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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

SolderSmoke Podcast #227: Solar System, SDR, Simple SSB, HA-600A, BITX17, Nesting Moxons? Mailbag

SolderSmoke Podcast #227 is available: 


Mars is moving away.  Jupiter and Saturn close in the sky.  And the Sun is back in action – Cycle 25 is underway.  Also, the earliest sunset is behind us.  Brighter days are ahead.

Book Review:  “Conquering the Electron”   With a quote from Nikola Tesla. 

No real travel for us:   Hunkered down.  Lots of COVID cases around us.  Friends, relatives, neighbors.  Be careful.  You don’t want to be make it through 10 months of pandemic only to get sick at the very end.  SITS: Stay In The Shack. 

Pete's Bench and Tech Adventures:  

 Backpack SDR  keithsdr@groups.io

 Hermes Lite 2

 Coaching SSB builders

 G-QRP talk  

 A new source for 9 MHz crystal filters

 Bill's Bench: 

Fixing the HA-600A Product Detector.  Sherwood article advice. Diode Ring wins the day.  Fixing a scratchy variable capacitor.  Studying simple two diode singly balanced detectors.  Polyakov.  Getting San Jian frequency counter for it.


Fixing up the 17 meter BITX.  Expanding the VXO coverage.  Using it with NA5B's KiwiSDR. 

Resurrecting the 17 meter Moxon.  But WHY can't I nest the 17 meter Moxon inside a 20 meter Moxon?  They do it with Hex beams.  Why so hard with Moxons? DK7ZB has a design, but I've often heard that this combo is problematic.  Any thoughts?   I could just buy a 20/17 Hex-beam but this seems kind of heretical for a HB station.

Suddenly getting RFI on 40 meters.  Every 50-60 Hz. Please tell me what you think this is (I played a recording).  


Dean KK4DAS’s Furlough 40/20


Tony G4WIF  G-QRP Vids.  Video of George Dobbs. 

Grayson KJ7UM Collecting Radioactive OA2s. Why?

Pete found W6BLZ Articles

Rogier KJ6ETL PA1ZZ lost his dog.  And we lost ours. 

Steve Silverman KB3SII -- a nice old variable capacitor from Chelsea Radio Company. 

Dave K8WPE thinks we already have a cult following.

Dan W4ERF paralleling amps to improve SNR. 

Jim W8NSA -- An old friend. 

Pete Eaton   WB9FLW    The Arecibo collapse 

John WB4GTW old friend... friend of: 

Taylor N4TD HB2HB  

And finally, we got lots of mail about our editorial.   No surprise: Half supportive, half opposed.  Obviously everyone is entitled to their opinion.  And we are free to express ours.  It’s a free country, and we want it to stay that way. That is why we spoke out.

Yesterday the Electoral College voted, finalizing the results.  All Americans should be proud that the U.S. was able to carry out a free and fair national election with record turn out under difficult circumstances. And all loyal Americans should accept the results. That’s just the way it works in a democracy.

We are glad we said what we said. It would have been easier and more pleasant to just bury our heads in the sand and say nothing.  But this was a critically important election and we felt obligated as Americans to speak out.  We'd do it again. And in fact we reserve the right to speak out again if a similarly important issue arises.  


  1. Just a thank-you for the dialog on the backpack SDR the Group is hard at work and we have been putting up code releases on keithSDR@groups.io ( including this AM). Its a work in progress !! but alot of fun 73

  2. Bill & Pete: Another great podcast, but about three-quarters through I had a Popeye moment ("That's all I can stands and I can't stands no more!"): I have heard Bill refer on several occasions to the supposed mismatch between using an expensive store-bought antenna (say, $500) with a rig that cost only a few dollars to build out of the junque box. I think this point-of-view confuses *price* with *value*.

