Archive for category Amateur Radio

Heil Traveler

I’m a big fan of Heil products, they make excellent and (up until recently) custom tailored headsets for amateur radio.

Their smaller Traveler series headset is designed for use with HT’s and mobile radios, and just like their larger cousins you can purchase one generic headset and separate coiled cord adapters for each ht you intend to use it with.

This is a great system. My traveler has been in use for many years, way longer than my average HT. The problem is with many modern HT’s no longer use the standardized connectors that their predecessors used for so many generations. Some manufacturers use new ones that can be sourced from standard component houses, some opt to supply pigtails for the amateur homebrewer. Most provide short pigtails so you can use your older accessories or interface them for packet radio.

More commentary as well as Heil Traveler Pin Out information after the break…

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Garmin GPSmap 62s NEMA Serial Port

It has one, it’s just well hidden!

The GPSMap 62s can be paired with an appropriate amateur radio for full APRS functionality.

Some brief history before I begin…

Most modern GPS devices have dropped their old fashioned RS-232 serial ports in favor of the much more user friendly USB port. This makes interfacing them to amateur radio projects much harder, bordering on impossible. While standard serial ports could be thought of as a peer to peer system, USB was designed to work as a client server model with the “server” requiring much more intelligence than we generally have available in our projects. To make matters worse, despite it’s name “Universal Serial Bus” the creators didn’t impose any universal “driver” for serial communications the way they did with mice, keyboards, audio devices, etc. These factors all combine to make USB very unfriendly for us hams.

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PDA Evolution: iPod Touch

It’s been a while since I last commented on the iPhone 3GS. So long that I actually no longer have the 3GS.

Due to an unfortunate circumstance involving my cat, my old faithful iPod video, and insufficient cleanup work I found myself needing a new iPod. I thought about the direct replacement, the iPod classic, but then the shiny new iPod touch 4G caught my attention. Since 64GB is enough to hold my entire library (with about 30GB left for the future) it seemed just about perfect. I recycled the 3GS via CraigsList, added a bit too much extra, and presto it morphed into a great new iPod Touch 4.

Read on for more ramblings about the iPod Touch 4…

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Field Day 2010

2010 ARRL Field Day Logo

Field Day 2010 is now over and our little 3 man /2 dog station not only made an impressive showing, but we also had a lot of fun.

The homebrew solar panel was completed late Friday night, we had planned for 2 identical panels but time only allowed for 1 to be completed. The panel provided enough current to operate our complete station as well as charge our 200AH battery bank during the day so we could operate well into the night. We measured our consumption as well as the output from the panel, we were 100% solar powered for most of the daylight hours. The homebrew panel was measured putting out over 100W (intermittently) after cabling losses from the panel into the operating area. Our entire operation (2 radios, 2 logging PCs) was based on the solar system, and although I did bring the generator as a backup plan we never even had to consider using it.

The Elecraft K3 performed wonderfully on crowded bands racking up just shy of 100 SSB contacts on various bands. The TS-2000 was used for Digital (PSK31) and also did quite well with just at 100 contacts attributed to it.

When the SSB operator got tired, we would fire up the digital station and work for a while, and then back forth throughout the contest. We remained 1A at all times. It’s strange running Field Day with no SSB stations in the background. When we worked PSK31 an eerie silence descended on the station. No audio output from the radio was required and no one was calling CQ into the mic. It was almost as if we weren’t operating at all.

Severe storms were building north all day and finally ran through our area at about 2am Sunday morning. The poor band conditions (we’re attributing them to the storm) saw to it that that we went to bed at about 1:30am. We woke up praying our antennas were still erect, and they were. We resumed operation at about 6:30am Sunday.

Our antennas were a multi-band windom orientated N-S and a G5RV orientated E-W. We used guyed military surplus 5′ fiberglass poles to get them up about 40 and 30′ respectively. Next time we’re thinking of adding a vertical of some form into the mix. Sometimes they can pick out signals better in bad band conditions. We’re even considering moving to 2A and to add a full time digital station.

The dogs provided the critical service of cleanup of accidentally dropped consumable.

It looks like all said and done with our bonuses and multipliers we will have scored just about 1000 points during our 24 hour run. Not too bad at all.

Continue on for some pictures of our station…

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Field Day Preperations

2010 ARRL Field Day Logo

So Field Day is almost upon us so preparations have begun in earnest. We have at least 3 “affiliated” Field Day operations going on in the Des Moines area this year (DRMAA/ARCS, Polk County ARES, W0IW) in addition to several others north of us in Ames area.

Field Day is supposed to be an exercise in emergency communications preparedness but for most it’s a great excuse to get together with local hams and have a 28 hour long party. Amateur Radio is one of the last bastion’s of true geekdom remaining, so you can be assured it’s a geek party.

Preparations is kind of a misnomer for this event. The “hard core” operators all know what equipment they have and what they need to bring to make things work. The extent of preparation for that part of the event is typically a simple “Joe, you have power covered?” “Yes.” “Bob, Steve You guys bringing the towers?” “Yep.” “Ok lets move onto more important business. How many meals do we need how much charcoal, how much and what kind of meat?” There can be surprising debate over this last issue, especially living in Iowa.

A few years ago back in ’07 some friends and I did our own mini Field Day. It was just 4 of us but we had a great time and we decided to do it again this year. We’re using it as an excuse to get our gear out and sharpen some skills. Our goal this year is to run 1A, and run it entirely solar powered. It’s getting down to the wire but our 300W homebuilt solar panel should be finished in time and it will feed 200Ah of battery capacity. It’s our plan to run completely from the battery bank, including radios, logging PCs and lighting.

We have a varied selection of radios to use as desired although we’re planning on the main rig being the shiny new Elecraft K3. Backup will be my Kenwood TS-2000 and I’m sure at least 1 or 2 other rigs will make an appearance. We’ll be attaching to some wire antennas that we’ve amassed over the years. I believe the plan is to erect a multi-band windom in 1 direction and a G5RV perpendicular to it.

I have 2 Acer Aspire One d250 netbooks that have direct DC-DC power adapters. They draw just under 2A @13.8V each under worst case circumstances, and generally hover around 1A during use. These are great computers for ham radio. They’re small, self contained, low power consumption and they run Windows XP. If they had a built in RS-232 serial port they’d be perfect but USB->Serial converters have gotten much more reliable in the last few years so it’s only a minor inconvenience. One will be for logging, and the other will be used for PSK-31 and satellite tracking if I get ambitious and try to make some satellite QSOs.

Oh, and we’re having steaks, burgers and brawts. Lost of them. Our grill is propane.