01/22/13

My First Ham Contest

If you read previous posts, you know this past weekend I took part in my first ham radio contest. It was the North American QSO Party. I was also trying to take part in the ARRL VHF January contest but that was fruitless, completely. Saturday afternoon about 12pm CST I started my setup. I gathered up my antenna supplies, a 20 meter home made wire dipole with a DX Engineering Alpha Delta Antenna kit. Basically it’s just a feed point and two insulators. This was going up into two tree’s outside the radio room’s window, so I also used rubber bands to lash the various pieces in place. Then I just opened the windows a smudge and feed in the coaxial feed line it’s self. This all worked really well!

By this point it’s about 12:40pm on Saturday, 20 minutes to go. I now grab my laptop put it on the desk, turn on the PS and finally radio. I’m using the NAQP program by N3FJP as my logging software. It’s simple, easy-to-use and this program is specifically made for this contest. N3FJP has a whole suite of programs for popular various contests. I had tried to get my radio to interface with Ham Radio Deluxe, but it just wasn’t having it. O well.

It’s now 15 till start time. Everything is on and charged. I tune up the antenna just to tighten everything up. Since I had extra time I tuned around and called CQ for about 13 minutes and 6 contacts so I was feeling pretty good about it. First hour 20 contacts right out of the gate. All over the north, north east, south and south eastern side of the USA and I think one Canada contact. So I take a lunch break and sit with the wife for a few and then get back at it. 26 more contacts in about an hour and a half.

This is awesome, I mean I don’t have a pile up of people looking to talk to me when I’m working CQ, but every single station that I come to that’s calling CQ I get through to. Including a pile up or two that I make it through. Remember home made antenna in a tree that’s not near as high as it should have been. I’m having a ball!

At this point I’m 4 hours into the contest, I’ve stepped away to do something for the wife. I come back and turn the radio back on and my for whatever reason my power supply takes a dump. The fan inside revs up to full speed, as does the voltage read out. It maxs! As quickly as I can I turn it off and unplug my radio from it. I put a voltmeter on the PS and 31.6 volts. AGH! So pissed.

Power Supply is a MFJ-4245MV

My nice, beautiful, expensive, new Yaesu FT-950 was over volted! Then I’m taking another reading and the POS power supply shocks me. I’m touch the metal chassis of the case and the negative terminal. I then, after my arm stops hurting, take a measurement on the chassis. 186.9 volts. At this point I go, pull out my antenna and bring it in. My contest day is over. Tomorrow, tuesday 23rd, I’m calling MFJ.

I’ve always heard the MFJ isn’t the best but I really was trying to buy from an American company. Astron

ft-950 338422

 

01/17/13

Radioactive Once Again, Contest Time

I’m radioactive or soon will be this weekend with 2 contests. ARRL VHF and North American QSO Party. As you saw in my previous post my QTH has changed. I am now an Indianapolis, Indiana resident. I’ve got my power supply plugged in and my FT-950 hooked up to it. Which the timing is prefect cause I’m planning my first ever, on my own, ham radio contests this weekend. ARRL VHF January contest and the North American QSO party.

ARRL VHF Contest

Rules
This is a contest hosted by the ARRL and runs through the entire weekend. Begins 1900 UTC Saturday, ends 0359 UTC Monday (January 19-21, 2013). Basically in easy to read script it runs, 2pm Saturday January the 19th 2013 through 10:59pm January 21st 2013. I hope, UTC is confusing to me. I’m pretty sure being in Eastern Time Zone I subtract 12 + (-5) from UTC to get local time. If not and you read this, sorry!

Anyways that’s my first contest. Contest number two is the…

 

North American QSO Party

Rules

Technically NAQP is a 3 weekend event spread throughout the year. But luckily for me, some who doesn’t do CW or digital, the SSB or Single Side Band portion is this particular weekend. This contest runs from 1800 UTC January 19 to 0559 through UTC January 20, 2013 (third full weekend in January). Meaning 1pm January 19th, 2013 through 12:59am January 20th, 2013. Once again word to the wise, do your own UTC calcs.

