Monthly Archives: November 2014

Yaesu FT-857D

I purchased a brand new Yaesu FT-857D just in time to put it into operation over Thanksgiving.  This is one rig with a bunch of firsts for my station:

  • First brand new HF rig
  • First 6m rig
  • First Yaesu

Every other rig I have is a Kenwood with a couple of ICOMs sprinkled in with the vast majority of them from the late 70’s/early 80’s.  I like old Kenwoods and while they are nice and largely functional for their age there’s nothing quite like a new radio.

Yaesu FT-857D

Yaesu FT-857D

I wanted to get an HF mobile with at least the capability of 2m all-mode.  The choices for such a rig will largely result in you shopping at the Yaesu store especially since ICOM ceased production of the IC-703 and IC-706 radios a few years ago.  I realize that ICOM has the IC-7100 but it is quite a bit more than I wanted to spend and the interface is rather odd for a mobile.  That boiled the choice down to the FT-817ND or the FT-857D and since I wanted more than QRP capability the FT-857D was the choice.

This radio is amazing!  I’ve been operating SSB on 10m, 20m, 40m, and 80m as well as some 2m FM.  It’s cool to have a “shack in a box” rig.  Yaesu has packed an immense amount of functionality into this small box.  I’ve read mixed reviews on the menu system but I’ve had no problems with it.  It’s actually rather intuitive with the three soft keys once you spend a bit of time with it.  Thus far it’s been a pleasure to operate with good signal reports all around.

I also purchased the LDG YT-100 antenna tuner as well as the Yaesu MH-59 mic and found an LDG FT-Meter on eBay.  The next addition are filters (CW and possibly SSB) but I’m still doing some research and frankly enjoying the rig in its current state.

The next band to operate on is 6m.  Having no 6m capability to date I need to build an antenna.  After a bit of research I’ve decide to build a Squalo.

 

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ICOM IC-718 CAT control

I’ve had a slight interest in using CAT control with my 718.  Past research from a number of years ago had shown that you needed an ICOM IC-CT17 Communications Interface to accomplish this task.  The problem is that they hover around $140-$150.  I decided that I didn’t need CAT interface that badly.

My interest in CAT control has been re-ignited with my recent foray into digital modes.  A bit of renewed research resulted in the purchase of a CT-17 USB FTDI Chipset CI-V Cat Control Programming Cable from Valley Enterprises.  The price was significantly less than the ICOM CT-17 and it’s USB.

Order processing and shipping was fast and efficient.  The cable arrived in just a few days.  I plugged it in, the USB device was recognized, and Windows 7 found the correct driver for it.  I plugged it into my radio, downloaded DXLab Commander, set the Primary CAT Serial Port to 5 and the software instantly started working.

Nice piece of hardware, nice piece of simple software, and now I have CAT control for my 718!

 

WSPR @ 1 Watt

WSPR 1 Watt

WSPR 1 Watt

WSPRing

What is the best hobby of all possible hobbies…that’s right AMATEUR RADIO!

After all these years I’m finally starting to dabble with the digital modes.  After an extended period of time (measured in years since they were first released) I finally bought a Signalink.  I picked up the Signalink USB at the local candy store, Amateur Electronic Supply.

What finally drove me to get the Signalink was learning about WSPR from a post on G4ILO’s site (http://www.g4ilo.com/wspr.html) that I came across while searching on some propagation topics.  This post led to some searches for more on WSPR which resulted in a bunch of information including this post on AA7EE’s site: The Awesomeness That Is The Signalink USB Sound Card Interface which clinched both the Signalink purchase and WSPR.

While there are a lot of ways in which to WSPR my current setup is the Signalink USB, an ICOM IC-718, my Cobra UltraLite Senior antenna, and a Dell Optiplex 760 running Windows 7.

After connecting the Signalink to the radio (using the 13-pin DIN cable that comes with the Signalink SLUSB13I for ICOM radios) and a USB connection to the PC the configuration for the WSPR 2.0 software was as follows:

WSPR Station Parameters

WSPR Station Parameters

Once configured and switched out of idle the WSPR software started to receive its first WSPRs at my station.

First WSPRs

With the confirmation that receive worked I dialed down the power and tuned up for transmit, moved the Tx fraction slider to 20%, and let the WSPR software take control.  After a wee bit my spots were showing up on the WSPR map:

First WSPRs 2

And the software has been WSPRing along now for over two hours:

First WSPRs 5

Including a WSPR station in Antarctica, OC3HHY:

First WSPRs 6

This is very cool!

Part of what make WSPR tick is time synchronization (+/- 1 second) with UTC. While there are many ways to accomplish this I’m using NISTIME 32.  Be sure to “Run as Administrator” if your not using an account with admin privileges in Windows 7 otherwise the app won’t be able to update the PC clock.

More information on WSPR is located at the WSPR site and the WSPRnet.

 

Vibroplex Vibrocube

Words alone cannot describe the Vibroplex Vibrocube.  You need a picture and a scale:

Vibroplex Vibrocube

Vibroplex Vibrocube

Yes, it weighs 5 pounds and 11.3 ounces.

Did I really “need” a Vibrocube?  Of course not.  I’ve long sailed from the area of “needing” any more keys.  This was purely a want.  This key was introduced several years ago and caught my attention immediately.  I have a few other Vibroplex keys but this one was so unique I had to have one.  The trouble is that the cost versus necessity ratio was a very large mismatch so I didn’t buy one.  I would periodically check eBay, QRZ.com, EHam, and QTH.com in the hope of finding a used one at some point.  One day recently a used one in perfect condition at the right price appeared and I could no longer resist.  The Vibrocube is easily the coolest member of my modest stable of keys.

Vibrocube

Vibrocube