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The evolution of the remote ham – How I finally made it

HamShack Remote Control Concept

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Picture: The missing link (mic+speaker)

It all started some time ago…

Some time ago I wrote about my experiments in remote controlling the HamShack. This has been an ongoing quest of mine for a long time for couple of reasons 1) it is fun experiment and 2) as you might know my HamShack is located in the separate building and this remote controlling might increase my activity and utilize those quick moments I have to operate every now and then.

The first version of my remote control was based on only to listening the bands via Skype and for some digital modes working. After a while I did some experiments with some help from the G4ZLP (thank you for that!!) to route Skype output (my voice) to radio via the digital interface I have. There were couple of problems: 1) powerline mains brumm (due potential difference between hamshack general mains and powerline mains) and 2) audiolevels adjustment. It just was too tricky to configure, especially considering the limited time. I preferred operating instead of configuring on that time, so I needed to figure out something else.

Then came the idea

As you might guess/know/remember my limited time to operate is due the sweet little baby girl we have in our family. This same happy reason actually led me into the development of the next version of my remote shack.

Couple of days ago I bought two pairs of Sony wireless headphones to watch TV with my wife when the baby is sleeping. Those headphones operate on 800MHz band and both pairs have their own transmitter unit along with the headset. When configuring those headphones to my TV setup I noticed that both phones can actually listen one transmitter (ofcourse, silly me). Then I realized that I had one extra transmitter…which said it can transmit all the way to 100 meters…hmm.. HEUREKA! I figured that with this transmitter I can actually broadcast my Ham radio audio from the Hamshack all the way basically everywhere in my house and my yard.

I rushed into my shack, connected the transmitter to my rig and BOOM! Suddenly I was walking around the yard and the house with those headphones on and listening the HAM band all the way. I was jumping when I ran into my laptop to control the radio via the earlier established remote setup. It worked like a charm.

Not too many seconds after that I started thinking of how to transmit my voice and key the radio there in the shack. Then it came to me: I have couple of VHF/UHF HT’s laying around. Yet another rush into the shack (those headphones still on by the way) and connecting my HamShack VHF/UHF radio (Yaesu FT-7900) to an external speaker. By then I had figured out that I need to use VOX to operate via speaker + mic combination. Then rush back to the house and testing-testing-1-2-3. Yet again the setup worked like a charm!

By then I had also alerted my Geek/HAM friend Tuomas (OH8JGQ) for some more testing of this setup. Even it was late night Tuomas too rushed into his Hamshack (in the basement of his house) and after a while we made a contact on HF.

There I was standing outside on my yard, Sony headphones on and talking to my Yaesu VX-8 and Baofeng (yes I was testing both, and yes it was late at night and yes it is winter and it was -20 degrees celsius, but hey..we are HAMs 🙂

I was so glad about this experiment and so was Tuomas (as he is also interested on this remote system for his own setup). I was ready to go to bed, but something bugged me. Need to develop this further. And then…BOOM…(yes yet another serious Steve Jobs BOOM -moment if you know what I mean). I was saying to my self “Am I stupid or what!?!”. Ofcourse this will work without the Sony headphones and the VHF/UHF link…I can utilize the already existing Skype listening setup and JUST ADD ANOTHER SOUNDCARD TO MY SETUP for skype speaker usage. Side note: This 2nd sound card is needed because the 1st card is used for digimodes (however the audio from the radio is coming to Skype listening via the sound card 1 .. see picture above).

Eventhough my dear wife thught Im grazy, I rushed yet again (in my pyjamas) tough the winter into my shack to do this third experiment. What can you do, when you have this moment of enlightment..oh man what can you do.. 🙂

Born of The HamShack Remote Control Concept

There I was. In the middle of the night talking to my Laptop skype and listening my voice from the speaker on the Hamshack table (hooked up on the Hamshack computer and skype). After some McGyver moves with rubberband and all, I was able to key my radio via VOX on this setup. Before I went to sleep I already figured out that I can actually key the radio manually too (via remote setup and Ham Radio Deluxe..it has TX-button you know..silly me :-)).

It was late, but I was soooooo happy! I finally made it. Day after that night of rushing back and forth to hamshack, I had some nice QSO with some finnish HAM’s on 80 meters. I was actually sitting some 20 km away from my hamshack, in my office, and babbling away with them. The audio reports were good. They said they won’t notice I’m on remote.

