“Q” 4 Port Remote Antenna Switch Project

Each year the Napier Amateur Radio Club designs a club project for it’s Hawkes Bay members. Following on from the very successful “Q” VHF/UHF Antenna project in 2014 we are going to release the “Q” Remote 4 port antenna switch kit for 2015.

"Q" 4 Port Antenna Switch concept drawing

“Q” 4 Port Antenna Switch concept drawing

The project is a remote antenna switch allows you to have one run of coaxial cable from the shack to your multiple antenna setup rather than multiple runs of coax. Most hams have a Tribander, a few dipoles and/or loops and maybe a vertical. Running RG213 coax from all of them back into the shack is expensive and can cause RF coupling between unused cables. The modern approach is to switch the antennas remotely with a switch-box at the base of the tower or in the garage and control it from inside the shack. Some photos below:

Controller Box with LEDs and 5 Position switch

Controller Box with LEDs and 5 Position switch

The PCB showing the relays and wiring of the S)-239 sockets. The blue connector block on the lower right side of the board is connected to the 5 Pin DIN socket which controls the relays.

The PCB showing the relays and wiring of the S)-239 sockets. The blue connector block on the lower right side of the board is connected to the 5 Pin DIN socket which controls the relays.

PCB_SO239_side

Looking at the “business: side of the board. The SO-239 sockets fit through the weatherproof case to allow PL259 Coax plugs to screw on.

The “Q” 4 Port Antenna Switch kit set is supplied with a complete set of step by step instructions and the very highest quality components The kit complete with shack switch controller box and weatherproof outside relay enclosure box. Specifications below:

  • High quality European designed PCB
  • Input/output port isolation better than -69dB and loss is onlyl 0.05 dB at 28 Mhz
  • Designed for 1 – 30 Mhz. Higher frequencies may be switched with slightly higher losses.
  • Switch Relays are very high quality American designed Zettler relays with 20A contacts and 400VAC rating which will allow operation at 1.5KW CW/RTTY or 3000PEP power levels.
  • SO-239 socket connectors are teflon insulated with gold centre pin.
  • All hardware supplied including all screws and nuts etc
  • The Shack Control box has 5 different coloured LEDS which easily shows what antenna you are actually using.
  • 5 pin DIN sockets for power connections. CAT5 control cable may be used (not supplied)
  • 12 VDC at 500ma wall wart power supply (not supplied)
  • All parts supplied fully guaranteed for 1 year.
  • Charts showing Isolation and insertion losses are below”
    This shows the port isolation between antenna outpus

    This shows the port isolation between antenna output

    This shows the low insertion loss

    This shows the low insertion loss

Commercial antenna switches range imported into ZL from $240 (cheaper unit) to around $500 (high quality). The “Q” Remote antenna switch target price will be $150 NZD which represents great value.

There will only be a limited number of these kits available from June 1. If interested please contact Lee, ZL2AL, project co-ordinator at  leezl2al@gmail.com to register your interest.

73, Lee ZL2AL,

Napier  Amateur Radio Club

 

 

First HB ECI Net March 20, 2015

Laurie and I got everything ready for the first ECI Net at 7.30Pm. We really didn’t know what to expect but the Icom IC-765 was ready on 3615 with Laurie at the mic and I was ready with the old 2M radio set for the HB repeater on 670. We started the roll call and much to my surprise had 12 stations call in on 670 in quick succession Things were going well until Murphy showed up . More on that later.

Laurie was kept busy on 3615 with 6 stations checking in. All in all we heard from Hastings, Napier, Pakowai, Takapau, Palmerston North and Gisborne with good communications both ways. We followed up the check-ins with a question on what capability each station had. Many had National System, 670, 725 and HF. About half the stations had portable battery power capability.ZL2GT Shack

Problems:
The shack was set up so that we could have a headset on 3615 but it proved quite difficult to operate the 2 stations site by side. We will solve that next month for the check-in by moving the 2M radio out of the shack and into the main room away from the noise of 3615. We won’t need headsets either.

The 2M radio was a problem in that it would transmit on 610 and when I release the hand mic the frequency readout would wander off 670 to 669 or down further. I know that I didn’t hear replies from several stations until I twigged to what was happening. Obviously a radio fault and we will put a different radio into service next time. We have a spare Yaesu FT1500 for our use.

Dave Walker let us know that the IC765 was a bit off frequency. In fact it was about130 Hz high on thansmit. We will sort that before next time.

Thanks to all for making it successful and we hope it will continue and become a bit more crisp as time goes on. The concept of an informal network of trained amateurs being offered to CD, Police, Fire SAR or any other service that needed us may prove attractive if a disaster happens. If nobody wants us we still may be able to help each other if it all turns pear shaped some day!

The next ECI is next month on Wednesday April 15

73, Lee ZL2AL and Laurie ZL2TC

Sunday Tea & Mellowpuffs

It was mooted that we open up the clubhouse each Sunday afternoon at 2 Pm for those who wanted to come along, have a chat, solve a problem or set the world right. March 15 saw 9 come along. Laurie provided the tea and mellowpuffs (thanks Laurie) and we were still taking flat out 2 hours later. The club’s automatic morse code keyer was set up and Revell ZL2SS played morse for some time getting used to how to use a paddle. Revell has memorized the code and now wants to get his speed up to have an “on air” QSO.

