02/23/13

Antenna Solutions

I live an apartment complex.  So an antenna is difficult to really get good performance. So far my best attempts are tuned wire dipoles with a Alpha Delta center connector. A very strong device that connector is. Now these dipoles are tree mounted. There 6 to about 9 feet up, which is okay. Really should be about quarter wave high. Also my tree’s I use are about 10 to 12 off the side of the building. The steel and concrete building.

Now I know people in the attics and that works all the time. But I put up one in our apartment and nothing. Absolutely nothing, almost completely dead, highly reflected and just terrible noise. Now my point is my dipoles are right up against our building and I can never get out west. Never. I can go a little south west, but it stops at New Mexico. No California, no Washington State or anything out there.

My solution. A couple things.

I’m still building my fan-dipole, that’s multi-band and portable.

I’m still building a Delta Loop for 20 meters. Maybe even a one for a couple of the higher bands. 4db over a dipole. Just need a 4:1 bulan.

Final part of my plan.

Mounting the antenna. There’s several ways to go about it. Fiberglass extendable poles, metal extendable poles and others. But solution, at least for now is military surplus style. Military antenna mask kits made from aluminium and painted OD green. They come in 4 foot sections and interlock. There’s base kits, ground spikes, guy wire mounts, and other accessories to go with them. Now what I’m planning on buying isn’t true surplus. Plenty of people copy the design and make new ones all day long. Which is great!

60_3 60_57 60257

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ANTENNA-SWIVEL-STAKE-USED-WITH-MILITARY-48-MAST-POLE-/360370946820

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1-1-4-inch-Mast-Pole-CB-Ham-Radio-Antenna-Guy-Guide-Wire-Heavy-Duty-Support-Ring-/120817013090

http://www.ebay.com/itm/10-NEW-Aluminum-poles-4-long-Mast-Poles-Ham-Radio-Antenna-rubber-bag-included-/190800604568

02/23/13

Contests for February 23rd and 24th

Not all of them, just the contests I’m interested in.

2013 Mississippi QSO Party

  • Saturday February 23rd from 9 am to 9 pm CST forget that UTC crap.
  • Rules

2013 North Carolina QSO Party

  • Sunday February 24th 10 am to 8 pm EST
  • Rules
  • NI4BK will be on the air. If you don’t know that’s the USS North Carolina Battleship. Traditionally 20 and 40 meters.

K4EQM

73

02/23/13

HRD is all setup…

Maybe it’s me but my Ham Radio Deluxe setup took a little polishing. Obviously the actually components in the software worked as they should, just based on the fact it installed correctly on my PC. But what took a little worked is controlling my radio via HRD and then the remote server setup.

Controlling my radio via HRD

So the first hurtle I came to was getting HRD to control my Yaesu FT-950. The FT-950 has a 9-pin serial port on the back. This relatively expensive modern radio doesn’t have a USB plug. O well. The even better catch is you need a very specific serial cable to make the CAT interface work correctly. The first serial cable I bought, I bought before knowing that a specific 9 pin cable was required. It was hard enough finding a female-female cable. At was actually difficult sourcing locally a 9-pin serial cable.

The second cable I bought was a straight-thru 9-pin serial cable. I thought this would be correct because at this store the only other options was a Null modem cable. That’s what I bought first and was wrong. I get this home and it’s a no go as well.

So at this point I’m rather annoyed. I’ve got two 9-pin serial cables that I will literally never ever use and HRD won’t work my radio. And by now I’ve also done a hard reset to ensure that the settings are stock. Then I’ve gone through a couple tutorials on the HRD forum to get the FT-950. specifically, to work. No go.

The three cable. I looked up in the CAT manuel for the radio and found the name of the specific cable I needed. This time I hit up my go to store, Amazon.com. I searched and found several different ones. Read about them and ended up with a “DB9 9 Pin Serial Port Cable Female / Female RS232” and it’s worked. I plugged in the cable to the computer and to the radio. Figured out which Comm port it’s on and  the baud rate. Set it all and hooray, it’s now running my radio. I’ll include the link to the cable below.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003UKEIWI/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Setting up the Remote Server Option in HRD

By now I’ll tickle to death that my computer interface controls my radio. I don’t know why per-say since my radio is literally 9 inches from my arm on my desk, but I am. I think it is probably because it will automatically record the frequency of my QSO when I am logging it.

