INRAD RX7300 & retain ATU

Having seen the video on splitting the audio source from the main antenna and using a secondary ‘receive only’ antenna for the MFJ-1028 I thought this was an excelllent idea to deal with the QRM I have.

IC-7300 and RX7300 – no ATU tho

This video gives an excellent example of how to install the RX7300 and all the necessary connections. However, I use an MFJ-993B on 160m although my end-fed antenna is only designed to goto 80m. The internal ATU is good upto SWR of 3.0 approx, so an external ATU becomes essential.

My first ‘issue’ was getting the case off. I read comments that others had suffered this as well, beit from overight screws, or using the wrong screwdriver. I found a screwdriver that worked perfectly, but one screw (speaker screw, top left from the rfront) wouldn’t budge. In the end i relcutantly used a dremel and a small drill bit to remove the screw.

I do not understand why manufactures put screws in so tight. I wasnt happy about using a dremel on such a new piece of equipment.

I looked at the ATU cable and where it could fit. I wasn’t going to cut the case, thats for sure, and whilst i dont use the other sockets at the moment, i may do in the future. It felt like i was gaining one feature, i.e. to tap the RX circuit but had to lose another. The Instructions for the tap kit specify that the ATU cable be tucked away and kept away from the fan. However, this gave me an idea to look at could I route the cable around the fan enclouser and not-tighten the screws quite so much ?

I carefully fed the ATU wiring around the fan enclousre, not thru it, but between the fan case and the chasiss of the transceiver. I put on electrical tape onto the wire and the chassis to provide a degree of protection to the cable.

I was able to get te ATU cable and the RX Tap out of the casing nicely. The next step was to do some basic testing of the transcevier, firstly without the ATU to ensure receive was working correctly, then to test some low-wattage (WSPR) and then higher (FT8) transmissions.

I was able to receive WSPR no problem and also transmit and see my transmissions were being received via WSPR.net map. This was on 1W of power. I then proceeded to FT8 on 40m, as this is a popular frequency any time of day with generally good propergation. With 20W I was quickly able to make contacts and confirm my RX tap was working correctly and my TX was working correctly.

I attached the external ATU via the power and re-routed the antenna feeds to go via the ATU. I kept the RX tap still in a close loop to ensure my previous setup was working correctly.

I was pleased to see that I was reaching Europe on 80m and low SWR, so the transceiver was working well.

I will monitor the fan on the IC-7300 to ensure the the wire between the PCB and the ATU are not being ‘clipped’ or any other damage. Next step is to fit my receive only antenna and test the phasing/nulling of the MFJ-1026.

Until next time, 73.

2E0FWE

NOAA & METEOR

As i have been doing more ‘re-arranging’ in the QTH, I thought I would revisit the snippet from the previous weeks posting on NOAA & METEOR decoding. I have evolved from ‘home brew’ antenna and tools on OS-X to fully automated and a specialist NOAA/METEOR antenna.

Hopefully by the end of the post, you will get a feel and and idea of where you would like to start or explore further !

My first interest in weather and amateur radio came from receving Wefax images. I still do this as it complements and also gives me some idea of interference/reception issues as i can usually clearly see any issues in the fax.

My favourtie charts are the UK ones available from on 4608 Khz trasmitted by Northwood.

<insert pic>

I find the detail and various types of graph really satisfying to read and decode via HF.

Following on, i found on youtube about a simple antenna and using SDR receiver to decode ‘NOAA’ satellites

where it started

The audience here is very clearly windows users, and whilst I have a Windows 10 machine for HF Digital modes, i wanted to keep the SDR seperate from that system.

I built the antenna from bits I had around, although it did take up quite a bit of decent low-loss coax to get it up a reasonable height.

Original home-brew NOAA antenna

Get the antenna orientated well North-South effected the signals the most. Whilst heigh was important, gettign the polarization brought about the best results.

first NOAA decodes via standard SDR, gqrx and

My first reception pics, whilst not amazing, really pleased me as the technology was at least working correctly. On a mac the missing component was being able to decode the ‘wavs’ to images, for this i used https://github.com/artlav/meteor_decoder which was easy enough to build via homebrew.

I monitored https://github.com/csete/gpredict where i could manually and getting the direct overpasses with the V antenna produced very good results.

results when following a direct pass over, still some interference, but clearly visible UK and well defined cloud structures

I continued to do this for some weeks and built up my collection of NOAA pictures. I had still yet to sucssfully decode METEOR-2 as that was a digital signal and passing times were not in favour of a day-time working schedule.

