Tag Archives: Beach 40

Another successful class

Just a short post today. This weekend I held another Technician license class, and it went great!

Another small and diverse class, best of all everyone passed with flying colors. I really do have a lot of fun doing these; by Sunday evening I am wired, completely exhausted, and absolutely fried mentally, I love every minute of it.

Two more classes in April, one Technician and one General, and that ends my currently posted calendar. I may be adding more classes after a visit from out of state family. We shall see.

In other radio news, I have been busy building dipole antennas. I am up to a 6 meter, 10 meter, and a 20 meter. I will definitely be adding a 40 meter to that soon. I have been looking for steel materials suppliers for 1/4 λ verticals. I want to build individual 70cm, 2m, 6m, and 10m. I think I may have found one. If so I will be working on a vertical array in the near future.

After I get all of the bands covered with basics, I want to start working on directional beams, at least for the main bands. I will wait for a while on these. Down the road, I also want to build some of the more exotic antenna varieties, including multi-bands, and arrays.

Antennas are usually relatively quick builds, which is great. Radio builds tend to take a bit longer. I have a couple of radio projects in limbo at the moment. Once I get some cabling projects finished for digital modes, I will also be getting back to the radio projects.

The build that seems to be taking forever is the Beach 40 project. This one needs to get back on the priority list. I should be able to get back to it this fall.

In VE news… This weekend will be my 54th VE session with the Silicon Valley VE group, something else I truly enjoy doing.

That’s it for now.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG 

July? Has it really been that long?

Wow, yes it has in fact been that long.

20151104_161606From a building stand point… nothing new has been going on. I am still working on the Beach 40 and the Bitx 20. The Beach 40 still needs the audio section rebuilt and the Bitx20 needs some troubleshooting . I don’t have the facilities to put up a 20 or 40 meter antenna and since both radios are QRP(p), a good antenna is vital to making any contacts.

20151121_072647From an operators perspective… ya, nothing going on there ether. I need to pull down my Frankenstein/Hill Billy mast because we are having our building painted soon. I have plans for a simpler replacement that should work out fine. I’ll post about that if and or when that happens.

From an experimenters view point…  I have been kind of busy lately. Many of the newer radio projects I have been looking at use micro-controllers and embedded Linux systems. All of which I am totally fine with. There are so many other applications besides radio that I can employ these technologies. The only impediment is getting some play time in with these technologies and getting familiar with there capabilities, use, and programming.

arduinoEarlier this year I picked up some Arduino hardware. I haven’t had much time to work with it yet as the Day Job has been keeping me hopping as well as a lot of stuff in the personal life, nothing bad, just a lot of changes and preparations.

Many projects are done with the Arduino and various shields. Some require a little more direction in the form of an embedded system with a true OS. Enter Raspberry Pi and Raspbian.

rpi3bLast week I added a RPi 3B to the hardware pile and began working with it. Along with the Pi I picked up a copy of Exploring Raspberry Pi: Interfacing to the real world with embedded Linux From Wiley written by Derek Molloy.

Linux doesn’t worry me at all. Many moons ago I was a Solaris 7/8 admin as well as a RedHat 7 admin. The problem is that well over a decade has gone by since I actively worked on those systems. I have been in a Windows only environment for so long my Unix brain has turned to mush. So now I’m re-learning the Unix command line and re-acquainting myself with the Linux directory structure along with some all new unique elements of embedded systems and the Raspbian OS in particular.

With all of the projects piling up and now adding a lot of general computer stuff to the pile, Arduino Sketches, Python, C/C++, and picking up where I left off with Perl, it almost feels like I should go back to school and get credit for all of this work. I could pick up a CS degree with everything on my “tech to learn” plate right now. Add in all of the projects and an engineering degree (EE or ME) isn’t far behind. Thoughts for another time.

Radio specific plans are to read and build along with Crystal Sets to Sideband by Frank W. Harris W0IYE, and then get back to Experimental Methods in RF Design and do the same. I don’t expect to do a lot of operating other than 2 meter until we have the facilities to put up a real antenna, and there is no solid timeline for that.

Life outside radio has taken all of my time lately and I am just now slowly getting back to things. Most of it is general electronics/computer experimentation and adding to the knowledge pool right now.

So in conclusion, no I haven’t been busy, I’ve been too busy.

:-/

hamverseryP.S. Today’s post is brought to you by Hamversary. On this day in 2013 I received my license grant about a week after I walked into the Saratoga Fire Station a non-ham. Since then I have worked my way up to Extra Class, begun teaching license preparation classes to prospective hams, and I have been a Volunteer Examiner for 42 exam sessions, most of them at the Saratoga Fire Station.

I have learned so much in so many ways in this short period of time. Thank you Amateur Radio.