10/8/12

Kenwood TM-V71A Dual Band: Installation in Dodge Nitro, Continued Part 3 – Mounting and Assembly

IMG_20121004_120147

IMG_20121005_155938

What I decided to do. The remote control head would be velcro-ed the a ledge on the dash. This ledge is slightly angled so that the display is angled upward for best viewing. I also have it rotated ever so slightly to even further improve the viewing angle.(Figure 5 & 6)

Next, where to mount the body of the radio? What I came up with is under the front passenger seat, towards the back. With the contours in the floor pan and the rear bench seat the way it is, this is really, I think my best option. One day if I feel adventurous I may mount it under that bench, but not today.

IMG_20121005_155925IMG_20120920_172933The radio mounting bracket started life as a small piece of 22 gauge steel I found on the side of the road. 22 gauge, how do I know? The sticker was still on it. This was crudely bent by hand to mostly mate up with the curves and contours of the floor. It mostly does. To attach my bracket in a permanent manner I left enough metal to drill a hole and use a seat bolt to hold it down.(Figure 7, 8 & 9) The pressure of the seat holds it firmly.


Now running the wire out from the radio over to the center console, which can be seen in figure 7 & 8. I then ran it through the center console all the way to the front. Up behind the dash and out where the knee panel meets the speed cluster surround.(figure 5 & 6, at the top)Using the factory Kenwood radio mount as a guide, I drilled 4 holes in the sheet metal. Then I bolted it together.

Basically this is all to my mobile installation. There’s a few extra pictures I’ll share here at the bottom.

I’ll write up my external speaker setup later.

IMG_20121005_192807 IMG_20121005_155947 IMG_20121005_155938

10/5/12

Kenwood TM-V71A Dual Band: Installation in Dodge Nitro, Continued Part 2 – Disassembly

To continue with with my previous post about my mobile installation of my Kenwood TM-V71A dualband. So we are done figuring out the logistics of actually setup up the remote head. Now on to my method of mounting.

As mentioned I’m driving a Dodge Nitro SUV. I initially thought that this mobile install was going to be a pain. Actually it’s not remotely difficult. Getting power into the cabin from the battery is super easy, opening up the dash is super easy, as is the center console and mounting both parts is easy.
gauges

Looking at the image to the left, figure 2, you see a picture of a Dodge Nitro dash. With the battery of the SUV being on the left side, drivers side, that is where I focused my efforts in wiring.

Looking at the image to the left, figure 2, you see the speedo cluster, the knee panel, radio area and center console.
6686_st0320_087
1. I failed to snap a picture of the removal of the speed cluster dash area. But it is as follows. Lower the steering wheel all the way down. Firmly grasp the top most forward plastic and pull back towards yourself.

2. Two remove the knee panel that is below the steering wheel. The the top plastic edge of the knee panel exposed, firmly grasp and pull down with even force. Doesn’t take much at all. Only two clip hold up the hinged panel. Once it has hinged down as far as it will, slide the panel 3 inches to the left and it comes off.
IMG_20120920_172933
3. If you look at the shifter there in the front middle off the console.(Figure 3) You see the frame that looks like brushed metal. It is plastic so go easy. If you are in this truck looking down at it, you notice a gap between the shift base and this faux metal area. Insert  tips of your fingers and pull up gently. It helps to engage the ebreak.

4. Next if your sitting in the back seat looking a the rear of the center console near the floor you’ll see that the back cover is one piece. Very easy, just grasp it and pull slightly. I’ve included a picture with it removed as I don’t have one from before. (Figure 4)
IMG_20120920_172912

5. Lastly after popping the hood move to the drivers side, near the brake master cylinder. Look on the firewall under the brake master cylinder and to the right near the fender. In this area there are two pass troughs on the firewall. On my vehicle one is fully in use from the factory but the over merely looks like a rubber plug. Pull the out the plug. No tools needed, it just pulls out. Don’t those it.

