HAM radio

Discussion in 'Technical Corner' started by Tarheelpilot, Sep 19, 2017.

  1. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Pattern Altitude

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    any active ham radio operators on the board? I'm looking to get into some packet radio activities. I have a kid getting to scout age that is interested in math and science. Trying to find something to keep him occupied and thought of ham radio.

    Would like some info on basic shack setup and capabilities I should look for in radios along with any other advice you might have.
     
  2. Stan Cooper

    Stan Cooper Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I've been an active ham since I got my novice license in June, 1955, at age 12. It's a great hobby, and I've met many good friends over the years.

    These days, I'm mostly into QRP (low transmit power in the 5 to 10 watts range) on the HF bands, active on both CW and single sideband modes.

    This was my Heathkit SB-series station on Johnston Atoll in the 1960s; I spent many hours running phone patches for both Air Force and civilian personnel stationed there giving them the opportunity to talk to friends and family back on the U.S. mainland.

    Amateur radio was the genesis of a fifty year long career in aerospace and telecommunications for me.

    -Stan K4DRD

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Pattern Altitude

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    That's a cool photo. Reminds me of several photos of my father. He was very active when I was growing up. Lots of good memories up late at night with dad while he was hunting qsl cards. He was a qrp guy as well.

    If I have questions along the way would you mind if I pm you here?
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  4. SCCutler

    SCCutler Administrator Management Council Member

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    I always figured I'd get into amateur radio some day... but I didn't.

    You might wasn't to ping @denverpilot (Nate Deuhr), as I believe he's also very heavily involved.
     
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  5. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    N1RN Here.

    I have been WN3SBS (great if you have a keyer that sends out three dits a time), N3AGV, KE2LG, and WO2L. Not quite as impressive as Stan, I was licensed initially in 1971. Got my Extra back in 1989. Also hold the commercial Radiotelephone and Radiotelegraph certificates.

    Spent a lot of time working on repeaters when I was younger. Dabbled in packet a little bit. Used to work a bit of HF (had a tentec in my car). Haven't much touched it in a while.
     
  6. jnmeade

    jnmeade Cleared for Takeoff

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    NO0B here, haven't done packet in 25 years. I'm now on a little local 2m and am trying to get my tower back on the air for HF DX. It's my winter time hobby. I'm probably not much help for your interest. There is almost certainly a local ham radio club, probably populated mostly by old, fat white geezers and geeks, but a resource. Getting a ham call is obviously a small but maybe helpful entry on the college application - anything to make the kid stand out, seem motivated, etc. Good luck.
     
  7. tawood

    tawood Cleared for Takeoff

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    K1VFR here...
    Packet (VHF anyway) can be hot or cold depending on location. I have done some digital hf stuff and it can be fun.
     
  8. Stan Cooper

    Stan Cooper Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Please feel free to PM me. A really great resource is the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The organization publishes lots of books, including some for folks newly interested in pursuing ham radio as an avocation. Membership includes a subscription to the organization's monthly magazine, QST.

    http://www.arrl.org/
     
  9. DFH65

    DFH65 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Started back in my teens when they still had a Novice license with 5 WMP code. Over the years have gone hot and cold on it. I have my Extra but don't use it too much anymore. I have an old Ten Tec Triton 2 into a ZS6BKW antenna. I fire up now and then on field day or on a cold winter night when I am board. I do some QRP work with a Rockmite I built for 30 Meters and play with that every now and then. It is fun making a contact with someone on 1/2 a watt several hundred miles away considering my antenna is not optimal for that band.

    @Tarheelpilot If you decide to go this route and your son gets his ticket. I have some older 2 meter radios an Icom IC-2000 and a Kenwood 241-A I will send you your choice for the cost of shipping if you want one.
     
  10. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Pattern Altitude

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    Thanks for the replies. I'm doing a fair amount of research now trying to decide which way to go.

    @DFH65 thankyou very much for the offer. I want to get a better idea where I'm headed before I take you up on that offer. I don't want to get your hardware unless I know for sure we can use it.

    As we progress I'll keep the thread updated. There is some cool stuff out there and looks like some fun to be had.
     
  11. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    And I'm around after the ping from Spike. Post anything here, plenty of folks to help. I'm currently waiting on some hardware shipments to build a test repeater for four digital modes with MMDVM board from the folks at Repeater-Builder... probably do it with a Pi Zero W just because...
     
  12. pmanton

    pmanton Line Up and Wait

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    Ex WA6NXL--WA7ESD--Hl9VL got back from Korea and 20 Meters wasn't as much fun being non DX. Didn't set up the station and forgot to renew my ticket until the grace period had lapsed.
     