As simple as that. No brumm, no hassle. Just works. 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bicycle HAM – Setup 1

Long time no blog. Sri abt that. Been busy. Also been building my first “bicycle HAM setup”. Next version will have a fixed antenna, mounted on the bike. While waiting for that I will test the setup below. This setup will operate on VHF/UHF and APRS as the rig on the bike is my trusty ol’ Yaesu VX-8 (and it will also provide me a BC radio to listen to, while commuting..and when there is no traffic on local 70cm / 2m repeaters) 🙂

Yaesu VX-8 VHF/UHF/APRS bike setup 1

73 de Hessu and BTU 🙂

SSTV testing

I started testing the SSTV today. I configured my radio to receive pictures and computer to upload them into my web-site. You can see last 4 pictures received at my shack from http://hessujarvinen.com/ham/sstv Pretty interesting experiment yet again in the field of digital amateur radio. 🙂 Maybe later I will start transmitting pictures also, but just receiving for now.

My First Award!

My First Award!

Just browsed today my received eQSL cards at eqsl.cc and suddenly noticed that I was eglible for the eDX award with 31 worked DXCC entities (countries). I applied it immediately (easy as press of a button) and boom..there it was after a while – my first HAM award in my mailbox. Yippee!! 🙂

Yes, I know that these eQSL awards are not as official as ARRL Log Book Of The Wolrd “real” awards, but they are nice anyway. So thank you all for all the nice contacts!! Hope to hear you in the bands soon again!

I’m still in the process of getting my self into the LOTW, but sooner or later I’ll be there too 🙂 To those who are reading, but don’t know about the LOTW and its system, you can read more here. It sure is more comprehensive as it requires heavier systems how the station is recognized (using certificates in the computer etc). That is why it also is comparable to real paper QSL -cards and therefore it is more “real” and allows the application of the “real” ARRL certificates. The main thing why I’m not there yet is the fact that one must send copy of the licence to ARRL (USA) by SNAIL mail when applying to LOTW account …you know a letter … as one inside of an envelope…yes the paper one…huh! 🙂

 

 

My remote-shack 2.0 #hamradio

As mentioned earlier, I have been working remotely and digitally with my Ham -setup earlier this year. But not untill yesterday I was finally able to configure my setup to run also remote setup for SSB/Phone mode. Below you can find a short video about that setup. It still is lacking the transmit side (Vox via Skype), but I will test that later also. This HRD -setup also enables somekind of IP-remote via HRD, but I need to look more into that too.

A brief comment about my  my current Ham -PC setup as it is yet again changed (more about that later): I got my hands on an old AMD / XP machine. Installed 2 gigs of RAM to it and new display card with 2 displays and finally was able to run Ham Radio Deluxe…and boy isn’t that avesome…wow! This is actually my 3rd HAM setup. I have been running this same kind of setup on all major platforms (Mac, Linux and Windows) this year. It sure has been interesting to experiment with digimodes, cat -control and all that. I need to write about my experiences with those setups later…but now this Windows based remote setup. It sure is nice… 🙂

 

Worked the SAC!

My HamShack / Studio

Last weekend was my first big contest weekend. It was THE traditional “Finnkampen” or the Sweden -Finland HAM contest…well to be honest it wasn’t just that, but it was the Scandinavian Activity Contest. 🙂 It sure was a lot of fun and very interesting experiment as untill now I have just worked two SRAL Peruskisa (Finnish Amateur Radio League monthly contest). It feels that I’m starting to like this exiting part of the HAM radio hobby! It is kinda exiting and fun. Should work more contests…

I think I did quite OK in the contest, considering my very very limited time (remember that I’m a father of a 2 months old daughter :-)). I might have done even better with just a couple of more hours, but I’m very pleased to my results anyway. Below you can see my QSO amounts in the timeline. I worked this contest in 3 parts as can be seen from the picture. Just when I needed to end my contest there was quite a nice pile-up going, but man’s gotta do what man’s gotta do. I needed to leave the Hamshack… 

