Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Rambling Ramblings

I have a new toy. After months of searching for a suitable radio for portable use, I now have a Yaesu FT897, complete with an LDG AT897 ATU. Why I never got one of these in the first place is a mystery to me. With full coverage of HF,6m,VHF and UHF it's a much cheaper option to buying separate rigs. I know that mono band or dedicated radios work better than a shack in a box but for sheer portability and convenience, I think you have to go a long way to better them.

I haven't transmitted as yet (due to the TVI issues) but I will be testing the radio soon. I have re located my HF antenna, performance on receive is vastly improved so hopefully my problems with TV interference might just be a thing of the past. I have tried everything - low pass filter on the radio, high pass filter on their telly, ferrite on the radio power lead, reduced power and chokes wound into the feeder) - but still the problem has persisted to the point of the neighbours becoming thoroughly peed off with it (as am I) and my thoughts of giving up the hobby entirely. I'm in the position where I dare not pick up the microphone for fear of causing trouble. That's not a good place to be - I love the hobby and I really wouldn't want to be without it but I fear I may have to be an SWL if I can't sort it out. If anyone has any other suggestions, please contact me - contact details on qrz.com call sign 2E0ENN - as I'm at a loss to solve it completely.

73 for now, de 2E0ENN

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Alternatively Located Ramblings

Followers of my blog will be aware of my continuing TVI problems at the home QTH. It would seem that, despite best efforts, the problem won't go away. So I have taken the decision to operate HF at an alternative location. VHF and UHF are no problem at home so I will concentrate home operations on those bands and EchoLink and DMR. I have a lock up garage a short distance away and I intend to set up my HF station there. It only takes 10 mins to get there so it should pose no problem. I have a weedy generator but it should still be able to power a PSU but I might have to work QRP so it doesn't get overloaded. This should prove interesting as the challenge will be to make QSO's with a limited antenna.

I have been having a clear out of shack ephemera and it's looking rather spartan at the moment. I'm looking at buying a mobile DMR radio to permanently install in the shack and permanently coupling that to the X50 collinear, which I replaced earlier in the year.

In typical Ham fashion in adapting to overcome the obstacles before me.

73 for now

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Ramble on

TVI problems continue to blight my enjoyment of HF. Despite lowering the antenna, winding chokes into the feeder, fitting an additional low pass filter to the feeder immediately out of the radio and a high pass filter to their telly and reducing output to 25W. The final option left is to fit a clip-on toroid to the feeder and see if that works.

It is all the more annoying this evening as there is a Falkland Islands station breaking the QRM on 20m at the moment and conditions on 20m are otherwise good.

I think I just have to accept that HF operation will have to be limited to monitoring for the foreseeable future. I have neither the time or the funds to further sort this problem out so HF will have to be sidelined for a while. Perhaps I could exchange my TS570 for an FT857 and work mobile.

My EchoLink node is now fully operational and I am able to use DMR from home via the GB7RR repeater and, thanks to a decent U/VHF antenna, I can operate simplex reasonably well so I have options for operating by other means.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have a particular interest in DMR and Internet Linking in general and as such I hope to persue these avenues in greater detail.

I'm looking for either a Connect Systems CS800 mobile set or an equivalent Hytera mobile in order to have a permanent radio in the shack for DMR. As the repeater is connected to the DMR Plus network, a Motorola radio would only be of use when mobile and in the coverage area of a DMR-MARC repeater, so they're of little use to me at the moment.

In the meantime, I shall continue with U/VHF, DMR and EchoLink with aplomb until I figure out how best to approach HF operation.

So, from a disappointed 2E0ENN, 73 for now

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Internet linked Ramblings

Further to being granted a NoV for an analogue Simplex gateway, I now have an EchoLink node established in Sysop mode.

The set up is remarkably simple - a Baofeng UV-5R handheld (set to 1W output) connected to the laptop running the EchoLink software. Connecting the two is a ZLP Mini Pro interface with a home made interface cable. The UV-5R relays the traffic from the server via the gateway frequency and can be accessed with any radio in range.

