Friday, May 17, 2019

Well the news is out!

Elecraft has added some “eye candy” to Dayton the Elecraft K4! My email inbox has gone from an average daily count of about 25 emails to a new high of 80 to 100! The Elecraft reflector being the  new leader for my inbox. I’m not going to get into the specifics as that has been all over the internet and blogs.  It’s nice to see Elecraft enter this new phase in their product I going to rush out and purchase a K4.......nope. I am happy with my Elecraft KX3 and the Icom7610. For those of you out there who were considering an Elecraft rig now may be the time as I assume there are going to be those who are selling their K3 or K3S to get cash for a nice new shiny Elecraft K4.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A new "touch" paddle for the shack.

About a month ago I received a new morse code key, the 9A5N solid state CW paddle. I chose the all black twin lever model and from the get go Neno 9A5N was in contact with me. The paddle arrived from Croatia within 3 weeks of me ordering it. Most of the 3 weeks was the key being slowly moved through Canadian customs or it would had been here sooner. It was very well packaged and Neno advises that you keep the shipping box if ever you need to store the key for a move. The uniqueness of the solid state paddle are:
- No moving parts to ware or make a clicking noise.
- You just turn it off when not in use so no accidental dit's or dahs sent when inadvertently touching    the paddle.
- There is not maintenance (other than changing the batteries) no periodic mechanical adjustments.
- If you have owned a iambic key there really is no learning curve just turn in on and away you go.

The only adjustment that you may want to do is adjust the touch sensitivity with the key factory set at 10 grams and adjustable to 50 grams in 5 gram steps. Seeing this is a touch paddle depending on your "touch" you may want to increase or decrease the sensitivity. I seemed to be happy with were it was factory set to at 10 grams.
The nice thing about this paddle is it's not bang your head on the wall menu driven. What I mean by this is I have owned ham radio electronic devices that can drive you crazy with long and short holds of buttons and or combination button holds. Then there was the count the short and long beeps and so on. With the 9A5N paddle to adjust the sensitivity you simply turn the paddle on, then hold the on/off button in the on position until you are greeted with 3 LED blinks now release the button and your ready to adjust.Then simply touch the left paddle to increase and right to decrease. If you hit the top end (50 grams) or bottom end (10 grams) the LED will blink 3 times to let you know. To save and try a new stetting either wait 15 seconds or push the power button once.
The only other menu change you can do is place the keyer in contest mode and what this means is the keyer will not time out and turn off on you. Normally If you forget to turn the paddle off it will do so after 40 minutes of non operation.
To enter contest mode make sure the key is off then push and hold the on button until the LED flashes then release the button. So in a nut shell to adjust the key paddle touch sensitivity start with the key turned on and hold the power button. To put the key in contest mode (meaning it will not turn off on it's own) start with the key off and hold the power button. 
The key is very well made and the base is 1.8 kilo's so it's not going anywhere on your desk as you use it.
The last item I wanted to mention was yes it does take batteries (2 AAA) according to Neno's instructions the battery life should be up to 800 operating hours. The blue LED which is on during operation will indicate low battery life when it gets dim. So you do have an indication when its time to change out the batteries. Finally the paddle is warrantied for 24 months from date of purchase.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Part 6 of ham radio and condo life and unwanted RFI.

