Friday, 26 March 2021

REPEATERS FOR BEGINNERS

BASIC  UNDERSTANDING
OF VHF/UHF REPEATERS

If you're totally new to all this and have never used a Repeater before, this post may help you a little. Just bear in mind that I'm only an M7 licensee and know next to nothing about anything, but I think I understand the basics, so here goes...

First of all, let's just very quickly explain why we might need to use a repeater in the first place. When you are trying to make a simplex contact with someone who's line of sight is interrupted  by high terrain or even tall buildings, you might choose to use a repeater to overcome the obstacles. Most repeaters are located on high ground or in a location which has good line of sight between multiple towns/cities. 

When you transmit to a Repeater which is within your reach, your signal goes into the repeater on one frequency and is instantaneously re-transmitted on a different frequency. Because of the Repeater's height and location advantage, your re-transmitted signal can now hopefully be heard by your friend on the other side of that hill which was getting in your way.

And it's not just about buildings and terrain blocking your simplex signals - it might just be that your friend cannot hear you simply because you're too far away. Having a Repeater half way between the two of you will often mean that you can successfully make contact.

Each Repeater has a CallSign just like you. They also have an Input (RX) frequency and an Output (TX) frequency.  Some Repeaters operate on simple FM Analogue, some on Digital, some Fusion, some DMR and some DSTAR. For now, let's just consider simple FM.

============

Let's look at GB3EG in Wigan, UK. It's a UHF Repeater located in IO83QN. It has an Output (TX) frequency of 430.9125 and an Input (RX) frequency of 438.5125. So it receives on 438.5125 and re-transmits on 430.9125.

So if you wanted to use GB3EG, you would LISTEN to the repeater transmissions on 430.9125 and you would TRANSMIT to the repeater's receiver on 438.5125.

Just pause and make sure you understand that. This diagram may help...

So from your point of view, you are using two frequencies and it would be a pain in the backside if you had to keep quickly switching between the two during a conversation. Well your radio is capable of operating in SHIFT mode, where you tune into a particular frequency and the radio SHIFTS the frequency by a certain amount while you're pressing the PTT button. Repeaters tend to use common shifts and the one in the example above uses a shift of plus 7.6MHz.

Repeaters are best stored into your radio's memory bank. So with this particular repeater, you would choose FM MODE, tune into 430.9125  and store the frequency in a Memory slot with an alpha-tag of GB3EG (or maybe Wigan) and a Plus 7.6MHz shift.

There's one more thing to do before you save that Memory though!

If you simply transmit to a repeater's input frequency, nothing will happen, because repeaters require you to send them a "TONE" in order to open up their squelch and give you access. All modern radios have these tones stored as a list, so it's just a case of telling your radio which tone to use for this particular repeater.

GB3EG uses a tone of 82.5 so add that setting to the Memory Slot and then Save.

When you go to that memory slot in your radio, it will know to listen on 430.9125 and before transmitting on 438.5125 it will send the correct tone to open up the repeater's squelch.

If you finish programming your radio and the repeater does not respond at all when you key up, just double-check to make sure you didn't get the repeater's TX/RX frequencies the wrong way around in your memory slot.

And bear in mind that even though a repeater is closeby, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can open it. From my own QTH I am unable to open a local repeater 4 miles away and yet I can open one 40 miles away! It all depends on what's between you and the repeater.

============

So there you have it - a simple analogue FM repeater. How about a Fusion repeater?? Well they're just the same! In fact they're often easier because you don't have to enter a CTCSS tone - you just store the RX/TX frequencies, MODE and the correct SHIFT into a Memory slot. Most Fusion Repeaters are connected to a particular room on Wires-X and if you change that room to another, the repeater will eventually switch itself back to its favoured room. Some of these repeaters are locked to a certain room.

Many repeaters are MultiMode, meaning that they can handle Analogue, DSTAR, DMR, C4FM, etc. If you had a radio which includes FM and DSTAR you might want to program that multi-mode repeater into your radio's memories twice - one slot for working analogue FM and another for working digital DSTAR. Having said that, many modern radios have Automatic Mode Switching.

To test your memory programming, you should see if you are able to 'open' each repeater. When you transmit to a repeater, it should reply with a short beep or a string of morse-code and stay transmitting for a couple of seconds (or someone listening may reply to you). 

Repeaters have TIMERS and will automatically shut down after a certain amount of TX time has passed - typically 3 minutes. When in a QSO with someone, it's important between overs to leave a good 3 second gap to give the repeater time to stop transmitting - otherwise  your TX-time will be considered as a continuation of your friend's time and will therefore be cut short. If you wait for the repeater to fully stop transmitting before you start, you will get your full 3 minutes to chat.

Before moving onto other aspects of repeaters, it's worth noting that (as with all other Ham Radio operations), a Repeater Etiquette exists.

The basic rules are....

