Keep On Demonstrating December 21st, 2013
It is good to see that 10m has been performing well again. It was the same around this time last year.
I was operating our club station G0PEP, last Saturday and this coincided with the ARRL 10m contest. The band was bursting with activity and some onlookers were very impressed with the way I was working one station after another. Enough to ask some questions about the hobby. There is nothing better than hearing stations from all over the world to demonstrate the hobby. But this level of activity is not always available for public demonstration. Her at W&S we are fortunate in having a 3 element Yagi at 50ft, and this certainly helps.
But sometimes the bands are noises and have little activity. This is certainly not the best way to demonstrate ham radio. But that is the nature of the hobby. And clubs around the UK should continue to operate demonstration stations because there is no doubt that it attracts attention of the passing public and can be the trigger for newcomers to the hobby. Peter G3OJV.
Apple Fusion Drive Problem – Even More December 19th, 2013
And even a few more thoughts on the Fusion drive that has been causing me some initial problems.
It is generally accepted for music DAW setups, that an external drive be added to the system. This is because the hard drive head can only read or write at any one time. It can’t to both. So if a separate hard drive is employed this somewhat reduces the load on the system. So an extra drive is not a bad idea. You cannot get away from the fact that all this work has resulted from the inability of a Fusion drive to handle audio correctly. Or perhaps we should say that the setup in the current Apple PCs does not permit external audio operation. Another possibility is to partition the Fusion drive so that either the data files or the program and data files, are installed in the new partition. This would in effect bypass the SSD section. One point to consider is that as the Apple hard drive is only 5400rpm, it might be better to stick to an external 7200rpm drive connected via Thunderbolt.
If I have any other bright ideas I will let you know. Peter G3OJV
Apple Fusion Drive – More Progress December 19th, 2013
Having spent a little more time on the Appple Fusion drive problem, I have been testing another way of working that is showing promising results.
I have placed a short cut on the main desktop, to the Logic application I had installed on my external hard drive. (This was done using Carbon Copy a few days ago). The disc is a Lacie Thunderbolt drive. Then I open the iMac as normal using its internal Fusion drive, but open the music program that is installed on the external Thunderbolt drive. So far this seems to retain the speed of the Fusion drive, whilst avoiding any audio break up. Today I have left Logic running on a loop for about two hours. There is no sign of any audio break up. I have also now installed iTunes on the external drive, and again this seems to run just fine.
This current setup now lets me use the iMac for running most of my programs from the Fusion drive, whilst at the same time the short cuts to iTunes and Logic Pro X automatically boots up these two music based programs from the external drive.
It’s still a work around, but is the best option so far. In fact, many computer musicians and composers use external drives anyway for storing files. So perhaps this is not so much of an inconvenience as it would first appear. Peter G3OJV
Yaesu offer Cash Back up to £250 December 18th, 2013
Yaesu have introduced a “Cash Back” offer on a number of their transceivers. This amounts to up to £250 and runs from now until the end of January, So if you are in the market for a new Yaesu transceiver, check our web site now. This also operates with our part exchange deals. Don’t miss out! Peter G3OJV
Apple Fusion Drive Problem December 18th, 2013
I recently updated my Apple PC system with a new iMac fitted with a Fusion 1TB drive. The theory being that the top part of the drive is SSD and the remainder a traditional HD. With the internal firmware control, frequently used files including boot up ones, are shunted in and out of the SSD portion to increase speed. Within the “bubble” of the iMac, this principle works very well and boot up time is just as rapid as it is on my iBook with SSD. But for those involved in music or video, the Fusion drive is causing problems when an external audio interface is used, as I have discovered.
I run Logic Pro X and have used Logic for many years. My previous iMac had been updated to Maverick and everything was running sweetly. My new iMac that I purchased a few weeks ago had Maverick ready installed and using Carbon Copy, I transferred my entire setup across from my old iMac to my new one, which had the Fusion drive installed. And it was at this point that my troubles began!
