CQ WW SSB Contest

My first CQ WW SSB contest was this weekend, and boy, were the bands ever so open! I heard a station on every band from 10m-160m!  I wasn’t really competing for points, but rather casually operating and trying to give points to other stations! I was using my Vertical & my OCF, usually switching between the two, but it seemed I had more consistent performance from my OCF. I even snagged Hawaii on SSB for the first time:

Got a chance to exercise MacLoggerDX & the new SDRConsole v3 that Simon Brown recently released. Both software’s operated flawlessly throughout the contest, I was surprised I didn’t have any crashes from SDRConsole since I was using it so heavily and other functions on my laptop at the time. I’m working on getting my desktop computer repaired. It went dead AGAIN! I keep having an issue with the RAM sticks for some reason, took it to a different repair shop to have it diagnosed.

I didn’t snag a boatload, wasn’t keyed down that much, I probably contacted twice as many as I actually landed, just couldn’t get through the pile up, or they just weren’t hearing me. But I’m still happy with the results, my DXCC count increased by 4 this weekend 🙂 Nothin’ but 100 watts & a wire!

The CQ WW CW contest is this weekend if that’s your flavor! I’ll probably try to snag a few contacts on SSB as I’m sure there will still be lots of folks active this weekend. Hoping propagation is just as good if not better! Still after reading a few others reports, the number of contacts went down significantly this year as opposed to last (which I didn’t participate in), maybe due to the solar cycle? Still, I had loads of fun, always a joy to hear a distant station come back with your call!

73

K5ACL

Kenwood TM-V71A DIY Extension Cable Kit

I just did a quick search on the internet, and the cheapest I was able to find a Kenwood PG-5F extension cable kit was $64.95…. Which by the way would come with an extra power cord, I wouldn’t even need.

Wait, what? $65 dollars for some short lengths of cable and some ferrites & couplers? No thanks…

Luckily, Kenwood’s cables can be easily recreated, because they use the standard RJ-45 connector found on the ends of most CAT networking cables. STP (shielded twisted pair) is a bit harder to find than UTP (unshielded twisted pair) due to the cost of STP. The RJ-45 couplers were about a buck each, and I already had the snap on ferrites.

I tested it out on all power settings and got no reports of weird audio, or rf bleeding through onto my signal like some others have reported, and I have still yet to replace the mic cable with STP, rather than UTP. Maybe STP wasn’t even needed? I figured using shielded cables in any kind of RF situation is the way to go anyways. Hoping to shorten the lengths of CAT cable once I find someone with a RJ-45 networking tool. Check out the video here:

 

SDRConsole v3 Latest Release w/ SDRPlay RSP

Simon Brown just released a new version of SDRConsole v3 on 10/18/2016.

I’ve experimented with v2 occasionally, mainly due to the availability of the SDR remote server that it provides, hoping that functionality comes with v3 soon, the v2 remote console is very dated, and could use a resolution boost! Nevertheless, this is such an awesome software, free to boot, (though I encourage a donation to Simon via his webpage), and there’s great support should the need ever arise. I never limit myself to a single SDR software… That would be silly.

There are so many great options out there.. and so many i’m still looking forward to trying one day, i.e. PowerSDR, OpenHPSDR, SmartSDR, and a few others that are proprietary to certain brands of SDRs. I hope to eventually own a 100 watt SDR transceiver, so i’m taking the time now to learn everything I can about every platform available out there. After you’ve heard the transmit audio of some of these rigs, you’d be amazed. I’m especially blown away by guys that use Anan’s, they use something called adaptive predistortion (way too complicated for me to try & explain!). But then some really dirty up their signal by using a beautiful Anan with a dirty CB amplifier… no bueno. This is why i’ve been encouraged to go the 100w SDR transceiver route, because the QRP rig guys eventually always end up wanting some kind of amp, which in a lot of cases (some brands are quite pricey) can end up being more than a 100w setup to begin with.

I’m still learning the software, this was just a quick first impressions review, and I have to say i’ll keep my other programs, but I think i’ll focus on SDRConsole for awhile. SDRuno was my second choice, but until it can take up the entire real estate on my large screen which i use for panadapting, SDRConsole is the better choice in my shack. I also still don’t like the modular touch in SDRuno, I like one single screen, call it a pet peeve, but that’s how all the other big time sdr programs do it… not saying they should follow suit, but there’s a reason for it, it simplifies things. Modular is ok as long as you allow the application to go ‘full screen’ mode too. Maybe asking to fill up my 3440×1440 resolution is a bit too much to ask for… one can dream 🙂

First thoughts though are that the program is very easy to use, I was able to navigate around and test things out fairly quickly. The user interface is neatly arranged, you can even pop out the DSP window, neat! I’ll let the video speak for itself though…

73

Wishing you the very best in DX

K5ACL

 

Building a Flagpole Antenna in an HOA

Great article I wanted to reshare from DX Engineering & an article written by a ham from Florida who deals w/ an HOA situation! A very well built flagpole vertical. This has given me a lot of ideas to think about! I’ve always considered a flagpole vertical given my HOA situation, but my lot is so small, not to be harsh on the old stars & stripes, but it would look almost out of place in this type of neighborhood I would think, though I could be wrong. A lot to consider!

