“73 magazine” online archive!

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73magazine imageIf you have been into HAM Radio for a bit longer time, you might remember this; “73 Magazine”.

It was a United States-based amateur radio magazine that was published from 1960 to 2003.

The magazine was known for its deep technical articles and for the lengthy editorials in each issue by its publisher and founder; Wayne Green.

A friend of mine, who is also a radio amateur (PA8ZB) send this download link to me with all their issues in electronic format.

When I got the link, the first thing I wanted to do was to see what was popular in the month and year I was born. 🙂

It was funny to see what was popular then, and also what the prices were. You cannot find radios for that price anymore, but I guess inflation has a lot to do with that! 😉

You can find the “73 magazine” online archive if you follow the link below.
https://archive.org/details/73-magazine

As you can see, it’s all legal and available on www.archive.org , a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music etc… That’s anyway a nice site to browse through when you feel nostalgic.

Enjoy going through history with all the (HAM) info you can find there! 🙂

 

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Posted in Digital HAM Blog by Cees (PA1CA). Comments Off on “73 magazine” online archive!

New version of my DX Cluster app for Android!

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Screenshot Mircules DX Cluster Lite

I put a new version of my app; Mircules HAM DX Cluster for Android, in the Google play store!

After a lot of testing I finally put this version live.

This is the first version that has Bluetooth CAT support for the popular Yaesu FT-8×7 radios!

What’s New ?

  • I added the 60m (5 mHz) band
  • I added automatic refresh every 5 minutes. This needs to be turned ON in the settings.
  • I added Bluetooth CAT support for the Yaesu FT-817nd and FT-857d. This is the first (beta) version of CAT support so any bug reports are greatly appreciated! Go to our website (www.mircules.com) for more info or visit our YouTube channel.
  • General bug fixes.

You’re probably wondering why the Yaesu FT-897 is not mentioned in the CAT Bluetooth functionality? This is because I didn’t have such a device available for testing so I cannot 100% say that it will work. Off the record 😉 I can say that it will most likely work!

As with all updates; if you like the new functionality, please rate and review the app in the store. If you find bugs or have any other remarks please let us know so I can do something about it! 🙂

You can find my app here Mircules.HAM.DXCluster.Lite.Android


YouTube video with Bluetooth CAT Demo


Posted in app store DXCluster ham radio apps Technology by Cees (PA1CA). Comments Off on New version of my DX Cluster app for Android!

Unboxing of the QYT KT 8900 mini mobile radio

After searching the smallest VHF/UHF transceiver with still enough power I found one that looks great and has the right specifications.

It’s a dual band (2m / 70cm band) transceiver, 25 watt maximum power and VERY small.

The model is the QYT KT-8900 from China.

I made a video that shows the unboxing of this little gem.

Some links where you can find these transmitters:
Aliexpress Link 1
Aliexpress Link 2
Aliexpress Link 3

Or just Google the type name of the transmitter and you will find one! 😉

Programming software for this little rig you can find here.


Posted in HAM Blog by Cees (PA1CA). 4 Comments

Cheap, Cheaper, Cheapest Handheld!

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Handheld BoxLately I have been listening a lot to the most popular repeater here in the Netherlands (PI3UTR).

I need to travel for work and listening to this repeater is a nice distraction. I now and then also talk with people but most of the time I’m just listening.

Until a few weeks ago I took my handheld in and out of the car every time I went somewhere. This wasn’t so comfortable for me so I decided to find a cheap handheld that I would be able to keep in the car.

People that know me will not be surprised that I started looking on the biggest Chinese site for this; AliExpress. Lately one of my favorite shopping sites. 🙂

After looking around a bit on the site I decided to buy a VHF only handheld. Most interesting repeaters for me are on the 2 meter band so UHF wasn’t necessary.

A lot of these little handhelds are pretty cheap, around 25 euros (USD 27) but I found one even cheaper; only 16 euros (USD 17), including shipping! The handheld I bought is the Zastone ZT-Q5 which is also sold as the JingTong jt-988.

Zastone ZT-Q5

This price is not even close to any of the bigger brand handhelds available! For this money you can (maybe) only get the car charging cable for a Yaesu or ICOM handheld.

For the 16 euros you get the VHF handheld, an antenna and a table charger. All packed in a nice box with (English / Chinglish) manual. The handheld is 5 watt so good enough to open most repeaters around my work and home.

Handheld inhoud box

The (FREE) programming software you can find here and here. 🙂 The programming cable is a standard kenwood type cable (the one with 2 pins) that they also sell for a few euros / dollars on this website. The software is pretty bad (!) but good enough to get the job done.

