Addition to the portable kit..

Last spring I completed my portable kit for digimodes on HF to be used during the summer of 2016. Unfortunately I didn’t got to use the kit as much as I wanted due to family activities and work, so the kit was mostly just in standby. However, I´ve promised myself to be more active this spring and summer. This because both me and the rest of the family need to get out more. That´s why I’m about to try to plan a number of outdoor activities together with the family this spring and summer and work some QSO:s with the portable kit. 🙂

Regarding the portable kit, the small Intel Atom computer I´m using for the kit is pretty slow when using it with WSJT-X 1.7. Also, the battery is not good to last more than 10 min and one hour the most on the battery bank for the radio. This made me thinking about a replacement of some kind that´s small, light and ultra portable. By accident my partner stumbled up tablet which seemed interesting.

The tablet was an Trekstor Wintron 7.0 tablet which seem to use Windows 10 Home instead of Android. This was particularly interesting as the chance that it would be able to recognize both the signalink and the CAT-adapter was quite higher than an android or Windows 10 Mobile tablet. The specs also seemed to match what I was looking for, 1.8GHz CPU and 1GB of RAM (WSJT-X requires 1.5GHz CPU as a recommendation).  The cost was only 60 Euros why I gave it a try! I ordered one online and a few days later I got the package.

dsc_1864The same night I got the package I started to experiment with the tablet. As the OS of the tablet was Windows 10 and the limited disc space of 16GB, I was afraid that it might not be able to support any of my external USB-devices. I was wrong! I also expected the Windows version to be a “sneak” version adapted for tablet use, but it turns out it really was a full Win 10 Home that was installed. It was able to handle the signalink directly to the USB port via the USB-adapter cable that came with the tablet. Since I wanted to connect more devices to the USB-port I then tried to connect a USB-hub with the signalink, CAT-adapter and a wireless mouse. This didn’t work good at first but after som tweaking in the device manager (energy saving properties) I was able to get it to work!

I then installed WSJT-X 1.7 and tried to run it monitoring the 40m band that normally has a lot of traffic during the evenings. My intention was to try to put some stress on the tablet as the decoding is the most critical point in running the JT modes. This regarding both time and processing power. It actually decode OK and the tablet could handle the extra CPU-load during the multipass decoding without any problems at all!

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Monitoring the 40m band.

No need to say I was very pleased this had worked! Now it was time to give it a trial run before officially giving it a place in the portable kit! 🙂

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The Wintron tablet with USB-hub and external devices connected.

I left it running, from fully charged, and managed to get about two hours of running time before the internal battery was depleted. An OK time! 🙂 I also made a couple of QSO:s on JT65 and JT9 and I’m more than satisfied with the solution! I also discovered that my protection case with integrated bluetooth keyboard for one of my older tablets also worked with the new one. This made the setup even more complete. 🙂

So now I have an updated portable kit, ready for this spring and summer adventures! 😀

73 de SM7VRZ

Weekend Hamradio..

Sometimes you do get amazed by in what mysterious ways that nature works. This weekend has been on of those times when I get that “wow”-feeling while at the rig. One of my fascinations about this hobby is just the “nature” part of communicating with distance stations, the way we use nature and natural phenomenons to reach distance places. Combined with transmitting with low output power the fascination is, at least for me, complete.

As a preparation for the SSMS, Swedish Lakes activity, I have been working some JT9 with my FT-817 this weekend, letting the  IC-7410 rest in the shack. I just LOVE working the WSJT-modes with the FT-817 and QRP which makes it bit more of a challenge sometimes, especially when working JT65 on the more popular bands. While making some sporadic CQ:s on the 20m JT9 section I got a respons, and I did have to look twice to be sure,  from a YF3-station (Indonesia)! That is some 11200 km distance and with a nice reception report aswell! My setup was only 4-5 W into a (for the 20m-band tuned) GP-1500 vertical. Well, this was really a “Wow” for me! 🙂

As I am using the PSKreporter service quite frequently during my activity it’s even more intriguing to see this response for just airing your call for a couple of hours… 🙂

20m jt9Ham radio  really is a “World wide Hobby” in a sense..  😉

This weekend seems to have good propagations, especially towards the east of the US and east of Canada. For some reason the Canadian stations are generally hard to come by unless they are located in the eastern part, near the US.

