The PiRLP node provided EchoIRLP capability. With the node, I was able to use IRLP and Echolink. The PiRLP interfaced directly to my Kenwood TM-D710. I have been using the nodes from David Cameron, VE7LTD, for a number of years with only very small problems now and again.
Once I got my Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station up on APRS via the same TM-D710, I started experiencing problems with the audio output level of the PiRLP node. The big problem was that if I wanted to use the TM-D710 to get on the local repeater, I had to shut down the PiRLP node first. Not ideal.
Enter the NORMAD IRLP node. I first heard about the node on Jeff’s blog at KE9V.net. Like my node for Wires/Fusion, the NORMAD IRLP node has a small transceiver built into it. This is a great solution. It provides me the ability to dedicate my TM-D710 for weather APRS as well as also using it to monitor the local repeater without making any changes here in the hamshack.
The primary purpose of this blog is to act as a station notebook. A log that serves as a record as to what I am doing in the shack, how I configured certain items, how I overcame obstacles that were in front of me. Admittedly I have done a poor job at keeping up. And sometimes I do not realize or remember what I have placed in the log so it could assist me in the future.
My configuration of the Normad for Echolink operations (in addition to its native IRLP ability) is a great example. I wished I had looked here first – it would have saved me about two hours. I received the Normad and swapped it out with my older PiIRLP. Got on to IRLP immediately. NOTE: here two great troubleshooting commands for trying to get Echolink working; killall tbd and tbd -ddd. The results provided by tbd -ddd show if your callsign and password are valid for the Echolink connection. A key place to start when Echolink is not working correctly.
I also enjoy using the Echolink functionality of EchoIRLP – mainly to listen to the Coffee Break net hosted by W6EK, the Sierra Foothills ARC every morning from 7:30am to 10am (Pacific).
If you are lucky, you have been involved in a truly great net at one point in your radio amateur career. The most memorable net for me was a 2m morning commute net back in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The participants were smart, well spoken, and directed the conversation to a number of topics which almost always focused on some aspect of amateur radio. In classic roundtable fashion, the conversation moved cleanly between those that checked in which allowed the focus to be on the conversation. Mark, N1LO, was one of the ringleaders. I miss those guys.
The Coffee Break Net is very similar. Check it out if you can. While the net does run on their terrestrial repeater (145.430 MHz -0.6 Offset PL Tone 162.2), you can join via AllStar (51018), Wires-X (W6EK-2M-ROOM (62545)), or Echolink (4128).
I have endeavored to have my hamshack be 100% linux for a number of years. Licensed in 2001, my ham career really got going when I returned to the States in 2005. Upgrading to General and getting on HF, I integrated a computer into my operations. Ham Radio Deluxe was one of the most popular at the time and I used it – great for logging, digital modes, and rig control. When I had fun with APRS, I used UI-View, which was Windows based.
My first experience with linux was in the late 1990s. I had limited success. Not much later, Ubuntu gave me more of an opportunity to use linux for meeting my requirements for computing. I began to dip my toe in, using linux for rig control and logging. I switched to Mint around 2010-11. I found that Mint was easy to use and allowed me to use fldigi for digital modes, rig control, and logging. ARRL’s LOTW could also be used with linux and was integrated into fldigi. It was hard to find any aspect of the amateur radio hobby that required a computer and could not be done with linux.
Except, in my case, for one area of pursuit. APRS and my weather station. I had become a Davis Instruments fan since I got my first weather station in 2005. As mentioned before, UI-View handled the APRS portion and Davis had its own Windows-based software for handling the weather data the console produced. Back in 2011, the standard for linux-based APRS was Xastir. Xastir is a solid application and I had success using it to handle both internet and RF APRS traffic. But Xastir would not play well with the Davis Vantage Pro2. There was internet talk of a work around using a MySQL database. I had no luck. I kept my system on Windows, using UI-View for weather and APRS.
