K7IP's Projects

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k7ip Fri, 09/11/2009 - 03:46

Perhaps if I post the projects I have "underway" at the moment, I'll feel inspired/ashamed to progress on them. If anyone actually reads this poop I write, feel free to abuse me in any audible fashion until I make progress on any of them!

In no particular order of importance:

1. Build and install the DEMI 6 meter LNA I've had for a year in the Ranger 5054DX100 I got at Puyallup last March.

2. Build feedline for the two meter quad in the rover.

3. Improve the rover by replacing the Moxon with a better 6m antenna.

4. Fix the 220 module in my FT736

5. Build the Softrock 30m kit.

6. Rebuild the homebrew sound card interface to support all the rigs. FINISHED IT - 08/16

7. Build the Softrock 6.3 transceiver.

8. Replace the GPS-20 puck in my tracker with the GPS-20 engine/amplified antenna from the old tracker, or install the old tracker in the Durango. The puck can't figure out where it is at any time...it's kind of fun seeing comments about where I'm 'flying' though...

9. Build the recently acquired DEMI 70LNAK for the upcoming Arecibo EME event. This is going to be fun, during the testing last month, the 1000' dish and 500w on 432 was copyable on very simple equipment, and I expect that it will be copyable at the new digs with a borrowed 9 element CP yagi and the new preamp.

Update: A number of fellows in the Wetnet group showed up on April 18, 2010 for the Arecibo effort. In typical fashion, time escaped me and the LNA didn't get finished. It wasn't really necessary..KP4AO was plainly copyable off the moon both Saturday and Sunday on SSB, CW, and JT65. What an exciting time!

Update 6/1/2010

I turned the last screws in the K3 case on May 25. This is a solderless kit, so there was an expectation that, assuming I hadn't dropped anything metallic into the innards, that the K3 would percolate as advertised when finished. Boy, does it ever!!! The receiver is every bit as hot as the reviews say it is, although the PR-6 external preamp for 6 meters is a must. The computer control is flawlessly executed by HRD, all the firmware updates worked just fine, and the USB/serial adapter that I had laying around was perfectly happy sending and receiving bits from both the radio and the internal 2m transverter. This unit is a K3/100 with the general coverage bandpass filter and the internal 2m transverter. It all works, just as it should. And while I do have some experience with kit and homebrew construction, I can't say enough good about the quality of Elecraft's kit, packing, instructions, and performance. Admittedly, you'll pay a little more for this radio than your typical Yaekenicom, but the differential isn't too bad if you choose the kit route and don't get carried away by the additional features.

The kit itself is a masterpiece of fit and finish. There are two areas in which I think some improvement could be done. The voltage regulators on the main RF board need to be screwed to the cabinet side, and the one closest to the front panel is about a quarter of an inch farther forward than my fat fingers could reach. It was a challenge to get the tab secured to the cabinet side. And the TMP RF connectors are tiny and require a good deal of care to get seated properly. Frankly, though, this is really nit-picking. If you have a decent set of needlenose pliers and some dexterity, both are minor annoyances. That pair of pliers, #0 and #1 Phillips screwdrivers, and a set of cheap nutdrivers are all you need to get the kit together. Throw in a DMM and a dummy load, and you'll have your kit running fine in about 10-15 hours of construction time.

This is the first really new HF/VHF rig I have bought since about 1992, and I was very close to doing the US to Yen conversion when one of my meteor scatter compadres got me thinking about this radio. I'm glad he did. Not only is this the finest hybrid SDR transceiver on the market today, it's an American product. I say hybrid because all the SDR functions are embedded in the case rather than residing on the PC. However, you can certainly get to a Flex equivalency in this radio through the use of either LP-Pan or Softrock IF and PowerSDR-IF. I'm not quite there yet, but headed that way. I guess I'm a little old fashioned. I think the Flex is a fabulous piece of equipment as well, but somehow, it just seems RIGHT to have knobs ON the rig!

Off to the yard to do antenna work. This level of quality in a radio demands better antennas!

Update 11/12/2010

I really don't have a clue where the time goes. I did manage to get some work done on the hf antenna. What was once a 20 meter dipole is now a 40-30-20-15 inverted v about 12 feet above the top deck of the house. It's not fabulous, but with major assistance from what is undoubtedly the best radio location I've ever had, it's performing quite well on the digital modes.

During the June Father's Day exceptional 6 meter opening, I managed to work 2 stations in Europe on 6 with my puny 100 watts and trusty old Moxon. W3ZZ called it the best six meter openining in recorded history, and it was unbelievable. 6 was so full of signals, it sounded like 20 on Field Day. It was definitely one of those once in a lifetime events.

Several months of working with the K3 still illustrates nearly every day what an exceptional radio this is. The CW section of Sweepstakes was last weekend, and after a few years away from the contest I cautiously put my toe in the water. Using only 20 and 15 meters, and about four hours total time, I managed to work 40 of the 80 ARRL sections for about 5300 points. Not a bad effort for a lazy weekend. The best part was exercising the K3 filters, though. I have previously done some working with them on JT65HF and wspr, which worked exceptionally well. But having the level of control of the filters in the K3 made the cw contest almost ridiculously easy. Low cut, high cut, notch, bandwidth, and center frequency are all adjustable for use in practically any situation.

I still have months/years of learning ahead on this rig. What a pleasure to operate!

Moving up the priority list: Finding and killing the enormous amount of computer generated noise and trash in the shack. There are two computers in here right now and they are both noisy. One is connected to the rig, the other is just for web surfing and casual use by my SO. Her LCD monitor is about the noisiest thing there, fortunately we can compromise about that and turn it off when not actually using it. The second worst offender seems to be the USB connections to the Signalink, the printer, the mouse, and the USB to serial converter to the rig. I think this is going to be a long journey and will start from the ground up, so to speak. A new grounding system will be the first step, probably this weekend.

Last operating triumph from the great location - after several weeks of trying, I worked W5WVO on meteor scatter with 100w and the moxon. Bill is a shade over 1200 miles away, which is pretty good dx for meteors. His station pulled most of the weight...QRO and stacked M2 6M5Xs, but the rocks had to be there to get me out that far. It also goes to show that you don't need huge to be successful on meteor scatter.