Category Archives: Reviews

Try an HF Net… Rack up those States and Countries FAST!

I was rolling across the 40 Meter band one night and hit a nightly net called the OMISS NET (Old Man International Sideband Society) and there was a busy back and forth between stations making a call sign and signal report in a very orderly way on 7.185 MHz LSB.  So, I tuned up (off frequency) and when they called for “check-ins” I threw my WT8WV call sign in and they called me back and the next thing I knew I racked up 14 new states in about an hour or so!  The next night I added 10 more states!  They have nets on most of the HF frequencies and can be found on their website.

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OMISS 101

OMISS, or Old Man International Sideband Society, has been operating list-type awards nets on the General Amateur bands since 1981. Want to get your WAS quickly? This is a great place to get it done. Do you like to work lots of stations for unique awards? We have several challenging awards to work for, each with an attractive certificate to hang on your wall. Do you like contesting? We hold an annual QSO Party and invite the whole Amateur community.

The real cool thing is they use a free software program called NETLOGGER  (see info on Netlogger below) that is an online logging server that shows in real time who has checked into the net and available to be contacted. When it’s your turn, you call who you need and make the exchange with them.  Then as you listen someone might want to call YOU to get your state!  Slick as a whistle!  For a one time cost of $7 you can get your own OMISS Number (i.e. 10722 is assigned to me) and you log in with it each time for a speedy check-in process and it is also tied to numerous awards you can get.

Perfect CW / Morse Code Trainer

This program G4FON Koch CW Trainer has been a joy to play with and learn from.  I am wanting to increase my Morse Code speed skills and this is a perfect way to do that!  I am wanting to get back into CW but have gotten rusty from not practicing for years.  I seem to be stuck at copying  about 7 words per minute.  My goal is 20+ words per minute so I can help rack up more points at Field Day events!  The key, I have now found, is to HEAR letters at 25 words per minute… but at a longer spacing between them when received, and then begin shortening that spacing time over a period of practice sessions.

koch_display

I have it set to send the individual letters at 25 words per minute (wpm).  I am starting at the time between those letters at 10 wpm.  I started with two letters and would copy just those two for a few minutes in one minute drills.  Once I get to 90-100% copy, I add another letter!  I practice about 15 minutes each night, if I can.  I am halfway through the alphabet now and having a ball.  It is easy to download and configure… you’ll be instantly surprised at how much fun it is!

Programming Your New Ham Radio… the Easy Way!

ADMS_M100_U_2__89502.1447692865.220.220

downloadI recently took a deeper dive into digital ham radio and picked up a Yaesu FTM-100 mobile System Fusion rig.  VHF and UHF… 500 Channels on each band!  Holy Crap, Batman…  I’ll wear my aged, stubby, fat fingers to the nubs tryin’ to poke all that individual channel info into those 1,000 spots using those little buttons!  Plus, I have to look up all that info… somewhere… on EVERY channel I want to add to my line-up.  Ain’t no-body gotz time for dat!  (I also had to do that with my Baofeng UV-5RV2+ portable HT a couple years ago.)

What to do?  Path of least resistance!  Did a little research and found a computer program that does it all for me.  (I actually used the free CHIRP software to program my HT a couple years ago.)  RT Systems software makes the programming easy!  You simply pick out your software version based upon what radio you want to program, download the software, (Hopefully your radio came with the right interface cable to hook your radio to your computer to make the download of freq’s to your rig.), grab the repeater frequencies from some site like RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory and in 20 minutes you can load up your rig with more frequencies than you will ever use.  (While CHIRP is freeware, RT Systems and RFinder software platforms are paid versions.  I can honestly say that the software is very reasonably priced for both and you might only need to use it once in a while but it saves you HOURS of manual poking and prodding your radio buttons.)

(Click link below to see the typical instructions)

Radio Programming Software for the Yaesu FTM-100

(See the videos below…)

You can easily marry RT Systems software to RFinder software and quickly create a sort routine that grabs the EXACT frequencies you want and transfer it to your radio.  You can sort by town, state, zip code, ham bands, NOAA frequencies, etc.  

It makes short work of all of it!  You’ll spend more time convincing yourself to not pull in frequencies you will never use than the download takes!  