About two years ago, my Vantage Pro2, which I had since I was over in Iraq in 2007, finally died. The sensor package was mounted off my chimney when we first moved in to our current house over a decade ago. A great location for the weather station as it it high and clear of obstructions. Our roof, however, is steeply pitched and not something easy for me to traverse. I had gotten a TV antenna installation guy to install it – he did a great job. I think I had him back a few years later to swap out the battery. At one point, the board on the unit when bad and I replaced it. Then two years ago, one of our dogs shows up with an anemometer cup in her mouth. Perhaps a good sized chunk of hail had it the cup? Outside temperature data stopped working.
Rather than attempt to fix/repair the existing unit, it was time to replace. Over a decade is a long time to be exposed to the elements. I purchased a new Vantage Pro2 but then had a hard time finding someone to install. The local tv antenna guy took one look at my roof and said nope. A month ago we were getting our chimney inspected and cleaned and the gentleman was showing me pictures of the crown of the chimney. He’d just climbed up there. I asked if, for a reasonable fee, he’d be willing to swap out the weather station (and the VHF/UHF antenna). We struck a deal and now the weather station was operational again.
But could I still achieve my goal of a linux-based APRS/weather station? Enter weewx. This is an application that is like the Swiss army knife of weather station apps. I am not sure of what it does not do. The key aspect is that weewx produces a file (wxnow.txt) every minute using the same format used by APRS for weather data. Even better, the good folks at xastir created a script (wxnowsrv.pl) that copies the wxnow.txt information and pulls it into xastir. This was the solution!
And it works! Both weewx and xastir are happily working together on their own minimalist linux box, pulling in weather data from the Vantage Pro2 console via a serial connection while xastir is using a serial connection to transmit the weather data via my TM-D710A TNC functionality into the APRS system via RF. Weewx also creates a simple weather webpage which you can see here.
I kept a careful list of all the steps I completed in installing both weewx, MySQL, and xastir that I will post here soon – in case I need to reinstall. As of now the system seems to be stable and working nicely.
Kansas City is a Yaesu Fusion town. No two ways about it. And can we stop for a second and recognize how internet-based radio has changed over the past ten to fifteen years (twenty)? Seems like yesterday when IRLP was all the rage. Then the upstart Echolink came in, which never really felt like radio because of being able to use a computer to talk. Kenwood’s TM-D710A rig went whole hog with their integration of Echolink into that radio. IRLP felt more real because you used radios – plus it was based in a linux variant. Then the rise of D-Star and Yaesu’s Fusion. Raspberry Pi-s and Allstar nodes. Cats sleeping with dogs. Things got complicated.
Way back when, I was stationed in Korea and as an additional way to get on the air I got an Icom IC-92AD along with a DVAP that allowed me to use D-Stars. The HT was of a nice solid construction, metal not plastic… very rugged. D-Stars had poor quality audio, until you got used to it… and compared to IRLP or Echolink.
I still have an EchoIRLP node. Seems like a bit of an antique these days. A gentlemen from Long Island connected to the node a while back, explaining that the IRLP node on their repeater system had been down for a couple of years and they had just repaired it. He was curious where all the IRLP traffic was? That is a good question. There is still activity with the East Coast Reflector. Not sure how those folks on the west coast WIN System are doing.
Another interesting phenomenon is the geographical segmentation of D-Star and Yaesu’s Fusion. I will be honest in admitting I have a hard time defining the difference between Fusion, Wires-X, YSF, and C4FM. But that’s another discussion. Interestingly enough, some towns are D-Star and some are Fusion. I am not sure if that is because either Yaesu or Icom donated the components to different repeater owners or if there is another explanation.
Kansas City is a Fusion town. I noticed it first with a local UHF repeater. I am not a big net guy, but I enjoy, at times, monitoring the repeaters and reading the mail. One day when I went to check the local UHF repeater, it was just digital hash. Lo and behold, they’d gone Fusion. Hmm. A little more investigating showed that many more repeaters around the greater Kansas City metropolitan area had also gone Fusion.
