Sorting the audio out

I’ve whinged before that my ears are naff. I often use headphones to help but now with so many radios it’s a pain, especially when the relevant socket is on the rear of the rig.

Ages back I set up a mini-recording studio to help the kids with their music lessons and practice. Guess what, I have a mixer as part of this and yet left it sat on a shelf forgotten! No prizes for guessing where it is now.

So, I can now mix in all the radios and the PC / SDR and output to headphones or speakers or both. It has two channels so I can play one radio through one speaker and another through the other which is useful. The same goes with output to the headphones but this is less useful because my hearing is so far down on one side that I play everything through my ‘better’ ear. But it gives a lot of flexibility.

One thing I am toying with getting is a decent audio processor. I had a Datong unit which I sold on but that was before the current DSP offerings. Again, the mixer will be useful because it has an FX channel, meaning I could send audio from one rig out through a DSP processor and back into the mixer all without having to fiddle with plugs.

Now if I could just tidy up all the wires…

First experiments with the FTM100DE

Well I got up relatively early and cut 35 foot of WF103 and soldered a PL259 on one end. The hole in the ceiling above the radios won’t take the width of a plug but will – just as it turned out – take the cable. It now has one run of RG213 and three of WF103 and an RG58 and I reckon nothing else is going up that way now. My little Antex iron had no chance against the copper in the WF103 so I had to drag the reflow machine in from the workshop, overkill but it made a good joint. Got the co-linear set up and mounted and the VNA said 1.2 SWR on 2m (it only goes to 180MHz).

The radio was easy to install and is smaller than I’d imagined (but then I’d not taken any notice of the stated dimensions). I put the SWR meter inline and it agreed with the 1.2 SWR on 2m and said the same for 70cm.

The first thing the rig did was tell me that the micro SD card I fitted is bust so its in the bin. Another one worked fine. Mind you, I should have realised because I had one SD card that would not boot pi-star  no matter how I tried – I guess its the same one. Other than that it does what they say it will and works fine in both analogue and C4FM, receive-wise anyway.

The FTM100DE is a neat little thing and fairly intuitive in its use. I’ve programmed in the two local repeaters, one 70cm fusion, the other 2m analogue and both work fine and safely stored in memory. Not actually talked on the radio yet apart from a couple of tests to see if I could get into the repeaters (no time today) but it seems all systems go and hopefully I’ll be able to join in on the local natter net next week.

Time to add YSF to the pi-star hotspot.

New toy

I got myself a combined birthday and Christmas present – actually the first radio I’ve ever purchased new apart from the handhelds – a Yaesu FTM100DE. Not set it up yet, and I’ve still got to run some WF103 down to connect up the 2m/70cm co-linear which is sitting in the loft waiting. Maybe tomorrow.

Anyway, this means I finally have a C4FM radio (one of the the local repeaters speaks it) and this time I have a Yaesu box with a radio inside, unlike the empty box that scammer Steve 2E0STI sent me a while ago.

Now, where can I install it where it won’t be noticed… hmmm.

 

EchoLink

(this is a re-write of my original post to tidy it up)

I signed up to EchoLink today and installed EchoMac, a Mac version of the software. I have yet to play with this other than making calls to the *ECHOTEST* conference – a self-test facility like you get in Skype.

Getting the software to communicate was a bit of a fiddle, through no fault of the software or EchoLink. First off, the home router needs to be able to pass UDP ports 5198 and 5199 in both directions to the Mac, and port 5200 TCP outgoing. The information is here http://www.echolink.org/firewall_solutions.htm. By default everything incoming is off other than a few rules that I have for the web servers. So I had to enable this. The Sky router I have can be a pain here because more often than not, pressing Apply to save firewall rules gives a ‘not found’ error and it seems to want several goes before it works. No idea why that should be, surely the script is either there or not, not there sometimes! Anyway, I got the rules in. Note on the Sky router you need to first define a Service for those UDP ports, then select that service for the firewall rule.

But it still did not connect. Over to the Mac firewall which was already switched on. Not sure I did this, maybe the latest software update sets it by default. Anyway, here I needed to select EchoMac and allow it to accept incoming connections. It seems I also needed to reload EchoMac to make this work, so I guess the firewall only permits an application when it loads, not if it is already loaded, which makes sense.

There are still connection issues though. I can connect more reliably if I chose the Sky router as the wifi hub. Every test so far when connected to my main hub results in no connection for EchoHam, but switching to the Sky router wifi and it usually works. I say usually, because if I connect to the Sky box and load EchoHam it works, but then if I unload EchoHam, switch to the other wifi hub and reload EchoHam it still works. But not always! I’m sure this is a fault of my own security because I can get it to connect, just not always first time.

 

Sulking rigs

I think my shack was sulking tonight as I’d not played for two days. First the tuner played up and then the PC would not see the SignaLink. Running lsusb showed it to be missing. I could not reach round to replug the USB cable so rebooted the PC instead. Now it showed it but wsjtx-x could not. Checking the config wsjt-x had reverted to the internal sound card. I’m guessing that running it with the USB missing did that.

