Extra Class… YAY!!

After a couple of weeks studying, I passed the Element 4 test and now have a extra class license

Extra Class
Extra Class

I used many tools to help my get my license.

Ham Radio Study – Android Application (Tango11)
Ham Test Prep (extra) – Iphone
eham.net exams
Gordon West Extra Class Audio Course – Audio CD

I used all 4 of these tools to help get my license.  In my own opinion, Out of the 4 tools, I say that Ham Radio Study for the android is the best phone app for studying. The application is rather buggy (Don’t rotate your screen!) and there are no diagrams to help with questions that use digrams. The reason why I think it’s the best is that if your trying to brute force the questions and answers into your head, this application will help. It will cycle random questions from the pool and keep asking them until you “Mastered” the question till the point where there are no questions left. That will mean that you learned them all.

Ham test prep (extra) for the iPhone is a paid application and it’s useful. What I like about this application is that you can work at one section at a time or create a practice test with or without random questions. This application also shows diagrams and is pretty useful. Another thing I like is that it tracks and show how well your doing in each subelement group. If they were to incorperate the feature that the “Ham radio study” for android has then It would be the ultimate questions preparation application

For when I am driving around I used the gordon west audio CD. I skipped over the stuff involving math because I find it hard to do algebra while driving on the turnpike. What is great about the CD is that he covers the questions and answers while giving you a general reason why. So he is actually teaching you why instead of learning the answers to the questions.

To mix it up a little bit I also used the eham.net’s practice exams.  I knew I was ready when I kept scoring over 80% on these practice exams and the same with any other software/application I used.

Quick thanks to the Western Mass VE Team (WMVET) for their monthly testing. It’s been at the same place for as long as I can remember.

Hopefully that helps and say hello if you happen to catch me in the “EXTRA CLASS” portion of some of the bands.

Homebrew Rigblaster Nomic Data Cable

Since I got the SignaLink I figured I can mess around with the Rigblaster.  I wanted to adapt it to the FT-100 so If I ever go out with it and a laptop, I can do some digital work using the rigblaster as a interface.

On their website they posted a article “Connecting your FT-897 to The Rigblaster NOMIC for digital operation” (Written By Jeff, K8YSV).

I Followed the directions to the T and here it is!

Just some things I would like to point out. The FT-817, FT-857D, FT-897, FT-100D, FT-950,  FT-2000 and I am sure many other makes and models use the MINI 6 PIN DIN connector which is the same as a PS2 cable that you find on a semi older keyboards and mouses (mice). I thought it would be easy and just find a old mouse or keyboard, clip the wire and use the connector. Well guess what? The PS2 Mouse and keyboard use 4 out of the 6 pins and the two that have nothing connected to them are need to wire up for the Yaesu rigs. You just might be lucky and come across a cable that works. I went through about a dozen keyboards and mouses until I gave up. Getting frustrated I went on Ebay and picked up a 6 pack of connectors for $10 w/ shipping.

If you follow the entire article on the above link you can make a cable with just basic soldering skills.  I added a ferrite choke to the data and audio cables to help cut down on the noise generated from nearby objects.

After constructing the cable and testing it out, I wasn’t too impressed on it’s performance compared to hooking the NOMIC up using the Microphone jack and audio patch cables.

I notice it didn’t sound right. I don’t have the proper analyzing equipment to give a detailed reason why but if you look at the band edges on the above picture, you will notice a drop off which I never seen with the unit normally hooked up. I also notice that the audio is not as strong either. I had to max out all the settings on my soundcard and radio. Even with the levels maxed and removing the resistor on the NOMIC board,  the audio still seemed low.

Overall I am not too thrilled about the outcome of the cable but it works. It makes it possible to use the microphone again and It’s going to help on a future project I have in the works.

Tigertronics SingaLink USB

Recently I purchased a SignaLink USB from HRO in NH to replace my Rigblaster Nomic. The Reason for doing so is that the SignaLink has a built in sound card. That means only one connection to the computer is required. It also Isolates the soundcard so I do not have to adjust my computers sound card every time I want to use digital.

Price (@ HRO): $99
Platfrom Installed on: Windows 7
Radio Used On: Yaesu FT-950
Software Used With: Ham Radio Deluxe, WSJT

When purchasing the SignaLink you can either get one to adapt to your microphone jack or your data jack (If you have one). Since the FT-950 has a RTTY/PKT port on the rear of the rig, I purchased the SL-USB–6PM. The 6PM stands for “6 PIN MINI” which is what the RTTY/PKT Port uses (Similar to a Mouse/Keyboard cable).

