Tips and Tricks to work the FalconSat3 BB

Posted in Digital Modes with tags on November 6, 2020 by KE0PBR

Morning! I thought I would give some additional info on working the Falconsat3 (FS3) BB. First, this wouldn’t be possible without @KK4YEL s excellent article in the May/June 2020 @AMSAT Journal. You need to go read that article and get your radio set up before moving into this post. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The article that Kevin wrote focuses on how to set up your radio. I hope to give some quick information on how to actually work the sat and the BB. My setup is (as always) completely portable. A D710ga (set up per the article) powered off a battery hooked to an old Surface 1 Laptop (running Windows), PacSat and a standard arrow. I’m not using a tripod, or anything to hold or point the Arrow. Just sticking it on my hip and go.

As for the programming cable to set the radio to “Packet96”, I used the RT Systems cable that came with the KRS-D10-USB programming software. It works for both the memories and programming the PMs that Kevin talked to. As a side note, if you use the RT software, I can send you my file to program your 710, and then all you need to do is use Putty to set the 9600 Hbaud rate (see article). Just send me an Email, and I will send it to you. This file also contains setups for Terrestrial APRS, ISS APRS, FS3 APRS. All are set up as different PMs. Pretty handy file.

On the bench you need to verify that PacSat is connected to the radio. Put the programming cable in the back of the head, NOT the base of the radio (See pic below), and then plug into the laptop. Put a dummy load on the 710, then open your PacSat Software.

Where to plug in the cable.

Click the “Dir” button and you should see lines like this, at the bottom of the PacSat main screen:

The bottom of the PacSat screen showing we are connected to the radio.

The first 4 lines are just saying you are connected to the radio. You will actually get an error message when you start the software if the K5G cable isn’t plugged into the computer. Those 9 repeating lines at the bottom are telling the radio to transit. When these appear on the computer you should also see the radio TX with a quick flash of bars under the TX frequency. You did remember the dummy load, didn’t you? Speaking of frequencies….

TX is 145.840 and should be on the left of the 710 screen, the RX is 435.100 and should be on the right. I start at 435.110 and adjust down for Doppler.

OK, you are connected and are ready to test on a pass. Head to your area and get ready. I live in MN (EN34) and I get 4 passes during the day at this time of year (Early November) 2 are at 8 degrees and 2 at about 18 degrees. I can work all 4 passes without an issue. So as always, don’t be afraid to go low.

Once your sat software is saying you have AOS, click on that DIR button again, and point your antennea. You will see a screen similar to the one above. But once you contact the sat, you will see a bunch of other lines. This usually starts at 3-4 degrees for me. If after a while if you don’t see anything happen, you  may have to click on that DIR button a second time.   I don’t know what those lines on the bottom of the PacSat screen mean, except you are communicating with the sat. Just so we are clear, the 9600 baud, makes it so you can’t hear the packets. It just sounds like static. So how do you know if you are doing good? I watch 4 things during a pass.

  1. Make sure there are at least 2 bars on the RX S-Meter. I do this by adjusting for Doppler, pointing the Arrow and most importantly twisting the arrow for polarity. I will get up to 4 bars, but when it drops to one, I twist for polarity, and if I can’t get 2 bars, I drop the RX freq by 5 and try to get those bars back. See below pic.
  2. On the 710, on the RX side whenever the TNC is decoding packets, you will get the word CON flash above the RX freq. See below pic.
  3. Watch the TX on the radio. Make sure it is transmitting every once in a while. Just like when we tested above.
  4. Watch the PacSat software to see if lines are appearing at the bottom of the window.
D710 Showing “CON” and S-Meter

If all is working well, you are seeing the “Directory” in PacSat filling up. Congrats, you have now connected with the sat, and it sent you data. Now the fun starts!

PacSat Directory

The PacSat software allows you to go back to your shack and choose which threads to download, and create messages to send later on. I’m not going to get into great detail on this, the manual is very good in this respect. But one thing it doesn’t say is that you don’t need to be connected to the sat for this. You compose your messages, then next time you connect, the software will automatically send and receive what you requested. Pretty cool.

Speaking of cool, in the first few days of working FS3, I have contacted Spain, Brazil, India and my favorite Sudan! And lets not forget many in the US too.

Let me know if you have any questions!

My Sudan contact.

So you want to chase grids on Sats?

