Samlex 1223 power supply noise

samlex1223-2

I’ve had a Samlex SEC 1223 – 23 amp power supply for many years now and it has always made a strange noise. I have two Uniden BC350A scanners hooked up to it that I use to stream local repeaters to Radio Reference / Broadcastify.

I decided to record the noise with my digital audio recorder so I could get some feedback from others on what it might be. It starts in the off position and then you hear me flip the switch on and then off again. (ignore the background noise of my furnace)

If you have any ideas what it is or how to fix it, please let me know. Thanks!

Icom 880H D-STAR radio GPS setup

Garmin GPS 18x PC
I’m slowly rebuilding my ham radio shack after getting rid of everything a few years ago. One of the things I missed the most was the trusty dual band rig in the car. I decided to sell my iPad to help fund the radio purchase. I couldn’t afford a brand new rig, so I looked at the ham classified sites to see what was available. I settled on the Icom 880H 2m/70cm mobile rig. One thing that intrigued me about this setup was the fact that it has D-STAR capability built into it. We have a growing D-STAR network here in Illinois so it seemed like a good idea to have a radio with D-STAR.

When I got the rig, I tried programming a few repeaters in manually just to see if I could do it. The analog frequencies weren’t too difficult, but D-STAR was a bit more difficult. I figured it would be a good idea to program it with the computer, so I ordered the OPC-1529R data cable. I know most folks prefer the RT Systems software, but I decided to try the free Icom programming software instead.

It’s a pretty basic program, but it gets the job done. The problem is there is no way to directly import frequencies from sites like RepeaterBook and RFinder. There is another free programming software called CHIRP that lets you import from these sites. However, getting it from CHIRP into the Icom software is very clunky.

I finally decided to go to the Illinois Repeater Association website and copy/paste the repeaters into a text file. I then opened it in a spreadsheet program called LibreOffice Calc (Microsoft Office works as well) which then lets me sort and filter by regions of the state. Now this still doesn’t let me import into the Icom software. I ended up putting the spreadsheet on one side of my screen and the Icom software on the other and manually typing in the repeaters that I wanted. It’s a time consuming process but at least I can put the frequencies where I want them in the radio.

I have the radio plugged into my Comet CA2X4SR dual band antenna mounted on the door with a Diamond K400 mount. I’ve had this antenna hooked up to other radios over the years and it works great with the 880H. Another nice thing is the radio has a weather alert that lets you know when bad weather is approaching. It also scans air frequencies which are fun to listen to once in a while.

One thing I’ve missed that my old Kenwood D700A had is the APRS functionality. There is a way to get your position on the Icom 880H to the APRS network, but you need to add a GPS to the radio. (most of the other D-STAR radios have GPS built in) I chose the Garmin GPS 18x PC for my setup. It’s a very basic GPS unit with a 12v cigarette plug and 9-pin serial port on it. You hook it up to the Icom 880H with a null modem adapter.

There’s a few things in the radio you need to change before the GPS will work. The first is the data speed which defaults to 9600 bps. You need to change it to 4800 bps for it to work with the GPS 18x unit. Go into the SET menu, then FUNC and then SPEED and change it to 4800. If everything is hooked up properly, you will see the GPS indicator in the top right start blinking indicating it sees your GPS. When it has acquired a good satellite lock, the indicator will stay on.

Another thing you need to change for it to work with APRS is the GPS-TX mode. It defaults to DVG, but needs to be on DVA. It’s in the GPS –> GPS-TX menu. Inside that menu you’ll also want to change your symbol (the icon that shows up on the APRS map), add a comment and enable the direction/speed (DT EXT –> CUR.SPD) if you want that to show up.

You can see my position on the APRS network:
http://aprs.fi/#!call=a%2FK9SWX

Please note that your position will only show up on APRS when you push the PTT button on the microphone. You can set it up to automatically send it every so often, but that is highly frowned upon. (especially if the repeater is linked to a reflector or another repeater.)

I’ve put together a little video about my Icom 880H. Check it out and let me know what you think!

https://youtube.com/watch?v=vPhTctUpeIU

Parts list

Please let me know if you have any questions about all of this. Thanks! 73..

Stan – K9SWX

Yaesu VX-8R audio fix

I’ve had my Yaesu VX-8R HT for about a year and a half now. It’s been a nice little radio except for an annoying issue with the audio. When pushing buttons, the audio sounded weaker and scratchy. I noticed that pushing down on the speaker improved the quality. I’ve lived with it for all this time and finally had enough.

I started browsing various internet forums and ran across a solution that seemed to fix the problem. It appeared to be a simple fix which required no soldering and very little tools.

The author of the article posted a nice video on YouTube showing the steps he performed to fix the same problem on his HT. The basic solution was to slightly bend the speaker contacts on the main board of the radio so they would make a better connection with the speaker on the front of the case.

I figured I’d give this a shot. I dug out my small tip screwdrivers and followed his steps to open up the radio. I adjusted the contacts and put the radio back together. I felt energized until I turned the radio on and it said ‘Clone’. At this point I was thinking I had damaged something on the board. I took a deep breath and dug back into the radio again. I bent the contacts down a bit just to make sure they weren’t touching something else on the radio.

