Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hygain Vertical Performance

The Hygain Vertical I purchased has been working well. I hope to run it thru more on-the-air tests over the next few weeks. But during the ARRL /140 contest, it performed well and I made contacts on 10M, 20M, and 40M with it. I have learned a lot about short vertical antennas and I hope to try some other things with it.

For a quick review, the antenna is the Hygain 18VS model. Total cost is $100. It is 18 feet tall and has a loading coil at the base. This is just about as simple as an antenna gets.

I have mine put in an umbrella stand so I can move it to the patio when we mow the lawn. I have a number of radials (minimum of 4) that I attach to the base of the antenna and one ground wire from the antenna base to a 12 inch stake driven into the ground.

This week, I have 10 radials attached to the antenna. Four of the radials are 17 feet and 6 are 13 feet. They are just laid on the grass.

The loading coil tap can be set to make the antenna resonant on just about any frequency from 10M to 80M. I set the tap so the antenna is resonant on 10M. So when I switch to 10M, I do not need my antenna tuner. When I am on 20M, 30M, or 40M I have to use my antenna tuner to get the SWR down under 2.

One of the ideas I have been thinking about is purchasing an antenna tuner to fit at the base of the antenna. These are a little pricy at about $260. That would make the antenna an all-band for sure. But, if I did that, the total cost of the antenna and tuner would be about what a screwdriver-type antenna would cost.

So, the addition of an automatic tuner and more radials are in the plans. I will install the antenna permanently after mowing season is gone. I'll drive a post in the ground to mount the antenna on. I think this will give a much better ground and perhaps improve the way the radials work. The antenna will really be ground mounted instead of 10 inches off the ground.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Digital Dilemma - EMAIL Packages

Thanks to Mac, KE5QDA, I have had to reconsider the Digital Dilemma! He asked if I considered Winlink2K to be a digital mode. WELL, I had not even considered that question and I had to do some research on the topic. What I found out (after some soul searching) caused me to re-do my original Digital Dilemma post ... here's my thinking...

From the Winlink2K website:

"Winlink 2000 (WL2K) is a worldwide system of volunteer resources supporting e-mail by radio, with non-commercial links to internet e-mail. "

After reading this, I view WL2K as a pipeline rather than a digital mode of communication.

And I am sure there is LOTS of room for argument and discussion. Feel free to discuss because there's plenty of room for other opinions.

Any way, if this is my feeling on WL2K, then what about PSKMail? I reviewed the features list and came to the same conclusion. PSKMail is also PRIMARILY a pipeline to support email. It has some other features that kind of cloud the picture (mainly texting via APRS) but the main function is pipeline rather than allowing station to station communication.

There is WAY MORE information at each of these websites. WL2K is the "official" choice of just about everyone who is any kind of official.

Consider the following a VERY BRIEF introducton to these two programs ....

WinLink 2000 - Provides Email - WL2K Website
1. Windows (obviously)
2. Uses PACTOR 1,2, and 3 and requires pactor modem which is pricey.
3. Some proprietary features? ("The Winlink 2000 system, and Winlink user software is built, maintained and supported by the Winlink Development Team (WDT), your membership in the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation, and your tax deductible contributions.")
4. Recently introduced a sound card mode called WINMOR
5. APRS text messaging is possible as well as some packet usage for "last mile" coverage.
6. Lots of email servers world-wide. If you happen onto one of these frequencies, you'll probably have to move your QSO.

PSKMail - Provides Email - PSKMail Website
1. Linux BUT available in Windows emulator (puppy_linux)
2. Uses Fldigi
3. Modes - PSK250 with ARQ
4. GUI easy to use and provides email, APRS and Chat mode.
5. Upload/download email from internet and works with Linux email program called EVOLUTION.
6. While most email servers are in Europe, there appears to be a couple of email servers in the U.S. (one in San Antonio.)

... AR

Friday, August 07, 2009

Digital Dilemma Summary

In looking over the several different digital packages available for EmCom type communication, here is a brief summary of the packages I know about. Basically, all of these are sound card based. I'm sure there are others available as well.

