Category Archives: Tips and Advice

MFJ-1026 Signal Enhancer and Noise Canceller

mfj1026
We’ve recently put MFJ’s 1026 Signal enhancer and noise canceller through its paces.

And were we impressed !

See the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e95hlEJsxEU

There is a bit of adjustments / peaking and tweaking required, but once you have it correctly adjusted it really enhances operations. We show how it turns a noisy band into a band full of signals.

We do not recommend using the included small telescoping antenna. You need to use an external decent antenna for it to work properly.

Watch the video, then order yours online here .

 

I Would Like to Get an HF Antenna for my Home – Part 1

We have heard this numerous times from our Amateur Radio customers. Whether you are just starting out, or an oldtimer who has been hamming for years – and everyone in between – this is a fairly complicated and in depth subject.

What does an antenna do ?
This is what radiates your signal out to the world. This is the most critical part of any amateur radio station. If you are going to cut corners or save some of the budget, this is NOT the part to do it on.

So how do you select the correct antenna, when there are so many to choose from ?

Let’s look at the types of antennas available.

A Vertical antenna for HF

Verticals – Basic, can be single or multi band. Relatively inexpensive as well. Should be ground mounted with ground radials installed, which is what turns most people away from this type of antenna. An absolute minimum of 4 radials are required, but don’t expect huge results. Typically 32 or more should be installed, on the ground (they will settle in and disappear over time) or you bury them yourself.
Ground mounted verticals are good for DX because of their low angle of radiation.

The same vertical can also be installed on a roof or tower, but they require some form of counterpoise system. This is typically accomplished by hanging the  radials from the base of the antenna. A good example would be installing the antenna on a roof, and laying the radials across the roof.

Radials always connect to the base of the antenna , and are run outward in equal divisions, much like the spokes of a wheel.

Here is a typical vertical antenna: https://radioworld.ca/but-hf6v
You can add some options or homebrew your own.
This radial kit by DX Engineering includes radial wire, fasteners, and “staples” to staple the radials to the ground. The staples will decompose naturally on their own.
DX Engineering also manufactures a base plate for mounting the vertical to a post, and then securing the radials to the plate.

Radioworld sells verticals by Butternut, Comet, Cushcraft, DX Engineering, Hustler, Hy-Gain, and MFJ.
Some are single band, two band, or multiband up to 9 bands. In general, the more bands that the antenna covers, or the smaller an antenna is, the more of a compromise the antenna is. Where most multiband antennas employ coils and/or traps to allow extra bands, antennas like this 43 foot vertical from DX Engineering use no coils or traps, but utilises a remote tuner (sold separately)  at the base of the antenna. And you still need those radials.

Then, there are vertical antennas that employ a matching network on the antenna, with a few very short radials at the base of the antenna. These are much better for tower or roof mounting, as you don’t have wire radials hanging and drooping down, and looking messy. This is again a compromise antenna, but they do work reasonably well. Typically they cost 1.5 – 2 times more than a ground mounted vertical.
Here is an example of a multiband vertical with a matching network.

Vertical antennas are very popular due to their reasonable cost, multiband coverage and ease of installation. They are ideal for small lot sizes. They offer a uniform radiation pattern, but tend to be noisier than horizontally polarised antennas. Yes, you can work DX, but you’ll be blending in with everyone else when you’re calling that rare one.
And be sure to keep an open mind – this CB antenna covers 10, 11, 12 and 15 metres, and requires no radials.

Wire AntennasWire Antennas – The easiest and least expensive of HF antennas. You can purchase commercially made and pre-tuned single, or multiband wire antennas, or build your own. Typically wire antennas are configured as dipole or inverted V styles, but can also be slopers, inverted L’s, long wire or various other styles.

Some popular wire antennas, like the G5RV, require a matching network (tuner) to work properly. This would also apply to non-resonant antennas like longwires, inverted L’s and slopers.

Because of their low cost, low profile, low maintenance and decent performance, many hams build their own wire antennas. You can build everything yourself, or use some commercially made parts like this inexpensive centre and end insulator kit. Add your own wire, special dacron rope to tie off the insulators, and feedline (cable), and you’re all set !

Beams, or directional antennas, are a step up from the others. These antennas direct the signal in one direction, and reject signals from other directions. They are basically a dipole antenna with reflective and directive elements added on to a common boom. They can be for single bands or for multiple bands, but because of their size do not (usually) cover lower frequencies.

