Lots of stuff in this post. Really should be three posts but everything is pretty much intertwined. I guess this is what happens when you wait too long between posts…too much stuff! Consider yourself forewarned.
I’ve been contemplating an antenna project for quite some time. I recently attached a fiberglass cross bar on my tower with pulleys and rope in hopes of raising something interesting. I’ve actually had it since I put the tower up but just never got around to attaching it. The idea was that I could easily raise and lower a project antenna because of the pulleys. I still have a lot of interesting ideas but with winter upon us it was time to act. I decided to buy a Carolina Windom 80 from Radio Works. I guess it’s really just a hybrid off-center fed dipole that’s supposed to work all bands with a tuner. It has some kinda special matching balun and line isolator to allow part of the feedline to radiate while also keeping RF out of the shack. It was supposed to go in the top of the oak tree at about 65′ but there were too many uncooperative branches. For now it’s pretty happy at about 38′ from the tower cross bar. Thanks a lot to Tabb and Nick. Time will tell how this works.
I’ve had the FT-897D complete radio station in a go box since the trip to Dayton this year. There’s a post about it somewhere down in the previous blogs. Until now it’s been sitting in my shack playing second fiddle to the Flex 5k. Now it resides in my family room with the server and old desktop computer to keep it company. It’s actually a nice fit in this location. I’ve had a radio in here before but due to little children it had to get relocated for its own protection. The boys are older now and somewhat interested in the thing. For now it’s something of a fascination for them. This may be just the right time to introduce them to the magic of ham radio. Since I have a new antenna and plenty of feedline why not hook it up to the go box radio in the house?
This is where the linux stuff comes into play. Now that I have the nice, new antenna connected to a suitable radio station I need a way to log and also run digimodes. I could just use my old paper log but this is the 21st century, right? I carry a radio all day at work so it’s nice to work digimodes and not have to talk…or even listen since all there is to hear is tones. They’re pretty efficient and seem to overcome the local noise I get due to having power lines around three sides of my house. Several years ago I converted my old Gateway desktop to a linux box. It’s currently running the latest version of Ubuntu. I was going to need some linux-friendly software for logging and digimodes. I was able to install a logging program called CQRLog (CQRL) that reads the band, mode, frequency, etc from the radio and also completes logging fields using QRZ.com lookups once the callsign has been entered. It’s nowhere on the scale of Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) but about as good as it gets for linux. For digimodes I installed Fldigi. Something neat I found is that it works with CQRL similar to how Digital Master 780 works with HRD. All I have to do to go from operating SSB or CW to digimodes is select Remote Mode in CQRL and it automatically opens up Fldigi. CQRL goes into an offline mode and accepts all logging fields and radio parameters directly from Fldigi. I’m pretty impressed! As usual with linux the install was a little quirky. I could get the programs from Ubuntu’s software repo’s but they weren’t the most current. I ended up having to do some manual installs. Also had to open a terminal window and work with the command line. Still not bad for free stuff that actually works. I usually end up learning something in the process, too.
So this takes up us back to the beginning…how’s it work? The 10M band was open all weekend. Since this antenna isn’t really resonant there I figured it would be a good test. Well, the LDG AT-897 Plus tuned it right up. Was able to work Brazil and also a strong station in California that was part of a 10-10 special event station. Switched to 20M and worked a strong station in Michigan on psk-31. He helped me get the transmit level set on the SignaLink USB so it wasn’t overdriving the waterfall display. Well, there’s three QSO’s on two bands. It’s a good start. Jared seems to be interested in what I’m doing. He even made his own lego radio to set next to mine. All is well in the world for now….