Well, shit happens…

First off all;
Sorry for that.

A couple nights ago I tuned around the 20m Band and could hear exactly nothing at all. I will add a video of this sometime. Since this happens to me a lot, I wanted to test my Antenna. The swr-meter was showing ok, so I dropped my curiosity. At night I did not continue.

Today I remembered the problem and thought, maybe I could do some reverse beaconing with WSPR and see if I am recieved at all. After some fiddling with the software I managed to send out my WSPR signals. On the Spot database I then wanted to see who could hear me. So I first opened the list view. There were a couple of stations, so ok. Everthing is nice I thought.

It was not until I opened the map view to see that I fucked up. What a shame ! See for yourself:
wrong locatorDo you recognise my my Fuckup ?

I mixed up my Maidenhead Locator somehow as I entered it into the WSJT software. It looks like I’m somewhere in the middle of the sea off the coast of Netherlands und United Kingdom. It even looks a little plausible because many British stations seem to pickup my signal. But that is not the case. I am working in Berlin right now and my locator is JO62qm.

It was a sincere mistake and I really don’t know how this could happen. I just relied on the settings I had made earlier. I also don’t see how I could have mis-typed 62 as 24. It makes no sense. So, upon seeing this, I corrected my error in the WSPR settings. Seems like it was instantly sent to the online database of WSPRnet. Although I did not TX a while after the correction, the map showed up like this :
correct locatorThis is the way it should have looked from the beginning.

This remains one lesson to be learned:

If you have not used your stuff for a while,
check all settings before you go again!

So much for WSPR. I think I can now check this off from my Bucket List : http://burak.ozhan.de/blog/dl7bur-amateur-radio-bucket-list/

Bucket List

Let’s see..
I haven’t written anything in 5 months.
Time to change that.
Time to get writing every now and then.

To get myself writing, I have decided to get a list of items I want to do as an Amateur Radio Operator at some time in my life. A “Bucket List” if you wish. But since I really hope that until I am old, some way is found that lets us live forever, I don’t want to do it till the end of my days. I would rather try to manage to check every item on the list within the next 10 years. The List mainly consists of 4 Groups of items. I want to Work all Bands (really ALL bands). I want to work all Modes. I want to work with all OSCAR sattelites. And I want to have equipment up and ready for all primary Ham Bands. I am well aware that the lists might need some changing over the course of the next 10 Years. It might happen that some Band is declared of primary status, that was not the case earlier or there might be a new operation mode that get very popular within very short time. More likely is that some of the satellites I want to work with break down before I get to use them.

For now I have 200 items on that list. I will blog about every one when I do it. I want to keep entries as separate as possible. I.e. Marking off 8 items at once just because I used a transceiver I own, to operate a satellite on a band I did not write about before using a mode I did not use until then, just seems kind of, well, wrong. So I will try to keep it nice and tidy.

I also hope that I can work with my own Callsign. As it seems German regulations restrict you to use the clubcall if you are at a clubstation, for now most of the activity I make is from the clubstation DK0TU that I recently got a member of.

PS : Oops. I almost forgot, I have linked to my Bucket List at the top of my Page, but here is another link : http://burak.ozhan.de/blog/dl7bur-amateur-radio-bucket-list/

DL7BUR

I finally went to the Ham Radio Exam. It’s a shame that I did not make this step earlier. Way earlier. Like in 2001 or so, when I just started with university and still was studying electronics engineering. It probably would have helped my courses to understand AC circuits from a very practical perspective. But what the hell, finally I did it and I am happy.

I directly went for the Class “A” Licence, the bigger one in Germany. I am now entitled to use all bands (135kHz – 250GHz) and maximum power. Some people at the exam were going for first class E then class A. Maybe that would have been the wiser choice since I was rather able to pass the exam by luck than by knowledge; I was solving example exams on a webpage and the first time I got an adequate mark for the technical part was the very morning of the exam. But at least I did look up the questions again when I was home.

