Change Is As Good As A Holiday

Its been a while since i have shaken things up around here. Over the last few days I have been migrating to a new server. Actually, rather than being on a VPS i am now on a dedicated server. Its an older server, but the price is great and the specs are perfectly adequate for what I am doing and the outbound data allowance is huge.

So having managed that migration rather smoothly, I have changed my URL to something that better reflects what is going on here and I have also gotten signed digital certificate and am going SSL. So other than a couple of hard coded links, most things here should work by using HTTPS.

So with that change in the air, i am going to go through the old posts and delete things that never worked or were just plain stupid as well as probably add or change some of the content I keep on here. Deletions won’t be wholesale, but there is enough junk on here to warrant a little bit of a clean out. And after i go through the images as well, i might get my backup file to something a little more convenient than the 5gigs its getting close to.

So my first post here was on September 16, 2015 and in that 3 and 1/2 years I have gone through 3 hosting providers. I have also learned a lot. Looking back on some of my old projects the boards i am making now look almost professional compared to the agricultural things I started out making. I also much prefer blogging over making youtube videos also. I do not do any of this to make money. I do it for fun and relaxation only.

I have been thinking for a while to start making more static content for the website. Mostly i make blog posts and they eventually slip off the front page and become history. Well, i can also make static pages within wordpress and I have some ideas of things that i would like to write about. I have some things here that are part written pieces that I was going to submit to another site that i might end up cleaning up and posting here. We will see how that goes.

For now, the cleanup starts. The old URL robs-blog.net will redirect to here and then, I will start looking at content and a serious look at some projects. I think i have the skill, ability and knowledge to actually pull off some good work, both in the design and building of a project as well as writing content that might be enjoyable to read and be useful.

73. Rob.

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What Not To Do

Let me tell you a story. It was a dark and stormy night and not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. And yet, in a little lab in the middle of nowhere, somewhere out beyond the back of Burke, a little Aussie VK Ham was trying to get an order in with a PCB manufacturer before China closes down for Chinese New Year.

So in my infinite wisdom I needed to rush a 2nd board onto my order to make it more cost efficient on shipping. I only had one board ready with updates and fixes, and I have been meaning to do a PA board for quite sometime, so i fired up Diptrace and opened up the schematics I was going to use, and got to laying out 2 separate designs published by Ruben VK5FE which can be found here

So anyway, the two designs were slightly different in components and the two fets had different footprints and in my cut and paste zeal while doing the schematic capture, i forgot to change the components on the IRF510 board from RD16HHF to the IRF510 component and footprint.

Whats funny in this whole story is that after I posted the above picture to a friend of mine, I joked that the mechanical design was such that if i had made a bomb the PCB would shield me from the FET shrapnel and i should not lose an eye.

So lucky for me when it came time to smoke test this thing I use current limiting power supplies and had set the current limit to 2amps, because when the drain and source pins are swapped on the IRF510 you have made a heater as it will draw infinite current until the wires coming from the PSU overheat, catch fire and burn your house down.

So my board looks pretty but does not work. The other board designed for using RD16HHF1 fets should work a treat assuming I have not screwed anything up there 🙂 But before i go and build one of those, i will be checking it over 3 times as I do not want to waste expensive fets for nothing. When IRF510’s costs pennies and the RD16 costs pounds, you dont want to be exploding things to often LOL.

Anyway, the moral of the story is don’t rush. Check things many times and cont use cut and paste when putting 2 similar designs on the one board. Now i just have to wait a couple of weeks for China to re-open for business and send off the board files I have sitting here now just waiting.

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2019 A Years Projects

Its new years ever and I have been thinking about the things I have achieved in 2018 and its been quite a lot, but at the same time, there has been a lot that I have not completed or even made a dent in and others that I have failed at.

So this list is the list of projects I plan to complete in 2019. Some of these I have had for sometime, some are not even in existence yet but are coming soon and some might be absolute dismal failures. Some of these can be competed in an afternoon and others are going to take some time, but here we go with the list.

1. Bebek Radio

First on the list is to finish the bebek, at least to receiver level. I do not think i am brave enough to tackle the transmit side of it. Its been an interesting and frustrating project so far, the sooner its over the better.

The Radio Bebek

2. Pixie Transceiver

The Pixie Tranceiver

Ok, so i have build one or two of these before, but I have this one in the draw still and I should build it and attempt to make a contact with it, or at least get spotted on the Reverse Beacon Network calling CQ with it.

3. 49’r Transceiver

The 49r Transceiver

There is a similar kit on ebay called the Frog Sounds that I built ages ago. The receiver in it actually worked quite ok, but i never ever transmitted with it, let alone made a single contact with it.

So what I plan to do with this kit is modify it to use a DDS VFO and make it frequency agile. To achieve that i will add a bandpass filter to the front end and use a AD9850 DDS to inject a signal where the Xtal oscillator currently is.

4. WSPR

QRP Labs WSPR Kit

I was given this maybe 2 years ago from a friend, Simon VK6MSC. Its been sitting in my draw waiting and waiting to see the light of day and get built. Now that I can actually use digital modes, I am itching to get this happening and on the air every other moment I am not using my radio and antenna.

5. Super Rockmite

The Super Rockmite Kit

Another ebay kit i have has sitting around for a long time. I am not sure weather to build as standard to modify it to make it frequency agile. At this stage it might just be an afternoon build and see if I can make a contact with it. The built in keyer is a nice touch.

6. QCX

QRP Labs QCX Kit

Now we are getting into serious build territory. The QCX is more than a toy kit, it is a quality transceiver kit that I will take my time building and will enjoy using.

