Upcoming QRP Field Event:
“Freeze Your B___ Off”, Saturday, February 6

The Arizona ScQRPions (link) annual winter QRP sprint, “Freeze Your B___ Off“, happens on Saturday, February 6 this year. FYBO is an event in which QRPers are encouraged to take their stations afield in the winter, and the colder it is “at the key”, the larger a score multiplier a participant gets.  Complete rules for FYBO can  be found here:

http://www.azscqrpions.org/FYBO2016_Rules.htm

My logbook tells me I first participated in FYBO in 1997 and that I had a blast, and I’ve participated in FYBO almost every year since then.

With this year’s strong El Niño and weird weather there’s no telling at this point whether a particular location will be unseasonably warm or bitterly cold, wet or dry, sunny or snowy but whatever the weather you find on February 6, take your station outdoors and have some wintertime radio fun!

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Ten-Tec has a new owner with a long-term vision

TenTecLogoMany thanks to several readers who sent a link to this discussion by software engineer, John Henry (KI4JPL) on the Ten-Tec email discussion group:

I wanted to bring people up to date on what is happening right now.

I had a discussion with the new owner last night, and I wanted to relay some information.

He is now officially the new owner of TEN-TEC.

He is planning the rigs and amplifiers and other accessory products to engineer and to manufacture for the coming year to cover the purchase and expenses for the year, working on the details of the various plans for service, sales, and marketing, etc.

Don’t underestimate the amount of time and planning and effort that this business strategy planning maintaining overhead etc stuff takes.

Learning lessons from the past to help the future of the company be more viable.

What will you see? and when?

Planning on having the OMNI-VII back in production in 1st quarter 2016, hoping to ship in 2nd quarter 2016.

Dayton, He will be there, going to try to get the same TEN-TEC booth/booths as possible. Showcasing the existing products, and possibly something new based on the existing products, time will tell.

He did say that he will either bring back the Orion II or have an Orion III. Time frame is tbd. could be as early as end of 2016 or Dayton 2017????

There might be improvements/changes to certain rigs, e.g. maybe there will be an OMNI-VII+ maybe an OMNI-VIII in a year???

The Eagle will go back into production some time after the 1st OMNI-VII run.

Prices will return to the original pre liquidation sale prices when the new website is up so that each will be at a point that will make enough profit to make the company viable. Other features will get added where possible.

TEN-TEC was actually shipping a $200 bill with every one of a specific model that it sold this last year.

There were so many ways that TEN-TEC has been hemorrhaging over the last couple of years, and even back a bit further, that changes will have to be made. Some the public won’t like, but then the alternative is that TEN-TEC would close forever.

Also remember, it was made public that the two owners of RKR were looking for a new owner, and how many stood up to say “I’ll buy it/fund it/save it”. This gentleman did and will do what he has to do to keep the brands alive.

There are plans to bring back some VERY good products, items that have been big sellers for TEN-TEC just a few years ago, and were profitable and have been requested for quite some time.

Also, there are still commercial orders coming in that will be there for maybe another year or two using the same RX331/RX340 platforms that will help him maintain a cash flow that will help realize amateur market production runs. There might be a need in the future to try to raise some more capital if certain plans come to fruition with commercial and fema customers, if those work out, may need to raise some cash to buy the parts, so there might be a gofundme funding campaign set up, where amateur customers can help donate to purchase the parts, and then part of or all of or x times the amount of the donation is taken off of their next order of a TEN-TEC product > a certain dollar amount. No, don’t look for exchanging your $100 donation to cover 1/2 of a Rebel, that won’t happen, Talking a major product, e.g. an OMNI-VII, or a high powered amp….. To do this first class, we need a 200K capital infusion for a new factory building and some new equipment to replace that was liquidated if anyone cares to step
up and accelerate our success. 400K would give us the facility, equipment and capitol to put everything back in production to a stocking basis and allow us to complete the Orion III. If 400 people will give us 1K each, we will commit to the Orion III of your dreams in 18-24 months and give you 2K off the target price of 5K as well as engrave your name and call on a plaque on the new building that says you helped build it and save TEN TEC.

