Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Monitor" Band Map for Logger32

In reading through the manual for the Logger32 logging program I came across a rather neat feature. The "BandMap" which displays cluster spots for the particular band your radio is tuned to, has a "Monitor" feature. This allows you to pop-up 1 or 2 separate BandMap windows which you can configure to watch the spots on a particular band or ALL bands at once! The advantages I see for this is that you can have a BandMap window that constantly monitors 6-M for any activity even though your radio is tuned to another band. Then, if something is spotted on 6-M, you will see it instantly in the "Monitor" window. If you configure the Monitor BandMap to watch ALL frequencies, then you can spot the color coding for countries you may need on a particular band or mode that may appear while you are working on another band. I see this as a HUGE improvement to the normal BandMap which simply tracks the band your radio is tuned to.

On the left you can see a Monitor BandMap that has been set to display spots on 6-M. By the BLUE color code I can tell that there are FOUR stations spotted which I need on 6-M. If I "mouse-over" the spots I can see who made the spot and be able to tell if it's possible for me to work them. Of course, if I had my cluster set to one that only displayed NA spotters, then I could forgo that step. (Click on any photo to see it larger then use your BACK button to return to this page.)

The Monitor portion of the BandMap allows you to select up to two separate BandMaps to monitor other bands. If you add a "GEN" band to your ADIFBands.txt file and configure it under Tools | Setup Bands & Modes, then you can display a BandMap like the one shown at the right. This shows ALL the spots that come in from 0.003 to 30.0 MHz. Again, by looking at the BLUE color coded spots, I can see there are two New Ones available for me on 17-M. This feature prevents me from having to step my radio through all the bands just to locate those spots that are New Ones for me. Another great reason to use this feature.

The two Monitor BandMaps can be accessed from your normal BandMap window by pulling down the "Monitor" menu bar and selecting Monitor No. 1 or No. 2. Then in the Monitor window that pops-up you can pull down "Band" from the menu and choose the band you want to monitor. You can click on spots in the Monitor window just the same as in the normal BandMap window and your radio will QSY to that frequency and mode. Search for "The Band Map" in the Logger32 Help File to see all the features of the BandMaps including the Monitor BandMaps.

The Logger32 Help File gives instructions on how to set up the program for the "General" BandMap feature. Search the Help File for "Tips Tricks and Troubleshooting" and scroll down to item No. 2.2. I've copied that section below with one modification - you need to restart Logger32 after you make the changes in order for the program to recognize them.  NOTE: the "bandmode table" is found on the Menu Bar under Tools | Setup Bands & Modes.

2.1 How can I setup a Bandmap to show all HF spots? With the introduction of the monitor bandmaps you can set up one of the windows so as to watch all the HF bands at once.
1. Open up your ADIFBands.txt file in a text editor and edit in a new line at the bottom to read GEN (for General)
2. In your bandmode table make an entry to cover the full range of your radio (I set the lower freq to 0.003 and the upper freq to 30.0) and give the line a band name of GEN.
NOTE: Close out Logger32 now and restart it for it to recognize these changes.
3. Select the band GEN in the bandmap and it will show all the spots as they come in.
You can also use the ZOOM facility in this bandmap (see the help file) and just show (say) 40m to 15m if you so wish.

Here is more of a "Cookbook" description of those instructions:

1. Find your Logger32 directory (usually C:\Logger32) using Windows Explorer. 
2. Double-click the file "ADIFBands.txt" and if asked, open it in "Notepad."
3. At the bottom of the current list, add an entry for "GEN" and SAVE that file.
4. In Logger32, under "Tools", choose "Setup Bands & Modes".
5. At the bottom of the list, enter "GEN" under Band, ".003000" for Lower freq.,
     and "30.000000" for Upper freq.  Set Stats to "N", Radio # to "1" and both
     Rotor columns to "0".  Now click on "Apply."
6. Close out Logger32.  Then start Logger32 again and select GEN in any additional
     Bandmap (not the one that is locked to the band of your radio.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

KC8UHE is Now a Big DAWG!