Posted in Radios with tags , on October 21, 2020 by KE0PBR

So you want to be a grid chaser?

Look, I’m not gonna tell you in this article how to get on sats, there are about 300 other resources for that. What I will tell you is how to find the grids you need. I will also break this article down to ranges of grids. No use going through everything you might need to do to get to 488, when you only want 10 so contacts you can get on a satellite for field day.

What makes me qualified to tell you how to do this? Nothing. I just chase grids. Also this isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing list of tips and tricks. Just what works for me. So here goes.

0-10 Grids or I just want to see if I like this.

  1. Join AMSAT and get a copy of the “Getting Started with Amateur Satellites” book, and read it. Lots of great information. With will help with just getting on the birds and many of the tips I list later on. Best $15.00 you can spend getting on the birds
  2. I know that some people won’t like this, but just get on the birds anyway you can. Got an HT and a homebrew yagi? Do it. People will tell you that you need full duplex, a home station, a tripod and some of that is true, but if you only want to test the waters, don’t spend the money on an Arrow and a 9700. Get on 4-5 passes, (anyway you can) and you will get some contacts. If you don’t like it, you can move back to your local nets and FT8. Facebook has lots of information on how to get on cheaply. But be aware, not everything there will work well for the long haul.

10-200 Grids. Or Hey I think I can get my Sat VUCC.

OK, you got on some birds, and love it. Now you want to be serious and get Satellite VUCC. Believe it or not this is actually pretty easy to do. I know an operator that did it in less than a month. OK, here we go here are the hints.Forget hint #2. Seriously, using that information on anymore passes and you will cause trouble on the sats. We all understand the new person that is just starting, but we need to be a little serious here. If you make  more than a couple contacts without full duplex, you will have trouble with other ops later on. Not getting into details, just get a full duplex radio and you will be good.

3. Get off Facebook and get on Twitter. Nothing against the guys on Facebook, but Twitter is where roves are announced, and you can get really good information from some of the most experienced ops out there. Oh, and while you are on Twitter, follow @The-Grid_life. All roves get announced on that account. The people on Twitter will also help you with the next few hints. Although not on Twitter, watch the AMSAT Satellite Ops web Page, this also lists roves.

4. Equipment: Get a full duplex radio. As far as radios: I prefer the Kenwood V71. Cheaper than the 710 and more portable. Click here for a cool article on this. (Unfortunately it is FM only. But To get your VUCC you can do it on FM alone) But here are many radios that are full duplex. (go check out the getting started book, you did buy that didn’t you?) It would also help if you get a radio that can do 10 watts, for FM you will need it on the ISS and PO-101. With AO-92 out, these are becoming more popular. Figure out the radio then…

5. If you’re portable, get an Arrow. I know the Elk will work and work well, but there is a reason 90% of the ops I know use arrow. I have 5 different Arrows, and yes, I have a favorite. Get the radio first to determine if you need the Arrow Duplexer or not. Icom 9700 and you don’t. Kenwood D72 and you do. If you’re not portable, go to the AMSAT store and get an M2 antennae setup, but seriously, go portable. Lot more fun being on the other side of a pileup.

6. Get on LOTW: Really, you will need it to track your progress, and all the other ops will use it. In my opinion, this isn’t optional. The guys on Twitter can help. Also, don’t be afraid to send QSL cards, but LOTW is the preferred method.

7. Get the Excel (or Google) sheet for tracking your progress. Click here for all the versions available. Trust me, it’s a whole lot easier to start with this.

8. Start Roving: Don’t worry about how rare the grid is. Just get out there. This does two things. 1. You learn how to work a pileup and get in when you need. 2. People will start recognizing your call. Trust me, that second one gets important. Just don’t go to far. Watch the rules so the grids you GET while roving count towards your grid count. For real fun find another op to rove with. It get to be a great time.

200+ Grids. Or this is fun and I want to get the Gridmaster Award.

So, you got your VUCC, made some Twitter friends and are having a blast… So next step is the big one: The Gridmaster award (getting all 488 grids in the continental US). How do we do this?

