Tuesday, 29 April 2014

SOTA LifePO4 battery

As mentioned on my last 2 activations my 4.2 aH SLA battery has had it, despite a full charge the night before lucky to get a half hour of activating out of it...

So purchased a Zippy 4200 30C series LifePO4 battery. Old SLA and new battery

I decided to go with LifePO4 as supposedly safer than LIPO batteries, plus they have a better lifetime charge/discharge cycle, and will maintain a constant output.

The weight is a bit heavier than LIPO, but at 550 g instead of the 1.3 Kg SLA I'm not complaining!

Voltage out is around 13-14 v so the FT817 is happy. Also got a "Watts Up" meter to monitor the voltage. Shows the FT817 draws around 0.36 A just on receive!...On full 5W out draws around 1.95 A, so should get a few hours on a charge.

Got a Turnigy 8150 charger to balance charge it, took around an hour to bring up to full charge, each of the full cells to 3.6 V, for 14.4 V charge.

Found I can just fit the battery, meter, radio and log book in my Kathmandu case, neat.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

SOTA Summit to Summit 1000 Points Award

Today my certificate arrived for scoring 1000 points for the SOTA Summit to Summit Silver Award, which I obtained while activating Tuggeranong Hill VK1/AC-037 on the 13th April.

Here it is.

Next Gold, might take a while to make 2500 points...

Saturday, 19 April 2014

LOG4OM SOTA features

After my blog entry on switching from HRD to Log4OM, I was contacted by Terry G4POP to do beta testing of  the program, looking at the SOTA features.

After some bug fixing the beta version is now available, so here are some of the new features it has for SOTA users.

Entry of SOTA summit

Type in part of a callsign and the program will set the Country, and the appropriate SOTA Association drop down list. Pick your region and the summit from the drop down lists, or for the quickest way just enter the SOTA reference in the search field. The Points, Bonus points and Summit name are displayed. The Summit Name is a web link to the SOTA mapping website so you can see where the summit is located, very handy.

SOTA Awards

Under the Utilities Menu are Statistics and Awards. There is a SOTA tab under awards. You can display 3 different awards, Chaser, Activator and S2S

You need to select the award eg SOTA MIXED and Countries for each.

The Chaser award shows you what unique summits you have chased. The count is the same as your "My  Chaser Uniques" award. My count is out a bit, mainly due to not having logged all chases...

Total points are not shown, but you can always go to the official SOTAdata website for this. Useful in tracking new peaks and things like band specific chasing eg the 12 m challenge.

Click on one of the "W"s and the list of stations chased appears. This can be exported to a CSV file and used to import your chase into the SOTAdata database.

Next the Activator award

The tally here of 52 matches my "My Activator Uniques" count. As per chaser clicking on a "W" will give you a list of stations worked which can be Exported to csv.

S2S shows you unique summits you have chased while activating.

Friday, 18 April 2014

SOTA activation Bullen Range

For Good Friday morning decided to redo Bullen Range, VK1/AC-033, a 2 pointer. Bit of a walk at 5 Km each way.

Drove there as per my previous activation http://vk1di.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/sota-activation-bullen-range-925m.html

Parked and squeezed through the first gate

After a short distance reached the 2nd gate, the only one I could actually open using a wire latch, the others involved climbing over or through...Note the sheep, they were on both sides of the fence.

Approaching the 3rd gate. Brindabella mountains in the background

Shortly after this a 4th gate on the right

The road climbs steeply here onto the ridge. Approaching gate 5.

And finally gate 6

After about an hours walking reached the summit. A pile of rocks with not much of a view...

As per last time I used 3 log cuts near the log as a seat, radio table and log book table.

Set up the squid pole on the log, dipole legs to a couple of nearby trees.

Got on 40 m, seemed to be first on this morning so grabbed 7.090 Mhz. Usual chasers from VK1,2,3 and 5 with good signals.

S2S contacts with VK3EK Rob on VK3/VG-011, VK3BQ/1 Andrew on nearby VK1/AC-040 Mt Ainslie, and VK3PF Peter on VK3/VG-027.

All up 31 contacts on 40 m. Went to try 20 m, tuning up the radio it cut out, out of power after less than an hour of operating...My 4ah SLA battery has had it...Have a 4.3 ah LifePO4 on order, coming soon.