73 de SM7VRZ, Anders

New year, new projects..

I´ve just realized that it´s been a couple of months since I updated the blog and it almost seems a bit empty when there are no updates made to it. Honestly I´ve not really had the time or the inspiration for it the last months as my work and family life have been taking up the most of the time. Even the HAM-radio activities have been on the low side. Since it´s a new year now (2016 already!!) I´m looking in to what kind of new projects I might want to take on this year.

As you may already know I´m a big fan of the JT9/65 modes on HF and my activities are, except for the SJ7SOP activity, almost only digimode in HAM radio. This interest in JT made me sign up to the WSJT development e-mail reflector to get more insight in the development of the WSJT-X software. Also, I got the opportunity to try a number of development versions of the software through the WSJT-X user group on Facebook. Thanks to the helpful and kind work of Udo (DO1IP) who made the devel-versions available for testing in the limited user group, I was able to follow the development of the WSJT-X software and also witness the amazing progress that have been made with the JT65 decoder.

text_to_speech_app_iconI decided to give something back to the WSJT project and since my skills in programming is quite limited I´ve instead looked at the possibility to make a translation of the WSJT-X manual in to Swedish. The initiative seemed to be appreciated among the developers why I´ve started to learning the Asciidoc markup language and how to build the user manual. I´m quite excited about this undertaking which will not only put my translation skills to the test, but also gives me an opportunity to learn a new way of documenting.

A new release candidate is not far away for the WSJT-X software and the translation work will probably start when It´s released. 🙂

Another interesting thing that just recently started up here in Sweden is the Svenska Sjöar or Swedish Lakes Competition, SMSS, (homepage only in Swedish) which is a competition involving making QSO:s from as many Swedish lakes as possible. This is a good way to activate HAMs, showing the fun of portable operation, running QRP and of coarse enjoying the beautiful Swedish nature. Some of the club members in my local club, SK7JC, has decided to join the competition and is about to arrange a club meeting to exchange experiences with QRP and portable operation. I will certainly also be a part of it, however I would like the temperature to be at least on the + side before I make a trip outside. 😀

Meanwhile, waiting for the mercury to crawl upp, I´ll make some plans for spring activation of the SMSS competition. 🙂

73 de SM7VRZ

SJ7SOP/6

The activity for SJ7SOP in the SM6 area is slowly coming to it’s end as me and the family are leaving the summer QTH tomorrow. So far I’ve managed to get about 50 worked stations during my stay. I’t could have been more but the family activities comes first. However I’m satisfied with my activity and especially as I’m working QRP.

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Station setup with FT-817ND, Signalink USB and Acer Aspire One notebook

I’ve mostly activated 40m and 20m PSK31/63 as I didn’t realy find out a good way to work JT65/9 with the /6 suffix in WSJTX. When calling CQ in WSJTX with the /6, the locator is missing in my transmission. This problem will not be an issue back home why i’ll wait activating the JT modes until I get home again.

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The portable antenna, linked dipole for 20m and 40m setup in the garden.

The antenna setup is the same as my portable kit, the linked 20 and 40m dipole. In the garden, next to the house I’ve set it up in a inverted V configuration with good results. I could have set it up in the surrounding trees but I figured that it would be a perfect field testing for the antenna kit so I put it up as it was intended for.

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The house in Tösse, JO68HX.

I’m glad to see that some of the stations I worked are qualified for the SOP award. Hopefully I will manage to get a diploma this year myself, not only helping others to earn theirs 😉

 

73 de SM7VRZ / SJ7SOP/6

 

 

 

Vacation

Finally I’ve started my three weeks vacation and it feels really good to turn of the mobile phone and just relax. And relaxing also includes some radio activity for my part.
To start of the vacation, me and the family have rented a small house in the vicinity of my parents. It’s the third summer we have done this and of course I’ve brought my radio equipment with me as usual. During my stay here I also activate the SJ7SOP callsign to work as much stations as possible for the SOP award.
The setup this time is part of the QRP kit excluding the battery as I figured that it would be a good test before going out to work portable.

Regarding the SOP activation I will be active mostly between 1800-2300 UTC during my stay. Modes will be PSK/RTTY and JT65/9 on 40 and 20m.

Hope to work some of you! 🙂

73 de SM7VRZ

Portable kit, last piece of the puzzle..

