Sunday, June 27, 2021

FINALLY the 8-L 6-M InnovAntenna is UP!

8-L at 95'AGL Through the Trees on Rohn 45
This project has been a long time coming.  In July 2015 the 8-L 6-M InnovAntenna yagi arrived from Great Britain.  I had spoken to Justin Johnson, GØKSC, at the Dayton Hamvention in May and placed the order.  But it was not until August that I was able to construct it.  Check THIS Blog Post for those details.

The build took place at the QTH of my good friend, Tim, K8RRT, because he had much more available room than me.  Once the antenna was built, I raised it to about 39-feet on Tim's Rohn 45G tower to proceed with tuning the antenna.  Check THIS Blog Post for the details on the antenna tuning.

Once I had the new antenna at my QTH, I was not able to get it up on the tower immediately.  My tower is located in the woods behind my house (down over the hill.)  The base is located about 35 feet below the level of the house and it is quite difficult to get to and work around. Still, as Lance, W7GJ, was about to operate a 6-M EME DX'pedition from V6M, the Federated States of Micronesia, I felt the burning need to try and work him even if the antenna was not atop the big tower.  So as any reasonable ham would do, I erected the antenna temporarily in my front yard!  Check THIS Blog Post for the temporary installation details.  This did not please the Homeowner's Association but the really good news is that I WAS HEARD by Lance!  I was  not able to complete the QSO but still, it was 1/2 of a 6-M EME QSO in my book!

I still could not find a way to get the antenna up onto the tall tower.  It lay on the patio for the next 3 years. But in the summer of 2018 I really wanted to join in on all the DX fun (it had been 4 years since I worked a New One on the Magic Band) - and, I hoped to just maybe work a Japanese station on 50 MHz.  So, I took down the EME antennas from the short tower at the house and put up the 6-M antenna. See a photo on the Photo Link below.

In the 3 weeks the antenna was on the EME tower, I managed to work ELEVEN New Ones bringing my 6-M total to 121.  This certainly proved to me the value of this antenna.  However, it had to come down before it was damaged.  I had just "roped" it to the side of the EME tower and any windy day or a thunderstorm threatened to damage the antenna.  Still, it had proved its worth!

Move forward three more years to the present and I finally decided that I was just not going to be physically able to work on my 85-foot tower myself.  So, I contracted with a firm who has done a lot of antenna work for local hams.  I had them remove the damaged 4-L SteppIR and the 12-foot mast that supported it.  Then they pulled up the new 15-foot mast (See THIS Post for info on the new mast,) the 1-5/8" Heliax, and then pulled up the 8-L 6-M InnovAntenna to it's new location at 95-feet AGL.  

It took a week to complete this project.  You can Click HERE for Photos of this project.  Click on the "i" within the circle to read a description of each photo.  Then click on the first photo to move through all the images in a larger size.  Also, Click HERE for Video (less than 6 minutes) which is a compilation of several shorter videos shot while the antenna was being pulled up from ground level to its final resting place.

Day #1 of the project was me with my grandsons, Owen and Grant, clearing the area, putting together the sections of the beam, me breaking the balun!, and the need for me to make TWO trips up and down the hill.  WHEW!

Day #2 had Joe Beam and his crew come and remove the 4-L SteppIR antenna.  Thank goodness the grandsons, Owen and Grant were also here to help take apart that monster.  I only had to make one trip up and down the hill and don't think I had another one in me.  After accidentally breaking the balun, I followed the advice of Charlie, N8RR, and managed to re-build the balun with a new piece of coax plus using the 25 ferrite toroids from the damaged balun.  You can see the result of that re-build on the above Photo Link.

Day #3 started with "Marvin" of Joe's crew climbing and "limbing" a bunch of trees to give enough room for the antenna to go up and to later rotate.  Due to the physical exercise of the previous days, I was not able to make it outside until noon except to greet the crew upon arrival.  After the Aleve(tm) kicked in, I went out and made one more trip over the hill to help with pulling up the 8-L 6-M beam.  Owen ran the tag line and both of Joe's crew were on the tower.  Joe was at the top of the hill running the winch.  You can see a photo of the antenna on its way up on the Photo Link above.

Day #4 "Marvin" and "Paul" came to trim one more tree and to pull up the 1-5/8" Heliax.  It was a "Good News - Bad News" kind of day.

