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14th November 2004
I've got a loop but the bands stink!
I put the loop up and it appears that I can tune all bands. I would have thought the SWR would be a bit better then the 1.4 to 1.5 that usually comes up. Anyway, I have the loop up and was also able to keep the old setup for comparison. There are two things that appear odd. The old 30M MicroVert appears to be effected by the loop wire running near it. The resonant point is low again. It needs a bit trimmed off. Also, the 20M dipole is way out of whack now. I have no idea what the deal is with that one. The SWR is now 3:1 and I didn't touch that one. :
More then likely, I will pull the dipole down anyway and, quite possibly, rip everything out and use it for portable operation. I don't know. As I have most of the old antennas stuck in the middle of the loop, I figure that is causing all kinds of problems. I may pull them all out next week if I deem loop operation to be no worse then what I'm pulling.
Either way, the loop seems to be OK but the bands are in such crummy condition at night, I have no one to talk to. I did make one 40M CW contact some 200 miles away using 50W. I started using the MicroVert then switched to the loop. No real difference as far as signal strength; both transmit and receive. The EZNEC model showed 40M to be a cloud warmer anyway so that seems right.
10th November 2004
Changing the antenna farm
As has been said earlier, I have a handfull of MicroVert antennas sitting up in the attic. They "appear" to work OK. I get almost 1:1 on the 30M version.........depending on whatever is around them. If a bird flys too close, it bumps up a bit. I also think the antenna switch is going out. I have started seeing some bumps in SWR that disappear when the relay is opened and then re-closed. One time it's bad, the next time it's good. :
Taking the easy way out, I ordered an Icom AH-4 antenna tuner. The plan is to put a loop up and use the tuner to match it. The reviews of this tuner are pretty good and the fact that it interfaces directly witht the IC718 makes it very easy to use. Tim, W4TME, wrote a review which got my interest and he has been more then helpful in configuring my loop. He created a spreadsheet that outlines the which loop lengths to use to avoid high currents in the tuner. Very, VERY helpful!!
The tuner should be coming today and I already have tomorrow scheduled for a vacation day. Using the handy chart, I figure 75 feet of wire is a good length to avoid tuning issues. I will cut 75 feet of 12 or 14 ga wire (whatever is in the garage) and loop it the best I can in the space provided. The loop will be "facing" North and South. Doing some EZNEC modeling shows the loop will be slightly directive above 21MHz. Also, by feeding the loop from the top vs. the bottom, the only band that suffers is 80M. By feeding the loop at the bottom, the 80M pattern shows maximum radiation at 84 degrees ("Cloud Warmer") with a gain of -1 dB. Feeding from the top shows a take off angle of 44 degrees but has a gain of -9 dB. This is about 1-2 S-units. No big deal?? It's hard to tell.
Top feeding also lowers the take off angle for 30M & 40M with slightly better gain. 20M and up is a wash. It will be easier to install the wire as the tuner will end up in the approximate position of the switch so all the cables will reach as is. The nice thing about using this type of setup is that it is much easier to change things around when you don't have to make 20 trips from attic to basement to trim the antenna!
More to come...............
24th July 2004
Happy Anniversary to Me!
One year ago today was when I re-started my amateur radio hobby. Going into the VE session with nothing and coming out with an Extra happened exactly one year ago today! :
What have I accomplished? Not as much as I had thought. I am finally making more CW contacts. I do an occasional PSK contact. I can't remember the last time I used the microphone. I have built up an adequate station with a handfull of attic antennas. Some work better then others. All in all, not too bad........
4th May 2004
Finally did it!
Well, I finally made a CW contact! It was with Jesse, AB0SR, from Storm Lake, Iowa. He stuck with me with all my mistakes until the broadcasters came on. I usually don't collect QSL cards but I will send off a request to Jesse to commerate this event. :
I realize it may seem like a long time from my last update. No, I haven't been sitting here with trembling fingers since then. I haven't had the radio on much for the past month or so due to being in the height of the little league baseball season. Two kids on two different teams, coaching both, really takes up my extra time. BTW, I wouldn't have it any other way!
