FT-817 Now Has Auto ATU   December 31st, 2013

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I am often asked about the FT-817 and when Yaesu are going to bring out an Auto ATU for it. Well I think the bad news is never. They have had many years to do this and there is no sign that one is on its way. However, the good news is that there already is one in the shape of the T1-A from Elecraft. It is small enough to strap on the side of the FT-817 with velcro, and there is no control data lead needed. Just take the output from the FT-817 into the T1-A, and your antenna into the T1-A. It will handle coax cable and end fed wires. You can also use it for balanced feeder if you use a blun.

The T1-A runs from a PP3 battery and only draws currebt when actually tuning. Once tuned, the relays stay in a latched position and draw no current.

So for those who want an FT-817 with Auto ATU here is the answer. It exists now and is in stock at W&S. Peter G3OJV.

A FEW MORE CW CONSIDERATIONS   December 29th, 2013

Recently I talked a bit about CW and learning this mode. But it is also interesting to learn how different operators set up their CW stations. Most operators use paddle keys which link to the transceiver’s internal electronic keyer. It reduces the amount of wrist movement needed to send characters. Iambic keying is another option which reduces wrist movement even more by automating repetitive dot dash or dash dot sequences. But a few operators still stick with the straight key and keep their wrists flexible! It’s very much a personal choice.

When it comes to receiving CW there are a wider range of options open to you. In days gone by, the receive IF filter bandwidth was fixed and not very narrow. Today, we can reduce bandwidths down to 100Hz or less, so only the wanted signal is heard. This does require quite accurate tuning and and a good slow motion dial. But for some, this kind of operation is not they work. For contest work you often need to be able to hear through a wider bandwidth so that you can hear other stations calling, and they may not be exactly on your frequency. In this case, operators tend to use their brains rather than a narrow receiver filter.

There are also other receiver options. Elecraft owners have the option of stereo CW reception where signals are placed left to right, depending upon their pitch. Some operators find this makes receiving and distinguishing signals that much easier. Another effect that can be switched in on the Elecraft K3 and KX3 is a kind of spacial CW reception which again, some operators find easier on the ear. And for netting onto a station’s frequency, quite a few transceivers now feature a control that makes it easy to “zero” beat onto a CW station by means of comparing your received audio signal pitch with your internal audio audio sidetone signal. In fact some designs even make the whole process automatic and adjust the transceiver frequency for

CW is a skill, and like most skills, each person has his or her favourite approaches and methods of operation. There is nothing quite like CW combining operator challenge and operational pleasure. Peter G3OJV

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A NEW MODE FOR A NEW YEAR!   December 26th, 2013

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During the holiday period, we are often given to pondering on the coming year. I am sure many hams give some thought to how they can make changes to their radio station or consider alternative operating modes. A mode that often comes up in conversation is CW. You either love it or hate it. But to hate it, you have to try it first!

CW is the oldest form of data communication, but is unique in that it is the only mode that requires a level of skill before you can even begin to use it. There is a very distinct learning curve and it is the element of learning that probably puts many off. So perhaps the holiday period is just the time to take the plunge?

There has been much written about CW training, but it can be learnt without any outside help, simply by listening. That’s how I leaarnt. Check the RSGB and ARRL sites for slow CW transmission times. I think that there are some web sites as well that can help you. Try the approach of concentrate on the rhythm of characters, because as your speed increases, this is what you will be listening for. I learnt to read CW before I worried about sending it. There is a good reason for this approach. When reading, you cannot know what the character is until it has been sent, at which time the next character begins. So your brain is both working out what the character was sent as well as listening to the next character. There is a kind of brain time lag for reading the code. No such lag occurs when sending. In fact it is almost the reverse. You know what you are going to send before you send it.

