I enjoy having a weather station at home. It is hooked up to APRS, weatherunderground.com, and I even have a weather webpage. One of the standard exchanges of information in most general QSOs is the weather: temperature, rain, …. I also like telling the folks in Florida that my humidity is 40% (I am not a fan of humidity having expierenced Fort Benning, GA in the summertime and monsoon season in Korea, not to mention my unairconditioned room at The Citadel (although I hear they have air conditioning now!)). It is easy to look at my desktop display and get all the data I need. I have heard of some folks who have a way to pull their weather data directly from their weather stations and input it into their PSK QSOs. Pretty slick, but I have never figured out how to do that (… yet).
All that being said, I do not get into weather prediction that much. If I see the barometer dropping, I may check the locak National Weather Service radar to see if anything is moving in (weather here moves from west to east). But if I wanted to get into weather prediction, this would make an interesting homebrew project: The Tempest Prognosticator.
Developed in the 1850s by Dr. George Merryweather, this device used leeches that would ring a bell if a storm was approaching. The device was even featured in Britian’s Great Exhibition of 1851. Despite the publicity, Dr. Merryweather was never able to get the government interested in putting the device into use.
I am sure there would be a way to interface the slugs with some kinda of Arduino device that would send out weather predicitions via APRS data.
Out here in Kansas, on the eastern edge of the prarie, the leaves are turning and the first frost is upon us. The time is NOW to get the hamshack in order.
(1) My VHF/UHF antenna and Davis weather station NEEDS to get mounted up on the chimney. I have the mounting brackets – thin aluminium straps that circumnavigate the chiminey. However, the roof at the new QTH is basically three stories high and the roof itself is pretty steep. Too steep for me. The solution? I am trying to get a local roofing company to give me an estimate for the job.
(2) The HF antenna. In the course of sorting through all the hamshack flotsam, I’ve started to identify “stuff” I can part with. Already I’ve said goodbye to some old MFJ TNCs, the Kenwood TS-930S, and my old TinyTrak (thank you Craigslist!). There’s more to part with and I’m still in the process of identfying them (… like an ICOM PCR-1000, TenTec RX-320, and a D-STAR DV Dongle for starters). More importantly (and back on topic), I unearthed two in-the-package wire antennas. The first is an 80M OCF dipole from RadioWavz and the second is a G5RV+ from RadioWorks. Now I need to dust off the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher and let the tennis balls fly.
(3) Once I have my antenna situation under control, I can take the hamshack innards to the next level.
Questions to ponder:
Do I retain the hardcopy collection of QST magazines I’ve been carting around since 2005ish? Starting for the late 40′s, it is a solid collection up to 2000. It takes up a great deal of space and I have the same issues on CD. I’d like to find the collection a new (local) home, if possible.
My new job has me on the road – it would be great to take some gear on the road with me. What to take? Needs to have a small footprint. Sounds like a job for the KX1. What to use for an antenna?
Progress has been slow in getting my shack setup at the new QTH in Lansing, KS. I had success running three differnt feedlines from the shack, through a narrow path between the basement ceiling and the main floor to an access box on the houses exterior wall exiting to the side yard. I purchased 50′ coax cables for each run, thinking that 50′ feet might have been too long. However, 50′ ended up being right on the nose, offering me just the right amount of slack in the hamshack and easily reaching the access panel on the exterior wall.
I have unpacked the majority of my equipment that came from Korea and from the old house in Leavenworth. The weather station and VHF/UHF antenna is temporarily mounted on our deck. The plan is to mount it on the chimney, but I am going to need some help getting it up there.
I have a Buddipole up in the side yard and connected it up to one of the feedlines. I fired up the K3 and the radio seems to be working well. Next I tried connecting the Microham USB III digital interface, but have run into some trouble in getting it to cooperate with fldigi. This time, once I get everything working, I am going to copy down all the settings as well as the connections to make sure next time I move it, I don’t have such a steep curve to re-figure out what I had already figured out some time ago.
