5 Jan 18 - The QCX Rigs both are built, and the 40-meter is proven: I used it for SKN contacts. While sitting at my operating position with both little rigs sitting on the counter, I realized I don't have much room for anything more. The best thing I could think of to clear up some space for rigs was to build the RF test equipment into the console itself. I could get both a SWR and RF Power meter out of the rig space and make the console even more unique. Thus, I'm back again to the issue of frequency dependence on the AD8310-based meter I built. I spent about 4 hours this morning trying everything I can think of to isolate the IC from the incoming high-level RF. No dice. Thus, I just made an AD8307-based sensor PCB. Hopefully it won't act the same way.
It's currently 3 degrees F outside. This morning it took more than 3 hours for my kerosene heater to bring my shed from 0 degrees to 35. Thus, tomorrow's work will take about 3 hours before I can even begin, and even then, I'll be shivering while I perform the testing. Wish me luck.
Christmas, 2017 - Merry Christmas all. The technical work continues at a slightly slower pace. I received 2 QCX QRP Transceivers from QRP Labs. I have already built the 80 meter version and it worked well from first-power. I have the 40 meter version yet to go.
Having both these new rigs, both of which need external audio amps, showed me that I need a built-in external audio amp for my Operation Position. Thus, I built a version of the audio amp used in the R2 Pro by KK7B. It's a bit too large to build into the audio patch panel, so I'll make a stand-alone chassis to mount it. I may also add a 5-band EQ, CW filters, and/or compressor at some point.
1 Nov 17 - I have tested and analyzed the RF Power Meter until I'm cross-eyed. I *MAY* have a couple of conclusions. I think my input signal is leaking around the resistive divider and coupling straight into the Log Amp IC. That would make it very frequency dependent. It explains a lot. I have yet to test it with the Log Amp 100% shielded. I have copper foil with conductive adhesive that I can use to utterly enclose the IC. If that doesn't help, I'll try remaking the PCB to offer greater physical separation between the incoming RF and the Log Amp, keep their grounds as separate as possible, and leave space to build shielding "boxes" around both the high-level RF path, and the Log Amp.
I also plan to re-write the code for less granularity. As it is right now, the slightest variation in input makes the digits flip on the display. I'd rather have only 64 discrete steps than the current 1024. That ought to eliminate some of this variation.
23 Oct 17 - I'm encountering a very perplexing problem: ARRL saw the RF Power meter project on this site and asked for an article about it. I wanted to double-verify my reference computations, so I verified the response at various power levels. Wonderful! But, in doing this, I noticed that the response varied widely based on frequency...widely enough that milliwatts at 3.5MHz became more than 25 watts at 30 meters.
I've studied the datasheet and pored over my circuit and can't figure out why. The last change I made, that I haven't been able to fully analyze yet, was to load and filter the DC out of the buffer stages. I hope that helps.
20 Sep 17 - All of the wire antennas have been remade lighter, and in the case of the 80/40 trap, shorter than previous. I obtained 3 cable reels so I can deploy and store these antennas quickly with minimal fuss. Now, when I want to operate, I can have an antenna up in under 5 minutes.
With the antennas squared away, I have been working in earnest on the revised Sierra. I found an error in the DDS programming that kept it from operating. With that out of the way, I optimized it with a 40M band mod installed. The receiver is great. The variable bandwidth takes me from about 1500 Hz to about 200. I have a chassis constructed, but not finished. I need to construct the face-a and rear-pates, and paint the remainder (maybe with Plasti-Dip again). The remaining project (sans band modules) should be less than 2 or 3 hours of work.
2 Sep 17 - I took out all of the trees on my property last year. That left me with little to tie wire antennas to. Then, this spring, we re-roofed and re-sided my radio shed. The lower edges of the shed's siding were rotten from years of water splashing off the roof, so I added gutters. The addition of the gutters, plus anxiety about another lightning strike, made me remove my mast. I needed another solution for antennas...
Last week at the New York State Fair, I bought a 25' aluminum telescoping flagpole. It is mounted and operational and will become my new mast. M[y reasoning is that I can raise it when I want to operate and leave it down the rest of the time; no lightning. As for places to tie the ends, I have placed a few 4x4 posts around the perimeter of the yard. They needn't be unusually strong; the "mast" is designed to be free-standing anyway, so the antennas don't need to act as guys.
