Sunday, 31 May 2015

Cars, Grounds and Radios

So I managed to get a little done over the weekend. The grounding for my HF radio has always been a little unsatisfactory to me. So I set out to improve that a little. Currently I only have a stake half buried into the ground below my vertical antenna.

 To improve this I have added 4 radials of equal length at as long as possible within my yard. I know that 4 radials is not ideal, however I am expecting a significant improvement over the current system. One of the biggest concerns I have is with my connection point.

This is where the joint between the radials and the wire that will connect to the bracket for the antenna. Unfortunately at this point I tried to heat up my soldering iron and it just won't heat up. So I'm going to have to see if I can borrow a soldering iron from somebody.

So seeing as I couldn't do anymore out here I decided to put my VHF Ham set into the Jeep. This was one of those projects that I got a little excited about so I don't have any photos of that. But I still have to mount an antenna so I'll get some pictures then.

After I finished setting up the radio I decided to chase some wires that are attached to what seem to be microphones in the cab. Chasing those lead me to this little box:
Chasing the wires from the other end of that box lead through the firewall and eventually to this box under the bonnet on the passenger's side:
Upon unplugging this and removing it from the car I was quite surprised by what I found on the opposite side of that box.

So this was not really expected and thankfully off and not activated, otherwise we could very well have had a very exciting time getting to this stage. I have it off and on my desk at the moment so I'll see if there is anything useful or interesting and I might put it back in. Otherwise I will see if I can remove all of the wiring that it has, just to minimize the spaghetti mess inside the car.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

More Radios

Hi All,

I got another chance to play with the radios. This time I decided that I would see if I can connect to the Mt Bindo Repeater using one of the radios that have been very generously passed onto me. Looking through the ones I had it was looking like I was going to have to give one of the two Icom IC-22S units that I have a go. The only problem is that I was told one of them doesn't work and I couldn't remember which one that was. So it was time to start experimenting.

The first problem I had was that on the end of the power cable away from the radio there was a plug that looked like this:

Now I have never seen a plug like that and couldn't find a socket here for it to plug into. So I cut it off with about 4 inches of cord still attached so that when I find a socket for it I can still use this. Once that was sorted and connected up to the 12v power supply I connected up the older looking dustier unit that had some of the programmed frequencies written on paper taped to the top of it. At this point I fired it up and tried to call into Mt Bindo; which didn't work. However everything appeared to work and when the squelch is turned down you can hear static so I think this is the good one. I might have to read up on the instruction book to see if I can work out how to make it trigger the repeater and I'll also check that the crystal is in there and is the right one and looks like it works. Otherwise I might order a new one that I know will work to try and get this working.

As to the future of the IC-22S units. Well I'm not sure, if this one turns out to work well it will probably stay here as my base station VHF transceiver, and possibly if I get into some of the other things that get done on VHF, particularly those that are connected to a computer I will probably use one of these as the frequency is fairly rigidly set.

On the HF front I also tried the Yaesu FT-7 transceiver that I have, however while it seems to receive fine it doesn't transmit when the PTT button is pressed so that is something that will warrant further investigation.

As a final note, if anyone is interested here is a photo of my operating station. I know that there are a number of things that are less than ideal, however this is my attempt based on the compromises I have to make at the moment.

I'll be back soon.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Rainwater and Radios


It's been a while but I've finally gotten into some stuff that isn't for work. Recently I have been working on a few projects at work, one of which has involved me learning about setting up Microsoft Access databases with nice interfaces for data input and also for reports being produced.I have also been spending many weekends down at the Tall Ship James Craig where I have been crewing on daysails and helping with other activities.

Yesterday after getting home after a great time aboard I felt the need to do something at home. So I decided to move the water cube that will become a rainwater tank. I have been putting it off for a while because the place I wanted it to go looked like this:
So I cleaned it up, a lot. Then cut out a piece from a pallet I had laying in the yard. As I didn't really have the right tools I cut the skinnier longitudinals with a hatchet and managed to find a bow saw with a slightly loose blade that I used to cut the rest on it as it was too thick to cut by hand. Unfortunately I got so excited while doing this that I forgot to take a picture. So with the base finished and a space cleared all I had to do was shuffle the tank a couple of meters and lift it about 2 feet onto the pallet. This is the finished product:
After getting that finished and everything cleaned away I raked a heap on junk that was lying in the yard up to the back so that hopefully the grass that is starting to grow will be able to continue and cover the entire yard.

Once I had cleaned up and admired what little of the cleanup I could see in the dark. I went inside and while on my laptop, running off 12v. I noticed that my VHF radio was receiving a signal. Upon turning up the volume I realised that it was a WIA broadcast that I was receiving from Mt Bindo. While listening I realised that the broadcast was also being sent on HF so I figured this would be a good chance to have a play around and see if I could get the reception better on different bands. I have decided that for now at least I am going to log these reports here so I have them all in one place and so anybody who wants to can follow along with my attempts to improve reception.

I could receive the signal on my Icom IC-730S only on 80m, all of the other bands were empty as far as I could tell. I am thinking this is largely due to my very poo earthing setup that I'll probably show you in a few days or weeks time. On 80m I could pick up the signal fairly well, but I was having a very hard time understanding the words due to some kind of distortion. Hopefully I will get my desk cleaned up and I can plug in my Yaesu FT-7 that I haven't had a chance to try out yet.

I'll be doing my best as I go through my plans to improve my signal. I already have some ideas to improve my earthing so it shouldn't be too long before I get some information up about that.