Continuing ham “stuff” …

Well – been another month since doing any type of update and there’s been quite a bit of interesting things going on – so I’ll touch on a few.

First, you recall from a prior post that I attended the Fargo hamfest hosted by RRRA group.  (They have a decent setup with lots of space and interesting items.  I even attended a number of their presentations – which I found to be of interest).  One of the surprises from that hamfest was that I actually won something — a 50$US certificate from the ARRL!  Well — I wanted to pick up an updated edition of the ARRL handbook and the timing was pretty good – the 2018 edition was on pre-order!  And – if you pre-order, you also get a free namepin for ARRL members – which I am.  So, in the mail today came an early Christmas present 🙂

Early Christmas present!

The other neat thing is that I never really understood how the US had their numbering (call zones) setup — so this little extra little piece of paper in the book certainly helped!

Some good reading in there for sure – nice sections on SDR’s and DSP’s .. so will be a fun read to re-read the material – maybe even re-learn a few basic things again.

I’ll be looking at offering out my older ARRL handbook(s) – preference would be to those who just recently got their licence in the last class – so if you know of someone who just got their licence and they’re interested, let me know – or, someone else will get a early Christmas present too.

A couple (few?) weeks back, we held a session at the VE4WSC site where Colin VE4CST assembled a rather nice setup for doing bench-tests of OSPF routing with Mikrotik routers.  That was attended by those who have an interest in supporting such functions, learning new things and applying their new-found knowledge in support of our VA4WAN high-speed network project.  What a great session it was – was good to see a number of guys make it – I learned a few things!

some of the guys getting schooled
more schooling

Thanks again to Colin VE4CST for taking the time for putting this on.

So, I was able to get 3 of my Mikrotik routers to this learning session (yes 3, I go nuts over routers I’m told) and changed a few configs on them etc … (I have more, but they are in use).  William mentioned that there were some good buys on ebay for some of the Mikrotik routers – and a version of the RB2011 that has wifi built-in – so .. on the step one day was a box with you know what in it!

New (to me) Mikrotik wifi router. (With POE in/out! )

So I’ve got that configured up – just have to finish a last couple of items and it’s online.  Weird, though, that while it has POE in/out, it is also HARD-wired to an AC brick – oh well, guess I can’t lose a power plug that’s hard wired in.

I was interested in getting better wifi for the house and William mentioned he has a spare Cisco wifi access point.  Wow, and POE to boot!  Mind you, these POE’s are 48v, not the irregular 24V Mikrotik stuff.

New (to me) Cisco POE AP!

But, hey, along with that, there was an older router/switch that had POE out – and it was 48v, so heck, why not.  I had a 48v POE camera and had picked up a nice Cisco IP Phone from one of our ‘suppliers’ and viola!

POE switch with POE phone and POE camera. Things are going POE these days… but I really need to upgrade my cameras…

To finish it off, re-run a cable to my 2.3 GHz VA4WAN highspeed net and away I go.

The last item I’ll mention today is a rather interesting project.  You recall a number of us have been working on a digital linking experiment with the Allstarlink project – these folks have created an interface to control repeaters via the asterisk PBX system – way cool!  So, this basically provides a means to run a controller via software and run a repeater (or two or three or four) all on a small raspberry pi for example.

We’ve purchased the DMK URI usb to radio interface boards before and still use them – but for experimenting with new radio interfaces, it would be cool to work with less expensive items – such as USB audio dongles – which I picked up a bunch of them for about 3$US a piece – not too bad.  So the fun part is to hack them up and interface them to a radio (or two).  Seeing William VE4VR had some surplus maxon data radios – nice little units – we just had to do something with them.  Enter Walter VE4VB – and we get the USB FOBs and the radios to him and viola – he’s hacked up the USB FOB’s and created an interface for the data radios to operate analogue.  I’ll pick up some 5v regulated supplies from him and we’ll make this a test to link the two units via digital connection and run it as a split site repeater – one unit RX at one location, another TX at a different location – all hooked up via our high-speed VA4WAN network ..

USB FOBs with MAXON radios!

sounds interesting to experiment more with these guys.

To tie these guys together, we will need some computing power – so enter the raspberry pi 3 — I was able to pick up a couple from a local supplier while on black-friday special!

Raspberry PI’s ready to go to work!

There you have it.  Besides having some interesting times with 6m MSK (meteor scatter) these days, I’ve dabbled in some contests (sweepstakes) and had fun doing ham stuff.  Helping out guys do a few things is always fun too.

Well – one more thing – we have a nice site at the VE4WSC Winnipeg Senior Citizens Radio Club and provide the group with ham internet and telephony services – courtesy of Les.Net (who is also a ham!) and we have a fair bit of gear there.  So, with me getting up there in (almost) retirement age – it was a chance to join a group that is doing some interesting things for the community at large.  I must say – there’s some cool projects on the go and I, for one, would love to see the resurrection of the satellite operation – especially with such a resurgence in ham sats these days – would be cool.

So, there’s lots to do with ham these days – problem is finding the time to do all the fun stuff – but that’s part of the fun itself.

73, Dan ve4drk

VA4WAN @ BSidesWPG.CA

I had never been to a local BSidesWPG.CA conference before.

This is a two day (or today, 49 hr) conference where locals (and non-locals) participate in presentations regarding security, information systems etc.  It appears to be limited to approximately 200 seats and it appears to be selling out each year it is on.  There’s alot to do in co-ordination of this event, so every 2 years is what works the best.  Kudos to the guys putting this event on – it was nice to meet up with some “older” acquaintances made over the years.  It’s certainly great to see such involvement from the ‘younger’ generation (ie: my son is a sponsor of the event with his company pegboardhosting.ca and I was able to tag along.  He’s also giving a talk at the event, so will be cool.  (Man — if only this type of environment existed when I was attending my university days…  great work guys!)

So, onto the topic of the day — you all know our great networking dude and tower climber (Colin Stanners, VE4CST) and he is also known in the community as well, so he made a presentation describing our VA4WAN project!  What a great way to get the word out of what we are working on and get more people involved in our project.

Colin doing his thing – presenting VA4WAN!

Thanks, Colin, for your efforts in getting the word out!

Interesting too, one of the earlier speakers is also a ham!  We are everywhere it seems – you can find us involved in all sorts of community events and emergency situations providing needed communications.  Certainly get in contact with the fine folks of http://winnipegarc.org/ and get your licence!

On another front, we’re working on getting ‘high-speed’ (read:9600bps) packet also back on-line.  This has real value these days with mobile communications.  Werner VE4UA got his station back on-line, so, discussing with William VE4VR, we need to get the station on-line at a decent site 😉 .. I have the antenna and we now have cable thanks to our friend Les from les.net  See Les.net for all your telephony and networking needs!  So, we now have some work to do even though the snow has made it’s presence known locally.

An interesting project was presented at hack-a-day.  I run SDR’s as well as HF TX and there was an interesting article about using SDR# to remotely connect to an sdr-server.  So, to test this out, and hopefully deploy to a better site, I hook this up to my rtl-sdr.com sdr unit (great unit) and it’s being fed over my high-speed 2.3GHz ham radio VA4WAN connection – works great from a remote site.  Now to hook up my SDR for the aprs connections and my WSPR transmitter I’ll be able to deploy this to my garage!

Tomorrow, will  be taking in the rest of the bsidesWpg conference – maybe have more to say there too …

73, Dan ve4drk

 

60c new gear to install

We’ve had the 60c site up for about a year (you can see it in the prior postings) and while we’ve had a few ups and downs with the site over the period, it still is a great site with visibility to other sites to help create our “ring” around the city and providing redundancy in and out.  So, with the purchase of some new gear to hopefully get phenomenal data speeds to the site, we had to go up.  Meeting at the site Sunday morning at 8am was Derek VE4HAY, William VE4VR, Jim VE4SIG and Dan VE4DRK.  We hauled up a bunch of gear, took some older gear down  – which means we have  been able to standardize on a number of components which we’ve been able to accumulate over the past while, both from purchases and generous donations of gear.

It was a ‘tad’ cold and with a wicked wind, made it even colder.  Gloves were the order of the day for me!  (thanks Jim for the spare set).

We ran a number of new lines for some new gear, and configured up some mounts:

Jim working his magic on the mounts …

Derek and Jim mounting panels:

mounting another ….

New high(er) speed radios!

Derek and William mounting/adjusting ,,,

With the cramped area we have for the control devices/injectors etc, it was difficult for William to get it all back in with all the extra feeds coming in, but it was done … The suggestion is in to re-work the mounting/storage of the controlling gear as space is always becoming an issue.

So, with all that, we still need the 2.3GHz sectors to be mounted – we seemed to have lost (and re-found) a sector end cover as well as we need to re-set the mounting based upon the new mount point dimensions.  Who knows if this can be done  before the snow flies.  Until then, we need further work at 55N to ensure the other side of the link is tenable and working.

The one nice item was that the ring connection to Transcona has an awesome signal!  Which may imply we have further tweaks to do to the other connections to ensure they are optimal.  Redundancy and connection to ‘out-west’ ie: the west part of the also city moved along with a back-haul established out west – at least at one end of the link.  A panel connection towards the UofM will provide ham service to the local hams and groups at UofM, and hopefully a redundancy option.  More to come …

Either way, connectivity gains were had and we are better ahead to continue offering service and redundancy on the VA4WAN network – continuing to grow.

It’s great to provide connectivity to various sites and various ham groups and individual hams – it would not be possible without the great support we’ve had over the past while from our supporting groups.  The old addage is also very true – “use it or lose it”  If you’re interested, look us up and join up … lots of cool things to do.  (with this exposure to the winds up top on a cool day, I’m not sure if I’m ready for the winter or not …)

73, Dan ve4drk

2017 Fargo Hamfest, visits to 55N et al

For the second year in a row – wow – I ventured to Fargo – a few hours south of the city of Winnipeg here and attended the rrra.org hamfest.  Usual place is in West Fargo on the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.  They have access to a good sized venue (Hartl Building) which provides ample table space for flea market items and lots of walking space to meet and chat.  Was great to head back – met some old friends and met some that I’ve met on-air but not in face.  I also attended a couple of discussion sessions and managed to talk to other fellow ham geeks.  Always learn something new.  The XYL and I arrived the evening prior and settled into our hotel.  I knew there were other hams from our city heading down but it was getting quite late after dinner, we turned in for the night — as you know, the door opens at 8am and sure enough -there was a line-up to get at that time too 🙂

There must have been a dozen of us Winnipeg hams that came down – what a turnout!  I was able to pick up a unit I had been looking for, so all was not lost.  Others picked up more (heavier) stuff than I.  Some of the antennas looked nice, but a little honda can only hold so much.

I was surprised – for once in quite some time, I actually won something!  A $50 voucher from the ARRL!  Awesome.  I’m already a member and I’ve been looking at getting an updated manual for some time, so this was just perfect timing.

Yup – it’s true!

We also checked out their emergency vehicle they have – wow – looks great and there were some good ideas as well:

Checking out the emergency vehicle setup

General lay of the area:

Great event – would go again – good show guys!