Passing the exam and getting the HAREC directly after the exam, it was a rather tedious wait of 19 days for the callsign assignment to arrive. But it is finally here. I am now proudly DL7BUR. BUR stands for the first three letters of my name; Burak. I also used the time to visit my first HAM radio event. The “19th Berlin Antenna Fieldday” (aka. “BAF”). I expected to see at least a couple of OM that do stuff like GHz technology or ATV. I was slightly disappointed to see mostly Inverted-Vee’s and and almost exclusively shortwave stuff. There were only two OM using and showing 2m/70cm antennae. Also two OM had set up “talk-via-light” equipment. Since on the descripton to the event Amateur-TV and SHF was anounced I was eager to see how that works. Nonetheless I could engage some nice conversations about antennae, tuners and CW. OM are crazy about CW. Somehow I don’t get the craze, but what the hell, I guess I will learn CW sometime soon. There were even some OM that I saw before at the exam or at the local HAM radio clubs I visited in the weeks between the exam and the event.

Below are some Impressions from the event. Can you find me on the group photo ?

Yaesu MH-48 Microphone with FT-817 TRX

It’s been a while I have written. Meanwhile I am again working my way through started and unfinished electronics projects of mine. One of these unfinished projects was the adaptation of a Yaesu MH-48 Microphone to the 817 QRP transceiver.

A while ago I had bought two used Yaesu radios on ebay. The seller only included one microphone for both and did not respond to me when I asked for the other microphone. So I went back on ebay and bought a random Yaesu microphone with a “modular jack”, assuming it will simply fit.
Boy was I wrong !

So I got a MH-48 DTMF Microphone that does not work with the FT-817 at all. But of course I wanted a working microphone. At best not having to buy a new one.
As I looked back into the accessory list of the FT-817 and saw that the DTMF microphone that specifically works with the 817 is the MH-36E8J.

On the quest to adapt the MH-48 so that it works I found it’s schematics and also looked for the schematics of the MH-36, but could not find any for it directly. From what I found, it seems like the DTMF tones in the MH-36 are generated by an IC for that purpose, whereas the MH-48 is just a bunch of passive switches and some transistors. There is nothing in there that could generate the frequencies for DTMF so I guess they are generated in the specific transceiver itself. This leads to the conclusion that full functionality can only be restored by a major modification. I did not really have the wish to start a bigger thing, I just wanted the basic functions of a microphone so I can use it with the radio.

Click to enlarge

Even the basic functions were a little bit more complicated than I thought. Some simple rewiring of the microphone at the jack was not enough. The PTT path in the MH-48 microphone has a 15K resistor and a diode. This prevented the TRX to switch to Transmit mode. So I simply shorted both with a tiny piece of wire. The TX-LED on the microphone still works with this little change.

The electred microphone had all the circuitory it needs to generate audio, I did not touch any of those. At this point I already had what I wanted, the very basic functionality of a handheld PTT-microphone. Then I tried to randomly push the other keys on the microphone. Just to see if anything would happen. I figured that both the top keys for up and down set the frequency one step higher when they were pushed. Since this was somewhat awkward I also wanted the down button to work.

Click to enlarge

I looked back into the schematics of the MH-48, I figured I would only need minimal changes for the other one to work. I removed the doulbe diode package that is connected to the down button. Then I got my multimeter and measured random points in the vicinity of that place and found a pad where the down signal is connected to. I shorted those two points with a short wire and I had a working down button. Unfortunately later I also discovered that the first row of the DTMF keys did the same thing, on press they lower the frequency one step. Well, If I ever open the microphone again I might look into that for now it will remain as it is.

Since the backlight of the DTMF keys is directly between supply voltage and ground the lights work when I use the switch. No modification needed for that, but it is pretty useless as long as the keys themself have no function.

As much as I also wanted to have the “fast” button, there were no wires left in the cable. The microphone is designed for a completely different radio.The cable has 6 wires that go directly into a 6 pin modular jack, whereas the FT-817 has a 8-pin port and uses all 8-pins. To figure which one does what I have disassembled the one MH-31 microphone that was delivered with the two radios. There are schematics of that one on the Internet if you need further info.