My Grandson Owen and I rolled out the 190-feet (or so) of 1-5/8" Heliax with "Paul" from Joe Beam's crew holding the end which had the 7/16" DIN connector which Tim and I had installed.  Click HERE for details on that.  This would be the end at the top of the tower.  We had to use nearly all the neighbor's yard clear to the street for the cable to unroll the entire length of cable.

Right away Paul hooked up the pull rope and using the winch, pulled the Heliax up to the top of the tower.  "Marvin" was up on the tower to secure the cable.  This went VERY fast!  I can not imagine trying to haul this cable up by hand.  It weighs 0.72 pounds per foot so the 140-feet or so that we used today weighs about 100 pounds.

At this point Paul went up the tower to attach the "hangers" to secure the Heliax to the tower plus carry the weight of that cable.  Marvin started climbing a tree that had to be cut back and began working on that.  Owen took off to the doctor because he picked up a serious case of poison ivy or poison oak when he was here on Day #3.  He ended up with a steroid shot and is feeling somewhat better.

I then began installing the female N-Connector on the 1/2-inch Heliax which runs under the back yard and into the shack.  Just to make sure this system would play, I put a small amount of my blood onto my work!  Before I finished that connector, my grandson, Grant, showed up and he helped me saw off about 42 feet of the 1-5/8-inch Heliax which was surplus to this installation and then helped me use the Commscope-Andrew Easiax Automated Prep Tool (CPT-158U) to prepare this big feedline for the connector installation.  That went quite well and the big Heliax now has a 7/16" DIN connector on the shack end as well as the antenna end.
At this point, Joe Beam showed up just as his crew was finishing and packing up.  Grant left to go do other things.  After Joe and his crew left, I finished the connector installation on the 1/2-inch Heliax and connected the 1/2" to the 1-5/8" cables with a 10-foot jumper of 1/2" SureFlex Heliax with an N-Male on one end and a 7/16" DIN Male on the other.  

I then taped Ziploc bags over each of the connector joints - just in case.  As it turned out, as I was picking up my tools, it started to rain!  Not a lot but it was enough to make me glad I had covered my butt so to speak.  I will apply a more permanent weatherproofing solution to those joints at a later time.

I quickly hooked up the new antenna and did an SWR check.  Things looked REALLY good.  Remember my antenna was tuned for the low end of the band for SSB and CW but my tuner will adjust the SWR at 50.313 to 1:1 so, no worries!

Logger32 Beam Heading
50.100   1.1:1
50.150   1.2:1
50.200   1.3:1
50.250   1.3:1
50.300   1.4:1

Now here is where the Bad News comes in. Just after checking out the SWR, I found my rotor did not rotate.  That was a huge BUMMER!  I was trying to hear the K8MMM beacon and went to rotate the antenna a little to the West and the rotor controller gave me an "E 1" error message.  At this point I called it quits for the day.  But when I came back later, I found that the rotor would rotate just fine in the ClockWise direction but not at all in the CCW direction.  Possibly that was just an issue with the CW wire between the controller and the rotor.  I also found that I had picked up two ticks on my left leg.  Thankfully neither one infected me with any "tick-borne" diseases.

On Monday, "Paul" came to help figure out the rotor issue.  He climbed the tower checking the rotor cable as he went and found no problems.  Where the cable attaches to the pigtail coming out of the rotor I had used a pair of "Trailer Plugs."  Paul found some corrosion there and by plugging/unplugging the connections plus a little cleaning of the pins, the rotor now turns just fine.  As you can see in the image on the right, my M2 Orion RC2800PX rotor controller interfaces just fine with Logger32 to tell me where the antenna is pointed and to allow me to quickly and easily rotate the antenna.  Click HERE for a 20-second video of this feature in action.

I think this installation will play very well.  There is approximately 262-feet of feedline from the antenna to the radio including all jumpers.  The combination of 1-5/8" and 1/2" Heliax pieces should result in a total feedline loss of 1.35 dB which includes an allowance of 0.50 dB loss for 10 connectors (0.05 dB per connector.)

Just 5 days after installing the antenna the above station was decoded. This 9K2NO (Kuwait) entity would be a New One for me (No. 124 on 6-M) but propagation did not last long enough for a QSO.  I think at this point I will say this antenna project was definitely worth the effort!  Bring on the 6-M DX!!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

1-5/8" Heliax Feedline & Mast for 6-M Beam Installation

Progress continues to be made on the 2021 Antenna Project to put the 8-L InnovAntennas 6-M yagi (11.7m, or 38.4-foot boom) up on top of my 85-foot tower.  