  • ALWAYS LISTEN before transmitting!
  • Call a particular contact "G4CFP, M7MCQ".
  • Don't call CQ!
  • You can solicit a call with "M7MCQ listening on GB3BEG"
  • Use Phonetics.
  • Try not to interrupt an existing conversation unless you think you have something useful to add. You may ask if it's okay to join in.
  • Try not to hog the repeater if activity/demand seems high.
  • Do not test repeaters by using a short PTT pulse. Instead, say "M7MCQ Testing".
  • Leave 3 second pauses between transmissions so that the repeater doesn't time out and so that other people have the chance to 'break in'.
  • If you have gone into 'ramble mode' and think you are going to time-out on the repeater, you can say that you're going to take a quick break and stop transmitting for 3 seconds to reset the repeater's timer and give you longer to finish what you were saying. 
  • BEAR IN MIND that ANYONE could be listening to the repeater output, so don't treat it as some sort of private network! Watch your P's and Q's.
  • ALWAYS welcome newcomers and those who sound nervous.
  • Be kind and courteous.
 
WHERE ARE MY REPEATERS??

To find your local repeaters (in the UK) you simply need to visit the RSGB REPEATER LIST and do some sorting...



First thing to do is to enter your 6-figure LOCATOR reference and click on Calculate. Now you need to sort the list by clicking on the km column (or mi column if you've changed to miles).

You will be presented with a list of repeaters in your general locality and beyond. Everything that you need to know in order to program your radio is shown on that screen including the CallSign of the Repeater, its distance from you, the TX/RX frequencies, the Tone and the modes of operation.

I recommend that you program in quite a few - you'll be surprised at how many can be opened from your QTH even though you may think they're too far away. As I said previously, I can open one 40 miles away very easily on 10W. On the other hand, there's some much closer that I can't reach.

Obviously, don't bother putting in repeaters which will only function on modes which you don't have (such as DMR if you don't have a DMR radio).
 

SIMPLEX GATEWAYS

In addition to Repeaters, you will also be surrounded (to one extent or another) by Simplex Gateways. In order to see a list of them, just CLICK HERE and enter your 6-digit locator and do a sort again.


These are usually Nodes operated by individuals with a special licence. The one closest to my QTH  (MB6HW) is operated by my friend Bill (G4CFP) and he usually has his Fusion gateway connected to the North West Fusion Group room, so when I listen to his simplex frequency of 144.8625MHz, I hear whoever is operating in that room. 

If I wish to, I can (through my radio's Wires-X system) change rooms, eg: move from NWFG to CQUK, but before I leave the gateway it is good etiquette to move the gateway back how you found it.

Simplex Gateways are still something that I'm learning about, so I'll leave it there for now until I feel confident to write more about it. Just bear in mind that it costs nothing to tune in to your local Gateways and have a listen around and ask questions. And always leave a 3 or 4 second pause between overs on a Simplex Gateway!

You should also bear in mind that you may find yourself tuning into a nearby Gateway Frequency and chatting away with someone believing that you're going through the gateway when you are actually just talking to someone via a Simplex connection. This can lead to confusion and can also be quite annoying and disruptive to the Gateway.

Imagine for a moment that you are tuned to your local gateway frequency of 144.8625 and someone you normally hear on there is active and responds to your call. He is operator A in the diagram below and you are operator B.


Your handheld's low power signal is reaching your mate's radio, but not reaching the Gateway. Your mate is close enough to you to hear your signal AND he's close enough to reach the Gateway....


So he's you're both happily chatting away to one another but your mate is also chatting on the Gateway, so any Gateway listeners can hear all your mate's side of the conversation, but none of yours. This is the Simplex Conundrum and you need to be mindful of this when transmitting on a nearby Gateway frequency.

So how do you know if you're both getting through to the Gateway for sure?? Well I guess that you could both call for a radio check and see if someone nowhere near the locality is hearing you both - that way you know for sure that you're going through it. There may be better ways, I'm not sure, but I'll update this page when I find out more.

Your local radio club should be your first port of call for learning about these things, so do ask around at the club for further guidance.

UPDATE : My friend Bill (G4CFP) has pointed out that you could always press your DX button to connect the Gateway to WiresX to confirm that you are actually reaching the gateway. He further points out though, that some repeater/gateways are locked to particular rooms and won't allow you to alter the room.

Take care, 73, Tom, M7MCQ.

Comments below... 

Sunday, 21 March 2021

LETTER TO PLANNING DEPARTMENT

WHEN NEIGHBOURS COMPLAIN

I mentioned this subject previously within a different (and looooong post), but thought it might be worthwhile giving it its own page so that it's easy to find and easy to link to when need be.

When I moved into my little bungalow, it wasn't long before one of the neighbours decided to complain about my colinear which I'd erected at the peak of the roof. Bear in mind that this isn't some great big multi-element Yagi - it's a discreet white stick and doesn't cause any harm and isn't unsightly.

Of course the complainant never knocked on my door and discussed her unhappiness with me directly - she just lodged an official complaint with Bolton Town Council instead. I wasn't even aware of it until a few weeks later when a letter dropped through my letterbox.

 
The letter informed me that an inspector from the planning department had visited my property to inspect my antenna erection which had been the cause of a complaint. I was told to contact the planning department to discuss further and in the meantime, remove the antenna immediately!

The letter provided me with a name and an email address, so I wrote an email to the lady who had carried out the inspection and explained that I was a licensed radio amateur and it went like this....

------------------------

ERECTION OF ANTENNA


Hi XXXXX, thanks for writing to inform me of a potential problem with the antenna that is currently erected at my property.