73,
~Jon KK6GXG 

The BitX 20 & More

The BitX

20160618_120709I was fortunate to recently have been gifted a BitX 20 kit by a friend and fellow VE. The kit came from QRPkits.com some time ago, I believe at least a year or so ago.

My intention was to build it for Field Day 2016. Sadly, while I was well on track to getting the radio built, 2 parts were missing from the kit. BS170 N-Channel MOSFETs to be specific. This put on the breaks for the final assembly and stopped me dead in my tracks with the finish line in sight.

20160624_193754I have the parts waiting for me at Jameco will-call for Monday. Once I get them home, populating the remainder of the circuit board should take about an hour. Then its on to the initial tuning and getting the radio packaged up in its housing.

I will do a full project write-up in the Projects section soon, but for now just an update.

A Homebrew Signal Generator/Oscillator

20160622_084953During the BitX build I ran into a small hiccough. The testing at some point calls for the injection of an 11 MHz signal. I would normally use my Lafayette signal generator but for some reason it’s on the fritz so I had to come up with another solution… build an 11 MHz signal generator.

20160622_085219With the crystals in the kit it was easy to build a simple generator with parts on hand and while I only had 1 of the five crystals installed it was easy. By the next testing phase I had installed the remaining 4 crystals. Now I need one for the homebrew SigGen! (click the image for the circuit diagram)

Off to HSC Electronic Supply for some 11 MHz crystals.

This project will also get a write-up in the Projects section soon. This one in in particular has a lot of use in checking unmarked crystals as long as they are between 1 and 20 MHz and is a great foundation piece for beginning builders.

A Homebrew TNC

20160524_145401Before I got started on the BitX I was working on getting my Baofeng 2m/70cm HT on digital. I found a couple of designs for a homebrew TNC and set out to make that work.

Because of the way the PTT key works on the Baofeng I haven’t been able to make the TNC work with the HT but it should work fine with my 40 meter QRPme.com Splinter II and the BitX 20.

A full write-up post is coming on this one too.

Look for all three of these in the Projects section for full details on the builds coming soon.

It’s been a long time since I posted, and most of that time I have been working on non-radio stuff. Now that I am back in the swing of things I have more time for radio stuff so I should be able to post more, and make updates to the Projects pages

As soon as the BitX 20 is up and running I plan on getting the Lafayette working again and get back to the Beach 40 DSB. Another Field Day has slipped through my fingers. I don’t plan on that happening again!

That’s all for now folks, 72, 73, and good night!

~Jon KK6GXG

 

First week of April

Here we are, the first week of April. What has KK6GXG been up to since posting last month. Not a whole lot.

ARRL-VEC VEOne significant note, I have surpassed the 25 session count as a Volunteer Examiner! I am now up to 27 sessions. Yesterday (4/4) was also my 1 year anniversary with the Silicon Valley VE Group. I have been a VE since December 2014, but I didn’t begin working sessions until April 2015.

Working the sessions as an examiner is something I enjoy a great deal and I am always excited to see who shows up to the sessions. It is such a diverse group of people coming together in a common interest. Amateur Radio is all about diversity, and sharing common interests often regardless of  geopolitical boundaries.

I love to see youngsters at sessions pursuing their ham radio licenses, especially young ladies. While there are a lot of women in radio of all ages, it’s nice to see girls getting into radio at a young age. Radio is a place that tends to level all socioeconomic and cultural playing fields. A fellow ham is a fellow ham, period.

A couple of things have been nagging at the back of my head as of late. One is to get back to homebrew projects; get that 40 meter DSB finished and on the air. Another is to get back to studying CW, and of course build transceivers for more bands. Lastly, for now, is to get involved more.

With our QTH situation in flux for the next 6 months, it makes more sense to be involved in something less geographically ridged and that doesn’t require operating capabilities I don’t have right now or can’t build quickly and inexpensively.

This points to something administrative rather than operational. One place I would like to be more involved is with the VEC. I love being a VE, but I would like to be more involved with the process. I have no idea how I could be of service to the VEC, but I would like to.

Another thing I want to do before we change QTH is get back to the Bay Area Builders Club monthly meetings. Fortunately this one is just a matter of making the time to get over to the meeting. See you guys on Sunday 😉

KK6GXG-MakingWavesNo concrete plans, just some aspirations. For the moment that’s all I can muster. Life and the Day Job have been at the forefront but no playtime makes for cranky-pants, so I need to figure out a way to make some time. This post is one attempt at making some time.

Til next time… 73.
~Jon KK6GXG

Antennas & More

20150507_192446Today was a good antenna day. I finally got the PVC cover on the 40 meter helically-wound antenna I started back in April. I have been using the antenna without the cover as a test antenna next to the bench but it’s time to get it up on the roofline for some actual use.