A week (or so) prior to this, a few of us (William VE4VR, Wyatt VE4WDZ and myself Dan VE4DRK) spent a few hours on our main site 55N to replace some items.  Seems the “newer” switch we put in place did not fare well with the on-going power issues at that location.  Half the ports were toast  – so some of the hams/hamgroups that use our services had no service.  So we replace it with a better switch (Cisco) and then time is spent re-routing, identifying and cataloging the connections.

rewiring the rats nest
Our northern tower portion

Recently, William VE4VR also made a run out to our local VE4MAN repeater at Starbuck and was able to remotely configure the raspberry pi Allstarlink node to point to our new switch at 55n.  So, we can get that back on the air and possibly testing more.  He’s been busy – with also running out to our inkster site and reconfiguring the 3GHz system to see if we can get it working better – may have to replace a sector with a dish…

Well, I’ve got more work to do to get my older 6m capable radio on the air with it’s new amplifier and to get my other HF radio setup with a winlink system. I’m already running the packet winlink on 145.01 (yes, you did hear that right) via Werner VE4UA’s VHF gateway.  Am interested to see an HF gateway running as well – hopefully it will work out.

One item I was surprised to see .. I do the odd contesting now and then and then this came in the mail:

2016 Sweeps!

I’m not a power-station, in fact, I have mediocre antennas – so I was tad surprised – where were the rest of you! 😉  Oh yeah – my contest call is VE4EV in case you were wondering….

All for now . until I get more time to write something else up.

73, Dan ve4drk

VE4CNR/IRLP, POE voltage upgrades and another contest …

Quite some time ago, the MRS repeater, VE4WRS, had to vacate it’s location due to changes in the site contracts of our sponsor.  That was a great location for an amateur radio repeater – and it was the repeater that operated a local IRLP gateway.  While there are a few of these gateways around town, this was was great as it had great coverage and it was on a repeater and not a simplex node. It has been in the list of things to do for the MRS – Manitoba Repeater Society for a bit, I was asked to help get this back on-line.  While I’m not a member of the exec, but am a paid-up member of the MRS (you should too:  Join/Renew MRS today!, I always enjoy helping out where I can.  So, I arrange to pick up the gear from Dick VE4HK from the storage bin, take it home and ensure it’s reconfigured and up to date, gets registered and gets a new node number IRLP 1504 @ VE4CNR .  Testing it at my home with my interface and radio – it works great!  The new site has physical access available around 9-5 and is in the ENE part of the city.  With me living in the SE and working in the SW, it’s not the easiest place to get to during normal working hours.  After having a few difficulties with interconnecting the radio system to the controller, we get Yuri VE4ACX involved and lends a hand.  We agree we need to make a visit and I take a day off work and we agree to meet up early in the morning (early for some anyways hi hi) .. and meet at the site.  I setup my laptop and we work on getting it all hooked in:

 

ve4cnr with va4wan

One of the reasons we can provide the IRLP system access there is that we have an already established connection to our city-wide VA4WAN amateur radio high-speed network!  You too can join/renew: Join/Renew VA4WAN!

VA4WAN dugald site – high-speed network

The work that was previously done there easily facilitates a connection to it.  Plugging in the ethernet cable and the bits start flying by.

Diagnosing a few items, the issue comes to light and a change in connection is done and then, viola, audio comes back in larger than life!  Running a test with some local (and remote) systems shows that the audio is awesome and gets good reviews by those with better ears than mine.  (Back in my younger years, I do recall a few times forgetting to wear my ear defenders/plugs during firing of the 105mm howitzers.  Only takes once (or twice) to remember hi hi).

The computer was left at the site and the rest of the goods was put back into the storage locker at the site:

 

storage
storage

I had not been to this site before – the rest of the guys put up our VA4WAN access to this site prior.  So, we have two backhauls – 1 to 55N and another to 60C – for redundancy.  There’s still work to be done on network reconfiguration etc, but, hey, it’s there.

back-hauls

there’s also a local 2.3GHz connection for guys in the area.  (It’s kinda wayyyyy up there, so I’ll highlight it a bit):

local 2.3GHz 270degree sector

and finally .. as we put our gear back in our respective trunks, Walter gives me a present to take back … the test gear we used for our AllStarLink connection at his site will now be repurposed for the remote Winkler site (VE4TOM), so I’ll set that up for programming – just waiting on a local static ip from their config out there.  AND — he was able to modify the voltage on this POE switch to provide 24v to support all our POE gear!  That is awesome – and will certainly help out and be used for our site at 55N!

re-purpose the RPi and URI and new upgraded voltage for this POE switch!

So, all-in-all, that was a good morning out.  Then out to coffee we go to see the rest of the coffee crowd.  Thanks to Walter VE4VB and Yuri VE4ACX for their fine work as always.

 

Now – onto my last item of the day — contesting.  Yesterday was the NAQP SSB August contest.  Conditions were so-so going into it and they stayed that way – not too good.  But, I was able to put in a few hours and made shy of 100 contacts, so not too shabby for me!  I was equally surprised how well 40m turned out – had some great contacts on that band and it turned out I made more than on 20m.  I did not hear any VE4 stations on there – quite a number of the contacts I made thanked me for the VE4/MB section mult.  For me, 80 was so poor, I had trouble hearing anyone, and 160 was non-existent.  (read need bigger antennas!) Now to my other task today – submit the logs – they only give you a week to get them in.  Oh yeah, in case you don’t know, I use VE4EV as my callsign when operating contests – so if you hear me, drop by and say hi.

score – or so I think

73, Dan ve4drk

summery days …

I’ve heard about this one mode before – a couple of local hams do sailing on our big lake and make a run way up north now and then.  They use HF (mostly 80m I hear) to check in and get updates to the weather, pass traffic etc.  VE4DXR and VE4ESX both utilize the bands to stay in contact with folks ‘back home’.  Leor was using some mode that I had not really heard of before – winlink.  It’s a messaging system that can utilize different mediums to exchange messages with other hams – be it HF, VHF or regular internet technologies.  The interesting thing on this is that the winlink system has grown to be more of a fault-tolerant, redundant, multi-mode communications hub for store/forward of traffic.  Seems it also has it’s place in the ham emergency communications arena, widely used as a backup communications mode for a number of emergency and relief agencies.  So, timeliness, another local ham VE4UA had been running his local packet bbs system (since the days of yore) and it was really not getting any usage from what Werner was indicating, so he was thinking of re-purposing the gear to be something more useful.  Others got wind of the information and mentioned about setting up a WinLink system for EMCOMM – so he decided to repurpose his gear for that local mode, and was looking for some trials.  Me, not being active on packet (since the days of yore as well), decided to take my trusty Yaesu FT1500 mobile and MFJ 1278 and the cable I got provisioned to me by another local ham (VE4VR) to set out and try this new mode.  Within the hour I was able to get software downloaded onto my trusty core2 dual processor machine running win10 (another gift from VE4VR) – (which by the way HAS A DB9 SERIAL PLUG! yes!) – got the registration completed and offered the winlink team a donation for their fine work they do, hooked everything all up and away I go — the current meter on the power supply goes to  8amps with the 50watt output of my radio – hooked up to my dual stacked 5/8 on top of the house and I get a FULL SCALE reply back from Werner’s system.  Soon enough, I figure out the software and send/receive messages galore on packet winlink.  Interesting.  I’ll have to try scaling back the power a bit – we might have a better RF connectivity  than I had anticipated.  Looking around a bit at the winlink system, there’s no real HF gateways in the RF dead spot of the prairies – maybe there is opportunity for a local group to establish an EMCOMM HF gateway and serve the locals sailing up north and beyond! hint hint …

Seems our national news picked up on a story emanating out of the east coast – where it appears someone decided to slice up a couple of strands of fiber-optic cable servicing the WHOLE REGION.  Hmmm – so much for redundancy there!  The word was that most forms of communications were cut – cell, internet, etc.  So the local ham groups had been put on alert for setting out to provide emergency traffic passing.  Although the service was restored fairly quickly, it did highlight some pressing issues that need to be reviewed.  The local news of the area:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/amateur-radio-atlantic-canada-bell-phone-outage-1.4236756

and our local news a little ways back:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/ham-radio-enthusiasts-keeping-old-technology-alive-1.1397214

Interesting that there was only FM discussion, no HF discussion – but, there you have it.

It’s summer time and is great to be out on my  bike again – the XYL and I took a ride out to the local park and enjoyed the ride and the relaxation of the park.  While on the way I happen to spy a few antennas here and there, so thought I’d add a little item on ‘spot-the-antenna’ … whom are these:

which one(s) are our ham antennas 🙂
this one is an easy one – on the way to the park
no idea whose this may be – but there are other hams on the street I know of…

seems I keep looking up when riding around, trying to see who has what kind of gear in the air.

Some other cool things are happening with the ham geekdom these days.  Expansion and refinement of our local high-speed network VA4WAN has progressed a bit further.  The guys spent a fair amount of time organizing and then spending the ENTIRE DAY on top of the building in what must have been the hottest day of the year!  Contrast that with the coldest day of the year here:  http://ve4drk.keizer.ca/?p=182

More work done on the networking (hardware wise) and cleaning up the connections.  Fiber connection will be replacing the current copper connection to our friendly ham provider les.net, who continues to offer us his inter-bits!  An addition of another camera on the south, and hopefully some more 3GHz gear running will help smoother the connectivity out a bit.

Our Dugald road site connection is also in operation – after a slight downtime at the interim site at 60C due to power issues.  (So, now i have a small project to take the thermometer William donated and hook it up to a pi to start registering what the temps are in that enclosure a bit more.  More to come on that later.  With the inter-bits back on-line at Dugald road, I reconfigured the IRLP machine to be a new node to replace the old venerable VE4WRS system.  Thanks to Walter VE4VB for the use of his repeater (VE4CNR) to host this system.  It is currently connected, but we need to pay it a visit to get the one-way audio corrected – I’m sure it will only be a few minutes to figure it out – or we have some bad hardware to replace on the computer system.  Either way, having a reliable repeater with our ham connectivity will be great.

I’ve re-programmed my DMR radio again – trying out another local DMR system – seems there’s some growth in them thar’ hills – William was able to setup a 2.3 system to give to Shaun to get his system on the air and we got the DNS registered to have it updated as well, so will keep an eye on that front.

Seems I have more uses for radio than I have cable for – so I’m in search for some decent RG213 or 9913 or LMR type of cable.  Looking at the shack, I currently have 6 radios in constant operation!  and of course I want to put more on-line too – so – more cable is in the works.  If you know of a source, drop me a line — i’m good @ RAC.

Enough for now – time to get on with the day and have some more summery fun.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

54th Annual International Ham Fest! VE4IHF

It has been a while – 4 years I suspect, since I did make the 50th IHF, since I’ve been to the fest.  This year, the XYL came with me to keep me company while driving.  (It is a good 3 hour drive from Winnipeg to the border crossing south of Boisevain).  My harmonic had some other appointments so he was not able to come along.  I did hear from a friend, Denis, VE4UK that he would be there, so I knew at least one person I knew would be there 🙂

We wanted to take in the “whole” day, so we decided to get up early (5am! ack!) and get on the road by 6ish.  6ish turned out to be 6:15ish, but oh well, we got things organized for the day trip and headed out down south from our home QTH … first stop .. java!  The Tim’s way out on St Mary’s and Warde was close enough and was on the way that a large would do the trick.

We decide to head west on highway 2 – which by the way – was amazingly smooth and in great shape.  While I do have a Kenwood D700 in the car with an attached GPS unit (thanks again Walter), there are not alot of APRS receivers active outside of the Winnipeg area – so I decided to turn on my APRSdroid app and use up some of my cell data plan as well – heck, I rarely get to 1GB a month and I have a 6GB/month plan – so, all is fine there too.  (A side note before I forget – after coming back and reviewing the APRS logs, I did see Walter’s repeater VE4TOM south of Winkler picked up my APRS beacon on the way back a bit too – wow – what a signal).

