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Friday
Mar102017

Antenna System Upgrades

Since my last post which was way too long ago I've had to make a few changes.

In getting things ready for the installation of my tower I've installed a new length of coaxial cable. In doing this I found a little issue. I've been having issues with range on 2m (VHF). I used to be able to talk about 30 to 40km away but this dropped back to about 15kms away. I first thought it was my radio but I then connected my handheld radio with a little 35 watt linear amp and the problem was still there, in fact a little worse. So this cleared my radio. So I asked a broadcast tech I know if he could help and he got me to do a couple of tests. I don't have much test equipment and I can only really check the VSWR and power from the radio. He got me to measure the power at my antenna connection box (this is where I or anyone else (with a key) can quickly disconnect my antennas if there is thunderstorm coming), the power at the this point was 50 watts just what the radio was giving out. The next test was to measure the power at my antenna switch (this is a relay box I built to enable me to switch antenna from inside the house without having to go outside and do it) and I measured 32 watts. WHAT? almost 20 watts lost within the coax? I was told the losses in 22 metres of RG213 can be a lot at the frequency I'm using. Wow what do I do? I put this issue onto Facebook and a fellow amateur said they could help me. They were doing work on a few communication towers and they could get me a length of LDF450 coaxial cable (hard line). So off to Barham I had to go, as this is where they were working at the time. I ended up getting two big rolls of LDF450 plus a few N type connectors for that type of coax.

So last week I installed a length of this new coax between my antenna connected box and the antenna switch and once completed I redone the test and now I have 49 watts at that point. The 20 watt loss was gone and the next lot of work is now to replace the length of RG213 between the antenna switch and the antenna itself. Hopefully this will give me a lot more power at the antenna. I'm expecting some losses but it's going to be nothing like it was or would be with when I was using the RG213 coax. I have ordered a few connectors so I can compelte this part of the job. The parts are coming via Express Post so I'm hoping they will be here on Monday or Tuesday. I then need to work out how I'm going to do the work as I have to pull down an antenna to replace the coax.

I'm also hoping to start, sometime this month, the upgrades to my mast. I have to replace an antenna that was damaged a while back and I'm also thinking of replacing a length of RG213 that is being used for my UHF CB antenna and replacing it with a length of LDF450. This will liek with the VHF antenna system remove the losses I have in that coax and give me the full 5 watts to the antenna instead of about 2 to 3 watts now. I'm also going to extend that mast up a little higher so I can fit a coupe of antennas on it. To do this job I will need to have a friend bring a forklift around so I can access the top of the mast and do the works safely. I will have to work in with my mate for this as I'm guessing this job will take a few hours to complete to the point I can do the rest via a ladder safely.

I have a bit of works in the planning and hopefully some day down the track I will be able to get my tower up and get a couple of 2m yagi's up. I currently have one of my 2m yagi's up which is mounted vertically so I so can access some of the local, well Swan Hill or Robinvale repeaters when the conidiotns are good.

 

Monday
Dec122016

Thunderstorms Are Not Good

A couple of weeks ago, Balranald was hit by a big thundersotrm. There was heaps of lightning, in fact the most I've seen since leaving Esperance, WA. Like with all thunderstorms I do disconnect my antennas so to hopefully protect my radios. When it comes to my HF antenna, my G5RV, I disconnect it in two places. One at the antenna connection box and another at the antenna. 

This thunderstorm hit after a very warm day with dust and very low humidity. After the storms had passed I decided to reconnect the antennas. It was when I went to do the HF antenna at it's base was when I copped an all mighty kick. Because of the low humidity the antenna stored the charge from the air and when I grabbed hold of the connector I earthed out the antenna and the charge picked me. It was like I had grabbed hold of a 240VAC line, yes it felt that bad. I have since made a change and hopefully this won't happen again.

Anyhow out of this storm I lost one of my antennas. The antenna I use for my 27MHz CB radio. It seems I was a little unlucky and was hit my an indirect lightning strikes. I've been very lucky that I've had a fellow amateur operator has been able to help me out and is sending me a new antenna. He had one sitting around and has never used it so it's like it's a brand new one. This is how wonderful the nobby can be, other standing up and helping others. Hopefully the antenna will turn up this week. I just then need to get a friend here to help me change the antennas over. I need a forklift to me able to get up to the top of the mast. I can't lay this mast down.