As some may or may not know HRD has function to install on your computer a server process that can be accessed remotely. Basically imagine this. My radio is hooked to my tower PC at my desk in the office/guest bedrm/radio rm and I want to work it from my laptop in the living room. Once I have the remote server setup, I bring HRD on my laptop. Then enter in some specific settings in HRD on my laptop to connect and ba-zing, connected. Now if you have the skill to set it up you can indeed access you radio on the radio remotely.

Here’s the setting up of the remote server on Windows 7 Pro.

  • First open HRD and then go to ‘Tools” > ‘Programs’ > click ‘Remote Servers’
  • Next make sure, unless you know not to, that the left blue box “HRD Remote Server” is selected and the click install below that.
    • Side note, if it tells you that it’s not available option or it can’t, close HRD then reopen it as administrator just once to install this.
  • Next you must configure the configuration file for your server. Just watch the video for that.

Now you have the remote server setup and you can probably connect to it.

Trouble shooting:

  • HRD Remote Server uses port “7805” which my have to be opened in your Windows firewall
  • Also don’t try to connect remotely to your radio while your connected locally to it. I did this and for half an hour couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t connect. It ties up the Comm port the radio is on.

Once I get a robust remote setup for outside my network I’ll do another write up. But this simple explanation should get you going in the right directly. If not working completely.

02/20/13

My Resources

Some of the resources I use.

I make and fabricate a lot of the things I use. I make most all of my antennas, at least my none mobile antennas. All my wire antennas and a couple yagi’s. I’ve not made a lot of yagi’s. I made a 2 meter to get into a repeater well and a 6 meter antenna. The rest have been some kind wire antenna. Dipoles and Inverted V’s. I enjoy the challenge and learning aspect of making. As well most of my creations are a little cheaper than commercially available units.

» Ham radio band plan via ARRL
http://www.arrl.org/files/file/Hambands_color.pdf

» I use this site to calc my dipoles. I know the formula but I don’t always have a calculator on me.
http://www.kwarc.org/ant-calc.html

» After my fan-dipole project is over my next is a Delta Loop for twenty.
http://w5sdc.net/delta_loop_for_hf.html

» Where I buy most of the commercially built products is Gigaparts. At one time I lived in Huntsville, where they are located, so I feel I should help out the home town folks.
http://www.gigaparts.com/radioindex.php

» Ham Radio Practice Tests, this is where I prep before a test. You can choose individual parts to focus on or take an entire test. The feedback it gives on your test is useful in instructing you on what to study.
http://www.w8mhb.com/exam/

» QRZ.com, the goto site for ham stuff. Callsign lookups, forums, and just generally a lot of ham stuff.
http://www.qrz.com/

02/19/13

Ham Radio Deluxe and the Griffin Powermate

griffen_powermateControlling Ham Radio Deluxe with the Griffin Technology Powermate

Now this will go much smoother if your at least fimiliar with Ham Radio Deluxe. I’m not going to here because it’ll make my post to long winded, so there’s plenty of resources on the web to tell you about HRD. But I will give you a very little overview. HRD is a ham radio software suite. It has a logging portion, there’s radio control software build in to it, there’s rotor control in it, there’s various IP functions and plethora of other things.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd7sIuIzA10

This is a pretty decent overview of HRD.

What we are interested in today is the portion of the suite that interfaces with your radio and specifically the frequency scope. Now you can see from the screen shot that you have control what your radio can do. Specifically frequency is what we are looking at here. For my Yaesu FT-950 you see that my bands 160m – 10m are selectable in the center toward the middle of the GUI. Fine frequency control is right up that and fast freq control is right above. The selected freq in large numbers is near the top and to the left and right of that are radio settings control.

HRD FT-950

Again what I’m focusing on today is frequency control. When using HRD you may change frequency by interfacing directly with the VFO knob on your radio or use your mouse to control it via software.

Whats my point?

Well I live in an apartment with my wife and we share a desk. I hope to get my radio working with HRD in such a manner it can be moved from the main surface area to a rack off the desk with it’s power supply. Thus freeing much room on our desk. I love the feel of the large VFO friction knob on the FT-950, so when it comes to running frequency with the mouse. I’m not super excited. Nor with the arrow keys. It just doesn’t feel like ham radio to me. I want a knob to turn.

