Rack Mounting Project

SSTV – Slow Scan Television

SSTV Cam

I got started in Slow Scan TV (or SSTV) when I first heard about it back in 1995. I began by using a shortwave radio and a Commodore 64 computer to decode the images. I was hooked after I received my first image off the air.

My first ever SSTV RX image! de W5NOO July 24, 1995
My first ever SSTV RX image! de W5NOO July 24, 1995

As can be seen elsewhere on this site, I’ve been very active in SSTV for many years.

I operate a Live 24/7 SSTV Cam that copies images on 14.230 during the day, and on 7.171 in the evenings. I also have a cam on 14.233 for EasyPal digital image reception. All of which can be viewed live here.

Most of my received images are acquired on the HF frequencies. But not all of them. Over the years I have gradually upgraded my SSTV abilities to include Amateur Satellite operations.

SSTV on the International Space Station

You heard that right! The International Space Station has SSTV equipment on board. Not only that! They transmit SSTV pictures on 145.8 mhz in the Amateur Radio 2 Meter Band. SSTV on the ISS is reserved for special occasions. Both the Russian and US astronauts participate.

NASA On The Air!

Received: February 10, 2019 @ 02:54 UTC

50th Anniversary of Apollo 8
NASA – Iconic Image of Earth Rise

Special thanks to my SSTV buddy Brad, KO6KL and AMSAT’s Clint Bradford (K6LCS) for sending me a heads up about this event. I set my satellite station to track the ISS exclusively, in an attempt to capture any images that could be heard. There were several good passes, and the images shown above are the best of the lot this time around. I have the San Bernardino mountains to my north. Once the satellite, or the ISS in this case, gets behind the mountains, the pass is over as there is no longer any reception.

The best source for SSTV information is the WA9TT SSTV Website run by Larry, in Appleton, Wisconsin.

I read somewhere that at least one of the newly lauched satellites will support SSTV once it’s educational mission has been fulfilled, and the satellite can be released for amateur SSTV use. Something to look forward to!

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Hepa Filter: Worth The Investment!

The hepa filter light came on to indicate it was time to clean/replace the filter. I took it outside to clean the outer carbon ‘pre-filter’ and was very happy to see this hepa filter is doing it’s job!

Heavy Duty HEPA Filter

Highly recommended! I had a really bad dust problem in the shack. So bad in fact, that I had to purchase a high power filter to at least try to combat the dust. I needed a heavy duty filter for a heavy duty dust problem. I purchased a filter rated for a much bigger area than that of the shack, to ensure I would obtain the best result.

The indicator light came on, and the pre-filter had a tremendous amount of dust collected. I must say I am really impressed. To think that all that dust would have been in the shack! Just looking around, the shack is MUCH cleaner!

I intend to keep one of these filters running 24/7 in the shack.

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Getting Started With FT8 WSJT-X

Flex 6500 with WSJT-X Software

FT8 activity via WSJT-X
FT8 activity via WSJT-X


WSJT-X has arrived! I purchased the Flex 6500 for exclusive use in digital modes. I have the 6500 configured to listen for SSTV (Slow Scan Television) signals and EasyPal digital transmissions on the 20 meter band. At the same time I’m running two instances of wsjt-x on other bands.

Making Contacts via FT8

After following the set up instructions, and getting the audio and RF levels correctly set, I was making contacts via FT8 ‘right out of the box’. I’m running the Flex 6500 barefoot (100 watts) into a Comet CHA-250B multiband vertical antenna on a test stand in my backyard. The results were immediate. One of the first few contacts I made via FT8 was DX with JA0IXW. Not bad!

I have been able to complete almost every contact I’ve attempted so I’m pretty confident my little digital setup is working AOK! I’m putting out a very clean 100 watt signal.

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EA4TX AS2X2 Antenna Switch

One Step Beyond SO2R

For all intents and purposes, my SO2R operation is self-contained. I use a Flex 6700 dedicated to SO2R operation. I’m operating through an SPE Expert 1K-FA amplifier. This allows using two TX antennas and a wideband RX Magnetic Loop antenna. I enjoy fully automatic operation utilizing one Flex SCU (Spectral Capture Unit) per TX antenna. Really a perfect setup! This configuration has now been thoroughly tested and fine tuned to my operating preferences. Battle tested in contest with more multi band contacts than was ever possible for me while working manually. (the M word). In comes the EA4TX AS2x2 switch to enhance station operation.