On May 24, 2021, Grandson Owen drove me to Metals Depot in Winchester, KY, with a trailer, to pick up the new mast - a 15-foot length of 1-1/2" Schedule 80, A500 Uncoated Steel Pipe, 1.90" O.D. x .200" wall x 1.50" I.D. (T511280 Structural Steel Pipe.)  I had to go with this 1.9" O.D. pipe over a 2-inch O.D. mast because of the size of the top section of my tower.  On the right you can see the photo of the new mast on the trailer.  The inset shows a close-up of the end of the mast.  To prevent the mast from rusting, grandsons Owen and Grant have sanded, primed and painted the mast as it was uncoated when I bought it.  (Click on any photo to see a larger image.)

Thankfully a few years ago I had acquired a length of used 1-5/8” Heliax cable (Commscope-Andrew AVA7-50) which had been removed from a cellphone tower.  Click HERE to see a photo of the Grandsons (Owen & Grant) helping me bring the cable home.  (Yes, they were MUCH younger then!)

The next job was to install connectors on the 1-5/8" Heliax.  These connectors are 7/16 DIN female and each connector is 4 x 2-1/2 inches and weighs 1.7 pounds!  Not your typical PL-259.  You can see an image of one of those connectors on the left.  I had worried about how to install these and recently found that Commscope-Andrew makes a special tool to do this.  Click HERE to see a video of this tool (CPT-158U) in operation.  It is just amazing to me to see how simple it is to use this tool.  After watching that video I decided I just "had" to have that tool for this project.  I found it on eBay (new) for $85 so that was purchased.

Then on June 1, 2021, Tim, K8RRT, came to help me install the first connector.  This will be on the end of the cable that is at the top of the tower.  Once the cable is installed and unrolled to the top of the hill, it will be cut to length and the other connector installed.

On the right you can see me working on prepping the cable to install the 7/16 DIN connector.  Note the red-bordered inset - this is what happens when you fail to wear your gloves!  But, this is a GOOD thing.  As amateur radio lore goes, an antenna will just not work right unless you bleed on it!

I can attest that this method (using the Commscope-Andrew Easiax Automated Prep Tool) is totally the berries!  I have installed connectors many times on 1/2-inch and 7/8-inch Heliax over the last 30+ years and this method beats the dickens out of the old methods!  Cut the Heliax off flush, run the Easiax tool (chucked in a power drill) for 5-10 seconds to remove the outer conductor and trim everything else to size.  Then, use the plastic separator tool to separate the foam from the outer conductor, put the two parts of the connector on the cable, and tighten!  DONE!  You can see the installed connector on the left.

Why did I choose to use such large feedline?  Since the feedpoint of the 6-M beam will be 272-feet from the transceiver/amplifier, I need to minimize the loss in that length of feedline.  For the entire 6-M feedline I will use 46-feet of M&P HYPERFLEX 13/.500" cable to connect the antenna balun to the top of the 1-5/8" Heliax.  Then I will run the Heliax down the side of the tower and up to the top of the hill where my shack is located.  This should take 150-feet of the Heliax.  A 10-foot jumper of 1/2" SureFlex Heliax will connect the 1-5/8" Heliax to the 63-feet of  1/2" Heliax (LDF4-50A) that runs under the back yard, under the house and up to the shack.  A 3-foot jumper of the M&P HYPERFLEX 13/.500" will connect to the amplifier.  

By using these low-loss cables, and taking into account the loss in all the connectors, the loss in 272-feet of feedline should be only 1.36 dB.  Were I to use Belden 8267 (RG-213) cable (an excellent cable), my feedline loss would have increased to 3.95 dB.  Putting 1,500-watts into the Belden RG-213 would result in only 605 watts reaching the antenna.  900-watts would be lost.  By using the above Heliax feedline, the same 1,500-watts at the amplifier would result in 1,097 watts reaching the antenna.  That's an extra 492 watts or 81% increase in power transfer over using the Belden RG-213.  AND, a reciprocal improvement will be seen on received signals.

The next issue was to see if the current antenna rotor would work.  Since the SteppIR antenna had failed some years ago, I disconnected the rotor in order to protect it. This rotor is an M2 Orion 2800 with the RC2800PX controller.  You can see an image of the controller on the right.

