Six Meters – The Magic Band

Six meters, the “magic band”, has been researched and some of our results are given for an optimum antenna system for our little pistol station.  We currently have a M2 HO-LOOP Halo antenna at 22′.  Below is the first step of raising an antenna to 50′.  We will explain how we came to the choice of that height. Our goal is to get it completed before the end of the 6 meter season and that’s getting very close.

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Wood instead of concrete for tower base.  This is a half way picture.  The posts are 4 feet long and are shown buried half way.  Dirt will be filled in and only 6″ of cedar post will be above ground.  Seventy five dollars for wood versus the $1000 charge for concrete in the country.  The tower is one we’ve had on hand which is a 30′ aluminum Universal Tower.  We plan to extend another 20 feet with aluminum tubing and put a 6 meter antenna at the top.  Work in progress.

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This is what the finished base looks like with wooden posts.  Ten year life expectancy in the arid Colorado plains climate.  By the way the tower is insulated from ground lending itself to being used as a vertical antenna as well.

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It’s up!  Complete with a Halo antenna and it seems to work well on the preliminary testing.  Stations came in with readings of minus 17 and minus 18 (FT8)  that KC0RF said he wasn’t decoding.  That’s 20 feet of mast above a 30 foot aluminum tower.  It was designed as a self-supported tower but it’s so old and weak it needs guy ropes to stay vertical.

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No Climbing, By The Way

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No tower climbing these days.  The base tilts and a winch with steel aircraft cable attached near the tower’s apex turns this into a tilt over tower.  It takes a lot of cranking but cranking beats climbing any day.  The hand winch could be easily replaced by a power winch someday.  (Apologies for the terrible quality of the snapshot.)

RS-BA1 Installation – IC-7610

RS-BA1 Version 1.96 consists of two parts.  One is the back connection to the radio and the other is the user interface showing the control panel of the radio.  The first is called Icom Remote Utility and the second is RS-BA1 Remote Control.  They appear as two separate icons on the pc desktop. The Utility has to be up and running in order to start the Remote Control.  Once it’s installed it’s just a matter of clicking on Connect.

To begin the installation load the software on your pc and open the Utility and click Setup Wizard.

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The IC-7610 has a server built in so click the upper left, (A radio with Server function). When the Setup for a Remote PC window appears click Next. In the next window, Server Information, enter the I.P. address of the IC-7610.  We are using a router at the remote site with port forwarding so we enter the I.P. address of the router Internet connection followed by a colon and the port number we chose.   For more port forwarding information see another post on this blog:

https://w0qlremotebase.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/port-forwarding/

Once the I.P. address and port number is entered click Next.  When the User ID and Password appear obtain this information from the IC-7610 Menus.

Click Connect and the following screen should appear:

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Next click the tab Radio List and the IC-7610 should appear automatically.  Click on the radio to highlight the line and click on Connect.  A window with the information regarding the virtual com port will appear.  Note this port for later. Click OK and the “<<Connected>>” message should appear.

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Notice under Audio Device Speaker is the speaker in the display.  To configure this in the Radio List window click Settings.  To hear monitor audio click AF. This window should appear.  Notice the Mute button is pressed by default.  Click on Mute to unmute the audio.  Monitor audio from the remote should be coming through the monitor speakers.  Levels can be set by ear listening for the least distortion.

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Part one is working, the back connection to the radio.  All that is needed to see the control panel is to open the icon for the RS-BA1 Remote Control.  Click Connect Set to enter radio parameters.

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The com port is the virtual com port noted from the paragraph above.  The radio frequency should now appear and clicking on buttons here should change settings on the IC-7610.

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At this point an operator could use CW and SSB with no further software. In our installation we are running digital modes using Win4IcomSuite so we don’t need to use this control panel.  We are running RS-BA1 for the ability to monitor audio remotely which we cannot do with Win4IcomSuite at this time.

This installation is using RS-BA1 version 1.96.  It is much easier to configure than previous versions in my opinion.