I can now freely operate on any band at any frequency, and always have the lowest SWR and the appropriate drive level set automatically. We all know nobody has time to wait around for you to tune up during a contest! You’ve got to be there or be square!

Flex 6500: Dedicated To Digital

Now that I have the SO2R contest station squared away, I’ve turned my attention to the Flex 6500. I have MMSSTV running on 14230, EasyPal on 14233, and two instances of WSJT-X running on any two of any of the other bands that may be open, 24/7. I can work digital modes back and forth between any two bands with a click of the mouse.

For that matter I can also TX from any of the running programs with a single click thanks to the Flex DAX TX feature that switches the TX slice automatically. Combine that with a multiband antenna, and the possibilities are endless!

Watch That Front End!

So now that the digital station is setup and running what’s the problem? Well it’s not a problem yet, but very well could be.

The Flex radios have some built-in protection for the front end of the radio, but it would not be wise to count solely on that feature for complete RX front end protection. In the SO2R setup I added an Array Solutions RXFEP on the RX only antenna to protect the RX when the amplifier is not in operation to switch the RX only antenna automatically. When the amp is off, I have an extra level of protection.

With the 6500 running 24/7 digital modes it would not be hard for me to imagine accidentally TX ‘ing at 1,000+ watts while forgetting the other radio is nearby in RX mode (aka an ‘Inband Radio’). It would just be a matter of time before this type of accident would take place. I could easily make this mistake, so I must add a level of protection against it. In a multi-transmitter environment this is a requirement.

EA4TX AS2X2 Antenna Switch

EA4TX 2X2 Antenna Switch

I researched several antenna switches for the purpose of disconnecting the Flex 6500 antenna when the SO2R contest station is transmitting. Keep in mind I need to be able to transmit 100 watts through the switch. I quickly learned that the the first two “RX Antenna Switches” were not intended for use where the second radio is also a transmitter. Instead they were designed to switch out a receiver only. You cannot transmit back through the second RX port. So the first two switches were eliminated.

I came across the EA4TX AS2X2 and found it could handle 200 watts. It is not an RX only switch, it is a two port switch designed for switching (or exchanging) two antennas (TX and/or RX) between two radios. I’ll only need one side of this switch as I only need to disconnect the Comet CHA-250B antenna, not necessarily switch it with another.

I purchased the EA4TX ARS-USB rotor controller and have been very happy with its quality and performance, so another EA4TX product is welcome. Yes, I saw the single star review. I’m not worried because I know DX Engineering stands behind what they sell, as pointed out in the review.

UPDATE: The AS2x2 arrived today and is now installed at the antenna input of the Flex 6500. Whenever the Flex 6700 is in TX, the antenna to the 6500 is disconnected. Better to be safe than sorry.

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Death Of A JNOS Serial Port

That trace screen looks weird!

JNOS Data Corruption
JNOS Data Corruption

JNOS has been online and on the air here for nearly 20 years. It runs on old Pentium D hardware under Ubuntu Linux 13.04. Old stuff, but it works. at least it did until recently.

The first sign something was wrong, was an error message I hadn’t seen in many many years: bad header!

At first I thought the TNC (an old Kantronics KPC-3) might have fallen out of KISS mode. In order for JNOS to communicate with the TNC it must be in KISS mode. I pulled the TNC out of service and performed a hardware reset to ensure the device was in KISS mode.

Resetting the TNC did not resolve the issue. As the corruption continued, it was causing the JNOS BBS software to crash.

I quickly discovered that disabling the serial device stopped the software from crashing. The next possibility was that the hardware serial port itself had gone bad. After plugging in a USB to Serial adapter and connecting the TNC on a different COM port the problem was solved.

My mighty little JNOS BBS system is back online and back on the air (on 145.05) While I was at it I upgraded the Ubuntu PC RAM from 1GB to 4GB. There was an occasional console message reporting low memory or ‘out of space’ (JNOS parlance). That message has not occurred since.

JNOS BBS: Telnet to 44.16.2.46 and give it a try!

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Tim Galvin NY – Woodhaven

Your Long Time Friends From Woodhaven NY would like to say Hello

Tim Galvin NY Timothy Galvin
Tim Galvin NY

Tim Galvin

Hey Tim, remember the day you ran into Zomb outside Madison Square Garden? You were buying Van Halen tickets. Tim Galvin NY

What have you been up to?

