Apache Labs Available in the UK   August 21st, 2013


We will shortly be stocking the Apache Labs range of equipment which is SDR based and will have the ability to operate under Windows, Linux and Mac platforms. We will be stocking all three models. There are two 100W models and a 15W model. They are known as ANAN10, ANAN100 and ANAN100D, All cover 160m -6m and the ANAN100D has two physical receivers.

The equipment runs under OpenHPSDR software which is a development of the software used by FlexRadio, However, there have been lots of extra functions added. At the same time a new software program is being developed in Germany that is known as cuSDR. This has the power to run up to 7 receivers within the software and also can display the full spectrum of 10kHz to 55MHz. It is this new software that will run under the three platforms.
A beta version is available now, but only the receiver side has been opened for operation.

The good news is that all this equipment is available now and has a performance capability better than anything else that we know of that is currently available. This is good news for those who want to upgrade to more advanced SDR transceivers. It will also be very competitively pricd..

The engineering is superb ad there are promises of VHF and UHF modules, so this looks good for VHF and UHF operators.

Finally, Apache Labs will be exhibiting on our stand at the Newark Hamfest on the 27th and 28th of September, so don’t miss this. Peter G3OJV

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Wide SSB   August 20th, 2013

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I was listening last night on 80m and hear a station using wide SSB, with excellent quality. For those of you who do not know, this is possible with a number of transceivers. In basic terms the passband is widened on transmit, much the sane as you would do on receive and with same result. A wider range of frequencies are allowed to pass through. This gives a somewhat distinctive sounding signal, not unlike the range of frequencies that you get from AM.

At one time in the days of AM, many stations would take a pride in the quality and frequency response of their transmitted audio. Well that all changed when SSB came along and the big attraction was smaller bandwidth and a signal that would cut through much better than AM.

It is interesting to hear these wide SSB signals because not only is the passband opened up, but the station often uses a broadcast quart microphone and possibly a mixer with EQ. This is getting back to the style of a low power broadcast station. And why not?

Well, the only possible reason would be that the station is taking up a wider bandwidth than normal, but we are only talking about 1kHz or so more. And when the bands are quiet, does it matter?

Personally I like to hear the occasional bit of quality on the bands and the resultant articulation that comes from such transmissions. Providing that the operator observes band conditions and occupancy, a few more of these signals would not coma amiss. Peter G3OJV.

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More on Open Wire Feeder   August 19th, 2013

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I have had quite a while to evaluate my pretty basic antenna system which comprises a top length of around 45ft fed in the centre with 450 Ohm ladder line. It’s a modern take on what was widely used years ago and is still used commercially today for HfF transmission. Open wire feeder has some very nice properties, the best of which is the exceptionally low loss, when there is a high VSWR. So why would you even want to operate an antenna with a high VSWR?

One of the easiest multiband antennas to make is one with a random top section that is fed at the centre with open wire feeder, or in my case ladder line. The 450 Ohm ladder line has the same natural impedance as its title suggests. And like open wire feeder it can carry high VSWR with minimal loss. In fact, for normal domestic lengths right up to 30Mz, the loss can be discounted.

Now at some frequency this top section is going to be a resonant half wave, but everywhere else it will have reactance and a VSWR that will go from fairly low to very high. We can deal with that VSWR at the transmitter end by employing a matching unit, more commonly known as an ATU. This does not change the VSWR on the feeder, but simply compensates for this awful state of affairs and presents the transceiver with a value that looks right and enables the full power to be sent into the ATU and up to the antenna.

Most ATUs, if correctly designed and set up, will have an insertion loss of less than 1dB, and as we have already discussed, there is virtually no loss on the open wire feeder. The end result is that all the power goes to the antenna, with minimal loss on any band we like to operate on. Of course the downside is that you have to set up your ATU for each band. But many of the modern auto ATUs can work with balanced line and make matching almost instant.

There are limits to what can be matched and I have found that if the top section is around a minimum of 3/8th wave long, then it will work on that band and everything above. Its a great antenna that often solves a lot of installation problems in small gardens where all band coverage is needed. Peter G3OJV

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SDR Revisited   August 18th, 2013

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Yesterday I was touching on the topic of SDR and it occurred to me that I had not used SDR for a while. So I spent a couple of hours trying to catch up. In fact you cam’t spend a couple of hours catching up because you get drawn into setting up your PC and exploring the various menus.

Now some may get frustrated about this, but it is no different from my early days of radio when I used to spend ages trying to get things to work or wonder why they wouldn’t work. In those days I always seemed to have a soldering iron in my hand. It could be frustrating at times, but it was all part of the hobby. But today,many in ham radio enthusiasts are operators rather than experimenters in the technical sense. I can understand why some wonder if setting up a PC based transceiver is really worth the effort.

