FT817 first fiddle…

I now have a second Signalink USB complete with the Yaesu cable to go with the FT817. This is actually the third one to arrive here, the second was mis-advertised as having the radio cable – it didn’t so it is going back because the price is £20 more than a competitor, a little less than the cost of the radio cable. Serves me right for trying to save a couple of quid!

Anyway, FT817 and Signalink all cabled together and no antenna. Hmmm. Ok let’s try into a dummy load, should be good enough for across the shack with FT8 running on the Linux box. Nothing received.

Ah, it’s a Windows box and 1.5 seconds adrift. Sync the time. No change.

Ok. Set WSJT-X to 2m and use the front antenna which I have. Nope, nothing sent.

It is always a good idea to read the manual before fiddling! Let’s change the display to power. Ah. No power… Hmmm.

Ok, transmit from the Linux box and I can see that on WSJT-X via the FT817. So it receives fine.

Did I mention the manual?

Set radio to DIG. Works fine now! Funny, that.

To switch or patch…

I like to fiddle with stuff but getting antenna a to whatever-it-is b is complex and usually messy. Coax to the loft is all RG213 or Westflex 103 and tends to be a bit stiff and unwieldy so sits attached to whatever transceiver or transverter it was originally put in for. But mixing and matching is my aim.

Switches would be equally complex I think. So I am eyeing up a BNC patch panel I used to have in a Land Rover for antenna patching and which has been sitting for 20 or so years sulking in a box of tools.

It has 32 holes each designed to take a BNC-BNC through adapter which makes for an extra plug at the rear – maybe a BNC socket wired to whatever kit it is intended for rather than the rear socket would be a better idea. It is the wrong shape of course, better for 4 rows and less width as it makes for long patch leads but if I have all the antennas in the centre I can cut that down – sensible routing is a must.

I will still need at least one switch but I have a good one ready to go in. The FT450D is the only thing that needs the three transverters (4m, 2m and 70cm) so no sense in those having both input and output on the panel.

Now, where on earth do I fit this thing…

Mobile?

One thing I am not good at is actually getting on the bands and taking. I tend to dwell on FT8 due to rather naff hearing, but this POTA / SOTA thing has caught my eye now and so I wanted something other than an FM handheld. Enter a used FT817 – not the ND but hey. Yes it is yet another thing to learn but it came with a rechargeable battery and gives 2.5W out on 2m into a dummy load (very quick test, you know, new thing, gotta fiddle!) which the manual says it will set itself to when on battery. Unfortunately I got this a few days after our last excursion which would have been an ideal test. It also came with a cigar-lighter charge lead so it can be charged in the car on the way to somewhere. The rig is smaller than I had imagined, very luggable. It’s dwarfed by my SWR meter – I really need to get a smaller one for portable use. I reckon it will be very useful for when I eventually finish off my various microwave kits.

On order is a CAT / USB lead. It came with a Bluetooth CAT dongle, not tried that yet. Of course, now I want a TCXO-9 as a treat for it… do we treat rigs as pets?

Moving

I have been renting a dedicated server for a while now as I had a project on the go that needed a bit of oomph and it was killing the VPS I was using. That project is not going anywhere fast and so I have moved this blog over to a VPS. Hopefully nothing has broken!

Test gear expansion

I am (still) gathering microwave test gear and have now acquired a rather nice HP frequency counter, good to 18GHz (but apparently tested to 20GHz). This will help once I begin constructing the numerous kits waiting their turn, in particular a 10GHz transverter.

Microwaves have interested me since my school days, not because of school but because I remember being interested and being at school. Actually, the interest probably dates further back to me seeing various microwave towers around the place and my grandfather telling me what they were.

Anyway, having something means trying it out… so here it is with a HT keyed on 145.5, and more interestingly to me a 6cm FPV transmitter held close by (until I realised it was getting hot!). The meter had not even warmed up for the 6cm test – me being impatient!

Now, I just need a signal generator and a spectrum analyser…

Potential activities

I suddenly developed an interest in POTA and SOTA. Not sure why, I never seem to go anywhere other than the railway once a week, or shopping. But there you are. So far I have been active as a hunter and although I have only one confirmed QSO it’s still more than zero.

