NF8M/B Six Meter Beacon Status

Note: Scroll to the bottom for the latest update.

The NF8M/B beacon at 50.0763 MHz is experiencing some difficulty with very low power output and substantial chirp. I’ll investigate in the next couple days and post an update. – 4 April 2018

Update: The beacon is off the air. There seems to be a problem with the transverter. I’ll investigate and post another update. – 5 Apr 2018

Update: The beacon is back on temporarily, using a different transmitter running about 1.5 watts output. I’ll be working on troubleshooting the transverter so the beacon may be down again at any time. I’ll try to post updates as needed. – 6 Apr 2018 at 2200z

Update: Repairs to the transverter have been completed and the beacon is back to normal. Power output was measured at 5.5 watts and the signal is up by 1.5 S-units or so. Please send reports via my e-mail address on QRZ, and post your report with grid square via your favorite DX spotting network. – 25 Apr 2018 at 2200z

Update: Down again. Still some issues. Investigating. Expect the beacon to be off for at least a day. – 26 Apr 2018 at 1400z

Update: Back on the air. Problem was apparently a loose RF connector. (Tighten those PL259s!) Also installed a beefier power supply. Power output 5.5 watts, frequency adjusted to 50,076,300 Hz. – 27 Apr 2018 at 1800z

Update: Still having some problems similar to the last iteration. Output is very low but intermittently chirps a higher power burst so it sounds like random dits from a distance. Will investigate tomorrow; if I can’t clear the problem I’ll probably shut it down until after Dayton. – 14 May 2018

Update: I reinstalled the former temporary transmitter and the beacon is on the air running 2 watts. I’ll look into the problem with the main transmitter in the next couple weeks. – 15 May 2018

Grounding and bonding presentation

Thanks to the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club for hosting me Sunday, March 11 for a presentation on grounding and bonding for the average ham. You can find links and resources here, or via the menu to the right under Presentations.

Single-point ground plane for antenna lines

I’ve replaced my current system of shack feedline grounding with a single-point ground plane for the antenna lines coming into the station.

Previously, the HF antennas (off-center-fed 80 meter dipole, 6BTV vertical, and 160-meter inverted-L) all terminated in a rotary coax switch. The switch is grounded to the station ground bus that runs along the back of the operating desk, in turn grounded with strap to the ground rods through the basement wall outside. Other antennas, such as the 160-meter receive loop, six meter beam and the VHF-FM antenna in the attic, connect to their respective devices directly.

The new SPGP consists of a heavy piece of aluminum angle stock with feedthrough UHF connectors. It’s mounted to a ceiling joist. The angle stock is grounded to the station strap. Each feedline connects through the panel, with short jumpers from the panel to the next piece of equipment in the path. There are extra holes for future connectors if (when!) I add more antennas.

For the jumpers, I used double-shielded (braid over foil) RG-8X from Wireman, terminated with DX Engineering’s hybrid PL-259s (solder center and crimp shield). Each jumper is color-coded at each end with a piece of colored heat shrink to make identifying cables in the “tangle” easier.

Time will tell if the system improves performance, but at least it’s a safer installation from a grounding standpoint.

Solar Eclipse QSO Party

Wikimedia Commons

The total solar eclipse that traversed the continental United States on August 21 was a golden opportunity to study the effects of the eclipse on  ionospheric radio propagation. A rather new organization, the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI), sponsored a QSO Party on that date to collect data to investigate what happens when the sun goes away for a few minutes.

From all accounts, the experiment was a success in that it confirmed the expected outcome – nighttime propagation conditions appeared, and then disappeared, in the middle of the day.

I took the day off from work and participated by setting up a portable station on my backyard deck. Continue reading “Solar Eclipse QSO Party”

Rig control and keying

I recently replaced my shack computer, a Dell Optiplex, with a Dell Precision i7 workstation. I generally buy off-lease computers, since they are only a couple years old, well-equipped and reasonably priced, and Linux runs on them just fine.

For contest logging, I’m slowly working in the N1MM direction (there’s a trick or two to running it well under wine), so I still use a DOS-based logging program that relies on serial and parallel ports for keying and rig control. Continue reading “Rig control and keying”