Friday, 29 August 2014

August Bank Holiday activations

We found a B&B in Abergavenny the evening before and made our way down to the Black Mountains in South Wales on Saturday morning. Peter G4ISJ recommended doing the "classic combo" of GW/SW - 009 Mynydd Troed & 015 Mynydd Llangorse.

We left our Land Rover in the middle of the two summits and began the ascent to GW/SW-009, it took us about 35min to go up, but it felt like a 1000-steps Mayan temple....with 13Kg at the back

Walking up to GW/SW-009 - steep bits ahead

GW/SW-009 summit
MTR v2 - 30-20-17m
LIPO zippy compact 25-35C, 1000mAh

Mini paddle
Picokeyer +
Elecraft T1
7m sota pole
Vertical - Longwire + 9:1 unun antenna

Views from the top
We set up the shack in one of the holes in the summit and put the vertical antenna up, sloping slightly towards the North West and started at 12.44z.
We worked 16 stations on 20 & 17m. [HB9, EA, OK, S52,  OE, DM, OM, DL]
30m was dead.
DX QSOs with N7UN, AD5A (17m) and N1EU (20m).
Eva worked Mike 2W0MCB in the town of Brecon with the 2m HT.

Descent and views of GW/SW-015 - Mynydd Llangorse

Being pressed for time, we went down and straight up to the second summit. We were ready to start at 14.45z, although sunny, it was fairly windy and the Goretext jacket was required. The hat kept the wind noise down.

This was a quick activation, we worked 9 stations in 20m. There was a station on with a straight key which we could not quite get ..."C6HIA"?? at 15.06z. [SRI]. The little one picked up the Baofeng HT and started to "ragchew" whislt running around... or more precisely, "babble-chew" in his own language.

Shack - 44'' doublet antenna

Shack - operating.
Sunday 24-08-2014
After a "proper" breakfast at the Hardwick Farm B&B - meat supplied by one of the Master Butchers in Wales, we made our way to activate a couple of summits in the Welsh Border near Hereford.

G/WB-013 Garway Hill
Shack at G/WB- 013
The WX was not that great on Sun, at 1050z when we started it was windy and coldish.
We made 15 QSOs on 20m & 30m. [EA2, DL, OE, DJ, OM, OK, CT, DG, HB9]. DX QSO on 20m with K3EL and S2S with HB9EWO/P - Clemens at HB/SG-024. We tried 17m but was closed.
This is a popular summit and a few of the bypassers took a curious interest on what we were up to.
We used the long wire + 9:1 unun, and the structure to support the inverted L end.
The hill offers great views over 7 counties, we shall be back on a clearer day to enjoy the views.

G/WB-024 Aconbury Hill
We made it to the top of Aconbury Hill at around 13.00z.
 We worked 17 QSO on 20 & 30m. [OK, EA2, DL, S52, OM, GM, HB9, SP, LA5]
S2S: - GM4OIG/P. @ GM/ES-074, Gerald was "just" above the noise on 30m.  - 339
           LA5XTA/P @ LA1/HM-172, Erik
Again no luck with 17m. Also by mistake I pressed something on the picokeyer + menu and generated a constant carrier with every paddle pressed, I had to reset it and reprogram the CQ call...
I am vey pleased with the new antenna, although I think is suboptimal on 30m.

Aconbury hill top -jungle

Inverted L - 30'' feet long wire antenna

Many thanks to all the Chasers.
Vy 73s

VK5JST aerial analyser kit

 I got started last week with the VK5JST aerial analyser kit. First steps have been to go through the inventory and cut the holes in the box for the various knobs, display, and antenna terminal conectors.

Cutting the box, although not difficult, has been time consumming.

The next step is to solder all the components to the PCB.

Monday, 18 August 2014

SDR on wheels - Plug & Play

I have been toying with the idea of having a mobile Plug & Play setup for my G11 SDR that I could move around the house (I have the shack at the front of the house, 15m away from my antennas at the garden) and also take out into the garden in the good weather. I also needed a little bit more space on my shack.

My XYL Eva found a 40x40x40 Ikea kitchen wall cabinet, big enough to house all my SDR kit and some planned upgrades; which even matched some of our other furniture!! - and a few other bits to complete the design. All credit to her.

