Jul 7, 2020

Updated Shack - Episode II

I thought I was done making changes and additions to the shack, but I guess not. Just as summer arrives, so too, some new things have arrived at the shack.

The first addition to the shack is a Heil PR781 mic mounted on a PL2T boom, with a Pro 7 PTT hand button. The CC-1-YM wire harness connects everything to my Yaesu FT-991A. Using the equalizer settings suggested by Bob Heil, the audio reports are very favorable to this setup. Thanks Bob!

The second addition is KF7P combo antenna tower standoff arm which now suspends the center of my trusty old Barker & Williamson BWD-90 folded dipole antenna in a flat-top configuration at 40 feet. The antenna's heading is 140-320 degrees. So far, signal reports have been very good, but no DX attempts as of yet. Field Day, 13 Colonies and other special events, and POTA stations have been my focus for most of June. The 10 meter openings afforded fantastic QSO's all over the USA. A review of my log should help map out what the antenna is doing in it's current configuration and location.

The third addition is an MFJ-4712RC remote antenna switch between the BWD-90 folded dipole and the GAP Titan DX. It is interesting switching back and forth between each antenna and hearing their different characteristics. The folded dipole is far quieter and much better at pulling out even the quietest of signals. Love that Barker and Williamson BWD-90!

The Raspberry Pi computers also got an update. The 8G and 4G RPi's now sport an Argon Artik fan hat on top of a Geekworm heat sink armor case. Talk about nice! The fan hats are programmable for temperature and fan speed settings in custom configurations. I set mine to run 10% at 43 C, 25% at 47 C, 50% at 50, 75% at 53 C, and 100% at 56 C. With the huge Geekworm heat sink, the fan hat runs maybe every five minutes for a short time, even with the RTL-SDR dongle running the CPU with a constant 20-30% load. And with temps never getting above 43 C and the large fan running at only 10% every time it turns on, they are extremely quiet. No more worrying about heat on a Raspberry Pi 4!

The latest addition is the software package Barrier from the Raspberry Pi OS repositories. Super simple to set up and run, this package allows me to run my two (or more) desktop Raspberry Pi computers from one keyboard and mouse setup. Simply slide the mouse cursor to the edge of the screen, and it seamlessly goes to the other computer and screen. My small desk space just got a lot bigger with only one keyboard and mouse on it! Amazing! Open a terminal and run sudo apt install barrier on each computer. Select one as a server and the rest as terminals. Details here.

May 10, 2020

Updated Shack - Episode I

The planet earth has seasons, and that's a good thing because who can take twelve months of winter? I go through seasons too, probably just like you. Sometimes I get kind of bored with things and just need a change. Other times, after using something for a while, I get to a certain level of frustration that I ask myself, "Why do I put up with this?". Then the creative juices begin to flow and my tiny Shack gets an update!

I decided to take my credenza and add a small shelf to the front to hold a keyboard or two. Then I added a small back-angled shelf on top to hold the radios and allow small storage under the radios. Lastly, I added a back panel to mount two monitors, an antenna selector switch (behind the right monitor), and a RigRunner 4007U (below the monitors). The HP VH240a HDMI monitors with built-in speakers are mounted with Mount-It! MI-2829 tilt-swivel brackets. Two large pass-through holes at the base of the back panel put all wiring behind the credenza for a nice, clean install. A small shelf up top is home for the HTs, the ZUMspot and some other small things.

The shack is now run entirely on a Raspberry Pi 4B 4GB with the latest Raspberry Pi OS. The Debian Ham radio bundle which includes CQRLOG, JS8Call, WSJT-X, FreeDV, and a few other helpful programs, drive my USB connected Yaesu FT-991A. A Rowetel SM1000 sits to the right of the FT-991A. Also pictured is a Yaesu FTM-7250DR, and my old FT-7800R which will be trading places with my less-old FT-7900R, now used for local repeaters and simplex in my workshop. 

Right now, I am quite content with this setup. But yes, I still have to get the old Barker & Williamson BWD-90 folded dipole up for HF. I like the GAP Titan DX, but verticals are so noisy compared to the folded dipole. And then I should probably do this, and maybe do that, or maybe just... be content!

So now I can enjoy Ham radio again at my tiny new shack. And then the next season will come. Change can be good, and God is always good!