Project Blog 2018

Saturday Progress Report

I got started early today and got a lot accomplished. Here’s the Saturday progress report:

  • Placed parts order for 1ft jumpers (due 1/20)
  • Removed 4 monitors and cleared desktop
  • Cleared under desk area
  • Sorted all cabling, tools, and parts
Saturday progress report
Cleared the desktop!

At this point the rack is more or less electrically complete pending the installation of two more jumpers that are scheduled to arrive Tuesday. Initial testing shows everything is working as expected. Before I can move the rack into the TX test position (an area next to the desk where all the antenna coax cables can reach) I will have to split the desktop in the corner where the two pieces meet, and temporarily remove the section on the left along with the 46″ monitor and arm.

I currently have only the loop antenna connected as the antenna coax leads don’t reach the rack while it’s still in the ‘construction’ position. If all goes as planned I should be back on the air sometime next weekend.

What remains to be done:

  • Rearrange the antenna order on RF Panel #2
  • Install remaining jumpers
  • Install Secondary UPS Backup
  • Ground Bar and SPG leads
  • Satellite EL Rotor DB9 quick disconnect
  • AF output panel
  • Remove closet doors
  • Remove 46″ monitor and Ergotron Arm
  • Split desktop to accommodate rack
  • High Power testing
  • All remaining Snap-On ferrites
  • Reinstall all peripheral/office items

Choking Everything!

I’m still working through placing all the snap-on ferrite chokes. When complete, virtually every cable will have a proper fitting choke on each end. This really helps keep things quiet and eliminate RFI in the shack. In my previous setup I added ferrites one by one to eliminate problems, but couldn’t choke as many cables because I couldn’t reach half of them! In the rack it’s easy and I expect great results. The goal is to be RFI free at full RF output. Research showed you can never have too many ferrites. RFI suppression done right.

Labeled the antenna panel
All antenna leads have ferrite chokes on both ends
The business end of the AT-AUTO tuner
RFI suppression everywhere
The W6LVP Loop TX Switch will have a dummy load connected

The TX relay for the W6LVP Magnetic Loop Antenna will switch over to an MFJ-260C Dummy Load in the event the TX is engaged on “Radio #2” when the SPE 1K-FA is powered off. Better to be safe than sorry, even if only at tuning level output.

Both sides of the Array Solution Front End Protector are choked off also

Between the ferrite chokes and the Low Impedance Single Point Ground System the rack should perform quietly and be 100% RFI free. Of course there’s always the “Luck Of The Irish” so I won’t count my chickens just yet. High power testing this weekend!

It’s Alive! Back On The Air Today! 012018

The station is back on the air today! I was finally able to get back to work in the shack today. The packet radio system is back on the air! Finally!

Back On The Air Today!
Back On The Air Today!
  • Removed 46″ Monitor & Ergotron Arm
  • Removed short side of desk
  • Moved rack into test position

Back on the air today. I removed a section of the desktop so I could get the rack closer to the antenna leads. Eventually the rack will go ‘square’ into the corner and the two 45 degree angle desktop sections will fit nicely against each side. It’s not visible in the photo, but the desktop still extends into that corner.

Antennas connected
All the antennas are connected

The packet radio system is back on the air, and tomorrow the SSTV Cam will return to service. Initial testing revealed a bad data cable serving band data to input #2 of the 1K-FA amplifier. Cable repaired and the 1K-FA now has full functionality again.

The HF radios are in RX only mode. There will be no TX testing before the ground system is reconnected.

Done for today!

Almost Blew It! 012718

I almost blew it today! If you are familiar with WordPress you may already know what happens when you type the wrong URL info into the General Settings. That’s right, your entire WordPress website is completely unreachable. Well, I did just that late afternoon yesterday. All of a sudden all of the work I put into this WordPress project over the past 6 weeks was completely hosed, and I didn’t have a clue how to fix it.

Talk about nerve wracking. This is probably the worst jam I’ve gotten into.

Saturday evening I decided to register the “www.k6hr.com” domain name. It was so inexpensive at $24 I couldn’t resist. This included Dynamic DNS service. In my haste, I misconfigured the site URL’s in the WordPress SQL database. I also made some assumptions that almost wrecked the entire webserver configuration. At one point the server stopped working!

