Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Explosion Danger Lurks!

I work for an electronics division of Watts Water Technologies, "Explosion, Danger Lurks!" is an early Watts safety film reel that highlights the dangers of unprotected water heaters and the critical
need for Temperature and Pressure (T&P) relief valves. According to The Watts Way (a history of Watts published in 2004), the film was created in the 1930s as part of an educational campaign to get T&P relief valves specified in safety codes around the US.


Sunday, October 02, 2016

Kraft Hockeyville - Oct 2nd 2016 - Lumby BC

Well today's the day. Earlier this year our little town won the national Kraft Hockeyville Contest. We won money to fix up our aging arena building, we also won an NHL game between the Edmonton Oilers and the LA Kings. Alas our little town was just too small to host the NHL preseason game in our arena so our neighboring city of Vernon BC is lending us their facility to host the Practice and televised Game. There were ticket raffles to both events and Kelly and Molly are in Vernon right now attending the Practice session. Other events occurred throughout this weekend including the Stanley Cup in Lumby yesterday and both NHL teams doing a meet and great with our local minor hockey teams early this morning at our arena.

I would like to thank everyone in Lumby who organized and participated in this event. It's been a huge effort for a small community to organize and I'm so proud of the excitement it's brought to my hometown. Thanks also to Kraft and the NHL for making this contest happen each year. Best of luck to all the town's entering in 2017.

Molly and Michela skipped the massive lineup and took a quick photo from behind the Stanley Cup display table.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Elecraft KX3 and T1 Working Together

I did some testing this morning and once I figured it out I needed to document it for myself (and anyone else that's interested).

Attached to an 80m OCF Dipole antenna I tried the tuning sequence between an Elecraft KX3 QRP Transceiver and the Elecraft T1 pocket QRP Auto Tuner.

NOTE the SWR readings off my 80 OCF dipole are higher than normal and I'm fairly certain I know that some branches and leaves are to blame. Another job on my to-list this fall.

This combination actually works very well together even though most KX3 owners have gone the route of adding the internal KXAT3 tuner option. I was on a budget and ordered the KX3 as a kit with no options other than the hand mic. I intend to add options later as I can afford them. My hope was that my existing T1 tuner that I purchased for another QRP rig would integrate well enough with the KX3 that I could use them together until I purchased an internal KXAT3.

As you can see from the quick video demos they do work well together with a few button presses in the correct sequence.

1) Press and hold the PWR/TUNE button on the T1 until the solid green light appears, then release.
2) Within 3 seconds you must press and hold the XMIT/TUNE button on the KX3 until it switches into tuning mode and starts transmitting a CW tone.
3) The T1 tuner will instantly start working and the KX3 display starts showing you the SWR readings and the power output of the radio.
4) When the T1 stops chattering and the KX3 display shows the final SWR reading press and hold the XMIT/TUNE button again until the radio exits the tuning mode and stops transmitting tone.

On a good antenna the sequence is very quick. On a more challenging scenario like a long wire it can take more than 5 seconds to try various options until it settles on the best result.

Friday, September 30, 2016

KX3 Assembled and Operational

My Elecraft KX3 is built and ready.

I wasn't feeling well this week so I did the work over a few evenings, which was easy to do when you assemble the kit one half at a time. Total it was probably a little over 2 hours from start to finish building it and I would guess I also spent about that much time reading the two manuals (assembly and operations). So all told about 4 hours work between Tuesday and Friday.

I hope if I'm feeling better this weekend I'll get a chance to play with it for a few hours and test out the aftermarket heat sink while doing some digital mode QSO's.

So far my first impressions are that it's smaller than I expected but has more features, both of which make me very happy.

There are a few more official accessories that I would like to add, but I'll need to save some money or put a few of them on my Christmas list for Santa.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Elecraft KX3 Assembly Part One

The KX3 kit and the 3rd party heat sink has arrived. I am very pleased with Elecraft's excellent packaging and documentation.

Special thanks to Fred VE7FMN from Simply Manufacturing for his very well designed and built Cooler KX Plus heat sink. His kit also includes everything needed plus tools.

Over the last two evenings I started the assembly of the KX3, at first I opened and inspected the contents of the kit and got stuff sorted and organized. Elecraft sorts the bits and pieces in the box, but opening and verifying the contents helped when I got started as I knew where everything was and that I had everything needed to complete the build. Elecraft does a great job of sorting the parts into the two halves of the radio so I could unpack the parts needed to complete each half of the build.

