Sunday, November 24, 2019
Each interview runs about an hour and can be listened to online or can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts. Episode 200 is an interview with Eric himself as the subject. All prior episodes can be accessed and a list of all the interviews is available HERE.
Eric has been doing this for 4-1/2 years as a way to document the stories and ham radio history for hundreds of individuals in our hobby. As of today, November 23, 2019, Eric has produced 277 episodes.
Today's Episode 277 is with me, W8TN. The interview was conducted over Skype on November 10, 2019. The image at the right is from the Skype app during the recording.
I consider many of those who have already been interviewed as being absolutely at the pinnacle of this hobby. Looking at the list of hams who have already been interviewed, I am extremely honored and humbled to be included here.
Using the embedded player below you can listen to this Episode right from this Blog. Note there are buttons to rewind 30 seconds or skip ahead 30 seconds.
Friday, November 15, 2019
On October 23, 2019, I received the DG5MK FA-VA5 Vector Antenna Analyzer from SDR-Kits. I previously posted on this Blog my search for such a product - CLICK HERE - to see that post. My order was very well packed and included a BEAUTIFUL 40-page manual which is full of color photos. The manual can be downloaded as a PDF from this link: https://www.box73.de/file_dl/bausaetze/BX-245_FA-VA5_Manual_EN_201908_w.pdf The quality of the kit is top-notch and after checking the parts list, all components had been supplied.
I began the construction of the Analyzer which turned out not to be very difficult. The hardest thing was to properly position the USB socket and solder it with a mica insulator between it and the circuit board. There are 16 pads that need to be soldered so it's a bit tedious. You can see that USB Socket on the left. Once that is done, you need to screw the motherboard into the housing's lower shell with four M3 screws. Here is where I ran into a problem.
I measured the hole size as 3.36 mm which is 0.13228346 inches or ~17/128 of an inch. I used a 5/32" drill which is 0.15625 inches to slightly drill out the four holes. This provided just enough "play" to allow the motherboard to be screwed to the lower housing.
|Inside Case View|
Three Videos have been produced by Joe Fellner - OE5JFE showing what is involved in Assembling, Operating the FA-VA5 either as standalone Instrument or when connected to a Personal Computer via USB.
Video Part 1: Assembling the FA-VA5 Antenna Analyzer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m67hDfm0XOE
Video Part 2: Using the FA-VA5 - how to do a Firmware update and perform Master SOL Calibration on a the FA-VA5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad9gjQutxCw
Video Part 3: Connecting the FA-VA5 Antenna Analyzer to a PC and how to use with the DG8SAQ Vector Network Analyzer Application: https://youtu.be/FnfoTX5_DBo
|Socket Strips Spaced 7 mm|
It took me 4 hours, 45 minutes to complete the build because of the issue with needing to drill out the holes in the motherboard and my need to be super careful with the soldering. Once I had the unit built, the first thing to perform was a functional test. This went well so I completed installing the unit in the case.
However, when I tried to connect it to the computer - problems ensued. The USB connector on the analyzer turns out to be a "USB 2.0 Mini-B 5-pin" connector. That is not a common connector that appeared in my USB cable drawer. But I did find a short (9-inch) USB cable with the proper connector and connected the unit to the computer. Connecting the unit to the computer with this cable cause the analyzer to go into USB mode but no COM port showed up on the computer. I tried this on two different computers with no luck. The instructions say if there is a problem, it is likely in the cable or in the USB socket mounted to the motherboard. I searched some more and found a second 9-inch USB cable but it did not let the analyzer work either.
My next step was to take the unit apart, unplug the display, and un-solder the USB socket. As I said before, this is soldered with 16-pads so it was difficult to remove. I then VERY carefully re-installed the USB socket but, when I connected it to the computer, there still was no COM port.
|1.75:1 SWR Problem|
Now that I finally had a working analyzer, I proceeded to calibrate it using the SOL (Short, Open, Load) Calibration Kit I had purchased. This took a little time but was simple enough to do. My next step was to use the Analyzer to troubleshoot a problem with my EME array.
|1.11:1 SWR with New Feedline|
I then proceeded to take the analyzer and notebook computer outside and test each antenna and phasing line individually, the power divider, and the feedline. Everything looked good until I tested the feedline by itself and it exhibited a high SWR. Luckily I had a run of ABR400UF cable going from the shack to the EME antenna array. I switched to that cable and the SWR returned to 1.11:1 as you can see on the image at the right. Click on any image here to see a larger view.
