Do you really want to pay €49 to be able to program your (mobile) radio through your computer?

For years I have been struggling to manage the 1000 memories on my FT-7800 mobile radio. Memory channels, subtones, memory banks ==SIGH==

Recently a friend (thanks Jan ON4KB) gave me the kit he bougth from Yaesu for the FT-8800 and of course, the cable was correct for my FT-7800 but the software didn’t work ==shame on you Yaesu!==.

That’s when I decided to get some help from Google and I found CHIRP, a free, open-source tool for programming your amateur radio. It supports a large number of manufacturers and models, as well as provides a way to interface with multiple data sources and formats.

I tested it for my radio and it works very well indeed! Downloading the data already in the radio, modifying it on the pc and uploading it to the radio again all in a breeze!

CHIRP supports over 60 different radios from 5 or 6 brands (including the ‘big’ ones of course) and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Programming cables can easily be found on Ebay (for some €12) or you can make your own.

Yes contesting sucks…

but I still have a lot of fun doing it!

Franki ON5ZO recently wrote a blog ‘Why contesting sucks’. And I can’t deny I sometimes have the same feelings during or after the contests.

http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Grumpy

For example, the reason why our clubstation lost one of the last fielddays probably was because our biggest competitor probably used his home station with huge beam antennas via remote control. Okay, it’s only a suspicion and we can’t prove it but… At least since this year the rules for our national fieldday have changed and now all internet and dx-cluster use is forbidden.

And no, I probably can’t win any big contest from my average station (when speaking about contest stations).

But hey you’ll ask, why do you keep doing it? Continue reading Yes contesting sucks…

First 2 contests with the FT5K / FT990 combo

As you already know from a previous post I purchased a Yaesu FT DX 5000 MP last december. Since then I operated in both the ARRL RTTY Roundup and in the CQ WW WPX RTTY. Time to write down my experiences:

The combo FT5K/FT990 is of course a great enhancement over the former combo FT990/TS50S :-). Even with the 500Hz filters the TS50S has a poor receiver for contesting, don’t misunderstand, the TS50S is a great transceiver for travelling but filtering in rough contest conditions is pretty poor. Moreover I was persuaded the FT990 had a great receiver but that’s because I never operated anything better… The receiver of the FT5 seems pretty unbeatable to me when compared to the FT990.

With the FT5K, narrow means NARROW! Using the the 500 Hz filter on FT990 you can see a pretty wide band in the MMTTy scope, using the with 600 Hz filter of the FT5k only a fraction of that band is left, when the need arises it can even be made narrower when using the ‘Narrow’ knob and/or when changing the settings of the RX. Sometimes I had the feeling the receiver is even too good 😉 because you get into very narrow holes on busy band to try and start a run. But it isn’t because I have a good RX that the other stations have one that is as good!

Being used to operate the FT990 it was not that hard for me to learn the basic functions of the FT5k, operation seems pretty straightforward to me.

Since I have the FT5k I made 2 RS232 interfaces so I can run both transceivers in FSK instead of AFSK, this avoids me the need to retune the level of the AFSK tx audio at every band change.

The only negative point I see in the MP version is the band scope which is pretty slow and with low resolution. The speakers that come with it are great but the scope isn’t. Guess I’ll have to go look for an SDR solution on the IF output of the FT5K.

I was pretty happy with the results in both contests! In both my claimed score beat the belgian record!

I won my first contest :-)

As the frequent readers of this blog know I don’t own an amplifier and I like to contest. So what’s the solution to still be competitive a contest? Yes, enter the low power (100W) or the QRP-class (10W).

Every year the UBA-section DST of Diest organises the UBA Spring contest in 4 parts (each on a different sunday morning 0800-1200 local time) : 80m SSB, 80m CW, 6m and 2m.

In the UBA Spring contest there is no LP-class so I went for the 10W-class in the 80m SSB-part.

