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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Farhan VU2ESE FDIM Interview (#6) by Bob Crane W8SX: VHF Rig, sBITX, and Good News on Raspberry Pi 4

It was great that Bob was able to catch up with Farhan and talk to him about his VHF rig and about the sBITX. 
Farhan said that the VHF rig (the BITX23) was presented at the homebrew show-and-tell as a project.  The idea was to encourage others to get into VHF homebrewing.  Farhan points out that many of us are reluctant to go into VHF building, thinking that we need special or exotic test gear. No true says Farhan.   He is trying, with this rig, to bust this myth.  FB.
On the sBITX, Farhan points out that he too -- coming as he does from the homebrew tradition -- finds some of the modern rigs quite intimidating.  So he designed the sBITX to be less intimidating.  It is, he says, a tinkerable rig that could be homebrewed. It is all open source.  
Farhan points out that the rig is built around the Raspberry Pi 4, a device that has recently been hard to obtain.  This has driven up the price of the sBITX a bit.   But good news:  Farhan says that the word on the street is that the Raspberry Pi 4 will be available in quantity starting at the end of June.  

Here us Bob's interview with Farhan: 



And here is a video of Farhan describing the BITX23: 

Thanks Fathan!  Thanks Bob! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Rick Campbell KK7B at FDIM: Interview #5 by Bob Crane W8SX


Having recently been involved in an effort to teach students about radio electronics, I found Rick's comments especially interesting.  

At FDIM,  he and his daughter were presenting a hidden transmitter hunt using rigs and Yagis at 432 MHz.  This was in part the result of his students having wanted to do something new with ham radio.  It was very impressive that the students had done this all with gear that they had built themselves.  Rick also made sure that they all learned how to solder.   

Rick ended the interview with a nice shout-out to SolderSmoke. 

Here is the interview: 


And here is a paper Rick did on VHF.  It is a bit old, but it is good.  


 Thanks Rick!  Thanks Bob! 

Monday, May 29, 2023

Eric Schwartz WA6HHQ of Elecraft -- FDIM Interview #4 by Bob Crane W8SX (audio)


It was really cool that our correspondent at FDIM caught up with Eric Schwartz WA6HHQ of Elecraft.  Some highlights from the interview: 

-- Eric met Wayne Burdick through the NORCAL 40 (Wayne had designed it, and Eric was writing articles about it).  That was a very influential rig -- it was the basis for a book and a CALTECH course by David Rutledge. 

-- Elecraft has a strong QRP element in its DNA. 

-- The K2 is "Heathkit style" and offers the builder the opportunity to understand the rig at the component level. 

-- Eric says that using something you built yourself is worth at least 10db. 

Here is Bob's interview with Eric:  


Thanks Eric and thanks Bob.  

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Jerry KI4IO (Wizard of Warrenton) Describes His ALL ANALOG Phasing Transceiver -- Bob Crane FDIM interview #3 (audio)

Wow, this one really resonated with me.  Jerry had me won over when, early in the interview, he described his decision to dispense with the Si5351/Arduino combo:  "I said the hell with this digital stuff!"  I hear you Jerry.  I feel your pain OM.  

Jerry then goes on to describe a rig with bits of circuitry from some legendary sources:  The Ugly Weekender transmitter.  SSDRA and EMRFD.  W7ZOI's 1968 Direct Conversion receiver.  

Jerry discusses the "presence" of the direct conversion receiver.  And he decries the pernicious effects of AGC.  (Indeed, real hams MANUALLY control the gain.) 

The Wizard of Warrenton then shares some important tribal wisdom:  After building that new piece of gear, leave it on the bench for a couple of weeks.  Beware of "radio infatuation" (what a great term -- we will have to include this in the lexicon).    Jerry points out that while at first, the new rig will seem just perfect, with time time the need for improvements and modifications will become apparent. 

Jerry also has connections to India and Nepal (where he helped Father Moran).  See: https://www.qrz.com/db/KI4IO

Here is W8SX's interview with Jerry: 


Thanks Jerry!  Thanks Bob! 

