I have taken my HF mobile install through a number of different iterations (the constant being the rig: an Icom IC-706MKIIG). Today I hope that I have finally reached a lasting, workable setup. Here is a quick re-cap of my trials and tribulations:
First attempt (2007):
What this install lacked in experience, it made up in effort. The successes were routing the powerline and the feedline. The antenna system was a different story. My combination of Hustler and Hamstick antennas (along with the unfortunate choice of putting an Icom AT-180 autotuner in the mix) met with mixed success. I did make contacts and enjoyed the mobiling. The rig itself was placed under the passenger seat. Placed side by side with my TM-D710A left very little room and little clearance between the seat and the floor. I came to realize that my 2005 Toyota Tundra lacked any real great locations to stash a rig. The drivers seat (no way), behind the back seat (nope), under the back seat (not going to happen).
Tarheel Model 75A and the stake pocket mount (2008):
I have not regreted going with the Tarheel Model 75A. I finally figure out that using an autotuner was a non-starter and a screwdriver offered a great solution. The stake pocket mount was a mixed success. The way the pocket was always had the antenna sticking up at a funny angle. It also did not seem very secure. I still made lots of contacts and had lots of fun.
Switched to MT-1(S) mount (2009):
Switching to the MT-1(S) mount did a lot to improve my operations. By having the antenna mounted right to the side of the bed, my ground (… and other half of the antenna) was greatly improved.
Using the iPortable (2009-2012):
I don’t usaully have a passenger in the front seat – just two kids in the back. But having a heavy weight passenger in the front seat was a no-go for IC-706 in the all too cramped location under the seat. The iPortable setup allowed me to consolidate the IC-706MKII and the TurboTuner in one spot. No more messy nest of wires. But the iPortable offered somewhat of an obstacle to the kids in the back seat.
Now the iPortable is in the large tool box mounted to the bed of the pickup.
The big task was to reroute all the cables: an extension to the powerline, pulling out the feedline, and moving the control cable for the Tarheel antenna. The IC-706 includes the AD5X fan modification.
I had to drill a hole on either side of tool box to route the cables in and out. So far, so good – everything works and I am getting a full 100 watts out on every band.
I did forget to run a line for a CW paddle… that is on the To Do List.
There are also a few additional improvements I would like to make.
- 12v booster to 13.8v
- Extra 12v battery
My GPS of choice for the last two years has been the Garmin Nuvi 350. It interfaced nicely with the Kenwood TM-D710A using an Argent Data Systems cable. Everything was working great with the Nuvi up until I placed it in our washing machine. You are probably thinking that there is a better way to clean a GPS than to put it in a washing machine and I would absolutely agree with you. I took the Nuvi with me to Dayton and then packed it, safely wrapped in my clothes, for the return trip. Well – you can probably figure out what happen from there. Being newly GPSless, I decided to look into the AvMap G5 (which I had been drooling over for a while). Installation was super easy. The AvMap G5 comes with a hardcore suction mount, which I like much better than the beanbag mount that I had with the Nuvi. There is one connection to power the AvMap G5 via a 12v cigarette lighter and the other for data between the AvMap G5 and the TM-D710A (and all necessary cables are INCLUDED). With one or two settings completed on the AvMap G5, the GPS and TM-D710A were talking together perfectly. W6GPS has a series of YouTube videos touting the AvMap G5 and all it can do. The AvMap G5 is suppose to also work with the TH-D7A – I am interested to try and experiment with that. The benefits I have identified of the AvMap G5 over the Nuvi is (1) its plotting of APRS icons vs just a callsign and (2) the larger screen display. Another plus for the AvMap G5 is an active Yahoo Group. I am going to try to keep this GPS away from the washing machine.
Lots of snow here on the eastern edge of Kansas. We got a good dump of slush on Friday but with the temp too high none of it stuck. Then Saturday afternoon the temp dropped below 32d F and decided to stay around 29d F. Saturday night the snow started coming down and has not stopped since.
The snow has been a big hit with Sarah:
My trusty Toyota Tundra (no recalls yet… keeping my fingers crossed) is wearing a nice, thick coat of snowy goodness:
I’ve rekindled my interest in EchoLink and now have a full blown EchoIRLP node (EchoLink Node #496698 and IRLP Node #3370) and am using a TM-D710A to run the node as well as my APRS weather station. What I have been enjoying most so far about IRLP is the ability to tweak and play with the linux software via a (or multiple) terminal session(s). It is helping me improve my linux skills.
Speaking of linux, I have been piecing together my iPORTABLE-mounted station. Each box comfortably fits two components. Box #1 has an IC-7000 and an LDG AT-200pro tuner. Box #2 has a Dell Zino HD and an Alinco DM-330MV power supply. Box #3 will have an embedded EchoIRLP node and a TM-D710A. Box#1 and #2 are already assembled and it makes for a nice, portable working station. Back to linux… it has long been a desire of mine to switch as much of my computing to Ubuntu as possible. Currently the Dell Zino has a dual boot configuration of Vista (which was already installed) and Ubuntu 9.10. I have been trying to put together a nice amateur radio software collection on the Zino and have had mixed results. For rig control, it is hard to beat the Windows program Ham Radio Deluxe. The closest linux version I’ve been able to find is an application called Grig. Not quite what I want to take advantage of all the bells and whistles that the IC-7000 has. I’ve been listening to the excellent podcast Linux in the Ham Shack for recommendations (episode #13 is dedicated to rig control), perusing the January 2010 issue of Linux Journal (the issue is dedicated to Amateur Radio and Linux), and am also looking at shackbox, which is a linux distribution designed with amateur radio in mind. I think I am going to give shackbox a try and see how it goes.
… all of this on a snowy Sunday.