After testing it a bit I find the handheld pretty ok for the price. It doesn’t feel to breakable, and the display shows what I need to see, although it is a bit small compared to other handhelds.

The battery goes for a long time and charging goes pretty quick. I wasn’t very impressed with the (rubber duck) antenna so I replaced this with one of my other old antennas.

All in all not a bad deal!

If you’re interested in also getting one of those cheap handhelds, it pays to look around a bit on AliExpress (or other Chinese sites). They have some pretty good deals now and then.

After writing this blogpost I saw that the ZT-Q5 wasn’t for sale anymore at the shop where I found it, but I found the BaoFeng UV-B6, which is a dual band (VHF/UHF) handheld, for only 18 euros (USD 19), also including shipping! So it pays to browse a bit on the site and find the best deals!

To get you started, here are a few links:

Aliexpress Radios Link

Retevis Radio

Baofeng UHF Radio

Baofeng UHF Radio


 

Posted in HAM Blog Technology by Cees (PA1CA). Comments Off on Cheap, Cheaper, Cheapest Handheld!

It finally arrived! My SARK100 from China

SARK100 turned on
After waiting for a pretty long time, my new gadget from China finally arrived! It’s a SARK100 antenna analyzer. I wrote about buying one, in February I think, so already some time ago!

Most radio amateurs know that antenna analyzers are pretty expensive; starting around 300 Euros (USD 310).

The only reason we buy them is because they are very useful when making antennas.

They are also useful for tuning antennas but this can also be done using the transceiver, so for years I never used an analyzer.

Some months ago I decided to spend the money and I bought a RigExpert antenna analyzer. I’m very happy with it, but when I saw the “cheap” SARK100 I decided I could use one for portable operations.

The price of the SARK100 is around 88 EURO (USD 93) so pretty cheap, compared to the average antenna analyzer.

I put a first (quick) comparison video on YouTube between my RigExpert and the SARK100. You can find it here:

The SARK100 is an older model analyzer and was sold as a kit. In China they now decided that there is money to be made, producing these analyzers and selling them. So you don’t get the latest model but it’s still pretty useful!

The package they sent me was very basic. It was just the SARK100, no manual, no batteries, no power cord, no invoice, no packing slip etc… !

When I opened up the battery compartment it was just empty with a power wire inside with no plug on it. Not what you would expect when you’re used to buying from the big sellers like Yaesu and ICOM! SARK100 empty battery compartment

My first impression of the SARK was that it looked pretty simple. It’s build like a tank though; feels very heavy and I have the idea that I can drive over it with my car and it would stil survive! 😉

It’s pretty small but weighs 850 grams, more or less the weight of my FT-817nd! This is good and bad; good because it will not break easily, bad because it adds a “lot” of weight to a portable setup.

SARK100 from the inside One of the first things I did was (of course 😉 ) opening it up and checking the build quality. This was surprisingly good; no bad soldering or loose wires.

After some bad experiences with MFJ I decided to always open up any radio amateur item I buy and checking if I need to do some after production quality control! 😉

After a bit of Googling I found out what battery is needed and also found a manual in PDF form.

As a battery pack I decided to re-use my old FT-817nd battery pack. It’s exactly what is needed and seeing that I bought a replacement battery from Windcamp, the old standard FT-817nd battery could use a new purpose in life.

SARK100 with FT-817nd battery pack

At first startup I found that the display is small, but very readable! Perfect for outside (sunny) conditions I think. The options are pretty simple, but sufficient for simple antenna checking and building. You need to select a band, after which you can do checks on this band.

The most used option by me was checking for the resonant frequency on a selected band. I think when you’re building an antenna, this is what you want to know most; how far away am I, with my optimal SWR, from the required frequency and do I need to make the antenna longer or shorter (for wire antennas).

According to the Chinese site, these are the specifications:

  • Frequency Control: 1 – 60 Mhz
  • Source impedance: 50 Ohms
  • Stability: +/- 100 ppm
  • Spectral Purity: Harmonics down >- TBD dB beyond 60 MHz
  • Step Size: User configurable increments of 100 Hz, 1 kHz, 10 kHz, and 100 kHz
  • Usable Measurement Range:SWR: 1.0 to 9.99
  • Impedance: approx. 5 to 2000 ohms
  • RF Output: Adjustable: 2.0 Volts pp (typ)
  • Power supply: Powerd by External: 12 to 15 Volts DC, 500mA
  • Connectors: RF Out: PL
  • USB: Mini-B receptacle
  • External power: 2.1mm Power Jack (center pin positive)

And these are the things that can be measured, according to the Chinese manufacturer:

  • Measure antenna electrical parameters: SWR, impedance (resistance + reactance), capacitance, inductance
  • Measure feedpoint impedance
  • Measure ground loss
  • Adjust antenna tuners and determine loss
  • Measure inductors and capacitors
  • Measure coax transmission line (SWR, length, velocity factor, approximate Q and loss, resonant frequency, and impedance)
  • Measure and determine optimum settings for tuning stubs: SWR, approximate Q, resonant frequency, bandwidth, impedance
  • Measure balun loss
  • Measure inductor Q
  • Measure magnetic loop resonance and SWR

Reported problems with DDS chip

I read on the internet that some of these Chinese analyzers have a problem with their DDS chip. This resulted in an output frequency being 1.5 times lower than what was displayed on the analyzer. To check if this was the problem with my analyzer I did a quick test.

I made a small video of this test and Luckily my analyzer was showing the correct frequency! The articles I read about this problem were all older articles so I guess it’s an old problem that doesn’t occur anymore?!

Conclusion

All in all enough for me to find out and to play with! Of course the SARK cannot compare with my RigExpert. But you must remember that the RigExpert is around 200 euro more expensive than the SARK!

As an extra piece of kit for portable operations I think the SARK is a very nice addition to my collection!

I bought my SARK100 at the Chinese site AliExpress. This is a website that shows products of mostly Chinese sellers. These sellers sell their products through AliExpress. AliExpress has sort of an ESCROW way of working, where the seller only gets his money if you tell AliExpress that you got the product and that it was ok. If not, you can get your money back.

Of course they are also sold on eBay, and if you Google them a bit I’m sure they sell them in lots of other places as well!

Here are 3 links of sellers that sell this analyzer, but you can find a lot more that do the same. By the way I’m not connected in any way to any of these sellers so you buy at your own risk! 😉
AliExpress.com – SARK100 Seller 1
AliExpress.com – SARK100 Seller 2
AliExpress.com – SARK100 Seller 3

If you have any good or bad experiences with these analyzers, let me know. I’m very interested to know what others think of them!




Posted in HAM Blog portable operations Technology by Cees (PA1CA). 11 Comments

HAM QuickLog goes to Africa!

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My app on the iPad in action in The Gambia

My app on the iPad in action in The Gambia

I found out that my app; Mircules HAM QuickLog was used in the C5DX DXPedition to The Gambia in Africa!

Most people that follow my blog will know that I’m the developer of Mircules HAM QuickLog which is an iPad app used for logging Radio Amateur contacts (QSO’s). I’m a software developer and I find it always nice when people are using my software!

The C5DX DXPedition was a mini DXpedition and demonstration of amateur radio to school students in The Gambia. The radio part was done by Alan (G4DJX). Alan is a headteacher of Sandringham School in St. Albans in the UK and they have a link with a school in The Gambia.

I had some contact with Alan and he was pretty positive about my logging software so I’m happy with that! He gave me some feedback about how he used the app and what would be nice additions to the app. I put a few of his remarks on my list of items to add in the app.

The Mircules HAM QuickLog app is since november previous year available in the Apple app store, so it’s pretty new. Any feedback about the app by the users is very useful for me!

More info:
www.hamquicklog.com
HAM QuickLog in the Apple app store




Posted in app store apple app store HAM Blog ham radio apps HAMQuickLog iOS by Cees (PA1CA). Comments Off on HAM QuickLog goes to Africa!

Operating in The Netherlands for radio amateurs from Canada

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RAC logoRadio amateurs from Canada have been asking me the possibilities of operating with a Canadian HAM radio license in The Netherlands.

Because I think this information can be interesting for more Canadian operators, I decided to post it here.

Let me start by saying this; if anybody has updates or additions to my information here, please let me know so we can get it up here as accurate as possible!

We are using the HAREC / CEPT licensing system here, like everywhere in Europe. Depending on the license that you have you can operate in The Netherlands using a prefix PD or PA.

You need at least a basic with honours license to be able to operate here. If you have the basic with honours license you can operate like PD/<YOUR CALLSIGN> (so for example PD/VA3XXX)

If you have an advanced license you can operate like PA/<YOUR CALLSIGN> (so for example PA/VA3XXX)

Officially you can only operate for 3 months with the prefix PA or PD here.

From what I know you cannot change your Canadian license for a Dutch HAREC license. For this you need to do an exam.

If you want more info you can contact the Dutch government organization for radio amateurs which is called Agentschap Telecom.
Agentschap Telecom logo

You can find them here:
In Dutch: Agentschap Telecom – Radiozendamateurs
In English (less information shown): Radiocommunications Agency

I think you need a Canadian CEPT certificate from the RAC in Canada to be operating here, so be sure to get that before you come here.

