Tag Archives: KC9FVR

For Want of Nail, Nothing Like an Upgrade to Peak Interest, and Playing with Go-Kit Gear

In the run up to Dayton my Shack Computer had been acting up. Latency Spikes and gremlins that were giving PowerSDR no end of grief. Thought a decent dual-core Dell, I was even considering replacing the machine.

Troubleshooting found only erratic symptoms. The underlying cause(s) just weren’t easily found.

On return from Dayton middle son Winston KC9FVR/AG asked if we could run up the station so he could try some PSK31, having been reading the Digital HF book bought at the ARRL booth. We couldn’t get things to run very smoothly and after a very rapid shutdown in response to a sudden lightening storm powerful enough to set fire to buildings only 10 blocks away, the system would no longer recognize the Flex-5000A hardware.

Utilities and Testing showed that the OEM Dell Firewire card gave up the ghost.

Quick research at the Flex-Radio Knowledge Center & Forum Archives identified the best cards for performance and roughly $25 later a card was on its way rushing from Amazon.

Took the downtime to do ALL updates – from BIOS to any driver/software/system update that could be done. Also left the machine running a very in-depth anti-virus scan which ran overnight (all clean enough to pass).

The new card was truly PnP (Plug-n-Play) and despite having a different chipset than advertised (putting it into an OK-class rather than preferred-class for PowerSDR use) the system quickly reinstalled the “Found New Hardware” of the Flex-5000A.

Operator error led me to fight with VAC (Virtual Audio Cables) and settings – trouble I could have avoided by a simple reboot.

Once running it was lickety-split to help Winston KC9FVR/AG put a handful of PSK31 QSOs under his belt.

The drive that comes from a fresh license upgrade and an experimenter’s mindset had Winston KC9FVR/AG quickly asking – can I run fldigi from my Linux Thinkpad using some of your other gear?

So to the garage to raid the go-kit stash.

Up went the 20m Hamstick Dipole on 12 feet of surplus cameo-poles and a trial of a Small Wonder Labs PSK-20 I had ended up with somewhere along the way.

We had little joy with this setup, and it is uncertain if the PSK-20 is needing repairs or if we were struggling with Linux sound issues.

So out came the SGC-2020 Transceiver and the NUE-PSK Modem. This combination hadn’t really been used. The NUE-PSK modem had come back a few weeks ago from a full update at Midnight Solutions bringing it up to Version 5 with all the add-on features, and the transceiver had been run but once.

Plugged in the SGC-2020 and cabled up the NUE-PSK and “PING” we were on the air just that quick.

Winston KC9FVR/AG complete a QSO and then declared the micro-keyboard “worse than texting” and dug out an old full sized IBM clicky-clicky keyboard which worked wonderful.

Of course we weren’t about to read the manuals any further than the absolute basics to get things running, so we were hand-typing everything. Macros are for sissies (or for those who read the manuals).

Winston KC9FVR/AG downloaded a PSK31 app for his Android Phone and it was neat to see it decode from the speaker’s sound output.

I ran a handful of QSOs (it is sure a lot easier to type “K9ZW” than what it took him to type “KC9FVR/AG”) before we put the station away (took ten minutes to pick up everything and store it again.)

My go-kit HF gear did digital just fine! Power needs are such that I think I could get more than 12-18 hours of full duty out of each of the gell-cells I have set aside from their storage charge levels, and days if they were topped off first.

Remember that “spark of interest” that comes with a fresh license upgrade? Well it was back down to the shack to run a couple 20m & 160m JT65 demo contacts before promising each other that we would run some Hellschreiber on the weekend.

A couple things learned – in terms of the station the dead firewire card really put the main station out of commission. “For want of a Nail” they say the battle was lost, and for want of a working firewire port the station was off the air. Critical Key Component Dependency is not unique to an SDR setup, as most stations lack backups for mission critical items. Almost nobody has a spare for each item in their station.

Then the joy of seeing an inquisitive mind wanting to explore amateur radio shouldn’t be missing from an operator’s life. It was wonderful to help Winston KC9FVR/AG explore digital-HF and heartwarming that he would only let this father retire for the evening by making a promise for “more radios, more!” on the weekend!

And lastly that it is great fun to pull out the go-kit gear and give it a whirl. Couldn’t think of a finer father-son activity to put one’s work day aside.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Dayton 2012 – Hat in the Ring….