Where do I fit in?

No, I’m not the owner, but I am going to do whatever I can in the evenings to ensure that TEN-TEC is a success. I want to see it be a success, and maintain what can be maintained of the people, and improve it’s image/products/etc back to where they were years ago. The owner is quite insistent that I remain intimately involved with TEN-TEC even if it is on a part time basis. It is my choice of how much or little I spend on TEN-TEC
and the door is assuredly left open for me to come and go as I please. He wants me to be the VP of Engineering, but, well, time will tell how all of this plays out.

I am also working on digital modes for HRD, so, my evenings are quite interesting.

In the future, who knows?

Where do you fit in?

Be patient, this is a total reboot of a company, ripping away the excess that bleeds it dry (e.g. high rent, using an MRP system that costs $$$$ monthly when something is already in place to take care of it, changing to a cost effective internet/phone system, so many “luxuries” will be removed and put in their place the necessities to get business going profitably), and building the business and products with the key employees to make it strong again. You build the employees, the employees build the company. But it will take time.

The products are there, the technology is also there for the future (some things that were in the works that no one in the public knows about) that the new owner has a plan to finish soon.

Actually, TEN-TEC does need to take the time it will take to make it a success. Otherwise if he runs headlong into this as was done in the past, he will fail. If people buy rigs and amps and tuners and other accessories elsewhere in the meantime, well, that is their decision. The market continually has new and continued customers. existing customers periodically look for something new, enough of a continual market that should sustain itself for years.

The new products coming out that are planned include continuances of good known technology, and of course some are a step ahead of what is in the market today, and you will see those in 1-2-3 years.

I will not divulge nor answer speculation on anything further than what I have stated above as to what products, when, etc. I can also tell you is that the owner has emphatically stated to me that this the last time Ten Tec will change hands for the next 15-20 years or so as he is my age and plans for us both to operate it until we are in our 70s or physically unable to continue, so Ten Tech could not be in the hands of anyone more SERIOUSLY long term goal oriented. He has wanted Ten Tech for a long time for the excellent DSP AGC technology built in to our transceivers so I think it is safe to say that there will be future generations of the Omni, and Orion style units as finances permit. But again in order for this to happen it is critical that YOU support TEN TEC by purchasing existing TEN TEC products. Look for the Omni 7+ next year.

So, whereas he still wants to remain anonymous until his formal announcement in the first quarter, I myself am convinced that this will work, enough so to help him wherever I can, and so are the key core employees at TEN-TEC. If anything, our message at this time is please be patient with the negativity. There are other things happening behind the scenes which can not yet be publically discussed before they are finished.

If this sounds like cheerleading, well, then so be it, I care about TEN-TEC, the people, the legacy, and will do what I can to make it a success, and, if this fails, well, we will give it a valiant effort.

Please understand that I have other commitments from now until Monday next week that I may not be able to respond/answer questions until then. But do realize, that I have disclosed about as much as I can for now.
This statement came from a draft I created, and the new owner gave me inputs on, which items he felt like disclosing now, etc. So, there may be some he/I/our’s mixed up, but I hope the message from him is clear. TEN-TEC is something he is passionate about, and is committed to making it a success. Yes, there are trials and tribulations, but, he is convinced he can do it, and I will do whatever I can to assist, and so will various core TEN-TEC individuals.

73, KI4JPL

John Henry

This is a most interesting development. As many of you know, I’ve always loved Ten-Tec equipment–I consider their receivers to be some of the best on the market. It’s been a tough few years for them and I certainly hope the new owner can inject some energy and innovation behind the brand. I will post updates as they become available.

