Category Archives: ham radio

A cheaper NiMH battery for your gear that lasts longer?

Eneloop AA battery for Yaesu FT-60What’s next Kris? – A car that runs on NO GAS? :p *chortle

In the picture we have a standard 1400mAh Yaesu FT-60 battery (FNB-83 on right) that lists for $65, next to an FT-60 AA pack (FBA-25 on left) with 6 Sanyo Eneloop AA’s which total out to $50 and that price is for the 8-pack, so you have 2 more rechargeable AA’s for your walkman. ;) I’m sure you could find the stock battery for cheaper, but even if they were the same price this new Eneloop pack lasts a third longer with 2000mAh of power.

Tech stuff: I numbered the batteries thinking that I may have to take them out and put them back in. This keeps them in the same order in the pack and I won’t mix in other batteries of various age and charge states. You also may notice the small piece of foil wrapped around the negative terminal of battery #6. This is done in order to mimic the factory battery pack. It may be part of its charging circuit, or simply may connect to the external charging pads found on the FNB-83. Either way – I want the FT-60 to recognize this as a rechargeable NiNH battery pack… because… that’s what it is. :| If you look closely, you’ll notice that the stock battery is just 6 AA sized cells sealed in the case. Now – This is actually a somewhat controversial modification that Yaesu won’t warrant, but it means that you can charge your new batteries in the unit. Controversial because if you are a moron – you can try to charge non-NiMH batteries and you will start a fire. A chemical / metal fire. Don’t bother reaching for the ABC class extinguisher. :eek: They also say something about about missing a temperature charging circuit in the AA case (thermistor maybe), but I can’t find one in the FNB-83, so I think this is part of the ‘cover your ass’ portion of their battery charging guide.

The Sanyo Eneloop is finally a good rechargeable battery worthy of your attention and their super flash marketing. I’m done buying ‘rechargeable’ batteries from companies that make the bulk of their money on disposables. I’ve had particularly horrible luck with bunny batteries. We got a charger and 4 of their batteries for Christine’s digital camera. After maybe 5 recharge cycles the battery life was down to 1/5th alkaline AA’s, and I’ll explain how charging them wrong was most of the problem.

Your super speedy rapid fast $9 plug in battery charger is crap. I discovered that keeping your batteries topped up and on the charger until use, is what’s killing them. I learned this too late to save a pile of NiMH Motorola TalkAbout batteries… sorry Earth. It’s A charging BASE. It’s where you keep your TalkAbout when not in use. It’s also plugged in and overcharging your batteries constantly. :mad:

The secret to making rechargeable batteries last? Effort. I know you don’t want an Excel sheet of your battery packs, voltage, and temp – so I’ll make this easy. Charge them up for no longer then 12 hours (overnight) and take them off the charger. I know the little green light comes on. I know the red light stops blinking. Take them off the charger! They’re ready to go! When they die, charge them! Don’t throw them in a drawer. Get them on the charger as soon as you can. After they have been charged up and sat in a drawer for 6 months – you’ll need to charge them again. Although with these new batteries that’s becoming less of an issue.

10 ECHO “Charge for 12 hours and stop.”
20 ECHO “Use Whenever.”
30 IF BATTERY = DEAD THEN 10
40 ELSE GOTO 20
50 END

Summary:
You can buy these off the shelf and they are ready to run.
You can get a better then stock NiMH battery for your gear.
They stay charged and ready for an emergency.
Check out the data.
Check out what the digital camera guys had to say.

I pushy, no workie.

I bought an Icom IC-2200H mobile 2 meter radio right after I got my license. It was the same price new as many of the used ones shipped via ebay. I’m still not sure why 3 year old radios sell for $20 less then brand new ones :confused: – and why people don’t take into account the $16.95 worth of shipping. For $4.05 more, you’re better off with a warranty – here’s why:

Several times when I was just getting the hang of using the radio I would push to transmit and nothing would happen. I would look down at the radio and be like – huh? Then I would push to transmit again and it would key up no problem for the rest of the day. I chalked this up to my inexperience with the unit.

A few months went by and it did it three times on one occasion. I was having a nice conversation on my way down to the shop. I was talking away and I heard the other person on the repeater over the radio key up and say something like: “Are you still there? Did you hit a dead spot??” While I was squeezing my mic and chatting away to no one apparently. “What the hell?” I keyed the mic up again and described my problems. Later in the QSO it did it twice more! At this point I knew something was wrong and it wasn’t my new license.