A

Lots of chat and tall tales going on here!

Lee, Laurie and Dave reminisced about school days and “whatever happened to?”  All in all, lots of fun and it will become a regular feature of NARC on Sunday afternoons

73, Lee ZL2AL

NARC Meeting Mar 5, 2015

Meeting on Wed 4 March 2015 at the Clubrooms 123 Latham St.

Chair: Laurie ZL2TC, the meeting started at 7:30 pm.

Apologies: ZL2US, ZL2MO, ZL2VM, ZL2MQ.

Present: Lee ZL2AL, Mike ZL2MY, Erroll ZL2IT, Bert ZL2OC, Revell ZL2SS, Peter ZL2CD, Dave ZL2DW, Blue ZL3TT, Willy ZL2AGD, Stan ZL2ST and Karl ZL1TJ.

Minutes of the previous meeting were read and confirmed correct: ZL2MY, ZL2TC.

Arising: Dave ZL2DW reported on Branch 13’s visit to Hastings Civil Defence Base, a productive meeting, re-establishing contacts with CD personnel and flying the flag for AREC.

Lee ZL2AL: the first Emergency Check-in Net (ECI) to be run by himself and Laurie from the clubrooms on Wednesday 18th of March at 7:30 pm. Frequencies both the 146.700 repeater and 3.615 Mhz.

Lee: The club’s website gets 200 to 300 visits each month and is obviously worthwhile.

Correspondence: Exchange with Debby, NZART regarding the proposed public liability insurance.

Finance: Stan ZL2ST reported a severe increase in power charges, Powershop decided that at $1.75 per unit and zero line charges NARC was not profitable. New rates will add up to $700 per annum.

Lee proposed generating our own , using photovoltaic technology, and the generator for peak loads. A discussion on the various pros and cons led to Laurie and Karl to investigate this further.

Dave ZL2DW generously offered to donate 4 surplus batteries and several solar panels to the club.

Karl brought up the joint public liability insurance scheme proposed by NZART. Of the initial 19 branches expressing an interest 9 have so far decided to proceed. The estimated cost per branch per annum is $173. After discussion it was moved by Karl and seconded by Peter ZL2CD that the Branch joins the scheme. The motion was passed 7 to 1.

General business: Laurie: the club’s first ‘Open Door’, social Sunday afternoon will be held on the 15th of March, starting 2pm. Laurie to open the door as Wally is tied up with work that day.

A few months ago, Lee was charged with selling off older pieces of the club station and updating with newer radio gear. The older equipment was auctioned on Trade-Me and the proceeds were actually in excess of the cost of the newer equipment by $218. The excess money from the sales was returned to the club treasury. Stan and all present once again thanked Lee for all the work he does for the club. Stan reported participation of himself, Lee, Wayne ZL2WC and John ZL2QM in the Jock Whyte memorial contest under the ZL2G banner. All went well, good fun had and the points total may well be another winner.

Dave ZL2DW mentioned up-coming Branch 13 activities, both social get togethers: 1. A visit to the local taxidermist on the 7th of March (one Cornflakes Net participant is considering having himself stuffed eventually so the family can enjoy his presence a few more years), and 2. An overnight stay in the DOC Makahu Hut at the foot of the Kaweka mountain planned for April 11,12 and 13. Not many bunks are available so the early Ham gets in. Activities: tramping, hunting etc.Sounds like fun.

The meeting closed at 9:45 pm

 

Guest Speaker

Erroll ZL2IT explained and demonstrated WSPR (say “Whisper”), another recent and most interesting amateur radio pursuit. WSPR stands for Weak Signal Propagation Reporting Software. WSPR implements a protocol designed for probing potential propagation paths with low-power transmissions.  Normal transmissions carry a station’s callsign, Maidenhead grid locator, and transmitter power in dBm.  The program can decode signals with S/N as low as -28 dB in a 2500 Hz bandwidth.  Stations with internet access can automatically upload their reception reports to a central database called WSPRnet, which includes a mapping facility. Digital mode transmitting very low power (5 Watts or less) signals at designated frequencies, containing only callsign, locator and power, to be picked up by stations around the world and acknowledged via the internet. The program produces some beautiful propagation maps in real time.

A WSPR Map in real time

A WSPR Map in real time

Essentially a tool for testing propagation and probing the mysteries of radio waves. It was a great presentation with slides and a live demo at the end. Thanks Erroll.

Karl ZL1TJ, Secretary NARC .

The Jock White Contest 2015

The Players at ZL2G 

IMG_1323

Lee ZL2AL

IMG_1328

John ZL2QM

IMG_1331

Wayne ZL2WG

IMG_1338

Stan ZL2ST

 

The Jock White Field Day contest rolls around every year near the end of February and the ZL2G team always hopes for fine weather to put up antennas, tents and guy ropes. We are seldom disappointed. This year the weather in Hawkes Bay was a cracker and Stan ZL2ST, John ZL2QM, Wayne ZL2WG and Lee ZL2AL planned another assault on the Patea trophy operating from the ZM4T Contest site in the hills above Tongoio beach about 30 Km north of Napier.