First I fished out from behind the operating desk the pigtail from the rotor control box.  It ended in an 8-pin trailer connector and I plugged that trailer connector pigtail into the mating trailer connector on the lightning arrester.  Then I powered on the rotor.  No joy!  I had no directional indication and when I tried to rotate it, I got an "error" message.  Crap!  So, out came the manual and I started to troubleshoot the problem.

Finally, after wasting a couple of hours on the troubleshooting issue, it became aware of the fact that the lightning arrester was not connected to ANYTHING!  The cable to the rotor on the tower WAS NOT CONNECTED to the lightning arrester.  Boy, does that make me feel STUPID!

Now that I knew the issue, I began trying to hook up the rotor cable.  But, I had to now figure out which wire in the rotor cable went to which pin in the lightning arrester.  Rather than destroy a $3,000 rotor, I took my time and triple (or more times) checked my work.  You see, there are 8 wires in the cable going to the rotor.  The first problem was that the colors of those wires do not agree with the manual's "Getting Started" section.  Then I saw that the wires in the rotor cable (which is then connected to a lightning arrester and then connected to an 8-pin Trailer Connector), had even DIFFERENT colors of wire.  The mating trailer connector is then wired to the control box - WITH DIFFERENT COLORS OF WIRE!  What a "cluster" that is!

After I eventually resolved the color code problem, I still did resistance checks on the wire to the rotor JUST TO MAKE SURE I did not fry something. Once I was ready, I turned the antenna 30° and ran over to the window to see that it had indeed moved the antenna.   IT'S ALIVE !!!  WHEW!  What a relief.  Then I moved it back and it rotated the other way.  After working for literally HOURS to get the correct wires connected, my rotor now turns the antenna!  YIPPEE!!!  The problem was that while I HAD made notes of the wires color code when it was installed, my notes were confusing after so many years. It turns out that my notes were correct (color to color.)  If I had just added a little bit of a description, then things would have been so much simpler.  Nevertheless, I can now check off "one more thing" that needed to be done on this project.  Forward, ever forward!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

More Messi & Paoloni Cable Purchased from Italy

About a year and a half ago I purchased two 25m lengths of M&P ULTRAFLEX 10 for my 2-M XPOL system.  I was really pleased with the product and the speed of service.  This cable was built in Italy by Messi & Paoloni.   They have been producing cables since 1984 and have received very good reviews.

Now that I am about to install my 8-L 6-M InnovAntennas yagi, I found that I need a 46-foot (14m) length of cable for that project.  This cable will connect from the Driven Element, along the boom, down the mast, around the rotor, and connect to the 1-5/8" Heliax feedline.  Times LMR 600 was suggested as the cable to use but since it has to flex whenever the rotor turns, I began to look for another solution.  In looking at the M&P website, I felt that their HYPERFLEX 13/.500" cable would do as good a job or better than the LMR600. 

LMR 600 has a solid center conductor and the M&P cable has 37x0.56mm copper wires.  I felt this was better for a cable that was being flexed as the antenna rotated.  At 50 MHz the M&P has 0.6 dB loss and the LMR 600 has 0.5 dB loss per 100 feet.  That means the extra loss with the M&P cable in my installation would be less than 0.05 dB.  Also, the M&P cable claims to have 100% screening where the LMR 600 says >90%.

Therefore I ordered the 46-foot (14m) length of HYPERFLEX 13/.500" with a soldered N-Male connector installed (for the antenna end) and a 7/16" DIN Male for the end that will connect to the Heliax.  I also ordered a 3-foot piece with N-connectors on each end for an in-shack jumper.  Now here is where it gets amazing!

I paid via M&P's PayPal link at 0230 GMT on 21-May-2021.
The cables were delivered to my door at 1944 GMT on 26-May-2021.
Less than 6 days (including a weekend) from placing the order until receiving the product FROM ITALY!

That time included M&P constructing the cable to my specifications and shipping it to my door.  WOW!

When I unboxed the order, I found the 46m length of cable (with connectors installed) neatly coiled and wrapped in plastic (see photo at upper right - click on any photo to see a larger image.)  Also the 3-foot piece with N-connectors was in its own plastic bag and it included a Test Report where M&P had connected that particular cable to an analyzer and printed out a TEST REPORT for the Return Loss and Impedance of that piece of cable from 100 kHz to 200 MHz (see the image on the left.)  WOOF!  I am totally impressed and MORE than pleased.

