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EI9KF Ireland flag Ireland

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EI9KF I am a radio ham licensed in 2011. My interests are in operating digital modes and in learning / using CW for DX. I am facinated with the computer side of the hobby and in particular, software defined radio (SDR) .

I live on the East coast of Ireland near Dundalk, Co Louth, - 60km north of Dublin and close to the border with Northern Ireland. I love my Cappuccino

My Locator is IO64TB. I will QSL to Bureau, LoTW and eQSL

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I belong to a great active radio club in Dundalk : Links to sites of our club members: Anthony :EI2KC and Tony :EI4DIB.

I use an Elecraft K3 for all HF bands with P3 panadaptor. I built these from the Elecraft kits and I very pleased with their performance. The K3 and its  second receiver has been updated with the new synthesizer boards in 2015.  I use a Kenwood TS2000 for 2m. The linear amp is a solid-state Expert. A recent addition to the shack is an Elecraft KPA-500 linear. This links seamlessly with the K3 adn I am well pleased with it. (It is bit noisy when the unit heats up...my only complaint).

 I am interested in operating remotely?as I often spend time away from home. I use an Elecraft K3/0 mini  remotely with internet link to my home rig. This is a work in progress. (Some notes below)

Antennas. [1] A SteppIR vertical antenna 80m - 6m (BigIr with 80m coil). This has 120 wire radials on the ground. [2] Hexbeam (SP7IDX) 20m - 6m. - on a tip-over 40 foot tower The rotator is a Prosistel. [3] I also have a small 7 element beam for 2m.

The Shack

Visible in the central 'stack' (bottom to top) is the Elecraft K3 with the Microkeyer on top. Beside this is the P3 pan adaptor wiht a w2 wattmeter on to. TO the right is the KPA 500 linear amp with the antenna tuner on top. The SDA-100 controllers  with Prosistel rotator controller are to the right. 

The P3 panadaptor sends its VGA signal to one of the monitors. An Avermedia capture card in the PC allows this to happen and it keeps the waterfall well in view. The CW decoding carried out by the K3 is also displayed . This decoder is suprisingly good and very helpful to me, a CW novice.

On top of the linear is a small monitor running an SDR Winradio which is a broadband receiver - G39 (9kHz-3500mHz) - and Excelsior software. This is connected to a discone antenna. This is usefui to check out the activity on the bands other than the one that I am working. A Flex 6700 transceiver - now out of sight -  runs SmartSDR is very much in Beta stage in my hands (using 4.14)  and not ready to be used day to day. Software updates are promised over the next 12 months which will enable its use in digital modes and facilatate remote operation. DAX (Digital Audio Exchange) released Feb 14, makes linking to digital modes easier though I am having trouble getting this operational.?

Software used includes Ham Radio Deluxe , DxLab., CW Skimmer, DX Atlas, MRP40 and CWget for morse decoding. DM780 / HRD for digital modes. and JT65-HF All this is under review!?

.CW Skimmer (useful for sorting out pileups and in contests) will interface with interface seamlessly with DXlab as will CWget (a CW decoder). DM780, a module from the Ham Radio Deluxe suite for operating in Digital modes.DXlab occupies the centre of the shack with these other programs feeding into it.

The new layout 2015

Two monitors pivot mounted above the Elecraft K3, P3, KPA500, KAT500, W2 and a Microkeyer II  with SteppIR controllers.

Ergonomically perfect?�

This is the view from the top of my garden where the vertical antenna is located. The vertical antenna has 120 wire ground radials - each 20m long. These are PVC covered copper wired pinned to the surface after cutting the grass very short. The radials meet at the base of the antenna , joined up to a DX engineering SS radial plate.

The wind turbine in the fore-ground provides much of our household electricity along with 22 PV solar panels. The grass has since grown back to knee height! The antenna is primarily supported by six kevlar guy ropes.

