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 !

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.

Covid19 & Amateur Radio

So I cannot do an update without mentioning Covid 19, Cornavirus, or the other names it is known by. For me it means a lockdown, working from home and taking even more care, but it does mean i get to use my radio quicker than when working in London.

I have configured my Buddipole on a 2M configuration, as I feel more confident (well had been !) than on HF. It is simply amazing the amount of people on 2M and the repeaters, and I now think that the Poole repeater is now connected to ‘hubnet’ so it has even more traffic – when it stays up.

I was informed by a well regarded amateure that my signal on 2m repeaters was having issues, so i have held off using them, but in my spare time have been trying to get DSTAR working on my IC2200H – so far the results have been, well, frustrating, but the good news is that whilst trying to get out on a Digital mode, i was using my SDR to listen for the offest the MMDVM was putting out on, and picked up a conversation on 550.

Long and the short of it what was a challenging (ok, it was annoying me by late evening) time to get DSTAR working turned into a fantastic 1/2hr conversation with a very local contact and amazingly a contact on the Isle of White -some 20+ miles as the crow files.

The banter was fantastic, a good mix of tech, hobby info/insights and enjoying each others company. I felt so glad to be back out on the Icom on a simplex channel and no reports of dodgy voice outputs, moreso with two very fine amature operators who were a pleasure to speak to.

The amount of operators on the repeaters is akin of how busy it was on CB back in the day, it seems everyone who had a licence has remembered they have one, and got back onto VHF/UHF and learning about repeaters – even with my ‘new’ licence, there is some users who have forgotten ‘repeater’ etiqutee (you dont need to calll CQ, you do need to leave a gap), and the ‘net’ moderators haver done an amazing job in holding 10+ people having a conversation – with Echolink,etc more people are on 2m, so its almost *too* busy.

Anyhow I am so glad to have met a local and also got out so far on my buddipole setup, DSTAR is looking like something I might look at again, as I have a dual 2m/70cm radio en-route with DMR on it, and think that willl give me the kind of range/connectivity i need, but am wondering, was my signal really that bad that I needed radio now, given i got a 5/7 report from the IoW….

Stay safe and hope everyone is keeping well during these difficult times. I know the Radio is helping me alot being so isolated and is a nice escape being able to talk to other amatures, i just hope we all get out the other end of this being able to meet each other in person hopefully.

Not-so-6M, Tidying the lab and more kits !

So it has actually been not-so-bad weather in England this weekend. I have a dedicated 6M radio, the Yaesu – FT650, and havent really used it since purchasing. So having got all the components required to build a 6M Yagi with my Buddipole System, i set about building it up.

I was really amazed with the SWR I could get with this and how high the antenna could get, and I felt comfortable in the moderate breezes. I do apologies that I neglected to take any pictures of it up in the air tho.

Once I got the antenna up, i plugged it into the FT650 on 6m, sadly it was very quiet, i could make out some morse, but no FM/SSB voice. Whilst i was a bit disappointed, i was glad to get the Yagi up, having previously had a bad antenna failure, damaging an expensive buddipole antenna.

With that, the good weather continued and I needed quality time with the missus. Below more info on the Yaesu 🙂

Kits

So having sucsffuly built a KK Moon component analyzer, I am now getting ‘ambitious’, and went for the KKmoon DSO138 Digital Oscilloscope Kit It came with the main IC attached, but had plenty of surface mount resistors to attach.

With *alot* of patience and the amazing maginifying glasses I got the surface mount chips attached ! Whilst not amazing connections, I’m really happy that it worked and i could check all the resistor values with my voltmeter.

for scale, thats a mac keyboard, with other regular sized components and the SMT resistors !

Having tested the resistors I then took a nice break (i.e a day !) and will carry on with the IC’s. Its hard work, but rewarding, and am really looking forward to having a ‘working’ oscisscope, albeit a basic one, it will be great for what I need to do in the lab, and most importantly it is building my confidence for the Kanga DC Kit (which is nearly 50 quid !)

The Oscilloscope kit board, still far to go, but getting the SMT Resistors on made me happy!

Tidying the lab / Keeping the lab TIDY

I’ve been a licence amateur since December, and 3 months in have built up an assortment of radios. Also I had various 27Mhz (Citizen Band) radios sitting around as well. Overall the lab was getting ‘untidy’, and i found myself more frustrated than enjoying working the airwaves.

