The sun was shining so I decided to head down to the local sporting oval to finish off my linked 40/20m EFHW wire antenna using QRPguys EFHW tuner kit that I built last year.
Here is the video:
The sun was shining so I decided to head down to the local sporting oval to finish off my linked 40/20m EFHW wire antenna using QRPguys EFHW tuner kit that I built last year.
Here is the video:
I headed off to a local sporting oval to set up a 1/2 wave inverted v for 80m to work the VK QRP contest - the first hour is digital or CW and the second is ssb.
This was a good test of the Portable Rasberry Pi used for digital modes.
Digital was a little slow with only 2 contacts in the hour on 80m, however SSB seemed to heat up with a 900km contact into VK4.
Check out the video below.
This project might be of interest to some SOTA operators.
I wanted to see if I could make a field companion Raspberry Pi for Data modes - I would never lug my laptop into the bush.
How do you use it?
Well when the Pi is near a wifi network it knows it connects when it is not - say on your favourite summit - it creates a hotspot allowing headless control by any VNC device - tablet, phone etc.
This is a live document and will update up until the depature date.
When: at this stage, I am looking at around Easter long weekend. 31 March - 01 April.
Bands: 40M, 20M, 2M FM.
Antennas: HomeBrew 10,15,20,40M linked inverted v dipole, 2m & 70cm Slim Jim rollup, Nagoya NA 771 2m & 70cm whip.
Rigs: FT817ND all band all mode 5W QRP & FT60R 5w 2m & 70cm FM HT.
Power: 17,000mAh Powerfilm Solar, Light Saver Max, with 27w integrated solar panel, 12v out, 2 USB out.
Duration: 3 days, 2 nights, I plan to walk to Murrays Gap, set up base camp and then day hike it to each of the summits. This places me semi close to 3 freshwater streams as well as easy access to trails leading to the summits.
Distance: total round trip is 25km over 3 days.
Non SOTA Comms Plan:I am working on the assumption of zero mobile phone comms, I will have Optus and Telstra with me. I am thinking I should have ok voice to Mt Ginini 2M Repeater (146.950FM -600khz split, 91.5 CTCSS tone) from the lower valley, additionally, I will have my little APRS TNC (MOBILINKD http://www.mobilinkd.com/) that I can use for APRS spotting APRS messages, and occasionally tracking.
Day by day plan:
Google earth planned track: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/86q7gjmeqrvagtm/AAA-ENBUFm3QhOEb8nGSISBDa?dl=0
To Do list:
Sort gear, repack and re-weigh everything to trim grams.
wheel alignment on the vehicle
My home location is nestled in a townhouse complex in Franklin, in Canberra’s northeast.
My HF antenna is a random wire from my entrance up to the balcony and back down. Best described as an end fed inverted v. It will tune on all usable vk hf bands. Home rig is my only rig. 817nd, z817 auto tuner. Shown here: https://youtu.be/4zTUKwkhOOA
As with all modern urban environments, there is RF Noise everywhere. While I accept I can not control what RF noise my neighbours make, I wanted to take control of my noise which ranged from S9+ to S7 on a quiet day at home.
The following are the steps I took that now has my noise floor ranging from zero ( I keep checking that the antenna is connected) to about s2-3 which is my common QTH band.
Step one: If it isn't hidden in a wall it was checked with an AM radio - I wandered around the house poking behind TVs, bedside tables, shack / study, garage and laundry.
Result: 2 largest noise emitters so far - old xp shack laptop charger (6s points on its own) and then the cumulative powerboard of shite that lives behind the TV made up of about 6 wall warts that power TV, DVD, surround sound etc.
Next, I turned everything off at the meter box and worked circuit by circuit running backwards and forwards to my radio to see the noise floor change.
Because I have the 817 ready to rig for SOTA or /p work I ran it off the battery and was blown away when I connected it to the wall charger I use to top off the internal battery… s7 alone!
Armed with these facts I set about OPERATION RF QUIETING.
AKA: ferrite the crap out of everything. I spent about 60 AUD on 3 large high-grade snap-on ferrites from the US, plus about another 20 on smaller ones from Jaycar.
