Tag Archives: baofeng

A New APRS Gadget

I have had mixed results with APRS in the past. I had been trying to use an old Iphone as the GPS and TNC to feed a Baofeng radio. This seemed to be hit or miss most of the time and the phone is a bit clunky to carry around with the radio. I recently came across a listing on Ebay for “APRS 51TRACK X1C-2 Plug and Play For Radio with GPS +Battery” from China. The device acts as a small GPS enabled TNC that is plug & play with Baofeng HT radios.

s-l500As-l500

I ordered one from Ebay and after about 2 weeks for shipping it arrived. The unit arrived with a cable setup for the Baofeng, a couple of spare RG-11 connectors, A USB to TTL board with a cable set. No manual or instructions were included. I contacted the seller in China and he promptly sent me the manual. It is in Chinese…

…sigh…

No worries as Google Translate did a fairly decent job of translating the text in the files. Charging the unit requires a Micro USB cable. Programming is a one time process that requires the unit to be dissasembled. This is easy enough to do by removing one of the end panels and pulling out the PCB inside. The Li Ion battery sits on top of the board with a small piece of foam in between. To program you will need to connect the USB to TTL board to the PCB using the included cable. Connect the USB board to a PC and it will install itself as a COM port. I struggled a bit with a terminal program (puTTY failed me this time) until i found that a freeware program called Termite did the trick. Once the port is opened (9600,8,1,N) press enter and the device will display its current configuration. Follow the instructions to change to your call sign as well as any other parameters  (SSID or WIDE-1 setting). Once configured, the cable can be removed and the box reassembled. Hook up the radio using the supplied coiled cable. Set the radio to 144.39 Mhz no tone and put it in VOX mode with the volume turned up. press the power button once to turn the APRS unit on. A red light will blink showing the state of the battery charge. The light will then blink blue indicating it is working on a GPS fix. Once the blue light turns solid it will start to beacon position data.

The unit performs as advertised once it is setup. here are the two manual files I receieved modified with English Translations :

APRS Track X1CF 20150501_BH4TDV

APRS Track X1CF 20150501_BH4TDV English

Overall the unit seems to work pretty well once configured and looks to be a decent value. I may add the optional temperature and pressure sensor to it next.

 

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Update on APRS

About a year ago I got APRS working with a Baofeng radio, a Easy Digi interface from N5CEY and a surplus iPhone running PocketPacket. I basically set it up, tested it and put it away.  In December, I put the APRS system back together and nothing seemed to work right. Over several days nothing but frustration. I decided to try this again this afternoon. This time I got it working the first time. Go figure. For future reference things are setup as follows:

Baofeng UV-5R:  VOX=1 volume up about halfway.

PocketPacket: Tracking ON, Report Altitude ON, TX interval 15 minutes, APRS-IS DISABLED, Audio Modem ENABLED, Transmit ENABLED, VOX trigger 500mS, Digipeater path Via 1 = Wide1-1; Via 2 = Wide 2-1.

Iphone volume full.

Next I will look for a way to strap the components together for portable use.

Setup APRS Station

I finally broke down and bought a digital interface from Cliff, N5CEY that connects my Baofeng UV-5R to an iPhone. The iPhone is an older 4S model that is now retired after having been upgraded. It does not connect to a phone service but the WiFi and GPS work fine. I installed the Pocket Packet app and after a bit of fiddling with the radio and the app I started successfully sending APRS packets to the local digipeter.Mission accomplished as I now have a low cost dedicated APRS system to play with.

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.

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!

Upgraded my 2m Base station

I setup a new Yaesu FT-2900R 2m base station in the shack here today. The unit is built like a tank and the 75W easily lets me reach the SPI and La Feria repeaters with the existing discone antenna. Looking forward to using this on Simplex.I am interested to see if I can hear any better with this than the Baofeng. The Baofeng HT I was using as a base has returned to service as a spare HT. Hopefully I can use it to experiment with packet once I get some cables wired up. Here is what the shack is looking like now…

shack

Treating myself to Early Birthday Presents

My birthday is in a couple of weeks. With approval from the XYL  I am ordering several birthday treats that can be wrapped up before I turn the big five three. First up is a S9V33+ vertical antenna from Alpha. This is a 31 foot vertical wire antenna that can be used from 40m up to 10m and is light enough to be free standing. I will test this out first as an end fed antenna and see if I can get away with not using radials. Otherwise I will install the 4:1 balun and a set of radials and run it as a 1/4 vertical.Will be interesting to see how it does against the loop and the DXtreme. Worst case is I will have a nice light fibreglass mast.

Next on deck is a 30 foot push up mast kit from ebay. It used aluminum poles to form both a tripod and a mast.Plan to use this for additional testing of the 2m Moxon and may install as permanent mast if all goes well. Found a  low cost balun kit on ebay and ordered two. Will wire one up for 1:1 and the other for 4:1 for wire antenna experiments.

The big daddy buy was a Yaesu FT-2900R 2m mobile rig. I plan to use this as a base rig with an AC power supply. Will output 75W….so….a bit more than the 5W Baofeng I am using now. I am very interested to see how this does on the valley-wide simplex net with the 2m Moxon.

Next up a 2m 4 element Yagi

I broke down and started working on a 4 element Yagi for 2m. The gain predicted is about 5dB higher than what I had on the moxon albeit with half the beam width. I had enough #8 wire left over from the Moxon build to make this antenna. This afternoon I straightened and cut the wire and drilled holes in the positions on the PVC pipe I will use for a boom. Hope to finish this for tests on tomorrows local “Simplex Sunday”…

Thinking of a 2m Yagi

Looking at the Yagi again for 2m. The Moxon had a predicated gain of about 7.5dBi. This is roughly equivalent to a 2 element Yagi. So to get any improvement I would need to go with a 3 element Yagi. I’ve layed one out and here are the EZNEC predictions:

2015-07-22_12-25-582015-07-22_12-25-43

The compromise here is reduced beam width vs. higher gain. This would give me 12.1dBi of gain vs. the 7.5dBi on the Moxon.My guess is that at 5w I will be heard simplex in Weslaco and improve reception from the upper valley. I will probably put this on hold as I now have the parts I need to start my HF magnetic loop antenna project. I am also hoping to get an FT-857D soon that would give me 50W of VHF capability.

SImplex Testing of the 2m Moxon

Setup the 2m Moxon on a painters pole late afternoon yesterday and checked into the local daily ragchewers net. Was able to hear the repeater traffic in Brownsville, Harlingen and La Feria at full quieting. South Padre Island was readable but scratchy. Could not hear the Edinburg or Raymonsville repeaters at all. W3OQ in Olimto helped me do some testing. I was able to work the La Feria repeater with no problems with full quieting reported on the local repeater node.

Photo Jul 21, 7 24 24 PMPhoto Jul 21, 7 24 56 PM

On simplex I heard stations from Mcallen/Mission and Weslaco for the first time. The Weslaco station could hear me only once. Stations in the upper valley were fading in and out but could not hear me. W3OE was reporting hearing stations near Corpus Christi and received a text message that he had been hear near Refugio.

So to summarize, the 2m Moxon does show an improvement as predicted by EZNEC. At 5W this is not enough to be heard widely through region on simplex but does give me access to a number of other local repeaters. Note that many of the simplex stations I was trying to work are on 50W and have antennas mounted up around 40ft.