Tag Archives: Omni-VII

Island Upgrades to Omni VII, Orion II, FT-2000 and Flex-5000a

Today after a two and half hour drive and a 40 minute ferry ride I set foot, or more exactly set my wheels, on Washington Island WI-001L, on my way to George W9EVT’s ham shack to install firmware updates on several radios and set up his Flex-5000a radio after he had received a new computer. My youngest Victor KC9NWB was riding shotgun on the trip.

Greengate Farm, Susan & George Ulm’s QTH, was not my only island destination. My official main purpose on the Island was to assist the Island Historical Society with evaluation and decision-making concerning the Thorstein Veblen cottage restoration project.

The cottage restoration will start in earnest in 2010, with the present priority to watertight the building and insure its safety overwinter. My firm has offered some assistance with materials for the project and I have been more than happy to donate my personal time to our Island friends who are undertaking this historic renovation.

I’m especially happy that allows me time to visit George’s shack, and in this case on this trip to do upgrades on several of his radios. George also had received a specially built PC to run his Flex-5000 and he needed it set up.

The first upgrade was to the Orion II with a full firmware update. This involves installing software I had brought to the island on a thumb drive onto a local PC, connected to the Orion with a serial cable, restarting the radio holding a specific key, and running the specialty upgrade software.

In the case of the Orion, with its massive number of settings, this upgrade takes several minutes. As it was the first time I had done in Orion update, I was a bit concerned at the length of time it took to load the new firmware. I really should’ve worried the system seems to work well and once the Orion was restarted all look to be well.

Upgrading the Omni was just as easy, but much quicker due to its smaller settings table. A similar process, cabling the radio up, restarting the radio holding a specific key, and running the special Omni update software. Again the update went smoothly.

Now came the challenge, the FT- 2000 radio. First step in updating a 2000 is to turn the radio upside down and locate a slider switch inside the radio through a small hole usually covered by the right rear foot. This switch is a problem as it is very very small and once you put your screwdriver in it is hard to see the switch. The 2000 also requires to be cabled to the PC for an update to install.

It couldn’t be that simple… no, it wasn’t as I discovered FT-2000 needed a different cable than the Orion or the Omni. A “Gender Problem” — the gender pin out was the opposite of what was expected. I guess I should look closer at the on-screen computer manual, rather than relying on the text calling out in nine pin serial port, before I came to Island.

So in the end the 2000 could not be upgraded, but would you think that putting that small switch back to its normal position could possibly be harder than finding it the first time? Absolutely, it was a time-consuming task to relocate this tiny switch and reset the radio.

In the end the software was left loaded ready for the correct cable to update the 2000, and a correct cable was ordered from a off-island supply house before I left for the day. I’m hoping that George can handle finishing the 2000 update on his own when the cable arrives.

Next was the Flex — and it’s new special PC. Everything was there, it just needed cabling up and the software setup with its final configurations.

The special PC arrived with all the usual Flex software preinstalled including PowerSDR, but it needed to be configured for this specific radio it was hooked to. It only took a few moments to get the software running and the flex on the air. However the first time George powered everything down for some reason the settings were lost. I found this on my return from the Veblen cottage, and I’m very glad that George and I split the day into two sessions to catch an error like this. Somewhere in the middle I found time to to squeeze in a visit to the island gunsmith and to visit with a friend who is a builder & Realtor on the island.

Again a few minutes of redoing the settings to match settings that have worked satisfactorily at my QTH put everything into fine form. With a large monitor, the fantastic antennas, the beautiful location for propagation, and the special PC George now has one very fine Flex-5000 setup. I do need to thank Harry W9BR for some phone assistance when I needed advice. To confirm the Flex-5000 was running right I of course had to quickly work several DX stations, mostly using the Washington Island DX Club WI9DX call sign.