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Mountain Topper Radio review by G0POT

MountainTopperRadio-MTR-Via-LNR-Precision

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Michael Sansom G0POT has released a video review of the LNR Precision version of the MTR, Mountain Topper Radio, a three band, CW only, QRP trail friendly transceiver

Watch Michael’s Mountain Topper Radio review below:

G0POT https://twitter.com/DrOrthogonal

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Scott’s Elecraft KX3 Go-Box

[Note: this article was originally posted on my shortwave radio blog, The SWLing Post.]

Many thanks to Scott (AK5SD) who shares the following photos and bill of materials for his custom Elecraft KX3 go-box:


IMG_0531 IMG_0534

IMG_0532 IMG_0535 IMG_0537 IMG_0536

Bill of materials

The panel was custom laser cut by Front Panel Express. I have the CAD
file and I’m willing to share it with anyone who wants to reproduce my effort.

Amazon.com
Case B&W Type 1000 Outdoor Case with SI Foam
You won’t use the foam, so you can buy the version without it if you can find it cheaper.

Battery Anker Astro Pro2 20000mAh Multi-Voltage (5V 12V 16V 19V)
Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank
Avoid look alike batteries and the next generation model from Anker. The newer Anker
battery is only capable of delivering 1.5A from the 12V supply. Two look alike batteries
I tried did not have the auto-off feature that the Anker does.

Vetco.net
ACC2 and I/Q Jacks 2 x 2.5mm Stereo Jack Panel Mount (PH-666J-B)
Phone, Key, and ACC1 3 x 3.5mm Stereo Jack Panel Mount (High Quality) (PH-504KB)
Mic Jack 1 x 3.5mm 4 Conductor Jack Panel Mount (PH-70-088B)
12V IN and CHG IN 2 x 2.1mm DC Power Panel Mount Jack (PH-2112)
12V OUT 1 x 2.5mm DC Power Panel Mount Jack (PH-2512)

You also need plugs and wire for interconnects. I bought some 2.5mm (CES-11-5502)
and 3.5mm (PH-44-468 for stereo, PH-44-470 for 4-conductor) audio cables with right
angle plugs and just cut them to use for the signal lines going to the KX3. I did the same
thing for the 2.5mm (PH-TC250) and 2.1mm (PH-TC210) power cables. A couple of
caveats are in order. The Phone, Key, and ACC1 interconnects require low profile
right angle connectors. The cables I listed above won’t work. Vetco part number
VUPN10338 will work. The power cables I’ve listed above use 24 gauge wire. This
is a little light, but the runs are small so I think it is OK. You can use higher gauge
cables if you can find a source.

USBfirewire.com
USB OUT USB 2.0 Right Angle Extension Cable (RR-AAR04P-20G)

Digikey.com
L Brackets 8 x Bracket Rt Ang Mount 4-40 Steel (612K-ND)
These L brackets are used to mount the KX3 to the panel and the panel to the case.
For mounting the KX3, I use a little piece of stick on felt on the bracket to protect the
KX3’s cabinet from damage. Replace the KX3’s screws with #4-40 Thread Size, 1/4”
Length Steel Pan Head Machine Screw, Black Oxide Finish (see below). For the panel
mounting, use #6-32 Thread Size, 3/16” Length self tapping sheet metal screw. You
may need to cut the tip off in order to not puncture the outside of the case.

RG316 BNC Male Angle to BNC Female SM Bulkhead Coaxial RF Pigtail Cable (6”)
This is not the original interconnect I used for connecting the KX3’s antenna output to
the panel. However, I think it is a better option for new designs. The caveat is that you
will need to verify the hole in the panel matches the bulkhead connector on this cable.
There will be a little loop in the cable when you are done, but that is fine.

Micrfasteners.com
Screws for Sound Card 2 x FMSP2510 – M 2.5 x .45 x 10mm
Screws for KX3 Bracket Mount 4 x MSPPK0404 – 4-40 x 1/4
Screws for Countersunk Panel Holes 8 x FMPPK0403 – 4-40 x 3/16
Screws for USB Connector *** 2 x FMPPK0406 – 4-40 x 3/8

I’m pretty sure these are the right length for the USB connector. I am doing it from memory.

