Been on the Air, Back on the Web…

I’ve been away from the blog for too long, it’s time to get back to keeping a record of my ham radio activities…

Since my last post:

  • Dozens of radios and other gear have come and gone.
  • I’ve been to more Hamfests than I can count (or remember).
  • I’ve had very little time on HF, but I’ve had more time with the local stuff (mostly 2M).
  • I’ve gotten on the 1.25M (222MHz) and 33cm (900MHz) bands.
  • Obviously I’ve upgraded to Extra Class.
  • I just received word (today) that I’ve been accredited as an ARRL VE.
  • I finally got a TNC running and was able to connect to WinLink using RMS Express and a TNC-X to get my WinLink e-mail address.

I’ll try to keep more up to date with the blog, as I have a lot of things coming up very soon. The biggest projects in the pipeline are my EMCOMM Go-Kit and 5BTV HF Vertical. Stay Tuned, and 73!

2013 Batavia HamFest and progress on the Go-Kit!

I decided at the last minute to go to the Batavia HamFest sponsored by the Lancaster Amateur Radio Club (W2SO) and I’m glad I did. There was a decent turnout, dozens and dozens of tables in the flea market, and a lot of familiar faces. I picked up some great “junk” at great prices (I love haggling prices down). I found a Uniden Bearcat BCT15 scanner, MFJ 1275 Sound Card Interface, AEA PK-88 Packet Controller, TrippLite 600W Power Line Conditioner, a mobile speaker with bracket, a few connectors, a project box and some 5×8 Matrix Red/Green LED displays. I spent about $75, which I consider a great deal since the scanner alone generally runs more than that. It meets my needs well too; there are a few trunking systems in my area, but it’s 90%+ analog. Much of the federal traffic is P25, but for the dozen or so agencies, I can’t warrant the extra cost.

I made some decent progress on the Go-Kit as well. The jumpers and rear-panel connectors are in place, and I finally finished my roll-up Slim-Jim antenna. I couldn’t have been happier with the way the antenna turned out. I don’t remember where I found the dimensions, but the first position I tried on the tuning stub gave my better than 1.7:1 across both the 2M and 70CM bands. The second position I tried gave me better than 1.4:1 across both bands, with more than 80% of both bands below 1.2:1. I considered this a HUGE success of a match and called it a day. I soldered the coax in place, and used some adhesive-lined heat shrink to seal it up.

That’s it for now. I’m going to finish programming the scanner with my wanted channels, and figure out how/where I want to mount it! 73.

Another busy month, and a challenge!

I had yet another busy month both Ham and Non-Ham related. Here’s a quick rundown of the happenings:

  • I worked the Ride for Roswell. Had a good time, learned a lot, definitely like the public service events with ARES.
  • Added a SMA to BNC adapter to the HT (VX-8GR) and bought a better antenna; a Nagoya NA-771. It’s LONG (around 16″), but I can now work 2M repeaters from my driveway, and I was able to transmit and receive INSIDE my Durango. Neither of which was possible with the stock rubber-duck. 70cm performance was so good before, it’s tough to tell if there’s any difference on that band.
  • I started work on the Go-Kit, it’s turning out exactly the way I wanted it to. It’s kind of involved though, so it’ll get its’ own page soon.

Now, for the self-imposed challenge. I made a G5RV Jr. for the go-kit, but there’s the logistical issue of hanging it. In a true emergency situation, I’d rather have something I can just whip together and pull down in a few minutes. I decided the addition of a “Buddipole”/”Buddistick” to the go-kit would be better for critical situation, whereas the G5RV Jr. should perform a little better during field-day type situations. So, I decided to challenge myself to home-brew a “Buddi”-style antenna for less than $40. Keep in mind, I allowed myself to use any “junk box” items I had on hand. I went to the local big-box hardware store to pick up the remaining pieces, and spent $30.97. I’ll post more as it happens. 73!

A long, busy, productive month!

