1/4 wave whip antennas

Using the 1/4 wave formula 234/F(Mhz) a 102" whip was cut down to the correct theoretical length for 52 Mhz. To my amazement, when placed on the rear mount, the resonant frequency was 56 Mhz. I added an additional 6 inches to the base (spring and quick disconnect) and the resonant frequency dropped to 53.75 Mhz. To get the frequency to 52 Mhz, I’d need to add just under 12 inches in total length to the whip.

This indicates the 246/F(Mhz) at 4.73 ft formula is closer - but not quite adequate - to estimate the real world length of a 1/4 wave rear mount whip antenna. The required length was calculated  with a correction factor using the formula 280/F(Mhz), resulting in a length of 5.4 ft.

Interesting, no?

2018 Minneapolis downtown Skywarn frequencies

If you have an an HT:

146.520 Calling frequency
146.700 Metro PL/CTCSS 127.3/127.3
145.430 Hennepin County RACES PL/CTCSS 127.3/127.3
146.760 Metro alternate PL/CTCSS 114.8/114.8

If you have a mobile or an HT at a higher elevation:

146.520 Calling frequency
146.700 Metro PL/CTCSS 127.3/127.3
147.000 West Metro PL/CTCSS 000.0/114.8
147.210 South Metro PL/CTCSS 100.0/100.0
145.430 Hennepin County RACES PL/CTCSS 127.3/127.3
146.760 Metro alternate PL/CTCSS 114.8/114.8

NOAA Weather Radio (enter into your WX channel and enable WX alert function):

162.550  NOAA Weather Metro
162.500  NOAA Weather NW Metro
162.475  NOAA Weather SW Metro
 

Peace and quiet VHF edition

Now that I am no longer involved with Skywarn (I'll still watch for tornados), what should I program into my 2 meter radios? I don't want to involve myself in repeater cliques. I once sent a donation to an repeater operator not listed here and never even got the courtesy of a thank you. That's the last time I'll make that mistake: only send your hard earned money to a reputable, established, verifiable repeater operator.

To avoid most of the "personalities" and drama, I think simplex is the way to go. Therefore - 146.52 Mhz gets entered into the "Call" memory. According to the Minnesota Repeater Council, there are a number of reserved simplex channels, though I am aware there is a group using 147.50 Mhz for their net.

146.415,  146.430, 146.445, 146.460, 146.475, 146.490, 146.505, 146.520, 146.535, 146.550, 146.565, 146.580,  146.595, 147.420, 147.435, 147.450, 147.465, 147.480, 147.495, 147.510, 147.525, 147.540, 147.555, 147.570, 147.585

146.700 Mhz is the Hennepin County RACES repeater. It's a good one to have, since any emergencies will be noted there, as well as being the primary Skywarn repeater for the Metro. It is for calling and emergency traffic only and not for general QSOs, according to the WC0HC website.

There are two other Hennepin County related frequencies, 145.43 and 146.82 Mhz (127.3 hz), RACES and the Sheriff respectively. 145.43 can be used for general use. 146.82 is closed to Amateur Radio use as reported by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via Todd, KD0TLS, on his blog. I would think they wouldn't mind if you used the repeater to call for police, fire, or EMS assistance.

So far, so good. I have now three frequencies to program into my three 2 meter rigs (TM-271A, TM-281A, TH-K20): 146.52, 146.70, 145.43. I guess I can throw in the other 24 simplex channels and put 'em on scan. I figure there's got to be some more repeaters that I can find that aren't clogged with...er...nonsense. There are 30 repeaters I counted on the Minnesota Repeater Council's list in the Metro that are for FM traffic.

The classes of repeater operators are, as far as I know, Clubs, hobbyists, and independents. Club repeaters are the property of an established amateur radio club and if not closed (iow, only members allowed) - permit general use. The independents are not a club but a collective or a consortium of operators - the MAGIC repeaters are one such group. The hobbyists are those who set up repeaters on an ad-hoc basis that may or may not have the ability of communicating over a reasonable area or have emergency power. There are any number of almost unused 2 meter repeaters around, most have sporadic or no traffic. Examples the latter two categories are 145.17 (St. Paul; 100 hz input; emergency power) and 147.27 (MSP Airport, I think; 114.8 hz input; no emergency power). Update 1/24/18: 147.27 has malfunctioned. It is not usable at this time.

