Africa All Mode DX Contest

Great news in ham radio contests community and to DX chasers as well. This year, next weekend actually, is the first edition of Africa All-mode International DX Contest, hosted by SARL (South African Radio League), a DX contest where everybody can work any country, but contacts with African DXCC entities will count for higher points.

AfricaMap

Official Contest website: http://www.africadxcontest.org/
SARL (South African Radio League): http://www.sarl.org.za/
More infos at SARL Contest Manual 2015

Rules in summary:

14 to 15 March 20015, 1200-1200 UTC; Bands 160-10 m (no WARC); CW, SSB and RTTY;
Power: High, Low, QRP; Exchange RST+001; Points: 10 pts with AF, 1 pt with other; Multipliers are only AF entities.
Logs to be sent to: contest@sarl.org.za

Hope to make some time this weekend to try it out, even if I will be very busy with other stuff. Have a great AF DX hunting!

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A trip to Mount Athos, SV/A

Not much activity on this blog lately, I was busy this past months setting up my Shapeoko CNC based small workshop (hope to post it soon about), so all my hobby time was spend on other then ham radio, but further on I will tell the story about my recent trip to Mount Athos, SV/A, this top 20 most wanted DXCC.

Mt. Athos Byzantine Flag

Mt. Athos, Byzantine Flag

A couple of friends and acquaintances of mine made a habit over the last 2-3 years to visit Mt. Athos, so this year I decided to enroll also for this rare experience, mainly for curiosity, and of course, the chance to meet the only amateur radio operator on this land, Monk Apollo, SV2ASP/A, which, unfortunately, this last not happened…

Mt. Athos Trip

Mt. Athos Trip

To get to Athos is somehow quite of bureaucratic. As far as I understood, first you need to contact a priest or a monk from there in order to give you the right to obtain the entry permit, visa, the so called diamonitirion. This document you will get it on arrival in the city of Ourouanopoli for 25 euros fee, and you are allowed to remain on the Holly Mount for maximum 4 or 5 days. After contacting them, and make sure they gave you the Ok to get this permit, you need to make reservations at which monasteries you want to stay overnight there. Most of the contacts are done by fax and reservations can be made up to several months earlier. Knowing about Monk Apollo, I immediately searched in what monastery he lives and asked my friends to book a night there also, but unfortunately this year we made all the reservations very late, about two weeks before departure, and we couldn’t managed to reach in time Dochiariou Monastery where Apollo lives, the telephone lines were down for several days there, common problem on Athos, so we had to look for another place instead.

Ourouanopoli

Ourouanopoli, Greece

So on the 1st of February, early Sunday morning, we started driving all away 1000 km to Greece, passing through Bulgaria, to the last city before entering Mount Athos, Ourouanopoli. From here the only viable way to get to the mountain is by ferry boat in the morning. No personal cars are allowed on the mountain. I also found out that there is a terrestrial way also from the border, but it is to expensive to book a vehicle and some roads might be impracticable because some bridges had fallen or so. Anyway, we arrived early evening in the town and checked in at the hotel, but we immediately heard rumors that the next day or probably more days ahead, the ferry will not sail because of the heavy sea, another common problem here. And so it was, but fortunately we lost only one day. On the third day morning, early at 0700 hours we were on the ferry, for two hours sailing all way to Mount Athos, to their small port, Dafni.

Ferry Boat to Mount Athos

Ferry Boat to Mount Athos, at Dafni Port

The ferry makes several stops till there, and for my pleasant surprise the first stop was to Dochiariou Momastery. It didn’t stayed more than five minutes here, but I was able to make some shots and easily identify the tower with the SteppIR antenna of SV2ASP, Monk Apollo.

Moni Dochiariou, at Monk Apollo, SV2ASP/A

Moni Dochiariou, at Monk Apollo, SV2ASP/A

SV2ASP/A StepIR Antenna Tower

SV2ASP/A StepIR Antenna Tower

Another ferry stop was at Agiou Panteleimonos, the Russian monastery from Mount Athos, the biggest one in size here. I heard it can hold up to 800 guests.