I wasn't aware of any issues with neighbours - certainly no one has enquired or complained to me about antennas being erected and dismantled.

Perhaps I should begin by pointing out first of all  that I am a Licensed Radio Amateur. I was awarded a government licence after a great deal of study and sitting an examination. My OFCOM Licensed Number is AM000nnnn. I am also a member of the Radio Society Of Great Britain (RSnnnnnn) who may be called upon to help their members with issues relating to planning queries.

My license is for the purpose of self-training in radio communications, including conducting technical investigations. I may also be called upon by any government body in the event of an emergency to aid in communications. A good example of that would be the recent Moorland Fires just behind my property on Winter Hill. RayNet were heavily involved in the communication logistics. RAYNET is regarded as a professional support organisation by both the statutory and volunteer emergency service organisations.

My main area of interest is in the experimentation of antennas and propagation. Radio propagation is the behavior of radio waves as they travel, or are propagated, from one point to another, or into various parts of the atmosphere. Line-of-sight propagation means radio waves which travel in a straight line from the transmitting antenna to the receiving antenna.

Basically, this involves me putting an antenna together, erecting it temporarily (but SAFELY & SECURELY) and carrying out radio tests in multiple modes including analogue and digital for the purpose of self-education and development.

The antennas which I erect and dismantle as part of my radio propagation experiments are >>temporary<<  Sometimes an antenna might only be erected for a couple of hours! 

I consider myself a very caring and considerate neighbour and am disappointed to think that I've upset someone living close to me. I do everything possible not to be visible in my activities - even going to the trouble of dismantling/erecting very early in the morning just to keep a low profile and to avoid being a distraction to people.

I would very much appreciate a meeting with you at my home so that you can explain to me what it is that I'm doing wrong and why I need Planning Permission for the temporary erection of an antenna. I have invested a great deal of money, time and effort to become a Licensed Amateur Radio Operator and I wish to stay within the rules of the local Council whilst also avoiding unnecessary restrictions.

Please feel free to ring me on 07976 --- --- at your convenience.

With kind regards,

Tom McQuiggan.

------------------------

The person I emailed rang me shortly after receiving my email and thanked me for explaining everything and she said it was both helpful and informative. She pointed out to me that her job was to take a balanced view of any complaint and after reading my letter she was going to inform the complainant that no action was going to be taken.

I think this letter was successful because it was a concise, balanced and calm response. I wasn't defensive and showed genuine concern about being a good neighbour while making it clear (in a non-threatening manner) that I had every intention of continuing with my licenced hobby and had the support of the RSGB when it comes to planning issues.

I wrote this letter after taking advice from my friend Stuart (G0IUA) who suggested I mention certain things such as the temporary nature of the antenna and the self-training and experimenting). If you find yourself in a similar position, perhaps this letter will form the building block of your response to your local council.

Stay well, 73, Tom, M7MCQ.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

YAESU FTM-7250DE

MOBILE SOLUTION

When I got my truck, I bought a radio for it but then hesitated because I didn't want to start drilling holes in it. But recently I changed my mind and have decided to fit a tiny Dual-Band Fusion rig in the form of a Yaesu FTM-7250D.


This is a very compact VHF/UHF/C4FM transceiver which will fit neatly in the centre-console of my Amorak. Despite its diminutive size, the FTM-7250 is capable of outputting 50W and a tiny fan at the rear is supposedly capable of keeping it cool. It doesn't matter to me, since I won't ever be using that much power anyway and being in a part of the vehicle with virtually no airflow, it's just as well.

The receiver has an extended range of 108-580MHz so that means it's good for listening to the AirBand (but sadly not in the Marine Band, since AM coverage is restricted to 108-137MHz) as well as 2M and 70cm.  AMS ensures that the radio automatically recognises the operating mode of an incoming signal and switches between AM/FM/C4FM without any input from the operator.

The radio's speaker is (thankfully) forward-facing on the front panel and is really quite loud (I think it's around 3W output). It's not the deepest, richest sound in the world, but it's perfectly adequate for what it's designed for.

Over 200 memories (with alpha-tagging)  makes it easy to store your favourite frequencies and then scan between them. You can also search between programmed band edges (ten of them). 


Because the truck is on a PCP, you have to be careful not to drill holes which the leasing company can pull you up about when the vehicle is due to go back. Needless to say, they take great delight in charging you a fortune for a new centre-console just because you drilled a hole in it!  With that in mind, I opted for a Velcro solution and to be fair, it worked out well.

I did have to drill a secret hole to reach a power source, but the hole cannot be seen. If I had to remove the radio, it's a simple affair but the likelihood is that it'll just stay in-situ. With the mic unplugged you can barely notice it and it's easy to chuck a dark cloth over it when parked up.

Programming the radio was achieved by using CHIRP and a programming lead purchased from TechnoFixUK which has an FTDI chipset in it. This USB lead creates a COM port in Windows. Just in case you're thinking this lead will work with RT SYSTEMS software - IT WON'T!! I'm getting a bit sick of RTS. Previously, I've used their software with my own leads but they're building in code which stops the software from even being installed until it detects their own unique cable, forcing you to spend even more! No thanks RT!

