Projects, projects…

I seem to be collecting projects but making no progress on any of them! Well, ok I have five on the go, of which one is started and one nearly, and three are in boxes still.

Since Es’Hail-2 (QO-100) went up I’ve been planning to set up a receiver for it, and later on hopefully a transmitter as well. One thing at a time (or in my case it seems no things at any time!) So, I have an acceptable LNB, not a good one but should suffice until I get a more decent one. I now have a bias tee, some relevant connectors, I have a roll of CT125 satellite cable somewhere and I am now waiting for a 120cm satellite dish and pole to arrive. If this arrives today I may even get it working by tomorrow, otherwise next week.

The Creed 444 is the one project that has at least had some progress. For that, I now just need to wire up the 50-way D connector to the signalling unit and then it should type to itself, otherwise it will need adjusting as that’s all that is left if the text is still garbled.

Then there is a box full of bits to construct a Minitiouner receiver which will receive ATV (and will hopefully receive it from QO-100 too). All the bits are there ready to solder up.

And there is a box of bits to make a low power 5.6GHz ATV setup. All that needs is a box!

And finally, a box of bits to make up the QRP Labs 40MHz QRP transceiver. I’ve only had that since the National Hamfest – of 2017!

Hmmm…

More rattling about…

Well I fiddled with the teleprinter some more, wondering if I could at least get it to print with just 30-0-30VDC – it needs 80-0-80. Nothing. I tried connecting directly to the relevant pins for the receiving relay but could not feel any resistance when this was applied. Odd, because I could measure its resistance with a multimeter, so what’s up.

Strangely the next time I tried I could no longer measure the resistance. Might have been me. Then it occurred to me that on the 444 everything comes out on the 50-way D connector and you can get directly at the receiver coil, and I can see the relevant ohms. So, re-wiring the lash-up and still with 30-0-30V and with a resistor in series just in case and it burst into life. Almost.

It did print, or rather tried. It got most of the letters wrong, but is at least trying. Most likely the voltage is just not quite enough, or my lash-up resistor is denying it sufficient current but I’d rather not risk the coil right now.

However, and more of a concern was that although it went through the motions, the carriage did not move. It was stuck fast and no amount of fiddling would move it. After pouring over the workshop manual there seemed to be a lever in the wrong position. Moving this freed it up and it does now move with keypresses, even though the letters are wrong.

This lever was in the wrong place and could not move. Freeing it fixed the non-moving carriage issue.

Nearly there then… the ribbon is not rotating but there is at least one broken spring so hopefully that’s an easy fix. All I need now is a proper TU.

The Creed lives

Getting to grips with the Creed 444… everything seemed fine and it all rotated ok by hand so with the help of eBay I got the proper power socket and wired it up today. Things did not go entirely to plan…

1st attempt. Lots of loud noise from the motor. Well, at least it spins… the motor has a height adjustment at the rear which engages the worm with the drive gear at the front and this was completely undone. Adjusted…

2nd attempt. The lights went out! Hmmm. So, a tiny strand of copper wire had linked between the earth and live on the plug. Yes, the same one I had just soldered up carefully. Grrr.

3rd attempt and it runs. Key presses work the sequence, the WRU works too. As yet no print as I need to put a ribbon on and some paper in, but more importantly sort out the data side of things. I wonder what the WRU says… I could work it out by hand but I’ll leave that until I get it to print. Equally, I wonder if I can find a blank one to put my callsign into… now that would be an ideal candidate for 3D printing! (can I use this as a reason to buy a 3D printer…)

The motor and gear makes a particular whirring sound and a useful Youtube video of someone testing one of these beasts sounds the same, so that’s good. There is a rattle which I need to locate but I still need to take the unit apart anyway and make sure everything is properly oiled.

I wonder if the kids will believe that we used to use similar machines as input/output terminals on the mainframe at work in the 1980s!

Good old days…

So I now have a Creed 444 teleprinter. I’ve been after a teleprinter for about 2 years now. When I was still at school I used to buy, strip, repair and sell Creed 7E’s – maybe 7 or 8 passed through my hands and on to others for pocket money. Back then I had two 7Es for myself, as well as a tape reader, tape punch and a valved TU hanging off a B40 / B41 setup. Weight was not an issue in my basement workshop… But I’ve never had one of the more modern units like the 444 (yes, modern is a relative term here!)

Having manhandled the beast from the car to the workshop I now need to learn how it is put together so I can be sure it’s not going to fly into bits when I power it up. However, hopefully I’ll get it running and then get an interface set up. I doubt it will be allowed in the shack (aka the little bedroom) so it may well have to run in the workshop – but that does give the excuse to acquire a nice old comms receiver to go with…

Hamshack Hotline

Hamshack Hotline (HH) is a FREE dedicated voip telecom service for the Ham Radio community. (taken from their website – see https://hamshackhotline.com )

I heard about this via, if I remember a post on Facebook. It sounded interesting, and free, and so I purchased a refurbished Cisco SPA504G VoIP phone from a trader on eBay. Once you register with them they send a link to a configuration file for the phone and this makes it all work. So, what do you get? Well, review the website but basically a VoIP phone and an online phone directory. The line is full featured with ‘do not disturb’ and an answering machine. The exchanges are set up in various places – I am connected to the European one (HHEU). There is also an exchange for unlicensed members. RF links are being set up too for those with an amateur radio licence.