During the contest I had a pretty good feeling, not too much trouble to keep a run frequency for some time Continue reading I won my first contest 🙂

Fieldday 4 and 5 september 2010

As Jan seems to be a far better writer than I am, I copied his text from the ON4KB page at QRZ.com:

ANNUAL ON4KB/P FIELDDAY OPERATIONS …

Over the last 4 years, the callsign ON4KB/P stands for a state-of-the-art SSB Fieldday operation each first weekend of September. This emergency exercise is an initiative of a team of great and competent fellow hams, mostly living in the area. In 2010 these are Hugo ON7FU, Luc ON7KZ, Jurgen ON5MF, Tim ON5HC, Geert ON7USB, Francis ON8AZ and myself, who all share the work of preparing, building the station, operating and logging. We’re also grateful to Sofie ON3SC (qrp on7kz) for the occasional help.

The team takes a fieldday quite seriously, keeping in mind the original philosophy behind the event :

  • To test our technical competence as radio amateurs and to combine knowledge and teamwork into the installation of a comprehensive emergency radio operation ;
  • To discuss technical issues and experiment in the true spirit of amateur radio ;
  • To primarily consider a Fieldday to be a test setup for an emergency situation, where time is at a premium and without any access to fixed structures like cell phones, WiFi and power lines. Continue reading Fieldday 4 and 5 september 2010

It’s over again…

Last weekend I visited the Ham-Radio in Friedrichshafen for the 14th year in a row.

I can still remember the first time I went there in 1994 (time flies…) when I was a very ‘new’ radioamateur. Things were quite different back then, the ‘weirdo’ level was higher, with some people really dressed as HAMs, wearing (military) transceivers on their backs or hard hats with an antenna. Almost noone would dare to come into the ‘Messe’ if he/she wasn’t proudly wearing his callsign(s) somewhere on his hat or clothing. The parking lot was an assembly of porcupines, every car had at least 2 antennas, the bigger the better. At night you couldn’t find a free frequency on any repeater anywhere around Friedrichshafen. Kenwood, Yaesu and some others were competing to have the biggest booth and to present at least one new world class rig (see also Death of a Radio Company). Wimo was already there but didn’t have a booth 1/3 the size of the hall. (Wimo keeps growing and taking over the smaller companies, and whether this is always good for us the customers is another question…).

Does this mean we were disappointed in this Ham-Radio? No, of course not, we (ON4KB, ON5HC, ON7KZ and I) had lots of fun and we met a lot of old friends and acquaintances. One of them was Sean EI4GK with whom I was at Little Saltee (EU103) in 2004. Sean is one of the Officers of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society which had a booth at the Ham-Radio for the first time. We missed Lulu and Ingvar from Sweden this time though…

Some things haven’t changed over the years though… It has happened several times in those 14 years and again the welcome at the UBA-booth was disappointing… This seems to depend on the people who are at the booth at the moment we arrive. We don’t want any hugs or kisses and we don’t even want any free drinks but hey guys, when we approach the booth of OUR association, you could at least say hello to us.

As I have written here before I have gotten into building kits since last year and my main goal for this rally was to try and find one or more new kits to purchase. But it seems that noone is building those anymore, I did not find one kit (for HF) on the whole rally… I guess I’ll have to look for some new toys via the internet again.

This was the cheapest Friedrichshafen in my HAM-carreer, as I didn’t really find what I wanted I couldn’t spend the budget I had. (In the meanwhile the budget is spent, I ordered some accessories for my K2 directly from Elecraft but that will be for an other article.)

Now the question: will we go to Friedrichshafen again next year (for the fifteenth time)? Of course, this is our annual pilgrimage… and maybe we could have a little party for this anniversary? Moreover we can’t live without the ‘Bratwurst mit Brötchen’ and the ‘Hefeweizen’.

Will I ever go to the Dayton Hamvention instead? I don’t think so, at least not as long as all foreigners wanting to visit the US are treated as criminals… If things go on like this, sooner or later we will all need to have a microchip behind the ear like the dogs here in Belgium before we can enter the US. Sorry but Big Brother is watching us enough already.