I've been using Trap-Dipoles for years, but don't like the 80/40M performance. I plan to make them into fan dipoles 90 degrees from each other. That way they won't interact and I can still use one feedline for both bands. My rig is well filtered, so I'm not overly concerned about operating on an antenna that's a multiple of the of intended signal. I'll need to add loading coils to the 80M leg because my yard isn't big enough to accommodate the entire span, but as a standalone antenna (as opposed to a trap dipole where coil placement is determined by the other band), I can place them closer to the feed point and reduce the length a bit more.
Also, out of sheer boredom, I remade my Sierra. Having the DDS directly produce the output frequency presented problems that I didn't wan to deal with, so I redesigned it to more closely match the original design. While I was doing that, I used different connectors for the plug-in boards and updated the DDS software. I have probably 4 more hours of work until it's fully operational, then 2 to 4 hours each for the band modules.
13 Aug 17 - Survivor's Day 2017 - Each year, on the anniversary of my release from the Stem-cell transplant, I celebrate another year on earth. I typically "celebrate" by hiking and biking; just generally being outdoors and active. This year is no exception. Yesterday I biked 30 miles, and this morning I'm up to hike 10 miles.
I was notified last night that my brother had died. He was only 59. That news adds all new meaning to this year's survivor's day.
8 May 17 - Over the past few weeks I have put a new roof on my shack, replaced 3 windows, replaced 2 barn doors with a solid wall, painted all of the trim, installed J-channel on all windows and doors, installed gutters, and replaced rotten sections of fascia. Within the next two weeks, I plan to replace the bottom 6 inches of rotten T1-11 siding with pressure treated planks, and side the entire structure with vinyl siding. This activity, while working my typical 40 hours per week, has kept me off the air for about a month, and will continue to do so for the next 2 or 3 weeks.
Then I get to design my antenna layout from the ground up. In October of last year, we removed every tree from the property...effectively removing every antenna support or tie point. Then, with the addition of real gutters on my shed, I lost the mast support that I'd used for the past two decades. It's time to start over...
In addition to simply reconfiguring, I want to make the raising and lowering of the antennas as easy as possible. I'm not getting any younger! To that end, I'm looking at either a light aluminum telescoping mast, or making a foldover mount and looking for a heavier, very strong mast. As yet, I'm undecided.
I also took another look at my Phased transceiver project. I reprogrammed the VFO to make it function better. Now it's looking up. I'll probably delay this project though while I build my new operating position. I truly want the new operating position to be done before November Sweepstakes!
18 Apr 17 - QST shot down the article about the console. Their loss. The do want an article about the SWR and Power meters. When I get the time...
We are in the midst of a major home remodeling, so the shed is shut down for the next 3 or 4 weeks. No projects, no operating, nothing for the next month or so. Thus, very little activity here.
18 Feb 17 - I tried the new traps, but they aren't any better than the old. It looks like I'll have to separate the two antennas into 2 different. Bummer!
To fill the long winter months, I'm doing a small project: a balanced-input microphone preamp for the directional mic I mentioned earlier. It's a simple Op Amp-based design encased in a small aluminum chassis. I also incorporated an external (foot-switch) PTT switch. That mic sounds very nice, so I wanted to incorporate it into my radio console.
Once that's done, I want to write up an article about my Radio Console for publication. It's actually a very versatile and useful piece that others may take elements from to make their own stations.
8 Jan 17 - Just back from a Caribbean Cruise. The snorkeling wasn't so good, so no new snorkeling pix. The cruise and its preparations interrupted any projects, so there won't be anything coming in that regard in several more weeks. Plus, I want to learn to play a musical instrument. Practicing with it will eat some time. I *may* mount a nice directional mic I inherited into my main station, but that will be minimal work that isn't worth writing up on this site.
But, the antenna reconfiguration due to the removal of some trees from the yard has brought the bandwidth of my 80/40 trap dipole down to less than 50kHz on either band. I have new traps made, but need a relatively warm and wind-free day to erect the new antenna...a particularly tough thing to find in Syracuse in January!!
