Wednesday, 19 July 2017

FT8 and T10 now accepted by eQSL

Happy to see that eQSL is now accepting the new digimodes C4FM, FT8 and T10. I uploaded my log with FT8 QSOs immidiatly. Nice to see that one of the first FT8 QSOs with A92AA from Bahrain has been confirmed. Thanks QSO & QSL Fawaz, it was a pleasure.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

FT-817 brackets & more thoughts

With some inspiration I got from OH8STN Julian's videos. Julian has brackets on his FT-817 from a company named Chameleon antenna. They make very neat products for the FT-817 and many other accessoires for the ham radio operator that likes to get his radio outside and use it in the field. Now, I don't have the money to buy such a bracket as it would cost me over 150 euro just for some pieces of Aluminium.

Although I am not a skilled machinist or metal worked though I built this militairy style brackets myself. Costs about 20 euro, includes 1 meter of 30x30 Aluminium angle section, RVS bolts, nuts and rings, aluminium primer and matt black spray. The "legs" are made from a scrap piece of RVS. Don't ask how much time it costs to cut the aluminium and filing everything in shape, but be assured it took some hours. Ok, they will not be as rugged and excellent like the Chameleon ones and I don't have the nice strap to hang it on to my shoulder. But it works fine for me.

 I like the way I now have some place for the 12V cable. At the front I have a piece of foam for when I have it in the bag. I secure everything with a piece of velcro.

As some operators have problems with the 12V connector breaking from the printboard I mounted the cable directly at the ground screw. That means that the 12V cable cannot be removed easily, But for my needs that doesn't matter as I don't plan to use it on the internal battery. Hopefully the 12V connector will be safer like this.

I've seen Julian's setup with some digimode modems on top secured,. A great solution which I probabely copy. There goes my idea of a USB stick modem. It also occured to me that I really need to have control over the volume of input/output sound outside the computer. So I'm thinking of rebuild the modem I use so it will fit on top of my FT-817.  It will contain two knobs now to regulate the volume.

Thinking about computers. I really need something else to get on air digital. My old Windows XP laptop was small and light in the past but it isn't anymore. It is slow and the screen is not bright enough to work outside. I was thinking about a tablet with Android. The only problem is that you have to pay for software like PSKdroid etc. If I would have a small laptop with Windows all digi software is free! Besides that you need a special modem to work with a tablet, costs money again which is a problem for me.Besides that I really like to make my own gear.

Just some thoughts...

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Looks like RaDAR but isn't

Desperately seeking for time today to get my portable gear and get out for 4 hours.....well I can only dream of a RaDAR participation. But to get the feeling I put everything in the bag. FT-817, digimodem, MP-1 antenna, tripod, 7Ah battery, piece of RG58/U coax, RaDAR logsheets and a pencil. 8,3Kg in total. I travel all the way to the back of our garden and set it up in a hurry. Tuning the antenna after 5 minutes, didn't get a good SWR....5 minutes later I discovered I forgot to connect the radials. Too much hurry. It always amazes me how well the MP-1 receives. I had several stations on 20m with S9+, one of them was 4X6TT. I worked  LZ284SKD without any problem.

Now, I wanted to see if I could make any digi contact. I was planning to do some JT65 mode and for that you need to sync the time. To do that I made a portable WiFi hotspot with my phone so I had a connection with internet. That worked fine. Receive did very well but I couldn't get the whole setup to transmit my signal. Whatever I tried the radio did not switch to transmit. So, no further contacts. I was running out of time as it already started to get dark. So I quickly packed my gear and got it back in the shack were I tried and tested the whole digi setup again. It worked well this time so I guess I had a bad case of RFI into the modem.

I was actually glad I didn't pack for a real RaDAR challenge and just did this small experiment in the garden to get the feel of it. I really like the idea but to be successful you need some good preparation.

What I learned: Test the equipment in the field and not at the base station, I really need some kind of bracket or bag for my radio as I couldn't place it anywhere, don't use RG58 cable I had bad experiences with it in the past and had it again this time, use a light tablet instead of a laptop or get a small laptop.

The biggest problem I had with the laptop is that I could barely read the screen. I know a tablet does a lot better and has power enough for digimode.

Well, it will take some more testing and experience before I can participate in a RaDAR challenge for real. However the half hour I spend to get the feeling of it was very useful.