Disassembly Complete.
To be continued…

Continued in Post 3: Mounting and Assembly

10/4/12

Kenwood TM-V71A Dual Band: Installation in a Dodge Nitro

This write up is on an installation of a Kenwood TM-V71A Dual Band VHF & UHF mobile amateur radio into a Dodge Nitro SUV. The Kenwood TM-V71A radio is a modern radio with remote control head capability. Technically a remote head kit available from Kenwood is required to take advantage of this feature, but in reality this isn’t true. The remote kit certainly will make your installation easier. The kit would include a adapter and bracket to attach the head to and the specialized cables to hook the head to the body. The basic remote kit only includes an extended cable for the head to radio, no extension for mic to radio. There is an extended remote kit available that I believe has the basics, plus a extended mic and power cable adapters.

With that said, here is how I did it. If you take a look at the small cable that hooks the remote head to the body when they are hooked together you will see that one end is a RJ-45connector(standard ethernet connection) and the other end is a slim RJ-12 connector. Similar to a telephone line(same wiring), but about 1/4 thinner. Then at the termination of the mic cable you’ll see that the connection is also a RJ-45 connector. These two RJ-45 connections are standard size. So to extend this to connections I acquired two RJ-45 male to male couplers, as scene in figure 1.

I should mention I looked for a couple days for this special RJ-12 cable with no luck. I could have fabricated something up, but my method is easier.

To complete all these extended connections here’s what you will need:

  1. 2x RJ-45 couplers
  2. 2x Ethernet Cables(for efficiency’s sake, short as possible)
  3. 2x Ferrite Choke(Optional)

Step 1. Plug a coupler onto each ethernet cable
Step 2. Plug an ethernet cable into the head and into the microphone plug
Step 3. Plug the appropriate end of the include head wire into your extension
Step 4. Make your mic connections

Now this is an optional step but in the kit you can see that cable has a ferrite choke to keep RF emissions traveling down your remote cable. I ordered two from Mouser. I’m going to do it.

***Found these specifically fitted for CAT5 cable***
http://www.iautomate.com/products/Ferrite-Chokes-for-RFID-CAT5-Installations.html

Continued in Post 2:Disassembly

06/20/12

2012 ARRL Field Day – (6/23/12 – 6/24/12)

Field Day is this weekend. If your a ham radio operator you probably have at least a little idea of what this means. But if your not do know this, Field Day is an event your everyone. It’s technically an event for hams to practice emergency communications but really Field Day is only half about that and half displaying our trade to the public. There’s a station called GOTA, Get on the Air. That’s all about getting newly licensed, unlicensed and formally licensed on the air. There’s normally a radio coach to help and instruct on the process.

If your in or near Near Hanover County, North Carolina come out to Ogden Park near the shelters. If you can find the shelters you can find us. We’ll be starting up at 2:30pm Saturday and going going solid through 2:30 pm Sunday.

02/18/12

My Actual First HF Rig…ICOM IC-746 Pro

In the previous post I discussed about wanting to pass the General License exam and getting my first HF radio transceiver. In the article I talked heavily about the Yaesu FT-950, well I did not buy one. It’s a great great rig but I was about to get a little better deal for what I got. I got a ICOM IC-746 Pro. It’s like the predecessor to the ICOM IC-7100, that’s a beast of a rig. Basically what it came down to was the Yaesu was out of the budget. So after that I started looking into the ICOM IC-718 but I just wasn’t into that radio; there’s no 6 meter or VHF. Which the 746Pro has both plus, of course, the HF bands.The 746Pro also has IF digital filtering, so no need to fill up my radio with expensive filters. All I have to do is go through the bands, select the operating mode and adjust the bandwidth of the filter to my liking. Pretty cool. But listen I just bought the radio yesterday and haven’t even got it yet, so I do begin to know where to start explaining it. So I’m going to leave you with some pictures and links to reviews and info of my new cool radio!


eham.net Review – ICOM IC-746PRO

universal-radio.com – Icom IC-746 Pro