On a Kenwood TM-281A, with the input tones in Hz listed after the output frequencies in MHz:

  • Call channel: 146.520
  • Channel 0: 146.520
  • Channel 1: 146.700 (127.3)
  • Channel 2: 145.430 (127.3)
  • Channel 3: 145.170 (100.0)

What about 1.25 meters? 6 meter FM? Good question - I'll address these two when I get the chance.

Morse Code

So now I want to really dive in to code work. I have two keys - a British "KEY WT 8 AMP NO 2 MK II" and a Speed-X 310-003 (Gold plated nickel with a shorting switch). I am more comfortable with the British key. Perhaps it is the Navy type knob. Or it's an official military key. Whatever it is, it's the best of the two keys, IMHO.

I suppose I should be fair to Nye-Viking and replace the current flat knob with a Navy knob, then we'll see. I was thinking of getting another Nye-Viking with the Navy knob and without a shorting switch, two bases, and a cord. Or two. Or three.

From what I've read, my speed will suffer and fatigue level will increase with a straight key. I would have to go to a semiautomatic bug or at least a single lever paddle. I don't have the proficiency for a Vibroplex Original Standard (20+ wpm) so I should look at the Vibroplex Vibrokeyer Standard.

I could, of course, adapt the Vibroplex OS for a slower speed - 10 wpm - as one Ham did

This is a preliminary post. I'll spiff it up later.

 

 

2017 Minneapolis downtown Skywarn frequencies

I recommend the following setup for Skywarn spotters near downtown Minneapolis using a an HT with an output of 5 watts.

162.550 NWS (enter into your WX channel and enable WX alert function)
146.520 Calling frequency (enter into your 'CALL' frequency memory)
146.700 Minneapolis Skywarn Net 127.3 CTCSS 127.3
145.430 Hennepin County RACES Edina 127.3 CTCSS 127.3
146.760 Twin Cities FM Repeater Club St. Louis Park 114.8

 

Callsign games III

Here's the current status of Region 10 never used callsigns:

1. Group A 1x2 and 2x1: None available.
2. Group A 2x2: Open past AD0WS.
3. Group B 2x2 K prefix: Open past KI0TK.
4. Group B 2x2 W prefix: Wide open, very few vanities.
5. Group B 2x2 N prefix: Wide open, very few vanities.
6. Group C (1x3): You’ll need to search.
7. Group D (2x3): Open past KE0LQV.

KA0AA to KI0TI generally open, search first. 

Emergency Communications

There are any number of ways to participate in public service: Skywarn, MARS, ARES, RACES, Red Cross, Marathon, SATERN, Hurricane Watch Net. Let's take a look at what they are and what is involved.

SKYWARN: Very important in the Mid-West (tornadoes) and the South (Hurricanes), not so much in the rest of the country. You go to a class and learn how to identify dangerous weather conditions, and how to report it to the National Weather Service on 2 meter FM. You take a test, pass it, and receive a Skywarn ID and your number. Then you wait until the Skywarn Net is activated. This is weather SPOTTING, not CHASING.

MARS: Military Auxiliary Radio System. There are two branches extant, that being Army and Air Force MARS. Among the most important functions of MARS is to provide Department of Defense-sponsored contingency communications on a local, national, and international basis as an adjunct to existing [Army] communications; auxiliary communications for the Department of Defense, Federal, National Guard, civil authorities, and local agencies as directed or requested; assist in effecting normal communications under emergency conditions as directed or requested; improve high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) radio operating techniques and technology through training, experimentation, and testing; and have volunteer personnel trained in military radio communications, techniques, and procedures.

ARES: Amateur Radio Emergency Service. Amateur radio licensees who have registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in public service in disaster situations. This is a private, voluntary registry. Then again, the mere possession of an Amateur radio license automatically enrolls you in that cadre of radio operators who can operate ad-hoc.  ARES, IMHO, is an entity that only duplicates what exists in fact save for the equipment list to the ARRL.