I brought it back to the good people of HRO in Anaheim, CA. They tried patiently to repeat the problem while in the store. I must have keyed up 100 times on some poor simplex frequency. :| I couldn’t get it to happen under controlled conditions. This is no surprise to me as a computer technician. :p

IC-2200 Push to talk PTT fail.
I offered up a solution. If I could get a picture of it in action – would that satisfy the warranty repair folks? They agreed and for the next 3 days I drove around with my digital camera practically guaranteeing that it wouldn’t fail anytime soon. :) I left the shop and made a call on the way home to the local SOARA repeater. I looked down and there it was! Red light on the microphone – NO transmit on the display! My IC-2200H had a PTT problem.

I pulled over, snapped some shots, and went to HRO the next day. They sent it right out to Icom for me and I had it back a couple weeks later. It came back with no real explanation of what was fixed – but that something WAS repaired. So, if you have experienced this problem: 1. It’s probably not your imagination. 2. It’s NOT the microphone. 3. Be glad you spent the extra $5 on the brand new rig. 4. I hope you get it fixed as quickly as I did.

Trackerbox

APRS Tracker Box KI6IUCCheck out the APRS tracker box I just built. This box hooks to 12 volts, an antenna, and a GPS puck. It transmits it’s location on programmed intervals through the radio to digipeaters in my area. These digis then transmit my location information to the internet. Check out findu.com.

I wanted the box to be as small as possible, so I ordered two sizes. The smallest one they had and the next size up. I used the tiny 9″ x 8″ x 4″ box. A bit of a squeeze, but it’s all in there. It’s a good thing you can take off the HTX-202’s battery. The idea is: I can throw this unit in any vehicle (car, truck, rally car, etc.) and track it from space. :)

The Byonics TinyTrak TNC with GPS receiver is around $120 with cables. The radio was $55 used on eBay and the connectors were found at the local electronics store and a swap meet. The powerpole chassis mount is wired up in series so that other hardware can be powered and either connection can be used.

My first satellite worked. SO-50

I started with AO-51 at 9:23, but I didn’t hear it at all. I am following the ‘if you can’t hear it, don’t transmit’ rule, but I think no one was on it. (over the ocean / day after field day) Next time I will try at least once to transmit. At 9:30 I gave up on the low AO-51 pass and moved on to the prime 53 degree SO-50 pass.

SO-50Now there is a bit of a trick to the SO-50 and that is its 10 minute timer. You need to turn the transmitter on by sending a tone for 2 seconds to the satellite. I expected that to have been done by many other hams working the bird as it passed. I didn’t hear much on the downlink until another station keyed up on the uplink frequency with the PL of 74.4. This turns the timer on. You can clearly hear it in my recording as it goes just about full quiet and XE2BHL calls out.

Needless to say, I’m stoked! There is a lot of things that go into tracking and contacting a satellite and any one of a number of issues can prevent you from hearing anything. I had an un-tuned antenna, a time problem (UTC -8 instead of -7), and a polarity issue (holding the antenna flat instead of upright). Finally hearing both SO-50 and AO-51 at Field Day made me a lot more confident in what I was doing.

Things I learned:
Don’t assume a ton of people will be on the satellite you’re working.
Listen first THEN transmit
AND when nothing is heard at all transmit at least once :p
Callsign in phonetics! Kilo India Six India Uniform Charlie
Delta Mike One Three (see grid squares)
Keep at it!

lego mp3 holder thingyI had to get clever and figure out a way to use my mp3 player / voice recorder (with no mic input) to record sounds off my hand held FT-60 transceiver. As you can see on the right, I still play with legos. :D It’s my lego mp3 holder thingy. That’s an earbud strapped to the small mic hole on my Creative mp3 player. It’s surprisingly not that bad! I was able to place it on the front seat of the car while I was outside yeilding my antenna around. This kept a lot of the ambient noise down and I was able to record my very first satellite QSO!

SO-50 6/25/2007 9:37PM PST – XE2BHL – DM12 – Jose in Tijuana, Mexico
KI6IUC first satellite contact – MP3

CQ Field Day

SOARA Field Day 2007This weekend was the annual ARRL Field Day. Celebrated by hams across the country, the (24 hour) event is part contest, part emergency exercise. Groups obtain a higher score the more “off the grid” they are. Point bonuses are awarded for alternate energy sources, such as portable generators, solar, and battery powered transmitters. The idea is to demonstrate to the public – A. We’re geeks and we’re having a good time. AND B. We are the people that will be relaying a message to your loved ones when the power goes down due to a natural disaster, etc.