We are still currently in a Covid-19 situation as time of writing and since Feburary 2020 here in the UK, so whilst many designs of NOAA antennas exist, I very much avoid supermarkets/large DIY outlets,etc unless absolutely essential, and usually for ‘click and collect; (Order online, pick u pin store, no wandering around).

With that in mind i reached out to Dr Google to find pre-made NOAA antennas. This thread on reddit https://www.reddit.com/r/RTLSDR/comments/8biful/is_there_any_place_to_buy_a_decent_137_mhz_noaa/ gave me the link to the National RF antena http://www.nationalrf.com/satellite-tenna.htm. These are built to order, so there is a wait time, but it is well worth it. I was kept fully informed of progress and still had my V antenna to keep me going. Packaging from the US was fantastic, very well protected and assembly was very easy. I did have to get some PVC pipe to use a ‘mount’ to the mast and a BNC to SO39 adaptor, but these are very easy to come by and have no real loss to the to the receive-only antenna.

http://alz0r.stoatopic.net/resize/bed8b64d-a746-40bc-9b01-291d781e184f_2048.jpg
National RF antenna up approx 2.5m

I used my VHF mast, replacing my 2m/70cm antenna with the NOAA antenna. Whilst the mast can go up 30ft, it requires careful observation and maintenance to keep that high. Instead, i opoted for just over roof height of 2m and a clear line of sight to the horizion.

The antenna greatly improved the reception of signals as later pictures show, albeit I am still using the mac and GQRX and a simple SDR at this time.

the helical antenna greatly reduced interference and improved the length of received signals

I continued with the Mac, SDR, GQRX, Gpredict and meteor decode for quite some time, but as i got busier with work i had no time even to manually decode, as much as I enjoyed it !

The next step was to further improve reception and automate. This was accomplished by purchasing filters and amplifiers specifically for the NOAA RCPT frequencys in VHF and then re-cycling a Raspberry PI3.

The original video gives the necessary filters, but for a shortlist here they are

NooElec SAWbird+ NOAA

Flamingo+ FM – Broadcast FM Bandstop Filter v2

NooElec NESDR SMArTee XTR SDR

As I wanted to automate this and provide a simple way to just look at the received images i used https://github.com/reynico/raspberry-noaa repo, which was by far the easiest package to setup and use on my Raspberry pi.

If your not familar with linux/unix this could be a bit of a blocker, as you do need to manually edit some configuration files, so being familary with standard OS commands and a text editor like ‘vi’ i would say are the ‘essentials’ to being able to use this. I dont mind saying i had to refresh my memory on how ‘at’ the scheduling tool worked having always be a ‘cron’ person.

In practice once setup, there is very little to do, but what i have done is to alias ‘atq’ to make the list of tasks in date order.

alias atq=’atq | sort -k 6n -k 3M -k 4n -k 5 -k 7 -k 1′

This makes reading the scans far easier and i can still use gpredict on my mac to see which ones are the most interest to me. The software will automate, and try, every scan, but if rtl_sdre is already running, will not be able to run. In that case its always useful to ‘prune’ out the less interesting or scans which will suffer the greatest interference. I always priortize Meteor passes over NOAA passes as Meteor decodes seem to be. a maximum of 2 per day. This is easily managed by the combination of ‘at -c <job>’ to ensure no duplicate tasks are running.

I have been running on a PI now for just over 2 weeks, and as part of the QTH tidy up am moving the Pi from a ‘desk’ to a shelf where it will be safe and less prone to me knocking the amplifier and notch filter out.

I am amazed by all the scans i can receive and thoroughly enjoy understanding how it works, and being a recipient to the amazing images that both the NOAA and Meteor satellite send for free !

http://alz0r.stoatopic.net/resize/512eb914-5ffc-4425-bfa0-ca82644ca24b_2048.jpg
Example NOAA IR via the Linux Raspberry PI setup (some interference due to building work near QTH)
http://pi-noaa/image/2020/09/26/METEOR-M220200926-091956-122-rectified.jpg
Meteor decode – note the interference here is to a digital signal, so rather than static, its loss of pixels in the decode.

Overall i can say that investigating the weather satellites has really complemented by amateur radio activities. I’ve learned how important good antenna design is by the progression from a simple V dipole to a professionally built helical antenna, and the use of amplifiers, band filters and the right SDR unit to use for the hardware available.

I have since purchased 2*Pi4 as I would like to use a Raspberry PI more with the other SDR’s i have (Airspy, HackRF) to learn to program and enjoy the decoding more. Building good antennas will only help what i need for future amateur broadcasts as well.

Overall, i can really strongly recommend decoding weather satellites, if anything you get amazing images of your QTH and combined with WeFAX you can make your own weather predictions !