Greg Latta AA8V on Making Aluminum Chassis -- FDIM Interview by Bob Crane W8SX #2 (audio)

Our correspondent Bob Crane W8SX caught up with prolific builder Greg Latta AA8V.  Greg gave an FDIM talk on how to make aluminum chassis without having a machine shop.  I guess I am now going to have to buy a belt sander from Amazon.   

I was really glad that Greg mentioned his real passion: retro building.  FB Greg.  I have talked to Greg several times on the ham bands -- it is always an inspirational experience.  

Here is Bob's interview with Greg: 


Here is Greg's pdf file on his aluminum chassis construction technique.


And here is Greg's amazing web site: 


Thanks Greg!  Thanks Bob! 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Hans Summers G0UPL and his new QMX: The Bob Crane W8SX FDIM Interviews Part 1 (audio)


We are very pleased and grateful to present this year's series of Four Days in May interviews by our FDIM correspondent Bob Crane W8SX.   Once again Bob did an outstanding job interviewing the FDIM participants. 

In this interview, the amazing Hans Summers talks about his latest QRP Labs kit, the QMX.  It is a combination of the QCX Mini and the QDX.  

Hans explains the M:  QMX. The M is for Marriage. Magnificent. Merger. Marvelous, many things like that. It’s what you get when you marry the mechanical and conceptual design of QCX-mini, with the SDR, multi-band digital implementation of QDX. Simply: QDX + QCX-mini = QMX. 

It has a very clever switching power supply that automatically adjust to prevent spurs and harmonics from the power supply from appearing in the band of interest. 

I was especially interested in his plans to implement an SSB option in future software updates.  Hans will use the same very complicated SSB generation scheme used in the trueSDX rig, but hopes to achieve higher performance and  improved signal quality due to the much more robust hardware of the QMX. 

Here is the interview: 


Here is the QRP Labs site about the QMX:  http://qrp-labs.com/qmx.html

Here is the QRP Labs web site: http://qrp-labs.com/

And here is a really wonderful and very current article by Hans on the evolution of QRP Labs and its rigs from 2010 right on up through 2023 and the QMX.  It is really interesting: 


Thanks to Bob Crane W8SX, Hans Summers G0UPL, and all of the FDIM organizers. 

Hans G0UPL-- Homebrew Hero

Friday, May 26, 2023

Coffee with Farhan VU2ESE (video)

Early morning in the N2CQR shack, May 16, 2023

-- Propagation
-- Web sites (RBN, PSK Reporter, others)
-- CW
-- Homebrew rigs
-- VFOs

Thursday, May 25, 2023

PSSST! MostlyDIYRF Will Sell a Kit of Pete's Rig!


From the wizard of Newbury Park!

The Pssst Transceiver Kit

Sometimes you just want to put something together and have it work, you know? No futzing with isolation pads, superglue, and blank copper-clad, no dead-bug make-shifts, no ugly, ugly, ugly component acrobatics. Sometimes, a nice and orderly printed-circuit board that's just like uptown, along with sorted and clearly-labeled components and step-by-step instructions, can provide respite from the terrors and risks of scratch-built homebrewing. Just once in a while, mind you.

Here's a dandy kit that can get you on 15, 17, or 20 meters pretty quickly, is fairly simple to put together (only eight transistors), and is small enough to take on a trip. At the same time, its modular architecture makes it also an experimenter's platform. It's not a single PCB and a mess of components. Each circuit block is its-own module which you can swap out for a different one you scratch build later on.
Why would you want to do that? Suppose, for instance, you want a narrower passband for the SSB filter (maybe even narrow enough for CW use). Likewise, you might want a wider or narrower front-end bandpass filter, or a different frequency response for the mic amp. Or, how about an active or triple-balanced diode-ring mixer for the product detector, or maybe higher gain in the RF amplifier on receive? Because the circuit modules in the Pssst just plug into a motherboard, you can unplug one and put another one in.

Of course, you can do this to change bands as well. All you need to do is to swap out the front-end band-pass filter and you can put the rig on 15 or 17 or 20 meters (along with changing a jumper on the digital VFO/BFO board).

The Pssst was designed and originally built by Pete Juliano, N6QW (Pete's Simple Single-Sideband Transceiver). Rather than use bidirectional circuits for many of the blocks, he relies on inexpensive relays to "steer" the modules from receive to transmit modes. Each active module uses a single transistor for gain (except for the final amp which uses three), and in that way the Pssst is a minimal design that, because of its modular architecture, can be made as complex and as elaborate as the experimenter wishes.

