Sunday, May 4, 2014

Kenwood TM-D710A installation in a 2014 Ford Focus

I finally got around to finishing the installation of my Kenwood TM-D710A into my new Ford Focus. I took this out of my F-150 when I traded it in a few weeks ago. I feel like less of a man driving this little car, but I can't argue with cutting the car payment in half and cutting my fuel usage by 2/3.

For the installation I tried running the wire myself, but an almost 300lb 6'2" guy just doesn't fit well in the small spaced under the dash, so I paid someone to run the cable for me. Since I was having a pro run the wires from the battery to the trunk, I decided to go with 4ga wire so that I would only have to do it once.
I mounted the radio body and the power point under the rear deck with self-tapping screws. The control cables run down different sides of the car. The cable to the mic goes down the driver's side, and the control head cable runs down the passenger side. They are neatly tucked inside the molding along the floorboards, then cross under the seats to the mic and control head.

The control head is mounted using the MT-7 mount from AES . It only required loosening the seat mounting bolt, sliding the mounting arm under the bolt, and tightening it back up. It was the easiest part of the install!

I still have some wiring clean-up in the trunk, but I ran out of wire loom, so that'll be a project for another day.

Next up is a Little Tarheel II HP , an Icom IC-7000, and hopefully an Ameritron ALS-500MR

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quick, easy, and cheap 1090MHz ADS-B antenna

Having recently discovered the joys of RTL-SDR dongles, I decided that I wanted a dedicated ADS-B receiver using one.  The details of setting up the dongle and configuring the software are beyond the scope of this post.  If you're interested I'll be happy to make a post about it sometime, though.

I'm sure that if you've read any of the other posts that I've made on this blog, you have come to the realization that I am an unrepentant cheapskate.  Since I spent a whopping $12 on the USB dongle, I sure didn't want to spend very much on the antenna.  After finding suitable plans online (the math on single-wire collinear antennas is beyond me), I headed off to Home Depot to see what we can find in the way of suitable materials.  Here is what I came up with:

12ft of 10ga solid copper wire: $8
Two 1.25in x 24in PVC pipe: $5
Two 1.25in PVC caps: $2
One 1.25in PVC coupler: $1

I already had an SO-239 panel mount connector in the parts bin, so that sums up my cost on this.  $16 total.  Can't complain about that, I guess.

This pile of parts will eventually become the antenna:

If you looked at the antenna plans that I found, you'll see that some coils are needed in the antenna.  The outside of a PL-259 is almost the proper dimensions.

To get it up to where it needs to be I added a couple turns of masking tape to the outside of it.

After a bit of practice (as you can see in the background), I had two lengths of wire with suitable, although not perfect, coils.

Here is where I deviated from the flight plan on this.  It turns out that Home Depot doesn't stock flat pipe caps, or even PVC pipe flanges, so having a flat sheet of metal as the groundplane was right out.  Instead, I decided to build a vertical collinear dipole!

I had a dilemma on this.  If I used wire thin enough to fit into the SO-239 I was worried that it would bend when going into the radome.  But a larger wire wouldn't fit properly, so I decided to take a small piece of 1/4in copper tubing and use it as an adapter.  I solder the solid wire into it first, then created a solder filled cup in the other end, into which I set the post from the SO-239.  It works well, just be care to not get the connector too hot, otherwise the teflon in the connector will melt.  Also, be sure not to torque the post too much, it breaks easily.  This is why I decided to use a radome of PVC, to protect that fragile part.

The one step that I didn't take pictures of was putting the antenna into the PVC radome.  I used some foam wafers cut from old packing material as a dielectric standoff to keep the wire centered in the pipe.  I also built a 2m groundplane that used a similar technique, I will post pics of it soon so that you can get the general idea.

And here is the end result!  It seems to work fine business!  Within a couple of seconds of plugging it in I was up and receiving ADS-B signals.  And this is with the antenna at a measly ten feet off the ground!

Anyhow, I hope that you have enjoyed the post and wish you the best in your antenna making adventures!


Richard, KK4JDO

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

5630mi per watt!

The other day I had an amazing low power but long distance QRP/p PSK31 QSO between me (KK4JDO) and Michael (VE3NOO).  His QTH  in Canada is 1126.8mi (1813.4km) from mine here in central Florida.  At the start of the QSO I was running just a meager 0.2 watts.  That's right, less than a quarter of a watt!  He started out running around 35 watts, I believe, but when he heard what I was doing he lowered his power down to less than a watt also!  How cool is that?!  We had a fine QSO, 100% copy both directions, and it felt like the conditions were going to last forever.  We eventually said 73 ourselves well before the ionosphere did it for us.  The math on that works out to 5,630mi (9060.6km) per watt!  How cool is that?!

To give an example, using that kind of power for distance ratio, you could talk to the moon using mere 42.4 watts.  Now I know that ionospheric propagation doesn't work like that, but it does give a fine example of the kind of distances we're talking about.  :-)

I took a few pictures to commemorate what - to me at least - was a special event:

Here is a shot while receiving him, note the power setting and how sharp his signal is in the waterfall.

Here is a shot of my radio while transmitting, again, note the power level!  Woot!

Here is a screenscrape of his signal before he turned down his power.

And again after he turn down the juice to 1 watt.  He went lower with a lot of success but I didn't think to grab a screenshot.  I was too busy geeking out.  :-)

So all-in-all, it just goes to show that you don't need a lot of power to talk long distances.  Even chatting across the internet can't compare to the power levels used here.  We're talking less than the amount of power needed to light an LED!  And I was able to talk from Florida to Ontario with it!  Just the optics used to send signals around the world via the internet use more juice than that, let alone the hardware that supports said optics.  Talk about energy efficient!  Now if the ionosphere had the same reliability factor as the internet we'd be in good shape.  :-)

Anyhow, I just wanted to share something that I found absolutely amazing.  So if you have a RockMite or SoftRock, don't despair, you can make some long distance contacts as well!

Thanks and 73,

Richard, KK4JDO