Or they really were sulking!

Oh yes and then 20m is completely dead. Trying 40…

 

Auto tuners

Ok, so I acquired a YT-1200 automatic tuner some time ago but left it gathering dust as I had always planned to add more bits of wet string to my loft fan dipole for other bands. The tuner was going to go on the long wire that I never got round to making via a 9:1 un-un which is wound but not soldered up and looking sorry for itself in a corner of the workshop. Plus there has been a lot of FT8 activity on 20m anyway and the internal tuner in the FT450D is happy there.

Well, I set this thing up last night and it happily tunes from 80m to 6m (not tried 160m yet). The fan dipole has two elements, one cut for 20m and one for 6m, but I’ve now made FT8 contacts on 40m, 30m, 17m and 15m, not bad for a bit of wire stapled to the rafters and 10W or however much actually makes it out of the tuner.

Yes it’s not a mega-station with a beam or even any kind of external antenna (yet!) but it works for me, aided of course by FT8 being a weak signal mode – my signal must be pretty weak!

Edit: I’ve now managed one FT8 QSO on 12m and today (5/Nov) one on 10m. 80m is probably a lost cause right now as although the tuner seems to tune it ok the rig is not happy. But there is a serious lack of wire up in the loft so not a big surprise.

DV-MEGA

Just got a DV-MEGA single band 70cm Raspberry Pi hat because I wanted to have a fiddle with a hotspot for the MD380. I can get into three (sometimes four) DV repeaters from here but I do like to play with tech. This little board plugs into the Pi’s GPIO connector. I already had a spare Pi 3 from an abandoned PVR project and a PoE power unit so why not. The board will take an SMA arial directly but mine has a dummy load screwed in instead.

I’m using Andy Taylor’s Pi-Star package from http://www.pistar.uk/ – from there one can download a complete image for various boards including the Pi which, when imaged onto an SD card results in a Pi which boots up headless and presents a really nice web interface from which all configuration and monitoring can be carried out.

And it works really well. It is a doddle to set up and configure, especially given an instructional video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5G4gYDdJeQ

Anyway, it also made me reconfigure the MD380 as the codeplug I had made previously was a little disorganised. I now have all four local repeaters set for all the useful talk groups in two zones each (the radio can only have 16 channels each, awkwardly), including a zone for the simplex channels which I had forgotten (!) and a separate zone for my hot spot, that one with the tx power set to low. The channel is set to colour 1, a lot of people seem to use 438MHz as the frequency (NB both tx and rx), and TG9. The slot does not matter as it’s simplex.

Connecting to a talk group is straightforward on the MD380. Menu -> Contacts -> Manual Dial and then enter the TG number e.g. 4400 for the UK wide one and press the PTT. You should hear a voice telling you that you are connected. Use 9990 for the parrot, and 4000 to disconnect. QED.

National Hamfest

Having finished a major bit of academic work I treated myself to a relatively short trip down south to the National Hamfest yesterday (Friday). This is my first trip to such a thing since the radio rallies of the 1980’s and I had no idea what to expect but I can say it was worth the trip, if only to see what I can’t afford to buy!

I didn’t come away with much – I grabbed a pair of Nagoya NA-771 aerials, one for the UV5R and one for the MD380 (different antenna connectors of course!) and one of QRP Labs excellent 5W single band transceiver kits for 40m. The manual (PDF) is a work of art giving detailed instructions of every step of the way including photographs to show what things should look like. This is waiting until I pass the Intermediate exam.

Oh yes and an SDRplay RSP2 followed me home too. Unfortunately the SDRuno software is Windows only but CubicSDR works fine on the MacBook and with very little fiddling I’m listening to SSB on 20m. I’ve used CubicSDR on the Linux box before so not too steep a learning curve. The RSP2 has two antenna inputs and the switch between these is in the software – so an option in CubicSDR for example.

Solar flares

I had WSJT-X running just in case I had time to make a few QSOs while writing. There was plenty of activity and numerous decodes but I’d not had time to play. Then there was a cryptic decode at 16:09 UTC which just said ‘SOLAR FLARE’. The timing and frequency suggest it was someone a few squares away. And sure enough, no more decodes. At all. I switched to WSPR and recorded a couple of stations that way, and was recorded by a couple too, but it’s very dead. I wish I was watching the waterfall when it actually died off… anyway, not long after it seems to have recovered as I can see traces again and it’s decoding.

Bad timing

No, I’m not taking about clock synchronisation issues and digital modes in WSJT-X, though it has to be said that my PC clock is regularly synchronised via NTP and time.is always says it is ‘exact’ with some very small fraction of a second deviation.

Bad timing in my case is the number of times I manage to find a good bit of DX, usually FT8 as I am concentrating on this right now, only to make contact but not complete because the band dies off from underneath my poor little bit of wet string in the loft. I had a US contact last night who gave up after 6 valiant attempts to exchange signal strengths. Oh well.