Making Waves – New QTH and new Challenges

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Recently we moved from Grantham – IO92QV – to Kirkby in Ashfield – IO93IC.  The Grantham QTH was OK for HF but useless for VHF and above as it was in a dip, totally surrounded by high buildings and 200ft hills containing iron ore.  The new QTH however is 154m above sea level offering great prospects for VHF and UHF – but how to take advantage of them?

The first challenge we faced was the weather.  On the day we moved (27/02/2018) we were hit by the worst snow storm in 20 years which closed off roads and communities across the UK. To add to our problems the heating didn’t work so with sub zero temperatures and no hot water there were other priorities before thinking antennas and such.  Getting an emergency plumber out in those conditions was not easy and it did take two days to do so.

However, I did eventually manage to get up a 14MHz EFHW as a temporary antenna for HF and a collinear for VHF.  I also bought a new 2m radio – the Yaesu FTM3200D so I could see what the digital mode (C4FM / Fusion) was about.  This proved to be quite interesting, providing a very clean signal, but sorely underused.  With standard FM I can now access GB3LM, GB3NF and GB3CF – Lincoln, Nottingham and Leicester repeaters on 2m.

IMG_20180420_095600 The FT-480R 

I also use a Yaesu FT-480R for 2m.  This provides 10W output on FM and CW and 30W PEP on SSB.  For SSB and CW a vertically polarised antenna is not much use so I needed to raise my 10 element diamond Yagi form the garden to a good height .

IMG_20180405_150406_676 UHF and VHF Yagi antennas in garden 

Obviously, not having a suitable ladder for the task I called on the services of a local antenna installer who came round and duly fitted it up on T and k brackets for me.

IMG_20180409_170222_766 Above the roof now… 

With the antenna in this position I have managed to work into Scunthorpe (North East) and Wales (South West) on 2m SSB. I also have a 13 element Yagi (DL6WU) for 23cm but that has yet to go up.

For HF I am using an HW-40HP OCFD at 8m AGL – this is about 1.5m below my 2m/70cm collinear.  When (if) the rain stops I am also going to set up a long wire for 80m.  The garden is a little over 20m in length so this should be quite easy.

IMG_-yyscmf The Collinear with the HW-40HP below it.

C# WPF programming / my other side

October 21, 2019 Leave a comment

As well as antennas and radio I am also quite keen on coding/programming in C# for mainly Windows applications.  I started writing programs in the 1980’s using Commodore BASIC and moved on from there.  A few years ago (about 10) I picked up where I left off and started using Visual C# in Visual Studio.  Funnily, although I started out with BASIC, I just couldn’t get on with Visual Basic – a feeling I hear echoed amongst many of my friends and contacts – so I gave C# a go.

I started like most with the standard “Hello World” program:-

  • static void Main(string[] args)
  • {
    • Console.Writeline(“Hello World”);
  •  {

and then moved on to Windows Forms programming which was quite easy and self explanatory. Using Windows XP and Windows 7 (never touched Vista) Windows Forms were great and I created many small but useful programs, some of which I published through the Microsoft app store.  Then with the advent of Windows 8 Windows Store apps were more for the Windows Phone which, unfortunately was too late to the already flooded smartphone market and was later withdrawn.  Also around this time, I moved from using Windows Forms to using WPF in Visual Studio 2012.  What a difference! Gone were the square regimental blocks used in WinForms and suddenly transition between pages and windows was much more fluid and reasonable animation was possible.  However, it did mean also having to learn XAML.

WinFormsSample Windows Forms layout in VS2017

WPFSample.JPG WPF layout in VS2017, note the XAML beneath the design screen.

Then Windows 10 happened.  With Windows 10 the Windows Store became more difficult -apps had to be written in UWP(Universal Windows Protocol) format.  An absolute nightmare for most developers.  This was a much stricter protocol with limitations on what was allowed and , due to the many different form factors including PC Desktop, tablet, Phone, etc, it need to be able to resize without truncation.  So what now for all of us who had been happily writing software in WinForms or WPF?  Did this mean that we would have to learn UWP coding?

UWPSample UWP Layout in VS2017

Not at all it turns out.  Thankfully, if you upgrade to Visual Studio 2019 (even the Community Version) you can write your desktop apps using WPF in order to tweak them and perfect them ready for uploading to the Windows Store.  However, before you can you must first right click on the solution and add new project.  This should be a UWP blank app. There is no need to write any code for this project, just right click on the project and associate it with the app you have created in WPF.  Once you have done this right click on the UWP project that you have added and scroll down to publish and then create Windows Store App Package.  This will create a package that can be uploaded to the Windows Store (.appxupload, appxbundle, etc).

