Inspired by the success I had on field day using some (most) of n0oqa’s gear, I’ve made some purchases to get my mobile-deploy-able setup going.
First, I decided to go with a hitch mount push-up mast. Using Larry’s setup really sold me on the Max-Gain Systems fiberglass mast. I ordered the MK-4 Standard from here: http://www.mgs4u.com/fiberglass-push-up-mast.htm
Also, after seeing what it really means to have a tuner “talking to” the radio, I purchased a Yaesu FC-40.
My plans are to setup the FC-40 with the ladder line and deploy-able antenna as well as the coax and CAT lines to the radio, then stage all that in the bed of the truck. I have a covered bed and will have everything staged in a waterproof bag.
This will leave the CAT port of the radio for my BlueCat device. Since I’m primarily on VHF when on the road, this will let me work repeaters easily wherever I’m at.
When I’m somewhere I can park to do some HF work, I’ll get the antenna base mounted in the receiver, put the antenna in, roll out the FC-40/antenna/coax unit, hook up the CAT line and the tuner coax, get the pulley staged on top the mast, push-up the mast, guy-rope the mast, pull up the feedpoint, straighten and anchor the ends of the antenna wires – and I’m on the air.
This will be an inverted V antenna.
If I get a couple fiberglass painter poles, I can guy-rope them at the ends and raise the wire ends a bit. Getting them off the ground even 5 feet will help tremendously since my antenna center will only be about 23 feet off the ground.
A couple months ago I *finally* installed my Yaesu FT-857D mobile radio in my 2009 Dodge Ram 1500. You can see some info on how I did that here: /wh7da-mobile/
Today, I setup the FT-857D in my Dodge Ram with a friend’s Yaesu FC-40 tuner and a random wire dipole. I made two contacts. One in Oregon and one in Illinois.
This has helped me rethink my strategy for getting a more permanent and easily deploy-able HF setup in the truck. I liked the ease of using the FC-40. I liked using a ladder-line fed dipole. I liked the hitch-mount telescoping mast.
We had a fun time. We didn’t do any formal contesting. We got together, setup our rigs, made some changes, and had some fun.
Here are some links to a few short videos I took:
Connecting the antenna: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7RMDG297cFoNlhUV0RoRVJBRXc/view?usp=sharing
Trying to break into a pileup to San Diego: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7RMDG297cFoZ09QcXhwSUtVYjg/view?usp=sharing
So, I’ve had this Yaesu 857D sitting around for almost five years and decided to finally install it in the truck. I wanted a clean install that can easily goes back to the factory look without much fuss. I wanted to minimize the permanent alterations.
I also wanted to use my stock antenna or fit a stock looking 2m antenna where my radio antenna was. The antenna part of the project turned out to be an unsuccessful adventure and I’m now running with a magmount until I tackle that project again.
The radio: Yaesu FT-857D
The truck: 2009 Dodge Ram 1500
Accessories: BlueCat bluetooth CAT port dongle and a West Mountain Radio Rigrunner
As with any radio installation project, first you have to get behind the dash:
We initially pulled the stock radio to get to the antenna so we could see what it tuned up at and determine if there was any way to mess around with using the stock antenna. As you’ll see from the pictures below, it was not a viable option. It tuned up on 103Mhz and was routed with 75 ohm coax. Some options in the future are to pull out the 75 ohm coax and run 50 ohm up to the antenna. I’m also looking at fitting a Larson 2m antenna in the stock antenna base. We’ll see. For now, I’ve put that part of the project on hold in order to get the radio mounted and working.
Does that look like a normal american vehicle antenna connection? Turns out it’s not.
The late model Dodge antenna adapter doesn’t fit my late model Dodge. After digging around in the back room with the radio install guys at Best Buy, we found that the correct adapter for my late model Dodge truck was a VW/BMW/European adapter cable. Figures.
When we checked the antenna, it tuned up on 103, which is not what I need – but exactly what I was expecting. In the 145/146 range it had over a 3:1 SWR. Not even close enough to mess with. And, we found the stock antenna coax was 75 ohm.
This is the adapter dongle we made using the adapter cable. Simply cut off the stock antenna connector and put on a 239.
