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Sunday
Aug232015

Station Works

Over the last week I've been working on some changes to my amateur radio station. Last week I was informed the antenna I was having made was ready to be picked, so while picking it up I also arranged to pick it up a couple of equipment cabinets I was being given. I still have a bit of work to go on installing the new cabinet into my station until it's finally completed. 

The cabinet will house all the computer networking equipment plus my radio streaming server. It will also house radios for RX only plus the linking equipment for my 2m repeater once it's up and running. It will also house a VHF repeater I'm working on but that's a little way off at the moment.

 

The new equipment cabinet

 

I also reinstalled my old sound mixer so I can better control the audio for my radio stream. I still have the smaller mixer for controlling my radios audio. I changed that mixers inputs and changed the way the radio gets feed audio from it. Both mixers can receive audio from each other. I did some on air testing of the radios mixer today and got good reviews so I'm happy. I can feed audio between the mixers, so I can have the radios audio go out via the stream and I can have the stream go out via the radios. Of course there would be no real need for this but I did it because I can :) I've had this mixer for many many years and it's still going strong.

 

My old audio mixer that I have reinstalled into my station

 

This mixer allows me to listen to cued music before putting it to air on the stream, something the other mixer couldn't do.

I still have a bit of work to do on my station. I'm working on getting my new 10 element 2m yagi up. I have a design and I just need to see if someone can make it for me. Hopefully I will have this antenna up in the next couple of weeks. Yes that's the cat in the back ground photo bombing :)

New 10 Element 2 metre (VHF) Yagi

 

I must thank Rex, VK3OF for making and designing this antenna for me. I can use this antenna for both SSB and FM. So I've been very lucky as normally you need two antennas for this. Now I hear you say, but how does an antenna know which mode your using. Well it doesn't. What it does know is the frequency your using. Because there is band plans in place you can only use certain modes in certain part of a band. SSB uses the lower part of the 2m band where as FM repeaters use another part of the band. To get an antenna to work across the whole band can be hard but I've been lucky this has been done :)

 

 

Monday
Jul202015

Sunraysia Radio Group's AGM

Well yesterday, Sunday the 19th July was the AGM for my local amateur radio club. We meet up at the Mildura's Working mans Club for a lunch and then it was upstairs to get into the business of the day, the AGM.

It was a good turn out from memebrs and we even had a few new faces. Office bearers were voted on and a new committee formed.

 

President - Garry Briant VK3KYF  (Mildura)

Vice President - Noel Ferguson VK3FI  (Mildura)

Secretary - Murray Loag VK3FMRL  (Mildura)

Treasurer - Stephen Bourke VK3FSWB  (Mildura)

 

Committee Members

Peter Norris VK3JUG  (Mildura)

David Carson VK3ZUA  (Mildura)

Paul Hadlow VK2PNH  (Balranald)

Thomas Brownstein VK3EO  (Swan Hill) New member to the committee

 

The usual club raffle was done and again one of the usual people won a prize in that (myself). We watched a couple of videos from the ANZAC weekend the club had in Swan Hill and he was great to see everyone had fun at that. I wasn't able to attend that weekend as I had things on here in Balranald with ANZAC day. It was a great day with everyone that came. We talked all things AR and other things that weren't AR. The partners and wife's all enjoyed themselves. 

 

A photo of everyone sitting back watching the videos being shown.

 

It's going to be an interesting year for the club and hopefully we'll have a new repeater (Balranald) on the air soon for everyone to enjoy while traveling along the Sturt Highway. I had a few members come up to me asking about my new antenna and they wanted me to explain what I did and how I did it. Thankfully I had some photos I could show. Again it was a great day and I enjoyed myself greatly, but I always do :) 

 

Wednesday
Jul082015

New Antenna

After a lot of planning in the designing of my new HF antenna it all came to ahead last week when a friend in Melbourne contacted me. For this new antenna to go up I had to purchase a new Automatic Antenna Tuner. My current tuner I was using with my random wire antenna would not work with my new antenna. I was using an Icom AH-4 tuner one that is designed for use with a long wire or random wire antenna. Anyhow back to my friend contacting me. He asked if I had started my lay-by for a new tuner, sum $420 worth. I was looking at getting myself a MFJ-993B automatic antenna tuner. He asked this because he was selling his and I could have it for a good price (yes it was a good price). The next day he shipped it up to me and 5 days later it was here. This got the ball going and all my planning started to come into play. Last weekend I put up the mast to hold the new antenna and got it all ready for when a new lot of coaxial cable arrived.

On Monday it was full steam ahead, the day came to where my old antenna was to be pulled down the the new antenna was to go up. Some 4 hours later the new antenna was up, all cables connected to the tuner, the tuner was connected to the radio and setup began. Turned the tuner on and then the radio, a everything lit up nicely. It tuned the 40m band fine, then tried 80m and that tuned up and finally the 20m band and it too tuned up nicely. At the time I didn't have anyone one of the people I wanted to test the antenna with so I turned on WSPR and saw an improvement almost straight away. Things were looking good.