 

 

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New Router and Solar Panel Tilt Adjustment

Changed out the old Linksys E2500 router today for an upgraded Linksys EA6350.  Two problems are addressed.   First the E2500 has the lowest lan-to-wan throughput of any Linksys router.  The EA6350 is much better.   Second, out of all the Linksys routers the E2500 is one of only 3 that are susceptible to the new vpnfilter malware.  The E2500 has blocked some web sites even when using the I.P. address which is a good hint that it has the malware.

 

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Next the solar panels were tilted at 17 degrees instead of the 40 they had been set at for summer.   They will be changed for winter or summer.  This tilt was obtained from one of the many online calculators.  Next step is to see what time float is reached each day.  It had previously been 1 pm.  Float still comes after noon so more panels will be added.  On Summer Solstice, June 21, 2018 at 1:00p Mountain Daylight Time, the sun peaked at 17 degrees as measured with an angle detector.  The 17 degrees calculation seems to be ideal for Denver summer’s insolation.

54992448268__8610C867-4943-4B38-B38F-FF46670EC7E3

54992447655__BE14C363-6EE1-409A-8230-80056108B255

Insolation:
in·so·la·tion
ˌinsəˈlāSH(ə)n/

noun

technical
  1. exposure to the sun’s rays.
    • the amount of solar radiation reaching a given area.

Additional solar panels were added so the batteries can reach float more dependably especially in the winter.  These also can be tilted to match the prescribed angle for the season (shown at their summer setting).  The new panels have their own controller which is connected in parallel with the original controller at the battery terminals.  A parallel connection works because each controller monitors the battery voltage and applies charge as needed. They do not fight each other or require any coordination.

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One thing leads to another.  Upon attempting to connect the new panels it was discovered that there are no more vacant power jacks on the battery bank.  Next KC0RF,  a telecommunications power engineer, observed we needed some serious reworking of the battery wiring to stay safe.   John insisted on creating separate buses for the charging and for the distribution, and fusing the charge connections to the battery.  Here is a white-board sketch that shows how the recommendations were implemented.

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Ground wires are left out of the drawing but each battery string has a ground wire that is home run to the buses along with the positive leads.   “Essentials” are the router, Ethernet switch, and internet modem.  They are not switched by the Rig Runner 4005i like everything else.  “Controller” is the solar controller for the two panel arrays.  The small rectangles represent 30 Amp inline fuses.  The “Charge Bus” is along the top and the lower bus is the “Distribution Bus”.  All wires are 10 AWG.

It looks like a mess but John said it was pretty, knowing the installation was now safe and up to telecommunications standards except for cable dressing. Pictured are 8 golf cart batteries which are 6 volts each, wired according to the diagram above.

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Now there is a location to connect the new solar controller and yes, the batteries reach float earlier in the day.

 

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Win4IcomSuite – WSJT-X – IC-7610

Note that this is a very specific installation and probably won’t be identical to anybody else’s but maybe there will be some universal information imparted here. The PC’s at both ends are running Windows 10 build 1803.

Part 1 – Win4IcomSuite and WSJT-X

Part 2 – Remote Operation with Port Forwarding and Remote Desktop

Part3 – Audio for monitoring with RS-BA1

Part 1 – Win4IcomSuite and WSJT-X

At last, the very popular Suite by Tom Blahovici, VA2FSQ, has been released for Icom radios, Win4IcomSuite.  Why is this a big deal? Win4IcomSuite has builtin com port sharing which gives us the ability to use more than one application with CAT.  If we use Icom’s RS-BA1 third party apps are stopped from using CAT simultaneously.

Win4IcomSuite will be abbreviated WinSuite from here on.  Installation took me two attempts but once I followed Tom’s official instructions to the letter it works flawlessly.

https://icom.va2fsq.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Win4IcomSuite-Manual.pdf

The first attempt became unstable after a few weeks and I set everything aside.  The instability manifested itself in choppy audio ( short dropouts ), freezing of WSJT-X, and decoding stopping.  Four things changed before I tried my successful second installation attempt so I don’t know for sure which change made the difference.  First the router was replaced and upgraded.  Second Tom came out with a new version of WinSuite.  Third, Icom came out with a new version of the USB drivers.  Fourth,  OmniRig had not been used on the first attempt but was used on the second attempt. I suspect OmniRig was the change that made the difference.

