New toy

So I now have a functional Creed 75 teleprinter. The person it came from had done a first rate job at cleaning it up and getting it to function. Thus far all I have done is put it in the workshop waiting for me to make some time and space to have a play. I also need to get my head around it as I have never had a 75 before.

And here it is. It is in good shape given how old it is and I hope eventually to be able to sneak this into the shack, aka the little bedroom. There is just no way the 444 would hide in there but there is almost a 75-sized hole.

The innards do look neat and care has been taken in getting it working.

More to the point though it prints just fine, a stage I have yet to reach with the 444.

The first order of play is to get some volts onto it via the TDMS and make sure it receives as well as sends. Ah, that means I need to fix the TDMS which has stopped working. This also means I need to rearrange all the valve collection as this is taking up half the workshop right now. Snowballing…

23cm groundplane antenna

I thought it would be a useful experiment to make up a 23cm groundplane antenna. There is a useful guide at https://vk1nam.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/23cm-14-wave-ground-plane-antenna/

Using some 2mm copper wire from a supplier on eBay plus a N-type female socket the construction was fairly simple. Using the dimensions given above plus a bit for fiddle room I soldered the vertical element to the centre conductor of the socket. For the radials, given it was copper wire I decided to press my jewellers anvil to work and flattened the end of each element sufficiently to drill a 2.5mm hole. Using 2.5mm bolts each was secured to the respective mounting hole in the socket, and then the excess thread was cut off with a Dremel.

Bringing it all indoors – the heavy stuff like drills and hammers live in the workshop – I calibrated my NanoVNA and gave the new antenna a go. It was a bit off but then each element was too long. Trimming each gave a fairly flat SWR where I wanted it. Well, almost, but near enough to stop cutting bits off!

But does it work? Yes, I can open up GB3WC from the shack holding the antenna up inside the window. It’s about two S-points down on the Yagi, or anyway two of whatever the divisions are on the signal strength meter on the FT2D. Surprisingly I can get into the repeater with the antenna on the desk, albeit only coming alway up the signal strength bar and very hissy. It was the same when sitting the antenna in an old bottle as a support – at that altitude there are a lot of houses and trees between us and the repeater.

For a bit of copper wire and a socket it was a fun little thing to make. I actually planned to make a collinear and may still,  but this was nice and simple and quick.

QSL cards

Got a surprise through the door today, 12 QSL cards to my 2E callsign, various dates from February 2020 up to November 2020. Almost all want return cards, absolutely no problem and all part of the fun. I am not a big QSL’er other than eQSL but I always send when asked. Actually, I always planned to sort of back peddle on QSLing until I got the M0… now all I need is a decent design rather than the generic one I had on the M6 and 2E.

23cm first FM experiment

Since my last post about the SG-Labs 23cm transverter I realised I have several handhelds all of which have low power settings. Time to try some FM and get a better frequency readout. 144MHz did indeed produce 1296MHz (and some small change) on the frequency counter. Time to get adventurous – GB3WC in Wakefield is about 15 miles away and pretty much line of sight and so would make a good test.

With the transverter in repeater mode with a -6MHz shift (jumpers 1 and 3 on) and the FT2D programmed for 145.375MHz simplex (WC transmits on 1297.375MHz) – the transverter does the shifting – and the necessary 82.5Hz tone I can open GB3WC and receive it at S9+ on my 8 element 23cm Yagi. In the true spirit of let’s get this new shiny box working this test entailed the use of a microphone stand, some wire and some clamps. But it works.

Only a quick test today as the battery was nearly out on the Yaesu and it’s kind of hard to talk into it where it is. Somewhere I have a headset for it which will make life easier until I figure out how to site it properly. The tricky thing with the transverter is to get it back to simplex means taking the lid off and altering the jumpers, not particularly easy if it’s up in the loft where things are easier to leave in place.

23cm

I’ve always been interested in microwaves and 23cm is one band up from where I currently have kit (well, ok, apart from the QO100 setup) so I got an SG Labs 23cm transverter from eBay. I thought I may as well have a play before The Powers That Be trash the band as seems threatened. Nice little box. Of course, it gives me a problem now and having just spent an hour cobbling stuff together I am a way away from being able to actually use it.

But I wanted to make sure it worked, not that I suspected otherwise but it’s a new (to me) shiny box and I want to play with it. So, how to feed it… I grabbed the TR-9130 that had been relegated to the workshop since I got a 144MHz transverter and let it acclimatise overnight. Apparently this puts out 5W on its minimum setting which is borderline for the SG Labs kit. Fumble around for my attenuators – but those are F-types.

And of course I had no patch leads to hand… but I did have some useful crimp PL259s to quickly make a lead up.

Running the VHF set through a SWR/power meter into a dummy load confirmed the 5W, of actually more like 6 but SSB should be fine if I don’t shout. I have a short 23cm Yagi so seemed all set for a test. But… something missing… ah yes, what do I receive it on? Ugh.

Ok, run up CubicSDR on the Mac and use the SDRplay box with one of the baby antennas that came with the Pluto. The desk is now covered in bits of kit and wires. Can’t find the signal in CubicSDR. I have a handheld scanner which goes up to 1300… but impractical to slowly run through the band hoping, and anyway it does not do SSB. Setting the TR-9130 to FM caused the transverter to whinge via it’s red LED showing far too much input.

