Saturday, February 13, 2016

PART2: Mod for Signalink USB so it can be used with 2 radios

The finished product
Below are some of the options I came up with to see if I could get my Signalink USB to work with two different radios……
  1. Rewire the internals of the unit each time I switch radios, this was just not an option as it is time consuming and the unit I believe over time would not stand up to these continual wiring change outs.
  2. To purchase Signalinks plug and play boards, you simply plug in the board for the K3 or the KX3. This is for sure an option but again I was wanting to not take the Signalink apart each time I wanted to change out the radios.
  3. There is also the option of purchasing a second Singalink USB unit but this is very pricey for what I wanted to do.
  4. Try to figure out if it is possible to set up the internals so with the simple flip of a switch mounted on the outside of the unit I could change the internal wiring to make either the K3 or KX3 work. This was the option I decided to work on.
    internal mod wiring
So settling on option 4 as my choice I set you to see if and how it could be done. I did an internet search because the way I look at it is why try to reinvent the wheel if someone else already has! My results turned up only 2 that I could find were the unit was being used for 2 radios. Both did not seem to suit my need. The first seemed the operator configured a device that allowed the use of two of the same radiosbut at different locations. Each radio could be controlled by the same Singnalink unit. The other site I found this op used 3 RJ45jacks in a separate box to do just what I wanted to do…BUT…..I was looking to not have yet another “box” I was ultimately looking for an “all in one” solution. I ended up drawing out many possible circuit diagrams and at one point almost finished wiring what I thought was the "solution". I then realized it just was not
One final check before assembly
going to work and had to hit the drawing board again.  I finally came up with a workable plan that involved drilling only two holes in the back panel of the Signalink. I had to install a ON-NONE-ON mini switch and a hole for an RJ45 pigtail to be placed. Some of the things I ended up learning as I went along were: 
1. A long pigtail had to be made on the connections between new rear panel switch and the 8 pin DIN wiring. This allow the removal (if needed) of the circuit board.
2. I had to solder the wires into the 8 pin DIN they just did not stay in place and with the extended pigtail there was lots of movement in the wires as the covers were put in place, I didn't want any wires coming loose once assembled.
3. I ended up removing the pigtail and adding a rubber grommet as the plastic housing seem to have a sharp edge to it.
 Below is my diagram for the mod, the "K3 Signalink RJ45" is the internal jack on the unit. The wiring shown in my diagram for this RJ45 is the wiring that is on the circuit board and does not need to be added. Also on the 8 pin DIN there are jumpers between Spk-1, GND-5 and GND-6.  I have tried the unit both with my K3 and KX3 and it works great. The final thing I have to do is just label the rear switch.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

PART1: Mod for Signalink USB so it can be used with 2 radios

Rear view before the mod's
Soldered jumpers
In an order to simplify my digi setup with the Elecraft KX3 I wanted to take advantage of my Singnalink USB unit. I currently use it along side of my Elecraft k3 for digi mode operations and I have thus become accustom to how it works. So it only made sense to also use it with the KX3 setup. One major issue I had to see if I could overcome was modifying the Singalink USB device to work with 2 radios? The issue was that the Signalink USB has to be internally wired (by the user)to work with a specific rig and I wanted it to work with 2 rigs! Before even going forward with this adventure I had to open up the Signalink unit and do some long overdue maintenance. The Signalink was purchased used and for some reason the previous owner soldered the jumper wires that configure the unit to work with a specific rig. These jumpers are designed to be plug and play, this way you can reconfigure the unit to other radios if you change your rig over time. The 16 pin IC DIP socket was melted and of no use for what I had planned for it. I set the socket up for my Elecraft k3 and these wires I had to solder in as the socket would not allow the “plug and play” feature due to the previous owner. These wires had to be cut out and then the fun job of removing the 16 pin socket! I have built many kits in the past including 2 Elecraft k2’s. As all kit builders can attest to no matter how careful you are mistakes happen. When the mistake happens of soldering a part in the wrong place……the removal of said part can either go well or very bad! I have had it go both ways and as a kit builder one investment that has saved me many a time is the Hakko 808 de-soldering pump. I used it to remove this 16 pin socket and when finished it looked like nothing had ever been installed on the board. I have tried spring loaded de-soldering pumps and the solder wicks but the Hakko solder pump make all jobs painless. Now with the new 16 pin socket soldered in it’s time to look into making the Signalink work with 2 radio…………coming up in my next post “ how I made this happen and it’s working very well”
After the Hakko 808 is done

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Windows and Mac getting along!

