Adventures in radio - January 2023
2023-01-23 Software Defined Radio - hardware
The Nooelec RTL-SDR kit came in. I initially tested the SDR connected to my Windows laptopto make sure that it was working. I put the Youloop antenna into some insulating pipe wrap foam and connected it to the SDR. The insulated pipe wrap foam is split down the center to cover the pipe so it was trivial to insert the wire loop and once the wire loop is inserted the foam enclosure naturally curves, forming a nice circular loop, as the foam tries to straighten back out. Without the insulating foam "jacket", the Youloop antenna, being a thin wire, does not look anything like a circular loop when mounted on its own (no matter what the advertising images show). I only tried the Youloop indoors, same as when I used it with the short wave radio but did not pick up any shortwave stations just FM broadcast ones.
2023-01-19 Software Defined Radio (SDR) build
I put away the Mobilinkd TNC and the Baofeng HT after my APRS igate experiment. Still, I had the Raspberry Pi 3B on my desk while reading an article about Software Defined Radio (SDR). The article described how some web-based SDRs were also deployed as signal reporters. The received signals are forwarded to APRS (as an igate) and WSPR and other sites as beacon reports. I was already familiar with SDR dongles before I got my license and still had an RTL DVB dongle. I hadn't used the dongle as I found my Eton Executive Elite shortwave radio more useful for SWL listening. The RTL-SDR drawback of being connected to a computer was now a strength for use as an online SDR and signal reporter.
Checking for public online SDRs in the Long Island, NY, area found absolutely nothing. Very few public SDRs were available, even in the New York metro area. It looks like hosting an online SDR would be more useful than the Mobilinkd/Baofeng igate, use some of the same hardware, and be an interesting project.
The Youloop magloop antenna that I bought for my shortwave radio seemed like it would also be a good SDR antenna for receiving signals, although it wasn't that great on the shortwave radio. I just alligator clipped some wire from the shortwave radio antenna to my incoming HF random long wire, of course, used only when I'm not transmitting. This setup has received HF and SWL comms with no problems. Anyway, I placed an order for the Nooelec Smart SDR V5 unit as it is a much newer RTL-SDR and had a companion up-converter to receive HF.
2023-01-12 Final setup for my ICOM IC-705 portable and desktop storage solution
I have finally completed the Apache 2800 storage case (scroll down to read the earlier posts). This picture shows everything in place without the top foam so that the wiring is visible.
From lower left corner of the picture moving in a clockwise direction:
1. Coax switch with a dummy load on the bottom connector and a stubby VHF/UHF antenna on the other connection.
2. mAT 705 Tuner (on top of the IC-705)
3. The ICOM IC-705 radio.
4. Miady 12V 8ah LiFePo4 battery
5. Anderson Powerpole hub (1 input, 4 output connections)
I will connect one of the PL-239 coax connections to my 2M and 6M mag-loops when the IC-705 is sitting on my desk. The other PL-239 coax connection will go to my external HF antenna (currently an EFHW or a silver bullet Wolf River Coil) when I am at my desk (or just the dummy load when I'm not using it).
I also have to run some new tests to see if that stubby VHF/UHF antenna is "better" than a Signalstuff Signalstick to determine which one gets packed in the case when I am going mobile. I have a feeling I may never go back to the ICOM LC-192 Backpack.
2023-01-11 Mag-loop mayhem
I had updated my office/ham shack a while ago and had taken down my 2M, and 6M mag-loop antennas and just got back around to putting them up, mounted together as you can see in the picture.
I was going to run a final SWR test before using them and noticed that the bolts at the top of the 2M loop/dipole were missing. These are used for tuning if I remember correctly and (like the black screws) had some kind of spacer to separate the loops. I reached out to Bob at VHFLOOP.com, via email, to see if he could tell me what exactly they were so that I could replace them. While waiting for a reply I did a couple of experiments with zip ties that showed me those were the tuning areas and I got the SWR down to 1.24 briefly but the zip ties were not a stable approach, just a proof-of-concept.