The last time I saw you was in the Food Court in the Queens Blvd Mall around 1982. You gave me this Christmas card.

Tim Galvin NY
Christmas Card From Tim Galvin circa 1982

If you’re into it, we’d love to hear from you.

You recommended I try the bass “it only has 4 strings” you said.

I have old recordings you might get a kick out of hearing. I think I have the “Space Ball Riccochet” from your basement, and I know I have the “You think you’re Mr. Drinker” bit from Morello’s basement. I also have a few photos we took one day.

Use this link to email me if you stumble across this and would like to say hello. It would be awesome to hear from you after all these years.

Forest Park is a park in the New York City borough of Queens. It spans 538 acres (218 ha), with 165 acres of trees, including the largest continuous oak forest in Queens.[1] Some trees are more than a century and a half old.[1] The park sits on hills left behind by the Wisconsin glacier and is a haven for native plants and wildlife in the midst of the city’s sprawl.[1] Beyond the park’s many full-time avian residents, migratory birds pass through in the spring and fall.[1] Several trails are available for area residents and urban day hikers.[2] Other facilities include playgrounds, a carousel, a track, two dog runs, a pond, tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball fields, a golf course, and more.[3] The park is operated and maintained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.[4]

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WSJT-X, JTAlert, and DXKeeper

JTAlert Makes FT8 Logging Simple!

I jumped right into the FT8 fray. I setup a Flex 6500 specifically for use in the digital modes. FT8 in particular. Like everyone else, I heard a lot about the mode and decided to give it try. It wasn’t long before I realized that logging my FT8 contacts manually was not only cumbersome, it created opportunities for data entry errors. I use DXLab’s DXKeeper for logging, and a quick google search revealed that JTAlert provided connectivity with several popular logging programs, including DXKeeper. The main feature of interest to me is JTAlert’s ability to link WSJT-X to the DXLab Suite of programs. Using JTAlert as a bridge, I could connect my FT8 operations directly to the DXKeeper logbook!

Setting up the Flex to work with WSJT-X was relatively easy. I was making contacts and having a blast. The Flex 6500 is using a multiband antenna (CHA-250B vertical) so I can change bands with a click to be wherever the action is. I also have a second instance of WSJT-X running in order to monitor a second band. So the logging can get fairly complex. After the first two data entry errors, I knew I had to find a solution.

JTAlert Setup and Configuration

I downloaded JTAlert and followed the installation instructions found here. I installed on a Windows 10 Home Edition PC and used the version designed to fix the ‘missing menus’.

JTAlert has a lot of features that I am not currently taking full advantage of. As I get more adept at working FT8 I’m sure I’ll find a use for some of these extra features. There are filters to help you find contacts you need so that may be a useful feature down the road, as I currently need everything!

I followed these JTAlertX Configuration Instructions, and had it connected to DXKeeper in a matter of minutes.

I Was Doing It Wrong!

It turns out that despite all the fun as I was having, I was doing it wrong. I would soon find out that my FT8 operating skills left a lot to be desired. After reading the article Hinson’s Tips for FT8 and in particular the section that explained the “Hold TX Freq” feature, I quickly realized what I was doing wrong.

It turned out that under certain operating conditions I had been unintentionally QRMing stations that I had just made contacts with.

If “Hold TX Freq” is not selected the TX frequency changes to the calling frequency for every CQ call you reply to.. For example, let’s say I replied to a station that was calling CQ, and after the contact was complete, I changed over to calling CQ myself. I was then transmitting in the previous stations ‘slot’ and QRMing them. Bad practice! Needless to say, I’m very happy to have read Hinson’s tips! I think the “Hold TX Freq” should be the default setting!

Software “Automation”

One could say that JTAlert has claimed a legitimate place in the station automation scheme.

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NANO NODE SE: IRLP/ECHOLINK

Under Consideration: Nano Node

The NANO-SE from Micro-Node International has caught my attention. As part of last years upgrades I installed a ZumSpot D-STAR HotSpot. The ZumSpot works great and I’m having fun with it. Now I’m thinking about adding IRLP and EchoLink to my capabilities.

nano node
Nano Node with touch screen
From the Micro-Node International website:

Introducing the first complete ECHO/IRLP Node Computer in an ultra small package measuring just 5”(127mm)W x 3”(76mm)L x 1.7”(43mm)H. The unit comes complete with the ECHO/IRLP/Debian Operating system pre-installed with node number assigned (new or existing). “Just Plug And Play” . No Knowledge Of Linux Required .

