These web pages describe my station’s construction and operation. They also include some personal reviews, recommendations, and links to relevant information. I try to offer some insight into the research and planning stages of the station build.
Check back for updates to what’s going on here in the shack. I’m always building or improving something related to Amateur Radio, and I’ll post my findings here, in the event others may be interested.
This neat little MFJ automatic T/R switch senses transmitted RF and switches your antenna from receive to transmit using a relay. It shorts your receiver antenna input to ground to protect your receiver. It also provides an auxiliary contact closure to ground during receive (opened in transmit) for an “On-the-Air” sign or other use, perhaps even a TX Interlock line. The adjustable delay means I can fine tune it for perfect open/close.
Instead of using RF sense to switch the antenna, a control line input lets your key/keyer or PTT line switch the antenna. An adjustable time delay circuit gives you delayed switching. This prevents your antenna from switching between dots and dashes or between syllable and words.
Works on all modes — CW, AM, SSB, FM, and digital modes. It handles 200W SSB PEP. Compact 4 W x 2 5/8 H x 1 1/2 D inches.
It has SO-239 coax connectors for antenna, transmitter, and receiver. It has control input, auxiliary contact closure to ground, time delay screwdriver adjustment, power jack. Requires 12 VDC or 110 VAC with MFJ-1312D
I plan to use this switch so I can listen on my IC-765, but transmit from my Flex 5000 HF port. The MFJ-1708 is rated for 200 watts
Before purchasing the Samson SM10 mixer I did a little more research and revisited the Behringer product line. The Behringer Eurorack Pro RX1602 mixer fits the bill at a fraction of the price of the SM10.
BEHRINGER EURORACK PRO RX1602
BEHRINGER EURORACK PRO RX1602 Professional Multi-Purpose 16-Input Ultra-Low Noise Line Mixer
Extremely flexible multi-purpose sub-mixer, multi-track monitoring mixer and level translator
16 balanced high-headroom line inputs for individual stereo or mono use of each section
Ultra-low noise ULN design, highest possible headroom, ultra-transparent audio
Dedicated balance and level controls plus +4/-10 level selection per channel
Monitor/FX Send control per section with global master send control for flexible monitoring, recording or effects applications
Illuminated double-function “mute” button per section with additional “clip” indication provides comfortable input source/level information
Monitor/FX signal assignable to phones output for added flexibility
Highly accurate 2 x 7-segment LED level meters and individual level control for left and right main mix signal
1/4” TRS main mix outputs plus easily accessible headphones output on the front panel with dedicated level control
High-quality detented rotary controls for long-term reliability
Shielded toroidal power transformer for lowest noise interference
High-quality component components and exceptionally rugged construction ensure long life
I found one of these in like new condition for $30 and purchased it without hesitation!
Behringer and Samson are very similar in build quality, features etc. so the Behringer Eurorack Pro RX1602 is a direct replacement for the Samson SM10, and in this case, the Behringer is a bona fide ‘score’!
FLEX 6300 (L/R)
FLEX 6700 (L/R)
FLEX 5000 (L/R)
W7 PC AUDIO
W10 PC AUDIO
PRO 2006 (MONO)
I’ll set all the inputs at -10db sensitivity, and run the balanced SEND output to the Flex 6700 Line Input. No change in functionality, although the Samson has more features, they are not features I need for this application, nor are they features I need to pay more for.
FINAL DECISION: PURCHASE BEHRINGER EURORACK PRO RX1602
This is an interesting modification for the AT-AUTO. This mod adds a second SO-239 coaxial output in place of one the posts normally used for the “balanced” antenna output. It’s a Palstar AT-AUTO Mod that I think I may need one day. The instructions are simple and I found a few photos of modified units on the web.
I found this information on the Kessler Engineering website:
You have two options. We would prefer that you purchase the accompanying CX-AUTO which provides eight coaxial outputs. However, if you prefer to simply add a second coaxial output and don’t need the balanced output, we recommend the following procedure:
Unsolder the balun lead at the antenna relay.
