SteppIR EZNEZ STUDY

TARANTULA MIGRATION DXPEDITIONS:  2004  2006

USS RONALD REAGAN

CQ DIABLO

IN MEMORIAM

FGA     WHY HAM RADIO IS DYING


 

click on image to pop up hi resolution image

My operating station currently consists of the following:

  • Icom SP-20 speaker
    • Nixie Clock
  • Icom 7800
  • Kenwood SM-200 station monitor
    • WaveNode controller
    • SteppIR controller
    • Nojoqui Tarantula
  • Yaesu 1000d
  • Kenwood TS-940s
    • Kenwood SP-940 speaker
    • Yaesu G800sa rotor with MDS RC-1 for computer control of rotation
  • Acom 1000 amplifier
  • DX-Aku by KK6EK for inspiration.
  • 3 Element SteppIR yagi at 48.7 feet
  • AD6J Quadrifilar 137mhz Receiving Antenna (NOAA) built for me personally by AD6J.
  • Computer with two monitors. 7800's display switchable on 20" monitor (shown)
  • ShackCam (live when I am operating and I want to show my ugly mug)

Click on the station image above and launch a resizable high resolution image. Zooming in you can inspect the Nojoqui Tarantula preserved in plastic.  My desk is an L shaped Ikea workstation recovered from a defunct bubble technology company here in Santa Barbara (its actual cost is about $175,000, but I did get the desk and a nice t-shirt).

  • Past Antennas:
    • 17 meter Moxon
    • 15 meter Moxon
    • 60 Meter Dipole (which, btw, works pretty well on 6 meters!)
    • G5RV (somewhat better than loading a nail)
    • KG6ENA L7 HamLoop for 10,15,17 and 20 meters (described elsewhere on this website)
    • 160 Meter Coaxial Inverted L wire with radial field

 

Shack Updates:

UPDATE (11/24/2010): Well, it's been two years since I've updated these pages.  Nothing much has changed since then.  I've purchased no new radios, no new microphones, in fact no new just about anything.  Well, that's not exactly true now that I think about it a bit more.  I did purchase a Davis WeatherStation so that I could monitor the weather at my qth.  The unit works great and you can see the output on my K6SGHWX page.  Oh, I did replace the heil mc5 elements in both my headsets because my dog Lucy chewed them up.

UPDATE (11/23/2008): After a year of construction, and another six months of doing various things, I finally have my station all back together.  The tower's up, the yagi is flat on all bands, the amp is back on line and I am feeling fine.  I still have some work to do to smooth out some of the rough edges, especially outside near the tower, otherwise, after a year and a half, I feel like I am finally home again.

UPDATE (5/9/2007): The K6SGH shack is virtually no more!  Well, just for a few months.  We're remodeling the back of our house and this means the shack must be packed up and, unfortunately, the tower taken down.  The shack will be rebuilt,  bigger and better.  The tower might be a little more difficult, but it's going in later in the year.  Seen below, my shack!  It truly is :(.  Notice the poor tower sitting on the ground, and the steppir on the left of the shack on sawhorses.

 

Finally, I am in a shack!

 

Lots of lizards in here but no spiders...makes sense since lizards like to eat spiders.

The current K6SGH operating position.  Looks a little different from the picture at the top of this page, eh? Ah well!

 

It took him 5 hours with a 90 lb hammer to bust this up.  Good think I didn't bury anyone in it or I'd be dxing from the slammer for sure.

That's the tower base he's busting up. Don't you wish you had his job?

 

 

UPDATE (9/07/2006): Well...how do I say this?  I think I now own too many old microphones.  So, now I have all the Astatics I want and picked up probably the coolest Turner microphone ever made, the 44X.  How many total you ask?  Keep asking...I ain't telling!

UPDATE (5/20/2006):  Lately, I have been buying all the various Astatic microphone heads that fit into the classic G stand.  So far, I have 5 heads (one not working yet).  Some of my friends think some of them sound like I'm inside a tin can...and with one of them I am so that's a good thing (I think). When queried by the XYL as to why I was buying these, I said I was "just collecting the ones that work with the G stand."  "So, I can buy all the shoes that fit my feet?" was her quick reply.  I guess there's some logic there.

UPDATE (3/25/2006):  I wasn't too pleased with the performance of the 40 meter antenna so I replaced the ladder line feed with a coaxial feed.  I then trimmed the antenna to resonance and I am much happier.  It is nearly flat 1:1 from 7.1 to the top of the band.  Now I can hear my friends up north.  I am still trying to devise a way to hang a  40 meter vertical moxon from my tree. Once I do I will put that up.

UPDATE (3/18/2006):  Today I took down the 160 meter antenna and replaced it with a simple 40 meter dipole fed with ladder line.  You  may ask yourself..."why did he take down the 160 meter antenna?"  The answer is I just wasn't having much fun on 160 meters.  They don't answer CQ's much.

So, while the XYL was in the garden weeding...I replaced one antenna with another and she was no worse the wiser.  So far it's working fine.

