28/05/2017

EA6/MA-048 (Fumat)

10/May/2017    EA6/MA-048 (Fumat)

Start of track ... summit in the distance

This summit is one of those that are well documented by Phil, G4OBL on his blog :
http://catterblog.blogspot.be/2015/04/ea6ma-048-fumat-sota-activation.html

So I parked my car on the same spot, just after the tunnel at 39.950012, 3.180236

Then walking along the road away from the tunnel, find the entrance to the path at a sign that says "Finca Cala Murta".
The path is straight at first, then becomes a zig-zag donkey track, that can be shortened by several shortcuts. The final ascent to the summit is guided by several "stone men".

Stone men orientation 101


Fixing my fishing pole to the trig point was easy, using some bungee cords. 

Fixing the pole


A rather cold wind on the summit made me forget it was mid May ...

Brrrr ... cold wind ... me not like !



After another succesful activation, I drove the road to the end to visit the Far de Formentor, and then it was time for a second (and easy) summit that day.

ON7DQ at Far de Formentor




(to be continued ... )

EA6/MA-021 (Talaia de Cals Reis)

09/May/2017    EA6/MA-021 (Talaia de Cals Reis)
Walking time and distance (one way) :  50 minutes /  2 km

Parking at the start of the track at EA6/MA-021 (Talaia de Cals Reis)
Just outside Orient, I found a small parking space at 39.732293, 2.762512

just at the start of the track. From there you have to go through a rusty gate, walk along a wall , then go left. After a while another gate blocks the way, this one has to be climbed.

Gate with "integrated ladder"
After this gate it's immediately to the left, and after a while you'll meet the "limbo tree".

The "Limbo" tree ... mind your head !
Not so difficult for me, being short I can virtually walk under it just like that, hi !
Follow the track that is on Sotamaps carefully, there is one point where you might miss the right turn, and for the last part, look out for a large "stone man", where you have to go straight ahead for a fairly steep climb up the hill.

Typical stone man showing the way ...
Finally I had to climb a wall to reach what seemed the highest point, and went a bit to the right to find an operating spot in the shade.
Last hurdle before setting up
It wasn't easy to find a flat piece of rock to use, so my clipboard came to the rescue ...

Clipboard operating table at EA6/ON7DQ/P

(to be continued ... )






EA6/MA-017 (Puig d'Alaró)

09/May/2017    EA6/MA-017 (Puig d'Alaró)
Walking time and distance (one way) :  45 minutes /  2.7 km

Impressive "inexpugnable" Castell d'Alalró from a distance 
I knew this one would be a “kuitenbijter” (sorry, Google won’t translate this … try to find what it means yourself  hi). You don’t get 6 points for nothing on Mallorca Island ….

I found a parking spot along the road from Alaró to Es Verger ( a sheep farm), at  39.72999, 2.790051 , saving me to walk back a few hundred meters from the farm to he starting of the track at 39.72949, 2.79109 .

Start of the path to Castell d'Alaró ...

and Almost there !
This path, part of the popular walking route GR-221, is entirely in cobblestones, very uneven, and every few meters, you have to take a “step”, thus breaking any walking rythm you may have. 
It's like walking a staircase for a continous 2.7 km. I got to the top in about 45 minutes, but it was no easy walk !
EA6/MA-001 Puig Major as seen from Puig d'Alaró
The views from the top make up for all the trouble of course, I had a wonderful view of Puig Major EA6/MA-001, the highest summit on Mallorca. Unfortunately this one is not accessible to anyone (there is a military radar on top). 

I made a successful activation, be it a short one with only 11 QSO’s in the log.

Typical Mallorcan "pa amb oli" (bread with oil) 
After walking back and driving to the farm, I had a quick lunch (a “pamboli” and a Coke), and went on to the village of Orient (having to drive all around Castell d’Alaró, and over the Coll d’Orient) for my next summit.

(to be continued ...)

27/05/2017

EA6/MA-052 (Puig de Maria)

08/May/2017    EA6/MA-052 (Puig de Maria)

I drove my car (a Fiat Punto, which served me well during the whole trip) to the parking at 39.86899, 3.01812. From there I had to walk, first an asphalted road, then a cobblestone path, where some stones were missing (stolen ?) here and there ...

