Amazon = Radio Shack + Frys + Halted + everyone else

This is probably old news for some of you, but if you miss having Radio Shack around, Amazon is the new Radio Shack, including all the other electronics parts stores rolled into one.

If you are a regular Amazon buyer, you’ve probably noticed that the Chinese “quick and dirty” module and parts suppliers that started out on eBay have all opened stores on Amazon now as well.  Being on Amazon generally means that they have to live up to a higher standard, if that kind of thing kept you from clicking the “Buy it Now!” button on eBay, but I’ve never gotten ripped off by any of them on eBay either.

Anyway, these guys offer just about anything imaginable for the Ham, DIY’er, or even an RF engineer like me.  I’m truly amazed at all the parts and pre-made modules you can buy from them.  If you have an Amazon Prime membership, which I highly recommend, you can buy just about anything and find it on your doorstep a day or two later, often without tax or shipping charges.

The prices are almost always way better than Radio Shack’s ever were.  Here’s just one example:  I needed to buy a 2.1 x 5.5 mm coaxial power plug–the type that you often see on the end of the “wall wart” power supplies.  Looking on Amazon, I had tons of choices, including whether or not I wanted some with wires already soldered on them and ready to go.  I finally chose these:

Coaxial power plugs with pigtails

So, for less than $.60 apiece, I got 10 plugs with wires already attached.  No tax charged, and free two-day shipping.  Can’t beat that!  Stock up for your next project!

 

DIY Bluetooth Powered Speakers

Bluetooth BoomBox

 

There are dozens of videos on YouTube showing how to build your own Bluetooth speakers or boom boxes.  A number of them have ready-made Bluetooth radios and audio amps in common.  These Bluetooth and audio amp modules are interesting because they are quite cheap (most under $20–see this one on Amazon as an example), fully built and tested, and easy to interface to.  You could probably build one of these without even knowing how to solder!  It’s a simple matter to fit one of these small BT/amp boards into a box with speakers you’d mount yourself, or even retrofitted into an old plastic-fantastic boom box you have laying around, or maybe purchase for next-to-nothing at a Goodwill store.  All you really need is the housing and the pair of speakers.  Everything else can go!

For those of you that are old enough, remember the little transmitters you could buy or build that output a fairly unstable signal somewhere on the 88 to 108 MHz FM broadcast band?  They were often called FM or wireless mikes.  Plug one in, and tune in to it on of your FM radios you happened to have around the house.  They worked sort-of OK, but were never very good, and the 9V battery usually went dead in a few hours’ use.  In the Bay Area, you also had lots of trouble finding a fairly open radio channel to use.  The whole system was, as the British say, kind of fiddly.  It was more of a science experiment than anything else..

With Bluetooth, it’s so much easier, and the sound is just light-years ahead of the old analog FM stuff!  Most of us carry smart phones with Bluetooth built into them already, so it’s almost trivial to play the music or podcasts on your phone through your car stereo system or an inexpensive set of Bluetooth tabletop speakers.  Most of the cheaper BT speakers don’t have such great sound, though.  They tend to be small and tinny-sounding, but that’s not Bluetooth’s fault.

Anyway, here are several links to folks that have built their own Bluetooth speaker systems.  Maybe they’ll inspire you to roll your own:

DIY Bluetooth Speaker

Overnight Sensation Bluetooth Speakers

DIY Bluetooth Speaker: Super Easy

DIY V5.0 Boombox, Bluetooth

DIY How to Make the Best Bluetooth Speaker EVER!

 

Here’s an under-$20 BT dongle that plugs in to any 3.5 mm jack, giving you instant Bluetooth audio for a home stereo system or maybe even a car stereo.  This is sold by Parts Express (good company–lots of speakers and speaker kits as well), but there are many similar and cheaper units on Amazon as well:

Add Bluetooth to amplifiers, receivers, car stereos, computers, iPod docks

 

Baofeng Throws Down With the New UV-50X3

UV-50X3Baofeng announced the new UV-50X3 tri-band mobile this past week. It is a full duplex, dual receive radio, with 500 memories each side. It features 2 meter, .70 meter, and 1.25 meter operations. Full 50 watts on 2M and 440, with 5 watts on 220. Initial reports are positive. Right now, this seems like a legit contender for those looking for a replacement to the FT-8800 that Yaesu has failed to announce a replacement for since discontinuing the radio earlier this year. Another radio that looks interesting is the new Alinco DR-735T/E. Both of these radios fill a gap left by the departure of the FT-8800 and other dual receive mobiles that have been replaced by significantly more expensive counterparts with digital features and many other bells and whistles that many operators do not feel a need for. Initial testing of the UV-50X3 seem to be positive with good audio reports and clean signals after RF analysis. This is not a UV-5R stuffed into a mobile package like the UV-2501 appears to be. Could Baofeng finally be a contender? Waiting for more reviews to arrive to make the call. Stay tuned!

Update: Miklor has a pretty good review (Of course he does!), including RF data. Check it out here: http://www.miklor.com/BT50X3/50X3_SpecAnal.php

Emergency Power

2016-06-30 23.27.51The big one just hit. An accident just took out a utility pole. You forgot to pay your electric bill? All the things in your life that require go-go juice just became inert. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A few minutes on Amazon, and a couple trips to some of our favorite places to shop, and you can have plenty of electricity for lighting, communications, and charging your other devices. Read on to build one for yourself. Continue reading “Emergency Power”

K2BSA On the Air from Philmont Scout Ranch

philmontarrowhead Philmont Scout Ranch has posted their expected operation frequencies for the 2016 summer.  Take a look at the post from the Philmont Amateur radio club. This is a great opportunity to support amateur radio operations at the scout ranch and support and promote amateur radio in scouting.

