D-Star registration blues

So I got an Icom ID-51 so I will have DMR, C4FM and D-Star. Well why not… it’s currently on its initial charge for 2 more hours or so. I though that a good time to read the manual and sort out registration. So far, not so good.

DMR was simple. I can’t remember what I did for C4FM but it all works. D-Star? I followed the guidance and looked for the nearest repeater in the list. But the nearest one in that list is now C4FM. Ok, next nearest. That has a registration URL which takes me to an information page on which there is no sign of anywhere to go to register. Right. Next nearest – and no way I could contact it from here – has a broken registration URL.

So I started at the top of the list. I gave up after 15 – most had no registration URL, the rest had broken links or had apparently gone over to DMR. I picked a few others at random, all follow the same tale.

Off to Icom UK via Google – it has a link to a registration form but it does not actually work, i.e. you end up back on the page with the link. Google finds an old form – I guess it’s old anyway and I’ve no intention of putting my details into it. But at least the Icom page has an email option… and that worked fine and I am set to go! Well, I will be once I read up about how etc.

Hyper bands

The bands were hyper last night, I’ve never experienced Es until now. 6m looked like 20m it was so crammed. I managed 3 FT8 QSOs in quick succession which is a lot for me and anyway 10W into a bit of wet string does not compare well when the waterfall is completely packed with strong signals. 10m was equally packed – I didn’t try further down as sleep beckoned. I did try a couple of voice calls but ended swamped in a pile-up but hey, next time. Quite a bit of morse on 6m too… my learning is way too little at the moment but hopefully will pick up next month. There was even a bit of 4m FM about.

 

21MHz FT8

The time that a Brazilian station calling CQ on 21MHz hears you at -19 from 10W into a bit of wet string but never completes because the band is shutting down. That.

70MHz FM anyone?

Ok with a spare bit of decent coax into the loft as I said it seemed a shame to waste it so I stuck an Anyyone AT588 70MHz set on one end and made a 4m dipole for the other. So it adds 4m to my arsenal. Bit quiet here though! This is FM of course but it did pick up what sounded like SSB at 70.220 so I fired the SDR up (desktop aerial) and sure enough heard a chap up Sutton Bank (31 miles line of sight) in the 70MHz cumulative event today.

ex-CB

I’ve taken the CB out. I wasn’t making any use of it and the prices that the model sell for have gone up a lot recently, so it may end up on eBay. So… I have this nice run of coax up into the loft with a naff CB aerial on one end (to go) and a plug on the other. Seems a shame to waste it! I’m on the hunt…

144MHz UKAC

I caught the tail end of the 144MHz UKAC last night. Listening around on SSB it was useful to see how effective my basic loft dipole is. This is a cut-down old FM radio antenna I’ve had for decades. It’s fixed horizontal roughly east-west so should max north and south.

The closest heard was around 7 miles off the west end of the dipole and a clear path, and the furthest was 35 miles roughly ENE with a lot of buildings and a hill in the way. No idea the strengths of those because the S-meter packed in while I was listening,  but all were easy R5 and plenty of juice. I’ve also no idea what power they were using and this is all very unscientific but at least proves the stuff works. Hopefully I’ll be free to join in next month.

Now if I could just manage a rotatable 6/4/2/70 setup on one of the chimneys… one day.

RFI

Oh so now I’m giving myself RFI. I pinched a pair of powered speakers from one of the domestic PCs yesterday and wired them to the mixer. One speaker is powered from a USB adapter and it is then wired to the mixer via a 3.5mm stereo jack and to the other speaker. No idea if the wires are screened. There is an amp in the powered unit.

The YT-1200 upsets the speakers when it is operating, most so on 20m (which is the closest match for the loft antenna). But only the non-powered speaker is affected. A truckload of ferrite on the cable between the speakers has quietened it down for normal operation but it is still upset when tuning. The wire is currently wrapped multiple times through two decent ferrites, so much so that the speakers are now next to each other! Hmmm. Looks like I need to take these things apart to see what the cables are actually like.

 

QSLs

I received my first QSL cards via the bureau today, a pleasant surprise. 6 cards with dates spread across most of 2017 – a lot of the time I use eQSL so I didn’t expect many. Some request cards in return – which I will of course but I’m afraid the basic design of mine is no match for those received!

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.