9.Go Linear: This makes getting the rare grids easier. I know the first 10 QSOs on Linear are hard, but after that it is much easier, and you don’t have to fight through the FM chaos. Read this to help: Three Steps to Chasing Rovers on Linears This is also pretty handy: Frequency Cheat Sheet

10. Go Low: If you set up your Sat tracking app to ignore anything below 5 degrees you are missing out. I can commonly work 0-2 degree passes on FM. And since most people won’t work less than 20, you are getting the rover while others are still setting up. Remeber #8 above. Use your roving to find great spots to operate from. Find that hill, lake or clear horizon to help go low.

11. Go to @GridmasterHeat and submit your data: This Twitter account will alert you when grids you don’t have are being activated. Seriously, it tells you when to go out for a pass, to get grids, you don’t have. Submitting your data also lets the rovers know where to go for the rare grids.

12. Go Ask @GridmasterHeat for the who activated what report: Since you have submitted data, you can get this report. It will show you all ops that have activated a grid. Then start the emails and talk that old op into dusting off his equipment and giving you the grid. 90% of the time they will.

Or 13B, ask for a Grid: Really if you need a grid from someone, just ask. You will be surprised at how quick some people will say yes. HOWEVER, if it is a major effort (read: 500+ miles each way with overnight, etc. that isn’t a family-style vacation operation) offer to help with logistics, if you can. Ops will understand.

So those are my 13.5 hints for chasing grids. I skipped so much other stuff on along the way. Notice not a lot of specific items that are revolutionary. These are just the main things that I have done to get to over 500 grids. Give it a shot and let me know if you have other hints.

Now get out there and get some grids!

OK, can one of you go out and activate some Maine grids for me? Thanks

Three steps to getting rovers on Linear sats

Posted in Radios with tags , on March 8, 2020 by KE0PBR

First off I do not know what I’m doing when it comes to chasing the rovers on linear sats. I seem to get lucky more often than not. But some of my buds on Twitter have asked me for how I do it, so I thought I would write something up…. So when you evaluate the information in the article, please remember how much you paid for it.

 

From what I can see there are three phases to chasing rovers on the linears: Starting from the simple to the advanced those phases are: Finding yourself, moving through the pass band and finding the rover for the qso. I will cover how I learned and use all three of these methods.

 

This article will assume a few things: You have a full duplex set up, and a basic knowledge of how the set up your radios for communicating through the linear sats. This is mostly for people with a 1634, but the same methods can be used with a 910H or 9700.

 

Step 1: Finding yourself.

We will start off by using my frequency cheat sheet available here: Cheat Sheet. If you’re not familiar with how to use the sheet, please read that article. Now that you have the sheet and know how to use it, let’s go talk to ourselves. Fire up your sat tracking application and radios. For this example, we will use CAS-4B, and here are the frequencies for that sat.

Set up your radios for the middle of the passband, at AOS: 145.925, and 435.270. When the satellite is in view, start calling CQ, (don’t wait to be at 20 degrees, start right away)  and slowly raise your UHF frequency until you hear yourself. We know that the frequency won’t be below 435.270, and most likely will not be higher than 435.275 at AOS, so you should find yourself fairly easy. If you miss yourself, don’t be afraid to move back to 435.270 and start over.

Couple key points:

    • If you miss yourself, don’t forget to rotate the arrow for polarity.
    • Don’t move your VHF frequency.
    • You will make QSOs starting in the middle of the passband, that is where most people start the pass, and they will hear you, and call you.
    • Once you get good at finding yourself, move away from starting in the middle of the passband. You can use this sheet and process to start anywhere in the passband

 

Moving through the passband:

Some people have trouble losing themselves when moving through the passband. I have a couple tricks I use to make it easier to do this, and still find myself. All this is again, based on my Frequency Cheat Sheet, and a simple fact: If you move up 3 on VHF, you need to move down the same on UHF and vice versa.

If other words If I start at 145.930 and find myself and then move to 145.920, I lowered my VHF by 10, so I need to raise my UHF by 10.  Even if you’re not exact, using this method you will be close and be able to hear yourself and fine tune to make that qso.

Another method is using the frequency sheet. If my VHF is at 145.920, and I can’t hear myself, I look at my sat tracking app, and if the pass if about 40% way through, I look at the cheat sheet and see that 435.280 (not AOS but the next one down) is where the UHF needs to be. I always choose the lower frequency so that I know that I need to raise the UHF to find myself. Again, not going to be perfect, but it’s close enough to hear yourself.

Key Points:

    • Move through the passband using VHF, then only tune the UHF to hear yourself
    • If you use the Cheat Sheet method to find yourself. You almost always have to raise the UHF frequency to find yourself.

