D’oh!

Having a stupid morning. I wanted to check the output from my new transverter off air so wired up the RSP2 and CubicSDR on the Mac. I did all this yesterday when I first installed the transverter but wanted to check again now I’ve been stuffing FT8 out of it for a while.

Good peak, nicely on frequency. No modulation! Ah. Ok, check everything. No change. Try QSYing and SSB. No modulation. Power off and on. Nope. Shout at the rig. No change.

Set CubicSDR to SSB… ugh! All fine of course, it defaulted to FM… as it did yesterday but today I forgot!

New toy

I have an Anyone AT588 4m set but currently only a horizontal dipole in the loft made out of an old FM radio dipole. But I did want to go multimode, preferably without the expense of an IC7300. Anyway, I set my sights on a Spectrum Communications TRC4-10sL transverter and one turned up on eBay.

It slotted in neatly between the FT450D and the YT1200 and with an AB antenna switch (I don’t like these things but hey) it’s all wired up. I am hoping for at least some FT8 activity but nothing yet.

WSJT-X has a configuration where you enter an offset for given frequencies so for 70Mhz this is -42 (MHz), giving 28MHz = 70MHz, so WSJT-X sets the rig correctly.

Now I just need to ensure I always set things up correctly, i.e. switch to B, transporter on, rig turned down to 5W. I usually run 30W which is the maximum the YT1200 will take in data mode. I can see me leaving the rig at 5W and wondering why no-one answers, but then again I may surprise myself at how far 5W will go – after all I managed the Falkland Islands and Cuba on a PSK mode on 10W before I passed the intermediate. But I suspect a large print crib sheet will be appearing next to the rig shortly because 30W into the transverter would be a very bad idea!

Now I want one for 2m! Oh and the 588 will go in the car at some stage – I really must get mobile.

Edit: no reception yet on FT8 or otherwise, but 4m was always a bit dead around here. But I was spotted on FT8 via pskreporter on the 27th at 90km N and +3db and on the 28th 120km SE and -17db, both by G stations, and on the 29th 126km SW and -19db by a GW. Both stations look to have decent antenna arrays but still not too bad for my bit of wet string here. Of course, with said bit of wet string they may well have replied but not been picked up here, evidenced by a couple of unlikely decodes at -24.

Pluto Ethernet problems

So, I’ve been running the Pluto over Ethernet to SDR Console on an old but still capable laptop just to see how it performs end to end. It clearly has issues! The first test was just pinging the Pluto from my Linux box with no SDR activity. This ran for almost 7 hours and dropped out in the early hours.

Then I tested it with SDR Console running to see if it would last as long. 10 minutes! Another similar test lasted about 1h45. I added ferrites to all the power leads and this time it lasted about 3h30. Nothing at all scientific in these tests and I had already read up on Ethernet issues and the need to strap ground connections together internally but wanted to just see if the ferrites made any difference.

Back to the workshop and I strapped the earth end of R58 to the earth end of D3 following the instructions found in this YouTube video at 7m36. The video describes that as the ‘simplified version’ – I’ve seen another more comprehensive one but this one is straightforward. There is a detailed investigation of the issue here and here. The Pluto held up running SDR Console looking at the lower beacon for 30 hours and is still running as I type this. I’ve not gone mad like running an electric drill next to the Pluto but so far, so good.

Edit: SRD Console has been running for 47 hours now with no issues. I only stopped it because I need to sort out the PSUs and coax entry for the QO100 transceiver box in the garage.

More QO100 progress…

After ages I finally made a rain cover for the POTY and led cables into the garage. Big delay there because the garage was a tip. It still is a tip, but the mess has been rearranged so I have access to the air brick where the cables come in!

It’s nice that when they built the house in the 1930’s they put an air brick right there knowing it would be needed for a satellite dish…

The rain cover is made from a sheet of plastic that came out of a smashed LCD monitor. I bent it round a bit of 110mm drain pipe using a hot air gun. it didn’t quite come out as intended but it’s near enough. The front is from the same piece of plastic and is epoxy glued on – yes there is a gap where the glue was less gluey, I’ll fix that later. Nylon threaded bar and nuts hold it in place. And it rained an hour after I made it so it does actually work.

After all the messing about everything still works. There is a nice box on order to take the gubbins – ok, the Pluto, bias tee, Leo Bodnar GPSDO, power supplies, oh yes and the pre-amp and amp I have yet to build. I’ve got Ethernet into the garage and I have tested SDR Console over Ethernet to the Pluto and all seems to work ok.

More QO100 work

I finally mounted the dish. It’s been cluttering up the workshop for months now. My original plan was to mount it on a pole by the workshop which would have needed a concrete base and regular trimming of the apple tree and hedge. So, it’s mounted on the garage wall with a TK bracket.

Aligning it wasn’t too bad except I managed first to find the Astra satellite at 19.2 degrees thinking it was the one at 28.2. After I found the second one it was not too difficult to find a satellite carrying Qatar TV using the GTMedia V8. With bolts tightened a bit and after rigging all the gubbins up I found the beacon via an SDRPlay SDR and SDRUno but the levels were well down. The Pluto and SDR Console did a far better job so there will be some setting I overlooked. I copied a couple of QSOs but working outside on a Sunday with the whole estate doing gardening made it rather hard, even with headphones! Anyway, the Pluto is the one that will be used so good to see the whole RX chain working. I have some decent WF100 cable for the LNB feed but will need to make something up for the GPSDO feed.