27 Nov 16 - I'm shocked it's been so long since I wrote anything here. A lot has happened. The "GO" kit is completely done. All of the upgrades have been implemented but are untested. That will come next year at Field Day.
In preparation for retirement, we had all of the trees on the property removed. They needed constant attention and the older I got, the harder it was to maintain them all. The yard still looks fine; my neighbors have enough trees to shade our yard nearly as well. BUT...with the loss of the trees comes the loss of antenna supports, so I was forced to bury a few 4x4 posts around the perimeter of the yard to tie the ends of Vee antennas to. More work.
When building the "GO" kit keyer, I was reminded of the fact that I didn't have a station keyer for my operating position. Then, during this year's CW Sweepstakes, the keying interface to my station computer acted up. It operated intermittenlty and threatened my sweeps performance! Thus, I undertook to make a built-in keying interface. It has switching between an internal keyer or the computer keying, switchable sidetone, a "tune" switch, and continuously variable speed; all the same features as the portable piece I built over the summer. That's beacuse it uses the same keyer IC: PK-Basic from Jackson Harbor Press. I love those little chips, and at $3.50 each, the price can't be beat. I will put a page up for that project soon.
Next up looks like it will be a digital voltmeter for my workbench. It uses a 2" tall LED display for ease of viewing. Auto-ranging is currently a bit too tough for me, and even switching can be unreliable and quite complicated, so I plan to use several banana jacks tapping various points on the dividers to "range" the inputs. Simple, but effective. Keep watching for that.
14 Jul 16 - I've been building rugged portable equipment with a vengeance the past 2 weeks. Here's what I have so far:
- A tiny handheld Antenna Analyzer for fine tuning antennas thrown into a tree. It's a 74HC7046-based device slightly smaller than a pack of cigarettes. It's based on KD1JV's Tenna-Dipper 2, but uses a Jackson Harbor Press MCount frequency counter instead.
-A simple LED SWR "meter". It's simply a N7VE SWR Sensor mounted in a tiny FR-4 "cube" enclosure. Utter simplicity...attach rig and antenna and look for a dim or no LED.
-A relatively basic keyer: This keyer uses a PK-Basic IC, also from Jackson Harbor Press, and combines a switchable sidetone, "tune" output switch to allow measuring SWR from the rig, and uses an opto-isolator at the output to prevent noise or voltage spikes from damaging either the attached rig or the keyer itself.
I'm making chassis for them all right now. When they're done, I'll put them on the "GO-Kit" page.
2 Jul 16 - The R1-based rig is perilously close to being done. The receive seems weak, but I tested it on a day without any sunspots. If the receive is actually good, all I need to do is make a faceplate and a cover. Simple work. If not, some tweaking of filter values...also simple work.
This year's Field Day effort showed me many ways I could improve my emergency/portable operation. I had a hard time getting a decent tree limb to raise my antennas into. My SWR Meter wasn't working (it's an analog, mechanical-movement type, and one needle was sticking). So I've ordered parts to make smaller, more rugged field equipment. That, plus a rearrangement of my equipment and supplies, and some practice with a throwing bag, should make next year's effort much better.
31 May 16 - I found Ferric Chloride. Thus, I gave the HCl back and will stick with the method I've been using for years.
I now have a working P.A. for the "R1-style" transceiver. It uses a 2N3904 stage followed by a 2SC2166. At 80-Meters, it'll put out about 2 watts progressing up to 500mW at 10 meters.
The Receiver oscillated like crazy at any volume over a whisper. A little research revealed that I should have been using "STAR" grounding instead of grounding everything at every point. It took a total reconfiguration of each module's individual chassis, but once I achieved the star configuration, it quieted right down. Now I have a very viable receiver!
Now on to the filtration. It is more mechanical than electronic, but necessary to obtain a working rig.
2 May 16 - The work on the R1-Pro continues. I have made the entire receiver except the RF filters. I had to make a VFO buffer Amp as the DDS VFO output is a bit too low to drive a SBL-1 mixer directly. That done, I even made the switched Audio Filters. I have a 4-Pole, 5 Throw rotary switch that I'd like to use for the RF Filters. Having so many poles should allow me to include the Transmit Low-pass filters as well.