The Focusrite external audio interface was not happy at all when connected to the iMac via a firewire to Thunderbolt adaptor lead. It would drop audio after a few seconds and the only solution was to restart Logic. This was clearly not right. My first thought was that the audio interface and adaptor cable were the problem and I went through the usual process of loading new drivers ,but this really did not make much difference. I then installed another Focusrite interface with USB capability, but this was exactly the same. I managed to get Logic to run for several minutes before the audio would just break up. So I began to think that perhaps the problem was not the interface’s ability to match the iMac, but something a bit deeper. I had checked both these audio devices on my MacBook Pro running Maverick, and they worked fine. I then checked some of the forums and found that I was not alone. There seemed to be lots of Fusion drive owners in the same boat as me. It seemed that the Fusion drive was the cause of the problem. So was there a quick fix? Well yes and no.
Some owners have temporarily partitioned their drives to bypass the SSD section. This does require a bit of work and some significant changes that I felt was not the way I wanted to go. And it does mean that you lose the speed advantage on everything, not just the music. So I decided to copy my entire system across to an external HD and boot up from that. This was easily done with Carbon Copy. The iMac took around 90 seconds to fully boot up, but once done the system was totally stable with not a sign of any problems. This really confirmed to me that the Fusion drive was indeed the cause of the problem. But it did seem a shame that I was totally bypassing the internal fast drive. I should at this point say that I am working on the assumption that Apple will eventually resolve this problem and my change of working is planned as a temporary one.
I decided to consider other options and my next move involved transferring the Logic files to an external HD whilst running the program from the internal HD. This produced a very significant improvement. I still had the fast boot up but the files played back for long periods without any sign of audio break up. I then tried recording from an external source and this seemed stable for around 15 minutes, before there was a sign of audio break up. This meant I had to reboot Logic, but with the fast drive, this is only a matter of seconds. The audio break up does not affect the quality of the files and so no data is actually lost. I also noticed that as time went by, the system seemed to become a bit more stable. I am also experimenting with changing the buffer settings within Logic, and this seems to have some affect.
So at present, my setup involves an external HD for reading and recording files. This obviously cuts down the traffic passing through the Fusion drive and seems to be the best workaround at the moment. Using this system I have long periods of playback and editing ability, and it is really the recording from external sources that shortens this period. Whilst it is a pain to have to reboot Logic in the middle of a session, the Fusion drive makes this very quick. For long recording sessions the Fusion drive is not the way to go. At the moment, if you were recording in a serious way, you would have to run the system from an external bootable drive, use an iMac with a normal drive, run from a current MacBook Pro.
Hopefully Apple will quickly turn their attention to this problem as the recent OSX upgrade to “9.1” does not appear have addressed the issue. Peter G3OJV
More on The KAT-500 Antenna Tuner November 29th, 2013
We;; I have spoken about the KAT-500 and how it looks to be both a good physical and Elecrtical match for the ANAN-100E transceiver. I connected it all up and fed my balanced fed wire dipole, which has a total length of around 75ft, via the Elecraft KAT-500 and a 4:1 balun. This provided a very nice installation. My favourite band is 40m and the ATU tuned up perfectly on this band. The next band was 30m, which a manual ATU has struggled with. Again, a prefect match. I proceeded though all the bands right up to10m without a problem.
Mt next test was to switch from band to band to see how the memory system worked. It was spot on. I just need a sniff of RF to recall the settings that the KAT-500 had previously stored in its memory.. In effect, I was able to switch to any HF band from 40m upwards and get an instant match. The length of coax cable between the balun and ATU was around 60cms, so the loss is minimal and of of no consequence
I was very impressed with the results. The instant and positive memory recall of the KAT-500 is a major feature. With a manual ATU, band changing is never a fast procedure, and even if the settings for each band are written down, invariably a tweak is necessary before you are ready to transmit. Compare this with nothing more than switching bands on the transceiver and pressing the PTT..
As I mentioned before, the KAT-500 is not cheap. However, if you consider that you are getting a very wide range and capable auto ATU that can handle up to 1kW, then it rather puts it into perspective. Peter G3OJV
Elecraft KAT-500 with Apache-Labs ANAN-100E November 27th, 2013
]]It is always interesting to look at the various different options for building a station. The recent introduction and success of the new Apache-Labs SDR transceivers has resulted in a few questions about ATUs. The trend these days is to use an auto ATU and there are a number of choices. But often the need is for something that is as close a match as possible.
Apache-Labs, at present, do not make an auto ATU and so it was a case of trying to find one that was a good “match” in terms of operation and physical size. I think I have come up with the answer. As you can see from the photo above, it is the Elecraft KAT-500.
