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Saturday, 25 August 2018

IC-7610 IQ Output


Icom have just released new firmware for the IC-7610 which includes activation of the second USB port on the back of the radio (USB2) as an SDR I/Q output.

You need version 1.2 of the firmware from here.

Once you have updated the firmware (and before using ANY USB cables) install this package from Icom.

Once that package has successfully installed on your PC you can connect the USB2 port and the following devices will install:

Now you can install and run HDSDR from here.

Once running you can select the Icom DLL as the radio and this gives you the following control when you select the ExtIO button in the software:

And, hey presto, it just works:

There is huge potential now for interfacing with other applications like CW skimmer and leaving the radio monitor an entire band using the SUB band whilst using the MAIN band for normal operations.

This is a most excellent move, well done Icom!

Friday, 24 August 2018

New Antennamabob!


For quite some time, I have thought that I would like to have gain and front to back on the 12M and 17M bands. Currently my MA5B is only a rotatable dipole on these band. The MA5B is an excellent antenna and overall I have been delighted with its performance.

You may recall I tried this antenna for a while and found it to be a load of dingos kidneys.

So, Cushcraft (or MFJ as they are now) have introduced a new variant of the MA5B called (yes you guessed it) the MA6B. It adds a reflector for the 12M and 17M bands plus an additional driven element and reflector for 6M.

So I have purchased on from my ever helpful chums at LAM Communications.

Now, here's where the fun started. The first problem I noticed was that the main boom tube insert was missing completely from the pack; I had three of part number MA6B-BC when there should only be two and part number MA6B-BE was missing completely. This made this stage of the manual challenging:

The part I have circled above was missing. So, rather than wait for a replacement to get sent and damaged in the post, I headed to a local metal stockist and get a longer tube of the same outside dimensions for GBP 24. Now, holding these four bits of metal together with only worm clamps (in the UK we call these Jubilee Clips) in my opinion is not going to hold. The leverage of the elements is going to make this spin in windy conditions, so I have modified mine either side of the junctions with some bolts through the boom to stop any spinning:

So, I then noticed whilst constructing one of the elements that the tube wouldn't fit together, here is the end of one of the components:

Hopefully you can see that it's kind of swagged at the end and didn't fit into the slightly larger pipe it is meant to slot into. So some filing was in order.

I found that the 6M reflector insulator plate as shown in the diagram below was missing, I had to make something from some sheet PVC I had here:

I also found great confusion over the dimensions of the 12M and 17M driven element and reflector. Now this is where it gets complicated. This is the dimensions for the driven element from the manual:

So if we first look at the dimension from the centre of the boom to the trap, this is listed above as being 74.5". Now, the individual parts are:

  • 2.25" from the centre to the start of the metal - this is the exposed part of the insulator.
  • Part ED is 46" long
  • Part EB is 36" long but inserted 5" into ED so we have 31" in length
So that's 2.25 + 46 + 31 = 79.25" which is definitely NOT the 74.5" as above.

The trap is 11" and the end piece is 12" with some adjustment so we will call that 13".

So the element is 79.25" + 11" + 13" = 103.25" - the manual says 98.5". I wonder.

The reflector dimensions are:

Now, this one is better, the individual parts are:

  • Half the reflector centre piece (EF) is 42"
  • the element insert is 41.5" in the manual but is actually 47.5" in reality - it says to insert 5" (I think) but it doesn't actually say in the manual - that bit seems to have been deleted in a recent edit. So lets call that 42.5"
  • The trap is 11" 
  • The end is supplied as 7" but MFJ have already said thats an error and the part should be 13.5" with some adjustment so we will call that 14.5" for now.
Note that I have manufactured my own parts for the end piece EJ and they are 13.5" as stated in the on-line manual. The paper manual that came with mine says 7" and the supplied part was 7".

So we have 42" + 42.5" + 11" + 14.5" = 110" - the manual says 102.5"

Now, I've built it as described by the individual element construction instructions, and here are the SWR curves, starting on 20M:





So it looks very much, like the 12M and 17M elements are too long - so perhaps the manual is correct in the overall dimensions but not the individual element instruction?

The other fairly odd thing is that the 17M bit of the antenna is capacitance loaded on the reflector but not the driven element - so you can't really compare the two against each other.

If I look at the instructions for the OLD MA5B antenna, the 12M/17M driven element dimensions are centre to trap 79.25 then 11" trap plus 12" end - so the same as the driven element in this one when built as per the element construction - not as described on the "element length" diagram.