There will be a slight delay in my progress though, as I am totally out of Ferric Chloride and can't seem to find any at a reasonable price. I bought a jug of Muriatic (Hydrochloric) acid and must learn how to etch with it instead. It may take a few tries to get the hang of it. While I'm on the subject, I tried etching with Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide, but it gave very inconsistent results. On one board, it etched well and quickly. On another, it attacked the resist and started etching the entire board, masked or not. I certainly hope Acid and peroxide work better!!
18 Apr 16 - I've been playing with two projects lately: The Dump-Load Controller for my solar battery charger, and an upscale R1-Pro Direct-Conversion receiver. I wanted a good DC receiver, so thought that KK7B's R1 would be decent only to find he'd modified the R2 up to R2-Pro. I have an R2, but wanted an R1, so I modded the R1 using the mods from the R2 and am making an R1-Pro. So far, I have the Preselector/downconverter, DDS VFO, and Audio Amps made. All that's left is Audio filters and switching Band-pass filters.
By the way, it took me contacting my section manager, but I now have my DXCC. I can't imagine that they could make that a more confusing and un-intuitive process! I certainly hope they listen to customer complaints and fix that nightmare of a process, or they'll find its popularity dropping off!
11 Mar 16 - I'm laid up for a few days with pneumonia, so I'm using the time to update some software. I just found and added a duplicate removal routine to the search results of "Formulary" and "Life Database". Both programs are Revised up a number.
25 Feb 16 - I ran a Logbook of the World query from my logging software and it told me I have 100 confirmed DX contacts. I plan to spend the upcoming weekend learning how to navigate the DXCC program and applying for mine. From what I've seen, it looks quite confusing and no one has written a definitive "How-To" guide on DXCC from the perspective of someone with no knowledge or experience. If I'm successful, I may write something up for QST!
14 Feb 16 - I have finished the Life Database and placed it on this site. You can download it here. The next project will be LED lighting for my office. Schematically, it's very simple: just a series string of LEDs fed by a constant-current diode. Making the PCB is a real challenge though; it's too big to etch, so I have to cut material off the board with a knife!
This morning I awoke to a temperature of -18F. I won't be able to do any project work in the shed. The kerosene heater simply won't be able to keep up with temperatures like that. So, instead I'm spending the day hiking. The world is a different place when it's that cold!
20 Feb 16 - The PCB went quicker than I expected. I made an entire new light strip yesterday, and this morning I added it to 5 others that I made a few weeks ago. Now I have a light every bit as bright at my old fluorescent "pucks" at 1/3 the power with no warm-up time! It's a winner!! Next up will be constructing 3 separate Quadrature DDS modules for the several phased receivers I have floating around.
5 Dec 15 - Sweeps wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped. Propagation wasn't very good this year, so I took my 100 contacts for a PIN and stopped there. No Biggie.
Work has begun in earnest on a database of my life's events. It's fashioned after the look of "MSD Organizer" except that it stores my info in XML so it can remain freely accessible by any text reader. So far, I have 6 modules capturing Journal Entries, Vacation, Medical Events, Thoughts & Observations, and News-Worthy life events. This database is fully searchable both in each field, or overall. There are numerous bugs and usability issues to work out, but I have all winter to work on them!
27 Sep 15 - With most of my "heaviest" projects complete, I've been drifting lately. I've started a couple of projects only to find better alternatives that prevent me from actually making anything. Luckily, a local University has opened a course on Star Trek. I have enrolled and the viewing requirements take a lot of time. That should keep me busy through the autumn. With the improvements to my antennas, my performance in this year's Sweepstakes should be noticeable...and make it much more fun.
21 Aug 15 - I have totally finished both the Sierra and the R2/T2. They're buttoned up installed in my shack and functional. Totally done!
Now, I want to prepare for November Sweepstakes by putting my antennas back up to the height they were before the lightning strike I experienced last year. My performance in the 2014 sweeps was down and I believe it was the reduction of my antennas that caused it. To that end, I'm also replacing the Coax traps on my antennas with lumped element traps for better efficiency. I've been building the traps in preparation for adding 10 feet to the mast.