 

Finding the Rover:

This is where we put the steps together. Usually the rovers will announce where they will be. +5 from the center for example.

For some reason I can usually hear chatter on the sat before I can hear myself. I use this brief time to see if I can find the rover. Let’s assume that AD0DX is lighting up another rare grid, and he is at 5 from the bottom on 4B – 145.920. I usually go to that frequency and see if he is there calling CQ. If he is, I do some quick math, so I can go to a quite spot on the passband, find myself and then move back for the qso. Using this method, I’m not taking up the rover’s time while I find myself, and I’m not speaking over other people trying to get that contact.

OK, back to the steps:

    1. Find Ron. Turns out I heard him call at 145.932, not where I thought he would be.
    2. I figure that if I subtract 10, that should be a quite spot, so I scoot to 145.922, and find myself.
    3. Using the chart this should not take very long. I find myself, then…
    4. Add 10 to the VHF, and subtract t 10 on the UHF and…
    5. There he is. As soon as possible I call him. Since I should be pretty close, he should be able to make me out, and I should be able to hear him.
    6. Get the QSO, the grid and a big smile.

Key Points:

    • Practice this.
    • If you don’t get the qso right away, go back to a clear spot on the passband and check to make sure you can still hear yourself. Protect the rovers time. There are others trying to get the grid.
    • Use easy math increments. 5 or 10 Khtz. Make the math easy.

Ok, these steps make it sound pretty easy, and at the beginning it wasn’t. I spent a lot of time practicing this before I got it down.

What I’m saying here is the steps are simple, but you still need to practice this. Don’t think you are going to read this article, print out the Cheat Sheet, and then go get DL88 in a big pile up. You need to work on this.

 

Thanks for reading this and if you have any questions, please feel free to hit me up. @ke0pbr on Twitter.

 

If you want to hear an example of the finding the Rover, here I contact KI7UXT for a grid:

Here is a link to the recording: Recording of CAS4B

K7U announced that they would be +5 or -5 from center. On Cas4B center is 145.925 so I figured I would go for -5 at 145.920. So I decided I would find myself at .915 and then move to .920

On the recording you will hear me finding the sat from 0-36 seconds, during this time I also learned that someone else was at .915. So I changed plans to go for the rover at +5 and find myself at .935. At 0:36 you hear me finding myself. Once I found myself, I subtracted 5 from UFH, and Added 5 to VHF, and I knew I would be close to one of the guys. At 0:46 you will hear me finding KI7UXT and making a QSO. After that I just jumped around and made a few other QSOs,

 

SatMatch.Com more info then you can shake a stick at

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 18, 2020 by KE0PBR

Since writing this article, the site has been updated with most of this functionality replaced with a much easier to use UI. Thanks.

 

 

Satmatch is a cool utility created by Justin @K5EM that shows when you and the grid activator are in both in footprint on a given pass of a satellite.  You can find this utility at SatMatch.com

I always knew that Satmatch was really helpful: Hey AD0DX is activating another rare grid, is the AO7 pass he just tweeted about going to work for both of us? I go to SatMatch.com and boom! there it shows which sats, and what times we have common footprint. No more guessing, no more hoping… It’s just right there.

In early January W3ARD hosted a meeting on the internet where numerous people showed up, and one of the topics was “How I use SatMatch” by Casey (KI7UNJ) and I was blown away by other features that this website had that I was unaware of. So being who I am, I asked Casey for some hints so I could steal all this information write this blog article. So I would say Casey has more to do with this then I do… I’m just spreading his great knowledge. Thanks Casey!

Let start with the basics: Do I share a common footprint with the rover?

When you go to SatMatch.com you are shown a very simple interface. With 3 Boxes and a button:

  1. Satellite (what Sats are you going to try to make contact on?)
  2. Grid1 (Your or the rovers grid, whichever is farther west)
  3. Grid2 (Your or the rovers grid, whichever is farther east)
  4. And a Submit Button (make SatMatch do the voodoo it does so well!)

