Sunday, June 29, 2014

Field Day 2014

Well another flied day is in the can.   I operated the Flex 6300 from home.  I was really excited to see how well it would do in this contest.  Unfortunately my contest time was cut short as my wife came and told me one of the air handlers was leaking.  Fortunately it was still daylight and the stores were open for a couple more hours so I had the chance to fix the air and still work some contest.

I had my radio set up in the usual configuration I have come to favor


WriteLog with 2 bandmaps and 2 entry screens, SDR bridge, 2 CW skimmers (I only operate CW contests) DDUTIL, SDRMemory6k, VE7CC client and QRZ to look up callsigns.


This is a shot of WriteLog and VE7CC client all percolating together, and here is a shot of CW skimmer percolating with WriteLog


I could click either the band map or the skimmer to load a station into the logger or just copy in my head which is what I wound up doing most.  With this contest it turns out skimmer slows you down to some extent.  Skimmer prints the first call sign it hears and this is often the call sign of the calling station not the running station.  What is on the screen is what gets loaded into the logging fields, so I spent a lot of time deleting what was in the entry field and re-entering the correct data.  Not a big deal.  Alt-W erases the entry and just re-enter.  I didn't do any running but you wind up doing this with run QSO's anyway.   The thing I do like about skimmer despite this logical error skimmer puts you precisely right on freq making use of 100hz filters practical.  100hz filters dramatically reduces listening fatigue.  If you run across a station on another band WriteLog autofills the data from the previous band QSO,  Nice feature.   Here is a shot of SSDR


Look at the waterfalls especially 40M!  The bands were cooking here in SFL!  I started on 15M worked up the band and then back down.  After my sojourn with the air conditioner and trips to Home depot I came back and worked 20M and then 40M before heading for bed about 3 AM.  It was totally fun and I love the way this radio works in a contest.  I actually worked a fair amount of DX in this contest which is unusual for me in Field Day.  I usually take a spin to the local club effort but given my A/C woes I was glad to be 1Ding this year with my 6300.

73  W9OY

Friday, June 27, 2014

RTTY 2

I figured out the split method --->  USE XIT  DOH!!

Here is W1AW/9 on 20


He was listening up 1-2

I set XIT up 1.5 khz and hit START and dumped in my call and hit STOP.  He came right back even with my 25W.  We exchanged info and I was on my way with him in my log! 



That's the ticket.  I can use the knob in the flex control to tune the pileup, OR I can watch both my transmitter and the pile up in a second slice



A much more elegant solution


73  W9OY

Thursday, June 26, 2014

RTTY

I've never been on RTTY.  Back in my day it was model 15's, reams of paper and type writer ribbons.  I liked antennas and amplifiers.

Since winwarbler has RTTY built in and since I had it working on PSK-31 I thought I'd give RTTY a try:



I swear these guys are every where!  This is the W1AW/3 pileup on 40M.  I set the radio to DIGI-L and narrowed the filter


and started printing W1AW/3.  Easy as pie!


I didn't have split so I used a DDUTIL feature to work him. 



DDUTIL can memorize a freq and the can toggle between the VFO and the memory.  I stored W1AW's freq in memory and tuned the VFO up the band.  I then listened to his freq and as soon as he started "W1AW/3 up", I hit the VFO button on DDUTIL which put my transmitter in the middle of the pileup and hit START and sent my call.  Then I hit STOP and and toggled the V<>M button to returned to his freq.  I was able to tail end by setting the VFO to the freq he was working by dragging it in the panadapter.  After about 5 minutes I worked him with 50W one handed paper hanger style.  What a hoot!  

I do have to figure out how to run split however.

73  W9OY

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Digi

I AM NOT a digital op (unless you call CW digital).  I don't even play one on TV.  This afternoon I decided to see how easy it would be to set up the 6300 on PSK31.  5 minutes later I was reading PSK31!  Here's how I did it.

I use winwarbler from the DXlab suite since its already on my computer.


