Tuesday, January 26, 2016

BARTG RTTY Sprint 2016

Having missed the ARRL RTTY contest earlier I was looking forward to a RTTY contest. The next one was the BARTG Spring Sprint.  The contest times are very civilised; noon start on Saturday, noon finish on Sunday (none of this 2am start of the BARTG March RTTY contest!!). Being a Sprint the contest exchange omits a report, only serial numbers are exchanged.

Looking in the loft I found the two Atom DG945CLF2 computers we last used in RTTY contests which ran Writelog under WinXP. Having now converted to N1MM software under Windows 7 a new computer with a more powerful processor and more memory was needed. I had built a media center in the USA using a DG41MJ motherboard. The case was also tall enough to acommodate the Delta D44 high performance stereo soundcard. Windows 7 32 bit  was installed with N1MM+ and the D44 drivers located. A stereo sound card is needed as the K3 supplies audio from the main receiver on the stereo left channel and audio on the stereo right channel from the sub receiver allowing two instances of MMTTY to be used to decode both frequencies. As usual FSK modulation was used.

The K3, KPA500 and KAT500 were assembled along with the newly established computer. The antennas were a good match so the KAT500 was not needed to match the antenna, but it does provide an easy way of automatically switching between the beam for 20/15/10, the 40m dipole and the 80m dipole.

The only issue experienced was that N1MM would go away and not allow anything to be done for periods up to two minutes,but would complain "K3 not responding" when it did come back and then work normally. This happened a dozen times on the Saturday evening, losing some QSOS. Changes were made, changing K3, closing N1MM windows, ferrite chokes, running without the amplifier but nothing changed, The same issue was also experienced with N1MM and a different K3 on a 432MHz afs a year ago which was never solved.   Then I remembered a similar issue with the TS950 and N1MM, The solution to this was to lower the polling rate in N1MM to 50%. This was tried with the K3 and the issue never happened again.

Conditions were poor for the contest and only 756 QSOs were had. All 6 continents were had for multipliers. At times it was slow that Practical wireless and the CDXC Newsletter were read!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Using RCFOrb On a Nexus 7

Having Used RCFOrb for a while on my laptop as mentioned in my blog I was keen to try the Android Version to control the K3. The Christmas holiday gave me the opportunity.

Download and installation was easy. Setting up the server information in the app was just like the windows version. HF bands were a bit quiet but there was a 4m contest on so used it to have a couple of QSOS. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

More work on my old FT726R

As previously mentioned  in my blog I thought I had fixed the sticky contacts on the relay in the 144MHz module of my old FT726R. The adjustments only lasted 6 months, so it was time to make a more permanent fix

I made a  long search for a replacement relay, but found none, mainly because of the non standard pin configuration. It was time to try another way.  I found some DPDT 12v relays in my collection of around the same size, but with totally different (normal) pinouts. It was not possible to drill new mounting holes for the pins, The only option was to glue it upside down on the PCB and put wires from the relay pins to the corresponding PCB tracks

Original Relay with cover removed after previous relay contact adjustments

Relay Removed

Replacement Relay hand wired in place

While I had the radio open i fitted an extra cable to allow an external preamp output to be connected  to the 2m module receive input, without the risk of transmitting up the back end of the preamp.
External 2m Receive Input cable(exiting module to left)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

RSGB Convention 2015

Went to the RSGB convention in Milton Keynes with G4BVY for the weekend. Very sociable event, catching up on the latest VHF contest news. Went to a few interesting talks; GW4DGU on the Gemini Amplifier design, (although being a commercial design no details were given) GM3SEK on "(RF noise) cleaning up your shack"which was all about RF noise and G4BAO on the physics of meteor scatter.

Got the WW2R DXCC cards checked by N1ND to bring my mixed total up to 200 entities, including some from the 1990s he had not seen submitted for a long time

Having heard the dinner speaker before, we went out to a local pub for dinner, reached via a 30 minute walk.The Chicken Makhani tiffin (served in an authentic tiffin tin set) we had seen but not eaten the previous month was tried and was excellent

Sunday morning attended the VHF trophy presentations to participate in the Bristol contest groups receipt of the Club superleague and G3MEH trophies. In the afternoon I helped out at the FCC exam session as an examiner, having got my credentials restablished (with the expeditious help of Amanda Grimaldi at the ARRL VEC) two days before. My last VE session was in 2001 while at Nortel.

All in all a very enjoyable weekend, encouraging me to complete some projects and start some new ones , like a 5B4AGN Triplexer

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Return to 70MHz Portable Contests after 30 Years

Having Completely re-engineered the 70MHz MRF151G Amplifier after the disaster in February , it was time to try it. The opportunity arose in the form of the the RSGB 2nd 70MHz contest. Again the Blorenge is no place to go on a Sunday morning , so it was time to visit Dorstone and again use G5NF/P

Having disposed of my pair of 5 ele 70MHz MET antennas 30 years ago I had looked for a portable antenna. I found a Powabeam 5 ele on the DX Shop web site, They had a lightweight version of the 5 ele , but that was on a round boom which I avoid based on previous experiences. So they made it on a 2 piece square boom so it would fit in my car (only just,... the elements are one piece!)

The K3 was used to drive the 70MHz Anglian Transverter then into the MRF151G. 160W was easily reached with 2W into the PA module.As the amplifier is so compact, there is no room for an LCD display on the front panel, so a remote LCD is used to display the Amp Status (flashbacks to the KLM amps with remote display). As a precaution, should I forget to Pack the display the error LED flashes an error code if there is one in the style of Harris TV Amplifiers

K3 and Anglian Transverter

Amplifier and remote LCD display

The band suffered from the usual QSB but some interesting DX was worked to the East and North. PA4VHF was the best DX at 671km

The good news is the amplifier survived the whole contest, and we got a runners up certificate. To do well in this contest you need to be well away from the centre of activity!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

5th Backpackers 144MHz contest

Having not done a backpackers contest and with a promising weather forecast it was decided to try it. Blorenge on a Sunday is a pain so we went to the AFS winning site near Dorstone across the river from Hay on Wye in England IO82LB

Using just the K3 with its 8W output and my (previously unused) portable F9FT 144MHz yagi some reasonable DX was worked as there was a concurrent region 1 contest meaning lots of EU DX. The backpackers continues for 1 hour after the Region 1 contest  (stupid idea!) which means QSOs are sparse/non existant during that period. The only getaway was DF0MU, despite many attempts

For a change we used G5NF/P. Two stations complained about the missing W in the callsign!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

144MHz UKAC Sept 2015

Conditions to were not as good as the last event with the average distance being down from 226 to 216km, but more northern Multipliers were found to break the 50 barrier. Having decided not to use the MHP, as the K3 with internal xverter was good enough on its own, we ended up using it to join 2 coax cables as no barrel connector could be found!