Tag: Amateur Radio

Amateur Radio Digital Voice – which do I think is best

Let’s start with the one I dislike immensely – Icom’s D-Star. I dislike it because it’s Icom proprietary and doesn’t work with other vendors of radio gear. 

Then there’s DMR – at least DMR has multiple radio vendors like Kenwood, Vertex Standard (aka Yaesu), Motorola, et al. But the thing I think will dampen uptake of DMR is the price of the radios. The HT’s run from $375 to $800 a pop. Sorry, when you can pickup a Chinese manufactured radio for less than $50 there’s not incentive for me to buy a DMR compatible radio. 

Now I take flak because the Icom D-Star handhelds are pretty cheap in the $200 range. But again, I don’t want to have to buy another radio just to use a feature set. 

I think in the long run DMR will win, but it’s going to require the pricing for the handhelds, mobile units and repeaters to come down considerably. 

Yet Another Radio

Yes, another one. I already have a Yaesu VX-7R which is a quad band radio. Pretty cool but I really only use 2m and 70cm for the most part. Then I have a dedicated 1.25m radio if only because the VX-7R is limited to 300mW on 1.25m

But I’ve always been interested in the Baofeng radios. The successor to the UV-5R was recently introduced, the GT-3.

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I like the feature set that the GT-3 has – it improves upon some of the shortcomings of the UV-5R most notable the display, the manual, etc. The specifications are also pretty good – it’s got a more sensitive and selective receiver in it.

But the best part – $45. Seriously – Iove that the Chinese are starting to eat into the market that the Japanese had held for years. And consider too they’re doing it at a serious discount. The Japanese radios were never cheap. My VX-7r was $350.

A Ham’s Night Before Christmas

Two things you’ve likely gleaned about me from this blog is a) I’m a ham aka amateur radio licensee and b) I’m an atheist. But I still sort of celebrate the holiday. Hey, gotta have SOME traditions.

Anyhow this vid is pretty cool.

Yes I do hold an extra class license – and I had to do the 20WPM morse code to get mine not like today where it’s theory only. But I do love my HT’s. I’ve got two; a Yaesu VX-7r that covers the 6m, 2m, 1.25m, and 70cm bands and a KST V6 1.25m 5W HT. The latter is little, only does 1.25m – the VX-7r does too but it’s output is limited to 300mW because of spectral purity issues with the power amplifier in the radio.

Something interesting in the mail today

So I got a letter from the City of Providence Emergency Management Agency. Apparently they got my amateur radio call sign off my recent ARRL renewal. The club as it is known is pretty recent, within the last year or so.

It’s part of  ARES/RACES. Those acronyms stand for Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.

I may have mentioned before wherever I go I always carry an HT with me. HT Being short for Handy Talky or Handheld aka Portable unit.

A perfect example of how this would be beneficial is the recent events in Boston. Cellular completely flopped, law enforcement was hammered.

I have two radios to choose from, one a Yaesu VX-7r that does 6m, 2m, and 70cm at 5W, and 1.25m at 300mW. For a little more power on the 1.25m band I have a KST V6 220MHz radio which does a full 5W.

So one covers more bands, the other more power on one band.

I sent my application in and the next meeting is in October so I’ll probably go.

 

This was a first – denigration of amateurs with Extra class licenses

So over on Facebook I’m in the Amateur Radio groups. In one this guy makes the statement that the Extra class operators with code are some of the biggest rogue operators.

Code being morse code, as in proficiency at 20WPM. Since I got my extra 20 years ago when the code was required I have rights to gripe here.

At the very least I can operate in the CW only portions of the band. CW = Continuous Wave aka code aka Morse Code.

Most of what comes with having an Extra class license is the ability to become a Volunteer Examiner. I’m accredited with both the ARRL and with the W5YI VEC’s (Volunteer Exam Coordinators). I’ve done four sessions in twenty years and I’m thinking I really should do a few more.

But the anti-code snobbery is really interesting. Because I went the extra length I’m now cast in the group of poor operating procedure? Really? Wow.

