Working some DX with an old Atlas 210x

I’m fortunate enough to belong to a club that is willing to lend out spare gear to those of us who are a bit underfunded. I had been using a Kenwood TS-120 but there turned out to be an intermittent issue with the transmitter output. That one has been returned to the club for repairs and I have since borrowed an old Atlas 210x.

I have to say that I am very impressed with this old rig. The receiver in it is excellent (better than the 120 in my opinion) and I’ve had excellent audio reports. I’m using a Turner Plus Three desk mic that I wired in to the phone plug.

Another benefit to borrowing an HF rig is that I get to find out if it’s something I’ll really be interested in, before going out and buying my own (not that I have the money for it right now).

For my antenna, I am currently running a homemade, mono band (20m), Inverted Vee. I’ve worked a bit of 40m (the Atlas claims to infinite SWR protection) with some success but I’ve been mainly sticking to chasing DX on 20.

Atlas 210x

Atlas 210x

If you happen to hear me around the bands feel free to give me a shout. I do QSL via eQSL but may someday have some cards printed up to send out.

73 de VE1XT

Posted in Amateur Radio Tagged with: , , , , ,

I Switched to DreamHost

Hi All,

Recently (about 2 months ago) I moved all of my websites from ANhosting to DreamHost. I’ve wanted to post about it or a while but decided to hold off until I felt like enough time had passed to make sure that I wasn’t going to regret it. I can now say with certainty, that this was the right choice.

I few years ago, I signed up with ANhosting (now a division of Midphase) on the recommendation of a friend. The deal was sweet, only $71 / year, for all the hosting I could possibly need. It was a standard, shared, hosting plan with unlimited domains, ftp, email, bandwidth, etc… That’s all I needed to run the small blogs and websites that I wanted.

After a while, the quality of service from ANhosting began to be less and less acceptable. Their web servers were going down a little too often, the mysql servers / services were overloaded, they would do “scheduled” maintenance without informing customers about it, a few times my php scripts were blocked (excessive PHP errors) without ever telling me about it, and more.

The final straw for me, was when they decided to block all access to wp-login.php. This essentially made it impossible for me to log in to any of my blogs to post. When I contacted support, the told me that it was because someone (or a group of people) was attacking all of the WordPress installs on their systems. Their solution was to create a wp-login_new.php file that I could use to log in. At first I thought this was OK but the first WordPress update after that changes contained updates to the log in system and that solution broke. Again, I contacted support, and they re-built the workaround once again. I was getting quite fed up as ANhosting didn’t seem to care about the small guys any more.

I talked it over with some friends who are webmasters and they could not believe that my provide was doing such a thing. They had never heard of it before. I was suggested that I try out DreamHost. One of them gave me a coupon code that would save me $97.00 if I signed up for a year of hosting. I decided to give it a try.

So far, I have had a great experience with DreamHost. Their control panel is not the usual CPanel I was used to but I got acquainted with their system really quickly. At this point I actually like it better than CPanel. DreamHost also seems to be more engaged with their users. They send me a monthly email that isn’t just a marketing document and actually contains useful information and their support is great. I get the feeling they genuinely care about all of their customers, not just the big ones.

Keep in mind, I have only been a customer of DreamHost for a few months, I can’t yet say that  I will never have any issues but so far I feel good about this new provider.

If you are interested in signing up, you can use one of the below coupon codes and save some money. I do get a small kick back if these codes are used. I you don’t like that, you can sign up without a code if you want to.

DreamHost Website

VE1XT2014 – Save $82 and get a FREE domain name – When you sign up for one year.
BLOG2014 – Save $97.00 – When you signup for one year.

 

73 for now!
VE1XT

Posted in IT / VoIP Tagged with: , , , ,

Starting the new year with some new gear!

The last few weeks have almost been like a second Christmas for me. I’ve picked up a bunch of new radio gear and I’m now on my way to being on a new band and back on another.

Thanks to a generous club member, I’ve been given a Ten-Tec 1209 2m to 6m transverter. I am super excited to be able to work the magic band! This is a great acquisition since one of the other rigs I’ve picked up recently is a Yaesu FT-726R V/UHF all mode transceiver. The Yaesu is on loan but that is fine with me. It only has the 2m module in it right now but I’m keeping my eye out for others. This rig works quite well but does need a bit of tuning as it is a few Hz off frequency.

The third rig I’ve recently acquired is a commercial Motorola Phoenix SX UHF radio. This one did cost me about $30 but that’s still a great price. There’s not a huge amount of UHF activity around here but we do have a couple of repeaters locally that I use, so it’s nice to be back on.