RACES: Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. When the President of the United States (or his successor) issues Emergency War Orders, RACES stations and operators are the only civilian Amateur operators (outside of MARS stations) that will be able to transmit. If that ever happens and the bombs start to fall, I don't think there will be anyone left to enforce 47 CFR 97.407 anyway.

RED CROSS: They've gotten rid of their communication trucks and apparently centralized their HF licenses. The Minneapolis Red Cross has K0ARC though it is dormant. I was considering volunteering for the Red Cross - too much bureaucracy. I canned the idea.

MARATHONS: Volunteers with HTs. Anyone can be trained to do that, and I'm skeptical about volunteering to transmit medical information by voice or data. Vicarious liability and all that. And I'm not about to buy $2000 worth of D-STAR or C4FM. No thanks.

SATERN: Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network. I can best describe this as a Christian Red Cross, only with a better reputation than the original. SATERN is "dedicated to assisting the Salvation Army during times of Emergency...[to] provide all possible forms of communication when normal communications are impossible...". Believers in the Rabbi and carpenter from Samaria, have at it.

HURRICANE WATCH NET: Skywarn for the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Like Tornadoes, except...bigger in diameter. And very destructive. Not very applicable to Minnesota.

 

Apartment antennas

If you live in a well constructed apartment building, you'd better be prepared to do battle with concrete, plaster, lathe, metal screen, vertically polarized noise and other electrical interference. In other words, get used to operating by digital modes.

I've tried (not in order) a 30 foot dipole with using the Alpha Delta antenna kit, a Hustler dipole using two MO-3s and resonators, a vertical using an MO-3 and resonator. None of those worked. The only antenna that will allow HF operation to any degree is the Chameleon F-Loop. The Chameleon P-Loop should also work, though I haven't ordered one yet, and the demand is so high the wait is two weeks.

To be fair, I didn't have a good earth ground. That's why I purchased the MFJ-931 artificial ground. I'll experiment with a random wire, both the Alpha Delta and Hustler dipoles, and the Hustler vertical with a resonator and let you know of the results.

As an aside, the 30 foot standard dipole makes a great antenna for the AM broadcast band. :-)

RF noise between a transceiver and computer

As noted in the instructions for setting up the TS-590SG to use digital modes on a Mac Mini, there is an increase in RF noise when the USB cable is connected between the Kenwood and the Mac Mini, through the SignaLink USB, and with a DB-9 serial cable to a USB to Serial adapter. I also tried connecting the serial cable to a Lenovo desktop - and even though the desktop was off, there was still an increase in noise. This leads me to think it is the cable itself that is coupling the noise to the Kenwood. Here are three possibilities of mitigating the interference:

  1. Use a shielded cable, ensuring the shield has continuity between connectors; and
  2. Ensure both the transceiver and the computer have a common ground.
  3. Use a laptop that isn't connected to the power lines.

The first alternative ensures the transmission of the interference from the computer to the transceiver. The second didn't work. The third....worked.

I was able to test the third alternative with a recent MacBook Pro. There was minimal additional interference (if at all) and I was able to install the USB drivers, download fldigi and WSJT-X, and get on the air. When the charger is connected, it will show a frequency dependent increase of an RF noise level of S2.

Conclusion: Use a laptop for digital modes to minimize or almost eliminate RF interference.

 

 

 

2016 Metro Skywarn frequencies (Minneapolis downtown area)

I recommend the following setup for Skywarn spotters near downtown Minneapolis using a an HT with an output of 5 watts.

162.550 NWS (program this into your WX channel and enable WX alert function)
146.520 Calling frequency (program this into the 'CALL' frequency memory)
146.700 Minneapolis Skywarn Net 127.3 CTCSS 127.3
145.430 Hennepin County RACES Edina 127.3 CTCSS 127.3

The only alternate  repeater you will probably be able to key up will be the 146.76 (114.8) Twin Cities FM Repeater Club machine in St. Louis Park.

1. If possible, use your external speaker mic when operating with an HT.
2. Backup repeaters will be announced by Duty NCS based on storm track and availability of repeaters.

Kenwood TS-590SG and Fldigi on a Mac

Configured on a Mac mini (Mid 2011) running El Capitan, 10.11.5.

Note: The output audio will default to the headphone jack at random. Read about the problem with USB audio codecs and Mac audio here.