Base

Let pretend that AD0DX is going to DL88 (yeah, lets pretend Ron is activating a rare grid) and I live in EN34ep and want to do an FM sat to make contact. Fill out the boxes

  • First choose the sat: Notice it automatically gives you choices to auto fill in the box, as soon as you start typing! In this case I choose all FM sats.
  • Enter Ron’s Grid (DL88) You can use either 4, 6, 8 or 10  character grids
  • Enter my grid (EN34EP) You can use either 4, 6, 8 or 10  character grids
  • Click “Submit

Pretty freakin’ easy wouldn’t ya say? It quickly shows the next 24 hours and all the passes for the sats you chose, where you share footprint with the rovers grid.

This is what (a portion of)  the results look like:

First results

You quickly see what sats and what times you share footprints. Just to be clear this only shows when you have common footprint, not the entire pass.

Then if you click on one of the hyperlinks (the blue print) it shows even more detail:

Detail REsults

Wow, it gives you maps and times, it does everything except turn on the radio! Very impressive.

Is that all it can do? I mean there is no other boxes or places I can ask for more information. Well, No.

Now comes some of the unknown features of SatMatch…. Not as intuitive, but really helpful. This is done by pasting some text in the address bar, once you have the list of passes with common footprint….

What if I want to go out more then 24 hours?

Paste this at the end of the address bar:

?duration_hrs=48

and change the 48 to the number of hours you want to go out.

What if I want a different date, say a month out?

Paste this at the end of the address bar:

?search_start_time=2020-04-20

and change the date to whatever you wish to search for.

What if I want to start at a specific time?:

Add this to the end of the address bar:

?search_start_time=2020-04-20T16:20Z

and change the sate and time (the highlighted part)

Now you want to search a month out and for 48 hours?

Simple, Paste this at the end of the address in the bar:

?search_start_time=2020-04-20&duration_hrs=48

and change the date and hours as needed.

 

Can I just use SatMatch.com to see passes in my grid? Yep you BetchA!

For Linear Birds, past this in the address bar

https://www.satmatch.com/satellite/XW-2A,XW-2B,XW-2F,CAS-4A,CAS-4B,FO-29,AO-07/obs1/EN34ep

and change that last part (EN34ep) to your current grid!

But Paul, I want FM birds only. No problem Por Favor! We got ya!

https://www.satmatch.com/satellite/SO-50,AO-85,AO-91,AO-92,PO-101,LILACSAT-2/obs1/EN34ep

and just change to your grid…

Seriously I’m greedy show me all sats: Boom!:

Paste this

https://www.satmatch.com/satellite/SO-50,AO-85,AO-91,AO-92,PO-101,LILACSAT-2,XW-2A,XW-2B,XW-2F,CAS-4A,CAS-4B,AO-07/obs1/EN34ep

and, change to  your grid.

OK this one is big: All Sats at your grid a month out, for 48 hours:

Easy, paste this:

https://www.satmatch.com/satellite/SO-50,AO-85,AO-91,AO-92,PO-101,LILACSAT-2,XW-2A,XW-2B,XW-2F,CAS-4A,CAS-4B,AO-07/obs1/en34ep?search_start_time=2020-04-20&duration_hrs=48

and change the date, duration and grid to the proper numbers.  I even highlighted the spots to change!

 

OK, this one gets a little complicated, what if you want to show passes with a negative horizon?

  • Do your search:
  • In the address bar, after your grid put a comma and your location above sea level in KM, then another comma, and the amount in degrees for a negative horizon you want to show so ths grid part looks like this: /EN34,.235,-5EN34 is my grid
    • .235 is how far above sea level I am in KM
    • -5 is how far below the horizon I want to see the passes.

Or you can add the EN34,.235,-5 to your grid box on the main page, just like this:

Negative Box

How simple is that?!

Here is CAS4B in a full negative pass:

Full Neg

I’m sure there is even more features that I’m not aware of, so if you know of any let me know and I will add to the article.

Oh, Don’t forget to say thanks to K5EM ( Twitter @k5em)  for the helpful site and KI7UNJ  (Twitter @KI7UNJ) for all the info he shared with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submitting Data to the GridMasterHeatMap

Posted in Heat Map with tags , on October 28, 2019 by KE0PBR

There are many ways to submit data and be part of the Heat Map project, first let’s start with what data I need for the HeatMap.

The basics:

  • The grid activated
  • Who activated that grid
  • Your call.

 

With these bits of data, we can provide lots of good information, some of which are: The HeatMap itself, a list of who needs a grid and a list of who activated a grid

How do I submit the data? The below list starts with what is easiest for me to get data into the HeatMap.

