Mount an antenna on the car

After driving a few years now with a magnetic antenna foot and lingering about how good the antenna performance would be if I drilled a hole in de roof of the car, today was the day to do it. Henk PE1PEX helped me with the job. After 4 hours of the antenna mount was ready for testing and the whole car was put back together.

First test wasn’t disappointing at all. I could open repeater PI2RTD (about 65 km further) with only 5 watts from Henk’s driveway. We we’re very impressed with this result! Unfortunately I couldn’t test the antenna driving home from the job because Henk advised me to let the kit dry for at least one night. So as a good boy as I am I did.

To get a little impression the job from start to finish:

Make your own ISS contact via APRS

ISS contact
International Space Station ISS
Last weekend I followed the Sandringham School GB1SAN, as they made their contact with Tim Peak on the International Space Station GB1SS. This contact even got the attention of the BBC who made full report on it.
It reminds me of an article I read some time ago from the same AMSAT-UK how you can make your own ISS contact via APRS. Then I did put it on my wish list but forget about it.
When I was watching the report of Jessica Leigh M6LPJ and others it triggered my memory.

How cool would it be to succeed in making a APRS-contact with the ISS with just my current setup? If I understand it correctly, it must be possible to reach the ISS with just your average vertical for 2 meters. I do own a Diamond X-200N. And my Kenwood TM-D710 has all the APRS-capabilities on board to make the contact. On of these days I will pick a pass-over of the ISS and try to make a contact. Of course I will report on it here!

Serial problems Ultimeter – TM-D710

serial problemsAfter a few successful months, again we have serial problems with the connection between the Peet Bro’s Ultimeter 2100 weather station and my Kenwood TM-D710. A few days ago I noticed some ‘flat lines’ on aprs.fi in my weather station telemetry. That is extra weird if you think about it. If telemetry is flat lining the Kenwood must send the same data over and over again. When I checked the settings I noticed indeed a static set of data was on the Kenwood and it did not seem to update anymore although the weather station was updating.

That (and the fact that it worked without problems for a few months) make me suspect the problem is in the Kenwood and it is not necessarily serial problems. So I turned the power off and disconnect the power supply for a minute or so. Turned everything on and waited until the first telemetry from the weather station was on the screen of the Kenwood again. Everything worked fine for a few hours and then same freeze happened again. And again.
So now I turned off the Kenwood permanently and I have to investigate this problem further. I already did check the serial levels from the Ultimeter. Those seem okay. I think I have to give the Kenwood a full reset. I know it’s possible, but I do not know how to do that exactly. RTFM!
On Twitter I read Matthew W2MDW also has TNC-problems with his brand new TM-D710G. Maybe there is a 2016-bug in its software? 😉

*update* found the problem; clocks of the Ultimeter and TM-D710 have to be on the same time. After a few months they where a few minutes apart. Then the time stamps on the APRS-packets gave errors and the TM-D710 doesn’t recognize the packets anymore. I guess I have the check and adjust time every month of both devices. Feels like I own a really old watch 😉

