December 7, 2017
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Back in July, I did some work to get packet winlink working over the local HF packet nodes. At the time, the local digipeter was not operating so I was not able to make a solid enough connection to exchange mail. The digipeter node is now operational here in Brownsville. I gave it a try after reviewing how I had done it before using the IC-7100 and a software soundcard modem. Quick review:
- CAT7200 software is installed and then run to create a com port that the IC-7100 will recognize for CAT control.
- UZ7HO Sound Modem software performs the TNC function via soundcard mode.
- RMS Express is run in packet winlink mode to exchange mail.
The radio is set manually to the digipeter frequency which in my case is 145.01 Mhz. An ultra important step is to set the mode to FM-D. Once all this was set I was successful in sending and receiving email at 1200 baud. Not bad for a soundcard mode.
August 23, 2017
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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.
July 1, 2017
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I started looking into how to use VHF Winlink with the Icom 7100 and it’s built in sound card. I am close to getting this working. The Mail server nodes are all in the Harlingen Tx area about 30-40 miles from my QTH. The closest working digipeter is in La Feria, TX. Sadly, there does not appear to be a working digipeter in Brownsville. In order to get everything working you will need the following:
- CAT7200 software – This creates a virtual serial port that maps to the IC-7100 USB CV-I interface. Pretty handy software and should work for other older programs as well. Good overview of the setup can be found on WB4SON’s blog.
- UZ7HO SoundModem – This is a software TNC that connects to the virtual port created above and to the RMS Express software via TCP connection. W2YG has some good material on setup for Signalink hardware.
- RMS Express – I have used this before for HF email using WINMOR. For VHF at 1200 baud you will need to use packet winlink.
For setup info recommend seeing the video by K4REF showing an overview of the usage. I cannot report 100% success at this time. I am able to connect to the mail server and start handshaking with it. Unfortunately, no mail has been exchanged. I suspect that packets are being lost in the exchange resulting in retries and eventually it gives up. I’ll be playing with this some more and see if I can get a message through. Hard part is done with the rig and software setups.
April 12, 2017
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It took long enough but I finally setup the IC-7100 for VHF/UHF use. The rig was programmed with the local repeater frequencies using RT-Systems programming software and a download from Repeater Book. Pretty straightforward overall. I should be able to use the IC-7100 on digital VHF nets run hear locally. There is a 6:30 net on Wednesdays through the repeater and a Simplex net on Thursdays at 7pm. I will still share the discone between this rig and the Yaesu FT-2900R.
One thing I noticed thus far is that he IC-7100 is hitting the repeaters in Harlingen and in South Padre Island. Not sure why this is but glad it seems to work.
Next up I’ll try and configure DStar.
April 4, 2017
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Tropo Ducting is on this morning (8:30am) in our area on 2m. Check it out:
November 7, 2016
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I dug around in a junk box and found a TV transformer and a length of 300 Ohm twin lead. Looking at the frequencies of the local TV channels, they are spread between 506 and 674 MHz UHF. Channel 5 is on 210Mhz VHF. I am thinking of cutting a 1/2 wavelength of the twin lead cut for 580MHz and making a folded dipole out of it. I’ll place the transformer right at the feedpoint. It strikes me that this would work better than the dipole I sourced from the flea market. I’ll build one of these and do an A vs. B test over the next few days.
I may also try a coaxial dipole made from RG-59 or RG-6 coax just for grins as well. That could end up being and even cheaper version that is at least tuned to the TV frequencies.
I figure the cost of making one of the dipoles is around $5 with the transformer being the bulk of the cost. The coaxial dipole would eliminate the need for a transformer. 300 Ohm twin lead for TV is getting hard to find but I am expecting decent performance.
The loop antenna makes some sense as being better than the dipole. It has some directivity, gain and it is better matched to the TV transformer.The crossed loops that are at the flea market would make sense in that they provide a more omnidirectional pattern (assuming that they are properly constructed).
