Another shack change

May 15th, 2015

Mike M0SAZ Shack This month, I have gone back to a “big box” HF radio. My radio in the shack now is a Yaesu FT-950 with AC0C 2KHz Roofing Filter, Yaesu MTU 80/40, DVS-6 and N8BX weighted VFO knob fitted. Fully loaded, lots of performance!

I have purchased the Yaesu FT-7900 dual band (2m/70cm) FM Transceiver. I have programmed all the local repeaters and simplex channels in. Works well.Mike M0SAZ Antennas

Antennas now are the Diamond X50N for VHF/UHF, HyEndFed 5 band HF antenna and recently I added the 7 band version of the Cobwebb folded dipole. Works on 20m thru 4m (6 elements for 20-6m, but the 7th band if 4m that it happens to be resonant on).

Mail Merge is the Omelette of IT Proficiency

April 24th, 2015

Microsoft Word MailmergeWhen I watched Gordon Ramsay put some poor chef through their paces on his Kitchen Nightmares television show, he would get them to cook up a simple Omelette. His reason? An Omelette is a simple dish, but without the basics in place, a would-be culinary master is consigned to the humiliation and potty mouthed outbursts of G Ramsay Esquire himself.

When doing a small Mail Merge today, I explained to some of my colleagues I consider the lost art of Mail Merge an ideal demonstration of IT literacy. Why? Well it contains all the elements of using the essentials in many productivity/office suites.

Address data is normally extracted from tabular form, which, in itself is often created and manipulated in a Spreadsheet. From there, a merge is prepared in a Word Processor, which, using the aforementioned data, the two become a rudimentary database data/client setup. The completed merge is done in the Word Processor and is combined with a document already written or written after the merge is prepared.

Word Processor, Database, Spreadsheet.

I remember doing Mail Merge back in the Word 6 and Excel 5 days, running on Windows 3.1, ultimately running on MS-DOS 6.22. The sad fact is, that, in terms of everyday functionality, the current Word and Excel offerings don’t differ that much from these older versions.

So, a merge requires basic Spreadsheet, Database and Word Processing skills and is therefore a good indicator of if someone can feel their way around a computer for more than a quick game of Medal of Honor or a discussion about the latest Star Wars trailer on Facebook.

EU Meddling in Corporate Success

April 15th, 2015

companies eu antitrustI find the EU’s constant meddling seems like another way the non democratic government can line its own pockets using fines. No more can they get net contributors such as the UK to cough up more money in this failed experiment, they resort to fines and sanctions and, well can’t leave anything alone.

I realised this when they had a view on the motor wattage on a vacuum cleaner and then put in legislation to stop the sale of anything too powerful (in their eyes).

After investigating (at our expense) the likes of Microsoft and fining them mega bucks for supposedly taking advantage of being a monopoly and now they are playing the same game with Google, it really makes my blood boil how they can do this. Just because a company Like Google, Apple or Microsoft have done well, it doesn’t and shouldn’t require power crazed politicians getting involved in largely consumer products we chose to buy or not buy.

Consider you are Mr Google, its your company and you have a search engine, maps software, shopping comparison site and so forth. Why the hell can’t you put your products on the top of every search result above your competitors? If, as a customer I am annoyed by your bias, I can go to another search company, hell, I can even start my own if I don’t like what’s on offer. The market decides if I am giving the customer a crappy deal, not the EU, not any government. You, MEPs go into public service and don’t like it that big corporation owners have 5 houses, helicopters, a fleet of sports cars? Tough. Don’t play the who’s got the biggest d**k with your fleeting moment of power. If you want the luxury and wealth, go out and create and stop hiding behind hard working people’s cash to fund your vindictive stance on big companies.

Seems like the season for wealth bashing. The sad fact is, Google can’t do wrong for doing right here. Their search results, based on PageRank take out the human element of “here’s a pot of money to get to the top of the organic results (SERP)”. Instead Google’s algorithms look at links to sites and other metrics to see whats the most popular, and therefore relevant pages. So, if everyone loves using Google Maps and, searching for maps brings Google’s offering up first, that’s because it is what people are looking for!! Shopping? OK that is a bit more “in your face” but, back to the 1st point, you don’t like it, go create your own search engine or use someone else’s offering.

The market decides and monopolies like Microsoft to some extent and Google specifically, haven’t become so because of lots of mergers and aquisitions (which could have been blocked anyway), but because their offering is what people wanted so it became a monopoly by the virtue of its popularity. Lesson for anyone wanting to do well in Europe and in other states also investigating Google on similar grounds – do well, but don’t be the best, or you will be shot down because of it.