Been busy !

So apologies for the lack of posts – having passed my Intermediate, I then found myself with quite alot of work/other commitments, but heres a condensed update – i’ll do a lengthier one on each topic at a future date.

Antennas!

Up until recently I have been using a vertical di-pole, namely the DX Commander multibander. Whilst I’m happy with how good this antenna is, part of the hobby is learning and trying out new things ! After reading several very promising reports, I ordered the UK Antennas multiband end fed antenna. This product does deserve a write up of its own, which I will do in due course.

Needless to say, I am amazed at how well this antenna performs. It requires quite an extensive amount of space and I was able to re-use my DX-Commander masts as supports. I had ordered and tried to use Sotabeams, but for extended operation, they just didnt seem as stable and well built as the DX Commander. Good news is that I’ve ordered a DX Commander SOTA edition – looking forward to building and trying that out. The Sotabeams will probably stay in storage until i can go out /P /M and use them as ‘temporary’ mobile antennas.

Weather Sats

Having built and used my own ‘V’ dipole for NOAA and METEOR and was really happy with the results, i went to the next level and ordered a helical antenna for improved reception.

This came from the US and I think is hand built to order by National Antenna Whilst I could build a DIY version, I’m averse to going to large shops unless its essential at the moment, the reviews of this antenna are fantastic.

I setup the antenna and started on my mac to start with, and was impressed with the results, as this is somewhat manual and labour intensive, i then setup a raspberry pi running raspberry-noaa Whilst I looked and tried other installations, this was by the far the simplests and easiest to setup. The combination of an amazing antenna and good programming produced frankly astounding results, including my first ever METEOR-M2 decode – all full automated !

First HF QSOs with 2E – new Digital and Telephony

I was very happy to make a QSO with G7VRD. Having metup via the reddit talkgroup and being ‘local’ in terms of radio, we had never been able to reach each other. With the new installation of the end-fed, I was able to make contact on 80m via firstly WSPR then we tried out a variety of different modes. G7VRD was really great in helping me thru and testing various types, having varying degrees of successes across them.

I was also able to make contacts for the first time via Telephony. I had a great QSO wtih G8MNY who gave me a very detailed signal report, including play back of how i sounded, which was really useful. The combination of end-fed and additonal power is really helping me more on HF.

Whats Next ?

So i have a couple of other immediate things I want to do and are in progress, probably the most important is getting a receive-only antenna setup to restore use of my MFJ-1026 which performed really well previously.

Here is the video from youtube which shows what I’m aiming for – with VDSL in the UK i’m hoping this will help eliminate the QRM in my urban setting.

excellent example of noise cancelling with IC-7300 and MFJ-1026

Now i can also run a beacon, i want to get my PI-WSPR station going on 40m, so will see if i can get the 40m inverted v dipole up !

Until next time (which will be sooner !) take care, stay safe and 73 !

Bad weather in – antennas down !

So in the QTH down in IO90 the met office issued their warning of bad weather. I brought my antennas down as a precaution of lightening strike. Following a couple of messages on the DX-Commander Discord channel the UK Antennas multiband end-fed was mentioned as a comparison. As such I’ve not had the time or opptunity to get it in place, and with the wire at 39 meters long would require some prep on how to get it in place !

planning the long wire across the garden

The advantage of the DX Commanderj is that all the bands are vertical each, even 80m can be done lengthening the wire. With the End-fed finding how to route 36m of wire into the space I have was a challenge.

I have made a draft and took some measurements, and in combination with some sorta beam poless and mast, think I have a working configuration !

Will post as soon as the good weather has passed, really excited to try out a new antenna

Its all change at the QTH !

So I’ve had a very busy week or two both on day-to-day 9-5 (+!) and around the shack.

I am lucky enough that I get a gardener once a month to do all the lawns and bushes, and I used the opportunity this time to take down all the antennas allowing for a very good tidy lawn.

DX Commander #1 in place, very well guyed down due to the wind we are having of late

I also wanted to try out a method of increasing gain and reception using a 2 Element Parasitic Array on the 40m band – the youtube video here is really good at explaning how the setup works. I was already lucky enough to have another DX Commander on order before Calum goes on his holiday, so I set about measuring the distances and getting the 2nd DX Commander setup for just 40m

The main difference between a parasitic array is that its just for a single band and the distance between the two is 1/4 wavelength, in this case 10m. The wire *should* be a little lower on the 40m frequency than the ‘driven’ – but I am going to double check that when it comes to more fetteling (cant ever get an antenna too perfect imho !).

