Saturday, 28 February 2015

Improving the FT-1000mp Mark V RX

I have been on a mission to make the most of the equipment in my shack, I didn't want to get sucked into buying more radios or very expensive new models to chase a very small improvement. I decided the next best thing was to squeeze every improvement I could out of my existing equipment.

I have been really pleased with the RX on the FT-1000MP Mark V and wanted to get all of the filters loaded into it. It has taken me some time but I have finally tracked down the full set of Yaesu filters to install in the radio and improve the way the RX performs when using narrow filters. I have already done the NB mod that is documented earlier on my blog. I have now managed to add the 2.0kHz SSB 500Hz and 250Hz in both the 8.2MHz IF and the 455Kz IF. I can assure you that having two 250Hz filters inline can really help improve the signal to noise for CW and for RTTY/Digital modes. The 2.0kHz filters in line really help with SSB but it does make the signal less pleasing to the ear and requires some IF or carrier point shift to bring back the lower frequencies to audio.

This lead me to searching the internet looking for any other modifications that could help, I started to read about removing the Inrad roofing filter to improve the RX in the presence of close by big signals.  I started to dig a little deeper and discovered that some people attributed this to the distribution of gain in the IF stages. I then discovered an archived email thread that discussed a solution. The article I found can be seen here. there is a link to files on a blog that discuss the W2AJI mod to reduce the gain on the Inrad roofing filter board and prevent additional and unnecessary gain. Essentially it involves swapping out two resistors on the roofing filter board to make things better. R5 is changed from 12 ohms to 15 ohm and R6 is changed from 220 Ohms to 150 Ohms. (You can see the links in the original email reflector link above.) I do not have any test equipment in my shack to test the results but I do know that the performance appears to have improved to me and I was able to make some comparisons with and without the Filter board in line. All in all I seem to have been able to squeeze a little bit more performance out of the RX in the FT-1000MP Mark V and I like the results more than having spent £3500 + on  a new transceiver. All it cost me was some resistors, a little time and some good eBay finds for the additional filters.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Going digital in the shack

I recently decided to spend some time working on the computer in the shack. Normally I use my Macbook Pro laptop computer to run my log and link to the radios here in the M0TEF shack but have had a number of issues with the interfaces and drivers since using newer OS versions.
It was time to find a solution and the result came in the form of a windows PC my father was not using any more. I very quickly asked if I could use it and put together a simple shack only PC. My children have started to make use of my laptop computer more and more for their fun and educational needs which prevents me form using it for radio at the same time.

I had an old version of HRD on a memory stick and very quickly set up a basic setup, this wasn't enough for me and I just had to make it look like my FT-1000MP Mrk V. When visited by M0SIY he made fun of me but ten went home to do the same on his HRD screen setup to look like his FTDX-5000.

The second stage was to set up for RTTY. It was CQWW WPX RTTY contest weekend and I just had to have a go with a new mode for me. It was a great experience and I was pleased at what I could work at modest QRP power levels to a vertical antenna.

I am finding it odd after being an Apple fan for son long but I like the way this system is well supported and have been able to make use of some software not available for the Mac. So far I have experimented with N1MM, HRD, MMTTY, Fldigi and S-Meter Light. I am enjoying the experience of experimenting with something new to me and radio.

The next stage will be to try some QRPp work with PSK and JT65 although I still prefer CW over these modes.

Back to QRP and a 2 way QRP contact today with S52TLN

It has been some time since I have had the time to blog about my radio activities. My day job and young family have taken the majority of my time since my last post. Fortunately I have been enjoying a half-term break here in the UK. This is the break in an academic term for a much needed rest for educators and students alike. I have also been very busy working on my photography and improving my online presence and industry links to go alongside my lecturing.

I have spent the majority of my radio time working on improving my CW skills and making a few contacts and not always focusing on the QRP aspect of the hobby that I like so much. Recently I have been looking over my QRP log for the last year working out how many points I had for our local QRP challenge. When I was doing this I realised the last year netted me some great QRP DX including Senegal and Djibouti as well as some nice low power contacts into North America and Canada. It served as a reminder that when I turn the power down I can still work stations some distance away and interesting DX at that. I might add that the more successful contacts have come from me working on CW and building that as a skill. I have found that where QRP SSB activity limits me to calling a many times that with QRP CW I am often able to work a station with very simple wire antennas and often with one or two calls.

Today I had another reminder that QRP works. I decided to make use of an afternoon without the children here to play on the radio. I called CQ on 15m SSB (Shameful using 200w rig power) and was called by S52TLN - Tilen from Slovenia. He was running 5w from a FT-817 into a simple wire antenna. I figured if I can hear him then I should turn down the power to 5w and join in at QRP levels. We maintained a great contact at this power level and Tilen lowered his power further and was still readable here although there was more noise the signal level did not drop that much. I was politely reminded by the event that I can reduce my power and still make contacts and do not have to keep QRP for CW contacts only.

I will endeavour to keep more of the activity updated in the blog and will add some more technical adventures too.

Best 73 and remember QRP does work even on SSB.

Monday, 21 April 2014

A long break and some QRP fun

It has been a while since the pressure of modern life, a demanding job and a young family have allowed me to do much radio let alone blogging. I thought it was about time I updated and put some information online. 