On the Mac:

1. Download the Silicon Labs USB to UART bridge drivers here and install.
2. Connect a USB cable to any USB port on the Mac. DO NOT connect to the TS-590SG.

On the TS-590SG:

3. Make sure a dummy load is present on the antenna connector, power on the TS-590SG and set the power output to 5 watts.
4. Press the Menu key.
5. Use the “MULTI/CH” selector and go to number 68, “USB PORT BAUDRATE”.
6. Use the UP/DOWN buttons and select 57600.
7. Use the “MULTI/CH” selector and go to number 69, “AUDIO INPUT LINE SELECTION FOR DATA COMMUNICATIONS”.
8. Use the UP/DOWN buttons and select “USB”.
9. Use the “MULTI/CH” selector and go to number 70, “SOURCE OF SEND/PTT TRANSMISSION”.
10. Use the UP/DOWN buttons and select “REAR”.
11. Use the “MULTI/CH” selector and go to number 76, “VOX OPERATION WITH DATA INPUT”.
12. Use the UP/DOWN buttons and select “ON”.
13. Press the MENU key to save and exit.
14. Turn off the TS-590SG.
15. Connect the USB cable to the rear USB connector on the TS-590SG.
16. Turn on the TS-590SG.

Go back to the Mac:

17. Open System Preferences.
18. Click on Sound.
19. Click on the Input tab. You should see “USB Audio CODEC”. Select the device. You should see the bars move with sound input.
20. Click on the Sound Effects tab. Using the "Play sound effects through" drop down menu, DO NOT choose "USB Audio CODEC". Click on the Output tab. You should see “USB Audio CODEC”. Select the device.
21. Close System Preferences.

Install Fldigi:

22. Download and install Fldigi.
23. Open Fldigi. You will see the Fldigi configuration wizard. Click “Next”.
24. Enter your station information. Click ”Next”.
25. On the Device tab, check the PortAudio box. Select “USB Audio CODEC for both Capture and Playback. Click “Next”.
26. Click on the Hamlib tab.
27. From the “Rig” drop down menu, select “Kenwood TS-590S (Beta)”.
28. From the “Device” drop down menu, select “/dev/cu.SLAB_USBtoUART”.
29. From the “Baud rate” drop down menu, select “57600”.
30. Make sure Stopbits is 1 and Sideband is “Rig mode”.
31. Make sure the “Use Hamlib” box is checked.
32. The letters on the “Initialize” button at the lower right will be red. Click on it. The red  letters will turn to black and the frequency display behind the Wizard will reflect the rig’s current dial frequency. Click on “Next”.
33. Update the frequencies using your choice of data source. Click “Finish”.
34. Click on the Configure menu in the main window and Save Config.
35. Read the instructions for Fldigi and connect to your antenna.

That’s it! :-)

Note: A Mac Mini will generate S3 RF noise regardless if you are connected to the USB port through a SignaLink, or through the DB-9 connector, depending on the band.

Kenwood TS-590SG and WSJT-X on a Mac

Configured on a Mac mini (Mid 2011) running El Capitan, 10.11.5.

Note: The output audio will default to the headphone jack at random. There is a USB audio codec - Mac audio bug (at least on OS 10.11.5).

On the Mac:

1. Download the Silicon Labs USB to UART bridge drivers here and install.
2. Connect a USB cable to any USB port on the Mac. DO NOT connect to the TS-590SG.

On the TS-590SG:

3. Make sure a dummy load is present on the antenna connector, power on the TS-590SG and set the power output to 5 watts.
4. Press the Menu key.
5. Use the “MULTI/CH” selector and go to number 68, “USB PORT BAUDRATE”.
6. Use the UP/DOWN buttons and select 57600.
7. Use the “MULTI/CH” selector and go to number 69, “AUDIO INPUT LINE SELECTION FOR DATA COMMUNICATIONS”.
8. Use the UP/DOWN buttons and select “USB”.
9. Use the “MULTI/CH” selector and go to number 70, “SOURCE OF SEND/PTT TRANSMISSION”.
10. Use the UP/DOWN buttons and select “REAR”.
11. Use the “MULTI/CH” selector and go to number 76, “VOX OPERATION WITH DATA INPUT”.
12. Use the UP/DOWN buttons and select “ON”.
13. Press the MENU key to save and exit.
14. Turn off the TS-590SG.
15. Connect the USB cable to the rear USB connector on the TS-590SG.
16. Turn on the TS-590SG.

