Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Dayton part 2

Saturday morning we departed from the Uni about 06:30. It was overcast with 50% rain in the forecast.
After the usual stop for breakfast we arrived early enough to beat the flea market trader queues. Kent parked the van and set off for his usual early tour of the flea market. This is often when the bargains are found, there are few 'punters' around to compete with, and the other traders have time to talk.
I helped Rich set up his two gazebos and tables. Still no sign of Kent so I decided to set up our own gazebo and get the table out. As we were joined by Lloyd, NE8I, we were able to use several of his more substantial tables. It was a good job we did.
Then the rain came.......... Several hours of heavy rain meant we had to move everything under cover and even put some stuff back into the van to keep it dry. All the while we sheltered under the gazebos, progressively moving towards the centre to avoid the run-off from the gazebo roof.

Eventually the rain stopped, the sun came out and everything dried off. Several traders had already decided to leave early, but there wasn't a mass exodus.
Trade picked up, but we were able to take it in turns to leave the booth and wander the market or the halls. During this time I purchased the spares for my damaged K3 and an SVGA board for the P3 from the Elecraft stand.
I also continued my search for remote operation products and found several new ones that have either recently hit the market, or are about to.
One of the recent additions to the market was the Remoteshack unit and I watched a demo showing access to a TS2000 from a cellphone and listened carefully to glimpse what might be coming.

At 5pm we packed up and Kent went off to a business meeting whilst Zack, W9SZ, kindly drove me to the Spaghetti Warehouse for dinner with the Mount Greylock Expeditionary Force (MGEF) consisting of Brian, WA1ZMS; Dick, WA2AAU; Doug, K2AD; and Bob, KI2L. We were joined by Dave, KB0BE (G5BQE when he was in the UK).

Left to right, Brian, Bob, Dave, Doug, Zack and Dick. Me behind the camera!

Dick and Doug enjoy a pint and pasta.......
I am going to continue this into a third part as there is still a lot of material to include.
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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Dayton Hamvention visit part 1

This was my eighth visit to Dayton. For the first time I flew directly to Dayton ( via Newark) rather than via Dallas and a long drive!
After a 2.5 hour delay at Heathrow I arrived at Newark to be met by a 1hour immigration queue and the surliest immigration officer I have met in over 20 years of regular visits to the USA!
I then arrive at the United Express Jet gate for Dayton to within one minute of the scheduled departure time..........only to find out, to my relief that the flight had been delayed by "59 minutes". In fact it was delayed 1.5 hours. So I arrived at Dayton an hour and a half late. Fortunately, I had been able to call WA5VJB on his cellphone and let him know about the delay. At the airport I used 146.54MHz FM to call Kent and we met up at his minivan.

Although late, Kent whisked me off a few miles to the SE VHF Group dinner at a local BBQ restaurant. It was good to see so many old friends again, from across the VHF spectrum. I didn't get any photos at this event.

After the meal we set off for our accommodation at the University of Dayton.
Photo 1 shows Kent's minivan in the car park outside the Kettering Halls of Residence at UoD. Note that the students had already completed their educational year, so the Uni was pretty quiet apart from all the radio amateurs who were staying there.

Photo 2 shows the outside of the building.

The student accommodation consisted of a dorm with two bedrooms, lounge/study, bathroom, toilet and shower. All pretty basic but low cost, so acceptable!

Thursday morning dawned foggy, but warm. I really was surprised when I ventured outside and found that it was well into the 60s F in spite of what I expected to be cold weather.

After stopping at the local United Farmers Dairy to grab a coffee and Donut it was off to the Hara Arena in Trotwood. Trotwood is on the north side of Dayton whilst the UoD is on the south side. We took the I75 north to avoid going through Dayton. I am always amused to see that we pass through the evocatively named Dayton suburb of Shiloh on our way to the arena.

At the arena we joined the queue to enter the site. Flashing our badges we were straight in and round to the pitch booked for the North Texas Microwave Society ( NTMS). Pitches 2765 to 2768. Shown here in photo 3

Fortunately the fog cleared by lunchtime and it warmed up into the 80sF. I have to admit it was getting a bit warm for me and I hadn't put my hat on so I burnt the top of my head........

Photo 4 shows the fog on Thursday morning.

I spent a lot of time helping Kent set up the stand and selling items from Kent's extensive offerings. in fact just about all of Kent's test equipment items were sold in the first hour after opening. It was probably priced too low.
We shared the pitch with Rich Osman, also from Dallas. Rich had a lot of components etc to sell.

After a good walk around the flea market that took a few hours I had covered about 10% of what was on offer and had yet to go inside the many halls.
I found it more comfortable inside, with air conditioning, during the warm afternoon.

Two views inside the halls.

Friday finished with Kent and I going to the Weak Signal Banquet, held at the Dayton Grand Hotel in downtown Dayton. There is a story about how we got there, but that is for another day!

My thanks to Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, who kindly paid my entrance fee. I owe you, Brian.

This annual banquet is one of the highlights of Dayton for me and many other visitors to the Hamvention.
After dinner the speaker was Jeff Klein, K1TEO, VHF contester extraordinaire!

Jeff explained all about his VHF site in Trumbull, Connecticut and his description of his station, operating technique etc was quite enthralling.

After Jeff's talk we had the contest trophy presentations from John, K9JK.

The next photo shows one of the plaques, this one awarded to the K9NS contest group as winners of the 2012 USA multi operator contest.