Top view
 - Dimensions 40x40x40cm
 - Removable front door
 - Lockable castor wheels
 - Top handle
 - Drawer/cabinet catch (baby proof)
 - Self contained - Plug & play - just connect AC power and USB cables to laptop

Front view - door removed

Material Costs - GBP 38
  - Ikea Cabinet incl. shelves and door - 22
  - Aldi lockable castor wheels - 7
  - Handle (set of two) -2
  - Drawer/cabinet catch (pack of 5)- 2.5
  - 5.5x16mm self taping screws -4

Future upgrade plans
 -G11 SDR - 160m-6m + general coverage RX multiband board  [waiting on my self]
 - Hardrock 50W PA

 Some drilling was needed at the back to help with ventilation, after the first operation, the G11 got a little hot even with the door open. We used the 10mm drill, settled on two rows of holes per shelf. The rear panel came with the holes in the corners, quite handy to pass the wires, we only had to turn in 90 degrees to fit out cable arrangements.

Now I just need a couple of anchors at the rear to tie up all the wires when not in operation.

Rear side - ventilation

Whilst testing on Sat night, I gave JT65 a go and noticed the very favorable conditions...I was heard in Alaska & Japan.

JT65 - JT9 - 5Watts into Gwhip 20m end fed - whilst testing on Sat evening

I tried it on Sunday at our back room with the patio door open and enjoyed the good weather and a few ragchew CW QSOs on 40 & 17m.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Battery Jumper cable for MTR and LIPO 3S

Following Colin's M1BUU example, I built a my MTR battery - LIPO 3S jumper cable with a 1A fuse and 1N4001 diode. Voltage at the terminal with a fully charged battery is 12V. The diode was installed within the 1.7mm DC connector - using some shrink tube to isolate it from the negative terminal.

I calibrated the MTR to output 5W as recommended with 12V.

TX current is 630mA
RX current is 35mA

All ready to go for the next activation with the new power pack.

Calibration setup

Lipo balance charger

Friday, 15 August 2014

Portable vertical + 9:1 unun antenna

Here is my alternative implementation of the Earchi End Fed matchbox + antenna. Earchi web.
The earchi matchbox uses a more widespread trifilar implementation for the unun. The implementation on the betterqrp backpack unun is quite different. 

Betterqrp backpacker 9:1 unun  -
30ft of wire - Sotabeams
T1 tuner - Elecraft 
EA2BCJ - RG214 MIL low loss coax

30ft lightweight antenna wire, 9:1 unun, RG214 low loss, T1 auto-tuner
I am planning to use this antenna on my next activation with the 10m pole as a vertical.  A quick test on my garden as a sloper to a 6m pole showed that it loads on 20-30-40m without a problem. During the testing I managed a QSO with RM9I - Asiatic Russia - 5000km
The spade fork connector does not fit well with the balun connector, I will change to a 4mm bannana plug later.

Here is the link to Jim's web, who uses the Earchi antenna system on many of his QRP portable outings.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

New Battery Charger

I had planned to go to Walton Hill for a combined SOTA activation with Mike M0MTJ today, but with the arrival of "Bertha" to the UK, we had to abort and postpone to a later day. With this nasty weather, I took the opportunity to play with my new smart charger.

I gave it a go with the Kenwood TH22E - PB34 Ni-Mh battery. It is an 8cell Ni-Mh, 9.6V, 1100mAh. Within 2 minutes of connecting the battery, the charger stopped an reported the battery full - NO WAY - at 9.6V on the battery terminals.

I changed the charge current from 0.1A to 0.5A and that made the trick. A litte bit of research on the web explained that the charger works looking at the "Peak Voltage" drop method. There are other settings that you can play with the charger too - NiMH  sensitivy and two modes
 - manual - fixed current
 - auto - current limit
which I need to further investigate.

The charger keeps count of the capacity charged, I ended up with something like 800. The PB34 once rested, it is showing 11.30V - fair enough. 

After this morning play, I am now fully familiarised with all the menus/controls of the charger and ready to try it with my new LIPO once I finish all the jumper wire adaptors. Overall, the thing seems to do what is written on the tin!

There is a ton of information about battery technologies, charging methods, .. in the R/C forums. It is been fun to read it and catch up with it...

Imax B6AC & PB34 battery

Thursday, 7 August 2014


I was re-doing the WBIR (wide band image rejection) calibration on my G11 SDR last Thu when I noticed that 20m was wide open. I decided to run 15m of RG213 coax to connect to my Gwhip resonant end fed in the garden and had a go at WSPR. My 5watts made it easily across the pond.

