Friday, May 23, 2014

It's Here! - My HF Journey - Radio #2

Well, it happened.

Like I said, since going to the TenTec factory in Sevierville, TN, I have wanted to own one.  I've spent months combing through ebay every couple of days looking for that deal.  Each time I'd have an Argosy II, or Jupiter at a reasonable price.  And then, it would happen.  I'd lose the auction in the final five seconds.

Well, over hamvention weekend, I guess not too many folks were watching eBay, or maybe just not as many.  I was able to land a great deal on a TenTec 538 Juniper.  It came with the external hand mic, the external speaker, and a radio in near mint condition.  I'll do an unboxing video, and maybe some video tonight and post it back here on the blog.

Finally.  I'm so close to being on the HF airwaves I can taste it.

So here's my setup with the Jupiter.

Rig - TenTec 538 - Jupiter 100w HF 6m - 160m
Tuner - MFJ VersaTuner II Dual Needle
Antenna - Eagle One Verticle HF Antenna (10,15,20,40,80m)

I'll give a report after this weekend on how it does!

73s - N9AWM

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

MARC to hold Tech to General Upgrade Class

What: Tech to General Upgrade Class

When: 6 straight Wednesdays from 7:00pm to 8:30pm starting 25 June 2014

Where: White River Fire Department #51 - 3016 W. Olive Brach Road

Cost: FREE, with the exception of the book.  All students must come ready with their own ARRL General License Exam Book.  The book can be picked up from the ARRL website.

Registration can be done here at this link.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Heading to Dayton

Woohoo!  Heading to Dayton on Saturday.  Its going to be an adventure.  I've never been to the Hamvention before despite being a ham for 15 years, and living only 3 hours away.  I don't know why now, I'm finally getting a chance to go.

I'll be running my APRS beacon in KB9BVN's vehicle the whole day.  That can be tracked via the web on the APRS.FI website.

So, here are my open projects / shopping list

1.) Digipeater for APRS to run at the house.  I have a couple of 2M radios, and some arduino's laying around.  Surely there is a way to make this work.  I'll be digging around for ideas and parts.
2.) Another 2M antenna for the house.  Maybe a beam or something cool.
3.) Radial Wire for my Eagle One
4.) Ladder Line for making some slim jim 2M jpoles as a Boy Scout Radio project
5.) All the various connectors and PL259 connectors I can get my hands on.
6.) Maybe a newer HF radio if the opportunity presents itself.

It should be an adventure!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Getting into HF - My Journey - Part 2 : The Radio



But before we get to that, a little regression. In the months after getting home from Ten-Tec, I've wanted one so badly that I could taste it.  I probably pulled up the Ten Tec website at least a hundred times!  But alas, being a father of six, I just don't have the money to splurge on a new Argonaut or Omni.  So I turned to eBay.  For months, I searched for any new listings.  I was looking for anything HF that did SSB.  I started to narrow my search down to Argosy II's, Jupiters, and older Omnis.  But each time I thought I had one on the hook, WHAMMO, I'd get sniped, and lose it in the final seconds.

Fast forward to March 2014.  I had all but abandoned my quest to get an HF rig up and working at my house, when something great happened.  I'm a member of the Midstate Amateur Radio Club here in Central Indiana.  One of the great benefits of being a member of an ARRL based Club came shining through.  Someone had donated several radios to the club to sell.  When they offered a Kenwood TS-520S of unknown condition at $75, I jumped at the chance.  $75, that price couldn't be beat.  I thought that even if it didn't work at all, I'm sure some of the parts would hold some kind of resale value.

So I go back in the radio room and check it out.  There it is, all wrapped up in its original packaging.   The cardboard was pretty old, and needed trashed, but the radio itself was in almost immaculate condition for being close to 40 years old.  I leave the meeting, and rush my new found radio to KB9BVN's house to fire up and check out.  Wow, this radio was heavy.  I pulled it from the packaging and set it up on the bench.  Hmm.... something is missing.  The radio didn't come with an AC power cord, and my DC power supply at 10A, was nowhere near powerful enough to get the tubes going.

More on the TS-520S here.

So, after some talking with local HAMs that are knowledgable about the radio, I found a new power cord on eBay.  I would have tried to make one myself, but the cord had an adapter on it that was like 12 pins, and did some interconnect in the back of the radio as well as supplying the power.