 
Anyway, it's real easy to program memories by hand at the front panel. You'd only need to use Chirp if you wanted to program loads of frequencies. 

SPEC :

  • VHF and UHF Operations
  • 50 W transmit power in FM and C4FM
  • Automatic Mode Selection FM/C4FM
  • Digitale GM (Group Monitor) function
  • Large LC-Display, backlit
  • 220 memories
  • Automatic Repeater Shift
  • Transmitter from 144 to 146 MHz and 430 to 440 MHz
  • Receiver continously from 108 to 580 MHz
  • AM Reception in the airband (108-136 MHz), 8.33 kHz step width provided
  • DTMF Microphone with backlit keys
  • Direct frequency entry with microphone
  • DSQ, CTCSS, DCS Squelch functions and signalling
  • Firmware updates via USB interface
UPDATE
Just got back from Winter Hill after completing some tests to make sure my programming was okay. I'm pleased to say that all was well. 

At first, I thought GB7WM (our radio-club's Fusion Repeater) wasn't working because when I put out a call on it, there was no response whatsoever - not even a beep to confirm I'd reached it and opened it. So I rang a mate Carl (G0UXF) to ask him if he could hear my calls on the repeater's output.

He confirmed that he could hear me and that my CallSign was displaying correctly. Strangely though, I could not hear him when he tried to open it (although I could hear him on the input frequency directly). He just cannot open the repeater even on 50W from his QTH.

I tried a few other repeaters and all were fine. Then I tuned into my local Gateway MB6HW which is operated by my friend Bill (G4CFP). That was working superbly although I got a gentle reminder from Ian Maude (G0VGS) about leaving adequate pauses between overs in order to give the repeaters time to reset and prevent them from timing out. Ian also discussed the potential problems with simplex gateways and recommended watching a video on YouTube called THE SIMPLEX CONUNDRUM

So overall I am quite happy with the FTM-7250 and I like its simplicity. Very few bells and whistles, cheap and cheerful. I believe they're being discontinued so I'm glad I managed to get hold of one before Yaesu bring out something that does the same thing but for more money and with more features that I don't need.

Thanks again for the help from G0UXF, G4CFP and G0VGS.

73, Tom, M7MCQ.




Thursday, 18 March 2021

YAESU FT-DX101D

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED

And it's a bloody big one! Jeez, after having an IC-7610, this Yaesu FT-DX101D looks massive!!

PLEASE BEAR IN MIND that this is no technical review - it's just a lowly M7 Operator talking about his new radio and making some comparisons to previously owned radios. I don't have a degree in electronics and my Tektronix MSO46 Oscilliscope is currently out of order 😂. Too many people get their knickers in a twist if you say anything negative about their beloved machine. I'm not being negative - I'm calling it as I see it. And remember - I did buy this radio! I'm not an Icom fanboy - I have 2 Icoms and 5 Yaesu radios!


 
After selling my IC-7610 some time ago (don't ask why), I really missed having a nice big base station in the shack. I have no need for one of course, because my IC-7300 works perfectly well with the limited range of antennas available to me (EFHW & G5RV), but that doesn't stop me wanting one.

My decision to buy another big rig came from something I spotted on FaceBook MarketPlace - a used Kenwood TS-990S for £3000. It looked like a bargain for what was originally £7,000 but then I found out it was seven years old and it kinda put me off.

But now I was in "Buying Mode" so I decided to look around at what was out there in that price range and found myself on an internet browser full of £3k transceivers and the one that stood out the most was the Yaesu FT-DX101D. Everyone knows that radios at this price are all pretty magnificent and even though the Yaesu is rated number one in the Sherwood Tables, it had no bearing on my decision - just as it didn't when I bought my last base station (the 7610).

What matters most to me is how it operates, how it sounds and the aesthetics. In the looks department, the FT-DX101D is a PinUp Girl 😂. She looks absolutely stunning! But then she's also a bit chavvy too, with that awful 3D waterfall feature which I will surely never use. 

The 101 looks like something from a modern, slick warship with all its bulk and huge VFO knob - in fact, that dial wouldn't look out of place on the front of a Swiss Bank Vault.

I love the fact that the radio has so many buttons on the fascia. One for each band running across the top makes selection so simple and quick. There's also a button for quickly swapping between VFO and MEM which wasn't on the 7610. Just small things that make operation easier.

 
With more buttons than a shirt-maker and more dials than a clock-factory, I do find it hard to believe that there isn't a dedicated Power Output adjuster 😲 Having said that, you can set the Multi Dial to control it. 

Okay, so onto the screen. It's big. It's bold. And it's brash! That's right, I don't like it much. The graphics are quite blocky compared to the IC-7610 and the range of colours available is limited. I've spent a bit of time playing around with the settings and have got it looking as good as I can, but still, it's nowhere near as refined looking as the Icom. 

As I suggested earlier, I can't imagine ever using that dreadful 3D Scope - I just don't like it one bit. It looks like it should be on the front of a cheap kids toy. WHAT IS IT FOR???

If Carlsberg did tacky!
 