DX Engineering

Many homeowner associations (HOAs) frown on ham radio antennas. So dedicated hams are forced to get creative, often turning landmarks into operable antennas.

John did just that, and shared his project with us this week.

John lives in The Villages, Florida, where more than 350 other hams reside, and 227 are members of the K4VRC ham radio club. He recently completed a custom-built antenna/flagpole project with the help of DX Engineering, and mailed us the following pictures and descriptions of the project.

John included a note that reads: “Tim, K3LR + Mark, W8BBQ: Thanks for time taken to answer my ‘many one last questions.’ Pictures are worth a thousand words and so is DX Engineering!”

1 “The beginning! This pipe accepts smaller pipe on antenna. When I got my ground rod driven down about 6 foot I could push the remaining 2 feet down with my foot! No wonder…

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NVIS Antenna Testing (Video)

NVIS – Near Vertical Incident Skywave. Also known as a ‘cloud-burner’ antenna, or what I call pretty much any HF antenna in a compromised position! NVIS! Specifically designed for local communications rather than long distance HF, these antennas direct most of your signal straight up. However, I’ve been known to land DX on many NVIS antennas if the conditions are right!

These antennas also carry lower noise properties than say a regular dipole at the proper height. The Texas Army MARS website has a great article on NVIS antennas, check it out: NVIS Antenna Theory & Design.

I recently got together with N5CFB & K5JM to test out some NVIS antennas, and I must say that I am quite impressed with the results! The noise floor on 80 meters during this test was almost non-existent!

With the decline of the solar cycle near, an antenna like this might prove useful in more than just a mobile situation! Easy enough to erect, and cheap enough to build, why not! Go for it! 80/40 meters is highly popular here in Texas it seems, (40 during the day, 80 at night).

I was actually quite impressed with the quality of the Buddipole, custom made parts & components that were uniquely molded/created for this antenna. That could be a down side though, if a repair is ever needed. Buddipole systems aren’t cheap, but in a mobile situation, I’ve found that sometimes a commercially made option is sometimes a bit more rugged than a homebrew one!

This was my first time using an iCOM ic-7000 as well. I really enjoyed the color screen, the audio quality was excellent, the radio even has a temperature indicator on the screen! How neat! Thanks to N5CFB, K5JM, & K5WEJ for a wonderful evening spent playing radio!

Yaesu FTM-400DR 1 Year Review (Video)

Ok, just about a year anyways, last November I purchased this Yaesu FTM-400DR from Ham Radio Outlet, just referenced my receipts, after the $100 rebate, total cost was $430, so I think I was off a bit in the video! Definitely not a cheap dual band radio, but it was my first dual bander, and I knew if I didn’t get the features I wanted initially, I would end up spending more in the long run to get them, so splurged I did!

Besides, there are models out there that are still hundreds more, hey, let me justify my purchases here! lol.  This was actually the second Yaesu radio I’ve ever owned, originally bought a Yaesu FT-60R back in 2013 as my first radio when I passed my Tech, and I remember it being just about the most solid HT out there, so I was pretty confident in my purchase.

I made a 25+/- mile simplex contact on 146.520 while mobile with the FTM-400DR this week with K5EEG out in Red Rock, Texas, and about a 15 mile simplex contact w/ KF5JLJ. Thank you guys! (Simplex…. if you use it… they will come…)

73 & Happy DX Hunting

K5ACL

Hamfest Goodies & updates from the QTH

What an exciting turnout it was @ the Belton Hamfest this go around! Must’ve been the weather!  There must’ve been twice the amount of people as there was at the last one earlier this Spring! I attempted to sell some things at the tailgate sale for a couple hours but had no takers :(. So, I packed my stuff away, and decided to head out to see what I could find…

I must say I’m proud of myself for not spending a fortune this time around, lol. You really should set a budget for yourself before going to one of these, else, you’ll regret it, lol! The coolest thing I must’ve saw, was a young lad who had just passed his Technician & General license, his Dad was buying him a brand new setup from MTC Radio, an iCom 7300, power supply , antenna, and everything you need to get started! What a cool Dad! Put a huge smile on my face…

I started searching for a dummy load, I should’ve bought one a long time ago, they’re cheap enough. So the best price I could find on a MFJ-260C was for $35 cash from Houston Amateur Radio Supply. Yes, if you pay in cash, most vendors will give you a small discount! It seemed as if some vendors were including taxes in their prices, and some weren’t, not sure what was up with that. Hoping this unit is decent, it has mixed reviews over on eHam, one user saying he was even able to make a contact on his dummy load several states away! That’s not a dummy load… It should dissipate as heat, & not radiate your signal. Maybe the “C” version is an improved version? Who knows, maybe i’ll build one of my own one day!