Some minor problems I am encountering (besides the fldigi/Microham USB III): the weather station gets buggy when I am transmitting on VHF and the weather station software freezes up when I transmit on 40M. The later problem is nothing new and I had limited success trouble shooting the problem by adding chokes to the weather station data display power supply and putting the computer that runs the weather station software on an UPS. The VHF transmission problem is new. I have a 2″ PVC pipe that both the VHF antenna and the weather station are mounted on. I have not previously had a problem with any interference from the VHF antenna, but I will try and move the weather station down the PVC pipe a bit and see if that eliminates the interference issue.
Tasks that still await me: cleaning up the workbench, clearing out the excess boxes that are lying around, organize the QSL cards. I need to establish (and stick with) a system for managing QSL cards. I am pretty sure I have enough cards to get my DXCC, but I have to put the cards in order. I also have a stack of cards to send to the outgoing bureau for the YI9MI operation and a handfull for HL2/AD7MI and HL9MI.
After a week of cold temps here on the eastern edge of Kansas, it looks like we are finally going to see some relief and also bid farewell to all the snow that’s been hanging around.
Some initial high temps back around New Year’s Eve was able to melt a bit of the snow around my weather station perched way up on our roof. Then temps dropped and my wind vane froze pointing almost north (indicated by the solid red line at the top of the graph).
Some increased sunlight and rising temps finally freed the vane. Probably next will get some melting snow making the rain collector indicate some rainfall.
My Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station is going to need a good spring cleaning, replacing the on-board battery, cleaning off the solar panel that helps with power, and cleaning out the rain collector.
So far, so good with my new weather station >dedicated< computer setup. The computer has been puttering away without issue. I do still need to hook up the UPS to keep both the computer and radio alive should the AC power get interrupted.
It is snowing now – NWS says we’ll get 2 inches. I am hoping for more. I’ll have to do a bit of shoveling to clear the driveway in the morning, then I’ll head out with the 4 year old for some sledding. Should be a good time, although with the low temps (the high today was 10F) we will have to bundle up a bit. It has been so cold since New Year’s Eve that the wind direction sensor on my Davis Vantage Pro2 has frozen, pointing north.
I’ve been doing a little configuration work in the shack. I decided to dedicate one of my computers to running my weather station/APRS combo. Before I had the software (Weather Display and UI-View32) running on the same computer I used for my HF work. Things got busy with the log and Ham Radio Deluxe going plus the APRS and weather applications. Moving the weather and APRS applications onto its own computer should give me a bit more stability. I installed a dual boot configuration of Win XP and Ubuntu 9.10. I am initially sticking with Win XP as I know it works well with both Weather Display and UI-View32. My plan is then to migrate to Ubuntu 9.10 and run Xastir and the Linux version of Weather Display. I need to do some googeling and see who else is doing that and see what issues they ran into. I did find and interesting linux application called wview – will definitely explore that. Looks like it is also a replacement for Weather Display Live.
I have a new computer than I am going to dedicate to just HF operations – one of Dell’s new Zino computers. I like the small form factor and I will also install a dual boot configuration to have some fun with both Win XP and Ubuntu.
The old (circa 2005) desktop computer that used to run both the HF ham applications, Weather Display, and UI-View32 has now been moved to another table in the basement and has become the arcade machine. My cool xmas gift was the X-Arcade Tankstick – an amazing arcade controller that is built like an old school arcade console. Along with MAME software I have been able to play some wonderful, classic arcade games: Pac-Man, Galaga, Berzerk!, Robotron, Battlezone, and my favorite – Scramble. The Tankstick also has a trackball, so I have been able to relive the glory of both Missile Command and Centepede as well. I’ve had the four year old behind the joystick playing Frogger – and she did pretty darn good. It is hard to beat the classic arcade games.
The plan for my HF station, based around my Icom IC-7000 is to mount it in two iPortable boxes. The set up will include the IC-7000, a tuner, power supply, and the Dell Zino. If (…when…) I am deployed again, I will be able to have these two iPortable boxes sent out to me. I’ll take some pics as I put the iPortable station together and post it here.
My Field Day adventure started on Tuesday, 23 June. I finished the final touched to the eARSIB and then through every possible item I thought I might need (minus a 25 pin to 9 pin cable for a Kantronics KPC-3+ which I will talk about later) in a total of 3 footlockers. I packed up the truck, loaded up the dog and was on the road by 10:30am. There was good APRS coverage on my route along I-80 up until western Nebraska where I encountered an almost 200 mile gap. Once I hit Cheyenne, I was back in APRS coverage. My stop for the first night was Laramie, Wyoming, which I made before sunset.