Ah, the frequency meter then, that goes to 2.7GHz. Finally I can see output in the form of a fleeting count on the counter. Getting a BNC cable and the baby Pluto antenna so the antenna is close to the Yagi and I could get a more accurate reading of 1296. Good. Now I can tune to it in CubicSDR and finally see a signal, which saves me from figuring out how to do it all properly in CubicSDR!

And that’s as far as I can get. I need an attenuator so I can run it via the 144MHz transverter which puts out up to 10W, or so I can use FM on the TR-9130 – ok make that two different attenuators. Not that I will get very far with an 8 element Yagi on the desk but in theory, and perhaps using a handheld I should be able to open up GB3WC from here as it’s pretty much line sight.

Lots of faffing around then for an incomplete result… but then, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Nextionising the pibox

I gave the pibox a present today in the form of a 3.2″ Nextion display. It came with a bezel which I wanted because I could guarantee not to make a neat hole in the panel. Oddly, the bezel was black in the advert but came unfinished…

The screen runs off a USB port on the Pi via a CP2102 USB to TTL dongle, and the wires that came with the Nextion just reach the dongle which in on the far side of the box. It was surprisingly easy to set up, albeit I had to wrestle the Windows PC to set up the Nextion editor as I did not have a spare SD card to download the HMI file directly to the Nextion. Of course, this exercise was very much a ‘got a new thing, must get it working immediately’ type job and I will take time now to read up on it all and maybe find different displays, but it has at least turned a boring blue box into a blue box that appears to have a purpose!

2m FT8

It’s been an impressive two days on 2m FT8. Yesterday (3/march) pskreporter showed that I had been received in GI, EI, GD and GW as well as right down into Devon, and today similarly so with the exception of Ireland and the addition of GM. Not bad for my cobbled together dipole in the loft.

Of course it’s likely that all the reports are from stations with humungous antennas but hey, a report is a report. And yes, tidying the loft is on my to-do list!

Morse keys – eventually

(updated) As I am learning morse, well, in theory anyway, I wanted a decent morse key. I think a straight key will be best but I want something decent and not naff looking or ex-military. I like the look of the Bencher (probably because it’s shiny!) but I have no idea of the feel of any of these keys and looking around for comments shows that everyone likes their own – to be expected of course.

Back in December 2020 I had actually ordered one that gets good reviews but it never came. After three emails to three separate contacts and never getting a reply I turned to PayPal and got a full refund within two days. Two months was long enough to wait for the key to fail to arrive. I suspect the order was messed up by our rather stupid exit from the EU and the resultant complexities… but to not receive any reply, well, that’s just not good customer service.

So… I got this instead, it’s so shiny!

PC progress

For a while now I’ve been pondering whether to get a Windows PC. For starters, SDR Console needs it as do other SDR packages. But other than watching them come and go on eBay I never took the plunge. However, as I’ve taken all the electronics out of the workshop due to it always being damp I had a spare Lenovo ThinkCentre PC, one of the very small things. I already use one as the home server but this other one was destined to run a DCC setup for a model railway that is still just a pile of bits.

It ran Ubuntu but when I got it it came with Windows 10. All I had done was swap hard disks, keeping the Windows one just in case I ever needed it. Well…

…it is now in the shack and SDR Console has been installed and all is well. We had a screen lying around which is full HD, a much better display option than the old laptop I had been using. And with it being a fresh Windows 10 it’s not (yet!) cluttered up.

One strange thing though. I set up SDR Console just as I had on the laptop along with the recommended offsets etc. But on the laptop I had to adjust the offsets to set it correct, e.g. for the lower beacon to actually appear where it should. But now, with the published offsets it is in the right place with no further adjustment. Another oddity is that when I boot this PC and run SDR Console up having shut it down with the SDR receiving the lower beacon, it comes right back. On the laptop it was always somewhat off and would drift. Not sure how that happens given it’s all in the digital domain. I must have set something up odd on the laptop, but no idea what. Anyway, it works.

The Lenovo only has the one set of audio jacks, those on the front. And only 4 USBs, two at the back in use for the mouse and keyboard. In order to get audio into the mixer I will need to use a USB sound card, not an issue except that will need to plug in the front and I like to keep cables out of the way. Maybe it’s time for another wireless keyboard and mouse, after all the current keyboard does rather dwarf the tiny PC!

Pibox progress

After a long delay (other work, life getting in the way, general laziness etc) I ran some more tests on the Pibox. With the fans disconnected (actually, one disconnected itself!) and the case assembled I’ve been running the box to see how bad the temperatures get. With two of the three Pi cards operating, and all 3 powered up, pi-star, which is on top due to the DVMEGA hat settles at 60 degrees C, and the utility Pi which has a Discone attached settles at 50. So not actually bad. I think what I will do is go back to Plan C or whatever it was and run the fans via a transistor hanging off the GPIO port of one of the cards so the fan comes on if it is getting a bit steamy. For now, at least it means I can run pi-star 24/7 again, especially as I had to upgrade it by hand as it has missed a lot of the overnight updates.

And it saves me having to run mains power into the loft.