A single element antenna is a dipole. The signal radiates from the sides, but not the ends. Adding a director(s)  and a reflector(s) alters the radiation pattern into one direction. The more “elements” (director/reflector elements) the more gain an antenna will have, in one direction. The antenna is aimed at the station you wish to contact. This is done with a rotator on the tower, accessed from a control box at the operators station.

Here is a three element beam for 10, 15 and 20 metres th3-mk4

In this picture, the signal is aimed to the left. The centre element, called the driven element, radiates the signal. The element on the right (the reflector), reflects the signal to the left. The leftmost element (the director) directs the signal to the left. Directors are physically shorter than the driven element, whilst the reflector is physically longer than the driven element. And there is plenty of math to calculate all those dimensions.

Beams can be quite large, and usually need to be supported by a tower. Some smaller beams can be mounted on smaller structures, like tripods or stand alone masts.

Here is an example of an extremely large antenna system20mbeam

Like any antenna, the higher up it is mounted, the better it will perform.

To the left is a 5 element beam for 20 metres, on a 78 foot tower. Quite expensive, it requires some serious work to put up, but will give a really big signal.

 

 

 

So when customers come in saying they want an antenna for HF and what do we recommend, it really isn’t an easy answer. We have to ask many questions to find what works for you.

Come on in and let’s talk.

Tim VA3FU
WAC, WAS, DXCC

The Big Picture

Driving in this morning, traffic was much worse than it’s usual messiness. Through some great devices, which are sold at Radioworld, we can see how much technology has come along to help us.

My Garmin Nuvi 3597LMTHD GPS had this to say:

Nuvi 3597LMTHD
Nuvi 3597LMTHD

Unfortunately, in this case, the Nuvi could not give me any detour options – there weren’t any ! I knew about the slowdown well in advance, but unfortunately thought everything would be cleaned up before I got there – wrong !
The Garmin live traffic information is excellent. On numerous occasions it reports traffic much sooner than the local news / advertising station with their traffic reports every ten minutes. Sometimes you can’t wait ten minutes !

Looking at my vehicle tracking (below) with my Bluefox GPS Tracker you can see the slowdown where the reporting points are much closer together. If you are a fleet owner, you won’t be questioning why your driver took longer than normal to arrive – you’ll have the facts right in front of you, near real time.

Bluefox GPS Tracker
Bluefox GPS Tracker

OFSC Trail Maps 2014 Now available at Radioworld

large TRAK OFSC Banner

 

Radioworld is pleased to partner with TrakMaps (Canada’s leading digital cartographers) and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) in providing the very best digital maps for your Garmin and Lowrance GPS products.

Explore the limits of nature with confidence ~
Treat yourself to safe and enjoyable snowmobile rides with TrakMaps digital maps of the official trails of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC), Quebec Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (FCMQ), and New Brunswick Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (NBFSC) especially designed for snowmobile enthusiasts. You’ll be sure to take the right path.

trakmaps-snowmobile-ontario1-garmin trakmaps-snowmobile-ontario1-lowrance

Official 2013-14 trails of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC)

Features: 31,340 km of snowmobile trails, Topographic data including mountains, hills, valleys, lakes, rivers, forest zones and swamps, Contour lines, points of elevation and other terrain features. Buildings, roads, electric lines, dams, railroads, provincial parks and other landmarks.

Plus POIs including gas stations, cellular towers, camping & picnic areas, airports and more.

Routable mode with integrated map background at 1:50,000
~ Latest data from the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC)

To make this offer even more special, Radioworld is offering exclusive “Extra Value Bundles” when you purchase a Garmin or Lowrance GPS and TrakMaps product together!

For more information and to purchase your Sled Map, visit our website at www.radioworld.ca today!

 

 

Flex Radio Seminar a Huge Success !

flexlogo
On Saturday, September 28th, Radioworld welcomed Greg Jurens, K5GJ, of FlexRadio Systems. Greg spoke about software defined radios – from how they work to the entire FlexRadio lineup.

We would like to give a huge thank-you to Greg, and the many amateur radio enthusiasts who came to Radioworld to hear Greg educate us all on these great products.

 

Thank you all for a great day !

flexradioseminar1
flexradio2  flexradio3

 

 

Flex Radio Seminar Itinerary – September 28th, 2013

flexseminarOn September 28, 2013 Radioworld will host its first FlexRadio Seminar and Sale featuring guest speaker Greg Jurrens K5GJ.
At this time we ask that you register via telephone call to Radioworld at 416-667-1000 or by email to leo@radioworld.ca to ensure you have a seat at this event.