Of course, in all samples above, the result is the same, the message “Hello World” is displayed in the screen. However, in the first, console project the command to do so is

“Console.Writeline(“Hello World”);

in the Windows Form and WPF the command is

“MessageBox.Show(“Hello World”);

and in the UWP app the command is

“MessageDialog msg = new MessageDialog(“Hello World”);
msg.ShowAsync();”

Showing how each of the different packages differ in their command format.

Making Waves, New Opportunities, KW and beyond…..

September 28, 2019 Leave a comment

It has been a while since I have written anything on my blog but this is mainly because I have been rather busy.  The antenna business ( www.m0cvoantennas.com ) went from being busy to very busy at the beginning of the year and has remained so since.  In March of this year I was given the opportunity to take over as Director of K.W.Electronics Limited (Company #08587607).  progress was slow at first but in July 2019 I received certificates transferring over the title of Director to myself.

KW_Logo

KW Electronics was first founded in the 1950s by G8KW.  They produced many receivers, transmitters and accessories for the amateur radio market, the most famous being the KW Vanguard Transmitter that featured in Dr. No, the 1962 James Bond film as can be seen HERE.
Now under new ownership, KW Electronics Limited is all set to bring you new products aimed at the amateur radio and commercial radio market suitable for the 21st Century.
The first products introduced to the new KW Electronics company profile are a Morse Code Practice Oscillator, either completed and boxed or the same in kit form (not including the box.
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The K.W.Electronics Morse Code Practice Oscillator available HERE
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The K.W.Electronics Morse Code Practice Oscillator Kit available HERE
There are other things currently being worked on such as a VHF preamp and an all band active antenna (both for RX only).  We also currently have an all band HF antenna – the KW-V – which is the CHAD (Compact Helical Asymmetric Dipole) developed by Ken Ginn, G8NDL.  However, as we are awaiting some parts this is not currently available.
Full details of K.W.Electronics Limited can be found HERE.

Building Block kits

As radio amateurs we all love to build kits – maybe a test meter, maybe a small receiver or whatever but, if it is home built it is something we can be proud of.  With this in mind, M0CVO Antennas designed the VXO Oscillator kits way back in 2017.  I their simplicity these are based around a Colpitt’s Oscillator and provide a sine wave output that can be followed by a mixer by other modules to create a small transmitter, a receiver (Direct Conversion) or many other things where a stable known signal source is required.These became popular in the UK for Foundation Licence radio amateurs who wished to advance to the Intermediate Licence, part of the course for which entails building a kit that would/could be useful in the radio shack later.  They are currently available for either 40m (7.030MHz) or 20m (14.060MHz).  Both of these are available from HERE. This kit, whichever frequency you choose, is the BB1 kit or Building Block #1.

untitled The VXO Oscillator.

Moving on a couple of years, M0CVO Antennas has now developed and released the second building block kit – the BB2.  This is a class A follow on/buffer amplifier.  Similarly to the BB1 kit is is rather simple in construction, the idea being for self learning in electronics so it can be built by anyone, whatever their level of electronics experience.  They are supplied with PCB and all components needed to build the unit but the constructor must supply their own enclosure if they require one.  All inputs and outputs are via MOLEX connectors.

20190509_135308  Completed BB2 Kit

If a crystal oscillator or VFO is used as the input (eg the VXO Oscillator Kit) this will increase the output signal power to ~1W depending on input voltage (9 – 12V DC).  A couple of these have been constructed and tested as can be seen in the following images:

20190511_091550 20190511_091539 20190511_091534 Under test

The fourth MOLEX connector at the top of the board is for either a switch or a CW Key.  It can be used in its complete state, with a suitable signal source, as a QRP(P) transmitter.  However, suitable filters (band pass or low pass) must be used and a suitable antenna must be connected.  Also a relevant amateur radio licence must be held in order to use it thus. These are available from HERE.

Build Yourself a 40/80m Antenna For Small Gardens Part 2.

January 14, 2019 3 comments

After writing the previous article on the small antenna for 40 and 80m HF Bands I was asked by several people for photographs of the antenna in question.  Therefore I have done this article as a follow on with pictures.

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Firstly you need the coil to be wound.  This one is 78 turns for 1mm ECW on a 41mm diameter former (plastic pipe) at 140mm long.  The screws hold the wire in place as described in previous blog post.

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Then you take two lengths of wire – one at 10.14m and one at 2m (or longer – I cut this one at 2.5m) and attach them either side of the coil.  Tape the longer section to a fibre glass fishing pole using insulation tape and allow the other end to lay loose beside it.  raise the pole and tie the hanging end off to somewhere convenient – I used the fence.

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A better picture of the coil on final position.

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Use of choc block to attach coax cable – second wire is a 10m long earth wire.