Heading out, I turn on simplex on 2m, nothing to be heard, so I move to the VE4RAG repeater — that, again, is a Walter repeater, so it has to be good – -and sure enough – this thing has coverage!  I was very impressed with how far west I was able to WORK the repeater.  If you’re ever west of Portage, give it a try – you probably will make it (although, I can’t hit it from Brandon on my car antenna).  I did hear that there are guys (with beams) working it from way out in Rivers and way out west to Falcon Lake – it’s quite the coverage for sure.

Anyways — on the way I hear Mike VE4BAE on the repeater .. he’s doing a bit of hauling but indicates he’ll be making the time to hitch up the guys from Brandon to make a venture down to the hamfest — cool stuff.  (I hear Mike most of the time running the Manitoba Evening Phone Net every night 7pm 3.747 MHz.  If you’re ever in the vicinity (ie: MB, SK, ND, ON, AB or even BC and points east -drop in and say hi.

We head down 18 to hit up with 3 to 10 .. but .. 18 is in really rough shape – wow — I think I’ll pass taking that road again – I’ll find another main road to head up to the next time, we’ll see.

But, the trip out in that time of day was very quiet – not alot of vehicles on the road, so it was relatively quick.  We get down to the ham fest and we pay our new $20 admission fee to the park.  We then go into the lodge and register and pay our ham fest fee – a good price, only $20 and they give you lunch too!  While there are not a LOT of people here (only 70+ registered) .. I find the time goes by quickly as there’s always someone to say HI to and strike up an eye-ball QSO.  I have been to quite the number of the hamfests here at the IHF, it was very popular in it’s day – so I recognize quite a few of the regulars. I sign-up for the ‘silent’ auction for an old rotor/cable/controller – will see by the end of the day if I get it.  Their hats are only $5, so I pick one up too – have to shape it now – it’s not the highest of quality, but works in a pinch.

There’s a few Winnipeg’ers who showed up – from what I recall, there was myself, Michele my XYL, Dick VE4HK, Mariska VE4MMG, Glen VE4GWN, Rosi VE4YYL, Denis VE4UK, Bruce VE4KQ, Yuri VE4ACX, Walter VE4VB and his YL, Pete VE4PH, Pat VE4PEH.  Let’s see – Richard VE4QK has residences in both Beausejour and WPG, so hey – lets include him 🙂  Rick VE4RA from Selkirk was manning the store front when I arrived.  There was a few from Brandon that I saw and I regularly hear on the MEPN (remember – 7pm 3.747MHz!)

I leave my handheld on Adam Lake repeater and simplex (dual VFO) (I think I recall that Bruce VE4KQ also supports/sponsors that repeater) – so to pick up any local stuff as well (let’s face it, it’s pretty quiet though).  The flea market is kind spartan, but there’s a handful of tail gate vendors (count on less than 10 fingers), so pickings are slim, but ya never know what you’re going to find.  Funny – in the end, I ended up buying a radio from Dick VE4HK — he hauled it all the way to the IHF and I hauled it all the way back 🙂  oh well, it’ll work out in the end.

Dick’s wares

Lunch was served at some point (probably close to 12), lose track of time while I’m there – the XYL keeps busy with the bingo and the ladies tea/bingo in the afternoon, so the time rolls by fast.  I jaw-wag lots with guys and just see what’s up.  I talked with a couple from Colorado area who headed up here for the IHF – explain to them as well that this hamfest was quite the thing (in it’s day), but it’s great to meet up with those who you don’t really see that often.

Ending the hamfest (same day still) we have the prize draws, who won the auctions etc and some closing comments.  Oh yeah – can’t forget the used junque collection auction off – that has to be the funnest part of the fest — and me with my waving arms to say hi to a friend from University days I had not seen in some time – have to keep those arms down during the auction!  I ended up with a BABY MONITOR!  oh well .. all proceeds to the hamfest – judging by the treasurers report is quite LARGE at that … I heard there are 10’s of thousands in the bank for the IHF.  Hopefully the money is well used to support further IHF on-goings years down the road.

Remember – all proceeds to the IHF! 🙂
The auction continued …

I ended up with the winning bid for the ol’ rotator, so I have some great lengths of rotator cable to work with (as well as a controller and rotator) 🙂

It’s going to be a long day since we’re driving back to the PEG the same day, so we end up leaving around 6(ish)?  We arrive in Brandon (decided to go this way for a couple of reasons) – first to get a bite to eat on the way back and gas and, well, something different.  I find the drive back OK – AC is good but a cold compress always helps keeps the eyes good.  I suspect seasonal allergies are at work there.  Oh well – regardless we get home later in the evening and clear things up and hit the hay shortly thereafter.  Needless to say, we sleep in the next day (today) till 8 (or 9) can’t recall …

Doing the yard work and clear up, I also check into the TransCanada net on 14.140MHz – a light lunch and wash up and we’re off walking to the grocery store to pick up what we need for the week and dinner will be served  … after a cold one while I sit on the deck typing this up … ah, what a nice warm summer!

73, Dan ve4drk

and another contest … CANADA 150!

With the Canada 150 birthday coming up, there was the usual Canada Day contest to be had.  Having just got back in time to check a few things out I set out to make a few contacts and see how well we can do this year.

Starting out I make the usual first contact with our local power station (Ed ve4ear running the ve4rac station).  He is only a couple of km from me and it’s not difficult to find him in the bands.  I was glad to make a few runs and have some others contact me as I was able to make a VE8 as he replied to my calls!  I was also glad to make all the provinces, but was not able to make anything in YT or NU.  There were some weak stations that I could just not pull out – I was running with both a vertical (R5) and a wire antenna (Alpha-Delta DX LB+).  With the changes in our back yard over the last while, the 160m portion of that antenna is now not resonant – so was not able to reset it in time, so no real 160 contacts (except for our local power station).

Was glad to make a few local contacts and I was surprised how many Saskatchewan (SK) contacts I made – must have been some interesting propagation.  I was only able to make a few contacts on 40 before I found out my relatively newly installed smoke detector is very sensitive to RF and did NOT like 100watts coming out of my antennas – even though they are a ways away — so not sure about that!  I guess they don’t make them like they used to.  Me thinks there needs to be some filtering on the power lines heading into it.

So, having worked a number of hours hoping for a big break in propagation (ha) .. I have the following score:

ah well …

The one thing I did notice in the last while, was that when I picked up a used home-brew 6m 3-element beam from some of the guys (it’s a hand-me-down), it made a significant difference to the operation on that band.  So much so, that I think I have to now try out the tri-band that’s been sitting in the basement for some time — just to see.   I have no means of permanently mounting it at this point, but will be interesting to see how it performs.  Another contest down.

73, Dan ve4drk

New heights/sights …

While out for a visit to Riding Mountain National Park, the XYL and I had some time that I wanted to go and visit “Baldy Mountain” – being the highest point in the province, I do not recall heading up there to the actual site.  Being “not too far” from RMNP, (read: an hour or two) we headed out with a friend who camps in the area a fair amount of the time.  Heading north, not much of occurrence as we head through dauphin and head west.  Some of the signs show up and we know we’re not lost.

Heading north from Grandview on HWY 366 not too bad of a drive – then we find out, well, it’s rural, so it’s now turned into a gravel road – surprise.  Lots of loose gravel on the road, I’m not going more than 70 km/h else I start to ‘swish’ around the gravel – not a fun feeling.

After a while and a few “are we there yet” ..we finally see a turn off for the site.  There is a look-out tower and an old cabin-type building where work occurred years-before.

old work cabin
look-out tower
great view!
commercial broadcasters

After a look around, there’s a few maintenance buildings for the broadcasters etc, even a satellite up-link of sorts is there.

I knew there was a ham repeater up her (Baldy Mountain Repeater no-less), I wasn’t sure where it was, as I did not see it around – but it may have been intermixed in the ‘other’ VHF operational antennas that were around.

On our way back you get the feeling of how high we were:

heading back …

with some of the information at the site:

Height comparisons …

So, I know a ham based up north is involved with the groups managing those systems, so I shot an email to ve4mrt.  He did send back some information which was fairly cool – the image of the Baldy Mountain Repeater sure is large:  (I have to add that it sure would be great to have the two largest repeater systems in the province linked up again – hint hint)

Nice pic of the coverage of the DARC repeater systems etc … the big one is the Baldy Mountain Repeater 🙂

anyways – was a fun visit to see where things were etc and a chance to see the area as I don’t get out to that neck of the woods too much.  Back to the park we go.

73, Dan ve4drk

New (old) gear

How about that .. two posts in two weeks – dang – I must be on a roll.

It’s great to have contacts in the RF industry as it makes finding odds and sods easier.  Our VA4WAN group happen to connect with a local WISP who was shedding some of his older gear.  You know what they say, one mans trash …

Well, we certainly appreciated the donation to the group of his used gear – it will get used well!

A few of us, Derek VE4HAY, William VE4VR, Colin VE4CST, Wyatt VE4WDZ and myself Dan VE4DRK made the trek down south near the CBC broadcast tower to visit this local guy.

He was able to give us antennas, connectors, boxes, RF units galore, etc and it took 2 trucks to haul it all.  While there, we got a tour of his tower/operation and his other remote site which contains some 900MHz gear which we can utilize if need be.  Will be interesting as he has line of sight to downtown and provides us our repeater digital linking feed.

Down we go back to the highway and passing by the ve4man site, we see Yuri and Ellis working on the repeater – hard at work as always.  I recall Yuri mentioning that the power supply had died earlier in the week – they got it repaired and were back out re-installing it!  Ellis was also setting up the programming so that some macros can be used to control our port access to our digital linking test box.  Will be good to give it a go and try it out.  Thanks guys.

So,now it’s getting close to noon and Derek is hungry – (he must have missed breaky!) — so we stop in a local establishment on the outskirts of the city and order burgers and dogs and get re-hydrated from all that heat! (it was warm out).

Carrying on after a break, we head back into the city towards the VE4WSC site and park in front and unload the gear – up the stairs — and itemize and inventory every piece.  Took a while, but with 4 guys working on it (we lost Colin along the way) it didn’t take very long and we have a nice itemized list to work off of now too.  So before we put this gear into our storage area to work on, we itemize what is already in the storage area from other ventures etc.

It is great to see some of these pieces as it will help us complete some work we’ve been trying to get done for a while.

More work to do now to set things up -but it’s moving in the right direction.

73, Dan ve4drk

2017 Dayton

Seems like it’s been a while since I’ve updated anything!  Like, almost 9 months.  Oh well – so now, I’m in the front passenger seat in Derek ve4hay’s truck with my son ve4rlk and walter ve4vb in the back of the truck.  Currently heading back from Dayton approaching Indianapolis.  So, with a good data plan and lots of power I can try to type in a few things.

This was my second venture to Dayton – and the second in a row.  I was able to visit Dayton last year with my XYL.  This year, the 4 of us were doing it.

Drive out Wed morning – left the city around 630ish and arrived in Peoria, IL mid evening.  The usual spot was booked solid, so we ended up finding a standard hotel to spend the night.  The travel to Dayton from Peoria was short enough – only 5 or so hours.

Arriving in Dayton we check into our accommodation and set out to visit the area.  Checking it out, it’s a short enough trip to the new location Xenia.

Early in the morning we take off and get on the road to get our vendor parking spot.  Well, we and a bazillion other hams have the same idea.  Seems there are some roadway issues leading into the facility – ie: not enough of them.  We were over an hour ahead of time and spent an hour in the truck waiting to get in close enough.  One mile did not go by fast enough!

Once in, we immediately went around looking at the flea market.  Goods were bought etc and found some odd items (yes, there is a story there).  Derek found something like in 1 minute.

