HCRA Field Day 2011

This year I participated in Field Day with the Hampden County Radio Association. Instead of dropping by a site and using their equipment, I decided to offer up my equipment for use as the “HF DIGITAL” station. Other than a couple of software issues, the Digital station was a success with over 170 contacts.

Here are the pictures I’ve taken from Field Day

Check out Hampden County Radio Association’s Website for information about Field Day.
Continue reading “HCRA Field Day 2011”

Ham Radio… IN 3-D!

Well, Not really.

When it comes to building things for Ham Radio, I shoot for perfection. Down to the point where I will reverse engineer every part in CAD and assemble my project in CAD before I even start building. It has saved my butt many times over and if there are people actually following this blog, you’ll see evidence of my pre-planning. Here are some examples of what I am talking about.


3D Code Key
3D Code Key


This is my dual touch pad code keyer. This took about a couple of hours to make because I was not sure what type of  touch pad I wanted. I wasn’t sure if I were going to user a horizontal or vertical setup. So I ended up going with both. The horizontal brass keys are inlayed into a piece of plexi glass. the vertical keys are insulated from each other using plastic grommets.


3D Code Key - Built
3D Code Key - Built


Here is the actual touch keyer. This project was considered a failure. Everything worked great until you placed the cover over battery/board, which caused some kind of interference and would not allow the “Dah” key to perform well.  I ended up mostly using the horizontal key pads. If I decided to attack this again, the Vertical keys will be omitted.


3D PL-259
3D PL-259
3D SO-239
3D SO-239

Here is something that most, if not, ALL hams have seen. It’s a PL-259 and SO-239 Connector that I reversed for an amplifier project. Once I have enough small parts designed, I will release just the models (Not editable) for others to use in their designs

Butternut HF9V Mount

Here is a Model of a Mount for the ButterNut HF9V.  It’s a 5gal bucket that will be buried then filled with cement and a pipe to sleeve the Antenna. On top of the Bucket will be my Radial plate I designed to attach the ButterNut to.

HF9V Plate
HF9V Plate

Here is the plate ready for Action. I will go into more detail about this setup when I install the ButterNut.


3D Vibroplex Bug
3D Vibroplex Bug


Here is a incomplete Vibroplex Bug. I wanted to see if it was possible to reverse the bug and it was almost successful. Things like my family and obtaining my extra class license push this to the back burner.  I am saving this to learn how to animate using the software. I still think it looks neat.


You might be wondering how I did this (really?). All of these parts were designed using  software called “Autodesk Inventor 2011”. This software is made by the same people who made AutoCAD. AutoCAD is one of the, if not, the most popular software for Computer Aided Drafting (CAD). There is another piece software called “SolidWorks” that I use as well. I find that Inventor separates the Sheet metal modeling from the 3D modeling which is perfect in my trade. These Two pieces of software are the most used software for design and fabrication for a lot of the items that you use today. Most CNC cutting, milling and forming machines uses the files that are generated by this software.  After designing the part in CAD,  it can printed on a blueprint to be giving to the fabricator, and/or the part can be imported into the software that will convert the information into G-Code for the CNC machine. Once the information is loaded and all the settings are correct, the CNC machine can now do it’s job cutting/milling/forming the part. All of the parts are modeled to 1:1 scale. Meaning if the part is a 12X12″ square piece of metal, I modeled it to 12 inches by 12 inches. That way you can see how it looks compared to other stuff.

If your a ham radio operator, 3D modeling software can be beneficial, even if you don’t have access to CNC a machine. From this software you can generate the blueprints and/or files needed (See my OSJ-Pole prints for example) by fabricators to produce your part. Since you already designed it and gave them the information that they need, it could save money in design/programming. I also think it’s more understanding reading a blue print with proper dimensions than someones chicken scratch or MS paint drawing.  My OSJ-Pole print is the most searched and downloaded file on this site because I think how it was presented to the reader.

Autodesk Inventor – Software for 3D modeling parts (They have a free trial!)
Solidworks – Software for 3D modeling parts

MasterCAM – Software  used to generate G-Code for different type of CNC machines. (I would not suggest using this software Unless you own and/or know how use the CNC machine your trying to design for)





APCO 25 (P25) and DSD

Since I have a radio capable of transmitting Digitally using the Project 25 protocol. I wanted to test it out. The only issue is that there are no P25 ham radio repeaters in receiving distance from my house and I do not have another P25 radio to communicate with. After searching around Google, I found some websites discussing software that will decode the digital signal and convert it to analog over your computer’s sound card.

