Feeling out Antennas for K9ZW Island QTH – Part 1

A lot has been happening at the Island QTH – the biggest is the ongoing Garage Building project.

Garage 16 June 2018

And just as importantly the first non-temporary antenna will be going in – a Zero-Five custom extra-heavy-duty Flagpole Multi-Band Vertical antenna.

The concrete base should go in at the same time the garage apron slab is poured.

Zero-Five made two extra-heavy-duty custom antennas to meet my wind/weather special needs. The have tilt-over-bases and a loading-balun for 80m.

Zero-Five Extra-Heavy-Duty Flagpole Multiband Antenna Tilt Base with Balun

One of the two Zero-Five made is reserved for my home QTH to be installed later this year or next spring. These antennas truly are also functioning flagpoles, though I wonder what might happen to a flag when running an amp?

The trenching contractor in the island is running a 4-inch buried conduit to the antenna, so I can both bury a feed-line, and run power to lights for the flag.  I may eventually experiment with a remote antenna tuner at the base of the antenna as well, and the conduit makes adding internet easier later.   Ideally it would be nice to separate the different cables, but as most trenching involved breaking out bedrock I will have to settle for a single conduit and go with the best shielded cables available.

To work well this model requires buried radials, and eventually lots of them.

Because of the bedrock the usual base has been redesigned to make best use of the “rock solid” situation.




Can you be Shadow Banned at eHam?

— Edit June 20th 2018 —

After a period of being locked out of the eHam Forums but able to access the main page as “logged in” it looks like my eHam user has been unlocked.  No idea if this was just a bad week at eHam or all of my various devices, or real “shadow banning” in action.

Interestingly I now find myself with next to nothing to share at eHam…

— End Edit —


Can a person end up Shadow Banned at eHam?

Shadow Banning is the unseen hand of a web forum’s owner making anyone they don’t like “disappear quietly” from their system.  More  definition at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_banning

Unlike overt Banning, where the participant is told to go away, and perhaps their account is locked, Shadow Banning is done covertly and if questioned is denied.

Has eHam taken up the practice of Shadow Banning?

Kind of seems so, as shortly after my critiques of eHam moderation my eHam account password for just the forums was changed, effectively blocking me from posting on the forums.

Password still works for the general website, but not the forums.  Actually it works for the main forum page, but locks me out when going to a specific forum.


On the positive side several of the worst of eHam’s pet trolls seem to have gone quiet as well.

If my account is collateral damage in a stealth effort to better the level of participation, so be it.  Small price to pay.

Again without real effective moderation and careful curating eHam is not much more than click-bait for eager hams looking for quality information.



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FlexRadio Systems – Flex-6600 Heat Sink Replacement

I have one of the earliest Flex-6600M radios released, as I was added to the Alpha Test Team.

As such my expectations have been from delivery that this particular radio would be likely to need some updating along the way.

I have been running the radio 24/7 since delivery, and though no performance problems came up the Heat sinks on the ADC boards fell off or slid down (one fell and one slid).

Flex-6600M heat sinks, one fell and one slid. Easily replaced with new bigger heat sinks on the backside of the boards.

FlexRadio Systems had mailed a field repair kit and because I had no noticeable issues I put off installation until today.

Took me longer to gather my tools than do the job!

Basically you take the top of the radio off, remove a screw so you can pull each ADC board free, add the new heat sink while removing or securing the original heat sinks, reseat the ADC board, put the secure entry screws back, and put the top back on.

There are two heat sinks to deal with in the Flex-6600/6600M radios and just one heat sink in the Flex-6400/6400M models.

In my case I removed the original heat sinks completely, though some hams are securing them in place along with the new heat sink installation.

One wonders if there is a heat sink adhesive problem, as there are reports that some new Icom transceivers also have a heat sink problem. Not certain if those radios can be repaired in the field.

FlexRadio Systems released a PEN (Product Enhancement Notice) that covers the heat sinks and a preamp enhancement for 6m.  I’m holding off sending the radio in for the rest of this PEN.

BTW FlexRadio Systems picks up the tab if you’d rather send your radio in for this PEN.  My total time invested was circa ten minutes.


Steve K9ZW



The spreading ‘eHam disease’

I’ve written before about the eHam policy of protecting the raving insane posts of a click of forum trolls.