I have discussed several of these programs in earlier posts. I will be updating this summary as I find out more information. Anyway, here goes ...

NBEMS - Narrow Band Emergency Message System - is detailed in an earlier post. In summary, though, here are the essentials:
1. Has a Windows and Linux Version.
2. Uses Fldigi and Flarq (ARQ provides error-checking)
3. Modes - RTTY, PSK31, PSK63, PSK125, PSK250, MFSK
4. GUI is easy to use. Can send small files.

OUTPOST - Uses BBS System
1. Windows
2. Uses own program
3. Modes - PACKET
4. Excellent GUI includes a message form maker to pre-format messages. Includes NTS, Bulletins, and Private Message form.

EcomScs - Uses BBS System but provision for email
1. Windows
2. Uses own program
3. Modes - PACKET
4. GUI allows creation of message forms. BBS connection and Keyboard to keyboard messages.
5. Extended product called GateWayScs provides a temporary mail box if BBS not available and CAN BE connected to the internet for email.

(PSKMail and WinLink2K covered under another post ... see Comments)


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

1010 Summer Phone Contest (Aug 1,2)

The 1010 Organization held their Summer Phone contest this past weekend. It gave me a chance to check out my "small vertical" and I was pleased with the antenna over all. I ended with 31 QSOs and 14 states distributed across the U.S.

My antenna is a Hygain 18 foot vertical with a loading coil at the base. It is ground mounted with 4 radials of 13 feet each and one ground rod. The loading coil is not needed on 20 meters, but I did have to use a couple of turns for 10 meters.
I was able to work just about everyone I could hear.

On Saturday, contacts were few and far between. I only made about 5 the whole day. Sunday, however, things opened up and I made the rest of the contacts from about 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. IF I had started earlier, I'm sure I could have doubled my count.

Anyway, it was fun. Click here for the 1010 website.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Extreme NVIS Antenna

(You can click on the pics to enlarge.)

There's more than one way to get on the air ... some good, some bad, and some just get by and there is something to be said for "Makin' do" with what you have.

I knew my neighborhood had antenna restrictions when we bought the house. We liked the house, so we took the bad with the good. I like it that there are restrictions to protect home values and no junk cars in the driveways. So you have to realize that those restrictions cut both ways but hopefully with a common good in mind.

Here is my HF antenna I have used successfully to work 80M and 40M. I am able to check in with the Sooner Traffic Net (3845 khz) on a regular basis as well as the weekly ARES Net (3900 khz). On 40M, I am able to check in with the 7290 Traffic Net on a daily basis.

During the Route 66 Special Event, I was able to make over 200 contacts on 80M to support the club's effort to participate in this fun special event.

Anyway, if you need an antenna for 80M or 40M, a G5RV is a good choice. While the G5RV is designed for 20M, it will work 80M and 40M with a tuner. The full-size G5RV is 102 feet long and fits nicely along my backyard wood fence. I do have a "wrap" on each end of about 10 feet, but the rest of the antenna is pretty much horizontal at about 5 1/2 feet off the ground.

The G5RV has a twin lead section that (ideally) should be vertical when the antenna is mounted 25 to 30 feet high. In my Extreme NVIS Antenna, I have the twin lead vertical for about 5 feet but then curved along the wood fence about a foot off the ground.

All I can say is that it works most of the time and I'm very glad for that!

... AR

Sunday, July 26, 2009

IOTA Contest - July 24, 25

This weekend was the IOTA contest and it was fun. A little aggravating at times with pile-ups on some of the more "exotic" calls, but still a good time.

I only made 15 contacts, but these included two Hawaii stations, one New Zealand, and two Australia stations plus several states ranging from TX to MT, MA, NY, and OH. There were also a couple of Canadian stations included.

Most were on 20 meters but I had one HI, MA, and OH on 40 meters. The antenna I used was my G5RV JR mounted about 20 feet high on the roof. I used my Yaesu FT-840 most of the time running about 75 watts.

I should have made more contacts, but time was limited ... come on Sunspot Cycle 24!