My son and me Back in the day without HOA, condo's an complicated city living.
Good afternoon and it's time to post the final segment regarding ham radio and the condo life. Today I will be looking at the grief living in the city, close neighbors and poor quality control on electronics. You don't have to live in a condo to experience any of the above mentioned issues but condo dwellers may not be able to setup a separate listening antenna, rejig their antenna or change the antenna. Living in a condo has it's ups and downs........other than the elevator that is! No snow to shovel and no lawn to cut and sometimes some decent height to mention a few things but there is very limited antenna real estate and very close neighbors who's LED bulbs, Plasma tv's and other electronic gizmo's that may be are very close to you and your antenna. If you are having an issue with noise first it's very important to find out whether it's man made or natural. The ARRL has a great page on just this were they offer up recorded examples of RFI.
Once you have identified the RFI the trick now is to figure out where it's coming from, it is from your neighbor or from your own QTH? In my townhouse I had a crazy issue with a plasma TV and the great news was it was coming from our own TV. When you have RFI and it's your own that is easier to deal with than when from others around you. Lets have a look at some devices out there that can help out with RFI. The first item that comes to mind is made by MFJ and it's the MFJ-1026 noise canceller. It comes with an internal antenna (the antenna that picks up the noise) The best way to see how this unit works is to provide you with a link to my YouTube page were I posted a video regarding the MFJ-1026   If you have an Elecraft K3 radio I posted a second video using the MFJ-1026 plus the noise reduction on the K3 and I imagine this can work with most modern transceivers Welcome back and I hope you enjoyed the videos and I do believe there are more out there if you care to Google them. 
In the condo I am in now as you know I have the MFJ mag loop and a mag loop has a great way of  nulling out noise. I had a comment on one of my ham radio condo posts from a gentlemen using a loop as a receive antenna and a separate but noisy transmit antenna.
Another product out there that I personally have not tried but a reader of my blog brought to my attention is the  CMC-130S-3k from My Antennas. 
It's a Common Mode Choke, RF Choke and RF Isolator all in one go to the link and have a look there is also a video of the unit in action.
Well there you have it some ideas on how to reduce or illuminate issues that may be giving you some grief in regards to close quarters ham radio. This is the final segment of Ham radio and the condo life. I hope you have enjoyed it and found some useful information.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Part 5 modes for ham radio and the condo life

Good afternoon everyone the weather up this way is raining, the MFJ loop is on the balcony and there is nothing to be had on 20 and 40m CW it seems everyone is participating in the CQ World wide WPX SSB contest this weekend. So why am I not jumping into the fray you ask.......well this is the topic for part 5 of  ham radio and the condo life. In this post I am going to look at the radio modes I found work best for me. In a condo it's very obvious your neighbors are very close and now a days each home is FULL of electronic gizmos! In condo living it's accepted practice to respect your fellow neighbors by keeping the TV and music to an acceptable level as well as any noise overall. For the ham it should also be an expectation to be RF mindful as well. One of  the ways I found to be a good RF neighbor is to in my case to make sure I  "mind my mode".
Years ago when I was in a townhouse and decided to spend more time with my radio hobby. It just so happens the upcoming weekend was the Canada day SSB contest. I had a nice Yaesu FT 1000 MP radio and I was all set to dive right in. My antenna was out on my car a far distance way with coax running out to it. The first day of the contest ended and I was having a blast until my fellow neighbor asked me "did you hear "CQ contest CQ contest" from my speakers! I said no (which was the true I didn't) but knowing full well what was going on the Canada day contest came to an end and the thinking cap went on.
I could go and see them and explain it could be the poor electronics they have that is picking up my signal............not a good idea I thought as this can just open a HUGE can of worms! The plan I came up with to keep me on the air was to become a QRP (low power) operator. I very much looked forward to this and as I looked into things I also came to the understanding that you get more bang for your watt with CW than you do with SSB. My first but not only mode for ham radio in a condo is CW. Now there may be readers who are thinking "nice idea but I am morseless" funny thing so was I. Some time ago did have a basic understand but far from proficient. I set out to learn CW and it did take time and remember I did say earlier I really liked contesting so the goal was to get my CW up to contest speed in around 25-35 WPM.
Years ago I was introduced to the digital modes but found it very frustrating to get the PC to play nice with the radio and digital program. It would seem all was working fine until I turned the the rig and the PC on and for some reason something else was wrong. I found it took more time to hunt the issue down than I was operating digital.  So for some time I just stuck with CW and put the digital modes off to the side.
The next radio for me was the Elecraft K3 and the Elecraft reflector was booming with posts about getting your K3 up and running on the digital modes. Back then the popular modes were PSK31 and WSPR. I did still have some issues with the PC and rig talking to each other and did get frustrated at times. At present my condo modes are CW and FT8 and at the present time FT8 is very popular. While writing this post I had FT8 running in the background and was able to make 12 contacts. Having said that I do find CW more interactive but today with the SSB contest going on CW contacts were far and few to be had. The rig I have now is the Icom 7610 and it is a breeze to get working with digital.
Do give me your feedback with modes you are using in your condo. The next topic for ham radio and the condo life is dealing with close neighbors and most likely being in a city or built up urban areas is electronics causing you grief with there noise.