Amiga 1200 upgrade

March 26th, 2015

Blizzard 1220/4 for Commodore Amiga 1200Until recently I had a Marpet 1207 RAM card installed on my A1200. It worked well, but I encountered a Blizzard 1220/4 on eBay at a good price. I received it, and replaced the CR2020 battery, I installed a 40MHz 68882 FPU and 40MHz crystal with I soldered directly to the board for best chance of reliability. I also soldered the jumper that switch the FPU speed to 14/28/OSC speed/or off.

Blizzard 1220/4 Sysinfo BenchmarksThe Blizzard 1220/4, whilst not the fastest accelerator in the world, is a very compatible one and it gives one’s Amiga a modest yet noticeable boost. The MC68EC020 25MHz CPU running at 28MHz (double standard clock speed), gives a great Amiga experience.

 

Commodore / Escom Amiga 1200 / A1200

Completed Amiga 1200 in my shack

 

M0SAZ Shack Update

March 26th, 2015

Yaesu FT-857DI have had a little change around in terms of layout and I have also sold the MD-200 microphone and replaced it with an MD-100. The MD-200, perhaps because of its high fidelity, I struggled getting anything like the power output I had the radio set to unless I put the mic gain up particularly high. The MD-100 “excites” the radio so much easier yet still produces a high quality audio. Happy with the setup. Enjoy the photo!

Initially perplexed by Android Lollipop on HTC One

March 6th, 2015
Application Organiser on HTC One

Application Organiser on HTC One

Following the update to Android 5.0 on my HTC one, I discovered Chrome no longer has a tab button and instead there’s app organisation buttons for the latest version of the OS that Chrome (and other apps) makes use of, on the bottom of the screen.

However, on my device I couldn’t see these buttons. I assumed HTC Sense had removed them but some webpages were saying they are restyled on the HTC but are still there. I tried everything until I finally found a site that said double clicking on the phone’s own home button will activate the application organiser where you can switch between and close tabs as well as other running apps.

Happy to report that worked and I can now use this new feature.

The Amiga and Ham Radio Man Cave Lives!

January 27th, 2015

Looking great. More tales from Mike / A1200 / M0SAZ soon!

A1200 FT-857D

A1200 Magic Workbench Screengrab

All change at the M0SAZ home QTH

January 7th, 2015

I have changed my radio recently. I am now armed with an FT-857D with TCXO and filters. I also have simplified my Antennas, without compromising on performance. Now I use a HyEndFed 5 band antenna for HF (all bands possible with my ATU) and a Diamond X50N for VHF/UHF. Despite the simplicity, I am enjoying the station very much. I have been using my Amiga A1200 more recently. I replaced the A600 in the shack for the A1200 some time ago.

Some photo’s of the changes (click to enlarge):

HF and 2m/70cm Antennas at M0SAZ QTH

Antennas at my QTH

M0SAZ QTH Shack Setup Yaesu FT-857D

My station setup

Amiga A1200 System in M0SAZ Shack

Amiga’s Power! Picture taken before FT-817ND was replaced with the FT-857D.

Yaesu FT-817 & FT-817ND owners resources

September 2nd, 2014

FT-817NDCalling all Yaesu FT-817(ND) owners! New resource has gone live – IRC channel ##ft817 on Freenode. Use it to talk about this great little radio, sort our problems or arrange QRP skeds! For those without IRC client software, you can use http://webchat.freenode.net

Other established Resources:

FT-817 Yahoo Group

FT-817 Google+ Community

A “self mounting”, sturdy, multi-band base HF vertical antenna practical solution.

August 9th, 2014

 

Since being licenced, I have always run modest HF antennas at my home QTH. I was restricted in physical space at my previous home and at the new location I have more space for slightly larger antennas, but decided to keep the setup stealthy to reduce the risk of complaints from neighbours.

Antennas at my QTH, Western HF-10 (HF), Diamond X50N (V/UHF).

Antennas at my QTH, Western HF-10 (HF), Diamond X50N (V/UHF).

I have always tried to have 2 antennas installed at any one time; a horizontal and a vertical. I have had great successes with horizontal antennas, the Alpha Delta DXCC, G3TPW Cobwebb and my current horizontal Antenna, the Western HF-10 have performed very well indeed with no issues mechanically. The Western has been a loyal servant to me since moving into this house. On 80/40/20m especially, I cannot rate it highly enough.

Whilst the aforementioned antennas have been excellent and remained in service at the station for some considerable time, I have always struggled to find a vertical I have been happy with. Why have a vertical? Well propagation is one reason; often signals are stronger when switching between a horizontal and vertical. Also, I think having a spare antenna is great if you want a bit of redundancy from a damaged antenna or feeder. Lastly, FM repeaters on 10m and 6m will be horizontally polarised, as will FM simplex contacts as a rule of thumb. So a vertical of some description is worthwhile.

