Spring in the shack

Easter. It means a long weekend off. Time for me to be busy in the shack. I started with a ride to SM/Ikea to buy some cupboards. One to the left of the desk to house the VHF and UHF amplifiers and rotators, the other one on the desk to make more room for radio’s. It looks really clean right now. I only have to find a way to lower the monitor about 15 centimeters, since it’s somewhat too high right now to be comfortable.

I also mounted the CG-3000 tuner with about 11,5 meters or wire on a pole. The end of the wire is aggravated with some nuts and thrown into a tree at the back of the house. It’s tunable from 160 meters till 10 meters with about 11,5 meters of wire. I dont have the ambition to be very active on HF, but missing the 30-meters and 17-meters band to keep my CW-skills up2date since there is almost no activity on 2-meters besides the yearly Marconi contest.

The FT8 farmer

Did I already mention rule 1 till 3 if you transmit in digimodes?

  • 1. Check your ALC
  • 2. Check your ALC
  • 3. Check your ALC

Don’t be a farmer spreading out harmics on the complete spectrum like the guy below. Your ALC shout *not* come in red. Or even better: not giving a bar at all. The example below is the audio level from PC to TRX is set way too loud.

The guy is calling CQ for over half an hour and nobody is answering because nobody is able to make any successful decodes.

Icom IC-9700 Firmware v1.06

Icom just posted a new firmware version for the IC-9700. The version is v1.06 and has these improvements:

  • Improved accuracy of the automatic reference frequency calibration.
  • Fixed unintended indication on the DR screen.
  • Eliminated RX audio gap when changing the IF filter in the DV mode.

Icom IC-9700 Inside Pictures

Today, Robin (G1MHU) posted some pictures on Facebook. Embedding the pictures doesn’t work but follow this link to see them. Looks like Icom already added a foam block on the TCXO for stability. But. There is enough room to add a heater, cooler, whatever inside the box.

Pluto SDR hack: Add a 2nd CPU core

The Pluto SDR is easily ‘hacked’ to extend the frequency range from 325-4000 MHz to 70-6000 MHz as described earlier. Another hack is to enable the 2nd CPU core on the ADALM Pluto. After logging in to the unit, ‘cat /proc/cpuinfo’ shows only one core. Now enter ‘fw_setenv maxcpus’ in the console and reboot the Pluto with the command ‘pluto_reboot reset’. Now the 2nd CPU core is enabled.

Icom IC-9700 and 10 MHz GPSDO lock

Many people are confused about the 10 MHz reference lock input on the IC-9700. And so was I. While all of us expected the VCXO was locked to the 10 MHz input (which in most cases will be locked to a GPSDO) it isn’t. Unlike the new IC-7610, which is locked, the 10 MHz input on the IC-9700 can only be used to calibrate the transceivers’ VCXO. And even this doesn’t seem to be most accurate.

According Rex (VK7MO) tests, he had a 4 Hz error on 144 MHz, a 40 Hz error on 1296 MHz. Icom has work to do to fix this (and the ALC / Power Overshoot) error. A fix could be a (more) permanent lock/sync, but a fix could also be made in the fan controller, since the temperature is directly involved with the IC-9700’s drift.

People using the IC-9700 for FM (repeaters), satellite, FT8, etc. should not worry. People using the IC-9700 for weak-signal modes and EME should, and not putting the old locked IC-910(0) or TS-2000 on sale, yet.

IC-9700 receiving from a GPSDO signal source. RX only but with case temperature above 30 degrees so the fan turns on and off.

April 2019 NAC contest on 1296 MHz

Only worked for 1,5 hours. 8 QSO’s in 7 grids. ODX: SK7MW (617km). I had to run low power due to the IC-9700 Power Overshoot. 🙁

Icom IC-9700 Power overshoot

Damn you Icom. Again, and again, and again. Yes. Alse the IC-9700 is equipped with the famous ‘power overshoot’ or ‘ALC overshoot’ issue most modern Icom transceivers have. Apparently Icom can’t get a grip on this issue. Bad news for people using transistor based amplifiers (SSPA) in SSB mode.

Since the IC-9700 had a ‘TX PWR LIMIT’ function, setting this to 7%* will prevent the amp from going in protection mode. The bad side is that the amp only running about 50% of the effective power.

* In my case I’m using a Gemini 2-500 amp with 4W drive level requirement. If your amp needs 10W input, raising the 7% to [try something like 13%] the value you need. And no. 7% does not mean 7 Watts, thus overloading. The value (percentage) isn’t linear. Measuring the (avg) output will tell you.

Update: Setting the tx-delay to 20 ms solved the issue tripping the SSPA.

Icom IC-9700 frequency modification

The first IC-9700 frequency modification appeared online. Marcus (PA2DB) from HamShop.nl posted this. The modification only works on European models and by removing 2 diodes the frequency can be expanded by a few MHz to the USA market. That means 2 MHz extra from 146-148 MHz (which is a welcome modification for UK users since they have temporarily access to 146-147 MHz) and extension from 440-450 MHz. No wideband or MARS/CAP modification available yet. I guess the diodes can be found in the front.