As some may remember I’ve been looking for a stable, lightweight bracket for suspending the fishing rod for the antenna. After some searching I finally found what I was looking for!

The bracket is originally made for holding parasols during the lazy days outside but it turned out to be able to be used for antennas as well. 🙂

Another advantage is that it’s lightweight and not hard to pack along with the other equipment needed.

With this my kit is complete and just in time for the beginning of the three-week summer vacation. In addition I managed to get my hands on a 24Ah 12V battery for free. This means that, If I can manage the additional weight, I have a whole day worth of energy for my kit.

Now, where should I go first to try out my kit? 😀

73 de SM7VRZ

Family adventures and QRP kit progress…

Yesterday me and my better half, Ulrika, took the kids on a small adventure to a near by nature reserve, Kjugekull.  The site is locally famous for it’s large boulders and beautiful views and nature. In addition to this it´s also said to be the largest and best site in Sweden for an activity called “Bouldering“, a form of rock climbing.  Rock climbing was not on the schedule for my family though. We did just fine navigating the footpaths with sometimes narrow passages between the big boulders and enjoying the nature and the view from the small hill. The hill, which is 66m ASL, is some kind of ancient monument, probably a old fortification. It offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscape in this otherwise flat area.

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View from the top of the hill towards Kristianstad.

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The footpath in the forest among the big boulders.

The adventure got me started thinking about the SMFF activity, Swedish Flora and Fauna Diploma, that is quite popular here in Sweden. When I checked If the reserve ever had been activated for the Diploma, I found that It had not.  This maybe a good testing ground for my QRP kit?

When we finally got home I got some inspiration to start working with the antenna for the QRP kit. I figured that if i wanted to activate the site in the SMFF i needed an antenna for at least 40M band working nationwide stations. However, I wanted the possibility to work European stations aswell so I decided to make it a dual band antenna covering the 20M band in addition.

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Testing under way with the Rigexpert AA30

I went down in the basement to search for a 40M dipole that i knew I had hidden somewhere in the junkboxes and of course found it rather quick for a change. 🙂  The dipole was set up with a fishing rod in a Inverted V configuration and testing began. After some tweaking I got the SWR just right in the passband.

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Spot on with the antenna. 

Instead of making it a “four legged beast” with separate legs for the 20M band, I decided to make it a linked dipole. So I started to measuring exactly where to make the link according to my calculations, cut the dipole, mounted the links and the strain reliefs and made a second measurement on 40M band. Now the SWR curve had moved up in frequency but with some adjustment to the wire connecting to the isolators i managed to nearly the same result as before the modification. On 20M the result was that the dip in SWR was a bit higher than expected but still under 1:1,5. I decided that this was acceptable and relocated the antenna closer to the shack so that I could sneak the 11m RG-58 cable through the window next to the radio counter inside.

The antenna was tested mainly on 40M throughout the evening with some acceptable results. The conditions was not that great which was verified with the stationary 40M dipole in the garden.  So, now I have almost all the things I need for the kit. The only thing missing is a good way for suspending the fishing rod to the ground. Lightweight and inexpensive, any ideas? 🙂

73 de SM7VRZ

Evening pleasures..

Today, Monday, has been a day of from work for me. The day of was much needed because I’ve been struck by the flue, as the last one in my family. The worst is over but the constant headache isn’t  really helping my creative side for the article I’m about to publish here on the blog. All that fact finding requires a somewhat clear head to work. I decided however to fight the pain and try to work some JT9 QRP style with my portable setup.

To work QRP with digimodes is one of my favorite activities as it gives you a disadvantage towards all the QRO (read 30W +) stations. The fact is that even if I’m not working with my FT-817ND and using the 100W station, I often rarely go over 20W in output power. There is also a great satisfaction and thrill that you get when knowing you worked a far away station with a low output power. 🙂

DSC_0798Another reason to work with the portable kit was to trim the use of the software’s and arrange the different program windows for optimum use.  The evenings activity on the 20 m band resulted in mostly European stations but my signals was heard in the US as far away as Michigan, New Jersey and even Iowa. Not bad for 5W.. 🙂

73 de SM7VRZ

Project progression..

The portable QRP project is moving forward and I’ve started to look at putting it all together.