It has been a busy month here with various things going on but I promised myself I was going to crack my morse enough to get me on the air. It has been tough and slow going so far but the push has meant that most days recently I have been making at least one CW contact. I had made a couple of contacts with W1AW/(portable) stations as QRP contacts but all I had to do was listen for my call, 599, TU. Not much of a challenge at all really, but, it was enough to get me on the air. 

My next mission was a proper contact with exchanged information. My very first CW contact of this kind was with IZ1POZ. Sadly half way though the exchange his batteries failed on his FT-817 so Paolo emailed me to assure me my morse was ok and that it was his fault we didn't fully complete the QSO, although we got as far as a basic exchange and RST. 

Paolo very kindly sent his QSL card, many thanks Paolo. 

So where next? Well I have been trying to find the time to make one or two contacts or at least listen to some CW to keep up my level so far (not great by a long shot)

Today I had an idea at the same time as the sun was shining, I went into the garden, cut the grass, tidied up and set up my FT-817 on the table with a painters pile and half wave wire antenna. It was fun to have a quick QSO with Miro OM7LM on 17m who gave me a 579 report using 2.5w from internal batteries. 

Below you can see my setup in the garden. 

Keep listening on the bands for some slow and dodgy CW from me and please have patience as I try my best to improve steadily. I hope to make it a much more regular thing now. 

Many thanks to anyone that has worked me and your patience with my 12wpm and my far from perfect copy of your TX CW it is truly appreciated. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Experimentation and the wonder of a wire and QRP

This weekend allowed me the chance to start experimenting and playing with the radio equipment that I own. 

I decided to rearrange the shack and get the FT-847 ready for some portable ops in the spring, as a part of that I wondered how it might perform on the attic dipoles so decided to move it to the bed side shack location. OK it is a little bigger than the FT-817 but it is only to experiment and will be moved ready for portable soon after experimenting. My very understating XYL hasn't complained yet but I did get "that" look that so many of us radio obsessed folk get when we are playing radio. You can see the temporary setup in the image. 

I was really pleased with the success of this radio on 2w SSB QRP operation. The RX on this radio is a little better than the FT-817 at this noise swamped urban location. 

On Sunday I was pleased to work a few stations on the 817 and the 847. My best was 6W/MM0NDX using the 817 at 5w SSB on 10m and the attic dipole. The second best was a nice QSO and not just a 59 With Dieter DL8NDD/M who was shocked at the 2w out from the 847 into an attic dipole on 20m for a genuine 59 report and a decent exchange. 
I am always pleased and a little surprised by how effective lengths of thin wire and 2w of power can really be in making communications over a distance. 

I have been very busy in my day job as a college lecturer and radio has had to take a back seat. Thankfully I have been able to make a few contacts this weekend. I hope as the weather improves I can make the most of going out portable. I may even start to progress on a little more with my CW. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

QRP contacts, DX and local QRM

I have been really busy recently with a mixture of work and family life. It is great to have a hobby but sometimes other things just stand in the way. This weekend however I got a sneaky few hours to visit a local radio rally to sniff out some bargains and then an hour or so to fire up the radio in peace.

I managed to work a couple of stations using QRP one on 12m (at 5w SSB) to Romania and another on 10m to SV5 group of greek islands (at 2w SSB) Both using the Butternut HF-9V. I then heard a good signal from PP5BS in Brazil, I settled in to try my best to work him, I kept the power low, I didn't want to work Brazil on higher power, I have done that before. Then it happened... The family returned and the house was filled with QRM in the form of children, laughing, playing, screaming, crying. I had to give up on the QRP DX, a reminder that this hobby is a part time pursuit and that Murphy's law always puts family before decent DX opportunities. I did however add a couple of countries to my log for this years QRP challenge netting me a few extra points. I was happy to swap the microphone for hugs and kisses from my children returning after a trip out. I will have to hope the DX returns later in the week.

Maybe 2014 is the year to look at alternative locations for my shack, maybe converting one of the small outbuildings here so that I can have my dedicated man cave and radio shack to retire to free from stresses of daily life.

My aim is to work a few more QRP DXCCs this week to make sure I am on form with my score for our little QRP challenge. I have got a few others from my local club to compete with this year and they are already making headway on their own QRP achievements.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

My first CW contact... and using QRP too

Last night I went to bed and checked my twitter feed to see that MW0IAN had reported working W1AW/4 on 40m CW. I thought I would have a listen to the frequency that Ian had posted. Sure enough they were there and a good signal to me. I only had the FT-817 at the side of the bed into the attic dipoles mentioned earlier in the blog. I felt it was time to have a go and a simple 599 TU type exchange would be easy enough not to mess up. So I plugged in the palm mini paddles and had a go, sure enough first call with 5w CW I was receiving a M0? after another two sends of my call I received my report and thanks.

So it seems 2014 is finally the year to be brave enough to have a go at CW and even if I make mistakes I am taking part. This has certainly spurred me on to make more of an effort to get my CW going this year and I will make every effort to make a few more simple contacts before I start to progress on a little more. The bonus is I do not wake the house calling DX stations late at night.

There is one slight lie here, this is actually my second ever QSO using CW but the first was with G0RQQ and quite a few errors over a 1 mile distance  and pretty sloppy on my sending and receiving. So technically this is my first solo CW contact without the help or support of a good friend truing me and supporting with text messaging and 2m FM. Still I am happy to make my first foray into CW a QRP DX contact. I am still buzzing and will be having another go soon.

This is the humble bedside DX station, of course the microphone now lives in the drawer. :)