Here I am taking a rest after joining up the radials to the steel plate (DX Engineering)

The 20' tower extends to 40' and is heavily camouflaged! The hexbeam (SP7IDX), has been replaced with a 3 element Steppir, controlled by a small Prosistel rotator. This antenna is 75m from the shack. The Steppir BigIR Vertical (with 80m coil) , visible in the background, is a further 25m away at the crest of the Hill of Faughart. I have used Ecoflex 15+ co-axial to minimise losses.

3 element Steppir with Tilt-Plate enables the tower to be lowered to chest level with the antenna attached?

The Tower at dusk

The tower at dusk

Remoting with the Elecraft K3 K3/0 combination.

Elecraft have collaborated with RemoteRig to develop a hardware solution for remote operation. Elecraft have made a 'dummy' K3 (called a K3/0 mini) whichi has a front panel just like the real thing which can be used to control the remotely located 'real' K3 over the internet. RemoteRig manufacture the small black boxes (RRC1258) needed to accomplish the link, -one unit at each end. The K3 can be powered on an off remotely. All front panel controls can be effected using the 'dummy' radio. CW can be sent fome the Local site (away from the Shack) using your paddles attached to a keyer built in to the RRC1258 unit.I have found that the instructions given to set up the system to have been difficult and a bit confusing. Success with this involves setting up correct IP addresses so that the units can talk to each other. Back to top

The new Elecraft K3/0 mini is a massive improvement on the original K3 sized original K3/0. Cabling is through one cable and speakers are integrated into the K3/0 mini.?

Setting up the system:

RemoteRig provide software to enable the boxes to be programmed.?Set up the IP addresses of the units as follows:

The IP address of the Router at each location is made up of four numbers. (For example : 192.168.11.2 or 111.11.1.200 )

Make sure that the IP assigned to the RemoteRig boxes share the first three numbers with your Router. (Running configip/all on your PC will show you the IP of your gateway. ) The last number of th IP address is set to 227 for the Shack box and 228 for the Local box. So the setting in this example = : 192.168.11.227 or 111.11.1.227

The Shack RemoteRig box is programmed with the IP of the Shack Router, The Local RemoteRig box is programmed with the IP of the Local Router. Once programmed these settings are stored. If a new location is chosen for the Local unit, the router settings have to be reset and saved. (To operate 'MOBIILE' using wi-fi see below.)

Operation

To go remote, in the shack I need to switch:

a) The K3 CAT serial cable -off to the computer and on to the RemoteRig box. An RS232 switch has been installed to enable easy switching.

b) The K3 ACC out cable - from the shack Microkeyer II - to the RemoteRig box. (A Y cable splitter may work for this?) 

When away from my QTH it is necessary also to have control over:

     Antenna selection (I bave a SteppIR Vertical antenna and a 3 element Beam)

     The SteppIR antenna controllers (SDA-100) need to be remotely controlled when bands are changed.

     Rotator

     My linear amplifier (KPA-500)

Remote Rig provide the solutions. I have a 5x antenna selector with AS-1289 which gives full control using an internet browser.  4 x   RC1216H provide remote control via the browser of  the Rotator, the SDA-100 controller and the linear amplifier. 

Each of these control modules has a unique IP address which is typed into the browser when away. Each  gives a graphic interface unnique to the itemm being controlled which is very intuitive. 

 

 Remember that in order to operate the SteppIr controllers or to rotate the antenna, the SDAS-100 controllers in the Shack as well as the Prosistel base unit must be left switched on.

Going Portable with K3/0. (Portable / Mobile)

To operate the K3/0 'anywhere' it can be tethered to Wi-Fi. For this it is neceaasry to have a mobile wi-fi provider who supplies either a wi-fi dongle or a wireless device that will broadcast a wifi signal for your use.?