I’ve set aside my worries and tossed my hat in the ring for Dayton 2012.

Concerns about Dayton as place had to be handled – pondering reminded me that there is more than one way to do Dayton, and having bookings a ways outside of Dayton should buffer us from much of the rough edges.

Yes, Dayton 2012 is booked. Hamvention Tickets & Bus Passes are in hand, reservations made for somewhere to bunk, and have booked the DX Dinner Banquet and the Flex-Radio Banquet.

Traveling with will be George W9EVT from Washington Island and one of my sons, Winston KC9FVR.

Planning is moving along with a few “eyeball QSOs” scheduled with relatives and friends.

Even have the iPass reloaded for road tolls already!

Short shopping list this year – while I’d love a new Hiberling PT-8000 Transceiver the weak USA dollar rate makes this radio one I need to save longer for…. someday….

More interested in some more QRP gear, possibly the new Alpha tuner (though it too is a bit of budget challenge in a down economy) and anything unique.

More on my plans as teh date gets closer.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Dayton Dust – Hamvention Reflected

Some closing Dayton Hamvention thoughts before I move onto other topics.

The pluses of Dayton 2011 People! I had the fantastic opportunity to spend time with my friend George W9EVT traveling, visit family who made Dayton the focus of a long overdue reunion, met lots of old and new friends, spent time talking first hand with developers & vendors of products I’m interested in, learned much first hand from those presenting.

The downs of Dayton 2011 Logistics! It is a day’s run to get to a place that bluntly is substandard. Living in the present, rather than taking on the rose colored glasses of a nostalgia for Dayton’s Past, the place simply isn’t “destination quality.”

The ROI (Return on Investment) and CBA (Cost/Benefit Analysis) is still working for Dayton because of the people. Really if I wanted to see “stuff” I would be money ahead to order everything that interested me, have it shipped to me, and return what I didn’t like or want. But with a hobby that is about communication – about sharing a personal interface with others – it really is the people that holds Dayton together by overcoming the squalor.

Having done trade shows, including hobby shows, in several countries I am embarrassed that we pretend that Dayton is a “nice place” to meet & show our good side to fellow amateurs from around the world. We can blow all the smoke we want, but it is simply isn’t much of a place compared to how many of these other shows run.

On the CBA basis there are alternative – Hamcation, Ham-Com, and overseas, then a great number of regional and/or focus events. Last year I attended the W9DXCC which remains on my radar for this year.

Now there is a bit of personal focus – I am not a Flea Market person by temperament, and am busy enough that I really appreciate easy, clean, well run recreational events. I know that this is different for folk who have have the smarts & interest to sift through the bargains in the swap meet.

Dayton Past may have been better – though most of the nostalgia I hear centers on People, which remains a highlight.

Dayton Present is what it is – a bunch of great people meeting in a facility that in many other places would have long ago been condemned. Again the People make up for so much.

Dayton Tomorrow – is a for me a “Big Maybe.” I’ve skipped several years, and mostly had people reasons to return (friends and/or family). My son Tom KC9JGD wanted to go a couple years ago, and if I get a chance to spend time with George W9EVT I am always happy to be the driver. Another son Winston KC9FVR asked about this year, though his school schedule conflicted, where next year it looks like he would be free to go. I still have family in the Dayton area.

That said perhaps it is time to see if the “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” and pick one or more alternative events to attend? Maybe one overseas and combine the travel with catching up with friends & family there?

Look at that question – again it comes down to “the people” and perhaps no matter what that it is “the people” that make an event, wherever & whenever something special?

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Satellite Antenna Project – Next Step

With the Diplexers and Wiring Harnesses completed, it is time to do the easy part – the physical antennas. (for the Diplexer & Harness Build see  Building Microdiplexers with Victor KC9NWB )

Looking locally for the 1/8″ diameter common brass rod VE2ZAZ designed his antenna version around neither the quantity nor price-point were very attractive.  Little short pieces and expensive.

Found that McMaster-Carr has the rods at a very good price in 6 ft lengths.  They must have a special deal with their shippers as the shipping charge was very modest as well.  I also bought the CPVC tube and Vinyl End Caps from them, to top up my order above minimums and for ease of shopping.  Those prices were also very very good, though I don’t know what I am goingto do with all the extra vinyl end caps, given that the minimum order quantity was 100 pieces!