Go back to the Mac:

17. Open System Preferences.
18. Click on Sound.
19. Click on the Input tab. You should see “USB Audio CODEC”. Select the device. You should see the bars move with sound input.
20. Click on the Sound Effects tab. Using the "Play sound effects through" drop down menu, DO NOT choose "USB Audio CODEC". Click on the Output tab. You should see “USB Audio CODEC”. Select the device.
21. Close System Preferences.

Install WSJT-X:

22. Download and install WSJT-X. IMPORTANT: READ ReadMe.txt contained in the image before install.
23. Once you've successfully installed WSJT-X following the instructions in ReadMe.txt, open the application.
24. If the dialog asking you to configure the radio does not appear, go to the finder.
25. Click on WJST-X and choose “Preferences”.
26. Go to the “Radio” tab.
27. From the “Rig” drop down menu, choose “Kenwood TS-590SG”.
28. Under Serial Port Parameters, select the Serial Port “/dev/cu.SLAB_USBtoUART”, Baud Rate 57600, 8 Data Bits, 1 Stop Bit, Hardware Handshake, Force Control Lines DTR HIGH.
29. PTT Method, select “CAT”. (Note: you can also use "VOX" if necessary)
30. Transmit Audio Source, select “Rear/Data”.
31. Mode, select “None”.
32. Split Operation, select “None”.
33. Click on “Test CAT”. If the settings are correct, the button will turn GREEN and “Test PTT” will no longer be grayed out.
34. Click on “Test PTT” The button will turn RED and the TS-590SG will transmit. Click on “Test PTT” to stop transmitting.
35. Click “OK” at the bottom right.

Main window:

36. The frequency indicator should now show your rig’s frequency and there will be a red dot next to the frequency display.
37. Select a band from the wavelength drop down menu to the left of the frequency display and the red dot.
38. With your selection, the TS-590SG will go to the correct frequency for that band, and the dot will turn GREEN.
39. Adjust the volume control below the GREEN dot so the input level is about 40-50 db.
40. Read the instructions for WSJT-X and connect to your antenna.

Note: When the waterfall no longer advances and no further transmissions are noted in the main window indicates WSJT-X has crashed. Quit and restart the program.

Note: A Mac Mini will generate S3 RF noise regardless if you are connected to the USB port through a SignaLink, or through the DB-9 connector, depending on the band.

WSPR to New Zealand

Date: 4/4/16
Times: 0310 0318 0330 UTC

Callsign: KD0UDM
Frequency: 14.097048 Mhz
Power output: 5 watts
Antenna: Chameleon F-Loop
Location: Inside apartment at window
Azimuth: 255 degrees
Elevation: 858 feet ASL
Mode: Upper Side Band
Modulation: 4-FSK
Data rate: 1.4648 baud
Data correction: Forward Error Correction

Transmission heard by:
Callsign: ZL1BOE
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Distance: 8189 miles 13179 kilometers

Callsign games II

It appears that if you want a sequential callsign, you can apply for it online and get it the next working day. Vanity callsigns take 18 days. I again looked into the status of Region 0 callsigns and found this interesting set of facts.

1. Group A 1x2 and 2x1: Give up. Not worth fighting over. If you are competing with anyone other than yourself to get one, it's not when you applied, its 52 card pick up. IOW, a random assignment.

2. Group A 2x2: It's up to AD0U- and will take some time to get to AL0ZZ, when the system will begin assigning Group B 2x2 calls, starting in KI0T-.

3. Group B 2x2 K prefix: Just about any callsign past KI0TI is available. There are calls between KA0AA and KI0TI that were not used for some reason, and lots of previously owned calls available.

4. Group B 2x2 W prefix: Wide open, very few vanities.

5. Group B 2x2 N prefix: Wide open, very few vanities.

I won't even bother with Group 3 (1x3) and Group 4 (2x3). The point is to get away from those two group and have a callsign NO ONE has ever owned.