I’ve had the FT817 attached to the MacBook of late, just for VHU/UHF use, but the poor old Mac struggles if I dare to use anything other than wsjt-x. I want a Mac Mini… but anyway, that aside I decided to move the radio over to the Windows PC now. wsjt-x installed easily as usual and all works. The only issue I can see is how Windows messes up its USB ports if I switch the FT450D in. Currently I have that configured to switch between the Linux PC and the Windows PC so I can use VARA / VarAC and other such things on HF via the FT450D. I just use a USB switch obtained via Amazon which seems to work ok. The FT450D side of things comes in as COM6 and the FT817 now comes as COM4, no idea how Windows decides to allocate those. Time will tell…
My first /A
So I finally managed to set up and work /A for a couple of days. The setup failed really as the house we were in had very thick stone walls and no opening windows so the antenna was literally a bit of wire diagonally up from an un-un on the floor, around the back of a sash window cord and across to a picture. But I managed 4 FT8 QSOs, one on 24MHz and three on 21MHz. Better than nothing, and time to learn better about portable compromise antennas. I could have set up in the garden but it was mostly raining and I didn’t bring any batteries.
With the impending trip and uncertainty of where / how I can set up an antenna I experimented with about 10 foot of wire from a 9:1 nun up to the window and down to the wardrobe. Far from idea but it’s surprising just how far I got with no effort and 2.5W on 40m FT8:
There is one 10m hit there too but I did not transmit in earnest. But the 10m reception plot is even more impressive:
I can see how this “let’s throw a bit of wire up a tree” can become rather fun!
Preparing the FT817
Just making sure the FT817 + Z817 + Signalink + MacBook play well together before a trip where I hope to be /A for the odd 10 minutes here and there… not too bad for 2.5W into a bit of wet string on crowded bands:
QRZ’s 12 days
I had a go at QRZ.com’s 12 Days of QRZ challenge which began in December. QED, all you needed to do was make one acknowledged QSO per day for 12 days. I concentrated just on FT8. But there are endorsements for 12 QSOs over 12 days per each band in the challenge: 160, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 10, 6 and 2m. I managed all bands between 80 and 15, can’t transmit on 160, 6 was always closed when I tried, and 2m would only yield one or two close contacts anyway. So I ignored those. I had had little success with 10m but later decided to have a go. Overall 10m seemed to come alive most days and all went well until the last couple of days where there were plenty of QSOs but very few acknowledgements in the QRZ logbook, some of which were only as a result of importing form LOTW. A table of this for no particular reason:
So I had to work those last two days. I had a go at FT4 as well and one each of the ‘Stars’ for the 2nd and 3rd February were from FT4 QSOs.
There, a little trivia!
I now have an FT818 as well as the FT817 so I have been rearranging stuff yet again. The FT817 was destined to be used portable but will now be a shack fixture – it has 2m and 70cm which is lacking since I sold the two transverters. The FT818 will be paired with the LDG Z817 autotunes and I will put together some wire and stuff to go portable. Both rigs came with the internal battery packs and together there is now a car charger, two mains chargers (one converted to power pole connectors) and a couple of leads that are of no use now with the power pole adapters being fitted to both rigs. There are lots of ideas floating about on using better battery packs or external batteries which I will have a think about. Given my ‘portable’ use initially is more likely to be in holiday accommodation there will be mains available.
So, having decided the FT817 is to become a fitment I have connected its Signalink to the Linux box along with the one already attached to the FT450D. Wsjt-x has this though out nicely through the ability to have multiple configurations. I’d never want to run two copies of wsjt-x for the two rigs at the same time so this works well. The documentation explains it but basically it’s a matter of selecting Configuration and cloning the current one, choosing names for each (I just used the rig names), and then selecting the second Signalink and rig details in the cloned configuration. All seems to work fine, the only thing that initially caught me out is that when one selects a configuration wsjt-x closes and reopens – I thought it had crashed.
I only run the radio at 2.5W but I do have a 2m linear to play with at some stage. It always surprises me how far 2.5W and the loft mounted big wheel will get on 2m.
This means my current configuration – digital wise anyway – is the FT817 and FT450D are connected to the Linux box via their Signalinks and CAT cables but the FT450D Signalink and CAT control can also be switched across to the Windows PC where I have Vara and VarAC installed. And a mess of wire…
Update: clearly I have overcomplicated things. Last night when changing configs wsjt-x could not sort itself out. Rebooting the PC sorted that. But this morning the FT817 was sat flashing its screen and although the FT450D was fine and I could make FT8 contacts all was not well. Unplugging everything from the FT817 and power cycling it cured the flash but then the FT450D had dropped off CAT control as well. For now I’ve set everything back as before, with the FT817 on the Mac.
I had a patch lead, about 1m long, PL259 to BNC from the tuner to the patch panel. It’s been fine since I made the thing weeks ago. Today, halfway through an FT8 exchange it decided it no longer wanted to be at all functional. I wondered why the ALC on the FT450D had suddenly gone to max then I noticed the flashing antenna symbol! Fortunately the rig reduces power if the SWR goes mad.
I have finally removed the remaining X10 controllers having replaced the outside light controllers two days ago and the main room lighting dimmers today. Time will tell if any of these suffer from interference being 2.4GHz Zigbee but so far, so good. All of the X10 stuff is destined to go on eBay but it doesn’t seem to sell well – I guess I waited far too long to update everything here.
It’s not a major setup, one Zigbee controller / hub or whatever it’s called – USB and currently stuck in the front port of the server, two dimmers, two bulbs, and three relays.
The setup is Mosquitto and Zigbee2mqtt on the server and Homebridge on a Pi. The server is due to be replaced by another Pi shortly to save space and watts. So now Siri rules our lighting – well some of it! Be nice to Siri…
I got a decent and very warm hat from Aldi some time ago. This thing does well to keep the cold out and really is a bit too hot for our kind of cold weather (having spent several winters in Montreal our cold is warm!).
Well, it now has a brother for use when I am on the railway.
So… I updated the few plugins I use here, all of which say they were tested with the current WordPress version. The anti-spam plugin I use crashed WordPress. Oh good. I removed that and got the blog back (not that anyone would have noticed it missing!) without the anti-spam measures and have now received one (so far) spam post. I can live with that.
Update: The plugin has been updated so that it no longer crashes WordPress. However, it no longer even works at all! Oh well… can’t complain about stuff that is free!