It was time to ditch the Icom HT. A recent Kansas City hamfest gave me the opportunity where I was able to find a home for my lightly used IC-92AD (with DVAP, extra batteries, and a drop-in charging cradle). And now I am the proud owner of a Yaesu FT5D… still trying to figure out the ends and outs. Similar to the DVAP, I got a pi-star “hotspot” that allows me some flexibility of connecting to both repeaters as well as… other “linked” nodes. Sometimes they are called “rooms” and sometimes they are called other names. Still figuring it out. I have a Wires-X button that seems to offer some additional functionality. Need to learn more about that.
Having the new HT has motivated me to check into that local net on a slightly more regular basis. We’ll see what becomes of Yaesu’s Fusion…. will it enjoy a similar rise and fall like IRLP or will it continue to grow?
Keeping the shack in some semblance of order has always been a challenge for me. But the battle continues. Maybe a year ago or more I went through my shelves and transferred the vast majority of the contents that had been stored in a collection of totes and cardboard boxes to a fairly standardized set of see-through storage totes. During the holidays I went through these totes again to actually sort through the items to (1) see what I actually have and (2) attempt to organize and group items in some sort of systematized fashion. And now I am just about there.
Here is a list of small projects I have been working on or hope to soon:
(1) I have an EchoIRLP node that is connected to my shack’s TM-D710A. Previously when someone connects to my node, my only indication is to hear the fan start on the TM-D710A. I have an old, unused and gathering dust, Uniden Bearcat BC245XLT scanner that would be perfect to monitor my nodes frequency from inside the shack. The battery pack that supported the BC245XLT had long expired. Now that all my Anderson Powerpole items are organized I was able to find the correct 12v cable with fitting connector to power up the scanner sitting on the shelf. Now if someone connects and I am in the shack, I will certainly hear them.
(2) There is a lot of excess gear in the shack. Stacks of stuff I really do not need and am not going to use. Now it is time to part with it and send it to a good home. And now I can figure out what I have and what I can sell.
(3) Clean up my J-38. I have checked out the key, it adjusts well and I have used it for some QSOs. I have ordered a base for it from Wally, W6PPP, who has an eBay store that sells a variety of sturdy bases for straight keys as well as knobs for keys.
(4) Adding the sidecar (formally called an attendant console) to my Hamshack Hotline connected Cisco SPA525G2. I can use the sidecar to load up speed dial numbers for connecting to RF nodes, a constant stream of Art Bell shows, or the BBC. If you have a Hamshack Hotline, give me a call: 6100000065.
(5) When the weather clears, I hope to get some work done on the dipole as well as replacing the Davis Vantage Pro2.
I have put in some serious time trying to get the ham shack back in usable order. A lot of progress has been made.
(1) The shack computer has been replaced with a new Shuttle DS77U. Not a fancy, powerful computer but what I really enjoy is that it is small (slightly smaller than a cigar box (remember as a kid when you had a cigar box to keep your treasures)) size and that it is fanless (which equals quiet). It took a few iterations to settle on a linux distribution and to get fldigi and wsjtx working properly. During one of my test iterations I had xastir up and working (kinda of). I was able to pair it with the TM-D710A and it worked for transmitting, receiving, and plotting APRS signals. My failure was in getting the maps to work. Ends up it was an installation issue on my part. My end goal is to get xastir working on a separate linux box, possibly working with my Davis Vantage Pro2. I have seen very few clean, direct implementations of pairing xastir with a Davis Vantage Pro2… so, we’ll see. The other problem was tqsl or the software that runs LOTW. During one of my trial iterations, I had fldigi configured to log every completed contact directly to LOTW – it was great! It was challenging trying to install the latest version of tqsl and get it working properly. The version that is available in the repositories is outdated. The version available for ARRL is difficult to work with (using some distributions) due to dependencies. I had a great deal of success using the latest version of Linux Mint (19.3) which already had all the needed dependencies for tqsl. Now when I log a contact into fldigi’s logbook, it gets immediately uploaded to LOTW. It would be nice if wsjtx did the same, but it is no big deal to sign and upload that log later. All that being said, the shack computer is working nicely for what I need to have the basic functions to get on air.