To conclude, I have now a modified MH-48 DTMF microphone, that I bought falsely because I was to lazy to realize that there are slightly different versions on the market.

With backlight in the dark

HAM Rant

This was just so nice, I had to share. It explains pretty much amateur radio operation nowadays.

There was an embedded youtube video here, if you still want to watch it you can access it with this external link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWE7FrVY9T4

The reason for me posting this is that, still not having a licence, I restrict myself to listening. I try to listen to as much as possible, in different “modes”. At some point of course I came across APRS. From everything I have read across the internet there is one single de-facto standart software that decodes the data packages and displays them on screen. That one software needs a software-licence that is only available to licenced-amateur-radio-operators. Which is pretty bad, if you just want to listen, like me. Well Asking around in a german HAM-Radio internet forum, telling in the entry post that I have no access to that software, I got recommended to use it 3 times within the next 5 posts. Embarrasing…

Another amateur radio video. Actually the best thing I ever saw explaining a directional antenna visally. Simple experimentation like this is way better than any written description or even simulations and graphics.

There was another embedded youtube video here, if you still want to watch it you can access it with this external link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lslHtCUSfN4

Edit: This post was edited to remove external cookies from Youtube.

Posted in HAM

RF Filter

Some while ago I was visiting back a former workplace of mine. My colleagues there had just heard about the RTL-SDR stuff and were testing a DVB-t USB stick they ordered from a chinese dealer which was delivered on that day. Since they had a litte bit difficulties in getting all the drivers patched up, I offered my help because I already gone through that experience.

While doing that, I just briefly saw that someone modified the Stick to get LF to HF reception. As soon as I got home I ordered a new dvb-t stick to replace the old one and as soon as it arrived I modified the old one. I first got some shortwave stations but had severe problems with overloading from nearby 88-108MHz FM Broadcast stations. After all I live in the middle of a nations capital, so there is no possible way that this could not happen. I mean the main source of those signals is the Berlin TV-Tower, a mere 3.4 km (2.1mi) away with many stations in the Kilowatts region.

I first suspected the still on board Tuner IC to be the bad part, still making some “conversions” and plunging in the radio stations. But that was not the case, I found out after removing it completely, leaving me a USB stick with only a Realtek 2832u. I still had all the Shortwave spectrum covered with FM radio.

[I really need to get a picture of the spectrum with this, Shortwave and FM side by side 🙂 ]

First I was shocked and did not understand why, later I tried to investigate the reasons and discovered that the stations appered every 28,8MHz in their regular order and every 14,4MHz in reverse. Looking a little bit into this I soon realised that the board has a 28,8MHz crystal oscillator on board, a pretty standard frequency for devices connected to usb.

I once briefly tried to disconnect any antenna and all the FM stations just dissapeared. So this was not some spurious interference coming from my USB-cable extention, it really came via the antenna. No wonder, the antenna is directly connected to the receiver. No preselection is made at all.

In the mean time I even got a Funcube Dongle Pro Plus and although it a really good receiver for most of the lower frequencies, it is pretty deaf. I.e. I can not hear the local 177 kHz Longwave station at all, whereas the modded DVB-t dongle does pretty good  job at it.
But as said, it gets disturbed by the higher frequencies, so :
I just needed to fix this! 

I went ahead and fired up RFsim99 and Eagle Layout and a couple of hours later this was the result that landed on instagram :

Transition frequency of S21 starts at 30 MHz. Since the dongle cannot recieve anywhere above 28MHz there shoud be no problem with the 10m band anywhere. -3 dB is at 33.5 MHz and -40 dB is at 45 MHz. By the time I reach 87.5 MHz, which is the lowest end of FM broadcast here in Germany I have -124 dB, which was particularly important to me. A filter I had built two years ago could reduce the FM interference but not block it completely. I guess I had made the filter slope too flat. Also I was trying to squeeze that between the FM band and the airband, not much space in there.

