I got an enjoyable surprise in my email last weekend. Gerald PA3GEG from the Netherlands sent me an mp3 file of our recent DX contact. Conditions have been pretty favorable for 10 and 12m lately and I’ve been trying to take advantage. I actually worked Gerald about a week before on 12m USB. It was neat to hear my own audio from so far away. I’ve since added a couple TX profiles for my Flex-5000 (one for DX and another for rag chew) so hopefully I’ll sound even better now. He sent me a couple links so I went ahead and signed his guest book and checked out his page on QRZ.com. There’s some good stuff there worth taking a look. You can see his page here. It was an enjoyable contact for both of us. Thanks Gerald!
Everyone knows I’ve been a big fan of software defined radio (SDR). My first taste was with the G4020 kit from Genesis Radio of Australia. It was a neat kit, though a little quirky, but it opened my eyes to the possibilities. That experience let me to purchase my current main station radio, the Flex-5000A.
I follow their mail reflector for all manner of news and info pertaining to Flex Radio’s products. I was surprised to hear mention of a company called Apache Labs out of India. They offer some impressive SDR products that I think will be of interest to my blog followers. I’m a loyal fan of Flex Radio and their PowerSDR software, but I think that competition in the marketplace is good and raises the bar. Usually the consumer wins.
I’ve been reviewing the material on their website to learn more about the radios. From what I can tell they’re using the open source technology from TAPR and the HPSDR project to produce a viable commercial product. Their implementation of SDR is considered fourth generation. They’re using a digital down conversion/direct up conversion scheme. The Flex-6000 series also uses this architecture. It brings the RF into the digital domain practically right after the antenna. This eliminates the losses and noise artifacts and distortions caused by chains of mixers, op amps and other active components in traditional radio designs.
As far as hardware goes I think Flex has the edge. There’s no antenna tuner option and it doesn’t appear to be quite as refined. Both have 100W PA’s but but the Flex is more robust. Perhaps it’s made with some more high end components. The pricing is very competitive, though. I also has the ability to run using different software and other operating systems. This should make it attractive to the hams that aren’t fans of Bill Gates’ products. A feature that I really like is that it interfaces to the computer through a standard ethernet connection, either directly or through a LAN.
I think this is really exciting technology. I’ll be following these products as they become available here in the United States. I understand that they’re going to be a the Havmention this year. Hopefully they’ll have some display units up and running.
My boys are both in the Cub Scouts which is a part of the Boy Scouts of America. As an Eagle Scout, myself, I’ve tried to encourage them and stay active with them in the program. Amber and I have been adult leaders now for a couple years serving in various functions as Den Leaders and assistants. In spite or working odd shifts I’ve still been able to participate in some of the activities.
Jamboree on the Air is probably the most popular Scouting activity that relates to ham radio. Every fall this event introduces many boys to the magic of wireless communication. In the past I’ve assisted other local hams in this endeavor, as well as teaching the Ham Radio merit badge.
One of the patches that Boy Scouts can earn is call an Interpreter Strip. To earn this patch the boys must demonstrate knowledge and the ability to communicate in another language. Upon completing of the requirements they get a patch with the name of the language spelled out in that language. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this year there will be new Morse Code Interpreter Strip. This is a patch that is available to adults and boys. I think I’ll have to see about the requirements so I can get one of these for my uniform!
I finally decided to sit down and record some events of the Dayton Hamvention weekend. After arriving home I had to take a day to relax after a bit of ham radio overload. All gear has now been returned to it’s proper home out in the shack. Amber’s glad to see that the living room floor is returned to a condition where navigation doesn’t require stepping on, over, or around some random piece of ham gear. I’m fortunate to have a few more days off to relax and recover before heading back to the daily grind.
This was my second year, and I’d like to think I was better prepared for the experience. I enjoyed the trip a lot but I still didn’t get to see it all. I did wind up making some money in the flea market, hooking up with friends, and picking up some irresistible finds. So what does a guy do with a wad of cash at a huge flea market—spend it, of course!
I found an Astron RS-70M (220V) for sale. It seemed like a good buy at $150 but still my instincts forced me to negotiate. After a mutual agreement I walked away with two of them for that price and got to borrow his two-wheel cart to haul them off.
How could I possibly turn away two for the price of one? With no 220V plug-in available to try it out I could’ve gotten gouged. Fortunately, these Astrons are pretty simple to troubleshoot and repair. And they’re a lot cheaper than the $389 a piece price tag for a new one. If I can get them both working I’ll have more trading fodder for next year!
After selling my Yaesu FT-736R I needed to find a radio capable to 2m/440 to go back in the shack. I was originally wanting a Kenwood TS-2000 because of their HF/VHF/UHF capability in a size small enough that it could be taken mobile. But there were none to be had in the flea market. I wasn’t wanting to spend the $1600 for a new one so I was off to find a deal on something. What I found was a fully assembled and ready-to-go Yaesu FT-897D go box, AKA Field Day Special.
