Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dual-Band Antenna Install

I've never been one to be reluctant to drill holes in a vehicle. The NMO (New MOtorola) mount for the dual-band (2m and 70cm)  antenna needed a ¾" hole in the center of the roof which is slightly smaller than the inside threaded piece seen in the picture. The outside thread has a rubber "O" ring to seal against the roof. The inside has “teeth” which dig into the painted surface on the other side of the roof to establish a good ground plane for the 5/8 wave antenna. Silicone grease is used on the “O” ring to ensure a watertight seal.

To protect the contacts and the threads when an antenna is not installed, a cap is screwed onto the mount. To do the install, I needed to mostly remove the headliner. Not only to route the cable but to locate the roof supports. I didn’t want to drill into them but wanted to be right next to one. Fortunately, the headliner in the truck can be lowered easily and the antenna cable is routed down the driver's side “B” pillar. 

For now, I’m just planning to use the antenna with the 8 watt Baofeng HT using an SMA to SO-239 adapter. I'd like to eventually pick up a mobile HF radio that also includes UHF and VHF. In this case, the main chassis will probably be mounted under the driver's seat. Before buttoning up the headliner, I used an ohmmeter to see if the "teeth" on the mount dug into the paint. The ohmmeter claimed 0.8 ohms so all is good at least as far as the antenna is concerned.

When testing the setup, I could clearly receive the call sign from the repeater but what is uncertain is whether my signal is reaching it. The pin on the SMA adaptor didn't look like it would actually reach the antenna contact. When I tried asking for a test, there was no response. I also don't have an SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) meter so I can't really test things. Actually, I do have one that I purchased 40+ years ago but I haven't seen it for over 20 years. Who knows what box it's in. So more research is needed...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Vanity Call Sign

You use your FCC-assigned call sign whenever you use any amateur radio frequency which includes the local 2m repeater. The last two characters of my call sign were "PD". There is another active ham operator in the Fairbanks area who has the last two characters of "PB". These two were very hard to distinguish unless you use the NATO phonetic alphabet. Just about every time I've given my call sign, I get mistaken for the other person. The FCC has a program called "vanity callsign" so I went ahead and requested another call sign. The call signs are organized by location and license class and since I'm in Alaska (not very many people), I was able to choose from quite a list of unused call signs. Last night, an email from the FCC let me know that I was approved for AL6T. "AL" for "Amateur Extra" living in Alaska. I just looked at a list of unassigned call signs with that prefix and picked one that seemed easy to say and probably wouldn't get confused with something else.

While researching this process, I found it somewhat amusing that Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are all given unique prefixes but the rest of the country is all lumped together. I guess we're just special...

I'm especially intrigued by two aspects of amateur radio. One is all of the digital communication modes that work with very poor signal to noise ratios, ridiculously low bandwidth, and low power and the other, which surprised me, is CW i.e. Continuous Wave or morse code. Also very low bandwidth. When I was younger, we had a key that I played with similar to the one on the left. One of the reasons I finally took the amateur radio test is that they eliminated the Morse code requirement. But now that I don't have to learn, I'm interested. I signed up for an online course called CW Academy taught by volunteers and they require the newer style of paddle key such as the one pictured below.

The course won't begin until April and will be meeting twice a week using Skype. The paddle key requires a "keyer" as it sends out a continuous stream of dots or dashes depending on which paddle is being pushed. The rate is adjusted using the keyer. Just about every modern HF (high frequency) transceiver has a keyer built in. I'm now shopping around for a mobile HF transceiver and antennae. Mobile so that I would be able to easily use it either at home or on road trips. Until then, I'm watching YouTube practice videos and trying out a couple of iPhone apps to try and get a head start. After all, at my age learning something new is getting hard...

Friday, January 5, 2018

Trip to Delta

On Tuesday, I went with a good friend to pick up his Ural from Mickey's shop down in Delta. He had taken it down after hydro-locking the engine when testing the underwater capability of the rig in a pothole. A very large pothole. On the way back, we stopped at a turnout to check the tie down straps holding the rig on the trailer and the air in one of the trailer tires. A good photo opportunity as it was right around sunset. The timestamp on the photo is 2:47pm and sunset was listed as 2:59pm. It was a warm (+37°F) afternoon and there was a lot of open water and overflow on the Tanana River. And this is January 2nd. Almost unheard of...

I deleted the Facebook app from my phone today. After checking battery consumption, it said that Facebook had used 57% of my battery and had almost nine hours of run time while in background. I had looked at the app this morning for about five minutes. After a brief online search, it seems that this has been a “known problem” for a while. The site runs just fine in either Chrome or Mobile Safari and you eliminate its ability to do anything in background.

Friday Update - After running for half a day of “normal use”, The battery is still 95% instead of the usual 65%. Sounds like a reasonable change to me.