24 Mar 2010

Nifty Products

Whilst searching for something the other evening I "stumbled" on an interesting page - a site that produces laminated "Ham Guides" , you know of the handy Desktop variety - or the mobile/portable type you might slip into your bag on a radio expedition - they are based in the USA and I think they're well worth a visit (Seems every little niche has been covered), anyway they produce little Operating Guides, Maps, Band Plans, Easy Psk Set-Up, Beacon Lists, you know all that information you wish you had to hand when out /P... they are here That has prompted me to make up something similar of my own here for the desktop - a "Quickie" hand guide to 10 and 6m Beacons - the full RSGB Band Plan -( I might break them down to actual modes/freq), and an EU Maidenhead locator map - I know we've got all our maps built into HRD and the like but this is really handy if your out in the field. Mine are in A4 sheet size (Perhaps a tad larger than need be but it'll do) and I have laminated them which gives them a sturdy protective glossy finish - I have yet to punch and make up into a flip over book but the resulting finish should look quite professional - I did not go out and buy all the gear to produce these, I was a Printer in a former life and its obviously something that interested me, and I already had some equipment here. I may actually collate more information as needed and break it down into a slightly smaller booklet and produce another later on - (Time permitting).


Its been nearly three weeks now and forgot to mention the first new addition to the Radio Room here in the shape of the FT450 - I originally wanted a base station sized radio with all the main functions available from the front panel - bearing in mind I wanted several other items as well it was a balance of cost (mainly), and size - as we're a bit tight on space in here , and I had my eye on the FT950, but although this radio probably has a better receiver I plumped for the 450, for me it ticked all the boxes and it does give 100w if I need it, (we don't need 100w do we?) and It will only be used on a casual basis really for CW and PSK - I am still considering the Elecraft K3 as the main radio. Menu's are not a problem as basically once you have the radio set up for the modes your using it's fairly straight forward - I leave mine initially set to Psk and I do not alter any of the settings - and using HRD is very easy to switch modes, the only thing needing manual adjustments as far as I can see are the Dsp controls (Contour/Notch/DNR/Width and it's really not a problem - the other thing that a lot of people commented on in some of the reviews was the tuning knob being on the small side - again, for me not a problem I've spent the last 6 years using an Ft817 . I find this radio to be quite sensitive and am able to dig out signals from the low noise floor (especially on 10 and 18Mhz) and the DSP is a dream, this is the first Dsp radio I've owned. Cw operators also mentioned the lack of front panel control for adjusting some of the CW parameters, I understand that - in normal use you have to stop sending and go into a menu to alter the CW speed, or alter weighting etc... but you can program the Dsp/Sel knob to bring up the cwspeed function directly for quicker adjustment - even better, use HRD, all the main adjustable features appear as sliders on screen - this is one of the reasons for using Software like HRD (make life easier). I've had some time with it now and I like it very much - I just think it's a good basic Radio and represents good value - ok it has'nt got vhf/uhf bands but it's got 6m.

40m Psk Activity

I did spend some time on and off throughout the day yesterday monitoring the various bands - especially on Psk - I managed to grab a few good contacts which is always pleasing. I first checked 40m in the early morning at around 0900 local time and there were NO psk signals at all, and only a few on the lower CW end, I did notice some noise though was not sure if this might be band conditions or local - checking up through the bands I heard some activity on 10Mhz, this band was completely noise free, as was18Mhz (lots of CW signals here, and a pleasure to listen to) 21Mhz revealed the usual crop of Russian signals, did not bother with ssb, 24/28Mhz closed to my knowledge. Returning to 40m during late evening I was really surprised to see a whole bunch of activity both CW and Psk and during a one hour session clocked this Psk activity. I do not think I have seen so much activity - I worked a couple but it was interesting to see that most of the stations appearing were in the 1000-3000Km band and a few stateside/carribeans showing up too. I still maintain 40m is one of the better bands and quite often (during the middle of the night) will throw up some decent long distance contacts even on low power using dipoles as I do. With regard to using Psk I am now using the FT450 for Psk and 10w is giving me quite good results.