Once you set up your channel database you want to use for your radio, you simply hook your radio to your computer with the cable… poke a couple drop-down menus… and then the magic happens!  UPLOAD COMPLETE.  

I programmed about 75 VHF and 75 UHF Channels into my radio, start sort to finish sort to upload compete in under 20 minutes.  You might export your databases to your laptop or website to store for the future.

One thing I did that sort of brought sanity to my programming strategy and thinking was that I added the freq’s in sort of “banks” of channels so I could visually sense what channels I needed to tune to depending on my car’s location as I traveled.  For the first 10-15 channels, I loaded repeater data for the local area repeaters within about 75 miles of my home QTH.  I live just below the Mason-Dixon Line…  and yes, I consider myself a southerner but I can be in Pennsylvania within 10 minutes; in fact, I can be at the Pittsburgh International Airport in under 90 minutes!  So, since I travel a good bit for work, I can bounce to various repeaters as I drive in any direction!

In the next grouping of channels I might add just the Pittsburgh area repeaters.  In another group of channels I added the Dayton, OH repeater freq’s since my daughter and son-in-law live and work next to Wright-Patterson AFB and I also usually attend the Dayton Hamvention each year.  Another group of channels I include are the NOAA Weather Channels.  Other groupings include various regions of West Virginia since I also hunt, fish, camp and hike all over the place.

 

Comparing the Yaesu System Fusion FT1Dr and FT2DR

Yaesu FT1DR Review

Yaesu  FT2DR Review

DR-1X System Fusion Repeater and the HRI-200 WiresX

A nice video showing the basics of the setup with the HRI-200 and the Yaesu DR-1X System Fusion repeater.

Yaesu System Fusion Introduction

This is a good introduction video for anyone curious about Yaesu’s efforts in digital communications at the local repeater level.  It also sets aside some fears and misunderstandings about amateur radio operators making the decision to add or upgrade to digital from analog… you can do both!

Aluminum Soldering Demonstration at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention

I have seen this presentation several times over the years while attending the Dayton Hamvention.  Don Wilke does a great job demonstrating the process of bonding various metals at a low temperature using this special material.  I finally purchased a pack of these rods in May 2016.  As many things as I can mess up around the house and garden, I am sure it will come in handy soon.  I decided to film it for my blog and then sent the video to Don for him to use.

Ham Radio… Do they still DO that?

This is a great slideshare from KB6NU Dan Romanchik,who unequivocally answers, “Oh HECK yes!”  After more than 45 years of having a blast using my ham radios and talking all over the world using all sorts of cool technologies, I echo Dan’s message here.  Thank you, Dan!  If you want to find a great hobby that you will enjoy for a lifetime… drop me a note… I’ll hook ya up!

REVIEW: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digital portable radio

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This is a solid review by Don Trynor from VA3XPR from July 2015 of the Yaesu FT2DR dual-bander HT.  (They have a very nice website!)

Our local ham radio club, Monongalia Wireless Association, recently bought 2 of the Yaesu Fusion repeaters and I am doing my own research into being able to enjoy a new type of technology. I am looking at my options and hope to find something to get my hands on at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention!  I would think that prices would be moderating downward by now as others adopt the new radio and there may be some rebates floating around or “Specials” by some of the dealers.  (Read Don’s full review here…  Review: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digitl portable radio )

The FT2DR is a good choice for anyone looking for a full-featured dual-band portable radio that is compatible with Yaesu’s Fusion line of digital radios. While this radio has some innovations, we think that they may not justify the $550 USD price point of this unit. In addition, we feel that Yaesu could improve upon future radios like this one, especially as it relates to the overall user experience. In this day and age when a good user experience for touch screen devices is the norm, such as with smartphones and computers, we think devices like this have room for improvement. All in all, if users can live without the touch screen display and louder audio, they might want to consider a cheaper alternative in the Yaesu FT1DR, which retails for $300 USD.

WinLink… What is it?

K4REF tells us from his YouTube Channel the basics of this interesting technology that we can use as Amateur Radio Operators.  It is most likely very similar to a technology we use daily… away from our radios!

 

What Is D-Star All About?

Yaesu has System Fusion… guess who has this thing called, D-Star?  You can probably guess pretty quickly, if you don’t already have an idea.