I opened up Config and went to soundcard


and chose DAX audio RX1 under PSK ^ RTTY reception, and DAX Audio TX1 in Transmission.

I went to PTT and chose XCVR Ctrl App.


and closed Config

I went to DAX Control Panel and made sure Audio Stream 1 was checked and TX was chosen


I switched the mode on winwarbler to PSK31, and set my mode on the 6300 to DIGU and opened up the filter to 3.0 khz.  

and set my radio vfo A to 14.070000

Shazam!!


This suckah is workin!  

I switch on transmit to see what happens there by hitting Start and this shows up


You can adjust TX in the DAX Control panel and you can see 11 W power output in DDUTIL


I was not sure how to tell if I was over driving the radio so I posted to the Flex community list and Howard KY6LA suggested I look at my transmitted signal.  Flex allows full duplex so I turned on "show TX in waterfall" in the Radio Setup screen


and played with how my signal looks when adjusting the transmit gain.


BAD


Much cleaner

Output power was 12W in both cases, so I just slowly increased the TX Gain in DAX Control Panel until I noted no further increase in power with increasing TX Gain and then backed off to the point just before compression started.  His other suggestion was to dramatically decrease filter bandwidth on TX.

So how easy is it to get a digital signal on the air with the Flex 6300?  Easy as can be!  I went from no knowledge to fully set up in 5 minutes.  It took me a little longer to figure out how to set up the gain to insure a clean signal.  I'm sure the digi mavens have much more to offer on the ins and outs of digital modes with this radio and I'm sure there are more elegant programs than winwarbler but for quick and dirty it works for me. 

73  W9OY

Monday, June 23, 2014

94 Years and Still Pounding Brass



Tonight I had the pleasure of working Cecil CO2FC.  He was calling CQ on 40M.  We had a nice chat and exchanged pleasantries.  He had a beautiful fist.  As we were signing he mentioned he was 94 years old!!  I think he might be the oldest ham I have ever worked.  If you hear Cecil on give him a contact.  Look him up on QRZ.com

73  W9OY

Saturday, June 21, 2014

All Asia

The All Asia contest is happening this weekend.  It is one of my favorites.  I usually run this contest all night long on 40, 80, and 160 following the gray line as it sweeps across the Pacific, but those bands have been horrible.  I switched to 20 and 15.  What a treat!  Here is a shot of 15M


There are PLENTY of stations coming through from all over the world.  In this contest the waterfall is a godsend.  It makes click tuning dead easy and every blip on the screen represents someone looking for a contact.

20 is just as lively:


Even though I'm surrounded by lightning the 6300 with APF and its filters makes copy no problem.


I live right under that yellow band on the east central coast of Florida.  No direct lightning at my QTH but I can see the band noise jumping.  I like this contest because you can leisurely cruise up and down the band looking for new ones or just work a bunch of old ones while you are at it.  I worked Oman and Saudi with no pileup.  Can't beat that!  Get on and work you some Asia

73  W9OY 

Friday, June 20, 2014

DXing with the 6300

Tonight I want to describe the great ease the 6300 makes for working CW split pileups.

My station is not automated and my antennas are resonant on some bands (160, 80, 40, 20).  These represent separate antennas switched by a Ameritron RCS-4 antenna switch.   The other bands are and not resonant, 60, 30, 17, 15, 12, 10, and 6 but they are close.  On these bands I load up either my 80M vertical or my 43ft vertical,  My worst SWR is on 60M with 2.86:1 loading up my 80M vertical and second is 17M with 2.36:1.  The rest are all under 2:1.  I am using an Ameritron ALS-1300 solid state amp:


Mine is serial # 00009 and it's been very reliable.  I keep the power right at 1100W or so even though it will do more on most bands.  I did have a power supply go out which required repair but given its age I can't complain.  It cost me much less than a pair of 3-500's to repair.  I really love this amp.  It is virtually instant on, makes little heat when not transmitting, there is nothing to tune, and there is no grid current fault to worry about.  I do have a 3 x 3cx800 amp and a 3 x 3cx400 amp and though they make quite a bit more power they are nowhere near as convenient.   It is what it is.  I can hit the band see DX I want to work, hit the power switch, hit the operate switch, and have 1200W on the wire in less than 4 seconds.