So I suspect the first thing to try is to build the antenna to the "element length" diagram and see what happens. This will mean inserts of 9.5" on the driven element and a stunning 12.5 on the reflector instead of 5" on both as per the manual!

I just wish MFJ would tell me how long the elements are supposed to be! I opened a ticket with them on 20th August; they have offered to send me the correct 13.5" parts, but have not commented on the lengths of the elements that are wrong in the manual:

So I'm not sure which way to go now.

More to follow!

** UPDATE 1 **

I have set the antenna dimensions to the overall measurements on the diagram "element length diagram" and ignored the previous dimensions for how far to insert the tubes together. So the antenna is configured like this:

And here are the SWR curves now, starting with 20M (I took 1 inch of the 20M adjustment so mine is now set at 8.5"):





and finally 6M:

is't much better - still some minor adjustment to go, but it seems much closer now.

Most confusing!

** UPDATE 2 **

I have made a small adjustment to the 12M/17M driven element and slid the end piece so it is adjacent to the trap - the outer part is as short as it will go. I have also shortened the 6M driven element by 1" either side.

Here are the SWR curves, starting with 20M:






So apart from the 6M element being a little too short now, thats about as good as I think I am going to get it.

I need to check what sort of front to back I am seeing on the antenna now and use it over time to see how it works.

That was really quite hard work and all because the manual is in such a muddle.

What does MFJ stand for again?

** UPDATE 3 **

I still have an open ticket with MFJ asking them to clarify the dimensions of the 12M and 17M elements; the ticket also tells them that the parts supplied for the ends of the 12/17 reflector are not the correct size.

They have agreed that the parts are the wrong size and are planning to send me some replacements - even though I have told them I have sourced the parts locally.

They are, however, repeatedly ignoring my question for them to clarify the element dimensions:

So I opened the ticket on the 20th August, it is now the 1st September and they are still trying to figure out where Derbyshire is.

They are ignoring the important question completely - perhaps they don't know either?

** UPDATE 4 **

The saga with the MFJ helpdesk continues, we are now 17 days into the ticket being open, and they still don't acknowledge there is an issue with the dimensions:

** UPDATE 5 **

I received a parcel from the USA today with two parts for the 12/17M reflector (the 13.5" long parts rather than the 7" supplied parts). This is despite me telling them I didn't need them as I had sourced them locally.

Still no update on the ticket as to the correct dimensions of the elements themselves. I spoke to Pastor Brian Madden who is GI0RWO - he has created YouTube videos about the wrong size parts here. He has also built the antenna to the dimensions on the element length diagram and not the individual steps - so at least I am not alone.

Here is the paperwork from MFJ received today, 11th September 2018:

Friday, 17 August 2018

TS-990 on 5MHz or 60M


I finally decided to open up the TS-990 so I could use it to TX on the 5MHz UK allocation. The only way I am aware of is to perform the "TX Anywhere" mod. So here it is:

We start with the radio upside down:

And remove the base:

The we remove the "L" shaped metal RF cover:

And now close up, we are looking for R335:

and even closer:

and we whip it out:

and thats it!

NO NEED to reset the radio, I found it just worked once this was removed.

Simple, egh?

Here's the very beautiful Miss Luna cat:

Saturday, 11 August 2018

60m or 5MHz and all that Jazz


Lat time you may recall that I mentioned I had constructed two new wire antennas; one for 40/30M and one for 80/60M.

60M or 5MHz is a new (ish) allocation in the UK and I had to think carefully how to make sure I stick to the frequency allocation. We have a bunch of 'bandlets' and we are not allowed to transmit outside these frequencies.

So, looking at my newfangled IC-7610, I can see that is has a feature whereby you can configure user band edges and also set up the radio so the TX is inhibited outside these ranges.

To turn on this feature, we enable "Band Edge Beep" to be "On (USER) & TX Limit" as below:

Once that feature is switched on, you can then select an option "User Band Edge" and enter new band edges for the radio to use:

So in the images above you will see that the item numbers 4 to 13 are the UK allocations (note I have subtracted the SSB bandwidth from the upper frequencies in the SSB segments).

So now, as you tune through the band, the TX is enabled in the bits we are OK to TX and disabled where we aren't:

So above you can see the line round the TX is solid at 5.262 MHz meaning the radio will TX, but at 5.258 (which is below the bandlet) it's a dotted surround meaning TX is disabled.

I've stuck my radio config file here if you want to download it. In the latest firmware you can even just import the band edge settings without bringing in all my other config if needed.

Most excellent - well thought out Icom.