Deployed as follows:
1 large around the washing machine’s power cable, when in use it generated a rhythmic hum across all bands - not any longer
1 large on the power cable for the TV power board
1 large on the Yaesu power cable
2 x medium on antenna feed coax (-2S points)
1 x medium on the XP Laptop charging cable - about 7 turns got it down to less than 1 s point from 6
The hunt is still not over, with any noise detected on the radio eliciting a ‘WHAT DID YOU JUST TURN ON” shout from the shack to my accommodating XYM, I am pleased to report the answer is always “nothing” meaning it was external to the house.
https://au.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Fair-Rite/0431177081?qs=KmHvPbTOE4RJzgtUylmsjQ%3d%3d - ignore the sales picture these are large
As part of my desire to use portable and low power (QRP) digital modes and APRS I needed to upgrade my Foundation (aka F Call) license to a Standard licence.
I undertook my testing in mid February 2018 and passed (surprised myself) on 1 March my new callsign became active - VK1MIC. Within hours I was out on a summit using my new access privileges to the microwave bands as well as 20m.
WICEN is a community volunteer organisation focused on the provision of emergency communication support from the Australian Amateur Radio Community. As part of keeping skills current as well as equipment and procedures familiar, they provide communications support an operations to community events, the latest such event for the ACT was a car rally.
My role on the fay was as a rally mid state safety checkpoint called an SOS point. I operated my standard Yaesu FT60R on VHF FM as well as the commercial VHF set from Rally Control. I marked off and called in their rough passing time checking that they has passed through the first stage safely.
Check out a video I made on the day.
PowerFilm LightSaver Max - a rollable solar lithium battery
2x 2.5A USB
12v max 5A
Rollable solar panel
Solar charge 6-8 Hours
Wall charge (USB-C) 3 hours
My desired use:
Directly connect the LightSaver Max (LSM) to my Yaesu FT817ND for extended portable Amateur Radio operations, additionally allow charging of my mobile phone, my 7in android tablet used for logging in the field along with assorted miscellaneous charging such as GoPro for recording, my headlamp for night operations etc.
During the day time I would like to see if the, when unrolled and placed in the sun, will the solar panel pass an increased voltage spike along to the radio. Based on the provided specifications from the suppliers, the following use times are calculated:
LSM contains an 18000mAh battery that would allow
TX 2000mAh 9 hours total transmitting
RX 450mAh 40 hours total receiving
iPhone 2900mAh 6 times from 0-100%
Tablet 3450mAh 5 times from 0-100%
Please note these are not combined or simultaneous use calculation but individual single item calculations.
Conclusion: as per the video the LSM performed brilliantly. Delivering a smooth quiet 12.2v for over 2 hours of use, plus charged my phone and tablet to get the battery down to 6/10.
The UTC New Year's Midnight and the hour or so either side of midnight are as close to SOTA Christmas as you can come. Due to SOTA rules, an activator can claim summit actiation points once in a UTC year, ie 0000 01 Jan - 2359 31 Dec UTC, Locally that happens at 11am 01 January here in VK1 - so effectively you can claim double points if yu activate a summit before and after UTC Midnight! Accordingly there were a lot off VK SOTA activaors out on the recent UTC NY. I selected a easy to access summit, Mt Stromlo for my activation. I was out early and made 3 contacts on my VHF HT prior to even leaving the carpark at around 0930L (2230UTC), I set up in the usual location and made a decent number of contacts with activators and chasers to call Stromlo well and truely smashed. I worked a lot more than usual on 15m SSB HF than usual but watching the spots on my phone and reacting fast was the winning strategy for the day. I even managed S2S DX contacts with ZL1BYZ John and ZL2AJ Warren
As you can see below (red being Summit to Summit, Blue Chasers) It was rather the day for it, quickly filling my log. In total I made 77 contacts, 41 were Summit to Summit alone.
The Video is here:
Being the owner of a lovely little 2wd city car can be a little bit limiting in tackling some of the more remote or far-flung VK1 Summits.
Just before Christmas, 2 legends of VK1 and indeed VK SOTA were planning a sojourn to 2 8 point summits just over the border into VK2 in the hills surrounding VK1
Andrew VK1AD and Andrew VK1DA (yes, its is confusing doubly) offered a seat in the 4WD on the trip, and I jumped at the chance.
1AD was testing and comparing 2 antennas he had made for 23cm (1200Mhz) operation while 1DA was concentrating on SSB HF contacts, I qualified on 70cm and 2MFM operations.