Second TM-D710

second TM-D710After I bought my first Kenwood TM-D710 in 2012 I discovered this was the ideal rig for me, mobile as well as stationary. I use it primarily in the shack and took it with me in the car when went mobile. I figured it would be convenient to have a second TM-D710 main-unit in the car, then I only have switch the front panel between shack and car. In order to help me trace a second TM-D710 unit, I set a Google Alert on Kenwood TM-D710.
Forget totally about this alert until a few weeks ago I received a mail there was a new entry for my search term. I clicked it and it was an ad on a local sales site. After a short bid I got a message from it’s previous owner Rudy PD1RVM. So a long story short: a few days later my second TM-D710 arrived. It was still in it’s original box and in mint condition. After some short tests the rig seems fine and I had to determine which one to put in the car and which one stays in the shack.
I did some modifications (adding GPS to the display-unit, swapping the noisy fan of the main-unit). After some thinking I decided to use my old front-panel (with GPS-module) and the main-unit from the second TM-D710(with slightly more noisy fan) in the car. The front-panel of the second TM-D710 went to my old main-unit in the shack. No sooner said then done I tested the config in the car. Worked excellent!
But when testing the setup in the shack, it fails to connect to my weather station. That’s weird! Tried different things but nothing helps. I suspected the GPS-port on the front-panel of the second TM-D710. It had to do something to do with the port. Finally I took apart the front-panel from my old radio, connected the GPS-module to the standard Kenwood wire and connected it to the new front-panel. Indeed, also nothing.
Next step: take apart the new panel and find something blackened. But to my total surprise it wasn’t broke; there was a beautiful build in GPS-module as well! That explains a lot, when there is a GPS-module in it, the serial port is occupied from the inside. I’m never able to see any device I connect from the outside.
Tested the new front-panel in the car to see which GPS-module performed better. No doubt about it: it’s the one in the second TM-D710! It has a fix within 2 second where I had to wait at least a minute for my old GPS-module to get a fix.
Disassembled the GPS-module from my old front-panel and connected the weather-station again. Now it plays immediately.

Now I’m a proud owner of two TM-D710’s. One for mobile and one for my shack.

Peet Bros. weather station (part 2)

weather station PA1JIMThe new Peet Bros. weather station Ultimeter 2100 runs for a few weeks now. First results where very disappointing. All kind of weird data was logged on aprs.fi. Even data for rain (which the weather station has no sensor for). The weather station itself logs fine and readings are okay. So I figured it has to be the serial connection between the Ultimeter 2100 and my Kenwood TM-D710. I tried several things but nothing seems to work. Then PA1EDL informed me about the fact that this is a very common problem between two devices, connected via serial port, but with separate power supplies. It can result in “floating” serial signals which the devices can’t process. Solution for this problem is galvanic separation.
I ordered some 3N44 optocouplers and start building a galvanic separation. It wasn’t very successful, there was no connection at all. I removed the optocoupler and hit a dead end.
I looked around in my shack and suddenly realize I still have a solar powered battery! Maybe it would work when I connect the weather station to the battery. It would still be floating serial signals, but maybe less floating then with 2 AC power supplies.
After a few hours of running on battery the data on aprs.fi starts to make sense. The weather station uses a few hundred milli amps, the battery is around 12Ah so it should be able to run 24/7.
The big data collection starts now. I’m still thinking about buying the extra sensor combo with rain gauge and humidity meter some day.
And I still want to make the optocoupler work because thats the only guarantee for a proper operation regardless of what power supply is used.
Antenna with wind meter

Peet Bros. Weather station

Ultimeter 2100An early birthday present this year: a Ultimeter 2100 from Peet Bros. I had my eye on one of these for a long time because it can do weather telemetry send on APRS. Ordered one from WiMo.
It arrived the other day (see unpack pics in gallery) with a German and original English manual. Fortunately for me because my German is not that good.
Did the glue-thing with the wind cups and test drive the weather station inside. All works fine. Then moved the sensors outside. Wind meter in my antenna mast and temperature sensor in the shade side of the chimney.
Next thing to do is connect the Ultimeter to my Kenwood TM-D710 so the telemetry can put on APRS. That seems quite simple. I put all the settings in and wait….. and wait….. 5 minutes…. 10 minutes…..an hour. No data in the Kenwood. Weird. Switched between I/O-ports on the Ultimeter. Wait….wait….nothing.
Reset the Ultimeter and did all configuration again. Plug the serial cable in it and a few minutes later: tadaaaaa! Weather station data on the Kenwood! That was last night. But after 2 or 3 beacons everything went dead again. No more updates received by the Kenwood. Also: weird wind values appeared on APRS.
But okay, maybe the Ultimeter suffers from RFI, maybe I need to change some settings. We’ll get there I hope! 😉 Anyway, a very cool birthday present!