I should also mention that the cables are secured with very nice Velcro straps with the M&P logo.  AND, a lens cleaning cloth is also enclosed.  You can see that cloth in the center of the upper right photo with the phrase "The DXers PRO Choice:" on it.  Yep!  You can bet that M&P is MY choice for cables in the future.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Mouse Without Borders

    Eureka!  What a WOWZER of a morning this has been!!!

Today I stumbled upon a piece of software that will make my life just SOOOO much easier.

You see, I have two separate computers in the shack as you can see in the photo on the right  (Click on any photo to see a larger image.)  Both have monitors mounted on a stand which let me see FOUR separate screens at the same time. But since they are separate computers, I need TWO keyboards and TWO mice to control them.  Not only that extra hardware is required but my brain has a certain degree of difficulty in navigating between the two computers.  90% of the time I grab the wrong mouse and 20% of the time I type on the wrong keyboard.  It's a HOT MESS!

Once I complete my XPOL EME antennas and the associated hardware/software, I plan to run MAP65 and Linrad on one computer (the Dell T1700) to get the highest performance possible.  But, at times I will need to copy text from that computer to the other one for use on one or another Chat pages or to enter into my logging program.  I may also want to copy a screenshot from one computer to the other as well.

It is of course possible to control multiple computers using only one keyboard and mouse by adding a piece of additional hardware like a KVM  (Keyboard, Video and Mouse) switch.  Still, you have to REMEMBER to flip that switch when you want to control the other computer.  However, even with a KVM switch, you can not transfer text or files between the computers.  Wouldn't it be nice to not have to flip that KVM switch or even use a second keyboard or a second mouse when working with both computers AND be able to Copy/Paste text or transfer files?  YES IT WOULD!

For quite some time I have struggled with the 2-keyboard/2-mouse setup when I have needed to copy information from one computer and paste it in the other computer.  My work-around was to copy the text then paste it into an email in my Gmail account.  Then open that same email on the other computer and AGAIN copy the text before I could paste it where I wanted.  Definitely not a satisfying process and certainly one I did not relish using.  

Today I did a Google search for this string - "transfer clipboard contents between 2 computers on the same network."  In the results that were displayed, the first item I looked at (a Post on had what seemed to be the answer.  A Microsoft software product called Mouse Without Borders seemed to do everything I wanted and MUCH MORE!

Mouse Without Borders is a Microsoft Garage project by Truong Do. Garage projects are side projects that Microsoft employees like Truong build for fun on their nights and weekends. Mouse Without Borders was designed for people who use many computers in the same room. For example, a laptop or tablet that you take to meetings might sit right alongside the desktop PC in your office. 

If you are like me with more than one computer, and they are all on the same network and running Windows, then you should try Mouse Without Borders. This application allows you to move your mouse between computers like you would if you had a dual monitor setup. The nice thing here is that copy and paste works well between all computers. You can easily move your mouse on the monitor of computer A, copy something and then move your mouse off of that screen to the monitor of computer B and paste it.  Plus, this software will allow you to use one mouse on as many as FOUR separate computers!  Amazing!

Although I have not tried it, it appears that you can use this software with your desktop AND a tablet/laptop together!  WOOF!  What a concept!  In my situation with two desktops each having two monitors, I can just move my mouse to any of my four monitors with ease, just like they were connected to the same computer.

CLICK HERE for the Setup/User Guide which contains the step-by-step instructions for installing the software on all computers.  The most recent version ( was published on April 6, 2021.  Supported Operating Systems are: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, (32/64 bit). .Net 4.0 & up.

Would you not want to have an incredible mouse that can seamlessly move from one machine to another?  If you are new to the idea of using a single mouse and keyboard to work with multiple machines or if you are having more or less troubles while using other software/hardware KVM then you REALLY want to give Mouse Without Borders a try. The first impression of new users are: “It is incredible! It is impossible!”

Downloading, installing and setting up the software on both computers took less than 10 minutes.  My mind is blown wide open by this!  My use of two computers just became MUCH more efficient and TONS more pleasant!  If you have more than one computer and want to use both from one keyboard/mouse, YOU NEED TO INSTALL THIS!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Ham Radio STILL Gives Me a Thrill!

Last night provided me with a thrill in Ham Radio that just never seems to get old.   Snagging that elusive DX on a New Band.  Working a New One is only surpassed by working an All-Time New One (ATNO) and it seems several in the West Virginia DX Association (WVDXA) scored one of those "rarest of the rare" contacts with this DX'pedition to A2, Botswana.  CONGRATULATIONS to all those folks!  Hopefully you got your piece of pie as a reward for scoring that QSO!!!