View on the way down, looking South to Castle Hill and Mt Tennent.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

SOTA Activation Tuggeranong Hill VK1/AC-038

I set up my new 20/40 m linked dipole in the driveway at home, and got the SWR down flat on both bands. Now I needed to test it out in the field :)

Set out for Tuggeranong Hill, VK1/AC-038, which I activated last year. Parked at the same place in Theodore off Callister Cres

After a steep walk up the hill reached the trig on top

Set up the squid pole on the trig, running one dipole leg to the branch of a nearby tree, the other wound around a rock.

Started with the clips joined to go on 40 m. Usual VK chasers from VK1,2,3,and 5, with strong signals. I got a S2S call from Rob, VK2QR activating VK2/SW-019 Mount Hovell. This gave me over 1000 S2S points! :)

After 40 m died down dropped the squid pole and unclipped to go to 20 m.

After spotting myself on 20 m, worked OE7FMH, then noticed the battery voltage getting low...
Made a quick S2S with Matt, VK1MA on nearby Mt Stromlo, VK1/AC-043, then absolute chaos as the EU chasers had found me!

Worked IK1GPG, G6TUH, EA3NT, DD2VO, S58AL, 9A7C, ON7ZM, and G0RQL. During some of the contacts the FT817 shut down due to low voltage, waited a bit and recovered. Worked a couple of VKs, Paul VK5PAS with a massive signal using VK5BAR call, and Andrew VK2UH at Yass.

After working Andrew the battery had died, and could see a rain shower coming my way, so a good time to pack up and go.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

SOTA linked dipole

After my last activation where I accidentally left behind the 40 m dipole wires, decided to change to a linked dipole. That way guaranteed to have all bands in my pack :)

These a quite commonly used now in SOTA activations. Fairly easy to make. Got a small cheap ruler from an office supply store, cut it in half for 2 and drilled some holes for the wires. Threaded the wires for 20 and 40 m antennas through and soldered on alligator clips.


Now to operate on 40 m leave the clips in place, for 20 m drop the squid pole and unclip.

Initial testing on the squid pole in the driveway show SWR not too bad on both bands, both a bit long, so will need to adjust. Then try out in the field.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

SOTA Activation VK1/AC-035 One Tree Hill

Noticed on SOTAwatch alerts Al VK1RX was planning on activating Mt Gingera, VK1/AC-002, a 10 pointer. So made the quick descision to chase him from nearby One Tree Hill, VK1/AC-035.

When I activated it last year with Andrew, VK1DA it was via private property, but this time I was able to go via the Canberra Centenary Trail. Was eager to try it out.

Drove to Hall to the start of the track, at the corner of Hall St and Hoskins St.

The track goes up to the town water supply, then right up via a side track to a gate with a gap for walkers. Bit tricky with a pack and squid pole but made it through...

The track then continues around the side of the hill, in an access corridor fenced off to keep stock off the track and walkers off the property.

We have had a lot of rain lately, was pleased to see some raised boardwalks to avoid some of the mud.

Had a few close encounters with mountain bike riders, they zoom along here and the track is not wide. After about 40 minutes got to a track junction, a narrow track running up hill to the summit

This is where it got steep...still was only a few hundred metres from here to the top. A narrow rocky track following the fenceline, which is also the ACT/NSW border. View on the way up.

After 50 minutes walking reached the summit. Centenary sign platform, fire tower and trig.

The Centenary sign platform made for a good operating spot. Used the wooden post for the squid pole and set up the radio on the nearby bench.

While setting up discovered I had left behind the wound up wires for my 40 m dipole!...Had taken them out of my pack before doing Isaacs Ridge as not needing them and forgot to replace them...so set up the 20 m dipole only.

Shack on the seat.

A new SOTA accessory, a cheap souvenir fridge magnet I got with an inbuilt thermometer, Nice comfy 23 c but a strong wind blowing making it feel cooler.

Got on 40 m, made a very quick S2S with Al VK1RX on Mt Gingera, VK1/AC-002 as this was on a 20m dipole! then moved to 20 m. A pity as there were many other activations on 40 m, just not able to work them!

Worked VK1MA and VK1MT Matts on 2 m FM before trying 20 m.

On 20 m worked several local VK1s, plus Mike VK6MB and Greg VK8GM both with strong signals.Also another S2S with Al VK1RX on 20 m, good strong signal.

So despite the missing 40 m antenna qualified the summit with 10 contacts, plus 21 more S2S points taking me to 999 S2S points. And got to try the new Centenary trail.

Track log of walk. 4.2 Km each way with about a 200 m climb.