Rack Mounting Project

Downtime!

Dead radio?

I was trying the FT8 digital mode for the first time on my new Flex 6500. The radio was in (full duty cycle) FT8 transmit at 100 watts into near perfect SWR when I heard a ‘pop’, after which, the radio would no longer power up.

I immediately assumed I had blown up the radio…

Yep, you could say I was a little ‘bent out of shape’. All I can say is, it’s a really terrible feeling. Mostly, I was angry at myself for having blown up the radio. Mega p1553d was more like it…

After regaining some composure, I noticed some of the other 12V gear, not in use at the time, was also off. So I pulled out the voltmeter, and sure enough (and much to my delight!) there was no DC on the power lead to the dead radio!

How Do You Spell Relief?

I immediately connected the radio directly to the power supply and started dancing when the radio powered up. RELIEF is not a strong enough word in this case.

As it turned out, I had blown a fuse in the MFJ power strip!

The culprit: 15A 32V fuse

Can’t blame MFJ for this one! This is what happens when you try to draw 25A through a 15A circuit. A rookie mistake.

Easy to replace….If I can find one!

A couple of local stores are showing them in stock. This is a 15A/32v fuse.

In an effort to take some of the load off the MFJ-1118 I will connect the two 6000 series radios directly to the power supply. The MFJ-1118 is not relied upon to protect the radios, and I now realize that having it inline with the radios is wholly unnecessary.

The most time consuming part of this problem was getting the power strip out of the rack! I had installed the MFJ power strip inside the rack behind the Flex 5000 and now realize it was a design flaw to have located it there.

After replacing the fuse, the MFJ-1118 will be mounted to the exterior side of the rack for easier access going forward.

OK, so by now, I’m sure you’ve figured out how I got myself into this situation!

In error, I had connected the Flex 6500 to a 15 amp circuit. While in full duty cycle transmit the radio requires 25 amps. Hence the pop!

I’ll replace the fuse, change my shorts, Hi Hi, and go on my way a little wiser.

UPDATE: Found the fuse at Home Depot, replaced the fuse and tie wrapped the MFJ-1118 to the side of the rack. Reconnected all the 12v gear, and everything is back together.

I should have mounted it here to begin with!

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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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Worth The Investment!

The Hepa filter light cam on to indicate it was time to clean the filter. I took it outside to clean the outer carbon ‘pre-filter’ and was very happy to see this 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 Hepa filter to at least try to combat the dust. I needed a heavy duty filter for 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

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 two 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)

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

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

Tim Galvin NY Timothy Galvin
Tim Galvin NY

Timothy Galvin

Hey Tim, Remember the day you ran into Zomb outside Madison Square Garden? You were buying Van Halen tickets. How about B&L @ 715 ?

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 a Christmas card with a picture of you playing a Les Paul (which I still have somewhere). 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.

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.