Monday, 28 March 2016

#cqwpx "Blood, Sweat & Tears"

Event: CQWW WPX SSB 2016 section QRP (max. 5W)
Logger: N1MM+ most updated version
Station: Yaesu FT-817ND (5W)
Antenna: HB9CV (for 10m) at 6m AGL, 84m horizontal loop at 7m AGL.

Congratulations if you made a QSO with me, that means you really have a excellent radiostation. Sorry if you didn't made the QSO, and there were many that didn't just because they couldn't hear me. It was hard work this contest and it was a experience I wouldn't want to miss.

The target was to work as many DXCC as possible especially the ones I didn't have already in my challenge list. This was the ultimate chance to get to those 100 DXCC with QRP wanted. Unfortenately the sun didn't turn around fast enough and although I expected about 40-50 sunspots it was down to about 30. Very low and not good for my target you would think. But think again, there are always chances and you just have to show perseverance to get those DXCC into the log. It was "blood, sweat & tears" all the way around. I stayed as long as possible on the higher bands to work the DX. The 10m band opened just once for a few minutes and I managed to work 2 QSO's there. Most of the DX was made on 15m.

15m was good at Saturday but less good on Sunday, though just when I thought the band would close it opened again and I could work some "new" ones. Most difficult was Puerto Rico, chased several stations for more then a hour but couldn't get through till late Sunday evening on 15m. Then Alaska on 20m, I spend at least half an hour calling but was rewarded in the end. NL7V was lucky enough to receive my tiny signal over the northpole with flutter modulation, although KL7RA was much stronger most of the day (59+) but didn't receive me at all (despite calling many times). I worked 75 DXCC in the end, could have been more if everyone would have excellent ears, besides that I let some DXCC go because I already had them in my challenge list. I'm very satisfied with the results and sometimes I was really surprised with QSOs that I never think would be possible. For instance a QSO with Canada (VC2A) on 80m SSB with 5W! Alaska, Australia and Japan, not the easiest distances with QRP but it happened and many more. A lot of success, but there was struggle and frustration as well. So many Chinese stations were heard but it seems they all have a large amount of QRM/QRN as I didn't get through at all. QRP costs a lot of time and chasing DX QRP even more. When you call for more then a hour and have only 4 QSO in the log it is hard to go on, it happened to me twice but patience and perseverance do the magic. Now at the end of this contest I realize QRP is not for everyone, you really need to have special skills I think. Or at least I want to believe that...what do you think?


PE4BAS LOG Statistics CQWW WPX SSB QRP 2016




Wednesday, 23 March 2016

#cqwpx QRP next

It really is very difficult to get more DXCC in the 100 DXCC in 100 days QRP log. And actually I expected this. As the days get longer I have less time for radio. And spending less time on the radio means less new DXCC as searching for them and calling QRP takes a lot of time. I'm now at 76 and don't expect to get at 100 in 100 days, but that doesn't really matter. If I would already have worked the 100 DXCC now it would be too easy. I think you feel much better afterwards if you really worked hard to get to the point you have in mind. I never did the CQ WW WPX QRP before, it's one of my favorite contests and my PE4 prefix is wanted. Last year I made 840 QSOs and counted almost a million points. But that was with 100W. I though this year my goal would be the 1 million points, but things went different. Since I entered the QRP challenge I decided to do the contest QRP this year and work as many DXCC as possible. I guess I will not get to the 100 this weekend but it would be nice to work a few new ones for the challenge. Hope to meet you on the bands this weekend. And remember, if you made a contact with me, you shure know you have a good receiver and antenna.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

2,5W QRP on 60m

Since my FT-817 has extended TX now I'm able to do some QRP work on the 60m band. I think the quiet 60m band is the ultimate band for QRP. And yes, according my contacts yesterday I think I'm right. I dropped the power to a mighty 2,5 Watt and with JT65A I worked a few stations early in the evening.