Remove one of the balanced output connector “Bolts” and associated nylon insulating hardware.
Insert an SO-239 connector in the vacated balanced output connector.
Solder a #14 wire from the center-pin of the SO-239 connector to the relay contact which previously went to the balun.
If you follow these steps, this modification can readily be “undone” and no added holes, etc. will be necessary. The firmware will associate the “new” coaxial output with the “Balanced” memory settings, etc., and will be selected whenever “balanced” or “bal” is shown in the AT-AUTO display.
Here’s an inside view of the Palstar AT-AUTO Mod:
I currently have two HF wire antennas on the roof that I am not using. If I perform this mod on both of my AT-AUTO’s I could regain use of both of these antennas, a G5RV, and a second 130ft dipole (in a different direction than the ‘main’ dipole. aka [DIPOLE1]
I purchased the Astron RS-70A Regulated Power supply after obtaining less than desirable results from some of the smaller Astron supplies. I’d also accumulated a few too many of the small Radio Shack 12v supplies. As everytime one was taxed, I’d just add another one.
I went through several of the Astron 20 and 35 amp models early on (during my ICOM days). Believe it or not, every one of my Radio Shack supplies have not only survived, but remain in service to this day, after decades of 24/7 use. If you look through some of my shack pictures over the years you’ll no doubt notice them!
I found my RS-70A on eBay of all places. Someone bought it for a project that fell through and dumped it on eBay at half price. Lucky for me, this was yet another bona fide ‘score’. It arrived in a rounded out cardboard box, but luckily, made the trip unharmed. It was obviously brand new. I almost felt bad for the seller.
Astron RS-70A Regulated Power Supply Specifications:
Fold-Back Current Limiting Protects Power Supply from excessive current &
continuous shorted output.
Crowbar Over Voltage Protection
Maintain Regulation & Low Ripple at low line input voltage.
Heavy Duty Heat Sink
Chassis Mount Fuse
Three Conductor Power Cord
Input Voltage 105 – 125Vac
Output Voltage 13.8Vdc +/- 0.05Volts (internally Adjustable 11-15V)
Ripple Less than 5mV peak-peak (full load & low line)
Continuous Duty 57 Amps
ICS 70 Amps
Size 6″ x 13-3/4″ x 12-1/2″
Shipping Weight 48 lbs.
I have my Flex 6300 connected directly to the RS-70. I also directly connected an MFJ-1118 DC Power Panel to supply 12 volts to the rest of the 12v equipment in the rack.
I am currently on the lookout for a second RS-70A to keep as a backup. My current RS-70 is a central point of failure and redundancy is a must. I doubt I’ll find another new one at half price, but when I find one with the ‘right’ price, I’ll have a spare!
My Mosley TA-33-JR-N WARC Multiband HF Yagi is going to be 14 years old next month. I’ve never had a single problem with this antenna. It has been installed on my roof tower since May 2004. I’ve worked the world with this “Junior” antenna!
Back in October 2016 I began seeing high SWR numbers and decided to go up on the roof and take a look. Here’s what I found:
OK, before you say it, yes, this is Times Microwave (the genuine article). The outer jacket had disintegrated in the sun. I noticed the increased SWR after it had rained one day. Further, it had seemed to improve after a few days, and I reasoned this was because something had dried out.
I was concerned these bolts might not come out very easily. However, with some gentle taps they came right out. Some evidence of corrosion can be seen. When I installed this antenna in 2004, at the suggestion of one of my elmer’s at the time, I sprayed the elements and boom with Krylon ‘clear coat’ to help prevent corrosion. I think it was a sound decision, since the antenna still looks great overall considering its age.
Mosley TA-33-JR-N WARC – Coax Balun
At the suggestion of the fine folks at Mosley, I added a 6 inch (inside diameter) loop consisting of FIVE turns of the new LMR-400 Ultra Flex coax.