With attempt No. 1 I couldn’t get OmniRig to work but I  could get WSJT-X working without OmniRig so I settled for that.  Tom sent me an email suggesting doing it that way would cause instability:

Hi,
I Noticed you mention you were having issues with instability with WSJT….
On my website under documentation, 3rd party software, it shows that you should use Omni-Rig not hamlib.  The issue is instability with HamLib.
Make sure you use the latest Omni-Rig definitions for the 7300 and 7610 which are IC7300DATA and IC7610DATA.  These can be downloaded form the Omni-Rig site.
73 Tom

I didn’t understand Hamlib and OmniRig.  Finally a sketch by John, KC0RF, helped my comprehension.

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Hamlib is integrated within WSJT-X and provides definitions for many, many radios including the IC-7610.  WSJT-X also provides a setting to bypass the Hamlib definitions in favor of OmniRig.  OmniRig does the same thing as Hamlib but OmniRig’s definitions for the IC-7610 apparently are more stable.  I found this to be true.

 

Following John’s sketch it seems the logical starting point would be to get the radio talking to WinSuite. Get WinSuite working with the IC-7610 over the USB without running 3rd party software ( WSJT-X ).

Referring to Tom’s instructions, prepare the IC-7610 by pressing the MENU button, then on the screen press SET>Connectors>CI-V and make the settings look like this:

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On the next menu page set the CI-V USB baud rate to 115200.  Notice there are two CI-V baud rate fields.  Only change the one that says USB.  Tom says:

“You should use 115200.  That way you can use the scope too.”

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Now start up WinSuite and go to settings if it doesn’t come up automatically.  Tools>Settings…> Hardware & User Preferences>

In this menu the COM Port was added and the correct baud rate.  The IC-7610 rate we just set is 115200 so that is what is used here.  COM 3 is chosen after looking at Device Manager ports and choosing the first Silicon Labs port.  Click Connect and the button changes to Disconnect if all is well.  If so, click Save.

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Upon clicking Save the radio panel window should appear.

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Congratulations if this comes up. As a test, click on a band button and see if the radio changes bands.   If an error message comes up instead of this screen try the other Silicon Labs port.  This completes the first step which was to get WinSuite working with the IC-7610.

Referring to John’s sketch and to the WinSuite manual the next step is to configure  virtual com connections.  WinSuite recommends the application called com0com.

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Arbitrarily COM14 will connect to WSJT-X and COM15 will connect to WinSuite.

Next step is to connect one end of the virtual com port cable to WinSuite.   Go to Tools>Settings.. again.   This time click the tab for 3rd Party SW/HW.  In the Aux/CAT Port 1 fields enter COM15 and the baud rate, 38400.  Click Connect.  If all is well the button will change to Disconnect.  Click Save.

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Now bring up WSJT-X and go to settings (File>Settings>) and click the tab marked Radio.

 

OMNIRIG MUST BE INSTALLED AND CONFIGURED BEFORE CONTINUING OR NOTHING BELOW WILL WORK.

The setup for OmniRig will be inserted here.   -Ed

Here is how WSJT-X should be configured.

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IC-7610 is supported in WSJT-X release 1.9.0-rc3 and later.  As of this writing we are running 1.9.1.  Select OmniRig Rig 1 for radio.  Other fields will be grayed out because they are for Hamlib which we have just ceased to be using when we entered OmniRig in the radio field.

Test this configuration by clicking on the Test CAT button.   It should turn green indicating WSJT-X is working with the IC-7610 CAT simultaneously with WinSuite through OmniRig.