The next day I pushed on west. While in western Wyoming I was able to check into the 40M Sparkle Net (7262 kHz) and talk with Dave, KE0DL, back in Leavenworth, Kansas. I also noticed on my GPS that one of the APRS stations was moving along I-80 the same direction that I was going. I gave a short call on the 2M National Simplex frequency and got a reply. We had both started the drive in Wyoming but parted ways in Salt Lake; he headed south on I-15 to Vegas, I kept west on I-80. I enjoyed the drive through eastern Utah. Park City, Utah is a place I had spent a lot of time skiing about twenty years ago. I’d been there often in the winter, but this was the first time seeing it during the summer.
Traffic was heavy through Salt Lake City and I did my best to make my way around the city as quickly as possible. West of the Great Salt Lake, I had an interesting HF QSO with a gentleman in Southern California who was using an Elecraft K3 with an the diminutive MT-1 antenna. My initial plan was to spend the night in Winnemucca, Nevada but upon arriving discovered they had me on the second floor in a non-pet room. Instead of hauling my footlockers up a flight of stairs I decided to push on to Fernley, Nevada (just east of Reno) where I found a great hotel with a first floor room I could practically back my truck up into. The dog liked it too.
Thursday morning I worked my way up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas, listening to a few 40M nets. I reached the Sonora Pass around noon and enjoyed the view. The dog a I hiked up to a nearby plateau and took in the view.
After traveling down the western side of the mountains I was able to raise my dad, KD6EUG, on a repeater near his cabin in Mi-Wuk Village. California Hwy 108 wound its way down from Sonora Pass. The drive was spectacular along the scenic route and traffic was sparse. I rolled down the windows and opened the sun roof to take in gorgeous day. Reaching the cabin in Mi-Wuk, both the dog and I got to strech our legs and rest up. Thursday night we assembled the gear that would become a permanent station at the cabin: an IC-706MKIIG, LDG Z-11 Pro, RIGblaster PnP, IC-208H, all powered by an Icom PS-125. In addition to the radio gear, the station would also integrate a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station, beaconing the weather data view APRS.
To simplify the APRS setup in the cabin, I decided to use a special add-on piece of equipment from Davis specifically designed to be used for APRS – the WeatherLink APRS streaming data logger. The data logger, once configured, streams weather data directly to a TNC, eliminating the need for a computer (or UI-View32). With this setup, it was not necessary to leave a computer running to keep the weather station pushing data to the TNC and VHF radio. The weather data is formated by the data logger to be ready for transmission into APRS. The station also has a laptop which I installed the WeatherLink software that would allow me to configure the APRS data logger. Configuring the data logger was pretty straight forward. Setting the parameters in the TNC to grab the data loggers APRS weather info proved a bit more challenging. The challenge was further compounded by my forgetting to pack the 25 pin to 9 pin cable that connects the laptop to the Kantronics KPC-3+ TNC.
The real work started Friday. The first task was completing the installation of a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station on the cabin roof. That was done without much trouble.
The next step would be to get the weather data out via APRS using the IC-208H paired with the Kantronics KPC-3+ TNC and the Davis APRS streaming data logger. With the lack of a good cable to use between the laptop and TNC as well as not knowing exactly what parameters were need in the TNC we decided that task would have to wait until after Field Day.
Now it was time to string some antennas. The first was a 132′ dipole which ran N/S. I’d packed my CVS19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher (aka tennis ball launcher) which helped us position the antenna up about 40′.
Next we strung a G5RV going E/W. This is the same G5RV I bought from a fellow ham when I lived back in Virginia. He had never used it and I had used the antenna only once while running a special event station at Fort Monroe.
It quickly became apparent that we could not both operate using both antennas due to their proximity to each other and surrounding powerlines prevented us from placing the antennas end to end in order to minimize interference. The solution: my dad’s Force 12 Sigma 5. The problem: the antenna was back in San Jose. So Friday night consisted of my dad traveling back to the Bay Area to retrieve the vertical antenna while I continued to configure the laptop (N3FJP Field Day networked logging software, Digipan for PSK-31, and the Davis Weatherlink program) in addition to setting up my operating position on the back deck of the cabin.