Moni Panteleimon

Moni Panteleimon

Eventually after two hours sailing we set foot on the Mount Athos, in the port of Dafni, from were we will take the minibus to the first monastery, the Prodromou Skite.

Athos Summit, 2033m

Athos Summit, 2033m

Mount Athos, (or Agion Oros, the Holy Mountain), it is a self-governed region in Greece and represents the centre of Christian Orthodox Monasticism. Most of the monasteries here date from Byzantine Era, about 900 AD, till Middle Eve. There are 20 big monasteries on Athos, and each of them have other sketes, cells, caves in dependence. To operate on the Mount Athos with the SV/A prefix you need approval of at least 14 of the 20 monastic representatives.

Karakalou Monastery

Karakalou Monastery

We stayed overnight for four days, at four different monasteries, first The Prodromou Skete (or Skete of Saint John the Baptist), inhabited by romanians, Karakalou Monastery, an old 11th century fortified monastery, Iviron Monastery, 3rd in the hierarchy of Mt. Athos monasteries, and last day at Skete of St. Andrew, near the administrative capital, Kareya.

Karakalou Monastery Guesthouse

Karakalou Monastery Guestrooms

Going around Mt. Athos is done mainly by minibuses that can be booked in advance from their bureau in Kareya. A trip from Dafni to Kareya costs 45 euros, same price from Kareya to nearby monasteries, and 85 euros till Prodromou Skete, in the far South of the peninsula. Or, for the ones located on the seaside, transportation can be done by ferry boat.

Mt. Athos Gardening

Gardening at Moni Karakalou, Mt.Athos

Once arrived at a monastery, visitors can attend their daily routines there. Food and lodge is everywhere free on Mt. Athos monasteries. A daily monastic program there starts very early in the morning, between 0200 and 0400 AM, with a church service till about the dawn, only at candle light, no electricity lights inside the church. It is quite an amazing and somehow a frightening atmosphere. Afterwards everybody goes to breakfast, monk and visitors altogether, then monks goes to their daily routines (gardening, cleaning, cooking etc) and us, tourists, can go visit other nearby settlements and sights, or can help the monks in their duties. After the daytime, another church service begins at around 1600-1800, followed by the dinner. Then the monastery gates (heavy old castle like gates) are closed till morning. No one can leave or enter during this time.

Mt. Athos Garden Irrigation System

Irrigation System

Before coming to Mt. Athos I knew a little about this side of the world, mostly reading on the web, and thought that it was a more remote and sober place, monks living almost like in the Middle Ages, but none of that felt after experienced myself life here. Indeed they have a lot of restrictions and the access is not so handy, but I found here a very organized community all over the peninsula. They have roads, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 are made by concrete, and still constructing it, fresh food supplied from the mainland or by their own greenhouses, electricity is produced only by diesel generators or solar powered, in the capital of Kareya there are several supermarkets (you can find even cigarettes and liquors), hardware stores, bakery, police stations and so on. I even so monks with iPhones browsing the web 🙂

Karakalou Monastery's Main Church

Karakalou Monastery’s Main Church

In the end, this trip was an exotic experience for me. I didn’t wrote anything about the spiritual side of this land, this can be found in almost in every wiki on the web about Athos, all their legends, stories, miracle working icons etc, and not because I am not such a religious person, but what mostly impressed me here was the historical and architectural side of it. I was used to see more of the imposing Catholic or Protestant old churches and cathedrals in Europe, but was amazed to see large fortified, high walls, castle like, Orthodox settlements dated from over 1000 years ago, and still functioning.

Iviron Monastery

Iviron Monastery

Next year, if all goes well, I will probably repeat the experience, visiting other places on Mount Athos, maybe the ones West coast, and definitely I will pull the strings more early to book at Dochiariou Monastery, to meet Monk Apollo, SV2ASP/A.

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Annual Bureau QSL Dispatch

These days I was busy handwriting over 400 QSLs for the annual bureau dispatch managed by our local club, YO4KAK. Every year I promise myself to do something with the log in order to print the QSOs data on some self adhesive paper, but same now, I will live it for the next time 🙂

Anyway, my 1000 QSLs ordered three years ago from LZ3HI are gone, so sooner I must order another run, and to think for a new design.