The 2D scope is what I'll concentrate on, but that too looks like it's on amphetamines! There (currently) is no averaging option and the waterfall looks blocky and edgy compared to the refined 7610. You can of course alter the settings to make it more appealing, but when you set it fast it's too fast and when you set it slow, it almost stutters along. This is a very important area of the radio to most operators and Yaesu really do need to up their game with a fabulous new firmware upgrade - soon!!

I've just noticed another weird quirk - when you lower the RFgain, the scope/waterfall levels remain the same. That is not good as far as I'm concerned! Maybe there's a menu option to change it - I hope so!! 

The screen is big though and there's the option to send it to an external monitor. Having said that, the output to the monitor (DVI-D) is at pretty low resolution. If you're using a big external monitor (maybe because your radio is on a shelf off to the side of your preferred sitting position), then it would have been nice to be able to buy an additional VFO similar to Icoms RC-28 so you could operate the radio, change frequency and transmit. Maybe there'll be one further down the line.

😂 Yes, I plugged mine in just to see if I was gonna get lucky 😂

Although I've very much got used to Icom's Menu System (through the 7610, 7300, 9700 and 705), I do like the Yaseu offering. I felt pretty comfortable with it straight away, but then it's probably because I used to have a DX3000 (I loved that radio). It seems pretty intuitive to me, but maybe it'll trip me up as I get further into things, lol.

The FT-DX101D has an extra antenna port over the IC-7610. That's not too important to me, since I only have 2 antennas, but it would be massively important to those lucky people who have antenna farms 😂 And someone recently pointed out the benefit of having a RX-ONLY antenna on the 3rd port - something that I'll discuss further with him.

It seems a great pity that the 101 doesn't have a built-in server for remote operation. There are plenty of days (even here in the UK) where it is just too hot to sit in the shack and play radio. It's nice to sit outside in the shade with a cool breeze and a cooler beer, operating remotely from the garden. I could (and did) do that with the 7610 but I won't be able to do it with the 101 unless I spend another £300 on a SCU-LAN10. Now bear in mind that the Yaesu is already £150 more expensive than the Icom.

Another significant omission is a QSO Recorder (Tx & Rx). I really find that facility (on the 7610, 7300 and even the little 705) useful. I just do not understand why Yaesu don't deem it a worthwhile function to have on their flagship radio. Come on Yaesu!

I also find it a little odd that you have independent meters for the Main and Sub but you can't control them independently. For example, on the IC-7610 you can set each meter independently to display SWR/ALC/PWR/ID/COMP, but on the DX101 you have to spread those functions across the two meters. So when you're transmitting on the Main, you have to look across at the Sub meter. I don't care what anyone says, that's weird and counter-intuitive!!


It's sounding like I don't like the FT-DX101D but honestly, I do. It's a beautiful piece of engineering with a fabulously low noise-floor and when you switch it on, you know there's something special about it. Just the rx audio alone is strikingly good - so easy to listen to. Like the IC-7610, the 101 allows you to adjust the audio of both TX and RX so that you can achieve your own personal preference and to suit your voice and hearing. 

During a contest earlier, I was struggling to find a gap on the waterfall and contesters were rubbing shoulders with each other on the panadapter but still, their signals were all totally isolated from one another with none of the bleed-over that I sometimes hear on the 7300 in these conditions. Having said that, the IC-7610 was pretty much as selective as the 101. The 7610 didn't have Yaesu's VC Tune though.

To connect the FT-DX101D to my MFJ993B ATU, I needed the correct interface module (MFJ-5124Y) and luckily, I found one in my 'bits-box' which I'd previously purchased for my DX3000. Once connected, it was pretty easy to setup in the Yaesu's menus. The only odd thing about it was that normally, you would press the radio's TUNE button once and the radio would drop power, switch to a constant carrier, transmit and wait for the tuning cycle to complete and then automatically stop transmitting and switch everything back to normal. But on the 101, it keeps on transmitting until you press the TUNE button again. Very strange - I'll have to look into it more.

         MFJ 5124Y ATU INTERFACE

 
ATU UPDATE 31/Mar/2021: So I got in touch with a couple of Ham Stores via email here in the UK and basically, neither of them knew what the problem was with the MFJ-5124Y interface so they got in touch with Yaesu and one shop told me to make sure I had the 101D ATU MENU set to 'Internal' and the other shop told me to set it to 'External'.

Hmmm, so basically, none of them have a clue. Searching the internet forums I learned that the 'TUNER' socket on the back is missing an output for external tuners (other than the FC40) and therefore my MFJ-5124Y/993B/101D will basically never be fully automated because apparently, Yaesu haven't activated the "TX REQ" pin. Another weird omission on a top-line radio 😠

Connecting a keyboard and mouse to the 101 is nothing at all like doing the same thing on the 7610. Virtually anything works with the 7610, whereas virtually nothing works with the 101D.  

And if your looking all over the screen for a Clock, stop wasting your time because it doesn't have one. Yep, that's right - it doesn't have a clock 🕔 😮 Are they trying to attract criticism for little things?
----------------------

So which is the best radio between the FT-DX101D and the IC-7610? Well an M7 simpleton like me cannot answer that question - I'm just not qualified. I cannot see a significant difference between the two in a real life everyday situation.