I have started to focus on the power supply for the portable kit. The battery of choice is a cheap lead type battery with a nominal voltage of 12VDSC_0730 and has 7.2Ah capacity. The battery and a suitable AC charger was purchased a while ago with battery backup functionality in mind but may be found useful also in this portable kit.  I have two main consumers to the battery, the computer and the transceiver. The transceiver is operational on 12V DC why it shouldn’t be any problem connecting it directly to the battery.

The computer on the other hand is operating on 19V DC which makes it a bit complicated. To connect the computer to the same power supply as the transceiver, I need a DC/DC converter to supply the correct voltage.

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I’d remembered noticing a sales add at a well known Swedish electronics accessories dealer having a sale on car accessories for laptop computers. A suitable converter along with a wide range of connectors was purchased for about 10€. Now I have the voltage conversion problem solved. The converter may come in handy in other applications as well.

Now when all the unit have the correct voltage and is ready for 12V operation I started to look at the expected operational time for the solution. To make an estimation on how long the operational time will be, I have to make some measurements on the current drain on both of the computer and transceiver. The transceiver was hooked up to a power supply with a ampere meter in serial with battery calcthe positive lead and was measured at RX and 5W TX @ CW. The transceiver showed a drain of appr. 2A in TX and 0.4A in RX. The same thing was done with the computer connected with the DC/DC converter and the Signalink USB plus a CAT-cable. The result was that It had a drain of ca 1.2A constantly. To do the calculation I made a quick Excel document with a formula specifying the typical operation. I calculated a TX cycle of 50% which means that half the time the transceiver will be in TX and half in RX.  Now, this may vary depending of which digital mode i wish to operate as well as the number of QSO:s being made. For JT-modes the cycle is close to 50% as you transmit and receiver half the time. When the calculation was done the result showed an estimated operation time of 2.25h. The calculation is however not exact enough as there are some factors that I haven’t included. An estimation gives that in reality I only should have about 1 to 1,5h of operation with the TX cycle above. This may require me to adjust my operational techniques to prolong the operational time.

Now, to connect it all together to the battery I had some thoughts about how to do this. As the DC/DC converter comes with a cigarette lighter DSC_0733connector, it seems stupid to cut this of. The converter Is also useful  in the car when using the computer mobile. One of my findings in the junk box was a power connector divider for cigarette lighter connectors. The use of this allows me to retain the connector on the converter and add one to the transceivers DC-cable, making the kit also useful for mobile operation as well.

I now feel that I have the power supply solution ready for testing. All I have to do is set the battery on charge and set it all up after it´s ready…

73 de SM7VRZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project digimode QRP portable, the first steps…

Today it’s saturday and I have actually nothing planned this weekend. Therefore I decided to startup one of this years projects, my QRP Portable digimode project. The goal with this project is to have a working solution for working digimodes (JT65/9 and PSK31/63) portable with my FT-817ND.  I’ve been giving this project some thought earlier and the other day I got some more inspiration when I got a new follower on the blog. VK1NAM, Andrew is a Australian Ham with an interest in SOTA, Summit on the air, which I think is something that I also would enjoy doing.  Not only is the project a reason to utilize my FT-817, it´s also a good excuse for getting out more! 🙂

Do check out Andrews blog here on WordPress with interesting posts and beautiful photos from his SOTA activations. I do hope to visit “down under” some day as both me and my fianceé would like to explore Australia. 🙂

So, back to the project. I started to collect some useful gear from the hidings in the basement. Through the years I’ve collected some stuff that may come in handy one day. When the search was over I got the following idea on how my “portable kit” could look like:

  • Portable HF antenna for 30m or 40m, 20m and maybe 10m. Andrews portable gear have given me some inspiration for a linked dipole construction.
  • An MFJ-901B manual tuner, if necessary.
  • The FT-817ND (naturally)
  • An old Acer Aspire One, lite notebook computer which I’ve been using before with my “traveling kit” setup. This computer already have the necessary software installed but is maybe a little slow for JT65/9 with WSJTX. The upside is that it´s small and light.
  • The Signalink USB interface for use with the computer and transceiver.
  • A small 12V 7,2Ah lead battery which should supply enough power to the FT-817ND and the computer ( both the transceivers and the notebooks internal batteries is depleted). The power solution should give at least some hours of operation.

That seems like a good starting point for creating a kit!

Now it´s time to build it all together and try it out!  🙂

73

de SM7VRZ