Most verticals I have tried have been rather short in size which has a performance issue from the outset. There are larger verticals on the market, a few of which I have tried but they have always disappointed as they have either required significant wire radials to perform or they are so long they need guying which is both ugly and impractical for my station. In most cases they are expensive.

Then, recently I read a book “How to listen to the world” by Ken Reitz KS4ZR. An excellent read, aimed mainly at people new to ham radio and shortwave listening but there is a lot of interesting information in there, especially regarding broadcast AM and receiver equipment which would interest the OMs as well.

2” Aluminium mast mounting

2” Aluminium mast mounting

In Ken’s book he recalls not being ready for field day and as the start time loomed, improvising an antenna by hooking his ladder to his ATU and it ended up working rather well! This got me thinking about my vertical issue and I have found getting lots of metal in the air certainly is an advantage with a vertical but it then gets into all sorts of difficulty as mentioned – swinging in the wind and ready to snap as soon as a heavy gust of wind hits it. That or we guy the antenna, creating cheese wire type hazards all over the garden.

That’s when I thought, I wonder if the mast that has played host to several lacklustre vertical antennas and currently just supports one end of my wire antenna would actually work as a HF antenna? Well, the cogs started turning and after some thought, I decided I would try.

Soon after the build began. In addition to the mast itself, I would use a 9:1 UnUn and an earth spike in the ground to create the antenna. I assembled the antenna with the radiating side of the UnUn connected to the mast via a short length of flexweave, attached to the mast by nut and bolt and washer, all waterproofed with silicone sealant. I also waterproofed the connections to the UnUn by wrapping the entire thing in self-amalgamating tape.
My masts I use now are a slot together affair but that was just for ease of shipping, I have also had a single length of pole in the past which would logically make no difference when using as an antenna. The 2” diameter aluminium pole is supported by 2 galvanised standoff brackets, attached to my garage-come-shack. This particular mast has a length of 9m in height and is mounted about 1 meter off the ground.

I set to work, building the simple antenna with a pre-built UnUn from my Pro Whip Antennas 10m portable antenna. I added 7 turns to the RG-213 feeder cable to act as an RF choke and once completed, I attached the other side of the feeder to my MFJ antenna analyser. No band showed a SWR of over 3.1:1 and most (including 160m were between 1:1 and 2:1).

Connections to the UnUn – flexweave to the mast and to the earth spike.

Connections to the UnUn – flexweave to the mast and to the earth spike.

OK so we know just because the SWR looks great it doesn’t mean its going to be a particularly efficient antenna. However on something like the 20m band this near ½ wave antenna is particularly “hot” and when switching between this and my Western HF-10, there were occasions where the vertical did outperform it on receive. It “gets out” too. My first contact was on 14.290MHz with OH1TD 59 report; I was using 60 watts. Later that evening I worked SP8K and OE5XJN on 20m and SV7LNX/P on 40m using 100 watts who gave 59+5, 57 & 55 reports respectively.

One thing with verticals, they are generally more susceptible to atmospheric noise. This design is no exception. I found listening to the chaps on 1.933MHz rather difficult to hear on the vertical but the Western HF-10 received them better, mainly because of the reduced noise floor. The Western HF-10 is advertised as top band capable but I haven’t been able to get mine high enough or the ladder line vertical to allow for this. The solution is to use the vertical for transmitting and the Western for receive, achieved in my case by pressing the Ant A/B button on my LDG ATU when switching between TX and RX but could also be done with the A/B antenna switch on some radios, or using the RX antenna jack on others.

I am more relaxed when the wind is up now because, there is no weight being supported by the 2” aluminium pole other than the pole itself, so it would take an apocalypse type event or a strategically positioned lightning bolt to bring this antenna down. Additionally I have the accolade of being able to say I am using a homebrew antenna too, and it only took a few moments to build!

Photo showing Western HF-10 and Diamond X50N from other side.

Photo showing Western HF-10 and Diamond X50N from other side.

So, next time you are looking for a simple HF vertical, and with bad weather a part of life for most of us on this turbulent planet, why not look up at what your VHF/UHF collinear or small HF compromise antenna is actually mounted on and ask yourself:
“Is the mount actually a better antenna than the antenna?”

Update 05/10/2014: I have now added 3 radials to the “earth” side of the UNUN, which seems to have helped with the noise a little and from casual observations seems to be bringing up in performance a little more.