Both radios are superb. The Icom IC-7610 is by far an easier radio to live with in terms of that beautifully clear, contrasty screen and the overall functionality of the radio. On Icom radios, you pretty much TOUCH what you want to change on-screen. So if you wanted to change from LSB to AM or FM, you'd simply press the LSB icon on-screen and up would pop all the available modes. 

Touching the LSB icon on the Yaesu screen will result in nothing!! To switch from USB to AM or FM would need you to press and hold down the MODE button until the mode option appear. It's not a big problem, obviously - I guess it's just one of those things that highlight how hard Icom worked on making their operating systems so very intuitive

When I mentioned that last point on one of the Yaesu Groups, a few fanboys mockingly said "Is it so difficult to press and hold down a button on the front panel"??  Well no it's not, but what would they say if their joiner had installed all the door handles in their house 1ft lower down the door than normal? It's no big deal - but it just would be so much better if they'd installed them at hand-height.

Like I said at the start, some people are very defensive about their chosen radios, whereas I just say it as it is - no matter who made the radio.

The Yaesu FT-DX101D is drop-dead gorgeous, has lots of physical buttons, more antenna connections and has a fractionally better receive performance than its rivals (but lets face it, the difference can only be detected in a lab). 

These are just my initial reactions to the radio and I will come back to this page and update it in a few weeks time when I've used it more and learned more about it. 

My advice so far - buy both! 😂














UPDATE 31/Mar.2021
I just came across a review by ADRIAN 5B4AIY (who I can't find on QRZ to get permission to print his comments 😇) which pretty much matches my feelings on the FT-DX101D...


I have now had my FTDX101D for several months, and felt it was time to make some comments.

The excellence of the receiver has been mentioned many times, and I will not repeat this, except to say that even a cursory inspection of the Sherwood Labs tables shows that this is definitely a 'contest grade' transceiver.

Rather, I want to mention some of the things that I find missing or annoying, with the hope that Yaesu reads these posts and may then wish to update the firmware.

1. Real-Time Clock
There is an internal RTC, whose sole function is to time-stamp the files saved to the SD card. Considering that this transceiver is a direct competitor of the Icom IC-7610, would it be too much trouble to display the clock on the screen? It would be very helpful. A point of note - the RTC is backed-up by means of an ML614R-TT31 re-chargeable lithium battery. It is charged via the 3.3V unswitched bus, and thus will be charged as long as the primary power is on. From dead flat it will take approximately 24 hours to completely recharge the battery. The battery capacity is approximately 2.3mA-H, and an average clock chip, S-35190A-T8T1G, consumes about 0.3uA, thus the battery can power the clock for about 320 days. The battery is specified to have a cycle life of 3,000 charge-discharge cycles if only 5% of its capacity is used, which translates to about 15 days without power, but only 300 cycles if it is deeply discharged. Whilst I do not expect Yaesu to change this design, it would have been much better to have used a non-rechargeable lithium coin-cell battery, such as a CR2016, which would have powered the clock for essentially the life of the transceiver.

2. Audio Recording
The only method of recording the receiver's audio is via a rear-panel connector. Since the recently released FTDX10, which is a direct competitor to the Icom IC-7300, has the capability to record the receiver's audio and save it to the SD card, can we now have this feature added? After all, the audio is already in digital form anyway, so it should not be too much trouble to format it as a WAV file and allow it to be saved to the SD card.

With respect to the rear panel audio connector, this is a nuisance to use for audio recording. It is wired so that RX-A audio appears on the tip, RX-B audio on the ring connector. I don't know about you, but I almost never listen to both receivers at the same time, so could we please have the audio routing selectable, as is the case for the headphone output? In other words, as well as the present setting, could we have RX-A routed to both tip and ring, and another selection to have RX-B routed to tip and ring, this would allow for proper mono recording on a stereo recorder. At present I have had to make a special switch box to allow me to connect my digital recorder. I realise that by connecting the radio to a computer I have the audio available, but I do not want to always have to use a computer to do this, which is why I would much prefer to be able to directly save the receiver's audio to a WAV file on the SD card.

3. 2-D Spectrum Display
Please can we have this display trace averaged! At present it is difficult to spot a weak signal amongst the noise, and as other receivers, as well as my spectrum analyser, allow the trace to be averaged, which makes it so much easier to spot a weak signal, please add this feature. My spectrum analyser offers user-settable averaging, and in my case an adjustable setting from 1, no averaging, with up to 5 samples represents the most useful range of settings, at least for viewing an amateur band. While we are on the subject, none of my other transceivers with a panadaptor require much gain setting, but on this transceiver almost any change in band, span, or anything else then requires a corresponding change to the panadaptor gain setting. Equally, why do we have a range of +/- 30dB? In my case the gain is almost always somewhere around +20 to +25dB. When would we ever use -25dB, for example? Anyone got an explanation?

4. 3DSS
Oh this is so useless. I have played with it but to be honest apart from its 'novelty' value, I can find no use for this at all. OK, for those that like it, fine, but for me this is what I call 'creeping featurism' - just because you can do something does not mean that you should. OK, this was not a major selling point for me anyway, your mileage may vary.