From the Mosley website:
COAX AND FEED SYSTEMS
Feed Systems – The Simpler, The Better…
Despite popular belief, linear radiators, normally employed in 2 and 3 element parasitic arrays, have a driving point impedance of close to 52 ohms when open at the center. To feed such a radiator it is only necessary to connect a 52 ohm line at this point to achieve the best possible match of line to antenna. However, because of certain design characteristics, some beam antennas require elaborate and, sometimes, unstable matching devices such as Gamma or T-Match systems or variations of these systems. Such devices are usually difficult to adjust and to maintain in adjustment when used in multi-band beams.
MOSLEY TRAP MASTER beams, however, are so designed as to not require any unwieldy matching arrangements. Mosley beams are fed by connecting the line directly to the open center of the radiator. Thus, an excellent match is achieved over the entire width of each Ham band resulting in extremely low SWR near resonant frequencies of each band and the ability to range from one end of the band to the other without excessive SWR. By eliminating such matching devices, MOSLEY TRAP MASTER beams provide their users with stable and dependable operation without the necessity of frequent trips to the roof or up the tower
to make readjustment.
The end result was well worth the bit of effort it took to add the coax balun. The antenna exhibits excellent SWR. The Mosley TA-33-JR-N WARC will be my main HF antenna for the foreseeable future, and certainly, for as long as I live at this QTH.
His guest appearance was made possible through a connection one of our guitar players had. IIRC he worked as a roadie for Reed, or was somehow in Reed’s periphery, and claimed he could get Reed to jam with us at a gig. The truth is, we were told several times by the guitarist that Reed would be coming, and after awhile (3 or 4 false alarms) his announcements were taken far less seriously.
The first time he announced ‘Lou Reed is coming tonight’ I called up all my friends to come down. They jammed the joint. Everybody showed up except Lou Reed. After the second false alarm they were all like ‘call us when he actually shows up’. Who could blame them.
Then, on some random weeknight in April 1976, while appearing at Trude Heller, Lou Reed did indeed join us onstage for an impromptu jam session. Once I got over the surprise of him actually showing up, I only had time to make one phone call. I reached a friend in Brooklyn and told him Reed was standing in front of me, and he agreed to round up some friends and drive over to the city.
Now I just hoped they would arrive before Reed left!
Luckily, a handful of my friends showed up in time to see the jam session. One of them even remembered to bring a camera! Well, the camera jammed, and for all these years there was nothing but fading memories of the event among the small number of attendees.
My Recent Discovery
During the assembly stages of my rack mount project, I was looking through some storage items and came across my collection of old cassette tapes. I was the guy in the band that always recorded everything. I recorded all the bands I ever played in. I don’t have pictures, but I have these old recordings.
It’s been a very long time since I looked at these tapes. I’d say probably 40 years or so. I pulled this one out to take a closer look:
Yep, just another band tape.. Until I opened it up:
I have no direct recollection of making a recording that night. It was not until I saw the tape again, now 42 years later, that I would actually open it and look at the label. You can imagine…right?
I would have had to have had my ‘cassette’ with me that ‘random weeknight in April 1976’. This is not such a stretch, since I took it with me every time I did music. I sometimes carried it around the street with me when I was a kid, like boom-box (before they had such things)
The Lou Reed cassette tape (and all of my cassettes for that matter) would be recorded on this exact model machine. I bought this Panasonic back in the days when I had my NY Daily News paper route.
The tape looked loose inside the cassette, so I very carefully wound the tape (with a BIC pen of course) from one end to the other, and back again, using a very slight back tension and I could see some wrinkles and rough spots in the tape.
what’s on the tape?
I have a pretty good idea what to expect on this tape. I’ll explain.
I’m certain this tape has not been played since the night it would have been recorded. It went into a box with all my other tapes, and since then, I’ve just carried them around with me all these years. The only cassette player I have now is in my car. (Yeah, I know, why get a new car when you can get some new radio equipment instead) I don’t want to try to play it in the car for obvious reasons. If it tangles in the car’s cassette player it might be hard to extract.