2014 Bureau QSLs

2014 Bureau QSLs

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Ciucas X3 Marathon & SOTA YO/EC-057

Last weekend I was attending Ciucas X3 mountain marathon, not as a contester of course, but part of a volunteer team of fellow hams to provide emergency communication across the trail. There were about 600 participants for 21 km, 42 km and 105 km routes in the Ciucas Mountains, on heavy paths and big rocky heights.

Ciucas X3 Map

Ciucas X3 Map

Our main interest was the ultra-marathon, 105 km, were they had 54 participants, and a 24 hours deadline to complete, and most of the track was going into remote places, overnight, without mobile signal or possibility to use mountain rescue communications, thus ham radio came to rescue 🙂

Start Point

Ciucas X3 Start Point

We were a big team out there: Razvan YO9IRF, Vlad YO3IHG, Romeo YO3IES with his XYL Clara, Gore YO3IGR, Doru YO3HTB, Victor YO3HQN, Aurel YO3IBZ, Octavian YO3IPT and his YL Simona YO3ISQ, Madalin YO3IOU, Mihai YO3ISL, Stefanut, future ham maybe, Marian YO3IPB, Vlad YO3IRZ and Cristina YO3IWL with their one month old QRPp Horia, and myself Adrian, YO4HHP.

RVSU Team at Ciucas X3

RVSU Team at Ciucas X3, photo by YO3IES

So, on Friday early morning I packed up all my gears and drove to the small town of Cheia, Prahova county, 240 km away from my place. About one third of the road was covered with fog that morning, but I managed to make it there on time to meet Razvan YO9IRF, Vlad Yo3IHG and Octavian YO3IPT, with whom I went climbing to the Gropsoarele Peak, 1884 m, for the maintenance of the UHF repeater that will helps us next day.

We placed the repeater two years ago there, inside an unused old earthquake measuring station, but being at high altitude, and with heavy winters, snow, wind, it was partially damaged, the antenna was broke, same was with the coax, so this were need to be replaced. There we met Gore YO3IGR, Doru YO3HTB, Aurel YO3IBZ and Marian YO3GSK who were climbing on another path, from Ciucas cabin.

Gropsoarele Pk. UHF Repeater, photo by YO3IHG

Gropsoarele Pk. UHF Repeater, photo by YO3IHG

Being on a SOTA peak, Gropsoarele, 1884 m, 8 points, and also a WFF area, YOFF-231, Ciucas, I carried out with me the FT-817 with a 7Ah SLA battery, and a 20m band fishpole to give a try for my first SOTA activation. With the help of Razvan, YO9IRF, I managed to anchor the antenna on the peak, and hooked a 5 m of wire along, and another 5 m as counterpoise. With the Z817 I was able to tune it to 20-17-15 m bands easily.

SOTA Fishpole, photo by YO3IHG

SOTA Fishpole, photo by YO3IHG

First I tried calling CQ on 20m, and after a few minutes the first call came, EI9GLB, who also spotted me on the cluster. For the next 20 minutes I was busy handling the small pile-up, and the result was 27 contacts with EU contacts only. Then I tried calling on 17 m and 15 m, but after 10-15 minutes of continuous CQ-ing on each band, no takers.

SOTA YO/EC-057, photo by YO3IHG

SOTA YO/EC-057, photo by YO3IHG

Later, a heavy wind came, and the temperature was going a little bit down, so I packed up the gears. Meantime the guys were almost finishing repairing the repeater. So after a quick group photo we get on the move to our lodges down the hills, and then to the technical meeting with the marathon organizers.

Gropsoarele UHF Repeater repair team, pfoto by YO3IHG

Gropsoarele UHF Repeater repair team, pfoto by YO3IHG

Next day the trail running started at 6 o clock AM. There were 15 checkpoints along the route plus the base station at Start, and in most of them there was one of us to provide emergency communication in case someone gets injured, is lost somewhere in the wildness or any other critical situations.

