This past weekend was the ARRL Field Day, and was my first time to attend one of these events. I just upgraded my license to General last November, so I never had much interest in HF before now. Lots of hams would cringe to hear me say that, but I always enjoyed the VHF/UHF operations and building relationships with local hams who I could talk to on a normal basis.
However, I am very glad that I attended the Field Day Event this year. I was able to learn some good information about band limits, what times of day each band is better, etc. I was also able to try some digital contacts on PSK31 and RTTY, which I had never done before.
I spent this Field Day with the Hurst ARC out at Chisolm Park in Hurst. Our class was 3A and our section was NTX. The 3 stations we had setup were a Icom IC-7000 running 15-meters on a homebrew Buddistick Vertical; a Kenwood TS-2000 on a Fan Dipole, which could jump between 20-40-80-meters, and a Icom IC-7200 attached to a 3-half-wave (1.5 waves total, 102′) for 20-meters.
I must say, above all else, the 15-meter station on the vertical antenna made the most contacts, which also impressed me the most. I was expecting the 20-meter dipole to out-perform everything, and its performance was fantastic, but the 15-meter vertical station made more contacts than any station. Most of that was probably due to the operator, KE5SBP. He is quite good at finding contacts on HF, and is very experienced. But the performance of the vertical antenna astounded me.
I was a bit disappointed that 40-meters and 80-meters didn’t open up more-so during the night. We made several contacts on each of those bands, and 40-meters continued well into the next morning, but I was expecting more. Maybe that is just my lack of experience with these bands, though.
The farthest contact that I personally made was on 20-meters to the U.S. Virgin Islands. I also made 1 or 2 contacts into Puerto Rico, and several into Canada. I heard some DX stations on 20-meters, but I was never able to get back to them, due to the pile-ups. Hawaii was also a popular location, and while several others at our location made those contacts, I did not.
Next year, W5HRC is already talking about upgrading to 4 or 5 stations. I’d like to see a 6-meter station, as well as maybe 10 and 12 meters. If 10 and 12 are like 15, they should do well during the daytime.
This review has been a long time coming, I wish I had posted it before now, but better late than never, I guess. When I first started this review, there was only 1 version of the Wouxun KG-UV8D radio out, but now there are two. All radios with firmware 1.02 (1.01 was the old number) include the 2.5KHz step when tuning/scanning. As far as I know, that is the only difference between the 2 firmwares. There is no way to upgrade the 1.01 to 1.02, as far as I know. This is how they come from the factory.
Of course I bought one of these radios for myself and have been tinkering with it for the last couple of month. This is a really neat little radio. It has several features that other Chinese radios have yet to implement, but to me the best one is the 999 memory channels. This is unheard-of for an HT, especially a Chinese HT, most of which only support 128 memory channels. But this ultra-huge memory capacity enables me to enter all of my Ham Radio repeaters and simplex frequencies, along with all the FRS/GMRS frequencies, plus some locally used Red Cross frequencies. Even with all of those programmed in, I still have plenty of memory channels left to use. My plan is to create a bank of frequencies for the Galveston, TX area, to which we travel 1-2 times per year. Perhaps I will add some other repeaters also, in other areas.
Yes, this radio also does cross-band repeat. Honestly, I’ve not used it – I don’t really have a situation in which I would need a cross-band repeating HT. I have cross-band repeat setup on my Kenwood TM-741a in my shack at home, so that I can hit the Hurst repeater from an HT inside of my house (I key up a 440 simplex frequency, which keys my TM-741a, and it cross-band repeats to the Hurst repeater). This way I can talk on the repeater from inside my house without always having to walk out to the shack. I suppose cross-band repeating would be useful if you would out in the field somewhere. Maybe assisting on a bike/foot race, or perhaps on a camping trip. Setup the KG-UV8D with an external antenna and use it as a portable repeater. I have not had the need to do this yet, so I haven’t played with that feature.
The backlit LCD screen is certainly a plus. The screen goes off while you are monitoring, but comes back on again when a signal is received. This is to save the battery, I suspect, because the larger screens on today’s smartphones are usually the largest battery draw.
This radio, just like the Anytone AT-3318UV HT, will allow you to move each band independently between VFO and Memory modes. If the top band in is VFO, you can move the bottom band to a memory channel, without changing the top band, and vice-versa. There is a VFO/MR key on the front of this radio, so switching between the 2 options is very easy, unlike some other Chinese HTs. In reality, the VFO/MR button has 4 settings: VFO frequency, Memory channel number, Memory channel name, and Memory Channel Frequency. So when you are programming your repeater settings, it allows you to set a name for each repeater, then page through with the VFO/MR button so the repeater name can be displayed on the LCD instead of the frequency. This is useful if you are looking for a repeater in a certain area or city. And with 999 memory channels, you will probably want to know which repeater is where!
The radio comes with a great extended range antenna, just like the Anytone AT-3318UV.
There is also an extended battery available for this radio. The standard battery that comes with the radio is 1700mAh, and the extended battery is 2600mAh. The extended battery is a bit thicker than the stock battery, so expect the radio to be a bit heavier and bulkier than the stock configuration. However, rest assured that the stock belt clip and stock desktop battery charger are both build in such a way that they will accommodate either battery. No separate charger or belt clip is needed for the 2600mAh battery.
