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…

Non-functional leads

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.

Failed update

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!

PHP blues

Well this has really floored me. I am writing some PHP code to extract a list of waiting eQSLs and send replies where they match records from my log. In essence this is all straightforward but I have run into an issue that I as yet cannot resolve cleanly. There is some interaction I’m not seeing.

The eQSL API is a ColdFusion script accessed via crafting a URL with username and password. This returns a web page while at the same time preparing a list of waiting eQSLs as both an ADIF and a text file. I want the text file. The returned page has links to both and the files are not protected. When carried out by hand one clicks the link and the file is returned in the browser.

An ideal method to be automated and the kind of thing I’ve been doing since around the mid-1990s.

So, my PHP code first sends the API request and gets the returned webpage via cURL. It parses the page and extracts the URL of the text file that is the list of eQSLs. And it is here that it falls apart. When I pass this URL to another cURL procedure and thence a parser to extract the cards it always returns a 404 error.

Now the funny part. If instead of continuing in the code and using cURL to grab the produced text file I pass the URL via a system() call to another PHP program that contains the next cURL and parser that works just fine every time. And it’s the same variable I used to continued fail, or to call via system() and work, so the URL in it is correct.

I wondered at first if the ColdFusion code does not actually produce the file – or close the file – for a few seconds. But adding a delay did not work. So, does the remote code not finish things off while the network connection persists? I added various code to the two cURL processes to, in theory anyway, ensure the connection is closed after the first one. No joy.

If I simply print the URL of the download file and paste it into a browser, or into a different browser it all works. It just will not work from within that first script.

I can live with this but it’s nagging me… why is this happening? What else is PHP doing in the background that means that if I close the code and reopen another it all works? This has crept outside both my knowledge and experience! This is of course no fault of eQSL and stems from my desire to make things just the way I like them.

More stuff to fiddle with

Armed with the LF converter I have been experimenting with antennas for the low side of things. There is far too much electronic hash in the house for any hope of receiving things so I now have a couple of antenna options to try outdoors. Given the radios are all upstairs and there is no easy cable route to the workshop where the antennas can go this means a remote SDR. There is already Ethernet in the garage where the QO100 transceiver was so experiments can begin.

Anyway, here are the new fiddleables… an IP35 mini whip from eBay seller radio.el32 complete with bias tee:

This comes as the two PCBs – antenna and bias tee – plus 3 BNC sockets. The metal box was sourced from eBay and the waterproof plastic housing from Amazon. It’s a lot bigger than is needed but should be fine.

And a ‘loop antenna amplifier’ (LAA++) and bias tee from Cross Country Wireless:

All being well the first test will be of the IP35 antenna once mounted on a wooden pole. The LAA++ will take me a little longer as I need to make a loop for it.


Getting closer to being portable – not that I go anywhere! I now have an LDG Z817 automatic tuner. It seems to be working fine although it arrived with dead batteries, one of which had leaked a bit. That cleaned up ok and it now sports a set of Energizer Max batteries (ok, I had a box…)

Having run up FT8 on the Mac 40m was packed but I did manage a contact with an EA station on 80m with 2.5W via the random bit of wire in the loft.

Note to self: remember there are batteries in it!



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