WA0TDA Station Updates: CW function returns with new host PC

As CW users have noticed, the CW feature has been absent at WA0TDA for a while.  It has returned to service with the upgrade to a new host computer, a new mini-PC from Amazon:

“N34 Mini PC Celeron Processor 4GB DDR3 RAM, 64GB eMMC, DIY SSD, Ultra HD 4K Intel Quad Core CPU up to 2.2GHz, 4W SDP, 1000M LAN, Dual Band WiFi, BT 4.0, HDMI&VGA”

This new PC comes with Windows 10 installed, but Linux is also an option.

Mini-PC

Mini PC: Host computer for WA0TDA HF remote

The stuff you find

duplex outlet meant for AC but wired with TV antenna wire instead

Someone had wired this duplex electrical outlet with 300 ohm TV twinlead antenna wire.

Most of us in Amateur Radio get called on to do tech repairs of one kind or another. It’s like being the kid in your class who knew how to run the projector, right?

Anyway, last Thursday we spent the day helping XYL Susie’s sister get some of those jobs done. They did the curtain rod hanging, while I was assigned to “electrical” and A-V.

After hanging a new chandelier and unboxing and configuring a smart TV, I started on the wall outlets – 1950s style without the grounding socket. Odd how there were two of them within three feet near a window. After changing one of them out and testing it, I pulled the next one out and this is what I found – a duplex outlet wired with ancient 300 ohm TV twinlead!

Since the outlet had measured zip for voltage, I can only assume that someone had used it as a TV antenna outlet. Talk about not paying attention to impedance matching! It was removed and replaced with a blank wall plate.

Anyway, while I missed my radio club’s Thursday Radios in the Park (we got home just before 9:00 PM), it was fun to discover this, um, “creative” use of two electrical items that should never be used together – and to once again be the alpha geek.

Be careful with digital modes on the remotes

Mouse pad & mouseDigital mode operation has really come into its own this solar minimum.  As with any mode, there are some best practices to learn and follow when operating.  While digital modes are fairly straightforward when you are operating with your own station interfaced to your own local PC, it is not so easy when you are operating through a remote HF station.  There are plenty of compromises that you have to make – workarounds to deal with audio in and out of your PC, how to manage switching between transmit and receive, and with modes like FT-8, the critical nature of timing.

About all I can suggest is that you do your homework:

  • Check YouTube for how-to tutorials on each new mode you want to try.
  • Make a checklist because there are lots of steps to have to go through in setting up software and hardware.
  • Once you are ready, always check the rig’s mode of operation (often it should be set to USB) and transmit power output (usually MUCH less than the full power the rig is able to produce.)
  • Read the support forums at Remotehams.com for further setup and operating advice.

What to avoid:

  • Do NOT operate the radio at 100% transmit power when using digital modes!  Not only is this a bad practice that clutters the band, but it REALLY STRESSES the rig’s final amplifier.  Failing to lower the power level can get you banned from TX on HF remotes.
  • Please don’t leave the radio in some oddball configuration that will confuse the next user.  If you lower the power level, return it to 100% when you are finished.  If you activate the SPLIT function, turn it off before you leave.  If you set the RF GAIN down, return it to 100% when you are done.
  • Out of band usage: Please use the radio for ham band operation.  It is intended for ham radio use.  Of course the transmitter only activates in the USA ham bands (with some restrictions, mainly because of antenna limitations, depending on the remote station’s configuration), but the receiver can tune a much wider range.  We have had some issues with users who leave the receiver outside the ham bands and regularly tying it up by using it for SWLing when licensed users would like to use it in the ham bands.
  • Hogging the radio:  Please disconnect when you are finished.  Share with others who want to use the radio.  Pass the mic if more than one user connected.

W0ZSW users welcome to use WA0TDA

Update:  As of 14 June, WA0TDA and W0ZSW are now on their own antenna systems.  WA0TDA uses the maypole inverted vee system, while W0ZSW uses an end-fed zepp for operation on 160 through 6m, with 17 & 12 m excluded.

Please feel free to request WA0TDA transmit access if you have at least a USA General Class license and want to try a remote HF radio!

Dual position antenna switch

The manual antenna switch at W0ZSW is used to switch in the dummy load during testing.

What happened:

Summer chores…   All the stuff that can’t be done in the winter gets pushed into the nice weather months here in Minnesota.  The snow is gone, the days are getting long, and it’s time for yard and landscaping work.  This summer that includes tree trimming and removal – and that poses a problem for the W0ZSW antenna system, a 270 foot dipole that runs through no fewer than seven trees at the WA0TDA QTH.  Five of those seven trees are either going to be trimmed and shaped or removed altogether, so of course the antenna had to come down.

Station W0EQO in northern Minnesota was not affected by this work and remains available.

Contect wa0tda@arrl.net for WA0TDA station access or to report problems with W0EQO and W0ZSW.

Have a GREAT summer, everyone!

Summer antenna work

The hard line coax emerges from the earth at the base of the HF9V vertical antenna, connecting to a 75 ohm matching section.

The hard line coax emerges from the earth at the base of the HF9V vertical antenna, connecting to a 75 ohm matching section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alas, I have had to remove a 270′ W0OXB dipole antenna which ran through a half dozen trees on the property.  The reason is that one of the trees is being taken down, and three of the others are being heavily trimmed and shaped.

This leaves a choice of either the Butternut HF9V vertical antenna with lots of radials beneath it, or the inverted vee maypole system.  Both are fed underground with direct burial coax and both cover 80 through 6 meters.

When you log on to the station, the popup message will tell you which antenna is in use that day.

Trading winter snows for summer woes

HF9V vertical antenna in the winter

HF9V vertical antenna in the winter

It wasn’t but a few short weeks ago that the backyard looked like this – snow everywhere.  Then as suddenly as the flip of a switch, the Twin Cities greened up and the snow was gone.  April, usually a rainy month, was a snowy one, and spring tried really hard, but instead of rain we had thundersnow.

Now that spring/summer seems to be here for sure, we can expect more of that lightning and thunder – and that means more shutdowns of stations W0ZSW and WA0TDA, which are both on the same property.  Antennas are disconnected when lightning threatens to minimize damage to the stations and the connected computer network.

Sometimes the thunderstorms pop up unexpectedly as the air warms and rises over southern Minnesota.  This can mean that the stations will be taken offline with little or no notice.  Other times the passage of a frontal boundary will be well predicted and the stations can be shut down in advance of the front’s arrival.

Thunderstorm activity will cause loud static (QRN), especially on the lower frequency HF bands.  When you hear loud cracks and pops on the bands, you may want to finish up your QSO in case the station needs to be shut down.  In the evening or early morning  QRN may skip in from storms in the southern part of the USA, and this is not concern for station damage in Minnesota, though it may interfere with your QSO.

Have fun with the stations and enjoy a GREAT, safe summer!

73 – Pat

wa0tda@gmail.com

 

Failure Reporting

3.925 MHz on the IC-7200

IC-7200

It is possible for remote stations to have a partial failure – the station will appear when a user logs in, but although the interface is responsive for frequency changes and other settings, there is no audio.  This means that the audio server has failed, and the RCForb server application needs to be halted and restarted on the host computer.  Only a station admin can do this, so please be sure to email wa0tda@arrl.net to alert me.  If I don’t hear from users, the station may remain out of service, so I really appreciate your help with this.

Thanks!

73 – Pat
wa0tda@arrl.net