Surface mount soldering

If, like me, you have had an irrational fear of surface mount devices for some time, you will be glad to know its not as bad as you may think. I recently started working with SMD and while I suffer from shaky hands and have poor eyesight, its actually quite a methodical process and not as fiddly as you would think.

I created a 2 part video on SMD soldering using a hot air (reflow) station and using solder paste. In this video I created a QRP dummy load which is a great introduction into Surface Mount Components and at a great price of £5.95 available from Kanga Products

Dan Trudgian, MØTGN, is a regular contributor to and writes from Wiltshire, England. He's a radio nut, IT guru, general good guy and an all round good egg. Contact him him here.

What’s Wrong With the ARRL?

Every so often a blog posting takes on the topic of “the ARRL needs to change.” A recent one came from Dan KB6NU, referencing some worthwhile ideas he has encountered via Rotary International. (I like Dan’s blog and read it fairly consistently.) Whenever I see this kind of article, my brain immediately thinks:

The ARRL is the worst US national amateur radio organization, except when compared to all others.

Yeah, its easy to criticize the ARRL, but it is the only game in town in terms of a national organization. And they do a lot of good for amateur radio and probably don’t get sufficient credit for that. (I should point out that Dan is very clear that he just wants to see the ARRL improve, especially in attracting new hams. I believe him and I share that motivation.)

It is hard being the ARRL.

Amateur radio is not really one hobby, it is a collection of hobbies and activities. We’ve got CW-enthusiasts, QRP folks, Emcomm volunteers, HF contesters, VHF contesters, tinkerers, 75m AM operators, repeater operators and on and on and on. Because the ARRL is a member-driven organization, it tries to balance these competing interests. Just listen to the random-vector criticism that spews forth: the ARRL is too focused on QRP, doesn’t do enough for QRP, only cares about HF, doesn’t do enough for HF, is against new digital modes, is always promoting new digital modes, thinks CW is the only way to go, gave us the No Code license, hung on to the Morse Code requirement too long. This list goes on and on. It really is impossible to keep everyone happy.

Like every large organization that I belong to, the ARRL is not perfect. But the good it does clearly outweighs the stuff I don’t like, so I enthusiastically support it. Said another way, I get enough benefit out of the membership to justify the dues. The key benefits for me are: QST magazine, Logbook of the World, contests, awards and representation with the FCC. QST is clearly the biggest benefit of membership and many people just view the membership fee as a magazine subscription.

A huge threat to an organization with such a print franchise is the shift from print to new media (video, web, blogs, podcasts, social). The ARRL web site has a lot of good information and most of the bugs have been worked out of the major redesign of a few years ago. They have a basic presence on twitter and podcasts. The ARRL has a youtube channel but the content is weak. At the same time, other people are putting out some good video content. Look at what HamNation, HamRadioNow, are doing.

The ARRL is a long-lived institution and like most long-lived institutions they tend to be grounded in the past and are a bit old school in nature. Attracting newly licensed radio amateurs, especially Techs, is the big challenge for the ARRL. I don’t know what market research the ARRL does but I suggest they establish on on-going program that gets inside the heads of newer licensees and potential hams to understand how they view the ARRL. This requires an ongoing investment that is coupled to strategy. I’ve seen marketing pros do focus groups, interviews, surveys, etc. that bring customer needs to the surface so an organization can respond to changes that attract new customers members.

If you are an ARRL member, what can you do to change things? Your avenue to make your views known is via your Division Director, so I suggest you reach out to him or her. (Contact information is listed in the front of every QST.) Don’t be surprised if your voice is mixed in with a whole bunch of other people’s views…kind of like Congress :-)

If you are not a member and spend a substantial amount of time having fun messing around with radios, I encourage you to join the ARRL. You might like it.

That’s my view, what’s yours?

73, Bob K0NR

The post What’s Wrong With the ARRL? appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Alaskan NDBs Awaken

Good geomagnetically-quiet conditions continued into Tuesday morning, with the 'K' index hitting '0' just before dawn here on the west coast. A two-minute Perseus recording of the NDB band revealed good propagation towards Alaska, the first of the season.