Tim, KC8UHE, has detailed on the WVDXA Reflector his desire to replace his TA-33 (10, 15, & 20-M yagi which also did have a 17-M dipole conversion kit) with something bigger that would give him some decent gain on 17-M and 12-M. After weighing the pros and cons of many antennas, he decided upon a Mosley Pro-57B which has a 24-foot boom as compared to the 14-foot boom of his TA-33. It also adds coverage of 12-M and 17-M. In addition, I was able to re-acquire my old CushCraft 2-L 40-M beam and Charlie, N8RR, modified it into a full-size 2-L 30-M beam. It turned out to have a 15-foot boom and the reflector was just over 50-feet! WOOF! That's a BIG antenna. Charlie computer modeled the antenna both as to the dimensions and for the height it was going to be placed over Tim's terrain. The graphs look great - this puppy should really play.

What made the project really come together was an acquaintance of Tim's who has a bucket (boom) truck. He agreed to come and do the installation for Tim. This was going to be a snap! (Or so we thought!)

The truck showed up at 8 a.m. with Tim's friend, Joe, and his helper, Paul. Charlie, N8RR, Dwight, KC8WDT, Tim, KC8UHE, and I were there ready to go as well. I brought a couple of lawn chairs for Charlie and I as we really didn't expect to have to do much.

First the guys lifted up the 21-foot, Schedule 80 mast and dropped it down into the tower to rest on a board. Then they lifted up a tower section and placed it atop Tim's 37-foot tower making the top of the tower now 47-feet. We had already installed a Top Plate and Accessory Shelf (for the Rotor) on this section. Next they hooked up the winch from Tim's Hazer through a pulley at the top of the tower and used that to winch up the mast. That was a GREAT idea!

Next, the 2-L, 30-M beam was carried aloft on the bucket and quickly attached to the mast. Boy, it just doesn't get any better than this. Charlie and I in our lawn chairs watching the bucket truck effortlessly lift that monster antenna to the top of the tower - AWESOME! You can see in the photo above how things looked at this point. (Click on any photo to see it larger then use your BACK button to return to this page.)

Now we carried the 7-L Mosley (about 100 pounds) to the bucket and it was ready to be lifted and put in place. Once it was secured to the mast, the mast would be winched up until it was high enough to clear the Rotor and the Mosley would be secured. Everything was going GREAT! The weather all week had been bad but today the sky was clear, it was not too warm or too humid, everything was right with the world.

But, lurking just around the corner was Mr. Edsel Murphy! As the guys began to lift the Pro-57B with the bucket truck, suddenly a hydraulic hose let go and hydraulic fluid began to pour out of the boom. People scurried around to shut off the truck and to try and catch the fluid. Tim's friend, Joe, tried to exit the bucket which was about 10-feet in the air and got his pants caught on the Pro57-B and was hanging upside down for a minute. He got down OK but the bucket truck was dead in the water.

So, I jumped in the van and rushed to my house to pick up my gin pole, rope, climbing belt, etc. Tim ordered Pizza for everyone and when I got back they were ready to continue the project the old-fashioned way - rope, gin pole, and muscle power!

With no other visits from Mr. Murphy the rest of the installation went well. By 3 p.m. Tim had now upgraded his antenna farm from a Little Pistol to that of a Big DAWG! The bucket truck was not removed until Monday evening and Tim and I finished the guying Monday night (he used Phillystran a non-conductive guy cable.)

It is difficult to get Tim away from the radio now. He keeps telling me about the New Ones and even All-Time New Ones he has worked just today! Yep, 30-M is going to be owned by KC8UHE.

Oh, the 30-M beam (as predicted by Charlie, N8RR) was 1.0:1 and 50 ohms at the low end of the band and 1.1:1 and 51 ohms at the top end. Yep, it's a KILLER! Tim has already found he can load it on 40-M as he worked KHØ/K3TQ on 40-M CW on his second call Monday morning when he came in from work. The Mosley's SWR graphs all agree with the antenna for each band so that antenna is on-the-nose as well.

Here is a short (6 min.) video showing some of what happened during the Antenna Raising at KC8UHE's QTH. In the final shot you see Tim's QTH from a distance. The hill behind his place is to the South. But his take-off to the NE, N, NW, and W is fantastic.

That was certainly an amazing experience to watch an antenna (and tower section) being installed with a bucket truck. Also, doing it on flat ground without the need to avoid hundreds of tree limbs, made this a walk-in-the-park compared to what others of us have to contend with. GL with the DX, Tim. You have a great station now.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Water Proofing Coax Pigtails

Recently I have been helping Tim, KC8UHE, with his "Big Antenna Project." This project entails removing his current HF Tri-bander and 6-L CushCraft 6-M yagi, removing his Hazer system, adding a 10-foot tower section (tower will now be 57-feet), replacing the 1/4-inch galvanized guy wire with Phillystran, replacing his mast with 21-feet of Schedule 80 and building/installing a Mosley Pro-57B at about 50-feet and a full-size 2-L 30-M beam at about 60-feet. Yes, Tim plans to move up a notch or two in his ability to work the elusive DX!