30th April 2004
I'm trying out CW
I received my Kent TP-1 paddles today and wired them up quick. I tuned up the rig on the 40M Novice band and...............sat there for 45 minutes trying to get the nerve up to actually use them. I practiced a bit with the sidetone. I even went to the 7.110 calling frequency. I just looked at those paddles! :
I remember the first time I pressed the PTT button once being re-licensed. The same feeling of "what happens when someone answers?" "Do I know all the protocols?" "Will I be able to remember to release the button?"
After getting up and sittinig down a few times, I actually started sending a CQ. I screwed it up a few times and luckily, nobody answered. The band was kinda going on me and all the foreign broadcast stations were starting to come in. I sat and listened some more while working on my receive and trying to get some more of the protocols down. Soon...........
16th April 2004
A Handfull of Things
I used my new MFJ antenna analyzer to help tune my 17M MicroVert. When I first put the antenna together a few weeks ago, the SWR was off the scale. The problem was, I didn't know if the resonance was too high or too low. I assumed it was low, but since I was using different coil materials, I couldn't be sure. Sure enough, the analyzer proved its worth on the very first use. :
I have had a problem with my 17M dipole in that the antenna switch would go flaky when I keyed into it. I put ferrite beads on the lines, added bypass caps to the switch, all kinds of things. Whatever, I used the antenna, the switch would chatter and close multiple ports totally hosing up my SWR. Thinking it was just some fluke with the dipole, I built the MicroVert.........same problem. The problem never showed when I used the 20M dipole and tuner. It just happens with resonant antennas. After a little digging, I found that the unused antenna switch lines were picking up the RF and causing the TTL level coaxial switch drivers to fire. As the lines were un-terminated at the control end when not selected, I can see this being a problem. I redesigned the control box to use SPDT relays to drive the coaxial switch. The lines were either grounded or set to 5 volts when selected. This fixed everything.
The MicroVert has a 1.2:1 VSWR at the center of 17M. More then likely, the dipole that was there was probably fine. Oh well. Maybe I'll cut it down to a 10/12/15M antenna.
4th April 2004
I ordered an antenna analyzer today. I decided on the MFJ-207. It's cheap and should be good enough for my needs. The unit does NOT have a frequency counter, but I plan to use my receiver anyway. I had started gathering parts to make my own but haven't found the time to put it all together yet. I want to get all my attic antenna work done soon as I don't want to rummage around in the attic durring the summer months!
13th March 2004
An Occasional Update
It has been a while, hasn't it. Work has kept me from operating as much as I would like. I did get on 20M PSK this evening and worked Russia and Brazil........before the band came crashing down. Everything disappeared! I finally get an evening to play and there's nothing to do.....oh well. :
Pete, PH1PH - G7ECN, sent me a message and said there is a way to center the PSK signal in the filter passband automatically. This is in regards to my earlier post about the new Icom filter. He said it was doable using PSK31 Deluxe. I use MixW so off I went to the MixW group over at Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mix/
). The magic command is ALIGN:1500
Boom, right in the middle of the passband. I programmed a macro button to do it and I use is it all the time. Thanks Pete for pushing me to find it!
3rd February 2004
Installed theFL-53A today
I installed the FL-53A 250Hz narrow CW filter today. Man, does that thing clear up a crowded band! I had my norml configuration running on 40M with a PSK signal down in the mud and a near by RTTY signal. The RTTY signal was swamping the front end of the Icom 718. I could copy the PSK signal but I was missing a few letters here and there. Probably about 90% copy. I switched the filter in and everything went quite! I had to tune a bit to find the PSK signal because it was out of the passband. Once I found it, 100% copy and whisper quite everywhere else. All I heard was the PSK warble. :
I will need to learn to tune to the signals better. Without the filter, you just click on the waterfall, which is about 10 KHz wide. Now, if you click on the waterfall, you need to keep in mind that if you turn the filter on, you need to have the signal within a much narrower area. It will take a little practice.