As you can see in the pictures, I have followed Calum’s advice pretty much and put the radials down, doesnt matter on the 360, but the length is there for 40m. The main difference is that the radials are directly connected to the driven element plate and there is no physical wired connection between the two antennas. I did check the S.W.R. on 40m (and 15) and it was a more than acceptable 1.4:1 across the band *before* moving the radials up. (Note will be finding a cover for the SO239!)

I need to find a ‘good’ way on proving the parasitic is having the desired effect. Out of interest i did attach my rig master to it whilst transmitting WSPR on 40m and sure enough the SWR did go up, which does at least prove that its resonating a transmission on the right frequency.

In practice I gave trusty FT8 a go, and sure enough I was getting far more +db on the map than i have ever had. Now this isnt particuarly good ‘science’ as there could be so many reasons why that was happening, so i could of got lucky. But I will find (and if someone wants to add a comment please do !) on how to test the effectiveness (i’m expecting something like +3-5db gain) I’d be glad to accept it !

I have also upgraded my ‘main’ tranceiver, the reasons are multiple, but mostly the Icom 7300 got very good reviews and the price/performance balance looked amazing.

The Icom 7300 now in the shack

That is not to say that all the hard work and effort put into the Kenwood TS690-S will be wasted, absolutely not ! I have actually made another addition from Japan, this lovely microphone unit !

This pristine MC-85 came from Japan, sadly without box, but its immaculate !

I am hoping i can use the output switch between the Kenwood and Icom as this looks such a gorgeous microphone and the reviews of it are very promising.

I am going to put an end-fed multi bander on the TS-690S and having seen UK Antennas posted on the DX Commander Discord, done some research and went for it !

I have yet to install the antenna as I have moved my 2m/70cm mast to the rear garden. Putting out a big thanks to the after-sales support from Moonraker as I wanted to fully extended my 40ft antenna so i can use the 30m point as a ‘fulcrum’ for the end-fed antenna, creating a nice inverted ‘V’ to use.

Here is the mast I bought from them – the TMF-2 – it really is an amazing mast, yout get what you pay for with this. I looked at several sites, including this one on how to guy a mast. For 40ft it seemed i would need more guys – but gave the chaps at Moonraker a call to explain my mast, antenna and use, and re-located my guy-ring to a centre point on the sectional mast would be ok for a temporary antenna, with the obvious warnings for wind,etc.

I set about with my son (always good to have some help!) with getting the mast up and really well guyed in. I’m made up with the results, I’ve never seen the antenna looking so good and secure. The heavy duty base will be getting some additional ground-pegs but trust me that thing is HEAVY, its not going anywhere 🙂

40m mast with 2m/70cm J pole on top

I was able to reach all the local repeaters as before, but have yet to get a contact to check my signal report (such is VHF during the day time).

So there has been alot of change in the shack, but i’m really happy with the direction its going in !

NOAA Antenna and OSX Decoding

So I have been using Wefax for getting fax weather transmissions. I really enjoy them and also find it useful in seeing how much QRM I am getting on the ‘wire’ so to speak. Recently a gentleman on youtube by the name of “Tech Minds” published this excellent video

Build a V-Pole for weather sats

Now I loved the instructions on this video and it has been something I’ve wanted to do. I asked “Tech Minds” if i could put the V-Pole adjacent to a 2m/70cm vertical, to which he said yes, so i was then on a mission to build my V-Dipole.

Parts list

PondKraft Rigid Plastic Filter Outlet Pipe 50mm – 1 Metre – Used for attaching Vpole to Mast – £ 6.49

Silverline 868823 Coaxial Cable Stripper – Needed an upgrading in stripping, £5.79

10 Pcs RC Airplane Model Part Stainless Steel Round Rods 3mm x 150mm, for the dipole, £3.78

PremiumX mast base galvanized steel 20-60mm diameter, for clamping the assembly to the mast, £4.45

As i have a number of projects going on, I ordered another reel of coax as well, but think I would of had enough with my existing coax.

Heres what i used

RG-8 Mini Coax Cable 50Ohm Military Spec 50Metre Drum, For connecting dipole to electrical block connectors, £34.96

I already had decent electrical terminator blocks, so didnt need to order those.

I followed the instructions and set about mounting the antenna on the mast – i have to say i found this quite challenging on my own on how to attach the pvc pole to the mast, but sure enough, and with a few ‘oh dear’ (swearing may of been harsher) on dropping nuts/clamps i got it attached.

I then fed the coax from the mast back into the ‘shack’ where I put a PL-259 socket on .

I do love this video, and the guys no nonese approach

the method i use for puting on a PL259 onto coax.

