RaDAR – The end of a nightmare

The X5105 in its “Reset state”

Just over a year ago my X5105 arrived on my doorstep via a courier. It was what I was looking for. I’d heard about the Elecraft KX3 and wanted something similar. The X5105 was out of the box retailing at around R10,500 way cheaper than the KX3! I could even trade in my immaculate FT-897d + LDG 897 ATU + a built in optional power supply at no extra cost even though the 897 was worth twice as much of the retail price of the X5105 but still less than a KX3. If all went well it would have been a good deal, well if it came even close to a KX3 – it didn’t.

The firmware on the original unit was not up to scratch, the built in ATU did not work. Then I learnt the tricks of the trade by having to regularly update firmware. The radio was never free of problems even with regular updating of firmware.

Now coming from a fault free Yaesu environment I sat with irritation, frustration and disappointment. I had no support, I had to fight through Facebook politics and I was stranded but never gave up still having faith for the future.

My radio started losing it’s settings, no one would understand the way I felt. I so missed my fault free Yaesu’s and had to sit through frustration for months. I still never gave up. Then through trial and error I got the radio to be reasonably stable. I had started a Facebook group for X5105 users and I found others having similar issues. My stability went back to the radio resetting itself again. Firmware issues, one after the other. The hardware appeared to be okay but impossible to really know.

Although I felt guilty trying to sell the radio, everyone was afraid even when I lowered the price considerably but being open to the X5105’s “problems”. It was always “Functional” I did make many contacts with it.

Imagine, in practical terms I laid out, in effect, over 20K to be saddled with problem after problem. You can understand the anger that built up inside me. So only just two days ago I advertised the radio as a GIVEAWAY. I would rid myself of these disappointments forever. There was a catch though, candidates had to write a motivation for getting a fully functional X5105 with it’s “MINOR” problems for free. They are minor, well unless you imagine the relative 20K it cost me!

If the radio was for free, these minor irritations will not mean much. I’m happy with that and any new owner would no doubt be happy too.

Out of about 30 requests for a free radio only one or two satisfied my criteria but not quite. Some were shocking to say the least. The X5105 needed a special owner. Just before I was about to announce, well not perfect but the best out of 30, I had a request from a friend of a friend. His motivation, his passion for outdoor radio, his fair outlook on life and our transaction surprised me beyond expectations, well especially after reading the 30 emails!.

The rig has a new owner and is already on it’s way to the Cape where I know it will be happy there and my new friend I know will be happy too.

RaDAR – Losing sight of the goal

The Xeigu X5105 loaded with Version 3 firmware, a failed test.

My personal goals for RaDAR is being an effective, on foot, communicator that can move quickly to my destination and establish communications on HF and FM Satellites within a short amount of time. This requires regular practice.

For the past few months, HF conditions have been pretty difficult unless you’re in the right place and distance from others. Forty meters is practically skip most of the time making NVIS comms practically non existent. The RaDAR operator relies quite heavily on NVIS communications much like the military.

Together with marginal conditions I have been plagued with buggy firmware for the Xiegu X5105 for almost a year rendering my HF radio practically useless until discovering a version that appears to work reasonably well, November 11 2018. That has given me renewed hope for my mobile HF station.

In the mean time I have been working hard in getting my RaDAR training ground suitable for practicing RaDAR that it be safe to walk / jog there in the coming summer months where snakes and other dangerous things come out to play. I have had some close encounters in the past. I believe too that they have their place in nature.

I have also installed two permanent antennas, a 80m / 40m delta loop and a little further away a linked dipole for 40m through to 10m. Having the antennas permanent defeats the object of RaDAR but are there to be used when the need arises but I still have to walk there with my radio and sit outside in the wind or hot sun. I don’t have a shack. Often I’ve thought about getting a shack radio again but that defeats my dream of being a RaDAR operator at all times and always ready. I must build a new antenna for the back pack that could basically do 80m / 40m / 30m and 20m. That’s all a RaDAR operator needs really.

So with a year of being almost dormant it’s time to face new challenges. I still need to cut the paths with a bush cutter and petrol lawn mower but then playing radio in the bush is really good fun. There is not much QRM out there either! The X5105 receiver is not the best there is but it makes a good trail radio and therefore ideal for RaDAR.

Spring is on its way and already the leaves on the trees are starting to show and it hasn’t even started raining yet! I’ve built a small fireplace amongst some trees in the bush and putting up some shade and a table and a chair which may be an ideal place for field day operations and being a portable station. I don’t always have to do the moving thing. QRP only of course.

It’s become too easy now or maybe a necessity to use high power but really my belief has always been that QRP is sufficient if conditions are favorable. It can be quite demoralizing though hearing a station booming through at 59 PLUS and they can’t hear me or the worst hear something and ask me to try again later. The opportunity presents itself, look out for the little stations we’re not all running 100W and more.