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The earth wire is just run around the garden.

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Final test using an AA30 antenna analyser shows the SWR at 3550kHz – just in the right place for a spot of CW DXing. Obviously , if you wanted the sweet spot higher, use a shorter length of wire at the end.

Build yourself a 40/80m antenna for small gardens

So, you’ve just got yourself a licence or a nice new HF transceiver and are hoping to be active on the lower frequency bands of 80m (3.5MHz) and 40m (7MHz) but are a bit concerned about how much space you will need for an antenna.  After all, an 80m dipole is going to be around 40m (132Ft) long and modern postage stamp sized gardens just can’t accommodate this.  So I am going to describe a single antenna for both bands that should fit into most gardens.

What will you need?  Well, firstly, you will need approximately 40m of insulated copper wire – the sort used for lighting circuits (single core, stranded), usually available from your local DIY or hardware store.  Also you will need a reel of 1mm enamel coated wire (ECW)this is available from RS Electronics – part number 357-788 – some choc blox (cable connectors) or powerpole connectors (available from www.sotabeams.co.uk), a fibre glass telescopic fishing pole – 10m would be ideal but anything from 7m up should suffice, a piece of 40mm drainage pipe (this will be either 41mm or 43mm outside diameter), some 4mm * 20mm machine screws and nuts, some 4mm ring crimps, a length of fishing line (fairly strong stuff 20kg strain or more), cable ties and a length of angled aluminium, or brass – also available from you local DIY or hardware store.

Directions:

Firstly cut two lengths of the insulated wire – one at 10.14m and the other at 2m. Strip a few mm of insulation from each end of the longest piece and from one end of the shorter piece.  Fit crimps where you have stripped insulation on one end of the longer wire, leaving the other end bare (you may wish to tin the bare end with solder) and on the stripped end of the short wire and solder them on for a stronger fitting.  These are going to make up your radiating element.  Put them to one side and we shall come back to them later.

Now saw a 140mm length of the 40mm pipe.  This is going to act as a coil former.  Measure in 1cm (10mm) from each end and drill a 4mm hole. Now rotate the tube by 90 degrees and drill another hole 10mm in from each end.  Scrape the enamel off the end of the 1mm ECW and thread it through the 1st hole on the left hand side of the piece of pipe.  Fit a crimp connector to this end and solder it for a stronger (and electrically better) connection.  Locate the ring beneath the second hole on the left side and push one 4*20mm screw through both and fix with a nut.  This now securely anchors the wire at one end.  Now wind 78 turns of wire onto the coil, you may wish to use insulating tape to hold the wire whilst you are winding it and once you have wound the 78 turns on.  At the other end, cut the ire long so there is plenty spare and thread it through the 1st hole at the right hand side.  On the inside of the pipe measure the wire to the second hole and make a notch/fold here.  Pull the wire out straight, cut it and scrape the enamel off.  Fit a crimp and again line the ring up with the hole and push a screw through, fixing with a nut.  This coil will act as an inductive load for 80m and a trap for 40m.  You may wish to wrap the whole coil in insulating tape to protect it from the elements.

Now take the 10.14m length of insulated copper wire and cable tie it along the length of the fishing pole with the bare end at the bottom.  Make sure the pole is fibre glass and not carbon fibre or graphite as these will affect the tuning of the antenna.  Start about 1Ft (300mm) up from the bottom of the pole.  The other end of the wire will be beyond the top of the pole, don’t worry about this, it needs to be.  Now at the far end of the wire, fit the crimp over the top of the screw you anchored the first end of the ECW to when you started winding the coil.  Fit another nut to secure it (you may fit an extra locking nut if you wish).   Now fit the shorter length of wire to the other end of the coil in the same manner.  Loop the end of the wire back on itself (about an inch) and secure with cable ties. Thread one end of the fishing line through this and tie off well.

1040_sch

Schematic of wire antenna.

 Dig a small hole in the ground (the depth should be half the length of the piece of angled aluminium/brass that you have) and stand the piece of angled aluminium/brass in it.  Fill the hole back in and check that it is secure.  Raise the fibre glass pole to vertical and secure it at the bottom using cable ties (or whatever) to the portion of aluminium/brass that is protruding from the ground.  Using the fishing line that you fitted to the top end of the wire, pull it out to an angle between 30 and 40 degrees and tie the other end off to a fence or something secure.  You now have the basis of your antenna and I shall now describe how to feed the antenna with RF and get on the air.