One of the gents at work has a high end studio cassette deck. He’s having it calibrated before our sessions begin. Actually, he has all the machines required:
I plan to hire him to copy all the analog tapes in my accumulation and convert them to files. It’s a really big job. I have a lot of tapes, in several different formats. I’ll completely organize everything before each session, so I don’t waste any time. I’ll start with the cassettes, then the 1/4″ 4 Track 7″ reels, and so on.
meeting lou reed april 1976
I remember being called backstage to meet ‘Lou’ and being reminded to ‘be cool’ before I met him. I remember Lou was buggin’ out, and he had a friend with him named Rachel. He was really a humble sweet guy, who stopped by to jam with us! How cool was this!
The one thing that everybody remembers about that night was Lou’s “Jet Phaser”
He came to play with an electric guitar and this pedal. The rig made a god awful sound with this pedal. It was totally insane. I remember Lou more or less just banged on the guitar, like he was mock playing it, and messed around making crazy jet noises with this pedal and his whammy bar. I’ll never forget it. I was puzzled at the time, I thought we were going to do some music.
If there’s actually a recording (not just words on a label) I would expect to hear the infamous Jet Phaser. Also, sometimes when the stage was small, like at Trude’s, I would place the recorder on top of my bass amp. So this tape may be phaser noise drowned out by the bass amp. I don’t remember Lou singing anything, or speaking on the mics, but who knows.
Believe it or not, during a break at a business meeting in 2004, I overheard a fellow manager (from the music retail business) telling a Lou Reed story to some of the other guys, so I went over to listen. It was incredible, he was telling a story about Lou Reed coming into his store and buying the Roland Jet Phaser on his way to a gig ‘downtown somewhere’. I nearly had stroke! When I told him what happened and we compared notes we determined it could have only been that same day. If the tape is good my buddy JC will be among the first to know.
Of course, there’s only one way to find out. It won’t be long. I will update the story the same day I hear the tape. Hopefully it’s what the label say’s it is. More later.
I was looking through the Yoast SEO settings and came across ‘breadcrumbs’. It seems like something I must have, and does not appear difficult to implement. Yoast SEO Breadcrumbs are a navigation aid for the WordPress website, and can be added to the “Theme” of the site.
When Hansel and Gretel went into the woods, Hansel dropped pieces of bread on the ground so they could find their way home if the two of them ever got lost. These breadcrumbs eventually became the model for the breadcrumbs we see on websites nowadays. A breadcrumb is a small text path, often located at the top of a page. On yoast.com, for instance, the path to our Yoast SEO plugin page is Home > Software > WordPress Plugins > Yoast SEO for WordPress. This breadcrumb immediately shows you where you are. Every part of that path is clickable, all the way to the homepage.
Breadcrumbs also appear in Google. If you use Yoast SEO or add the correct form of structured data to your site, search engines can pick up this data and could show your breadcrumbs in the search results. These provide users an easy to understand overview of where the page sits on your site.
I’m in. I carefully typed in the code snippet adding it to the bottom of my theme’s header.php file. This should help improve traffic and site navigation, and help prevent the dreaded “Bounce Rate”
Advantages to using breadcrumbs
There are a couple of advantages to using breadcrumbs on your site. Let’s go over them quickly:
1. Google loves them
Your visitors like breadcrumbs, but Google likes them as well. Breadcrumbs give Google another way of figuring out how your website is structured. In addition to that, Google might use your breadcrumbs to show these in the search results. This way, your search result will at one become much more enticing to users. To increase the chance to get these breadcrumbs in Google, you need to add structured data or use Yoast SEO.
2. They enhance the user experience
People hate to get lost. When confronted with a new location, people often look around in search of recognizable objects or landmarks. The same goes for websites. You need to keep visitors happy and reduce as much friction as possible. Breadcrumbs can help your user experience since it is a well-known interface element that instantly shows people a way out. No need to click the back button!
3. They lower bounce rates
Hardly anyone comes in via the homepage anymore. It’s all organic search nowadays. That means every part of your site could be an entry point. You must come up with a way to guide these visitors to other parts of your site if the selected page does not meet their expectations. Breadcrumbs can lower bounce rates because you’re offering visitors an alternative means of browsing your site. Don’t you think it’s better to send a visitor to your homepage than back to Google?