Moderation can be part of the solution – but it is largely absent at eHam, which is a mistake by not using the moderator’s position to trim out the disingenuous, false, and slanderous.

It is the PC trend in customer relations to treat all customers as if they were the same. It is the same PC ethos we see permeating throughout society.

In the long run it is unsupportable – economic laws of function require discernment and differentiation.

Marketers talk of it in terms of “Customer Segmentation” where hard evaluations are made in how a company responds to differing classes of customers. They will tell you to divide them into Bronze, Silver and Gold, and then whisper that perhaps the most important part is to identify those who are Lead and should be pushed out.

It is much like making soup – we can argue, plan, test, adjust and do about anything with our good ingredients – the ones that are like our Bronze, Silver and Gold customers in the business segmentation. While some combinations work better, they all work. Whether carrots, onions or potatoes, they all work well in the soup.

But add the Lead Customer – the toxic customer, as if you allowed  something like brake cleaner or floor wax to be added to the soup, the Lead Customer ruins the soup.

Fortunately in business and in forums the caustic effect of treating the septic the same as the health is incremental rather than instantly catastrophic.

Nonetheless allowing the soup to be poisoned isn’t a good thing.

Other forums risk joining eHam’s forum, perhaps out of kindness to all customers whether they play well in a forum or not, by heading down the path which has made personal attack posts the norm – someone there comments they like something the forum’s pet trolls don’t like and the same click will post “ignorant appliance operator Hams like W9….”

Special high risk of going down the eHam path is when they allow repeated “I’m a software engineer and I know the Vendor XYZ is lying when they say Product QWERTY will launch by such a date” posts.

They are allowing the brake cleaner or floor wax to be put in the soup.

Of course the dialogue quickly gets personal on the continuum to “Ad Hitlerian” argumention – personal slanging matches.

Unless a brave forum participant posts a “piss off wanker” response (which unlike eHam who revels in the massive number of hits the latest 14.313 style brawl will bring their website, a few forums will close down a thread quickly when it descends to Ad Hitlerian slanging) it just doesn’t stop.

But that leaves still a huge casualty – truth.

Inaccurate, spurious and outright false claims remain in the community forums, searchable of course.

This is where moderation is needed.

If someone says that the XYZ team are liars for projecting a product launch by a certain date, that unless they KNOW – that they have FACTS that the public statement is wrong, that their post should die under the moderator’s keyboard & mouse. Not doing so will make it impossible for any vendor to offer product projections without risking the adverse marketing trolls being allowed to post with equal project can bring.

I as a community read want to hear what is projected – whether in product features or timeline. Learning what is planned can save me money and helps formulate my future station plans.

Allowing troll comments makes the community and unlikely place to pick up any real information.

And I really don’t want to hear what some armchair quarterback has to say – if I wanted to hear that sort of crap I could go on 14.313 or select 40 & 75m voice nets.

The online community of forums allows those interested unprecedented access to the people who are actually doing it. And I for one do not want to see this access further damaged by the bad combination of timid moderation and pet forum trolls.




The Dayton Hamvention 2018 Question – How Independent is that Test Lab anyway?

The Dayton Hamvention 2018 Question – How Independent is that Test Lab anyway?

The run up to Dayton 2018 was punctuated by competing claims what lab measurements this lab got vs what other labs recorded on several radios.

I am certain other writers have covered the reported numbers, what the numbers mean in real life, and the ins & outs of why measurements might be different.

But I want to comment on a deeper intrigue that has developed.  Not the numbers, as that the very same identical radios appear to have different numbers when tested in different labs is somewhat interesting but perhaps less intriguing when some background events are considered.

The real intrigue appears to be well correlated reports that one of the widely reported labs independence is completely uncertain, after the claimed independent lab sought Manufacturer payment as retainers.

Obviously a lab cannot claim to be independent while in the pay of one or more Manufacturers.

Some labs are transparent with any potential bias, handling it openly for all to see & understand.

For example the league’s lab buys its test samples with league funds, tests them, and then eventually sells them by auction.  They feel this best distances them from the appearance of bias by the league accepting advertising revenue for the products it also tests.

The bias of manufacturer’s in-house labs is fairly clear.  I think we all understand that potential for bias, and even through they most likely test each other products manufacturers don’t publish competitor’s products test results.

