June Journal

June 30th – Got my OMISS #11679  – Time to get busy on the Worked All States award 🙂

June 30th:  Review of the Windcamp OCF EBay special. I took the new portable OCF to the Gathering of the Willing last night.  I continue to be really impressed with this clever design and really easy to use package.  I had it up and deployed on the Jackite pole in 10mins.  On a side note the base mount I made for the Jackite pole is working great too.  The OCF tunes perfectly with my LDG autotuner and gets me on 80m-6m without complaint.  I did more socializing than radio’ing at the gathering, but I did check into the OMISS net and logged a couple of contacts.  I decided I am going to join OMISS and start checking in as a means to get my Worked all States award.  Anyway, here’s that antenna.  Its pretty much my portable to the park go to now.

June 21st:  I got the 2nd SKB unit and started the re-organizing…  This is gonna take a while…

June 16th:  Shack organizing…  Today was the day to re-organize the shack a bit.  I have been struggling with some of the equipment being several feet away from my main operating position in front of the computer with the FT-857d detached face.  I’d have to either slide over awkwardly, or get up from the chair to go over and (for example) push the LDG tuner button to tune up on a band.  So, I decided I would move the equipment to the left side of my computer/monitor to see how it does there.  Its uglier, but functions much better for me there.  In the end, to reduce clutter and provide more function, I decided I to buy a second SKB 4U 19″ rack mount case to house some of the shack gear on the right side of the computer/monitor – matching the left side.  It was part Fathers-Day present from my wife, and from me to me.  Here are the pics as of now prior to getting the 2nd SKB (which should arrive on Tuesday or so).


June 10th:  Still in the VHF contest…  Not still in it for the prize money ;), but the contest sure has been fun.  One thing I have realized is that a single monitor setup (pic below) though a decent size monitor at 24″HD, is not ideal.  Its workable.  true.  But, ideally I’d have more window space to spread out.  The good news is that I have two TVs sitting idle doing nothing right here in my office/shack.  All I really need is an 1 input to multi-output HDMI repeater to be up and running with 3 monitors.  At $35 bucks on Amazon for a 1 to 4 port model,  I figured its a safe purchase with a lot of contesting upside.

June 10th:  The FT-991a.  While working FT-8 yesterday I was reading up more on the FT-991a.  I’ve been drooling over this shack-in-a-box for a few weeks now.  Its a pricey little unit, but packed with capability.  I read Jay/N1RWY’s post (again) about using the FT-991on digital as well.  I have a tendency to go off the deep end sometimes and need to slow down a bit on Ham radio purchases.  At this stage of life I am blessed to be in fairly good shape financially and so I need to not get crazy and take things slow…  I would typically consider selling some Ham gear to upgrade to newer gear, but I dont really want to do that this time since I pretty much have a home/purpose for all the gear I currently have.  With that said I decided I will post one of my firearms for sale (one which I don’t use much) and “raise the money” for the 991.  We’ll see how that goes…

June 9th:  June VHF Contest.  The prep for the contest was pretty quick, despite the 109 degree weather.  I set up the buddipole 2 element beam on the buddipole mast up at about 25′ (1st pic).  I put a line of paracord on it so I could utilize the ol armstrong method to rotate it.  It worked pretty well for rotation but I tended to keep it pointed N/NE most of the time.  I spent the first several hours on and off of FT-8 and made quite a few contacts, of course mostly in my home gridsquare of DM43.  There were a few openings into southern California and Texas. I picked up a few semi-adjacent gridsquares but nothing too magical.  At about 6pm I decided to put up my new OCF dipole (2nd pic) as high as possible on a painters pole mount I made to see what I might be able to do on 6m heading north and south.  It seemed to work about as well as the beam… hard to tell really.  Then at about 7:30pm the EVQRP group all jumped onto 146.58, 446.00, and 50.160 to work each other on voice.  It was quite a frenetic pace of qsy’ing around and making sure we worked all possible people on all possible bands.  That was a lot of fun.  We also all picked up a phone contact from KF7E/Jim (a heck of a guy and probably everyone’s favorite Elmer in these parts) on these bands as well.  I powered down around 8:15pm and went to go finish a movie with my wife.  Plan to be up bright and early on 6m FT8.

June 7th:  Elmer to the rescue (again).  I was scratching my head trying to figure out how I was going to manage setting up CAT control on my FT-857 since I am using the radio’s mini-din CAT port for connection to my LDG YT-100 tuner.  I was thinking I’d need a Y splitter or a pigtail of some kind.  I was going down the path of needing to use the MIC port for CAT control with an adapter, but it didnt feel right.  Thankfully I thought to shoot an email out to the GOTW folks. I promptly was informed that the rear of the LDG tuner has a pass through CAT port.  Duh.  I feel a little stupid for not just looking back there at the rear of the tuner.  But, my feelings of stupidity were minimized by my feelings of SWEET! since I was going to be in business soon with CAT control (which will allow me to operate split on FT-8 among other things).  Of course I am overnighting the CT-62 CAT cable from Amazon.  Gracias to Jay/N1RWY for the info and for not hazing me for not knowing this.

June 7th:  Buddipole Hack – As I was prepping the 6m buddipole beam on the tripod (first pic) according to the build specs (2nd pic) for this weekend’s VHF contest, I ran into an issue (again) that has been bugging me.  The buddipole connector banana plugs just seem really loose.  It just seems (sometimes) this is the case.  Not always, but enough to bug me.  This time it was quite loose and after unsuccessfully gently trying to bend the banana plug to create some resistance (not recommended by Buddipole by the way), I decided to try a better way.  I just took a twist tie, took some of the sheathing off of it and slid it in the housing with the banana plug (3rd pic).  Now it makes a nice tight connection.  Yes, its a hack.  But the goal is a well functioning 2 element beam, not a beauty contest 🙂


June 6th (again):  Arg!  a USB Hub derailed me!  After much fiddling and finding myself on the Signalink FAQ website trying to figure out why my Signalink would either sputter or not PTT/transmit at all, it boiled down to the fact that I had the Signalink plugged into a powered USB hub before it went into my Win7 PC.  I figured a “powered” USB hub wouldn’t be an issue (guess I never really thought about it actually), but according to Signalink many of these hubs don’t provide enough juice to support transmit.  The symptom is receive works fine, but transmit doesn’t..  So… I removed the hub and now I officially am making contacts on FT-8.  I’ll tuck that into the old memory banks for drawing on in the future…

June 6th:  Okay, I dug into FT-8 last night with Jay/N1RWY’s help.  I really like the way the mode works!  I have to do some final tweaks on the sound card/signalink and the computer sound settings I think.  When I transmit the FT-450 is also not happy with the antenna tune/SWR.  Its complaining and flashing the antenna icon…  Will play with it some more today since I am telecommuting today and will be sitting in the shack working…

June 5th:  Its time to dive into FT-8.  First stop for me ->  This video.  Also need to talk with Jay/N1RWY.  Back in a little while.

June 2nd:  The other day I was surfing around and looking for a lightweight OCF dipole I could use at the park.  I was going to purchase another one from Ni4L (in fact Chris/Ni4L said he could make one for me with 16awg wire if I wanted it).  But I ran into this little lightweight option below on Ebay.  I thought the design was pretty clever and it appeared to be very compact and light and would probably work great on the top of the Jackite pole.  So, I decided to give it a try and the investment of $60 was worth the risk.  Its on the slow boat from China and will be here in a couple of weeks.  Here is the link also (but not sure how long the link will be good).

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