With that i put the antenna via a PL-259 – SO-239 to SMA cable attached it to the RTL SDR Dongle.

Sure enough, i could pick up radio sounds no problem, so all the effort was worth it !

I then set about installing all the necessary software on my HAM computer, following yet another excellent tutorial from Tech Minds

Setting the software up on Windows

I initally tried with the HackRF, but for some reason it wasnt playing ball. Ironically as I knew that a sat should be overhead, i hooked up my other SDR to a basic scanner antenna, and i could hear the sat overhead ! Immediatly i set about setting up my mac for the receiver.

On the mac I used gqrx. The satellite track software is avaiable via macports, but i couldnt find a stable 64 bit version of translation software so used noaa-apt, which whilst not as feature rich, works incredbly well on a mac, as in being actively developed.

I tested with a ‘sample’ NOAA recording, and that produced the required map output ! iwas all set.

I waited patiently for the sats come and tracking and sure enough within an hour i had my first sat pass over ! Whilst the intial result wasnt amazing, it at least proved that antenna, SDR and decoder worked.

My first NOAA decode !

I then looked for future NOAA passes and a good candiate for going directly over was on for 6pm, so i waited and recorded, sure enough, i got a signal and a decode, and whilst the results arent amazing, its a good start in my book.

Second attempt at 6pm

As it was some time before the next pass i set about doing some fettling on the antenna, and found i hadnt got it North-South Aligned that well, so i rotated the antenna and made sure that all the connections were in good form after a full day up in the air.

I’ve not really done a write up of just how good the mast is I use for VHF/UHF, but you can see in the pictures below how high quality it is. All the stages are locking and push up/down without problem, even after rain, they is no fricion on the joints. The locking mechanisim is tough, but gives real confidence the pole isnt going to slip down. I use a ‘light’ guying system as i’ve only got 2 very light weight antennas on the mast (the 2m/70cm and now the NOAA) – any more would be overkill. The guy ropes and ground stakes are incredbly strong and go into the ground some 2ft at a guesstimate, the antenna only ever comes down for the worst weather forecasts.

If you want to invest in a good mast system i can really recommend these

https://www.radioworld.co.uk/tfm-40-2_watson_12_2m_40ft_telescopic_fibre_glass_mast_8x5ft_s

https://www.radioworld.co.uk/complete-guy-kit-light-weight

https://www.radioworld.co.uk/9888_3_hook_guy_wire_clamp_non_rotating

With the antenna back up I now wait for the next good pass to try out how good the scan comes out. Its very exciting (for me) and thanks again to Tech Minds YouTube channel who puts really great content !

I’ll upload my pics to my STOATOPIC account as I get more decodes

gqrx receiving noaa 18
gpredict communcating with gqrx
tracking NOAA18 as it flys over my QTH

Tracking pattern

tracking of the pass, i can pick it up from 21:43
Decode in NOAA-APT
Its another fuzzy one!
only the code-strip is visble, but keep trying !

The Quest to Reduce QRM – DSP & New PC and more in progress !

  • bit of a longer post today so grab a cup of tea is recommend, else scroll through the page until you get to the bit you want to know about

Several weeks ago I was browsing the local 2nd hand radio shop where my TS690 came from, and amazingly they had the DSP-100.

Kenwood DSP-100 – finding chicken teeth is easier

The DSP-100 is one of the first ever Digital Signal Processors. Kenwood were pretty ahead of the game when they released it. You will see all the filters and features you see in this unit in most modern transceivers, but this is (I guess) about 20+ years old, and are hard to come by. I dont mind saying this unit, 2nd hand was £333 ,which is only £40 different of what I paid for the TS690S, but what it brings to the radio is RF filtered and processed. The promise of ‘hi-fi’ quality SSB, AM, CW and RTTY was too good to pass up. And it looks gorgeous too 🙂

When I first set it up with my TS-690s I connected in my xggcomms Kenwood interface I started running into issues. I honestly believe this is no fault of the xggcomms device, but moreso on how the RS232 signal from the DSP-100 unit is processed and fed into the transceiver. Its fair to say whilst I was overjoyed in having the DSP, alot of what i do requires a good CAT connection to constantly adjust the frequency (FT8 & WSPR), so I reverted back to the Xggcomms interface only and started investigating.

Upon searching, other people had experience similar, but not identical issues. The key to fix this was the IF-232C. This translates the serial input into signals at the correct levels for the DSP & the TS690s.

Up until now I have been using a laptop, which had become increasingly over burdened with USB dongles/hubs coming out of it, also getting the computer to be ‘RF Friendly’ and grounded proved a challenge. The only way i could see to easily and reliably RF was via the USB port, and this little lenovo laptop computer already had *alot* coming out of the USB ports.

