Posts Tagged ‘unobtanium’
Three perhaps noteworthy amateur radio activities occurred recently around K8GU: 1. During the course of some HVAC upgrades, I was able to get two holes core drilled through the foundation to bring coax and control cables into the house; 2. I operated in the NAQP August CW contest; 3. Evan and I went to the Berryville, VA, hamfest.
These two ports exit the basement into a crawl space where I will ground the cables before they enter the house. I still need to get some hydraulic cement or other quick-setting patch mortar to clean up the drill crater on the outside. Total cost: $5 in materials and a large pizza for the crew.
Screenshot above shows TRLinux after the end of the contest (obviously it was today, not last night). TRLinux performed flawlessly again with the YCCC SO2R+ box driving the KK1L band-decoder and 6×2 switch. I operated for about five hours (probably a little more, and definitely more if I used the NAQP 30-minute time-off rule to calculate it). I got up after my first operating sitting at the beginning of the contest and left the shack. As I exited the door, I was hit with the smell of hot electronics. You know the smell: like when you just let the smoke out of a transistor. I walked over to the antenna switch matrix where I was using a triplexer to split the hexagonal beam to both radios. It was warm to the touch. It seems to have continued to function, but I’ll have to disassemble it at some point to see if any irreversible damage was done.
The August NAQPs are always fun for us out East because there is the ever-present opportunity for sporadic-E throughout the contest, giving us a chance to work nearby states, which can really drive up the multiplier (and QSO, depending on the direction of the opening) total. Of course, this is the real boon of having a second radio: you can call CQ on your most productive band while looking for openings on the others. I came down after supper with the family to “work 40 meters before it goes long” and ended up with blistering 10- and 15-meter runs into the Midwest and South. Since Evan and I were planning to go to the hamfest and I don’t yet have a 160-meter antenna at the “new” QTH, I pulled the plug at midnight local time (0400). Not sure 40 meters was even getting long at that point. At any rate, it was wonderful to say “hi” to so many old friends from MRRC, MWA, SMC, PVRC, and beyond!
A final comment: You can really tell how much better one radio is than another when you have them both side-by-side on your desk. This was quite apparent when I had the K3 and the TS-930S and it is also apparent with the K3 and the K2. The K2 is a wonderful radio and fun to operate, especially in the field, but it’s not the K3 as far as fit and finish, among other things. No, I’m not buying another K3 anytime soon. The K2 is quite enough for the second radio.
I’ve always heard that the Berryville, VA, hamfest had a good boneyard/fleamarket/swapmeet but I’ve never managed to attend. I resolved to attend this year and was pleasantly surprised. Evan came along for the ham-and-egg breakfast, which was good but he rejected the ham after only consuming about 1/3 of it, and a trip to the playground at the school across the road. This is still a “real” hamfest like the ones I remember going to in the early 1990s before eBay and online trading really took the wind out of swapmeets. There were plenty of rigs spanning the spectrum of boatanchor to relatively modern, HF and VHF/UHF. There were lots of amplifiers, as well, (and a small quantity of CB junk; Texas Star, anyone?) There were also lots of antennas, and even some Rohn 25. The computer and cell phone accessory dealers were mercifully few and there were lots of tables of parts, bits and pieces. This is a ham’s hamfest and I’ll be returning. I picked up a bunch of Cinch-Jones plugs and sockets for my new cable ingress, plus some SMA connectors and flexible coax jumpers. Plus, I ran into a few friends, although not the ones I expected to see!
Over the years, I’ve fancifully imagined that I would build a set of keyer paddles. I even went so far as designing a couple concepts and collecting materials…but, inevitably I moved on from the institution with the machine shop and sucker machinist who was showing me the ropes. About a week ago, Mike, W3MC, posted a bunch of goodies for sale, including a Schurr Einbau key mechanism. Since I love my Profi 2, I snapped it up, recalling also that I had a nice hunk of brass for a base. Today, I cut and milled a little base for it. Lots of finishing and some acrylic work remain, but for now, there’s something special about a freshly-milled hunk of metal.