My idea behind the dummy load was so that I could use it for testing purposes. I also looked for a watt meter, knowing I couldn’t afford a Bird, I looked at the Daiwa & MFJ models, but they wanted nearly $150 for a simple Watt meter. I’ve learned not to rely on my power meter on the rig as it doesn’t tell you the final power out, maybe at the next hamfest i’ll find a decent used one!

Now that I have a dummy load, I could finally use it to test/tweak all the different microphones that I’ve been experimenting with:

Kenwood MC-60, Audio-Technica AT20/20, Blue Snowball, Yamaha CM500 & Kenwood MC-43S
I guess you could say I’m a bit of an audio snob, you’ll see arguments all over the web on which microphone is the best, which one sounds the best, etc, etc. Don’t be fooled by marketing gimmicks, I was surprised to find out that I get the best audio reports from the CM500’s. Sometimes the cheapest mic can end up sounding the best. The only mic that I will NEVER use again with my rig is the stock hand mic. There is something definitely up with that thing, makes all kinds of crazy noises when you push the PTT button that get sent out with your signal… no bueno. More on mic testing a bit later!

 

I also found a 6′ soldered RG213u jumper (eliminated a Daiwa Coax switch & two 3′ pieces of RG213U) & a 5′ piece of tinned copper grounding braid that I’ve been wanting for the shack. I wanted to toy around with grounding stuff a bit more! So all in all, $65 spent, and a great day spent in Belton w/ friends.

Yesterday I was able to make my first contact on 12m with XE2YWB using JT65 & my off center fed dipole. 10 & 12m were all open pretty late in the day! Contact was made around 6pm, maybe it was grey line prop? Nevertheless, I made 2 other JT65 contacts on 12m before it quickly faded away! I was worried that with the decline of the solar cycle it would be harder for me to make contacts on these bands, but apparently there are still openings, they are just fewer and farther in between, and probably don’t last as long. I also received a pretty cool QSL card from the coveted W9IMS station in the mail this week. I made a SSB contact with them during race week!


Wishing you the very best in DX!

73

K5ACL

 

 

Freeware SDR Software Poll Results

Well, I let the Freeware SDR Software poll run for a month, and here are the results (thank you to all who participated), wondering what the ‘other’ option is that everyone is using…. feel free to chime in if there’s another SDR software out there that I should know about! I love using all of them to be honest… These guys put in so much programming time on building these software packages for hams, the least I could do is support that cause, and I support all of them!

freewaresdrpoll

I won’t lie… I do wish there were more options available for Mac, i’ve tried running SDR programs with virtualization, but I don’t think my little Mac Mini is upto such a computing task, i’ve even locked up the computer several times trying. Visually speaking, I think HDSDR & SDR Console are tops. SDRuno is up & coming though. SDR# is a solid program that a lot of folks use too. So take your pic! Each has their area they shine in.

No SDR program that I’ve used thus far has been able to produce audio like the DSP in my Kenwood TS590SG does…. by far! There’s is just something unique even about the preprogrammed DSP equalizer settings in the rig. Not just for listening either, for transmitting too! The DSP equalizer built in has those options that really help your voice punch through when needed in the pile up! I’m sure SDRs with more dynamic range would help in that accord, my experience thus far has stopped at the SDRplay. Hoping that I can save up some for a 16 bit transceiver one day!

Becoming an ARRL VE!

Its official.

I’ve joined the ranks of the elite… lol, no, Well maybe…  ha! I remember how excited I was to pass my test, and becoming a VE, you kinda get to share in that…. smiles… handshakes… pats on the back… pointers like “Welcome to a new addiction,” are all things i’m looking forward too. 

Afterall, as a radio operator, I feel its my duty to share such a pretty cool hobby w/ others, don’t you? The absolute best thing about all this is the people you meet, and becoming a VE, well, you’ll get the chance to meet hams from all over!

Now to get in touch with the local testing guys to see if they need any help!

Only took the ARRL a few weeks to send back everything, nice that they didn’t charge a thing and sent this!
TGIF

73 de K5ACL