5. AMC
Oh, what were Yaesu thinking of here? It took me a long time to get a reasonable setting for microphone gain, ALC, compression, and AMC, and no thanks to Yaesu's manual. AMC is really a dynamic limiter and AGC system. What was wrong with the previous methods of setting the modulation level? I certainly do not need the audio gain increasing during pauses in speech and transmitting the background noise of the shack, especially when I use my boom microphone headset, and now that AMC cannot be turned off in the latest firmware, AMC is another 'feature' we do not need.

6. Lack Of File Management Facilities
The only things the SD card is used for is to save the transceiver's configuration, memory settings, and screen shots. Whilst I do not expect a full disk operating system, it would be nice to be able to view the list of files in their various folders, and to be able to do some simple file management. At present if I wish to perform any file management operations I have to remove the SD card and plug it into my computer. Surely it would not be too much trouble to allow some basic file management capabilities?

7. Option Packages
The optional extras are apparently only installable at the factory or by a Yaesu dealer. Is it that difficult to instal a filter or the VC Tune unit? Indeed, I was told that if I wanted any of these options then I would have to send the transceiver back to Yaesu, in my case in another country, getting involved in all the customs formalities to do so, as well as the shipping expense both ways. I was also told that if I wanted these options from new, then I would have to get a special order from the factory, and my dealer was unwilling to do this. I can only imagine that Yaesu does not want to sell many optional extras.

8. ANT-3
One nice thing about the transceiver is the fact that in the OFF state all the antenna connectors are grounded. What is not so nice is the signal leakage from the ANT-3 connector in the transmit state when it is set to receive-only. An examination of the schematics and downloading the specs of the relays used shows that this is cross-talk leakage from the PA, but it is so annoying. In my case I have a Wellbrook active loop antenna feeding a 4-way Stridsberg active splitter. When transmitting there is a certain amount of signal leakage from the ANT-3 connector back into the splitter and this is then routed to the other receivers. My old Icom IC-756 Pro-III receive-only antenna input was completely separate, and did not suffer this. True, it is nothing like as bad as the signal leakage through to the receive-only antenna port of my Icom IC-7700. In that case, with 200W CW, 128mW is coupled out of the receive-only port, and that fried my Stridsberg splitter necessitating some expensive repairs, so be warned - the receive-only port is not well isolated!

9. ATU Tuning Time
The internal ATU takes forever to find a match, even when the SWR is fairly low, 1.4:1. My other transceivers can effect a match within a second or two, but the FTDX101D takes forever, accompanied by lots of relay chattering. Fortunately my antennas are all reasonably low SWR, so what on earth is the Yaesu ATU doing?

10. USB
The front panel USB 'A' socket is intended for use with a keyboard or mouse. Whilst all my wired mice, including a Raspberry Pi mouse, work, the same cannot be said of my Wireless Mice. Of the 6 wireless mice I have only 1 works with this radio, a Logitech M187, P/N: 810-005254. Mice that do not work: Logitech M505 P/N: 810-001284, Logitech M325 FCC ID: JNZMR0021, Logitech M170 P/N: 810-004907, TnB Model: MM240W, Maplin Model: M69JX. Time for Yaesu to update its mouse driver methinks. Similarly, it is equally picky about wireless keyboards, although a standard USB wired keyboard works fine.

11. S-Meter Calibration
Finally, the S-meter. Back in 1981 or 82, the IARU Technical Committee recommended that all S-meters be calibrated such that S9 corresponded to a voltage at the antenna input of 50uV, or -73dBm if the input impedance was 50 ohms, and that each S-point should be a 6dB change. Not so, both Icom and now Yaesu, who use 3dB/S-Point. Why? In the IARU scale S0 would roughly correspond to the noise floor, whereas S0 on a FTDX101D corresponds to a perfectly readable signal, at least at my QTH. Now I admit, I live in a very radio-quiet area up in the mountains, and on a normal (6dB/S-Point) receiver the daytime noise level on 20m is about S2 to S3, and even after dark 40m is still very quiet. So, please Yaesu, can we choose the scale of our S-meters? I for one would like to use the IARU standard, 6dB/S-point.

Just about all of these points can be 'fixed' with an appropriate firmware update, which would make a great transceiver a superb transceiver. Nevertheless, an excellent transceiver, well up to contest-grade standards.

Adrian, 5B4AIY

keywords my ft-dx101d won't work properly with my mfj-993b and MFJ-5124Y interface.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

QRP TO ABERDEEN 100mW (SSB)

ICOM IC-705 / G5RV


I was just messing around with the IC-705 at home when I heard MM0UDI chatting with a few people on 40M. Conditions were poor and I couldn't hear any of the stations Robbie was speaking with.

During a pause, I thought I'd put in a call, not really expecting much. To my surprise, Robbie caught my callsign and invited me in. I tried speaking with his friends but had no joy (I've no idea where they where).

Upon hearing which radio I was using, Robbie asked me to drop my power to see how it performed, so I dropped down from 10W to 5W. He asked me to go lower so I dropped to 1W. He asked me to go lower so I reduced power to half a Watt!

Lower! he demanded 😂 so I went to 100mW and although he struggled to make out what I was saying, he could still hear me in the distance. I increased to 200mW and again he could hear me but not quite understand my words so I went back to 10W to thank him for his time and give him my 73.