  1. Just send me your most up to date GridMaster excel sheet. Send the whole thing, I will use what I need, and delete the rest. Don’t know where to get the GridMaster sheet? Just click here. If you dont want to send the whole sheet, just sent the tab labeled “Confirmed in LOTW.
  2. The other version for the GridMaster sheet is in google docs. To get a base version just click here. Once you have that version, you can give me rights to the spreadsheet. You just need to send me an email when you want me to update the HeatMap with your data. If you dont feel comfortable giving me access to the full doc, then see option #3.
  3. If you don’t use either of these tools, a LOTW copy and paste into an email works great too. Although not as easy as the other two methods, it gets the job done. How do I do that you ask? In LOTW, Go to your VUCC page, click on ‘All Credits’, ‘Select VUCC Award to View’, then cut paste the Grid Square table into an email and send to me.(coincidentally the same instructions that are used to fill in the GridMaster sheets. Thanks Robert for the instructions.)LOTW DOwnload

 

That’s it, if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email. Just use my QRZ email. (me = KE0PBR)

 

I look forward to making the heat map even better with your data. The rovers need to know where to go. Thanks!

My Frequency Cheat Sheet

Posted in Radios with tags , on December 31, 2018 by KE0PBR

Updated 5/17/20

A few people have asked for my frequency cheat sheet for the linear sats. So I just decided to post it here for everyone.  Here is the download =>ke0pbr-freq-cheat-sheet 1-1-21 (as of 10/6/20, I have added a horizontal version and Black and White versions)

I use this to quickly “find myself” on the linear sats. How I do this is fairly simple, at least in my simple mind.

Here is an example using FO-29, with full duplex, but I think this process could work for simplex ops too.

Each sat has 6 rows, the first 5 are for UHF Doppler adjustments, the last is for VHF:

  1. AOS
  2. 1/2 way between AOS and mid pass
  3. Mid Pass (No Doppler (also green)
  4. 1/2 way between LOS and Mid Pass
  5. LOS
  6. The last row is the 2 Meter non Doppler adjusted frequency (Also Green)

Each satellite, also has columns that range the entire passband, so this can be used across the full spectrum of frequencies.

When I loose myself, I see how far into the pass I am. For this example I will assume the satellite is just past mid pass or a little over halfway done.

I first adjust my VHF to one the closest VHF frequency (lowest green bar) lets say 145.960. Then since the sat is just past mid, I set the UHF at the frequency for mid pass, in this case 435.840. Since we are past mid, I know that I must adjust the UHF frequency lower, because that’s the next line down on the cheat sheet. as I move the frequency down, I know I will hear myself shortly.

One thing to remember, the sats with a red bar on the left of the frequencies Doppler goes down, if there is no red bar, Doppler correction goes up.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

KE0PBR

Kenwood TH-D72 Frequency Hoping and Switching Weirdness.

Posted in Radios with tags , , , , on November 19, 2018 by KE0PBR

Do you own a Kenwood TH-D72 and wonder why sometimes it jumps to the weather stations, starts scanning your presets or some other frequency change that you just can’t seem to figure out? This article will tell you how to fix it, along with some theories as to what is causing it.

 

First, let’s start out by saying I have one of these radios and love it. I use it for FM on satellites, I have done packet (APRS) through NO84, FS3 and the ISS. I have also had my longest QSO ever on it. So make no mistake, I love this little radio and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

So what causes this frequency / band hoping? Not sure but I do know it involves two things

  1. Headsets or earbuds where the plug has 4 bands vs 3. Since it is almost impossible to buy earbuds or headsets for your smartphone without this 4th band, you most likely have 4 bands on yours. As a matter of fact the only place I can get earbuds with 3 bands on the plug, I took from an airline flight I had a few months ago. (Thanks Delta) Here is a picture showing the different types of plugs.

2. You are using some type of Kenwood / Baofeng mic / headset adapter. This adapter has the 2.5mm male plug and the 3.5mm male plug built into the same housing and both plug into the side of the radio.

So what is my theory as to what is happening? I believe that the 4 band male plug is shorting out somewhere in the Baofeng adapter causing the D72 to, technically speaking, “freak out”. It may be part of some type of protocol to control the radio with a computer, or it just might be a short. Either way, it sucks when you are trying to use this set up and the issue happens. Oh and the fun part, the 4 banded plug just needs to be somewhere in your jumble of wires, it doesn’t need to be the one plugged into the radio.