The first good opening of the new DX season always provides an opportunity to see which NDB's have survived the summer and have not been closed down by the FAA bean counters. Every year, a few more of the Alaskan NDBs go quiet, with no new ones being added to the list.

The situation is certainly not confined to Alaska. The growing reliance on GPS and RNAV procedures is gradually making the reliance on NDBs a thing of the past. Frankly I'm astounded, yet grateful, that there are many hundreds of NDBs still in use and I'll really miss chasing the low-powered DX targets when they are all eventually decommissioned.

The following Alaskans were heard on Tuesday morning at 1300Z, about one hour before my local sunrise:

9/30/15 1300 529 SQM Level Island AK CO36
9/30/15 1300 396 CMJ Ketchikan AK CO45
9/30/15 1300 391 EEF Sisters Island AK CO28
9/30/15 1300 372 FPN Fredericks Point AK CO36
9/30/15 1300 266 ICK Annette Island AK CO45
9/30/15 1300 414 IME Mt. Edgecumbe AK CO27
9/30/15 1300 394 RWO Kodiak AK BO37
9/30/15 1300 209 CYT Yakataga AK BP80
9/30/15 1300 390 HBT Sand Point AK AO95
9/30/15 1300 358 SIT Sitka AK CO26
9/30/15 1300 350 VTR McGrath AK BP22
9/30/15 1300 338 CMQ Campbell Lake AK BP41
9/30/15 1300 429 BTS Dillingham AK BO08
9/30/15 1300 233 ALJ Johnstone Point AK BP60
9/30/15 1300 212 CGL Coghlan Island AK CO28
9/30/15 1300 223 AFE Kake AK CO36
9/30/15 1300 229 AKW Klawock AK CO35
9/30/15 1300 283 DUT Dutch Harbor AK AO63
9/30/15 1300 245 HNS Haines AK CO29
9/30/15 1300 347 DJN Delta Junction AK BP74
9/30/15 1300 411 ILI Iliama AK BO29
9/30/15 1300 277 ACE Homer AK BO49
9/30/15 1300 355 AUB King Salmon AK BO18
9/30/15 1300 524 MNL Valdez AK BP61
9/30/15 1300 382 JNR Unalakleet AK AP93
9/30/15 1300 281 CRN Cairn Mountain AK BP21
9/30/15 1300 385 EHM Cape Newenham AK AO88
9/30/15 1300 385 OCC Yakutat AK CO09
9/30/15 1300 263 OAY Norton Bay AK AP84
9/30/15 1300 390 AES Northway AK BP29
9/30/15 1300 404 GCR Cordova AK BP70
9/30/15 1300 525 ICW Nenana AK BP54
9/30/15 1300 251 OSE Bethel AK AP90
9/30/15 1300 341 ELF Cold Bay AK AO85
9/30/15 1300 248 GLA Gulkana AK BP72
9/30/15 1300 376 PVQ Deadhorse AK BQ50
9/30/15 1300 379 IWW Kenai AK BP40
9/30/15 1300 399 SRI St. George AK AO56
9/30/15 1300 359 ANI Aniak AK BP01
9/30/15 1300 272 UTO Utopia Creek AK BP35
9/30/15 1300 275 CZF Cape Romanzof AK AP61
9/30/15 1300 529 FDV Nome AK AP74
9/30/15 1300 391 EAV Bettles AK BP46
9/30/15 1300 346 OLT Soldotna AK BP40
9/30/15 1300 347 TNC Tin City AK AP65

There were several missing from the list ... but I classify them as 'third-tier' beacons since propagation needs to be even better than it was on Tuesday to hear them. These are beacons that are either suffering from terrible locations, small inefficient antenna / ground systems or in need of maintenance. I also have a list of Alaskans that have never been heard at all outside of Alaska but are known to be on the air according to recent FAA online information. It is these last two groups that keep me watching and waiting ... for those magic mornings that happen only once or twice per year.

