DXCC => Carpe Diem

Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho. Photo by KY6R

In retrospect, the most important thing to do as a DX-er is to Just Do It. Make Hay While The Sun Shines.

Its funny how time is marked with another kind of clock – we have calendars, clocks and can count the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, but some times you get that one chance to work a rare DX and you better be ready. Some of these buggers don’t come around but a couple times in a lifetime. By lifetime I mean the life of your DX-ing – which in many cases is just a subset of a lifetime.

I’ve learned how important it is to diversify and try new aspects of our hobby. I used to just sit around during the summer pining for the Autumnal Equinox, which happens to be my favorite time of the year, but I can’t remember when, I decided to stop waiting for “DX Season” and try something else.

Here in the SF Bay Area, June and the beginning of July can have this wonderful mysterious fog. It comes into the Bay and sometimes pops over the East Bay Hills and socks in Orinda. This has happened now after last weeks 100 degree week long heat wave. This weeks and last weekend were perfect days to work on my antenna – rain stopped more or less in May and we don’t get a drop until usually one day on October, but really, it doesn’t start again until November.

Today is the first day where the days start getting shorter again – by one minute.

I do wonder about the 3Y0Z Team and wonder about raising $200K that they need. That seems to be an awful lot – but I also know that this team is perhaps the best of the best – or maybe head to head with some of the “5 Star Teams”. The principles of this team have been on 10 DX-peditions of the year, and no other DX-pedition Leaders come close to that.

My 160M goal this summer is to perhaps work between 1 – 3 new ones. As far as Top of Honor Roll, there is 3Y0Z and Glorioso left. I am convinced that when Glorioso happens next time I will need to use a remote or perhaps satellite. I wonder if DX-peditions might start using satellite more at the bottom of a cycle.

Speaking of that, an email just popped in my inbox with this very timely video:

When we get to the bottom of the cycle, I dream of the years where 160M all of a sudden comes to life. Having been through years of getting my Top Band antennas together, I fully understand why DX-peditions usually don’t pay as much attention to Top Band. About 1/2 of the Mega DX-peditions actually do a good job on 160M, the other half have been very disappointing. FT5ZM, K5P, TX5K, K9W and VK0EK all did great jobs on 160M. There were quite a few in OC-Pac in recent years that were just about non existent.

OK – back to the Maker stuff – DXCC and DX-ing has been really boring lately – the last new one on any band was over 3 months ago – so there has been basically no “DX-Citement” in the KY6R shack. Even the ZS nightly and morning paths have dried up. Luckily, that has been replaced by excitement in the Maker world and by going to Dayton, receiving DX-pedition of the Year and re-tooling the equipment in my shack.

I will be fully prepared for the Fall and some DX-peditions that I have heard rumors about – where I will need to have my low band antennas together.

Speaking of that – I am giving the 9 AM presentation at the Pacificon Antenna Forum, and my presentation will be a modified version of one I gave at the East Bay Amateur Radio Club (EBARC) in February.

The corollary to Carpe Diem is Tempus Fugit – I have been at Credit Karma and so busy at work that I cannot even believe that the second quarter is up – my first three months there have just flown – and in no time flat we will be at the doorstep of the fourth quarter, Pacificon, and like I said a few exciting DX-peditions where I will finally get to add some Top Band New One’s.

OK – so today will be 1 minute shorter than yesterday. We’ve turned the corner and Top Band lovers get that extra minute of darkness!

 

Amazing Maker Tool: Fritzing

Fritzing is an amazing application that can take a picture of a breadboard that you draw, and with one click:

Show it as a schematic, and then:

Show it as a Printed Circuit Board layout (that you can then send to a fabrication shop and order online,

And show your code that is associated with your project.

Now think about it – isn’t combining “Making” with Ham Radio pretty cool?

Ubuntu Bash on Windows 10!

SSH into the Raspberry Pi from Windows 10 Ubuntu Bash

On Windows 10, the “Creator” version, there is a great feature that is Beta and unchecked (not turned on) after you get the Creator upgrade. Its more than just Bash on Windows 10, its Ubunto. It comes with most of the Linux utilities, so the first thing I did was uninstall Putty. Its pretty amazing to have a real shell and that it be compatible with Linux. This means I seriously don’t see why I’d buy a Mac again. I’m still angry that I had a very nice, powerful but expensive Mac Tower that they just discontinued support for the OS – I think it was 10.4 or so. I swear Apple makes its money by “planned obsolescence”.

I’ll take this inexpensive Asus laptop with a larger monitor, 8 GB of RAM and 1 TB disk for $500. And I can do all the development I want just like I was on a Mac or Linux box – plus the Windows native apps are far better than the cheesy stuff on the Mac.