Ciucas X3 CP6

Ciucas X3 CP6

I was assigned at the 6th and 10th checkpoints, those in which the trail route passes the main road. First was the Bratocea Pass at 1269 m. First contesters came here at around 10.00 AM, 30.5 km away from the start point, till about 13.00 PM, when the last one came. One guy got injured at Checkpoint 7 and a 4wd vehicle went to pick him up and brought him back here, and they went again up on the mountains to carry some volunteers to their checkpoints. So after this checkpoint was closed I drove to my next one, CP10, and carry the injured one with me, leaving him at the base station in Cheia which was in my way.

Bratocea Pass, Ciucas X3

Bratocea Pass, Ciucas X3, CP6

Next checkpoint, CP10, was at Maneciu water dam, at 59 km away from the start, and 46 more to go. When I arrived at about 15.00, the first two contesters were already there, having a quick food and refreshers break.

Ciucas X3 at Maneciu water dam

Ciucas X3 at Maneciu water dam

At this point a lot of them are abandoning. The last kilometers till the finish line are the worst. They have to climb a lot of the trail, on rocky peaks, and mostly at night. From 54 participants at start, only 42 of them passed this checkpoint.

Ciucas X3 Ultramaraton

Ciucas X3 Ultramarathon

And some herbivore marathoners going to their homes after a whole day of trekking.

Ciucas X3 Maneciu Dam

Ciucas X3 Maneciu Dam

I was using a portable FT-60R most of the time, but here at the dam, very far away from the repeater and no visible clearance because of the high hills I was using the FT-817 with the SLA battery and a mobile antenna. The result were satisfactory.

UHF Setup for CP10 at Ciucas X3

UHF Setup for CP10 at Ciucas X3

It was a great experience in the end, the weather was fine all weekend, and nice people met there, also a good exercise for us in using amateur radio on emergency situations. Hope next year I will make time and join again.

 

Posted in QRP Portable, SOTA, Travel, WFF Activations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rockmite 20 – First run

My Rockmite 20 took a final shape. I have managed to kit it up and do a first run these days and its working almost great. I have added the 2N3866 power transistor from the kit to increase the output power, replaced R5 with a 1M potmeter for volume control and added a small VXO to have a little bit of tuning range.

Rockmite 20

Rockmite 20

Update on 06.05.2015. CNC engraved panel labels:

Rockmite 20 QRPp Transceiver

Rockmite 20 QRPp Transceiver

The VXO mod is this one from KE2SP. With it I am able to tune the frequency from around 14.047 to 14.050, with an acceptable Tx/Rx offset. I have made a test QSO with a local ham and seems to be ok. The bad part with this mod is that at Rx, the crystal front end filter is to narrow, and when coming to 14.047 its quite noticeable. I read on the Rockmite yahoo group that a best way to solve this is to replace C2 with a 68pF one. I will be testing this out later.

Rockmite 20 - Inside #1

Rockmite 20 – Inside #1

Still don’t know what crystal to chose. I have a 14.060 pair too, but don’t know if it will be more traffic chances there rather than 14.050.

Rockmite 20 - Inside #1

Rockmite 20 – Inside #2

The power mod I did was to put instead of the 2N2222, a 2N3866 supplied in the kit, and replaced R18, 10 ohms, with a 3 ohm one. I have measured the power output with 2N3866, at around 12.3 V and it seems to be low, around 300-350 mW. Not sure if this is ok, I should probably increase the supply voltage to 13.8 V and see then the result, or maybe to lower R18 to 2.2 ohms or even 0 ohm.

Rockmite 20 Setup

Rockmite 20 Setup

For power supply I have used a 12 V SLA battery. Its very silent with it. First test was with a linear power supply, 220V/12V with a LM317, but a lot of noise was coming to the receiver.

Rockmite 20 Backside

Rockmite 20 Backside

I haven’t done yet any QSO, except that sked with a local ham to test it. One night when I was finishing assembly everything and did the first smoke test, I was calling CQ for about two-three minutes, and also posted myself on the cluster, with no response of course. But the next day, curiously, I search myself on DXsummit.fi, and found this report from VE7DXF, 339, 9000km away, wow… So it may be promising!

