Rig Control with RUMlogNG

My workspace for my radio gear is pretty limited, therefore space is at a premium. The Toshiba Tecra M2 which I used as my station computer for many years finally reached the end of its life, with none of the major operating systems supporting non-PAE chipsets. Not ready to purchase a laptop just for radio operations, I was hoping that I could use a more contemporary platform for operations – an iPad.

A quick search around and I came across RUMlogNG, which is easily the best logging interface I have seen in a ham radio iPad app that is modestly priced.

RUMlogNG Logging Page

One of the more interesting features was that basic interaction with your radio was possible (reading of frequency, mode), with the suggestion to use one of Pignology’s Piglets. Reading the specifications of the piglet, it became apparent that what it was doing was taking the serial CAT interface of the rig control, and making it accessible over wifi network to connected devices by streaming the serial data out of a TCP port.

Armed with this information, went looking for alternative ways to connect serial interfaces to RUMlog, and happened across this forum post, talking about an app called remserial. After attaching a Serial to USB Converter to a Raspberry Pi, I was able to run the below command as root:

pi@raspberrypi ~/remserial-1.4 $ ./remserial  -p 7373 -s "9600 raw" /dev/ttyUSB0

The app did not crash when I tried this, so I assumed it was running, and then configured RUMlogNG to connect to the Raspberry Pi on port 7373. Success! RUMlog did not throw any errors and back on the logging screen, I saw that frequency and mode was being updated off the radio.

Rig Control with RUMlog

RD Contest 2015

This weekend I participated in my first radio contest in at least 3 years with the annual WIA Remembrance Day Contest. This is a 24 hour points based contest, open to all VK, ZL and P2 stations.

The first thing that was noticeably different was that the rules had changed. The biggest change is that the QSO exchange no longer swaps an incrementing serial number, but instead the number of years the person has held their license. I can understand why this was done (so people do not get discouraged when hearing people with serials of 400+ indicating 400 QSOs, and giving up), but it does introduce a new issue of knowing exactly what the report is going to be if you have worked that station multiple times. You could go to the extreme in saying that an exchange of callsigns would be suffice after the first contact!

As with every RD contest, I worked both HF and VHF/UHF, the latter being advantageous in that there are a local group of operators who are easy to contact every 3 hours.

Indeed this was a good thing, as conditions were so poor on HF this year do to a geomagnetic storm, some 15 of the 35 unique callsigns I worked were local, with VHF making up the bulk of my contacts, as demonstrated in the summary:

54 HF Contact vs 105 VHF Contacts

 

Working HF was just depressing, with pretty much nothing heard on 20m for most of the contest (VK4HH was the only one I heard regularly). Both 40m and 80m also seemed oddly bereft of people contesting in the evenings. I do hope that this is largely due to the solar storm impacting on operations, rather than less people participating.

I still enjoyed the contest, and met the goal of 150 QSOs I had set for myself as the contest was starting. This is a far cry from the 600+ contacts from the last serious contesting I did at Penstock Lagoon but as a first crack at contesting after I break. I am happy with the result.

I still remain unconvinced that my trap dipole is operating as well as it should (around a year ago someone cut the antenna element while I was having work done around the house, causing me to exchange some unpleasant words and having to replace a large section of dipole). This I will investigate in coming weeks, along with what I suspect will be the complete replacement of feed lines that have deteriorated from the many years in the sun.

Next year having a 160m antenna of some description will definitely be happening, or perhaps I will go portable in the North of the state.

It was good fun and I am looking forward to the next contest.

Back on 6m

6m Dipole
6m dipole finally in the air

I’m finally back on the 6m band. It wasn’t a cakewalk, with the dipole generally un-cooperative with the element parting ways with the Acro-bat insulator, and then finding the masthead pulley rope (pictured to the right in the photo) was no longer going up to the masthead, meaning that I needed to lower the mast to replace it.

1:1 coax balun made by VK7ZIF is the centre-feed, and I took the time to redo the PL259 connectors and waterproof them prior to reinstalling to make that particular joint a lot stronger than last time. It was this joint that led to the antenna’s demise a few years ago.

Plugged in, and tested, works a treat with low SWR, which was how I remembered it.

I’m looking at building a new and improved version of this antenna at some point using 2mm multi-strand stainless marine stainless steel wire, much the same as my HF dipole.

Attack of the RFI

After having a successful setup of the radio shack over the weekend, I took the HF rig to the local radio club, but when I returned, and plugged everything back in, BUZZZZZZZZZ. S20 over 9 noise. not good.

Troubleshooting kicked in. Whats changed? Earlier in the afternoon I had put up the 6m dipole antenna and finished working on installing an earthing stake and earth wires back to the rig. By process of elimination, I removed each. Noise still there.
It was late in the night by this point so I made an assumption that the noise was in fact being caused by nearby power lines having damp insulators, so went to bed with the though of investigating the issue if it existed the following day. Yes, it did exist the following day.

Read moreAttack of the RFI

Day 1

Today is the first day of getting back on air. It’s been a pretty full on day actually as I never anticipated the amount of things I needed to do to get everything working. I guess before I continue, I should mention one of these arrived in the mail for me yesterday:

My new Rig
No complaints about this arrival

The Yaesu FT-DX1200 is quite an upgrade from the trusty Icom 706-MkIIG, which has now been relegated to VHF/UHF Duties.

The joy of a playing with a new rig on Friday night was short lived – the new Yaesu draws 23.8A @ 13.8V peak. My power supply was a fair way short of this at 15A. operating would have to wait until Saturday. In the meantime, I could start getting a PC ready for rig control.

Let me just say, you will reach an inevitable point in time when hardware, although suitable for the purpose will not be supported by modern operating systems. I found out that upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 was not supported at 64bit, but was if I would find Windows 10 32bit. The problem here however is that the 32bit download tool will not work under 64bit Windows 7. joy.

I also managed to go out to Jaycar in the morning and buy a 40A switch-mode power supply. Some people will cringe, because these type of power supplies are notorious for causing RF interference (QRM). Fortunately I see very little QRM affecting the rigs.

Ham Radio Battle Station
The Battle Station. Win10 Installing

After installing Win10, I found that the drivers associated with the rig control interface cause the computer to crash. Dammit. back to Windows 7 I have gone. I think I have done about 5 OS install attempts in the last 24 hours.

Finally, I am getting around to configuring Ham Radio Deluxe to control the Rig. I am finding the lack of documentation in configuring the DX1200 quite frustrating and as I am writing this I am looking for information on how to sent PTT to the rig, which will probably take me into the evening.

After this, import my previous QSLs, set up VKCL for the RD Contest in a couple of weeks and start doing a more thorough configuration of HRD.

 

 

Reactivating the Station

Realistically, I haven’t been on air much in the last 7 years. Other interests and real life have seen tinkering with amateur radio come a distance last to everything else.

Occasionally I would have a listen around the band, make a half-hearted CQ DX call, or try to contact that station in amongst the pileup, usually turning off the rig some 30 minutes later.

However, thanks to a renewed interest by some of the people who helped me get into the hobby, and with some of my newer friends taking the opportunity to get licensed themselves, I find myself growing in enthusiasm to get back on air.

As part of this, I felt I would also bring back my website. Sadly much of the information from the original 2008 website has been lost, but some still remains and will make it up here eventually.

Thanks for joining on this new adventure!