Sac-ssb

BTW. I used my trusty old MacLogger DX and it’s contest -functionality to log my contest QSO’s. It’s because I’m kinda familiar with it and messed therefore only one or two QSO’s because I pressed wrong button (and was tired during the night shift…). So it worked out really fine in the very hectic times of the contest. The MacLogger DX can’t however produce the Cabrillo log format that was required to submit the log, so I needed somekind of a conversion software from ADIF-to-CAB. Luckily I found (and purchased) a very nice Windows software called Contest Log Checker for this task. It really works like a charm and produces fully compatible Cabrillo 3.0 file and even knows the SAC-CW and SAC-SSB contests by default!! I really recommend you to check that software. No I’m not affiliated to any of these software, but I’m just a happy (paying) customer. 🙂

So I was able to submit my log and claim my score (9744). When writing this I’m in the 5th place in my Low Power – Rookie -class. Not bad 🙂 Lets see how the situation changes when all the logs are submitted. There is still some time left (by 2400 UTC on Sunday 23 October). You can follow the proceedings in the sactest.net You can also read more about SAC contest and it’s history (in Finnish) from SRAL -pages

Weather Station

The Shack

I have been thinking of having a weather station for a very long time. Finally last week I went and purchased an “el cheapo” weather station from Clas Ohlson. The generic brand / model of that station is WS-1080. There are many manufacturers of that station and I think that also Wimo sells that station with name WX-2008 (with the same price as Clas Ohlson).

I put the sensors into the roof of my Shack (pic) and the reception unit / touch screen panel is inside the shack (pic). It is very nice that transmission is wireless from sensors to control unit. It should be operating somewhere around 433 MHz so I hope it is not interfering with my 70cm HAM operations..so far so good 🙂

The control unit is hooked up to an old Sony Vaio lap-top computer running Ubuntu Linux. In that machine I installed the Weather Display -software which does the actual “number crunching” and stores the values. It also provides data for my new weather pages. Those pages are not that fancy and good looking, but they will do as they are maybe under constant development … so maybe later they would look nicer 🙂

Next thing to implement into those pages would be somekind of a weather camera. Also APRS would be nice, but that’s another story…maybe that same old laptop would work as a APRS iGate in the future..you never know hi hi.

Let me hear what do you think about those new weather pages of mine and this project. Just feel free to comment this post. It is possible both in english and in finnish as always.

Copying the ISS!!

Today it finally happened! I was able to copy 59 The Space Station transmission LIVE from Space! In the morning I noticed from my iPad Satellite Ham Radio -application that ISS will do quite a nice pass over my QTH during the day (approximately 11:30 Finnish time). I noticed also that ARISSAT-1 was about to make a close pass too. So I decided to try to listen them both. As my selfmade tape measure yagi -beam is still under construction I was forced to use just plain GP -antennas for both sats.

First I tried to copy the APRS traffic from the ARISSAT-1 with my new car setup. I was able to hear the APRS -packet traffic, but wasn’t able to copy them and decode packets. However it was interesting experiment and I would definitely try that later again. But time was running and ISS pass was closing, so I went to the shack.

I tuned the radio and waited for a while. Had a nice QSO on 80m while waiting and then… I started hearing something from the VHF frequency…and I started my phone camera… Here you go. Live transmission directly from space in my shack…!!! 🙂 First time ever!

Yaesu FTM-350 AE (AR) car installation

As you might remember from the previous unboxing video, I have a new Yaesu FTM-350 AE dualbander APRS -rig for my car. Today I finally was able to install it there. I decided to make a brief video introduction of that installation. I made a bunch of mistakes with the model names and numbers in the video, but hey…it’s unique and one-shot (no edit) real social media production, so be patient. I corrected some of those in the video with text, but if you are a HAM and interested about the rig, you know what I’m talking about with or without corrections (hi hi) but others may enjoy the corrections.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to post them as comments here. Let’s have some discussion ongoing. And yes. I managed to make a test drive also today. Rig and the APRS works like a charm. I might need to connect the external speaker though, but I will manage with the internals meanwhile (you can see what I mean, when you watch the video).

And yes, this is the AE / AR version with the latest firmware, so those old problems mentioned in several web-sites (including eHam) should be long gone. 

And now…Enjoy the video. 🙂

 

Some SOTA action with Elecraft KX3

Found this nice 'demo' video from the Goathiker Steve's (WG0AT) great YouTube feed. In this video the team K7S activates Mt Little SI for Summits on the Air with a prototype of Elecraft KX3. Man thats an interesting rig!!