UPDATE (3/09/2006):  Ever wonder how many dbs you lose in your coax connectors?  Well, I have and I have to tell you that it is more than you would like to know.  Ever wonder why they can hear you but you can't hear them?  Well, it's the db's you're losing due to your POS rf connectors.  That solder you've tried to put on the shield through those little holes has affected the dielectric and changed the impedience of your cable ends.  Result:  the classic bottleneck.

Well, don't lose any more sleep and read this excellent piece written by my good friend Paul, VE7BZ, on how to make the PERFECT connector.  Rest assured that all my connectors are now perfect!  That's why I am the big gun and you're not!  >> VE7BZ's How To Make the Perfect Connector <<

UPDATE (1/20/2006):  My project for the winter months here in Santa Barbara was to construct a 'temporary' 160 meter antenna and find out what it is like on the top band.  Being constrained from anything large or elaborate, I went looking for coaxial designs on the Net.  I found Tom, KN4LF, had a design for what he called the W4TWW, BROAD BANDED COAXIAL VERTICAL/INVERTED L ANTENNA.  I also got back in touch with John, N0KHQ, who has several designs for coaxial antennas as well as "tuned" radial fields.  I found I had two choices:  1) a coaxial inverted L (50 foot vertical section and 73 foot horizontal section), 2) a coaxial dipole with 85 foot sides.  Both would easily fit in the space that I had available.

Long story short:  I built the inverted L, yanked it 50 feet up into my tree, stretched the horizontal section out to another tree, installed 15 sixty-two foot radials (all in the same direction), voila! I was on the air and it works just fine.  Center design frequency was 1.9mhz and check out the SWR plot.  Nearly dead flat 1:1 across half the band (<1.15 from 1.85-1.95mhz).

Since this was my first experience with verticals and radials, I experimented a bit.  Being so impressed with such a good swr, I figured if I added more radials, things would get even better.  I had enough wire for 4 more radials, which I quickly laid out.  Checking the SWR, I found that the antenna became less broadbanded.  I spent a few hours adding and subtracting radials and placing them in different locations and found that for my installation, 15 seemed to be the magic number, swr wise.  So until I get more wire, I feel pretty comfortable the way it is.  Now all I have to do is make some contacts.  There's a contest coming up so we'll see how fast I can work all states.  Visit Tom's website and see the construction details by following this link.

UPDATE (12/18/2005):  I have now operated the 7800 for two months.  So, how is the rig?  Amazing.  It is the best radio I have ever owned.  What I was really surprised at was how much better the receiver is from any I have previously owned .  The 1000d is very much noisier than the 7800, which is an amazing statement for me to make considering how quiet the 1000d is!  I can only imagine that my Orion would seem like a pocket am radio in comparison.  

I think what is most impressive about the Icom's receiver is the effectiveness of the various noise blankers, filters and dsp controls.  Powerline pulse noise or rfi from motors, flood lights and other household terrors are easily suppressed or pushed down into the noise floor, making reception of average signals very easy.  The noises I hear from my qth around dusk (which I know are from my neighbors house) are now very manageable with the 7800.  On my 1000d these noises prevented me from working signals below s5-6.  I have found that I reach for my headphones much less since I started running the 7800.  Obviously I must be hearing things better (which my wife may dispute).

The 7800's filters can be shaped a variety of ways.  Bandwidth, roofing and filter shape (sharp vs soft) all can be adjusted globally and for each band.  You can save any combination of settings to the flash memory that you can later call up.  So, for contesting for example, you can recall an entire set of setting instantly; then just as easily go back to your rag-chew settings.  There are simply too many settings and controls to describe here.  It's taken me two months to learn most of them, yet I still find myself discovering new functions, settings or abilities every day.

Transmit wise, people tell me I am loud and the audio sounds good.  You can control the bandwidth and tone of the transmitted signal, as well as use an onboard compressor.  But I only run the radio at 2.8hz bandwidth, depending on my 2496's settings for tone and compression.  I do not support, except for limited experimentation purposes, those who run at bandwidths greater than 2.8hz because it causes WAY TOO MUCH interference, especially on small bands like 17.

Oh...one more thing.  My 7800 came with a lisp!  Ya, you heard me right...a lisp!  There is a speech function on the radio that you can use that reads out the frequency, mode and other items you can select.  So, you can imagine my surprise the first time I used it and heard this lady's voice that had a lisp.  I sent this info to Icom and Bob Heil.  Both were quite surprised, as I seem to have the only one that has a lisp.  Click HERE and you can hear it for yourself from this mp3 file.

UPDATE (10/18/2005):  Without trying to sound like I am the luckiest person in the world, I was fortunate to have an Icom 7800 drop into my lap.  While I will not make the donor's name public, I will provide a list of possible donors for you to chose from (feel free to contact any of them):

  • The Tooth Fairy
  • Santa Claus
  • Uncle Sam
  • Bill Gates
  • Jean Bodin de Boispoisteur (lives in France)

If you get as lucky as I have, please, ask the donor to place the rig on the desk rather than dropping it in your lap.  The radio's quite heavy (high voice).