I have met lots of hams in recent years who have taken up CW well after they have become licensed, and a very high percentage have stuck with it and become quite proficient CW operators. It is a skill that once learnt, never really leaves you. So if you are think about what to do during the holiday period. or indeed during the coming year, then give a thought towards CW. It could change your whole way of operation and open up a completely new aspect of ham radio for you. _ _ . . . . . . _ _ Peter G3OJV

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Happy Christmas   December 25th, 2013

It is Christmas Day and all the staff at Waters & Stanton wish you a very happy Christmas and an enjoyable break. We will be open again on Friday, but will be closing at 4pm on this day and also the following day, Saturday.

Myself and my wife, Sue, will be playing in our Church music group later today (10am) and then it is back home to a traditional Christmas dinner. Over the Christmas holiday there is the usual Christmas ham radio contest to occupy you, if you so wish, for a couple of hours each day.

Ham radio provides the opportunity to wish fellow beings all over the world, a message of good will and a happy holiday. People that you will almost certainly never see, and often never speak to again. In some ways this is a very special privilege. What other hobby provides such a unique opportunity?

Peter G3OJV.

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An Antenna Story With A Happy End!   December 24th, 2013

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I was pleased to be able to re-introduce a range of antennas similar yo ones we once sold many years ago. The original manufacturer was located in Japan and carried the name of Sagant. The range featured end fed designs and they found a wide acceptance for both portable and base station work. The only real problem was that even twenty years ago, they were expensive. This is a common feature of low production items made in Japan. So what is so special about an end fed antenna?

For portable work it makes a lot of sense. These antennas are a half wave long and so have the same basic function and radiation pattern as a dipole. A dipole (or half wave) antenna has its point of maximum radiation in the centre and for portable work, that means a significant length of coax feeder cable is needed when using the traditional diple. This adds to weight and often presents a problem if there is no support masts. How much better if you only need a short length of feeder that is near ground level whilst allowing you to throw the “dipole” over a tree branch. A similar advantage can be achieved from a window position by end feeding. All you need do is to throwing the length of wire element out of the window towards a fence or tree. In fact many end fed arrangements end up as “slopers,” a configuration which can often produce some interesting radiation patterns. You could even run an end fed up the side of a fibre glass mast and base feed it. There are lots of other options.

The new range we are now selling carries the familiar Watson logo and are of a very high standard of construction. The end fed matching box, fitted with an SO-239 socket, is weatherproof. The wire element itself is virtually unbreakable. It comprises a PVC covered length of copper weave with a centre core of Kevlar. This not only makes it very strong, but also means that it cannot stretch and go out of resonance. And for adjusting the resonant point there is a fine tune system at the far end of the element. All in all it is a very exciting design for the average small garden. Peter G3OJV

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The Final Fusion Chapter   December 24th, 2013

I have written a few notes about my experience with my 27 inch iMac and the Fusion drive. It is generally accepted that there is a current problem when using these drives for music production with an external sound card. This of course is now absolutely essential for even the most basic setup, because the latest iMac has no facility for inputting a signal other than via its built in mic.

To be fair to Apple, the internal sound card works fine but you cannot access it outside of the iMac. And I am sure that Apple will come up with a solution as there is no reason why the idea of a small fast drive piggy backed on a slower but larger drive, should not work with music production. After all, it seems to work for most other applications.

The popular work-around is to run the system from an external hard drive or to bust the connection between the Fusion and internal spinning drive, so that you end up with two quite separate drives. I have already proved that an external drive solves the problem and in my case I used a 1TB Lacie with thunderbolt connection. In fact this does not work as fast as you may expect because whilst the thunderbolt drive can handle large volumes of data rapidly, the fact that the Lacie drive is running at 5400 rpm, does restrict the data flow. And for the same reason, busting the Fusion drive connection internally , still leaves you with a slower 5400 internal drive, which is what the Fusion systems use.
So my final decision has been to talk with Apple and agree a swap to a basic 1TB SATA drive system. This gives me the advantage of a faster 7200 storage drive and of course there should now be no conflict with an external music sound cards. But more importantly, I can now purchase a 256GB SSD external drive and use this as the boot and system disc. This should give me a fast boot up time and I will also have the advantage of a faster main drive. This will not match Fusion for ultimate speed of program operation, but my betting is that the speed drop will not be that significant, even when running my music software.