Walter always finds interesting things to work on.  A radio or two and a few parts for some guys back home.  Robert was a bit eclectic on his shopping, so there are a few odd non-ham items HI HI.  We did find some really nice and big 5GHz panels that are brand new, so will be good to put them into use.  We also found a bunch of outdoor enclosures which will come in handy.  We did find pig-tails for what we need, but they were on the pricey side, but Derek made a deal and picked them up.

A new handheld was in the mix when I found out I could get the same import radio I have but with a different band on it!  I now have a 144/220 hand held radio 🙂  Walter was impressed and we picked one up for him as well.  So, with at least 2 guys with 220 radios, we will have to have Walter put up his 220 radio at some point.

The next day we arrive much earlier – still have a bit of a parking issue getting guys in, but it was much shorter.  Hint – arrive 2 hours early!  We again venture out looking for more goods.  The one problem is that with the rain in the fair-grounds turned the grass into MUDDY WATER.  That is a big thing compared to the prior arena.  Oh well – it made it so I didn’t really want to venture too far into the one area too much – needed rubber boots – one of the vendors could have made a killing.

There were a couple of digital discussions that I attended.  One was the AREDN mesh guys discussion.  Was more of an update on that as I knew what they were doing, but I learned one thing  – they do recommend establishing a core network for connectivity and then have the remote nodes do the mesh in the area they serve.  Interesting.  We, at VA4WAN, are setting up default networking with subnets for each site – will see what we do WRT mesh options – may want to relook at that 🙂

The other session I was going to was the update on digital modes.  Before heading in, I ventured over to the TAPR booth to see what’s news with them.  And I am glad I did!  I was able to pick up a new SDR v3!  I was surprised to find that the HF option is now available on the SDR – rather nice to see as well as the proper antenna connection.  A good discussion was held on a number of items including a great overview on rtl-sdr.com.  The DV4 guys gave a great little presentation on their state of the art.  I do have their dv4-mini I picked up after last year’s Dayton visit – a great little device and they are moving into interworking the various protocols that exist into transcoder systems etc, so will have to put that back on the air to see how the new software works out.

Another discussion was on the status of FreeDV – that is the codec2 implementation for HF digital audio communications.  Now there are options to use VHF and up, so will be interesting to see how these work out – just need to try it out again for the first time.

So, after heading back to the truck to meet up, I showed the guys the RTL-SDR dongle from TAPR and Walter had to have one, so I scoot over to the site and get in line and pick up the second to the last one!  What timing!

Walter was also able to find rotator cabling at a reasonable price from one of the vendors – what luck as it was a great price.

We did see a few other local hams there.  Fred ve4tro was walking past the truck as we were resting, so chatted a little bit.  Then later, on Dick ve4hk was walking by, so he hopped in and chatted for a bit.  Robert indicated he ran into Cary ve4ea, but no-one else did.  I was venturing through the flea market and who do I see?   Rod KE0A was there – Rod attends our radiosport manitoba meetings at times, so was cool to see him out here.  We did venture over and talked to the RAC guys a bit – funny though – they were in some odd-ball tent instead of being in the main area!  Someone messed up big time on that, so later on they were transferred over to the main area where all the national groups are.  I did not find much I needed from the actual vendors..  Did stop and chat with a few to understand what they were doing.

The one thing I did notice is that there is an increased interest in things digital – nice to see development in that area.

I didn’t find as many decent deals on the flea market front – but that’s fine – more another time.  You can only work on so many projects at once – gets confusing after a while.

Some pics of our arrival and the area:

arrival time

Now that I managed to type that in on what turned out to be a very bumpy road – uncharacteristic of this area, but oh well — we are into Illinois already.

Time to play with new toys and see how they work.  I do know the 220 radio works as we were able to work a repeater in the area.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Fargo Hamfest – a first for me

I had a new radio piece shipped to our border pickup center just across the border in the US (much cheaper) and since I wanted to pick it up, timed it to coincide with attending the Fargo Hamfest this past weekend.

So, the XYL and I drive out just after lunch on Friday, pick up the parcel, head on down to the area of West Fargo.  Check into our hotel and head out to get ahead on our required shopping.  After a long day, we’re tired and call it a night.  Next morning I’m up bright and early and head on to the fairgrounds and meet up with what must be almost a dozen of us from the Winnipeg area – quite the crew turned out.

Was interesting – picked up quite a few odd pieces here and there, so was relatively pleased with the type of gear/accessories that was available.

What was even more interesting was that Walter VE4VB picked up 4 more radios!  They are in different states of repair so with his expertise they will be top-notch in no time flat.

A few pics from the centre:

pan5
pan5
pan4
pan4
pan3 - walter and dave
pan3 – walter and dave
pan2
pan2
pan1
pan1

Now, time to setup and “play” with my SDRplay!

73, Dan ve4drk

 

VA4WAN – new ham online

Jan VE4JS is just down the street – he always hears me when I check into the MEPN (Manitoba Evening Phone Net) on 3.747 KHz 7pm local time — more like 2km away, but still relatively close.

He had expressed an interest in our high speed ham net, so with the help of Colin, he secured some cabling and a grid antenna and I gave him one of my high power bullets and injectors.  He was able to fabricate a mount for his antenna and pointed at our new site (60c).  Now, that being relatively close, one would think it would be a decent connection –

looking towards 60c
looking towards 60c

but .. very poor results – only 1 bar on the radio part, so, over emails, I suggest he point it to our main site (55N) which is about 7km away give or take

looking at 55N .. tall building way out ...
looking at 55N .. tall building way out …

— lo and behold – full scale reading on the radio. So, we pick a time where I can come down and help verify his setup.  He’s on-line now — albeit only with about 3Mbps max … hovering around 1.5Mbps on average.  Will have to have one of the guys verify my handi-work on configuration and make sure it’s up to snuff — not sure if he has tree branches too close or not — but his tower is 50′ or so and is just over the tree line in his established area of town (near the river).

night-viewing
night-viewing

So, another member added on — looking to get more hams online.

73, Dan ve4drk

VA4WAN – upgrading member site

One of our founders home site was recently upgraded to a spanking new 15m tower!  So — with that in mind, why not move the high-speed gear to this new tower and get better connectivity — not just one one band, but three!

Colin starting the climbing
Colin starting the climbing
Derek assembling units -- while "spot" keeps us company ...
Derek assembling units — while “spot” keeps us company …
William programming/setting up units
William programming/setting up units
Colin mounting pole on new mount structure
Colin mounting pole on new mount structure

 

Cable runs made up, Derek getting the 2.3GHz grid ready to go up ...
Cable runs made up, Derek getting the 2.3GHz grid ready to go up …

Luckily, Derek had a whole roll of shielded outdoor rated cat5 cable – we ran 5 runs of 90′ or so of each, so that used up half a roll or so.  I was even able to practice putting together cat5 ends together 🙂

last antenna being mounted ...
last antenna being mounted …

 

Note – it was getting a tad dark out .. so we had to finish up quickly.   Colin doing the last part of the hardware install on top prior to securing the feed lines.  With all said and done, what’s installed is fairly impressive.  Running radios on the 2.3 GHz, 3.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz spectrum with a nice camera and an extra access point for local usage!  What I initially thought would take 3 hours or so, turned into 6!

Should have triple-redundancy connection on three bands when I get my reciprocating antenna installed on my roof!

Unfortunately, since we were running late in getting all done up at Derek’s place, we weren’t able to run over to William’s place to update his VHF connection.  In the plans I have to make some amendments to my own gear… winter is coming 🙂

Another few are interested in getting started in the mode, so we’ll help out where we can.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

55N work – new structure!

It was going to be a hot day — so, plenty of water was required – not just the heat was making us warm – but the exposure to all this RF up there can give you a sun-burn!

A rather nice addition to our primary location is a new mount point. This location faces south and will aid in getting a better signal through the new built-up hvac systems being upgraded.  Thanks to Derek VE4HAY for securing this new location — it’ll help on a number of fronts.

Meeting at the site was Derek VE4HAY, William VE4VR, Colin VE4CST, Wyatt VE4WDZ, Robert VE4RLK and myself Dan VE4DRK at around 10:00am Saturday.

While I usually try to take pics showing the work that is going on, I was busy running cable and had to leave at 3pm.  Robert had to leave around noon and the rest of the guys stayed till about 6pm.  Lots of work was done.  We were able to secure a new post to the infrastructure and host a 3.4 and a 2.3 sector and a couple of 5GHz panels – one pointing to the VE4WSC site and the other pointing to the 60C site down south.

Our existing tower has quite the number of units on it – to put it all on a single pole will take some work:

existing tower on 55n with all it's gear :-)
existing tower on 55n with all it’s gear 🙂

the new view to the south with the new pole is simply amazing:

exposure to the south
exposure to the south
Colin working on installing the two sectors .. William keeping things steady ...
Colin working on installing the two sectors .. William keeping things steady …

 

Derek bolting things in place ...
Derek bolting things in place …

 

Wyatt doing the fine cat5 cable connectors. All 4 runs in and out!
Wyatt doing the fine cat5 cable connectors. All 4 runs in and out!
Chowing down after a few hours of work - thanks, William for making the feed-bag run!
Chowing down after a few hours of work – thanks, William for making the feed-bag run!
nothin' you can't do with some power tools! Colin re-working the connector slot ...
nothin’ you can’t do with some power tools! Colin re-working the connector slot …
Derek and Colin securing the 5G panels in place .. talk about gain!
Derek and William securing the 5G panels in place .. talk about gain!

While there, we also attached the new 5G woodlands panel to the existing WDR site … it is interesting to look through all the scaffolding gear on top of that building – but hopefully it will be gone soon.

After I had left, a  new 5GHz panel was placed for Inkster and the radio unit for the 5GHz omni was replaced.  If you find yourself wanting to check out a 5GHz connection, point your radio to 55N and give it a try and let us know!

Some further work is required.  We need to secure a 5GHz panel at woodlands site itself and confirm the connectivity of the Dugald Road site – it would prove very useful in the future to connect up the Transcona area.

All for now – more work to be done while we have warm weather.  But remember, we do make house-calls in January!  (reference: http://ve4drk.keizer.ca/?p=182 )

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Canada Day Contest 2016

There were quite a few VE4’s operating in this contest this year – heard some, worked some who were running and some found me while I was running – so was nice to see.  While I worked most provinces and territories, Thursday was a good day for my record count – but that turned sour on Friday – at least for me the propagation was too poor to work too many stations.

One of the nicer features of my newer radio (TS590S) compared to my TS450SAT is the additional filters that it has.

ts590s
TS590S
TS450Sat
TS450Sat

It was great to be able to adjust the filters to bring in a few weaker stations that I would not be able to work on my older radio.  🙂  Well worth the effort on the upgrade.

I worked primarily my wire antenna – but occasionally worked with the vertical  – but the wire was most useful.

There was a great turnout for our local contest/dx group Radiosport Manitoba from all areas.  Mostly CDN and US ops were worked .. with a couple from further down south.  Bands were quiet on the high-end and 20 was the band of choice.

Be as it may, my scores are as such:canadaday2016scores

Hopefully, further years we get better conditions …. and better setup … time will tell …

73, Dan ve4drk

“60C” !