    Turned the other way round, would it be absurd to use a $5000 Icom with a resonant dipole made from scrounged wire and PVC-pipe scraps? The *value* of such an antenna would be that it's resonant. Its value would go up as its height above ground does since that would bring better DX propagation. But if you bought such a dipole for, say $150 (with a fancy center insulator, "genuine" egg-shaped end insulators, and a pretty red-and-black DX Engineering sticker), it would have no greater value than one made with wire fished out of your neighbor's trash can (I've done that!).

    Along the same lines, the *value* of a transceiver rig is that it puts out a clean, nice-sounding signal with adequate power for solid contacts and sufficient well-detected sensitivity to hear the other guy. You can do that with a $5000 rig or with one that costs peanuts (or no direct out-of-pocket cost at all), and the homebrewed one comes with values that money can't buy at any *price*. It seems to me that this represents the real ethos of Soldersmoke rather than the cash-nexus mentality that sent me off on this rant in the first place. . . . Now I have to go eat a can of spinach. Pax vobiscum. --Todd K7TFC

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  4. Get a Weller Soldering Station, can't go wrong, and I can get parts locally..Ed KC8SBV

  5. Todd: Sorry to struck a nerve Popeye! I just try to build as much of the station as I can. And it seems TO ME that there is something UNBALANCED about a homebrew rig being connected to a store-bought antenna. Especially when I HAD a homebrew Moxon up there before. I really LIKED that homebrew Moxon. I'm not sure I'd like a store-bought antenna that much. But hey, that is just me. YMMV. To each his own. Popeye liked spinach, Wimpy liked hamburgers. ;-) 73

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    2. Bill--I'm with you on the home brew aspect.The only antenna I've ever bought was a 5BTV I thought would work out when I had a tiny back yard. I'll never buy an antenna again. My not-really-serious issue was with the measure of value, not the question of store-bought vs. home brew. If I'm ever arguing for factory made over home brew, in the immortal words of Ross Perot, "take me out, shoot me, and call it a mercy killin'" Hell, I even home brew my ow Arduinos and Si5351 breakouts. I can buy them cheaper, but I don't want to.

  6. http://www.spectrumcomms.co.uk/Radio_PCB_Projects.htm

    Pete's filter can be found here...

    Ed KC8SBV

  7. Great podcast! I definitely like the mixture of Bill's "discrete" technologies and Pete's embracing of SDR technologies. I really need to get back on the bench and work on some builds! I also appreciate you speaking your minds about the political discourse in our country. Expressing our views, whether positive or negative is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. I know you caught a lot of flack over it, but most of the people that complained should go listen on the airwaves, yikes!! Anyway, thanks again for your great podcast and blog. I hope you and your families have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

    73 de Dean AC9JQ

  8. It is disappointing the SolderSmoke podcast doesn't refrain from discussing politics. I agree you have the rights to say anything, its your podcast I get that.
    If a fellow ham was sharing their political views you didn't agree with on the radio or anywhere, I am sure you probably wouldn't stick around. With that said Bill and Pete, 73's and good luck.

  9. Bill,
    Regarding the noise you are hearing about every 50kHz on your bands.

    Does it go away when the sun sets?

    If so, try listening to VLF at about 25kHz and see if there is a signal only when the sun is up. My experience is listening to VLF signals for quality of ionospheric propagation. I found a strong signal at 25KHz that was only there when the sun was up and seemed to be very local as well. My thought is that solar panels use switching power supplies to convert the solar panel power to something that can be used by the power grid. That switching power supply signal could bleed through the wiring of the panels on the roof of someone's house. As such, it will be a square wave with harmonics every 50kHz. So check if someone in the neighborhood has a new installation of solar power panels.

    73 de Keith W3ISZ

    1. Great ideas Keith. I was up before the sun this morning, and indeed, the noise was NOT there. When the sun rose, the noise began. That supports the solar panel/switching power supply idea. I don't have any receivers that go all the way down to 25 kHz, but I may be able to rig something up using SDR. I'll let you know. Thanks and 73 Bill


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