I have been using any "indoor" time to perfect the Parts Inventory Database I've been writing. It's within minutes of being ready for alpha release.
26 Jul 15 - It's been a productive weekend. I am done making modules for my Sierra-Like rig. I have simply to reinsert it into its chassis and that project is utterly done! I have abandoned the Power Supply. I would need to make an instrumentation amp for the current metering and other projects are higher priority to me right now. I have also solved just about all issues with the Parts Inventory database software. I need to add a lot more error handling and make the GUI more aesthetically pleasing, but the basic functionality is there.
29 Jun 15 - I have finished building the Phased Transceiver. I finished the filter modules and built and installed a chassis on it. I then wired it into my operating console. There's a "pop" when keying, and I can't be sure the opposite sideband suppression is adequate, but it works and I love the sound of the receive!!
I have also started working heavily on a parts inventory database. As of now I have a XML file categorized by part types. I can show these categories in a tree, pick a category and show the parts within it in a grid, and pick a specific part and open its "View/Edit" form. In addition to the basic info (Part number, location, quantity), the form shows a picture of the item, and a picture showing its location in the shack.
I have designed a PCB for, and built KD1JV's variable power supply. As designed, the current metering output does not accurately represent the current the supply is supplying; the op amp doing this doesn't go rail-to-rail. I have a better op amp on order. I hope it will be more accurate. With that issue solved, I could have a new supply soon!
Finally, I remade my Solar charge controller for the shack. The old one was too fragile. About once a year, it would "blow up" (probably from nearby lightning). I changed it to one based on the SCC-3 from Cir-Kits . That circuit uses a hefty MOSFET as its controller and should be able to better withstand some abuse. I made my own PCB, sourced my own parts, and put it in the old controller's chassis. Alignment was a snap and so far, it's working quite well.
2 May 15 - Slow and steady progress. The filter modules for my R2/T2 and Sierra both worked very well. So well in fact that I am making the rest of them. The hand-selection of parts, and hand-winding of coils is pretty time consuming. So far I have two modules each complete. It will be many more weeks before this effort is done; then I will move on to the chassis of the R2/T2.
The first database I attempted is done. It's a Journal program that tracks the weather, my medications, mood, thoughts, and several other "Life Factors". I can input this data, search it, retrieve for viewing or editing, and output to spreadsheet programs for charting of the numeric data. I am so thankful I learned to program in college!!
6 Apr 15 - After a particularly tough period at work, I've resumed activity on several fronts: I've redesigned the filter modules for the Sierra-like rig and the Phased transceiver. The Sierra's filter modules are now just longer so I can swap them easily. On the phased rig's filter mods I have added a common gate preamp for increased isolation and dropped the transmit pre-filtering; it was making the P.A. oscillate. Both redesigns are just etched boards at the moment.
I occasionally find myself with a free hour or so where I don't have time to fire up the soldering iron, but am near a computer. I'm filling that time by learning Visual Basic and writing some database programs. It's slow going, but I have all the time I need since I'm currently using the Free Sesame Database system for my databases.
So far, I can write anything I want to an XML file, and am now learning how to retrieve and manipulate that data.
9 Mar 15 - I had some time to look at the Code for the AD9854 DDS. Some time ago it was pointed out to me that I'd made a mistake in the code. That led me to discover I published the wrong version and no longer had the working version available. Now, I have a working version and have put it up on the appropriate page.
30 Jan 15 - The SWR and Power meters are separated and on the web site under projects. Since then, I've been assembling a database to inventory all of my parts, and building a small shelf to hold the new stereo (that replaces the one killed by lightning last August). I'm also nearly done designing a chassis for my version of a NorCal Sierra. I have only to cut the hole in the top where the band modules will insert. Right now the weather is hovering around 0 degs F, and the kerosene heater in the shed has a hard time keeping up, so it's on hold for warmer weather.
8 Nov 14 - Sweepstakes went very well in the new operating position. Fatigue wasn't an issue at all, and changing the focus from rig to computer helped the contest effort immensely. In all, it was well worth the effort.