Next in line is a MFJ-998 tuner.  MFJ has a rap but sometimes I'm not sure why.  I've been using this tuner to tune my non resonant antennas for several years.  It works flawlessly for me.  On non-resonant bands I can merely hit the tune button on the 6300 and a remembered tuning setting clicks in.  In less than a second I'm transmitting into what looks like a resonant antenna.


I can choose from 2 different antennas at a button press and it has a circuit which automatically defeats the amplifier keying line.  I find it to be very well mannered and predictable in how it works, but then I do not ask it to tune 5 ft pieces of zip cord on 160M.  It's well mannered because my antennas are pretty reasonable.   It handles the power I run fine.  I click tune, the tuner goes click click and I'm ready to go.

I monitor my power with the LP-100 power meter by N8LP.  I was an early adopter of this device also with SR# 0045.  I actually liked it so much I bought another.  


This meter is unique in that it actually measures RF and detects that on a analogue to digital converter (AKA SDR) and this allows you to understand both magnitude and phase angle of your signal.  It is very accurate over the course if its range (from mw to KW) and can out put data into your computer over a serial cable.  Here is a shot of DDUTIL reading my transmitted signal on 17M.  17W from the 6300 gets me 222W (11dB) out of the amp and you can see my SWR is 2.36:1



 This meter has a program that allows you to plot SWR vs Freq etc.  It's basically a transmitting VNA.  I have also used it as a precision field strength meter, useful for beam patterns etc.

Tonight I flipped on the radio and loaded up my usual DXing programs, SSDR, DDUTIL, SDRmemory6k, SDR-Bridge with 2 CW skimmers.


The upper panadapter goes with the right skimmer.  TI2/N3KS was running a pileup on 18.0755 up 1 +/- some more


It was so good to see a legit pileup.  All I've seen lately are those always present W1AW/whatever shindigs.   I hit tune on the 6300 and the SWR on the MFJ-998 dropped 1:1.  I hit Power on the ALS-1300 with one hand and simultaneously switched the band switch to 17M with the other.  As my hand came off the band switch I hit Operate and my radio was locked and loaded.

I clicked the right skimmer which brought me up on TI5/N3KS 's freq in the receiver (note the green arrow at  UA3TCJ)  He just finished with him.



I heard his responding station giving him 599 in my headphones so I knew I was on freq. with my transmitter.  I sent W9OY and he responded immediately and we exchanged 599's

I put him in the log:


and that was that!  Less than a minute from hitting the band to logging the QSO.  I love DXing with this radio.  My habit is to come on a band and first check all the last half dozen cluster spots by clicking them.  If I hear nothing interesting, I start then at the bottom of the band and start clicking signals trying to identify them.  The advantage of the 6300 is even if I pass a freq and something comes on after I pass it is still evident on the panadapter and waterfall and I just recycle back to see what's up.  I can memorize my VFO freq in DDUTIL


See a new station pop up


determine who he is and work him if I need him.  If not I just hit the load button on DDUTIL and I'm back to where I started diligently tuning up the band.

73  W9OY

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

6M is TMF (too much fun)


The Flex 6300 continues to amaze me on 6M.  The receiver is fantastic.  I am working stations down to -149 dBm which is the limit of my noise almost daily.  I have heard Dominican Republic and Canada.  My station hears much better than it transmits.  I use every available means.  The first indicator is the waterfall.  It is amazing how useful this new addition is to weak signal work.

