Thursday, December 18, 2014

FT-817ND CD Jewel Case Stand

When researching the Yaesu FT-817ND before I bought one, I ran across this neat little stand design by KR1ST, which uses a jewel case from a CD or DVD as the raw material. The only tools needed to make one are a sharp knife and a straight edge. Check out his site for instructions.






Since I had the case it didn't cost anything, and it took about five minutes to make.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

First QRP QSO

I had my first QSO using my Yaesu FT-817ND QRP rig and the Ultimax-100 antenna on my roof. Transmitting on 5 watts using the PSK-31 mode, I was able to complete a QSO with W0TY in St. Charles, MO. That's 823 miles from me.

Before W0TY replied to my CQ, a couple other hams did but when I replied to them directly they didn't come back. Such is the nature of radio communication, especially at low power.

To control the rig I used my Apple iPad 2 running PSKER, connected using an Easy Digi interface from KF5INZ.


Clifford Wareham, KF5INZ makes the Easy Digi interface for more than just Apple iThingies, and will supply the correct cables to connect your device to your rig. Highly recommended. The interface I bought will also work with my iPhone. Using either my iPad or iPhone, Clifford's little box in combination with my FT-817ND makes for a very portable digital communications setup.

Friday, December 05, 2014

LiPo Battery Setup

This morning I took a picture of the LiPo battery for the FT-817ND, along with the charger and low-voltage checker. The charger weighs only a few ounces while the checker's weight is negligible.



Sunday, November 30, 2014

Extra Capacity Battery for the FT-817ND

After getting some recommendations from the Arfcom Ham Forum, I ordered a 5,000 mAh battery for the FT-817ND, a battery tester/low voltage alarm, and a battery charger from Hobbyking.com, who sells it in for use in radio controlled cars.
In contrast, the Yaesu FNB-85 NiMH battery pack has a capacity of only 1,400 mAh.
Lithium-polymer batteries have been adopted by many hams for portable use because they pack a lot more amp hours into a smaller, lighter package than AGM or SLA batteries.
I’m really looking forward to getting the FT-817ND into the field.

Edit 12/3/14:

I ordered the battery, charger, and voltage tester on Sunday 11/30, and received it from Hobbyking today, Wednesday, 12/3. When I got it I was confused at first because the Molex-type connector doesn't match the one on the radio. It turns out that it is the connector for charging the battery. The large red and black wires with bullet connectors are for powering other devices. I'm planning to cut off the bullet plugs and replace them with Anderson Power Poles.

Edit 12/4/14:

Here it is, with Power Poles installed.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Yaesu FT-817ND

For awhile I’ve been looking for a small ham HF transceiver that I can bring with me on hikes or while camping. Some features I was looking for include:

  • Good battery life
  • Light weight/small size
  • Can transmit and receive on both 80M and 40M, for NVIS use.
  • SSB capability, since I don’t know code (maybe someday).
  • Reasonable cost.

I really wanted the Youkits TJ5A to meet my needs, but unfortunately it doesn’t do 80M. There are a lot of QRP rigs for under $1,000 but most of them are for CW. MFJ makes the 94xx series (9417 for 17M, 9420 for 20M, and the 9440 for 40M, etc.) but from what I’ve read they aren’t suitable for digital modes due to too much drift.

So, the two leading contenders for my use were the Yaesu FT-817ND and FT-857D. Both of them not only support HF ops, but also 2M and 70cm, and are all-mode. E.g, I’ll be able to try out 2M SSB, whereas most VHF radios are FM-only.

I would up getting an FT-817ND at the Delaware Ham Radio Outlet. I chose it over the 857D because it is tiny and has less current draw. Along with the radio I got an LDG Z-817H tuner, which is rated for up to 50W, in case I ever get an amp for the rig.

FT-817ND

In the picture above I put my Victorinox Farmer Swiss Army Knife on top of the rig for scale. It’s 3.5” long.

The rig can be powered via 8 AA cells in an internal bay, a rechargeable battery pack that goes in the same bay, or an external DC power source.

The DC power cord that ships with the FT-817ND has a plug that connects into the radio and bares wires on the other end. I’m currently using one of these adapters from Powerwerx to connect the rig to my power supply. Quicksilver Radio sells a replacement cord with Power Poles already installed on the ends, which I’ll get if I can’t install the APPs to my satisfaction.

Since the FT-817ND is all-mode capable on all bands, that means you can use SSB on 2M or 70cm. The vast majority of 2M/70cm rigs are FM-only, but the 817 opens up the possibility of not just SSB but digital modes like PSK-31 and MT63, for which you normally have the rig set to SSB. In a SHTF/WROL situation, this has the potential for increasing COMSEC, since most folks won’t be looking for it, nor be capable of decyphering your signals.

After I’ve had the chance to use the rig for awhile I’ll post a more in-depth article about it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Winter Tarp Shelter

I just ran across this video by IA Woodsman on how to construct a winter tarp shelter. It’s well worth watching.

Winter Tarp Shelter by IA Woodsman

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Building a Bucket Ham Repeater

As found at ModernSurvivalOnline.com:

The “Bucket Repeater” is a battery powered cross-band VHF/UHF repeater in a weather proof enclosure that can operate unattended for a week or more, and be remotely activated or deactivated from miles away as needed.

LINK.

I will say that he's probably get better performance by substituting a 1/4 ground plane or copper J-pole for the magnet mount antenna. The latter has the advantage of easy mounting, not to mention the fact that you can buy a decent one from Amazon for around $20, already assembled.

A cross-band repeater like this is valuable for groups who want to communicate over distances or terrain which would normally block an FM signal. For example, you might have two people who need to communicate via UHF or VHF, but one's home is located in a hollow, the sides of which block the radio signal. A cross-band repeater like the one described in the linked article could be placed up in a tree on an intervening hill, allowing two-way communication.

An alternative if you do not have a radio capable of cross band repeat is a simplex repeater like the MFJ-662 or Argent Data Systems ADS-SR1, which use the store-and-forward technique. A simplex repeater might be easier to setup, but cross band repeaters provide better realtime commo.