  13. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    N6TPT here. ARRL TA. Dual band FM radios in a couple of the cars, HF station at home. What can I help you with?
     
  14. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Oddly enough, when I had the WO2L as a call sign I'd make a minipileup on 20 meters while the prefix hunters came to work the only WO2 they'd hear.
     
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  15. KRyan

    KRyan Pre-takeoff checklist

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    KE8CUU here. Fairly newly minted ham. Currently have Technician license. Mostly do local 2M. Recently bought an HF rig, but haven't used it yet. I'm located just north of Dayton, OH, where they have the largest hamfest in the world. It's a great place to be a ham! Have not done any digital work, and don't have any real plans to do so.
    One thing you might want to do is get your hands on a relatively inexpensive general coverage receiver. They usually aren't great ham receivers, but they can get the ham bands as well as shortwave. Lot's of interesting stuff there out on the airwaves. I have a Radio Shack DX-160 and a long "random wire" antenna. I think I spent about $40 on it. You can usually pick up older tube type receivers at garage sales or Craigslist even cheaper. I got an old tube receiver when I was about 12 yrs. old and listened to all kinds of stuff on shortwave, and that got me interested in radio.
    If you want to go super cheap - just to see if your son is interested - there's a short wave radio on line. It's based in the Netherlands, and you can tune it and listen to it on your computer. No need to buy a radio at all! Here's a link to it.
    http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/

    73
     
  16. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Pattern Altitude

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    @KRyan thanks for the tip. I'll check out the link.

    @Ghery im just getting started with the research. To early to have specific questions. I'm looking into local clubs hoping to find some geographically close mentoring and have been investigating the digital stuff. I think that fusion of radio theory and computers might hold the attention of the kid. Regardless it will be a learning process. My father was an active ham with extra class so I am used to being around it from my childhood but never have been active myself. Lots to learn.
     
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  17. KRyan

    KRyan Pre-takeoff checklist

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    +1 about checking out a local club. You can simply Google "North Carolina Ham Radio Clubs" and you'll get lots of hits. I tried it myself. If you get in touch with a local club, someone will help you. They guys in the clubs all have their little "niches" - some are into DX, other digital, others QRP, etc. Hams are a bit of a dying breed, and those who are involved in it are always looking to get new people involved. Reach out to your local club, tell them what you are looking for, and I bet you get a phone call within an hour after their next club meeting is over! I don't know about clubs everywhere, but my club has dues of $10 a year. Pretty cheap.
     
  18. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    KC2DA here, licensed since mid-70's. Have an HF rig, but need to get the antenna up, and just replaced the 144/440 home antenna yesterday.

    Haven't worked packet on VHF for years. Just picked up a DMR rig, but not much activity locally (either DMR or FM).... Too many folks doing business on their cellphones during rush hour now. We've got far more repeaters than hams that use them (yet still there's a waiting list for 2 M at the frequency coordinator).
     
  19. BigBadLou

    BigBadLou En-Route

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    If you mean to keep him occupied in the airplane while flying, it's even better. With a handheld (or a window-stick-on antenna), he can make dozens of contacts during a short flight, aviation contacts are highly sought after.
    Flying a long X/C with my ham buddy, he made a lot of contacts, people were stepping on each other just to talk to him. I guess it is a rarity nowadays. :)
     
  20. Half Fast

    Half Fast Pattern Altitude

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    Extra class license here, AJ4CM. Pick up a good shortwave receiver to start and get him listening to the world. No license needed. That'll keep him interested while he studies for his Technician license.

    With the Tech license he can work local repeaters, and many repeaters have Echolink hookups that will let him talk all over the country and even the world. That might give him the incentive to get his General ticket and start working real DX.
     
  21. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Pattern Altitude

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    Have any of you ever used an icom ic-746pro? If so do you all think 600 is a reasonable price for one in excellent condition?
     
  22. mkosmo

    mkosmo Pattern Altitude

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    KE5HHG here. I haven't done packet in years. In fact, I haven't done much operating in years... Maybe I should set a rig up again.
     
  23. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    That's the going price for them. They're workhorses. Our VHF contesting group used them for years without significant problems. Nothing flashy or interesting about them but unlike some of the newer Icoms with more software and more little problems, we abused them and they kept running. The 6m and 2m capability is nice if you end up enjoying weak signal VHF work. If you have no interest in the "magic band" on 6, or putting up enough antennas to do weak signal work on 2m, those capabilities are not necessary.

    If it's a first rig, I usually recommend the FT-857D because of portability. The 746 Pro needs to live on a desk somewhere. The 857D is a Swiss Army Knife. The 746 Pro is a nice shack desk radio that'll do quite a bit without any flash.