The QSO format seems to suit me too. I do prefer digital modes due to having naff hearing but this should get me onto the voice modes.

Testcards

I’ve been meaning to set up something to generate a testcard via composite video for a while and, as is typical of me the ideal solution was sitting there in a BATC magazine on my bookshelf. CQ-TV No 270 has the details of one such setup using a Raspberry Pi Zero. I don’t have one of those and Pi systems are hard to come by these days but surprisingly I had a 3B not doing anything. Software downloaded, 4-way jack to RCA plugged in and connected to a TV and, nothing. Well, a buzz. Checked the cable, all ok. Checked what the Pi wants…

…why does the Pi have to have the connections different from what appears to be a standard hi-fi 4-way to RCA lead? Or, rather, why does the hi-fi 4-way lead I have have to have different connections? Grumble.

Ok. I wanted to test this seeing I had it all sitting in one of the bedrooms attached to a TV. Stripping down a 4-way jack lead that I never needed and which was far too short to be of use I made a lead. It would last probably half a second in normal use but worked sufficiently well to prove the setup.

It is of course a waste of a ‘whole’ 3B, but until I get a Zero this at least lets me push a testcard out when I need one. The alternative has been to use the rather clunky Sandisk device that can present an SD card or other media to an a/v output, as used in my first 5.6GHz setup https://m0rvb.uk/index.php/2021/05/22/5-6ghz-experiments/ – this way is a whole lot neater!

Microsoft time

You know the thing… installing stuff on Windows where it counts down, and sometimes up again, then gets to 100% and seems to wait for ages. Our washing machine seems to run on Microsoft time too.

Well, so too it seems does our old MacBook. This is a 2015 or so 13″ MacBook Pro and is no longer used so sits on a shelf. I had it set up as me for testing but wanted to clean it all out so it can be sold. That’s where things went a tad wrong.

For some reason it took ages to even log in – very unusual as these generally boot in seconds. Then, after the reset it would not boot at all. Long story cut…

I set it going doing a restore over the Internet. It began saying it would take 2 hours. Ok. This changed to 12 hours and seemed to come down ok, 11, then 10 each taking about an hour. Then it got down to 9 hours and dropped to 12 minutes! After an hour at 12 minutes left it went to 21 minutes and showed the Apple logo. After another hour it apparently had less than a minute to go. After 2 hours of that I gave up and rebooted it. It went straight back to 29 minutes, then 1 and sat there again. Hmmm.

So I downloaded MacOS onto a USB stick and booted the Mac that way. This fired up and said 4 hours (from an attached USB??) but dropped to a few minutes. I left it running but those few minutes became an hour before it finally finished.

It is not a happy Mac…

FUNcube dongle

I grabbed one of these a few days ago, in part because there are a couple of dashboards for the telemetry of a couple of cubesats, but also because of the RF range vs the cheap SDR dongles I already had (SDRPlay RSP2pro excepted, not cheap and very useful, but also, not a dongle!).

I failed to get anything off of AO-73 on a good pass via waving the Arrow II at the window – almost got it, just insufficient waving / pointing vs the window blinds, wall, shelves…!

But the dongle sometimes dies. I read that this can be because of the USB post so I need to work on that – I have a powered USB hub to try. Anyway, another toy. Maybe it’s time to invest in a reasonable laptop (the MacBook is getting old now and being a 15″ model is a tad unwieldy) and go outdoors.

Update: a powered hub seems to have cured the lock-up as I had the AO-73 telemetry dashboard running from mid-day on 30th to mid-morning on the 31st. It also stands the dongle up rather than it drooping in the socket when horizontal. No luck with AO-73 telemetry though…

Yet another new toy

I acquired a DTX1 DATV transmitter. Although this is rather dated now it is still a useful tx capable of transmitting between 350 and 1350MHz. As a test setup over my usual 6″ or so transmission path here it is on 437MHz transmitting a test card (yes the test card is all wrong but at least has the callsign and it is unlikely to propagate beyond the garden).

The test card is coming from a little device that reads an SD card (and other formats) and sends a selected image. I did try an old digital camera I have which has video output but which refused to do anything, not even when plugged into a TV. Anyway it proves the DTX1 works.

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