I did tune around the CW bands too. This filter really brings up the signals out of the mud. I really need to bone up on the code and get back inito it. My previous posts mentioned the lack of finding a paddle. Once I get better at receiving, I could easily use one e of the many CW sender computer programs until I find just the right paddle.
25th January 2004
Hamfests and 12 meters
Went to the local hamfest looking for a paddle to send CW with. I saw two straight keys that were beat to hell and they were asking $60. What a crock! Not a paddle to be found!! I did find an antenna for the HT. I picked up a Diamond SHR519 which works better then the stock Yaesu antenna on non-ham frequencies. I could not hear the weather channels but now they come in about half scale or better. :
I also made my first 12M contact.......ever. I tuned up the 20M wire on 12M and answered a CQ from Gary, VA7YO from Victoria, British Columbia. I may string a wire if the band holds up or maybe do a MicroVert. I'll have to watch the band for a few days and see what shakes out.
10th January 2004
It's the counterpoise!!
I built up another MV, this time using a wooden dowel rod for the coil form and 20 AWG wire. As per the norm, it resonated too low ini frequency. I trimmed off about 2" of the resonator and removed 4 turns of the coil. This brought the antenna to a center frequency of 7.20 MHz with a 1.4:1 VSWR. Not too bad. :
I remembered reading somewhere that the counterpoise should be as straight as possible. Remembering back on my last attempt of tuning the antenna, I did get a good match and the counterpoise WAS pretty straight. I stretched the counterpoise as straight as I could and built up an extension cable to get back to the antenna switch. That's what was needed! The VSWR is now 1.2:1 and I have a little over 100 KHz of 1.5:1 bandwidth!
The down side........I place the antenna between the 'V' of my 17M wire. That antenna has been goofy ever since I put it up and now, the VSWR is terrible on it. I guess it's time to move on to another band and build a 17M MicroVert!
2nd January 2004
There is more to this MicroVert then I thought
I assembled a second MV for 40m SSB. Tuned it up while it was perched on top of my dresser. I actually got a dip of about 1.3:1 and 100 KHz of 1.5:1 bandwidth. Once I installed it to the attic, it all went to hell. My guess is that I am not de-coupling the counterpoise from the feed line enough. I tuned it with once length of feedline and installed it to another. The temporary feedline must have been part of the tuned circuit. :
I've purchased more components for yet another MV. I have also since found out that the white PVC that I have been using for the coil sucks. I purchased a hardwood dowel for this next antenna as well as using 20 AWG rather then the 14 AWG I used for the first two.
More on this later.
23rd December 2003
My 40M Microvert Antenna
I finished building and tuning my 40M Microvert antenna. It is a base loaded vertical which stands about 4 feet tall and is mounted in my attic. This is the first time I built this type of antenna and was not sure of what to expect. After trimming, I get about 50 KHz of 1.5:1 bandwidth. This, I guess, is to be expected from such a small antenna and is one of the trade offs. There are things that could be done to increase the bandwith and I may try them on a second version for SSB. The current model is set to 7.07 MHz for the 40M PSK portion and it works well. With the bands being in such a sad state, I was still able to work stations at 500-600 miles on 30 watts as well as a "local' station in Wisconsin, a mere 150 miles away. Not bad for a 4 foot antenna!!
4th December 2003
Got a new toy
I received my latest toy yesterday. It's a Yeasu VX-2R Micro 2M/440/Wideband receive hand held. Hand held should probably be palm held....this thing is small!! 100mW out on 2M and 440 MHz. 1.5W out on 2M and 1W out on 440. I am having no problems hitting a few of the local repeaters, even on low power. I sold off the Yeasu VX150 2M HT and the Yeasu VR120 Scanner (as the VX-2R has all the features of both plus 440 MHz). With the current rebates for the 2R, the cost is only $130. You can't beat that!! Being as small as it is, I will definitly be using this radio more then the VX-150. :
Performance wise, I'm still evaluating. Some differences I've noticed so far. AM broadcast reception sucks! The VR120 had a built in bar antenna which could be used for reception. Not so with the 2R. Most of the reviews say the supplied antenna blows for everything OTHER then 2M/70cm. I have to agree at this point. In these two bands, the antenna is surprisingly good. I did an uncontrolled measurement of the return loss of the antenna between 100 KHz and 500 MHz using a network analyzer and s-parameter test set. I say uncontrolled in that the counterpoise was the analyzer and not the radio/human body which it was designed for. You can still see the 2 points of resonance at 145 MHz and 430 MHz or so. The rest of the band is like a short circuit. For receiving, yes, any peice of metal should work but it works much better if it's resonant. It works fine when using the Anli A-100 in the attic as well as the scanner antenna.