April 2019 NAC contest on 432 MHz

The most remarkable tonight were the very poor conditions. I was able to work Dan (OZ1BEF) as usual, but with 55 signals maximum, with the help of airplane scatter. Normaly his signal is always 59+.
Another stations further away that should always be workable is SK7MW but tonight I didn’t hear the Swedish club station, tough they were spotted on the cluster.
Later on in the evening the openings towards the UK were a bit better but still very moderate.
Totals: 16 QSO’s in 7 grid locators. ODX: OZ1BEF with 510km. I could work more but did not gave CQ myself. Just busy with the new IC-9700, pre-amp settings, compressor settings, etc.

EAntenna 5070OWA9

April. The Sporadic E season is about to start. And since my last antenne for 50 and 70 MHz didn’t survive a storm it is time for a new one. This time I bought the 5070OWA9 fom EAntenna at the local Hamshop. It is a 4-element antenna for 50 MHz and a 5-element antenna for 70 MHz mounted on a 3,55 meter boom. The driver for 70 MHz is passively feeded from the 50 MHz driver.

Mounting the antenna was quite sraightforward. I needed extra tools like a 5,5mm socket and a 2,5mm Allen key, and a 7mm wrench to mount the coax, the rest of the tools are provided. But… the guys at EAntenne forgot to drill some holes in the 5 supplied mounitng plates to put the 70 MHz elements on the boom. So I had to drill 20 M6 screw tap holes (the holes itself are there). To bad, but the local Hamshop already mentioned it on the webshop.

The balun
I still got a Current Balun with ferrite clamps from the old antenna so I decided to recycle this one. Else I’d suggest to make an ‘ugly balun’ or ‘air wound rf balun’ with some coax windings. The balun I use is from Innovantennas and bought a few years ago together with baluns for 144 and 430 MHz.

The G0KSC Innovantennas Current Balun
The antenna mounted. It will be removed in the winter to reduce wind impact on the mast.

Icom IC-9700 hidden telnet service

My Icom IC-9700 is connected to the network. And, as a freelance linux and infrastructure (security) engineer, I could not resist to do a port-scan on the box. The first result was port 23, used for the legacy telnet service. Loggin in was easy. No username and password required to get a shell. Quite shocking and a real security risk for devices directly connected to the Internet. That’s a receipe to get hacked within hours.

Since the # would suggest it’s a rootshell, the available commands are quite limited (yet…). But I assume it’s an RTOS shell. I’ll find time to figure it out.

Icom IC-9700 and N1MM+

The problem with new transceivers is the lack of support for drivers in programs like Ham Radio Deluxe, WSJT-X (OmniRig), N1MM+ and MicroHam drivers. Just to name some programs I juse often. After playing around I found a way using the IC-9700 with N1MM+ by emulating an IC-7300 wich has about the same architecture.

All you need to do is change the default CI-V address from A2h to 94h. It will help to change the CI-V Baud Rate from Auto to 19200 but this step is not mandatory. Now confugure N1MM+ to use the IC-7300 and it will work out of the box when the right comport is selected. Good luck!

Update (8-apr): An experimental buid (v1.0.7598) is available on the N1MM website with initial support for the IC-9700 added. Keep in mind this is beta but it seems that both VFO’s work.
Update (9-apr): A new build with IC-9700 support is ready. Update, Set, Go. Good luck!

Icom IC-9700 and WSJT-X

The problem with new transceivers is the lack of support for drivers in programs like Ham Radio Deluxe, WSJT-X (OmniRig), N1MM+ and MicroHam drivers. Just to name some programs I juse often. After playing around I found a way using the IC-9700 with WSJT-X by emulating an IC-7300 wich has about the same architecture.

My IC-9700 settings:
MENU -> SET -> Connectors -> CI-V
CI-V Baud Rate: 19200
CI-V Address: 94h
CI-V Transceive: ON
CI-V USB Port: Link to [REMOTE]

When starting to make a QSO, check your audio level. Use the Meter section and be sure the ALC does not more more than 1, 2 or 3 blocks. If you’re running to much audio, the ALC will kick in, crating harmonics, splatter, etc. I’m sure people will just ignore your CQ, if they are able to make a decode anyway. Use the slider on the bottom right. In my case it’s set to about -25 dB.
For receiving: Use AGC slow and change ‘6 sec’ to ‘off’. This is by far the best setting to receive digital signals (also on the IC-7300) in crowded bands and it avoids strong signals (or people disrespecting the ALC setting, we call them egoists) wiping weak signals away.

The ALC should (almost) NOT come out of the (left) corner. Don’t mind the low power setting. My 500W SSPA requires only 4 Watts of input.

The new Icom IC-9700 is in

The frst batch of the new IC-9700’s arrived today at Hamshop. I was the first one to collect mine, ordered back in September 2017 hours after the announcement during the Tokyo Hamfest.

After unboxing I notice the DIN connector is missing. From all Icom transceivers I’ve bought in the past, the DIN connector for accessoires was always delivered (as pitail). Since PTT-out is mandatory for me to control the SSPA I hope to find a suitable connector in the junk box.

  • The transceiver is delivered with firmware v1.04. A newer version (v1.05) is availlable.
  • It has PL259 connector for 144 MHz. I’ll change this to N in the future.
  • No PTT out via RCA. I’ll open up the box soon to see if there is space in the chassis to mount an RCA connector to act as PTT-out to key-up the SSPA.
Let the unbox party begin…
Left: IC-7300, Right: IC-9700