Here is the waterfall shot of VE2IR calling CQ


He is the signal on the right in the waterfall.  His signal strength is -147.1 dBm


And the band noise is


I have the AGT-T tuned precisely for best reception and I am using the 50hz filter.  (50hz gives best signal to noise)


I tune this by clicking the waterfall as a first measure at 100hz filter bandwidth and use the knob to peak the signal on a 450hz sidetone note using the FlexControl.  Its very easy to tune in at 100hz.  I then memorize the freq in the Quick Memory of DDUTIL.  This station is liable to slip in and out of the noise and I want an absolute zero point so as I try to peak him I can always recall from DDUTIL if I get too far off.  I then switch to 50hz filter and try to tune more precisely for peak signal in my headphones.  I also center the signal in skimmer.


Once I have him tuned in within an inch of his life I re-memorize that freq in Quick Memory.  With this technique a station 1 dB out of my noise is Q5 copy in this radio.  And if I bump something recall is a button press away.  It's absolutely amazing!

I designed along with Steve K5FR the behavior of Quick Memory.  It allows for memorization of up to 5 slice specific frequencies in SSDR.  Here is an example:


My active slice is slice B indicated by the yellow arrow in the slice flag.  If I press save this is saved as 50.125000 in memory 1.  Note the Load button in DDUTIL has a B "Load B"  this means if I press this button 50.1250000 will be loaded into slice B.  I can click the Recall button and the memory will move to the next memory.


Memory 2 contains the 50.094420 memory in slice A.  If I hit "Load A" that freq will be loaded into slice A even if I have tuned off freq in that slice.  The memory displayed can be moved up and down by means of the up/down arrows on the keyboard when DDUTIL has the focus.

In addition I asked Steve to code a V<>M button.  This allows you to tune up and down the band with the VFO and immediately toggle between the VFO freq and the displayed memory freq.  This is immensely useful.  If you are all tuned on a DX station but waiting for his signal to build you can tune the band and make other contacts and at a button press you can switch back to any of the memories and see what's happening on the memory freq.  Since you have 5 memories you can follow up to 5 pileups even on different bands.  You can then toggle back to the VFO and continue tuning from where you left off if nothing interesting is happening.  Many times DXpeditions especially in the Indian ocean will follow the grey line across Europe.  I can hear Europe here on 40 and 80 in the afternoon here in FL before sundown.  I can listen to the pileup in Europe and get an idea of propagation and follow the grey line as new signals farther west start calling, so I use this V<>M button to listen off and on as the moment of truth approaches (when I enter the frey)
Also if you are reading the mail on 2 stations that are not on the same freq, you can memorize one station and tune the VFO to the other and simply toggle V<>M and both stations will be tuned in as the QSO progresses.  So Cool and so useful!  I'm indebted to the master coder Steve K5FR and his Swiss army knife of Flex radio for making my idea a reality!  Now back to knocking them off on 6M.

73  W9OY

Saturday, June 7, 2014

60M

I made my 60M debut tonight.  I first had to figure out how to set up the frequencies.  60M is channelized.  You have to set the middle of your radio's band width to the middle of the channel.  Here is a chart from wikipedia  describing the channel band edge and the freq to set your VFO to in order to comply with the rule.



Using K9DUR's memory program  I installed into 5 memories the 5 freqs in column 2 of this chart.  I clicked the channels and they came right up on freq.



I loaded up my 80M vertical which is close to 3/8 lambda on 60M.  Here is a plot of the expected plot



I tuned up with the tuner and heard a fellow on CH 2 and gave him a call.  He came right back.


I signed with him and moved up to CH 3 and gave a CQ and a fellow in AL came right back.  I guess the chanelized nature of the band makes it a bit like 2 meters except people actually talk to each other.


I tuned to CH 5 and heard some really weak CW.  It's weird as hell using channels and wikipedia to get on the band, but it was dead bang easy to get on the band and make some contacts with the 6300 and K9DUR's program.  It will be interesting to see what propagation is like on this band.