Win7 working smoothly on my Mac bookpro
I have been operating JT-65 lately and as most of you know who use this mode it offers a nice time management bonus……between exchanges of info you can multi task. I have taken advantage of this with blog writing, surfing the net and updating LOTW as well as EQSL. I wanted to take it a step further by utilizing my KX3 and the living room! I wanted to bring JT-65 and possibly PSK-31 to the recliner in the other room. First off I tried to use a netbook that I had gathering dust but it was just way to slow, it’s very good for email and such but not multitasking of rig software. I then decided to move my Mac laptop into the world of ham radio…but….with a small hitch. I had a copy of Parallel Desktop 8 I was using some years ago, it allows you to load windows on your Mac PC and you can switch between Mac and Windows you then have the best of both worlds. When your PC starts it starts in Mac format with a desktop icon that allows you to enter the Windows world! I loaded the program without issue and then loaded on my Win7 Pro and now I have a Mac book-pro that can run both OS’s. The main reason for doing this is to utilize my many Windows based ham programs. I have tried the free software on the internet for dual OS’s but have found they just don’t do the job. Here is what has happened up to this point I “attempted” to load Win4k3suite but I was informed that my window 7 did not have Net Frameworks 4 installed. Finding and installing this simple program was a frustrating experience. The Microsoft links just did not seem to work, I was told the “site was no longer available. Other sites (and I have experienced this many times in the past) gave you the impression you were downloading Net frameworks 4 but it turned out it was some other commercial program. When I finally and I mean FINALLY found the program it just plain refused to load! A Google search informed me this is not unusual and Microsoft has a fix that I downloaded and all worked fine then. At this point I just have Win4k3suite loaded and ready for install. This will get my rig control up and going and then it’s time to install WSJT-X software, A PSK software and then finally Meinberg NTP time server software.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Virtual ham radio...sounds interesting!

For the past few weeks I have been up and down the bands in the evening hours looking for some CW activity and with the current conditions signals have been few and fare between. This has forced me to get a firm handle on the digi modes and to be more specific JT-65 and JT-9. As the saying goes "if you don't use it you loose it" and this is my concern due to the lack of CW activity I have been involved in lately, I have worked to dare hard getting my CW speed up to just see it drop off due to lack of activity. Last evening this got me thinking.....what about the internet there must be some interactive over broad band CW happening out there?? In my travels I came across two programs neither are free but they offer CW (and SSB) operating over the internet. Not really ham radio as such but it helps my CW skill stay sharp until the band slump is over. The first program I came across was QsoNet based out of Canada the cost is a modest 40.00 per year and you are given a free 30 day trial which is great. I looked the website over and found the their discussion forum, the last posting was from 2012 and the latest update was back in 2011. This made me wonder if I was just going to be listening to empty broadband due to the fact no one was around. I also wondered if there was active support for the site as well. I then moved on to another site called Hamsphere base out of Europe. This program was 30 EU per year along with a free trial but I was not able to locate for how long. This site seemed to be very up to date and a new version 4 had come out that looked very professional. Their forum was very up to date with postings from 2016 so it seemed like things were alive and well. Hamsphere seemed to be a very in-depth program with such things as a virtual Ionosphere, DX alert system, awards, contesting, multiple antennas to choose from, you can use your own keyer and DX cluster.....and the list goes on! I checked out some online YouTube videos of the program and WOW it sure is a professional program. I was watching one video when the commentator said "these are the antenna selections I have PURCHASED" I thought.....wait a minute what did I just hear and sure enough that's what was said "PURCHASED". I investigated this and found Hamsphere shop and this was the show stopper for me. It seems the 30 EU per year is not the only cost, at this site you can purchase antennas were the price goes as high as 90 EU!! Check out the link and it seems that there is lots of items for the radio that need to be purchased. I was not able to find anywhere on the home page information about extra purchases. It did say you could build your own rig and that there were a 100 antennas to choose from but again nothing about added cost. Another odd thing was you were never asked for your radio license. At QsoNet you had to fax in a photo copy of your license, it seemed not so with Hamsphere. Has anyone out there used either of these programs?? Do you know of any other interactive CW over the internet programs out there??