When I assembled my current lot of PC hardware I decided to install all Solid State Drives. At the time SSD’s were still relatively new, and once I saw how much faster they were than the mechanical drives, I went all in. The time has come to consider more current SSD storage options, as my SATA II 3Gb/s SSD’s are now several years old, and have fallen behind the ‘speed curve’ of current day SSD technology. I also noticed that the lowest score in my Windows 7 “Experience Index” is the disk data transfer rate @ a 7.0 score. That being said, I’ve started looking into SSD upgrades.
I purchased these Kingston SSDNOW V100 drives circa 2010. At the time I had met a hardware reviewer who would sell the samples he was given once he had finished his reviews. The prices were good enough that I bought a few from him, a couple of 128GB drives and a 64GB drive and converted my two machines to SSD. Whatever mechanical drives I had leftover would be used as backup data drives, where their slow speed wouldn’t matter as much. I run the two 128GB drives in RAID 0 and installed Windows 7 64bit.
SSD Storage Options – 2018
A lot has happened in the world of SSD technology since 2010!
At first I was focused on SATA III 2.5″ format, but quickly learned the real speed in SSD technology now lies in NVMe PCIe M.2 drives. I don’t want to replace motherboards (running in rock solid configurations) to accommodate this upgrade, and, lucky for me, it now looks like I won’t have to.
NVMe PCIe M.2
A suitable technology choice has emerged, and much to my surprise, it will not involve much compromise. I’ll explain…
My existing motherboard (of which I have a brand new spare) does not have SATA III, so that immediately eliminated the 2.5″ drives for me. Nor does it have an M.2 connector. (my motherboard is also from 2010) But what it does have is an available PCIe 2.0 x4 slot.
Just as I was wondering how this new drive would fit in the PCIe slot, I found the adapter.
So the compromise, to call it that, is the PCIe 2.0 x4 slot on my existing motherboard. The SYBA adapter is a PCIe 3.0 device that is compatible with PCIe 2.0 (the reason I’m lucky) I’m also happy to be letting go of the RAID 0 array. It has performed well for me all these 8+ years.
Convert M.2 NGFF PCI-e based SSD to work in main board PCI-e x4/8/16 bus slot
PCI Express 3.0 x 4 Lane Host adapter
Movable M.2 NGFF stand-ff and multiple plated-holes supports type 22110, 2280, 2260, 2242, and 2230 SSD
Supports PCI-e 1.0, PCI-e 2.0, and PCI-e 3.0 motherboard
Low Profile Bracket included
Transparent to the OS and no driver required (Plug n Play)
I also have the option of removing a video card from a PCIe x8 slot and putting the drive there if there is any benefit. I’m guessing whatever difference may exist, it would likely be imperceptible to me in day to day use.
Overall, the WD Black is probably the best PCIe SSD Western Digital could have built using their SanDisk planar TLC NAND. It’s clearly a much faster low-end PCIe offering than the Intel SSD 600p despite the latter’s potential advantage from using 3D TLC NAND. The pricing will determine which one is a more sensible purchase.
I’m assuming that the current third-party Amazon sellers charging above MSRP will soon be undercut by retailers selling their stock close to MSRP. The price Western Digital is asking is about 10% higher than what the Intel SSD 600p is currently going for. For users with light to moderate workloads the cheaper 600p will still be plenty fast, but if you have a particularly heavy workload or expect to operate the drive nearly full, the WD Black is probably a worthwhile step up. There are also quite a few options just above the WD Black in price that have a clear performance advantage. Among them the Plextor M8Pe seems to have better pricing and performance than the Patriot Hellfire, but there may be other Phison E7 drives besides the Hellfire that are cheap enough to undercut the M8Pe and be a nicee step up from the WD Black.