By “actual use” I am referring to the Beach 40 project that is back in motion now that I have a VXO that pulls more than 1.8 kHz of selectivity. Yay 148 kHz selectivity! Now all I need to do is get the Tx/Rx switching working for the transceiver to be operational.

20140430_131323Another antenna project completed today is the 2 meter twin-lead J-Pole. This one was also waiting for a PVC cover so it could be mounted on a pole. The original design was intended as a portable antenna but the twin-lead J-Pole on any frequency above 50 MHz lends itself well to mounted vertical use, it just needs a housing to keep it in the vertical position.

This little antenna works really well. On numerous occasions I have been unable to ping the local repeaters with my HT with the stock or aftermarket antennas for handhelds. If I attach the twin-lead J-Pole I can actually get out and participate in the nets. With this antenna up in the air at roofline I should have no problems working any of the local repeaters including the packet and Winlink towers.

Speaking of which, I want to get into digital modes once I get the antennas up in the air. I’m not quite up to building a TNC from scratch so I need to save up a hundred and fifty bucks to get digital rolling. Soon…

20151111_145644The other antenna project today was a new-start. When the 2 and 40 meter antennas go up I also plan on attaching a 70 cm half-wave vertical with counterpoise. This one is an experiment. I originally planned on building a 70 cm full-wave twin-lead J-Pole, and I likely still will, but I wanted to see if I could make a vertical with counterpoise that works well. I may even mod this one into a full-wave vertical with half-wave counterpoise radials. Dunno. Like I said, this is an experiment.

Another near-term antenna project, as-of-yet not started, is an aviation band twin-lead J-Pole set up like the 2 meter one. Being a pilot and mechanic, at some point I would like to have either a hangar at a local airport or a small strip at home to work on restorations, so it would make sense to have an AvBand radio in the shop. I have a Vertex Standard (Yaesu) HT for aviation VHF, it just needs an external antenna. I also have a few old radios salvaged from aircraft that would never make it back into an aircraft, but may be suitable for base station operations.

I have a number of other antenna experiment/projects in various configurations, in particular 2 m and 70 cm yagi and/or helical beam antennas suitable for satellite and moon bounce communication. But these are for the future. I also want to build some highly directional antennas for radio orienteering and high-gain narrow-beam antennas for really low power communications.

As for the “More” in the title, once I finish the 40 m transceiver I plan on building a 20 and 10 meter versions. I also have an idea for simple low power beacon transmitters I want to play with. I also want to get set up for QRSS, WSPR, and APRS.

Lots to do. One step at a time.

Till next time, 73,
~Jon KK6GXG

40 Meter Ceramic Oscillator

The Beach 40 saga continues. My original VXO design, well… it stunk. I’m not sure why, but the best selectivity I could get out of it was only a couple of kilohertz, very annoying.

20151104_161508I have been working on a VFO design to get full band selectivity but in the meantime I came into some ceramic oscillators for 7.2 and 3.68 MHz. The best part is that I replaced the entire Super VXO section with a 140ρF variable capacitor and two ceramic resonators.

20151104_161541By placing the 140ρF var cap in series with the two paralleled resonators and feeding the output directly into the local oscillator buffer… Ta da! A working  VXO.

This time, instead of a few kilohertz the VXO pulls a full 148 kHz, from 7.173 MHz down to 7.025 MHz. It is certainly not the full band but it is a useable range. Over a five minute period I noticed a about a slow 50 kHz drift that eventually settled out to a point where it continued to float ±10 kHz.

20151104_161453This is not a final solution, but it will work well enough to get this QRP DSB transceiver on the air for testing.

Of course now that I have a working VXO attached to the local oscillator buffer, it’s time to hook it up to the product detector/balanced modulator… success! With the VXO, buffer, product detector chain attached to an antenna it was time for a little listen.

20151104_163742The audio amp still has some issues as far as power drain off when power is disconnected, but it does fine as an amp. I plugged everything together and plugged the audio out into an external amp so I could tune around without headphones.

Not much on the band, but my frequency generator with a small antenna plugged into it put out enough RF for the receiver chain of the Beach 40 with the temporary VXO to pick up its 400 Hz signal and cross reference the VXO frequency displayed on the oscilloscope with that of the frequency counter connected to the frequency generator. So one could say I have a working receiver, mostly anyway.

Next up: First and foremost I need to get my documentation in order. In particular, I need to get the schematics in conformance with the actual circuits.  After I get the documentation in place I need to get to work on the audio amp.

After the RX stage is all dandy, my attention will turn to the TX/RX switching. I can’t do anything more with the TX side until I get the TX/RX switching squared away.

Anyway, that’s all for now.