From the factory, the radio only does 400-470 TX range, but with the Frequency Expansion software you can extend the range up to 519MHz. I have not loaded this software yet myself, but I plan to do so next week. This software came from Wouxun, and isn’t a “hack”, it just extends the range of the radio to its maximum capacity.
I love this little HT and have carried it almost exclusively since it arrived. It is a fantastic addition to anyone’s radio collection.
I was at a church meeting the other night and I happened to have my HT clipped to my belt, although it was somewhat hidden under my shirt. The bottom of it was showing when I sat down on the couch and a friend of mine asked me, “dude, is that a pager??” A pager. Right. I unclipped the Baofeng UV82-1 and showed it to him, and he asked if it was a ham radio, to which I said yes. Then he proceeds to ask the standard questions (he knew I was into ham radio because of my Facebook posts, so he didn’t guess this on his own)
That small conversation got me to thinking about the fact that most people have heard of ham radio, but they know little more than just the term. The main question I am asked when someone sees my HT is “hey, can that thing talk around the world?” Most people don’t understand the difference between HF/VHF/UHF or at least they aren’t aware that ham operators can use the higher frequencies.
Ham radio isn’t one of those hobbies that is chosen by people who wake up one Saturday morning and say,” hey, I think I want a radio license.” Most people are introduced to it by another ham operator. My exposure came from an older gentleman who has now gone Silent Key, whom I actually met over the CB Radio. (Yes, I worked CB when I was in high school and college) Had I known what ham radio was back then, I would have definitely studied for my license earlier than I did, but as it is now I got my first license at the age of 20.
So this older gentleman, whose name was Nelson, brought up the topic of Ham Radio one day, so I asked him what that was. After he explained it, we decided to study together and take our tests. I got my callsign of KC5HWB in July of 1994, and he got his just a couple of weeks later of KC5JMY. Back then the Denton Club was very active, which I believe it still is, and we worked those machines up in Denton and Lewisville areas. The main repeater I was on during that time was the N5GEJ repeater at the Texas Instruments plant in Lewisville on 145.170MHz.
So how did you hear about Ham Radio? Who do you have to thank for finding this cool hobby for you?
Every Saturday morning from 9am until around noon, the Hurst Amateur Radio Club meets for tech-talk and all-around live ragchew at the Hurst EOC, which is located at Hurst Fire Station#2 in Hurst, Texas. This is a fun time to get together and talk shop on anything related to Amateur Radio. Usually there isn’t a scheduled format, we’ll just pick a topic at random and share ideas, information, and answers to questions.
Today’s topic was the Broadband Hamnet. I posted about this topic the other day for the first time. I also purchased a Linksys WRT54GS router on eBay this week, which arrived in the mail yesterday, so I was able to bring it with me to flash the firmware and get it ready for the Broadband Hamnet.
In short, this is a wireless network that is separate from the standard Wi-Fi network used by the public. With certain routers you can change frequencies that the router uses, which fall inline with ham-usable frequencies, and setup a sub-network to communicate only with other hams. From what I understand there is an entire network already covering Dallas-Fort Worth, with nodes setup on towers and buildings that any Wi-Fi router, after modification, can connect to, and allow the operator to use this network for communications with other hams. They have a great “getting started” page here.
I’m now officially online at my QTH in Grapevine, but I wasn’t able to find any other nodes in my area. Of course I only have the stock antennas on the back of the router, inside my home. So its time to find some external antennas and a setup the router outside.
This, of course, poses some challenges since these routers aren’t really made to be weatherproof. The coax line between the router and the antenna can’t be more than a few inches (there is probably a formula, but I don’t know what it is). So you basically have to mount the router right next to the antenna. There are enclosures that will house the router and a power source, and are weather-proof, and mountable onto a mast or tower. Listed below are some links I have found for doing all of this. I’ll probably change or update this list before the project comes to fruition, but for now, here is the build-list I am planning:
- A WRT54GS router. There is the version with the most memory, according to this hardware list.
- An Enclosure. I found a Multilink RNI-3620 Outdoor Residential Enclosure (Cable Box) on eBay. Under $24 with free shipping, and it comes with mounting hardware.
- A couple of Antennas. The WRT54 routers have dual antennas on the back, which are movable, and connect via a plug called RP-TNC. Finding the correct connector shouldn’t be too much of problem, but pay attention to this. The cool thing about having dual antennas is that I can connect both a directional yagi or dish type antenna and point directly to another node, and also an omni-directional antenna which should listen and talk to anything within a certain distance. Titan Wireless is a good place to find 2.4GHz antennas for base mounting.
- A power source. You can use PoE or you can run an outdoor, weatherproof extension cord up to the router and connect the power directly. This will depend on where I decide to mount the enclosure. At this point in time I am thinking about mounting it to the top of my chimney on my 2-story house. This will be about 30 feet in the air. I could run an extension cord from the chimney, down the side of the house, and into the garage.