Monday, October 17, 2016

N0PCL Home QTH Shack Update

It's been a while since I've posted here, and it's not for want of news.  It's mainly because I haven't been doing a whole lot of SOTA activations of late.  I'm just not built for the heat and humidity of the "humid subtropical" climate I'm stuck in while I'm here in tidewater, Virginia.


I have been doing lots of work on the Home QTH Radio shack.

In no particular order, here's what I've done:
  • Paint.  I painted the room.  My shack is in a spare second-floor bedroom which the previous homeowners had painted a bright pink with a Disney "Frozen" motif.  It's now a calming "Lighthouse Shadows" color.
  • Bought a new shack computer.  I purchased a Dell Inspiron tower, with Radeon R6 Graphics.  It's a fine AMD Quad-Core computer with an adequate, low end graphics card.  All in price:  less than $500.
  • Bought an LP-Pan 2 from Telepost.  It's an aftermarket IQ Panadaptor for use with my Elecraft K3S.  The KS3 already has an IF Out port, so it's an easy connection to the LP-Pan.  I run the LP-Pan with the ASUS Xonar U7 external sound card, which basically acts as a analog-to-digital converter for the shack computer to decode the I and Q channels and produce a beautiful, and very functional display of band activity across up to 192 kilohertz of spectrum.  It's very nice.
  • I bought another monitor.  Previously, I had been using a 28" Viewsonic monitor.  I purchased a second one, so now I'm able to run a combination of radio-related programs through one display, and I have a spare display for general purpose use.  Typically I run Ham Radio Deluxe, PowerSDR/IF Stage, and the Ham Radio Deluxe Logger, DM780, and WSJT-X on one monitor.  On the other display I usually have a web browsers open with tabs for SOTAWatch2, SOTAData, LOTW,,,, WA7BNM Contest Calendar, the VHF Propagation Map, and email.
    Now that I have two monitors side-by-side, my right monitor assists with running rig-control software, logging, and basically handling QSOs.  Here's the configuration I use when I run SSB and CW on the Elecraft K3S.  Ham Radio Deluxe handles the actual interfacing between the radio and the computer, with the HRD Logging and PowerSDR/IF Stage running on top of that.
    Here's my right monitor when it's running "Joe Taylor" digital modes, mainly JT65 or JT9 using WSJT-X.
    Here's my right monitor when I use DM780 for the other digital modes I run.  My favorite digital modes are probably Olivia, PSK-31, and occasionally RTTY.

    I use the left-hand monitor for displaying other websites and running other programs.  Here, I'm displaying web browsers that have tabs for SOTA, a DX Cluster, APRS, VHF Propagation Maps, Contest Calendar, and LOTW.
  • As mentioned earlier above, I'm using Ham Radio Deluxe (along with the Logger and DM780), WSJT-X, PowerSDR IF Stage (panadaptor software).  I'm also using Dimension4 to keep my computer clock synched very closely to a time server (important for the JT65 and JT9 digital modes).
  • Some months ago I purchased a West Mountain Radio (which hails from my hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin) RigBlaster Advantage digital mode interface for use with the Elecraft K3S.  Yes--I'm aware that the Elecraft K3S has a built-in interface, but I really wanted to take advantage of the direct FSK keying feature that the RigBlaster Advantage has.  I did, but I found that for the limited RTTY operating I do, I found that the AFSK variant of RTTY was perfectly adequate to my needs.  For simplicity's sake, I removed the RigBlaster Advantage from the K3S setup, and it's currently with my QRP and Portable shack (the FT-817ND).  No--I haven't configured it for operation with the 817 yet, but I will.  I intend to use it when traveling, mainly.
  • The remainder of my shack is the same.  I'm still using a W1AB Killer Antenna hidden on my property.  Yes, it's a major compromise antenna, but it works good enough, and is very frequency-agile, able to function from 160-6 meters just fine.  I also have a dipole in the attic cut for 20 meters.
  • I'm still using the K3S/100, pretty much all the options except the 2 Meter board and the subreceiver.  I'll get those another time.
  • My key is still a Kent iambic paddle.  I love it.
  • I use the Heil ProSet headset with the K3S.
  • An Astron RS-35A powers the whole thing through a West Mountain Radio RigRunner 4008 DC Power Strip.
  • I'm still using a Yaesu FT-2900 2 meter radio with a home-made J-Pole antenna in the attic.  This is for local 2 meter FM communication.
  • My SOTA/Portable shack is still the same, too.  I'll do another post on exactly what I bring for SOTA and portable operation another time.

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