Until next time,
~Jon KK6GXG

UPDATE: As promised, the conformed schematic for the VXO/Buffer section…

Ceramic Resonator VXO

Slacker Week

Oh, I’m a baaaad boy…

I have been busy, but not so busy that I couldn’t get a small post up, what a slacker. I just wasn’t up to it, so this week is catch-up week.

20150615_105153
The clear bins on the left replaced one of the black drawer units and brought a bunch of stuff up from under the bench

One thing that got done was making some component storage changes on the benchtop. There was a bunch of stuff under the work surface that if I wanted a component I had to pull out and unstack containers to get to parts. Now most of the components and parts are on the benchtop. Staying organized is hard work. 😉

The Beach 40 is getting closer to completion. I have all of the sections done(ish), I need to go back and swap out a pair of capacitors in the Audio Amp and test the RF Amp section. The biggest thing I am behind on is posting updates to the project page which I will be doing this week.

I have a bunch of day-job stuff that I need to get done this week as well so it will be a bit of a crunch on time so I don’t see much solder melting in this weeks schedule but I do believe I’ll be up and running for Field Day, *knock on wood*.

On Saturday the De Anza Electronics Flea yielded some sweet fruit. A very nice edition of Andrew P. Peabody’s 1873 A Manual  of Moral Philosophy in great condition. Another awesome find was a Millersfalls No. 2 egg beater style hand drill, also in really good condition. The crank handle needs a little straightening but the drill is in great condition for daily use. Last but certainly not least was a bag-o-relays. Which is what I was specifically looking for at the flea. Thirty eight relays, all good for radio work, and only $20.

A really good flea market day, something for the mind, something for the hands, and something for making radio waves. What more could I ask for.

Sunday was the Bay Area Radio Builders Club meeting in Cupertino. A small gathering but plenty of radio building chin-wagging along with some show-and-tell. Topics ranged from my DSB transceiver to a Raspberry Pi controlled HT set up as an Echolink station with many more abilities under the hood, and the clubs TAK-40 radio build progress. (TAK-40 link to QST magazine article PDF)

That’s all for now, the day job beckons.

Until next time, 73,
~Jon KK6GXG

Solder-less Progress

Some good stuff got done this week even though I didn’t melt much solder.

I had an amateur radio testing session on Saturday. It was a busy day with lots of new hams passing there Technician, some going on to pass the General exam, and even an Extra! We also had several upgrades to General and Extra.

For me the session was also a good learning experience as a VE because I had the opportunity to get some training in another job with the group.

We basically have three jobs split among the VEs present at any given session; two administrative jobs, and a panel of test examiners.  I have been participating as an examiner for the last several months. Today I received some training for the administrative side of things.

I have been putting off the testing on the Beach 40 until I get the last few details finished on the audio and RF amps as well as the LP filter. This week I am playing beginning of the month catch-up with the day job so time is short.

Also tied to everything else is the change over from Windows to Linux. I have deleted the Win partition on the laptop and am now running full on Linux. I am loosing two programs I liked but just couldn’t get them to work with Linux native or emulated and I don’t want to run virtual machines. I still have all of the data, and I do have a Windows 7 laptop in the shop I basically only use for the web browser.

The programs I am loosing are Quicken and Business Plan Pro. BPP will just go away. I exported all of the business plans I have put together over the last decade to .doc files which I can access through OpenOffice. I can use the previous plans to build new ones as needed in document formats.

Quicken is the one giving me headaches. Supposedly you can export the data to a file for import to Skrooge. No joy. After several exports and several hours I made the contagious/stupid decision to just go back and reenter all the data for this year.  It sounds a lot worse than it is. I will just do one month at a time and by the end of this month I should be all caught up. Not to mention very familiar with the new software.

I have found replacements or versions that will run on Linux or in emulation for all of my radio software an in fact found some new stuff that looks mighty interesting. Big plus here.

Along with the radio specific software, I found gEDA Schematic Editor. WOOT! It took a little getting used to the interface and component placement, but I like the results a lot. I have been redrawing the schematics I originally did on schematics.com for the Beach 40 and think they look much better. I will be posting them soon to the build page. A good thing too because there are some errors on those schematics. Ooops!

One last update before I go, I was working on test prep for my commercial radio license a while ago but got sidetracked by all of the build projects and the day job. One of my goals for second/third quarter is to take my commercial radio exams, at least two of the three anyway, and get my commercial license. So I will be committing some of my limited time to that endevor over the next few weeks. The build will continue, I still hope to have the Beach 40 up by Field Day, but I need to budget more time to the Day Job/Future Day Job.

Anyway, I have 0.5TB of files syncing with Google Drive and a pile of accounting stuff that needs to find a new home in Skrooge so that’s it for today.

Until next time, 73,
~Jon KK6GXG