Last night I started the build and got the first half of the radio assembled. For me it was a typical assembly where I made a few small errors, found them quickly and then swapped the part for the right one and continued. The display cover was a good OCD moment for me as I tried to remove every bit of dust from between the screen and the clear cover. I knew going forward that would bother me to no end if I could see something in between.

I have started on the back half of the radio and will resume maybe tonight or tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Ultimate Explorer Vehicle: Test Driving Bran Ferren's KiraVan

KX3 Accessories

You've got to protect your Elecraft KX3 investment, especially if you plan to take it outdoors and camping. When I ordered my KX3 a few weeks ago I spent a lot of time doing research on 3rd party options to protect my new radio.

For mine I ordered the WINDCAMP Workshop side covers and plastic shield, it's a four piece kit with the following;
  • Extended left side replacement panel
  • Extended right side replacement panel
  • Clear plastic face cover
  • Fabric carrying bag.

I also ordered a Cooler KX Plus from Fred VE7FMN at Simply Manufacturing. I think his heat sinks are a cut above the rest and I enjoy supporting a business here in my own province.

Simply Manufacturing

Friday, September 16, 2016

They're Made Out of Meat

That Radio From My Bucket List - The Elecraft KX3

Elecraft KX3 - Compact Transceiver

I've got a thing for Elecraft... I might as well admit I'm a bit of a fan boy. I've always wanted one and my interest increased when they released the KX3 a few years ago. It was small but rugged, loaded with state of the art features, and I really really wanted one.

This spring Elecraft released the even more compact KX2, but it wasn't just the size that attracted me to the KX3 it was the features, and while the KX2 is smaller and less expensive it just didn't have all the features that I wanted like the KX3.

Elecraft KX2 - Ultra Compact HF Transceiver
About a month ago I started to clean house in the Ham Shack and I was able to sell some extra and duplicate items through Radio Amateur Swap Canada. An older HF radio, a couple tuners, a mobile VHF radio, and a few other odds and ends. I even cleaned up some older PC's under my work bench and sold those as well. Before long the money was adding up and I realized I was getting close to a goal, I finally had made enough to order a KX3. 

One of the great things about Elecraft is that they still build radios in kit form. Their kits are really just assembly kits since all the circuit boards and soldering work is already done. But you can save a hundred dollars or more buying their kit versions and doing that final assembly yourself. It also gives you a better understanding of the radios parts and pieces if you ever want to perform some upgrades down the line. And trust me, I will perform some future upgrades as I can afford them. Most notably the Auto Tuner upgrade, the Dual-Band Roofing Filter, and maybe even the 2m Module to add VHF support as well.

Right now I get to play the waiting game while my kit is shipped from California. Fingers crossed it gets here safe, secure, and fast (hi hi). Until then I have the manuals to read.


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Root Canal X-Ray

After more than two weeks and 4 trips to the dentist chair I think we're done (crossed fingers).

Another 'new' experience that I'm not eager to repeat the dreaded Root Canal.

Thanks to my Dentist Dr. Dale (VE7OWE, what a great callsign for a dentist!) and Dr Leung the Endodontist.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fun with Wires-X

Last night VE7XNY (Tracy) and myself spent the evening playing around with Wires-X for the first time. We were each based at our own QTH and we setup Wires-X nodes in analog mode.

To build a Wires-X node each of us needed the following.
  • Radio with built in data port that supported 1200/9600 baud packet.
  • Wires-X HRI-200 Linking kit (modem)
  • Windows 7/8/10 PC with min 2GHz CPU, 2GB Ram, and a spare USB 2.0+ port
  • A suitable VHF or UHF antenna for the node radio.
  • A handheld or additional radio used to locally talk into our node.
Once you purchase and receive your Wires-X nothing can be done prior to the registration of your modem online which can take 24-48 hours on a weekday, longer over a weekend. In my case it took almost 2 weeks :(

Apparently my 'new' Wires-X from a respected online dealer had already been registered to another person and it took two weeks of emailing back and forth before the old registration was removed from Yaseu's system and my new registration was completed.