I am reminded of how it was "back in the day" when a New One was worked.  Back then there were no WARC bands (30-M, 17-M and 12-M) so the record keeping was a "little" easier.  Still, it meant having separate PAPER DXCC lists for each band AND for each mode!

Note: at the beginning of my DX'ing career, I had only ONE DXCC List because there were no 5-Band awards.  If I worked A2 on one band, that was all I needed in my mind.  And, if I worked them on SSB, I made no effort to work them on CW let alone RTTY (digital.)

Since there was no PacketCluster spotting system back then, you found the DX by simply tuning your radio and checking out EVERY signal you heard until you could identify that station.  If you happened to run across a pileup on the band, you had to then physically check your list(s) to see if that was a New One.  But I can tell you that if it was an ATNO, that list was kept in your brain and you knew instantly you had never worked that country before!

There were check-boxes in your paper logbook to let you record if a QSL had been sent or received.  But you still needed to keep paper records to record when you sent for a QSL, where you sent for it (bureau, manager, direct, etc.), and what you enclosed ($$$, SAE, etc.)  All this paper-shuffling made you feel more like an accountant than a ham radio operator.  That data can now be easily recorded in your logging program and instantly available to you.  It is simply amazing what an improvement that is.

Plus, today with the PacketCluster, computer logging, Club Log and LoTW - that record-keeping "burden" has been removed.  Today you don't need to tune the bands looking for DX, your logging program will take the incoming PacketCluster spots, check them against your log, then color-code them for you to tell you not only what stations have been spotted but whether or not it is a New One or an ATNO for YOU personally!

On the image at the upper-right, you can see that there are three spots from the PacketCluster that are color-coded Blue.  (Click on any image to see a larger version.) These spots are displayed in my logging program's BandMap.  Those are New Ones for ME.  If they were Red, those would be ATNO's.  If I hover my mouse over any of those (like I did with AP2HA in the above screenshot) I get a pop-up (shown in Yellow) with tons of detail.  BOY, that's so much of an improvement over the "old days" that you just can't believe it unless you were there.

The Green square shown just to the left of most of those calls indicate that station is an LoTW user, as does the "+" sign in the Yellow pop-up.  LoTW has improved the DX'ing hobby beyond measure.  At one time I waited 13 YEARS to get a QSL from an ATNO!  And, when that card came, it was still an ATNO as I had never worked that country again in all those years.  Today, you can sometimes get an LoTW confirmation while the DX'pedition is STILL UNDERWAY!  WOW!

All one needs to do is to click on any spot in the above BandMap and your radio jumps to the exact frequency and mode for the spotted station plus the callsign gets placed in the Call field of the logging program and is ready to be logged once the station is worked.

Your logging program can also tell you where you have and have not worked that particular entity (band/mode/QSL Rcvd or not.)  In the screenshot on the left, I have A2, Botswana, Confirmed (shown in Red text) on 10-M and 20-M SSB plus 30-M and 40-M CW.  The two Yellow "DIG" fields show that I have "Worked" (Blue not Red text) A25RU on 17-M and 30-M Digital Modes.  They are Yellow since I typed A25RU into the Call field to see these Worked/Confirmed records and the Yellow says I have worked "A25RU" (not some other A2 station) on those Bands/Modes.  If I had just typed "A2" in the box, there would have been no Yellow boxes, just the Mode shown in Blue text since it was not confirmed on those QSO's.  Plus the Yellow box for 80-M CW indicates my QSO from last night (as recorded in my log.)  It is SO easy to check what bands/modes you need an entity on now, just enter the prefix for the entity and your Worked/Confirmed window will display all that data!  No need to shuffle through all those PAPER DXCC lists!

From this data I can easily see that from this A25RU DX'pedition I have added two New Bands to my A2 list of stations worked as well as one New Mode.  And, it also shows a gaping hole for 12-M which is one I still need.

If I want to check when I worked those stations, I can just click on any of the above boxes and get a pop-up with my log data.  For instance, if I click on the Red SSB for 20-M, what I see is shown above.

Are you kidding me?  1973 for that A2 QSO?  WOW!  Some of you reading this may still have been in diapers or not even born then!

Still, the way things used to be, you were never 100% sure your QSO made it into the DX Station's log until you got his QSL (or not) which would always take 6-months or more and sometimes YEARS!  Today, you just need to check out an online log to see if the DX has recorded your QSO.  Below on the right is a screenshot of Club Log for the log of the A25RU DX'pedition checked against my own call.