But just what this should do according to theory is not enough for me. I really want to also measure the S21 and S11 values so I can compare them to what I designed for. Any ideas for that ? What can I use ?

I also sent in the layout to get some boards, they arrived yesterday and wait for me to populate them. So there will be some updates to this. Until I can post anything new on this, here is a photo of the finished pcb. That is some awesome quality for just 29,90 €.

Looking at the PCB I see I labeled it with 60 Mc. Why did I do that ? I can remeber writing Mc instead of MHz because I needed the font to pass the Design-Rule-Check, therefore I needed it to be bigger, until I later discovered that I did a mistake. But I do not recall why I wrote 60 that is neighter the beginning nor the end of the transition frequency. Just in case you wonder, at 60 MHz this should be at -75 dB with tolerances between -68,8 and -81,6. I really am curious if that will come out as expected.

Listening a Pileup

Today I was listening a pileup on 15m at 21290kHz (usb). The Callsign was 7U50I. It took quite some time, that the OM told his callsign. I guess that someone by coincidence got on the frequency, like me, and asked. He repeated it a couple of times, but after 3 minutes forget about it and went back to only calling the other peoples callsigns. In which he had to block the crowd a couple of times. Since he was calling for one person to repeat the partial heard callsign to complete it but many others were answering. He repeatedly needed to calm the calling stations down. Seems like OMs get crazy on special occasion QSLs.

I could hear the station clearly (Hams would call this 5-9 I guess) which first lead me to the wrong assumtion that it was somewhere nearby, but then I googled the callsign to find out that it was Algeria. It was a special occasion call for celebrating Algeria’s 50 years of independence.

I was recieving the station with just some TV rabbit ears antenna, just 3m over ground. They must have been sending way above anything that is officially allowed.

Updates

I was just browsing a page, a blog, or more a list of entries for an activity, where the claim, on a page pointing to the list, is that the activity is still being hold regularly but the newest entry in the list was already 7 years old.This has pushed me to look back into my own blog. As it looks my newest entry is almost 3 weeks old now. Time for some updates.

Testing Antennas
As the FunCubeDongle Pro+ I have ordered from a local dealer is still backordered I have set out to test the wire that I had put up on my balcony. After I got my dipmeter I just could not resist and I had put up a wire across the long side of my balcony. I guess the most accureate type description for the antenna would be an “inverted-L”. To save a little on the distance across (so to use more as an antenna) I have put up two plastic beams and connected the wire directly to those, without the use of an insulating guy. So the is no lenght lost with the guy-rope. I could only do this since I had the possibility to use very short pastic stubs, any long piece would not give the stability.

The idea on testing came up as I was discussing whether I could listen to the TRT 4 longwave station on 180kHz some 2000km away. It turned out to be impossible due to two other stations in the vicinity (frequency- and location-wise) block the signal. One of them even appears on every other frequency, it poisons the whole spectrum. Also information on the internet contradicts if the station I wanted to listen is still active or not.

Later I also looked into MW / AM stations. Of course in both cases the antenna is absolutely detuned. It was never meant for the mid and longwave broadcast frequencies. Sorrily I have absolutely no shortwave reception device. Well at least I now get why no one is interested in AM boradcast anymore. The quality, even of close by stations is just bad.

Hamnet
Although I am still not a licenced amateur I really am interested in all the stuff about it. One interesting thing for me in particular is Hamnet. No wonder, I am a CS-Student. That was the reason I ordered a Ubiquity NanoStation M5. It arrived pretty quick, in just 2 days. I would really wish my China orders would be a little more like that. (More on that later)

So the Nanostation arrived and I played around with it for a while. Although it can only work on the 5GHz wlan band it could find a couple AP’s in the neighbourhood that I did not see until now. Even on the lowest setting the signal strenght is on par with the maximum setting on my router. I tested mainly to see if any of my wlan enabled devices are capable to communicate with out-of-standard 10MHz or 5MHz bandwidth. That was a total failure, none of the wlan 5GHz enabled devices I own can do that. If it were possible, I could simply go to one of the HAMNET user entry points in my city and use whatever mobile device is capable. The disadvantage of the NanoStation vs. any other mobile device is that it will need external power whereas a laptop or mobilephone or tablet is easier to use and set-up somewhere near a HAMNET user entry point. It would just have simplified a sneak-peek, I will need to wait to make my licence and put up the NanoStation on the roof.