My operating position setup consisted of a 10′x10′ pop-up shelter (with mosquito net) and a large table with comfortable folding chair. Inside the shelter I placed a large table with the eARSIB and my station’s laptop.
I verified that the laptops at either operating position (the one inside the cabin and mine outside on the deck) could communicate via WiFi using the N3FJP software: it worked like a charm. The software allows two (or more) operating positions to share one log. Each operator gets to see the combined log and is notified of potential dupes.
Saturday morning my dad arrived back from the Bay Area and we setup the Sigma 5.
My operating position on the deck had the antenna connections for both the G5RV and the Sigma 5, my dad’s position had the 132′ ladderline-fed dipole. Interference between the two positions was sometimes a problem. I could use the Sigma 5 vertical on 20M, 15M, and 10M as long as my dad stayed on 80M or 40M (as long as I wasn’t on 15M). While this slowed down operations a bit, it gave us time to take plenty of breaks. My dad started Field Day by working PSK-31 on 20M. I worked phone contacts on 15M and 10M. Later my dad switched to phone, which he really started to enjoy.
10M and 15M were really incredible. I was able to work all the way to the East Coast and up and down the West Coast. For dinner, I BBQ’d some brauts. By midnight we were both exhausted and decided to get some rest.
I enjoyed using my eARSIB. This is the first time I used a foot pedal for my PTT – paired with a Heil headset. That worked great, allowing me to use both hands on the keyboard. I had been unable to configure the West Mountain RIGtalk to work on my laptop – not sure why. But it wasn’t too hard to just flip the band in the logging software. I had not used my Logikey CMOS4 Keyer in some time. I paired it with my Vibroplex paddle and the two worked well together. I enjoyed a few QRS CW QSOs – thank you for those who took the time to slow down for me. I had picked up a marine battery to use with my PWRgate and that worked well.
Sunday I got up after four hours of sleep and started working 80M using the G5RV.
The G5RV worked nicely and I contacted stations from Western Canada down to Southern California and Arizona. I moved up to 40M and expierenced similar results – but was also able to work a station in Japan. My dad was up soon and started to work on 80M and 40M with the 132′ dipole while I switched to the vertical and worked stations on 20M. By about 11:30am we were both pretty much spent. Overall we made about 250 contacts, mostly phone but also a few PSK-31 and CW…. and we had a great time!
KD6EUG Brags About The Number of QSOs He Made
We slept well Sunday night and Monday morning had me back working on the Kantronics KPC-3+/Davis weather station. The biggest problem I was having was figuring out what value to use for the GPSHEAD parameter. Without the correct value, the KPC-3+ was not grabbing the weather data. GPSHEAD would pull in the data a place it in LT (a buffer). LPT setup the APRS path. BLT setup the amount of time in between the TNC initiating a beacon transmission containing weather data.
After a few calls to the Davis headquarters, I was able to figure out that “@” was the magic value for GPSHEAD. Now the weather station is up and operational.
It was then back on the road, up and over the Sonora Pass. I was able to talk to my dad, operating from the Mi-Wuk cabin station, on 80M from the top of the pass. I spent the night in Carson City, Nevada and the next day headed east on I-80. I had made the decision to take I-70 back to Kansas in order to try something different as well as seeing a part of Colorado I had never seen before. It was a long haul to Grand Junction, Colorado – I arrived around midnight. After a few hours of sleep, I was on the road again heading east through some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip. Aspen and Veil were beautiful cities – I hope I get a chance to go back there someday. But while the drive was scenic, the going was slowed and progress was not nearly as quick as I had experienced before while moving through Wyoming and Nebraska.
I finally emerged from the Rockies and headed into Denver, stopping at the Ham Radio Outlet located there. Terry, KC0VFO, and I talked about our Field Day experiences – he operated mobile. His call sign looked familiar and sure enough, I had worked Terry on 15M during Field Day.
Moving east through Denver I was back on the open road, moving rapidly along I-70. I heard a call coming over the 2M National Simplex frequency. It was a gentleman operating from the Mt. Evans Observatory – we had an enjoyable QSO and he went on to work others. The Canada Day contest was also underway and I started to hand out contacts from the mobile. I had planned to make it all the way back to Leavenworth, Kansas but realized I was too tired and needed to spend the night somewhere. I crossed the Colorado/Kansas border and arrived in Goodland, Kansas were I found a hotel room and promptly fell fast asleep.