SQ2LXN  Poland 60m JT65 (Not shure if Poland is allowed on 60?)
LA5TFA Norway 60m JT65
OZ6GH Denmark 60m JT65
G3NYY England 60m JT65
ON4PS Belgium 60m JT65
4X1LM Israel 60m JT65
PA2WCB  Netherlands 60m JT65

Not real DX, although Israel is a nice one with 2,5W only. DX can be worked but only in the middle of the night or very early in the morning before sunrise.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Yaesu FT-817 wideband TX modification tips

My IC-706 is able to transmit on every frequency in between amateurradio bands. This is very useful if you want to transmit on new amateurradio bands like the 60m band. Of course it is illigal to transmit on other frequencies outside the allowed bands in your country. Anyway, my FT-817 was not able to transmit everywhere and I would like to get on the new 60m band with it as that is the perfect band for QRP operations. Besides that I knew at least A45XR from Oman is on almost every evening on digimode (JT65A) and easy to work, even QRP. I was thinking about modifying the little FT-817 for a long time and after reading the excellent modification description on PA1CA's site I decided thursday evening to open up the radio and modify it. Unfortenately I ran into several issues which I want to share. I thought it would be a 15 minute job but it took me 1,5 hour in the end due to a stupid fault melting the flatcable when it came to close to the soldering iron. This can happen to anyone so that's why I write this article, so others will not make the same fault.

Opening the rig is easy and straight forward, just look at PA1CA's description and follow them till the point that you have to remove the flatcable. So, how to disconnect the flatcable of the FT-817?. Search for it in Google and you find little about it. The description says: "Next unclip the flatcable from the main body of the radio". Sounds easy, but it isn't unless you're familiar with these things. The best way is to use your nail and pull the brown sleeve up on the side the flatcable enters the connector, it's that easy. But I just cut my nails of course :-(. It took me at least 10 minutes to carefully lift the clip, it came loose, I don't know if this is normal. You would expect a hinged sleeve. Anyway, I was glad I made it till this point.

Next thing was to solder the jumpers. Not easy as they are very very small and in a narrow part of the front panel. To stabilize the front I took the batterypack so it could partly hang on it. 

I managed that as well. But just when I was at the last soldering task my iron came too close to the flatcable and damaged the isolation. A stupid fault but it can happen. I was thinking it all over and came to the conclusion that this would not happen when you completely remove the flatcable which is easy. Just click the brown sleeve up and remove the flatcable, this sleeve is hinged and stays at the connector.

The damaged flatcable
Now, what to do with the damaged flatcable? What would happen if the conductors are not isolated from each other? I don't want to think about that...so I carefully measured all the conductors which were going trough the damaged part of the cable. Luckily there was no break and they were not electrically connected with each other. I isolated the conductors again with tape. Not a nice sight, but luckely it's all inside the radio. Everything was mounted again and the factory reset was done. Bleep bleep did the radio and it switched on. Glad everything worked as advertised. A quick test on 60m confirmed the TX was working now on bands outside the normal amateurradio bands.



I quickly started HRD - logbook - WSJT-X and JT-Alert-X to find my luck on 60m JT65A. A45XR was booming in and I made my QRP 75th DXCC for the challenge. Mission completed.





Tips from my experience with this modification:

- If you're not experienced with soldering small parts, don't do it.
- Don't do it at the end of a stressful day (I did it, a big DON'T).
- Prefer daylight you got better sight on the project. I had double LED ilumination and a magnifying lens but still had problems to see things.
- Use a soldering iron wit a very small tip
- Disconnect the flatcable completely and move it far from the soldering iron
- Don't cut your nails before this project. They are most useful.
- If something goes wrong. Walk away and think it over (I did). Don't panic!
- Don't think it is a 15 minute project like me. Take your time, don't hurry!

Well, I hope my experience will add something useful to those that want to do the modification themself. Especially the flatcable issue that I could not find on the internet yet.

Good luck!


