Some of you I’m sure know about the Bay Area Electronics Flea Market. It used to be every month, starting in the spring, through the end of summer, in the De Anza College parking lot.
In 2018 the market moved to the Fry’s in Sunnyvale. A wide assortment of all matter of electronic doo-dads, thingamabobs, and widgets of all shape and size are often present. If you ever want to see a walking history of electronics in Silicon Valley, that alone is worth the visit.
My first HF radio was a Yaesu FT-450D. Like many radios with an internal tuner, it was limited to 3:1 SWR matching. Since I was using a G5RV Jr for an antenna at the time, this was not quite enough to properly tune across 40 meters. 80 meters was out of the question. A local ham had some gear from an SK that was needing a new home and one of the items was an LDG YT-450 external tuner, made to be paired with the 450D. It was also made to be used with the FT-950 which is how it was being used. It was the right time at the right price, so I purchased it. It worked great with the 450D. But, about a year later I sold the FT-450D and upgraded to the newer FT-991. The YT-450 did work with the 991! For a while…
A Yaesu firmware upgrade put an end to that, and it stopped working. And that is where I was stuck for a while. I had changed to a fan dipole, and later to an OCF dipole. So 3:1 matching was again within my reach, although on 40 or 80 meters I would get weird SWR sometimes.
I was getting ready to move some things around in my go-box and was staring a the YT-450 thinking of just removing it, selling it, and purchasing a YT-1200 which is compatible with the FT-991. It is nice to have the wider range tuner because we sometimes want to use an end-fed, or random wire, and so a good external tuner can really come in handy. So I hit the Interwebs to find a deal and ‘lo and behold…
I came across a chip upgrade on CheapHams.com that replaces the ROM with a new ROM that makes the YT-450 essentially a YT-1200, which restores compatibility with the FT-991! For $20, they send you chip and a sheet of instructions for installing the chip, and the parameters to set on the FT-991. 4 small screws and 10 minutes later and… Done! I have a working tuner again… for $20!
I came across the Signal Stuff, Super-elastic Signal Stick in a recent on-line article. As you can see in the image, it is tied in a knot. And that is exactly how it was shipped to me in a padded envelope. The envelope was about 5″ square. I was surprised when they arrived and immediately was concerned I would have this warped antenna dropping off the top of my HT. Nope. Once the envelope was opened, and the Nitonol, nickel-titanium alloy antenna was “untied”, it returned to its previous, perfectly straight alignment. That alone was impressive. So why these? Well, let’s go down the list…
The antenna is 18.25″, is available in a variety of connector types, and comes in basic black. The cowling is 3D printed and set with epoxy. It is crazy strong. There is a growing list of reviews available online and on YouTube with nearly unanimous positive results and glowing recommendations.
My review of the Signal Stick has also been very positive with improved signal quality in my anecdotal testing across radios and local repeaters. I have most of the same antennas the reviews call out in their comparisons, and I would say my testing pretty much aligns with everyone else’s. Did I mention they are only $20?
One of the great things about our hobby is access to all manner of great kits that allow us to learn more about the hobby and explore new ways to get on the air. Once again, the interwebs have revealed this set of kits for building your VHF/UHF transceiver. The transceiver has .5 or 1 watt output, which with a proper antenna should be more than adequate for local repeaters. One component missing from the kit, or even having much mention anywhere in the documentation is a microphone. That and the fact there is also one SMD component which must be soldered, probably places this kit out of “beginner” status for most. But for $72 you do get the custom board, components, and nice case. For $5 more they will even engrave your call sign onto the face of the case. Check out the link and let us know if you order a kit…
Want to learn CW? I came across this in my travels through the interwebs. It is called the Morserino. I am guessing it is a mashup between of the words “morse” and “arduino”. It had in initial, successful (over 300% of goal!) Kickstarter campaign.
They come as a kit but all the SMD parts come pre-populated on the board. They come from Austria, and kits can take up to a month to arrive. According to the FAQ, it takes about an hour to assemble. The cost is 80€ or about $90 at the current conversion rate.
You can also get a discount on orders of multiple kits and save on shipping. They have quite a few modes, have built in capacitive touch paddles, will work as a key, decoder, works with your own key, and of course is a trainer, plus all manner of additional features.
I have ordered 1 kit as I have been looking for a CW trainer, and since I have to use a soldering iron, of course I am all in! I will post again once it is received. Check out www.morserino.info for more details!
Good stuff about grounding that Jim Aspinwall N01PC posted to the SBC ARA Facebook site… Ham Radio Now Episode 401 – Elmercast 1: From the Ground Up! YouTube: https://youtu.be/wykEaPa8jUM (about an hour an a half)
Especially if you liked the Ham Fun night on Grounding – great discussion about grounding.