The Pssst is designed for a nominal output of 5 Watts on 20M when fed with 12VDC. By feeding the final amp with a higher voltage and providing some active cooling (from a three-dollar "pancake" fan), output can be increased to beyond 15 Watts.

In addition to complete and detailed kit instructions, the Pssst design has an existing Groups.io "reflector" forum for the exchange of ideas and questions. The kit will be available in two basic versions: with or without enclosure panels and hardware.

Available on the 150th birthday of Lee DeForest, the inventor of the Triode (August 26th)

This was in the latest newsletter from MostlyDIYRF.  
Thanks to Pete Eaton for alerting us. 
FB Todd!  

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Farhan Speaks to Students about Satellites and Direct Conversion Homebrew Receivers (audio)

In our talks at the local high school we have frequently mentioned Ashhar Farhan, his Cubesat experience, and his use of a direct conversion receivers teach electronics to students in Hyderabad, India.  So we were really please to have the opportunity to bring Farhan himself in to speak to the students we have been working with.  

Here is the audio of Farhan's talk: 


The acoustics in the room are not great, so you may have to listen carefully, but it is worth it.  Farhan dispenses a lot of tribal knowledge and wisdom about satellites and about the value of homebrewing simple radio equipment. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Farhan and Bill Fire up the sBITX and (at the other end of the tech spectrum) a Direct Conversion Receiver (video)

At the high tech end: the sBITX.  At the low tech end: The high-school direct conversion receiver. 
Check out the frequency readout on the DC receiver!  

Farhan Describes his New 2 Meter SSB Transceiver (Video)

On May 16, 2023 Farhan gave us a look at his new BITX23 2 Meter Transceiver. Two days later he made a presentation on this rig at the Four Days in May event. Highlights: -- Use (and non-use) of the Cascade tool -- Cascade and the original BITXs -- ADE-1 -- SI570 -- Raspberry Pico -- Diplexer -- Different Grounds to get rid of digital noise -- Gimmick Capacitors (and gimmicks made from coax) -- Ugly SMD Capacitor Soldering -- Tombstoning! -- Melting RG-174 Coax -- No need to learn Arduino programming -- Dilbert! -- Bill and Pete -- Techie Tatts! Thanks Farhan!

Two days later, Farhan presenting the rig at FDIM

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Farhan Visits Northern Virginia En Route to FDIM (Videos to Follow)

Mike KD4MM, Farhan VU2ESE and Dean KK4DAS

Farhan VU2ESE was in Northern Virginia this week, on his way to the Four Days in May Event at the Dayton Hamvention.   We had a great visit with Farhan.  We took him out to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology where he shared with the students tribal wisdom about building CubeSats and about building simple direct conversion receivers.  Farhan's use of direct conversion receivers to teach homebrewing to students in Hyderabad inspired our efforts in Northern Virginia.  We often referred to Farhan when speaking to the students here, so it was really great to give them a chance to talk to him directly. 

From the high school we went to the local restaurant at which Vienna Wireless has its weekly lunch. Many of the people at this lunch are also members of the VWS makers group.  This was a lot of fun. 

Don KM4UDX even brought in his somewhat eccentric build of the uBITX transceiver designed by Farhan.  Don's rig is labeled "The uBITX of Life."  It has also been called "The Franken-uBITX." Whatever the name, Farhan was clearly pleased to see Don's handiwork. 

I shot a lot of video during Farhan's visit (last time I failed to do this and regretted it).  I will put these videos up on the SolderSmoke YouTube channel during the days ahead. 

