June 23, 2017
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My Field Day preps are done. Tested the EFHW and its ready to roll on 20m and 15m. There is 12Ahr of solar charged battery ready as well. I won’t be able to join the club at the NWS office as I have a commitment in the morning I have to deal with. I may start late but I am ready for operations in the backyard. Will get some water bottles and snacks for daytime ops. There is a 30% of rain tomorrow afternoon so I’ll keep an eye on that as well to see if I need to deploy the tarp tent. Rain means clouds so that may help moderate the heat. Today the NWS is advising people to stay indoors between 1pm and 5pm!
Tested the EFHW a bit and am finding Common Mode Current issues if I run higher than 90W. The SWR increases with power and foldback starts kicking in if I try and run at 100W. This should not be a problem on FD as I’ll be running at 5W where everything behaves itself. I’ll be trying computer logging this year as well. If things get real tough on Phone I plan to try PSK31 and have setup some DM78- macros for that.
Looking forward to a great Field Day in the outdoors!
June 4, 2017
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I have two more weekends to prep for 2017 ARRL Field Day. Next weekend I plan to test the Homebrew buddistick on 20m WSPR and compare to the 20m Buddipole I tested last week. I need to complete a 1:1 current balun for both of these antennas. I am also reconfiguring my go-kits. I have a case for solar power generation, another to carry gear for digital ops, and yet another for the FT-817ND and other equipment. I have also sourced a “tarp tent” which I hope to test next weekend as well. Just missing a field portable chair and table at this point. Need the shade and will need plenty of water as well.
My plan now is to run solar powered battery operation from start of the event on Saturday, run 20m & 15m through the day then switch to 40m once the sunsets and operate till the late evening. I will not likely operate on Sunday at all. I plan to start with SSB and switch to digital PSK31 if band conditions limit QRP SSB operation.
December 11, 2016
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Living in South Texas has some advantages especially in mid December. Great day here, sun was out and the temp around 78°F. Took out the FT-817ND and setup for solar operation with the DXtreme end fed antenna in vertical orientation. This end fed antenna needs an antenna tuner but allows me to operate on multiple bands. I used the LDG Z-11 Pro II tuner and ran at 45W today. Solar conditions were pretty bad with SFI of 72 and a sun spot number of zero. That’s right…zero…nada. I only made a few stateside connections on 20m. The ARRL 10 meter contest was going on today and I found this band was open. I logged contacts in Argentina and New Zealand without any difficulty.
Some notes on my operation today…first up it was bit breezy had gusts up to 30 mph. The travel mast worked great but I did have two instances where one of the segments broke loose and brought the wire down.I am going to think through some 3d printed clamps to keep this from happening in the future. I found I am short one PowerPole “Y” harness if I need to use the radio, amp and tuner. I switched from the two 15W panels to the fold-able 52W panel so I could free up the power connection. Duh, I just remembered I have some power distribution blocks that would solve this problem! Will try these next time. This time of year the sun angle is way different than the summer. Makes finding a suitable position for the solar panel a bit tricky. Overall no issues running the portable station at 45W. Finally, there was a lot of noise on the bands today. Suspect it was external man-made noise as the radio Noise blanker would help.
Feels good to get outside and play radio again!
November 5, 2016
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I was going through a local pawn shop earlier this week and came across a Gateway LT4004u netbook that had just hit the floor a couple of days earlier. It turns out to be in great shape with 2GB ram (maxed out), 150GB drive and a decent set of USB and other ports. I have been wanting a netbook for its size and low power requirements to work HF portable digital modes. This little unit fit the bill perfectly and for $60 I could not go wrong. I have ordered a 12V to 19V converter so that I can use this with my solar generator. I re-installed Windows 7 on it and after hunting a bit was able to load all the orginall drivers. Only thing I plan to add to it at this time is a Bluetooth dongle so that I can control my FT-817ND with a bluetooth CAT gizmo I acquired some time ago. Battery life on this looks quite good so I’d say I lucked out.
October 4, 2016
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I did some preliminary testing of the Hi-voltage capacitor I completed last week and found some interesting things.Rather than commit the 40m loop design I decided to try and adapt the existing loop antenna I have previously described. To make this work in a configuration similar to what I have in mind with the 40m loop, I installed the capacitor at the top and used a toroid instead of the shielded coax loop for the coupling at the bottom of the loop. To do this is needed to replace the vertical PVC supports to accommodate the configuration. The reducer I used for the 1/2″ pipe on the 40m loop was replaced with a 3/4″ version. This configuration worked well. The capacitor is in the range of being able to tune this loop on 20m. Previous experiments indicated a good match with 5 turns on the FT140-43 toroid. It turned out that 6 turns would give me a perfect match 1:1 SWR at resonance. Here is the SWR plot on 20m.
The bandwidth at the 2:1 points measured at 45kHz. This compares favorably to the original capacitor which was indicating a bandwidth of around 68kHz. This indicates that the Ohmic losses are indeed lower and therefore efficiency should be higher as well.
