Tech-tut.com

Robbie's Amateur Radio Stuff - by Robbie

(11-1-11) For several years I have been interested in amateur radio, but I never had the money to get into it. I also had no idea how easy it was to get started. It wasn't until a few months ago that I really became curious.

I had made a few purchases for a customer at my job. I bought them a few Yaesu radios from Ham Radio Outlet, and seeing all that cool stuff really got me interested. Then, I had a birthday a little later, and I had a good amount of cash in my pocket.

With that cash I started bargain shopping. I was going to buy new, but I realized that with the right deal I might be able to get more bang for my limited buck. I had to supplement my birthday money with some side jobs (and hide-away cash), but I wound up being able to purchase quite a bit of stuff for less than $300.

While this is a new hobby, it relates to my fundamental hobby of electronics, and I plan to hang on for the long haul. I also have to prove to my lovely wife that it isn't a passing fad. I love electronics, and I hope to learn much more through the amateur radio service. I am also making may new friends out there through the hobby.

Remember, it's more than just a hobby, it's a gateway drug (in that it leads to other projects).

(11-7-11) This weekend I made my vertical dipole antenna just a little bit taller. I was having trouble picking up the Thomasville repeater. I figured that a few more feet might help me out. I also drilled some holes in the PVC pipe to thread some galvanized wire through. The winds during the Winter-time would be persistent enough to break PVC pipe over the course of the season. I estimate that the center of my vertical dipole is about 20 feet AGL. I was able to hear a conversation from the North from a repeater in Albany, GA. Sunday evening. Hopefully, this Thursday I will be able to pick up the transmissions from Thomasville. I am also coming to the realization that this page is worthless without photos :)

Since I can't communicate using my radio yet, I have hooked my scanner to the antenna. It's amazing what I can pick up. I can get quite a bit of police traffic. I tried to pick up the keyboard and mouse that I have on 49MHz. Not only did I pick that up, I also picked up someone's baby monitor or something. I hear Spanish television that is on almost all day long. I'm not much on eaves dropping, but I would like to know where it is located so I can inform them that someone malicious might use that against them. I also want to know how far their milliwatt transmitter is transmitting. Perhaps I can use a directional antenna later on to find the transmitter.

(11-14-2011) Now that I have my call sign, KK4FGM, I am trying to figure out how to make my first contact. I've spent the last two weeks constantly querying the FCC database for my FRN to appear with a call sign. When I say constantly, I mean that their bandwidth probably exceeded the monthly limit! I probably checked it every twenty minutes on weekdays between the hours of 0730EST and 1930EST. I suppose I'll dial up a repeater and see if any friends are listening.

(11-29-2011) I went shopping with my wife last weekend, and she had such a good time that she let me buy an antenna from HRO as a reward. I bought the Diamond MR77SMA to use with my HT. Before this antenna, the only repeaters that I could hit were within about 20 miles. I mounted the antenna and routed the wire between work and tutoring, yesterday, and I keyed it up after the math tutoring session. I tuned to a repeater (KE4URL - Reno) that is a little over 40 miles from me. I keyed up, said "KK4FGM testing", and then received the courtesy tone. I've never been able to do that! Finally, I am happy with the ability to make my 5 watts more useful. The 13 feet of coax has much less loss than the 75 feet that runs to my antenna at home.

While I was waiting for my antenna to arrive, I read an article titled "VHF Mobile Antenna Performance". I found this to be a very interesting study. I noted that my 1/4 wave 2m antenna being mounted on my Jeep Commander's roof would have a fairly good radiation pattern, but then I also had to remember that the author's test vehicles were wire models and my vehicle has a luggage rack and moon windows. This article is a reminder that antennas are not the only factor when it comes to long distance (50 miles) mobile communication. The ground plane created by the vehicle plays an even larger part of wave propagation than the antenna. Mounting this antenna on a Geo Prizm is not going to give you the best radiation pattern when compared to mounting it on a large SUV. The tradeoff is MPG vs. radiation pattern. Car construction is another factor. Metal vehicles will be much better than a composite vehicle. If you find that your new antenna isn't working as well as you expect, try it on another vehicle if you can. Even with a good SWR, it is possible that the ground plane could be affecting your signal.

(2-4-2012) I purchased a used Ten-Tec power supply today, and I finally saw what an Anderson Powerpole connector looks like. I went ahead and purchased a handful because I now see why many hams change their equipment over to them. Later this week I'll finally be able to run my mobile radio as a base station. Now I just have to mod the mobile mount bracket to allow the radio to be easily removed. I'm thinking about adding some wing nuts to the screws and perhaps milling slots into the mobile bracket. I may not even attempt that, though. I think that using screws with wing nuts will be fairly simple. I am just happy that I picked up a quiet power supply for only a few dollars.

Equipment

Photos

Front view of the antenna. It is hard to see from this angle in the evenening.
2M vertical dipole front view
Side view of the antenna.
2M vertical dipole side view
Distance from home to KE4URL repeater.
Map showing distance from my home to KE4URL
Distance from home to WG4JOE repeater.
Map showing distance from home to WG4JOE repeater. J-pole barely makes it. ~70mi
Accidental APRS on ariss.net
KK4FGM just below Iceland. Cool, but I'm in EM81DD.
Remote packet station diagram
Diagram of my remote packet radio system. Access from anywhere.
2 meter J-pole antenna
2 meter J-pole that replaced the dipole. The ugly balun was removed.