Nano-Node Features
Complete IRLP / EchoLink Package “Just Plug And Play”. Absolutely No Knowledge Of Linux Required.
The Entire Unit Including The 0.2 Watt Radio Fits In The Palm Of Your Hand. Just 5″ x 3″ x 1.7″.
Front Panel Color TFT Touch Screen Display Allows Setting Of Node Options Plus Monitor And Control The Node Locally.
Any Web Browser Can Be Used To Set Node Options Plus Monitor And Control The Node From Anywhere On The Internet.
It Can Be Used With The Built In Programmable 430 to 450Mhz 0.2 Watt Simplex FM Transceiver Or External Radio.
EchoLink System Software Is Installed And Ready For Use.
Operates From A 7-18VDC 300-400ma Power Source. Ideal For Mobile Or Portable Operation.

There are some interesting nets and far away places reachable through IRLP/EchoLink. I’ll use the same approach of listening first to see how things are done.

Research

I’m looking at all the available options and doing my due diligence. I reviewed the You Tube Videos for Nano-Node and picked up a lot of great information. I’m also looking at the hardware on irlp.net

nano-node se rear panel
Gonna need a radio for that open port!

At the same time, I’ll be researching a transceiver for the external radio port on the nano-node.

UPDATE: Ordered the NANO-NODE SE on 5/4/2019

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Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Upgrade

A Quick Note To Document The Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Upgrade

I decided to upgrade the Ubuntu Operating System today from 16.04 LTS to 18.04 LTS. The upgrade was successful! The only issue was WordPress. It needed a couple of tweaks to get it up and running again since the PHP version had changed. This article was also helpful. Using info obtained from both articles, I was able to fix the WordPress problem within a few minutes of understanding it.

For many years I ran outdated Linux O/S’s and did not upgrade very often. As a newbie, my thinking was, I didn’t want to break machines that were working. I eventually setup test machines and built them using modern hardware. My old linux machines ran on ancient hardware! Good times! The good old days of Caldera Open Linux, RedHat, and Fedora systems over the years. Now the linux OS is much more refined and mainstream.

These days the hardware is fresh and the OS is kept up to date!

Upgrading from Ubuntu 16.04 LTS or 17.10

To upgrade on a desktop system:

  • Open the “Software & Updates” Setting in System Settings.
  • Select the 3rd Tab called “Updates”.
  • Set the “Notify me of a new Ubuntu version” drop down menu to “For any new version” if you are using 16.04 LTS; set it to “For long-term support versions” if you are using 17.10.
  • Press Alt+F2 and type  update-manager -c   into the command box.
  • Update Manager should open up and tell you that Ubuntu 18.04 LTS is now available.
  • If not you can run  /usr/lib/ubuntu-release-upgrader/check-new-release-gtk
  • Click Upgrade and follow the on-screen instructions.

To upgrade on a server system:

  • Install  update-manager-core  if it is not already installed.
  • Make sure the Prompt line in /etc/update-manager/release-upgrades is set to ‘normal’ if you want non-LTS upgrades, or ‘lts’ if you only want LTS upgrades.
  • Launch the upgrade tool with the command  sudo do-release-upgrade 
  • Follow the on-screen instructions.

Note that the server upgrade will use GNU screen and automatically re-attach in case of dropped connection problems.

There are no offline upgrade options for Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server. Please ensure you have network connectivity to one of the official mirrors or to a locally accessible mirror and follow the instructions above.

Let the record show Ubuntu 18.04 LTS was installed on 5/5/19 and the server OS has been completely upgraded!

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Moving The Comet CHA-250BX

The Comet CHA-250BX vertical has been on the test stand long enough. It’s time to move it into a permanent location on the property.

Comet CHA-250B on the “test stand”

I plan to put the CHA-250BX on the top of one of the support masts that currently hold up one end of my “Height Compromised Dipole“. It’s in the corner behind a palm. I read a few eHam reviews that mentioned good results were achieved by mounting the CHA-250BX just 10 to 15ft above the ground. The antenna height affects the take-off angle, and apparently 10-15 feet is yielding some good results. I’m already working some DX barefoot via FT8, so I know the antenna performs OK. With all the testing, I now have a baseline to compare the performance against once it’s at the new height.