Thanks Farhan! 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

SolderBaloney and SolderTruth

This is so nuts that it actually had me checking to see if this was possibly an April 1 joke.  But alas, it was put out on March 30 and is apparently quite serious.  Rogier PA1ZZ sent me this.  I think his reaction was the same as mine.   My message to Rogier: 

Ha!  He misses the key point:  HOW MANY OXYGEN MOLECULES ARE IN THE SOLDER?   Here at the SolderSmoke Laboratories we only use oxygen-free solder.  And wire.  Sounds MUCH better.  Just kidding.  I think this is audio-fool  hogwash.  I'm sure my friend Ron WA6YOU (a real solder expert) will agree.    How dare this guy in the video besmirch the name of good ole 60/40 Kester!   And even at the local high school, Dean and I were pleased to find that all the students and their teacher had already REJECTED lead-free solder.  Also, this guy seems to think that the lead has been replaced by silver.  Dude, that would be some expensive solder!   His explanation of rosin is, I think, kind of shaky.  Thanks for sharing Rogier.   73  Bill 

Next I suppose we'll have recommendations on how different solder mixes can produce different audio effects:  "For a more mellow sound, go with 60/38 and 2 percent copper!"  

I immediately sent this to my friend Ron WA6YOU, a noted expert on this subject: 

Ron's response: 

OMG!!!!!  I don't know where to start and I haven't even had breakfast yet.  First off Sn60/Pb40 contains NO silver and melts at 361 F and yes I do have my irons in class set to 800 F.  Today in my classes I use Sn63/Pb37 since it is Eclectic....it is either solid or liquid and no in between.  For the cables I build for the satelittes (center pin of SMA male connectors), I use KESTOR Sn62/Pb36/Ag02 which is only 2% silver and called silver bearing.  You can still buy it on  Amazon.  As for flux, I use Kester RMA186 liquid and contrary to Paul, it does not "make the solder melt"....it basically de-oxidizes and provides a path for the solder to flow.  The flux inside the solder melts at 347 F.....BEFORE the solder melts at 361 F thus making the path for flow.  Remember when we were kids and had the little round can of Kester flux that you would dip into?
FYI:  To solder the pin of an SMA connector I do NOT rely on the flux inside the solder....Prior to inserting the center conductor of the RG-316/DS (mil-spec double shield teflon)  I apply a "dropllet" of RMA186 on the 7 stranded wire tip and insert it into the pin.....next I apply another "droplet" into the inspection hole (not called a solder hole).  Then I put a droplet of silver bearing solder on the PIN TIP of my iron and apply it directly to the hole in the pin.....magnification is definitely needed.  The solder flows into the hole and I tell my students that if you don't see an outline of the inspection hole, then you used too much solder and the pin will not insert into the into the body of the SMA.  I can make 6 to 8 cables an hour and all are within 1 (ONE!!!) MM tolerance in lengths.  If they want a cable 138 mm long from connector front to front, then it can't be 137 or 139 mm.....yep I can do that and I would love to show you all sometime.  And yes I crimp the ferrule.  I have 8 birds in space and the last three have 80 cables each of mine made in my basement.  

I am just waiting for the day when some USG safety officer comes into my class and has me surrender all "lead solder" and have to replace it with SAC305.  See my handouts below from my lesson plan.  Let me demo this for you all sometime.  It is said that I can put a Type-N male connector on a garden hose......HI HI.
Thanks for the link and remember.....The US is one of the few countries still using lead.  Hoard your lead solder.....the day is coming.

73 de Ron, WA6YOU

Solder and flux in use at N2CQR

By Jeff Murray K1NSS (2014)

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Jam on Radar Antenna of Jupiter-bound Spacecraft FIXED! Antenna deployed!

Great news. This stuck antenna was getting me down.  Three cheers for the ESA folks who fixed it from afar.  


Here is how they did it: 


The RIME antenna looks a bit like one of my dipoles! But it can look 9 km into the ice. 

And what a great name:  Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer.  Juice. 

Godspeed JUICE!  

Friday, May 5, 2023

SolderSmoke Podcast #246: PeteGPT! DC RX, Si5351, Franklin osc, Cuban DSB, Hex beams, uBITX mods, DX, 10 meters, MAILBAG


SolderSmoke Podcast #246 is available: 

AUDIO PODCAST: http://soldersmoke.com/soldersmoke246.mp3

YouTube VIDEO: (247) SolderSmoke Podcast #246: uBITX, Hex Beam, DX, High School DC RX, 10 meter SSB Rig, MAILBAG - YouTube

The AI Deep Fake Threat!  PeteGPT!

Hearing Aid info:  I can hear the cymbals in my audiogram adjusted Airpods.