Not so easy path to Puig de Maria
Looking down on the city of Pollença from the summit

This was one of the two summits where I found enough space to put up my link dipole.
Sitting just outside the monastery, I attracted many curious looks from visitors, and had to explain to some what I was doing .. good thing I speak fluent English, German and French, and a fair bit of Spanish  … you meet all kinds of people.


Picture taken by Robert, KF6TGM

After working a number of stations another visitor came up, but this was a special one : a HAM !
Robert , KF6TGM, from California, showed a lot of interest in my setup … of course I asked him if he had any rig, so he could work me from outside the AZ, but he din't, and he didn't know about SOTA. So after explaining all about it, who knows if I may have infected another SOTA activator, hi.

After the activation I visited the city of Pollença, including the walk on the stairs up El Calvario, under a burning sun.

Carrer del Calvari at Pollença
After that, it was time to visit the beach at Port de Pollença for a cool down … very welcome on a hot day !

(to be continued …)

EA6/MA-060 (Santa Magdalena)


07/May/2017    EA6/MA-060 (Santa Magdalena)

Flying in from Ostend to Palma de Mallorca airport, very early in the morning of Sunday May 7th , meant I still had the whole day available. So I decided to get my rental car, do some shopping for food and drink, and do a first summit as a “warming up” (sorry for the misplaced term … it was warm to hot my whole stay !).

Approaching my first EA6/MA summit ...


I chose the well documented Puig de Santa Magdalena. 
Note that you can drive up to the church and restaurant, but that is not the real summit.
For our purpose, park at the popular family picknick spot (pos 39.72741, 2.95564), and a 10 minute walk takes you to the summit (pos 39.72104, 2.95688).

Go right here .. the easy path doesn't lead to the summit !


An enormous cross on an even bigger stone building gives enough shade for a comfortable operating position. First station worked was Neme EA6ACW , then Ricardo, EA6AIF, both on 2M FM.
Then I worked a bunch of HF contacts on 20m SSB, and surprise … a first S2S contact with good friend Michael DB7MM/P on DM/TH-001 ! A bit later I switched to 20m CW and worked two more S2S, OK/G4OBK/P and OM4WY/P. Wow, this looked like a promising start of my SOTA tour.

Using hte EA2BD type paddle, in my "clothespeg" version


I almost finished my activation when Ricardo and his XYL Christina showed up. After a nice chat, exchanging all kinds of info on transceivers and antennas … I offered Ricardo to use my setup and activate the summit, since he had not done this one yet.

Ricardo EA6AIF - Luc EA6/ON7DQ

So another pile-up started on 40m, Ricardo working mainly EA stations …

Ricardo, EA6AIF working the pile-up on 40m

At 5.30 pm, I felt so sorry I had to stop him … but I had to be on time in my B&B in Búger to get my keys. So we said goodbye, but we would meet again ... on the air ! More about that later ... 

View from my room in Búger near Sa Pobla

(to be continued ...)

26/05/2017

Mallorca SOTA tour - May 2017

This is a report on my recent SOTA tour on Mallorca (EA6/MA) from 7 – 21 May 2017.

EA6/ON7DQ on EA6/MA-063 Jaumell

In summary, I spent 15 days on Mallorca, and in 13 of those days, I activated 17 summits. I had planned to do 20, but had to cancel four summits for various reasons : not accessible, too much delay on a first summit, or just too hot … and the beach being more attractive at that point, hi. 
I added one summit “on the fly” which was not planned.

