon.pdf

Additional information from my order:

 

Stock No: Manufacturer Part No: UOM: Quantity: Price: Extended Price:
23T0887 FCR2068 Each 1
Customer Part Number:
Description: SOCKET, 4POLE, 4PC/S/LV, LOW VOLTAGE; Product Range:Cliffcon Series; Gender:Receptacle; Voltage Rating:120V; Current Rating:20A; Connector Mounting:Panel Mount; Contact Termination Type:Through Hole; SVHC:No SVHC (17-Dec-2015);

 

Stock No: Manufacturer Part No: UOM: Quantity: Price: Extended Price:
23T0883 FCR2066 Each 1
Customer Part Number:
Description: PLUG, 4POLE, 4PC/P/LV, LOW VOLTAGE; Product Range:Cliffcon Series; Gender:Plug; Voltage Rating:120V; Current Rating:20A; Connector Mounting:Cable Mount; Contact Termination Type:Clamp; SVHC:No SVHC (17-Dec-2015); Colour:Blue; Contact

 

Stock No: Manufacturer Part No: UOM: Quantity: Price: Extended Price:
23T0884 FCR20663 Each 1
Customer Part Number:
Description: PLUG, 4POLE, R/A, 4PC/P90/LV, LV; Product Range:Cliffcon Series; Gender:Plug; Voltage Rating:120V; Current Rating:20A; Connector Mounting:Cable Mount; Contact Termination Type:Clamp; SVHC:No SVHC (17-Dec-2015); Colour:Blue; Contact

Okay in comparison they are a bit spendy compared to Powerpoles, but they are positive-interface and will not pull out shutting your station down.  They are also vibration resistant making the selection for field use even more appropriate.  They have redundancy (four wire) which in the interest of standardization within my equipment I will keep to a set pattern.

Yet they allow disconnection quickly.

More on this over the next few months as they are put to use.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Tagged ,

Memorial Day Respects

As a young soldier being sent from Germany to Verdun France as a unit representative, I had never before felt such a humbling experience as when paying respect in a military cemetery that seemed to go on for ever.

Memorial Day is about our respect and veneration of those who gave all, paying that penultimate price, so that we might have the world we have.

My heartfelt thanks to those who perished in service, and may I somehow measure up to the vision of the legacy they earned for us.

73

Steve
K9ZW