7. VK4FFAB 4 Band Receiver

PCB Board for the VK4FFAB Receiver Project

This has been an eternal project that has no end in site. I would like to have completed the board above built and connected together to see how it actually works as a receiver. Each of the boards has been built and modified in isolation and what is pictured above are 2nd and 3rd iterations of some boards. Along with just stuffing the boards there is a whole lot of software to write to control the whole thing. While its mostly done, there is still a lot of work to go.

8. QRP Labs QSX

QRP Labs 10w PA for QSX

Not a lot i can write about this, other than I will be dropping everything and building one once the kit is fully released. All i have at the moment is the 10w PA. This kit i am excited to get my hands on.

9. ZOI-40 Tranceiver

ZOI-40 Tranceiver

This is one of those projects that I may or may not get to. Its another board laid out by YD1JJJ from Indonesia. I have not taken a close look at things, but i kind of expect this to be a nightmare like the Bebek and something that I will have to buzz out and compare between board and schematic to complete.

10. Bitx 20

Bitx 20 PCB Boards

Where the BITX craze kind of went viral, the Bitx 20m will be something I tackle when i get time.

11. Other Notable Thoughts and Ideas

There are really only 3 other ideas floating around at the moment and that i would like to get to this year and they are all transmitters. A CW transmitter, a RTTY transmitter and a PSK transmitter. 3 individual or potentially combine into a single unit to pair with my receiver project. These will take precedence over some of the projects above and will make nice additions the the lineups.

To be honest, I have certainly listed out more stuff than I will probably get to, but these are the things I have in the pipeline and are my immediate list of goals. The hardest part with all this is not getting sidetracked and going off on a tangent.

Wish me luck.

Happy New Year to you.

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My Thoughts On FT8

If you have not been living under a rock and look now and again at internet forums or other social media, you will have come across many discussions about how FT8 is going to be the death of Amateur Radio and that DXCC is now worthless because someone can do it automatically with a bot and get dxcc in a week.

Now having played with the mode for a few weeks and sat here at the desk for a few hours watching paint dry while i click the buttons to make WSJT work, I have come to the conclusion that this easy mode dxcc in a week is not only kind of bullshit, it is actually bullshit. Let me explain.

Most of us have very modest stations. A couple of dipoles and run low power. The above map is where I was being heard last night on 40m running 10w into a dipole. Yes, 10w. The max power my license allows in digital modes is 30w. The main thing you will notice about that map is that there are not 100 countries that are hearing me. More like 15. And then you have to get passed the wall of Japan.

I was being heard by equal numbers of US and JA stations, but that does not mean I am going to work WAS in a week either. I made 4 contacts with the USA and 30 with Japan. I am fresh meat and the JA’s are big on working everyone and sending out QSL cards. The same goes for Indonesia.

So maybe if you are in the EU or North America and have a Kw station, FT8 might be an easier path to DCXX, its not like that for everyone. In fact, most people are not running high power or have big antennas and for those of us like that means that we can work some DX during the bottom of the cycle which keeps us interested.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

OK So What Have I Been Doing

Well its good that you asked this LMAO. Well i have not been posting here much that is for sure, but i have been very busy with things. I have sat and passed a license upgrade and I have been working on fixing the uBitx lack of audio on the V4 boards, have been working on designing and prototyping stages for a receiver/transmitter/transceiver, it keeps evolving and have had a bunch of boards made in China and they are sitting on my desk AM waiting for me to populate and test them.

So there has been lots going on, more on all that to come and more over the next couple of weeks as i start to pull all these disparate threads together into something cohesive. Oh and I started to discuss with a mate the possibility of together designing and building a rig for SOTA etc that is cheep and simple. And in 6 weeks or so when I have the new call sign and I can use homebrew on air and just into a dummy load, I will be certainly looking to get some homebrew transmitting capability happening here at home.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

Cannot Trust Ebay Adaptors

So after coming home from the beach aka an activation, i put the uBitx on the bench and gave it a bit of a test out. Seems it needed some calibration work, the audio was way to tinny, so a bit of BFO fiddling was in order and a little LO calibration was needed also as it was way off frequency.

Well, I do want to say this about the uBitx calibration routines, they suck. There is no real way to get the radio any closer than 50hz off frequency. This is not good enough really and I know i can do better, but I am going to have to do a lot of code reworking so i can make the changes I require.

Anyway, thats not the point of this post, while i was sitting here trying to diagnose how I bricked the uBitx for the 4th time, i found out the lack of RF was a broken adaptor. Seems the arse fell out of it and there was no antenna thus no RF. Yeah Me 🙂

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Measurements Are Only As Good As Your Tools

Today I got a mic connected to the uBitx and a key and was able to test that its making RF and doing its thing. My home antenna is resonant on 40m, so i do not need to check the swr or anything, but i thought i would use the power meter in the swr meter to check what the power output of the uBitx is. Trouble was, it was making about 5w cw and 3w ssb.

So i got to scratching my head and wondering about the radio itself. I was about to put it in the cannot be bothered for today pile when i grabbed down the scope probe, put it across the antenna port and keyed up cw, 22v rms or 10 watts out, so i grabbed the mic and spoke in my normal voice, 21v rms or about 10w out.

Obviously the power side of this swr meter is kind of crap and not giving an accurate measure of power out. Anyway, i know the uBitx is working now and making enough power to be useful, now all i gotta do is get out portable and use it.

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LED Bezels

So months ago i bought 100 LED Bezels, it seemed like a good idea at the time and something i would later find use for. So today when i actually need one for a project, i go looking for them and cannot find them. It is not like my shit is a mess, its rather neat and tidy and somewhat organised with like things with like things. But can i find the LED Bezels, nope. No fucking idea at all and I have been through each and every tray looking for them.

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