In chronological order, these were the summits I activated on this tour :

07/May/2017    EA6/MA-060 (Santa Magdalena)             
08/May/2017    EA6/MA-052 (Puig de Maria)
09/May/2017    EA6/MA-017 (Puig d'Alaró)
09/May/2017    EA6/MA-021 (Talaia de Cals Reis)            
10/May/2017    EA6/MA-048 (Fumat)
10/May/2017    EA6/MA-077 (Talaia d'Albercutx)            
11/May/2017    EA6/MA-066 (Puig se San Marti)             
12/May/2017    EA6/MA-034 (Puig de Ferrutx) 
13/May/2017    EA6/MA-076 (Puig des Recó)
13/May/2017    EA6/MA-065 (Puig de sa Cova Negra)
15/May/2017    EA6/MA-063 (Jaumell)
16/May/2017    EA6/MA-056 (Puig de Bonany) 
17/May/2017    EA6/MA-053 (Puig de son Seguí)             
18/May/2017    EA6/MA-080 (Puig de sa Font)  
19/May/2017    EA6/MA-035 (Puig de Sant Salvador)
20/May/2017    EA6/MA-032 (Santuari de Cura)
20/May/2017    EA6/MA-042 (Puig de Caldent) 


In total, I made 528 QSO's, an average of 31 per summit. I had a peak of 59 QSO’s on EA6/MA-056 (Puig de Bonany) on May 16.
Propagation was not always at its best, signals were often weak, heavy QSB made it even very hard at some times, but it was never a problem to get the minimum of 4 QSO’s.
Also glad to have logged several ON stations, with Karel, ON4FI my top ON chaser (what did you expect ?).

Also nice … 35 Summit-to-Summit (S2S) contacts, an average of 2 per summit. This brought me to the number 1 place in the S2S  ranking for Belgium with 895 points. Not bad, since I will probably never make it to number 1 as activator nor chaser … hi.

Stunning view of Cap Formentor lighthouse from EA6/MA-048 Fumat

This trip netted me “only” 42 activator points. In retrospect this is not so much, considering the effort needed, and compared to around double the points for much less effort on my winter tour (see the March 2017 entry on this blog). But of course, I had a great holiday, discovering a whole other landscape and meeting some interesting people.

Now, as a help to other activators, I rearranged my summit list according to difficulty.
Of course , this is a subjective matter … depends on your personal abilities and such.

The ones marked with “*FIRST”, were first activations and/or new summits since May 2017.
If you need some info on those, feel free to send me a mail and I will help as much as I can.
Tracks for the new ones have been uploaded to the Sota Mapping page :

Those with “*TOURIST” are also tourist attractions, and have parking space, toilets, a cafetaria or restaurant, … but also many visitors, so the place may get crowded, even noisy … (read on for an example ;-).

Very easy : minimal walking involved, do these if you don’t have much time :
EA6/MA-032 (Santuari de Cura)          *TOURIST
EA6/MA-035 (Puig de Sant Salvador) *TOURIST
EA6/MA-077 (Talaia d'Albercutx)        *FIRST (well, actually this is an old summit with a new number, and there is really no need for a track) + *TOURIST
EA6/MA-065 (Puig de sa Cova Negra)

Easy, a bit of 'level' walking to the operating  point is needed :
EA6/MA-060 (Santa Magdalena)        *TOURIST
EA6/MA-056 (Puig de Bonany)           *TOURIST

Fairly difficult , walk around 30 mins, including some steep stuff (as always at the end of the walk, near the summit) :
EA6/MA-052 (Puig de Maria)              *TOURIST
EA6/MA-021 (Talaia de Cals Reis)
EA6/MA-048 (Fumat)
EA6/MA-053 (Puig de son Seguí)        (large radio tower, but no noise from it)
EA6/MA-076 (Puig des Recó) FIRST    (cabin with guard on summit)
EA6/MA-080 (Puig de sa Font) FIRST  (radio towers with solar panels, lot of RF noise)
EA6/MA-042 (Puig de Caldent) FIRST (nothing on top, RF quiet)

Very difficult, long walk (more than 30 minutes), and/or quite steep
EA6/MA-063 (Jaumell)                         *TOURIST
EA6/MA-017 (Puig d'Alaró)                 *TOURIST
EA6/MA-066 (Puig se San Marti) (last part is pure scrambling over rocks, I found it a bit dangerous, would avoid this summit next time)
EA6/MA-034 (Puig de Ferrutx) (very long and boring walk : 2 hours one way)