April 28, 2016
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W8WKE runs a Wednesday night digital net at 6pm on our local repeater system. I had been wanting to try it for sometime but did not have an interface for my VHF rig. Clifford, N5CEY, hooked me up with one of his Easy Digi USB interfaces for my Yaesu FT-2900R rig. I set up Fldigi on my radio laptop and set it all up to the rig. The net uses MT63-2000L protocol. When the net started I was able to start decoding the transmission without any issues. Unfortunately, I could not transmit. The Interface handles the PTT with the rig and appears to the PC as a serial COM port. I had both DTR and RTS enabled but nothing worked. Then I noticed a small enable check box above the COM setting. I enabled it and the transmit started working without a hitch. I have played with HF modes on DM780 so I need to now learn Fldigi. When I get back from my next business trip I plan to hook up the VHF antenna to the IC-7100 and try and work it from there with HRD. Working this net was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to trying it again.
April 4, 2016
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I broke down this week and bought an ICOM 7100 rig this week. I have it installed with an A/B switch to the Yaesu FT-450D so that I can use both (though not at the same time). As usual, any changes to my shack wiring has caused issues with RFI. I have resolved most of these except I am noticing my HRD logbook locks up occasionally. This is a sweet rig. I have tested it on SSB on the HF bands and got the internal sound card modes working with PSK31 and JT65/JT9. It has some neat DSP features on Phone that really work. The automatic Notch filter seems to work on most birdies and the noise reduction works quite well. Still learning many of the features and doing some A vs B comparisons with the Yaesu. It has DSTAR built in so I will be trying to play with the local DSTAR repeater. Also looking forward to try and do some satellite work with it as well.
I asked Cliff, KF5INZ, for one of his Easy Digi interfaces for my FT-2900R so that I can work the weekly digital VHF net. Cliff makes these interfaces in Los Fresnos and ships them globally. I picked it up from him at the CHARRO meeting last Saturday and will likely start getting it setup in time for Wednesdays net. The 7100 has this capability built in but I will likely be using the Yaesu for for this purpose.
July 17, 2015
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I finished up the 2m Moxon antenna today. I had bent the copper wire elements a few days ago after having straightened the #8 solid wire. Today just had to make some measurements, cut some PVC pipe, drill a few holes and solder up the feed line. All told a pretty quick build with the main issue taking time to get the measurements right. I called up W3OQ across town for a simplex radio check with the Moxon hooked up to my 5W Baofeng HT. I held it up, oriented vertically as high as I could reach and W3OQ reported full scale (13 bars) at his QTH. My 4W HT with the discone up about 12 feet scored 9 bars. Confirmed that there was directivity. Signal dropped to 5 bars on the backside. Looks like for an initial test it worked fine.
I am very impressed with how compact this antenna is. It is a rectangle only 29 inches by just less than 11 inches. Next steps will be to try simplex again with the antenna mounted up as high as I can get it on the painters pole. Here’s a picture of the completed Moxon
June 30, 2015
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Some local hams have been experimenting with VHF simplex for communicating up and down the valley. The guy who usually leads these experiments is located in Brownsville and has his VHF vertical mounted on a 40 foot tower. He is able to communicate with other hams up and down the valley depending on the other hams configuration. I can communicate easily with him from my home QTH but I am deaf to all but one other local ham on simplex.
My VHF station is spartan at best. I use a 4W Baofeng handy talkie connected to a discone antenna that is up about 10 feet. I get no gain from the discone. This setup works real well for hitting the local repeater and for limited local simplex. I started thinking about the geographic location in respect to other stations in the valley and plotted the following map:
My QTH in Brownsville is in the lower right hand side of the map. The Rio Grande River is the US-Mexico border and the Gulf of Mexico is to the East. To cover the valley I only need a Beam width of about 126°. I started thinking about building a 2 element yagi vertically oriented and came up with the following azimuth pattern using EZNEC:
This antenna would give me a 133° beam width and a gain of 7.5dB over what I have now. My only concern is the rather low take off angle of the main lobe. Clearly the higher the better for this antenna but it looks like it would be a good starting point for experiments. Should be fairly simple to build from PVC and aluminum tubing. Will post more as I progress on actually building this.