Monthly Archives: July 2008

ACOM 2000 Flight Case

Thanks to Nigel at Castle Cases, I now have a first-class flight case for my beloved Acom 2000 amplifier, all for less than £250.

ACOM 2000 Flight Case

Built up from a 9mm touring-quality plywood with aluminium fittings and steel corners, clasps and handles, I’m hoping this will last me a lifetime. I particularly love the hex-effect ply finish which is Nigel’s standard offering. Nigel came up with the idea of building a platform for the amplifier so that I can still get to all the connectors on the reverse and the on-off rocker switch on the front panel. This has a dual effect of allowing a neat storage space for the three-pin plug and RS232 linked remote control panel.

I had a case built for a couple of reasons; a cross between safety and convenience: To transport the Acom reliably in its carboard box, one needs to split the transformer from the amplifier because of the weight. If you try and lift an Acom 2000 on your own, you could easily end up with an accident. Removing the transformer effectively takes about 15 kilos out the amplifier, making it a lot easier to shoe-horn it into its box but it takes forever. Of course, the cardboard will only last a few years too and will gradually become worthless. Who needs a box now..? I drove off today and left Nigel with my cardboard (sorry Nigel, I was going to take it away but forgot!).

Going through the trouble of removing the transformer means that I was loathe to pack it into the boot for field days and Scouting events. But having it sit permanently on it’s flight-case tray means that it can come out to play more regularly which means more QRO fun :)

Custom made flight cases from Castle Cases here:

Cheers all (thanks lads for the coffee too!)

Callum.

 

Kenwood RC-2000 Remote Control system for TS-2000

Kenwood RC-2000I’m pleased to report that after soldering hundred of connectors last Friday afternoon, the remote head for my marine-style TS-2000 installation worked perfectly, even though we had extended the head by 70 feet (21 meters).

How did we do this: The remote head requires extensions for a) 8 pin Microphone b) 2 core loud speaker and c) 4 core data. I had heard of a number of people complaining about RF feedback and other such “funnies” so I reduced the problems by over-specifying on the coax run (Ecoflex 10) and going completely over the top for the 8-pin mic and data cables.

The 8-pin microphone connector was a heavy-duty 8mm screened 25m reel from Farnell components at £90, expensive – but I felt worth it. The data was shoved down a neoprene style 4-core professional OFC microphone cable, as was the loud speaker.

The reason for the OFC microphone cable was an alert I had from a user on one of my Yahoo Groups suggesting that unless I used top-quality cable, the high frequencies might roll off on TX. Not being able to change the installation once the boat was built, I had no option but to buy the best cable I could find. As it happens, the audio is currently routed through the 8-core Mic lead, however I do have the option of running the mic audio through a spare pair from the professional microphone cable.

Tests demonstrated that nobody was wise to our remote head. No interference was discovered whether on our outgoing signal, nor on our data lines or speaker and control lines. Not one ferrite clip was used. Remarkable.

A first class effort. Thanks to james (M3YOM) for doing the soldering!

VHF NFD Report 2008 – Double X-Ray Firm

M0XXT/PCollectively, we have extremely limited experience with VHF. It came as quite a shock to the system to score so few QSOs relative to HF contests that we enter; we are used to scoring 1,500 contacts in a weekend. I must say that the turn-out felt positively low. Is this really the state of VHF contesting in the UK..?

Our location couldn’t get better for a Midland club; 1,000 feet high with easy access on private land (IO91bx [edited, did say IO92bx..!]). The weather was a different story with both the consistent rain and very high winds contributing to some scary moments. Why all three antennas were still standing on Sunday morning, I can’t understand however the guys, stakes or poles didn’t move an inch. Perhaps a testimony to all my recent knot learnings at the Scout Hut!

With limited resources on VHF, most of the gear had to be procured recently to enter this event including a 17 element Tonna and a three element Moonraker beam for 6m. A couple of months ago, we bought a strange X-Quad affair for 70cms which after completely stripping down and rebuilding last week, appeared to work well but we have no way of comparing it to anything else. [Edit: since found out this is a Jaybeam Multibeam, 48 element 12dbd ATV type antenna circa 30 years old]. At 2m long with zillions of elements, I trust it’s as least as good as the Tonna is on 2m. Time will tell. Again, we had to get equipped with rotators so we bought a TV style rotator for 6m and acquired a Hirschman rotator when we bought the 70cms antenna. The Yaesu G450 is permanently attached to the hydraulic tower for the 2m station (normally running an A3S). Coax was also a stumbling block, particularly for 70cms where we only had 50 watts available to us and potentially lots of loss on our standard cut of Westflex, perhaps too lossy for 70cms? A 30m length of Ecoflex 15 was despatched from Diode with matching connectors last week to compensate.

The line-up ended up with FT-2000 on 6m at 100w with a 50m run of Westflex to a 3 element beam at 10m. For 2m, we ran TS-2000 on 100w via 30m of Westflex to the 17 element Tonna at 10m and a pre-amp at the rig end. For 70cms, we ran a further TS-2000 which is factory throttled to 50w through 30m of Ecoflex 15 to our weird X-Quad type antenna at only 9m. Perhaps a small linear for 70cms next year and a pre-amp? A bigger 6m beam will be discussed for next year too.