My first mistake was thinking all I had to do was change the name of my server to ‘k6hr.com’ and run the ‘homing beacon’ and I would be good to go. Big mistake. It took me hours to figure out it wouldn’t work that way. Of course, now I would have to undo everything I changed. I kept a note pad next to me and wrote down every command and edit I had performed. A changelog so to speak, so I could successfully undo it in the event of further disaster.

After several more hours of research (leading into today) and more trial and error, I found out that editing the SQL database was the only way to fix this mess. Hours of searching brought me here, and I was able to locate, backup, edit, and restore the database. Unbelievable! It looked like I could fix it. After all, to the best of my knowledge, so far I had only damaged the SQL database file, all my content etc. was completely intact. I had to learn database editing right now if I was going to be able to fix this thing.

When you don’t know exactly what you’re doing make a backup!

I created a backup file:

sudo mysqldump -p db_filename > /backup/db_filename.sql

Then I opened the backup file (as root) using the Midnight Commander file browser, (I’d be lost without “mc”) and did a search for “k6hr.com” and found the two entries I needed to change. I typed in the corrected URL info, saved the backup file, and then replaced my hosed WP database with the edited version of the backup and crossed my fingers.

sudo mysql -u <user> -p < /backup/db_filename.sql

I restarted mysqld, then attempted to load the WP admin page from my original  working ampr.org domain webserver…

It worked! What a relief!

I had successfully recovered the database after working some 14+ hours. I could now login to my WP website again! But, there was another problem, no other WP webpages would load. Only the admin page would open. I was off to a great start either way, as I had no access whatsoever a minute ago.

It turned out the first thing I changed yesterday was the last thing that needed to be reset today. It was the “homing beacon”. I noticed when trying to connect to WP pages using my original working hostname, which I just got done restoring, were timing out with an error message saying “k6hr.com” was unreachable. The URL was being redirected from gw.k6hr.ampr.org to k6hr.com and of course this could never work.

I figured out that I had to uninstall the homing beacon, and delete all the DNS records it had created. On the ChangeIP.com website I found the DNS Manager and deleted everything. That was it! This WordPress website had been successfully recovered. Good thing, because I was sick over the idea of losing it to such a bonehead mistake.

Brian N1URO advised me on several aspects of getting this working:

  • Add DNS A and CNAME records pointing to my server IP address
  • Eliminate use of the Secondary HTTP port 8080
  • Add a Virtual Host to the Apache2 configuration

Updates and/or additions to DNS records can take up to 24 hours to propagate through all the nameservers on the web. So possibly by 10pm tomorrow night “www.k6hr.com” will be alive and well on the web!

 

 

Two New Domains Registered

Over the weekend I registered two new domains:

I chose ChangeIP.com based on price. They are hereby HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! I experienced very fast responses to all the tickets I opened to ask questions.

Two New Domains through ChangeIP.com
ChangeIP.com

I had no experience dealing with DNS records, and I was fairly certain the DNS records were a big part of the problem I was having.

I decided to reach out to a few friends and ask for advice. Special thanks once again to longtime ham radio friend and guru of ‘All Things Internet’ Brian N1URO. Brian laid it out in simple terms, and I quickly realized I was just a few steps away from everything working perfectly.

Brian told me to:

  1. Reconfigure my Apache2 server to listen on port 80 (instead of 8080)
  2. Create 2 DNS records: An A record and a CNAME record
  3. Add a Virtual Host to the Apache2 server

All the changes Brian suggested were well documented on the web.

Years ago I used an ISP that blocked incoming packets for port 80. I was told they did this to discourage home based web servers. I discovered that they had not blocked the Secondary HTTP port at 8080, so I told my Apache2 server to listen for connection requests on port 8080. I continued to use port 8080. Since it was working, I never thought about changing it back.

Simple:

  • Edited the /etc/apache2/ports.conf file and changed the port number back to 80.
  • Logged into my account at ChangeIP.com and created the 2 DNS records
  • Copied, edited and renamed /etc/apache2/sites-available/default to /etc/apache2/sites-available/k6hr.com
  • Enabled the site with the command ‘sudo a2ensite k6hr.com’

To create the DNS entries I used ChangeIP.com’s DNS Manager. It’s a web interface that allows you to directly edit and update your DNS records. I clicked on my new domain and there was a button to “Add A Record”. Then, a drop down menu to select the “Record Type” followed by two data entry fields. After selecting A record, the first field to be entered is hostname, and the second is the IP address of your webserver. This was the same for both the A and CNAME records. Once I save the changes they take effect in just seconds.

