Year: 2014

SOTA activation: YO/EC-520 Seciu peak

After more than 2 months of ugly weather – wich included a full consecutive 30 days of overcast sky, the days around Christmas are finally taking a turn on this side of the world. The Christmas Eve morning caught me in my hometown of Ploiesti, with a long list of chores ahead; luckily, outside was the clearest and bluest sky I’ve seen in months, and I immediately thought of the SOTA bag I was carrying in the car and the new antenna I had to test. So after helping my father with a few things around town, I took off for the closest and most accessible SOTA peak: YO/EC-520, Seciu peak. This little guy is only 406m tall (1 point, no season bonus) and is one of the smallest I’ve ever activated, the only one below it being YO/MM-005. It is known thanks to the famous wine maker and touristic complex right on top of it “Casa Seciu”, usually reserved for the high-ranking members of the communist party before the 1989 revolution. Now it’s open for everyone and I had the chance to visit it about 3 years ago, take a tour of the wine cellars, taste their excuisite cooking and purchase a few unique bottles “for closer examination”. All the mountain is a big vineyard and adhering to the SOTA rules I had to park the car and...

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Icom’s new flagship: IC-7851

Icom just posted their new flagship product on the japanese website: IC-7851. It doesn’t seem to be a completely new product – as the front panel is almost identical to the IC-7800, but appearences can be misleading. Icom claims redesigned insides for the IC-7851, aimed at improving performance “no matter what cost”. They targeted the LO (much lower phase noise local oscillator), the DSP (we might finally have a working bandscope), the exciter BPF block is now relay-switched (as the PIN diodes bring some distorsions into the mix) and they added few more bells and whistles such as USB mouse support, DVI display output and SP-DIF audio I/O. There is also a new 1.2kHz “OPTIMUM ROOFING FILTER” on the 1st IF (64MHz). Probably the most effort was put into improving performance as the IC-7800 didn’t really measure up to the competiton from Yaesu and Kenwood, so the new figures for Reciprocal Mixing Dynamic Range look impressive: Official claim is 110dB dynamic range and +40dBm IP3, wich is competitive enough. The price point for the Icom IC-7851 in the japanese market is 1.1 million yen, wich is about US$9200 – both the Yaesu FTdx-5000MP and the Kenwood TS-990S were initially listed around US$8200. The complete list of specs below; not sure what’s with the limited TX range on 160m and 80m, might be a requirement of the japanese market. General...

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Yaesu FT-991 – full details and pricing

Some time ago I was posting about the replacement for the FT-897 from Yaesu, the FT-991. It is an all-band, all-mode radio with integrated tuner, 3.5″ TFT touch display and 32-bit IF DSP. Recently the Yaesu FT-991 has been listed on various sites and so the pricing has been revealed: – Gigaparts (USA): US$ 1800 (discounted to 1699)– Universal Radio (USA): US$ 1800 (discounted to 1699.95)– Ham Radio Outlet (USA): US$ 1699.95– Nevada Radio (UK): £ 999.00 (equivalent of US$ 1563)– Hamshop.nl (Netherlands):  € 1469.00 (equivalent of US$ 1842)The item is supposed to hit the shelves sometime in the spring of 2015. Of course, prices vary a bit and when there will be availability they will probably settle to a lower value. At the current average listed price I think it’s overpriced, partly because of the useless but expensive implementation of C4FM. It’s main competitor in the market is the Icom IC-7100 wich retails at about US$ 1275, but has been initially listed (early 2013) around US$ 1600. There has been created an official page for the FT-991 on the Yaesu website. The user manual can be downloaded at the moment from Hans’ (PD0AC) blog but they should pop up on the official website anytime...

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About the Rosetta comet landing mission

The Rosetta mission to study Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is getting ready to land the Philae probe on the comet surface, and it will be webcasted live: http://new.livestream.com/esa/cometlanding The comet’s magntic field oscillates at about 40-50miliHerz, and somebody translated the signal into audible spectrum, you can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/esaops/a-singing-comet The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Platige Image studios made a short movie / trailer to honor the event. It’s called AMBITION and can be viewed...

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VHF/UHF transceiver module for US$12 – Dorji DRA818

Dorji 808/818 are a series of FM transceiver modules based on RDA Micro’s RDA1845/6 chipsets (yes, the ones in the Baofeng / Pofung handhelds). They offer either VHF (134-174MHz) or UHF (400-470MHz) coverage, 0.5-1W RF power output, CTCSS/DCS and -122dBm sensitivity in a a package about the size of a coin (19mm*36mm). It really is a wonder of technology, packing the transceiver, DSP module and PA section in such a small footprint, that only retails for US$12: Basically you only have to add a few parts to have a complete transceiver, so not need to wonder anymore how does Baofeng manage to manufacture and sell handhelds for US$30 and still make a profit. You can probably do it yourself for even less: US$5 microcontroller, US$3 LCD, a US$2 audio amplifier and you can make your first QSO. There are 3 models out there: – DORJI 808M, based on RDA1845, lacks DCS and DSP audio filter, UHF only– DORJI 818U, based on RDA1846, has DCS and audio high-pass/low-pass/pre-emphasis, UHF– DORJI 818V, based on RDA1846, has DCS and audio high-pass/low-pass/pre-emphasis, VHF More details on the Dorji...

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CQWW SSB 2014 fail

I wanted to take part in CQWW SSB this year, as usual in the SOSB QRP category. This year I chose the 10m band as propagation was looking good, and I was planning to install another antenna especially for this purpose. Unfotunately, the weather defeated me in a big way. The vertical  was already damaged for some time and I didn’t get around to fix it as the 41m long OCFD was working just as good. My plan was to fix the vertical and to install a 10m tuned horizontal dipole aimed at Europe and NA in the evening before the contest, but it was cold and it was still raining. So, I decided to do it during the contest when Asia propagation starts to fade away and NA doesn’t kick in yet; after all, the weather forecast was better, I will need a break anyway at a certain point, and I had the OCFD that was enough to work the stronger stations. Well, I can definetely say now that I won’t ever trust again the weather forecast. On Saturday morning the wind was really strong, so strong in fact that it broke one arm of my OCFD, an antenna that was holding in all kinds of weather for 3 years. This happened about 30 minutes into the contest, I tried to use the vertical but no luck, I...

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Portable SDR transceiver with integrated VNA and GPS

The field of amateur Software Defined Radio is moving quickly nowadays and the latest spawn is something really interesting: a portable SDR transceiver that integrates a Vector Network Analyzer and a GPS module. This thing covers up to 30MHz (plus 144Mhz band) and is open source, so basically it can do whatever you want it to as long as you’re good with software and can hack the hardware a bit. The brain is a STM32F429 microcontroller running at 168MHz; while it’s integrated ADC’s are really modest (12-bit, 7.2Msps) compared to other SDR equipment out there, they can offer good receive performance in this application. It also comes with a nice color TFT LCD and everything you will ever need to know about it can be found on it’s Hackaday page. The interface is a love it or hate it kind of thing: it’s just a rotative encoder with an integrated push button. That’s it, all the options can be (sooner or later) accessed from it. While initally I thought it was the most useless thing ever created, I gave it a second thought: hey, this small box of smartness is supposed to be a portable equipment and it very rarely happened to me to need more than 3 controls while I was backpacking with any of my radios. There is a USB present if you want a real control...

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