Rockmite Rx report

Rockmite Rx report

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Rockmite 20 – Going for QRPp

Today arrived my Rockmite 20 kit from Kanga Products, the EU distributor of QRPme kits, and I can’t wait to start building it! The kit includes a lot of accessories, mods for 1W power output, pots, connectors, everything you need to make the RM working, except the case, which I have already procured from other source.

Rockmite kit from Kanga UK

Rockmite kit from Kanga UK

First step I want to use it like it is, original schematic, and later on I want to try some mods like adding Amidon toroids to the LP filter, small tunning with varicap and pot, and two frequencies switchable ranges, 14.050 & 14.060 kHz. I already have a pair of 14.060 QRP crystals in my shack, so I have ordered the 14.050 version from Kanga.

And this is the case, about 105 x 35 x 75 mm, aluminium two U shell box. I have ordered from TME a couple of months ago, but I see now there are no more in their catalog.

Rockmite Aluminium Box

Rockmite Aluminium Box

Posted in Ham projects, QRPing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

First Milestone – 50 DXCC Paper QSL

Couple of days ago, with the last bureau QSL patch arrived, my confirmed paper QSL entities list reached to the nice round number of 50. Its a small step in my hamradio activity, but the first important one towards reaching 100, 150 and so on.

50 DXCC QSL Collection

50 DXCC QSL Collection

I am licensed since 2003, but just from only two years ago, in 2012, I started to take it more serious, setting up a base station and antenna at home, working at least every week, mainly in weekend contests, holiday portable, WFF etc. In total, from 2012, I have made about 1800 QSOs, 99.9% of them QRP, and 86 DXCC countries worked. 

From the whole 50 entities confirmed, only two were non-QRP, ZA, Albania, and VP8, Falkland Islands, worked with 100W from the local club, so 52 more needed to get the DXCC QRP Award 🙂

Posted in Misc, QRPing | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Portable in Macin Mountains, YOFF-009

Last weekend, 5th/6th of July, YO DX VHF/UHF Contest took place, along with other neighbour countries own VHF contests, so together with some fellow hams from our local club, YO4KAK, we went on a field-day trip to some close by hills, 35 km away, in Macin Mountains, which is also a World Flora & Fauna protected area, YOFF-009, Macin Mt. National Park.

I was having this trip in mind for several months, so a few weeks before, while surfing through the IARU VHF Calendar, I spotted this weekend that will be the best one to try out upper bands, since many nearby stations will be active for the contests. So it was! After a quick brief in my head, I sent an email to all of our club members proposing this trip. In the end we were five who decided to go, YO4SCY, YO4GNJ, YO4BEX, YO4CAI and myself.

L to R, Geo - YO4BEX, Victor - YO4SCY, Marian - YO4GNJ, Valentin - YO4CAI

L to R, Geo – YO4BEX, Victor – YO4SCY, Marian – YO4GNJ, Valentin – YO4CAI

For the whole three weeks prior to the departure we made a lot of preparations: finding out what road will bring us close to the camping point, permits to camp in the park, testing generator set for noise in the transceiver, energy plan of the battery, what antennas to bring, what coax to bring, to bring a laptop or not to bring a laptop, critical stuff like canned beer vs bottled beer and so on. Eventually we managed to overkill the entire luggage space in the car with a lot of equipment.

Victor YO4SCY/M

Victor YO4SCY/M

Initial plan was to conquer the highest peak, Tutuiatu, 467m, also a SOTA peak, YO/MM-001 and which has a very clear surrounding good for VHF. To go by feet is quite easy and relatively quick from the nearby village of Greci, about 1-2 hours, but not with that load we took. So we had to go by car, or at least as much close as possible.

Tutuiatu Peak, 467m, seen from the Greci village

Tutuiatu Peak, 467m, seen from the Greci village

To get there it need a lot of detour through north. We had to get to the peak by the back of the mountains on a very heavy forest road, accessible only by tractors and off road cars. For some portions of the road, we passengers had to walk by feet, since the car’s exhaust was kicking the ground; four guys, almost 400 kilos is not negligible :). Unfortunately, Victor, YO4SCY, pushed his car to the limits up there, and ended up with serious paint scratches from the bushes.