Tuning The Palstar BT1500A With Two Rotary Encoders

This tutorial gives me another part of the puzzle – it looks like a rotary encoder has 4 wires which tells me a lot about how I might use two of these in the shack. If they were wired, the wires would be 60′ long – and I’m thinking that that run is too long. I might try it as an experiment just for laughs – but it sure seems like using the encoders with a control head and sending the commands over WiFI would make more sense.

If I were to go with a wired solution, my entire 8 wire rotator cable would be used up. Since my Rat Pack switch is only using 3 out of its 8 wire line, that leaves 5 wires for voltage for the BT1500A and Arduino remote board. In fact, I could even gang the Ratpack and BT1500A switch power because the Ratpack will always be on – and so turning the BT1500A on at the same time might b e OK.

But going WiFI is truly a great convenience.

Anyway – one more aspect of the project, and I will go find a decent set of encoders so I can play and learn.

 

Raspberry Pi Communicating With Arduino Uno

http://www.instructables.com/id/Connect-Your-Raspberry-Pi-and-Arduino-Uno/

Arduino boards are great to dedicate them to one function. In my immediate “use case” I want to have a control box that supplies power and has two knobs to control my remote antenna tuner. I might even add a little LCD to give feedback from the tuner – like what offset the L and C Stepper motors are at.

If I were to control the remote tuner from my laptop via wireless it would be all digital – but I kind of like the tactile feel of analog – not to mention the rotary encoder “knobs” would be right below my SPE 1.3K FA amplifier and K3 – so I could tune and watch their SWR meters. I wouldn’t need to know what the SWR is at the antenna tuner at all – its best to read it right at the amplifier – since that’s the whole reason I even have that remote tuner – to keep the amplifier happy.

SO – while I could do this with my laptop – with its built in wireless, if I do build a box with the encoders and LCD – it could be powered by a Raspberry Pi that talks to my Arduino – which would be out in the tuner box along with the two stepper motors, their driver boards, the Arduino, a wireless board and just the DC wires going out there to power it all.

If I were concerned about the WiFI getting fried by my Mod Bob running full juice – I suppose I could run a 60′ Cat 5 cable – I have to think about this, and this is what my Summer Project will be. I’m glad that this project offers some challenge and fill at least July with fun stuff to do.

One other thing that is super cool – Fritzing:

http://fritzing.org/home/

Its truly the antidote to the “DX Doldrums” . . .

 

Sainsmart TB6560 Stepper Drivers

While Adafruit has some nice driver boards for Nema-17 Stepper Motors, my Nema-23 motors have a higher current rating. This seems to mean that Arduino is my only option at this point. I’m more than fine with this since its a dedicated project that will sit in a box out back. Here is one of many decent video’s. He uses a 24v power supply, I will use a 12v supply that I already have, unless it proves out that I need more power.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RakXequOrSY

I don’t need or want speed, but it will take some torque to turn the double inductor control on the Palstar BT1500A. I also want it to be precise – on 80M, the tuning is a little “sharper” than on 160 or 30M.

I also will need to go with wireless because while I am only using 2 wires to provide 12V to the Palstar BT1500A out in the box, I will need one wire in my rotator cable for the 5V + line (I think I can share the minus line), which does leave 5 more wires for control. Since I might just use my laptop to control the tuner – use GUI sliders and then save settings to memory, I only need to send the commands.

Here’s a nice wiring page:

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-wire-an-arduino-based-3-axis-CNC-machine/

OK – I think I will have just enough to at least get the motors spinning and get my code to do what it needs to. I’ve been told to get the Duemilanova Arduino board, but since I already have an Arduino Uno, I will start with that. I will also worry about screw shields and wireless later – after I learn the basics.

I think this project is the perfect “hello world” Ham Radio and Maker project. It is VERY useful and is complex enough to be a chalenge, but not so overwhelming that I was scared into just buying my way out of the project. I’m especially happy that I did go with the Palstar BT1500A – because several nights checking into the net on 75M at full power and all is well – much betterthan trying to force the poor KAT-500 to match the Mod Bob – it really needs this remote tuner at the feed with these large analog components. No sparks, no arcs or faults!

OK – next step: remote controlled automation!

The New KY6R Shack

The Palstar R30CC, Elecraft K3 and P3, SPE 1.3FA, Elecraft Kpod, switches and power supplies.

Awards include SWODXA DXpedition of the Year for VK0EK, 8BDXCC, DX Coffee Best Communication Award for TX5K, and DXCC Honor Roll.

Antennas are 20M home brewed yagi, DX Engineering DV-40-P 40M phased vertical array and the KY6R “Mod Bob” for 160, 80 and 30M. For RX on 160M I use the 40M phased array, the Mod Bob and the Wellbrook ALA1530LNP rotatable loop – in diversity mode.

To the right of this desk is my “maker space”. A true “man cave”.