Establishing the connection between the HRI-200 and a computer is quick and simple, requiring only a single USB cable and a software download. Installing the software and driver BEFORE plugging the Wires-X into your PC is required. Connection from the Wires-X to the node radio is simple with a provided DIN cable. Always use the Radio 1 port for a single radio node, I've read that the Radio 1 port is also the only one that supports an analog radio.

Opening ports in my home router was not as simple as advertised. My brand new router did not support the Wires-X software's ability to automatically create port forwarding rules using UPNP. I tried 2 other routers that had with similar results. So instead I went to work creating manual port forwarding rules and assigning the PC a static IP. This also did not work?

Finally I just had to put that PC into a DMZ on the router for things to work. This is not my preferred option since only a single DMZ is allowed in your router and I like to keep that free in case other issues with devices arise later.  [UPDATE] I was finally able to set a range or ports into a single new rule and that worked only after committing the changes and rebooting the router. I've never had to reboot this router after adding/changing port forwarding rules, but in this case I did.

As you can from the diagram Wires-X bridges many technologies and supports lots of radios.
  • We started simple with an analog FM radio for the node, which allows ANY other analog FM radio to use that node.
  • You could build a digital node using a compatible System Fusion (C4FM) radio for the node radio, which would then allow other Fusion radios to operate into that node digitally. When going all digital you are limited to the number of supported radios, but tons of digital features are now available.
  • You can also add Wires-x to a Repeater.
  • Once connected to the Wires-X universe with either technology, basic voice conversation can occur between everyone, even across the different technologies. 
Once our Wires-X nodes were operational we spent the evening talking back and forth while setting up additional features in the software and balancing our audio input and output so our sound quality was a good as possible.

Wires-X works on a system of user Node ID's and Room's. When you receive your Wires-X registration you receive two unique numbers, one for each.
  • Your personal Node ID can be found in the global master Node list and any one person can connect to your node directly. This operates like a phone call. Two people directly connected to each other having a QSO.
  • Setting up your own Room is optional but this is how you can open your node to a larger group. With a room enabled in the Wires-X software your room is now advertised on a second global Room list and groups larger than just one can join your room. You'll see all persons in your room via the software and a group QSO can occur. As you can imagine Rooms in Wires-X operate like Reflectors in D-Star. Rooms would be suitable for operating Net's or other group type discussions. 

You can create a digital QSL card for sharing when others connect to your ID or your Room.

I guess my next decision is if I should invest in going entirely C4FM digital. The entry point for a compatible node radio would be the Yaesu FTM-100DR. Once that radio is connected to Wires-X I would have a fully digital node. To talk into that node I would need another fully digital Yaesu mobile or handheld.

Yaesu FTM100-DR $450.00 CAD

Yaesu FT1XDR - $425.00 CAD

Yaesu FTM-400XDR $870.00 CAD

Yaesu FT-2DR $575.00 CAD

Thursday, August 25, 2016

It was rather impulsive, but it seems to be working

Just over a week ago I launched a website.

It was a totally impulsive move on my part. I had visited Amateur Radio Swap and Shop sites in Canada and 99% of them were local or regional sites operated mostly by ham clubs.There were also a few major sources of used amateur gear mostly based out of the US (eHam and eBay). What I wasn't seeing were many Canadian sites serving the Canadian Amateur Radio community from coast to coast.

This is nothing against either the smaller Swap  & shop sites or the American sites. It was just a matter of seeing a niche and trying to fill it.

Plus, the problems with cross border shopping are pretty obvious to everyone who does it regularly.
  • Currency conversion (our Canadian dollar is not very strong at this time).
  • The risk of buying or selling across borders (we loose a lot of our legal protections if something goes wrong).
  • Customs and Duty fees (the mystery charge, will the CBSA randomly add $50 or more to your shipping charges).

Thus Radio Amateur Swap Canada was created.

After a week online I'm so pleased with the response. It's not perfect, there are some bugs still to work out. But traffic, memberships, and ads are growing daily.

The positive feedback has been overwhelming and the few negative emails seem to confirm that this is the Internet and there will always be that 1%. 