I did not have enough time this weekend to run all the measurements I had planned but I did operate the antenna indoors at 45W with the FT-817ND and amplifier.The Califonia QSO party was underway and I made numerous contacts in California without difficulty with this loop. The capacitor handled the power without any issues at all!
September 17, 2016
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Setup the 20m EFHW as a vertical on the 30ft travel mast as before. The mast is lashed to a chain link fence post and the match box is just off the ground. Checking the antenna at the feed point with the Mini60 antenna analyzer showed a bandwidth of 588 kHz with a 1.11 SWR at 14.175 MHz. The antenna is resonant across the 14.150-14.350 Mhz voice band. Then through a 50ft piece of RG-8X coax the SWR increased to 1.24 but the antenna remained resonant. Here is the station in operation:
There was a couple of QSO parties going on this afternoon so there was a rich field of domestic contacts. I operated at 45W using the FT-817ND and the amplifier.Partly cloudy day today so there were period with no direct sunshine. The following power statistics were noted:
After 1 hour Solar panel provided .644Ahr and the rig consumed .380Ahr
After 2 hours Solar panel provided 1.146Ahr and the rig consumed .904Ahr
I was unable to take a final reading as I accidentally pulled the plug on the solar panel erasing the counts. The 52W fold up panel was able to keep up with my duty cycle at full 45W.
I operated for 3 hours and made 16 QSO’s mainly in the Washington State area.No difficulties at all making the contacts and received solid 59’s across the board. Propagation during this time favored North America but Europe started opening up towards the end. I was able to copy QSO’s in progress with stations in Italy and Germany. I was not able to break the pile ups though.
All in all I am impressed with the performance of this antenna and with the ability of the solar panel to let me operate for an extended period even with periods of cloudiness. Here is a view of the antenna and the antenna fed point.
September 4, 2016
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It took awhile but I finally setup the EFHW antenna I has built and tuned for 20m up as a vertical outside late this afternoon. The antenna required no external tuner and I am able to run 45W into it without issue.
It worked beautifully!
This could be the best antenna I have built yet for 20m. I noticed low noise and lots of stations coming in. This on a day with SFI at 90 and SSN of 58.First contact was a soild 59 into Guatemala. Also had numerous stateside contacts all coming in nicely. One other DX into Brazil also 59. I ran the FT-817ND with solar power with the two 15W panels. Was able to put in over 1Ahr on the solar side and consumed only .66Ahr on the load side (rig and amplifier). Looks This will be my EMCOM goto system. Next step is to work on a linked antenna so that I can work other bands as needed. Here is the the whole station packed up:
August 25, 2016
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I setup the ICOM 7100 to run with Winlink Express (formerly RMS Express) software to send email over HF. The software allows direct use of the ICOM 7100 through it’s on-board digital mode interface. Overall, this was fairly simple to setup and surprisingly I was able to send some test emails in the morning hours on 40m to a server in Houston. Be sure to select USB digital mode in the software. I set my power out to 50% and connected fairly easily. I am going to play with the settings a bit and see if I can improve connection reliability. At some point I’d like to try this using the FT-817ND as well.
Anybody who would like to exchange some test email with me can send their messages to NO5V@winlink.org
Update 4/20/2017: Per request I am attaching screenshots of my RMS Express configuration. Note that you will likely need to adjust your port settings. First up is the winmor settings:
Here are the Radio Settings
August 5, 2016
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I took out the EFHW antenna matchbox this afternoon with the intent of trimming a length of #22 gauge insulated speaker wire for 20m. I setup a little over 10m of wire with a 1m counterpoise. This was stretched out across the yard and supported by some shrubby about 4 to 5 feet off the ground. The match box was about 3 feet off the ground attached to the Mini60 antenna analyzer through a very short length of coax patch cable. The Matchbox was set at the resonance point found earlier for 20m. Initial SWR was over 3.5 at 14.1Mhz. Sweeping the frequency downwards I could clearly see the SWR improving until the reactance got to Zero and SWR was indicating just over 1:1. The wire was resonating but at a frequency much lower than I needed indicating the wire was long. I set the analyzer to 14.2Mhz and started trimming the end of the wire bit by bit until the SWR dropped to around 1.8 or so. I ran a sweep and found that the minimum SWR was right at 14Mhz while 14.35 Mhz was well above 2:1. The bandwidth was measured at 455kHz so I set the analyzer to 14.35 Mhz and trimmed until the SWR dropped to about 1.8. Here is what the SWR plot looks like finally:
I have purposefully left it a bit long as I intend to run this as a vertical and am not sure what the effect on matching will be in its final position and with feed-line attached. I just charged up the FT-817ND and hopefully I’ll be able to take this outdoors tomorrow for a test.
July 27, 2016
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I have been running WSPR using my main HF antenna and the IC-7100 the last few days on mainly 40m and 20m. I have noticed that at 2W on 40m I can make contacts to Australia, New Zealand and Japan around dawn on JT65. It is fairly easy to correlate WSPR with JT modes as the S/N thresholds are fairly similar. 20m has been tricky as there have not been many DX openings indicated by WSPR. Most of the openings have been towards Europe in the late evening. What is also clear is that these openings don’t necessarily mean the band is open to other modes even at higher power levels.