Category Archives: US Islands

NW Digital Radio DRAWS in its Correct Case

The K9ZW #1 NW Digital Radio DRAWS is in its correct case.

Started putting my ARRL email on gear in case we get separated.

I’ve started into labeling ports on my equipment in an effort to improve “self-documentation” of gear. Why have to scramble later to online or paper documentation to confirm what voltage and polarity is required? Or whether the Right/Left port naming is by looking “out” from the ports or “looking inwards” at them?

Upper L-R – GPS, Left Radio, Right Radio then the Lower L-R – 5vdc, HDMI 1 & 2, Audio

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NW Digital DRAWS – Build Part 1

Building a Portable Digital HF station for use in various activations I have planned for summer/fall 2021. Hope to have the DRAWS/RADIO set up and running before this summer.  I am NOT going to drag a FlexRadio Flex-6000 to some of the places I hope to operate from.

On the digital side I am using a Raspberry Pi (4B) with a specialized add-on bit of hardware, the North West Digital Radio DRAWS that will add a GPS/on-board clock and the necessary interfaces.

Initial intention is to us a SGC-2020 transceiver, but I may drag a TenTec Jupiter to my activations instead.  I will use a keyboard and mouse to control the actual digital software for the activations, WSJT or perhaps fldigi.

The DRAWS is a neat bit of kit that should streamline my station and reduce the component count. That said it is as best semi-documented and a bit of a work in process intended for those willing to roll their sleeves up to get it configured, wired and going. Not very plug-n-play at all.

Raspberry Pi 4B and NW Digital Radio DRAWS HAT

Some courtesy definitions:

DRAWS = Digital Radio Amateur WorkStation developed by North West Digital Radio http://nwdigitalradio.com/draws/
Raspberry Pi = the series of small single-board computers developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation along with Broadcom. https://www.raspberrypi.org
Raspberry Pi HAT = Raspberry Pi extension board, both because it sits like a “hat” on top of the Raspberry Pi microcomputer and as the original meaning apparently was “Hardware Attached on Top”  https://github.com/raspberrypi/hats/blob/master/README.md

A bit about the DRAWS lifted from the NWDR website:

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Thirteen Colonies 2018 in Vintage Style

For no really good reason other than it seemed like a good idea, I decided to put a very modest effort into working the Thirteen Colonies special event stations using a Collins KWM-2A transceiver and paper logging.

Just for fun.

Collins Station on the Island yes 

 
And yes, I didn’t make a clean sweep. But perhaps starting the effort in the last hours and limited actual radio time made that hopeless? Checking spots some of the stations were already QRT or were doing digital, so such is life.

It was a blast to run a while on the Collins, and if you look at the picture I had the manuals out to remind me of procedures.

Picked up some FIFA station contacts and a couple other special stations.

The Transmit/Receive relays and switching are a leisurely compared to the Flex-6700 on the bench with the KWM-2A. But it works and was really fun.

In the end I grabbed 10 of the 13+2 stations in quick order. As I worked the 4th and had no radio time all week I didn’t deserve better results. A noble effort in style will have to be the reward!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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K9ZW Washington Island Operating Gear

The Island setup is evolving and when not in the radio room will be based on a Maestro with a Touch Screen ToughBook.

Here is a quick shot of what I am working on for the Washington Island – Wisconsin QTH’s portable operating position.

This is what I will be able to operate from (adding a headset & PTT in many cases) from anywhere I connect with my wireless system there.

Paired with the Maestro is a Touchscreen Toughbook laptop to do logging and other site-mobility chores. They will be wireless to the new Flex-6700.

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

Maestro and ToughBook laptop

ToughBooks are available refurbished under $300 with licensed operating system from Toughbook Tech.

Built strong enough to be a aircraft wheel-chock!

Ruggedized touchscreen does better with the stylus than finger jabs, which is a contrast to the Maestro touch screen sensitivity.

For activation of smaller islands the Maestro & Flex-6700 will stay behind, with the Flex-6300 then being paired with the Toughbook via SmartSDR for Windows.

For antennas I have several choices there. Typically I have been using a SteppIR CrankIR with the Flex-6300 for island activations other than the main island. I have several other portable antenna options.