Well I have been very impressed with how things have been improved since I last used SDR around 2 years ago. The software has been refined to a level which really does make it a serious consideration and the setting up is also a lot yes arduous. The selectivity is amazing and as many of us get used to using a waterfall display for looking for weak signals, this feature is something that cannot easily or adequately be implemented on a conventional transceiver display.

There are at last indications that those of us who use Macs or Linux, will soon have the luxury of seeing some form of cross platform software that will match Windows based software. I use similar cross platform software for my music work and such software is long overdue.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I have seen this weekend is an SDR display that is capable of showing the complete radio spectrum from 10kHz to around 60MHz. And we are talking about serious receiving capability here, not just a wide panoramic display! It has all the filtering you could ever wish for. And of course you can zoom in to a particular part of the spectrum that most interests you, right down to a few kHz.

This is serious stuff and has a lot of applications both inside amateur radio and in the commercial field. I will try and give more information about this as I explore it further. Peter G3OJV.

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The Technology Headache   August 17th, 2013

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We have seen some major developments in amateur radio over the past decade and digital techniques have been at the forefront. Much of these developments have been embodied into mainstream radios. There are hardly any radios that do not use DSP in a significant way. We have seen IF filters replaced by digital processing and first IF filters have become known as roofing filters. Same basic task but a different name. And the PC is becoming more and more important in many ham radio stations from logging to the very heart of the transceiver functions in the form of SDR.

SDR has opened up the possibility of replacing a major part of the transceiver with a fairly modest domestic PC. There have been numerous incarnations of SDR from the very simple Softrock to some really advanced designs. And this development has opened up the way for many home grown designs both in hardware and in software.

FlexRadio lead the way in the commercial market and their products and open source software has certainly lead the way for many. It took an idea and proven technique, into reality that many of us have taken up and marveled at the result. But in some ways there has been a slow down in bringing the new generation of SDR to the market. Maybe this is because of the huge step forward in software development, and desire to get it right before releasing it. At what point do you as a manufacturer say “let’s go to market.” Yet you know jolly well that within six months some of your ideas could well be developed to a higher level with new and improved CPUs.. We all know that PCs are still racing forward in power and ability. What has been a major step forward in performance and design for users, is becoming a major headache for manufacturers who see the obsolescence time becoming shorter and shorter. Peter G3OJV.

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Linear Connections   August 16th, 2013

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We are getting a lot of enquiries about HF linear amplifiers and the correct way to connect them up. This topic is obviously causing headaches to some potential purchasers.

The first thing to be aware of is that an amplifier produces a lot more power than you may be used to. You need to take precautions. Make sure all coax cables are adequate, Don’t use thin RG58 and make sure that your VSWR meter can handle the power.

I suppose the main issue is what leads do I need to connect it to my transceiver? Well the answer to that is just two leads. One for the PTT line and the other for connecting to the RF output from the transceiver. And if you are using a solid state amplifier, do make sure that the output of your transceiver is connected to the input of your amplifier and NOT the output socket. Make this mistake and you could cause serious damage. So what about the ALC connection?

We don’t advocate making such a connection as it can cause more trouble than it solves. Most modern transceivers have good ALC control and most now have an independent power out control that is quite separate from the ALC circuit. In the old days, the ALC was designed to limit drive to a safe transceiver PA power level. It only operated when maximum power was approached on speech peaks. The Elecraft K3 is a good example of how a modern transceiver copes with power output.

You can set the K3 mic gain and compression up to a level which provides adequate ALC action and you can see this on the transceiver metering. That level of ALC holds good no matter what output power setting you make. So you can set the power output to say 10W and no matter how loud you speak, the power out will always limit at 10W. So with this arrangement there is absolutely no need for any ALC action from the linear. It will always be receiving a constant maximum power set by the transceiver, which in turn will dictate the maximum linear power output. It is that simple. But you do need to check your particular transceiver. That can easily be done by setting the mic gain for ALC action and just making sure that the ALC is working at different power output levels. Peter G3OJV

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Never A Dull Moment!   August 15th, 2013

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I may have mentioned before that no two days are the same for me at Water & Stanton, and today was no exception. Of course emails come first. As soon as I fire my computer up there are lots of them. And then it was time to start serious work on one of our next adverts. However, I have long learnt that the best time to do this is at home in the evening. There are just too many interruptions. And today proved the point.

I had forgotten that BBC Essex were coming to do an interview on W&S to mark our 40th anniversary. So before I could have a proper lunch break it was time to meet Peter Holmes, one of the presenters who was down stairs ready to record an interview. I remember the days of tape recorders and microphones with cables. How things have moved on. The only bit if equipment visible was a handheld microphone with a built-in flash card recorder. The interview was very much an unrehearsed affair with myself and Jeff being asked all kinds of questions, some humorous and some serious.

Like most interviews, there was plenty of scope for editing and I am told that it will be broadcast on Saturday week. But it is strange how the unexpected happened.

