Posts Tagged ‘FT-817’

Did Yaesu miss the boat?

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Dayton Hamvention this year.  It was on my list of things to try to accomplish for 2012, but since I’m heading out west to Pacificon in October, I needed to save my pennies for that adventure.  The Dayton Hamvention will be moved to my “things to accomplish list” for 2013.

As you may know from my recent blogging, I do own the brand new Elecraft KX3.  I described this little rig in a recent podcast as “ultra-lite, ultra-portable, ultra-awesome” and the KX3 certainly lives up to all of these fine attributes.  While I’ve owned my Yaesu FT-817 for about 4 years, I really love the larger display of the KX3 and of course all the updated features certainly don’t hurt either.

File:Yaesu FT-817.jpg

The Yaesu FT-817 was first released in 2001 and an updated FT-817ND model was made available in 2004.  The 817 is based on the main circuit board design of its bigger and more powerful brothers, the FT-857 and FT-897. 

As I stated, I purchased my 817 back in the 2008 timeframe and used it for portable operations and carried it along with me on hiking and backpacking trips.  I became hooked on SOTA or Summits On The Air in the fall of 2011 and this became my main radio for that purpose.

While I’m perfectly happy with my KX3 and have already used it on one SOTA adventure, I was (like many) thinking, hoping, expecting, anticipating Yaesu to unveil it’s new QRP portable offering at the 2012 Dayton Hamvention.  However, the Dayton Hamvention is over and there was no announcement or news of any kind from Yaesu regarding their future QRP/Portable offering.  I’m wondering if the boat has sailed and left Yaesu high and dry? 

With Elecraft announcing the KX3 at the 2011 Dayton Hamvention and opening the KX3 up for orders in late December 2011 and beginning to ship orders in the Spring of 2012, the 2012 Dayton Hamvention would be the perfect place to announce a new QRP offering from Yaesu.  Well…that is if a new offering was planned.

Of course, Yaesu is big enough and perhaps powerful enough not to necessarily need to leverage an event like the Dayton Hamvention to announce a new QRP rig.  Also, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the FT-817.  While it may be over 10 years old, the old dinosaur is still kicking and screaming and loved in the QRP community.  As I stated I do own one and I plan to keep it….for now!  

So why do I even bring this up?  Well I do have an interest in QRP operations and an updated offering from Yaesu would be great news for the hobby.  However, I don’t view this as doom and gloom.  I figure Yaesu will update their aging line of 817’s, 857’s and 897’s when they feel the time is right.  However, I just wonder if that time is NOW!

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK   

Keeping up with the band plans

I have the company of 3 rigs in my shack. The XYL IC-7000 friendly rig that offers quite a decent amount of features for its pygmy size. Not to mention its requirements for very adaptable fingers to enable these features and a good memory. The handheld VX8-GR which give me a fell friendly access to 2m and 70cms and the always useful APRS. Finally the FT-817  for holidays and occasional summit activations.

 

Lately the FT-817 has been lagging behind in the ‘access to all parts of the band’ feature which is pretty useful at worst and a necessity when the bands are crowded or as in the case of this weekend. A special event station run by our club, GB1WSL was transmitting outside of the window of opportunity for the unmodified rig. GB1WSL was on 7.133Mhz and mine stopped in its tracks at 7.099.9Mhz.

Until this evening, when soldering iron in hand I removed solder from 1 jumper and added some (not the same stuff i might add) to another jumper and hey presto the Full TX on FT-817 as mods.dk calls it was complete. Its a bit more fiddly than that but even an inexperienced soldering iron toting danger managed it in about 15 minutes. Why had I not done this before?

Now the rig has the full 40m band, which is the primary reason why I did the modification,  it becomes even more indispensable when I go portable. Next stop is a suitable capacity LiPo battery that I can add on to give it the full output away from a power outlet and an ATU for portable means. I wonder if there is a design out for a homebrew ATU about.

