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Monday, 23 February 2015

The Yaesu SCU-17


I've been to see my chums at LAM Communications today and I brought home one of these:

It's a Yaesu SCU-17 radio interface unit. I've owned a lot of radios in my time, the most "modern" perhaps being the Kenwood TS-990 and the Yeasu FT-3000. Both these radios have USB ports on the rear and built in sound cards. You connect the USB port to a PC and low and indeed behold, you have an audio device to send Audio to and receive Audio from the Radio, you also have a "Virtual" COM port that you can use for CAT control. The other really neat feature of the FT-DX3000 that I believe is unique to that radio, is that you also get a second "virtual" COM port that you can use to control PTT, FSK & CW switching from PC applications. The 990 doesn't have this second virtual port and hence you still need a simple interface between the radio and the PC if you want to hard control the PTT line, run FSK RTTY or use an external CW keyboard.

This interface from Yaesu kind of gives you a half way house. I have two "virtual" COM ports, one for CAT control and the second for PTT & FSK - but unfortunately no CW keying so I've had to construct another simple interface to do that on the new FT-DX5000 I have:

It seems a real shame to me that I need to build an external one transistor switch to use a CW keyboard with a very expensive radio! If anyone knows different to me then please let me know. The 990 I have has two of those circuits (actually opto isolated equivalents) for CW and FSK keying.

Th Yaesu SCU-17 also connects to the Packet and RTTY rear connectors on the 5000 and takes care of AFSK audio interfacing as well as the FSK switching and CAT control.

I had some difficulty getting the COM ports to be recognised by the Logger32 software that I use here; I ended up swapping some ports about and assigning the SCU-17 ports a number under 10. Once I had done that all seemed to be well.

Good, egh?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Wall of Obsession


Please may I present the "wall of obsession".

Local conditions include a FT-DX-5000 I came across yesterday. Now I personally think my setup has reached ultimate status for what I want to do.

I am delighted.

You have to imagine that these three are up to no good; agree?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Yet Another FT-847


I came across another FT-847 recently; I was told it had the full 4M modifications completed. However I can see the old daughter board installed and not the pre-amp I would expect:

This was where I did an 847 mod a while ago and the pre-amp I expected to see:

There is, however, this additional board installed either side of L308<<something>> where the something is obscured by the cables. You can see the board in the photo above - it's got G086C written on it. Any ideas what this is? This is the RF connections from the board:

There also seems to be a cable disconnected to the front panel:

Also I can see what looks like a voltage regulator in the middle of this photo here:

The power out is also lower than I would expect on 4M, perhaps the PA hasn't been modified correctly:

Strange, egh?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

It's the WPX RTTY Test!


On and off, I've spend the last three weeks in the Middle East, up to last Friday that included 16 different flights, 6 of which were long haul; so all in all I am feeling somewhat exhausted!

Anyhow, I had a bit of a play in this weekends WPX RTTY contest:

The bands were in pretty good shape, with openings on 10M both days. Here is the obligatory map of my log:

I only made just over 125 contacts between dropping to sleep; quite a pathetic effort really. I heard a few stations in the far east, but completely failed to work them.

Freddie cat hasn't been helping much either:

Local conditions. 

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?