I purchased the domain, hosting, and ssl certificate for one year, so we'll see where it goes over the next 12 months. Like anything I can spend more money for more bells and whistles, but it's a free service, how much do I really want to pay out of pocket to keep it going. Are there ways to make some money on the site? Sure, I could do a couple things, but I'm in no rush, I think the site would need to be very popular before I need to go down that road.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Making Room For Something New

It's been over 5 years since I received my Amateur Radio license and callsign. All that time I've been in an acquisition mode. If I could afford it I bought it, if someone was giving it away I likely took it.

Now I'm surrounded with 'stuff' and it's time to say goodbye to some of it. The items replaced by newer toys, or the items that I maybe have 2 or more of.

Tonight I started creating ad's in the local swap and shop, adios and I hope you find a new home.

Yaesu FT-2400

MFJ-948 Deluxe Versa Tuner II

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Back In Time Addition

Thanks to Bert VE7OLR I have some new additions to the shack today.

Bert is soon to be part of our family and he knew that I was active in Amateur Radio. Unfortunately he's no longer active so he gifted me some of the gear he purchased around the mid 90s.

The highlight was this Yaesu FT-530 dual band handheld.

It is very popular with Satellite enthusiasts due to the following features.
  • Capable of tuning the satellite VHF & UHF sub-bands.
  • Capable of transmitting sub-audible or CTCSS tones.
  • Will transmit a tone in full duplex mode.
  • Full duplex across bands.
  • Cross band memory storage. The ability to store frequencies from different bands into a memory channel. It makes tuning for Doppler frequency shifts much easier.
  • Power output of 5 watts. The FT-530 does this with a 12v battery pack or ext 12v supply.
So far the original battery pack is holding a charge but I'll likely need to order a new one, I really like the idea of the larger 12v pack. W&W Manufacturing Company out of New York offers a 12 v 2300 mAh NiMH battery pack for $55.00. They also offer a 7.2 v @ 2700 mAh NiMH battery pack. At the 2 watts radio output that pack might last a week!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

New Toys

Thanks to a sale of another radio from my collection and some birthday gift cash I had a little shopping spree today at Radio World Canada (

The new mobile will be installed in my car to replace on old but well served Yaesu analog unit.

The new radio is the latest System Fusion unit from Yaesu, the FTM-3200DR.

144MHz 65W C4FM/FM Single Band Digital Mobile Transceiver
Rugged & Compact 2m Digital Mobile with Front Speaker

Radio Features:- 65W of Solid RF Power within a Compact Footprint
- Modulation Modes: C4FM Digital (V/D Mode, VFR Mode*, DFR Mode), FM Analog
- AMS (Automatic Mode Select) Function Automatically Recognizes the Signal as C4FM Digital or Conventional FM
- Loud and Crystal Clear Front Panel Speaker with 3W of Audio Output
- Digital GM (Group Monitor) Function
- Bright Multi-Colored LED Mode/Status Indicator Vibrantly Shows the Transceivers' Status
- Illuminated Microphone with Direct Frequency Entry
- 220 Memory Channels with Alpha-Numeric Tags (Maximum 8 Characters)
- DSQ (Digital Squelch Code) Signaling Feature
- CTCSS and DCS Encode/Decode with Split Tone and DCS Encode-Only Capability
- Expanded Receiver Coverage: 136-174 MHz
- High Stability ±2.5 ppm TCXO Included

*1 VFR Mode could not be manually selected as communication mode. When receiving the VFR Mode signal from other transceivers, the AMS automatically switches to
the VFR Mode as transmission mode. ("AUTO" must be selected from among the optional AMS function operations "TX Manual," "TX FM FIX," "TX DN FIX," or "AUTO.")

*2 FTM-3200D does not support connectivity to HRI-200 as a WiRES-X Node Station nor accessibility to a Digital WiRES-X Node Station as a client.
(FTM-3200D allows operators to access to an Analog WiRES-X Node Station as a client.)

Specifications:Frequency Ranges: RX 136 - 174 MHz (specified performance, Amateur bands only) TX 144 - 148 MHz (Amateur bands only)
Circuit Type: Double-Conversion Superheterodyne
Modulation Type: F3E, F7W
RF Power Output: 65 W/30 W/5 W
Channels: 220
Case Size(W x H x D): 6.1" x 1.7" x 6.1" (154 x 43 x 155 mm) w/o Knobs
Weight (Approx.): 2.86 lbs (1.3 kg)
Warranty: 3 Years

To compliment this new rig is a programming kit from RT Systems complete with the software and USB programming cable.