W0/FR-107 (Green Mountain) 2085m / 6841ft

To say I’m hooked on SOTA might be an understatement.  My second SOTA activation was completed on 27 November, just eight days after my first.  Yes, I’m hooked. 

As mentioned in recent blog updates, I had ordered a few items from Buddipole which didn’t arrive in time for my first activation of Mt. Herman (W0/FR-063).  Let me be clear that this was no fault of Buddipole.  I just simply didn’t order the items early enough for them to arrive in time. 

So with my new items including the Buddipole shockcord whip, the Buddipole A123 nanophosphate battery pack and the Buddipole mini-coil and the lessons learned from activation #1, I set out for Green Mountain.  Before I continue any further.  I just want to say that of the list of things I just identified.  The “lessons learned” were truly the most important.  But new toys are always fun to have and certainly fun to play with.

As I mentioned in my activation alert blog post I chose Green Mountain due to its proximity to my home QTH and very honestly its relatively easy climb.  The elevation gain is approx. 1000’ over about 1.9 miles.  I was still a little sore from the Mt. Herman trip the weekend before, but couldn’t pass up the great weather which was forecasted for the area.   Plus I had some turkey and dressing to work off.  Smile

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I arrived at the Green Mountain trailhead just before 8 AM (1500z).  This would allow me plenty of time to hike to the summit and get everything setup to start calling CQ at 1700z.  There are several trails leading to the top of Green Mountain.  I had my APRS beacon on and this is how my trek looked as I hiked to the top.

 

 

 

Green Mountain Trail sign post

The Green Mountain trail is a well maintained and an easy to follow trail.  As a matter of fact, if you live in the Greater Denver area, I would highly recommend Green Mountain as a good starter SOTA summit.   It’s close to Denver and the metro area and like I said it is both an easy trail to follow and not difficult either.   As I stated previously, there are several trails that make up the Green Mountain Park area.  All are clearly marked as shown to the right.

 

 

 

 

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Like many of the foothills that dot the landscape around the Denver metro area, Green Mountain does have a transmitter site and tower.  The transmitter site and tower is not the summit.  But as I approached the trail that passes near the site, I saw what I thought was a little boy or girl sitting on a rock.  It was still early and there was no one else around.  This little boy or girl continued to just sit there on the rock.  I began looking around to see if anyone else was around and once I got within about 25 yards I realized was just a rock with a pipe sticking out.  Other hikers had placed a sweater, scarf, gloves and a cap.  It sure fooled me.

 

 

 

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I made it to the summit from the trailhead in just a little over 45 minutes and began setting up the Buddipole Versatee vertical.  I used an older hiking staff which has a removable knob handle.  Under this knob is a 1/4 stud for mounting a camera.  Buddipole provides a machined brass connector which is 1/4” threads inside, with 5/8” threads outside.  This allows you to stand the Buddipole Versatee on one end and easily connect it to the monopod or hiking staff.  I then guyed it from just below the Versatee and used large rocks to secure it all in place.  If you remember from my first activation, the wind really caused problems with the way I setup the vertical.  Thanks to Steve wG0AT for this idea.

 

 

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If you’re not familiar with the Buddipole versatee vertical setup, all it consists of is the Buddipole versatee adapter, Buddipole coil and either the arms and whip from the dipole kit or the new Buddipole shockcord whip.  I’m using the mini-coil and the shockcord whip.  The final important element to the vertical setup is a single, elevated wire counterpoise.  Buddipole sells an inexpensive lightweight counterpoise kit that works great.  One end of the wire counterpoise attaches to the versatee adapter and the other I keep elevated off the ground with my other hiking pole. 

 

 

 

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The other main addition to my SOTA setup is the fantastic Buddipole A123 nanophosphate battery packs.  I decided to go large and I purchased the largest pack they offer.  This is the 4S4P and is rated at 13.2 volts/9.2Ah and weighs just over 3 lbs.  The SLA I packed up to Mt. Herman weighed over 5.5 lbs and was only 7.5Ah.  This little battery pack is truly amazing and I’m 100% comfortable with the investment I made.