(2) Selling off gear I don’t need. One of the factors that made the shack uninhabitable was all the excess stuff. I started selling gear off using QRZ.com’s forum. The gear is doing me no good, so it makes sense to lighten the load here. Up to this point I have listed and sold a Bencher BY-1 black-based paddle and two QRP kits I had sitting on the shelf. Next up will be the IC-92AD with all the bells and whistles (drop in charger, DV access point dongle, four batteries, the Nifty manual, the GPS speaker mic, plus the original box. What I like about the IC-92AD is its construction. The chassis is diecast aluminum, so the feel is solid… not something you get with the vast majority of HTs. I enjoyed using this HT from the indoors, using the dual band capability to monitor both my EchoIRLP node and D-STARS. I don’t do that anymore, so I think it is time the IC-92AD goes. I also found an old unbuilt NorCal 40a kit that includes a theory book on electronics. And it is also time to get rid of the FT-817ND that is tricked out with about every modification and additional gadget you could think of. There is a Bencher BY-2 that needs a new home. I also have maybe a half dozen unbuilt kits. Some I am unsure exactly what they are, although still in their original packaging. Many are from the now shuttered Small Wonders Lab. I am going to have to take some pictures of the ones I don’t recognize to see if I can figure out exactly what they are.
(3) Now the biggest issue that faces me is antenna improvement. Currently deployed in the trees off to the side of the house is a Radio Works G5RV. How sad I was to learn that Radio Works has also closed its doors. I was introduced to Radio Works when I lived in Hampton Roads, them being based in Portsmouth. Man they made great antennas. I still have one of their Carolina Windoms that I would like to put up. The G5RV needs to be replaced. It has made it through many Kansas winters and is ready to be retired. In cleaning the shack, I have pulled together all the odds and ends for hanging and installing antennas and I have everything I need on hand. Time to make it happen.
In non-shack news, I was going to replace the XYL’s TM-D710A with a D710GA, as well as a new motor to raise/lower the antenna. The antenna motor install was accomplished without issue. I attempted to install the D710GA without first testing it in the shack = mistake. Ends up the a-side control pot for volume/squelch was bad. As I purchased the rig as a Christmas present, I didn’t test it within the 14 day period required by Gigaparts in order to get the rig directly replaced. Instead, I have to send it in for warranty repair. Hopefully that goes smooth.
I am also hoping to have exciting news tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.
Last summer when we were camping in the national parks, there were many campsites where we had no cell phone service. I am not complaining about that, but our work around to communicate back home to the XYL often required a trip to the pay phone (sometimes hard to find). I thought about perhaps using APRS’s capability of relaying short pieces of text as emails. Part of the problem is that there are many areas of the parks that don’t have any APRS digipeater coverage (Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks for example). How to get a message through?
Then I remembered my MARS station (AEN5AC) in Iraq. I was using an ICOM IC-7000 and an SCS PTC-IIusb modem to pass MARSGRAMS from my location north of Baghdad to another station at the US embassy in Qatar. The pairing worked quite well and I was consistently able to connect and pass traffic using PACTOR 3 at the 1400 baud rate. Could I use a similar setup to provide an HF email option while camping this summer?
I dug out my SCS PTC-IIusb modem. I had not used it since shutting down the MARS station in June of 2008. Everything was still in the box. To include the cables necessary to interface the modem with an ICOM IC-706MKIIG… the same rig I use for HF mobile.