Update on the TJ DC RX project – Several receivers working! https://hackaday.io/project/190327-high-schoolers-build-a-radio-receiver

Sunil’s company provides Nano/Si5351 combos.  With the KD8CEC software. Very cool.  http://amateurradiokits.in They have a new SSB dual band transceiver – the Airpal.

Mark AJ6CU helping me. Sent me Nanos with KD8CEC software. His uBITX Settings Editor seems very cool. https://github.com/AJ6CU/uBITX-Settings-Editor/releases/tag/V2-beta-1  Thanks Mark.  

Franklin Oscillators. 

Cuban Islander and Jaguey info.  Send more!

Fixing up uBITX 2   How Bill blew up TWO Raduino Nanos. My results with the KB1GMX mods. (see below)

Hex Beam work:  Adding 10 and 15 meter elements.  But now I can hear AM breakthrough from WFAX 1220 AM  (5 kW during the day),  So I made a high pass filter.

Made first contacts on 15 and 10:  Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic.

First contacts with both India VU3TPW and China BA4TB.  SSB homebrew.

sBITX news. Taking orders!

Pete’s 10 Meter SSB Project


--Wes W7ZOI provided great info and analysis on the Franklin oscillator. And lots of great tech info on other topics: http://w7zoi.net/oldtech/ponder.html Thanks Wes!
--Lex PH2LB. uBITX mods. TO-18 Heatsinks. New stickers (see above).
--Kostos SV3ORA and Hans G0UPL about the Franklin Oscillator.
--Listening to HRWB 178: Great stuff, many old friends: George KJ6VU moved to Oregon. Thomas K4SWL on the show.  Ben, an old friend of Pete’s,  mentions John Zaruba K2ZA – the guy who gave me the DX-100. Wonderful connections.
--Thanks to Todd VE7BPO for sending me another AADE LC meter. I need it for the SSSS.
--Nick MONTV planning a 15/10 meter dualband SSB rig. Me too! See video.
--Trevor Woods in W. Australia – The portrait in Artie Moore’s shack. Chuck WB9KZY – Willam Ramsay
--LA6NCA Helge three tube RX. Regen or DC? Mike Masterson WN2A and I discuss.
--Mike WU2D video on Retro QRP rigs – Steve G0FUW discusses Severn rig long in the works –started 1983 and nearly finished!
--Tim Hunkin of Secret Life fame did video with speaker made from potato ship bag. Discussed with Tony G4WIF and others. Also, Tim has an amazing video on cutting holes in metal. On the SolderSmoke blog.
--Bob Crane W8SX will be covering FDIM for SolderSmoke!
--Glen VE3DNL working on a more sophisticated DC RX.
--Craig KC2LFI from the beach on Grand Cayman. FB.
--Steve EI5DD reports We have changed our name - The May Issue of the HAM RADIO IRELAND Magazine, Ireland’s only independent magazine for the Radio Experimenter: https://docdro.id/SHH0VEy
--Mike EI0CL on 15 meters with Dean KK4DAS. FB
--Howard N3FEL of the Penn Wireless Association wants to do a group build of a DC RX.
--Martin LW9DTR in Buenos Aires looking for help with the code for an AD9850
--Todd K7TFC – always helping other homebrewers.
--Really thoughtful message from Kevin WN7Z


My KB1GMX mods to uBITX 2

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Boom! Small Electrolytics Blow-up in a Big Way. MAGIC SMOKE RELEASED!

It doesn't take much.  Like if you put 12 volts across a little electrolytic rated at 10 volts, WATCH OUT! The tranquility of your workshop could soon be very suddenly disturbed.  Even with the proper polarity, they will BLOW-UP.  The MAGIC SMOKE will be EXPLOSIVELY RELEASED. BOOM! 

And speaking of capacitors, Rogier PA1ZZ sends this: 
But don't blow these ones up.  Some of them are 75 dollars a pop!  

Monday, May 1, 2023

Apex Surplus in Los Angeles

The Polaroid camera for the Tek 'scope was pretty cool.  And the comments about the Simpson 260 made me feel good about finding one at a recent hamfest, but I don't think mine is an extremely rare Model 2.   
Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column