Amazon.com or eBay.com
Soundmatters foxL DASH A Wireless Bluetooth Soundbar (OPTIONAL)

Sonoma Wire Works GJ2USB GuitarJack 2 USB Portable Audio Interface (OPTIONAL)
(Make sure you get the USB model, not the 30-pin model.)

This is optional if you want a built-in sound card interface for a waterfall display using iSDR. Make sure to eliminate the holes in the upper left corner of the panel if you are not installing. You will also need 2.5mm x 10mm screws to mount this to the bottom of the panel (see below).

bhi Compact In-Line Noise Eliminating Module (OPTIONAL)

In my opinion, the KX3’s noise reduction is totally ineffective for SSB communications. This external noise reducing DSP is one solution, albeit an expensive one, to that problem. It is only for SSB, not CW or digital modes. It is also available from GAP Antenna Products.

IMG_0530


Scott: you have done a beautiful job here and have spared no expense to make a wonderfully-engineered and rugged go-box. No doubt, you’re ready to take your KX3 to the field and enjoy world-class performance on a moment’s notice. 

Though I’ve never used them personally, I’ve noticed others who have taken advantage of the Front Panel Express engraving service–certainly makes for a polished and professional front panel.

Again, many thanks for not only sharing your photos, but also your bill of materials which will make it much easier for others to draw inspiration from your design!

AK5SD_QSL_Card

Speaking of designs, when I looked up Scott on QRZ.com, I noticed that he also sports a QSL card (above) designed by my good friend, Jeff Murray (K1NSS). Obviously, Scott is a man with good taste!

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New kit by NM0S: the 4S-Tuner/Antenna Coupler

(Via the SWLing Post)

4stuner_panelDave Cripe (NM0S) has designed yet another QRP kit for the 4 State QRP Group: the 4S-Tuner/Antenna Coupler.

Description (per Four State QRP Group):

This excellent random wire antenna tuner is the classic T-Match design which is known for wide matching range and smooth operation. Dave has added a nice wrinkle – the SWR indicator employs TWO leds, not the normally seen single red LED. A green one indicates output power with a red one indicating reflected power. The beauty of this arrangement is that the operator sees the output power peaking as the SWR goes down, just like a power meter with dual meters – very intuitive. This makes tuning easier and leaves no doubt that it’s tuned for maximum power output. For a high SWR the red LED is at full brightness and the green LED is off. At 2:1 both are at equal brilliance. At 1:1 the green is full on and the red is off. The small size is perfect for portable operations. Add this dandy little tuner to your portable ops go bag, or use it at home. It’s equally at home on a picnic table, in a tent or camper, as well as on the operating desk in your shack.

Specifications and Design Features

  • Wide tuning range: 80 meters thru 10 meters. Tested on EFHW and 100′ wire.
  • Maximum Power Throughput: tested at 10 Watts.
  • Low loss large toroid
  • Twelve taps for small inductance step selection.
  • Low insertion loss when matched.
  • Enclosure Size: 3″x3″x2″.
  • Pittsburg Construction.

Shipped price is $51.00 (US), $55.00 (Canada), $60.00 (Outside US/Canada).

Dave Cripe designs excellent kits for the ham radio community; they’re easy to build, fun and functional.  If this kit is as popular as his past kits, the first run will most likely sell out in short order.

 Click here to check out the 4S-Tuner/Antenna Coupler at the Four State QRP Group website.

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The Siru Innovatios SDR20 multi-touch portable SDR

[Note: this post was originally published on my shortwave radio blog, the SWLing Post.]

Siru-Innovations-SDR20-4

A few weeks ago, at the Four Days In May conference (held alongside the Dayton Hamvention) I met Jarkko Mäkivaara from the Finnish company Siru.