Although I have seen some (pretty) young ladies in flip-flops along these rocky paths (e.g. at MA-063 Jaumell), I would advise for good walking shoes, and as always take enough water, sunscreen, small umbrella, etc …

Navigating the small Mallorcan roads that lead to the start of a track was not always easy.
One solution I found, was putting my navigation app in BICYCLE mode. In CAR mode it would send me via a whole detour, and still not reaching the point where I wanted to be.
I used the free Android app Maps With Me Pro on my phone, for navigating in the car as well AS for walking, and had very few problems with it.
For recording the tracks, I used the app OSM Tracker, and spotting was done with Rucksack Radio Tool, or by relying on RBNHole spotting in CW.

Links :

How neat ... a summit with an operating desk ! (on EA6/MA-035 Puig de Sant Salvador)

My SOTA equipment included :

Rigs :
KX3 with a 5€ PC-headset and homemade PTT box for phone, 
Palm Pico paddle + EA2BD type wooden “clothespeg” paddle for CW. I used both paddles about the same amount.
FT1D for VHF and APRS, Slim Jim antenna with own 5m of RG-58 coax.
Linx 7" tablet with interface for digimodes.

Batteries : 
Home made Li-Ion battery 4S2P, 16.8V when fully charged. I used this one with an automatic voltage reducer so that the KX3 could always be used at 15W.
As a backup, I had a commercial 5800 mAh Li-Po battery 3S2P (Hacker), but I never used it, because I only get 10W maximum with it, and with maximum of 2 activations in a day, I never needed it.

Antennas : 
Link dipole 40m - 6m, only used on 2 summits.
Endfed wire, length 9.15m + counterpoise 4m, and 9:1 UNUN, proved to be very handy in setting up, and allowed for instant band change. Maybe it is a little less efficient radiator than the link dipole.
Coax : 3.5m RG-58 (in car : backup 10m RG-174, never needed it)
Fishing pole 6m, ground spike, bungee cords, large plastic bag + towel (to sit on and keep me or my stuff stuff dry), and of course logbook, pens and other small accessories …

Total weight of backpack : 7 kg, not including any water or food.

Clothing : long trousers, shirt with long sleeves, hat … all from the Decathlon trekking department. Made me sweat a bit more … but gave protection from the sun and all those little beasties …
I didn’t use any tick spray or such, and luckily didn’t get any tick bites (in Spanish :  garrapatas !).

Una cerveza después la activación ... hace tan bien ! A tu salud ! (at Bar Willies after EA6/MA-063 Jaumell) 
So far for now ...
Summit per summit stories will appear as I find the time to complete them … keep reading !

73 … Charito Charito !


Luc EA6/ON7DQ

03/04/2017

My KX3 TicTacMic !


KX3 Microphone with frequency display 

This project came about in the spring of 2016, but I never got to post it here.
At the time there was a discussion going on in the KX3 Yahoo group. about using a KX3 or KX2 for “HF Packing” (pedestrian mobile).

Wayne, N6KR, one of the owners of the Elecraft company, said it was a pity that you couldn’t see the display if you keep the rig in your backpack … so could an external microphone with a display be made ?

Was he serious or not, I don’t know, but it got me thinking … this should be easy with an Arduino !
So I picked some stuff : an Arduino Nano, a small OLED display, a miniature electret microphone, some pushbuttons, resistors, … and started experimenting.

Of course I also needed a small and light box to put it all in, and saw a box of TicTac’s  in my favourite colour … ORANGE … and here we are : the KX3 “TIC TAC” Microphone was born.



The orange box turned out to be a mistake, it made the display less visible, so for anyone building this project, better look for a box with a clear display.