You can read more about 1AD’s 23cm work on his blog here https://vk1nam.wordpress.com
While 2 summits were planned, we were making a good time so another drive up 8 pointers was added to the plan. The second summit required a bit of bush bashing, the drive up nature of the 3rd was a relief.
Check out my video from the triple activation.
I had itchy feet again and wanted to get out to activate a summit a tiny bit further afield than VK1 easy walk ups, Mt Gillamatong near Braidwood in regional NSW seemed to fit the bill nicely.
A warm easy 1 hour drive east of Canberra and 10m from down town Braidwood - Gillamatong as looks rather imposing from the base. We approached from the west near the local water treatment facility. This apparently is not the way others have in the past, however is the easier of the East / West approach options.
Progress on the dirt track was momentarily halted by the appearance of a rather slippery character - a rather well fed Red Belly Black Snake quickly moved off in search of a less disturbed hideout and we passed on.
I finally managed to capture it - a voice contact over 8000km - Canberra to Tokyo. Anothe quick evening activation joining the other VK1 activators for a mini qso party.
Check it out.
Well it didn’t take long. Less than a week in fact. After being struck down by a travel flu from crappy airplane aircon I needed to get out of the house. Feel some sun shine as it were.
Here is my vid from knocking over Mt Stromlo again
Hope you enjoy.
Jaap Sports truly wireless headphones by alpha and delta in Singapore (https://www.alphandelta.com/home-1) even come with their own battery extender that will allow the headphones to continue working for\additional hours - perfect for long flights that I have been recently taking.
The JAAPs are a hybrid over ear and in ear design keeps them snuggly in place.
Works great with my iPhone 7 plus but issues with my cheap Lenovo tablet, it connected but no sound came out. These headphones are good for music, podcasts and audiobooks but not for watching videos or YouTube on your phone as there is latency issues when watching video, resulting in the audio and video getting out of sync.
After a few days of use here is my rating:
Can't be used to watch videos due to latency issues when watching a video, resulting in the audio and video getting out of sync.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a pair of the Jaap truly wireless headphones for free by the company Alpha and Delta for evaluation and this review
As far back as my PADI Open Water I “struggled” with my mask skills. I simply couldn’t handle the water touching my nose - more correctly I couldn’t handle the water touching my nose with my eyes closed or covered. Whether it was the partial flood, the full flood or the full mask off. I hated it until as little as a month ago - even then hated is not quite showing just how much I was petrified off the mask skills.
Fast forward to day one, week 1, of my DiveMaster training, I rolled into our training pool here at the training school to observe a Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) Program. I was offered by one of our instructors to give the demonstration of ‘masking clearing’, the simple every dive requirement of divers to remove water from their mask. It isn’t the clearing that had me white with fear, it was the letting a small amount of water in the mask (thereby touching my face) for the demonstration.
What did I do on the spot? I did what all great cowards do - I faked a reason for why I couldn’t. The good ol’ “I have a stomach ache” - believable in rural Asia - no mean feat to explain underwater using hand signs, but it worked.
Here I was, on the cusp of being welcomed into the professional ranks of the Scuba Diving family and I can’t get past skill one of Open Water 1 confined dive.
For a number of weeks, I fumbled along, either not having to do the skill or doing just enough to get by, all the while the clock was ticking until reaching the DiveMaster Skill Circuit assessment task that requires demonstration quality skills including mask clearing, mask removal and a no mask swim.
During the assessments I BARELY passed scoring a 3 (of 5) for each of the mask skills, sure I passed my dive master and was welcomed into the ranks of professional divers, but I felt bothered by the fact I was so weak in the skill.
It was not until I read a few professional articles and blogs that outline the dangers of having mask fear. I knew I could overcome this. Logically of the two breathing holes’ in my face, one would be covered in water and one would be have a fully functional air supply, Ijust needed to get in control of choosing which one to use. How, I hear you say.. by making the ‘scary’ every day.
On every single safety stop after reading these articles, I was determined to take my mask off. It started off just being off then back on, then off, two breaths, back on then longer etc. The big breakthrough game came when I could open my eyes in the ocean. Sure I don’t have much vision underwater - no one does - but by seeing the body shape of my buddy or my relation to the bottom etc really helps. If I feel the tingle in my nose telling me it feels like breathing in the water - I simply hold my nose for a few seconds.