If you get a chance, connect to my EchoIRLP node (EchoLink Node #496698 and IRLP Node #3370) and say hello. You’ll help me procrastinate in finishing my paper on the Army Amateur Radio System.
I have not played around with EchoLink for a while. Reviewing my manual for the Kenwood TM-D710A that I have running my APRS traffic for my home weather station, I saw how the D710A can also simultaneously run an EchoLink node (with the additional PG-5H cables). Configuring the EchoLink software to work with the D710A is pretty simple and is covered in one of the Kenwood manuals for the rig that focuses on both APRS and EchoLink operation. I established my EchoLink station as a simplex “link”. That allows me to have the EchoLink node operational on a simplex VHF/UHF frequency and accessible by either HT from the house or from my mobile rig while I am driving in and around town. By using DTMF commands over the simplex link, I can bring the node up and down as well as connect to different EchoLink enabled repeaters and conferences. It is interesting to note that since I was last playing around with EchoLink, it seems there are a lot less nodes around. I’m guessing this can be attributed to the growing popularity of IRLP over EchoLink. If you are near an EchoLink repeater or have the software installed – give me a call at EchoLink Node #496698.
I was able to interface my TM-D710A with UI-View32. Previously I was using UI-View32 along with a Kantronics KPC-3+ and a dedicated FM rig (FT-1500) with a direct packet connection. This set up worked well – UI-View32 puts the KPC-3+ into KISS mode and the rest of the settings are pretty straight forward. The advantage of using the TM-D710A (one of many) is that with its two radios in one I can run my APRS station and also get on the local repeaters while only using my one VHF/UHF antenna.
I use Weather Display in conjunction with my Davis Vantage Pro2. Weather Display is an amazingly powerful application and it works well with UI-View32, allowing my APRS station to transmit my weather data in addition to my position info.
Configuring TM-D710A and UI-View32 to work together is little more tricky.
The TM-D710A has a built-in TNC. When you use the TM-D710A in a mobile configuration, the TNC runs in APRS mode. When used with UI-View32, the TNC operates in standard packet mode. It looks like it is possible to use the TNC in KISS mode, but I am not sure how to do that with UI-View32. The directions from Kenwood for the TM-D710A include a recommended CMD file to be used with UI-View32. I used the recommended CMD file and UI-View32 and the TM-D710A worked together up to a point. What was missing were two TNC commands that allow UI-View32 to see the received APRS traffic and then display the traffic on the UI-View32 map. Here is what the CMD file looks like now:
;This is a sample TNC initialization file for use with
;the Kenwood TM-D710A.
;DON’T alter anything in this section unless you are
;sure you know what you are doing!
NO_BEACON_COMMAND=BEACON EVERY 0
;Control mode on.
TC 1!TS 1
;Select TNC PKT mode on A band.
TN 2,0!TN 2,0
;Waiting for command prompt.
;Repeating the first two commands is not an error!
BEACON EVERY 0
BEACON EVERY 0
;Also UI-View32 to see incoming APRS traffic
Joseph Sheehan Bicycle Road Race: Today I helped support a 52.9 mile bicycle race between Leavenworth and Atchison, KS. The weather was miserable. A cold morning to begin with. Then rain… and sleet. Even snow. I was positioned at a intersection that crossed the highway which served as about the 10 mile mark and then 40 mile mark on the route back. 52 cyclist made it to the 10 mile point and not more than 20 went on to finish the race. I couldn’t believe that many of the guys hung with it. Those were some dedicated folks.
There were four of us supporting the race, positioned at key spots along the route (inside our nice, warm vehicles). I was able to have several “lessons learned” for this event. I had a distinct lack of planning and preparation.
(1) I didn’t fully check my rig prior to the event. I was at the event site trying to do a radio check with net control with no results.
(2) When it is time to troubleshoot, you have to use logic. When time is short (because of lack of preparation) and problems come up, you have to keep your head. Troubleshooting a radio system is pretty basic. Start from one end and work to the other. Finding that the antenna feedline isn’t properly connected to the rig should be an easy fix.
(3) Having an HT as backup is good. Knowing how to change the settings on it is critical. One of those Nifty manuals or smart cards does the trick.
That being said, thanks to the quick thinking of the net control I was able to initially talk to him on my HT using a repeater that didn’t require a tone (I’d forgotten how to change the tone setting on my Kenwood TH-D7A). I eventually figured out how to set the tone and was on the repeater with the other folks. Then with a bit more thought and troubleshooting, I discovered my feedline connection to the rig had come loose and with that fixed I was back in business. Part of the problem is that I have a relatively new rig in the truck, the Kenwood TM-D710A. It is a very complicated rig and I have only scratched the surface on how to operate it. I was able to interface it with the Garmin Nuvi 350 thanks to a cable from Argent Data Systems. The cable allows the D710A to pass APRS data to the Nuvi and the Nuvi plots the data as waypoints. It works pretty well.
Big week ahead. I mentioned before that I have some specific graduation requirements for the course I am in at Fort Leavenworth. This week I should be able to complete another of the requirements: speak to a community group, school, or other organized gathering of citizens. I have put together a presentation concerning my operations of both amateur radio and MARS station while in Iraq and will be giving the presentation to one of the local amateur radio clubs. The presentation, in addition to my operations, covers the history of the US Army and amateur radio while deployed overseas. It has been fascinating researching the operations of previous Army hams from WWII (Germany and Japan), Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. I also cover the history of amateur radio in Iraq from the early days in the 1920s through the Saddam period and then today. Once I get my slides spiffied up a bit more and add some notes, I will post a link here so those who are interested can take a look. My final requirement is: write professionally by submitting a letter to the editor, Op-Ed piece, or article for publication. My intent is to turn the presentation into an article and then send it to ARRL’s QST. Most of the article is done – I hope to get it completed this week as well.