An important step in setting up your new virtual host is creating the configuration file in the /etc/apache2/sites-available/ directory. This file contains the all important “Document Root” entry which defines the directory where all your virtual hosts’ webpages, images etc. will be stored. Typically this directory will be found in your /var/www/ directory. After running the command to activate the virtual host, an entry appears in /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/ directory and your new virtual host is ready to accept connections. The two new domains have been enabled in Apache and ready to test.

Everything is working brilliantly! Now if i could just figure out how to successfully “verify my property” in the Google Search Console I think I’ll be in business. I currently have little to no search results anywhere.

Tomorrow I plan to cut the desktop. Unless something unexpected comes up, the furniture portion of the remodel should be complete. I’m sick with a terrible cold, But I need to get the furniture squared away.

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Amazon Associates Link Builder

OK I will cut the desktop tomorrow, I promise.

Today I did research on the Amazon Affiliate Program and the Amazon Associates Link Builder. Specifically the WordPress Plugin that allows you to create links to Amazon products. If by chance someone buys a product through a link on one of my pages, Amazon pays me a commission! Who doesn’t like commission payments?

So if I’m going to be blogging about ham radio any way, I might as well make an attempt to monetize it. It’s the American way.

For example, I heard from a repeater builder friend of mine the other day and he told me that he recently made a big improvement in his VHF signal by installing a Ground Plane Kit.

Now if someone clicks on that link for the Ground Plane Kit and actually buys the item through my link, I get paid some tiny commission. The idea is to have a lot of links embedded throughout the blog. So I’ll spend some time building all these links and see if any money can be made.

It was an interesting idea, plus, I just started with WP and I’m up and running at breakneck speed! The WordPress Plugin is working brilliantly and was easy to install.

I’ll start researching products and adding links! We’ll see what happens!

 

The Final Cut! Isosceles Triangle Calculator

Today I made the final cut to get the desktop to the right size so the rack will fit. As seen in earlier photos of this project, the two sides of the desktop met in the corner at a 45 degree angle miter joint. As it turned out, another ham with an Isosceles Triangle Calculator came to my rescue.

In order to fit the radio rack into the corner of the room, I needed to figure out how much to cut off of the right side of the desktop in order to fit a 22″ wide rack in between the two 45 degree angled sides. The desktop currently occupies the entire length of the wall, and shortening its length is now the only solution. You may remember I was unable to remove the closet doors.

I’m no math whiz, and my guess was I would have to cut off 11″ if I were to fit a 22″ wide rack in between the two sides. Wrong! Luckily, I asked around first. The answer was found using an Isosceles Triangle calculator. All I knew was the corner was 90 degrees and the hypotenuse was 22″. Thanks to Cory AE6GW for doing the math. The resulting calculation showed I needed to reduce the length of the desktop by 15.556″ in order to obtain an exact fit. Then, I added an inch, so my sliding closet door would still have clearance.

Output of the Isosceles Triangle Calculator
Output of the Isosceles Triangle Calculator

Solving an isosceles triangle. The base, leg or altitude of an isosceles triangle can be found if you know the other two. A perpendicular bisector of the base forms an altitude of the triangle. This forms two congruent right triangles that can be solved using Pythagoras’ Theorem. (It’s all Greek to me)

It fits! Thanks to the Isosceles Triangle Calculator
The rack now fits squarely into the corner.

The right side of the desktop is now approx 16.5″ shorter, and of course the rack now fits squarely into the corner of the room. Exactly the way I wanted it. I say approximately due to the accuracy of the “Armstrong Saw” I used to make the cut!

Although still far from being finished, at least now I can push the rack back into the corner and make a little more room to move around in here.

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Amateur Radio Station Grounding – By the Book!

This weekend I will finish the ground bar ‘relocation’. The ground bar is currently located at the shack window . Amateur Radio Station Grounding and RFI mitigation is of the utmost importance. The goal is to provide a low impedance earth ground to the rack.

The HF station ground bar
This 2″ Copper Strap will extend along the wall to the rack.

The plan is to mount the ground bar vertically on the rear of the rack by bolting it to a couple of rack panels. I’ll mount the panels so I can get the ground bar mounted at the correct height and  position to connect the 2″ strap that’s running along the wall to the rack. All equipment will connect to the ground bar, then the strap will be bolted to the bars with some strain relief (service loop)

Ground Bar mounted!
Ground Bar mounted!

