Sunday, 17 January 2016

Tasks to be done and time to dream

The image above is just to show that I am not totally inactive or dreaming during January. Click to enlarge if necessary.

I read somewhere that February was the month for VHF enthusiasts to clean their antennas and get ready for the year ahead. Certainly, this period of year is statistically the worst for meteors, though having worked OZ1JXY again yesterday, I have to wonder. Sometimes I feel that the poor results at this time of year may be due to poor activity.

There is not likely to be much Es activity either, but that does not mean no Es. Some Es, just not much. Tropospheric openings will depend on the weather. At least I now have my trusty 40m dipole if all else fails.

There was an Es opening last week. I was out on my walk and I got back to find the 6m band full of fading signals. As usual, the solar activity was higher than usual, with K number of 3. Perhaps I should have seen that as being likely.

Anyway, what projects need to be done:-

1. Re-routing the co-ax
When I uprated the rotator on the second mast I took the cable by a new route. This is shorter and saved me money buying control cable. I plan to re-route the co-ax to that mast too - the RG-213 which goes to the 4m vertical and 6m horizontal antennas. While I am doing that, I will probably take down the antennas and replace the upper pole with 50mm tube - the 35mm pole did wobble a bit in the gales. So that will need better weather for a full refurbishment job.

2. Raising the 40m dipole.
Although the 40m dipole works quite well, it is a bit low. It is mounted at the top of the pole supporting the 2m vertical, so it is low too. The 2m vertical took a lean after the recent gales and given its age I think it should be replaced, along with its co-ax. While doing that, those cables can be re-routed too. So that is another job needing a reasonable spell of weather. As for the 40m dipole itself, when it is up higher I will work out whether I can fit in a 40/80m trap dipole.

3. Stop the 2m beam whistling.
Strangely, the 2m Wimo beam sometimes whistles in the wind. Not gusts, only in steady blasts.

4. Sort out the computers
A couple of years ago, my best computer went pop and failed. Power supply problem. I replaced the power supply, and later the BIOS chip, but that mother board has never worked since. I eventually decided that the power supply sent a spike as it died, and took out the rest of the board. Pity, as it was a nice new board with an i7 chip and it ran well. So I replaced it with an AMD 6 processor board from ASUS which never really worked well either, and in due course I had to buy a really good Gigabite board and replace the whole lot, including buying an expensive power supply.

I was left with the 6 processor AMD/ASUS set-up which was not working well. Eventually I discovered that the memory was also damaged (by the same spike?). Then it worked but not very well and I left it until now when I have discovered that the main hard disc drive is not working properly either. Like the memory, I had moved the disc over from the blown Intel board. It now looks like not only the board, the BIOS chip and the memory were blown, but also the disc. They still worked, just not well.

I should have thought it. I re-use all my PC bits and I rarely replace everything. In this case I guess I was over-working the power supply in the Intel board and that blew just about everything else. I cannot bring myself to throw things in the bin, so I tried to re-use everything including bits which would never work again. Oh dear.

So today I am trying to rehabilitate the 6 processorAMD/ASUS computer with a "new" disc. Well,  a ten year old disc, but you know me. Anyway, this one works, not like the newer one which was messing everything about. Easy to do inside during cold weather.

Once this is done, I should have a reasonable spare computer over and above the "work" one and the "office" one. The Office one runs all the data for the radio. Maybe I will go back to a two-PC system. At the moment I have one office computer and two screens, one with the data modes on it, and the other with DX Maps and things.

5. Sort out the rigs.
I have plenty of rigs. It seems ideal, but in one respect it is not quite prefect.

During the quadrantid meteor shower I definitely lost out by having both 4m and 2m on the same rig. That meant that I had to shut down on one band to listen on the other. A similar situation arises during Es openings. Once the MUF rises above 6m I want to try 4m and 2m. There is rarely a need for 2m and 6m at the same time, which is a combination I can do.

It never used to be like that. When I had the Flex 1500 and transverter, 4m and 2m could run together. If I had either a 2m rig or 4m rig dedicated to that band I could do both.

I think that I would not miss much if 2m and 6m were on the same rig.  Realistically I can only run two rigs at a time.

I need to think about how to resolve this. What I have at the moment is pretty good. It could just be organised a bit better. How to do it cheaply is one of the issues.

I had a plan to buy a "Noble" 4m transceiver which never materialised. The FT-450 was the fall-out from that. Good as the 450 is, it does not quite fill the gap perfectly.

6. Linear amplifier?
Nice to think about. No thanks. 100W is fine for me. Those things cost £2000+ and I could have two new rigs for that. Now there is an idea - two new rigs! Dream on.

7. Second mast!
I have a second mast. It is on the gable wall of the house, and it needs a scaffolding tower to work on it. Also, below it is the domestic washing machine which kicks out all sorts of RFI - which means I cannot use 6m while clothes are being washed. If I had a second tilt-over mast ... no that is mad. £500. Mind you, it would be nice.


So, some antenna projects which need better weather. A computer issue which I am working on now. A rig issue which needs more thought. And a couple of dream plans which need no thought at all.

Not much to trouble me really.

Well, just the rotator on the main mast. I paid £50 for it seven years go. It has started to work erratically. Oh dear. Spending on that would rule out all my dreams. Do you think I might find another unused one for £50? I doubt it.



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