I went into my first field day weekend with a little trepidation. I tried to figure out what the activities were going to be (of the various clubs in the area) before spending a full weekend with one particular group. My objectives were: Have a good time, learn more about ham radio, tune my homebuilt antenna, learn more about satellites, meet some folks, play with APRS, have a good time. ;)

Later Friday night after visiting some other field day sites, I stopped by The Southern Orange Amateur Radio Association’s location. A relaxed group of folks, SOARA held their field day activities in Mission Viejo’s Gilleran Park. Friday was merely a get together BBQ to plan the various stations and activities for Saturday. As I pulled into the parking lot I saw a familiar face. Tom AE6SH, who volunteers as an EMT/ham for many rallies in the Southwest, greeted me with an: “I know you!” I was quickly introduced around to club members and started to get an idea about what field day was going to be like with SOARA. Three towers. All modes, all bands, APRS, D-Star, satellites, etc. When I asked what OSCAR satellites would be worked, Vlad KI6BLP said only: “All of them.” To which I could only respond: “Awesome!” :D

Saturday morning, up at 6:30 and off to Gilleran Park. I helped string lines and lift towers. At 11:00AM K6SOA was on the air! Everything was well planned and well placed. They use a contest tracking program on wireless laptops to log every contact and check for duplicates instantly (reminder: this is in tents – in a park – on generator power :p ). I grabbed my headphones and jumped in with Greg N6REG on the BIG 20 Meter antenna. He logged a ton of voice contacts while I typed them into the laptop. Stations were calling “CQ Field Day” from all over the US. I got excited when we heard from Western Florida, even more excited when we talked to Western Massachusetts!

handi-tenna based on K5OELater in the day, I cracked out my home built ‘handi-tenna‘. This antenna is based on K5OE’s design for a small, portable, cheap – satellite antenna. The only tiny problem is you need an expensive analyzer to tune it. :| Up until now I was unable to find someone with the right equipment. In a matter of minutes I had a device in my hand that told me my antenna was tuned to 420Mhz. As the birds are on 436Mhz, I would have to trim it a little. (Birds = slang for satellites) An hour or so of fiddling and I had it set in the 435-440 range. Thanks Richard K6RBS for the analyzer!

I took a break and went and grabbed Christine. I convinced her to come back with me to field day and she brought some ‘busy work’ just in case she got bored. The good news is, after listening to some contacts and hearing CW (morse code) on 20 meters, she enjoyed hanging out and logging with some of the SOARA operators. I know she was most excited working with me operating on 40 meters when we made a contact with a station in Nevada, as it was the first one from that state.

The work on the handi-tenna payed off later that night, when I was able to track and listen to SO-50. I won’t go into all the details of how an FM voice satellite contact works, but I was able to hear Vlad KI6BLP call the clubs K6SOA callsign FROM the satellite. This is with my $11 antenna, handheld radio, and headphones. Thirty minutes later an even better pass of AO-51 came over the ocean. I was able to copy dozens of callsigns from Southern California to Washington State a lot clearer then I ever expected. Previous to this I had tried working satellites on three separate occasions with no luck. To learn more about amateur radio satellite communications, click here.

We left the site around 10:00PM and headed home for some sleep. I returned on Sunday morning to help for the remaining four hours of the contest. I helped Heiko AD6OI and Patti AD6OH on the 6 meter antenna. It was pretty quiet on the band and only after calling “CQ Field Day CQ Field Day this is Kilo Six Sierra Oscar Alpha” about 30 times did we make a few contacts. I got to check out D-STAR with Biran NJ6N’s setup. We watched a webcam broadcast from a field day site in Washington – over the ICOM ID1’s internet connection.

Tear down was quick and everyone pitched in to carefully pack the towers, rope, cable, and radios back into storage and the various vehicles that had brought the equipment. I had an awesome time and I want to thank and shout out to: AD6OI, AD6OH, AE6SH, AE6H, KI6BLP, NJ6N, K6RBS, and N6REG! I look forward to participating more in SOARA’s activites in the future!

So what the hell Kris?

It seems as if every few years I remember I have a web log or *cough ‘blog‘ here at the home base – planetkris.com. I once again will remind you that I’m usually busy over at rallynotes.com with my rally adventures. As a spin off to rally, I recently got my amateur radio technician license and have been getting into a lot of new activities and clubs, etc. As an established geek, I’ll be posting about that from now on here. Check out the ham radio stuff on rallynotes if you want to keep up.

Christine pointed out to me that I still have posts from 2005 on the main page. :p
Speaking of the SunMoonStarsGirl, she has a new gallery up.

While you’re busy checking that stuff out – I’ll be working on my ARRL Field Day post.

Other top items:
I’m getting married in August. Honeymoon in Tahiti.
I started a motorsports company. I’m doing contract tech work in the mean time.
I still live in California.

-and we’re done here!