If we'd had more time and if I'd switched over to the EFHW, I think we could have easily have chatted at 100mW. I was very pleased with this little QSO and offer my thanks to Robbie for taking the time to experiment with the power levels.

Here's the recording of the conversation. If the YouTube video doesn't seem to work, CLICK HERE INSTEAD.

YouTube Video MM0UDI / M7MCQ


I know this isn't DX or anything, but I enjoyed the contact nonetheless and look forward to more attempts to using less and less power.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

OUTDOOR FT8 COMPANION

ASUS  E410M  NOTEBOOK

When preparing to do some outdoor FT8 up in the hills, you obviously need to think very carefully about what you're going to use as a computer to run WSJT-X. Especially considering you'll be carrying it in your rucksack along with your radio, antenna and accessories (and some food/drinks).

I have a Microsoft Surface Pro6 which would be fine, but it's just worth too much to me to put it at risk of damage or loss, so I looked around for something which had good battery life, was really light and really cheap. As usual, I started bargain-hunting!

From researching different NoteBooks, I soon learned that the ASUS E410M was one of the cheapest and lightest out there, but they're still too expensive new, costing around £250, so I searched for a used one. Within a very short space of time I found one just two miles away which was cheap and a cheeky offer made it an absolute steal!!!



When I arrived at the owners home to collect it, she told me that it was just a couple of months old and showed me the receipt. It was absolutely like new but was too slow for what she wanted to do on a PC, so I handed over my money and headed home.

Unlike the previous owner, I didn't need a powerful machine - I just wanted something that would run WSJT-X, GridTracker and have QRZ open on a browser. This machine would do that easily, so happy days.

This little Asus is very light and has a very slim profile. The top cover has a nifty design in "Peacock Blue" which looks pretty cool and certainly adds some cosmetic value to an otherwise Plain Jane device.

The E410M is one of the cheapest notebooks out there and is ideal for people how need a laptop style PC but don't need expensive CPU's or GFX. It's certainly of no use to gamers or video editors! But for those who want to just browse websites, watch a bit of YouTube, send emails and run basic application software such as word processors, it's fine.

It comes with a Quad Core Intel Celeron 1.1GHz processor, 4Gb DDR4 Ram, Intel UHD 500 Graphics and a 128GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD. These can be upgraded at purchase point but can't be upgraded later by the user. Well actually, you can add an NVMe SSD card to provide more storage but I suspect owners of this machine rarely will do.

Also included is built-in WiFi and BlueTooth. The display is a 14" anti-glare unit with an FHD resolution of 1920x1080. The screen on battery-power is not the brightest in the world but should be adequate for the task. When plugged into the Mains, the screen is perfectly bright, by the way. The screen can also be laid completely flat (180 degrees) which might be handy for someone, but it's of no value to me.


Now then, there's a bit of a funny story to this next part. When I switched the NoteBook on for the very first time, I was presented with a LogIn screen with the previous Lady Owner's name and photo. I recalled that she'd told me she had deleted all her files and gave me her LogIn Code because she didn't know how to reset everything back to factory-fresh.

So I entered her code and saw that the Windows 10 desktop was empty and only the Recycle Bin icon was left. I could also see that the Recycle Bin still contained files, so being a nosey bugger, I restored them 😂

To my amazement, I now had access to all her personal details, shopping, banking, medical, all sorts! I could go into her FaceBook, MSN, PayPal, mortgage provider, email, the lot!! I could even see what takeaway food she'd been ordering 😛

Anyway, I was just about to stop noseying when I clicked on something which took me to her more intimate areas! 😲😲😲

It turns out that she's an Escort!! So there I am looking at all these emails from married men booking time-slots with her and telling her what they're going to do, etc, etc. And then if that wasn't enough, I saw her replies to them, complete with nude images of her in errrrr, some very interesting poses and outfits 😂😈😂. 


Anyway, I deleted all her files properly and got shut of her UserID on the NoteBook and created my own less sordid profile. I then sent her an email to warn her of failing to properly delete things when selling computers, laptops, tablets and phones. I told her to change ALL her passwords immediately. 

She wrote back, thanked me and gave me a Discount Code 😂😂😂

So with that out of the way, I installed WSJT-X, GridTracker and the latest IC-705 USB Driver. With the radio connected and setup as a 7300 in WSJT-X, everything was up and running without a hitch. I only did a quick test on the EFHW because it was getting late (after looking at all those computer images) 😅


One thing that I did notice, was the Temperature gauge was showing 15 bars which is far higher than the 7300 goes, but then again this little rig was running at 100% power where the 7300 only runs at 10-12%.


I'll try it outdoors at the weekend if it isn't POURING WITH RAIN like it currently is.

Take care (of your data).

73, Tom, M7MCQ.


UPDATE : I tried to run the RS-BA1 (V2) software on the little NoteBook and it worked a treat - even with the scope switched on!! Everything worked perfectly well with no issues. I must admit though, you get interruptions (break-up) if you try to run other CPU-intensive applications as well as RS-BA1.

Testing RS-BA1 on this weedy PC was just an exercise, since I'd never really use it for this purpose. For RC operation I'd probably use my infinitely faster Surface Pro.