SCARS Weekly Newsletter, Last Monday of 2014

Editor’s Prerogative
With only a few exceptions, I get most of my content from a couple of SCARS members, our ARRL Section Manager (thanks Lloyd!), and my grazing of Internet sources. In this week’s Newsletter, I’ll recount my ‘going dark’ for almost 7 months and getting back on-the-air by fits and starts. Feel free to sleep through these next several paragraphs…

I shutdown my rig, computers, and other various electronic paraphernalia located in the hamshack mid-May due to our Kitchen+ remodel. Long-story short, we fired the first contractor 5 months in, and our Rescue Contractor, to his Eternal Credit, was out of the house 5 weeks after he started. My bride is now very pleased with the result and I was able to turn most of the equipment back on. Happy Wife – Happy Life.

In a mid-September thunderstorm, we had a midnight lightning strike that was so close to the house that I could barely discern a difference between flash and ‘BOOM’. The rig was disconnected from all except the power system (power supply/battery), but I did suffer some damage, as I discovered over time. One of my network devices succumbed to the induced current on the house wiring (a network-over-powerline device) which was easily cured with the help of an overnight shipment from Amazon. Once I powered my rig back up, I discovered that my FT-897 had dead vertical stripes in the LCD display. I’ve left it on constantly for the last 4 weeks and most of the dead stripes have, like Lazarus, returned to life.

Now for the fun part – getting digital stuff back on the air. Let me preface ALL of this by saying that I am focusing on packages which support posting of PSK spots to the PSKReporter website [http://pskreporter.info/]. There are a LOT of packages which do pretty much everything from rig control to digital modes to logging to antenna and rotator control, etc., but few which include uploading of spots to PSKReporter in real-time.

Before I shutdown in mid-May, I had been using a 30-day trial of the paid version of Ham Radio Deluxe. I really liked it, it did not have the problem of the HRD 5.x-free version of loosing its mind and having to restart it once a week, but the trial had expired and so I went back to the HRD5-free last release.

[The last free releases can be downloaded here: http://www.iw5edi.com/software/ham-radio-deluxe-5-download-links. The current paid&supported site: http://www.ham-radio-deluxe.com/

The free version of HRD was working OK for me since I’d written a little script (‘at’ commands) to kill it in the middle of the night and restart it a couple of times a week, but I was looking around for something which was supported on more than just a Windows box to keep my options open for what to do when I retire and buy a personal Macbook Pro (yes, I’m ‘one of those’…). HRD in any form is a resource hog, and while it will work running in a virtualized environment, it just eats resources -LOTS of resources.

I had returned to the fl-suite of products when I needed a Mac product to dump logs into for the Skywarn Recognition Day event from the NWC club station. [fl-suite stuff can be found here: http://w1hkj.com/] I fired it back up on the Windows box at home (the fl-suite is one of the very few which is cross-platform) and ran it for a while. Before I left for the holidays, I went back to the HRD5x version, shutdown the monitors and made off for Texas to my mother-in-laws. Then the fun began. My HRD-free version stopped posting updates to PSKReporter and my rig control was iffy at best. I couldn’t figure out why.

[Interlude:   My free app for remote management through a firewall went the way of the $ and was way more expensive than I wanted to pay. In looking around, I ended up using Chrome Remote, which only requires that you leave a Chrome session open on your remote device once you get it configured and is OS agnostic. I have a few nits to pick as to how it works, but it is not a resource hog like some, works fine for what I want it to do, and allows me to do anything on the remote system that I could do sitting in front of the computer with the exception of pushing a physical button. BTW, Chrome Remote works much better and more seamlessly than the version which I was going to have to pay for. Now back to our story.]

I got the fl-suite running again on my home system, it was posting fine, but it WAS a pain in the behind to make any changes in the posting format. I feel certain that it is just something that I’m missing, but nevertheless, I was casting about for something else. [please don’t misunderstand – the fl-suite works well, again, I was just looking…]

I heard folks talk about the application “Airlink Express”, (http://airlinkexpress.org/index.html) but had never really investigated it until this weekend. If you’ve ever used Digipan, you’re already familiar with how it looks. It does rig-control, digital modes (real FSK if you have the physical ports available), logging, and a bonus for me, reports spots to PSKReporter. I downloaded it on the home machine, installed it, fiddled with my serial ports and got the rig control and digital stuff working just fine and got it to start reporting. That is what is running now at Golden Oaks Quarter Acre in EM15ff. 

The REAL bonus I’ve discovered is that it uses hardly any resources. The DSP it uses is MMvari. It’s been running pretty much all-day today and is only using 70M of RAM.  And that is using the multi-station waterfall, decoding of 16 conversations at a time, rig control, uploading spots, the whole bit. If you’ve got an old Windows box laying around, it’s been tested with XP Service pack 3 and later, and some have gotten it to work on even older versions of Windows. Airlink Express does not do some things which hard-core folks would like included, but it leaves most of your resources alone so that you could run bits and pieces of other packages to cover those.

For me, the positive thing is that since it is so efficient, I could possibly run this is a virtual Windows session on a Macbook and make it work. I’ll be trying this early in 2015.

For now, Airlink Express is what is running at Golden Oaks Quarter Acre. I’m pretty happy with it, but like most all Amateurs, I’m a tinkerer and I’m sure I’ll be going back and forth trying different things from time to time.

In the meantime, what I’m currently seeing on the bands can be found at http://pskreporter.info/pskmap.html?preset&callsign=WB5ULK&band=12000000-16000000&timerange=1800&distunit=km&hidepink=1&hidelines=1, or you can just configure the display however you want. [Regardless of what my Monitor link says, when I’m not home, it is using an attic-mounted G5RV Junior. The description is correct if I’m at home. Too hard to explain to others how to ‘safe’ the antennas and don’t want non-Amateurs messing with the gear in any case…]

LInks below are from other SCARS members, ARRL resources, and gleaned from the Internet. Have a great New Years!

73 de Gary, WB5ULK


Tom, KH6AAA, forwarded the following link over the weekend. This Club had and “issue” which required and intervention and they shared this information about repeater ‘etiquette’ and rules, which is good to know, since we must follow the Rules, and etiquette, or ‘manners’, if you will, is the lubricant which keeps society from coming to blows (mostly):

Emergency Amateur Radio Club – Hawaii – Repeaters

The WH6CZB repeater operating on 146.040/146.640 MHz is the primary two meter repeater serving the Laie and Kahuku area of Oahu. This repeatr provides excellent coverage from Turtle Bay, Kahuku t Kahana Valley, along Oahu’s North East Shore.   [continue…]


Links from the Opening Diatribe :

Latest freeware version of Ham Radio Deluxe

http://www.iw5edi.com/software/ham-radio-deluxe-5-download-links

Paid/Supported version of Ham Radio Deluxe

http://www.ham-radio-deluxe.com/

fldigi

http://www.w1hkj.com/

Airlink Express

http://airlinkexpress.org/index.html

PSKReporter Display

http://pskreporter.info/pskmap.html


Other useful links below. Don’t forget the Regular Weekly Happenings which can be found in the sidebar – right –>

Everything you need to know about Solar Weather – updated daily:

http://www.solarham.net/

HRO less than 4 hours away:

http://arrlok.blogspot.com/2014/09/ham-radio-outlet-coming-to-texas.html

Handy info on where/what/who:

http://www.arrl.org/band-plan

What happened with the Sun and a Forecast of the next week:

http://www.arrl.org/news/the-k7ra-solar-update-354

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