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

IC-7300 collected interesting links

The Icom IC-7300. The radio of the future. Or my future. Reading and viewing the different reviews
of this new Icom SDR radio I get a convinient feeling. I always liked the quality of Icom products especially my good old IC-706 which is still doing well after about 17 years. Not without some small service that is, but till now I managed to do all mods and repairs myself. The IC-706 is good but has some limitations and actually is a mobile transceiver. Now, I see the IC-7300 as something in between. It can be used at home but also at fielddays. It is well equipped for digital modes (no need for a CAT modem or extra soundcard outputs) and with the spectrum scope and state of the art filters you have a advantage in contests and working DXpeditions. The price? 1369 euro in the Netherlands. If I look at my receipt from my old Icom IC-706MKIIG...I bought it at a price of 3600 old Dutch guilders, convert that to euro today it would be 1633 euro (approx.). Wow, the IC-7300 is dirt cheap compared to the IC-706MKIIG when it came out on the market. Such a cheap radio? I almost would think something about it! So, I'll wait till I hear it on-air, in contests, in a real time environment....hopefully I will get more excited. In the mean time I'll better look at my antennamast and antennas. Much more important for a amateurradio station as your station is as good as your antenna.

Here are some links to make your own opinion:

http://icomuk.co.uk/IC-7300/Amateur_Radio_Ham_Base_Stations

Video introducing IC-7300 / Menu

http://yo9irf.blogspot.nl/2016/03/icom-ic-7300-review.html

http://yo3hjv.blogspot.nl/2016/03/icom-ic-7300-marscap-extended-tx.html

http://www.ab4oj.com/icom/ic7300/main.html



Friday, 11 March 2016

More amazing QRP contacts

It still amazes me how QRP miracles happen. Switched the radio on today after a very busy week. First contact after a few minutes was with CU7AJ from Azores on 40m PSK. Then I switched to 30m and saw HS1NGR. But he was busy and I doubt I could get his atttention. Luckely I saw he spotted me via Hampots. So I just called CQ and hoped he got back to me. And he did. Wow, his signal was at least S7 on the S-meter of my FT-817 and -1dB on JT65. Look at the screenshot of the waterfall, isn't it amazing. I was pretty strong at his side as well. Number 72 in the 100 DXCC in 100 days challenge in the log. By the way if someone likes to start the challenge as well you can still participate. Just get in contact with NY4G Ariel via e-mail (can be found at QRZ.com).



Writing this blogpost I was already amazed and surprised.....then just a few minutes later this happens:


YV5JBI Venezuela in the log for nr. 73...

Amazing, amazing, amazing....

Who needs more then 5W ever to work the world?


Sunday, 6 March 2016

LOL on 40m QRP

Not what most stations expect. A QRP station on 40m SSB replying in the ARRL International DX contest SSB. The exchange is the amount of power you use and in my case that was 5W. Till today I had difficulties to get Canada in the log for the 100 DXCC in 100 days QRP challenge, but not today. Canada was booming in on 40m SSB this morning. So, after working Canada I tried a few more stations. Guess what, I got the question a couple of times after I gave the the exchange 595; "what is your power" "I need your power". LOL ;-) Told them I only use 5W. A lot of fun on 40m today.

The 100 DXCC in 100 days QRP challenge is now on it's second half for me. Till now I have made QSOs with stations from 70 DXCC. It's getting harder to get new ones in the log. If you take a look at NY4G Ariel's page you can find some nice statistics although not always up-to-date. 6 Participants have reached 100 DXCC already. All of them are experienced DXers and have very good antennas.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Component tester

 Not that I'm a great electronics builder. But if I build something from used components I really like to know if they are still in good shape. Besides that it is handy to know what is ECB connection from a unknown transistor. I bought a very handy component tester for that at the radio fleamarket but had to build it first. Actually that went so fast I almost forget to make photos for this blogpost. Building of the device went smoothly and no faults at all. I really think this tool can't be missed in a radioshack. It measures ressitors, capacitors including ESR (series resistance), coils (induction), diodes, LED, transisitors, fet, triac etc. Wish I knew this before buying my cheap almost worthless chinese LC meter. This tool is so much better...