 

 

Weather conditions were early fall like.  When I left home the temperature was around 30 F and just in the short 30 minute drive, the temperature at the trailhead was around 38 F.  The sun was shining bright and summit temperatures during my two hour stay were in the 50’s with a very light breeze.

But how did it all perform?  Well…I began calling CQ at just before 1700z and logged my first contact on 20m at 16:58z.  I worked 21 contacts on 20m (including a summit to summit contact with wG0AT) and finished up with another 18 QSO’s on 17m for a total of 49 QSO’s in just under two hours.  While band conditions weren’t as good as last weekend, I still had a lot of fun and truly look forward to activation number three.

Speaking of my next activation.  It may actually be a few weeks (or longer) before I have the opportunity to do another SOTA activation.  My wife and I are planning to travel to Texas in about 10 days and then the Christmas holidays are just around the corner.   Also, winter weather will surely arrive at some point and bring snow covered trails and much, much colder temperatures.  I’ve said several times that I don’t consider myself to only be a fair weather SOTA activator, but I also like playing it safe. 

Regarding my possible next activation.  The Colorado Front Range weather can be cold and snowy one day and a few days later all visible signs of snow have melted away.  With that said, there are dozens of SOTA summits just in my backyard ranging in elevation from 6,800 – 9,500 feet with good, solid trails.  I plan to just start at the bottom of the list and work my way up (at least during winter).  This is sure to keep me busy for a while. 

Until next time….

73 de KD0BIK (Jerry)

My First SOTA Activation–Success

Mt. Herman is in the books as my first SOTA (Summits On The Air) activation.  I’ll get to all the particulars in just a minute.  First, I want to thank a few individuals who truly made a difference in helping me make this activation a success.

Steve Galchutt, wG0AT.  If you’re the least bit interested in SOTA and/or any type of portable operations, you’re probably already familiar with his YouTube videos.  If not, please take a look.  Steve answered my many questions about the SOTA program and activating Mt. Herman.   Thanks Steve.

Budd Drummond, W3FF.  Budd is the Budd in Buddipole.  Without his fantastic products, all I’ll describe later would not be possible.  In addition, Budd helped spot me and cheered me on as the pileup started.  I was told he would probably show up and help stir up contacts for QRP stations.  Show up he did.  Thanks Budd.

As I described in my activation alert and the update released a few days later.  I’ve done backcountry hiking, backpacking, camping and have climbed a few 14’ers here in Colorado.  I’ve also operated portable HF before but have never combined the two in any way before today.  I had some (OK…a lot) of concerns and probably over prepared for this and also brought along a lot more gear than I truly needed.  More about this in a minute.

A major concern I had going into this activation centered around powering my station.  I have been researching the Buddipole nanophosphate A123 battery packs and decided to bite the bullet and purchase one.  Unfortunately, it didn’t arrive in time (no fault of Buddipole Company) and I had to go to “Plan B”.  This “Plan B” ended up being my old stand by which is a sealed lead acid 7.5 Ah battery weighing in around 6 lbs.  The battery is a couple of years old but I’ve maintained it the best I could.  I tested it prior to the trip by running the FT-817 on WSPR.  My station transmitted every 6 minutes or so for a transmit duration of almost 2 minutes each cycle.  It powered the 817 in this condition for nearly 3 hours before beginning to fall off.   

As a precaution I carried along a rollup solar panel which I’ve had a few years.  I was concerned  the battery wouldn’t hold out and figured if it was a sunny day, the solar panel would help supplement the battery.  The solar panel and solar charge controller weighs in about 2 lbs. 

My antenna setup for this activation was probably the one area I felt fairly confident with.  I’ve owned my Buddipole for several years and have used it in portable operations and even set it up at home a few times.  I’ve used it in the dipole configuration as well as vertical.  The Buddipole setup is a highly versatile system and of course very portable. 