YO4SCY checking the road

YO4SCY checking the road

Three hours have passed and we have got nowhere. Eventually we came up in a forest clearing, and it seemed like it was not in our direction and then I remembered this spot from last year when I was in a trekking trip. We let the mountain behind! Crap!

We were lost!

We were lost!

Of course, the best thing to do was to go back. For a couple of minutes we managed to find some gsm signal and we called a local ranger, but we couldn’t explain him where we are so he can direct us, the signal failed again and here we were again without any clue where to go.
Finally, after 2-300 meter on our way back, we found another ranger in the woods, and he showed us the way near the Tutuiatu peak. The road ended up in a small valley, with two mountains on each side.

Left - Tutuiatu, Right - Ghinaltu

Left – Tutuiatu Peak, Right – Ghinaltu Peak

We were all very happy, and thirsty! that we finally made it,  so quickly unpacked and went up to the peak (50-70 m distance). But when nearly reaching the tallest point, I decided to take a 5 seconds break to cool down, and when turning back, in all its splendor, I see Tutuiatu Peak on the other side! We were on the wrong mountain!

Tutuiatu Peak, 467m, seen from neighbour peak, Ghinaltu, 422m

Tutuiatu Peak, 467m, seen from neighbour peak, Ghinaltu, 422m

After a quick debate we came to the conclusion that it will be difficult to climb there with all of our equipment, and after three ups and downs, five people, of carrying stuff from the car and back we set the camp here.

View from our camp, Ghinaltu Peak, 422m

View from our camp, Ghinaltu Peak, 422m

We had the following radio equipment: IC-7000 running 100W on HF and 50W on 2m, wire dipole and 20m vertical antennas, F9FT 9 elements for 2m, 1kW generator and a 62Ah car battery and miscellaneous equipment.

YO4KAK/p camp in YOFF-009

YO4KAK/p camp in YOFF-009

I also took my QRP portable pack with FT-817, Z817 tunner, vertical telescopic antenna for HF, 4 element DK7ZB for 144MHz and 6 elements DK7ZB for 432MHz, all antennas mounted on a 1 meter camera tripod.

Operating on 70cm contest, with my FT-817 and 6 elements Yagi

Operating on 70cm contest, with my FT-817 and 6 elements Yagi

We started working at about 1500 local time. First, YO4BEX worked for YO4KAK/p, in CW 20m and a few in 30 and 15m, for YOFF-009, reaching in two hours to about 95 QSOs.

At 1700, the contest started, so we changed to upper bands. The main station, YO4KAK/p, was working on 2m, and I was working with my callsign in 70cm, with 5W.

432MHz 6 el DK7ZB beaming West

432MHz 6 el DK7ZB beaming West

I was really impressed about QSO-ing in 144 & 432 Mhz. For me it was the first time working CW and SSB in this bands and it is really a fantastic experience. In the end I was able to make 15 contacts on 70 cm and 24 in 2m. The longest DX was RK7K, 479km away, on both bands.

Further in the night, YO4KAK/p switched to HF again, working in Marconi Memorial Contest about 60 QSOs, counted also for YOFF-009.

At about midnight we went QRT, we packed the sensitive equipment in the tent and went sleeping. We barely managed to find a right place to put the tent. All the terrain was rocky and not straight. When I woke up in the morning I didn’t knew why my abdomen hurts, then I realized that I was so tired last night and that I put my sleeping bag on a rock and didn’t felt it during sleep 🙂

Camp in Macin Mountains

Camp in Macin Mountains

City of Braila and surrounding villages seen at night from the peak

City of Braila and surrounding villages seen at night from the Ghinaltu peak, 422m

Morning came, so at about 0700 I turned the radio on  in 144 Mhz and made a few QSOs. Few hours later, after breakfast, I switched to HF to work in YOFF-009. Luckily we barely had some mobile internet signal and could spot myself to the DX Cluster. Not more then 3-4 minutes passed away and the pile-up began. In about 35 minutes I managed to make 55 QSO in 20m SSB, running with only 5W and a vertical fish-pole antenna .

Mounting the 6 elements 432Mhz Yagi

Mounting the 6 elements DK7ZB 432Mhz

At about noon we started to pack our stuff and headed our way home, of course on the same heavy forest road that took us here, planning to come back again next year, but in a much lighter way with big backpacks each of us and climbing up there only by feet.