That night came and it was time to catch up with a couple of people I wanted to test the new antenna with. The reason why I wanted to test it with these two people was I knew how my other antenna worked and I knew the signal I had to them, so it was much easier to compare antennas with it I did it to a known source. One of the people was Erik, VK3MBV. My signal to him was normally S9+10 (peak). The other person was Craig, VK3CRG, my signal to him was normally S9+10 (peak) also. This was on the 80m band (3.684MHz). My signal to Erik now was S9+20 (peak) and to Craig I was S9+30 (peak), there was a big improvement in my signal and of course I was very happy with the results. I thought there would be some improvement of around 1 S point or something but nothing like I was being told. Craig even made a video just to prove it to me. After about 30 minutes of talking another friend joined in, Adam, VK3FCCC and he told me my signal into him was a strong S9+30 a much stronger signal than I've ever been to him. All three were in Melbourne and all three I had spoken to via my old antenna. It was the best way of comparing the two antennas.

So after a lot of planning and a bit of money I now have my new antenna up. It's just a standard, full sized G5RV dipole antenna. It's up at 10 metres at the centre and about 5 to 6 metres at the ends. The antenna is in a "L" shape as I don't have the room to have the antenna out in a straight line like they are meant to be. I've been blown away by the results and I'm glad I got the model tuner I did.

I've always said there are some wonderful people in amateur radio and this antenna project would not have been completed this soon without the help of one person. This is a great hobby and there are some great people in it.

Here is a photo of the PVC piping going in that would hold the coaxial cable and the box where the choke and the coax and ladder line would be connected. This allows for easy access if I need to do repairs.

 

 

Here is the connection box for easy access to the antennas connection

 

The G5RV installed and in place.

 

A lot of hard work but the out come was well worth it. I've had the G5RV for over 2 years. I purchased it when I got my Icom IC-7000 and AH-4 tuner. I did have a plan to put up the G5RV when I put my tower up but after I had to move the old antenna off the old gum tree, which has now been removed, I noticed that once I move it over to the nut tree I noticed that I could fit the G5RV in if I kept it at the same direction as the random wire was. So the planning of the installation of the G5RV began and now it's completed. The antenna is working and I can now finally say I have a "real" antenna up. I'm going to set up the old tuner so I can use it for portable use if I decide to use my radio away from home, not that I'm planning anything but you never know :)

It's now amazing that I can now switch bands and before hitting the tune button on the radio I can hear stations, something I couldn't do with the old antenna. It's made a big difference to my station and now it's a station that if I can hear a station I can talk to them.

A big thank must go out to Craig, VK3CRG for passing on his old tuner to me and giving me a great offer. Also thank you to Erik, VK3MBV for helping me test the new antenna and being truly the first person I spoke to on it. I also must thank Pete VK2FPMC and Adam VK3FCCC for great signal reports while testing.

I now look forward to talking to everyone now that I have the G5RV up in the air.

Saturday
Jun272015

Life Update

After almost 2 weeks fighting with Telstra to fix my ADSL service I finally got it fixed. For the last week and a bit now it's been working great. Had one dropout while I was away but when I got home I just logged into the modem and hit connect and away it went, I was back online. I haven't had an issue since which it great. I'm sure I've dropped off over night while asleep but it's not like it's going to worry me. 

It's amazing when you lose a service just how much you really to miss it when it's not there.

I have a few projects I would like to complete I still have to wait on others to do there bit. I would love to replace one of my antennas but to do this, this would cost money, firstly I would need to get some piping, about $100 and then I would need to get myself an antenna tuner, about $440. One day I will get this project finished but only when I can get the money saved up. My current antenna, a random wire antenna, is working fine but it's not the best of antennas. It would be just wonderful to have a real antenna up and not just a length of wire, but again this current antenna works fine. I get good signals into Melbourne and other places. In fact I've never really gotten a bad signal report. 

Some people say I need to get a "real" antenna up and others say there is nothing wrong with my current antenna. In fact they said it's working really good and I should waste my money but I would really like to have a "real" antenna up so I could pull down my current antenna so I could use it for when I'm away from home. It would be very easy to throw a bit of wire up a tree somewhere and be able to talk around the country on it. Now in saying this, I'm not really a mobile or portable HF user. I'm not really into using HF in my car. I would rather stick to just VHF/UHF in the car. I can always find a 2m repeater. Again in saying this, if I was to travel into the outback or something like that I would love to have a HF radio with me, just in case.

I haven't really been up to much of late. For the last 2 weeks I've been fighting the flu, I'm only just starting to see the end of it. It's been rather cold of a day and very cold of a night. Currently as I'm typing this my weather station is telling me it's only 5.3ºc outside. It's meant to get down to about 3ºc. I'm happy to be in the cold weather as I'm not a real fan of the hot weather anymore. I think it's much easier to warm yourself then it is to cool yourself down.

Anyhow that's it from me, for now :)

Tuesday
May192015

New Licence Issued

The other day I was notified by the ACMA that my new callsign/licence has been issued. So now I have both VK2 & VK3 callsigns.

Under my current ACMA customer number I have 4 licences.

Amateur Radio Licence, Standard - callsign VK2PNH (my main callsign)

Amateur Radio Licence, Standard - callsign VK3PNH

Amateur Radio 2 metre (VHF) Repeater - callsign VK2RBL

Scientific Licence - callsign AX2NXR 

It's funny as back in the 1980's when I first held my amateur licence I also held 4 radio licences. Back then you were meant to have a licence to use the CB bands so I used to hold both a 27MHz CB licence and a 477MHz CB licence. Plus I also held a scientific licence and a commercial VHF licence. How things always come back around to the beginning again :)