 

 

 

 

 

PSK31 USB Main Mode of Operation: 1.838 (occasional operation), 3.580 (occasional operation), 7.070 and 7.080. 10.140, 14.070, 18.100, 21.070, 21.080, 24.920, 28.120.

VOICE SSB: 80m 3.940 & 3.690 (3.920-3.940 Extra Segment), 40m 7.180-7.200, 40m 7.270-7.290, 20m 14.270-14.290, 20m 14.320-14.340, 17m 18.120-18.150, 15m 21.360-21.400, 12m 24.960-24.980, 10m 28.350-28.400 (Includes Novice & Techs), 6m 50.160-50.200.

EchoLink Node JOTA-365.

FSQ HF Frequencies Region 2 80m 3594 kHz USB (sunset to sunrise) 40m 7104 kHz USB (sunrise to sunset) 30m 10144 kHz USB (local day, DX night)

IRLP Node 9091

DMR Make contact and move to DMR-MARC UA talk groups or to the DCI TAC-310 talk group

D-STAR Reflector REF033A

2 Meter FM Simplex Calling Frequency 146.52

70 CM FM Simplex Calling Frequency 446.000

Local Area Repeaters & Frequencies: TAOS ARC main call and monitoring frequency 147.120 + 67PL 147.140 + 67PL Taos Ski Mega-Link 444.350 + 100 Iron Mountain Eagle Nest Mega-Link 444.975 + 123PL Taos Ski Valley (Enchanted Circle Link) 147.340 + 100PL Angel Fire (Enchanted Circle Link) 145.390 – 100PL Red River (Enchanted Circle Link) 146.500 & 146.52 Simplex 147.2800 + 100PL Raton Mega-Link 446.7750 – D-STAR KD0RDI 147.200 + 67 Wagon Mound Mega-Link

 

See this link for more details

K2BSA/5 Philmont Operation Frequencies

 

Hamming It Up

K7DAA and KJ6VTP did a Field Day dry run with a new mobile tower recently aquired by KJ6VTP. This was the first time the mast was extended since the tower was acquired several weeks ago. The tower needed some repairs to limit switches, and need some overall TLC. There is some work to do, but the main functions of the tower work well. It is very exciting to have this new tool available to our group here in South County. For this exercise we were gauging how long it would take to arrive on station, deploy the tower, assemble the hexbeam, raise the tower, and get on the air. This was our first go of it, and we were on the air, with the 20 meter hexbeam at about 65′ (of the available 100′) in about an hour. At 4 PM, we were able to make several contacts with excellent signal reports from an FT-857 that we ran with battery power. Next stop Field Day!

2016-06-11 16.55.18-1 2016-06-11 16.40.23-1 2016-06-11 15.20.40-1

Anderson Powerpoles

powerpole05Lopping off the ends of the power connectors on your brand new gear may not sound like a good idea, but it probably is. Anderson Powerpole connectors have become the defacto standard for power connections in amateur radio. They are easy to connect, and come in a variety of amp ratings and colors. It is the power standard for ARES/RACES teams, and a quick, safe, way for hams to come together, and share power at an event or emergency. The connectors themselves are fairly inexpensive. But you will want to make a one-time investment in a proper Powerpole crimp tool. They are about $40-$50. Powerwerx has a great selection of Powerpole connectors and accessories. They also have an excellent tutorial page on how to make proper Powerpole connections. Check it out!

RigExpert – AA-54 vs. AA-600

We’ve discussed the features of the AA-600 as being great, but the over $600 price tag is a turn off.  As I mentioned, I was lucky at one point when HRO had them on sale long ago and I think it was about $550.

 

But, there are lower cost alternatives.  If you only want it for your HF antenna, there is the AA-54 for only $335 at HRO as of today.  Don (AA6W) brought either this or the AA-230 Zoom at our tech night last month and I found it quite similar and seemed to perform well.

 

Here is a review of it at eHam

AA54

AA-1000… I still love my AA-600 (this picture and link are of the AA-1000 which has a higher upper frequency and cost.

New (cheap) Microphone for Yaesu and TYT TH-9800 Radios

MH-48 clone microphoneI found this inexpensive Chinese copy of the venerable Yaesu MH-48 mike on Amazon for $14.99.  At that price, even if the mike doesn’t sound as good as the original, you could open it up and pull out whatever replacement parts you need on your original mike, and throw the rest away!  Turns out that it actually sounds pretty good.  I bought one to try out on my TYT TH-9800 because I’m not too keen on the mike that ships with it.  Oh, it’s not horrible, but if you’re going to make a clone of a Yaesu radio, why not clone the mike as well?

That’s basically what this mike it–a true Chinese knockoff, right down to the “Yaesu Musen” small type and logo!  It pretty much feels like the MH-48 on your FT-1900, FT-2900, FT-8800, FT-8900 and etc.  The only difference I’ve found so far is that the PTT switch doesn’t have the nice tactile feel that the original does.  This one’s kinda squishy, but not horrible.

Anyway…if you’re going to try this out on your TYT radio, you’ll be disappointed to find that the PTT button doesn’t work.  Yaesu mikes run on 8 volts, and the TYT runs on 5v.  So, you have to open up the mike and parallel a 100 ohm resistor across another, then it works fine.

Click on the mike’s picture to go to its Amazon page.  For those with TYT radios that might want to try a “real” Yaesu mike, I’ve uploaded a pdf file containing the instructions for adding the resistor:

Yaesu MH-48 microphone with the TYT TH-9800