I set about the routine tidying, and sorting, putting the equipment I want to use when portable/in the bongo in a dedicated box, which will make moving/using it easier. This tidied alot of space right away !

I was then left with desk space, having tried 6M on the Yagi earlier, and found it rather empty, i thought, do i need the Yaesu setup now ? How much will I use it that given the Kenwood also does 6m, albeit on a seperate antenna (can only listen 6M or HF).

more deskspace without the Yaesu, but have to switch between 6m and HF on the Kenwood.

I decide for now to put the Yaesu in the radio box, ready for when I have more vertical space and a dedicated 6m antenna i can use. This has result in given far more space for the Kenwood and my Icom/Anytone which I use on 2m/70cm.

I set about tidying up the rest of the lab, esp the computer cables and mixing console which had got out of shape a bit, so that is now all in order.

I’m happy with how lab is now, can move about and build my kits in relative comfort and tidyness !

A tidy lab is a happy lab.

Prepping for the Intermediate

Although I enjoy using 10W and can make enough contacts, the thought of getting my intermediate was a scratch I couldnt stop wanting to itch.

So I have booked.a weekend class and exam. I’m now using my commute time to study the Intermediate Study Guide, which I have to say is very accessiable and whilst a step up from the foundation, its the right level of challenging.

I’m looking forward to being able to operate on 50W of power (which seems huge to me right now, given I’m on 10 and less usually !). One requirement of the intermediate is to build a radio related electronic device to show practical skills.

I haven’t done any ‘proper’ kit building since my teens, probably whilst at secondary school. So I thought it best to practice first on a interesting kit, and make sure I build up my skills/knowledge.

I ordered the KKmoon Multifunctional Transistor Tester from Amazon which looked challenging but not impossible. I also made sure i had the best chance of sucssess and got a few helping things.

The BURNTEC PCB Holder Clamp, at just shy of 8 quid has been fantastic. Having only used a ‘helping hands’ before, I found this to far superior in bouth build and the ability to flip the board over. It really is a good piece of kit, being both strong and easy to build/configure for various size boards. I think the biggest it would do would be around 7 inches, plenty big enough for type of projects I’m doing currently.

The YOCTOSUN Hands Free Magnifier with Two LED Light has been great for working on the very small parts. As I already glasses, this fitted over everything really well and illuminated the parts perfectly. The strongest magnification has a bit of distortion on it, but otherwise the magnifer combinde with the clamp holder make a far superior fabrication process than the classic ‘helping hands’.

I set about soldering the resitors in first, then checking them all with a voltmeter for the correct levels, i.e. 1) i had read them correctly and got them in the right place 2) they worked. Which amazingly they did. Bouyed on by the resitors i carried on with other components.

Whilst the instructions are sparse, they are practical, giving the best order to put the components in, and also including the direction of how to place them. I did have to google a couple of components (diodes) to verify the right component, but otherwise the electronic build instructions were good.

For the transistors I used a crocodile clip to attach to it so it would draw the heat away from the component. It was funny using a skill i hadnt used for so long again !

I competed soldering everything in, and I think as i progress, the soldering does get better. A friend has pointed out some which could be improved, but this was my first time in quite a while. Overall I was happy with the results.

After about 3 hours of building i got to testing, and amazingly it worked first time ! I did have to fettle the display port a little (i.e. wiggle it a bit) to get into the case, but everything did fit and it worked perfectly.

I am very happy with the practice I got and now have a working test unit for various components.

I’m looking forward to building my ‘Kanga DX Direction Conversion Kit’ which whilst still looking challenging, isnt quite as scary as before completing the mutifunctional tester.

Wet and Windy – but some action on 40m!

tuned into 40M

So the bad weather continues in the UK, i had wanted to carry on with my 2m/70cm antenna project but with the gales, it didnt seem like a sensible thing to be doing, esp as the mast is tall and heavy – even with a light breeze, it could be dangerous.

Instead I looked thru the Buddipole in the field document and reviewed the 40M section. It said it was possible, albeit with a slightly higher SWR.

its 40m but at about 2m in height…

So with the bad weather I got the buddipole setup, not wanting to lose any more antenna, I kept the height at about 2m verticle and guyed down the mast as usual and also thru the veresatee to give some extra support on the horizontal element of the dipoloe. This worked really well as the winds did pick up and mast held up well in the eright location.