The HARDWARE

The circuit is very simple :



The microphone part of the circuit is wired like the standard MH3 microphone*, with an electret MIC element going straight to the MIC and analog GND (resistors and a cap are provided inside the KX3). The UP and DOWN buttons (with resistors), and a PTT button go to the PTT input and digital GND. All this is connected with one half of a cable with a right-angle 4-pin TRRS connector I found on eBay.
[* One small difference : I didn’t use a toggle switch for the PTT, in the MH3 this disconnects the UP/DN buttons in  TX, but since they are shorted out anyway, there is no practical difference]

The serial communication to the KX3 ACC1 port is very simple too.
Most circuits use a MAX232 integrated circuit, but I found a simpler (and much cheaper !) way. 
The KX3 accepts TTL signals at its input without any problem, but the signals coming out of the KX3 are around 7V, too high for an Arduino. So for this I used a voltage divider with two resistors.
At the beginning I couldn’t get this circuit to work … until I realized that a MAX232 is not only converting RS232 to TTL levels, but also INVERTING the signals !
Luckily, the Arduino SoftwareSerial constructor has an optional argument to do just that : invert the signals … problem solved ! (see Arduino code below)

The Arduino reads the 4 programmable buttons via analog input A0. The buttons are wired along a series of resistors, forming a voltage divider chain. Each button press grounds another connection, generating another voltage on A0, so that it can be determined which button was pressed.

The OLED display is wired to the I2C bus on pins A4 (SDA) and A5(SCL), plus needs 5V and GND too.


I mounted everything on a thin single-sided PCB, ground plane on the back.
Arduinos from eBay typically come with some loose pins (not soldered), so I only mounted pins in the holes that I needed, and carefully drilled the holes for those pins. The pins that connect to GND are soldered directly to the back plane. Holes for the other pins are chamfered so they don’t touch the ground plane.


All connections were then made from pin to pin, Manhattan style ... since it was only a prototype.
Also, I was in a hurry to show off this project to Wayne at the Hamradio 2016 in Friedrichshafen.

As it turned out, Wayne was not at the fair, but Eric, WA6HHQ was … so I was able to show it to him and he looked interested. 
We had a nice chat, and Eric took some pictures of my little “baby” …  hi.
Of course I had to have a “selfie” with Eric in return !



Software 
[thanks to Tony N0RUA for getting me started with some code for reading info from a KX3]

For the test , I just programmed the display to show the operating frequency, and the buttons to send the first 4 keyer memories (for VOICE only the first two would be useable).
The mode display is not implemented yet. If you know your way around the Arduino, you can program the 4 PFn buttons to operate a full Menu , with options and settings, not limited to : switching bands, modes, power level, tuning rate, … and show all that info on the display.

Here the display with a power-on message, and a few seconds later the KX3 is set to 14.062 CW 
(now that I think about it, a bit stupid if you make a "microphone" ... but of course you could also have a paddle connected to the KX in your backpack ;-) :




After pressing the DOWN button for a while, the display shows the new frequency :


See code below, most should be clear from the comments. If not, feel free to ask more info in the comments section, or mail me direct to my address on QRZ.com

I also added comments what you should change for a KX2. I haven’t investigated if I can make a detection of what rig is connected, KX3 or KX2, and make it “auto switching”. 
I’ll leave that to the “wizards” at Elecraft, hi.

Have fun if you make this project ! And of course you may always send me a picture; I’ll gladly post it here.

73 – Luc ON7DQ (KF0CR)


Arduino Sketch :
// KX3 external Display with Remote Control
// by Luc - ON7DQ/KF0CR
// Project started : 6 June 2016
// Last revision : 18 June 2016

// What you need : a KX3 (or KX2) , of course !
// Arduino Nano
// Oled Display 128x64 pixels, Blue or Yelloww/Blue
// Any number of buttons on A0 (voltage divider trick)

// Libraries needed
#include <Wire.h> // needed for I2C
#include <SPI.h>
#include <SoftwareSerial.h>  // for comms to KX3
// replaced the Graphics libs by ASCII only libs >> lots of memory saved !
#include "SSD1306Ascii.h"
#include "SSD1306AsciiWire.h"

// KX3 Serial comms
#define BAUD_RATE 9600       // KX3 serial speed
#define LOOP_DELAY 500       // determines rate of polling the KX3

// serial connection to the KX3 :
// RX = KX3 to PC  : to pin 6 via voltage divider (3k9 in series/10k to ground)
// TX = PC to KX3  : direct to pin 7
SoftwareSerial mySerial(6, 7, true);  // (RX, TX, invert)
                                      // invert the bits because no MAX232 is used

