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Friday, 2 January 2015

It's funny what you find


I happened upon a FLEX-5000A today, reportedly been subject to some kind of static/lightning strike.

It powers up OK (by that I mean the front panel blue LED comes on), but the unit isn't detected by the PC via the Firewire port.

As you can see I have lifted the covers, and this looks highly suspect to me:

Most particularly the bit I have circled here:

There is very obviously a wire cut. The ATU is actually a LDG AT-200 and it looks like a bit of a bodge to fit them in the Flex 5000. On the PCB there is a template for a 9-pin D-Type connector but that has this ribbon cable attached and it is there that the cut wire seems to be. Both bits of the wire are there - they just don't seem to be friends any more. The way the coax is split and fed through the centre of the toroid looks particularly nasty too!

I need to find some alternative pictures of other units to see what this is supposed to be like.

Odd, egh?

Monday, 15 December 2014

It Made it!


I mentioned a post or two ago that I had sold some things, and bought some things.

One of the things I sold was my good faithful FT-847 that I worked on back here:

and the modified the PA back here:

The radio has gone to a good home in Marcus, OH1MN in Finland. I have never sent a parcel abroad before, let a lone one of this kind of value. But today the radio has been welcomed in it's new home:

I am very pleased that Marcus is pleased :-)

So, my shack has changed a little. Since bringing the new FLEX-6300 home it became very apparent that I needed 2 monitors. Now, I haven't tried 2 monitors before so I assumed I would need a fancy graphics card that supported two.... so I bought one. But no! I don't need a new graphics card at all! I connected one monitor to the VGA port and another to the HDMI port and bingo! To separately controllable monitors we have. Some rearrangements of my test equipment and here we are:

So radios now are:

  • TS-990 (main rig and a most wonderful piece of equipment)
  • IC-7100 for 2M, 4M and 6M Meteor Scatter
  • FLEX-6300 for HF and 6M
I still have the main HF linear I bough back here:

but now there is also the Gemini linear for 4/6M (on the right in the photo above) and 2M. The 2M linear includes the power supply for the masthead preamp we made here:

It does now mean that my test gear is a little squashed and my Spectrum Analyser has been demoted to the windowsill (which isn't good):

But I can play with the layout some more another time.

Cat's not helped much, just watched mostly:

Good, egh?

Thursday, 11 December 2014

It's all in the Software!


I've finally decided to have a proper play with Software Defined Radio. I've bought myself a FLEX-6300, which looks dull and boring like this:

The software end of the radio is spectacularly impressive:

The box itself connects to the network I have in the shack, that means I can run the control software from either of the two PC's here, my laptop anywhere in the house and also from just about any remote location where I have internet access. I haven't yet figured out how to get the audio to and from the radio over IP but it is certainly possible.

I can run the control software on one of the PCs in the shack and (for example) connect to the radio using Ham Radio Deluxe from the other PC which can then also run the DM780 application for digital modes. I have got logger32 working successfully with the FLEX-6300 as it offers a standard "CAT" type of interface, I have also got the CW Machine to work but have had to build a simple interface between a COM port on the PC and the accessory connector on the back of the FLEX. I was rather hoping this would be all done in software and "virtual" com ports; but it seems not. This is the interface; the FLEX uses a standard VGA connector for it's accessory port so it was simple to interface against.

The control software includes a feature called "DAX" which is Digital Audio eXchange - it's a means to connect audio to and from the radio to other applications without going from digital to analogue and then back to digital again. That seems to work really well as I have managed to get a number of application (WSJT for example) working easily. There is also a separate piece of software to monitor and control the DAX channels; plus another piece of software for COM port management. You seem to be able to create "virtual" ports as "shared", "dedicated" or "PTT". I have only tried the PTT port so far, ans as expected it creates a virtual com port you can connect with using 3rd party applications and key the PTT line using the RTS line of the virtual port.

I haven't done much experimentation yet, but I understand there are a number of alternative software applications I can use to control the radio - so there is much to play with and find out!