Now comes the Powermate by Griffin Technology. This is a programmable USB digital knob. For all intentional purposes it’s a USB digital potentiometer. With the included software you are able to assign 6 tasks that the knob does to a piece of software currently open and upfront on your PC. You can setup it up to have specific settings with multiple software suites. When you change what program your using it knows and it uses those assigned tasks.

Controlling the HRD Frequency

At this point the device is plugged in and HRD is open and loaded. The screen above is what you see when your radio connects. Now you need to also have installed Powermate software. Available at Griffin Technology’s website.

You want to Click ‘Applications’, select ‘Add’, chooses the open available software to add, and click ok. Go through and select each knob action and set it up like the picture below. That will give you fine tuning by turning the knob, fast tuning by holding down the knob then turning, and pushing down give the keystroke of F7 which will open the ‘Add QSO/Contact’ dialog in the logbook. But you must have it open in the background.

The settings you see:

Simulates Keystrokes=fine tuning

Scrolls Up/Down = “Fast” Style tuning

Simulates Keystrokes F7 Key = New QSO Entry

gtpm2

02/13/13

Fan Dipole Project February 2013 – Update 2

2013-02-13_13-25-57_570

It’s Wednesday now. I made my plan for the fan dipole yesterday and today I have cut all the bands 10 through 40, expect 40 meters. I’ve got to get some help with that one from the wife cause it’s so long. Plus got to do that outside, not enough space in the apartment. You ask why I cut all the bands? Well, now I’ve decide on two fan dipoles. The first one this weekend with be 6, 10, 20 and 40 meters. Minus 6 meters I’ll use this one the most including in upcoming State QSO Parties, specifically NC QSO Party. I really want a card from NI4BK.

Plus I’ll go ahead and cut my 70.5 delta loop section as well.

02/12/13

Fan Dipole Project February 2013

Coming Soon…this weekend…

This is mostly an example of what I’d like to build. The bands I really shooting for are 6 meters, 10 meters, 20 meters, and 40 meters. While I would love to have everything in between 6 and 40, that would be such and unwieldy mess of wire I’m picking 4 bands. I can probably build another one that will be 6 meters through 20 meters. Maybe a delta loop for 20 meters as well this weekend.

Fan Dipole

02/12/13

Technicians Licenses Out Number All The Rest Combined

The Prompt:

On the weekly 222mhz net for the Indianapolis Amateur there was a question asked tonight. It was to do with the overwhelming Technician numbers verses General and Extra Class licenses. Viewing the graph below you can see that the Technician pool of operators is much higher than the other two. Frankly it’s more the General and Extra combined. Obviously these numbers are old but just going off the graph there are 294,106 General and Extra class operators total. Technician licenses are in the 345,369 range.

Untitledd

Click to Expand

The Question

Why did you do you think these numbers are so and why did I upgrade?

Why do I think these number so? I feel that there are probably about 3 reasons.

1st we are still within the time range that people who took the technician license hoping to upgrade to a higher license only to be held up by the former Morse code requirements. That killed the hobby for them.

2nd there are a lot of people that once in the hobby can fully see the cost and time and effort it takes to really be part of and enjoy the hobby. There is work involved. For example, you can not just throw up and antenna and hook it to your radio. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. The antennas need to have room, some are long, it needs to be resonant on the frequency not to break your radio and you have to find time to do all this. Plus buy these things. Radio and copper wire isn’t cheap. Not to mention if you buy commercially built products.

3rd there are lots of public service groups and civilian groups that use ham spectrum as there comms. In Wilmington, NC the hospital alone probably has 200+ people licensed as Techs that will never ever upgrade, probably never pick a radio and use it outside of an emergency. That’s becoming a nation wide thing. Plus there are cert teams, Civilian Corps and many more.
Now I’m not saying for a second that these people do deserve or need to have ham licensure. I’m am merely explaining my opinions better here than I could over my HT weakly getting into the repeater for the net. Frankly these inflated numbers only give more credibility to the hobby and it’s perks. One day I hope and believe the Home Owners Associations will be almost if not entirely striped of there powers to regulate antennas and towers.