Discover D-STAR from Icom

Portable Power Box

Battery Box, Simple Portable Power by KC6TYD

I built a portable battery box years ago out of a used small white lard tub from a Mr. Donut shop here in town to carry 2 small batteries to power “things” on camping and canoe trips.  It charged from a flexible solar panel that I laid atop my packed canoe when fishing on the rivers of West Virginia.  Then at night I had a string of 12 volt car lamp bulbs that I would string up around the campsite for some excellent lighting.  It also had a small LED inside the box that would glow amber all night so that if you needed to get up in the middle of the night you can set the small tub beside the tent flap and push a little button to kick on the rest of the lights.  I like this set up from KC6TYD, too!

GoBox Ideas

GoBox Update from KC6TYD

I am getting ready to put my ham radio station back together after being QRT for a number of years.  When I think about the VHF/UHF section of my station, I may decide to configure those particular technologies in a GoBox, of some sort.  I really like the idea of being able to “pack-n-go” in the event of emergency comms or Field Day type of activities.

 

Back Up Solar Power for Ham Radio

Harbor Freight Solar Panel for Ham Radio

I spent a lot of time on a medical mission trip to Mali, West Africa years ago optimizing their solar power system.  (Constant dust on the solar panels from the Harmattan winds was a battle for efficiency.)  This is an interesting video done by KC6TYD about his first experience with solar power in the ham shack.  (This only about the concept, not an endorsement per se of Harbor Freight or the manufacturer.)  But I am definitely interested in some solar projects here at home in the future.

 

Space Weather Impacts Everyone… including amateur radio!

space weather

From the U.S. National Weather Service YouTube page… click video links below…

We rely on advanced technology for almost everything we do today. Satellite communications, GPS applications, and the electric power grid provide the backbone to our Nation’s economic vitality and national security. This technology however, is vulnerable to a threat from space — our Sun. Eruptions from the Sun can have a profound impact on society. In Boulder, Colorado NOAA space weather forecasters maintain a constant vigil on the Sun, alerting a diverse customer base when storms are imminent. Operators from many sectors will take mitigating actions to protect the critical infrastructure that we have come to depend on.

An Introduction to Space Weather and the Space Weather Prediction Center

Space Weather Impacts: Communications

Space Weather Impacts: GPS

Space Weather Impacts: Power

Historical Events in Amature Radio… 1894 to 1998

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This is a fun read about our amateur radio hobby from it’s infancy.  Well written factoids from The Ham Radio Files website.  Click the link below for the article…

Historical Events in Amateur Radio

Ham Radio Reference Site… RigReference.Com

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I stumbled onto this really cool website called RigReference.Com and was able to find some information on several older pieces of equipment I have in my ham shack.  Here is what their website says…

Who we are

RigReference.com is designed for and by Ham Radio enthusiasts. RigReference.com provides information about new and vintage amateur radio equipment (rigs) and allows and encourages members to share their opinions about these rigs.

RigReference.com is always looking for amateur related news, especially new equipment announcements. If you’ve seen or heard anything interesting please don’t hesitate to contact us!

RigReference.com explicitly does not sell ham radio equipment and/or parts.

Twitter… @RigReference

First Radio? Icom 718 HF Radio

The Icom 718 HF Ham Radio is suggested by many hams as the ideal beginner’s HF rig. The QRZ.COM website had a good forum post on best radios for beginners HF Rig For Beginners  (See reviews of the Icom 718 at the end of this post.)

Icom 718 HF Radio from the Amateur Electronic Supply (AES Website) website

Core Specifications
Receive Range: 0.030-29.999 MHz
Transmit Range: 1.800-1.999, 3.500-3.999, 7.000-7.300, 10.100-10.150, 14.000-14.350, 18.068-18.168, 21.000-21.450, 24.890-24.990, 28.000-29.700 MHz
Mode: USB, LSB, CW, RTTY (FSK), AM
Transmit Power: SSB, CW, RTTY 2-100W; AM 2-40W
Memory Channels: 101 (99 regular, 2 scan edges)The HF bands allow you to communicate over long distances covering many km even to the other side of the world. With the superior performance found in the IC-718 such as wide dvnamic range, high C/N ratio, and full duty operation you will find making these contacts easy. Experience the combination of the latest RF and digital technology, along with the size and simplified operation. You will see the IC-718 will be the most practical rig you will ever own.Front mounted loud speaker
The IC-718 has a speaker mounted on the front panel. With the speaker facing the operator, audio sounds can be clearly heard without impediment during operation. It is no longer necessary to manually increase the volume to try and capture audio sounds.