First there was 55N, then WSC, then there was the breadplant, then came woodlands, then came dugald road — now — comes “60c” our newest site for installation of RF units to support the expansion of the VA4WAN high-speed network!  Some of these sites are still undergoing change to bring them fully into the network, but we keep on trying to bring sites in that make sense to the expansion …

A number of us headed up the 14 or so flights to the top of the building — Jim VE4SIG, Colin VE4CST, William VE4VR, Derek VE4HAY, Wyatt VE4WDZ and myself Dan VE4DRK.  Meeting in the parking lot later after work we assembled the clan around 6:45pm(ish) and loaded up with Colin’s gear and the odd antenna piece.  Luckily, it was a nice warm day and the only thing we had to worry about was ensuring we had enough liquids to keep us hydrated while we’re up there.  We co-share this site with a number of cell providers and there was quite the power units up there (I forgot to bring my tinfoil hat!) hi hi …

We have a great shot at our main-site .. look below for a great pic of our main site – -the big building on the left-centre:

60c - 55n
60c – 55n

 

From this vantage point, it will server the surrounding areas and southern parts quite well!  Looking eastwards(ish) I see an area that should be my house in the distance .. except there appears to be some form of large’ish building just in the way a bit .. not sure how much .. but very very very close to blocking the entire view 🙁

hmmm
hmmm
somewhere behind there ...
somewhere behind there …

So, we had quite a few guys to help putting things up, down, apart, together etc .. so we started getting at it …

at_it1

at_it7

at_it2

at_it3

at_it4

UPS, routers, control box being setup
UPS, routers, control box being setup

After spending almost 4 hours up there, it was time to call it a night …

timing ...
timing …

 

So, now – while all the ethernet runs appear to be good as we can talk to all the units, the RF connectivity is only so-so.  So, while we ran out of time, we need to go back and do some diagnostics on some of the links/units to verify they are 100% RF output … will see shortly!  I suspect there is another venture to 60c in the future …

73, Dan ve4drk

Taking down of Ed VE4YU (sk) tower …

A number of hams gathered at the home of Irene, widow of the late Ed Henderson VE4YU (sk) Saturday to take down his tri-bander and other antenna items and his 40′ tower.

Dick VE4HK doing his thing ..
Dick VE4HK doing his thing ..

While it took longer than expected, we were treated with sandwiches, pickles and cupcakes from Irene and her daughter – very tasty at that!

Thanks to Dick VE4HK for all his climbing skills, the event went without a hitch.  Helping with this endeaver were Radiosport Manitoba members Cary VE4EA, Kelly VE4XT, myself VE4DRK, as well as Glen VE4GWN with Rosie VE4YYL and newly minted ham John VE4VJR.

Some pics during the day below- the day started off cool, then warmed up nicely when the sun was out in full.  Link from my google photos:

Photos of tower takedown

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Dayton!

Well — been licenced for 25 years — had not (yet) been to Dayton –  until this year!  The XYL and I planned a touring trip to some of the surrounding states to fit in with my attendance to the hamfest.  Well — the trip was good, saw a number of sights and visited a number of them on the way.  When I got there, I knew Walter VE4VB and Derek VE4HAY would be there from our city – so we hooked up with them for a bite to eat the night before and it just seemed apropos to join them when they attended.  They have vendor passes and have great parking!  and they get to show me around (i still get lost!) – -was great – Walter has been coming to Dayton for decades!  and Derek had some bargaining skills – so was fun to pick up a few units here and there.

I checked in with Cary VE4EA as well as Tom VE3CX and finally met Gerry W1VE in the flesh – so visiting these guys at the ARRL HF Experience booth was fun.

Cary, Dan ,Tom
Cary, Dan ,Tom

(Note in the background “RadioSport Manitoba” !! )

Was great to see a number of hams I had not met for some time — a few from the states and some from Calgary — even saw Ken Olke VE6AFO from my Calgary days there.  Tim VE6SH was also manning the IARU booth – man, does he get around!

I was able to pick up some used gear (of course!) I can’t believe the number of people in the flea market – a veritable treasure trove of used “stuff”.

Just as the gates were opening …

Starting up...
Starting up…

I found that there were a number of sessions on the first day that I wanted to attend, so I spent quite a bit of time in there.  Another session on HackRF 🙂

HackRF !
HackRF !

I did finally find my first purchase .. didn’t take that long to find some enclosures and units I could use:

first purchase
first purchase

It was great to have both Derek and Walter show me around a bit – (did I mention I kept on getting lost!) — Walter showed me a few vendors and introduced me to them – they certainly know Walter from years gone by …

Walter - VE4VB in his glory
Walter – VE4VB in his glory

We also felt we struck a good deal on some sectors … we were able to purchase 2 sets of 3 120 degree sectors with mounting hardware … they were heavy to carry from site to site – lucky the local transport crew spotted us lugging these things around and gave them a lift … so, trying to make sure they fit in Derek’s SUV:

Sectors!
Sectors!

Another session I had attended to was talking all about digital etc … Bruce and associates were certainly well-attended:

dayton_session2

sessions
sessions

well .. .I did buy some more gear at Dayton — I stopped by the TAPR booth and bought one of their 20m WSPR filter cards — this little guy attaches to the Raspberry Pi and puts out a whopping 100mW 🙂

QRPi 20m filter
QRPi 20m filter

I tied it to my 5band ground-mounted vertical and it appears to transmit as it is being heard in NA at least .. so — a better antenna and I’m sure it’ll make a bit longer trek 🙂

20m QRPi filters mounted
20m QRPi filters mounted

so — we left —

leaving - tired
leaving – tired

so – on the way back, we tried to meet up on 652 and I had my APRS on — so it seems when I stopped for gas and checked my messages, Derek had mentioned they had to stop in IL and saw me on my APRS passing them — didn’t hear them and didn’t see them … but they had engine problems .. seems the old GM hybrid blew a valve .. now THAT was an expensive venture for them … (at least our gear arrived) 🙂

The WSPR is interesting .. just today in the last while 20m is so-so but the 100 milli-watts is being heard 🙂

20m WSPR sightings - so-so
20m WSPR sightings – so-so

I was also able to pick up a new Raspberry PI kit .. came with all the goodies to get it working right out of the box! 🙂

raspberry pi kit
raspberry pi kit

Since I wasn’t able to buy one in person at Dayton, I ordered one on-line as I was coming back – took only a week to get it!   I like all things digital – so this little RF – digital interface was interesting .. so I bought one . .a DV4MINI .. my dstar and dmr radios can operate through this little guy – USB powered unit with low-power UHF radio to-boot:

DV4mini
DV4mini

so – would I do it again – sure – be interesting to talk to more guys as to what they’re up to and see what other “goods” can be found on the market … ’till next year!

73, Dan ve4drk

Play time with more gear :-)

A few more week and some more interesting things to work with over the last while.  The local ham-space held it’s twice-annual flea market – I manned the membership table of the local MRS group – will be my last as I transfer membership duties to another ham – been fun.  I was able to find a used antenna from a local ham – seems I need to do some work on this GAP Challenger vertical as there’s some damage to it.

We’ve been fortunate enough to find some decent deals on some used RF gear to help with our project, so I have to get some to try them out.

A nice Ubiquity Bullet2HP unit (or two), a few RouterBoard with built-in 2GHz RF unit, a nice Ubiquity M3 3GHz unit.

RFgear RFgear2

… and more to come — some of these units have some rather nice features to visualize spectrum usage – will be interesting.

Another fun item was a recent tower-destruction resulted in a small piece of hardline being offered up – I put my hand-held next to it to give some form of context — this is hard stuff …

hard-line anyone?
hard-line anyone?

this was some form of commercial broadcasting … would have been interesting to see 400′ of that tower coming down!

Another fun thing to work on is to resurrect the ol’ TNC and put it into good use.  A friend put up a dual-channel radio on 145.01 and I am putting together this little unit to get “back” on the air on AFSK 🙂  brings back memories:

TNC anyone?
TNC anyone?

why not provide a separate back-up to our 2.3 GHz unit (10Mbps) with a 1200bps 145MHz unit … will be interesting to see in operation.  Next will be 9600FSK data-radios 🙂

73, Dan ve4drk

 

 

Been a while … lots to say (or not) …

Been a rather long 3 months since my last update on my radio happenings.  After a while things keep on getting busier and busier, so in the end, I will have to pass on some of my current activities to others to take on,  such as the membership chair of the Manitoba Repeater Society, so I can focus on the items that need more attention from myself.  A good few years doing what needs to be done in support of the society – learned alot and met alot of very knowledgeable people.

When I get the chance, it’s always fun to take things apart — assuming we can get all the pieces back together again.  Following that line, I had a loose connector on my APRS VHF tracker unit.  This is a rather unique integrated device – it combines a GPS receiver (SiRF 4) with an ATMEGA board design, a 1 watt VHF transceiver, bluetooth, thermometer and sdcard storage into one small package about the size of a pack of smokes.

at510 description
at510 description
pieces
pieces

 

All good – back to normal again and connector reseated 🙂

 

On another front – our local digital group has a member that does not have direct line of sight to our main site, so with the help of another member, he rigged up a couple of connections to bounce-around and get what he needs :

connectivity ...
connectivity …

One of the benefits of having our VA4WAN system operational is that we get to support the local radio groups needs, such as the senior’s need for telephony and internet access.  Once it was open again, we were able to go in and help give it a good cleaning, and analyze at how we can wire-up the rooms with their own VoIP phonesets – to do that Derek was hunting around to where the lines came in and found the junction in the back room — wow – this has been around a while:

old-style to new style ..
old-style to new style ..

Thanks to Les from Les.Net for all his assistance, support and provisioning over the past while.

During the Christmas break, I was also able to have some hardware vacate the house.  I don’t have the same need for a rack full of servers and switching gear, so my son was able to re-purpose the rack and network gear, servers, etc to good use – part of the gear below:

gonzo ...
gonzo …

My Mikrotik router had issues — apparently with bad ‘caps’, so Colin was great enough to re-do the caps one evening – he certainly knows how to do this and has quite the experience.  So, better working unit now:

caps gone wild ...
caps gone wild …

Sad news this past while, one of our founding members of Radiosport Manitoba, and our treasurer, recently passed away.  Ed Henderson VE4YU, a very well-known and well-respected radio amateur, contester and all-round nice guy.  During the most recent contest, our group all gave out “Ed”‘s name as our contact exchange.  Ed always had a smile on his face.  73 Ed.

73 Ed VE4YU
73 Ed VE4YU
VE4YU
VE4YU

 

Our local guys Dick VE4HK and Cary VE4EA spent a lot of time organizing and taking care of his items.  When it was placed on the swap and shop, I was able to purchase some of his gear – all in excellent top-quality shape.   I now posses his TS590S, RS30M, paddles and studio mic.  It’s already making a significant difference in my experience —  I am now operational on HF digital 🙂

gear
gear

On one of my coffee trips to the usual joint, Jim and I were joking about how many handhelds we have .. so, we decided to bring (most) of them …

woo hoo
woo hoo

different digital radios, mult-bands, etc … quite the collection.  In the end, I ended up selling about 4 over a month … guess I don’t really need 3 digital radios 🙁

Spring is in the air and it’s time to re-group and identify what we need to get done on our VA4WAN project to continue building it out.  We had another group session with Derek VE4HAY, William, VE4VR, Colin VE4CST  and myself Dan VE4DRK (I keep on taking the pictures) …

decision time
decision time

One thing we want to do is assist more hams to get on the air with the VA4WAN system and expand it’s coverage to serve more groups and provide services.  A local student was asking for assistance so we were more then happy to help and were able to donate a 5GHz antenna for him to try out.  Now, we’ve been having issues (off and on) on our 5GHz omni on our main site, so this didn’t work out too well for him — so William put together a 2.3GHz station to get him on the air — a few days later and his call shows up on the system 🙂  We’ll also be fixing up the omni to ensure it’s working properly as well.

We were surprised to receive a nice donation from Walter VE4VB for a sector antenna – will be good to put  more in operation:

sector!
sector!

