Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Smart Glow Fuses

Many VHF Men, especially rovers, have learned the wisdom of fusing their power leads running to those pricey transverters, pre-amps, and VHF/UHF rigs. For rovers, this usually means fusing both the positive and negative leads as close to the radio as possible.

But as any rover can tell you, troubleshooting equipment in the dark on some lonely hilltop can be an exercise in frustration. Especially in the heat of a contest. During the CQ VHF contest while operating at night in North Florida, I had a fuse blow on my Yaesu FT-857D. Since I had not brought along the "rover rack" it was literally the only radio available, leaving me dead in the water until the problem could be fixed.

But luckily, I used "Smart Glow Fuses" which light up when they're blown. I also used the specially made clear fuse holders which are made just for these fuses. "Tracing the problem" was as simple as lifing the back seat and looking at the custom power distribution center. I replaced the 20 amp fuse that was glowing with another from my bag of spares and was back on the air in less than 30 seconds.

Smart Glow Fuses are sold at most automotive parts stores, and can also be found at Ace Hardware, Wal-Mart, and other retailers. They're available in a variety of sizes from 1 amp all the way up to 40 amps. They're a bit more expensive than standard blade-type fuses, but worth every penny if you're on that dark, lonely hilltop.

They also work great in the Anderson PowerPole distribution panels sold by West Mountain Radio, MFJ, and other companies. And they're perfect for fixed stations too, not just rovers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

N1LF/R For CQ July Contest

Google Map of N1LF/R Proposed Route

An unexpected request form a client to come to Tampa, Florida for training this week has radically altered my plans for the contest.

N1LF/R will be active in the CQ VHF July Contest on 2 Meters (200 Watts into 10 Elements) and 6 Meters (100 Watts into a KU4AB Loop):

Saturday: 1800 UTC- I'll be looking for a high spot just North of Tampa in the "Land of Lakes, FL" area. Should be here all day.
Sunday: 0900 UTC- We start the trek back home, which will take me through EL88, EL89, EL80, EM70, EM71, EM61, EM62, and EM63.

We may alter the route to work a few more grids if possible. While in motion, I'll switch to the KU4AB stacked loops on 2 Meters, but will be able to stop and use the Yagi at times.

Best bet is to look for us on APRS. My SSID is N1LF-1. We would also appreciate those who check us on APRS or work us on the air spotting us to the various reflectors during the event. You can follow our progress at:
Just type in "N1LF-1" and hit "find". We'll have the APRS running most of the time. If the packet is old, that means that we've stopped and turned it off to minimize interference to our weak signal stuff. But we will be on the air! Have fun everyone and listen for the weak ones

Great Ideas for Indoor/HOA Antennas

A visitor to the Blog sent me a link to a PDF file called How To Play Radio With Hidden Antennae" by Eric Silverthorn, NM5M. You can view it on the North Texas Microwave Society web site (which is a goldmine of information on VHF topics!)

The PDF file appears to be a club program with lots of verbal discussion about the possibilities for overcoming deed restrictions, HOA's, and even XYL's who may not like the look of antennas. It contains dozens of photographs of installation ranging from indoor, attic mounted VHF/UHF stacks (like my own) to window mounts, "hidden or disguised" antennas, rover operations, etc.

Unfortunately, there is very little supporting text, so we don't get a feel for how successful these arrangements were, but there's certainly plenty of "food for thought" contained in the file.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

VUCC On Indoor Antennas!

Yesterday's mail arrived with the first batch of cards from the ARRL June 2009 VHF Contest. Within them were enough confirmations to put me at 110 confirmed grids on 6 Meters, using (mainly) indoor antennas! So the good news is that it can be done, at least on the Magic Band.

Current grid totals are a little over 200 grids worked, nine countries, and all but two states. (I still need Oregon and Alaska) but not bad for a three element beam in the attic and 100 watts.
A handful (less than 10) of my confirmed grids came from mobile contacts, but each of those grids was also later worked from inside the house. My first Six Meter contest was with K5HCT (Here Comes Texas!) in May of it took a little over a year to gather enough confirmations for the award.

On Two Meters, the picture isn't nearly so pretty...only 47 grids worked so far from inside the house. The majority of those coming via meteor scatter using WSJT. No e-skip contacts yet this season, but that could still change.

In hindsight, I should have opted for the rover option sooner. But I really have enjoyed the challenge of earning VUCC using indoor antennas. At this point, I'm switching to more of a compromise approach using rover operations during contests to build the grid counts, and also constructed a "tilt over mast" that will be hidden below my privacy fence during the day, and deployed at night for operation on 6, 2, and 432. This should really help with MS work, and maybe bring EME into the realm of possibility at least on 2 Meters.

I'm "stealing" my design from this web site. It's a wonderful execution of the idea...and I can't wait for the welding to be finished so that I can begin installation.