Next step is to mount the Pluto, bias tee and PSUs inside the garage and use Ethernet back to the shack. There is a convenient air brick next to the ironmongery.

The POTY is back inside for now and I’ll need to make a rain cover too, but it feels like progress finally.

Minitioune progress

Well I finally got some WF100 cable (CT100 replacement) to get a feed from the now unused Astra dish to the shack. My remaining CT125 is about 10 feet long and would get me nowhere. So I can finally test the Minitiouner on air and it works. No luck with trying to receive GB3YT though, it should be close enough and I have a small 23cm Yagi but our neighbours house is in the way. I will have to go mobile one day and see if it works, which is going to be hard given the rather old Windows laptop has a battery that lasts about 5 minutes and the XYLs laptop is locked down to a work image so no installing Minitioune. Anyway, for now at least it all works. It could us a switch maybe to switch the 12V feed to the antenna socket on and off.

Yes it is indeed in a box. This must be the second project I ever built that ended up in an actual decent box looking finished.

QRP Labs CW transceiver

I finally got round to starting to build the QRP Labs CW txvr kit which I’ve had since the 2018 Hamfest. Well, no sense in rushing things. I mentioned before the quality of the kit and the really excellent documentation PDF. I think I’m up to page 25. The documentation is all step by step and easy to follow, with a drawing on each step showing what goes where.

The one I got is for 40m – the kit comes with a low pass filter and components specific to the band you request. Of course I do still need to learn Morse! That’s still on my list of things to do which includes finish the QO100 project which now has two more kits of parts to build, and read up on the full licence for when, hopefully they release the online exam.

Here is a shot of the wound components which, although time consuming was actually quite fun.

And finally the completed board with the LCD in place. I went through the alignment process which all went according to plan using the built-in menus. The first pic is of the board powered and aligned and the second a bit of CW decode but this is on an 11m wire dipole with no ATU.

It is possible to mount this in a case and there is a wiring diagram included showing what goes where etc. once the various components are taken off the board – or, rather, not put on the board in the first place. But I will keep mine skeletal, at least for now.

Wet string effect

My bit of wet string in the loft, or rather, my fan dipole has been doing quite well of late, albeit only on FT8 and FT4.

By fan dipole you are no doubt thinking of a dipole made up of several, i.e. more than two, dipoles cut to various bands and all terminated on one coax. Well, yes, but I only ever got round to making it for 20m and 6m. But even there it has been doing well these past few weeks with all of Europe in easy reach and forays into USA as far as the west coast, Canada, South America, the top of Africa and the Middle East, plus occasional contacts in Turkey, Russia, Oman and Kazakhstan. Not too bad at all given the 20m wires are far from straight, being bent at the ends to fit and not straight horizontally either. I mean it’s sort of an inverted vee with a level bit in the middle and does seem fairly omnidirectional, probably by accident but hey.

It will tune on all bands from 40m to 6m thanks to the YT-1200. Since I passed the Intermediate I’ve set the FT450D to 30W, the maximum for the tuner, but even before that as an M6 I had PSK QSOs as far as Chile and the Falkland Islands at the maximum permitted 10W, and goodness knows how little of that actually got out of the loft. And tonight a -16 FT8 report to central Brazil at over 5,500 miles.

I keep meaning to put up a random wire and a suitable un-un to see how much better an external antenna will be. No chance of a beam or anything excessive here as we stick out a bit and there would be complaints. But wires should be ok. Of course, the shack is in the spare bedroom, so upstairs and the other side of the house from where the wire would attach, so quite a run of coax…

MiniTioune software

So… the buck converter module arrived and I soldered it in and set the voltage to 3.8V. One of the voltages was wrong. It transpired that I had a resistor of the wrong value, not far out mind, just a few ohms… ok, 560K instead of 56K! Ahem. Right, fixed that and the voltages are all correct so the serit module got soldered in and the USB module fitted. It was now that I realised that one needs to first register on the VivaDATV forum for access before you can download the software. Yup, read everything first… Anyway, the pause allowed me time to go back to the workshop and add the resistor needed for the V0.8 and newer versions of the software. Did I mention reading everything first?

I got the software today and ran the test program. This came up with two errors to do with the USRC and LAV filters and fixed by running packages that come as part of the MiniTioune ZIP. And success, all tests passed.

I have a box on order but otherwise it’s a matter of testing on-air now, or testing using the feed from a satellite dish. But now it’s raining and the project QO100 dish is still in the workshop.

MiniTiouner hardware

Typical! I finally made time today to build up the Minitiouner hardware (https://wiki.batc.org.uk/MiniTiouner_hardware_Version_2) which had been sitting in various bags in a tray for a year now. Everything went well (the PCB is very finely made) right up to installing the step down buck regulator of which I had two from eBay.

So… step down buck regulators… they were right here in the rubber component mat. Where is the rubber component mat. Yup, the workshop has been tidied up and rearranged twice since all the components arrived and for some unknown reason I put the darn buck regulators on the bench and not in the same tray as the rest of the bits. And they are now nowhere to be seen.

More on order from eBay… serves me right.

Edit: typical. So the new ones arrived and the unit is working. Today I found the ones I ordered previously inside the envelope that the PCB came in, clearly placed there by me so I would not lose them! I now have 5…