I pulled out my spare IC-706MKIIG. Coming back to Kansas from Field Day in California back in 2009, my IC-706MKIIG quit on me. I ended up buying a second at the HRO in Denver and sent the broke one to ICOM. ICOM fixed it and returned it. I kept it in the box and it went back on the shelf. I did order a 6 pin Molex connector with powerpoles to allow for an easy power connection (#9). I connected the two cables from the modem to the rig. Once cable is for the data and plugs into the 706’s 13 pin accessory connection (#4). The other cable connects to the 706’s CI-V interface (#6) to have the radio change frequencies based on what station is being contacted.
I had the basic hardware of a HF email station, except for a computer. I would need one that would function out of the vehicle. This would probably require a laptop. I also decided for the ease of simplicity that the computer should be Windows driven (instead of Linux). Gasp! The bottom line is that the software and drivers required to send email via HF and use the SCS PTC-IIusb modem is Windows based. The answer ended up being an Dell XPS 15.
Using a Windows based computer helped me with a number of summer travel tasks that could not be accomplished by my small Linux laptop:
(1) Run the software required for HF email (more on Winlink and Airmail later)
(2) Run ARRL’s TravelPlus for Repeaters
(3) Run RT Systems radio programming software for my TM-D710A
(4) Run RT Systems radio programming software for my VX-8RGs
(5) Read the SD card from my Canon digital camera
Interestingly enough, the new laptop does not have a CD/DVD drive nor an RJ-45 connection for a LAN cable. Neither of these have been a show stopper yet.
ARRL’s TravelPlus for Repeaters
I had purchased TravelPlus for Repeaters with the intent of installing it on my existing Linux laptop and running it under a VirtualBox Windows session (similar to how I run iTunes on my Linux laptop). However the software failed to install. I tried troubleshooting and looking at suggested fixes found on the forum sites but still had no luck. I tried installing TravelPlus using WINE. It installed but would not run as well.
Dell XPS 15 to the rescue. As the laptop does not have a CD/DVD drive, I copied the drive onto network storage. I then was able to install TravelPlus over the network and it is working without issue.
RT Systems Programming Software
The RT Systems programming software works fine under a VirtualBox Windows session. As I was moving all my vehicle related radio/computer tasks to the new Windows laptop, I attempted to install the programming software for the TM-D710A (used for beaconing the location of my vehicle and talking on VHF/UHF). Following a similar procedure that worked for TravelPlus, I copied the programming software from the install disks to a network drive. The software installation for the TM-D710A worked without a hitch. The software for the VX-8RGs (HTs we use for around camp and hiking) failed to load. The error said that I must use the original disk to install. A big challenge when the laptop doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive. The work around is that you find another Windows computer with a CD drive, load the software CD, then back on the driveless laptop, map the CD drive (like you would map a network drive). That worked and I was able to install the programing software for the VX-8GR.
HF Email Software
There are two main choices for software to allow for HF email: RMS Express and Airmail. I installed both. Airmail was the same program I used in Iraq and it offered easy configuration with the IC-706MKIIG and the SCS PTC-IIusb.
I now had all my equipment for a test run setup in my basement hamshack: spare IC-706MKIIG, SCS PTC-IIusb, and the Dell XPS 15 with Airmail. I connected the IC-706MKIIG to my Elecraft tuner and used my existing G5RV antenna. Airmail configures easily. The software has a list of stations offering mailbox services that can be viewed on a propagation chart by frequency and distance. Based on time of day, I selected a station in Texas that offered a 40M PACTOR 3 connection. Airmail allows me to click on the frequency in the propagation chart which then changes the dial frequency of the radio. After listening to see if there were any ongoing connections, I initiated contact. The modem lights flashed and the rig clicked between transmit and receive. The connection was made and I was able to send a test email as well as a position report.
Success! The position reports that go into the Winlink system are copied over into APRS. Now, even if I am not able to reach a digipeater with my VHF APRS beacon, I can send a position report over HF to let the XYL know where we are.