I'm also hoping to get myself a 2 element 6m antenna. A Christmas present to myself. It's the only band I currently can't use as I don't have a 6m antenna. I was going to go for a standard vercial but this little 2 element antenna is cheaper.

My 2m repeater project has gone very quiet again. At one stage it was looking like it was going to be up and on the air this side of Christmas but again this isn't going to happen. I'm a little disappointed and at the stage of just forgetting about it. The way things are going I'll have my stand alone IRLP node on the air. My IRLP node is a project I'm personally working on without anyone else help, this is why it wil be on the air first. I have a funny feeling my stand alone node will be used a bit with friends I have in Melbourne. I was goign to cancel the repeaters licence but I thought it took ages to get it and I may as well keep it for when I can put the repeater on the air myself. Plus I don't know if I still have access to the site. This is another issue I need to look into but it can wait until next year. To be truthful I really don't care about it anymore. I've gotten to the point of not seeing it on the air in my life time. 

 

Anyhow that's all I've got for now. It's been a little quiet around here.

 

Friday
Sep022016

Projects on the Move

On Friday I went down to Swan Hill to do some window shopping. This so called window shopping was to get pricing on some of the parts needed to build my second 2m (VHF) yagi antenna. I have one already which was made by a local amateur, Rex, VK3OF in Swan Hill. All I have to do is copy this antenna for my second antenna. As I've said in other posts I'm wanting one antenna for repeater use and another one for SSB use. I also have a friend that wants me to make him one of these antennas and I thought while building mine I can just as easily make another one. While this I don't think is going to happen because of the costs involved. It's going to cost me about $150 to make mine and I don't think I'll be able to build him one with those costs. There is no way I can cop that cost, not when my tower project is going to cost me about $800 once finished. Of course I won't have to pay this amount out in one go but by the time it's completed the costs are going to be much higher than I first planned. A lot of this cost is because of the fact I'm changing the mounting of the tower so it can be laid down which will make it much easier to work on the antennas or for adding new antennas.

I'm also got plans to install a IRLP node with a simple simplex radio. This node will allow me to use a normal handheld radio to talk to the world. A friend was always on my back about setting an IRLP node but the costs were too high, around the $1,000 mark, well these days they have gotten a node to work with a Rassberry Pi which has dropped the price down a lot. I can now purchase an IRLP node for about $400. This makes it now very do-able. So I'm hoping early in the new year to have this node on the air and working. I still have my 2m repeater project going but due to the lack of supply of VHF cavities this project has hit a brick wall so to speak, so getting an IRLP node on the air will be much easier and quicker. In fact I have a funny feeling that the IRLP node will be used more than the repeater will be.

So at the moment I'm hard at work working on getting my tower up and the antennas installed on it. This will then give me greater range for my station. I'm hoping by years end the tower project will be completed and then I can start on my next project, the IRLP node. So I have a few very busy months ahead of me.

Thursday
Sep012016

Tower & IRLP Node Projects

Over the last couple of weeks I've started moving forward with my tower project. After talking to a few amateur and non-amateur friends about putting up my tower I've now decided to re-design the mounting of it and turn the tower into a lay down tower. This will make it much easier to work on once it's up. If I was to put it up the way it was designed to be mounted it would be very hard to install or repair any of the antennas on it. Making it a lay down tower means I can easily lay it down to do repairs or install new antenna. I just now need to get pricing of the metal and other parts to install the tower. I still need to get more wire for the guy wires and more RG-213 coaxial cable. I'm guessing it will cost me around the $400 mark. The towers mounting is going to be the most costly part, currently around the $120 make. I have a friend that can do the welding and help design with how to rotate the tower. A bit of work but like I said I have a couple of friends that is able to help me with this side of things. I'm hoping to have the tower up by years end.
Once this project is completed I can then start work on my project, an IRLP node. This will be a stand alone node. It will not be linked to any of my repeaters, it will be a simple simplex radio what I can use to link to other repeaters or nodes around Australia or the world. To be truthful I think this IRLP node will be used more than the repeaters will be. Seeing my 2m repeater project sort of at a stand still at the moment due to the lack of available equipment (cavities), so I've decided to build my own IRLP node. I have the radio here I can use so it's only the cost of the IRLP kit which will cost me about $400 depending on what the Australian dollar is like at the time. I will be putting a couple of dollars aside each week for it. I don't see this IRLP node being on the air until next year. It's going to be my 50th Birthday present to myself lol.