Superior basic performance
The IC-718 has 0.03-29.999999 MHz* general coverage receive capability. A 4-element system is employed for the 1st receive mixer, providing superior receive IMD, especially from in-band near-by interfering signals. A well-designed double-conversion system to help minimize image and spurious responses for better signal fidelity, is also built-in. A newly designed PLL circuit has been adopted to improve C/N ratio characteristics. The combination of the 4-element system mixer and new PLL circuit allows superior basic performance as that of a commercial grade transceiver.
*Guaranteed range: 0.5-29.999999 MHz

DSP capability*
The DSP includes the following to give you superior receiver quality in your shack, vehicle or during DX’pedition. *DSP is built in to U.S. models, but may be optional outside the U.S. Please check with your dealer.
Noise reduction:
Pulls desired AF signals from noise. Outstanding S/N ratio is achieved, providing clean audio in SSB, AM and FM.
Automatic Notch filter:
This automatically minimizes beat signals and heterodynes while preserving the receive signal. Also, the notch frequency is automatically adjusted to follow interfering beat signals – for example, reducing interference from RTTY signals during SSB operation.

Interference rejection – IF shift
To reject interference, the IC-718 has an IF shift function which shifts the center frequency of the IF passband electronically to reduce adjacent interference.

Microphone compressor
This feature compresses microphone audio input to increase average audio output level. The result is, that talk power is increased. The compression level is adjustable for your preference. This function is effective for long distance communication, or when propagation conditions are poor.

RF gain control
RF gain control is combined with the squelch control. The RF gain adjusts minimum response receiver gain, and ignores signals weaker than the pre-set level – providing pleasant stand-by, or scanning.

Ample CW features
An electronic keyer with a variable dot/dash ratio (2.8:1 to 4.8:1) control is built-in. By simply connecting a paddle, easy CW operation can be made. The CW pitch and the key speed are also variable from 300-900 Hz, 6-60 wpm, respectively. Of course, full break-in capability is available with the adjustable break-in delay.

VOX operation
A VOX (Voice operated transmission) is included with the IC-718. It provides handsfree operation by detecting audio signals from the microphone. It’ s easy! Flexible filter selection

Flexible Filter Selection
An optional IF filter can be installed into the transceiver to suit your operating preference.

High frequency stability
When the optional CR-338 HIGH STABILITY CRYSTAL UNIT is installed, you get a very high frequency stability of ±0.5 ppm.

Selectable antenna tuner
Either the optional antenna tuner unit, AT-180 or AH-4 can be used with the IC-718 to suit your installing conditions, or operating style. Of course, the AH-4 control circuit is built into the IC-718.

Simple operation
The IC-718 is equipped with a minimum number of switches and controls for superior feature selectability. The 10-key pad on the front panel for entering directly an operating frequency, or a memory channel number. The auto tuning steps function helps quick tuning is activate when turning the dial quickly. And the band stacking register is very convenient when changing operating bands.

Digital S/RF meter
Built-in multi functional digital S/RF meter indicates signal strength level while receiving, and either transmit output power, ALC level or VSWR ratio while transmitting.

Optional voice synthesizer
A clear, electronically-generated voice announces operating frequency, mode and receiving signal strength level when the optional voice synthesizer unit, UT-102, is installed.

Other features
• USB, LSB, CW, RTTY(FSK) and AM modes are built-in
• Level adjustable noise blanker
• RF attenuator and Pre-amplifier
• Variety of scanning function types
• Total 101 memory channels are available
• Hand microphone is supplied, and more…

Includes:
• Hand microphone
• DC power cable
• Spare fuse (FGB 20A)
• Spare fuse (FGB 4A)

Dim: 9.4″w x 3.75″h x 9.4″d; 8.5 lb.