Mode Field:  Set to None or Data/Pkt.  At the end of every transmission wsjt sends a mode command to the radio.  If this field is set to USB it will switch the radio out of Data mode into USB mode.  The Mode command also changes the filter to the default which is F2.  Manually change F2 on the radio to 3000 or 3600 and this will be the default wsjt switches to.

Old screensnap.  Radio should be OmniRig Rig1-Ed.

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Congratulations.  CAT is working with WinSuite and with a 3rd party application at the same time.  Although it sounds simple it’s really a big deal to have two applications using CAT at the same time and it’s thanks to WinSuite.

Click the Audio tab and set up the audio configuration.  For this installation it is USB Audio CODEC.

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Part 2 – Remote Operation

Next step is to access the station remotely.  This involves setting up the router for port forwarding and setting up remote desktop connection.   My port forwarding is discussed in an earlier post,  https://w0qlremotebase.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/port-forwarding/

Next is remote desktop.  In my experience the Microsoft application Remote Desktop Connection works the best.  I have also tried RealVNC and Teamviewer. The biggest objection to the Microsoft application is that it is included only in the Windows Professional editions, not Windows Home.  The others are free and work on any Windows version. Microsoft is integrated into Windows Pro and makes better use of Internet bandwidth.  The screen paints more smoothly and has sharper resolution in my opinion.

In the remote PC which is connected by a USB cable directly to the IC-7610 open remote settings.  On Windows 10 click on Start>Settings.  In the Find A Setting field type in Remote and select Remote Desktop Settings.   Slide the enable remote desktop button to on.

Next is the client side.  This can be any pc running Windows and does not need to be Windows Pro.  In fact other operating systems have apps for remote desktop such as the iOS free app Microsoft Remote Desktop for the iPad.  It works but there isn’t much screen geography to get everything in.  To make a connection from the client pc to the remote type in Remote Desktop Connection into the field by the start icon and select the Remote Desktop  Connection desktop app.

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Before entering the address take a look at the options by clicking the Show Options down arrow.  Click the Display tab.  Sliding the Small-Large slider will dictate how much of your home screen is occupied by the remote.  I like to leave some room for local apps along one side at home but one can play with it to see.

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Next click the Local Resources tab.  Near the bottom uncheck the Printers and Clipboard boxes then click More…   and uncheck every box.

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Click OK, click General tab and click Save.  Now we are ready to put in the computer address.  Use the I.P. address of your router at the remote, the WAN or Internet address.  The remote pc desktop pops up and can be operated just as if sitting in front of it.

Sidenote on pc’s:  My remote site is solar powered meaning it runs on 12 volts DC.  I could power a standard desktop tower pc through an inverter but that would be a huge hit to the power budget.  I could also use a laptop with a car charger and run it at 12 volts without an inverter.  Instead of either of these I chose a third option and that is one of the new Intel NUC computers which will run directly on 12 volts.  I bought the NUC the same time as the IC-7610.  It is a i3 processor, generation 7.  It has run flawlessly on 12 volts and can be turned off and restarted remotely perfectly. If your site is commercially powered this would not be a concern.

Make QSO’s!

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The installation is really quite clean, simple, and straightforward once one has moved up the learning curve a bit.  On my first attempt I was close but oh so far away.  It has been stable for almost a week now with no glitches.  Still not sure which of the changes contributed the most but as a whole it is working great and I’m making lots of contacts.

Thanks to Tom and John for all the help and hand holding.

Part 4 – RS-BA1

For a digital operation currently there is no easy way to monitor the audio at the client because the audio stays at the remote for processing.  That’s where RS-BA1 comes in as a solution.  It runs by itself using the ethernet jack  on the IC-7610 (as opposed to the USB jack used up to this point) and provides monitor audio at the client over the Internet.