Enough about what didn’t work. Let’s look at the radio head install.
For this, I like the gooseneck head mount my dad had in his Dodge. It kept the radio head low and out of sight (and out of the sun) while still easily accessible and easy to use. With the BlueCat dongle, I won’t need to fuss with the radio while I’m driving anyway – but more about that later.
The gooseneck is a simple to mount item I got from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FW5LTUI/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
You simply loosen one of your seat bolts and slip the mount in, then re-tighten the seat bolt. My seat bolt was mounted horizontal, so the gooseneck comes out forward then goes up, but it’s not in the way. Most seats should have a bolt that goes down into the floor which makes a slightly cleaner looking install.
I took the mount adapter off the top of the gooseneck thing, and modified the plastic corrugated tube to run the head cable in and out cleanly without chafing on the edge of the tube. I used little grommets to protect the cable.
I like the way this looks with the short run of head cable coming out near the top of the gooseneck, while most of the cable is hidden inside the corrugated tube.
For the radio, I knew I wanted to mount it under the passenger seat. The stock jack used to be there until it collapsed under the weight of the truck last year. I now have a bottle jack I keep in the back. Much safer and easier to use. The stock scissors jack was braced by a little spool looking button thinger that screwed into the floor.
Here is the hole left when you take the little spool looking button thinger out.
And here is what the little spool looking button thinger looks like in the radio bracket – and then screwed back into the floor. This makes for a successful, convenient, and no alteration radio mount. Worked out perfect.
Now with the radio:
Then with the Rigrunner:
All this gets hidden behind the stock kickplate. Sorry, I don’t have a picture of that. The Rigrunner is attached securely with a couple cable ties through the carpet. Small holes that you’ll never see once it’s removed.
The power to the Rigrunner is run from the battery with a 20 amp fuse on each lead.
We routed the wires through a large boot already in the firewall. Poked a small hole with a screwdriver and fed the wires through. It is an unrecoverable alteration, but a minor one. For the Dodge Ram, there is a boot on the inside and a boot on the outside, so you’ll be going through two boots and have to be EXTREMELY careful to not nick or cut any other wires.
Finally, I wanted a power switch to turn the Rigrunner on and off. I mounted an LED lit switch in the dash. This is also an unrecoverable alteration, but a useful one. Who doesn’t need an extra switch for something? Right?!
And that’s my install. Pretty clean.
Future projects include a permanent option for a 2m antenna, as well as a removable bed-stake mounted 20m for HF operation. Looking forward to that. I’ve had my General ticket for … well, a long time – and I’ve not yet used my HF privileges.
Many thanks to Larry Narikawa – N0OQA – for his expertise, advice, and assistance!
As for the BlueCat – that thing is amazing. It used the CAT port and gives you bluetooth accessibility to your radio. The guys who maintain the RepeaterBook have an app that works with the BlueCat. It uses your location and the repeater information in their database to present you a list of repeater options, starting with the closest. With the app running on your phone, you simply touch which repeater you want to use and it automatically sets the radio with offset, PL tone, etc. Everything you need. Amazing. I went down the list, setting each repeater into memory, and can now just scan the local repeaters.
When I’m traveling, it updates based on my location. No matter where I’m at, I can see a list of the local repeaters and only have to touch the one I want to use on my phone. It instantly programs the radio.
Here is a link to more information about the software: http://www.zbm2.com/bluecat.html
Here is a link to the UK site where I bought the BlueCat: http://www.hamradio.co.uk/accessories-general-bluecat-radio-interface/adonis/bluecat-repeater-controller-for-yaesu-pd-4899.php
Overall, it was a successful install so far. Unfortunately, the repeaters here are mostly quiet. Not a lot of activity. Not like the Hawaii repeaters. You could always find someone on the Diamondhead repeater. I do miss that, but am finally trying to get involved in some radio activity here in Minnesota.
So, its been a while since I posted…
It’s also been a while since I’ve done anything with ham radio. But, that’s changing soon.
I now live in Central Minnesota, in a little town called Big Lake. I miss Hawaii, I miss the EARC group, and I miss the Navy. But, I’m settling in here and finally got my FT7800 out and on the air last week. Turns out, the Sherburne County ARES does a Monday night net on the nearby Elk River repeater. I checked in as a guest the other night and was warmly welcomed.