I was only able to get my SWR down to 5, probably due to the height of the antenna, but amazingly I was able to receive ! Given I’ve not had alot of action on the Kenwood I was so happy to tune in and listen in. Some points I could get both ends of the conversation, others just the transmitter, but nevertheless, i found it a worth while excersie in setting up the antenna in inclement conditions and also being to use the Kenwood on HF.

Do some more investigation, one other configuration I could try is a ‘NVIS’ on 40m. This is well documented here and as I’m short one wire and the clearance mounts will probably do it another day (having just got over a bad cold, dont want to risk getting ill again !)

So for now here is a video of one of the many stations I could pick up on 40m. It was great, and amazing to see how the sun going down quickly effected the transmisions ! (80m is popular after sun).

Its even quiet on EchoHam (EchoLink)

So with the weathing being what it is at the moment (Heavy Rain, Wind) I’m not erecting my buddipole. I’m just about over a niggling cold, and the thought of standing outside putting up and tuning an antenna doesnt sound a good idea if I’m going to be well tomorrow,

So with no alternative (ok, do have the Baofeng, but doesnt operate well indoors) I’m onto EchoLink, which also has the simplex gateway (Ed. its not a repeater….) MB7IFD on it. Whilst useage varies with hours, it really is quiet on there today, maybe it will pick up again later, or something untoward has happend !

A survey of the neighbourhood this morning showed no felled trees, but the real gusts of wind wont arrive until later today and tonight.. Maybe even those with static antennas have been put off by the bad weather, and as 2M is line of sight, height is important.

In the meantime, will keep Echolink on, and fire up listenig to hack-green HF WebSDR. Keeping it safe in the QTH 🙂

No Transmission today..

With the bad weather looming (Storm Ciara) I have played it safe and kept the masts down, rather that thany injurys, Not 100% when the bad weather is due to hit here, but instead of not doing anything, decided to set about securing the flag-pole mast more.

I set about digging a small hole for the bucket. The bucket will have the pole support in, then thoroughy concreted into the bucket. With this place into a reasonable depth hole and then with more supports, i think this will suppor the mast when fully up right.

I used Blue Circle Read Mix Postcrete – to start with i used an entire bag in the bucket which almost done the job apart from about 2 inches of water on the top. A quick dash to B&Q topped up with a bit more and levelled provided a really study support for the pole.

‘on the label’ it says ready in 10 minutes, and for what its worth, it was very hard within that time, but as the day was ending and figured that waiting 12 hours wont hurt, put it into the greenhouse to cure some more.

Will post pics tomorrow, if the weather hasnt arrived, might get the mast up verticle, but am monitoring the weather first…

Anyhow, my review of the product got published on the B&Q website.

https://www.diy.com/departments/blue-circle-ready-mixed-postcrete-20kg-bag/35713_BQ.prd

Made me giggle it got thru the moderators 🙂

Calling CQ on 2M.. its a bit quiet

I am very lucky to live near a really well connected simplex gateway, namely MB7IFD, which connects into Echolink, DStar and regular FM. It is has quite alot of activity thruout the day as I listen in casually, and tend to make my QSO’s in the evening.

Whilst I like the Ferndown gateway, I do try and get on the calling frequency, namely 145.500, and trying to make a ‘local’ contact without the use of the repeaters/gateway. Its not that I dont have anything against gateways or repeaters, but in a full over on frequency up from the calling frequency you are free from timing out and using the repeater from too long in one go.

So for now I’m going to keep trying, i might publicise when I’m actually going to go on, that my attract some listeners and get some local QSO’s.

IIn the mean time, its back to 145.2125 and MB7IFD.

Hello from M7ALU, Alan K.

Hello therre !

You may have contacted me on the radio already, where I would of already greeted you, however if this is the first time for you to find me, hello from Alan.

I have had an interest in amateur radio since my days at Hastings College of Arts of Technology (HCAT) where a Radio Club was run by an excellent tutor. Whilst I was looking forward to what would of been a City & Guilds exam back then, I never got around to taking the exam and getting my Class B licence.

Fast forward 30 years, and still with a keen interest in amateur radio I find that the classifications have changed, and the required learning also. As such one evening over several weeks I attend Poole Radio Society and thanks to the brilliant tutouring pass my Foundation licence !

Whilst I am not a nervous person, I can say that the practical test on HF and VHF in radio ettiquete had me very nervous, and this is from somone that loves to TALK (and a previous member of TOASTMASTERS, so public speaking should be a worry !). So passed the exam, with only 2 incorrect in December of 2019, and I was straight ot Ofcom to get my call sign, M7ALU becomes active !