Tag Archives: CW

ICOM 7300 – First Impressions

I spent some time playing with the new IC-7300 transceiver this weekend on various modes. My first comment is that having used an IC-7100 for some time I was instantly familiar with about 90% of the IC-7300 controls. Most of the buttons are labeled the same and many of the setting menus are also the same. First thing I installed was a headset adapter so I can use the Koss SB-45 headset. I needed a plug adapter (which I luckily had on hand) to plug in my Vibroplex paddles. Rig control via Ham Radio Deluxe was fairly straightforward as the USB drivers are the same as the IC-7100.  I started operating on 20m during the North America QSO party on Saturday with the 1/4 wave verticals.

My first impressions are that the rig works well (and possibly better) than the IC-7100 on SSB. My signal reports were solid 59’s and occasionally 59+ all across the USA. Also made some DX with favorable reports.  Receive options make it easy to adjust RF gain controls and filters to help clean up the signals. I like the overload indicator which tells me to back off on the preamp or RF gain or both. The main learning curve for me thus far is in using the scope screen. Once you play with this awhile you get used to operating more visually. You can see whats going on across the whole band and find signals to tune into or find dead spots where the frequency is open. It is also easy to switch in the audio monitor to hear what you are transmitting.

Also tested digital modes JT-65, FT-8 and PSK31 after configuring the software for the rig. The audio scope helps look at the signal quality on digital modes. I did not find any notable differences in using the 7300 vs the 7100 on digital.

So overall I am impressed by the new rig especially on SSB Phone. I’ll likely expand on this review as I get some more time on the rig but I am happy with what I have seen thus far.

The IC-7100 is now setup as my base VHF/UHF rig and I hope to play with DSTAR on it for the first time sooner rather than later. I will continue to have it connected to my PC for rig control and can switch in HF when needed.

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Morse Code Trainer

I need to get back to learning CW. I still remember the code as far as sending but I have not been able to practice reading. I found an used MFJ-418 code trainer on Ebay for about half the new price and jumped on it. Hope it can help get me reading soon.

 

CW Academy on Hold

I had to drop out of my CW Academy classes due to  the health problems. The good news is that I still remember and can send the alphabet and numbers at 20 WPM. I am getting recordings of all the classes and will have some time to practice reading the code and trying to follow QSO’s. The class has been great by the way and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to learn CW.

CW Progress

I am on lesson 6 of the CW Academy course. We meet twice a week online via Skype. Our sixth meeting will be tomorrow evening. So far I have learned to recognize 17 characters of the alphabet. I learned two additional ones to complete my name and call sign. We have covered 6 out of ten numerical digits plus a question mark. I am finding my progress to be quite good in learning individual characters and in sending with these characters. We are learning at a 20 WPM rate. I can read a bit slower than I can send and I often need to hear it a few times to get it right. We are concentrating on doing head copy. Overall this is good progress  compared to trying this alone. Expect to have the whole alphabet and numbers down in two more weeks. Will be practicing basic QSO’s after that.

Been a Tough Week…

First week of 2017 was not too good here at the QTH. My second amazon branded USB hub died on me this week. This caused havoc again with my digital and rig control setups.These are getting hard to find in local stores so I ordered a 10-port hub from amazon. This one has a nice hefty power supply and is doing the job well.

Tuesday, my cable internet went down hard. Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) did not send a tech out until Thursday noon. Looks like the same issues as usual, i.e. low signal strength from the street. In goes an amplifier again at the cable box outside. They also replaced my cable modem for good measure. No internet means no spots on WSPR or Pskreporter let alone be able to work from home.

I attended my first CW academy class on Tuesday but had issues with Skype as I was using a cell phone hot spot. Got through the session but was not able to attend the second this week due to an unexpected family obligation. Overall, the class is going very well. I am sending better than I can read at this point but keeping up with the daily practice.

Preparing for CW Academy

I have installed the Vibroplex Iambic Key to the FT-450D and setup the keyer to practice CW sending. My first class is next Tuesday and per the class instructions I have been spending about 30 minutes each day going over the 1st lesson.This is actually encouraging as I can already recognize four characters! We have a test session on Saturday afternoon to try the virtual classroom using Skype as well as introduce ourselves.

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The Santa Net

I’ll be checking in to the Santa net tonight on 3.916 Mhz at 7:30pm Central to make sure he gets my wish list for this year. Hoping I’ve been good enough to rate a deluxe Vibroplex Iambic key for use in my CW academy class, a RigExpert AA-230 Zoom antenna analyzer and a new MFJ window feed panel so I can test additional antennas with my main rig. Been working hard on this all year as last year I ended up with a lump of coal.

Low Radioactivity Lately

Holidays, work and poor weather and band conditions have all led to a period of low radio time for me since about Thanksgiving. What spare time I have has been devoted to working to get a 3D printer operational. I am looking to use this to build components for antennas. My activities on 3D printing can be seen at my bonobots blog. Aside from this I did manage to test the DC-DC converter to run the Gateway netbook from 12V battery power. Worked great! This will allow portable digital operations.

I got notification that I am on the class roster for the winter CW academy classes. I signed up for this several months ago as there is a waiting list. The classes begin in January and run for 6 weeks and is basic CW training using the Koch method. I need to find a CW paddle for the class. The class is a true class in that we meet online using Skype and video and basically all train at the same time twice a week.

 

CW Training Incentive

I bought a used straight key off of Ebay a couple of weeks ago to give me some added incentive to learn CW. It was pretty beat up when I received it but nothing was missing. I disassembled it, cleaned it and put it back together. The only issue with doing that is that there are 5 tiny ball bearings in each side support that kept coming out. I am not sure how I kept from losing one or more of them as is what usually happened when I attempt something like this.

I made the base from a piece of wood I bought at Michaels. They sell them as plaque bases. I stained it, then sprayed it with a couple of coats of clear enamel. I then mounted the key on the base with a couple of brass wood screws. The action on it feels pretty smooth now and it looks great in the shack. Seeing this idle on my desk everyday will hopefully give me the incentive I need to practice my code every day.

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