It’s been almost a month since I’ve had a chance to post, and a lot has happened. Even now, my time is limited, so I’ll just write up a quick summary:

  • Mobile Upgrade – I’ve switched the Icom IC-2340h to a Kenwood TM-V7A. The main differences are alpha labels for memory channels and a dedicated data port/band.
  • Mobile Break-Down – The Heliax has, as I feared, broken free of the NMO mount. I’m using the mag-mount as a stop-gap until I can install a new one.
  • Mobile Antenna Upgrade – I’ve upgraded from the generic 1/4 wave 2M antenna to a Tram 1180 trapped dual band. performance has seen a noticeable increase in both directions, and works on both bands.
  • Tour De Cure – I got to observe EMCOMM operations for the local ARES group during the ride almost 2 weeks ago.
  • Clubhouse Cleanup – I spent a day with fellow HAMs cleaning out the clubhouse and putting up the 160M dipole, I bagged some “scrap” hard-line in the process :)
  • Ham Shack Relocation – The ham shack has officially been moved into my office, so I can operate while I work!
  • HF Antenna “Upgrade” – Using a childrens’ recurve bow I bought at a sporting goods store for $20, I finally got my HF doublet a little higher in my trees; an extra 15′ at all 3 points!
  • Balun Upgrade – I constructed a new 4:1 balun for the HF antenna. The previous switching one I made only loaded up on 6M – 80M, and required a full tuning cycle around 1/2 the time. The new one loads up on 6M – 160M, takes about 1 second on most bands, with only a full cycle necessary on 80M and 160M. All bands 6M – 80M tune to less than 1.5:1, 160M tunes to less than 3:1.

That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll post another update this weekend after the “Ride for Roswell”. 73!

Handheld Upgrade

I’ve been slacking in posting here, but still on the air. I’ve been in regular contact with another fairly new Ham, “DM” and found out that a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while just got his license “EC”. I joined the local ARES/RACES club, and will be observing during the “Tour De Cure” ride, and operating during the “Ride for Roswell”. I bought a Yaesu VX-8GR Handheld for a number of reasons, and so far it’s been an excellent fit. I’ll go down the reasons… Continue reading

Mobile Rig Upgrade

I have a new mobile rig in the Durango, an Icom IC-2340h. It’s almost 20 years old, but I got it for a great price, and the original owner installed all of the optional boards (Tone, DTMF & Speech), so it has almost all of the features I wanted (dual independent receivers, cross-band repeat, dual band; 2M & 70CM). There are a few shortcomings due to its age, like the lack of alpha tags for the memories (this one is the biggest) & slow scan speed (only 3 channels/second, but not a deal-breaker). All in all, it’s a good radio, and a step up from the IC-2100h it’s replacing. It’s also smaller due to the fact that it has a fan as opposed to the fanless design (much smaller heatsink), so it fit much nicer in the space I had available. Some might complain about the limited memory banks (only 50 per band), but I only have about 20 repeaters I listen to in the area, so it’s not a huge deal for me. Here’s a pic of the install:

IC-2340h Mounted in the Durango

IC-2340h Mounted in the Durango

I also got a great deal on a Yaesu VX-8GR; looking forward to playing with the APRS/GPS, and a lot of the other features. More when that arrives! 73

Behind on posting, but plenty has happened!

The nice weather is here, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with the family outside, but I’m still going strong as a Ham. Almost 3 weeks ago I finished my first mobile install, an Icom IC-2100h fed with 11 feet of 3/8″ Heliax (I know it’s overkill, but I had it on hand), to an NMO Mount with a 1/4 wave vertical. Reception is okay, I haven’t had an y issues hitting the local repeaters. My HSMM-Mesh trial run was a bust. I’m not sure if it was because of the antenna positions, power output, whatever, but I only got about an 1/8 of a mile at best. I’ll go back to that when I can gain some height. Two weeks ago I attended the SkyWarn training, it’s amazing how much you can learn in only 2 hours. I was able to successfully work a few stations in Italy on 20 meters, netting my longest contacts so far at around 4200 miles. The new J-Pole continues to impress on both 2M and 70CM, I don’t think it could have turned out any better. So that’s the quick run-down, the “next big thing” is underway, but that’ll get a page of its own soon. 73!

