Monday, 30 November 2020

Sometimes it all goes wrong

 Argh! The last few weeks have seen all sorts of chaos here, but hopefully things are a bit simpler now.

At one stage I sat down here, exhausted and cold, and nothing worked. At that stage I just thought of giving up this hobby. Is it really worth all this self-created hassle just to prove that photons propagate?

Anyway, I did move along and get most of the issues fixed. They were, in no particular order:-

1) my computer needed to have Windows re-installed

2) EMC problems on 70cms mean a complete re-jig of the antennas

3) both my sequencers failed at the same time.

4) noise on my PC HDMI display lead was affecting several bands

Plus, my work website went down and I ended up changing the domain registration, which need not bother us here. It was, however, another layer of complexity which had to resolved quickly.

And I have to face it all without Katy, my loyal shack cat. After 18 years of enjoying the warmth of the radio room, she died recently. Sure she had a good innings, but I really miss her.

Katy in charge, back in 2007.

It should not be necessary to make a fresh installation of Windows these days, you are supposed to be able to repair it while leaving everything intact. That does not work when the fault is one which prevents the repair working, and it also stopped security updates and other useful things. So it had to be done.

I have now reverted to separate 2m and 70cm antennas, and these are on my CUG mast rather than the Tennamast where the dual bander was before. Before this could be done I had to recalibrate my Yaesu rotator and run a test to see if it is accurate enough for moonbounce work (it is, just). My old 4m/6m Vine antenna is now on the Tennamast. The new arrangement is better in various ways, and worse in some other ways. All the connections on all the leads coming into the shack had to be changed. We shall see if it fixes the EMC problems but it certainly seems to work fine for 2m and 70cms, so far.

Due to the sequencer problem I had to rely on the IC-9700 for 70cms instead of 2m, because it has a built in sequencer and DC supply for the preamp. So the IC-7100 and the IC-9700 had to be swapped until the sequencer could be fixed - which it now is - so then it all had to be reversed again.

The display noise thing is a big problem. I have a super-wide LG display which I had to throttle back to standard width which meant the screens did not fit properly any more. I had to move all the sceens to different displays. After a lot of work I have just now reached a reasonable solution thanks to a heavily screened HDMI cable.

Effect ... at one stage ... all the rigs were moved to different coax lines feeding different antennas and showing up on different screens. All the settings in WSJT-X had to be re-entered. All the backed up logs and copies of circuit diagrams and manuals had to be restored to previous places on the PC. Due to the sequencer failure, nothing worked on 70cms until it dawned on me to swap around the radios again, which was more work.

Moving the antennas was started lacking in any strategy. I kept doing things without realising the consequences, and then I had to redo them or change them.

I got the initial antenna swap done, involving taking down two antennas and replacing them with three others.

And then I discovered that in one case I had put the wrong antenna up (how do you do that?). 

And then a change of plan meant that one (that had been changed already) would have to be changed again. 

And then it was decided to swap two more between one mast and the other.

And then I discovered that I had put one of the elements in the wrong place. 

Repeatedly I had to leave the mayhem in the shack and go outside into the cold to work on cold metal tubes with frozen fingers. This was either because I had not been thinking any part of it through, or if I had I had not thought out the best way of resolving the plan as a whole.

GM4FVM in full winter gear (hoodie, Caravan Club fleece) re-orders antenna elements

So as I said, I sat here at one point, back in the shack, all alone, and wondered - is this hobby worth it? Have I relied too much on computers and gizmoidery and forgotten the basic joys of this thing we do. Is it not supposed to be fun rather than a to-do list as long as your arm?

Re-installing Windows from scratch causes mayhem if you use a lot of data modes, control your rotator from your PC, measure your power and SWR on your computer ...

The answer of course is not to do all those things. If I just had a radio plugged into a length of coax, as I had in 1974... 

On the other hand, sure I could turn my rotator by following moon charts, but I find it easier to aim it following the simple readout on WSJT-X. In fact, I just click a button marked "Tracking" and they both do the following themselves instructed by the rotator software, leaving me to think about more weighty matters.

Separate 2m and 70cms antennas have replaced the dual bander

I do it the way I do because that is the type of radio amateur I want to be. Sure, it means that sometimes I can be let down by the technology, but in my view fixing it allows me to learn how it works. And when it does work it is brilliant, in my rather skewed opinion.

On the up side were contacts with NC1I and DL7APV on 70cms EME, plus emails from both of them, which was nice. Also, the new arrangement, whilst it is worse for 4m and 6m, may allow for better antennas on 2m and 23cms in the future. I could not do that before due to space constraints.

I cannot deny though that this has left me drained. At least once I did think that I could just stop there and then, and take up quilting instead. But Swing Out Sister and George Gershwin combined to revive me.




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