 

UPDATE (1/14/2005)  With all the new radios out on the market now, IC-7800, ProIII, Yaesu's etc...one would have assumed that I'd have to have one of these to try.  Well, with some careful consideration I have decided NOT to spend more money on radio equipment and instead I bought an older Browning Citori 4 barrel skeet set (12,20,28 & .410).  Needless to say my impulses to spend more on radio equipment have been blown away while at the same time living up to my social obligations to spread the wealth.  Know any good recipes for skeet?  I'm getting tired of the same drab boiled clays.

 

UPDATE: (7/3/2004)  Another truly great piece of station equipment that I have recently acquired is the WaveNode Station Monitor.  WAVENODE is a software based watt/swr meter.  The system uses multiple rf sensors connected at a variety of points in your station to generate multiple output displays.  For example, I have placed one sensor at the output of my FT 1000D and another at the output of my 1000 watt amplifier.  I can watch a real time histogram of samples in any combination of peak/average power from both outputs at the same time on multiple graphs.  This way I can observe the input and output power of the linear in lovely graphical formats on my computer monitor.  Additionally, I can divide the input into the output and display that result on another graph showing gain my system.

Real time swr per sensor, dc power and a variety of other displays can also be shown.  You can also plot the swr of your antennas over a range of frequencies and display the result graphically.  There are several user definable controls that can be monitored and many other features I havenít yet explored.

Information about the product is available at WWW.WAVENODE.COM.  The company has been very responsive to their users with respect to changing and improving the displays and functionality of the software.  At $199 for the system with two sensors, it's a real deal considering the amount of information it is capable of displaying.

 

UPDATE (10/17/03)  I am VERY please with the 1000D.  Runs rings around the Orion.  Rings.  If you're thinking of getting one, do.  You won't regret it.  But, dollar for dollar, the 940 is still the king of radios.

For the past nine months, I have been using loop antennas exclusively.  Building loop antennas is a lot of fun and it's surprising how much performance you can get from a few dollars worth of wire.  I have very tall Eucalyptus trees on our property which are excellent antenna supports.  But they do have one drawback...they are a bit flimsy and the tall branches can move up to 4 vertical feet in a medium breeze.  I have learned how to attach the loops so that they collapse in a medium wind and neither break themselves apart or damage the trees.  It means that I have to frequently adjust them, but I like doing that.  I have all three loops connected through a remote switch box (Ameritron RCS-4) which is controlled from the shack.  Visit the Antenna section of my site to learn more about my loops.

Also shown on the Antenna portion of the site is a description of my recently constructed Moxon antenna for 17 meters.  If you're into wire antennas, this one is a must try.  It only took 2 hours to put it together and get it up in the air.  Looks great up there, like a giant spider.

Oh...the SteppIR looks great on the floor of my hamshack but doesn't get out too well yet.

I also enjoy tracking the NOAA weather satellites and receiving APT pictures.  I use the Quadrifilar antenna and several sound card based software programs to decode the images.  The antenna for that is that washing machine looking thing in the corner.   The NOAA APT satellites transmit on 137.30 to 137.620, so most 2 meter radios can easily receive them.  The pictures are amazing.  Since most of our weather comes in from the Pacific, I have found that I can more accurately predict rain and cloud cover than the "weather people" on tv.  And its a lot more fun to get the images directly from the satellites than watch tv or get images on the Internet.

UPDATE: (8/17/03)  After two months of using the Orion (and one repair trip back to TenTec), I have sent the Orion back to the good people at TenTec for a refund.  It is a long story why I sent it back, but the short of it is that the Orion just did not meet my expectations.  It has a lot of good features, but it just isn't what I was expecting.  I found the SSB receive to be muddy and difficult to copy even if the signal was strong.  Maybe it's just my ears, but I found my Kenwood 940 to be a better radio.  The Orion is a very noisy radio, at least mine was, and the dsp really did not do much to make weak signals more understandable.  After 6 weeks of only using the Orion, I finally hooked up the Kenwood on an A/B switch.  I spent several hours looking for only weak, at the noise level, signals.  Hands down the Kenwood ran rings around the Orion for weak signals.  Signal levels were about the same on both radios, but how the audio sounded is the key.  On the Orion, weak signals were muddy and difficult to understand.  The Kenwood brought out those same signals and made them easily copyable.  If you cannot understand what someone is saying, you cannot communicate.

That being said, I will also commend Jack Burchfield and the other people at TenTec who listened to me and really tried to help me.  TenTec is an excellent company and their people are dedicated to their customers.

So what did I do?  I went out and bought a Yaesu FT-1000D.  What they say is true.  It is the king of radios.  There is a lot to be said about good old fashioned stacked crystal filtering.  Nice rounded smooth audio is what my ears want to hear.

So, for now, that's the story from the shack.

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