    Other Icoms our contest group tried over the years had to have annual or biennial trips to the repair shop. They'd probably have held up in causal use but didn't hold up in three or four day 24/7 service. The 746 Pros didn't need those visits to the shop.
     
  24. Half Fast

    Half Fast Pattern Altitude

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    I had an 897 for years until a lightning strike took it out. Very similar to the 857, but in a larger package. Either one is a great radio, but tough to operate with the nested menus. I used Ham Radio Deluxe to control my 897 and loved it. HRD made it a cinch to operate, and by writing a few macros I could hit one button to configure the radio for any particular mode. I worked a lot of PSK with it. It's pretty much a shack-in-a-box radio.
     
  25. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Pattern Altitude

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    The only recurring issue I've found reports on the pro were display backlight failures. The radio that I bought apparently has already had a trip back to icom for the mod to the backlight circuit.

    Hopefully it will serve me well. I'm not worried about portability right now. Just looking for a desk rig. Sounds like I lucked into a good choice. I've been studying for the tests for a week or so now. Hope to be on the air listing by the end of October.
     
  26. cowman

    cowman En-Route

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    I have my ticket(general) and some gear but I haven't really been on the air in a long time. There was a group of us in college that used to run around on 2m mobiles talking to each other on the local repeater and since I graduated/moved/traded cars I haven't really got a station going. Still have the radios though... I'm thinking about setting up a station up in my barn/workshop just trying to figure how I want to do it.

    The building is the highest point on my property with electricity and shelter. All metal construction. I kind of what to put a small tower up but there isn't a great place to do it as 3 sides of the building have doors that would be in the way of a tower and the other side has a lean-to running the full length. Could put it up on the roof but I already have my long range WIFI antenna on one end and my wireless internet antenna on the other end at the roof peaks. Could do a wire antenna by flinging one end into nearby trees and running it through some insulator on the building roof.... the roof is easy to get on and about 16-18' high.

    I'm also highly curious what might happen if I turned the electric fence off and tried to tune the over 1 mile of wire going around the pasture...
     
  27. weirdjim

    weirdjim En-Route

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    Cowman ...

    WX6RST (previously WN6BHI and WB6BHI, the Big Hairy Indian). Weather 6, Readability, Strength, Tone. 1957-present. What's wrong with putting a little pi$$ant vertical on that roof halfway betwen the two wireless antennas and getting on 2 meters just to give it a try. WIth a metal (steel?) roof you could even use a magmount just to try it out. Wouldn't take an hour's work.

    As to tuning the electric fence wire, you could probably work something out, but the tuner is going to have to be right at the fence end to do any good, with a good 6' ground rod right at the end of the works. Don't go with that bushwa that you have to use copperweld wire for the antenna wire and copper ground rod. Steel fencing and rebar ground would need sensitive instruments to be able to detect any difference. They'll work just fine. I'd worry more about the supports for the fence wire as lossy or conductive. Wood? OK until it gets wet and you may then get some "interesting effects". Steel posts? Fagettabout it unless you go out and put some sort of insulator between the posts and the wire. Even then I'd worry about capacitive effects with a plastic dielectric.

    Just some thoughts...

    Jim
     
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  28. Half Fast

    Half Fast Pattern Altitude

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    Cowman, I've worked the world on SSB with 100W (and 20W on PSK) using an 80m dipole strung through my trees, no more than 25 feet off the ground. If you're just interested in rag chewing, and not looking to do serious contest work, just throw some wire into the trees and get on the air. You won't get every DX station every time, and you'll struggle in some pile-ups, but so what? That's half the fun, and you'll learn technique and strategy.
     
  29. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Piano wire works just fine in the AM band, will also work well at shortwave.

    Copperweld is useful for long airborne dipoles (for physical strength, not radiation performance) that are supported between two poles, but is certainly NOT necessary.
     
  30. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    Sounds like my station. For HF I'm running a random length end-fed wire antenna. How fancy? The antenna runs from a tree a distance from the house back to a corner of the deck, and then down to the "feed point". Through a bush (the wire is insulated). The antenna is connected to the center conductor of the coax from the shack with a wire nut. The shield is tied to a ground rod. I don't recall how long the wire is (I've never measured it), nor how long the coax is. By pure dumb luck the internal tuner on my TS-440SAT will make the radio happy on 80, 40 and 20 meters and with some help from an external tuner it will radiate a signal on 15 and 10 meters (plus the WARC bands). Not the best antenna by any stretch, but I did finish DXCC with it a number of years ago. I keep threatening to put my old Cushcraft R7 back up, but my wife isn't looking forward to seeing it, I haven't figured out where to put it and I haven't found a pipe to bury in the ground to mount it. Maybe next year?
     