As we talked about earlier this year about operating FT-8 using Ham Radio Deluxe, WSJT-X and JT-Alert. I mentioned keeping all those in sync has been a pain and there have been a bunch of changes with JT-Alert and the FT-8 standards. Well, here is a way to only use two of them…
Haven’t tried this yet, but anxious to do so…. Will post my results here.
From the Ham Radio Deluxe e-mail…..
Video Demo of WSJT-X Connected Directly to Logbook
As mentioned in the 22.214.171.1246 release notice sent recently, we have improved the ability to integrate WSJT-X with Ham Radio Deluxe Logbook.
Prior to this release, the use of JTAlert was required. Many customers enjoyed this method and tens of thousands of (FT8, JT65, JT9, etc) QSOs have been made with this method. We will still continue to support this method and the efforts of the JTAlert developer to continue and improve JTAlert.
With this release, Ham Radio Deluxe users can connect WSJT-X directly to Logbook and QSOs made in WSJT-X are automatically added into Logbook. This feature is called “QSO Forwarding” in Logbook. WSJT-X refers to it as “Reporting”.
We had many requests from our clients to provide this feature and I’m very pleased with how it works.
I have created a 7 minute video that demonstrations how to configure WSJT-X and Ham Radio Deluxe 126.96.36.1996 to do this. The first two minutes of the video demonstrates the setup. In the remaining five minutes, I make a few FT8 QSOs and you can see them going immediately into Logbook.
The Chinese have now successfully copied the DV Mega digital radio board (also called the MMDVM) that had been the key to many of the $200-300 hotspots many hams have been using to get on DMR. I put mine together last year by buying a DV Mega 70cm board and mating it with a Raspberry Pi 3. It’s worked like a champ, but I spent about $200 for the two boards, then added a $100 case and power supply that has allowed it to run on the cylindrical 18650 Lithium cells. All together, I spent about $330.
Now you can buy a tiny hotspot that does everything mine does (except the batteries), and now including a neat little color display, for $105 on Amazon or eBay. I decided to buy the one on Amazon and check it out. Here is a link to the one I now have:
It comes with a 3 foot USB to USB mini cable that is used to power it up. The only thing you have to do to get it started is to copy a small file that has your Wi-Fi network name and password to the micro SD memory card that comes with the hotspot. This allows you to reboot it and then edit the details in a web page that hooks it up to the right BrandMeister server and has you name, DMR ID, and a few other things. You should order a micro SD-to-USB adapter if your laptop doesn’t already have an SD slot. That’s only another $8 or so.
The software that runs on this hotspot is called Pi-Star, and is a collaborative effort between a guy in Shenzhen, China, and a U.S. ham, so you likely won’t encounter much of that inscrutable Chinglish verbiage that often plagues Chinese radio buyers.
I’m very impressed with both the Pi-Star software/firmware, and the tiny size of this neat little unit. Running on the standard USB 5 volts, you can grab it and plug it into your computer, your phone charger, or maybe even a USB port in your late-model car. It takes about 2 minutes to boot up (watch the display for a clue), then you’re good to go…maybe. Did I forget to mention that you must carry around a Wi-Fi to cellular phone modem? You can enter the names of several Wi-Fi networks, and the Pi-Star software will switch to whatever it finds. Many people don’t realize that they have free or low-cost ($25/mo) Wi-Fi cellular modems in their smartphones. This little guy will work with any of them, as long as it’s using the 2.4 GHz band. Sorry no 5 Gig.
Anyway, you can’t beat the price, and I can tell you that mine works as well as my $300+ unit.
SBCARA will be sponsoring a Ham Cram event on September 22 @ 8AM at the Morgan Hill Police Department training room (right side dbl doors when facing the front of the building).
Study sessions begins at 8AM and runs through 1 PM. Exams are from 1 PM – 4 PM.
Fee: Class and Test: $25. Test only: $14.
Registration required: email@example.com
Bring a photo ID, SSN, or FRN, and cash for fees. If you are testing for an upgrade, please bring a copy of your current license grant. I would recommend registering for your FCC FRN and bringing that. Just follow the instructions on the link provided.
This session is sponsored by Morgan Hill EOS, San Benito County Amateur Radio Association, and W5YI-VEC.
So, what is a ham cram? – A ham cram is where you go and study the test material for either the Technician or General Amateur Radio exam and then immediately take the exam following the study period. It is a fairly effective way for you to get your tech or general license in one day. Youth down to about 12 years old have also been very successful using this method.
But I don’t learn anything this way. I just learn to take the test! – That is true to an extent. I have always said the test is not really the test. Getting on the air is the test. Many people find the equipment intimidating or overwhelming. Some people take their test, pass, and yet never get on the air! We have great local clubs and groups that can help you with radio selection, programming, and getting you on the air. Just ask!