RaDAR – Post Xiegu X5105 firmware update

Last week I flashed the then latest firmware to my X5105.

I took part in the All Africa contest this past Saturday afternoon just for fun and to try out the new firmware. This may not be everyone’s idea of fun but I kind of like updating the rig’s software and trying out the new features. Almost like a “work in progress” and the guys at Xiegu certainly appear to want to give the best service on their product that is humanly possible!

I tested the ATU, my main concern. I tuned up a 40m inverted vee on 15m and the ATU tuned perfectly – as it should.

The built in keyer was quite irritating though as it would send a random dot or dash and sometimes none at all that made me think I had a sticky paddle. I watched those contacts closely as I sent …. it wasn’t the KEY!!!!

Johan, ZS6AF said it sounded like my SSB signal had RF feedback. I was sitting directly below the antenna. Maybe the mic does pick up a little RF. Johan is an experienced HF operator so I’d take what he says seriously.

Sid, ZS5AYC operating ZS5H said I had a very strong signal into Natal.

One thing that was MUCH better was that tone that would knock you off your chair if you had headphones on and just switched on the rig. You know, where you see your callsign. Much quieter now 🙂

Overall I was happy with the firmware update and now there is a new firmware update that looks very promising, just a few days later. I will reflash the Xiegu X5105 tonight!!!

I look forward to the next outing but first there is family time this weekend.

Last night I flashed the X5105 again with the latest September 2018 firmware release – even better now!!!!

 

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

 

 

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RaDAR – Xiegu X5105

I’ve had the Xiegu X5105 for three weeks now. I’ve done a few outings and made a few contacts with it. Some on CW and some on SSB. The last few were as a roving RaDAR field station doing two separate deployments. Conditions on 40m are mostly skip nowadays!

Admittedly there were some issues I was not happy with but that was all sorted out with the latest firmware update. Many things are working better than my first experiences. The update went reasonably well although my first attempt crashed and I was left with a radio that didn’t want to switch on – it didn’t know it was a radio – that’s software!

The reason I went for the X5105 as my main RaDAR radio was for the following reasons :

Compact

Built in battery

Built in ATU (Working better now)

Programmable CW messages (Three)

All mode although my main interests are CW and SSB, CW preferrably!

LIGHTWEIGHT

It has a simple antenna analyser – very handy!

Built in SWR indicator

Built in filters

Dual VFO’s

Firmware UPDATEABLE

Informative, large screen

Controls that can be seen in the dark

Fine tune capability

AM reception good – well, as good as AM

160m through to 6m including the 5MHz band

500 mW power setting steps up to 5W

Built in keyer

Built in PSK monitor – I’d prefer a CW decoder though

Adjustable digital filter (AFF – High and Low pass adjustments)

My next review will be in a few weeks time where I will have used the latest firmware update. Certainly updating to the latest version is ALWAYS a good idea.

 

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – It all started with an ad

It started with an ad on the SARL swop shop posted by a local amateur radio dealer,Rory ZS2BL. He was offering a swop, a Yaesu FT-897d, + ATU + internal power supply in exchange for a brand new Xiegu X5105. It almost felt as if Rory was targeting me for I had what he wanted and he had what I was possibly looking for. It felt like a pretty unbalanced swop at first but I thought about it the whole night throughout my broken sleep pattern.

I did the deal the next morning. I didn’t use the FT897d much although it was comforting to know it was there! I’m almost always QRP.

I’ve used the Xiegu a few times and have made a few contacts with it from the field using both SSB and CW.

I still had my famous “Framed 817” which has served me well for close on a decade. What was I to do with it now that the Xiegu offered much the same besides the 817 having 2m and 70cm which I’ve really only used as a “half duplex” satellite station on the satellites like FO-29 and AO-7. The fully computer controlled guys don’t like the half duplex idea much but have accomodated me on a number of occasions in the past.

I have an old TH-D7A(g) which I can use for APRS and FM satellites (full duplex) with the Arrow dual band antenna. I heard today that the locally designed antenna as distributed amongst the YOTA 2018 participants will be in my post box by tommorrow which may become the ideal antenna for RaDAR SatComms!

I installed the framed 817 in the shack. I was playing with WSPR. WSPR is awesome, it’s just WSPR but it works. Then I tried QRP FT8 on 40m and was heard once, in Europe. I had gone for a cup of coffee and on my return I found a Namibian station had just worked me on FT8, a complete QSO. All that was needed was for me to click the button “Log the QSO”. I did, for the sake of the Namibian station but I was not physically part of the QSO. The computer did all the negotiations. I was put off FT8 forever!

It was time for the 817ND to go to a new home. It was sent to a ham in Natal. One thing I forgot to pack was the rubber duck antenna that originally came with it many, many years ago. I never used it but I know it’s lying in a corner somewhere!

So with the Yaesu’s all gone to a new home I sat with the Signalink USB and rarely used Yaesu CAT cable and they had to go too. Within minutes I had replies, these items are pretty scarce nowadays in South Africa.

They are too, on their way to new homes.

