Category: Maintenance

September update

September 1 marks the beginning of meteorological autumn.  While it is still mostly a summer month, September is when we begin to notice the “look & feel” of the autumn season.  Nights get cooler and days are pleasantly warm instead of hot.  It rains less and lawns get dry.  The sun comes up later and goes down earlier.

For ham radio operators, these changes are notable.  There is less thunderstorm static and generally better HF operating conditions.  VHF ducting events begin fall off as summer heat wanes.  And since it’s no longer hot and muggy out, antenna projects can be resumed.  That is the case here at the WA0TDA QTH, where there are three HF antennas to maintain.

Two of the HF antennas have been checked off this summer’s list.

View from above of antenna base with feedline, radials, and tuner.

It’s not the most tidy installation, but stuff is soldered and it works.

  • The Butternut vertical has been checked out for feedline integrity and found to be in good shape.  An LDG remote automatic tuner has been installed at its base to allow for use across 160 through 6 meters.  This antenna system is not available to remote HF users, as it services my IC-706M2G station, which is my main “in person” operating position.
  • The heavily used inverted vee maypole system in use at the wa0tda HF remote has been completely removed and reinstalled on a new support system.  It frequently provides the best and strongest signals of any of the HF remotes.  Its transmitter is the Icom IC-7200 and the tuner is an LDG AT-200 cabled to the radio so that the TUNE button activates the antenna tuner.
  • That leaves the w0zsw antenna system, which now consists of a 270′ zepp fed with 450 ohm ladder line and a 4:1 current balun.  The station’s radio is a SARA-owned IC-7300 cabled to an LDG AT-1000 antenna tuner.  This station’s antenna system is slated to be replaced this autumn, due to continuing problems with noise and generally poor performance.  The plan is to replace the zepp with an off-center fed dipole, moving the antenna feedpoint far enough from the house to avoid the typical interference from noise sources like switching power supplies, LED & CFL bulbs, and appliances.  In order to do this, new direct-bury coax will have to be laid across a section of yard that includes ornamental gardens and a swath of sod.  The feedpoint will end up in another section of garden with trees and shade plants and be supported by either a handy tree or by a fiberglass push up pole.  I expect the orientation of the dipole to be roughly SW-NE with the two legs to be in semi-inverted vee configuration.  The longer leg will be the farthest from the house and go off to the NE.  I expect to have this last project nailed down by October, because we all know what comes next.

W0EQO Networking issues resolved

Moving “up north” to station w0eqo, we had a number of issues building with our internet connectivity. The system had been serving up internet to the entire scout camp this summer, which meant many devices and very heavy use. Even so, our data demands are very modest and the system managed to pretty much hang together with only a few interruptions until late summer after the regular camp sessions wound up and storms went through the area. Following one storm event, the station was down and Bill, N0CIC, found that an elderly Netgear router had expired – by which I mean “He’s dead, Jim” expired, not just sleeping.  Probably this was the consequence of power surges when the storms interrupted the AC supply, but in any case a new Netgear was installed and configured and… the system still didn’t work.  It turned out that the internet provider’s modem had reset and had forgotten everything it knew about the ports we needed forwarded to the Netgear.  Tech support helped us out, and everything was working again until the modem decided it was time for a firmware update after which we went though the same exercise again.  As this was going on, I got sick and was out of the loop for awhile, but things are running again and everything seems stable.  This sort of thing can happen to a double NATted network, one in which NAT – Network Address Translation – is allowed to take place in more than one network device.  I’m not sure exactly where we ended up, but as long as it’s working now…

And speaking of network problems:

Station w0zsw, here at the wa0tda QTH, was reliably reachable on the internet until our Eero mesh network decided it was time for a firmware update.  The resulting disruption caused our older Netgear legacy network downstream of the Eero to be unable to reach the necessary ports for the RCForb host software to get through the firewall, so bingo, no w0zsw.  Worse, when the port forwarding was restored, another device on the network and the Netgear router decided they had to continually fight it out for the same internal IP address.  That meant w0zsw was available sometimes and not other times.  A few strategies were available, but I decided to bite the bullet and move the w0zsw host PC to the main Eero network and put it behind just one NAT device.  That has restored reliability.  The wa0tda remote was already on the newer Eero system and was never affected.

So there we are.  I’ll let you know how the antenna work goes.

Update: W0EQO transmit button change test

W0EQO test: The TX transmit button had been removed and replaced by the Txd button.  This affects primarily Windows app users.  Android app users used the PTT button as usual.

The Tune button had been added in order to make this function work on the Android app.  It activates the antenna tuner briefly, which allows a previously stored antenna tuning memory to be selected.  For a longer antenna tuning, use the Txt button, which allows more time for the SWR to drop down to its minimum at the displayed frequency.

Results:  Users reported that audio was not transmitted over the air, although it was loud & clear in “test” mode (VoIP talkaround).  As of now, we have had to restore the TX transmit button, which restored the audio out over the air.  Further tests pending.

Please report any problems to admin at wa0tda@arrl.net.

W0ZSW returns to service after antenna change

 

The W0ZSW station with IC-7300 & LDG tuner

W0ZSW was offline for antenna maintenance and host PC updates.  It has returned to service with an inverted vee maypole antenna and has been tested on 160, 80, 40, and 20 meters. Antenna tuning may take longer than usual on frequencies that the LDG AT-1000 PRO tuner has not already memorized. Frequencies that it “knows” will tune almost instantly. Please let me know if you run into any problems with antenna tuning.

The old antenna system will be taken down soon and reconfigured later this summer.  It had suffered decreased performance after it had to be partially taken down and moved for tree trimming last year. Plagued by a high noise level, it was clearly underperforming on receive and would need to be relocated.  There is no particular timeline for this project, nor have I decided on exactly what will replace it.  However, the inverted vee maypole, formerly service the WA0TDA remote, is working very well and is much less noise-prone because it is well away from the house, fed with buried coax.  Users should notice quite an improvement.

The WA0TDA remote is still on the air with an enhanced Butternut HF9V vertical antenna, ground mounted with buried radials and fed with underground hard line. It is also an excellent antenna system, but users will notice the different characteristics of a vertical antenna.

Unfortunately, this means I have no antenna for my IC-706M2G digital station at the moment.

March 29 – First thunderstorm outage of the season

Stations WA0TDA & W0ZSW went offline late in the day on March 28 and remained out of service on the morning of Sunday, March 29.  This was an orderly shutdown to preserve the station hardware from lightning damage as thunderstorms moved through Minnesota.  Lightning strikes were detected within 1.3 miles of the stations.

Both stations will return to service before 9:00 AM CDT Sunday, by which time the antennas will have been reconnected and the systems rebooted.

This is a good time to remind users that shutdowns for thunderstorms may occur without notice now that the season has started.