When more time is available I will see what is wrong with the other feedline and eventually get it back in service. And, since the analyzer shows both antennas to be resonant about 0.355 MHz low, I may tweak them as well. It's super-easy to do this with the DG5MK FA-VA5 Vector Antenna Analyzer. But, for now, this little Antenna Analyzer has completely paid for itself by getting me back on EME!
Many, if not all, logging programs have the ability to connect to a PacketCluster server to obtain DX spots. However, if you want to control the spots that are coming into your logger, you need to issue archaic DOS type commands. VE7CC has created a program called "CC User" which resides on your computer and easily allows "mouse click" changes to the spot information which is displayed in your logger.
This software, which you install on your computer, allows you to connect to the VE7CC PacketCluster or any other cluster you want. You then connect to the "CC User" program from your logger. "CC User" has the advantage of being able to supply spots to other programs like contest loggers (N1MM+ for example) at the same time. Or, if you have other computers in the house, you can connect to the "CC User" program on your main computer and save on the usage of your Internet uplink/downlink while maintaining the settings you have created for receiving spots. Plus, there are tons of ways to filter the spots coming from "CC User".
One of the main reasons I started using the "CC User" program a few years ago was that you can tell it to "Auto Reconnect" if the link to your chosen PacketCluster fails. And, not only can you reconnect if you get dropped, but you can also automatically pull in all the DX spots you missed.
CLICK HERE for the page describing all the features of "CC User." It is free software. Once on the CC User web page, scroll about 2/3 of the way down the page to find the "Installation of CC User" instructions. Under that heading you will find the link to download the program: "Download CC User Full Version (ver 2.421)" Clicking on this link will allow you to download a ZIP file. Just Un-ZIP and proceed as you normally would with any program installation.
There are tons of ways to filter the spots with just a mouse click (instead of sending an archaic DOS command to the Cluster.) For example, on the top left of this Post is a window showing how easy it is to reject spots from certain bands. On the right is a snapshot of the screen where you can filter the station sending the spots, not only by country (as by telling it you only want to see spots from the USA) but you can drill down and filter only spots from a particular STATE or PROVINCE. Again, on the left, is a screenshot of the "Set" menu with just some of the options available available in "CC User." Click on any image to see a larger view.
On the right is a "Tab" in "CC User" which I use often. The screenshot is captioned "DX Tab." Say I'm trying to work a station that I see spotted on 40-M. But, the most recent spot only says "UP" with no indication of how far up he is listening or, the spot does not even SAY UP, it just gives the DX station and frequency. So, I click on the DX "Tab" of "CC User" and select "40" for the band and I can then see all the spots that have come in on 40-M in chronological order. I can then scroll up through the spots and look for any spots with good info for me. Check out the spots for T33C on the "DX" tab screenshot and you can see what I mean. Using this will also help me find spots with comments giving QSL information or the fact that the DX station changed bands, etc. Your logging program may only show the most recent spot which may not give you this info and trying to scroll back through all the spots for all bands to find any useful info is a PITA and usually unsuccessful.
When you setup "CC User" you need to look at the "Port Setup" screen like what is shown next on the Left. I've marked in Red the part that deals with your connecting to "CC User" from your Logging Program. If you are going to use Telnet to connect to your logging program you can ignore the settings for RS-232.
With the setup shown, the program is waiting for incoming connections from logging programs on port 7300. If the logging program is running on the same computer, use the local telnet loopback port (127.0.0.1 :7300). If the logging program is in a different computer, telnet to this computer's IP address at port 7300. The number of logging program connections is unlimited. To enable or disable this feature, you need to go to "Configuration>Ports/Logging Program>Logging Program Connection>Telnet" in the "CC User" program.
To enable this connection in the Logger32 logging program, Right-Click in the Telnet window of Logger32 and choose Setup | Setup remote hosts. You should then setup a remote host to look like the screenshot shown on the right for "Telnet connection setup..."
You can see the address for connecting to VE7CC-1 is the telnet loopback port address of 127.0.0.1 and the Port is 7300. This Port has to be the same as what you set up in "CC User." In my setup I was already using Port 7300 so I clicked on "Use Custom Port" and entered "7100" - then that is the Port I had to use in Logger32.
This may seem like a lot of work just to set up a source for PacketCluster spots but, for me, the other benefits of the "CC User" program are well worth the effort. I let my computer run 24/7 and "CC User" is always running. I may shut down and later re-start Logger32 but when I do, my VE7CC-1 Cluster is always there.