Monthly Archives: December 2015

My 1000th Log Entry

Managed to log my 1000th QSO today and added two new LoTW DX entities: Suriname and Wales. Happy New Year to everyone that has followed my adventures in Ham radio thus far! Here’s to great DX in 2016! 73, Rick

Holiday Project Update

Managed to finish rewiring some of the shack for shorter cable runs and lower RFI. The shorter cables are especially handy on the FT-817ND. I can now neatly accommodate any combination of radio, amp, tuner and SWR meter. It is crazy windy out here today so I will likely wait until next week and setup the Buddistick and run the FT-817ND at 45 watts portable.

The APRS cable project has been de;ayed by the lack of a correct cable for the radio. The correct cable should arrive on Tuesday so I will wrap that project up then.

Been rethinking the 20m-10m portable beam project and am doing some EZNEC modeling. The issues I am looking at revolve around a portable 20m 2 element yagi that I can only raise up to about 20ft versus vertical buddisticks.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone out there and thanks for keeping up with my humble Ham Radio blog. Santa delivered a few radio goodies this year that I have been playing with since the 25th. First up was an SDRplay receiver:

blog-post1I have replaced the RTL-SDR dongle with this unit and am using it now for my new panadapter. This unit covers 100kHz thru 2Ghz in a single package powered by the USB port. This unit has simplified my wiring considerably. Performance-wise I have not noted a lot of difference between the RTL-SDR dongle and this unit. All in all I’d say its pretty equal. At first I wasn’t happy with the display I was getting with HDSDR. I had played with the setting some much they got messed up. I reinstalled HDSDR and the defaults worked a lot better

Aside from the SDRplay I also received two SOTAbeams 10m travel poles. These will be handy for portable ops as well as experimenting with wire antennas. Last up was a Ultimax 100 end fed antenna. This is an end fed wire with 24 feet of wire. Plan to try this out in various orientations.

Vacation projects begin

I am on Christmas/New Years holiday here now and have started some projects I have been meaning to get to. First up was making some short coax patch cables for the portable rig. I also took the opportunity to replace the DC connectors on the amplifier with Anderson Powerpoles and shorten the wiring. I am planning to shorten some of the coax runs on the FT-450D as well so I have plenty of coax connectors on order.

I am also building a interface cable for my iPhone to connect to my Baofeng radio for APRS packet work. I will post on this separately as I start testing it.

I have also ordered two more long whips from Buddipole with the intention of building a portable 2 element yagi to work 20m thru 2m. This will be a mighty interesting experiment. I plan to have everything built up so that I can test when the whips arrive next week.

Last but not least, I am planning to setup the S9v33 vertical as an end fed vertical this week.

Time does fly when you’re having fun!

Outdoor Radio

Took the FT-817 and magnetic loop antenna outdoors Saturday afternoon and ran solar powered. I wanted to test out the Amplifier on battery power so I was running on 20W. Reception with the magnetic loop is clearly superior to the end fed wire. I had it pointed to the north east and was getting some great signals that the FT-450D was deaf to. The RAC contest was going on so I racked up about 25 contacts mainly in Canada and the US. Not overly difficult getting stations to answer the call on 20W.

Saturday afternoon was really nice here in the low 80’s and sunny skies. What I did not count on was the lower angle of the sun casting shade through the trees. This made positioning the solar panel difficult to keep the batteries topped off. With full sunlight, I put in about twice what I am consuming with the radio on receive and the amplifier on standby.

ARRL 10m Contest

The ARRL 10m contest started this weekend. I decided to try running the contest as single operator. low power on SSB only. For me, the contest start was right around dusk so the band was closed out of the gate. I did not start working the contest until mid afternoon today and worked till just before dusk. Made 20 contacts on SSB, 17 of which were to South America. All US contacts were to the Pacific Northwest. I found it strange that I did not hear more stateside contacts. I tried calling CQ a few times but got nowhere. After I logged out of the contest for the day, I noticed on the spotter map that most Stateside stations had moved to CW. Conditions for 10m were not strong today so that may have motivated the mode change.I tried using the 10m Magnetic loop on the FT-817 but did not hear hardly any stations.

UPDATE (12/14/2015): Worked 10 more stations yesterday afternoon before the contest ended. Stations were basically oriented the same as on Saturday. All stateside contacts were either in WA or OR and all other contacts were in South America. Checking the HAMCAP maps seem to confirm that propagation is oriented in these directions.

MFJ-939Y Tuner Update

I like the MFJ-939Y tuner over the YT-450 from LDG that I used before. The tune cycle is very fast and works well with my end fed antenna. As I have discussed on my initial post on this subject, the only issue I am having is with getting the tuner to work with the Yaesu FT-450D as indicated in their manual and literature. It is supposed to work just like having a Yaesu FC-40 tuner connected to the rig.The first issue was a bad MFJ-5514Y interface cable to connect to the rig. It took a while to identify this as the problem but MFJ sent a replacement. With this new cable the rig and radio started talking to each other. The radio starts a tuning cycle but never releases control back to the radio. My next call to MFJ and it was suggested that his was a firmware problem and that they could send me a new MCU chip with the updated firmware. I replaced the chip but the problem persists. Next step would be to send the whole unit in for repair. I have decided that I will live with the issue and continue to activate a tuning cycle with the C.S./SWR key. The downside is that I cannot do this remotely and I have to hold it down long enough to ensure a proper match.

I cannot fault MFJ for their efforts to resolve the problem. When you call them you get a real live person and they will make every effort to resolve the problem and ship the replacement parts in a very timely manner. What does concern me is that the cable issue was clearly quality control problem that could be resolved fairly easily on their end.

If anyone else has the SAME problem with this tuner and finds a fix please let me know. For now I am done with messing with this and plan to move on.

Adjusting RF Gain

The attached post gives a great explanation of how to adjust your RF gain control. NY4JB did a super job of explaining what this control does and how to adjust it for minimum background noise and maximum signal intelligibility. Paying attention to this can really help in reducing receive fatigue and understanding weak signals.

Two New DX today!

As I have mentioned previously, I particularly enjoy making contacts in the Pacific. Today I maned a contact with Guam And New Caledonia. Guam was the first station I tried this afternoon on 15m. The station was weak but we copied our exchange perfectly. I tuned around the bands for awhile and right before sunset tried 10m and found the New Caledonia Station. Also weak signal but clear enough to make the contact. Propagation conditions were not considered good for either band and the opening were very short.Just another example of how timing and patience go hand in hand.

New Koss SB45 Headset

I have been searching quite some time now for a decent and reasonably priced headset to use with the FT-450D. I ordered a Koss SB45 headset through Ebay that set me back $25. I already had a cable adapter and PTT switch to link up with it. It arrived yesterday and I did some testing with it out of the box. First impressions are quite good. The phones fits comfortably and have decent sensitivity. The ear cups fit snugly and isolate noise quite well. I did some voice tests using the rig monitor and the electret microphone provides nice clean audio. I had to lower the microphone gain a bit on the FT-450D as it was crossing my ALC settings. So far I am getting good audio reports. Overall very pleased with this setup now. Next step is to get a footswitch to free up my hands to work the logs.