I then thought about the steps I would have to take of transitioning my IC-706MKIIG configured for HF mobile to be ready to work with the PTC-IIusb to send email. As the remote head is located up near the drivers seat, this would present problems with being able to observe the modem, laptop, and radio control head all at the same time.
What if I just dedicated the spare IC-706MKIIG rig to the task of HF email? It would save me time and bother in pulling and plugging cables. It would also give the camping option of being able to operate HF from outside the vehicle.
Using an additional iPortable box, I rack mounted the spare IC-706MKIIG and the SCS PTC-IIusb. Now I will have a spare HF rig with me, so if one goes out I will still be operational. I also attached the Tarheel screwdriver antenna’s rocker switch to raise and lower the antenna on the side of the box. During normal HF mobile operations, the TurboTuner (connected to the other IC-706’s tuner connection and CI-V connection) manages achieving a correct match between the operating frequency and the screwdriver antenna.
I only have the one TurboTuner. The TurboTuner requires a connection to the CI-V. So does the SCS PTC-IIusb. My solution was to leave the TurboTuner alone. Instead, using the rocker switch, I can manually tune the antenna while visually observing the 706’s SWR meter.
To transition between using the 706 dedicated to HF mobile to the 706 now dedicated to HF email, I have to do the following:
(1) disconnect the antenna feedline from the TurboTuner
(2) disconnect the control line that goes from the TurboTuner to the Tarheel screwdriver antenna
(3) connect the antenna feedline directly to the HF email 706
(4) connect the control line to the rocker switch
(5) connect the laptop to the SCS PTC-IIusb via a USB cable
(6) connect the iPortable’s powerpole connection to the junction box in the back of the vehicle
… then I am ready to go. The iPortable box rests nicely on the vehicle’s tailgate, next to the laptop. All at about lawn chair height. Not only can I use this setup to send email via HF, but I can also use it for causal National Parks On The Air contacts as well.
What’s left to do:
(1) Constant cooling fan modification for both IC-706s (see AD5X’s article)
(2) An extended control cable for the Tarheel screwdriver antenna. This will allow me to further remote away from the vehicle, but still use the antenna.
(3) A length of antenna feedline for remoting.
(4) A length of powerpole-ready powerline to attach to either the travel trailer battery or directly to the spare vehicle battery… again for remoting away from the vehicle.
(5) I have a set of Heil headsets that worked with my IC-7000. I think if I get the AD-1ICM, I should be able to use them with the 706.
(6) A Heil HS-2 hand PTT switch to use with the headset.
Had a good day in shack. Was able to get a good portion of it cleaned up. Filled up a trash bag and a big box of “stuff” I just do not need.
Fired up the HF rig and ran it through it’s paces. Had a Phone QSO with a station down in Costa Rica and worked a few stations around the US on PSK-31. Enough to let me know the rig is still working. Listened to my favorite bunch of old timers who meet weekday mornings (8AM) around 7.140 MHz. I’ve never joined in, but used to listen to them all the time from my mobile when my work hours were a bit different. Nowadays I don’t get the opportunity to hear them.
For the last few weeks I have been trying to square away my VHF/UHF setup. My embedded EchoIRLP node has consistently suffered from pulsing. I have tweaked about every software setting and radio setting possible but was unable to fix the issue. It looks like the pulsing generally correlates with my APRS signal. I use a Kenwood TM-D710A in the shack. A computer with UI-View32 is driving the left half of the TM-D710A, sending and receiving APRS data. The right side I usually dedicate to the EchoIRLP node which is normally set to a simplex UHF frequency. I started to notice that everytime UI-View32 sends out my position or weather report, my EchoIRLP node would pulse. I honestly think the rig is the issue.
What I like best about the TM-D710A is that I can use my one antenna that I have mounted off my chimney. The TM-D710A allows me to use both the APRS and EchoIRLP at the same time. But I think that pulsing issue will keep me off IRLP reflectors or Echolink conferences unless I disable UI-View32 and the TM-D710A’s TNC while I am using the reflector/conference.