With that power cord, I only needed one more thing for SSB operation: a microphone.  I began to search high and low, watching ebay, reading eham reviews, all kinds of searching.  I was coming up empty for something that was either affordable and known good, or a nicer mic with known issues.  Well, luckily participating in the local HAM community saved me again.  I am also a member of the local BSA HAM group, WD9BSA.  The station had an old Electra Voice that was hooked up to a Kenwood TS-530.  They were willing to loan me the microphone for test purposes, or until I can get one of my own worked out.

Well, the perfect storm of timing finally came together on May 10, 2014 around 11:00pm UTC.  Hooking the radio up to KB9BVN's TenTec tuner, and his attic dipole, I began to turn the dial.  My first contact on the radio was a station in northern Texas on 20 meters.  I picked up a 599 signal report, and boom the night started!  Over the next two hours I made 14 more contacts with stations up and down the east coast, Ontario, and Wisconsin on 40 meters.  It was a blast.

In the next part I will move the TS-520s over to my home, and get it rigged up with the MFJ Versa Tuner II I bought, and an Eagle One Vertical Antenna.  I can't wait to get it fired up.

73s de N9AWM

Friday, May 9, 2014

My entry into the world of APRS

Usually when I start to explain APRS to someone, the first thing out of their mouths is: "Why would you want to do that?"

It's a fair question. Why would someone want to put out a beacon giving information like their GPS coordinates, speed, and elevation? Or why would you want to send a text message to another APRS radio? Why would I want to do any of that with a radio, when my trusty iPhone is so capable. For me, I have lots of reasons.

One, I don't want to depend on my smart phone for everything. It's too dependent on things that are way outside of my control to operate in any kind of emergency or distressed event. Two, I just like playing with Radio, and figuring out all the different modes and things I can do with it.

I didn't want to spend a ton of money on APRS, and really have no interest in being able to text people via the service. My main goal was to put up an APRS radio beacon, that my kids at home could then track on, and see where their dad's work travels were taking him that day, or how close to home I was.

With the small scope of what I wanted to do, I could have just used an iPhone app called OpenAPRS if I wanted, but to me that's cheating. It had to be a signal transmitted on 144.39 to count. So I went with the MicroTrak - All in one from Byonics. That unit puts out a beacon every 2 minutes, and has a 2m transmitter putting out 10w. It also comes in an excellent pelican case that is shock-proof, water-proof, etc. I have that transmitter hooked up to a 1/4 wave mag mount antenna on top of my truck. The system works very well. Usually enough of my beacons get picked up in the rush hour traffic that my travel lines make sense.

My next foray into APRS I think will include putting together an arduino powered iGate. More on that later.

73s de N9AWM

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Getting into HF - My Journey - Part 1 : The Beginning

Last October, my family and I took a great vacation down to Gatlinburg, TN. The Gatlinburg area is home to many fine things: Pancake Houses, Candy Makers, Wineries, Mountain Music, Dixie Stampede, Smoky Mountains National Park, and fantastic views. The family had rented a nice cabin up on the mountain just south of the main drag in town. It was excellent. One of the other fine things that calls the area home is TenTec. TenTec produces some very popular and well built radios for the Amateur Radio community. I had never really seen much of their stuff outside of an antenna tuner my dad had (KB9BVN), but upon booking the trip, he insisted that we make the visit over to their headquarters. With the entire family in tow, spread across two SUVs, we made the journey to Sevierville, TN. Wow. What a place. Compared to the massive warehouses that I have become accustomed to over the years, the place wasn't very big. But, Wow, did they have some cool stuff. After about an hour inside, and playing on their open to the public station, I had caught the bug. The HF bug. I had to get on HF. At the time I was only a General. I know that I could get on HF with that license, but I'd always be worried about tracking what parts of the bands I was allowed to operate on, and where all the action was. So about 30 days after the trip, I tested and passed my Extra Class Exam.

Since then I have been on a mission. A mission to get on HF at my QTH. All I've ever really done involved VHF/UHF from my vehicles and home. HF is a totally different animal, requiring gear that I've not had much exposure to as of yet.

I'd need a few new pieces of kit:

1.) An HF Radio
2.) An HF Antenna System - There are so many options here. I'm leaning towards a dipole or Vertical to keep the HOA happy.
3.) Possibly an antenna tuner
4.) Nice to Have - Antenna Analyzer
5.) Coax Feed line

I'll document the rest of the adventure later in this series. Thanks for reading!