73  W9OY

The present iteration of W9OY

I recently had my ALS-1300 repaired back at the mothership.  People like to complain about Ameritron but I find their stuff a pretty amazing value.  It's not military grade and it's not bullet proof, but then I got out of the Navy 23 years ago.  I was in the Medical Corps and you would not believe what passed for "military grade" when I was in, so I'll take a well designed piece of consumer gear that actually works anytime.  My ALS-1300 bears the SN 000009 and I've had it for years and years.  The HV went out on amp module #2 and I could not find a complete schematic for the unit and there are a number of interlocks and interfaces in this amplifier so I called up Brad at Ameritron and sent it in.  

A note of caution:  I'm not a big shipper.  I receive a lot of shipments but send virtually nothing.  I had the factory boxes and packed up the amp and headed off to the UPS store.  It turns out unless the store is actually OWNED by UPS these jokers can charge whatever they want.  Of course naive me knew none of this.  $176 later my amp was headed for Starkville.  This is triple to what UPS charges for 2nd day service.  I called up UPS to find out why so much and found out the rip off scam these stores have going.  A word to the wise make sure your store is owned by UPS or schedule a pick-up.  My little fried who owns the Mail Center made an enemy.  Over the course of time I have treated easily 20% of the population in the cachement district of the the north end of my county and I belong to 2 of the largest churches in the adjoining towns.  You can bet I will make it my goal to run this joker out of town and all I will have to do is tell the truth.

Ameritron received my amp on June 3rd.  By June 6th it was on my doorstep running like a top.  So that's my Ameritron story.  All of my questions were answered with no hems or haws, the amp was upgraded to current production standards and the damn thing works great!  The factory charged $62 for 2nd day UPS service.  I am super pleased with the service Ameritron supplied.

I spent the evening reintegrating my amp back into the station.  I have 5 amps available ranging from 1000W to 4000w but I really only use one, the ALS-1300.  I love how this thing works!  In the Flex 5000 days I had the amp on the top shelf remote controlled.  It band followed the radio.  Eventually I will reintegrate so it band follows again but for now I will run manual mode.  Here is a shot of my present station:



The desk is made out of some counters I snatched when they demolished the recovery room at the hospital where I did my residency.  The correct depth for a ham radio counter is 40".  The correct depth of the shelves is 20".   The ALS-1300 is 17 inches deep and fits the shelf with room to spare.  I've had everything from Alphas to a Ameritron AL-1500 to a Acom 2000 on those shelves and they just gobble everything up with room to spare.  The desk part in front of where the rigs start is 19 inches deep.  My experience may be of some use to someone constructing a station.    

On the far right you can see my Flex 6300 standing vertical.  I have the radio set up on a couple 1" thick wire spools which gives it stability and unencumbered air access.  My 6300 takes up less than 3" of desk real estate.  Next to the rig is the 'puter.  I'm running a Shuttle DS81 bare bone chassis.  It has a LGA 1150 Haswell socket, 16gb od memory, a 259gb SSD drive, and WiFi.  My processor is a 65 watt  intel i5 lga 1150 Haswell.  It has 4600 internal graphics with 3 monitor capability including 1 HDMI and 2 display ports.  This computer runs fine for SSDR and all the peripheral programs.  I've resigned from all the hoopla about what you need to run SSDR.  My usage runs in the 30's even with everything open and screens running at 30fps.   I run 2 24" HD monitors, matching Acer  S241HLbmid.  The monitor speakers are crappy but the monitors are great.  These go on-sale quite often so I picked them up at a good discount.  I was a little bit limited in my choice since the vertical dimension of the space before the first shelf was exactly 16", not 16.25"  These fit perfectly in the space I have and I did not have to go down to 23".  (monitor height, another thing to consider when building a station table).  