Like the VX-150, there are zillions of memory slots....1200 I think. I have no idea who might need all those. Also like the 150, you can't clear a memory spot. You can mask it or you can write over it. You could clear memory locations in the VR120.
I'm also still trying to figure out what the buttons do. There are only 8 but they all seem to do 20 different things depending on the mode you are in, how long you hold them down, or what button ypu press with it. That will come with time, I assume.
Overall, I am impressed with this radio and have high hopes for it's use.
26th November 2003
What I've been up to.....
Been running nothing but 20M PSK for the past week and a half. Very nice mode. 20 watts and you can work the world.....or in my case, the Caribbean. The 20 M dipole pattern is definitely pointed southeast. Why? I have no idea. The wire runs due North/South! :
The interface is working perfectly. The CIV circuit works as well. When using MixW and having the CIV connected, the exact frequency is read from the radio when a signal is selected from the waterfall.
I am selling my Yeasu VX150 2M HT and the Yeasu VR120 Scanner. The cash will go for the new Yeasu VX2R 2M/440/Wideband receiver. Basically combining the 2 radios into 1 and adding 440 MHz. The radio is on order and will probably be here early next week.
15th November 2003
Interface Done. PSK, Here I Come!
I finished building the "Universal Interface" yesterday and have been testing out the functions. The mic feed-thru/Mute circuit works fine. This is required, from what I have been able to find out, because when keying the radio thru the accessory connector, audio from the mic is still being sent. :
The keying circuits both work. The DTR line acts as the PTT and the RTS line acts as the CW key. Both are optically isolated with a LED indicator on the front panel of the BUD box.
I did have a problem with the soundcard audio routing. I was getting a minor squeal when both the line in and out were connnected at the same time (kind of a must, don't you think?). I had both in and out going to the left channel. I simply swapped one path to the right channel and all is well.
I haven't tried the CIV functions yet. I really don't have any software to control the IC718 so I may write a little routine in Visual Basic to do some simple commands to verify that it works.
I hope to get on 20M today and play around with PSK but, of course, there is a geomagnetic storm and I've only heard 2 stations on the entire 20M band. More to come...................
31st October 2003
The tuner came
I purchased a MFJ-941D VersaTuner II from John, K1FBI (cool call!!) and it arrived yesterday. I have no idea how old this thing is but it came as advertised; "In Excellent Condition". I want to try using it to tune up some of my current wires on 10M and 15M. I may still try and get a 40M wire strung some place before the weather turns. I'll have to see what's on tap for the next few weekends. :
I also received most of the parts for my "universal" computer/radio interface project. This will be a box that has all the interfaces for connecting my laptop to the IC718. It will have the audio and PTT interface for working computer generated digital modes as well as a CIV interface for controlling the radio. I might move the remote antenna selector to this box as well. The schematic is drawn up for what I want to do but I'm not sure on some of the audio signal levels coming from the laptop (it doesn't have a line out, only headphones). I'll probably breadboard the circuits individually before commiting them to the final enclosure.
27th October 2003
CQ Worldwide Contest
Popped on 20M for about 2 hours this past Friday night to see what was happening with the CQWW Contest. In those 2 hours, I worked Bermuda, Aruba, Fernando de Noronha, Netherland Antilles, St Maarten, Anguilla, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, the Turks & Caicos Islands, Trinidad & Tabago, Antigua, and Portugal. I was running 100W into the attic dipole and usually didn't have to throw my call in more then 2 or 3 times to get an answer. Most of the time it was on the first call. There were other pile ups that I just couldn't get through. I made it a point to call more then 5 times before moving on. :
Looking on my map, there is a definate pattern for my dipole. Most of the contacts I made that night were South-South East in the Caribbean. Must be some kind of sign as it's starting to get cold in the Chicago area and my RF is leaning to warmer climates.......