For portability I went with the vertical versatee setup.  Which consists of a mast, the buddipole versatee adapter, coil, two mast sections and standard whip with one wire counterpoise.   The challenge I experienced was with the mast.  I had also ordered the new Buddipole shock cord mast and like the battery it didn’t arrive in time.  I wasn’t looking forward to carrying the extended mast I have for the buddipole tripod.  With the help of Steve, wG0AT he shared with me some pictures of using a hiking pole to support the vertical.   This will work….but did it really?

I think I finally fell asleep on Friday night just before midnight.  I was excited and I was mentally going through my pack (which I had packed a few hours before).  I finally convinced myself I had everything and fell asleep.  I was awake before my alarm sounded at 5 AM.  The plan was to have breakfast somewhere between Denver and Monument, Colorado and arrive at the trailhead by 8 AM local time (1500z).  This would allow me two hours to make it to the summit of Mt. Herman and setup to start calling CQ around 10 AM local (1700z).

I arrived at the Mt. Herman trailhead right on schedule and began the hike.  I’ll admit I’m not in shape…..far from it.  But I allowed enough time to do 1 mile hike (about 1000’ of elevation gain) and was on the summit with about 45 minutes to spare.  I started setting up the antenna first.  The wind was rough…really rough on the summit.  While I setup guy ropes, the wind was really punishing my antenna. 

As I previously stated, I was planning to lash the versatee to one of my hiking poles.  I brought along about a half dozen tie-wraps or zip ties.  I use these things all around the house and office.  I’ve always considered them the next best thing to duct-tape and bailing wire.  I’ve never had a tie-wrap break on me and figured this would be a better solution to bungee cords.  Unfortunately within 15 minutes the first two zip ties had been broken and the antenna crashed to the ground.  I had four more and decided to go for broke and use all four.  Success???

I had watched several of the Buddipole Youtube videos on setting up the versatee vertical.  The recommended setup was two antenna accessory arms, red coil: tap 5, standard 5.5 foot whip with all 6 extensions out.  The counterpoise 14.25 feet.  I managed to fight the wind, the vertical was standing straight and I quickly checked using my iP-30 antenna analyzer.  Just a few tweaks to the counterpoise and I had an SWR reading of 1.5.  This was good enough for me.

I quickly got my Yaesu FT-817ND setup and was in business.  I dialed up the HF Pack 17m frequency of 18.157.50, listened for a few minutes (heard nothing) then asked if the frequency was in use (heard nothing) asked again and after hearing nothing I began calling CQ.  At 17:15z the first station answering my CQ was just a few miles below me down in the town of Monument, Colorado.  wG0AT had been listening for me. Steve posted my callsign on the SOTAWatch website which alerted  all the other SOTA Chasers to my activation.  Let the fun begin.

The pileup was simply amazing and contacts flew into my paper logbook (just a Rite in the Rain journal).  From 17:15z through 17:49z I worked 28 stations consisting of 22 US, 2 Canada, 2 Germany, 1 Spain and 1 Czech Republic.  All on 5w.  I truly didn’t count on working DX and certainly didn’t count on adding to my DXCC count.  But the Czech Republic was a new DX entity for me and I’m truly pleased to have worked  him.  Thanks again to Steve, wG0AT who sent me the picture below showing my APRS route up to the summit and three of the DX stations QSL cards.

image

My plan was to spend about an hour working 17 meters and then try 12 meters.  However, just after wrapping up with W7RJC at 17:49z the vertical came crashing down to the ground.   The temperature on the summit was below freezing and I guess that made the plastic zip ties brittle and they just couldn’t handle what mother nature was dishing out.  I was out of options and decided to pack up. 

Besides the high wind, I could not have asked for a better day for my first SOTA activation.  The picture (below) was taken with my iPhone and shows the view from the summit towards the northeast.  Once I got everything packed away I took some time to enjoy a sandwich my wonderful wife made for me the night before and take in the beautiful sights around me. 

image

Just before strapping the pack on for the descent back to the car I took this photo (below) to capture just how pleased I was with the events of the day.  I had finally combined a couple of my favorite hobbies together into one activity and can honestly say, I can’t wait for the next SOTA activation.