 

So how do you fix it? First you have to understand that the issue has to do with the 3.5mm plug. With that thought there are a few ways to fix it.

  1. Don’t use the 3.5mm plug. Buy one of these (2.5mm Splitter), and use the PTT to talk. This splitter is handy because it allows you to plug your recorder in on one side, and your headset on the other. The downside to this solution is that puts a lot of stress on the 2.5mm jack, so be aware of this…
  2. Use the Baofeng adapter, but grind off some of the tip. Start small, but keep going until the issue is gone. Here is an example, but, I think I went too far. In other words, you want the support of the 3.5mm plug, without the issue rearing its face. Here is a pic, but do not start by grinding this much, start small, maybe just the first band, and see how it works. Once again you will need to use the PTT on the radio…

 

So there ya have it, do one of the above, and the issue will go away, and you can complete your QSOs without an issue.

Kenwood TM-V71 Set-Up for Portable Satellite Ops.

Posted in Radios with tags , , on November 18, 2018 by KE0PBR

Since no one has asked how I set up a Kenweed TM-V71 Radio for portable ops I thought I would share anyway. I really like the V71: Full duplex, 5, 10 or 50 watts, durable, portable and not that expensive. I would like to try the D710 in this bag, but I hear that the face plate doesn’t mount to the radio like the V71s does.

So first why do I think my setup is good? IDK, but it works for me. Everything, but the antenna fits into one small bag. I can then throw that bag over my shoulder and go. Then I can hang it around my neck and get some contacts. Here is a couple pics to show the finished product, then I will go into how and what I needed to do to make this.

Prepping the Radio:

Of course the first thing you need to do is get power to the radio. The best way to do this is use your favorite connectors and add them between the battery and the fuses. You really want about 12″ of leads between the radio and the battery connector. This will allow you to remove and charge the battery, without removing the entire radio from the bag. That can be a pain. Remember the battery is going in the main compartment of the bag, with the radio.

 

Now comes hooking up the antenna: Put the 90 degree fitting on the radio, then a cable that will go from there to you antenna. I use a 4′ length customer made by KG5CCI (Look him up on QRZ.com. BTW: He is a great guy to get cables from, custom made to length with the correct connectors. Pretty reasonably priced too.

This shows the Antenna hookup, dual plugs for headset / recorder and power hookup (APP)

 

Recorder and Sound: Use the Dual Mono to Single Plug connector, plug these into the back of the radio. Now plug in the 1/8″ Stero Splitter to the female plug. Mount both of the female plugs from the splitter to the side of the radio. One end is for the headsets, and one is for the recorder. The other side is for the extension cable to the recorder.

This is the sound ‘out’ side.

 

Headset, PTT and Mic: Plug the Kenwood AD-1-KM into the side of the radio, then mount the Mic plug and PTT plug to the side of the radio. Pretty Easy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the sound “in” side.

 

Now that you have all the parts, its time to put them into the bag. But, wait, there is more: You need to adapt the bag. There are two things that I did to make the bag easier to work with, one I think is mandatory, the other is nice to have.  First, you need to cut a hole in the bag, that goes from inside the main part of the bag, to the inside of the front pocket, Like this:

This hole is where your PTT, Antenna cable and recorder cable will go through. This way you can have all your loose cables easy to get to, but still zip the pocket closed and all is safe.

 

The second thing is to rip out the light nylon fabric that is inside the main part of the bag. This fabric just grabs the bag and makes it harder to get the radio in and out.

 

Parts are ready, bag is prepped, let put the radio in. First thing I do is put a piece of 1″ fairly firm foam in the bottom of the bag. This protects the wires and the bottom of the radio, along with raising the radio high enough in the bag to see it.

Now put the radio in the bag, with the ‘Kenwood” to the front pocket. Don’t forget to feed your PTT, recorder cable and Antenna wire through that small hole you cut previously. Next, you connect the battery, and put in the main compartment of the bag.  It is best to place it towards you, pushing the radio away from you, so it is easier to see.  Now take some more of the foam you used and put it over the radio, again to hold the radio out further.

Here are a couple pics to help explain what I mean:

 

So to use this system, it pretty easy, hook up the recorder, headset and mic cable. Plug in your antenna and go make some contacts!!