Peter Holmes mentioned that he broadcast a faith program on Sunday mornings and asked if either of us had any faith stories to tell. Well I am a Christian and a regular member of our local parish church. So before I could say much more we were upstairs in our meeting room where I was asked to record a 5 minute slot for the regular Sunday program, A lWalk in Faith.

I think it went OK, but it was something I was not prepared for and I can only hope that with editing it will sound OK. I shan’t know for around 6 weeks, which is when the item is due to be broadcast. And after all that it was down to the Service Department to resolve an issue with a customer’s transceiver. Never two days the same! Peter G3OJV.

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Front Cover Position   August 14th, 2013

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Once you start turning out cupboards you come across all kinds of things that you had forgotten about. And this of course happened when I had only just started the job! It was a book that meant a lot to me at the time entitled “A Guide To Amateur Radio.“ It was published around 1960 and the reason it meant a lot to me was because it was my picture on the front cover. Yes, that young lad above is me complete with a full head of hair! It shows me operating a 10m station. I have to admit that it was not my station, I was merely there as a “model” to sit in front of the equipment!

I was a young member of the Romford and District Amateur Radio club (RADARS) and one of our regular members there was Roy Stevens, G2BVN, He was later to become President of the RSGB. He needed somebody young to appear on the front cover of the publication and chose me.

I don’t remember too much about it and I had not got a licence at that time. I do know that “Steve”, as he was known, did later lend me some equipment to get me on the air. Somewhat ironically, he was a fire insurance surveyor, a job that I was to qualify as, some eight years later but we never met professionally. Although I did come across some of his reports.

Roy Stevens, sadly developed Motor Neurones Disease and died after a few years. But he was a big name in ham radio and the RSGB. His call was known around the world and he had many ex RAF colleagues and friends. He also did a lot to help and encourage youngsters like myself to get a ham radio licence. Peter G3OJV

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China v Japan and The £79 Radio!   August 13th, 2013

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We have certainly seen a big influx of ham radio equipment from China over the past two years. It has mainly been VHF and UHF models. This is because there is a mass of this kind of equipment in China. I have been to the shows and seen stand after stand, selling this equipment. Much of it is well below the standard we would expect in the West. But a few factories have the ability to produce the better quality products and we have been importing YouKits HF equipment for several years.

In truth, much of what we have in our radio shacks comes from China bearing the well known names of Yaesu, Kenwood and Icom. So let’s not kid ourselves that equipment from China is anything new. In some case it is the finished article and in other cases it is some of the internal boards, or accessories.

It is difficult to imagine that any Japanese company that sets up in China, will not be the source of a potential break away work force that tries to go it alone. And of course there are ham operators in China that have the technical ability, and probably can raise the funds from the government, to go into production.

Somewhat rather timely we have seen the announcement of the new Yaesu FT-252E 2m handheld. At £79.95 inc. VAT with full CE, and available in two weeks time, this is most certainly a fight back against the Chinese. But where is it made? Certainly not in Japan!

For those who think that China is the next source of high tech. ham equipment I would say; don’t be too sure! There is a good deal of top gear coming from Eastern Europe and I have been very impressed from what I have seen emerging from India.

China will continue to swamp the world with their mass market products, but my guess is that the specialist items and the high tech. ones are still some way off as far as China is concerned. And don’t think that the big three will sit back and let it happen. They have the power and ability to react. They just happen to be a bit slow in doing so! Peter G3OJV>

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Having celebrated 40 years in the ham radio business, it follows that we have also been in Hockley for the same amount of time. As fas as I know, there is no photo of our original shop in Hockley, although I have not given up hope of find one.

We have been in our present premises for 23 years which makes it the longest period over which we have been in one shop. This present shop by the way is our fourth one in the village. Yes Hockley is quite small and we still rank as a village. We are not the oldest shop here by any means. That privilege goes to the local ironmongers a few doors down the road.

So whilst we are not the oldest we have become somewhat of a landmark because of the angle of the building which you easily notice as you enter Hockley and of course the mass of antennas on the roof. These have just grown with time.

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I was on the roof the other day and frankly there are some antennas up there for which I have no idea of their history or indeed if they are connected to any of the vast number of cables coming through the wall of our building. After 23 years, some of the labels have gone!

This occasional venture onto the roof of our budding reminded me that we do not often publish a picture of what we look like. So I got up early on Sunday morning before all the traffic built up and took a few pictures of 22, Main Road, Hockley. And here is the result. The flags you see are left over from our recent Open Day.

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If you are a 4m and 6m fan, then the picture above shows a close up of our new InnovAntennas dual 4m and 6m Yagi.

So if you are thinking of visiting us, perhaps for the first time, now you know what to look for. We have our own car park at the front of the building which makes it even easier to visit us.. Peter G3OJV.

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