I had a dabble with 70MHz FT8 these past few days seeing I have been moving stuff about and can now connect the 70Mhz transverter to the FT817 and not be worried about blowing it up. Only one confirmed QSO but a couple of reception reports today via pskreporter… one in Wales at 181 miles but an incomplete QSO despite me sending several RRR’s though we did at least exchange signal reports, and then one reception in EI at 298 miles, plus one more local in England at 56 miles. Not too bad given this is all via a halo in the loft.
I’ve had the FT817 attached to the MacBook of late, just for VHU/UHF use, but the poor old Mac struggles if I dare to use anything other than wsjt-x. I want a Mac Mini… but anyway, that aside I decided to move the radio over to the Windows PC now. wsjt-x installed easily as usual and all works. The only issue I can see is how Windows messes up its USB ports if I switch the FT450D in. Currently I have that configured to switch between the Linux PC and the Windows PC so I can use VARA / VarAC and other such things on HF via the FT450D. I just use a USB switch obtained via Amazon which seems to work ok. The FT450D side of things comes in as COM6 and the FT817 now comes as COM4, no idea how Windows decides to allocate those. Time will tell…
So I finally managed to set up and work /A for a couple of days. The setup failed really as the house we were in had very thick stone walls and no opening windows so the antenna was literally a bit of wire diagonally up from an un-un on the floor, around the back of a sash window cord and across to a picture. But I managed 4 FT8 QSOs, one on 24MHz and three on 21MHz. Better than nothing, and time to learn better about portable compromise antennas. I could have set up in the garden but it was mostly raining and I didn’t bring any batteries.
I now have an FT818 as well as the FT817 so I have been rearranging stuff yet again. The FT817 was destined to be used portable but will now be a shack fixture – it has 2m and 70cm which is lacking since I sold the two transverters. The FT818 will be paired with the LDG Z817 autotunes and I will put together some wire and stuff to go portable. Both rigs came with the internal battery packs and together there is now a car charger, two mains chargers (one converted to power pole connectors) and a couple of leads that are of no use now with the power pole adapters being fitted to both rigs. There are lots of ideas floating about on using better battery packs or external batteries which I will have a think about. Given my ‘portable’ use initially is more likely to be in holiday accommodation there will be mains available.
So, having decided the FT817 is to become a fitment I have connected its Signalink to the Linux box along with the one already attached to the FT450D. Wsjt-x has this though out nicely through the ability to have multiple configurations. I’d never want to run two copies of wsjt-x for the two rigs at the same time so this works well. The documentation explains it but basically it’s a matter of selecting Configuration and cloning the current one, choosing names for each (I just used the rig names), and then selecting the second Signalink and rig details in the cloned configuration. All seems to work fine, the only thing that initially caught me out is that when one selects a configuration wsjt-x closes and reopens – I thought it had crashed.
I only run the radio at 2.5W but I do have a 2m linear to play with at some stage. It always surprises me how far 2.5W and the loft mounted big wheel will get on 2m.
This means my current configuration – digital wise anyway – is the FT817 and FT450D are connected to the Linux box via their Signalinks and CAT cables but the FT450D Signalink and CAT control can also be switched across to the Windows PC where I have Vara and VarAC installed. And a mess of wire…
Update: clearly I have overcomplicated things. Last night when changing configs wsjt-x could not sort itself out. Rebooting the PC sorted that. But this morning the FT817 was sat flashing its screen and although the FT450D was fine and I could make FT8 contacts all was not well. Unplugging everything from the FT817 and power cycling it cured the flash but then the FT450D had dropped off CAT control as well. For now I’ve set everything back as before, with the FT817 on the Mac.
Getting closer to being portable – not that I go anywhere! I now have an LDG Z817 automatic tuner. It seems to be working fine although it arrived with dead batteries, one of which had leaked a bit. That cleaned up ok and it now sports a set of Energizer Max batteries (ok, I had a box…)
Having run up FT8 on the Mac 40m was packed but I did manage a contact with an EA station on 80m with 2.5W via the random bit of wire in the loft.
Note to self: remember there are batteries in it!
Having two radios, two SignaLinks and multiple computers I figured why not spread a little… so here’s 4m FT8 from the FT450D and transverter plus 2m FT8 from the FT817. Well, it would be rude not to use both together…
Mind you, the poor old i7 MacBook Pro does seem to have a whinge if I dare do something else at the same time – it seems to temporarily forget the USB and gives a rig control error. On the other hand it is quite convenient to have the Mac set up as now because it is always on and I can very quickly get onto 2m FT8 (or indeed 70cm FT8 but my best QSO so far has been all of 7km!)
My first FT8 on 70cm. Only 25km, but still a first for me. No reply sadly, so no QSO this time. At the time I sent a few CQs while watching pskreporter and seeing nothing. I checked this morning just out of interest and there was this one reception report.
This was via the FT817 and 2.5W into a 70cm big wheel, which isn’t at all big at that frequency! I had only just installed it which itself was a bit of a comedy of errors. I had some M&P cable ready for it but just never got round to making it up, so soldering iron out, BNC at the shack end, cable pushed through the hole in the ceiling, N male at the antenna end. The centre pin fell out! So, picture me managing to pull the loft end of the cable back down the ladder and across there landing floor to the shack (hard enough feeding the cable through the hole so I really didn’t want to have to pull it put again!), supporting it with my knee, soldering iron at maximum reach and more heat… the NanoVNA showed the SWR to be just right where it needed to be so all was well. And clearly too much cable to be able to do that maneuver! But it reminds me I really do need to sort my coax feeds out, and sort out the ceiling hole by fitting some trunking.
Edit: I did manage one QSO later on, at just 7km. But hey, it’s my first on 70cm FT8.
I plan to use the FT817 portable but also for VHF and UHF FT8 and other digimodes, so I wanted to upgrade the standard oscillator to the TCXO version (Yaesu’s TCXO-9). But these are scarce, at least in the UK. I’ve searched for a while and got nowhere so I ended up buying one from Wimo in Germany as they had them in stock.
The original TC1 unit (left) and the TCXO-9 (right) are, of course identical in size and sit on 7 pins. There are at least two variants of the TCXO-9 and I guess this one is the newer of the two.
The unit is easy to install. Obviously – or it should be! – disconnect the battery, wear an anti-static bracelet or take appropriate measures, then the old unit simply pulls off of the 7 pin connections and the new unit presses in to replaced it. With the set back together and given a little time to warm up, and set up for CW it holds steady just 2 hertz high. That should be good enough for data modes!