Jarkko was demonstrating the SDR20: a radio that immediately grabbed my attention from across the room. The SDR20 is a fully portable, robust, multi-touch portable SDR transceiver.

Siru-Innovations-SDR20-5

The screen on the SDR20 is as responsive as an iPad and fully developed around SDR functionality. While Jarkko didn’t have an HF signal of any sort inside the hotel convention room, I was able to play with the interface a bit, which I found rather intuitive.

(Source: Siru)

(Source: Siru)

The SDR20’s product brochure lists some of its features:

  • 2-channel transceiver operation
  • Two methodologies for implementation: IQ Mod / Demod and Direct Down and Direct Up (DDC, DUC) conversion
  • Up to 200MHz bandwidth per channel
  • 100mW transmit power. Higly efficient 1kW exciter available separately.
  • Frequency range covers DC to 2.5 GHz
  • State of the art Altera Cyclone SOC-FPGA (Including dual-ARM9 Cortex)
  • Graphics Prosessor accelerated Multi-Touch screen with a slick user interface
  • GNURadio, C++ API/Python, VHDL/Verilog/High Level Synthesis sandbox
  • High-speed ethernet interface for computer connection
  • Internal clock 20 PPS
  • Coherent operation with external clock source (GPS, Rubidium etc.)
  • Rugged and stylish enclosure / Rack mount

Of course, the SDR20 is truly designed for industrial and government/military applications, thus it carries a price tag reflective of those markets: €3,395.00 (about $3,800 USD).

Siru-Innovations-SDR20-1

Still, seeing the SDR20 gives me hope that multi-touch, portable SDRs will become more commonplace as capacitive screens, processors, DSP chips and solid state storage continue to decline in price.  Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Siru is able to lower the price on future iterations of their portable SDR line.

If you would like to take a look at some of the SDR20’s specifications, check out this PDF product sheet and the video embedded below.  Of course, you’ll find even more information and updates on Siru’s website. The SDR20 has shipped to Beta testers and should begin full production in the fall.

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Upcoming Summer QRP Field Events

With the arrival of summer weather, the outdoor ham radio season is upon us! Outdoor operating is an important part of my ham radio hobby and I plan to participate in the following field events in a big way.

Saturday-Sunday, June 27-28, 2015: ARRL Field Day

Field Day is the ARRL’s biggest operating event and, with a history going back to 1933, is one of the ARRL’s oldest operating events. Field Day is the “big daddy” of portable operating events and more than 40,000 hams are expected to participate this year. Operate QRP or QRO. Operate CW, SSB, or digital; operate with a local club, a group of friends, with a single friend, or alone. The important thing is to set up a station and operate!

Full rules and other materials can be found here:
http://www.arrl.org/field-day.

I will be participating with the Athens County Amateur Radio Association’s Class 1A, solar-powered operation at the Athens County (Ohio) Fairgrounds.

Sunday, July 26, 2015: The Adventure Radio Society’s Flight of the Bumblebees

The Adventure Radio Society’s Flight of the Bumblebees hasn’t been around since 1933 but it has been an annual event since 1997, which is a long time these days. Flight of the Bumblees is a four-hour event held annually on the last Sunday of July. Both home-based and portable operations are allowed but those who operate from the field are the Bumblebees and are worth a 3x multiplier. Bumblebees are encouraged to reach their operating locations principally under their own power by walking, bicycling, kayaking, etc.; the distance traveled using human-power is up to the individual operator’s discretion.

Full rules and instructions for receiving a Bumblebee Number can be found here: http://www.arsqrp.blogspot.com/.

I have participated in Flight of the Bumblebees most years since 1997 and look forward to participating again in 2015. I plan to bicycle with my KX3 Travel Kit (info) from my home to my operating location somewhere in Athens County, Ohio.