12th October 2003
I'm Now on 17 Meters
After messing around with EZNEC and conjuring up the "perfect" 17M dipole, I measured, cut, installed, measured, cut, measured, cut, measured, cut............. :
Again, more trips from the attic to the basement then I was hoping for. The model showed I should be getting near 1.15:1 VSWR.........I'm getting 1.4:1 VSWR. I might be able to trim off "just a bit more" but then I've already learned my lesson on the 20M dipole. Don't Get Greedy!!
I had a quick QSO with John, W5GI, in Austin, Texas on 17M and he gave me a 59 so I must be close enough to resonnace. He also said my audio was good and actually played back what I sent him.....pretty cool.
I'm probably not going to mess with 40M for a while. Again, I've got a simulation for a "side of the house outline" dipole but have a feeling that it won't work near as well as the simulator says. I know I'm going to need a tuner for this but I don't have the $$$ for one at this time. Maybe I'll throw some wire out and see where it lands VSWR wise. If it's really bad, then I'll just wait to get a tuner in the spring.
6th October 2003
I answered a CQ today on the newly trimmed 20M dipole and made my first HF contact in over 20 years! I had a nice 20 minute QSO with Al, W3FDQ, from Springfield, Pennsylvania. He was "drying out" his linear running 400 watts. I was running barefoot at about 45 Watts. :
The first of many........................
5th October 2003
FINALLY have an antenna up!
I started Sunday morning with the hope of getting a dipole strung in the attic to work some 20M phone. I wanted to pull a few more RF cables and a 12 conductor control cable thru the cable path......what a pain in the ass!! After screwing with it for about 2 hours, I finally had all the cables where I wanted them. :
I cut a quick dipole with each leg about 17 feet for trimming and strung it up. My attic is not the easiest one to get into and after making at least 10 trips from the attic to the basement, I had the VSWR down to 1.4:1 at 14 MHz, 1.4:1 at 14.15 MHz and 1.6:1 at 14.25MHz. I was a little concerned at the high end of the band so I went up and croped off a bit more to try and center it a little better. DOH! I cut off too much and had a 2:1 VSWR at the low end of the band but 1.3:1 at 14.35 MHz. At first, I was going to stick with this as my CW at the low end of 20M will never cut it with those speed demons.
I tried to add a bit more wire back........nope, that just totally screwed things up. I was getting an infinate VSWR. Actually, I think something broke somewhere. In either case, I re-cut some wire and installed it on the old insulators after cutting off the old wire. A hand full of trims and I am now sitting at 1.5:1 at 14 MHz, 1.4:1 at 14.15 MHz and 1.6:1 at 14.35 MHz.........basically where I was the first time! As the "dip" in near the center of the band, there is probably nothing I can do to make it any better.
3rd October 2003
I gotta get some antennas up
I've been using a long wire in the attic to do some listening with the new IC718. Man, I gotta get a transmitting antenna up!! :
Last night, I heard an Island On The Air (IOTA) station from Deer Island off New Brunswick, Canada (VE9) at S59+. I heard a station from Belgium booming in on RTTY calling CQ MULTIPLE TIMES with no answer!! I've heard all kinds of stuff during my "learning-how-to-use-the-rig" listening sessions. I've been going back and fourth in my head on what I want to put up. I'll probably start with a 20M dipole and then add a 40M dipole installed in a "Z" pattern (to fit). See what the 40M looks like on 15M. Maybe follow with a 10M Vee on the appex of the roof. Who knows!?
If nothing else, I at least want to put up the 20M antenna this weekend. More on that once it's done...........
29th September 2003
I GOT THE IC718!!