This post might better be titled “supporting things that you value.” A recent large-scale DXpedition to a “new one” just started sending out QSL cards in the past few weeks. I have seen a bit of traffic leaking onto the regional contest club’s e-mail reflector about QSLing this operation and today someone complained that QSL requests that included donations were being processed rapidly and that he had not yet seen his. He was thoroughly chastised by a number of people on the reflector (including one of the DXpedition operators who went on at some length about the cost of the DXpedition) before the thread was (wisely) quashed by the moderator.
I composed a short reply very early in the melee, but decided (also wisely) not to contribute it because it really had little to do with contesting. So, I’m writing here in hopes that someone finds it interesting.
When I was a new ham, I won a copy of the ARRL Operating Manual at a hamfest. It sounds inane now, but I read the thing cover to cover. In the chapter on DXpeditions, the author writes, “A donation should never be a condition for receiving a QSL card.” That has stuck with me through the years. The fundamental question is: why spend tens of thousands of dollars on the effort only to hold the operators who worked you hostage for a donation that might cover your QSLing costs if you’re lucky?
But, life is rarely black and white and most DXpeditions understand the futility of that question, so the situation outlined above rarely happens. In the present scenario, the DXpedition stepped into the gray by prioritizing donors ahead of non-donors. I have no problem with this. In fact, as I began to write in my reply, it is a matter of supporting things that are important to you. If having a card for the “new one” is important so you get on the Honor Roll for this year’s DXCC Yearbook, how much is that worth?
This falls into the same category as people who used to complain about the results of contests sponsored by CQ magazine being unavailable for free online. Well, if you want the results, buy the magazine!
Enough ranting…did somebody mention that CW Sweepstakes is this weekend? SWEEPSTAKES!
I do not spend a lot of time on VHF/UHF FM and have not for many years. My first radio in 1993 was an Alinco DJ-580T handheld and I’ve thought at various times that a new handheld might suit me well, especially for receiving. A few weeks ago, as I tend to, I came across a Yaesu VX-3R offered “for parts or repair” on attractive terms and so acquired it—my second handheld ever. The problem seemed straightforward enough: full TX power, but no RX on amateur bands. RX on FM broadcast OK. The seller assured me, after I had agreed to purchase based on his description, that “somebody” had told him that this problem occurs when “only one component is bad.”
Based on the seller’s description of the problem and a thorough reading of the Technical Supplement, I developed a short list of candidate failure modes, components, and sources. Fortunately, all of the components could be sourced easily from the usual sources.
When the radio arrived, I gave it a functional check and it indeed exhibited the problem that the seller had advertised. I quickly popped it open and noticed a small red sticker in the lower right-hand (when facing the device like you would operate it) corner of the Main Unit (Side A, per the Technical Supplement’s notation). A neatly hand-drawn arrow pointed to component Q1025, which upon closer inspection, was clearly damaged.
So, I quickly set about identifying the component and procuring a replacement. It was a NJU7007F3 operational amplifier. Huh…it did not contribute to any of the failure modes I had initially suspected. However, a careful reading of the Technical Supplement indicated that this op amp drives varactor diodes in a tracking preselector—so, if it does not work, the radio will exhibit varying degrees of deafness in the amateur bands. I found out later that the “somebody” was actually a Yaesu technician who had seen the radio for repair at the behest of a previous owner and left the sticker for me. At any rate, this component clearly would have to be replaced if I were to fix the radio, so I set about looking for a source.
Mouser listed it in their catalog but wanted me to buy a reel of 3000. No thanks. At least they had it listed. So, I did the next most logical thing—I made a list of other parts that I needed and called Yaesu. The part was back-ordered to Japan for 4-6 weeks, but only cost 0.42 USD. I bought three.
After however many weeks it has been, a package from Yaesu showed up on my doorstep tonight. After repairing a damaged PCB trace (non trivial on something this small), I was able to replace it. The little black speck in the middle of this photograph is the removed component. For my non-US readers, the US 0.01 USD coin (“Penny”) is about 19 mm in diameter.
The radio fired right up and received NOAA/NWS right away. The entire repair once I had the parts was about 30 minutes. There are still two unbuilt SoftRock kits, an IC-290A with an unlocking PLL, and W1GHZ transverters for 903 and 1296 to be worked on…maybe tomorrow…