The unfortunate part is having to wait for better weather to get some more antennas up. I’ve got two antennas waiting to go up along with the final section of my 32ft tower. A new V/UHF dual bander is the first one to go up. Then I will be tuning a Cushcraft Ringo Ranger for 6m. After those are up and working, I will need to sort out what I want to do for 2m and 6m SSB. I’m thinking of mounting a couple of beams, if I can sort out where to put them.

Anyway that’s about all that’s new from here. It’s been quiet around the shack lately. I’ve included some pics of the new gear below.

73 for now!
VE1XT

Bonus Link: An awesome VHF propagation map with live updates

Ten-Tec Model 1209 2m to 6m Transverter

Ten-Tec Model 1209 2m to 6m Transverter

Yaesu FT-726R

Yaesu FT-726R

Motorola Phoenix SX

Motorola Phoenix SX

Posted in Amateur Radio Tagged with: , , ,

Packet: Using Outpost Packet Message Manager with a PK-88 TNC

Ever since I got back into packet radio, I’ve been looking for a suitable software application that would work with my PK-88 and Windows 7. After trying to figure out a way to get WinPack to work in Windows 7 (which it does not) and then settling on Tera Term, I found Outpost Packet Message Manager.

What I like the most about Outpost is that it works a lot like email. It’s a familiar interface and is easy to learn. Some of the terminology is a bit different but that’s minor. For example, the Inbox is called In Tray and the folder that stores messages waiting to be sent is called Out Tray. See below for a picture of the main screen. I’ve included a message that I archived so you can see the how it looks.

Main Interface Screen

Main Interface Screen

Although the software is not technically made to work with a PK-88 TNC, I found that you could easily get it going by using the build in settings for the Kantronics KPC3. Luckily it uses the same command set and works pretty much identical.

One thing to note, is that this software is mainly used to connect to, and send messages through, a local BBS system. We currently have one local BBS that is accessible through our club’s digipeater (or direct for some). As you’ll see later on, this is VE1RB.

It wasn’t difficult to configure the application I decided to provide step by step instructions in case it may benefit others.

 

  1. Download Outpost from here.
  2. Install the software
  3. Open the program: All Programs > Outpost > Outpost PMM. It also installs other applications but this is the one we want for now.
  4. Once the main screen is open (see above). Click the Setup menu and select TNC.
  5. Now we need to define the settings to connect to the TNC. In the choose a device name, click the drop down, then select KPC-3 and ensure that the device type is set to TNC.
    Outpost Interface Config 1

    Select and Interface Type / Interface Type tap

     

  6. Next, click on the TNC Comm Port tab. Here we need to select the correct Comm Port that your TNC is connected to. Generally you will always see COM1 (which is probably not the one we want). On my PC, the USB-to-Serial adapter shows a COM7, so that is the one I’ve selected. I’ve seen some PCs use COM4, COM5, or COM6 so choose the correct one for you. The rest of the settings can remain the defailt. Max Speed = 9600 baud, Data Bits = 8, Parity = None, and Stop Bits = 1.
Outpost Interface Config 2

Select and Interface Type / TNC Comm Port Tab

7. Now we have to configure a BBS to connect to. This is so Outpost knows where to fetch new messages from, and where to go to send messages. Click on the Setup menu again but this time select BBS. You’ll want to click the New button on the right hand side to created a new profile for this BBS (or you can edit one of the existing ones. The only real field on this tab that matters is the Connect Name filed. This needs to be populated with the name of whatever BBS you want to connect to. In my case, this is VE1RB.

Outpost BBS Config 1

Select a BBS / BBS Name

8. In my case, I also needed to configure the BBS Path as I cannot connect directly to the local BBS. All you need to define here is the list under Via digipeaters(s). In my case I can access the BBS through our club’s digipeater (VE1YAR). If you can connect directly you can skip this step.

Outpost BBS Config 2

Define a new BBS / BBS Path

9. Once you have clicked Apply so the settings take effect, you are ready to connect. On the main screen, click the Send/Receive button. This will tell the TNC to connect to the BBS and retrieve any messages you may have waiting for you. You will see a small pop-up window showing the output of the connection to the BBS. This is handy in case you have problems with the configuration.

Packet Session Manager

Packet Session Manager

10. That’s it. You should be on your way to sending and receiving messages with Outpost.

 

73 for now,
VE1XT

 

Posted in Amateur Radio Tagged with: , ,

My First Broadband Hamnet Mesh Node – VE1XT-N01

I’ve always hated the wait between the time I order something on eBay and when it is received. I’m quite impatient. None-the-less, today I received my Linksys WRT54G v2 router that I ordered last week on eBay.