As the service expands this could be a very interesting facility, and for the price of the phone – around £20 – one I could not resist.

They support a small range of SIP phones and I chose the 504G because it uses PoE, meaning no wall-wart as it gets its power via the Ethernet cable from our PoE switch.

 

 

2E0IGP

The RSGB  certificate arrived today and Ofcom already had the licence waiting so I chose 2#0IGP (thus 2E0IGP from home at least, as I’m rarely out of England!). I tried other combinations but nothing that I wanted was available so I decided to keep the IGP, regardless of the fact it actually means nothing! I shall be rather more choosy when I eventually pass the Advanced exam.

Intermediate passed

Passed the Intermediate exam today – now wait for the 2E-whatever callsign… then I can wind the wick up if needed. Mind you, the autotuner can only cope with 30W digi anyway, and it’s been fun seeing how far I can get with 10. Actually, the important thing to me is access to those microwave bands that the Foundation does not give, and also the ability to use homemade transmitters. Time to tidy the workshop!

 

Network ‘radio’

The network radio rave continues and everyone will have, and will be perfectly entitled to their own views. Here’s mine.

I got into amateur radio after decades of not doing so but the interest began when I could pick up strange music and news from far away. This was in my childhood. I worked in electronics for some time and understand RF and all that jazz. I went through various SWL phases including getting heavily into RTTY, at one time having a couple of Creed 7E machines, a tape reader, a tape punch, and a TU connected to either my B40 or B41 receivers. Those are long gone but the number of radios I have is increasing. People ask me why bother with any of it when I can simply use the phone? But it still tickles me that electrons emitted from a bit of wet string in our loft can be picked up in the Falkland Islands. This is the essence of amateur radio to me.

Why bother? When asked why he wanted to climb Everest mallory famously and simply said “because it’s there”. Yet, I’ve seen photos of rock climbing vs climbing wall climbing used an an example of how network radio is the same as ‘real’ radio. I don’t see that. Climbing is climbing – a wall, a tree, a mountain. Yes, each is very different but all are still a physical exercise of getting oneself up a thing and defeating gravity. Extending this analogy, I would suggest that if climbing a wall were an analogy of radio, then taking a lift is an analogy of network radio.

Radio in the common sense differs, i.e. listening to local radio for example on a radio receiver vs streaming on a PC. But here, the listener wants to access whatever is playing regardless of the transmission medium. A colleague once stated the medium is not the message – when you need to access information, or music, or whatever it matters not what the medium is, only that you can access whatever you are after. But amateur radio is about RF. It’s about communicating for the sake of it rather than for the message. Here, the medium is the reason, regardless of the message.

True, lightwave radio is not RF, but it is cutting edge stuff and experimental and so still fits my idea of what the hobby is all about. Hotspots? These are just local repeaters – sort of anyway – and you still use an actual radio and RF to connect to it, as does the person the other end. And digimodes are kind of the inverse. A hotspot is RF – Internet – RF; digimodes are PC – RF – PC. Network radio is, well, Internet and nothing else. And remove the Internet, give me a decent battery and I can still talk to the world.

So I am solidly in the ‘if it does not use amateur frequencies it is not amateur radio’ camp. To me, network radio has more in common with a pair of tin cans and a string than with amateur radio. Skype, other VoIP, these are all a means to an end and not a means in themselves. You don’t Skype for a hobby, but you do ‘do’ radio. (that is not meant to belittle any hobby-Skypers out there!)

Meteor scatter

The Perseids are with us, peaking on 12th August apparently. Anyway, I’ve never received any MSK144 before so I left the rig running two nights ago on 50.280 and actually received two properly decoded CQs from a DK station. Now, if I had a decent aerial, and more watts…

D-Star registration blues

So I got an Icom ID-51 so I will have DMR, C4FM and D-Star. Well why not… it’s currently on its initial charge for 2 more hours or so. I though that a good time to read the manual and sort out registration. So far, not so good.

DMR was simple. I can’t remember what I did for C4FM but it all works. D-Star? I followed the guidance and looked for the nearest repeater in the list. But the nearest one in that list is now C4FM. Ok, next nearest. That has a registration URL which takes me to an information page on which there is no sign of anywhere to go to register. Right. Next nearest – and no way I could contact it from here – has a broken registration URL.

So I started at the top of the list. I gave up after 15 – most had no registration URL, the rest had broken links or had apparently gone over to DMR. I picked a few others at random, all follow the same tale.

Off to Icom UK via Google – it has a link to a registration form but it does not actually work, i.e. you end up back on the page with the link. Google finds an old form – I guess it’s old anyway and I’ve no intention of putting my details into it. But at least the Icom page has an email option… and that worked fine and I am set to go! Well, I will be once I read up about how etc.