With that I decided to get a dedicated full-size ham-radio PC. Nothing expensive or new, in fact I was looking for ‘older’ models with a native DB9 Serial interface so USB to Serial issues would no longer be a problem. This HP Elite 8200 met the specification needs for what I would be using the computer for and was a reasonable price/availablity. I could add all the audio inputs and outputs to the native connectors and also use the on-board serial (or so he thought…)

HP Elite ports – native Serial Port and audio on-board

Having migrated PC i went about installing first the apps I know, namely Fl Digi and FL Rig. I have been using these for sometime for WeFax and love getting the images in. The good thing about reducing the QRM, i can visually see it has been reduced, as I will show later.

I did run into some issues with communicating with the PC, the Serial Port settings had to be changed on the PC also, by now I had also discovered i had ordered the wrong cable from RS Electronics, but have a replacement on the way. I went back to using a USB to RS232C interface for now, which after some tweaking worked. I’m sure I’m not the only person who would still setup a IF-232C, so here are the settings I used between my PC and the RS232C.

Screenshot of Windows PC Running Windows 10 and USB Prolific based RS232 connector

Incase its hard to read on the screen, heres the tabulated form

SettingValue
Bits Per Second4800
Data Bits8
ParityNone
Stop Bits2
Flow ControlHardware
AdvancedLeave FIFO Buffers at max and on
Table of Settings for the RS232 Port on Windows for Kenwood TS690S and IF232C

In the FL Rig for the Serial port the settings are as follows (Select TS450S as the transceiver) :-

SettingValue
Baud4800
2-StopBitsEnabled
PTT via CATEnabled
RTS/CTSEnabled
Retries..Byte intvDefaults
Init (Click)Connected
FLRig Settings
Kenwood DSP-100 with the IF-232C

Now I dont mind saying that I’m still learning, so understanding what filter to use when is very much a case of ‘try it and see’, but i will show a comparison between before I started all the QRM clean up and the acculmation of what I have done so far *plus* the use of the DSP-100.

WeFAX – local QRM is quite clear with the ‘banding’ visible across the otherwise clear image

As you can see in the above image, there is alot of QRM in the picture, the ‘banding’ consistant across the image, in this case probably caused by the Ethernet over Power adaptors, is very clear.

Here is a scan today, same antenna, but will all the additonal work to reduce QRM and the DSP in Receive mode filtering.

Reduced QRM, what you do see is from a fan running because its hot today 🙂

When less electical items in the house are running, namely fans, washing machines and the like here is an example image. Again, this is the same antenna, same external line filters/chokes and the DSP and recent QRM work outcome.

The ice-chart from Hamburg

The ice-chart from Hamburg is the equivlant for me as the last row on the eye-test exam. The letters on it are incredbly small and the details/dots equally so. Whilst with a zoom there is some slight distortion (so more to be gained!) there is a total absence of the QRM which was so present in the first WeFax image shown.

I am adding a MFJ-1026 to the mix now (Thank you Nevada radios, you are doing a great job during the lockdown !) and I cannot thank Steve from Xggcomms enough for the assistance he has given me. I asked Steve for some help on how would I go about connecting both the xggcomms and mfj-1026 at the same time, as they need access to the T/R Control line present on the ACC-2 port. Sure enough Steve was good enough to reply on how to do this, by way of opening up the connector and adding a connection to pin 13 and ground (I used pin 12 for ground).

From Page 22 of the TS690S user manual

I had recently performed an inventory of all the wires/cables,etc I had, so it was easy to find the phono socket I required to connect the back of the MFJ-1026 phono socket to the ACC2 DIN plug.

I first tested the connectivity between socket and plug, to ensure it would work correcly before opening up the xggcomms. I am generally unhappy about opening working equipment in that I could break it and make it unoperational, but as Steve had already offered his support should anything go wrong, i bit the bullet and went for it. Needless to say, it wasnt an easy job for me who doesnt do this type of soldering reguarly.

I had already pre-tinned and checked the continuity between socket and wire on the phono socket, so was confident that as long as I was careful I would be able to add the necessary wires to the respective pins.

I dont mind saying that upon putting the shielding on and checking before plugging in that i found that the case (which should be grounded/seperate) ended up being ‘shorted’ and no resistance was shown on the voltmeter. Undeterred I undone the case and carefully applied a small piece of masking tape across the top pins ‘tucking’ between pins to give some isolation. I apologize i didnt take a picture of this. This had the required effect and that when the casing and flexible connector were restored, the isolation between pins had been restored.