Icom HM-118TN Mod for use with a 706MKIIG

I wanted a DTMF Mic for the 706MKIIG for a few reasons. First, I wanted to be able to access repeater controls (Signals reports, mainly). Second, You never know when it will come in handy when portable. I bought a cheap Chinese Counterfeit HM-118TN for about $18, figuring if I messed it up, I wouldn’t be too mad considering the low price. Although in its stock configuration, the HM-118TN is NOT compatible with this rig, the mod to make it work is incredibly simple. All you need is a new RJ-45 connector, and optionally, a boot to go over it. Here are the steps:

  1. Cut off the RJ-45 that came attached to it (I cut mine about 1 inch past the connector).
  2. Cut off the outer jacket of the cord 1/2″ – 3/4″ from the end.
  3. Line up the wires in the SAME order they are in in the original connector.
  4. Cut the wires going to pin 3 and pin 8 (with the jack/gold pins facing you, pin 1 is on the left), on mine it was a blue and a red wire respectively.
  5. Line up the wires as they were in the original jack, making sure the slots for pin 3 and 8 are empty.
  6. Crimp the connector.

Voila! In case you’re wondering why leave the two disconnected, pin 3 on the 706MKIIG is the Audio Out line, the mic returns 8v into this line (NOT a good thing). Pin 8 on the 706MKIIG is the squelch-out, whereas the mic has it as a data line sent into the radio (although not really used with this mic, that is the “official” line description). The only caveat so far is that the Up and Down buttons are reversed. I’ll probably feel inclined to swap the resistors inside at some point to fix this, if I do, I’ll update the post. 73

UPDATE: OK, so it took about 10 minutes before the Up/Down thing started bothering me. Turns out there’s only (1) 470 resistor which should be attached to the down button, while the Up button directly grounds the frequency change line. This model Mic just happens to be wired completely in reverse. SO, I scraped the solder mask off of the trace near the Down button, cut the trace, tinned it, and installed a new SMT chip resistor from my junk box. I removed the old one and used a small piece of wire to create a bridge near the Up button. Came out pretty clean considering it wasn’t meant to have a resistor where it does now. Here a pic for reference:

The Down button with the new resistor is on the left, Up button with wire bridge is on the right.

The Down button with the new resistor is on the left, Up button with wire bridge is on the right.

RAWNY Hamfest, New Antenna & HSMM-MESH

I went to the RAWNY Mini Hamfest this Tuesday. Had a good time, picked up a few things (cheap), talked to a few fellow hams. It was a little smaller than I expected (only 10 tables), but I was able to find a couple of items I really needed, and some just frivolous.

The new J-Pole antenna is “finished”; that is to say it’s fabricated. I still need to varnish it before I can mount it. Winter appears to be over for all intents and purposes here in WNY, but unfortunately that means rain season. It has been torrential for a few days now, but this weekend is supposed to be nice. I can spray it Saturday morning, and get it on the chimney Sunday afternoon.

I was very happy with how well the antenna tuned. I’m not sure how “resonant” it is on 70cm, but on both bands, at least I know I will be keeping the power at the antenna and not damaging my rig. Here are the VSWR readings:

2M

  • 144.0 MHz = 1.2:1
  • 145.0 MHz = 1.2:1
  • 146.0 MHz = 1.2:1
  • 147.0 MHz = 1.3:1
  • 148.0 MHz = 1.5:1

70cm

  • 430.0 MHz = 1.35:1
  • 435.0 MHz = 1.25:1
  • 440.0 MHz = 1.3:1
  • 445.0 MHz = 1.3:1
  • 450.0 MHz = 1.25:1

I’ll try to make a page this weekend detailing the construction. Tuning was very easy, it only took about 10 minutes. I only tuned it for the 2 meter band, the 70cm just fell into place as-is.

Last, but not least, I’m heading to the clubhouse tonight to pass along some routers with the HSMM-MESH firmware on them. I’m trying to spearhead an effort to get a nice mesh going in the area. I haven’t detected any other nodes so far. Once the old antenna is down and the new J-Pole up, I can use that mast-mount to put up the Yagis for my mesh node. 73

Expanding My Horizons…

While I patiently await the weather to break so I can mount a new antenna for 2M, and build up the funds to erect the tower, I figured it would be a good time to branch out and start playing with other aspects of the hobby. I’m awaiting my postcard for validation for LoTW, my scanned license was accepted for eQSL AG, and I just validated my callsign for EchoLink (Node: 837372). I’ve also been testing the [sparse] contest and station logging software available for Linux. Once I feel I have a solid opinion and comparison, I’ll post more. 73!