After a little poking around on their website, www.shercoares.org I have decided to join the group. So, we’ll see where that takes me. At least its good to be using the radio again!
Well, things have been busy for me. Lots of changes lately. Not a lot of time for computers or ham radio. I am retiring from the Navy. I’ve served 20 years, and am ready to move on.
I took a position as an Operations Training Instructor at a Nuclear Power Plant in Monticello, MN. This is exactly the type of job I think I’ll be good at. It’ll also give me more free time for my many hobbies since it will be Mon-Fri, for the most part.
Even though I am excited to move back to the mainland and start my new life, I am extremely sad about leaving Hawaii and the many friends I made with the Emergency Amateur Radio Club.
Working with them and learning from them has been a memorable experience. If I find another club that is even half as friendly and encouraging and motivating… well, its not likely. They have been great and I hope to stay in touch with them over the years.
Once I get to Minnesota and get a house (with a garage), I’ll get my workshop set up and get a real station built. I’m looking for a rural place with a little acreage, so I can do some cool things with it. Maybe a small tower, a battery station that recharges with wind power, and lots of workspace for projects and experiments.
Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, and there will be another couple months until I get all settled in and make some updates. But for now, that’s what has been going on.
See you on the air! 73’s.
Yes, I was already unhappy with one aspect of my new system as soon as I was done building it. The video card. I originally bought two 3850’s to run a crossfire setup, but ran into problems due to the motherboard I selected.
Anywhoo, the single 3850 was working out great (as you can see from the pics in my previous post), but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. So, I upgraded.
I have now installed a Radeon HD 3870×2! That’s a dual GPU card with 1GB of RAM. Upgrading to this card has more than tripled my 3DMarkVantage score from the low 2100’s to over 7400.
I’m also running dual monitors now. This single video card can support up to four monitors! For now, I’m getting used to two.
Here’s some pics so you can see how huge this thing is:
These are the 3870×2 and 3850 cards side by side.
Here you can see the four ports for the monitors.
I had to move some things around in the case (like move my hard drive cage up higher) to make room for this monster.
Oh, and here’s my new Call of Duty 4 Game-O-Meter score:
Well, I finally built a new computer. The old one is still hanging on, but it is time to go big. I bought the old one slightly used for $300, over 5 years ago and have only had to upgrade it’s RAM and video card. But, it’s days are numbered. Rather than wait, I got the pieces and parts and put together a decent system for not too much money.
Here’s the system (all parts purchased from zipzoomfly.com):
Case: old Antec full tower (like 8 or 9 years old)
Processor: Intel E8400 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo
Motherboard: Asus P35 chipset P5K-E
RAM: 4GB OCZ DDR2 1066
Video Card: Asus 512MB DDR3 HD3850 PCIe x16
Power Supply: CoolMax CUG-600B Green Power 600W
Hard Drives: (3) Hitachi Deskstar T7K500 500GB 7200RPM Serial ATA II w/16MB Buffer (I’m running the 3 drives in a RAID 5, so they are fast – but I also have drive failure protection. Basically, if any one of the 3 drives fail, I can change it out with a new blank drive and the information will be rebuilt from the other two drives. Pretty slick, huh.)
And, I believe, that’s the main stuff. After the combo drive, case fans, processor fan, LCD fan controller and card reader, etc. (oh, and shipping)… I spent about $1200. The computer benchmarks pretty high.
However, I’ve already learned a couple lessons, and if I could go back and do it again already – I’d get a different motherboard. I had originally purchased 2 of the Asus 512MB video cards, planning to do a dual CrossFire system. However, the P5K-E, though it advertises that it supports CrossFire and has two PCIe x16 slots, doesn’t support two cards at x16. Confusing, huh. Apparently the fine print states that the second PCIe x16 slot only runs at x4. So, what a waste. I sold the second video card and am only using one.
Here’s where my system benchmarks for a popular game, Call of Duty 4 (which I don’t play – but was told to check my system against it):
And here’s a couple of screenshots from Flight Simulator X. I can’t believe how much better this runs. It is truly amazing!
So, that’s it! What do you think? I’m pretty happy with it…