Having completed the cable, the next step is to install an external auxiliary antenna for the MFJ-1028 to match against. I considered several ideas, as in just using a simple end-fed piece of wire, to a range of ‘small’ antennas from Russia that attracted QRM to be used in this way. In the end I decided to get another DX Commander. Whilst I wont totally multi-band this will all 6 elements (in particular 80m requires alot of space) I can setup the 2nd vertical ‘auxiliary’ about 2~3 meters from the ‘transmit’. With this I should be able to ‘phase out’ both any local QRM as well as distant QRM meaning I should not only be able to get out more cleanly, i should also be able to hear and filter those very feint remote signals that currently sit ‘below’ the noise table.

As ever, I will keep posting with my battle with QRM, which I think I am winning one week at a time.

Adding a webcam to the mast

Having had a webcam available to me for some time since I now use a mac which has an in-built camera, I thought I’d put it to good use.

linux desktop now acts as a fancy router, main desktop for me ia iMac Late 2013 model !

There are a number of really good mast-webcams on the Internet/Youtube, so thought I’d give it a try myself. The webcam is a cheap-er Logitech one as I know that some of these cameras can get very expensive (4K/remote control,etc). Im not 100% this from Argos is an identical one, but its a smilar price/looking and all powered via USB.As I’m not sure of the longevity of the camera given its outside, something on the cheaper end of the webcam market is in order !

there was alot of usb cable to go up, or not as the case maybe !

The mast is approximately 10 meters tall and has my 2m/70cm J-Pole on it. It is well rigged and secured with a heavy duty mast vertical and ground stakes which are very well driven into the ground. I do take it down when the weather is predicted to get quite bad, but i can still reach Poole and of course my DRM hot-spot for chatting on Talk Groups via the Internet.

mast with camera and J Pole – one element is wavign around but after checking all is good on 2m and 70cms

The first challenge is that a regular webcam comes with around a 1 meter cable attached to it. I needed a good quality cable that would introduce as little loss as possible. Here the RS USB 2.0 Active Repeater Cable comes into play. I actually ordered 3 of these and to start with did attach all 3 to make sure the cables are not too tight or pulling, but 1 does the job nicely, and I’m left with two very high quality usb repeating cables for other projects.

For software I used free streaming software provided Open Broadcast System, namely OBS Studio which is available here It was very easy to setup and integrates easily with you-tube.

well rigged mast ensures that it will stay up until i wan it to. The USB cable doesnt interfere or go near coax until the feeder.

I entered in the required Token for streaming from YouTube and sure enough the webcam was on air !

The mast cam – for as long as the camera lasts !

I was really thankful for WY7W for checking the camera out and also sharing his amazing webcam video as well – i have to admit i was just ever so slightly envious of his amazing QTH 🙂

Well I’m hoping the camera holds out, be interesting to see how long it last

— additional 25/5

I’ve since had to remove the webcam due to QRM from the USB Cable. When i find time/have reduce all the other QRM in the shack i’ll re-introduce the camera, for now it sadly has to stay off.

DX Commander – Adding Radials

The DX Commander comes with 100m of very good wire, which is enough for making the 4 element (40,30,20,17m) vertical and some for radials. Having already bought 50 meters of wire for 80m I was still down on the count for both radials and the ‘all band’ – having complete the ‘all-band’ construction it was now time to sort the radials !

With the orignial wire and radials I had around 28-30 radials, which whilst much better than only 1 and improvement on 15, is still slighty short for 80m and also more radials=higher Db out at other wave lengths.

So what is the science about radials ? The Calum has a good video to help, and the references are very good, so I’ll put that here first.

Radial videos from Calum

So basically adding radials helps (I did try to find a video of a person fallilng off a boat getting onto a pier, but was getting to distracted…) I took 50 meters of wire (the same type I had use on the verticals) and set about making into 3.5 meter lengths, which some great help from my son Paul which saved my back alot in terms of getting up and measuring and cutting !

With the cutting done, it was time to return indoors for strip, crimp and solder !

I then returned outdoors to install the addtional elements. I doubled up on one existing element, but had a pretty decent fan of 3.5m wire elements going on now.

I’d need to an exact recount (will do so later) but I think I now have enough radials to accomodate the 80m vertical.

With having added the radials it was time to test ! For this I use FT8 as it has a great map and includes a signal report when a QSO is complete.

Reaching Kuwait on 17m

I was now reaching Kuwait on 17M and even better was that I could see the call sign in my WSJTX screen – i had to give it a try ! And sure enough within a few minutes (this guy was was getting alot of QSO’s in) I had made contact !