We arrived Saturday morning and pulled up the horizontal full wave loops for 80M and 40M. Antennas checked out OK. Over many years and trials with other 40M antennas we find that a low horizontal loop, being a NVIS antenna works the best for us. The vertical full size loop works very well on 80M. Two FT1000MPs were used, one being the Napier Club’s radio. IBM computers running N1MM software along with K1EL keyers and Bencher paddles complete the setup. The club’s Honda generator was fired up and working. This is probably it’s 25th or more field day outing. Thanks to Karl, ZL1TJ who repair some smashed AC power outlets from an accident last year. Stan’s tent somehow managed to stand up again in one piece and the stations were quickly set up. Antennas were checked again, measured and trimmed and strangely we were ready for the 3PM start.

Stan and John ready the tent

Stan and John ready the tent

Antennas were measured and trimmed and strangely we were ready for the 3PM start.

Stan unrolling the 80M Loop

Stan unrolling the 80M Loop

John instructing Stan on how to pole vault over the tree and hang a halyard!!! Actually it was one of the 40M loop support poles

John instructing Stan on how to pole vault over the tree and hang a halyard!!! Actually it was one of the 40M loop support poles

The contest opened up and within the first hour 40M was well ahead of the pack and 80M was just in front. The rest of the day fist day was in a close race with ZL1XH, ZL2QF, ZL1VK and a couple of other stations for top honours nationally. The central region was a two way race with ZL2QF and we exchanged the lead a few times. ZL2QF sprinted ahead of us on 40M at one point and we were ahead of them on the other band. The end of the contest put us 30 or 40 QSOs over ZL2QF and at the time of writing this Stan is scoring the logs so the outcome is unknown.

Sunset with the moon over the tent. it is about to get cold

Sunset with the moon over the tent. It is about to get cold

it does get cold later at night. Wayne and John beavering away just before midnight

It does get cold later at night. Wayne and John beavering away just before midnight

Our team has been doing this same contest for the past 35 or years. We also do a few other international contests during the year. We are well aware of trends and operating practices in contests. And we have become so aware over the last few years of how the style and practices of the Jock White contest have simply not changed. Frankly some of the operating practices are archaic and counterproductive to modern contesting. The Jock White has stagnated and 2015 edition was just as poor as usual with some very good and some very bad operating practices heard.

1) Many stations are still using paper logs. This is really unacceptable with the free N1MM contesting program having an inbuilt module to run the JW. N1MM keeps track of band changes, band modes and real time scoring. Stations that use paper logs are doing themselves a disservice by keeping their contacts waiting at times and making so much work for themselves by having to score manually. But what about the contest organizer not accepting electronic logs? That is true but it is such a simple matter to print out a N1MM log and email it to the organizer which is quite acceptable. An N1MM printed log is at the very least readable and scored pefectly which has the make the organizer happy!

2) At least 10% of the ops were using a hand key. In fact some of the CW was almost unreadable. Worse, the op had to repeat and repeat wasting his time and ours. Most radios have built in electronic keyers with perfect timing. The N1MM logging program generates its own serial number exchange perfect each and every time. I can the the bleating I write this. “But I don’t know how to use a paddle, or I don’t know how to do this or that”. Amateur radio and contesting is all about finding a solution to a problem. Just make an effort to learn a new skill and do it!

3) At least 1/3 of the ops were using “Fifer Niner” on phone instead of clearly pronounced English speech. The NZ Jock White contest is the only contest on the planet where old WW2 British military and NATO pronunciation is used. I cannot understand why as this type of number exchange is quite unnecessary, doesn’t add any readability and frankly sounds ridiculous.

4) At least 3/4 of the stations were answering with “My number to you is”  Of course it’s his number to me. I am hearing him!!!!. The correct is exchange is “You are five nine (pause) “one seven three” (S/N) (pause) “Branch two five” (Branch) “Over” and do not repeat the exchange without being asked for it!

5) A third of the ops would repeat back the number to me that I just gave them before giving me their number sequence!!!!  One infuriating station consistently gave me his full report and numbers as soon as I finished a CQ without me acknowledging his call and that I had actually heard him. It is bizarre and it changes the pattern and sequence of operating.

These practices just continue on year after year and do nothing to improve contest operating standards. New operators in the Jock White contest simply ape the style of stations they hear and fall into the same poor practices. It is obvious that most have never participated in a modern international contest. I think that the Jock White contest deserves better and it can only get better if these practices outlined above were acknowledged as being silly and counter productive.

The ZL2G team enjoyed ourselves immensely as we always do. There is nothing better than spending a weekend away playing radio! It is a great outing each year working on antennas and portable power. We knew what to expect and that’s the game we are in. That’s the Jock White Field Day contest for 2015.Will we do it next year?  Maybe. Maybe not!

73, Lee ZL2AL and the ZL2G Team.