I upgraded my version of fldigi. I made sure my log and settings were backed up and the upgrade went without significant issue. I was able to setup the WX macro function, which I have been meaning to do. The macro pulls the latest WX from Kansas City International Airport (MCI) and allows me to slide that into a PSK-31 QSO via macro. I wish it could pull the data right from my WX station. Not sure how to do that.
I setup my D-Star DV Access Point Dongle – hadn’t done that in a while. I am consistently unimpressed with the audio quality that I get listening to the D-Star reflector on my ICOM IC-92AD. The audio is very metallic and tinny.
APRS has taken up a bit of my time lately. I enjoy playing around with my Yaesu VX-8GR. I am amazed at the different ways you can send a message from the APRS system to an email address. I have improved my ability to work the VX-8GR to input text for a message.
I figured out how to get my UI-View32/TM-D-710A setup to only digipeat APRS packets from either my callsign or the XYLs. That comes in handy when I have the HT. One thing I have not been able to figure out is how to get my UI-View32/TM-D710A setup to digipeat packets destined for my HT’s SSID. For example, if I send a message from my HT, it is digipeated out through my UI-View32/TM-D710A setup and picked up by a nearby real digipeater. But when the “Ack” packet comes back, my HT won’t hear it and I am not sure how to get my UI-View32/TM-D710A to recognize that packet and digipeat it.
Did I mention the humidity sensor on the Davis Vantage Pro2 is not working properly?
I checked into a net tonight! We have an awesome daily email called Larry’s List that contains all kinds of interesting information about the amateur radio goings on in the greater Kansas City area. From swap and shop, to license testing, and opportunities to volunteer in support of public events to various club activities and nets…. Larry’s List is one stop shopping for anything you would want to know about what is happening. The list mentioned a net conducted from a repeater setup on top of the VA hospital in Kansas City (KC0VA). I decided to check in and was privileged to partake in a very interesting discussion about how to handle an emergency if it occurred during a net. I also learned about the Q-signal “QRRR”… which I had never heard or read of before.
As Fall is here, it is time to put together a To Do list of everything I have been putting off all Summer and the beginning of the school year.
I have four of these rigs and they need some TLC. I need to make sure they have the updated firmware on the main unit, TNC, and operating panel.
The latest versions:
TNC: 1.02 – May 2011
Operating Panel: 2.12 – Janurary 2015
Main unit: 2.10 – May 2011
For the benifit of emergency operations, I have been performing the modificiation to the TM-D710As to open the frequency range.
Standard frequency plan. I developed a spreadsheet of the repeaters in the greater Kansas City area, frequecies for FRS/GMRS, the Kansas City Airport (MCI), Sherman Army Airfield, and various national park frequency plans. This is the first step in standardizing the configuration across all four of the TM-D710As. I can additionally take the spreadsheet and use it for programming my HTs. This should allow for a memory channel standardization that will make my life easier.
The current Davis Vantage Pro2 I have installed on the roof needs maintenance. Wouldn’t it be nice to get the top of the line version?
For some time I have been talking about finding a weather station setup that will work with a linux-based computer. That quest continues. I have read about a piece of software called Meteo that is suppose to work with Xastir.
And if I can’t get Xastir to work with the Vantage Pro2… is there another comparable weather station that WILL work with Xastir? Life would be a lot easier without Windows.
HF Antenna for home
I need to string up the Carolina Windom I have had sitting on the shelf for the last few years. The G5RV that is up now is showing its age (not to mention one of the legs is drooping badly). Now that the leaves have fallen, I should be able to get the Windom up there without too many problems (… famous last words).
HF setup in the mobile
Time to get going. I have all the materials I need. What I don’t have is an installation plan… mainly for the Tarheel antenna. I can’t do a hitch mount because I need the hitch for pulling my travel trailer. Two possible options: (a) get a swinging gate for the back bumper where you could mount a spare tire and a water can or (b) find some way to afix a mount coming out behind the left rear tire.