The final thought is that SSD seems the obvious way forward and the Fusion drive may well be sen to be an interim setup until SSD drives come down in price. This may well prove to result in a rather short life span for fusion drives. Time will ,as always. tell. Peter Waters

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It’s Christmas!   December 24th, 2013

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It is that time of year again, when we often spend more money than we should, eat more than we should, and pay the penalty when we weigh ourselves and get the credit card statement through the letter box or on our screens.

To join in with the festivities, we held our annual Christmas Open Day on Saturday the 14th here at Hockley. As usual it was great to meet old and new customers and to generally have a good time. We supplied the usual free food and drink and had some trade friends come along as well.

The picture above shows from left to right (excluding Father Christmas!) Don Field G3XTT PW editor, Jeff Stanton, Graham from bhi and Ailsa from Yaesu UK.

And to show that it was not all eating and drinking, the photo below shows Peter Waters G3oJV operating our Elecraft station on 10m which coincided with the ARRL 10m contest.

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It was a great time and we will surely do it again next year. Peter G3OJV

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Keep On Demonstrating   December 21st, 2013

It is good to see that 10m has been performing well again. It was the same around this time last year.

I was operating our club station G0PEP, last Saturday and this coincided with the ARRL 10m contest. The band was bursting with activity and some onlookers were very impressed with the way I was working one station after another. Enough to ask some questions about the hobby. There is nothing better than hearing stations from all over the world to demonstrate the hobby. But this level of activity is not always available for public demonstration. Her at W&S we are fortunate in having a 3 element Yagi at 50ft, and this certainly helps.

But sometimes the bands are noises and have little activity. This is certainly not the best way to demonstrate ham radio. But that is the nature of the hobby. And clubs around the UK should continue to operate demonstration stations because there is no doubt that it attracts attention of the passing public and can be the trigger for newcomers to the hobby. Peter G3OJV.

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And even a few more thoughts on the Fusion drive that has been causing me some initial problems.

It is generally accepted for music DAW setups, that an external drive be added to the system. This is because the hard drive head can only read or write at any one time. It can’t to both. So if a separate hard drive is employed this somewhat reduces the load on the system. So an extra drive is not a bad idea. You cannot get away from the fact that all this work has resulted from the inability of a Fusion drive to handle audio correctly. Or perhaps we should say that the setup in the current Apple PCs does not permit external audio operation. Another possibility is to partition the Fusion drive so that either the data files or the program and data files, are installed in the new partition. This would in effect bypass the SSD section. One point to consider is that as the Apple hard drive is only 5400rpm, it might be better to stick to an external 7200rpm drive connected via Thunderbolt.

If I have any other bright ideas I will let you know. Peter G3OJV

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Apple Fusion Drive – More Progress   December 19th, 2013

Having spent a little more time on the Appple Fusion drive problem, I have been testing another way of working that is showing promising results.

I have placed a short cut on the main desktop, to the Logic application I had installed on my external hard drive. (This was done using Carbon Copy a few days ago). The disc is a Lacie Thunderbolt drive. Then I open the iMac as normal using its internal Fusion drive, but open the music program that is installed on the external Thunderbolt drive. So far this seems to retain the speed of the Fusion drive, whilst avoiding any audio break up. Today I have left Logic running on a loop for about two hours. There is no sign of any audio break up. I have also now installed iTunes on the external drive, and again this seems to run just fine.

This current setup now lets me use the iMac for running most of my programs from the Fusion drive, whilst at the same time the short cuts to iTunes and Logic Pro X automatically boots up these two music based programs from the external drive.

It’s still a work around, but is the best option so far. In fact, many computer musicians and composers use external drives anyway for storing files. So perhaps this is not so much of an inconvenience as it would first appear. Peter G3OJV

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