SignaLink USB

I solved the drive issue… got a SignaLink USB box which has its own sound card built in. The box needs four wire jumpers installing inside and these are supplied, along with a diagram of where they need to go. The Allen key needed to open the box is also provided. This device plugs into the FT450D’s Data socket and a USB on the PC – no audio leads needed.

It was quite easy to set up except Linux is not supported officially and the sound setting instructions are for Windows. But, hey, you run Linux you are sort-of expected to know stuff, right? So I figured out what the sound card was called and found it in in Pulseaudio – it found it as PCM2904. My settings in the Pulseaudio volume control – so far so good – are:

Playback – playback on PCM2904 – I set the level to 100%. I tried this at 50% but got no ‘music’ when listening via the ICR2; at 100% it ‘sounds’ fine, and obviously worked because I managed a QSO.

Recording – capture from PCM2904 – again set to 100%

Output devices – PCM2904 and 100%

Input devices – PCM2904 and 100%

My levels seem ok on the SignaLink at Tx straight up, and Rx about 11 O’clock. I had a good quick BPSK-63 call to prove it, and the FT450D shows peaks of 10W on the meter (10W is the Foundation licence limit).

I noticed the overall audio bandwidth is less than I had with the audio lead cable I was using. For example, when tuned to 14.070 the BPSK-63 QSO was right at the right-hand side of the waterfall and the Tx generated very little power – I had to re-tune to 14.071 and then got the full whack. This is no biggie.

The other thing to note is the box itself sorts out the PTT. I had fldigi using flrig for PTT before so I deselected that option so the SignaLink box can get on with it.

Nice box. I’ll see how things go earlier in the day – it was quite late when I got home and the band is flattening out.

More digital

I had my first BPSK-63 QSO today. I like these modes, just set the rig to 14.070 and follow the matrix-like display… with no audio to annoy the wife.

Mind you, as yet I have had no success having a CQ answered. I’ve sent plenty but currently the rather poor drive from the PC results in very little RF power. I hope to rectify that next week.

There is a lot of RTTY about with the BARTG contest. Plenty of decodes but I’ve not joined in because I am not up to entering. Once the contest ends I’ll have a good sniff for RTTY. Pity I don’t have a nice old clattery Creed 7E to do it properly… but that is probably a step too far as I am still only a lodger in the spare room (aka study, aka shack) and may well be turfed out into the shed!

Noise…

Typical. I tidied the setup today and got everything into a better position for working – as you see in the photo now. And now there are stripes of noise across the waterfall in fldigi – as you can also see in the photo! I’ve moved everything about again to try to cure it to no avail. Something has clearly moved nearer to something else and they don’t get along. Grumble…

Another first for me – BPSK31

So… I moved the PC closer to the rig as I could not be bothered to make extension cables. I already had fldigi and flrig and these both worked well once I connected it all up. Lots of morse – I’m still learning so seeing it decoded is actually quite an aid. But then I found some unfamiliar patterns. These fldigi pages are really helpful – http://www.w1hkj.com/FldigiHelp-3.21/Modes/ as is G4UCJ’s page at http://hfradio.org.uk/html/digital_modes.html and I soon discovered lots of BPSK31 and BPSK63 signals around 14.070. Yup, I still only have wires up for 14MHz and 50MHz…

I tried answering some CQ calls to no avail. So I had a break and made those extensions so I could actually regain some desk space. I tried to answer more calls and noticed the tx power level stayed firmly at zero when I transmitted. After a couple of ‘CQ tests’ I could hear a hash on the ICR2 but no ‘music’. Having then plugged the audio leads into the right holes (!!!) and adjusting the line out volume I managed some tx power movement and tones on the ICR2.

After attempting lots of unanswered CQ calls I answered a CQ from an Italian station and he got straight back to me! So, BPSK31 done – not really, it looks like a neat mode, almost like the displays from ‘the matrix’ and all this for keys 31Hz bandwidth.