All things being more or less equal, why pay more? I feel at this point I’ve read enough about both units, and certainly will not perceive the differences in use. So I will save a few dollars and purchase the Western Digital WDS512G10XOC
Exploring all available SSD storage options was the right approach.
It’s hard to believe how many power outages occur in my neighborhood. If it weren’t for the UPS Back Up Power Supply I’d be offline constantly.
2018-02-04 09:57:52 – Shutdown
2018-04-05 19:07:48 – Shutdown
2018-04-20 17:11:04 – Shutdown
Every time the power goes out we’re told that they are “replacing some old equipment in the area”. Needless to say, that excuse is getting pretty old itself. Luckily, these events usually don’t last long, and the UPS successfully keeps everything alive. Of the 19 events since February 2018, three resulted in shutdowns when the UPS battery ran out. Of course, we’re never notified in advance of any of these ‘repairs’ so a UPS Backup Power Supply (or two) are required.
That being said, amateur radio station K6HR currently employs two Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS). The most recent outage revealed that my older UPS, an APC LS 700 is in need of replacement. A quick look at ‘apcaccess’ quickly confirmed it:
APC : 001,036,0870
DATE : 2018-05-13 21:23:30 -0700
HOSTNAME : gw.k6hr.ampr.org
VERSION : 3.14.14 (31 May 2016) debian
UPSNAME : apc700
CABLE : USB Cable
DRIVER : USB UPS Driver
UPSMODE : Stand Alone
STARTTIME: 2018-05-12 11:10:33 -0700
MODEL : Back-UPS LS 700 STATUS : LOWBATT
LINEV : 114.0 Volts
LOADPCT : 0.0 Percent
BCHARGE : 0.0 Percent
TIMELEFT : 0.0 Minutes
MBATTCHG : 5 Percent
MINTIMEL : 3 Minutes
MAXTIME : 0 Seconds
SENSE : Medium
LOTRANS : 106.0 Volts
HITRANS : 133.0 Volts
ALARMDEL : 30 Seconds
BATTV : 11.7 Volts
LASTXFER : No transfers since turnon
NUMXFERS : 0
TONBATT : 0 Seconds
CUMONBATT: 0 Seconds
XOFFBATT : N/A
SELFTEST : NO
STATFLAG : 0x05000040
SERIALNO : 3B0726X84715 BATTDATE : 2007-06-30
NOMINV : 120 Volts
NOMBATTV : 12.0 Volts
NOMPOWER : 410 Watts
FIRMWARE : 19.b5 .D USB FW:b5
END APC : 2018-05-13 21:23:56 -0700
I could replace the battery in the LS 700, but after 11 years in service, it’s time to upgrade to a more up to date piece of hardware. I will likely relegate the LS 700 to a lower priority application. (i.e. the home entertainment center) since it is still in working condition other than the depleted battery.
I purchased the CyberPower LX1500GU to replace an old APC BackUPS RS 1000 that was also retired due to old age. This CyberPower model met or exceeded the spec, and was within budget. The LX1500GU is rated for 900 Watts, and is currently supporting a 225 Watt load with an estimated runtime of 50 minutes. This UPS supports the main Windows PC and the Astron RS70A that powers all the 12 volt radio equipment.
Why not another CyberPower LX1500GU? Logical question. The simple answer is ‘apcupsd’ is currently running on my Ubuntu server, and I prefer to install another APC unit rather than have to research and reconfigure for something else. This new APC BX1500M will be plug and play with my current configuration once I change the ‘UPSNAME parameter.
This UPS device will support the Ubuntu Server, Router, switch, and one monitor.
There are some fine tutorials available for apcupsd, so I won’t go into it here. This is a quick and dirty version of my current apcupsd config:
# for apcupsd release 3.14.14 (31 May 2016) – debian
UPSTYPE usb DEVICE /dev/usb/hiddev[0-15]
# ======== Configuration parameters used during power failures ==========
# ==== Configuration statements for Network Information Server ====
# ========== Configuration statements used if sharing =============
# a UPS with more than one machine
# ===== Configuration statements to control apcupsd system logging ========