A small video below from another homemade component tester, looks different but does the same. Seems to be the same print layout. Actually I think this one looks really nice. I like the blue LCD...




Thursday, 3 March 2016

UKEICC 80m SSB 2 March 2016 results

Event: UKEICC 80m SSB contest
Section: QRP
Logger: N1MM+ 
Station: Yaesu FT-817ND (5W)
Antenna: 84m horizontal loop at 7m AGL.

Difficult start, although I was CQing before the contest to keep a frequency clear and was even spotted on the DXcluster. Unfortenately the frequency was immidiatly hijacked. Don't blame anyone. It's just a hobby. Continued with S&P and had a small run after I found another clear frequency. Best DX was UT2II, although he didn't get my call correct. I had a good QSO with fellow blogger EI9KC Ark. Anyway, this middle of the week 1 hour contest is a lot of fun. And certainly a good excersise for QRP operating techniques.

QRP Entries results:

Call          Pwr Grid  Raw   Dupe  Bust NIL  Good  Total   --- Best DX  ---  
                        QSOs                  QSOs  Pts     Call        Km    

M9A             Q   IO80  55    0     4    0    51    94      SE4E          1583  
G4FNL         Q   IO90  41    0     2    0    39    78      UT2II         2872  
GW0GEI      Q   IO72  41    0     1    0    40    71      HF1D         1344  
PE4BAS       Q   JO33  27    0     3    1    23    42      UT2II         2294  
G3ZBU        Q   IO91  25    0     2    0    23    31      GM3WOJ     716    
GM4UBJ      Q   IO75  12    0     0    0    12    22      2E0KVJ        573    
M6VPW       Q   IO91  12    0     1    0    11    18      GM4ZUK     681    

Complete log showing me the errors, very interesting. I made a typo with PC4H, so unfortunate and stupid. UT2II indeed didn't have my call correct, I actually had the idea he was not really listening as I repeated my call at least 5 times.

Contest: UKEICC 80m
Date:  02/03/2016
Mode: SSB
Assisted: NON-ASSISTED
Power: QRP

Callsign: PE4BAS
Operator: PE4BAS
Locator: JO33

Total QSOs: 27

Potential Points: 96
Actual points: 41.89
Points per QSO: 3.56
Longest scoring QSO: 2293.90 km with UT2II
Highest points QSO: 8.00 points with M9A

DUPES
_____
No Dupes!

NIL
____
GI0AZB

Busted reports
______________
G6MC
G4FNL

Busted Calls
____________
PC4C


Call        Date       Time     Rcvd  Dist   Dist  Mult  Pos'ble Actual  Comment                        
                       UTC      Loc   Km     Pts         Pts     Pts                                    