Depends on what Island access I’m allowed (full setup on the activated Island or using one of the US Island Programs alternative rules when not allowed to completely disembark. http://www.usislands.org I think is the URL.)

On Washington Island itself I have a proper antenna farm in the works. As I am rethinking this whole setup you’re invited to follow along as I rework plans.

Still to come is a mobilization preparation of the Flex-6300 to keep everything needed together and protect it from some level of adverse weather while out on the smaller islands.

73

Steve K9ZW

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Maestro Road/Boat Trip to Washington Island

Pictures and much of text was originally posted at the FlexRadio Systems Community forum as I described my first weekend Maestro excursion.


 

Winds made the ride almost an hour

Winds made the ride almost an hour

 

Okay, just like a Flat Stanley, where have you taken your Maestro to go do radios?

Snapshot is quick shot off the ferry boat to Washington Island, Wisconsin (US Island WI-001L) where this weekend it will be a quick overnight running a Flex-6300 with a SteppIR CrankIR antenna.

Weather is a bit edgy though I hope the wind drops and drizzle stops long enough to get the antenna setup yet today.

With it sleeting out who knows?

So where has your Maestro gone?

A quick set of photos. (The small boar is one my youngest Vic KC9NWB shot.)

Wild Board standing guard over a Maestro near the table edge

Wild Board standing guard over a Maestro near the table edge.

The Flex-6300 needed a software upgrade to run with the Maestro.

Maestro conducting another Software Update

Maestro conducting another Software Update

The strong signal is George W9EVT who live about 3/4 a mile away.

George W9EVT is about 5000 feet away and his signal shows it!

George W9EVT is about 5000 feet away and his signal shows it!

Bands have not been good and highly variable. Definitely seeing my antenna limitations holding QSO count way down.

Have been playing with also running K6TU iPad control and on the Win10 box other programs like DDUTIL alongside the Maestro.

Maestro with K6TU Control Software on iPad

Maestro with K6TU Control Software on iPad

Off for coffee and church, hopefully my rate will improve afterwards.

One of the observant forum members comment on how my Maestro edged close to the table’s edge:

Steve, your making me nervous. The Maestro is too close to the edge of your table. Nice pics.
73 de Rob K1SR

And I replied:  Thank you. The Maestro with tilt feet gives such a solid feel that you spotted how I crept it up near the table edge.

Didn’t seem as worrying in the flesh as in photos, and certainly is an interesting phenomena as I try to be careful.

Running a vertical wire antenna in this weekend’s bands wasn’t a highly productive exercise. Would have twenty-thirty signals on a band, then only a few weak traces and all over between extremes.

Snowed and deleted, so never got the Maestro outside either.

Until next trip.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Flex-6300 K9ZW North Station in QSO

 

Jumping forward from 1977 Collins KWM-2A technology to current technology, here is a photo of the FlexRadio Systems Flex-6300 part of my northern Washington Island station:

K9ZW Flex-6300 Station on Washington Island

K9ZW Flex-6300 Station on Washington Island

There is a lot going on in this little station, so first the hardware:

  • Flex-6300 w/ATU Transceiver with USB digital codec dongle
  • Windows 8.1 USB PC on a stick
  • USB hub
  • WiFi Extender – 1Gb
  • 1Gb router
  • FlexControl
  • Powered Speaker
  • Power supply is under bench
  • wheel mouse
  • keyboard
  • 24in monitor

 

Now here is the important list – the software:

  • SmartSDR v1.5.0 with Free Digital Voice and DStar plus-ins
  • DDUTIL v3.0
  • FlexMeter v1.3
  • N1MM+ logger

The Flex-6300 station got great reports today using a SteppIR CrankIR portable antenna. Mostly CalifornyQSO party station but also worked some DX.

The PC on a stick was an experiment that has worked out fine, and I will leave it for the time being.  When the 6300 is swapped for a 6700 I’ll put in a full PC.

I’m not happy with the included Flex hand microphone but forgot to bring a desk mic up this trip.

Once the permanent antennas are up it is going to be obvious that I will want a Flex-6700 here rather than the limited single SCU Flex-6300.  The 6300 will go to my traveling radio setup at that time.

Made a interesting contrast to last weekends QSOs done with the Collins KWM-2A station  on the same antenna.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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