I’d seen this one early the first day and had my eye on it. The fellow had built it to take with him on vacation from his home in Kentucky to their vacation place in Florida. After construction it was still too big to fit in the car so his wife nixed it. He claims to have $1800 it it as it sits. That’s probably pretty close just by my estimation. I scored this setup for $1350. The Yaesu FT-897D supposedly has extra filters in it, too. All the components are properly rack mounted in there with a bunch of goodies. It even came with all boxes, literature, cables… accounted for. I’m looking forward to playing with this baby!
As I write this (early Tuesday morning) things are coming together for the road trip to Hamvention. Three days until departure at roughly 1400 EDST. This will be my second trip, and I think I’m a little better prepared than last year. There are two boxes of stuff to sell in the flea market taking up precious real estate in my living room. Hopefully I can make enough money selling my junk that I can afford to buy someone else’s junk. I just love swapping junk! The rare occasion when two people can walk away from an even trade, each happy with a new acquisition, is a real treat.
Evidently the new, high-end Kenwood isn’t the only new item for Dayton. Of course there’s always new stuff but this one could be pretty exciting. I just checked the FlexRadio website and they’re up to something. “Game Changer Ahead”…to be revealed May 18. I took a peek at the Flex mail reflector and found no less than 72 entries regarding Flex’s “Game Changer”. Whatever will it be–software, hardware, peripheral? There were a lot of good ideas and suggestions as well as wild-ass guesses. For now Flex is silent but they’re really building up the hype. As a proud Flex 5KA owner I’m pretty stoked to find out. What’s the next toy they’ll come up with that I can’t live without?
Has anyone else noticed what’s on the back cover of the June QST? My copy just came yesterday and I didn’t even notice it until I got home and layed the magazine upside down by the door. Something unusual caught my eye–finally, the new TS-990S. I know this radio has been hyped for over a year now, but this is the first I’ve actually seen of it. The ad has a nice picture but is short on detail. I scoured the Kenwood USA website for at least five minutes and found no mention at all of this new model. So, I suppose the grand coming out party will be at Dayton, as has been predicted. I’m still surprised there’s not at least a pic or list of technical specs in their What’s New section, though.
It looks pretty attractive to me. The main screen looks similar to an IC-7600, but off-centered to the left. The second, smaller screen is centered over the main VFO knob and looks similar to the FTdx-5000. The button arrangement looks similar to the TS-590S, but there are more of them. Also, I like the large size of the knobs and the layout seems to be in a logical fashion. Even though I’ve never used it I believe I could probably get it on the air pretty quickly without a lot of staring at the instructions. More button/knobs should equal fewer menus, which is a good thing, I think.
As I said before, the list of features is pretty limited. And, of course, they’re all attractive to most of us. The 200W PA is nice for a radio it the high-end target group. Looks like it has a dedicated FSK mode for those who don’t care for AFSK through a soundcard and also PSK. This should allow a minimum of digital mode operation without a computer connected. I really doubt that any serious contester/dx’er that can afford this radio will be without a shack computer, though. The built-in power supply is also nice as a radio this large will probably not be taken portable very often. Might as well make it a complete unit that just plugs in the wall. The last item that really impresses me is the computer connectivity. I think Kenwood was one of the first to put a serial port on their radio making interfacing through a COM port much easier. This radio offers the standard COM port as well as USB A/B, and also a LAN port. It looks like this radio could be located anywhere and operated from anywhere in the world. Kudos for these modern touches–this is the 21st century! Ham radio is now in it’s second century of licensed operation and we need to stay abreast of (or at least current with) modern technology.
Well, next weekend is the Dayton Hamvention. I can’t wait! After seeing this ad I’ll definitely be checking out Kenwood’s booth. I hope they have it setup and running so people can evaluate the audio, filters, general operation…. No word, though, if it’s been evaluated and approved by FCC.
When I got up this morning, Amber told me about a little report Fox News ran on another large solar flare. Evidently NASA spacecraft spotted it yesterday afternoon (April 16). Since I didn’t have all day to sit in front of the TV and wait for it, I just looked it up on the website. Here’s a link to the article. It describes it as a mid-level, M-class solar flare. I guess it also launched out a good bit of coronal mass ejection. This may make for some quirky radio propagation. Seems like it takes 24 hours to see the effects here on Earth. Maybe also some cool auroral activity will occur. There’s a short video showing the flare shoot out from the sun. Neat stuff! Supposedly the solar cycle peak comes in another year. Hopefully we continue to see improved propagation in the higher frequency bands.
In an unrelated note, I did enjoy watching Space Shuttle Discovery arrive in Washington this morning. The 747, with Discovery riding piggy-back, made several laps around various parts of the city for all to see and then touched down making a perfect landing. It will be on permanent display along with such other planes as the Concord, Enola Gay, and SR-71 Blackbird.