So three of the four radios were put into fine form, the fourth prepared for its new cable to allow installation of the final firmware update, and George is back on the air with his Flex-5000. There was enough time to spare to socialize, walk part of the farm — actually a very small part of the farm — and before the last outgoing ferry for the day. Of course we were recipients of Susan’s lunch & hospitality, for which we offer our thanks!

It was a lovely ride back, breaking into rain only for the last 15-20 miles. Victor KC9NWB and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the world-famous Al Johnson’s restaurant on the way back.



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Back from Washington Island (WI-001L) Memorial Day Weekend

Great Ferry ride and drive back from Washington Island W9EVT, where we had booked again with George W9EVT and his XYL Susan. Memorial Day weekend on an Island, yeah! Adding to our Memorial Day observance is that George W9EVT is a Korean War era Navy vet and I spent my time in the Cold War Army.

Great time had by all!  Huge Thunder & Lightening Storm with Heavy Rains last night – power went down for a 1/2 hour across the Island.

The expanded “Ham Mansion” W9EVT/WI9DX Hamshack is moving along.  The main operating room will be 2-1/2 the length once the plasterers finish in the next few weeks.  The first of the theme rooms to be ready will be the “Collins Room” which was a couple days from being ready for moving gear in.

The rest of the “Ham Mansion” is a work in progress, all framed & closed in, with various areas ranging from needing just plaster, trim & paint to being open walls.  My understanding is the additional rooms will be progressed after the main room and Collins Rooms are completed.  

Various gremlins made radio work fall behind being helpful on other projects.  When we arrived the internet for the whole complex was down due to serious misguidance received from an On-Line call-in Tech Center somewhere out there.  Guidance from one of these “tech on the phone” led to a Router being used as NAT interface between the inside system and the Motorola Canopy system loosing all it’s settings.  

Certainly the phone tech meant well, and it very hard for a phone tech to visual what is a decidedly more complex than the average system, but the result was the entire system being unusable.  We had been called before we left, so we knew there was an awaiting troubleshooting exercise.

Having a go rebuilding the setting matrixes was a no-joy outcome.  Extremely puzzled I broke off for dinner and was very pleased when most of the system came back to life!  Seemed once the correct settings were installed that it took a while for the Canopy system re-authorize the network connection.  

A couple buildings I wasn’t able to hotrod the wireless back up to running, lacking the admin passwords to make corrections, but I was able to get plug in ethernet points up.

Always fun to trouble shoot a system you hadn’t designed or built, specially without full documentation.

The TenTec Omni VII received its bootloader update and full software updates.  I didn’t bring the correct cabling to update the Orion II, Icom IC-7800 and Yaesu FT-2000 units.  Next trip!

Working with the SPE Expert IK-FA it was clear that this particular example needs help – Expert has a new Level-III Update program to bring these amps up to spec.  George W9EVT is going to send it in for the warranty upgrades needed.

After the huge lightening storm – lightening could be seen running across the tree tops like a freight train at one point – we discovered the internet was again down, the phones were partially out and a few of the radios seemed to have reset themselves despite being disconnected and leads grounded.

The radios were a puzzler, as no direct hits were taken and nothing was “smoked” anywhere on the farm.  Guessing that the heighten airborne ambient energy was enough to “tickle” them.  At the peak of the lightening display you could feel a tingle while watching from a covered porch.

The internet turned out to be a wall wart to the same annoying NAT router that had not liked going onto battery backup and burnt out.  A trip out to th e workshop across the farm for a spare wall-wart (power cube) and all was well!

Phones were a bit more vexing, and by a process of testing & elimination we found a Direct-TV Satellite box in the Applehouse Master Bedroom had internally shorted out.  This is the second Direct-TV Satellite box to turn belly-up at Greengate this year (they have a bunch).   

Operating time was mostly limited to testing equipment.  

Did a spot of “poor man’s surveying” by using a GPS unit to pick out relative antenna base heights and spacings.  The unit I used is not highly accurate and perhaps is accurate, relative to the other points measured, by six feet (2m) or so.  As for absolute accuracy the entire plot should be within 50 ft (16m)  of actual.  I will use this data as a model the antenna array in NEC.

