Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Newbie Advisory Ramblings

Having been Licenced for two years now, I thought it would be good to share some of the knowledge I have gained, to assist anyone new to the Hobby.


A reasonable radio is always a good start. There are lots of Far Eastern offerings but I would advise a radio from either Yaesu, Kenwood or Icom. The cheaper options may look tempting but reliability and build standards are not great - better to pay more and get a decent radio to start with. If you just want VHF and UHF you will need something equipped with CTCSS for repeater access and preferably a DTMF microphone.

You will need a decent PSU to power it. Check the radio handbook for current requirements - my Icom IC-E208 delivers 55 watts maximum on VHF and a 15 amp PSU is recommended. My advice is to use a good PSU with a 30 amp output in case you want to power a higher powered radio, such as my Yaesu FT897. Current draw on that radio at 50 watts is around 15 amps, so a 30 amp PSU will cope.

Antennas - for VHF and UHF gain is important as the signals are line of sight so height is equally important. A good collinear, up as high as possible is the answer. HF antennas are a different matter - depending on your location, an end fed wire might be useful, although an off centre fed dipole works very well but room is needed for installation.

A good SWR/Power meter is a good addition to the shack (suitable for the frequencies you use) and one for HF and another for V/UHF, or a combined one would be needed. An antenna tuning unit for HF work would be needed, unless your radio has one already built in. More technical equipment (such as an oscilloscope or frequency counter) is not vital although useful when conducting maintenance or building projects. An antenna analyser is also useful for fine tuning those antenna projects or for diagnosing problems with existing antennas. A dummy load for testing purposes is also a worthwhile purchase - make sure it is rated for the power output and frequencies you intend to use. Very important is a quality multimeter for checking current,  resistance, voltage, reactance and capacitance - many are available and are reasonably priced.

Feeder for the antenna is a major factor. Thin coaxial cable such as RG58 is only really suitable for short runs (a couple of metres) or mobile installation, due to the amount of signal loss. RG8 is less lossy but something quite thick (and relatively inflexible) like RG213 is best suited for longer feeder runs. Whilst on the subject of feeder, it's only as good as the connectors on the end. Always go for the best connectors you can find.

That's about all you need to know to get started. The rest you will learn as you go along.

Before you pick up the mic for that first QSO, spend some time listening. You will soon pick up the correct transmitting procedure by listening in to QSO's and your style will develop. Keep your overs reasonably short to begin with and as you build confidence you will be able to "ragchew" like a veteran!

Most of all, refer to your Foundation Licence Training and the books that you used - there is invaluable information and there will always be someone on air to guide you. Most, if not all, operators will recognise a Foundation call sign and will be happy to point you in the right direction - that was what I found when stumbling over words and thinking of things to say. Keep a pad and pen by the radio and make notes of call signs and details so you can refer to them during your QSO.

There you have it - a brief guide to setting up a basic station and remember HAVE FUN!

73 de 2E0ENN

Monday, 18 January 2016

Antenna and other Ramblings

I just thought I would show you the current antenna arrangements at home.

The main HF antenna is a 7.6m end fed wire, utilising a 9:1UN-UN. it's suspended at 6m agl on two fibreglass poles, in an inverted L format, due to the lack of space in the garden.

The main U/VHF antenna is an X510 collinear, the base of which is around 7m agl. It's 5.4m long and has massive gain.

Attached to one of the poles, via a right-angled bracket is an NR770 dual hand mobile antenna, complete with ground plane kit. This is used for local comms on U/VHF and, unbelievably, has an almost flat SWR on both bands.

For mobile U/VHF use I have an SG7900 Super Gainer dual band antenna. Ideally I would have drilled a hole in the roof and "hard mounted" the antenna but the design of the roof won't allow that, due to a feinforcing bar across the middle of the roof. I have it mounted on a triple magmount and it's as solid as a rock.

For Mobile use of DMR I have another dual band antenna mounted at the rear.

The radios used are :

Yaesu FT 897D with the wire and X510
Icom IC-E208 with the NR770

Kenwood TM-G707 with the SG7900

Connect Systems CS700 with smaller antenna.

Regular readers will know of my interest in Internet Linked systems. I operate a SYSOP EchoLink node, using a Baofeng handheld, ZLP Minipro interface and a Lenovo Windows XP laptop. I have a number of handhelds to "excite" the node, but I tend to stick with an Alinco DJ-V57 or my trusty Yaesu FT60.

For DMR I use a DV4 mini stick, connected to a Samsung Windows 10 laptop and to "excite" I use either a TYT MD380 or Hytera PD365. The MD380 is also sometimes connected to the X510 to access GB7RR DMR repeater.

I have a new toy in the shack, it's a Runbo X1 mobile phone with a fully functional 70cm transceiver and I can access GB3GR, GB3FJ, and GB3LC from home but it is most often used to excite the EchoLink node.

A quick rundown of the operating conditions, hope it was interesting.

73 de 2E0ENN

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Ramble On

The first week of the New Year is upon us and, following a very mild few weeks, the WX is turning decidedly more chilly.

South Kesteven A.R.S. held their AGM, and I'm pleased to say that I was retained as Club Secretary, as was Andrew in the post of Chairman. Two new Committee posts were created and filled by Stewart and Konrad. Exciting times ahead for the Club, with a new club base and shack and an in house training facility set up for all Licence levels.

Speaking of training, I intend to study for my Advanced Licence and have set a goal to attain that by the end of 2016. With hard work and sage guidance I should be in with a chance.

The seasonal festivities have curtailed much in the way of radio - not much to report, other than the DV4 Mini is still (surprisingly) working well.

I'm becoming more confused with developments in the word of DMR, the politics and arguments continue to blight an otherwise interesting arm of the Hobby. As soon as I get used to one change, along comes another and it's getting hard to keep up. I might just lower my involvement until the situation stabilises, then it will be a bit more pleasurable.

I've given up on the AllStar node project as there is a lot of difficult stuff to do to get it to run properly and my knowledge of Linux and the other software involved, let alone the Raspberry Pi, is not enough. I still have the Pi and a USB sound card fob so I'll have to have a think about how I'm going to use it radio-wise.

I've started using a couple of VoiP and PTT apps with my PC and smart phone. Broadnet Systems run a PTT app which is free to use for Amateurs. I also use Zello with a Bluetooth PTT mic and they effectively turn your device into a kind of walkie talkie. Check them out as they can be fun to use.

73 2E0ENN