The box comes with everything you need to get going. Included in the box was the SignaLink USB unit,6ft  USB-A to USB-B cable (Similar to current USB Printer cable), 2Ft of Rj45 to 6 pin Mini din cable (From the Unit to the radio), 1ft Male to Male audio (stereo) patch cable, Jumper wires, Allen wrench, Software CD (Contains Jumper Diagrams and Various ham radio software) and Manuals.

Nice Rear!!

The initial setup is very easy with the kit I purchased. Just plug the USB cable into SingaLink then into the computer, then plug the Data cable into the SignaLink’s RJ45 jack and plug the 6pin Mini Din into the rear (RTTY/PKT, DATA) Port of your radio.  Depending on your Operating system. The system will automatically recognize the SignaLink and install the default drivers for the sound card that is  in the SignaLink.

The software and radio setup could be a little confusing to some people. But it’s similar to any other interface that is out in the market. The only thing is is really different is that you will now have TWO sound cards  showing up on your computer (Your computers and the SignaLink). You will have to do some on software adjustments for the SignaLink sound card (Labeled “USB Audio Codec” or “USB Audio Device”) and you will have to modify your settings for each software that you use for communications. Tigertronics website provides a great amount of information on how to setup your SignaLink USB to your computer and will provide technical assistance over the phone\e-mail.


On the radio side with the FT-950 I went to menu # 51 (Data Out Lvl) and # 53 (Data V Gain) and changed the value to 90 to max out the levels. If I need to changed the RX and TX levels of the data port I can do so on the fly with the knobs on the SignaLink. I also changed FT-950 to display the ALC meter.

Now it’s time to pick a frequency and start doing some “Digital” Communications. I picked my favorite 14.070mhz. At this point I am adjusting the RX knob on the SignaLink to make sure I am not overdriving the DM-780 software. I keep my level around 40%. If you have the RX knob maxed out (turned fully clockwise) and you are getting less than 10% of audio then check the software settings on the “USB Audio Device” and the settings on your communications software (For example DM-780 has Attenuation level. That box should be turned off or at zero). If it’s still low then check your rigs Data Settings and max out the RX and TX gain

SingaLink In Operation

Once the RX is set, it’s time to start transmitting. Soon as you start transmitting adjust the TX knob so you see nothing on your ALC meter but the power is still at the level you set it at. The picture above shows that I set the power to 20 watts. in the PSK field you really do not need much power. I see a lot of people running high wattage which just makes it hard for others to communicate as they are causing QRM to stations near.

That’s It!

So far I am loving the SignaLink USB. My sound card is now free so that I can listen to music again. Windows OS sounds will no longer be transmitted (DING!), I no longer have to readjust my soundcard for digital. I can also use my microphone jack for it’s intended purpose; for plugging a microphone into. I can switch from digital to SSB in seconds!  I wish I purchased one of these with the radio.

* – I am not tech support for the SignaLink, I just want to show how I went about putting it together. If you have issues please go to http://www.tigertronics.com


My FT-950


Ain’t it a thing of beauty? heh…

Before I upgraded to general I purchased an FT-857D. I was planning on putting it in my truck but I ended up using it in the house since it was my only HF rig. I wanted a bigger system so I could put the 857D mobile and I ended up getting a Kenwood TS-430s. After making  the impulse purchase I realized that the TS-430S is not suited for digital. I kept using the FT-857D as a home unit and then I decided to sell everything for a new HF base that could handle digital. I was debating between the Kenwood TS-2000 or the Yaesu FT-950. For reasons which are unknown I ended up getting the FT-950. I am loosing VHF and UHF by getting the FT-950 But I think I made a wise purchase. So far I am loving this rig, it’s taking some getting used to but it’s amazing how a couple of adjustments makes a someone who I can barely hear sound like S9.

8/10/10 Contacts

I didn’t feel like using the radio. The office on TBS has episodes that i’ve seen many times so I ended up turning on the rig. 20m seemed dead so I went to 40m where there was a lot of PSK activity.

Start calling CQ with BPSK63 and AB4RT (Bob)  replyied. Call was familar and he just realized that he contacted me the night before. It was strange because HRD did not pick up on the logged call.  After that VE3SWS (Jay, ON) contacted me and told me that I was his first digital contact. I like seeing people get into digital. More for me to make contacts with so we rag chewed a bit and moved to a different frequency where we tried different modes out. Found out that Oliva is REALLY SLOW with a wide bandwidth. Too me it would seem great for low power long distance communication. Not for making quick QSO’s. Had a great time.