Sunday, August 9, 2015: New Jersey QRP Club’s Skeeter Hunt

This year marks the 4th annual running of the Skeeter Hunt, a four-hour sprint-type event whose objective is to get QRPers out of their shacks for the day and into fresh air and sunshine. Those who operate outdoors qualify as “Skeeters”.

Full rules and instructions on receiving a Skeeter Number can be found here: http://w2lj.blogspot.com/p/njqrp-skeeter-hunt.html.

WD8RIF has participated in every Skeeter Hunt since the first one in 2012 and has enjoyed the event every year.

 

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RKR Designs have acquired Alpha Amplifier and TEN-TEC brands

Ten-Tec-Alpha(Source: TEN-TEC Press Release)

(April 2, 2015) RKR Designs, LLC of Longmont Colorado has announced that they have acquired the assets of Alpha Amplifier and TEN-TEC brands from RF Concepts. RKR plans to expand the product line, while continuing to service their customers that have enjoyed their products over the years.

The principals of RKR Designs are Richard Gall, Ken Long and Rich Danielson (Gall and Danielson of QSC Systems, Longmont, Colorado have been a successful contract manufacturer, for over 20 years). Ken Long, N0QO has over 20 years in the electronics and amateur radio industry. Long will be President and CEO of the new company. QSC has been building Alpha amplifiers for over 5 years. They have also been building boards for TEN-TEC since their purchase by RF Concepts last year. Mr. Long said “QSC has always been a fantastic contract manufacturer, and has the expertise and knowledge that will allow us to bring down costs, while increasing quality and reducing manufacturing times.”

When asked for comment, Michael Seedman, AA6DY said “I can’t think of a more capable group of people to take over the 45 year Alpha Amplifier/TEN-TEC legacy. Ken Long has been involved with the industry for years, and has a great feeling for products and operations. He has the manufacturing and engineering resources available to deliver quality products that our customers demand”. Mr. Seedman went on to say “Alpha and TEN-TEC have always had a warm spot in my heart, and I am thrilled that RKR Designs will be able to continue the operations of the business. I wish them the best”.

Ken, Richard and Rich have been working very close over the past several years and feel that this new relationship will benefit the company and customers moving forward. This closer relationship to the contract manufacturer will allow a more consistent process and delivery of quality products along with significant cost benefits.

RKR Designs LLC is privately held, and terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

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Application for ARRL Centennial Awards Now Available

The application window for the ARRL Centennial Points Challenge and the W1AW Worked All States Award is now open. Read the ARRL press release here:

http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-centennial-points-challenge-w1aw-was-awards-application-window-open

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Bencher, Inc. sold to Vibroplex, LLC

vibro

(Source: Scott Robbins W4PA, Vibroplex)

Press Release – March 18, 2015

Bencher-by1Bencher, Inc. of Antioch Illinois announced the sale today of the Bencher Amateur Radio product lines to Vibroplex, LLC of Knoxville, Tennessee. This sale ends Bencher’s presence in the amateur radio field, thus allowing the principals, Jere Benedict, President, and Bob Locher, (W9KNI) to move towards retirement.

The product lines sold include the Bencher BY series of Iambic Paddles, (the world’s best selling iambic paddle, with over 150,000 sold) as well as the ST series of single lever paddles, the Bencher Hex Paddle, the N2DAN Mercury Paddle, and the Bencher RJ series Hand Keys. Also included in the sale are the HK-1 Universal Hook-up kit and the YA-1 Low Pass Filter.

Vibroplex has agreed to honor the manufacturer’s warranties of all covered products, and to offer parts and support for these products as well.

Vibroplex will continue to offer the Bencher products through existing marketing channels.

Vibroplex may be contacted at http://www.vibroplex.com, or at (865) 309-5073.
Jere Benedict and Bob Locher wish to express their gratitude to the amateur radio community for its interest and support since the sale of the first Bencher amateur radio products in the early 1970’s.

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