Below you can see a photo taken the day Dwight, KC8WDT, Tim and I completed the construction on the Mosley Pro-57B (with a timely assist from Rick, W8ZT.) Tim's old antennas are still on the tower in the background. In the center is a photo of Charlie, N8RR, holding the 2-L 30-M beam. Charlie took my old CushCraft 2-L 40-M beam and modified it into a full-size 30-M beam. The boom is 16-feet long and the reflector is just over 50-feet - YIKES!

Since Tim's "Big Antenna Project" adds length to his tower, he needed to replace his coax. He has installed a remote antenna switch just under the eave of his back-porch so only one coax needs to run to the radio. Then, individual runs will be made to each antenna. Also, RF Chokes needed to be made for both the Pro-57B and the 2-L 30-M yagi. That's what this post is about. I began constructing the 30-M choke first and wound 12 turns of Belden 8267 (RG-213) on a 6-inch diameter form. This was held in place with ty-raps and Scotch® 88 electrical tape. You can see the completed 30-M choke below on the right. Click on any photo to enlarge it and use your BACK button to return to this page. The RF Choke for the Pro-57B was only 5 turns on a 6-inch diameter form.

The "Big Enemy" of coax and antennas is WATER! You need to go to great lengths to keep any moisture from reaching the coax as it will corrode the wire and destroy the efficiency of the cable. Toward this end and with a view to the fact that I never want to hear "My RF Choke failed because W8TN did not properly keep out the water," I took great pains to see that no moisture could reach into the cable at the point where the braid and the center conductor are separated for attachment to the beams.

Below you can see the beginnings of the process. First you separate the braid from the center conductor. I chose to slide the braid back about an inch which causes it to bloom out. You can then "make a hole" in the braid by just pulling the fine wires aside and then you can fish the center conductor through the hole by bending it. Then smooth out the braid and slip some heat-shrink over it. Now I crimp a couple of ring terminals on both ends and then solder the lugs onto the center conductor and the braid. When soldering I make sure the solder fills up the center of the crimp connector so no moisture can invade at this point. Next I used some self-fusing water proof tape I purchased at Dayton called Rescue Tape®. You pull this tape to twice it's length as you wrap it and this begins the fusing process. I used this tape to wrap the joint where the braid separated from the center conductor.

Remember, the point of this is to keep ANY moisture from getting to the wire. After the Rescue Tape was applied, I tightly wrapped all the pigtail with Scotch® 88 electrical tape. This wrapping was done with some pressure on the tape so that it's width was reduced to about 3/4 of normal and each successive lap over-lapped the prior lap by 1/2. This stretching of the tape forms a very tight seal and in years past, I've had great success with nothing more than 1 or 2 layers of Scotch® 88 tape wrapped in this manner. Some folks would stop here and call it done. However, I wanted to make absolutely these connections literally last a lifetime so I continued.

On the 30-M RF Choke I then coated the entire pigtail with 3M™ Scotchkote™ Electrical Coating. I've used this many times in the past to make certain that the taped joint is completely water proof. I actually let the first coat dry over-night and applied a second coat the next day. While planning on how to do this water proofing properly I found several references by hams on the Internet to their use of Plasti Dip® or Liquid Electrical Tape. I was not able to find the Plasti Dip at Home Depot so I bought a bottle of Gardner Bender's Liquid Electrical Tape. That is what I used to cover the Pro-57B pigtail (see center photo below.)

Finally, as you can see in the far right photo, I again wrapped the entire pigtail with Scotch® 88 electrical tape. This is necessary as the Scotchkote™ can become brittle and flake off due to Ultra Violet light. The RF Chokes are now ready to be attached to their respective antennas. Using heat shrink, soldered ring lugs, self-fusing Rescue Tape®, liquid electrical tape (or Scotchkote™), and TWO layers of Scotch® 88 electrical tape might be considered a bit over-kill but I'm now willing to bet some serious coin that these pigtails will NEVER see any moisture. But considering that you are now paying more than $1 a foot for good coax, it makes sense to take some time and effort to protect your investment so that it lasts as long as possible.