I put it back together and turned the radio back on. It came up normally this time. I pushed a ton of buttons and the audio was perfect, no scratchy audio this time. Yay!

I did take a few pictures while I had the radio apart just for kicks.

Total credit goes to the unknown author’s detailed description and YouTube videos from the forum below.

Source: Worldwide DX Amateur Radio Forums (unknown author)

Have you experienced this issue? Did the solution described above fix your problem? Let me know in the comments section.

Yaesu FT-857D Mobile Installation

Over the years I have tried to find a solution to get a decent HF solution into my car. I started with a Radio Shack HTX-10 10 meter rig, but the sunspots and mag mount antenna did not yield much of anything. I also had an Icom 706 hooked up to a ham stick / tuner, but that didn’t work very well either. Since moving a few years ago, I have been unable to install anything at home due to antenna restrictions so HF operation has been impossible. I even tried a Yaesu FT-817 QRP rig indoors with various antennas, but there was just too much noise to hear anything. Was I completely out of luck for HF?

A few weeks ago I decided to sell my FT-817 and accessories to help fund a new radio/antenna. I ended up choosing the Yaesu FT-857D and the ATAS-120A mobile antenna. Now I know there are limitations to this antenna as well as it being a little more expensive than a hamstick, but I had to give it a shot. Everything in the past has been a painful time consuming process just to get on one band, let alone trying to switch between bands quickly. I wanted something that would be as easy as turning on the radio and getting on the air. Would this setup disappoint me as well?

Diamond K400C trunk mount
Diamond K400C trunk mount

I chose the recommended Diamond K400C trunk mount which doesn’t require any drilling. I wasn’t sure how well this mount would work as all my other mounts have been magnet mounts. Obviously with this antenna being a little heavier and taller than most dual band antennas, a regular mag mount wouldn’t work. I installed it on the drivers side of the trunk and ran the cable in through the backseat with all my other cables. As for the radio, I mounted on the floor board behind the passenger seat with my other radio. I use the word mounted loosely as it’s really just velcroed but it’s not going anywhere.

The radio came with the separation kit, so that saved me some money. I currently have the faceplate mounted on a vent mount above my XM radio on the dash. I’m really not impressed with this type of mount as it moves around too much, so I will look for a different solution. The microphone and speaker are loosely mounted so I can hide them away when I’m done using them. The power cord is run directly to the battery through the firewall.

Yaesu ATAS-120A
Yaesu ATAS-120A

When I first turned the radio on, I was a little overwhelmed by all the menu settings. However, after thumbing through the manual I became a little more familiar with them. I found the setting to enable the ATAS-120A antenna and hit the tune button. The first time you run it, it takes a few minutes to initialize but after that it’s pretty quick. I flipped through all the bands and it was able to establish a 2:1 or less SWR every time even on the WARC bands. (according to the built-in SWR meter anyways) I tuned around the bands and was hearing numerous signals, so that was another promising discovery.

I decided to visit a local park about 8 miles NW of town which would hopefully get me away from most of the noise of the city. The Michigan QSO party was going strong and I thought I’d try responding to one of them just for kicks. NV8N was coming in pretty strong on 40m so I threw out my call running 50 watts. He heard me on the first try which threw me off guard as I had no idea what the exchange for the contest was. 🙂 Luckily he was patient and explained what info he needed from me and like that my first contact had been made! Not too shabby I thought.

I continued scanning around the bands and landed on 17m. I heard ON4HIL calling CQ, so I tried calling him. It took numerous tries as others were calling and the band was up and down, but I eventually got him. He gave me a 5×2 report and said that wasn’t too bad for my 50 watts. After the brief QSO, I looked up the prefix on my phone and discovered he was in Belgium! I know for most hams with big stations at home this would be boring, but for me to work another country in the mobile with 50 watts is pretty darn cool to me. I was actually quick enough to record the QSO on my phone just so I had proof of the contact.

ON4HIL
04-17-2010-ON4HIL

Later that evening, I went for a drive and tuned around on 40m. I noticed that the Ontario QSO party was also going on. I managed to work several stations while I was driving, so that was pretty cool despite the increased noise from the car. I managed to snag a recording of the QSO with VA3SWG.

VA3SWG
04-17-2010-VA3SWG

I know it’s just a handful of contacts but I’m really impressed so far. The ability to hit a button to tune the antenna and get on the air in a few seconds is pretty awesome. I can’t wait to try it out this summer and see what other contacts I can make. 73!

Yaesu VX-8R on the bicycle

IMG_0531After yesterday’s 6 mile walk, I figured I’d dust off the bike and take it for a spin this morning along the same route. It’s due for a check-up this week so I wanted to make note of any issues or strange noises to share with the local bike shop. One of the great things about the bike is the storage bag on the bike where I can stash a few goodies. I brought along my Canon A590 point and shoot camera so I could take a few pictures. (wished I’d had it on my walk yesterday morning) No bike ride for Stan is complete without a GPS and ham radio and today’s ride was no exception. Last month I bought a new handheld radio (Yaesu VX-8R) and bike mount so I was anxious to try that out as well.

