From Julian, OH8STN.
I am about to tackle several projects all at once, in order to operate PSK-31 with my FT-817ND QRP rig. The main reason for this project is the fact I operate QRP with an indoor antenna. In order to make the most out of this setup, going to a digital mode will offer more opportunities for a QRP station. I know there are many of you out there in the same predicament, so please follow along while I put this together.
Not long ago, I re-purposed an old laptop of mine with the Linux, Ubuntu operating system. The laptop is a Dell Studio 1535, manufactured in July of 2008. It has an Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 with 2G of ram. Now this laptop is really getting long in the tooth to be operating the latest Windows® operating systems.
With the new operating system up and running, the next step was to install FLDigi software to run the digital modes.The first place to start is the W1HKJ Software page
Next, scroll down to the chart at the bottom of the page, to the line “Debs for Ubuntu”. To the right of this you will see Ubuntu debs by Kamal Mostafa How To Install from Kamal’s PPA. Open this link and follow the instructions by opening a terminal window (ctrl-alt-t) and entering the set of commands shown, which will install FLDigi.
Setting Up FLDigi
In order to set up FLDigi for your station, I found this video from Dave, KE0OG to be most helpful.
Connecting the Signalink
The next step is to get the Signalink USB interface connected and get on the air. I ordered the unit for the FT-817ND, but all you need to do is follow the instructions for your specific rig. The Tigertronics website has all the information you need. If you bought your Signalink unit new, it will come with a full set of instructions. Before you hook up the unit, be sure you have the correct jumpers installed on the board. The unit comes with the correctly wired cable from the Signalink to the Data port on the rear of the FT-817ND. Next install the USB cable from the Signalink unit to an available USB port on your computer.
If you are running the Ubuntu program, as I am, open a terminal window (CTRL-ALT-T) and type “lsusb”. If you see a USB audio codec device listed, the Signalink has been recognized.
Setting Up the FT-817ND
I am going to start on 20m at the frequency of 14.070 MHz. For other bands, you can do a Google search and find plenty of charts listing where to operate PSK-31.
Set the rig mode to “DIG”.
Hold down the F button momentarily to enter the function settings.
F25: DIG MIC GAIN – Set to “40”.
F26: DIG MODE SET – Set to “USER-U”.
Set your power output to 2.5 watts.(display shows L with three bars). There are those that will run the FT-817ND at full power, but after discussions I have had with a few operators, the best recommendation is to operate any rig at no more that half the total power output available. PSK-31 will operate your rig at a 100% duty cycle.
Don’t forget to open FLDigi and configure the operating mode and audio.
Audio Port audio, Capture and Playback – USB Audio Codec.
Select PTT tone on right audio channel
Before making a transmission, I suggest you make a Test TX macro on FLDigi. On the Signalink, turn both TX and RX controls fully counterclockwise (off). On the FT-817ND, set the MTR function to ALC. Then use the Test TX macro to adjust the ALC. Bring the Signalink TX control up until you just see some bars, then back off until no bars are shown. This will insure you have no distortion on your TX signal. If you move up or down the waterfall, be sure to keep checking your ALC level. Bring the Signalink RX control up until you can see some signals on the waterfall without them being washed out by background noise.
Within a few minutes, I managed a QSO with a station in Colorado with just 2.5 watts and an indoor dipole. The signals were not that strong as this is the bottom of the current solar cycle. As you can see by the image below, I am operating a very minimalist station at the moment.
Please consider this operating mode. With QRP (low power output) you will make the most of what your station has to offer.
Now here is a video showing how to maximize your low power (QRP) operations. The signals were enhanced by the fact the antenna was located near salt water. Not everyone has that advantage, but the results are still amazing. Listen to the final comment on the video, where the DX station did not believe Peter was operating at just 5 watts power. The antenna is low cost and can be set up portable as explained in the video. Enjoy.
From Peter, VK3YE.
Powerpole® connectors have become very popular in recent years because of their adaptability to so many applications. They also allow an interchangeable option when faced with so many different manufactured products. The most notable use of these connectors has been with ARES activities. When time is of the essence and an item goes down, you want to be able to make a quick switch and be back on the air.
Another useful application is Field Day. If you have ever experienced this activity, you know the saying, “what can go wrong, will go wrong”. With all the stations operating with common interconnect ability, down time will be minimized.
What about your own station? I recently purchased some bags of connectors and a crimp tool in order make life easier at my humble station.
You can definitely solder these pins (as seen in the video I reference at the bottom of the article) but this tool makes a very clean install, since it is specifically designed for this product. I took a look at what I should approach first and here is the outcome.
Be sure to follow the standard alignment of the red and black casing, in order to be compatible with others. You never know when you might want to share equipment for fun or testing etc. Here are some reference materials to make sure you get things right.
I made a short harness for the 12 VDC, 7 Amp/HR SLAB. Then a fuse harness and connector for the FT-817ND. The advantage of the fuse harness is its quick interchangeability for other applications.
The last step in this project was to attach the Powerpole® connectors to the battery charger harness. This allows quick connect/disconnect.
This is a simple example of how you can make life easier around your station. I am sure if you take a look around your shack, you can come up with a myriad of uses for this product. If you do, be sure to let me know.
Finally, I suggest you watch this fine video on the Powerpole® product by Randy, K7AGE. I have placed it in a post here. It covers a lot more than I have in this short post.