Next iteration

I wasn’t liking the whole minimalist setup that much.

The first problem I had was regarding the web browser in my iPad. When using hotspots I typically monitor their status screens (web pages) in tabs on my web browser so that I can see who’s talking. It seems the Shark RF folks made a weird design decision when it comes to their status page strategy. They actually don’t write the status log to any kind of file. They write it directly to the browser. Unfortunately, the iOS browser goes to sleep if it’s not in the foreground. So the status activity gets lost when the browser tab goes to sleep. When I go back to view a sleeping tab… the status page completely resets and doesn’t show the recent activity.

So, apparently the iPad won’t really do the job as my main computing device after all. That means I need to put a computer back on my desk. After contemplating laptop vs iMac… I opted to set my iMac back up.

Ok… do I run macOS or Windows on the iMac? I like macOS better. But Windows is certainly better qualified to work with ham radio. Giving up macOS is not a huge problem. Ok, Windows it is.

And if I’m going to have a computer on my desk that runs Windows… hmm… I could easily run WiRES-X. So I’ve set my node back up using my FTM-100DR and an HRI-200.

While I’m doing all this… how bout I bail on the idea of using handhelds at my desk and go back to using base radios instead. Luckily I can totally do that without buying gear.

Also, the guy who wrote QnetGateway just pushed a new update. I should probably try that. I have way too many hotspots. Time to trim these down and get back to basics. Rather than trying to do more things in more ways, I will pare things down and choose the best method for each mode.

  • For C4FM I will use WiRES-X.
  • For D-Star I will use terminal mode with QnetGateway.
  • For DMR I will use my openSPOT2.

Hmm… that adds up to only one hotspot. And I have five. Oh well. Maybe next week I will want to use them for something.

My new 50ft length of LMR-400 coax arrived today. So I replaced the run that went to my attic antenna with the new cable. This allowed me to take down the makeshift antenna I had set up in my shack when the old coax went bad. It’s pretty funny that getting a new cable with ends was way cheaper than getting the tools to put a new end on my existing cable.

Down to the bare bones

Hahaha, here is the current iteration of my shack. This is as minimal as I can possibly get. I’ve gone to using my iPad Pro as my main computing device. I have only one mobile radio on my desk (a Kenwood TM-D710G hooked to an actual antenna for use with local repeaters). I have my radioless Allstar node. And I’m doing all my digital voice modes with my handhelds and hotspots. I think I’ll try this for awhile and see how it goes.

While this setup is very tidy, when I do this sort of thing it is often short-lived. I always have a tug of war going on in my head between the efficiency of minimalism vs the bigger is better concept. And the fact that I have bigger and better options sitting in my closet not being used makes it even harder to stick with the approach of making do with less. At least I’m starting to learn that selling things when I decide to scale things down is a bad idea. Because I will often swing back the other way at some point. And that gets expensive.

I use LMR-400 with my attic antenna. It’s very stiff. As I was rearranging again today, I noticed the end that hooks to the radio was at an angle that indicated damage. I tried to straighten it out. But when I put it on a meter… it was clearly not usable due to very high SWR. So I put up a makeshift indoor antenna using a tripod, a Larsen mobile antenna, and a Larsen ground radial kit (see picture below). Using this on 10 watts will work just fine.

This will have to do for awhile. Amazon Prime arrival time for PL-259 ends is over 30 days thanks to the coronavirus (it would normally be 2 days).

Hotspot situation

I use a combination of three different handhelds to work digital voice modes. They are:

  • Yaesu FT-3DR
  • ICOM ID-31A Plus
  • Radioddity GD-73A
Above is a shot of my two homemade hotspots. I just slapped a ZUMspot-USB stick on a Raspberry Pi and loaded up Pi-Star. Works great! So good that I decided to do it twice.
Then I have my three openSPOT2 hotspots. I had one, and then when they announced the openSPOT3, the openSPOT2 went on sale. So I grabbed two more.

Back on track

My FTM-100 came back from the shop and they totally fixed the odd audio artifacts that were present when receiving WiRES-X data. Also… ICOM released a firmware update for my ID-4100A that fixed a bug that was messing up terminal mode.

These two problems derailed the plan I had last November when I swapped a bunch of equipment. My intention at that time was to use the ICOM ID-4100A in terminal mode… and to use the Yaesu FTM-100DR in Portable HRI Mode (direct). Now that the issues are resolved… I’m back on plan. This allows me to do D-Star and WiRES-X, both without any RF involved.

But I also did one more thing. I bought an Allstar Radioless Node Adapter. This little goodie takes the place of my Allstar node radio, and allows me to use my Allstar node with zero RF as well.

I should also add… my last entry mentioned needing a laptop on the desk just for WiRES-X. Well, I went ahead and gave in… and solved the problem by running Windows on my iMac full-time. No need for a laptop when I’m doing that. RIP macOS.

This bites

Well, I no sooner sprang for new ham gear… only to change strategies a week or two later. Now I have gear I don’t need… including some that I just bought. Actually, including some that I haven’t even received yet.

I’m afraid that there are just a ton of ways to set things up. And the perfectionist in me wants to keep adjusting the configuration to make things better. This clearly results in two different, equally annoying things.

  1. I buy gear and then end up not needing it
  2. I sell gear and then end up needing it

I suppose if I were to just stop selling the gear that I thought I didn’t need… I’d already have it the next time I rearrange things and found myself needing it again. That seems reasonable. So it’s cool really.