Logging was exclusively N1MM on Dell Optiplex machines and 15 inch flat-screen monitors without networking enabled due to running separate serial numbers for each band. One Optiplex blew up on Sunday morning after refusing to boot due to condensation we think. We had shut the station at 2:00am for 4 hours to get some sleep and upon waking up and restarting the generator, James discovered an issue of the PSU. Hilarious at the time because when it was plugged in, it sounded like a crunchy plastic pop bottled being scrunched up and I’m shouting at Tim to take the plug out. But like the boy who always cried “wolf”, Tim’s got wise to my practical jokes and really thought I was scrunching up a plastic pop bottle and refused to cooperate. A final “bang” from the PSU convinced him that perhaps this time, I really was telling the truth! Very funny.

Before the off, Tim’s testing proved useful on 6m scoring a number of interesting DX entities, including 7X2RF from Algeria – which enlightened some passers-by who were amazed at what we were doing. I nearly sold two more Foundation tickets!

M0XXT/P

At 15:00hrs local time we started in anger with myself on 70cms, Terry on 2m and Tim on 6m. Having James and Aidan as rotation operators meant that 70cms didn’t become too onerous (50 QSOs in 24 hours..? Ugh!). Massive thanks to Aidan from the team here; he attracted at least 50% of our score on that band, refusing to give up and logging each contact in a determined and professional manner. This was Aidan’s first time on a contest and he’s just 12 years old. May I take this opportunity to thank those stations that recognised Aidan’s youthful voice and his achievement on this band, you stuck with him to ensure a 100% completion for each QSO. Aidan is currently under guidance as part of his foundation license and to be schooled in contesting so early, we think was marvellous. Thanks to all who helped him. Let’s be clear that he had guidance for each QSO and not left to his own devices.

As a “restricted” entry, we couldn’t use brute force to open any doors and it therefore is a slight embarrassment to only have logged 156 QSOs on 2m, 48 QSOs on 70cms and circa 95 QSOs on 6m.
The “magic” band did prove to house some interesting DX from North Africa through to the deep Mediterranean but 2m and 70cms held back offering us no more than 600 km contacts and then very infrequently. Most QSOs were inside the UK although 21 large squares were worked in the end from Ireland through to Germany.

The weather attempted to dampen our spirits but with such strong characters in the tent, we made our own fun and had a ball all the same. At dinner time, we turned the volume down on all three sets and sat down together for our evening meal. I had cooked a top-line Spag-Boll and Terry had us wash it down with a few bottles of bubbly. Fabulous atmosphere.

M0XXT/P

We were amazed at some of bad signal quality issues being produced on mostly 2m and 70cms; warbley modulation and severe splatter in the main. In one case, we had a couple of polite conversations over a period of a few hours regarding a particular club’s 60Khz splatter until they finally believed us and turned down the wick. I realise that Open class stations might adopt the AKR attitude, “All Knobs to the Right” but for the rest of us, even stations 60 miles away can still be 30db over S9 and this can spoil the fun when the signal isn’t as clean as it should be. Please check your equipment before the contest.

No real issues materialised bar some water in the 70cms feedpoint which was fixed by a wild guess. Dropping the mast and pouring it out and resealing it for another day had us back to full power. The PSU which blew up the 70cms Optiplex didn’t hurt too bad but dropped the 2m station for 10 minutes while James and I recovered the data by swapping out hard drives – just as Terry finally scored a small run into Northern France! The new tent, “Battalion HQ”, held up well to the weather, only developing a couple of extremely minor leaks after continual battering rain for 24 hours. With its huge side-pods, it really became a massive area to work in allowing a full kitchen in one area and an operations room in the other with a dining room for 6 people. We’ll roll this out again for SSB Field Day. Trust you’ll be there?

Results:

6m            95 QSOs           45,847 points       Best DX UT3UA – 2251 Km
2m          156 QSOs           27,819 points       Best DX  F4CQY/P – 640 Km
70cms      48 QSOs             5,066 points        Best DX  PA6NL – 411 Km

Operators:

M0MCX (Callum, Supreme Commander 4th Quadrant)
G4MKP (Terry)
M0URX (Tim)
M3YOM (James)
Aidan (Foundation student)

There is some mild debate in the team if we’ll do this one again. I’m told that VHF can be fun with some lifts into the continent but maybe Silverstone, Wimbledon and perhaps the rain damped that down – as did lift conditions I think.

I’m amazed that with all those FT847s and TS2000s sold, few operators perhaps even knew to turn on their radios for an hour and work a few of us /P stations on 6m, 2m and 70cms. However, we did work a few vertically polarised stations quite easily who were giving away single digit points and I thank those stations for coming on since we worked hard for every QSO. It’s really quite easy to score a few QSOs from home with a V2000 style tri-bander vertical. Someone, somewhere should fly the flag for this since hundreds of private stations could have helped make this a bigger event.

Cheers-n-beers,

Callum (M0MCX)

17 Element Tonna Test for 2008 VHF NFD

17 Element TonnaOur 17 element Tonna is up for a test tonight, to ensure that everything will be working for VHF NFD event this weekend. Initial results are proving that its an extremely capable antenna and at 30 feet high, it’s just sitting over the rooftops, giving me a clear run across Warwickshire to the continent.

Fingers crossed for a bit of a lift tonight since it’s the 2m activity contest and James is popping over for some practice. I’ll write up a small report later.

In case you are wondering, yes that’s a Yaesu rotator bearing that I’m guying to at the 9.5 meter mark. It’s not holding the mast up, just taking the horizontal strain off the rotator.

[Later]

41 QSOs in tonight’s contest and 12 square multipliers. Not a big score but jolly good fun and at least we seemed to be ini the top third in terms of score. Longest DX was GM3UCI for 398 Km.

Callum.