I have taken my HF mobile install through a number of different iterations (the constant being the rig: an Icom IC-706MKIIG). Today I hope that I have finally reached a lasting, workable setup. Here is a quick re-cap of my trials and tribulations:
First attempt (2007):
What this install lacked in experience, it made up in effort. The successes were routing the powerline and the feedline. The antenna system was a different story. My combination of Hustler and Hamstick antennas (along with the unfortunate choice of putting an Icom AT-180 autotuner in the mix) met with mixed success. I did make contacts and enjoyed the mobiling. The rig itself was placed under the passenger seat. Placed side by side with my TM-D710A left very little room and little clearance between the seat and the floor. I came to realize that my 2005 Toyota Tundra lacked any real great locations to stash a rig. The drivers seat (no way), behind the back seat (nope), under the back seat (not going to happen).
Tarheel Model 75A and the stake pocket mount (2008):
I have not regreted going with the Tarheel Model 75A. I finally figure out that using an autotuner was a non-starter and a screwdriver offered a great solution. The stake pocket mount was a mixed success. The way the pocket was always had the antenna sticking up at a funny angle. It also did not seem very secure. I still made lots of contacts and had lots of fun.
Switched to MT-1(S) mount (2009):
Switching to the MT-1(S) mount did a lot to improve my operations. By having the antenna mounted right to the side of the bed, my ground (… and other half of the antenna) was greatly improved.
Using the iPortable (2009-2012):
I don’t usaully have a passenger in the front seat – just two kids in the back. But having a heavy weight passenger in the front seat was a no-go for IC-706 in the all too cramped location under the seat. The iPortable setup allowed me to consolidate the IC-706MKII and the TurboTuner in one spot. No more messy nest of wires. But the iPortable offered somewhat of an obstacle to the kids in the back seat.
Now the iPortable is in the large tool box mounted to the bed of the pickup.
The big task was to reroute all the cables: an extension to the powerline, pulling out the feedline, and moving the control cable for the Tarheel antenna. The IC-706 includes the AD5X fan modification.
I had to drill a hole on either side of tool box to route the cables in and out. So far, so good – everything works and I am getting a full 100 watts out on every band.
I did forget to run a line for a CW paddle… that is on the To Do List.
There are also a few additional improvements I would like to make.
– 12v booster to 13.8v
– Extra 12v battery
– amplifier? 🙂
My GPS of choice for the last two years has been the Garmin Nuvi 350. It interfaced nicely with the Kenwood TM-D710A using an Argent Data Systems cable. Everything was working great with the Nuvi up until I placed it in our washing machine. You are probably thinking that there is a better way to clean a GPS than to put it in a washing machine and I would absolutely agree with you. I took the Nuvi with me to Dayton and then packed it, safely wrapped in my clothes, for the return trip. Well – you can probably figure out what happen from there. Being newly GPSless, I decided to look into the AvMap G5 (which I had been drooling over for a while). Installation was super easy. The AvMap G5 comes with a hardcore suction mount, which I like much better than the beanbag mount that I had with the Nuvi. There is one connection to power the AvMap G5 via a 12v cigarette lighter and the other for data between the AvMap G5 and the TM-D710A (and all necessary cables are INCLUDED). With one or two settings completed on the AvMap G5, the GPS and TM-D710A were talking together perfectly. W6GPS has a series of YouTube videos touting the AvMap G5 and all it can do. The AvMap G5 is suppose to also work with the TH-D7A – I am interested to try and experiment with that. The benefits I have identified of the AvMap G5 over the Nuvi is (1) its plotting of APRS icons vs just a callsign and (2) the larger screen display. Another plus for the AvMap G5 is an active Yahoo Group. I am going to try to keep this GPS away from the washing machine.