Over the past while we’ve been able to secure a significant number of 3.4GHz cards as well as some 2.3GHz bullets and miscellaneous items – like Router boards/enclosures etc .. so work needs to progress now on building the sites up.  Speaking of sites, we’ll soon be preparing to set up the site on Dugald road and provide coverage to the eastern part of the city fairly soon.  To top it off, we’ll also be installing the MRS test system for radio linking via VoIP — a great opportunity.

I was also able to upgrade my 9 port router to a more recent 10 port router a RB2011UiAS-RM – which also has gigabit ports to boot!

RB2011
RB2011

I’m really impressed with these routerboards and Mikrotik controllers — they are very impressive in what they do.  I still have some networking setup to accomplish on it to integrate the various networks in the house now, a few bumps, but it’s coming along.

The last thing to write about today is the meet up we had this past Saturday, April 2.  Radiosport Manitoba in conjunction with the Winnipeg Amateur Radio Club, co-sponsored a day long session called “Discover the HF experience” — in which esteemed radio amateurs local and remote are brought in to discuss all things ham radio and what’s going on today.  We were able to bring in Tom VE3CX as well as Gord VE6SV and remotely  have both W1VE and Doug K1DG do presentations.  Locally, we also had Ed VE4EAR and Leor VE4DXR also give presentations.  All in all, we had a great attendance at the event — almost 50 from what I was counting and packed the room quite full.  Was great participation from all members of Radiosport Manitoba in assisting with the event.  Thanks to Cary VE4EA for coordinating what will hopefully be a most impressive annual event.

Discover the HF experience
Discover the HF experience

During these winter months, it was not good for my antennas again!  This time, two of my coax cables got chewed up by rabbits!  So – -after discussing with those in the know, I’ll be looking at enclosing them with some wrap and burying them under the ground — at least worms don’t have big teeth!  So my RF experience as of late has been diminished and I really do need to run more cable — time is ripe.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

DMR – take ‘n’ …

Seems Canada Post gave me a little present just in time for Christmas, on Christmas eve  — at the door later in the afternoon, I hear a ring, and outside was a package waiting for my signature.  It took a few weeks to get it (about 5 or 6 I think), but it was opportune.  New in my hands was the programming cable for my radio that I’ve had for a while not programmed …

xpr6550 Cable & Radio
xpr6550 Cable & Radio

While I’ve had this radio for a while, it was not very usable.  I did manage to get a charger for it (thanks Shaun) and verify it worked fine — I could not transmit on it was it was not programmed.  So, now that I have said programming cable, I took a stock code plug from the va3xpr site (thanks guys!) and used that as a template to set things up.

This radio has quite the heft to it – it’s solid that’s for sure.  Since I do have the remote speaker mic for it — and since I do not yet have a mobile digital radio (neither d-star nor dmr), I will use this one in the car for a bit with the external antenna and remote mic to see how it goes.

On another front, a local ham (William) is also new to digital radio – the dstar type and has a line on getting mobile power cables for the dstar radios we both have – so will be good to have an option on that as well.

So, all is good in radio land – now with UHF DMR radio #3 to try out 🙂

73, Dan ve4drk

2015 RAC Winter Contest

While being away from my home QTH for a couple weeks off and on, I wasn’t 100% prepared for this latest contest.  We also had quite a bit of white stuff (ie: snow!) fall in this period — covering up a number of cables/etc.  Oh well .. my long wire antenna was up (actually, it’s the alpha-delta DX LB Plus).  This little guy gives me 160-10 coverage pretty darn good.  I had it tuned up real nice on all bands for what I wanted, so I was thinking, great .. I’ll be ready to go — but alas, it sat on the ground for a while until I got to it and when I did put it back up, well, one band wasn’t quite tuned up .. matter of fact, it needs some work to get it back.  The 20m band on it was way out .. best was 3:1, so needless to say, it wasn’t going to work too well for that.  To top it off, my  other antenna – the vertical 5 band, which works great by the way – had a problem with it’s coax.  Some intermittent was in there making it not that good.  So I was limited to the wire antenna and off of 20m for the most part.  Oh well — that’s the breaks when I don’t have enough time 🙂

Stats from the RAC Winter Contest 2015
Stats from the RAC Winter Contest 2015

But, working the contest was fun, I heard LOTS of VE4’s! and worked quite a few of them.  I was surprised by the VE5 contingent that was out – made a few there as well 🙂  Later on the VE7’s were booming on 15m, and I was able to work those folks who were on.  I was pleasantly surprised the YT/NT made it on my chart.  I was also quite surprised at the signal reports I received — band gods be praised.  Only ones I didn’t work were NU/PE.  I did not put in the full time, no where near it — only 10 hours or so … but my score was OK.  I did manage to make a few runs on 15 and 10 was open for a bit it seemed.  40 was decent too.  My long(er) term plan is to upgrade my rig (TS450Sat) to a more current rig with newer integration  – might save my voice a bit 🙂

73, Dan ve4drk

 

 

DMR – take 3 (or some number greater than 1)

The opportunity to upgrade my current CS700 UHF DMR radio presented itself this past week  so, just had to … you know .. upgrade the radio.  So, now I have my CS700 to offer up to sale – hope to have another come in and try the mode out locally.

new(er) DMR radio
new(er) DMR radio

The radio has a few options that my 700 does not, so it should be more useful.  One thing I noticed, is that these CS700/CS750 radios do have quite a sensitive receive on them and work well compared to my other DMR radio.

73, Dan ve4drk

2015 SSB Sweepstakes contest

I was able to spend a few hours here and there on this contest and put in a few contacts.  Unfortunately, my wire antennas are currently down, so I used my 5 band vertical – which did work quite well.  15 and 20 were working well, so that’s where the contacts were made.  Sure, I could have had more contacts if I were running in the contest, but without a voice sync hooked up, I would be losing my voice and flubbering-up the audio.

Made contacts with some of the other RadioSport Manitoba members – Cary was even running remote to the east coast and sounded quite good – could almost make out it was him!  Although I did not recognize Rob’s voice operating out of 6SV – until I asked 🙂

My score as it is:

score
score

 

Still – had fun working the contest:

working the contest
working the contest

73, Dan ve4drk

DMR – take 2

I’m getting more interested in learning this newer digital mode, so what best way than to dive in and get (another) DMR radio. 🙂  This one was being offered at a discount (from it’s already inexpensive pricing) from the folks at CS.  Now I realize it has mixed reviews, but it’s a great tool to try out different modes/operations.  Now I have two working units .. and another unit looking for a charger to figure it out more.

The unit I got was a Tytera MD380 UHF DMR radio …

MD380 basic entry level DMR radio
MD380 basic entry level DMR radio

It has all the basic offerings and some extra little quirks.  Funny thing about this unit is that it uses the same programming software as the CS700 model.  I still had to plug in (ie: lots of typing!) all the frequencies/groups/etc and make sure it works.  It came with two antennas . .a stubby and a non-stubby I’ll say – as it’s not the best antenna that’s for sure.  I have a dual-band antenna on the car which I’ll have to use this on for a bit a see how well it performs with 5 watts.

There’s some recent changes to the local DMR systems, so will try and navigate what is happening in that area to see how much coverage there is.  Interesting though, there are more guys getting involved in trying out DMR, so that’s good for the systems usage etc … lots to learn.  I really want to get more into the controller-side of things and understand the underpinnings, so, even more to read.

Timing is interesting on another front – the most current TCA from RAC just arrived yesterday and in it is an article by our local directory Derek, VE4HAY, describing the various digital modes that are out there, so I’m sure that will also generate more local activity.

I still have to meet up with more of the local DMR group and understand more of what’s going on… more to come there too.

73, Dan ve4drk

CQ WW DX 2015!

Another year – another BIG contest.  This, I’m told, is the mother-of-all-contests .. at least for SSB.  Everyone works everyone (or there abouts) 🙂

I did not have much time to work this contest — I think I spent about 10 or 12 hours operating what is a 48 hour contest.  I recently picked up a new (to me) antenna from a local ham that sports 10/12/15/17/20 coverage – (it does work well!) and I decided to try that it out for this contest.

So, down the basement I go and work the contest .. about 3 sessions I put into it and get the following out of it:

CQ WW SSB 2015
CQ WW SSB 2015

Not bad … I guess .. interesting to note that I forgot (until after) it was not an antenna that works 40 — but seems I was able to work him anyways!   Thank god for tuners!

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Another new digital mode .. well .. at least for me :-)

I’ve dabbled with the D-Star systems – both from an end-user and system administrator perspective and have learned lots about the system.  Mind you, there’s lots more to learn and figure out – but I know the basics – although I haven’t used all of them yet.  I like to try out the various modes to see how they work and how they would inter-operate with the ‘external’ world.

I’ve been following some interesting developments over the past year and such from the folks at Connect Systems .  Seems they (Jerry) is working on a new radio that does multiple digital systems at the same time.  Now that would be cool to have in one hand-held.  With the plethora of multiple digital radio systems coming on-line, how is one to keep up with so many different implementations!  Until this new radio comes out (which is supposed to support DSTAR, DMR, and further on would support Fusion and some others) I decided to learn more about another mode.  What best way to learn than to get yet another radio.  (I can hear the QRM already) 😉

So, a local ham was peddling his CS700 – a prior-generation from the folks at CS – but one that will at least let me experience the workings of this DMR mode and allow me the time to get to know it better to understand more of it’s workings.

New (to me) digital mobile radio
New (to me) digital mobile radio

Now, me with my interest in networking/etc – what better way to get digital communications than with another digital radio 🙂 … So — I have to now pick up and learn the inner workings of the control systems it talks to, the networking (or stand-alone) operations it performs etc etc … I know the basics, but there is always something to learn.

What would really be nice is to have a radio (ham hand-held or mobile) that has a built-in FPGA to allow us to program the device for whatever  mode we are interested in.  I’m sure it will come one day … would be nice to buy one radio instead of 3 or 4 or n …

So, from the DMR standpoint, from what I can tell there is more new activity in the realm of DMR in the city — will be good to get further involved and meet some of the players in that mode …

73, Dan ve4drk

WARC flea market

One of the group’s I belong to is the Winnipeg Amateur Radio Club (WARC) WARC website …

Twice a year, the group holds it’s flea market at the Heritage Victoria Community Centre and always has a great turn-out.  There were lots of vehicles with antennas hanging onto them:

cars & trucks 1
cars & trucks 1
cars and trucks 2
cars and trucks 2
cars and trucks 3
cars and trucks 3

 

It’s a chance for guys to peddle their wares and buy new ones and for groups to meet-up with members and for just good ol-fashioned eye-ball QSO’s.

It was busy as usual and I was manning the MRS membership table taking renewals and new memberships for the MRS group.

Clearing up and getting things packed up:

cleaning up 1
cleaning up 1
cleanup 2
cleanup 2

 

Following the flea market, we had the MRS semi-annual general meeting — as previously it was at MARM-fest, but this year no MARM-fest, so no meeting .. so we had to have some forum to discuss all matters with interested members and non-members.  And then after the MRS semi-annual general meeting, we have the following:

all-done
all-done

So, I did manage to pick up a few odd-ball things that I needed (and some I didn’t ‘need’) — but that’s all the fun of the flea-market is to find out who else is doing what and to share experiences … a fun event to meet up with those we haven’t seen in some time.