China
Well, I have been waiting for several packages from china and meanwhile they seem not to be able to transfer parcels within the 45 days period in which paypal allows for refunds. That makes it really difficult to weigh a refund up against waiting for the parcel. This got worse over time. I can remeber receiving parcels from china within 6 days. Seems like I will need to wait till the last day and request a refund via paypal, I see no other option.

CW and WPM

So,
starting with HAM radio I was looking into this so called CW thingie… Just kidding.
CW is the one mode that is well known by all ham operators. Actually in Germany there is no need to learn CW. The Advanced Licence (Klasse A) does not require you to demonstrate your ability to use CW in an exam. There is only a voluntary CW exam.

Nontheless I wanted to look into CW, just for the kicks and I got confused. Seems like OMs are using all kinds of support devices, like electronic keyers, memory keyers, dual paddles, and so on.. But the usage of computers is frowned upon. If you are allowed to use memory keyers in a contest, to get as many QSOs as possible, why the fck wouldn’t you allow a PC to send those CQ messages ? I don’t get it.

One thing I looked into was how to start with CW. Until now I don’t even have a licence so there will be no on band training for me. Also I have no key, paddle, keyer, radio or whatever. I briefly thought about connecting some dual padles to my PC to train, even going so far as of thinking about if I could write my masters thesis with CW to get the practice. But then I realised that paddles are really expensive! Whatever.

During all this I began to think; “what if I use my PC to send CW ?” would it really be that bad if I cannot decode and encode CW by hand and ear ? Somewhere across those lines I saw that CW can really get very fast actually, around 20-30 WpM (Words per Minute) are possible with a bit practice and there are ppl using it way up to over 60 WpM according to those pages I’ve read.It even goes beyon 200 WpM on extreme high speed cw contests.

That was the point where I was wondering if I could even type that fast on a keyboard. Again just for the kicks, I tried it. I tried typing in random word shown on the screen on a webpage and the page measures your WpM speed. I am at a consistent 29 WpM in all the three languages that I can read, write and speak in. That’s a pretty bad score actually, considering that I am a software engineer, or at least a computer scientist, of some kind and spending all my life in front of some kind of computers.

This rises another question:
Will I ever be able to send CW faster than I can type ?

YES! It did arrive !

I am now proud owner of a Baofeng VX-5R !
Programming it was not that easy, many of the tools that are supposed to work, simply don’t work. Also when the battery is low the programming seems to simply malfunction without getting a battery warning. Just charge it and try again.

As programming software I simply used the programm called “Chirp”. One disadvantage of it is, it is not able to programm all the settings it can only do the channel memories. ( or I am just to dumb to find the settings )

For the settings I used the Baofeng tool called “UV_5R_VIP”. Caution first get your USB-Serial drivers sorted out, when it cannot find a serial port it goes mad!

Acutally the “KG-UV Commander” looked nice. I think it’s UI was way better but it does not work. I couldn’t figure out whats wrong. It simply sits there and looks like it can’t find the radio.

So, since I lack a licence, I’m just listening around. PTT is TABU for me! I tuned in to the two nearest repeaters, it sits on my desk and waits till someone talks. Not really happened till now…

My first HAM Rig

So,
earlier I was talking on what I should get as my first HAM Radio. First I started with some really cool and extremely expensive HF Rigs. Then I thought that it might be a good idea to first get a cheaper Radio with which I can just listen to the HF Bands, so I can test if I can manage to get an antenna out on my balcony before my neighbours complain and if I can hear anything at all. But I should also be able to use the radio for something. So I chose a walkie-talkie ( is this the right translation for “Handfunkgerät” ?) that can do 2m/70cm in TX and pretty much everything from 100kHz to 23cm in RX with all the modes. Well, it was a nice idea. Still pretty expensive, but waaay cheaper than the first devices i looked into.