I departed my apartment at 6:21am and headed through the path at Kaufman Lake. I quickly got a chance to see how my bike would handle on gravel and bumpy terrain. (suspension might need a little adjusting?) 🙂 I made my way towards Parkland College and stopped near one of the softball fields to grab some water from the fountain. Even this early into the ride my legs were showing me just how out of shape they are so I took it easy for a bit. As I approached the main entrance of Parkland, I noticed dozens of geese roaming around which definitely warranted a photo shoot. 🙂 I pulled over and snapped several pictures and the geese really didn’t seem spooked by me at all. IMG_0530

I continued my way to the northeast and found a few flowers that wanted their picture taken. Despite the sun not yet making its way to this part of the complex, the pictures didn’t turn out too bad. After that I headed over to the tennis courts to take a few shots. Then I found a soccer field that called my name, so had to get a few shots of the nets which were pretty cool. As I walked back to my bike, I heard what I thought was a lawnmower in the distance. Suddenly I saw this flying contraption coming towards me which definitely required some picture taking. I’m not sure what it was, but it was a one-person machine with what looked like a giant fan behind him and a wing above him. He flew on by so I went on my merry way.

IMG_0529I made my way around Parkland and headed back towards home. I stopped at Heritage Park and took a few pictures of the lake and tried (failed) some macro shots of a bug. I continued on the path home and took a detour to avoid spooking a rather large dog being walked by their owner. 🙂 I made another stop on Country Fair drive to take a few more flower pictures and then headed home.

Final Thoughts
Yeah, I know I really didn’t ride very far compared to what normal people do but it was fun. I just need to ride more often to get my legs conditioned. It was very comfortable out this morning and the breeze was welcomed. I need to figure out why my ham radio did not transmit my location to the internet, not sure what happened there. Some other lessons learned this morning:

  • My legs are really out of shape
  • My ham radio was unsuccessful at getting my location transmitted.
  • You burn more calories riding a bike than walking the same path.
  • Always have spare batteries for your camera (which I luckily had!)

Stats
Total Mileage: 5.79 miles
Total Time: 69 minutes

Photos
Click here to view all photos from this trip.

Upgrading the bicycle with ham radio

Well due to inclement weather and faulty pedals, I haven’t been on the bike in a little while now. I took the bike into the shop on Wednesday and had them install fenders as well as replace the pedals. Now the funny part of this is that the guy who worked on my bike is a customer where I work. Due to computer problems, he was behind on his payment so I had shut his service off on Tuesday! So he recognized me when I brought the bike in and I thought ‘oh boy, my bike will be CRW_1514destroyed now!) 😉

I dropped it off on a shortened lunch hour and went back to work. After work, I went over and picked the bike up. The fenders look amazing, they’re black instead of the boring silver ones you see on most bikes. The pedals are all metal instead of those crappy ones with rubber grips that came with the bike. The only thing they charged me for was the fenders, installation and swapping of the pedals was free! The fun part was actually paying. I have this nifty Trek credit card I’m using so that I can ride my bike before it gets too cold, yet pay for it a little later down the road. Well apparently this is something new for the bike shop as it took probably 10 minutes to checkout. (I guess most folks pay with cash, check, or regular credit card??) Anywho, the guy who worked on my bike is in need of computer help so I may be working on his computer in my free time. So that will work out great! 🙂

The hard part was getting the bike in the car as I didn’t anticipate the fenders being on there. I had to be careful not to bend/break them when putting the bike back in the car. I managed to do ok, though I had to do a small adjustment on the front fender as it was rubbing against the tire. After I got that done, it was time to install the goodies that I’ve drooled over. 🙂 I purchased a nifty CRW_1517 Garmin GPS 60csx unit that will ensure that I don’t get lost and let me map out a route should I need to deviate from my normal trip to work. It came with a 64 meg card which was perfect for not only the entire county but the entire state of Illinois including Chicago!

I had considered using my PDA and my bluetooth GPS unit on the bike, but the battery life of the PDA is horrible compared to a standalone unit. I also purchased a dual band ham radio HT (Kenwood TH-D7A) for the bike because lets face it, Stan without some sort of radio on CRW_1515his vehicle is just boring! As with my car, this will allow me to utilize the APRS network and plot my position on the internet! (once I get the cable to hook up the radio to the GPS!) I will post more on this aspect later. I have ordered a better HT antenna for the radio to hopefully be enough to hit the digipeater, but eventually I will probably need to come up with a real external antenna mounted on the back of the bike. (people will think I’m a cop or security guard!)

So this morning I rode to work for the first time in several weeks and it was tough on the old body to get back into the groove. One of the main reasons of getting the GPS was to track not only my location, but to map the elevation between my house and work. There’s a great website called MotionBased that allows you to export your data from the GPS into their site and then they map out all sorts of graphs and data from your GPS log. I’m anxious to try this out and see just how much of an elevation rise/drop on the route I take. I will update this at a later date as well.