I use a small Asus router (WL339N3G) which will pick up the wireless signal and provides an ethernet connection to the RemoteRig control unit. The Router is programmed in 'Set-up' to the wi-fi network name and password . The IP of the Router is ascertained and programmed into the Local Remote-rig unit. Once put there the connection is stored.

The K3/0 go-box. (Supplied free by Dremel with a 4000 drill/accessory kit)

Top tray contains the K3/0 mini as well as a Signalink sound card. Behind the K3/0 is a small USB hub to join to a PC for rig control?

Contents of the drawer : RemoteRig unit, Asus Router, 11.5v 3000mA LiPo battery, Power Pole connector, On the left is a 3.0v LiPo battery to power the Router. A serial cable is taken out of the RRC1258 to enable CAT control of the rig. The Hub , on the top tray, takes a feed from the Signalink sound card also.

Mobile Wi-Fi device provided by ISP

Asus WL339N3G Router with ethernet port in place. This requires a 3.6v supply (normally got from a USB port)

 

My Suzuki Cappuccino

Back to Top

My Cappuccino was born in 1994. I have owned it for 15 years. Currently it has just 23,000 miles on the clock.

In October, 1991 came the Suzuki Cappuccino. -A roadster with the engine placed in front driving the rear wheels. The wheelbase was just 206 cm, the rear suspension independent, the engine is a3-cylinder 657 cc DOHC 4-valve turbocharged derived from a highly tuned motorcycle engine. Aluminium bonnet and boot. Detachable fibreglass roof panels which stow away in the boot.

Great fun to drive. My car has had the 82 BHP engine upgraded to 112 BHP with upgraded brakes and wheels and interior.

�

?

Driving through Galway City nn the Cannonball Run with my son David (left) 2012 Back to Top

?

�

 

 

Let’s Skim!   

CW Skimmer : An Overview                                                                  Hugh EI9KF

When looking for activity on the bands the tuning knob and our ears were for many years, the only tools at the Radio Amateur’s disposal.

In days gone by, when a rare DX was worked, we would call our friends to tell  them the news of who we found and where so that they too could make the contact.  Now we use  internet clusters to help us find who is active on a band. The clusters operate essentially a reporting service to tell us who is active.   An operator who works a contact can post it to the Cluster service. They will then display who has had a QSO with whom, and on what frequency. These appear a long lists that can be filtered according to band and mode.  There are many such services such as Dx Summit and Dx Spider.  The only problem with using internet clusters is that just because a QSO is listed ie that VE3NEA  connected with 5W7x (Samoa)  it does not mean that I, in Ireland will be able to hear the DX station form my location.

With the advent of digital technology, visual tools were developed to enable the operator to see what was on the band. These ‘panadaptors’ can sample a section of the band  2-200kHz and show all  the activity taking place as well as a providing  waterfall showing the recent past.  These are a great tool for tuning on a band and many modern radios now feature some kind of visual panadaptor as a much appreciated feature.  The panadaptor of course ,  allows us to see that there is a signal present, its bandwidth and strength. It will enable us to identify a signal visually as CW, psk or SSB but it will not identify the call signs of the  stations present. 

Elecraft P3 Panadaptor

Ideally what we would like is a system which would show us activity of the bands and simultaneously identify the stations being heard.  This is exactly what the software program CW Skimmer (Afreet Software by Alex VE3NEA ) does and as such it has changed the world as we know it!

CW Skimmer is a computer program that is essentially a morse decoder with panadaptor.  Ever since computers have been invented there has been a search for the perfect errorless morse decoder and there are a few good ones on the market.  What is different about CW skimmer is that it is capable of taking a slice of radio bandwidth and decoding all the CW signals in that slice.  This program can decode up to 700 CW signals simultaneously in a 96 kHz bandwidth. The program will extract and display call signs and flag stations calling CQ and Test. It will also identify and display the signal  reports of stations. The program has an integral digital signal processor, noise blanker and automatic gain control.