To finish off the order was the latest version of the Wires-X interface from Yaesu the HRI-200.

The Wires-X is for testing with the local club NORAC ( who has two new DR-X1 System Fusion repeaters waiting for deployment.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Now I'm Chillin' With Gas

I've got a 26 year old 5th wheel trailer. I've had it for 3 years now and there are many things that I have needed to maintain or repair on it. We bought it cheap, so we thought we knew what we were getting ourselves into.

The fridge has been my biggest challenge since day one. When we first bought the trailer we took it straight to an RV dealer because we wanted it checked out for safety and to make sure that key systems were working. They said the fridge was totally dead and they just happened to have almost the same model for sale used ($$$). Scared by the price we just took it back home and packed it full of blocks of ice and used it like an ice chest on our first few trips that summer.

The second year I started troubleshooting and right away discovered that almost every wire in the back was plugged into the wrong place, I found a service manual online and started putting wires back into the right places, replacing fuses, and then eventually two circuit boards I found online until I got the electric side working. After that we could camp anywhere that we could plug in, that felt like such an upgrade from the ice blocks.

This year I wanted to see if I could get the gas side of the fridge working and totally expected that I might have to go searching for another part somewhere online. Today I started troubleshooting and vowed that I would start at the beginning, go slow, and troubleshoot each part. Well 3-4 steps into the process I found a problem and spent a few minutes trying different things until BAM it started working. Now I have a dual mode fridge again. So damn pleased with myself :)

Now going back to the beginning of the story about the RV dealer, the eager offer of another overpriced used fridge, and the jumbling of ALL the wires in the back. Well guess what was keeping the gas side of the fridge from working? Would you believe two wires on the gas valve were reversed? Propane was getting to the valve, but the valve was electronically closed because the wires were reversed. No marking on the wires indicated which contact was correct so I had missed this during my initial rewiring session of a few years ago. Come on, it's VERY FISHY when every single wire on the back of this fridge has been in the wrong place since that visit to the RV place.

To be fair, I did need to replace two cracked and broken circuit boards. And I had no prior experience in servicing a fridge (let alone a gas/electric one). But with a service manual, a little help from a different RV service tech, the internet, and long winters to think about my next move before the next RV season comes around (ha ha).

Well I think I'm gonna go camping in a week or two :) 
And this time we are going off the grid, solar for the lights and propane for the fridge.

Friday, July 08, 2016

UPDATE #1 - 'Poor Hams' Wooden Antenna Mast

My little video from 4 years ago showing the wooden antenna tilt-over mast that I built for $200 is nearing the 10,000 views mark on YouTube. Who would have known that it would have grabbed that much interest.

Well it still standing strong with no signs of wear and tear. Currently it's holding up one end of a an 80m OCF Dipole antenna. Prior to that it was one corner of an 80m Horizontal Loop.

If I could 'upgrade' my design (pdf link below) I may have spent a few bucks more on pressure treated lumber, and I might have shortened or reinforced the very top 6' which is just a single 2x4. Over time that's the only part of the mast that has twisted and bent just a few degrees off straight.

PDF Drawing and Materials List

Watch the video and help me reach 10,000 views :)

Latest Shack Upgrade - Audio Mixer

Just in time for Field Day 2016 I finally got my little mixer installed so I could bring all of the audio inputs from multiple radios into a single source.

The Behringer 1002FX is a tiny 10 line mixer with a mix of input options in both stereo and mono. Currently I'm mixing the outputs from about 5-6 radios into this and then pushing one output to my shack speakers. It gives me a little EQ adjust-ability on each line and a master output level. I probably won't use the built-in effects processor, but it will be nice to have extra outputs to secondary devices like headphones and maybe a digital recorder.

The photo below is dark but I also crafted a wooden stand that lifted the rear of the mixer about 4-5 inches off the desk and provided a much better viewing angle of the dials and controls. Some quick matte black paint and it looks like they belong together.

Monday, June 27, 2016

NORAC Field Day BBQ 2016

Kelly and I hosted a BBQ for the North Okanagan Radio Amateur Club this past weekend. The club decided to take a break from a full Field Day operation and go with a social BBQ instead. I was happy with the turnout, and the weather behaved as well.

Thanks to all who came by over the 7 hour period.