Download Manual: IC-718

Download Brochure: IC-718  

Reviews of the Icom 718 from eHam.net   eHam.net reviews of the Icom 718

Who is W2AEW ?

Check out his website and all of his YouTube videos!  His bio follows…

His website can be found at http://www.qsl.net/w2aew/  

His YouTube Channel can be found at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiqd3GLTluk2s_IBt7p_LjA

intheshack_web

My name is Alan Wolke. I am an Electrical Engineer, currently working as an RF Application Engineer for Tektronix – which means I get paid to play with Spectrum Analyzers and other fun RF and high frequency stuff. As a Field Engineer, I am on the road a LOT. Fortunately, I run an FT-857D in the car, so I can be found playing radio during my trips between various customers around the Northest. Former work focused on hardware validation of read-channel circuits for hard disk drives, and also concentrated on applications support for analog, high speed, RF, and backplane/datacom/telecom circuit and integrated circuit designs for various communications and fiber optic applications to well over 10Gb/s, and involved various circuit technologies including Silicon bipolar, Silicon-Germanium HBT, CMOS, and BiCMOS processes, GaAs MESFET and HBT processes, and various 850nm and 1300nm LEDs, PIN photodiodes and Laserdiodes. Shameless self-promotion links: here are links to things I’ve done that are published on the web (at a previous company): Paper 1Paper 2Paper 3Patent (some of the Paper links are broken, since the company has since been bought out…). You can read more about me from my interview as the Featured Engineer on the EEWeb site from 2 April, 2012.

I was originally licensed as a Novice Class in the late seventies while in High School as KA2IZZ. We had an Amateur Radio Club there (Matawan Regional High School in NJ) under the direction of WA2SLK. I dropped out of the hobby when I went to college at NJIT, and then entered the workforce. Some friends at work got me interested in Amateur Radio again (N3GH, K2TW, K4MMG, W2PI), but my renewal privileges on KA2IZZ long since expired. So, I started over as a Technician with the call KC2BOG. After about a year and a half, I upgraded to Tech Plus and bought some HF equipment in September 1998. I applied for the vanity call W2AEW in September also, and received it in October 1998. I spent October working on my CW with some friendly “encouragement” from my friend and co-worker WA2NDH (now W2CSK), and upgraded to Advanced Class in November 1998. So, since my HF privileges are fairly new, I find myself working new states and countries all of the time. Great Fun!!! I frequent many of the local 2m repeaters in central NJ, and spend most of my HF time on 20m and 17m. I tested for the Extra Class license in February 2000. I passed the written test, but missed too many questions on the 20wpm code test (I did better than I thought I would though ;-). So, I became an Extra-Lite or Advanced-Plus after April 15th, 2000 anyway, HI HI!

Other interests besides the radio include MGB carsRX-8mountain-bikingNASCAR racing (go Mark Martin!), woodworking, home improvement, and TV/VCR repair (previous life) and of course, diddling around with circuits for fun.

My wife Nancy and I are busy getting settled in our new/old house. We moved in during the summer of 2009, and absolutely love the place. The shack and HF antenna went up in October 2009 – back on the air after a several year hiatus.

 

Elecraft KX3 Demo and Connect to iPad Videos

I had the pleasure of playing with two Elecraft KX3 radios during ARRL Field Day 2014 running CW and PSK31 modes.  Both radios worked like a charm off of battery power and we racked up some excellent contacts during the hours of the contest.  I want to thank Bill (WR8S) and Tom (KD8WQK) for letting me get may hands on their toys! Definitely on my WISHLIST!

kx3

The KX3 HF Radio is pictured above.  The optional 100 Watt Amplifier is pictured below.

 kxpa100_fr_1280

Watch the Elecraft KX3 Demo Video below…

Connect the KX3 to an iPad…

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playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

HarsH ReaLiTy

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

BG5TLA's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

Tinkertoytech's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

KC4LMD

Chronicling my pursuit of amateur radio’s "Worked All Neighbors" award

Casey's Place

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

Hackaday

Fresh hacks every day

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Tactical HF

I love the smell of ozone in the morning...smells like...radio.

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slightly sub-orbital testing facility

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A blog about ham radio, Linux and more...

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Silver Bells Blog

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CQ de WT8WV... GraHAM's Dits & Dah's

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A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

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