From what I can surmise by scouring the FAA information, there are presently 77 active NDBs in Alaska, including the ones not heard down here. If you live in Alaska, and can take a listen on the NDB band, I'll send you the ones I'm not sure about. If anyone else wants a list of all of the beacons up there, with detailed frequency information, drop me an e-mail and I will send you a three-page pdf.

Here are some signal samples, recorded on Tuesday morning, of some of the 'second-tier' (not heard every morning) signals from Alaska.


                PVQ - 376 kHz  Put River (Deadhorse), Alaska

               OAY - 263 kHz  Norton Bay (Moses Point), Alaska

                                ILI - 411 kHz  Iliamna, Alaska

With the sun getting quieter and quieter, conditions on the NDB band should continue to get better and better over the next several years ... let's just hope that the NDBs are still around long enough to enjoy the solar-quiet benefits.

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Made my first satellite QSO

As well as flying a high altitude balloon another of my aims this year was to finally make a satellite QSO. Pleased to say last night I finally achieved it!

Last month Abdel Mesbah M0NPT chairman of the Hucknall Rolls-Royce ARC came to South Kesteven ARS to give an informative talk on operating amateur radio satellites. Abdel was the first UK operator to receive the AMSAT-UK 73 on 73 award for making 73 confirmed contacts via the FUNCube satellite AO-73.

Abdel explained all the current active satellites, how to work through them and gave hints and described techniques for achieving success on this more challenging mode of operation.

Spurred on I opted to target the SO-50 satellite which until very recently this was the only satellite carrying a FM transponder. The satellite receives on 145.850 MHz and retransmits them on 436.800 MHz (+/- 10 kHz Doppler shift). Operation requires the use of CTCSS (PL) tones of 74.4 Hz which starts a 10 minute timer and then a 67 Hz tone used for the contact. More details of how to operate and a video are on the AMSAT-UK website

I initially tried using just a suitably programmed Baofeng UV-5R with a NA771 whip and could clearly hear the downlink on higher passes, I called a few times with no luck.

I hadn't monitored SO-50 much before and sadly it seems to suffer from very poor operating, with stations calling over contacts in progress, or stations continually calling CQ CQ seemingly oblivious to any reply and those that just keep calling "hola hola hola" for whatever bizarre reason! I would be lucky to get through the QRM with just the whip so I needed a better antenna.

Despite being extremely busy at the National Hamfest last weekend I did manage to get hold of a dual band Yagi that was reasonably lightweight for hand held use and capable of being easily dismantled for transporting. (The Moonraker YG27-35 Dual Band) it has a single feed point and two adjustable gamma match sliders and was easy to adjust using my analyser.

It has a single feed and I tried it with the Baofeng and reception of the downlink was excellent, again on a couple of passes I tried answering calls with no success.

Last night I decided to try again but with the FT-857D set at 10W output. I put it on a small workbench in the garden and powered it from my portable SLA battery. I ran split operation with the 2m Tx VFO set at 145.850MHz with 67Hz CTCSS, the 70cm Rx VFO set at 436.800Mhz I was able to adjusted it down in 5kHz steps during the pass. I got the wife to take a picture while I was operating.

As I started to hear the downlink I heard Abdel M0NPT calling and answered him, I was shocked when he came back and we exchanging details - that was it I had made my first QSO via an amateur radio satellite! Then amazingly other stations started calling me and I was able to also work DO2SYD.

I did manage to record it on a small dictaphone (did have a bit of a brain fade with my callsign at one point!)

I could get hooked on this...  There is also the new LilacSat-2 (CAS-3H) satellite with a FM transponder to try to work!So much to do, so little time...

Andrew Garratt, MØNRD, is a regular contributor to and writes from East Midlands, England. Contact him at [email protected].

Xiegu X108G Outdoor Version First Test

X108G Review October 2015

By: Fred Lesnick VE3FAL

Note: All firmware updates are done at your own risk and caution should be used when installing or updating any firmware into this radio. The removal of any covers or mods will void your warranty. Never hit the RST button while in the engineering menu. All settings should be written down and stored in a safe place in the event that RST is hit or if a firmware update makes any changes as all radios are aligned individually. To find these setting do the following then take a picture or write them down:

X108G Engineering Setting

“Hold the F1 button while powering up the radio, a list of 14 items will appear. If any changes are made you hit the SAV button, if no changes are made you can power the radio off and then back on without any changes made.” Sometimes Menu 11 will set itself to 1, it needs to be at 0 or you will not hear anything on the radio.