So CW Skimmer is a multichannel CW decoder but in addition to that it has the ability to export its list of stations with an inbuilt Telnet function.

Many of our computer logging programs have the ability to display clusters of reported activity.  As discussed earlier,  these clusters do not represent what we can hear at our QTH.  CW skimmer, on the contrary, only displays signals detectable from our location. With Telnet these can be fed into our logging programs substituting or augmenting the third party station reports already there.  .  It is no exaggeration to say that this one program has been one of the biggest game changers in amateur radio and it shook the hobby to its core when first introduced both for contesting and Dx activities.  Instead of Cluster providers relying on operator’s to directly report contacts, skimmer centres are constantly scanning the bands and are plugged into the reporting clusters.  The Skimmers centres are essentially a group of individual Radio Amateurs who allow their stations to continuous skim and report. Some stations will skim only one band or a part thereof. Other with multiple receivers , report on large segments of several band simultaneously and constantly.  A version of CW Skimmer called CW Skimmer Server is used for the reporting process. The Reverse Beacon Network  is a network of such stations scattered thought the world which will give an almost instant reading of your ‘hearability’ or signal report at many points on the globe almost instantly.  It is not the purpose of this paper to provide a full outline of this service at this time. 

Bandwidth

The magnitude of the section of a band that you can see, live, at a given time with all stations listed  and decoded, is a big factor in determining the usefulness of CW Skimmer. Show me a broad swath of band and I have a much fuller picture of what is happening.  With this program as with many things in life, what you get out depends on what you put in.  A modern receiver is capable of providing the program with about 3kHz of band width.  This is useful but not a lot. The signal is fed to the soundcard of the computer and a soundcard with a sampling rate of 48kHz is suitable. To provide a wider section of band a Software Defined Radio (SDR) is required.  The signal provided is  a digital IQ signal which contains a lot more information than the analog signal from a radios audio output.  Some modern radios like the Elecraft K3 have an I.F. output which can be converted to an IQ signal using a device such as the LP-Pan.  When an IQ signal is available,  it needs to be fed into a sound card which has a high sampling rate and one of 196kHz is vet suitable.  Some SDR’s do not require a soundcard but feed directly into the computer USB provided a virtual sound card to process the information. 

Multiple Bands

While it is useful to see a broad section of activity on a particular band, it is even more fun to be able to monitor multiple bands simultaneously.  The traditional way of doing this was to set up a series of 4 or 5 wide band SDR  mono band receivers such as the SoftRock - each linked to a version of CW skimmer and each aggregating their results via Telnet.  A multiband SDR was develed by Quick Silver laboratories. This is called QS1R and it can monitor up to 7 bands simultaneously.  CW skimmer  has a special setup for users of this radio (cost $800) which is the receiver most widely used by the network of skimmer centres world-wide. Another less expensive version of this radio is promised for release soon which should widen the number of operators willing to install and  share CW spots . 

A Flex 6700 running wideband Skimmer  and NiMM on 20m and 40m

Rig Control

CW Skimmer connects to the computer via sound cable to the sound card and via a CAT control cable between PC and radio.  The CAT control cable allows radio and PC to talk to each other through a piece of software called OmniRig and the USB or serial port.  Through this channel, the program knows the frequency that the radio is on. Clicking on a station in the software window, caused the radio to tune precisely to that frequency where the station can be heard.  

Summary

The PC program CW Skimmer  (Afreet Software $75) developed by Alex VE3NEA is a multi channel CW decoder that identifies call signs  and signal reports  heard by your antenna at your location. These ‘spots’ can be taken and displayed by your logging program or cluster.  This program has enables a network of reporting stations to be set up (RBN) which enables the propagation of ones signal to be measured almost world wide.  The developer of this software have made a huge contribution to the Amateur radio world and was recently awarded Amateur of the Year  2014 by RAC Canada .

 

 

 

 

7673583 Last modified: 2016-11-03 15:52:14, 23776 bytes

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