Bingo!  All my A25RU QSO's made the log!  That is SUCH a benefit that you can't imagine.  Years ago I was certain I had worked A5, Bhutan, for my very last country.  That would have put me on the Top of the Honor Roll.  Two of my friends heard the QSO and congratulated me on the contact.  BUT, almost a year later I got back a "Not in Log" to my QSL request.  I was CRUSHED!  If I had been able to check online at that time for my contact and seen it was not there, I would have tried for another.

Finally, my logging program, Logger32, even tracks my progress toward various awards.  Looking at my confirmations for Mixed DXCC I can see my totals in the screenshot at the bottom of this Post.

That 80-M QSO with A25RU last night gave me 240 entities worked on 80-M All-Time and 237 Current since I have 3 Deleted entities worked on 80-M.  You can see two Yellow boxes with a "W" in them.  That indicates that A2, Botswana, has been "Worked" on those Bands but not yet Confirmed.

The Green boxes with a "G" in them indicate those QSO's have been Confirmed AND Credit for them has been "Granted" by ARRL.  The Orange "C" box tells me that QSO is "Confirmed" but not yet Granted toward my DXCC.  

This table is a HUGE help in trying to confirm your contacts.  Just scroll through the list and see what contacts are "Worked" but not "Confirmed."  Click on the "W" box and a pop-up will give you the log information on that entity/band QSO.  Below is what I see if I click on the Yellow box for 80-M on the A2, Botswana line.  This gives me the information for ANY station marked as "W" (Worked and NOT Confirmed.)  That will allow me to track when (or if) I sent for a QSL and give me access to all the information regarding that QSO.  Using these tools you can stay up to date on your QSL'ing.  And, we all know, the QSL is supremely important.  Without a QSL or an LoTW Confirmation, you have NO Credit for working that entity.  Anyone can "claim" they worked anything but if you can PROVE it, that makes all the difference.

The Red boxed text in the image below simply shows I've been DX'ing for a LONG time.  I have Worked and Confirmed 18 entities which no longer count for DXCC!  Some of those countries I have worked on as many as 3 modes and NINE bands!  But, none of those QSO's count anymore because those entities have been DELETED from the ARRL DXCC List.  BUMMER!

Below is the list of countries/entities I have Worked and Confirmed in the past that no longer count for DXCC:

  1.  Abu Ail Is.
  2.  Yemen Arab Republic
  3.  Saudi Arabia/Iraq Neutral Zone
  4.  Germany
  5.  German Democratic Republic
  6.  Bajo Nuevo
  7.  Serrana Bank & Roncador Cay
  8.  Kingman Reef
  9.  Canal Zone
10.  Czechoslovakia
11.  Territory of New Guinea
12.  Bonaire, Curacao (Neth. Antilles)
13.  Sint Maarten, Saba, Saint Eustatius
14.  Malyj Vysotskij Island
15.  Southern Sudan
16.  Aldabra
17.  Penguin Islands
18.  Walvis Bay

So, even though I have been DX'ing for over 50 years, I probably enjoy it now more than I ever have.  That is because of all the new technology that makes the hobby easier to enjoy.  For me, this thrill of contacting some far-off country on a band where I have never worked them before, is STILL powerful!  It just does NOT get old!

Please remember this history when your QSO does not show up in an online log as fast as you expect.  Or when you think it is taking too long for LoTW to update after your upload.  Today things are so much better than before so please - have a little patience!  Remember, I waited 13 YEARS for one country to be confirmed!!!  Just enjoy what we have now and keep working the New Ones!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Replacement for Wire Nuts

First, a disclaimer.  I have never been an advocate of the use of Wire Nuts for connecting together multiple wires.  Too many times I have seen where the nuts have been loose or even fallen off the wires they are supposed to be connecting together.  To combat this I have seen where the installer twisted on the Wire Nut and then taped the connection to keep the nut from falling off!  But, for as long as I can remember, it seems that they have been the standard method used for splicing wires in electrical wiring.  

The photo at the upper left is a cut-away view of a Wire Nut and you can see the imprecise way this method of connection is supposed to work.  (Click on any image to see a larger version.)  Standard wire nuts are roughly conical in shape and usually have ridges on their sides so your fingers can get a good grip. Some types have little side wings instead of ridges. Inside the plastic cone is a little square-cut spring that provides tension on the wires to hold them securely.  As you tighten the wire connector by twisting it, the spring draws tighter around the wires.