18 Mar 2010

DM780 to HRD Log

It was not until earlier today when I established my first qso when I noticed the entry did not appear in the main HRD log, double checking along with some frantic head scratching I realized that DM780 had it's own Logger, daahh . . . I guess the reason "may" be because some folks might like to keep their "Digi" contacts separate, I on the other hand, prefer all qso's in one log - after a visit to the HRD forums I found some brief reference to getting DM780 to change the logging path to the main HRD log this is found by firing up DM780 and going into logbook>options> and there is a section referring to Databases - the default is to save to the DM780 Database - the "Path" simply needs to be altered to point to the Main HRD log .mdb files (whatever)... now DM780 displays the main station log (not DM780's log) - maybe it's just me - I prefer one log only with all types of contacts displayed and do not see why you would want two separate logs - now if your making an entry in HRD or DM780 the main log should be updated - I seem to remember earlier versions of HRD using the old PSK module only updated to the main log.


Today I made the first qso using DM780, I had spent a few days familiarizing myself with it - there is such a lot to learn - My first contact was down into France - Strasbourg - Daniel F1JFR I was very pleased to work him and complete the contact - I know what it's like when you change software, and sometimes it's difficult to remember where everything is - but we made it - I am going to enjoy using this software as there are lots of features built into it.
Glad to make the contact
I was not aware that DM780 has it's own logger, I wonder if you can save direct into the main HRD Log? maybe I am missing something here - still early days.

17 Mar 2010

Playing HRD

Have spent the last few days getting the hardware together for some antenna erecting - I have a small beam for 6M which will be fun - I have NEVER made qso's on 6, and will be putting up another permanent dipole for 80M I have also been spending some time getting used to playing with HRD, which I now have hooked up with my FT450.
I have also been playing with the "Mapper" in HRD which enables heard or worked stations to be plotted (also locators) - interesting for tracking your radio sessions as they can be saved as bitmaps. After a few days now I am getting the feel of HRD and have decided to continue using it - although the speed of this machine is still an issue for me - I have been wondering if one of the better netbooks might be ok to run it ! 11.6"wide screen !!
HEARD ON 40M CW (Not worked)

12 Mar 2010

Down Memory Lane

Where I've been moving the Shack "cupboard" around I discovered my old box of Qsl's and flicked through them reminiscing on times past - there are a lot of interesting cards in there both for the design/content, and who sent them and I'll post them as and when:
First VK6

10 Mar 2010

Linux on a Stick

It has been such an un-eventful day radio-wise here today I decided to have another look at that "Super-Fast" Puppy Linux, it does actually fly - even on my ailing laptop which only has 256Mb of grey matter. The one thing I noticed long ago was the way in which windows seemed to "render" on-screen, I'm not sure if it's the architecture of this machine or windows itself, but "Puppy-Linux" 4.3.1 knocks it into a cocked hat both on speed AND looks. Ok I know all about the software scenario (Not much available for Linux), well there is if you know where to find it !!! this is an exercise in getting "Puppy" onto a USB-Stick and on just 2Mb. Following the rules set out in the Puppy instructions to the letter it IS actually a lot easier (This time round) - having downloaded the .ISO and burned it to disk - boot it from the CD, and go through a simple set-up procedure, then plug in your USB stick and it should be detected auto magically, then you need to use partition magic or Gparted to format to an ext3 or ext4 partition and flag it as bootable - then, using the Puppy universal installer copy the system files from the CD to your USB stick viola ! It should now boot, however you'll need to make sure your machine (will) boot from a USB drive (Check in your Bios), and alter the boot device sequence - mine boots first from the CDROM, then USB, then main HDD, obviously when the USB drive is missing it will boot normally. What I really like about this system is the ability to take the whole OS with you - plus your saved work - without having it installed on a computer - it is completely portable. I did actually try this a year or so back but it would not work and I trashed 2 usb drives - but the way in which it works now is much better - the thing to remember is that most usb drives come out of the box as Fat32 drives - you must change to one of the Linux filesystems, it really is simple to do. This system is so small it loads completely into "RAM", and it is super responsive, and comes packed with "Most" of the day to day software you might use in the office - Compatible with "word/excel/" etc... text editors and it's so fast and fun to use - I realise you need "Win" in whatever form because of the key software issues - I think this is where some people have gone wrong with the netbook scenario - they were NOT meant as a Laptop replacement, but theyr'e fine for surfing the web - e-mailing - taking notes and other day to day tasks, from some of the feedback I have received this week from a couple of retailers is that quite a few of the netbooks sold with Linux were returned - where customers tried to download and install software for "win", what probably wasn't made clear from the off was that the Linux OS was different to "Win" and you needed to download special "Packages", maybe this was just a ploy on the part of manufacturers. Anyway - Linux on a stick ! it works, and I also got my Canon (Once regarded in the Linux world as a doorstop) IP4500 working as well using the cups set-up procedure - that too works well, so as far as I'm concerned this evening has not been wasted . Give it a go you'll be amazed:

7 Mar 2010

HRD Update

I decided to look into the problem of the adif file not uploading into the HRD database - I made a fresh adif file within winlog32 and then ran it in a utility for checking adif files called ADIFMaster (available here -> http://www.dxshell.com/soft/am.html this runs a check on the file looking for errors and which to my surprise it did - It found three blocks of errors which I suspect may have occurred on some other conversion but was not detected, also several qso's were logged with incorrect date / time formats, or too many/less characters than required - also some band data was wrong, so spending some time looking through, and making the corrections I saved to ADIF and then imported into HRD - I was very pleased to see the log come up as it should -oall info looks good but I have lost the name and qth data, this is not actually a problem as they can be searched out on QRZ, and I also have previous back-up files from which to copy details - but I'm not about to MAKE more work than necessary as I already still have a load of entries yet to make ! So be warned on changing from one "Logger" to another - I started my e-logging with Log-Eqf and used it for years but wanted something resembling a "Windows" gui as opposed to a "Dos" based one - I later switched to HRD/Winlog32 which in my opinion are excellent programs but all this swapping has corrupted my log to some degree - I did on one occasion install Logger32 and the uninstall program deleted (without my consent) several system .dll's and trashed my HDD - leaving XP a non-starter ! Be warned Trouble is now my old laptop is struggling with HRD - it IS a bit bloated and IS a very powerful suite of programs (some of which I'll probably never use) so it might mean getting another more up to date machine (Had not planned on that) Incidentally - the original ADIF exported from winlog32 was NOT recognised on my Linux system running CQRLOG either. Have fun with your logging.

3 Mar 2010

ADIF import problem

As I mentioned in an earlier blog I had stopped using HRD on my aging Laptop because it was getting too slow - but found winlog32 did an excellent job, and had "some" degree of control over my FT817, (basic frequency display), but it did a good job - and so I had settled on using that logger to do a "Lot" of post logging to try and get the log completely up-to-date (still have loads to catch up on). I recently took another look at HRD and liked the look and feel of it (The older version 4.00) which ran ok'ish......! So I decided to export my log from winlog32 as an ADIF file  -  then import into HRD as a fresh install - it appeared to import the ADIF txt file ok, but imagine my horror when it would not save it into the HRD database, throwing up an error something along the lines of "time date fields exceeded". I have looked at the raw .txt file and cannot see whats wrong - I was under the impression that a standard had been set with regard to the import/export of "Log-files" and that swapping would not present a problem - this appears not to be the case - I have tried several times without success - all I know is that under HRD the actual logfiles are stored as .mdb files - now I am not sure if this is an HRD problem,  or MS. I am dissapointed as I really did want to go back to the earlier version of HRD - especially running it with the FT817 as it gives such good control of the rig - I am actually stumped over this, I do not know how to alter the file so as HRD will accept it - those more knowlegeable than I might shed some light no doubt - Can this mean I cannot transfer my entire log ? I might try and import it into some other logger just to see if it is recognised, as an experiment - feel free to pass on any ideas.
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