All registrations will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.
Doors open at 9:30 am, store closes at 3:00pm

Special pricing on FlexRadio products will be offered that day only!

Agenda

SECTION 1: Introduction to Software Defined Radio:

a. What is an SDR?
b. SDR vs. traditional radio
c. SDR architectures
d. SDR history

2. FLEX-Series SDRs

i. FLEX-5000
ii. FLEX-3000
iii. FLEX-1500

 BREAK

SECTION 2: Recent Advances in SDR
a. Introduction to Direct Sampling SDR technology
b. Features and Design Challenges
c. It’s all about Horsepower
d. Introducing the FLEX-6000 Signature Series
e. A “simple” introduction to Digital Signal Processing
f. Ham Radio meets “The Net”
g. Complex made simple

BREAK

SECTION 3: Radio Demonstrations

a. FLEX-Series PowerSDR Demo (FLEX-5000)
i. Introduction to PowerSDR
ii. Tips and Tricks
iii. The perfect tool for DXers and Contesting

b. FLEX-6000 SmartSDR Demo

i. Introduction to SmartSDR
ii. Slices and Panadapters Galore!
iii. Harnessing the Power of Bandwidth

After the seminar concludes, all are welcome to hang around and enjoy the day.

Complimentary refreshments will be available all day.

 

The Flex Insider – August 30, 2013 Edition

August 30, 2013

THE FLEX INSIDER
flexlogo

A Word from our CEO –QST QRQ QSK Operators: Game Changer ahead de K5SDR Seeking testers with the following qualifications:

  1. Minimum proficient code speed of 60 wpm.  Desired 100 wpm.
  2. Able to operate with separate receive antenna.
  3. Ability to operate with both paddles and external keyboard keyer
  4. Own either FLEX-6500 or FLEX-6700
  5. Current Preview customer or willingness to opt-in for QRQ QSK testing

If you are interested, please email your interest and qualifications to steve@flexradio.com.

QRO cudos to Marco and Steve for their FPGA magic.

Now on to the things you need to know this week:

  1. We are still on track for a September 30 release of SmartSDR v1.0.
  2. We are currently building to stock in preparation for v1.0 shipments.
  3. Limited Edition customers can still opt in for the Preview release at any time prior to v1.0.
  4. We will begin calling the remaining Limited Edition customers around September 23rd so that we can begin shipments the day v1.0 is ready.

Thanks for reading.

73,
Gerald

FLEX-6000 Engineering Updateby Steve Hicks, N5AC – VP, EngineeringWhen we created the FLEX-5000 more than 8 years ago, we chose the FireWire interface to send data between the radio and the computer.  We looked at other interfaces, but at the time only FireWire had the capability to carry the quantity of data from the radio to the computer that we needed.  How much data?  In the FLEX-5000, we send eight channels each 192ksps I/Q data which amounts to just under 100Mbps of data.  There simply were no other interfaces capable of this sustained rate.  In the computer industry, we call this data channel a “fat pipe” because we liken it to the huge five meter concrete water supply lines running beneath our streets.From the beginning, FlexRadio has encouraged our customers and the amateur radio population to understand the benefits of this architecture.  The two most significant benefits are first: that as computer power has grown, our customers can upgrade and we can create applications that use more of that power, bringing more benefits.  And second, since the public has driven down the cost of computers, the radio itself can be lower cost and still take advantage of a commodity computer.  Those of you that have purchased any one of our FLEX line (FLEX-5000, FLEX-3000 and FLEX-1500) understand this benefit as you have received a “top ten” radio for a fraction of the price of competitive radios.Five years ago, FlexRadio built our first Ethernet radio.  This radio, the CDRX-3200, has what amounts to 32 FLEX-5000s as blades in a rack mount chassis, all of which send their data out a single Ethernet port.  Each receiver sends out 200ksps of I/Q data so just a little more bandwidth than the FLEX-5000.  Each receiver uses 13.5Mbps of Ethernet bandwidth so all 32 together spit out an amazing 432 Mbps of data over a Gigabit Ethernet port.  Now that’s a fat pipe!  Again, that radio was built five years ago.Last year, our government customers asked us to build a radio that has 24 separate wide bandwidth receivers in a 1U rackmount chassis.  It was a tall order, but we did it.  This radio is also an Ethernet radio, but is has four Ten Gigabit Ethernet ports and the radio will saturate these ports with ease — that’s 40Gbps.  It takes a rack full of computers to digest all of the data that comes out of a single one of these radios.  You might not believe some of the memory and disk specifications on these computers either.  FlexRadio has built and knows fat pipe radios well.  And we know that there’s something hard about this architecture.  The fat pipe architecture has two key disadvantages:

  1. The radio is actually a system composed of two parts: the radio and the computer. The computer has significant requirements for processing and network placed on it.
  2. A fat pipe radio is fundamentally limited in networking capabilities

So let’s talk about what these mean.  Over the years, we have “heard it all” on PC’s, their operating systems and how they interact with the radio.  Since a fat pipe architecture requires the PC to digest I/Q data at a high rate, demodulate it and play the audio, the computer can’t miss a beat.  If it does, you will hear pops and crackles in your audio or you will lose signals in your panadapter.  Windows PCs are inherently not real-time devices.  By the time you load wireless software, virus detectors, email programs and the like, the computer can schedule any one of these things over your radio software and cause you problems.  We’ve spent many years working with our customers to find and solve these problems.  And while we solve the vast majority of them, we know when we sell a “fat pipe” radio, that any given customer may require help to overcome an issue due largely to an interaction between Windows and other devices or software loaded on their computer (which we happily provide).  Direct sampling radios are seriously data bandwidth hungry and it seemed senseless to push the envelope and our luck with including the PC in the “radio system” and sending it gobs more data.

We have a test lab that lets us load all of the permutations and combinations of Windows software in under five minutes.  So we can switch to 32-bit Windows XP from 64-bit Windows 8 on the same computer in five minutes.  And we have to do this to test PowerSDR.  At any minute, Microsoft might release a patch that causes an issue in our software that we have to work around.  Or a particular piece of code we wrote might work better on one version of the operating system than another.  Or one of the drivers for FireWire or USB might react differently to a software change on a given operating system.  We have to check all these out and “run them to ground” with our fat pipe radios.  It comes with the territory.

From a networking standpoint, the data that comes out of a fat pipe radio requires massive network bandwidth to transport the signal.  Remember that 200kHz of bandwidth takes about 13Mbps of data to move over the Ethernet.  I bet there are very few of you that have a 13Mbps upload speed on your Internet connection and this is just from one receiver.  This means that you can’t hook the radio to the Internet and operate that way.  You would still have to add a computer in the mix.

With all of our experience in the fat pipe radio architecture, we looked at this architecture long and hard when we were planning the FLEX-6000 Signature Series Line (FLEX-6700 and FLEX-6500).  It would have been easy for us to build an Ethernet fat pipe radio next.  Heck we could have built one that produces 10Gbps of Ethernet for the ham community if we thought the ham community would like that radio.  But we were thinking about what you want.  We were thinking about what we would want — after all, we’re hams too.  And a fat pipe radio was not the answer.  Our customers are buying fun, capabilities, excitement and performance.  They want a radio they can plug in, power on and work someone.  Our customers know the value of a truly visual radio and the highest performance receivers in the world.

So we pulled the computing power back in the radio.  But it’s not the computing power of a PC — it’s many times the power of a PC.  With the advent of the Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) we can get many times the power of a PC inside the radio.  And this opened up new capability doors for us and ultimately you.  I was asked in a forum at Hamvention this year if I had it to do over, would I use a multi-core processor instead of an FPGA.  My answer was “no.”  In a direct sampling radio the radio has to consume a massive amount of data very quickly.  In the FLEX-6700 we process over eight Gigabits of data per second.  That’s a terabyte hard drive worth of data every two minutes.  Making this amount of data processing work smoothly on a PC is just unrealistic.  We felt the time had come to abandon this 10-year-old architecture and move to a new architecture that can achieve another quantum leap in performance and capabilities.  Was it going to be hard abandoning the old architecture and starting over? Yes, it was very painful and I have a group of very tired engineers.  But it was the right thing to do for you, our friends and customers.