The radio arrived today! I held off opening it until I got the final sanding and painting of "the shack" done. What will power! I also installed all the electric. :
After cleaning up, I unboxed the 718 and installed the DSP. It's kinda goofy in that the circuit board just lays in the bottom of the radio. I would think there would be some kind of mounting holes or tabs. Nope. It just sits there. Luckily, the radio will not be going mobile.
The radio is sweet. I connected it to a long wire in the attic I used for SWL'ing and tuned around. Signals were booming in on 20M. Some SW stuff was starting to pop in on 6-7 MHz as well. The radio seems pretty easy to operate once I went through the manual. The auto-notch worked flawlessly to eliminate tune up tones. The noise filter did a good job and the DSP seemed to do something. I'm not sure about the DSP yet. I'll have to play around a bit more to see how it works and how to optimize it. This is going to be a fun radio.
28th September 2003
The Harry Potter Shack
Started work on the "Harry Potter" shack this weekend. It got that name because it is located under the stairs leading to the basement. It will be cozy. It will also be out of the way, which is what I was really trying do do. I don't have much equipment so a small 3 foot by 3 foot bench should be plenty. A have room to add shelves if I need to stack things but with only a IC718, power supply, laptop, and HT, I shouldn't need to worry for a while. :
As of this writting, the electric has been run and the drywall is up, taped, and rough sanded. I did some final "adjustments" to the mud and will do the finish sanding tomorrow. The table has been glued together (3/4" plywood and 1/8" oak paneling).
I hope to get it painted and get the table top cut to size tomorrow. I'll also need to add the finish edges and stain and seal the table before mounting.
22nd September 2003
What I did this weekend..........
I got up early this past Saturday to head over to the Chicago FM Club (CFMC) Hamfest in Grayslake, Illinois. I can't remember the last time I was at a 'fest but it seems that little has changed. The CFMC 'fest was pretty large and, I guess, well attended. It was accidentally scheduled for the same weekend as a 'fest in Peoria and there was some concern about attendance. It's a two day deal so I would think they made some money. :
Anyway, I went looking up and down table after table of equipment; some that could be useful, most of it not (to me anyway). I did, however, have one item that I wanted to try and purchase. I still don't have an HF rig. I am saving my pennies to get an IC706MKIIG. I've never played with one but, by all the reviews and pictures, I figured this would be the radio for me; 160M thru 6M, 2M, 70cm, all mode, all in one box. Cool. $750, not so cool. It is still the best value for the money, in my opinion, but I'm still $250 away.
I didn't see any in the flea market area. Once the two vendor buildings opened, I made a bee-line to the ICOM banner I saw hanging in the corner of building 1. They didn't have on display either! What gives?? They DID have an IC718 sitting there to be played with. It was sitting on 40M SSB picking up some stations. I twiddled the tuning knob (great feel to it!). I played with this radio for a good 30 minutes. It is a nice rig! Not a lot of bells or whistles; just a solid radio covering the HF bands.
The demo radio was tagged at $430. I asked if that was the show price (as I know they are currently priced at $500). The guy said that was the price for the demo and it did NOT have the DSP that is currently shipping for free. His new price, with tax would put the radio right at the $500 mark. Problem was, he didn't have any. Oh well. I moved to another vendor and his price was $560. I kept going. Still no 706s. Either they stopped making these, they sell out fast, or they are so wonderful, nobody sells them once they get them.
I went back outside, walked around some more and started thinking. The 706 is the ultimate radio for it's price. The 718 is the ultimate HF only radio for it's price. (I did do some reading on the 718 so I had some knowledge of this rig prior to the 'fest). I started thinking, with an all in one radio, I could only work one band at a time. Moons ago, when I was first in amateur radio, I could be working my Swan 350C and still be able to get DX reports from my friend on my 2M Icom 215. I've got a Yeasu VX-150 HT and can hit the local repeaters with that. Do I really need all the other stuff?? 440 MHz would be nice but not a neccessity. The same goes for 6M and 2M SSB. The 718 is looking better and better!
Driving home, it was decided. I placed my order for an IC718 and it should be in my hot little hands by the end of the week!!