One thing I noticed is that there are a lot more stations on wspr than a year ago - when I got started with cw.

WSPR 20m - 5Watts

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Up and Outer antenna

Having read on the following links about the Up and Outer antenna...I decided to try it last Saturday.

I simply set up my 44'' doublet with one arm vertical & one horizontal. Using a 10m pole and the horizontal leg pointing East - being supported by the pulley and rope on my bathroom window - here in my back garden.

The European HF champion contest was going on in the afternoon. There was plenty of EU stations around and was busy.  The antenna seemed to work great. It loaded on 40,30,20 & 17m with the T1 tuner with no problem. I made 25 QSO on the 20m band in no time. At one point, I started to call CQ and got a quite a few responses. (I need to practise more of this)

The 800 ohms open wire line is integral with the doublet, and was built using sotabeams spacers and their antenna wire. The ladder run down to the outside of our utility room at the back of the house to connect to a 8m of RG213 MIL spec via a 1:1 or 4:1 balun and T1 tuner.

I also tested my new LIPO battery - at 11.6V the MTR produced about 6-7Watts. I will have to twick the LPF toroids to cap it to 5W as recommended.

Station: MTR v2 & HB1B - dummy load, meter, Gwhip 1:1 current balun, new LIPO

Elecraft T1 and Betterqrp backpacker 1:1 current balun - at the entrance to the house.

Upper & Outer antenna. 10m pole, ladder line, 2 + 3 guy lines

Monday, 4 August 2014

Running of the bulls activation (almost..)

07-07-2014 SOTA Great Rhos GW/MW-002
My brother who was visiting, acommpanied us to Great Rhos. We left the car by the woodcraft shop - mill, on top of the bridge. It took us about an hour to climb up to the top, the summit was difficult to spot until you are pretty much there. I followed the advice on the sota reflector to keep on walking along the path..

It started to rain as we were arriving to the top (my new backpack rain cover came handy). My brother who is an avid mountaineer suggested a number of rain solutions for the activations - tarps, etc...and reminded me that my light weight backpacking tent - without the inner body - could be a great set up for days like that. I have to weigh it, but I will suspect I will not be much more than 1 Kg. 

We used the mountain tuner and HB1B and activated on 40,30 & 20m with about 23 QSOs in the log. Two S2S with OE6WIG/P and SM0HPL/P on SM/JL-067.

trig point - Great Rhos - arriving

Following the advise from the lady at the woodcraft shop, we returned by the west of the hill. We followed what it seemed an obvious path and as we past a crest we saw a herd of bulls and cows in the distance. As we continued walking the young bulls (200-300 Kg) took an interest on us and started to slowly move towards us. I recalled making some quick mental calculations about the distance from us to the bulls and us to the nearest fence (down to our right) and the classic "run or fight" type of assessment took place.
Luckily, some shouting and waving of the walking sticks kept the animals at bay at a safe distance and we quicly descended to our right and dissapeared of their view to loose them in the distance. We joined a track and looped all the way around to go back over the bridge after descending a steep bit.

Lesson learnt: keep an eye on the animals...!!

Only in hindsight, I realised that 7th of July, it is "San Fermin", internationally aclaimed running of the bulls in Pamplona, that my friends in EA2 know by heart. Call it a coincidence...

Vy 73s

Defiant animals from a safer distance

Sunday, 3 August 2014

S9 Signal Generator - Breadboarded

I did not want to spend a lot on a sig generator, but needed something to cal my G11 SDR. So, I decided to breadboard the Norcal S9 sig generator as others

Breadboard S9 signal generator

I found a 14.086Mhz cristal from the spares of the my Softrock RX Lite II kit.

I used a BNC to N-type adaptor to connect the wires (w/o soldering) to the radio. I tested with my G11 SDR and seems to work as intended. I got an accuprobe kit recently, not yet assembled. It will be useful to validate the output of the generator or I might try to borrow an oscilloscope to do it.

I am planning to get a handful of resitors to implement the attenuator to S3 and S1 and a few more crystal for the preferred bands.

Special thanks to Ian - MM0GYX, who sent me the diode and transistor and provided useful direction. Here below a copy of his ugly built into an Altoids tin using qrpme squares. I might build one myself when I got a little bit of time.

MM0GYX sig gen