Until next  WARC flea market in the spring,

73, Dan ve4drk

55n here we come …

We had an ambitious schedule to get a number of things completed in this last visit … 1) replace server, 2) replace injectors, 3) replace nano with sectors and bullets, install the 5GHz dish, setup more cable, replace switch with newer MicroTik routers etc …

A number of us, VE4CST, VE4VR, VE4CY, VE4WDZ, VE4RAI and myself VE4DRK gathered a bunch of goods and set up on to the top of our main site at 55N Sat morning.

parts, parts, parts .. some assembly required ...
parts, parts, parts .. some assembly required …
.. even more parts
.. even more parts

We worked on putting together the one RF unit in an enclosure and sealing it up … replacing the servers and getting the UPS’s installed with new batteries:

servers being worked on
servers being worked on

and putting sector antennas together:

new sectors!
new sectors!
panel assembly
panel assembly

they are to replace the nano’s on the top of the tower:

tower to be worked on ...
tower to be worked on …

 

So, while I was only there for a few hours, the rest of the guys stayed a few hours later and continued on with the RF hardware installation on the tower … with those new sectors installed the signal strength will be awesome!

And once the 3′ 5GHz antenna is installed pointing to our Woodlands site we’ll have a remote system up as well — good stuff!

We’re also putting up links to support the remote connectivity of the MRS repeater systems in neighbouring areas.

More to come as they transpire – but a great start to upgrading the system …

73, Dan ve4drk

CQ WW 2014 SSB contest results are in …

Almost forgot … I’ve been involved with the digital side for a good chunk of the summer, I haven’t been working the DX nor contesting that much these days.

But, along comes an email from Cary VE4EA which indicates we placed (good thing) in the CQ WW 2014 SSB contest late last year.  We tried and (almost) broke the record!  dang .. we did pretty good though, as a multi-single setup with Cary’s K3 station and his antenna system we (Cary VE4EA, Kelly VE4XT and Dan VE4DRK) worked the station for the duration of the contest.  We did have some downtime and could have beat the record – but I am a bit of a n00b at it still, so our error rate was so-so …

Even so, we did receive a rather nice certificate …

CQ WW 2014 SSB multi-single VE4EA, VE4XT, VE4DRK
CQ WW 2014 SSB multi-single VE4EA, VE4XT, VE4DRK
almost!
almost!

Another year — will have to plan another one – as it was fun working with these guys …

Take a look at their happy faces last year —  CQ WW 2014 SSB contest

73, Dan ve4drk

High speed cow – take 2

High-speed cow - take 2
High-speed cow – take 2

If at first you don’t succeed … this was the outcome of that first try — more time.

Was expecting a few hours to complete the setup, but it turns out it took all day to do what we had to do 🙂 🙁

On Sunday, Colin VE4CST and Dan VE4DRK met Jim VE4CY on the way to the Woodlands site where we started to verify the setup and ensure it’s working.

Working on the mounting for the UPS and ancillary plugs as well as getting the new batteries installed in the UPS, all was looking good.

UPS setup
UPS setup

Well — we ran into a few issues along the way — took a lot longer than expected- we had to build our own mount which was interesting.  Thank god for “step bits”!

Step bits!
Step bits!

They went through that iron like butter!  We also eventually found the spare drill battery 🙂

mount to be
mount to be
mount 'be'
mount ‘be’

A rather nice job fabricating this mount – and Colin even had rust protection spray paint, so Jim gave it that ‘pro’ look –  great job all around.

antenna 'not to be'
antenna ‘not to be’

Let’s face it, it’s now October — in Manitoba — it’s getting chilly, especially up top the 100′ silo where Colin spent a lot of time mounting etc., but we ran into some stiff wind and moving this large ‘pizza-box’ size flat antenna up with shorter-than-expected rope up the side was just not going to do it – so we just ensured the Microtik router was up and running and plugged into the antennas and away we go — except — we had to fill up a couple of tires with air  as it seems we ran into (over) some nails and one tire was completely flat and the other down to 20lbs.  Lucky enough we’re on a farm and the 5ton service vehicle was close by to fill us up before we headed up and make it back to the city.  (Thanks guys!)

But, the fun continues, as on the way out we try to connect to the 2.3GHz omni – it is so weak it is hardly reachable!  Something is not right — we scanter about looking for signals etc but can’t find any and back-up back to the farm yard and connect back to the unit from the south facing directional antenna and Colin does his magic and re-connects the wireless card with the right antenna port 🙂

Ola’ there we go and we can hear it pretty good down the road — Jim was ahead of us a bit and was already climbing his tower by the time we rolled by …

Jim VE4CY tower climbing (nice SteppIR by the way!)
Jim VE4CY tower climbing (nice SteppIR by the way!)

…so we tried a regular nanostation to see how it would perform – Ola! again we have a weak signal!  Not bad for a 7 mile or so run.  We give Jim the coax, grid antenna and Colin instructs on how to create the mount/etc and Jim will have a nice setup for his shack.  Luckily, Jim has iron working equipment and can fabricate his own goods to mount the antenna on.

antenna to mount
antenna to mount

An expected 4 hour job turned into an 8 hour plus job as events unfolded …  thank goodness my XYL sent sandwiches and munchies/water 🙂

we’ll be there soon …

73, Dan ve4drk

High-speed cow!

Well – it’s been a while since I was on a farm operation :

High-Speed Cow
High-Speed Cow

… but that’s where we were bright and early Sunday morning – I dropped by Colin VE4CST’s QTH at 0730hrs and we met Jim VE4CY as we passed along and headed up the 7 mile ride to the site.  Arriving at about 8:30am from the trip from the ‘peg to a farm operation out in Woodlands area which is about an hour north-west of the city from my area – we started the operation right away.

This is a great site in the area as it has a 100’ large silo with an existing RF infrastructure established which we are able to tag-along with and install some amateur radio RF connections.   First on the list was to install the 2.3GHz and the 5.9GHz dual back-haul grid antennas and the 2.3GHz omni.  Colin scaled the silo and Jim followed and Dan stayed on the ground.

Silo Scaling
Silo Scaling

Then looking from the homestead …

Way-up!
Way-up!
way-up-from-homestead
way-up-from-homestead

and from up-top:

dan-from-afar
dan-from-afar

After Colin setup the mounts and antennas way up, and Jim and Dan ran the cable through the barn into the control room (remember it’s a barn, so cleanliness is not the order of the day) — Colin setup the router and the wifi cards …

route and wifi
route and wifi

Colin was able to install the box and finishing up a few things on the way down:

finishing up
finishing up

We have a few more things to do with it – so it’s not 100% yet but another trip planned and list of things-to-do should cover it – we’re already gathering up pieces that are required to complete the job and spend another half day up there.

We will also be installing a larger 3′ dish on our primary site to  provide the feed for this site – will be interesting to see how well it performs with the dual back-haul.

Was just shy of 6 hours spent at the sight and I don’t know if it was the fresh air or what, but man, was I tired — slept like a baby last night.

73, Dan ve4drk

New 2.3GHz access site installed

This was the wrap-up and finalization of a site that Colin had been working on for a few trips.  It’s located in the St James area and has decent visibility/height to serve those around it.  Derek VE4HAY, Colin VE4CST and myself met Isaac at the Bread plant.  We were able to finish tacking up the long run of cat5e cable to the mount point.

Derek drilling holes for mounting
Derek drilling holes for mounting

 

Colin finished installing the new MicroTik router and wireless cards into the enclosure that houses the flat panel antenna.  Also along with that was a nice 12dB 2.3GHz omni antenna.

New MicroTik board - lots of growth
New MicroTik board – lots of growth

 

Wasn’t too hard of a job, but took a few hours from start to finish – when all was said and done, Colin did the last bit of setup on the router board and away we went:

Setup
Setup

 

It’s position looks quite good for the local area — will have to make sure we get more hams active on it.

 

shot from a-far
shot from a-far

This site, and other remote sites like it, will be well-served when our new sector antennas come in – at that point, we can make a trip to our primary site and replace the antennas and adjust the frequencies – maybe even reduce our usage of the spectrum a bit.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Hide an antenna

Well .. it was great to get on the air no 2.3GHz earlier in the month.  Had to have the antenna moved to the front of the house so as not to get interference from the roof.  Not too close though so it’s totally visible .. good thing it works pretty good as the XYL did not know where it was located as she couldn’t see it.

I had to take some pics to show here where it was:

Find the antenna
Find the antenna
side pic
side pic

So – I can’t complain – if the XYL can’t see it very easily – all the better 🙂

73, Dan ve4drk

New router OS – literally

In further support of the 2.3 GHz project, I decided it was time to learn the ins and outs of our current router we use to link our units all together — that would be the MicroTik line of routers.

So, William had a few spare units the group wasn’t using yet, so I popped by and he gave me a “black box” — inside was a sturdy black metal box with lots of holes in it 🙂   Further interesting was the stuff that was inside those holes … nine (yes, 9) ethernet ports in this little box!

Now that's a router!
Now that’s a router!

While I do have a nice 24 port Extreme Networks switch in the rack downstairs, this little guy will be useful in linking up my 2.3GHz RF unit into the rest of the network.  Along the way, I’ll familiarize myself with the inner workings, routing, firewalling/etc with this puppy .. lots to learn I’m sure .. but having already used the web-based admin section on another MicroTik router, I get the gist of it .. just gotta learn the itty bitty details.

73, Dan ve4drk

New install and also on-the-air!

I’ve know Cary VE4EA for a couple of years now – mostly regarding contesting.  He is getting much more into remote-station operating and VoIP in a big way now it seems, and had some issues/questions to work out, so we were chatting a bit one day.  I mentioned that he should join our little group and get involved with our 2.3GHz highspeed data project  so, he bit and joined up.

Discussing with the rest of the guys, Colin chimes up that he can do the install that day – just needs a spare RF unit.  Wow …. well, I had a couple in my basement  but was heading out for the monthly MRS exec meeting that night.  So, I left them on my door-step.  After coming back from the meeting, I check the MicroTik routers to see if Cary had made it on yet – not yet, so I email Colin asking how are things with Cary .. just as I get it sent, I see Cary’s callsign pop upon the MicroTik!  he’s on the air.  Mind you, it’s after 10pm at night now .. and from what I understand, Colin was working in a light-restricted time of day – but was able to get him operational.  Now, the aiming needs to be adjusted and possibly a better antenna to ensure the signal strength will be adequate — more to come.

ve4ea 2.3GHz antenna
ve4ea 2.3GHz antenna

So, once all done, Cary can do his remote ham operating and Ham VoIP over the group’s 2.3GHz data link.   Nice.  Another addition to our active user list.

73, Dan ve4drk

2.3GHz – and on the air

It was a nice day and lucky for me Colin VE4CST had some spare time to come to my QTH and install (properly) my 2.3GHz radio on the roof.  (I say properly, as my installation mount was not up to spec).  After installation, it was determined the model should be upgraded to provide better signal quality.  Being about 8 km away or so from the main site, a good antenna at the frequency is great.  So, after all was said and done, installing mount, radio and running cable, splicing etc I have a nice 10Mbps RF connection over ham radio frequencies 🙂  Gotta love that!  Our spectrum utilization is quite narrow at this point in time – we didn’t want to over-use the allocations just for us, just in case.

We needed to get to visit Walter VE4VB’s setup and verify some items.  It had been intermittent it seems.  So, we head on out towards his QTH – but on the way we need to have a bite to eat, so we stop in at a local east-indian restaurant — nice break.

Getting to Walter, we find him eager to see what we were going to do.  Colin remembered the angle of the unit mounted to the tower would need to be adjusted, so a hunt was on for spare parts in Walter’s garage — we eventually find some useful tubing on the side and proceed to cut it down to size.  Colin heads on up the tower and replaces the existing radio with a new(er) one and re-aims the unit.