What’s next? Before I leave Indonesia in a month, I am determined to obtain my PADI Self Relient Diver rating that equips me with skills to dive solo, without a buddy. The main assessable skill of this course is 2min with my mask off, swimming a distance of 18m simulating, I believe, a mask failure (including the spare you carry) and the need for you to return directly to the surface slowly.
As a newly qualified 40m deep diver, the itch to get deep and explore as yet unseen sites needed to be scratched.
The dive shop I am diving with is one of the few that visit the deep part of a particular dive site - Turtle Heave - or Deep Turtle Heaven as we call it.
My buddy on the day was an Instructor as well as a Self Reliant Diver - Adrien. As a matter of course Adrien carries 2 dive computers, this is relevant as you will soon see.
We entered the ocean to commence a deep dive (35m). During the dive at 35m depth, just after spotting 2 small reef sharks and 3(!) eagle rays (a first for both of us!!!)
As time was running out before we hit 'the nonstop required time' (aka 'no deco stop time') neared zero, Adrienand I started a normal rate of ascent, to a shallower depth. As we were ascending, Adrien indicated a ‘deep stop’ was requested by one of his computers at 18m (approx 1/2 of the max depth), I checked the ‘Zoop’, it indicated we were at a depth that would be inconsistent with a 'deep stop' (26m). Thinking he was just indicating ahead of time I maintained his level. This is the first thought I had that the ‘Zoop’ might be indicating different depths than what we actually were at.
As we continued our ascent, the ‘Zoop’ read 18m and had not reduced the 'no deco stop time' by enough to keep me out of ‘deco’. This concerned me and I indicated to my Adrien, he returned a quizzical look as his computers were reading 10m, shallow enough to clearly see the boat above including the sign writing on the side! This is the second indication that the ‘Zoop’ was not reading correctly. Upon surfacing after clearing all stop time on Adrien's computers, my ‘Zoop’ was still indicating 8m while at the surface and did not readjust to ‘end the dive’ at the surface.
It continued to count the dive even as we were on the surface. Back at the dive shop I showed a number of other professional divers and they indicated it might be a simple low battery issue. However the battery indicator remained near full. After washing the computer in freshwater, reading a depth of approx. 8m.
It has remained in dive mode ever since even after a battery replacement from a kit I had with me.
I will keep providing updates on the progress of the 'case' of my discussions with Suunto to have the computer repaired.
NB - its a dive computer not a watch, it does sooo much more than tell the time.
As the Zoop left warranty in early 2017, initially Suunto rejected any attempts to have the computer examined and ultimately repaired by them, however after some 'frank discussions' via Facebook messenger with their customer service team in Norway, the computer is on its way to HongKong for investigation, as it appears the depth sensor failed.
To continue diving professionally while the Zoop is being evaluated, I needed a new computer. The Zoop is no longer the current model being replaced by the Zoop Novo, which like the Zoop is a perfectly acceptable dive computer. I like the conservatism of the Suunto decompression table so wanted to stay with their stable of computers. I ended up getting a Suunto D4i - a smaller form factor, watch sized computer which has an easier to navigate menu structure. If/when the Zoop makes it way back to me in fit and working condition, it will move to second fiddle in my collection - which will be vital if I do move on to the 'self reliant' qualification, allowing me to dive alone.
Update _3 10 October 2017
A package has just arrived from Suunto, guess what was inside... a brand new Zoop Novo, an updated model of the Zoop to replace my dead Zoop. Thanks for coming to the party Suunto.
This is the first in a series of posts called Island Life about the gear, techniques and tips I use to happily continue living on a small island, off Lombok in rural Indonesia.
Travelling long term, whether in one location or many presents a few challenges for the wanting to remain connected and sharing content.
Prior to heading off on this trip, I knew there would be a number of things I wanted to achieve that a tablet only setup would not be either best suited for or not convenient - such as video and photo editing. Possible, just not convenient.
I resolved to retain my 2012 MacBook Air (MBA) as it had performed well since I purchased it, however, I more than tripled the onboard SSD to allow me to move my Photo Library on board, where previously I had managed it via external USB.