To accomplish this I purchased a set of DXE-MSC-3 Copper Strap Bonding Clamps. These will allow me to make a 90 degree turn to the left under the window, and run another piece of 2″ strap along the wall (behind the countertop). I’ll leave a “service loop” of strap in the back of the rack long enough, that I can pull the rack out for service without having to disconnect the strap. The document link to W5BWC should be required reading for all amateurs who own and operate an HF station. Amateur Radio Station Grounding is just as important as the antenna!

2" Copper Strap 90 degree turn!
2 inch Copper Strap left turn!

This was easier than expected. I had concerns about the loop and attaching it to the bar. Problem solved…

Low Impedance HF Station Ground
That’s a solid ground connection!

I traced the holes in the bar with a paper and pencil, and created a drilling template for the end of the strap. Four 3/8″ holes perfectly lined up. Ground Bar done! At some point I’ll attach the strap along the back of the countertop so it’s not just hanging loose back there.

Copper strap service loop
2″ copper strap loop so I can pull the rack forward for service.

This worked out great! I was able to push the rack all the way back into the corner. There’s enough ‘slack’ that when needed, I can pull the rack out far enough to sit/stand behind it. This is exactly how this was planned, and I’m pretty happy with it right now.

Radio Rack and temporary desktop
With the desktops temporarily back in place.

Now I can start measuring for the finishing touches, including the addition of a 32″ 4K UHD monitor. I’m currently considering the Samsung U32H850. If it fits, this is most likely the monitor I will use to replace the 1080p TV in my previous shack setup.

Th station is beginning to shape up
The shack is finally starting to shape up! Yeah, I know, I’ll switch the file cabinet on the left so the handle colors match on either side of the rack!

I’m TX testing now that everything is grounded. I found a couple of wiring errors to the amplifier that are now corrected. Key down at half power (600w) showed no evidence of any RF in the shack. I’ll try some full output tests tomorrow. Yeah! I finally took down that ratty looking YAESU Wall Map!

The ‘still to do’ list:

  • Relocate AC power distro
  • Relocate Router and Printer
  • Measure for use of TV riser
  • Measure for relocation of Ergotron Arm
  • Measure for 4K UHD monitor
  • Reconnect Scanner Audio
  • Reconnect Satellite Rotors
  • Reconnect NAS

After full power testing is complete, I will not do any more work on, or make any changes to the radio rack until after the ARRL International DX Contest (SSB) the first weekend of March. Radio work will resume after the contest. In the meantime I will get the ergonomic work going. The right side of the desktop can be completed. The left side must be done last, since access to the rack depends on sliding the left desktop out of the way.

I believe it was money well spent on all the snap-on ferrites and on the extension of the 2″ copper strap. Initial testing shows everything is quiet and no RFI. I believe I have a solid single point ground system in place. Further high power testing should prove the effectiveness of my Amateur Radio Station Grounding results!

We’ll see how it goes at 1KW output…

Palstar AT-AUTO – New Additions – 021418

The decision was made to purchase the LG 32UD59-B 4K UHD monitor. It is scheduled for delivery on Friday (of course). This replaces the 46″ 1080p TV I was using previously. I will mount the new 4K monitor on the Ergotron Arm and position it above the dual 22″ displays, as before. I need to modify the dual monitor stand since the string/cable inside has snapped and it no longer supports any weight. I think I’ll just insert a block of wood or something to hold it up to the correct height and call it done. I also scored on a Palstar AT-AUTO.

The other item I purchased today was a much sought after (second) Palstar AT-AUTO. I found one listed online and was lucky to get it after TWO previous ‘buyers’ backed out! The unit was serviced at Kessler and had upgrades installed, so I deemed it fair to pay a little more for this one than the first one I bought. No big deal. Now I have the two I need.

Palstar AT-AUTO
The second AT-AUTO will go on the shelf above the first one.

I’ll move that PRO 2006 scanner to the top shelf, under the Alinco data radio as originally planned, and install the AT-AUTO the same day it arrives. Tracking info to be made available tomorrow. Thanks to Robert KP4Y for what should be a very nice AT-AUTO. And…it has the same color buttons as my first unit.