New Location For The CHA-250BX

If you look closely at the image below you can see the mast in the corner of the yard. I had it strapped to a huge stake that I drove into the ground. It was held in place using hose clamps. It stood up straight for years until part of the palm died and knocked it loose. I’m going to extend the current 100ft Andrew CNT-400 with another 50ft of the same coax.

New Home For The CHA-250BX

Recycle The Base Parts

The test stand is an old umbrella stand. I plan to fit the weighted base squarely into the corner against the cinder block wall, and secure it using the big stake, and the 50 lb sandbag.

Comet CHA-250BX Umbrella Base
Comet CHA-250BX Umbrella Base

This steel mast is 15ft tall, a 5 ft section on top of a 10 ft section. When I re-deploy the mast I will switch the 5 ft section to the bottom, this way, when I have the antenna ready to go I can stand on a step ladder and insert the 10 ft section much easier. If 15 feet is judged to be too tall to stabilize, I will eliminate the 5 foot section.

Moving the CHA-250B
New Location For The CHA-250BX

Square In The Corner

The umbrella stand will fit perfectly into this corner.

I re-use the stake to secure the stand
I’ll re-use the stake to secure the stand

I have some mollies leftover from a recent flower trellis repair. I can use some of them as anchors for the steel straps if it looks like I’ll need them..

Comet CHA-250BX
The Comet CHA-250BX will go into this corner

Comet CHA-250BX At Ideal Height

The 5 ft section will be reinforced using two sets of steel straps (at 1 and 5 feet above ground), and an additional guy line to reduce or eliminate any sway. I’ll add a pulley to the top for the dipole, and hang a weight from the end insulator to reduce stress on the mast when it’s windy. I’m also going to devise a wooden support beam that will go in between the mast and the 90 degree concrete corner. I’ll be able to tighten the steel straps to keep the mast firmly against the beam. I’ll square one end of the wooden beam for the corner, and make a cutout for the mast diameter on the other end. This should be a rock solid base. The antenna is 23.8 feet tall, and weighs 7 lbs. with a 67 mph wind rating.

I have a spare ground rod which I will install at the base.

Update: Sat 05/18/19

XYL: Where Did You Put That Antenna?

What Antenna?

Can you spot the vertical?
Where’s The Antenna?

Tucked away nicely in the corner of the yard! Barely noticeable to the XYL.

The feedpoint is now 3 meters above ground
The feedpoint is now 3 meters above ground

There are several articles out there about antenna height versus take-off angle. There seemed to be some consensus that a height of 3 meters above ground offered some improvement in performance.

Another article I found expressed a view stating what little value TOA really has when it comes to verticals.

I decided the antenna would not be stable at the proposed height. Its proximity to neighbors property is also a factor. So instead of 15 feet, I mounted it at 10ft (3m)

OK. Let’s see what kind of results we get. The antenna had to move anyway, so hopefully we get some good results.

update: 05/20/19

I leave two instances of WSJT-X FT8 running 24/7. Then, when I get home from work, I scroll back through the RX windows to see what was heard while I was away. I’ve been running it this way since I first put up the CHA-250 vertical back in March 2019.

INSTANT RESULTS

I’d left it on 40m since yesterday afternoon (just over 24 hours) and came home today to find EU callsigns in the FT8 console for the first time. Lots of DX calls, among them Italy, Croatia, Morocco, Mauritius, Ecuador, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand and on and on. Keep in mind this is just the past day on 40m! I never saw anything like this when the antenna was on the test stand.

If you have your CHA-250BX mounted on the ground give it a try on a 10ft mast! Let’s see how many of these newly heard DX callsigns can be worked!

the bonus: antenna separation

An added bonus! The increased antenna separation between the vertical and the RX Loop has eliminated the de-sense I was seeing on the 6700’s HF RX. As I work FT8 I am usually listening to 80m on the 6700/W6LVP Loop. The antenna separation is now sufficient that the FT8 transmissions no longer interfere with other HF RX in the shack. Perfect world.

it Turns out to be a major upgrade!

EA3KU 05/21/2019 05:15 FT8 100w 40M Sent -11 Rcvd -20

F6AOJ 05/25/19 04:28 FT8 100w 40M Sent -17 Rcvd -22

EA8TH 05/2519 06:23 FT8 100w 40M Sent -19 Rcvd -22

WSJT-X was installed on 03/09/19 and my DX contacts up to this point included JA’s and ZL’s and VK’s, but I hadn’t copied any EU callsigns before raising the antenna. Now I’m working into EU, so I am very pleased with this upgrade.

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