Club Project

I’ve come across an aluminum supplier locally. Looks like they will sell off some of their scrap and over run materials at, I would hope, low(ish) prices. Now that’s good news! Now, what to make? Currently our club is making 40A dual, bridged power supplies. And they are coming along nicely. So, I’m thinking for our next project, we should make antennas. But, what kind? I know some of the fellows have been dabbling in 220, others 6 meters and others at HF. I know everyone has 2 meters and most have 70cm.

2 meters I think would be a good band. Everyone can no doubt use a good 2 meter antenna. Perhaps a small Yagi or even just a plain old 1/2 wave dipole as a reference antenna. And, 2 meters is much more forgiving than UHF.

I’ll have to put it to the CKARC membership and get a consensus.

Stay tuned…


Repeater Linking

It occurs to many in SW Ontario that many of our repeaters are under used. And there’s a lot of repeaters. As I scan them all from Sarnia to Windsor to London – and all points in between – I normally hear maybe an hours worth of QSO’s. Except for VA3KCR 146.680 as we actually use it a lot. It would be great to co-ordinate one repeater per club to act as a permanently linked repeater (via IRLP, EchoLink or RF) to all the other areas. This frequency/access tone list could then be distributed to all the clubs. Now when you’re travelling around, you could scan these say, 4 or 5 repeaters and be able to instantly access the entire area on the radio. Excellent in emergencies.

Yes I know, in an emergency the internet may be down. That would be more than an emergency. That would be a disaster situation – and most hams have equipment to handle that too. No, i’m thinking more along the lines of a traffic accident or a lost soul. Or even an area wide CANWARN system.

So, if anyone has any ideas along these lines, feel free to copy/paste this URL along to any other clubs and ask for their input. At some point, it may even be possible to have a small group from each club meet at a mutual spot (HAMs love lunch) to discuss a preliminary plan.

My $5 Laptop

A couple of years ago, I acquired an old Compaq 4110D laptop at a yard sale for $5. They “said” it worked and imagine my surprise when I got it home, plugged it in, and it DID work. Windows 98 and Microsoft Office loaded on and working. I discovered it had 24Mb of RAM and a 2Gb HD. Not much but still… my first laptop. Pretty exciting! So, what to do with it? Well first thing was, no networking… hmm. I ordered a PCMCIA network card but it didn’t fit. Bummer. It did come with a telephone modem that possibly works (I have no reason to believe it doesn’t) but since I wasn’t  on dial-up (nor will I ever be I hope), this wasn’t an option. Luckily, the CD-ROM drive DID work. Ah HUH! Since blank CD’s are pretty cheap that’s the ticket. Download Win98 software on my main computer, burn it, load it on the laptop. Although I detest disks. this was the only option 🙁 I loaded on VBDOS 1.0, VB 1.0, QuickBASIC 4.5 and a couple other things. Worked amazingly well. The laptop then went into “storage” (ie. tossed into a storage box) and I moved addresses a couple of times.

Fast forward to yesterday. I needed to run some Kenwood programming software. It unfortunately needs “real” DOS (seriously, it’s 2013!) to run and my Win7 DOS emulator just wasn’t cutting it. Also, my main computer does not have a DB9 serial port (again, it’s 2013!). So, I dug up the laptop out of “storage”. Yep, still fires up. Battery was still at 62% charge even. Shweet. Next step, burn the software to CD and install it. Wonder of all wonders, it worked! I then proceeded to install EchoLink, DigiPan and EasyPal. Well, EchoLink works but no internet… oh right. Oh well. EasyPal TRIES to run but just sits there. Hmm. DigiPan however works pretty good. I plugged the MIC-IN into the SPKR-OUT of my HF radio, tuned to a popular digital mode frequency and was immediately decoding BPSK31 signals. Yummy!

Although the speakers in the laptop do not function (verily, there is NO sound out at all) and it’s not entirely speedy, for $5 I now have an emergency laptop that I can program with BASIC, make up docs and spreadsheets, decode PSK and program TK-760 radios. Beat that!

(PS. thank you lady at the yard sale)

DB9 to USB

It turns out there is such a thing as a DB9 (male) to USB serial adapter. And, I have a couple DB9 female connectors that I bought at a yard sale for 50 cents each that will work out quite well. The adapters work out to about $6 each on the eBay which isn’t bad I suppose. Also, I’ve decided to use RG59 coax (cheap stuff) as audio cables. That should provide enough shielding against all the stray RF in the shack to not add much noise to the audio signals from radio to computer. Hopefully. As well, I’ll make a small circuit to handle audio (600:600 transformers) and PTT (either a relay or 2N25 opto-coupler). As well as being more reliable and better sounding, I don’t want to blow up any more USB adapters.

Good thing this is all coming out of my “experimenting budget”. Lol. The first EchoLink/V71a cable didn’t work out as planned really (the audio sounded “strange” and “echo-ie” although it would have been ok for digital stuff) but, it also cost nearly anything as I had most parts just lying around anyway. Once I do get it all sorted out, the next cables/cost will be finalized.

Having said that, I’m just going to hook up the Azden PCS-3000 as the EchoLink radio anyway so its basically a moot point at this stage. I’m also placing its antenna where it won’t interfere so much with my main radio setup. That is, fairly close to the ground with my TV tower sort of shielding it from the main setup.

To summarize:

  • build a PTT circuit
  • build a 600:600 transformer board
  • use RG59 coax as audio cables
  • use a DB9 to USB adapter (or possibly the UART boards alone)
  • hook up the Azden PCS-3000
  • move the antenna

Now, if I only had a robot cable-to-connector solderer/assembler….


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