So I’ve rambled a while and I’d like to summarize some of the key benefits of the architecture we chose:

1. By doing all of the processing inside the radio, we are able to limit the data going from the radio to the PC down to only what you, as a human, are going to consume.  So we send beautiful panadapters at up to 30 frames per second.  A large SmartSDR panadapter, spanning a 1080p  display at 25fps and showing you better than 14MHz of RF bandwidth, consumes about 1Mbps of data.  A fat pipe radio showing you a fraction of that RF bandwidth (1MHz) consumes more than 75 Mbps of data!  That is a thousand-fold improvement in network bandwidth.  And we’re not even done yet — we can and will do better.  I won’t be satisfied until you start sending me letters explaining how you bagged rare DX from the beach on a tablet connected over a cellular network!   Can you do this with a fat pipe radio using Skype, Team Viewer, and an extra computer?  Sure.  Is it fun and easy?  No, not really.  It’s hard and we wanted to fix that.

2. The complete “system” that makes the radio work is all in the radio.  It’s under our control and we know how to make it work every time.  The “out of box” experience of the FLEX-6000 is unprecedented in our history.  We continue to get notes from new customers that say “I plugged it in and it just worked!”  This is the benefit of having everything in the box.  You can run SmartSDR on your computer and in the middle of a contact kick the plug on the computer and continue the contact on your radio (you might have a hard time tuning the radio, though).

3. Networking is at the center of the radio.  SmartSDR was written from the ground up with networking in mind.  Every part of the radio was designed while we asked “OK, but how will that work over the network?”   We are painfully aware that we are not giving you the ability to operate the radio over the Internet today.  Someone even whispered in my ear this week that they had heard that we were not going to deliver networking on the radio.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  This radio IS a network radio.  It’s like suggesting that we were selling bicycles, but that we had decided that we weren’t going to let you ride our latest bicycle — that it was just for sitting on. Networking runs through the veins of the FLEX-6000 and it wants to come out and play.  We’ll get there as soon as we can.

Most of us are used to buying a product from a manufacturer that is finished and will not be upgraded other than an occasional fix here or there.  For most of us it is foreign to buy something that the manufacturer says “will continue to get better” or evolve over time. We understand this.  We know we’re first, that we’re pushing the envelope and that some will scoff at what we’re doing.  But, it’s who we are.  It’s simply too much fun for us to continue writing amazing features and delivering them to you and then watching you say “Thanks for a new radio!”  We know a radio is a big investment and we want that investment to pay off for you in a big way and not just today — tomorrow also.  We are grateful that you, as our customers, share our vision and want to be a part of what we are doing.  Without you, we would not be able to do the things we do.  Thanks for being a part of our family and a part of the future of ham radio.

73,
Steve

 Don’t forget to register for our FlexRadio Seminar !

2013-flex-seminar

SEMINAR and SALE – September 28th, 2013

2013-flex-seminarHosted by Greg Jurrens K5GJ of Flex Radio Systems

Greg Jurrens, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at FlexRadio Systems, will be at Radioworld on Saturday, September 28th, 2013, to talk about FlexRadio Systems, and specifically the new 6000 Signature series of software defined radios. Come hear about the entire FlexRadio lineup, find out the latest news and ask questions to Greg.

Email leo@radioworld.ca to reserve a seat

Greg earned his novice license at age 15 and has been actively involved in most aspects of the amateur radio hobby since. While completing his BS degree in Electrical Engineering Technology at  Kansas State University  , he was very active at the KSUARC – W0QQQ. After graduation, Greg held engineering roles in the aerospace and semiconductor industries then senior level management positions in Field Applications Engineering, Technical Marketing, and Product Management. Along the way he earned his Amateur Extra Class license. In 2002, Greg became a partner in a Manufacturer’s Representative firm. He joined FlexRadio Systems in July 2009. When he’s not working, Greg is usually playing ham radio. He is an ARRL member, Life member of the TX VHF-FM Society and Central States VHF Society, founding Board Member and Public Service Director for a statewide FM linked repeater system in Texas, an APRS infrastructure builder, and a rabid multiband VHF/Microwave “ROVER” contester. Greg is also a licensed pilot and airplane owner plus likes to spend time on the lake with his wife Karla – N5KUR of 30 years and the rest of his ALL HAM family.

Also on Saturday, be sure to check out the rest of our Amateur Radio products:

  • Yaesu
  • Icom
  • Kenwood
  • FlexRadio
  • Alinco
  • Alpha Amplifiers
  • Heil Sound
  • Comet
  • Diamond
  • MFJ
  • Daiwa
  • Ameritron
  • LDG
  • West Mountain Radio
  • & More