So recently I saw that there will be a FUNcube Dongle Pro Plus. In addition to the regular treats a FCDP comes with it also can tune down to the lowest end of LF at 100kHz. What a radio! Since I already had a FCDP and played around with it for quite some time by now, I am pretty sure I will get the HF enabled FCDP+ version as well. I will do all my HF DX experiments with it. So there is no need for a Radio for me that can do allband RX anymore.

Diminishing the needs for wideband-RX, what is left is that I will get a simple duoband 2m/70cm Handheld radio as my first HAM Rig. It should allow me to talk via any relays around Berlin and make some first contacts. After all I plan on building my own radios. Remember, that’s the fun part for me.

So what remains left when all the special parts are left out ? Right, a cheapo chinese dualband radio. Let’s see what it does.

Posted in HAM

HAM Radio – deciding on the first radio

So,
a couple weeks ago I decied that all my radio activity needs a HAM licence. I have been playing around with listening devices for the last 15+ Years. Beginning with an analouge scanner in the mid 90’s. That left it’s place to a digital scanner (some uniden XLT60 thingie) that I must’ve bought somewhere around ’97. I mainly tried to decode pocsag pages and NOAA imagery. Then somehow this hobby of me went into a long hibernation period. I can remeber owning a CB-Radio, but can’t remeber when.

A while ago I rediscovered Radio as a hobby, beginning with the dedected project, that caused me to buy some DECT hardware. And it was followed by Osmocomm for GSM, I have several Motorola C123 phones lying around. Then the time of Tetra begun and one of the first things I got was a Funcube Dongle. That also opened some possibilities of more general listening to the air. Including air traffic bands. I really loved it. Then, out of the blue, I found out that one of my DVB-T dongles (that I had bought for DAB+ mainly) could do pretty much the same as the FCDP. WOW! Again I listened to all those weirdities that I could hear with my PC.

Well from there it was not a long way to decide that only listening is not enough. I want to transmit and talk to the ppl. I begun with reading the stuff that I have to learn to get through the exam and I am sure that I will be doing CW at some time.

Albeit postponing the preparations for the HAM-exams, since I should be working on my master thesis, every now and then I was looking into Transceivers. Imagining which one I should buy first. Of course since I am a techie I will most probably be building some of my own rig, after all that’s the most funny part. But just to start with, just to get going, I want something that works and I want something that works well, very well. So I was looking into Transceivers like the Icom IC-7800 or Yaesu FT-5000. Really nice rigs but also, wohoo you have to pay them. But that’s another story.

A couple of days into this I realized, even more important than the transceiver is the antenna and with that, I’m fucked! Let me explain. I am living in an apartment on ground level, with windows only in one direction and a pretty limited view since the building bends like a snake. Maybe I should add a picture here.

Locator: JO62QM24xo
Source: Google Earth

Additional to that germany has some weird laws. One of them says that I need the permission of the landlord if I want to make changes to the exterior of a building if the landlord requires me to do so, and in my contract it says that I need to get a permission to install an antenna. I’ll try to go through the process of applying for a permission and installation of an antenna nontheless. I’ll report here on what happens.

So what sense makes it to buy a really expensive radio if you can not put up an adequate antenna ?
Right, it makes no sense at all!
So what will I do ?
I will simply buy some handheld 2m/70cm Radio with allmode allband reception and try to put up at least a receiving antenna. Then, and only then, when I succeed to recieve clean HF, I will pump money into some nice rig. Also maybe until then I will already be building my own transceivers and will not need to buy anything.

So this leaves me with the choice for mentioned Allband-Allmode receiving VHF/UHF Handheld. There are a couple of devices out there that seemed interesting: Kenwood TH-F7E, a bunch of Yaesu devices (VX-7R, VX-6E, VX-3E) and the Icom IC-E7.

Well, got bored, to cut this short, my first radio will most probably be the TH-F7E from Kenwood.

Posted in HAM