Additionally, I added a higher sensitivity USB Wifi antenna, the TP- LINK TL-WN822N, mounting it using velcro dots onto the back of the MacBook Air Screen. This has been invaluable for 2 reasons:
Another challenge I needed to overcome is quick download and display of photos and videos. Often I am showing customers unedited pictures I just took of fish, turtles or them, on the dive we just came back on. Using the Lightning to SD card attachment on my iPhone 7plus has been a godsend. However In hindsight, I would have purchased a decent android tablet, with 4G and microSD / OTG capability for this very purpose along with quick sharing to customers emails etc.
After each dive I download all new photos shot on my Olympus TG 4 tough camera using the method I described above, however for videos that I shoot on my permanently rolling GOPRO 3 Black, I use my laptop to pull all the videos off and store for later editing and including in any youtube content I am making. When I return to my bungalow each night I download the day's photos that I now have on my iPhone7Plus to the laptop and do a backup using an external USB Drive.
The major downside of this workflow is the quick sharing without using a 4G or wifi connection is cumbersome. As Apple does not have an OTG capability yet, I can not simply put the day's pictures and videos onto a customers’ SD or USB Drive. I do however have a SANDISK iXpand 64Gb USB and Lightning Drive that makes moving larger files easier between iDevices and USB and then onto customers devices.
The heart and soul of my land based picture and video work are the great cameras of the iPhone7Plus. Whether hand held or on a selfie stick - it is never far from me and ready at moments notice to snap a great picture.
EDIT: I wanted to also give a highly honourble mention to LifeProof for their iPhone7plus case. It has taken multiple drops from my pocket while riding my bike, been splashed with fresh and salt water (I'm a diver, always near water) as well as generally added grip to the normally slick iPhone7plus. I did have a lifeproof on my 6plus in the past and it was horrendous - the design flaws of the locking clasp for the charging door have thankfully been overcome
However underwater, the two superstars are:
Living on an island where the power goes off a number of times a week, I like carrying a full USB battery at all times, whether it is to charge my iPad, my iPhone, my cameras or even my Bluetooth keyboard. Currently, I carry one and leave one on charge swapping on a daily basis. Alternating between a no name, 2 USB port 10,000mAh or a large 20,000mAh quick charge capable no name brand white brick. There is always one in my bag. Having the ability to charge everything and not slow down has been fantastic. I now only plug into mains power at night - mainly to charge the batteries.
While wifi is available in almost every eating or sleeping venue on the islands, wifi doesn't crack more than than about 3mbs shared across all the other users in each hotel. This lead me to investigate the large data packages available for 4G that is accessible on the islands. I stumbled across a 48gig package (Aug2017) by XL for 270,000rp for 30 days. This has been my lifeblood connection - uploading daily for instagram, emails and normal web browsing. I often tether my laptop to my phone as the 4G is more stable than the wifi.
It has now been a couple weeks since I graduated as a DiveMaster here on Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia.
I was able to spend a week in Bali last week at Mum & Dad’s house using all of their WIFI and hot water - things that are sorely lacking on Gili Air.
Now I am back on the Island, my days have been filled with helping out in the shop as well as tagging along as qualified DM to assist Instructors with students who require assistance as well as taking photos and videos to share with you!
I will be posting a series of blog posts in the coming weeks about Island Life and things that people should be aware of when traveling / living long term on Gili Air, Indonesia.
Wow. I can't believe it is week 6 already.
On Saturday I found out I am "graduating" on Tuesday night - the customary "snorkel test" - the drinking of a swamp brew of grog through a snorkel with blacked out mask. A light hazing of sorts to welcome you to the professional side of diving.
With the clock now firmly set I needed to get a move on to get all my tasks completed.
On the Friday before the surprise graduation, the following tasks were completed:
And finally, I submitted an extension for my visa to remain in Indonesia on a month by month basis. An interesting experience dealing with the regional outpost of the Indonesian Immigration
What next? Stay tuned
Wow time is flying fast now I can’t believe it is now 5 weeks since I started the DMT.
I have ticked over 100 dives - and no the 100th dive was not naked as is usual convention because I was with clients.
This week I have had a number of firsts - seems to be happening a lot:
Ramadan has come to an end so shops are returning to their normal opening hours and dive masters who were not diving during ramadan are returning so I am looking forward to learning from more of the local DMs
As now been in Indonesia for almost 6 weeks including staying my parents prior to commencing DMT I am now at a point I need to extend my visa so that process starts soon too.
All images are owned by the poster unless otherwise stated