G3RXQ       02-03-2016 2001     IO84  665    2     2     4       4.00                                  
GW0IRW    02-03-2016 2003     IO72  813    2     1     2       2.00                                  
EI6JK          02-03-2016 2004     IO53  1060   3     1     3       3.00                                  
G6MC         02-03-2016 2007     IO94  531    2     1     2       -10.67  Busted locator should be IO93  
G0DVJ        02-03-2016 2007     JO02  418    1     1     1       1.00                                  
G4FNL        02-03-2016 2008     IO96  643    2     4     8       -10.67  Busted locator should be IO90  
G4DDX       02-03-2016 2009     IO91  587    2     2     4       4.00                                  
HF1D           02-03-2016 2013     JO73  531    2     2     4       4.00                                  
GM4ZUK    02-03-2016 2014     IO87  772    2     1     2       2.00                                  
GW4J           02-03-2016 2015     IO73  796    2     1     2       2.00                                  
G3SWC       02-03-2016 2023     IO91  587    2     2     4       4.00                                  
EI8IQ           02-03-2016 2024     IO62  945    2     1     2       2.00                                  
EI2KA         02-03-2016 2027     IO51  1107   3     2     6       6.00                                  
2E0KVJ       02-03-2016 2028     IO80  763    2     2     4       4.00                                  
M9A             02-03-2016 2030     IO80  763    2     4     8       8.00    Busted locator by worked station
G3XYF        02-03-2016 2032     IO94  536    2     2     4       4.00                                  
G4FZN         02-03-2016 2033     IO94  536    2     1     2       2.00                                  
G4EBK        02-03-2016 2034     IO93  531    2     2     4       4.00                                  
PC4C           02-03-2016 2038     JO22  174    1     1     1       -10.67  QSO was with PC4H              
GI0AZB       02-03-2016 2042     IO64  924    2     2     4       -7.11   Not in GI0AZB log              
GM3WOJ     02-03-2016 2044     IO77  878    2     1     2       2.00                                  
UT2II           02-03-2016 2046     KN98  2294   5     1     5       5.00    Busted call by worked station  
GW4BLE     02-03-2016 2047     IO81  714    2     1     2       2.00                                  
G8FCQ        02-03-2016 2050     IO92  548    2     1     2       2.00    Busted locator by worked station
EI9KC          02-03-2016 2051     IO63  928    2     1     2       2.00                                  
GW0GEI      02-03-2016 2054     IO72  813    2     4     8       8.00                                  
GM0WED    02-03-2016 2059     IO88  835    2     2     4       4.00

Only made 2 errors with wrong locators. I know this should have been 0 errors. QRP DXing is difficult but isn't a excuse for a typo and bad listening. I now know I have to work on the first rule of the DX code of Conduct. I will  listen, listen and listen again....

I'm propabely not able to participate next time. Besides that I haven't got a good 80m antenna next time as well. So participation and improving the score will be next year.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Repair MFJ948 deluxe versatuner II

I actually bought this tuner new around the year 2000. It costs a small fortune at that time. I sold it to PD0FF when I bought the Palstar AT1KM. Now, years later I sold PD0FF's equipment for him. Only this tuner had a burned switch, I could not sell it and bought it back from him. Buying a new switch from MFJ is too expensive.




Original MFJ switch
And I don't like this "new" MFJ switch at all as it isn't a ceramic one as the original one is. At Classic International I found one that has to cost 46,75 euro (inc.shipping and VAT). That's more then half the complete tuner is worth. I did consider a variable inductor, but that is too expensive as well. So the only option was to get one on a radio flea market.






In a pile of components I finally found a very nice 12-pole switch with 2 decks. It isn't ceramic but you can divide any high currents over the 2 switches. So, thats what I did. Soldered in the new switch, which wasn't easy. But it seems to work fine. Tested out with 100W and it didn't blew up ;-). I expect it can hold 300W max. again. I'm lucky to still have the manual by the way. Have been searching on the internet but the manual for this old 948 model is hard to find. The new model manuals hasn't got any electrical diagram in it anymore

PD0FF's PL259antenna connectors seems to be not too tidy and you could call the PL female chassis a bit dirty. Luckely my wife sells some great cleaning stuff. And I can use it for free ;-). It's environmentally friendly and one of these is blue multipaste. Together with a special cloth you can clean everything from chrome, glass, tiles, stainless steel and many more. The nice thing with this is you don't have to use any force to clean it. Just rub it with the paste on the cloth and everything shines as new. Oh, by the way, in case you wonder, of course this is some advertisement for my wifes business ;-)
Shining
Comparisation COAX 1 and 2

Repairs, repairs....our 2 year old Samsung washing machine went crazy. A close inspection reveals that the dampening rubbers from the motor are completely gone. Click on the photo to see details. Only some black dirt was left at the bottom of the machine. The red arrows show were the rubbers should be. I think this shouldn't happen after just 2 years? A quick survey on the internet gave us the info that many Samsung users have this problem and repair is costing almost half a new machine. Being in the repair business I learned to think out of the box sometimes. I made a quick solution from PVC tube wrapped with selfamalgating rubber tape. It fitted just fine and the washing machine is turning the laundry nice and easy agian.