Sidenote: RS-BA1 runs flawlessly for CW and SSB with no third party apps needed.  Many YouTube videos confirm this.  The issue arises when we want to run digital modes because they are third party software and they want to use CAT control, too.  When RS-BA1 starts up it takes control of the CAT channel and excludes any third party software, even port sharing applications.  That’s why it was such a blessing when Win4IcomSuite became available.  It does everthing RS-BA1 does, some things even better, plus it has built in port sharing for the CAT.  However WinSuite currently doesn’t have monitor audio when using it remotely because the audio stays on the remote.  Tom says he is working on a way to have audio at both locations and he anticipates a July, 2018 release.  At that time using RS-BA1 should no longer be necessary.  Meanwhile we need RS-BA1.  

Installing and using RS-BA1 is discussed in another post:

https://wordpress.com/post/w0qlremotebase.wordpress.com/2099

 

 

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LP-100A Wattmeter and Lantronix

Screensnaps using a pair of Lantronix UDS2100 as a serial tunnel for the LP-100A Wattmeter at the remote end and a PC on the client end running LP-VCP.  Other models of Lantronix should would work similarly.  Note, we are assuming I.P. settings are already successfully entered and all screens up to this point except Network are left at factory default.

  1. Client end 192.168.1.151 Serial 1.

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2.  Client end Connection screen.

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3.  Remote end 192.168.1.74 Serial 1 screen.  Again we are assuming I.P settings are previously completed and defaults have been taken up to here, other than Network screen.

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4. Remote end Connection screen.

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The serial tunnel comes up when the Lantronix UDS2100’s are power cycled.  Flashing TX and RX lights indicate success.

Thanks to Lantronix Support for their  excellent Online Product Tutorials, especially the Serial Tunneling Tutorial video which helped me figure out how to get these two units talking.  Link:    http://ltxfaq.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1119?_ga=2.257160971.1857314135.1522260527-1723113648.1521596445

Paradigm Change

Compromise:  Good performing antennas that don’t require two 65′ masts (new paradigm).

  1. High Bands (17, 15, 10,6) – sloper
  2. Low Bands (80, 160) – top hat loaded 43 foot vertical
  3. Forty meters – Vertical yagi

High Bands:  A 23′ dipole sloper models well with EZNEC on all the high bands including 6 meters.  One end can be attached to the apex of the 60 foot 20 meter tower and sloped down at 45 degrees.  Ladder line can be sloped away at a right angle from the center feed point.  Modelling shows considerable gain on each band at low take off angles and impedances easily matched by a tuner.

Low Bands:  Modelling shows that adding top hat capitance can improve performance of a 43 foot vertical on 80 and 160.  The object is to add enough top hat to drop the resonance to half way between 80 meters and 160 meters, which is 2.3 MHz.  Impedances are hard to match for a tuner but a relay controlled matching circuit should be easy to build.

Forty meters:  Following a QST article from July, 1972, The W2FMI 20-Meter Vertical Beam, we scaled to 40 meters.  This is a three element yagi made of three quarter-wave verticals.  Gain is less than a dipole but better than a single vertical.  It will be aimed toward Europe.  When completed and matched with a hairpin coil it worked quite well.

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Closeup of the hairpin match.

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The pattern was very narrow right through central Europe.

2018-04-16 (2)Three days after completion a wind storm blew down both the director and reflector.  The driven element survived and is now a quarter wave vertical.

Three Additional Enhancements

Receive Loop:  Perhaps a DX Engineering RF-PRO-1B Active Magnetic Loop Antenna will improve reception.  It covers all HF bands and could make up for some loss by improving signal-to-noise ratio.

Six meter halo:  Might give us improved 6 meter performance.  It is omni directional, has some gain, and comes highly recommended (QST, March, 2018).  It is mounted at the height that EZNEC models best, 22 feet.

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A 43 foot vertical:  This is to use as a reference antenna.  An SGC SG-230 tuner at the base enables 160 through 10 meters.  It holds it’s own in performance.  For instance on 40 there is no discernible difference between the 43 footer and the 40 meter quarter wave on pskreporter.

The 43 footer has proven itself to be such an effective radiator that it is being used as more than a reference antenna.  It is the primary antenna for 30, 40, 60, and 80 meters now.

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