General Club Meeting – March 18, 2016

We had a packed meeting this month in more ways than one! It was very well attended with a 59% increase in members in attendance compared with our recent averages. On top of that we had three presenters too! It started off with Jon Kent of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Aero Squadron. Jon explained what the Aero Squadron does and related some great stories. Jon has been a volunteer for decades and has flown many missions in support of local law enforcement, county government, and emergency services. He is truly a dedicated to public service, and is an inspiration to all of us. Gear, gear and more gear! The tables were packed with radio equipment that immediately drew interest from our members. Bill Talanian W1UUQ showed off some of his one-of-a-kind creations that help him support a wide variety of services including air observer support, repeater maintenance, and emergency services support. Also displayed on the main table was a repeater, controller, amplifiers and other gear slated soon for SBARC service. Out third speaker, Matt Lechliter, W6KGB, explained what it all was. Matt treated us to an extremely informative hour explaining how he hand builds our repeater systems for us. Although we seldom hear him on the air, he is nevertheless hard at work repairing our existing equipment and building new things for our future. Matt typically takes Motorola and GE commercial repeaters had hand fabricates new parts and electronics to turn them into top quality amateur radio repeater systems. Calling his creations “home-brew” does not do them justice. They are every bit as professionally constructed – if not more so – that the finest factory made ones. SBARC is extremely lucky to have people like Bill and Matt on our team. There is nothing “amateur” in what they do. Post expires at 1:50am on Wednesday April 20th, 2016 but will still be available in the archives.

New SDR HF Radio at Club Station

The club station now has a brand new computer and a FlexRadio Flex 3000 SDR (software defined radio) up and running and on the air. Unlike traditional radios, the Flex has no knobs or buttons. It is completely software driven and has all the features (and then some) of the high end radios from the major manufacturers. The Flex is hooked up to a computer running Windows and uses sophisticated, but easy to use software to control everything. In addition to regular SSB/FM/AM operation, we also have seamless digital operation for whatever modes we want to operate. Our first test used JT65 on 15m and we quickly logged QSO’s from the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, England and Germany. The screenshot on the right from shows signal reports from stations that heard K6TZ from all over the USA, Europe, South America, and even South Africa. Great DX is easily accomplished from our “noisy” club station. If you have never operated an SDR radio, you are in for a great experience. The display shows a wide area of whatever band you are working using a panadapter and waterfall so you can see all activity at once. This graphical representation of the band lets you find and tune activity quickly and easily. This new radio is available for members to use during regular club hours, Tuesdays 7:30 pm to 10:00 pm and Saturdays 9:00 am to noon. Come on down and check it out! If you are interested in reading the user manual and learning how this exceptional radio works, it is available for download here. Post expires at 3:40pm on Tuesday December 1st, 2015 but will still be available in the archives.

Keeping the Rover Ready for Use

                  This Saturday was pizza day at the shack, but the rover got a little attention too. The backup batteries were getting old and would not hold much of a charge so they were replaced by Tom N6YX, Bob KB6CTX and Ken KA6KEN. By the way, Bob is our “Rovermaster” and Makes sure everything is kept in good repair. The Rover is fully equipped to handle emergency communications any time it might be needed. It carries an onboard repeater, antenna mast, an HF radio, VHF and UHF radios, and plenty of gear to rig up whatever might be needed. Come on down for pizza on the second Saturday of the month and take a tour of the Rover. It’s impressive capabilities rival anyone’s home shack. And it’s totally mobile and self sufficient.  

Technical Mentoring and Elmering Net – February 5, 2015

There were some interesting discussions on last night’s net including K6HMD Eric’s issue he’s been experiencing with his iCom IC-7600 transceiver. It seems that Eric was attempting to set up FM split mode operations to access the K6TZ 6 meter repeater when he began seeing unexplained signals every 100 Khz at the same amplitude on the rigs spectrum analyzer. Even changing bands didn’t help. After a fair amount of troubleshooting Eric finally opted to reset the rig to factory specifications and the problem was solved, no more weird signals. Shackmaster Dave (K6HWN) offered a very plausible cause for the anomaly, while Eric was trying to set up split mode operations he may have pushed a button on the rig enabling the crystal calibrator. The calibrator would emit signals at specific intervals to calibrate the rigs frequency output by. Eric’s perusal of the operating manual didn’t offer up any information about a crystal calibrator being on-board the rig so he’ll contact the manufacturer. Tune in to the next Technical Mentoring and Elmering Net and hopefully learn the answer to this puzzle! Other discussions involved HF noise and troubleshooting, automatic gain control and signal to noise ratios. All club members and visitors are encouraged to check in to the Technical Mentoring and Elmering Net each week and join in with questions and /or answers to and contribute the edification of new and experienced hams alike.

Digital Voice 2m Communications – First Impressions

If you get QST Magazine, it is hard to miss Yaesu’s push for their 2m/440 digital/analog radio offerings. They have been taking out 2 page ads right after the cover for some several months now. Yaesu  digital radios use the C4FM modulation method. It is currently only compatible with other Yaesu radios. Yaesu’s base HT radio, the FT1DR, has become very reasonably priced, with most outlets selling them for less than $300. First, they are full featured dual band analog HT radios with all the features you would expect from Yaesu. But there’s more. A lot more. This radio also has digital capabilities, GPS, and APRS. Levi K6LCM and I decided to take the plunge and order a pair of these powerful little radios. They operate just like any other quality HT on VHF and UHF analog so they are great for every day communications. Levi and I tried our first experiment with digital using simplex between his home QTH on the far western end of the ocean side of the Mesa, and my QTH on the far eastern end of the Riviera. Between us there are two hills to overcome, so we hooked our radios to our rooftop antennas and used 5 watts of power. Wow! The first thing I saw was Levi’s callsign come up on my radio. His voice was completely natural and absolutely clear. No static, no background noise, just an absolutely clear voice as if he was next door. There are all kinds of other cool features we have yet to experiment with, like seeing the other person’s location and relative distance. For now the bottom line here is that digital communications is not a gimmick. It really works. We’ll continue to explore the capabilities of these little radios and post more in the future. If you want to learn more about digital voice radio, tune into the ATV Special Modes Net on Tuesday at 8:30pm. We will be discussing this more there this week.