Some more info:
RIC-3 — Information on the Amateur Radio Service
Temporarily Operating Canadian Amateur Stations in Other Countries
Amateur radio international operation

Disclaimer:

I think my information is accurate but don’t only depend on my info for this, get it confirmed from other sources!

 

Posted in HAM Blog operating practice portable operations Rules by Cees (PA1CA). Comments Off on Operating in The Netherlands for radio amateurs from Canada

It’s all about antennas!

It's all about antennas!A week or 2 ago I competed in the PACC contest. This is a radio amateur contest where operators from all over the world need to contact Dutch operators to collect points.

A contest is always a good way to check your antennas, your radio and other equipment because you are making a lot of contacts in a short period of time.

This time I again tested all I could test and was again surprised by the effectiveness of my simple antennas!

My “main” antennas are 2 home made wire antennas. I made a fan dipole for 10m and 20m and an inverted V dipole for 15m. They are both hanging inside the house in the attic.

Fan dipole and inverted V dipole

My antennas; a fan dipole and an inverted V dipole

They are the least impressive antennas I have ever seen, made with some copper speaker wire, bought in a home depot store for about 10 dollars(!)

It took me an afternoon to get them tuned and ready to use and I have had a lot of pleasure from them! I worked stations all over the world with them from Argentina to Australia and from Greenland to Siberia, mostly with only 100 watt on SSB.

I also managed to get the DXCC award with it. This is an award that you get when you worked 100 operators in 100 different countries. They need to confirm the contact to be able to count for the award. This is always the most difficult part; getting the contacts confirmed.

During the PACC contest I was several times complimented with my strong signal. I also had several situations where other Dutch stations were trying to reach a far away station and weren’t able to contact them. I managed to easily get through to these stations and work them.

This for me is the nicest part of the hobby; if and when you’re able to do a lot with limited antennas and power! Anybody can talk to the world with a 20 meter high Yagi antenna and 1 kilowatt of power. It takes more effort and skill to work the world with some speaker wire as an antenna and (relatively) low power!

For most HAM operators the importance of antennas in radio communication is clear and wire antennas have been used for ham radio sucessfully from the beginning.

You can have a lot of power but if your antenna is bad you will have trouble reaching the end of the street. But on the other hand, if you have low power and a great antenna you can work the world! 

So for me the statement is true; it’s all about antennas!

I ordered a Chinese antenna analyzer

SARK100Today I decided to buy a Chinese antenna analyzer.

I already have a RigExpert analyzer and am very happy with it, so why did I buy another one?!

Well, I must say that the price was a big reason to buy it. It’s only 77 euros (USD 88) which is very low for such a product!

Another reason is that it looks very small, so if it works ok it will be another addition to my go kit. It would be nice to have an antenna analyzer with me on my trips.

The eHam reviews weren’t that great so I have to see how useful it will be, but I feel that for 77 euros I can take a risk with it! 🙂

You can find it here by the way: SARK100

I will write another blog in the future with test results of this analyzer. The nice thing is that I can compare it with the RigExpert that I have so I can see how the Chinese analyzer works compared to a product that I’m very happy with!

Posted in HAM Blog by Cees (PA1CA). 4 Comments

Mircules DX Cluster now also for Android

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Mircules DX ClusterA few years ago I made a DX Cluster app for iOS (iPhone and iPad) called Mircules DX Cluster. I’m a freelance software developer and found it interesting to make some software for mobile devices for my amateur radio hobby. A DX Cluster app seemed like a nice choice.

Making the app got me into writing mobile apps for iOS and I enjoyed the work. The app has become more and more popular in the world of amateur radio which is also a nice thing of course. 🙂

At the time I made Mircules DX Cluster for iOS I decided to not make anything for Android because I’m just a bit of an Apple fan. After getting a Samsung Tab4 Android tablet and a Sony Android phone, I warmed up to the whole Android thing! 🙂

Google Play IconI decided to make also a DX Cluster app for the Android platform and I’m happy to say that a few days ago I put the app in the Google app store! 🙂 The app is called Mircules DX Cluster Lite. It is Lite because later in the year a full version will come out with a bit more functionality.

I’m pretty happy with the result, seeing that it’s my first real app made for Android! If you like it please leave a rating and review. This will help me out a lot!

Here are some images of the app. Click on them for a larger view.

 

Posted in app store DXCluster HAM Blog ham radio apps radio amateur apps by Cees (PA1CA). Comments Off on Mircules DX Cluster now also for Android
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