These evening I have been busy setting up the mesh node and playing around with the configuration. I am hoping this is going to be the first of a few nodes locally. I have another friend (and operator) who is interested and happens to have a compatible router. My next step is to get that from him and set up the firmware on it. I’ve also mentioned this little project to the folks at the radio club and a couple others have also expressed interest.

I was surprised at how easy the installation process was. Since the router already had dd-wrt installed, I was able to simply download and apply the BBHN firmware just as if I was updating the existing OS. After that it was as simple as logging in, changing the password, and setting a node name.

After I am able to get a couple of nodes running locally, in my house, I will likely be looking for a couple of 2.4 GHz Yagi antennas to install on my new tower when it goes up. This way I should be able to get much great distance by going over the treeline. I’m no RF expert but from what I am told 2.4 Ghz is very fussy when it comes to obstructions. I guess that is was a lot of corporate wireless broadband providers will use frequencies in the 900 MHz range.

Anyway, I’ll post further updates when I have more nodes up and running. If you are interested in running a node check out the Broadband Hamnet website. There you can also find a printable hardware compatibility list that you can use when you are out shopping.

 

73 de VE1XT

 

PS> Obligatory screenie!

VE1XT-N01 Node Status

VE1XT-N01 Node Status

Posted in Amateur Radio Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Arial Flyby of K3LR

The K3LR contesting station is an amazing place! If only we all the means to create such and awesome station!

Posted in Amateur Radio Tagged with: , , ,

New callsign

As of about noon local time (Atlantic) I have been assigned a new callsign from Industry Canada. The new call is VE1XT.

Being a computer geek, and not being able to find a call that represented my initials in some way that I liked, I decided to pay homage to the IBM Personal Computer XT.

Because I want to keep my old call in use, and I am a bit lazy, I will let my packet and APRS nodes continue using my original VE1DCD call.

73
VE1XT

Posted in Amateur Radio Tagged with: , ,

Back in the IT business

Yes, you read the title correctly. I have recently switches careers again and am now back in to the IT game.

For a while I had been talking about how it would feel good to get back into the IT industry. When I left my previous IT position, I did so because of circumstances not related to the actual industry. I always loved what I was doing but at that time I was in need of a change to get out of the situation I was in. The time I spent at my last job (the non-IT one) was great and they were a great company to work for. But, the more I thought of it the more I really wanted to put my skills back to use.

Luckily for me, I was recently contacted by a former co-worker who had a possible opportunity for me. I talked it over with my wife and sent along my resume. A few days later I was signing my contract. This was probably the quickest I’ve ever been from thinking about a new job and accepting one. This all happened in the span of 3 or 4 days.

Also, I will hopefully have a new call sign on the next few days :). I will let you know what that is when I am officially allowed to use it.

Cheers for now!

73 de ve1dcd

 

Posted in IT / VoIP Tagged with: , , ,

AEA PK-88 Packet Controller Manual

The manual for the PK-88 is a great help when trying to figure the thing out, but the problem is that I have yet to find a searchable version. The manual I’ve been referencing has been a PDF that was never passed through an OCR program to convert it to text that can be searched.

I ran the PDF file through FreeOCR, hoping that it would help. Unfortunately the output was quite garbled and is difficult, at times, to read. None the less, I now have a copy that I can search and possibly find things. This should still be helpful when looking for command references and setting parameters.

In case anyone is interested, I have posted the converted copy below in both txt and rtf formats, as well as the original PDF. If you find this helpful please let me know.

 

73 de VE1DCD

Posted in Amateur Radio Tagged with: , ,

A “Go Bag” for my Baofeng UV-5RA HT

Since my purchase of a Baofeng UV-5RA a few months back, I have acquired more than a few accessories to go with it. It was getting to the point that I had stuff laying around all over the place and could never find things. I decided to go check out the local Dollarama store today to see if I could find a bag to put it all in. I was quite happy when I found this CD carry case for $2. It even has a shoulder strap.

CD carry case for uv5r packed

All of the following fits in it:

  1. Baofeng UV-5RA HT
  2. Original rubber duck antenna
  3. After market Nagoya (aka Diamond) antenna
  4. Drop-in battery charger
  5. Battery Eliminator
  6. Speaker MIC
  7. Programming cable
  8. Pen
  9. Printed log paper

 

This should come in handy this week when we are gone camping. I don’t know how much I will use it, but just having the ability to throw it over my shoulder and carry it around with me is worth it.

 

CD carry case for uv5r

Posted in Amateur Radio Tagged with: , ,