Now I am a great fan of the Elecraft Auto ATU design as it has the reputation for matching the widest possible range of antennas. Many of you who follow this blog will know that I am a great fan of open wire feeder, not the least of which is one’s ability to use it as a means of making a very simple “all band” dipole.
I have used this system in my modest station for a number of years now and it is certainly the most economical antenna system that I know of. The down side is that the feed point can present a very wide range of reactance and impedance values. These can be quite challenging for an ATU. And hence my choice of the Elecraft model. If anything can cope, this one will.
I know it is not the cheapest around, but then the best is never going to be the cheapest. And in terms of cost, it probably comes into perspective a bit more when you consider the cost of alternative all band antennas. And if that is not enough to persuade you, then do remember, that the KAT-500 can handle well above the UK legal limit. So in that respect it is also a good investment.
I will let you know in time how I get on with it. The photo shot is the easy bit! Peter G3OJV
Apache-Labs ANAN-100E Transceiver November 24th, 2013
Anybody that has tried the Apache-Labs transceivers can not fail to be impressed with the fabulous performance of the receiver section. They really are top class and with the excellent selectivity and the brilliant noise reduction, it is very easy to set the system up to operate just the way you want it to.
One of the impressive features of SDR is the panoramic display which can cover the complete spectrum of most ham bands. For the VHF and UHF operator the most used is often the waterfall display. It is ideal for spotting beacons and weak signals.
At present the Apache-Labs transceiver upper frequency limitation is 6m. However we have been pleased to learn that 2m and 70cm transverters are now in the planning stage. These will be a tremendously popular item and will probably be housed in similar enclosures to match the transceivers. But the additional good news is that these transverters will have dual receiver sections that will permit diversity reception. This is good news for EME operators who can make good use of such a feature. We have no delivery dates yet and our best guess will be next summer. I will keep you posted.
I spent part of the weekend operating in the CQ CW contest. This was a good test for the ANAN-100E. In fact it was made more interesting by virtue of the fact that I was using an Apple MacBook Pro using Fusion. I had already tried this some days ago with my iMac desktop that is a few years old now. The MacBook Pro is a current model and the improved performance showed in terms of lower latency. The superb receiver performance was a great asset during the contest as were the good band conditions.
Today (Sunday) I had less time to operate as I was playing drums at both morning ad evening church services. By contrast, tomorrow I am playing jazz in a local pub and on Tuesday am playing in a music support group at a church service conducted by our local bishop. Ah well, ham radio had to take a back seat sometimes! Peter G3OJV
Another Mystery Solved November 21st, 2013
It is amazing how one sometimes is faced with a service problem that seems complex and unusual.
We recently had an Elecraft KX3 transceiver returned to us with a report of very low sensivity, but only on CW. This clearly was an unusual case and one that produced some head scratching. The most likely cause was a problem on the main control board and possibly a firmware problem. But this proved not to be the case. Substituting our test front panel did not cure the problem. So it was decided to replace the complete rear RF board. These type of tests are very easy for us as we carry a reference KX3 which enables us to quickly snap into place a new appropriate section. However, with the new RF board in place the problem still persisted.
There was only one item left, and that was the ribbon cable connecting the RF and control boards. So this was removed and examined. As the ribbon is transparent it is easy to see the individual wires and all the solder joints. It looked perfect. We had a spare used ribbon cable so we used this to replace the original one. Again the problem remained.
Well at this stage there was nothing else to replace! It is at times like this that you just sit and look at the radio that is defying all logic. Every bit had been replaced and the fault remained. As a last resort, I got out a brand new ribbon cable even though teh replacement one looked fine. To my surprise the problem was cured! Both ribbon cables had the same fault. On neither cable is the fault visible and the chances of both cable having the same fault seems pretty remote. However, that is exactly what happened.
So a happy customer is reunited with his KX3 radio. Peter, G3OJV.
Force 12 Antennas November 19th, 2013
Here at Waters & Stanton, we are for every looking to bring to you the very latest in ham radio products. And our latest move has to become appointed as the exclusive UK reseller for the Force 12 antenna range from the USA.
We will be carrying the full range of these antennas and also be able to help our with spare parts. In due course they will be added to our web site but in the mean time, if would like to learn more about the Force 12 range of antennas and products, then please click HERE.