I placed an order for the Xiegu X108G and it was shipped from China via D.H.L. on Sept 25 and arrived here on Sept 29 2015 at 12:30 PM. The unit was well packaged and no damage to the box at all after the trip from China. Inside the box was the X108G, Xiegu sticker, power cable (much longer then first models, but still no in-line fuse), microphone and microphone cable, as well as USB cable for firmware updates. Manual for radio was in the box and a warranty card with serial number of radio attached. The radio is equipped with front and back handles.

Unboxing the unit after its arrival:

IMG_20150929_124823 IMG_20150929_124916




Powering The Radio Up

An inline fuse should be installed on either one or both of the power cables before the radio is powered up to avoid any damage to the radio. I finally got the chance to power the radio up and see how this unit plays after all the updates and fixes that Xiegu made to make this radio a seller. First thing I did was to put my call-sign into the radio, this is undocumented but was found by a fellow X108G owner while playing with the radio.


This is how it is done:

Press F3 on powering up. Use the VFO to select letters/numbers then to move onto the next letter press INS button for each letter or number, when finished hit save. The radio will power back up. Switch it off and on again and you will see your call sign where the word Xiegu used to be.

Powering the radio up (continued)

After going through the supplied Operating Manual and getting familiar with what each button does (many changes to these buttons since versions 1 and 2) I was ready to hook my windom antenna to the SO239 connector and listen on 20 meters SSB for a bit. Tuning across the band with the 2.3k filter on signals were clear and clean, I was in AGC-S and pre-amp was in off position. Signals on 14.300 were an S5 with the pre-amp off and came up to a solid S8-9 with the PRE on, no distortion or overmod was heard or encountered nor was any splatter from adjacent signals heard. A move to 40 meters and LSB I was able to pick up a station on 7.188, and just like USB signals were right on where they should be, I was listening on my VX1700 with windom as well and noted the similarities in signal and quality. Once I was happy there I went to 20 meters and tuned to CW and went to 14.020 and monitored a station in the UK working an N3 station stateside, both signals were S5 and I had .5k filter on and no stations nearby were heard breaking through. A quick tune by the PSK frequency on 14.070 yielded a bunch of PSK signals. Next will be to hook up a key and attempt some contacts using a straight key and testing the waters that way. I will also hook the microphone up and try make a few SSB contact and get reports on both USB and LSB to compare. Videos of the radio in use and contact’s will be recorded so others can see and hear how well this unit works.



So what are some of the features this radio offers? First off is the display on the outdoor version, this display is bigger and brighter and designed for use outside where it is brighter, of course a video and pictures to show this will follow. Next is low current operation, with my power supply set at 13.1v on receive my meter shows 600ma of current draw, the stated current draw on transmit at 20 watts is rated at 7.5A, but again I will test this later. 2.3k and .5k filters for SSB and CW choices. The radio offers SSB,CW and AM modes and can be tuned from .5-30mHz and includes all shortwave bands in between the filtered amateur bands. Multi-function microphone. Variable power output from .5 to 20 watts. Adjustable microphone compression, Dual VFO’s, Split feature, accessory port for digital modes as well as jack for morse code key and external speaker. Many other options to list but will talk about those in a later review.


So this is a start and looking forward to playing with this radio and putting it to the test. I should add there is a 1 Year Warranty on this unit from date of purchase.

Communications with Xiegu as well are fast. Xiegu also monitors the X108G Yahoo Group which can be found here if you are looking for more information as well about this radio and what other radio owners think of it, the group can be found here:

I look forward to taking this radio out portable and testing it and bringing more information out there for potential radio buyers.




Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada

Fred Lesnick, VE3FAL, is a regular contributor to and writes from Thunder Bay Ontario, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

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