You can see scattered across the desktop my various peripherals.  if you look below the right corner of the left monitor you see 2 pilot lights.  These are my power supplies.  I have a Samlex 1235 bolted directly to the 6300 and a Samlex 1223 hooked to a distribution box that provides power to the various peripherals in the shack.  Both are well protected with regards to current and voltage and are as best I can tell radio silent aka no hash.  I ran the rig off the 1223 for a while and as far as I could tell there is no advantage to the greater current of the 1235.  These pop up on the various trader sites from time to time often at half price and I think they are a great buy.  I have them strapped together with zip ties and they sit vertically as well on some furniture replacement feet from the ACE hardware so the air can flow.  Next to the PS's is my K1EL USB Winkeyer.  This has been well modified to suit my operating style.  It turns out the winkeyer has 6 available memories but only 4 buttons.   


  

  
Years ago I was all hot over Peiro Begali's keys.  I have bought several over the years.  Over time I moved from iambic to single lever and I didn't like Piero's solution to single lever.  But I did like the beauty of his product.  I had him make for me a switch block so I could have my memory buttons next to my paddle



I thought he might produce this but I guess it didn't interest him.  Mine is labeled #1.  I wired the WinKeyer to accept these switches and the switches on the keyer itself  in a way that allows access to all 6 memories.  When I CQ on 6M I just add FL and EL98 to the memory so people know where to point the beam.


The N3ZN ZN-SLR paddle is my present and probably permanent paddle of choice.  After I became disenchanted with all the single lever schemes so I approached Tony N3ZN  about building a SL paddle to my specifications.  He came up with this



ZN-SL1  SR#1 

The ergonomics were perfect but the base wasn't quite heavy enough so I bought the round version and now I am totally happy.  I highly recommend this paddle.


Both Piero and Tony were great to work with.  

My present SWR meter is the LDG DWM which is out of production.  I usually use the LP-100 but its back at N8LP's shop for a tune up.  You can also see my much modified RCS-4 antenna switch.  I modified this to work with BCD so it became the RCS-4 automatic antenna switch.  Finally on the desk is my latest addition


That big honkin Electro Voice RE320.  I checked into the Sunday afternoon Flex net on 14.329 a couple of weeks ago and the duty was being administered by Don N5DOA out of Harrison, AR.  He was running a Flex 3000.  His audio was stunning.  Later I shot him a email and asked him what he was running for a Mic and he said a RE320 with no other hardware.  I never owned pro-audio before but I saw a demo RE320 from a music store on ebay for $195 shipped.  I made a little PTT switch and taped it to my $8 base.  I tried all sorts of combinations of graphic EQ but my results were only so so.  I was talking to my buddy I've known for 40 years for a little guidance.  He runs a Flex 3K with a Hiel dual cartridge.  As a starting point I shut off the EQ and the processor and the DEXP and backed down the Mic gain a bit.  He said put a nail in it!!  I do run the new processor since it brings up the talk power with no essentially no discernible change in articulation and I run DEXP to improve the dynamic range but  leave the EQ off except I turn up the highs a bit for pileups.  The audio is fabulous.  

Finally on the shelf is a AL80B which I bought used 20 years ago.  It is paired with a QSK-5 pin diode switch for a cool KW silent QSK.  QSK has become less important to me.  I generally set the delay to hear between words and not characters.  I never send traffic anyway and between words is more than good enough for pileups and rag chews.  My ALS-1300 is next and a MFJ-998 autotuner.  The 998 isn't a bad tuner unless you're trying to load a wet noodle.  Mine hasn't given me a lick of problem.  I have resonant antennas on 80, 40 and 20, and I use the tuner to trim things up on 60, 30, 17, 15, 12, 10 and 6.  I can run near full power on 80, 40, 30 (200w), 20, 17, 15, 12, and 10 with this setup with no RFI or TVI so color me happy.  I want to upgrade my antennas to all resonant antennas and I want to figure out how to do auto-bandswitching  again.  I may go back to my old method in lieu of a better solution but I wasn't super happy with its design.  Since I am using the tuner band changing is a manual affair.

73  W9OY

Here is a small video of the 6300 in action on 15M.  I mostly wanted to see how video behaves on the blog

video