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This experience has helped me to also better understand I need to do more to get back in better physical shape.  As I’ve always said, amateur radio is different things to different people.  The best part about the SOTA program is it can be enjoyed both from a mountain top or from the comfort of your ham shack.  I’ve done both and will continue to chase and activate every chance I get.  I hope you’ll join me.

Until next time….

73 de KD0BIK

A day by the lake

The fine weather we have enjoyed for several weeks was forecast to change, so on Wednesday Olga and I decided to take the bus and go for a picnic lunch by Bassenthwaite Lake. For radio entertainment I took the UV-3R (in case of any SOTA or WOTA activations) and the FT-817ND.

HF conditions were pretty dire – WWV has been predicting blackouts – and I initially heard nothing above 20m. But even though I called the loudest stations that weren’t calling “CQ DX outside Europe” no-one even acknowledged my existence. (What’s wrong with working stations inside Europe, I’d like to know, especially when no-one is replying to your CQs anyway?)

The antenna I was using, the Wonder Wand L-Whip, could have been better. It does, however, have the advantage that it is small and light. At the moment I can’t carry much, needing one hand for my walking stick and the other for balance, so everything has to fit in a small shoulder bag. So I didn’t have anything else suitable.

The UV-3R produced a contact with Terry, G0VWP/P activating Walla Crag, the lowest Wainwright, prompting Olga to comment that the small radio was better than the big one!

After lunch I tuned around some more and heard some activity on 15m and 17m. And whilst tuning 17m I stumbled across this. Actually, that’s what I heard a couple of minutes later after I’d dug my smartphone out of my jacket pocket to make the recording using Voice Recorder. What I heard first was ZD8D (Ascension Island) calling CQ. Repeatedly. With no takers. He was not very strong – about S4 on the ‘817 S-meter – with some QSB, but perfectly clear. Clearer in fact than in the recording. I called, but needless to say he didn’t hear me.

As I’ve said before, I have little interest in working stations just to tick countries off a list. But I have a particular interest in the British colonies of Ascension Island and St. Helena as I visited both places during a “trip of a lifetime” in 1999 but have never worked either of them. Just my luck to come across a DX station calling CQ with no pileup when I’m surrounded by mountains and running just 5W to an extremely inefficient antenna!

Curse Yaesu

… for making the power connector for the FT-817 a nonstandard and apparently unique size. I sacrificed the power cable of a multi-voltage wall-wart which had a set of interchangeable tips to make a cable I could use to run the ‘817 from my lab bench supply for an experiment. One of the tips looked to my eyes exactly the same as the one on the Yaesu charger, even down to having a yellow plastic insulator at the tip. But stupid me I didn’t think to check it would actually go in before severing the cable from the wall-wart and now I find that it doesn’t. So not only did the wall-wart lose its cable in vain but I now can’t do my experiement, since it would have taken longer than the ‘817’s woefully inadequate batteries would permit. Grrr!!

I can’t even find an FT-817 power cable on eBay.

IK1ZYW Labs & FT817 remote

Interesting update on IK1ZYW Labs on project to achieve remote control of the FT817. Also a pointer to an interesting page on FT817 Accessories, the external keypad project (circuit, manual & firmware available as well as various configurations of components including reprogrammed and tested chip ATtiny2313-20PU, xtal and 4×4 keypad) and the remote display project (pages under construction).

From the external keyboard info:

“…are you tired of hunting needed functions through F+Sel+A/B/C combinations? Do you want to improve your on-the-air proficiency? You can’t help but always press more keys at a time? Or always retouch the frequency when pushing the F button? An external keypad will let you re-discover the joy of QRPing with the FT-817(ND).

The IK1ZYW Keypad for FT-817(ND) is a wired partial remote control for the little Yaesu transceiver. It was conceived during a 6-hour field session at 2700 m.a.s.l. for a VHF contest in August 2008…”


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