Certification labs have an interesting bias, as they are unlikely to overstate performance or minimize problems, as it is their reputation & certification that potentially is at risk.  Of course we all understand that the Manufacturer foots the costs for certification testing, but the Manufacturer isn’t supposed to be able to exert control over the test results.

But what of a non-affiliated lab that asks to be paid by some of the manufacturers of products it tests?  And if that request and potential payments are information kept from the consumers who look to the resulting test rankings for guidance? And what if that payment proposal was to be put on retainer – essentially to be paid on a regular ongoing basis to act as an advocate for the firm paying?

One might understand if a non-aligned lab looked to amortize their expenses by charging a known set fee for any product to be tested.  That is rather like the process behind many of the testing houses we trust for consumer goods.  Greatly the bias is handled in a way everyone is comfortable with and the bias is removed from any trust concerns on test results.

But if a lab has started asking for retainers, which in a testee-testor situation pretty much feel like back-handers, how can we trust that lab’s results now or every again?

It simply isn’t possible.

In the run up to Dayton 2018 one lab appears to have acted against a manufacturer who told them “No we will not put you on retainer.”  Radios that hwhen tested on automated calibrated test gear confirmed or exceeded one manufacturer’s advertised numbers were suddenly reported as deficient by this lab at the same time the lab also went public with information provided ahead of Dayton even knowing the information had a Dayton release date.  Then they didn’t even get the information they released early correct.

Oh did I mention that it happened to be the exact individual radios that automated certified gear confirmed specifications that suddenly had their individual performance questioned?  Was their a problem or was it an uncalibrated test gear issue, or was there something to the requested backhander’s being refused?

And what do we make of the gear that did test well – are those “good tests” or payback-for-retainers?

What a mess.

To make the whole issue more a mess, the levels of performance being tested to exceeds discernible end user’s ability to differentiate.  Instead of these tests being real world, having a performance level above which differences while measurable are not necessarily repeatable nor offer any discernible improvement, they have been hyped to suggest an end user could tell the difference.

The only end user that might be able to tell the difference in test results is if that end user is another piece of test gear!

I happen to have three brands of radios I like their real world numbers well enough to continue to own – FlexRadio Systems, TenTec and Collins.  Specifically the Flex-6000 series, the TenTec Pegasus/Jupiter/Omni-VII radios, and the Collins S-Line/KWM-2A/380 radios.

But there are plenty of other operators who have found MANY other radios offering a performance package that THEY prefer.  I know of one ham who makes a point to negatively comment on most every FlexRadio forum post (in forums that let him) as his experience and opinion truly run against FlexRadio.  That’s A-Okay, for him.  Let me repeat “for him.”

Ditto with hams who perhaps scorn all radios other than FlexRadio System’s radios.

Or those who favor radios that have high scores from testing, especially when we know that at least one non-affiliated test lab may be affiliated by retainer payment?

If you are going to report tested results the test methods, testing lab, and product acquisition need to be trusted – beyond reproach.  Being paid or even asking for payments from ANY of the product manufacturers breaks our trust and makes the test reports a sham.

YMMV and yes I avoided specifically mentioning the exact lab, as they are perhaps owed by the hobby a chance to come clean, fix the trust issue, or simply retire.


Steve K9ZW


Faux SDRs & Vaporware Products at Dayton Hamvention – “The Fake News”

Faux SDRs & Vaporware Products:

Reports from Dayton of new products seem to be far apart, and a couple anticipated products seem lackluster or concept mockups.

Kenwood launched a decidedly non-SDR junior version of what is perhaps best described as half of its flagship transceiver.  “Less good Kenwood stuff but at a lower price point.” Seems sort of radio that they might have launched 4-5 years ago.

Yaesu showed a mock up of a new radio that hyped as an SDR and appears to have some aspects of SDR technology while largely being conventional. From the sparse information any SDR efforts may be limited to mainly generating the Panadapter display. No specifications or price announced, nor availability date indicated. Again what seems like a 4-5 year old product, or maybe more an effort to generate some “Dayton Buzz” rather than a serious technology move forward.

What did you see at Dayton that was innovative, had a price, and you could actually order/buy?


Steve K9ZW