Contact with 9K2OW in Kuwait – a staggering 2,888 miles on 10 Watts of power !

So i think i could continue to add more radials, but for now I’m happy with how the DX Commander is performing and the radials are performing their function. I will investigate more ‘science’ based ways of radial performance, but his helps for now !

DX Commander – all bands & fettling

So its been a bank holiday here in the UK and its allowed me to work on quite a few different things (including re-wiring the Mazda Bongo door looms). When I got the DX Commander it came with enough wire for 4 verticals and the radials to support it, but I purchased some more wire from Radio World, namely the Watson Radio Products EQ Equipment Wire which goes for 40 per meter. I used Radio World as I had other bits and bobs coming from them as well, and my word, they are so QUICK to deliver (UPS Everything !).

I checked from the list what additonal wires I would need to make up., in this case only the 10m and 12m. Having learned from trying to measure the wire indoors I now measure all my wire outside. I have 3 meter workmans metal tape which so far has done me brilliantly in getting accurate measurements.

Wire (Frequency M)Length to cut
10m250cm
12m284cm
wire to cut for 10m & 12m

Having cut the cable I could set about using my new crimping tool I had got from Amazon, the Vastar 2 in 1 Insulated Ratcheting Wire Terminals Crimper (AWG23-10,AWG23-7. The reviews and price (£26.99)really hooked me, given how much just the connectors cost from Halfords.

So the first part was to obviously lower the mast, and then remove the existing wires, Going from 4 to 6 requires adjustment as per DX Commanders docs (pg 2) here.

I also reprinted all new labels, removing the existing ones. One thing I didnt do orginally was to put labels on the bottom plate, so this time I would ! First I organized the cables so they was easy to pick up add, not having things on the floor and in a mess really adds to health and saftey when doing this kind of work.

wires in respective order of frequency (10,12,17,20,40,80 – the long green monster!)

With the mast lowered I followed the instructions and relocated the SO239 feed wire and the 80m connection

movement of feed wire and labelling up

What really helps is the DX Commander stickers. On my spreaders i do them so that they should be aligned when looking down the mast, this gives me a good point of reference.

To start with I just feed the 80m wire up to where it would be for 30m and taped it down. I then worked around the mast feeder positions adding labels as I worked in each new wire.

Now the DX Commander/Calum does say that the clips used on the paracord are hard to undo once set, as I found. Having to try and extract one, manage to break a clip, and I had no spares. So, i thought, well superglue it is then ! With using the YOCTOSUN Hands Free Magnifier, i was able to get it to glue pretty much back on. I was then with the existing cut paracorde and elastic cable to add the other elements which required some vertical tensile strength.

I continued to add all the elements and was happy with the tension and how tidy they are. I also took some time to put some tape around the clips where sometimes the wind will blow and wires get caught in the juberliee clips. As I’m not taking the mast down and collapsing, this wont effect me in the short-term.

With assistance from my son, we got the mast vertical and I could start adding the existing radials I have. I add the radials in a N/E/S/W layout starting from the feed point, and adding where i have capacity. I also done a ground-visual of the 2m/70cm with my iphone (10x max zoom) and could see it was in good shape up there after I had raised it on Friday.

Testing and Results

So the next step would be to test. For this i used the two main data modes I currently use, being FT8 and WSPR. I used WSJTX v2.1.2 and finding a ‘gap’ to press the ‘tune’ button. This would give me repeatable results. I am using the TS-690S internal SWR reading and a 2nd hand HF SWR Transceiver (YW-3) for the external readings.

BandSWR TransceiverSWR MeterNotes
101.11.3
122.280
171.41.6
20OFFSCALE2.5RX is very clear 5/9
402.21.1
802.11
160OFFSCALETo be expected
30OFFSCALE80m wire ?
151.63Does the VV-3 work at this frequency ?
122.13
FT8 Testings with new elements on 10+12m and resonant frequencies/others in WSJTx
BandSWR TransceiverSWR MeterNotes
1011.25 Watts is the min setting on the transmit
1222.5
171.31.3
20OFFSCALE
402.91.1
801.51.1
160N/A
30N/A
151.41.5
1222.1

I am really impressed with the S.W.R. on all the bands, whilst 20M gave a high reading, i suspect that the curve on this band is quite specific. Reception is very strong, so the wire is doing its job in selecting the fequency nicely.

Whilst I wasnt expecting 160m and 30m to be available, for thorughness and future recording, added them (should of done 6m in hindsight). I was happy to see 15m and 12m resonating nicely with low S.W.Rs on of 1.6 and 2.1 respectively.

I will upload a gallery as there is so much evidiential data to show,so browse thru at your lesuire.