But recently I have found what I think is a superior way to join together 2 or more electrical conductors.  It is the Wago line of  LEVER-NUTS® which is available at Amazon, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.  In the photo at the right you can see how the Wago 221 model compares to a Wire Nut.  The Wago connector is smaller, faster to install, able to accomodate multiple wire sizes including solid and stranded conductors, and in my opinion, MUCH more secure!

Wago Connectors were designed to make the splicing process easier without needing tools. The Wago clamp technology makes for faster installation and eliminates maintenance. All these connectors use clamps to terminate stranded, fine stranded and solid conductors.

Once the wire is inserted into the connector, the Wago clamp secures the conductor and encloses its insulation. This guarantees that the conductor does not come into contact with any live parts, which in turn increases safety.

Installation is simple, pull the orange lever up, insert a stripped conductor, and push the lever back down - done. WAGO's 221 Series compact splicing connectors easily, quickly, and safely connect solid, stranded, and fine stranded wires ranging from 24-10 AWG.  The connectors come in two sizes with the 221-412, 221-413 and 221-415 (for connecting 2, 3 or 5 wires) able to accept all wire types from 24 to 12 AWG.  The "6" series (221-612, 221-613, or 221-615) is capable of connecting conductors from 20 to 10 AWG.

There is an older model called the "222" which is not made of transparent material.  I prefer the Model 221 which is transparent and you can clearly see whether your wire is properly positioned inside the clamping compartment.  But, the 222 model does accommodate wire sizes as small as 28 AWG so those could be useful to connect smaller conductors.

If there is a downside to the Wago connectors, it appears that you can only install ONE conductor per section.  Wire Nuts and Terminal Strips can accommodate more that one conductor for each connection but these Wago LEVER-NUTS® (for me) will replace the Wire Nuts for everything except the applications where I need a Terminal Strip.

One MAJOR advantage I see for the Wago Lever-Nut® is that the conductors are not deformed by twisting them when you connect them with Wire Nuts.  If you ever want to change that connection, it usually means you need to cut back the conductor and strip the insulation again.  With the Wago connectors, the conductors are NOT deformed and can be reconnected with no issues.  Simply lift up the lever and pull out the conductor.

Each Lever-Nut® has two test slots (or ports) that allows you to connect a meter test probe on the connection.  COOL!  You can see in the photo on the right how a Green test probe is able to slide right into the test slot to test the connection.

As I understand, Wago pioneered lever nuts and received UL certification on the first such device in 2003.  Obviously I was a bit "late to the party" in discovering this product!  Generic 221 and 222 style lever nut connectors can be found, but Wago is such a leader in this space that the term “Wago connector” is now applied as a general term.  In reading the comments from various users it appears that some of the "knock off" or imitator connectors are missing some of the features or the quality of the Wago brand.

As you can see on the bottom left image, there are also "mounting carriers" available for all 221 Series Splicing Connectors (2, 3 and 5 conductors) and can be installed either vertically or horizontally. Secure the carrier by simply snapping it onto the DIN-rail or using screws on smooth surfaces. Flexible mounting clamps simplify both connector insertion and removal.

The "mounting carriers" also allow you to mount 2, 3, and 5 conductor Wago connectors to any flat surface by just screwing down the mounting carrier.  You can mount them vertically or horizontally and the Wago connectors simply snap into the carrier.

The photo on the bottom right shows a cut-away view of the Wago 222 connectors.  Both the 222 and the 221 models are UL approved and rated for 600 volts at 20 amps. 

From my research, I would choose to ONLY use the Wago brand because of the quality issues I noted for the "look-alike" knock-off brands.  As in most circumstances in life, "You Get What You Pay For!

To check these out I purchased an assortment containing 10 of the 2-port, 10 of the 3 port, and 5 of the 5 port from Amazon.  My cost was $16.43 including tax (free shipping with Prime.)  That is about $0.66 per connector for this assortment.  If you were to buy a higher quantity, the price, of course, goes down.  For example, an order of 100 of the 2-Port model runs about $0.29 per connector.

Here is a 3-minute VIDEO that demonstrates and describes the 221 Series of Wago LEVER-NUTS®.

I will be passing some of my assortment of Wago connectors off to my Grandsons for them to put in their tool box for future use.  That's just what a Grandpa does!