Did find that my circuit boards are a hair oversized, and I will need to make a decision whether to go to a larger boom or if I am going to add a “Diplexer Pod” externally.  I am leaning to the Pod and exterior wiring, with the idea of using the Pod as a future attach point for a receive preamp.

Mechanically I am looking at ways to make the elements easy to remove and reinstall.  Thinking of trying a couple ideas with scrap materials before drilling the booms.

Thinking of using an epoxy putty ball  with a small plastic cross-pin through it applied to each element on one side of the boom and then using elastic rubber bands to hold the elements in place when assembled.  Would provide for positive indexing and I could use letter stamps to mark each element for location.  Have a couple other ideas with heatshrink tubing and a clip.

Pictures soon!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Building Microdiplexers with Victor KC9NWB

With my youngest son Victor KC9NWB I’ve started a Father-Son project to build a Satellite/ISS Antenna and do some contacts.

Rather than buying everything in, we decided to build, and here are some shots of building the Diplexer (I’d been corrected that these are Diplexers to hook two antennas to one radio, rather than Duplexers.)

We’re building a small batch, with two destine for friends.

My workspace was improvised to get the best of natural light and interior lighting.

My Workspace for the Project

I taped a third-hand onto my Panavise and had sourced the very small tools from internet providers.

Teflon Circuit Boards came from Far Circuits and the SMT components came from DigiKey.

Here is the batch of boards being final checked.

Everything was so very small.

Notice the Penny for Scale and the Very Fine Soldering Tip

One of the inductors – a 15nH thing, wasn’t available in the designed package and I got talked into using a smaller one yet! This was a special challenge and the tolerance for installation was basically “nil.”

I think you could breath these little inductors in if you weren’t careful!!!!

Lost one at one point (I was warned and bought extras of everything) and couldn’t find it. Middle son Winston KC9FVR could see it on the hardwood.

When you look under magnification you can see the little coil in it – simply how do they do that!!???

Completed Diplexer Boards with their Coax Cable Harnesses

Next project weekend we will do the mechanical part.

Here are project links:

http://ve2zaz.net/Arrow_Ant/Arrow_Style_Ant.htm

http://www.k0lee.com/duplexer.htm

More as our project progresses!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Bits & Bobs Around the K9ZW Shack

Rambling smattering of small items:

Have started planning the Dayton 2009 trip. Encourage & reminded by Mark W9OP I guess it is time to get off dead-center and get Dayton planned. Have not 100% decided on Contest University or perhaps taking in another opportunity. Have invited George W9EVT to again be my Dayton Elmer. If he cannot make it, I may ride the BMW Motorcycle if the Weather looks good enough (likely not) and I feel up to it (it is a mostly boring Interstate Drive, which is my least favorite motorcycling).  Actually I hope he will go, as then I have a better excuse to run the truck (which I can fill with purchases!)

Gave a presentation on the Flex-5000 to NEWDXA (Northeast Wisconsin DX Association) last Saturday. Was a test run for new presentation equipment at work, and of all thing the supplied Universal Power Cable for the projector failed. Sending middle son Winston KC9FVR to the nearby Office Depot fixed the problem. Presentation went very well and running the PowerSDR software in Demo-Mode was well received. For the core I used the PowerPoint Flex-Radio has in their download section.  I’ve been asked to repeat the presentation for one of the Michigan based NEWDXA meetings later this year.  My youngest son Vic KC9NWB and a ten year old nephew Cole were good lads sitting through the presentation & meeting.

FedEx dropped a large parcel containing the homebrew Buddipole Paul AE5JU built for me. Can’t wait for this week’s rehearsals and Big Band performance gig to be over so I can get into the Buddipole. Expect more and a write-up with build pictures on this antenna project.

Likewise should finally get to set up the 6m amp. Several family needs and houseguests having departed make way for getting at this soon as well.

Ordered a NUE-PSK Type #11 Cable for use with my SGC SG-2020 Transceiver. Easier than trying to find time to wire one myself.  Details at http://nue-psk.com/manuals/Radio_Cable_Guide.pdf (see page #13)

Just got in a TG Electronics N8XJK Boost Regulator for use with the Aircraft Gell Cells I’ve been using for portable. The N8XJK Boost Regulator will maintain a usable voltage even when the Battery has dropped lower. Should improve my operation time, specially in cold weather.  Interestingly TG Electronics is located in Houghton, Michigan where my eldest son Tom KC9GJD is an ROTC Cadet studying Chemical Engineering.  

73

Steve
K9ZW

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