 

I've put in a licence request for a 70cm (UHF) repeater for here. I'm working on installing a 70cm repeater as well as my 2m repeater. I've now added to this request a request for a licence for my IRLP node. This will only need a single frequency unlike a repeater which needs two frequencies. 

So I have a couple of big projects in the planning. My tower project has been on the planning table for a while now and now that I have decided how to mount it I can move forward with it. 

My IRLP project is a new project and will be the one I can see being heavily used once on the air. My goign to roder the IRLP node kit from the US, so I have to hope the Australian dollar is higher than it is at the moment. 

I still have my 2m (VHF) repeater project going but it's been put on hold as I've had issues with getting hold of cavities (filters) for it. I've been told that I might have some cavities available but I jsut have to wait and see. I would like it to be on the air and linked by years end or even on the air before my 50th birthday in November but I won't hold my breath. I think I will have my IRLP node built and on the air long before that repeater is on the air. Liek I've said I've put in a request for a 70cm repeater licence and I jsut have to wait and see. I would like to have both repeaters on the air soon. This will give local and travelling amateur radio operators two repeaters to use plus the IRLP node.

My plan is to have the IRLP node's radio coverage just for the town. I'm not really worried about a large coverage area for it. it's plan is to have coverage in the town only as the radio and antenna will be located at my place. It won't be mounted up with the repeaters which will be located on the town's water towers. It's really all about being able to use a simple handheld radio around town to talk to the world :) 

All these projects cost money but in a way it's not a highly costly projects. The tower project to complete wil cost about $400 to $500 to complete and the IRLP node will be around the $400 mark. This will be a kit that I just need to put into a case and wire up the radio and a little bit of programming. Seeing it's going to use a Raspberry Pi the cost of these things have came down a lot these days.

 

Tuesday
Aug022016

A WIA Learning Facilitator

The other week I filled out paperwork with the help from my local radio club to become a WIA Learning Facilitator. On the weekend I sat down and did some reading and the online assessment. On Monday 1st August 2016 I received an email from the WIA telling me I've passed the assessment and will be issued with my Learning Facilitator's ID. On Tuesday 2nd of August 2016 I recieved the email with my Learning Facilitator's number.

As of today, Tuesday 2nd August 2016 I can now help with the assessments of people wanting to get an amateur radio licence or simply people just wanting to upgrade their current licence. I can't run an assessment as I must have an assessor with me but I can help with setting up and filling out paperwork and marking the assessment.

I've always been happy to help others and me becoming a Learning Facilitator I can help those in my area that want to get into this wonderful hobby. Amateur radio is a wonderful hobby and unlike CB radio it's regulated and without the usual idiots. Of course there can be idiots on the amateur bands but they don't last long.

I'm happy to help anyone in the Mildura, Ouyen, Robinvale/Euston, Swan Hill, Kerang and of course Balranald. I already have a couple of people waiting to do their upgrades and hopefully they'll be able to do their upgrades much sooner now. In the past if someone, say, living in Swan Hill had to wait until someone from Mildura could come over to Swan Hill to conduct the assessment. There is an assessor in Swan Hill but you need two people to run an amateur licence assessment. They can be either two assessor's or one assessor and one Learning Facilitator but it can't be done with two Learning Facilitators. Mildura has one assessor and a couple of Learning Facilitators. Now with me being a Learning Facilitator people don't have to wait until someone is free from Mildura. I can help the assessor in Swan Hill. This of course will save time and hopefully allow assessments to be done much quicker.

I'm hoping to complete my assessors training so once I do my upgrade to advance I will become a WIA assessor and be able to hold assessments. Currently to be an assessor you must hold a top level amateur licence, Advance. To be a Learning Facilitator you can hold a Standard level licnece which is what I currently hold. A Learning Facilitator can hold an advance licence if they only what to be a Learning Facilitator.

So if you live in my area and would like to sit for your amateur radio licence regardless of the level, Foundation, Standard or Advance I can get things started for you. I look forward to helping anyone that wants to join this wonderful hobby.

WIA Learning Facilitator No. LF-090