All in one, it was a nice experience. I am happy to discover that 144 &  432 MHz are just as interesting as below 30MHz CW and SSB, and now I am looking further to upgrade, test and experiment new stuffs for this bands.

My portable QRP V/UHF antennas, 4/6 elements DK7ZB

My portable QRP V/UHF antennas, 4/6 elements DK7ZB

In the upcoming weeks we plan to go to another nearby WFF protected area, YOFF-017, National Park of Danube’s Small Island, at about 25 km away from Braila, and camp overnight near the river of Danube. Hope to hear you then on the bands!
73s and QRP!

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Minima build log #3 – Sorting the crystals

Read first! I am no longer building this transceiver. Please check other interesting projects from Farhan on the discussion group, like HF-1 Transceiver, the replacement of the Minima and some cool RF jigs, Specan and Sweeperino. Also, since I’ve lost from both server and my drive the Eagle files of the PCBs, they will be no more available. Minima has become discontinued, check the group for more details. I will still keep the pdf files here for download for anyone still interested in hacking the rig.

The Minima main board is starting to take good shape. These days I have soldered the crystals, test the BFO and added some other components to the PCB.

Minima HF Transceiver

Minima HF Transceiver – Progress so far

My 5$ – 100 pcs pack of crystals finally arrived from China, so I proceeded to sort 8 of them. For measuring I have used the BFO schematic from the Minima, built on the small test PCB, and an ordinary PIC frequency counter. Since the counter is not super calibrated I did some relative measurements, just to select eight pieces with the most appropriate values.

Minima HF Transceiver

Crystals sorted

Because of the laziness, I have only tested 50 pcs, but enough to choice the right ones. Very helpfully was using an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve marked the crystals with an unique number, and write down the frequency value associated with that number in Excel, and then auto-sorted. From all the list, the best 8 crystals interval was this one below, with 90 Hz difference between the 1st and 8th in order.

Minima HF Transceiver

Excel list with measured crystals

When adjusting the BFO, I have considered 19.995.500 as the center frequency of the crystal filter, so the two sides frequencies adjusted by the trim caps are 19.994 and 19.997.

Minima HF Transceiver

Minima 20MHz Crystal Filter

The Si570 finally arrived from SDR-Kits. Actually the second package. The first one was lost somewhere by the post service. They were very kind to send a replacement, just paying only the shipping fees. By this way, I would like to thank to them for this gesture.

Minima HF Transceiver

Si570 and Toroids

More or less, I have collected all the parts for the Minima. Hope to put it to work very soon. Still to wind the coils, program the Arduino and wiring between boards and switches-pots.

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Minima build log #2 – Testing switches and AF stages

Read first! I am no longer building this transceiver. Please check other interesting projects from Farhan on the discussion group, like HF-1 Transceiver, the replacement of the Minima and some cool RF jigs, Specan and Sweeperino. Also, since I’ve lost from both server and my drive the Eagle files of the PCBs, they will be no more available. Minima has become discontinued, check the group for more details. I will still keep the pdf files here for download for anyone still interested in hacking the rig.

Today I did some first tests on Minina, and the results were promising.
So far:
– AF amplifier;
– R/T switch circuit;
– LPFs switch circuit;
– BFO switch circuit;
– Microphone amplifier;
– AF Preamplifier;
– CW Tone generator.

Minima Transceiver

Minima Transceiver – Switch circuits and AF stages

Remaining the RF circuits:
BFO, Bi-Di Amp and Mixers, maybe next week when the crystals will arrive from China.

I did also a video with the smoke test. As you can see at the end, the CW tone has a very low level. Not sure if this is normal. It can be heard well into some headphones perhaps, but on an external speaker is weak. I will investigate that later.

Minima Transceiver Testing Video

In the meantime, Sandeep’s PCBs finally arrived! And they look wonderful! Happy to see my Minima preliminary PCB design machine made.

Minima PCBs from Sandeep, VU3SXT

Minima PCBs, factory made by Sandeep, VU3SXT

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