Fldigi is a really good piece of software. I’ve set the macros up so I am ready to play more.

Digital modes

I am planning to have a fiddle with digital modes. My current leads will not reach from the FT450D to the PC so I get the chance to do some soldering and make the leads longer… see if can remember which end of the iron gets hot.

There are a few quite strong RTTY signals about (I don’t yet recognise the sounds of other modes) which takes me back a way. Years (decades) ago (I was 15!) I used to buy up old Creed 7B and 7E teleprinters, renovate them and sell them on to make a bit of pocket money. These were all set to 50 baud, not 45.5 baud as I only had a tuner for 50. I got quite good at it and I wish I had kept one. At one stage I had a couple running, one via a terminal unit wired to a B40 receiver, plus a separate tape punch and reader. It used to be fun running off reams of print from the Russian news agency TASS, or columns of numbers that I had thought were spy stations but turned out to be weather stations.

Fingers crossed I’ll manage to get it all wired up this weekend and maybe even manage a QSO on 20m.

More 20m

Well I am up to three HF contacts now, two with Slovenia and the third with one of the 14th Antarctic Activity Week special even station. My tatty fan dipole seems to work ok. At this rate (4 QSOs ever since just before Christmas 2016) I’ll soon need a logging programme to cope with this high load… hmmm.

My first HF contact

Well I made my first 20m contact today – with a special even station in Slovenia no less. Very quick contact, 5/9 each way. But this is on my loft crude wet-string (fan dipole) antenna with 10 watts. Not too bad for a first contact I think… 871 miles.

 

More on the loft dipole

I added a 20m dipole to the loft fan dipole today, and fixed the leg of the 6m wire that pulled out of its crimp eyelet. I have yet to cut the coax and insert a coupler so I can use the VNA, so I installed it and hoped. The VNA gave it a SWR of just over 3 and the FT450D tuner is happy at that. But the band is absolutely dead!

Ferrites

Do radio amateurs develop a desire to go ferrite hunting? I’ve often wondered this. Many years ago when I used to go to radio rallies – this is when there were some close to here – there were always people wandering round examining various torrid and such. I never questioned this but always witnessed it. And I seem to have joined them! I now have four T130-2’s, one of which will be a 9:1 un-un and a box of assorted toroids on order to see if I can shut the hash up from a couple of wall warts. This is since I got my license, so it must be catching.

First loft dipole

Having acquired a FT405D from my good mate Steve over at Mullard Magic I experimented last night with a loft dipole – my aim is to make up a fan dipole for 40 thru 6 metres (for 40m it will be a zig zag). So, having measured the coax distance from the proposed centre point to the radio I made up a choke round a bit of 7″ PVC and hung it from a wire dipole centre supported by string.

Ok so far. As 6m is the shortest wire I decided to make that one up and see how it looked on the VNA.

So, two bits of PVC coated wire with crimp connectors for the dipole centre went up in a more-or-less inverted-vee stapled to the rafters. The SWR was 3-ish, not bad for a first go. Then the cable went loose but the SWR dropped – one end pulled out of its crimp! Huh. Eventually, after a bit of a fiddle I got to 2-and-a-bit SWR, fine for now. Coax pushed thru the hole in the ceiling to the little bedroom and into the radio, after merrily knocking everything over. Coax into radio, and the internal tuner is happy. But absolutely no signals! Hmmm. Well, it transmits, I can pick it up on the IC-R2. But no idea if it transmits more than 6 foot…

I tried the local repeater, no joy. Mind you, I’ve never even heard signals from that so maybe it’s just too much to ask.

Of course having made one continual length (17 metres of Westflex WF103 in all) of coax I cannot now use the VNA in the loft! So I need to cut it and add a couple of plugs so adjustments can be made up there… probably a good time to wrap the choke in tape too as I can imagine it trying to unwind itself given the chance.