After the presentations it was time for the prize draw and with over $5000 worth of prizes on offer, this was a much anticipated part of the dinner.

I'm sorry to say I didn't win anything. I did contribute one of the prizes. Kent won a rather nice Bengali key. The top prize was a Yaesu transceiver.

As we left the Dayton Grand it was pouring with rain. This was a sign of things to come!

In part two I will cover Saturday and Sunday and the trip home. If you can stand the suspense!

73 de Sam

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Solar PV panel noise

After several false starts we had our solar panels fitted today.
Initial results, on a day with mixed sunshine and showers, showed the potential ( pardon the pun) to really make some savings in our electricity consumption. The nine Sunpower panels fit nicely into the space between our loft Velux windows.
With a Fronius inverter there has been no sign of any untoward noise increase on the bands that I have checked (40m and 4m). This inverter came highly recommended as having good noise suppression characteristics.
I am now getting ready to travel to the Dayton Hamvention later this week. After a three year absence I am quite looking forward to the visit. I have already paid for my Friday evening 'weak signal banquet' dinner ticket. This has been an excellent event each of the previous seven years I have attended.
For VHF and up enthusiasts this is the dinner you just have to go to!
Saturday evening and it's dinner with members of the Mount Greylock Expeditionary (contest) Group in downtown Dayton.
And just to kick it all off, if my inbound flight on Thursday is not delayed, I will be going direct from Dayton airport to join the SE VHF group for dinner, also in downtown Dayton. All this and the Hamvention as well!
All being well I plan to write-up my Dayton trip, on here, when I return.
Today, I connected my homebrew 4m transverter to the K3 and through the previously described 'remote' system to the outside shack and then via the combined PA and preamp box to the YU7EF 5 element beam. This was primarily to check the noise from the PV panels but was also an opportunity to check how well the receive system works since I hadn't used it over such a long cable before. The answer is that it works well on receive.
In order to transmit I still need a method to assert transmit over the coax. I hope to do that tomorrow. And build a few preamps to take to Dayton with me.

View of the 4m transverter above the K3
73 de Sam
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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

23cm remote operation

I am pleased to say that the May IARU contest operation, using my version of 'remote', went well. The ERC rotator controller operated flawlessly over LogMeIn. It's not ideal to control the rotator this way and I will eventually move over to direct over the LAN using Ethernet.
In a few odd hours of operating I worked 20 stations with the best DX probably ( to be checked) DL0GTH in JO50 locator.
Two stations got away. In both cases due to problems following-through on 'KST.

Encouraged by the ease of operation on 23cm from the indoor shack, I am now trying to move my EME dish Spid RAS controller application over onto the shack desktop running W7 Pro. This has not proved too easy, but it is being investigated and I hope to have it solved in the next day or two.
With 200W+ on 23cm in the outside shack and a small change to the coax feed arrangement between the outside shack and the dish, I should be back to ( at least) my old 23cm performance. I'm looking forward to getting back onto the moon. On the downside, my 13cm EME feed fell off the top of the high cupboard it was stored on and the original 'pie in the sky' choke ring has been damaged beyond repair. I will be investigating a new choke ring source. I fancy trying a cake tin this time. But a smaller one than I use on 23cm!

I'm off to Dayton, next week, and I'm about ready to go. I will be specially looking for new remote operation products. I will write up my Dayton visit on here, once I get back.

73 de Sam

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Friday, 3 May 2013

Remote operation for the IARU contest

In a bid to get onto at least 23cm during the upcoming contest this weekend I have 'bodged' together a system that allows me to connect the TS2000X over nearly 60m of coax to the 2x44 element yagi array and rotate the antenna from the new indoor shack.

I am using LogMeIN to access the outdoor shack desktop running PSTRotor lite and connected via an ERC controller to the Yaesu G1000DXC. This works very well.

I am keying the long single 23cm coax change over relay via the 'small' FSJ1-50 coax. Always wary of damage to the TS2000X I decided not to directly connect the open collector 23cm linear keying line to the coax. As the run is quite long there is a real danger of a significant voltage difference across the cable and subsequent damage to the keying transistor. Instead I have used a PNP bipolar to switch a small relay and the relay contact then provides a fully isolated keying line.

On receive I found it necessary to use an additional in-line low noise preamp in the outside shack to overcome some of the receive line losses. A VLNA at masthead does not provide sufficient gain to overcome the high line loss.
Similarly I needed to use my 2xM57762 driver amplifier to raise the maximum 2W I could get from the TS2000X, after the long run of FSJ4-50, to 15W to drive the MKU13200 amplifier. I have used a 5dB attenuator on the driver amplifier input to limit the output to 15W and therefore not damage the MKU13200A. The relay derived keying earth switches both amplifiers to transmit and changes the single coax feed relay from the TS2000X over from receive to transmit.

With this arrangement I can hear lots of beacons out to the east and generate over 200W on transmit.

View of the indoor shack operating position.

In order to monitor the outdoor shack, whilst all this setting up was being done, I looked around for a wireless web cam. Not being able to find one locally I looked at what could be done with my mobile phone. The free app ipCam turns my iPhone 4S into a perfectly good wireless web cam operating over the home WiFi network and by logging into the indicated web page ( on the app screen) on my iPad I could watch what was going on in the outdoor shack including checking the driver and linear were keying up, showing me the Bird meter indication ( no easy way to remotely reverse the slug to check SWR! though!).

Roll on the contest!

73 de Sam

The MKU13200A power amplifier and Bird in-line indicator

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