  31. Matthew K

    Matthew K Line Up and Wait

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    I got my technician class license August of 2016. I haven't used it a ton TBH. My only radio is a Yaesu FT 2980 that is mounted in my truck. There is a local NET every Tuesday I'll join in on. The people on there are really friendly and they'll usually do a breakfast meeting every month or so.
     
  32. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Nothing that 50' of Rohn 45 won't cure.... :D
     
  33. cowman

    cowman En-Route

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    Hmm... I'm thinking about ways I can have a base station and control it from different locations. Like have a base station in one building and, either using some kind of low-power local repeater setup OR linked between devices or a PC/smartphone on the LAN(the building where I want my shack is already wired to the house with gigabit ethernet). I've linked a radio to echolink in years past but it would be really cool if I could actually change frequencies and such remotely too.

    I've also wondered about setting up a solar powered repeater station up on my deer stand which is on the highest ground level on the property and then 3 levels high.
     
  34. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    True, but I think 50' of Rohn 45 would be vetoed by SWMBO so fast it would make your head swim. Even faster than the neighbors who would have their view impacted by it. Not to say I don't like the idea, and one of the other houses we looked at back in 1996 would have had such a tower installed without question.
     
  35. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    why reinvent the wheel? There are already systems to control rigs via the Internet (one of our local clubs has one installed on their club station), and there are some boxes available to take DMR, D-Star and C4FM and put it on the Internet into one of the linked systems.

    Some of the newest rigs might even have it built in (not for certain on that as I haven't looked).... If you can separate the box from the head in a car it's not much more complicated to run it over IP.
     
  36. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    There's a number of ways to remotely control rigs these days, some of the newer rigs, have it built in via Ethernet ports. I talked to a guy on 6m a while back who's house was in the Carolinas somewhere and he was at the beach talking to me from a headset on his laptop.

    There's some companies that offer it as an "all in one" box and others you'd have to create an audio path, a PTT path, and then have remote control software for the rig front face. It gets a LITTLE more challenging if you need to have remote control of an off-board tuner or your rotor, then you need versions of those that have some way to do that, or make up something homebrew. There's also some kits for some rotor controllers that'll sit inside them and add ethernet or serial control.

    Of course, if your tower is big and where you live is windy, you probably want a weather station or at least a remote anemometer to see if you're willing to even hit the unlock button on the rotor... hahaha... and that can be done, too... weather underground and a weather station... and some folks might add an IP camera looking at the tower to make sure the freaking thing didn't blow over, rotor let go and start pretending it's a sideways windmill, or other "bad things"...

    So rotor control can be "problematic" but is "do-able"... if you're just using multiband long wire antennas on HF or whatever... something that doesn't need tuning, they make remote antenna switches and tuners that will auto-tune and you can check their status... or use the tuner in the rig, if it has one, via that remote software...

    Something like Ham Radio Deluxe for the rig control, and then add on from there... getting a voice path up to the mic jack remotely can be as easy as making your own streaming server and using VOX on the rig, or making up some way to PTT it remotely... a couple of my rigs have MOX buttons (not VOX) that can be "pushed" from the HRD software, so that would work too... just click the mouse and start talking...

    All depends on how fancy you want it or how DIY... for remote rig control. Honestly I'd probably stick a windows machine in the shack with two monitors, stick HRD on one, and any other controls or digital mode/logging/whatever stuff on the other monitor, and just VPN to the house and do RDP to that box... let it do all the "stuff" there locally. Downside might be if I lost connectivity while transmitting... so a rig-based PTT timeout or some other PTT timer might be in order... just to keep it from getting "stuck" on-air using that cheesy remote control methodology. I'd have to think about how I would do audio, but probably a shoutcast server with a password somewhere, and a nailed up connection to a mixer board, that could be remotely manipulated...
     
  37. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Here's what you need with a VNC or Remote Desktop. A friend has one, says it's a wonderful rig (and also has an old Gates broadcast transmitter running AM on 160).
     
  38. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    You forgot the link. :)
     
  39. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Aw, heck....

    http://www.flexradio.com/amateur-products/
     
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  40. jnmeade

    jnmeade Cleared for Takeoff

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    What is up with the SDR being talked about by CommRadio CTX-10? Would make a nice airmobile HF QRP rig. 10w. They were supposed to be out this fall, but I've heard nothing from them. Saw a mock-up at Dayton in May.