The cable was the tricky part - I sourced  a six pin mini din to Kenwood style speaker mic cable. It didn't work (not surprising as it came from China) so I set about making my own cable. I had a Baofeng speaker mic doing nothing so I took a screwdriver to it and removed the cable. I took note of which colour wire went where and proceeded to perform surgery on a 6 pin mini din cable that was also doing nothing. I worked out the speaker +ve and -ve wires and the PTT and ground from where they were on the mic. Then I established which pins on the din plug went where and identified the four connections used. A bit of intricate soldering of wires followed and it was plugged in for a test. It worked, first time, so I was enthused and went to try my creation on the EchoLink system. Everything worked ok until I looked at the display on the UV-5R, which had disappeared and the battery eliminator was getting rather hot. I changed the eliminator for a freshly charged battery and normal service was resumed. I think the eliminator didn't like 13.8V from the psu and (also being Chinese) protested. So I now keep one battery fully charged and swap them when required. On average a fully charged standard Baofeng battery lasts about 5 to 6 hours so there's no problem with that as it only takes about 2 hours to recharge. I think a bit of ingenuity should see a 7.4V transformer being built and fitted in place of the battery - perhaps a project for our Radio Club.

I'm waiting for the DV4 Mini stick to be available here so I can do a similar thing with a DMR Plus hotspot at home. I'm really into the Digital and Internet Linking thing and have learned a lot while setting things up. It won't ever replace the fun of DX contacts on HF but for those who can't put an antenna up (living in sheltered or Housing Association accommodation, for example) it provides a means of persuing  the hobby.

Looking forward to the coming weekend's SES at St. Anne's Church in Grantham for CHOTA. GB2SAG will be operating on the 12th of September on both HF and VHF. Operated by members of South Kesteven A.R.S. Stewart (M0SDM) has organised the event and his spectacular Land Rover mounted 12 metre mast will be a sight to behold outside the church with an X50 collinear on top and an OCFD. Check out www.skars.co.uk or qrz.com/lookup/gb2sag.

73 for now de 2E0ENN

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Irritated Ramblings

Just when you think you've got your set up about right a blooming great spanner gets well and truly thrown into the works. Last weekend I braved the weather and put up a 7 metre fibreglass pole to complement the other 6 metre aluminium one that I have in the garden. So, I moved the balun of my end fed dipole to the top of the 6 metre pole and erected the other pole further down the garden to accept the end of the radiating leg at a height of 6 metres also. The extra height and proper horizontal polarisation made a huge improvement and to confirm that I had a contact into St.Petersburg on 20m at 59+20db on the Sunday evening. Brilliant, I thought until I got the message from the neighbour with the touch lamps saying that their TV was "jumping" and it was "making the dogs uneasy".

I replied saying that I wouldn't transmit any more and took the antenna height back down to 6 feet and wound back the power to a paltry 5W. No more hassle from the neighbours but reduced performance on HF. I have ordered a low pass filter to augment the one fitted in the TS570 and a high pass filter that I will put in the aerial feed for their telly. The problem is with the poorly set up TV antenna : crudely attached to the wall of the house, with a booster and cheapo coaxial cable. The problem is, how do I convince them that it's their set up that's causing the problem? As usual it's down to the Amateur to bear the cost and aggravation of sorting it all out. I have to live next to these people so I have no choice but to either buy them a decent TV set up or just go QRT on HF. Hopefully the filters will eliminate the problem.

Recently, Ofcom declared that all NoV's would be only available to Full Licence holders and that any NoV's issued to Intermediates would not be renewed. There is an exception and that is for Simplex Gateways. Intermediate Licence holders will still be permitted to apply for an NoV and be allowed to run such gateways. With this in mind I have an NoV request in for a 70cm Simplex Gateway to run an EchoLink node. This will comprise of a Baofeng handheld, connected to a ZLP Minipro interface and in turn connected to a laptop running the EchoLink software. I will use another DTMF equipped radio to access the node. When available I will be buying a DV4 MINI  dongle for DMR and will run the same system but for connection to the DMR PLUS network (subject to NoV clearance). The dongles are available on the Continent but not here yet but it works in the same way Dstar dongles work and may also be compatible with Dstar and System Fusion.

Details of the EchoLink set up will be posted in a later blog.

73 (for now) de 2E0ENN