In recognition for partaking in the inaugural VKFF activation weekend. I activated 5 parks over 3 days.
Breadboarding is not something that I have done much of, but, with lots of small things I wish to build and test for up coming projects, it seems like a good time to start and waste much less pcb board. So, what i did was take a bunch of dual bus breadboards, and fixed them up on some MDF with some supporting items that are useful.
- 1x In-line Fuse
- 1x In-line switch
- 1x 5v regulator
- 1x 9v regulator
- 1x Arduino Nano, which also gives a 3.3v regulated supply.
This should cover most eventualities for power I could ever need, and I certainly have more than enough tie points even for the biggest prototypes.
So i like to CW. Its a great mode, but it is also one take takes some skill and practice to be good at. I can send ok, but my receive skills generally revolve around a decoder doing most of the heavy lifting. Now, this has its limitations obviously, weak signals are hard to decode, bug and straight keys are hard to decode, QRM makes it hard to decode, if the other person is pretty crappy at sending it is hard to decode and the list of things that make it hard to decode go on and on. So, obviously, if one is going to be serious with CW, you better get the skills needed to receive using your ears and your brain.
With this in mind, a local ham put together a 6 week challenge designed to get your reception skills working. The program itself is not revolutionary, but it has inspired me to bite the bullet and for the next 6 weeks really put in some effort into getting my reception skills to a place where i would like them to be. During the day, I will be immersing myself in the numbers and letters that I will be working on that week and using a couple of android testing apps to test my progress as well as nightly send and receive sessions with a ham mate of mine who is also working on his rx.
Week 1: Numbers, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0
Week 2: Letters, E,I,S,T,M,O,A,N,U,G
Week 3: Letters, H,D,W,V,J,B,C,F,K,L
Week 4: Punctuation, ? , . / ERROR = P,Q,R,X,Y,Z
Weeks 5: Words and Call Signs
Week 6: QSO’s and Sentences.
Doing this for an hour or more a day, 5 days a week, should indoctrinate me in somewhat into getting the receive skills working much better than they currently are. I am looking forward to the challenge and the outcome at the end.
So i bought a CNC Router to make my own 1 sided boards initially and as i get better branch out into 2 sided boards. I am just waiting on a pcie Parallel card to arrive to drop into my computer and start on some boards that i have designed for the CW Transceiver that I am building currently.
Now i know you can use toner transfer and other methods, but of late my failure rate with toner transfer has been very very high, so much so that I have gotten the shits with the method and will soon be CNCing my way to victory. Oh and Im not sure why my toner transfers are failing, I am cleaning the boards with steel wool to remove the corrosion, wiping down with isoprople to make sure its clean, using a laminator to do the transfer and not getting much in the way of toner sticking to the boards. Anyways, that will soon be a think of the past, as all my boards will soon be routed.
Software im using are as follows:
- Sprint Layout: pcb layout software
- PCB 2 G-Code: converts gerber to g-code
- Mach 3: control software for cnc routing
More to come on this next week, once i have it all up and running.
So version 1 of these boards was a bit of a failure, a couple of minors errors in missing tracks, and a major one in super failure of how the buffer amp was laid out. The minor errors are ones i can live with for my own projects, but the bad design of the buffer is a bit of a killer. Anyway its the first time i have manufactured a board, so failure is always an option.
I have a work around with them so they are not totally wasted, bypass the buffer and run the DDS direct into the mixer, its close enough to -7dbm output, enough to drive the mixer, I will just have to make sure it does not load down too much. Will see soon as i can pull my finger out and test it.
So in 2015 I started my first full year in the VKFF/WWFF program with an activation of The Great Sandy and an over night camping trip at Lake Cootharabra, in a tent and a 3x3m shelter we nick named the Taj Mahal. The antenna was a home brewed linked dipole, the radio was an IC-718, my home radio, it was 40 deg C and we almost died of heat exhaustion, I made 30+ contacts and it was a bit of a struggle.
This was my first camping trip in about 8 years, and the first for my partner in over 25 years, who had some bad experiences camping as a kid and refused to ever go camping again. I talked her into this trip and we have not looked back since.
Fast forward 12 months, we are again back at The Great Sandy, but the tent has been upgraded to a camper trailer, the antenna is now a Sotabeams 20,30,40,80m linked dipole, the radio is an FT-897, i now know enough morse to get by and make some contacts, I still struggle for contacts, but now im less worried about making 44, and more concerned in having fun and enjoying time with my partner and doing outdoors things, Oh and playing radio too.
My partner is into craft, sewing and all sorts of non radio things, but, being supportive of my pursuits as she is, there are some benefits and spin-offs, like this table mat with my call sign and other bits embroidered on to it so i do not forget who I am. I will have personalised shirts coming soon too.
Spur of the moment CW session while out portable. Was profitable with a number of contacts being made, I was not really prepared, its been a while since i had done any practice, had no cheat sheet, was hand holding my key because i had no double sided tickety tape to gaff it to my radio. Poor ZL1 and JA6 stations got all the “IM A NOOB GET ME OUT OF HERE”
ZL1DCO i could not for the life of me key a bloody Z –.. yeah super easy, but i was sending ..– and or -..- until i got it right had to listen 3 times to him repeating his call before it sunk into my brain and my brain make my hand do the right things.
JA6BGA hehe G was the next letter, and –. and like a real spaz i was sending .– W eventually i got why he was sending his call 3 times, over and over to my replies, 5 mins later i got my error a quick SRY and the correct call and all was done.
Worked VK3, 4, 7 ZL, JA and S5 (Slovenia) on 15m CW, and Dom in New Caledonia, ZL and some VK’s on 40m , not bad for a spur of the moment idea to get the key out. VK7SM was first, as you can see in the photo on my phone decoder. Decoder Bad Yeah, no contacts worse LOL.
Audio from the FT-897 is crap on a stick pretty much, I need to add in a good set of headphones to fix some of that, something on the todo list now. If you ever wonder how I operate in the dark, its pretty much as per the pic below, I dont look at the front of the radio, i lock the vfo and use my ears for all reports, the way it should be done, this is the only way to hear weak signals in the noise because the speaker is not front facing. The light is an LED Bat Light, the clock is in UTC, and the beer is always XXXX and cold. And since i had a tablet explode, logging is now paper and pencil.
So the results for each of the parks is as follows:
The Great Sandy: Vk2,3,4,5,6,7,8 New Zealand, Japan (33 Contacts)
Noosa: Vk1,2,3,4,5 (22 contacts)
Mt Coolum: Vk2,3,4,5, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Slovenia (36 contacts)
Finally, after 2 miserable, wet and windy days, sunrise over Lake Cootharabra. Its a lovely location, well worth the visit and camp out. It did not last long, we got rained on when we were 80% packed up, meaning setting up the camper at home to dry and clean it. Just about every camping trip we have done in the last 8 months has rained. LOL
I had some boards made up to neaten up the DDS VFO wiring mess i have in a number of my projects. This is the first time i have laid out a PCB, produced some Gerbers and sent the files off to have boards made. Rather happy with how they came out, a couple of small errors on my part, missing silk screen, soldermask over the track where the pin from the SMA edge connectors gets soldered, pins slightly narrow for the DDS board and a missing track from the 5v regulator to 5v rail which i will have to jumper to the bypass capacitor, nothing major, just annoyances.