DIdn’t get the WI9DX work done I had planned, but hey there are only so many hours!

Far too short of a weekend.  great to get back onto the Island and at least get a few QSOs completed.

I need to ask permission to post the construction photos. Hopefully more to come!



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Contesting with New Gear – Yaesu FT-950, Expert SPE Amp and Ten-Tec Omni-VII

What CQ WW contesting I did from the W9EVT/WI9DX Shack on Washington Island WI-001L was partly on W9EVT’s newest gear.

Paired up were a new Array Solutions SPE Expert Solid-State Amp and Ten-Tec Omni-VII Transceiver.

SPE Expert Amp
Ten-Tec Omni-VII Transceiver

I really enjoyed this combination and after some on-air assistance from Hector AD4C it was a combo performing to the tee!  This is a combo I could live with very easily.

New to the shack and running barefoot was a Yaesu FT-950 Transceiver.

Yaesu FT-950 Transceiver

In many ways the FT-950 is the “Little Brother” of the FT-2000 that lives two rigs below it in the console. After using the FT-2000 it was very intuitive to use and is able to use most of the same accessories.

Now for impressions:

FT-950 – The “Boy Robin” to the FT-2000’s “Batman” persona. Very easy to use and definitely a world-class intermediate level radio offering expandability with a DMU Data Management Unit, mU Tuning Units and standard Yaesu accessories.  The FT-950 is at a fantastic price point for its value, specially given the weakness of the US Dollar against world currencies.  A Shack Built around the FT-950 certainly could be competitive contesting and DXing.  On the down side is the relative expense of the DMU & mU units against the base FT-950.  Many of the FT-2000 pluses and minuses I’ve written about before carry over with the FT-950.  That Yaesu shipped the unit requiring very non-standard and unobtainable DIN-10 plugs to run a linear is a marketing oversight and should have been caught by the FT-950’s Beta-Testers.

Expert SPE 1K-FA Amp is really neat package putting a Kilowatt Solid State Amp, an Antenna Tuner, a Four Antenna/Two Radio Smart Switch, a Frequency Counter and a Digital Watt Meter in one package.  Intuitive to use, we had the amp up and running very quickly.  It does NOT require much drive from the exciter to put out significant watts, so take care when you first fire one up.  We had it tripping out at first. On the downside the DXcase is not very serious, specially given the weight of the Amp.  The lack of a printed “Getting Started” and a printed Owner’s Manual (it is on a disk) seems an oversight on a nearly $4000 amp.  I’m waiting for Array Solutions to advise when my Amp will be in, as W9EVT and I swapped places in the amp order que as the timing wasn’t good for my hobby-fund when the first shipments of amps came in.

Omni-VII looks to be my next transceiver.  I was really taken with the radio and envision running a pair of them in the shack.  Teamed with the Expert SPE amp and using the Ten-Tec 708 Microphone the recordings of my audio AD4C played back were exactly what I had in my mind I wanted to sound like.  In many ways I found the Omni-VII to be what I would imagine if my Jupiter “grew up” into a serious contest rig.  I’m not certain if the Omni-VII’s simplicity vs. the Ten-Tec Orion-II isn’t a better balance for an Amateur like myself.  I’m going to have to do some serious A/B testing between the two to eventually decide.

As always George W9EVT hospitality was only exceeded by his wife Susan’s (better not call her W9EVT’s XYL, even though I understand she attended the W9DXCC Functions this year!).

I’ve promised a couple amateurs who emailed and left comments to write up their “Ham Hotel” with Greengate Farm having the fantastic stand-alone shack matched by lovely guesthouse type accommodations in either the Applehouse, The Cabin or The Apartment, so expect more on the Greengate “Ham Hotel” soon.

Off to dream about a shack upgrade with an Omni-VII and an Expert SPE amp in the mix…..



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