So far my first impressions are excellent although there doesn't seem to be a way to run FSK based RTTY.

All good so far - agree?

Monday, 8 December 2014

The PTT Conundrum


You may remember a while back I described a PTT switching circuit to manage the PTT line to the HF linear, 4/6M combined linear, 4M transverter and 2M transverter and linear. Well, I changed it a little more tonight and added a selection switch so I can drive any amplifier/transverter from any radio. This is the original plan:

I've now broken the line from the TS-990 to the PTT select in the diagram above and added another rotary switch. The complexity is in the need to switch the 4M transverter and the 4/6 amplifier in one setting and just the 4/6 amplifier in another.

The unit looks like this now:

Not the most complex project I've ever tackled, here's the front of the case:

and the back:

and here is the finished article in position:

There's been a few other changes here, I've sold some things and bought some things. Tomorrow my new toy should arrive.... I'll keep you posted.

Local conditions.

Good, egh?

Sunday, 7 December 2014

How can something so Simple be so Tricky?


What a couple of days! I dropped the antennas down yesterday, the idea being to fit a Masthead preamp for the 2M antenna.

The preamp has been homebrewed, but I am sworn to secrecy as to it's design and origin. Needless to say, keeping an eye out here:

May prove to be a most excellent idea if you happened to want one of these.

This is the basic board populated but still under test inside the house:

The board  gave me about 17.5dB of gain right across the 144-147 MHz range. This is a close up of the top of the amplification peak on the Spectrum analyser:

So I took the antennas down (which involves taking the closest element to the ground off the HF beam):

and I fitted the pre-amp. Now, this involved replacing the direct feeder to the beam and introducing a joint in the coax (so I can remove the amp if needed in the future).

So the preamp in in the waterproof box you see above, after many iterations I have the set-up working perfectly. I have, during the process, proved how completely incompetent I am at fitting N-Type connectors!  I've got there in the end though - only about a day and a half elapsed time!

All told though, a most excellent result.

Freddie has become exceptionally clingy to me since I returned from the Middle East earlier this week, hasn't helped much today though:

Local conditions.

Good, egh?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

I think we made it


Following on from all my transverting conundrums, I have finally finished the configuration today.

Here's how the setup is now configured:

It's been the PTT switching that's caused me the most confusion. I've ended up making a switch box containing a 4 way rotary switch that allows me to select 2, 4, 6 or HF. In the 4M selection position the PTT drives both the 4M transverter and the 4/6M linear, in the 6M position it's just the 4/6 Linear that's enabled.

I've written a load of Macros for transverter control that I issue using the Logger32 Radio Control Panel. Here's an example of the macro that takes the TS-990 into 144MHz transvert mode:

$COMMAND FA00028370000;$ 28MHz VFO Frequency
$COMMAND XO000116000000;$ offset 116MHz +ve
$COMMAND XV1;$ transvert on
$COMMAND AN00911;$ DRV on and RX ANT On

My only disappointment is that the radio isn't including the transverter offset in the results returned from the "IF;" command. That's the command that the Logger32 software repeatedly issues to the radio to determine the operating frequency.

For example, when the radio is configured like this:

You can see that the Transvert option is enables as is the external DRV socket (that is the 0dBm output signal to drive the transverter) plus the RX antenna is enabled.

When the "IF;" command is issued to the radio, unfortunately it returns 28.370.00MHz as the frequency.

That's a real shame.

Local conditions.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Transverting some more, some more


Following my progress last time:

I've kind of finished (ready for test) the Anglian transverter.

Here's the finished article:

Here's the main transverter module:

This is the external DDS LO which stabilises the in-board LO:

And this is my hideous looking changeover relay for the 144MHz socket.

There's an Omeron relay on the underside of the board, even so it looks pretty hideous to me!

These are the things I am not so sure about:

  • The case is metal but plastic coated. Have I got a good ground connection to the front, back and main parts of the case - should I add some specific earth tags on each part of the case?
  • The changeover relay - need I say more!
Fun though, egh?