As you can see below, I leave the front pocket open and use that to hold the recorder and my phone that shows where the sat is in the sky. The PTT button clips on the front of the bag on the right.

 

In conclusion I’m sure that there are different things I could do to make this easier, and I want to hear from you on what they might be. One idea that comes to mind, is to go with ear buds to be able to stow them in the bag… But in Minnesota winter I like my ears covered.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Parts List:

  • Fox Tactical Shoulder Bag (Link)
  • 90 Degree PL-259 to SO-239 90 Degree Connector (Link)
  • Dual Mono 1/8 male to 1/8 Stereo Female (Link)
  • 1/8″ Stereo Splitter (Link)
  • 1/8″ Male to 1/8″ Male 6 inch Stereo Extension Cable (Link)
  • Heil Pro Set Elite Headset (Link)
  • Heil Pro Set Adapter for V71 AD-1-KM (Link)
  • Battery – 4 Cell 4200 MAH, LIFEPo4 Pack (Link) <- If you are not familiar with this type of battery – DO YOUR RESEARCH before buying.
  • Recorder (Link)

Update to MSK144 on FT-991a

Posted in Digital Modes with tags , , , on November 13, 2018 by KE0PBR

So you may have read the post on how I was testing different settings on the FT-991a for FT-8 (you can read that here). The whole purpose of that testing was to figure out why I was so deaf when doing Meteor Scatter (MS) on MSK144.

Well, I used the settings in that article to do a mini rove (EN26/36 and EN25/35) last weekend. I wish I could say it was all about my rove, but I also knew that @AC0RA was doing a major rove through much of the south, and if Wyatt is roving, he will also send out some power. I also knew that his rove would get lots of MS guys out there and there would be plenty of people out there that I could make contacts with.

After some, experimentation, I went with AGC of Slow, and IPO of AMP2. I did notice that the DNR turned off, did help with the decodes. Any DNR seemed to slow things down a little.

Did it help?

Yes. Sorry for the poor picture quality, but all those decodes on the left are in the span of a few minutes. In the past I couldn’t get that many in 4 hours.

On the other hand, in about 5 hours I had over 30 QSOs. My previous best was 8 in about 5 hours. Overall it was a good morning, lots of contacts, that is until the wind picked up and blew my antenna over…. But that is a story for another day.

I now feel confident that I can hear, I can decode and I can rove to other areas, and be able to get QSOs!!

Testing the FT-991A on FT-8

Posted in Digital Modes with tags , , , on November 5, 2018 by KE0PBR

As some  of you may know I have been having an issue with “hearing” people while using MSK144 on  6 Meters for Meteor Scatter. The number of decodes I would get was lower then whale crap at the bottom of the ocean. After many different people gave me many different, often conflicting (but helpful) words  of advice I took matters into my own hands.  I knew that on my FT991a there were three main areas that was affecting my ability to hear:

The AGC: Automatic Gain Control. This has X settings: AUTO, FAST, MED, SLOW. There is also an OFF setting, you choose this by pressing and holding the AGC box. The others you choose by just tapping the box.

The IPO: Intercept Point Optimization: I’m not sure that this really is, but I think it is some sort of PreAmp. The possible settings are: IPO, AMP1 and AMP2

The DNR: Digital Noise Reduction: Settings are from OFF to 1 though 15.

There isn’t enough MSK144 traffic to do some standardized testing, so I went with the FT8 protocol on 20 meters. I assumed that this would at least give me a baseline that the settings would be close to the MSK144 protocol. I also understand that antenna I am using is terrible to say the least. That is the reason for the terrible DB levels, even on the best results.

I spent one Sunday afternoon figuring out what was best from the AGC and the IPO. What I came up with was that the AGC = AUTO, and the IPO =AMP2 was the best combination. This was based on decodes per minute and best average DB level. See this chart.

AGC or IPO.JPG

 

 

The following weekend I decided to test which DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) would be best or if it was even helpful. I was surprised to learn that in some cases the DB went way up and the decodes per minutes also went up. But I also learned that some of the options on the DNR were less then helpful. As you can see from the attached chart. The DNR options 9 and 10 seem to be the best for FT8.

 

DNR.JPG

 

I understand that there is a bunch of variables that I may have missed or not thought about, but I was only going for a place to start on MSK144. The results that I see here, were similar to what my gut (not including the DNR) was telling me.