Roll your own 6m antenna tuner

So I’m active on Facebook Amateur Radio groups. And one guy lamented that they couldn’t find any antenna tuners for the 6m (50MHz) band.

I stated you could make your own. All it is is a couple of air variable capacitors and a coil between the input and output of the device. In essence you’re matching the 50 ohm impedance of your radio to the antenna. This impacts SWR.
If you’re interested, AA3SJ (Another interesting call sign. I like mine better though, KD1S, short, sweet and to the point!) has an interesting comparison of T style and Pi style matching networks.

A Review of the KST V6

So I’ve had the KST V6  for three days now and I find myself really liking it. I’ve been comparing it to my Yaesu VX-7r and I know it’s not a fair comparison of a quad band against the monoband V6.

Transmit works very well. I can hit repeaters on the order of roughly 20 miles away without issue. I can hit a repeater in Fall River, MA on 5W without any scratchiness in the signal.

The radio was a bit of a bear to configure but once I got the Chinese to English manual translated into standard U.S. English I had no problems. You can see if you follow the tags that I created a quick reference guide to programming.

Another thing I like about the radio is it’s size. It’s almost 150g lighter than the magnesium bodied Yaesu. But it is all plastic.

Another thing I wish it had is a keypad back light. I have to take mine apart and see if the keypad has any translucence. If it does I’ll mount some smd LED’s and tie them to the display LED’s. The reason I even noticed it is at night, I had the radio in the charging stand and the indicator LED was lit in red. That red casts across the keys and lights them nicely.

Another mod I might do is throw a cap across the speaker leads. Even when the volume is turned very low there’s an audible click when the audio comes on. Capacitors block DC and allow AC to pass. Audio is an AC signal.

BTW, the TYT-800 is the exact same radio. Had I known about TYT, KST, Baofeng and Wuoxon when I bought my Yaesu I probably would have gone with one of those. But I’m sort of glad I have the Yaesu. It’s completely indestructible.

In the end though, I’m amused that the Chinese are starting to eat the lunch of the Japanese manufacturers of radio gear. And I’m also interested that the barrier to entry to amateur radio has now been demolished when you can get a handheld for anywhere between $30 and $100 now. So I’d give the KST V6 a solid three out of five stars. A solid buy.

Programming the KST V6

It’s pretty simple once you get the hang. First of all you have to set the I/O to 1.6MHz for the 222MHz band. This is done by doing the following:

– Press the orange F key and then the 9 key to get into settings

– Scroll to option 4 with the up and down keys – until the frequency differential reads 01.60

– Press the F key to save it.

Now the repeater offsets will work. The radio has a split personality – it originally started out as a radio for 2m and 70cm so now that it’s on 1.25m it retains the 10MHz offset which doesn’t work so doing the above gets you set to go!

So now key in your frequency – for my example I just programmed in the 224.060 repeater with negative offset and CTCSS of 103.5.

1) Enter the frequency into the radio, in this case 224.060.

2) To set the offset hold down the orange F key and press 5 and it cycles between none, positive and negative offset. Another relic of 2m and 70cm here.

3) To set the CTCSS press the orange F key and then the 8 button. Then use the navigation buttons to scroll to item 14 which is the 103.5Hz CTCSS tone to access the repeater.

4) To save the repeater in memory press the orange F key and then the * key. Use the direction buttons to choose a memory slot to store the memory. The radio does not automatically go to next empty slot btw, so try to remember where you started.

5) Once you’ve programmed it in the radio will be in channel mode. To switch back to Frequency mode hit the # (VM) key. You can continue to add repeaters following the steps above.

** Special Note ***

To change the power level on a channel simply hit the orange F key and the # key. It toggles between lighting the little L indicators in the display and turning it off. When the indicator is off it’s in high power mode. Save the channel again (F+*).

I hope this helps folks out. It’s a whole lot more clear this way than in the Chinese to English manual.

Sorry for geeking out

So you might have seen the geeky xkcd comics I’ve been posting, or then the review of the MFJ Cub 40m QRP transceiver.

Can’t help it, I’m a computer, radio and electronics geek in addition to being gay.

And anything to do with electronic theory – I’m there!

I leave you with:

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