Fit a choc block (or powerpole connectors) to the end of your coax – it will need to be a double connector for both the inner and earth/braid.  Then connect the inner side to the wire of the antenna and add one or two 10m counterpoise wires to the other side of the outer.  If you have space lay these out at right angles to the vertical antenna, if not, don’t worry, they can be laid in spirals or bent to fit in, it is the electrical length that is important.  You could also connect a short wire to a copper ground spike and lay shorter radial wires out from this.  Take the other end of your coax back to the shack and fit a PL259 plug.  This will attach to your ATU or radio.  Check tuning on low power (5W or less) – it should be resonant on 40m and 15m (3rd harmonic) and a small portion of 80m (remember it is loaded for 80m so possibly won’t cover the whole band.  You can adjust the length of the end wire to match it where required, or use your ATU.  Make sure you insulate the choc block/powerpole connectors to protect from water ingress.

You now have a 40m vertical antenna (as far as the inductor) and an 80m inverted L.  This will give you a near omnidirectional (all round) radiation pattern with a low angle take off so will be good for both nearby QSOs (depending on propogation and atmospherics) and low angle DX. Have fun.

73 DE M0CVO

 

SOTA – End Fed Long Wire Antenna Results

December 23, 2018 Leave a comment

Making Waves VHF and up….

Upon moving to the new QTH in February this year (2018), I decided that I was going to spend more time operating on VHF, UHF and above.  Sure enough, I got my trusty FT-480R set up on the bench and fitted the 2m 10element Yagi to the wall at the end of the house with a short Yagi for 70cm above it (and rotator below).  The added bonus of being 154m ASL was also something I planned to take advantage of.

 

I also had my FT-817 connected for UHF (70cm) and a transverter for 23cm.

c1zrqflxeaaoreu Transverter 

For 145MHz FM I bought a new FTM-320D (Yaesu) which I plugged into my Diamond X-50 colinear.

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Meanwhile, I had been monitoring the local repeaters on my handheld radios – Alinco DJ-G7 and Yaesu FT-252 from inside the shack, so I knew my coverage was much better than at the previous QTH. I could now hear GB3LM, GB3NF and GB3CF at fully quieting. Yes, I know repeaters aren’t DX but they are a good way to evaluate your coverage.

On 2m FM I had many a QSO with local operators as there seemed to be much more activity on 2m locally than there was at the previous place.  This was certainly encouraging.  The XYL and I had also discovered a high point that was easily accessible – the Kirkby Summit Tip – at 193mASL, so one sunny(ish) day in May I went up witht he handheld.  Just using the supplied rubber duck I called CQ /P and received a reply rather quickly from an amateur in Huthwaite (a village on a hill).  We ended up with several other amateurs joining in, some very local and some a little further afield.

It was in May that I started concentrating more on J3E (SSB) on 144MHz,  I took part in the UKAC contest on the 1st – just for an hour – and logged 9 QSOs in both the IO93 and IO92 squares – not too bad with 10W.  Then on the 7th I managed to work a G1UUO/P who was on a SOTA activation.  Conditions were generally lifting with the weather improving now. On the 13th  I worked GB5HW – a windmills on the air SE station from Derbyshire.  On the 20th I had another good day with 5 in the lag from IO93, IO91 and IO81 squares.

Come June we had a combination of high atmospheric pressure and early morning mist.  This gave rise to excellent tropospheric ducting conditions and I managed to work GW1YBB (Wales) in IO81 and PE1BEW (Netherlands) in JO32.  At the beginning of July was the RSGB VHF/UHF Field Day, so I switched the radios on and worked into Scotland, Wales, Eire and most of England over two days on 2m.  I have been rather pleased with my 2m activity thus far.  I have now also added a 144MHz PA and GAS-FET preamp to the setup to give me a whopping 45W when needed.  This gives me an effective radiated power (ERP) of 357.448W with the 11.6dBi gain from the 10 element Yagi.

UHF I didn’t find very effective but this is due to a fault that has developed with the audio stages on the FT-817.  Something I shall have to look at when I get the time.

I have recently started moving towards the microwave bands.  I have built a biquad or backfire array antenna for 3.4GHz (9cm) pictured below.  This is to be matched to a transverter that I am hoping to acquire soon.

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Today I took delivery of some 5.7GHz ATV equipment.  It is actually a 5.8GHz FPV Transmitter, a 5.8GHz FPV receiver and a CMOS camera – the type used by radio controlled drone or aeroplane fliers to film video.  The frequency of each is programmable from 5.658GHz – 5.917GHz so I shall pre-set each to 5.665GHz for the amateur radio portion of the band.  I shall build a double biquad antenna for 5.7GHz (6cm) – like the above picture but with 4 Quads as opposed to 2.  This will give approximately 18dBi of gain.  I also hope to find a PA to increase the 600mW output to somewhere around 2.5W. Pictures are below.

 

More will follow on this last piece as I get the ATV system set up and operational.