 

Colin scaling Walter's tower - replacing RF unit
Colin scaling Walter’s tower – replacing RF unit

Next, we had to re-wire the rj45 conneector to spec and re-work his router to ensure it’s all setup.  After a bit of time, we figured things out and got them arranged just so.  So, now, it’s a stable connection with full time connection for his ham functions.

On the way out, we were treated to some of his “buckets” of tomatoes he seemed to have grown — thanks Walter – and thanks Colin, for all your hard work!

73, Dan ve4drk

2015 NA SSB Sprint

Remember my prior post on this? 2015 NA SSB Sprint ?? Well, today in the email, I received a note from the contest organizer that I had won 1st place for low power in my section. Well, I thought, that’s great … then I remembered the contest and how difficult it was.

There was only three entries for VE4-land, one was high power and two were low power — both the other Dan and I had low scores as we both run modest station setups.

So, I was kinda surprised to hear I had placed.  Although I was not too impressed with my score vs my submitted score .. I lost 6 contacts from errors somehow .. oh well … seems the conditions were not that good after all 🙂 🙁  Also not sure what happened with the team submission – I do log as RadMan 🙂

Scores for this little one
Scores for this little one

Will see how it goes — I’d like to continue with it — but I need better setup.

73, Dan ve4drk

VA4WAN planning …

So, it’s been summer and everyone has lots on their mind (beyond working on radios all the time) — so it’s been a while since we’ve worked on some of the core features of the system, so it was time to have a meeting of the minds to go over what we have to do and how to get it done and etc etc …

Having a long list to go through, it only took 2.5 hrs to review, discuss, hash-out etc to ensure we have a priority list of items to get taken care of.  Naturally, there was the meeting after the meeting to discuss other stuff … I stayed behind and Derek treated to scotch while we chatted, along with William.  Colin had to run right around 9 — but it was great to get the guys into a room to figure out what where we need to go and do to keep momentum moving on the projects.

Sites, bands, routing, access, servers, collaboration server and the like were all discussed.  So, a good meeting was had to ensure we keep this moving.

73, Dan, ve4drk

NAQP & new capacitance hat!

Well — I did try out the NAQP SSB this weekend — the bands were terrible … looking at the solarham site, it did show RED … solar winds were well over 400 and the conditions did show that … the only band that was partly open was 20m .. 15 and above really didn’t exist .. 40 was ok later in the evening .. i put in about 5 hours .. and i only made about 50+ contacts .. I will submit my logs to assist those that need them.

I even had a couple of thanks for the “rare ve4” section being in the contest!

Funny though — the only ve4 I heard was Ed VE4YU – he was S&P so I couldn’t work him.  I made a ve7 and a ve3 contact and that’s about it for the CDN side of things – the rest were US based contacts.

But — my antenna may be better now that it has a better looking capacitance hat on it ! 🙂   My XYL calls them lemon-drops!

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Local Antenna policy

Industry Canada administers the spectrum in Canada as well as it’s licensing and restrictions on various apparatus.

Recently, a group of municipalities had their get-together and one topic was the consultation process that Industry Canada wants the municipalities to provide clear guidance on what is locally acceptable.  Naturally, IC will have final say, but this guidance holds weight and will be just that – a guide —

For us hams, there is only one small paragraph which is applicable … and it is:

antenna-info

So, keep it in the back, don’t intrude on your neighbour, don’t make it go ‘blink’, and keep it under 70′.  Well, that is not too bad .. 70′ is reasonable within the city limits and does a decent job for most hams.

Actual reference:

City of Winnipeg Antenna Systems Policy

Industry Canada Amateur Radio Publications

73, Dan ve4drk

Antenna changes

I’ve been puttin’ this off for a bit .. getting my 2.3GHz high speed network connection functional.  I finally took down the alpha-delta fan dipole and the g5rv and the mount is down from the house.

New mount was fun to get up .. barely .. now I’m tired and have to put the fan dipole on the mount pole to have it erected on the mount on the house … that will have to be day 2. … maybe tomorrow … maybe not – depending how I feel.  Climbing ladders up and down just isn’t my cup of tea anymore.

So, when I mount this antenna up and give it a go, should be much better being much higher in the air 🙂  here’s hoping.

73, Dan ve4drk

Winnipeg Digital Repeater Group AGM

Wednesday July 29, a number of us met at the Sals on Leila to hold the annual general meeting of the Winnipeg Digital Repeater Group.

Quite a number turned out for this AGM.  There was no topic per se, but a review of last year’s notes and new business was quick and that was it.

There are 2 newbies on the exec – Derek VE4HAY is the new vice president, and Dan VE4DRK (that’s me) is the new membership chair.

This will be a good tenure to take for a year or so — help out a bit as I also currently handle the MRS memberships as well.

Also of note – the WDR group is also now merged up with the HSMM digital group – which is great, as we have similar interests and uses.

Here’s to a good year ahead!

73, Dan ve4drk

New *short* contest (really short!)

A month or so ago, I received an email from a contest organizer indicating a new type of short contest is being setup on a trial basis.  Now, when I say “short”, I mean “short”!   How’s 30 minutes one evening during the week?!  Yup — for the month of August, on Tuesdays at 9:30pm (CDT) for 30 minutes, we run like NAQP and work stations with 100 watts.  Now, that is more my style, considering that’s all the power I have to run with — so it’s a semi-level playing field.

So, I don’t get into it right away, as I forgot about it and only worked about 15 or so minutes of the contest.  But, I did S&P and run for a bit – but given it’s so short, it’s hard to do much searching the bands — one would run out of time!  So, I stuck mostly to 20m and 40m and did try 80 and 160, but did not hear much on those bands.

So, all in all, a mere 7 contacts with 7 mults gives me a whopping score of 49!  woo hoo LOL …

Anyways, I had not been that active in the past while, so running a short contest was a good thing to try it out.

Will have to try again and see how many more show up …

73, Dan ve4drk

VE4LRFG – special event station

The local airwaves were mentioning that the special event station VE4LRFG would be working 3.885MHz with Amplitude Modulation — from a “19 set” to commemorate the two world wars.  This special event station would be operating from the grounds of the National History Site of Lower Fort Garry .

There was a lot of local hams in the Winnipeg area who were chompin’ at the bit to get a contact with this station — only a few were able to make it in from what I heard.  So, my XYL and I ventured “up” north to the “lower” fort garry history site — given we have a Parks Canada “Discovery” pass we picked up earlier in the year, we were able to save the entry fee (also to the Cabot Trail earlier in the month!)  It was quite the hot day and turned out to be quite muggy.

We did see one station setup in a vintage jeep at the entrance to the site – stopped to say hi and we ventured in.  Strolling down the path a ways, we arrived at the stone fort — impressive structure being built back then — and in the middle of the ‘big house’ was Joe VE4XI working the 19 set and talking to visitors explaining the setup and reason for the special event.  I came across some other hams visiting in the area and I spent some time talking to Joe for a bit and listening to him talk to visitors.  He was there for some time, so when it was quieter, he asked if I’d look after the station while he goes for a break — sure!

So, I turned up the RF gain and made some calls — I understand this was only about 10 watts output and it was only to a 30′ length of wire about 25′ in the area — but a voice came back, VE4UR, Bob responded.  Wow I thought, pretty good — should have been good as he was working the site mobile from the parking lot!

Anyways, it was great to operate a vintage set – I understand it is owned by VE4AY.  So, thanks guys for putting on the display and allowing me to operate the rig!

I wasn’t able to get a contact via RF, but I did get an eye-ball contact!

‘Till we meet again …

LoweR Fort Garry special event QSL card
LoweR Fort Garry special event QSL card

 

Back of QSL card VE4LRFG
Back of QSL card VE4LRFG

73, Dan ve4drk

VE1VAS – Marconi National Historic site

On my recent tour to VE1-land (Nova Scotia) it also included a trip around the Cabot Trail – a great experience.

I was also able to venture into Glace Bay and visit the Parks Canada National Historic Site for Marconi and the location ham radio station VE1VAS at the site.

VE4DRK at Marconi site
VE4DRK at Marconi site
VE1VAS
VE1VAS
VE1VAS
VE1VAS
VE1VAS
VE1VAS

A great visit for a historic site off the beaten path …

73, Dan ve4drk

Field Day 2015

The annual gathering of remote setup and operation on emergency power occurred again.  I was assisting with the setup of the computers/networking.

20150615_085846b

Colin VE4CST graciously provided 3 systems to use as logging computers during the event. I scrounged up monitors, keyboards, mice and cords etc and we had enough to successfully use.

Rob VE4GV and Cary VE4EA came over to my QTH with Rob’s radio and I picked up Derek VE4HAY’s radio.  This gave us some time to ensure the radios were talking properly to the computers.  It was great to work with the guys and with some remote support from Gerry W1VE, we were able to link up what we had.  After a long(ish) session, we called it a night and were ready for the following Saturday.

Early morning on Saturday I packed up all the gear:

20150626_203629b

 

After setting up all the computer systems, William VE4VR provided the networking setup and it all worked just great.  We even had a connection via our HSMM 2.3GHz radio link to the internet for general use.

Also had to put up the signage on the front-lawn of CMU:

 

 

20150627_104138c

 

Derek VE4HAY and Colin VE4CST examining their handiwork
Derek VE4HAY and Colin VE4CST examining their handiwork
New field day HF beam
New field day HF beam

That’s about the extent of my helping with the event  – spent most of the time at the event and only ran some HF a small amount … hopefully we did well.

73, Dan ve4drk

Glenn, W0GJ presentation to Radiosport Manitoba

Tuesday June 9th – our little radio group had a special visitor come all the way up from the states to give us a presentation on his involvement in the K1N Navassa DX-pedition.

We were also joined by friends from Alberta and the northern states by other interested DXers.  A hearty buffet was available – and most strapped on the feed-bag prior to the presentation.

Glenn gave us a very interesting presentation on the scope and size of the effort needed to co-ordinate/plan/execute such an endeavor.   I took in the presentation — and the subsequent following presentation.

Excellent presentations and content and our group was well represented.

A small fundraiser was provided by a couple of donations – and a key donation from Glen on a ‘rock’ of petrified bird droppings with K1N etched in it fetched a hearty amount to help the group.

Thanks to those who organized and supported the meeting – was great to hear.

20150609_211150b

 

Thanks for all the co-ordination guys — I was glad to attend.

73, Dan ve4drk

VA4WAN – continued progress and enhancements

Last Sunday William VE4VR, Colin VE4CST, Les VA4LES and myself headed up to the location of our VA4WAN high-speed networking site.  Had to re-establish some good weighting on a unit outside and ensure it was strong enough to withstand the high winds like we had a week prior.  Good thing it was built like a tank – no damage!

Since we were up there, we had to re-organize things 😉 … so, all the RF units were re-organized on the tower – here’s Colin doing his thing:

Colin working hard ...
Colin working hard …

The rats nest of PoE injectors was just that — a mess, so we had to do something .. re-org a bit better.  I think we need to invest in a good multi-port PoE injector unit for this site — sure would help keep things neat.

A new router-board unit with a metal box to help keep unwanted stray RF out of it was also installed – will help no doubt.

Our new 5GHz link radio and antenna was installed to point to our soon-to-be-new multi-connection point.  That will offer us dual BGP routing to our network from two major net connections .. wowser!  fun times.

Took a lot longer than expected – over 6 hrs 🙁 but we’re in a better position now than before.  A wee bit more work on things and it will be even better.

Today, I spent a hour or two working on a local ham’s nano station to ensure it is connecting properly to our network – so it’s line of sight and works like a charm 🙂  Happy days.

73, Dan ve4drk