// The Oled Display
SSD1306AsciiWire oled;

// 4 buttons + resistor divider chain go to analog pin A0
// define button names
#define btn0      0
#define btn1      1
#define btn2      2
#define btn3      3
#define btnNONE   4

String str = "", freq = "";
char   ch;
int adc_key_in  = 0;
int key         = 0;

void setup()
{
  Serial.begin(9600);
  Serial.println(F("KX3 TicTacMic by ON7DQ"));
  
  // initialize I2C and OLED display
  Wire.begin();
  oled.begin(&Adafruit128x64, 0x3C);
  oled.setFont(Arial_bold_14);
  oled.clear();
  oled.println("ON7DQ TicTacMic");
  oled.println("  for KX3   ");
  delay (2000);
  oled.clear();
  oled.print("FREQ - MODE"); // note : mode not implemented yet

  // connect to KX3
  mySerial.begin(BAUD_RATE);
  mySerial.println("AI0;"); // disable auto info on the KX3
  //  option : do other settings in KX3 (not used here)
  mySerial.println("FA00014062000;"); // set VFO A to some frequency
  mySerial.println("MD3;"); // set CW mode ...
  //  other examples :
  //  mySerial.println("MD6;"); // set DATA mode ...
  //  mySerial.println("DT3;"); // then set submode for PSK-D
  //  mySerial.println("KY VVV DE ON7DQ;"); // send a test msg
  
}

void loop()
{ showFrequencyAndMode(); // mode not implemented yet

  key = read_LCD_buttons();

  switch (key)   // depending on which button was pushed, we perform an action
  {
    case btn0:
      {
        mySerial.println("SWT11;SWT19;"); // send msg 1
        break;
      }
    case btn1:
      {
        mySerial.println("SWT11;SWT27;"); // send msg 2
        break;
      }
    case btn2:
      {
        mySerial.println("SWT11;SWT20;"); // send msg 3
        break;
      }
    case btn3:
      {
        mySerial.println("SWT11;SWT28;"); // send msg 4
                                          // change to  "SWT11;SWT16;" for KX2
        break;
      }
    case btnNONE:
      {
        // do nothing (for now)
        break;
      }
  }
  delay(LOOP_DELAY);
}


// ********** functions

// read the buttons
int read_LCD_buttons()
{
  int adc_key_in = 0;
  for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
    adc_key_in += analogRead(0);      // read the value from the buttons on pin 5 = A0
    delay(2);
  }
  adc_key_in /= 3; // average from 3 reads

  // for checking actual key values :
  //Serial.print ("Key value : ");
  //Serial.println (adc_key_in); delay(100);
  
  // my buttons when read are centered at these values: 0, 131, 319, and 495
  // we add approx 50 to those values and check to see if we are close
  if (adc_key_in > 1000) return btnNONE; 
    // We make this the 1st option for speed reasons since it will be the most likely result
  if (adc_key_in < 50)   return btn3;
  if (adc_key_in < 180)  return btn2;
  if (adc_key_in < 370)  return btn1;
  if (adc_key_in < 550)  return btn0;
  return btnNONE;  // when all else fails, return this...
}

// Display frequency (mode not implemented yet)
void showFrequencyAndMode() {
  //get FREQUENCY
  mySerial.println("FA;");
  // wait for FA00000000000;
  while (mySerial.available() > 0 ) {
    ch = mySerial.read();
    if (ch != ';') str += ch;
    else {
      freq = formatFrequency(str);
      str = "";
    }
  }

  // send to display
  
  oled.setCursor(0, 2);
  oled.clearToEOL();
  oled.print(freq);
}

String formatFrequency(String vfo) {
  String freq = "";

  // e.g. convert '07' to '7'
  freq += String(vfo.substring(5, 7).toInt());

  //freq += ".";
  freq += vfo.substring(7, 10);
  freq += ".";
  freq += vfo.substring(10, 12);
  Serial.print(F("F="));
  Serial.println(freq);
  return freq;
}