I ended up using a couple of nuts and bolts with some plastic spacers and (packaging) tape wrapped around the top half of the bolt for insulation. Everything is working again (1.15 SWR on 146.52). I’ll just keep an eye out for some plastic/nylon nuts and bolts next time I’m at Lowes or Home Depot. Bob did get back to me later, but by then I told him all was good. Just to clarify, the picture is showing my two jury-rigged bolts in place for tuning. Weirdly enough, the 6M loop was giving me a problem when I set it back up next to the 2M mag-loop, as nothing would get my SWR below 2.8 at 50.20 (I was trying to get 50.31 and, of course, less than 1.5 SWR). My new setup has a duplex switch, as shown, to switch between the 2M loop (my outdoor HF antenna connection) and the 6M mag-loop. The 2M mag-loop, as I said, was fine. Turns out the common coax I was using to get to the radio from the coax switch, was too long coiled at about 20 feet. I only needed about 6 feet, so when I stretched the coax out to be 20 feet long and THEN took the reading, it dropped to about 1.3 SWR. Lesson learned I'm going to use JUST the length of coax needed and will probably end up with an 8-foot length before going operational.
2023-01-07 Ham Radio University
I attended the online Ham Radio University for the second time. Just three sessions. The content was good in all three sessions, but I couldn't stay for very long in the third session, sorry Ria, as the audio on my end was bad (warbling) and too distracting to listen to.
The first session was: Building your first HF station with Neil Heft. Neil is also president of RCARC, the ham radio club I joined. I wish I had seen this session a couple of years ago before I bought some of the gear I have now, as it would have saved me some money and duplication of effort and equipment. I'm now on my third revision of my ham shack, so there were some good pointers on both equipment and setup. good job Neil!
The second session was: Basics of Grounding in the ham shack with Don KaneI still don't have a good ground setup for my home office shack and the temporary :-) EFHW antenna I have running out the window to a tree. I figure when I set up a proper mast/roof setup, then I would go the whole hog with the ground, bonding, lightning arrestor, etc. I am probably going to go with some kind of roof mount system as the "permanent" antenna and will at least know what to ask (and ask for) in terms of grounding when I contract to have the thing installed, so I am going to grab Don's presentation as there was a lot of good information presented.
The third session I attended was Software Defined Radios with Ria Jairam as I noted, I didn't stay through the whole session as the audio, at least on my end, was bad. This seemed similar to the session that Ria did last year, so I'm downloading the presentation later to review.
2023-01-04 Building a new case for the ICOM IC-705
My ICOM IC-705 has been living in the ICOM LC-192 Backpack. I bought the IC-705, almost unused at less than three months old, from an owner who also threw in the backpack, mounting kit, mAT-705 tuner, and a couple of other items. The backpack is nice, but while it works well for mobile use, it just does not fit well on my desk, so I have mostly been running with it sitting under my desk. I was thinking of a case that would work on my desk but still be quickly packed up to go mobile. The result is my converted Apache 2800 case.
2023-01-03 TAP: An alternative to morse code?
TAP an alternative to morse? The Amateur Radio Weekly newsletter, which I have just started subscribing to, listed the TAP alternative to morse code as one of the most linked to articles of 2022. I had not heard about TAP before this, so I was interested in hearing more about it. The linked article is here: https://t.e2ma.net/click/3gvkli/3keu4y7b/j5kxov, but the possible use as an alternative to morse code that can relatively easily be picked up is interesting. It will be interesting to find out if any TAP nets or groups are on the air or online.
2023-01-01 Happy New Year and an ICOM update
Happy New Year! I hope 2023 is better for everyone than 2022 turned out. There has not been a lot of ham radio activity over the last couple of weeks. I have been playing around with the ETON shortwave radio for a while, but I will talk more about that later. I am about to move my IC-705 from the ICOM LC-192 backpack to something that will fit better on my desk but still be ready to go portable. In preparation, I updated the IC-705 firmware from 1.26 to 1.32.After updating the firmware, the Version Information is:
Main CPU: 1.32
Sub CPU: 1.01
DSP Program: 1.12
DSP Data: 1.00
DV DSP: 1.11