Tuesday, December 22, 2015

KE7II Drops In

Ben Isla KE7II from Boise, Idaho, happened to be in the area on work, and he managed to squeeze in a visit to KL2R one Sunday evening for a couple of hours.  We had a great chat, and then I left him to make a few contacts on HF.  It's too bad he doesn't live closer.  We could use him on the contest team.
KE7II in front of the main console discovering just how poor HF can be from AK.

Friday, November 20, 2015


We learned this afternoon our wonderful mentor and inspiration Rich Strand KL7RA passed away in Anchorage after a brief illness.  This is a huge sorrow for the contest community and for Alaska hams in particular.  His countless friends and a few enemies alike will always remember Rich for the funny, generous, determined, pig-headed genius he was.  He built friendships and spread knowledge around the world.
BCC at KL7RA for WPX CW in 2012.  Rich is center right with suspenders.
KL7RA in his Fairbanks shack before moving to Kenai in 2004.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Subtract and Add

The DMU display just shrank to 7".  I got the monitor as a test buy from Newegg. It shipped direct to my office from China for less than $40.  The product description said VGA, but actually, it takes a composite video input. Both 4:3 and 16:9 aspects are available.  I had to buy a converter at Radio Shack, which cost nearly double the monitor. Runs off of 12 VDC and is ostensibly for backup cameras and DVD players in vehicles.  Video quality is so-so, but it beats taking up a lot of real estate for a bandscope.

Marshall Emm N1FN at Morse Express notified us recently of GHD's latest bug, model GN206S.  It wasn't very long before one appeared in the shack!  She's a beauty.  Now if only the operator(s) can master it!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ten-Tec Patriot in the Shack

Recently I have had a lot of chatter with Dan KL1JP, Charles WL7CW, and Neal W7USB about a low-cost beacon and HF monitoring system to be deployed throughout Alaska.  Propagation is very spotty and localized in the high latitudes.  The notion of utilizing skimmers, as well as modes like JT-65, JT-9, and WSPR has a lot of appeal.  The prototype will be based on the new Ten-Tec Patriot Arduino-based transceiver and a Raspberry Pi 2 controller.  The beacon project will be documented in future posts.

However, first a few words about the Model 507 Patriot, which arrived a few days ago.  I placed an order fully expecting a three-week ship date, but I had the box in hand barely more than two weeks later.  Packaging and contents are spartan.  You get a radio and a manual.  Period.  No cables, no connectors, no mic.  
If you look carefully at the photo, you will see what appears to be a rubber cover or button left and below the large tuning knob.  I puzzled over this one a moment.  It turned out to be a rubber foot from underneath, and an easy transplant to fix.  I can only think it was packed that way.

Band, bandwidth, and tuning steps are all selectable using the SELECT and FUNCTION buttons. Mic audio and line in/out signals are on the MIC/DATA connector.  The CW SPD adjustment is actually an additional internal potentiometer available for user programming like CW keying speed. The transceiver does not include an internal keyer.

Three adjustment pots are on the side of the cabinet to set audio levels for mic and line level interfaces on the eight-pin mic connector. 
The rear panel provides connections for power (10-15 VDC @ 1.5A), key or paddle (there is no built-in keyer), and antenna (BNC).  Removing two screws on the panel to the left of the antenna will give you access to the Arduino's  USB port.  Knurled knobs, hinges, or a similar arrangement would make removal easier.  
Access to the interior requires removal of four screws, two on each side, as well as a star washer and 9/16" nut on the BNC antenna connector.  If this radio is part of your go-kit, make sure you include a small wrench or socket as well as a Phillips screwdriver.

The audio is far better than expected as tested through a pair of Heil headphones.  Here are a couple of quick demos from 20 meters:

Even though there is no frequency display, the LED in the upper right will illuminate constantly when band edges are reached.

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Cold Outside

A lot of snow late last week was followed by clearing skies and plunging temperatures over the weekend.  When it's -30 or -40F outside, what better time to work inside the shack?

A few ergonomic improvements have been on the to-do list for a long time. Several weeks ago I added some backlit keyboards to the positions. I did better than that, actually.  The Azio USB KB505 keyboards have LARGE PRINT for old and/or tired eyes.  The backlight on the keys can be changed between red, blue, and purple.  The 5-foot cord is easily long enough for most installations.  They cost about $20 on amazon.com  There's a five-color version for about $8 more (model KB506).

Next up was to investigate a gaming mouse for RTTY contesting. The BARTG Sprint happened over the weekend, which was a good chance to try out a new Naga Razr Hex mouse. The six programmable keys on the left side can be mapped to keyboard functions and full-up macros in very sophisticated ways.  The key assignments can be universal or associated with a particular program. Any number of profiles can be stored locally and backed up online at the Naga web site.  Brilliant! There is a learning curve while muscle memory catches up, but a gaming mouse is the best PC accessory I have used for contesting in quite some time.

Finally, dual monitors!