During the past few days I have basically planned my next few years as a radio amateur, being a QRP only operator supporting on foot RaDAR, SOTA and POTA operations.

I still have an old army radio, the B25 which was given to me by a good friend before he went back to the USA. The B25 stays as a shack bound radio – really only there to support other activators and occasional late afternoon QSO’s.

The Xiegu X5105 QRP HF radio covers 160m through to 6m including the 5 MHz band. It has a built in tuner although I still need to prove how effective it is? It has a built in battery AND charger. It has a simple antenna analyser – good enough for my purposes, It is all mode, even FM! It is LIGHTWEIGHT, way lighter than even the framed 817!

I wanted to sell the HB1A but luckily for me no one committed to the sale. I did repair it myself and there is a bond between me and it. I really enjoy this radio and oh, so pleasant to listen to on a pair of headphones – unlike the Xiegu which can be quite tiring but that story will be written once I have more hands on experience with the Xiegu.

Now even the RaDAR antenna I carry in my pack feels heavy and needs replacement with something lighter.

I have been the master of my destiny, it’s the journey I must travel. The past 43 years as a radio amateur have been awesome too!!!

 

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

 

“The turn of the tide”

 

 

RaDAR Challenge 2018-07-14

My RaDAR Challenge logbook as uploaded to QRZ.COM. Let me explain ….

I had publicised the RaDAR Challenge on every social media channel I could think of, WhatsApp, Facebook groups, Forums and Google+ a few days before the challenge. It was publicised in news bulletins by official organisations too.

I left a half hour earlier than planned so I could be in time for the first AO-91 pass otherwise I would not have time to walk a kilometer to my first deployment point, deploy and be ready for the satellite. Satellite operators are quite active in South Africa but only three were there for me during this pass which meant I could not move to the next position only having three QSO’s. Christi ZS4CGR and Tom ZS1TA are VERY active satellite operators and you can be sure the chances are that they will be active unless there were other priorities.

I set up an HF station using a link dipole and ex military B25 radio which could help with a little extra power in challenging band conditions. This radio is a little heavier than my framed 817 – I felt it.

Pieter, V51PJ was within range on 40m, it’s usual old “Short skip” self. There was no other activity besides ZS2EC and ZS1OB having a QSO around 7.085 MHz. I tried to break in needing just one QSO but they did not hear me. They were 59+ and also a reasonable distance from me. I can’t imagine why they could not hear me? Maybe they were using much higher power – difficult to judge.

I went onto Facebook asking for someone to listen on 7.090 MHz, the RaDAR watering hole. Eventually I got a call from Kobus ZS3JPY on the west coast, also pretty far away. QSB was bad but we had a QSO. Then Woody ZS3WL called but he was an excess contact with me now having more than 5 QSO’s and then the watering hole became a “group chat room” and I needed to leave.

By the time I had got 5 + 1 QSO’s, AO-91 had practically circled the earth! There was no time to pack up and move so just for the sake of moving I left the HF station where it was, grabbed the SatComms equipment and walked a few meters towards the river and deployed there for the next AO-91 satellite pass.

Again, there were only three stations active on the satellite. Andre ZS2ZA later apologised and explained he was doing boiler tests on his steam locomotive and could not join in this time round. I had just made contact with Tienie ZS6MHH when the satellite seemed to shut down. I later heard the voice recording from the beacon again.

I packed up and walked back to where the HF station was, fortunately in a safe environment so my equipment had little chance of disappearing during my short absence. Pieter V51PJ was still there and I could get a “fourth” contact but not having moved as per RaDAR challenge requirements. I heard that Sid ZS5AYC was trying but I could not hear him.

Satellite operators are a disciplined group and keep overs short and to the point. Sometimes too short as proper RaDAR information exchanges aren’t always made. A few seconds more talk time could produce a full 10 character grid square. My recorder is always on so I can get them at a later stage too.

Hams have this insatiable need to say too much and although I valued the contacts the calling channels should be kept available for quick information exchanges between participating stations – it should NOT become a visiting place for a rag chew!

That prompted me to write a short booklet on “Playing the game of RaDAR”. Maybe it won’t make any difference but if we want to see more RaDAR activity then the general ham population should know what it’s all about. Not that, after ten years, anyone should be uninformed? I don’t mean this in a bad way but we have to build in a little more professionalism into the word amateur and see the serious side of amateur radio even if this is a FUN activity. We are training ourselves to be better operators.

There was NO CW activity either. RaDAR isn’t a 5NN game it requires that little bit more than that. We need to get used to a little more information to be passed ACCURATELY.

Now to work on that booklet!!!!

73 de Eddie, ZS6BNE

Going down memory lane

I heard today the sad news that Reg Barnes, ZS6AHB had passed away.

I did some enquiries and confirmed that his wife’s name was Pam. They were both hams and Pam ran the electrics club at a school I attended, Alberton High, in the mid 1970’s. I recall her sons name was Paul and went looking on Facebook for information and found this page in a 1976 year book. It appears Paul was quite a rugby player!!! I wonder where he is now?