Hardware Needed:
Scanner – I guess it can be any kind as long as you can get at the discriminator output. I used a Radio Shack PRO-97.
Audio Patch cable – From the discriminator output to the computer
Computer – Not sure what the minimum requirements are. I used a 1.5Ghz single core AMD (Circa 2003) and a motherboard with a built-in sound card.
Sound Card (If you computer doesn’t have Sound Card) – I don’t think there is a need to go out and spend hundreds on a card that your going to use for this purpose. The money spent on a expensive card could have been spent on a scanner that can decode APCO25. I’ve found that a sound card using the AC97 Codec works the best.

Software Needed:
Linux OS Or Windows – That’s right L-I-N-U-X!! DSD Will NOT run on ANY KIND OF WINDOWS OS. Let me type that again. DSD DOES NOT RUN ON WINDOWS!!!  Sorry but I had to do that.  I’ve used UBUNTU Ver 10.04 . At the time of writing this, the current version of Ubuntu is 11.04 . For some reason DSD DOES NOT WORK WITH UBUNTU VERSION 11.04 . The reason I choose Ubuntu is that it’s downloadable,  free and has a Graphic user Interface. Since I never Ran Linux before, I felt a little more at home with Ubuntu. You can run a Dual Boot system so that when you start the computer, you can have a choice of which Operating system to boot into. With Ubuntu you can also run Ubuntu off the CD instead of installing the OS on the computer.  Please note that there is a lot of reading in installing Ubuntu which I will not cover on this website. Google questions you have and I’m sure there is an answer out there


DSD (Digital Signal Decoder) – This is the software that actually takes the digital signal and decodes it.
– This software actually takes the decoded information and synthesizes it so you can hear the decoded audio.

DSD and mbelib can be downloaded from here (See note at the end of this writeup)

After modifying your scanner and getting Linux to run, download Mbelib and DSD in Linux and remember where they are located. In terminal CD (Navigate) to the directory where both Mbelib and DSD are located, Unpack both Mbelib and DSD and then install Mbelib first then DSD. If your very new to Linux and have some computer skills, this thread helped me out.

After installing everything, in Terminal type “dsd” (without quotes) and If all goes well. The last line should be “Audio In/Out Device:  dev/audio”
Errors that I got at this point mostly have to do with sound.  Either your sound card is being used by another application (even the sound control panel) or DSD is not calling up the correct sound card. DSD is defaulted to use sound card device 0 (zero). So if your sound card device is in a different spot then you need to tell DSD the location for the sound card. You can check where your soundcard is (if it’s installed) by typing “aplay -l ” into terminal. If it’s device 2 for example then you type in terminal “dsd -i /dev/audio2 -0 /dev/audio2”

I’ve uploaded a video showing up how DSD works with APCO 25 (P25, Project 25). It also works on other digital modes but I have not yet tried.

I am loving this software. It’s not the easiest software to install or use but if your into scanning and just even wondered about Linux. This is the perfect project to get your feet wet in Linux.

Please note that I am not an expert on the DSD software or Linux. Most likely I will NOT be able to help you if you’re experiencing problems. The install went so great for me and worked so well that I wanted to install it on another computer. After installing it on another computer, I had nothing but trouble. The good that came out of having a hard installation is that I learned a bit about DSD and Linux.

Thanks for reading

UPDATES 10/24/2011
I haven’t been using DSD much as I’ve been out of touch with APCO but I was informed by a user on Youtube that There is a verison that runs in windows.

Here is the link to the RadioReference Thread

Basically what the Author did was compile all the stuff from the linux version of DSD into a windows .exe file.  If you just want to listen to P25, Download the version in the 3rd post of the thread. All you have to do is un-zip everything into a folder and run dsd.exe

I’ve tested it against my XTS3000 (P25) and everything looks and ran great. I think the Audio was a little better sounding on my Linux box but the audio is still legible and I’m glad to now have it on a windows box. Maybe I’ll listen to it more often.

Make sure to plug into the discriminator tap and put the other side into the LINE-IN (Blue). Before loading DSD make sure that the LINE-IN is your DEFAULT recording device and you should be all set. If you try to do this while the DSD is running you can run into issues just like when it was in Linux.

Thanks to the RR crew because it makes scanning more fun and less expensive.

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.