I received an e-mail from someone that was having trouble using the code from the AD9854-based VFO. Sure enough, I put a test-version of the code on the web page. I don't have a 100% operational version yet as I needed the hardware done to know which I/O lines served which function. Thus, I left that code there, but have marked it as non-operational. Unfortunately, I am currently separating the SWR and RF Power functions from the combined meter and putting both devices in chassis. When that effort is done, I have a database I hope to develop to store all of my various bits of information. Only when that is done can I resume work on that code. Sorry!
20 Oct 14 - The station is totally complete, antennas and all. The issue with the 10/15/20 antenna wasn't lightning, it was an idiot (me) who flexed the patch panel connection too much when building the Ops Position. The braid broke at the connection. It was a quick repair and led me to improve the connection to something more reliable.
I upgraded the LED lighting yesterday. I used higher intensity LEDs, and more of them. Now, in a dark shack, every control is clearly visible...even the keyboard is lit up. It looks good!
6 Oct 14 - Nearly all of the work is done. I have upgraded my grounding and lightning protection: now I have 3 rods driven interconnected with #6 stranded wire. This ground is bonded to station power and all conductors entering the station are bonded to it as well. I have surge arrestors on all incoming coax, and MOVs on all other incoming wiring. Additionally, I have surge arrested and filtered power strips for my rigs and test equipment.
I also have my entire station on an "L" shaped desk with room for a station computer and panelized connections that can very easily be modified to incorporate new or different equipment.
All that remains before this year's sweeps is to repair my 10/15/20M trap antenna. It isn't working and I fear the lightning damaged it somehow. That should be a quick fix and be complete this weekend.
26 Sep 14 - The weather is due to be very nice this weekend, so I have a choice: I can spend the weekend in the shed finishing the wiring of the Operating Position, or I can spend it outside the shed upgrading my ground system (driving two rods, interconnecting them, tying this to the building power feed). Not much choice there...the Operating Position is delayed another week.
14 Sep 14 - Keeping the lightning strike in mind, I ask the question: "How will I place may antennas now?" I'm quite nervous about putting a 35-foot mast back up, but am equally nervous putting the antennas into the trees near my shack.
2 Sep 14 - While cutting holes in some stripped FR-4, I managed to cut 1/2 of my fingernail off with a rotary tool. OUCH!! That signaled the end of the work day on the Operating Position panels. Despite the delay, I finished drilling the panels and had them mounted ready for connectors the next day.
28 Aug 14 - Take a look at the personal tab's page called "The great lightning strike of 2014". That is the latest delay in my latest project. It seems like someone doesn't want me to finish the Operating position in a timely manner!
21 Aug 14 - I have repaired the wallboard and repainted my Radio Shack from light brown to stark white. That ought to brighten it some! In doing so, I noticed that my solar controller seemed to have a high degree of leakage from the batteries back through the charger to an LED I mounted at the panel input. The charger IC, a PB137, is specified at only 10uA of leakage current yet it takes at least 5mA to light that LED. So, I put a 50 ohm 5W resistor in place of the panels and measured the current the batteries were pushing through the charger. It was in the order of 10s of milliamps! I then just put the ammeter on the 10A range and shorted the panel input terminal with the meter. It drew single amps briefly until the charger IC burned up! 10uA my eye! I have a Quality Non-Conformance into the manufacturer. This IC did not nearly meet their specification. I've replaced the burned up IC with a replacement, but now I don't trust it. I don't want it killing the battery through the solar panels.
8 Aug 14 - I've spent most of the weekend at family gatherings and a Cancer Survivor's Picnic. Things calmed down enough on Sunday that I could remove the old operating position. It's so ripped up that it will never be rebuilt. Now I have a mission: Rebuild it better before this year's Sweeps. Wish me luck.
3 Aug 14 - I got another free hour this evening, so I tested my home computer with a borrowed monitor for noise on my station rig. Nice and quiet! I should be able to use this computer as my new station logging and control machine. It has 2 serial ports, so I can control the rig and key from the computer.
2 Aug 14 - It seems I spend a lot of time explaining why it takes so long for me to accomplish goals on the projects I'm undertaking. Rather than waste space explaining what is happening on those pages, I'll use this space to explain my daily life and it's ever-shifting priorities. So, sit back and prepare for the ride!