The AT-AUTO is a fully automatic high power roller inductor tuner. No cranks to turn on this tuner! The AT-AUTO follows frequency changes in real-time when connected to the Flex 6000 series USB port. I consider the AT-AUTO to be one of the best auto tuners ever made. I just change to any frequency/band I please and the AT-AUTO typically delivers a 1.04:1 SWR. I no longer have to be concerned about SWR. The display is easy to read, and the tuner is quiet. The AT-AUTO does take some time to reach the tuned frequency when I switch to 160 meters, since the L and C settings for 160m are at the opposite end of the roller inductor. Other than that, the AT-AUTO typically tunes in a second or two once “trained”.

The tuner must be trained across all amateur bands so it can memorize the LC settings for your antenna. Since this unit was pre-owned, I will clear all memory before I retrain the tuner. To “train” the tuner, I transmit a tuning signal of 10w or so, and slowly tune from band edge to band edge on each of the amateur bands. The AT-AUTO stores all the LC settings in memory as you crawl each band. The AT-AUTO only has to tune, (or be trained) once. As long as you don’t change the antenna, the AT-AUTO recalls the stored settings for your current operating frequency, making tuning very fast. No worries about noisy relays, or arcing, due to its impeccable heavy duty design and construction

Palstar AT-AUTO
The AT-AUTO is a heavy duty, high power HF autotuner.

AT-AUTO – High Power, Heavy Duty, Fully Automatic, Computer Controlled, Delivering Near Perfect SWR.

From the Kessler Engineering website:

The AT-AUTO is a fully autonomous, fully automatic impedance matching network (an antenna tuner) that employs an embedded microprocessor to position a conventional roller inductor and a split-stator variable capacitor. It provides continuous coverage tuning from 1.8 – 54 MHz (including MARS, DoD, and commercial frequency bands, etc.) and is rated for 1500 W continuous carrier operation. The AT-AUTO is quiet and reliable, and with its industrial-rated stepper motors, provides a superior impedance match to that provided by the loud clanking boxes of relays provided by the competitors.

The Palstar AT-AUTO continuously measures forward and reflected RF power. As long as the SWR is below a user-selectable threshold, the AT-AUTO provides a “Good Match” cue in the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and takes no further action. Whenever the SWR exceeds the “Tune-Start” SWR, the AT-AUTO then counts the RF carrier frequency, looks up previously stored Inductor (L) and Capacitor (C) settings for the frequency of operation and then repositions L & C to the recalled settings. If the SWR is still excessive, the AT-AUTO automatically begins tuning, and provides user prompts during the entire process via the LCD. Once a good match is found, the new match settings are stored in memory for subsequent recall. The default behavior is highly customizable to suit individual needs.

The Palstar AT-AUTO is also able to obtain frequency information via the radio’s serial data port (for these compatible radios so equipped). By doing so, the AT-AUTO instantly follows frequency changes (VFO adjustment, etc.) and immediately recalls and sets the L & C for the new frequency – without the need to generate an RF carrier! The recalled match should provide an excellent SWR so that when RF is finally applied, subsequent tuning will not be necessary. While the serial port is not necessary for automatic tuning, this “Smart Mode” of operation greatly speeds the entire process of changing frequencies.

Note: The AT-AUTO is currently not in production and not available for sale. It is undergoing a redesign for release soon. The pictures and descriptions shown here are of the existing version(s) of the AT-AUTO tuner prior to its production cessation.

The Palstar AT-AUTO sends and receives serial data to/from the associated radio via the radio’s serial port. This is commonly referred to as Computer Aided Tuning or CAT. In order for the radio and the AT-AUTO to be able to communicate serially, an appropriate CAT cable must be used.

Because there is no defacto standard for CAT, there are variations in connectors and pin assignments from manufacturer to manufacturer. Therefore, there are unique AT-AUTO CAT cables for Elecraft, Kenwood, TenTec, Yaesu, and others. The CAT cables themselves are nearly identical, with minor variations in the specific connector and pin assignments.

ICOM has their own CAT implementation known as CI-V which uses entirely different protocols. ICOM radios, therefore, do not use the CAT cable, but instead use a CI-V cable.

Cable Sets consist of a Firmware Update Cable, A CAT/CI-V Cable, and in the case of some Kenwood radios, a Tuner-Handshake Cable. Schematic diagrams of the various cables are provided in the AT-AUTO user manual.

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