My final day on the road was pretty easy driving. When you think about Kansas, it is usually what you see in western Kansas along I-70. Flat terrain, lots of farms, not much else. For some reason, the speed limit max in Kansas drops to 70mph (Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado all have a max of 75mph). I listened to some of the morning HF nets on 80M and 40M, then made contact with K2L, a special events station in Charleston, South Carolina. I was also able to check into the Sparkle Net on 40M and then later worked two stations on 17M, both located in and around the western border area between North and South Carolina. Soon I was back home, arriving before 3pm.
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
I have been using my Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station along with the Weather Display software since the start of January without serious issue. I also have not been on my HF rig much. I’ve noticed over the past few weekends when I did key up the mike for a short QSO that the Weather Display software had locked up. The computer is still functioning, to include UI-View32 but Weather Display freezes. After a little testing, it looks like this only occurs when I transmit on 20M at some point above 50-75 watts out. I played around with a few ferrite chokes on cables between the computer and my IC-7000, but it did not fix the problem.
I need to fix this problem. I can’t have my weather data locking up every time I want to get on HF.
This week I am going to tear apart the station and try to isolate the problem. I am also using the opportunity to put sliders on the legs of the table which will allow me better allow me to pull the table away from the wall when I need to get behind the gear.
I set a few goals back in July and thought I would take a look at my progress:
What I want to accomplish in the Kansas Shack:
- HF phone and CW operation; 80m-10m
- HF digital modes (PSK-31, RTTY, PACTOR III)
- Computer logging
- 2m FM base station
- APRS weather station, interfaced with a dedicated 2m transceiver
- Online weather page, showing current weather conditions
- Separate, organized workbench
HF phone and CW operation; 80m-10m – my HF activities are centered around my IC-7000. I would like to get the TS-930S up an operational, but I am afraid that is not in the budget at this point.
HF digital modes (PSK-31, RTTY, PACTOR III) – I am using my RIGblaster Plug & Play for digital modes… other than PACTOR III. I have not yet hooked up my SCS PTC-IIusb Modem.
Computer logging – I do have Ham Radio Deluxe loaded now, but I want to find a good linux version.
2m FM base station – currently the FT-2800M for the job. I do have some plans to move my IC-208H from the truck into the shack. That will give me a 70cm capability in addition to the 2M. The truck is getting a new rig… more on that soon.
APRS weather station, interfaced with a dedicated 2m transceiver – I am using a FT-1500 for the job, connected to UI-View32 and receiving data from the Davis VantagePro2. The problem here is that I only have the one antenna up so this limits my ability to hop on the local repeaters from the shack. I need to either get a coax switch to be able to switch between the two rigs or put another antenna up.
Online weather page, showing current weather conditions – yes indeed… I think this is working pretty nice.
Separate, organized workbench – also a success… although it seems to be too crowded with stuff. The best part is the pegboard for tools – I no longer have the problem of quickly locating the tools I need.
Overall, I am happy with the progress I have made getting the shack in shape. What I want to work on now:
- New antenna for HF
- Fix up the ARSIB
- Get the SB-200 amp working
- Transition all shack computers to Ubuntu linux
I spent some time this afternoon trying to get the shack a little better organized. I mounted two power strips on the wall behind my desk to help organize my power cables. I also mounted the console for my Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station directly above my computer monitors for easy visibility. I use Anderson Powerpoll connectors and West Mountain Rigrunners for my power distribution. Things were looking a bit like a rat’s nest, so I shut everything down, unplug all the connectors, rerouted them in a more coherent fashion, and replugged everything in. I also added in my West Mountain PwrGate and hooked in my 12v deep cycle marine battery. The PwrGate keeps the marine battery charged and automatically switches to it should there be a drop in the 120v house power. I still need an UPS for my computer running the Weather Display software and UI-View32.
Also added a lamp to the desk to help me see what the heck I’m doing.
Finally, I fired up the IC-7000 just to make sure it was still working and had a nice QSO with VE6CQ operating from Calgary, Canada.